Monday, June 29, 2009

Flavor of the Day

Here's a little chair I've been in love with since I first laid eyes on it at High Point Market last fall. It's sleek and gorgeous in black, as shown here, but it was even more spectacular in silver leaf, a new finish the manufacturer, DesignMaster, debuted at Market.

I'm eyeing it now for a client. It screams her style - classic and elegant, but with a stylish twist. I'd put it in a seating area I'm working to create in a nook just across from her entryway - a real focal point, the first thing you see when you step through the front door.

The home has two other dining areas, but this grouping would have a different purpose - games. My client is part of a bunko group, so additional tables and chairs are part of her regular entertaining needs. It would also make a great spot for family game night, puzzles and homework when kids enter the picture. At any rate, a round table with four of these eye-catching, simple but elegant chairs would be fantastic in this spot. All the chair needs is to be upholstered in a gorgeous-but-sturdy fabric. Something contemporary but classic. Like my client. Last but definitely not least, the seating area will be backed up by an oversized, contemporary, colorful piece of art. The client is an art lover, so when this area is finished, it will definitely scream "her."

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The New World of Design

I've been thinking a lot about the changing nature of the interior design profession. So many forces have been acting upon the field of design in recent years that are completely changing the way designers do business. I've read, for example, that interior design is increasingly moving away from a product- and sales-based business model to more of a service-based business model. When someone hires a designer, she's hiring an expert, and what she's paying for is that expertise. Traditionally, that expertise also comes with follow-through, meaning the designer not only tells the client how to accomplish her design goals, but also carries them out. This involves the sale of goods along with services.

I don't think that will ever completely change - I hope not - but the myriad of well-designed, reasonably priced objects out there available for public purchase (meaning not just "to the trade") means that designers have to become more flexible about the types of products we source, the places we get them and the price tags that accompany them.

Until the Internet became the axis our lives revolve around, it was pretty difficult for the average homeowner to find and buy high-style furnishings and fabrics outside the realm of what was offered at local retailers - without a designer, at least. But whoa, is it a different world now. Through online shopping, consumers can find everything from European wallcoverings to Turkish rugs to Italian leather sofas at retailers from across the country and around the world who are willing to ship to any destination. Not to mention the fact that comparison pricing has never been easier. So how do designers compete in a marketplace like that? It's a difficult question to answer.

There are still plenty of sources that sell furnishings and home products through the trade only, and there are plenty of homeowners who appreciate and expect the level of service and innovation in design these sources offer. But to be able to offer clients a great service at a reasonable value, designers must also be able to compete within the greater marketplace when it comes to offering a mix of higher- and lower-end products. Figuring out the best ways to approach that situation is a major concern for me now as I'm establishing my own career in design.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wallpaper's Comeback

The article I've been working on and babbling about on the wonderful new world of wallpaper ran today in The Commercial Appeal. Check it out at

Here's the sidebar, just for some quick tips:
Five Tips for Knockout Walls:
  1. Paper just one wall for an artistic accent. When used sparingly and in just the right spot, wallpaper can serve as a great focal point or even substitute for artwork in a space.

  2. Go all-out in a powder room. Often windowless and devoid of architectural interest, small powder rooms are a perfect place to experiment with bold patterns and fun colors that would overpower a larger room.

  3. Prep properly. Many people fear wallpaper because they think it's difficult to take down, and when it's improperly installed, it is. But when walls are prepared and primed correctly, almost any wallpaper will come down easily, the pros claim.

  4. Use wallcoverings in unexpected ways. Try papering a ceiling to add another dimension to a room. Place a graphic-patterned paper in a large frame for instant artwork. Or consider using paper on the door panels of a small cabinet or on the back wall of bookshelves for a punch of color.

  5. Have fun with it. Today's papers feature a wide assortment of unusual add-ons that bring new layers of texture into a space. Look for flocked or metallic papers, or papers adorned with glass beads, sand, mirrors and more.

Photo above, by the way, is from Thibaut, Inc.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Getting Inspired

For some reason, I'm amassing a collection of photos of clusters of framed artwork. I don't know how it happened - I have an inspiration board hanging just over my left shoulder in my office, and lately, any time I run across a cool little vignette of framed art and/or photos, I print or cut it out and clip it on my board. (The one pictured here I found on Kelly Rae Roberts' blog - it's in her own house.) So I now have this sort of quirky little collection.

What to do with it?

I guess I have, now that I'm thinking about it, been envisioning a little cluster of frames on a wall in the bedroom I'm designing in my head. I want an off-the-wall (ha-ha, no pun intended) way to display family photos aside from the standard group-of-frames-on-the-dresser. And I do love to pull little inspirational bits and pieces of designs that speak to me and stick them in the "ideas" binder that sits on my desk - or pin them up on my board. And I also like the bohemian, artsy vibe of these disjointed little groupings on a wall.

So I guess the random collection I've been unthinkingly creating has a purpose after all. Hey, whatever inspires us, right?

Monday, June 15, 2009

What I'm Working On

Today, I'm in the midst of drawing floor plans for two different projects: the first a 110-year-old home - it actually has a name and a historical marker in the front yard - and the second an 8-year-old home that's undergoing a complete redo before a family of five moves in. I'm extremely excited about both.

The first project is being undertaken by one of my best and oldest friends, and the challenge with this house is updating it in a way that says 2009 without compromising the incredible historic character of the house. Her style is transitional, meaning a blend of traditional and contemporary elements - in this case, a blend of antiques and casual contemporary pieces mixed in with modern art and quirky, unique accessories. I'm working on a space plan for the large living room, which has loads of architectural detail. Most striking is a half moon-shaped window set into a corner of the room. Beautiful!

For the second project, I'm working on a space plan for the breakfast and family rooms while the adjoining kitchen undergoes a complete transformation. I've been helping the client narrow down her choices for flooring and finishes. I think she's going to go with a creamy paint finish on the cabinetry, and I'm trying to talk her into taking the cabinetry all the way to the ceiling, adding glass doors to the upper cabinets and painting the interior a contrasting color to highlight the objects inside. (Sample photo above shows cabinetry by KraftMaid.) Soon, we'll begin talking furniture, art and accessories.

At any rate, time to stop blogging and start drawing!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Flavor of the Day

So here's a little something I recently fell in love with. My favorite furniture rep came into our office last week to show us the latest pieces from his family's North Carolina-based company, Woodbridge. (One reason he's my favorite is that he always brings us lunch - food wins me over every time! ....I'd say ha-ha, but I'm not kidding.) Anyway, this little chair is exactly what I've been looking for to go under a desk-turned-nightstand in my own bedroom redo. I looooooove the color - it's new for the company; it's called lagoon blue. Mmmmm.

In my room, this chair will slide under a sleek, mod writing desk from West Elm, white and highly lacquered. The desk will be beside the bed, and behind it all will be the papered accent wall I've been babbling about on here for quite a while. I think the reason it has taken me so long to commit to my idea is that I hadn't found exactly the right pieces yet - because they hadn't made their way into my office yet. The chair came last week, just a couple of days after the *perfect* wallpaper made its way in - a new collection from Ronald Redding Designs called Medley. Not even on the Web site yet (but if you're interested, come on by my office). It's a modern paisley design, huge swirly amoebas in robin's egg blue (of course), citrus green and cream on a background of today's hottest neutral, pewter. It is soooooo me.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Why Hire a Designer? (Part One)

OK, this is a topic I've wanted to write about since before this blog ever came to fruition. There are so many misconceptions out there about what it means to work with a designer, and I'm going to attempt - in a multipart series that I'll revisit time and again - to clear them up. So here is entry No. 1 of many.

Misconception #1: A designer is not in my budget.

Maybe so. But if you're planning to spend money on your space - in other words, plotting a renovation/redecorating/home improvement project of any type - consulting a professional designer could actually save you money rather than cost you more. How? For one, a designer can help you avoid expensive mistakes. I've seen so many people - including myself pre-design school - make purchases for their homes that didn't work out the way they envisioned them. They bought a sofa that was a few inches too long for the room, leaving no space for a side table. Or they bought that luscious purple velvet chaise they thought was sooooo cute in the store and found that it looked garish in their family room. Or they painted their bedroom wall what they thought was the perfect shade of gold, only to find that the cool light of the north-facing room turned it canary. You see my point? In all these scenarios, a designer's guidance could have saved the day - and saved the client money or time or both.

But designers can help in more ways than preventing costly mistakes. One of the biggest benefits of consulting a designer - even if you simply pay for a few hours of advice - is that a designer will look at the big picture and help you design your space according to a plan. It's amazing how much buyer's remorse can be prevented when each purchase made for your home - even if there's a year between purchases - fills in one piece of the preconceived larger puzzle. There's no switching gears in the middle of the unfinished project. No buying furniture in the wrong color/size/style.

Your best bet when starting a design project is to look at the space/room/house as a whole, plan it out according to your personal taste and style, and fill in the puzzle pieces one by one as time and money allows. What a designer brings to the table in this scenario is specialized knowledge about how the elements and principles of design work together to create a harmonious whole. A designer will help you find pieces that work with the scale of your space in styles/shapes/colors that work with each other. A designer will plan your space by creating a scale drawing and furniture plan that will ensure that the space will function - and this word is key - in a way that fits your lifestyle and makes your life easier rather than more stressful and frustrating. A designer will ensure that rooms and spaces in your home flow easily from one to the other by use of line, rhythm, color, texture, scale and so on.

And last but not least, a designer opens you up to a whole new world of resources to help you make your space the best it can be. You know all those products in your favorite magazines followed by the words "to the trade?" Hello? Trade! Right here! Designers can help you get exactly what you want. And if it doesn't exist, we can design it and have it made for you. Yes, you get what you pay for, and yes, a lot of what designers do can get expensive. But, at my firm (Virginia Rippee & Associates) at least, we work with clients whose budgets fall into every range - and we treat them all the same, whether they hire us to do a top-to-bottom design of a 5,000-square-foot house or to space plan a one-bedroom condo.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Flavor of the Day

I'm currently in love with robin's egg blue. This little chest by Bungalow 5, one of my favorite sources for adding a touch of whimsy to a room, is just so super-cute! I want it for myself. The tassel pulls in a chrome finish are unique and add an adorable retro touch.

One of my favorite things about this source is that many of its pieces are available in fun, funky colors - red, yellow, citrus green and of course, robin's egg blue - along with standard black and white. Another signature of its furniture is curvilinear, sculptural lines - which is what adds the touch of whimsy that I love. It would definitely take the right space to house a quirky little piece like this, and I want to design that space!

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