2016 Fall High Point Furniture Market – It’s About Mixing Things Up, Making An Emotional Connection & Telling A Great Story

October 18, 2016

We are all waiting with great anticipation to see what the 2016 Fall High Point Furniture Market has in store for us. Giving us a sneak peak today at what we might possibly see this season is bona fide furniture expert Kim Shaver who has spent 30 years in the furniture industry. As the marketing liaison for such notable furniture companies as Hooker Furniture and Marge Carson, Kim has a finger firmly on the pulse of what’s new. She detailed for North Carolina Design her take on emerging industry trends. To our excitement, this new season seems to be all about mixing things up, making an emotional connection, and telling a great story.

Images Courtesy of Hooker Furniture and Marge Carson ©

Kim has seen a couple of isolated trends take root of late. “Silver has made a small resurgence, after a several seasons of absolutely dominant gold tones.” she observes. “Some great examples are the Cynthia Rowley Bowery Accent Chest, which features a beautiful striped marble front and stainless steel legs, and the Melange Zola 4-door Credenza, which has a textured silver exterior and silver legs.”

A forgotten classic furniture staple seems to be making its way back into today’s homes. “I believe that armoires are coming back,” Kim says. “When the armoire disappeared a few years ago, it left a void for a tall signature focal point. An armoire can really help designers create balance in a room’s composition. It also offers an abundance of efficient vertical storage.”

According to Kim, several larger-scale trends are on the horizon, and they all involve creating interest, telling a story, and drawing people in emotionally. “The most significant trend happening today is one I like to call Natural Inspirations,” she recounts. “This trend is rooted in casual contemporary style, and uses mixed materials, textured surfaces and organic motifs to evoke the feel of natural coastlines, remote beaches and deserts. This trend is a great way to soften contemporary style and add some emotional appeal.

“Marge Carson’s California Palms Collection is a perfect example of Natural Inspirations. This collection is California casual, with a fresh, current, organic twist. There’s a beautiful use of Philippine raffia and wire brushed white oak. Then you have the intricate twig design motif, which is used as a base for several pieces. Then there are these wonderful details, like the tabletop basket weave veneer pattern, and the wavy hardware patterns that bring to mind wind-blown sand or ripples of water. It’s a really beautiful, but approachable look.”

Another trend, which Kim calls Glam Mix, evokes the romance of Old Europe, while mixing in an industrial vibe and a touch of glamour and shimmer. “This is a new French style, with clean cases, metallics, and industrial elements.” she affirms. “It’s warm and charming, but it’s also glamorous and luxurious. It’s industrial, but it’s also soft and inviting. The Arabella collection from Hooker exemplifies the trend, with painted charcoal case finishes, heavily waxed aluminum tops and eglimose surfaces.”

Textural elements play a large part in another emerging trend, which Kim labels Material World. “This trend is all about using a wide mixture of materials to create textural, tactile and visual interest, as well as an emotional connection,” Kim tells us. “It crosses the style spectrum – it’s used in traditional, transitional and contemporary designs alike.

“The Cynthia Rowley Broome Accent Chest is a perfect example of this concept applied to a contemporary style. It has a shagreen (faux stingray) skin cover and a gold leaf base, legs, top and hardware. The Sam Moore Aurora Chairs showcase a more transitional style, and their plush, graphic chenille animal print illustrates how even upholstery can add texture and visual impact. The Hill Country Bexar Leg Huntboard is a traditional example of the Material World trend. It features a carved gamble oak motif that draws you in, and is highly textural.”

The Hill Country Collection part of another fall trend. “I call it Authentic American,” Kim reflects. “This furniture deeply represents the authentic look, feel and character of a very specific region – in this case, the rugged beauty of the low hills of Texas. It’s crafted from cracked white oak veneer with a two tone, saddle brown and anthracite black finish that mimics native sandstone. This trend is very exciting, because any American region can be the focus, and the possibilities are endless. Like the others, it really holds your interest. It tells a story.”

Home Design Expert Advice: Build a Home That Serves Your Present Lifestyle

October 12, 2016

Ok, so you’re thinking about building or remodeling – and you’d never dream of including a 1960′s vintage styled kitchen – but does your vision allow you to get the most use and enjoyment out of your home? Often times, the answer is no, which means that it may be time to let go of some elements of the past that don’t serve our present lifestyles. Kevin Holdridge, owner of premier Charlotte residential design firm KDH Residential Design, has seen a shift to a less formal lifestyle and a more transitional aesthetic, but frequently finds that homeowners are still held captive by outdated floorplans. He gave his take on the subject to North Carolina Design.

“Decades ago, our lives were very different,” Kevin observes. “Most women were not in the workplace. They spent a lot of time alone in a segregated kitchen preparing elaborate meals. Children spent a good portion of their day outdoors, so there was little need for a large play area indoors. Things were a lot more formal, and lives – and homes – were a lot more compartmentalized. Times have changed, but homes have not completely kept pace with those changes.”

According to Kevin, this failure to evolve translates into a lot of wasted space. “Today, life is a lot more fluid,” he reflects. “In many homes you have both parents working, and sharing the household chores. Families often cook together, and share casual meals right in the kitchen. Kids spend a lot of time inside the home, playing, doing homework, and using electronic devices. People tend to congregate together, doing different things in a shared space.”

“Because we are still building and renovating houses in the old way, we are ending up with entire rooms that are closed off or barely used. These rooms are cold and unwelcoming, and they make people feel isolated and disconnected. People who have mobility issues can have trouble navigating older floor plans, and may end up relegated to one section of the house. Every space in a home should have a purpose, and everyone who lives in a home should have access to and enjoy the whole home.”

Kevin points out that it’s not a matter of style preference, but of whether or not homeowners are making the best use of their space. “It’s about having a formal dining room, not because you want it or use it, but because you feel you ought to,” he explains.

Homeowners feel obligated to stick with older floor plans for several reasons. “Some people feel they should carry on tradition,” notes Kevin. “Others are afraid of damaging their home’s value. They believe that their ideas for the ideal floorplan are too unique or unusual, and that most homebuyers will want something more traditional. What they don’t understand is their ideas aren’t unusual at all. Many other people are asking for the same things they are.”

Kevin works hard to alleviate his clients’ concerns. “I point out that there are things they can do to serve both current and future purposes,” he says. “They can build flex spaces that can grow with their family and appeal to future buyers.

“I also remind them that there’s value in living in a house that’s comfortable, welcoming and functional for their family. Resale is important, but you don’t want to waste space, or waste time living in an unpleasant space, because you are worried about the future. Your home should allow you to enjoy your life, and your family, in the best possible way.”

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

September 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tips Of The Trade” From North Carolina Design Professionals

August 30, 2016

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

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

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

Anita Holland
Anita Holland Interiors
Charlotte NC


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

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

Kendra Tardif White
Pheasant Hill Designs
Charlotte, NC


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

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

Dan Sears
Sears Design Group
Raleigh, NC


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

Laura Redd
Laura Redd Interiors
Greensboro, NC


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

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

Anne DeCocco
DeCocco Design
Raleigh, NC

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

August 16, 2016

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

Images Courtesy of KDH Residential Design ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 9, 2016

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

Images Courtesy of Will Johnson Building Company ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 2, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 26, 2016

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

Images Courtesy of Benham Builders ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 19, 2016

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

Images Courtesy of J’Nell Bryson Landscape Architect ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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