October 13, 2015
The times, they are a-changing. The kitchen is still the central hub of the home, but the lifestyles and desires of homeowners have changed. Today’s homeowners need something that will look beautiful and keep pace with their families’ busy schedules. Fortunately, design experts like those at Charlotte custom cabinetry company Walker Woodworking are available to provide solutions. Walker Woodworking is known for crafting exceptional quality custom cabinetry, with the personal touch of a family business decades in the making. North Carolina Design talked to designer and cabinet engineer Brandon Fitzsimmons to find out more about what people currently want and need in this all important space.
Images Courtesy of Walker Woodworking ©
Brandon tells us that homeowners increasingly prefer open floor plans for their kitchens, but not just for the additional space. “The open floor concept creates a more inclusive family atmosphere,” he asserts. “Even in the hustle and bustle, when parents are coming home from work and kids are coming home from soccer practice, and there’s a blitz to get homework done and dinner on the table, the family can still all be together, sharing the same space.”
Busy lifestyles have changed both the purpose and the configuration of the kitchen space. “It’s no longer just Mom in the kitchen,” Brandon explains. “Cooking has returned to more of a communal process. Dad cooks too, and the kids pitch in. So instead of the classic work triangle, where multiple people would crash into each other, you might have two or more small triangles with multiple prep areas. Or, you might break all the rules, blow the triangle out completely and go with a fluid workspace.”
Appliance cabinetry offers another way of breaking away from the standard work triangle, while adding great style. “We’re seeing more and more paneled appliances,” Brandon notes. “People want their appliances to disappear into the cabinetry as much as possible. ‘Plug-and-play’ integrated options – where differently sized appliances are configured together other than in a single built-in cabinet – are increasingly popular. So you might have a refrigerator, a separate freezer and a wine cooler in a single built-in, arranged in a way that works specifically for your needs.”
Kitchen style preferences have changed along with function. “Today’s homeowners like clean lines and simplicity, but they don’t necessarily want to make a full leap into contemporary design,” says Brandon. “They also want something that will last, and transitional style tends to stand the test of time a bit better than traditional or contemporary design.
“In cabinetry, that translates to more inset and frameless cabinets, less heavy moulding, and lighter glazes with a softer application that provides contrast and texture. Oak cabinets are coming back, but now people are choosing quarter-sawn white oak with a gray or brown glaze. In general, homeowners now favor grays and browns over reds and golds. They’re also moving away from stark, bold colors in favor of softer, less powerful shades.”
Homeowners are also incorporating a number of interesting transitional details to finish off their kitchen designs. “People are using more stone and brick, just in a cleaner way – like natural stone tile in a herringbone or subway pattern,” Brandon tells us. “On ceilings, we’re seeing a lot more painted trim in a coffer pattern, and more transitional colors used instead of white. And people are forgoing a series of smaller lights in favor of a couple of large, well designed pendant lights.”
Brandon loves the communal, family-oriented direction today’s kitchens are going. “Family is so important to us,” he confides. “With us it’s never just a job. We get to know our clients very well, and we build a relationship with them that lasts well beyond the project. There’s more emotion tied into designing kitchens than any other part of the house. It’s the heart of the home, and it means everything to us to get it right.”
Charlotte Remodeler Creates Lakeside Oasis With Award-Winning Tuscan Styled Kitchen & Luxurious Outdoor Living Space
October 6, 2015
Every homeowner has a unique story, leading to interesting twists and turns for builders as they work out their clients’ individual needs. Charlotte remodeler Eddie DeRhodes, of DeRhodes Construction, has a knack for finding the kinds of creative solutions that make his clients’ homes exceptional. One such example is this “lakeside oasis” project – with the renovation of its stunningly beautiful kitchen and statement-making main living area, as well as the luxurious outdoor living space addition – all of which required some “outside the box” thinking.
North Carolina Design chatted with Eddie about the project, which started as a simple kitchen renovation, and grew into something much more. “Their kitchen just wasn’t working for them,” Eddie recounts. “They wanted something with an earthy, Tuscan look to it. They have three adult children and love having family and friends over, so they wanted a better space for entertaining. Their idea was to blow out the side of the existing kitchen and expand it.”
As Eddie looked around the home, he came to some realizations. “It occurred to me that this was a lakeside oasis without a lake view,” he recalls. “Can you imagine? There was a room off the kitchen that faced the lake, but because the house was almost separated in two by a wall and a giant fireplace, you could hardly see it from the living area.”
“I also came to find out that the homeowners are avid dog lovers, and they foster rescue dogs in their home. They were using the room that faced the lake as a makeshift kennel for six of their dogs. Essentially, the dogs had the best view in the house all to themselves.”
After considering the situation, Eddie came to a brilliant conclusion. “I told the homeowners that there was plenty of space to create a great kitchen in the house as it is,” he affirms. “Why not instead blow out the wall and build a real kennel for the dogs?” The homeowners loved the idea, so Eddie set about building a comfy and spacious kennel, complete with a birthing room for pregnant rescue dogs and an adjacent fenced-in outdoor play area.
With the dogs’ “oasis” in the works, Eddie tackled the needs of the home’s human residents. “We took out walls and removed the fireplace, which opened up the space and also created a lake view,” he explains. “The former dog kennel became a breakfast area. We ran an invisible fence through the house so that the dogs would be limited to one area of the home.”
Eddie worked with an interior designer to give the kitchen an authentic Tuscan style. “We created a really warm and rustic Tuscan-inspired look that incorporated a lot of stone and antique reclaimed wood,” he notes. “The homeowners wanted to take a minimalist approach, so we balanced the natural elements with clean lines and minimal cabinetry.”
Much of the kitchen’s function revolved around entertaining. “We gave them lots of flat surfaces that could be used as servers for trays of food. We also created a space that flows through each seating area and right to the outside entertainment area.”
The outside entertainment area is a truly amazing oasis for the homeowners and their friends and family. “We gave them their dream outdoor space,” notes Eddie. “It has a pool, a hot tub, a pizza oven and a wood burning fireplace. There’s a swim-up bar and several great conversation areas, and the pool house features a full kitchen and a dining area. And it all has a great lake view.”
In 2014, Eddie’s incredible workmanship and clever ideas here earned him two Charlotte CotY Awards (CotY – Contractor of the Year) – one for the kitchen and also the outdoor living space. Despite this recognition, what makes Eddie the happiest about the project is his very satisfied clients. “They are thrilled,” he shares. “They now have a great view, a great kitchen and a great outdoor area. Plus their dogs have a private space of their own.” And as for entertaining? “I think they had about 100 guests over for Christmas after we finished the project.”
Charlotte Designer Creates Award Winning 2015 Homearama House With Show Stopping Interiors, Room After Room
September 29, 2015
Designers work hard to give each client a home that will meet their unique individual needs. What happens, however, when there’s no specific client? Kendra Tardif White of Pheasant Hill Designs is known for her highly personalized, client driven designs. When asked earlier this year to design a yet unsold new build for Charlotte’s 2015 Homearama, Kendra and her design assistant Crystal Richardson didn’t just succeed – they wowed the judges, taking home four awards, including First Place for Interior design and Second Place for Best Overall House. North Carolina Design caught up with Kendra to hear all of the amazing project details.
Images Courtesy of Pheasant Hill Designs ©
“Designing a home with no client is a very different experience,” Kendra concedes. “In my normal process, I learn all about the homeowners. I ask for pictures to see the things that speak to them and get a visual of what they’re trying to achieve. Or, if they don’t know exactly what they want, I help them create a vision for their home. Either way, the result is always very personal to them.”
“When you don’t have a specific a client, you have to think of every person who could possibly inhabit that space and then make it as livable as possible. Form has to follow function, especially in bathrooms and kitchens. Everything must flow properly, and things should be in logical places. People need to see how well each space can work for them.”
Of course, there are the aesthetics to work out as well. “The builder of the house, Luke Ullman, of The Ullman Group, gave us carte blanche,” Kendra recounts. “Now he had to sign off on all decisions, but his only real direction was to ‘make it great.’ We decided to create a design we would want to live in. Something that was very balanced – not sterile, but not overly accessorized and stuffy. We wanted the home to feel warm and welcoming, so we kept the color palette soft, ethereal and inviting.”
Kendra put a tremendous amount of thought into each and every aspect of the project – a fact evident in the home’s exquisite nuances. “We incorporated geometrics throughout the house,” she notes. “The same geometric pattern is replicated in the custom wainscoting in the dining area, the coffered great room ceiling and the mule posts. All of the tile in the house is also geometric. Even the light fixtures incorporate geometrics. It’s not something that’s blatant, but it pulls everything together and adds tremendous depth and richness.”
Throughout the home Kendra uses texture, scale and a balance of cool and warm elements to create a luxurious yet livable look. With its mixture of silk, grasscloth, polished nickel and wool, the formal dining area is warm and inviting, yet gracious and sophisticated. The use of soft fabrics, cool neutrals as well as metallic and glass touches in the great room and bedrooms make them cozy yet stylish and clean. In the kitchen, traditional cabinetry moulding is offset by sleek geometric light fixtures and hints of polished metal.
Designing this distinctive home was certainly not without its challenges “It is a very, very large home with very high 13 ½ foot ceilings,” Kendra explains. “It was challenging to make it feel homey. Then there was the serious time crunch we were under – we were hanging draperies the day before Homearama started. It was also a challenge to find furnishings to fill the whole house – we had to beg and borrow from wherever we could. ”
Kendra was not daunted, however. “That actually made it such a satisfying project,” she affirms. “The level of care, thought and work we put in really made it feel personal to us. Crystal and I really ended up truly loving this home – almost as if it was ours. And I think that shows in the final product.”
For Charlotte Builder, Success Involves Educating Clients On The Process And Explaining The Ripple Effect Of Every Change
September 24, 2015
Homeowners often become starry-eyed as they imagine all of the possibilities afforded to them in a new build or renovation. It often falls to the builder to deliver a reality check regarding what’s possible within the confines of their budget. Charlotte custom home builder and remodeler Ben Collins, owner of Salins Group has been building homes and managing homeowner expectations for 17 years. He knows exactly how to deliver a finished product that delights his clients and meets all of their needs, yet stays on budget and provides them value. North Carolina Design talked to Ben to find out the significance of helping home building novices understand how their project comes together.
Images Courtesy of Salins Group ©
“The whole process is really an education process for homeowners,” says Ben. “As a builder, it’s extremely important to listen to your clients and understand what they want. But clients need to do their share of listening and understanding as well. Getting clients what they want is not accidental and it’s not easy. We put a lot of energy and effort into making it happen.”
Ben asserts that managing a client’s expectations is an absolute cornerstone of success. ”I lay everything out for them at the beginning based on drawings, pricing, and their selections,” he explains. “I want them to understand exactly what they’re getting, and I want to make sure that what they get is what they expected.”
“If people’s expectations are unrealistic, I’m better off telling them so up front. If they have a $100,000 budget and they want to renovate several rooms with expensive high end selections, on day three I’m telling them it isn’t going to happen. If I agree to something knowing it can’t happen, I’m setting them up for failure.”
Ben also helps educate homeowners on making wise decisions throughout the process. “I want to make sure that people understand what their options are and what the cost of those options will be,” he affirms. “There are consequences to every decision, good or bad. One trim change or one plumbing spec change, and all the work that you’ve done to this point is now wrong. People tend to assume that every widget is going to fit onto every gadget and it’s just not the case.”
“Every single aspect of what we’re doing sets off a snowball effect. The size of the crown affects the height of the cabinets. The size of the casings affects how far away the light switches are from the door jambs. You might think, ‘oh, I just want a bigger window,’ but creating that bigger window will suddenly throw the whole house off balance. Or you might want to put off a decision to install a slate roof, without realizing that the house has to be built to support the extra weight beforehand.”
Of course, homeowners can have everything they want, as long as they’re willing to pay for it – and they’re often surprised by the cost of changing even small details. “A client will say ‘can’t we just move this shower door over seven inches?’ I tell them, well, we can but it’s going to cost another $2,700 to reframe the door and reroute the drain.”
Ben’s clients appreciate his integrity and his direct, transparent approach. And he loves working closely with them to help them create their dream home. “We often end up creating great, long-standing relationships with our clients,” he reflects. “I think it’s because we genuinely listen and care about their wants and needs. And they really do end up appreciating the lengths we’ll go to get them the home they really want.”
High Point Designer Demystifies The Design Process & The Road To Achieving A Very Personalized & Beautiful Interior
September 22, 2015
Hiring a designer for the first time can be a bit of a leap of faith. You might wonder whether it’s worth the trouble and expense, or be curious about what to expect from the whole process. The truth is, a good designer can take your ideas and bring them to life in ways you’ve probably never imagined. Investing in your home to make it beautiful, expressive of your unique style, and tailor made for your comfort is well worth it.
Images Courtesy of Barbour Spangle Design ©
Stylish, personal and comfortable are the adjectives High Point interior designer Christi Barbour lives by. As co-founder of Barbour Spangle Design, Christi and her team have been wowing clients and the design industry with their client focused approach and their fresh style and innovative spirit since 2000. Christi was kind enough to walk North Carolina Design through her design process, enlightening us with her method to ensuring design success.
To start with, Christi sets up a preliminary meeting, where all of the most important questions are sorted out. “We go over the client’s goals, their wish list, their budget, and the reasons they’re reaching out to a professional,” she says. “We also set up expectations with regards to how involved they would like to be and how they like to communicate. We let them know up front that we will do what it takes to get a great outcome and we will be good stewards of their hard earned money.”
Next, Christi gets to work hammering out the finer details. “Some people come in knowing exactly what they want – they just don’t know how to achieve it. Others have no idea what they want. Very early on, we take clients through an in depth interview process to get a sense of who they are, how they live, what they’re drawn toward, and what resonates with them.”
For Christi, visuals are key to bridging the communication gap between herself and her clients. “Hearing information and seeing examples are two very different things,” she concedes. “I could listen all day to a client’s style preferences and we could still end up having completely different ideas in mind. Making sure we are on the same page visually is critical to a project’s success.”
“Finding visuals is so easy now. Clients still bring us magazines and tear sheets, but technology allows for a much deeper and more nuanced look at a client’s preferences. Private Pinterest boards are a great help. We can use them for inspiration and to find consistent elements that help us pull a design together. From the client’s visuals, we create a storyboard that encapsulates the client’s ideas and then we develop a design based on that.”
A home must do more than look pretty – it must be functional and comfortable as well. To Christi, function and comfort go hand in hand. “Comfort to me isn’t about cozy chairs – it’s about how people feel when they’re in their homes and how the space accommodates their day-to-day needs,” she reflects. “We ask questions up front – how do they use each space? What are their everyday needs? Then we build the function in along with the aesthetics as we go.”
Once Christi has the design in place, it’s a matter of getting to work, staying on track and keeping clients involved. “We stay in constant communication,” she explains. “We share notes from meetings and we provide a running written document of the project that clients can review at their convenience. We also keep them apprised of problems. It never fails – at some point in every project, there’s going to be a setback or a delay. What’s important to me is that we handle problems quickly efficiently and with integrity.”
For Christi, measuring the success of the final product is simple. “It’s a home that makes clients happy, and reflects their very personal journey,” she says. “There’s so much value in investing in a good relationship with your designer. Designers have resources and knowledge that most people don’t. They can help you articulate and pull together your vision. And when they really get to know you well, they can do a great job creating a space that’s everything you want and need it to be.”
Charlotte Residential Designer Creates A Lakeside Forever Home For Clients That’s A Cozy Getaway For Extended Family
September 15, 2015
Every home tells a story, and every now and then, a design professional gets the chance to be part of a truly unique and special tale. This was the case for Kevin Holdridge, owner of KDH Residential Design in Charlotte, when it came to the Valita Project. This exquisite home serves as a lakeside getaway, a forever home, and part of an extended family legacy. This is a lot to ask of one home, but Kevin is an expert at designing homes that perfectly reflect his clients’ wants and needs. North Carolina Design talked to Kevin to find out more about this project and what made it so special.
Images Courtesy of KDH Residential Design ©
Kevin found this particluar project quite fulfilling. “The homeowners are retired empty nesters, and they wanted this to be the last home they would ever live in,” he recounts. “The wife grew up in two little cabins on the property, so there was a lot of history there. It was sad to tear down those cabins, but we all understood that it was necessary in order to achieve their dream home.”
“The homeowners have eight children, and each of their children has children,” notes Kevin. “They wanted to build a family lake house – something accommodating enough for when their kids gather during the summer, but cozy and relaxing enough for the two of them to live in every day. They wanted a contemporary twist on a beach house, so the home has a clean, contemporary feel, but you also have exposed rafters, timber columns and stonework that give it a lot of warmth and makes it very inviting.”
Kevin designed the home with two master suites – one on either side of the house. “They wanted a sanctuary where they could go and relax separately if they chose to,” he explains. “Each master has a large sitting area that overlooks the lake, where they can read, enjoy the scenery, and have some quiet time to themselves. Each master is completely different – one is light and airy and full of pastels and one is dark and has the feel of an executive office.”
Kevin worked hard to accommodate the comfort and needs of the couple’s many prospective guests as well. “We created an open floor plan that’s comfortable for two people but spacious enough to entertain a crowd,” he says. “There is plenty of seating in and around the kitchen, and you could reasonably put 20 people in the great room to watch TV. There are three bedrooms on the lower level – two typical guest rooms and a ‘bunk room’ with a bunch of single beds lined up so the grandkids can all room together.”
The homeowners plan to grow old together in this home, so Kevin took steps to provide for their future needs. “We created an aging-in-place design with an open floor plan, an elevator and zero threshold entryways,” he affirms. “One of the house’s best features is the large stretch of dormer windows at the top. They let in so much light – as we age our eyesight gets poorer and it’s so important to capitalize on natural light in a home.”
Of course, the project wasn’t without serious challenges. “The lot was very uneven and required a lot of grading,” he tells us. “We had to think carefully about how to create zero threshold entryways to both the basement and the main level with that topography. We had to really study the lot and come up with a unique way to perfectly set the house. We also had to figure out how to work the retaining walls and the drainage so that rainwater didn’t go down the hill and straight into the house, through the zero threshold entrance.”
Kevin found it very satisfying to be able to give the clients exactly what they wanted. “We spent a lot of time with the client trying to discern their objectives and their style preferences,” he recalls. “They were kind of up in the air about everything. Then when I unrolled the initial design sketch the wife started crying. She said ‘I don’t know how you did it, but that’s what I had in my head.’ That was a great moment. And this is a great home, with a great story. It was really something special to be a part of.”
September 8, 2015
We love spending time in our own personal outdoor oases in the sunshine. With the right lighting, however, our patios, porches and landscapes can take on a whole new beauty at night, transforming into tranquil, luminous, welcoming spaces perfect for intimate gatherings, stargazing, or quiet reflection. Lighting up landscapes is Ken Brantley’s passion, and his company, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives of Charlotte, has transformed the exteriors of thousands of homes since it was founded in 1995. North Carolina Design talked to Ken about the importance of illumination, and how he uses his expertise to create the right lighting design for the right home.
For Ken, lighting design is about meeting the needs and desires of his clients, and understanding what they are trying to accomplish. “Every client is different, but there are some commonalities in terms of what they want,” he notes. “They all want an inviting, secure exterior that highlights their home’s plants, trees and architectural features. They want to set a warm, friendly mood around their pool or garden areas. And they want to be safe as they navigate their steps and pathways after dark.
“We help them select fixtures that will provide the type of lighting they need to achieve their specific vision. It’s much more than just installing lights. It’s a challenge to get it right – we have to keep the client’s wants and needs in mind, and take the home color, the sizes of trees and the length of pathways into consideration, as they can all affect the a fixture’s light output.”
Ken says that in a successful landscape lighting design, less is more. “It really is best not to overdo things,” he advises. “You want a look that’s subtle, soft and inviting. Adding too many lights kills the subtlety and makes things look harsh. It’s almost like wearing a dress with too many colors or adding too many pillows to a couch – it looks cluttered and disorganized. You want to see the objects and the area you’re trying to enhance, not the light source.”
Outdoor lighting has recently undergone a historic transformation. “We’ve recently been moving away from halogen systems in favor of LED systems,” Ken explains. “In today’s world there is virtually no disadvantage to installing LED lights. They last around 10 times longer than halogen lights, and they require less energy, which equals less maintenance. There is an initial investment, but because of the long bulb life and the low energy consumption, you get your money back within a few years.”
Outdoor Lighting Perspectives is one of Charlotte’s premier outdoor lighting companies – and for good reason. “Landscape lighting is all we do, so we’re very well-versed in every aspect of the business,” says Ken. “We offer a great design and a high-quality product. But beyond that, we really value our interaction with our clients. We’re on their property for some time, so we get to know them pretty well, and we’re able to build lasting relationships.”
A personal investment in his clients’ satisfaction is Ken’s main focus, and main motivation. “We are determined to provide the best of care, so that clients get the maximum value for their investment,” he affirms. “If a client has an issue we address it immediately. We are also there to assist them as their needs evolve. Over the years they might add a pool or create a new outdoor living space. We help them adapt their design to their changing landscape.”
Ken is passionate about the transformative effect of outdoor lighting. “It’s the difference between a cold, dark building and a warm, inviting respite from the outside world,” he reflects. “Our clients have told us how much they enjoy pulling up in their driveway after a long day and seeing the lights of home. They’ve also said that a lighted landscape is the kind of thing you didn’t think you needed, but once you have it, you wonder how you ever lived without it.”
Charlotte Builder & Remodeler Transforms Mediterranean Styled Home With Classic Detail And Seemless Craftsmanship
September 1, 2015
It is one of design’s great ironies: creating something that looks simple and seamless requires hard work and a highly skilled hand. This is a fact with which Charlotte custom home builder and remodeler Ben Collins, owner of Salins Group in Charlotte, is intimately familiar. Ben has been building and remodeling houses for 17 years, and is known for his keen attention to detail and for the exceptional quality of his work. Recently, he brought his considerable skill and talent to the small screen, appearing in 3 episodes of the nationally syndicated home improvement show “Fix It And Finish It,” hosted by Antonio Sabato, Jr.
Images Courtesy of Salins Group ©
Ben is a master at creating spaces that are chic, beautiful and wonderfully nuanced, like today’s featured whole home renovation. To meet his client’s needs, he deftly balanced form with function, and clean, simple lines with distinctive details. North Carolina Design sat down with Ben to hear more about the home, and the process behind it.
“My clients tend to be sophisticated, and they want something upscale,” Ben observes. “I do keep up with what’s current, but I don’t like to depend on trends. I believe the whole house should stand on its own merits. Whether I’m working with something classic or really transitional, I always like to give each home a timeless appeal. You don’t want to walk into your new kitchen 5 years from now and say, ‘Ugh, what was I thinking?’ You want to love it as much as you do now.”
This home is a fine example of Ben’s design philosophy, as well as his commitment to client satisfaction. “This was the fourth house we did for this client,” he recounts. “This was a family with four kids. They were really looking to create an interesting and unique home where they could entertain and be comfortable in their day-to-day lives. They wanted something that had great aesthetics but was very family friendly.”
Ben succeeded meeting the client’s aesthetic goals – the house is definitely beautiful and definitely unique. The exterior features an eye-catching Mediterranean flair that’s an unusual choice for Charlotte. The interior features a chic and fresh simplicity accented with many wonderful yet understated details, from graceful archways to artful wainscoting to thoughtful built-ins. And throughout, there are small and subtle touches of Hollywood Regency opulence that serve to elevate the space.
The home also has the comfortable feel the family sought. It’s open airy and filled with light, and it has many subdued rustic elements that add warmth and charm. One of the home’s standout features is the wooden ceiling in the main living space, crafted from antique heart pine beams custom milled from a local lumberyard.
Ben concedes that the project, while highly successful, was not without its challenges. “The original house was built in the 1940’s out of solid concrete,” he recalls. “It was like a fortress. We had to work within those parameters – you can’t tear down massive 14 inch thick walls just to make a little extra space for a refrigerator. The goal was always to take what was there and make it really beautiful but also really livable.”
That’s not to say that there were no dramatic changes. “To be family friendly, the home had to have a core central living area,” says Ben. “The space we wanted to use – which included the kitchen – was extremely chopped up, to the point where it would have been almost impossible to work with it as it was. We tore that whole section of the house down to the concrete slab and rebuilt it. Now it’s an enormous space that flows together and fits the family’s needs.”
Ben concedes that the renovation process is nowhere near as smooth as the end result. “It’s a challenge to make sure that all the parts come together and ultimately make the home as close as possible to what the clients anticipated. But we’re up to that challenge. We listen carefully to what our clients want, and we have the skill and experience to give it to them.”
In The Symmetry Of Geometrics, Asheville Artist Kenn Kotara Reveals A Bold, Fresh Style And A Distinctive Voice
August 27, 2015
Art and mathematics are not disciplines people readily associate with one another. That is, of course, unless those people are familiar with the works of noted Asheville artist Kenn Kotara. With his grid based abstracts, Kenn deftly bridges the gap between the fluid and visceral expressiveness of art and the order and tidy symmetry of geometrics. Whether he is using acrylics on paper or hand punching Braille onto metal, Kenn’s work is always bold, always fresh and always reflective of his distinctive voice. North Carolina Design sat down with the artist to peek inside Kotara Studio and find out what Kenn’s been up to lately.
Images Courtesy of Kotara Studio ©
Kenn’s passion for art is longstanding. “I’ve drawn and painted since I can remember,” he recalls. “I’ve had no tutoring or mentoring, and there are no artists in my family. I just have an internal drive to communicate through art. It’s really about being a creator – about creating a visual landscape from my own thoughts, and my tiny kingdom.”
Kenn is a versatile artist who lets the soul of each individual piece drive its own creation. He works with everything from canvas to wood to metal, and he uses a wide range of media – sometimes even within the same piece. “I might start in oil and move to acrylic, or something else entirely,” he says. “I base my choices on what a piece needs, as opposed to sticking to one medium.”
Ken presents his view of the world through the abstract, rather than literal representation. He seeks to capture the chaotic and visceral nature of life, while at the same time revealing the intrinsic underlying order that governs all things. “I have always had an interest in geology mathematics and geometry,” he confides. “I try to pare things down to their basic composition, which is always based in fractals and geometrics. For example, we are made up of cells, which are essentially a recurring pattern of circles.”
Ken particularly enjoys working with circles. “I never get bored with them,” he notes. “Circles are a truly democratic shape – in a perfect circle the radius is equal all the way around.” Kenn’s inclination toward grids, geometric patterns and circles made his work with Braille in particular a natural fit. “Braille works in relation to grid and uses a circular pattern. It’s a bas relief code, so it’s tactile and textural. It also conveys literal words, so my work can become a forum for stories, poetry and sociopolitical messages.”
One of Kenn’s most brilliant pieces is a Braille depiction of “The River,” a poem by Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz. The poem is hand punched in copper in both Spanish and English, with a winding blank space in between the translations. “The piece is about a communication gap,” Kenn explains. “A gulf between ideologies and cultures and languages. It’s also an exploration of the idea of impairment. We consider the blind to be impaired, but a sighted person can’t read the poem without assistance.”
Kenn enjoys working with copper, for many reasons. “It has this warmth and sexiness to it,” he reflects. “But it also has a softness. Copper also evolves and changes. Given time, it will darken and develop a patina. It may go through multiple colors, layer upon layer. I think that’s reflective of us – we change, and our memories change. Our stories change, and we change how we view our stories. As time goes on, we will always find new layers of depth and meaning in everything.”
One of Kenn’s copper pieces will soon be installed at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Greensboro. While Kenn welcomes the appreciation he has earned from art enthusiasts around the world, acclaim is not what drives him. “I love coming to work,” he says. “This is an outlet for me. This is how I work out the questions I have about the world, and my existence. It’s therapy. It’s cathartic.” And clearly, it’s what he was born to do.
Raleigh Remodeler Complements The Charm And Grace Of This Home In A Historic Neighborhood With Modern Living
August 25, 2015
No one who loves design has driven through the Historic Oakwood district of Raleigh without a small covetous sigh. The area’s homes date back to the 19th century, and they still have all of the charm, grace and beauty that they were crafted with so many years ago. Today, we’re pleased to feature a Historic Oakwood home, adapted for modern living through a whole house renovation done by the experts at Sigmon Construction.
Sigmon Construction of Sigmon Construction ©
Known for quality work and exceptional attention to detail, Sigmon has been delighting clients with new builds and renovations for more than 30 years. North Carolina Design sat down with project estimator Harry Marks to find out more about their process, and to chat about how one renovates a historic home to meet modern needs.
Harry notes that remodeling projects are different from new builds, and they present different challenges. “You have to work with the structure at hand to give the clients what they want, while respecting the budget and getting them the most bang for their buck,” he explains. “You also want to do something that’s in keeping with what’s already there. Your goal is to enrich the property, not to impose a style on it that doesn’t belong.”
To get a great result, Sigmon Construction works hard to understand their clients’ needs. “First, we meet with the client onsite so we can see the structure and find out what kind of bones it has,” Harry notes. “Next, we listen carefully to find out what the client wants and what they’re bringing to the table. Some people come to us with a fully drawn out plan, and we love that. But we also love it when people come in with just an idea and want our help to create a plan.”
The owners of this home were an active, sociable couple set to begin a new phase in their lives. “They were both about to retire from high ranking government jobs in Washington DC,” Harry recalls. “They chose Raleigh for their retirement because they loved the community and the culture – especially in Historic Oakwood. They really wanted to preserve that City of Oaks style and feel in their home, while adding some flair and a fresh new look to an older part of Raleigh.”
The house had to be adapted to fit the couple’s lifestyle, which included lots of visits from grandkids. “They were proud grandparents, and they wanted a larger space that would flow well and be a good, safe environment for their grandchildren,” says Harry. “We added square footage toward the rear, to the first floor and the basement. We also created a kitchen with good, usable open space. The kitchen ties in to the living area so that everyone can gather in the different spaces and still feel connected.”
Of course, the couple wanted some creature comforts tailor-made for themselves. “They really loved the downstairs basement area,” Harry observes. “The husband has a place to sit back and relax, and the wife has a Pilates studio. They both really enjoy wine, so we added a large wine cellar to house their collection. The main entrance to the house is in the basement, so we added in a dumbwaiter that the homeowners could use to send groceries and wine to the main level without having to lug everything upstairs.”
The homeowners also got the bathroom of their dreams. “It’s luxurious – it has marble countertops and marble tile,” Harry recounts. “However, it has a natural feel, and it’s the simple, clean and refreshing space they wanted. It even has some modern comforts like heated floors and a towel warmer.”
The project, while rewarding, was not without its challenges. “We had to preserve the home’s history and ensure that it fit in organically with the neighborhood,” Harry says. “For example, we couldn’t add a second story, and external siding had to be made from natural wood products. But it was fun to take this home built decades ago and make it suited for a modern couple. And now they can look forward to retirement in their dream home, in their dream neighborhood. It doesn’t get better than that.”
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