Classic Design for Modern Living

Category: Casual Elegance

Live Authentic

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

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”~Oscar Wilde

This is one of my favorite quotes by the often misunderstood Mr. Wilde. I’m working hard to live an authentic life. Do you struggle with this? We live in a time when so many shiny, pretty distractions are trying to rob us of our quality of life & contentment. Is this the fault of ADHD, technology, boredom or all the above? I keep telling myself I’m going to take my life back; unplug from technology, social media, read more books, write more note cards/letters rather than a convenient text or email. So what should we do, move to Machu Picchu, become a monk? Well let’s not get carried away yet. Here are a few thoughts my little crocodiles.

 

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

 

 

Shop Smart When Decorating

Many of us are obsessively looking at home furnishings online. This is terrific for an initial lookyloo, but making a big purchase sight unseen is another story altogether. It’s time to think of the global impact we are making buying everything online. Yes, it’s convenient-but so many people purchase things they don’t even need. Yes, I’m looking at you West Elm, Williams Sonoma Home and Pottery Barn. Insider Tip For Budget Hunters: There are incredible things for sale that are better made for less at estate sales, resale/consignment/vintage shops. There are also great finds at auctions and on e-commerce sites: Viet, Charish, 1stDibs. I love a great hunt, how about you?

 

 

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

 

Buy Locally

Try as hard as you can to support local businesses and restaurants in your area. If you don’t support these businesses they will go under. Big Box Stores are good for some things. What are you going to do when the local coffee shop, restaurant, friendly book or hardware store closes once and for all? I do my utmost to purchase as much as I can locally. I would be lost without my local dry cleaner and pharmacy, they are the kindest people and deliver. I would call that a win-win!

 

 

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

 

Eat Right/Keep Moving

Think of your body as a fine machine. Take time to eat properly. We are all in such a hurry, we could learn a thing or two from our friends in Europe. Yes, I recognize healthy food costs more money and actually takes time to prepare. I need to slow down, how about you? I’m hoping the prices at Whole Foods will drop with the recent acquisition by Amazon-perhaps this is a good thing. Join a gym, make a date with yourself to run, lift weights, go to yoga/dance class…whatever. I don’t care what you do, just do it, I’m tired of my sorry-ass excuses. We are worth it!

 

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

 

Make Time For You

Consider what you really want out of life. If you are single and wish to meet Ms. or Mr. Right you have to get out there. Do your best to put yourself in social situations where you can actually meet someone. Staying home on social media or binging on Netflix will not keep you warm on a cold winter’s night.

 

 

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

 

Talk To People/Show Consideration

When was the last time you actually picked up the phone and had a real conversation? Heartfelt texting during the day/middle of the night doesn’t count. Call your parents, sibling, old friend from college/prior job you haven’t spoken to in ages. Talk to the old lady or man in front of you at the grocery store or pharmacy. You may be the best thing that happens to them today!

 

 

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

 

Cross Your Comfort Zone

Full Disclosure: The last few years I’m pushing myself to say/do things I couldn’t bring myself to do previously. This isn’t a dress rehearsal. Get out there and really life your F****** Life! This isn’t meant to be preachy or a chapter in a self-help book. Don’t waste another minute, day or week doing things you aren’t excited about. Embrace your inner child, get out there and have fun my little crocodile!

 

Big hugs~

-Ken

 

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

Magnificent Obsession Part II

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

 

The Lake Forest Show House officially opened on April 28th with a beautiful event benefitting the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago. I was very impressed by the wonderful efforts of all the designers who participated.

The week up to the opening party was eventful to say the least! I made multiple trips to and from the house dropping off/taking away items I rejected. Wednesday was the straw that almost broke the camel’s back as I had multiple people scheduled: another rug delivery, a mirror to be hung, and most importantly the lighting installation. Robert, our trusty electrician has been so busy that we waited 10 days for our installation. Nothing like waiting till the last minute as the photo shoot was the next day!

 

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

 

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


Once we had everyone in their places I made it to the wholesale florist. Something green was needed for tomorrow’s photo shoot. I arrived in the nick of time, they were closing for the day in 15 minutes. You can be sure they were so happy to see me, haha! I made my purchases, loaded the car and drove away. I was planning on going back to the show house to drop off the flowers for Thursday’s photo shoot. Suddenly I heard a thumping from the back of my car, I pulled over to see a flat tire. Merde! I waited for a tow as my car doesn’t come with a spare. The prognosis: I needed two new tires. This was hardly the end of the world,  the timing wasn’t great, but better Wednesday than Thursday.

Thursday was a long day, crunch time–so much to do! First thing in the morning I loaded the flowers back into my car and drove to a vendor’s home to pick up more accessories she selected just for our room. Racing back to Lake Forest to drop off the flowers and accessories with Noreen was nerve-racking as we had to be ready for the photographer by 2:00pm. Oh did I forget to tell you I wanted more rugs delivered at 1:00pm?

 

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

 

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

 

I’m delighted to say the photo shoot went well and am quite pleased with the outcome. I am attaching a few before and after shots but hope you will come and see our work in person. We drove home Thursday night quite relieved to have everything done. Mission Accomplished!

Special Thanks

There are so many people who made this project possible. I could not have completed our space without Noreen, you are one of my main four muses. A well executed design demands great sources, I am proud to say my trusted partners are the best: Kennedy & Co. Painters, The Rug Company, Atelier Lapchi, Baker Furniture, Kravet Furniture, Lee/Jofa, deAurora, Mark Falwell, Mike Bell Antiques, Richard Norton Gallery, The Golden Triangle, and Pagoda Red.  Special thanks to Lauren who offered her wise counsel in the midst of her first year in the PhD program. I love all of you!

 

Big Hugs,

-Ken

 

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

The Lake Forest Show House will be open until May 21, 2017.  http://lakeforestshowhouse.com

Magnificent Obsession

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

Each month I typically write about a design issue people are facing. I’m a pleaser by nature so I feel it’s important to give suggestions to resolve the problem. Many of my clients and readers ask questions that inspire my posts. Taking a departure this month I have decided to share what’s currently happening in my life. I was recently invited to create a space for the Lake Forest Showhouse, this is a huge honor for a Chicago based Interior Designer. For those of you who haven’t heard of the showhouse, it is held every other year. The Lake Forest event is one of three very prestigious showhouses in the United States; the other two of note are Kip’s Bay in New York City and Greystone in Los Angeles. This year’s house is a magnificent residence in Lake Forest located on the North Shore outside of Chicago. All proceeds benefit the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago, a wonderful institution providing medical care for families in need.

 

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

 

Initially I was thrilled about this honor, thinking how exciting the project will be! The lovely feeling briefly turned into panic once it sunk in I had to create something pleasing to many visitors with many taste levels. I had to take matters into my own hands, there is no client to discuss the project with this time! To make matters simpler I created a client to design the space for–I even gave them names. Our space is the second floor stair landing and nook, the panic is over and I’m exhilarated again. Each project we undertake is a puzzle to be solved, oh boy, do I love puzzles! Needless to say this assignment has a few design challenges: 5 doorways, very dark woodwork, and most importantly very little light. The hallway is a main thoroughfare so it’s important to keep the flow open to effortlessly pass from space to space. Here are a few “before” photos.

 

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

 

If you know me, you realize how obsessive I can become about my work. Suffice it to say my mind is still reeling over every detail, my normal Modus Operandi. I love to include my clients in all major decisions (unless they are disinterested) so you can imagine the options there are and how best to present the space to the visitors. The vital decisions must be figured out on my own like a big boy, ha!

 

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

 

If you are curious please visit the house to see the work of all the talented designers first hand. I know you won’t be disappointed. The Lake Forest Showhouse officially opens on April 28th with a preview party, and will be open till May 21, 2017. I love helping those in need so I hope you will join me and visit the house!

Big hugs,

-Ken

PS For more information please visit http://lakeforestshowhouse.com

Making An Entrance

 

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

 

 

Hello Gorgeous! You really made an effort putting yourself together, I love it–I really do! However, your Entry Foyer is another story. It’s always interesting to visit someone for the first time, I love to see a new entryway. Your foyer speaks volumes even before you give me a kiss and hug. I have some thoughts for you if you’re feeling a bit underwhelmed by your entrance, read on my little crocodile.

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

Many of my clients living in Chicago high rises have entry foyers that are so minimal they are almost non-existent. Another dreaded issue I face an interior designer is the “bowling alley” effect depicted above. I am a huge fan of glamour and impact so be warned, we will be creating something elegant with wow-factor. If your foyer is on the small side we will use a hand-made wallcovering or custom paint finish created by one of our special artisans. This is especially crucial if there is no room for any furniture in your entry. This conundrum is more common than you can imagine.

 

 

 

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

 

If you live in a pre-war building you most likely have a long Gallery, this is typically located off the Foyer. Many consider this a terrible waste of space but is quite luxurious to have! This Gallery is executed skillfully with the use of doorways creating an illusion of extra space. The eye-catching marble floor is noteworthy.

 

 

 

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

 

This Hacienda in California has a lovely wide, rectangularly shaped Foyer, almost a square. The inviting space features knotty pine flooring and a lovely beamed ceiling. The warm space is quite a sight to behold, it has an understated elegance which is slightly traditional yet modern all at once.

 

 

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

 

This cozy space located off of a very wide Gallery holds a sweet little surprise. This alcove to the side of the monumental stair provides a cozy space with original terrazzo dating back to the 19th century. The Gallery is so spacious there is room for a baby grand piano. While most people do not have this kind of space, it is a great reminder how to create multi-purpose areas within a home.

 

 

 

 

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

 

While this Entry may be too fussy for most people I think it is important to note the spectacular feeling it evokes. I am delighted by the stunning coloration and lovely details. The blue doors are a pleasant surprise too.

 

 

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

 

This lovely space located off the actual Foyer is a handsome ante-room to the Living Room and Dining Room. The floor is well executed and the center table superb. The floor could be replicated in stone or stenciled on wood. The warm white walls provide a wonderful backdrop since there is a lot going on in the space.

 

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

 

I love this simple and elegant Foyer. The wood flooring and boiserie are the stars of the show. The furnishings and art are minimal, they complement the space perfectly. White paint proves to be our friend yet again.

 

 

Whenever I begin work on an Entry Foyer I cannot stop hearing my mother’s voice from years ago: “always put your best foot forward”. The same can be said about your foyer. I look forward to creating the space of your dreams, I promise you will make a memorable entrance!

 

Big Hugs,

-Ken

 

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

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

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