Counter Striking Stools

I have done quite a few kitchens now and the one thing that I strive for in all my kitchen designs is the island with seating on one side. It is as simple as that. Give the kitchen an island with seating on the long side away from the center of the kitchen triumvirate (range, refrigerator and sink) and voila, the first step to successful kitchen planning. When a kitchen project is done and it’s time to decorate, the first question had always been what kind of stool would go with the island. Counter stools generally come in two kinds: with back or backless.  If there is enough room, a stool with back is more comfortable.  When there is barely enough space to walk around the island or when the kneespace is too shallow, a backless stool is in order. Below are images of some of my favorite kitchen counter stools. I won’t have too much explanation for these stools as they would speak for themselves.

511dca1bd2fbe304a3661f34a4af73a02edbbeb4ab5dae65e90193a6fb5d9353Henson Wood Stools

0f5a3c5fff3d35f3214ab4e3eeebe93ede1b59efc2f8bbb5a9b7fe4e09218e0fSimple  iron zinc stool from India.


aba5eb18f7ab952dd33e10e4ebd1dc49Rustic counter stool from West Elm

c9103cb2deb208330f8cd5c6fe65f3721f13bf01d93b0f62d28fd09f9c4a0aafChase stool from World Market



Backless counter stool from AG Modern

Calligaris_Online_Bar_Stool_CS1002e30ca7c6fe6e7208ca0521e89cccca6bCalligaris On Line Counter Stool



Marius counter stool

bdfc64a5aee7e3cfdee630bd8f0b83bdOviedo counter stool from Restoration Hardware.

b2ca694f41d195c5b8a793c334b896abYvonne Potter stool.

a6e1f2cf344bdac6c320992e7e621f3eeva_stool_1_bontempi_mediumBontempi Eva stool


calligaris-even-leather-counter-stool-9Calligaris Even Leather stool

cb6fda779bed757b975fa9e989f84541Hay Hee stool

mood-stoolb5b28b5652e9ccadc28d981debc035dbCalligaris Mood Stool

picturecalligaris_air_counter_stool_cs57_01_1Calligaris Air Counter Stool.

c9b2202bd97c93699b1be1d14666f38c628d1f4a03c46e6622e3c13dfbfbcaefCherner Counter Stool.


15df08c0bd7a52b6821f5870fcaeede8Series 7 Counter Stool.

a768d7d5ac71dd89afbb03a3f8971d2481856b020c1c1abb7cfe2afd0255f87bOnda Stool


lem-stool-wood-seat-2.jpgLem Piston Stool

dc65495fed48fcd028d91e36fad00384knoll-jamaica-barstool_im_366Jamaica Stool.

82b45b37c869f00b08c3b73a32db9415705859Radius Counter Stool.

And then, there is always those wood block stools. Quite heavy to maneuver but, hell, they look good!


Click on photos for source.


Ranging over Greige Kitchens

Greys, greige and grays seem to be everywhere nowadays.  Grey kitchens seem to be the rage as well.  How to do a great grey kitchen that would look enticing and not dull?  Cool grey or warm grey? Would that work in any style of kitchen?  The answers to these questions are this post’s tackle.

Rustic Kitchens lend themselves so beautifully to grey tones. These can be achieved in the wood of the cabinet, the concrete of the countertops, or the plaster of the walls enhanced by all the nuances and shades of greys. The key is to provide some contrast or accent amongst the sea of grey cabinets. It’s a feat to pull it off with just greys.

5288c6332b534637e86d9e2b25c38091Warm greyed wood made even warmer by the use of stained wood.

english-thumbLight cool grey and white accented by a dark grey countertop.

b5920c636a4ade88b6747218feb4463bChalky grey all throughout.

ca670ff77055d26403c3901fc07c94c0Warm grey with a little blue accent at the range’s backsplash.

3448fec678d6ae6e36baa6b7862f41a0Dark grey wood cabinet accented with white marble countertops.

92a80ffd135f876c559e4a07ed091492Dark greyed wood with copper accents.

Modern Rustic Kitchens– This trend is responsible for the latest grey craze.  An entire post should be dedicated to modern rustic kitchens- so wabi sabi- the contrast between simple lines and roughened wood textured results in such an alluring play of materials for a kitchen. What I would do to get one of these projects. I am particularly drawn to the simplicity offered by flush cabinet doors with only textures for demarcation-  to design kitchens by just textures and moods.  What fun!





Modern Kitchens- Flush cabinets, open shelves, slick appliances, cool light fixtures. What’s not to like?







Traditional  Kitchens– White kitchens are still the more popular choice but a touch of grey here and there has begun to infiltrate the all white cabinetry.





Industrial Kitchens– Here is another trend where grey is right at home. Grey in the stainless steel finish, dark grey metal finish, weathered grey wood and grey floors.





Material Use – Grey in  wood cabinets is the most obvious solution to achieve a grey kitchen. Some of these woods receive a lime wash. Some others get tannic acid and ferrous sulfate wash.  Some got a dose of bleach or lye water.




Grey painted cabinet will do when showing wood grain is not important.


Grey in concrete work and countertops.


rough lux kitchen2

Grey in backsplash and or walls





Grey in flooring.




Kitchen designs that come together well don’t follow any specific set of rules. They dwell in the clever use of materials, colors and details. Spatial qualities also come into play.




b989a51f4e3bfcf26a719701fc318327An understated design eliciting more oohs and ahs than an elaborate kitchen.

And then there is the kitchen I designed for a very dear client.  Any takers for the next grey kitchen in the Bay Area?

Donato kitchen 183

Grounds for Coffee Tables

Against competing features such as  the fireplace, the large heirloom painting, and a view beyond, the coffee table serves to refocus our attention to the center of the living room. By size, it’s also among the more diminutive must have items in the room. It is also surrounded by taller furniture such as the sofa and the armchairs or even the side tables and yet, such a piece occupies the center of the seating group, the center of conversations and could very well display the center floral arrangement or the conversation piece coffee table books.   It’s ironic that such a tremendous position is given to a “lowly” object.

The term “coffee table” might have made its first debut around 1868 in “Victorian Furniture” by R. W. Symonds and B. B. Whineray and in “The Country Life Book of English Furniture” by Edward T. Joy.  These forefathers of the modern day coffee table were probably taller to really serve tea and coffee at a height more suitable for straight back, prim and proper ladies.  Lower coffee tables probably came forth with the influence of Japanese low tables.


Most famous architects had at one time in their career designed coffee tables to adorn their projects.

The 50’s gave us quite an array of classic coffee tables.

Noguchi table




Modern day designers and architects came up with their fair share of coffee tables.





A cursory browse at popular web sites and magazines gave me clues of today’s trends in coffee tables.  The rage is all on the raw wood look championed by Restoration Hardware.




Then there is the live edge slab tables.  Nothing like letting nature do all the talking.  I myself would breathe out various sighing curse words in various forms of inappropriateness every time I see one of these tables.




There is nothing wrong with wanting a wood table.  Wood coffee tables can be quite sculptural and beautiful.



The glass coffee tables never went away.  There is the seamless modern glass table that is so versatile and there are others that takes on the  more classic motifs and shapes.




One doesn’t mention glass coffee tables without mentioning their distant cousins, the lucite tables. They can be quite attractive, definitely higher than the rank of a poor relation.



Glass and lucite… What come next are mirrored tables. I prefer the antiqued silver finish for mirrored tables.





Lacquer finishes on coffee table often exude elegance. Let’s hope the finish is durable enough to avoid scratches.



Stone tops are sturdy and add a cool touch to the room.  Most of the stones used behave well as neutral colors such as White Carrera, Calacata Oro or Asher Grey  with the occasional greyish lines.  Greige is so in right now. For warmer climes, travertine and Crema Marfil are the thing to go to.





For a more casual look, rattan or woven natural materials are used.




The industrial look is not far behind among the hotties. The coffee tables come with greige woods, metal legs, casters and mechanical fasteners.  I love this look especially when the tables are equipped with wheels. I get under the illusion that I can move them somewhere else when I decide to clear the living room for such things as dancing…



Chinoiserie is quite timeless when used sparingly.



One should also list the proverbial tray table. How appropriate it is to serve tea or coffee on a tray table! These tray tables come in all the styles and types mentioned in this post.







The ottoman coffee table. What a concept. The ottoman gives us the option of putting our feet up and getting even more comfortable. If coffee or tea is served, we just have to add a tray on top of it.







Coffee tables double serving as storage are great for the efficient minds. This is where trunk coffee tables work best.  We see wood chests, storage trunks, and travelling trunks. The travelling trunks fuel our imagination with exotic souvenirs being kept inside the trunks.




I see the coffee table as a calm island amidst a sea of tumultuous beauties – a couch begging us to lounge and stretch our legs, the side tables with the pretty lamps, the rug that spreads warmth throughout the room and the armchair that offers cozying up.  The coffee table is where I would anchor the room.  For that reason, I like it to be of a simple – no fuss swooping gesture.  I like my coffee tables bold, to the point and unique in its statement.  Below are some of my favorites.

The half logs.


Oval coffee tables are the epitome of grace.


A modern metal tray table.


A marble top table with walnut base.


The most beautiful are usually the purest in form.50a0b781cde1e4997e4d2a4e6c6146aa

The lacquer table in the simplest form.


Last but not least.  Splurge and don’t feel guilty: pure silver on reclaimed timber.  Have some tea on this piece de resistance and wonder about the dichotomy between luxury and recycling…


Click on photos for sources.

Name that Greige

Greige and grey and their derivative taupe are so fashionable these days.  I had posted “Greige is the New Beige” post some time ago and thought to complement it with a look at the application of colors for the effect of Greige rooms.  We can browse the paint fan decks and can see quite a few options from which to choose our paint colors.  The new questions seem to be which greige?  Is there an answer to that simple question?  How does one go to choose a greige to answer all greige questions?

As the color specifier to all my projects, I do have a few favorites.  Do I start naming them and be done with? Or do I attempt an entire post dedicated to the selection process?

To be careful, I should also have a disclaimer: the beauty of colors is in the eye of the occupants and in the light of the room it graces.

I sometimes wish I have outfits of the same color I love for a room. It is a rare occurrence since fashion moves with seasons and I, for one, cannot keep up with fashion’s capricious muse. I looked up Design Options, an LA based color forecasting company, and found that the company packages color palette cheat sheets and sells them.  Wow.  I wonder who buys these.  How effective are the cards made for home design trends? I must admit I like some of the color cards that they put together.


I found a site that explains the mix of colors that can be found in greige colors.  I must say my ideas of greige might not meet the correct mix of colors but then some eyes see more colors than others’…

greige mix

I went to Benjamin Moore’s color trends. They seem more relevant as a more precise color guide.  They also give us the actual names of the paint colors which takes all the guesses away from our constant search for the perfect color.  For 2013 color trends, I especially like the “Urbanite” trend’s “Sparrow” color and from the most searched Benjamin Moore colors, I am drawn to “Ranchwood”.



I found these Benjamin Moore greys as the more popular greys from their best sellers colors:

f092f33273c5c0b1d127b003360f96a0Muslin Gray

Since Benjamin Moore came out with Color Stories, I have never chosen colors without first consulting that CSP fan deck.

My favorite greige colors are Cathedral Gray, Gothic Arch and Urban Sophisticate.

csp 205 Cathedral Gray

Gothic Arch  CSP 80

Urban Sophisticate CSP 160

Let’s not forget the most ingeniously named paint color: Farrow and Ball’s Elephant’s Breath!

Elephant's Breath

The Color Association gave us “Urban Grit” for 2011-2012 interior color trend. I particularly like this group of colors as it pertains to our search for Greige albeit the colors are on the cooler side of greys.


The Color Marketing Group names ReBlue as the It color for 2014. So  much for greige…

Of course, one must not forget Pantone which announced Emerald as the color for 2013. I went back to the years before and couldn’t find any greige as color of the year according to the world of Pantone.



My search continues… and finally, Sherwin Williams pinpoints “gray as the new black” for 2014 color trend. It is a relief to see confirmation that gray is not yet a thing of past seasons.




So much for greige color search among the paint companies. Their color trends involve many colors such as paint companies should promote. I went back to an outfit that can’t afford change their look every year: Restoration Hardware.  It is a comfort to find their Spring 2013 inspiration looks still filled with grey and greyer images.

c3fa3a305a55c0b05214b286a7443223I decided to double check with Crate and Barrel and was happy to report the same coloring graced their inspiration section.


Then there are those must go to interior designers.  Candace Olson has her pick in Gray Mirage. Darryl Carter likes Asford Grey.

Asford Grey. Benjamin Moore DC 20

Mary McDonald’s favorite is Benjamin Moore HC166 Kendall Charcoal when dramatic effects are called for.

Kendall Charcoal

Barbara Barry loves BM 976 Coastal Fog.

Coastal Fog

Several blogs and websites have their take on favorite greiges.




Will we ever be tired of Greige? Global Color Research has predicted a way to wean out of Greige:  Dusky Berries for 2015… It seems that we might be leaning toward a greige berry trend.  I will have to revisit this romantic color trend in 2 years…

Dusky Berries

Click on photos for source

Wish list for a French Style Home

I came across a few clients in the San Jose area who wish for a French style home. What is it that makes that je ne sais quoi French? This post is my own list of aspects of a French home, exterior and interior, that are so endearing.

The dormers and the steep roof with flat top.  Any French house worth their sel would have dormers against a beautiful slate roof. This is because the top floor is a habitable attic and a very liveable attic needs a steep roof for decent headroom. Think of Nicole Kidman’s pied a terre in Moulin Rouge.

The regularity of windows. It’s time for restraints. I find that the uniformity in window shapes and sizes – at least within the same story- adds to the elegant rhythm found in these French manors.

Stone trims.  The quoins and stone casings around the openings make up the typical adornments.

The Tower. A remnant of castle architectural features. Towers are a good tool to create interest among the uniform spread of windows.

The foyer.  Now that we manage to pay attention to the interiors, the first room that greets us is the foyer with its obligatory signature stairs.  The guardrail is almost always wrought iron or bronze and the flooring stone usually  sports a checker board or diamond pattern while a nice lantern graces the room.

The parquet floor comes next.  Parquet also presents us with a wide variety of patterns. The wood itself could be quite polished or extremely worn out depending on the degree of formality in the use of the room.

The tiled floor.  Pavers and stone, especially limestone, are quite popular in a French home since France is home to quite a selection of limestone quarries. Limestone is durable, looks great even when worn down, and though not quite stain resistant, can be ground down to a new clean surface when needed.  One finds limestone floors in kitchen and dining room besides the foyer.

Boiserie. The French takes the art of wood paneling to the highest level of detailing in the molded panels, the appliques, the drops, how they intersect and weave themselves into the openings of the room.  An antiqued or glazed  finish makes the paneling even more precious.  When painted all in one color, the paneling becomes textures on the wall and not just patterns of molding.

The interior door.  I love French interior doors.  They are most gracious and delicate looking.  They bring so much to the room. They take on very nice geometries and give us more interest in what lays beyond.


French kitchen.  This is the altar to French cuisine.  One must not design kitchen for art’s sake but for food’s sake.  Open shelves or pot racks serve toward efficiency in retrieving the pots and pans.  A work table for baking, food preps and assembling the dish is a must.  A kitchen looking too pristine won’t look right for a seasoned cook.   A hood enclosure similar to that of a fireplace is usually the answer above a good range.

The stone fireplace.  There seem to be two general looks for fireplaces.  The curved front or the bracketed mantel.  The curved front mantel is usually found in more formal rooms such as the living room while the other one goes to family rooms, eat-in kitchens etc…

The curves in furniture.  French curves take on new meanings when found inside a French house.  We have already seen them on doors.  We also find them in abundance in pieces of furniture like hutches, armoires and vanities.

The faded colors.  Antiqued and glazed finishes lend themselves to the sense of the old and the familiar.  Grey green, steel blue, washed grey, dusty roses and pale yellows. Go for those and never be found wanting again.

The bath. Despite rumors of bath scarcities in French homes, baths focus on the tub as their main feature. The tub tells all.

The stone patio with plant containers.  The plant containers work as little herb pockets, they work in small and large gardens alike,  and orange and lemon trees are content in them. Parisian rooftops are seldom without them.

The garden gateway.  They tempt us with a little glimpse of the promises beyond.  They tease us by showing us only half of what is to come.  They are simple in design, their motives obvious, and their rustiness convince us of their timelessness.

The topiaries.  Such precision, such whimsical representations.  A gardener with wit is the one to keep.

The rectangular pool flanked by marching rows of pots.  I can’t think of a more alluring shape for a pool.  It speaks of languorousness and it slows time.

The most difficult problem in creating a French house is the site.  One cannot invent an entire setting.  One can only wish for it…

And then, there is that little chateaux fit for a royal mistress…

Photos source: click on images for links to sources.

The Poetics of Voids

Wabi Sabi, the aesthetics of transient and imperfect beauty, is best explained to me from the perspective of the void space. Without the void, once cannot achieve asymmetry, simplicity, imperfection and or transience.

With the void or blank space, we were given room to let beauty settle in.  The unspoken qualities of any kind of art depend on that communication with the viewer. The best examples are the Zen paintings where the blank space is as important as the depicted object or scenery.

How it applies in architectural and interior design can be found on walls that are left unadorned so that everything else could afford to stand out.  It also manifests itself in the void space that surrounds an object – how much space is given around an item, whether it’s a window, mirror, a kitchen island, a dining table, a bath tub or fireplace.  The concept can be viewed as a mere anti clutter tendency. It’s a no brainer that a painting needs empty walls surrounding it for its art to be fully contemplated. It should be the same when designers want to show off their design intent or an object of desire.

Voidscapes are prevalent in minimalist interiors as the two are almost synonymous of each other.  The trick is not to have very little. One strives for a balance between the blanks and the substantial matters such as objects, furniture, adornments that are required for every day living.  After all, homes are not meant to be museums.  The practicality in home design would constantly challenge the desire to “minimalize” for the sake of art and aesthetics. How bare can we dare?  How scarce can sparse be?

Devoid of trims and decoration, this foyer serves well to showcase the graceful curve of the staircase.  A lone table and flower vase brighten the under side of the stair carriage.

Some rooms just become a monotonous backdrop when ceiling, floor and walls receive the same treatment so that the little furniture the room boasts will stand out.

A small niche surrounded by slab walls does the trick every time.

A clever recess on a slab door is all we need. The rest of the canvas can be plain but textured for added depth.

It’s the triangular volume encompassing the space that refocuses the viewer toward the exterior realm beyond the room.

Keep the walls plain so the curves show.

All muted and balanced.

A plain alcove to contain one so magnificent as this stove.

One needs room to step back and appreciate the beauty of this space and the ceiling that caps it.

It’s the space beyond that gives this room meaning.

It’s as much the blank wall as the beautifully detailed stairs that contribute to this wondrous tableau.

In some cases, it’s the shapes of the void spaces that are awesome.

And then, when the emptiness is the window from which we see delight, the room soars.

Photos: click on images for links to sources.

The Dark Room

It was a dark, dark and stormy night; but is every night a fright when a room is given dark walls?  How does one accomplish a dark room that’s exciting, beautiful and makes one want to linger there?  One rarely finds a proud description of one’s house as a dark home but a dark room, when done right, could be the room which draws us in the most.  Dark rooms in their mysterious way present each of their aspects slowly, not all at one glance like a bright, cheerfully lit room.  Dark rooms can be quite seductive with their hidden charms to be unveiled one at a time. A dish to be savored slowly – nuanced acclimatization required.  They can be engrossing and, at the same time, protective in their allure.  One might also extoll the comforting elegance of that precise darkness especially when in a quest to relax, wind down or meditate.

Designing a dark room is a task that could prove harder than cleaning the Augean stables.  One doesn’t just divert a river of dark paint into the room and call it done.  Dark paint needs contrasting values in various forms to show off  its somberness or velvety quality.  One  usually chooses an accent color to liven up the abysmal depth of the dark walls.

Dark rooms rely primary on browns,black, dark grey, dark taupe, dark blues, greens and purples on walls for it to feel a convincing threat.  The first way to dissect this approach is to go by colors.


Chocolate walls for a chocolate store. This stairwell is done a bit too literally but to chocolate lovers, it must have been a treat to walk through a small hallway with the smooth warmth that chocolate offers.

Dark brown with white trims, white linens and strong geometric patterns. The dark walls retreat into the background to show off the stark patterns.


One of the original black walls. Lutyens played  off the black walls in this room with red lacquer furniture and white trims. A daring color scheme!

Here is another black walled room with white trim. The white trims and fireplace stand quite crisp against the receding walls.

Black kitchen cabinets with a gloss. Here the contrasting color is also white in the white painted floors and window.

Black walls and black floors!  This little opportunity for white trims is compensated for the bright blue uphostery.  A great stroke of creativity to enliven this dark dark room.


Dark warm grey walls set against light colored furniture and white trims. Funny how white trims are the recurring themes for dark rooms.

Cool grey enhanced by black furniture! The light rug saves the day and the cinnabar chairs adds such punch!


Dark taupe walls and casework against yet another dark component in the floors. The contrasting effect relies on the light colored furniture and the accent color orange in the drapes and pillows.

Here is a medium taupe with greyish pink accents. Quite an elegant combination of colors. The daintiness in the radassier and wall sconces is balanced by the playful geometric pattern on the floor.


Ingeniously intense blue on the walls! The polished marble floors and white trims negotiated the heightened sophistication of the room.

Dark grey blue walls with light grey rug and white accents found in the screen and the furniture. Again, the darker the room, the more whites we find.


A rare treat with green plaster walls and old faded yellow trims. The combination is repeated on the tiled floors.

Go green! Use dark furniture as well and redeem it with perfectly white ceiling and a few white windows.


One must truly love purple to use it in such abundance with little relief in silver and grey.

The Textures

Sometimes, dark rooms don’t rely on just dark paint and  contrasting trims or furniture. They rely on the textures the dark colors give off and the sparks and glitters coming from lights and mirrors that complete the look.

Multi-faceted dome lit by an occulus. Lessons learned from the Pantheon, no doubt.

Could any heavy timber construction be heavier than this?

Bring in the stone work and let there be a few light spots.

Texture in the wood paneling serves enough contrast that the absence of white would go amiss.

Glossy walls, shiny crystals, polished marble, polished chrome and silver mirrors. This is how we can bring in the cavalry of reflectivity and give the room sparkles.

Dark wallpaper. It saves itself with the contrasting pattern. An easy way to go for a dark room.

Dark masonry walls. Who would complain if they frame the view so breathtakingly.

Curved wood ribs on the ceiling. Could one suffer from so much sensuality?

The Uses

Dark rooms are best used to show off the objects of desires whether it’s a tub, a set of stairs or the spatial quality of the room.

Stairs. A room to show off a set stairs. Less is more.

A pure white tub against a dark paneled wall. A simple trick, really but effective.

The intricacies of the structure shown by small light sources.

And then, sensuous curves that leave us gasping and wondrous about the  simplistic beauties in life.

Photo sources: click on images for links.