Tuesday, August 31, 2010

...about a beige bedroom.

Agnes asks, “I have done every room in my house but when it came to my bedroom I failed... I have no idea what to do. I bought this dresser that I absolutely love (the shelf above the dresser is being removed), had a headboard custom made, bought this mirror… but I don't know how to put it together. I definitely would like to buy new bedding (I hate matching bedding). I'm stuck with the color of the headboard. I love the color by itself I just don't know what other colors to use along with it. And last but not the least important, window treatment. I have these dark chocolate drapes because I have a lot of light coming in the room in the morning. It really doesn't matter if they stay or go. I also got a pair of pale beige lamps that I'm planning to keep. How can I pull it all together?”

Oh, and like so many, Agnes is a renter and her landlord says paint is off limits. Doh!

Agnes, you’ve certainly not failed! You’re on the right track: your big pieces are in place and they’ve got long lives ahead of them (the best way to select your biggest pieces). Your transitional furniture choices can go more modern or traditional, depending on how you push the rest of the room. I am a BIG fan of upholstered headboards, especially in a small room, and yours is a great neutral. Ditto, your classic bedside lamps.
Just a few changes, and a few finishing touches, and you’ll have a room you won’t want to leave.

While some might think the tan headboard and cream lamps are just timid first choices, I think they are THE perfect starting point for an elegant tone-on-tone bedroom that looks WAY more expensive than it will be to pull together. I LOVE monochromatic bedrooms. They’re calming, easy on the eye, and just a nice place to start and end the day. So I love the idea of taking those neutrals and running.

Clockwise from upper left: "Patch" Cowhide Rug, DWR; Metal Rod and Cylinder Finial Drapery Hardware, West Elm; Eileen Fisher Home for Garnet Hill; Cowhide Rug, DWR; Mosaic Abstract Canvas, Ballard Designs; Linen Drapery Panel (Swatch), The Shade Store and West Elm; Lexington Quilt and Shams in Pearl and Palomino, West Elm.
The key to a successful monochromatic scheme is texture. Shiny and matte, rough and smooth… texture gives your eye something to do, without wearing it out. Here, it means silks, linens, cottons and (if not offensive to your personal sensibilities) a hide rug, even over carpet.
Eileen Fisher Home for Garnet Hill

But don’t think that a monochromatic approach equates to matchy-matchy. By mixing the tones (and fabrics) of comforter, sheets and Euro square, you’ll end up with something interesting but still dreamy, like the Eileen Fisher for Garnet Hill bed ensemble.
The second way to make a limited palette work is to run the color range from dark to light, which you already have going. Just fill in the in-betweens, with ivories, creams, tans, and (gasp!) even beige, all the way up to the deep camel-y tan of your headboard.

And the final step to a gradated monochromatic scheme is to have at least two key pieces that encompass a hefty part of your limited range. Here, that would be the capiz-inspired canvas from Ballard Designs, and the Patch Cowhide rug from DWR (or a simple hide, which, on its own, has a beautiful range of ivories, creams and tans… but again, only if your own personal sensibilities support a hide or leather item).

"Patch" Cowhide Rug from DWR

The biggest change I’d make would be to switch out those drapes (and the dark hardware). Their contrast to the walls is just putting the brakes on that wall when your eye wants to wander. In most of my bedrooms, I love to match the color of the drapes to the headboard (or the bedskirt, if you don’t have an upholstered headboard.) It gives the room a strong color base, and that’s what I’d do here. And I know you need light control, but window treatments don’t have to be dark to block light. They just need to be heavy weight, or have blackout lining. And change the hardware to brushed nickel, to repeat the metals on your lamps and dresser (and even the TV!).

I generally don’t love a mirror the end of a bed, and some feng shui practitioners advise against it (the potential to be startled by your image upon waking is behind the principle.) so I’d place the mirror between the windows, if it works, size-wise.

Mosaic Abstract by Mona E. for Ballard Designs

It looks like you have room for something at the end of the bed, or on that wall… but if not, use the wall at the end of the bed for something you want to look at from bed… a large piece of calm but interesting art, like the piece from Ballard Designs, which also mimics your grid-tufting on the headboard.
Finally, when you do away with the over-dresser shelving, consider taking your TV off the wall, and having it stand on its own on the dresser. You’re giving a LOT of presence to the TV where it is, and it’s keeping you from using that wall for far prettier pursuits!
Okay... your turn! How would you take Agnes' starting points, and finish this room up without picking up a paintbrush, or changing out her main pieces?

Monday, August 9, 2010

about the "designer's touch."

I hear it a lot: "My room doesn't feel finished." And most of the time, it comes from people with already-beautiful rooms. Take Melissa, for example, whose current living room (shown here, all room photos) is practically magazine ready. Jaw-dropping view, great open plan, cohesive color scheme, stunning fireplace, rich stone, warm woods... so, um, you need a designer, why exactly? In her words, "I need some pillows? I don't know... something still feels like it's missing that designer touch!"

First, kudos Melissa, for everything you've done right... floating the sofa (with its rich cinnabar color) to hit not one, not two, but THREE focal points. That's like a triple word score in Scrabble. Picking a carpeting color which pulls the tones of the rich slate surround down into the room. Not being afraid to mix wood tones. Repeating the rich chocolate browns in different finishes (leather and wood). There's a lot to like.

And more good news... you've chosen the PERFECT time of year to shop for finishing details in this room... the fall palette out there now will make the shopping trip an Autumn breeze.

If you're still stumped on color, wait a few weeks til Autumn comes to your neck of the woods. The white bark and blazing yellows of Aspen trees, deep coppers and bright reds of Japanese maples, some deep brown catttails... done!

So that's what Mother Nature would do... but what designer trickery would I bring to the (coffee) table?

Tighten Up the Ranks. This is a big room, and while it can stand a floated furnishing plan as Melissa has so smartly set up, I think it can stand to be all a little closer, to make the seating area a bit more intimate. Bring the stools closer together, and closer to the coffee table... bring the two armchairs closer into the room... and center the whole thing more definitively on the fireplace. Your furnishings should be a cozy little island with lots of air around it... not looking like the first party guests trying to make the room feel full by spreading out.

Scheme One: Crate and Barrel's Villagio Rug; Napastyle's Sage Canyon Leather Chair; Crate and Barrel's Bennet Pillow, Tabasco; Pottery Barn's Grey Velvet Drapery Panels; Home Decorators Collections's Wuchow Three-drawer Cabinet; Crate and Barrel's Tempo Velvet Pillow, Antique Gold

Bounce your color around: While the basic color palette relates, Melissa needs to get some chocolate on her peanut butter. Or a little sofa cinnabar over near her chairs. Work with pillows that combine wall color with a little of the brassy golds from the lamp and the open-work hurricane on the coffee table.

Mix the levels of contrast. There's a lot of light OR dark here... some well-chosen mid tones will give this room a great settled in feel. It's sort of like music... you've got the bass, you've got the high notes, even a little sparkly, jazzy percussion... you just need the rich vocals in between to make this room sing.

Scheme Two: Pottery Barn's Kilim Pillow; Crate and Barrel's Circlets; Pottery Barn's Gray Velvet Drapery Panels; Home Decorator Collection's Left Bank Chest in Distressed Red; Napastyle's Silverado Leather Armchair; Crate and Barrel's Tempo Velvet Pillow, Antique Gold; Shades of Light Washed Gold Oushak Rug

Mix and merge. The room itself has lots of traditional formality built in, but the furniture and styling are all tending toward the contemporary. That can definitely work, but you'll like the effect better if something you bring in the room bridges old and new... a side chair with traditional bones perhaps, but in an unexpected color.

Head to the middle ground. I also think what you feel like you are missing is the middle layer when it comes to "visual real estate"... all the BIG pieces are in place, and there are plenty of smaller things. But what really weaves a room together is that middle step... and to me, here, what's missing from the middle are window treatments and an area rug. I can hear the gasps and shrieks... "Close off that view??" and "Rug over carpet??" Well, sort of, and youbetcha.

On the windows, I'd do one single (but wide) stationary drapery panel, to bring softness into the "envelope" of the room, and bridge color and styles. Position it starting just a few inches from beneath the crown molding, and overlapping the far right of the wall of windows, filling the wall where the modern organic column lamp is (it can stay, just in less of a "time out" position.) The other effect of the drapery is that it will help balance out all the visual weight on the corner diagonally across from it. My fabric choice would be a chenille or a silk, with simple pleats, and in a color that's the color of the sofa, just dialed down (so if the sofa's the lobster, the drapes are the bisque). Another color option: A variation of the stone-y colors of the fireplace surround and carpet. Hardware can be hidden, or I'd do an oil-rubbed bronze if you decide to do an exposed rod.

Ad yes, a rug over the carpet. An autumn-inspired Oriental or geometric carpet, to fully define the seating area to add a level of visual texture. Make sure to use an underlay made for placing rugs over carpeting.

Add a dash of cayenne. I'd also look at introducing one more accent color... perhaps something pulled from a rug, upholstery pattern or pillow. Consider a brighter shot of one of the colors here... tangerine, anyone? But don't feel like every new accent needs to be in the color range you've already established... a deep plum could drop in nicely here, in small doses.

Scheme Three: Crate and Barrel's Baxter Rug, Marigold; Crate and Barrel's Mendocino Pillow, Purple; Crate and Barrel's Bennet Pillow, Tabasco; Crate and Barrels' Tempo Velvet Pillow, Antique Gold; Crate and Barrel's Tux Chair, in Alchemy Spice

Introduce pattern. In this room (as in many) a little pattern can go a long way... so if you decided to make your pattern statement with the area rug, then go with solids on occasional chairs. Either way, you can probably get away with a little more complementary pattern on a pillow or throw.

Mix, don't match. I'd look for a less matched side table for the side chair set up, and more of a chest than the table you have. This is the perfect opportunity for a global treasure or flea market find (or your local retailer's reasonable facsimile thereof!).

On that chest, or on the sofa table, consider a statement accessory, with some height. The model pond yacht from Crate & Barrel also brings the rooms trim whites and ivories down into the room. Don't worry about it blocking any of the view... it will actually draw your gaze even faster to the wall of windows.

Crate and Barrel's Model Pond Yacht

Okay, your turn... which scheme would you choose? What would you tell Melissa to do?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

as seen on... HouseBeautiful.com

A Gentleman's Handsome Kitchen was featured as part of House Beautiful's Kitchen month. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase this total kitchen renovation completed for a serious chef. First featured on TheKitchn, this renovation was all about efficiency of action but luxury of choice.

The modified galley kitchen's odd placement (right inside the front door) meant two possible strategies: hide it, or flaunt it. So I presented the owner, a deft chef and gentlemen's gentleman, with two choices: Go dark, with finishes that look like fitted furniture to play up its "gentleman's club" potential and play down its "kitchen-ness," or stick to a truer Butler's pantry look. For its more functional aesthetic, and to quell his fear that darker cabinets would eat up limited lighting, the Butler did it. But to ease the open plan kitchen into its genteel surroundings, we dialed the typical bright Butler's white down to a "golden vanilla."

The keys to the success of making the visual most of this compact kitchen? A panel-front, cabinet depth Sub-Zero, a monochromatic color palette, repeated metals (brushed finishes in nickel pulls and stainless steel stove, sink, faucet and existing dishwasher), stone countertops that combine the vanillas and metal-grays, and a slate-look porcelain floor tile that gives an earthy anchor to the stainless.

On the two-tiered island, two stones strut their stuff: at counter height, the same granite used for the other countertops, but at bar height, a darker granite, to better hide red wine mishaps, and transition from "working kitchen" to "formal dining." Below the bar, off-the-shelf prefab corbels seem pre-war appropriate, and give the island a furniture feel.

From a distance, the backsplash, a crackle-finish American-crafted subway tile from Artistic Tile, melts like butter into the cabinets. Up closer, it catches the light and gives the kitchen an aged grace that belies its recent facelift.

Surrounding this culinary stage, a deceptive proscenium: Designtex's silk-look vinyl wallcovering, the perfect backdrop for the client's classic oil paintings, and another nod to the stainless.

The renovation made up for upscale choices by keeping major appliance placement, water line, and gas lines intact.

...about a nursery.

Margie and her husband (who's currently serving in the Armed Forces) are expecting their first child, and converting a bedroom in their new home to the baby's room. Since they don't know if they are expecting a boy or a girl, Margie is a little stumped on where to start, but knows she doesn't want the minty-madness currently covering the room. And while she knows, color-wise, what she doesn't like, she is (like many) confounded by all the choices when faced with a paint deck.

So, where to start? Ditch the swatches, and start with art.

Specifically, the artwork of illustrator Matte Stephens. The happy palette of earthy citrus colors and purply-grays in his "Augustus the Lion" is the perfect jumping off point that's gender neutral, upbeat but also not overly juvenile... so the room's decor can grow up right along with the little inhabitant. From there, bursts of CB2's "grellow" (in wall-hung Hyde storage units that also double as display shelving, Geisha lamps and a City Slicker side table), dove gray (Oeuf crib and Dwellstudio bedding and Serena and Lilly fabrics), and fresh white provide the basic color structure that's a surprisingly neutral starting point.

And since there's no better place for color-fun than a nursery, I'd do a randomly striped (in various widths) accent wall of multiple colors from Mythic Paints, available at Land of Nod. Their sunny apple yellow ("Golden Delicious") on the remaining walls, over a base of Land of Nod's paintable textured wall covering, would give the room a buoyant lift.

Mythic Paint's non-toxic and zero VOC "Golden Delicious" from Land of Nod

The lion print also gets an animated animal theme going, and the modern, textured shapes of Jonathan Adler's ceramic menagerie and giraffe sconces, along with Dwellstudio's elephant book shelf, create a look that's one part zoo, one part circus, one part animal crackers, sure to spark the imagination of a young lion tamer, budding zoologist or jungle explorer for years to come. To up the fun, I'd have custom shades made from Serena and Lily's Diamond fabric for the sconces.

Jonathan Adler's Ceramic Elephant

The room stays energetic with a mix of modern geometrics-- perfect for stimulating little eyes, and learning shapes-- throughout. As a base for the room with a long life ahead of it, I'd do blackout Roman shades made from Serena and Lily's Diamond pattern in Fog, a Zig-Zag rug from Jonathan Adler, and the textured wallpaper from Land of Nod that also plays off the tone-on-tone textures of Adler's animals.

Land of Nod's "Squared Up" Paintable Wallcovering

Grown-up seating in a nursery is key... and should be a combination of options for the new mom, proud pop and various visitors. Serena and Lily's "Presidio" glider, in fresh white with a custom band of color, is a great option. New moms, don't go pale: it's a hardworking and easily laundered slipcover. Or consider Jonathan Adler's swanky but functional "Mr. Godfrey" chair, with its low arms and high back perfectly suited to singing lullabies and stealing catnaps. There's also ample room for a sleek Eames rocker (or without rockers as side chairs), also another opportunity for either a dose of color or a breather of fresh white. Knitted poufs from CB2 provide feet-up comfort for adults now, the perfect pull-up for a toddler a little later.

CB2's Knitted Poufs

And who says you have to shop in the nursery section for furnishings? Consider CB2's small-scale but hardworking Swig bar... a perfect multi-purpose piece, clean lined and neutral, that can be used as a changing table, with loads of storage.
CB2's Swig Bar

CB2's modern wire Orbit mobile is a fresh spin on the norm, and repeats the geometric theme, while easily moved Pablo side tables are functional and fun dots of color. Dwellstudio's organic "Circles" bedding, mixed with their Dove Gray "Squares," provides a great bedding base that's both energetic and calm.

Dwellstudio's Machine Washable Organic Knit Blanket

In all, it's a cohesive and vibrant plan that takes a walk on the Wild side, giving lots of visual and tactile interest to the home's newest little inhabitant. And a room that will make the parents almost as proud as the occupant happily residing in happily within it.