Classic Design for Modern Living

Category: Bathroom

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

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