Monday, March 30, 2015

The Tradition of The Gatehouse

Interior Design is not only about interiors, but about architecture and historical styles as well. The outside of a dwelling should have something to do with the interior (although this "rule" may be judiciously broken for a design statement). And like so many things in life, the more one understands, the more one enjoys...

"A gatehouse, in architectural terminology, is a building enclosing or accompanying a gateway for a castle, manor house, fort, town or similar buildings of importance."

Because they are smaller than castles and manor houses, these delightful structures were and still are often homes in their own right.

Top to bottom: Barbican gate of Glenarm Castle, Co. Antrim; Caerhays Gatehouse; Caerhays Gatehouse, Cornwall; Lanhydrock Gatehouse, Cornwall; Lough Key Gatehouse, Boyle, Ireland; The Anthony Salvin Gatehouse at Harlaxton College, Lincolnshire; Tregothnan Gatehouse, Cornwall; unknown gatehouse

Such buildings suggest lovely classic British interiors like these, with a wonderfully curated mix of Jacobean, Victorian, and Edwardian elements:

The photo above is of Lee Stanton's stately yet comfortable English-style drawing room in Laguna Beach, California.

And the following image is a cozy drawing room by Broosk Saib. Chintz wallcovering, passamenterie, ancestral portraiture, wainscoting, discreet floor lamps, and a tole table all add up to a classic, timeless style from the British Isles.

Happy designing!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fiorito Interior Design Press Update, March 2015

I was interviewed by Good Housekeeping for an article entitled "7 Big Mistakes You Make Lighting Your Home." Although I spoke about many things--the need for layered lighting, the need for flexibility in lighting, and incandescent vs. LED lights--my comments about the usefulness of dimmers in the home became #2 on the list of 7 mistakes.

2. You dismiss dimmer switches.
Many of the designers we spoke to named this mistake as a major pet peeve. "Dimmers are the best kept secret of lighting design," says interior designer Jeff Fiorito. "They allow you to control your lighting from day to night, for various events, and depending on your mood." A quaint dinner party simply isn't so quaint if your dining room is lit up like a stadium.

Thanks to author Lauren Piro and Good Housekeeping. To see the original article on the Good Housekeeping website, click here.

And if you missed it, please read my past post about this topic, "Lighting Basics: How To Illuminate a Space."
Happy designing!

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Four Basic Types of Sofa Arms

There are almost as many sofa arms as there are sofas, but this primer on the four basic types of sofa arms will help you narrow down styles when sofa browsing. There are many variations on these four, but you'll be able to see the bones of each in whatever you see.

Roll Arm
This style is called a roll arm for obvious reasons. The arm literally rolls out from the body of the sofa. It is a very traditional arm and appears not only on most sofas, but also on different shapes like the Chesterfield, seen in the second photo below (I previously wrote an entire post about the Chesterfield sofa here).

English Roll Arm
A hallmark of the English roll arm is that it is typically much lower than the back, and much closer to the seat deck.

Scoop or Slope Arm
This arm features a gentle curve or slope downward to the seat deck, lending a sensuous, curvaceous appeal to a piece of furniture. In the first photo, the beautiful scoop arm sofa in a living room by Redmond Aldrich Design boasts extra elegance with chrome nailheads.

Track Arm
A track arm's linear quality is contemporary and can lend a Mid-Century Modern feeling, as seen in this sleek room below.

Despite being contemporary in nature, a track arm is neutral enough to exist alongside traditional elements like antique furnishings and a coffered ceiling.

A track arm does not have to slim, either. Often times, especially in Italian design, track arms can be wide and substantial.

Even though we have seen a track arm in a variety of settings, some sofa arms go better with certain room styles than others. In the market for a new sofa but overwhelmed by choices? Give me a call!

Happy designing!

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Serpentine Chair

I have discovered Hancock & Moore's Serpentine chair and I am dying to use it in a design for a client. Look how sculptural, graceful, and sensuous the lines of this chair are.

And it looks even more special when upholstered in metallic leather, embossed snake skin, or cut velvet.

Or how about zebra and croc? YES PLEASE!

Happy designing!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Wallpaper: Minakani Walls

Parisian-based Minakani Walls make some interesting, fun, and striking wallpaper. The founders Frédéric Bonnin and Cécile Figuette began offering wall décor a few short years ago and their products are imaginative and charming. Seen below are the patterns Cloudy, Cave, Foudre (lightning), Peacocks, and Carpathes (which looks like an Edward Gorey illustration!).

I hope I have shown you, in this ongoing series of posts, that wallpaper is not the dreadful stuff on your mom's kitchen walls or your grandmother's guest bathroom. There is a wonderful world of wallpaper being created now, and waiting to be discovered.

Happy designing!

Monday, February 23, 2015

CoeLux Brings A Sunny Sky Anywhere

Since the atmosphere of our little planet is made up of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% other gases, the sunlight that passes through the atmosphere has a very specific and identifiable quality and color...and creates our familiar and comforting blue sky. And now, physicist Professor Paolo Di Trapani of Insubria University at Como, Italy has created a revolutionary technological discovery that brings sunlight and blue skies to any space, no matter where it is. Even underground. After a decade of research and development, Professor Di Trapani uses an LED light source filtered through several layers of nanoparticles (which function as the layers of nitrogen, oxygen, and miscellaneous gases in our atmosphere) to mimic exactly the sun as an orb of light in a blue sky. The results are simply jaw dropping--look at the photos below that CoeLux assures us are not Photoshopped. They are raw photos of the actual product.

In November 2014, CoeLux was crowned “Light Source Innovation of the year” at the Lux Awards, and rightly so. The implications for this invention are staggering and will change interior architecture forever. Subterranean homes and businesses, parts of the world that don't see much sunlight for reasons of latitude or pollution, or areas of buildings where a roof line or second story will not permit a skylight will all benefit tremendously from this marvel.

CoeLux is currently offered in three levels, each with a regional, or geographical cast. CoeLux 60 creates sunlight at a 60 degree angle to create near-equatorial tropical light. For light with a Mediterranean feel, CoeLux 45 delivers a 45 degree beam. And CoeLux 30 features a 30 degree angled beam of light reminiscent of Nordic light. But the company is at work producing a commercially feasible version for regular applications.

Watch this short video about the product. It is just mind boggling...keep in mind that you are not seeing sun and sky but an artificial light source that seems to be anything but.

And visit their site for more details:

Happy designing!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Three Patterns of Africa: Kuba, Kente, and Mud Cloth

Using ethnic cloth as an accent in interiors is a wonderful way to add character, texture, and pattern. The following three cloths, all hailing from Africa, are beautifully earthy and graphic, and would lend tremendous panache to any space.

Kuba (KOO-buh) cloth is made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire, out of raffia. Men grow, harvest, and weave the raffia into a coarse material which is then given to the women who pound the cloth in a mortar to soften it. Once it becomes supple, the women then appliqué geometric patterns to the yardage of the base cloth. The result is a fabric that bears a resemblance to cut velvet. The patterns traditionally vary in a single piece, abruptly shifting from one repetitive pattern to another.

Because of the nature of the raffia, this material is better suited for smaller, decorative items like pillows or displayed as wall hangings and art, but one does see it used on seating and chairs. The first photo below shows a bench upholstered in kuba cloth from West Elm (now discontinued).

Native to the Akan people of South Ghana, kente (KEN-tay) cloth is unique in that it is actually comprised of many individual strips of tightly woven cloth. These strips are woven into a bigger piece of fabric, much like the strapping of lawn chairs, in an "over-under" pattern, creating rich layers of stripes and lines. A hallmark of kente cloth is its bright colors of orange, green, blue, and black.

Below we see it used as a pillow cover for a bright sitting area by Glenn Gissler.

Mud cloth from Mali, also called bògòlanfini (bow-hoe-lan-FEE-nee), is dyed and patterned using fermented mud high in iron content which lends the rich rusts, browns, and blacks characteristic of this fabric. The room below uses mud cloth and kuba cloth! Like kuba and kente cloth, mud cloth also features highly geometric patterns with, generally speaking, extra thick lines.

Mud cloth is perfect for using in upholstery because of its thicker, near-burlap-like texture which holds up well on chairs and sofas. It looks good on simple pieces of furniture as seen in the desk chair in the first photo below, but it also looks amazing on antique or European pieces like the Louis XV chair in the second photo below. Remember Design Mantra #1: "Contrast brings interest!"

I used a piece of authentic mud cloth as a tree skirt under an African themed holiday tree I created a few years ago for a charity called The Holiday Designer Showhouse, here in Northern California. You can read the original post here.

I have access to many sources of fabric which invoke kuba, kente, and mud cloth, but also know where to get the original versions of these cloths. If you would like to reupholster a chair, or create some custom pieces of furniture utilizing these stunning fabrics, give me a call!

Happy designing!