gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Category Archives: Interior Design

The virtue of place

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Places can take over the destinies of people who live in them. If you learn to listen, they tell you what they need and how to do it.

Charlotte Horton

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This resonates with me as I think about my grandparents’ house in Massachusetts that I helped renovate when I lived there for a year (full disclosure – I did not do the work…we hired contractors). I was only there a short time, but it felt like home almost instantly. Of course, it was familiar to me since I had visited my grandparents every year growing up, but I didn’t always love it. I actually hated going there when I was younger because it was so isolated and my grandparents didn’t have a TV (I couldn’t understand how anyone could function without a TV!), and I felt like there was nothing to do there. I didn’t appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the surrounding Berkshires. My connection to the house and to the Berkshires weighs heavily on my mind, especially now, as I was just there for a visit and we are seriously considering selling the house. It’s hard to know how we’ll all feel when that day comes, but for me it will probably feel like giving away a part of me since I have such a love for it.

When I moved there the house was outdated for sure, so doing some renovations was a no-brainer. Some, in fact (like the primary bathroom), had to be done out of necessity because the floor boards were rotting and we felt as though the floor would fall from under us any day. So that was the first major project and it was a total gut. Next up was painting almost every room, which hadn’t been done in decades. In the dining it involved removing the dark brown grass wallpaper (which made the room feel so dark and small), and painting it white. We also replaced the linoleum tile floor with a pretty laminate wood floor. We then gutted the small powder bath. In the kitchen we put a new tile floor in, new granite countertops, a new tile backsplash, new stainless steel appliances, a new sink and faucet, and new hardware on the cabinets. The cabinets are not in perfect shape, but I actually love the stain on them, which goes perfectly with the mid-century modern style of the house. Two bedrooms in the walk-out basement got new laminate wood floors, and we put new berber-like carpet in the family room in the basement. On the exterior, a new roof was put on, and some landscaping was done, like taking out trees and bushes in the backyard to improve the view of the mountains.

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In a recent New York Times Style Magazine article, Charlotte Horton discusses her experience renovating a dilapidated castle in Tuscany built on Etruscan foundations. While my renovation of my grandparents’ was on a much smaller scale than Hoton’s castle renovation, especially because I made modern updates without really considering the period of the house and I didn’t have to worry about restoring anything within a historical context, I can certainly relate to her desire of going back to her family’s roots and setting up her own roots there. I felt like I set up roots in Massachusetts where my grandparents lived for several years, even though their true original roots were in Europe. For Horton it was more than just restoring the castle though. She wanted to have an impact, and still does, on ecology and food – on the way that people interact with and cultivate the land around them and think about where their food comes from. If people can make judgments about their food, she believes, they will be better equipped to make judgments about all sorts of things in life, which we are in dire need of these days.

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“Lived In”

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Architect duo (both personally and professionally) Zoe Chan Eayrs and Merlin Eayrs design homes from the inside out, literally and figuratively. They buy houses in the London area and live in them for a while as they design and renovate them, which means that they are authentically put together and decorated with pieces that are collected over time, rather than superficially staged with pieces for the sake of needing to find pieces to fill the space. Because they live in the houses while working on them, there is no client for whom they have to design for. They design for themselves, in a new way/style each time, therefore honing in on every detail over time. Although each project is unique, they do have a muted, subdued color palette that creates a sense of calm that’s like an ode to the present connected to an elusive past – a history embedded in it, yet created by the design in the present. The end result is a personal, unique labor of love that the client buys because he/she likes the house, not because the client hired them to design a house to his/her liking.

Their website features a portfolio of their work in both pictures and video form so that you get to experience the spaces and the details for yourself, and catch a glimpse of their creative output. You can also learn about their design process, the materials they used, where they found their inspiration for each project, obstacles they encountered along the way, etc. My favorite is The Herringbone House, which Zoe Chan Eayrs actually designed without Merlin Eayrs, as I’m partial to a lighter, airier feel. Although the New Cross Lofts, which they both designed, is a close second. So go take a tour!

Vintage Chicago Apartment

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Looking for an apartment in Chicago is not easy. I looked for about a year before I found my current place in Andersonville. The city can be affordable if you have roommates, but by yourself, not so much. There are so many factors that go into finding the right place – cost is obviously a big one, neighborhood feel, commute to work, and simply a space that is somewhat updated and doesn’t feel like it’s about to fall apart (I’ve seen some bad ones…). Each neighborhood in Chicago feels so different from the next, so for me finding that right neighborhood feel was one of the most important factors. I’m not sure I’ve found it, but I do like the apartment itself a lot. It’s a one bedroom with a fireplace in the living room, separate dining room, and a dishwasher in the kitchen! What it doesn’t have – in-unit laundry (it’s int he basement which is creepy!), air conditioning, or an elevator (but I’m just on the second floor). It’s also not dog-friendly.

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It does have amazing windows with lots of light streaming in! Compared to my previous apartment, which was in the basement, this feels like heaven. My new cat loves running around and looking out the windows. It has radiators and heat is included, which is nice, and there is no pet fee, which is unusual for the city. So I got lucky there! The kitchen was renovated right before I moved in and it doesn’t have granite countertops or stainless steel appliances, but it’s still pretty nice. The bathroom was also updated and while small, it feels new and clean.

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I moved in December, hence my little Charlie Brown Christmas tree.The sofa is from Market Square, a second-hand store here in Chicago that sells gently-used high-quality designer furniture and decor. The coffee table is from West Elm. The pillows are also from West Elm.  And the art is by a local Chicago artist, Kate Bush. Love her work!

 

Design vs. Art

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I subscribe to Chicago Gallery News, and since I am a lover of both art and design, this interview with Helen Maria Nugent peaked my interest. Nugent teaches architecture and design at SAIC (School of the Art Institute Chicago), so she is well equipped to discuss this topic. The distinction she makes between art and design in that design is directed towards a purpose and a function for an end user, and art holds more of an aesthetic value not necessarily intended for a purpose, is spot on.

We are constantly talking about this. One of the ways I think design is different from art is that designers are typically thinking about how their work will fit into the life of another person; most design work is not complete until it has a life beyond the designer. Even if the work is self-initiated, the goal is often for it to be able to function in the world. It’s not that artists don’t think that way too, but it’s not as common.

The design of objects also plays into the way that we define ourselves. We look to collect objects that are both of functional value to us, but also aesthetically pleasing and in some way particular to us that help us define our persona to present to the world.

Objects play a big part in how people want to be seen—they express themselves through objects, like with clothing. When looking for objects or furniture, many people now demand that the design meet their functional needs, but they also want it to have aesthetic appeal, be smart, and be made of good materials…

 

Magnolia Market / Waco, TX

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So I had one of the best days of my life this past Saturday…at Magnolia Market in Waco, Texas! Honestly, I think it’s the happiest place on the planet. Everyone there is just so happy to be there, and the employees are very friendly. I have found that to be true of all the people I met in Texas actually (but I can’t speak for all of Texas of course). Anyway, back to Magnolia…I went to Austin to support my friends who were riding in the BP MS 150 bike ride from Houston to Austin and took advantage of Austin’s proximity to Waco. I mean, I couldn’t be so close to Waco and not go! More about Austin and the bike ride in my next post.

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We arrived to Austin late Friday night after our flight was delayed a couple of hours as we just sat on the tarmac due to a disgruntled passenger. We got to our hotel around 1 in the morning, at which point the hotel no longer had a room for us because it was too late and they had to ship us to a different hotel. We finally got to the bed around 2 and had to get up at 5:30 to catch the 7 AM bus to Waco. Needless to say we tired, but getting up wasn’t hard because we were so excited to go to Magnolia. My mom went with me, which was really special because Magnolia is a place that exudes family.

We only had 3 hours in Waco before catching the bus back to Austin so we used our time wisely. We didn’t go to their new restaurant, Magnolia Table, because it’s a three mile shuttle ride away from the main complex and the wait time can be long. Oh well, next time! So we had breakfast at the bakery and the cupcakes were amazing! The outdoor seating area is very pleasant and reminds you of a French cafe.

After breakfast we went to the main store and spent about an hour there. It’s big, with two floors and lots and lots of people. So it takes a while to go through all of it, take everything in, and make final selections for what to buy. There were definitely some things I picked up right away, but others that I thought about while walking through and went back to pick up (which is not easy because there is a bit of path/flow that people follow throughout the store). I obviously got one of their signature Linen candles, a few wooden kitchen things, a T-shirt (super soft!), a beautiful little necklace made by an artisan in Nashville, TN (which I’ve worn everyday since I got it), the Spring issue of The Magnolia Journal, a couple body products, and a cute little metal Magnolia sign.

Then we went to the Seed + Supply store, which is much smaller and less crowded, but still adorable. They have several food trucks in the big outdoor area and my mom and I got crepes!

Sadly, it was time to go. I was so so happy to be there and it was absolutely worth the trip from Austin, even if just for a few hours. It’s definitely not my last time there and I’d love to see it decorated for Christmas. I also want to explore more of Waco and drive around to see the various houses that Chip & Joanna have renovated. Until next time, Magnolia!

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The second Chicago Architecture Biennial

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The Architecture Biennial has graced Chicago twice now – the first time in 2015 and most recently this past Fall of 2017. It went down in January, and of course I waited until the last week to go see it. I wish I would have gone earlier so that I could have gone back to see my favorite things a few times. The theme for this most recent installation of the biennial was “Make New History” and it featured 141 architects, theorists, designers, etc. from 20 + countries. So it really is a global event, housed at the beautiful Chicago Cultural Center in the heart of the loop. These are pictures of some of the displays that most caught my eye.

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This is a model of Yves Saint Laurent’s salon…isn’t it glamorous?? So full of art…

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I loved these white trees!

Interiors have always held a special place in my heart, so I liked this exhibit entitled “The Room of One’s Own”, which included several drawings of singular interior rooms.

I work at a kitchen & bath showroom, so I was pretty amused by this miniature pink bathroom.

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This room was very cool with about 10 or so models of fictional skyscrapers. As you can see how they compared in size to a person, they were towering!

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Looking forward to the next Architecture Bienniale in a couple years from now!

MTI Baths

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I got to go to MTI Baths last Spring for a training through work and it was such a wonderful experience that I will not soon forget. They were hospitable and embodied my idea of southern hospitality. Their products are beautiful and carefully crafted right here in the U.S. in the Atlanta, GA area. We went on a tour of their factories and had the pleasure of meeting the people who make their unique products. I especially like their stone tubs, a couple of which I got to try for myself in the Woodward Mill House where MTI hosts their visitors. While it’s a new house, it’s filled with both new and old furniture and decor pieces that date back to the 1860s, giving it a bit of a southern plantation feel. The room I stayed in had two bathtubs in the bathroom – the lovely stone Juliet and the Jasmine, a Japanese style round soaker. I can’t say enough about the amazing whirlwind experience I had at MTI for the two days I was there. To top it all off, they have a female CEO! Katherine Adams was kind and her passion for her work and the company she has helped foster was palpable.

This is a nice little video to give you some insight into their company culture.

IIDA Headquarters

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The International Interior Design Association (IIDA) in Chicago, IL has a sleek new office on the riverfront designed by Gensler.

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Click here to read about the design process of this space and to see more pictures.

 

West Elm Headquarters

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This looks like a fun office to work in…the West Elm headquarters designed by VM Architecture & Design (VMAD) in New York City featured in Contract Design magazine reflects the aesthetic that West Elm promotes and looks like a fun collaborative space. Click here to see more pictures!

Southwest chic

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There is something about the southwest that is calling my name and I can’t exactly put my finger on it. I’ve never been to a desert, and part of me pictures a bunch of creepy crawly things, but the other part of me pictures a picturesque vastness of land with beautiful shrubbery and endless sunsets. So I suppose it could be the exotic nature of the southwest that appeals to me since I’ve never been there.

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This modern house in Arizona featured in The New York Times Style Magazine definitely captured my heart, which, let’s be honest, isn’t hard to do when it comes to architecture and interior spaces. I don’t say this to minimize it at all; I simply mean that exteriors and interiors broadly speaking really do something for my soul. I like the natural elements of this ranch-style house, with the wooden ceilings, the simple fireplaces, and expansive windows connecting the outdoors to the interior. Just imagine those views… I like the sparsity of the furniture, which draws your focus more towards the space rather than the things that are in it. The mix of contemporary furniture with authentic antique pieces is also right up my alley.

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My dad is in Albuquerque, NM for a conference right now and he keeps sending me pictures of things he’s seeing, which is making me pretty green with envy.