Monday, April 14, 2014

REFINED HAYSTACK

In addition to our typical work here at Branch Design, I've also been working on a team that's building Refined Haystack, a new local online platform that connects homeowners, designers and stores in Chicago.  It's a really exciting outlet that allows homeowners and designers to find unique local product and build relationships with local stores.  The stores and designers represented are highly curated in order to help you find the best resources, which we've found are otherwise the metaphorical "needle in a haystack."  Refined Haystack also gives us designers better tools for collaboration and communication, both with clients as well as stores.  The site will also be expanding to represent other cities, so you can find the best interiors sources when traveling as well!  

I highly encourage you to check out Refined Haystack.  The site is still pre-launch but we'd love your feedback and for you to create a profile.  Here are links to RH social media; we'd be flattered if you would follow along as we build this exciting new space: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest

Friday, March 21, 2014

OUR WEDDING

As you may or may not have heard, I became engaged last weekend.  Now I am a woman of action, so I'm happy to report that the largest items are almost wrapped up for the big day.  The last thing I wanted was for my wedding to take over all of our lives and for my work life to suffer.  (As it turns out, all those years as a closeted bridal magazine reader really did pay off!)  It also helps that we're all a good team, and the wedding vision is a very streamlined elegance.  My overall concept has been to give the feeling of a transplanted intimate dinner party, and my design mind had it all plotted out instantaneously: 
I have long drooled over Elie Saab's dresses, but I was less than thrilled by the price tag, so I found a dress that incapsulates the same general themes; a feminine but slinky silhouette with rich detailing and a gorgeous back!
I love our church, and this chapel dedicated to our former pastor is very meaningful to our family.  Aesthetically, the richness of the architectural materials is perfect compliment to the clean sleek lines and the copper paneling is a color I'll love pulling into other details for our autumn event.  The natural light will be gorgeous in here for an evening ceremony.  I love that they have a labyrinth on the floor that members walk as part of their spiritual practice during the week; their interfaith programming and openness to different traditions is so special.
For the reception, we'll focus on timeless luxuries like champagne, candlelight and lush ivory flowers.  I have always been inspired by old black and white films and the gorgeous restaurants and parties they showcase.
I find that the true classics, like ivory linens, are stunning in their simplicity.  (This is from Kate Moss' wedding… and I assume that's Sir Paul McCartney's placecard!  No big.) 

I am beyond excited to meet with some of our fabulous vendors to get everything finalized, and I can't wait to showcase their extraordinary talent.  Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

BACHELORETTE PAD

When I work with commercial clients on model apartments and staging, we often talk about the modern cosmopolitan bachelorette.  What is the successful young single woman looking for in an apartment or condo?  Even when couples are looking for housing, female influence is typically dominant in the decision-making process (…aaaaand cue Beyonce's "Run the World").

I have a persona that comes to mind when I envision one type of well-heeled bachelorette: she loves a fresh spin on the classics and tradition, and she has a little edge that compliments her soft femininity.  I am confident that these concepts captivate a large sector of the female imagination based on the tremendous popularity of Olivia Palermo's style on Pinterest, which embodies these exact qualities.  One example of a interiors mash-up that illustrates this concept:
The lightness of this gorgeous abstract painting by Christina Baker is in perfect tension against this edgy crackle wallpaper.  This lavender pillow and mustard throw pull two seemingly contradictory colors from the painting, but the combination is feminine without being too girlie.  This candelabra sconce, this pearl and gold chair Klismos chair, and these crystal candlesticks all reference grandeur but with a modern, fresh hand.  

Also, if anyone needs help designing the elaborate sets for a movie about young, stylish, cosmopolitan ladies (say Gossip Girl the movie?) I'd like to take this opportunity to say: I'm available.

Monday, March 10, 2014

WINDOW SHOPPING

On occasion I can be found searching for homes online, sometimes for research, occasionally to torture myself for fun.  When I happened upon this beauty, I immediately had the whole place redesigned in my head.  It has a gorgeous brick exterior, oodles of woodwork and even exposed brick in the kitchen; in other words the details are to-die.  I'm seeing a neutral kitchen makeover that highlights the trim:
A bit more downtown edge a la Jenna Lyons:
It will most certainly need another bathroom:
And a decked-out patio in front where you can sit and enjoy the magnolia tree.
Best wishes to the lucky duck who will call it home!

(Photos via.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

DESIGNING WITH KIDS IN MIND

A couple of weeks ago, we put out a "call" for kid-related decorating questions. Bringing children into a living space can be a real game changer. Safety, functionality, and storage become top priorities for parents, and sometimes style can fall to the wayside. Never fear! There are easy ways to incorporate those qualities in your home while still maintaining a livable and enjoyable space for you and your family.  Here are some of your common question topics with a few quick, practical tips:

DESIGNING A SPACE FOR TODDLERS THAT IS BUDGET-FRIENDLY
- Check out yard sales, thrift shops, or the like for furniture like small tables and chairs, bookshelves, and other storage pieces. Budget-friendly retailers, like Ikea or TJ Maxx have a variety of affordable solutions. Ikea has great storage options, like the Expedit Series that can be filled with baskets to hold toys.

- To save money on decor, get creative with your kids' toys to make them into decor. Installing floating ledges or shelves to display books is a quick, easy and inexpensive solution for wall decor.

- If you're feeling extra adventurous, paint a mirror or wall in chalkboard paint for your toddler(s) to use as a blank canvas. It's a great way to stimulate their creativity and ward off those pesky marker stains on the walls, carpet, and furniture.

MAKING USE OF A FAMILY ROOM SO THAT IT CAN BE USED FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY INSTEAD OF LOOKING LIKE A "TOY GRAVEYARD"
- Designate a corner or wall of the family room for the kid(s) to play and keep some of their toys. This can be as simple as buying or using an existing bookshelf or organizational piece, adding baskets to hide the toys, and doing something fun on the wall, like letter art above.

- Use an ottoman or coffee table that has extra storage for the kids to store their toys when they're not using them. You don't have to sacrifice on style to hide the toys!

Woven or fabric baskets are great for storing toys, too. Add a chalkboard label to the outside to identify the contents and add a DIY touch. Tuck the basket next to the sofa or in the corner of the room.

TRANSITIONING THE NURSERY INTO A TODDLER'S ROOM:
- The most significant change will be the introduction of a toddler's bed. (If you are pregnant now, you will be patting yourself on the back at this stage if you have selected a crib that transitions into a bed, like this one.)  If you have space, add a little play corner for your son or daughter to utilize when he/she is in the room.

- Consider safety. Remove any decorative items that could cause any harm to your son or daughter if he/she gets ahold of them. Also, always remember to secure any furniture your toddler might try to climb to the wall!

- Update the decor to reflect the change in the room. Replace nursery-esque pieces with items that represent what your son or daughter likes, or items that flow with the general style of the room.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SPRING CLEAN

It's a common phenomenon that as the weather breaks, many of us will be craving fresh starts in the form of "spring cleaning."  It is the perfect time for rooms that suit the season and our desire to shed the excess; fresh spaces with boatloads of natural light:

(Photos via)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

LUXURY BEACHFRONT HOTEL

After working through my taxes ('tis the season) and some organizational optimization, I'm thinking about a vacation. When you're up to your elbows in paperwork, the so-called "thunder snow" can finally be a little demoralizing. So I figure, maybe the best approach would be to design a hotel in a fantastic warm location, so I'd have to be on-site for a time? Take the journey with me: gorgeous views, light and airy rooms, spa-like serenity at every turn... and easy-peasy we've got a hit!

(Photos via)

Friday, February 14, 2014

WISHING YOU A SWEET DAY

Happy Valentine's Day from Branch Design!

(Photos via.)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

SPRING DREAMS

I was really pushing the whole "let's try to enjoy the last of winter" schtick the last few days, but I wasn't getting a lot of positive feedback from my fellow Midwesterners on that.  So here you go, here's the good stuff: spring inspiration.  We're almost there!
Here are a few accessories I'm loving to bring your space into spring:

(Inspiration photos via here; more spring accessories here.)

Monday, February 10, 2014

HYGGE

Given that today is yet another freezing day here in the windy city, I thought it appropriate to share some interiors and entertaining inspiration based on the Danish concept of "hygge" in an effort to help boost morale.  Interestingly, in spite of it's cold, dark, extremely long winters, Denmark was dubbed the happiest country by the 2013 United Nations' World Happiness Report.  Denmark's citizens have numerous reasons to be euphoric, but why wouldn't their happiness be counteracted by their notoriously miserable winters?  It's a classic mind-over-matter scenario.  A Danish cultural concept called "Hygge," which actually cannot be directly translated into English, emphasizes a certain type of warmth that can only be enjoyed during the coldest of months.
The Danes have a word that's hard to translate and no foreigner can hope to pronounce - “hygge” - and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. “Hygge" is one of the fundamental aspects of Danish culture: relaxing with good friends or loved ones, often while enjoying good food and something to drink or creating atmosphere by lighting a few candles.  So gather the family and invite over a couple of good friends. Push the sofas and chairs up close to the coffee table. Douse the electricity and light some candles. Better yet, light a fire in the hearth. Serve plenty of food and drink. Raise a toast or two, or three, and feel the warmth flow around the table. We didn't have to use near-synonyms like coziness, fellowship, security, reassurance or well-being. They just don't add up to hygge. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  
So though the holidays might be over, the season for entertaining hasn't necessarily passed.  While everyone else is trying to fast forward to spring, stocking up on a few marked-down winter items like faux sheepskin and rustic accents can help you make the most of your space in the next few months.  Enjoy these next few weeks; they are the perfect time for a relaxed gathering, basking in the warmth of good company and candlelight.

(Italicized text adapted from here and here; photos via here.)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

SELECTING A PAINT COLOR

One of the more intimidating design tasks is choosing a paint color.  In order to avoid the hassle and added costs of repainting, it's important to select the right color the first go-round. Here are a few tips to ensure the best result:

- Consider the other room elements. Remember that all colors look different based on the colors they are next to so be sure to use any textiles (upholstery, linens) or building materials you have in the selection process.  Colors also look different depending on their planes.  Prop your samples accordingly so you are looking at horizontal samples (flooring, countertops, etc.) and vertical samples (paint, millwork samples, upholstery) from the appropriate angle.

- Google your color. Photos of paint colors applied in various types and sizes of rooms can be found easily online using a simple Google image search of the color name and number. While computer screens are NOT color accurate, these photos can give you a great idea of the general effect the paint color will have in the space.

- Paint a posterboard to tape on the wall. Once you've narrowed down your options to a couple of colors (or once you've tentatively chosen a color), try painting a poster board with two coats. You can tape it up on the wall with painter's tape to give yourself a good feel for how the color will work in the room. You can even move it around to try different spots on the walls and see different combinations together. If you happen to have guests over or change your mind you can simply remove the poster board from the wall and there's no clean-up necessary.  (Remember that you will have to re-paint the whole wall if you test samples and change your mind; you can't only repaint a small section seamlessly.)  Similarly, paint a of trim sample to determine trim color(s).

- Be aware of the lighting in the room. Paint colors look extremely different based on the source and amount of light. When testing colors, be sure to use the type of lighting the finished room will have so that you can get a true representation of the color. For example, if the room gets a lot of natural light during the day but requires overhead incandescent light at night, view the color samples in both conditions to assess whether or not the color will work.  Similarly, be sure to check the color on walls facing different directions and/or areas where the lighting conditions vary within a space.  Also, check the color from an actual painted sample in natural light no matter what; fandecks are not exactly accurate.  Larger paint swatches are helpful but not perfect.

- To determine a general range of colors consider the size of the space. Typically, neutral colors work better in large spaces. Neutrals also tend to be easier to decorate around longterm, so consider that when you're picking a color for the space. Going with a punchy color can be really fun to make a statement, but will you still want to be making that statement six months from now? Relatively speaking, paint is an inexpensive fix but it's also a pain to paint a fully-furnished room.  If you're not ready to commit, stick with a neutral and decorate with pops of a statement color.  With a foundation of neutral paint and "high ticket" pieces, like sofas, dressers, armoires, and the like, it is far easier to update seasonally or annually with punchy pillows, rugs, objects, etc.

- Are you painting the whole room or just a small portion? We infrequently recommend accent walls, a paint application that we've been seeing less and less of these days.  However, if you are considering breaking up a room into multiple colors, make sure you are selecting a portion that runs from inside corner to inside corner to avoid a sloppy transition on an outside corner where it is very difficult to get a clean line.

- When in doubt if you have white trim and want a no-fail basic neutral, Benjamin Moore's "Revere Petwer" is our not-too-light not-too-dark not-too-warm not-too-cool staff favorite.

Happy painting!



(Graphic and lettering via Allie Hasson)