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

Story Book and Tiny Cottages

My very first experience with fantastical architecture had to be from fairy tales.  I used to get lost in the illustrations rather than the stories themselves.  Fairy tales illustrations must have played such an influential role in furthering kids’ imagination and fueling their dream state.  Never underestimate the power of fairy tales in an architect’s earliest education- at least, for me, they meant a whole new world of possibilities in a realm of magical environments.


Fairy tales have their shares of distinct buildings and building types.  The grandest that comes to mind is Sleeping Beauty’s castle and thanks to Disneyland, Neuschwanstein Castle became the prototype where Prince Charming awoke his slumbering intended.


The tallest would be Rapunzel’s tower accented by a cascade of golden hair.  We found the most eccentric building in the Shoe House and the cutest in the Hobbit’s house.  Then there were vague descriptions of  houses of witches, dwarves, and such delightful characters as the Red Riding Hood’s Grandma and a Mad Hatter.  The most edible prize went to the ginger bread house in Hansel and Gretel.  The most described interior fell onto the three Bears home in Goldilocks.

Real houses that were inspired by fairy tales could take from a most literal adaptation to a conceptual embrace of everything cute and whimsical.  Small cottages sometimes fell into the category of story book houses just by being too adorable that they could only have come from a fairy tale.

I found the least successful of fairy tale houses in the small castle. One just couldn’t resolve the dichotomy of a castle look being imposed on small diminutive and humble abodes.  To take on a castle look, one must start with a sizable mansion to pull it off.  The common language for this type sports the obligatory tower, the undulating crennelation and the constant stone facing.



The ginger bread house could be seen in Victorian houses where lots of fretworks and fancy trims were used.  On the other hand gingerbread houses as in Hansel and Gretel’s were quite different than their Victorian offsprings.



The Shoe House had to be the most whimsical with the shoe shape being quite literal.



The Hobbit house made popular by the Lord of the Rings films were delineated quite well in the movies. The common features were round doors under a bermed roof.




Other less described fairy tales houses were put into the category of tiny whimsical story book houses.  This was where we could apply all kinds of design exercise and juggling of architectural elements to create the cutest story book houses.

Roof design was the most critical element for a story book house since from there, the shapes were determined and cuteness ensued.

The steep roofs, reminiscent of a witch’s hat, required no effort as they in themselves were quite spectacular.





Thatched roofs with curling and hugging eaves evoked the old cottage feel.  It was too bad they were not your Class A fire resistant kind of roof but they certainly exuded comfort and coziness.



Curving shingled or shake roofs were excellent substitution for the fire prevention conscious dwellers. Dreamy after all didn’t have to be impractical!



Then there were roofs that were comical and unique.  In the world of fairy tales, all shapes were allowed!




Next to roof shapes were the half timbered details.  They took on from the simplest shapes to the most undulating curves.



Doors were important as they hinted of  a world of witchcraft, dwarf living or that of a lost princess playing homemaker beyond their threshold.



It would be remiss if stonework of the most uneven kind were absent.  One found them on low wall, chimney or entire walls.



The turret – A remnant from castle architecture but also a result of romantic occurrences made that much more dramatic when happening in a remote tower or highly perched turret.



Dormer galore. No story book house was complete without the obligatory dormer.  It went with the low plate height and attic rooms more suitable for step daughters and poor relations.




The success in a convincing story book house came from morphing and melding so many shapes into a lump of a house.  From the look of the exterior, one pondered what small creature lived in those cramped rooms and low ceiling spaces.



Then there were those small ordinary cottages.  Their small sizes just screamed story book because who else but dainty maidens and sweet old grandmas could live there happily – even if they eventually moved to castles to settle happily ever after?







And now that story book houses are quite a thing of the past, and that no homeowner would want to build a new story book house because it wouldn’t do to have low ceilings and tight spaces when mcmansions are de rigueur, one can always go back to those books and dream away…


The tower with the golden “rope”.

e77b09c9b75f5f2695d0b12c80b0d2b7The house where no one goes hungry.

89ae40f6711cfa9d2284ce9f5a7bcf49And the castle where happily ever after is always within grasp…

Pooling for a Swim

Pools make the best statement for a property.  Pools command views and set the mood for one’s backyard.  Does one go simple in the traditional rectangular shape for pools? Does one take on the natural shapes of ponds? So many options- to make the strong statement or to let nature take over and blend the pool in its garden surround.

For such an important decision, designing pools is a serious business. First and foremost, the shape of the pool has to be decided. Rectangular Pools – My favorite shape because of its simplicity. The promising freshness of the pool water is best contained in the simplest shape.

Organic shaped pools – When the edge of the pool is not well defined, the pool lends itself well to an organic shape. These shapes, sometimes quite random in its configuration, blends into the natural forms of their surrounding borders.

Curved edge pools.  They add interests but are not great for swimming laps…

A pool with a view – a fail safe solution. It enhances the view and it bridges the house with the view beyond by bringing the view closer in the pool’s reflection.

Pool within walls –  When a little privacy is needed or when the view beyond is not that worthwhile, walls with texture would define the pool enclosure and create its own world.

Lap pools – In their elegant elongated forms, they speak of leisurely pace and lazy languor. They stretch…

Edges of Pools – Some pools benefit from a well defined, thick slab edge.  Some want to mimic a beach approach or a rocky pebbly shore.

Some pools like to be surrounded by ruins. Mystery pools can be quite enchanting.

Glass pool edges can be quite scary.

Waterfalls feeding water into a pool.  Combining ponds and pools – Great when higher grounds abut the pool.

Geometric walkways and edges.

Ponds – When we just want an excuse to have a water feature in our yard and swimming is not necessary.

When to have an infinity edge? when there is a view and a drop.

Pool styling per house style- Traditional homes are best served with rectangular pools.

Pools in Greek towns can be just about any shape. We don’t care, just get us there.

Pools for modern homes. As long as the edges are sharp…

And one shall always endeavor to make one’s pool as dreamy as possible…

The moor’s last “sight”…

The borderless pool…

Too cool a pool…

Camping is not quite that rough when you have this:

Halloween Eye Candies

Hallloween treats for those who have to curb their sugar intake like me tend to be feasts for the eyes only.  I scoured the internet for the most creative plays on the theme.  We, the “grown ups”,  have our own delights in the fun of coming up with ghoulish, freakish, devilish but goodish edibles.

Here are my kind of treats.

Speaking of eye candies…

These ones give me the frights.

Finger food…

Mummies from Mommies…

Unwrap me…

Dappling in apples….

Bite me…

Itching for witchings…

Hats off!

Mulling over skulls…

Webbing from Charlotte…

A host of ghosts or is it the ghost of the host?

Smashing ghosts.

Don’ t forget to invite a few of our favorite characters…

Can a grin be any wider?



When in doubt, resort to packaging…

Go for pumkins with characters or are they cataracts?

Containers and cutouts.

Blackened food.

Rustic in black.

Candles go a long way.

Eeries in blues.

Basic Jack.

Sometimes, the thing to do is to invite yourself to a tete a tete with Miss Havisham…

Happy Halloween!  Cook up a hoot of a time!

Photo sources: click on images.

The Gable End of All

Gable ends are one of the strongest tools used to make an architectural statement in residential architecture.  The iconic symbol of a house is in the shape of the gable end side of a house.  The connotation stems from a house providing a roof over our head.  Graphically, the angled roof resulting in a triangle front makes it a very distinct geometric shape.  Historically, it’s a breakthrough in structural design, away from the simple post and lintel construction, allowing for larger spans between walls.  On a comfort level, it sheds water better than a flat roof and therefore gives us better protection against the inclements of weather.

For this post, I will skip the usual suspects in gable end designs and will direct my focus on the clever, the ingenuous and the romantic treatments of our beloved gable ends.

The “soft story” look.  A gable end over large openings to give it a featherweight look.  It floats and looks effortless.

The gable end is the only facade showing in each of these row houses.  Let’s only show the side that matters!

Let nature enhance this gable end by molding it to its shape.

Combining the triangular shape with a strong horizontal entity.  Make it seem anti-gravitational by facing it with rocks supported by a white ephemeral arm.

Modern inserts against the traditional hay used non traditionally on the gable end instead of on the roof.

The strong symmetry with bisecting chimney line serves to accentuate the clean outlines of the mass.

The truncated gable end.  It’s best when the slope is steep.

Sometimes, it’s simple enough to keep the traditional form and play with the material. In this case, making it translucent is anything but traditional.

Another “soft story” gable end.  This time, it leaves room for a nice cozy porch.

Texture it with slats.  The pattern it makes at night gives off a quite splendid effect.

An outdoor room overlooking a river. Such a romantic gesture with vertical siding without a bottom trim to add a modern take to a rural scene.

The glass gable end. Light, textured and effortlessly supported. 

The gable end window allows you to enjoy the gable geometry from inside as well.

Purely graphic exercise to juxtapose the traditional against the cubist approach to a house form.  Can this be any more poetic?

 The truncated gable end next to the long shed form. Simply magic. The grey wood siding against a stark landscape evokes the quietness of just being.  One senses the sharpness of the roof peak as equal in roughness with the bare cliff beyond. If there is a place to escape to, this surely is.

Click of images for photo sources.

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.