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“Mirror, Mirror on the Wall!”

Gregory Vaughan - Thursday, January 03, 2013

“I think I have bathroom envy!” Brandi Glanville declared as she toured Lisa Vanderpump’s glamorous new master suite on the season premiere of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. For those of you familiar with the show (come on, you can admit you watch it, I do), you know Lisa is the queen bee of the program and has a penchant for remodeling and decorating houses. Although her new "villa" is “downsized” to a mere 10,000 square feet from her former rambling Beverly Hills chateau, it is nothing short of Vanderfabulous as cast-mate Camille Grammer often refers to her.

The vanity cabinet in her humongous bathroom boasts padded, upholstered door and drawer fronts (pale pink, of course, her signature color) framed by mirrored strips and set-off with crystal knobs. The giant beveled mirror above the generously expansive white marble countertop is punctuated by three crystal be-jeweled sconces just dripping with glamour. Lisa has often boasted about the fact that she does her own hair and make-up and with an over-the-top setting like this in which to do it, who wouldn't? It is a vanity fit for royalty, and well, like I said before, she is the queen of the show.

Granted, while most of us do not have such sprawling bathrooms in our own homes, we can pick up a few design ideas from these fantasy rooms. Master bathrooms are one of the most popular rooms in a house in which to splurge and indulge. Whether you are building a new home or remodeling, have a little fun with this space. The vanity cabinet is perhaps the most important and central element of master bathroom design.

If there are two of you sharing the bath, and space allows, consider providing two separate vanities. These can be placed side-by-side, or even on opposite sides of the room, say flanking a free-standing tub or a shower stall. This set-up will provide the convenience and ease of use when busy schedules require two people getting ready at the same time. Keeping the peace during the morning grooming ritual is a good thing.

Who says a vanity has to be in the shape of the standard, heavy looking, rectangular block of cabinetry of which we have come to expect? Why not make it look like a piece of furniture, with legs or feet for an elevated and lighter look? Let it stand on its own. If your tastes lean toward a more contemporary vibe, a cantilevered or "floating" vanity can be stunning and sleek. Instead of solid doors, choose frosted or ribbed glass inserts to lighten things up. In the same vein, an insert of glasscloth wallcovering or, as Lisa did, padded upholstery, will add an unexpected and luxurious element.

As with kitchen cabinets, there are myriad organizational components available for the drawers to help keep all your personal grooming items neat and tidy. Dividers for cosmetics, medicines, and the like help make the task of getting ready easier. Recently I have been providing electrical outlets in vanity drawers for clients so that hair-dryers can be stored conveniently and at-the-ready. Also, built-in pull-out clothes-hampers are becoming more popular.

Style-wise, I am seeing a trend for a more clean-lined aesthetic, with lighter colors for finishes. White still predominates, but grays, sage greens, and khakis are showing up as well as lighter stains on wood. The general look my be more simple but unique design details still prevail such as chamfered corners and unusual hardware for drawer pulls and door knobs.

 So, remember, whether you are the queen of your castle or just a humble "worker bee" like me, with a little planning you too can reign supreme in your master bath.

Holiday Decor

Gregory Vaughan - Sunday, December 09, 2012

“I decided on red for the theme this year,” my mother said to me, stating the obvious, as she caught me scrutinizing the crimson-clad conifer in her living room. Having just arrived at my parents’ home in Virginia after a rather boring but fortunately uneventful 7-hour drive up I-95, I was mesmerized at the results of her artistic pursuits. “Babs, you done good!” I joked back at her.

You see, as polar opposite as my mother and I are in our interior design tastes, one thing we do share in common is our seriousness about our holiday décor, especially when it comes to trimming the Christmas tree. Although we each take a very different approach to adorning and finessing the holiday fire-hazard, it’s a big-to-do for us and is truly the centerpiece of our seasonal endeavors. It’s a passion we have shared for as long as I can remember.

I put up a live tree. Well, it was live at some point, probably a lot longer ago than the nice gentlemen at the tree lot will admit. Judging by the amount of needles they shed each season, I figure they are cut down in mid-October. Or maybe it is late summer.  All I know is come January, my poor vacuum cleaner threatens to run away from home!

My mother will have none of that mess. It is full-on faux, man-made, artificial tannenbaum for her. And, I must say, for a fake tree, hers is pretty good. And it is an older one, as I remember it from annual duty in a previous house some years ago. It does not necessarily look real (the shape is way too perfect) but it does an absolutely fabulous job of showcasing her ornaments, which is, let’s face it, a big part of the tree.

My tree is chaotic, over-the-top, and frivolous. Since I obviously get a different “fresh” one each year, thus the shape and proportions vary from season to season as well. I have certain cherished ornaments collected over the years which I like to showcase, but I do try to place them at different vantage points from year to year to keep things interesting. I also use different tree-toppers to mix things up. A mix of strands of clear lights, multi-color lights, chartreuse lights and purple lights provides the illumination.

My mother’s tree is very structured and methodical, but by no means stiff or static. She does a very cleaver mix of whimsical ornaments amassed (she has a penchant for frogs) combined with favorites from my and my siblings’ childhood (a 1970’s-era plastic Snoopy with reindeer antlers on red skis being my absolute fave) and whatever strikes her fancy that season. This year being red, she mixed in both matte and shiny-finish balls, graduated in size from smaller diameter at the top of the tree to larger ones at the bottom. The result is spectacular and fresh. She had a brief fling with multi-color lights back in the very early eighties, but she is strictly a clear white light devotee now.

Knowing I am going to host a Christmas Eve dinner at home in Savannah this year, Babs is already quizzing me about my tablescape as well as the menu (to say that she is slightly annoyed I will not be sitting at her table that night is an understatement). I assure her that I will be every much the humble host as she is humble hostess for the holiday festivities and will be every much as (not-so-humble) tree-proud!

Cabinetry 101

Gregory Vaughan - Thursday, November 15, 2012

How to Choose the Right Cabinetry for Your Home, Lifestyle, and Budget

I have been doing a great deal of work in kitchens lately. No, not the experimental gourmet creations and events in my own kitchen that I fondly describe as dinner parties, but helping clients plan their own personal culinary laboratories. I have found that in my 20-some odd years of being a designer the kitchen is the number one space that often frustrates and overwhelms clients. And, given the plethora of options and styles available, combined with the wide range of price-points, it is no wonder clients become intimidated when faced with choosing all the components.

Cabinetry is the backbone of any kitchen design and given that, on average, 50% of a new kitchen budget goes toward cabinetry, it is a major investment as well. Therefore, making smart choices with the right type of cabinet is very important. There are three basic categories of cabinetry: stock, semi-custom and custom. Each type has its pros and cons and their costs reflect their quality and options.

Stock units from a home improvement center can be bought “off-the-shelf” and usually preassembled (units from places like IKEA being an exception). These limit your choice of sizes, styles, and colors and are usually are not made from solid wood. Stock cabinets are the most economical for adding a second kitchen in a basement or rental unit but most likely not ideal for use in a primary kitchen.

 Semi-custom cabinets allow you to select many options of sizes, styles, and finishes provided by the manufacturer. These cabinets are made-to-order with the options specified from standard size units and take several weeks for delivery. With careful planning, these units can mimic much costlier custom units.

 True custom cabinets are built by a cabinetmaker or woodworker and tailored to your exact specifications. Often crafted from exotic wood (or other specialty products) they offer complete personalization, thus they cost more to create and take longer to construct. The end product is truly a work of art.

If you are using semi-custom or custom cabinetry in your new kitchen you will have a choice of finishes. You can select from the full spectrum of stains and paint colors. And, on top of that, you can embellish them even further with a glaze for definition or distressing for an instant worn and antiqued look.

The next step is to choose your frame style. Partial overlay doors are the most popular and are characterized by doors and drawers that reveal some of the frame (or box) of the cabinet. These are frequently used in traditional style kitchens. Full overlay doors cover the entire frame of the cabinet box, leaving just enough space for them to open. This provides a seamless look popular in more modern and contemporary decors. Full inset doors fit flush with the frame and are the most difficult to manufacture, so these are distinguished by the custom upscale look the most expensive option.

Door styles are available in any panel design you can imagine. Flat, raised panel, recessed panel, or applied molding can be combined with straight or arched motifs to create a completely personal look. You can also add glass doors or bead-board inserts to mix it up. Since the façade of your cabinetry dominates the visual effect of your kitchen, carefully consider the overall look you desire.

 Once you have established the basic look of the cabinetry it is time to add personality and sparkle. The hardware is like jewelry for cabinetry – it adds some bling and drama. Whether you opt for knobs, pulls, latches or hooks, these functional elements can also define the style. Decorative details like corbels and crown molding give cabinets some architectural flair and definition. And remember, not all embellishments are visual, so consider soft-touch hinge systems to eliminate the slamming shut of doors and drawers. Your ears will appreciate the silence.

 So, if you are planning a new kitchen, don’t be afraid of the process. Think of it as trying a new recipe. If you are intimidated, consult a professional. We are here to help guide you through the myriad steps of selecting the ingredients and when the right ingredients come together the result is delicious and satisfying.

What Style Is That?

Gregory Vaughan - Wednesday, October 03, 2012

"Oooh, I like that one!" one of my nieces exclaimed as she scrolled through images of recently completed design projects on my iPad this past weekend. I had gone up to Virginia to celebrate my father's 80th birthday in conjunction with an annual family reunion. While waiting for the food to be prepared, we had found a spot on a blanket out in the yard to sit and catch-up. She and her husband had just recently bought a new house and I thought she might enjoy getting some ideas for their new place. The photo that caught her eye was of a casual dining room overlooking the marsh in Colleton River Plantation.

“It looks like something out of a magazine. What do you call that style of decorating?" she asked.

“Actually it was just published in a local magazine this fall,” I said proudly, regretting the fact that I had forgotten to bring along a copy to share on my visit. And then I was stumped for an actual term to categorize the style for her.

I quickly started thinking of industry buzzwords to describe it. Industrial Chic? No, not really, it didn't have that cold industrial vibe. Urban Loft? No, the setting in Colleton River is hardly urban or remotely loft-like. Beachy? Well, no, you will not find a lighthouse or life preserver motif in the composition. Coastal? Maybe, but not really. There are indeed some oyster shells adorning the chandelier and a fragment or two of a sea fan on the tablescape, but that is hardly the theme of the space.

The dining room in the photo was eclectic, but not in a Bohemian sense. The rectilinear dining table was built from reclaimed wood fashioned in a very casual and simple picnic table style, with x-shaped legs. The matte-finish of the plank board top is driftwood colored and suggests years of wear. A set of wicker side chairs, finished in a weathered gray-beige, are paired with more modern, fully upholstered and skirted host and hostess chairs at each end of the table. The nubby, sage green upholstery of the host and hostess chairs picks up the green hues of the ikat patterned cushions of the wicker chairs. Antique brass nail-head trim on the upholstered chairs keeps them from being too slick for the more vintage looking furnishings. To keep the room from being too traditional and give it a contemporary vibe I turned the table on the diagonal. The effect is unexpected and fresh. 

The uniting element in the composition was the palette of natural colors and casual materials that made the different pieces work together as a whole. The walls were skimmed with a pigmented plaster coat that softens the newness of the construction and adds a warm ambience. A faded, washed green tint on the butt-board ceiling allows some of the wood-grain to show through and creates subtle pattern on an often forgotten surface. The tawny colored oak floors were left bare and undressed windows let the incredible views of the palmetto trees, marsh grasses and river beyond to permeate the interiors and provide a soothing backdrop for dining.

The room is conducive for leisurely morning breakfasts, perusing the paper and doing crossword puzzles as well as hosting evening dinners for eight people. It is also a great spot for a game of cards or to sit and work on a laptop, the perfect multi-functional space.

“It is comfortable, casual, and inviting. That’s what we are all about down in Hilton Head,” I told my niece. “I call it Lowcountry Chic.”

Protecting Your Investment – Pride of Ownership

Gregory Vaughan - Friday, September 07, 2012

How did you spend your Labor Day holiday? I spent mine, well, laboring. OK, maybe not the whole day, but I did not lounge on the beach or swim in the pool as I had originally planned.

You see, I went to meet Matt, the manager for my rental property in Savannah. My most recent tenants had moved out and Matt wanted to meet me at the house to discuss some improvements he felt were needed to best market the house to potential renters. “Can you meet me Monday morning? I know it’s a holiday, but the market is flush with houses for rent right now and we have to be competitive.” he told me on the phone Friday afternoon.

I arrived a little early and while waiting for Matt I decided to start pulling some weeds from the front yard. The whole time I reminded myself – it is all about curb appeal. By the time Matt arrived I had worked up a sweat. “Dude, the yard is actually OK, but there are some things inside that really need attention,” he said as he greeted me.

Once inside, I saw what he meant. Some of the window blinds were in disrepair, the vanes splayed at odd angles. The millwork was no longer a crisp white and looked dingy. The hardwood floors, once so shiny, were dull and lack-luster. And then it hit me, nothing shined, where was the sparkle?Would this appeal to me as a potential renter?

I admit, the property has easily rented over the years so I have not put too much thought into it. It is a charming 1920’s bungalow located in a wonderful mid-town neighborhood and literally across the street from a coveted Montessori school. As realtors will tell you, it is all about location, location, location!

However, I had not actually been in the house to scrutinize its finishes in about 4 years. Matt’s company does a fine job with periodic inspections to ensure no holes have been punched in walls or chandeliers and ceiling fans pulled from the ceilings. And, remember, too, most maintenance issues are really only obvious when looking at empty rooms. When the previous tenants moved out I had full intentions of doing some touch-ups but then new renters moved in within days of the previous ones, before I got the chance to do anything.

Obviously renters are not going to care for a house in quite the same manner as if they actually owned it. It is not their investment and thus they do not share the pride of ownership. Indeed, I have been very lucky, knock on wood, that the house has not been abused by tenants over the years, but the simple fact is day-to-day wear and tear takes its toll over time. And I try to remind myself that even though I have a sentimental attachment to the property as the first home I ever bought, it is first and foremost an income producing entity. It is a moneymaker, plain and simple.

No one wants to really put the effort and time into painting or replacing blinds or applying a fresh coat of polyurethane to floors, much less pay someone else to do it. It is even less appealing when it is not the house you physically inhabit. However, it is just one of those things that come with an investment. You have to protect that investment and periodically improve it to get the best yields from its potential. As a rental I want absolute top dollar for it. It is, after all, about keeping the positive cash-flow coming in! I tell my clients with rental properties the same thing. No one is going to pay top dollar to rent a villa for a week that looks like it was decorated in 1982. Would you?

So, in the days since meeting Matt on Labor Day morning I have ordered new blinds for the windows and lined-up a painter to give the walls a fresh coat of paint and a new polish to the wood floors. I know the cost of the improvements will be offset in the long run by attracting new renters desiring a fresh and clean home. It is a win-win situation for me as a property owner and for the future family who will call it home. And, while I may have missed my walk on the beach that morning or my swim in the pool, but I will smile broadly when that first rental check gets deposited into my account.

Beverage Centers and Wet Bars

Gregory Vaughan - Thursday, May 03, 2012

Growing up as a kid in the 1970’s, I remember often gathering at the homes of relatives and friends. Whether it was a backyard barbeque after a ball game or the celebration of a cousin’s birthday, we would eat, play, socialize and have a good time.

In particular, I liked to visit my Uncle Charles' house. He had a large recreation room on the lower level of his 1950's era split-level home. I just thought it was the coolest space ever. Everyone would congregate down there and hang out. In one corner he had a built-in bar. I remember it had black Formica "slate" countertops and a black "pleather" padded armrest around the top edge. The front was finished in some sort of faux bamboo material and the barstools were covered in matching black pleather with tall, spindly iron legs. It was a favorite gathering spot in the house and I just knew that when I grew up I wanted to have one in my own house one day.

 Even at that young age I think I knew the entire set-up had a certain kitschy appeal to it. I know that for some people, the mere mention of the term wet bar can conjure up these images of a cheesy man cave, decked-out with sports memorabilia and blinking neon signs, and perhaps a collection of shot glasses featuring various images of Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe.

 However, it needn't be that way. Beverage centers and wet bars can be designed in myriad styles and finishes to be integrated into your home and they can provide more than just a spot to mix margaritas or shake martinis. They can provide a space for extra prep when entertaining or function as a wine or coffee bar as well. A refreshment center can be as simple or elaborate as you desire and your budget allows.

 A simple table top bar set-up can be made on the surface of a butler's table or sideboard. A more integrated arrangement can be built inside an armoire, sometimes even plumbed with a sink and a wine cooler. A full-scale, built-in wet bar with cabinetry and a countertop can be discretely installed in a corner or niche of a room or take center-stage and become the focal point.

Consider the type of refreshments you want to provide. Will you be serving coffee or wine or cocktails? Maybe all of these? Be sure to provide space for the appropriate drink-ware storage and ingredients.

 Will you need any specialty appliances or equipment like a beverage cooler, an ice maker, a mixer, or a dishwasher? Do you want a sink? Will this be a sit-down space with room for barstools? What type of countertop do you want to use? What type of lighting will you need? Think about providing ambient lighting as well as task lighting.

So, now that I am a grown-up, did I get my bar? Well, not quite the kitschy one Uncle Charles had in his home. However, when I remodeled the kitchen a few years back, I did carefully plan a space near the door to the dining room to serve as one. An under-counter wine cooler keeps the whites cool while there is space for the reds in the open lattice-style upper cabinets above it. An adjacent wide base cabinet has roll-out drawers on the bottom for bottles, sodas, and mixers. The shallow top drawer holds bottle openers and corkscrews, stoppers, wine glass tags, cocktail napkins, etc. Above this bank of drawers are glass door cabinets that store the crystal wine, martini, and cocktail glasses.

The set-up is ideal as it is an extension of the main work area of my kitchen but it allows drinks to be made without getting in the way of food prep during dinner parties. My favorite part? A collection of kitschy 1950's cocktail napkins depicting cartoon dogs enjoying their bespoke cocktails that  I had individually framed and hung in a row along the backsplash space. They are fun and festive and perfectly set the tone for entertaining and enjoying my guests.

Living Large in Less Space

Gregory Vaughan - Sunday, April 01, 2012

Let’s be honest, if given the choice between having more or less space to inhabit most of us would pick more. I know I would. If I could change just one thing about my home it would be to have slightly larger rooms. OK, maybe I would also want another bathroom. Make that a very large, luxurious bathroom. And I definitely would want a walk-in closet. A cavernous, dressing room style walk-in closet. Perhaps even a home gym……alright, I know I said just one thing, but since all these wish-list items involve extra square footage, you see where I am going with this.

The truth is, you can live very large in a small space by simply employing some smart design tricks. I experienced this first hand recently while spending the weekend with a friend on her boat. During the past four months she and her husband have been piloting the vessel down the east coast from their home in Annapolis, docking in marinas along the way. I was amazed by how “livable” a 46-foot long watercraft could be. Two sleeping cabins with private baths, a galley and lounge, a control bridge, and an engine room were all artfully assembled like a jigsaw puzzle within the hull and under the decks. The efficiency of the packaging was fascinating to me.

The old adage of form follows function can be especially helpful when designing smaller scaled living spaces. Your small space will work better if you figure out how you want it to function. Knowing how the room is going to be used will help you select appropriate furnishings and effective storage.

Flexible seating with smaller scaled proportions will keep a less-than-spacious room from feeling cramped. You will be surprised how much volume those trendy over-scaled arms and backs on sofas take up in a room. And try to keep it bare – exposed legs on upholstery pieces open up a space by making it look taller and larger, skirts will only close it in.

Multi-tasking furnishings are a must-have in a smaller space. Storage ottomans can act as a seat, a table (many have flip-top trays) or a toy chest. Nesting tables are great to employ because you can bunch them together when not in use and save room. Sleep sofas can provide you with instant guestroom accommodations.

Just because a space is small does not mean you should fill it with lots of small furniture, using fewer pieces will allow for a more open feel. Leave room to breathe and allow at least 18” of space between upholstery and coffee tables. Window treatments should be kept to a minimum, use simple styles and lightweight fabrics.

Be careful when selecting fabrics, choosing prints with dense, busy patterns can be claustrophobic. Instead, go for simple, bold patterns that will work better in small spaces by creating a feeling of expansiveness. The same principle applies to the floor, a striped rug can elongate a room and tile installed on the diagonal will expand a space.

Mirrors are another design trick that can expand the illusion of space, just keep in mind what is being reflected. For instance, you would welcome a garden view outside a nearby window but will want to avoid reflecting the door to the coat closet or the thermostat on the wall.

If you are designing a room from scratch consider specifying items such as built-in furniture and pocket doors to maximize available space. Also, mounting a flat-screen TV on the wall will give you more floor space to devote to traffic flow. The same can be said for utilizing wall-mounted lighting.

Living in less space can have its advantages; less square footage is easier to heat and cool, and you have fewer rooms to furnish and maintain. The trick is to plan for it carefully and make every square inch count. I asked my friend Ann what has been her biggest concession about living on a boat for the last 4 months. I expected her to say the lack of a walk-in closet, forgetting the fact she is a professional caterer. “Well, the kitchen is obviously not as big as the one I have at home,” she said, “but the ever-changing view out the windows of my floating home-away-from-home more than makes up for it.”

Paint the Walls, then Deck those Halls

Gregory Vaughan - Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Nothing Like Being on a Holiday House Tour to Expedite Your Home Improvement Projects

Paint the Walls, then Deck those Halls

I still cannot believe I agreed to it. I swore I would never do it again. I would not be persuaded, I would absolutely not let my guard down and give in, no matter how sweetly and politely asked. I had promised myself. And then she called…….

It was Heidi, a friend, neighbor, and fellow member of the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Savannah. I had, in fact, first met Heidi about 10 years ago when I had begrudgingly agreed to volunteer my home to be on the Downtown Neighborhood Association’s Holiday Home Tour. Heidi was a docent in my home on that year’s tour and we have been friends ever since. She is charming, intelligent, funny, and can be very persuasive.

Can you guess what her message was on my voicemail? Yep, you know where this is going. “Would you consider doing it again this year? Please?” she purred into my answering machine with her wonderful German accent. “You know it will benefit the organization and it contributes to the good of our community.” Oh, Heidi, it is so hard to say no to you! 

So of course I called her back and said yes. Like I said, she can be very persuasive.

The moment I hung up the phone I went into panic mode. Was I flattered? Well, yes, of course. How nice that someone thinks so highly of my decorating skills that they would ask me to participate on a tour. But when I did it before I nearly had a nervous breakdown in the process. I am working myself into a tizzy now just writing about it.

Many of you would probably assume that since I am an interior designer my house must always be in a tour-ready mode. Uh, not really. Granted, I do have a sense of pride in regard to my home and its decor. But, tour-ready? I don’t think so. I really live in my house and the day-to-day wear and tear shows. The Christmas decorations are the easy part, after all, I would be doing them anyway. But the glittery accoutrements and holiday bling can only truly sparkle if the background they adorn is neat and fresh and clean. Ugh!

The kitchen needs re-painting. Ten years of experimental cooking have left their mark. The front vestibule ceiling needs patching. When a chunk of plaster fell down and hit me on the head a few months ago was my first clue. My admittedly eclectic décor can be described in many ways, but I do not want shabby-chic to be one of them. The rewards of my spring-cleaning back in April have certainly worn-off now that we are past Halloween on the calendar. And then there is the clutter issue; the dead computer monitor and box of old clothes behind the stairs in the foyer have yet to make it to the recycling center and Goodwill.

All of these issues need to be addressed, tour or no tour. So what better motivation for me to get them done than an actual deadline? And if I think about it, it is no different from a client giving me a deadline for an interior design project. Besides, I now know that after the holiday cheer has waned and the decorations put back in their boxes and placed in the attic, I will have some freshly painted walls and spruced-up spaces to enjoy in my home. Can you think of a better way to start the New Year?

Formal Dining Rooms

Gregory Vaughan - Monday, August 01, 2011

I love to entertain by hosting dinner parties in my home. Unfortunately, with my hectic schedule, I do not get the opportunity often enough. Inviting people into your home and providing them with a relaxed evening of food and conversation is both a labor of love and a wonderful gift of hospitality. Memories are made and celebrations happen around a dining table. While it can be daunting to cook a gourmet meal if you are not a professional chef, setting the scene for a special dinner is easier than you think.

One of the reasons I enjoy having dinner parties is because I get to use one of my favorite rooms in my house, the dining room. I have a small kitchen with just enough elbowroom at the center island for my household of two, so even an invitation for one extra diner dictates a change of venue. My formal dining room makes a dinner gathering feel special, whether it is a simple supper for four or a full-blown fancy feast for eight.

Dining rooms are evolving with our changing lifestyles. With the growing popularity of open-concept living, formal dining rooms are becoming a thing of the past in home design. Consumers often think of it as the least-used room in the house and one of the most expensive to furnish. Naturally it is one of the first rooms due for a “re-think” about its design and decor. A dining space does not need to be a separate room or big in scale in order to have a wow-factor. However, since it is an entertainment space, you may want to infuse it with a more dramatic décor. Why not take it up a level?

Consider the number of people you want to easily accommodate. Do you typically host small, intimate affairs or do you frequently invite 12 people? Maybe a combination of both? Then think about the size of your space compared to the scale of the furniture. Select pieces that offer flexibility.

The dining table usually takes center stage, so choose it carefully. They come in many different shapes and sizes and many can expand with center or perimeter leaves that allow you to provide room for a varying number of guests. I am a personal fan of the round table, if space and the shape of the room allows. I find it more intimate and conducive to conversation.

With the amount of furniture needed in a dining space it is important to employ different materials, so don’t match everything! Create a timeless look that will last for years to come. Gone are the days of matching sets of furniture. A dining room suite with Queen Anne-style cabriole legs on the table, chairs and sideboard will overwhelm the space and look like a furniture store vignette. Two highly ornate or stylized chairs make great host and hostess seats, but any more than that just gets busy to the eye.

Keep a common theme but have fun with it. Complimentary wood tones or styles will add layers of interest. Remember, you have to live there so you don’t want to get bored with it. Glass, wood, metal. rattan, fabric, and leather offer myriad possibilities to mix-it-up with the materials and the combinations are endless.

Remember to provide serving and storage areas. Where will you store china and serving pieces? Is there a space to lay-out a buffet or dessert?  Consoles, buffet tables, and sideboards present yet another opportunity design-wise for nuance and sophistication.

Color, lighting and accessories provide finish and set the scene. Formal or informal, bold or subdued, bright or subtle, you can create a backdrop that works with your style of entertaining at home. Colors can evoke a mood and wallpapers with luxe textures and tonal contrasts lend an aura of elegance to the background. A unique light fixture will cast a welcoming glow upon the table while a gilded mirror can add the illusion of space and reflect the glimmer of candlelight.

Selecting the right ingredients for your dining room will ensure the creation of a magical place to be enjoyed by your family and friends.

Showcasing Collections

Gregory Vaughan - Friday, July 01, 2011

Almost everyone has a collection of something. For as long as I can remember, I have always been a collector. As a small child I was passionate about automobiles and building things, so it was Matchbox cars and LEGOS. I must have had over 150 of the miniature cars and enough of the Danish building blocks to create a small village.

In my early teens I discovered Art Deco and became obsessed with Fiestaware and similarly styled ceramic house wares and pottery. Going to college at SCAD put me in touch with other like-minded folk who enjoyed hitting the junk stores, flea markets, and yard sales for the thrill of the hunt. My Fiesta, McCoy, Bauer, and Haeger ceramic pieces were the start of my decorative object collections.

At some point after college I began collecting small, decorative boxes covered in mosaics of bone and horn. I just love the punch their intricate surface patterns give to a tabletop or bookshelf. Still to this day I am seduced by their exotic allure and will occasionally buy one to add to my growing collection.

Now, while I never decorated my space with my Matchboxes and LEGOS, I do celebrate my pottery and boxes at home. I specifically chose glass-door cabinetry during a complete kitchen remodel a few years ago so that my Fiestaware could be showcased within. I also specified rope-lighting (concealed behind the crown molding on-top of the cabinets) to highlight the water pitchers and planters displayed on top. I love how the festive colors and sculptural shapes play against the blonde maple cabinetry.

My mosaic boxes are grouped in clusters on the tops of tables and chests throughout the house, allowing guests (and myself) to more closely appreciate their beauty. The fact that they are decorative boxes is the unifying element, their various shapes, colors and finishes provide the interest.

In fact, effectively displaying the things we collect is sometimes more difficult than acquiring them in the first place. Frequently clients have collections that they wish for me to incorporate into the décor of their home. I always enjoy using someone’s personal collection to add character and personality. Sometimes this is an easy task and sometimes it is not. The key is to create or provide an interesting display of the items, not have them scattered randomly all over a room. A simple grouping of three like items creates a stranger composition than just one here and there. This way they also become a conversation piece.

Depending on the type of collection, walls or tabletops can be display space. Sculpture can be placed on pedestals. Consider framing or displaying items in a shadowbox. Also, if your collection is large and you are short on display space, periodically rotate items in your collection, such as framed photography on a shelf.

Collections can be functional too. I use my Fiestaware all the time for casual entertaining. And on my dresser upstairs in the bedroom, some of my mosaic boxes hold spare change, collar-stays, and watches, helping to keep me beautifully organized. And, remember, one great thing about personal collections is family and friends are never at a loss when it comes to gifts for the holidays or birthday presents.


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