Interior Design: A Tribute

People always ask.. why interior design? Well, here's my story. 

Meraki (n.) The soul, love, or creativity put into something; the essence of yourself that you put into your work.

                It was the first day of design school, a blistering hot summer afternoon in August. While all my friends were at the beach enjoying their post-grad life after just finishing undergrad work a month prior, I decided to push my limits and take a leap of faith and enroll in a graduate Interior Architecture program at Endicott College thinking, well, at least I can still see the beach from the classroom. This was real design school, not the made up reconfiguration of my undergraduate communications degree, where I slightly rearranged my schedule to include those ‘creative outlets’, aka the eight art classes I somehow managed to mold into my schedule, convincing myself that everyone needs a creative outlet. Well, the very first day of design school I learned something extravagant; that we, as designers, are here to change the world, and we can do so by pushing the limits of our knowledge, inspiration, and mental capabilities. It was that second when we jumped right in to the lengthy hours of learning four new computer programs in a week in order to bang out a design board for our final project, which also meant enduring the fight which is the printing room that I knew this was going to be a long road. Who would have thought that simply pressing print resulted in a blank page coming out of the printer the wrong way? It was a feat from the beginning, all aiming at reaching one goal: pushing limits.

It was suggested that when we begin a design we should come up with a concept and break down an idea into parts. For me, this meant meticulously looking into words, through definitions, and trying to recreate them visually. This actually helped me to form what I consider to be my own religion- looking into definitions. It sounds nerdy when you think about it, strolling through a dictionary for fun. But, this lead me in many different directions and finally, I found my life moto in one single word, meraki, a word with Greek origin, and the essence of what it would mean for me to become a designer.

I have always known that I wanted to start my own residential interior design firm, and connect with people on an intimate level to help them create a home that they love, one that promotes a positive lifestyle. Many people outside of the industry think of interior design and might think of words like ‘materialistic’, ‘trendy’, or ‘chic’. But, this is not actually the case at all. We are designers because we want to change the world; because we want to make it a beautiful place to thrive and live, a space of efficiency and positive energy. I have quickly come to realize that this is how I will change the world. We all have something we are passionate about, a little crevasse in the gigantic world in which we can make an impact. And that was my mission. I got a job, working the three days I wasn’t at school, and launched my interior design firm and got down to business, pun intended. Now, the long hours of designing from 7am – 11 pm straight isn’t easy that is for sure, in fact, even the shower has become a time to think about design concepts. But, I believe the harder I work, the more of myself and my ideas can be placed into the world through design.

My philosophy for working with clients is to help them to transform their life and find the niche that helps them to transform the world as well, making design a driving force for positive change. For me and my focus on sustainability at school, moving towards an eco-friendly way of life is essential. Here is another definition for you, since this is how I like to think about things, and in fact, the title of my very first studio project. Biophilia: the idea that views of and contact with nature can improve our health and well-being. We need to connect with nature, and if we can recognize this, there is sure to be a transition to more sustainable homes and buildings in the built environment. This is part one of my personal design mission. In a more formal manner we must consider the impact design has on our environment. Which brings me to part two of my design mission. Another word to move towards; wabi sabi- a Japanese aesthetic suggesting that we must find beauty in the imperfections of the world. This can be completely related to design and the pieces that we meticulously chose to place in our design, weather it be architectural features or a piece of furniture. This could be as practical as utilizing an old buffet regardless of its scratch and crack. We are finding the beauty in the story, and the imperfection that the piece has endured. And finally, the last portion of my design philosophy, part three; Inclusion. Which to me, means making design accessible to everyone through pushing the limits for universal design. This could mean planning for ADA regulated spaces, or making design accessible to those living in under-privileged areas. If, as I mentioned above, design will be a chance for us as designers to change the world, then we must include everyone in our master plan.

The biggest idea I have learned so far from these grueling, yet wonderful past eight months of design boards, Revit families, and concept models is that we must fuel our passion for design with innovation and ideas that can change the world around us. We must look to things that have never been done before, or look to improve things that are being done now. Change, something I used to be terrified of is now what fuels my design thinking. Interior design is most definitely not about picking out pillows, but completely about changing the way people live, and transforming our society into a cohesive, positive, beautiful space, one surrounding at a time.

Countertop Counterparts

When designing a bathroom or kitchen its crucial to understand the different types of materials that you are bringing into your  home, not only so you can pick the best looking one, but also so you can chose a material that fits into your lifestyle. Some people don’t want a countertop that’s going to require constant upkeep so instead of picking a marble you may want to consider choosing man-made quartz instead. The materials that you choose to bring into your home can change the space very easily and can be a big investment, so its important to do your research and make sure you know exactly what your getting. Check out our countertop round-up so you make a good educated selection. 

If you like marble countertops.. 

The most popular white marbles are Bianco Carrara which is known for its greyish white feathery veining; Calcutta, a more pure white with dramatic grey veining; and then the rarest of the white marbles, Statuario, it is laced with black and brown veining.  Although marble is heat resistant its still very expensive and it requires constant upkeep, to keep it looking new.

 

If you want that same look and feel of marble but don’t want as much up keep then you should chose a man-made quartz composite countertop. Another great thing about choosing quartz is that it doesn’t come with that big marble price tag, how great is that?! Some of my favorites to choose from would be these:

Another big trend for kitchen and bathroom countertops are bringing in more natural elements like wood, which is understandable in this eco friendly conscious world we currently live in. There a couple different choices you have when deciding on bringing in wood; you can have a butcher block, which is the most common; reclaimed wood and; live edge wood, which tends to be more common in commercial spaces but its making its way into the residential scene as well. The biggest pro of choosing a wood countertop is the look and the natural element it brings to your space. Some of the down sides to wood counter tops are that it requires constant upkeep, you don’t want it to get any water damage so you have to make sure that it get sealed properly. Here are a couple of my favorite options:

Believe it or not but concrete counter tops look very sleek and can add warmth to your kitchen or bathroom when used appropriately. Although concrete requires some maintenance with sealers it makes the perfect choice for a custom countertop and finish. Concrete can come in many different stains and you can adjust the thickness and inlays depending on the space and overall style you want. Concrete is so customizable that its easy to pick just about any pigment you want for your counter top.

Art Talk

Finding art for a space is one of the hardest things to do when designing a room. Whether you are using the piece of art as the inspiration for the room or the finishing touches its important to understand how to choose the perfect piece. Choosing art adds this certain pressure to find the right piece that adds character and depth to the space. When it comes to buying art you want it to speak to you, there’s nothing worst then hanging up a piece of art that doesn’t evoke any emotion.

3 Things To Keep In Mind: 

Color:  The overall color scheme of the room plays an important role when selecting art. If the room is filled with neutral colors and straight lines you may consider a piece that adds a little color to the room. On the other hand if the room is full of color then you may want to stick to a more neutral piece, that acts as a visual break. A black and white photograph or a monochromatic painting would be great neutrals that still add some emotion and depth to the space. 

Scale: The scale of any piece is arguably the most important rule of thumb when it comes to sourcing art. The worst thing is to come home with your favorite piece and realize that its too big for the space, or worst, that its just foaling in the middle of your wall. The best ways to avoid this problem is measure the space and then bring the measurements to the store with you.

Meaning: As I stated above, its important that you truly love the art that you decide to hang on your wall. You want it to share a story that speaks to you, because in the end the job of art is to evoke a certain type of emotion from its viewer. A good safe choice for art is photographs of your family.

 

Back to Black

Black, ah, for some reason, I can't stray from black and white. As much as I love pattern and color, black and white are just really hitting home in the design world for me. Many think that using black and white is being safe, and uncreative, but I think the opposite is true. We don't talk much about exterior design on here, so I'm going to show you today how it is totally possible to be bold using black, especially when it relates to the exterior. How hot are these all black exteriors?! If you want to go bold, I suggest looking at the basics first.

Left to Right: Farrow and Ball Railings, Benjamin Moore Midnight Oil, Benjamin Moor Carbon Copy, Farrow and Ball Off Black, Benjamin Moore Off Forest Green, Benjamin Moore Black Panther, Farrow and Ball Pitch Black, Benjamin Moore French Beret

Exploring Chicago

I've always wanted to go and explore Chicago. I'd heard about the rich culture of art and design (right up my alley) and never got around to going. I finally bit the bullet and bought plane tickets and went to explore this past weekend... and what I found was amazing! I'm officially obsessed with the city. 

I'm an avid reader of The Everygirl blog, if you haven't heard of it, i suggest you do so. They are based in Chicago and offered a weekend itinerary for visiting, and that's what I based my trip off of. They really nailed it! I wasn't disappointed with any of the restaurants, shopping areas, or the hotel we stayed at. So.. let me take you on a little journey of my weekend. Oh, ps... totally moving to Chicago at some point since I absolutely fell in love with the city. And if you aren't considering moving there, I highly recommend going for a long weekend. It was really easy to get to, only two hours from Providence and Boston! 

Woke up at 2am to catch the 5:30 flight. Early, but totally worth it for the cheap fare and no loss of a day when you get there!

We were starving upon arrival so decided to go to The Little Goat Diner after checking into our hotel, the Wit, which was located right downtown next to the train stop. Unbelievable food, and of course, adorable interior design. 

And as if the first coffee wasn't enough.. I couldn't resist getting another one an hour later when I came across the Doughnut Vault. My word of advice for this place: Definitely worth it, but get there early if you want a donut.. they run out so fast! 

Of course a weekend in Chicago is meant for shopping.. so strolling the Magnificent Mile was of course a necessity. Also, if you're in town at the right time.. you HAVE to get to the Randolph Street market. So many finds & great enpanadas and millions of other snacks. 

Definitely worth taking a trip to Armitage Ave if you are looking to get in some good shopping. Make sure to leave yourself plenty of time! Especially on the weekends, stuff closes around 5 or 6. Don't make the mistake we did and get there too late that you can't get to every store! And of course, you'll probably need a snack, so make sure to stop at Le Pain Quotidien, that was our favorite!

Oh, and of course you can't forget about visiting the main sites, like the bean and the Art Institute of Chicago. We also loved visiting the cultural center, because there was is an architecture event going on in Chicago until January. So many great things about this city. The weekend basically consisted of food and shopping. Looks like I'm going to have to go back again since I didn't get to everything on my list... but here are some more of my favorite parts of the weekend...

Benjamin Moore Color of the Year: Simply White

And white does it again. Seriously.. it never fails me. This year's color of the year for Benjamin Moore is Simply White. I mean c'mon does it really surprise anyone? It's pretty clear that white has been the trend for most of this year in kitchen, baths, furniture, and paint; and I don't mind it. I'm in love with the minimalist, Scandinavian, organic feel of this years white trends. Less is more they say and this is definitely true with the simple, white trend that has been all the rage.

Anyways, I think that this will be one of those trends that define our era, because really, you can't go wrong using white as opposed to a dramatic color that will probably go by the wayside. I think it's safe to say that neutrals and whites will always be one of those timeless ideas we can let stick around for a while. I may be biased, but, I think it's true. So much flexibility and unrestrained design ideas are welcome when using white as the base. Think about it... most design ideas begin in black and white and transform with color after that; think about where photography began. So.. use this so called "trend" as freely as you desire because even when the trend seems to fall away, the use of white will never be wrong in my book. 

The most successful uses of white...

 

Parisian Perfect

Going to Paris was one of the most inspirational places I have been to. Not only for interior design and fashion but also my way of life. Paris has this very subtle sophistication to it, it makes you want to live you life in a simplistic classy way. People watching from a small bakery over a cup of espresso was one of the greatest experiences, everyone just oozed this super fashionable, confident life, and it was refreshing. It was an amazing feeling to be inspired on not only a visual level but also on a philosophical level as well.  Nothing was overdone; every café had this clean lined, simplistic look with exposed wood beans and subway tiles, and it seemed that everyone was wearing black, but each silhouette was different from the next, it was all so cohesive. Take a look below at some of my favorite Parisian influences for fashion and home. 

 

A day late and a dollar short: Designing on a dime

Ah.. I'm starting to think I should get "a day late and a dollar short" tattooed on my forhead. As many of our avid blog readers know, we usually post to the blog every Monday/Wednesday/ Friday, but sometimes life gets in the way. Like yesterday for me for example, so I apologize for being a date late. 

And in terms of being a dollar short, that's what I'm going to talk about today. Although most of us strive to get that designer look, we don't all have the budget for what we want. So people... welcome to the world of manipulation where anything is possible, including making your home designer- worthy without the price tag. 

Steps to a designer-ready home on a budget.

Step 1: Paint. You see, a fresh paint color is the start to a complete re-do. The effects of a fresh coat of paint are mind-blowing. My favorite are neutral colors, and this will be especially important when it comes to todays goal: designing on a budget. Color comes with low cost pillows and accessories people, come on! Although the Farrow and Ball colors are truely amazing, offering more pigment varieties than most, color match is your new best friend. Although it might not be perfect due to the excess pigment colors that Farrow and Ball uses, you can probably get close enough. Color changes with light anyways so.. you can make it work (manipulation remember!). Pick colors, and get to painting. You'll see the transformation happening right before your eyes. 

 Step 2: Study. Design magazines, Houzz, Pinterest, HGTV are all your new best friends. Study what makes a well-designed room. To do this is simple.. find pictures your like on design resources, and look for similarities between them, and apply these to your space. For example, I love looking for furniture layouts. Some of the best designers use similar furniture layouts. Below are a few of my go-to set-ups. And remember.. don't over do it. Less is more. Trying to squish too much furniture into a space is a recipe for disaster. 

Step 3: Source. Shop. I'll lump these into one. The key to designing on a budget is the willingness to be patient and search for the things you want. For example, if you see a designer light fixture you can't live without.. search for it. You might find it from somewhere on sale, or somewhere ridiculous like Craigslist. People have to get rid of some great designer stuff too you know! A great example of this too is Target! Target is now selling some great brand name home stuff. I used to love Uttermost as a designer resource, and now most of the things I used to source for clients are available from Target! Who would have known. Anyways... search and you shall receive. Don't forget about places like Etsy.. if you aren't too crafty yourself, you can find some really crafty people out there who can do it for you!

With these three steps... you'll have a designer ready home in no time. It's a tough battle, but with some perseverance and determination, anything is possible! Even your designer quality room on a less than nothing budget. 

The Man Cave

If you're anything like me you want a beautiful, unique home that reflects your personality and lifestyle. I mean.. who wouldn't? But.. that comes with challenges... like boyfriends/ husbands/ brothers/ male roommates. You see.. most boys (and I'm making a generalized statement here according to my personal experiences) want that big leather couch with the built in cup holders and recliner seats that set them up perfectly for the Sunday football game. Now.. as "functional" as this may be... it can really put a damper on your design. 

So.. here's my advice. Throw them in a room in the corner of your house or preferably in the basement and let them do what they wish. With a little pushing and prodding though.. the man cave could become the coolest feature of the house. Functionality is key though.... because they just don't get it. I have a prime example of how boyfriends and well designed houses don't mix, and why compromises like a decked out man cave needs to happen. Here I am.. studying and becoming an interior designer.. and my own boyfriend claims that it's totally logical and possible to find the perfect couch for $200 on Craigslist.. like what?!? If it was up to me and I had an unlimited budget.. yes I would be purchasing that $10,000 white rug that would probably get damaged if it completed the design aesthetic I was looking for. But, that's not gonna happen with the Craigslist mentality. Hence, one must mask that with functionality. In the end.. they could care less what it looked like as long as there is a great setup and a TV larger than the room itself to watch the big games with their buddies. So.. here it is... my best shot at helping you get a man cave that your man will never leave (a plus I know! (; ) and one that may end up being the best room in the house. 

Stone Source Boston

With grad school for interior architecture comes amazing field trips! The other day, we got the opportunity to go to Stone Source in Boston and get a tour of the showroom and get the inside scoop on the amazing products that they have to offer there. And let me tell you.. they have some amazing stuff! 

To be honest, the impact that stone has on a space is not something I had really thought about too too much. But, after going to the Stone Source showroom, I realized how important these choices can be! The materials you decide to place in your spaces can make or break the design. And, they can add something incredibly unique to your space! Although Stone Source has endless choices for your next project, I'll just show you a few of my favorites. I was definitely taking notes on what to use on our upcoming projects; exciting choices for our Boston Condo project on the way! Unfortunately, Stone Source showroom is only open to the trade. So if you think you'd like to use them for your next project, contact us (: 

Duel Functionality

When designing a room it’s important to keep in mind style but also functionality, no one wants a room that they can’t live in. Daybeds are the perfect solution to a lot of design problems. They are what every designer loves; multi-use. When choosing pieces of furniture (especially large scale) it’s best that it offers duel functions. This allows you to make the most out of any space. A lot of people don’t have the space to allow for a private guest room, but the use of a daybed can easily transform an office into a guest room for a couple nights. Keep scrolling for more duel function furniture. 

 

Menswear Inspired Interiors

I am constantly trying to pull inspiration from fashion for different interior design projects. And then the other day I was flipping through a magazine and came across this amazing ad from Tom Ford advertising menswear, and that’s when it hit me, I usually only use women’s fashion as an outlet for inspiration when I should be using both men and women. There are many different color combinations and layering techniques that are never really seen with women’s fashion, so it’s important to look at both men and women’s fashion. Take a look below to see how you can translate men’s fashion into your next room.