Designing is great fun. But the key to completing the circle that starts with an idea in response to a need (or not) is having that design come to fruition. I am grateful  for having a great team of detailed design fabricators who make my dreams come true.  And they spoil me. I think many designers will say the same thing. What starts on a cocktail napkin,  torn piece of flimsy trace off a roll, a sheet of graph paper or more formally, working drawings, takes shape with the collaboration of designer and fabricators who are not just fabricators, but invaluable contributors to the finished products’ construction and design details. These are the seamstresses, upholsterers, carpenters, iron-workers and all manner of construction trades who bring these creations to fruition!

Several years ago we had a client who was daring in her desire to have a super modern loft. Her history of traditional furnishings and up-bringing was well in place in Washington state, but this opportunity to have a second home, an urban loft, made way for her exercising the juices that offered a new alternative lifestyle and a new “look.”

One of the many key pieces in this fabulous space turned out to be the cornerstone of a new custom collection that we fondly call PATRICIAN DESIGN’S  “Hammered Home.”

As I planned the pieces for this fun and hip urban interior, I designed painted pieces, modern tonsus,  a Nelson inspired coffee table, red and raw steel glass-topped dining table base, a new take on a drop-leaf desk and colorful mixed media end-table/chests all custom fabricated by my team, but I wanted something more, something that gave rich, detail and dimension, interest and art and this new line of custom furniture was born. The first piece, a nightstand/end table for a dual-purposed guest room/study combined clean-lined wood with steel.  So with a quick sketch of the dimensions and form, my desire to have metal legs suspending it off the floor, metal accents but not severe – I thought, hammered?

The wood tone was to be a more milk chocolate than mahogany but tight-grained and true medium  brown. The floors were an existing light engineered material and this brown contrasted nicely.

The next opportunity to introduce this combo theme of our “Hammered Home” design came with a young family’s need for a media armoire in the “family” room. Several years ago when “espresso” hit the design scene for the new trend for modern furniture, everyone  from Target to Pottery Barn to Robb & Stuckey filled their inventory with the dark coffee bean wood finish.  As a designer, I recognized the value of the trend and wanted to accept it, but take it a step further for these very smart and successful, yuppy clients.

In previous blogs, I have clearly stated that all trends are not created equal. some are passing fancies of color combinations that soon become dated or design elements that don’t leave a significant mark to pass the test of time. But the dark chocolate/coffee color enriched that which had so often been blond, light woods and cherry/cinnamon tones of recent popularity and contributed a valid alternate stain theme for wood furniture. The media armoire for a young family’s “family” room, was clean-lined and new. The bling was industrial enough not to be glitzy, but just enough silver-grey metallic to contrast against the dark wood.

The next version of this “Hammered Home” collection came in front of a stacked sandstone wall of bone white, creamy cream, a hint of gold and a tinge of iron rust. We picked the darker rust tone to contrast against the otherwise soft light stone wall colors – the rusty hue suggested a cinnamon colored alder – stain magic! This pair of low profile media cabinets housed all the components and an incredible bundle of wires streaming into the back of the cabinet from all points of the house – and it’s called wi-fi? Really? Due to the color scheme, we decided that a copper metal panel would really meld with the cinnamon-stain of the alder. So we took it a step further to enhance the copper, knock it down a bit and highlight the texture with a blackened rub that nestles into the hollows and allows the bas relief to shine. It is a warm, rich, dimensional textural wonderfulness.

So when a very fun client called last fall wanting a surprise for his wife – nightstands perhaps? I laughed because my husband often says that he’s getting me storm windows for a Valentine’s Day gift…funny – every girl’s dream!! But nightstands are at least in the realm of dreamland!!! So knowing the room and its existing color scheme, I decided upon a satin black with the same hammered blackened copper panels. The combination of the black and blackened copper was sensational. The style was more transitional than the previous clean-lined pieces – but it goes to show that this hammered metal design theme can transcend the styles…

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We LOVE working with this client as he knows that he either has an idea (a new nightstand) that we can create or he calls and asks – what can we create for the next event? Whether birthday, anniversary, Christmas, or Valentine’s Day – we have provided locally hand-loomed textiles wraps, wild embroidery throws, magnificent oil paintings, locally hand-crafted jewelry and more! How fun for him to know that each present is custom and unique, supports local artists and will be a treasure forever. Plus he doesn’t have to shop!!!!!

So we delivered our surprise cabinet last week on Valentine’s Tuesday, I stopped at a quickie store and bought some simple heart stickers – not much larger than a postage stamp, I stuck one in the drawer and one on the shelf of the lower cabinet and thought that whenever she opened this cabinet she will remember that it was her Valentine’s surprise!!! We had a key, took the cabinet to their bedroom, removed the old nightstand, replaced it with the new one…Voila! She came home to a really neat surprise!!! And might there be a matching one in the works?? We can’t say.

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Custom fun – support local artists and make your dreams come true!!!!!

Re-upholstery is good. If you like a piece of existing furniture and it has “good bones” it is fun to give it an instant face-lift with new upholstery. I find myself salvaging clients’ pieces often when they had every  intention of complete replacement. The satisfaction of transforming a tired or dated piece is quite gratifying.

The next best thing is finding a piece that is value-priced for the aforementioned reasons of looking tired or dated and recognizing that is has “good bones.” This is like a treasure hunt. Whether on Craig’s List or in a Thrift Shop, searching for a piece is exciting. You have to see beyond it – you can’t tell a book by its cover – right?

Many of my clients are believers in this practice, but often did not start out that way. In fact for this blog’s example, I have the perfect scenario. It began as I remodeled and designed a spectacular renovation for a  single man who wanted a sleek, modern interior. We started from scratch with all new finishes throughout, custom cabinets, enhanced lighting, and then the search for a piece of furniture that had eluded us. It was the primary focal point that I envisioned – a large orange ultra-suede sectional. I stood beside my illustrator render the room based upon photos of the space and a very loose sketch that I prepared. A picture truly does speak a thousand words and is a fantastic aid in communicating design ideas that might otherwise be misconstrued or just plain missed by the client.

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We began pricing custom fabric on a number of options, but everything was over budget. So I asked if he minded if I looked locally for a used piece that we could transform. Luckily, he was busy and trusting and told me to have at it – so I did. It looked like it was made from marshmallows, but the key detail was the curved corner piece. I did not want an “L” with right angles – I wanted that rounded, welcoming, beckoning corner piece.  This crazy, puffy, formal, dated piece was in perfect condition and the woman, original owner, was moving and could not take it with her. In step I and paid this grateful woman her requested few hundred dollars, called my upholsterer and scheduled the pick-up for the next day.

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When I saw it for the second time in the back of the upholstery shop, I was psyched. It’s always fun- but this transformation was going to be amazing! Inasmuch as my wonderful client trusted me, I didn’t dare let him see it in its original form. I didn’t want to risk the probable fear and foreboding. I didn’t want to give him a permanent unsettling visual, of this puffy, white, marshmallow sectional, every time he saw his gorgeous, sleek, modern, orange masterpiece.

Therefore, the process began as I had already found the perfect orange ultra-suede and the guys at the shop stripped the layers of white damask, foam and fuzzy dacron from the solid wood bones of this beautiful frame. They slicked it clean as a whistle.

With a bit of work to lengthen on side to an imposing 10′ and shortening the other side by a few inches, the new sectional began taking shape. The arms were modified and the cushions squared and the lines simplified. In this case, the concealed feet were fine. Although we often replace feet, or replace skirts with feet, or feet for skirts – those options were not necessary in this case.

The finished product was the perfect piece. Our client was blown away with seeing it delivered and looking like the original illustration that we used to convey the design concept. The biggest response was that of the cost which was a fraction of the cost of buying this over-sized piece new. Because of the unusual size, it would have had to be custom all the way or we would have had to settle for a size less than perfect. Not to mention this was accomplished in less than 2 weeks rather than waiting a couple of months or more for a custom order.

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Ready-made, down-filled,  Ralph Lauren throw pillows were a great find to add a splash of color. The rug is temporary as a larger, lighter one is intended along with the custom cocktail table. Once again my team makes my dreams come true and the client has a unique piece perfect for his needs.

 

 

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Australian designer Henry Sgourakis has created the NOOK chair and I couldn’t help but recognize the woven elements of our Native American dream-catchers! It is believed that dreams that people have while sleeping, are sent by sacred spirits as special messages. According to their Legend, the hole in the center of the Dream Catcher is the pathway through which good dreams are permitted to reach the sleeper. As for the bad dreams, the web “catches” them and they disappear with the first light of dawn. Some believers try to determine what messages are being passed onto them and what the messages represent. Perhaps unknowingly, Sgourakis dreamed of this message and has captured an ancient web of comfort for the design of his chair – as he says of his design “In a world where technology seems to almost dictate our existence and when our childhood feels like a different lifetime, it is important to me to remember the past and carry those memories into the future, the beauty of this hand-crafted piece does just that.”

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Detail of the NOOK chair

Stacked in colorful layers on the sidewalk – an inviting statement of approaching spring – I came upon a brilliant inventory of plastic stacking Adirondack’s chairs! These classic designs in plastic rather than the traditional wood – although often painted brightly – will withstand the elements without decay and due to their light-weight, can be moved about for changes in placement around the yard and stacked for convenient storage! Sizes for children and adults – fun for all ages!

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This display happened to be at an ACE hardware store in Goodyear, Arizona – but they’re out there all over the market for anyone inspired enough to want them! Funny how some plastic renditions of the real thing are quite acceptable – in a certain setting. Then today we watched the newly released movie, Lorax – the Dr. Seuss story about a place without trees – all the would-be growing things were artificial – inflatable plastic, metal, or other materials and yet, there was one young person (Taylor Swift) who wanted the real thing, and one older person (Betty White) who remembered the real thing.  Lorax – nature’s protector, Dannie DeVito is defeated by progress but revitalized by peoples’ appreciation for what they have lost and stand to regain by restoring the natural world. Then Zac Efron is the kid who saves the day for all! And I thought about the colorful plastic Adirondack’s chairs and I pondered…

We dash and dart between the allegiance to natural, organic, and original things in our world and then celebrate the man-made polyester, acrylic and modern versions of so many. And so it shall be – in balance. We are destined to invent experiment and explore new things – while maintaining an awareness of what impact change might have. Yes, destined – because it is incumbent upon us to be aware – but not manipulative.

Global warming – maybe, maybe not…maybe for reasons not popularly explained – maybe for reasons of cyclical patterns of nature – maybe man-made…but we all must be sensitive to our impact on the state of our immediate environment (“toss no mas” and pick –up litter even if it is not your own) and cumulative effect on our planet over-all. There is a humorous but poignant “green” commentary circulating on the internet about how “back-in-the-day” they didn’t know about “green” but they received milk delivered by a milkman in a glass bottle which was returned for refills, drank from water fountains, taps and wells without using individual plastic bottles…it goes on…and the point is that we are embracing this GREEN initiative and rightly so – but are too self-important to recognize that much of what we are doing is just plain wasteful and NOT necessary and that the things that we romance as better are often not. Try sitting in a room with “green” linoleum surfaces and keep from passing out from the off-gasses – seriously.

But I liked the colorful plastic stacking Adirondack chairs – but would LOVE a wabi-sabi wooden version of that chair with or without layers of paint that had withstood the elements and brought joy, absorbed character and communicated silently the history that it had shared from years of affectionate use…

Oh progress! – when to embrace it with its colorful whimsy and ease of maintenance and when to sit back in a well-worn comfy chair and reflect…

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Moving is a chore. The future might be exciting, the move might be upwardly mobile – or not. Disbanding a home is not fun. We have a client who had no sooner settled into a fabulous loft condominium in the hip urban architecture of her new digs when a fantastic job transfer forced a move.

She transferred into this new environment from another climate – another world. This was exciting, new, challenging and riddled with opportunity to go outside the box for the design choices to feather her nest. She enthused about everything that she encountered that was different, well-crafted, unique, artistically functional, colorful, and textural – all things beautifully combined to create an art piece of an interior.

Moving might not always mean what it does in this instance. She already had a primary place of residence filled with family pieces, nostalgic treasures and gatherings of a lifetime, and this new urban scene was a departure from her norm.  This had been an opportunity to experiment with contemporary design, bold colors, abstract and expressionistic art and sadly there is no place to incorporate it in the tiny new interior where she has placed herself practically and with a purpose – where she now finds herself – in yet another world.

The new place is straddling the design direction of her primary abode filled with lovely traditional furnishings and will be punctuated with her contemporary artwork and a couple of the special pieces that she had crafted for the loft – but after photographing, recording dimensions, laying out the furniture in the new floor plan, agonizing over limitations and choices, the decisions were made. And after all the thorough deliberation it was apparent that many of the recently custom designed and fabricated elements must go.  Fragmenting this well-balanced and choreographed interior has been heartrending.

Among the outstanding functional art pieces that I and my team designed for her – here are a few of the unique items made by local artists and craftsmen that are available for purchase.

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Red Lacquer Tonsu Twist              60W x 36H – $3766.50

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Triangulated Pedestal Table with Glass Top – $1208.25

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Burnished Steel Bench with Cut Plush Striped Base Relief Cushion – 24W x 48L x 23.5H – $887.50

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Happy Chest – 21H x 21W x 24D – $1046.25

My cousin loves this tedious, but very gratifying work. For years we have seen the results of his patient attention to detail as he peels away and rubs clean the layers of film that obscure once fine pieces of wood furniture. From family pieces passed down to antique finds brought back from Scotland after a memorable Navy tour and even yard sales in the neighborhood, he has labored over these pieces resulting in exquisite finished products.
Recently while visiting our historical family village of Youngstown, New York we were invited to dinner at the home of friends who excitedly exclaimed how they had restored their antique family dining room furniture to a luster that was quite amazing. We were impressed with the soft eggshell finish – not shiny with inappropriate application – still retaining the soft patina of age but clean and very much refreshed from years of life’s layers.
Wabi Sabi, the Japanese word for things of beauty that have been worn with use…a softness that shows the age and years of employment and often enjoyment is a compliment to old things. The same could be said of this fine furniture. These hand crafted pieces purchased by my friend’s grandmother during the depression (“a lot of money for that time – she earned the money by selling live chickens to hotels and restaurants in Niagara Falls and up at the market”) – two pieces, a buffet and a china cabinet, had been used for ages through generations of a large family’s gatherings and maintained well through the years. But despite the good care, age had taken its toll on the finish obscuring the fine wood and leaving a film that was not necessarily an asset to the character.

There is a fine line between refinishing beyond recognition and restoring with historical reverence. Practicing the many options in-between is where most people find themselves. Knowing what you have is an important first step. Sites like this Refinish Wizard at http://www.refinishwizard.com offer helpful information for getting started. For example, it would be unfortunate to irrevocably alter the finish of a piece that has priceless value if properly addressed.
My friends’ method was very simple and with a little care and concentration using steel wool with a cloth (and good ventilation), the results were fantastic! Visit http://www.howardproducts.com/restora.htm for details of the process.

I’m a saver – not a hoarder, thank you – but I value old things, family things, and I believe that there is much to be said, felt, and shared by knowing that certain items have been passed down through the generations by one’s very own family. And if not YOUR family, to find something that has endured through the generations in varying forms of survival causes pause to wonder about where it started and where it has been. When consulting with clients, I am the one to retrieve the piece they left out on the curb for pick-up, the one who pulls something from a closet or storage shed to be re-purposed in a more prominent place in the home. I thoroughly enjoy showing people the potential of forgotten pieces, rearranging to emphasize different things and alter the perception of interesting older pieces.
In another direction, it might seem a sacrilege to some to paint a piece. Even in the most contemporary settings, if the original finish isn’t desirable, painting an old piece can be a creative solution. Whether a glossy bold finish that allows the form to speak through from the past into the design world of the most progressive interiors or a layered, sanded paint process that leaves the piece rendered in a shabby chic-type mode, the options are many.
I hesitate to relate these decisions to an economic reality, however, the practical aspects of saving cost by protecting rather than destroying, refurbishing versus neglecting, renewing instead of replacing, saving rather than tossing…are popular mantras when things get tough. Yes, there are real cost-saving economic reasons to practice these salvaging solutions. But beyond that – I see the value regardless of one’s economic situation. Please take away from this the value, charm, history and sensibility of caring for old pieces.
The design space between the old and the new is where you’ll find the art of successful eclecticism – a place where everything can work based upon the proper balance and context. Watch for that in an up-coming rant!

Really gotta love red – it is passionate, fun, vibrant, warm and here are some cabinets to illustrate all of that! We recently completed an installation of custom cabinets that we designed for a busy family with two kids needing a work area for homework and craft projects. The upper cabinets were in place along with part of the lowers…but they were golden oak…So we designed the completed components and painted the whole thing a brilliant, semi-glossy red! The work-surface is a manufactured material – a durable engineered product, “Caesar Stone,” in a dark charcoal color. The cabinet “jewelry” is a handsome pewter pull with an Asian bent. They read as punctuations accenting the bold color.
Who wrote these rules? Painting wood is a sacrilege! Yet, I can appreciate the natural beauty and integrity of any organic material – oak is a richly grained wood – cut/sliced many ways – rift or quarter, the character changes completely. But to paint a course-grained wood, one gets the details reading through the painted finish and it is almost like a moiré fabric – water-marks dragged through the surface – but in this case reading through with a wonderfully dimensional quality.
Don’t be afraid to paint wood – it’s just another beautiful way to celebrate its magnificent character!