Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013!

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Fireplace Weather

It's that time of year again when the chill air prompts us to clean out our fireplaces and ready them for the coming winter months. Fireplaces are a marvelous focal point for a living room or family room, or even a dining room or master bedroom. If you are lucky enough to have one (or several) in your home, this is certainly the time to build a roaring fire and curl up with some hot chocolate and a good book.

But often people buy a home with a tired old brick fireplace (whether raw or painted), or with a chimney breast that bears the mark of a previous owner's well-intentioned but clumsy attempt to add more "rustic charm." So I often have clients come to me for a remodel or re-build of their fireplaces; this fun and functional element of a room should be special. Take a look at the before and after transformations below and see what I mean...

I had clients who were very unhappy with their fireplace wall. They desperately wanted to be rid of some 1970s wood paneling, and who can blame them. The fireplace itself was faced with an odd material of rather sharp stones that had never been grouted. And the bench hearth only accentuated the whole mess.

I designed a total remodel for the wall that included new bookcases and storage flanking the fireplace. The clunky bench hearth was removed and the firebox was built out flush with the bookcases to accommodate a new gas-flame insert. English walnut marble and specialty tiles bring a classic sense to the fascia while a new wall color and ceiling spots add a warm glow to this rejuvenated family space.

Brick fireplaces were once popular but when they fell out of favor, homeowners painted them white, hoping to fade them into the wall color. While that may have removed the sight of the undesirable brick, it also removed the focus from what should be the focal point of a room.

In this case, my client wanted me to completely redesign and refurnish his living room and make his his fireplace once again the special element in the room. To start, I clad the existing brick fireplace breast in a stacked stone veneer. Properly placed recessed ceiling lights reveal the rich texture of the stone as well as my client's art collection in adjoining areas. The far wall received a grasscloth wallpaper treatment that echoes the horizontal lines of the fireplace. An area rug in a quartet of green shades anchors all new furniture, featuring strong lines and cube-like shapes, and arranged to take advantage of the fireplace focal point. Custom cocktail cubes of beechwood and ivory chiffon marble sit in front of the slate grey sofa, and an Asian-inspired bamboo console table stands behind it. Accessories and art placement complete this sleek, modern living room with a slight nod to the mid-century past.

This client had purchased a lovely home in a neighborhood surrounded by gorgeous redwood trees. While the beautiful location feels like a state park, the contemporary home was not the right venue for a rough quarry rock fireplace. The previous owners built the fireplace breast (which canted in on all sides, like a pyramid) out of scale with the wall and room which features a spacious ten foot ceiling height.

After demolishing the existing flagstone facing, we rebuilt the box to extend up to the ceiling line and faced the entire creation with a stacked stone in beautiful warm grey and taupe tones. The previous fireplace had no mantel so I created a raw edge mantel from a piece of reclaimed timber with a unique copper sheet detail which wraps around one end in an unexpected stripe, adding a bit of gleam and shine in an otherwise organic palette.

So if you have a fireplace you don't like, there are so many options to update or transform it into something new and attractive.

Stay warm and happy designing!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Benjamin Moore's Color of the Year for 2014

Venerable paint manufacturer Benjamin Moore have revealed their Color of the Year for 2014 and it is... drum roll please...

Breath of Fresh Air 806! While I do not believe in following "color trends" (I prefer instead to work with color on an instinctive level), this hue is light, and indeed fresh. I can imagine using this color in many different ways: for a powder room, a full bath, perhaps a ceiling in a master suite, or, as in the second photo below from Benjamin Moore, in a hallway as a way to blur the line between in and out...

But as with any color, remember that how it looks on your wall will depend on how much and what type of light your wall receives, what colors will be bounced onto it from either furnishings in the room or by greenery (or the lack of it) from the outside. I will be discussing how to pick paint colors in an upcoming post for 2014. Stay tuned and...

...Happy designing!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Four Easy Steps For Autumn Décor

This is the time of year when the air chills, days grow shorter, and we turn to our indoor lives. Since the temperature is dropping, we desire warmth and comfort, we desire insulation from the elements, and we desire to cocoon ourselves in special places that allow for beauty and contemplation of the season. Below are four very simple--and inexpensive!--ways to bring a touch of autumn into your home.

1. Nature
This is the easiest, fastest way to achieve a rich, fall texture in your home. And there are a few ways to work with nature.

A trip to the produce section of your local supermarket will yield a bounty of decorative objects. Think of buying a bag or crisp red apples to put in a basket or on a wooden platter as a centerpiece for a table. Pick up a selection of pumpkins (large, medium and baby pumpkins) and gourds to arrange on an end or hall table. Red or purple grapes and fresh cranberries can be put into decorative glass bowls or vases. Even things like stalks of Brussels sprouts, artichokes, or deep hued purple eggplants can be effective in centerpieces or tableaux. Another wonderful element to use in autumn décor are nuts: walnuts, Filberts, hazelnuts, pecans... just pile them up in an amber colored glass dish or scatter around a table setting.

A trip to the florist or nursery can provide you with some beautiful autumn color in the form of cut flowers like autumn colored chrysanthemums or potted orange marigolds. You can also find dried flowers and greenery like hydrangeas or eucalyptus to use in vases or other containers (I have a lovely antique ceramic German beer stein that gets some dried hydrangeas around this time of year.) Many places sell colorful Indian corn as well to add to the mix.

Finally, the most accessible way of obtaining natural elements to use is to forage! Autumn leaves, twigs to bundle or gather into bouquets, pine cones, sheaves of wheat or grasses can be found almost anywhere. Keep your eyes peeled and if you see a pretty fallen branch with a bit of moss on the sidewalk, snap it up!

2. Candles
Candles add a wonderful ambiance any time of the year but they seem especially appropriate in the colder autumn and winter months. Display pillar candles on a platter surrounded by nuts and pine cones, put them in lanterns, arrange a bunch of candles of varying heights with apples and mini ceramic pumpkins on a dining table. If you have a non-operational fireplace, candles look wonderful grouped in the firebox, giving the same visual cue as a log-burning fire.

3. Texture
For added interest, turn to earthy or rich textures:
* woods like oak and birch (candle holders, branches, bowls)
* burlap (a rustic table runner or cloth)
* velvet (pillows, drapery)
* blankets or throws in thick woven materials or faux fur
* rich patterns like paisley (pillows, throws, rugs, tablecloths or runners)

4. Color
At this time of the year, we are naturally surrounded by a rich palette: rust, crimson, purple, russet, mustard, forest green, umber, sienna...Use these hues as inspiration for objects in your own home.

It is easy to change out pillows, add some earthenware vases, and display some autumn colored fruit.

The addition of a throw and some white mini-pumpkins along with branches and dried vines in rustic jugs on the mantel above a warming fire sets the stage for fall.

Warm autumnal tones and a large scale paisley print look cozy and inviting.

Branches with brilliant rust and brown leaves placed inside honor the crisp days of the season. Notice the blanket of leaves, apples, and a gnarled piece of wood at the foot of the arrangement.

Gourds, decorative mercury glass pumpkins, an antler, and lanterns with glowing candles make a textural, interesting grouping. Image from Pottery Barn.

Branches and a selection of pumpkins in various hues are displayed with antique rakes in an almost minimalist tableau.

This casual table setting includes cinnamon sticks on forest green glass mugs (a lovely touch), apples, pine cones, leaves, and a coarsely woven cloth in natural hues of linen and taupe.

I set my Thanksgiving table every year with some gourds, red leaves, and a dried floral arrangement studded with eucalyptus, dried lotus pods (I love their shape) and pheasant feathers. I also use my grandmother's pressed glass turkey candy dish filled with an assortment of nuts (although some years, it holds cranberry relish!). Photo by Jeff Fiorito.

Bare twigs in simple glass cylinders (available at any craft store or florist) are anchored by what looks like a mix of wild rices. Berries, moss and lichen covered branches, pine cones and mini pumpkins complete the festive look.

Hazelnuts act as vase fillers for copper mums. Brilliant.

The simplicity of a single leaf on a white plate still expresses the richness and bounty of the season.

Now that you are acquainted with some simple, available ingredients, I hope you are inspired to gather some of these elements and honor the textures, smells, and sights of the season. And remember my helpful guidelines for creating a tableau, previously here: think about the shape your grouping makes; include tall, medium, and low objects for a variety of levels; odd numbers work best; and most importantly, contrast brings interest (rough next to smooth, light next to dark, large next to small).

Have a wonderful autumn and happy designing!