17 November 2009

From my portfolio: this was my favorite job of the year

I spent the early part of 2009 working on a renovation that ended up transforming a home. I don't usually publish a whole lot of my work here, but I'm particularly proud of this one.

Like a lot of homes built in the early '80s, this one was full of unnecessary, non-structural walls and dropped ceilings. I met the clients in question in late January and luckily, I took a couple of photographs of their home as it was the first time I saw it. Here's one:

In this photo, I am standing at the entrance to the kitchen from the breakfast nook and I'm looking toward the dining room and the front of the house. Remember that perspective. Running along the left side of that photo is a nonsensical hallway and here's the entrance to it:

That hallway was restricting the space I had available for the kitchen, but inside of its dropped ceiling was a whole host of AC equipment. Losing the ceiling and the hallway was going to make this a pretty extensive renovation. Here's the floorplan as I found it:

The kitchen was shoved into that space on the left side of the compound angle wall. Compound angle walls are a particular pet peeve of mine and I couldn't wait to get in there and bring some efficiency and some decent sight lines to this family's life.

Once I started drawing, I removed the angles and drew in a very large island.

The island needed to do a couple of things. It had to hold the sink and the dishwasher of course, but I also had to be able to hide a big espresso and coffee machine. The appliance in question is 17 inches tall, and I knew a normal raised bar wasn't going to cut it.

I called in my favorite contractor Tim Brandt from TNC Builders and we started hashing out a plan to remove everything I wanted to remove.

At around the same time that I was playing around with layouts, my pals at Google SketchUp asked me if I had a model they could use at their trade show booth at KBIS in Atlanta and the AIA show in San Francisco.
So I sent them one of my early concept drawings.

This was pretty early into the process and my clients hadn't even seen it yet. It was helpful to get an idea out there though. By the time I had everything worked out, my idea had changed a little but the concept was pretty set.

Here's what I showed my clients and what they signed off on. The raised section on the left side finished off at 54 tall as measured from the floor to the top of the counter.

I specified a wide-style Shaker cabinet door in cherry with a dark brown, nearly black stain on it.

This is pretty close to the stain color.

The floors were going to get a travertine-looking porcelain. I picked a 19" tile and I wanted it to be set on the diagonal through the whole back of the house.

The final tile was one very similar to this one from Mohawk.

I still like blue and brown color combinations, despite the conventional wisdom about them. So when it came to lighting, I looked to my old standbys, Besa Lighting.

This is Besa's Sasha II line-voltage halogen and the shade is in their Granite glass. I also used a flexible monorail from W.A.C.

The enormous island was showing a lot of back and I thought it would be a great canvas to cover in a glass tile.

This is Montana from Emenee and I ended up wrapping every exposed inch of the island and the back wall in it.

The counter is a sand-colored quartz composite from Cambria.

The kitchen faucet is the Clairette by Kohler and the sink is the Poise, also by Kohler.

The hardware is a steel bar pull from Schaub and Company, the bar stools are the Radius from Room and Board and the appliances are from KitchenAid. Hmmm, I think I have everything covered now.

So without further ado, here's how the room ended up.

And If you remember the first photo at the beginning of the post, I took it while I was standing at the dinette. Well, here's that same perspective now.

Let's see that before again:

Back in July, I wrote a post about a floor transition I'd designed and was very happy about. Here's the photo of my S curve transition.

Well, that transition was done for this project. It's kind of hard to see but the flexible track on the range and refrigerator side of the kitchen has the same S curve as the transition between the kitchen and the dining room has. Pretty slick if I may say so myself.

So bottom line, my clients spent somewhere around $60,000 for this entire project. That included a significant amount of construction as well as removing the popcorn ceilings from everywhere in the house. We were within the range of our original budget before the add-ons got added on. We started the tear out in May of '09 and walked out for the last time the first week in July. That's a nine week completion and we brought it in on budget.

And that is about as full a description of what I do as I can muster. You may now leave glowing comments. Hah!

16 November 2009

It's a warehouse sale at Form Plus Function

BiBiBiBi by Ingo Maurer

Form Plus Function is on my short list of favorite online sources for modern and contemporary lighting. They stock and sell all of the greats and I can usually find anything I need somewhere on that extensive website. I have an unusually difficult time finding lighting sources locally. Oh they're here. And how. But have yet to find a lighting source that's capable of returning a phone call let alone delivering my lighting in anything close to a reasonable time frame. It's an endless source of irritation.

I prefer to do business with local, independent vendors. But when my local independents don't seem to want my business, I take it online.

OK, with that off my chest, Form Plus Functions is having a warehouse sale and there are some real deals to be had. Form Plus Function sells lighting by my favoritest lighting designer Ingo Maurer. I have never seen Ingo Maurer originals go on sale in my life and it must be a sign of the times.

Birdie's Nest by Ingo Maurer

Ingo Maurer is a German typographer turned lighting designer with a world wide following. His fixtures are functional art and feature a perspective that amuses as it illuminates. His work walks a line between the conceptual and the practical. Improbable though his work looks, it never loses sight of the fact that at the end of the day it's still a light fixture.

Floatation by Ingo Maurer

So of course, in addition to Ingo Maurer, Form Puls Function stocks such notable brands as Besa, Artemide, Flos, Tech Lighting, W.A.C., George Kovacs, Modernica, Hubbardton Forge and too many more to list here. Seriously, their warehouse sale is not a gimmick, check it out if you're in the market for new lighting.

Oh Mei Ma White by Ingo Maurer

15 November 2009

Hugs not bugs

A couple of weeks ago, I started reading a new (for me) design blog called Doorknob. Like just about everything new and interesting I find any more, I found @doorknobdesign on Twitter. Doorknob is run out of New York and it's the project of a man named Kurt Kohlstedt. He finds some great things, give him a peruse the next time you're looking for some inspiration.

Anyhow, he was tweeting about a fantastic ceiling he'd found the other day and I followed his link back to the story. I was floored by it. Bah dum bum. Yes, I was floored by it. Here are the photos he ran. 

Pretty cool, huh? That ceiling is an installation in the Royal Palace in Brussels and it's the project of an artist named Jan Fabre.

It gets better. Here's a close up shot of the ceiling and you can really see how textured it is.

Even closer. Guess what it's made from.

That ceiling is a mosaic, for lack of a better term, made from the shells of 1.3 million jewel beetles. Jewel beetles are members of the family Buprestidae, and the particular Buprestid here is Sternocera aequisignata from Thailand. 

S.aequisignata is a food source in Thailand and Fabre set up a cottage industry in Bangkok to gather enough beetle shells to make his ceiling. Beetle shells that would have been discarded get upcycled here in every sense of the word. Along the way, some people who's lives aren't real fun got to make some money from what would have been their garbage. That's what I call a win win and the result is some downright arresting art.

So what do you think? Did Fabre usher in a new era in the decorative arts? Will we see beetle shell ceilings in the US any time soon? I can't wait to find out. Thanks Doorknob!

14 November 2009

I'll pass on the man cave

I had a color scheme rejected this week for being "too feminine." I was confused by this because the pooh poohed colors were shades of gray and yellow but I suppose I was pushing someone out of his comfort zone somehow. Ordinarily, having an idea or a plan shot down is no big deal. I mean, it comes with the territory, but what bothered me about this particular rejection was the reason. Even though he really liked it, he couldn't bring himself to commit to it because somewhere in his mind he made up a story that it was too feminine. Too feminine? What the hell does that mean anyhow? The only way that color plan was going to end up looking feminine was if someone painted a vagina on the wall.

That wasn't what my design was calling for by the way.

Anyhow, it led me back to a pet peeve of mine --this idea that there are things that are inherently masculine and other things that are inherently feminine. Colors can't have a gender and sofas aren't segregated by sex. It's just stuff. Judgments about the relative masculinity and femininity of stuff says more about the person who's describing them thus than it does the object in question.

This is feminine:

This is masculine:

Short of physical depictions of gender, anything else is cultural. It's also arbitrary and no more an inherent condition than any other cultural norm you can think of. These norms change all the time and even when they're in place they aren't at all consistent. Here's an example. Conventional wisdom holds and accepts the idea is that depictions of flowers are inherently feminine. I say even that's a load of Bull.

This is an anthurium. Is it feminine?

Here's a Hydranora africana. What would you call it?

My intention here is not to get into some debate about real gender differences and conflicts, what I'm talking about are the made up ones. Generalizations that relegate men to man caves (ugh) and women to kitchens. Moronic ideas that hold women to a standard that says they should be able to create a gracious and tasteful home single handedly. Equally moronic ideas that hold men responsible for car maintenance and outdoor grills.

It's all a load. Those cultural norms may define some people's actual preferences and skills, but I bet they don't describe most peoples'. Lord knows they don't describe mine and I'm somebody who's generally comfortable with most things expected of my gender. I know too that those norms don't define my squirrely client either. Enough stupid HGTV programming about so-called man caves have him convinced that grey and yellow is feminine and that's a shame.

I keep going back to what I always go back to. Your house should look like you live in it. Not anyone else.

13 November 2009

Caesarstone has a new direction in Motivo

Caesarstone is my favorite quartz composite, bar none. They have the most interesting palette and the most adventurous selection of surface finishes. Unlike the rest of the quartz composite brands out there, Caesarstone speaks the language of design and architecture. They practically challenge us to find unique uses for their surfaces and their website and product galleries are a great source of inspiration. Caesarstone practically begs to be turned into furniture or wall sheathing or shower stalls or even floors. It's amazingly useful and versatile stuff.

A year or so ago, I started to see patterned surfaces made from Caesarstone and I wrote a post about it last October. My first exchange with Ann Porter from KitchAnnStyle came about as a result of these patterned surfaces. Back then, people were sandblasting Caesarstone to get the textures I was seeing and I was smitten completely.

Well, Caesarstone was paying attention because at KBIS last year, they previewed a new collection called Motivo, and Motivo has two available embossed finishes.

Unlike the sandblasing that had been done to completed slabs, these embossed patterns are produced by Caesarstone and are guaranteed for life. Kudos to Caesarstone for listening and wow are these new patterns beautiful or what?

For now there are two patterns in the Motivo collection. Knowing Caesarstone though, this is just the start of something. But in the meantime, imagine a shower in crocodile. Cool!