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Expressing Your Personal Style

Gregory Vaughan - Tuesday, April 01, 2014

I went to my first Heritage golf tournament this past weekend. That's right, I, like the hoards of other islanders and out-of-town visitors, braved the less than stellar weather Saturday morning and "got my plaid on" at our annual golf extravaganza. How I have managed to work for almost 25 years on an island resort known as much for being a golfer's paradise as anything else and not ever attended this event is beyond me. However, when clients offered me their passes for the day I jumped at the opportunity.

Although I do not play myself, I can appreciate the talent it takes to play the game. Seeing it live certainly gave me a better perspective than watching on television and mingling with a crowd that was so energetic, for the most part, very well behaved, only made it more enjoyable. One of the things I discovered most interesting was some of the players' fashion choices.

Of course, golf attire was once known for for its sometimes garishly loud color palettes and less than subtle patterns, making it the butt of many jokes. However, over the years it seems the clothing has gone the way of so much other active wear and become more homogenous and less flamboyant. So, I was fascinated by some of the more daring clothing choices and wondered if the players' personalities matched their outfits.

What is it about golf fashion that allows us to perhaps step a little outside our comfort zone and express ourselves a bit more than we may normally do? Or, in the case of big tournaments, do the sponsors act as personal stylists and dictate what the players will wear over the course of the tournament? A quick google search actually revealed a little of both. If the players are game for it, the sponsors will happily oblige. Why not have some fun with it and make it personal?

This got me thinking about how much interior design is like fashion. In fact, it is fashion for the home. And I find the most interesting and successful interior design is when it is personal and reflective of the owners as opposed to super trendy and of-the-moment. With the proliferation of design and shelter magazines, and the ubiquitous television home decorating channels like HGTV it is easy to get caught up in the drama of it all.

Sometimes when I look at a heavily styled, staged, and edited photograph in a glossy magazine it just looks like no one actually lives there, or if they do they live in a make-believe world. The goal of designing your home, even when you enlist the professional assistance of an interior designer, is to create a place to be yourself. It should reflect your likes and embrace your quirks at the same time. When I see a room decorated in all one style I just think what a missed opportunity to create something truly personal. When something is limited to one note it is often boring.

How about a little unexpected pop? If you love old houses and antiques then by all means celebrate the two. But do you really want to live in a house museum? I don't.

I am all about adding a little eclecticism. The juxtaposition of a slick, contemporary steel and glass cocktail table sitting in front of an antique 19th century mahogany chest can be pure magic and decorating bliss. And who says modern abstract art can't happily hang on the wall next to 18th century prints?

If you have many facets to your personality then so should your home's interiors. Only then is it a true portrait of you. Never be afraid to express yourself with your home's interiors. If you do not want to blend in with the crowd then step outside your comfort zone and get your plaid on.

Streamlining Your Decor for the New Year

Gregory Vaughan - Tuesday, January 07, 2014

I have started, have you? Now that the chaos of the "Holidaze" is winding down and 2014 has arrived, I have begun dismantling my holiday decor. In fact, I must admit, I started the day before New Year's Eve.

As much as I love the warmth, sparkle, the festivity decorations add to my home there comes a point when I reach my saturation point and it all needs to go away. I start to get a little claustrophobic with all the tinsel and beads and glittery bric-a-brac, not to mention that bedazzled fire-hazard of a dried-out fir tree taking up precious square footage in my living room. You know that tradition of keeping the tree up until the twelfth night? Forget it, that is not happening in this house. No way.

The first thing to go was the present wrapping station that gets set-up in the guest room upstairs each year. Putting away the rolls of paper and all the bows and tags and bags to be used again next year (I try to be green and recycle as much as possible) gets me primed to tackle the bigger projects around the house. Being able to once again see the bed motivates me to move on downstairs.

Next are the mantles in the living and dining rooms. Those fragrant greens of holly, running cedar, magnolia, spruce, and cypress, having already made the trek down from Virginia many weeks ago in the trunk of the car, are no longer looking so fresh and green. I am always amazed at how attractive a plain, unadorned mantle can be.

Taking down the tree is of course the main event. While I have enjoyed it through-out the season, it is time for it to go. About mid-way through this endeavor I become over-whelmed with the process and fear there is no end in sight. But once the ornaments are packed away and the tree cut-up and carried out to the lane behind the house to be turned into mulch, I rediscover my living room. Empty space can be a beautiful thing!

It is about this time year when I start assessing my interior decor and begin to think about streamlining things. In fact, it becomes one of my New Year's resolutions. I vow to really make an effort to pare down some of the clutter around my house. As I have said before, minimalism is not really my personal design style but there comes a point when less is indeed more.

For instance, my kitchen counters, probably like many of yours, could really use some de-cluttering. I am looking forward to having some counter space again once the holiday "carbohydrate station" as my friend Alan calls it, is depleted and the cookies, sweets, and other not-so-healthy snacks are finally consumed. But more than that, I want to clean-up my mail and phone charging organizer and my kitchen utensil crock in serious need of editing (I mean really, how many spatulas and slotted spoons does one truly need?).

And remember, not every horizontal surface in your house needs something sitting on top of it. Not every table top needs groupings of candlesticks and not every dresser needs picture frames lined up like soldiers. Pick a few really good objects and let them breathe in the space without competition. Not every wall needs to be adorned with art either. After all you spent a week looking at paint swatches and agonized over finding the perfect shade so why not let it be seen and enjoyed?

As I sit here in my home office writing this column I see yet another area that could benefit from some streamlining, the bulletin board behind my laptop. It has various photos and notes and cards that have served their purpose and now need to be filed somewhere or better yet thrown away to make room for the new clippings and miscellany to inspire.

Think of streamlining your decor as a spa treatment for your house, a way to refresh and renew for the new year. That is probably something we all could use right about now.

Fall Fashion 2013

Gregory Vaughan - Friday, September 27, 2013

My how this year has flown by. The temperatures have dropped, the leaves are beginning to turn, Halloween is over, and Thanksgiving is fast approaching. Autumn is here!

For many reasons, this my favorite time of year here in the Lowcountry. I welcome this break in the weather from our long and often sweltering summers. When tourist season is over, I appreciate the (slightly) less congested traffic on the roads and the increased elbow room on the beaches. And I enjoy the long shadows of the afternoon light that embellish the vistas of our beautiful landscapes in this part of the country.

But one of my favorite reasons to look forward to in fall is attending the semi-annual High Point Furniture Market in North Carolina. With 11 million square feet of showrooms, this event showcases the absolute latest trends in home furnishings and accessories. Attending this event is both invigorating and inspiring. Designers, manufacturers, marketers, and trend-spotting, blogging journalists descend upon this furniture mecca to view the future of home fashion and have a little fun. I think of it as a sneek-peek into a crystal ball for upcoming interior decor.

So, what did I see?

BOLD BLUE

You won't be singing the blues when you view these beautiful and intense hues. After years of seeing watered-down aqua and washed-out turquoise the tides of trendy tastes have turned to deeper waters for inspiration. Cobalt, cerulean, indigo, and that good old standby, classic navy, make new waves in home decor and capture the calming currents of the aquamarine ocean.

PROUD PURPLE

There is a reason purple is associated with royalty, it is rich, regal, and ready to rule. Drop something purple into a room and watch it command attention. Look for all shades of this intriguing combination of racy red and blissful blue to find its way into your future interior design palette. It is a color that can be masculine or feminine, loud or soft, bold or subtle, but it always makes its presence known.

GLITTERING GOLD

Gold tones are coming back strong. After a very long run, the popularity of oil-rubbed bronze is waning, and so too are the silvery tones of chrome and nickel. Muted, dusty, matte-finishes in soft gold and champagne are turning up on everything from furniture to fabrics to accessories. Lillian August introduced a simply scrumptious metallic finish for casegoods called blah blah blah that had the slick look of metal but still allowed the warm, welcoming, weathered woodgrain to shine through.

RECYCLED and RE-IMAGINED

Who says recycled chic has to look old and time-worn? After way too many seasons of fifty-shades-of-gray, reclaimed materials have revived and reinvented their appeal. At one showroom I saw area rugs woven from recycled Indian silk saris. These beautiful designs were boldly colored and abstractly patterned. A visual feast for the eyes these exotic beauties are also a luxurious tactile treat for your bare feet.

BEDAZZLED BARS

Bars are popping up everywhere. From mobile carts, with their slick, chrome-y legs, glass surfaces, and demure casters to full-scale armoires fitted with mirrored innards and lighted, translucent shelves, these pieces celebrate the art of the libation and facilitate our love of entertaining. As well as functional these pieces are practical since many of us do not have the budget nor the dedicated square footage for a full-scale, built-in wet bar.

LUSTROUS LACQUER

Lacquer was everywhere this year, from small "martini" tables to consoles to chests of drawers. A rich, lustrous, painted finish can transform even the most humble of of objects into something fun and unexpected. It is luxe personified.

VULLOPTUOUS VELVET

Upholstering something in velvet does not have to mean it is off-limits. In fact, it is just the opposite, what more welcoming and relaxing textile is there? Whether a pillow, a chair, or an entire sofa, velvet beckons a sit-down-and-relax-a-while invitation to chill and unwind.

After my week of sensory overload I am ready to crash on a sapphire blue velvet sofa, ensconced in an aubergine room, with a plush silk carpet beneath my feet, and a shiny, sleek bar cabinet nearby.

Streamline Your Design

Gregory Vaughan - Thursday, September 05, 2013

“You will have to excuse the state of our kitchen,” my hostess bashfully told me as we toured her home last weekend. “We have not renovated it yet and it is not very pretty.” Her husband and my partner are both professors at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and this was my first time visiting her exceptional 1840’s Greek Revival-style townhouse in downtown Savannah. Having just learned what I do for a living, I think she was having second thoughts about offering to show me their home before we headed out to her courtyard for an al fresco dinner by the pool. “I promise I will not be critical,” I assured her with a smile.

And what a great space it was, with soaring ceilings, two generous sets of south-facing French doors filling it with light and offering a commanding view of the enormous courtyard outside. These are coveted attributes in any house and especially difficult to find in an older home downtown. I barely even noticed the dated 1960’s era cabinetry, the older appliances, and the awkward layout of the work surfaces. What I saw was lots of potential.  Lots!

“We have done the bathrooms and laundry room already. I am just not sure what to do in here, but I have ideas. I want modern, clean, minimal. Is that wrong to do in an old house like this?” she asked.

“Not at all. In fact, several recent clients have opted for more contemporary kitchens in historic houses in Savannah and new construction on Hilton Head and in Bluffton.”

Streamlined, modern kitchens do not have to appear stark or sterile. The trick is to employ rich finishes and materials. Glass, man-made engineered stone, and stainless steel may seem cold and uninviting at first, but when combined with rich wood tones and subtly patterned travertine and other natural materials, the effect is alluring.

An example is a remodel project in Wexford Plantation for a young couple relocating from New York City. Here I collaborated with kitchen designer Gregg McLain of Advanced Kitchen Design to reinvent the kitchen. The clients desired a contemporary, open, loft-like feel that would extend to the adjacent family room. Sleek, stylish, functional and not too fussy were the adjectives they kept repeating.

To keep the slab-fronted cabinetry doors from being too stark, we decided on using two shades of gray stain, a lighter one for the upper wall cabinets and a darker one for the base cabinet doors. Stainless steel framed glass doors, two of them opening garage style, frame the sculptural exhaust hood. Gregg cleverly designed a Parsons-style “table” extension on the island for interest, and suggested using Wenge wood. The rich wood grain and warm color serves as a welcoming buffet. A simple, flat molding on the top of the wall cabinets caps the doors yet does not compete with the larger, more traditional crown molding of the room at the ceiling. And to offer a patterned relief to the solid white Caesar-Stone countertops I used a mosaic tile backsplash in a brick pattern of white and stainless steel.

 The clients are thrilled with their new kitchen. They may now be living in the Lowcountry nearly 1000 miles away from Manhattan, but their slick and modern space would be right at home in a chic, urban loft in Chelsea.

Finding Your Niche

Gregory Vaughan - Friday, August 02, 2013

We all are familiar with the saying “Bigger is better” right? But is this always true?

Don’t get me wrong. Who doesn’t want more square footage in a closet? Wish for more elbowroom in a bathroom? Or, perhaps, covet more counter space in a kitchen? But, who needs more room everywhere? Maybe it is just me, but I like cozy. Grandly scaled rooms are great for parties and entertaining large groups of people but what about when it is only you or you and your significant other? I find that smaller, intimate spaces are more inviting and conducive for our day-to-day living.

Case in point, I recently vacationed in San Juan, staying at the El Convento hotel, right in the heart of Old Town. This wonderful, historic building was formerly a convent, thus the guestrooms were not at all spacious by modern standards, being perhaps two-thirds the size of your typical hotel room. However, what my small room lacked in square footage was more than made up for by tons of charm.

Glazed terra-cotta tile floors, rustic dark wood furniture, ochre-toned plaster walls, and rich fabrics gave the room the welcoming warmth not found in most chain hotels. Not one, but two French door balconies, complete with louvered wood shutters, framed views of the quaint roof-top pool terrace and the colorful cityscape beyond. It was the perfect perch from which to wake-up in the mornings and enjoy a strong cup of Puerto Rican coffee and to unwind with a cool and refreshing rum cocktail at the end of the day. I seriously doubt the much newer Sheraton hotel on the other side of town, with its larger, corporate-themed, cookie-cutter guestrooms offers an experience anywhere near what I enjoyed during my stay at the El Convento.

I think it is just human nature that we seek out spaces that offer us shelter and comfort. I find myself creating those special niches in my design work for clients, both figuratively and physically. Establishing a room-within-a-room, or an oasis, that lures you in to sit and relax is integral to good design. We naturally want a spot where we can comfortably spend some time and chill.

With our trend towards large, open-concept design, finding the right balance of roominess and comfort can be a challenge. In bigger rooms I always try to make an intimate seating arrangement for conversation. Sometimes this dictates having two groupings, one for larger gatherings of people and one for more intimate encounters. Architectural details can facilitate this. If there is a fireplace or bay window or a nook tucked away to the side, I take advantage of it. Creating a special space within the composition of a larger one is the key.

I like to group a pair, or more, of comfortable chairs upholstered in an inviting fabric, around a unique ottoman or unusual table to set the scene for a quiet tete-a-tete. Sometimes setting a game table in an alcove for a chess challenge or a puzzle is the way to go. Tucking a chaise-lounge into an alcove for the perfect spot to read a book, cruise the internet, or catch a nap is always an added bonus. Creating a personal space inside a bigger one to enjoy some private time makes a bigger room multi-functional.

I also find many clients are asking their architect to design a small space in their home from the get-go. In my client Joanne’s new home under construction in Sea Pines there is a special room just for her that we refer to as simply the nook. Tucked away in a quiet part of the house it is just big enough to contain a reading chair and a small writing desk, a bookshelf, and space for her electric keyboard. It will be her personal sanctuary and she cannot wait to enjoy it.

A little thought and planning to make a personal oasis in your home is easy. If you need help, consult a professional to assist you. Finding your niche is rewarding and fulfilling. And remember, bigger is not always better, but good design is priceless.

Making a House a Home

Gregory Vaughan - Monday, July 01, 2013

When does a new house become your new home? I thought about this the other day while perusing a cookbook. Seeking inspiration for a dinner I wanted to prepare for out-of-town guests visiting over the 4th of July, I had grabbed my copy of Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Kitchen. I must admit that the book was not on a shelf in my kitchen, but in a stack of books piled high on my bedroom nightstand.

I read cookbooks like others read novels and I find Nigella’s wonderfully composed culinary descriptions are both entertaining and inspiring. One passage prompted me to ponder the very question of what makes a house a home. Nigella says, “I don’t really feel a kitchen is mine until I have cooked a chicken there.” 

(This is where we all conjure the marvelous memory those mouth-watering aromas a favorite dish of our mother’s brought to our home.)

Anyway, that got me thinking, when does a house really become a home? When you close on the deal and sign the papers? When the inspector gives you the certificate of occupancy? When you move in? Surely it has to be something more meaningful and personal than the handing over of keys, the making of beds, or even the stocking of a pantry. But what?  Do you remember when you truly felt your new home was your new home?

For me, a house becomes a home when it functions as you hoped it would; providing comfort and joy for you and your guests. Case in point, my clients’ new home in Spanish Wells Plantation. Recently I attended two very different events they hosted in the same week -- one for the Chamber of Commerce and the other a birthday celebration. Very different events, the home worked flawlessly for both.

A casual, coastal décor was established from the start. The clients were relocating from a very traditional, red-brick colonial-style home in Virginia and desired a more relaxed and less formal atmosphere for their new digs in the Lowcountry. “No fuss” and “user-friendly” were key to establishing the design direction. The kitchen, more than any other space in the house, exemplifies this theme.  It is truly the heart of the home, connecting the living and entertaining spaces. This integration was very important to the clients. They wanted the kitchen to embody an intimacy for two on a daily basis yet allow a catering set-up for 80 or more when needed.

And, I feel, this kitchen would bring a big smile to Nigella’s face . . . 

Credit architect James Ogden and cabinet designer Arlene Williams with finessing the efficient layout of the kitchen as well as the adjacent mud room. This small but multi-tasking space serves as a secondary entrance from the garage to the house, a home office, and a catering space when needed, keeping the main kitchen free of clutter and mess. I integrated the paint colors, granites, and other finishes with the main kitchen so the two spaces would flow together as one larger room when needed.

Judging from the relaxed expressions on my clients’ faces for both of these special occasions as well as when I have dropped by during lunch preparation, I can tell their kitchen works for them. While the design team coordinated the look and feel, it’s the client’s personal touches like family photos and treasured mementos that make the space truly special.

“Down to Earth Design”

Gregory Vaughan - Wednesday, May 08, 2013

“Wow!” I said as my client rolled-out the plans for her new house to be built in Colleton River Plantation. We were having our first meeting at the design studio, getting to know each other and talking about her likes, dislikes, her lifestyle, and what she desired for her new home.

It was an incredible plan, unlike any I had ever worked on before. The footprint of the house perfectly mimicked the unusually shaped peninsula lot, taking advantage of marsh and water views on three sides of the property. The home was divided into two distinct “pods” connected by a window-walled “bridge” that separated the master bedroom, guest bedrooms and an intimate media room from the kitchen, dining room, massive greatroom, and spectacular screened porch overlooking the river. This was no ordinary plan. I was intrigued.

After chatting for a few more minutes I knew Kathy was going to be fun to work with on this project. She was a painter and photography enthusiast. She loved to go “junking,” as she put it, “You know, not in fancy antique stores, but rummaging through someone’s old barn who wants to clean it out and get rid of stuff.” And, judging from the overflowing binder she brought in with her full of magazine clippings and ideas, I could tell she was not afraid to do her homework and would be engaging in the design process.

“I am probably not going to be your average client and the décor I want for this house will not be what you typically do down here in Hilton Head. I want it to be casual and rustic, like an old family fish camp that has evolved over time, but not contrived. It needs to embrace the setting and bring the outside inside in perfect harmony.” Then she added, half jokingly, “So, are you up for this challenge?” 

Oh boy, was I ever up for this! As a professional designer I relish any opportunity to work on a project that challenges me to think outside the box and create something special. This was certainly going to be an enjoyable collaboration. I could not wait to get started.

Well, that initial meeting in the design studio was about 2 years ago and Kathy and her family have been enjoying the home for the past year or so. The building process lasted for a little over a year and the end result is nothing short of spectacular. The home perfectly harmonizes with its unique setting and suits Kathy’s lifestyle to a “T”.

The design scheme was all based around the nature found here in the Lowcountry, specifically on her property. Color inspiration came from the lichen, ferns, pine needles, palm fronds, tree bark, sand, and driftwood found on the property. The faded wood stains, distressed finishes, shell encrusted tabby, glazed paint colors, and textured, natural fabrics all look as though they were plucked from the land and help to blur the line between indoors and out.

Original works of art in the form of one-of-a-kind lighting fixtures, fabricated by Lowcountry Originals, grace the home both inside and out. A particular favorite of mine is the custom oyster shell chandelier that casts a welcoming glow over the dining room table. Chucky, rock crystal embellishments add some rustic bling while keeping it casual enough for family dinner caught from the local waters (Kathy and her husband love to fish).

Rustic antiques, found objects, and repurposed treasures from Kathy’s “junking” adventures are all intertwined with the newly bought furnishings I carefully selected to look as though they had been enjoyed over time. Slipcovers add a casual note to sofas and chairs and offer practicality as well. Distressed finishes on tables and chests suggest years of use.

Having had the opportunity to spend time in this home for social gatherings, I can attest (despite my obvious bias) that this “family fish camp” feels as though it has been there for many generations. It has an ease about it that is both familiar and welcoming for guests without pretense or contrivance. It feels integrated into its surroundings and is elegant in its simplicity. The home is truly down to Earth.

Fashion Forward

Gregory Vaughan - Friday, May 03, 2013

Spring Forward in Home Fashion

If I asked you to name a city that hosts an influential fashion show twice a year you would no doubt think of New York or Paris or perhaps Milan. But what about High Point? Yes, the small city in North Carolina does just that, only instead of haute couture, it showcases the latest emerging trends in home décor, as in the fashions your house will be wearing in the seasons to come. And just like those uber-chic cities, the semi-annual, week-long celebration in High Point draws buyers from around the globe to take a look at what’s to come from furniture and accessory manufacturers, and the taste makers, who market them. The High Point Furniture Market is considered the destination for top trends in home fashion.

As an interior designer, the trip to market is both invigorating and exhausting. I go with the intention of sourcing specific items for projects I am currently working on but sometimes I find myself venturing off in a totally different direction because of something that inspires me. Then, after about five days, my brain is on sensory overload, my feet hurt, and I just want to come home to re-group. Now that I have been back recuperating for about two weeks, I think I can give you a brief synopsis of what I saw, what I liked, and what trends you can expect to see for home décor in the near future.

If you were to spin the color wheel you would find one side of the spectrum more popular than ever and that would be the blue, green, and yellow tones. But these are not the wimpy watery blues, subtle sage greens, and mellow yellows of past seasons, as the volume has been turned up considerably. Think nautical navy, grassy green, and sun-kissed saffron. The palette has been pumped up and it delivers a powerful punch to even the most bland of neutral backgrounds, like a Lily Pulitzer print towel lying on a sandy beach.

Speaking of the beach, resort-chic is hot, so pack your bags and head on down to Palm Beach, or any other chic, upscale, ocean-oriented resort destination for that matter. Sophistication and relaxation are the keys to easy, breezy style. Did you catch the premier of Mad Men this season? The cast was in Hawaii, in the late 1960’s, where a mix of mod mid-century chic was set in a tropical locale, and it was absolutely glorious. Asian influences, geometric rattan, martini tables and seashells all co-mingled on the sets of the show and these were in full view at the market in High Point.

Luxurious, exotic details, from burnished gold, to hammered leather, to cut velvet, all had supporting roles in High Point. Golden threads spun through the fabric on lampshades added glints of shimmer and shine. Tooled leather accents, on the fronts of chests of drawers and the backs of chairs gave these pieces an added dimension and presence. Nail-head trim made a strong showing at last fall’s market and further defined embellishment with Moroccan and Indian patterns. Fringe had a comeback as well, but in a more interesting way than the usual pillow trim. I purchased a nautical-themed, rope-fringed mirror for a project in Colleton River Plantation where I wanted to play-up the coastal theme. Traditional velvet took on a whole new look with patterns cut into the fabric on everything from pillows to throws to upholstery.

And finally the call of the wild is still prevalent, only now with an amped-up attitude. Cowhides, normally shown in their natural colors, were showcased in hyper-realistic colors such as chartreuse and raspberry. Frankly-faux is the new norm, and is fun to boot. The unexpected punch of color adds drama and a sense of fantasy.

Looking into the near future for interior design trends, I could not be more excited by the options. The overall mood at market was fun and fresh and even optimistic, drawing upon the past but updating it with a new twist and vision. We are moving forward, cherishing what we love from classic themes and then tweaking it to suit our modern lifestyles.

Pairing the Perfect Palette

Gregory Vaughan - Monday, April 01, 2013

Choosing the right pairing is not always an easy feat. Whether it is selecting a skilled partner to play in a golf tournament, grabbing the right handbag to go with a great pair of shoes, or pouring the perfect wine to serve with rainbow trout, the process can be a challenge. This is often the case when selecting the right color combination for your décor. Sometimes we want a no-brainer, the perfect match. Sometimes we want a subtle compliment for nuance. Sometimes we just need a big punch of drama to jazz it up.

Those of you who follow my column regularly know I am all about using color. I love how color can set the mood for a room and turn the volume up or down depending on the intensity of the hue and the juxtaposition with other tones. Personally I feel color is the next most important element of successful interior design after establishing the scale and layout. For instance, your furnishings may be the right size for the room and logically laid out for the flow, but if the upholstery and accent fabrics do not work well with the wall and flooring colors it will simply not look right.

Color-blocking is a term I keep hearing thrown around on by the judges and contestants on Project Runway. You fashion-forward types probably already know it simply means layering of multiple solid colors in an outfit. Typically, the use of pattern in color-blocking is kept to a minimum, although multiple textures can be employed for added interest. Can you apply the same technique to you interior décor? Absolutely! The key is pairing the right colors together.

Injecting some bold color into your living room does not have to be a major, long-term commitment with a particular hue. If you favor a quiet, neutral, background then add some punch with small touches of an accent hue. Bright pillows on an off-white sofa will offer a dose of drama. Try to pull from a favorite color in your artwork or area rug. A snazzy strip of color as a ribbon or flange on the lead edge of a neutral fabric drapery panel can accentuate without overpowering. A solid color ottoman or throw can do the same trick.

You can pull off a similar effect in your bedroom. Are you afraid to commit to an entirely blue or green room? Then consider painting just the headboard wall. In fact, for my master bedroom, I did just the opposite, choosing a darker-toned, cool, teal blue for three of the walls and then wallpapering the headboard wall with a warm ivory-hued grasscloth. Since the headboard wall is opposite the door to the room, the darker color is not overwhelming upon entering. Thus, when in the bed, all you see is teal and it is both enveloping and relaxing at the same time, perfect for slumber. The ivory tempers the teal in the overall theme.

OK, so while we are in the bedroom, lets talk about that bedscape. I often use a plain white bedcovering such as a matelasse coverlet. Why? Because, you can do so much with it since it acts as a blank canvas. You can add layers of interest with colorful pillows and perhaps a textured throw or quilt draped across the foot of the bed. Sometimes I even use colored sheets underneath as well for a contrasting accent. Remember, it is all about the experience of using a room.

Color combination trends come and go, so I am not going to lecture you on what color to pair with another. What is popular now you ask? Well, mostly anything neutral, be it brown or gray or something in-between, combined with accents like bright orange, pink or anything in-between like coral. Yellows are popping up too, as a brightener for a “quiet” palette. The point is to have fun with it.

With all that goes on in our world today, we are making our homes our cocoons more than ever. We desire the “comfort food” mode for our interiors just like we crave mac-n-cheese for our appetites. It is safe, familiar, and satisfying. But sometimes we need that extra spice, like a hit of pepper sauce, that the exotic and unexpected offers. Paired together they can feed us well.

A Sectional Sofa Saves the Day

Gregory Vaughan - Friday, February 01, 2013

Sectional Sofas Are Not Just For Media Rooms

“We are completely stumped with this room as far as how to arrange furniture in here,” my client Sylvia said to me as we stood in her living room. “We really want to maximize the seating but as you can see there is only one full wall on which to place furniture.” 

I scanned the room and took in all of its positive attributes. It was a welcoming space, boasting a large bank of windows commanding a great view of the yard and the golf course beyond. Opposite that wall it was completely open to the foyer and formal dining room. A nicely detailed fireplace flanked on either side by a built-in bookshelf and a large passage to the adjacent family room was perpendicular to the windows and opposite the only solid wall in the entire room. And, although nicely proportioned, this room was not really big enough to “float” furnishings in the middle of it.

“What about a sectional sofa?” I offered, waiting for the inevitable reaction of confusion at the suggestion of that type of seating in any room other than an informal family or media room. “I love sectional sofas, but aren’t they too casual for this kind of room? I do not want it to look like a conversation pit from the 70’s.” she jokingly replied, just as I had suspected. “Not at all,” I assured her, “it is all about how you treat it, and this is the ideal application for a room where you want to provide a lot of seating but the space presents a few furniture placement challenges.”

I often find people have a prejudice in regards to sectional sofas, thinking they need to be regulated to basements, media rooms, and “man-caves” as if they are just not suitable for more “fancy” spaces like living rooms. In fact, there almost seems to be an embarrassment in the use of a sectional sofa which is on par with that of buying a recliner. Nonsense, I say! In many instances, a sectional sofa is not only a functional choice but can be an aesthetically pleasing one as well. There is no shame in using one in your living room.

For the design scheme I proposed a sectional sofa to be placed on the long solid wall, but I scaled-back the proportions so it allowed for space at each end. On one end I left room for a lamp table and at the other end, where the chaise projected into the room, for another accent table. The chaise element allowed for the sectional to wrap the space without blocking off the window wall. It hardly resembles a conversation pit at all.

To further lighten the composition and keep the sectional from overwhelming the space, I chose a bun-foot base and upholstered it in a luxurious, celery-hued chenille fabric. For some contrasting pops of color and pattern, I provided throw pillows in silky damask and textural circle-motif fabrics. As for the accent colors, turquoise and coral, I took inspiration directly from Sylvia’s impeccable wardrobe and jewelry. She is always sophisticated and elegant in her attire and I wanted this entertaining space to reflect that aspect of her.

The sectional easily accommodates four guests and is augmented by a rattan chair and ottoman on one side of the fireplace. A generously scaled lounge chair and matching ottoman on the other side of the fireplace balances the sectional. These pieces provide flexible seating for a crowd or lounge-like accommodations for more intimate gatherings. A large marsh painting on the wall behind the sectional echoes the colors used in the upholstery as well as the tones of the area rug anchoring the seating arrangement.

In the end Sylvia and I conquered her “spatially challenged” living room and created a beautiful and welcoming area for her and her husband Bill to entertain their guests. The non-traditional choice of a sectional is the star of the show but does not cast a shadow on its supporting players. Instead it works in perfect harmony to the overall composition of the room.


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