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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Small Space, Big Character

Staying on the house we've been looking at for the last few posts, this week we have what seems like a no brainer but takes some effort and planning.  The big ideas is... the less sheetrock the better! Any time we can showcase more interesting building materials, we seize the opportunity.

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

For example, exposed brick has been popular here in Hoboken for a while so it shows up in a lot of our work, but here we take it a step further and expose the ceiling joists too.  The added texture at these surfaces is what gives the room character.  The third surface is the windows which take up the entire wall and becomes the focal point for this floor.  And here you see how the exposed  joists have a repetitive quality that draw your eye to the wall of glass.  

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

Most of our projects are compact in scale with significant programmatic needs, so our walls tend to be covered with stairs, cabinetry, open storage, etc.  But when we are faced with some plain sheetrock, we like to treat it in a way that will be durable, add texture and visually clean up a space.   

Whether it be choosing to go full height with a simple wall tile... 

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

Or trimming out a ceiling to integrate a skylight and conceal an HVAC access panel.  

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

All of it, offers a level of detail that makes a home feel complete.  And often you can do these types of upgrades as smaller projects as you go... exposing structural elements, adding trim work to a focal wall or ceiling, even just wallpapering one wall can do the trick to give a room dimension.  Hmm, maybe a weekend project in your future?!  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Week #4, let's talk Kitchens!

Storage is always a top priority when starting any kitchen design, but we like to think beyond the standard upper cabinets.  They are what make everybody's kitchen feel like... well, everybody's kitchen!  The proportion is low visually and spatially, making your cooking environment feel restrictive. 

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

In this kitchen, the client was looking for some serious exhaust so we developed a wall of cabinetry with a niche to house the oversized hood and an adjacent food prep area that is accentuated by a wall of marble with a integrated shelf to for cooking essentials.

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

Another way to liven up your cabinetry is to incorporate open shelves.  Often people shy away from them because they feel it's not easy to keep them tidy,  but most can handle a few to showcase nice items.  And it's a great way to introduce a little color without being afraid that you'll hate it in a few years... worst comes to worst, you are only painting a few cabinet interiors!

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

Another trick is to bring some cabinetry down to the counter height which you can see next to the open shelves. This gives you additional storage space that is easily accessible without the need for uppers.

We also like to incorporate full height sliding door cabinets provide ample space for pantry items... when you often don't have room for a real pantry!  

In this case, we housed all the small appliances that typically clutter the counter.  And who wouldn't want that?

Monday, August 29, 2016

So what's the big idea? Week #3!

Let's stick with the bathroom we talked about last week.  If we look through those wire glass doors, you'll see another suggestion I'd like to offer to anyone renovating their bathroom.  Why not put more effort and funds into a beautiful vanity that works for you rather than splurging on expensive wall tile! 

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

Yes, fancy stone can be lovely but here the vanity is the focal point and gives you double the impact.   Not only does it set the whole stylistic feel of the bathroom, it also does a lot of work storing everything you need in what is typically a small space.   

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

By having a vanity custom made, you can maximize every inch while working around that pesky plumbing!  In this case, we offset the sink to give us ample drawers and side counter space.  We also decided to have the vanity wall mounted which makes the space feel bigger by seeing the entire floor.  

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

The crafted details in this cabinet are what set it apart from your typical vanity. Not only do the sculpted recessed pulls create a nice understated composition they also minimize decorative hardware costs that can add up!

The natural wood and beautiful finish on this cabinet will wear much better than a standard painted finish.  And it's not like a stock vanity is inexpensive, even subpar quality has a significant price tag so you might as well invest in something that is going to patina rather than fall apart.

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

Carrara marble is an economical choice when it comes to a stone counter but here it looks stately with a high thickened backsplash for the mirror to visually rest and the wall mount faucet to take center stage.  

Makes you want to get a new vanity, doesn't it ;)  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

So what's the big idea? Week #2!

Let's look at the same project as last week with another planning trick to make what would be small rooms feel more spacious and airy.  It's an en suite bathroom that can be fully open to the bedroom. Not just a dinky little doorway, but a full-on glass wall of sliding doors so these separate rooms feel as one.  

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

I have to give my parents some credit, they did this in their own master bedroom over forty years ago! really just dawned on me as I'm writing this.  I guess our life experiences stick with us more than one can imagine.  It's a lesson to anyone looking to build or renovate... keep your eyes open to unexpected ideas that might enhance your living environment.

In my parent's house, they chose to use bi-folding doors to enclose the space when they needed privacy.  Here we designed custom fabricated steel and glass doors that make the rooms feel connected even when closed.  And since they are sliding doors, they take up no added space which was important is these modest sized rooms.

[Mowery Marsh Architects, Photo Credit: Blackstock Photography]

If you look closely, you'll see we used wire glass for added visual texture, as well as frosted glass at the lower portion for privacy into the shower on the left and the toilet room on the right.  

I'm already thinking about next week...  that beautiful walnut vanity needs some attention ;) 

Friday, August 12, 2016

What's the big idea?

This is the kickoff to a new MMA weekly series..."What's the big idea?!"  Okay, it's actually the opposite.  They are little ideas... but that can have a BIG impact on a design.

So what's lined up for this week?  It's pretty 'straight' forward (pun intended!)...  do you have a bedroom wall with a bunch of jigs and jogs?  Here we added a built-in headboard to create those clean lines everyone is looking for.   It makes the room feel more generous by visually decluttering and allows use of an otherwise tricky wall for furnishings.

[Mowery Marsh Architects,  Photo Credit:  Blackstock Photography]

The built-in headboard is clad with horizontal boards and bed side table is carved out with a cabinet door below for bonus storage.  What would have been a small space cluttered with side tables is now made spacious and functional.

[Mowery Marsh Architects,  Photo Credit:  Blackstock Photography]

Okay, that's Week #1... let's see how long I can keep this up? Maybe next time we'll talk about those nice leather pulls!  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

What's Happening?!

There are lots of exciting things happening for us here at Mowery Marsh Architects!

This weekend the house we have been documenting on the blog will be on the Hoboken House Tour.  I'll be there to answer any questions about the home... and renovation in general.  Joanne Laurie the owner and designer for the interior decor will be there too.  So get on the tour tomorrow and stop by to say HI!  More info and photos at

Yes, that's us on the poster! 

Also, the house was recently featured on Rue Magazine where you can hear more about our work through a Q & A.  

Another project of ours is just starting construction but already creating a buzz thanks to an article on  Jersey Digs.   They plan to do a series of posts following the progress of what could be the first Passive House in Jersey City!

Also this month, the book The New Small House hits Amazon or better yet... your local bookstore!  Our own home is featured along with a bunch of other houses that all demonstrate how to get the most out of a modest sized spaces.  Lots of great tips!

It's been an exciting 2015 but we've got more in the pipeline!  Lots of great projects to come, so keep coming back to see what we are up to ;)   

Friday, July 17, 2015

Hoboken Brownstone- Interiors

Time to wrap up this brownstone series that I started talking about in 2012!  Where does the time go?  We had new shots taken recently that capture the spaces beautifully so I thought it would be a nice way to share some final thoughts on the interiors.  In our practice, we draw no line between the architecture and the interior design.  They need to work together for the spaces to be successful.  So let's go through each room and make note of some elements demonstrating the integration... 

Here in the Living Room, architectural elements add texture to the space.  For example, the custom shutters painted in a contrasting black draw your eye to the gracefully arched front windows framed in substantial trim work.  And a wall of cabinetry integrated with the fireplace offers a focal wall in the room as you enter and also provides shelf space to give warmth by displaying familial pieces.  This ceiling fixture is all the more lovely because the ceiling is framed by generous crown molding that is free of any soffits! 

Blackstock Photography 

We like to create transitional spaces.  Between the Living Room and the Dining Room, we do this by flanking the opening on one side with lit artwork and the other side with a tall built-in bookcase.  We bring the ceiling down a bit, bring the walls in, and provide more detail with lighting and millwork to reduce the scale and provide focus to the furniture elements. These architectural moves provide a sense of procession through the spaces while still being open and spacious.  Historic homes often do this, but newer renovations often blow out everything to create an 'open plan' because we think it will make spaces feel bigger. It typically has the opposite affect as the entire room can be experienced in one glance. 

Blackstock Photography 

Don't forget your ceiling!    In the Kitchen, we needed to incorporate a structural beam so we layered deeper trimmed beams with low profile smaller panels. The crown on the cabinetry is continuous with the beam molding so the cabinetry feels like part of the architecture rather than additive.  The center beam here was faked to give less importance to the necessary structural beam next to the door.  It also gave us a nice place to feature the pendant lights.

Elliott Kaufman Photography

Here a floating 'hutch' feels like a grand piece of furniture with rooms tucked behind that are still part of the space but hidden away.  The pantry to the left has closed cabinetry within view so it stays neat and tidy when the floor to ceiling pocket door is open. 

Blackstock Photography

Here we see what's around the corner to the right, a desk space that keeps the laptop, papers, and daily reminders hidden from view.

Personal customized touches can make a house feel more like a home.   At the request of the homeowner, we incorporated a built-in doll house at the end of the island for her daughter to play while she worked in the kitchen.  We made it look like a typical Hoboken brownstone!  Inside there are standard adjustable shelves so these doors could be swapped out in the future for general storage. 

Blackstock Photography

Don't be scared to try something that will make your interiors more unique.  The owner chose a circle door style which became a strong design feature throughout the house.  We suggested a flat panel with a low profile molding so the detail has an understated appearance.  Also the decision to paint them black also gave the circle feature a more subtle affect.  The high gloss finish is important as the black could potentially deaden the lightness of the space, but in this case it shimmers.

When it comes to furniture, size does matter!  At the Master Bedroom, we see an example of how properly sized furnishings is so important.  Here petite side tables allow for a king size bed and generous artwork which become the focus of the room. Wall mount light fixtures keep the small tables clear for personal items. We often help with sizing of furniture... and in this case the home owner's furnishing selections had a big impact on the spatial quality of each room.

Blackstock Photography

Here's another transition found between the Master Bedroom and Master Bathroom that keeps the spaces open to one another while still providing delineation.  Mirrors at the bathroom and closet doors add to the feeling of openness.  Pocket doors are tucked away to still allow privacy when needed in the en suite.

Blackstock Photography

Well placed skylights can add dimension.   Here we located them in each shower of a Jack & Jill set up. They flood the space with light and make simple white subway tile gleam.

We all want generous storage, so each child's bedroom comes with an adjacent room for storage & play.  Floor to ceiling cabinetry keeps the clutter tucked away and makes good use of these tall spaces while bringing down the scale.

Having the crown molding continue across the cabinetry creates a more built-in appearance and provides a clean rectilinear ceiling to feature each ceiling light fixture.  

 Blackstock Photography

The homeowner chose complementary rich colors for each child's room,  giving them a unique personality and aesthetic.  

Blackstock Photography

We always work closely with the client so the architecture and interiors are integrated with every detail.   In this case, working with Joanne was such pleasure, as she has a great sense of style and vision.  While she had studied as an interior designer, up until this renovation she had limited her design skills to her own properties and only helped a few lucky friends on their projects.  She has now expanded her reach, having started her own design business under the name J Laurie Designs.  We are happy to spread the word as she is quite a find here in Hoboken!  

Blackstock Photography

J Laurie Designs specializes in mixing high-end designer and custom pieces with more affordable mainstream retail and vintage items.  With a number of items often coming from flea markets or antique stores.  As demonstrated in her own home, the finished result is the creation of beautiful yet livable interiors that are attainable by a broader group.  

Blackstock Photography

So that's it!  We've followed this renovation from initial planning to final interiors.  Did we miss anything... of course!   That's why I hope to keep blogging.    Next up... windows?   

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hoboken Brownstone- Electrical

Next up on our brownstone renovation... Electrical! Outlets, switching, light fixtures, fire detection, data... it's a lot to think about.   It takes a methodical approach to get everything in just the right spot.  It starts with solid initial planning during the construction documents to get it all on paper. Not only will the building department want to know that everything is covered, you'll also want to have the scope well documented for the electrician's bid on your job.  

Then during construction there should be a thorough walk through with the architect, contractor and home owner once all is framed and junction boxes are tacked in place for outlets, lighting, switches, cable, etc. It's important to take a good look at all your electrical placement before the sheetrock goes up. And its helpful to have a furniture plan for critical areas like a family room where you have important lighting, outlet and data needs.

One of the more interesting aspects of the electrical scope happens to be one of the trickiest... Lighting.  I find rooms that are the most visually comforting have a layering of light. You start with great natural light, then general illumination, then add task and accent lighting.   

Photography and Furnishings by J. Laurie Designs

Also think about how to make the most of all your spaces with accent lighting.  In this stair hall, we have great daylighting from a skylight above but it is also warmly light by a well placed picture light that draws you visually down the hall.

Or like this office niche next to the kitchen... the desk space is made more inviting with a wall sconce task lamp without losing desk space. 

If you can afford an extra 20 bucks per light switch, then dimmers are a great way to be assured of just the right amount of light and the ability to change it depending on the need. A place where people don't think to put dimmers...bathrooms.  There are times when you just don't want to see yourself under 200 watts!  Ever wonder why they have low lighting in bar restrooms... everyone feels better about themselves ;)  So why wouldn't you do that in your powder room for your guests! 

Not only do fixtures provide a necessity of light,  they also have a big visual impact and can help create a unified style from room to room.  Lighting selection is successful when it reinforces your design aesthetic. For example, here are three lighting options for the same type of fixture that all evoke a different stylistic preference.

Vintage Industrial...

Arteriors | Kenneth Large Pendant

Mid-Century Modern...

Early Century Classic (with a clear shade twist)...


And then there's 'Transitional'. But that's just a catchall for everything else!  So keeping that in mind, try to be a little daring with your selections... maybe go for an authentic period piece.  But be bold about it...  if you think the fixture is too big... it's probably perfect!