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.”

2016 Kitchen Trends – From Clean Lines To Custom Details, Charlotte Area Designer ID’s Today’s Look & Style

June 28, 2016

Kitchens are tremendously important – not only do they “sell houses,” they serve as a multi-purpose gathering place for today’s families. A kitchen that’s up-to-date in both form and function greatly adds to a home’s value, comfort and enjoyment. So just what is new in kitchens these days? To find out the answer, North Carolina Design talked to Brandon Fitzmorris. Brandon is a designer at Walker Woodworking, a family-owned Charlotte area business that designs and crafts custom cabinetry that beckons the eye with its beauty and detail. Working closely with clients to create their dream kitchens, Brandon knows what’s “hot” right now.

Images Courtesy of Walker Woodworking ©

The overarching trend in kitchens is one that favors efficiency over showmanship, and simplicity over embellishment. “The evolution really has been toward a simpler, more practical design that makes the best use of the space,” Brandon affirms. “People used to be more focused on a kitchen that was visually impressive, and they weren’t as concerned with functionality. Now, homeowners really want to meld form and function together. They want something that’s beautiful, but really works for their lifestyle.”

Brandon attributes some of the shift in preference to the fact that homeowners are increasingly knowledgeable. “They have so much information at their fingertips,” he reflects. “They do a lot of research. They know a lot about kitchen design. They have great ideas, and they ask great questions. They put a lot of thought into their kitchens and they really participate in the process. It’s  great to collaborate with clients on that level.”

Today’s kitchen style may be more simple, but it still has a fabulous custom touch. ““You can have a clean look, and still have these great custom details,” says Brandon. “With cabinets, the trend is toward clean lines and flat panel doors. But then the panels will have chamfered edges, or beads on the inside profile. People will do a classic subway tile backsplash, but the tile will have chamfered edges or a crackle finish. Other choices are patterned or fire clay tile.”

People are also looking for ways to add an element of shine to their kitchens. “Metallics are popular, on everything from hoods to backsplashes,” notes Brandon. “A lot of people are incorporating antique mirrors into their kitchens. I especially see this in wet bars – it adds some shine, and a lot of interest. For pulls and fixtures, brass is making a comeback, but it’s a much softer, brushed brass. It’s really very pretty. And of course, you have polished chrome, which adds a really clean, really elegant look.”

When it comes to color, clean and soft seems to rule the day. “I’m seeing a lot of shades of white, and shades of gray,” Brandon observes. “They’re great colors, but you have to be very mindful of undertones. If you choose a warm white or gray for your cabinets, you should choose a backsplash and countertop with warm undertones.” It isn’t all about white and gray, however; “I’ve had several requests lately for indigo and blue. It’s a surprising choice, but it can really look amazing.”

As function has come to the forefront, kitchens have shifted accordingly. “One of the biggest changes is the addition of the beverage center,” Brandon tells us. “It can also be called a wet bar, or a butler’s pantry. Essentially it’s a tall appliance garage, where you might store your toaster and your coffee maker, along with your bread and your coffee mugs. This way you can grab a quick breakfast without making a mess out of the entire kitchen.

“Kitchens in general are now designed to be as clutter free as possible. There’s a demand for more cabinet storage. People also want a command center, where they can hang up their keys, put away their wallet, charge their phone and leave a note for their spouse, while keeping the kitchen tidy.” All of this makes Brandon pretty happy. “I love the recent focus on simplicity and efficiency. Having a clean, beautiful kitchen space that functions well can really add such peace and enjoyment to your day-to-day life.”

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.”

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