September 22, 2010


This is the very first time I have ever “re-blogged"!
You know, those bloggers that show you a story (verbatim) from el D├ęcor or Architectural Digest, et al and act as if they’ve brought you something new…. Bitch, please...
Well, I'm doin' it today, but I'm going to give my priceless totally awesome is that?
I knowwwww.....

Originally, I was going to write a Master Class about blue interiors... Then, whilst drudging through hundreds of snaps of blue rooms, I suddenly realized so many of my favorite images were of this one particular house Victoria Hagen did about six years ago in Nantucket which is absolutely perfect in every detail! All of its rooms are done in blue or off white, throughout.
Unlike other bloggers, I'm gonna use my nonpariel design skills to dissect the job, point out the genius of Hagan’s design by dumbing-it-down so ya'll can hopefully apply some of the principles to your homes...
well... maybe not.....
Lets start with the exterior:
This gorgeous Nantucket home is one many people would love to own in the "new" Nantucket.
(ALL rich folks - no more middle class, or old salty types).
Yes, its true...
The house we're discussing this week was designed by the architects Ferguson & Shamamian, who beautifully nailed the traditional Nantucket look.

With any home you should consider these points:
- What is the point of this house? Whats its use to your life's fulfillment (100 words or less please)

- Is it a beach house or primary home?

- What makes this house special, sets it apart from any other?

- How has it been sited? (situated on the property)
This very house is amazingly well sited which takes advantage of stunning sea views and provides privacy.

Lets enter as guests would through the Main Foyer.
On this cross axis hallway we immediately notice the simplicity of the pure white walls and trim. An entire house totally void of all the 'done-to-death' fancy paint colors and wall coverings. The floors are stained a chestnut brown with a semi-gloss finish which reflects light around the house AND balances the whiteness with warmth. Ebonized or Bleached floors would be expected.... and horrible...
This house has a very "American" feeling; it uses mostly English country furniture styles. The spare antique furnishings (maybe some repro's..who cares) give this newly built house "patina" which is the most important key! It's what you like when you look at the photos; the patina adds softness and age which is what makes us feel (implies) it's an old fashioned beach house. Notice the "balance" of coolness and coziness....PERFECTION!
 Next, the Living Room:


Truly, one of my favorite rooms of all times....and I'm not a 'blue' person!
They've left the view as the primary player and not overshadowed it by using brightly colored fabrics and fancy pieces of furniture or art, which is awesome!!! The beautifully articulated mouldings, mantle and beadboard/beamed ceiling are all painted semi-gloss white, in keeping with this simplistic palette throughout the house.
Notice that there are only four or five textiles; white linen upholstery, blue leather wing chair, linen curtain panels, striped cotton and blue linen on some pillows. The restraint IS the beauty of this house. There's no trim on anything and no useless accessories...
I LOVE that!!!
The furniture throughout is almost always squared off, not catty-cornered or skewed about in the rooms - it's all nicely lined up, giving a nice contemporary air to the otherwise traditional home.
I must add....the architecture is 50% of this homes success. I'm not sure if Hagen's office or the architects did the interior elevations, but they rock! The spare wooden furniture is a rich walnut-tone..and it all matches, I hate different woods in a space!
(thank God Victoria listened to me when I told her to do that)
Important Point: Backgrounds are important! Many people make the mistake of cheaping out on the interior build-out and then spend it all on schmaltzy furnishings.. dumb budgeting at its best...
This room goes together like a symphony.....
"no instrument outplays the other"... PERFECTION!
The Dining Room, a lovely, casually elegant space.

It feels like a beach house dining room - imagine...
It has a huge, chunky farm table used with brown-wood English side chairs and two host chairs in white linen (keeping the center of the room from becoming too brown and heavy); British colonial armchairs flank the sideboard. The aged brass chandelier is 'familiar' and it adds patina, it feels as if it could've been original to this house (if it were an old house). The amalgam of the furnishings is well chosen and very casual ... a country-style side-board, antique mirrors, unmatched chairs, blackened William & Mary sconces and NO rug.
Notice: the "line-of-sight" is always considered; whats in the view from any standpoint all works together here...PERFECTION.

The Kitchen:
The semi-gloss beadboard walls and ceiling makes this space feel so fresh and patinated at the same time. Continuing the theme throughout the house of everything painted white is an old fashioned beach house idea. If it was painted in several shades, "antiqued" or "distressed" it would just look phony and very 2002. I love the use of blackened hardware and polished floors (throughout the entire house). The continuation of wooden floors and white wall color makes this room look huge. The kitchen is totally lit by the wonderful old pharmacy lights and lamps. The table is an old, distressed wooden table which you dont have to worry about ruining and chairs are inexpensive French-style cafe chairs, offering whimsey and ease of care as they can be seated in in wet bathing suits. Also, notice there are no curly-cues, brackets or pilasters on any of the cabinetry, they're square, plain and simple = PERFECT!
Lets head upstairs!
In the crisply painted stair-hall we have wainscoting with few details, which keeps it simple (remember, beach house!) the stairs are carpeted with a plain beige (which hides traffic patterns and soil) runner with deep-blue banding exposing about 5" of the wooden treads. The lighting is provided by simple black-finished wall sconces with paper shades giving a subdued, cozy light at night. Also notice the banister and pickets, they're so plain and yet so PERFECT.
The wainscoting and architectural details continue upstairs. Once you arrive at the top of the stairs you'll notice the ceilings are almost all clipped, hipped or angled which adds great charm to any upstairs room, it's more cozy with angles and dormers. The furnishings are more modest and cottagy. Bedrooms should feel cozy and are smaller than public rooms; there is nothing worse than an egregiously large bedroom...its offensive to the human psyche - we're like dogs, we wanna sleep under the porch where it's cozy and comfortable not in rooms the size of ballrooms...unless of course... well, never mind...

Notice that the bedrooms are generous, but not huge, and they're furnished modestly which gives guests a sense of comfort. The room below has beadboard walls and old fashioned ceiling lights. The gleaming wooden floors are covered with a large carpet which is best for acoustics, but the small border of brown wood floor adds visual warmth. In small rooms, pairs of things make it look bigger
(bedside tables, lamps, etc.)
This adorable room below - sooo simple and modest is absolutely charming. The diaphanous unlined linen London shade gives a filtered light, cuts the glare and adds softness to the room as privacy is not an issue. This painted furniture is inexpensive and it just doesn't matter - it works! The pale blue walls are cool, comfortable and beachy - paired with the simple bed linens - no cabbage roses, no cabana stripes, no blue and white leopard spotted crap... PERFECTION ! Photobucket
This upstairs sitting-room off the master bedroom is a wonderful place to watch TV, or cozy up with the kids before bed. It's also a personal space - out of the way of guests where one can work at the desk or talk privately. The white scheme continues and feels fresh, still. The textiles are all solids and plains. Patina is provided by the antique chart over the sofa, the bookcases, lamps, side chairs and tables which are all "found pieces" not some suite of furniture from a design center somewhere.... PERFECTIONPhotobucket
The Master Bathroom and Dressing Room are nothing extraordinary, but they're perfect for this house! Simple colors, no wild-ass polychrome mosaic tiles, no mirrored walls. The scale is elegantly modest....not small but not huge. The built-ins are nice as they don't create visual clutter by trying to be "pieces of furniture." The mirrors are framed in walnut color to match the floors and chairs; they're custom sized but framed like a pair of antiques which is great. If the two sidewalls in the dressing room were mirrored two things would happen: 1) The room then have an optical illusion which is totally out of place for this home. 2)It would look too schmancy, this way the need for mirrors is accomplished but looks old fashioned. The end rewsult? PERFECTION
What didn't you notice??
No wall-to-wall carpeting
No buttons, bows or gee-gaws (plain curtains, pillows, carpets)
No schmancy mouldings with curly-ques (only tailored details)
No recessed lighting
No floral fabrics (too "Shabby Chic")
No diferent schemes in every room (making it look like a decorator showhouse)
No modern furnishings (yet it looks contemporary!)
No ethnic carpets (too predictable)
No cabana striped fabrics (tres Pottery Barn)
No legions of accessories (no "this way to beach" signs)
No loads of flowers or plants everywhere
No uneccessary items in any room (crappy decorations)
No staged decorations (silk ivy flowing out of a basket in kitchen)

You Can Do It, I'm Here to Help!

September 1, 2010






We've just passed a recent resurgence of black and white floors. It’s always fun to see them done ‘well’ in beautiful marbles, limestone or ceramic. This is a pattern that’s been used for four millennia; it’s not going to go away…ever. Personally, I think its classic and works with all decors, modern through traditional.


There are several theories on how to do it and why it’s done, blah, blah, blah……
Many architects and designers believe a checkerboard floor should be laid on the diagonal within a border. I think it looks great either way, diagonal or perpendicular, bordered, unbordered...
Scale is EVERYTHING when using a pattern. The checkerboard can go anywhere from a tiny small pattern to enormously grand one and work just as well each way, which always depends on the rooms size and what else is going on in there.

A small checkerboard in a huge room will look like an old pharmacy or soda fountain floor from the 1950's. Whereas a huge-ass pattern in a small room will look weird and unreadable as a pattern and cause “visual confusion.” (Which I suffer from wayyy too often…)

As we've discovered, black and white is the oldest checkerboard flooring style. These traditional, contrasting colors make a clean, or contemporary or retro-chic statement. From vinyl and linoleum to limestone and marble, any material can be used to create a chic checkerboard floor. Besides black and white, other colors can be paired with white as well.
If you love hardwood flooring it's possible to have a checkerboard design by choosing light and dark colored hardwoods.



While you’re perusing tiles….Remember 12” square floor tiles are r-e-a-l-l-y pedestrian as that’s the “standard tile size” which can be purchased at any 'big-box' or tile store.

Get whats appropriate for YOUR house! Don't copy that tragic palatial foyer you just saw in the movie and think "I have to have it." It'll look like shit, and its a permanant installation, not easy to correct!
If you have a Colonial home be simple and use matte finished marble. If you have a Deco-style home, look through magazines for alternative ideas as the Deco period was about re-interpreting tradition in a more streamlined way, perhaps using a checkerbord border with plain field.
Be very careful of trends! Tumbled tiles and stones are phasing out now, cleaner lines are back in. Shiny is out - matte is in. And those damn 1'x1' Bizzaza glass tiles are sooo DTD (done-to-death) OMG...

Often a room will have weird angles or a bad shape that can be corrected with a border.
After you diagram the room choose a field area that fits inside all the protruding angles, creating a square or rectangle within all the wacky angles. It will guide your eyes to the field and visually usurp the bad layout or symmetry.

FIELD: It's OK to use 1” x 1” (but don’t use a 2 x 2, or 4 x 4 black and white checkerboard, it will “strobe” on you (big time!) especially if you have an
BORDER: Remember, a border makes a small room look smaller. My thoughts are use less disparate colors, colors that are closer in tone are best in smaller rooms.


BORDER: A small border of one color in this space would be fine, 3” to 6” wide.
FIELD: Tiles can be 3” to 12”
Rooms this size can be installed diagonally or parallel.
Inserts should be no larger than 2"- 4” square; used at each intersection or every other.
The one above is perfect! The one below shows tiles wayyy too big for the room (that's the least of that room's problems!.. What's with the columns and milking stool?)

BORDER: One or two colors; scale depends on many factors, field area, tile size.
FIELD: Tiles can be just about any size.
This lovely tone-on-tone floor above is so chic and timeless

Personally, I think the pattern below is too bold in this kitchen, the tiles are too big. It's fun, but in 4-6 years I think one would tire of it. BUT, I do love the black and white with the pastel mushroom-colored cabinets!

The bath below uses small 4" x 4" tumbled Carrera and Jade marble tiles. They look wonderful and are perfectly scaled. Large tiles would've been too busy with the walls and other things in the room. This way, they create a lovely background pattern.
(Source: Joseph Paul Davis)

I love this smaller bath with the large scaled tiles, but using subtler colors and a border.

BORDER: A border is a lovely touch in a foyer, its adds a fine detail.
As you can see, some of the spaces below don't have borders and don't appear to be missing them either. Remember, a border makes a small space look smaller as it “defines” the space.
FIELD: This is where the classic black and white checkerboard reigns supreme!
These foyers below both have painted wooden floors, humble yet smart looking. The one on the right is a bit shiny for my discerning taste..

BORDER: A border in a dining room is great! In a large room, even one as much as two foot wide will be great with a small pencil border at the edge of the border - very English! This size room also doesn’t need a border, it looks more Continental without one.
FIELD: The field can be diagonal or parallel, the scale depends on the colors and tones of checkerboard. If there are lots of chair legs and table legs, I wouldn’t have a busy or large pattern with disparate colors, it’ll look very cluttered.

Above: An example of "visual clutter" with table and chair legs combined with the checkerboard floor pattern.

BORDER: Any size border is fine in here, from 2 inch, to 2 feet. It’s not necessary at all. (See dining room)
FIELD: Personally, I think the pattern should be simpler. Perhaps all one color with smaller contrasting inserts at the intersections. The reason I suggest this is usually a living room has a lot of furniture around. If the floor has a strong pattern with all the other stuff on top of it, it will be very busy looking.
NOTE: If youre planning on putting a carpet over the checkerboard, then you'll want a smaller scale checkerboard, otherwise it'll look like shit with bits and pieces of the colors and angles sticking out from under the carpet.
Also, if using a carpet, don't have a border on the floor itself.

BORDER: Either is fine...yes or no.
FIELD: Traditionally, a conservatory would have a more durable stone floor (limestone, granite, slate, etc.) as polished marble is always thin and less durable. Heavy, thick, hard stones are much more durable and hold the heat better which would've been preferred for the plants. We used two muted, but different shades of limestone in this conservatory because the flooring runs into the kitchen, flower arranging room and an outdoor screen porch, so the subtle tones are easy on the eye. The inserts are black which pick up on other black accents in the kitchen.
(Source: Joseph Paul Davis

(Source: Joseph Paul Davis)

BORDER: Yes, it’s a nice detail, but not important.
FIELD: Go for a traditonal pattern or be natural, whether in brick, stone, tiles, grass, cement, etc. Have fun with it!

BORDER: Nah…if you want it, do it in the same material.
FIELD: You can either do something tone on tone, or something with disparate colors. Live it up, its just paint!

Don't lose your marbles over this...

You can do it, I'm here to help!


THE DECORATING STAPLE THAT'S ALWAYS IN STYLE SISAL!! (Source: Phoebe Howard)    Since sisal's introduction to the interi...