Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Houzz Tour: Snug London Cottage Has a Spacious Feel

As three-bedroom, three-bathroom houses go, this light, bright, 19th-century cottage is on the small side. In a 1,000-square-foot property, you might not expect to have the space for a separate dining area or find an en suite bathroom roomy enough to accommodate twin basins as well as a tub. But this house is all about expecting the unexpected. A modern hole-in-the-wall fireplace is the focal point of a classically furnished living room, a seemingly standard bookcase hides the TV, and even the teenage daughter’s bedroom has an air of sophistication.

Designer Philippa Thorp says the cottage, which hadn’t been touched for 20 years, was taken on as an architectural and interior design project for clients who have two children. The owners use the cottage for unwinding after work during the week, and on the weekend they head out to the countryside, so the emphasis was on creating an easy, relaxing home rather than a space for entertaining.

Thorp Design gutted the dark space, relocating the staircase and replacing the back wall with a glass panel. The firm installed skylights above the new kitchen area and reconfigured the upstairs space to (somehow) fit three double bedrooms with bathrooms. It was like working with “a tiny Rubik’s cube,” Thorp says.

Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: A family of 4 on weekdays
Location: Chelsea, London
Era built: 19th century
Designer: Thorp Design
Size: 1,000 square feet (93 square meters)

A hole-in-the-wall fireplace is the focal point in the living room. “I like to mix modern and traditional elements, so I chose this design to keep the lines crisp and clean,” Thorp says. “It’s also a good space-saving option, as it doesn’t have a hearth taking up valuable floor space.”

Storage is incorporated into all sorts of places, including the bench seat at the window, the leather-clad coffee table (which has drawers) and the alcove shelving, which hides a secret.

An ingenious rise-and-fall mechanism conceals the TV behind a false wall of books in the living room. “I had a dreadful time in a secondhand bookshop selecting books that were the right height and width, and knowing that I was planning to chop them all up,” Thorp says. “But when I confessed to the shop owner, he didn’t seem to think it was as sacrilegious as I did.”

The floor was lowered 7 inches to improve the proportions on the ground floor. “Now you step down into the room, which helps give it a sense of being much bigger,” says Thorp. A wingback chair upholstered in pale fabric fits perfectly into the corner, while a glass-topped table helps maintain a sense of space.

The walls are covered in fabric rather than wallpaper. “The fabric helps to absorb any noise,” says the designer. “It all adds to the sense of it being a cozy little house. You feel wrapped in it.”

More Houzz Tour: Snug London Cottage Has a Spacious Feel

Houzz Tour: Snug London Cottage Has a Spacious Feel

A Peek at 2 Prettily Dressed Fall Porches

Seeking a Quiet, Relaxed Spot? Try Upholstering Your Walls

There’s something extraordinary about a room with upholstered walls — and it’s not just the visual stimulation. When you walk in, you can immediately notice the difference in sound, too, or rather lack of it. Footsteps don’t resonate, speech is quieted and that hollow echo that sometimes fills a room is absent, resulting in an intimate, relaxed experience.

Wall upholstery evolved from medieval times when hung tapestries helped keep drafts at bay. Fixed wall upholstery was introduced in the 17th century when opulent fabrics became more readily available.

While upholstered walls help with insulation, today they’re primarily used for aesthetics and acoustics,either by enhancing sound within a room or muffling unwanted outside noise. To be clear, though, upholstered walls aren’t your everyday, run-of-the-mill sort of wall treatment. They’re something quite special.

If you’re considering upholstery to wrap an entire room, adorn a single wall or cover a simple niche, there are a few things you’ll want to consider in terms of cost, installation and more.

Scope of Project

Upholstering an entire room. 
In this bedroom design, the entire wall surface is devoted to padded upholstery. Instead of a continuous, smooth installation, there is repetition of form with a paneled look. The effect is striking. Reflected light subtly drawn across the fabric enhances the slight pillowing between the panels.

This type of installation requires a solid, textural fabric. A pattern, in addition to being overwhelming in such a large installation, would visually suppress the geometry of the panels.

All four walls of this bedroom are upholstered in a fabric with a medium-scale print. The higher contrast (black and white) of this fabric makes it perfect for enveloping a smaller space.

If you’re considering a full-wall installation, be extra cautious about leaving a slight gap between furniture pieces, such as beds and nightstands, and the fabric wall surface, so as not to damage the fabric. Also, be careful when vacuuming, especially if your baseboard trim is shorter than your vacuum head. And be especially mindful when using candles.

Seeking a Quiet, Relaxed Spot? Try Upholstering Your Walls

Seeking a Quiet, Relaxed Spot? Try Upholstering Your Walls

Houzz Tour: New York Apartment Redesign Cooks Up Good Looks

Falling for Color: 9 Ways With Pumpkin Orange

Bathroom Workbook: 7 Natural Stones With Enduring Beauty

There’s no other material quite like natural stone. No two pieces are exactly alike, and nothing else adds the same organic warmth and texture to a bathroom. Not to mention the longevity. If they’re well maintained, your stone surfaces can last a lifetime.

Marble, of course, has been a popular stone choice for luxurious interiors for centuries based on its inherent beauty. But while Carrara and Calacatta remain classics, they have their downsides, and they aren’t your only options. Here are seven other natural stone varieties, each with its own unique characteristics and strengths, worth considering for your bathroom floors, countertops and walls.

The price of natural stones can vary greatly, so do your research. But don’t let a high price deter you from incorporating a stone you absolutely love. Larger-format tiles are usually less expensive than smaller tiles, and you can try to find remnant slabs at your local stone yard. Also, consider using natural stone for just one wall or a small niche area to work it into your budget.

Soapstone. Surprisingly underused in bathrooms, soapstone is actually a great option because it’s so low maintenance. No sealers are necessary; just periodically rub a little mineral oil on the surface. Over time this stone oxidizes and gets darker and richer in color.

Cost: Comparable to marble; you’ll find slabs from $90 to $200 per square foot. But take a look at this pretty soapstone countertop paired with a gray vanity and you might be like, “Marble who?”

Limestone. In its natural state, this stone is highly porous and needs to be sealed to avoid stains. But it’s a popular choice for its soft and uniform look and warm, neutral color. It lends itself to both traditional designs and modern ones, like this vast bathroom covered top to bottom in the material.

Bathroom Workbook: 7 Natural Stones With Enduring Beauty

Bathroom Workbook: 7 Natural Stones With Enduring Beauty

10 Reasons to Love Big, Comfy Sectionals

Monday, October 20, 2014

Room of the Day: Dark and Daring Pay Off in a Den Redesign

They tried calling it the music room, the den and the library, but no matter what they called it, no one in this family of four was using this room on their home’s first floor. After meeting interior designer Becca Galbraith, they were open to anything that would stop the space from being wasted. “My clients knew they liked handsome fabrics, rich textures and dark colors,” Galbraith says. “I suggested we do something dark and risky, and they were totally onboard.” Comfortable seating, an elegant media center, reading lamps, patterns and layers of textures turned the room into one of the most sought-after spaces in the house.

Room at a Glance
Who lives here: A couple and their 2 teenage children
Location: Chatham, New Jersey
Size: About 95 square feet (9 square meters)

The room is located right off a larger living room–family room. Galbraith began with a favorite Robert Allen fabric for the window treatments. Because her clients were not afraid to go with dark paint, she pulled an indigo hue straight from the fabric to use on the walls. The owners had added extensive millwork throughout the house a few years prior, including wainscoting and other molding. At first they were a little wary of covering everything with the color, but they trusted their designer and let her go for it.

She used Polo Blue by Benjamin Moore on everything, using a high-gloss finish on the millwork and an eggshell finish on the walls for a subtle contrast. The high gloss, accentuated by the lighting, gives the millwork its due.

Next she layered in texture. A striped rug grounds the room in light neutral color. Vintage and global-inspired finds add character. The X-stool was made from a vintage luggage rack. Galbraith was drawn to the bamboo base’s color and texture, so she had her upholsterer replace the top with a hide. “An animal print always helps a room,” she says.

Another interesting texture turns up on the stools, which can be tucked right in underneath the leather ottoman. “I knew I wanted something woven and kind of “ropey,” she says. She found just the right extra seating with these CB2 pieces.

A TV was next on the owners’ wish list. To preserve the millwork all the way around the room, the media casework is freestanding. Matching moldings make them look built in and protect the wainscoting behind them.

The TV practically disappears into the inky paint. Galbraith used a special Venetian plaster treatment on the back panels of the unit to add a little pizzazz. She used the same color as the walls and a gray wash. Antique brass library sconces add shine.

“That top shelf was a big gap, and I knew we needed something really cool to fill it,” Galbraith says. She found it in the form of a vintage wooden Thai wheel from a sugar factory.

One of the homeowners wanted to be able to read in here and prop her feet up on the windowsill, so Galbraith chose comfortable upholstered swivel armchairs and swing-arm floor lamps.

The chairs are upholstered in a handsome tweed that adds more subtle pattern and texture. Luxe mohair throws and ikat pillows add comfort and style.

Featured Room of the Day: Dark and Daring Pay Off in a Den Redesign

Room of the Day: Dark and Daring Pay Off in a Den Redesign

Great Design Plant: Athyrium Filix-Femina

12 Rustic Touches That Add Warmth to a Kitchen

It’s getting darker earlier and earlier this time of year, making us crave a warm and cozy nest on cold evenings. The best place to start is the heart of the home, the kitchen. Gathering with family and friends for comfort food like butternut squash soup, Cincinnati chili or spaghetti and meatballs is even more comforting when the meal is casually served in the kitchen. Adding some rustic touches will make you feel like you’re cozied up in a Tuscan farmhouse or an English cottage. Whether you’re starting from scratch with a renovation or simply want to add a few accessories, here are some key ways to give your kitchen a homey, comforting ambience.

Copper pots. If you’ve got ’em, hang ’em! Copper adds a wonderful patina and shine to a kitchen. You can also incorporate this material by adding a hammered-copper bucket or smaller copper utensil canisters.

A fireplace. This one can be used for cooking, something that comes in handy on a cold night when the power goes out.

A farm table. A sturdy wooden table is a great place for family dinners and doing homework. If you are more of a kitchen-island type than a kitchen-table type, you can adapt a farm table to a higher surface height and use stools instead of chairs.

More Rustic Touches That Add Warmth to a Kitchen

12 Rustic Touches That Add Warmth to a Kitchen

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