Bunny, Bunny, How Does Your Garden Grow?

As the temperature creeped up over recent weeks here in the Northeast part of the United States, we thought we were free and clear of winter.  It was an early spring, and I rejoiced, especially considering how much snow we had at this time last year.  But Mother Nature decided to surprise us with a Nor'easter at the start of the week, dropping about six inches of snow, delaying school openings and reminding us that we're not out of the woods yet.

Nevertheless, with daffodils abloom, my thoughts turn to the garden.  I don't have much of a green thumb.  I know that garden design is a lot like interior design -- using plantings to add color, form, texture, focus, and rhythm.  I've gotten as far as planting some low shrubs to fill in some spots between high shrubs in front of my house and added a few rose bushes and a lilac to the side for color and scent.  Inasmuch as I would like to design outdoor spaces as well as indoor, I'm afraid I lack the talent and experience.  But I was able to hear from someone who does.

Last year, Bunny Williams, one of America's top interior designers, released the second edition of her book, On Garden Style.  I had the privelege of hearing Bunny talk about her approach to garden design last year at the Boston Design Center.  It was my third time hearing Bunny talk, which is indeed a privilege.  Her approach to gardening, like her approach to interior design, can be distilled to what I like to call "Bunnyisms" -- pithy snippets of design wisdom delivered in her inimitable style.  She says it all better than I do, so below are Bunnyisms on garden design.  I hope they'll inspire those of you who, like me, lack green thumbs.

Elements of a Good Garden:

Observe your garden as you would if it were a picture.  Windows and doors act to frame your view.  Inanimate objects create focus.  Here, Bunny illustrates how an urn is used to accentuate a doorway and beckon the viewer into the garden.

Garden of Jacques Wirtz, photo by Alexandre Bailhache







In what parts of the garden would you want to sit and contemplate?  Put seating there.  Here, simple Adirondack chairs are placed on a hill under a grove of shade trees overlooking the main house.

Garden of, and photo by Gil Schafer

Water in the garden creates a "moment."  Water features bring sound and ornamental shape to the garden.


In the photo above, a canal is bordered by box hedges.

Photo by Richard Felber

Begin with strong massive anchors.  Add plants of different scale, choosing plants for color and texture.  Use massing, matched to the scale of the architecture and garden, to create statements.  Unify the garden with color and repetition.


Photo by Tim Street-Porter

In the photo above, a tree arbor anchors massing with carlesi and vibernums.

Adding Furniture and Accessories to the Garden:

Ornamental elements should work with the style and scale of the house.  In a small garden, accent with only one object. 

Containers create architecture and give interest to a space.  A row of pots adds structure and symmetry and creates a nice view from inside.  Use pots that are all the same color and in proportion to the plantings.  Make sure the material of the pots can withstand the elements.


Meyer lemon trees in terracotta pots match the rhythm of the arcade and columns of this home in Charleston, South Carolina.

photo by Christopher Baker

Outdoor furniture is not for decoration.  It should never upstage nature.  It should always be similar in color and in contrast with the interior.  Use white outdoor furniture in shady areas.  Weathered teak harmonizes with stone, mortar and weathered cedar shingles.  Use aluminum and teak by the ocean because they stand up to salt.  Position furniture to face the outdoors.

Use mirrors on a covered porch or loggia to reflect the outdoors and augment natural light for the adjacent interiors.


White lacquer outdoor furniture on the terrace of Oscar de la Renta's Connecticut home.

Photo by Richard Felber


Where Do You Banquette?

Not too long ago, the only place you'd see a banquette was in a restaurant.  Not anymore.  Banquettes have become de rigueur not only in eat-in-kitchens but in living rooms as well.  At the 2014 Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse, not less than three designers featured banquettes in their rooms.  Talk about a trend! 


Markham Roberts' banquette in his "A Gentlemen's Study" at the 2014 Kips Bay Showhouse.                                


Vicente Wolf's banquette in his "Orange is the New Black" at the 2014 Kips Bay Showhouse.


Alexa Hamtpon's stunning banquette, complete with buillion fringe, in her "Sitting Room Folly" at the 2014 Kips Bay Showhouse.

A banquette upgrades the look of the kitchen table by adding plush and comfortable seating.  And those bare corners of the living room that we used to disguise with folding screens and corner bookcases now allow for more conversation areas with the addition of a banquette.


               Kitchen banquette in a design by Alessandra Branca.  Photo by Thibault Jeanson courtesy of Elle Decor.

Here is a banquette I designed for a basement renovation project in the home of empty nesters.  The basement, once the children's playroom, is now an adult playspace.


                                                                                     Photo by Michael J. Lee.

Here is a banquette tucked into the corner of a living room.


                                      Design by Garrow Kedigian Interior Design.  Photo courtesy of Sophie Donelson.

Look around your home for clever spaces to tuck a banquette.  How about in a foyer to expand your entertainment space?


                                                              Photo courtesy of MMR Interiors.




My Name is Laurie and I am an Empty-Nester

The day every parent both dreads and anticipates arrived for me in late August of last year.

I became an empty-nester: my youngest left for college.

When my oldest of three children left nine years ago, I remember how glad I was to have three children spaced nine years apart.  It would be that much longer before I became an empty-nester.

Now that my baby is in college, the notion that I can change my residence has started to percolate.  The winter of 2015 in New England was enough to make anyone move especially to someplace warm year-round.  But I find myself wrestling with so many issues.  Where will I go?  What will I do with a house full of furniture that is still very dear to me, many of the pieces I took from my parents’ house and painstakingly refinished?

I discovered that I'm not alone. The baby-boom generation will be the largest population to approach retirement age at one time.  For many of us, down-sizing is not an option. For one, based on housing values, it may cost more to downsize. This is definitely true where I live, just outside of Boston. For another, we may not want to uproot ourselves from the lives we've cultivated in our present abodes – the friends, hobbies and cultural pursuits that ground us and give meaning to where we live.  This is why aging-in-place is the hot topic for us boomers.

How do we adapt our living situation to the physical realities of aging?  Luckily, many manufacturers now recognize the increasing demand for furnishings that are both functional and aesthetically-appealing to help transition to these realities.

What adaptations will we need to make?  Here is a list with some resources that will make our aging-in-place homes both look good and function well.

1. Easily maneuverable hardware

Lever handles and rocker switches make turning faucets and light switches on and off and opening and closing doors easier to manage.  

Moving shower controls to the wall nearest the entry point will let us control water temperature from outside the shower. Hand-held sprayers also make bathing easier. Adding a seat to the shower is recommended.  

Motorized window shades and draperies let elders control natural light with a touch of a button on a remote control device.


Left to right: Kohler Artifacts bathroom lever faucet handles, Moen old world bronze designer grab bar, Moen teak folding shower seat

2. Hard-surface flooring and/or low pile carpeting with no thresholds

For elders requiring a wheelchair or walker, smooth, hard surface flooring like hardwood floors make maneuvering easier.  

Nonslip surfacing is especially necessary for wet areas given that falls account for more injuries and hospitalizations among the aging than any other known cause.  Taking away thresholds between rooms is important for elders who are visually impaired. 

3. Widening doorways to at least 32 inches is essential for those confined to wheelchairs

4. Adaptive seating

To aid sitting and standing, seating with seat heights between 19 and 22 inches high is important.  Seat depth should also be comfortable.  Chairs with arms and firm seats assist with sitting and standing.  So do motorized lift chairs which look like typical recliners.

Comfort-height toilets that are two inches taller than the standard 17-inch high toilets also make sitting down and standing up easier.

5. Appliances and work surfaces within reach

Lowering the height of everyday appliances like microwaves and adding front-loading washers and dryers foster self-care. Similarly does lowering some or all of the kitchen counter surfaces.

6. Room sensors

Motion controlled light switches help with energy conservation for elders who forget to turn off lights.

7. Color palettes.

As we age, our color perception changes.  Bright colors with high contrast are more suitable than monochromatic palettes.  For the memory impaired, color coding assists wayfinding (for example, keeping hallways all one color, bathrooms another).

8. Stairs

Eliminating the use of stairs is obviously preferable for safety's sake.  That may mean adding a bedroom and full bath to the main living floor.  If that is not possible, there are chair lifts.  But chair lifts may require having double sets of walkers or wheel chairs on both floors.


No Shrinking Violets These

When I was combing my digital feeds to see what inspired me from the recent design trade shows in Atlanta, Las Vegas and New York, surprisingly nothing jumped out at me.  It made me think, have my design sensibilities dulled?  But then I was struck by the bold and saturated colors and patterns I was seeing in the feeds of visitors to Paris Deco Off in January.  This show, in its seventh year, features the latest in textiles as well as other residential design materials.

Geometric and abstract textile patterns were prominent as well as patterns emulating techniques for manipulating other materials -- like the marbilization of paper and oxidation of metals.  But the textiles that jumped out at me most were those featuring exotic florals and tropical greenery.  There's nothing like bold patterns and saturated colors to steer us away from the safety of monochromatic neutrals!  I dare the most die-hard proponents of white, beige and grey to resist one of these beauties!

Below are some tempting new releases to enliven drab color schemes.  Who needs roses this Valentine's Day when you can have these?


Above left, Chromatropic from the Maya Collection by Pierre Frey, inspired by the colorful world of Central America.  Above right, Tropicana from the Cubana Collection by Matthew Williamson for Osborne & Little, inspired by pre-revolutionary Cuba.


Above left, Leonor from the Anopura Collection by Lorca for Osborne & Little, inspired by exotic locations (actually released in 2014).  Above right, Cuilko, an embroidered pattern on linen in the Maya Collection by Pierre Frey. Inspired by (duh!) cacti.


Abpve left, Broderique on linen from the Bonsai of the Vanities Collection by Jim Thompson, a re-creation of an 18th century embroidery in a contemporary color palette.  Above right, Flamingo Club from the Cubana Collection by Matthew Williamson for Osborne & Little.


Above left, Veracruz from the Maya Collection by Pierre Frey, inspired by the flora of South America.  Above right, Tulipan (actually introduced in Spring 2015), from the Pasha Collection by Osborne & Little.


What's New for Kitchen and Bath

One-twelfth of 2016 is over, yet a variety of trade shows held this January reveal what's new in the design world for 2016.  I've been keeping tabs via Instagram, and wanted to bring you the trends revealing themselves from afar.  First up, what's new in Kitchen and Bath as revealed at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) held January 19-21 in Las Vegas.

1. Tile Introductions

Two new tile collections introduced at KBIS are drool-worthy to say the least.  Walker Zanger introduced their new collaboration with European modular concrete tile manufacturer, Kaza Concrete.  I don't care what anybody says about concrete tile.  I love it and I think it's here to stay.  The potential for pattern and form is limitless, adding tremendous versatility and dimension to kitchen and bath design.


Left: Edgy, Lantern (top right), and Seed (bottom right) Kaza tile patterns. Right: Edgy Kaza tile pattern. Photos courtesy of Walker Zanger.

Kaza will be released in the spring in the U.S. with Walker Zanger being the sole distributor.  It's versatility is almost boundless, being suitable for indoor and outdoor applications and in custom patterns and colors.

Another spectacular introduction was the tile collaboration between Ann Sacks and designer Kelly Wearstler.  Kelly is known for her bold patterns and forms and unusual yet glamorous juxtapositions.  Her collections incorporate the finest craftsmanship and details.  It is no surprise that her tile collection for Ann Sacks launched at KBIS is nothing less.


                                         Above, from the Maven Collection, left "Breakwater" and right "Solstice."

True to Kelly's love of geometric patterns and symmetry is the Liaison mosaic collection in cut stone.  These tiles have me in ecstasy.  The combination of black and white is so classic in design, especially for the bath.  These tiles complement the elegance of carrara marble, a staple in luxury baths for decades.


        Left to right: from the Liaison Collection, Doheny Small, Laurel and Mulholland Small.  Photos courtesy of Ann Sacks.

A trend in tile that continues to evolve is three-dimensional texture.  The Kaza collection affirms that.  But Walker Zanger introduced some other tiles that perpetuate the trend.  Their Knit collection emulates the textures and patterns of fine fabrics.  In names like Quilt, Corduroy and Twill, these tiles, in matte porcelain, feature fine ribbing like their namesake woven textiles but, like the Twill tiles below, can be installed in a three-dimensional stacked shingle pattern.


Walker Zanger and interior designer Michael Berman added to their collaborative Studio Moderne ceramic tile line with the new Hollywood Babylon Suite.  The collection illustrates the trend toward dimensional wall tile applications.  My favorite is the middle tile below, Montclair, which Berman adapted from Neo-Egyptian architecture.

                                                            Photo courtesy of Walker Zanger.

2. Emphasis on Color

Say goodbye to sterile white kitchens!  The salient trend from this year's KBIS is the abundant color choices in everything from cabinets to appliances.

What popped up most in my Instagram feed from KBIS was the Coleur Collection developed by interior designer Suzanne Kasler in partnership with La Cornue of France.  This pink range was a showstopper.  While it may be a show stopper, the question is, will it sell?


Continuing in the theme of pastels was this display by Masterbrand Cabinets of a laundry center in a painted pale aqua finish.


Bolder colors also prevailed.  Wellborn Cabinets took its cue from the jungle to craft its jewel-tone green display.

                                                            Photo courtesy of Wellborn Cabinets.

Black continues to be popular for the kitchen.  La Cornue's Dream Kitchen, in the trending combination of black, white and brass, appealed to many judging from my Instagram feed.


                                                                  Photo courtesy of La Cornue

Blanco's introduction of the Ikon sink, an apron front sink in Blanco's composite granite material, Silgranit, combines the modern aesthetic of matte black with the traditional apron front sink.


                                                                    Photo courtesy of Blanco.

Next up for reporting are the trends showing at the recently-held Atlanta International Gift and Home Furnishings Market, Las Vegas Market, and NY Now.