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Monday, February 22, 2010

Houseplants-A Forgotten Design Element?

It's ironic that despite the movement in green design, plants are often absent in much of the interiors I've been seeing in shelter magazines lately. Plants can help purify the air and bring a wonderful design element into a room, but sadly, they are often absent, ignored or an afterthought in the design process. Plants can soften the edges of a room and bring in a much needed color and textural element. I'm really loving the idea of citrus, succulent, bonsai, palms and dish gardens-revisited and restyled to be current and fresh. I recently found myself guilty of overlooking this important design element in my own living room. In fact, I think "overlooked" is a bit of an understatement. Let's face it, life is busy, and I rarely have time to play around with accessories in this room, but I've been making more of an attempt lately to update. It suddenly dawned on me one day that my two - 12 year old scraggly, sad ficus trees stationed on either side of my fireplace, having witnessed so much family life, were fighting with the rest of the room and overtaking it. (This pic circa 2005-guitar hero playing relatives keeping the trees company)In the middle of slowly adding some mid-century touches and color to my otherwise Deco-ish room, the ficus trees and their thinning branches seemed to be shouting “hello 1990's”.......as they had since, well, the 1990's. Overwhelmed by the thought of uprooting them and finding a new, loving owner (I couldn't bare to toss them in the gardening bin) they continued to dominate the room for a time. They were survivors in our move from San Jose to Oakland after all. I finally decided to replace them with ferns. I don't know where this idea came from but it was also accompanied by a fear of 1970's ferns...... and having lived through that decade, I was determined to avoid that! Retro touches are great but some things (like macrame) are meant to stay in the past.

Along with Ficus trees, ferns are especially wonderful at air purification and even help remove harmful chemicals such as paint VOC's from the room environment.
Searching far and wide around the local stores, I ran into a few large ferns that I deemed too“70's” The lacy ferns that fit the bill with their delicate, rounder leaves.....were not tall enough for the 18 inch pots I wanted to keep. I finally found some larger ones at a gardening center in Walnut Creek and bought their entire stock of 6 Adiantum ferns. The ignored ficus's found a loving new owner on Craigslist and hopefully my new ferns have the room pointed in the right direction......forward!

Other inspiring ideas for plants:

Love this!
I would like to see this idea using kumquat trees as well!
Photo Source

Even a great new pot can revive the look of a plant
Photo Source

An inspired cactus garden:
Succulent Garden ideas courtesy of Apartment Therapy
Jean-Marie Massaud Missed Tree Flower Pot-This unique vase is nearly 4 feet tall!
From the Houston Garden Show: Mini biospheres in a container garden

Friday, February 12, 2010

Architectural Chocolate

In the spirit of Valentines Day, I'd like to pay homage to one of my favorite colors-chocolate brown! I'm a bit of a foodie and architectural chocoholic. Two of my projects in 2009 involved the use of deep browns and I couldn't have had more fun with them. Chocolate brown conveys elegance, warmth and urban chic in a prominent way. It's growing popularity the last few years is noticeable although I have to say I've rather tired of much of the brown/baby blue combos I once enjoyed in design and graphics. Some of my clients have wanted this color as an alternative to highly saturated colors that they felt might be a bit too high profile to live with. When you think of the variables that chocolates come in, such a milk, bittersweet and deep dark, consider that dark brown paints also come in a wide range of choices. Some have red, golden, purple or grayish undertones that must be considered.
These clients were remodeling their Oakland Hills great room and like so many houses in this area, the old floor plan and flow was funky. Former owners added more strange touches. On it's way out was the boxy, small kitchen separating it from the rest of the large room as well as the curious white bathroom tile around the otherwise awesome freestanding fireplace. Also going was the reddish-coral accent wall that my clients had grown tired of.

They still wanted an accent color but not one that would hit them over the head! To compliment the deep subtle greens and warm grays in her amazing new granite we explored the possibility of brown. New cabinets were added as well. The client's husband initially balked at the deep brown but finally came around to our views and now LOVES the balance and hint of drama it gives to the completed room. We used Benjamin Moore's Rural Earth on the formerly red accent wall.

Another client called me after she and her husband were worn down after numerous stabs at testing paint colors on the exterior of their lovely Oakland home. They were torn between repainting the exterior deep green once again but were also exploring the possibility of deep browns. They had reservations on whether it would be appropriate or overwhelming to use such a deep brown. After looking at large brushouts and rendings they settled on Benjamin Moore's Appalachian Brown and it's subtle purplish undertones. They were thrilled with the deep rich brown and the home's transformation. Another fan of deep brown was born. This home no longer fades into the background but makes an elegant addition to their neighborhood.

Here are some additional inspiring uses for browns:

Pottery Barn

Let me know-what are YOUR favorite deep browns to work with?
Happy Valentine's Day! Hope your day includes plenty of chocolate!