Design Element: Interior Barn Doors


I continue to be amazed at how frequently barn doors are appearing in interior design.  This is a trend that simply has not gone away.  Today designers are coming up with more and more creative uses for interior barn doors — and some are even making bold statements with color.  Barn doors aren’t just being used as room dividers any more.  

Barn doors are being used to hide kitchens…

Barn doors are being used to hide bathrooms…

Barn doors are being used to hide mudrooms…

Barn doors are being used to hide laundry rooms…

And barn doors don’t even have to look like barn doors anymore.   Reclaimed doors mounted with barn door hardware can make a great statement in any space.


One of the most appealing aspects  of interior barn doors is that they are not difficult to install.  Taking up less floor space than a traditional swinging door, and requiring less interior wall manipulation when installing than a more traditional pocket door, the barn door simply glides along a track that’s mounted to the wall above the door opening.   A barn door in an interior can also add a rustic or industrial feel to an otherwise traditional space.  Installing an interior barn door is a great example of the type of unexpected design element that can add interest to any space.   Have you ever considered adding one to your home?

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This Month’s Featured Kitchen: The New Traditional

When the April issue of House Beautiful  arrived, I was excited to see that this month’s featured designs reflected a celebration of “the best traditional style now.”   I waited until I could find a quiet moment to savor every page, and when I saw this kitchen designed by Connie Newberry of Gerald Bland, Inc., I knew I had to write about it.  There are just SO many things to love about this beautiful space.  

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways!

  1. Wide plank floors — aged to perfection!
  2. Farm table with fabulous (and somewhat unexpected) chairs
  3. Paneled banquette with a raised back — to hide all of the pots & pans used to make every delicious meal
  4. Vaughan lamps placed on the countertop — I love different types of lighting in a kitchen!
  5. Wire door fronts on select cabinets  with a contrasting paint color on the interior adds just a pop of color
  6. Simple cabinet door style and hood (I’m liking the exposed hinges, too!)
  7. Is that a bar area off to the left with a separate sink and dishwasher?  Delightful!
  8. Small kitchen desk with just enough space to get things done but not enough for piles of paper
  9. Striped rug underneath the table adds just the right amount of casualness to the space (great mix of high and low with the more formal lyre-back chairs, don’t you think?)
  10. The use of both mahogany and stone countertops adds just a little bit more interest and warmth
  11. And finally, I love the clean lines of the goose-neck faucet and simple polished cabinet hardware

Who says traditional has to be old-fashioned?  I think today’s “new traditional” is a lasting look.  House Beautiful is definitely onto something!

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Nate Berkus Returns to TV: Renovation Nation

This week brings good news to fans of designer Nate Berkus.  The Hollywood Reporter has announced that Berkus will host and executive produce a new design competition on NBC called Renovation Nation.  Devotees of the designer were disappointed to see him leave the airwaves when his design show, The Nate Berkus Show, was cancelled last spring, so many are anxiously awaiting his return to television.

Nate certainly has been busy.  News of his upcoming show comes just a few months after he sat down with designer Tory Burch to discuss both the release of his latest New York Times Best-Selling book, The Things that Matter, and his recent collaboration with Target on a line of bed, bath and décor items for the home.  In that conversation they talked about Nate’s design style, which can be best summarized in his own words as “assembled and collected over time.  Not heavy on color, very heavy on layering and texture.”  

I think that the kitchen above, which was designed by Nate Berkus, exemplifies this style in how “collected” it looks.  In his design he combines classic elements, such as the parquet floor, crown molding and marble countertop, with more unexpected items such as the windowed partition between the kitchen and living spaces, the use of mixed metals (which has become a much more accepted practice today) and the rolling cart in place of a fixed island.  Most people would have left the kitchen open to the living room, but what Nate did with that window adds so much more character to the space — it’s my favorite element!

I, for one, am delighted that Nate will be returning to television.  I look forward to learning more from him and to being inspired by his design.  We all can take a lesson from Nate’s core design principle that  “your home should tell the story of who you are.  What you love most collected and assembled in one space…the philosophy that things do matter…They represent where we’ve been, who we’ve loved, and where we hope to go.  They make us happy, and I can’t think of a more beautiful way to live than that.”  Thank you, Nate, I agree!



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Mudroom + Powder Room = Winning Combo!

I am intrigued by this powder room set-up.  Truthfully, I’m not sure whether to call it a powder room or a mudroom, but I think the designer might be onto something.  Think about it:  having a sink in your mudroom and then a separate water closet is an interesting use of space that allows for a much larger vanity than you would have in a narrow powder room.    With a sink in the mudroom, there’s no need to step into the bathroom to wash your hands when coming in from outside.  The mirror above the sink is perfect not only for when you’re washing-up, but also for a quick check of yourself before running out the door.  And maybe, just maybe, your young kids might actually brush their teeth before leaving for school in the morning if the sink is by the door.  Well, now maybe that’s just wishful thinking.   In any case, it’s fun when a photo makes you think outside of the box and encourages you to change things up a bit!  

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Design Inspiration: The Pantry

I set out today to write about kitchen pantry storage and I stumbled upon this beautiful image.   After doing some research I realized that I had better qualify just what I mean when I say pantry since there’s quite a big difference between a beautifully designed butler’s pantry and a utilitarian pantry which stores all of the necessary dry goods to feed your family.  But why can’t that utilitarian pantry still be beautiful?  I am a firm believer that your kitchen can be both functional and beautiful, so why not the pantry, too?

While the butler’s pantry above, complete with silver service, would make a lovely addition to someone’s home, today we’ll focus on designing a pantry to store all of the goodies that you need to get meals on the table.  Designing your pantry is just as important as planning for anything else in your kitchen.  It’s important to keep in mind how you’re going to use it and where you’re going to locate it.  Do you have a large or small family?  Do you cook a lot?  Do you entertain a lot?  Do you often buy in bulk?  Do you need to store cookie sheets, small appliances and serving trays here, or do you only have room for food?  And the all-important consideration:  will it be easy to unload groceries here?  


The ideal walk-in pantry:

  • Is located close to the food prep area of the kitchen
  • Utilizes a combination of storage options, including shelves of varying depth and drawers, if possible
  • Has good lighting (and maybe even some electrical outlets for small appliances)
  • Is designed so that items are easy to find and easy to access
  • Has a place for everything!

As I pondered these questions myself, I realized that many of the pantry images that I love didn’t really meet many of my design requirements.  Often times, the shelves were too deep and items were difficult to find — or the heavy KitchenAid mixer was stored on such a high shelf that it would never be used.  Unfortunately, sometimes when designing a space we pay so much attention to the aesthetics that we forget the function.  So, even though I love a beautiful butler’s panty, I think that the second pantry image would better fit my lifestyle.  And when there’s a place for everything and everything is in its place, then I know I’ve set myself up for success…and that’s beautiful!

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Have you Ever Considered a Banquette?


There’s something about banquette seating in a kitchen that’s just so inviting.  A banquette carved into a cozy nook under a window is a place that I would want to spend a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and the paper.  Add some bookshelves, as in the picture above featured in Better Homes and Gardens, and I’d never leave!  Creating cozy spaces where people can sit and eat comfortably encourages people to linger long after a meal is through.  I don’t think my guests would ever leave if I had a banquette such as the one below designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber.  The tufted back cushion and an assortment of beautiful fabrics would be perfect for an elegant space.

A banquette is often employed as a space-saving option, as they are usually tucked away out of the flow of traffic.  Whatever your reason for building a banquette, the sky is the limit when it comes to your style options, since you and your architect and/or builder will likely collaborate on its design.  When building a banquette keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • The height of the bench ideally should be 18″ off the floor (make sure to factor in the thickness of the cushion)
  • Consider a cushion thickness of 4-5″ for maximum comfort
  • Plan for a minimum seating width of 21″ per person
  • Plan for a seating depth of 18″
  • An angled back will make leaning back more comfortable
  • Consider a pedestal table to maximize leg room

When designing your banquette be sure to keep in mind how you plan to use the space.  Will it be for casual meals for adults and/or children?  Will it be a homework station where papers will likely be spread out?  Whether you decide on a banquette with a bench that’s straight, curved or L-shaped, or one where the table is between two benches like a booth, a banquette is a great option which you can design to best accommodate your family’s needs.


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Design Inspiration: The Movies

After watching the Oscars last night, I have movies on my mind.  So, for today, I will pose a question.  What do the following movies have in common:  Father of the Bride, Something’s Gotta Give, The Parent Trap, The Holiday and It’s Complicated?  First, I will give you a hint:  the kitchen above is from the set of It’s Complicated, and the kitchen below played the starring role in Something’s Gotta Give.  By now you may have guessed that all were written and/or directed by the talented Nancy Meyers.

There is a quality about the spaces, especially the kitchens, in Nancy Meyer’s films that resonates with people.  Perhaps it’s their cozy and inviting atmospheres that draw people in.  Or maybe it’s the beautiful elements so carefully selected that together result in an unforgettable space.  While most of Meyer’s kitchen sets have high-end materials, they still appear to be lived in, not simply show pieces.  But there’s something about her interiors that people simply can’t get out of their minds.  Ask any designer and they will likely recall a client who longed for a design element seen in a Meyers film.  When interviewed by Elle Décor for the July/August 2012 issue, Meyers revealed that her set design is such an important part of her movies that she treats it almost like another character.  When asked about the often-copied kitchen from Something’s Gotta Give, she thoughtfully responded:  “It’s the story mixed with the decor that makes people like it so much…When I think of somebody’s house, I think of the kitchen.” 

Set designer Beth Rubino and interior designer James Radin are often on hand to advise Meyers and to execute her vision for these glorious spaces, and clearly that’s a winning combination.  For me, the most memorable Nancy Meyers design is Meryl Streep’s bakery in It’s Complicated, shown above.  It’s been a while since we’ve seen a Nancy Meyers movie, so when I read that she has several projects going on, I was excited that we might soon see some more of her fabulous interiors on the big screen.  Upcoming movies include The Chelsea, directed by Meyers and written by her daughter, Hallie Meyers-Shyer, and The Intern, written and directed by Meyers and starring Tina Fey.  Hopefully one of these projects will feature another gorgeous kitchen that will inspire us all!

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Summer Obsession: The Outdoor Shower

Indulge me…yes, it’s February, and if you live in the greater Metropolitan area, the temperature is in the 20s…but today I’m thinking about summer.  This morning I was flipping through the current issue of Coastal Living, and I came across a piece on one of my favorite little luxuries of summer – the outdoor shower.  I realize that this is one of those pleasures that some people enjoy and others simply cannot understand.  I am clearly in the former group, and if I had my way (and if I had a home at the beach), I would take every summer shower outdoors – yes, even on warm rainy days!  There’s just something about the feeling of the steam being lifted up and away by a gentle breeze on a warm summer day that makes me smile. 

Several summers ago my family rented a house with an outdoor shower – in previous summers I had to rely on the kindness of good friends, who allowed me to use their outdoor showers.  Yes, I admit, I’m a bit obsessed.  I would literally walk down the street in our cozy little neighborhood in my robe, with a tote bag filled with shampoo, body wash and a towel, just to take an outdoor shower.  So, at first during that summer with my own outdoor shower, my husband and I were the only ones to use it.  My boys thought I was crazy to traipse outside in my robe to take a shower – who would ever do that?  Yet, as summer progressed, I noticed that one by one, they each gave it a try.  And once they tried the outdoor shower, they were hooked, and they never went back inside!  Imagine how clean our bathroom was.  

The writers at Coastal Living gave some great tips if you plan to build your own outdoor shower.

  • Carefully select your materials.  Consider pressure-treated wood or a synthetic decking material for their durability and ability to withstand the elements.
  • Try to mimic the style of your home when constructing your outdoor shower so it looks like it belongs.  Pay attention to architectural details, especially if it’s a stand-alone shower away from the house.
  • Mount plenty of hooks for wet bathing suits and towels.
  • Be sure to consider all local building codes, including those for drainage.
  • Consider adding a bench if you have the room. 

So, while summer may seem far off, it’s never too soon to start dreaming about warm days ahead, and those little summer pleasures that put a smile on your face.  And if you’ve never tried an outdoor shower, why not throw caution to the wind this summer and give it a try — you just might become a believer like me!


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