Selecting the Perfect Bathroom Vanity Mirror

- Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Quick - name an important component of any bathroom. OK, besides the obvious sink and toilet and shower or tub. You need a mirror, right? A mirror may be the ultimate item; to shave, apply make-up, put in contact lenses, and style your hair. 

I have been looking at a lot of mirrors lately. No, not to see my own reflection, I’m not that vain. I have been looking for mirrors for clients to use in their various bathrooms. Searching for their powder rooms, master spa retreats, kids’ baths, guest baths, even pool baths.

I enjoy looking for mirrors. However I have found that this bathroom item often seems to be a feature many seem to struggle identifying what they want. Why is this? The options are practically endless!

A mirror is an unusual decor item in the sense that is is easy to overlook. Actually, what we initially see is the reflection it gives of other things in the room before we really notice the actual mirror itself. Even though the type of mirror or its framing and proportions are not immediately apparent these aspects should be considered. 

There are several types of mirrors that can be used in your bathroom, finding the best choice requires a little thought and consideration.

Medicine Cabinet Mirrors

If you are my age (or older) you probably grew up with these in your house. My first childhood home, a 1950’s-era ranch, had these. A mirrored door, hinged on one side, opens to reveal a shallow cabinet with shelves for storage of medicines and cosmetics. These mirrored cabinets may have been framed (more traditional) or unframed (more sleek) and might or might not have been recessed into the wall. 

While medicine cabinet vanity mirrors may seem a bit old-fashioned they still are popular today. In fact, I am seriously considering one for my (about to embark upon) bathroom renovation in Savannah. Storage space is at a premium in my tiny bath, and since the vanity cabinet itself is only 24” wide, it will not have drawers. I do not require tons of grooming product but some room to keep daily necessities at the ready will be appreciated. Besides, some models of medicine cabinets now offer mirrored, lit interiors with power outlets to keep electric shavers or toothbrushes charged. How convenient is that?

Decorative Framed Mirrors

You may also have grown up with these. My second childhood home was a much newer home with very traditional decor. The bathrooms featured decorative light sconces with rectilinear carved wood framed mirrors. The vanities were large and wide with multiple drawers for storage, so medicine cabinets were not needed. I always liked the finished look the framed mirrors lended to the bathrooms. I still do.

I find specifying a framed mirror for a bathroom to be my typical route because it usually offers the most design opportunities. Mirrors can be simply framed or intricately ornate. Fames can be stained or painted or silver or gold-leafed. In fact, frames do not have to be made from wood at all. I have used metal, rope, sea shells, mosaic tiles, and every other imaginable material. A framed mirror can also make a design statement with its shape be it round or arch-topped or starburst shaped.

Plate-glass Wall-to-Wall Mirrors

Want to know a way to open up a bathroom or a way to lighten an interior bath without windows? Maximize the mirror. Literally, if you run the mirror the full width of the vanity (and, ideally up to the ceiling) you will be surprised how much bigger the space will appear. 

Take this a step further and mount the light fixtures on the glass itself and the space will seem infinitely brighter too. This is a more contemporary approach but I have used it before in more traditionally designed homes and it just works, lending a clean, minimal, spa-like vibe.

Selecting the perfect looking glass for your bathroom doesn’t have to be daunting. Think about your practical needs and your aesthetic desires and explore the options. You may just find some fantastic reflections.

Timeless White Kitchens

- Wednesday, May 22, 2019

It is no secret I am a big fan of color. My family, friends, colleagues, clients, and even those of you who regularly read my column, know I am not averse to employing some bold hues in my design work. Pastels can be perfectly pleasant, neutrals numbingly calm, but personally I crave full-on saturation. Be it wall color, artwork, area rugs, or accessories, I love bringing in some intense, fun, happy, color. 

I cannot deny it, I like color. A lot. So, why am I writing about white kitchens? Well……

As with most things in life, there comes a time when a little restraint will go a long way. And let me tell you, a white kitchen will have more longevity than any other color in the spectrum. White kitchens are as popular as ever and for good reason.

Let me point out that by using the term “white kitchens” I am talking about the cabinetry. As the single largest design element in a kitchen, careful consideration should be given to the finish. I am all about decorating for your own enjoyment and admire those who boldly put their own stamp on their surroundings. But, seriously, would you buy a house with purple cabinets if a full kitchen renovation wasn’t in the future game plan or budget?

Fresh, bright, and clean, its no wonder the color white conveys a sense of health and sanitation for the kitchen. Seriously, who doesn’t want to feel that in the space where you prepare your dinner? Truth is, most food looks more appetizing with a white background. After all, why do you think so many foodies post prepared meals on plain, white plates?

Regardless of your tastes and preferred design style, a white kitchen is just as compatible with contemporary and transitional styles as it is with tried-and-true traditional decors. White can be quiet and minimal or bold and defined. It is a color that pairs well with most everything and allows you to experiment with a multitude of accent colors for accessories, floors, countertops and backsplashes. White cabinetry looks equally as chic topped with classy Carrara marble as it does with grainy granite or smokey slate. Chrome, nickel, stainless steel, and brass all look great with white cabinetry.

A “white” kitchen does not have to be all white and completely monochromatic. And it certainly does not have to be bland or boring. I am totally on board with contrasting colors for island cabinetry or a feature wall of built-ins and think that is a great way to add an unexpected punch of color. I love the look of bright white cabinetry over wood floors. Walls and ceilings are other surfaces that offer opportunity for accent colors and are easily changed when the mood strikes without the expense and mess of changing out cabinetry.

Whether you are building or remodeling, your kitchen is typically the most expensive room to spec out. The sheer amount of cabinetry, appliances, counter tops, and other specialty items needed to outfit this space adds up quickly. It makes sense then to wisely choose the finishes and colors for these built-in items since you will not want to be replacing them often. Keep in mind some future buyers my regard certain “trendy” shades of wood as already played-out and passé. Remember when “pickled oak” was all the rage? Yes, some things are better off forgotten.

White really is a classic choice that is not always “on trend” but never really goes out of style. It is a great choice for homeowners desiring an elegant and timeless look that is crisp, neutral, and versatile.

Value Engineering A Polished Mix

- Wednesday, May 22, 2019

“Gregory, you know we only have this much to spend, how are we going to realize these wants on our list?” Many times while working with clients this all-important question about budget comes up.

“Well,” I usually reply, “I’m quite adept at value engineering. In fact, I do it for myself all the time.”

If keeping a handle on the budget is important, and let’s face it, most of us need to adhere to one, a professional and experienced interior designer can guide you making choices while not losing sight of the bottom line. Unlimited budgets are a rare thing in real life, and, quite frankly, I find rooms filled with only precious, rare, expensive things to be rather stiff and museum-like. Fine for an exhibit, but not exactly what you want for your own home. The secret is knowing where to splurge and where to save, or as I say, get the best bang for the buck.

If you can swing it, try to invest in at least one well designed, quality piece of furniture or accessory that you really love. This could be an antique, something new, or have custom made to your specifications. Splurging on something special will elevate other items in the room in your eyes and those who spend time there. Its that mix and match of authentic character with budget-friendly that results in a sophisticated, nuanced, and layered decor.

Be cautious about spending too much on super-trendy items that may quickly go out of style in a few seasons. Search for timeless objects instead. Believe me your investment will more than pay for itself over years of use.

Budget is relative to each individual, of course. You could spend $250 on a special, hand embroidered silk pillow or you could spend $25 on a mass-market cotton-velvet solid-color one. And, there is nothing wrong with having the two of them sitting side-by-side on your sofa. The embroidered one will be that much more special by itself (instead of a pair) and will dress-up the bargain filler. You get a great look and still haven’t blown your allowance. 

I bought a nice round dining table a long time ago. Its a transitionally-styled piece that has a beautifully grained pie pattern wood veneer top with an inset contrasting accent band around the perimeter. The legs are gracefully arched and discretely modern and the stain color is a classic medium brown that is neither gold nor red and goes with most everything. I paid a lot more than I thought I would ever spend on a table but you know what? I still love it after 18 years and cannot tell you how many memorable dinner parties have been held around it.

So while I splurged on the dining table, I economized on some other elements in the room (dining rooms have a lot of  components so the tab can add up quickly). I scored big time on an unusual square Persian rug bought at an auction for next to nothing. The bold pattern woven in bright hues of turquoise, orange, lime, and gold adds depth and interest to the room (it is also immensely forgiving for spills - an added bonus). 

I found a set of 8 Parsons-style chairs with exposed wood frames on a close-out sale that was too good to pass up. Their original ivory faux-leather upholstery has since been replaced with a more chic but still subtle ocelot patterned ultra suede. An ornate crystal chandelier (another splurge) casts a sparkly glow overhead while a pair of simple buffet lamps found at HomeGoods (yes you read that correctly) illuminate the top of a cherished 19th century Sheraton chest.

It all mixes together to create an eclectic ambience that is sophisticated and studied yet inviting and timeless at the same time. Stylish without being precious.

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