Friday, September 28, 2012

Decorating a shared space - Living/Dining Room

I hear a lot of people asking how to set the layout of a room where the Living room and Dining room are sharing the same space.
In today's house, it is common to see the Shared Space Design as oppose to two separate rooms, one for living and the other for dining.
ieces furniture
How can you decorate it and still keep it separate? Every room is different, I cannot give you a generic answer. Something that will work for one space may not work for the other, but I will do my best to give you guidelines to better assist you laying out your room.

First things first...Figure out what your needs are
Do you entertain a lot? Do you need a big dining table or will a small expandable table be enough? Do you have a breakfast area in the kitchen, maybe there is no need for another dining area? Is there going to be a TV at the living room? etc. etc.

Second, measure your room.  If you can, sketch it on a piece of paper. 
Remember to include the measurements of all walls, doors and windows in your sketch (to scale).
Sketch your furniture (again, to scale) on a different piece of paper, cut them and experiment with them in different positions on your plan (you can also do this on your computer if you know how to use a simple drawing program). This sketch (your floor plan) is also helpful for when you go and select your furniture.

Third, if the room is not in a rectangular shape, consider using the smaller area for the dining area.

Small room dedicated for both purposes - 

a mirror is placed above the fire place to give the illusion of bigger space

For a rectangular shaped room look for the architectural clues in the room. For example a fire place is usually the anchor for the Living room; Bay windows can play a part in defining the Dining room. Where is the kitchen in relating to the room, you don't want to go through the entire space just to serve food...; and so on and so forth.

After you figured out the designated space for each area, here are some ground rules to decorate them.
Try and design the areas so there is an anchor with light and an area rug. Have a chandelier above your dining room table to define it's space.

Create focal point, or emphasize an existing one to make the illusion of separation. For example, if there is a fire place, decorate the living area around it.

You can also use glass-top table  with clear chairs to visually expand the space and make it feel bigger and less clutter.

Furniture position - This is a tricky one. Some will say, face the big sofa with it's back to the dining area. 

Luxury Room at Inter Continental NY

The sofa will create a visual separation between the areas, not everybody like this idea and they want to keep the flow of the open space design, nothing here is written in stone it can work both ways (In a long rectangular room I would avoid it). 
If you do use the "floating sofa" design, place a console behind it to use for storage to serve both zones.

Whatever you do, do not clutter the room by trying to force too many pieces of furniture into it, and always leave enough space around the furniture for people to move freely.

Last but not least, at your design you have to remember that both areas share the same space. You want to pick up furniture and accessories that will give a cohesive look. Try and avoid using too many different colors and shapes.

You can also check out my post about decorating a big room before you start,  for more design ideas.

Till next time,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Too funny designs

Who said Interior design needs to be so serious. Sometimes when we go back home from our busy and stressful day we want to go to a relaxing, fun & yet sometimes funny, home.

I gathered here some fun designs for your inspiration or just to make you laugh 

This is a funny & creative shelving unit, you can use the middle area as a bench, or just keep the skeleton. 

This is cool and funny penguin mirror motifs incorporated in a very serious design.
With the selection of these furniture and color pallet and adding the penguin twist, the room becomes more fun and yet elegant.

Who said furniture need to be in standard geometric shapes?! Here is a great example for a fun drawer unit. 
Perfect for any room, not just the kids room.

This is a funny chair design. A very unique look designed by Lila Jang.  This chair can also be used as a bed.

Last but not least, my favorite outdoor chairs, here I think the image can do the talking.

Till next time,

Interior Design Going Green

Going Green is not just a phase, it is here to stay. More and more are growing their own herbs & vegetables, buying organic and looking for a way to incorporate green in their homes. At this post I am trying to share simple rules to help you  have your house more eco-friendly.

eco friendly paint
When Going Green, use the known "Reuse - Renew - Recycle" rule. 

Reuse furniture by having pieces repainted with non-toxic paint. Reupholster your furniture with organic textile.
When you decide to replace your furniture or appliance, check the option of donating it to charity.

Plant Chandelier
For your carpet, look for the ones made out of natural fiber, like organic grown cotton, jute, sisal, sea grass or 100% sustainable New Zealand wool.
For your walls, use PVC-free wallpaper and blinds, and low or zero VOC paints.

When picking up new appliances, look for the Energy Star, which means this machine is energy efficient. The same is with your light bulbs, replaced your light bulbs with light bulbs that marked with the Energy Star, they use 75% less energy and produce less heat that the regular ones.

The Tonecoon chair is made of renewable water
hyacinth which is wrapped around its frame
Install low-flow shower-heads and faucets to reduce your water consumption. If you don't want to change the fixture, try this easy fix - add an aerator, which screw on to the end of the faucet, mixing air with water, they don't reduce the water pressure but will reduce the flow and save you water and money.  

For new toilet, try and get the low-flow dual-flush toilet, that allows you to select between two flow amounts - one for liquids and the other for more solid waste.

Recycled metal wire flower platters by Shiraleah 
Look for accessories that are environment friendly. Accessories as well as furniture can be found that are made from organic materials, hand made, and also made with recycled materials. More and more can be found that are green and gorgeous.

And for the final touch, place live plants around your house. They help clean the air. Try to avoid the dozen roses from the store, They are usually pesticide-sprayed roses, which are toxic and exploit workers. 

Till next time,

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Scale - making a small room look bigger and a big room feel cozier

You walk into a room and you feel like you are  Gulliver in Lilliput, or maybe the other way around as if this room is too big for you. What should you do?

If you get the sense as if the dimensions of the room are smallish - meaning you are like Gilliver walking in Lilliput - you want to create the illusion as if your room is spacious.
Getting the feeling of small doesn't mean that your room is really small, it means we need to work and organize it so you will not get that feeling anymore.

Here are some ground rules for you to follow:
First, Think Small.
You don't need kid's furniture, but you also don't need the four seater sofa. Make sure your furniture scale is small. Window treatments are simple. If you are using fabrics with patterns, make sure the design motif is small.

Second, use Light colors on the walls and Dark color for the furniture.
Light colors on the walls expand the sense of space. If you are using drapes, use a light colors for them as well.

Small Living room that feels just right

Do you know the phrase, "Black makes you look thinner". This phrase does also apply to your furniture.
Maybe not in these exact words but the concept is the same. Darker furniture look "better" in a smaller space. If you use a light colored upholstery fabric, you make the furniture look bigger. 
Again if you want to use pattern on the furniture, choose a motif with a small design. 

Third, Aim for unity.
Try to use matching furniture with the same fabric on them. Window treatments that continue the flow of the walls and not break it up (if you are using a wall paper, try to use a matching drape).

You get the idea on a small room, now what do we do for a big room? exactly the opposite.
A large living room that feels nice and cozy
For a large room we want to give a cozy feeling, so our ground rules should be:
First, Thinking BIG.
Big furniture, elaborated window treatments. Big and bold patters on your upholstery.

Second, Dark colors on the walls - Light colors on the furniture.
When painting the walls in a darker color we get the illusion that the walls are much closer than they really are.
As appose to the smaller room, we want our furniture to have the feeling of big, so we need them to be in a light color and/or with a big and bold patters, otherwise they can "get lost" in the room.

Third, Diversity.
A large living room that makes you feel as it's too empty
Big rooms can handle different patters on the furniture (just don't take it to the extreme with each piece with a different patter).  You want the window treatments to stand out in contrast to the rest of the walls so they break out the large expanse of the walls. You can also use an Oriental rug.

Decorating your room is a challenge, but now you know what to do.

Till next time,

Monday, June 18, 2012

Living room design with kids in mind

As a mom for three young children, I always concerned for my kids' safety.
As an Interior Designer, I always consider how my house looks.
Do the two have to conflict? Not necessarily.

I remember as a teenager I used to baby-sit my neigh borer's two young children.
Their mom collected antiques. I remember whenever I came to stay with the kids, the rules were very streaked "Kids can only play in their room and eat in the kitchen".
The kids knew the rules and were terrified to break them.

My parents, on the other hand were very easy going. My siblings and I could hang wherever we wanted as long as we are safe.

At my house there is a balance (I hope) between the two approaches.
My Living room is sophisticated enough for adults and still safe for young children.

How can you accomplish that? place something in your living room that your kids know they can touch.
That way, when they are in the room it's not all "off limit" for them.
I once designed a room where there is a special drawer in this beautiful antique table, all filled with the toddler's toys. She loved it and the room still looked clutter free.

Coffee Table with Accessories that are kids' friendly

Of course if you have a big house and you can have two living spaces, one more kids friendly and one formal there is no problem for you, but just in case you don't there is a solution.

Till next time,

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lighting fixtures - Interior Design 101 or No idea what are you talking about

Before I studied Interior Design, I had a feeling on where things should be placed in a room, what colors should I use etc., but I had no idea how they were called.

So in this first 101 session I plan on giving you some guidance so you will talk like a pro!

In this session, we'll be talking about Light.

Lighting fixtures are divided into five categories, depending on how they are placed in the room:
Wall Fixtures, Ceiling fixtures, Indirect Lighting fixtures, Floor fixtures and Table fixtures.
Each type of light serves a purpose. I am not trying to explain their purpose now just give you the idea of what they are.

Wall fixtures are mounted to our walls like Sconces, Swivel arms, Makeup light and Wall cans. The light that they cast can be in different directions. Some up, some down and some both up and down.
* Something very important to remember, when placing a sconce place it 5'6" from the floor.
Wall Light - light spread up and down

Ceiling fixtures, are what we use to see on the ceiling.
It is usually a socket in the middle of the ceiling and it gives a lot of light. A chandelier is a perfect example.
Other ceiling fixtures are Downlights which are the modern version of a chandelier. It can be recessed downlights, surface mounted downlight and track lights.
Each provides light from the ceiling down to the floor but it will be spread differently.

A combination of two different ceiling lights - see the light spread?
Indirect Lighting fixtures provides, as you probably guessed from it's name, an indirect light. These types of fixtures often provide subtle, yet dramatic, ambient lighting in a room. Why is that? because they provide soft even lighting on a large area. Their light reflects on a surface such as a wall or the ceiling.
Falling under this category are the in-cabinet lighting,  under cabinet lighting and indirect window lighting (i.e. light behind a valance).

Dramatic light

Floor fixtures are referred to fixtures that rest on the floor. Floor lamps and floor cans falls under this category.
Today's selection of floor lamps is huge and as you can make a design statement with a chandelier, the floor lamp is also the way to do so.

Table fixtures are fixtures that rest on a table. They are less likely to be used in Contemporary designs.

In every room you design there should be a combination of at least two of the above types.
Ceiling light and under cabinet light

Till next time,

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wall Art

I am designing a girls bedroom. It's a small room that has a strange layout.
I need to fit two beds, a desk and a shelving unit for all their books.
My challenge it to fit everything in a 8X9 feet room and have it fun and functional.
As you can imagine this can become a crowded room if you are doing it wrong.
I solved the layout problem by using a bunk bed. I also found a cute desk for homework.
Now that I solved the functional part, it's time to move to the fun decorative part and put it all together.

The girls are young, 6 and 3 years old. This room (as you read in my previous post) needs to have the ability  to grow as they grown and fit their needs.
But they are young, they love princesses. They will "hate" it in a couple of years, but they love it now - so what do I do???

I decided to use Wall Stickers.
OMG - The variety! The colors! so many options - for boys, for girls, for adults - I love it!

In a year or two when they outgrow it, we just need to peel it. If they want they can put something else, if not that's fine too.

So this time I decided to keep it the walls 'clean'. I painted it in a neutral cream color, and integrate the princesses using the stickers and a framed art.

This can also be applied in a bedroom, a play room, even the kitchen and the living room.

There is a huge selection for the stickers.
Big - small, chalk, you can even design your own. Worth a try in any room.

Till next time,

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

My new Chandelier Or how to choose a Chandelier

A Chandelier can make any room, especially a dining room. It adds character, atmosphere and elegance. How will you know which one to choose?!

Before you go shopping there are a few things you need to consider.

First, is the size of the your room.
For example for a room smaller than 10X10 feet a 17-20 inch diameter chandelier should be fine. For a bigger room, for example 14X14 feet a 24-36 inch diameter chandelier would look right.

Second thing to consider is the chandelier's size in relative to your dining room table. A chandelier should be approximately 1 feet narrower than the width of the table which you plan on hanging it above. Make sense, right?! 

You should not have a conflict with the sizes, as I am assuming the table you are using is in proportion to the room (if not let me know and I'll help you).

If there is something that drives me crazy when entering a room, is that it's not well lit. That brings me to the next criteria -  the amount of light your chandelier produces.
There is a simple equation for calculating the "amount of light" needed for a room (voltage). It's the length and width of the room multiplied together. The result multiply again by 1.5. This number should be matched with any chandelier you choose. Add all the voltage of all the bulbs in the chosen chandelier and match the desired number.
If you have less voltage, that means your chandelier will not be producing enough light to light your room.***

Room Length X Room Width X 1.5 < Sum (light bulb voltage)

If you have additional light source in the room, you probably do not need to worry but if you don't, start multiplying...
Some chandelier produce enough light but the light bulbs are covered with dark shades which kind of miss the purpose, so keep an eye on this thing too.

Quick tip - Have your electrician install a dimmer, that way you can control the amount of light.

In a separate dining room you can choose whatever you want. In an open dining room you want to consider the design style of the entire space. Usually the chandelier is part of light fixture family, try using the fixtures for the room from the same family to get a unified look.

Now that you have that information you can go browse the stores.
Check a few stores and see what appeals to you (please ignore the price, at least for now, as there are so many options, you might find that the most expensive ones do not appeal to you). 
Think of your style and the style of your room. We all have different taste, different design visions, use the chandelier to make a statement.

When thinking of a formal room will you can consider crystals or something more traditional.
In a modern room you have more freedom, you can go with whatever you feel like.
But every rule can be broken, so if your house is traditional and you feel like adding a contemporary twist... be my guest :-)
You found the one?!  That's wonderful.
Remember, when installing it try to set it at the center above the dining table and have it hang about 30" above the surface of the table to insure no one will bump his/her head it in (This height is for an 8 foot ceiling, raise the fixture 3 inches higher for each additional foot of ceiling height).

Till next time,

*** Calculating the voltage - Example:

Room Length X Room Width X 1.5 < Sum (light bulb voltage)

A room is 10 ft.x12 ft. (10x12 = 120). Then multiply 120x1.5 = 180 watts. That means a 5-light chandelier using 40-watt bulbs would give 200 watts, which is even more light than needed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Milan Design Week 2012

This week is Milan Design week, all the new and innovating designs can be found there.
I have no plan on critiquing what is there (everyone else already did it for me), I just wanted to point out some of my favorite designs. Some can be used in your rooms and some, as I prefer to describe, are Piece of Art.

Lets start with the Art.

Here is Knobbly sofa and chair designed by Belgian designer Maarten De Ceulaer. Will I have it in my designed living rooms, I think not. Do I think it's special?! Hell yeah!

Do you think it's comfortable?

Chilean studio Great Things to People present this lamp covered in alpaca hair. Will I want it in my dining room?! I think not. But it is a piece of art and it is one of a kind.

A fire hazard?! maybe.
And now for the useful pieces.
First, you can find The "giant version of the Cubebot toys" - the designer David Weeks has teamed up with Belgian design brand Quinze & Milan to present this amazing piece that can easily integrate in any family room. 

A piece of art that can easily integrate in a family room.
Moving on to industrial designer Tom Dixon and his Etch Weba lamp that comprises a large round shade made up of pentagons that cast geometric shadows over surrounding surfaces.

Dramatic light

Last but not least, my favorite,  Emma Elizabeth Marble rugs. Look amazing in any room!

Is it really a rug?!

Till next time,

Monday, April 2, 2012

Remodeling your kitchen

The is kitchen the heart of the house. The place were all the action is.

One day, if not today, you will find yourself designing or remodeling your kitchen.
I am not going to tell you how to do it in this piece, I will try and give you guidelines to have the work done in an efficient and quick way (as much as kitchen work can be).

So first of all, like any other room design, you need to understand what is it that you want from your kitchen. The kitchen serves a purpose; We cook, we eat, we socialize, some are having the kids do their homework, some entertain a lot, some need a place to work. Some (me) have their bills and junk mail stack there.
Make a list of what is it that you need and only after you have a good understanding of what you need, move to what you want (island, wine cabinet, etc).

Now that you know what you need. Let's discuss the budget.
Remodeling a kitchen is a very expensive project. You have the materials, the labor, the permit, and of course the extras.
There will always be something you did not consider initially, or something you did not expect that needs to be done (pipes need to be fixed, electricity needs to be updated with the new codes, etc.)
Consider the extras as additional 20% of the estimated project.
(Here are some kitchen budget calculators Kitchen Budget CalculatorBudget Breakdown)

Are you ready for this mess?
After you have your budget, look for the right contractor(s) for the job. Don't be afraid to shop around. Check their references, and their license. Interview at least three contractors.
Beside an estimate they might have useful ideas that you did not consider.
Try and get a realistic estimate from each and every one. The estimate should include a time frame and of course a price. Meaning, how long it will take them and how much it is going to cost.
Ask for that in writing. Don't forget to add the extras to it... additional 20% in time and money.
On the proposal make sure EVERYTHING is mentioned (itemized quote). You do not want to be surprised with needing to buy an outlet or pay extra for the grout.

When you find the right person go straight to order the kitchen cabinets. That is the most time consuming.
When placing the order ask for a sample of the door and take it with you to match everything else.

But I'm ahead of myself... how would you know what to order and what is the best layout for your space?
You remember the list of functionality we started with?! Take it to the kitchen store and describe it all to them. They are designing kitchens, they always did and they always will. No matter how great you and I are in designing a kitchen, they have the experience. They do it every day.
Yes, I can teach you about the "kitchen triangle" for the perfect layout and I can share all my tips, but at the bottom line, you should consider and value their opinion.
(I will soon have a post dedicated to the layout, so wait...)

Contractors can take their time, but you can't.
Once you finished with the cabinets it is time for the counter top, then back-splash, floor, appliance, faucet, light fixtures, wall colors and more.
Those things can take time to choose and to be delivered. You want that selected and ordered. You don't want the job to be delayed because of you...
Shop around for everything, faucet, light fixtures and more. Some websites offer better prices and free shipping, why not take advantage. Get their quote and see if you can match it at your local store, if not - online is a great alternative!

One more thing before the job start... Your current kitchen need to be packed and stored. Think of a location that can be utilized as temporary kitchen. It should have a sink, electric outlets,  table, shelves.
Also, a microwave, hot plate, electric pot and a refrigerator will be very useful.

The day the job starts - Take a deep breath! It's going to be a long journey with a big reward at the end.
A wise contractor once told me "At the beginning of decorating a kitchen we are all excited. Then we get mad and frustrated. Right before the job is done we wish we didn't do it. But it will all be worth it once the job is complete"...

After - it is all worth the mess
Till next time,

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Child's bedroom - Where to place the bed

In a child's bedroom the bed is the largest and most important piece to place, therefore we should consider it's location very carefully.

So our million dollar question is where to place it???

We, as parents, want our children to be well rested so they are ready for the day. The location of the bed can affect that.
When placing a bed, locate it so the child will feel "safe and comfortable"  in his/her sleep.
What do I mean by "safe and comfortable" ? Of course they are safe at their own home and comfortable when they are in their own bed, the best bed!

So, let me explain. Imagine your child laying in bed. If him/her are able to see whoever enters the room - they are "safe".
When they are sleeping (the room is dark) and you open the door to check that all is well, the light should not get in their face and wake them up - they are "comfortable". 

Now that you got the idea of it, let me be more specific and set some guidance.

    The first guidance that you should consider is the "safe and comfortable" avoid placing the in front of the door. In some cultures, they say to avoid positioning the bed in a way the feet pointing directly at the door. Why? because when you lay down and your feet are facing the door, it is like a dead body carried out of the room through the open door... Creepy, I agree but do you want to try it now?! I don't thinks so.  

    Fang Shui takes bed positioning very seriously.  In a nutshell, you should position the child's bed in the area further from the door or diagonally from the door (the "safe" rule), but not in line with it ("dead body" myth). Avoid sharp angles pointing to it like corners of other furniture or even books pointing directly at the child's bed.

    For a nursery - when considering the location of a crib, try to avoid placing it on an outside facing wall, especially a wall with a window. Babies need to be in a control temperature environment and placing the crib on these walls may affect their body temperature.
BTW - I would avoid putting a kid's bed under a window as well for safety issue.

Here are some layout examples that might help you.

Correct placements for a child's bed

Till next time,