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: 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?

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.

Tis the Season: For Outdoor Sittin’

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With this weather, it’s hard to stay indoors. It is essential for our physical and mental well being that we stay connected with the outdoors. And these days, the outdoor living space is becoming just as essential as the indoor living space. An out door living space may be limited to just include a comfortable spot in the back yard with a place to sit and possibly an overhang for cover, but it can also be as inclusive as a full kitchen and living space. There are some things to keep in mind when designing an outdoor space.

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The first thing is to consider where the sun rises and sets, more importantly where the sun sets, because we tend to spend more time in our outdoor spaces in the evening. Is your overhang low enough to protect from direct sun? Or do you have the proper shading partitions in place?

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Another consideration is the direction of wind and blowing rains. Like, shading from the sun, you must also consider buffering from wind and rain. Closing in one side of your space or the use of shudders can help.

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Materials used in the space are important too. They must be able to hold up to the elements. Some manufactured stones (quartz) will fade in the sun.

Ourso Designs

There are 3 key areas to an inclusive outdoor living space. The cooking area, the dining area, and the seating area. There are many different types of cooking to incorporate into your kitchen; a charcoal grill, a gas grill, an egg, etc. You will also want to incorporate a sink and a fridge.

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There are a few different options for cabinet/storage material. Masonry, stucco, wood, or manufactured cabinet made from a weatherproof resin. With masonry and stucco you can incorporate stainless steel inserts. This is one of your more durable options, but not the most efficient. Wood cabinets are the most efficient, but are not as weather resistant. The resin cabinets, are efficient and durable, but may not have the “natural” look and feel you are looking for.

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Depending on your roof type, you have to consider air circulation. Is the hot air able to escape? Ceiling fans can help. Also a pergola is good way to release trapped hot air as it rises.

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Typically your outdoor space will include a fireplace or some type of fire pit for warmth in the colder months.

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The details are important to make your space the most comfortable and enjoyable it can be!

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Raising the Bar: Home Bars

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Home design is, firstly, all about how the user operates their space on a daily basis. Secondly, home design is all about how the user operates their space when they entertain. The home bar has steadily become a standard component found in homes today.

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Features often found in a home bar include: an under counter fridge for wine and beverages, an ice maker, a small sink, lockable liquor drawers, and visible shelving.

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Hospitality, especially in the south, is valuable as well as influential. And having a space that caters to this is imperative. Secondary spaces, like the home bar, keeps your kitchen reserved for cooking, while guests can mingle in other areas reserved for drinks and hors d’oeuvres. 

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Home bars don’t have to be very big, and have been known to be retrofitted from closets and even under the stairs. They can always be visible or close off when not in use. They also create more storage for glasses and dishes.

We are raising the bar on home standards everyday!

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Trend Alert: Waterfall Island Countertops

A traditional countertop design extends the lip of the countertop just a few inches beyond the edge of the actual counter. A waterfall countertop continues the past the edge of the counter, vertically down to the floor, extending the material to all sides of the island.

What seemed like a temporary trend at first is becoming a staple in modern kitchens. By far the most popular material used is stone, but we are also seeing wood and concrete countertops getting the waterfall treatment. 
As with most concept and trends, people are finding ways to challenge the classic method. We are seeing partial, offset and live edge waterfalls becoming more common as well.