Friday, October 30, 2009

Yabu Pushelberg: The Book

I've been waiting anxiously for the arrival of Yabu Pushelberg's book which was scheduled to hit stores this week - so you can bet I'll be out this weekend trying to get my hands on one. The hardcover book is a portfolio of their projects which feature some of the world's most exclusive hotels, restaurants, retail shops and private residences. The Toronto based firm of Yabu Pushelberg have been creating timeless and artistic interiors worldwide for 30 years, with an office of 60 in Toronto and 23 in New York. Their client list includes; Four Season, W-Hotels, Carolina Herrera, Tiffany's, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, and Bergdoff Goodman to name a few.

I often find today that there's a lot of media hype and attention placed on very uninspired design work that's hyped as 'great design' by 'top designers' when most often its simply mediochre decorating at best. Definitely not the case here, the firm of YB epitomizes what excellence in Interior Design is all about and I think its unfortunate that this firm's work is more recognized by the public outside of Canada than it is here at home - these guys should be a household name. As one of our most talented exports, they have garnered international awards and recognition and are sought after around the world by exclusive hoteliers and restauranteurs and retailers who want nothing but the best when it comes to interior design. This firm's success is largely responsible for the reputation Canada has achieved for producing superior design talent.

Yabu Pushelberg have reached the pinnacle of success in their field and enjoy the luxury of being able to turn down jobs that other firms can only dream of one day being considered for.  It appears like they also live a jet-setting, glamourous lifestyle much like the clientele they design for and own homes in Toronto, NYC, Miami and the Hamptons, living amongst neighbours like Calvin Klein and Nicole Kidman. You'll see in the photos below; their projects have exquisite detailing using lots of exotic woods and stone, the lighting in their spaces is sheer perfection, the furniture is stunning and unique, the light fixtures always make a statement and what I love most is their passion for sourcing out local artists and craftsmen to bring one of a kind artistry to each project. I'm especially drawn to their use of artwork in their interiors and the way they often will frame a view like a piece of art.

As a designer I've admired their work since I was a student - here's a look at some of my favorite images from their website portfolio and I look forward to seeing more pages of inspiration in their new book.

St.Regis Hotel, San Francisco

St.Regis Hotel, San Francisco

Blue Fin Restaurant, NYC

Caroline Herrera boutique, NYC

W-Hotel, NYC

Tiffany's, Wall Street, NYC

Las Alcobas Hotel, Mexico City

Las Alcobas Hotel, Mexico City

Las Alcobas Hotel, Mexico City

I'm particularly drawn to the residential projects in their portfolio which feature homes in New York City, Miami and Toronto.....the photos below are of a Toronto residence which I've seen published before and if I remember correctly its also the home of Yabu and Pushelberg.

The next series of photos are of a Miami residence which I believe is Yabu and Pushelberg's personal residence in South Beach, Miami.

This last set of photos is a residence in NYC.

George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg in their NYC condo
Photo by Thomas Loof, for Toronto Life Magazine

All photos except the last one from the website of Yabu Pushelberg

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Why I Love IKEA Kitchens

Customized Kitchen with Ikea base cabinets - by Carol Reed Interior Design

Customized Ikea Kitchen - by Carol Reed Interior Design 
Photographed by Michael Graydon for Canadian House & Home

Ikea Kitchen - by Carol Reed Interior Design

This won’t be the first time you hear me declare my love for Ikea kitchen cabinets.  I designed and installed my first Ikea kitchen about 7 years ago and I’ve been a loyal fan ever since.  The three photos above are of some of my favorites that I've designed, one I've posted about previously (see cover of Canadian House & Home link in the sidebar) and the other two will be featured in future posts.   For anyone who has doubts about the quality of Ikea kitchens or for those who think its just not good enough for them, I have a little secret to let you in on.......Designers and Architects LOVE Ikea kitchens and use them all the time, have been for years.   We were quick to recognize the hardware they use is the same we were specifying for our custom millwork jobs,,,,and that we could shave 2 months off our construction schedules because this stuff was off the shelf!   When your budget and timeline are tight, you just can't beat it.  But it hasn’t been until more recently that the option of using ikea cabinetry has become more mainstream and appreciated for its great price and quality.  Here's another little secret, I have clients in quite affluent neighborhoods opting for Ikea over custom - some actually request plain, unmarked delivery trucks so their neighbours won't know!!!!  True story ; ) 

To really appreciate the quality, design and selection offered by Ikea you first have to have an understanding of kitchen cabinetry in general and what is available on the market.   Anyone who turns their nose up at Ikea cabinets is either completely in the dark or their kitchen budget is in a different stratosphere than the average homeowner.  Basically unless you’re going for a custom wood kitchen (meaning the base cabinets are made of wood, sized to fit, and start at at least $35k) then every other option you’ll look at will consist of base cabinets made from melamine, this goes for in-stock cabinetry and semi-custom cabinetry at Home Depot, Rona et al, and even semi-custom kitchen companies like AYA and Canac and Cameo - are all melamine base cabinetry.  And I can tell you, no other stock cabinetry has drawer boxes nearly as good as Ikea nor do they use high quality Blum hinges like Ikea does, never mind they don’t have nearly the selection of cabinets or interior organizers to chose from.   As for the kitchen companies, I have seen one of these companies that uses the exact same drawer boxes as Ikea and the same hinges, but none of them have as many cabinet sizes to chose from nor the interior accessories - and they’re at least 2 to 3 times the price, even factoring in installation.  I just have a hard time justifying to anyone why you should pay $20k or more for melamine cabinets that you can get for $6k or $7k.  These serious costs savings mean you can splurge on counters and appliances - which in my opinion is much better value for your money than expensive melamine cabs.

As far as new home construction goes, with few exceptions, they have some of the  poorest quality kitchens i’ve ever seen despite their luxury price tags.  Last year I toured a development in Yorkville which was selling multi-million dollar luxury condominiums ($2M and up),,,,of course the first thing I checked out was the kitchen cabinetry and sure enough behind the lovely wood cabinet doors was your basic melamine cabinet with cheap hinges and really lousy, poor quality drawer boxes.  

With all melamine base cabinets being equal (although not all drawer boxes are!) what it comes down to is you’re ultimately buying a door style.  Aesthetically, this is what your kitchen is all about because obviously its the visible part of your kitchen.  To me, this is the biggest differential between Ikea and any other kitchen options because Ikea certainly doesn’t offer the range of doors and glass that the kitchen companies do.  So you have to weigh the benefits of paying a premium for a company that offers more door styles or, compromising on your door style so you can take those savings and put that money into counters and appliances.   Alternately, if Ikea doesn’t offer a door style that you like then you can customize one of their doors (spraying) or simply order your doors elsewhere from a company like Cabinet Mart, an on-line supplier of made to measure doors.

Below are some photos of other Ikea installations published in various magazines, mostly from the UK magazine Living Etc.  I really think the Europeans do Ikea best, probably because they take a more utilitarian approach to kitchens, the cabinets are never the ‘feature’ of the room, always simple and understated.

Customized Ikea Kitchen - Living Etc. November 06

Sleek & White -  Living Etc.

A monochrome look in stainless - Living Etc., January 06

Mixed with antique buther block - Living Etc. March 08.

Ikea Stainless  - Living Etc. July 09

Rustic Loft Kitchen - Living Etc. December 08

White Kitchen - Living Etc. April 08

White & Wood kitchen in a Swedish flat -  Kitchen via Desire to Inspire

My favorite door style of Ikea's is the Applad white or any of their simple plain slab doors, they're understated and timeless.  For a more traditional look I like the Tidaholm shaker style but I'm not a fan of the natural oak colour so I prefer it with a custom sprayed finish.  The photos below are not Ikea kitchen installations (I'm pretty sure the 3rd one down is but I just wasn't able to confirm), however you can get this same look with Ikea.

Kitchen Design by Timothy Mather photographed for Canadian House & Home.

Sleek Glossy White - Living Etc. July 07

Living Etc.

Here’s a brief summary of my thoughts on Ikea:


  • excellent value,,,top quality hardware
  • love their drawer boxes
  • huge selection of cabinet styles
  • their butcher block counters are fantastic value
  • amazing selection of interior organizers
  • limitless design possibilities using their standard cabinets
  • 12”depths avail. including drawers
  • automatic self-closing drawers are standard
  • RETURN or exchange any unused pieces or pick up more pieces easily (in most cases) if there is a change in plans
  • SAVE thousands by installing yourself (if you’re really ambitious)
  • low cost of cabinets means you can splurge on counters and appliances
  • order online or by phone for delivery anywhere
  • 25 yr warranty


  • limited selection of door styles
  • they don’t do the greatest wood (basic birch, oak)
  • drawer widths limited to 30” (not a big issue)
  • the Ikea logo on their appliances (a huge turnoff, who wants a retailers logo on anything?)
  • the price does not include assembly/installation (add in another $1200 to $1700 for the average kitchen)
  • As of this summer, kitchens purchased in store now require most parts/pieces be picked up by the customers in the self-serve warehouse!!!  Insanity!  This is a MAJOR bummer, up until recently you only had to take a written order to the cash desk and be on your way - piece of cake.  The new process now requires loading up two or three carts and lots of help to wheel your flat packed kitchen to the cashier and then the delivery desk.  And once at the cashier, the cashier has to go thru every single item (there are hundreds of pieces).  Trust me,,,,this is not fun.  I hope Ikea comes to their senses and changes this system - this makes the experience completely frustrating, physically challenging, prone to errors, and hugely time consuming for their customers and staff.  It's enough to turn many people off using this product again.


  • AVOID the catalogue look ......use only their cabinetry.  Purchase sinks, faucets, lighting, handles/knobs, appliances and kitchen furniture elsewhere or your kitchen will look like an ikea showroom display
  • don’t buy their appliances with the Ikea logo on it!
  • stick to classic door styles .....avoid their cabinet door styles that are uniquely ikea, stick with cabinets that are more generic and available at most kitchen supplier (ie; white flush doors, shaker style, doors with plain glass, )
  • think of the base components like lego’s or building blocks to create unique layouts, the possibilities are limitless
  • take advantage of their full height end panels and various size cover panels which can be cut-down and used as filler pieces, trim pieces, valances etc.
  • you don’t have to order a ‘cabinet assembly’, you can order the components individually ie; just the base cabinet, or just the drawers,
  • mix two or three different colours, ie; wood end panels with white doors,,,or white or wood end panels with stainless steel doors
  • don't use 12" deep gables and cabinets around your fridge, enclose it fully for a truly built-in look (those black sides of your stainless steel fridge aren't meant to be seen!)
  • visit the showroom as not all their cabinets or parts are shown on line or in the catalogue
  • mix Ikea cabinets with freestanding furniture and shelving for an unfitted look
  • if you want a cabinet colour other than what ikea offers, have your doors, end panels and cover panels custom sprayed (tips on this coming up in a future post). 
  • use an experienced installer who's worked with Ikea cabinets before.

All of this being said, I’ve seen some really unappealing and poorly designed Ikea installations so like any home improvement project, the end result is only going to be as good as your design and the installation.  For the best results, hire a designer to plan your Ikea kitchen for you, no matter how much you spend on your new kitchen, it will fall short on function, style and quality without a great design plan and proper installation.  Check out my e-design website for more samples and info on affordable kitchen redesigns like Lori's kitchen shown below, seen at

Ikea Kitchen installation in progress - Kitchen design by Carol Reed via

Photos: 1st, 3rd, and last photos by Carol Reed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hung Up on Gallery Walls!!

Photograph by Anson Smart, via Desire to Inspire.

I admit - I'm obsessed with gallery walls.  I had to acknowledge this the other day while I was searching thru my archive photos and discovered an unusually large quantity (hundreds!) of photos illustrating gallery wall installations, I just can't get enough of them!  But they also happen to be one of the most common requests I receive from clients when addressing the finishing details of their homes, to create a gallery wall - actually, I've yet to work with a client who hasn't had it on their wish list!  Its easy to understand the appeal of these installations, much like how flowers and books instantly make a room feel lived in, a gallery of photos or artwork has the same effect.  A display of any collection gives the feeling that these things were collected over time and the fact that they've been put on display shows that these things provide a great sense of pleasure to their owners. Even more so, when you really get down to what is dearest and nearest to our hearts,,,,our photos, our collections of memories, and our ties with the past hold the highest material value to us as they truly express who we are as individuals, where we've come from, what we've experienced and who we treasure most in our lives.

No matter how many thousands of dollars or hundreds of thousands have been spent on renovations, for stone countertops, new floors, to-die-for soaker tubs,,,european faucets, state of the art appliances,,,and no matter how many months you searched for that perfect sofa or light fixture, or maybe even taken delivery of brand new furniture for your entire house - in my experience, nothing gets a more positive response or a bigger reaction from homeowners than when their personal photos or personal collections get hung on the wall! Its that 'transformation' moment.......when their space becomes a home.  Its no wonder in the event of an emergency like a fire or flood - these are the things that everyone will desperately try to save, forget about the $10,000 sofa. 

This week one of the things I'm working on is a small photo gallery wall for a client which will be installed on a tall staircase wall and comprised of travel photos she's had stored in boxes and on CD's for many years.  When I started planning out the image sizes and the frame finishes last week I searched through my image archives for photos of some of my favorite gallery walls to help me communicate with my client what I was envisioning.  As you'll see from the images below - there really aren't many rules with this process, whether its all photos, or a mix of various media, all black and white, all colour,,or a mix of both, each installation is always unique (which i think is another reason why they're so appealing to everyone). I do think certain interpretations may appeal more to some than others and the approach can be be either contemporary or traditional.   So if you've always loved the idea of creating a wall of your favorite photos or artwork but never dreamed you could put one together on your own, browse the images below and see how they all make it look so easy.  But be warned,,,,, you may soon become as obsessed with them as I am!

An eclectic collection of what looks like mostly old photos.  Photo source unknown.

Contemporary Grid style gallery wall.  Show home by Canadian House & Home.

All black & white photo gallery on chocolate brown wall.  Photo source unknown.

Gallery of vintage colour posters.  New York Apartment photo via Desire to Inspire blog.

A traditional grouping that integrates a mirror and wallsconces.  Despite the irregular shape, the arrangement is very symmetrical with each side almost mirroring the other.  Room design by C.W. Eisner.

A graphic grid style display of black and white photos.  Image by Photographer Morton Holton, via Desire to Inspire.

I'm CRAZY for this!!!!  Its like the armoire becomes part of the grouping of art.  Apartment of designer Thomas O'Brien, via House & Garden.

Classic and gorgeous.  Gold & Black & White.  Patric Johansson via Desire to Inspire.

Modern and dramatic black with colour.  Living Etc. July 08.  
The dark sofa helps to keep this balanced.

Modern and eclectic grouping of b&w photos mixed with some oil paintings, all cleverly arranged around wall sconces.  Room design by Katie Hume.

Black and whites surround a single coloured image.  Room design by Alexandra Rowley.

Elclectic gallery wall in the living room of Canadian House & Home editor Suzanne Dimma.

Photo source unknown.

This kitchen gallery wall just oozes LOVE & Happiness!  Photograph by Mark Lund.

Domino April 07.


Colour images on coloured wall.  Designer Show House, room design by Carrie & Co., via Habitually Chic.

This one is probably my all time favorite!!  Its also very similar to the look we're creating for the current gallery wall I'm working on as we have white walls and a large Moooi Random light fixture exactly as shown above.  Patric Johansson Photographer, via Desire to Inspire.

Black & White on an accent colour, stunning.  Domino magazine.

Modern black, white and graphic.  Photograph by James Tse for Canadian House & Home.


1.  Rules of thumb - there really aren't any hard rules,,,,but if you've never attempted a gallery hanging before try this no fail method of combining pieces that have at least one consistent theme ie; all b&w photos, or all white mats, or all black frames or keep all your spacing equal. Obviously this rule of thumb can be broken (see images above) and yield fantastic results but often takes more confidence and a keen eye.
2. Starting point - start with your largest or your strongest piece first then work out, up and down from there.
3. Lay it out - if starting with 3 or more pieces,,lay them out on the floor first until your happy with the configuration, then note the dimensions of each piece in relation to the other so you can recreate that placement on the wall.  While its still laid out on the floor, it also helps to measure the overall width, and the overall height of the grouping which will give you a centre point to use for reference.
4.  As Seen on TV - this Hang & Level gizmo is a fantastic tool for hanging artwork and makes quick work of hanging multiple pieces.
5.  One is enough - pick one location for a gallery wall in your home, unless your home is incredibly expansive, more than one will look too busy.
6.  Renting - if you're weary about putting dozens of holes in your landlord's walls, you can create a gallery effect by layering and leaning multiple pieces of art along a shelf, a bench, a mantle or a credenza.
7.  Instant & Inexpensive - if you've got a lot of blank walls but not a lot of collections or cash......go for high impact with a grid style installation by purchasing 9 or 12 inexpensive ready made frames with mats and insert a series of prints or photocopies or book pages.  These can always be replaced in future with more significant images but in the meantime, you'll have an instant and dramatic gallery wall.
8.  Grid vs. Random - A random grouping can look extremely interesting and eclectic and is in my opion more casual looking than a grid layout, but some may find the concept intimidating to lay out and or install, although as you can see from the photos above its hard to go wrong.  The benefit of this method is you can start with only a few pieces and continue to grow and grow as long as you still have wall space.  A symmetrical grid installation is classic and can be a bit more formal looking.  The multiple use, repitition, of the same frame creates a dramatic graphic effect which in itself has a lot of impact.  This method is ideal if you have a collection of similar items or series of items, or as noted in no.7 above, if you need an instant completed installation using a set of frames rather than accumulating a collection of different frames and pieces over time. 

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