Going for the Gold

Gold has been used as a decorating material for about 6,000 years, so in terms of time, this is about the least trendy thing we could write about. However we’ve been seeing it so much recently that we couldn’t resist. As decorators and designers, we have a responsibility to look for new ways to incorporate familiar materials. We’ve been seeing this metal used in breathtaking designs, and we want to share them with you. This month, we’re going for the gold.

Along with silver, copper, and brass, gold finishes are mainstays when it comes to cabinet hardware and light fixtures, but we’re seeing gold in furniture more. We love the use of a gold finish on chair legs. Matching table legs can make for a nice composition, and pairing gold legs with a black chair creates a feeling that is at once dramatic, eloquent, and comfortable.

Of course, gold’s beauty is in its rarity. Incorporated as a detail, in small amounts, gold finish can add a bit of light to darker rooms and warmth to white or off-white ones. Used on a slightly more massive scale, gold creates a feeling of grandiose magnificence. For example, these gold cabinets are so luxurious it’s kind of absurd, but we love it.

We’re also seeing some creative tiling that incorporates gold. We love how some of these designs mimic gold’s naturally random appearance in nature. Gold, when used in patterns like these, is simply awe-inspiring.

Whether it’s as a new twist on an old accent or a complete re-imagination, we love seeing familiar materials like gold popping up in new places and uses. Follow our blog to stay updated!

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History Lesson: Billy Baldwin

Posthumously nicknamed the “dean of interior decorators,” Billy Baldwin was a leading designer in post-World War II America. Known for his immaculate sense of order and arrangement, Baldwin’s style was a unique blend of modernist and classicist.

Baldwin was born into an old Baltimore family in 1903, where he grew up in a home designed by a leader of the American Renaissance Movement. It was there in his childhood home that his passion for interior decorating started. 

After leaving Princeton to travel and visit galleries and museums, he worked at his father’s insurance company for a time. He continued to design on the side and eventually got a huge break in 1930, when Ruby Ross Wood, one of New York’s grand dame decorators, came across his work. 

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She immediately  wrote him explaining her love of his work and invited him to join her in New York to assist with her business. He began working for her in 1935, and when she passed in 1950, he took over her business for 2 years. He explained that those 17 years working for her was “the importance of the personal, of the comfortable, and of the new.” After taking over Wood’s business for 2 years he decided to create his own.

Baldwin’s work was known to be neat, slick, and ordered. He liked a mixture of furniture that was both old and new and of different nationalities, but he insisted on some connection between the furniture. Unlike many other designers, he thought it was important to use some of the furniture that the client already had as he felt that the space would not be right without some personal history present.

He was known to be both a modernist and classicist, being the first man to break into the interior design world. Before WWII, interior design was ruled by a small circle of women, but Baldwin changed this forever.

He believed strongly in not following trends and instead told many of his clients to: “Be faithful your own style, because nothing that you really like is ever out of style.” 

Baldwin retired in 1973 and died of a heart ailment in 1983, but his studio continues to champion his designs, legacy, and style.

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Designing Your Perfect Pantry

The pantry is the one place in the kitchen that always looks crowded until you stick your nose in for a snack. All of a sudden, it feels empty, and you feel disappointed. Only some of that disappointment is from your empty stomach, while the rest is probably coming from the frustration of not finding what you need. Pantries often end up serving as the junk drawer of the kitchen, with items constantly being tossed in and quickly forgotten.

Luckily, you have designers who work tirelessly to make your kitchen experience as painless as possible. With the proper design and technology, organizing your pantry is easier than ever.

First, consider your space. Can your floor plan accommodate a walk-in pantry? If your kitchen has the space for it, we would recommend setting one up. Not only does this separate your kitchen work space from your storage, but it will also help you compartmentalize the pantry itself.

Absolutely make sure you run electrical to your walk-in. Obviously lighting is required, but you’ll want to be able to run a vacuum and other appliances. You should also have some sort of counter top for setting down your groceries. While not strictly necessary, a counter will save you countless trips back and forth, and give you a surface for any prep work that doesn’t require the kitchen.

Keep some shelves open for potatoes, onions, and other goods that still need exposure to the air. If the walls in your walk-in pantry aren’t deep enough for full shelves, consider using slat wall panels for adjustable hanging hooks and shelves.

For those without the space for a walk-in pantry, cabinets will have to do. Pull-out and swing-out shelves can help maximize your storage space and minimize your time spent stretching your arms to reach that last can of beans. Even the peskiest corner cabinet can be an efficient pantry with the installation of a Lazy Susan.

For those who need just a little more storage space, some cabinets come with shelves built in to the interior of the doors. We also like to include some vertical tray storage for cooking sheets that aren’t being used. In the end, finding the right combination of counters, shelves, pull-outs, swing-outs, and Lazy Susans all depends on the location and use of your pantry.

Trend Alert: Wooden Range Hoods

If you’ve worked with one of our designers in the past, you know we like to put a lot of thought into our product selections. It’s a fun part of the interior design process, and an extremely important one. When picking fixtures, appliances, and details for a home, we consider not only appearance, but also materials, functionality, and ease of installation.

Selecting and installing an oven range hood is not a minor task. In most home kitchens, the range hood will provide a break in your cabinetry. From a visual standpoint, the oven range hood can serve as an upper centerpiece for the entire kitchen. This is a great opportunity to add some contrast and personality to your space.

Read our interior design blog and you’ll know we are particularly fond of wood details. We think the natural appearance of wood is a simple and elegant way to add comfort and warmth to any space. That being said, we are loving the amount of wooden range hoods we are seeing. This is a design choice that realizes the range hood’s potential for visual contrast and meets it with the natural elegance of real wood.

Beside stone, wood is the oldest material used for crafting a functional range hood. The idea is certainly not a new one, so why are we seeing them pop up?

We suspect the rising popularity of modern design style might have something to do with it. Modernity’s focus on black and white, concrete, and stone means anything natural or colorful will POP. This elevates the range hood’s potential as a contrasting element.

A wooden range hood will also serve to balance out the oven appliance itself. While matching your range hood to your oven makes sense in theory, the result can be visually overwhelming. Again, the range hood should bring contrast to the space without making it feel crowded.

We admit metal range hoods have their advantages. Namely, they’re easier to clean. For an industrial kitchen, metal makes sense, but we think wood range hoods are a perfect fit for any domestic kitchen.

Our Designers’ Styles Revealed

Here at Ourso Designs, we are aligned with making your vision a reality. We know what’s hot and what’s not. We specialize in making your spaces more efficient, paralleling your lifestyle, and creating the aesthetic you envisioned. Our services are geared toward you and what you want.

Part of being a good designer is putting aside your own likes and dislikes, and catering to the clients wants and needs. We are wizards at making your dream a reality. But today, we reveal who’s really behind the curtain. Here is a look at each of our designers individual style and personality. Get to know us!

RICHARD L. OURSO

Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer. Certified Aging in Place Specialist. 40 years in the industry. Principal.

Growing up in a full custom millwork shop, I always loved natural woods. We would manufacture cabinets, moldings, doors, windows, shutters, etc., out of the same quality wood. Stained wood cabinets are my preferred choice in most areas of the home. At this time the easiest way to achieve a beautiful kitchen is with white. Adding some color or stained wood to the contrasting island is a nice touch. Wall colors should be very neutral. If you want to add color, do so with fabrics or accessories that can be easily replaced as your taste changes.

I’m not a fan of doors, windows, or trim painted bright white, because it looks so generic. I prefer the look of the trim being darker than the walls.

I am a fan of rustic and reclaimed materials. They provide warmth & comfort like nothing else, and high quality wood grain veneers give a very sleek look. The use of quality natural materials, be it wood, stone, brick, or metal, is a safe bet.

LOGAN WHEELER RAMIREZ

Bachelor Interior Design. Louisiana State University, 2013. Designer.

Since I was little I have always been fascinated with historical architecture. Maybe it was our proximity to the French Quarter, or our own beautiful downtown Baton Rouge. Through school I grew a great appreciation for the clean lines of the mid-century era and contemporary architecture. So ultimately, my personal style is a mash-up of the two. After all, most everything new is a precedent of the past. I love how sociology affects our built environment and fashion over time.

I love bold shapes and imagery, raw and natural materials, and I usually gravitate towards a black and white palette with accents of bold and rich colors. I love the intricacies of the old (like seen in the moldings) mixed with the clean lines of the contemporary furniture and fixtures.

MADDI VAN PELT

Student of Interior Design, Louisiana State University. Designer.

When it comes to kitchens, one thing I always find myself gravitating toward is multi-colored cabinets. I love the idea of having clean, white upper cabinets with colorful base cabinets, especially cooler toned colors like blues and greens so they can provide a nice contrast with the warm tone of wooden floors.

Also, usually I tend to stick to straight lines and right angles, but recently I have loved the idea of circular mirrors to add some curves to the space. I would put these all over my house!

JACK FLYNN

Student of Architecture, Louisiana State University. Draftsman/Designer.

Coming from an architectural background, I tend to focus on built materials. I’m drawn to styles that are simple and put the materials on display, and interact well with natural light and the environment around them. 

The materials that are really inspiring me currently are exposed concrete and unpainted wood. The way the organic and man-made materials interact creates a very calm sense of balance and the experience of being in these kinds of spaces can feel very serene.

ARI ROSS

Bachelor Mass Communication. Louisiana State University, 2018. Marketing Coordinator.

One book that influenced me a lot growing up was Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, so I’ve had this dream of living like a nomad for a while. I also recently met a few people who converted old vans into livable spaces. The idea really stuck with me because fitting everything you need in a space so small requires so much creativity. Every inch counts. I really like vans with wood paneling, multipurpose furniture, and colors that brighten up a dreary day on the move.

Trend Alert: Dark Wood Countertops

We covered the pros and cons of different butcher block countertops in 2018, but we just couldn’t help ourselves this time around. It feels like everywhere we look, we’re seeing this rustic element making a comeback in new ways. Most of all, we’re noticing butcher block countertops stained dark, a design choice that is intriguing and exciting for several reasons.

Visually, kitchens are composed mostly of cabinets. Cabinets these days are composed mostly of white or off-white colors. To bring some contrast to the kitchen, you need a centerpiece that balances out the surrounding cabinets and drawers.

Any wood countertop can bring that much-needed warmth and contrast to your space. For those with a taste for the dramatic, however, a dark wood countertop can be the perfect combination of rustic and modern.

Though it takes a step away from the “all-natural” feeling of unstained wood, a dark stain is a simple way to flair up your kitchen, no matter the style. Bright cabinets obviously benefit from the contrast of a dark wood counter. On the flip side, dark cabinets require a more subtle balance.

There is no “one size fits all” stain for your counter, though. As with most details, it depends on your personal taste. All we can tell you is a dark stained wood countertop will fit most stylistic needs, and there is a huge range of tones to choose from. A butcher block island especially serves as a great centerpiece for hosting guests, prepping food, or just looking at and thinking, “Yup, I’m glad we went with that.”

Trend Alert: Vertical Opening Systems

Every kitchen designer knows the cabinets make the kitchen. They’re usually the first thing you notice when you walk in, and almost nothing can be done in any kitchen without opening and closing at least a few doors. With the right design, construction, and installation, they can make your kitchen flow either effortless or disastrous.

Obviously most cabinet doors open horizontally, swinging outward to the side. Most door and hinge systems are designed this way, from cars to barns. Now we are seeing more and more cabinet systems designed with doors that open vertically.

From a design standpoint, we love them. Corner cabinets can be tricky, and here we have a quick fix.

Cabinet makers are absolutely noticing this trend too. Everywhere we look, there are new hinge and door designs. There are double doors, downward doors, and even pneumatic hinges.

There is not much else to say about this trend because it’s pretty self-explanatory. All we can say is we are excited to see where it goes and what cabinet designers will come up with next.

2020 Color Forecast

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Well we’re halfway through 2019 (already?), and we stand by the color trends we sent earlier this year. On the other hand, some of us are ready to see what 2020 will bring. Sure we may be jumping the gun a bit here, but companies like Sherwin-Williams have already released color forecasts for next year, so… This month’s blog post is on next year’s colors.

Sherwin-Williams released a list of 45 colors, mixed into five comprehensive color palettes. Like always, there are some we agree with and some we don’t. Here are a few of our favorites from that list:

“RIPE OLIVE SW 6209”

Here we have a deep and moody green. At a time when we usually see green used as an accent, bright and somewhat muted, we are overjoyed to see a return to this majestic shade. We work a lot with wood, and this green compliments most wood finishes wonderfully.

“BREATHLESS SW 6022”

This is a color we’re seeing a lot, not just in interiors but everywhere. There’s something comforting about this soft pink hue and we’re not sure how to word it. It’s just a feeling. Nothing about it says “Traditional,” and everything says “Cool,” and it reminds us of cherry blossoms. In terms of complimentary colors, it goes well with any sort of neutral off-white or grey.

“GAMBOL GOLD SW 6690”

Now this one might just be personal preference. A little too bold for full spaces, we would reserve this for accents only, but boy does it do the job. If you’re in need of a little brightness to balance out a neutral paint or if your living room is just feeling a little empty, try adding this bright color in the form of an end table or lighting fixture.

“GRANITE PEAK SW 6250”

We love colors that hover in the (literally) grey area in between your primaries, colors that make you think, “Wait, is that even blue?”. What we love most is the versatility. Any space, any accent, any time, colors like this one just seem to fit nicely.

So that’s what Sherwin-Williams thinks 2020 is going to look like. What do you think?

History Lesson: I.M. Pei

Ieoh Ming Pei, more commonly known as I.M. Pei, was a Chinese-American architect who moved to the United States in 1935 to study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Once arriving Pei was so discouraged by the teaching style of his professors and intimidated by the skill levels of his peers that he decided to transfer to MIT and changed his major to engineering. However, not long after arriving, the dean of MIT’s architecture school noticed his eye for design and encouraged Pei to switch back to architecture.

Pei was most inspired by Swiss architect, Le Corbusier and had the opportunity to meet him when he visited MIT. Pei referred to the time Corbusier visited MIT as “the most important day in my architectural education.” Pei graduated from MIT with a bachelor’s degree in architecture.

After graduating, he joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design and befriended architects Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. In 1948, Pei was recruited by William Zeckendorf and worked for seven years before establishing his own independent design firm, I. M. Pei & Associates, in 1955 which later became Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Pei retired from full-time practice in 1990.

Check out a few of his most popular works below:

Louvre Pyramid

Pei was the first foreigner to work on the Louvre. He proposal included a central entrance to link the three museum buildings. At the center of his design was a large pyramid made of glass and steel. At the time, there was large opposition from the Louvre director and even the majority of the citizens of Paris. As a response to his, Pei placed a full-size model of pyramid in the courtyard. Almost 60,000 people visited the Louvre to see it and Pei gained enough support to go ahead with his plans. The courtyard was opened to the public in 1988 and the pyramid entrance opened a few months later. The Louvre Pyramid is considered Pei’s most famous structure.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

One project Pei considered his “most important commission” was the John F. Kennedy Library. This library was built as a memorial after the President’s assassination in 1963. Jackie Kennedy picked Pei to complete the project. Pei had to submit multiple designs and site locations before the project was moved to Columbia Point. The new design included a large glass-enclosed atrium and a circular walkway. The Library was dedicated in October 1979.

National Gallery East Building

In the 1960s, directors of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. offered Pei the commission on a new building.

Pei took to the project and his first obstacle was the unusual shape of the site. Inspiration struck Pei in 1968, when he scrawled a rough diagram of two triangles on a scrap of paper. The larger building would be the public gallery; the smaller would house offices and archives. This triangular shape became a singular vision for the architect.

Pei expected large crowds of people to visit the new building, so he planned accordingly. He designed a large lobby roofed with skylights. Individual galleries are located along the sides, which allowed visitors to return after viewing each exhibit to the main room.

The East Building was unveiled to the public in June 1978. Large crowds visited the new museum, and critics generally voiced their approval. Fellow architect Allan Greenberg called the building a “masterpiece.”

Trend Alert: Succulents

We’ve seen this one coming for a while: Succulents. All the beauty of a bonsai tree with almost none of the upkeep. With no pruning or picking, and less frequent watering, sales of these prickly plants have grown steadily since 2012.

“Succulent” is an umbrella term for plants with thick, rigid fronds or stems meant to store water in climates with little rainfall. Most of us think “succulent,” and immediately think “cactus,” but there is a wide range of species that fall into this category. Large to small, simple to complex, there is a succulent out there for everyone.

This versatility is probably why so many people keep succulents at home or at work. Successfully growing a houseplant can show that you are a responsible adult, but in today’s fast-paced and mobile society, we might not have the time to care for traditional shrubbery. With water shortages and drought, you might want to be more conscious of your use of h2o. Succulents offer a solution. They require less frequent watering than most houseplants, but about as much light. As long as you’re careful about placement, these prickly plants are pretty easy to please.

In fact they’re trendy to the point that they started a new art form. Succulent sculptures are becoming popular among hobbyists, creatives, and collectors.

Wait back up… was that a tiny cactus? Yes “micro cacti” are quite possibly the cutest creation to come out of this cactus trend.

Venturing just beyond our world of interior design, landscape design is also seeing an increase in succulent use. Less fertilizing, watering, and pruning means more time spent designing and expanding.