Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oh my, is that a piece of wood, or are you just happy to see me?... Both!

So let's just run down some of the materials that we utilize in the world of design, specifically the woods...  This by far doesn't dig very deep into all the amazing and exotic species out there, but these are a good handful of most designer's favorite building material...

Paulownia and Paulownia wallcovering by Innovations

Probably not a wood that most people are familiar with yet, but Paulownia has been around for a while, as one of the fastest growing trees.  This is probably going to be the new thing to replace Bamboo.  It's not an extremely interesting wood in terms of it's graining, but if people are looking for sustainable.  This is it!...

Wenge and Wenge wide plank flooring

Wenge, I know everyone's heard the word, but not many people actually know what Wenge actually is, as it's a rarer wood, so it became very popular a few years back as a generic term for a finish because of the wood's natural deep color, almost like a freshly roasted coffee bean.  When the opportunity and the budget allows for it though, the real thing is spectacular!

Walnut and a detail of a gorgeous Black Walnut sideboard

One of my favorite species is Walnut.  It's just got a stunning graining pattern and completely versatile in terms of its usage as furniture, flooring, accents.  It's good a wonderful brown coloring that is neither too orange or red, so it tend to not fight any color palette.

Teak and the St. Bart's Lounge chair from Holly Hunt

Another one of my favorite woods is Teak.  This has a wonderful rich orange color, but still somehow remains a neutral in the room.  It's definitely got more of a tropical feel when used inside, but it's one of the most popular materials for outdoor furniture because of its density, and the wonderful grey patina unfinished teak gets over time...

Rosewood and a client's magnificent 100 year old Rosewood Steinway

Rosewood is just one of those species that is so spectacular when used in the right application.  It's got very dramatic cathedrals and very distinct coloration, which is the reason why this 100-year old Steinway Concert Grand Piano one of my clients owns is just breath taking...

Rift Cut White Oak and a wonderfully simple White Oak door

White Oak is a staple material that almost every builder and designer uses in their repertoire...  It's versatile like Walnut as flooring, furniture and many other items.  I've shown it in a rift cut, which we've started using much more as it creates an interesting linear pattern that lends itself well to more contemporary styles.

Maple and a simple Maple closet interior

Maple is probably one of the most commonly used building materials, as it's fairly consistent in look and color, the material itself is reasonably priced, and it's a hard, easy to work with species.  This is the reason so many times with utilitarian type furniture, ie. bookcases, shelving, etc., Maple is the choice.  It's also frequently used on the interior of cabinet pieces, so the cost of the cabinet is kept down by only using the more exotic or expensive veneer on the exterior of the piece.

Mahogany and a beautiful Chippendale Mahogany Secretary
One of the more well known types of wood is Mahogany as it was so prevalent in woodworking hundreds of years ago...  The grain is pretty tight, and gives a slightly reddish undertone to it, giving it a richness which is typical in fine antiques, like the secretary shown above.

Birch and an IKEA bookcase in Birch
Birch is along the lines of maple in terms of it's usage.  It's a wood that I rarely actually ever specify, but it's a good durable, useful material when it comes to building innocuous pieces of furniture...

Bamboo straight grain and Strand Bamboo Plank Flooring

The new sustainable wood, Bamboo, which isn't even a wood... Bamboo is actually a very fast growing grass which is very dense, and competes in hardness right up there with oak.  Bamboo is actually harvested, and cut in strips which are then fused together to form planks, giving it its linear pattern.  Another manufacturing process for Bamboo is shown above in the Strand Flooring which maintains the fibers of the Bamboo plant, then again fused together to form a very strong and stable material perfect for high traffic floors. It's uses go far beyond building in that it can also be spun into fabric for towels and clothing.

Ash and a contemporary White Ash Bench
Ash, a beautiful wood when showcased on the right piece of furniture is used also for sporting equipment, such as baseball bats.  It's a hard wood with wonderful long grains and a tan characteristics.

Macassar Ebony and a modern Macassar Ebony take on a secretary

Ebony is a spectacular piece of Mother Nature's work, shown in it's strong black and brown graining, which when cut on angles and placed in different directions can form stunning patterns on table tops and panels.

Koa and Taylor Swift's famous Koa guitar
Koa is a wood near and dear to my heart as it is very representative of Hawaii and its culture.  It's a very rare wood, as it takes so long for the tree to mature to harvest any significant size pieces out of it.  Frequently nowadays you see it in smaller items such as bowls, frames, and instruments, such as the one Taylor Swift in known for sporting around...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Highlights Past Projects: Teenager's own "hotel suite"

This room was done for a very savvy young lady who was just entering her teenage years. Her family is in the hotel industry and she knew that she wanted her room warm, comfortable and to seem happy during cold NYC winters. The other factor is that it should see her through to college. I gave her a suite any boutique hotel would love to have...

Through the use of a limited color palate, and textural fabrics a clean, contemporary and warm environment was created.  
Oatmeal colored chenille upholstered on a custom lounge chair, near a jade green garden stool. A small scale chair pulls up to a chocolate brown and white lacquer writing desk. A piece of white glass was used for the top to protect from the wears and tears a teenager can put it through.  
An open shelving unit shows in the reflection of the full length wall-mounted mirror behind the lounge chair, giving the illusion of expanding the space.  
I upholstered the headboard wall in a wonderful ivory linen in horizontal bands, so the recessed lights in the soffit above the bed would create interesting shapes along the wall, but also provide plenty of light to read in bed. Fun touches like the CooCoo Clock and a square boxwood topiary gives the room a bit of whimsy...
Unique finds like a large piece of white coral, circular mirrors framed in stainless steel and a pair of succulents in square glass vases gives visual interest and life against the backdrop of ivory linen wallpaper.

I completed this project probably about 3-1/2 years ago, while she spent the summer with her family at their beach house.  It's a tough balance to make a girl's room appropriate for a 13 and an 18 year old, as most of you know, quite a bit can change and evolve over those developmental years.  This was an insanely fun project for me, and a complete leap of faith as I think the client only picked out the carpet, and the rest was literally left up to me.  So it was creatively quite inspiring, but also completely nerve wracking to see whether my efforts would actually be a success, which it was...  Another reason to say I do love my job...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Power of Lighting!

A very important client, who will remain nameless, but is now serving a lengthy sentence in a cushy jail in Minnesota once told me, “When you control the lighting, you control the room”.  Don’t you love when I just entice and spark your interest with scandal, but don’t reveal anything more… 

Anyway, what he said was true.  He was a lawyer, and knew the power and importance of controlling you lighting.  When you go to the theatre, and the lights flicker indicating you to take your seats, it’s the power of lighting.  When the show begins, and the entire audience is dark and a single spot light shines on that actor belting out a song, all eyes are focuses and room is being controlled by that single beam.

Many high end electronics companies like Lutron have all created systems to control the lighting in spaces; to set moods.  “Everyday” lighting when the family is home just going about their daily routine, “Party” lighting when guests are mingling, enjoying your festivities, “Security” lighting when you’re away from home, but don’t need the prying eyes of a burglar to know…  They can go so far as to also setting the lights depending on the time of day, or gauge what the natural light outside is doing, and self adjust accordingly. They can be made to work off of keypads throughout your home, even to run off your iPad, thousands of miles away from your home.

Setting a lighting scene
Home Security by remote
Now these systems will also run you in the thousands of dollars but there are simple ways to make your home just as sophisticated and savvy.  Start by installing dimmers everywhere you can.  The simple fact of being able to adjust the light to more than just on and off is essential.  Why is a McDonald’s not as romantic as The Four Seasons?  The light at The Four Seasons is dimmed to a level that is comfortable on the eyes, but bright enough to see the rack of lamb in front of you, where at Mickey D’s it’s bright so you can see that burger and fries that won’t disintegrate even 6 months later, eat it and go. 

Slight difference between the lighting ambiance at McDonald's and The Four Seasons
A great little gadget, I guess you could call it, I found a few years back is a device that you can literally transform any lamp into a dimmable fixture is less than a minute without having to actually change out your existing wall switch for a dimmer. It's called the Attache Lamp Dimmer.

Bottom line is when you have the option to change the lightness and darkness of space it can make or break a rooms feel or intention.  I use a lot of low voltage recessed lighting in my designs, but this also makes for very crisp white light, which is great for lighting art, and general utility lighting, but at night  when you’re trying to wind down with your glass of merlot, the last thing you need is a crisp white light. Dimmers…

Also, I know everyone, including myself is trying to go green, help the planet, save on electricity and usage, but there are times for fluorescents and there are times for incandescent.  I know that you can get dimmable fluorescents, and yes they have come light years in their colorations, but there’s still a warmth to an incandescent that can’t be replicated.  I’m also not a huge fan of the pink/purple bulbs, the color spectrum or whatever they’re called, because when they’re off.  You’ve got a pink/purple bulb.  Weird looking.  Also, I tend to always go for the Soft White lights that are frosted.  The clear bulbs are a little harsh, unless it’s an intended look to see the filament.  I do love the look of the old Edison Bulbs with the exposed gold filament showing.  That’s a chic look, but the right fixture is needed to pull that off.

So in the end, just try to make you lighting levels ones that you can control.  Utilize wall switches with dimming capabilities where ever possible, if not try making that inexpensive lamp from Target or West Elm into a much more expensive lamp by hardwiring a DIY dimmer to it.  It’s all about control.  Remember, “When you control the lighting, you control the room”.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just a really cool store...

One of the most amazing things about living and working in New York is the fact that we're so fortunate to be surrounded by and have access to such wonderful showrooms and stores, with the most beautiful and interesting finds.  A staple and proven source for many working designers as well as designers at heart go to a place on Broadway between 18th & 19th Street called ABC Carpet & Home.

This store is just a wonderland of furniture, lighting, rugs, pillows, bedding, clothes, food and everything else that is essential to a fabulous life.  It's 6 floors sometimes subdivided into individual vendors, but still under the umbrella of ABC.  It's got something literally for everyone.  Traditional, Contemporary, Asian, Vintage and just purely amazing finds.  The team that procures and acquires the pieces here are just phenomenal.  It's a place that even as a seasoned designer, I can still walk around and be delighted by all the eye candy.

So whenever you're in New York City from out of town it's a definite point of interest to carve out some time to go experience...  You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Prettier ways to Protect the little people in the room...

I know and understand the dilemma people face when a little person enters into their lives, and then all of a sudden that gorgeous cocktail table with the Calacatta Gold marble top doesn't seem so beautiful but more like something that could leave a nice size dent in someone's head... Or those stairs you never thought twice about now looks like it's quadrupled in size and steepness as your precious peers down to see what's there...

Well, there are manufacturers out there that have thought about not only the safety issues, but the aesthetic ones as well... Thank god.  So I've found and have personally used two products which I can recommend as valid usable items but at least leaves your home looking somewhat presentable to those who come over and haven't experienced the joy of changing a poopy diaper...

So, everyone's got corners... I get it.  I am actually not one to pad every last corner and edge there is because it's just not worth it... Visually or practicality wise it doesn't jive with my thinking...  I did though have a pair of nesting tables made similar in shape to the ones shown, but with bleached rift-oak bases and white Corian tops.  Those tops, when fabricated to continue that wonderful trapizoidal angle were sharp.  So I found these rubber bumpers which were so much more attractive than those ugly foam things out there.

What's great about these Kidco Soft Corner Protectors is that they look like someone actually designed these.  They are a firmer rubber edge, but still soft enough to prevent serious damage from those nasty corners that are notorious for just jumping out at kids.

Another thing that always kills me is the dreaded baby gate.  Yuck...  I know it's a total necessity, but sometimes you just don't want to see it.  You can't just make the gate disappear?...  Or can you?...  You can if your gate is retractable...

This gate is great to just hide away when it's not necessary to keep out someone...  The Retract-A-Gate saved the look of my place, at the tops of both of my stairways.  This really worked out well, since I didn't really have that much room to swing a traditional gate in either direction because of the configuration of the rooms, but really, who wants to see that anyway?...  

So, next time you are thinking about wrapping you coffee table in a layer of cheap latex remember this...  Protect and love you babies!!!...  We don't need to sacrifice beauty for baby...  We just need to work with their special decor requirements.

Floating Furniture... No, I'm not referring to the remnants of the Titanic.

So, my sister suggested that I write a little blurb on the importance of area rugs and the role they play in defining a space.  The art to choosing the right area rug is a combination of both aesthetics and math.  My sister and her husband purchased their place about 2-1/2 years ago and my father gave them some living room furniture as a move in gift.  This was a nice gesture, and the pieces were on the smaller side, as the scale of the room was not very large.  After getting the pieces my sister sent me a photo showing me the room, as I’m on the East Coast and she’s in Hawaii.  The first thing I noticed was the randomness of the furniture in the room, at least to my eye.  The furniture was basically set up in the right place, that would maximize its usage and still keep as much circulation and openness to the room because of its small footprint, but what I told her is the furniture was just floating.

An area rug helps define a space, even when in our modern day thinking of the open floor plan making everything seem spacious, so definition needs to be made to delineate areas for their purposes.  Furniture is placed in groups, whether it’s the dining area, or the living room area, or even a seating area…  I’m not saying that all of these areas, if they were all in the same space would require rugs, but just enough, so if a blind person were to walk into the room with just his/her cane, they could somewhat make out the separation of spaces.

For example, in a current project I’m working on, the Entry Foyer, Living Room and Dining Rooms are all one big open space.  The area is large enough to even accommodate a secondary seating area from the main living space.  So in this particular case a rug will sit under the main living area, as well as the secondary seating area, but we’re leaving the dining area free.  This will prevent the room looking like a rug store.  The dining area, as dining areas in general, can normally withstand holding its own in situations like this as the table is substantial enough to weight that area down, and even better when paired with a chandelier or some sort of hanging fixture.

So now sizing of the rug…  Well I generally go by the dimension of the largest piece of furniture to determine the ideal size.  Most standard sofas for the average households are about 84”-90”, making it pretty simple to say that 90% of the time a rug that is an 8’-0” x 10’-0” would be the way to go.  This would mean the sofa would sit at the edge of the 10’-0” side allowing about 18” on either side for small end tables or a beautiful floor lamp.  Then the other furniture would then be placed appropriately around that.  If you room were large enough, a 9’-0” x 12’-0” could work as well.

Traditional Turkish 9' x 12', on 5th Avenue.

An 8' x 10' area rug over wall-to-wall carpet just to help define the space on the Upper East Side...

When considering the size of the rug, with the size of the furniture, please don’t try to get a rug that covers the entire floor space either.  When the rug is down on the ground, there should be more than 12” of breathing room all around the rug.  The worst thing is to see an area rug almost going wall to wall in a tight area, giving the undesirable effect of the room looking even smaller because the rug looks like it’s being squeezed in.  

The design and aesthetics of the rug is a totally separate conversation altogether, so we’ll discuss that in another blog, but this will give you the basics to help you map out the ideal size of rug to prevent your furniture from floating around in your space.  A really great tip as well is to stop off at your local hardware store, if you still can’t visualize the amount of room the rug would take, and buy a roll of blue painters tape to map out and give you a real dimension on the floor to work with.  Please please make sure you don’t leave this tape down for too long though, it may pull the polyurethane finish off if the conditions are right…  You can always just use a large roll of craft paper laid out to form the rug as well.  There’s honestly variations and exceptions to all of this depending on the desire effect and special circumstances within each room, but this should give you the initial tools to make the best decision for your space.

9' x 12' with a somewhat non-traditional layout, but still anchors the furniture in the room in Northern NJ.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Purple is on my mind…

I am so loving color recently, more than past years, don’t ask me why… But I’m enjoying the fact that fun colors are becoming more acceptable.  In a world of Beige and Oatmeal tones, a punch of vibrancy is always welcome.
I’m particularly feeling all those shades at the far end of the ROYGBIV spectrum…  (That would be, Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet spectrum)…  All that purple is awesome!

Today you may see many people sporting a plum colored shirt or a lavender scarf, or some article of clothing in the purple family to remember the many young kids we’ve lost to the hands of bullies.  The cause is one worth standing up for as no one should have to be made a mockery of because of who they are.  

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Geeze man, for the love of GOLD!... Metallics!...

So as most of you fashionistas know, gold, silver, gunmetal and basically any metallic has been a trend over the past few seasons.  Well this shiny element isn't something specifically reserved for the runways of New York and Paris.  Here's just a taste of the many awesome products available to the trade to send your love for all things glisteny and shiny into orgasm mode...

  1. Maya Romanoff's Mother of Pearl Chevron wall tile
  2. Tom Dixon's Beat Light Stout
  3. Edelman Leather's Napa Loco-Gold Mine
  4. Innovations new Metalessence Wallcovering collection
  5. Proenza Schouler's Gates fabric for Knoll Luxe
  6. Ralph Lauren presents Honoria Golden Linen-Gold
  7. Aureole Double Arm Sconce by Solis Betancourt
  8. Copper Shade fixtures by Tom Dixon
  9. J. Robert Scott's Guinevere Mirror
Remember a tip as well, much like fashion you use the metallic elements thoughtfully and sparingly to achieve the maximum amount of wow factor.  A little shine in a boring flat room can elevate it from yawn to YOWZA!...

Friday, October 15, 2010

My dozen favorite picks for illuminating your wall...

So, I realized that I've been ranting quite a bit on all the wonderful things you can use to adorn your wall in terms of art, and framing, and even dead animal heads, but there's nothing about lighting all these amazing finds...  Because of that, I have complied 12 of my favorite sconces/wall mounted lights for you to gaze upon.  These are not listed in any particular order of importance, as every project is different and calls out for varying requirements and aesthetics.  Just a little bit of shiny eye candy for your senses...

Lumina Daphine Parete Wall Lamp  

1.  The Lumina Daphine Parete Wall Lamp, which I've used in both the floor lamp and wall mounted versions, and love both because they are so slight in their visual weight, but so sleek and simple in their lines, that it can transition into any environment, whether ultra modern or cozy and eclectic.  It's a good choice.  I tend to use it in white when I do the wall mounted fixture.

Boyd Lighting's Belmont Sconce

2.  The Belmont Sconce designed by Barbara Barry.  This is a wonderfully elegant, but simple wall sconce that would work well in a powder room, or just as successfully in corridor.  The contrast in the satin and polished finishes on the back plate gives the pieces movement and visual interest without screaming.

Two Arm Sconce by David Weeks Studio

3.  There's nothing like a nod to the mid-century modern aesthetic, and no one does it better in lighting than David Weeks Studio based out of Brooklyn.  These simple metal shades, with their aero dynamic design would go nicely alongside that Eames Lounge Chair to complete that reading nook in the den, or alongside your bed to catch up on the Dan Brown novel you couldn't ever find the chance to finish...

Tolomeo Wall Spot Lamp
 4.  The Tolomeo Wall Spot Lamp is pure function and design in it's rawest form... This is an excellent work light, mounted right above a drafting desk to help hash out all the permutations for arranging the furniture in your place on those nights when the configuration just doesn't seem quite right and you can't sleep.

Crystal Sphere Sconce by Alison Berger
 5.  Alison Berger's line of crystal light fixtures is just phenomenal, and this Sphere Sconce is probably one of the cleanest and simplest, but one of my favorites.  The hand blown crystal shade is as big as a grapefruit, and mounted on the simplest bronze backplate, enabling the onlooker to appreciate the perfection of the crystal as it bends and refracts the light onto the wall in the most magnificent glow.

Prouve Potence Lamp
 6.  The Prouve Potence Lamp is a beautiful example of simple materials, used in simple ways, creating a masterpiece of engineering.  The delicate lines that form the fixture lends itself to any environment.

Hinson's Double Swing Arm Lamp
 7.  So simple, so practical, and still so chic.  I've used this Hinson Double Swing Arm Lamp a number of times in a number of finishes as it's timeless.  This is one of the easiest ways to incorporate light into a room without resorting to another floor or table lamp if there's no room for one in the space.  I particularly love this in the white powder coated finish with a white lacquered shade.

Atlantis Sconce I from Hudson Furniture
 8.  I mentioned Hudson Furniture before, and the amazing Mother Chandelier I ordered... Well this sconce is its predecessor.  This is the wall mounted version of their magnificent Atlantis Chandelier.  The amazing use of these nickel chains swagging in such a way that it drapes and moves, is just breathtaking... Stunning!

Baccarat's Zenith Starck Wall Unit
 9.  All I can say is, Shut Up, it's frickin' black Baccarat crystal... What the hell is more opulent than that?  I understand not the aesthetic for everyone, but come on...  Black Baccarat Crystal!...

Artemide's Logico Triple Wall
 10.  This Logico wall fixture by Artemide is a wonderful way to add visual interest to that hallway that isn't necessarily the most important one in the house, but still needs a little something to keep it from looking like a journey to the Land of Aesthetic Indifference...

Coral Kiki Sconce by Moth Designs
 11.  This fun sea life inspired sconce named the Coral Kiki Sconce from Moth Design has always appealed to my roots in the Hawaiian Islands.  It's clean aquatic design is perfect for any tropical or beach environment, but also those who appreciate a bit of playfulness in their lighting.

Flos' Romeo Babe K W
12.  Philippe Starck's Romeo Babe K W is that beautifully modern answer to lighting corridors, bathroom vanities, art, you name it, it'll do the trick.  It's tiny, but packs a big punch of flair to any wall.

I hope you enjoyed the look through some of my favorite wall mounted light fixtures, and if you would like to know more about any of the products shown, please don't hesitate to ask.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Feeling Horny?...

I have this obsession lately with skulls and antlers up on walls as decor...  I went into the new All Saints Spitalfields store in Soho a few months back and fell in love with not only the amazing clothing, but the store's overall design aesthetic.  Industrial chic, with a ton of recycled and found items, mixed with the newest technologies.  Hot!...  But one of the things that I remembered, besides the hundreds of vintage Singer Sewing machines that lined the walls was the cash wrap area downstairs.  The entire back wall of exposed brick played backdrop to a grid of ram's skulls.  The effect was so striking, and not in anyway gross to those who are thinking otherwise...

All Saints Spitalfield Store in Soho, 512 Broadway
So I started to notice the trend going on around me... Sometimes it takes me a second to catch on. Another story...  Anyway, versions of this are available in all different variations depending on your level of squeamishness...  Here are a few that I've found...

Erich Ginder Ghost Antler coat rack
So to start with the entry level; not so sure about the animal, antler thing in my house skeptic... Here's a great, playful, whimsical way to add interest, without a lot of gore... This rack is by Erich Ginder, and available at Design Public.  Super fun, white cast resin, and is actually functional, not just cool to look at!

Roost Carved Wood Trophy Heads
For those a bit more daring, and one that can stand eyes looking back at them, I offer up these really well made, Carved Wood Heads by Roost.  These have such a wonderful presence to them, and can actually be painted to suit your space, since they come in a raw wood state.  The finishing and details on them is superb and will definitely add an unexpected twist to any room.

Cast Resin Horns & Antlers from Restoration Hardware
If you are one to stomach the look of a skull on your walls, then this may be a great option.  Restoration Hardware has even hopped on the bandwagon, and developed these very realistic interpretations of what nature could have left you alongside a dessert road.  These Cast Resin Horns & Antlers are extremely well priced for most to handle, and are nice and substantial in size so a single head can visually fill up quite a bit of empty wall space.

The real deal...
Then finally for those of us who can't have anything but what is authentic, go for the real thing...  I've actually found again, that Ebay is a great source for finding different species of animals, and sizes as well.  As we know not everyone has the same amount of space to utilize, so this way, you can tailor the skull size to proportionally fit your wall.  Some of the skulls can go in excess of $500 or so, but I've purchased recently a Catalina Goat Skull for $10 off Ebay...  It's something that can be strange at first to see in person, but then you see the amazing things that Mother Nature has created, and can appreciate it all the more...