Architecture + Design News

Here we periodically record ideas and happenings related to our work, interests, and community. We invite you to peruse and join in the discussion.

An entertaining kitchen

June 20th, 2017 by Mary Schmelzer
The new kitchen is ready for friends and family or for a busy family's dinner.

The new kitchen is ready for friends and family or for a busy family’s dinner.

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Part of a house built in the 1970s, the original kitchen space wasn’t serving this active family very well. The well-used family room, while adjacent to the kitchen, was significantly separated so the cook couldn’t interact with the rest of the family. Also, the family wanted to entertain and felt that the place where their friends would congregate just didn’t have the space and flow to make for a good party.

Here are before photos:

the "before" kitchen had wallpapered soffits and tired cabinets

the “before” kitchen had wallpapered soffits and tired cabinets

The sink wall cut the kitchen off from the family room.

The sink wall cut the kitchen off from the family room.

We reconfigured the kitchen by closing off a doorway that looked through the adjacent hallway–and into the powder room. The range now occupies the space where the opening was. A big open curved peninsula provided a nice quantity of countertop for food prep, meals, and hanging out. Cutting back part of the sink wall allowed the peninsula to open up to the family room.

Traditional cabinetry dressed up the space. Removing the soffits allowed the cabinets to reach the ceiling. Several nice storage details were added to make the most of the cabinets: a pull-out pantry, a blind-corner base cabinet pull-out, a custom bookshelf at the end of the peninsula, and an above-counter microwave shelf.

This pull-out pantry can store lots of food.

This pull-out pantry can store lots of food.

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Several lighting configurations were employed to help light the kitchen: recessed fixtures, under cabinet lights, beautiful ice-cube-like pendants over the peninsula, and track lighting to enhance the cabinets and light the corners that could otherwise be dark.

The peninsula pendants look like melting ice and can be dimmed for different lighting needs.

The peninsula pendants look like melting ice and can be dimmed for different lighting needs.

Updates to the adjacent family room included a ceiling make-over where the dark “beams” and popcorn ceiling were removed; dark entertainment-center cabinetry was replaced with open shelving, new lighting and carpeting, and a pathway of ceramic tile where the carpet will get the most traffic.

The family room has a fresher, lighter look with open shelves and bright ceiling.

The family room has a fresher, lighter look with open shelves and bright ceiling.

Now the family is ready for a party–or for a family day at home–whenever the mood strikes. You can see photos on the portfolio page.

Posted in All Entries

Contemporary farmhouse underway

April 14th, 2017 by Mary Schmelzer
The farm-style house getting its board-and-batten siding

The farm-style house getting its board-and-batten siding

I’ve been working with an area couple who were ready for a smaller, lower-maintenance and a more- energy-efficient home. We began design work in tandem with their search for a building site. The Owners’ extensive exploration and patience paid off: they found a beautiful rural site that met their needs. In Michigan. Together we designed a home that is an appropriate scale for the site and hearkens to the agricultural area. The Owners themselves did significant research on heating/cooling systems, the building envelope and materials.

QuickTherm radiant floor system

QuickTherm radiant floor system

Part of the house has a full basemennt (for the mechanicals and for some storage) and the remainder is slab-on-grade. The Owners chose an innovative in-floor heat system, QuickTherm radiant installation panels. The panels are insulative foam, shaped with nodes between which the radiant tubes lie. Since the construction of the home began last fall, there was a need to keep the house progressing so it could be “buttoned up” against the winter weather. The ease of installation for the radiant floor system helped with the schedule.

The contemporary farmhouse on its site

The contemporary farmhouse on its site

Mark Allor, the builder, and his team worked steadily through the winter. By late winter, the form was complete. You can see in the photo above the way the house sits on the site and its volume compared to the land around it. Mark Allor Construction is from Dexter, Michigan (810-845-9084).

Now the work has moved to the inside with the heating/cooling, framing the interior walls, the plumbing and the electrical. Compared to exterior walls being set, roofing being completed or the foundation work, this is the point where homeowners may feel construction has almost halted. It is still moving on pace, and there are updates every day, they are just less noticeable than a crane setting trusses!

Stay tuned for more updates and photos as the house progresses.

Posted in All Entries, Materials, Products + Finishes, Portfolio + Projects

Waterville lake house update

December 15th, 2016 by Mary Schmelzer
The front of a new house on the lake in Waterville

The front of a new house on the lake in Waterville

Here is an almost-finished new home in Waterville. The photos were taken before snow, and before the last of construction was completed.
The owners, after shopping for an open lot, found a beautiful piece of property…with a house on it. Last winter/early spring they tackled the site work–removing the house and some trees and preparing the ground for construction. The house is slab-on-grade and one story.

The "mini-river"

The “mini-river”

The photo above shows the creative landscaping the owners have undertaken to move water from one side of the property to the other. The little “river” runs underneath the driveway and allows rain/snowmelt to travel around a sweet potting shed. The solution created an opportunity for interesting and unexpected landscape focal points. I can’t wait to see it next summer when the plants are growing.

The fireplace intersects the tallest ceilings in the main part of the house

The fireplace intersects the tallest ceilings in the main part of the house

Inside the house, the main living spaces have varied ceiling heights as can be sensed at the fireplace in the greatroom. The dining room is behind the fireplace and faces the front of the house. The photo below is the wall opposite the fireplace with a magnificent view to the lake. To keep the greatroom from being blinded by the sun (it faces mostly south) a roofed lanai with an outdoor fireplace lies just outside the French doors. The lanai also provides an indoor/outdoor connection to the house, the yard and the lake.

French doors open to the roofed lanai and out to the lake

French doors open to the roofed lanai and out to the lake

The pergola shelters a patio just for the master bedroom

The pergola shelters a patio just for the master bedroom

Beside the lanai, outside the master bedroom, is a patio with copper pergola. It provides a private, separate place for the owners to go outdoors in the mornings and evenings–checking on the lake, sitting quietly, and enjoying the first or last rays on the lake.

Check back for some finished-project photos coming soon!

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Sewing/craft/hobby rooms

October 26th, 2016 by Mary Schmelzer
This sewing room makes use of an unfinished basement.

This sewing room makes use of an unfinished basement.

For many of us, our home is our refuge. Some people take that one step further and have a retreat: a sewing, craft, or hobby room. Why would a person need a dedicated space? Hobbyists and creative people know that having a their own space makes it easier to spend spare time doing what is relaxing. On the other hand, clearing off the dining room table for a work surface, digging through storage bins for supplies, and remembering what was being worked on the last time take precious minutes away from the hobby itself. Sometimes these “pre” activities (and the clean-up) are such a disincentive that it seems too much bother to craft/sew/etc.

Your personal creative or hobby space doesn’t need to be an entire room or studio. It can be a spare bedroom, a desk area, or a closet and folding table. What is important is that it work well for you and how you want to use it. If you tend to get into big projects that require a lot of space or supplies to be spread out at one time (or for a long time) a room on which you can close the door may make sense.

In the sewing room above, I helped the owner configure the best arrangement for cabinetry, the location of the main sewing machine, a sewing area for an occasional friend, and a dedicated cutting/layout table. The table is extra-high (the owner is tall), is on locking casters, and has planned places for rulers and cutting mats.

Stock cabinetry provides closed-door storage for sewing supplies

Stock cabinetry provides closed-door storage for sewing supplies

If you are a long-time hobbyist, you know supplies (“stash” as it is commonly called) are fuel for your creativity. Tools, patterns and materials can quickly overtake work space or provide so much distraction that time or focus are lost. So, how do you store them but keep them within reach? Well-thought out cabinets, shelves, countertops and hanging space provide the right mix of storage, access, locate-ability, and work area. Planned work spaces help reduce the set-up and clean-up time, allowing for more fun. The sewing/craft room in the above photo has a bank of stock cabinets under the window which stores tools, fabric and books. A TV and movie collection make the room a fun place to sew while watching TV–or to keep up on the latest techniques by video. The countertop can be used for set-off space, display or planning the next project.

What is your biggest challenge with your creative or hobby space? I have several creative hobbies myself, so I am always looking for ways to make better use of my space and maximize the time I have to create. After all, it’s about the dreaming and creating, not the digging for supplies or tools or cleaning up so there is a place to eat dinner!

Posted in All Entries, Materials, Products + Finishes, Portfolio + Projects

Bold, beautiful contemporary farmhouse

October 11th, 2016 by Mary Schmelzer

Farmhouse fireplace
This new home, built on a working farm, added fresh, bright colors to transform an open floor plan and to give liveliness to the rooms in constant use.

The fireplace wall, above, separates the kitchen and the living room. Since stone to the vaulted ceiling would seem too massive, a bright green color was chosen to cover the area above the mantle. The mantle was custom fit from a salvaged barn beam. Like the green? Try Benjamin Moore’s “dill pickle.”

Farmhouse mudroom

The daily mudroom entry also houses a shower–to rinse off daily work dirt–and the laundry machines. Visible from the kitchen, the orange color provides a sunny hue and a strong contrast against the white woodwork. Marmoleum flooring withstands the wear and tear of a well-used area and hides the farm dust and lint from the laundry machines. Benjamin Moore’s “Adobe dust” is a nice, terra cotta-type orange.

The neutral warm gray walls provide a backdrop for cabinets, tile and floors

The neutral warm gray walls provide a backdrop for cabinets, tile and floors

With all the color in view of the main living area, a neutral, warmer gray was chosen for the great room. The neutral color allows the white woodwork and cabinetry to stand out, but allows the glass tile, wood floor and furniture to look grounded without being too much of a contrast. “Abalone” by Benjamin Moore is a good, warm gray.

Farmhouse master shower

The master bath has a fun, unexpected shower floor. For people who make their living from the land, a nice connection to the earth was formed by using real stones for the shower floor. Subway tile and a glass shower door make it more contemporary. A custom seat was formed inside the shower to provide a place to sit.

“Farmhouse” can mean many things in the world of design, and this real working farm house doesn’t compromise style for daily functionality.

Posted in All Entries, Materials, Products + Finishes, Portfolio + Projects

On the lake and loving it

July 7th, 2016 by Mary Schmelzer

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The dining/livingroom with a great big view to the lake

Last summer I helped some homeowners remodel their new lake home. The basement ended up getting torn down to the studs to update wiring, eliminate mice and add insulation. It was a mess, but it turned out beautifully. This summer they’ve been able to spend their time enjoying the lake instead of remodeling.

We updated the lower-level master suite. It walks right out to the lakeshore and the morning view of the lake is incomparable. The master bath includes a “his” vanity area and a “hers” area, both a little different in feel, but coordinating.

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“His” bathroom area, with masculine light fixtures, colors and a good-sized closet for daily essentials. The barn door closes off the toilet room.

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“Her” vanity area is lighter in feel with a marble counter top and ocean-inspired colors.

The showpiece of the master bath is the custom-tiled shower. With white subway tiles as a field, the couple used a glass tile mosaic behind the shower faucetry to mimic a waterfall. The blues are used throughout the master suite, evoking a feeling of calm and the lake.

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It is so gratifying and fun to see a project come to fruition. Starting with floor plan ideas, figuring out the scope of the project and selecting design elements and finishes finally results in a space that is fresh, functional and enjoyable. It is always a joy to meet with homeowners that I have walked with through this journey of possibilities to construction. Enjoy your updated home!

Posted in All Entries, Portfolio + Projects

Old house, new kitchen

February 25th, 2016 by Mary Schmelzer
The finished kitchen

The finished kitchen

I had the pleasure of photographing this finished kitchen designed for a house built in 1889. The kitchen/laundry area had last been remodeled in the 1960s and was due for new finishes, new appliances and a new layout for a busy family.

Besides having a better-functioning kitchen, the owners requested a mudroom with a cubby for each family member and a half bath separated from the main kitchen. By reworking the space previously occupied by the laundry machines and back entry, we were able to accomplish both rooms.

The home has beautiful, tall ceilings which allowed the cabinets to be extra tall and to allow for a large pair of windows where there had previously been a bay window. Light cabinets, white woodwork and reflective wall tile maximize the natural light. The space under the stairs (which had earlier served as a half bath) has now become a walk-in pantry for foodstuffs and small appliances.

Here is the “before” kitchen:

The circa 1960 kitchen.

The circa 1960 kitchen.

Here is the 3D model for the design:

The 3D computer model used during the design process.

The 3D computer model used during the design process.

Soapstone for the countertops, contemporary lights with a nostalgic flair, and painted wood paneling and trims blend the spaces into the old house while allowing the remodeled rooms to perfectly fit today’s living style.

The mudroom

The mudroom with a cubby for everyone (including the dogs!) with outlets for charging phones and tablets.

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