My Design School Grand Finale

If you read my blog regularly, then you’re probably wondering where I’ve been. Well, it’s been a bit crazy finishing up my interior design program, but the great news is that I’m done! So I’m bound and determined to get back to blogging regularly again. And to read a book. And to do some yoga. But definitely the blog!

In case your curious about what exactly I’ve been doing in these all-consuming classes of mine, here I’m sharing my final project in my final class in the program, sort of my design school grand finale. The challenge was to design a conceptual three-story live/work unit inspired by the designs of both an architect and a fashion designer. In my case, I chose two people whose designs I feel compliment each other: Daniel Libeskind (architect) and Prabal Gurung (fashion designer). Here’s a photo of my inspiration board:


I would not say this is generally the style I gravitate toward in my own daily life but that’s exactly why I was so excited by the pairing of these two artists. What I really like about them both is each of their use of geometric shapes to create battling senses of symmetry and asymmetry, as well as the ways in which each of them use contrast to accentuate their designs. In the case of Daniel Libeskind, I was especially inspired by his combining of the old and the new in some of his projects. Often the shapes he uses in his architecture resemble a crystal or iceberg protruding from an otherwise symmetrical, grounded structure.

All of us in the class were given the same 3-story space to work within, assumed to be one unit in multi-unit building. We were given a program which included requirements like the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, offices, and common areas. After that, we were free to explore our design concepts in whatever way we chose. I knew I would need to add a Libeskind-esque iceberg-like element to the structure, and chose to do this by way of a skylight.
Exterior View

Below are four section-views (imagine cutting an apple in half, top to bottom, and looking at a perfect dissection of the inside). You can see furniture placement, materials, and the arrangement of the rooms within the space. Architecturally, I played a lot with the geometry of the walls. I wanted one cohesive set of geometry to pass through the entire space, which I used as the walls dividing each of the rooms. I wanted a person to be able to walk into the space and fully experience that geometry, not just see it visually. With that, I also wanted the overall space to feel very open, so I created a couple of double-height spaces; one is in the kitchen, which is open to the dining room above, and the other is in the living room which is open to the floor above, and then to the skylight beyond that. Section A color Section B color Section C color Section DThe first floor is essentially the “public” space and contains two offices, a common work/collaboration area, a powder room and the kitchen. The common work area also opens to the patio.
Floor Plan Level 1 The lighting is meant to be both functional and aesthetic, and includes a series of custom fluorescents inspired by Libeskind’s designs inset into the ceiling, as well as down-lights and wall-washers to highlight the entrance and the surrounding geometry on the adjacent walls.RCP Level 1

I chose a combination of geometric and industrial furniture furniture that compliment the style of Gurung’s and Libeskind’s designs while also creating a unique look that felt distinctly mine. On my materials board, I showed these as well as my custom design for desks for the offices. Throughout the design I dropped in elements of copper to brighten the look and feel of the color palette rooted in dark grays, champagnes, and whites. Finishes shown here include the carpet tile used in the private offices, paint colors for the non-sculpted walls, fabric used on the office guest chairs, a representation of the copper elements, and the kitchen cabinets, counter tops, and back splashes.DSCN5412

A rendering shows the entrance to the work-level of the unit. Notice the lighting on the ceiling and the shadows created by lighting on the walls at the entryway.
Render Floor 1

The second floor is the semi-private area, where the occupant would lounge and entertain. There is also a guest room and full guest bathroom on this level. Because I value a separation of work and home life, I designed the location of the kitchen (just below and open to the dining room) to be easily accessed from either the public work area or the semi private area without having to connect them. So if it’s a Saturday and you’re “off duty” you wouldn’t have to go through the office to get to the kitchen, and similarly you can heat up your lunch during the week without having to go “home” to do so. Also there is an additional entrance to this level so you can lock the doors to the office on the weekends and your cocktail guests can arrive directly to the party on the second floor.Floor Plan Level 2 The lighting here has the same goal as on the first floor, using similar fluorescents, down lights, and wall-washers.RCP Level 2

This materials board hightlights both the furnishings chosen for the dining and living areas as well as the typical finishes used throughout the entire three-story unit. You can see images of Libeskinds lighting and furniture design that inspired the lighting and furniture designs throughout the space. All the common area spaces are designed with polished concrete floors, and the sculpted walls are finished with a gray-washed wood finish. (This same wood color is also used for bedroom flooring.) Other finishes shown here include fabric for the custom Libeskind-inspired sofas, sheer drapery fabric, and paint colors for the non-sculpted walls.DSCN5413This rendering highlights the living room area of the second floor, and shows that it is open to above, with a chandelier hanging through the two stories.Render Floor 2Finally, the third floor is the private area consisting of two master suites connected by a landing which overlooks the living room below.
Floor Plan Level 3 Again, the lighting here has the same goals, but also includes bedside sconces and general ceiling lighting in the bedrooms that will be softer and warmer than the typical fluorescent lights used in the more open areas. Since the two-story chandelier would need to hang from the same location as the skylight, There will be a designed series of tension wires, one of which would deliver electricity to the chandelier hanging from the center of the skylight. This provides a practical solution with a designed execution.RCP Level 3

This is my favorite of the three materials boards, and includes bedroom furniture (my favorite is the upholstered leather bed) and fabrics for the bedding and lounge chair. You’ll have to take my word for it, but they are the kind of fabrics you just can’t resist touching! And the bathroom is intended to be high contrast, using black hexagonal floor tiles, a black and metallic geometric wall covering, and white marble on the counter tops and at the wall behind the tub.DSCN5414This rendering shows your view as you have arrived at the top of the stairs on the landing. There is one minimal railing to keep you from stepping off the edge. Clearly there are all sorts of building and safety codes that would not allow this to be built quite like this, but that’s why it’s so important to have an outlet (class) to explore conceptual ideas without restriction.Render Floor 3

In the end I had eight full presentation boards, plus an architectural model made from foam core, chip board, bass wood, and sheets of clear acrylic (below).IMG_0220 IMG_0221 IMG_0222 IMG_0223<big sigh of relief> And there it is! It took many hours of work to complete: finding materials and furniture, sorting out how these crazy shaped walls were going to work, and executing a cohesive presentation with all the documents to clearly express my design. But overall I had a lot of fun working on it!

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

My Kitchen Inspirations

I have had kitchens on my mind lately! This may be partly because I’ve been home a lot lately and I have had design on the brain. When we moved into our house, we knew the kitchen was the room in need of the most updating. Our plan has always been to do this on a pretty low budget. We love the original details than come with the vintage of the house, but also want to stay up to date with a look that will last us for a long time to come. We tend to lean toward a craftsman or farmhouse style, but with modern elements to keep it looking fresh and new. So I have been keeping my eyes open for inspiration, and I thought I’d share my thoughts with you!

I tend to be drawn toward a very whitewashed look. It feels fresh and clean, and something about it just inspires baking homemade bread and making jam.

We were certain about painting the dated original wood cabinets and the wood siding in the eat-in area of the kitchen white, which we did before the holidays (and that was no small feat!). We also found a wonderful gray color for the walls, not too blue and not to cold. Originally thought we’d like to have butcher-block countertops. But while that may look beautiful, in practicality I became worried about water damage to the wood around the sink over the long term.

Then I came across the idea of concrete countertops. We got pretty excited about this idea! I even found these instructions on how to do it yourself.

Too much work, you say? Yes, I agree. And again, in practicality, I started hearing about how easily it stains. Plus, concrete is very porous so the germaphobe in me started getting a little squeamish about what that means!

Enter quartz. I found a quartz option (called Pewter at the local family run kitchen and tile shop in the neighborhood) that looks a heck of a lot like a dark concrete. But the great thing is that quartz is not porous at all, is completely stain resistant, and does not have the marbling seen in granite. Quartz is even more durable than granite, so I will happily lean in this direction for our new countertops. Plus, when you see a beautiful remodeled craftsman style kitchen like the one above, it seems like the perfect combination of traditional vintage style and modern elements like the countertops and stainless appliances. This is very much like what we hope to accomplish in our own kitchen, including the white subway tile backsplash.

A look like this is still clean and modern, with a vintage feel fitting for our 1925 house.

We also plan to put in a single basin farmhouse style apron front sink, like one of these. I love the way these look! For our kitchen, we’ll choose an undermount sink, so that the countertops overlap the sink basin making it super easy to wipe food particles or the throw-away bits of chopped vegetables right into the sink and garbage disposal.

As for the floors, I’m thinking maybe something like this, so that it almost resembles slate. We have a bit of a challenge with the flooring since the house is so old. Currently the floor is layer upon layer of linoleum, mostly to do with the fact that the bottom layers were put in when asbestos glue was the standard. We’ve been told the best thing to do in this case is to tile over the existing linoleum. They essentially lay wood over the existing floor to create a new subfloor and then tile over that. The unfortunate thing is that it will add about an inch to the floor, causing a little step-up into the kitchen. What we’re hoping to do is to remove some of the existing linoleum (the newer stuff, of course) to minimize the additional rise as much as possible. (Ahh, the joys of owning an old home!)

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted as we finish our kitchen over the coming months (including before and after pictures!). I’m super anxious to get it all done! This is where I get to learn patience… it always pays off to take your time with these sort of things, to be absolutely sure it’s done right and that you’re getting what you want in the end.

What types of kitchens inspire you?