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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Thrilled to Announce

My friends over at This Next (www.thisnext.com) have posted a profile of me.
This is one of my newest favorite sites and has proven to be almost in dispensable for me. The basic idea is that you log in and post new finds and product recommendations. For someone trying to stay up with the latest trend or looking for a gift less ordinary, I cannot recommend this site more, I hope you check them out.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Modern Fireplaces

I have always been a big fan of contrast. Playing light against dark, old against new and most of all modern against traditional. Some of my favorite designers are masters at this, and in my mind, the tension you create can make a room much more interesting, than if you had stuck with just one style.
Today's post is about modern fireplaces. A fireplace represents a unique opportunity in a room, because almost without effort it draws the eye and anchors the space. Because of this inherent property, I like to keep the fireplaces fairly simple. So for me, this is the perfect opportunity to interject a modern element. Here are some thoughts about Modern Fireplaces:
  • Think carefully about the material you decide to use. You can see in the fireplace above i used brushed stainless steel, but because of the softness around it in the upholstery, carpet etc, it actually looks very warm. So when deciding on material, be aware of its context, even the most industrial materials can show a softer side if handled correctly.
  • When doing a modern fireplace, scale is crucial, you may want to make a mock-up first, to avoid a costly mistake.
  • Just because its modern, doesn't mean you can't show the hand of the maker. I prefer modern elements where you can see the craftsman hand, such as elements that include, venetian plaster, or hand worked metal. So while the shape and form are modern, you get the sense it is still within a tradition of craftsmanship. This is an important idea when working the modern against traditional pieces.
  • Some of the best modern feeling fireplaces I have seen, are made with old world material. Elements such as rough hewn stone, or hand worked metal, when massed in a simple way can feel more modern than some things made from steel or concrete. So do not feel limited by materials, seek your inspiration from the context of the room.
  • Have a fireplace already and want to make it feel more modern? How about a sandblasted glass firescreen, or paint the mantle a vibrant color (lime green would do it), or even as something as simple as chrome fireplace accessories would do the trick.

..... and don't forget the bear rug :)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday is Resource Day

I was out shopping for a client the other day and I went to one of my favorite stores and was reminded again what I liked so much about it. Often, people equate cost to quality or taste, I beg to differ. Today's resource could not be more the opposite of that idea. It is Cost Plus World Market. I love these stores, they are a treasure trove of well priced ideas. I have included a few images of some of the things I especially liked.

The first one is this great dinner set. It is sold by the piece, and while I am not convinced that a whole set is for me, I am using one or two pieces as bathroom accessories for a major celebrity client right now. I think that the pattern has such great coloration that it goes so well in a bathroom, and is a welcome relief from crystal or plain ceramic, that you see so much of. They would also make a great addition to a desk as well. The key is to find what you like, then ask the question "what else could this be?".

The next thing is this stunning folding screen. It has a woven rope pattern attached to the face, that gives it a cool hip look, but I think that for someone on a budget it would make a terrific headboard. If you want something with a bit more drama, take it all the way across the bed wall, and place your bedside tables in front. It will give your room a very chic, modern primitive feel.

Lastly, I am thrilled to announce the death of the Tiki Torch as the default backyard light. These fabulous little string lights are festive without making your garden look like a year round Cinco de Mayo party. String a bunch together and loop them back and forth over the area you want to light and sit back, and listen to the praise of your friends.

So I hope you enjoy this resource, remember the question to keep asking yourself is "what else can I use this for"?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Designing with Pets in Mind

There is a line that is now notorious in my office, and it was uttered by Margaret Russell, Editor of Elle Decor, during one of the first episodes of Top Design, "you can't design a room around a cat." While that statement may be true, for those of us with cats, or dogs; designing with a pet in mind, can produce its own unique challenges, I hope that this helps:

  • If your pet has access to the outdoors, then traipsing dirt back into the house is always going to be a problem. Try to make the access point somewhere with a hard surface, such as wood or stone, rather than carpet, as that will make it easier to keep clean.

  • Provide a textured mat, both inside and out, it will help capture some of the dirt.

  • Slipcovers are an excellent idea for furniture pieces that are frequented by pets. Using a natural material, such as cotton or linen, will hold up well to regular washing (remember to wash the fabric first, before you have the slip covers made).

  • I have heard people give the advice that you should create furniture the color of your pet so you don't see the shedded hair. I don't know about you, but I would dread not knowing whether my furniture was clean or not. This is not an argument for all white, but a warm neutral I think provides some relief, but also early warning of dirt.

  • Clean the rugs at least twice a year. So many times rugs, to their own detriment are ignored and not deep cleaned regularly. If you have pets this is crucial to keeping a home that will feel fresh all the time.

  • This one may seem self-evident, but groom your pet regularly. Regular washing and more regular brushing will keep your home fresher and cleaner than almost anything else.

Most of all, enjoy your pets, and let them enjoy your home too.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Dining Room Lighting

I find that with so many things in life as well as in design, that the first solution to a problem is not necessarily the best. A light fixture to hang over the Dining Room table is the perfect example of this problem. For so many people, the first reaction is to put in a crystal chandelier, while it may be very pretty, there are a host of other options that can create a much more interesting solution.

Here are some thoughts you may want to consider:

  • If one is good maybe three is better? If you really want the sparkle of a chandelier, maybe you could try using a grouping of three smaller ones, clustered together and hung at different heights. Using a collection like this can create a fresh, hipper feeling, and allow you to use less expensive, smaller choices.

  • Try using a lantern instead of a chandelier. Especially in a colonial home, this can be a great, simple choice.

  • The fixture in the picture above is made of papier mache and Christmas lights. I bought it in the south of France from an artist there, and I think it creates the perfect counterpoint to an otherwise sophisticated room.

  • If you find an old piece that you want to use, maybe you can have the wiring removed and use real candles instead of bulbs. This will make even the most pedestrian fixture into a glamorous item. Be sure to use drip less candles!!

  • I like the simplicity of the rice paper lanterns too, that are so readily available at import shops. Their quiet simplicity is perfect, and they cost very little, so you can swap them out for different shapes on a whim.

  • With a little work a regular lamp shape can make a very pretty hanging fixture. You may want to make sure you make a base for it, because sitting at the table looking up into a bare bulb is not want you want your guests to see.

Happy Entertaining!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Answer Day: A Small Entry Hall

I had an intriguing question sent to me during the week by Rebbecca, who says that since they moved into their house, traffic patterns have changed and they now greet most of their visitors at the tiny landing at the back door. She wants to know, short of Architectural changes, what can she do.

Well Rebbecca. there are a few things I can suggest:

  • Take a look at your Garden, is there a way you can change that up a bit to encourage visitors to come to your front door? You can use lighting, plants, even a brighter color, can draw attention to the front door, which can help guide people there.

  • A less subtle approach is a nice sign, directing people to the Front Entry.

  • If these approaches don't work, embrace your new smaller entrance. There is s lot you can do to make it more warm and inviting.

  • Try to make it feel larger, by using space outside, treat the garden area, almost like its own little room, so its almost an antechamber. Put in a small bench, light it well, some flowers too, this will start the Entry feeling even before they get to the door, creating a larger sense of space.

  • Inside, you can make a space feel larger by using a deeper color. I think chocolate makes for a great Entry color, everything looks so dramatic against it.

  • Use mirrors liberally too, this will help to make the space more vibrant.

  • Cut the clutter, there is nothing worse in a small space than lots of "stuff", clear out all but the essentials.

I hope that these tips help.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Top 5 Lamps

As part of the ongoing series that I post on Sunday's here is my list of Top 5 Lamps, Enjoy, I hope you find this illuminating.

  1. Sahara Lamp- Mark Cutler Design Well I would be a schmuck if I didn't include one of my own lamps. This was inspired by the great old hotels of Las Vegas in the 1960's. It has a vaguely retro feel and is available in stained wood or in black, white or red lacquer. Contact my office for purchasing info.

  2. Jack Table Lamp- Circa Lighting (www.circalighting.com ) This little lamp makes me smile every time I see it. It is available in a bunch of different finishes and is such a great shape. I have used this lamp in Kids' rooms, as well as Living Rooms, I think it's totally versatile.

  3. Faux Bois Lamp - Oly Studio (www.olystudio.com) Anyone who reads this Blog often, knows that Faux Bois is one of my favorite things in the world. This lamp from Oly is a great example of the style. The scale is perfect and the concrete style finish is great.

  4. West End Lamp- Steven Handleman (www.stevenhandelmanstudios.com ). Steven Handelman is a wrought iron manufacturer from Santa Barbara, and he makes some great pieces, this is part of his line of lamps. It has a very cool Arts and Crafts feel to it, that sets it apart from the rest.

  5. Manning Table Lamp- Crate and Barrel (www.crateandbarrel.com ) This is such a terrific staple, that can go from Traditional to Modern. I use this lamp to add scale to a space where I don't want to make a big statement. One other thing you can do too, is open the lamp up and fill it with your favorite collection. Sea shells, toy soldiers or even dried flowers, would all create a cool, very personal lamp.

Well I hope that this list has been helpful.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Entry Halls

Everyone has heard the expression "you only get one chance to make a first impression," and for your house, the Entry Hall is just that. Not only is this the place for a first impression, it is also the place for most people where car keys are put, school bags dropped and newspapers delivered. So how do you go about creating a space that works well for all of these different needs? Here are some ideas for making your entrance something special:

  • Lighting is important, have the ability to make the space bright. I like to have lots of dimmers, that way when you are entertaining the space can have a warm glow, but on a day to day basis, you can keep it bright so that you can sort your mail, etc.

  • A mirror is a great idea. You will want to check yourself before answering the door, or at least a last moment of preening on your way out.

  • A coat rack is a handy thing to have as well. I am not a big fan of having one out all the time ( it feels a bit untidy to me), but if you are expecting guests, its not a bad idea to bring one out. That way if guests have to leave, they do not have to rummage through your closet to find their things.

  • A space set aside near the front door to unload is something you will use every day. It should have a place for keys, your cell phone charger, baskets for mail, both ingoing and outgoing, and a hook for dry cleaning. This activity area will keep you organised and will help decompress you as you enter the house.

  • Most importantly, make your Entry the most honest expression of you and your values. Family pictures (not too many), a few books on your favorite subjects, maybe even some flowers from your garden. All these things signify that you are home, and there is no better place to be.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Resource Day: Circa Lighting

I love Thursdays because I get to share a different resource each week, and today's resource I am especially excited about. It is a company I have used now for several years, but I have never stepped foot inside their stores, nor ever even spoken to them on the phone (even though my staff has). It is a company though, that has provided me with great service, and an astonishing variety of high quality choices, all from a web site that is clear and easy to use. Today's resource is Circa Lighting. Their web site is www.circalighting.com .
They have brick and mortar stores in Atlanta, Houston, Savannah and Charleston, but as I mentioned it is the website that drew me in. It is clear, concise and above all easy to use. It's broken down into categories of Wall Lights, Ceiling, Exterior and Lamps etc. But each category offers literally hundreds of selections. Unlike most of the large sites, I am a fan of most of the choices too, which makes it especially useful. The styles run from traditional to Modern, so there is a lot of variety, and most come in a variety of finishes too.
The other element that I have come to appreciate is the pricing. I think that they represent great value. For the budget conscious they are about the same price range as the big stores like Crate and Barrel and Restoration Hardware, but you finish up with a look that looks like a catalog, at Circa the look is much more personal and eclectic.
I hope you will check them out, and let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Art for Childrens Rooms

It is always a problem when doing a baby's or child's room when it comes to art. Everyone always wants it to look good, stay on theme etc, but it's never really a place where you should spend a lot of money. So these rooms often have some of the most creative solutions when it comes to art, and here are some thoughts:
  • One of the most popular themes is the alphabet, and there are a few variations that can make it a bit more interesting. Find an old Picture book on the Alphabet, the pictures are usually pretty cool, these look great framed, and give a pretty retro kind of feel.
  • Another idea is buy some inexpensive shadow boxes and fill them with things that start with that letter. Toy apples, or ants, would be great for the letter A for instance. It might be a fun project to do with your youngster.
  • Silhouettes can be a fun project too. Trace out the shapes of your favorite animals, butterflies, fish, starfish, are all great candidates. Then cut out around the edges and paste onto a colorful background. It's surprising how pretty these can look. I have even done this with skyscrapers for a homesick New Yorker.
  • If you want something a bit more abstract, some great wrapping paper, or handmade papers can be just the thing.
  • Or if you are a bit more handy, what about framing some of your origami masterpieces?

Whatever you choose, try to keep it pretty simple and fun. A little bit of color and pattern can go a long way.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Voices of Design: Michael Wollaeger, Western Interiors

Today I am introducing a new regular feature called "Voices of Design." The goal is to interview leaders in the design community, and present them with a forum where they can talk about their unique outlook on design. In the next few weeks, I hope to present renown Interior Designers, major Magazine Editors, and other voices of the design community.

My first interview is with Michael Wollaeger, Editor-in-Chief of Western Interiors. I specifically chose him for a number of reasons, firstly he happens to be a very nice guy, but perhaps more importantly his magazine takes a very specific view on design. It is one of the few that really fosters the link between Architect and Interior Designers and also the idea of the context of the project as a vital aspect to the projects that they feature.

I hope that you enjoy what he has to say, and for those of you not familiar with the magazine (especially readers from outside the United States), I hope you make an effort to get a copy, it really has the pulse of design in the Western United States. WWW.Westerninteriors.com

Mark: You worked in the design community for many years, most notably at Architectural Digest, before founding Western Interiors, what was the void you were hoping Western Interiors would fill?

Michael: About six years ago, I was looking at the so-called "national" magazines, and I realized that they were doing a poor job covering the design and architecture community in the West. In fact, when I counted the pages in those magazines, I found that less than 10 percent of them were devoted to anything west of the Mississippi! Meanwhile, I had seen the western design community growing in size and sophistication and influence. And nobody was covering it! Even when I was at Architectural Digest, we covered only a relatively few of the "top" designers in the West, and often those stories had a celebrity angle. We were covering a lot of New York, a lot of New England, a lot of Europe. But the West was neglected, and the vast, growing readership in the West was also being neglected. People who lived in the West didn't fully realize, I think, that they were reading "Eastern" design magazines! So I wanted to create a magazine that showed how real people were living in the West today, showcasing the work of design and architecture professionals from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Seattle, Denver, Austin, Montana--the places that were being ignored, editorially, by those "national" design magazines.

Mark: Is there a typical reader of Western Interiors?

Michael: In my experience, there is no "typical" reader, though our readers do share common interests. The magazine is edited for people who have a strong interest in beautiful design, architecture, art, and gardens. Of course, a good many of our subscribers live in the West and are looking for design ideas that relate to where they live, and professional design services in their region. But we also have many readers in the East who enjoy the fresh point of view coming out of the West. They want to see what's new, what's exciting, what the trends are. They also like to see incredible western landscapes that they're not seeing in the other design magazines. And, of course, many people back east own (or dream of owning) a home in the West.

Mark: Your magazine has brought to light some shining talent, that has otherwise been overlooked by some of the other major magazines. What are the biggest challenges, as an editor, in finding these people?

Michael: The biggest challenge once a magazine is up and running is getting out of the office to explore, scout and discover. Two summers ago, I was driving through Saint Helena, California, with my wife, and I spotted a great little design shop. Unique items, and a wonderfully quirky eye. We pulled over to check it out, and the shop happened to be run by Erin Martin, who was a new talent to me. It turned out she had some beautiful design projects, and we've now published two of them (one is in our current issue). So staying alert and keeping our eyes open is key! We have a small but active staff who are constantly out and about, on the lookout for new design projects. Of course, now that we've been around for four years, more and more designers and architects are sending us projects, which is exciting.

Mark: Trends are easy to spot in retrospect, the white on white California look of Michael Taylor in the eighties, the French deco of Barbara Barry in the nineties. Do you think we are in the midst of a trend now? If so what is it?

Michael: That's always a tricky question, because once an editor declares a trend, he or she is usually proved wrong, immediately, by the design world, which is constantly changing, spurred on by the personal vision of talented designers such as Kelly Wearstler, Kenneth Brown, Tim Clarke, Madeline Stuart, Gary Hutton and so on. But I am seeing more of a mix of old and new, unexpected juxtapositions, a renewed interest in great natural textures in furniture and fabrics. In the West, it's all about the connection with the outdoors, too. Sustainable design is a hot topic, but that doesn't dictate any one aesthetic. I think clients are tired of by-the-book minimalist looks, by-the-book traditional looks, by-the-book anything, really. It's a fairly wide-open period in design, which makes things more interesting.

Mark: Coming from an architectural background, I appreciate the importance of context. Your magazine does a great job of this. Was this a conscious decision?

Michael: Yes, I wanted to bring in as much of the natural western landscape as possible, because that's what good design and architecture is a response to. It's exciting to see how the context of New Mexico, Malibu or Montana determines design and architecture decisions. I want readers to come away with a complete experience of a project, and in some ways that's kind of like a travel piece. I want readers to feel as though they've been somewhere.

Mark: In what ways do you think that design on the West Coast is unique beyond its geography?

Michael: There's an open-mindedness in the West that extends from the professional design community to the clients, who after all are the ones who are commissioning the work. The clich├ęs about "pioneering spirit" and "rugged individualism" really do apply! People here are more willing to pursue their individual vision in their homes and are less concerned about "fitting in" with their neighbors. That's why, say, Frank Gehry is a prototypical western architect. He broke all the rules of the eastern and European architecture world, and set architecture off in an entirely new direction.

Mark: Do you think that with more and more access to media, through magazines, television and the Internet that design is becoming more homogeneous?

Michael: No, I actually think that with more exposure to a wide variety of design, people are feeling more empowered to put together their own look, and to feel okay about it. There's a new excitement about design today, about the possibilities of expression, and I think that that's a good thing.

Mark: Imagine, we were looking forward to the 50th anniversary of Western Interiors, what is it that you would like to have seen the magazine achieve?

Michael: I'd like the magazine to have been able to stay completely current in it's look and coverage, but also to have earned a certain cultural importance by having shown, over the years, the key designers and architects who made a difference, set the tone for their times, created lasting contributions to the design vocabulary. I like to imagine someone picking up an "old" issue from 2007 and saying, "Wow, look at this! They covered X, Y and Z way back then, and the work still looks great!" Of course, I'd like to be around for the 50th anniversary, too, but that's a lot less likely.....!

Mark: Much has been made of consumers gaining access to resources that were previously available only to Designers. Do you think that this a positive thing.

Michael: Yes, I think more access is always better. But consumers can't do what designers do, even if they have access to the same resources. They don't have the training to make informed decisions, and they don't have the time. Designers should be hired for their professional talent and vision, not for their access to materials. Talent and vision are rare commodities, and they're worth a lot!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Thrilled to Announce

Look for my quote in Christine Pittel's Color Column in the May issue of House Beautiful. This month has to do with Color in the Kitchen. My color suggestion was Fine Paints of Europe #11130. It is as close as I can find to that beautiful green of the Laduree box. For those who are unfamiliar, Laduree is a pastry shop in Paris that is as renown for its little green boxes as Tiffany is for its blue ones in this country.

Answer Day: Closets

Today's Answer Day is about closets. I have a very good friend who refers to her closet as the "room of chaos and shame". This is obviously not a good thing, and in fact with a few tips your closet can be every bit as tidy and organised as the rest of your house. Although most of us do not have a closet as large as the one I designed that is shown here, it encapsulates a lot of ideas that you can use in even a much more modest space. So here are some ideas that I hope will help:
  • Group your clothes by usage, exercise clothes together, work clothes together etc, this will make putting together outfits a lot simpler.
  • Have somewhere in the closet where you can sit. It is so convenient to have somewhere where you can try on a pair of shoes or lay out a suit. Even if space is of a premium, you could use a folding stool for this purpose.
  • You will feel better if it looks tidy and clean, so spend a few minutes each week, just straightening things out. You can see we installed little drapes above the hanging shelves to hide the boxes etc, it makes the space feel much neater, and creates a space where you enjoy spending time.
  • This is the room where you want to feel good, so pick a very flattering color, but keep it pretty neutral, so it stays bright and allows you to see real color.
  • A skylight is a great idea, but make sure you get a good u/v filter installed or all your clothes will fade.

I hope this gives you some inspiration.

Mixing Antiques with Modern Pieces

There is a new posting over at DesignTalk today, where I discuss techniques of mixing Antiques with more modern pieces. Drop by and take a look.
Have a great day!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Top 5 Design Blogs

A new regular feature that I thought I would introduce for Sundays was the Top 5 list. Over the next few weeks I will be creating lists of favorite things from lamps to books. The list's are anything but exhaustive, but hopefully you will find them interesting.
To start the series I thought I would start with my favorite Design Blogs. I have to admit that I did not read blogs often till I had my own, but since then I have become totally addicted. Blogs are an amazing resource for new resources, opinions and style. I have been very lucky to be featured on a whole series of blogs but I have tried to not let that influence my choices. I am sure that I will be creating another list soon, as I am discovering new blogs every day. But for now my favorite 5 are:
  1. Desire to Inspire (www.desiretoinspire.blogspot.com ) Two women, one from Australia and one from Canada, who manage to find the most incredible images to post. Whether it's the work of Designer's ( a recent post on Vincente Wolfe was stunning), to artists and resources, it's a daily feast that is not to be missed. The articles are brief, and to the point, and there are always interesting comments to read as well.
  2. Maison Lunatique (www.maisonlunatique.blogspot.com ) Anya Smith, an Interior Designer from Dublin, Ireland, shares her thoughts about design. She highlights great resources as well as gives terrific ideas about topics that interest her, such as ways of looking at upholstery etc. Also on her blog is a huge list of links to different manufacturers websites that is very helpfully broken down by category.
  3. Hatch (www.blog.designpublic.com ) This is a great Blog that is attached to a commercial website called Design Public. Becky, who writes the Hatch blog, always has great insight into design elements. A recent posting was a great critique of Top Design, but written in a thoughtful way, not the snide, mean spirited way that most of the ones I have seen are. She also features guest bloggers and interviews too which keeps the content fresh and interesting.
  4. Apartment Therapy (www.apartmenttherapy.com ) My grandmother used to say "too much is just enough" and this is true of this site. It is broken down city by city, with a variety of different contributors. It has one of the most exhaustive resource guides I have seen for small boutique design stores. I have used it when I travel to find the cool places to go etc. They claim their mission is to create great apartments, but they do so much more than that, you could spend days here.
  5. Peak of Chic (www.peakofchic.blogspot.com) Chic indeed! A terrific eye for good design, this Atlanta based Blog brings together ideas such as "the Blue Room" and shows work by a variety of different designers that is on point. There is a great appreciation for the classics as well, Billy Baldwin, Albert Hadley etc as well as the new bloods. Always great insights and thoughtful commentary.

As I said, not a complete list but ones that i think are definitely worth mentioning. There are more of my favorites on the side column, who also are well worth dropping by.

Thank You for the Recognition

I am always thrilled when I get noticed by other blogs. Today a glowing review of my Kitchens appeared over at Shakadoo (www.shakinstyle.com ) written by Susan Serra, an accomplished Kitchen Designer in her own right, that makes the compliments all the more meaningful. Thanks Susan. You can see her Blog at www.thekitchendesigner.org .

Friday, April 13, 2007

More Kids than Room?

So many times people see things in magazines that are way more than they can afford or can achieve. Often it's just a matter of space. So my post today concentrates on a home that I did, where space was a real issue. The homeowner had three girls that needed to sleep in the same room, quite a design challenge, because they made it very clear that they did not want to make it feel like a dorm room. So I designed this pair of canopy bunk beds. The kids love them, it allows the room to feel "girly" and still gets a lot of them into a relatively small space.
Here are some tips on kids rooms where space is a big issue:
  • Think vertical! Bunk beds are great, or raise the bed and put a study area underneath
  • Baskets. baskets and more baskets. Try to use baskets for storage, you can see inside without taking it all out, and its easier than drawers to allocate to each child, so they are not inclined to just rummage through everything.
  • Use flexible options as much as possible. For instance bean bag seating can be pushed aside when not needed, giving floor space as required.
  • When space is limited, go with lots of color, it will help make the inevitable chaos, look like it was meant that way :)

Good Luck, and Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Resource Day: Auction Catalogs

As a designer, you are always looking for fresh sources of inspiration, it seems sometimes that I spend my life poring over magazines, looking for a fresh idea, or an interesting piece of furniture. The former is often easier to find than the latter, magazines are shot to create great images, not necessarily to totally document a project. So if it is great images of furniture, or artwork or rugs etc, I turn to Auction Catalogs. These guides have proven time and again to be amazing resources of information, they talk about style, what makes the piece unique, value and also give great images so you can clearly see the price and learn from the descriptions.
Catalogs are very easy to come by, regardless of the style you are interested in, whether it is European Antiques, American Pieces or even 20th Century Modern, you will find that some of the best examples of the style have gone under the auctioneers hammer. A lot of people who read this blog are not from the U.S. so don't have the option to attend some of the amazing auctions in New York at Christies or Sotheby's, but by visiting their websites regularly, you can order copies of past or upcoming auctions.
Here are a few sites that provide catalogs that you might want to visit:

Synergy is a Beautiful Thing

Synergy is a great thing! My blog was mentioned today on the blog of the man who was responsible for me starting all this. His name is Ron McDaniel and he wrote a book called Buzzoodle, about how to create buzz about your business. One of his major passions is blogging and he feels very strongly that nearly all small businesses should have a blog as a way of getting their message out there...... I agree.
Here is the link to the posting, and his site:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Painted Floors: Stone

Last month I did a post on Painted Floors, which concentrated exclusively on painted wood floors. These are pretty common, and while they leave a lot of room for the imagination, today I wanted to post about something that most people don't even consider and that is painted Stone Floors. Several years ago I was face with a design conundrum, I was working on a new house and I designed this beautiful bathroom that was like a quiet oasis. It had very little pattern anywhere, but I felt like I needed a soft pattern on the floor. Mt immediate thought was to go with a mosaic, but after selecting a pattern and some stones, the price turned out to be a lot more than we could afford. As they say necessity is the mother of invention, I suggested a painted floor and here is the result, a soft palette that feels like an old fresco, even prettier than the mosaic would have been. Here are some thoughts about doing one of your own:
  • Start with a very porous stone, usually a soft limestone, and be sure it hasn't been sealed
  • We painted this floor with a variety of wood stains, but you could use almost an permanent stain.
  • We did this in a studio, but you could do it in place after the floor had been laid, but that would make me very nervous, in case you make a mistake (we made several).
  • Pick a pattern from almost anywhere, this pattern came from an old book on Turkish mosaics, but I have recreated patterns by William Morris, or in one case recreated a wall paper on the floor that I used on the wall of the same room.
  • You can use a projector on a wall to blow up the pattern, or some patience and a photocopier can do the same trick.
  • Trace on the pattern, and then just paint away, this time it really is important to stay within the lines!
  • After you are done and the painting is dry, be sure to use several coats of a clear penetrating, stone sealer, and voila, your creation is there for posterity!
  • I think repeating patterns are probably better, since it ties into the modular nature of the stone tile.
  • Using patterns that don't require shading is also better, since it can be tricky trying to control how much stain goes where, its like painting on chalk, so take it slow, and practice on a spare piece first.

Good Luck and Happy Painting!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Thank You Design Talk

I am happy to say that today is the launch of a Guest spot on Design Talk, I answer questions that are posted by their readers. Thank you for all the people at that Blog, I am thrilled to be part of a great team, and I look forward to working together.
Check this great Blog out at: http://designtalk.homevisions.com/


A lot of the projects that I do, are renovations of older homes that people have bought. I am a huge fan of these places, there is something about the scale and detail of these houses that make them very special. The challenge becomes, though, how do you make a room, like the Kitchen, feel like it is in context, while still making it modern enough to fit a contemporary lifestyle. For me it is important that this room feel like it is part of the original structure of the home, without feeling like an overly romanticised pastiche.

Here are some tips that you might find helpful in recreating a period kitchen:

  • Pick one or two decorative elements that evokes the style you are trying to create, more than that and it will look like you are trying too hard. Use these elements throughout the kitchen.

  • Try to use surface materials that are true to the style (very few kitchens of the twenties and thirties used granite), try looking for slate or stainless steel counter tops.

  • If Stainless Steel counter tops are out of your budget, then Stainless appliances will do the trick.

  • Try to avoid things that are very fashionable at the moment, like vessel and apron sinks, they will date your new Kitchen quickly.

  • Use a different material on the back splash, than on the counter top, this is very typical of the period.

  • Although recessed lighting is very efficient in this situation, try to use a couple of pendant fixtures too, especially ones that have a vintage feel to them. There is a great selection at www.circalighting.com .

  • Try to find something cool for the floor too. I am a fan of Linoleum, but in Kitchen above we used Terrazzo which is another old world material.

  • The Cabinet Hardware is another opportunity to create your style. I find a great selection at www.crowncityhardware.com try using butt hinges on the doors as they are more old world feeling than the modern Euro hinge.

  • Another interesting idea is don't paint the kitchen all the same color, maybe make the island another color. I use the rule of thumb, that if the Island is the same color as the rest of the Kitchen, I can change materials (maybe do a wood top), but if the Island is a different color, then the surface materials, remain the same throughout.

  • Years ago while reading a Martha Stewart Magazine, I read about a tip where you paint the inside of glass fronted and open cabinets a contrasting color. It makes the contents really pop. This has now become a staple for me that I have used to great affect.

Well, Good luck with your Kitchen adventures!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Answer Day: Accessories

Today is answer day, and I have had several requests by people for me to talk about how to use accessories in a room. Accessories are basically the bits and pieces that you use around a room that add texture and color to a space, whether they be frames, or lamps or collectibles. I think that they play a very important part in design, because you can use them to tell a story; maybe its a group of souvenirs from your dream vacation, or series of family photographs that tell your family story, they all come together to tell the story of your choosing. The images above are from a show house that I did several years ago, and the problem for a designer in a lot of these cases is that since there is no client, there is no story to tell. So I used more items than I normally would to create a fictitious history full of drama and intrigue.
Here are some ideas for displaying accessories for maximum impact:
  • Try creating groups, that have some relationship to each other, for instance, all the pictures of your grandparents together in one area, your children's pictures in another.
  • I like groups of odd numbers, three, five or seven, seems to work well.
  • When creating groupings, try to vary the height a little bit, it will make it much more interesting to the eye, you can see that I used books in some places to create a lift.
  • Don't be afraid of the floor, you will notice that I have used stacks of books on the floor, or other heavier accessories, it grounds the work and gives a more substantial feeling.
  • Don't be afraid to layer, I had an old tapestry that was pretty worn, not great on the floor or as a hanging by itself, but looked terrific with a mirror in front of it, creating a very luxurious look.
  • Don't be afraid to mix periods, I like to juxtapose elements, such as a modern lamp against an old relic, I feel that the tension you create, makes each of the pieces more interesting in their own right.
  • Only use elements that have some meaning to you, don't buy things just because you want to fill the space, the end result will be hollow and non personal. Take your time and let your collection grow slowly and over time.
  • Just because you own it, you don't have to use it. If you have a lot of things that you want to display, why not create a rotating collection? A summer and a winter!

Happy Displaying!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Fresh Wallpaper Ideas

Like most things, it is often the simplest solution that is the toughest one to achieve. Take wallpaper for example, how many times have you looked at a pattern and thought it was pretty but it was too much to use over all four walls? Well that doesn't have to be the case, here are some ideas that you might not have considered:
  • Try, like I did in the room above, to use the wall paper on just one wall. Feature walls received a bad rap in the 70's but they are now back as a legitimate tool in the designers arsenal.
  • Still not enough, on the room above, a nursery, I used alternating rolls of paper in different colors.
  • If you are luckier enough to have paneling in your room, try wall papering just the insides of the panels.
  • I think that ceilings are underrated, you may want to try papering the ceiling, don't be afraid of pattern there.
  • Wall paper doesn't just have to go on the wall, what about a piece of furniture, a great way to put those flea market finds to good use.

Well good luck with your paper adventures!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Resource Day: Rugs

Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity will know that I am all about putting together interiors in an organised and thoughtful way. Start with the backgrounds, move onto the major furniture pieces, consider lighting, then decorative elements etc etc. To me, one of the most important elements in preparing the backgrounds, is selecting a good rug. I tend to buy two types of rugs, inexpensive, textured ones for rooms where I am limited on budget, or I use them as backgrounds for better quality rugs in a layering effect. The second type of rug I buy is of a very high quality, either Antique or handmade. In my mind it is almost impossible to mimic the beauty of a rug made by hand, and I consistently keep going back to one company,Michaelian and Kohlberg. They are a multi generational company which is based in New York City, but are available throughout the United States. The breadth and quality of what they offer is staggering, from subtle vegetable dyed rugs from Tibet, to reproductions from China, to a not to be missed group of textures from India and Turkey.
Some of their best rugs are comprised of very subtle use of color and texture, unfortunately, these do not show well on screen, so go to their extensive website and you will get a better idea of what they offer.
The patterns that I am showing today are some of their more graphic ones. I especially love the second image, it is part of a collection inspired by the quilts of Gee's Bend. These quilts are famous for their erratic beauty and I think the spirit has been captured perfectly in these rugs.
So, check these guys out, I hope you will be as big a fan as I am.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Warm Modernism

Some people who read this blog are probably surprised to find out that I am a huge fan of modernism. I feel very strongly though that just because a room is modern, there is absolutely no reason for it to be cold and uninviting. I give the above room as an example, it is one of the favorite rooms that I have ever done, it was for a young family and they wanted something that felt modern, yet at the same time, somewhere where they could relax and hang out with their kids.
When approaching a modern room, here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Keep the color palette neutral, let the architecture be the star
  • I like to have only one or two patterned fabrics in the room. In this case I put a very subtle damask on the sofa, it gives a sense of tradition, but the silhouette of the sofa, keeps it feeling very modern.
  • Make it all about the texture, I like to use all sorts of textures, from a luxurious wool rug, to silk pillows to venetian plaster on the wall, they all create a sense of the hand of man, that I think is crucial to making a space feel inviting.
  • Modern doesn't have to be new. One of the hallmarks of modernism was that form was defined by function, this is not a new idea, I included a Japanese table and a pair of African stools, both of which the form was driven by it's function.
  • Please don't ignore the windows, they often look, clearer, taller and more expansive when there is drapes, and boy does it make it more inviting.

Well I hope that you are now willing to attack the new modern house!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


Well, I am not sure exactly that I would call it art, it's certainly artful though. I am constantly faced with the design dilemma of what to do to cover big walls, whether they be stairways, double height rooms or whatever, especially when working on a tight budget, so I offer a few solutions that have worked for me, I hope that some will work for you.
  • In the image above I bought an inexpensive poster then took it to a printer and had them enlarge it, in 9 pieces on canvas. I then stretched them over frames and hung them as a mosaic, I think the result is kind of cool. This technique could easily be done with any poster, or a cool photo, or even a magazine ad (perhaps even a blog posting :) ).
  • Almost anything used out of context can be seen as wall decoration, perhaps old farm equipment (rakes, shovels etc), garage sales are great sources for this.
  • A collection of smaller things works well too. I have a friend who collected small oil paintings on E-bay of portraits of women, then hung them all close together, I think it looks stellar and cost next to nothing.
  • While shopping swap meets and flea markets, what about a group of children's chairs.
  • I have spoken in the past about ethnic textiles and how much I love them, they can be a very economical way to cover a wall, a Kuba cloth or a Sari, or if you are more local minded a great quilt (I am a huge fan of the quilts of Hawaii, they are graphic and feel modern). You can also tea stain too, if you want a more old-world feel.

Good Luck!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Answer Day: Lighting

I received a question during the week, asking me to share some thoughts about how best to light a room, and what kind of fixtures were best to use. I like this question because I have very definite feelings on the subject, and I hope you will find this illuminating (sorry I couldn't resist).

Fundamentally, there are two types of light, one that falls on vertical surfaces (walls, artwork etc) that provides depth to a room, and light that falls on horizontal surfaces (floors, tables etc) that provides drama to a room. You can use different types of fixtures to provide the different types of light. For instance, a recessed ceiling light will provide almost exclusively light on horizontals, while a wall sconce almost all the light falls on vertical surfaces (remember that when people are in the room, you are usually vertical, so this kind of lighting is good for rooms where you entertain, and is considered flattering).

So the short answer to the question, is that you want to create a mix of different light sources, so that the room has a good dynamic feel.

Here are some tips you might find helpful:

  • Start with the light on horizontal surfaces, use it to create a visual path through the room, it will stop the space from feeling too chaotic.

  • Fixtures that provide this kind of light include recessed lights, ceiling lights that are very close to the ceiling, not hanging low, and table or standing lamps with opaque shades.

  • Remember that the ceiling is usually part of the horizontal surfaces in the room, make sure you place some lamps in a way that will get lighting up there too, it will make a huge difference.

  • When adding lighting onto vertical surfaces, pay attention to where people are going to be sitting and standing, you don't want light falling directly in your eyes.

  • Try and create one or two focal points on the walls around the room, that can be lit a little brighter, this will make the space feel larger and provide some depth.

  • When there are other spaces leading off your room, be sure to pay attention to their light, you don't want black holes!

  • Lastly experiment with bulbs of different wattage and color, it can make a big difference too and enable you to create warmer and cooler spots more easily.

I hope this brightens your day :)

Thank You Design Public Design

Want to know what makes me tick? My friends over at Public Design have posted an interview I did with them on their Blog, Thank you Becky! It's a great site with lots to see, so check it out.
www.designpublic.com and go to their blog.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Just a Fun Thing....

Well its Sunday, I thought I would post something that is just fun. Reaction to my post on the Tableaux Cloths was so positive, I thought people might enjoy this, the next logical extension; the Tableaux Room. This is actually a space I did for an Elle Decor event called Dining by Design, which raises funds for DIFFA. It features dining vignettes by different people, its fascinating to see all the different approaches by all the designers. If there is ever one of these events in your city I cannot recommend it enough.