Designers have always been fascinated with invisible design. Whether in the world of fashion or in the home, “see-through” fashion statements are all the rage. While always hot on the runway in jewelry and accessories, this trend became hugely transparent to the décor world in 2002, when Philippe Starck introduced the Ghost Chair, produced by Kartell. Made of Lucite, which was originally developed in 1937, lucite is actually a brand name for an acrylic resin. Wickedly popular, The Ghost chair comes in many varieties from Louis to Victoria. Philippe Stark is a master at taking a classic form and reinventing it as a modern icon. Using a single piece of translucent injection-molded polycarbonate, Stark has created the most recognizable chair of the 21st century. For more ghostly chairs, check out this link.
But what is it about these disappearing pieces? Seriously, we as Designers sigh when we see a piece of Lucite. It is surely not functional, but I have never had anyone say they run into these invisible objects, or miss the surface as they put down their cup of tea. It’s truly a crowning jewel in any design. The last piece of “bling’ but in an entirely, absent way.
This summer I bought a Lucite necklace that I wore ALL the time. It just worked with everything. It has a hip, yet “not there” feel. Whether dressy or with a t-shirt, I pulled it out regularly. One of my favorite items passed down from my maternal grandmother Louise is her Lucite clutch. I use this whenever we go to a special event. People ask me all the time where did I get it. Yep, it’s probably from the ‘40s era long gone. Yes now you can see your iPhone light up in it in today’s day and age, but a pretty tube of lipstick and a special linen hanky still look fond at a wedding.
So instead of thinking about disco and stripper stilettos, think glamorous and be open to adding a touch of the ethereal into your design. We love Lucite on benches, cocktail tables, frames, knobs, drawer pulls, lights, and of course chairs! Even just a touch will add to the design. It’s truly the finishing touches like this that will make your design sing instead of scream in horror!
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I love the Fall in Cleveland. Our wedding anniversary is October 12th, this year it’s 18 years for us, how did that happen? Every year, Linda has taken our family photos in the Fall which is such a gorgeous time here in Northeast Ohio. It’s so nice to reap the benefit of changing seasons for a few weeks and enjoy the beautiful weather. Ironically, it’s such a pull on my heartstrings to see how much our children have grown over the years with the annual fall photos, pumpkin harvest pics, and apple-picking moments. Regardless, I love these captured memories and am so grateful we take the time to have these lovely shots every year, and spend the time together as a family.
Last Fall season, I went with Sophie’s class to Hale Farm and Village. I remember my own 3rd grade class making this same field trip when I was a kid. It’s quintessential Northeast Ohio, a right of passage as an elementary child. You can’t live here without stepping back in time and visiting this authentic colonial village composed of blacksmith, schoolhouse, doctor and lawyer’s offices, baker, and candlestick maker. The staff are all in character and it was a gorgeous day to see the ladies making applesauce and candles, and bellows blazing for horseshoes as well. It is truly a measure of time as we all celebrate the season with the same activities year after year.
When we readied our own hose for Fall this year, I couldn’t help but think of this door at Hale Farm that was bestowed with the simplest wreath. I jazzed up my own front door to welcome guests. See my comments about decorating your front door in this earlier post “Entrez–Vous? Freshen Up the Front Entry for Summer”. This welcoming of guests into our home and into our lives has been a ritual we as homeowners have celebrated in a fashion as old as time.
I live in a Shaker Heights house. No mudrooms to speak of. Back in the 1920’s the back door was the servants entrance. (Yes, I love Downton Abbey) Fast forword to today….Come Fall, kids are outside, temperatures are dropping, rain is falling, and mud is flying! So how do we survive?
There are two essential elements when it comes to the mudroom – form and function.
It all depends on the space you have to work worth. Even a smaller space can serve the purpose. There are a few key factors. Is your family neat or messy? Do you have pets? Where is the laundry? Do you have a lot of gear to maintain, ie hockey equipment (this is my life!) How many adults in the family, how many kids? Adult clothing takes up more space. Are you a fashionista or a minimalist? Is this a main entrance to your home for family AND guests?
Usually I have a few rules of thumb. Each mudroom needs some combination of hooks, open and closed storage for each member of the family, including the pets. So if you have 3 kids, assuming you are a family of 5, you need 5 “personalized” spaces. Other essential elements are a bench area to sit down on to put shoes on and off, cubbies for shoes/boots, hooks for coats and leashes, baskets or drawers for hats and scarves.
Another important element is either a chalkboard, magnetic station, or pin-board for artwork, schedules, invitations. We get asked a lot to make custom sized pieces for this – hey, its reality and this is how we live. So this is a common sense element.
This space has to be highly functioning or it ends up looking like a disaster. Why can’t it be pretty too? Many people say that even their guests come through these entrances. Last year I talked about this topic in the Plain Dealer (see article…Hardworking Tidy Mudroom Doesn’t have to be drab). While we were designing my client’s kitchen, we decided to take an exterior landing space and convert it to a mudroom. By reusing their existing original door, adding lots of beautiful built-ins, a bench, and classic black and white porcelain flooring, we were able to transform the space. Adding fun lighting, hardware, wallpaper, window treatments, and durable flooring, is a great way to decorate this space. Also, why can’t you have great artwork or a focal wall here – it’s a space you pass through daily, you might as well enjoy it!
So whether its form or function take a look at this space this season and give it a little thought. It will make everything fall into place in no time! This post was originally published in Spring of 2013.
Hello September. The biggest month to kick off interior design projects. This is the week we get the most calls for new projects. Kids are back in school, people are thinking about being indoors for another LONG, COLD, winter. Yes, I said it…but it’s true. And of course the Holiday rush. This year we our working on a record number of Master Bathroom projects this Fall. I think after a few years of trying to recover from the economy, clients are investing in their own spaces and saying, enough is enough, we need our own retreat, our own little sanctuary.
Here is a special master bath project we completed this year. We knocked down walls to create a master bath and closet. All smooth marble, quartz, porcelain, and glazed warm grey cabinets. We will have more completed bath projects to show you in the next few months as we are putting finishing touches on these now. Stay tuned for inspiration!
Opening project, Dawn Cook Design
Master Baths are unique. They really reflect the client’s personality. So you see, I’m in your personal space. We get to know each other really well – we discuss shower fixture preferences, toilet seat styles and heights, bathtubs. I have seen clients sit in tubs together, sit on the pot, and well “try-out” the plumbing fixtures. It actually is pretty funny and everyone has a good sense of humor about it. We tend to get to know each other quite well after selecting toilets and shower pieces and parts.
It’s a lot to select, and it’s actually quite technical. We need to measure the placement of the body sprays – for usually two different height people, the tile can’t be too slippery, the gorgeous mirror has to be positioned right at the right height, and still work with the tile backsplash. Marble shouldn’t be used in a steam shower, plumbing rough-in pieces need to work with that truckload of water supply that you now want for your dream bath. Keep in mind that tile patterns make or break a good bathroom. You really need a Designer to help with a project like this.
This season, I had the privilege of going to Kohler Design Centre in Kohler, Wisconsin. Our good friend and yoga expert, Carrie Green teaches at the Water Spa there. Talk about some fabulous design. The Design Centre is decked out in bathrooms and kitchens designed by famous Designers such as Clodagh, Jonathan Adler, and Jamie Drake. Some good stuff! We had some “helpers” as we explored the Design Centre, so it was a lot of good inspiration!
The kids exploring the Designer Bath Galleries, Kohler Design Studios. Pretty awesome spaces
The other exciting news is Waterworks is now at the Edelman Plumbing Showroom here in Cleveland. We have all coveted the gorgeous showroom in Chicago and NYC. Now those gorgeous fixtures are here to view, touch and try-out. We can’t wait to spec these in our new Fall bath projects. As we launch into many bath projects this Fall, stay tuned for some exciting designs to get inspired by, and you will master your bath in no time!
When you invite us into your home to help you with a project, we are often greeted by the family cat or dog,….or bird, or chicken. And even more so than families with kids, We are thinking about watch-outs for pets with design elements. You many think I’m crazy for some of the questions I ask you when we are planning your design, but having a pet can be a real challenge when designing a beautiful space. I don’t want you to live to regret your investment down the road if something expensive gets damaged, and it will. Proper planning makes it easier to deal with.
We’re pet people. I have 3 cats. Linda has 3 dogs. Did I just say that? Yep it’s true. It’s a real time study over here daily as far as trial and error as to what works and doesn’t work with these creatures that are integral to our families and living with fancy interior design products.
When planning your design, we see it all. Kitchens need to be designed with pet supplies in mind, mudrooms with waterproof spray-down locations, special pet snack containers that don’t LOOK like pet snack containers. Where do the food bowls go? How does the elderly dog or cat get up onto the very expensive new bedding? I have to consider an answer to it all, because one thing I know is that pets are very, very important. And I need to take care of them. Sometimes their opinion is more important than the spouse, no kidding.
Here are a few of my favorite tips to consider when dealing with pets in design:
Window Treatments Do Not Mix Well with Animals: Really consider the style and design. Open weave fabrics, sheers, and silks are usually not a good idea. Cats love to scale things that are high. I have seen cats hanging from newly installed panels. Maybe consider a top treatment or roman shade style. That may be less tempting to get too. Also, as cords are an issue with children, same goes for pets. Highly anxious animals tend to chew on these items, so your shades aren’t going to work once they are sawn off. I learned this the hard way. There are many options for cording, so make sure you ask the questions as to what is available.
Looped Carpet and Delicate Fabrics: Tell me if a pet is in your future, even if you don’t have one. It will determine what fabrics I suggest on your new sofa, or for the runner on the stairs. Yes, cats have claws, but dog nails do a ton of damage as well. Carpets with a loop are always susceptible to pulls. A boucle, or sisal type of weave is never going to work, also natural fibers won’t survive accidents. A cut style. or tighter weave is always going to wear better and hide any damage. While most nylon carpets you can cut a single thread, expensive wool Wiltons can snag and run all the way across like pantyhose or a sweater, so think twice before this investment.
Leather: choose antiqued, vintage, or distressed styles. It does not work well with dog nails. You will see the markings. The best way to avoid this is to buy imperfect leather. Leather that is patinaed and ages, and looks even better with marks and bruises, and time. This way you won’t notice every last mar. And for the record I have seen cats destroy a Baker leather sofa in record time. Cat nails will slice through leather. I hate the idea of declawing, but truly if you are making the investment, it may be something to consider. Or keep them out of the room where the good furniture goes. i struggle with this concept myself, but it’s best to consider your lifestyle and all the options before making a purchase.
Bedding: Let’s face it. Everything ends up on this bedding. We have had every cat excrement appear in our own home. Only go with washable materials. It’s a must. I will never let you buy bedding that you have to iron or dry clean. It’s not necessary. There are so many good washable fabrics out there, and good bedding resources . You can get a big look in bedding with Restoration Hardware or West Elm bedding, and custom designed pillows or a designer headboard. If the pets sleep on the bed or gets mad at you, it’s going to happen.Buy washable and add Designer elements.
Blocking Against Barks and Meows: We have a 19 year cat that yowls louder than a human. It echos off the walls. I thought about having the hardwood floors exposed for a few minutes on our stairs after we had the floors refinished. After she woke us up every night at 2 am meowing, we got carpet. Upholstered fabrics are an amazing noise barrier. Whether on windows, floors, or furniture, fabric covered surfaces may ease your sleep, and your neighbors nerves if you have a barker in the house.
Allergies: Many people love pets and live with allergies. The best course of action is to use natural materials such as cotton, linen, and wools that can be laundered easier. These natural materials have natural immunities that won’t hold the allergens as much as a synthetic fibers. They can also be cleaned better, and laundered less expensively than the alternative. Regular vacuuming of furniture, window treatments, carpets, and washing of bedding will assist with pet allergies. There are some great durable fabrics out there that we can specify for families with pet allergies. I don’t want your design showing wear and tear after multiple cleanings, so let us know so we can make the right selection.
Hardwood Floors: When installing hardwood floors, the harder the material the better. So Maple or Oak will beat out pine any day. Pine is the softest and will show every nail mark, mar, and imperfection. Even walnut, which is so popular, now, is a softer hardwood. The best course of action is to install a wood with a lot of natural graining or something called “character” flooring. It has some distressing or hand-hewned effect so it won’t show traffic and wear and tear. Lastly, make sure it gets sealed properly, and gets maintained. If your pet has a regular “accident” area, it will damage the wood. Be aware of what is happening under a rug or the carpet, I unfortunately learned this the hard way.
So we love pets, and they are a fact of life, and crazy enough, some of our largest clients tell us they are getting a puppy a week after the project ends. So don’t mess around, and we’ll help you “bark and meow” your way through the design process.
As the summer solstice approaches, it’s time to plan out your entertaining opportunities before summer slips away. The kids are just out of school last week, yet 4th of July is right around the corner. To truly enjoy the moment, the best celebrations of summer are the impromptu kind, where the neighbors stop over for a cocktail, or you have a quick margarita night with girlfriends.
One thing I know my gal Linda (Linda Smith, Blulens Design) is good at is throwing together a quick fete. Me on the other hand, I have to think about, straighten my house, plan a menu, set the stage. Linda can make fun out of thin air, so I asked her what are her best tips for summer style this season.
1. Set the Mood, Lights Out! Commercial Lights are all the rage, make sure they are black cords, not green or you will end up with a Christmas look. Candles, candles, candles. Real or flameless, sometimes that’s all you need.
2. Old Fashioned Lawn Games are not just for children, have fun and bring out the Jarts!
3. Choose your Summer Shoes Wisely – Wedges are great, they don’t sink in the grass or dirt depending on the weather. And it’s an easy way to dress up a pair of shorts, sundress, or even your bathing suit!
4. Sunglasses are a Statement, You Better Believe It – don’t wear sunglasses on your head. But it’s OK to wear them at night for a coolness factor. Linda’s words: ”On your face, or in the case!” Save that expensive pair of Ray-Bans from the obstacles in your purse.
5. Summer Music Must Be Portable. A Jambox is a quick and affordable way to port your favorite I-tunes playlist.
6. Be Ready for Drop In Guests: Make Disposables Look Chic. These Bamboo disposable are very cool, and sustainable.
7. Check Out your Outdoor Furniture – Refresh! Cushions and wood furniture fades with the elements. Sun, rain, and humidity can damage even the most durable outdoor fabrics. Take a good look every season and update, refinish, or repair as necessary.
8. Spoil Yourself, cut flowers from your garden everyday
9. Be Out Front, Don’t Hide In the Backyard: “If You Start A Party, They Will Come”
10. Have a Signature Summer Cocktail – Linda and I both have our vices. Anything with bourbon is always on Linda’s list. I prefer refreshing and cool for summer. Pinterest can be a great place to source a new cocktail. Keep ingredients readily available and learn how to make one drink really well. If you don’t live close enough to walk home, always be ready to hit the “Uber” or “Lyft” app to gracefully, and safely, leave any party! It’s cool to have a driver!
11. Quirky Garden Accessories Add Character – All those flea markets you are going to, pick up something unexpected to set the stage in your garden. It makes all the difference!
So happy entertaining. Enjoy the summer and try and stay in the moment. We all need a little summer fun right now!
Here is Linda’s summer ride, her Vespa, if you see her about town, beep or say hi!
In honor of Father’s Day, I thought I would highlight two kitchen projects that Linda and I both recently completed. Both turned out fabulous and couldn’t be more uniquely different. One of our jobs as a Designer is to be a chameleon. We need to adapt to our client’s wishes and desires for their own home. But the best part is when we get to stretch those design beliefs into a new place and help them see a vision for the space that with professional help comes together into a fantastic finale.
Linda partnered perfectly with our clients from the beginning on this project. Picking gorgeously warm and masculine materials such as rainforest granite and slate ledger stones. As any custom kitchen should be, every cabinet detail was thought through to the smallest degree. The custom detailing on the header, the size and shape of the rails and stiles on the door fronts. These items say style without saying overstyled. Linda’s unique approach makes Arts and Crafts modern and eclectic with just the right amount of classic. That uber chic banquette gives the space a lounge effect, but still is comfortable for friends to relax at home. One of the signature features are custom pendants from our very own Cleveland Art. You may have seen Jason’s work at Burtnwood Tavern or Luxe over in Gordon Square. Nothing is better than featuring a local artist! We love adding that special touch to any design we are dreaming up. And our clients seem to like that too. In today’s desire for clean white modern kitchens, this warm masculine kitchen is a breath of fresh air, and allowed our clients to express their own personal style. This kitchen was designed by Linda Smith of Blulens Design.
My clients on this project were old college friends. Having know and loved this family for many years, it was easy to jump in and know exactly what they were looking for. Initially looking to update the kitchen, my client’s went full steam ahead and also did a major master suite renovation (more on that later). Anybody who knows my client, knows she could not be more beautiful inside and outside. She just is, so the space needed to reflect this. Combining smarts with some southern charm, this kitchen became a cool, clean, modern version of southern living. Yes, it is a white kitchen with stainless appliances, but we didn’t want to do the cookie cutter white kitchen so we added cool greys, and distressed warm blacks. Wide plank character hickory floors in an ebonized coffee color set the theme. Watery blue and warm taupe Brentano and Romo fabrics, and brushed nickel mod Currey and Co. and Circa Lighting, all inspired by the perfect Romo wallcovering for the Dining room helped the design take shape. We needed to add a mudroom space, so we truly touched every corner of this footprint, moving walls, moving the powder room, moving all the major appliances, and adding a banquette. Best part, it all looks like it belongs in this house. A bright, feminine space that looks exactly like our client! This kitchen was designed by Dawn Cook of Dawn Cook Design.
Both kitchens and projects were managed by Todd Armfelt of Woodworks Designs. Linda and I collaborate with him a lot on our kitchen and bath projects. He has a team of professionals and a super cool custom cabinet shop! Todd epitomizes custom cabinetry and large scale renovation. We couldn’t have done it without him!
So as we all run out to grab ties, golf equipment, scotch, and fishing gear this week, think about the men in our lives. How does the space they live in reflect their style?
When was the last time you entered your front door? See what your guests see? Probably a long time ago given the long, long winter we just recovered from. But now that we are all set for summer entertaining, here are some ideas for a quick freshen to this important space. I see a lot of front doors going to visit potential clients. And yes, I check out your entry. Lots of times I see birds nests, cobwebs, and peeling paint. And mind you my front entry looks the same way right now: my doorbell is broken, my steps need to be tuck-pointed, the whole Georgian façade needs to be rebuilt. These Cleveland winters take their toll. Go outside and take a look at your own entry. Your front entry is the first thing friends and family see upon visiting, so why not take the time to modernize this summer. It’s more than just planting the flowers and hanging the wreath.
Dawn’s Tips for a Front Door Freshen…… House Numbers: As someone who is always looking for an address, make sure you have BIG and BRIGHT house numbers. A good place to place them is under the light. Trying to find a house number in the dark is pretty treacherous at times. Bigger is always better when it comes to this design element. Things always look smaller from the street. There are some really cool websites for more modern house numbers, West on Letters, has many different styles, finishes, and fonts available.
Light Fixtures: Again, give up those wimpy little lights, exterior sconces have come a long way, and there are styles from vintage, to modern, to traditional latern. One of my favorites is the phantom sconce from Boyd Lighting. Such a great look, because the light glows from within, no bulb glaring in your guest’s face. It’s always important to match the style of the light to the architecture of the home, but updating the look helps freshen. And lighting has definitely got bigger over the years. So go for it.
Hardware: Door Knobs, Lock-Sets, Knockers, Door Bells. I am the first to admit, I hate doorware. Seriously consult an expert if replacing your exterior hardware. As beautiful as it is, especially on any vintage or original doors, getting the right fit, right lock-set, absolute right size can challenge anyone’s knowledge so consult an expert. Beautiful hardware fixtures add class and style to your front door. Websites like Rejuvenation and architecture salvage places have excellent collections of these pieces – Happy Picking!
Color: Putting together an exterior paint scheme is not as easy as it looks. Colors have to look right at different times of day, different seasons, against different plantings, stone detailing. I often find whites looking dirty in the winter against all the snow. Even if you have a good painter, depending how much Western sun your house gets, painting and staining needs to be kept up with. And as much as everyone loves a red door, there are so many other colors to chose from. A super glossy black, aubergine, brilliant lemon yellow can all look fabulous mixed with the right field color on the house or trim. It’s worth the expense to pay a professional for a paint consult.
A few days ago, I took a walk and snapped a pic of Lilies of the Valley and posted it to Instagram. I was so floored by how many comments came back with “My favorite, they remind me of my mom or grandma…” My kids favorite first grade teacher, who is a master gardener, commented that these are her absolute favorite as well. What is it about these little peepers that evoke so much emotion?
For me it’s lilacs; the color, heavy fragrance. Maybe I am a romantic at heart. One of the best things about living in northeast Ohio is the charm of this beautiful bush. I constantly hear from Southerners and Snowbirds that this is one garden essential they miss.
When we moved into our house many years ago, I contacted the Lilac Society on how to trim, maintain, and care for our garden lovely. It’s struggled over the years, but even a few blooms annually are worth it. My plant has light lavender blooms, while Linda’s garden has the deep saturated violet hues. Probably the most fragrant of them all!
Both of these flowers may make us think of tea and crumpets, and fussy English gardens, but these flowers and in color combination can work in any modern décor today. And various mixes of these colors too. As we continue on in the year of “Radiant Orchid”, mixing white and shades of greyish purple can be fresh and completely modern.
I’ve posted about visiting the lavender farm before, click here to read more. I don’t know what it is about shades of purple from the garden: periwinkle, delphinium, lilac, lavender, even wisteria, are certainly my favorite. To see some truly spectacular lilacs in display, visit the Holden Arboretum this week to view their Lilac Collection, it’s breathtaking! So I have shared with you, now tell me what’s your favorite garden bloom?
Dawn, Brian, and baby Cooper, at Holden Arboretum May 2003