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Expressing Your Personal Style

Gregory Vaughan - Wednesday, June 01, 2011

My cousin asked me the other day if I ever found it hard to be completely satisfied with my personal home décor when I am exposed to so many different styles in my line of work. We were talking about the changes I have been making to a weekend getaway cottage purchased about four years ago. She knew the condominium came furnished and I had joked about some of the really outdated and kitschy furnishings and accessories. I even emailed her some photos so she could have a laugh as well. Having grown up closely together, she knew how eclectic my tastes could be. In fact, they are a lot like hers.

It is true, my personal style is very eclectic. I am drawn to Art Deco, Asian, Neo-Classical, and Mid-Century Modern furnishings and accessories. I also have an appreciation for Early American antiques, rustic found objects, and sleek contemporary things. And, in my 1890 Victorian home in Savannah, I mix it all together in true eclectic style. For some people this may seem like disjointed clutter, but to me it is a feast for the eyes and a reflection of my personal style. To me, what makes it interesting is that it is a unique mix and not just suite of matching furniture and perfectly coordinated fabrics and accessories.

For many of us presented with the opportunity to design and decorate a new home, it can be both a dream come true and an overwhelming task. If you are starting from scratch and you see what you like on display down the street in some big-name furniture store, then by all means go buy it. However, I think most of us would rather do our own thing. Consider alternative choices instead of the matching sofa, matching loveseat, and matching arm chair. Do you really want it to look like a room at the Homewood Suites hotel? 

Use art, rugs, heirloom pieces, or personal collections to add layers to the design and composition of the décor. For instance, an uncluttered coffee table may be just your style. But you could also display a decorative serving tray on its surface, a few colorful glass bowls, some candlesticks and a potted orchid, or even a stack of art books. I have all of them on mine.

Remember too that things go in and out of fashion. Who ever knew shag carpeting would make a comeback? And do you think stainless steel is here to stay for kitchen appliances? The frayed stone-washed denim fabric on the sofa that came with my cottage had seen better days and screamed 1984. However, I absolutely loved the clean, classic lines of the frame, so I simply recovered it. The off-white cotton duck cloth I used will never go out of style, allowing me to easily change-out the pillows when I want to freshen the look with new pattern and color.

Regardless of the fact that the color turquoise it is quite trendy right now, I have always loved it. I find it bright and sunny for a blue hue but still cool and refreshing, the best of both worlds! It makes me feel good wearing it, thus I have a lot of it in my wardrobe. Over the years it has become part of my personal style that carries over into my décor at home as well. So I painted the vaulted ceilings turquoise to give them some depth and interest. It makes me feel good when I gaze up there.

After all, isn’t that really the point when expressing your personal style? Shouldn’t it make you feel good? For me, my eclectic tastes allow me to easily change and evolve my personal décor, making sure I am always satisfied with it. If you need help finding satisfaction with yours then contact a professional designer to help you.

Area Rugs

Gregory Vaughan - Sunday, May 01, 2011

“I want a totally different look for the new house, but I’m not sure where to begin,” my friend, neighbor, and new client told me as we sat in the living room of her existing home to discuss her new project. She and her husband had decided to downsize to a smaller home and they had found an ideal one, literally down the street. Recently renovated, it was filled with light and she wanted her new décor to celebrate the open, airy, and modern feel of the home.

While we chatted about her desire for a fresh and bright interior for the new home I surveyed the furnishings and contents of the living room and the adjacent dining room. I made a mental note of the ivory sofas and beautiful antique side tables and chests. It was then that I noticed the gray rug pads on the floor where I knew beautiful Oriental rugs once resided. “Where are your rugs?” I asked her. She informed me they had been sent out for appraisal and cleaning, and she was hoping to trade them with the dealer for something new. “Well, that’s where we are going to begin!” I exclaimed. “That will be our stating point.”

I love rugs and relish any opportunity to look at them in a showroom, especially when I get to help choose them for a client. For me, when designing a room, the ideal situation is to start with a rug, whether it be an existing one the client already owns or the selection of a new one. An area rug can be the focal point and set the tone for a room or anchor it and subdue the palette.

Rugs can be both practical and decorative. In addition to providing warmth, color, and pattern, area rugs can also anchor the seating groups within a room to create an island and make it more intimate. They can give pop to a subdued space.
When choosing an area rug there are so many factors to consider and explore. Styles can range from traditional Orientals, to ethnic tribal patterns, to modern and contemporary. Natural hides or woven textural grasses and fibers like sisal and seagrass can also be selected.

Sizes, shapes, and placement are also important. Rectangular rugs are perhaps the most common, with standard sizes such as 6 by 9 or 9 by 12 foot being the most popular. Round rugs under breakfast tables or in foyers are also options. I found an unusual 10 foot square rug at an auction in Savannah to use under the round table in my dining room. Animal skins provide a unique, irregular shape to be used in conjunction with larger rugs or even layered on top of them. And a runner can add both interest and pattern to a hallway and some acoustic insulation to foot traffic.

If you cannot find what you are looking for then explore having a custom design made for you. It is easier than you think and probably a lot more affordable than you expected. Imagine being able to pick the pattern and motifs you desire executed in the colors you want to compliment your décor.

A few weeks later my client and I went to her rug dealer’s showroom to look at his inventory. We chose two complimentary rugs for the living and dining rooms in a very light palette with subtle tones of predominantly ivory, tan, and wheat. Subtle accents of watery blue and terra cotta are present in the patterns and I will play upon these in pillows and accessories in the rooms. The overall effect will be calming and welcoming and will not detract from the ivory walls and abundance of light streaming in the spaces. It will help create the new look my client is dreaming of for her new home.

“How to Mix Patterns in a Space”

Gregory Vaughan - Friday, April 01, 2011

Are you timid about mixing patterns in your home décor? Don’t be, it is much easier than you think. It is not much different from a following a recipe or getting dressed, for that matter.

Can add a greater level of sophistication and interest, adds depth.

Bold pattern can give oomph to a space, but don’t stop at just one.

Trick is creating a look that is both classy and colorful without being chaotic.

Basic understanding of scale and density.

4 basic types of pattern:

geometric
floral
motif
pictoral

Stripes can be bold or subtle, large or small. Vertical stripes can add height to a room just like they can add height to a short person. Horizontal stripes can add width to a narrow wall.

Checks can be either classic or modern, casual (country French) or formal.

Mod, op-art stuff.Polka-dots can be playful

Floral patterns can be realistic or stylized. Tend to be more on the feminine side, however I have seen many masculine “florals” of palm fronds and ferns. Masculine colors.

Motif designs consist of repeated elements or figures, used to inject a theme, think a Greek key or Chinese fretwork.

Pictoral pattern is more scenic in nature, think of a toile with its depictions of the French or English country side. Asian toile also.

Have seen rooms done entirely in one pattern and although bold can be “one note” as well.

Why not mix it up a bit.

Give patterns some space, you don’t need to use a pattern or print on every surface. Sometimes it works better to leave some space between patterns – plain drapery panels against a wallpapered wall, patterned drapery panels against a painted wall, and so forth.

Vary styles and scale, mix a large floral with a small geometric and a medium stripe.

Remember, the more pattern going on the more simple lined the furniture needs to be. White, or other light solid colors will pop against a colorful and busy pattern.

Do not forget about area rugs, artwork, pillows, even architectural details (like a coffered ceiling).

If mixing fabric use a common color denominator to keep the design from looking uncoordinated.

Mixing patterns doesn’t have to mean taking huge risks as long as you keep the volume down which designer Alexa Hampton explains as choosing one color and mixing different shades with it, The strongest statement in the room is made with texture.

Mixing fabrics isn’t that hard as long as you follow what you like which sometimes starts with a favorite color. Choose the main fabric fabric – often something out of the ordinary. This isn’t necessarily going to be used the most, but it’s the inspiration for the fabric choices to come. The others can be heavily patterned or plain as long as they have the same colors as the main fabric.

Pattern goes beyond checks, plaids, stripes, and florals. The shape of furniture influences how a pattern in in a fabric looks in your overall design and where that furniture is in relation to other pieces in the room.

Link patterns together with color and scale. Think about how much of a pattern you will want to see. I almost always use a more subtle pattern on large upholstery pieces.

Laundry Room Design

Gregory Vaughan - Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Okay, raise your hand if you enjoy doing laundry. Yep, thought so. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wardrobe and take pride in the care of my clothes. I just do not enjoy the task of doing laundry. Part of the problem, for me at least, is the laundry facility in my home is less than ideal.

I dream of a light and bright laundry room. A modern and stylish space with new, efficient machines for washing and drying clothes, drying racks for the stuff I do not wish to put in the dryer, plentiful counter space for folding, a built-in ironing center, and lots of storage for cleaning products and other stuff.

Like I said, that is my dream. Unfortunately my reality is something totally different. The space I now have is dark and cramped. It is not a space where I want to hang-out. I plan on renovating the space in the future, and when I do undertake that endeavor I hope to utilize all of the latest technology available and design trends popular today to create an efficient and attractive space. I want a laundry room that will make the job of washing and sorting clothes more enjoyable.

If you are planning a new home or renovating an existing one, give your laundry space some thought. Some things to consider are:

LOCATION – If you home is large try to place the laundry facilities close to the bedrooms and bathrooms. Chances are you will be washing more clothes and towels than tablecloths and napkins, so it would make sense to have the washer and dryer near the bedrooms instead of the kitchen or garage. If the house is a two-story, place the washer and dryer upstairs to save the task of lugging heavy laundry baskets up and down a flight of steps. A recently completed project I designed in Windmill Harbour actually had a second washer/dryer set located in the walk-in closet of the master bedroom. How much more convenient can you get?

APPLIANCES – The advancements in technology for washers and dryers have come a long way. The new machines are much more quiet as well as energy and water efficient. Many higher-end units feature a steam-clean cycle that is less destructive to clothing fibers. Along with the better technologies are more options for the finishes, including stainless steel and other colorful metallics. Front-load units allow the machines to be placed under countertops to create more usable space for folding clothes. A front-load model also allows stacking of the units, helpful if space is tight.

STORAGE – Build-in as much storage as you can fit inside your laundry room. Work with your architect, designer, or cabinet salesperson to customize components to suit your needs. How about a built-in clothes hamper? Or perhaps consider a dedicated cabinet for the vacuum? For one of my clients I had a special cabinet designed to house her cats’ litter box.

LIGHTING – Consider adding task lighting hidden under the upper cabinets to help illuminate the countertops and supplement the overhead lighting. If the room is an interior space, look at adding a skylight to add some natural light during the day.

FINISHES – Cabinets, flooring, counters and backsplashes, as well as wall finishes, can echo the look and feel of the rest of the décor in your home. Just because the laundry room is a utilitarian space does not mean it has to look like one. Have some fun and express yourself.

EXTRAS – If you have the space and budget, why not install a sink? A cleverly placed hanging rod over a sink will allow you to drip-dry items not meant for the dryer. Another client of mine wanted a sink for the sole purpose of washing her beloved dog. A built-in ironing board is another great thing to plan for in a new laundry room.

With our ever-growing interest in good interior design, advancements in technology, and our desire for better living, the laundry room is being given more attention in our homes. Instead of being tucked away in a dark closet like an after-thought, this important space is being elevated to a more integral part of our home. I cannot wait to bring my laundry room into the 21st century.

Trends for 2011

Gregory Vaughan - Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Can you believe we are already well into February of  2011? I am still getting used to writing 2011 as the year when I fill in the date. I am not sure just where the first month of this new year has gone, but I can tell you what you can expect to see more of this year for interior design and decoration. Having just attended the Atlanta Winter Gift and Accessory Market trade-show I can share with you some of the trends I found featured on display in the showrooms as well as insights from the industry professionals who created them.

DRAWING UPON THE PAST

To use that old cliché, what’s old is new again. Perhaps it is a desire during these challenging economic times to return to a more prosperous era or just our love of nostalgia, but there is a return to period styles popular from the 50’s, 60’s, and even the 1970’s. Whether genuine period pieces repurposed for modern use or new items designed to look old, vintage will be hot in the coming year. 

After years of producing big, over-sized upholstery and casegoods, furniture companies are reigning in the scale to create more svelte silhouettes. Think of those round, angled, tapered legs seen on the furniture from the Mad Men television show. Remember those highly stylized, graphic, Merimekko and Pop Art fabric patterns from the 1970’s? They are coming back in a big way. In one showroom, I ordered an old industrial cart, once used on a factory floor, to provide a mobile work table in my client’s new art studio.

THE FULL SPECTRUM OF COLOR

It’s no secret I am a big fan of color, so I am happy to report color is in again, and in a very big way. Saturated hues like citron and pumpkin, grounded tones like earth and mocha, and metallic tints of copper and brushed nickel co-mingled in the showrooms with soothing neutrals in complex weaves and interesting textures.

Strong hits of color are going to be popular on accent pieces like side tables and pillows, lamps and vases. I found a striking turquoise colored, lacquered, 3-drawer chest to use as a bedside table for a client. It is a color she loves and will make a nice accent against the natural sand-colored grasscloth we used on the headboard wall of her master bedroom.

LOOK ABOVE AND BELOW

When designing the look of your room, look past the 4 walls around you and consider the floor and ceiling as opportunities to add drama to your décor. These often-overlooked 5th and 6th walls of a space can offer endless possibilities for interest.

More options for wood floors come to the marketplace every day. Renewable and reclaimed sources are providing alternative choices. Fancy a bamboo or antique parquet floor for your new home office? Both are easily accessible. Want to jazz-up that boring ceiling? How about embellishing it with some textured paper or a shimmering iridescent paint color?

ENVIROMENTAL CONSCIOUSNESS

I know you may be tired of hearing it, but green continues to be keen in the world of interior design. And deservedly so, as materials that can be recycled at the end of their lifespan will be more in demand in the year(s) to come. Efficient technology continues to evolve and enhance our new-found eco-friendly collective consciousness.

Environmentally friendly products like copper, bronze, and linen contribute to healthy indoor air quality. Using natural textures such as jute, recycled polyester, and soy silk will keep it simple but green. Efficient LED lighting will continue to light our way in the future and better fluorescent bulbs will use less energy, produce cooler temperatures, and last much longer.

THE YEAR AHEAD

It is a new year and a time for new beginnings. Did you make any New Years resolutions? Maybe some include embracing your past, adding some color or interest to your surroundings, or making a conscious effort to be more environmentally kind. The upcoming trends in interior décor will help you keep those resolutions and have some style and fun along the way.

Simple Elegance

Gregory Vaughan - Wednesday, December 01, 2010

As I sit down to write this month’s column the downstairs of my home resembles a war zone. I am in the midst of holiday decorating, which I admit, takes me several days. Furniture has been moved around to make room for a ceiling touching twelve-foot tree that itself has been wrestled into its corner of the living room. It has been wrapped in strands of lights. Boxes of ornaments have been brought down from the attic and their contents strewn upon the dining room table, awaiting placement on the tree in the adjacent living room. It’s a process.

When all is said and done, I imagine it will be a festive display that will convey some holiday spirit. It reflects my personal decorating style, which is to say the least eclectic and multi-layered. With so much color, pattern, artwork, and objects on display any really simple, restrained effort would be lost in the mix. That’s OK. I have finally embraced the fact that it is Christmas.

But, of course, simple can be elegant and beautiful. This past Thanksgiving I was invited to an intimate holiday feast hosted by my friend Bob. He lives and works in New York but has recently finished renovating a weekend getaway condo in Drayton Tower located in downtown Savannah. For those of you not familiar with the structure, it is a landmark mid-century building constructed in 1949 in the International Style, smack dab in the middle of Savannah’s historic district. Originally built as apartments, the building is enjoying a renaissance as condominiums and Bob was one of the first to purchase a space. He was eager to embrace its clean, modern aesthetic, expansive views, and create something fabulous from its raw state.

And fabulous it is, exemplifying how much drama and elegance can be wrought out of a mere 1100 square feet with low ceilings and no elaborate moldings, fireplaces, original wood floors, or other details typically associated with historic downtown buildings. Working with another friend of mine, Sim, a fellow SCAD alum and Savannah designer, they have played up the corner unit’s most striking feature, walls of glass encompassing views of some of Savannah’s best architecture and tree-top vistas. Simple, period-appropriate furnishings, book-match mahogany veneer wall panels, cork tile flooring, and a sleek, unadorned open-plan kitchen assure the view takes center stage. Restraint and editing are used to the fullest effect.

I am witnessing a similar trend in the Lowcountry with some of my projects. I have noticed a desire for a more simple and pared-down approach to décor. Fading away are the “more is more” over-the-top design trends that gained so much popularity in the 1990’s. When properly executed, these simplified design schemes still convey warmth, sophistication, and make a statement without too much clutter or ornamentation.

Selecting a single design element to play-up and highlight in a room can often have as much impact as featuring several competing motifs or elements. For instance, if you are using a boldly patterned granite or marble in a bathroom or kitchen, the other elements such as cabinetry can take a backseat. An over-scaled, ornate mirror can hold center-stage in a powder room without needing support from the light fixtures or faucetry. A treasured collection of pottery on display or a single, bold piece of art can sometimes be the only accessory needed in a space. It just takes a little thought and planning to make it work.

Case in point: A current Sea Pines client expressed her wishes for a completely neutral color-scheme in her newly renovated home. She has a collection of oil paintings and primitive early American antiques and wanted them showcased inside a quiet cocoon of ivory and sand. I chose textured silks and nubby linens in natural colors for the upholstery and drapery. The only pattern is a subtle geometric hand-woven area rug in shades of aubergine, merlot, and charcoal. The artwork provides the punch and becomes the main focus in the serene space.

My client will not be here for the holidays but I imagine if she were she would decorate a tree in all white lights with a monochromatic color-scheme. As for my friend Bob, I have no doubt he would do a retro silver aluminum tinsel tree. While neither would be as over-the-top as mine, both would be an elegant expression of the season and compliment their decor.

Set Your Table with Style

Gregory Vaughan - Monday, November 01, 2010

One of my favorite things to do is entertain guests – especially hosting dinner parties. I don’t consider myself a great cook, but I do enjoy having friends and family in my home for conversation and FOOD! And, whether the meal is as simple as a cookout from the grill or a more elaborate, hours-long preparation of some complicated recipe, I always set my table to contribute to the mood I’m after.

Any party or gathering that includes a dining should have a wonderfully set table. By the way, today we don’t set the table – we tablescape! Setting your table for a special formal dinner, or any food party for that matter, should be more than the practical arrangement of plates and flatware. Your tablescape should be a work of art that reflects your personality. Not only do you want to give your guests a warm welcome, but also create something special. You want to make beautiful and have fun.

Often when I am designing for a client I am asked to assist with the personal decorating details of china and silverware selection, as well as glassware and other tabletop accessories. These selections often relate to the room’s décor and color; however, I also encourage them to make flexible and adaptable choices to support a variety of looks. Here is where we have fun with  table linens, china, cutlery, centerpieces, and other accessories. When done carefully these clients have endless possibilities.

Sometimes it is best to begin with a consideration of the table. Its color and its shape can help dictate some choices. Since I love both the color and pattern of the veneer on my table I often forgo a tablecloth and use placemats. I have several sets in different colors and patterns to fit the mood of the occasion. Instead of buying holiday-themed sets of placemats I have purchased ones in colors that evoke the spirit of the holiday without featuring turkeys, Christmas trees, or Easter bunnies.This allows me to use them at other times of the year.  The same goes for napkins, of which I have different sets in varying colors and patterns that I can mix and match to fit the mood. Sometimes I enjoy using a tablecloth for a more formal setting. White works well but tossing other colors on top can add lots of delight as can the reflective glimmer when I bring out the chargers.

In addition, like many of you, I have several sets of very different china. All a different mood but also compliment the colors in my dining room and its vividly hued, unusually square-shaped Oriental rug. Sometimes I even mix them. Surprise can be festive – and if the dinner has turned out too well – a nice distraction.

If I am setting the table for a more casual dinner with the Fiestaware I will use my everyday stainless steel flatware. When using other patterns I break out the silver from the sideboard. Yes, it means more clean-up – dishwashers are not allowed! Anyway, what good is it to have it and never use it?  While my stemware is simple my water goblets are more substantial cut glass.

But that’s not all. Once the basics are on the table it is time to consider the bling -  decorative accessories like the centerpiece, candles, and any other items to add interest. The centerpiece will indeed take center-stage and can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. Fresh seasonal flowers are always a sure bet, just be sure to arrange them in a height that does not block the view of guests from each other across the table. Napkin rings, place-card holders, salt cellars, candles, and even figurines can help add sparkle and evoke a theme or mood. The goal is to arrange items in varied heights, textures, and colors to create a pleasing composition.

Think of setting the table in the same manner in which you would decorate a room. With a little thought, creativity, and personalization you can create an eventful visual feast for your guests to compliment your culinary feast.

Contemporary Kitchen Design Trends

Gregory Vaughan - Sunday, August 01, 2010

When I decided to remodel the kitchen in my historic Savannah home 10 years ago I was presented with a dilemma stylistically speaking. Since I was gutting the space, I had a blank slate with which to work. Weeks were spent exploring different layouts to maximize counter and storage space and to create an efficient work area. Once I had exhausted all the possibilities for the location of appliances and fixtures and had decided upon the best arrangement, I then had to decide on a style in which to execute the design. I found myself facing the same question I pose to my clients, “Where do we want to go with this as far as the look and feel of the space?”

I knew I did not want a “period” themed kitchen. My home was built in 1890 in the Queen Anne style and while I do embrace the high ceilings, detailed moldings and ceiling medallions found elsewhere in the house, I did not wish to replicate an old-fashioned Victorian kitchen. There would be no pressed-tin ceilings, no old-fashioned style appliances, and absolutely no “hokey” nods to the past. I wanted a modern, bright, clean-lined space to indulge my burgeoning hobby of culinary experimentation. Contemporary was the way to go.

The layout of my home has the kitchen somewhat segregated from the rest of the house so it was easy to make a change in décor. Since the new floorplan of the space required closing up an existing window, I gave careful consideration to the finishes. Natural maple cabinetry with simple detailing was chosen to keep the mood light as was a “barely there” green color for the wall paint. The only concessions were a darker green accent wall and Ubatuba granite for the countertops. Stainless steel appliances add a subtle matte-silver sparkle and are echoed in the stainless steel sink and simple, round cabinet and drawer knobs.

The options today for contemporary styled kitchen design are endless. The proliferation of television shows and shelter magazines devoted to the subject abound and today’s consumer has a multitude of styles and influences at their fingertips. Whether you are a serious cook or just want to look like one, your kitchen can be your laboratory and playground, a showplace to wow your family and friends.

The European design trends are leading the way; think Italian, German, and Scandinavian. Form follows function as is exemplified by asymmetrical layouts, intelligent space-planning, and slick execution. The appliances are celebrated and not disguised or hidden with cabinet panel fronts. Dishwashers are elevated for ease of use as are microwave drawers. Exhaust hoods are incorporated as focal points instead of hidden behind fake cabinetry. Appliance garages are just that; a space to park toasters, electric can-openers, and mixers when not in use and to keep clutter to a minimum, maximizing counter space.

Slab-front cabinet doors in glossy enamel or exotic veneers such as Zebrano wood or bamboo are alternatives to the more traditional cherry or oak options. Frosted or ribbed glass inserts offer a different choice and look wonderful when lit from within. Full-height backsplashes of granite or man-made materials replace decorative tile and mosaic ones and provide a grout-free surface for ease of cleaning. Simple bull-nosed or eased-edge countertops are less fussy to their beveled and ogee edged counterparts. The lack of superfluous molding and ornamentation pares down the kitchen to its ultimate function. The celebration of simple forms brings forth the idea of the kitchen as a space to focus and prepare food, which is, in a sense, what it is all about in the first place.

A decade later I am still happy with my choices. The design has held up well and still feels fresh and timeless. It has provided me with an efficient and functional space to cook and entertain my guests with my culinary endeavors, which have greatly improved as well, no doubt from the confidence the well designed space affords me.

PHOTO CAPTION: This slick and modern style kitchen, designed for European clients, brings many hallmarks of contemporary kitchen design to the Lowcountry, including a mix of light veneer and dark enamel cabinetry, a stainless steel appliance garage door, and over-sized, sleek hardware.

Focusing on your Fireplace

Gregory Vaughan - Thursday, July 01, 2010

OK, I know July is an odd month to write a column about fireplaces. With temperatures currently reaching triple digits I doubt anyone in the Lowcountry is pondering lighting a fire at home to ward off a chill. In our mild climate, it is rare that we ever need to actually light a fire at home for warmth, more often than not it is to set a mood. There is something appealing about the sight of flickering flames and the sound of crackling logs. In fact, I have been known to crank the air-conditioning during my annual Christmas party just so I could light the fireplaces in my parlor and dining room for added ambience and Holiday cheer. So, since I am currently helping a client design the fireplaces in her new home under construction in Colleton River, I figured the topic was a good one to expound upon.

No longer used solely for practical uses like heating or cooking, a fireplace is the fundamental symbol of home, the domestic core of warmth and nourishment. It has become a desirable architectural feature. Those of us lucky enough to one or more fireplaces in our homes treat them with a particular reverence. We adorn the mantelpieces with prized possessions, pose for photographs in front of them, and decorate them each season in an almost shrine-like manner.

There is no single, correct location for a fireplace in your house. We typically see fireplaces in living rooms and family rooms where they provide a unique focal point and anchor a room architecturally. Other popular locations are in a study or den or library, often flanked by built-in bookshelves. Over the years I have worked on houses featuring a fireplace in the master bedroom or even the master bath, which takes the idea of tub-side candles a step further. Including a fireplace in these spaces is rarely a necessity but, given the chance – and the budget – most of us would like to have one, even if we never burn a fire in it. The effect can be dramatic even when no fire is burning.

When designing a fireplace it is important to look at all elements of its construction. Think of the fireplace is part of the architecture of a room rather than just pure decoration. It should match the style of the house and be proportioned to the scale of the room. Consider the myriad options for the materials used for its components: the hearth, the firebox lining, the size of the firebox and shape of its opening, the mantel or surround. The possibilities and finishes are endless. Wood, stone tile, brick, and metal can be used in all combinations to create a unique and personal focal point in a room.

For the Colleton River project the architect had already specified a generously scaled fireplace, centered between two banks of windows in the greatroom. It was up to my client and I to decide on the execution of materials. The style of the home is casual and relaxed; a raised cottage that has the look of an old cabin or family retreat that has been added-on to over generations. The vibe inside will be shabby-chic and inviting, reflecting the lush nature of the land and water on display outside the many windows. My client affectionately refers to her new home as “the fish camp” and “tree house” when describing her desires for the décor.

An antique finish brick was chosen to line the fireplace, ensuring an instant patina for the firebox to evoke years of use. A raised hearth was desired to provide bench-height auxiliary seating and to bring the firebox higher for better viewing. A slab of blue-green slate, echoing the lichen on the trees outside, will serve as the surface for the hearth. And a mantel will be made from a reclaimed wood beam to tie in with pieces of driftwood found on the property.

My client is scheduled to move into her new home in December of this year. I am not sure if the weather outside will dictate the need for a fire in her new fireplace to keep warm, but I would not be surprised if she fires it up to roast marshmallows as dessert for a dinner party. It is going to be that kind of house, casual, relaxing, and fun.

CAPTION PHOTO #1 The double-height spaces that appear so often in today’s homes require a strong architectural statement which a tall fireplace and chimney can provide.

Making Your Bed

Gregory Vaughan - Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Did you make your bed this morning? I did. I do every morning. It’s my first task of the day, before I get dressed, before I grab that first cup of java. I guess I was trained that way because as a kid I did not dare to come downstairs for school without making my bed first. My mother instilled a sense of neatness in me from an early age and for that I am forever grateful. It is a good habit. So, while I cannot say it is a routine I find particularly enjoyable, I do find the benefits quite pleasing. There is something soothing about tidying up your personal resting place and having it ready to welcome you in the evening.

What I do enjoy as an interior designer is designing or “dressing” a bed for clients. There are so many components to consider and the myriad styles offer endless possibilities for personalization. It is the spot where my clients start and end their day and I want them to absolutely love it. If they are happy with the end result then I have successfully done my job.

I actually made a lot of beds this morning. Company is coming for a long weekend and I want to ensure peaceful repose for my guests on their holiday. I have 3 people arriving, two adults and their 10-year-old daughter. The parents get the guest room and that means Margaret, my goddaughter, will get the daybed up in the loft, which is a space primarily used as a painting studio. I think she will like the idea of getting “the penthouse” to use as her room and, as a budding artist herself, may find the space inspirational.

Since I only see her a few times a year I wanted to make it special for her visit. I bought a set of pink satin leopard-print sheets to dress the bed, perfect for a little girl. I also found an unusual, bright fuchsia “poodle fur” fuzzy pillow to add an extra hit of texture and glamour. It is something she can take home with her as a memento of her travels and it will go with her pink-themed room at her house in Richmond. And who wouldn’t want to indulge a ten-year-old and help her tap into her inner diva? Well, her mother may not agree with my thinking, but I will deal with that later.

As with so many things in interior design, there are no rules to dressing a bed, however, there are guidelines. Remember, the bed is the main event, it has a prominent role in directing the room’s décor. First and foremost there should be comfort. Make sure the foundation is a good one. If the mattress is lacking in plushness, add a down-feather pillow-topper. Select sheets of a high thread count for a luxurious feel. You can mix patterns: stripes, solids, geometrics or florals. Make sure there are plenty of sleeping pillows, some firm, some soft.

Once you have established the basic foundation it is time to consider the finishing touches. Personally like to use a simple bedcover to build upon, such as an ivory, quilted, matelasse coverlet. I find in our warm climate this is usually enough warmth and can be supplemented with a blanket underneath when needed. Plus this neutral background allows you to add interest with other decorative elements.

When designing a bedscape for a client I try to mix it up a bit. Sure, I could order a “bed-in-a-bag” ensemble but I like to take it a step or two further - not too matchy-matchy and predictable but more thought-out and unexpected. Add a punch of color or texture, try using different size and shapes of pillows: a neckroll, euro-squares, even a sphere.

A bed should be inviting, comforting, and enveloping, as well as being a feast for the eyes. Just remember, in order to enjoy it to the fullest when you crash in the evening it need to be made up in the morning.


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