Award Winning Classical Design By Greensboro Architect Is A Perfect Fit Within The Stately And Beautiful Neighborhood

September 29, 2016

Design professionals are commonly constrained by budgets, timelines, and their clients’ specific wants and needs. However, there are those projects in which everyone involved shares a singular vision, and everyone is willing to do what it takes to make it happen. This is when creativity and ingenuity are truly unleashed, and experts work their best magic. Such was the case when noted Greensboro architect Jim Collins, of James S. Collins Architect, was asked to design a new home that fit right into a celebrated historic neighborhood. He met that challenge with award-winning results, and he was kind enough to share the story with North Carolina Design.

The lot was located in Irving Park, a well-known Greensboro community first built in the early 1900′s. It was in a prime location within that neighborhood; it sat atop a hill, and overlooked a golf course. “For some reason, the lot sat empty for years, and my client had the good fortune of purchasing it for a very reasonable price,” Jim tells us.

“The lot was flanked on both sides by homes built by famed architect Charles Barton Keen. The homeowner’s goal was to build a home with such historical authenticity that it looked like it truly belonged. He wanted people to drive by it and say to themselves ‘why have I never noticed that house before?’ At the same time, he wanted it to stand out – to have the kind of rich detail that no other house in the neighborhood had.”

Jim’s high attention to detail, his love of history, and his long-standing passion for classical architecture made him just the right fit for the job. “I designed the exterior in a Colonial Revivalist style, which was appropriate for the area and era in which the neighborhood was built,” he affirms. “It’s a relatively straightforward, classical style, but there’s a lot you can do with it. Because of its simplicity, every detail takes on a great deal of significance.”

This home’s understated, yet masterfully designed details are what take it to an entirely new level of craftsmanship. The exterior features larger details that stand out immediately, such as slate roof, a three-flue chimney and shining copper gutters. It also features highly finessed details that add texture and interest, such as convex friezes, gracefully curved outriggers, beautiful lattice work, and an unusual use of exquisitely crafted moulding along the roofline.

The inside of the home is as richly detailed as the exterior. However, the style is a bit different. “The exterior of the home actually reflects a style borrowed from the Northeast,” Jim explains. “In the interior, we wanted to showcase the vernacular of historic North Carolina architecture.” This meant including details like the sweeping staircase, the hand-carved fireplace rosettes, and the hand-carved Flower of the Winds column detail, which was based on a historically common Southern motif.

There are also details that modern-day homeowners can appreciate, such as the artfully paneled kitchen appliances, and the gorgeous metal kitchen hood, which adds shine and a welcome touch of industrial artistry to the space.

The home has caught the industry’s attention – it was a recent winner of a prestigious American Residential Design Award from the American Institute of Building Design. While Jim is honored by the win, he insists his real reward was participating in the project.

“It was an incredible process,” he reflects. “The homeowner really wanted to do whatever it took to achieve a very high level of quality and authenticity – the right materials, the right details. I had the privilege of working with E.S. Nichols, who is just an exceptional builder, who was as committed to the vision as I was. Then we had the craftsmen, who were so highly skilled. It was just a joy have the freedom to bring this home to life in the way we wanted to.”

Charlotte Remodeler Demonstrates That Details Really Do Matter In Creating A Distinctive & Unique Space

September 15, 2016

Details really do matter: they are the parts that make up the sum of a space, and they make the difference between a good design and something truly superb. Thorough attention to detail has earned Charlotte remodeler Eddie DeRhodes, owner of DeRhodes Construction, a reputation for crafting stellar homes that go far above and beyond his clients’ expectations. Today’s featured home showcases how the right details can wow even the most exacting client. Eddie sat down with North Carolina Design to talk about this richly detailed and distinctive space, which was borne out of the homeowner’s singular vision.

The homeowners, a married couple with teenage and young adult children, were looking to renovate their existing home. “They felt it was finally time to transform their home so that it reflected their lifestyle,” Eddie tells us. “They love food, they love entertaining, and they love nice things. They really just love life. They collect fine art and exceptional, collectible furniture pieces, and they are drawn to things that that are unique, interesting and eclectic.”

Eddie really enjoyed working with the clients. He appreciated their keen eye, and the importance they placed on their home’s details. “They were ideal clients, in that they knew exactly what they wanted, and they were very committed to their vision, yet they were patient and low-key,” he says. “They didn’t micromanage. They didn’t care how something got done, or when – they only cared that it was done exactly the way they wanted it done. And they really trusted us to get it right for them.”

The homeowners brought Ohio designer Randy Basselman onto the project, and he and Eddie made a great team. ““Randy created the design, and I implemented the design and worked out the practical details. We both believe that quality, service and attention to detail are fundamental, so we worked well with each other, and with the clients.”

The project began as a kitchen remodel and grew from there. “Much of the project was about taking down walls between these two rooms to open up the space,” reflects Eddie. “The walls really divided the house into pieces. The homeowners wanted to have an open space where they could entertain more easily. They also wanted something that flowed better aesthetically, and helped showcase their art and furniture.”

The design flowed from the traditional fireplace that was previously in the family room. “Once we opened up the space, we realized that two fireplaces weren’t necessary. The homeowners wanted something more modern and eclectic instead, so we created an art wall with custom bookshelves. The art wall stands out, but it also flows with the rest of the design, and it can be seen from the kitchen.”

Everywhere you look you’ll find something beautiful and intriguing to admire, but the kitchen is especially exquisite. The unique cabinetry features alternating shades of both brown and gray, which somehow flow seamlessly together. The bold metallic lamp above the kitchen island commands attention, and draws the eye up toward the exquisite wooden ceiling detail. The hand-hammered kitchen hood, which Eddie designed specifically for the space, lends an industrial touch. Meanwhile, the puzzle piece backsplash – made from hand crafted tiles imported from Italy – adds curves, color, and modern artistry.

“We spent hours putting that puzzle together,” Eddie recalls. “We spread it out on the first floor, and the wife stood on the second floor and helped us figure out what pattern worked best.” Everything in the space is deliberate and thoughtful. Everything is a juxtaposition of structured patterns and off-kilter lines and curves. And everything is exactly as the clients wanted. “To me, attention to detail speaks to quality,” says Eddie. “We gave the clients the highly detailed, exceptional quality design they were looking for. I take a lot of pride in that.”

“Tips Of The Trade” From North Carolina Design Professionals

August 30, 2016

From interior designers to kitchen designers and landscape architects – once again, several of our North Carolina Design professionals share some great tips with our readers for all areas of the home. With years of experience creating living spaces that speak to who their clients are and how they live, these design experts are definitely qualified to offer insightful “Tips Of The Trade” on a variety of subjects.

The decision to renovate your existing home or break ground on a new one is certainly an exciting one. Whether the project is a remodel or starting with a clean slate, the value of doing research well in advance and developing a plan is the key to the success of the project. Fortunately, doing the homework has never been easier thanks to the internet and other available resources. Creating folders of home styles and materials selections that you like – as well as those you don’t like – will aid the team of professionals working with you.

Whether you do it old school or new school – have a notebook (paper bound or iPad) in which you keep notes and deadlines on a calendar. Make a directory of names and contact information that you will be needing throughout the project. A master plan can be the key to the success and time line of your project.

Anita Holland
Anita Holland Interiors
Charlotte NC


In the realm of kitchen design, things that are trending right now include soft, ethereal colors (grays, light taupes and, soft whites) as well as cabinet intelligence! Really think about how you’re going to use your cabinetry for storage now and down the road. Today, we frequently recommend deep drawers with pegs for plate storage, which eliminates having to place heavy plates above counters in upper cabinets. As we prepare to age in our homes, these things become more important.

The lighting plan of the kitchen is integral to the design, but too often it is an afterthought for homeowners. It is critical in creating warmth and interest, and in my opinion, this is the most undervalued design element. It’s important to have not only pendant lighting over an island (task lighting) but also recessed lighting in the ceiling. Under cabinet lighting and in–cabinet lights (when you have glass doors) also work to add to your kitchen’s well thought out feeling.

Kendra Tardif White
Pheasant Hill Designs
Charlotte, NC


Your goal as a homeowner, outdoors, is to select the right plant for the right place. So often, this does not happen. Here’s the scenario: In the spring you go online or to the garden center, talk to the clerk and buy the plants that will look best immediately. You then forget about them and they start to grow. Three years later, you are pruning them a little. Then 3 – 6 years later, you are pruning them a lot. At 6 years, you have the shears out, and your landscape now looks like geometric forms or pyramids!

The “right plant for the right place” requires a plan and patience. Too often, people plant for immediate gratification, without giving thought to proper plant selection and how it will look in a few year’s time. Understand your site – the solar orientation, the characteristics of your soil, the rainfall and climate. Study the characteristics of your chosen plants, placing them where they will not be too large when mature and not shading out other sun loving plants. You should also study the maintenance requirements of your planned plantings – not all have the same water requirements.

Dan Sears
Sears Design Group
Raleigh, NC


When setting up your home, remember that a home tells a story and every member of the family is a part of that story – from pets to kids to husband. When planning your home, be sure to consider all the characters and plan accordingly. Choose items that speak well to all family members – knowing for example that a white sofa does not work for a house with dogs and kids, but a soft gray in an indoor outdoor fabric, with a navy welt, will make a beautiful look. Enjoy the time you spend together as a family!

Laura Redd
Laura Redd Interiors
Greensboro, NC


Great lighting can make a humble room look gorgeous, and bad lighting can make a spectacular one look ho–hum. Consider changing out those old recessed can lights with the new LED bulbs that include a fresh, white trim kit. These make a huge difference in light quality, energy usage and appearance. It’s usually a DIY project and generally the 65 watt bulbs are plenty bright. Install dimmers while you’re at it.

Sprinkle light fixtures throughout the room. You should have at least 3 light sources in each room. For example, a floor lamp, a table lamp and a small accent lamp (or a piano lamp, etc.). Three way switches are your best friends. Consider a high gloss finish when painting your trim and door moldings. The effect is not overly shiny and gives a gorgeous glow when natural light hits it, especially in low lit areas.

Anne DeCocco
DeCocco Design
Raleigh, NC

Drawing The Dream – Charlotte Residential Designer Achieves Incredible Results By Listening To Clients’ Wants & Needs

August 16, 2016

Residential designers aren’t just artists and creators – they are also interpreters, using their specialized knowledge to translate their clients’ wants and needs into a beautiful and functional design. The more fully a designer understands his or her clients, the more personal, detailed and unique the design will be. Charlotte residential designer Kevin Holdridge, owner KDH Residential Design, is known for creating highly personal designs that answer all of his clients wishes, while deftly capturing their unique vision and style. North Carolina Design spoke with Kevin to find out how he gets inside his clients’ heads in order to achieve his incredible results.

Images Courtesy of KDH Residential Design ©

Kevin notes that trying to figure out his clients’ vision is much akin to detective work. “It really is about taking a lot of information and finding the patterns and the rhythms that connect it all together,” he tells us. “I am a big puzzle guy, so it’s a really fun challenge for me.”

It’s not always easy for homeowners to articulate their vision, and their likes and dislikes can be complex. First and foremost, Kevin stresses the importance of being a good listener. “It’s so important to get to know your clients, and to understand the project at hand,” he says. “To do any of that, you have to take the time to really listen. When clients sense that you’re really hearing them, they feel more comfortable opening up and expressing what they really want.”

For Kevin, part of listening well is digging deep with the right questions. “First, I want to know what my clients are passionate about,” he explains. “My two key words are love and hate. As I show them different options, I obviously want to know what they love and what they get really excited about. But it’s just as valuable to me to know what they hate. These are two huge pieces of the puzzle and they help the other pieces fall into place.”

It’s also extremely important for Kevin to know how his clients live. “I ask a lot of lifestyle questions,” he notes. “Are they retired? Are they a new family? A growing family? How do they entertain? Who comes over? Will most guests be there for an extended stay? What kinds of activities do the kids do? And, of course, it’s important to keep track of all of the information. I give them a questionnaire to fill out and I feverishly take notes throughout our conversations.”

Just as any good detective would, Kevin uses intuition and instinct to fill in the more nuanced aspects of each project. “I really do believe that there is a subconscious element to the process,” he affirms. “As I’m observing and talking to my clients and seeing how they interact as a family, I’m picking up on who they are in a way that goes beyond likes and dislikes and facts and figures on a page. I think that helps in terms of just ‘knowing’ whether something is going to work for them or not.”

Then, of course, Kevin must deal with the more rigid elements of each project. “I have to consider the footprint I’m working with, and the lot, and the existing structure, and the budget,” he explains. “That’s the real challenge – fitting all of the information I have gathered about who my clients are and what they want within these boundaries.”

“When I finally sit at the drawing board, I’m pulling everything together. I’m not just sketching a plan for a project. I’m seeing what my clients see. I’m envisioning how they will live, and I’m drawing out their dream. There isn’t anything better than seeing the joy on a client’s face when they realize that you heard them, you got it right and they are one huge step closer to bringing that dream to life.”

Sizzling Kitchens That Delight & Impress From Innovative Chapel Hill Firm Seamlessly Integrate Design & Build Phases

August 9, 2016

Kitchens are complex spaces – part functional workhorse, part intimate gathering space, and part consummate showpiece. It takes an expert hand to balance these different components, and ensure that a client truly gets the kitchen of their dreams. Whether they are designing and building a dream home or renovating and existing one, the team at Will Johnson Building Company in Chapel Hill is known for creating kitchens that delight and impress on every level. Their success lies in their thorough, multi-layered process, which the firm’s in house designer, Rebecca Johnson, was kind enough to share with North Carolina Design. Rebecca also revealed to us some of the wow factors that make today’s kitchens a dream come true.

Images Courtesy of Will Johnson Building Company ©

Will Johnson Building Company provides clients with as much or as little help as they need. They can bring in their own designer or architect, or they can have Will Johnson’s adept in-house professionals handle every aspect of the project, from the planning stage to the final interior design details. “We start out with a rough design, which we continuously finesse,” Rebecca explains. “We first assess the kitchen space. We consider the footprint, the general needs of the clients, and the design work that the project will entail.”

“Once we have an idea of the work that needs to be done, we make a general assessment of a time frame and costs, and we draft plans. Next, we create the initial cabinet drawings, which we will massage until they fit all of the specific needs of the homeowners. Then, we move on to the selections. We shepherd the client through the often stressful process of choosing every element that will go into their kitchen.”

To accomplish this, Rebecca notes that it’s essential to completely understand the client’s needs. “It really comes down to the details,” she says. “Our clients send us pictures and Pinterest boards of what they like, and we try to work their ideas into a design that’s tailored for them. Form always follows function, especially in a kitchen, which is a very functional space. So, we have to know – who uses this kitchen, and how?”

Questions abound in this process for Rebecca. “What size refrigerator are we working with? Will we need an icemaker? A secondary sink? Where’s a good place to store spices and cooking oils? Where is the most convenient place to store plates? These elements are what really drive the design. Finding ways to give the clients the aesthetic they want within the parameters of their needs forces us to be creative and come up with really great, innovative ideas. We really are the string that threads through all of these different components and ties them together.”

So what interesting kinds of components are homeowners looking for in their kitchens today? “People want to get the most out of their kitchen space,” Rebecca tells us. “They want large islands, with a single level, so that there’s easier access and a more streamlined workspace. They want to utilize all the space on the island, so they want storage on the back for things like cookie cutters or Christmas dishes or cookbooks – items they need but don’t want cluttering their main kitchen spaces.

“Homeowners are favoring quartzite for countertops, because it has the luxurious look of marble, but it’s easier to clean. They want a more natural, neutral look that incorporates natural stone, copper or wood hoods, and warm white or gray colors. They want multi-functional sinks to optimize counter space, and paneled fridges, and paneled dishwashers because they are completely integrated into the design, and they are easier to clean.

Rebecca notes that, overall, people are becoming less “matchy-matchy,” and more focused on how everything flows together. “It’s a great thing, because the flow of the space is always very important to us,” she concedes. “We always use architectural details to help connect the kitchen with the rest of the house. And we always work hard to find ways to work even the most unique requests seamlessly into the design. Everything ought to look and feel like it belongs. That’s what makes a space comfortable, and livable, and beautiful.”

The Fine Art Of Well Edited & Beautifully Accented Interiors – Charlotte Designer Details This Critical Final Step

August 2, 2016

Accenting an interior is an integral part of creating a balanced, well put together space. Options for decorative accents are literally endless. Knowing what to place where, how to group items, and – perhaps most importantly – when to say when – is essential to a design that tells a compelling, consistent story and comes together in a gracious and seamless manner. Charlotte interior designer Donna Livingston, of DL Design, Inc. is well known for creating spaces that are well edited, highly elegant and very refined, radiating with her client’s distinctive personality. Part of the reason for Donna’s success is her thoughtful and very thorough accenting process – a method which she recently shared with North Carolina Design.

Donna turns her attention to a home’s accents once the larger elements of the design are installed. “I honestly don’t take a long view of the statement I want the design to make, or the overall aesthetic,” she observes. “I really just do what I feel each individual space requires, considering scale, and color, and finishes. I look at it and observe – Does this area need something tall to make it pop? Something textured to add interest? I find that when I focus methodically on each of these details, the rest falls into place.”

“I don’t necessarily keep an eye out for items that will work for the space early on in the process. I am always visiting showrooms and boutiques, and I take a lot of photos of selections. I file the photos away, and when I’m ready to add accents in to a design, I pull them out and look through them to get ideas of things that may work. It’s so much nicer than going through catalog photos.”

Donna has found that thorough planning is the best way to achieve success, and she puts a great deal of thought into each selection. “I go in after everything is installed and I take photos of the space,” she recounts. “I print out the photos, and I sketch on top of them, adding in all of the accents – a lamp here, a table here – so that I can really visualize how the whole space will work together. I study the sketch carefully and go over it many times.”

Choosing accents and layering them into a space can be a challenging process, but Donna has developed a tried and true system. “I start out with the items that are the most limited and narrow in terms of options, and I move outward from there,” she explains. “For example, there are only so many patterned rugs that will work for a given space. But you can find any paint color in the world.

“It’s much easier to find paint colors that work well with a rug you love, than to find a rug you love that works with a color you have already chosen. So, I plan things like window treatments, rugs and pillows first, and I let their colors and patterns drive the design. And I leave new artwork for last, because you can always commission an artist to create something that’s a perfect fit for the finished space.”

Art is very important to Donna, and she counsels clients to make selections wisely. “I encourage my clients to invest in quality pieces that are very meaningful and reflect who they are,” she notes. “If they seem stuck, I encourage them to think about pieces that reflect their hobbies, or their favorite places. I’ll go with them to help them figure out what they like. Or I’ll show them work by a local artist that suits their aesthetic, and then we’ll commission an original piece.”

When it comes down to smaller decorative items, Donna relies on intuition and trial and error. “I’ll pick out fifteen things, hoping to find five that will work,” she says. “I will arrange and rearrange everything, mixing textures, colors and sizes until it’s right. I’m very deliberate. I don’t want to overdo things. I want everything to flow together in a very satisfying and effortless way. Achieving that for my clients is worth every bit of the hard work and energy I put in to each project.”

Charlotte Builder Punctuates This Spacious Renovation With A Cozy Family Atmosphere & Elegant Architectural Details

July 26, 2016

Any seasoned home builder or remodeler in North Carolina will tell you that no two homes are alike. That’s the thrill of the project. Jimmy Benham, a project manager for Benham Builders – one of Charlotte’s premier custom home builders and remodelers – enjoys the fact that each home is a new challenge. Under the leadership of Jimmy’s father, Jim Benham, Benham Builders has been crafting fine homes in the Metro area since 1995. Jimmy sat down with North Carolina Design and shared details about an especially unique renovation. Formerly owned by a 1990′s Charlotte Hornets star, the home was purchased by a married couple with older children who wanted to create a homey, family atmosphere in this very spacious house.

Images Courtesy of Benham Builders ©

The new owners loved the size of the house, and the fact that it sat on 16 acres of land. They also loved its location in a gated community, and its very close proximity to a shopping center. However, the home’s style and layout didn’t quite work for their wants and needs. “It was a commercial build,” notes Jimmy. “The original builder used concrete slabs and steel joists, and gave it a flat roof instead of a pitched roof. He also gave it a slate floor, and used minimal moulding and minimal details.”

“Our clients wanted something that felt smaller, warmer and more welcoming. That was the most significant challenge for us. But we saw that the home had good bones, and we knew we could do it.” Another challenge – meeting the family’s unique functional needs. “The homeowners still have one teenage son at home, and he is disabled,” Jimmy explains. “It was very important that he be able to get everywhere he needed to go in the house.”

The homeowners are very close with their older children, who no longer live at home, and with their extended family, who live out of state. “They wanted their home to be the go-to spot for celebrating special family events, like their children’s graduations and engagements,” offers Jimmy. “They love to entertain. They regularly host large parties, and they frequently have guests who stay for an extended period of time.”

As a design–build company, Benham Builders added thoughtful architectural details to the design in order to “shrink” the home, added more interest and gave it a cozier feel. “On the exterior, we used parapets to disguise the flat roof,” Jimmy affirms. “Inside, we wanted to visually bring the 23-foot ceilings down in scale.” In the foyer, he crafted an exquisite arched tongue and groove wood ceiling, and in the living room, he built a gorgeous stand-alone coffered ceiling. He also added abundant traditional moulding throughout the house and replaced the original doors with two-panel mahogany doors.

Jimmy and his team made a number of changes to meet the homeowners’ son’s needs. They created a level main floor, with zero entry access to every room. The master bedroom was moved downstairs so that the parents could sleep close by their son. The front of the house was blown out to create a formal foyer, which leads out to a zero entry driveway that easily accommodates the son’s transport van. An elevator was built into the original front covered entrance.

Jimmy opened up the kitchen, making it lighter and brighter, and ensuring that it related more intimately with the living area. He added a large island perfect for prep work, casual meals and conversation. “The wife spends a great deal of her time in the kitchen, relaxing and enjoying meals with her son. It needed to be a comfortable, functional spot,” he explains. The kitchen space was also extended to create a scullery kitchen, where caterers can work during parties without disrupting the main kitchen.

The comfort of guests was a priority, so Jimmy ensured that there were large pavilion spaces where large groups can congregate. “We were actually invited to one of their parties,” Jimmy tells us. “It was great to see how well the space worked. There was even a perfect spot for a live band. In the time we spent with them, we really did become family. It feels great to know we rose to the challenge and helped give them the home of their dreams.”

Charlotte Landscape Architect Explains The Three Essential Elements In Creating A Landscape That Lasts

July 19, 2016

We often talk of creating a “forever home” – a place in the world that gives us roots, grows with us, and eventually becomes a part of the family. But what about a “forever landscape – one that’s thoughtfully planned and lovingly cultivated, so that it brings us joy and respite for years to come? With a great blend of passion, artistry and thoughtfulness, celebrated Charlotte landscape architect J’Nell Bryson builds every landscape with an eye toward forever. She was kind enough to share her methods for creating a timeless outdoor spaces with North Carolina Design.

Images Courtesy of J’Nell Bryson Landscape Architect ©

J’Nell tells us that there are three elements to creating a landscape that lasts, the first of which is structure. “Providing the right structure is vitally important,” she reflects. “I think of the outdoors as a giant room, with the ground as the floor and the sky as the ceiling. To create a defined space, you have to have a solid foundation, a good framework and good architectural bones – just as you would if you were building an indoor space.”

“When it comes to structure, you can’t rely on bloom colors, or lots of pretty deciduous trees. You need something that’s intentional, and has a sense of permanence. You should be able to appreciate the intent and beauty of the space, even in winter. Each outdoor space should ‘speak’ to and flow well with all of the others. And you have to take a long view of how things will grow and change – over the next 30 years.”

The next essential element in a forever landscape is scale. “Scale takes on an entirely new significance in landscapes, as outdoor spaces tend to dwarf things,” she explains. “An 8 by 10-foot space may seem like a good fit for a patio – until you see how small it looks outdoors. You might find a sizable outdoor sculpture that you love, only find that it ‘disappears’ once you add it to your landscape. You really do have to think in much larger, broader terms outdoors.”

The third, and most important element in a landscape that endures is a great plan. “Planning is everything,” J’Nell stresses. “You will have a much more successful result if you have a solid plan in place.” For J’Nell, this means considering the wants and needs of clients within the confines of their budget, measuring carefully to ensure that the scale will be right, mapping out the hardscape and choosing the plant materials that will anchor the space.

J’Nell believes that a simple, well-edited plan is best. “I like to choose 10 to 15 trees, space them out well, and give them room to grow,” she says. “I also choose hardy trees that I know will do very well in this area. Once I have created the structure, I add in texture and dimension with perennials, ornamental grasses and deciduous trees. These act as the accessories in outdoor spaces – you should be able to change them out without compromising the integrity of the space.”

J’Nell always plans with a long view in mind. “I counsel people to invest in more expensive, larger size plants, as they will make new landscapes look fuller, and they will require less care at a lower cost,” she affirms. “I also encourage them to avoid creating permanent structures based on things that are temporary. Trends fade, and children grow up. It’s important to focus on things that are timeless.”

“You can also create flex spaces that can serve current and future needs, like a playhouse that can easily be turned into a garden shed. And, you can keep your options open. I like to carve out space for things my clients want that aren’t in the budget today, but might be in 10 years. It really is all about investing time, care and money now, to have something that serves you effortlessly, well into the future.”

Asheville Interior Designer Beautifully Balances Coolness And Warmth In This Contemporary Blue Ridge Mountain Home

July 12, 2016

Nothing compares to the excitement of building your own home. Unfortunately, with the myriad of decisions that must be made at a rapid pace, stress can quickly put a damper on even the most enthusiastic homeowners’ experience. Fortunately, seasoned professionals like Laura Sullivan, owner of Asheville design firm ID.ology Interior Design, are here to help. Laura works side by side with homeowners, leading them through the entire process to ensure smooth sailing and a great result. Laura spoke with North Carolina Design about her process, and a recent project that showcases the difference her influence can make.

Images Courtesy of Id.ology Interior Design ©

“I think one of the main benefits people gain from working with us is peace of mind,” affirms Laura. “We guide them through every selection, from exterior materials to lamps and area rugs. When homeowners go it alone, they often feel stressed and overwhelmed. They have no idea where to go, who to talk to or what to get. Having us there to help them really minimizes their stress, to the point where it becomes an enjoyable process for them.”

“We really spend a lot of time getting to know the homeowners and their families. We think a lot about their life in their home, their personal style, and their future needs. We work out space planning, taking into account framing, exterior and interior doors and windows, traffic patterns and flow of the space. We also think about how we can incorporate the best possible products – healthy, high-quality products that meet the family’s lifestyle needs.”

All of this makes for a lot of moving parts, but that doesn’t faze Laura. “We have a thoughtfully developed, finely honed process in place. That makes it much easier to keep things running smoothly, and not just for clients. We offer great benefit to builders. We work hand in hand with them, acting as mediators between them and the clients. We know their timetable, and what decisions need to be made when. We keep things on track, so they can focus solely on what they need to do.”

The builder on our featured home, an incredible mountain contemporary was Living Stone Construction, which is owned by Laura’s husband, Sean Sullivan. Sean and Laura work phenomenally well as a team, and this project was no different. “They really did an incredible job,” she reflects. “We all worked toward a singular vision, and it all came together very cohesively. It helped greatly that the client was very open, and really let us use our creativity to the fullest potential. That always makes a design really exceptional.”

Thanks to Laura’s thoughtful guidance, the home is a beautiful balance of coolness and warmth and light and dark, and is replete with delightful and intriguing details. “We went with a concrete floor,” she notes. “So we really wanted to make sure that that floor was balanced with warmth and texture. The rich, warm walnut stair treads and walnut upstairs floor provided balance and added continuity. Also, the marble and stainless steel in the kitchen is balanced by the warm walnut cabinetry.”

Laura used details to continue the sense of balance, and add a true wow factor to the home. “We created this stone wall that starts on the home’s exterior, and wraps all the way around the stair wall and carries down to the master entry,” she recounts. “It adds a really cool texture, and it creates a dramatic entrance. The glass in the entranceway allows the stone to come right up to the window, so there’s no visual barrier.”

Laura admits to a few favorite selections throughout the home. On display in spaces like the living area and the master bedroom is fabulous artwork, which Laura purposefully highlighted with her choices of wall color. Other favorites are the the 17th century Moroccan doors and the living area’s asymmetric fireplace featuring a floating concrete hearth. “I wanted to add all of these great components to make the home really unique, but at the same time I wanted everything to integrate and flow well together. In the end, all of the pieces fit into place. It’s just a great example of what thoughtful planning and expert guidance can accomplish.”

Raleigh Remodelers Offer 5 Key Tips For Ensuring A Good Outcome And A Good Experience With Your Remodeler

July 5, 2016

A home is a huge emotional and financial investment, so naturally renovation projects are often daunting for homeowners. To help them feel more confident, North Carolina Design sought advice from veteran Raleigh remodelers, Peggy and Dave Mackowski, husband and wife owners of Quality Design & Construction. Peggy and Dave have been renovating homes throughout the Triangle area for 22 years, and are a trusted resource in the industry. They were kind enough to provide us with 5 key remodeling tips on how homeowners can ensure themselves both a good outcome, and a good experience.

Images Courtesy of Quality Design & Construction ©

Select The Right Professional
“First of all, make sure your contractor is licensed and insured,” stresses Peggy. “Check their background. Ask for work samples and references, and call the last references first. People always put their best references at the top. And – make sure they have experience with the type of project you want to have done,” adds Dave. “When you look at work samples, double check to make sure it really was their project. Sadly, some contractors will download photos of someone else’s work and claim it as their own.”

Finding the right professional isn’t always about credentials, credibility and know-how. “You have to be a good fit for each other,” notes Peggy. “You will be working closely with this person, possibly for six months or more. You have to make sure they are someone you’re comfortable with. Someone you trust with your kids, and your animals, and your home. Someone who you feel listens to you and understands you. If you’re not a good fit, you’re likely headed for a bad experience.”

Create A Realistic Budget
Homeowners are typically unfamiliar with homebuilding costs, and can be surprised when they’re presented with the budget. “We create a budget up front based on the homeowner’s wants and needs,” Dave tells us. “We always share costs with them, so that they can see where the money is going. When your contractor presents you with a cost estimate, it’s really important to accept that number and move on, whether that means making changes to your plans, or mentally adjusting to the amount you’ll be spending.”

Make Timely Decisions
In the building process, one decision can affect many others. Dave and Peggy emphasize that it’s very important to make decisions early on in the process – and stick to them. “The idea is not to rush homeowners or make them feel overwhelmed,” notes Peggy. “It’s to help them to understand that there is a timetable to work with, and timely decisions are essential to things running smoothly.”

“We will help them through the process,” adds Dave. “If need be, we can take more time in the planning stage. Sometimes longer planning up front can be cost saving and provide a quicker turnaround time. It’s really important to be sure about what you want. Changing your mind in the middle of a build is not a simple thing – it will cost you both time and money.”

Communicate Clearly
It’s important for both parties to have clarity – the contractor should clearly understand what the client wants and needs, and the client should clearly understand what will happen during the process. “We make sure we have a signed contract in place before any work begins.” says Dave. “Any changes to the plan translate into additional time and cost, so clients have to sign off on them.”

“Ask questions about how many people will be working in your home, how often you will be updated, how the team communicates internally, and how they will communicate with you,” advises Peggy. “If you know what to expect and can manage your expectations up front, you’ll feel much more confident with the process, and you’ll have a better experience.”

Trust Your Professional’s Guidance
“We really do want to give homeowners what they want,” says Peggy. “After all, they have to live with whatever we do to their home for years to come. That being said, we do have a great deal of experience that homeowners generally don’t have, and we have valuable solutions and ideas to offer.” Dave adds, “If you have chosen the right person, they aren’t going to steer you wrong. If you’ll trust in their guidance, you’ll end up with something far better than you imagined.”

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