Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Remodeling - Do Your Homework

I'm doing so many remodel design projects these days.  Our area is full of 20+ year old homes that need some TLC.  If you are thinking about remodeling whether it's kitchen, bathroom, an addition, whatever, this is what you should be doing whether you are hiring a designer or not.

1.  We've all heard this....start building a photo file for style ideas so that you can narrow down what you want your end result to look like.  The most important thing to pinpoint here is the atmosphere or feeling about the space.  If you just start to pull things that appeal to you, you will begin to see a pattern.  That pattern will dictate the overall design scheme for your space.  For some clients that translates to a hard binder with categories divided up, or it can also just be some photos found online. I tell all my future clients to go to and build an ideabook with their own annotations.  They just e-mail me the link.  We've gone all paperless now you know!

2.  In your file you can also get specific.  If you see some tile or cabinetry or paint colors, etc. that you LOVE and would like to have in your space, save that photo and note what it is you love about it.  I would advise not to get too married to any one item you've identified though.  The most important thing is identifying the overall look you want. You might fall in love with a specific item that doesn't really work in that particular design direction you like. I had a client who fell for an onyx harlequin mosaic tile for her bathroom.  She wanted an Asian contemporary bathroom.  Um-hmm....didn't work out so well. 

3.  If you are doing a kitchen, start researching appliances. These are very personal and there is such a wide variety of types and qualities available.  While a designer can advise on style or finish, you will be the one using it, so do your homework and visit some showrooms and start looking at pricing. The biggest part of a kitchen remodel budget outside of cabinetry is usually appliances. Deciding between something like the Kitchenaid Architect's Series or Viking/Subzero will make a huge impact on your budget.  It's also very important to the layout and electrical/water locations.

4. For a bathroom, start researching plumbing fixtures. Again, these have a huge range of quality and price. It helps to understand how much things cost so that your mouth doesn't fall to the floor when you get your quotes in from the contractor. So you want a Waterworks tub and a car wash shower. Do you know how much that costs?

5.  Costs.  Think about your budget.  How much can you spend on this space? Is it enough to do what you want?  In a kitchen remodel, if you figured out your appliances and generally know what to budget for that, then you can kind of see how it's stacking up relative to how much you have to spend.  For example, if you have $50,000 for a kitchen remodel and have decided to go all high end on appliances, then you've basically already spent your budget. If you've got $25,000 to spend on a bathroom and you want a $10,000 tub then you will need to make another selection.  I think it's important in any remodel to bring everything up to the same level of quality.  Don't leave something in the room that is going to bring down the rest of your renovation.  I also think you shouldn't spend all your wad on one thing and have everything else be mediocre. 

6.  Allow time.  You need time to plan this properly.  It takes about 2 months at least to get a design for a space with selections done ready for a contractor.  That's me.  All designers are different.  And if you're a homeowner doing it yourself, it may take longer.  Typically, if my client is paying for my services for complete project, then we have a bid packet that will go out.  It contains the floor plan, elevations, details of cabinets and/or how finishes stop and start, electrical plan, finish specifications, and a finish schedule, as well as general construction notes, cabinetry specifications, and then the fixture specifications.  By fixtures I mean, lighting, plumbing, hardware.  If we can get all this tied down and specified, it makes it sooo easy for a contractor to price out and build. It's easier to get multiple bids and compare apples to apples. 

Typically people want their homes tidied up and projects finished by Thanksgiving for fall projects and by summer for spring projects.  If you wanted a project done in the fall, you should have started back in the spring or no later than June booking a designer or designing the project yourself.  If you want a project in the spring, now is a good time to call to book a designer to start the design in October or November, if you want to be ready to start when the kids go back to school in January.  Most busy designers (and if they aren't busy, maybe that should give you pause) have to work projects in with others and need time to plan their schedules.   If you are doing this project yourself, you have to fit in shopping for tile, etc. with your life too.  Remember, you don't have all these suppliers at your fingertips.  You will have to do more running around and spend more time doing research so that you can figure out which supplier has what you want and what products are out there for you to use.

Now you're ready to start the design.  Be open minded, considerate, realize that going for the cheapest is not always the best, and above all, know that professionals in this field are not trying to take advantage of you or take your money for nothing.  It's in their best interest to make you happy.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Today's Bathmats

I have these samples of indoor/outdoor rugs from TransOcean in my studio.  They come in all sizes from 8'x10' to 8' round to 2'x3'.  Because they can be used outside in the elements and you can literally hose them down, you can also use them as bathmats or doormats. 

I'm not really a big bathmat fan, especially really fluffy ones, but you need something to step out on when you get out of the shower.  This really fits the bill.  Trim, short loop pile, easy to clean, and stays flat and neat.  they have some great patterns and it doesn't look "outdoor-ish" at all. 

Love these!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Happens When You Invite An Interior Designer To Dinner

......and you start talking about what you'd like to do in your dining room??

Everyone starts to help!

The outdated wallpaper border in your dining room gets ripped down by the 6 crazy dinner guests! :)

Of course there was wine involved.....but it would've happened anyway.

Now, on to the beautiful paint color and new window treatments we'll be doing!

No manicures were ruined in the making of this blog post. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Repetition in Design

Jacqueline Derry Segura - House Beautiful

Repetition is one of the tools used in design to reinforce a concept.  It helps provide continuity, aids in making a statement, and celebrates that one element that is worth repeating. 

Color is one of the most common elements repeated in design.  In the bedroom above, the gorgeous citron color is repeated in the ottomans, lamps, headboard, and art.  A fresh, vibrant mood is created because of the repetition of that color.

Chantal Dussouchaud - House Beautiful

In this image, the map motif or theme is repeated.  It reinforces a global, traveled feel in the space.

Miles Redd - Elle Decor

The curvy silhouettes of the chairs, sofa, and window treatments repeated here evoke a feminine quality in this room.  The lipstick red color also contributes to that look, repeated as well.

Mark Cunningham - Elle Decor

The boxy shapes in the chairs, cocktail table, and window make a strong style statement of a masculine, almost business-like interior.

Laura Kirar - House Beautiful

These rectangular mirrors repeat the window shape and make for tall, linear look. It sort of celebrates the narrow window which could have been a negative at a bathroom vanity.

Tom Sheerer - House Beautiful

The repetition of bold patterns makes for a playful, interesting space. 

Dan Marty - House Beautiful

I love the textural interest repeated here in the rug, chair backs, and baskets.  It reinforces a casual, relaxed ambience.

In all these examples, the repetition of certain features helps strengthen the overall design intent.

In this accessible bathroom design I did for a client, a linear, horizontal line was repeated in plumbing fixtures, lighting, hardware, mouldings, and louvered doors.  A masculine, spa-like ambience was desired and the horizontal lines help create that feel in the space.

In this kitchen remodel, copper was used repeatedly to bring a French country look to the space.  Copper cabinet pulls, sink, faucet, and accessories helped make a statement.

I love the use of copper here.  It was just the right metal finish to compliment the soft color scheme.

Repetition in design is great for emphasis and I love to see it used successfully.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What To Do With Oak Cabinets

I have one project that was published a few years ago and again recently reprinted.

Photo from my website

After several years I still get calls and e-mails from all over the country with people asking me specifics about the finishes and telling me that they have these exact oak cabinets.  Most recently about a month ago, someone from Anchorage, Alaska was interested in the slate floor. I forwarded her the info on my supplier and they both tried to work out various ways to ship it as cheaply as possible from Houston to Alaska.  It was terribly expensive to ship that far and luckily she found something similar in her area.  I thought it just goes to show you how much people sometimes want to make the best of what they have and well, really aren't interested in a white kitchen. I know, as much we all love a white kitchen here on the blogs...
not everyone wants one.

This project had miles of oak cabinetry.  The homeowner didn't want to paint them or change them all out for various reasons.  They liked a refined rustic/craftsman style look and love natural materials.  The challenge became how to make those builder standard oak cabinets look good.  


Items that had to go:  oak floors (too much oak, they wanted something more durable, and it didn't match the other oak flooring in the adjacent dining room), off-white counters, busy, dated wallpaper, dated light box, backsplash, white refrigerator, oddly shaped island.



By pairing the oak with a dark color, the green in this instance, it became a two tone kitchen. We created contrast and the green was a rich accent to the oak. Notice all the elements we added, countertops, backsplash, and new cabinetry were that dark green color. The light color in the space became the oak or oak color. The dark color is the green. When you tie several different elements in a space together with color and value, you make a stronger statement. The slate floor mixed those two colors together beautifully.  That slate is call Imperial Sunset from Thorntree here in Houston.


I'm not a fan of making do with outdated materials and old features unless it can be done well and there are valid reasons for keeping them when you remodel. I do think however that this project has a timelessness about it, that the new and old blend really well, and I have to say....those oak cabinets never looked so good!

All before and after photos from my website

Thank you Better Homes and Gardens, for publishing this project again.  It definitely hit home with a lot of people.

I've moved! I would love it if you would follow my new blog, Designed w/Carla Aston!

Linking to:
Wow Us Wednesdays at Savvy Southern Style
Show and Tell Saturday at Be Different Act Normal

If you have a design related question or need some advice on any aspect of interior design, e-mail me HERE.  I might feature your question in a special Q and A blog post! 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Facelift For a Chair

What do you do with an old world style brown frame dining chair upholstered in a gold, tapestry style fabric when you want a modern, fresh, vibrant look in your dining room and you don't want to get new chairs?

New dark chocolate wood stain
Edelman, "Dream Cow, Fudge" leather seat
Schumacher, "High Voltage, Espresso" fabric on the back
New larger nailheads for a bolder statement

One of my clients will be dining in style next week when these are delivered!

Have a vibrant weekend!

Linking to Furniture Feature Friday at Miss Mustard Seed
Beautify It Monday at Bringing Beauty

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Time To Remodel

It was time to remodel this small master bath.  The dark wallpaper, small shower, and lack of storage prompted these clients of mine to renovate.  These cultured marble shower boxes were very popular in homes built around 20 years ago. 

Sorry for the dark photo.  Here is the vanity inside the bathroom. 

Tub area, not used, except for maybe drying clothes.  Why not put a large shower here?

Her vanity had to remain outside the main bathroom.  Small master closet is just opposite her vanity.

The closet doors were a problem.  They swung out into the small space and annoyed the husband, but she loved the mirrors and wanted to leave the doors open.  They also needed better use of that closet space which fortunately had a high ceiling.

After remodeling, they have a lovely new bathroom with lots of great storage, beautiful updated finishes, and fixtures.

Looking into the main bathroom through her vanity area.  Mirrored upper cabinets brought more storage and reflected natural light into the space. 

We moved the shower to the tub area and changed out the window for privacy.  All the finishes were kept light to visually enlarge the space.  The beautiful onyx tile provided some nice detail and interest.  The antique brass fixtures bring out the warmth of the tile.

Beautiful marble at the counters, shower threshold, window sill, and shower seat.  Marble shelves in the shampoo niche too.

Looking back into her vanity area.  You can see the new closet doors in the cabinet mirrors.

Sliding barn door style hardware was hidden under crown moulding. The doors don't swing out anymore and the mirrors are always available!

A beautiful rolling Putnam ladder works well in the closet to access high storage.  It pops snugly into a niche in the back of the closet when not in use.

I love how this traditional bathroom turned out.  My clients are happy too!

If you need a beautiful bathroom designed just for you, contact Aston Design Studio.

All "After" Photos by Miro Dvorscak

Participating in the Open House Party at No Minimalist Here

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Art as Inspiration

Alberto Pinto - Architectural Digest

Having great art in your home is a true luxury. When you make an investment in a piece that speaks to you or makes a statement about your taste and personality, you want it to take center stage in a room. Not only should the art be the center of attention, it should also inspire the envelope. I love how these interiors seem to be inspired by the art. Nothing takes away from the statement.

Alberto Pinto - Architectural Digest

Alberto Pinto - Architectural Digest

I love the art in Alberto Pinto's apartment in Rio de Janeiro in the images above.  It speaks so well to the atmosphere of Rio.  All the furniture and architectural details really support the statement the art is making.

Karyl Pierce Paxton - House Beautiful

I love the color of those silk panels, seemingly inspired by the art.

Lisa Perry - Veranda

David Kleinberg - House Beautiful

What a great piece of art this is, in a pool house by David Kleinberg.  The subject matter is so appropriate and the colors from the art are used in the materials and furnishings.  It evokes such a relaxed feel and casual vibe.

Richard Hallberg - Veranda

Jamie Drake - House Beautiful

Richard Couturier - Elle Decor

Such a great example of art inpsiring the interior envelope.  Nothing takes away from that stunning piece, it only enhances it.

Elle Decor website

Paula Caravelli - Elle Decor

Richard Lambertson, John Truex - Architectural Digest

Richard Lambertson, John Truex - Architectural Digest

I love the art wall in this space. Everything else is quiet in the room.

Art is a great investment and just gives life to any environment.  It is an important feature in considering the design of an interior.  A good designer can design a room where your statement art can really be appreciated.

Contact Aston Design Studio if you are looking for a way to incorporate art into your home!

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