Monday, May 31, 2010

Designer Spotlight - Mies van der Rohe

Perhaps many of you may not be familiar with the name Mies van der Rohe but most of you are likely familiar with his classic furniture pieces such as the ubiquitous Barcelona chair and ottoman or the Brno chair.  Did you also know that Mies van der Rohe is the man responsible for the aphorisms "less is more" and "God is in the details".  These may possibly be the most overused expressions in design today but the fact is that they are words that ring true in design and art even after all these years.

Mies van der Rohe was born in Germany as Ludwig Mies but as a young man he adopted the Dutch van der along with his mother's maiden name Rohe and so was born Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Mies worked with his father who was a master stonemason until age 19 when he moved to Berlin to join the Art Nouveau architecture firm of Bruno Paul.

While Mies van der Rohe maintained a long and highly celebrated career as an architect of modernism, he also created many furniture pieces that continue to grace the homes of North Americans and Europeans.  

While there's nothing particularly cutting edge about chrome and leather by today's standards, this was an unusual and new approach to furniture in the 1930's when many of his pieces were created.  His pieces are known for having been built to fit the form of the human body, making them exceedingly comfortable.  All pieces are built using a mix of traditional fabrics like leather combined with modern chrome frames that are often one endless piece.  The chairs have a distinct separation of the supporting structure and the supported surfaces which was a new design for the modernist movement.  
Barcelona Chair

Mies van der Rohe's furniture was designed in collaboration with his personal and professional partner Lilly Reich, German architect and designer.  When Mies van der Rohe moved from Germany to the United States in 1938, their partnership ended and so did the creation of his furniture line.  An interesting fact is that while Mies van der Rohe never created another furniture design after the split, nor did one exist before he met her.  It is strongly suggested that perhaps Reich was responsible for more of the furniture creation than Mies van der Rohe himself.

Brno Chair                                                                         Lilly Reich

Design firm and furniture manufacturer Knoll now own all the patent rights to the collection of furniture and continues to reproduce the pieces in both chrome and stainless steel.  A large replica market exists but as I've written about in the past, the aesthetic is only one part of the design equation.  If you want to experience the true value of a classic modern piece, go for the licensed version that continues to be created in accordance with it's original design and a stamped signature to validate it's authentication.

Friday, May 28, 2010

How to Find Your Inner Design Voice

Maybe we're reading too many design magazines or watching too much HGTV.  Whatever the case, the truth is that we have lost our inner design voice.  You know the one that tells you to hang your kids artwork in the kitchen.  Or the one that tells you to display your conch shell from your last beach vacation.  I'm not saying you should do either of these things (or maybe you should) but the reality is that we are so hypnotized by the pretty pictures that we have forgotten what makes the most beautiful design of all...our stuff.  Check out some fab homes that are able to combine great design with family treasures.

Blogger Janell at Isabella & Max Rooms found a a perfect solution for hanging kids artwork while maintaining the clean, modern look of her home.

Collections are a great way to show off your personality.  The key to collections though is to have more than 1!!!  Maintain a theme through colour or texture.  If one of these pieces was on it's own, it would have no impact whatsoever.  Look for pieces along your way that you love and build a collection around that.

Use artwork that you love and that reflects your unique personality.  It doesn't need to be expensive or rare but it should absolutely be something that makes you smile when you walk through your door.  
Lonny Magazine

Give a nod to your past with something you reclaimed from Grandma's attic.  If you have a childhood memento, by all means incorporate it.  We're all going to be envious of your antique sewing machine as opposed to your big box store acquisition.  Be confident that your "old" things can be used to decorate.  If the dresser you had as a kid is still functional but dated, freshen it up with paint.  The point is to use the things that matter.  There's nothing wrong with a little facelift along the way.  Use these tips to create a home that invites people to get to know who you are.  It makes your home so much more interesting to be in.
Style at Home

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wallpaper Wonders

When I was a teenager we moved to a big, beautiful home and probably the only thing I can say that I didn't like about that home was that there was wallpaper.  I hated wallpaper as a teenager, young adult and all the way up until about 2 years ago.

Wallpaper has made a serious resurgence and I have come to love it.  There is a BUT that goes along with this statement though.  We are now more restrained with the paper than they (read: my mother) were in the 80's.  Back then we did our entire homes in wallpaper  but this time, not so much.

If you have a room that has an obvious feature wall, that could be a place for it.  A small powder room is great or maybe a dining room that is panelled on the bottom third.

If you're still not sure, I'll break paper down to categories and maybe you'll find you could actually be daring enough to try one out.  If you do, I want photos!

Nature Inspired = Perfect for small or windowless spaces

Photos: 1. Nono 2., 3. & 4. Ferm Living

Bold & Bright = For the daring and adventurous

Photos:  1. Nono, 2.,3 & 4. Nommo

Serene = Easy to live with for the colour phobic

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Design Page - Romantic Bedroom

ately I've been thinking about redecorating the master bedroom in our house.  It's a daunting job to move everything out of the room to paint so this is what's holding me up.  I can handle the painting, just not the chaos that surrounds the painting.  

And then I met Kate, a single lady who is in need of some help with her bedroom.  She has hired me to create a Design Page for her.  This is a service that is offered for people who don't need a full design (site visits, measurements and personal shopping) but just want a little inspiration to get the process underway.  Here's a sneak peek at the first page.  In addition, Kate will be provided with the information about each of the pieces so that she can purchase them as well as fabric, paint and paper recommendations.

After some initial work, we have analyzed her style as feminine but not too girly.  While there's not currently a Mr. Kate, there might be in the future.  This romantic bedroom can be made more gender neutral in the future by changing the accessories.  The expensive pieces like the bed and ceiling fixture are non specific and work with a variety of styles.  

Next month I'll be doing a draw for a free Design Page for a Design Pages blog follower.  More details to come in the next few days but start thinking about a room that you'd like to work on and maybe you'll be the lucky winner!

Fashion Trends & Styles - Polyvore

Monday, May 24, 2010

You Asked for It! - A Fabulous Front Hall


o. I'm starting a new series here at The Design Pages guessed it, "You Asked for It".  I selfishly figure that if you have a question that I can blog about and give you a reply, then it saves me from thinking of a topic that you might be interested in reading.  See how that works?  It's a win-win, people.

Heather from Stratford, Ontario asked for some tips on decorating a front entranceway.  I have posted about this in the past (Don't Put that There!) but that post focussed on clutter.  This time, we'll delve into the aesthetic of a space.  How to make an impact when you first walk in to an entranceway.

Skona Hem via Nerdy Fashionista
Try to remember that your entranceway is a room in your home.  It is a transitional spot but should be regarded the same as any other room when you're creating a design plan.  There are 3 elements that can take your hallway from boring to, colour and texture.

Front halls are notoriously poorly lit.  Get some fabulous lighting and put it on a dimmer.  Lights can be dimmed once guests have made their way into another room.  It's surprising how much drama you create with this little trick.  If you have the height, get an oversized light fixture that relates to your home's style and have it installed.  This will create a huge impact and doesn't need to be expensive.  Lots of the big box stores are selling fabulous fixtures at really good price points.     
Living Etc. via Apartment Therapy

Have you been wanting to use a bold colour or wallpaper but kept opting out in favour of a safer colour?  This is the time to go big.  The space is small so you only need a little but the look is stunning.  If you can't paint or paper the wall because of an open floor plan then paint the door.  White doors are positively boring so spice it up and add some colour.  The colour should relate to any space it directly opens on to but don't get too matchy-poo.  If you're still afraid, meet me halfway and go with the second safest colour next to white which is black.  It always looks good on doors.  If you have open storage in the hallway, try wallpapering the back of the unit for a burst of colour.

Texture is so often overlooked in the hallway.  The most obvious place to get texture is in a rug.  They can be the showpiece in an entranceway.  Again, go for something you wouldn't use elsewhere in the house.  There are ways to use a rug even in snowy climates.  There's a new market  catering to outdoor carpets and there's lots of great patterns and colours to chose from.  There are also thin carpets that can be machine washed and dried and they can last for years.

Make sure to glam it up a little.  Always have a mirror in your entranceway.  How can you 
possibly go out and raise a little hell in the world if you haven't even checked to see if there's dryer fluff on your butt?  Besides the practical aspect, a mirror gives a bit of sparkle that looks elegant in a front hallway.
Don't forget about the walls.  Add a great art piece or some family photos or a few floating shelves with a favourite collection (keep it very simple).  Make sure your hallway makes a statement about who you are.  Too many entranceways are void of character or personality.

So let's all wish Heather good luck in her hallways endeavours and hope you can post a photo for us when it's finished.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Slinkachu - Little People in the City art project

I am becoming quite the social media addict (husband rolls eyes and children grin).  One of the best parts of this addiction is the opportunity to discover cool people that I would probably never have uncovered on my own.  
I recently discovered a new Twitter and blog friend called Freckles & Ash and from her blog I was turned on to Slinkachu.  I am completely smitten with his work and had to share.  
He is a UK artist who describes himself as 5'9" and handsome although there is no photo so I"m suspicious!!  His Little People art project involves the remodelling and painting of miniature model train set characters, which are then placed throughout the city of London.  There are scenes of shopping, sightseeing, romance and death.  The scenes are set as a sort of an experiment in social awareness.  Slinkachu speaks to pace of our everyday lives and encourages people to slow down and be more aware as they stroll through life.  The scenes are photographed and become the basis for his art shows and a book.  I am dying to get a copy of this book but it appears to only be available in UK and USA so if anyone sees a Canadian distributor, please let me know.

This one is referred to Chicken Tikka Disasta
I have decided that when I go I want it be just like this.  In a big bowl of Butter Chicken!!

This series shows the scale of these tiny installations.  The artist is trying to encourage city-dwellers to be more aware of their surroundings.  What a charming surprise it would be to find one of these on a dreary walk home from work some day.


They're Not Pets, Susan

So, have I done it?  Have I convinced you that this is worth checking out?  I realize that the reason I love these so much is that they remind me of The Land of the Giants.  Who remembers that?  Come on people, I'm not the only one who watched tv in the 70's.  

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Living Outdoors

Oh baby!  It's that time of year.  None of us wants to set foot inside unless we need to, right?  I spent a whole day yesterday cleaning moss off our deck.  This is a very different experience for me.  Usually in spring I would be brushing away signs of the long and snowy winter but this year it was all about pine needles and green moss.  
As I was slaving away on the deck all I could think about was a new umbrella for my table as well as where to get some stylish and inexpensive new furniture to create the "outdoor living room" that we're all told to have.  Here's a little inspiration to get your outdoor groove on.

Okay, seriously, I would never go anywhere if I owned this!!

Not for curling up or sleeping but super cool nonetheless.

If there are any of you out there that have an outdoor space that even slightly resembles this, I demand an invitation immediately!!

Happy lounging!  Send me photos of your outdoor space to be used in a future blog.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kitchen Design - Lesson 1

I had a conversation today with a potential client who is looking to redesign a kitchen.  It seems like the perfect opportunity to share with you some of the practicalities of taking on this daunting and sometimes unwieldy task.

So, where do I start is what you're thinking, right?  Before you call in the troops, whether that means architect, designer, contractor or cabinet maker you should try to get a handle on what you want from this new and improved space.

1.  Study 
Spend some time flipping and ripping.  Grab all your favourite magazines but try to chose from within the last year to avoid outdated styles.  Rip out all the images you like.  In speaking with the client today I was told something I had never thought of before.  She had avoided ripping images because her kitchen is smaller than any of those in the magazines.  This exercise is to give your trades and designers an idea of what direction you would like to take the project.  It has nothing to do with size so rip whenever you spot a look that makes you melt.  Together you will build on those ideas and make it a kitchen that works specifically for you.

2.  Take it to the Bank
Before you have your first conversation with a professional know what you can afford.  Every time I meet with a new client for the first time I ask about budget.  9 times out of 10 the client claims to not know their budget.  Either they truly don't know how much they can spend which is a problem in managing and staying on top of money or they are afraid to say for fear of appearing ignorant.  If you don't have a budget worked out, be honest that you don't know how to arrive at a number and your designer will happily work with you to establish a fair number.  If you know what you can afford, share it so that the design team can work within those parameters.  

3.  What's your Style?
One of the first things a designer will do is to establish the lifestyle uses and preferences of a client's new space.  It is equally as important to understand what you don't like as it is to know what you do like.  Don't be afraid to say no to any little thing that is presented.  We won't have our feelings hurt.  A good designer will take time to present all the available options in order to come to a full understanding of what style you would be most happy with.  Functionality of a space is easily determined but style and aesthetics are more difficult.  When looking at kitchens in magazines, look for details on cabinets doors.  If you like the straight, clean lines of a Shaker door then you may have a penchant towards contemporary style.  If scrolling and raised panels make you swoon, then you probably lean towards the traditional.  Look for signals regarding finishes.  Do you like painted wood, stained wood or thermafoil?  All of these characteristics help you understand how to get the best kitchen for you.

4.  Be Practical
While we all want a kitchen that's large enough to host a party or one that's filled with professional appliances, it's important to understand how to work within your space and budget.  If space is tight but you need storage then be realistic about how much you can achieve and work towards maximizing vertical space.  At the same time, be clear that owning 10 sets of antique china may be out of the question.  Be willing to hear "no" from your designer and understand where that no comes from.  We want you to have the best possible space at the end of the project.  If something isn't right, we have come to this determination based on experience and education.  Surround yourself with professionals but trust them.  

Stay tuned for the next step...creating a floor plan. 

All images courtesy of
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