Revisiting Black Kitchens

Almost a year ago, I wrote about black kitchens in one of my Trend Watch Tuesday posts.  I'm revisiting that post to add a kitchen I saw in April at the Junior League of High Point, North Carolina 2015 Designer Showhouse and featured in this month's Traditional Home magazine.  If it's in Traditional Home, why include it in the blog?  Because the kitchen was designed by my friend and super-talented designer, Lisa Mende, with whom I shared the Brizo Fashion Week experience in September 2012.

Ever since designer Steven Miller did a black kitchen for the 2014 San Francisco Decorator Showcase (it was also House Beautiful's Kitchen of the Year), black kitchens have been taking the kitchen and bath industry by storm.  Black is as basic and as versatile as white, inviting ample opportunities for mixing in other colors, patterns, materials and textures.

Lisa Mende's black kitchen was a home run for numerous reasons.  The black cabinets and range hood maintain focus, but the white glossy subway-tiled walls keep everything in balance.  I love how Lisa punctuated the walls with black window trim.  That's an important takeaway: trim doesn't have to match the walls and doesn't have to be white.


The mix of black and white patterns in the space is a textbook example of how multiple patterns can be harmoniously used.  Lisa used the large pattern on the window shades sparingly, balancing it with a small print on the counter stools and a geometric wallpaper pattern on the ceiling.  Adding interest, the ceiling pattern is not so bold as to distract one's eye-level perspective of the space.

Another awesome feature of the design is the use of mixed metals.  Appliances are stainless, hardware and light fixtures are brass, faucets are copper.  Yet they all work perfectly together.  Note the contemporary drawer and cabinet pulls paired with the vintage-looking swing-arm wall sconces.  Another great lesson: mixing periods is good design!

As great a design as the kitchen was, so too was the adjoining breakfast room.


Walls clad in cobalt blue grasscloth, green leather chairs trimmed with nailheads, a settee in a striped pattern with a Greek key motif and a mid-century inspired chandelier all harmonize to create a cheerful family gathering spot.  Congratulations, Lisa, on a superb job!


High Point Fall Market Preview

October 17th through 22nd marks Fall Market days in High Point, North Carolina.  I'm not going, but have received numerous invitations to view new products that will be unveiled at Market.  From these invitations and press releases, I've detected a trend. 

Metals have been prominent for several seasons now (see my post Heavy Metal from 2012).  What I'm noticing is a new way that they are being integrated into furnishings.  I'm seeing an edgier, almost futuristic display of metals in some of the Fall Market introductions. 

Two pieces that illustrate this trend are the Zhin Cabinet from Currey and Company (below left) and the Butterfly Floor Lamp from the Phillipps Collection (below right).


The metal decoration on the cabinet, although geometrical and symmetrical, is abstract, referencing none of the motifs or geometries we typically see in furniture hardware.  Similarly, while the stand of the floor lamp mimics butterfly wings, the lack of a solid base is unconventional.  It's as if the lamp is tentatively balanced.

This Bernhardt credenza, debuting at Market in a similar console, strikes an almost brutalistic tone.  Made of a nickel silver alloy clad exterior, its form is massive and heavy feeling.


Patterns found in nature are re-interpreted in some new introductions.  Abstractions of tortoise shell and hexagrams surface here in the Langkawi Outdoor Table by Jonathan Charles and this credenza from Studio A.


When metals are combined with woods, the effect is almost raw.  Woods appear in a natural state or in an organic, dimensional form.  And the accompanying metal details seem similarly rough hewn.


Both the bases above -- of the Taracea coffee table and the Villiers Armoire by Alfonso Marina -- are sculpted yet rugged.  And both are paired with wood left in either its natural state or carved into a dimensional geometric form. 

These designs signal an interesting development: a turn away from resurrecting forms and patterns from the past (like mid-century modern or neoclassical) and a movement toward the creation of something new and novel.  I like it and am excited to see more!


Wired + Inspired: Behind the Scenes of a Virtual Showhouse

I've done four actual designer show houses.  But when the opportunity arose to participate in a virtual show house sponsored by -- entirely digital and only viewable online -- I jumped at the chance.  After all, participating in a designer show house costs big bucks: there is the investment in carpentry, electrical work, custom furnishings, etc. that is borne, to a large degree, by the designer.  But here was an opportunity to create a space that only involved an investment of time. 

Dering Hall set the parameters: create a room inspired by a movie with furnishings sourced from the Boston Design Center.  Dering Hall assigned me the Entryway.  I completed the project in May, and Dering Hall just launched the project to coincide with Boston Design 2015, a two-day event at the Boston Design Center.


When I selected the movie Shampoo as my inspiration, I thought it would be in keeping with a trend toward 1970s decor that I've been seeing.  I expected to see high gloss and mylar finishes, polished chrome and glass.  But the interiors in the film were nothing like what I expected.

The photo below is the home of Julie Christie's character in the movie.  It's very traditional with large-scale continental furnishings and stark contrasts of darks and lights.  Hardly the 1970s decor I envisioned.  How I would furnish my virtual show house room would have to change dramatically.


Luckily, the salon where Warren Beatty's character worked gave me a starting point.


Notice the latticework . . . An opportunity to use one of my favorite wallpaper patterns: Lyford Trellis Wallpaper from Quadrille.  The contrast of darks and lights and merging of interiors and exteriors so prevalent in California design at the time were my further inspirations. 

Here are the furnishings with quotes from my Wired + Inspired page from Dering Hall.

Balustrade Console by Formations

Marlboro Side Chair by Hickory Chair in White Cotton Duck Fabric by Kravet with Samuel & Sons blue cording

Portico Lantern by Powell and Bonnell Home

Taj Brown Rug by Bunny Williams Home

Forbidden City Mirror by Bunny Williams Home



Making a Grand Entrance

Because the entry foyer is the space that every invited . . . and uninvited . . . guest will see in your home, it's the space where you want to make a grand design gesture.  It may set the stage for, or be the only glimpse that some will see of, what lies beyond. 

For function, an entry foyer needs some sort of table to toss mail and keys, a place for coats, a mirror to check for lipstick smudges as you're walking out the door, and if space allows a chair or bench.  Where I live in New England, that's a must!  Who wants to track snow and slush into the home!

With such a small footprint, there's ample opportunity to be dramatic.  Take your walls, for instance.  I loved the paint treatment Jamie Drake used in the foyer he did for the 2015 Kips Bay Decorator's Show House.  Onto a specially treated painted surface, his painters sprinkled mica dust.  The effect was sparkling!

For form, Jamie added this sculptural console table.


Notice how the metallic accents -- the wall sconces, ceramic stools, gilded mirror and brass fireplace screen -- also add sparkle and illumination to the room.

Equally dramatic is the treillage, or latticework, that designer Amanda Lindroth installed in this home in the Bahamas.


                                                                    Photo courtesy of House Beautiful

In addition to the wall planes, don't forget the ceiling, oft cited as the forgotten plane in design.  I know I've said that I'm not a fan of a lot of pattern on the ceiling.  In large spaces where the design is focused at eye level or below, I think a patterned ceiling draws the eye away from the room's focus and distorts the composition.  But in a small space like a foyer, where you have to pack a lot of punch in a small footprint, adding pattern to the ceiling may be just what the design needs. 

I love adding metallics to the ceiling to augment illumination.  (I did this in my space for the 2012 Junior League of Boston Designer Showhouse.)  The foyer below by Lilly Bunn Interiors is one of my most pinned pictures from my Pinterest boards.


                                                           Photo courtesy of Lilly Bunn Interiors

Topping off those amazing teal lacquered walls is the gilded ceiling beautifully illuminated by cove lighting and a stunning pendant.  The small scale of the X-benches is perfect under the grand mirror.

As Lilly's foyer illustrates, another way to add drama to the ceiling is with a sculptural light fixture.  Jamie Drake installed a magnificent cloud-like flush-mount fixture to his foyer in the Kips Bay Show House.


Something that adds color while addling light is another great design element for the foyer.  This traditional chandelier, done in red, is the perfect example.


                  Interior by Kim E. Courtney Interiors & Design, photo courtesy of New York Cottages & Gardens

Lastly, don't forget accessories.  A mirror is essential, but if space allows, a dramatic piece of art or sculpture.  Or even a potted plant in a sculptural planter adds volume and form to an otherwise boxy space.


                                                  Interior by Candace Barnes, photo by Patricia Chang


The Summer That Almost Wasn't

"Don't you dare complain about the heat," was my mantra this summer.  After the Boston winter of 2015 -- or as some of us call it, Snowmeggedon -- I was going to relish every single degree the mercury climbed.  I was prepared to have the summer to top all summers.

As fate would have it, that didn't quite happen.  My summer was consumed by three life events.

First, my 93-year-old mother (whose vitality made her seem more like 73) suffered a heart attack only three days after arriving from her home in Florida to celebrate Molly, my youngest's high school graduation.  Mom spent two weeks in the hospital and nine weeks in a nursing and rehabilitation facility before returning home at the end of August, just two days before we drove Molly to college.

The second event that almost killed my summer was a case of chronic hives that I developed in May.  I've been diagnosed with chronic idiopathic urticaria or CID.  After countless doctor visits, blood tests, a CAT scan and minor surgery to remove a lymph node, there is still no explanation for why I have hives.  I console myself knowing that this is not a life-threatening condition (as three of my friends deal with cancer).  But the itch is really annoying and causes me sleepless nights.

Finally, I prepared Molly for her freshman year of college.  Molly is my baby, the youngest of my three children.  When people say the third child is the easiest because he or she has to tag along to all the older sibling's activities, don't believe them.  From birth, Molly has had to make her presence known and command the same attention as her siblings (if not more).  Molly's "To Do" list for college was long and always urgent.

Although my summer was unusual, I did things to make it feel like summer.  One of my pleasures was the daily drive to and from visiting my mom.  She was in a facility located about a half-hour from where I live.  The fastest route was a three-lane highway populated by trucks, traffic lights and every type of driver imaginable.  But I found a direct back-roads route, with little to no traffic lights, shaded by trees, that weaved by ponds and sparsely-traveled railroad tracks.  Even on the hottest days, I turned off the air conditioning, rolled my car windows down all the way and let the summer heat infuse my soul.

Labor Day is now behind us, which to many, means the unofficial end of summer.  Not to me.  I'm going to milk every last ounce of sunshine and degree on the thermometer that I can.  There's still 13 more days until autumn officially starts, and sadly, winter's not that far behind.