Gregory Vaughan - Friday, October 03, 2008

Well, I went and did it. I joined Facebook. Don’t ask me to explain it.
I can’t really.  But, before long I was connected to college friends for the first time in ions. Catching up has been a lot of fun - especially comparing notes about families and the different paths our careers had taken us since graduation.

Yet, I have learned that email doesn’t always serve to adequately communicate with these formerly long lost friends. Sometimes I have found I do something really crazy and old fashioned. I pick up the telephone.

The other evening I was speaking with another interior designer who lives in Richmond. She inquired where I find inspiration for design after doing it for so long? “It’s not always easy,” I explained. “But, after 18 years in the profession, I feel I have ways to understand what a client needs. But sometimes the spark that ignites the whole creative process is a simple as just opening your eyes and looking around you. I often find I take a cue from my surroundings.”

“You sound like Professor Norton,” she chimed in referencing one of our most engaging and demanding professors in college. “I feel like I am back in our color theory class again.” 

“Exactly,” I said. “That’s how I approach it.”

I am constantly fascinated by color and light and how they interact with each other. Like the great Venetian painters of days past, countless artisans have recognized that their environment is filled with a dazzling array of colors to draw from.

Not too long ago I was on my morning walk with my dog Louie along the leisure trails of Moss Creek Plantation. At one point, I became intrigued by the complexity and variety of color on a particular palm tree along the path. The morning light was hitting it just so. What we might easily call a gray/beige tree trunk was, upon closer inspection, a complex symphony of cool, soft, mossy greens over a driftwood-gray background, with hints of golden amber and burnt sienna.  I was in awe. (Professor Norton would be proud of my color assessment.) It was beautiful. I snapped a close-up with my digital camera to be included in my inspirations library for future reference.

The following week a client and I were in the studio and talking about the color palette for her new home. After having worked with her over the past few months, I feel I understand her stylistic tastes. She has an easy-going personality and quiet demeanor. A Chinese red dining room was certainly not in the cards for her.

“I want to show you something,” I said as I pulled up the photo of the palm tree on the computer. “Just look at these colors! You love the coast, the beach and want a casually elegant home. You must have 30 palm trees on your lot. Why don’t we take some direction from this?” We had our inspiration and were off and running.

A trip to a stone and tile vendor was our first stop in search of some special granite to top the central island of her (soon to be fabulous) kitchen. We found the perfect match with green mearsk. The composition of colors in the crystals embodies all the colors we wanted to use throughout the house and look surprisingly like those in the inspiration photo. 

From there we looked at paint and textiles. The paint selections were easy, I just pulled out some of the subtly contrasted ivory, moss, amber, and driftwood hues from the photo. For the fabrics we went a little bolder with color and pattern including a wheat and mocha colored zebra print and a teal and amber coral-pattern chenille. Looking at all the samples assembled together gave us a great idea of what the final installation will look like.

“Well, it sounds like you’ve got the inspiration aspect nailed-down,” the Richmonder said. “I’m so glad we have reconnected with each other. Facebook is great!  But, before we hang up, I have one other question. Where do you get ideas to write your column?”

I laughed to myself and then replied, “Oh, I’ve often found I can count on my wonderful college buddies for that.”

Designing Bedrooms

Gregory Vaughan - Friday, June 27, 2008

“Mmmmmm. What were they thinking?” I muttered to myself as Tammy, my realtor, lead me to the master bedroom of a condo I was considering for purchase last year.

We had already toured the foyer, guest bedroom and bath, kitchen and marvelous great room of the furnished villa. I liked it. Bright, open spaces were complemented by a splendid marsh view. I knew I would eventually paint and replace some furniture, but overall it was certainly “do-able” as a weekend retreat for my family, my friends and, of course, me to enjoy.

My excitement did diminish as soon as my eyes focused on the contents of the master bedroom. A makeshift king size headboard created from two very spindly twin headboards poorly fastened together, mismatched pseudo-colonial furnishings combined with a somewhat tired and dated golf-motif décor gave me pause. Prominently featured was a wallpaper boarder of knicker-clad men putting. “I’m not sure I can sleep in here!” I blurted. “Tammy, don’t get me wrong, I like golf. However, this is not really the personal retreat I had envisioned."

Tammy laughed. “Well, it was on the rental market, besides I’m sure you have some connections and will transform it into whatever you want it to be.”

Time flies, and as I recalled that conversation it made me think about a subject for this column. Why do we always seem to concentrate on designing and decorating the rooms where we entertain guests more than we think about our own bedroom? What a shame. After all, the reward of a carefully designed bedroom that reflects our aesthetic and contributes to our serenity is too important to neglect.  If this is selfish, so be it!

First, consider what you want. Restful? Warm? Romantic? Do you want a bright space when you awaken or a darker space to fall asleep? Then, think about the opportunities you see to make it happen in the space you have. Cozy is great.  Over crowded isn’t. Combining appropriately scaled furnishings with the other decorative elements of the room including fabrics, wall color, lighting, window treatment, and art will ensure a pleasing environment for this most special place.

Tammy called me this week to say hello and see how I was enjoying the condo on the anniversary of the closing. “I bet you have made a few changes,” she said. “Do you still have that border in the bedroom? I know you were particularly fond of that!”

“It was one of the first things to go,” I replied.

The room now sports a cool shade of tropical teal paint on three walls with a natural-toned, linen texture wall covering on the wall behind the bed. The wimpy, makeshift headboard is gone. In its place an ivory, padded leather one of proper scale (perfect for resting against while reading) and the mismatched bed-side tables have been replaced with a gorgeous antique trunk on one side and rattan nesting tables on the other. The faded, plaid comforter has been laid to rest and now an off-white, diamond-quilted, coverlet dresses the bed with piles of blue and green pillows in silks and linen fabrics. The room makes me immediately feel calm and relaxed.

The condo is coming along and I am happy with all the spaces. The great room is comfortable and inviting, the dining room has a touch of drama and the kitchen is nicely updated. However, I must confess that my bedroom trumps all the other spaces. While I am still living with the dresser that came with the place, it works well. My bedroom has become my peaceful getaway when my friends and family visit as well as when I’m there all by myself.

Bedrooms are our private sanctuaries. Spaces where we begin our days and retreat to for rest and relaxation. Bedrooms should provide comfort and calm from our fast-paced lives -- a special, tranquil place to unwind and dream. Does yours? If not, make it so. Sometimes it’s okay to be a little selfish. 

Trends for 2008

Gregory Vaughan - Monday, December 31, 2007

To quote Heidi Klum, “In the world of fashion, one day you’re in, and the next, you’re out!” (Yes, it is a guilty pleasure and I will admit it, I am a fan of Project Runway.) As I listened to her deliver one of her trademark catchphrases during this week’s episode, I thought about how this edict applies to interior design as well. Think about it, what was popular and all the rage a few years ago is now looking a little tired and stale.

I have always noticed that what walks down the runway eventually trickles down to trends in interior design and decoration. Just look at the number of fashion designers who now have their own lines of furniture, bedding, and accessories. Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and Liz Claiborne (even Heidi’s sidekick Michael Kors) have all launched distinctive housewares and lifestyle collections that echo their respective design signatures and philosophies.

My recent buying trip to AmericasMart Atlanta last month for the Winter 2008 trade show was like being in New York’s Grant Park for fashion week. And, I am happy to report that high fashion is in store for designers and their clients in the upcoming year. It is so exciting to preview the latest styles and interior trends, so here are a few of my impressions and observations for trends this year:

Color is in, and it is more saturated than ever. Bedding, upholstery, artwork, glass and ceramics are sporting brighter hues after past seasons of restrained, muted, tone-on-tone neutrals. Even when used sparingly, this fresh jolt of color will add vibrancy, punch, and enliven the most tired surroundings.

Nailhead trim is being applied to everything, but with an unusual twist, not the seen-it before, typical western motif. In both very sleek contemporary and whimsical applications, I have seen it not only on upholstery, but also casegoods such as tables and bookscases, pottery, even lampshades. The finishes range from tried-and-true old brass to polished chrome, brushed nickel, and oil-rubbed bronze to add pizzazz to each item they embellish.

Animal prints and skin textures were everywhere, both bold and subtle, naturally colored and in colors not found in nature. Zebra still reigns as the most popular, with leopard and alligator running closely behind, but ostrich, elephant and ocelot are all vying for attention as well. A word of caution here, a little goes a long way unless you are purposely trying to achieve a campy look.

Floral patterns with a large scale and retro flair are coming back in vogue as are mod prints with a nod to pop art from the 60’s and 70’s. Anything nature-themed has been stylized and employed as a graphic print motif on textiles and wallcovering. I saw pillowcases and duvets emblazoned with a single, 20 inch diameter poppy or carnation bloom and wallpapers featuring a forest of silhouetted aspen trees.

Capiz shell, mosaic bone patterns, bamboo veneer, lacquer with eggshells, and other handmade elements continue to reflect our current fascination of exotic locales. Think about destinations for restorative retreats and vacations like Bali, Tahiti – all over the South Pacific. The allure of these finishes evokes a relaxing, earthy vibe that is in line with our new eco-friendly lifestyles. With our hectic daily schedules, who does not want to feel as if on a spa holiday even if they were only in their suburban bathroom at home?

What will be emerging at next season’s show? A return to the palette of pastel seafoam greens and mauves of the early 80’s? Let us hope not. As a designer on the island for the past 18 years, I am still not ready to resurrect that particular fashion statement. Some interior trends are like poodle skirts, great for a costume party or school plays, but not something to live with on a day-to-day basis.

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