During my local travels to find accessories and artwork for my Boston area clients, I came across a shop in Waltham, MA, which I recommend highly as a “must visit” for my readers in New England:
May’s Gallery at 1377 Main St (Route 117) in Waltham, MA
May imports porcelain vases, jars, bowls, and sculptures directly from the current-day porcelain studios and kilns in Jingdezhen, China. The selection is spectacular, quality is tops, and each piece is a work of art. Here’s a photo of May Lynch, the owner of May’s Gallery (whose family is from Jingdezhen, China) standing in front of some of her beautiful wares.
From a decorative aspect, you will notice blue and white porcelains everywhere in interior design, especially since the color navy and the desire for “clean and crisp” interiors is so popular today. In my Feb 2018 blog post “The Color Navy - Both Trend and a Classic,” I showcased interiors with blue and white porcelains as accessories. So I guess that it’s high time that I gave you some tips on where to shop for these accessories, especially one-of-a-kind pieces of the fine quality offered by May’s Gallery.
I interviewed May and Kevin Lynch about their business and what makes Jingdezhen porcelains so unique. They explained that Jingdezhen, in the Jiangxi Province by the Yangtze River, is the place where the art of porcelain began in China, thanks to local sources of kaolin clay and petuntse (china stone). These “secret ingredients” were combined and fired at temperatures as high as 1,300 ˚C (2,375 ˚F) in local kilns, producing an incredibly strong material that could hold up in even the thinnest of vessels. The colors aren’t limited to blue and white, with celadon green, reds, grays, and other colors being produced and perfected through the centuries by the artisans in Jingdezhen.
May’s offers a large selection of porcelain in traditional Blue and White and reds, celadon, and multi-colored items. I was particularly amazed at the variety of their offerings, especially large items which would be near impossible to have shipped from on-line sources. You just have to see these authentic pieces to appreciate the artwork and fine craftsmanship - and the prices are very fair and reasonable. May’s also offers contemporary designs from the artists of Jingdezhen to complement the traditional styles that make Jingdezhen Porcelain internationally renowned.
On their website, May explains her selection of porcelains:
“Why Jingdezhen Porcelain?
“Where is Jingdezhen?
Here is a link to the website for May’s Gallery if you want to read and see more: http://maysgallery.net/index.html
While doing research for this blog, I found out some interesting things about Blue and White porcelain and the whole “China Trade” of Porcelain. I know, I’m such a history nerd - but it all makes sense to understand why Chinese porcelains became so popular in the Western World (including Europe and America) back in the 1,700’s, and why these fine ceramics have had a place in practically every decorating style across the last 300 years. In a nutshell, the West had to import from China because, until the early 1,700’s, western potters had not discovered the secret ingredients and techniques to make hard shell porcelains. If you would like to know more about this topic, please see the article “History of Chinese Porcelain In America and Europe” by Bruce Richardson:
I always say that you need to showcase any accent color in your home in at least three places in a room, and those accent colors (like red) can be done easily in ceramics. Here’s a particularly beautiful green and white vase I had my eye on for my own dining room in Sudbury which is decorated in shades of green and teal and features many treasures we have picked up from our international travels. As you know, we recently returned from an amazing trip to Japan, Korea, and China, but we were unable to bring back breakable items like ceramics. The scene on this vase is so peaceful to me, and reminiscent of our lovely and peaceful trip.
So, if you are looking for that special accessory for your home, please do yourself a favor and visit May and Kevin at May’s Gallery. I’m so glad I found May’s Gallery as a unique and top-quality local resource, and I hope you’ll visit there soon.
If you were wondering why I didn’t write a blog post last weekend – well I was in Florida on my bi-monthly visit with my Mother. This visit was especially important since during it we celebrated her latest birthday! Yea Mom!! While I was visiting my Mother I got to thinking that I should write a blog about how your age impacts the design of your house. So here it is.
You may have heard the term “Aging in Place,” meaning you design or renovate your home to accommodate future physical mobility and strength issues to enable you to remain in your home as long as possible in old age. An added plus to implementing “Aging in Place” measures during your healthy years is that you’ll make your home safer now and thereby prevent potential accidents and falls (which are the root cause of many senior mobility issues in the first place!).
You might be wondering what specific knowledge and expertise I have in this area. Well, I studied all these ADA and Universal Design guidelines in design school, and have had a few clients over the years where we made deliberate changes to accommodate mobility issues. But it all came into practice in a huge way helping my mother reconfigure her apartment after a major fall more than 2 years ago. Talk about “up close and personal and immediate!” After a long stay in the hospital and a rehabilitation facility, she came home with permanent balance issues which require her to use a walker, wheelchair or scooter. She gets around great with her walker, wheelchair and scooter, and she continues to live life independently, but boy have life and previously simple tasks changed for her. Here we are at her place just last week when I visited for her birthday—we had a lovely time! She is such a treasure, and it was nice to see her feeling well and happy.
This getting older is truly a bummer…but that’s the reality of it. I’m sure many of you have older and/or disabled relatives and friends whom you worry about and look after. It’s amazing how once a relative’s physical infirmity impacts you, you see your home and all its “danger zones and hazards” in an entirely new light.
So, what can we do when we’re healthy and contemplating a remodeling project to make good design choices that could enhance safety and livability later -- WAY down the road?
Here are 6 Simple Remodeling Choices to Make NOW That Will Benefit You Aging in Place LATER
So, a little dose of practicality in today’s blog, just some things to think about if you are doing a remodeling project and want to use some good design principles. Actually, “Aging in Place” principles go hand-in-hand with “Universal Design,” the idea that products and buildings should be both aesthetically appealing and inherently usable to the widest possible audience, including people with disabilities and mobility issues. And if you sell your home and buyers are attracted by the fact that your home is already conducive to handle a visitor with special needs, perfect!
Above is a photo of my mother’s shower area in one of the two bathrooms in her apartment. You can see the rocker switch on the wall and the extra vertical grab bars we had installed inside and outside the shower to enable her to safely step over the threshold. It was a simple matter to install a hand-held shower head to her original wall-mounted shower head and add the plastic shower seat. It might not look so pretty with all that silver hardware, but the bathroom was designed large enough she could maneuver with her wheelchair to access the toilet, sink and shower, so the changes were straightforward and low-cost. We didn’t have to move any walls or do any major construction in her apartment remodel, thank goodness. We just had to add the grab bars, improve the lighting (so important), rearrange things to lower cabinets for accessibility, install low (commercial style) carpeting to allow for easier wheelchair use, move the washer/dryer, and basically “rethink” every task and unsteady step she would need to take. The occupational therapists were superb and helped us in planning for this new reality.
In addition to all my other efforts I am currently working as the “On-Site Designer” with One Wingate Way in Needham, MA (http://onewingateway.com/), an independent living community very similar to my mother’s. It’s a great concept, and as a family member, a living arrangement I highly endorse for safety, peace of mind, and enjoyment. At One Wingate Way, I provide new residents with any interior design services they may need to make their well-appointed luxury apartments their own. It’s certainly a pleasure to partner with One Wingate Way and get to know their residents! Above is a photo of the showroom I have set up in one of the apartments at One Wingate Way:
For more information on Aging-in-place, I encourage you to visit the following website from the National Council on Aging Care and check back on my blog for future posts. Next time we’re in this category I’ll cover super-helpful gadgets. Who doesn’t love a gadget in this day and age? Here are some great tips on making sound decisions for your bedroom redesign:
If you would like to read the detailed report prepared by Marianne Cusato, HomeAdvisor’s Housing Expert and a Professor of the Practice at the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture, you can find it here:
In addition, here’s a terrific article from Jon Gorey published in the Boston Globe on Nov 25, 2016 “Don’t wait until it’s too late to make your home accessible”: https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/11/25/how-build-your-home-now-accessible-for-all/HzVhDRFlKQy6naihhQGaFJ/story.html
That’s all for now. If this “Aging in Place” subject is of interest to you, write to me and tell me what issues and questions you have, and I’ll address them in future posts.
Until next weekend - be safe and happy!
This year Memorial Day is Monday, 28 May, officially a day of remembrance honoring the men and women who died while serving in the US military. It used to be called “Decoration Day”, which originated in the South where graves were decorated in memorial, and then became an official US National holiday in 1971. It’s also the “official” start of summer… of when you can wear white (an arcane rule for sure), plant your annuals here in Massachusetts, and other key milestones linked to summer. Glorious summer - we are so ready!
Today, my topic is about military veterans and buying products made in America. This is not political, I promise. It’s a celebration of American spirit, work ethic, and service. When someone asks “How do you thank a veteran for their service,” I always say, “give them a job and hire them.” That’s putting American dedication and know-how to work! Good business for all of us.
If you have three minutes you should this watch this business video on a NY company, Tidal New York, who hires veterans to make flip-flops. It will probably make you smile:
I’m a veteran. Did you know that? I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Air Force with 10+ years of active duty service (to include time in the Pentagon), then 15 years in the Air Force Reserves. My Air Force experience was fabulous, and I was one of the lucky ones who had a great career and retired with all my body parts and head still intact. Sadly I can’t say that for many of my comrades, God bless them.
So what does Memorial Day have to do with my Interior Design blog? Well, I’m privileged to sell products from two companies that go the extra step to make their blinds and shade products in America: Comfortex (Albany, NY - https://www.comfortex.com/) and Lafayette (West Lafayette, Indiana - http://www.lafvb.com/).
You might think it’s a simple matter to select vendors that manufacture their products in America, but sadly lots of custom window treatment products (yes, custom, not only mass-produced, but custom) are now made in China, Mexico, and other nations with lower cost labor. Bravo to these two American companies, Comfortex and Lafayette, and their terrific American-made products. And it always makes me smile when I get the packages with the red, white, and blue labels as shown on the box below:
As I reflect on the real meaning of Memorial Day I am drawn to the images of the American cemetery in Normandy, France (which we visited in 2015 - 71 years after the Normandy invasion) and the sacrifices that the soldiers made storming the beaches and the cliffs.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend. And thanks to all veterans out there, and to the families of the fallen comrades that we honor this Memorial Day. Your sacrifice is supreme, and we salute you.
Powerful stuff - glad to be an American today and always.
If you love interior design or DIY, you may remember the “Trading Spaces” design show on TV from 2000 to 2008...probably most memorable for the ridiculously impractical and out-there designs of Hildi Santo-Tomas (hay on walls, furniture mounted upside-down on the ceiling, and sand on the floor indoors, oh my) and the launching point of some of today’s big name designers and TV personalities: Genevieve Gorder (TV host of over 20 shows, plus her own branded line of interior design products), Vern Yip (“Design Star” TV show judge and designer of lines of décor, lighting, and fabric and trims), Ty Pennington (personable carpenter who went on to host Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), and Laurie Smith (who continued to design and branded lighting and fabric lines), among a few. These folks all showed their design and client interaction talents for the world to see on the first Trading Spaces, and the world (including the design community who you would think would scoff at DIY) responded approvingly. Here’s a link to what all the designers have done since the iteration of “Trading Spaces” left the air 10 years ago:
Photo courtesy of TLC and Usmagazine.com
I loved watching Trading Spaces years ago, but please know I didn’t exactly love all of the makeovers. Actually, I probably only liked about a third, because you know, some of it wasn’t actually good design, plus it’s just so easy to be an “armchair decorator” and second-guess things after the big reveal. For the show’s first iteration, I think the best part was the spirit and attitude necessary for the designers, homeowners, and friends and relatives (who were usually 100% novices at DIY) to … just do it! For me, the show had a terrific mix of energy, problem-solving, and people interaction skills that was always entertaining. If you want some laughs and want to revisit some of the “worst” of the first season (which ran 2000 – 2008), check out this recent article from House Beautiful magazine:
The formula for the new iteration of Trading Spaces is essentially the same as the original show: Two teams of two people trade houses, and with the direction of a designer and carpenter and a budget of $2000 provided by the show, they transform one room in each other’s homes. Paige Davis is still the host, and she has always done a beautiful job as the upbeat host with a sympathetic ear and kind spirit…good psychologist too.
There was quite a build-up in recent months for the new show. On the televised reunion show, Vern Yip remarked “Trading spaces opened up design to everyone.” And Genevieve Gorder said the best compliment she receives are from 25-year-olds who come up to her and say that Trading Spaces inspired them to be designers. Well, TS sure convinced me way back in 2000 when I was finishing up my Interior Design studies at the University of California that there was inordinate value in formally studying Interior Design (and learning what not to do). I’m so glad I was actually academically trained…it has really helped me give my clients a great design experience.
So what’s my review of the new Trading Spaces on TLC now that it has 5 episodes under its belt? Excellentl!! The mix of all the things that made the first show successful are still there, but I have to say the designs now are more polished, sophisticated, and look feasible for the homeowners to actually live there after the production crew has departed. The rooms on the new season have been pretty ambitious. Further, the new show demonstrates clearly that selective and small “craftsy” projects are feasible, but need to be impeccably executed. (And Hildi’s recent painting of leaves all over basement walls were not well executed, IMO). Also helpful and challenging is the $2000 budget (per team) for materials (versus $1000 in the original show). Of course, both old and new shows get the luxury of TONS of additional free labor, including a carpenter. Homeowner reactions are still a hoot…some love their new rooms, some cringe, but all homeowners thus far are gracious and appreciative of the work their friends did. It’s all about expectation management.
The best episode so far this new season was Episode 3 - “Feng Shui & The Golden Nook” - where Vern Yip and Genevieve Gorder, my two favorite designers, designed master suites. Both rooms were superb. Since it’s no secret that these two designers love fabric (and now design and market their own fabrics), it was a natural show for me to love. Vern did the orange Feng Shui room, and Genevieve the gold room.
Here’s a link to the episode - Season 9/Episode 3:
I totally agree with the good reviews the new show has been getting in the press. Hank Steuver wrote the following in a 6 April 2018 Washington Post article titled “Trading Spaces” returns to TLC, as comfortable as an old sofa’
“Trading Spaces” returns us to a safer, saner space of amateur willingness and neighborly bonhomie. Aesthetically, though, it seems Doug and Hildi haven’t moved a stone in 10 years. When the couples open their eyes, there’s no mistaking that both rooms look very much like the rooms that were revealed all those years ago.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. So check out the new Trading Spaces on TLC, or DVR them and binge watch when you need a bit of a fix. As a side note, you might be surprised at the other famous designers you may see on the new show--well-known designers who didn’t appear on the first iteration (like Clinton Kelly from “What Not to Wear”, Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent) are showing up to do rooms now…that speaks volumes to the popularity and fun of the Trading Spaces concept. I applaud these designers (who are already stars and probably millionaires) for giving this format a shot, and being super good sports given all the constraints….like the time and the budget… Go figure, time and budget constraints like in the real world.
And, finally, major foot stomp here……
If you happen to work for TLC (The Learning Channel) and are reading my blog, please know I am totally ready to be a guest designer on the new Trading Spaces! Call me!!
In last week’s blog I mentioned that we had just returned from a 16-day trip to Japan and South Korea - so fabulous and inspirational! I absolutely loved the landscape, architecture, culture, efficiency, work ethic, and gracious hospitality of the Japanese people. And there were so many design takeaways from my trip.
Below are a few of my design impressions and photo highlights from our trip which went south from Tokyo to the Southernmost tip of Japan, then to the Westernmost point, then North to Busan (South Korea) and finally back to Kyoto and Osaka. We were able to catch the end of the cherry blossom season in Tokyo, and then the peak of azalea season in the cities to the South. There is so much to share about design from the trip…so look for future posts interspersed here and there.
My design impressions:
Enjoy the photos and send me questions or comments (http://www.centerstageinteriordesigns.com/contact.html) since I’m curious about your impressions and if you’ve had Japanese travel adventures of your own!
You may have noticed that my April 2018 posts have been slim…but all for a very good reason you will certainly hear about in future blog posts! We just returned from a 16-day vacation to Japan, and in one word, it was amazing. I can’t wait to sort through the 1,000+ photographs and bring you design highlights in my upcoming blogs!
But on to this week’s post which covers an event I attended yesterday at Gillette Stadium - the 2018 New England Paint Expo, sponsored by Sherwin-Williams; a show that introduced some cool new products that got my “Designer” brain working again.
So what were the Paint Expo highlights? As you can see, it was a gorgeous day at Gillette Stadium where the show was held in the indoor concourse area next to the VIP seating. Wow, Sherwin-Williams put on a first-class show at a really cool venue! Here’s some information on the products that I found the most interesting:
Ideapaint Magnetized Dry Erase Walls: Ever wonder how the tech companies acquire whole walls of dryerase board…and custom-color and magnetized to boot? In the photo below, Julia Romano of Ideapaint shows how her Boston-based company delivers that capability. This got me thinking that for my clients’ homes, a dry erase wall would be perfect for kitchens, mudrooms, playrooms, home offices, and over a planned “charging-station” area. Endless applications, and you can have it the same color as the rest of your walls, or perhaps a different color for a feature wall. I have seen lots of paint options in recent years for chalkboard walls, but chalkboard is so old school and messy…this Ideapaint concept is terrific.
The magnetized dry erase wall starts with a layer of thick wallpaper with a magnetic medium that is applied over drywall - they call this the “pull.” Then a layer of paint (whatever color you want) and then a dry-erase sealer topcoat. Julia showed me how the rare earth magnets really stick to this wall, with enough holding power for school schedules, kids’ artwork, and all the other paper that transits through our homes and offices. There is also an option for a magnetized paint as the first layer, but the holding power isn’t as great as with the wallpaper layer. Their products won’t interfere with wi-fi reception either, which is an important factor in our wireless world. See more details at the Ideapaint website: http://www.ideapaint.com/
Sherwin-Williams 2018 Paints: Sherwin-Williams showcased all their paint formulations with new products for super quick-dry (Snapdry Door and Trim Paint), Loxon Self-Cleaning Acrylic Coating, Extreme Block Stain Blocking Primer/Sealer, Duration Home with Moisture Resistance Technology, and many others.
Heather Bourgeois of Sherwin-Williams gave a superb talk on the Healthy Home Movement and recent advancements in paint products that work to actively work to reduce and neutralize harmful chemicals in our interior environments. We’re not just talking about minimizing the chemical footprint when applying the paint…we talking about paints that interact with formaldehydes, odors, mold, mildew and microbials to render them harmless. Wow, paint sure has come a long way in the past couple of years! I was grateful for the education on these new technologies and paint offerings to better advise my clients who are understandably concerned about improving their indoor air quality. I’m also intrigued by the Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel (shown at extreme left in the photo below) which represents a water-based hard-shell solution for trim.
Sherwin-Williams also presented all their new 2018 colors and whole new fan-deck. I have all these new color tools in place and am excited by the new more vibrant color offerings. Can you tell the color palettes have changed from a few years ago? You can find more details on the Sherwin-Williams website at https://www.sherwin-williams.com
Thanks Sherwin-Williams for inviting me to the show at Gillette Stadium!
Call me to see all the new paint offerings and discuss the ins and outs of color AND paint technology that will brighten up your dream project.
Happy Spring to all my readers! I just returned from the International Window Coverings Expo (IWCE) show in Tampa - an amazing 52-hour trip filled with inspiration and fun. It was great to see all the new window covering product offerings arriving on the market, meet many talented designers and window covering professionals, and catch up on the business of design with my colleagues. Oh, and the 78 degree weather and beautiful sunsets at the downtown Tampa Convention Center location were especially fine since it was snowing in Massachusetts.
During the show I tried to see all the vendors and attend as many of the presentations as I could fit in. Here are my 5 design takeaways from what I saw:
From what I saw the new trims from Trimland are fresh and transitional…perfect for a family room, living room, or bedroom.
Even though it was a quick trip what I saw and learned was well worth the time and travel adventures. Major kudos and thanks to the IWCE 2018 organizers for arranging such a terrific show!
Recently I’ve delivered a number of large projects. Coincidentally I also took a photography seminar with Boston Interior Designer and professional photographer Linda Holt; a fellow interior designer who showcases her fabulous, fresh and vibrant portfolio on her website (https://www.lindaholtcreative.com/). A perfect storm of events for this week’s blog post!
First, a little bit about Linda’s iPhone class and tips, or what she calls “iPhone-ography.” Cute! Linda gave a photography seminar to the Eastern Massachusetts Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA) Chapter, a professional group I belong to that is dedicated to education and networking in the window coverings and soft furnishings field. https://www.wcaa.org/AF_MemberCommittee.asp?committeeid=8
Linda’s seminar was held at the Duralee showroom at the Boston Design Center (BDC), a lovely place to shop for sumptuous fabrics in a bright and cheerful atmosphere in the Boston Seaport area. Here’s a link to the BDC (http://bostondesign.com/showrooms), which is open to the public for browsing, but if you want to purchase something you need to be with a designer that’s registered with them. So if you are interested in seeing lots of professional interior design products in one place, call me and we can go together!
In the photo above Linda is instructing our group (with our past Chapter President Gabe Fitzgerald on her right). Linda described that there are two parts to better iPhone photography: taking better photos in the first place, and then doing post-processing with easily downloaded and free/dirt-cheap apps on your phone. Linda’s first bit of advice was to take better photos in the first place, making sure to get your vertical lines actually vertical, with helpful gridlines turned on in your iPhone camera.…and do you notice how straight my (unretouched) photo looks? We had a great time setting up our iPhone cameras properly and testing things out. Check out Linda’s advice on iPhone photography on her website…you will be able to wow your teenager with your iPhone prowess (well, at least for a minute or two).
So what have I done to practice my new photography skills? When I delivered three projects last week, I decided to shoot the “after” shots with my iPhone instead of my larger Nikon camera.
Below is a family room in Lynnfield, MA for a lovely couple who wanted a relaxing, put-together and textural family room. The only thing they started with was the griege sectional. I suggested Navy walls to give some punch to them since they have incredibly large windows. I then fabricated cornices made out of Lafayette Manh Truc woven wood material (Kaliko Smoke) http://www.lafvb.com/woven-wood-shades and put those cornices over extra wide Sheerweave roller shades from Lafayette.
The couple was glad to have some privacy instead of their initial “fishbowl” setup, and the cornices on top added some textural interest without taking over with too much pattern. I also fabricated some new pillows to punch up the sofa, and the couple found a rug they liked to round out the seating area. Finally, my client accessorized the table behind the sofa himself—well done! All in all, a nice room, and a wonderful collaborative effort with some amazing and fun clients.
Curious about what the “before” arrangement looked like? Here you go:
The second project that I delivered last week was a new window seat in the same client’s kitchen. Here I made a tufted bench seat in a Crypton (spill-friendly) fabric with a faux roman valance over Comfortex Shangri-La horizontal shade. Think that it needs some pillows? You are so right!
To try out my new photography skills and “TouchRetouch “ app I edited this photo directly on my phone using Linda’s tips. It was easy to get things straight, balance out the color, and do some magic with removing objects on the shelf with the app. Below is a straight-on shot of the bench:
The last project that I delivered last week was a set of woven wood cornices to a wonderful family in Weston, MA. My client and I searched for a cool “statement” chandelier over the round table in her eating area that is in the same space as her large gray/taupe kitchen. This “Sputnik” chandelier was just the thing to fill the space, and we decided on the cornices to visually raise the windows in the room with 9’ ceilings. Here’s the after shot, “straightened” just a bit by me on my iPhone:
I just love that floral arrangement….makes me think of ….SPRING. Just what we need this week, since there is still snow on the ground here in Massachusetts and it will be April this weekend.
Hope your week is a good one! Tomorrow I’m off to the 2018 International Window Coverings Expo (IWCE) in Tampa. I’ll be sure to take lots of photos with my iPhone and update you next week on all the new interior design products and looks!
In today’s Interior Design landscape, there’s a great deal of free advice out there. My blog (and hundreds of other blogs) is free. Pinterest is free. Houzz is free. Asking questions of Houzz designers is free. Major furniture chains (like Ethan Allen) have designer services that are free. All free and available at your fingertips on your computer with a few simple search terms - ready to help you redesign your home’s interior.
So you need to ask yourself three critical questions:
Well, it’s a bit of a consumer nightmare out there, sorting out the free wheat from the free chaff….and the sorting requires lots of time and energy spent by you! Which brings me to the following list about design fees:
Why paying a design fee for a specific project is good for you:
For all these reasons, I have developed a design process that has served my clients extremely well over the past 17 years (see the “Client Journey: How We Work Together” page). And that process includes having my clients pay a design fee up front based on a clear understanding between the client (you) and the designer (me) on the scope of the project and what the client will get for that design fee (e.g. photographic renderings, fabric swatches, wallcovering samples, paint selections, pricing, time estimates, etc.,). As a client of any service, don’t you want to know what you are going to get, how it’s going to look and what it’s going to cost? Of course you do!
I can think of many instances in my own personal life where I’ve paid an up-front “design fee” to start a project out on the right footing. For example, when we were first married we moved to Colorado, purchased a new home and paid a landscape architect to draw up a detailed landscaping design. Frankly, we had no clue on the trees and shrubs that grew in Colorado’s climate, and it would have been way too laborious and inefficient for us to research it ourselves. That’s what you hire any professional for, right? With the landscaping plans we paid for we could make informed decisions on what we were going to do and when. We ended up using that architect’s landscaping company for the major initial work and did many of the smaller jobs ourselves on a time phased approach. We were happy that we had the structure of the architect’s design plan to guide us on the overall project, the costs and the time phasing. Similarly, years ago we paid an investment advisor to perform a comprehensive financial review and design a retirement plan, with no risk of him selling us specific investment products that were more financially rewarding for him than they were for us. We were seeking a high-quality, objective and informed professional opinion. To get that we paid a design fee to the investment advisor, and therefore spent time specifying our needs and paid attention to, and placed value on the plan that he developed. And it’s no different with a professional Interior Designer (except Interior Design projects are way more fun!)
So now I’m going to make a statement that will probably make you wince: “Nobody values decorating advice they don’t pay for.” Yes, it’s true. Free decorating advice from the internet is valued as much as asking your mother-in-law, sister, best friend, or pet. Harsh words, but it’s true! We value what we pay for…….maybe it’s because we have to invest our time in doing the research to find the right person to pay for advice. Think about it! When was the last time you took professional advice that came for free from a Doctor, Lawyer or Plumber?
In my opinion, if you have a significant decorating project you need interior design help and advice, and you probably know it. The good news is that this help can be extremely beneficial in terms of money and time spent, and in the happiness that comes from getting it right the first time! As a designer who charges a design fee I can assure you that doing this aligns us and makes sure that I have your unique goals and interests at heart. I can help, and you will be amazed at what we can accomplish together! Call me at 978-440-7264 so that we can get started on the project that you keep putting off.
This week’s post is a “Before and After” look at two of my favorite projects that transformed the spaces for busy Boston families. These projects have a common design challenge: front-to-back living rooms (henceforth referred to as FTB).
Space planning for a FTB living room is often tricky - how to make the typically long but narrow room cozy and functional, while accommodating the traffic flow to multiple doorways. Starting out with a blank slate, it looks like you have a good bit of square footage in a FTB room to work with, until you try out different configurations and suddenly the room appears to shrink dramatically!
Project #1: Multi-use Front-to-Back Living Room
The Problem: In New England, a FTB living room (or family room) typically has the fireplace centered on the long outside wall like in the diagram of my client’s home below. This particular family room is fairly generous in width (about 16’ across), unlike many other FTB living rooms I encounter that are far narrower - more like 12’. But the 16’ dimension was fortunate for this home, since there is only one “common area” and this room must serve as both family room and living room. Thank you, kind architect! The overall dimensions of this room are 16’ across and 28’ long, or about 450 square feet. Plenty of room for the multiple purposes my client intended: a large seating area for entertaining, TV watching, play space for her toddler, and a thoroughfare to enter the home from the patio through the sliding door at the top of the diagram. There is a pretty bow window to the North, and twin large windows to the South, facing the front of the home.
So, what was the challenge with this space? First, we needed to come up with a toddler friendly plan (with toys) that could morph with a tiny bit of clean-up into a sophisticated entertaining place for adults. All you folks with kids are well aware of the creeping plastic jungle!
Second, we needed seating for 6 or 7 people in a conversation area, since the family has many relatives in the area and they often have company. The TV needed to be large for sports viewing by an enthusiastic crowd. And third, the carpeting needed to be kid friendly and withstand in-and-out traffic through the sliding doors (to the North), often with mud and snow in the mix. Lighting was an issue too, as there were no overhead lights and the room could not be solely lit by lamps around the perimeter.
The Solution. My solution to the space plan issues was to have 2 separate carpets forming two zones: the gathering zone with a large sectional facing a TV on an interior wall, and the toddler zone with a custom storage window bench.
The swivel chairs function in both zones, but in the regular configuration, they face the sectional. The carpet in the kid zone is from Flor (https://www.flor.com/), with individual carpet tiles easily put together (by me and the homeowners) for our custom arrangement. Flor carpet tiles offer terrific peace-of-mind during life with children, durability, and unlimited design options. I have used Flor tiles in many homes, and my clients have all been very happy with them.
To improve the lighting we installed a large ceiling light fixture in the center of the room, high enough in this space with 9’ ceilings to permit foot traffic underneath. We also had a sectional custom made from one of my favorite furniture manufacturers, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams: https://www.mgbwhome.com/sectionals/
To reduce the clutter we ordered a large tufted leather ottoman with storage underneath. In the kid zone, we had a custom storage bench made and placed baskets into the cubbies for toy storage. As you can see from the photos below, we were able to use many of my client’s existing pieces, like the secretary and red chair. And finally, I made all the window treatments in Sunbrella indoor-outdoor fabrics (the ultimate in kid friendly). Here are some photos of the room, before and after.
Project #2: A Far Narrower Front-to-Back Living Room
The Problem: This home in Lexington, MA is a beautiful home built in the 1920’s, and it has undergone a few major additions through the years spreading out from the original living room. But the living room dimensions remain intact, and you can see from the photos below that this is a rather narrow room, with three doorways to plan around: an opening by the front door, an opening by the kitchen (both openings flanking the fireplace, which is on an interior wall), and a third double French-door entry to the sunporch opposite the fireplace. Traffic flow is important in this living room, but since the home has a large family room to the rear of the home, TV-watching and childrens’ play areas weren’t part of the space planning challenge. And we could make this home extra pretty to play up its fine architecture and built-in cabinetry.
The Solution. With the narrow space, the only solution was to float the sofa and the two chairs in the center of the room with the fireplace as the focal point. Unfortunately, there is limited room for seating. But the two “X” benches that we put in front of the new draperies by the front window serve as extra seating for company. In terms of lighting, we added sconces by the fireplace and picture-frame molding on that wall to give it a little style boost. We took the color cues for the wall color (Benjamin Moore Alaskan Skies, 972) from the upholstery on the Bergere chairs, for a serene sitting room with a decidedly French chic flair. My client loves blush pink, and with two small boys, she needed some pretty pink in her busy lifestyle!
I have another project in the works right now for a front-to-back living room to be used as a music room. I will let you know how that works out! I do love the FTB configuration, as these rooms generally have plenty of natural light. But they do pose a bit of a challenge for space planning. It’s not insurmountable, just takes a bit of thought by your designer (that would be me). Call me if you have a front-to-back family room or living room that is giving you trouble. I can help!
Barbara Phillips, interior designer and owner of Center Stage Interior Designs, has delivered impeccable window treatments and design services to both residential and commercial clients in Massachusetts since 2001.