If you haven’t had the experience of selecting granite before, you might be surprised at how long this decision may take, as well it should. Showrooms are chockfull of numerous samples of granite, maybe 6” or smaller, and a few display kitchens with granite counters. Don’t be fooled into choosing your countertops from small samples as they are not an accurate representation of what your installed granite counter tops will look like.
The two granite options shown above are similar in color but once installed will provide two distinctly different looks. The sample on the left surprisingly reads very light, almost white when you look at the actual slab. The sample on the right reads pinky-beige, even though overall it looks lighter than the first sample. The large blotches of what most people describe as beige will result in an overall rose or pink tone when the granite is placed horizontally at installation time and guess what, it’s too late! Take the time and visit granite yards to see the actual slabs. Even to my trained eye as a color expert, I was amazed to find myself standing in between two identical slabs of granite that looked completely different because of how the light was reflecting on the surface.
The granite on the left is the one we selected for my client’s kitchen. After visiting three different granite yards (my client visited even more) and looking at hundreds of slabs of granite we found only two options that would work in her kitchen. Shocking, isn’t it?! Selecting colors and finishes for your home is a tedious process and to truly achieve “your kind of beautiful,” you may want to consider hiring a professional to work closely with you and guide you through the process. The price of a designer is significantly less costly than spending the next ten years living with granite counter tops that are anything less than the epitome of “your kind of beautiful.”
Carving out a dedicated area for conducting business in or near the kitchen is clearly in demand today. Whether it is in the model homes that I visit or in the floor plans that I study, what once was a small counter/desk area in the kitchen with an overhead cabinet has now turned into a dedicated room located off the kitchen. The space as I see it most often provides an L-shaped counter area with upper and lower cabinets and space for one or two chairs. Tasks such as homework, bill paying, coupon clipping, etc. are intended to be conducted here. If I were to have this space in my home, I would make it multi-functional by incorporating floor to ceiling cabinets or open shelving to dual function as a pantry and an informal office space. With some creativity and well planned design elements, this small jewelry box type of space may trump the larger office space that has become a necessity in most homes these days.
Local Kitchen and Bar
We weren’t quite sure where Local Kitchen and Bar was located so we found a parking place on 9 Mile, in the heart of Ferndale, and started walking. As we were passing by unique storefronts and masses of people, we saw a large awning with sidewalk seating and an open designed chimney, stacked full of logs, rising above the roof, and realized this must be the place. We enter the restaurant through a small vestibule that contains some beautiful antiques, a generous sized window, and some plants. As we continue through a second door, we are pleasantly greeted by the hostess; stationed in the waiting area that is filled with a variety of seating choices. Guests can opt to sit at the u-shaped bar, one of many high-top tables, or a more intimate, fireside, seating option. The bar is surrounded by turquoise, red, and black vintage bar stools and accommodates seating for 12, plus standing room for several more. The lobby side of the bar has a series of windows, which gives the visual effect of being outside of the restaurant; however it allows the patrons the opportunity to enjoy a drink while waiting for a table. This unique feature, although visually appealing, creates difficulty for the bartenders to properly hear patrons, especially when the lobby is busy. The ceiling is an open design with exposed ducts, which are painted black. The illusion of a lower ceiling is created over the bar with horizontally mounted antique wooden ladders decorated with a collection of baskets and pottery and an abundance of liquor bottles are openly displayed on various shelves surrounding this area.
As we are lead to the outdoor patio, we pass by a roaring fire, topped by a towering column of logs (stacked cut-end out for added visual interest). The fireplace is two-sided and can be viewed from inside the dining room and from the outdoor patio. Cozy seating areas are on both sides where guests can comfortably wait to be called to their table. I imagine guests are in no hurry to leave this spot on cool evenings, although the flickering candlelight in the stainless steel and glass lanterns surrounding the patio invite the diner to move along in their dining experience. There are a variety of different sized tables throughout the dining room and patio and the tables are elegantly decorated with fresh flowers and candles.
The outdoor patio contains a special area where there is a collection of various types of lights strung above an oversized dining table, reserved for large parties. This dining area is anchored by a wall decorated with mirrors in all shapes and sizes. Although I didn’t get close enough to this area, I imagine the combination of candlelight and ambient lighting reflecting in the mirrors amplifies the elegant and festive environment.
An eclectic selection of hard finishes is used throughout the entire restaurant. Brick walls, wood millwork and furniture, aluminum ducts, concrete floors, laminate-look counters and tabletops, metal antiques, vinyl upholstery, and glass and metal accessories are contrasted by the use of, what appears to be miles of pale blue fabric, draperies; softening the hard edges and creating a sense of mystery to what lies beyond.
There are two sets of staircases (and an elevator) leading to the upper level where special events take place. The first set of stairs is slightly hidden by a flowing fabric panel in the main dining room and the second set of stairs is located behind the bar. The event area has beautiful wooden floors, white walls, an open ceiling, and windows softened by panels of sheer white fabric. One unique feature is the large window panels at the floor level that provide a view into the restaurant and vice versa, guests can catch glimpses of movement in the event area when the fabric panels are left open.
Courtesy of Brian Siegel, Developer and Business Manager, a beautiful collection of antiques and decorative accessories is artfully displayed in a manner that leads the eye throughout the entire restaurant. Even navigating utilitarian spaces, such as stairways and restrooms, is a true delight as there are collections of accessories displayed in unexpected areas.
After my first visit, I corresponded with Rick Halberg, Developer and Executive Chef, and made arrangements to return so that I could take photos for this blog post. During my second visit, I was able to talk to Angela Knight, Manager, and Hanna and Corey (hostess and waiter) who graciously answered questions and spoke passionately about the restaurant. What once was a gas station with a Masonic Temple directly behind it is now seamlessly joined into this enchanting, multi-functional space known as Local Kitchen and Bar located in beautiful Ferndale, Michigan.
Some will look at this bathroom and be scared away by what looks to be high maintenance; however, just the opposite is true. Taking extra steps in the construction phase, such as using epoxy grout instead of standard sanded grout to avoid shrinkage, mold, and mildew, will keep the grout looking like new for years to come.
With the combination of the corner sink and custom mirrors wrapping two walls, it positions the individual to stand further away from the mirror. This helps prevent hair from falling into the sink and eventually causing clogged drains. This also prevents the mirrors from being splashed while blow drying long hair.
Keeping the glass and marble shower clean is simple by using a squeegee after each use and quickly buffing with a soft towel. The extra five minutes it takes to do this goes a long way in keeping the bathroom immaculate.
Creating niches also provides a very clean look when towels are stacked neatly, items such as razor blades are placed in a decorative vessel, and shampoo bottles are kept to a minimum.
Adding a hidden light inside the niche provides an ambient glow in the evening hours.
Although there is no window in this bathroom, a light tube installed over the shower floods the space with natural daylight and it blends nicely with the perimeter recessed lights.
Hemingway’s Restaurant, Kent Island, Maryland
As we drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, what looks like an expansive beach house, catches my eye with its stunning color palette of deep blue-gray clapboard siding with stark white trim for contrast. On this chilly day in late November, the architecture screams summer and I’m delighted to realize it is a restaurant just waiting for me to discover. Selfishly, I’m thrilled to see very few people inside, leaving me to explore, take photos, and get a closer look at the space. As a designer who has a great love of the water, my senses are on overload as every detail emphasizes the surrounding bay and marina.
The exterior contains brick walkways and a patio on the ground level and a two-tiered wood deck providing stunning views of sunsets over the Chesapeake Bay. Even this late in the season, boats can be seen coming from and going to the marina and we were fortunate enough to see a sailboat heading out for a sunset cruise; reminding us of long, hot summer nights from the not so distant past. The deck, patio, and walkways are perfectly lit by a collection of bronze, nautical-inspired lanterns and on this particular night, the brilliant orange setting sun adds to the ambient outdoor lighting.
We enter inside through white full-pane clear glass doors and are met with the spacious, light-filled resemblance of a beach cottage with honey-colored wood floors and shiny white bead-board paneled walls, topped by warm linen colored drywall. The ceilings are pale sky-blue colored bead-board paneling trimmed in an appealing contrast of stark white. A flat-panel TV screen is strategically placed over the u-shaped bar that is constructed of wood and corrugated metal and the lighting is a combination of recessed pot lights, wall washers, and pendant fixtures. Connected to the bar area is a lounge which features a fireplace wall, that serves as a divider to the main dining area, and expansive windows overlooking the bay. The mantel is simple and understated, flanked by bronze wall sconces that relate to the exterior lights.
Entering into the main dining room, the overall airiness of the restaurant is amplified by a bead-board paneled cathedral ceiling with exposed post and beam construction and ductwork. One main wall is open at the top providing an oversized ledge to display nautical artifacts, which are also mounted in a variety of methods throughout the entire restaurant. Suspended track lighting is used for general lighting, as well as to highlight select elements. The same bronze lantern wall sconces from the lounge can be found on the wood columns and also above a second fireplace, located at the far end of the main dining room. Booths are surrounded by walls capped with a generous ledge for additional display area and in some cases, clear glass panels to designate aisle ways. The same color-scheme is used throughout; reminiscent of sand and sky.
The variety of seating used throughout the restaurant is a welcome respite. Diners have the option of pulling up one of the plentiful cushioned stools surrounding the bar; relaxing in front of the fireplace on the leather tufted sofa; dining at a table topped whiskey barrel while sitting in a woven leather chair; or selecting a booth or traditional-style table setting in the main dining room. In the warmer months, the deck and patio are abundantly filled with tables and chairs and dotted with red market umbrellas for shade.
Our afternoon spent at Hemingways is a very memorable experience for me, not only as a designer, but also as a person who loves waterside dining. On this particular visit, we did spend most of our time in the bar and I did not sample the menu but I hope to return again for a long, romantic dinner and if luck shall have it, watching another brilliant sunset over the Chesapeake Bay.
Additional Design Analysis for Hemingways
The homeowners wanted to update the living room of their 1963 ranch home. The room was previously painted pale green with matching wall-to-wall carpet, which presented the room in a dated, pastel color palette. The carpet was removed and the original hardwood floors were beautifully refinished. The walls were painted taupe and the ceiling a pink-beige that matches the wood trim throughout the house. Although there was no desire to replace the furniture, rearranging the furniture and artwork completely transformed the room and there is no hint of pastel anywhere. The rose-toned chairs and floral sofa relate to each. Set against the taupe walls, the furniture takes on a much warmer and almost neutral look. When the furniture looks tired and the room is missing something you can’t put your finger on, changing the paint color can be the transformation you’re looking for. That is my kind of beautiful!
I once read a decorator’s recommendation that if you are unhappy with the color of a fixed element in a room, such as ceramic tile, the best way to cope with the offensive color is to add more of that very color. It sounds like an oxymoron so I had to try it. The bathroom shown is in a 1958 ranch home. The 50’s pink tile is in perfect condition and there was no budget to renovate but the homeowner desperately wanted the pink to go away. It took some convincing before the pink, blue, and white floral wallpaper was replaced with pink paint, an identical match to the existing tile. A faux finish of pink, cranberry, and green-beige, was applied to the window wall; green-beige throw rugs, towels, and curtains were added along with natural wicker accessories. To everyone’s surprise, the abundance of pink accented with accessories in muted colors took the pastel-look away and the space looks warm and almost neutral. There is no denying the walls are pink but with the warmth of the space, there is no need to renovate for several more years. That is my kind of beautiful!
Several weeks ago, I was asked to temporarily fill a vacant position in a very busy department, sitting at a cubicle where I am the first person everyone sees as they enter. As I settled in and made the space my own, I cleared the three desk surfaces that make up the u-shaped workstation, made a space for the necessary items I need to efficiently do my job, and added a few decorative accessories. These simple changes are not only pleasing to me, as the user of the workstation, but they have a positive effect on everyone who interacts with me in this space.
The color scheme in the office is a soothing palette of neutrals. Introducing pops of color for accent immediately draws the eye to it and using black helps to visually ground everything. I created a vignette on the backside of my workstation so that when someone is standing at my desk they have something pleasant to look at behind me. The desktop is a cream colored laminate and my accessories include a black-framed photo of a lush tropical garden overlooking brilliant turquoise waters; two different sized Parisian-inspired decorative boxes, stacked one on top of the other, with a plant spilling over the edges of both boxes; a crystal paperweight; and a black lacquered clock with silver and crystal trim. All of these items are pulled into one grouping that spans the length of the desk and is washed by under cabinet lighting directly above the desk surface.
Time and again, I am in a hurried conversation with someone when suddenly their facial expression will change and a sense of calmness comes about as I see their eye go to the vignette behind me. It’s like watching someone take a deep, cleansing breath of fresh air and then they comment on how much they like what they see. Providing a place of beauty and calmness in a hectic environment; this is the power of decorating and a perfect example of “my kind of beautiful.”