Saturday, July 25, 2009

Dealing with Obstacles

A rough 3D sketch helps clients decide how to deal with unexpected changes

Despite how much preplanning and investigation is done prior to embarking on a renovation, you don't really get a true picture of the extent of new work required until after the demolition phase.  Often after the demo you'll discover structural or mechanical elements that need to be worked around or beefed up.   Quick decisions have to be made on how to deal with these obstacles without adversly effecting the design, the budget or the schedule,  but it can be difficult for clients to visualize how the proposed changes will look.   The quickest way to help them make their decisions is by showing them photos of similar situations or in many cases, I quickly draw up a rough 3D sketch to illustrate a point. 

In this case, I was working with a client on a kitchen renovation and after the demolition it was determined more support was required for the floor above and new beams needed to be added across the kitchen ceiling.   We didn't have much flexibility in where they could be placed which meant they weren't necessarily going to be equally spaced or centered within the room.  There was no space above the ceiling to install these and the homeowners didn't want to lower the entire ceiling, so,,,, since the beams were going to be visible, we had to decide how to finish them.  

My clients wanted to clad them in antique wood (as the new kitchen cabinets were being custom made from antique hemlock) to create a beamed wood ceiling effect, but I was recommending we just drywall them and paint them out white.  The house itself is a century home but the interior has been renovated in a very pared back modern style with lots of vintage mid-century modern furniture.  The house throughout is white with old wood floors.  The new kitchen design was what i would call a modern-industrial style, a combination of wood, concrete and stainless steel with simple clean lines.   

My suggestion on how to treat the new beams was to just ignore them.  The best way to not draw attention to something - is to make it blend in.  They weren't completely convinced and thought it might be a good opportunity to add more interest to the kitchen by making the beams a feature.    So I did these sketches to illustrate how the contrast of the wood on the ceiling would look.

The view from the hallway as you enter the kitchen.

As these sketches illustrate, cladding the beams in wood does two things - it creates high contrast with the white ceiling, and visually it brings the ceiling down.    In my opinion, this detracts from the impact of the understated, cabinetry free wall we had intentionally planned.

View  from the Dining Room

The view from the dining room is a good example of how the wood beams make the ceiling appear lower.  Often people will angst over obstacles like this and worry and stress about how to deal with it, and its easy to waste a lot of time and effort trying to recreate the wheel in attempts to disguise it or over-design it.  

When I'm faced with these obstacles, I deal with them in one of two ways:
 1. Make a feature out of it.  Only do this if you can integrate this into the overall design so it looks like it was always planned to be there, it should enhance the rooms design concept not detract from it.  The size, the placement, the way its finished should not look out of place with all the other elements in the room.
2. Understate it, make it blend in, make it disappear.  It may not be perfect, but it is holding the roof up,, providing you heat or  supplying you with water so its better than not having it at all!  If you look closely at magazine photos in your piles of inspiration rooms, you can spot obstacles treated like this in most rooms if you look for them, but because the room is so fabulous you never even notice it. 

On this project the final decision was made to understate the beams by painting them out the same as the ceiling.  As I promised them, in the end, when the kitchen was all complete they would blend in, become unaware of them and wonder why they were ever concerned about them in the first place.  I'll post more drawings and photos of this incredible kitchen reno in future posts...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dining - Inside Out

Update July 20th:  I was sourcing some dining chairs for a client today and came across a couple of stunning chairs that are perfect for indoor and outdoor use and they're pretty reasonably priced, so I just had to include them with the post below ! (Room above: Hand Interior Design).

Web Chair $120

Stilt Chair $175

This will be my last post on outdoor furniture for the season, considering the weather’s been so lousy this summer we have yet to dine outdoors even once this summer.  But if we get lucky enough to enjoy a warm summer evening dining al fresco, then this is how I would make it more magical...

TAKE COVER.  For outdoor dining, I prefer a covered porch or awning rather than an umbrella, the post in the middle drives me crazy.  But i think my favorite summer product this season is Ikea’s Dyning Gazebo canopy, offerred in either a rectangular or trianglur shape.  You can string up one or two or three of these between trees or posts to create a dreamy canopy effect that looks like boat sails......  Great for irregular shaped spaces, and situations where awnings and permanent roof structures are not an option.  This is ingenious and a steal at $29.  

AVOID MATCHING suites of furniture.  Most people seem to have grasped the concept of not buying suites of dining room and bedroom furniture like our parents did, but somehow this concept hasn’t translated to our outdoor rooms yet.  Even though there is more of a selection than ever before, when it comes to outdoor furniture (most of it more expensive than our indoor pieces),,,,,I always seem to see entire backyards or decks furnished with matching sofas, coffee tables, dining tables, chairs, bar carts and side tables all from the same collection.  I know its usually less expensive to buy the entire set, but they will sell these pieces individually too so perhaps its a case of people rushing to furnish their outdoor spaces so they can just get busy enjoying them?

BRING THE INDOORS OUT. Whether its indoor dining or outdoor dining, chairs are always a big investment, because you need multiples.  Four, six or eight.  So why buy chairs that are only suitable for outdoors?  Stretch your patio budget by only buying 2 or 4 outdoor chairs, or one long bench, or,,,,,if you’re really tight on space and dollars, skip the outdoor chairs altogether and think multipurpose.   If you purchase chairs for your deck or balcony and they look like patio furniture then you minimize the amount of use they’ll get (I don’t think it ever looks appropriate to use them indoors, even in a pinch) and you’ll have to find dedicated storage space for them in the off season.   But taking your indoor chairs outside,,,somehow always looks decadent.

Today there are a variety great looking chairs that are suitable for both indoors and out (see photo collage at bottom of post) but you won't find these in outdoor section.   Initially you might have only ever considered these for indoor use, but surprisingly not only will all of these chairs look stunning in your kitchen, home office or dining room, they’re all suitable for outdoor use too!  And as a bonus, they all stack for easier storage if needed.   These are modern, clean lined and would mix well when paired up with chairs of any other style making them super practical. So if you buy a few extras, you’ll be prepared for extra dinner guests at anytime of the year and your mix of chairs will look stylish and chic as opposed to mismatched and makeshift.

EASY TO FIND.  These chairs are available in shops 12 months of the year which means you’ll never have to scour the city mid-way thru summer looking for some stylish outdoor seating.  If you’ve ever shopped for outdoor furniture after the May long weekend, you know how frustrating it can be to find anything.  But what do you do if its your first place, or your first backyard, its mid-way thru June and you’ve got guests coming for a bbq!?  You may not even have dining room furniture yet let alone patio furniture.  Investing in 2 or 4 of these chairs will give you the flexibility to use them inside or out.

I'm partial to these chairs paired with old rustic wood tables, especially trestle style, or chunky teak tables.  If you're outdoor dining space is well protected and you have a place to store a table in the off season, you can get away with almost any inexpensive table or create one using workhorses and plywood or an old slab door, then layer it with table cloths.    

Photos:  Living Etc., ebay, DWR, Living Etc. (3), Apartment Therapy, Chairs clockwise left to right, top; Alonzo Chair DWR $44 (sale),  Air Chair DWR $98 (sale), White Bertoia Side Chair DWR $450, Ikea Urban Chair $50, Navy Chair DWR $415, Ghost Chair DWR $400, Marais Arm Chair DWR $135 (sale), Panton Chair DWR $250

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Outdoor Lounging - A Perfect Pairing

When I came across this image on Desire to Inspire's blog the other day, i just had to re-post it here.  The photo is from the portfolio of New York design firm Meyer Davis Studio it happens to feature the same two chairs I posted about last week, my top picks for outdoor lounging, paired together! And a retro style fireplace,,,has been on my must have list for quite a few years now but after seeing this image, its definitely moving up a few notches.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Outdoor Lounging - The New Muskoka Chairs

The Muskoka Chair,,,,,synonymous with summertime, cottage life, and lakeside lounging. I’m sure you can instantly conjure up an image of the classic muskoka chair, no photo needed. Its iconic to say the least, and its image could be used as an international symbol for Canadian summer vacation.

I love traditional furniture,,,but painted wood and outdoor elements don’t often equate to carefree living. Idle relaxation is what these chairs are all about,,,,so for all the relaxation but non of the work associated with seasonal storage or maintenance, here’s a look at some of my favorite not so traditional looking muskoka chairs as well as some new and improved, eco friendly traditional versions.

For at least 2 years, I’ve had a photo postcard pinned up beside my desk – it’s a photo of this tourquoise, eye popping version of a mukoka chair. I picked it up at the One of a Kind show in Toronto where I’ve seen these chairs more than a few times. The makers of these chairs, Ian and Sandy Mackie share a love of design and the outdoors and offer 3 different chair styles under their company Jardinique. Jardinique builds Canadian climate-tested, classically inspired outdoor furniture that can live outdoors year round. They offer the chairs in any Benjamin Moore colour mixed in an outdoor industrial paint that's sprayed on over a primer. The chairs can be shipped anywhere in the world, each chair is shipped flat and ready to assemble with nothing more than a screwdriver and an hour or two to spare. First time customers report that assembling the chairs is easy.

The roundback lodge chair is based on a design that Ian and Sandy saw in Prince Edward County and reminded Sandy of fishing lodges she had visited in Quebec.

Jardinique's Westport chair - the Westport chair was originally designed by Thomas Lee in 1903. The design was patented in 1905. The brilliance of the design is in the angles of the seat to the back and the legs to the seat. The more the chair is sat on, the tighter and more solid the structure becomes. Also, Ian at Jardinique has ingeniously hidden all screws to prevent water penetration. Because of this, you will find none of the looseness typical of a Muskoka chair after a winter outdoors.

Probably the most remarked upon feature of these chairs are the ample arms! Measuring 8.5" wide.

Jardinique's Garden Chair is a re-design of an iconic Rietveld Chair. Gerhardt Rietveld, a Dutch architect, designed the original chair in 1918. One of these sits on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City.
For chair officianados, Jardinique's version is so much more comfortable and more sturdy.  The simple, yet effective alterations have maintained the look and feel of the original Rietveld Chair.

Loll Designs interpretation of this classic muskoka chair is clean, modern and eco friendly. Its durable, sustainable, all-weather - intended for advanced outdoor living. Its made of superior grade recycled polyethylene. Hidden fasteners enhance the clean lines. Below is the 3 slat and 4 slat Adirondak.

CR Plastics Products - Generation Line. Canadian made from recycled plastic. A more traditional looking muskoka chair without the maintenance.

Last month I travelled out to Peterborough for a meeting with a client, a construction detour took me in the opposite direction I was supposed to be headed and along this country road I happen to drive by the most colourful sight. There were thousands of muskoka chairs in every colour you could imagine. I pulled over, grabbed my camera and went to check it out. What I discovered was a company called Taylors Plastic. They manufacture outdoor furniture made from 100% Canadian recylced plastics and supply many retailers and resorts throughout the country. The plastic material is recycled in Ontario from 90% post consumer products, is non toxic and UV resistant. They make a classic muskoka chair, bar stools, tables, rockers and benches. The muskoka chairs weight about 50lbs and they now make a foldable version so they are easier to store away. Since discovering this company, I've come across their product in quite a few upscale garden shops in Toronto, but you can purchase direct from Taylors and they offer country wide delivery.

Although the chairs are available in a range of colours, in this product I prefer the white and the light blues. What you'll notice on the darker colours is a whitish graining in the material which makes it look like plastic even from a short distance. With the white however, its impossible to tell its plastic unless you touch it.

Photos: Loll Designs, Jardinique (10), Loll Designs (7), CR Plastics (3), Carol Reed (3)

Outdoor Lounging - A Modern Classic

When I think of the perfect outdoor lounge chair, two images come to mind. One is the traditional and classic Muskoka Chair (more on that in the next post) and the other, is the iconic modern Butterfly chair, also known as, the BKF Chair, or the Hardoy Chair.

The Butterfly chair is a favorite of mine because of its sculptural lines, its affordability, its flexibility, it can be used both indoors or out,,,,and folds up or stacks for easy storage, and the covers can be easily replaced or changed. With its steel frame and hammock like seat it evokes a relaxed mid-century style - this chair will instantly add a hip modern edge to any setting. I prefer it used in either simple modern, or simple rustic settings.

In 1937, Antonio Bonet, Juan Kurchan and Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy apprenticed under architect/designer Le Corbusier in Paris; the following year they invented the "BKF" or butterfly chair. In 1941, MoMA design director Edgar Kaufmann Jr. brought the first two chairs to the United States. One chair went to the museum, the other to Fallingwater, his home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Most people associate this retro cool looking chair with the 50's when it was being mass produced, its hard to believe it was actually designed in the 30's and first used in North America in a Frank Lloyd Wright house.

The chair was originally mass-produced by Artek-Pascoe. In 1947 Knoll acquired US production rights of the Hardoy butterfly chair, bringing international notice and commercial success to the design. Unlicensed knock-offs and the loss of a Knoll copyright suit have made this one of the most copied chairs of modern design and it became one of the most widely copied chairs in existence. After losing their claim of copyright infringement, Knoll dropped the chair from its line in 1951.

In 1997 Circa50 resumed mass-production of the chair to the exact dimensions of the Knoll version. Their frames are solid steel and do not fold or disassemble. Both black and stainless steel frames are historically correct, while stainless steel offers additional benefits: stacks for easy storage; contains 75% recycled steel and is totally recyclable; does not corrode or rust as easily as ordinary steel. An estimated 5 million of these chairs were produced during the 1950's by numerous manufacturers under various name and all varying in size. Circa50 makes covers for any size. Today, the canvas covers in use at Fallingwater are made by Circa50.

Steel Frame and cowhide cover by Circa50.

Folding frame and leather cover by Urban Outfitters.

Butterfly chair shown both inside Frank Lloyd Wrights Fallingwater house, and outside (below).

The ultra chic Parker Palm Springs hotel.

The Starlux Hotel, NJ.

The butterfly chair in a bamboo garden.

I owned a house last summer that I was renovating, we actually didn't do any new work to the backyard but it had a big huge beautiful tree and large level deck. I brought over a couple of my butterfly chairs and set them up under the tree and we sat and had lunch or coffee there almost every day. We often received comments on how great the backyard looked,,it was quite a mess actually but I think the chairs alone just brought a whole new modern vibe to the setting. (this picture was taken during a freaky summer hail storm)

Used indoors as often as outdoors. This image and more of this home can be seen at Dwell magazine.

The mesh version in all black seen in Elle Decor.

Today the Butterfly chair is part of these permanent collections; MoMA, Fallingwater, Knoll Museum, Vitra Design Museum.

Photos: Canadian House & Home, Knoll, Knoll, Circa50, Urban Outfitters, Flickr, Parker Palm Springs Hotel, Starlux Hotel, Flickr, Carol Reed, Dwell, Elle Decor, Living Etc., Country and Modern by Dinah Hall, Style at Home May 2008

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