“Mixing Styles”

- Thursday, October 01, 2009

“I know this house is Victorian, but how would you describe your décor?” a recent acquaintance asked me on her first visit to my house. I could tell she was very surprised by the interior of my home. The eclectic mix of modern upholstery pieces, antique casegoods, traditional rugs, contemporary art and vintage prints housed inside a framework of Victorian moldings, ceiling medallions and fireplace surrounds was not at all what she expected to find inside. “It is beautiful, but in a totally unexpected way.”

“Well, it is eclectic, for sure,” I said, “a mix of things, some old, some new, with lots of treasures collected over the years.” I admit it, I am fond of myriad design cues and periods and my personal tastes border on a Bohemian mix of styles. And I love to collect and display art.

I find many of my clients are sometimes intimidated by trying to select a direction for their homes, feeling like they have to limit themselves to a particular style. Part of my job as a designer is to make them comfortable with mixing design cues and elements that they like and want to use in their home.

Take into consideration the greatroom of this Hampton Lake Coach Home in the accompanying photo. For this project, a mix of different furniture styles is unified by similar textures and color. Modern twists on traditional pieces keep them fresh and interesting.

The sofa was an existing piece of furniture belonging to the client. Traditional in its dimensions and tailoring, it was simply recovered with a plush, fawn-colored, ultra-suede fabric to replace the formerly dated, late-80’s-era teal and mauve contemporary patterned upholstery. This allows this large piece to quietly take a back seat to the more unique furnishings in its new surroundings.

A duo of modern wing-back chairs are upholstered with a combination leopard weave upholstery on the inside, while the backs covered with a synthetic raffia weave. A double row of antique brass nail-head trim for adds drama and detail.

A chunky, Asian-inspired, chow-foot coffee table is finished in a warm toffee-hued stain. The glass top keeps the  rather sizable table from becoming too visually heavy and allows a glimpse of the muted Oriental rug below. The rug’s pattern is traditional though the coloration is anything but; taupe, driftwood, ivory, moss, and mocha yarns provide an unexpectedly subtle appearance.

Bronze metal legged nesting tables with inlayed capiz-shell tops compliment the mosaic-horn pattern round side table with a polished chrome base on the other side of the room.

A pair of petrified-wood, sphere-shaped floor lamps are simply graphic in profile from a distance and alluringly surface detailed up close, the wood balls resembling small orbs of onyx. Their fawn colored silk shades echo the faceted silk shade on the Chinese-style pendant light in the breakfast nook.

In lieu of a traditional breakfast room table and chairs the client decided on a slick, low-slung, banquet, upholstered in a rich, mink-colored velvet. A glamorous, octagonal reverse-painted glass top “tea table” with an ornate iron base makes an ideal spot for morning coffee or evening cocktails.

Bold mocha and tan striped silk draperies on 3” diameter traditional, reeded, black walnut-stained hardware frame the large glass doors to the lanai. These somewhat formal window dressings add unexpected elegance to this casual space while completely blending with the color scheme.

Earth colored woven grasscloth wallcovering inside the traditional style coffered ceiling detail provides texture and interest to an area usually neglected by so many homeowners. The three-dimensionality of this material cannot be duplicated by paint.

Within the envelope of this traditionally designed space, a unique and eclectic décor was created. The result is an interior full of subtle nuance and elegance, with hints of the Orient, Safari, and Modernism, yet no clichéd “style” overwhelms the occupants. An unexpected and elegant mix.

“Outdoor Living”

- Thursday, October 01, 2009

Want to know what the hottest trend is in home design and decorating? That’s easy, just take a look around outside your home. Have you noticed the trend? We are moving outside and taking a lot of our belongings with us. The “outdoor living lifestyle” is quickly becoming the latest thing homeowners want and architects, designers, manufacturers, and retailers are providing the means to facilitate that growing desire.

We love being outdoors, especially here in the Lowcountry. Consider the amount of time we spend outside in our mild climate. In fact, I am sitting on the deck in my courtyard as I write this column. And why not? It is a gorgeous October day, clear and sunny, so why sit inside to work? With the advent of laptops and wireless Internet connections, the deck has become my home office.

Just as your home’s décor is a statement of your taste and personality, so is the space outside your home. Now, more than ever, it is easy to extend your living space to the great outdoors, providing added space to entertain, relax by yourself, or in my case, do a little work, while catching a cool breeze or basking in the sun.

As a kid growing up in Virginia, my family always enjoyed being outside. My first childhood home, a modest 1960’s rancher, had a brick-paved patio bordered by planters in which my mother planted with petunias and geraniums. The furnishings were simple, a wooden picnic table and a few canvas director’s chairs, but it was a space we enjoyed from early spring until early fall for cookouts and visiting with friends and family while us kids played in the yard.

In my early teenage years we “moved-up” to a spacious, newer, colonial-style home on a golf course which boasted views from three distinct outdoor spaces; a screened-in porch off of the dining room and kitchen, a brick-walled, sunken patio off the family and recreation rooms, and a small balcony off my parents’ master bedroom upstairs. For an impressionable youngster, I thought we had certainly “arrived” and could not imagine wanting anything else, save for perhaps our own private swimming pool in the backyard.

But that was 30 years ago and now looking back on it, I am in awe of how far we have come in terms of real luxury and convenience for outdoor living. Many of the projects I currently undertake feature expansive outdoor spaces for lounging, cooking, dining, and relaxing that surpass my wildest dreams. These outdoor “rooms” now boast fireplaces or fire pits, fountains and waterfalls, even spas or swimming pools. Many of these elements are included in the ever-popular lanai so popular today in home design.

Cooking “al fresco” has become much more than a simple, free-standing, charcoal-fired barbeque grill in the corner of a deck or patio. We now have full-scale kitchens with space that rivals those inside, complete with large, built-in gas grills, granite countertops covering base cabinets and drawers, plumbed sinks, even dishwashers and under-counter refrigerators, everything needed to create a gourmet meal outside the house.

Outdoor furniture has come a long way from the wooden picnic table and benches from my youth. Now plush, comfortable seating options are available from which to choose. Durable, mildew resistant, waterproof fabrics and trims provide color and pattern for cushions. Synthetic wicker and cast fiberglass offer alternatives to wood and heavy iron for frames. Weatherproof lamps cast ambient light while outdoor rugs soften the hardscape and anchor seating areas. Many of these items are beautiful enough for use indoors as well, providing function as well as style.

Accessories have migrated outside as well. Don’t forget to include creature comforts from inside such as candles, wall art and sculptures, trays for drinks and hors d’oeuvres, pillows, a music source, even a cozy throw for chilly evenings. And mirrors are a favorite design trick outside, reflecting light and doubling the sense of space.

With the right planning and thought you can create an inviting space and mood within your own outdoor space and have a private oasis to be enjoyed by your family and guests. What better way to enjoy our fabulous climate here in the Lowcountry?

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