Category Archives: Design Element

It’s Finally Finished!

Calvary Church Sacristy IMG_2906


On Christmas Eve the Sacristy at Calvary Church re-opened and a collective sigh of relief was heard by everyone that the construction was completed in time!  The pictures above, taken with my phone, do not do the space justice, but for now they will have to suffice.  Shortly, I will launch my new website where you will be able to see the space through the lens of a professional photographer.  His photographs do a beautiful job of illustrating the tremendous transformation of the space, so please check back once the site is launched.

In an earlier post I mentioned that the goal for the project was to create a space that would be used by the altar guild to prepare for church services, while at the same time serving as a place for the minister to store his vestments and prepare himself for church services.  The minister’s vision was for the Sacristy to have the feel of a men’s dressing room — not an easy feat when you are charged with placing two sinks and a faucet!  To that end, the  cabinetry underneath the stained glass window was designed to resemble a campaign chest, with recessed pulls and corner straps to evoke a fine piece of furniture similar to what historically would be found in a dressing room.

Part of my responsibility was to preserve the integrity of this church, which was built more than 100 years ago.  If you look closely, you’ll notice that a Celtic cross is carved into the upper cabinet doors.  This image is repeated throughout the church and is a part of its history.  In addition, the bannister which leads from the altar into the Sacristy was re-built, and its design is an exact replica of the original bannister across the church.  Much thought was put into this effort to preserve the architecture of this exceptionally beautiful church, and details such as the Celtic cross and handrail are among many examples of this effort.

Once my new website is up and running, I will post photos of the Sacristy that are far superior to those taken with my phone.  For now, these will have to do!

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Hwang Bishop Lamp Love


It’s become a running joke now in my family.  They all think I’m crazy.  Well, that’s nothing new.  I am the only female in the house, so it stands to reason that they all would think I’m crazy.  They simply don’t understand.   I have a thing for beautiful lamps.

A few weeks ago my mom came to visit from Rhode Island and brought a huge box for me.  I had been waiting for weeks for its arrival and it was finally here.  It was my first Hwang Bishop lamp and I was so excited to see how it had turned out.

This summer I was fortunate enough to have a personal tour of the Hwang Bishop factory in Warren, RI.  A close family friend, who is related to owner Felicia Hwang Bishop, kindly brought me along for an inside look at how the lamps are made.  The only other time I have been this excited for a studio tour was when I first toured the studio of Christopher Spitzmiller, who set the gold standard for beautiful, hand crafted lamps, and who helped me to fully understand the craftsmanship that goes into making such a stunning product.

My visit to Hwang Bishop was great fun, as I got to see all of the beautiful lamp base styles in person.  While these lamps are sold at showrooms such as Shumacher and Niermann Weeks, it was a treat to see them up-close and to understand the process of hand-crafting each lamp to order.  When it came time to make a purchase, it wasn’t easy narrowing down the list of favorites to just one.  After much deliberation, I decided to buy the Honey lamp for its unusual shape.  And while I didn’t step out of my box and select from one of the many stunning colors available, I am so pleased with the creamy-colored crackle finish that I did select.  It coordinates perfectly with the rest of my dining room.  I suspect that this pretty Hwang Bishop lamp won’t be my last!

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It’s all about Fixtures & Finishes


When Ina Garten, otherwise known as The Barefoot Contessa, makes a delicious meal, she points out that often times the best recipes employ good quality simple, fresh ingredients, and that the focus should be on those ingredients.  The same same strategy can be applied to great design.  The most successful kitchen designs are based on three basic elements:  the layout, the fixtures and the finishes.

If you look at the kitchen above, designed by Erika Powell of Urban Grace Interiors, and break it down into its basic elements, you can see why together they make such a beautiful kitchen design.  First, the cabinets have a classic shaker-style design, painted in a very current shade of green-gray (Retreat by Sherwin Williams), which anchors the space.   It’s the combination of the fixtures and fittings with the decorative finishes that ultimately makes this space so special.  Consider first the classic white marble countertop paired with polished nickel bridge faucets.  Now add to that the custom brushed stainless steel hood fabricated with graceful curved lines, likely designed to balance the many angles formed by the cabinetry.  The show-stopping pendants from Urban Electric have a subtle watery-blue interior that reflects the same color of the fish scale tiled backsplash and ties the entire design color scheme together.

One thing is for sure:  the design and execution of this kitchen clearly demonstrate that a considerable amount of time and effort was spent coordinating all of its unique elements.  So, if you’re planning to do a kitchen re-model, make sure you dedicate the same effort to the selection of the light fixtures, cabinet hardware, plumbing fixtures, tile, etc. that you spend working on the design and layout of the cabinetry.  These elements are just as important to the overall design of the space and should be by no means considered an afterthought.  Yes, a kitchen renovation is often a daunting task, by the end of which homeowners are often weary of making decisions, but as I always remind my children:  your hard work pays off!

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Construction Notes


Cabinet Delivery Day

Progress on the Calvary Church project continues to move along at a great pace.  Coordinating all of the subcontractors and city inspectors requires careful planning and great patience since certain tasks can’t be started until others are completed.  To date, demolition is complete, electrical and plumbing work has begun and the cabinets have arrived.


What’s particularly exciting about this job is that our custom cabinets have been designed with a celtic cross detail carved into the doors that matches exactly to a detail found on many pews in the church.  Preserving the integrity of the church’s beautiful architectural features and overall design aesthetic is an integral part of my job, and this detail is just one example of how we are achieving that goal.


Construction is often a tedious process which requires a tremendous attention to detail.  Throughout the duration of a project many decisions have to be made, and sometimes it’s tough to know the right answer.  What’s important to know is that often times there are multiple ways to solve a problem.  For example, if a subcontractor tells you that what you have requested can’t be done, and you don’t like the solution that’s been offered, it’s always a good idea to ask for an alternative.  You’d be surprised to learn that many times there are multiple solutions — you simply have to ask, and sometimes you even have to stand your ground until a better solution can be considered.  In this particular situation, wiring for the electrical fixtures was extremely complicated since the walls of the church are almost two feet thick and made of stone and plaster.  As a result, most of the wiring can’t be located behind the walls, so many  fixtures in the church are surface-mounted.  One of the greatest challenges was in trying to install the switches for the light fixtures in an accessible location.  Luckily, with the help of a skilled electrician we were able to layout the fixtures and their switches in a way that not only would satisfy the occupants of the room but also wouldn’t make it necessary to cut into my cabinets in order to do so!

We have a tight timeline that we’re following so that this space is ready for use within the next several weeks.  Follow along as progress continues (and the pictures get better!).


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Make a Big Impact with Lighting

via The Decorista
via The Decorista

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time researching and sourcing light fixtures.  I’m a believer that lighting can make a tremendous impact in any space, and the kitchen and bath are no exceptions.  Often times people fail to see how both the proper amount and type of lighting are necessary components when creating a functional, beautiful space.  More importantly, lighting is often overlooked since people don’t realize that it is a decorating opportunity that’s well worth the time it takes to select just the right fixtures.  

via Houzz
via Houzz

When designing a lighting plan for a kitchen (or most rooms, for that matter) I want the lighting to be flexible.  For example, there are times when I’m cooking that I want my kitchen to light up like Yankee Stadium.  When entertaining, I want to create a mood that can only be achieved when certain lights are on.  And at the end of the night when the dishes are done and the kitchen is clean, I might only flip on one or two accent lights so no one is fumbling in the dark to grab a late-night snack.  When you’re designing your kitchen, consider a variety of light sources.  A combination of recessed lighting, island pendants, sconces and a fixture over the table all will provide both the appropriate amount of light for each designated area and the variety you need to keep it interesting. 

Kriste Michelini

Consider the following guidelines when installing your light fixtures:  

  • When installing a fixture over a dining table, begin by holding the light 30″ above the table surface for a room with an 8′ ceiling.  Add 3″ for every foot that you add to the ceiling height (for a 9′ ceiling try 33″).
  • When hanging pendant fixtures over an island, consider that the bottom of your light fixture should be roughly 28-34″ above the countertop.  Once again, if your ceiling is higher than 8′ you might consider hanging pendants  a little bit higher.   Some situations do call for as much as 40″ over the island, so bear in mind that every space is different.
  • When installing sconces in a bathroom, for example, a general guideline for where to begin is 64″ from the floor.  Oftentimes, homeowners and electricians have a natural inclination to install these fixtures much higher than they need to be.  But who wants to stand at the sink and look straight into the bulb?  The purpose of a bathroom sconce is not only to shed light so that you can see what you’re doing, but it’s also to act as a decorative element in the room, no??  

How you choose to install your light fixtures is ultimately up to you.  Customers and friends always ask if there’s a rule to follow when making these decisions.  Unfortunately, the answer is no — it’s simply not that easy.  There are guidelines, to be sure, but in the end, it’s your decision.  For me, I often err on the side of having a light fixture hang a little bit lower as opposed to a little bit higher since I believe that lighting on the lower side creates a sense of coziness and adds a bit of ambiance — but that’s just my opinion.  What I do tell customers is that determining the correct height to hang any fixture is best done with two people.  One person should hold the fixture in place while the other person observes the fixture from multiple vantage points.  First, sit at the island or table — can you see the person across from you or is the light fixture in the way?  Enter the room from each doorway and look towards the island and/or the table — do you like what you see?  Is the light fixture too high or too low?  Does it block the view beyond the fixture?   Remember:  lighting serves a dual purpose.  It’s meant to illuminate the space and to be beautiful at the same time.  Lighting is an investment, so I suggest you treat it as such and take the time to make sure that the fixtures you choose hang at the height that is the most pleasing to you!  


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Why Put off ‘Til Tomorrow What You Can Do Today?

Circa Lighting
Circa Lighting

Lately I’ve been feeling as though I’ve had so many things going on that I’ve had trouble crossing the finish line with any one of them.  I’m a knitter (a great stress-reliever) and right now I have at least four different projects on the needles, none of which I seem to be able to actually complete.  Some may say that I’m a “process knitter” — that I simply enjoy the process more than the finished product.  When I say that, I know I’m just fooling myself — I love the finished product, too!  The truth is, I guess I just like having multiple things going on at the same time.  The past six months have frankly been like that, too.  With a kitchen and bath design business, a son applying to college, and a fledgling blog that’s received almost no attention at all, I seem to be busy all of the time and yet I keep putting off things that simply can no longer wait.  Last week I checked two boxes off my growing list of to-dos, and when I completed each one I felt like a million bucks.  The first one was to create an ad for my son’s senior yearbook.  Going through pictures and thinking of the past eighteen years has made me both wistful at this milestone and excited about what lies ahead for him.  When I finally selected the photos that I would use and the caption that would accompany them, I felt a tremendous sense of relief.  Why had I waited so long to get that done?  And then, propelled by the momentum generated by that achievement, I decided to tackle the biggest weight that had been sitting upon my shoulders since December…my Christmas cards!  Yes, I mailed my Christmas cards at the end of February, much to the amusement of many of my friends.  A post on Facebook that I wrote shortly after mailing day acknowledged that perhaps sending my Christmas cards in February is a measure of how out-of-control I must be feeling lately!  Well, at least it’s done — another box checked off the ever-growing list.  


Alno Creations
Alno Creations

Truth is, I do enjoy being busy.  The past six months have been exhilarating, and I’ve met so many terrific people and learned so much.  Lately I’ve been helping several people to refresh their kitchens which after several years have simply become dated.  With cabinets and countertops in good shape, sometimes the best way to give your kitchen a face-lift is with a change to several key materials.  Re-tiling the backsplash, changing the plumbing and light fixtures, painting the cabinets and changing out the hardware can all have a meaningful impact on the overall look of your kitchen.  In future posts I’ll show some before and after photos to demonstrate how these changes can dramatically affect your kitchen’s overall appearance.  


Walker Zanger
Walker Zanger

In the meantime, the images that I’ve selected for today’s post should simply serve to get you to begin thinking of which elements in your kitchen you could change that would make your space look just a little bit more current.  Could it be the cabinet hardware or the backsplash tile?  Or would simply replacing the light fixture over your kitchen table be enough to refresh your space and reinvigorate one of the rooms in your home where you likely spend the most time?  Stop putting it off and consider changing some basic design elements in your kitchen — it can have a lasting impact.  Think about it!


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For the Love of Tile


It’s been entirely too long since my last post.  My excuse is simply that life has gotten in the way.  Funny how one of my many jobs as a parent is to teach my children the important life skill of time management.  Perhaps I haven’t been modeling good behavior lately as I’ve quite literally been burning the candle at both ends, and a few things have inadvertently fallen through the cracks.  September is one of the busiest months of the year, and most moms often ask one another “What’s worse:  September….or June?”  Endless meetings for school, requests to shuttle children to sports events, daily household chores and the launch of my kitchen & bath business have swallowed-up the month of September.  And it all came to a head today when I learned that I had forgotten my mother-in-law’s birthday yesterday.  Ah yes, the wheels appear to have come off the wagon.  Happily, October begins tomorrow, and with that I suspect a more normal routine of sorts will ensue.  By October we are generally in a rhythm – the kids with school and sports, and me with work and other commitments.  So, rather than feeling as though my family is spinning out of control, I am hopeful that the chaos of September is behind us, and that we will all start fresh in October!

Lately I have been spending time in tile showrooms sourcing backsplash tile.  I had the great fortune to visit the Walker Zanger showroom and I was so impressed by their beautiful selection.  I have written about tile in previous blog posts, as I’m a believer that tile is a great way to make a statement in both the kitchen and the bathroom.  What struck me during this most recent visit to Walker Zanger was the incredible variety of tile that is available today, and the countless ways these exquisite tiles can be used.  In the kitchen above,  designed by Drawing Dept. of Cincinnati, Ohio, the tile choice is so fresh and modern and makes quite a statement behind the sink.  At first it looks like custom millwork, doesn’t it?

In this bathroom designed by Tatum Brown Custom Homes in Dallas, Texas, tile is used behind the sink in lieu of wallpaper.  What a fantastic way to add both color and texture to arguably the most important wall in the powder room?  Who wouldn’t notice this bold statement when standing at the sink?

While a traditional 3″ x 6″ subway tile is a classic shape for a kitchen backsplash, the use of  hand painted ceramic tile with its depth and variety of color makes this classic shape appear much more current.  This kitchen designed by California-based Fiorella Design demonstrates that subtle color variation can add just the right amount of interest to the backsplash.  
So, here’s to a fresh start to fall and to a renewed enthusiasm for making a beautiful design statement in  your own home.
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Design Your Multi-Purpose Room Thoughtfully for High Functionality

It’s an all too common occurrence. Many homes today have at least one multi-purpose room where every activity that doesn’t have its own dedicated space occurs. So often, however, rooms that have to perform double-duty lack clear definition and as a result aren’t highly functioning.  But not this room…

This laundry room — mudroom combination designed by Rock Paper Hammer in Louisville, Kentucky struck a chord with me as it seems so well thought out. The designer’s attention to detail is evident in the careful selection of materials — high gloss paint on the ceiling and walls, brick floors sealed with a gloss clear coat to create a clean, “wet” look, and the unexpected choice of zinc for the countertops  — all blend so nicely with the rest of the elements in the room. Large cubbies for storing everyone’s belongings help to bring a little bit of order to a busy house. Additionally, having the laundry room reside in the mudroom with a nice big sink and large counter for folding certainly makes sense when you consider how much dirty laundry passes through that space daily. At least the chore of folding laundry would be a little bit nicer in that bright sunny spot looking out the window.

I am a big believer in the “if you build it they will come” theory of organization. If you can design and build a place to store everything, then you set yourself up for success. Before we built a mudroom in our home several years ago, our kids would come home from school every day and drop their shoes and belongings by the front door. My front hall was always cluttered with smelly sneakers, backpacks and sports equipment. Truthfully, I couldn’t really blame them: at their ages they were too small to reach the rod in the closet to hang up their coats, and there was simply no place for them to put their things.

When we built our mudroom, I planned a cubby for each child. Inside there are several hooks for coats, a spot for backpacks, and an area underneath for shoes that can be easily swept out if dirt or turf grit comes in from outside. An upper cabinet with a basket offers extra storage for off-season items that aren’t being used. Once the mudroom was in place it was easier to teach the kids to put their things away since there was a place for everything. Do they always put everything where it belongs? Of course not…they’re now teenage boys…but with a dedicated spot for all of their stuff they’re more likely to hit the target than just drop their things in the front hall.

The mudroom designed by Rock Paper Hammer reminds me that good design can really make life easier. If you take the time to consider how you will use a space and then plan for that, you will have a room tailored to your family’s needs, which will likely result in a little bit more order. I would certainly put this mudroom to good use if it were in my own home. The only modification I could possibly make would be to substitute my black and yellow labs for the cat…but then there would be dog hair everywhere.

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