Like bears coming out of hibernation, people start to stretch and yawn and look around and ask me “What can I do to refresh my interior for spring?” It’s similar to the fall preparation for hunkering down for the winter…”What can I do to cozy-up my house?” as the leaves drop and a chill wafts through the air.20170301_084712

Spring is the season for re-birth and starting fresh. Fresh – what does that suggest? This year we are very fortunate that Pantone set forth the color direction for the entire year – greenery. I have great enthusiasm for incorporating this bright verdant living color throughout the seasons – yes, a color for all seasons – but we are not limited to green in its various forms. I give you permission to add color that makes you feel good. Pick your favorite color…any color!

Now let’s get to that question about “What can I do to refresh my interior for spring?.” Here are 10 tips to change your world and bring joy as spring approaches.

  1. Color POP: Speaking of your favorite color…”paint magic” as its often referred is the practically instantaneous positive reinforcement that you need to make a quick, effective change in your interior! Pick an accent wall – preferably one that is framed by inside corners (rather than stopping a color on an outside corner) and take the leap of painting it an entirely different color than your norm. 20170301_085601 Bear in mind other color cues in the room so as not to create a discord of color or completion between your design elements – but don’t be afraid either. The idea is a pleasing POP! and an extra pointer, if your room is already painted a decisive color, white can be the accent. Yes, white can be an intentional color accent and not the lack of color that it can often seem to be.
  2. Live Plants and Flowers: Spring suggests flowers and greenery – to watch them grow toward the warm weather, bulbs inside can be fun, bouquets of your favorite flowers, sprigs of greenery in a small vase can even be enough. red_tulips_spring_decor-16A bud vase on your bathroom sink counter, a statement piece at your entry or coffee table, a flowering plant with young buds to last a few weeks, a fern to add feathery freshness. – any and all of these can add life to your interior spaces.  If you have flowering trees or bushes outside, this is the time to cut a few branches and bring them inside, place in a vase with water and the warmth of your interior will “force” the buds to bloom – Voila!
  3. Reupholster to Refresh: Do you have a tired piece of furniture that might deserve a new fabric? A favorite comfy chair, a hand-me-down of sentimental value, a good frame (bones) that can be salvaged to new with a change of printed fabric, leather, or woven textile. This furniture facelift is just the trick to give new life to older pieces.20170301_084752

4. Change It Up: When you move things around and rearrange your furniture, artwork              and accessories you will be surprised how you can refresh without adding anything                new. Take a look at your furniture arrange. Can the same pieces be rearranged in the              same room and create a new look?? Might you move one piece out to another room or            bring in a different piece from some other room?

5. Pillows to Toss: Throw pillows…throw them out! Well, I exaggerate a bit, but cycle                them into a bag in the closet for another time or place or “recovery” and find some fun        new pillows to brighten and refresh your interior. What an effective change a few                    colorful pillows can make in a room!20170301_084945

    6. Add Art: DIY or find something to cheer you! Dressing your walls with new work can              lift your  spirits! 20170301_152224

  1. Fresh Fragrances: Like Votive’s Pink Mimosa or Skeem’s Current Mangosteen scented candles, or Vance Kittera incense will add a dimension of sensory appreciation to refresh the stale, stagnant air of winter.votivo-czwxdsjwwaahpr_1
  2. Wipe and Dry: New dishtowels are a great and simple boost to change seasons! Find some fresh and uplifting colors to brighten your kitchen and make wiping up more fun! They make a great gift too!
  3. Stash Your Throw: What’s that afghan on your sofa or that blanket on your bed? Switch out the dark colors of winter with fresh new accents to add color and cuddle in too!
  4. Get Tidy: Marie Kondo has written books about it- she knows the “life-changing magic” that getting organized and tidy can do for you! 20170301_085323Spring cleaning is a great therapy and introspective look at the things you own, how much you have and what is clutter beyond your ability to enjoy it all.

 

Short days and longs nights…Do you find that your interior is dull, lifeless and even feels a bit cavernous after dark? As the sun  sets and the lamps come on, the effects can be horrible, adequate or sensational.

Poor lighting can have remarkable subliminal effects on mood, energy, and attitude. The subtle signs of poor lighting such as dark corners, shadows on faces, difficulty reading and dull colors are all important factors that contribute to an uncomfortable interior in these short days of long, dark nights.

Lighting has multiple reasons for being—three primary ones—to see, yes, ambient light. But to do tasks (reading, sewing, playing games), and accent lighting to illuminate artwork and other interior features. Mood lighting such as candlelight (once the primary light source – now an effect in most cases) is a lesser but effective  lighting tool.  Good lighting makes amazing differences.

Beware of down-lights. Lights that shine down from the ceiling. Although a very effective and common lighting tool, they must be balanced with good ambient light.  I have often used this example of sitting in a restaurant across from your date and their face is painted with ghoulish dark shadows under their eyes, beneath their nose, and accentuating all the folds of their features. It is the opposite of a kid putting a flashlight under their chin shining upward creating similarly haunting effects. Creepy. Certainly not flattering.

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The same unpleasant effects happen in the home. It’s such a common malady of ineffective lighting that most people assume it is a necessary evil of short days. It’s sad—no, really it’s SAD—Seasonal Affective Disorder! To treat the serious effects of this syndrome there are many studies and inventive solutions, but for most of us, the less arresting effects of poor lighting can be greatly improved and our lives enhanced.

To begin this process of evaluating your lighting an improving it right away, start with the lamps—the light bulbs! We have so many choices these days including the familiar incandescent, compact fluorescent, and the newer LED with excellent color choices and low energy usage.  We could talk about the “temperature” of light sources measured in Kelvin, but we won’t—only that it runs a spectrum of warm to cool.

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Walk around your home and look specifically at the color that glows from the various light sources. Does it look yellow? Does it look white? Does it look blue-ish? Recognizing these distinctions from warm to cool is the start.

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Where are the shadows? Are the corners dark and recessive? And, when you combine these two, do you find, for example, dark areas and yellow glowing sources? Sometimes that soft, warm yellow is preferred while other scenes are made more intentionally crisp with cooler light.

Experiment with different lamps in your fixtures – light bulbs in your table lamps and recessed cans, hallway sconces and bathroom fixtures. It’s a fun experiment and very illuminating – yes, the pun was intended.

Are your lamp shades opaque or translucent? Do the shades themselves cast a color? Do they block the light or allow it through? Do they throw the light up and down or up, down and out? This is another detail of which to take note.

If you have dated recessed fluorescent tube units – common in kitchens for example – they are often housed in a box either recessed or surface-mounted on the ceiling. Take a look at the plastic lenses – are they discolored and yellow? This aging process can dramatically affect the quality of light that is emitted. So if you are not ready to replace these fixtures with more effective modern lighting statements, try replacing the lenses.

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A similar installation is that of skylights which have fluorescent lamps up inside the wells with that same plastic lens over the opening to the skylight. The original idea was to have the natural light pass through during the day and artificial light take over after hours. The lens  was to intentionally conceal the unattractive fluorescent tubes, but it sacrificed the depth of the framed well. A quick update is to remove the lenses and fluorescents and expose the well of the skylight adding dimension to the room and eliminating the unattractive lens that conceals the dimensional cavity. Recessed can fixtures around the skylight in the surrounding ceiling are the most common solution to this transition from old to new, a cable can be strung, pendants can be hung, but if budget constraints prohibit that investment at this time, you might investigate the power source up inside the skylight well and replace the fluorescent fixture with an inexpensive, adjustable, surface-mounted spotlight – perhaps with two heads to provide light from that same source while opening the skylight well without the unnecessary lens.

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The dark pockets around your rooms can be improved with up-lights in corners and up under plants. Inexpensive fixtures are available at any lighting store or big box home improvement stores. Place one of these up-lights (remember to select the color “temperature” that pleases you the most) and see what that additional pop in the corner does to open your space. When up-lights are used beneath plants to shoot upward and cast shadows onto the walls and ceilings can create drama and exotic interest at night. This is true both indoors and out.

Torchiere floor lamps are those that face upward. Like a torch, they send the light toward the ceiling – another effective splash of light in an otherwise dark space in the room.

Colors are radically affected by the color of light that shines upon them. Therefore, an interior color scheme can be horribly tweaked to not resemble at all the actual colors chosen and combined to create the scene, when artificially illuminated after dark. Contrarily, colors can be rendered with great brilliance and accuracy when illuminated with the right combination of lighting. (although daylight contributes in these two examples).

By the same token we can have great fun and “paint” with light creating a color scheme entirely with colored lamps washing the walls, and interior elements just for the art and exercise of doing so, but I digress.

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In summary, look around your rooms after dark and look for opportunities to make changes that will dramatically affect the comfort level – the results will be startling!!! If planning new construction or remodel – have plenty of light in key places throughout the space. Think dimmers so you can control the amount of light. Let there be light in this Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ta Da! Pantone announces its color of the year for the coming 2017…drum roll please…and the color is Greenery!! Yay!!! Last year there were two  – yes, imagine that – they couldn’t decide so they slurried Rose Quartz and Serenity resulting in a pale, cool, wimpy blend of soft rose and lavenderesque shades into a blended wispy pastel dream. Non-committal, in my opinion…lacking confidence.  Last year the rationale was stated by Pantone’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman as…

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But this year they have it with this fresh organic hue in a yellow-ish shade primed for this year’s rationale from Ms. Eiseman which is:

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I have always loved green. I grew up in a Virginia jungle of a suburban neighborhood inside the Beltway surrounding my hometown of Washington DC. where the first signs of spring were the tiny tips of dogwood leaves poking forth from the delicate branches of those beautiful under-growth trees. The dogwoods were the graceful, human-scale layer beneath the towering canopy of the immense, rigid, vertical tulip poplar and white oak trees that commanded the woods.

Soft mosses, lacey ferns and perky lily of the valley carpeted the hidden pockets of our backyard. New growth is that prediction of amazing renewal and promise of the start of summer. So it is a prime observation that as Eiseman states in her 2017 rationale “greenery…bursts forth…with a reassurance we yearn for…” although I do not feel this is peculiar to this year as winter always makes me yearn for greenery and the reassurance  that spring and summer will return.

My mother also loved green and that probably influenced my childhood perception of comfort and context of it in interior design. She had and still has an eye for color. In 1959 she selected an amazing sculpted wool pile carpet in a warm, dark, neutral, taupe tone and built upon it a color scheme of pinks and greens that was subtle and relaxing, organic and contrasting, blending beautifully in our wooded setting of verdant lushness in which we were cozily situated.

That was upstairs where we felt like we lived in a flowering tree house amidst the dense collection of green leafy between the trees and surrounded by all shades of pink and white azaleas. Downstairs, where we retreated in the winter months, her greens were mixed with gold tones creating a warm interpretation of the greenery around us.

When so many in that era, between the 60s and 70s, were styling interiors with heavy oranges, browns and golds,

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my mother gravitated toward Lily Pulitzer’s fresh, tropical palette of lime green and hot pinks, clean crisp turquoise and citrusy lemon yellow – both in her wardrobe and her interior accent colors.

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Our beach house was turquoise and teal, navy and tan – the sea and the sand.

Following color trends is a slippery slope. I have blogged about it in the past. Adopting that which is often a combination of colors instantly records a place in time when everything from bath towels and shower curtains, bed dressings to draperies appears in the marketplace and inserts its predetermined obsolescent combinations into the lives of so many who would rather catch the wave – often behind the crest – to own and participate in what is conveyed by the market to be the “in” thing to do and to have.

It is best not to embrace and adopt the combinations that the market presents. It is better to select color and combinations that transcend the trends – skirt them so as not to fall into the trap of dated color schemes and tired combinations. Some avoid the trap by staying neutral. The safe, timeless colors of whites and grays mushrooms and taupes- but where is the risk and fun in that?

“Too bad for them” I often remark. It is such a missed opportunity…a limitation to select colors that you think you are supposed to like rather than those that truly bring you joy. I say “go for joy every time.” Color is such personality. It is a stage-setting element. It is a backdrop or foreground. It is a theme. It is an atmosphere.

With all that having been said, I for one am thrilled with this fresh selection for the new year. A bright beginning full of hope and new growth, fresh starts and positive forward movement – organic and life-affirming. So seek the colors that brings you joy and go forth with color in this new 2017 soon to arrive. My personal schemes will always have greenery!!!

Fun with PERF!

December 3, 2016

Currently finishing a project that has provided a great theme for incorporating metal, it seemed a worthy blog subject for it’s fun and flexibility! Perf is the product – a perforated steel that comes in several percentages of perforation.

We have used this many times for rolling window shades in a flexible coated nylon material. It is great for filtering for sunlight and privacy while allowing a certain amount of “see-through.” It has been used as an architectural screening material for years. You have probably seen it and not realized it on building storefronts and bus wraps – the perforated vinyl coatings are often used for advertisement because they read as though a solid from the one side and are transparent from within.

Here we are playing around with the steel to create cool elements that compliment the theme of this new taproom. The theme is silver and what material does bring to mind? Metallic. So by dressing raw steel with paint – we apply the silver finish and there we have it!

The required outside patio fencing was constructed with very generic square stock. I called it a hamster cage. It was a bland beige when we first arrived and, without notice, the shopping center management had it and the other structural columns lining the canopy/portico painted chocolate brown.

The plan had been to screen it with perforated panels. The darker paint color created a little better contrast and aided in providing a depth of detail to set-off the silver painted perf.

Inside we needed to fill the volume of this most uninteresting dropped ceiling. Already painted black and looking quite voluminous – but not in a good way – the empty space needed some mass. So in one of those restless, middle-of-the-night design sessions of insomnia the idea to create large drums for lighting shades came to mind.

Drums have been in vogue for several years now. Nothing original from the initial use for table lamp shades except their use was broadened to include suspended fixtures and halved for wall sconces. You’ve seen them – hip and happening – and these were quite over-sized and carried the space.

We needed to fill the void of the 12′ high ceilings in this room that had little or no comfort. All hard surfaces, it was a challenge to maintain the silver theme and edginess of a popular taproom while creating comfort. Seemed an oxymoron of a task. But the mass of the perforated drums in three different sizes grouped in the near center of the room did just that.

The addition of multiple warm white lamps inside will be the crowning touch. (photo to be added here in a week or so)

Then a third use of the perforated material came in the idea for a room-divider/hostess station.

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We needed a place to create a point of arrival. Whether manned or unmanned, this unit can have a chalkboard or other signage identifying special events or beer tastings, with a podium in front creates a translucent backdrop to partially cordon off the rest of the space until the customers are greeted and it also can divide the space for special events and table groupings. to accomplish all of those various purposes we designed it with heavy duty commercial casters complete with brakes so that it could be moved easily for its grand height and weight and  placed where needed for the best advantage.

Stay tuned for the complete un-veiling of this cool new interior in the coming weeks. And meanwhile dream of all the fun you can have with perf!

 

When it’s time sensitive and just can’t wait – what do you get? A BONUS BLOG!!!  Yes! A mid-week blog for the holidays! It began beneath a brilliant blue sky yesterday as the air, with a teeny bit of a  chill, was contrasted by the then warm sunshine glistening through a deciduous denuded Honey Locust making it’s lonely leftover pods look like birds silhouetted against the sky.

Scattered all over the ground were the same fallen wonderfully twisted mahogany-colored pods writhing amidst the dried leaves.

The color was so rich and warm it was irresistible. As I bent over to inspect one, I was captured by the unique quality of each pod and the amazing contours of their graceful, elongated shapes.

Almost as though they were varnished, they had a semi-gloss that was naturally beautiful. This is art in nature. This is inspiration. I can see this as a magnificent drapery fabric – a grand wall of these intertwined ribbons of organic seed pods.

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However, on a more current and immediate note – I saw a centerpiece or multiple centerpieces as it turned out. I gathered the pods in my fist as though a wonderfully wild bouquet. I then needed a bag (thank you Becky) as I kept dropping them, in an effort to force the ever growing collection.

Here is the quickie result of the awesome autumnal centerpiece. I had a faux wreath of berries and leaves, tossed in a few recently harvested local apples, (thank you Vigils), some leaves gathered from the driveway as the Bradford Pear – which, a little late this year due to our unseasonably warm Indian Summer this fall, has only started to drop its gloriously radiant leaves. And Voila!

I stood back and looked over my shoulder and saw the collapsed plastic bag still spilling pods out over the counter-top.

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I was about to call all my friends and ask “Do you want a piece of this fabulous, festive, fall, focus of attention? And I quickly realized I could expand the joy for those of you with grand tables  needing a longer statement down the center.

So flanking glass vases provided the extension I needed. Now this was quick – adding gravel, sand or moss in the vases would add interest and depth, maybe pheasant feathers, other dried flower pods and grasses – this was just a start based upon an irresistible inspiration scattered before me.

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So keep your eyes peeled for opportunities when you least expect them and make something out of nothing. Save unnecessary expense when you find your design accessories for free!!! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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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.

 

 

For a while in the world of design trends, dark colors intimidated. Bold designers dared to apply dark eggplants,  chocolates, charcoals and black to surfaces of their projects, but only a rare few clients would take the leap. Now it seems that we are seeing people accept the dare and more dark surfaces and intense envelopes of color are appearing on the scene.  I have often been asked – “Won’t it make it small?” or “Will it be too dark?” and the reason I am making the suggestion is because I already know that it won’t!!!

I’ve blogged about small rooms with dark walls in the past, but two recent projects featured my recommendation for dark cabinets. Not dark walnut or the market-saturated “espresso” which is the trendy generic for “whatever the wood – or pretend wood, we’ll make it dark brown” – very dark.

In this first case, my client – friend after many years of consultations – brought me into their home that they had occupied for a couple+ decades. It began with the  “pickled” wood cabinets that were in vogue at the time – stained red oak with a white-wash that resulted in a peachy finish. When we first did a “punch-up” we added steel cut-outs of Mimbres designs affixed to the soffit. We also added a black table and chairs with a splashy fabric as a valance in bold colors intertwined with black. The drama lifted the anemic peach theme to new heights.

Fast-forward another 15 years and my dear client was ready for a change. She called and brought me into that familiar kitchen scene and announced that she thought she wanted to re-purpose/paint her cabinets white. l looked around the adjacent family room and beyond and pondered this request.

What you might like in a magazine spread or a Pinterest post is not necessarily applicable to your context. I visualized the dramatic change. Looked at her floor (oh, we had upgraded to a large format stone-textured porcelain from the original 8×8 glazed ceramics in the last 15 years – perhaps a decade ago), looked at her family room furniture and finishes and said “I’m not so sure that’s where you want to go.”

I knew she was fairly thorough in her investigations and would not have called me prior to doing quite a bit of research and trend monitoring so I tread a bit softly when I said “I think you should go black.”  And her response was EXACTLY what I expected as she repeated the color in complete quizzical surprise.

“Yes” I said and continued to explain why. She loved her fabric that had been hanging over her breakfast nook window for years. The table was virtually unused and the steel cut-out art was one of their favorite design elements. Black was a natural. “Don’t be afraid of the dark.” I laughingly said.

Black on oak gives a wonderful moiré effect to the grain texture as it reads though the painted surface. It’s a bit exotic, rich in texture and interesting to boot. So with a bit of hand-holding and massaging the description of the intended finished effect, she took the leap – husband in cautious adgreement – they braved this bold departure from the norm.

We first selected a granite to coordinate with the floor tiles and the soon-to-be black cabinets. A swirly geology of glorious goop featuring the rose-clay tones of the mottled stone floor with black tracing through and clear quartz for pizzazz. We then set forth creating the back-splash which began with her love of glass – but to depart from the off-the-shelf 1×1 offering we cut away sections and punctuated it with 2x2s and some 1×1 domed bullets that added further interest to the multi-toned field. 20160906_173401

With those complimentary materials selected, we began the process of painting the cabinets. Boxes in place and door and drawer fronts finished off-site. All flawlessly sprayed, with many coats of conversion varnish tinted black, the transformation was dramatic.

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The second example, of this fear of the dark when it comes to finishes, was another kitchen which was a small galley-styled golden walnut stained oak 70s model. To which, we added a rough iridescent slate floor to complement the existing stone fireplace – of the same material – only in boulder form. Seemed at this point, for this sophisticated bachelor, the perfect complement to the handsome slate would be striking black cabinets. In this case –  new, without the character of the oak in the previous project, as the cabinets were completely replaced and the new selection was made from a factory fabricated series. Similarly dramatic, the sleek black was perfect against the slate’s rugged grey/golden iridescence.

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The galley footprint was greatly expanded, by carving out of the garage work-bench  area. And again, the transformation was daunting. Here we selected a mosaic of horizontal stones and glass for the backsplash – one of the stones was exactly the same iridescent grey-golden slate as the original fireplace and stunning new floors throughout.

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Be bold, be brave and consider your context. You might just find that black is your best bet to transform your cabinets into stunning statements.