I should be writing about “50 Shades of Grey” this week. But what’s more interesting is what will be inside Christian Grey’s Red Room right?! We all can’t wait to see what’s really behind that closed door. Come on you want to know! Anyone who knows me knows red is my signature color. It is just…. me. I love the drama, the intensity, the fire. And what better month to discuss it than in February. The month of valentines and heart health, one of my other favorite topics.
Red décor isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s bold, it’s bright, and it definitely makes a statement. For many years we all had red dining rooms. It was elegant and stately. You may think of Chinese lacquer or provincial French Country design. But red doesn’t have to be so stereotyped. It can be fresh, modern and most definitely sexy. Think red lips and a little red dress. Just a hint gets the mind wandering. That same principal can be applied to any room in your house including the kitchen and bath. In today’s design it’s not limited to the library or the boudoir, it can be anywhere.
At the KBIS show in Vegas we saw a lot of red hard surfaces. This red is candy apple red, glossy and very saturated. Not barn red, or Ralph Lauren muted reds, this is bright and crisp! You have to be bold to make an investment in very expensive kitchen cabinets that are full on rouge. Or bathroom tiles and a freestanding bathtub that reflect this strong hue. This design will be something you plan to love for many years to come.
Another interesting use of the color red in today’s design is to mix it with different shades and hues, like lighter wood tones, indigo, turquoise, and tangerine. Getting away from black and white also will make using red more interesting and unique. This has a worldlier feel more diverse and global and will be something your eyes won’t tire of over time.
So let’s face it, there is something about a lacquered red wall or piece of furniture that is just seriously hot! I can’t wait to see the movie, and peak inside the Red Room. Are you brave enough to open the door to your design?
Vegas Baby! Yes, Dawn Cook Design, Blulens, and Monarch Interiors hit the road and traveled to Design and Construction Week in Vegas. Schedules lined up and we were able to visit five trade shows all relevant to our industry and see alot of inspiring design as well. It’s never boring in this “Disney World” for adults, and there was definitely a common theme across all the shows – maybe it was the luxury of the Strip but GOLD is back and it was present across all product lines!
For a long time, people have preferred cool tones in metals: lighting, plumbing, and hardware, even in furniture finishes. Last year, we blogged about how mixed metals were making a come back. But it has taken awhile to catch up in actual product offerings. Gold used to be very traditional. Brass finishes were super old school and the more transitional clients couldn’t find a modern look that worked in warmer tones.
Well things are heating up and gold was all over the place. Clients are now requesting brass finishes all the time and they want a more modern or more transitional styling. Now they can get it. Gold eludes a sense of confidence, elegance, and grandeur. I think there is a desire to go back to an aged or gilded feel in some of these metals.
And the gold isn’t always muted down. It was in your face, shiny, sparkly, and bright. Rohl and Kohler had new introductions in plumbing gold finishes. Hard surfaces showed it strong in lighting, plumbing, cabinet finishes, and door and drapery hardware. Robert Abbey and Noir showed fantastic new modern lighting in gold finishes. Even Ann Sacks came out with gorgeous metallic tiles that were bronzed to perfection.
Accessories and furniture companies were “all about the brass”, mirrors, cocktail and side tables, and even accents on upholstery such as nailheads and legs took on a warmer finishes. One of our favorite vendors, Phillips Collection, had new mirror and wall accents that we all fell in love with. Also one of our favorite art vendors , Natural Curiosities, had gilded angel wings to show off, definitely an ethereal quality in gold.
We can’t get enough of this new look and plan to use this warmer shift in metals. While we have been doing it for awhile now, it is so refreshing to have materials available to specify in our upcoming designs. So while silver is stellar, get your glam on and be ready for the gold!
And of course we had a lot of fun too, how can you not?
Jen, Sadie, Dawn and Linda at the Mead Lake overlook, on our way to the Hoover Dam.
Yes it’s snowing and freezing again. But as a variation on last week’s theme, I still love the peace of January. Often we get called to decorate or design grand common spaces such as living rooms, foyers, and glamorous kitchens. While they represent form and function, these areas are for gatherings – presenting your home, making an impression. Everyone is different, we love to accommodate every person’s design desires when it comes to these spaces.
But what is really inspiring for us and helps us to get to know our clients is designing their personal spaces. The places where you show your true self, where you want to be alone. Nooks, dens, window benches, reading niches, bedrooms, desks, alcoves, and outdoor spaces. These are somehow more intimate, and are really a peak inside of….well you. It’s the place you go to rejuvenate, recalibrate, or just breathe if you need to. Organize your personal space, organize…well, your life.
These little “get-aways” inside your daily routine have some commonalities to consider:
1. Carve out your niche – it doesn’t have to be big, just a place that is all for you. No kids, no work, no bills (visible), no PTO reminders. Make it a place where you enjoy hanging out and being you. I would go so far as to say, limit electronics. But let’s be real here.
2. Make it your own – as Designers, we often have to “clean-up” a space. Sometimes personal items impede a house sale, or too much of it is overwhelming and puts too much out there in those common areas. For your personal retreat surround yourself in items meaningful for you: Photos, books, cards, mementos, found objects, anything that makes you happy or joyful.
3. Create beauty – This is a place for a little luxury. A pretty fabric on a chair, a comfy settee, a shearling or sheepskin throw, a gorgeous lamp. Add artwork that again resonates within you, and add some personal items to comfort the soul.
4. Organize – Now this one is a hard one for me too. But find beautiful containers, bins and baskets to hide away the clutter. More stuff creates chaos. And this is the place you want the opposite of that. This may be the place you “get it done” but keep it in check and you will feel more accomplished.
In our efforts to keep life, families, and work under control, we need to reflect upon ourselves and create a little personal “get-away” at home (and remember to take the time to go there!). We will all be much happier and productive in the end! If we can’t take a true break (ala the image by the pool), let’s all give ourselves one at home!
My favorite day. My favorite week. The first Monday of January. We have a whole 51 weeks to get it right. Start fresh. I always love this feeling of purity and renewal.
As the wind blows snow and howls outside, let’s allow ourselves to reflect and mentally detox the last few weeks of chaos, stress, and adornment. Scale back our homes, lives, finances, diets…whatever your whim.
As the holiday decorations come down, we are more open to donating, organizing, rearranging the furniture, finally getting rid of that “thing”! Let yourself be open to trying something new in your home, or just take this month to live “without” something. Let’s not be so quick to fill in the blank space. Negative space is good, it balances out the positive, the good energy.
I love white. The color, or the absence of color. White may be the most evocative color on the spectrum. Culture, lifestyle, or profession may weigh in heavy on white’s symbolic quality. A scientist’s white may conjure a color that glows from many thousand degrees of heated filament. A farmer’s white may be barren frosted fields or piles of wooly shearling cornered up in the shed. While kids see white as sled hills and endless flying balls of snow.
White can define a space, diminish or expand it. It serves as either a contrast or compliment. It’s an open palette for our imagination. The appeal in white is its basic undercurrent of softness, as well as it’s clean smooth finish. Either way the power of white is what it evokes. Design is meant for expression so trust the purity of your own expression and embrace the simplicity of white. Embrace emptiness during this quiet time – however artistically it reveals itself. So grab a cup of tea, curl up with a good book, watch the snow fly and enjoy the stillness, you never know how you we will be inspired.
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
Thank God it’s here. Spring. Time to get outside. Celebrate Earth Day. Clean up those yards, ready the porch for summer entertaining. Every season, the outdoor space becomes more like an indoor room, complete with rugs, lighting, plush fabrics, and accessories. This season is no exception with even more exquisite options for you to choose from. I handpicked some of my favorites from this year’s offerings. Take another look at your furnishings as you pull them out and set up the patio, and freshen things up with my picks for this year.
Furniture: Furniture is all about conversation, circulating, and comfort. Of course I love the high-end McGuire pieces like this back-to-back bench (#5). McGuire is the epitome of well-made durable furnishings that work indoor or out. Made of rattan, and other natural materials, McGuire is not your Mother’s wicker. McGuire has hip artisan Designers that have created some stellar designs. On the more reasonable side, this West Elm sofa (#7) is a great mid-century design and can garner the same look for less.
Accent Pieces:Outdoor spaces need to be decked out just like the living room so side tables and funky cocktail tables are just as important. You need a place to put those drinks down right? Check out this super cool cement resin garden stool (#2) that has natural leaf imprints in it. It looks heavy but is easily moved around and lifted. Perfect for a pool party, or late night fete.
Lighting: There is more to lighting than candles when it comes to outdoor décor. And you don’t need those big palm frond ceiling fans either. When it comes to outdoor lighting, as long as the fixture is rated for a wet location, anything goes. Especially in a covered area. Pick something you like, but be cognizant of natural material like silk, cotton, or wool, those will not survive the elements. There is really cool lighting out there now, love these fixture from Dwell Studio (#3). Elegant or reclaimed materials make a statement!
Fabrics, Panels, and Rugs:Solution-dyed acrylics are the core to good outdoor fabrics. They will survive the elements. You can bleach them and hose them down. Available in an array of colors and prints you can step away from the limited stripes and solids on cushions. We saw a beautiful presentation from Perennials this week (#8 & #9). Loved the soft outdoor rugs, gorgeous prints, and chenilles and velvets. Who would have thought we could have this luxury outside?
Accessories: I’ve always been a gardener. Before I had kids I would dream about planting flowers and sprucing up the garden in the Spring. So I am partial to these lovely accessories from Anthropologie Terrain, and La Crosse. Love the colorful wind chimes, the leather planter, rain measure, mid-century terrarium, and alphabet birdhouses (#1,#4, #6, #11, & #12). Adding a little whimsy adds comfort and chic to your outdoor design. Stylish throws and fire pits, like this one from Restoration Hardware (#10), help keep us warm so get outside now and enjoy some fresh air even with the cooler nights.
Patio Living has come a long way. Try some of my picks to freshen your space, I know I will, then you will be fit for Spring in no time!