News & CultureThe New Rules Of Interior Design
Enough with squeaky-clean lines and sterile surfaces. It's time to turn those blank canvases into something that makes your house look like a human being actually lives there (and one with an amazing design sense).
Blow Up Your Kitchen: Destroy, de-think & deconstruct
My wife and I recently bought a farmhouse from 1800 that had not been updated since, maybe, 1803. Like: There was no heat in the house. Like: The bathroom was located in the backyard. The idea was to reclaim it for the 21st century a little bit at a time, over the course of years. But the one thing you need in a house right away is a kitchen. (That's mine in the photo.) And I learned a nifty fact: Kitchens are expensive. Budget-crushingly expensive. You can't ask a professional how much it'll cost to re-do your kitchen without them saying, “As much as you can possibly imagine.” A kitchen faucet alone can cost up to $3,000, but the thing that really drives a nail into the heart of your budget is cabinets. People will tell you $20,000 is cheap. People will tell you $60,000 is normal. But what if you didn't need cabinets? We asked Bobby Houston, a friend who re-does houses at Hauswork Design, to do a (free) drawing of what our house might look like, and he suggested something called a deconstructed kitchen. That basically means it's made in part from existing pieces of furniture, antique or new. Big tables instead of counters and permanent islands, vintage shelving instead of hanging cabinets.
1. No hanging cabinetry—it makes the room heavy, hides your pretty things, and costs lots of money.
2. Old shelves + glassware + succulents = superior wall decor.
3. Jersey did concrete counters minus the concrete, thanks to Ardex Feather Finish.
4. Jersey Ice Cream Co. found old shelving at a flea market and substituted it for cabinets.
5. A DCS DishDrawer was built into the cabinets.
Then we asked our friends at Jersey Ice Cream Co.—a husband-and-wife design team and stars of Pinterest who re-do houses and make them extremely cool—for advice. (They built the kitchen you see here.) They said the first thing to do is turn off the Internet: “Stop comparing perfect cabinets, and sit in your kitchen and think about what you want. Also consider open shelves—they look beautiful, and it'll save a ton of money.” The deconstructed kitchen (it's probably best not to go about bandying that term in mixed company; people will find you annoying) has lots of advantages. It looks human. It has texture. It's creative and bric-a-brac in that way people are into now—the same people who put all their photos and paintings in clusters of vintage picture frames. And it's way, way cheaper. You can blow $10,000 on a bunch of cool tables, shelves, and freestanding sinks and still save 10,000 to 20,000 bucks. And the best part is: When you move, you can take it all with you. — Devin Friedman
Pull your furniture away from the wall.
Just a few inches. The room will feel larger. Trust us.
A Counter-Argument On Counters
Sure, you could upgrade to Italian marble, but (1) it's not cheap, and (2) you're going to live in mortal fear of raspberries and other stain bombs. Here are three better (and cheaper) moves. — Sarah Ball
Kinda Cheap: Concrete
You've seen morgue-like slabs of it in industrial restaurants, but there's a refined, homier way to do it—sanded, polished, sealed, and even painted. ($75-$135 per square foot)
Even Cheaper: Stainless steel
Indestructible and chef-approved. It might look chilly under a halogen, so make sure you bathe it in warm interior light. ($75-$115 per square foot)
Freakin' Dirt Cheap: Butcher block
A rag and some mineral oil every couple of months keep it from cracking—but frankly it looks more badass with every score and ding. And you can sand off any stain in seconds. ($10-$90 per square foot)
Retrofit Your Rental
Brian Sawyer of New York design firm Sawyer Berson helps you upgrade without losing your lease
Switch Your Focus from Lights to Dimmers
Designers hate overhead lighting, but if you're stuck with it, installing dimmers can make a huge difference. Same goes for floor lamps. “If there's no dimmer on the switch, you can just add one to the cord,” Sawyer says.
Get Plastered, But Use Paint
The paint job your place got the week before you moved in shouldn't be permanent. To add some texture, Sawyer recommends using pricier Portola-brand paint, which offers a lime wash that can imitate a real plaster wall.
The Key to Shelves Is to Disappear Them
Shelves—and the stuff you put on them—are an underrated design element. “The simpler the better,” says Sawyer. You want to place the focus on the objects the shelves are supporting: art…in the form of a print, books, or your Jordans collection.
Add Color To Unlikely Places, Part 1
Enough with cold stainless-steel appliances. Your kitchen will (almost) seem exciting if you throw one of these things in it
1. Smeg Refrigerator $1,999
They've always come in colors— now they've got functional freezers.
2. Big Chill Pro Dishwasher $1,895
Simply designed and not too pricey.
3. La Marzocco Linea Mini $4,495
Espresso porn from the Italians who produce those coffee-shop showpieces.
4. Bluestar 48″ Platinum Series Range $10,089
Professional-grade without looking like it comes from a restaurant-supply store.
Ignore the dimensions of your windows.
Window size doesn't need to determine how big the window appears. So never put a window treatment inside the window. If there's space above the window, hang a curtain rod or Roman shades as close to the ceiling as possible (and allow the sides to go beyond the width of the window) to create the illusion of a larger window and higher ceiling.
10 Ways To Master The Art Of Lighting
Brian Faherty, founder of Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co. in Portland, Oregon, schools us in how to use light as a design tool
Embrace recessed lights.
“Max four inches [in diameter]. When you have them as directional lighting in work areas, you can add a pendant without cluttering your ceiling too much.”
Ignore “rules” about matching metals.
“Your kitchen should harmonize, but when it comes to finishes and materials, it can be more interesting to have, say, brass hardware and black light fixtures, plus a colored pendant.”
Just don't go too bright.
“Yes, you want to be able to see what you're chopping—but this is also a room where you're having people in for a glass of wine or hors d'oeuvres. You want it to be welcoming.”
Transitional space is underrated.
This is the place to create ambience: “I think the spaces between spaces are really important. In hallways, I'm really into antique-style bulbs. You're not reading in your hallway—it's about mood.”
“The living room should only be lighted with lamps. When you're sitting down, you want that light to be centered lower, around people's faces. I have a floor lamp in a corner next to a chair that's a nice place to read, a pair flanking a 1970s credenza, and one of our Ion Lamps next to my turntable, so I can get that needle on track three, you know?”
There's never too much dimmer.
“The more dimmable, the better.”
Sconce plus lamp is the one-two punch.
“On either side of your bed, have both a wall-mounted sconce and a bedside lamp: When you look at the bed and have sconces on both sides, it gives the room balance and symmetry. The swing-arm sconces in our room aren't always on, but when you need that extra reading light, they're great.”
Bedroom lamps should go both ways.
“As opposed to a desk lamp, where you just get that down light, a lamp next to a bed should shine light up and down—it makes the room restful and more soothing.”
Don't get too far from the mirror.
“Either over the mirror or on each side—you need a really good light. But it doesn't have to be the brightest (and harshest) light. There's nothing worse than when you don't like how you look in your own bathroom.”
Make a guest bath or half bath sexy.
“A powder bath in general can be a lot moodier.”
—As told to Sarah Ball
AirBnB An Interior Designer
On the one hand: Who spends $1,000 so they can pretend to have taste they don't have? On the other hand: There are way too many types of cabinet pulls. Enter Homepolish, a web-based full-service interior-design firm that allows you to take baby steps. Instead of paying a retainer for a whole-house overhaul (that's like inviting your first date to Thanksgiving at your parents'), you can pay the company $130 an hour (ten hours minimum) to help you select furniture for your living room or re-do a bathroom. Other companies are getting in on the game, too: Tappan curates art, while Framebridge offers framing plus placement tips. It's a stress-free way to make your home—or just your gallery wall—Instagram-ready. — Garrett Munce
The Design-iest Speakers Ever Turn Out To Be The Best Speakers Ever, Too
There used to be two options: sleek speakers that sounded like an iPhone dropped in a garbage can, or high-end masterpieces with enough diodes (and wires) to pass muster at NASA. Now the highest-end audio gear sacrifices zero visual aesthetic for quality of sound. Here are five speakers that'll impress both art directors and audiophiles. — Andrew Goble
Don't be afraid of glossy paint.
On ceilings, it brings in more natural light and serves as a cheat to give the appearance of a higher ceiling. And on any surface, the reflections—of sunlight, city lights, water, your neighbor's dog—create a kind of art.
Add Color To Unlikely Places, Part 2
Another thing Scandinavians, they of perfect bicycles and knits and towheaded Bond girls, do exactly right: the surgical and thoughtful use of paint—on floors, furniture, trim, and ceilings, and as a sparing accent against walls of cloud white. Besides saving you six Benjamin Moore runs for more roller covers, it's a look that couldn't be sleeker. Here's the case for our favorite Nordic hack. — S.B.
Sallow white rental-grade ceilings make a room feel squat, but a ceiling with a tint—a deep blue, a warm peach, or even a dark green—makes it soar.
2. Wood Trim
There's something stuffy and Oval Office about bright white trim. Especially if the woodwork is ornate. Gray that stuff out—and set it to a “satin-finish max.”
More subtle and less committed than the accent wall: color in the back of a bookcase (or cabinet) designed to make all your cool stuff look cooler.
Fewer things on the wall. Way fewer.
One thing. Maybe two. (See above.) Think of your house as a museum. If you're going to the trouble of hanging something up, it should be showcased. The spot on your wall is almost more important than what you place on it. Feel free to swap things in and out as an easy way to reboot your interior.
Get Better (And Pricier—Sorry) Paint
Paint is the fastest and easiest way to update a room, but if you've ever visited your local paint store, you probably felt like 7,438 were a few too many greens. Rather than offering tons of choices, Farrow & Ball's strict palette of 132 paint colors is part of the brand's appeal—more fancy-restaurant tasting menu than discount buffet. But—and there's always a “but”—you'll balk at the price. Three times more than what you find in the paint section at Home Depot? Yes, you're now veering into wallpaper-pricing territory (and in case you're interested, Farrow & Ball also makes fine wallpapers). But you've gotta pay for higher quality. The buckets contain an unusually high level of pigment. What does that mean to you? More vibrant colors, higher density, and more depth. Everything else in the room (from your sofa to your artwork) will pop. — Louise Hart
- Farrow & Ball Drop Cloth
- Farrow & Ball Inchyra Blue
- Farrow & Ball Salon Drab
- Farrow & Ball Worsted
Your Bed Should Be As Well Dressed As You Are
It's the last stop—and your last chance—for taste
Some of the most stylish guys we know have a bad habit of ignoring their bedrooms: humdrum sheets, suspiciously off-white pillowcases, and comforters so threadbare they look like the same ones their moms bought them before they went to college. But overhauling your bedroom is easy: When you're shopping for bedding, look for the designers you're already wearing. Whether they're vibey geometric shapes, classic chalk stripes, or enough palm fronds to shade all of Bermuda, you'll give your favorite patterns more real estate than your tie rack ever could. — A.G.
1. Hoxton Collection bedding Ralph Lauren $405
2. Cashmere stripe sham James Perse $395
3. Tropical leaves sheets CB2 x The Hill-Side $119
4.Southwest-inspired comforter Thread Experiment x David Hart $178
One Last Thing: A Little Love For The Bathroom, Please
Portland designer Jessica Helgerson knows her way around a reno. Here, her tips on how to elevate your lavatory
Replace Your Hardware
Swap out plastic towel bars, rusty shower fixtures, and banged-up faucets for natural, un-lacquered brass—the right kind of patina.
Throw in a Few Plants
They provide visual texture, bringing softness and giving the eye a refreshing pause from the hard surfaces throughout most bathrooms.
Make Your Towel a Design Piece
It's a way to add color and pattern without committing to a more long-term finish, such as paint or tile. Try the organic Mediterranean towels from Coyuchi.