Monday, October 28, 2013

The Luxury Bathroom by Fiorito Interior Design

A while back, I had the good fortune to work on a complete home renovation. My clients bought a property that was in the right neighborhood with the right school and right distance from work and culture, and while the house was nice, it was not the dream home my clients had hoped for. Since turnover in this particular, highly desirable neighborhood is rare, they decided to turn this house into their dream home. And thus a nearly two-year rebuild project was born. Both the front and back of the house got extended and rebuilt, making way not only for a much more spacious formal living room, but also for a glorious master suite: the bedroom square footage grew and so did the area for the master bath.

The old master bathroom was quite unfortunate, looking like something from a motel with a single, lonely sink and vanity open to the bedroom, outside of a much smaller room that held an unremarkable single-person shower and toilet. Needless to say, this uninspiring arrangement did not look anything at all like a master bath, as you can see below.

My plan was to create an entire master suite that would give my clients the feeling of staying in a luxury hotel. And the most effective way to achieve that goal was to fit the larger, new bath space with clean-lined yet stately elegant fixtures and materials that seemed to come from a sumptuous, Old World London hotel such as The Savoy. Below you can see the new floor plan and my rendering for the new bath.

A color palette of soft greys, whites, chrome, and rich woods grew naturally from the design concept. The floor and tub are clad in grey and white Turkish Letoon marble. A matching basketweave marble border was placed as an accent in the shower and in a “rug” on the floor. A concentric circular patterned wallpaper brings an Art Deco touch as it plays behind chrome picture-framed cabinets. Classic sconces with fabric shades by Hudson Valley bring softness while the petite chandelier over the whirlpool tub adds sparkle and glamour. And the rich wood of the custom vanity grounds the sophisticated grey and white palette.

You needn't rebuild a bathroom in order to introduce some Old World luxury into your life. If you are considering a bathroom remodel, it is possible to introduce into your plans many of the elements you see here. Give me a call and let's work on creating a little slice of The Savoy for you.

Happy designing!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Know Your Chairs: Chinese Yoke and Horseshoe

An Asian aesthetic can be incorporated into many different periods and styles of furniture because of its relative simplicity and elegant design. Two chairs to look for are the Yoke Back Chair and the Horseshoe Back Chair. Their names are quite descriptive and give you an idea of what each looks like.

Originally, Chinese furniture consisted of sitting either on mats or on low level platforms with arm rests. But the introduction of Buddhism to China in 202 BCE-220 CE brought with it the idea of The Buddha sitting on a raised platform as a form of veneration and a show of spiritual grace. The idea of elevation as a symbol of power caught on and chairs and settees were born.

Both the Yoke Back and Horseshoe Back Chairs originated during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 CE) and are characterized by simple, elegant structures with fluid lines, balanced proportions, and concealed joints using the new-to-China method of mortise and tenon construction.

The Yoke Back Chair has a back whose design is based on the shape of an oxen yoke, which is a wooden harness put over the shoulders and around the head of oxen or other strong farm animals to pull a plow through dirt.

The Horseshoe Back Chair is of course a riff on the same idea, but using a slightly different shape, that of a horseshoe. The second set of chairs actually fold!

Because of their simple yet dramatic sculptural shapes, these chairs work well in modern settings, or as a contrast with more ornate chairs such as a Louis XV or a plush wing back.

Yoke Back Chairs look great in this pared down dining room by Sara Story.

A sleek minimalist setting is perfect for these sculptural chairs. Photo by Simon Upton.

Designer Kay Douglass designed a Belgian-style home for herself and put Chinese Yoke Back Chairs in an otherwise European country kitchen... it works beautifully. Photo by Simon Upton.

And here is one more helpful tip: when you see a chair that you think is based on an Asian design like these, they are generally Chinese and not Japanese. The traditional (ancient) Japanese aesthetic never included elevated seating.

Happy designing!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lighting Basics: How To Illuminate A Space

Each space I am hired to work on is individual, unique, and has its own personality. But there is one element that is consistent in every single space I design and that element is: light. It is the invisible element in the room since many people only consider furniture or furnishings, or finish materials such as tile, wood, or paint when thinking of a room. Yet lighting is such a vital part of each and every space.

Lighting greatly effects mood. I am sure we have all had the frustrating experience of being in a room with insufficient light when we are trying to read or work on a task which requires us to see well. And by the same token, I am sure we have all been in a room that was simply too bright when we wanted to relax. Too much light or not enough can create a subliminal annoyance that manifests in a dislike of the room itself. But don't hate your kitchen or living room for bad lighting. There are easy ways to fix this problem.

Whether you are building from scratch, starting a down-to-the-studs remodel, or just planning on furnishing an existing space, below are some tips and thoughts for working with lighting.

First, we want to think of lighting as being flexible. We want to be able to choose bright light for any task we might want to work on, but we also want to be able to control that light for when we wish to watch a movie on a nice new flat screen or spend a nice, intimate evening visiting with friends. In order to achieve this, we can layer our lighting.

There are three main types of lighting:

1) Ambient
This is light that completely illuminates a room. Think of this as the base coat of paint on a wall--you want good coverage, to spread the light out as much as you can. Well placed recessed ceiling lights do a good job with this layer. In the photo below, you can that the recessed trough lights create an even blanket of light for the center of the living room.

2) Task
This is lighting that allows us, as the name implies, to complete a certain task. Sconce lights on either side of a bathroom mirror cast light ONTO our faces, allowing us to shave or put on make-up without any annoying shadows. A table lamp or reading lamp next to a chair allows us to read without eye strain. Under cabinet lighting in a kitchen allows us to use sharp knives safely.

3) Accent
As I wrote at the beginning of this post, each room has its own unique personality and accent lighting allows certain traits to be highlighted. The swing arm lamps in the Robert Couturier-designed library below are a lovely element to limn the shelves of books. Strategically placed spot lights can illuminate art, whether it is two or three dimensional. And lighting under a bathroom vanity toe kick or hidden in a soffit can define the edges of a room. Accent lighting can also bring some sparkle and drama to a space.

Accent lighting can also highlight architectural details such as cove or tray ceilings. Wall washers (recessed lighting positioned to send a beam of light cascading down a wall) can call out the texture of stone or wood wall details.

Successful spaces incorporate all three layers of light. In the living room, and the Candice Olsen-designed kitchen below, see if you can identify the three layers at work in each room.

If you are remodeling or simply refurnishing a space, remember to include multiple sources of light in your layering. Ambient layer: If you have the opportunity to add recessed ceiling lights, by all means do so. If you can't recess into the ceiling, unobtrusive surface mounted spots can be just as effective. Task layer: Use several table lamps instead of one torchiere in the corner. Accent layer: Include a decorative light here and there for some interest. And remember that small up-lights can be positioned behind furniture to brighten dark corners.

Happy designing!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Know Your Sofas: Knole Sofa

One of the earliest examples of a sofa, the Knole Sofa was originally an upholstered, more casual throne on which the monarch sat to receive visitors. It is associated with and named after one of the great houses of England, Knole House, located in Kent and owned by the Sackville-West family since 1605.

Below is the original Knole sofa in Knole House, which is part of the National Trust. The design is marked by a hinged back and sides which can fold down. The tops of the back and sides have finials and when the back and sides are in an upright position, they are held in place by braided cord, often with tassels, wrapped around the finials.

For fans of "Downton Abbey," here is a screen cap from the series of a Knole House sofa in the library; behind it we can see Mr. Carson (played by Jim Carter). We have seen Lord and Lady Grantham sit here often. The next photo shows a view of the antique Knole sofa in the library of Highclere Castle, the real life castle which serves as the setting for "Downton Abbey."

Although the Knole sofa originated in the early part of the 1600s and was traditionally upholstered with tapestry material... can be used successfully in contemporary rooms. Here is a Knole sofa upholstered in a modern fabric. It works quite well with the lime green bolster pillows!

And here is a beautiful example of how to reference a period without copying it. Designer Orlando Diaz-Azcuy places two Knole sofas by a fireplace. In spite of the ancient origins of this sofa, the simplicity of the room and the white linen upholstery makes the scene feel contemporary and clean-lined. This reminds me of Design Mantra #1, previously here: Contrast brings interest!

Happy designing!