Why a holistic strategy delivers the best in architecture, interior design, and landscape for a connected whole home design
When I’m starting a new whole home design project it feels like Christmas Eve – every time I am SO excited! There are so many possibilities, each more thrilling than the next. These beginnings are always filled with a mix of trust, anxiety, and tons of creativity – and as I consider every possibility for creating the most satisfying result – very little sleep.
I admit, I tend to become a bit obsessed with projects at the beginning as I consider all the logistics, details, and creative angles that can be explored. There are infinite questions to be answered, and it is my job as a professional architect, interior designer, and landscape architect to determine where best to begin and how to prioritize and hone our focus as we proceed.
Gathering the facts at the outset is just the beginning – from the footprint and square footage, to defining the overall design style, confirming the homeowner needs, wants, and goals, and incorporating what the land tell us or demands. A lot needs to shake out before something functional, beautiful and realistic begins to take place. Creating a whole home design is about every part of the home.
One of my current projects is new construction on a footprint of a teardown “shack” located on a waterfront property. With this short sentence, come a lot of parameters that I have to design within:
FOOTPRINT: we have to stay within the existing footprint of the house.
SETBACKS: The site is literally pie shaped and a very small corner of the house is situated over the property line onto town property. Because the house is located on the Harbor, there are strict setbacks from high tide. This means that we are dealing with stringent Shoreline and Wetland State regulations.
VOLUME: We can only expand the volume by 30%, which impacts the square footage.
HEIGHT: we are limited by the height of the existing structure and can only expand on it by 8’. This too will limit us on square footage, and it starts to determine what the house style will be.
All of these “restrictions” give me good guidance for a whole home design. Every single aspect of the project impacts architecture, interiors and landscapes. The beauty of a “whole home design” strategy is that all of these elements can be integrated seamlessly and intelligently in the flow of the interior and exterior space of the property. There is an awareness and connection from the interior to the exterior, and from the structure of the interior to the items that adorn it and make it function. When people hire different experts that only focus on architecture, or only focus on interior design – they lose cohesion and flow. They lose having the most harmonious result possible.
The more efficiently architectural elements are determined, the quicker we can move into putting a detailed plan forth. For example, windows and how the house must look from the outside as well as the views and how you see them through the frames inside the house as you look out. Both are important considerations. Rooflines are also crucial, they determine so much about design style and create potential opportunities or constraints in terms of square footage of living space.
CLICK HERE to read a blog post related to architecture
There are always parts of a house that people want and need. But putting it together in a ways that is both functional and lovely to look at and live in is my job. It is always a complex but enjoyable process, and I ensure their taste, design style and lifestyle are reflected in the outcome. It’s not my home – so I need to get to know my clients well, and the process is one that I involve homeowners in very specifically.
CLICK HERE to read a blog post related to interiors
Lot coverage is the footprint of the house on the lot, including the landing and stairs. This is an important
consideration in the “Whole Home Design” process and the landscape often intersects directly with practical elements of the architecture. For example, if we need to raise grade in order to accommodate a new septic system. As a result of raising the grade, I will need to add stairs and a landing, all of which will impact lot coverage as well as take up valuable square footage on the interior. The design of outdoor space and how it is accessed impacts the location of doors and windows. And land use is important to understand as well. How you want to enjoy your outdoor space will impact the lot coverage – whether you’re an avid vegetable gardener and cook, a lover of lush green lawn, or you’ve always dreamed of a stone patio for entertaining or a water feature as the centerpiece of your property.
CLICK HERE to read a blog post related to landscape (Part 1)
CLICK HERE to read a blog post related to landscape (Part 2)
As you understand how the landscaping impacts the architecture and the architecture impacts the interiors – you start to understand what I define as “Whole Home Design”. I’m thrilled that I’m able to offer these services to my clients. As I think about how each aspect impacts another, it becomes like an intricate puzzle that only looks right when all the pieces are connected properly. Let me know if you have any questions about your interior design, architecture or landscape and we can talk about how any of these important elements of your home can harmonize more beautifully and successfully with the others, to create the ideal result for you.
Typically, dinnerware should be a functional part of daily living, but what if the dinnerware is inspiring and tells a story? Inspiration brings about an emotional response – motivational, warmth, or even insight. Inspiring dinnerware brings a sense of adventure to the table!
I designed this “Libby” line inspired by Queen Ann’s lace a few springs ago. We have been slowly introducing new products to see what people like. These sweet little vases, serving bowls and mugs are my personal favorite. I find the dancing movement of the flowers to be an inspiring and unique image.
Black and white play with each other nicely to compliment other colors in the palette. If you know my designs, you know I love color so I’m leaving that to the tablescape that you create. Shown in these images with shades of green to accent the black & white is one choice but also try a light blue to soften the table.
Imagine… drinking your morning cup of coffee in these mugs and thinking about the day ahead, knowing that it is yours to “Seize the Day”!
Click the links to shop online for dinnerware to compliment your table’s decor!
Linens Glassware Serveware Mugs
New Zealand Travel
I find New Zealand to be an incredibly powerful, spiritual and simple country.
The Maori Culture is alive and well and integrated with the British influence. These native Polynesian heritage people fought hard for their rights and land so they still strongly influence the country. Sheep, greenery, mountains and ocean are visible in every turn of the road as the ecosystem changes constantly to keep the eye stimulated and fed. The Maori Indians are peaceful and respected residents in the country. Their artwork and designs are elegant, primitive, and simple – reflecting the beauty of the nature in New Zealand.
I’ve been to New Zealand about 8 years ago with my family. We were there for 8 days and were only able to cover the southern part of the South Island. During those 8 days I was incredibly moved by the peaceful nature and modern architecture; I feel passionate about both.
Drawn to return to New Zealand, we planned to visit the northern part of the South Island, the North Island, and ending our trip in Fiji. I am looked forward to seeing the ferns, the fresh clean water, dramatic rock as the land meets the sea – but this time I also wanted to note the architecture and how it reflects the natural surrounds.
The architecture is primarily still simple even in new construction. The simplicity is read as modern but only because building techniques are used in the most basic of ways. The homes are primarily bungalows and it is fairly rare to see a two-story
Their weather is much more mild, similar to Northern California, so the windows & doors are single pane and very simple. The roofs are primarily metal.
Because it is an island with limited natural resources and manufacturing, the material selections are fairly basic (unlike the plethora of selections in America). The cabinetry was primarily of an IKEA style, look, and function with a functional pantry. Flooring was primarily wood or carpet and siding was painted natural wood.
Overall, because the materials were simple, they use them in interesting ways such as wood on the ceiling and walls juxtaposed with white paint. Insetting the carpet instead of installing it on top of the floor or a full view windows and doors with little interruption of trim work were not uncommon.
There is a serenity and calmness to the designs. You are always intended to experience the natural surrounds. When living in the spaces I found that the floor plans were just about perfect. Space was always used efficiently and thoughtful in a clever way with pocket doors or sliding doors to divide space and very few hallways. The floor plans take advantage of views and create privacy, appropriately designing a functional, practical, and simple space for people who are tightly connected to nature and it is reflected in their architecture.
If you love to travel and can carve out enough time to really relax
into the culture and experience, I highly recommend a trip to New Zealand! My favorite places are: Queenstown (where you can jetboat and bungee jump), Milford Sound, Queen Charlotte’s Track, Golden Bay and Tasman National Park, Marlborough and Cloudy Bay, and Russell.
Queen Charlotte’s Track
Tasman National Park
There is a great show that I recommend: GRAND DESIGNS NZ – http://www.tv3.co.nz/Shows/GrandDesignsnz.aspx
My daughter, Elle, loves to travel. She has been to Myanmar and Ghana as a high school student and enjoyed the challenge and rich education that those experiences provided. So when an opportunity to study in Paris for her Freshman year as a George Washington University student presented itself, she was all in. Me? It took me a bit longer to get on board.
But alas, on August 31, 2016 I got on an airplane from Paris to Boston without my girl, leaving her in Paris to figure out a foreign city, the language, room mates, travel and college in general. If anyone can do it, Elle can do it.
Luckily, I had five days in that beautiful city to enjoy the rich history and architecture that it presents to the world. While it is a multi-cultural city, the French are the French. There is a definitive cultural lifestyle that has not adapted to modern living but rather modern living adapts to the lifestyle.
The city is vast, dense, historic and primarily low. While high rises can be seen at a distance from the Louvre, the Eiffel Tour (1063 ft) is the predominant image with the basilica, Sacre Coeur at Montmartre can be seen in the distance as it sits on top of a hill. All the other buildings are lower than the 121 ft. height restriction.
The neighborhoods are divided into 20 different arrondissements, all with different personalities. But the height restriction has been lifted to 590 ft in the 13th arrondissement, cranes can be seen all over as building is now underway. I wonder what the city will feel like with this neighborhood of taller buildings?
The reason for allowing higher buildings is economics. As with Washington DC, the housing prices have skyrocketed – vertical building is much more economical.
Because the living is compact – the building is vertical with little air conditioning, no elevators and no outdoor space. The solution is a cultural reaction:
- No air-conditioning: the residents all travel the month of August closing businesses for the month and allowing tourist to take over Paris.
- No Elevators: Most of the windows are in-swing narrow French Doors with low iron railings. When they are moving into an apartment, the hoist the furniture through the windows.
- No outdoor space: These iron railings act as a place to plant gardens. People grow vegetables, herbs, succulents and flowers. With the French door it is easy to create an indoor/ outdoor feel within the small space.
- Cafes are a way of life. Because people don’t have outdoor space, they become more social and spend hours sitting facing the street sipping wine or cappuccino, reading a book or spending time with friends and family. Kitchens are small, groceries are expensive and limited so it makes sense to eat out quite often at your favorite café.
- These cafes all have the similar chairs that can be stacked at night inside the small café and placed in order around small round tables for 2 during the open hours. It is a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere and absolutely part of the culture.
- The interior layout of the apartments are still arranged within separate rooms instead of the American “open concept”. Cooking is typically done in a small function room that is closed off from the public living space. The café is a reaction to being more socialized.
I loved walking around the different neighbors (arrondissements) with large doors, corbels, brackets, iron railings, French doors, flowers, and finite details to express the Paris personality. We will often take one of these details on in our architecture but in Paris… the details define the architecture!
From Each Client’s Vision through the Mind’s-Eye of a Professional Designer
As clients embark on the process of working with a professional designer, I am often asked what my process involves, in order to assure that the resulting design is comprehensive, cohesive and professional, while at the same time genuinely reflecting the preferences, personality and taste of my client.
In a way, the answer is simple and concise – its not my house.
Many clients know what they like when they see it. It isn’t hard to admire a beautifully designed room. But it takes professional training and practice to create an admirable interior design that will truly resonate with the individuals that inhabit it.
My role is one that requires the right amount of distance and an abundance of respect when it comes to individual taste. If I designed to satisfy my own taste and desires, much of my work would start feeling quite similar. While I do love one-of-a-kind items and design elements that always bring something distinctive and unique to a space – I see my job as taking my client’s taste, lifestyle, personality and priorities and making these elements work between the architecture, material selections and interior design elements. This creates a home that my clients love and want to call home, and one I am just as proud to show off as an example of my work.
Actually, when I have client who has very distinct style and taste that is different than my own – it’s exciting for me. This brings a new dynamic to my work, and keeps it professionally challenging, personally interesting, engaging and fun. I always learn a great deal.
A few years ago I worked on a large project that was a total re-build and through the process my client and I became friends. This is pretty typical because we spend so much time together talking about intimate details of lifestyle. As we worked through the architectural process she realized that I was seeing the finished product while designing – envisioning and iterating plans for color, built-ins, flooring materials, lighting and more.
Almost weekly, she would push me into thinking about something that I wasn’t quite ready to think about – and it was great! Her style was “Shabby-Chic” which I had never really done before. My job was to make sure that it didn’t go overboard while still expressing her passion with materials from vintage fabrics to unique patterns and tile. The result was stunning, fun and inspiring and one-of-a-kind. We both loved it.
I have another client who had a passion for “Vintage” style and she knew exactly what she wanted in terms of the feeling and design style her finished product would reflect. She just had no idea of how to going about it. I was able to teach her about proportion, scale and local resources while she taught me about painting cabinetry finishes and reclaiming and reusing antiques in a new modern way that paid homage to their origins and vintage style.
If people profess they don’t have a defined style, I have them start and share with me a Pinterest Board or scrap book collection of things that they like. It doesn’t take me long to take a look at it and quickly see a theme. Typically, people are pretty consistent about what they like… even if they don’t know it.
The path is never straight, and the design process is a cyclical evolution that is always fun albeit somewhat torturous for those with an aversion to decision-making. The goal of my process is always to teach and enable my clients to make their own style work successfully. I don’t impose my own taste or design style on clients – I work to reveal their unique vision, and bring it to life together with them. Again – its not my house. I know, and respect that every step of the way. Yes, it’s a challenge but I never fail to find the fun and inspiration along the way – let me guide you through the process!