40 Years: A Look Back

This month, I am celebrating forty years in the industry. I thought that this anniversary provided a great opportunity to reflect on my time in the business. A lot has changed in the past four decades – both for me and the industry.
An article from 1981 featuring a young me.  

I started working in a cabinet shop in September of 1978 – Highland Construction & Manufacturing. I started out as a floor sweeper. Within two years, I was promoted to a full-time cabinet maker. I quickly learned the trade.

At the time, stain-grade wood was really popular. Sometimes, I miss the natural depth of stained wood. Today, painted woods – painted cabinets – are much more common. People today prefer the brightness of painted wood. 

My business card with Highland Cabinets. 

We’re also entering an era of simplicity. Corbels, pilasters, and heavy trim and carvings were in fashion when I first started at the cabinet shop. Now, most of my clients prefer a simpler, more minimalistic design. To a certain degree, this change is a good thing. It was very easy for designers to overdo intricate millwork, ending up with a design that was gaudy and ugly. Minimalist looks are hard to mess up.

Mid-century-inspired designs are popular with today’s clients. 

And 7-foot tall cabinets used to be it. Can you imagine? Now, so many homes have 8-, 9-, even 10-foot tall ceilings, with tall cabinets to match. 

After working as cabinetmaker, I started thinking about the next stage in my career. I enjoyed working with my hands and being creative. I also found that I had a knack for looking at a piece of wood and seeing its entire life – what it would like in a cabinet, what the cabinet would look like in a home, how it would function in a kitchen while the owners were cooking. This led me to seriously consider design, and I started taking design jobs part-time.


Two business cards I used when Richard Ourso Kitchen Designs had just opened. 
I eventually opened up my first business, Richard Ourso Kitchen Design. I liked kitchen design because it allowed me to focus on the details of the space. Whole-home designers and architects simply don’t have the time to look at the particulars of a space and make it function. I wanted to focus on how the space flowed – something that is still important in my designs today.

That’s another that has changed – there are more specialty designers than there were four decades ago. When I started my design firm, there were hardly any kitchen and bath designers in the area. Even my second job – a new build – was a whole home design. It took a while for the Baton Rouge market to adjust to kitchen and bath designers.  

My first beam job after opening The Olde Mill.
Over the years, tastes have changed. Baton Rouge used to be a very traditional market. In the last 8 – 10 years, I’ve noticed more and more homeowners requesting transitional designs. These new spaces lack the bulkiness and gaudiness of what was popular in the 1980s and 1990s.

And galley kitchens used to be the most requested kitchen layout. Today’s clients would find this design inefficient. L- and U-shaped kitchens with large center islands are now the norm. 

An L-shaped kitchen with island I designed recently for a local home. 

As a whole, home design used to be much more segmented. You had a dining room and a kitchen as completely separate spaces. Most modern clients want a home with an open floorplan. I myself prefer the more open concept because it allows the space to flow with the family.


Both my Ourso Designs and my manufacturing company, The Olde Mill, continue to grow and change. I’m excited to see what the next few years have to offer. 


Dining In: Choosing the Right Size Dining Table for your Space

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The dining table is arguably the most important piece of furniture in a home. It’s where your family gathers for dinner, where breakfast is served. It’s where kids do homework or Mom and Dad catch up on work they didn’t finish at the office. Friends and family gather around it for Thanksgiving dinner or a party on the weekend. A lot happens on single piece of furniture.

The importance of the dining table demands a certain amount of gravitas in it’s selection. A simple mistake – too large of a table for the room, for instance – can have a rippling effect on your family’s home life.

Consider: Use

Every family is different. Some families eat every meal at the dining table. Some only only use it for more formal occasions, such as holiday dinners or extravagant parties.

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And the use should dictate the style of dining table. You want to get the most use possible out of your dining table. Pick something that meets the needs of you and your family. If you eat in often, pick a table that will sit the whole family, plus a few extra. If you rarely sit down together, get something cozier.

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Consider: Space

Of course, you can’t fit a conference-length table in a cozy, 8′ x 10′ dining space. You know that. But there are also some other hard rules when it comes to considering your table’s fit.

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When shopping, don’t just think about the footprint of the table – think about the space the dining table AND guests will take up. You need at least 3 feet of clearance between the wall and the table on all sides.

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And don’t forget chairs. They contribute to the size of the table. Your guests will more than likely sit with the seat partially, if not all the way, out from the table. That 3 feet of clearance will give you and guests plenty of room to move about the dining table. Really, the more space, the better.

If you simply can’t give up that much space to your table, a pedestal table is the way to go. A single, center base leaves lots of room under the table for everyone’s legs.

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Consider: Shape 

The two most common dining table shapes are rectangular and circular. Both shapes have their benefits, as well as drawbacks.

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Rectangular dining tables are the easiest to fit in a dining room, for one simple fact – most dining rooms are also rectangular. This also makes it easy to size the dining table. Most rectangular dining tables are between 36″ and 42″ across, which provides ample room for two place settings and a center piece. The length of the shouldn’t be more than 6 feet shorter than the length of the room.

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One major drawback of rectangular tables come with the corners. If space in the dining room is tight, it is difficult to navigate around the corners when the table is full. Also, no one wants to sit at a corner seat.

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If you’re planning on a smaller dining table, a circular or round table is preferred. It allows everyone at the table to see each other equally. There’s no yelled conversations down a long table like you see in movies.

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Of course, a round table offers less surface area for eating than a rectangular table with a similar footprint. When the table is crowded, this will limit both serving space and elbow room.

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You can find a compromise of the two shapes in the oval table. The oval table will give you a little more space to squeeze around in a rectangular dining room, since the corners are cut off. You can still get the length that you would want with a rectangular table, but without sacrificing the equanimity of the round table. 

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The Chesterfield

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Opulent. Luxurious. Plush. There are many words to describe the Chesterfield, the majestic tufted sofa that is both timeless-ly trendy and undeniably comfortable. 
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The first Chesterfield sofa was commissioned by one Lord Phillip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield and mid-1700s style maven; he requested a couch that looked good AND didn’t wrinkle his trouser pants. Emerging techniques in leather smithing created a soft, supple leather, that could be molded, tucked, and pinched into intricate designs. This made the fabric an obvious choice for Stanhope’s sofa. 

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Like any good design, the Chesterfield’s popularity has had its peaks and valleys – as of this moment, it’s popularity is on the rise. You have a great opportunity to get ahead of the curve!

If you’re thinking about adding one of these posh pieces to your own design, fabric and color are key. Leather is always an option, but a huge range of fabrics – linen, canvas, suede – as well as a rainbow of colors make this great design more versatile than ever. Pink velvet will take this Old World classic to a modern and fun place.

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The sofa is the most traditional offering, but it is far from the only one. Many designers today are selling Chesterfield chairs and loungers. This is a great way to incorporate the look in an existing room, without drastically changing the style. Tufted ottomans and headboards also offer a way to get the Chesterfield feel. 

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There’s a whole world of possibilities out there and nothing to hold your style back!