Friday, April 30, 2010

5 Design Ideas from Italy

The beautifully vibrant artwork in last post got me thinking about my own trip to Venice with the in-laws a few years back.  It was a great experience and I enjoyed sharing it with our family.  Even my sis made an appearance... perfect timing to take this picture!

So I went back through  my photos for a chance to relive it and I started noticing some themes.  I decided to pull out photos that represented applicable architectural lessons... ones I might use in my own residential work. I found 5 design ideas that you might find interesting too...  

1.  Real Working Shutters:

Nothing feels more European (and vacationy) than operable blackout shutters.  They add depth and texture to a facade that could never be replicated with fake shutters that we see all over the US.

Facade in Venice

The mahogany doors behind them contrast beautifully with the dark green shutters.  And the detail work on the railing is pretty sweet too. 

Here are the shutters on the windows and doors of our hotel room that looked out to the balcony.  I love when you can black out your room... but you better ask for a wakeup call!

Hotel Ala in Venice

Here's an interesting track detail in lieu of hinges.

Shutters found on our walk down from San Miniato, Florence
2. Handmade doors

I took a lot of pictures of doors because they can offer so much character to a place.  I love the richness of this material and the simplicity of the design.  It's hard to tell if they are new or have been there forever.  I like that in a door.

Doors somewhere in Venice

These are more modern but just as rich in material.  As you can see, I like the horizontal board look.  

Storefront doors across from the Duomo in Florence

I particularly like the lean steel edge detail seen here...

Storefront doors across from the Duomo in Florence

Okay, so I'm cheating on this's from another trip to Italy.  But it's such a welcoming entry I couldn't help but include it.  Nice 6 panel doors and a charming wood framed terracotta awning...

And from the same trip... this balcony is amazing for so many reasons!  The generous glass door, real working shutters, and a terra cotta ceiling, which leads me to my next idea...

3. Brick Ceilings:

The ceiling is often an afterthought, but with one like this people will be sure to notice.   This would make a beautiful porch ceiling or maybe a rustic kitchen ceiling.  Create your very own Tuscan villa!

Small covered alleys in  Radda in Chianti

I happened upon this store and got all excited about the great shoes and then... I looked up!  And I love the little window with the deep angled return. 

Shoe store in the small town of Radda in Chianti

4.  Architectural Use of Foliage:

This lush pergola creates a welcoming shaded area to sit.   It was located on the grounds of a Murano glass factory.  One of their pieces is thoughtfully displayed in the arch.   

Who doesn't love lush window boxes?! Again this feature adds depth to the facade and at the same time bringing the outdoors in close view from inside.  
Residence in Venice

What a lovely balcony fringed with geraniums.  They softened the edge and frame the beautiful views beyond. 

 View of the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence

5.  Clever Skylights

This isn't really a skylight but rather a way to ventilate the heat created from the glass production.  Can you believe such an amazing timber framed clerestory structure would be located in a factory?

Glass Factory on the island of Murano
I thought this was such a fun little skylight.  At the time, I was working on a project where I had a low sloped roof and this might have been a unique solution to bring some light into a bathroom.  I found this skylight tucked away between buildings in the Uffizi Gallery.

I hadn't noticed at the time, that there is a flood light above that can give you the same effect at night! Makes a great little oculus feature in a small exiting hallway of the gallery.  

Speaking of oculi (what a great word!) ... this is the best one I've ever seen.  So I'll leave you with it... the one place I will never tire of visiting.

Pantheon in Rome

Where have you travelled that has made an impression on you and how you live?  A place where you just want to bottle it up and bring it home!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

595 Days to Venice...Here in Hoboken

MackeyBlue had a "Meet the Artist" afternoon last weekend and I managed to get over there to check it out.  And I'm glad I did!  There was beautiful artwork, lovely people and I was able to have a glass of wine with no little person tugging on my pants!

But seriously the artwork is great; if you're in Hoboken you should stop by. The work is by Lynn Hofher and the photographic series is called "595 Days to Venice".   For more info you can go to MackeyBlue's new blog.  Here's a teaser of Lynn's work...

Karen Marsh, the owner of Mackeyblue, hosts a get together with wine and cheese when a new artist's work is put on display.  You can get on the mailing list to be notified of these events and new items that have come in to the store.

I took some photos at the event... and hey, there's the artist!

Spending time there sipping my wine, I started to reminisce about working with Karen to get the store set up way back in 2006.  The lighting, tin ceiling, paint, wallpaper, and the signage...

Someone mentioned how much they liked the wallpaper, which is great to hear.  We took a lot of time to find a pattern and hue that would be fun, yet homey, and go with all the blue-greens that Karen loves.  I think she ultimately found the wallpaper on Ebay!

These great images have me thinking about our trip to Venice with the family.   Hmmm, I think I've got a topic for another post... Canal hopping with the in-laws!

If you get a chance to check out MackeyBlue and the artwork, let me know what you think!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Still in the Kitchen- Choosing Appliances

We've started selecting replacement appliances for our kitchen renovation and the scope creep is happening!  This all started with just wanting a new counter and backsplash. My original thought was to only replace what wasn't functioning or aesthetically appealing.  I thought the cooktop could stay since it works fine and the cream color isn't objectionable.  I thought the double ovens could stay because the black would blend into the cabinetry and at least one of them works!  (Looking at this photo...I can't wait until those cabinets are painted!) 

But reality is setting in... if we get a beautiful bright white counter how could you stick a grimy old cream colored cooktop in it!  Yeah, that's going.  And since the hood matches the cooktop, it has to go.  And if the cooktop is new, why would we keep ovens that only half work!    Yep, they're going too. 

Fortunately, we installed a new stainless steel Bosch dishwasher when we first moved in so that's one less expense. We had one in our old apartment and I couldn't live without it for long.  Here's the unit so you've got the entire picture (just add lots of fingerprints)...

I like to shop for appliances at AJ Madison.   Just like IraWoods is great for fixtures and faucets, AJ Madison is a great place to see what's out there in the appliance world.  They carry most brands and you can select your specific requirements.  Once I find something there, I'll look around online for reviews and pricing.  In the end, they usually have a competitive price and I can save on shipping by using one supplier. But if you don't have a contractor and you need someone to install it, you might try your local Lowes, Home Depot, or Sears.

First, the cooktop requirements:  30", gas, stainless steel, simple grill pattern & knobs, and.... that it works!  Oh, and I don't want to spend a $1,000.  Maytag's cooktop jumped out at us...

Now I just need to find a store where we can see it.  It's considerably less than a lot of other cooktops so I want to find out why?!

My husband also wanted to consider an induction cooktop because of its simple design and ease of cleaning.  (If you want to understand how induction technology works you might try The Induction Site.)   I have to agree that it would be easy to clean but since we have gas I don't see a reason to switch at this point. I like gas.  But if we didn't have it, induction would definitely be my next choice.  This is a Thermador's version...

Here's an installation of a Diva cooktop on one of my projects.  If you want to put a wall oven under it as we did here, you'll have to do some planning in advance due to required clearances.  But it's worth it in the end for a clean look.

Next, the hood requirements:  stainless steel, fit our existing opening, recirculating, simple design and... that it works without it sounding like an airplane taking off!  Oh and I don't want to spend a $1,000.  This Zephyr model jumped out at us.   Who could resist a gentle breeze?  It's unassuming enough and the price is right.

Lastly, the double oven requirements: ...okay this one is a bit more complicated.  Do we need two ovens? The current ovens are 24" wide which makes for two small ovens when I'd rather one big one.  Right now everything I bake cooks too quickly on the edges.  But the only way to widen the oven is to move it under our stove but I'm concerned it's too low and our kitchen is too tight. I think we'll stick with the current location and just get one taller oven.  Here are the options we've been considering. 

This oven from Blue Star has an interesting design with a side hinged door. But the price tag, quickly eliminated it for us. 

This one from Delonghi has an elegant clean design...

I think we may go with this electric oven from Bertazzoni because it looks good and the price is right at $899! 

Right now we have a gas oven but I've heard electric provides more even cooking.  We just need to confirm that our current wiring can support it.

So those are the appliances!  Next step... hit the stone counter supplier to make that marble vs. quartz decision.  

I'd love to hear about your experience with new appliances...what you like and don't like. Or maybe there is an appliance you dream about owning someday.  Ahhh, it brings back memories of my first dishwasher purchase...

Friday, April 9, 2010

"What I Did on My Spring Vacation"

I spent the week in Carlisle, PA visiting the folks and wanted to share some photos of our trip. I debated whether this is relevant to my blog's 'purpose'... but it has a bit of architecture (a beautifully landscaped home), and some design (a fluorescent 'skylight'), and plenty of life (a toddler loving trains!)  I do appreciate that what I do for a living just happens to blend with my life.   Enough talk, here are the pics...

Can you believe this is a bulkhead to a basement?  I love its tiny scale, cheery red door, and moss covered shingles. Feels like it's from a fairy tale.

Have you ever seen a charming driveway?  Well, here it is...

Not only does it look nice, but it's sustainable; no repaving or maintenance. And it's better for the environment; less runoff into a near by stream. 

Speaking of the stream, it's a beautiful meandering backdrop to the springtime blooms and sculptural solar clock...

At my parent's house... I took a peak at the new laundry room my dad has been laboring over.  I was quite impressed with his sheetrocking abilities.  Here he inset a utilitarian 2 x 4 fluorescent fixture into a sheetrock soffit.  Given the great light quality, I'd swear it was a skylight... if it weren't in the basement!

Here you can see how the small molding holds in the fixture and allows the panel to be popped out to replace the bulbs.

We took a trip to Strasburg, PA in Lancaster County to check out the railroad museum.  I hadn't been there since I was a little kid so I wasn't sure what to expect.  Wow, I underestimated the grand nature of these majestic machines.

And I was amazed by my 22 month old's excitement! He was in train heaven. Here's what I like to call the 'train dance'...

Did you just have a spring break too?   Where did you go and what did you do?  Please, do tell!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Outdoor Dining

The beautiful weather over the weekend got me thinking about outdoor living again.  And so the annual search for the perfect outdoor dining chair begins!  Every year we talk about buying some new furniture for our deck so we can enjoy dining al fresco this summer.  But every year my husband and I debate the price point, material, style ...mostly because neither of us can make up our mind.  Here's a smattering of what I was thinking.  Timelessness and comfort are my too objectives.  I'd love to hear your opinion. 

Now you can't get any cheaper than this Ikea bistro chair...  it's only $15! 

It looks like it wouldn't be comfortable but we have two already and they do the trick.  And if you've ever spent some time in Bryant Park in NYC, you know they ain't half bad.  And who could beat that price!  

Here's the authentic Bryant Park version.  They are shipped from France by American Country.  Oooh la la, that red is fun!  They are priced at $198 for two.

This is from CB2 at $139.  It looks sturdy yet petite and I like the galvanized material... which should hold up better than wood.   We may or may not cover up the chairs in the winter so they've got to clean easily and not rust or rot.

Another chair from CB2 at $99.95.  These feel a bit more mod which could be fun.  I originally thought they were white plastic but now realize they are aluminum!   

Here is a polypropylene chair by Philippe Starck that could be wiped down easily.   I think I would choose the gray or orange.  I like the white but I think that's meant for a pristine location by a pool in LA!   You can find them at Unica Home for $656 for a set of four.

Thinking of orange reminds me of the great Starck chairs by the pool on our trip to Italy.  Something tells me I couldn't pull this off in Hoboken though...

This French classic has always been my favorite but the price tag keeps me from doing it every year.  This one is from DWR at $250.

Here is Pottery Barn's version for $199... or $750 for four.  I like the red and white options too.   I could see them at a rustic thick wood table. 

Speaking of tables, you'll see that I don't show any?   Well, I don't want a matching set and the chairs are most important to me stylistically.  So first the chairs and then we'll work on the table.  I'll want some input on that too.

So, let's take a vote!  Which one do you think we should pick?