Monday, February 28, 2011

Ask the Designer--Kitchen Backsplashes

Thought it would be fun to have an "ask the designer" segment here. So if you have any questions related to residential design, please email them to me at Include pictures if you can. Readers, please feel free to jump in with your own suggestions and answers!
Up first comes a question from a past client. I designed their house a few years back, and they have just recently moved into it and are starting to do some of the finishing touches.

"We want to add a backsplash in the kitchen. We've decided on a plain white subway tile, but my husband wants to add a 'striped' accent of some colored glass tiles. I'm not so sure about that, I think I would rather keep it simple. Also, where do we stop the tile when we get to the hood over the range?"

Im not sure if it will be possible, but the ideal answer here would be to come just under the stone with a natural stone chair rail. (Hard to say if there's a way to attach it at the junction  of the stone and stainless hood, would require a little ingenuity.) This will give that stone a finished edge and a nice stopping point for the tile backsplash. I think it would further act as a "bridge" between the rusticated stone and the polished subway tile. That line could then continue back to the wall and across to the cabinets as a stop. I tend to agree with you that there is no need for any sort of accent tiles here. My only thought is that you could get a pencil tile that matches whatever chairrail you select and simply outline a rectilinear area between the range and the hood. Given these colors, I think a dark travertine chairrail and pencil-thick border tile would work very well, and both are available at Lowes or Home Depot. Here's a quick and dirty drawing of what I'm talking about:

If it isn't possible to wrap the stone chairrail around the entire hood, I would suggest finishing off the subway tile at the bottom of your existing stacked stone surround. You can still do a picture framed area with a thin natural stone accent, and perhaps "stop" the subway tile with the same natural stone such that the top of the last subway tile stops at the bottom of the stacked stone, and the new stone tile accent goes above that.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Whole House Transformation in Alta Vista

Several years back, a friend's parents purchased this house in Greenville, South Carolina's Alta Vista neighborhood. (The neighborhood will no doubt garner many blog posts here because it is filled with beautiful houses.) Small, neglected, and utterly unlivable, the house was sold at a tear-down price. Initially, they considered doing just that. But by the time they hired me to design their makeover, they were convinced the old  house was worth saving.

The front and back of the house when they purchased it. Hard to see the potential!

The transformation just about tripled the size of the house--adding a large new kitchen and dining area at the rear, and a luxurious master suite on the new second floor. A few exterior walls were saved, the original doors and fireplace, but not much else.

The house during construction. Notice the oval shaped foundation vents that the owner scored while antiquing in New Orleans.  From this angle, it's clear the house got just a bit larger.

Recently, after enjoying the house for a number of  years, the clients I designed it for decided to put it on the market. It's a testament to the excellent job they did on the transformation that it sold in the first week it was for sale. Take a look at these afters (Photos taken from the MLS listing).

The new porch and front door give the house a much better street presence.

The front after the transformation. Bears little resemblance to the original.

The outline of the original house is just visible in the view of the rear.

The Great Room envelopes most of the original house. The fireplace is the only thing left of the original interior.

The gorgeous kitchen and dining area were added during the renovation.

Another view of the dining room. Beautiful trimwork was added throughout.

The vanity area in the master bath. So crisp and clean.

The master bathroom is in the second floor addition. Love the striped marble floor.

I'm once again joining the "Metamorphosis Monday" party over at Between Naps on the Front Porch. While you're surfing, click over there for more before and afters!

Celebrating Oscar Night With a Look at AD's Green Rooms

Tonight is Oscar night, when Tinseltown's royalty parade down the red carpet and are judged as much on their attire as on their acting ability. It's one of the most glamorous events in the world, and each year since 2003, Architectural Digest has sponsored a Green Room where the celebrites can compose themselves before hitting the stage.

This year's Green Room was designed by Michael S. Smith (the same designer the Obama's worked with on their changes at the White House.) I adore the antique mirrors, the wall of books, and the restrained color palette:

2011 Architectural Digest Green Room
 Last year's Green Room was designed by Roger Thomas and the focal point was a custom spatter-painted floor. I adore the accent chairs on the left--is that a Picasso-esque face printed on the back of them?

The 2010 AD Green Room
 The 2009 Green Room by Stephen Shadley was meant to evoke a sleek 1970's modern lounge. I love the thick black crown molding.

The 2009 AD Green Room

The 2008 Green Room might be one of my favorites. It almost goes without saying that Carleton Varney is responsible for it. the dramatic black walls, the pops of red and green, and the black and white checkerboard floor are signature Carleton. This room looks like it might have been plucked right out of The Greenbrier hotel.
2008 Green Room
2007's Green Room was truly "green"--Matthew White and Frank Webb selected materials that were recycled, sustainable, and eco-friendly. LOVE the mother-of-pearl wall covering.

The "green" 2007 Green Room

The 2006 room was by Roy and Dorothy Christopher. It is pure luxe glamour. Isn't that sofa gorgeous?

The 2006 Green Room
The Christophers were also responsible for the dramatic and theatrical Green Room for 2005. This room fairly reeks of Hollywood.

2005's Green Room
Roy and Dorothy Christopher also designed the 2004 Green Room. Roy is a verteran art director for the Academy Awards telecast. He's also responsible for one of my favorite sets of all time for the sitcom "Frasier". I could be right at home in this room. I believe the oval-backed chair is by Barbara Barry for Baker.

The 2004 AD Green Room

The first official AD Green Room was also done by the Christophers. The glam color scheme and subtle art deco influences are a nod to another era of Hollywood. I'd have to say this one is my least favorite, but it's still a beautiful space.

The first official Green Room, 2003

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Shipping Container Houses

Home sweet home?

Does the image of a lowly shipping container bring to mind thoughts of "home?" When I think of one, my mind goes to the port of Charleston, SC where they can be seen piled ten high all along the water. Or the local Lowe's, where they sit filled with pine straw during the gardening season, or perhaps Wal-Mart during Christmas, where one corner of the parking lot is filled with shipping containers that hold overflow merchandise.  I never thought of one as being a home. But there is a whole movement that is turning these utilitarian items into cabins, luxurious houses, even student dorms.

It's a perfectly "green" way of building. The containers, which come in standard sizes up to 8 feet by 40 feet, are sturdy and solid, and provide a great "module" that can be joined in any way imaginable. The results are almost unbelievable:

This award-wining beach house by De Maria Design is made of shipping containers.

I love the composition of containers that form this Canadian house.

Bark Design Collective created this "All Terrain Cabin" I can just picture it as a charming weekend getaway.

In Amsterdam, dozens of shipping containers were connected to form this student housing complex.

Who could guess THIS is the interior of a shipping container?

Great use of limited space with the built-ins.

Very Sleek looking.

The internet is awash with sites that feature these inventive structures. I'm feeling a little inspired myself--look for a shipping container house on my boards soon.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Enduring Style--Black and White Checkerboard Floors

One of the most enduring items on my list of things I love is the timeless black and white checkerboard floor. I think this classic look first made an impression on me as a child visiting the Governor's Mansion in West Virginia.
A view of the foyer at the WV Governor's Mansion--how could this NOT make an impression?

Another view of the same foyer (a different color scheme going on here)

The bold geometry of the black and white checkerboard seems to have it's place, largely, in very traditional foyers, but is just as striking in other spaces.

Beautiful, timeless kitchen

That it has been used in many fine public buildings is a testament to it's staying power. I've seen the pattern in hotels, courthouses, the lobbies of fine stores.

Black and white checkerboard is used throughout the Greenbrier Hotel.

Here, the pattern is used at the Tennessee Governor's Mansion

In the foyer of a gorgeous house by Bill Baker.

It makes a strong foundation for this entrance.

Just as striking in a less grandly scaled space.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Table Transformation

I acquired a set of tables from a dear friend who had inherited them from her grandmother. I loved the lines of them, and they were the perfect size to be used as a cocktail table in my living room. The walnut finish, though, wasn't in keeping with the look of that room.

I was about to relegate them to use as side tables in one of the guest rooms when I decided I would try to remake them for the living room. I struggled with this...they aren't antiques, but I did not want to ruin something that had sentimental value. But, I bit the bullet and decided to paint them black with an antique silver rub on some of the details.

It was NOT an easy process. Three coats of black spray paint covered them nicely. (Anyone thinking about spray painting furniture, take this advice--get top of the line spray paint.) The silver rub was very time consuming--involving outlining the details with metallic silver paint, then hand rubbing the excess. It's not perfect, I'll admit, but once I get a coat of matte polyurethane on them and "merchandise" them, I think they will be perfect in the room.

I'm joining the blog party over at "Between Naps on the Front Porch" with this post. Each Monday, "Between Naps" hosts a "Metamorphosis Monday" where bloggers the world over post their before and after pictures. Might be something as simple as my table makeover or as large as a whole-house renovation. But definitely TONS of before and afters to check out!

I'm also linking to the Painted Projects Party at Centsational Girl!

A Virtual Tour--Shaker Heights, Ohio

As I've confessed before, one of my favorite time-killing activities is browsing real estate listings. And one of my favorite towns to browse is Shaker Heights, Ohio. I won't go into the town's history too much, those interested can click HERE for a lengthier look at the fascinating story of the place. The town is named, natch, because the land on which it is built was originally owned by the Shakers. A first-ring suburb of Cleveland, Shaker Heights is a tree-lined enclave of about 30,000 residents.

In the early 1900's, members of the Van Sweringen family developed the land that became Shaker Heights. By the 1920's, visitors declared that Shaker Heights was "the finest residential district in the world." Building standards were strict, early guidelines outline appropriate colors, resales had to be approved by neighbors and the developers, and as an unfortunate glimpse at our country's sometimes unpleasant history, deed restrictions (until after WWII) even prevented Blacks, Jews, and Catholics from living there.

The Van Sweringens noted that "The most pleasing is never conspicuous--never flashy." Further restrictions dictated that "only a graduate architect, or one whose qualifications warrant and whose drawings express a thorough, technical knowledge of the highest and best in architecture, together with the ability to combine materials and and prescribe color schemes that will proclaim the result the work of a trained and competent hand." The peak years of development coincided with a flush of historical revival architecture. The result is a town filled with gorgeous Tudor style homes, perfectly exectured Georgians, and charming English architecture.

A Colonial Revival in Shaker Heights

A Georgian Manor

Another Perfectly Executed Georgian

A Typical Tudor-style

Gorgeous entry and double-height bay on another Shaker Heights Tudor

Similar massing to the Tudor above. Beautiful stone door surround.

Restrained detail. Remember, "never conspicuous".

Beautifully detailed chimney and a human-scaled entry on this English cottage style.

(all photos taken from MLS listings)