A Total Remodel in the Rustic Town of Bend Oregon

remodeled home in Bend OregonIt’s been a while since we posted one of our projects so I figured it was about time to bring the blog back to life.  Given that our last published post was for a project in Los Angeles this one couldn’t be any different.

Our most recent project has been a complete remodel of a large home in Bend, Oregon.  The homeowners use this as their winter residence as they’re primary home is up in Alaska.  Before we go any further I just have to mention how grateful I am for the local cleaning service that was able to help us out in getting the house cleaned up in time for pictures.

The home they purchased has one of the better views you could possibly ask for, but unfortunately the home itself was quite dated, and the interior didn’t jive with the new owners.  So we set out to remedy this by spending a couple days at their home in Alaska to get a feel for what they like.

Rustic and Warm

The best way to describe this particular couple’s style is what I would call rustic and warm.  Think browns, greens, lots of stone, and lots of fireplaces.  Throw in a touch of French Country and you’ll be able to picture exactly what I’m talking about.

The original house only had two fireplaces for 10 rooms.  Due to the cold weather in Bend they wanted to make sure that all the bedrooms and most of the common rooms had a functioning wood-burning fireplace.  This was no small task as the house was built like a fortress.

But there was so much other work going on that it just took a bit of imagination, engineering, and a good bit of chimney building to get it done.  In the end we added 4 new fireplaces, replaced the one existing gas-burning, and we were good to go.

The Challenge of the Kitchen

The kitchen in particular was somewhat challenging.  It is an enormous space with a large butcher block table/counter in the middle.  The rest of the countertops are limestone from a quarry in Central Oregon.  The new owners wanted to keep all of these, but wanted to replace the cabinets with something darker in color.

We found a local cabinet maker in downtown Bend that was more than up to the task.  He was able to come up with a new look, color, and at the same time managed to give them an extra 50 square feet of storage.

He even used a technique that I wasn’t previously familiar with by creating large open drawers under the island.  They allow for storage of larger heavier items.  Since the island is so deep, they were able to gain quite a bit of storage space.  This turned out to be the wife’s favorite feature in the whole house.  She’s an avid cook.

The Master Bedroom

The master was one of the rooms with an existing fireplace.  Unfortunately it was gas.  It’s footprint was relatively small so this necessitated rebuilding the entire mantle and exterior of the fireplace itself.  Originally it was done with plaster to match the walls.

The new owners wanted more stone in the room so again we went with some locally sourced stone.  The end result was incredible.  Since it’s a wood burning fireplace we went ahead and removed the carpet from the master sitting area and brought in more hardwood flooring.  With a colorful rug the owners picked up in Turkey it became a lovely room.

The Rest of the House

The rest of the house saw some basic changes beyond decor.  We put a new layer of plaster on to give the house some more earthy tones.  These are extremely popular in Central Oregon.  I was amazed at the use of 100 different browns and greens we saw in some of the homes we toured in the local area.

Some of the windows needed to be replaced.  Evidently there are some pretty serious winds in this neck of the woods.  Thankfully yours truly didn’t have to experience any of that during this project.  I also hear it gets quite cold.

Local Contractors We Used

Made to Order Woodworks
1470 NE 1st St. Suite 1200
Bend, OR 97701
(541) 382-5814

Arbor Builders
2538 NE Division St
Bend, OR 97701
(541) 323-4850

Maid In Central Oregon
1124 NW Portland Ave #1
Bend, OR 97701
(458) 202-2462

Creating a Unique Space Using A New Medium

I can honestly say that we haven’t done a great many projects that included fabricated metal art.  Until recently I found this medium to be rather cold and difficult to incorporate into our overall designs.  But recently we worked with an artist that has managed to capture my attention and creates so much energy and motion in his artwork that I jumped at the chance to bring it into one of our latest projects.

While we work in plenty of places that would be considered modern, I’ve always tried to create spaces that feel inviting.  Much of this comes from my upbringing where there was a mix of modern with rustic.  Many of the homes where I grew up had been updated in the modern style, but still incorporated rustic building such as barns and other farm buildings

Working With Metal

There are of course many challenges involved in working with metal as decor for a home.  First and foremost the artist’s style has to jive with the homeowner’s.  This can be one of the biggest challenges to overcome

This particular artist incorporates a great many natural scenes including animals, landscapes, and a bit of abstract.  For this particular project we decided that animal and landscapes would best suit the space.  We then commissioned him to come up with 7 different pieces for us to use in various locations.

Incorporating Metal

Rather than just throwing these pieces on the walls we decided to try to come up with something more clever.  For some they were built into the walls using nook type spaces.  Others were used as transition pieces in look-throughs from one room to anther.

In fact we used the above piece in a look through from the kitchen into the great room.  The house itself is situated near an estuary in Northwest Florida and the heron was an ideal piece as it helped bring the outside landscape into the kitchen even though there was an entire room between it and the outdoors.

The fabrication process itself is quite interesting.  Generally the artist works with industrial tools such as welding equipment, plasma cutters, and other high powered devices.  In this particular case the artist used a plasma cutter from Hypertherm.  He said while this isn’t the cheapest plasma cutter on the market, it was capable of working for extended periods of time and could cut through anything thickness of material he required.

Before settling on his work I decided to fly down to his shop in Key West.  It was almost mesmerizing to watch him working with the materials.  Once the project is finished you will be able to find more pictures here as usual.

Here’s a fantastic video demonstrating the flexibility these plasma cutting tools offer. They can be used a wide variety of ways.

Home Automation Creates a Beautiful Outdoor Space in Orlando

pool in backyard of the Orlando FL projectIt’s been a busy fall, and it’s been quite some time since my last blog post.  There is good reason as this has turned out to be one our busiest years ever.  Our most recent project of note was completed in Orlando Florida within the last six weeks.  The vast majority of the project was outside on a ten acre estate outside the city.

A Quick Thanks

Before getting too deep into the details of this project I would like to offer our thanks to the other contractors on this job that help to make it a success.  Pickering Home Theater & Audio provided all of the home automation and lighting equipment that allowed this system to really pop.  JRW homes handled all of the outdoor remodeling and construction on the project.  And the team from Savant automation did a phenomenal job getting everything tied together.

Details of the Job

The homeowners of this project wanted a very unique outdoor space.  Since the weather in Central Florida is nice year round they wanted to be able to utilize their outdoor space more often.  This included an outdoor theater space, landscaping, buildings, and more.

Both husband and wife in this family are avid swimmers to they knew right away that they wanted to include a lap pool.  But because of how boring a long rectangular pool often looks they wanted to somehow spice this up.   We came up with an interesting design that incorporated the lap pool, but also modified the shape to make it look more visually appealing.

The Automation System

This outdoor system required a fairly extensive home automation system.  It ties together the lighting, automated equipment including TV’s, screen, and projector, as well as water features that turn on and off based on the AV activities.  All of these devices can be controlled directly from iPads and iPhones.  This allows everyone in the family to easily control any of the outdoor spaces.

Savant home automation was the control system of choice because of the large scale of this project.  It beautifully integrates with the lighting from Lutron and the motorized shades and screens from Lutron as well.

Even the pool and spa temperature can be quickly and easily controlled from a smartphone.  It truly is a connected system.

The Entertainment System

The outdoor home theater system that was installed is truly breathtaking.  The screen appears from behind a waterfall that stops as soon as any of the video sources is selected.  All of the speakers are hidden throughout the pool area and yard so as to be completely invisible.

While the project was not without it’s challenges it truly turned out to be one of the most unique and interesting outdoor spaces on which we have worked.

Using Light to Dramatically Enhance the Look of a Room

lighting control systemsOne of my favorite mediums in which to work is light.  While we tend to take it for granted, light is one of the most important things in our lives.  It affects us on a physiological level.  With the proper lighting one can create a wide variety of moods using the same space.  One of our recent projects was a great example of how light can be used in conjunction with decor to create dramatically different looks depending on one’s mood.

Incorporating Lighting into Interior Design

I have always believed in creating rooms that have multiple purposes.  It’s easy to create a space that is used for one function.  The true test of one’s ability comes when a single space must be used for a wide variety of functions.  This is much easier to pull off when proper lighting is used in conjunction with the decor.

While many homeowners don’t think about it, light plays a very important roles in our mood.  The right light levels can actually improve your mood if you’re feeling dark.  It can set the tone for a room if you want calm and subdued conversation versus loud and boisterous.

Many design schools teach the basics of lighting design, but few interior designers rely upon light as much as they should.  Filling a space with natural light can have an uplifting affect that creates a subtle but distinguishable difference.

Lighting and Stone

One of the best ways to show off stonework in a home is through the use of light.  Even natural stone that is relatively smooth and flat actually has small imperfections in the surface.  By casting light upon the stone from different angles we can create an entirely different look without changing anything else.  This technique along can have a dramatic effect on the look of a room.  Light cast down upon rough stone creates a more somber appearance, while light cast upwards creates a more uplifting appearance.

Utilizing Automation to Simplify Lighting

In the past we were forced to use dimmers to create the lighting effects that we wanted in a home.  This was both tedious and offered only inconsistent results at best.  But with the advent of lighting control systems these processes can be completely automated.

There are a wide variety of lighting control products on the market.  Crestron, Lutron, and Vantage are three of the most popular. These are typically installed and programmed by custom integrators or AV dealers.  We have worked with Audio Video Experts in the past.  They offer home automation systems in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.

Basically we supply them with the look we want for each room and they program the system to recreate that look with the press of a button.  This allows the homeowner to easily set the lights based on how they’re using the room.  Another huge advantage of these lighting control systems is that they eliminate the need for multiple light switches in each room.  Considering some designs call for eight to ten lighting circuits per room this saves a considerable amount of real estate on the wall.

These systems also allow for setting the entire house to a specific scene.  So if the homeowner is entertaining they can set the entire house to party mode with the press of a single button.  This also allows for incorporating the outdoor lighting into the same scenes.

While lighting design is often not a focus of the interior design of a space it can create a very dramatic difference in the appearance of a room or even an entire home.

An Amazing Outdoor Space In Los Angeles

los angeles project norwayAt least 2 to 3 times each year we end up working on projects in Los Angeles.  Although I enjoy many cities around the world, the projects we get involved with in LA are typically pretty amazing.  The amount of money being thrown around and the competition to one up one’s neighbor makes for some pretty incredible results.

This most recent project is certainly no exception.  Though I’m not a liberty to discuss the exact location and certainly not the homeowner itself, I can say that it is someone with whom a great many people in the world are very familiar.  I had never encountered this individual myself, but was never inclined to believe that their tastes would align with those of our firm.  Over the course of the 2 weeks I spent in Los Angeles with this client I was to be consistent surprised at how creative and thoughtful they were.

The Home Itself

The house is settled in the hills of LA.  It’s around 50 years old and was starting to show it’s age.  The layout was actually fantastic though as it affords 180 degree views all along the backside of the house.  There is an infinity pool built along the back.  It is a truly remarkable location.

One downside of these sorts of homes is typically they’re perched up on the crest of a hill making them relatively conspicuous.  This one doesn’t have that particular problem because of the way it is situated.

It was built in the 1960s and is in the typical California ranch style.  While it looks very retro, the new owner wanted to update the look to something a bit more modern.  We started out by replacing all of the windows which were a major reason why it looked so dated.  We also opened up some of the spaces to allow for a better flow.

There are multiple levels to this house though none are more than a few steps higher or lower than the adjoining areas.  One challenge with all this openness was in where to put all the hi tech toys this particular homeowner wanted.

Luckily we were able to call upon Audio Video Experts to come up with a design that keeps all of the technology out of site until it is needed.  There are no fewer than 12 TVs in this home, but until they are turned on you would never be able to find one.

Hiding all of this is accomplished with screens that raise and lower, art that moves to reveal an LCD screen, and even mirrors that disappear and become 4K TV screens.  All in all we were very impressed with the work of the AV crew.

The Outdoor Spaces

While the pool had been updated 10 years ago, it was already looking dated.  We did a full redesign on both the pool and the pool deck.  The new design improves on the view and allows the homeowner to project an image onto a plate of glass from Draper that turns his view into a 100″ projector screen.  In a way it is similar to a previous project we had done.

This of course is hidden away when not in use.  Another interesting feature of the outdoor space is the summer kitchen.  Though it could certainly be used year round in LA, this kitchen is where the homeowner plans to spend the majority of his time.  Part of it is cover with a trellis and part of it is exposed to the sun.

We chose soft colors that aren’t too reflective to avoid harsh glare when enjoying the space during the day.  We also updated the landscape lighting and now it looks absolutely stunning at night.  Overall the project turned out spectacular.  The homeowner was absolutely thrilled with the work.  It’s all you can hope for in this industry.

Charming Remodel in the Steel City

After a couple of recent projects I have found myself in the South much more frequently.  My last post was about a visit to Charleston SC where I fell in love with the beautiful downtown area and the amazing variety of food.  This most recent project which was brought to us from an old contact of mine in the world of interior lighting design.  Specifically they provide church lighting design in both new and old churches.  They also do home projects involving AV, audio, and automation.

One of their clients was looking for someone to come in and do a complete remodel of a historic home in Mountain Brook which is a well-to-do suburb of Birmingham.  If you’re not familiar, like me, then you would be shocked at how beautiful this collection of Old South homes that sprawl across the hills and valleys just south of the downtown area truly is.

It’s also going through quite a dramatic change.  Many of the homes were built 50+ years ago.  So there are a great many renovations going on as people update some of these older homes.  Some are tearing down and building from the ground up while others are choosing to preserve the look of the old home’s exterior and upgrading the interiors.

New Mixed with Old

The particular project we were called in on is one of the latter.  The homeowner wanted to maintain the traditional look of the home while updating all of the interior rooms and even changing the space itself somewhat dramatically.  The front of the house is Plantation style but it is set into a hill with a beautiful creek rolling through the front yard.

The idea was to not change too much of the front of the house, but to open the back of the house up to allow more light and a more usable outdoor space.  We ended up creating a beautiful transition in the back of the house that allows the space to flow from the informal living room directly out onto the back patio.

A Beautiful Summer Kitchen

This particular homeowner loves spending time outdoors during the spring, summer, and fall months.  One of their requirements was a highly functional outdoor kitchen space from where they could watch the kids around the pool while cooking and eating.

One of the challenges on this project was that the because the house was set into a massive hill, we had to do quite a bit of excavation to get any backyard at all.  And if you know anything about this area of Birmingham you know that the ground can often be solid rock. Either that or clay that is rich in iron.

This meant that we actually had to do a bit of blasting in the backyard to clear enough space to accomplish their goals.  I have to admit that this was the first time I’ve been involved in a residential product that required the use of dynamite.  Kind of impressive, although I don’t think the neighbors liked it at all.

An Amazing Outdoor Space

outdoor kitchen spaceAfter it was all said and done though, this project ended up being one of my favorites because of the outdoor space we created.  The pool actually resembles the pool from the Holland project that I mentioned a while back.  Simple but elegant.

And the kitchen itself is usable 75% of the year even in a light rain.  We incorporated a covered area for the sensitive equipment and an open-air barbecue area.

The client was thrilled.  We’ve even been invited back down for a huge outdoor party they’re throwing this spring.  We’re looking forward to it.

A Traditionally Styled Home in the Old South of Charleston

I can honestly say that I’d never considered a vacation in the Southern portion of the U.S. to be terribly interesting.  But after having spent the last week and a half working on a gorgeous home in downtown Charleston, and getting an up close and personal experience of the charm and food of this town, I can only say that I will most definitely be returning.

Charleston is one of the oldest towns in the United States.  And in terms of holding onto it’s cultural heritage, there are few towns in the U.S. that have done such a thorough job of maintaining it’s traditions.  Everything from the architecture to the food is an interesting mix of Southern propriety and long standing traditions.

Here are just a few pictures from the project on which we were working.

charleson living room

As you can see the style is much more traditional than what we would typically design.  Part of this is due to a new design associate we have taken on in the last couple of months. (Thank you Ian!).

charleston bedroomWhile it is definitely not a style that I employ on any of my personal projects, I certainly understand the appeal.  The traditional style is one in which I grew up.  While I often found it to feel cluttered or busy, when done properly, it gives a space a since of history.

And in a town like Charleston, this home is perfectly suited to it’s surrounding area.  There is something to be said for a cohesive look both inside and outside of the home.

charleston living room

Home Theater and Whole House Audio

Once again we were blessed to work with fantastic sub contractors on this project.  The local builder we hired used only the most conscientious workers.  Though the remodeling itself involved little in the way of construction, there was a great deal of drywall and wiring work done to accommodate the lighting and audio video requirements of the client.  The home theater installation company in Charleston, Innovative Sight & Sound, that was hired specializes in coastal style homes and is unmatched when it comes to concealing TV’s and other technology.

Work and Play

While I was in town to supervise the last stages of the project, I was able to spend a good bit of time exploring the town itself.

Let me just say that if you’re anything of a foodie, Charleston is as good as it gets.  I hadn’t considered myself a fan of Southern cooking.  Much of this was due to the fact that I assumed everything was deep fried.  And while you certainly can eat that way if you like, there are so many more amazing choices in this quaint little town.

Having always been a bit of a Francophile, I decided to check out Fast and French (fastandfrenchcharleston.com).  The food here is absolutely amazing.  The cheese plate in particular has an absolutely astounding variety of scrumptious cheeses from which to choose.

I can truly say that I was very pleasantly surprised by what I found in this charming little Southern town.  And I wouldn’t hesitate to return there for another longer visit.



Creative Ways to Hide Technology

There is often a struggle when trying to balance the technologies that a client wants in their home with overall look they want to achieve.  For many contemporary spaces a black TV or elegant speakers are somewhat suited to the design.  But in most cases we have to come up with creative ways of hiding these devices.

Mirror Mirror On the Wall…

A recent project of ours in Atlanta was exactly such a case.  The homeowners wanted a great deal of technology throughout the space, but they didn’t want to see it when it wasn’t in use.  This involved more than just a television set.  They had touch panel controls in just about every room as well as LED TV’s, and in-wall/in-ceiling speakers throughout the entire condo.  They wanted an extremely clean look with very few sharp edges.  This, of course, made it necessary to hide every TV behind custom artwork, mirrors, and false walls.

LED behind TV

It was certainly an interesting challenge, but with the help of a local Atlanta audio video company (Atlanta Home Theater) we were able to come up with some very creative solutions.  One of the manufacturers they recommended was Seura.  They have a line of products that allow you to hide a TV behind a mirror.  Now there’s nothing new about doing that.  But Seura’s technology allows more than 95% of the light from the TV to pass through the mirror.  This means that you notice very little difference between a standard TV and one that is completely hidden when not in use.

One of our favorite techniques to create the appearance of more space is to utilize decorative mirrors.  This strategy was complimented beautifully by the fact that the homeowners wanted TV in practically every room.

We also managed to find some completely invisible speakers that can be installed in either the ceiling or the walls.  They are installed when the drywall is going in and are mudded over and painted just like part of the wall.  Care needs to be taken when selecting where to hang artwork however, you don’t want to drive nail into one of these speakers.

The touch panels for the home automation system represented a particularly unique challenge.  Since there was to be one in every room, we ended up having to come up with some creative ways of hiding them.  Some are in closets or on walls that don’t draw your attention.  Others were turned into small pieces of art since they can display images of anything you like when they’re not in use.

While I personally don’t prefer this much technology in a home, it is rewarding to be able to supply a customer with exactly what they want from an aesthetic point of view as well technologically.


The Challenges of Modern Decor

shibori pillow 2 tanlged pathOne of the biggest challenges we face when coming up with a design for a new space is finding the proper color palette.  Some spaces simple call for black and white.  Often the homeowners are quite happy with this stark and basic palette.

But in some cases more creativity is required.  Often times a client will want a modern or contemporary design with a splash of color.  And finding just the right pieces to bring out these colors can be a challenge.

A Recent Design Trend

While handmade items have always formed the backbone of the pieces we acquire or our clients, the rise of online marketplaces such as ETSY have dramatically reduced the amount of time required for us to find new and unique pieces.  It has also fostered an explosion in creativity.

The reasons for this are pretty simple.  One of the biggest barriers to entry with starting your own fabric or furniture design business is the high costs associated with having a storefront.  Marketplaces such as Ebay and ETSY have removed many of these barriers.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of designers have started businesses that thrive only on web sales.

The volume of traffic on these sites enables these artists to be extremely specific in the type of product they create.  While a store that made handmade one-of-a-kind napkins might thrive in a  large city like New York, it would struggle to stay in business in a smaller location.

But with millions of shoppers browsing these sites, there is more than enough traffic to make up for the specialization that occurs.

Throwback Techniques

Many of these artists have decided to learn old or even ancient techniques to create items that cannot be duplicated or mass-produced.  And buyers are more than willing to pay a premium for such items.

One specific example that we came across recently is the art of shibori fabric design.  This is a technique that has been used in Japan for hundreds if not thousands of years.  It is very similar to tie dye.  Traditionally shibori was only done in indigo.  But artists such as Natalie Mason at the NatalieVMason.com have begun using this technique with a wide variety of colors and fabrics.

We had her create some custom pieces for a recent project of ours that needed to be livened up with a splash of color.   The colors and patterns create a very organic look that is sometimes described bohemian chic or boho chic.  Essentially it’s eclectic, and overall this isn’t a look we go for.  But used sparingly within our overall designs it is a fantastic way to liven up a room or an individual piece.

shibori pillow tangled path

A Beautiful Modern Farmhouse in Holland

We are constantly looking a new methods of uniting the old with the new.  Farmhouses have long been one of our favorite sources of inspiration.  While the vast majority of our work is in larger cities, pulling ideas from the country helps to establish a higher comfort level for many of our clients.  This house done by aatvos, is a perfect example of how light and structure can make space both clean and warm.

country modern farmhouse

Both inside and outside the lines are clean, but do not create the impression of sterility.  Warm woods are used to create more comfortable spaces.  We absolutely love the use of light on the interior rooms.

holland barnhouse night

This sort of space appeals both to those who find comfort in straight lines and those that get a feeling of warmth from natural material finishes (wood in this case).  A truly remarkable project.  Read more about this project on Design-Milk.com