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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday is Resource Day:Accessories

As usual Thursday is Resource Day, and on these days I try to highlight a particular resource that I really enjoy using. I have tried to use places that anyone can use, regardless of what part of the United States, or for that matter, the world you may be reading this blog in. Today is a little bit of an exception to that rule. Today's posting is a store in Los Angeles, and while they have a growing web presence, nothing can compare to a visit to their store. The store is Colburn/Sassaman (www.colburnsassaman.com). It has been in Los Angeles now, in one form or another for about 11 years, always in the same location, and is a great resource for accessories for the home. Founded by Shannon Colburn and recently joined with Interior Designer, Nicole Sassaman, the store is a teeming melange of product that varies so much in style, scale and price point, that no matter what project I am working on, I can always find something here.
This week I have been putting together a great house that we have been working on in Northern California, and sure enough, a trip to their store was in order, I found some great bath accessories, artwork and some terrific primitive African pieces. Even after my client called and told me that they needed 8 magazine holders for different rooms (they are avid readers), Shannon didn't disappoint, and I had my choice of modern, transitional and traditional.
So, if you are in Los Angeles, stop by, if nothing else it's always a joy to meet people who are so passionate about their interests and you never know what you will come across. If not in Southern California, check out the website, or if you are after something specific, drop them an email, they would love to hear from you.
540 North La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048
(310) 358- 9025

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Children's Playroom Built for Inspiration

So many times I have seen well intentioned parents create for their kids a Playroom that only ends up as the one space in the house where the kids can create chaos. I think that that is a shame. In my mind a Playroom should be designed with its use in mind and kept as tidy and as organised as any other room in the house. But the important thing is, it should be designed that way, so it makes it easy for the kids to use, and as importantly, easy for them to keep tidy. Here are some tips on creating an inspiring space for your children:
  • Create "zones" within the room, so that it is clear what activities should be done where. For instance, an area with a hard surface floor is perfect for wet play, like painting, whereas an area with carpet or a rug, could have floor cushions and be ideal for games etc.
  • Keep it versatile. In the playroom above you can see the great area rug. It is made up of carpet tiles that stick to the floor. This way if I need to make the rug bigger, no problem, or if something gets spilled I can take away one tile and replace it.
  • Use Bins wherever possible. The key to keeping everyone organized is to make it simple to use. Bins are by far the easiest way to do this. Be sure to use all different sizes, so that they can be specific to their purpose. Games in one, toy soldiers in another etc. The room above was designed for three kids so each had their own color basket, making it even easier for everyone to keep track of their stuff.
  • Have a desk area where they can work quietly. Try and create at one end of the room , a quiet desk area where they can sit and draw or use a computer.
  • It really helps if you can create a large framed pin board. I like this idea a lot, it will keep all the artwork contained and as it gets full, old ones come down and new ones go up, making a great rotating art display.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

5 Books Everyone Should Have

This is the Ultimate coffee table book. Its full of great pictures of all sorts of curiosities from shells, to butterflies and even a chapter on snakes that anyone would learn to love. It's a big book at almost 10lbs but boy, will your friends ever be impressed!

I have to admit that this is a bit of an eclectic choice, but I love this book. It is about indigenous design and how by looking at communities that have grown organically, we can learn to see patterns that we can then apply in the way we organize our new cities and towns. It also has some of the same wisdom to apply to the way you look at the space in your own home. It is simply organized into a series of observations, so it's not a book to sit and read in one session, but enjoy it over time, perfect for beside the bed.

Well this is the part of the list that starts getting a bit personal. I remember when I lived in Australia, that I read about this building by a young architect that was going to revolutionize the way Australians look at their vernacular architecture. I had my parents drive me 6 hours to Kempsey to see this new little museum. It made me fall in love with architecture and has stayed with me ever since. Well that architect was Glenn Murcutt, and he has gone on to be justly lauded by everyone and their dog, including the Pritzker Prize. If you get this book you will never look at a barn or simple farm shed the same way again.

While on the topic of never looking at things the same way again, along comes this book on Los Angeles. The city gets a bad rap for being part of just a large urban sprawl, but this book by famed photographer Tim Street-Porter is an homage to the city he loves. It is put together in such a way that he has assembled his own street scenes, from a series of different photo's. Los Angeles has never looked so good, and it's clear to see his passion about this much maligned city, it is indeed, ready for it's close up.
I am sitting in one as I write this. The work horse of Interior Design, the chair, finally gets the star treatment. This book follows the humble piece of furniture on it's stylistic travel through time. Whether modernist or traditionalist this book is essential reading.

Friday, May 25, 2007

What makes Upholstery Good?

One of the biggest furniture investments most people make in their home is upholstery. Unfortunately, it is probably one of the least understood as well. I cannot count the number of times people have told me "I am just going to get the cheapest sofa I can buy, because the kids are just going to jump all over it". This, is a bad strategy. A well constructed sofa, while not being the most inexpensive will stand up to all sorts of abuse, and will last you almost a life time. So what makes up a good piece of upholstery? Here are a few things to look for:
  • First of all, the frame. Look for one made of kiln-dried hardwood, such as oak or alder. The process of kiln-drying will make the wood more stable, less likely to swell or warp, and strong enough to be drilled, pegged and blocked. Using a hardwood is fairly self explanatory, it's going to be stronger than a soft wood like pine. As a side note, the blocking used is often made of laminated wood, rather than solid hardwood, as it is stronger for its purpose.
  • One rule of thumb, lift one end of your sofa up. If it is well made, it will be heavy, a light sofa, is not one that will last you a long while.
  • The next element is the springs. There are basically 3 types. The first being sinuous, which is a spring that looks like a continuous "s", that goes from back to front on your sofa, not a good idea. The second is a standard spring, which can be supported a number of ways in the frame, but gives the seat a very firm, sit to the sofa, as the springs only go up and down. Lastly is the famous eight-way hand tied spring. It is connected to the frame front to back, side to side and diagonally, giving it it's name. The advantage of this is that the spring moves in all directions, giving the seat the most flexibility and the most comfortable sit. Unfortunately this process can only be done by hand, and consequently will drive up the cost of your piece of furniture. Most sofas and chairs from large manufacturers, do not feature eight-way springs. It will be called out as a feature if they do.
  • The next element is the cushions. Most cushions are made of a Dacron foam core, that is then wrapped in either down, more foam or a hypo-allergenic down substitute. On a seat cushion, do not be tempted to do 100% down, the cushions will go flat as the down breaks down and it will look like a mess. The foam core gives structure to the cushion and allows it to hold it's shape. Remember that a down cushion will always need fluffing, only an all foam cushion will hold that perfect shape, but the sit is not as luxurious.

I hope that this gives you some basic ideas of what to look for with your next upholstery purchase. Remember, you can always post your questions here, if you still have concerns.

Happy Sitting!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thursday is Resource Day: Flea Markets

One of my favorite things to do is to include in my projects, off beat and unusual finds. These can be hard to come by, the large chains are not really a spot where you will find that, and some of the smaller boutiques can get very, very expensive. So, I have a few Antique and Flea markets that I regularly visit for these "treasures". That is today's resource. Most cities will have a regular market, luckily in Los Angeles there are sometimes two or even three to choose from on a given weekend. Recently, when I was in Italy I visited some of my favorites, one of which is the one above in Arezzo, where the whole old town becomes a giant market.

Here are some thoughts about how to improve the quality of your market experience:

  • Get there early! If you want the truly unusual or the hard to find, there is no substitute for being there at the crack of dawn. Some of the best things I have found i have taken right from the hands of the dealer as he unpacks his truck.
  • Get there late! If what you really want is a great deal, more than a great find, try getting there at the end of the day. Most of the dealers do not want to schlep this stuff home again and wait for the next market, so your opportunity to get a great price is dramatically increased right before they go home.
  • Educate yourself. If you know what it is you want specifically, check around so you know the sorts of prices things go for. E Bay is a great resource for this sort of thing. You can see there what people are willing to pay for things that are similar to what you are looking for. So do your homework before you go, and you will do a better job of paying the right price.
  • Measure. Be sure of your dimensions before you go. It is amazing how many people do not know how long their Dining Room table is, or the depth of their fireplace mantle. Get these sizes before you leave the house, it will help avoid some costly mistakes.
  • If I am looking for something to go in a particular location, whether it's a table or a shelf, I like to bring a picture with me, it helps to refresh my memory and once again avoids me making some big mistakes.

Above all, enjoy the day out and have a great time, it's one of my favorite pastimes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

If One is Good, Ten is Better: Displaying Groups

It is a little hard to tell from the image above, but the collection on display in this Family Room, is a series of Instructions on how to make shadow puppets, using just your hands. So whether you have a burning desire to see an eagle glide across your wall, or a snake slither, this is the place to go to get instructions. All of these pieces came from an old book, which I thought, if framed would make a terrific, irreverent collection.
I really like to find things like this, groups of things that you might not otherwise use by themselves, but when put together as a series look tremendous. So as the title says, if one is good, ten is better, it doesn't always apply, but here are some thoughts you might find useful.
  • Look for things that you find interesting or unique. A friend of mine created a terrific display in her Guest Bathroom using a collection of old Bakelite hand mirrors that she bought on E bay.
  • Try to divorce yourself from it's intended use and look at it as a piece of sculpture. I recently bought an old antique lock from an armoire, it is beautifully made, useless as a lock, but as an object, beautiful. I think a collection of these on my bookcase will be very cool.
  • Old Books are great resources for collections you can frame, whether you can get your hands on an antique Alphabet book, or any sort of picture book, is a great place to start.
  • Old postcards are a great thing to. You can get them on practically any topic you can imagine. One of my best memento's from my first trip to London was a set of postcards I framed that showed images of different Tube stations.
  • Finally, it might help to think of collections that relate to the room they are going to be displayed in. Antique garden tools in a solarium, old plates mounted on the wall in the Dining Room, like my friend, hand mirrors in the Guest Bath.

The important thing is, don't take it or yourself too seriously, have a little fun, and you will smile each time you walk into the room.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Keeping Design Simple, Creates Beautiful Rooms

I had the pleasure this weekend of visiting a Designer Showcase House. For those of you not familiar with the idea, a group, usually a local charity will get their hands on a house and then invite members of the local design community in to decorate, then open it to the public for tours. Typically a different designer will do each room. I am a tremendous fan of the concept as you get to see Designers whose work you may be familiar with, work unfettered by client desires. This is a place to go for great ideas and new concepts. Quite frankly I came away a little disappointed. Most of the rooms seemed heavy and overdone (there were some notable exceptions). Where was the light hand? Most seemed unable to edit, so it inspired me to write this piece about simplicity of design (LOL I will try and keep it brief).

  • When designing your room, plan. Lack of planning leads to an inability to stop, the old saying is true, if you don't know where you are going, how do you know when you get there.

  • Don't be afraid of open space. An undecorated wall, in the right color can be beautiful, or the simplicity of using only one fabric throughout a room, can be liberating.

  • Give your favorite pieces room to breathe, there is no need to keep piling things on, pay attention to scale, and one piece could be perfect.

  • Use the architecture of the space as your starting point, whether you are designing within the style or creating a counterpoint to it, reference the room, it will make your statement clearer.

  • Finally, when you are done, take one thing away.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Answer Monday: Open but Private

Today's question was posted while I was away, so I apologize for taking so long to get back with an answer for you on this. The question is: "I love opening windows and doors in the summer as well but I live off a busy major street and I have great big windows in the living/dining area but it faces the street and I hate opening it up for the entire world to see inside. Even if it were a one way screen I don't like seeing people walking and driving in front of my window every second either ... any suggestions on how to open the space up? "

This can be a fairly tough dilemma and one faced by a lot of people whose major rooms open up to a public area. I think one of the best solutions is to try and create a buffer outside, like a small hedge or some planting, perhaps even a small fountain if there is room. The goal here is two fold, the first is to create a view for you, other than the street, and the second is to create a privacy screen from the street that doesn't force you to limit your view.

If at all possible, a small water feature will do wonders by really creating a sense of luxury, as well as the sound of the trickling water will really buffer you from a lot of the noise and clutter from the street.

If a planting buffer is not possible for you then perhaps shutters would be a good solution. I personally, am not a big shutter fan, but they will certainly do the trick of filtering the outside for you. Exterior shutters can really be a nice architectural element to, that really will add some richness to your home.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Carnival Anyone?

I have recently been reading a lot about Blog Carnivals. They seem to be a great way to link all sorts of like-minded Blogs together. I went to http://www.blogger.com/www.blogcarnival.com and checked it out, it is quite impressive. There did seem to be a huge omission of absolutely no Interior Design or Lifestyle Blogs. I know a lot of people who read this Blog, have there own, is there any interest in starting an Interior Design Carnival? I think it would benefit us all.


Top 5 Books by Other Designers

I am a total book hound, so I spend a lot of time poring over my favorite ones. In fact I am in the process of putting together my own book, so I have been especially interested lately in books by other designers, so here is a list of some of the ones I especially love, in no special order though.

  • John Saladino: In my opinion, one of the greatest living American designers. His work has a subtlety and warmth that is totally unique, so it is no surprise that I chose his book. I am on my second copy, because the first became so dog-eared. I like the book because he has managed to show the breadth of his work in a very comprehensive way. He also take pains to explain his process, unlike some of the other books here, he does not attempt to give practical tips, but instead concentrates on more elemental issues, and how they relate to his work. I think for a designer like this, it's a good approach, since his style is less about objects and more about the feelings he is able to create. His work is beautifully illustrated with images that are big and clear, so you can really soak up his spectacular rooms.

  • Vicente Wolf: Well, to be far, Vicente has two books, both of which would have qualified to be on this list, but somehow that just didn't seem right. I have already written about this book, but it really deserves another mention. The way it was put together has really made me llok at design books in a whole new way.

  • Mariette Himes Gomez: I think this is a terrific little book. Her work is renowned for a quiet yet luxurious simplicity and she manages to capture that in this volume. It is packed with great ideas and is small enough to be a quick read, but with terrific illustrations.

  • Jeffrey Bilhuber: In a book by designers, I am always looking for an insight into how they came up with the designs that I love so much. This book does not disappoint. Bilhuber's work is known for its warm attention to detail, that he makes look effortless, so I was intrigued to see what the process was that lead to these designs.

  • Noel Jeffrey: One of the frustrating thing about design publications of all sorts is that they contain great photographs, that are just that, great photographs. Often in composing these images, furniture is moved or removed, to create an image that portrays the feeling of the room, more than its actuality. The thing i love about this book is that he includes furniture plans, so you can get a real sense of how the room is put together. It makes the book, so much richer and informational.

    1. Friday, May 18, 2007

      Why Window Treatments?

      I happen to be a big fan of window treatments, I think that in most instances bare windows look just that; bare. Unfortunately, drapery can get expensive, so a lot of people tend to skimp or ignore them, but do this at your own peril. Here are some of my thoughts about why window treatments are a good idea;

      • Even in a modern interior drapery provides a great transition from wall to window, it helps to blur the boundaries, and helps to carry the eye to the view.

      • Drapes can be a very creative way of solving an issue of lack of view, by using sheer drapes to filter the panorama, even the most mundane outlook can become transformed.

      • You can use window treatments to help correct scale within a room. By taking the rod to the ceiling instead of stopping at the top of the door, you can make a room feel taller and more spacious.

      • Drapes can help not only soften the visuals of a room, but also help the acoustics too. A heavier weight fabric can do amazing things in a small space, and can really help to create a quiet retreat, by reducing the harshness of the sound.

      Thursday, May 17, 2007

      Thrilled to Announce

      Well today is my first day back from an amazing vacation in Italy. I had a terrific time and I am inspired and reinvigorated for a whole new crop postings, so look forward to those in the days and weeks ahead (when I get over the jet lag).

      In the meantime, I am thrilled to announce that I came home to a great surprise. In this months issue of the Robb Report Luxury Home, I have been included on their list of the Top 40 Interior Designers from around the world. The list includes John Saladino, Kelly Wearstler and Anouska Hempel, to name a few. Illustrious company indeed! Thank you to everyone over at The Robb Report, a great magazine, for all your support and recognition.

      Tuesday, May 15, 2007

      Nursery Room

      I have designed many rooms over the years for children. I have done Boys' Rooms, Girls' Rooms, Theme Rooms, well you get the idea. During all this I have never really spent a lot of thought on what I would do if I had children of my own. Well the time has finally come, my partner and I are in the process of adoption, so now I am faced with the dilemma of how to make the perfect room for a baby. I am sure my thoughts will change, but here are some ideas for those of you also looking to add to your family.

      • First of all the baby doesn't care. I have never met a newborn whose first words were "who was the decorator who did this???!!!??." The design of the room is fundamentally for the parent, a place to hang at 3 in the morning when precious starts to cry and needs to be fed. So design the room for you, and this is your chance to create a fantasy Nursery.

      • Plan the room like you would a kitchen, with military precision. Consider the work patterns, of where they sleep, need to be changed, where you will read etc etc. Aside from how it looks, it needs to operate in a way that makes sense for you.

      • You may want to consider a place in the room for you to sleep, and don't expect that from a chair, a nice daybed would be a great addition.

      • As far as color, keep it soothing, but fresh. I like lots of white, maybe a nice graphic pattern would be good too.

      • Add dimmers to all the lights in the room, there are times when you will want it bright and easy to see, and other times you will want soft mood lighting. Dimmers will give you the most control.

      Good Luck!

      Monday, May 14, 2007

      Top 5 Things for a Powder Room

      There are few rooms in the house I would advocate as being jewel boxes. The Powder Room, if you are lucky enough to have one, is one of those spaces. While it has it's obvious practical applications it is a small space that gives you a chance to show off a little. I have done everything from safari themes to marble rooms, dripping with opulence. So decide what it is you want to say, then scream it from the hilltop.

      • Because you are dealing with usually a small space, consider a treatment that might otherwise be too expensive to use on the rest of your home. Whether it be venetian plaster, wall upholstery, or a textured grass cloth. Use your selection to set the tone.

      • Consider lighting, it can be a fine line from practical to flattering. Over the sink I like to use a triangle arrangement; a recessed light, right over the sink, and two decorative sconces at eye height, on either side of the mirror. It creates a shadowless light over the face that is still flattering.

      • I like to use paper towels rather than cotton towels, it seems more hygienic. I usually go to a party store and buy the ultra heavyweight paper dinner napkins. They have a solid linen feel that creates a quiet sense of luxury.

      • The mirror; make it large enough that people can see themselves clearly. I noticed when I sat down to write this that I mostly use pretty simple mirrors. I think it feels a little more elegant that way, and doesn't create a distraction for your visitors.

      • Lastly the faucets, once again I try to err on the side of simplicity. I avoid tricks like hidden or infra red controls, and usually avoid single action faucets too. You want the experience to be as simple as possible for your guests, don't go hiding things or making it more complicated just because you thought it was cool.

      Friday, May 11, 2007

      Top 5 Favorite Chairs

      Since I am away, this will be a fairly short post on my favorite 5 Chairs. I think it's obvious what I like about them, so without further ado:

      Barbara Barry Slipper Chair from Baker

      Astrid Chair From Anthropologie

      Joshua Tree Lounge Chair by Ralph Lauren

      "X" Armchair by Aesthetic Decor

      Brno Chair By Mies Van Der Rohe

      Thursday, May 10, 2007

      Resource Day- Shopping Overseas

      As a designer, you can live in fear of the words "we are going on vacation and thought we would pick up a few things for the house." Shopping while travelling can be a great thing or a tragedy, often time what looks great in a store in Venice, when you get it home , looks like a garish souvenir. So, while I am a big fan of personalizing your home with things that you collect on your travels, I hope that these few pointers will help to avoid mistakes:

      • Make a list of the things that you need, whether it be a cabinet or something for the shelves in the Living Room, good planning will always help.

      • MEASURE! Be sure to take measurements before you leave, especially if you are buying for a specific place. Things have a way of distorting, when you are away. It is a great idea to carry a small measuring tape with you, as you may be travelling in a country that is in metric and don't rely on your own conversions.

      • Take snap shots of the locations you have in mind. It will help you imagine what the piece will look like when you get it home. Maybe even bring some swatches of fabric with you too.

      • Look into shippers before you leave. There are several large carriers that will pick up directly from the store and deliver it to your door, taking care of packing, shipping customs etc. This can relieve hours of red tape and stress on your behalf. I have used a company called Hedley's Humpers (http://www.hedleyshumpers.com/ ) several times throughout Europe and have nothing but good things to say. Once again though, plan ahead and contact them before you leave.

      • Do your homework before you leave. Find out where the Antique districts are in the areas you are going to visit (competition in these areas often leads to better pricing), also store opening days and times can be somewhat erratic.

      Most of all have a great time, shopping abroad can be a huge adventure!

      Wednesday, May 9, 2007

      Power of the Axis

      There is a lot to be said for structure. In Interior Design structure can take many forms, but I think it is one of the most vital elements to making your design make sense. One of the most powerful elements of structure is the axis. Using these view lines can give a home continuity from room to room, as well as help build an order within a room, whether using symmetry or a looser arrangement.

      • When beginning to layout your space, lay out the view axis' throughout the room. It could be the view from the Front door, or the view to the fireplace etc. Look also for secondary lines of importance.

      • Having established these lines try to balance around them to give you the most even sense in the room. The simplest method of this is a strict sense of symmetry, this can create a more formal arrangement though.

      • When trying to balance out the room, consider the relative weights of color, light and texture too. By inter playing these ideas you can create a more interesting mix.

      • In the image above you can see that this gallery has a very obvious axis, but the arrangement of furniture on one side and a row of light drapery on the other, balance each other other, without having to resort to symmetry. This can give a space a more dynamic feel.

      Tuesday, May 8, 2007

      It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Summer

      Summer is one of my favorite times of year. It means long days, vacations and endless blue skies. So I like to find ways to bring a little bit of this feeling into my home. I think it's important that where you live finds a way to reflect the passing seasons. Here are some things you may want to try:

      • I like to give my kitchen a whole new look. I will find new cabinet knobs, change out the towels and napkins to a brighter color (this year it will be tomato red) , change the mat etc, and even bring in a small chili plant to spice things up.

      • Making the house feel fresh, so try and keep the doors and windows open for as long as possible everyday, and introduce a natural scent, like cut flowers, or a scented potted plant, like a geranium. Nothing smells as fresh as the real thing.

      • Having said that, in summer I love to entertain in the garden a lot, so at night my is not as fragrant as I like, so I will augment the regular candles with scented ones, it's amazing what that little boost will do.

      • Keep a bowl of fresh fruit at the door, its a nice splash of color, but is also a great way to mark the season.

      • Swap out the pillows on your bed and sofas. Bring in more pattern and color, it will make the room glow. You might want to concentrate on fruit tones, like yellow and orange.

      Bring on Summer!

      Monday, May 7, 2007

      Answer Day: Bathroom Makeover

      I am always being asked "what can I do with my Room X if I don't want to do a major remodel?". Usually this question is about a Kitchen or a bathroom, where people for any number of reasons do not want to start tearing out fixtures and rebuilding cabinets. So here are some thoughts on simple things that you can do to your bathroom in a weekend, that will give it a whole new lease on life.

      • First thing, Paint! A fresh coat of paint can make all the difference, and be daring, it's just a bathroom, you are only going to spend a few minutes a day in here, make it something that is going to inspire you. I personally like strong color in a bathroom, like chocolate (I think that it can be very flattering).

      • Revisit the lighting. On Resource day a few weeks ago, I spoke about Circa Lighting, they have a huge range of fixtures that are cool, but within a good price range. If you have only a ceiling light, and no sconces, why not try adding sconces that hold real candles? It will give you a great look, without the trouble of rewiring (be sure to use dripless candles).

      • Freshen up your countertop. There is no excuse for plastic bottles all over the place. Get some pretty containers and empty your liquid soap into one, moisturiser in another etc. There is nothing worse than bathrooms that look like a cosmetics counter at a discount department store. It only take a few minutes to do this and it makes all the difference.
      • Don't underestimate the power of a plant or fresh flowers in your bathroom. They can really give a nice boost.
      • Invest in a few great towels. It always amazes how many people keep their towels till they are a threadbare mess. Replace them at least once a year. It is not a huge investment, and it makes you feel like a million dollars every time you step out of the shower.

      Designing within a Style

      In design, there has always been a fascination with "the other". People in New York want to build and decorate like Provence, people in Southern California want to build and decorate like Italy etc. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, the results, more often than not, are less than stellar. I have some thoughts as to why this happens and suggestions as to how to avoid some common pitfalls.

      • It is all about scale, you cannot make a mansion feel like a cottage, nor a cottage cannot feel like a mansion. So when considering your project, whether it's a new home from scratch or a bathroom remodel, consider first if the scale is appropriate to the project you are doing.

      • Consider context. Part of the reason why a Swiss Chalet looks so good in Switzerland is because it is appropriate to the location. The slope of the roof, the size of the overhangs are all responses to context. The same chalet would look silly in Arizona. This is part of the reason why Mediterranean styles can be so successful in Southern California.

      • Learn and know the style. What shapes are the windows, how big are they, how many are there? learning these facts and why they are like that is all a part of knowing your style. Until you learn that, making changes to suit your design can be hazardous.

      • After you learn the style you are now in a position to distill it down. What you want to do is recreate the feeling of the style, not make a copy of it. For instance do not get caught up in photo's saying, it must be this way or that, but step back and ask what is it about the style I am responding to, and how do I make that.

      • Having said all this, do not be a slave to the style. You are not an 18th century peasant, and if your house looks like one, it will make no sense. Instead look at scale, color and texture, these are the elements of style that will bring you success.

      Good Luck with your projects!

      Wednesday, May 2, 2007

      The New Living Room

      I was chatting with a client the other day, and they told me that the thing that they loved about the new Living Room that I designed for them was that it didn't seem like a Living Room. I hope that what he meant by that was that the room felt warm and inviting, the sort of place where you might sit and read a book on a Saturday afternoon. What I hoped it didn't feel like is an old parlor where you only go on special occasions, that is, never.

      Thankfully the way people live and use their homes has changed a lot, now people are not interested in having rooms that they never use, but it doesn't mean that every room should feel like a Den either. Here are some of my thoughts on The New Living Room:

      • No matter what you do, it is unlikely that the room will be used often, by a large group. So don't design it that way. Design the room for small, discreet seating groups, that way, when it is just you alone or you and a friend, it still feels comfortable. To do this, limit yourself to one sofa, then plan how the room will work with small groupings of people.

      • I have to admit, that while I want people in that room, I don't want them just watching TV, so I rarely will do a TV in a Living Room. There are already plenty of other places in the house for that.

      • Do not use furniture or fabrics you are afraid of. You will not feel comfortable in a space where you are constantly thinking about what to touch and how to keep clean. A rule of thumb, make the big pieces practical, the smaller ones the more fragile ones if you like. Then if there is a party or a large group, you can easily child and drinkproof the space.

      • You can spend a lot of money in this room, unless you are careful, so make it go as far as possible. Keep the major pieces pretty neutral, and add splashes of color or a sense of the seasons with pillows and accessories.

      • Finally, personalise the space. Put around a few framed pictures of your friends and family (matching frames please). Only a few framed pictures go a long way, don't cover every surface with frames, it doesn't say how much you love your family, it says you have no ability to edit.

      Enjoy your Living Room, make it a habit to use it at least once a week, you will be amazed how useful it can be.

      Out of Town

      I am leaving today for a much anticipated vacation. The next two weeks I will be touring Italy with some close friends. I have prepared a bunch of postings that will be put up in my absence, but I am not sure whether there will be a new posting each day, but bear with me, I will be back up to my usual pace when I return. Can't wait to share some thoughts from my trip.

      Tuesday, May 1, 2007

      Modern Kitchens

      I really love to cook, so Kitchens are rooms that I really love to design. But aside from their practical aspects, Kitchens also function as the heart of the home. This is the place where, homework is done, kids are fed and stories are told. So it can be difficult when I get a request to do a modern Kitchen, because it seems to me that these can be the antithesis of this. The image above is a Kitchen I did in a house up in northern California in conjunction with a local Kitchen Designer. The family has young kids and this Kitchen can be a madhouse at times, so I think that the clean lines help to give the Kitchen a more straightforward, handsome look that a more traditional style might not.

      Here are some ideas to consider if you are creating a modern Kitchen:

      • I like to use a combination of different materials to create a sense of warmth. In this Kitchen we used Douglas Fir doors wrapped in stainless steel, and then repeated the stainless steel on the island. It helps to create a nice rhythm.

      • One of the hallmarks of modern Kitchens is this idea of big splashes of one material. I like the idea for instance on the back splash, using a very simple color, like the sandblasted glass, but do it in a small tile, so that you still get some texture up there.

      • Once again, use different types of light so that you can create different effects, from bright utilitarian to a warm glow at night.

      • When laying out the kitchen, massing is very important. You want a modern kitchen to feel light and effortless, so try keeping all the bigger pieces (Refrigerator, wall ovens, pantry etc) grouped together.

      • When using a lot of material like stainless steel, make sure you balance it out with some material with a lower lustre, like slate, or else you will end up with a glary, shiny mess.

      Good Luck, and Happy Cooking!