Classic Design for Modern Living

Category: Autumn Decorating

Summer Here We Come

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

Now that Memorial Day has come and gone I’m a bit restless. I can’t stop myself from thinking about summer. Hopefully there are many lovely sunny days ahead. We’ve had a few tastes here and there followed by days that were damp, gray and rainy. I’m not complaining about the weather, this is Chicago after all. I’ve been thinking about my summertime goals, how about you?

 

 

Current Projects

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

We’ve been doing many extensive kitchen and bathroom renovations. Some of our clients are forgoing the traditional kitchen demolition and allowing our fantastic artisans to refinish existing cabinetry in their home which saves our clients thousands of dollars. We typically replace the hardware, countertops and backsplashes. A whole new look for a fraction of the cost. Stay tuned for the after photos.

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

This Chicago client is getting a new reading nook off the Living Room. The space is coming along really well. The artwork will be hung soon, and the new rug is en route. Thank heavens for my wonderful clients, I am blessed to create the spaces of their dreams. Great design is healing, therapeutic and enriches our lives in more ways than I can explain here. I’ll change your life, I can even make you happy to get up in the morning.

On a personal note, I have a few projects of my own scheduled: painting the garage, landscaping and some general household repairs that we’ve put off. Can you relate? Please let me know if you need a painter, furniture recovered or help with any projects (small or large) you have been considering.

 

Bon Appetito Pepito

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

Piccolo Sogno’s garden, yes please!

 

I love to eat, how about you? Summer is the best time to enjoy a great meal outside in the sweet sunshine or romantic moonlight. There are so many great places in Chicago that come to mind. I love going to Piccolo Sogno for lunch, brunch or dinner, you’ll be hard pressed to find a prettier outside dining room in Chicago. I also love Lula Cafe, their outside dining isn’t as gorgeous but the food is fantastic whether you sit in or outside. If you think I only like fancy places you are wrong, I’m just as happy with a burger, a beer and the tatted up crowd at Kuma’s Korner, they have outdoor seating too. Be sure to get out there and have something tasty!

 

Let’s Take The Afternoon Off

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

We will never forget the 2016 World Series

 

When I’m stressed out and feeling beleaguered I spend an afternoon at a Cubs game. There’s nothing better than being at Wrigley Field. I prefer day games so I can be out in the sunshine. Give me a hot dog, a bag of peanuts, a few beers and I come back a new man. Can’t take the afternoon off? When pressed for time I love going to a great movie. It’s fantastic to hide out in a dark air-conditioned theater and totally escape reality for two hours. I just saw “Paris Can Wait” written and directed by Eleanor Coppola, it’s about an under appreciated wife (Diane Lane) who is barely noticed by her workaholic husband (Alec Baldwin). The plot line is entertaining and the French scenery is gorgeous. I won’t tell you what happens, but it touched my romantic heart. I’m also looking forward to seeing a few bigger productions: Spiderman, Logan Lucky, Dunkirk and The Dark Tower look good to me!

 

 

Ciao Bella

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

Venice Biennale 2017

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

I don’t have any concrete travel plans, I’m daydreaming about the Venice Biennale. The magical and mysterious beauty of La Serenissima really gets me going. If you go to Italy this summer be sure to see this incredible art fair held every other year. The best part of Venice is getting lost, so don’t worry if you do. Insider tip: don’t panic–find a cafe, have a glass of wine (or three) and watch the world go by. Who knows what adventures await you. Don’t forget to have coffee or a meal at Cafe Florian or Quadri in Piazza San Marco or a Bellini at Harry’s Bar. The best time to visit Venice or anywhere in Italy is September or October if you hate crowds. The fair closes November 26, 2017. Here are a few other places to visit in Venice click here

 

Please let me know what you end up doing. I’ll be around so don’t be shy, give me a call and I can come over to assist you on a project you have been thinking about. Let’s have lunch outside first, arrivederci my little crocodiles.

 

Happy Summer, big hugs,

-Ken

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

Gillson Beach is a few minutes from my home, my happy place

Making Design Decisions You Won’t Regret

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

One of the toughest challenges a homeowner can face is trying to make intelligent choices when building a new home. It is equally daunting when undertaking a renovation or redecoration project. The choices are endless since the internet serves a buffet of information. The intel acquired online is sometimes useful, many times it is misleading or unsubstantiated. What to do? As an interior designer, it is my responsibility to navigate the troubled waters faced while making the required selections to complete your project. I have seen more than one relationship tested here in Chicago and further afield. Let’s not let this happen to you, here are a few key points to consider my little crocodile.

 

 

 

Building Materials

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

The process of selecting building materials can be confusing. Consider the process of selecting one faucet let alone six more! Many times we are seduced by a glossy photo or a room seen in a film or television series. However, this does not always translate well into real life. Bear in mind these are artistic depictions of spaces designed to entice.

It is best to ask ourselves the following questions:

Will it work for my actual purposes? Will I still like it in a year let alone five? Will it hold up the way I live?

This is especially true of white marble which is very popular again; beauty is important but white marble is extremely porous. What happens when you are an active cook spilling red wine, balsamic vinegar and olive oil? It is always best to ask your designer, architect or contractor many questions. I never want to rain on anyone’s parade, I must advise my clients so they don’t make a mistake. Please remember these are materials you will not be changing casually like throw pillows. Check out this blog from the archives if you are interested in learning more about stone.  http://wp.me/p2RdfV-tg

 

 

 

 

Wall Finishes

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

Have you ever considered paneling a room with custom designed woodwork? This is a major architectural feature which will be a significant investment. While the first photograph depicts a handsomely wrought space, the second photograph is equally compelling. Here are two very different styles of spaces, they both have “wood” walls…amazing, no? Of course there are many other ways to finish a wall: painted drywall, venetian plaster, tile, wallpaper. Which one is right for you? The choices are endless. I always recommend engaging professional help in the form of an architect or designer to set the style-table initially. This is very important if you choose to furnish the space later on your own.

 

 

Area Rugs/Carpeting

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

Area rugs and carpeting can be challenging as well. There are a lot of choices even in the mid-range market. Years ago this was not the case. As the interest in home furnishings and decorating have increased so have the choices. Many retailers offer dubious quality at high prices, the higher prices do not always denote quality (yes RH we are talking about you!) so let the buyer beware. You will find it’s better to accompany a designer when making a major purchase. Designer Tip: Try not to bind solid carpeting to make an area rug, a small-scale pattern (see above) actually has more interest. The carpet pattern is subtle once the furniture is placed in the space. If you are interested in learning more about area rugs click on this link http://wp.me/p2RdfV-pY

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

I find it endearing when my clients tell me they hate rugs. Ahh, the dusty oriental rugs of their childhood memories at grandmother’s stuffy home. There are many “happy” rugs which can be custom colored at no extra charge, hooray! Now you can achieve the custom designed rug you have been craving. I would call that a win-win!

 

 

 

Fabrics

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

There are fabrics, and there are fabrics, oh heavens! Here’s another tip, when you have to order furniture choose wisely. You will most likely have these pieces for a substantial amount of time. Do you really think you will like that sofa or pair of lounge chairs in the hot pink floral fabric next year? If so, then please proceed–otherwise I would go with a solid and do the throw pillows in the floral. Many fabrics look handsome initially but begin to show wear after six months or less, don’t let this happen to you. There are many things to look for beyond a pretty fabric. Can I have an all white room? The answer is yes, but please let me select the “magic white fabrics” for you. You can even spill red wine on them, they are cleanable. I call them Ken’s little helper!

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

 

 

 

 

Paint Colors

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

Benjamin Moore has named Shadow, the color of the year (see above) http://benjaminmoore.com

While I happen to think this deep eggplant color is sexy, it is not for everyone. I am a fan of dark rooms. Who doesn’t love a cozy atmosphere? However, dark colors can make the room harder to light and may make the room appear smaller. I don’t mind this at all, but if you do, there are many paint options other than white! It is always best to engage a professional when making paint selections. I cannot begin to tell you how many color palettes we create each year for our clients. Designer Tip: The wrong color of paint costs the same as the correct color. Hire someone to assist with the paint palette, you won’t regret it!

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

A final word. Many of my commercial clients with public spaces or residential projects with kids and dogs often wish for “bullet proof” finishes/surfaces. While nothing is totally bullet proof, I firmly believe there are many choices that are better than others. The best choices will survive even the toughest customer: a sloppy hotel guest, a toddler with chocolate fingers or that adorable puppy that just had an accident. It is our pleasure to guide you through the minefield of choices. I look forward to hearing from you!

Big hugs,

-Ken

Can A Traditional Space Become Modern?


Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

Years ago when I became an interior designer many of my clients were embracing a very traditional point of view. I am referring to how their homes or apartments were furnished. It’s safe to say we can easily become smitten by a contemporary interior in a shelter magazine; but fully transitioning from traditional to contemporary is a bit more complicated than most realize. Many of us (me included) live in very old homes or apartment buildings. I would classify myself as a modern traditionalist. My clients in Chicago and throughout the country live in a mix of spaces that either have great bones or we create the bones for them. If you live in an older building you know what I mean by this. If you are unfamiliar with the term I would say most vintage spaces typically have great bones unless their initial plan was altered over the years.

Nowadays my clients are looking for an easier lifestyle with less to maintain, I think we can all relate to this. So how do you take a space that is very formal, keep the best parts, and lose the rest? Read on my little crocodile as there are many degrees of traditional. Are you traditional, modern or a little bit of both?

 

 

The Pain Of Letting Go

Perhaps you live in a time capsule of traditionally proportioned spaces with very formal elements. If you do,  you can easily relate to the room pictured below. There are many things that can be done to simplify the space: remove the window treatments, paint the walls a warm white, change the chandeliers to a more contemporary style or even paint all the mahogany woodwork white to match the ceiling.

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

 

The Modern Contemporary

This space is loaded with classic components that could possibly verge on traditional. However, the mix lends itself to a more deconstructed approach that appears modern. The dark charcoal walls may be too much for you. If this is the case you can use the idea on a feature wall and paint the rest of the space a warm white.

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

Prewar & Modern

The prewar layout of the room is classically proportioned, but everything else is modern. The moldings have been removed, the only ornamentation is around the fireplace and the baseboards. This is a great example of how a few coats of a warm white paint can change-up a space.

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

 

 

Heavy Window Treatments

Once upon a time many clients wanted swags, jabots, passementerie (drapery trimming) and many period details. As time has moved on so have they. This very traditional room can easily become more modern. I would remove all the window treatments, change the paint color to the softest shell pink (think of the interior of a seashell), keep the best antiques and artwork with the most meaning to the client…remove the rest, create a new gauzy roman shade at the window in a crisp linen, reupholster everything in one of my simple white “magic fabrics” (they do not stain…honestly!). We could also remove the old needlepoint carpeting, polish the oak floor below and add an area rug if you want.

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

 

 

 

Problem Solved!

This room has many beautiful details and moldings but I would not classify it heavy or traditional. It is a wonderful example of a traditional space that now reads modern. Traditionalists will love the details, even a few of the pieces are vintage or antique. The upholstered pieces and casegoods are clean lined but certainly do not clash with the traditional details.

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

Wood Paneling & Millwork

There are two camps when it comes to woodwork: those who believe woodwork must be stained, and the other believe painted woodwork is best. Clients are always afraid to paint dark and dreary woodwork a lighter color, they are terrified. It is not a sin to paint the woodwork in either of these spaces if you wish. You have my permission, live your life and be happy, life is too short to live with something you detest.

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

 

 

You’re Welcome!

Wow, what a difference. The room is still lovely with painted woodwork. There was nothing to fear but fear itself. I recommend breaking out of your comfort zone whenever possible! Oh, and one last thing, look at how nice the modern sconce works with the ornate boiserie!

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

 

Stone Floors

This space is majestic, regal and perfect to a traditionalist. To others it could be considered cold and too much like a museum. It is possible to create a modern feeling while retaining the period details. I would relocate the classical sculptures and add modern art to the space. The transformation would be incredible!

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

 

 

Modern Classic

This floor pattern is classical yet reads modern at the same time. Still too traditional for you? No problem, the way around this is to lay a floor using one material. A limestone or marble floor in a simple white or gray material will create a clean and modern look.

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

 

 

Oriental, Aubusson or Savonnerie Rugs

This room has a handsome antique Tabriz rug that originally cost a king’s ransom. While many people still like oriental rugs I have seen a resistance to them lately. There are many vendors offering cleaner and simpler patterns. Still too complicated? Sisal or Sea Grass area rugs may be perfect for you!

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

Sisal Or Sea Grass Rugs May Be Perfect For You

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

 

A Perfect Mix

This room shows a great example of negative and positive space. The majority of the room has exposed wood floors but does not look empty or cold. The area rug provides warmth and anchors the seating area perfectly.

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

 

 

Artwork or Accessories

Less is more…unless more is more! The first room features a wonderful collection of art and accessories that have been lovingly compiled over the years. I will admit it is a perfect example of a room fit for a collector.

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

 

 

The Modern Collector

While the space is quite traditional, look at the moldings, details and fireplace. But the room reads very modern because of the adept use of paint and not over accessorizing. It is possible to achieve a beautiful balance!

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

I suspect you are still conflicted. How do you honor the past and embrace the present? It’s easy, call me. I can offer pride of place to the painting or furniture you inherited without making your room look like a museum. Let’s make magic together!

 

Big Hugs.

-Ken

5 Simple Ways To Spruce Up Your Space

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

I have noticed the temperature in Chicago dropping a bit, I suppose this is inevitable. October is almost here after all. Many of us are thinking of ways to change our homes and apartments since the holidays will be here before we know it. I am always thrilled to see the difference a few enhancements can make. The interior design ideas I am suggesting can be very simple to somewhat complicated, so plan accordingly. No one enjoys being half done, especially if you have guests during the holidays. Here are a few thoughts for you.

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

New Furniture:  Stating the obvious here, I find it so amusing how we all procrastinate. That said, if you need new furniture before the holidays it is not too late. Don’t put off the inevitable. I can assure you that prices will increase in the new year so this is the best time to purchase new furniture. I constantly hear horror stories from new clients about purchasing furniture from well known retailers. Did you know interior designers have access to high quality lines (made in America) that are less expensive and better made than many popular retailers?

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

Clean up/create Guest Bedroom: Did you say you have guests staying with you over the holidays? Well fear not my little crocodile we better get cracking. Whether you have a few things or nothing at all there is plenty of time if you get motivated now. We have wonderful sources for bed linens by the way.

 

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

Painting: Nothing transforms a room quicker than repainting it; whether the room needs a clean coat of paint or you want a new color. This is the simplest solution for maximum change and achieved fairly quickly. Whether you hire a painter (highly recommended) or do it yourself be sure to have everything buttoned up prior to pulling the trigger.

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

Throws/Pillows:  Your space can really benefit from new pillows, a throw or both. I firmly believe a handsome  throw is essential with the upcoming cooler weather. It’s always fun to change things around during the change of seasons isn’t it?

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

 

Accessories & Artwork: What are we all waiting for? I visit clients who have artwork stacked in closets and boxes of objects that could be displayed. If this is not the case for you it’s time to visit a showroom or gallery and pick up a few things. Beautiful things come in all price ranges so let’s get out there and find something wonderful!

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Designers, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

Pressed for time? I cannot stress enough how great these things are: fresh flowers, some candles, a new tablecloth or even a beautiful bowl of fruit. These little things can enhance your space in an afternoon prior to the arrival of your guests. It’s the little things that count and are the best. I’ll be curious to hear what you choose to do. Please give me a call if you need help or just want to chat. I’ll look forward to it!

 

Big Hugs,

-Ken

P.S. If you are looking for tips to get organized you may enjoy this post http://wp.me/p2RdfV-js

A Passage To China

Chicago Interior Designers, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

In my mind I am a mental traveler…to paraphrase the words of Isak Dinesen who wrote Out of Africa, a favorite of mine. Today I am traveling to China via my hometown Chicago. There are many reasons China can be too far a journey. As an interior designer I would be happy to hop on a plane! However, I am in luck today, all I had to do was drive fifteen minutes from my previous appointment to Pagoda Red’s new location on Morgan Street in Chicago. Come along, I think you will enjoy it!

I was full of anticipation as I pulled into their convenient parking lot. I had not visited since Betsy Nathan moved her shop a year ago. Upon entering I was struck by the glorious pieces sitting on a dark and sexy vintage tile floor imported from Asia. What a warm welcome I received and I suspect you will too! You will see a handsome array of modern pieces as well as artifacts that a scholar would love. Since I am not a scholar of Chinese Art I will merely say the mix is wonderful.

 

Chicago Interior Designers, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design

What A Glorious Array!

 

 

Chicago Interior Designers, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design

19th Century Courtyard Panels backed with “Utopia” fabric from Pierre Frey. Look at these gorgeous 18th Century Hand Carved Lion Dogs and Fabric Draped Stool

Chicago Interior Designers, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design

Love the modern Painting paired with the Chinese Half Table and Shanghai Deco Arm Chairs

 

 

 

Chicago Interior Designers, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design

Jade Meditation Stones lead you out to the Asian Garden

 

As I toured the gallery I was in for more than I bargained for. Betsy took me to see the mature Asian garden, this in itself is a feast to behold. I was literally transferred to another place and time, you must see this garden to believe it. I am a big fan of gardens in general so you will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

Chicago Interior Designers, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design

Carved Lion Dog Markers standing tall, so proud & inviting!

 

 

Chicago Interior Designers, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

Sadly I didn’t get to take any photos during my garden tour. The day began scorching hot and sunny, but that changed after the garden walk when the weather changed dramatically. The heavens burst with a symphony of lightning and thunder which turned this visit (originally scheduled for an hour) to well over two hours, it was still pouring when I left. No worries, I made it out unscathed. I drove home happy in a pounding rainstorm, I had lots of things to daydream about and present to clients.

 

 

 

Chicago Interior Designers, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design

Carved Hitching Post From Northern China, 19th Century

Chicago Interior Designers, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design

When Worlds Collide:  Boho Meets Deco

I sat for quite a while in this room and watched the rain pour and pour. Thanks for your gracious hospitality Betsy, I enjoyed the Prosecco and nibbles too. Inside tip: it is always wise to feed the hungry interior designer my little crocodile. We do get hungry!

Chicago Interior Designers, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design

The mesmerizing power of crystal, made of rock crystal as old as the earth

I don’t need a crystal ball to know you will enjoy taking a trip to Pagoda Red. Happy Hunting, and a big thanks to you for reading my posts, your comments delight me!

Big Hugs,

-Ken

 

What Does Luxury Mean To You?

Where Did You Get Your Marble Countertop?

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

 

Hmm, that’s a great question. Many people do not understand the adventurous life of a stone cutter. Perhaps a better word would be dangerous. I can attest this is not a job for wimps. As an interior designer, I see people go crazy for the gorgeous stone materials we present for their kitchens and bathrooms. However, few understand the process to harvest the stone from a mountain. Believe me, it’s not like walking into a showroom in Chicago or wherever you live. It’s actually quite an operation. So let’s take a little trip to Italy!

Colonnata is an ancient town, nestled in between the staggering Apuan Alps. The effects of the quarries is etched on the mountain faces as the sprawling green trees succumb to the blinding white of the exposed stone. Block has been quarried from this region for over two millennia, and it shows no signs of slowing down. At several sites in the region, evidence of mining dates as far back as 600 BC. The town of Colonnata was founded in 40 BC to house slaves for the Romans as they began to dig into the mountains as Grecian marble had become too expensive to continue to import.

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

Blinding white beauty

 

Carrara was removed in large blocks, and sent cascading down the mountainside, rolling over greased timber. The crude method of extracting and delivering the stone has changed in more recent years. Now, impossibly small “trucks” wind down tight switchbacks with comically large blocks of stone attached to the beds of their vehicles. Michelangelo worked here for years helping to plan roads and quarries. Eventually, he would personally select the block from which his famous David and Pieta would emerge from.

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

The immortal David by Michelangelo

An old man who owns several quarry plots shows me a photograph from 40 years ago: a landscape of the mountains. It’s yellowed with time, and the landscape has changed, but the hills and peaks still provide for the people here. He’s proud of the work they do. Proud of the long and storied history of the artists, the workers, and the communities that grew in the shadows of the mountains. Special thanks to Spencer Roberts of Materials Marketing for the rich background information. Click here to learn more about  the wonderful products sold at Materials Marketing. http://www.mstoneandtile.com

 

I must say that I appreciate these hard-working individuals more than ever! Check out the fascinating video below and read on if you want to know more about natural stone.

 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=du9_Kn2y2VA

 

The temples and the sculptures built by the Romans themselves to worship their Gods – and later the Christian deity that replaced them – were created from stone originating in an area of Italy known as Carrara in the province of Massa. Here over thousands of years, mountains that once raised above the clouds have been carved and sliced – transforming the landscape, making it look like a leftover plate of cheese from a dinner party. As a result, the mountain landscape has been altered for the purpose of creating products both beautiful and useful; as diverse as the Roman temples and churches, Michelangelo’s David and other statues, and of course our kitchen and bathroom counter tops.

 

 

Removing the stone is quite a process…

 

In a sense this is the making of a modern landscape. It’s like standing on the floor of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican with a panoramic view of the Mediterranean sea and the Italian Alps surrounding you. The three and a half hour (around 50 mile) journey through mountains is not exactly smooth sailing. Thankfully the expert driver kept perfect control of the vehicle, making sure we were not rolling off the mountain side or creating a new path. The dust alone can give you a heart attack.

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

The laborers go through Hell to harvest the stone from the mountain

Harvesting marble is a process that happens year round. However, weather conditions and market demand for this supremely white marble causes the process to move to a different part of the mountain range regularly. This is why the mountain’s scenery looks scarred and misshapen from here. From a distance the mountain range takes on a surreal beauty—the forest has white zigzagging lines and patches like the remaining snow from the glacier era. The beauty comes at a high price in this part of the world. The carver was covered mostly with red-yellow mud from the neck down. The man with leathery weather-beaten skin looked somewhere between 30 to 60 years old, “..now days we have machines doing all the heavy lifting once the cutting is done. You just get wet and feel cold a lot. Cutting the marble is easy. Trying to not get killed around here is a job itself.”

The carver’s main job besides separating the marble rock from the mountain is communicating using a special set of hand gestures. (See YouTube video above) What a surprise to learn that marble is a very soft when freshly cut–the huge block can easily break apart like a piece of chalk. This explains why artists like to use marble instead of other types of stone besides it’s beauty. Because Carrara’s region mountains range is part of the Apuan Alps and among the highest in the area–the weather here can be unpredictable and extremely dangerous to work in. On a clear summer day, the Mediterranean sun can bake you alive and if that does not do it, the following will. Skin cancer from over-exposure to ultraviolet light, lung failure from inhaling marble dust all day long, and long exposure to bright surfaces as well as dust can easily blind you for life. If something dangerous happens to you up here you will be lucky to make it to the hospital before bleeding to death. Standing in one of the marble quarries the size of a football field but shaped like a giant white bowl will make you feel like a stick figure.

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Designers

We never really think about where beautiful stone comes from

 

 

I hope you enjoyed learning about stone and the removal process, I really like to know where the materials I use originate from. Natural stone is unique, just like each of us, it has nuances, shading, markings and even imperfections–they truly add to the beauty of the slab which will be turned into a wall, counter tops or flooring. Do let us know if you would like to look at stone sometime, it is a fun trip to make!

Cheers,

-Ken

 

 

 

The Holidays Again, Oh No! 15 Survival Tips For You

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

Illustration by Jeremiah Goodman

 

The holidays are here once again, each year I am astounded by how quickly the year has passed. Does this happen to you? In my work as an interior designer I am busy making your space magical, I rarely have time to do anything for myself. We have seen the perfectly set tables and decorated trees in holiday movies. I can’t help it, I’m a hopeless romantic. This post is aimed at each of us who really want to prepare for the holidays but need a little motivation. While I admire great cooks, I personally leave anything fancy to the professionals. Yes, I can roast a turkey quite well and make certain dishes. But let’s be clear, I am no chef. That said, here are some ideas anyone can use to really enjoy the upcoming holidays.

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

  1. Think small! I love the above photo, it is evocative of the kind of dinner most of us would be pleased to sit down to. I particularly like the image as it is not a traditional setting like a dining table. Not everyone has a large family or a large dining room for that matter. This looks perfect to me!

 

 

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

2. If you have a home and are organized you most likely have a mud room or great entrance area that is perfectly suited to the storage of boots, hats, coats and the like. Not everyone has this kind of space yet pine for a mud room. If you think you don’t have any room look at the image below, if it can be done in a hotel room it can work in your space.

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

 

 

 

 

3. What if your entryway is empty? Most homes I visit today are more than half empty. I am not speaking of my clients but am referring to this attitude of never making time to furnish your home. This handsome console would add pizzazz to your entryway. It would also make a terrific sofa table or center table.

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

 

 

4. Storage issues you say, we all have them. When in doubt, buy a cabinet–it is the perfect way to hide things in a mud room; additional placemats, napkins or place settings in the dining room; or use as a media cabinet. I love this piece, it is handmade by a great group of veterans in Texas. What do you think of the steel and reclaimed wood?

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

 

 

 

5. You just found out you’re hosting a holiday dinner, lo and behold your range or oven are broken. I will never forget we had the same issue a week before Thanksgiving many years ago. Mr. Aware, yes me, missed that little detail. We moved into our new home (100 years old but who’s counting) in August of 1998, everything was working ok at the time. That was not the case in mid-November. Great, oh great! The heat was on in more ways than one, luckily we were able to get a new oven a week before Thanksgiving.

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

 

 

 

6. I have a small budget, I can’t do any of this! That’s ok too. A fresh coat of paint on the wall is a no brainer even if you and a few friends have to do it one weekend. The new Benjamin Moore latex paints are terrific, many will cover in one coat as long as you are not covering a super dark color.

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

 

 

7. I’m not hosting at my house and I hate the host house, now what? Ok I get it, but please get over it. The main thing is, you will all be together (sometimes that’s the real problem, smile)! Does it really matter if your Great Aunt Gertrude or Nana’s house is a bit grand and not your taste? I say embrace it! Enjoy their dishes, crystal and flatware. Why not? It’s just one day, and think how happy Nana will be to see her things being used and enjoyed by her nearest and dearest. Oops…do I hear a broken glass falling? They are just things! If she’s afraid of breakage then use the everyday service or rent it, most places will deliver and pick up for a very small fee. It’s worth it!

 

Kenneth Walter, Chicago Interior Design, Gray & Walter Interior Design

Don’t let a grand setting put a damper on your holiday

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

Sometimes the old ways are the best!

 

 

 

8. I don’t want to have my holiday dinner inside, what do I do? Lucky you! We have had some really warm weather lately in Chicago, this is not realistic for us however. If you live in the south or somewhere with warmer weather by all means have the gathering outside. Hell yes, why not? Please invite me next year!

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

 

 

9. Our Guest Bedroom is dreadful and my mother-in-law is a royal you know what! Better get cracking my little crocodile! There are plenty of ways to do over a bedroom quickly. Look at the handsome photo below for inspiration. Chances are you will not find the exact items readily but you can find very nice things at Crate & Barrel for instance. Better yet call me, we can take care of this issue quickly!

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

What a great use of an attic space!

10. For Pete’s sake I don’t live in a house, I have a little apartment and have to serve four people. Problem solved, look at the lovely room below, the set up is clean and modern and will solve your issue–bam!

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

 

11. Stock the liquor cabinet, make sure you have plenty of mixers in individual bottles. Do you know what your guests like to drink? If not, you need to make a few calls or send some emails.

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

 

12. My room is a mess, there is stuff everywhere. Dedicate one day to it and put your clutter away, try to pull the room together the best you can! When in doubt donate things you no longer use or put things in storage if you plan on needing them again.

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

 

 

13. Hang your artwork! I meet people all the time who have things stacked up everywhere. I am not talking about artful arrangements of pictures propped on the mantle. This has to go!

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

 

14. The little things count! Ok I get it, you don’t have a room like this. But you could, start small! Buy a throw to cuddle with, a few pillows and candles. Put some nuts in a dish and candy in another, don’t forget some great books on the coffee table to inspire looking and conversation.

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

 

15. I’m broke and just lost my job. Well that happens! So make some cards, paint some cool glasses and give them to your family. What did you say? You’re not artistic, well that’s ok. Write a hand written note telling someone how much they mean to you. Give your sister-in-law some IOUs for babysitting so she and your poor brother can get away from the kids to feel human again. Help your Dad clean out the garage, yes really! You get it, not everything good comes from a store.

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter Interior Design, Chicago Interior Design

 

I am so grateful to have my family, my health and a profession that gives me immense joy. What are you grateful for? I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season ahead.

 

Big Hugs,

-Ken

5 Surefire Ways To Design Like A Professional Designer

Gray & Walter Interior Design Chicago

 

Each day we are inundated with gorgeous images of rooms we drool over. Many people do not understand there is an art to putting spaces together. I recently met a man with absolutely no furnishings, a small budget and a very tight timeframe. He was moving into his new home in 12 days, can you imagine the pressure? Although he couldn’t have been nicer I could not help him. I really wanted to take him under my wing and guide him. However, he was completely unrealistic in his thought process, this is the biggest issue most people have. We must get real my little crocodiles. Here are 5 surefire ways to handle interior design projects.

 

Gray & Walter Interior Design Chicago

 

1. Get the core pieces right. What does that mean? Core pieces refer to the most important items the space will contain; if we are talking about a dining room it is the table and chairs, in a Living Room it is the sofa, chairs and tables. You get the picture, right? Focus on buying the best you can afford. This doesn’t mean you have to take a second mortgage. However, it is better to have an empty corner than purchase  something in haste due to budget constraints. There are great looking things at all price points. See this blog post for more information http://wp.me/p2RdfV-i6

 

Gray & Walter Interior Design Chicago

 

2. Where do you start? I tend to buy the most important furnishings first. If I am doing a Living Room I focus on the sofa, lounge chairs, end/cocktail tables, and lamps. I tend to buy the area rug last, this makes things harder but has always been my modus operandi. I love a challenge and tend to prefer a space that isn’t so matchy-matchy. This is not for everyone however, many prefer to start by purchasing the area rug first as this is easier. If you agree, by all means purchase the rug first!

 

Gray & Walter Interior Design

 

3. When on a budget the biggest impact you can have on a room is paint. Why oh why is this so hard to understand? Painting a room can totally change the overall look of a room by adding color or no color at all! BUT…please go easy on the “feature wall” idea of doing one wall in a different color or wallpaper, this has been done to death. Try to think out of the box and push yourself. Do consider painting a room in turquoise, aubergine, chocolate brown or black. Don’t be afraid, it is handsome and soothing!

 

image

 

4. Restoration Hardware is a great source to educate yourself. By looking at their website or catalogs you can learn how to put a room together (and how not to). You can actually buy some core pieces there too, just make sure they fit and are the right scale. Designer Tip: don’t buy everything in one place or your home will be without soul. The truth is most people do not understand SCALE and that’s ok, neither does Restoration Hardware. It’s easy to be seduced, the pictures in the catalogs or online are gorgeous! In many ways it’s like looking at sexy photos of Kate Moss, David Gandy, Gisele Bundchen or whoever makes your heart go pitter-pat. Beautiful things are everywhere but they are not always for US! The key is to know what works for you. Does the furniture actually fit in the space, will it come through the front door, the service elevator or down the hall? These are issues I hear about all the time at my first appointment with a new client. We are here to help you! Back to Restoration Hardware for a second, the stuff is handsome but the sales people have never been to your home. What do you do when your space doesn’t look like the photograph?

 

Gray & Walter Interior Design Chicago

 

5. Simplicity is a beautiful thing. Not everyone needs a decorator, just don’t overdo it if you do your own space. There is nothing worse than a room that is too stuffed with furniture, objects and clutter. Purchase a few artifacts, and some great art. Don’t be fooled  by pretend pieces with “character”, buy the real thing which quite often is less expensive! Limit patterns and colors used together. Anything goes but will you be happy with the chair you reupholstered in lime green and pink silk saris next year?

 

Gray & Walter Interior Design Chicago

 

Decorating a room looks so easy, fast and inexpensive! What??? If you are a fan of Bravo, DIY, HGTV or Houzz you may have come to this conclusion. I assure you gentle reader, it is far from easy, and nothing like putting a cute outfit together. Hiring a professional to do a master plan will allow you to purchase all the elements you require over time. It will make your budget stretch further. When in doubt do hire a talented designer to come over for a consultation. The price of an initial consultation is worth every dollar spent and will keep you on the right track. Who has time to waste purchasing and returning things over and over that simply do not work?

 

Big Hugs,

Ken

PS: Still stuck? Then check out our website, we have a new enhanced shopping and interior design experience for you. Perhaps you’ll find what you’ve been looking for. Happy Hunting!

How To Design Like A Rockstar

Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

 

Interior Design can be tricky at times. Occasionally I have clients who are conservative so I must respect their perspective. To be fair, there is nothing worse than a designer stuffing something down your throat you don’t want. Whenever possible I feel it is key to step away from your comfort zone. That said, Francine Turk comes to mind when I think of a fantastic artist that can be very edgy or safe. Turk is a modern-day conundrum, a very complex animal if you will. Turk’s work feels like a gorgeous multimedia project melding fantastic image and a killer soundtrack. It’s not hard to fall in love with Francine, I’ll admit it, I’m smitten!

 

 

Chicago Interior Design, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

Turk’s past and current work is thematic of rock music, there is boldness in the work. However, it is important to note the details seen in the portraits are exquisitely crafted. Clients who love specific musicians such as Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan will not be disappointed.

 

 

Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

 

 

 

Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

 

 

At other times Turk seems lost in another world, perhaps in a past life she lived in the splendor of the 18th century with black walls gilded in gold. This is the part I find so interesting, Francine is a renaissance woman who is constantly evolving. Turk cannot be described as predictable as her oeuvre is constantly evolving. Passionate about the art of calligraphy and letter writing, her trips to Europe are a quest for pigments, canvas, writing instruments, ink and handcrafted paper. A recent quote by Francine made me chuckle. I am paraphrasing here, Turk says if she had kids they would be given pens, ink and paper as presents…no Apple products until they could buy them with their own money. Francine is a woman after my heart that’s for sure.

 

 

Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

There is a classical sensibility to her contemporary pieces

Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

A glimpse of the artist at work

 

 

Chicago Interior Design, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

Turk’s Pottery features gorgeous script which is a continuing theme in her work


Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

Turk traveled to Spain in the summer of 2015. While in Spain she created one of a kind pieces paid for in advance by patrons. I found this a delightful idea as the patron had no idea what would be forthcoming. All they knew is they would receive a gorgeous drawing from Francine along with a personal note sent while she was away on her journey. What a fantastic treat!

 

 

Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

 

 

 

Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

At times the text in the work is indecipherable, but no matter. The intricate script melds into the rich layers of pigment and mixed media creating a perfect storm of handsomeness.

 

 

Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

The message is loud and clear

 


Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

Turk’s wonderful artwork is a great addition to our projects

Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

I was thrilled to include these lovely nudes in a bedroom passageway

 

Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

This dark composition seduces and invites you to come closer

Interior Design Chicago, Interior Design, Kenneth Walter, Gray & Walter

Oh Elizabeth, how I love your eyes

 

I meet a lot of artists who are coasting on past laurels or have simply lost their way. It is safe to say that adding one of Turk’s pieces to a space will begin a great love affair. Which style speaks to you? I would love to know, let me know below.

 

Big Hugs,

-Ken

PS: Please check out our new enhanced website right here.

Click the link below to learn more about Francine Turk.

https://kennethwalterblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/gallery-girl-francine-turk/?preview=true&preview_id=194&preview_nonce=57f4c46b8d