Thursday
Dec182014

The Sixth Plane or Pain?

I've got a bone to pick with wallpapered ceilings.

The ceiling, often referred to by designers and architects as the sixth plane (after the floor and four wall planes), is often sparingly treated in residential design. It makes sense to leave a ceiling unadorned in a low-ceilinged room. (There are clever ways to treat the ceiling in this type of space, but that's for another post.)

Sometimes the ceiling features important architectural details in a space. Think of a cathedral ceiling with exposed beams, rafters or trusses. Also coffered ceilings. I like the use of coffers to unite the ceiling plane with wall planes. In the space below, the coffers align with the fireplace and overmantle, creating unity between the planes, drawing the eye to the fireplace as the focal point in the space.

                    

But recently I've been seeing wallpaper added to coffers. This bothers me. The coffers create forms which define zones in a space. Or they create linear elements that draw the eye to certain other focal elements in the space. But when you add wallpaper -- technically, a pattern according to the elements and principles of design -- you're drawing the eye upward, making the ceiling a focal point. This is a design faux pas (unless the rest of the space is minimally treated and your goal is to highlight the ceiling; more about that below).

                      

The pattern on the ceiling above creates disharmony. To me, it's just a gimmick, and I don't like gimmicky design.

So when is it appropriate to put wallpaper or pattern on the ceiling? It's fine when the ceiling is the focal point. Like in a dentist's office. Or in a nursery. The image below, from Domino magazine, features the nursery in the former home of J.Crew's executive creative director and president, Jenna Lyons. Jenna painted stripes on the nursery's ceiling so her baby would have a pattern to look at while lying in the crib.

                           

A bedroom might also call for a wallpapered or patterned ceiling. Jennifer Mehditash of Mehditash Design included a panel of Gracie wallpaper in her bedroom for the re-design of the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island in 2013. The color of sky, the panel gives residents, staying at the facility while a loved-one undergoes medical treatment, a visual focus to uplift the spirits.

                        

                                                   Photo by Stacey Van Berkel, courtesy of Jennifer Mehditash

I've used metallic wallpaper on ceilings with cove lighting to create a glow and add illumination to a space.

                                  

                                                                              Photograph by Eric Roth

Bottom Line: don't fall for design gimmicks. Treat the ceiling as part of a composition and don't add wallpaper unless the spatial composition dictates it.

Thursday
Dec042014

Marsala: Pantone Color of the Year 2015

The wait is over. Pantone, the leader in color matching systems and color trend forecasting, has announced its Color of the Year for 2015. And it's Marsala.

My reaction is . . . Say what?

I mean, really. We saw Tangerine Tango, Emerald and Radiant Orchid emerging in the interior design world before Pantone announced that these were the Colors of the Year for 2012, 2013, and 2014.

But I've had to do a little digging to come up with recent precedents for Marsala.

My associations with Marsala: Santa Fe and Southwest decor . . . herculon (aka olefin) upholstery fabrics of the 1970s . . . Crayola crayon colors like burnt sienna. This is a clear case of fashion trends leading the way.

But at the same time, Marsala has a timeless quality -- like its namesake wine that mellows with age. Think of worn leather and earthy palettes inspired by nature; wood-paneled libraries stacked with leather-bound books. I suppose I just have to let go of my 1970s-based associations with the color and embrace its roots in decor classics like Mediterranean villas, English gentlemen's clubs, and folk art of the Americas.

Take a look at these interiors showcasing Pantone's Marsala. The last thing I'll do is advocate running out to invest in Marsala-hued furnishings just to follow a trend. But, as these rooms illustrate, enveloping a room in this rich color adds warmth and complements a range of styles from traditional to contemporary.

                                    

 

                                  

                          Dining Room by Michael S. Smith, photo by Mikkel Vang courtesy of House Beautiful

                                    

                              Design by Douglas Mackie, photo by Simon Upton courtesy of House and Garden

               

                                                                     Bathroom by Amy Lau Design

                        

                           Design by Douglas Mackie, photo by Simon Upton courtesy of House & Garden

                     

                          Design by David Dalton, Inc., photo by Lisa Romerein courtesy of House Beautiful

Sunday
Nov302014

Life Is Good

My New York-resident children have left; the good china and crystal have been put away; and just the smell of my turkey soup cooking (using what's left of the turkey scraps and carcass) is reminding me of the Thanksgiving holiday.

It was a great weekend, filled with the company of family and friends, of delicious foods and spirits. I feel particularly blessed this year. In years past, we struggled with job-related issues. My husband, Abe -- a marketing executive who has spent a good portion of his career concentrating in financial services businesses -- suffered bouts of unemployment due to the recession and other factors. My career luckily weathered the recession. But when work in the pipeline started to dry up, I worried whether new business would come my way.

Fortunately, since April, Abe has been working for an advertising agency in Boston. Advertising is Abe's passion and the area where he first started in the business world. It's made him (and ME) very happy to be working in an environment that he loves and a job where he thrives.

I'm happy and grateful to say that my business is better than ever (one reason I haven't been current with the blog), and I am working on some of my best projects to date, including:

  • Two new-construction mirror-image townhouses in Newton. Sisters, one in her late twenties and the other about thirty, are buying these homes, and I'm doing both of them. Each house has four bedrooms, four and a half baths, a two-car garage and full basement. The best part of this project is that the girls have different tastes -- one is new-trad and the other a bit edgy -- so each house poses interesting design challenges for me and will end up with unique looks.
  • A house in Wellesley.
  • Four bathroom renovations, two in a house in Chestnut Hill and two in a house in Natick.

We are also blessed that two of our children are or will be working in jobs that that they aimed for in college. Our oldest daughter works in public relations for an agency that specializes in cosmetics and high-end personal-care brands. And our son, who recently graduated college, will be headed to a Hollywood talent agency to start work in its talent-agent training program. I'm glad that I still have one at home: my youngest. She's a high-school senior waiting to hear about college admissions.

There is an old Yiddish expression that comes to mind at times like these: to not give something a "kenahora." It's said when we're talking about good things that are happening . . . to avoid tempting the evil eye and reversing our good fortune. It's what I feel writing this post (ie., that I might put a jinx on things). But, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, it's the blessings that we've received this year in contrast to years past, that make me feel especially grateful. I hope that you too have been blessed with good fortune to share and appreciate this holiday season.

Tuesday
Oct142014

Trend Watch Tuesday: Return to Opulence

Whether the economy is any predictor of fashion and home decor trends is anybody's guess. I always thought that it was. Yet in stores right now I see an overabundance of black and gray women's fashions --  usually the case when the economic mood is glum.

If today's fashions suggest a dire economic outlook, home furnishings trends suggest the opposite. What's trending now is a return to opulence, and what furniture manufacturers will reveal this week as the fall market opens in High Point, North Carolina is just that.

Look at the designs of the industry's top designers. At April's Kips Bay Decorator Show House in New York City, the return to opulence was best illustrated by the interior designs of Alexa Hampton and Martyn Lawrence Bullard. Alexa's room featured wallcovering replicating Moroccan Mudejar tiles, a velvet sofa and tufted banquette trimmed with metallic bullion fringe and lambrequin window treatments in blue taffeta with smocked headings.

                                            Photograph by Timothy Bell courtesy of Architectural Digest

Save for the $2 paper lanterns Alexa fashioned into a chandelier, the room defines grandeur.

Martyn Lawrence Bullard furnished his space -- the Grand Entry -- also with luxurious fabrics and finishes. The wallcovering was inspired by marbleized paper. Brass, lacquer and silk velvet augmented the old world flavor of his palette.

                   

                                                      Photograph by Timothy Bell courtesy of Architectural Digest

Silks, velvets, lacquers, bronze and other metallic finishes were overwhelmingly represented at Kips Bay.

Another example of the trend toward opulence is represented in the style shift I'm seeing from Kelly Wearstler. Kelly catapulted the Hollywood Regency style into the mainstream. Typical of this style are mirrored case goods, black and white lacquer finishes and abundant tufting. I saw a decidedly different vibe from Kelly in the apartment she designed for Cameron Diaz featured last year in Elle Decor.

                          

                                                Photo by William Abranowicz courtesy of Elle Decor

The apartment's kitchen features a backsplash, counters and fittings of unlacquered brass; brass trim on green lacquered cabinets; and cerused ebony-stained wood floors.

And how about this bathroom? Antiqued glass tiles, brass hardware and sinks, and a parchment-covered vanity adorn this space.

                           

                                                         Photo by William Abranowicz courtesy of Elle Decor

Indicative of the the return to opulence are furnishings debuting later this week at the 2014 High Point Fall Market. For example, this Westbury Dressing Chest by Kindel Furniture, a revival of a 1939 Dorothy Draper design, features solid brass drawer pulls and gold leaf accents.

                            

Regina Andrew Design is introducing this Sea Fan Chandelier in shiny brass.

                                                     

And Worlds Away is debuting this Braxton media console with rosewood veneer and a gold leaf base.

                        

Charles Spada, the Boston-based designer and antiques dealer, recently answered the question "What’s exciting about the design community right now?" with the following:

“The resurgence of quality furnishings and fabrics, the revival of antiques, and most important,  the end of 1950s motel-lobby-like decorating.”

This statement couldn't be any more prescient.

Tuesday
Sep232014

Trend Watch Tuesday: Black Kitchens

I knew I was onto something when I noticed the black kitchen by Steven Miller at the 2014 San Francisco Decorator Showcase (also House Beautiful magazine's 2014 Kitchen of the Year). But I guess it took writer David Keep's article in the Wall Street Journal to confirm what I already suspected: black kitchens are trending.

The prevalence of the ubiquitous white kitchen is prompting home owners to crave color for their kitchen cabinets. White is certainly safe. But if you love color as I do, you want more. Black kitchen cabinets satisfy our thirst for color but don't make us worry about resale the same way green, blue or yellow cabinets might. And the great thing about black cabinets is how well they mix with different materials and finishes.

                    

                                                                          photograph courtesy of Remodelista.com

In the kitchen above, by Robert Stillin, black cabinets mix beautifully with carrara marble, butcher block and stainless steel.

In this butler's pantry by Munger Interiors, black pairs perfectly with brass.

                              

                                                           photograph courtesy of Munger Interiors

To avoid a cave-like feeling in a black kitchen, adding reflective surfaces to create light is a must. Upper cabinets with glass fronts help. So too do glossy backsplash tiles and shiny black appliances like these from the Whirlpool Black Ice Collection in the 2014 House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year.

                         

                                                       Photography by James Baigrie, courtesy of House Beautiful

The glass upper cabinets below painted white on the inside create light and balance the black exteriors.

                           

Open shelves and white backsplash tile also help to keep a black kitchen from feeling too dark.

                        

                                                     photograph courtesy of CentsationalGirl.com

And a white ceiling and floor on the horizontal planes create balance with black vertical planes.

            

                                                            Photography by James Baigrie, courtesy of House Beautiful