Saturday, September 20, 2014

Lighten Up — or Brighten Up — With Yellow

Yellow can be soft or shocking, add energy or a mellow vibe, and exude country charm or edgy, modern appeal. In other words, it’s a versatile color that can work in any room. However, while many people love the sunny shade, they tend to steer clear of it when decorating, fearing it may overpower their home.

The key to doing it right is having a carefully considered plan. Think about whether you want the color to be the room’s main attraction or take a supporting role. Also think about what shade best suits your personality and whether it’s the best fit for the room. It’s important to consider balance — think about how you can use different colors and design elements to either enhance or temper the specific shade and amount of yellow you’ve chosen for your design. The following inspiring spaces offer ideas on how to decorate your home with bright or mellow shades of yellow with great success.

Make a memorable first impression. Who could quickly forget this charming cottage? A painted picket fence in sunshine yellow and a yellow and white striped awning (note how the stripes are thick, so the pattern doesn’t look too busy) brighten up this home’s traditional facade and ensure it stands out from the other dwellings on the street.

To re-create this look, all you’ll need is a paintbrush and a can of yellow paint and you’re good to go. If this is a little too bright for your taste, just paint your front door in a coat or two of your favorite shade instead.

Add eye-popping accents. Provide warmth and character to cool, muted color schemes by adding splashes of look-at-me yellow around a room. Rather than making any permanent or costly changes, decorate your space with small accessories you can easily replace. That way once your love affair with the tone is over, or you simply wish to swap the accents for decor in lighter or darker shades as the seasons change, you can mix things up without any fuss.

Keep it in the family. The color family, that is. Layer your space with contrasting shades of yellow for a dramatic look that offers loads of warmth and visual interest.

This eclectic living room shows how it’s done; dark yellow-green grass cloth wallpaper anchors the room and infuses it with a touch of sophistication, while a tangerine and lemon artwork lightens the palette and adds a dash of cheerfulness. A strip of high-impact neon yellow runs across the rug, breaking up the abundant use of turquoise and helping tie the colorful, contemporary look together.

You can use this versatile color to create a buttery backdrop, add a zesty accent or make a bold design statement. Continue reading here.

Lighten Up — or Brighten Up — With Yellow

8 Things Successful Architects and Designers Do

Every architect’s design process is extremely personal and nuanced. For example, I have certain tools that I reach for ritually when I start a new project. One is a favorite lead pencil with a lightweight, medium-size barrel and a thinly ridged grip, loaded with a medium-weight HB lead that’s not too soft and not too hard. It has a broken clip at the top and a small blue button near my thumb to advance the lead.

It’s with this pencil in hand that I begin each design, visiting the project site, writing, taking notes and sketching in a pocket-size gridded sketchbook. I take with me a small corded bundle of Prismacolor pencils — light cream, sky blue, May green, French gray, yellow ocher and oxide red — to fill in the line work of my sketches and suggest order. It has to be this way for me, and I know that when I’m armed with these tools, the ideas will flow easily.

While each architect’s habits are individual and idiosyncratic, the broader architectural habits we share lay the foundations for good design. Here are eight (of the many) habits that help guide successful architects during the design process.

1. They tell a good story. Our memories of places are inherently linked to stories. A home that tells the story of a specific client, in a specific place, at a specific time enriches the experience and gives it a reason for being.

Architects are taught very early in design school to conceptualize projects by inventing a narrative, which is traditionally referred to as a parti.

A parti is like a rulebook, in a way, and a good one allows us to refer back to it when we’re stuck wondering what to do next. It organizes our thoughts and guides us in how to best relate the story through our design.

The narrative can flow from something specific — say, a beloved tree to preserve — or something more general, such as, “All rooms must have natural light.” It can emerge from a client’s specific request: “Nothing white, please.” Or the shape of a building lot. It can apply to every level of design problems, even down to small renovation or decorating tasks.

Finding the bigger, guiding idea and creating a story around it imbues every design decision with meaning.

Read the Things Successful Architects and Designers Do

8 Things Successful Architects and Designers Do

Houzz Tour: A Modern Remake Brings Ocean Views Into Focus

Perched high on a hill with glorious, tranquil views over the Pacific Ocean north of Sydney sits a modern design marvel. In its former life as a simple beach house, it had failed to take advantage of this privileged position. So the homeowners hired Site Specific Designs to turn their dilapidated house into a sleek, modern family home filled with natural light and open to the 180-degree coastal views.

Residential designer Sheralee Hogan set about planning a generous living space in front of the existing home that would create a new glass-filled street facade to the north. The design provides two distinct living areas — downstairs for the children and upstairs at the back for the parents — with a common living zone at the front upstairs. “It has provided the family with individual areas to get away and large family zones to come together, which works perfectly for them,” Hogan says.

Hogan’s clients had a clear vision of what they wanted their finished house to look like. Simplicity and clarity of forms were at the top of their list, with a strong visual emphasis on horizontal lines. They also wanted to better connect the home with the street and to create a four-bedroom home with a new living room that enjoyed the amazing vistas to the north and west.

Hogan introduced a sense of journey to the entrance, breaking up the steep rise from the road to the front door with landscaping and distant views, and by creating a unique bridge over the pool.

Another design strategy was to introduce a raised first-floor level — the first floor now “floats” above the ground level and sloping site. “The east and south interior spaces can now engage with the landscape directly, without being bunkered below it,” Hogan says.

The new wing at the front of the house has been sculpted to create a dramatic form. It’s now an “object of desire” on an otherwise bland suburban hillside, Hogan says.

The 23-foot-long cantilevered deck off the first floor stretches over the existing pool, giving you the feeling that you’re stepping out into the view.

The existing house was quite disengaged, both within itself and from the site.

The kids now have a hidden games room at the back of the ground floor, which they can enjoy away from their parents, and the grown-ups have their own quiet sitting room at the back of the first floor — the large glass doors front the peaceful, shaded refuge.

Because the new garage blocks off access to the front of the house, Hogan had to come up with a new entryway. The journey to the front door is now unforgettable — a dramatic bridge crosses the pool to the oversize front doors.

The large eaves and new deck create expansive horizontal elements that produce depth along the sun-soaked northern facade and introduce shadows that dance across the ground-floor surface of the pool.


Houzz Tour: A Modern Remake Brings Ocean Views Into Focus

How to Make Your House Feel at Home Where It Is

We often see architectural designs that don’t seem to fit in with their surroundings. Following design clues from the environment is a good way to avoid that. Considering the scale, materials, proportion and siting of your house are just a few ways to design with sensitivity.

Let Your Landscape Guide You

Design around what Mother Nature has given you, rather than try to fight it. It may cost you less and give you some clues on how to plan your spaces.

Think about the backdrop and slope of the land. Designs that join foreground and background work well in perspective and scale.

Consider the vernacular shapes and proportions of existing buildings onsite, and complement these without mimicking the style.

How to Make Your House Feel at Home Where It Is

How to Make Your House Feel at Home Where It Is

The Kitchen Storage Space That Hides at Floor Level

The humble toe kick is an often-overlooked design detail, and maybe for good reason: It stands practically underfoot, serving in fact only to give our feet a place to rest while we’re working at the counters and cupboards above. However, whether in the kitchen, bathroom or elsewhere, there is much you can do with a toe kick, so it’s worth taking a moment to think about this small design detail. Here are a few helpful design tips for the last place you’d ever think about looking.

Toe kicks are, as a rule, typically 3 to 4 inches high, and recessed 3 inches underneath a cabinet. This gives you room for your feet — or your toes, anyway — while you’re standing at the counter without wasting cabinet space or creating a pocket that’s too deep to clean.

However, a toe kick doesn’t have to be wasted space. Drawers for extra storage are the perfect use for this overlooked space.

They work great for wide, flat items, like specialty pans you don’t use every day …

More about The Kitchen Storage Space That Hides at Floor Level

The Kitchen Storage Space That Hides at Floor Level

10 Reasons to Love Banquettes (Not Just in the Kitchen)

Banquettes just may be the secret weapon of the decorating world. They are comfortable, space saving and useful in just about every room. Whether your space is large or small, an apartment or a house, classic or modern, there is sure to be a banquette just right for you. Check out these 10 reasons to live with (and love) banquettes.

1. Banquettes can seat a crowd with ease. A large banquette can comfortably fit big groups and looks less cluttered than individual chairs.

Tip: For very large banquettes, try using a pair of tables instead of one long table, so those seated in the middle can easily get out.

2. Banquettes exude coziness. Want to bring warmth and comfort to your living space? Try a banquette tucked in beside the fireplace. A plushly upholstered, tufted version is the ultimate in cozy furniture.

3. Banquettes make an apartment feel more polished. Whether you rent or own, if you want your apartment to feel more finished, consider bringing in a banquette. Tucked into a corner, even a freestanding banquette can look built in, lending your space a feeling of elegance and permanence.

More Reasons to Love Banquettes (Not Just in the Kitchen)

10 Reasons to Love Banquettes (Not Just in the Kitchen)

Does Your Landscape Need a Little ‘Cosmic Latte’?

A neutral color palette creates a calm and stylish environment in our homes and provides a harmonious backdrop for furniture and decorations. Can the neutrality of beige and its various cousins do the same in garden design, allowing us to create a compelling landscape and backdrop for plantings and garden furniture?

Astronomers have discovered that the real color of the universe is beige, or “cosmic latte,” as they’ve dubbed it. If the universe is beige, what’s wrong with having a beige garden? Let’s look at a few examples of how beige can be far from bland and can, in fact, be a great building block for contemporary gardens.

Concrete is often a contemporary garden’s main source of beige. Its industrial look suits minimalist designs, in which shape and mass take precedence over color and pattern. In this landscape, shadows and tonal variations on the differing planes of the structure create interest as the light changes throughout the day.

Beige can help emphasize clean lines in a landscape’s design. The lack of bright color or decoration really allows the structure of the design to show through, even in the simplest patios.

The restriction of color in this patio allows the creamy-smooth texture of the paved walkway, the dark taupe of the canopy and the lines of the cobbles to shine through. In the same way that beige is used in interior design as a backdrop to brightly colored furnishings, here the beige enables the bright red garden furniture to pop in the design.

One definition of bland is “lacking strong features or characteristics.” Yet here the beige, which some would call the blandest of colors, emphasizes the striking lines of this design. As we’ve seen, strong modernist design has no need for color or decoration to succeed. Beige allows the wall shapes, sizes and textures to show clearly.

Continue reading Does Your Landscape Need a Little ‘Cosmic Latte’?

Does Your Landscape Need a Little ‘Cosmic Latte’?

Friday, September 19, 2014

9 Questions to Ask a Home Remodeler Before You Meet

As professional home remodelers and builders, the people at our firm field many phone calls from potential clients. One of the first things that many people ask us is when we can set up an in-person meeting. But meeting in person about a remodeling project is a significant time commitment for all involved. These meetings are typically one to three hours, including travel time, and often occur in the middle of a busy weekday. So before setting up that appointment — and committing to what’s involved — it’s best for homeowners to ask a few key questions by phone or email to help ensure that an in-person meeting will be time well spent.

1. Am I in an area where you work? Some contractors are willing to work across a wide metro area, or may restrict their work based on travel time, a city or even a few zip codes. Others may travel farther for a larger project and limit small projects to just their immediate neighborhood. Keeping to a limited geographic range generally means faster response times, which can be a plus for homeowners, particularly for warranty work. If you’re not in an area they serve, you may want to ask if they can recommend anyone closer to you.

2. Is my project the kind you do regularly? Start with a general description of what you are planning. For example, “I’d like to remodel my bath, and it may involve a dormer addition.” If a contractor primarily remodels kitchens and baths, then a large addition may not be the kind of project they will be prepared to consider. Some contractors work only on interiors and do not build additions, or work only on single-family homes and are not insured for work on condominiums or townhouses. Many contractors restrict the kind of work they do, either by focusing on residential or commercial projects, or on a particular size or type of project. Make sure your project is something they are interested in working on and are set up to handle well.

3. Can you work with my timeline? There are two key pieces with timing: how soon the contractor can start your project and how quickly plans, permitting and material selections can be completed. If this is your first call, it may be many months before the plans and permits are ready, since you haven’t even interviewed a design professional yet. If you have plans in hand for anything bigger than a bathroom, it is still likely to be a month or two before you’ve selected a contractor, the pricing is complete, a contract is signed and construction begins. This is a good opportunity to talk with the contractor about thoughts on the length of the planning process and to hear about the current work backlog.

Continue reading Questions to Ask a Home Remodeler Before You Meet

9 Questions to Ask a Home Remodeler Before You Meet

Houzz Tour: Southern Charm in the California Wine Country

Houzz at a Glance

Location: Northern California wine country

Architect: Nick Noyes

Size: 4,500 square feet (418 square meters)

“Houses are like people. Inherent in any structure, there are limits, constrictions and challenges. It is the house holder’s job to create magic out of the flaw — to transcend the problem and make something beautiful out of it,” says the owner, who professes a weakness for difficult-to-renovate properties. “Our family loved the house before the remodel, but it was funky. It hadn’t been touched since it was built — except for some bad touches that happened in the 1970s.”

Noyes had a problem-solving plan, the essence of which was simple: Grow the basement and the attic levels and reconfigure the middle floor for better flow and better access to the deep raised porch that hugged the building.

“There was a low-ceilinged basement that was hard to stand up in, and the attic was simply storage space,” he says. “We raised the house to make the lowest level usable. It now holds an entry, utilities area and a guest room. The remodeled attic has a taller roofline and six dormers that give it more headroom and make it livable.”

These are big changes that have made a big impact, but that doesn’t mean the old house is gone. Code restrictions said that the porch railing had to be higher and tighter, but the design is a version of what was there. The brackets on top of the columns were simply removed from the old house and reinstalled on the colonnade. What’s new in the design is a little Big Easy flavor.

“My husband and I grew up in New Orleans,” says the owner. “We were inspired by the raised cottages we remembered from childhood.”

The inspiration from that life experience mixed with the simple lines of the old farmhouse to create something unique. “The new house is like a memory of what was there — and of classic Southern architecture and country homes,” Noyes says.

If you say “classic Southern architecture,” many people picture Tara from Gone With the Wind, but that’s not what the owners wanted. Their desire was for a more humble country house, and that’s what led Noyes to select elements like a prerusted corrugated roof. “It gives the house the informality the owners wanted,” he says.

But it’s not just the aesthetic of the former house that was preserved; many of the building materials were reused in the new design — including beadboard panels, which were reinstalled in a dramatic way.

“When we bought the house, the rooms were painted these crazy colors, but we never repainted them,” says the owner. “During the remodel, because we were installing new wiring and plumbing, the contractors had to remove all the boards. They were stacked in the yard, and I was very inspired by them and the mixing of the colors. The idea was that they would be reinstalled and repainted, but when I saw the boards go up at random, I thought, ‘Oh, my God! I love these!’ I decided I wasn’t going to do it.” She let the contractors continue to install them in the totally random pattern that’s on display today (seen here in the media room).

It’s a decision the architect took in stride. “My client has excellent taste,” Noyes says. “She brings interesting ideas to the table — and she has a way of putting things together that shouldn’t work but do.”

Some of those ideas are expressed in her furniture and accessory choices. The donkey is from a classic outdoor Nativity set and was discovered at an antiques store. (“I am the consummate flea market shopper,” says the owner.) The custom sofa is covered in a more exotic equine print (zebra stripes). A low wooden chair is just one of many scattered throughout the house. “I have a chair issue,” the owner allows. “I love chairs with personality.”

See more of this Southern Charm in the California Wine Country


Houzz Tour: Southern Charm in the California Wine Country

Houzz Tour: An Eclectic Ranch Revival in Washington, D.C.

David Benton and Dennis Kirk’s 1957 ranch home sits at the end of a quiet street in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Its simple exterior and familiar profile recall iconic American architecture, though humbler than the White House several miles away. Whereas the architecture of the U.S. capital may be best known for its neoclassical opulence or historic federalist style, Benton’s home is on four split levels. A quick walk puts him on Georgetown University’s campus or along the Potomac River, but at home he can feel like he’s miles away. “We’ve got a country house,” says Benton, “but we’re in the city.”


Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: David Benton and Dennis Kirk
Location: Palisades neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
Size: 2,200 square feet (204 square meters); 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms

The existing exterior was every bit 1950s ranch home. The home’s previous owners had lived there for 35 years, says Benton, who describes their maintenance style as that of people who aren’t really into houses. “Instead of fixing something, they added another layer of paint or drywall,” he says. He liked the home’s bones, but a lot of stripping and cleaning up needed to be done.

AFTER: Benton, an architect at Rill Architects, didn’t want to alter the exterior too much. He refinished the HardiePlank siding in a darker, more contemporary charcoal; left the original brick; and installed energy-efficient windows. The landscape was tackled early on. Benton had no desire to inherit the homeowner chore of mowing the lawn. “I don’t want to do that ever again,” he says. The first thing he did was remove the grass and install year-round foliage plants like lavender, rosemary and bear’s breech.

The entryway’s update was probably the most dramatic. Benton removed the ornate entry post and railing in the first photo and replaced them with a simple post and a colorful potted fern.

See more of this Eclectic Ranch Revival in Washington, D.C.

Houzz Tour: An Eclectic Ranch Revival in Washington, D.C.

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