Classic Design for Modern Living

Category: transforming space

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

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

 

 

 

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!

How To Create A Handsome Study

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

 

Most designers tend to throw around favorite words, I suspect I do too. If you know me, you already know I tend to use the H word quite often. In this case H is for handsome! As an interior designer I must embrace many styles effortlessly to delight my clients here in Chicago and further afield. I must be well versed at all times. However, I do have a style that I really love, it’s not for everyone though. I work very hard to find the style that is best for you!

Secretly locked inside of me is a european gentleman living in grand style wherever I roam. You must know by now I’m a bit of a daydreamer! This special space resides within all my imaginary homes: the flat in Paris and London, the grand palazzo in Venice, the country house in Tuscany and in the English countryside. Each home has one common denominator. What is that you ask? Well, I will tell you all about it now, it is the gentleman’s study. The study is a place to retreat and read, have a tot or two of your favorite hooch, listen to music, work on your hobbies or whatever you wish! And never fear ladies, the room can be for you too! Here are my thoughts about creating such a space.

 

 


 

 

 

The Lean & Clean Study

To achieve this look you must be disciplined. No clutter is allowed, haha! But the rewards are wonderful, less is more…but there must be great storage to hide all the things people have today. Whatever happened to that paperless society we’ve been reading about forever?

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

This look requires great discipline

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

Plenty of room to spread out

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

This space is compact but has everything

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

Sometimes all you need is a quiet place to read


The Collected Study

This type of study is a bit more cluttered, but in a good way! Here is your opportunity to have more objects on display. Do you need a space for your stamp or book collection, display trophies of some sort, or perhaps artwork? Some of my clients like the newest technology, we can help with that too. What about games, whether virtual or old school like cards, billiards or darts? Just relax, we have you covered.

 

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

This is not Granddad’s study

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

Clean, modern, slick & sexy

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

This space has plenty of room for modern & old school games

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

The study and dressing room combined

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

This study is fresh, clean & not fussy


The Old World Study

To some, a study must have paneling, leather chairs and the smell of cigars, I understand this very well. But this is not for everyone. The study is all about the inhabitant, it must speak to you. How will you use it? Is it just for you or will you entertain in it? No room for such a space you say? You would be surprised, this kind of space can be kitted out in a studio apartment. The photo below has everything you need, a bar, a hidden tv on a lift and a murphy bed behind the wall panels.

 

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

Old World meets the 21st century with hidden technology

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

This long space allows plenty of room for billiards & cards on one end

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

The other side of the room is for sitting, watching TV and reading

 

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

Heaven…just add scotch


Who Are You?

Think about what you like to do, what are your hobbies, will you entertain in the space? What is your budget, what is realistic to achieve within the space you have? I have created three “study profiles”.  I am definitely not a one size fits all kind of guy, neither are you but you will get the idea–scroll down for more.

 

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

Professional athlete and adventurer, he is interested in the world around him.

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

Magazine editor, man of the world, loves wine, reading and collects watches.

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

Actress, mother and fashionista, a mix of old and new, she loves beauty.


Inspiration To Build Your Study Around

 

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

Do you like antiques?

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

Are you looking for a multi-purpose space?

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

Perhaps you live in an old building but want a little fun.

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

Sometimes it begins with a pair of chairs!

 

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

A cozy and petite space can also double as a study

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

The rustic study

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

The study and art gallery combined

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

Is this what you are looking for…

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

…or this?

The study is a wonderful space to hang out, read or merely daydream. Let us know how we can help, I would be delighted to create a little slice of heaven for you. I’ll be heading home now so please excuse me, my first stop will be my study/dressing room to change out of my work clothes.

Cheers,

Ken