Materials, Products + Finishes

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.

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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!

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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.

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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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Drumroll, please, for color of the year:

November 16th, 2015 by Mary Schmelzer

White trim really stands out against an orange wall

White trim really stands out against an orange wall


And the Benjamin Moore color of the year for 2016 is………not a color.
What? It’s white. The actual number is “Simply White OC-117.”

White–and all neutrals–are vitally important in design, because they allow other colors to shine through; create a backdrop for furniture, details and artwork; and can help set a mood whether it is modern, historic or cottage.

However, not all whites are created equal. Benjamin Moore makes a whole range of whites with various tints hiding in the mix. Rarely do I recommend “ceiling white” for a room: the home’s individual light and the color on the walls and floor impact the ceiling greatly. A ceiling white that doesn’t coordinate can feel cold, detached and sometimes dirty. Especially if you’re painting several ceilings or a great room ceiling, the right white makes a big difference.

My favorite white? Benjamin Moore’s “Swiss Coffee” #OC-45. It has a parchment-colored undertone that works well with warm colors and doesn’t look stark in winter light. The undertones make woodwork and cabinetry look established while still feeling fresh and clean.

Swiss Coffee with an auburn/red wall

Swiss Coffee with an auburn/red wall

If you’re interested in more real color, you can check out the ten colors to watch for this spring:
http://www.builderonline.com/design/pantone-releases-the-10-colors-to-watch-for-in-spring-2016_o

Here is another example of how bright furniture stands out against a neutral backdrop: I love how the repurposed mantle headboard feels so cheery and lighthearted. It doubles as great display too.

This bright turquoise stands out against the neutral wall paint.

This bright turquoise stands out against the neutral wall paint.

Try the new “color of the year” in creative ways and with other colors you enjoy. You may be surprised at how many ways you can use it. Just as you wouldn’t paint any other color (like “Marsala” the 2015 Pantone color) on every surface of your home, I recommend refraining from whitening your whole interior.

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Laundry: all the cool kids are doing it

June 19th, 2014 by Mary Schmelzer

Have you noticed that laundry rooms are all of a sudden center-stage? There are so many accessories, furnishings and design ideas for the laundry room.

Why? I think the advent of new machines are one of the drivers. Today’s options include front-load, top-load, water-saving, high-efficiency and stackable. You only used to have to worry about selecting by capacity and features. Now too you have more color choices than white (and maybe almond). Race-car red would make wash-day an adventure. How about royal blue to make you feel regal, in command of your loyal sock-subjects?

Maybe laundry domains have become more popular because our clothes-care takes up a significant portion of our daily lives, and an organized, attractive room just takes some of the drudgery out of the chore.

Given a convenient, easy-to-use and attractive space, maybe all the kids (cool or otherwise) will be excited to be doing laundry.

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(Almost) Finished Basement

May 3rd, 2010 by Mary Schmelzer

матраци

We had the opportunity over spring break to tour a project we’d designed a couple of years ago. It was a walk-out basement on Circle Lake that needed finishing. When the house was designed and built, not much forethought was given to the basement layout and the proposed floor plan just wasn’t going to work well for the owners. A complication was the plumbing: the rough-ins weren’t exactly where we’d have liked them, and the radiant in-floor heat made tearing up the floor (to relocate the plumbing) a poor solution.

In the end, we found a way to get the bar where we wanted it and worked around the plumbing issue. 3-D computer modeling brought the possibilities to life, allowing the owners to understand the flow of the rooms, the sight lines and creative finishes. They now have a stunning entertaining space, two kids’ bedrooms and shared bath, a game room and a bathroom easily accessible from the outdoors for their lower level.

The bar is certainly the focal point, and the owner set the stone and tile himself. A skilled mason, the work echoes the stone on the home’s exterior, which blends the inside and outside, making a great visual as well as physical connection. Taking the time to do things right is evident in this project: the granite countertop was custom fabricated, the slate tile was laid in a pattern, and all the stone layouts were planned before setting began. Left to do: appliances and a game table.

Not every homeowner has the skills or time to install so much of their own project. We can help you decide how much you’d like to tackle and then we’ll help find craftspeople to do the rest. And we’ll get them the drawings and information they need to understand the vision we created together.

Watch the “portfolio” section of our website as we add more photos of the project. And let us know how we can help you.

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