6 Easy Tips To A Healthy And Beautiful Lawn & Landscape From A Raleigh Landscape Designer

April 26, 2016

Spring is here, and if you’re like me, you have been thrilled to see North Carolina beautifully in bloom once again! Spring means warmer weather and a return to enjoying our lawns and gardens. We all want the exteriors of our homes to look their best, so North Carolina Design turned to Raleigh landscaping and lawn expert Kevin Fontaine, owner of Fontaine Landscaping, for some tips on what will bring out the best in our lawns and outdoor living spaces this spring.

Images Courtesy of Fontaine Landscaping ©

Clean Up Your Lawn
Kevin suggests raking leftover leaves and clearing out any debris that might be cluttering your lawn. “Removing debris from your lawn allows sunlight and water to reach the grass, which promotes optimum growth, ” Kevin offers.

In The Spring – Teach Your Grass To Grow
Spring is the ideal time to condition your grass to become more tolerant. “Realistically, in the spring, we’re still getting rain and you don’t want to supplement that too much,” Kevin explains. “Less watering means the root will stretch in search of water, and in the long run, you end up with healthier grass. You’ll see someone that is watering their lawn now several times a week and it looks really lush. The problem is that later in the season these roots have not been conditioned to survive. Right now, let mother nature do her thing. In the end, you’ll have a healthier lawn.”

The War On Weeds
When it comes to dealing with weeds, Kevin advises clients to apply a pre-emergent herbicide to lawns in early spring, since it keeps weed seeds from germinating as the weather warms up. For those of us who missed that window and now have patches of weeds dotting our lawns, he notes that all is not lost. “You can still apply a half rate of the pre-emergent which will protect your lawn from future weed seed,” Kevin says. “The half rate leaves enough time for it to break down before it’s time for fall grass seeding. This won’t kill your existing weeds – you’ll need to use a post-emergent liquid type of weed killer.”

Fill In Those Unsightly Bare Spots
Springtime is not the time of year for planting grass, so does that mean that you must put up with bare spots on your lawn for the next 6 months? Kevin offers a resounding, “No.” Following a specific regime, these eyesores will quickly disappear. “Rough up the bare spot with a rake to break up the soil,” he explains. “You’ll then want to bring in some composted soil. Lastly, add seed and water the area.”

Insect Patrol
Kevin recommends that you regularly inspect trees and bushes for the presence of any insects. If you see evince of an insect – “Don’t spray just to spray,” Kevin advises. “That’s bad for the environment. Just because you see one or two of something does not necessarily mean you have a problem. It takes quite a few of something to do damage. You want to first identify what you are dealing with. Take a leaf to your local garden center. Ask them what it is. Make sure it is populated enough to warrant spraying, and if necessary, spray accordingly.”

According to Kevin, mulching your trees now will help keep their roots moist and protect them from warmer weather. “Avoid ‘volcano mulching’,” he advises. “Mulch should have a depth of two to three total inches. You should still be able to see some fibrous roots.”

Fontaine Landscaping has designed, installed and maintained residential and commercial landscapes throughout the Triangle area since 1996.

Lighting Selections… Triad Lighting Designer Explains Why These Selections Should Always Be Made Early In The Process

April 19, 2016

Lighting certainly does add an irreplaceable sparkle and shine to a design. It also illuminates our homes’ best features. But, as Priscilla Olinick of Butler Lighting explains, lighting is so much more than just a pretty accent. It’s a powerful transformative element that can set the tone for an entire home. Butler Lighting is a family-owned company that has shared its passion for lighting with customers for over 50 years. As a longtime Butler Lighting design and sales consultant, Priscilla was kind enough to share with North Carolina Design some of her lighting expertise.

Images Courtesy of Butler Lighting ©

“If you’ve ever lived in a dark house, as I have, you know how important lighting is,” Priscilla reflects. “Lighting transforms the feel, the mood, and even the scale of a space. It also enhances the overall design. A beautiful room that’s under lit doesn’t have nearly the impact it could or should have. When lighting is done correctly, the entire room comes alive.”

When it comes to proper lighting, Priscilla emphasizes that form follows function. “The ultimate goal is to have the correct amount of lighting in every room,” she notes. “To accomplish this, you have to think in general terms first. Decorative fixtures will only offer so much light. Ambient lighting is foundational. It’s the key to a well-lit space. So you want to make sure you have enough recessed and general lighting. You can work out the task lighting and accent lighting afterward.”

Because lighting is so important, Priscilla advises that homeowners make it a priority early on in the building or remodeling process. “So many people focus on paint colors and cabinetry, and put lighting on the back burner. They don’t realize that some of their lighting needs have to be addressed early on so that the electrician and builder can rough everything in. If you wait until everything’s in place and then find out the lighting can’t work for you, there may not be a quick or affordable solution.”

Priscilla maintains that it’s also important to be up-to-date on the latest lighting advancements and trends. “Lighting fixtures have become much more transitional, which I love,” she offers. “Things are not so stuffy, and fixtures are not so heavy, dark or ornate. We’re seeing a lot of gold, a lot of silver, and a lot of lighter wood tones and whitewashes. There are a lot of fun, casual options out there that really add some personality, and I think that’s great.”

As far as the latest lighting technology goes, Priscilla tells us that LED lighting is the wave of the future. “It’s advancing so rapidly – the options available now are far superior to those produced just two years ago,” she affirms. “The color temperature is warmer and much more natural, and the color quality has greatly improved. LED’s still cost more, but people can justify the expense because they will literally pay for themselves over time in terms of energy consumption.”

With so many factors to consider, homeowners can find lighting to be much more complex and more overwhelming than they imagined. But thankfully, places like Butler Lighting can help put clients at ease, streamline the process and assist with decision-making. “This is a one-stop-shop,” says Priscilla. “We have multiple locations and a 10,000 foot showroom. But most importantly, there are consultants in every location who offer a very high level of service.

“Homeowners don’t always realize how important things like scale and proportion are, or what their builders and electricians’ needs might be. When they buy fixtures on their own online, they can make mistakes. But here, they can come in for a one-on-one consultation with people who have a great deal expertise, and will walk them through the whole process. That makes all the difference in the world. Lighting is just too important to go it alone. We love helping our customers get it right.”

Asheville Architect Designs A Blue Ridge Mountain Getaway With Every Comfort Of “Home Sweet Home”

April 5, 2016

Are you a mountain or a beach person? For this mountain house renovation designed by Asheville architect Amy Conner–Murphy, of ACM Design, I have no doubt that each of our seasons serve as a gorgeous backdrop, beautifully bringing out its best. Right now, as the Blue Ridge Mountains awaken with the lush colors of spring, I thought it would be a great time to again share the beauty of this home.

When Marcus Katz and his wife, Pearl Baker Katz, decided to create their dream home in Western North Carolina, they initially set their sights on a small renovation. As they worked with Amy Conner-Murphy, owner of ACM Design, the vision they had for their dream home began to take shape – and transformed from a small project into a major renovation. The end result? An exquisitely appointed, luxurious property that has all of the amenities of a high-end retreat, but with every comfort of “home sweet home.” Amy was kind enough to share with North Carolina Design how she and her team added some of the finer details to the home.

Images Courtesy of ACM Design ©

The Katz’s wanted to build a second home in the Asheville area. “Marcus grew up coming to summer camp in the area, and he loved it,” Amy explained. “They both wanted to create a spectacular retreat where friends and family could be treated to luxury while they were visiting, but still feel very much at home.”

To accomplish the homeowners’ vision, drastic changes had to be made. “The main residence was taken back to the studs and completely revamped with a new floor plan. While we kept the rustic feel of the exterior, the interior doesn’t at all resemble what was there originally.”

The new layout gives the homeowners the exact function and aesthetic they need. “It’s an open, casual, inviting kind of space,” Amy said. “People can linger and enjoy the view while they have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine from the bar.”

The property’s spectacular view is one of its best features, and Amy and her team found a brilliant way to capitalize on it. “We used expanses of glass bi-folding doors that open almost the whole width of the room. This allows the indoor and outdoor spaces to flow into one another. When the weather permits, which could be 9 or 10 months out of the year, they can actually live both indoors and outdoors.”

When it comes to guest accommodations in the home, visitors are spoiled for choice. “The main home’s guest suites were designed to give visitors a high level of privacy and luxury,” Amy said. “The homeowners truly had in mind a space where their guests could relax and feel comfortable. Everything is provided – guests can check emails, or have a hot bath after a day of hiking – all the creature comforts that could make someone feel at home have been thought of.”

The couple’s guests can also stay in the spacious and luxurious dual-level guest house. “The top level of the guest house is like a very posh hotel suite,” Amy noted. “It has everything — a well-appointed kitchen, a master suite and a gathering space. The lower level is more like a den and game room space – somewhere where family and friends who have children can feel comfortable and follow their own routines.”

The home’s outdoor space is a veritable paradise for the Katz’s and their guests, featuring a fully outfitted summer kitchen, an infinity pool that faces the mountain view, a poolside waterfall, gardens, a tennis pavilion and hiking trails. “You can hike in the mountains and see hundreds of native species, without ever leaving the property,” Amy said. “The whole place really is an Eden, just as the homeowners imagined.”

Click here to view the North Carolina Design Directory of quality professionals, artisans and retailers for all areas of the home.

Readying Your Outdoor Living Space For The Warmer Months? Greensboro Landscape Architect Shares What’s “Hot” In 2016

March 29, 2016

As we delight in the warmer temperatures that spring has greeted us with, our thoughts at North Carolina Design inevitably turn to our outdoor living spaces and all of the wonderful possibilities they will soon offer us. But first we must know – what is new and exciting in backyard getaways these days? To find out, we turned to Greensboro landscape architect Lori Hawkins of Hawkins Landscape Architecture. As an exceptionally talented professional and a born people person, Lori thoroughly enjoys collaborating closely with her clients to help them achieve their goals and she is well in tune with their desires and preferences.

Images Courtesy of Hawkins Landscape Architecture ©

Lori notes that when it comes to landscaping, the word of the day is custom. “It’s not about keeping up with the neighbors,” she reflects. “And, we’re even seeing a shift toward the modern. It’s not about a specific style,” she reflects. “It’s about creating an ideal outdoor space for your family – something that provides a sense of comfort and beauty, that feels like home, and answers all of your functional needs.”

One area in which function and comfort are key is the outdoor kitchen. “For the past five years or so, homeowners have really focused on making their outdoor kitchens a superbly functional extension of their living space,” she tells us. “They are incorporating all kinds of great features, like high-end grills, wood or gas pizza ovens, and smokers. I’ve had several requests for The Big Green Egg. I build a special platform for it so that it blends right in with the design.”

According to Lori, today’s homeowners use custom fire and water features to make their outdoor spaces feel like a relaxing and luxurious getaway. “There’s a demand for pools and spas with vanishing edges,” she says. “Homeowners are also asking for pools with beach entrances, where the water starts out flush with the ground and gradually deepens, just as it does at the beach. They can place chairs at the water’s edge and sit right with their kids as they wade or swim.”

“There’s also a demand for tanning ledges. These are elevated platforms within the pool where you can set up a beach chair and an umbrella and read, relax, or soak up some sun. As far as fire features go, people are really interested in a wide range of selections, from coffee table styles, to fireplaces, to fire pits, and they all run the gamut when it comes to style. People are very focused on custom fire features that meet their needs and fit the design, rather than pre-fabricated selections.”

People are fine-tuning their outdoor spaces through technology, as well. “High-definition outdoor TVs are very popular, but very expensive,” she notes. “I’ll often take a regular TV and placed it in a custom built all-weather encasement. People are also very interested in the idea of automation. You can automate just about everything in your space. If you’d like to surprise your sweetie with a romantic evening outdoors you can warm up warm up the spa, turn on the fire feature and adjust the lights – from your car.”

While people are going high-tech with some aspects of landscaping, they are returning to simpler concepts for others. “People are very concerned about sustainability,” offers Lori. “They want products that are good for the environment. They want native plants, less pesticide and less water waste. They want to incorporate recycled materials and install rain collection systems. They’re willing to swap out sections of their lawn for gravel, which can withstand foot traffic and requires no water and no fertilizer or pesticides.”

Some people are taking the sustainable idea to new levels and creating landscapes that “give back.” “Edible landscapes are increasing in popularity,” notes Lori. “With these, it’s so much more than a box garden – we have to come up with unique ways to incorporate vegetables and fruits into the landscape itself so that they add structure, color and interest.”

What Lori likes most about the direction landscaping has taken is the knowledge today’s homeowners bring to the table. “They’re so savvy, and so passionate,” she says. “They know about sustainability. They know about fire features. They understand design concepts. They’re not just asking me to come create a design for them. They’re collaborating with me in a really meaningful way. I love it – It makes the process more fun, and the design turns out so much better.”

Greensboro Remodeler & Builder Seamlessly Blends Old And New With The Renovation of A 1930′s Sunset Hills Home

March 22, 2016

Our homes are reflective of what matters most to us, and Kevin Jones of Kevin Jones Design-Build in Greensboro is adept at translating the unique priorities and desires of his clients into beautiful and functional living spaces. Recently, the Greensboro remodeler and builder applied his considerable skills toward the renovation of a 1930′s home, located in the historic Sunset Hills neighborhood. Recently, Kevin shared with North Carolina Design how the home, while beautiful and charming, lacked some of the function, size and storage that a modern lifestyle requires. In addition, the homeowners had a very specific aesthetic in mind for their home.

Images Courtesy of Kevin Jones Design-Build LLC. ©

Kevin had worked with the homeowners before, renovating their master bedroom and their existing sunroom. “Those projects really turned out well,” he recalls. “We were able to work within the style of the home, and within the tight space constraints. We added in some really high-concept elements to address their storage needs. Eventually they approached us with a new idea for a renovation. They really felt confident that we could give them exactly what they were looking for.”

What the homeowners wanted this time was an additional living space that would work well for guests, or for older in laws who might move in in the future. “The house was been small, but the lot was really large,” he explains. “We were able to build out the back and create a master suite with really beautiful garden views.” Kevin also gave them a spectacular master bath, a cozy master sitting room and a large walk-in closet, complete with custom built-ins and a laundry area.

The new master is a standalone, which makes it private and comfortable. However, it’s still connected to the main house, so anyone staying or living there can still feel part of things. “The master sitting room connects the new and old entry points of the house, and creates a buffer between the two. It’s a very cozy and den-like space, with really comfortable furniture. There’s no TV – it’s just a great place to hang out and build a puzzle, or relax with a book.”

To accommodate anyone who might have mobility issues, the master, bath and sitting room are all on one level. However, the addition does have a second floor. “We had planned to use that space for storage until we realized that it would make a great den,” notes Kevin. “It turned out really well – it’s secluded, and it has a triple window and a skylight that overlook the backyard. It feels like a tree house. The homeowners’ 13-year-old son loves to hang out there with his friends.”

Light and space were of premium importance in this addition. “The homeowners didn’t want anything that felt dark or small,” Kevin affirms. “The master suite has 22 foot ceilings, and it feels so spacious. There are large windows, transom windows, and skylights everywhere, so the whole space is just flooded with light.”

When it comes to style, Kevin achieved a balance between adding a fresh, contemporary feel and classic, rustic charm. “The homeowners had incredible taste,” he tells us. “I just made sure what we did was an extension of what they had already done. The addition was a play off of the existing house, with the brick, the copper gutters, and the large, European-style windows. Then you have these great charming touches, like the bedroom floor color, which looks original, and those amazing sliding barn doors.”

Kevin’s favorite part of the addition was the master bath. “It was unlike any we’ve ever done,” he reflects. “You have the huge, zero entry roll in shower with floor to ceiling windows, so that you feel like you’re showering outside (there’s an identical outdoor shower as well). You have these fun, funky plank tiles that resemble distressed wood, and this exquisite reclaimed wood, which was custom finished by Nathan Wainscott – an incredible artisan. I think the bathroom is really a good reflection of the homeowners’ overall desire to be surrounded by beauty, nature, and light.”

Selecting The Right Rug Elevates The Décor, Taking The Interior Design Of A Room To A Wonderful New Level

March 16, 2016

When well-chosen, a rug can do so much more than fill up a blank space or complement a décor. It can light up a room and elevate a design to a wonderful new level. So how does one choose the right rug? To find out, North Carolina Design turned to Nelda Lay and Cynthia McLaren of The Persian Carpet in Durham. An exceptional source for fine handmade rugs, The Persian Carpet features over 6,000 selections in virtually every style. Cynthia and Nelda are experts at helping homeowners find pieces that are perfect for their homes.

Images Courtesy of The Persian Carpet ©

Rather than just a piece of an overall puzzle, Nelda and Cynthia believe that a rug is one of the most important factors in a design. “It sets the tone for the entire room,” observes Nelda. “So we believe that it should be a priority. It’s much easier to pull artwork and fabrics that go with a rug than to come in and find the right rug when everything else is settled on.”

Cynthia agrees. “A rug can be a large part of a design budget,” she notes. “But customers will often leave it for last. They’ll bring in all of their fabrics and paint chips, then realize there are only two options that will work with the room and they don’t like either of them. Or they’ll find that the only rug that works is out of their price range. If they start with the rug, they can make sure they’reinvesting in something they love and move from there.”

Even if you come in at the beginning of the design process, choosing the right rug is not easy. Cynthia and Nelda are happy to walk homeowners through the process. “We first ask what room and what size,” offers Cynthia. “Then, we discuss style – do they want traditional, or contemporary? Then we take them to a stack and start turning. If they don’t like any in the first stack we move to another.”

“We observe what they like and what they don’t, and we make suggestions,” adds Nelda. “Little by little, we help them narrow it down. If a customer is serious about choosing something perfect, they might take 5 or 6 rugs home with them so they can compare them it in their light, in their space. That really is the best way to be sure.”

Along with style and size, quality is an important consideration for a rug. Cynthia and Nelda tell us that the main misconception out there is that high knot count equals the best quality rug. “The number of knots per square inch is actually a function of design,” explains Cynthia. “To achieve a very detailed pattern with curvilinear designs, a rug requires a higher knot count. For a bold open pattern, larger knots will suffice. As long as you are considering rugs that are well-constructed using high-quality wool, you should find that your rug choice very durable. ”

“Wool rugs are surprisingly easy to care for. They have a natural lanolin oil that acts as a protectant. I have small children and I have rugs all over the house. As long as you get spills up right away, they are extremely easy to clean,” affirms Cynthia.

“One kind of rug that takes special care is a silk rug,” observes Nelda. “So with a wool rug, your main consideration should be color, pattern and texture. If you have babies crawling around you’ll want a comfy, soft rug. If you have an active family, a darker color makes more sense than a lighter color. You’ll also want to go for something with a pattern and color that will hide spills.”

Both Nelda and Cynthia strive to help homeowners see rugs for what they are – works of art that bring life and beauty to a home. “We’ve had customers cry when they downsize and have to part with a rug,” reflects Nelda. “They get attached to them in the same way they become attached to a beloved sculpture or painting. It’s really such a joy to help people find the right rug. It’s something that makes their homes – and their lives – more beautiful.”

Charlotte Landscape Architect Creates Original And Truly Special Outdoor Spaces

March 8, 2016

This is the time of year when daffodils beautifully re-emerge and forsythia gracefully bend with color. They are a signal that soon landscapes will display verdant shades of green, while flower beds, bushes and trees will be festooned in every color of the rainbow. Anticipation of spring is a great time to again share natural beauty designed by J’Nell Bryson.

This time of year, landscapes and outdoor living spaces not only entice us visually, they are a joy to spend time in on weekends and at the end of a long work day. In the hands of talented professionals, some of these spaces rise to a level of true artistry. Charlotte landscape architect J’Nell Bryson is one of these individuals. J’Nell loves the outdoors, is passionate about gardens, and uses her wonderful artistic talent, keen intuition and experience to create landscapes that are bold, innovative and truly beautiful. J’Nell shared with North Carolina Design her motivation, how she conceptualizes a space, and her favorite aspects of landscape architecture.

Images Courtesy of J’Nell Bryson Landscape Architect ©

J’Nell’s passion for landscape design goes back to her childhood. “I grew up on three acres of land out in the country,” she recounts. “We had a little pond, and it was very picturesque. I just loved being there. Creating landscapes helps me keep that connection to the land, and allows me to spend time in beautiful outdoor spaces.”

For J’Nell, each project brings an opportunity to build something original and truly special. “When I create a design, I first and foremost follow the client’s lead, based on their tastes and what they want,” she explains. “That said, the site itself is the most important factor in any design. You can have two people who want the same things, but depending on the way the property faces the sun, the architecture of the home, and whether the land itself is flat or rolling, you will get a completely different result.”

J’Nell’s focus is not only on designing a beautiful landscape, but on creating outdoor rooms with the right feel. “Designing an outdoor space is very much like designing an interior space, but on an entirely different scale,” she explains. “The plants create structure; they become the doorways and the hallways, and can be used almost like walls to create the intimacy of an outdoor room. I have a palette of plant materials that I use to create textures and shapes and set a mood. I like to do a mix of textures and plant leaf colors to keep things interesting year round.”

One challenge in designing an outdoor space is that, unlike walls and doors, plants are living things that grow and change. “When they’re first installed, plants need to be placed pretty far apart to leave room for them to grow, so they aren’t going to have the lush look and visual impact they will five or ten years from now,” she concedes. “Using fewer plants in larger sizes can help create a hint of what that space will feel like when those plants grow.”

While J’Nell loves traveling to visit historic and classical gardens, her personal preference is a more contemporary look and feel. “I like nice clean lines,” she affirms. “There is almost a minimalist slant to my work. I like gardens that are open and streamlined, and use fewer species of plants in larger sweeps.”

J’Nell’s favorite part of any job is the creative process. “There are so many details to collect at the onset,” she notes. “I have to meet with the homeowner, meet with the surveyor, and come out to look at the site so I can gather as much information as possible. Eventually, the day comes when I’m done collecting information, and I get to compile it and come up with creative ideas about how to put the whole project together. I love those days. They are so much fun.”

One of my favorite lines of poetry comes from the 19th century Irish poet John Keats. He wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases.” This is definitely the case with a well designed landscape. What pleasure it brings as it continues to grow.

Asheville Interior Designer Proves That A Great Kitchen Focuses As Much On How It Feels As How It Looks

March 1, 2016

A really exceptional living space goes beyond good design principles, and beyond beautiful selections. It has an intrinsic, intangible and unique quality – a kind of energy you can sense from the moment you enter. Asheville interior designer Shawn Merkel of Align Design, LLC is adept at creating this quality in each space she designs – even when the space she designs is her own. Shawn talked with North Carolina Design about how she achieved this in her own dream kitchen. Along the way, we learned more about her design philosophy and how her eclectic and storied background made her the designer she is today.

Images Courtesy of Align Design, LLC ©

“I think sometimes in life you take a winding path and while you’re on it you don’t see how things will eventually come full circle,” reflects Shawn. “I wanted to go into interior design right out of high school. But at the time it wasn’t seen as a serious career, so I pursued a fine arts degree instead. Then I started a family and to help support them, I worked as a personal chef for several years.”

“Once my kids were grown, I decided to pursue an interior design degree. To support myself through school I became a Reiki massage therapist. I think all of my different pursuits have given me skills and insights as a designer that I wouldn’t otherwise have had. Studying art gave me an appreciation of form. Practicing Reiki massage and learning Feng Shui helped me tune in to the energy different people and different spaces possess. Even the psychology classes I took have helped me understand what motivates my clients.”

Shawn takes an intuitive approach to design, and focuses as much on how a space feels as how it looks. “There’s a quality – an energy – that goes beyond appearance,” she says. “You can always sense when something is off, even if nothing is obviously wrong. A space should feel right. You should inhabit and move through it comfortably. Your eye should know what it’s supposed to look at – it should stop, rest a little, move on, then stop again.”

Shawn applied these principles to her own kitchen, which was desperately in need of renovation. “The house was built in the 1920′s,” Shawn notes. “It spent decades as a rental property, and it really needed some TLC. The kitchen, specifically, was very small and had no counter space. The layout was chopped up – the chimney bisected one wall, and there was no cupboard space and no space around the cooktop.”

“After working as a chef in so many bad kitchens, I know what it takes to create a really functional space. I still love to cook, and to entertain. So we created one big space that flows out into the back deck. The island has wheels and no fixed cabinetry, so I can pull it out and put it back when necessary. The table opens up to seat 12. It’s a really versatile kitchen – it’s all open, but it feels like individual zones, so everyone always feels comfortable.”

The kitchen’s style is serene and inviting, yet eclectic and intriguing. “I like to mix and match,” notes Shawn. “I feel that it makes a design unique and gives it more longevity. Here, I wanted to go with an industrial style, but with a lighter touch. I balanced the stronger, harder lines with warm woods and organic edges. The chandelier is one of my favorite elements. I think it adds such elegance and artistry. And when the morning sun hits it, it looks as though it’s illuminated.”

One of Shawn’s favorite elements of the kitchen is the beautiful open shelving. “I was a little afraid to put open cupboards in my house,” she concedes. “I’ve found that they force you be more intentional. You don’t keep anything on the shelf that you don’t need and use all the time. I actually think that’s a really good reflection of my design philosophy – living intentionally in each space, so that it fits who you are and feels comfortable and right.”

Raleigh Interior Designer Uses Art To Add Beauty To A Space, Set A Tone & Tell The Story Of Her Clients

February 16, 2016

Every selection in a space serves to add beauty and help tell a story. However, there is something truly transcendent about art. The right piece of art pulls a room together, helps sets a tone and a mood and takes the overall design to an entirely new level. Raleigh interior designer Sally Williams, owner of Colorful Concepts Interior Design, is known for her bold and distinctive use of art in her designs. North Carolina Design sat down with Sally to talk about the power art has in a space and how she goes about making the perfect selections for each project.

Images Courtesy of Colorful Concepts Interior Design ©

Sally has always had a passion for art and she works hard to provide ground level support to local artists, artisans and art communities. With each selection she makes, she hopes to teach her clients to appreciate art and how to use it to make their home a reflection of who they are as individuals.

“Art certainly makes a statement,” reflects Sally. “It helps to provide an engaging focal point. It adds personality and it creates a space that’s much more unique to the client. It also adds so much richness and depth to a design. Choosing art is not an easy process and it takes a lot of time. But when you can’t imagine the space without the piece, you know it was worth it.”

Sally begins thinking about artwork from the very beginning of each project. “I keep a map of where pieces will go and what sizes I will need and I keep an eye out for things that might work for each space,” she explains. “But I don’t finalize the selections until the end, when I’ve had the chance to get to know the clients better. It’s important that the art works in the room, but it’s much more important that it’s something the client likes.”

Sally asserts that finding pieces that speak to the client is her only hard and fast rule for choosing art. “Art doesn’t have to fall in line with the style of the house,” she explains. “You can mix up different styles, different mediums and different color palettes. You can fit traditional art in contemporary spaces, and you can use abstract art in very traditional spaces. The right art can even override a color palette.”

Sally’s sharp design instincts are a main driving force in deciding what artwork should be used for which space. For example, in the pictured master bedroom she “needed something large that would bring the ceiling down. I needed something without any dimension, so that it wouldn’t detract from the beautiful bed. We went to a number of galleries and looked at a number of different pieces. In the end we chose a calm and soothing piece of framed art. I can’t imagine the room without it.”

Art is so much more than paintings. Sally is an expert at thinking outside the box, using metal, glass, crystals, and other creative elements to add texture and movement to a space. In the pictured silver and cream tone living room, bowls and crystals accent the wall, as opposed to framed art. “Because of the wall’s curve I chose to use a group of small things and arranged them in a way that suggested swirling movement and added a contemporary feel and a sense of playfulness.”

Many of Sally’s clients feel hesitant about choosing artwork – a fact she is working hard to address. “People are afraid to buy art,” she concedes. “They don’t know what to look for. I help guide clients in their selections, but I also I help them learn to love art and I encourage them to grow their own collections. It’s not about putting paintings up on walls to match the décor – it’s about finding items that add beauty, meaning and a deeply personal touch to a living space.”

Asheville Interior Designer & Residential Designer Team Up On Modern Western NC Home With A Kaleidoscope Of Views

February 11, 2016

There are beautiful houses, and then there are exceptional, unforgettable houses. One such house is a modern three story wonder located in northern Asheville’s Ciel development – a house displaying spectacular and inventive design. Each floor of the home features its own outdoor deck space. Abundant windows offer incredible views of the mountains and downtown Asheville. The home was the winner of the 2015 Parade of Homes Innovative Award for its builder, Bellwether Design-Build. Today we hear from the home’s architectural visionary, Asheville residential Designer, Jason Weil of Retro+Fit Design and trendsetting Asheville interior designer Talli Roberts, of Allard & Roberts Interior Design.

Images Courtesy of Retro+Fit Design LLC ©

“I’ve worked with Jason on a number of projects,” Talli tells North Carolina Design. “We really enjoy working together. We’re both collaborative, so we work well in a group. We’re honest with each other, so we’re able to talk through challenges. And we have mutual respect for one another. We actually recommend each other for projects so we can work together.” Jason agrees. “I love working with Talli,” he affirms. “She’s very talented and very pleasant to work with. Looking at this house, she did an amazing job.”

It was Talli who introduced Jason to the project developer, David Zimmerman. “I had worked with David before,” she recounts. “This was our third new construction project in this community. David and I have a good relationship. I know what he likes and I understand his taste level and expectations. I felt Jason was a perfect fit for the project.”

“David has excellent taste, and high expectations,” says Jason. “But he also offers a lot of creative freedom. When he hired me, he essentially handed me a blank slate. He said, ‘There are only two things I want. It has to be cool, and I want to see it on the cover of Dwell magazine someday.’” Jason offered Talli the same free reign. “I know that Talli and I are on the same page aesthetically. I knew she would create an interior that would perfectly complement the home.”

North Carolina tends to lean toward a traditional style, but this home’s decidedly modern architecture fits in just fine in Asheville. “Ten years ago everyone here wanted Arts and Crafts,” observes Jason. “Today, I find that there is certainly more of a demand for modern design. People here are open to it. It makes sense – Asheville does have a tradition of mid-century modern architecture. Also, a lot of people are moving to Asheville from more urban areas and they want the more modern look they’re used to.”

The home’s stunning design was a product of Jason’s innovative vision. “This is definitely not your standard rectangular house,” he concedes. “I designed it from the outside in, using a very sculptural approach. I wanted it to have a massive, almost monolithic quality and to be very dynamic, with very dramatic angles. At the same time, I wanted the house to almost cascade gracefully down the hill.”

“I had the idea of using one massive block to anchor the house to the mountain, with three other blocks anchored off of the first block. The blocks make up the different floors of the house. They’re placed in such a way that the house has an almost kaleidoscopic effect. It appears to shift and change as you move around it, and it looks different from every angle. As you come up the hill, you actually get the impression that it’s floating in space.”

One of the home’s most striking features is its multi-colored, striped exterior. “I wish I could take credit for that, but it was a happy accident,” Jason laughs. “We actually wanted a gray exterior that would blend with the trees. I went up to the house one day to find that rain had created these great ‘tiger stripes.’ I don’t know how, but I’m glad. Now the exterior has the same dynamic quality as the house. It changes beautifully with the light and looks different from every angle.”

Talli’s interior design is a beautiful reflection and continuation of the home’s distinctive architecture and it ties in well with Jason’s sculptural concept. “I kept the interiors very consistent from room to room and used a neutral palette of muted, monochrome tone on tone colors. This preserves the modern style and ensures that nothing detracts from the spectacular views, which are some of the best things about the house.”

“We knew we were going to have to use everything in our designer’s bag of tricks to keep the monotone design from falling flat. We introduced a lot of very organic textural elements – I think my favorite is the living room coffee table, which is actually made from a root. The rugs, paintings and decorative pieces provide a much needed color and contrast. Four Corners Home and Mobilia helped provide the furniture, and Togar Rugs graciously loaned us the rugs. The paintings are originals by Genie Maples.”

Talli’s favorite spot in the house was the master bedroom. “The room is cantilevered, so it literally seems like it’s suspended in midair,” she explains. “The two window sides meet at the corner of the room, so you have these expansive views of both the mountains and downtown Asheville, which are just spectacular at night. We kept the monochromatic palette but made the room cozy by adding textural elements such as a comfy duvet and the Moroccan area rug. We also added a comfy seating area in the corner.”

Images Courtesy of Allard & Roberts Interior Design ©

The Ciel house was an unforgettable project for both Talli and Jason. “We all made a great team,” reflects Jason. Talli absolutely agrees. “Everyone was on the same page and everyone worked hard to make this vision of Jason’s a reality. I will always be proud to say that I was a part of this experience.”

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