Four Decades Of Design – Asheville Interior Designer Reveals The Elements That Have Shaped Design Over the Past 40 Years

November 8, 2017

At North Carolina Design, we often try to peek forward in time to see what exciting new design elements are on the horizon. But, there is also great value in reflecting on the past, to see how it has shaped the present. Asheville interior design firm Ambiance Interiors recently celebrated its 40 year anniversary, which means that owner Kathryn Long has been crafting beautiful, elegant, and tasteful designs for four decades. Today, Kathryn takes us through those decades by sharing photos of projects past. Many of these projects won her ASID Design Excellence Awards, and all are close to her heart.

Images Courtesy of Ambiance Interiors ©

“You can see right away when a design is from the 80s,” Kathryn concedes. “First of all, you have all of the florals. We have a huge library of fabrics, and in the 80′s it was heavy on florals. You also have the toiles, and the pattern matching. What’s interesting is that these elements are actually still around. Florals are still popular, although now we have stylized, tone-on-tone florals. We still do pattern matching, but it looks very different today. We still have toilles, but the fabrics are different.”

The 90s brought about a heavy European design influence. “We began to see a lot of French, Italian and English-inspired elements during this decade,” Kathryn notes. “In the very early 90′s, we saw a lot of Country French style. It was a fresh, light, very charming style, characterized by light woods, soft blues and yellows, and plaids mixed with florals. I have fond memories of this time period – I spent a lot of time in France, and I purchased artwork there that I used in my designs.

“There were a lot of other elements that characterized the early 90′s. You had these masculine leathers, and these very textural fabrics. Tapestry fabrics were very popular for upholstery. Large armoires became very popular – the aesthetic fit in well, and people could hide away the big, boxy TVs that we still had in that decade. Painted decorative elements also became popular, like grapes and grape leaves on kitchen walls.”

The 90′s also marked the beginning of several new design ideas that are still in use today. “This is when the idea of using reclaimed wood came about,” Kathryn observes. “It’s also when we started to see kitchen islands that looked like furniture. The late 90s was when people began to place a great deal of importance on natural light, and when they began to focus on a smarter use of space, and create spaces that flowed into one another.”

The early 2000′s brought new decorative detail changes. Linens replaced chintzes as a fabric of choice, and painted furniture took off in popularity. There were also changes in a broader sense. “You started to see a turn toward a simpler design, with some simpler, more timeless elements,” says Kathryn. “A more eclectic style started to emerge. Unfortunately, resources were still fairly limited, especially when it came to lighting. If you wanted a chandelier that would stand out, you would have to have it custom made.

“By the mid-2000′s, eclectic style had become very big. People really saw an opportunity to personalize their homes with eclectic decorative choices. This was also the period of time where certain details that are familiar to us now first became popular, like woven fabrics and the beloved farmhouse sink.”

Today’s design styles are a further evolution of those in the 2000′s, with a more streamlined approach, and the added benefit of increased resources. “Things have become more simplified, and there isn’t as much layering,” Kathryn affirms. “We are still seeing an eclectic style, but now we have so many more options. Thanks to technological advances, we can have larger windows that allow in abundant light. We can have higher quality fixtures in a much wider range of styles. We can have beautiful, and highly functional lighting options.”

Kathryn notes that, while trends have come and gone, some things are forever. “Florals and toiles will always be around,” she says. “Good reproductions are timeless. Good design principles never change. But the most important unchanging factor of design comes down to comfort. We can talk about trend histories, but our homes are really an expression of our own personal evolution. Finding a home that you love, bringing in your personal history, making it yours – that’s comfort. And, I always say, life is too short to not be comfortable.”

A Once Opulent 90′s Styled Home Is Transformed By A Modern, Rustic Design That Complements The Beauty Of Nature

October 17, 2017

A home is a deeply personal space that’s reflective of the owner’s experiences, their desires, and the things in life that are most important to them. In today’s featured project, the homeowners sought to dispense with a design that was very ill-suited to them and create instead an atmosphere that celebrated family, warmth, simple living – featuring the beautiful Boone mountain setting. Charlotte designer Kevin Carpenter of Kevin Carpenter Interiors used his keen intuition, his affinity for detail, and his well-honed skills to achieve their goals. He was kind enough to dish on the project details with North Carolina Design.

Images Courtesy of Kevin Carpenter Interiors ©

“This was an inherited home,” Kevin tells us. “It was built in the 90′s, and it had a definitive 90′s style. It was also decorated in a very traditional and formal Southern style, with swags, porcelain, heavy draperies, valances, and Oriental rugs. My clients wanted to make the home ‘theirs.’ They didn’t want to gut it or extensively renovate it – they wanted to use what was there to create something much cleaner and more modern.”

Kevin’s main challenge was to pare down, streamline and update the home’s dated and opulent design to give it a fresh and modern feel. However, the homeowners also had a few additional requirements for the space. “These were people who really appreciated the simple things in life,” Kevin notes. “They wanted a home that was a warm, comfortable, and inviting space for intimate gatherings. They also loved nature, and wanted to infuse their home with a rustic style that reflected the mountain surroundings.”

“They wanted, in essence, to ‘frame nature.’ That was really the idea that drove the design.” To that end, the clients wanted the home to complement and highlight the amazing view. Kevin replaced the heavily patterned, 90′s style diamond upper windows with larger, much simpler windows that didn’t obstruct the scenery. He also replaced the bulky deck railing with a slender steel railing that allowed viewers to see straight through to the mountains beyond.

“In the master bedroom, we removed swags and heavy draperies from the three large windows, and made them the focus,” he adds. “We turned the sitting area to face the view, so you have this cozy spot where they can sit as a couple and enjoy the scenery together.”

The homeowners also sought to bring the natural world in by displaying local and regional nature photography throughout the home. “They actually collected photos from some very prominent North Carolina photographers, including Hugh Morton,” Kevin recounts. “The photos were well suited to the space. They have a modern feeling, they’re large in scale, and the subject reflected the mountain feel. It was a really fun aspect of the project.”

To create a modern, yet rustic aesthetic, Kevin incorporated industrial elements into the design. “We replaced the existing giant, 9-foot tall cherry bar with a custom industrial style bar crafted from wood, steel, and concrete,” he notes.”We ripped out the existing stair railing, which the husband hated, and replaced it with a beautiful stainless steel railing. We worked with a metal artist in in Charlotte to create it. It’s very modern and sculptural, but rustic at the same time. It even feels great to run your hand along it.”

Adding tactile and textural elements to the design was very important to Kevin. “The palette is very neutral, so we used texture to add dimension, impact and a sense of richness. You have soft carpets, supple leather, smooth concrete, hammered metal, grainy wood, and rough stone. It all invites you to touch it. Everything has a very natural and organic feel, and it all plays into this mountain atmosphere. And, I think it really does embody this abstract concept of framing nature”

Charlotte Home Reflects Classic Design Concepts Enlivened With A Fresh Bold Feel

September 19, 2017

In the right hands, the balance between old and new design elements can create something thoroughly captivating, exceptionally beautiful, and wholly unique. Such is the case with today’s featured home, a Charlotte residence made wonderfully new by Greensboro interior designer Linda Knight Carr, owner of Knight Carr and Company. Linda is known for her high taste level and her fresh take on classic design concepts – qualities that served her well when meeting this client’s set of demands. Linda was gracious enough to share the details of this exciting project with North Carolina Design.

The client previously lived in a very large house on Lake Norman. She had downsized to a smaller home, where she could be closer to city life. The new home didn’t require much in terms of structural changes. “We did some construction on the upper level, and we made some adjustments in the kitchen, but the project mostly involved new paint and new windows,” she tells us. “This project was less about significantly changing the layout, and more about creating a very specific and unique aesthetic.”

“The client’s previous home was very traditional. It was heavily decorated, and it had a red, gold and green color scheme. While she planned to use some of the existing elements from the former house, she really wanted to do something bold and different with this new space. She had envisioned something classic and dressy, but with a fresh, modern feel and a cooler, monochromatic color palette. She also wanted to add some artistic touches that were a little bolder and more fun.”

Much of the client’s existing furniture was comprised of antiques and traditional heirloom pieces that she didn’t want to part with. Linda’s challenge was to incorporate these items into the design, while still providing a contemporary aesthetic that showcased the client’s unique style. “The dining table, chairs and sideboard had belonged to her parents, and using them was important to her.” recounts Linda. “We modernized the dining space by using a simple wall covering and a sisal carpet.”

In the breakfast area, Linda used a traditional table and chairs the client already owned. “To make that space more livable and fun, we added an eclectic light fixture and a bold wall covering. We resized the client’s existing leopard carpet to fit the space. It’s bold, and practical. Her grandkids could eat there without every little spill showing up on the rug. We also took the client’s existing china and porcelain into consideration, and used colors in the space that would relate to them.”

Throughout the home, Linda balances soothing tonal neutrals with gold shimmer and intermittent pops of color, pattern and texture. Meanwhile, thoughtfully chosen art pieces add drama, personality, and a touch of whimsy, and lucite, glass and metal add cool sophistication. The result is a grounded, classic, elegant space with a fresh, vibrant energy and a playful attitude.

One of the elements that best reflects the spirit of this design is the gracious and beautiful entry hall statue. “We wanted to create this take-your-breath-away moment right when you walk in the door,” recalls Linda. “You have this tall, elegant bronze statue that consumes the space and makes a bold artistic statement. The hall mirror reflects the statue so that you can see it from different angles and perspectives as you come down the stairs.”

Another significant element is the exceptional artwork. “My client fell in love with these paintings by Rimi Yang. They drove the design in terms of color. We pulled much of the home’s color palette from them, including the bold pops of blue, which we hadn’t really used in a space before.” Linda thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of creating this unique space for her client. “I loved that she was so open to jumping the chasm to a whole new look,” she says. “It really opened up a lot of exciting possibilities. But my favorite part was the fact that she now loves everything about her home. It’s beautiful, and it completely suits her.”

Beautifully Finessed Layers Of Gray And A Balanced Use Of Repeating Geometrics Create A Warm & Welcoming Home

September 5, 2017

As design lovers, we spend a lot of time discussing a home’s aesthetics and its function. However, the way a home feels – and the mood it sets – are equally important. It takes an intuitive, creative professional to perfectly pin down and capture that undefinable quality that their clients are looking for in their living space. Winston–Salem interior designer June DeLugas, owner of June DeLugas Interiors, excels at such a challenge. Today she shares with North Carolina Design how she used texture, pattern and color to create a home that feels as phenomenal as it looks.

Images Courtesy of June DeLugas Interiors ©

“The clients were a couple with younger children,” June recalls. “They had been looking for a house to renovate, and they finally found one they felt they could work with. They liked the neighborhood, and they liked the house itself. It was about the same size as their previous home in Texas, which they were pretty happy about. They were used to having a lot of space, and they needed room for a nanny.”

While the homeowners liked the size and the “bones” of the house, they felt that it was in serious need of a complete style overhaul. “They were unsatisfied with everything,” says June. “The house had three kitchens and six bathrooms, and we completely overhauled all of them. We replaced 28 outside light fixtures. We painted every square inch of the house, including the ceilings, the mouldings, the walls and the floors. We essentially bought all new furnishing for the home.”

One of the main priorities for the home was lifting it out of its dark and dated state. “The home originally had a Tuscan theme,” June explains. “My clients had well developed, excellent taste, and together we wanted something lighter, brighter, and cleaner. We painted the tumbled brick exterior a lighter, fresher color. We painted the shutters a light gray and the windows a dark espresso. And we created a gorgeous new entryway by replacing the solid front door with an arched, eight-foot door with glass panes that allowed in a great deal of light.”

Bringing light into the home’s interior was very important to June, and to the homeowners. “The whole house was dark – it had dark walls, dark ceilings, dark everything,” observes June. “It was really begging for more light. So we capitalized on whatever natural light we could get and we added lights everywhere we could. We also painted everything a very light color and we added a pearlescent micropowder finish everywhere to provide a very subtle reflective surface.”

While the homeowners definitely sought to uplift the mood and ambience of the home, they were equally focused on creating a warm and cozy living space. “The wife really loved the color gray, and wanted to incorporate it everywhere,” June recalls. “We chose very warm grays, with just a touch of brown in them. They’re very comfortable to live in. We also utilized a lot of neutrals, tonal shades, and geometric pattern repetitions. Together it all provides a calming, cozy effect.”

In this richly neutral space, diverse textures, sparkling light fixtures, highly finessed layers of gray, and an highly balanced use of repeating geometrics take the place of color to draw the eye in and add a visual interest. One of the spaces that best showcases this principle is the powder room, where we find an eye catching, exquisitely textured cabinet, geometric metallic wallpaper, and crystal light fixtures. The light from the crystals refracts off of the wallpaper, enveloping the entire space in patterned illumination.

June relied greatly on her well-honed intuition to achieve the perfect look, feel and mood for the home. “I really believe God gives us these gifts, and points us in a right direction,” she reflects. “I honestly sat in the house and let it speak to me, until I knew what needed to be done. And it worked. I can’t tell you how calming, warm and wonderful it feels to be in there now. It’s exactly the space my clients were hoping for.”

Blue Ridge Mountain Home Beautifully Details Traditional Southern Living Design & Craftsman Mountain Styling

August 22, 2017

From awkward layouts, to dated designs, to fastidious clients, designers face challenges on every job. Sometimes, however, the challenge is stylistic. Such was the case with a Southern Living new build model home set in the Blue Ridge Mountains handled by the Asheville interior design firm, ID.ology Interior Design. Designer Annie Littell led the project, with the support of the company’s principal and owner, Laura Sullivan. The team had to find a happy medium between two very different styles, while creating a seamless design with a wide appeal. Laura was happy to share more about this unique project with North Carolina Design.

Images Courtesy of ID.ology Interior Design ©

The home was located in Madison County, in a beautiful mountainside setting. “It overlooked the French Broad River, and it had this amazing, ever-changing scenery,” observes Laura. “The house had river access for kayaking, boating and fishing. It would make a great second home, or a home for a retiree who loved being out in nature.” Because it was a model home, there was no specific owner to take into consideration. However, the developers had a specific goal in mind: integrating the natural setting, while incorporating Southern Living elements.

“The home’s exterior colors were inspired by the bark on the surrounding trees” Laura notes. “When you look up at the home from the river, it blends right into the background. The color also helps maintain a warm and inviting feel. Also, there were a lot of rocks on the mountainside, and the developers wanted to bring that element of stone to the exterior, to keep the home cohesive with the landscape.”

Designing the home’s interior proved to be a challenging balancing act. “This was very much a Craftsman mountain home,” recalls Laura. “Craftsman mountain style is known for being simple, warm and rustic, and for incorporating a lot of natural elements. Southern Living style is known for being more traditional, more refined, and more detailed. We had to incorporate both of these really different styles, and balance the design so that one style didn’t dominate the other, and everything blended cohesively.”

To bring Southern Living style into the home’s interior, the design team added traditional details, such as built ins, trim, moulding and wainscoting. They also set about lightening the atmosphere. “Southern Living homes are lighter and brighter,” Laura explains. “We chose to use travertine and marble, which had a lighter color and minimal texture. We also incorporated some lighter paint colors. We painted the trim and the built ins white, which is a very traditional choice.”

To further lighten the space, Annie and Laura used furniture with cleaner, thinner lines. “Boxier, more substantial furniture would have weighed everything down, but this furniture gives the home an airy feel.” Laura observes. “We also slipcovered the upholstery so that it didn’t look too tailored or taut. This visually lifted the mood of space, and made it seem even airier.”

Of course, it was important to add in the sense of warmth and rusticity expected from a mountain home. “The developers wanted us to incorporate darker wood,” notes Laura. “So, we used collar ties on the ceiling. They were essentially minimized versions of heavy and large timber trusses. But, they required less material, so we were able to keep the majority of the ceiling open and bright.” The team also painted the walls a warm color, added a stone fireplace, and used natural fabrics throughout.

The kitchen, which flows seamlessly into the rest of the home, features dark alder wood cabinets and chairs that serve to ground the space, while adding a wealth of natural, rustic detail. “The dark wood provides a nice contrast against the white trim and the light tile backsplash,” says Laura “It’s a great balance of warm and cool elements. It was really fun to try and find a happy balance between these different styles, tones and materials, and it turned out really, really well.”

The Inviting Neutrals of This Contemporary Condo Are Nicely Complemented By Subtle Beauty & Drama

August 8, 2017

As design enthusiasts, we live for spaces that offer beauty, drama, and artistry. But these elements don’t always come in a bold, showy package. A true expert knows how to make an impact, even while keeping a space clean, sophisticated, and understated. As owner and principal of preeminent Raleigh design firm Colorful Concepts Interior Design, Sally Williams is known for her impeccable taste, and her bold and masterful use of color and detail. She dished on a recent project with North Carolina Design, in which she brought subtle beauty and drama to a neutral, streamlined space.

Images Courtesy of Colorful Concepts Interior Design ©

The homeowners were empty nesters, and they were looking to create an interior that better suited their taste and lifestyle. “The home they came from was very traditional,” notes Sally. “Now that their kids were grown and gone, they were ready for a complete fresh start, and they wanted to go in a dramatically different direction. They had this concept of a really contemporary, clean space. They were originally from England, so they also wanted their home to have a European feel.”

The condo was a new build, and Sally came into the project very early on. “We had the plans in hand before they even broke ground,” she recounts. “It was very beneficial to be involved with the project at such an early stage. The package the builder was providing offered a fairly traditional look. We were able to go back and forth with the builder and tweak things to give the condo the contemporary European architectural details my clients wanted.”

“We switched out almost all of the trim work to something that was sleeker and had fewer ridges. There are no aprons on the windows, which is true to English style, and gives the space a modern European flair. The condo was only 1800 square feet, but you’d never believe it. It has these wonderful, tall ceilings, and we widened the doorways to create a more open, spacious feel. There are actually quite a few custom elements in this condo that other condos in the building don’t have.”

While the homeowners were happy with the contemporary direction of the home, they wanted to ensure that it was a comfortable and inviting space. “To soften the look, we used a warm gray and soft neutrals, and we added dark, rich wood accents throughout.” Sally also added pops of texture, repeating geometric patterns, and faceted glass to create visual interest and a touch of drama.

Sally also helped the homeowners make selections that offered a wow factor – in a subtle way. “You have this oversized hallway mirror, but it’s distressed, so it doesn’t shout “Hello, I’m a huge mirror!” she observes. “In the foyer you have this simple ebony etagere, but it features this exquisite silver leaf edge detail. In the master bath, the faucets are simple and sleek – but they’re wall mounted. The built in has this beautiful and complex tile mosaic – but in neutral colors.”

“For lighting, we chose fixtures and lamps that added artistry, but were delicate and graceful. A little bit of glass, a little bit of shimmer and sparkle, but nothing heavy or imposing. In the guest bath we added a light metallic wallpaper, so that the light from the pendant reflected beautifully around the room. In the foyer, dining room and master bedroom we added cove lighting, which can be used with or without these cool pendants and lamps to achieve any look or mood the homeowners want.”

For artwork, Sally gave the homeowners free rein, but encouraged them to stay within a fairly warm palette. While subdued, each piece in the home offers a welcome pop of color and life. Our favorite piece: the sliding glass pantry barn door. “It took forever and ever, but we finally found the right image, and a source that would place it onto the door, and hardware that would work with the glass,” she recalls. In the end, it all came together beautifully, much like Sally’s exceptional design.

Kitchen Design Today Offers The Latest Innovations And Is Also Personalized To The Homeowners’ Tastes & Lifestyle

July 25, 2017

The kitchen is an all-important, ever-evolving space, and designers are continually challenged to find creative, innovative solutions that cater to the needs and desires of today’s homeowners. Charlotte kitchen designer, Kendra White, owner of the award winning design firm Pheasant Hill Designs, has crafted many a five-star kitchen. She is known for creating elegant and sophisticated kitchen spaces that make the best use of the latest ideas and innovations. She was kind enough to share her take on what’s new in kitchens with North Carolina Design.

Images Courtesy of Pheasant Hill Designs ©

“The role of the kitchen hasn’t changed – it has been the heart of home for at least 30 years,” Kendra observes. “But, the nature of the space has changed. It has become less formal. People want their kitchen to be comfortable for guests, and comfortable to maneuver and work in.”

Kendra notes that large islands have played a big role in adding comfort and function to today’s kitchens. “Family and guests can sit around and keep you company while you’re chopping and cooking,” she says. “You have a lot more workable space to use, and a lot more storage, which can act as an alternative to upper cabinets. That freed-up wall space gives you an opportunity to do things you couldn’t do in the past, like add artwork, open shelving, or windows for additional natural light.”

Smarter, more efficient storage is very important to today’s homeowners. “My clients are really looking for ‘cabinet intelligence,’ explains Kendra. “They’re thinking about what’s most practical for them, and what is ergonomically better – especially as they age. For example, they’re migrating to using deep, long drawers for storage, with pegs to keep things stable and organized. This way, they don’t have to reach up high to put away heavy plates, or crawl on their hands and knees to find their Tupperware lids.”

“They’re also adding pull out cabinet shelving of all kinds, including full extension blind pull outs in corners. These end cabinets are today’s answer to the lazy susan, which people hated because they practically had to climb inside the cabinet to retrieve things. Today’s kitchens are uncluttered and clean, so we install a lot of appliance garages, where people can store their ‘uglies’ behind closed doors and out of sight.”

Kendra excels at making efficient use of every space, in a way that’s personal to each client. “Everything has to be tailored to the client’s unique lifestyle, wants, and needs,” she notes. “There are a lot of creative ways to do this, especially with the products available today. For example,  we’re just now seeing modular cooking units, where you can pick and choose what you want – a convection oven, a griddle, a range, etc. – and how you want to configure it in your space.

“In one case, my clients were a couple, and the wife was a wine lover, and the husband was a beer drinker. I installed a wine cooler for her, and I and had exactly 15 inches space left over in the cabinet. I realized this was just enough space to add in a double tap kegerator for him! It was an efficient solution that made them both very happy.”

Some wonderful aesthetic kitchen elements are also on the horizon. “We are seeing a lot of glass,” Kendra says. “Some cabinets even have glass doors and glass shelves. When lit, the light cascades downward throughout the entire cabinet, creating a gorgeous ambient effect. We’re also seeing a lot of barn doors on pantries. People love that homey, farmhouse touch. Aesthetics matter so much – at home, you spend more time in your kitchen than anywhere else besides your bed. It just makes sense to do something that’s both functional and beautiful.”

Today’s Kitchen Has Been Transformed – Demonstrating How Form & Function Beautifully Accommodate Each Other

July 11, 2017

The American kitchen has undergone a dramatic transformation, from a single-function space to a busy hub and a treasured gathering spot. A change in function has called for a change in design. Now, more than ever, balancing form and function has become essential. Caren Bistany, owner of Bistany Design, has been creating luxurious, tasteful, and inviting kitchens for over 25 years. She has seen the kitchen evolve first hand, and today she shares with North Carolina Design her thoughts on how function and form meet in today’s kitchens.

Images Courtesy of Bistany Design ©

“From our point of view, the kitchen has always been more than just a functional space – it was, and is, a space that you live in. That said, a few decades ago, kitchens started to transform from separate, isolated rooms to a huge part of the home. They became open to the surrounding spaces, so you really had to marry form with function in order for it to be a showplace.”

Caren notes that the functional and aesthetic evolution of the kitchen has made it an increasingly important space to homeowners, and to the home itself. “It is now an integrated architectural element of the home,” she observes. “It’s also less utilitarian, and more of a space you want to live in, stay in, and entertain in. The industry has taken note, and is creating products that don’t compromise form for function.”

“As kitchens have progressed and transformed, appliances have stepped up. They have become more refined and more elegant, and they make more of an architectural statement. They have caught up with the clean lines and seamless look today’s homeowners prefer. In the past, a bulky, unattractive appliance could ruin the look of a kitchen. Today, you can truly hide an appliance, to the point where you can’t even tell that it’s an appliance.”

“It isn’t just major appliances that have stepped up. “Product design on everything from cookware, to utensils, to plumbing fixtures, to small appliances, has caught up with needs and wishes of clients. Everything is sleeker and more stylish. And there’s so much variety – homeowners have so many choices in terms of style. They can really use these smaller, more functional items to add beauty to the space.”

Caren tells us that creating a successful design for today’s kitchen is far more complex than simply balancing beauty and function. “There are so many pieces to the puzzle,” she says. “You have to balance all of the different materials, all of the finishes, all of the decorative fixtures, and all of the decorative details.”

“Then there’s the task of adding personality and artistry to the space. “Even if the functional items in kitchens are more beautiful and well designed now, you still don’t want a kitchen filled with only functional items. There needs to be a sense of artistry . As you’re designing, you have to think about how to incorporate art objects, like sculptures, or paintings, or sconces. You need to create an art layout.”

The design layout is also essential. “The kitchen is the heart of the home, and one of the most important rooms in the house – it’s used for entertaining, socializing and preparing meals,” Caren offers. “So it’s not all about appliances, materials and accessories. You have to ensure that the kitchen is designed and laid out to meet the homeowner’s needs. There’s really so much to this unique space. There are so many details to consider, and there are so many options. But done right, in the hands of a professional, it’s warm. It’s beautiful. It’s functional. And it’s seamless.”

Mother Nature Would Be Proud – The Transformation Of Natural Stone Into Works Of Art That Are Also Eco-Friendly

June 27, 2017

When it comes to home design, we know how much details matter. That’s why we appreciate not only designers and builders, but the craftsmen, vendors and experts who pour their passion into the smaller things that make a home exceptional. We would be hard-pressed to find anyone more passionate than Laura Grandlienard, owner and founder of Raleigh’s ROCKin’teriors. An avid nature lover, Laura has based her successful business on her deep appreciation for natural stone, and her abiding principles of integrity, attention to detail, and earth-friendly craftsmanship. Laura spoke to North Carolina Design about her intriguing approach to stone fabrication.

Images Courtesy of ROCKin’teriors ©

When Laura established ROCKin’teriors in 2008, she had a very specific goal in mind. “I wanted to add something new to the design market,” she affirms. “I absolutely love natural stone. The idea that you can carve a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry right from the ground, then enjoy it in your home, is so exciting to me. I wanted to create a company that focused on stone as art, and respected Mother Nature by keeping everything as organic and holistic as it can possibly be.”

In keeping with Laura’s vision, ROCKin’teriors hand crafts each stone piece in house, using low impact, chemical free fabrication techniques. The company is also committed to safety, and ensures a silicone-free environment for workers and clients. The company’s rigorous standards have earned them accreditation from the Natural Stone Institute, as well as certification from OSHA.

Laura’s love of keeping things natural, simple, and organic extends to the workspace, and the client experience she provides. “We really pride ourselves on maintaining a sense of openness, accessibility and transparency  in everything we do,” she explains. “Our facility is a fabricator, a studio and a showroom. When clients walk in, they can see all of these beautiful stone pieces, and have the experience of mother nature all around them.”

“We take them through the whole facility – it’s all open landscape. They can see all the workers working away. We actually have what we call a “pizza window,” where clients can come in, pull up a chair and view their project as it’s in process. So, they’re actually able to see how the piece they selected transforms.”

Laura is determined to give clients an ideal experience, from start to finish. “We work with designers, and directly with clients,” she notes. “Our goal is to for homeowners to feel right about investing in Mother Nature for their homes. Listening is key. We really listen to the client’s needs, and we find them the exact piece they’re looking for . And we really can find it – we have over 200 different types of material to choose from. If we don’t have the right piece, we’ll get it.”

“One recent client inherited all of her mother’s antique china, and she wanted to create a hutch for it that brought out the colors and complemented the rest of the kitchen. We were able to find the perfect piece. We help direct clients when it comes to color, material, movement and pattern placement. We also work very closely with the design community, making expert technical recommendations on why they should or shouldn’t go with a specific piece.”

Laura’s passion for her business extends to every detail. “We do everything in house – including installation,” she tells us. “We want to make sure that every aspect of the process is to our standards, and that the client gets exactly what they want. Each client is unique, and each piece is so much more than a slab of stone. It’s a work of art. It’s naturally custom. No one else will have anything like it. That’s really, really exciting, and it’s why I love what I do.”

The Challenge – Preserve The History Of A Century Old Farmhouse While Bringing It Into Modern Times

June 13, 2017

Across the country, homeowners are choosing to revisit a simpler time by adding classic farmhouse elements to their homes. In North Carolina, our agricultural roots run deep, and actual century-old farmhouses are in every town. The challenge with these homes is to preserve their history, while bringing them into modern times. Today’s featured home is an example of how superbly this feat can be accomplished in the right hands. Sean Sullivan, owner of Asheville’s celebrated design build firm Living Stone Construction, explained to North Carolina Design how he gave the homeowners the fairy tale renovation they were long awaiting.

Images Courtesy of Living Stone Construction ©

The homeowners loved the home, and for good reason. “It was a Farmhouse style home, which is the most popular style in the country right now,” says Sean. “The house was 110 years old, and it had an incredible amount of character and charm. It’s in a spectacular location. There’s a farm across the street, and you can see the Seven Sisters range from one angle, and the Craggy Mountains from another angle.”

“The homeowners had lived in the house for years. They raised their three kids there. The husband, David, spent years dreaming of more space. When he contacted me about this project I was surprised. I said, ‘you’re pretty much empty nesters – now you decide to expand?’ David had this really great vision of a home with three separate, yet connected spaces. His wife, Berdjette, who is of Swiss descent, had a vision of a home with elements of Old World European farm life.”

“The house had all kinds of structural issues,” observes Sean. “It was leaning, and needed reinforcing. The roof was leaking, and had to be reframed from the inside out.” To add space, Sean built new additions, which he incorporated directly into the old house. Following David’s vision, the home now has three sections: the left section is the old house; the right section features a detached garage, an office, and an apartment; and the middle section, which connects the left and right, features a sitting room.

The home offers an abundance of classic Old World delights. The cantilevered Juliet balcony off the master suite is a perfect spot to enjoy the view. The screened-in sleeping porch – complete with a hanging bed – is an ideal place for an outdoor nap.  The patio, which features rustic stone steps and walls and includes an old Swiss pizza oven, is a charming and tranquil place to relax outdoors. The homeowners’ goats and chickens do their part to add a true sense of pastoral Europe.

Small details throughout the home add to its charm and reflect its history. “You have some industrial elements, like the steel Juliet balcony,”  explains Sean. “Then, you have the abundance of wood and exposed brick. The master bath has shiplap on the ceiling, and has ceramic tile planks that look like whitewashed wood. The kitchen has shiplap everywhere, including the peninsula. The door to the laundry room is an old barn door.  We kept the brick from the old chimney, and used it as a kitchen accent wall.”

Sean also relied on details to bridge the old space and the new spaces. “In any project, the key to pulling everything together is to repeat elements just often enough, and in just the right way. In this house, we kept the old brick chimneys and then incorporated some new brick that’s slightly different, but complements the old brick. Laura Sullivan, from ID.ology Interior Design, did an exceptional job finding materials that were similar enough to provide continuity, but different enough to add interest.”

Of course, there are wholly new elements to the home that make it comfortable for modern living. “The home is fully insulated, and it’s built to Energy Star specifications and green build specifications,” says Sean. “The windows match the old windows, but they’re are all new. This was a really fun project to work on. It was like taking a step back in time, while still staying firmly in this century. And it was a dream realized, in many ways.”

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