Thursday, June 24th, 2010
Meeting the designers I’ve been following for years is such a kick! A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to have design talent Thomas O’Brien come to town to talk about his latest book, “American Modern.”
You might recognize his name from Target, since he’s been designing bedding, towels, and home accessories for them for a few years now. Clean and modern with a traditional foundation and a muted, masculine palette is how I’d describe his collections. He was also just selected as one of Elle Decor magazine’s A-List Top 25 Interior Designers.
I actually started tracking his career many moons ago when I was a bright eyed college freshman finally getting to explore the Manhattan I’d been reading about in design magazines for years. My aunt, who worked in the city, showed me around SoHo, and we discovered Aero Studios, Thomas O’Brien’s shop and design studio. I was a goner. Back then SoHo wasn’t filled with boutiques by all the major fashion labels. It still had plenty of art galleries and little shops with quirky personalities. I think you have to go way out in Brooklyn now to recapture that vibe. Anyway, I was drooling over his mix of decorative objects on display and dreaming of the day when I could afford his stuff. Fast forward to the present and I’m still a fan of his curatorial eye.
With a chance to have Thomas autograph my copy of his latest book, I handed over my money and jumped right in line! And it’s a book I think you should consider adding to your bookshelf too. Having Thomas walk through each of the projects in the book and give the back story was fun and informative. I was especially impressed by his explanation of how his company bills for projects, as in our industry it seems to be an art form in its own right. So here are some images from each section of the book to show the range of styles he works in under the new framework of “American Modern.”
It’s arranged in sections, with each section focusing on a different house that exemplifies a different type of his version of Modern design.
Classic finishes, but the tall metal leg caps on the vanity are thoroughly modern and unexpected.
This is how his loft like space in Manhattan used to look. Spare but lots of interesting pieces mixed in a quiet palette.
I’ve had pictures of this NYC home in my inspiration images since it was first published in a magazine a few years back. I love the mix of classic midcentury pieces, soft inviting upholstered pieces, and the vertical stonework on the fireplace.
A classic American home transforms into a light, inviting modern vacation home in Thomas O’Brien’s hands. Those long tables are fabulous! The leg detail? Perfect.
How luxurious but inviting is that rug in the dining room?! The subtle color variation and texture makes me want to wander this home barefoot. And the vintage bench with a glass top desk is a juxtaposition against the dark wood of the dining room furniture.
I don’t typically like things too posh, but the finishes in this butler’s pantry are so luxe but with clean lines to keep it modern that I’m a fan. What a lovely space to sneak into during a party, check your make up in the mirrored backsplash, and perhaps sneak in a bit of snogging. (Naughty!)
This is what the Thomas O’Brien’s city house looks like now. Same space as Urban Modern, but he’s now embraced a layered, less restrained style of living. Surround yourself with all those favorite pictures on a giant pin up board. They aren’t just for the office. Group your collections into little vignettes to please your eye everytime you walk by. Homes are for living, so fill them with the things you love and let the rest go.
Which style best fits your personality? Or do you like aspects of more than one type of O’Brien modern?
Thursday, June 17th, 2010
For the past year or so I’ve been loving all the new wood finishes that have a more matte, greyed tone. It’s the rustic, well-worn Belgian farmhouse floor in a waxed finish. Let’s call it: rustic sophistication.
It’s the classic Alex Vervoordt room that features his perfect blend of Belgium antiques and soft wall finishes that makes you want to exhale slowly and luxuriate in the calmness.
Or a classic white kitchen with mile long wide floor boards in a bleached finish. Even though it gives it a well-worn, lived in look, it still feels fresh and modern.
But why limit your use of this beautiful material to the floor?! This living room definitely isn’t your typical ’70s panelled rec room! What a great way to add interest and bring in strong horizontal lines in a room that looks like it has higher than average ceilings. The large scale color block art on the wall would be easy to recreate as a quick DIY project in your favorite color palette.
This grey barn board style wall treatment, which also works as a really high headboard in this narrow room, makes my heart skip a beat. The brown, white and grey of the bedding is a warm but low key balance to all that color and texture variation on that wall. It may be a bit much for the typical bedroom, but why not go bold in a guest bedroom where no one will be living with it for long periods of time? It’s like the powder room principal – go bold because this small and infrequently used space can handle the excitement.
Or if the light wood beams is a bit too rustic for you, what about this amazing wood wall that functions as a banquette on the dining room side….
And as the wall and headboard on the bedroom side of the wall. The area under the bench in the dining room was even utilized as storage for the bedroom! Brilliant! Impressive that this was all done by the homeowner (though it did take a long time to complete the whole project… definitely not a quick weekend DIY!) And don’t forget the great end cut wood dining room table he made (in the first photo).
And now that I have a client who is interested in using reclaimed wood for their kitchen, I have an excuse to delve even deeper into the range of gorgeous wood finishes available. Take wood beyond the floor and typical applications.
See this stunning example from Dwell magazine that inspired us:
These were made from a single tree. LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! You wouldn’t believe my excitement when they showed me this photo as their dream, since I’d been drooling over it ever since my husband brought home the magazine for me. (It’s a kitchen special issue so he knew I’d love it.)
Now the question is: how do we want to recreate this feel without copying it directly? The ideas are swimming around and around.
Can you see this new (resurrected) style of wood in your home? Maybe as a table top? That’s another obsession of mine that we’ll have to save for another post.
Friday, June 4th, 2010
What’s a bigger business for convincing people to spend lots of money on the latest MUST HAVE: weddings or babies? Maybe once you’ve done the big fabulous wedding with the fancy favors, dessert bar, and photo booth, it’s seems logical to invest in the fancy European stroller system, the designer crib set, and all the thousands of items babies seem to require.
Really, I’m not jaded or bitter, I just see the gap between the big fancy versions and the basics of what’s necessary in each situation: a justice of the peace at the court house and a witness or two will legalize a marriage, and a crib and a diaper changing mat are probably the barest of essentials for a baby. But obviously the extremes aren’t for everyone, so there are always options in the middle.
So how can you transform a space into a functional and inviting nursery with spending a small fortune? After all, there’s a college fund to get started on ASAP.
Here are some fun solutions I’ve run across recently.
Starting point: the basic white crib that’s sturdy enough that you aren’t going to go mad trying to lift the front up and down time after time.
Then you need some storage and a surface to change diapers on. Though I know moms who have never used a changing table for any of their kids, prefering to just use a mat on the floor. This certainly gives you flexibility.
For those who prefer a super clean modern style, the Malm dresser from IKEA is a great value. For those who prefer a little more detail without being ornate, the Koppang dresser is another great option.
Put a changing tray top on top of either dresser now, and when the kid(s) become potty trained (yippee!) you can remove it and use the dresser for years to come.
Here’s an example of a changing tray that you can set on top of the dresser. The dresser in this photo is wider and offers a mix of open and closed storage, which I prefer to all open storage. Easy to grab a diaper or creams from a basket while changing the baby, but you don’t always want to see all the items that need to be stored.
Now let’s have some fun and inject color, pattern and personality!
Wall decals are a great option because they are easily removable as kids grow up and start developing their own interests that they’ll want to express in their room. But until then, the parents get to decorate!
Some of my favorite artists are doing special collections for wall decal companies. Amy Ruppel does amazing encaustic art pieces (I have a print of one of her pieces in my bathroom art gallery), and I think it’s great that she’s branching out into other medium as well, making it very affordable to get a bit of her art.
Or, if you are less into the nature theme, there are hundreds of other options, ranging from city skylines to graphic patterns.
I’m a big fan of bubbles, dots, circles, whatever you want to call them.
Here are a couple nice examples.
This pattern is available in multiple colors so you could easily coordinate with bedding or any other elements in the room.
This pattern totally reminds me of the classic contemporary painting I see featured over and over again in design magazines.
Other design solutions include using the upper part of the room to create visual interest, particularly for a baby lying in a crib trying to fall asleep.
Wouldn’t you love to look up at colorful ball shaped clouds?
These can be found for cheap at many locations locally and online. You don’t need to put a light source inside them, but it might be fun to have light inside one in the middle so light filters out through the rest.
Or perhaps a set of homemade flags strung across the room would be more your style? This is a fun way to inject both color and pattern in a small dose.
Finally, remember that a nursery can be a sophisticated and calm place for both baby and parents. Here is a nursery with a soft gray and nature theme that seems restful for all.
Does that begin the inspiration process for you? Do these seem like affordable, interesting, attractive AND practical solutions for a nursery? Just like a wedding, there are a million and one ways to spend your budget (big or small) and inject your personality (loud or soft) in any room of a home, and in this case, a nursery. I hope I’ve got your brain spinning. Now don’t get me started on kids’ bedrooms and playrooms… that’s a whole other topic!