Especially given the rough economic state in the U.S. and its distressed housing market, the popularity of apartment living is on the rise. But living in an apartment by no means has to compromise the beauty of the interior design. In fact, we spotted great photos of a high-rise apartment designed by Steven Gambrel over on Habitually Chic. His design scheme was inspired by the movie set of Six Degrees of Separation, and we must say, it turned out wonderfully. But we’re sure you’re ready to see the pictures now, right? Here is just a sampling of our favorites:
We love these stunning and shimmery drapes in the high-rise’s large bedroom:
You can view all the pictures here.
Photos: Heather Clawson for Habitually Chic and courtesy of Hearst, all via Habitually Chic
Don’t buy the hype: Compact Fluorescent Bulbs are not green or energy efficient. In fact, we suggest you stock up on incandescent bulbs which will be the new black market in electricity– before they are outlawed in early 2012. So what’s our reasoning? This article explains it very well. Here are some of the key points:
- Thinking that CFLs are more efficient, people will be encouraged to leave lights on longer than they would have. In our condo building, my husband changes the bulbs, all of which are flourescent and do not last any longer than regular light bulbs. They are constantly out.
- The years-long life expectancy of CFLs is simply inaccurate, especially since a CFL’s lifespan is reduced when turning it on and off.
- Incandescent bulbs cost much less than CFLs and last longer, so your “energy savings” is canceled out by having to pay more to replace a shorter-lasting bulb.
- CFLs have mercury in them, which isn’t biodegradable and builds up in landfills. Even with the option of special recycling places for CFLs, most people will probably still toss them in the trash.
- Some European countries are now trying to BAN the CFL because its not living up to it’s hype and are bad for the environment.
You can learn more about the soon mandatory CFL bulbs here.
Image via naturallyyoursblog.blogspot.com
Kitchen renovations are very popular since they usually result in high returns on investment. So we at CMR Interiors wanted to let you know what’s hot right now in terms of kitchen remodeling:
- Transitional simple lines cabinetry and sleek modern cabinetry: gaudy over-the-top cabinetry is out. Cerused, driftwood, and other unique finishes are clean and timeless if you want to warm up a modern kitchen
- Adding professional dual-fuel ranges, special designer line Miele super quiet & efficient dishwashers with a hidden panel & hidden wine refrigerators that have two temperature settings for storing red and white wines
- More and more clients are requesting Caesar stone, white marbles, flamed and brushed natural stones, and exotic woods for countertops
- Stove hoods are focal points so make them work symmetrically if at all possible & it’s most important that you have proper ventilation when working with high output ranges
- Monochromatic appliances-because appliances should never be the focal point of a well planned kitchen
- Le Creuset cookware which cook more evenly and without than toxic non stick epoxy chemicals on a pan.
- Built-in coffee centers like Miele’s make room on the counter where the coffee pot used to live. We love stored away appliances too
- Cabinetry that goes to the ceiling is so nice and a luxury. I would pick this detail with a nine foot ceiling –vs overly decorated cabinetry detailing when it comes to choices in creating a budget
- Solid stone backsplashes that are quiet and simple and match the countertops on the perimeter
Here are a few things to consider if you have a townhouse and are looking to upgrade it from builders specifications–to put elegance, and complete livability into the unit.
1. Closed off Kitchens are a major turnoff to buyers these days. Townhouse kitchens are typically a room closed off in the back. Clients don’t like this and these townhouses don’t sell as well as in townhouses that have open floor plans. When you renovate your house, you have to seriously consider this because you will not sell as easily as someone who invested to open up the kitchen so that its more central to the rest of the home. However if you cannot open up the walls due to structural challenges, than try to make the kitchen feel open and airy, and have a large back window put in to bring in plenty of light and to make the space feel less constricted. Create symmetry so the space feels clean and light.
2. Skylights above the stairs and sun tunnels in upstairs bathrooms are a great addition: http://www.veluxusa.com/. A more expensive brand but the most reputable product. You don’t want to skimp on skylights because if you do, they will have more condensation problems.
3. Soundproof if you have noise issues between townhouse units with better insulation than you developer installed: Roxul batting insulation or Quiet rock.
4. Stairs are a large central part of townhomes. But they are often cheaply put together by the builders. You can add a ton of character to your town home by upgrading your stairwell.
5. Townhouses need character. Try to determine how you can add quality character to the home on your budget and also make a consistent statement throughout with wood floors, millwork, custom trim, non builders grade fireplaces mantles, interesting kitchens with non builder’s grade looking details, putting up grasscloth in a room that feels like a drywall box. This is what sets your place apart in this difficult real estate market.
6. A/V and all low voltage wiring should happen in the renovation stage during framing. Make sure you have a plan and furniture layout prior to planning for media/av wiring so you know where speakers will need to go. I like the hidden invisible speakers best but if the budget calls for ceiling speakers– then this is fine too. Placement is key . You need a space plan first and all your millwork worked out. Speakers do not look good sitting on bookshelves. Its better to put them in the ceiling. I even have a client who put his woofer in a wall because there was no good way to have this in his millwork-and it looks so much nicer being in the wall because woofers are not a focal point.
7. Storage & Attention to Doors: Its nice to find more storage in a townhouse. You can make a home feel more open and airy by using pocket doors. Also definitely use closet organizers, putting in more shallow storage in the front of the garage or on the sides if possible, potentially fitting a closet underneath the stairs in the basement, storage under beds, and purging old stuff you don’t need and haven’t used lately is a key discipline.
Pocket doors in tighter, smaller rooms are so useful and worth the extra dollars. Also your doors have to go with the overall feel of your home so don’t do arched doors when you have no arches to tie into the rest of the house. If you are doing minimalist than perhaps you need beautiful wood doors to balance white walls everywhere? Doors are part of the architecture of the house so its a detail that matters.
8. Lighting plans: A well designed lighting design plan will light your space plan properly, so finishes look luxe, even if they are not expensive. Remember, lighting plans are not a perfect grid on the ceiling……that look like a space ship taking off when on at night. Can lighting doesn’t have to line up. They are up there specifically to light specific areas of the space plan–highlight and low light specific areas and light the floor plans for specific activities in each room.
9. Window Treatments: Yet another way to definitely add character and layers. Townhouses need window treatments and drapery which control the amount of light and privacy. Even if the house is modern.
10. Always have a set of your original plans from the city (and hire someone to get them for you if you don’t have the time) before you start planning with your designer or architect. Make sure that you have the proper loads and supports if you are adding more cabinetry, and heavier items to the general construction of the townhouse. Make sure you pull a permit in order to do the construction so that your builder will be accountable not only to you but to city code. This is very important.
Ahh, freestanding tubs. They not only add a classy feel to a bathroom, but they’re also perfect luxury to come to on a cold winter’s night.
Here are CMR Interiors’ favorite five freestanding tubs on the market:
The Old World Bathtub by Stone Forrest comes in six gorgeous finishes.
The .25 Freestanding Oval Bathtub by Waterworks has a simple but graceful form.
And the Clothide Freestanding Bathtub also by Waterworks is entirely handmade. What a luxury!
The Escale® Suite by Kohler was designed based on “a sail in the wind. ”
And we couldn’t leave out this Schon Contemporary 72-inch Freestanding Tub.
Candice Mathers of CMR INTERIORS, LLC.
1. Don’t rush into the process without a plan! If you have NO plan, then definitely hire a designer to help you wing all details that will be demanded from your contractors daily.
However if you want to custom build, and have the luxury of time, pass a plan around for a year before breaking ground letting many eyes critique and make suggestions. Search & bid out all your dream finishes, sinks, fixtures, and price it all for all baths and kitchen details so you can make sure you are within budget.
2. Remember this: Perimeter comes first, then the interior design. Perimeter is your envelope which are the main characters in your “story”.
Example: doors, trim, kitchen cabinetry, its layout and feature, baths, stair design, floor choices, hardware and knobs, any moving or extra window or sunlights, millwork that is built in, A/V and low voltage wiring, etc–all and should flow and work together in harmony for a consistent statement. Then be prepared to spend an extra 75$-100 a square foot typically for interior design once the perimeter is finished.
3. Always have extra funds, because you ALWAYS spend more upgrading, especially when working with a spec builder on a custom home. Have a fairly large contingency budget for any extra unexpected costs that come up with renovating, or upgrades of at least 50-150K–for larger homes. For smaller homes, 30-70K. The truth is when you build custom, most contractors price their goods based on cheap materials from the local depot and if you don’t want those items you are going to pay for a change order. And if you don’t plan well and dislike all of the builder’s choices —all those change orders per room will easily add up to be thousands and thousands of dollars. It’s common because the client doesn’t like what is normal and wants something they see in all the design magazines. Those items are far more expensive than standard spec house goods from the local depot. Furthermore, there are price increases on nearly every product every year at the Merchandise Mart showrooms, for carpeting companies, for kitchen and bath cabinetry and plumbing fixtures, and other high end showrooms many other companies.
4. Hire a designer with project management experience, before hiring the contractor. Why? Because your contractor will need a specific and detailed set of plans to bid the job correctly and so will subcontractors if you want to do contracting on your own!
5. Good Designers have quality subs and contractors. The client doesn’t have to take their suggestions but things tend to run more smoothly when true professionals work together. These large projects require major coordination, and effective communication for a fantastic result.
6. Less Space is MORE. More character or architecture vs vast dry wall and extra rooms that are costly to decorate is always my advice. When you custom build you pay more than your neighbor who simply took and ugly house and made it look better in taxes. Many people don’t realize they pay a premium in taxes for insisting on having a new house. New homes are taxed at a higher rate and property taxes are ridiculous in the suburbs and city of Chicago. They certainly never go down.
All these factors should be weighed when building. I say renovate over building custom and build smaller. These ridiculously sized homes are over with. They are super high in utilities, property taxes, and design costs. It’s better to have a smarter layout, then a larger one. If you must build your dream home, ask yourself if you really need a living room and formal dining room? Why not just have the house be more kitchen centric, with a large kitchen, eating area and huge family room, and skip the formal dining room and living rooms that rarely are used anyway. This is the new trend in home building. Have a large unfinished basement when you finish that is not taxed, and work with an architect to get something a little smaller, cozier, but with all the storage you could ever need.
7. Bidding: It’s not who is the cheapest of the 3 bids. Learn the right way to work with contractors: “How to hire, manage and fire your contractor” by Carmen Amabile . It will give you more confidence to deal with your builder and make sure you hire the right one too. Very important.
8. Make sure you are clear on your builders/contractors policies on change orders, how emergencies will be handled, who the emergency contact is, have all phone numbers, and have a clear understanding of who will be on the job site daily, who is responsible on their part, and understand the chain of command on the job site. Again, READ the book listed above please. You will find it very helpful.
9. Don’t buy the lot until you know you can secure the financing. In this new market, its not so easy to secure financing for building. Make sure you do this in the right order. Don’t take financing for granted anymore.
10. Dream big for your custom home or renovation but also be smart about it. It takes diligence on your part to do all the legwork in order to do it right. Your designer/architect/contractor are all separate pieces of the pie, and can work together, but they still need accurate budgets, definite plans, so be focused like a laser –and get your end of the work done upfront– so you know what to delegate to others so that they can be a successful partner for you.