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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Making it Look Effortless

I remember one day sitting down to lunch with a very close friend, who was married with two kids, was in the process of building a house, as well as found time to donate to her favorite charity, and I was so fascinated by how she managed to do this all. She replied, I just try and make it look effortless, below the surface the swans feet are madly paddling. I think that a lot of designers could take a page from that book. It doesn't matter how hard you work to pull off a look, I think the best design is the one that looks effortless. That's why I like the room above, it looks simple and lived in, but beneath the surface a lot of work went in to pulling it together in just the right way.
How do you pull off an effortless look? Here are some tips you may want to try in your own home:
  • Simplicity is key, try and keep business and fussiness to a minimum. In this room it is essentially monochromatic, it creates a splendid background for some of the more graphic pieces.
  • If you forgo complexity in the color, be sure to counterbalance that with texture, I used an old rice basket as a side table that creates visual texture that I might otherwise have used pattern or color for.
  • Try and have one piece of significance. In this room I used a coffee table by Christian Liagre it gives the room weight, and the quality of that piece raises all that is around it.
  • Collections are a great way to fill space without the drama of a single overscaled piece.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Resource Day: 20th Century Lighting

Every week when I sit down to plan out what I am going to write on my Blog in the week ahead, I get to Resource Day and start to worry. There are so many different resources that I use, all of whom I want to give some attention to. This week though, I was working on a new project out by the beach, that is a Mediterranean style home, so I went straight to one of my most reliable resources, 20th Century Lighting. While I was doing this I realised that I had never written about them on the Blog, a huge oversight, but one that I hope now I have rectified.
When trying to make a home that is new, look like a period home, or if renovating an older home, lighting can be one of the biggest challenges that you face. Getting the scale just right, or finding that quirky piece, can be a challenge of almost biblical proportions, unless you buy vintage pieces (which can represent their own challenges). Take a look around at 20th Century's site though, it is amazing the depth of their collection, from sconces, to chandeliers, to table lamps, it's all there. They offer a range of finishes to match any project, and one other thing I like is that they are also sold in Showrooms around the country, so you can go and see them in person as well if you want.
So, check them out, I think you will be surprised by everything that they offer, (they are also a pleasure to deal with on the phone).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

One of my Favorite Rooms

I was wondering what to write about today and I was scanning through my old images and I cam across this picture. It's the Living Room of a house that I am still working on (we are doing it in stages), and I just paused when the image came up on my screen, it's one of my favorite rooms I have ever done.

The room is is a Mediterranean house that is fairly new, but we did a lot of work on it to try and make it feel a little more time worn. The goal was not to make it feel old, I believe that doing that you end up feeling like Disneyland, what I wanted was some attention to detail, that created an old world feel.

These are some of the things that we did:

  • Replaced the oak floor with a distressed Walnut floor
  • replaced the baseboard with a ceramic tile border, based on a design from the 1930's
  • Painted the walls a warm glowing gold
  • Replaced the Fireplace with an antique
  • Stencilled the beams in the ceiling
  • Added more lights to the ceiling

All of this gave me a great background to work with. Then we started with the furniture:

  • I built the room around this great cotton print that I found, and used on the drapery, and layered it with a split bamboo shade for texture.
  • I pulled out colors from the drape and used it in solid textures around the room.
  • The textures included, a rough linen, silk velvet and leather
  • I also used a quirky carved wood coffee table that has a lot of detail on it, to add some interest opposite the fireplace.
  • Then lastly, found an antique oriental rug to anchor the same seating group.

I think the room was a great success I hope you enjoy it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Shameless Self Promotion

I know that this falls within the category of Shameless Self-Promotion, but that's OK. I wanted to announce today the rerelease of a design that my office and I have been working on for some time now, The Tableaux Cloths. This is an idea that I had had several years ago, but had some issues with manufacturing etc etc. It seems now, that that is all solved and we are moving ahead at a great clip. The tables are now available in several sizes, multiple colors, with or without under tables, its all up to you. In the coming weeks we will be previewing some other designs, including a tent!, and some lighting, exciting times indeed. So for anyone thinking this might make a great Christmas Gift, or you might want to add it to the inventory of your store, please contact my office, and we will get you all the info that you need.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

New Blogs.......Well They Are Not ALL New

Once again, I am trying to keep up with all of the Design Blogs that are out there. There seems to be more and more each day, so I will try and feature some each week, hope you enjoy.

I hope You enjoy these, there are some gems here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Resource Day: Lost Art Salon

For those of us, who love to go to flea markets etc, one of the greatest rushes can be had from coming across a great piece of vintage art, whether a painting, drawing of sculpture. The sort of thing done by a not so well known, but still quite talented artist, that can be had for a few hundred dollars, but can stand next to any fine art pieces already in your collection. Well, a friend recently told me of a store in San Francisco, that is a treasure trove of just that kind of art, they are called, Lost Art Salon. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have never actually been to their store, however, they have such a great web site, I don't feel as though I need to rush.

The pieces that they have are the sort of thing that I would regard as Vintage, and vary from downright cheap to well priced quality pieces. They have paintings, drawings, prints and sculpture, all presented in an easy to use and well documented way. It is like stumbling upon the best of E Bay, all in one place. I have spent many quiet evenings at home, just flipping from one piece to another, so check out the site, but be warned you will keep coming back.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Taking Things for Granted

I will often come on to a project and be amazed by the number of decisions that people take for granted. Bedrooms have to be carpeted, bathrooms have to be stone or tile, but this is not always the case. Take the Bathroom above for example, I used a distressed walnut wood on the floor. What could be more luxurious to walk on in the morning? Obviously the first question, is "how do you keep it from getting destroyed?". Well, you do have to be a bit ingenious, in this room, I used marine varnish on the floor, to protect the wood, and then in an especially tough area, just outside the shower, I used a stone slab.

The point of this post is to have you think twice about decisions you make around the house, that you may take for granted, but needn't be that way. Here are some other thoughts, that may help you look at your hose decisions in a fresh way:

  • Try using real candles in a sconce or chandelier, the quality of light can be much warmer than what you can ever get from a bulb.
  • Use masses of candles in your fireplace, rather than a roaring fire, it will cut down on smoke and make a romantic alternative.
  • Use annuals in pots inside the house, instead of cut flowers, they will last longer, and are equally as pretty.
  • Use old bath towels to recover your favorite bathroom chair, it will be as comfy as your robe
  • When you redo your kitchen, use a wood top on the island, it is softer than stone or tile, and can be a nice old world element in any Kitchen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Big Image on a Small Budget

It is a neverending source of frustration that budget never quite matches the idea. Take for instance the project shown above, it was a second home we were working on for a family, so they didn't want to spend a lot of money, but still wanted the house to look great. Well, we had a dilemna when we got to the stairs, because we had this huge wall, but no money to speak of to cover it. So I bought this old poster and took it down toi my local printer and had him blow it up and print it on canvas. Just to break up the scale even more, I had him "tile" it so that it became 9 seperate images that I then just stretched onto frames and Voila! instant art.

There are a lot of options open to people who want to think creatively about art on their walls without blowing the bank:

  • Try using different empty frames that you canb find at any swap meet or junk store, try painting them all the same color, so that they are unified.
  • Almost any group of things looks good on a wall, in a Powder Room I did recently, the homeowner, bought a collection of old hand held vanity mirrors on E Bay, as a set they looked terrific.
  • What about a collection of travel plates, maybe something fun, like places that start with the letter P, or places that you want to visit but haven't yet,,,, let your mind go free.
  • I have also done sets of old postcards, done in single frames or grouped together can also be inexpensive.
  • But while you are looking on E Bay, what about an old store sign?

Try to find something that will make you smile each time you see it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Resource Day: Wisteria

I have to admit that one of my guilty pleasures is catalogues. For me, there is nothing better than the end of the day, sitting at my desk, flipping through the latest retail delights that are available to me. Whether it is cookies, clothing or candles, I will look at them all. Thank goodness, I don't buy a whole lot of this stuff, but I do love to look. An exception to this, is one catalogue that I think stands out from the rest, and that is Wisteria. I think that this company really has it going on. With a mixture of new and vintage stuff, it presents just the right amount of unusual things to set it apart from the norm.

Because I get inundated with these things, I start to notice that certain items can show up in 3 or 4 different catalogues. I don't find that with Wisteria, the stuff is always fresh, well presented, and most importantly to me well-priced. So if you have a moment, check them out and see what they have to offer, you will be pleasantly surprised I think.

Just as a general note, Resource Day, is a day a week that I dedicate to a different resource that I like. I don't write about resources that I don't like, my experience may not be yours and I don't think this is the venue for me to vent. I also do not get paid or asked to write about these companies, I write because I genuinely want them to succeed because I think that they offer something worthwhile.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Adaptive Re-Use, the Ultimate in Recycling

So much is made these days about "Green Design", and I think that there is a lot to it. I totally believe in trying not to squander resources and shopping smart from companies that do not damage the environment. Having said that, we are in a very glamorous industry that, almost by definition is preoccupied with visuals. One way that I have found that serves both purposes is the idea of adaptive reuse, finding things that were made for one purpose, but no longer are useful, and reusing for a whole separate idea. In the image above you can see the yellow lamp on the right. I found this in an old flea market, being sold with a lot of other old glass containers. It used to be used for some industrial purpose, but with a little imagination it makes a great lamp. Also, for the shade I found, at a different market and old silk sari from India, that was totally worn out and useless, but it was perfect for the lining of the shade. Even the coffee table is made from reclaimed wood.

This kind of imaginative use will go a long way to making the world a better place, and a prettier one too. Here are some thoughts for your own projects:

  • Almost any old, interesting object makes for a great lamp, I have used, old toys, pulleys as well as all sorts of old industrial glass ware.
  • If you are at a loss how to adopt your idea into an illuminating project, take your pieces down to your local lighting store, you might be surprised how quickly your idea is embraced by the people there
  • Old recycled materials, such as wood, old tiles etc make terrific additions to tables, and give them an instant patina.
  • When shopping at flea markets etc, be creative, an old classic hub cap, makes a great fruit bowl, with an industrial edge. An old sari or antique textile can be quickly reserviced into a table runner, napkins or a terrific wall hanging.

Scout out all the flea markets and sales in your area, they can be a wealth of opportunity,,,,, remember shop to save the planet!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Outdoor Fireplaces

With summer quickly becoming a memory, for many people trying to get those last few days and nights of outdoor entertaining it's getting down to the wire. One thing that will help to extend the season is an outdoor fire. The image above is a house that I did at the beach, which has a tendency to get a little cool, even on some nights in the summer. So, a big roaring fire is the perfect solution, but there are other ways to get this, if you aren't so lucky as to have space or budget for a full fireplace, here are some thoughts:
  • Many of the big retailers, like Smith and Hawken still have some portable firepits still available (it's a seasonal item and now is not the season).
  • If using a firepit, be sure to use it on a hard surface and have lots of comfortable chairs. As the nights get cooler, your friends are going to want to sit closer and closer.
  • Another idea, if you are having a special party is dig a firepit in the ground, this will let you build an even bigger blaze, perhaps its not even too late to try this at the beach, now that the summer crowds have gone.
  • When building these fires, don't forget that adding some scented woods, such as apple or pear can make it even more festive.

Monday, September 10, 2007

TV or No TV That is the Question!

There seems in every project an eternal struggle over TV or no TV (after watching Britney on TV last night I am beginning to think that no TV is a good idea!). But seriously, it can be a big challenge when space is a problem, and you are trying to create a room that serves as both Living Room and Family Room. The issue is getting simpler with the development of the flat screen TV, but if you still have a regular TV the problem can be acute.
In the home above, I built a cabinet to house the TV, that when it is closed looks shallow, but when open, you can see that it goes way back into the wall. This sort of imaginative use of space can really help. Often when you try and use an Armoire to house the TV it ends up over scale for the room, whereas something like this can be quite slim and works in a multitude of spaces.
So here are some other ideas that you may want to consider, so that the TV, does not always end up at the center of attention:
  • If you have a flat screen TV you can use a good size picture frame around it to make it fit in more with your decor. Try using a CD of family photo's running while you are not watching TV, it's a simple way to turn it into art work.
  • If you have a bigger budget a hydraulic lift can work wonders, but it can get expensive, and watch out for those fingers!
  • Don't fall in to the trap of getting a huge, over sized TV, a smaller one can work just as well, and offer as much viewing pleasure, without taking over your room.
  • Try to avoid putting the TV in the middle of the room. If it is a bit off to the side you may be able to "zone" the space so that it can function multiple ways.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Not a Pretty Chair?

Even on the scale of projects that I am used to working on, budget is always an issue. One way to make your budget go further is reusing some of the clients old pieces of furniture. This sometimes takes some creativity on the part of the designer. You can see above a perfect example of this. The top picture shows the clients existing Dining Room chair (the blue/green rinse over the wood really adds something don't you think?). Well, in the new Dining Room, that really wasn't going to work, so I re imagined the chair in a deep wood stain with this vibrant cut velvet seat, and all of a sudden it looks pretty cool. One other thing I did.... We needed more chairs that we had existing, so I simply created some very simple dark brown leather chairs, in the same silhouette as the existing ones.....they mix really well.

Here are some tips for reusing your old pieces in a new way:

  • Be creative with the color, often all it takes is a coat of paint or stain and you will have a whole new piece.
  • If it is a cased piece, such as a set of drawers etc, change out the hardware too, that can give a whole new direction.
  • Another idea is to upholster the panels on your drawers etc, this can give a very custom loo9k, and is something you can do easily at home.
  • The less important the piece the more vivid a color it can take, make it look a little frivolous and fun.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Some More Blogs to Check Out

It seems that everyday there are more and more new Blogs to check out. A few weeks ago, I did a post of some that I thought might be of interest. The list was starting to get a bit overwhelming, so I just posted a few, here are a few more:

Have fun, checking these new, and some not so new Blogs out.

I am back! ....and Thank You!

So, I am finally back in town after a great mini-vacation. What started as a trip to Mexico, ended up as a trip to Las Vegas and some of the National Parks of southern Utah. It was a terrific trip, but I am glad to be home and fresh, and gearing up for the end of the summer.

I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to Jo and Kim, from
Desire to Inspire for their amazing contributions. I had a chance to log on quickly while I was gone and checked it out, I have to admit, their posts really raised the bar! So Thank you!

Thanks also to Ashleigh, from my office who contributed an article. It has helped me realize what a huge pool of talent I have right under my nose, so expect to see more from her, and perhaps a few others from the office too, they are an opinionated bunch!