Why is it that a room can “match” and lack appeal, while a space with seemingly disparate furnishings works impressively?
Much depends on three qualities that capture the essence of good design: consistency, coherence and comprehensiveness. A good interior specialist applies these three “c’s” with an understanding that they are the foundation for designing all rooms with classic style that never bore, or age badly.
Think of it this way: you enter a room designed and installed in the late ‘40s, in true mid-century modern style. If you observe that by lightly refreshing (not changing) the room’s aesthetics, your room retains its beauty and functionality, you are probably in a room that meets the three “c’s”.
Be consistent…but do not bore!
In the context of design, consistency is the disciplined ability to source furnishings and utilize design principles that enhance an overall design objective, sometimes in unexpected ways. This is especially true in locations with very old, or historic housing stock, such as in East Coast brownstones or in European townhouses.
In the example shown below, the homeowner’s contemporary taste is the first thing we see, via the light wood floor and island finishes, the restrained accessorizing and the barstools’ bright yellow upholstery. The ornate fireplace surround and the plasterwork are secondary, yet complimentary.
The current owner’s taste for contemporary furniture and her home’s over-the-top plaster moldings would not, at first blush, work. However, by painting the walls and the moldings a neutral color, and de-emphasizing (but not eliminating) period details, elements of the past frame the present. It works.
Coherence…do you get it?
We think of coherence as something that makes sense. It’s the same in design. When each room in a home is done in a different style, and colors either don’t complement each other or do not adequately contrast, the home is confusing and incoherent.
Out-of-period furnishings forcibly injected into an existing design scheme can rob a room of any cohesion, unless they are positioned and lit properly as a “one-off”.
A coherent home subtly replays a set of colors, textures and themes throughout. It may require a re-model, or replacement of moldings that don’t match throughout the home. In a home with design coherence, an observer can stand in one room, look through the doorway into a second room, consciously or unconsciously, and see a recurrence of color, texture or theme.
In the photo below, note how the same hue of brown is used in varying tones and shades to pull the two rooms together. Most of the wall space is unoccupied, yet through the clever use of textures, including the grass cloth wallpaper in the farthest room, both rooms enhance each other and hold interest.
Comprehensive…a balance of time, money and patience
Shelter television has done a great disservice to true interior design. What we see on TV entertains, but it also underprices materials and labor, and presents unrealistic project timelines.
A good project outcome requires solid preplanning to recognize construction limitations, and to establish a budget, a functional and aesthetic objective and a reasonable timeline. Here are some guidelines to consider:
Interior and kitchen design requires skill, patience and attention to detail. Most projects are a sizable investment in time and money, and they need to satisfy for a long time.
An interior designer who relies on consistency, coherence and a comprehensive approach to each project will protect your investment, maximize your satisfaction and ensure your design is classic and functional. Please reach out to me if you would like me to do that for you! You can reach me at 215-860-5059.
Just in time for the scariest of holidays, here’s a list of hair-raising design “don’ts” that strike panic in my heart! I’ve listed them here with alternatives you may want to consider when you plan your kitchen or bath.
“Cabin Fever” Shower Rooms
While it’s a great idea to repurpose a conveniently located closet or small alcove as a shower room or extra bath, too much tile can be, well—claustrophobic and institutional.
Instead, tile to about 3” above the shower head rough-in. Cap the wall tile with bullnose trim and paint the remaining wall space and ceiling with paint for damp locations, such as Benjamin Moore’s Aura Bath and Spa Paint, or Valspar Reserve.
Or, consider breaking the unending vista of white tile with a contrasting colored border or an application of listello tile. Here’s an example of how simple black and white tile pattern adds interest.
Knives on a Counter or Exposed on a Magnetic Rack
Knives on parade are a pet peeve of mine. Store them in drawers, away from little fingers…or Chucky.
Other kitchen tools and small appliances should be stored out of sight, too. For more counter space, use cabinet garages for blenders and toasters, and mixer lifts that disappear into base cabinets, like those shown here.
Backsplashes…from the Crypt
I used to have one of these…one could only imagine the black lagoon creatures living in the grout, which I seldom found time to replace. My clients say the same thing. So we choose a solid surface backsplash in patterns, ranging from the classic to the contemporary, depending on the cabinet style.
Stone or quartz, there are no grout lines to reseal, re-grout or scrub with a toothbrush. With an approved surface cleaner, grease and kitchen soil wipe clean. And the surface, uninterrupted by vertical and horizontal lines, permits the backsplash to take center stage, adding texture to the kitchen design.
For example, Dekton’s “Orix”, part of the “Pure Street Style Industrial Collection”, calls to mind a ferrous finish with blue/gray/green shades. The color combination creates movement and interest without relying on traditional patterns that imitate stone.
Microwaves over a Range or “Double, Double Toil and Trouble …”
Microwaves over a range are known as the “Contractor Special” for their prevalence in tract homes. The advent of drawer microwaves that can be located in a run of base cabinets or an island makes this arrangement unnecessary.
Who wants to reach above a hot range to place or retrieve one or more boiling pots or casserole dishes? And, most fans in these microwaves recirculate stale air through the kitchen because they are seldom vented to the outside.
Drawer microwaves, especially newer ones with touchless features or hidden controls are easier to maneuver and clean. Since microwaves are among the first appliances children learn to use, placing them in a base cabinet is safer than over the range.
Corner Whirlpool Bathtubs on Steps…Nevermore
What could be more dramatic than steps leading up to a relaxing whirlpool? How about slipping on a wet surface and getting injured? What a nightmare!
Most of my clients want the large bathtubs removed and replaced with a shower, or with a bathtub flush to a wall.
One of my favorite options is Kohler’s “Tea for Two” series. This two-person tub is available as a drop-in or under mount, in sizes ranging from 60” x 32” to 72” x 36”. Depending on the model, features include whirlpool, zone-controlled bubble massage, built-in heater, and chromatherapy.
Safety, convenience, easy maintenance and elegance are the marks of the storage solutions, finishes and appliances I’ve recommended here.
Keeping these three features top of mind as you work with your designer to plan your kitchen or bath will guarantee that your new space will bring you satisfaction, instead of howls of disappointment.
Shower with Tiled Border
Drawer Knife Storage:
Small Appliance Garage:
One of the most challenging, yet rewarding, aspects of design is wall colors. I think it’s harder to select paint than wallpaper. One has to consider the room’s orientation to the sun and how to complement the coolness (northern exposure) or warmth (southern exposure).
Especially in open plan homes, it’s important to keep the color intensity consistent across rooms or functional spaces, or you risk one color dominating the rest. Here are a few color combinations I’ve recently used in client projects that complement each other beautifully. Hats off to Benjamin Moore Paints.
Elegant and Enduring…
These are colors your never tire of. Safari is one of my go-to colors; it introduces a warm, soothing yellow that really complements a room with a Northern exposure. It is not a brassy yellow and it works well with the purple finishes and furnishings, which seem to be in demand these days.
When I cut Grasshopper back to 50 percent, it loses a lot of its gray tone, and moves towards a pastel green with depth. Old Prairie is an effervescent gray, which I’ve used to good effect with green and navy blue furnishings and finishes.
Old Prairie, 2143-50
Easy Does It…
I used the following color for clients who were changing from the previous owner’s intense hues. My clients wanted touches of color, not imposing shades or dramatic tones. Theses paints add warmth and interest, yet are fairly neutral.
Ivory White, 925
I admit it, the “Girl in the Pearl Earring” movie and now, “The Miniaturist” on PBS, are inspirations for these rich and dramatic paint combinations. They are reminiscent of the deep pigmented hues seen in Renaissance paintings from the Low Countries like The Netherlands and Belgium.
You can accessorize these colors with brushed chrome furniture and accessories for a Contemporary look, or with rich wood for a more traditional approach.
Deep Sea Green, 735
Golden Retriever, 2165-30
Short of painting these colors on your wall, test paint colors by applying them to large pieces of watercolor paper. I usually have several pieces of each color that I move around the room, so I can see how the paint behaves in the day’s different lights.
For more information on how you can choose the optimal paint color for your home, contact me at 215-860-5059, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What could an Italian Baroque church and your kitchen POSSIBLY have in common? Surprisingly, quite a lot, as I learned from a recent client’s project.
Situated in a noisy, dusty Roman crossroad, the Church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane is a masterful solution to a difficult location. Unlikely as it may seem, this church conveys important lessons for designers and their clients as they design challenging kitchens. Here’s why:
Successful kitchen remodeling requires a frank recognition of your home’s overall style, your available space, your budget and how you will use the rooms or space. And the approach must be visually interesting to camouflage defects and highlight assets.
Tall order, right? That’s where we take lessons from the San Carlo and its famous architect, Francesco Borromini.
Borromini’s primary challenge was the church’s proposed plot of land. It was cramped, surrounded by structures that could not be moved or stylistically changed.
Sort of like my client’s kitchen: there was a 21” deep unused alcove, situated in the historic townhouse kitchen, crying out for more storage space. The alcove’s three structural walls could not be moved and the owners liked to entertain.
However, the 21” depth only affected the far left and right sides of the alcove. Most of the center could accommodate a regular 24” base cabinet. So shelving and a wine cubby, which could accommodate a 21” depth, were relegated to the far left and right, respectively. Challenge solved.
Borromini also used geometric shapes and undulating lines to keep the eye moving back and forth across the façade and the interior areas.
Similarly, in my client’s kitchen, the protruding center base cabinets add interest without overwhelming the relatively compact townhouse kitchen. Another challenge solved.
A word of encouragement as you consider your own redesign needs: there are often more solutions than challenges. Defining your design challenge as specifically as you can will refine your search and keep you from getting confused.
Borromini did it on a grand scale. With a designer’s touch, so can you. And your kitchen will be as uniquely beautiful, and functional, as Borromini’s masterpiece.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your questions—it’s my responsibility to keep current with constantly evolving, and personalized solutions, especially for you.
Late summer…a time when kids move on to conquer the brave new world. And whether your children have moved out of a basement or a bedroom, you have just been given a massive amount of space to repurpose and enjoy. Here are some practical tips for using the space wisely.
First, declutter and give the junk away. Vietnam Veterans of America, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are just some of the entities you can use to get rid things you no longer need. Give yourself five minutes and you can come up with at least 10 other organizations which would benefit from your generosity. Then get going.
Once you have completed this step, take a minute to consider your work habits, hobbies and personal storage needs.
Has your dining room table doubled as a home office desk for the past 10 years? Then it’s time to clean out a bedroom; furnish it with attractive office furniture to give yourself a dedicated, personal space for working from home. And don’t forget to include good lighting, a comfortable chair and an ottoman for reading those reports.
Have a hankering to go back to your watercolor painting—a skill from long ago? Then, pick the newly empty room closest to a water line, and outfit one wall with base and wall cabinets, and a small bar sink. Organize the base cabinets with dividers for different sized canvases, and pull-outs so supplies stay organized and accessible. And the sink is good for clean-up.
Your smallest bedroom can be converted into a beautiful storage closet. Use it for seasonal clothing items, to store holiday decorations or for every day. If used for clothing and shoes, integrate luxurious seating. And, good lighting is a must, so that you get a true read on the clothing colors.
Most importantly, take the time to decide what you truly need and want. And, if you need a sounding board, consider hiring a designer. Designers will assist you in matching the space to the function, with layout, lighting and aesthetics. Services can range from hourly consults to specifying finishes to overseeing the entire project.
However you decide to repurpose your empty nest, remember that your ultimate goal is to make it comfortable, attractive and functional for nobody but you.