Cool Shower Enclosure

Photo | Duravit USA

This shower enclosure design by Duravit is pretty genius. The glass shower enclosure folds against the wall to both increase the usable floor space of a bathroom and to conceal the shower fittings. And one of the enclosure walls can be mirrored to serve as a full-length mirror. I’m a little skeptical about water leaking underneath the enclosure when showering, but the design is beautiful and so simple.

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Fast Food Feeding Frenzy No More?

Apparently lowering lighting and playing softer music at fast food restaurants leads to “increased satisfaction and reduced calorie intake” according to Cornell University. Very interesting findings, especially since the research shows that the adjusted environment did not change what people ordered, only what they consumed. So one would hope that the findings would encourage fast food restaurants to adjust their environment to help patrons consume less and hopefully have fewer problems with obesity, something for which fast food chains are often blamed.

But I was thinking about it, and a large problem came to mind: part of the success and appeal of fast food chains is that they are fast. Affordable restaurants often alter their environment, including the (non) comfort level of their seats, to encourage table turnover and, thus, profits. Think energetic music, rock hard chairs, and bright lighting. Do Chipotle’s plywood booth and chairs ring a bell? Does dimming the lights and softening the music go against the energy level that one expects from a fast food chain? Would it have a negative effect on providing ample seating for patrons by encouraging people to relax and stay a while?

It is a great finding to know that lowering the lights and music allows a diner to slow down and enjoy their food a little more and eat a little less. We knew that focusing your attention on your meal, instead of the television or another distraction, often results in fewer calories consumed. So it is not surprising that slowing down the frenetic pace of the fast food environment would have a similar effect. It is certainly a good lesson for all of us to learn to stop and smell the roses (or the french fries) while we eat.

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What comes after Stainless Steel?

People have been speculating for years that stainless steel would be ousted from its position as the top kitchen appliance finish. And for years it has remained number one. While something is bound to replace it (eventually), it just hasn’t happened yet. Americans love their stainless steel dishwashers and blenders and coffee makers… and ranges and sinks and vent hoods… The Wall Street Journal has a great article speculating what the next trend will be. Basically, while manufacturers have tried to start the next hot trend by introducing new finishes, stainless has out-sold all of the new introductions in the last decade. It certainly doesn’t seem like stainless is going anywhere to me.

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“Pocket Office” – the latest trend?

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According to the National Association of Home Builders, one of the biggest trends in new residential design is the “pocket office”. The pocket office is a compact area with a desk space that is dedicated to managing the home through bill paying, scheduling, etc. But is this really a new trend?

I remember my mother had a built-in desk in the kitchen that served as the family command center. It housed the family master calendar, the telephone and the now archaic answering machine. It was the location where any scheduling, bill paying, or communication took place. My mother’s built-in desk would qualify as a “pocket office,” and she was clearly very ahead of her time : )

But what the NAHB is saying is not that pocket offices are a new trend but that home owners are moving away from the idea of dedicated home offices as a separate room in the house. Instead home owners are more inclined to incorporate the home office into another room.

As technology has simplified tasks, made us less reliant on paper, and maybe even made us more organized, the space requirements for home offices have arguably decreased. Aside from needing a smaller space, I very much connect with the idea of incorporating the home office into the kitchen or family area. I find it much more appealing to pay bills or read boring documents when there are people or other forms of entertainment nearby. Some may disagree with me because they prefer more solitude for such tasks. But the pocket office can definitely be an efficient use of space. Here are some examples that I find attractive and functional:

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Photo | Martha Stewart Living

Photo | Martha Stewart Living

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A Fun and Fresh Redesign

Rendering by Caroline McCandlish

I am proud to have contributed to the House Calls column of today’s Washington Post. A young professional was ready to graduate to a more cohesive living space, and I was excited to help her do it with my design. Many thanks to Megan Buerger at The Post for allowing me to contribute!

Because the reader could not paint the walls of her apartment, I wanted the furnishings to have a bright pop to detract from the plain backdrop. I selected the area rug first as the basis for the rest of the design because it had the fun, punchy colors that I was looking to incorporate. I added neutral upholstery into the mix next because it will allow the accent colors to pop, and it will be versatile as the home owner moves or changes color palettes.

I picked the draperies next – they pull out the beautiful rose color from the area rug. I love that it is a feminine color, and yet it is not a super sweet pink. Then I found the accent pillows that I think perfectly pull out the rose and persimmon from the rug and add a great graphic element to keep it young and fresh. While the article lists that they are no longer available, they are still listed on Room Service’s site. Here are the three pillows that I included in the design.

I used a mix of styles and finish materials to make sure that the space looks collected and not as if it was purchased in one fell swoop. The natural wood of the coffee table and floor lamp contrast against the painted side table and the rusted iron shelving system. It has an eclectic, warm feeling.

I wanted to be able to provide lighting at the sofa and chair but because of the location of the closet and the hallway, I could not put the standard table lamp or floor lamp in those places. So instead I thought of installing wall sconces above the sofa, and I liked the idea of using a swing arm lamp that could function as both a reading light and a picture light.

The artwork was actually the finishing touch that I found at the end. Once I decided on the sconce, I found some colorful artwork that showcased the accent colors of the space and added in a few others, and the design was complete. Please refer to The Post’s House Calls page for the “before” photos and for information on any of the pieces.



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Bid for a Good Cause

Want design help and a tax deduction all-in-one? Click here to bid on my donation of services to benefit the Montessori Country School in Herndon, VA! The winning homeowner (or renter) will receive my undivided attention to review a room of his or her choice, either in-person or via email and phone. I will then provide design solutions and recommendations to improve the function and appearance of the space based on the homeowner’ wants and needs. So if you are interested in sprucing up your space or giving a gift to a homeowner in need, bid for a good cause!

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Homes for Disabled Veterans

I really enjoyed reading an NPR article about the Wounded Warrior project. The project provides modern, accessible housing for active-duty wounded veterans at Fort Belvoir, VA. Famous architect Michael Graves designed the homes and tapped in to his own experience in a wheel chair to design a functional and versatile home interior. It contains things like adjustable height counters and wide hallways. The Project is a wonderful program that should be expanded to give back to all of those veterans who have given so much of their freedom to protect ours.

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