Classic Design for Modern Living

Category: helping others

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

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

 

 

 

Can We Go On Vacation And Redecorate?

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

Why not my little crocodile! I’ll bet you have a mile long to-do list. Is it brimming with all the things you’d like to accomplish? Heaven knows I have a list too, I’m obsessed with my lists! As an interior designer I must tend to my client’s lists first. You know how it is, the proverbial shoemaker without shoes. Please don’t feel sorry for me. I love what I do–whether the project is in Chicago or far away, it is my joy to make your dreams come true.

So it is almost summer once again, I hope you want to go somewhere fun. And no, I’m not talking about the responsibility trip like a cousin’s wedding, a family reunion and the like. I’m hoping you are getting away somewhere really romantic and adventurous, a cruise up the Danube, a week on the Amalfi Coast or Provence. Oh baby, now we’re talking!

This post is for feeding your wanderlust and getting some things done at home too, let us begin~

 

BIGGER PROJECTS

 

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

We have all spoken to someone who thinks massive change can happen in the space of a 30 minute episode on HGTV. We all know that simply isn’t true! But true change can happen if you plan ahead, hire a great general contractor, architect or interior designer in advance. Once all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed you may go on vacation and relax. This also means you should trust those you have hired. This is not recommended if you are a control freak. I get it, please remember that we all have email and cell phones, this is unless you are traveling to Siberia where the cell service may not be stellar. I say let go and trust, anyone worth their salt will correct any issues upon your return.

 

 

MEDIUM PROJECTS

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

 

So you’ve been pining away for extra storage under the stairs, a new mud room or sprucing up the laundry room…perhaps this is more your speed. These are more doable projects if you haven’t a lot of time prior to leaving town. Do remember the same rules apply, no messy demolition until all items are located and received by your contractor. This is half the battle!

 

 

 

 

SEND YOUR FURNITURE ON VACATION

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

These projects are still important and must get accomplished sooner or later. I have a lovely new client who told me she’s had things on her list for five years. I get it, I do! So here’s what we’re going to do, let’s do a few little things. What about the gorgeous sideboard that works in the room but needs to be tweaked? What did you say, you don’t like the color any longer? No problem, we can send it to the shop, it can receive its makeover while you’re sunning yourself in Capri.

 

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

 

Grandma’s chairs can go to the upholsterer and be reborn

 

 

ARTWORK SAFARI

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

Why not reframe artwork? Perhaps it’s time to frame artwork you purchased in haste that has been sitting on the floor of the closet or heaven forbid hung on the wall without a proper frame. Do send it all to the framer prior to leaving town.

 

MORE THOUGHTS

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

This photo shows that little things make a difference. We all know how much better a room looks after it receives a fresh coat of paint. If you are allergic, the new paints are less smelly. However, some people are  sensitive to the slightest odor. It is always a good idea to go away during painting or floor finishing if you are extra sensitive. Note: I love these simple yet elegant new bed linens. Wouldn’t it be lovely to come back from your vacation and have all new luxurious linens on your bed? It could really help calm your frazzled nerves once you start looking at your inbox again.

You don’t have to be rich and famous to do some of these things while you are away. It takes planning and a bit of discipline, that’s all. This summer may not be the time for the project of your dreams; perhaps the timing will be better in the autumn or after the new year. It does help if you have someone to trust–a great painter, contractor or designer are your allies, do remember that. Help is but a phone call away.

 

Happy Trails-XO,

-Ken

 

P.S. Click here http://wp.me/p2RdfV-a0 for great ideas on what to take with you on your upcoming adventure. Don’t forget to send me a postcard, I would love to hear from you!

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!

 

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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 Transform Your Space With Soulful Artwork

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If you know me, you understand how important artwork is as I transform interiors. Art is a fundamental part of my personal life as well. I’m constantly explaining how a well thought out interior can heal us and provide the salve we need after a tough day. My focus for this post is about the healing power of artwork.

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I recently became acquainted with the talented local artist, Sarah Raskey. Sarah and her husband Tim Manning opened a new art gallery in the West Loop area of Chicago in 2014. Raskey is an amazing woman, a licensed psychotherapist, does counseling with art therapy, an adjunct graduate art therapy professor at the School of The Art Institute and who has spent many years working simultaneously as an exhibiting artist. How on earth does she have time to do all of this? Sarah’s work is very soulful and personal, the work is a reflection of her life’s journey.

My goal as an interior designer is to create an environment evocative of who my client is. I believe these pieces are calming and healing, they speak to my holistic approach when creating an interior. Shown above is a recent installation of Sarah’s artwork in one of my projects, it is proof that Sarah is a force to be reckoned with.

 

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The above two photos (middle and lower) illustrate a recent installation at the recently remodeled Hotel Allegro in Chicago. This piece, Lady Lucent of Awakening, is elegant and arresting, a real presence and a testament to the power of art. In short, it is a real attention grabber! The detail above evokes a glamour not seen very often, reminiscent of vintage portraits of Greta Garbo and Jean Harlow by George Hurrell.

 

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As a champion of artists there is nothing more fun than visiting an artist’s studio, you never know what you’ll find. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many in my life and Sarah’s studio is no exception. Artists are a blast to hang with, Sarah is a wonderful, caring and giving person. It is really easy to sit down with her to discuss the piece you wish to buy from her gallery or have commissioned.

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Sarah is known for giving clients various opportunities to add their own personal touch, idea or sentiment when purchasing a piece. She finds significance by letting clients “create what they need” and even offers to embed items that are dear to the person who has commissioned the piece of artwork. Examples of such items are poems, pictures or keepsakes, which are able to be visible on the painting or kept hidden. At times these items can also be personal things from her own collection or travels. I think this is a wonderful way to make a piece of artwork very unique…and uniquely yours.

imageRecent installation of Raskey’s work at Maya Romanoff, Chicago

I recently came across this quote by Sarah Raskey, it sums up acquiring artwork quite well:

“Surround yourself with artwork that doesn’t run out! What does this mean? That it doesn’t become invisible and irrelevant. It does not rely on brand names and popularity in order for you to love it. It does not fade or come and go with trends or entertains society’s latest beliefs regarding beauty. Because after all, art is anything we want it to be, a natural metamorphosing resource, as well as a glimpse of our own reflection.”

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Detail of Raskey’s work

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Our Bedroom Vignette at Chicago Luxury Beds

I am thrilled to have collaborated on a few projects with Sarah and her husband Tim Manning. I hope these images stir you in some manner, perhaps they will move you the way they move me. These images are only a tiny glimpse of Sarah Raskey’s work, they are best appreciated in person. I would be delighted to arrange a personal visit to her lovely gallery, I invite you to check out her website sarahraskey.com

Wishing you Peace & Love,

Ken

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Photo Credits: Two photos of Hotel Allegro, Chicago by Michael Mundy

Almost Summer!

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Now that Memorial Day has finally come and gone I am thinking about Summer. How we will spend our days and nights once the warmer weather firmly hits? I’m a big fan of warm weather, no coats…hooray! Here’s a few more things that I’m excited about.

Being Outside

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 Warmer weather means we are going to enjoy being in the yard again!

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 My magnolia tree was glorious this year!

Designing Beautiful Spaces

image This client was downsizing so we had lots of interesting things to repurpose!

Finding New Artwork

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 I’m nuts for contemporary photography of all types

Helping Our Environment

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 Love, love, love repurposing furniture and buying vintage furniture. This is very eco-friendly!

Milestones

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 My daughter Lauren just received her Masters Degree in Art History!

Recharging

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 It can be a trip you have been planning for a long time, dinner outside at a local restaurant or a ball game. This is the time to recharge our batteries, travel, see friends and family and enjoy life.

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But don’t forget our furry pals, they need a break too!

Helping Our Neighbor

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 As we all know, our “neighbors” in Nepal have been through Hell and back with two major earthquakes. However, our neighbors in Texas have had horrible flooding recently too. Let us be mindful of others and help as many as we can who are in need. We are all in this together, helping others makes us all feel better.

Live, Love, Laugh & Big Hugs,

-Ken