Thursday, September 26, 2013

Satin Nickel is SO over-rated

This might surprise some of you, but I have a secret love affair with antique brass and bronze hardware.  My clients almost never request it, but I'm holding out, in hopes that one day, that magic client will come along who shares my passion for all things vintage, old, and off-the-beaten path.  There are so many beautiful, classic kitchens that would benefit from a little bling, in the form of antique brass cabinet pulls, lighting, or faucet fixtures.  Not convinced?  Where's here's a little peak at some of the "pretties" that catch my eye....

Jeffrey Alexander MO6373 Belcastle Flat Bottom Pull
Cabinet Pull by Jefferey Alexander.  Finish: Antique Brass with Dull Lacquer

And let's see, what should we pair with that?  Imagine beautiful white cabinets, maybe with a farmhouse sink, classic Carrara marble countertops, subway tile backplash.....and how about a matching Brass, bridge-style faucet?  The brass faucet would develop a wonderful patina over time and give a kitchen that cozy, lived-in feel.

Rohl Bridge Faucet #U.4751L in Inca Brass (also available w/ side spray)

Then for lighting, I'd throw in a group of mini pendants that had a touch of brass as well.  I'm swooning over the industrial fixtures that so popular right now.  It seems that everyone has their own version of them.  This one is by Restoration Hardware and I adore the contrast of the crisp, white Milk glass shade against the aged steel. Then--there it is---the brass accent!  It pops out like a little bit of sunshine, making the whole composition sing.  Love, love, love.  Can I have you?  Pretty please.

Milk Glass Filament 11" Pendant Aged Steel
Restoration Hardware Milk Glass Filament 11"Pendant

So what would this dream kitchen look like all pulled together?  Well, I haven't created this one yet, but if I do, I will be sure to share some photos.  For now, here are some other inspiration shots (taken from Pinterest), thanks to other lucky designers whose clients aren't afraid to ditch drab Satin Nickel for gorgeous Brass.

the cover of the latest issue of Canadian House & Home outta my head! Then when I watched the video tour by Suzanne Dimma I fell pretty hard for those cabinets. The home was designed by stylist Sasha Seymour, and believe it or not that is an IKEA kitchen fitted with gorgeous brass campaign hardware.
Rustic, quirky and charming.  There's so much to gush about in this kitchen.

White Kitchen with brass hardware -looks classy now, fairly easy to update when brass falls out of style (as it inevitably will)
Lovely, classic kitchen, but the real show-stoppers are the island pendants.

Kitchen with Carrara Marble, Dark Wood and  Brass Hardware
The red lantern is a bit much for my taste,  but the brass accents on the range hood are to-die-for.

All white, subway tile, open shelving plus cupboards with brass hardware
All white and delicious.  Love the wicker chairs too.  They lend a nice French flair.

the ladder!
Wow!  Okay, so maybe having ladder in the kitchen is over the top,  but this is stunning!

Kitchen sink with brass faucet
Simple.  Pretty.  Perfect.

The original plan was to replace the oak cabinet doors with new shaker style mdf doors. I found some online for about $30 a door, unpainted. Not bad, but it was still going to be around $600, so now the plan is to just trim out and paint the old doors myself.
And see, you don't have to match all your metals.  Brass can "play nice" with other finishes.

So go on, be brave.  Don't stick to "safe" finishes like Brushed Chrome and Satin Nickel because you think you have to.  Think of your hardware as the jewelry for the room.  Add some bling and watch what happens.  The results might surprise you.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Time to Recharge

Fall container

purple and white ornamental cabbage for fall gardens -

This week has kicked my butt.  Work is booming--which is great, but my gas tank is on empty right now, especially when it comes to all the little "extras" that go along with my profession.  All week long I have been spinning ideas for an interesting and inspiring post, but each time I start mulling over the details, I've realized that the topic was going to require more effort than I could muster at the moment.

I usually draft my posts on Thursday afternoons, when my son is in preschool for a couple hours.  Today though, the sun was shining, the weather was unseasonably warm and I thought, "Forget the blog, I'm going for a walk!"  Decision made.  No regrets.  The walk was glorious and just what I needed to clear my head.  I felt inspired by the whispers of Fall, the seasonal color, and the new decorative pots neighbors are sporting by their front doors.  I thought to myself, "That's what I'll do this afternoon.  I'll buy new plants for my pots out front."  I picked up my youngest son from preschool and we ran our errands.  I even stopped by the hardware store and looked at plants.  But that nagging little voice in my head said, "Don't bother buying them today.  You don't have the time or energy." Usually I don't listen to that voice, but today I did.

Then tonight, I was supposed to go to a design-related event at a big appliance showroom.  I have been pumped about this event for weeks and was really looking forward to attending.  They were previewing all the latest home appliance models and the sneak peak could have made for an awesome design post.  But when 4:00 pm rolled around (about the time I should have been getting ready to go), where was I?  Crashed out on the couch.  Like I said, this week has kicked my butt.

Now I'm feeling guilty.  I got nothing.  Even a super-mom/designer-extraordinaire like me has her limits. :-) Next week will be better, I promise.  I'll buy my plants, do some potting, pump out more great design ideas for my clients, and share photo updates of some of the fun projects that are sapping my energy at the moment.  There's good stuff just around the corner.  With two homes under construction, a third about to break ground, and a handful of home decor projects underway, there's bound to be something exciting to share.  For now, I'll hit the hay, get some much-needed rest, and dream of a pretty Fall garden.
container gardening & those lanterns

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The One-Year Bath

Today is a BIG day for me.  One year ago, I convinced my husband to tear apart our very ghetto, very 70's master bath, even though we didn't really have sufficient plans or funds to put it back together in an efficient manner.  I jokingly said, "I don't care if it takes us six months to finish this bath! I just can't stand it one day longer, and at least if it's torn apart, we'll have to work on it bit by bit until it's done."  (I'm all about forward progress.)  Not fully convinced, my sweet husband agreed to start tearing up the bath, just to keep me happy.

Before Shot--tiny sink, carpet (yuck!), and a weird, little shower/toilet room that felt dark and claustrophobic.

Notice the lack of a door to separate the vanity from the bedroom.  This drove me crazy in the morning when I was trying to sleep and my husband was getting ready for work.  And what's with all those mirrored doors???

And so demo began.  Boy, were we thrilled with the results!  Tearing down the closet wall on the left and the toilet/shower wall on the right instantly made the space feel SO much bigger.  I think at this point, even my husband caught the vision and was glad I had talked him into starting the project.

Demo Phase--closet wall gone.

Demo Phase--toilet/shower wall and pocket door removed.

So little by little, we proceeded to work on the bath.  My joke about the 6-month project quickly turned into a reality.  The months crept by and progress was very slow.

In the early months, I worked on a floor plan; one which evolved to include both a tub and a walk-in shower, something we had previously not thought possible.  With efficient planning, we decided we could fit in both.  Next, I was on to shopping.  I went to a local plumbing showroom to check out the goods.  (This is always the fun part!  You're still in the dreaming stage, where budget and reality haven't fully sunk in.)  My first "find" was floor model tub, for sale at a deeply discounted price.  It offered sufficient size for comfortable soaking, but was not so wide that it wouldn't fit in our still rather small footprint.

The tub:  I didn't like the legs, so I decided we would use it as a drop-in model by building it a platform.

The next find was a lovely pedestal sink with chrome polished console.  By this point, I had decided that the look of our bath was going to be "rustic meets luxury", so a little sparkle was just enough to make my heart sing!  The faucet, seen here, was chosen from a wall display and oh-so-conveniently placed on the floor model sink to confirm that the two were a match made in heaven.  A little old-world for me, a little sleek and contemporary for my husband, and quality German engineering to-boot.

The pedestal sink and chrome console I choose.
Framing went up rather quickly, thanks to a good friend who doesn't mind doing little side jobs for us on the weekend. (Always good to know folks like that!)  Once framing was complete, we had the plumbing rough- in done.  That part was painful and very expensive.  Needless to say, our lack of proper planning and budgeting really bit us here.  Plumbing proved so expensive that we had to just put the project aside for a few months in order to let our wallets recover.  Thankfully, the next phase--electrical rough-in--wasn't nearly so bad.  

Here we sit, fixtures in hand, waiting for electrical help.

Finally, electrical rough-in was completed and insulation and drywall went up--also relatively inexpensive.    Then we sat around some more, gathering funds to put towards the next big ticket item--tile.  Happily, I did score an awesome deal on marble tile at my local Home Depot. (Yes, even designers shop there.)  I just happened upon it: 12x12 marble tiles for less than $2/sq ft!  The only hitch was that the existing stock was terribly flawed and I had to stand in the store for hours, picking through boxes and boxes of the stuff in order to find enough good pieces to use.  (Just FYI, the boxes were already opened, so apparently I wasn't the first to do this!)  When we had enough money saved up, we called the tile installers and they did an amazing job making my bargain tile look beautiful and expensive.  With the tile in, it was starting to look like a real bathroom.  I was happy about that, but then again, checking the calendar, we were at month 8 and still no finished bath!

Tile's in and trim work/bead board are done.  Just working on paint.

To give the room that rustic balance, I choose to clad most of the walls in full-height bead board.  I painted it white to give it a little of that cottage charm that I love so much.  The painting we did ourselves.  We don't always have the time or skills to do these home improvement projects, but painting is one task we can always handle ourselves to save a little moolah.

Along the way, there were also other little DIY projects.  Seen below is a wall shelf I picked up at a TJ Maxx store.  I loved the rustic quality and the exaggerated shape of the support brackets, but dark green color just wasn't going to cut it.  I painted it white to match the bead board and decided it would be just the thing over the toilet.

Painting Project--decorative shelf.
By this time we were in the home stretch.  Or so we thought.  We nearly died when we got a quote for the final plumbing trim out.  It was double what we expected to pay.  We were told that our sink consoles were very tricky (okay, but I still loved them) and that my bargain tub wasn't such a bargain (lesson learned there). Setting the tub was going to be a big job.  And so we sat.  Month 10 and still no bath.  Then finally, a breakthrough.  Our fabulous tile installers referred a plumber to us whose rates were much more reasonable.  Things were starting to look up.  The plumbing was installed at month 11 and everything was in working order.  Almost.  We still didn't have a proper glass shower enclosure and that too would have to wait....again....very expensive.

And here we are today.  Twelve months later.  It's a special day!  The shower glass was delivered and installed and I finally have a proper master bath.  Boy, was it worth the wait!  It's just the right mix of fancy and shabby, small but "lives large", both Sheila AND Dave.  Gone is the ghetto bath, the shag carpeting, the popcorn ceiling, and the weird shower cave.  Tomorrow morning when I shower in there, I'm going to feel like I have arrived.  And just in time.  Tomorrow is another big day.  I'm turning 40.   Maybe it won't be such a bad day after all.  Forty feels pretty good if it means getting your own little slice of spa perfection in the morning.

Ahh--complete! (will share more "after" photos in a future post)

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Garden Rock Stars

Fall is clearly just around the corner.  While the daytime temperatures are still warm, the mornings have been cool and misty, with the yard showing signs of overnight rain.  This time of year always makes me a little sad.  Not only is the carefree playfulness of summer coming to an end, but the peak of the gardening season is over and the plants are starting to look a little tired.  The colors start to fade and some of the plants begin to die back.  Everything takes on a more subtle appearance as Fall creeps in.

Thanks goodness for a few late-season winners that keep things looking pretty for just a little while longer!  These are my garden "rock stars."   My personal favorite is Rudbeckia hurta, or Black Eyed Susans.  (Even the name sounds like a rock band!)  It kick-starts the garden again with a giant dollop of gold and black and makes gray-skied days a little less bleak.  The other great thing about Black Eyed Susans is that they are prolific and easy to grow.  If you add 4-5 starts in one small area, by the next season they will have quickly filled in, creating a giant mass of blooms and greens, in only one year's time.  Who doesn't want their garden to go from baby-starts to full-blown gorgeous in as little time as possible!?!

Black Eyed Susans pair nicely with Sedum Autumn Joy, seen above in the center foreground.  As the season progresses, the Sedum will change color, deepening from soft pink, to dark pink, to dusty red.  The other flower I like to pair with my Black Eyed Susans are Penstemons, particularly the deeper shades shade varieties, as seen on the far left.  This one is called "Firebird" Penstemon, and I love its  deep pink hue--perfect for my (front yard) garden's color scheme of gold, yellow, hot pink, red, and deep burgundy.   The other interesting note about this type of Penstemon, is that last year, when I clipped the seed heads off in late Fall, the stems and leaves stayed green and lush all through Winter and into early Spring, when I finally trimmed them back to encourage new growth.  They never went through the usual dying-back process--unusual for a perennial.

Another great find (I have my husband to thank for this one) is this "Flame" Salvia greggii, seen below.  I LOVE the unusual color combination--deep burgundy stems, contrasting with the vibrant red flower heads.  Like most salvias, it likes full sun, but this one is unique in that it grows to 30-36"high.  It's definitely an attention grabber!  After we planted it last year, I was worried that it wouldn't be hardy or come back the next Spring, but lo and behold, it did!  (I've had my fairs share of disappointments that way, so it's fun to find a plant that looks tropical and somewhat exotic, but can withstand NW winter temperatures.)

In general, deep burgundy foliage seems to be a favorite of mine and I have to be careful not to over do it!  I love the way it contrasts with all the green of the garden and adds color even when something's not in bloom.  One stroll through my garden and you'll quickly notice the repetition of this shade of red.  I have a new plant I'm trying out, called "Mahogany Splendor" Hibiscus. (See image below) It doesn't really produce flowers of any significance, but the leaves themselves are decorative and attractive on their own, with their rich color and delicate ruffled edges.  I'm excited to see the drama this plant will lend to the garden when it reaches it's full height: a whopping 5ft!  Right now I have it paired with Japanese Anemones (pink version)--also long and leggy.  They should be fun combination in a couple years as they both fill in. 

(Red-leafed Hibiscus plant w/ Japanese Anemone in the background)

And speaking of "filling in," we have some new areas of the garden (back yard) that are freshly planted and in need of some filling!  This summer my husband and I decided to work on the bare patch of planting bed that separates our back lawn from the private golf course beyond.  We added some salvaged stepping stones, laid in a meandering fashion, and then started filling in some of the blanks with ground covers, ferns, hostas, and hydrangeas.  It doesn't look like much at the moment, but I am SO excited to see how this develops over the next couple years.  It's a very shady area, but I think I'm really going to enjoy this part of the yard, especially when the hydrangeas are in bloom.  Next year, I'm sure we'll add a few more plants, after we've had a chance to see how it looks in all four seasons.  Here's what it looks like now:

Like most things in life, gardens are always a work in progress and never perfect.  There's always something that needs pruning, relocating, or filling in, and there are endless possibilities when it comes to plant pairings and garden design. When I retire from interior design someday, (laughing) odds are pretty good that you'll find me in my garden, trying to perfect that other imperfect art form, garden composition.  For now, I'm the happy weekend novice, getting my hands a little dirty and appreciating the beauty of God's creation.  Here are a few more photos I took of views around the yard.  A little past their Summer prime, but beautiful in their own way.  Enjoy!