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: 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.

Trend Alert: Smart Sleep

If you’re having problems getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the morning, this article is for you. 

Two months ago we talked about “Smart Lights,” an easy way to “smarten” up your home without taking any drastic steps. One improvement we mentioned but didn’t go into detail on was a light that replicates the natural progression of the sun, allowing for more comfort and better sleep.

Following up on that, we have this month’s topic: “Smart Sleep,” or ways you can use technology to improve your sleep quality. Installing smart lights in your bedroom is one way to achieve this.

Our bodies operate on a circadian rhythm, meaning pretty much everything we do is according to the sun (or light that our bodies think is sunlight). Every single one of us will sleep, eat, work, and sleep again depending on the time of day. Poor sleep leads to poor feelings the next day, then to health issues if the problem continues. If you’re having problems getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking up in the morning, this article is for you.

Everyone sleeps and wakes according to different factors. Some might prefer silence, some might prefer noise, some complete darkness, some light. That being said, sleep solutions have to be adjustable in order to work. Pretty much every sleep-related product we’ve seen recently can be adjusted.

Take blackout shades, for example. Traditional blackout curtains were “one-size-fits-all,” bulky and unattractive. Modern ones can be thin, lightweight and nearly unnoticable, able to be used in combination with any style of curtain or shade you choose. This gives you complete control of your look and lighting simultaneously.

Next is noise. Most people can achieve sleep despite natural, chaotic sound, but a large percentage of people need some sort of white noise or noise-cancelling effect in order to sleep restfully. Thankfully modern technology has brought us noise-cancelling headphones and white noise generators. You can find efficient white noise generators online or purchase a standalone device to keep near your bedside. Most higher-end wireless headphones are now also outfitted with a noise-cancelling feature, meaning you can have quiet wherever and whenever you need.

It may not seem like it but aroma plays a huge part in our mood and physiology. Certain aromas can induce feelings of relaxation or stress. Lavender, vanilla, valerian, and jasmine have all proven to be effective in helping people sleep. An aroma diffuser is an easy and affordable way to maintain this control.

Finally we have the covers. Your choice in sheets and blankets will directly impact your bedtime comfort. Breathable, high-thread-count sheets are a must for those who possess a tendency to overheat in their sleep, while weighted blankets can influence your nervous system into a more relaxed and restful state.

All-in-all there are many factors that affect our sleep. Finding your personal preference is a process that can take a very long time, but restful is sleep is absolutely worth it. Not everyone needs blackout curtains and fancy noise machines to sleep well, but most everyone could use a higher quality of sleep. For more tips on healthy living, check out this blog post, the first in a series by our founder and principal designer, Richard L. Ourso, CKD, CAPS.

Trend Alert: Going Global

Color, decoration, and functionality are all essential aspects of good home design. However lighting might be the most important factor when it comes to home interiors. Lighting can powerfully and immediately impact the way we perceive a space. It can draw attention toward one spot and away from another. It can go from dazzling to dark at the simple flick of a switch. Your lighting fixtures, therefore, are just as important as the light itself.

Lighting fixtures vary depending on their intended purpose. Pendant lights for bars and island tables. Vanity lights for bathrooms, closets and dressing rooms. Under-cabinet lights for kitchen counters and bedside lamps for, well, bedtime. One would expect that the design of these fixtures would vary according to their functions, and in most cases that’s true. However one design that we keep seeing used everywhere is the globe light.

(from one of our recent kitchen remodels)
It’s not hard to see why people love this design. It’s minimalist, somehow modern and retro at the same time. It’s familiar because we see this shape every day in the sun, moon and stars. Our number one favorite thing about this design? It’s versatile. 
Placed alone, the globe light acts as a statement. A single lightbulb. A timeless symbol for inspiration. In pairs and rows, they invoke feelings of harmony and order. In clusters, they resemble atoms or galaxies: chaotic, natural, and full of potential. 
Of course the classic glass orbs can get old, even after you start combining them in new and creative ways. If you want to add a little variety into the mix, add some color. Tinting the glass or bulb unlocks the potential to alter the ambiance or simply add a bit of diversity. 
Beyond that of course, people are always finding new ways to alter and enhance this classic design. Whether by using different materials, patterns or placements, designers are still finding ways to wow us. For that reason, we can expect to see these around for decades to come.

Trend Alert: Smart Lights

The “smart home” is a quick term to describe something that’s quite complex. Smart home systems allow you more control, comfort and security from your home appliances. You can see who rang your doorbell, dim your lights, or control the speakers in every room simultaneously.

This is overwhelming at first, and you might be reluctant to allow a phone app complete control over your home’s security functions. It’s a good idea to start small. Super small. Lightbulb small.

Smart lights are a great way to start upgrading your home into a smart home. Most products allow you complete control over the color and intensity of your light fixtures, while more advanced products allow you to sync your lights up with your music or video. 
Perhaps the most advanced smart lights available are from Nanoleaf, who manufacture highly customizable lighting panels, giving you creative freedom over your design. They can also sync up with your music. On the other hand, starter-level bulbs are great if you just want to dim or change colors. Just as an example, these bulbs can be installed in any compatible lamp or hanging light. 
While it may not seem like a big deal at first, control over your lighting is a simple and cheap way to improve your health and comfort significantly. Ketra manufactures lights that can replicate the natural progression of the sun indoors, better for sleep patterns and keeping track of time. 
So if you’re looking to make your home a little more smart, look to the lights. It’s a great first step into the world of smart home technology. Just by changing one lightbulb, you can change the way you live. 

The Season for Front Porches

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The front porch is easily the most important aspect of your home’s appearance and the impression it has on the onlooker. At Ourso Designs, being natives of the south, we LOVE our front porches! There are just a few elements that make up a great front porch.

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1. Lighting

Like every interior space, exterior spaces also need a layer of lighting. General lighting is important; after all, you want to be able to see on the porch. Next, a couple sconces or a center lantern are great for accenting. Finally, task lighting is essential for highlighting important areas of the landscape, like plant arrangements, trees, or lawn fixtures.

2. Seating

The secondary purpose of the front porch (aside from it’s utility purpose to provide shelter) is to be inviting. Seating affirms that inviting impression. Another advantage is it gives you (and any guests) an opportunity to relax in an area of your home that lends a different view.

3. Plants

Also like most interior spaces, exterior spaces benefit from the addition of plants. Potted plants can act much like accessories. Like layering fabrics and patterns, its important to have plants of different shapes, sizes and textures on your porch.This will create a pleasing overall aesthetic.

4. Color

 Finally, color! Many add a pop of color by painting the front door an eye-catching color. Not a fan? That’s okay! There are other ways to incorporate color: in your plants’ pots, the plants themselves, and seating and seating accessories (pillows/cushions), just to start. Another option is to incorporate an outdoor rug. “Color” doesn’t necessarily mean it needs to be bright; producing contrast among existing materials is just as effective as having a bright red door.

 

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Trending Alert: Honed and Leathered Finishes for Stone Counter Tops

Honed and Leathered finishes for Granite and Marble counter tops are being chosen more often than the once popular polished finish.

What is Polished?
A polished surface finish is smooth, shiny, and reflective. The full color, depth, and crystal structure is visible.


What is Honed?

A honed surface finish is a smooth surface without reflection. It varies from a matte like appearance to a very low sheen.


What is Leathered?
A leathered surface finish starts with a honed finish, with a matte like appearance to low sheen, and adds texture to the surface. Additionally, it closes the pores (compared to honing) and retains the color better than honing.




Some benefits when choosing honed or leathered finishes with marble or granite include:

  • little to no reflection
  • “soft” and “natural” look
  • marble and granite with honed or leathered finishes are good alternatives to slate or soapstone when compared to pricing and durability

Trending Alert: Gingham

Black and White Gingham printed fabric and patterns are showing up everywhere.  From interior design accessories to the runway.

Both Ethan Allen & Schoolhouse Electric offer furniture covered in this graphically intense and bold fabric. Apartment Therapy states:

“These distinctive checks are popping up everywhere, even in interiors that are decidedly non-country. Big checks feel bold and graphic; smaller patterns have a springtime freshness to them. Gingham is especially versatile, too — pair it with florals for a quirky, unexpected look, or use it to lighten up a dramatic interior. “

The Ethan Allen Parker Chair

The clean lines of this Ethan Allen Chair are amazing. Its a modern twist on the wing back.

We love the juxtaposition of the fabric on the camel back sofa.  The modern artwork above really makes this eclectic space interesting.
High Street Market- Big Check Throw Pillow

A throw pillow is a super easy way to bring a little of this fabric into your space without make a huge commitment. 

Chair Re-do by Vanhook & Company

Who doesn’t love a Louis XVI chair?  What I really love about this chair is that the folks over at VanHook & Co. decided to leave the wood unpainted–instead of slathering paint all over it. Its masculine but soft–very well done.

Schoolhouse Electric Jack Chair

Schoolhouse Electric is a super cool company with some pretty progressive furniture designs.  We love everything on their website.

Quilt by CB Handmade

We love this quilt and all other quilts made by the lady over at CB Handmade.  Read more about her quilts by viewing her blog.

Gingham patterned flooring designed by BHDM Design

Alternating tile colors to create the look of a gingham fabric is a fabulous idea!  Especially in a commercial setting, this floor is beautiful, interesting, cost-effective, and durable.  A great way to take a simple, affordable tile and kick it up a knotch.