Category Archives: Home Improvement

Virtual Decorator Tips

Over the last few years, the rise of online decorating services has made a once-rarefied world much more accessible. Companies that offer personalized, virtual interior design ideas—Laurel & Wolf, Home Polish, Decorist, and Havenly, to name a few—have made hiring a decorator as easy as shopping for shoes online. It no longer requires deep pockets, a lengthy research process, or even an in-person meeting. But is online decorating right for everyone—or every room? We turned to a couple of experts to find out how to get the most out of the experience, and get the (real life) space of your dreams.

DO the groundwork
The more information you can provide from the outset, the better. Complete the online quizzes and style assessments to hone in on the look you’re going for. And when it comes to describing your current space, go overboard. “More is more when it comes to working virtually,” says Kimberly Winthrop, a designer with Laurel & Wolf. “The more communication, photos, measurements, and inspiration references, the better your designer will know you and the better your project will flow.” In addition to taking full-room shots, “take photos of details that make your space unique, like moldings, so that your designer can factor them into the design,” says Emily Motayed, co-founder of Havenly.

DON’T be a stickler
The decorators working with these services are vetted—a great reassurance that you’re working with a pro. Look through online portfolios to get a feel for a designer’s work before you hire him or her, but keep in mind it’s better to see that they can work within a range of aesthetics rather than deliver a highly specific look. “Their style may not be exactly your style, but any good designer should be able to deliver what you like,” explains Winthrop.

DO be brutally honest
This process is one of give and take. If your decorator floats an idea that you hate, say so. “A common mistake that people make is not expressing their true opinion on a design or item out of fear of hurting a designer’s feelings,” says Motayed. “Don’t be afraid to be honest.”

DON’T overreach
Virtual decorating services are best for spaces that have fairly straightforward needs and don’t require a renovation, such as living rooms and bedrooms. “When you get into kitchens and baths, where the main elements of the space are built-in or custom, it can be a more challenging project,” says Winthrop.

 

Lets makeover your home

Being an interiors journalist has given Claire Bingham insider access to many incredible homes, and she’s learned a thing or two about great design along the way. In her new book, Modern Living: How to Decorate with Style(TeNeues, $55), she reveals how to think like the top interior designers whose work she’s witnessed. “Yes, you can devise a scheme based around a gorgeous new cushion, but it is best to think less about colors or details. Focus more on the mood and emotion, instead. Homes should make you happy,” Bingham writes. She walks us through the decorating process room by room, with tips and tricks for overhauling a space or just making a few quick upgrades. Here, we share some of her most memorable pieces of advice.

Once you’ve come up with an overall idea for your living room and determined your furniture needs (and where those pieces will go), it’s all about adding character, says Bingham. Here, an old sofa was reupholstered in a funky floral fabric that matches the wallpaper.

“Comfort comes first in the bedroom, so make your bed the priority,” writes Bingham. “Go for extra wide and get the best mattress you can afford. To make your bed extra inviting, introduce an extra set of satin pillows to crisp white cotton linen and layer with velvet and wool throws.”

Give your work space just as much attention as the rest of your home, Bingham says. And while an aesthetically pleasing spot is important, the real must-haves are a tidy surface.

The Luxurious Way People Are Now Storing Their Wine

Wine cellars are a luxury most city dwellers don’t expect to find in a home, but soon that might change. To make the amenity more accessible, one company is digging deep, literally. Spiral Cellars specialize in exactly what their name suggests—vertical wine cellars that are wrapped around a cylindrical opening beneath your floorboards. The design, created from engineered concrete, allows for the storage of 1,900 bottles of wine, without compromising on square footage.

It’s a wine lover’s dream, as it’s not only an über-luxurious way of showcasing your collection, it’s also practical. The storage unit has a commercial-grade climate-control system, which means that bottles can be kept at the ideal temperature as the ventilation setup swaps out warm air for cold.

Best of all, though, is how easy the unit is to install. The in-home process only takes three to nine days when done by Spiral Cellars. Plus, it doesn’t require any foundation work or breaking into belowground, as it can be housed within a basement or crawlspace.

Of course, collecting wine as a hobby is going to cost you—so it might not be a shock that Spiral Cellars run between $23,000 and $67,000 each. Take a deeper look at what goes into making one below.

Kitchens for an Easy Home Renovation

Embarking on a custom kitchen renovation? Before you drive yourself crazy with cabinetry fittings and countertop consultations at stores all over town (or the Internet), consider the benefits of a ready-made kitchen. Convenient and in some cases surprisingly affordable, all-in-one kitchen designs can be customized to suit any-sized space (measurements are key) and come in a variety of sizes, colors, and styles, from Italian modern to country traditional and everything in between. Here, AD rounds up 17 stunning examples that let you choose every element—think hardware, finishes, and more—in one shot, streamlining the design process without compromising on beauty and functionality.

Downsview
The brand provides an extensive range of kitchen components, including these Modena cabinetry doors in a milk-paint finish and a handsome credenza in wire-brushed oak.

Arclinea
The sleek new Principia kitchens by Italian architect and designer Antonio Citterio for Arclinea feature handsome wood-grain cabinetry and specially treated stainless steel in three finish options.

Snaidero
LOOK by Snaidero was designed as a canvas that allows homeowners to create their unique kitchen vision. The wooden worktop has adjustable heights and widths, while pantry units come in several sizes to accommodate different layouts.

Things Before You Commit to Stone Flooring

Just like wood or glass, stone is a hugely popular element in interior design, and the possibilities for how to incorporate it are endless. Do you want granite kitchen countertops? Travertine flooring? A stone fireplace surround? To find out how to make the most of the material, we turned to Miriam Fanning, principal at Mim Design in Melbourne, Australia, for advice. But before you decide on an application, you’ll need to choose the stone itself. Fanning’s first rule: “When selecting stone, it’s important to make sure that it is authentic and not faux. Authentic products will stand the test of time and will not be prone to dating.” From there, here are the factors to consider.

 

Stone should enhance the aesthetic of your space

“The kitchen we created at this residence has a soft look that was achieved by selecting a stone with a minimal vein,” says Fanning. “A stone with a heavier vein would have created a more dramatic look.” Here, the material of choice was white-and-gray Elba marble, but if the room requires a design with more heft, Fanning suggests Calacatta or Statuario marble.
Not every type of stone can stand up to wear and tear
“For heavy-duty spaces and frequent usage, granite can be the best natural stone to use in terms of its performance,” says Fanning. In this commercial kitchen showroom, it was the obvious choice. “Jurassic granite is practical, hard-wearing, and ages well over time. As a natural stone, it will last for many years, gradually forming a patina, and will enhance the value of the home.” Of course, no stone is indestructible; Fanning always recommends applying a sealant to protect the surface from scratches and stains.
Stone doesn’t have to feel unwelcoming
“Underfloor heating ensures a warmth throughout, while selecting a product with a natural form creates a unique look,” says Fanning. Limestone, travertine, granite, and slate are all good options, but Fanning usually opts for marble. “I love how it obtains its different colors from the mineral and fossil elements in the stone,” she says. In this home, light reflects off the veins in the Elegant Grey marble flooring, creating a luminous effect.

Make a Contemporary Kitchen Tips

When Mass Design Group cofounder Alan Ricks decided to remodel his Boston apartment, he had a lucky head start: Ricks’s unit, on the top floor a charming 1850s brownstone, came chock-full of original architectural features. But there was still plenty of work to do, specifically in the kitchen; the dark exposed brick wall and wood trusses, previously stained a deep brown, didn’t jibe with Ricks’s dream of an airy gathering area where friends could mingle while a meal bubbled on the stove.

Ricks promptly whitewashed those moody elements and stuck to a limited color and material palette, instantly brightening up the room and creating a simple backdrop for special elements to shine. “The idea that design affects behavior is true for the home as well,” he says. “Creating this open kitchen layout, for example, shapes the social dynamic and creates a bright, welcoming space that is great for entertaining.”

Mass Design Group has a “LoFab”—locally fabricated—approach to design, and Ricks applied the same philosophy to his personal project. “Design decisions were developed collaboratively with the craftsmen who would do the building, sourcing materials regionally wherever possible and taking opportunities to highlight the craft of construction.” Case in point: the kitchen’s custom stairwell. Another advantage of the apartment’s elevated perch—and what convinced Ricks to buy the home in the first place—was access to the rooftop. However, to appreciate the valuable outdoor space, you had to climb up a perilous folding ladder. No longer. Ricks worked with expert carpenters and metalworkers to create wood steps that rise from the floor to blend directly into the kitchen island, then curve up into a matte-white spiral stairway. “To achieve this in one piece, the stair had to be craned into place,” he says.

What are you choosing minimalism home or the maximalism

Do you believe less is more or more is more? Do you like to stick with the essentials, or do you bring home something new from every excursion? Do you prefer a foundation of serene neutral hues, or are you drawn to no-holds-barred color? Basically, are you a minimalist or a maximalist? Ultimately, there is no wrong answer—there is beauty in both the thoughtful simplicity of a minimalist space and the eye-catching mix of tones and textures in a maximalist one—but many designers (and design lovers) have a preference. So we asked a few top designers to weigh in on why they love one or the other. Here’s what they had to say.

The Minimalists

“Though not necessarily minimalist, we define our style as ‘layered modernism’—a refined aesthetic that combines clean lines with luxurious materials and finishes, creating warm, sophisticated, and comfortable spaces. We do appreciate minimalism’s long unbroken expanses, simple details, and soft color palette—these act as a visual palate cleanser. As a society, we are assaulted every day by a barrage of visual stimuli—it’s overwhelming. A reductive environment allows the eye, the mind, and the soul to rest and rejuvenate. A successful minimalist setting, highlighting form and line and free of superfluous detailing, can be utterly sublime. What I don’t think people appreciate about minimalist design is that it’s not as easy as it looks—in fact, it requires rigorous precision in planning and execution. With traditional detailing, errors in measuring can be masked with thick moldings and flounces of fabric. With minimalism, everything has to be ‘perfect’; adjoining materials, walls, and floors, have to be exactly straight—any deviation shows terribly.” —Russell Groves of Groves & Co.

“Minimalism in architecture is a movement. Maximalism is a lifestyle of living in an unimprovable space that can’t be altered structurally so one must overwhelm the senses with objects, pillows, and color. True minimalism uses the refinement of materials and the poetry of intersecting planes with the relationship of objects and their proximity to each other. Maximalism is hedonistic and bohemian in its message. If you can’t hide it, paint it red.” —Simon Townsend Jacobsen of Jacobsen Architecture

The Maximalists

“Abhorring my parents’ modernist taste in furnishings and decoration happened very early in my childhood—1935! Very much like today’s younger generation, everything was quick delivery and off the shelf. There was no regard for the past or Granny’s best. My take for the past was immediate. My yearning to collect went along with that, as my mother was to nickname me Collyer (after the famous Collyer brothers) by the time I was eight years old. I loved the romance of being a collector.” —Mario Buatta

“There is a joy in designing a space without limitations and restrictions, where excess is encouraged and unlikely pairings create beautiful and unexpected harmonies.” —Kelly Wearstler

 

Best Kitchen Pantry Ideas

The key to a spotless kitchen is a well-organized pantry. These two spaces make a perfect team, with the kitchen doing the heavy lifting in terms of prep and the pantry providing plenty of room to stash tools, ingredients, and serving pieces. While storage is the centerpiece of the pantry and should be the main consideration when it comes to design, the space can do double duty as a bar or a secondary prep area for food and floral arrangements. It can also serve as a showcase for collections of glassware and china, on open shelving, in glass-front cabinets, or even on the wall. See how Steven Gambrel, Barbara Westbrook, Ray Booth, and other designers have created highly organized and beautifully functional pantry spaces.

In the pantry of a Bridgehampton, New York, home designed by Steven Gambrel, a white-oak ladder by Putnam Rolling Ladder Co. makes the tall shelves easily accessible; polished-nickel pendant lamps by Hudson Valley Lighting illuminate the space.

Antique Wedgwood and Coalport china is stored in the pantry of architect Jim Joseph and musical theater composer Scott Frankel’s upstate New York home.

The pantry of architect Alison Spear’s Hudson Valley, New York, home is outfitted with a 1930s pendant light and heirloom china; the dishwasher is by Miele.

In the Nashville, Tennessee, home he shares with his partner, TV executive John Shea, designer Ray Booth devised a working pantry lined with open shelves for tableware. The sink and fittings are by Kohler.

Great Inspiration About Home Design

“Sometimes I feel like a chef at a farmers’ market,” says decoupage artist John Derian, amid the vast collection of antique etchings, engravings, and manuscripts in his studio on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “What’s available is what I end up using,” he says of the prints, which he finds at estate sales and flea markets and fashions into his signature creations. For more than two decades Derian has sold his own plates, lamps, and other objets alongside a selection of artisan-made home goods at his eponymous shops in New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Now his favorite images—from delicate 18th- and 19th-century botanical and animal studies to charming children’s drawings—have come out of their storage bins (Hermès boxes and vintage suitcases) and onto the pages of his first tome, John Derian Picture Book (Artisan, $75). “It’s like a self-portrait,” he says of the volume. “These images have been part of my life for so long, they’re like friends.” On the occasion of the book’s publication, we paid a visit to Derian’s studio to discover the pictures, patterns, and objects that color his imaginative world.

 

Stone doesn’t have to feel unwelcoming

“Underfloor heating ensures a warmth throughout, while selecting a product with a natural form creates a unique look,” says Fanning. Limestone, travertine, granite, and slate are all good options, but Fanning usually opts for marble. “I love how it obtains its different colors from the mineral and fossil elements in the stone,” she says. In this home, light reflects off the veins in the Elegant Grey marble flooring, creating a luminous effect.

 

Great and Classic Apartment for Life

Though designer Marshall Watson was delighted with his new project’s location—in a pedigreed building with direct views of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Beaux Arts façade and into its galleries of classical antiquities—the space, as he found it, was far from problem-free. It had a palatial “head” (entry hall and double parlor), but the body, toward the natural light–deficient back, was disproportionately restrained, thanks to a subdivision some years prior.

“No surprise: our major inspiration lay just across the street,” says Marshall, whose new book, The Art of Elegance: Classic Interiors (Rizzoli New York, $55), will be released on March 14. “Since the apartment looked directly into into the museum’s Greek and Roman galleries, we decided that the residence would be a de facto extension of them.” So Marshall, a designer renowned for his meticulously researched interiors, set to work with the owners’ architect, reapportioning oversize public rooms, creating new spaces: a half bath, a prelude to the master suite, a library, and passages connecting each. With an eye toward getting the best use of natural light, the parlor, library, and bedroom were all positioned along Fifth Avenue, while the formal dining room, occupied almost exclusively at night, was set on the dim inner court.

“I was gratified to see that the couple’s very contemporary art collection sat naturally and comfortably within a classical setting,” Marshall says. “Rather than being at odds with one another, art, architecture, and décor are all mutually enriching.”

Striking Belgian marble floors mix with poured, mercury glass–paned mirrors set behind Hellenic art, playing on the fact that across the street from this Fifth Avenue pied-à-terre sit the classical and antiquity galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Reflective surfaces abound in the foyer, pulling in light from the living room to play off the Biedermier furniture and contemporary art.

Soft neutrals and sculptural upholstery set the stage to let the striking work by Alexander Calder shine above the mantel. Classical motifs continue in the mantelpiece.