Your Countertop Guide: Butcher Block

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Last month, it was stone. This month, we’re back, taking you through the ins and outs of butcher block countertops. These naturally beautiful wood countertops have a lot going for them: they are eco-friendly, anti-microbial, and even citrus resistant (unlike granite and some stone countertops). It’s easy to see why these countertops are so popular.

What are Butcher Block Countertops? 

Butcher block is one of the oldest materials used for countertops. Its use evolved very naturally; kitchen chefs would use thick slabs of wood as for cutting and chopping in their kitchens. Eventually, instead of just having a slab, kitchen designers thought to use long, thick planks of wood as countertop material.
Today’s butcher block countertops are made of long, thin pieces of wood fused together. This method gives you, the consumer, more control over the configuration of your countertop, as well as better quality material. You don’t have to follow the natural grain of the wood or include imperfections in your design. 

The four most popular types of butcher block countertops are made from maple, oak, bamboo, and antique pine. Each type of wood has its own pros and cons. Learning about each will help you make a more informed decision when you are thinking about adding butcher block countertops to your next new build, renovation, or remodeling project.

Maple Countertops

This most popular butcher block material today is maple. This hardwood is a natural choice for a couple of reasons. First, this wood has a simple, straight grain, which gives off an overall appearance of elegance. It also a beautiful blond to light-brown coloration, which goes well with many styles. Staining tends to bring out the spectrum of this wood’s coloration, making it an eye-catcher in any setting. 

These maple countertops from Lumber Liquidators would be perfect in our laundry room and the desk area we'll build in the kitchen.

Oak Countertops

My DIY kitchen oak cabinets painted Annie Sloan pure white chalk paint, ikea domsjo farm sink, butcherblock countertops sealed with waterlox, and white matte subway tile with oyster grey grout.

Oak countertops aren’t quite as durable as maple, but they do have their own perks. Oak gives you the greatest range of color variation, thanks to the numerous species of oak that can be used. You can have from rich dark honey tones of a red oak all the way to the subtle corn and hay tones in a white oak.

Bamboo Countertops

How to Create a Custom Bamboo Countertop in a Bathroom : How-To : DIY Network

You might have heard that wood countertops are impossible to sanitize. This is a myth. Most wood countertops naturally kill bacteria. Germs like salmonella and listeria need water to grow; wood binds up water, making it difficult for bacteria to grow. Wood consistently outperforms materials like plastic when it comes to controlling the spread of bacteria.And of the wood countertops, bamboo countertops are the most bacteria resistant.

 Eco-friendly Kitchen Countertops - Sunset.com endgrain bamboo counter

Bamboo is also a great choice if you’re looking for an eco-friendly wood option. Bamboo takes only a few years to reach full maturity, making it a sustainable resource.

Antique Pine Countertops

Last but not least are antique pine countertops. These countertops have a unique look, thanks to their 100+ years of maturation. This gives the wood a close-grained texture and a super hard, durable surface. It also makes the wood more stable than young woods. The color will not change over the years as dramatically as with  other woods.

Reclaimed White Pine Kitchen Island Counter - yes please! In love! Not super fond of the white though.

Antique pine countertops are easy to clean and maintain.

Goodbye, 2018. Hello, New Year!

With less than a month left in 2018, we thought this would be a great opportunity to look at all that made this year merry and bright. It is, after all, that time of year! Take a look at the best of 2018, and get a sneak peek at what we think will be big in the New Year.

Top Posts of 2018

What was trendy in 2018, you ask? Small pools and ombre interiors, among other things. Click the links to reread this year’s best blog posts.

Small Pools

You don’t need to go Olympic-sized to have a great escape from the summer heat. These tiny pools give you relief while working with the size of your yard.

Divide & Conquer: Partition Walls

Sometimes, you want lots of space. Sometimes, you want to feel cozy. Partition walls help you have the best of both worlds.

Let There Be Skylight

Let the light shine on you.

Trend Alert: Ombre Interiors

Love them, hate them, ombre interiors made a big splash this year.

2019 Predictions 

We’re already looking ahead to 2019. This is what we think will be hot in interior design in the year to come.

Colors

Last year was all about spice: fiery Caliente and bold Ultra Violet were the top colors. This year, though, major companies are going for a more subdued, sophisticated look in their paint choices.

Behr’s top pick for the year is Blueprint S470-5, an approachable cool blue color that compliments pretty much any other color. Benjamin Moore went with Metropolitan, a stylish off-white with rich grey tones, reminiscent of Eggshell. And among Pantone’s picks for the year are Soybean – a subtle, buttery white – and Brown Granite – an earthy grey-brown tone.

The Verdict: Stick to tried-and-true neutrals for walls, carpets, and ceilings. If you’re all about that pop of color, work it in with accessories or furniture. You want you home to feel clean, calm, and modern. 

Styles 

For the last several years, mid-century modern has been king. While the clean lines and natural influences of mid-century modern will continue to be important, we think that 2019 will be a little funkier. 
If you take a look at Boho style, you’ll notice a few familiar things: clean lines, natural materials, a blend of form and function. Yes, it is a lot like mid-century modern. Where the two styles differ is in boldness. Boho favors brighter colors, fun patterns, and rich textures. Also, you can’t go Boho without at least one sheepskin piece. 
Also on the fun side – this new trend of subtle 70s style. Hello, velvet and floral patterns! 
Lots of manufacturers are looking to make more sustainable products by making changes to their materials, sourcing, and manufacturing processes. We love this eco-friendly trend; what’s good for your design scheme can also be good for the earth. 
Last but not least, more and more people are looking for their rooms, and furniture, to do double duty. Manufacturers are welcoming these desires by creating pieces that are both beautiful and multifunctional. These pieces make the best use of your space; if you’re on the tiny house trend, or if you’re just into downsizing, this trend is for you!Your coffee table doesn’t just have to hold books and drinks; it can also convert to a desk for those nights when you have to take work home. 

The Verdict: We love mid-century modern, but maybe it is time to leave in the last century.  

Accessories 

2019’s biggest accessories will be a mixture of old and new. Old: terrazzo. Yes, that 30s staple is back. Advances in manufacturing have given buyers a wider selection of looks and finishes, from positively kitschy to on-par-with-granite elegance. Also, geometric patterns, which have been a staple in the design world for many years, continue to be popular. New: artisanal fixtures. Bold metal accents, blown glass features, and hand made accessories will elevate the look of light fixtures in 2019.

The Verdict: Your options may be unlimited, but it is never a bad thing to stick with what you know. 

What do you think is going to be big in 2019? Share your opinion on our Facebook page. Include the tag #2019forecast.

Trend Alert: Black Accents

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Someone recently told me “Every room needs something black in it;” a rule that, I realized, is an inherent practice that, as a designer, I most always tend to follow. Ultimately, every room needs a bit of contrast. When a palette is becoming too monochromatic, that’s when its time to pull in the black. “Something black” could mean tile, or paint; but it can also come in the form of furniture or decor or even artwork. The subtle, yet impressive black accents in these interiors really complete the spaces.

This black fireplace adds just the right amount of depth to an otherwise light-and-airy room. Source

The black elements in the central ibis painting play off the black toilet seat and floor tile. Source

Subtle black accents on art and furniture play off this room’s dark wood flooring. Source

Black pendant lights are a great compromise of the popular all-white kitchen. Source

In a room with a busy palette, black adds elegance and refinement. Source

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Your Countertop Guide: Stone



If you’re thinking about building a kitchen in a new home, or renovating a kitchen in an existing home, there is one question that is sure to come up: what countertops should you get? There are plenty of options out there, from tried-and-true marble to high-tech quartz, each type with its own pros and cons. If you don’t want to sweat the small stuff (and who does?), it’s best to compare all three before making a decision. Here’s a breakdown of the three most popular stone countertop materials.

What are Quartz, Marble, and Granite?

Quartz, marble, and granite are all stone materials that are often used to make kitchen countertops. Marble and granite are natural stone – these are mined from a quarry, where huge pieces of stone are cut into manageable slabs, which are then further cut to fit on your kitchen countertop. Marble and granite both have beautiful, natural patterns that are unique to each piece. 
These marble countertops are unlike any other.

Quartz isn’t technically a pure stone, at least not in the form you will use for a countertop. It is mined like marble and granite, but the raw stone is they crushed into a powder then mixed with resin and pigment to create a single, smooth surface. Sometimes, it is referred to as an “engineered stone.” 

These lovely quartz countertops were the centerpiece in a recent renovation. 


Quartz vs. Marble vs. Granite

Durability

Quartz, marble, and granite are all extremely durable materials. There’s a reason stone is so often used to construct monuments and statues! They’re also all heat-resistant, which makes them great for baking. 
These marble countertops are beautiful AND perfect for breadmaking! 

Scratch Resistance


Marble is, by far, the softest of all three materials, which means that it can be scratched or chipped the most easily. Granite is the much harder than marble, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the durability and scratch-resistance of quartz. Quartz’ added resin makes it extremely hard to scratch or nick.

Natural 

To some, an engineered product like quartz is a plus – the added processes involved in creating the stone in turn makes it more durable than natural stone. But, to others, “natural” can be a sticking point. Ask yourself if you would choose laminate floors over hardwood floors. If the answer is no, marble or quartz might be the better option.
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Stains & Hygiene


Granite and marble are both porous materials. This means that spilled liquids can potentially seep into the countertops, causing stains. Marble countertops are especially susceptible to stains from acidic liquids, like orange juice, coffee, or wine. Their porous nature also makes these stones more difficult to clean, which can lead to harmful bacteria and germs staying on your counters long after you want them to.  
Engineered quartz, though, is not porous. It is extremely difficult to stain, and bacteria have a much more difficult time adhering to the material’s smooth surface.

Maintenance


If you’re set on having granite or marble in your kitchen, prepare for the maintenance. Both stones need to be sealed at installation, which helps prevent stains, and about once every year for the life of the countertops. They also need to be cleaned regularly with soap and water. Beware chemical cleaning products – some can cause stains. 
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These quartz countertops lend natural elegance to this modern kitchen. 

Because quartz isn’t porous, it doesn’t need nearly as much maintenance. Most quartz blends can be safely cleaned with most household cleaning products.

Unique Look


Because marble and granite are natural stone, mined from deposits around the world, every slab is unique. You’ll never have to worry about walking into a friend’s kitchen and seeing the same countertops on their island.
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These black granite countertops give this kitchen a very modern feel. 
Quartz, on the other hand, is engineered. Although most manufacturers work hard to have a great deal of variety in quartz slabs, inevitably, some slabs will look similar. Quartz also doesn’t have quite the “natural” look that granite or marble has.

Options


While every granite and marble slab is unique, they often have a similar feel because they’re formed in a certain way and mined from only a few places in the world. And while there are many different colors and types of granite and marble available, the variety isn’t endless.

Quartz, on the other hand, can be mixed with a huge variety of pigments, giving you an endless selection of colors, hues, and vein patterns.

Value


Costs for stone materials can vary wildly from place to place and can even vary based on the time of year. However, if you want quality counters, do not cut corners.  Stone countertops aren’t inexpensive, but they are worth the investment.
On the low end of the spectrum is granite. Where the granite is sourced from, or highly-prized patterns or colors, will make this stone a little more expensive.

Quartz tends to be in the middle, price wise. For quartz, part of the cost comes down to the manufacturing process. Adding unique colors or asking for specialty veining can drive the price up even more.

But, the king of stone countertop materials is marble. Marble has long been prized for its beauty, enhanced by the subtle veining. Marble is mined at several places around the world, but Italian marble, particularly Carrara, is considered the finest. Expect to pay top dollar for marble pieces from  Italy.


So what’s the best material for your countertops?

There’s no one stone countertop material that works for all clients. What your decision often comes down to is what material works best for your major concerns.

In most markets, quartz is the most affordable option. Other perks of this engineered stone are its ease of maintenance and durability.  But it simply does not have the natural beauty and high-end look that marble, or even granite, has.

Granite is usually more expensive than quartz but less expensive than marble. It’s also more durable than marble. But the coloration might not be as consistent, and it can’t match the luxurious look of a marble slab.
In the end, marble is marble, and if you’re set on the look of marble, there’s no substitute. It might be a bit more expensive, but if you’re set on marble and it matches your kitchen or bathroom, it’s worth it for your countertop.

The Olde Mill’s Engineered Beams

The floor at the GHBA Product Expo. 

This week has been a busy week for me and my team. Yesterday, I attended the Greater Houston Builders Association Product Expo, where I met some really outstanding builders, contractors and designers. It was such a great experience for me and a great way to expand my network in Texas. I’m really looking forward to working with some of my new contacts on some future projects. 

Today, I’m on my way back to Louisiana!

For this month’s post, I thought I’d take a moment to share my latest video. If you’re not familiar with the pieces that I make through my company, The Olde Mill, then this is a great introduction.

If you are familiar, I’d appreciate it if you shared it with others in the industry who might be able to use a product like our engineered beams. The light weight of these beams makes them easy to install at any stage in the construction process.

Thanks for your continued support!

Let Some Light In: Floor Lamps That Will Floor You

No room is complete without a good lamp. Even if you have floor-to-ceiling windows, that let in all of the natural light, your space needs a lamp. Give yourself some light once the sun has gone down AND add a little of your personality. With the huge range of lamps available, from companies all over the world, you can find the one that casts the right light and says something about you.

Floor lamps can be divided into three main types: arc lamps, stand lamps, and tripod lamps. Each type comes with its own pros and cons. Choose based on the needs, and style, you have in mind for your space.

Stand Lamps 

This is the most common type of floor lamp – a lamp that stands on it’s own, straight and proud. Because it is the most common, it comes in a range of styles, color, and finishes. You can get interesting, and whimsical, pieces that have the ability to bring a lot of life to your space. Let your personality shine!
This stand lamp gives off a clean, mid-century vibe. Source
This gorgeous art nouveau stand lamp would be the star of any room. Source
Whimsical bird-perch stand lamp. Source

This stand lamp doubles as a table or shelving. Source. 

This pencil stand lamp would be a great accent in a children’s – or writer’s – room. Source

This stand lamp offers a little storage. Source

This rocket ship stand lamp is both modern and fun. Source

The fun lines of this stand lamp contrast the modern lines of the wall decor. Source.

Arc Lamp

Arc lamps come with a stand or pedestal that is curved or bent. This is a great option for someone wh
o wants the drama of a chandelier or hanging pendant but can’t make it work in the space. The curve of the lamp’s stand allows the light to hang.

An arc lamp will also provide a little more direct light for people sitting on the sofa or at a dining table than a stand lamp – keep that in mind if you are an avid reader. 
Because these lamps take up more space than stand lamps, you need to think about furniture in the room. These lamps look big. You want the ensure the lamp is proportional for the space and doesn’t overwhelm other furniture. 

This arc lamp provides a great alternative to a hanging pendant lamp or chandelier. Source

The wire cafe of this arc lamp gives it an industrial feel. Source

This arc lamp provides a little bit better reading light than your average floor lamp. Source

This arc lamp can be adjusted to fit the height of surrounding furniture. Source

A rose gold arc lamp lends a very modern feel to this space. Source
The paper shade of this arc lamp lends a soft light to this bright space. Source

The added texture on this arc lamp’s light shade adds some interest to this clean space. Source
This arc lamp adds big visual interest. Source

Tripod Lamps

With the rise in popularity of mid-century modernism, tripod lamps themselves are increasing in popularity. These lamps have three legs, usually made of a wood, and a top-mounted light source. They’re often shorter than stand lamps, and the light they cast is more angled downward; that is, unless you get a la
mp with a more novel light source. These lamps work best in corners of rooms, or out of the way of foot traffic. You don’t want to trip over one of the lamp’s legs.

This tripod lamp draws the eye when displayed against the space’s monochromatic palette. Source. 

This tripod lamp makes clever use of a vintage Cadillac head lamp. Source. 

The added swing element of this tripod lamp makes it feel more industrial. Source. 

Reclaimed objects, like this vintage tripod lamp, work well with a rustic look. Source. 

With a globe shade, this tripod lamp casts light in every direction. Source

This simple tripod lamp complements the existing furniture. Source. 

Home of the Future: These Designers are Revolutionizing Home Decor with 3D Printing

At one point, it sounded like something out of a sci-fi movie: push a button and “print” a sofa for your home in minutes. Thanks to new technology in the field of additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, we’re not too far from that reality.

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With 3D printing, manufacturers use advanced machines to “print” either entire pieces or parts for pieces. Usually, extremely hard plastic or silicone builds up the piece, but some makers are branching out to metals and even wood. 3D printing can be much faster, and much more affordable, than traditional furniture making methods. These machines work more quickly than people and can produce furniture around the clock. And the materials they use are readily available, cheap, and durable.

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Additive manufacturing also allows manufacturers to produce pieces that would be extremely difficult or even impossible with traditional furniture-making methods: 3D printers can make full use of 3D space and aren’t hindered by the effects of gravity. Furniture makers are no longer bound by the limitations of furniture-making methods like inject-molding or routing. They are free to make incredibly complex pieces that are beautiful in their intricacy.

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The latest designs from the world’s top brands are both functional and pleasing to the eye. And, combined with traditionally-manufactured or natural pieces, such as fabric, cushions, wood legs and platforms, and more, these 3D pieces are becoming a comfortable staple in homes and offices everywhere.

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Most 3D printed pieces have an organic, natural look to them; some go as far as to appear “futuristic.” Manufacturers take advantage of these design features to minimize the amount of plastic used in the piece, which lessens the weight.

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Many of these pieces, especially those with an emphasis on natural forms, would be right at home in a mid-century modern space. Those with eclectic tastes shouldn’t have any problem incorporating them, either.

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For more traditional spaces, you will need to add additional pieces made from similar textures and colors, to further incorporate your 3D printed piece.

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If your space has modern feel, try to choose pieces in the same color scheme as your home. Softer, ombre or pastel pieces will look jarring in a space that is clean and minimalist.

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With further advances happening in 3D printing everyday, we might not be too far away from printing a sofa in our living room at the press of a button.

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!