Friday, July 29, 2011


Several months ago, we were hired by a new client who came with a long list of areas of her home that she hoped we would address. In our first meeting, we were surprised to find that due to a major leak and mold in the kitchen, the family was basically with a hot plate, microwave and refrigerator in what used to be their kitchen! The entire kitchen had already been torn out.

Along with a new kitchen design, they wanted a new study (another leak!), a new pool and pool surround, and outdoor cooking area, and an entirely new facade for the home...basically, their desire was to recreate the existing home into the elegant home of their dreams. The project has been exciting, and has allowed us to bring a lot of imagination and design ideas to the table.

We've worked simultaneously on several areas of the home, and now some are poised to start construction.

Let's take a look at the exterior first. The existing facade is pretty standard--something I like to call "Confused-Mediterranean". The scale is nice, and the barrel tile roof is a beautiful element to use as a design jump-off. Their desire was to make the exterior look completely different, and more formal. Here's the "Before" photo.

A pretty typical overgrown and somewhat neglected landscape. (Hey, the same thing happened to mine when it started to get overgrown...I just started ignoring it!) Here's what we came up with for a new design concept, in plan view and elevation.

An outer courtyard will be formed by adding a curving knee-wall in the front yard. From this area, you will enter through custom made iron gates to an inner courtyard area, that in turn steps up to the entry, where new mahogany, glass and iron front doors will enter into the foyer. Here is a detail that will be used in the interior courtyard.

As the design developed further, gate details and fencing were added to the front corners of the house for additional privacy.

The project has been several months on the design table, and we're very excited to see the new elements start to take shape. We'll look at more of them in upcoming weeks!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Understanding the Volume

Since most homeowners don't have a lot of experience looking at design plans, it is often difficult for them to grasp a design concept based on the architect's or designer's plan view and elevation drawings. And though computer programs are now able to "model" spaces and show them in a virtual, 3-dimensional form, these programs generally produce a pretty lifeless version of the space, and may still not give you a very good sense of the finished project.

Recently, we were hired to work with a local builder and architect on what will be a very large home project. Prior to our involvement, many hours had been spent on the overall floor plan for the home, the specific room sizes, and how the space would flow from room to room. The project had stalled temporarily, held up on trying to nail down the exterior treatment. The client likes many exterior styles, and hopes to find a way to make certain elements from several of these styles meld into a cohesive and unique home for her family.

Working with the architect's plans, and many pages of the client's "idea folder", torn from multiple design magazines (which, by the way, is a great help to the designer!), we decided to do a sketch of the facade to give the home some dimension, and attempt to draw seemingly disparate elements together. Here's what we came up with.

Though these sketches are not to scale, they are usually a great tool to give the client a sense of what their home really could look like, whether they are interior or exterior sketches.

The more tools available to your designer, the more likely they are to have an excited--and satisfied!--client.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Call Is Answered

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned a project we are involved with for the Alpha House of Tampa. We are helping to put together design teams who will refurbish the 20 single dorm rooms that house homeless, expectant mothers and mothers with infants. Almost everyone that I've spoken to about the project--no matter what their profession or background--have immediately said, "What can I do to help?" This has been truly uplifting to me! So many people are having difficult times, but are still ready to put themselves out there to help with others who are in much greater need.

Yesterday was our first meeting on site where we introduced a group of the designers who will be working on the project to the staff at the Alpha House, and gave the designers and room adopters a chance to see the rooms as they are now. I have had the honor to work on this project with Cynthia Keenan of CK Designs, and she and I also presented versions of our own designs for the rooms that we will be redoing.

In my previous posting about this project, I showed the beginnings of the design with simple elevations. Here is the rest of the design as presented on our design board.

The design goal was to bring as much personality to the small room as possible, and at the same time make it a cheerful--and above all, safe and comforting--space for the mom and her child. Our good friend Doug Phillips will be assisting us with our carpentry needs, and Jeff Monsein of Splat Paint will be adding a vine and butterfly mural to one of the room's walls.

When the group of designers were touring the rooms yesterday, it was really exciting to see the energy and creativity starting to flow, and people expressing their willingness to undertake multiple rooms and other areas of the facility that could also use a face-lift. That being said, there are still areas that we could use more help for the project, or materials. We would love to hear from anyone who would like to be involved!

Friday, July 8, 2011


LOTS of choices, like tile, marble, granite, terrazzo, concrete, laminate, Caesarstone, Zodiac, Corian, wood, stainless steel....and I'm just scratching the surface. (Pun definitely intended!)

The choice of material can be narrowed by elements of practical concern such as vintage of the home, amount of wear the counter tops will receive or budget. But often, (and we like this), the decision is based on aesthetics, in other words, what is going to look the best in the design.

Currently, granites are probably the most popular and sought after of the counter top options. Marble is another popular option, though some people shy away from it for fear of staining. (A little research will tell you, though, that staining is really not much of a worry with marble.)

Recently, one of our kitchen re-design clients asked us for advice in choosing the granite for their counter tops. They had already looked at a couple of options, and asked us to view these and offer an opinion, or possible alternatives. Yeah, a trip to the stone yard!

Take a trip to a good stone yard, and I promise you'll be amazed at the choices...and the fact that these amazing slabs of stone were quarried from the earth. Here are a couple of pieces that I snapped photos of.

There are colors and degrees of texture that will amaze you. Almost like going to nature's own art museum! (On this particular day, I was looking for something to go with light gray cabinetry and dark stained floors.)

We ended up suggesting to these clients the pattern in their first choice might be too busy for all the counter tops. A real exciting pattern or color is great as an accent for a kitchen island or bar counter, but remember you'll be living with and working on your kitchen counters for a long time, and you want a choice you can live with.

If you're considering a renovation in the future, take a tour of the slab stone yards. It may be an inspiration in itself!

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Room of Her Own

We were recently asked to co-chair a project for the Alpha House of Tampa. The Alpha House is a facility in South Tampa that houses homeless, expectant mothers and homeless mothers with small children. The facility has 20 "dorm" sized rooms where these mothers and children may spend 4-6 months while the mothers are receiving training and counseling in an effort to help them become independent and get back out into the community.

Here are some pictures of what the rooms currently look like.

As you can see, though clean, the rooms lack any warmth or real comfort. We know how important our surroundings can be to our sense of well-being, and in this case, could contribute to the healing process.

Our project goal is to put together 20 design teams that will each take on the refurbishing of one room. The design teams will then couple with a room "adopter", who will commit to providing necessities for the room such as bed linens, towels, crib set, etc. for one year.These adopters are sometimes individuals, or often service organizations or clubs.

Each team is asked to bring their imagination and expertise to re-imagining the space. I have been lucky enough to enlist the assistance of a local artist who will create a motif of vines and butterflies on one wall (a butterfly is part of the Alpha House logo), and a carpenter who will help with the woodwork and painting necessary.

Though still in the early design stages, here is what our new shell will look like.

We are attempting to make the room warm and cozy, and bring as much comfort and life to it as possible. I am on the search for the right mirror, art piece to go with the mural, window treatment (I'm thinking Roman Shade), ceiling fan and light fixture, then begin working with the adopter to add appropriate accessories to the design.

Though response to the project has been fantastic, we're still on the lookout for designers for 3 or 4 rooms, and we also have rooms available for adopters. Know anyone who might be interested? If so, please send them my way! We're very excited about this opportunity to give back to the community, and the opportunity to use our skills instead of just opening a checkbook. It's been a lot of fun so far, and the fun is just starting.

I'll let you watch progress on the installation when we get started!