Interiors

1960s Ranch Kitchen

Transformation Tuesday~

This 1960s ranch had low ceilings, limited light, and a poorly designed, inefficient floor plan.

Space planning:

The main problem with the design of this kitchen was the peninsula. Peninsula kitchens almost always make a kitchen smaller, and I only use this design configuration as a last resort. In this scenario, the peninsula and raised bar (a thing of the past), cut the kitchen off physically and visually from the breakfast room, limited contiguous countertop space, and in the below pictures you can see how it’s dividing the room in half.

Several other problems existed:

  1. Bar seating wasn’t possible due to the limited space on the breakfast room side and conflicted with the breakfast room chairs, making the bar useless anyway.
  2. The refrigerator was too far out of the work triangle guidelines for kitchen design, making it very inefficient and creating more steps than necessary.
  3. The refrigerator was on the other side of the entry, crossing the circulation path from the laundry room, powder room, and garage studio/workshop.
  4. The wall next to the refrigerator further fragmented this section from the kitchen as a whole.

 Design is not just trying to make spaces beautiful that are Pinterest or Instgram-worthy. Design is about making them more solution-oriented, so life is life easier, and one of those ways is by eliminating problem areas in the built environment.

Imagine trying to carry a load of laundry from the laundry room or something heavy in from the garage studio/workshop while crossing the path of someone back and forth at the refrigerator trying to cook dinner. The previous plan prior to construction is below. Everything in black represents what was to be demolished, along with the new plan, and a construction pic of the space completely gutted.

 

Considering natural light:

I almost never recommend diminishing the size of windows, but I knew we could make up for the lost light with brighter finishes to bounce and reflect the light around the room. You can see in the pre-construction pictures taken in the kitchen looking towards the breakfast room window, the bar blocked half of the light coming from that window anyway. By removing the peninsula and taller bar section, light could move around the space a little more. We took the two windows on the exterior wall, which were initially two different size, the smaller one over the sink, and the taller one in the breakfast room, and made them both the same size, allowing us to extend the base cabinets and counter top space all the way down. I always recommend when changing windows that clients go to casement windows. I have them and love them. On this project the client agreed and we switched both of the these to casements, so they can crank them open during beautiful weather. It makes all the difference and the clients are thoroughly enjoying them. I highly recommend fresh air and the ease of the casements.  You’ll also see how I added the shelves in the drawing just to get an idea of scale and height in relationship to the window.

 

I rearranged the plan to include a larger island, lined everything up, and proposed the idea to remove the wall cabinets, add drawers below, move the refrigerator to the range wall, bringing it closer to the other main functions, add a tall pantry on the left side of the refrigerator and make the microwave cabinet section a little more functional, to include a coffee station with cups in the cabinet above. Although we lost upper cabinets, we did not lose in over linear feet or cubic feet of storage, and actually gained, since we extended the base cabinets and added a large island with storage on both the sink and new bar side. Below are design illustrations.

You can also see there was a wall at the end of the kitchen. Initially we discussed not removing it due to cost, having to finish the walls into the next room, also structural considerations, etc, and as with many projects, once we were into construction, things changed onsite, and the wall was eventually removed. It opened the room up even more to the keeping room.

Addressing appliances:

Prior to starting the project, the clients already had their desired range and hood selected, as they were seeking a more professional level kitchen. We designed everything around those specs. One of the main requests from the client was she wanted a table where they could all eat together and face each other, instead of just bar seating where they’d all be sitting in a line side by side. Not being able to fit it within the lines of the space and without it encroaching into the implied, visual lines of the breakfast room, we attached the table at the end of the island which also cut down on circulation space required. A freestanding table requires room to walk on all four sides. By attaching it to the island, we didn’t need circulation on the one side which saved on space, and thus kept it in line. We kept their refrigerator, as it was a fairly new purchase and moved it closer to the sink and range for better functionality and out of the path of entry, and purchased everything else new. We added custom shelves and accent lighting for quick grab items like glasses.

Secondary functions:

The microwave wall was redesigned to eliminate the second oven, which was no longer needed with the new larger range, added more functional cabinet space, a designated coffee station, and a great little detail like the slide out board below the microwave to make stirring dishes being microwaved a little more convenient and to add a little extra countertop space if a second dish is waiting to be microwaved. With the secondary functions, when possible, I like to locate those to another area of the kitchen like this. Again, limiting crossing paths is key. Someone cooking dinner doesn’t need to navigate around someone just heating something up. Same for coffee. Having designated areas away from main functions prevents families from crawling all over each other or crossing paths unnecessarily.

Point of entry:

The clients also wanted to replace the door to the garage studio/workshop, the powder room, and laundry room. Just in the short amount of time I was there, I realized there was a better solution than just replacing it with a new door.  With the constant shuffling of kids and dogs, and the need for them to be contained or separated at times, I proposed the idea for a Dutch door. Having the top half open would allow them to still communicate between all these rooms while at the same time, keeping the bottom half closed, allowed them to keep children and dogs contained in a desired room. They have commented how much they have used this door since the renovation, which I’m trilled to hear. Sometimes design solutions are marriage solutions, too. We’ve all tried yelling to our spouse through a closed door or trying to keep kids or dogs from barging in if we do have to open the door to talk. 😉 Here’s a close up of the door and after the hardware was installed.

Lastly, the powder room needed some attention.  This little space was a terracotta orange that needed some spark. With a plethora of the client’s art needing wall space, I thought we needed to showcase some of that in the powder room. When I mentioned painting it black, so we could create some high contrast and showcase the art inexpensively but dramatically, eyebrows raised initially, but they jumped in and agreed. Tiny powder rooms are so hard to photograph, but I’m including this picture I took of the window wall for a contractor, so you can see the before wall color and after with the black. There is a myth about dark colors making rooms small. I love how you can see the horse in the mirror. if you’d like to see more of the client’s art, you can visit her work at clairedunaway.com 

Thanks so much for reading. If you have questions please let me know. If you’d like to chat about your kitchen, or any other residential or commercial projects, we can schedule a time for a one on one phone call.

xo,

Cassandra

Professional Photos: Marc Mauldin

 

Pineapple Porch

Space Planning | Designing the Floor Plan

In its last iteration, this space was a Palm Beach Tan chopped into about 25 small rooms for individual tanning beds. There were two ADA compliant restrooms in the back corner of the space and a small storage room running along the back wall, both we knew we wanted to keep.  In the case of the storage room, we would need to possibly expand it to accommodate larger items like furniture being temporarily stored. Everything else needed to be gutted.

Below is a copy the landlord gave us of the as-built plans from the tanning salon. This was the space we walked into. You can see the individual rooms where the tanning beds were, along with key spaces I’ve notated. The pictures below were taken prior to construction from the front of the store at the point of sale where you paid for your tan.  You can see from the plan and pictures, there were two hallways on either side of the point of sale running almost the length of the space that met at the back of the space and created a small back hallway.

 

 

 

During initial conversations, although they were looking at this space located in a small retail strip, my client mentioned she had always wanted a shop in a freestanding house. That stuck with me throughout our initial conversations and as I began the space planning process. As with all my retail clients, we have many discussions about the overall feel, experience, and functionality of a wide open store, as well as, a store with smaller partitioned off rooms, and how that creates the need for visual control throughout the store for things like theft, customer service, and other retail related functions. Even if the store were to be wide open, due to the size of this store (almost 3,000 sq ft) and the size of displays, furniture, and fixtures, there would always be parts of the store that would be blocked and little corners that would be hard to monitor. We talk about these things constantly and work to find a balance that feels right for the client, for the items they’re selling, the number of employees they’ll have on the floor to service and monitor customers, and many other factors. Ultimately, there isn’t one perfect solution but rather many- like installing cameras, placing more expensive items up front near the register or in locked cabinets, and keeping the smallest items in plain view. Unfortunately, every store experiences theft, and we do the best we can to mitigate it.

As with any project, I use a client-guided approach and feel each client deserves to have an interior that represent them and what they want to say. Many design firms have a look that defines the firm’s brand, but I feel the project should showcase the client’s brand and taste, so we begin with their general likes and dislikes. Among other things, this client told me she loved traditional design, French country style, and the color blue was her brand color. I have clients give me as much detail as they can about what they love (and even what they don’t love, so we know what to stay away from). We look at photos together, share a Pinterest board, go on field trips if they have time, and I have them write down or tear out magazine photos of what they are drawn to, so I can get an idea of who they are and where we should start. This helps me narrow down what we are trying to say visually. We look at the lines and products they’ll be carrying, so we can create an interior that supports those items visually. In commercial design, we have many discussions about personal taste vs the taste of the consumer, the demographic, the location, how people shop and move about a space, and what will sell in the area. Casting a wide net for a variety of shoppers, while remaining in brand, is what we focus on.

Below is a copy of the plan the landlord gave us. This is basically the shell of the space and what we would be working with once we demolished all the rooms, keeping the restrooms and storage. You’ll see how we straightened out the line of the storage room and expanded it by pulling it out in line with the restroom wall.  The first concern for every interior designer when beginning designing the plan is the structural columns holding up these buildings. They are almost always in the way or located in the worst spot, and we spend a great deal of time figuring out how to incorporate them into the future design by hiding them in a wall or closet, working around them, making sure they aren’t in the center of a room or circulation path, cladding them in material that looks purposeful and not just to cover it up, and basically preventing them from looking like what they are -posts in the center of the space holding the building up. As you can see once cleared out, there were three in this space, and although they were just slightly offset of the center of the front door, they were practically in the middle of the space. Whatever the floor plan was going to be, walls or other design elements needed to anchor to these points, and hopefully, if at all possible, consume them completely so occupants would never see or notice them, and employees and customers wouldn’t have to work around them on a daily basis. The ceiling and mechanical system was a complete disaster. With four units and what seemed like miles of ductwork running everywhere (previously needed to cool a tanning salon), cleaning that mess up and deciding how to hide, eliminate or focus the eye away from new ducts was definitely a monumental task in this space.

 

Holding on to the thought that she always had her heart set on a freestanding house, I decided we would design the store to look like a house. This solution made perfect sense, since the store was all about Southern hospitality and gracious living and entertaining.  We worked through the spatial adjaciences to categorize the items to be sold into “rooms” that might make sense if it were a house and possibly flow from the front to the back of the store. Each space would be loosely designated as a room in a house: kitchen, living room, dining room, bathroom, main hall and a foyer at the front to allow for transitioning into the interior space, further supporting the idea that you’re in a residential-like environment. Initially, the client thought she might sell bedding but later decided against it, so we named the “bedroom” the soft goods room for blankets, pillows, throws, etc. The two back rooms would be for a men’s study type room dedicated to offering gift items for men and a baby room for baby gifts. This would also make it easier for her to merchandise which items would go where and create a natural, easily understandable flow around the store for customers. Of course there would be some crossover and items that didn’t have a specific room, but this created a great base to work from. From a customer perspective, it makes it very straightforward. If I’m in a hurry, and know I need a gift item for someone who loves to cook, I can head straight to the “kitchen” room of the store and not have to look all over the place. Below is the first loose conceptual plan I presented with adjacencies for room organization.

 

The idea was to create a main hallway that draws you down the center of the store both visually and physically with large rooms off this main hall, like you’re entering a beautiful foyer and hall. I loved the idea of using traditional architectural elements in this space and wanted to create an arcade or loggia to set the tone for a timeless, elegant environment. This would allow me to mimic the columns on the other side of the center line of the door creating the hall, wrap the structural columns with decorative columns and connect them with arches. You can see the beginning phases of that hall and those arches in the above drawing. The three solid black boxes represent the structural columns, and the open white boxes marked with an X directly across from those represent dummy columns that exist purely for decorative purposes to create balance and provide a nearly symmetrical design. The right half of the store is smaller than the left, as the front door is not precisely in the center of the storefront. From the human experience upon entering, this is virtually undetectable. As designers, we have to consider this all the time while designing- at what point will something like this become noticeable in the built environment and offset the balance of a space. After flushing out this plan and massaging some of the rooms based on how much product we had to dedicate to each room, we decided to flip a couple spaces, shrink down some of the rooms, and create larger spaces for the back rooms. Below is the plan now. Keep in mind, the drawing is flipped. The entry is on the left side of the plan with the restrooms and expanded storage room on the right side. You can also see the cased openings to each room, which allow better visibility and circulation, while maintaining valuable wall space for display, yet creating the intimate, cozy environment the client really wanted.

Below is the progression of the design and process of building the hallway and concealing the structural posts within the decorative columns.The first drawing is a small close up shot of one of my elevation drawings in the construction drawing set. The second is a hand rendering I did of what the hallway would look like when completed. In the next photo, you can see the space has been gutted, and the first wall of the left side of the hallway is going in. I’ve drawn arrows to indicate where the structural columns are in that photo and how they interface with the new wall. The next drawings show the drywall going up and the columns being wrapped with the decorative pieces, almost like a bracelet on an arm. The last picture shows the completed hallway with arches and columns. This was a seamless process that required initial coordination between the GC’s crew for framing, dry walling and preparing the structure for the carpenter to add his millwork elements on top. Each drawing and picture below was taken from the same vantage point.

In the next few posts, we’ll take a look at the different rooms within the store and some of the custom displays created specifically for this project. I’ll share some of the code requirements and decorative details, as well.

Thanks for reading!!

XO,

Cass

 

Project Credits:

Project Design: Cassandra Buckalew Interiors

Project GC: JLT Services

Project Carpentry/Millwork: High Tech Design

 

 

 

Alys Beach

Those unmistakable Bermuda butteries form the entrance gates and visual markers to Alys Beach. Rooted in architecture from Bermuda, Antigua, and Central America, Alys Beach adheres to strict design guidelines and construction principles, which gives it a cohesive, distinctive look and design vocabulary throughout.

Originally, butteries in Bermuda were constructed to store perishable food like butter and milk. Made completely of stone, with a wooden door, these structures were detached from the main house, just a few stone steps away. The stepped minaret roof shape was made of limestone and many have found new use on the island as studios, tool sheds, etc. Since Bermuda has no fresh water source, the stepped roof had other functional reasons, too, like collecting rain water. Below is a picture of one from Bermuda and the ones at Alys Beach.

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Key West

Island Heart

Vernacular architecture, charming colorful cottages, narrow streets, warm weather, tropical flora and fauna and tough people who deal with mother nature’s constant threat by land or sea, my favorite places are islands.

This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about Key West, there is just so much to love on this tiny island.

And so many historic homes desperately needing to be restored. I need one of these to restore and preserve, either as a personal home or as a design project. The ceramic star on the outside of homes and businesses in Key West is given to properties that have displayed excellence in restoration and preservation. The designer, architect, contractors and craftsman who’ve worked on the project are given a certificate showing their involvement in the success of the project. Hoping one day to have a star myself.

 

You have to wander in Key West. The best finds are in the neighborhoods, tucked away from the crowds. The gingerbread in Key West is some of the most personal. Three of my favorite finds this trip are these below. I love it when I know a little something about the homeowner before I even meet them.

Southernmost House Hotel

Although this place is no secret, and in fact is one of the most well-known structures in Key West, the Southernmost House Hotel has the best beach view and cocktails by the pool. It’s the only beachfront, adult only property in Key West. The bar is open to the public, and it provides a quiet spot on the opposite end of noisy Duval St for a drink. This was the first home in Key West to have electricity, and Thomas Edison oversaw the electrical design and installation of the house himself. Built as a private home, during the prohibition, the mansion was used as a speakeasy with a restaurant and casino. Several gangsters on their way to Cuba and celebrities like Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, Louis Armstrong and Tennessee Williams could be found here in the 1940s when it was a nightclub called Cafe Cayo Hueso. This tiny cottage on property sits right next to the old house, and I’m requesting this one next time we visit. The house is painted in aqua and a coral peach color with beautiful iron gates and tiny little decorative tiles set in the stone. Seems fitting that a colorful castle like mansion such as this would have some decorative castle tiles as an accent.

That morning an iguana fell out of a tree and in the pool at our hotel. The staff said they had never seen that happen. Everyone heard a loud smack, looked over and he was in the pool. Startled momentarily, he didn’t move immediately, then swam over to the stairs, got out and climbed right back up in the tree. In all my visits I have never seen such large iguanas in Key West- the Caribbean islands yes. I had my eyes in the trees for falling iguanas since that morning (remember that weird movie with Tom Cruise and the falling frogs- that’s what I thought of) and saw this guy. Look at how big he is. And, since we were there at Christmas, I had to snap a pic of their island Christmas tree with pink flamingos.

The Saint

Currently, my favorite place to stay in Key West is The Saint. Cool and contemporary, this hotel occupies the old Key West Hospital. Newly renovated, with dark woods walls and floors, contrasted by this large blue velvet tufted banquette in the lobby, The Saint feels dark, cozy and enveloping with all the wood, reminiscent of the inside of a Cuban cigar box you’d see on Duval, sheltering you from the island heat, with a signature smell that grabs your attention when you walk in. It was so good in fact, I had to order it from the company who makes it when I got home. The hotel has a bar and restaurant onsite, and even if you’re not staying there, you need to go have a drink or grab a bite to eat. In addition to that signature scent, the hotel’s signature color is obviously blue, as it is present throughout the entire property. Even that signature scent is called Blue, a beautiful blend of amber, sandalwood, mandarin, lemon and bergamot. Located on Eaton St, with a sister property in New Orleans, you have to check it out.

Grace on Frances

I have also written about Grace on Frances before. It’s my personal favorite in Key West, and I can’t rave about it enough. As I mentioned in a previous post, this secret little gem is part gallery, part shop, has rotating art of all types, and has mastered the art of display. This time I purchased this ceramic french press. I have a single cup press, but this one makes about three cups of tea, has that toothy, un-glazed pottery feel, copper top, clean simple shape, and if you take out the strainer, it can double as a carafe.

The Green Pineapple

This combo yoga studio, cafe, and shop is lovely. Offering an assortment of gluten free, healthy options, this shop/studio is on Duval closer to the beach end, away from the craziness.  Bohemian style fashion, jewelry and a quick grab and go snack, if you don’t have time for a class, are perfect in the morning before exploring.

Vignette

Easy, breezy style in a darling little cottage on Southard St. One of my new favorites for fashion, jewelry and a few small gift items.

The saddest part is most people never get off Duval St when they visit, and with the exception of a few places, most places are cheap souvenir stores. Do you have a favorite in Key West or have you stayed at a great place I need to know about? Let me know. I’d love to add it my list next time.

Thanks for reading!

Xo,

Cass

 

The Island of the Gods

Hanging Gardens Bali

The road to our hotel was as black as the night sky. There were no lights, no streets signs, no nothing. Just thick palm leaves, greenery on all sides and a canopy of hanging vines and flowers hitting the windshield from time to time. With just a few feet in front of the car visible by the headlights, and the constant, grinding, engine sound, indicating our bus might not make it up the next hill, this was turning out to be more of an adventure than I had expected or desired after such a long flight.

When our guide said, “They don’t send drivers to your hotel alone at night because of the road,” that made the limited visibility even worse. None of us said anything out loud, but by the look on our faces, it was obvious we all thought the same thing. What? What do you mean? Why not? “It’s too dangerous,” he replied. Instantly my mind flashed to all the stories I’d heard of tourists being carjacked, taken off back roads, robbed, raped and murdered, or their bus falling off a steep cliff on a single lane road, high in the jungle mountains at night. And since I have such a vivid imagination, I took that story a step further by envisioning we would be stuck at the bottom of a ravine in the jungle all night, possibly hurt, no lights, with the sound of jungle animals all around, and either no one would know we were there, or no one could get to us until morning.

I have friends who have visited Bali and raved about it, but that didn’t stop my mind from going to the darkest possible places. Every now and then, the trees broke, and with what little light illuminated the night sky and the thick, lush landscape, you could see the road dropped off on either side of the car. Exactly how far down it dropped off we couldn’t see, but we knew we were going higher and higher up into the jungle with every turn. We nervously laughed and joked to ease the silence. The first time I saw car lights coming at us on the road, I felt relieved we weren’t alone. I thought, “Oh good, there are other people out here.” And then the following conversation ran in my head:

Were they dropping off tourists they had murdered or were going to murder? Surely they were coming from our hotel. It’s fine. You’re being silly. You’ve checked out the hotel, all the reviews, all the pictures, read every blog post written about it. You’re overacting. Maybe so, but do you really know where you’re going?

The answer to that was, no. I had no idea where we were going. So much of travel is trusting reputable companies in foreign countries to help you get around, and that’s what we were doing now.

Then I realized the road at its widest part was at most, only one and a half lane widths wide, and we’d have to make room for the oncoming car. I went into a complete panic. There was no room for them to pass, and the road dropped off on the side we were on. Once I realized they were barely even going to slow down, and instead, planned on passing us at full speed, I ducked my head down in my arms, and almost as if we were in unison, we yelled out some sort of curse word together as they passed. Once again we all nervously (and thankfully) laughed, realizing we were still alive and somehow managed not to get knocked off the road and fall off the cliff, and questioned why the hell they didn’t slow down. It was a long, tense, nerve wracking drive up the mountain in the jungle that night, and each time a car passed there were audible gasps followed by heavy sighs of relief and nervous laughter. I thought we’d never get there.

As we came to a clearing in the trees, we could see lights flickering up and down the mountainside across a deep valley from the mountain we were on. “OMG, what’s that over there?” we said. That’s your hotel, our guide said. Eyes widened, jaws dropped and we knew then, we weren’t going to become dead tourist statistics. Instead, we were headed to the jungle paradise I had seen in the pictures. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the hotel from that vantage point, but there was no way we were stopping on that road. We would find out later, the hotel puts candles around the pool and property every night, and that’s what we saw lit up across the valley.

We saw our first sign for the hotel and turned, drove through a very small, very poor village, and then the lobby appeared. Bathed in a soft glow of light, with no walls, the lobby was visible from all sides and the car drove right under the roof. We all looked around in amazement at the integrated design of the driveway and the lobby. Lightly scented hand towels, refreshing lemongrass drinks, beautiful flowers and candles were everywhere. Bali smells like a combination of sandalwood incense, lemongrass and sweet frangipani flower. If I ever go back, I hope I arrive at night again. It was sensory paradise. The two story, centrally located, nautilus shell chandelier in the restaurant lit up at night was a stunning sight as we descended in the cable car from the lobby.

To get up and down the mountainside, there are a series of cable cars, starting at the top of the mountain where the lobby is, then another one down to the restaurant and bar, followed by a final one to get to the villas.

The main dining room and bar overlook the jungle and pool, and similar to other parts of Asia, flowers are everywhere. These orange ones reminded me of hollowed out pine cones.

The walkways to our villa were lined with moss covered everything: vases, statues, and walls and monkeys roam freely around the property.

Our room was the traditional Balinese style design with wood trim and details, thatch roof, and a private infinity pool overlooking the jungle. I could have stayed in our villa for the duration of our stay, but I knew I’d miss so much if I did that. The air in the jungle was soft, moist and cool. I needed a light scarf or something on my shoulders in the morning at breakfast, but by midday the weather was perfect. August is the best time to visit Bali weather wise, but for that very reason, it is also the busiest. Thankfully, there are sarongs everywhere in Bali, so if you get out and get chilly, there is always a sarong nearby. Each room has it’s own temple outside the front door with a statue of a Hindu god, and the staff make offerings and decorate them with marigolds each day, another flower commonly seen in Bali. Every detail in the architecture and design of the villas and hotel was thoroughly considered.

Treatment rooms, massage rooms and massage tables are all over the property. If you don’t like one room, just keep looking. There are several to choose from. All are open air and many massage tables are situated under open-air pavilions near the river that flows down through the valley. There are small outdoor platforms for yoga, and the entire property is about resting, relaxing and being away from everything. Now I know why it was so hard to get here. All the fears I had on the nighttime drive getting here about falling off the cliff and no one finding me, were all put to rest, because the no one finding me part was a huge plus at this point. The frangipani flower is all over Bali. It grows in parts of the Caribbean, too, but something about being in a new place makes us aware of things we never noticed before. Maybe it was the abundance of these flowers that brought them to the forefront, but I’ve never noticed or smelled them in the Caribbean like I did in Bali. Not only are the trees everywhere, but the Balinese use them to decorate everything. They also spread them out to dry in the sun, grind them into a fine powder and make a massage oil (among many other things) with them.

Across the valley and over the river is the temple. This Hindu temple has a relationship with the hotel and offers guests the opportunity to dine at the temple after a private Hindu blessing with the priest. We all sat on the ground in the temple with the priest and were led through the Hindu ritual. Each person has an individual ceremonial offerings basket, which contains flowers of different significance, rice, and other organic items. Some you put your head, behind your ears or hold in the tip of your fingers while you pray. Incense are used to cleanse you spiritually and burn all around in the ceremony. They are believed to send our prayers up to God and remove harmful spirits. Bali is the most culturally rich place I have ever been, and I learned so much that it’s hard to put to words. After the prayer, we had a candlelight dinner at the temple, under the light of the Moon, surrounded by flowers.

A gecko decided to join us at dinner (somewhere in the thatched roof above), and if you’ve been to Bali or Southeast Asia, you know how loud that critter can be. I swear they are nocturnal, too. The gecko is all over Bali, and I think his favorite pastime is to make as much noise as possible. Even the littlest ones are insanely loud for their size. If you ever wondered why they are called geckos, YouTube a gecko sound and you’ll understand. It sounds like they are saying GEC-KO or UH-OH repeatedly! Our first morning in Bali, I heard a strange noise outside our villa and went to breakfast and asked the staff what that noise was in the wee hours. They said, “It’s probably a gecko.” Thankfully, their second favorite pastime is eating mosquitoes, so aside from that annoyingly loud noise, they are harmless, and since mosquitoes love me, the gecko can stay. They are also seen as good luck in Southeast Asia and are believed to be descended from dragons. Later there was one in our room (again up in the thatch ceiling) in Amed, and that thing called out like clockwork at midnight every single night. I took this picture of the priest before we sat down for the ritual and blessing with him at the temple. Through the smoky incense and temple lighting, it looks like a column of God-light is shining on him. Pretty much how this entire experience seemed-surrounded by God-light. Now we know why Bali is called the Island of the Gods. The last picture I took from our hotel looking across at the temple.

The first picture I saw of Hanging Gardens in my research was the pool. It was the single most memorable image I saw while trying to figure out where to stay. It’s what initially sparked the desire to want to stay here. Bali has the most incredibly designed hotels I have ever seen in one destination. It’s as if each hotel is trying to outdo the other one. Consistently one of the top-rated pools in the world, it looks as if it was inspired by the undulating shape of the rice terraces found all over Bali-giving this design a sense of place. Every morning there was an enchanting layer of mist slowly rising from the treetops like a veil lifting away to reveal the jungle before our eyes, and the pool was like a mirror reflecting the clouds. It was magic.

Having been all over the world, it has always been hard to pick an absolute favorite place, that one specific hotel that has it all for me. Hanging Gardens is it, and surprisingly, it doesn’t have a beach. I love the secluded feel, the private villas with infinite pools, the food, fresh juices in the morning, the service, the quiet, exotic natural location. I love how close you feel to nature and how far away you feel from civilization. I don’t know if it’s called Hanging Gardens because of the flowers on vines that hang from the jungle trees, or if it’s because it’s literally hanging on the edge of the jungle, cantilevered out over the treetops. I found this aerial image on the internet, and unfortunately couldn’t find the photographer to give photo credit to, but you can see how it looks like it’s hanging on the edge of the mountain.

Hope you enjoyed it. I can’t wait to share more about Bali with you in the next blog.

xo,

Cassandra

Bondi Icebergs

Swim|Drink|Dine

Topping the list of my must-do places in Sydney is Bondi Icebergs. Nestled on a cliff above, or maybe I should say almost in the Pacific Ocean (see pics below), this historic location overlooking Sydney’s most iconic beach, Bondi Beach, has the most spectacular, panoramic views and equally spectacular food. And did I mentioned the lap pool? It’s probably one of the most notable and photographed lap pools by the sea.

Bondi Icebergs Swimming Club

The club itself dates back to 1928 when a few local lifeguards were looking to stay in shape during the colder months. They formed an all male, Winter Swimming Club, which to this day, remains the only licensed Winter Swimming Club in the world.  This history states this:

They formed the Bondi Icebergs Winter Swimming Club, drew up a constitution and elected office bearers. Included in the constitution was a rule that to maintain membership it was mandatory that swimmers compete on three Sundays out of four for a period of five years. This rule, known as the “15B rule” still exists and has been the source of much commentary over the years.

It wasn’t until 1995 women were permitted, and I love this old picture of all the men taken from their website. There are more swim club shots here. There’s one image where the swimmers are holding blocks of ice (icebergs) in the pool, which makes me wonder if this is some sort of initiation for new members, or maybe how they open the winter swimming season.

Here are some images I took of the waves crashing in the pool. The restaurant and club are in the white building.

It reminds me of this unforgettable shot by Slim Aarons.

 

Bondi Beach

Bondi Beach is one of the most well-known tourist attractions in Sydney. When asked why it was so well-known, most locals said they really had no idea why it was so popular, that there were other beaches they felt were even more beautiful not too far from Bondi. Maybe so, but it was gorgeous as you can see. It reminded me of parts of California, especially Laguna Beach area. Along the cliff, there is a path you can easily walk from the restaurant out to the point with rock formations, flowers, and residences. I was thinking Airbnb at this point.

Icebergs Bar and Restaurant

Dinner, drinks, this view, organic, seasonal, modern Italian fare and an incredibly knowledgeable staff made this a top-notch dining experience. The service at Icebergs is outstanding. The interiors are perfectly suited for a location near the sea, where the harsh environment easily damages finishes and people might come in with wet clothes from swimming. It’s contemporary, functional, yet elegant.  If you take a look at their site, they give credit to nearly everyone involved in the meal, including their sea salt maker. If that isn’t proud of your growers, I don’t know what it is. Our server mentioned they had opened a restaurant in Bali, too (as many Australians are doing), but we couldn’t get there. Next time it will be on the list. Conveniently, we were the last to leave the lunch seating, because we took so much time asking so many questions about the food, wine, design and everything else, I was able to get pics without anyone around.

Definitely one of my most memorable meals ever. Put it on your list, you won’t be disappointed.

Xo,

Cassandra

 

Sydney, Australia

G’day Mate!

Yes, they really say that, along with all sorts of other charming little slang phrases. And that accent is so wonderful to listen to, but of course, they thought our accent was, too. 🙂

Shangri-La

We stayed at the Shangri-la in Sydney, which is situated overlooking the harbor, with perfect views of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. I love the Shangri-La brand and enjoyed staying at the one in Bangkok, too. There’s always a huge assortment for breakfast, the rooms are spacious and beautifully done, the cost considering they are a 5-star hotel is actually not over-the-top, and the spa always incorporates everything I love about Eastern healing methods and philosophies. Since I didn’t plan anything the day we arrived, as I wasn’t sure how we would feel coming off that flight, we had time to relax. We took a little walk outside the hotel and while we waited for our rooms, we booked our spa treatments. All of us desperately needed a massage after that flight. Chi, the spa at the Shangri-la, is dark, cozy, and dimly lit with wood walls and subtle Eastern accents. We did the couples massage, which worked out all the kinks from that long flight.

 

Our room had a great view of the Opera House, and each window has built-in window seats, perfect for room service and watching the boats come in and out of the harbor snuggled in the robe the hotel provides.

We had dinner at the highly awarded restaurant Altitude, located at the top of the hotel. Serving Australian cuisine, with floor to ceiling windows, this has to be the best dinner view in the city. It made this list of 39 Restaurants Where the Food is as Good as the View. My new favorite, one shoulder LBD I got at Treehouse before I left (a new cute boutique in Smyrna, if you’e headed that way), was perfectly flowy, didn’t wrinkle in my suitcase and was zero fuss -throw it on and go.

 

Sydney Opera House

The next day we toured the Opera House. I have studied a lot of architecture and design in college and traveled all over the world and experienced it firsthand. This and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona have to be my two favorites in the world. Both are mind blowingly creative, and show the pure genius of these two architects. Each are like nothing else in the world. Jorn Utzon, a Danish architect, submitted the design for a competition and out of over 200 entries, his design won. Completely different from any of the other designs and shapes of the typical modernist architecture of the time, and obviously influenced by growing up with a father who was a navel architect, the multiple sail shape design was perfect to sit out on Bennelong Point, welcoming the many ships coming into the harbor. Baffling engineers for quite some time as to how to actually build the design, it was Utzon who would end up coming up with the spherical solution to build his project. Problems arose and he was forced to withdraw from the project, and locals began protesting in the the streets to have him reinstated. Utzon never returned to Sydney to see his masterpiece completed, and another architect stepped in to see the project through its final stages. Many years after completion, he was asked to come back on the project and develop a set of design principles that could be used for years to come through many renovations the Opera House would need. Utzon’s son, also an architect, would oversee many of the renovations and changes in his father’s passing.

The combination of wood, glass and concrete is breathtaking. In every picture I had ever seen, I always though it was one building. While they are connected and sitting on top of an ancient ziggurat, except for the sails that are nesting within one another, the cluster of sails don’t touch. As you can see in the first picture, there are three separate nesting sails. There is also a specific point outside, where you can stand and look down the center axis of both halls. Design drawings along with a page illustrating this axis are here. On another the note, the tiles on the shells of the building are not white. Utzon wanted the building to photograph white but wanted it to change with the different lights of the sun. He also wanted it to be bright without causing glare. He used a special ceramic from Japan and laid the tiles in a chevron pattern. The tiles are actually a combination of beige tiles and white tiles, which allows the sails to change colors. In the evening, the sunlight renders the roof a warm beige tone which you can see below. There is so much to say about this building that requires more space and time, so if you want to read more, you can visit the website here, which includes the entire history, process, details on the solution to building it, and more.

 

 

Harbour Walk

There are walking paths all around the harbor and the views are stunning. You can even climb the top of the bridge, like these brave souls pictured below.

The Rocks

This historic district is full of character. Restaurants, bars and shops line the streets with the bridge towering in the background. Tap Rooms, the brewery I blogged about previously, is on the corner in the last picture. If you missed that blog, you can find it here. This is Sydney’s first settlement and was once a place of prostitutes and sailors but has transformed into a modern destination with art galleries, creative shops and a market with over 100 stalls on Saturdays and Sundays.

While in The Rocks, you have to check out Denham, the jeanmaker.

And Hat World

Sunset Harbour Cruise

Watching the sun go down behind the bridge and seeing the Opera House change colors in evening light on a harbor cruise is a must. Before heading out, stop and get a drink at Opera Bar at the base of the Opera House overlooking the harbor. You get great views of the Opera House, Fort Dennison, Darling Harbor and even a pass under the bridge.

Love this city! Since everything is clustered together by the harbor, it’s easy to see a lot in a short amount of time. Can’t wait to go back!

Xo,

Cassandra

Beer on the Rocks

Beer Lovers + Design Lovers

Endeavour Tap Rooms, located in Sydney’s oldest, colonial hotel building in the Rocks District (Sydney’s first settlement), called me from across the street when I saw the aqua colored tiles, casement windows and burgundy trim on the facade of this architectural, historic gem. This quaint, almost pretty without being feminine, brewery feels nothing like your standard brewpub. Don’t let the botanicals and birds on the walls, flowers at each table, and beautiful wallpaper fool you, its more than just a pretty place.

Serving only seasonally harvested, Australian ingredients with no preservatives, along with seasonal libations, and the star of the show, of course, the vintage beer, this little corner spot has a 600-liter brewery, eight tanks, four key lines, four rotating taps and a lot of knowledgeable people behind it, in both the hospitality and brewing industries in Australia. There are 10 different beers to sample by Endeavour Vintage Beer Co with an interior that has just as earthy of a palette as the beer.

With the classic, barrel back, wood pub chairs and colonial style print wallpaper, this space hearkens back to its original iteration as Seaman’s hotel. With a lighthearted, contemporary British pub feel, thanks mostly to all the wood tones, this space feels airy and bright with all the whites and greens, but also grounded with the dark wood floors, railing and brown geometric tiles. I loved the special surprise of finding the original fireplace in the ladies restroom, the logo design on the coasters and the built-in, self-serve water faucet in the dining room. And what is that beautiful pink flower that looks like a pinecone?

 

 

 

The beer was wonderfully refreshing and light after day of exploring the Opera House and Rocks District. Definitely a must visit next time you’re in Sydney.

Xo,

Cass

 

Neocon Design Conference Chicago

Functionality|Artistry|Creativity|Innovation

Between the classes and the products, it takes a bit to digest everything at Neocon. There is so much to take in, see, do and remember. Below are pictures of installations, tile work, trim details, furniture, rooms, and new trends in design I saw and thought were noteworthy or loved, for one reason or another, in both residential and commercial design.

Artistic Tile’s fashion inspired mosaic tile jacket and dress were works of art. I can’t imagine the painstaking process of making that dress and capturing the draping of the fabric around the curves of the body. Mosaics usually come on a mesh material to make it easier to tile in large squares, but these had to take a great deal of both planning and patience.

 

Devon and Devon’s updated version of the hot and cold faucet were my favorite faucets.

 

Luum Textile’s vertical, suspended, fiber installation was a huge hit and had everyone walking through it, touching it and feeling it. They had several stations set up so you could interact with the fibers, weave a small carpet while you were there, and basically play with their materials. Isn’t that what everything in an interior should be about, the ability to touch, feel and use all of our senses to experience it?

 

Mannington Commercial‘s back-lit and up-lit, cut and torn paper scene gives me all sorts of ideas, specifically about something wintry for Christmas.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t recall where this was when I saw it, because after multiple floors, showrooms and booths, you tend to lose track, but I love the idea of creating an art installation as a visual barrier to define and divide space, instead of using walls. This installation was made of rope and what looked to be printed paper with the molecular structure of something. The installation was shaped like a V, and inside the V were tables and chairs which provided an envelope for those wanting to rest and be away from the noisy crowds.

 

The most innovative product I saw was Sedia Systems’ Jumpseat. This seat is pure genius, can support a full size adult, mounts on the wall or floor and flips up like theater seats when not in use. When folded up, the seat is only 4″ thick, making it the perfect solution for tight spaces. The first picture was their display at Neocon and even their imagery was clever showing a man mid-air as if he was jumping.

 

Samuel and Sons’ trim showroom, much like Artistic Tile, went down as my favorite for using their products in non-conventional ways. Although Samuel and Sons is carried here in Atlanta by Ainsworth Noah, there isn’t a showroom dedicated specifically to trim. Samuel and Sons is a passementerie lover’s dream. It was their creative use of fringe trimmings on paint brushes and tape trim to make the fabric for the outdoor sling chairs in their beach display that I loved. Samuel and Sons is a library of every trim imaginable arranged by color and grouped by style, making it easy to find the trim you need.

 

West Elm Workspace won the Best of Neocon Award in three categories, one of which was the furniture systems category. As people are now discovering, the open work environment is actually more prohibitive to working efficiently and productively. Really? I was wondering when that was coming. I’ve never understood the open working environment to begin with because who can concentrate? West Elm has come up with a new way to tackle the privacy issues in the open environment with their Haus concept. Haus is designed for individuals or small groups to work away from the busy, noisy open office without the need for walls, while providing both visual and acoustical privacy in three different configurations. And as you can see, it looks like a tiny house, thus making it seem less like an office and more like a social place for collaboration. I’m so thankful I don’t work in a traditional office setting. If I did, I would need one of these for sure. This is such a great solution for the office without having to put up walls and take them down based on how the team changes, grows and/or diminishes over the years.

 

There are some gorgeous kitchen showrooms at The Mart that will make you drool and rethink your current kitchen at least a couple of times. de Giulio  is one of them. If these kitchens resemble Siematic at all to you, it’s because Mick de Giulio has designed several of their collections including their New York showroom. There aren’t enough accolades for this man. The finishes are luxurious, and the solutions for problems we face in the kitchen are brilliant. I need that built-in, hanging pot storage.  On a side note, have you seen one of these Elektra Italian Espresso Machine? It’s the real deal and definitely deserves it own special task light along with that arched, tiled niche to give it pride of place. I’m pretty sure I recall seeing one in Venice while we were there.

 

But by far, my single favorite thing at Neocon was Atelier Gary Lee’s Lady Stinger Chair. Highly sculptural and displayed in American walnut matte finish, this chair, with its combination classic, 18th century cabriole legs, bee stinger vertical back, and modern sensibility, is to die for in my book. I have the perfect place in my home for it, too. It nets at $9K, though. Eek!

 

Whether it’s commercial or residential design, I take inspiration from all aspects of this industry. So often you see a small detail that leads you to something else, or points you down a different path. Exposure to all forms of art, design and creativity inform my work on all levels.

Looking forward to Neocon 2018!

xo,

Cassandra

 

 

 

 

Chill Chicago

Meditation | Massage Studio

Last week I was in Chicago for a design conference and stumbled upon this place. What a gem, a respite in the city for busy minds and busy people. I needed it, too. I just left Neocon at the Mart, and if you’ve ever been to any of the Marts for a show, you know what kind of sensory overload it can be. Not to mention, I had a full day of classes and learning, while trying to cram all the products, displays and vendors in between. The elevator lines were ridiculous, so I walked all the way up to the 14th floor, via the stairs, for my first class and worked my way down each floor (again, via the stairs), stopping on the floors I had classes and circling the showrooms and products. Ugh. They were setting up for the block party as I was leaving, and I really felt like I should be there to network and meet more people, but the older (and wiser) I get, the more I realize running myself completely into the ground is counterproductive. I needed some downtime.

A Chicago friend suggested Gilt Bar for dinner and drinks, so I left the Mart and started walking that way to meet my husband, who was still about an hour and a half away. As I was walking, I found this beautiful black storefront, peeked in the window and saw someone swinging in these chairs below. Such a neat space. The manager was outside, saw me looking in the window and invited me in. It was as if the universe knew exactly what I needed at that moment. Calm. Chill is a modern meditation and massage studio with a small retail area and juice bar. It is free of the typical iconography one expects in a yoga/mediation studio. No Buddhas, eastern symbols, ancient pictures or signs. Instead, it is a blank space, free of color and/or anything else that might be a visual distraction. If you know me, you know how much I love white for it’s visual silence and this place is just that, visually silent. A little visit to their website shows exactly how simple and easily approachable their concept is. It’s straight forward. And thank goodness they don’t burn incense, because the only thing that makes me feel like I’m choking more thank incense is an actual cigarette. Aside from the smoke itself, I must be the only person on the planet that finds incense stinky. Their concept, taken from their site is: No incense. No chakras. No dogmas. No gurus.

Just good old fashion sitting. And that is what meditation is, which truthfully is hard enough in itself.

 

 

There are two main rooms for yoga and mediation, one larger room, and the one I loved was the smaller private room. After years in the fitness industry teaching aerobics, spin and yoga, sharing a large group room doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Meditation, like prayer can be more powerful when done with others, but my practice is so personal, I prefer to be alone without any distractions.

 

There are sectioned off chair massage stations behind white curtains, which makes it so easy to not have to get undressed. Such a great concept for popping in, get a neck and back massage without the big production of getting undressed, putting a robe on, putting slippers on, getting under the covers, waiting for the therapist to come in, and then getting dressed again. Sitting down in the chair and having her work on my back for 30 mins was perfect. I love the spa style treatment you get at many places, but sometimes you just need the simplicity of someone working out the kinks without all the fuss.

 

There were thoughtful quotes on the walls, and my favorite line is the last one below. Calm is productive. So often we forget if we aren’t feverishly running around tackling our to-do list and conquering the world, we aren’t being productive. In fact, sitting in meditation is probably the most productive thing you can do for yourself, mentally and physically. It takes us humans a long time to get that, and as much I love my daily meditation, there are still times when I’m tempted to skip it, because it seems there is something more pressing, more “productive,” I could be doing.

 

So next time you’re in Chicago, check out Chill. I promise you’ll be thankful you gave your mind and body the rest. Website here.

xo,

Cassandra

P.S. I highly recommend Gilt Bar and Bavette’s which are next door. on either side just a couple storefronts down. Both are very highly rated in the city and are simple romantic and elegant.