With fall and the holidays right around the corner, it’s a perfect time to give some thought to a welcoming fire in the fireplace. And fireplaces are always one of my favorite ways to find a focal point in a room be it living room, dining room, kitchen or master bedroom.  If you have one, use this wall as your starting point for both setting the tone of the room and arranging the conversational area.

Fireplace mantels and hearths can be as stylized as the exterior of the home and can reflect a traditional, old world, rustic or contemporary style.  And today, the availability of different materials and craftsmen make  a wooden mantel kit a rather stale option.

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Elegantlots of wooden moldings and intricate details that continue to the ceiling for vertical sophistication. Either stain a rich color to mirror wooden beams or paint and glaze.

Lakehome – mix up stone at the base for a casual touch, then switch to an elegant tumbled marble up to the ceiling and top with a rich painted or custom stained mantel.

Genteel – flank the fireplace with symmetrical library units. Have the mantel shelf mirror the wood tone or paint color of the library unit and bridge the gap in depth.

French Country – exaggerated plaster face inset with tumbled marble or hand painted, imported tiles.

 

We may not depend upon the fireplace as our source of heat or cooking fuel anylonger but don’t let it sit idle, use it as a draw for conversation and take advantage of the visual warmth it brings. Allow it to suffuse not only the room but your spirit with an impassioned glow.

 

 

August11

If you have an active household like I do, consider slip covering dated or worn furniture. I know you are probably familiar with the looser, “pre-made” versions available at big box stores and they do serve a purpose. But I am referring to custom made slipcovers made of lush velvets, silk blends, woven wools or blended linen weaves that have been typically reserved for formal rooms. Use these gorgeous fabrics as slipcovers and you will have a high-end look with the added ability to dry-clean yearly not to mention the bonus of having reserve cushion covers on hand should you need them quickly.

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Custom slipcovers are measured in the home, cut and pinned on the piece of furniture and then installed with zippers for an extra tight fit. Slipcovers from French Country take about 2-3 weeks from the time the fabric arrives to installation. The price will depend upon the grade of material you choose. Make two different slipcovers and you can switch out a room from summer to winter. Add 30" down filled custom pillows and you can take a 1970’s sofa and turn it into today’s showpiece. Have the bottom cushions rewrapped if looking flat.  Tear off an outdated skirt and add turned legs for a cleaner look. Add some decadent corded fringe at the bottom and you will have a classic jewel.

 

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July11

JulyBlogPhotoThese days, I probably design as many library rooms and home offices as I do kitchens. There has been a return to or perhaps a craving for the academic feel and touch of books. I personally find libraries, both private and public, to be pure sensory power on so many levels. The feel and smell of books is hypnotic, the stories that surround you are pure potential and the knowledge they hold are solid leverage. Whether you have a collection of antique books or today’s best sellers, why not exhibit them as their true art?  Why not display them as valuables within the home?

Today’s library rooms typically fall into two categories: a library, which is also the media room, or a library which dually serves as an office. Rarely do I see all three at once. I mention this in following the last blog about not combining the home office with the kitchen. So, too, does the logic follow that a library which is to serve as the home office should not be the family’s media center. Let the electronic buzz of one not be confused with the soothing, studied solitude of the other. At a minimum, design it such that the media center can be hidden behind doors so that the quiet hush of a university library can imbue the space.

 Finally, don’t think for a minute that these libraries need be dark and masculine. Most of my clients are women and they have me design spaces that are powerful displays of intellect but also the physical landscapes of their quiet, reflective natures.

 

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June11

I have had the benefit of watching so many families, usually younger ones, tear down walls or build-on in order to have a “great room.” Often,  this not only encompasses the kitchen and eat-in area, but a play zone for children combined with a mult-media family room.  While I enjoy the “open plan” so that more family functions are within eye and ear shot, the one thing I cannot endorse is the office center in the kitchen.  Many kitchen designers love to put the “work station” in the kitchen area so that busy mothers can gather school papers and oversee the family calendar. But many of these mothers also work outside the home. Even if they don’t, why would one want to have spaghetti on the permission slip or review the plumber’s bill while preparing lasagna?

These great rooms have become all noise and no refuge. The 24/7 electronic communication center is already enough to sap the joy out of cooking. The task of paying bills and filing away medical records should not be intermingled with kitchen tasks. Do yourself the greatest of favors and allow yourself the pleasure of repurposing another area of the unused house to gift yourself an office. Claim a bedroom or hall nook and give yourself a quiet place with a desk, comfortable chair and storage to do your own homework with attention to detail.

Cooking should be enjoyable and an invitation to the senses: smell, touch, color and taste. Opening up that space to include conversational areas and gathering spots is a welcomed progression in design but throwing in an office is one spice too many.

 

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May11

Planning a bathroom should not begin with toilets, bathtubs and sinks. Anyone can address the function of a bathroom so instead, imagine the bathroom as just a room first and foremost. Look around. What room does the bathroom flow from and do you wish to create an extension of its already established  décor? Is it a room unto itself in which case you envision it as its own composition? Once you figure out how to establish the feeling you want to elicit, you can move forward.

bathroompic1smBegin by compiling your materials while keeping in mind a balance of glass to tile, to textile, to color and pattern. Give some thought to lighting and what will greet you at the onset and end of each day with a glow not a glare. Texture is widely overlooked in many bathrooms as oftentimes everything is smooth porcelain which feels cold and sterile. Covering every square inch of a bathroom in outrageously expensive tile might scream status, but it doesn’t always speak of good taste. Don’t let any professional, be it tile pro or wallpaper pro, talk you into all of one kind of product. Balance it out with a plan before you start.

Now, you are ready to think sink bowl vs pedestal vs undermount. Antique or new? Soaking tub or jacuzzi tub? Perhaps a shower with a seat? Warming wire in the floors? Sconce lights through the mirror or outside? The possibilities are endless  and we have not even begun to discuss your own physical needs.  Retirement age with comfort and ease in mind or young ones with energy and movement to spare.  We still have much to consider.

As a final thought, I am reminded of my Mother's 1960's master bathroom which she remodeled a few years ago.  Master bathrooms, at that time, were considered irrelevant and pure function.   This one now greets you with the sweetest antique armoire with arched glass doors that reveal bright white, rolled towels, beautiful bottles and a porcelain bowl with soaps. On the walls she hung a collection of diminutive oil paintings by Jessica Durnell whose work makes you smile the second you enter the bathroom. The richness of color from the antiques and paintings offset the cooler whites and creams of the marble field tile and strong black of the marble floor which has now worn down to a leisurely mat finish. She wouldn't change a thing. It is her harbor at the beginning and end of each day.

 

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