This Lake Norman Builder Builds Luxury Homes With A Great Lake View, Custom Details And Individualized Attention
May 21, 2015
A home is a sacred and deeply personal space. No two homeowners will ever have the same vision for their home, or the same practical needs. No one knows this better than Charlotte builder Rob Passarelli, owner of Passarelli Custom Homes in the Lake Norman area. Rob’s hard-earned knowledge, adventurous spirit, and real desire to lend a personal and thoughtful touch to each project have earned him success building perfectly tailored luxury custom homes for a wide range of clients. North Carolina Design talked to Rob to find out more about his philosophy, his approach to homebuilding, and his thoughts on what’s important to today’s homeowners.
Images Courtesy of Passarelli Custom Homes ©
Rob didn’t necessarily set out to become a homebuilder. “I came down here in 1995 from Chicago in search of a summer job,” he recounts. “I was hired by a custom home builder, and I ended up working for them for 14 years. I started out sweeping out new builds, and worked my way up to senior project manager. I got a chance to learn the business along the way, and I discovered that I really had a knack for it. I eventually decided to start my own building company.”
For Rob, success as a builder has never been about becoming the biggest and showiest. “I am not too comfortable with growth,” he admits. “I want to stay small, personable, and family oriented. I don’t ever want my clients to become a number – I want them to know that they are valued as individuals, and ensure that they get personal attention. That’s why we only take on three to four projects at a time, even if that means turning down people who don’t want to wait until we are available.”
Rob’s desire to tailor each project to his client’s needs, combined with his drive to do things in a novel, exciting way, makes every project a new adventure. “I’ve never built the same house twice,” he says. “Everything starts with a clean slate, and a unique and fresh approach. I always strive to do something no one’s done before.”
Rob has seen some significant changes in homeowners’ priorities in recent years. “Since the economic downturn, people seem to be looking for a more simplistic style,” he notes. “Multi-levels of trim and crown moulding are gone, in favor of a simple, clean approach. Homeowners are taking a long-term view, and looking for something tailored to their specific current and future needs. They’re coming at the building process with their own unique approach, and not looking to keep up with the neighbors.
“Bigger houses are coming back a bit, but not in the way we saw before the downturn. Homeowners have become more cautious and more practical. They want to create homes that are both beautiful and have an efficient use of space. They’re getting rid of hallways in favor of open areas, and building smaller showers to eliminate wasted space in the bathroom. Dining rooms are starting to fade away, as people would rather create large in-kitchen breakfast areas.”
Because of his Lake Norman area location, Rob frequently builds lakeside homes, which have a host of specific issues all their own. “There is more emphasis on the back of the home,” he explains. “The house has to be set up to accommodate any views, and it has to have a great outdoor entertainment space. People chose the property because of its access to the lake, so they’re willing to invest in screened-in porches, fireplaces – anything that capitalizes on the location.”
Rob may have fallen into the homebuilding profession, but he has embraced it fully. “I love my job,” he shares. “I love the variety and the challenge of creating new things. Each home is its own unique work of art. My hand is in it the whole way, from clearing the land to handing over the keys. It’s a great feeling to put your all into a project and deliver something that a client truly loves, that you can truly take pride in.”
May 19, 2015
There are houses whose grandeur and elegance immediately take your breath away. And then there are houses whose warmth, charm, and subtle beauty quietly draw you in. The Penelope Rose is one such a house. Raleigh Residential designer Tony Frazier, owner of Frazier Home Design, designed it as a forever home for his own family. However, it caught the attention of many as part of the Wake County Parade of Homes, where it was this past fall’s gold award winning home. North Carolina Design talked to Tony about the Penelope Rose, and his motivation for its distinctive design.
Images Courtesy of Frazier Home Design ©
Tony’s legacy is shaped by generations of people who loved being part of the building process. “My father ran a tile business, and my grandfather was a civil engineer,” he recounts. “I grew up around construction sites, and I found them inspiring,” Tony struck out on his own in the residential construction industry in 2007, and his blend of artistry, skill, and thoughtful, personal touches has brought him great success designing custom homes.
In spite of this success, Tony found being his own client quite difficult. “I learned through this project that it is far easier to for me to make decisions about someone else’s home than my own,” he says. “Because I’m in the industry, I know all the available possibilities and options. It was overwhelming to try to choose. There were so many aspects I wanted to incorporate, and it was a challenge to work them into one design.”
Even if the details took time to piece together, Tony did have a clear vision throughout that he worked hard to achieve. “My wife and I both have a real love for historic houses,” he says. “For the home’s exterior, I really wanted to recreate a classic Georgian architectural style. On the inside,we wanted to create a modern farmhouse – an airy, clean and bright space with a rustic feel.”
Tony’s overall goal was to create a cozy family home – a welcoming space that brought people together. “The house measures around 4,500 square feet, which is on the smaller side for this price point,” he notes. “For us, it was not about how much square footage you would get for the price. It was about investing in the details that gave a feeling of warmth and togetherness. I wanted people to see that you can have a million dollar home and have it be a welcoming, intimate space.”
Many details, in fact, work together to add character and life to this home. From the warm, golden hues of the hardwoods that run throughout the first floor, to the quaint farmhouse kitchen sink, to the beautifully detailed tung-and-groove ceiling in the family room, there is something to charm the eye at almost every turn. Meanwhile, cool colors, clean lines and contemporary fixtures and accents offer a clean and sophisticated element that elevates the space.
Tony purposefully created an open floor plan that would serve well as a gathering space. “The sunroom, kitchen, foyer and family room all connect and flow into one another, so even if you are entertaining lots of people, you still feel as though you are all together.”
One of Tony’s favorite spots in the house is the sunroom. With a quick close of the large sliding barn doors, it becomes a private space where he can relax alone or spend quality time with his wife and daughter. “We can enjoy the sunshine, or have dinner by the fire in the evening,” he reflects.
Tony sums up his feelings on his home beautifully. “It’s so important to have a space where you belong, and where you can slow down and share what’s best about life with the people you love. That’s what I set out to create for my family. I think I achieved my goal, and I couldn’t be happier.”
May 14, 2015
The kitchen island is a wonderfully valuable and versatile piece of real estate. It anchors the kitchen, while adding beauty, detail, and much-needed functionality. It’s a warm little gathering place, where people bake cookies, chat, or enjoy breakfast together. And it’s endlessly customizable to a homeowner’s needs. Cabinet Studio in Winston-Salem specializes in crafting custom kitchens that perfectly reflect the lifestyle of homeowners, and their designers Michael Dugas and Melissa Jessup have created every kind of island, for every kind of homeowner. North Carolina Design talked to Michael and Melissa to get their take on this must-have kitchen amenity.
Images Courtesy of Cabinet Studio ©
“People love islands and want to add one into their kitchen one way or another,” says Michael. “It makes sense, because they’re so versatile. They serve as extra prep space, or counter space, or dining space. Even if people don’t sit at an island, they can gather around it and converse.”
Kitchen size plays a role in determining an island’s function. “In a larger U-shape or wraparound kitchen, your island might have space for a prep sink, a prep area and an overhang,” notes Melissa. “In a smaller space you are more limited. Your island might just be a gathering space, or some extra counter space.”
While available space may be a limiting factor, Melissa and Michael tell us there is no real rule of thumb or consistent trend when it comes to islands. “It really is about what the client needs and wants to see in the space,” Michael asserts.
An island’s counter height is determined by both aesthetics and function. “Some clients want to raise part of the island to block views into kitchen, and some want it all the same level to preserve continuity,” explains Michael. Melissa adds “It also has to do with comfortable seating. If you have little kids you might want consistent countertop heights, but if you have older teenagers older you might want a raised bar.”
When it comes to island countertop materials, preferences depend largely on how comfortable a homeowner is with a given surface. “Quartz and granite countertops are very popular, as they’re durable and stain resistant,” Michael notes. “However, I had a client who begged me for marble. She understood that it’s porous and it stains, but she didn’t care.” Melissa adds “Some people forgo stone altogether and go with a butcher block top. It’s a repairable surface – you can have someone refinish it for you. It also stays warmer to the touch.”
Islands offer added storage – what homeowners do with it is up to them. “We see a lot of requests for bookcases,” says Michael. “We also see a lot of secondary trash bins, which are handy for entertaining.” Clients also differ on whether to show or not to show. “One client might want open storage because they have an attractive collection of cookbooks,” Melissa notes. “Another might believe open shelving is a dust collector, and prefer drawers or cabinets with doors.”
Michael and Melissa enjoy going where the clients lead them. “Homeowners tend to come in knowing what they want, and we use our expertise to make it happen for them,” says Michael. “It’s very satisfying.” Melissa adds “Every client is an individual, so every project is exciting and different. There’s no real trend – it’s all custom. That’s what makes this job wonderful.”
Say It Ain’t Faux! These Charlotte And Greensboro Artisans Detail The Latest In Decorative Finishes For The Home
May 13, 2015
The most inspired artwork doesn’t always sit neatly within a frame. For Nathan Wainscott of Inspire By Color in Greensboro, and Charlotte decorative artisan Jon Gustafson, the entire home is a blank canvas. Both Jon and Nathan have parlayed their considerable creativity and artistic skills into a career in which they add warmth, color and life to walls, cabinetry and furniture through the use of decorative finishes. North Carolina Design talked to both of these talented artisans to find out more about their unique trade, and to learn what’s new in decorative finishes.
Images Courtesy of Jon Gustafson Decorative Artisan ©
Images Courtesy of Inspire By Color ©
The distinction between faux finishing and decorative finishing is an important one, even if it’s not always well understood by those not in The Trade. “Faux finishing is a specific term that refers to using materials to give a surface the look and feel of something else, like leather, wood, or marble.” explains Nathan. “Decorative finishing is simply the use of paints, glazes and other materials to transform surfaces or enhance their beauty. Faux finishing has diminished significantly in popularity, but people still tend to associate it with decorative finishing.”
“Faux finishing was a big trend at one point,” adds Jon. “For a while, there were a lot of people who were in it because it was new, and fun, and the cool thing to do. But once the trend died out, you were left with the more serious, well-trained artists in the decorative finish industry. I understand why people still use the term ‘faux finisher,’ and I know what they mean when they say it, but that’s not really what I am, or what I do. I am really a decorative artisan.”
Decorative artisans work with both individual clients and interior designers to achieve a specific look for a given home. “About 80 percent of my work is to The Trade, and the rest is with homeowners,” Jon affirms. “I enjoy working with designers because they think in terms of the entire space, how a finish integrates into the overall design. When I work with homeowners, I ask them to provide me with as many details as possible, from drapes, to furniture, to backsplashes, so that I can take a holistic approach to the project.”
Homeowners often don’t realize the value a decorative artisan can add to their home. Refinishing kitchen cabinets, for example, is one of the best investments a homeowner can make, according to Nathan. “Homeowners tend to think their only solutions for dated or unattractive cabinets are to replace or reface them,” he says. “But an expert artisan can give you a custom, furniture quality, factory level finish that looks brand new and will hold up just the same, for a fraction of the cost.”
Decorative artisans can also give older or inexpensive furniture pieces new life. “There’s a lot of room to be creative with furniture,” says Jon. “Clients can take Grandma’s chest of drawers and make something exceptional. Each furniture piece can be totally customized to complement a home’s design.”
There have been some dramatic shifts in decorative finish preferences of late. “A few years ago, the Tuscan finish was in,” Nathan recalls. “It’s a mottled, distressed look that is very busy and has a lot of warmth and movement. Now that technology is moving so fast and people have such hectic lives, they don’t want to come home to a busy house with busy walls. They want something that’s clean, simple and relaxing.”
The colors homeowners are choosing are reflective of this simpler direction. “I’m seeing more neutral tones,” says Jon. “Lots of variations of gray and off-white, as well as taupes. Also, gold is coming back into style again, albeit in lighter tones – champagne golds, and rich antique golds.” Nathan has seen an increase in the use of metallic finishes in general. “Metallics don’t have a lot of movement,” he notes. “They play with light, and they offer the appearance of dimension without physical depth. This gives them a calming effect.”
In recent years, finish options have become much more eco-friendly, and both Jon and Nathan are committed to using “green” products in their projects. “I use some creative thinking and some fairly recent water-borne technology to get a finish that’s environmentally friendly, has low toxicity and odor, and isn’t going to affect homeowners, children or pets in an adverse way,” says Jon. Nathan adds “Eco-friendly products have all the clarity and beauty of other products, and they are equally durable. There’s really no reason to use anything else.”
Both Jon and Nathan truly have a passion for their craft. “Decorative finishes require such attention and finesse – they force you to slow down and appreciate details,” says Nathan. “I also find joy in knowing I have added something beautiful to people’s lives.” Jon, for his part, enjoys the satisfaction of a job well done. “You have to have the right blend of materials, knowledge, skill, aptitude and equipment to create quality work, and I know have what it takes to bring my clients’ visions to life.”
Are We In England? No – This Charming English Cottage Is In Greensboro – The Classic Vision Of A Local Architect
May 7, 2015
Who hasn’t dreamed at one time or another of living out their days in a charming English cottage? These iconic homes bring to mind a simpler time, and a cozy existence in a tranquil pastoral setting. Noted Greensboro architect Jim Collins of the firm James S. Collins Architect doesn’t just dream of English cottages – he creates them. Jim has a passion for historic buildings, and he is well-known for creating some of today’s finest traditional homes. Recently, he was gracious enough to chat with North Carolina Design about a delightful project that would live up to anyone’s vision of a charmed life in the English countryside.
Images Courtesy of James S. Collins Architect ©
“The homeowners wanted to downsize after their children went to live in other cities,” says Jim. “They wanted to build their dream home – a very simple, classic English cottage, inspired by the works of English architect Edwin Lutyens. Lutyens is widely known as one of the greatest architects of the 20th century, and being asked to create something that reflected his work was both an honor and a wonderful opportunity.”
Jim explains that classic English cottages have a truly special and distinctive type of architecture. “The roof doesn’t loom above you,” he notes. “It’s so low and close that it gives you a visceral connection to the house. The steep roof pitch creates smaller walls, which gives the home a really intimate feel. Low eaves and smaller walls also make the house seem as though it’s nestled right into the ground, which makes it cozy and inviting.”
The level of detail that Jim used to make this “simple” home come to life is truly remarkable. He used real wood shingles on the roof to create an undulating effect and a natural texture that calls to mind the organic look of thatch. He gave the ceiling and roof vents the charming look of traditional dovecotes, and added the slender, twisted diagonal chimneys that English cottages are known for. He also added a beautiful and distinctive eyebrow window to the back wall.
The interior of the home was created to complement the homeowners’ simple and casual lifestyle. “They eat most of their meals in the kitchen, so we gave them a combination living and dining area, with a panoramic view of the lake,” he says. “The kitchen is adjacent to an informal family room, where they can entertain or spend time relaxing together. The second floor has a game room and four bedrooms, so that their grown children can come to visit comfortably. And the master bedroom features its own private balcony.”
To Jim, the feel of the home was as important as its look and its function. “It’s very warm and welcoming,” he reflects. “The rooms are smaller, and they don’t have that cavernous feel that rooms in great houses can sometimes have. The first-floor ceilings are only 9 feet high, which keeps maintains the intimate feel. The historical proportions of the rooms provide balance, and are peaceful and soothing to the eye. It just feels comfortable, from the very moment you walk in.”
The home’s interior is as wonderfully detailed as its exterior, featuring beautiful and thoughtfully chosen interior window casings, cornices and custom mouldings. “I think these elements make a huge difference in the feel of a house,” he notes. “Traditional accents are larger and more detailed. When you use similar accents throughout the house, your eye picks up on it. It adds much more depth, and unifies the space.”
This project speaks to Jim’s passion for recreating historic homes. “We’re taking the past into the future,” he says. “Every generation has reinvented classic architecture, and added another nuance. It’s tremendous to be a part of that, and I feel very lucky. When you create a house like this, there is a sense that you are continuing history. And that is very, very exciting.”
Charlotte Builder Uses Finer Details To Craft Beautiful, Exceptionally Functional, And One-Of-A-Kind Homes
May 5, 2015
Building a custom space is about exceptional craftsmanship, as well as a high level of detail that reflects the homeowner’s unique wants and needs. Barnes and Ely Construction, a premiere Charlotte custom home builder and remodeler, specializes in customizing homes of every size and type, using the best of techniques, the highest quality of workmanship, and impeccable attention to detail. Barnes and Ely owner Jay Barnes talked to North Carolina Design, and helped shed some light on how he uses details to make a home beautiful, exceptionally functional, and one-of-a-kind.
Images Courtesy of Barnes and Ely Construction ©
“A custom design is about working in layers, and moving from something broad to something very refined,” says Jay. “We start by sitting down with clients and going over any pictures and ideas they have of what they want their home to look like. Then we sketch the concept out for them. We create a simple, basic plan of the space that’s based on function. There’s no use having something beautiful if it doesn’t work for your family and your lifestyle. The aesthetics can come later.”
Once the basic plan is created, Jay focuses on the homeowner’s more specific individual needs. “We give them whatever they’re looking for, whether that’s custom shelving for their books, a one-of-a-kind wine cellar for their wine collection, lockers for mudrooms, or custom built-ins for storage. Fortunately, we have very skilled carpenters who can handle just about anything.”
After function is taken into account, form takes center stage. “We just keep finessing the basic design – layering in finer and finer details to create a custom look that brings the homeowner’s vision to life,” he says. “For example, we may add in trim, and then add details to the trim. We may create bead board panels for storage hooks, or use color to personalize storage cubbies. We might add hand-carved doors to a cabinet, or add silver foil to an ornamental piece. Whatever we think will tie the space together and help complete the design.”
Jay notes that there are a number of ways to add details to a space. “Some homeowners want a cleaner and more comfortable look, and they stick with simple details, like square stock moulding or two-panel doors. Others want to go in a more ornate and formal direction, with egg and dart mouldings, arched entryways, or incredibly detailed ornamental accents. One client may choose a simple white stain for a built-in or cabinet, while another might bring in an artist to create a detailed painting. It all depends on the style of the home, and how the client envisions the space.”
While customization is a wonderful thing, Jay does advise homeowners to know when to say when. “Everything can’t be special,” he explains. “If you do too much, the space becomes too busy, and too much for the eye to take in. You should focus on a few elements that you really want to stand out and let everything else take a supporting role.”
When it comes to building or renovating a home, Jay notes that it’s the smaller things that have the biggest impact. “Details really do matter,” he stresses. “You can take a plain family room and add a coffered ceiling, box beams, or wainscoting, and suddenly, you’ve completely transformed the space into something much more beautiful and much more interesting.”
For Jay, being part of that transformation is one of the best parts of the job. “A lot of the homes I come into are dated, or shabby, or just plain ugly and awful.” he says. “It’s so rewarding to take a home like that from where it was take it make it something that’s beautiful, new, and meets the client’s needs.”
May 1, 2015
Few things could be better than enjoying your own piece of outdoor paradise in a pristine North Carolina mountain setting. The most beautiful mountainside gardens look effortless – almost as though they sprang up naturally. In reality, they are the result of skill, careful planning, know-how, and determination. No one knows this better than the Asheville landscape designers at Gardens For Living, who have been serving the Western NC area for three decades. North Carolina Design sat down with owner John Phillips, his son Shane, and designer Marobeth Ruegg to find out more about the company, and to learn what goes into creating the perfect mountain landscape.
Images Courtesy of Gardens For Living ©
In the Phillips family, the love of all things green runs three generations deep. “My father started a garden center and greenhouse operation back in the 60′s,” recounts John. “When I came back from college, I started a nursery, which transitioned into landscaping.” Three years ago, Shane decided to join the family business. “I really enjoy working with living things, and seeing a project take shape from the ground up,” he says.
Creating a garden on a mountainside presents an array of unique trials, the most obvious of which is the steep gradation. “Topography is a big challenge,” Shane concedes. “Slopes entail serious space limitations. You almost have to create space out of thin air. Then you have to worry about erosion, runoff, and drainage issues.”
John notes that, while challenging, working on a slope does have its advantages. “It gives us an opportunity to do something really interesting with the landscape,” he explains. “We can create interest from retaining walls using natural stone boulders, concrete with stone veneers, or even segmented block walls. We tie in colors with the walls and with the surrounding plants for a look that flows together. We can even use the slope to create water features and rain gardens.”
Of course, the right plants are crucial to the success of a garden’s design. “Anything we add should look appropriate with what’s naturally there,” says Marobeth. “You don’t want to lose that natural mountain look and feel. We use a lot of native plants, including shrubs, trees and groundcovers. We love using dwarf conifers, which we feel give our designs a distinctive look. They complement the landscape, and they combine well with stone, which is a huge component out here in the mountains.”
Conifers also stand up to mountain winters, which are a bit more severe than elsewhere in North Carolina. But, as Marobeth notes, evergreens aren’t the only option for an impressive winter landscape. “Oak leaf hydrangeas look beautiful in winter,” she says. “Native hollies produce berries, which add a bright pop of color. Deciduous bark adds winter interest. And some perennials and ornamental grasses take on a subtle beauty after they’ve died — almost like a dried arrangement.”
Proper plant location is crucial for mountainside gardens. “North-facing slopes never get full sun, even in the summer,” Shane notes. “They should only be planted with shade-loving plants like leucothoe, ferns, and rhododendron.” Then there is the issue of the view to keep in mind. “In the mountains, almost everybody wants their garden to revolve around the view,” Marobeth maintains. “So removing the right trees and placing trees in the right spots becomes critical.”
As in so many other things in life, great challenges bring great rewards. “When all is said and done, you have created this beautiful, livable space that draws people outdoors, and allows them to get back to elementary things like sunshine, soil and plants,” says John. “You’ve enriched their day-to-day lives. And that makes it all worthwhile.”
April 29, 2015
Some aspects of kitchen design are classic and timeless, while others change quickly. At North Carolina Design, we always like to stay on top with everything that’s new in this most beloved of spaces, so we reached out to Cederberg Kitchens & Additions in Chapel Hill. Under the guidance of owner by Bill Cederberg, the company has been creating thoughtful and exceptionally executed designs for over two decades.
Images Courtesy of Cederberg Kitchens & Additions ©
We talked to Jennifer Watkins and Christina Vernon, both of whom have been putting their considerable skills and talents to use at Cederberg for several years. They have their finger on the pulse of what’s new in kitchens, and they were happy to tell us more about what’s trending right now – as well as to give us a tiny sneak peek into the future.
“From what we’re seeing, homeowners are opting for kitchens that have a more transitional look – simple, clean, contemporary lines, but a classic feel,” says Christina. As far as function is concerned, homeowners want a space that can multi-task. “They want to be able to cook and entertain in their kitchen, so they are looking for a design that gives them plenty of space to do both,” explains Jennifer. “Families tend to want to include a designated space where kids can do homework and activities and still be at the center of things.”
While every home is unique, Christina and Jennifer have noticed some clear aesthetic trends in kitchens. “Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of white kitchens with gray accents and marble-style countertops,” Christina tells us. Jennifer agrees, but adds “We’re also seeing a lot of dark espresso, and a lot of natural maple color. In general, the cabinetry, countertops and floor in today’s kitchens all tend to be neutral, and homeowners add a pop of color with wall paint, or with accents in pottery, or towels, or linens.”
Christina and Jennifer note that backsplashes are as popular as ever, but preferences have changed. “We have been doing very simple backsplashes,” Christina reflects. “They tend to be a single color. We use different textures, patterns and sizes to create interest, rather than different colors.” Jennifer adds “Homeowners are leaning toward larger tile sizes – particularly elongated rectangular tiles that run horizontally.”
Homeowners are keeping their appliances simple as well. “They’re not looking to add more,” Christina explains. “They’re more focused on upgrading the ones they have — maybe a bigger stove, an updated dishwasher, a better hood, or just a nicer appliance brand. Their priority is value, and they only want to spend money on things they really need and can make use of.”
Jennifer tells us that quartz is slowly gaining popularity for countertops. “It’s more durable and easier to maintain than granite,” she notes. “In the past, quartz didn’t come in natural tones, but now it comes in colors and patterns that mimic granite, and even marble.” That’s not to say that granite isn’t still a popular choice. “People still like granite – they just don’t want to have the same granite as everyone else,” says Christina. “They want something that’s really unique, and has a lot of color and movement.”
When it comes to flooring, hardwood is still the most popular choice by far. “Nine times out of ten, homeowners choose hardwood,” affirms Jennifer. “Most of the floors we do are in a lighter finish. People love the look of dark wood, but they find that everything shows up — dog hair, crumbs, scratches, etc. Dark wood also doesn’t wear as well – you can see the traffic pattern more easily.”
Christina and Jennifer gave us their predictions for the next big things in kitchens. “There’s a new tile option that resembles wood,” says Christina. “It’s really beautiful — it’s rough and textured and looks really natural. I think it’s going to become really popular.” Jennifer adds “I think that brushed gold hardware is going to be really big. I love how it looks against white marble. I actually think a lot of cool things are happening in kitchen design. I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
Charlotte Interior Designer Successfully Combines Traditional Elements With Clean Lines And A Fresh Modern Feel
April 27, 2015
Every designer’s approach is different, and reflects their nuanced and complex individual aesthetic. A good example of this can be found in Dickey Choate, owner of the Charlotte interior design firm, Upscale Urban Design. Dickey’s dynamic, upbeat personality and love of all things different and new shines through in her bold designs, which layer traditional elements with clean lines, a fresh modern feel, and wonderfully original touches of artistry. North Carolina Design talked to Dickey to find out more about her distinctive and upscale approach to design.
Images Courtesy of Upscale Urban Design ©
Dickey begins each project with a needs analysis. “At our first meeting, we have a conversation about what the client wants most to achieve,” she explains. “We talk about their pain points and priorities, and how they will drive the project. Do they want to tackle the whole house, or do one room at a time? Do they have an at-home wedding coming up? Are they more concerned about the public areas of the home, or the more personal spaces?”
True to form, Dickey embraces the newest methods of putting design ideas together for clients. “In the old-timey days we would do color boards,” “Now I can create online concept boards. I love it – I can drag and drop images of furniture, fixtures, lighting, draperies, etc., from the internet. The homeowners can write on the board, and tell me what works for them and what doesn’t.”
Collaborating with clients is always essential for a successful design outcome. “It might take a couple of tries, but as long as you communicate and work together, you can ensure that they are getting the look they want,” Dickey asserts. She admits that she does sometimes push her clients a bit to help them imagine new possibilities. “I try to introduce them to new ways of thinking, and give them some options that are innovative and unique. That’s what personalizes their home and sets it apart.”
Dickey is in an ideal position to introduce her clients to new ideas. “I have access to products that the public doesn’t,” she affirms. “I visit interior design showrooms that are only open to The Trade, and I subscribe to multiple trade journals, belong to multiple design forums, and follow multiple design blogs. I’m always on top of everything that’s going on in the market, and I’m constantly looking for new resources for my clients.”
Dickey’s passion for all things new and interesting complements, rather than competes with her respect for tradition. “I do love the classics, but I like to mix things up,” she notes. “I like to combine traditional and modern aesthetics to create something new. For example, I once took an old chair that belonged to a client’s grandmother and upholstered it in zebra skin fabric. Now what he has is edgy and innovative, but is still something of a family heirloom.”
Dickey has plenty of resources at the ready to create her eclectic designs. Urban Upscale boasts its own furniture shop, which produces high-quality custom furniture and upholstery. “We can literally make or modify anything,” she asserts. “It’s really fantastic, because it gives clients freedom to design their own furniture. And, because we have no overhead and no manufacturing costs, they end up with custom items, handmade by high-end craftsmen, at a very affordable price.”
Dickey acknowledges that, while she has earned a die-hard client base, her bold design aesthetic isn’t an across-the-board fit for all homeowners. “I’m not for everyone,” she concedes. “But if you like my work, and if you’re looking for a design that’s new, a little edgy and a little outside the box, I’m ready. Let’s do this.”
April 23, 2015
For interior design professionals and design savvy homeowners, it’s no secret that April in North Carolina means High Point Furniture Market. But wait! This year, there is an incredible bonus. The Junior League of High Point and Traditional Home Magazine present the incredible Junior League of High Point 2015 Designer Showhouse highlighting the talents of many of our state’s most notable design firms, along with several talented national interior designers.
I only had to be asked once to attend the Media Preview and I made my plans to be there this past Friday. I know for anyone who seeks design inspiration that this showhouse will live up to your expectations. I wanted to share today a glimpse of what I saw. My only regret is that I am not a professional photographer, which would mean that I was able to truly do justice to what I saw. North Carolina Design is pleased to offer up some of the highlights of the house which is open daily from now until April 26th and from May 1 – May 3.
The Tudor Revival house was built in 1912 by Randall B. Terry, a notable member of the High Point community. The warmth and welcoming atmosphere of the house was firmly established in the foyer, designed in beautiful shades of blue by Traci Zeller, of Traci Zeller Designs (Charlotte). The foyer opened up into a generously sized living room that also had its roots in blue. Jack Fhillips, of Jack Fhillips Design (West Palm Beach, FL) and Sally Altizer, of Design Connection (High Point) chose to paint the original woodwork of the house white and the walls a Wedgewood blue. The furnishings and accessories, in blue and white, have a wonderful classic appeal.
The library, by Michelle Workman Interiors (Chattanooga, TN) is as formal as it is beautiful. It is a room that seems to encourage entertaining with back to back loveseats positioned in the center of the room – one in a shimmering grey fabric while the other in a beautiful floral. The multi-rectangular shaped chandelier certainly adds to the interest of the room. Moving from the living room toward the center of the house is the dining room, designed by Madcap Cottage (High Point). The wallcovering which John Locke and Jason Oliver Nixon had created specifically for the room is beautifully in keeping with the period of the house. Fabrics from Robert Allen work well together in creating a warm feel to the space.
Small spaces are always a formidable design challenge. When it came to the bar, Christi Barbour, of Barbour Spangle Design (High Point), really excelled when it came to making the most of even inches. Everything in the bar was carefully orchestrated so that it works well from a both design and functionality perspective. Christi created a glamorous look that is in keeping with the time the home was built, with the artwork and accessories contributing to that. The leaded glass upper cabinet doors are original to the space, with their style directing the design of the lower cabinets.
The breakfast room, kitchen and mudroom were designed by Lisa Mende of Lisa Mende Design (Charlotte). I only wish I could show a “before” picture to let you see the incredible transformation that took place in this area of the home. It is now a space that will be a destination during parties and encourages long conversations among good friends.
Upstairs, the master bedroom was beautifully designed in black and white by Libby Langdon, of Libby Interiors, Inc. (New York, NY). Black walls with white trim wonderfully served as the backdrop for the space. The black neither darkened nor overpowered the room, but was rather the perfect complement to the white. Seeing the room during the daytime, I got the feeling that it would have a totally different feel at night – perhaps soothing – definitely a place to shake off the burdens of the day.
Another bedroom I very much enjoyed was the “daughter’s bedroom” designed by Cathy Austin, of Catherine M. Austin Interior Design (Charlotte). In this bright and beautiful space, Cathy envisioned the daughter to be a well traveled individual whose taste in fine art was reflected throughout the room. The room has a crisp and well edited feel to it. The upholstered headboard, window treatments, love seat and bed linens work in concert to create a fresh and vibrant design.
Perhaps this well traveled daughter was also an artist herself. That is what Leslie Moore, of L. Moore Designs (High Point) envisioned in the next bedroom, which she transformed into an “artist’s retreat.” With an abundance of light, this space could make the perfect atelier for the client Leslie had in mind. By accenting the room with artwork from local artists, Leslie was able to create the look and environment she desired. Beautifully selected furnishings from Highland House and the artwork have been perfectly set off by the grass cloth wallcovering.
Nestled between the daughter’s bedroom and the artist’s retreat is the “lady’s dressing room” by Kara Cox, of Kara Cox Interiors (Greensboro). It is interesting how showhouse designers (like the designers for these three rooms) can separately envision a similar showhouse client, and how this can positively affect the flow from room to room. Kara also saw her client as being a well traveled woman with a love of the arts. Overcoming the challenge posed by five doorways and two windows in her space, Kara creatively layered the area in beautiful textures and patterns. Accents and artwork give the room a very collected look. This is the dressing area for a worldly, free spirited woman.
There is far more to the house and I encourage anyone within a few hours driving distance to make the trip. Seeing this much talent on display in one place is no ordinary event.
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