Friday, June 29, 2012

Designing a Great Kitchen

I have always had a love of creating and designing kitchens.  Long before it became big business, my clients and I would tackle the project using a variety of sources, from cabinet maker to hardware suppliers.  It's a lot easier now with one stop shopping and sources that can all be found in one place.  The end result, however, is always the same when the approach is right.  Keep it simple (heard that from me before?) .......make sure function comes first, and design with a style that you love in a way that your planning will pay off year after year.

Design projects for me should always be the same.  They should all look like they gently floated down from heaven and landed in the right spot.  But getting there requires a bit of planning.  As Katie Couric has said "it takes a lot of effort to make it look effortless"....and the same is true for any design project.  The planning stages are all about assembling your options and then removing most of them so that the finished project has just what one needs, is built on selectons that you love, and has an enduring sense of taste and style supported by the working function of its purpose. 

Recently, I finished a project in Charleston, SC, small, simple and rich in style.  When I sent it to a prospective client who has been agonizing over her kitchen re-do for quite some time I was delighted to hear this back from her .........

Here are a few pictures of that project.


Since finding myself temporarily in the great state of Florida and returning to a retail store, the ever constant M word (MATCH) gives me pause.  When it comes to design, I threw that word out and buried it ages ago (maybe as early as my first year as a professional designer, in 1975).  Not only is this a no win scenario - that perfect match is sure to create an interior that looks right out of a furniture store.  Since, in my view, the best interiors are always the ones that are as Billy Baldwin said, "above all else .....personal (sic)" can only imagine how discordant this needle in a hay stack search is to me.

Madison Avenue may support the package deal with everything a perfect match, but as a designer, I do not.  I continue to say there is no genius in perfection, and a perfect match is one of the best examples.

Here's my best advice to those who fear anything less than that perfect match; choose what you love.  Let that be your first priority - let your close second be how what you love fits with what you have or where you are going.  Using this formula, I have always found that things have a way of fitting beautifully together - with the elements of personal taste, appropriateness and the desire to achieve an interior with that great triumverate of comfort, function and aesthetic.

Above:  A favorite project for the Symphony ASID Showhouse in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Alexander Julian, celebrity guest for the show, wanted to purchase the carved pine pedestal, sadly, sold the day before.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Beginning a Design or Decorating Project and Don't Know Where To Begin? It's Easy.......

Throughout my career I have seen clients, friends and people on the street get stumped by this dilemma of WHERE TO BEGIN.  It never fails that when I ask them if they know where to begin they give me answers like paint? flooring? lighting? floor plans........????  The list goes on and on and while each of those is a partly true or could be a true answer, the real answer is this.  BEGIN WITH THE THING THAT YOU LOVE THE MOST.  It could be anything .......a fabric, a color, a piece of furniture, an architectural feature .....anything at all.  I once designed an entire kitchen for myself using a picture of a plate that I never bought.  (It was quite delicious when it was all finished - pale, pale periwinkle lavendar walls, deep shiny hunter green backsplash tile, warm ivory white trim everywhere, rich simple honey oak stained cabinets ......)

Beginning with the thing that you love the most makes it all so very easy.  After that, it is like dominoes the way it will all fall into place.  So before you get all concerned about your project, spend some time thinking about things that you love and from them, find that one that is the most appropriate for your project and get started.  You can't imagine how much fun you will have after that ......choosing more things that you love until your dream space is complete.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Shop For What You Need ...........Buy What You Love

Shopping for home furnishings?  Got a nook or a cranny?  Need a new bed (or want one)?  Searching for the perfect dining table and chairs to fit your budget?  There is a simple formula that I use that is fail safe for what you need, but always buy what you love.  If you don't love it - don't buy it - not because it fits the budget, matches the wallpaper, or because you just can't decide and you want to get it over with.  If you can't decide, it is a sure bet that it is not something that you love.  Think you don't know what you love?  Try again .......and again and again until you begin to see the difference in the things you look at - whether it be from your shopping experiences or from the magazines that you love to pour over.  I can promise you that you will never remember what you spend for what you love while you will always remember the price of what you find less than rewarding to live with.  Trust me on this one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Well, the answer is simple.  Years ago I contacted a well known astrologer in Charlotte, NC where I grew up and where I had returned to start my design career.  Her name was Alice Steadman.  I called her one day in response to her book "Who's The Matter With Me?"  She was very gracious and kind on the phone, asking me a few questions about where I was in my life.  One question was about my weight and if I was where I wanted to be.  Well, no it wasn't, I explained.  She then gave me a very simple formula.......sleep on pink sheets.  They are slenderizing for women, she said, and added that she had been sleeping on hot pink sheets (very energizing! she said) for some time and now was a mere 90 lbs. - 20 lbs. less than she was before beginning this regimen.  Blue is fattening, she said, something which I took to heart.  It is a great joke in our family among the women, anyway, and especially between my daughter and me, that we do not sleep either on or in blue.  It's a definite no no.  Well, just so you will know, I have been sleeping on pink sheets since then and do in fact weigh much less than I did then.  Mine are powder pink - works just as well for me as the hot pink.  I also refrain from artificial food.  So there you have it.


This is my reply to an article in the St. Pete Times a few weeks ago where designers were addressing lawmakers pleading with them to keep this silly practice in place was even quoted as saying that poor choices could be bad for your health!  Here is my reply to the article's author .....thought it was worth a post. 

"I have been a praciticing professional interior designer since graduating from design school in 1975. I also write about design and can be found in a google search where articles appear that I have written.  Interior Design is my second degree, I am a graduate of the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a Bachelor's degree in Art History.  In all the years of my profession I have never known anyone to be harmed by the selection of home furnishings, either psychologically or otherwise.  It has baffled me from the beginning of my career the steps that are often taken to protect one's business skills or the lack of them.  No one is going to die from an orange sofa - or a purple one for that matter.  Design is meant to bring comfort and a pleasing aesthetic to our surroundings and the talent and expertise that is applied cannot be regulated or brought to bear by a liscense.  The service that a competent interior designer or decorator for that matter, whether it be for residential or commercial use, is based on talent and knowledge of one's field, one's sources and one's resources.  Just as every profession requires knowledge of product and its appropriate use, so does the profession of professional design.  Some of the best designers I have ever known are those with no formal training at all ........just as Irving Berlin knew and created his music "by ear," so often do we.  To subscribe to the fear of competition by requesting a regulation of a field that is above all else subjective by taste and function, is to deny the width and breadth of our individual talents and the experience we gain by our on the job training.  Passing a test, paying for a license and maintaining a "badge" of some sort, does not equal talent or expertise.  If the public falls for that, or if the public fails to be a participant in their own personal needs, then no liscense or the lack of it can save them from the misery that they unwittingly ask for by getting not only what they don't want, don't need and most of all is not appropriate for their own personal needs. 
Judy Bistany
Interior Design