Granite is ubiquitous

An article in today’s Washington Post talks about an interesting reality: granite has become the standard for countertop material. It describes that homeowners connect with granite on an emotional level, which I truly believe. It has become a status symbol within a home. Homeowners often select the specific piece(s) of granite that are installed in their homes, giving them an even greater bond with the material.

While it has it’s drawbacks (it is possible to crack and chip granite, to stain it with oils and liquids, and to pit it with acids), it is still extremely durable and scrubbable. It complements all styles of decor, from contemporary to traditional, and it has a wide range of price points, from $30/ft and up. It is not surprising that it has become such a popular product because it is darn gorgeous and instantly elevates a kitchen’s attractiveness.

But the question that the article implies (will granite become obsolete and out of style?) is interesting. As a product it has become more and more affordable with time. Extraction and installation methods have become more streamlined and thus, less expensive. But eventually the supply will become more limited, and the product would become more expensive. Perhaps then the alternative slab materials of quartzite and resin materials will begin to gain more steam. There are many man-made products, like Silestone and Zodiaq, that have ideal qualities but aren’t currently as appealing to homeowners. The glitter and gleam of granite and marble are more appealing from an aesthetic viewpoint. But then again, as Formica and other laminates were all the rage for a long time, granite is bound to go out of style at some point. So it is really a question of when and what will replace it?

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Pantone’s 2012 Color

Photo / Pantone

Wow! Pantone’s new color for 2012 packs a punch. Tangerine Tango “is a play on the current global economic status. As the economy slowly but surely turns around, Tangerine Tango is a bold, spirited hue, that, in essence, is meant to offer a boost of energy and encouragement to keep forging ahead.” In small doses it will really liven up a space.

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Biophilia and the importance of interior design

I just read an interesting blog post on metropolismag.com. It discusses biophilia which is ” the apparent instinctive preference we have for certain natural geometries, forms, and characteristics within our environments.” It gives examples in which research proves that connections to the outdoor environment and elements of the natural world within an interior have positive effects on users.

It is logical that humans have a desire and need to have an ordered, attractive environment – otherwise there would be no jobs for interior designers! But it is fascinating to think about the effect that certain additions (and subtractions) can have on the experience and psychology of the end-user.

We all know that sunlight benefits moods and productivity. The article also points out that “researcher Koen Steemers and colleagues at Cambridge University found that the presence of vegetation increases thermal comfort. In principle, that means that simply by adding plants, it’s possible to raise or lower the thermostat and still maintain perceived comfort, while significantly reducing energy loads.” Who would have thought that a little bit of green could make you feel warmer not just in spirit but also in body?

The article cites a study by psychologist Roger Ulrich in the 1980s where he found that having a scenic landscape view rather than a view of a building facade “accounted for significant differences in post-operative complications, recovery times, and need for painkillers” in hospital patients. The visual environment is just as important as the physical environment.

The most interesting aspect of biophilia to me is the idea that “construction is not fundamentally driven by utilitarianism but is instead a contributing factor for our continued health.” If construction was only necessary from a utilitarian standpoint, we wouldn’t have such a rich history of different architectural and design styles. It’s an interesting way to interpret the design field.

 

 

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Chemicals in Crib Mattresses

The Washington Post ran a small article on Thursday that caught my eye: it discusses the “suspect or dangerous” chemicals that are found in the majority of crib mattresses and the steps that are being taken by various organizations to enact more stringent regulation regarding chemical components in children’s products. But more needs to be done to ensure the safety of the innocent bystanders of our inadequate product safety standards.

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Wine Cellars

Photo / Charles River Wine Cellars

While wine storage can be simple wooden racks in a cabinet, true cellar storage is climate-controlled. Keeping wine bottles at a consistent temperature and humidity allows the wine to age properly and keeps the corks from drying out. Undercabinet or freestanding refrigerators have surged in popularity in recent years with homeowners often including them in renovations.

Photo / Galambos Architects

Custom wine cellars, however, are typically only seen in luxury homes with sizes ranging from a small cabinet under a staircase to a large, walk-in wine room dripping with custom wine racks and cabinetry. Custom wine cellars usually start at $20,000, and because it is such a high price point, most homeowners who install a cellar can afford to use the high-end finishes that really add to the ambiance. Wood remains the finish of choice, usually medium to dark in color, accented with stone elements. Wood gives off that warm, rich feeling and is evocative of the barrels in a wine cave.

Photo / Northwestwinecellars.com

There are so many possibilities for wine cellars, and the only constraints are space and, of course, budget. I enjoyed looking at some of the examples shown on AGBeat. I particularly like cellars that have areas and furniture for gathering. I imagine that a wine cellar would be a great place to relax with a glass of wine or entertain guests, and the addition of fabric or leather on seating pieces helps to soften the hard surfaces in the room.

I feel the most successful wine cellar designs are those that incorporate adequate general lighting and attractive accent lighting. With such heavy finishes it is important that the lighting helps to brighten and visually enlarge the space.

 

 

 

 

One really cool kind of cellar is a pre-cast spiral staircase from Spiral Cellars out of the UK that is sunk into the floor, and it holds wine bottles all around the sides of the staircase. It is accessible via a trap door in the floor above! The trap door can be finished with the adjacent floor finish, or it can even be clear glass. I suppose some people want direct access to their cellar without have to take the extra steps of walking down and through a basement to get to the cellar.

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Live Home Front Chat

I had the pleasure of joining The Post’s Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for today’s live Q&A! It was fun, and their readers had some great questions about draperies, flooring, and more. Click here to see the transcript of the chat. It was a fun follow-up to participating in Megan Buerger’s article.

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Eco-friendly nurseries

Illustration by Caroline McCandlish

I participated in a Q&A with The Washington Post to discuss eco-friendly nurseries in today’s paper. The article covers why it is smart and healthy to make sustainable purchases for a nursery, and I even got to contribute my design for a gender-neutral baby room!

 

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Living Room Makeover in The Post

Rendering by McCandlish Design

McCandlish Design is the contributing designer for today’s House Calls article in The Washington Post. The challenge was to turn an incohesive space into a welcoming and functional room for a young family.

The family’s living room wore many hats: living room, family room, play room, and home office. In order to provide more seating, I swapped out their existing sofa for a larger sectional. I positioned the desk so that it backed up against the sectional, creating a physical and visual barrier between the living room and “home office” while hiding the computer and its components. Now the desk serves as a sofa table also, holding two attractive lamps, and its shelves and clutter are sheltered from view when you walk in the room.

In order to give some additional storage for toys, I added a chest with multiple drawers. The existing ottoman was too large and was in the way of the path through the room. So I swapped it for a smaller ottoman that has storage and can still serve as additional movable seating when needed. The family had its television resting on a bureau which provided no storage for the A/V equipment; I included a new TV cabinet with glass that will hold all of the equipment and games while still providing remote control access.

Because the kids are young, the fabrics and finishes needed to be practical. The sectional is a dark brown velvet; the color will hide a multitude of sins, and velvet has great abrasion resistance. The indoor-outdoor rug adds color, hides stains, and it can be rinsed off with a hose! All of the new casegoods have an old, weathered look, so a few nicks and scrapes will blend in. The existing arm chair is recovered in a brown animal print. The animal print keeps the formal chair from feeling too stuffy, and the print will hide stains well.

The existing paint color was a pale, frosty blue. It felt cold to me, so I instead suggested a warm putty color that will provide a warm, neutral tone to the space without feeling too heavy. The Post‘s rendering shows the grey as darker than it is in reality. And in order to let in more light while also accentuating the ceiling height, I moved the draperies outside of the bay window and chose clean off-white panels hung on a simple drapery rod.

The Post didn’t mention my artwork suggestion which is to have several family photos, all different sizes, printed in sepia tones on stretched canvas. Changing the color to sepia ties the artwork in with the rest of the room and turns their photos into art.

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Affordable Table at the Tiffany Suite

Photo / West Elm

As a follow up to my previous Tiffany Suite post, I saw this $199 table in my West Elm catalog today – it sure looks like the same table that is in the $8500 Suite’s living area. I suppose everyone is saving money where they can these days, including the St. Regis.

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Tiffany Suite

 

Photo / St. Regis New York

The Tiffany Suite’s decor at the St. Regis New York is “inspired by gem cuts and features lacquer, chrome, and mirror finishes.” It is an elegant space that is covered with today’s muted neutral palette but spiced up with pops of the iconic Tiffany Blue. It is beautiful, yet fairly understated – and almost underwhelming in terms of the details and swankiness that one would expect from a… gulp… $8,500 a night price tag. I do love the mix of metal finishes and what looks like strands of pearls hanging from the chandelier. The crisp white walls and trim really make the Tiffany Blue stand out.

Photo / St. Regis New York

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Is your kitchen making you fat?

That is the title of an article out of the UK that asserts that the design of today’s kitchen is contributing to our expanding waistlines. Given that the kitchen has quickly become the epicenter of the home, perhaps all of the extra time spent there does equal extra calories being consumed. But I think correlating large fridges, islands, and pantries to weight gain is not fair. The fridge doesn’t make you eat bacon and bonbons. And you don’t have to stock you pantry with sugary, processed foods and drinks. A beautifully designed kitchen increases the efficiency of preparing food (hopefully encouraging home-cooked meals), and it’s up to the homeowner to fill their beautiful new kitchen with healthy foods and eating habits.

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Stocking up on bulbs

CharlotteObserver.com discusses the “bulb backlash” that I wrote about in a previous post. Homeowners are unhappy that incandescent bulbs are being phased out, and some people are stockpiling them!

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Fewer tubs in hotel baths

Photo / Nicki Corrigall, Postmedia News

In reference to my previous post discussing how fewer home owners want jacuzzi tubs in their bathrooms, hotels now want fewer bathtubs in their guest baths too.

It’s a trend that is happening across the spectrum of hotel brands and levels. Hotels are recognizing that most guests prefer to shower rather than take a bath, and a large majority of hotel guests are business travelers who do not have time to take a bath.

I don’t know if I have ever taken a bath in a hotel bathroom – just thinking about the dirty waterglasses makes me think that a hotel bathtub is not the most ideal place to soak!

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Amazing “Lego” Apartment

Photo / inhabitat.com

I can hardly get over how compact and clever this Barcelona apartment is – a full living space crammed into 258 square feet! I once had a 410 sq.ft. efficiency apartment, and I thought that I was roughing it. It is refreshing to see how little space a person actually needs when it is designed well.

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Fortress adaptively reused as boutique hotel

Photo / inhabitat.com

I would love to stay at the Cap Rocat boutique hotel on the island of Mallorca (off of Spain). A former 19th century military fortress, it has been renovated in such a way as to preserve the original essence of the fortress while providing modern guest rooms and amenities. In addition to the adaptive reuse of the original fort structure, the hotel utilizes other eco-friendly methods to reduce its impact on the environment; according to inhabitat.com, “food for the two restaurants is sourced from local and organic farms and recycling has been set at a high priority. The natural swimming pool is a refreshing salt water pool, eliminating the need for unhealthy chlorine to keep the water clean. Moreover, the landscaping and vegetation for the fort was carefully planned to be regionally appropriate with little to no watering necessary.”

Photo / inhabitat.com

It is a good example of protecting architecture of the past from ruins by transforming it into a functional modern building. And at 438+ Euros a night, it must be a spectacular place!

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