Friday, January 29, 2010

Time Together

Another house project I'm tackling right now is where we eat dinner. It’s important to me that as a family we have our meals together so we can talk about our day. But I find our table uninviting and I tend to eat quickly so I can go sit somewhere more comfortable... like the couch!

I decided that an overhead pendant light might help bring the focus on being together. Originally, I felt that our small space couldn’t handle an obtrusive hanging fixture, but now I’m realizing that the pockets of light around the room actually make it feel bigger. The pendant would create another zone, a smaller more intimate space within the larger. You can do this in any area of the house... say over a bed or couch to create a cozy place to read... as seen in this image, using the Tolomeo lamp by Artemide.

I tend to like a drum or square shade for a pendant. They are clean in form and can be positioned low over the table like this one. That's what I'm looking for; to create an intimate experience.

It's great to see the simple drum come back... it was popular during the mid-century modern period. Here's one on Mad Men... I love that show and not just because of the inspirational decor!

I like these wood veneer shades because of the warm rich texture. The grain gives the material depth without a graphic pattern that might become dated.

It just so happened that our neighborhood vintage store, Mackeyblue, had the perfect shade for the right price. They’ve got lots of items that will inspire you, so if you live in Hoboken (or NYC for that matter) its worth checking it out! Here's a shot of their eclectic storefront display.

A few weeks ago I went to the Bowery in NYC to check out some lighting stores to see if I could wire up my shade. I ended up at O'lampia. It's a great little shop with elegantly, refined fixtures that are well crafted... and they do custom work to meet your specific needs. Here's a project of mine where we customized a fixture for over a bed, each side can be switched off separately so one person can read and one person can sleep. (Is that really possible?)

So my pendant fixture for my dining table is now on order... I'll be sure to post some photos once it's installed!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Another View

Everyone seemed to enjoy the Italy photos so I thought I'd post some more. As I was going through them, I realized that my daughter had taken some nice shots that capture a bit of Italy from a different view. Here she is taking in a magnificent one...

So all these photos are hers, my budding photographer. It's nice to know she can see the beauty in things that are so simple...

Who wouldn't love piles of nicely packaged hand made pasta & cheese. I wish my trip to the A&P could be so visually inspiring!

I can see why she was drawn to these fun clocks that we found in a great little housewares store. Its the Cuckoo Meridiana Clock by designer Pascal Tarabay. I thought it would be a whimsical clock for a playroom, until I saw the price...yikes! Guess I should have picked one up while I was there.

I have no idea what these things are but how could she resist such great colors!

These are fake leaves over a new trellis at the pool. Only in Italy would this seem like a great idea and not totally cheesy. I wouldn't try this in Jersey.

My husband swears that he took this photo but I have my doubts. Its my favorite so I had to show it. I love the composition of the the geometries and textures... the enviable shutters...the itty bitty hat signage ... and of course the electronic device painfully centered.

So who do you think took it?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Shiny & New

I treated myself to something shiny and new for 2010. As you can see, it's not jewelry... but knowing myself, I thought I'd enjoy this much more than a trinket for my wrist.

Yes, it's a boring faucet but it's already making my dishwashing more delightful! It's something we can move to our new kitchen in a future renovation but yet we get to enjoy it now. That's how I plan most of our small improvement projects... what little things can I do today that might make life a little better.

It's from Grohe and I selected it because it's similar in design to our bathroom faucet. There we installed a Jado Borma and I love it. I swear the water feels better than it did with our old clunker. Unfortunately, Jado doesn't make a version for the kitchen, so... the search for another manufacturer began. Most of our plumbing fixtures have been purchased online at Irawoods. I have found they have the largest online selection at good prices. Its a great way to peruse what's out there.

My requirements for the faucet were: simple design, single lever, and pull out spray. I liked how this sprayer was integral to the design.

I highly recommend the single lever because I can use my wrist to turn it on when I've got icky meat juices on my hand! And it's easy to get the right temp.

Here's the hubby slaving under the sink...

I'd love to say all went totally as planned, but I can't. An old water valve broke when the water was turned back on, so the plumber had to come out the next day. But now we've got some spiffy new valves too!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Outdoor Living... Italian Style

Being cooped up for the winter is tough. As I said, I love connecting with the outside... it keeps me sane. We try to spend time outside everyday but when I can't, daydreaming will have to do...

Ahhh, the family trip to Italy last June. It warms me up just thinking about the expansive vistas filled with terracotta roofs, the piazzas basked in sunlight, and those yummy cappuccinos! I can't begin to describe how breath taking an experience it was. But this photo might give you a hint...

What I love most about Italy is the outdoor living. Yes, who wouldn't want to lie in this idyllic pool surrounded by beautiful architectural history. But the time spent outdoors is more subtle than that. It's sitting in the piazza people watching, or strolling down the narrow streets with shop doors wide open, or the quick espresso at the outdoor cafe.

The line between inside and outside is blurred. I would love to ditch my insect screens, swing open my windows, and people watch from the privacy of my own home. This lady and many others get to do it every day.

So I got to thinking how could I make our outdoor living a little better? Getting rid of the mosquitoes in our pit of a backyard would be a start! But second would be incorporating lush, fragrant foliage into our outdoor spaces. I do not have a green thumb but this wall of jasmine inspired me to investigate what might grow well in our area. It's on my spring to do list.

This photo can't capture how amazing this jasmine was in reality. Unbelievably fragrant and so lush... you'd swear it was fake. We had a lot of opportunities to enjoy it, as we sat out on the covered terrace for every meal.

Some day I'd love to put a terrace like this one on my dream house... even though the view will never compare.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Preferred Seating

What is it about a window that makes a child want to play there? The other day my son spent almost an hour playing with his cars on the window sill. Makes you want to go buy some lumber and build a window seat!

I personally love to work in lots of light with a connection to the outdoors.

Where in your house did you like to play as a kid? Take a moment and tap into your inner child... it may lead you to your next home improvement project!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Living with Less?

Every once in awhile I treat myself to 10 minutes of Oprah. I figure it's the one perk of juggling work and kids... the opportunity to watch a little daytime television if I've got a free moment. We don't have Tivo or cable so the slim pickin's keeps me focused on work. But if I find something that's about design or lifestyle improvements... I can't help but take a peak.

Last week on Oprah, she was visiting women in countries all around the world to get a glimpse of how differently we all live. What piqued my interest was a tour of a 'typical' home in Denmark. I found it hard to believe this was typical. If it is, I'm totally jealous of the Danes! My 5 year old leaned over my shoulder as I was writing and said she wanted to live here too!

I found these great still shots from a Finnish design blog where you can get info on the architect.

So Oprah got a little tour of their modest abode. The interior is immaculate, bright, and pure. I truly appreciate the design rigor that goes into making something this refined and pared down to the essentials.

I was also intrigued by they way they live... shopping for fresh foods daily, biking instead of driving, living in a modest sized apartment and most of all...not buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff. They only have what they need and what they do have gets stored away so they can live uncluttered.

But here comes the funny part... as you can see, they have three kids! How do you live with so little stuff when you've got toddlers? And what 2 year old wouldn't want to take a Sharpie to that huge white canvas of a floor!?

Oprah couldn't get over the size of the children's bedroom... and to be honest I couldn't either. My kids share a modest sized room, but this one for two kids was about the size of a walk in closet... a very beautiful walk in closet with an expansive view of Copenhagen. I couldn't find a photo of the room that was on the show, but here's another room that's similar.

And I particulary like the look of this bathroom. I have a thing for brown and white as you may have seen in my own bathroom. I love the contrast... it shows off the composition of forms and shapes.

So for now, I'll take this home and tuck it away in a computer folder with my other 'dream home' images. It will continue to inspire me to live with less and appreciate what's important to me... staying healthy, being a part of a community, and spending time with my family.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Storage Real Estate

In my last post, I showed a glimpse of our new improved bathroom and miraculously it was clutter free. Well, in the spirit of being real, I thought I should show you how we can do that.

Now that's what I call a medicine cabinet! This thing holds everything we need in the bathroom, it's convenient & accessible. We had a tiny closet in the bathroom of our old apartment and my husband outfitted it with oodles of shelves (that he painted and then coated with polyurethane for easier clean up, brilliant). We were able to maximize the storage because the shelves were moveable and easily adjusted so items could fit perfectly... like the toilet paper rolls!

So in planning our new bathroom everything was designed around our proposed 'medicine closet'. The plumber and electrician thought we were a bit nuts for moving the door, toilet and so many light switches just to make some storage, but it was well worth it. Here it is with the clutter all closed up.

Another anti-clutter secret... lots of mini hooks behind the door put our robes out of sight. These are sized smaller than most which is why I like them. We just added some more... thanks Santa!

I knew we'd be stuck with our kids potty/stool for many more years, so you'll see in the first image that we designed the sink cabinetry so it just fits underneath and can be pushed out of view. And then there's the magazine cubby that we added at the last minute. It's great to have the magazines tucked away and not strewn on the floor like they use to be.

My favorite part is the tall cubby next to the sink. I wanted to put a shelf in the middle so we could store more practical items there. But then my husband said... "That's where the Gerber daisy will go!"

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

One Space at a Time

Here's a beautiful space I just found online. It's an interior by Debora Berke. Clean, simple, bright, organized. Imagine how much work I could get done in an office like that!

I'd love to have a space like this in my own house someday. Unfortunately, we don’t all have the money, time, or energy to withstand a major renovation or build a house from scratch…myself included. My husband and I had hoped to start major renovations on our home this past year but the fragile economy put those dreams on hold. So for now, we are taking a step back and making do with what we have… 900 sq ft for 4 people! At least 2 of them are small.

As an architect, it can be frustrating to create custom spaces for others and then come back to our less that perfect living situation, but it’s still our home and we make the best of it. So to keep me sane and feel as though we are continuing to move forward, I constantly look at what small changes could make our lives better and inspire our day to day. I have a few household projects that I'll talk about as my work on them progresses.

We did manage to tackle a few rooms so far in our house. We determined what areas wouldn't be affected by our future renovations and we've started with those. That's usually the first step with a new client... let's master plan all you want done and work at it in stages so you can start living better sooner. First we took on the bathroom. Here's the scary before shot...

The challeges: floral tile on every surface, not enough storage, a purple tub, an ill placed toilet and a weird angled door. Many, many months later, here's the after...

Now we all enjoy our bathroom everyday! All 4 of us. You may be thinking... where's all the stuff? Find out in my next post!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Design Envy

I can’t help but peruse the latest home design magazine and ponder how I can make my life look like this…so perfect. Everything is in its place with room to breathe and live. It all sparkles… the gleaming floors, the immaculate paint job, the pristine furniture, and the abundance of natural light, even on a cloudy day. Yes, I want this life.

But I can't have it, because it only exists for that exact moment when the shutter opens... especially if you have kids! Case in point, when I was photographing my in-laws beach house recently to put on my website, it was quite a challenge to keep my daughter from getting in the shot. She just had to mess with the pillows... and what 5 year old wouldn't want to! This is life. You live in spaces, you don’t just photograph them.

I'm talking about all this to explain some of what I want to write about from week to week. Beautiful design that is based on living. What can we do to make our lives easier, more beautiful, but at the same time keeping it real. Most of my clients don't have huge budgets so its important that they get the most they can for their money. As an architect, homeowner, spouse & mother, I’m in the theoretical camp of ‘less is more’. I want to appreciate the things I have, the small footprint I live in, and not be burdened with the superfluous. When it comes to design… keep it simple, thoughtful, well crafted and it will be beautiful.