Beauty Carved from Stone

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This amazing sculpture, found in the Atrium of the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, is very human in scale. She is life size. The artist paid particular attention to achieving ideal proportions and maintaining all resemblance of the human form. Because of the pose of the subject, the sculpture is asymmetrical. The most amazing focal point is achieved by the positioning of the subject’s hips…what an amazing point of interest. The pose of the subject is in complete harmony with the stone from which it is sculpted. In addition, the pose of this sculpture is far from monotonous! The tilt of the head, the arch of the back, the tilt of the hips, and the crossed legs, add variety and interest. Unity is achieved by the entire pose turned toward the right.

The sculpture is contained in a block of limited space. There is no negative space within the sculpture with the exception of a small triangle beneath the right knee. This sculpture forms a rectangle and inside the rectangle there is a triangle. Because of its size and the method of sculpture, even though it is a sculpture in the round, this is a very solid mass of stone. The sculptor has employed diagonal lines in this piece, which creates energy and interest. While the body of the subject is smooth and featureless, beneath the body the artist has incised folds of marble to represent fabric as well as curls of the subject’s hair. Because of the use of white, Carrara marble, this sculpture gives off a luminescent light. Its luminosity is enhanced by the absence of color.

Are You Driving a 1940s Car? Why Are We Still Designing Kitchens from the 1940s?

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I know that many of us who went to school for Interior Design were taught, drilled and tested endlessly on the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s kitchen work triangle guideline. We were taught that good kitchen design–a truly functional space– adheres to this guideline without fail. Breaking or ignoring this guideline was tantamount to sacrilege and you were severely graded down for non compliance. Never mind that the textbook that we used in our Kitchen & Bath Design class was written by Mary Fischer, a renowned designer with many, many years of experience, who does not subscribe to the triangle but to another methodology.

As you can imagine, being the quiet wallflower that I am, I bristled against this guideline–it just seemed too limiting in its scope and did not include design that was UnAmerican. I came to interior design having been in graphic design (marketing and advertising) for almost 25 years. So I thought/think I know some things about user experience. On top of that, I’m a would-be chef (although my son would claim otherwise). Add to that that I lived abroad (where there is no NKBA) were most kitchens take on that sleek European layout and design (and they are fully functional), and I knew in my heart, that there was room for alternative interpretations.

Then the other night, I read this article in Scottsdale Living magazine whereby two kitchen design firms weighed in on this topic. Basically, they, like Mary Fisher, subscribe to the “work centers” or multiple work triangles approach to kitchen design. For all three it seems that the 1940s standard guideline has been obsolete for a long, long time. You could say that I felt vindicated by the article (I love being right, or righteous, not sure which it is.)

So if these three successful kitchen designers are saying that the old way is very much outdated, tell me why are schools, designers, and builders still teaching this guideline and building kitchens to these specs? It’s just like toe kicks. I hate ’em. If I had my druthers, all kitchen base cabinetry would be furniture-like with legs, or better yet…floating. I also like flush countertops (man o man did this cause one of my instructors apoplexy when I designed a kitchen with flush doors and drawers, flush countertops, and legs. Like a Poggenpohl kitchen…)

I liked this line from the article, “When plotting a kitchen remodel (read: design), the homeowner should focus on what is necessary and how the space will be used.” I LOVE IT! Empower the homeowner to know how he/she uses her space instead of dictating to her that her appliances MUST be located here and here and no further than 9′ apart, etc, etc,. Agreed: Eliminating the triangle so one can be “trendy” is stupid, too. But so too is designing a 1940s kitchen in the year 2012. None of us are driving a 1940s car to work every day, are we?

Nuff said! Getting off my soap box now!

By the way, the image in this blog is a sketchup drawing I did of a kitchen remodel. You’ll note that the kitchen work triangle legs ARE NOT in keeping with the NKBA guidelines (broke other guidelines, too)…yes, yes, I’m a rebel!

5 of Our Favorite Countertops!

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In a recent issue of Surface & Panel there was a great article about countertops. Today there are more choices than ever. Long gone are the days of formica or butcher block as your only options. While the article highlighted 18 products, we’ve picked our 5 favorite work surfaces to share with you.

To be considered a great counter top choice the material has to meet some pretty high standards. First and foremost it has to durable. In terms of wear and tear, the kitchen gets a big workout. Good functioning countertops need to be easy to take care of (read: low maintenance), and since kitchen remodels are very costly, materials need to be long-lasting.

We’re all about Green products. Tammy is studying for her LEED Green Associates accreditation. So don’t be surprised if our 5 product choices are not only beautiful, but Green, too!

Bio -Glass
All those recycled wine bottles, water bottles, stemware, and beer bottles can be turned into a 100% recycled product (no epoxies or colorants) called, Bio-Glass. According to the manufacturers, it’s available in white, light green, dark green, blue and brown. Bio-glass is hard, really hard. It’s non-porous—making it easy to clean, and it does not stain. In addition to countertops its been used as partitions, facades and other decorative surfaces. I did a Google search and found tons of resellers and installers. And if it is sourced and transported less than 500 miles from your building site, it may be eligible for LEED points.

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Eco
Cosentino has just introduced a new product called, Eco. I’ve not seen it myself yet (it’s so new), but the company claims this product qualifies for Cradle-to-Cradle certification. Consentino lists recycled/reclaimed porcelain, mirror, glass, and stone scraps as the main ingredients in this new product. These are mixed with a corn-based organic resin. Eco is offered in two collections, The Green Collection and The Revive Collection; available in 6 and 4 color ways respectively. I’m setting up a meeting with our local Consentino rep to see this first hand and get the background on this new and innovative product…I’ll keep you posted.

Paperstone
Yes, it’s made from a composite of re-cycled paper! It carries FSC certification. It’s durable, hard and “virtually impervious to water”. But how does it do with stains and scratches. Well, I’d say it might be a bit softer than granite, so you’d always want to use a cutting board or other protection. It’s resistent to stains and scratches, but not “impervious”. Even with Paperstone’s recycled nature it is food and preparation surface safe. Paperstone solid surfaces come in about 9 rich and elegant colors.

Eco-Terr
For the past 10-15 years granite, and to some degree marble, has been the countertop of choice. But did you know that there is a lot of waste (not to mention high embodied energy due to its extraction) from cutting, grinding and polishing granite and marble? Eco-Terr solid surface countertops are available in 12 polished or brushed colors. How are they made? Well you take the left over granite and marble chips and combine those with binder and …voila! a 70% recycled material. There are zero VOCs, it’s non-porous and so it doesn’t support microbial or mould growth. I’m liking this new surface and would like to spec this for a project.

Squak Mountain Stone
Now I’ll admit to this: I’ve never heard of this product before, have you? I’ve never seen it, and therefore do not know much about its functionality, installation, or durability. But here’s what Surface & Panel had to say about it: Sqauk Mountain Stone is made from a combination of recycled paper, recycled glass and low-carbon cement. It is hand-cast into  “slabs”. So in my opinion, this product has a lot of pluses. I’m a closet tree-hugger. So any product that can be made from recycled material, have a low-carbon output in its manufacturing, and then have a long (or long-ish) life span is okay in my book. In this picture it resembles a concrete countertop, but in my reading, I saw that it could be finished and polished just like granite and marble, so maybe it’s a good alternative. I’ll look into this.

So many choices, and we just picked our 5 favorite. If you’re thinking of tackling a bath or kitchen design project, let us help you pick the best product that meets you and your family’s needs. Send us a quick email and we’ll be happy to help you out!

4 Accessories that’ll Give you that Green Thumb Look

It’s really hot here! Really hot! Last week it was 112 degrees. My Oleander outside my patio is barely hanging on even with our condo’s drip irrigation system. I’m saving left over doggie water to water my patio cacti. It’s dry and hot. Did I tell you that I cannot keep plants alive? No matter what the month. Even during the less extreme months I don’t have a green thumb. The only reason my cacti are alive is that they don’t need water!

Because of my lack of agricultural prowess and our lovely heat here in Arizona, I love silk and preserved plants and flowers for indoor and in some cases outdoor uses. Accessorizing with plants can really finish off a room. Here are four great examples of artificial or preserved flowers and plants, bursting with color, that can bring warmth and visual interest to your home.

This square copper pot arrangement measures 13″ x 13″ and includes a center bunch of preserved clover surrounded by protea yellow and hydrangea basil. It retails for about $200, is virtually carefree…just blow dry to remove dust (on low and no heat).  Check the web for pricing. This would make a great addition to a vanity or makeup table, or even on a sideboard.

A dining room isn’t complete without some type of centerpiece. In this traditional dining room, Design One has created an elegant and formal arrangement with a great combination of silk greens and preserved flowers. The proportions are perfect for this size room and table. The added wisps extending from the center of the piece adds visual interest and movement. Remember it doesn’t have to be elaborate or over-the-top expensive to be elegant!

Got an Asian themed room? Go Bonsai! This preserved bonsai tree is small enough to fit upon a shelf, about 18″ T, and wide enough to make a statement. Order two and have them flank a piece of statuary to create a symmetrical vignette. No watering needed. Just remove from box and Viola! You have instant greenery, year-round, regardless of the heat, lack of sun or water!

Pretty, elegant, and oh, so feminine! Nothing says timeless elegance more than simple roses. This arrangement consists of preserved pink roses and lime slices. The soft pink with the two shades of green are really stunning, don’t you think? I could see these on a side table next to an over-stuffed reading chair, on the nightstand, or even on the bath deck surrounding your deep, luxurious soaking tub.

So if you’re looking to finish off the room and aren’t sure what’s missing, it could be greenery. Too hot where your live? You don’t have a green thumb? Just want something low maintenance? Then preserved or silk plants and flowers may be just what you’re looking fore.

If you need help accessorizing, send me an email and I’d be glad to help you out.

Running Up the Wall

Last week, when I was on vacation in sunny, but muggy South Carolina, I got caught up on my interior design reading. I found these amazing tiles in Elle Decor. They jumped off the page like a group of jewels.

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Made by New Ravenna Mosaics, America’s premier designer and manufacturer of stone and glass mosaic tiles for both residential and commercial installations, these handmade mosaic tiles mimic the artistry of parquetry. Available in 72 types of stone, and 50 glass colors, my favorite is this Tortoise Shell, which is best applied to wall surfaces, though other materials are perfect for floor and medallion applications.

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These are custom tiles, so they’re available in practically any size. May be on the pricy side, these gems will run retail around $100 a sq foot. Depending upon your budget, you may choose to use these as an accent wall, a wainscoting, or if you’ve got a healthy budget, maybe even as a full wet room.

To see more colors and delicious tiles visit newravenna.com