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.”

With Proper Planning And A Good Designer, A Kitchen Remodel Isn’t The Big Green Eyed Monster You Feared It Would Be

May 30, 2017

Homeowners will often live too long with a kitchen that no longer suit their needs, simply because they are afraid of the unknown. Kitchen remodels can seem very overwhelming, but they aren’t necessarily the big green monster people imagine them to be. Gina Arledge, owner and principal designer at the premier Greensboro design firm, The Kitchen Studio, has coached many a homeowner through  a successful remodel. She spoke with North Carolina Design about demystifying and de-stressing the kitchen remodeling process.

“A lot of people who come to me are very nervous about the process,” she concedes. “Remodels are daunting. It’s challenging to have people in your sanctuary, bringing in their big boots and a lot of dust. Remodels can take 2 to 3 months to finish or even longer in some cases. They’re not fun and we don’t pretend they’re fun. But they are absolutely worth it, and we help remind the client of that fact.”

“We do a lot of hand-holding and cheerleading. We talk about what the finished product will look like. I always like to say that when we’re done, their house will have the kitchen it should have had in the first place. We help them keep their eye on that prize, and we reassure them that there’s an end in sight. We help them make all of the big decisions. We let them know that we care, and we’re paying attention.”

Gina notes that one of the best ways to alleviate the stress of remodeling is to get help very early on. “It’s always so smart to consult a designer from the very beginning,” she affirms, “Builders are going to say, ‘well, what do you want to do?’ They’re going to follow your lead. If you don’t have a plan, you can’t get accurate estimates. A designer can help you create a really solid plan, with feasible, accurate numbers, that you can then bring forward with your builder and subcontractors.”

“Designers also act as project coordinators. They know what needs to be done, and when. They can help you pick out everything and have it ordered in a timely manner.” But, Gina notes, they can’t do it alone. “If you want the best outcome, you have to be involved. If you have large dishes, you’ll want to take two of them with you during selections to make sure they fit in the cabinet.”

To fully flesh out her client’s needs, Gina goes on a fact-finding mission. “We always start at their house,” she says. “We measure the walls, and the adjacent rooms we might be going into. We talk about how they cook, how they function, what works now, and what doesn’t work. We create idea books that give me insight into their minds. Even if they pull 1,000 kitchens, I can usually find a pattern that helps me understand who they are and what they want.”

“From that meeting, we set up a second meeting at my studio. Between those two meetings, I create a design, print line drawings, do full color renderings, create a 3D internet model – I use any tool I need to show the client what the finished product is going to look like. Then I ask for their feedback. Feedback is so important – these are preliminary, conceptual designs, and we can make any change at this stage. They can’t be afraid of hurting my feelings.”

According to Gina, hiring a designer isn’t enough – to help the process go smoothly, it’s important to find the right designer. “Of course, you want someone who’s knowledgeable and experienced,” she observes. “But it’s also really important to work with someone who makes you feel comfortable and confident. Not every designer is going to be a good fit for you, just like every client isn’t going to be a good fit for me. Find that person who ‘gets’ you. It really makes all the difference.”

Interior Designer’s Dream Project, Dream Process and Dream Clients Combine To Produce Incredible & Beautiful Results

May 16, 2017

Most people have an idea of a  dream home – homes perfectly tailored to their needs and aesthetic desires. And most designers have an idea of a dream project – projects tailored to their strengths, connected to their passions, and challenging in all the best ways. Asheville interior designer Kathryn Long, owner of Ambiance Interiors, had the pleasure of such a project – a new build vacation home for a couple looking to escape the summer heat – and the summer pollen – in Texas. Kathryn spoke to North Carolina Design about the project, and told us what made it so incredible.

Images courtesy of Ambiance Interiors Photography by Jerry Markatos

One thing Kathryn greatly appreciated was the collaborating with great professionals. “This is a Platt Architecture signature home,” she notes. “I love working with Al Platt. We’ve collaborated on close to 20 projects together. These clients became our clients with his recommendation. And then, of course I enjoyed working with Tessa Eaton, my project manager and design associate. She was a big part of this project’s success.”

Kathryn also appreciated being involved from the very beginning. “I came in very early in the process,” she recounts. “Al Platt prefers the involvement of an interior designer very early on – that’s one of the reasons I enjoy working with him. I like to come in before every little thing has been decided. After the architectural details have been worked out, I like to work together with clients on material selections, finishes, floors, window treatments – things that should be decided early in the process.”

Then, there were the clients. “They were very communicative and participatory,” she observes. “They had worked with other designers, and they knew what to expect. Things are always easier when clients understand the process and know what a designer can do for them. They trusted my judgment. They shared photos of their home in Texas with me. They wanted to bring pieces from that home into the design, and they wanted specifically to know what I thought of each one.”

“They were well-traveled, and very sophisticated. The husband loves architecture, and he can think spatially, so he had great input and ideas. They both liked to collect good antiques. They both loved nice fabrics, as do I, and they were familiar with the fabric houses, which we have in our resource library here at Ambiance. They really were my idea of the ideal clients.”

Kathryn also got to work in the way that she most prefers. “The first thing we do after material selections is furniture planning,” she explains. “One of the main reasons we do this is to choose the rugs. I can’t start every project with the rugs, but it is an ideal way to work. Rugs provide a color scheme and set a tone, and that helps a lot of other decisions fall into place.”

“I went with the clients several times to Togar Rugs to make selections. We chose Oushak rugs – peaceful, quiet rugs without a lot of contrast, in light blues and taupes. They look very simple at first glance, but when you look more closely, there’s a lot of subtle detail. And that’s the approach we took with the whole house. The feel is very peaceful, and things appear simple, but when you look around you notice things like the different leg styles and wonderful tassels on the chairs.”

“You see all of the texture in the stone, and the character in the reclaimed wood floors. You see that the walls are painted to give the illusion of everything being wood. It was a challenge to create a tranquil, comfortable space this rich in detail, and it was so satisfying to see it come together so well. One more reason why this was this was truly a dream project.”

The Surging Popularity Of Transitional Kitchen Design – The Middle Ground Between Traditional And Modern Styles

May 2, 2017

More and more homeowners are opting for a transitional style in their kitchens. This fresh, clean approach to design holds a lot of appeal as a middle ground between traditional and modern styles. To delve further into this newer, yet significant shift in design preferences, we reached out to Raleigh kitchen designer, Desi McAlister, at Kitchen & Bath Galleries. The senior designer has been a go-to expert on kitchens for years, and Desi shared with North Carolina Design some keen insights into the rise of transitional style, and the very different forms it can take.

Images Courtesy of Kitchen &Bath Galleries ©

Desi tells us that before transitional style came into play, there were only two real style preferences. “You were either traditional or modern – that was it,” she says. “I personally would get one request a year for a modern kitchen, if that. Now I do a number of fully contemporary kitchens, and I very seldom have anyone tell me they are purely traditional. Almost everyone is transitional in some way, shape or form.”

Desi traces the transitional trend to the end of the recession. “Things just started getting simpler,” she observes. “People just weren’t putting as much pizazz into the cabinetry – you didn’t see as much ornamental moulding or detailed doors. I felt like it was falling in line with people’s changing lifestyles – a new ‘less is more’ philosophy. Transitional cabinetry isn’t as heavy, and it isn’t as busy. There aren’t as many grooves to clean.”

The shift has been dramatic. “With traditional kitchens, you had heavy trim moulding and detailed doors,” Desi reflects. “The cabinets had a lot of detail in general. The cabinets were the ‘wow’ in the room, so people added all of these elements to make them pop. Now, because they’re so clean and simple, they act as a backdrop that helps other elements of the kitchen stand out, like the hardware, backsplash and countertop color.”

Desi has found that, within the scope of transitional design, homeowners still tend to fall into two general style groups. “You have what I call the ‘classic transitional’ style group,” she explains. “These are people who have perhaps had a traditional style all their lives. It’s what they prefer. But now, they’re looking in magazines, and they’re seeing their friends’ homes. They really like the simple, streamlined designs they’re seeing. So they want something that’s a little cleaner and simpler, but still has classic elements and details.”

“People in this group tend to love symmetry. They want things to match, and they want to see balance on both sides of the window, or the range hood. They like subtle embellishment. They’re not going to have a flat slab cabinet door – they’re going to have a recessed panel with edge detail. They’re going to have detail on the hardware. Their cabinets are going to be cream or white. They’re going to choose quartz countertops that mimic Carrera marble. They’re going to choose classic subway tiles.”

“Then you have the ‘modern transitional’ group. These are people who are open to trying new trends. They want something that’s bolder and edgier. They’re going to choose an eclectic light fixture. They are okay with having asymmetrical, off-balance elements in the room. They’re going to choose slab doors and longer, more modern bar pulls. They are more likely to choose gray for their cabinetry color. They like glass and metal accents, and they prefer elongated, more narrow tiles.”

Desi believes that the appeal of transitional style is in its versatility. “It’s a mesh between traditional and contemporary, so people have the freedom to combine elements they like from either style,” she says. “It really does give people more options, and a greater opportunity to tailor their kitchen to their liking. Plus, it fits today’s lifestyles very well.”

Take A Peek At What’s Trending In 2017 Kitchen Design

April 18, 2017

The kitchen has never been more important than it is today, as this coveted space shifts continuously away from a single function room to the heart and hub of the home. As lifestyles shift, so do homeowners’ wants and needs. Thankfully, we have experts like Tim Nichols, who owns Cabinet Studio in Winston Salem, and top-notch Cabinet Studio designers Melissa Jessup and Jennifer Willard to help keep us up to date. They were kind enough to apprise North Carolina Design of some of the latest and greatest trends for today’s kitchens.

Images Courtesy of Cabinet Studio ©

The team notes that one of the biggest changes in kitchen design is a shift from granite to quartz countertops. “It follows along with a change in lifestyle,” observes Tim. “The kitchen isn’t just for cooking anymore. It’s a central location where families do a lot of different activities. Countertops endure a lot of wear and tear. Quartz stands up to all kinds of lifestyles – kids, projects, cutlery, trivets, etc.”

While quartz is known for its exceptional durability, heat and stain resistance, and range of unique color options, it has traditionally lacked the organic artistry and rich detail of natural stone. Not so anymore, says Tim. “The variety of quartz options has greatly improved,” he remarks. “You can get everything from solids to patterns, in a lot of different textures and colors. There are options now that very closely resemble the natural look and feel of stone.”

“If you’re trying to match granite, you can find quartz that’s comparable in color,” adds Jennifer. “For those clients who like a really classic, elegant look, there are quartz options that imitate Carrera marble. In some ways, quartz can actually look better than Carrera – all of the whitest Carrera marble has already been mined, so Carrera is darker now, with more gray and brown in it. Quartz can mimic that authentic, white Carrera look that has become difficult to achieve with the natural product.”

Melissa notes that there are additional reasons for the increasing popularity of quartz. “Quartz is a much stronger and sturdier product,” she explains. “You don’t have to be as concerned about support. It’s also antimicrobial, which creates a healthier work surface.  Also, a lot of quartz manufacturers are very ‘green.’ Cambria, for example, recycles jet cutting water. So, quartz can be a great choice from an environmental standpoint.”

The change in direction in kitchens does extend beyond countertops. “People are still interested in a timeless design,” Tim notes. “They want to be able to sell their house.” That said, Tim believes that the prevalent desire for clean designs with simple lines is shifting. “People get tired of simplicity. They want more detail, more character, and more embellishment.” Melissa agrees, adding “I find that people are either going in a slightly more traditional direction, or they are going in a distinctive, super modern direction.”

“I think white kitchens have hit their peak,” says Tim. “People are starting to look at colors again. They’re becoming a bit bolder in their color choices. They’re also showing interest in wood stains again. Sometimes it’s color stains like grays, soft mossy colors, or muted blue tones.”

Homeowners are also opting for open kitchen floor plans that flow with the rest of the house, and larger islands that serve as work spaces and gathering places. “It’s a natural progression, and it’s interesting to watch,” Tim tells us. “People don’t want to be separated by walls anymore. They want to spend time together, in the same space. So, there’s an emphasis on making the kitchen a hub and making it a pretty room that complements the home. Finding that balance leads to really great results.”

2017 Trends In Carpet & Flooring -A Guide To What’s Happening Underfoot

April 4, 2017

Flooring has to be highly functional, beautiful, and perpetually appealing to the ever-shifting tastes of homeowners. It’s a tall order, and the flooring industry constantly works to find better ways to address all of these important factors. Barbara Leininger, owner of Charlotte’s Floor Coverings International, is a bona fide expert in floor coverings. She brings her expertise straight into her clients’ homes, where she counsels them one on one about their individual flooring needs. Now she brings it to North Carolina Design, as she tells us what’s exciting and new about flooring these days.

Images Courtesy of Floor Coverings International ©

“We are still an area that absolutely adores hardwood floors – they’re still the absolute #1 choice,” she tells us. “However, style and color preferences have changed. As far as style, homeowners are looking for a wider plank. When it comes to color, they’re looking for neutral brown floors – often with gray in them. Over the last 10 years, the preference was toward red floors. Before that, it was blonde floors. Now, a lot of my job involves changing red floors into brown floors.”

Carpeting is still a very popular North Carolina flooring choice. “It’s the softest and warmest flooring option, so it’s great for bedrooms and bonus rooms,” Barbara offers. “It’s also the most economical flooring option, so it fits well into any budget.”

One of carpet’s drawbacks is the perception that it’s difficult to keep clean. “Today’s homeowners want something that’s soft and comfortable, but very functional,” observes Barbara. “The trend currently is toward stain resistance, more than anything else. Fortunately, the industry has made a lot of technological advances, and today’s carpeting is much more stain resistant, and much easier to clean and care for than in the past.”

“One of the best new carpeting options available is made from recycled plastic bottles. As we know, it’s almost impossible to stain plastic! This carpeting is almost completely stain-resistant, even against pets. It’s also really soft and attractive. Not surprisingly, it sells like hotcakes. There aren’t a whole lot of choices in patterns available with this product right now, but that will definitely change in the near future.”

In bathrooms, the shift is more stylistic than practical. “Basically, tile color, size and layout preferences have changed,” Barbara tells us. “Homeowners prefer white and gray coloring in their tile. Stone, porcelain, ceramic and Carrera marble are all popular choices. Homeowners are choosing wider tiles for their bathrooms – I’ve seen tiles all the way up to 12 by 24 inches. There’s an overall emphasis on creating visual interest with tile, like laying it out in herringbone, hopscotch, or brick patterns, or using accent tiles in showers like jewelry.”

Of all the new trends in floor coverings, Barbara is most excited about home luxury plank flooring. “This is a hot off the presses new trend,” she explains. “It’s made from 100 percent PVC material, so it’s very scratch resistant, and 100 percent waterproof. And, it’s beautiful. I know what you’re thinking – there’s no way something made out of plumbing material can look good. But it really does! It’s richly detailed and very design-oriented. It can look just like hardwood, at a lower cost, with added durability.

“Luxury plank flooring is another fantastic example of how the flooring industry is constantly innovating to meet homeowner’s needs. Wood floors are warm and beautiful, but they’re expensive, and they scratch and dent. Laminate floors are affordable and scratch-resistant, but getting them wet ruins them. So, they have come up with this new product. It’s really exciting to be able to give time-starved homeowners options that offer a great balance of beauty and practicality.”

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