5 Essential Tips From Greensboro Landscape Architect Ensure Your Landscape Thrives During The Dog Days Of Summer

June 21, 2016

It’s summer – time once again to linger in outdoor living spaces at the end of a long day, unwinding and perhaps sipping a favorite beverage. We’d all like to have a beautiful view to enjoy as we relax outdoors, but the North Carolina summer heat can be harsh on our landscapes. Fortunately, as Lori Hawkins, owner of Greensboro’s Hawkins Landscape Architecture tells us, proper maintenance goes a long way toward keep our prized plants healthy and beautiful all summer. Lori has cultivated a great passion for and knowledge of plants for decades, and she was gracious enough to share her best summer landscaping tips with North Carolina Design.

Images Courtesy of Hawkins Landscape Architecture ©

Water Wisely

In summer months, Lori stresses that keeping lawns and plants healthy is mainly about keeping them adequately watered. “Container plants should be watered every day,” she advises. “Recently planted trees and shrubs should be watered every other day. Lawns should be watered every other day as well. To avoid evaporation, you should water in early morning or in the evening, after the heat of day has leveled off.”

Lori cautions homeowners that, while water is essential, it’s important not to overdo it “You have to be careful not to over water,” she says. “Too much water can be as devastating to plants as too little water. I highly recommend using an irrigation system, and outfitting it with a water sensor. The sensor ‘reads’ the amount of water present in the soil and the air, and lets you know when plants actually need water. It’s a highly effective watering solution.”

Mitigate Moisture Loss

It’s not enough to give plants water – you have to ensure that they retain as much moisture as possible. “Mulching is very important during hot summer months,” says Lori. “I like to use shredded hardwood – it retains moisture better than wood chips, and it doesn’t dry out like pine straw. To help container gardens retain moisture, move them to a shady spot in the afternoon, and use potting soil with moisture retaining additives.”

Plant Thoughtfully

Many people believe that planting in summer is a no-no. Not so, according to Lori, so long as you are very committed to giving them extra care. “Summer is particularly hard on new plantings,” she notes. “They will really struggle without diligent watering and attention. If you’re planning an extended trip, or you’re very busy this summer, either install an irrigation system, have someone you trust care for your plants, or wait until fall to plant new items.”

Mow Judiciously

We all like to keep our lawns tidy, but Lori advises against overzealous mowing. “Cutting your grass too short can expose it to too much heat, causing stress,” she tells us. “My rule of thumb is to set the mower blade on the highest setting, and take off no more than one-third of the average height of the grass. If you have a mulching mower, you should leave very fine lawn clippings in the grass, as it will enrich the soil and help preserve moisture.”

Give Plants Their Best Chance

“Weeding plant beds is very important, as weeds steal nutrients from desirable plants, notes Lori. “Deadheading perennials and annuals keeps them from going to seed and redirects the plant’s energy toward growth and creating new blossoms. And pruning can be beneficial to some plants and trees during summer – just make sure that you provide extra water to mitigate stress, and that you research the best time to prune any specific plant carefully to avoid cutting off buds or adding undue stress.

“One of the most important things you can do to promote the health of your landscape is to plan it out thoughtfully. When you have the right plants in the right spots, with the right soil and the right amount of sunlight, they’ll do well even under less-than-ideal conditions. I highly recommend hiring a landscaping expert or consulting with a nursery to create a plan. It really is the best way to set yourself up for success, in any season.”

This Exquisite Whole House Renovation By A Raleigh Remodeler Beautifully Addresses Current And Future Needs

June 14, 2016

When most people commit to a “forever” home, they imagine sitting on their front porch or deck years later, reminiscing about the life they have built there. But life can be unpredictable, and families and lifestyles can change. What happens if, somewhere along the way, the home you love doesn’t work for you anymore? Raleigh remodeler, Eddie Casanave, owner of Distinctive Remodeling, has given a second life to many a beloved forever home. Today he takes North Carolina Design inside one spectacular example – a truly exquisite Triangle home that he updated to suit his clients for life.

Images Courtesy of Distinctive Remodeling ©

The home was originally built in the 1990′s. Two decades later, the lot and the neighborhood remained ideal – Eddie’s clients, however, found the home to be lacking in functionality – both for their current lifestyle, and for their future. “They were looking to make their home a more suitable place to live out their remaining years,” Eddie tells us. “They also wanted to accommodate the wife’s mother, who would potentially be moving in with them at some point.

“The home has a basement level, a main level, a second floor level, and their master bedroom and office were on the upper level. We wanted to provide main floor, aging-in-place living for them,” Eddie says. He expanded the footprint, and created a downstairs master bedroom and bath from the existing guest bedroom. Eddie widened doorways, created zero entry thresholds, and made the home as barrier-free as possible. He also included an elevator, which goes from the basement level garage to the second floor.

In addition to the new master bedroom and the aging-in-place features, Eddie renovated the upstairs bathroom and bedroom, turned the sunroom into a stately and spacious den, relocated and enlarged the breakfast area, and added a stunning covered porch where the couple and their guests can enjoy the outdoors, rain or shine.

The couple enjoys entertaining on a grand scale, and regularly hosts parties with 75 to 100 guests. Part of Eddie’s challenge was to create a space that could accommodate large social gatherings, yet still feel comfortable and cozy enough for just two people to live day-to-day. “We bumped the living room back six feet, so that it would be spacious enough for a crowd,” he notes. “The design also encourages crowds to flow through the 12-foot sliding glass doors and on to the patio.

“We reconfigured the kitchen footprint to allow space for caterers to come in and out, without being hindered. We also moved the old appliances downstairs into the basement level, so that caterers could do most of the prep work and cooking there, without having to crowd the upstairs space.”

What started off as a practical remodel soon turned into an aesthetic redesign as well. “The project just grew in scope,” says Eddie. “Once we got the nuts and bolts of the design in place, the wife decided that she’d like to take the opportunity to essentially reinvent the look of the home.” This meant modernizing, upgrading, and adding both sweeping drama and finely finessed detail to every space.

The results are nothing short of exquisite. The home still retains all of the depth, gravitas and detail of a grand traditional house, but has fascinating contemporary touches that provide a clean and open aesthetic. Numerous large Pella windows allow in a great deal of natural light, and a wide use of lighter colors balances the darker, warmer spaces with a bright, open feel. Meanwhile, thoughtfully placed contemporary light fixtures and modern art pieces provide fresh points of interest throughout the home.

The truly wonderful aspect of this house is its wealth of layered details. From the gorgeous coffered ceiling, to the warm and richly colored walnut hardwood floors, to the exceptionally crafted wainscoting and trim found in the home’s cabinetry and woodwork, there is something to admire in every space.

Of course, we have our favorite spaces. We love the very formal, superbly elegant style of the master bath, and the richness of the carrera marble. We love the natural brick and wood vaulted ceiling of the deck. And we love the living room. There is complete symmetry from one side to the other – in the ceiling details, the fireplace built ins, the furniture – even in the accessories on the shelves. The room’s formality and clean elegance speak to the wonderful balance achieved in this home.

A sense of balance – between traditional and contemporary, current needs and future needs, space for guests and space for family, is what drove the renovation. “It was very important to the homeowners,” Eddie affirms. “The wife especially was very knowledgeable about building, and she had great ideas on how to achieve their goals. It all came together exceptionally well. A home should grow with you, through all of life’s stages. I was happy to help ensure they could stay in the home they loved – forever.”

Asheville Area Builder & Remodeler Transforms 1960′s Ranch House Into A Colorful & Contemporary Home For His Family

June 7, 2016

There’s no story we love more than that of “The Little House that Could” – a property that didn’t look like much at first, but became something spectacular in the hands of an expert. Once nondescript, dated and overlooked, today’s featured home is now an organic mountain contemporary masterpiece thanks to Sean Sullivan, owner of Asheville design build firm Living Stone Construction. While we call the project wonderfully inspired, Sean and his family call it something more – “home.”  Sean was gracious enough to let North Carolina Design peek inside his private living space, and share its fascinating story.

Images Courtesy of Living Stone Construction ©

Originally a 1960′s ranch house, the home had no central air conditioning and just 900 square feet of living space. It was a true diamond in the rough – nowhere near suitable for Sean’s family’s needs. However, Sean saw its potential – most significantly in its location. “It’s a great example of infill development, where you go into a neighborhood and make use of underutilized space,” he tells us. “This home was perfectly located in downtown Black Mountain, near a lake, a golf course, shops and restaurants.”

Sean made a number of significant changes. He removed the original roof, raised it, and created a beautiful and distinctive half-butterfly roofline. He converted the existing kitchen into a dining room, and built a new addition that houses the new kitchen and an art studio for his wife. He also turned the home’s crawlspace into a machine and TV room, and created a chic and eclectic wine room. The home now boasts 1,500 square feet of main floor living space.

Sean planned each space in the home with great thought and care. “This home is an example of ‘right size building,’” he tells us, referring to a concept in which homes are built with no wasted or extraneous space. “It has just the right amount of square footage for our needs. Everything is designed to optimize space. The house has abundant storage, lots of windows, and lots of natural light.  People come in and can’t believe it isn’t larger than it is.”

There is also little or no wasted energy in the home. “We are always very committed to green building,” Sean says. “We’re really excited about this home’s energy efficient features. It’s LEED certified platinum. It’s net zero ready, meaning it could achieve net zero energy use if we added more solar panels. All of the products we used are natural. We used geothermal heating for the home, and we use the cold air vented from the water heater to chill the wine room.”

Sean sought to create a contemporary and clean aesthetic, and used natural mountain elements like cedar and stone to tie the home back to its surroundings. The home’s interior offers abundant color and life, as well as a sense of warmth – all attributed to Sean’s wife Laura Sullivan, owner of ID.ology Interior Design. “Laura designed every room, every wall, every cabinet and pull out. I especially love how she used organic elements and darker, softer colors to balance the light colors and clean lines of the space.”

The house is rich with colorful, personal details – nearly everywhere you look there’s a story waiting to be told. The dining table is made from walnut slabs Laura’s father gave to the couple years before. The door to the wine room is a genuine door from an Asheville jail, given to Laura by her sister. Sean’s mother-in-law gave Sean and Laura a stained glass window for Christmas, without knowing he had planned to use it in one of the closets. It can be seen from the front of the house and amazingly, it fit perfectly.

Everything about this house seems to fit. As Sean had hoped and planned, it all speaks to his family’s life together, as well as their lives as individuals. “It’s really wonderful,” he reflects. “I have my man cave, and my wife has her woman cave. The kids are tickled pink – they think it’s the coolest house ever. I am just so proud of the way it turned out. It’s perfect. It’s home. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

For This Raleigh Interior Designer, Neutrals Become The Centerpiece Of The Design Project

May 31, 2016

We often think of neutrals as a blank slate, upon which are built the more significant and interesting elements of a design. Neutral colors, however, have their own inherent beauty, that can be drawn out by a skilled and thoughtful individual. Raleigh interior designer Loretta Bell, owner of Bell & Associates Interior Design made neutrals come to life in this project, creating a family room and breakfast room that exuded warmth and offered her clients a feeling of comfort. Loretta is known for her adaptability and keen eye, and she gladly shared with North Carolina Design the challenging details of making neutrals the centerpiece of this design project.

Images Courtesy of Bell & Associates Interior Design ©

“The homeowners bought the house as is, and it was pretty dated,” recounts Loretta. “It certainly didn’t fit their aesthetic. They wanted something fresh and current, but with a very comfortable, relaxing feel. They really wanted their home – particularly these two rooms – to be a true place of respite. It was also a very traditional house, and they are not really traditional people.”

“My goal was to create something that was very serene, and very enveloped. I also had to come up with a way to work a more transitional aesthetic into the existing traditional space.” Assisting Loretta in executing the details of her vision in the project was fellow designer Jacqueline Yow. Loretta chose a blend of neutrals for a tranquil, peaceful effect. To add a sense of warmth and add interest without adding traditional elements, she created a thoughtful balance of hard and soft surfaces, and clean and organic, textured lines.

There are beautiful examples of this balance throughout the space. The family room features a wrought iron cocktail table with antiqued mirror finish on the bottom shelf. The family room cabinets were painted the same color as the wall for a seamless effect, but the backs are papered with highly iridescent textured paper. In the breakfast room, the cool, light floor tiles are balanced by the warm, rustic wood table and the softened chevron pattern of the window treatments.

As evidenced by this project, a neutral palette can be both inspired and lovely. However, there is an art to using neutrals well. “A space with minimal color can look flat if you’re not careful,” notes Loretta. “In this case, I used layers of textures and interesting shapes to create interest and depth. I created a dramatic focal point by taking the tile all the way to the corner on the fireplace wall. And I added contrast by painting the ceiling a darker color than the trim.”

The palette isn’t completely neutral; there is a small, yet strategic burst of color throughout the room. “The clients liked terracotta and orange, so we invigorated the space with pops of those colors,” she tells us. It’s placed in such a way that the eye is drawn all around the space. To change the tone or mood of the room, the pieces could easily be switched out for citron yellow, green, or even blue.”

Loretta always lets clients lead her designs, and never imposes a style on them. However, part of her job is to guide her clients through hesitations. “Clients aren’t experts, and they can’t always see beyond what they know,” she reflects. “It’s really important to develop a rapport with clients, and help them be more open to options. In this case, I had the idea of panting the walls brown. The clients couldn’t see how it would ever work. But they trusted me, so they saw it through.”

Their faith was well-placed. The brown grounds the design, and adds richness, warmth and a cozy feel. In fact, the clients were delighted by the entire space. In the end, it far exceeded their expectations, which delighted Loretta greatly. “In the world we live in, it’s so important to have a home that’s personal and makes us feel good emotionally and spiritually. It’s the fuel we need to function. I was so glad to be able to give them a space they could love living in.”

Spring 2016 High Point Furniture Market Recap –
Varied Colors & Styles Allow For Individualized Design

May 24, 2016

What does the arrival of spring mean to you? Certainly it means a time for enjoying comfortable temperatures and flourishing outdoor scenery. For those of us who love all things related to interior design, the month of April means a figurative rolling out of the red carpet for the most important event of the season – the Spring High Point Furniture Market!

Images Courtesy of Laura Redd Interiors ©

North Carolina Design, once again allows you to peek inside the Market and find out what new looks, trends and colors made their appearance just a few weeks ago. We have the scoop, brought to us today by Greensboro interior designer Laura Redd, of Laura Redd Interiors. For nearly two decades, Laura has provided her clients with exceptional design, hand-tailored to their individual needs. Throughout the years, she has closely followed the shifting design styles, and as a seasoned expert, Laura is in the know about what’s worth noting at the latest Market.

This Market was certainly distinctive, and left a lasting impression on Laura. “It was like no other time I have ever seen,” she remarks. “It was very individualized, and very eclectic. You really could find absolutely anything you wanted, no matter what your tastes are. It was all about individual expression – about mixing and matching elements from different styles to create something unique, and using bold accents to make a statement.”

“There is currently a great style divide between generations. Older generations tend to prefer red, green and gold colors, and furniture with a more traditional flair. Younger generations prefer blue, gray and taupe, and they like simple furniture with clean lines and solid colors. Both preferences were very well represented. There were whole showrooms with blue, gray and taupe, and whole showrooms with red, green and gold. There really was something there for everyone.”

Color abounded at this spring’s Market. “A while back the showrooms were all tan, gray and taupe,” observes Laura. “This time they were full of color. And it wasn’t just one color, it was all kinds of colors, including pops of really bold colors. I saw a lot of fuchsia, a lot of navy, and a lot of bright pops of teal. Teal is going to be the next big color. As far as metallics, it was all about soft, muted, almost molten gold, which I absolutely loved.”

Laura found the accessories to be bolder, more dramatic, and more eclectic this spring. “There were a lot of big statement pieces, as opposed to a collection of smaller items,” Laura recalls. “Everything was more abstract, and geared toward mixing and matching. For example, you might add interest to a wall by using a bunch of different mirrors, as opposed to a single large mirror.

“Rugs have become more abstract – I saw a lot of paint splash styles, and fewer geometric styles. Lighting is more abstract as well, and more dramatic. In light fixtures, I saw a lot of groupings, and a lot of eclectic statement pieces. There were lots of floor lamps of every variety. And I saw a lot of bar lighting above night tables instead of lamps.”

While furniture tended toward clean lines and a simple style, it, too had an eclectic, mix-and-match flair. “Larger pieces tended to have neutral or solid colors or smaller prints,” notes Laura. “Case goods tended to be simple and plain, but they were accented with dramatic hardware, like teardrop earrings or fishtails. Or they had an assortment of doors and drawers, giving them an urban industrial feel. There was also some elegance and sparkle mixed in – I saw a lot of lucite, and a lot of soft gold on case goods and furniture.”

Laura was both excited and inspired by this spring’s Market. “I love that there are so many options for showing individuality,” she says. “You don’t have to commit to a single style. You can mix treasured family pieces with abstract statement pieces. You can find a traditional chair with a geometric print. Rather than just doing something that’s “pretty” and “matches,” you can so easily find something that speaks to who you are, and makes your home a more joyful place to live.”

Charlotte Interior Designer Details Beauty In A Classic And Timeless Manner, Reflecting A Love Of Tradition & History

May 17, 2016

There are two sides to the design process. There’s the creative, intuitive side, in which designers run with their inspirations and play with texture, color and light to achieve the right look and feel. Then there’s the nuts-and-bolts side, where they assess the homeowners’ needs, create a budget, coordinate selections, maintain a schedule, and ensure the whole process stays firmly on track. A good designer artfully balances these two different sides of the process as they create welcoming living spaces that are a seamless fusion of beauty and function.

Images Courtesy of Anne Buresh Interior Design ©

Charlotte designer Anne Buresh of Anne Buresh Interior Design is known for her beautiful, thoughtfully appointed interiors. While each of her spaces deftly reflects the individual tastes and desires of her clients, they all have a common thread – a classic, timeless appeal, with just a touch of romantic flair, and a fresh and inviting feel.

Anne discovered her passion for design at a very early age. “As far back as I can remember, I have always been very aware of my surroundings,” she reflects. “Even as a young child, I was always rearranging things, trying to create a sense of calmness and comfort. I always led the charge with the holiday decorations.”

Anne’s clean and classic sensibilities have deep roots. “My grandmother lived in a historic house in Halifax,” she recounts. “She was an interior decorator. She had wonderful taste. She was very classic, and very particular. Some of my very best memories are of leafing through her fabric book. I was actually named for her, so it feels like fate in some way. I just have it in my blood.”

The classic elements in Anne’s designs reflect her love of tradition and history and her desire to give her clients a design with longevity. The fuel, however, that drives each design is her desire to infuse every space with a sense of personality and life. “You want your larger elements – the ones you can’t easily change – to be timeless,” she observes. “But you don’t want to end up with a collection of beautiful stuff that has no personality.”

“I like to have fun with art and accessories. That’s where you can really be bold, where you can embrace trends, and reflect the homeowner’s individuality. Of course, to do that you have to listen, listen, listen, and you have to observe. So, I’m looking at their artwork. I’m looking at their shoes. I’m poking around in their closets. Because if you meet Becky at the bank on Thursday and then come to her house on Saturday, you should be able to say ‘yes, this makes complete sense.’”

Creating a deeply client-oriented design is where Anne’s finely-honed intuition and sense of aesthetics meets her driven, no-nonsense project management system. “I ask a ton of questions,” she admits. “How many around the dining table? Do you linger in the dining room? Who do you entertain? How do you work, live, eat, play? Once I assess their needs, I come up with a budget on the spot. Then I set meetings and pull selections. It’s a very orderly, very determined process.”

A process that gets results, it seems. “It’s amazing to see the big reveal,” she says. “The kids twirl around. Some of the husbands have tears. They say ‘You really listened and you did what you said you would do.’ Or, ‘I never used this room, but now I’ll sit here and have a glass of wine every day.’ It’s emotional for me, too – I feel like I have this talent – this passion – and I use it to help people live comfortably and beautifully and peacefully.”

Newlywed Charlotte Interior Designer Creates A Dream Kitchen To Accommodate Her Instant Blended Family Of Seven

May 10, 2016

Marriage always brings about challenges in design, as two people meld their separate likes, dislikes and needs into a single, shared vision for their home. When a marriage results in a blended family whose members have a wide variety of opinions and needs, those challenges increase exponentially. A skilled and creative talent like Charlotte interior designer,  Kendra White of Pheasant Hill Designs is known for finding beautiful and practical solutions that feel like home for everyone – even when she is both the designer and the client – or in this case, the bride.

Images Courtesy of Pheasant Hill Designs. Photography by Marie Walker ©

Just last spring, wedding bells rang for Kendra and her new husband, who have five children between them. She moved into her husband’s existing home – and one of her first priorities was to make the kitchen both comfortable and functional for the now blended family of seven. Kendra put all of her experience, expertise and skills to good work, and was gracious enough to share the stunning results with North Carolina Design.

Kendra concedes that she found it difficult to be her own client. “As a designer, you know all of the possibilities and options available to you,” she explains. “It can become very hard to make a decision, and very easy to constantly second-guess yourself. With this project, I decided to treat myself like I would a client. I went with the first option that really felt right, and trusted my gut on the selections. It worked out very well.”

One of Kendra’s primary goals was to address her now-large family’s practical needs. One of the most significant changes she made was the installation of a 10-foot island, which provided everything from added counter space, to added storage, to a spot where several people could do homework or have a snack at once. “Structural changes were necessary in order to accommodate the island,” she recalls. “We had to relocate the plumbing, rearrange the appliances and remove a structural beam.

“We were merging two households, so storage was really important. Because it’s an open concept kitchen, there weren’t really a lot of walls to hang cabinets on. So the island has full-depth cabinets, hidden behind what look like fixed panels.”

The kitchen also features an extra-large built-in refrigerator, extra-large garbage pullouts, two spice pullouts, and two dishwashers – one of which is artfully concealed within a hutch. For added dining space, Kendra converted the sunroom into an extension of the kitchen and created an eat-in area perfect for casual family meals.

Kendra also worked to improve the kitchen’s aesthetics. “I wanted a transitional look – something soft and ethereal that was upscale, yet casual,” she tells us. “The color is predominantly earthy gray, blended with white, taupe and beiges. The home has an open concept floor plan, so the design had to blend in with the rest of the house. I painted the existing bookcases to match the island. For contrast, the wood floor has a very, very dark Jacobian stain.”

One benefit of being her own client is that Kendra truly gets to test out her design. “We’re 10 months in now, and I’m very  gratified that everything has worked out so well,” she affirms. “The kids love how functional and comfortable the space is. My husband was very accommodating throughout the process. The only thing he asked for was a nice wine cooler, so I added a Subzero 149-bottle model, which makes us both happy. I love that the kitchen satisfies everyone’s needs now, and reflects us as a family.“

Lake Norman Builder Customizes 7,500 Square Foot Home With Classically Detailed Exterior & Open Floor Plan Interior

May 3, 2016

When you have a home built, you are literally placing your biggest investment in someone else’s hands. Today’s featured home, a gorgeous, 7,500 square foot Lake Norman new build, exemplifies what can be accomplished when homeowners put their faith in the right builder. Lake Norman custom home builder and remodeler Rob Passarelli, owner of Passarelli Custom Homes, is known for his expert craftsmanship, and for going above and beyond to make every home an ideal fit for his clients – no matter how challenging that might be. He was gracious enough to tell North Carolina Design this home’s unique story.

Images Courtesy of Passarelli Custom Homes ©

The homeowners were a couple from New York who decided to partially retire in North Carolina. “They were invited to visit the area by friends,” recounts Rob. “They fell in love with it. They purchased a lot, but they didn’t know where to turn for a builder. Their lender recommended us, yet the clients didn’t know us personally – and they weren’t familiar with our work. The project was even more of a leap of faith because they lived in another state and wouldn’t be there during the build.”

The homeowners had embraced the North Carolina style, but wanted to take a traditional plan and put a modern feel to it. They purchased a template that had the historic look, flow and general design that they wanted. However, it did fall a little short when it came to both form and function. Fortunately, Rob was able to help the couple tweak the template into something that was absolutely perfect for them.

“Templates can be great, especially if you work with a good custom builder who can adjust them to fit your needs,” Rob notes. “A custom builder can see issues and problems in plans that you might not, and they can find creative solutions that are perfect for you. In this case, the template was perhaps a little too historic for my clients. It had fluted columns, dental moulding – lots of embellishments that didn’t quite suit their tastes. The rooms were also a bit too closed off.”

“We took out walls and created an open floor plan with a great flow from room to room. We simplified the design to create a more streamlined and clean look. We created a big, sweeping archway in the kitchen area, and we enlarged the sunroom, the master bedroom and the garage. We also gave them a spot for entertaining right off the kitchen, complete with a full bar and a pool table in place of a dining table.”

Rob also gave the homeowners an incredible pool, which presented its own challenges. “The topography of the land didn’t easily support a pool,” he affirms. “We had to use steps to create different levels. And the fireplace actually doubles as a retaining wall.”

The homeowners only made a handful of visits to the property during the build, leaving Rob to handle a great deal of the day-to-day decisions. “So much of it was out of their hands,” he reflects. “They couldn’t investigate the vendors who were doing the painting or the stone work. They couldn’t look over every selection as it came in. It was hard for them to visualize everything. They really had to rely on my judgment and my understanding of what they wanted.”

While the added responsibility might have weighed a bit on Rob, having long-distance clients made the final ‘reveal’ of the home that much more exciting and rewarding. “They really were seeing the house, as a whole, for the first time,” he says. “It was a pretty significant moment. I felt anxious, hoping it was all exactly what they wanted, but at the same time I was excited and couldn’t wait for them to see how it all turned out.”

Rob needn’t have worried at all. “They were like kids in a candy store,” he recounts. “At every turn, they were saying ‘Wow, look at this!’ They loved everything – it all went above and beyond anything they had expected. It was so gratifying. Their faith in us was justified. We understood their vision, we used our best judgement and it all came together in a really amazing way.”

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.”

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