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PostHeaderIcon Design Tips

PostHeaderIcon July Designers Log - Why Hire a Professional?

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Recently, Allnewsnoblues.com contributing writer Diana posted a column that posed the question, should you use a professional instead of just asking a friend in making decisions about your wardrobe.  Diana is a fashion consultant and works with men and women on getting the best out of themselves through their wardrobe and using it to better their life, career and how they feel about themselves.

Reading her post, it struck me how similar what she does is to what I do and her point is well taken.  You wouldn't ask your friends about treatment of a health condition.  You'd ask your doctor.  You wouldn't reference a neighbor on your retirement plan, unless of course he was a CPA.  So why do people rely on the advise of a non-professional when it comes to furnishing their homes?

Over the years I have noticed there is often a misconception that being an interior designer is not really a legitimate profession.  Some people I have met have not always understood the benefits of working with someone trained in this field.  They believe it's something anyone can do, and if they themselves aren't good at it, then just ask a friend... or a friend of a friend... and so on.

Today there are literally dozens of what are called "shelter" magazines; publications that showcase beautiful homes and lead you to believe they just happened overnight.  TV shows on interior decorating are popular and fun to watch.  But, where these programs might make it look like that completely finished room was created in 48 hours and on a budget of $500, it just doesn't happen that way in real life.

Interior designers are schooled in their field, work very hard to learn the business and take pride in their chosen profession.  True, it does take a natural talent and creativity, but so much more goes into it than just tossing a few pillows around or walking into a furniture store and buying the display vignette as shown.

Here are some of the many ways a professional interior designer is necessary and how they can help you achieve the living space you desire:

- Designers have access to wholesale resources not available to the general public.  It may seem easy enough to shop at a chain furniture store or resource online, but the best prices, options and choice is still through your design professional.  Today many designers work as consultants, charge only an hourly fee and pass discounts directly to you.

- Without a background and experience in materials, manufacturers and construction, it's very easy to make a mistake and buy something that won't last or will be out of date in a few years.  An interior designer's knowledge will help you in putting together a room that is not only beautiful but reflects how you and your family live.

- Time is money for most people, and many don't have the hours in the day or the energy to shop endlessly for the right furnishings; to contrast and compare and to coordinate a room.  Your interior designer does this and can make the process easy, stress free and do it in less time.

Think about it:  If you've ever had work done on your home, you know that you can't open the door for the workmen at 8 AM, go to work and come home at the end of the day to a completed, perfect job.  There are problems and situations that come up in any installation or remodel.  Your designer is on call and can be the liaison to handle the questions and issues so you don't have to deal with it.

- Every one has their own style and budget.  Hiring a designer will keep you on budget, saving money in the long run, while giving you the space you have envisioned.  A good designer works with you, understands your needs and limitations and helps make your dream come true without costly mistakes.

I often hear from people that in the end, their room and home just didn't come out as they had expected.  They end up disappointed and frustrated.  Your design consultant sees the big picture and can coordinate and oversee the entire project from conception to completion.  They have the expertise and experience to get you from where you are now, to where you want to be.  They take the time to listen to you and understand what you need and how to get there.

So, next time you think your friend can help because her house looks pretty good or you see a room on TV that looks like something you could do yourself, remember that this is an interior designers job.  We love what we do.  We work with you to create a beautiful living environment and save you stress, money and time.

And who doesn't love that?  - SEW

Steve Wallace lives in Danville.  An interior designer for more than 25 years, his work has been featured in Palm Springs Life and he is completing a book about design for publication soon.  He writes a monthly column about design and style for www.allnewsnoblues.com.  

Find him at Design and Interiors in Walnut Creek, California or at
www.designandinteriors.com or call 925 915 1005. 

Last Updated (Monday, 28 May 2012 07:06)


PostHeaderIcon Feeling Color - Designers Log- June

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You've probably seen them too, those people at Home Depot or at the local paint store, holding a handful of paint color swatches with puzzled looks on their faces.

For most of us, selecting a paint color is difficult enough.  But beyond deciding which blue is lighter or which green is closest to your daughters bedspread, there is a psychological impact of color in our lives.

Every color we encounter in a space has some impact on how we feel.  It can make us happy or sad, literally give us a headache or put a warm fuzzy feeling into our hearts.  A recent study by Olympic Paints found that yellow, an old standby for babies rooms, can actually provoke anxiety and that babies in yellow nurseries tend to cry more.

Color can also affect our appetite, work productivity and even our lovemaking.  Even the saturation or intensity of a color can alter how it makes you feel.  A soft blue can bring back fond memories of childhood while a strong dark blue can be depressing.

Cultural preferences can be another factor in color selection.  In China and India white is the color of death, as opposed to black in this country.  We think of white as meaning peace, virginity and is usually the color for wedding dresses.  But in many Latin America countries, it's considered good luck to wear bright colors, not white. This is also the reason we associate fun and bright colors with certain places.

Here is a quick primer on how some colors can affect your psyche. 

Yellow -  A very invigorating color, yellow can also bring on anxiety.  Don't use it for high energy areas like the kitchen, but keep it to smaller areas like hallways or laundry rooms.  If you enjoy this color, opt for one with honey or golden tones.  This will add an elegance to the room

Red - Did you know research brought us to use red for stop signs?  Red literally tells the brain to slow down.  It's often used in bars, casinos and restaurants to keep customers there and remove any feeling of being rushed.  Red is perfect for dining rooms and sexy reds, like the color of Merlot is soothing in the bedroom.

Blue - It's not a stretch to understand that blue is a calming color.  It's the color of the sea and the sky.  Be careful that the blue you select isn't what I like to call "little boys room" blue, but choose a turquoise or navy for large rooms.  Blue is also an appetite suppressant.  When was the last time you ate blue food?

Green - Again a color associated with nature,  greens make us feel secure and tranquil.  Green is not a good color for skin tones, so shy away from using it in a bathroom or bedroom where you look in the mirror.  However, mossy green is a great neutral, while apple green feels fresh and clean.

Brown - Another color that prompts comfort and security, brown really runs the spectrum from light to muddy.  Don't use a dark brown in small rooms, it only intensifies the feeling of claustrophobia.  But a light brown, like soft suede is very conducive to dens or home offices as it cuts down on eye fatigue.

Don't let the paint color you choose have the wrong effect.  That pink in the store can look like Pepto-Bismol in your bedroom.  Terra Cotta might seems like the perfect selection for that Italian look, but can be dreary and depressing when it surrounds you.

So, the next time you are stymied and overwhelmed with the choices at your local paint store, think beyond what might be pretty or safe.  Color is a psychological tool and can hugely affect your mood and life. - SEW

Steve Wallace lives in Danville.  An interior designer for more than 20 years, his work has been featured in Palm Springs Life and he is completing a book about design for publication soon.  He writes a monthly entry for www.allnewsnoblues.com about design and style.  Contact him at www.stevewallacedesign.com or call 925 915 1005. 

Last Updated (Sunday, 11 July 2010 19:02)


PostHeaderIcon Find Your Way to Style This Summer

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This is the May installment of the Designer's Log by Danville designer Steve Wallace. Look for Wallace's column once a month, usually the first Thursday of the month and feel free to email him ideas.

As I’m writing this today it’s raining and cool, even though it’s May.  But, don’t let this longer than usual winter weather fool you. Summer is almost here, and you need to be ready.  Just like you’ll be trading in the coats and boots for shorts and flip-flops, your home and yard wants to shed the gloom and show its stuff.

Here are 5 ideas to get your summer off to a fresh new start:

Get your outdoor furniture refreshed.

Winter can be downright hostile to your patio furniture. The rain, freezing temperatures and winds may leave your outdoor area looking worse for wear.  Take time to give your furniture the attention it needs so when you are ready to sit out there with a cool drink it’s ready for you.

Teak furniture can be cleaned with mild soap and water.  For tough stains, use a scrub brush with a little bleach.  If you haven’t sealed it, it will have turned a silver-grey color. If you like that look, great; if you want your teak to look like new again, use teak oil, found at any hardware store. 

Metal or aluminum furniture should hold up well over the winter. It’s best covered or put in storage, but if not, a good hosing will wash away dirt and grime.  Most furniture made of metal or aluminum has a powder coating, which should not fade or discolor. If you have cushions, clean with a mild soap and scrub brush. 

Wood or wicker furniture will be most damaged by the elements.  Look for cracks or loose joints.  Often these can be fixed with wood glue.  More serious issues can be addressed by re-weaving or new dowels.  Consider painting wood or wicker for a bright, fresh new look.  White is always a safe bet, but wouldn’t it be fun to brighten up the space with sapphire blue or canary yellow?

Plant a container garden

Whether you have a large yard or a small balcony, plants and flowers in pots bring life and color to any space.  Use odd shapes and sizes of containers for that unplanned, natural look.  Pansies, vinca vine and geraniums are all inexpensive to buy, easy to plant and require low maintenance.  Check with your local nursery for what works best in your situation.  It’s even fun to plant vegetables and herbs.  Tomatoes, beans, strawberries and basil all thrive well in pots.

Invest in new accessories

This is the time of year to find great plastic serving pieces at the stores.  I’ve seen colorful plates, glasses, pitchers and platters everywhere from Tuesday Morning to Target to Pottery Barn.  You can also use mismatched glasses for candles (remember Citronella keeps the bugs at bay), throw an assortment of colored pillows on the hammock and rolled up towels on the chaise lounges for that resort look.

Plan a barbeque

Nothing gets the season off to a fun start like an outdoor party with friends and family. Make it easy on yourself and don’t over plan the event.  Grill hamburgers or chicken, make a large green salad and serve strawberries and ice cream for dessert.  Don’t offer too many refreshments, you don’t want to play bartender all afternoon.  Wine, beer and soda should be enough to please everyone.  E-vite.com has great summer- themed invitations for a fast and convenient way to keep track of the guest list and RSVP’s. 

Your insides need love too

Although this is the time of year to spend more time outside, do something to bring summer indoors.  Paint an accent wall yellow or lime green or lilac.  Place a bouquet of wildflowers in a glass pitcher.  Hang sheer drapes from a rod and let the breeze move them around.  I have a brightly colored throw from Hawaii that in the spring comes out of hibernation to brighten up on the bed or sofa. You can feel like you are on a tropical island inside your house as well as out.

Whatever you do, make it fun.  Let your imagination wander. This is vacation time. There should be no rules, no schedules, and no stress. Grab that margarita, your sun screen, your baseball cap and get out there and enjoy.

Steve Wallace lives in Danville. An interior designer for more than 20 years, his work has been featured in Palm Springs Life and he is completing a book about design for publication soon. He writes a monthly entry for www.allnewsnoblues.com about design and style. Contact him at www.stevewallacedesign.com or call 925.915.1005.


Last Updated (Wednesday, 14 July 2010 02:43)


PostHeaderIcon Art Deco--Circa 2010

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Miami Beach, Circa 1940sThis is the April installment of the Designer's Log by Danville designer Steve Wallace. Look for Wallace's column once a month, usually the first Thursday of the month and feel free to email him ideas.

Art Deco, one of the most iconic design styles of the twentieth century, is experiencing a major comeback. With its linear lines, sexy curves and elegance, this popular look is finding renewed popularity among young designers and aficionados of classic architecture. 

Art Deco was a popular international design movement from 1925 until the 1940s and influenced the decorative arts, architecture, interior design and industrial design. Started by the French La Societe des artistes decorateurs (translated from French to English as the society of great artists), it was an immediate hit and spread worldwide, especially to America.   

The movement was a reaction to the organic, earthly designs of Art Nouveau and the fussy uptight look of Victorian.  After World War I and the austerity of the war years, it took Europe by storm. Among the elite, Art Deco peaked in the late 1920’s, but remained a favorite in the United States through the Great Depression.  Interestingly, the term “Art Deco” was not coined until 1968 by Bevis Hillier in the book Art Deco of the ‘20s and ‘30s. Before that it was referred to by many names, mostly going by Industrial Modern

Best known Art Deco landmarks are the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building in New York as well as many buildings built in the 20’s along Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. 

Also very familiar are the neighborhoods developed in the style of Miami Beach, (above left) made famous in movies and television. Designated on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the area of South Beach has been restored to original splendor right down to the colors of the hotels.

We also have some outstanding examples here in the Bay Area. The Paramount Theater in Oakland and the Orinda Theater in Orinda, to name a few. 

Next time you are driving from Oakland to Walnut Creek, check out the entrance façade on the original bore of the Caldecott Tunnel. 

For a more in depth look at Art Deco and its influence here in northern California, pick up “Art Deco –San Francisco, The Architecture of Timothy Pflueger” by Therese Poletti and Tom Paiva, available at SFMOMA.

It was visually stunning as can be seen in the timeless Hollywood films of Busby Berkeley, and others from the ‘30s and ‘40s.  The designs of movie set designer Cedric Gibbons brought the look to the public.  One of the most famous and recognizable Art Deco designs is the Oscar statuette, designed by Gibbons in 1928. 

Art Deco styling was opulent and lavish.  At the time the style was seen as glamorous and modern.  Its sweeping movement was perfect for trains, airplanes, ships and movie theaters.  Americans were living life big in the industrial years and everyone wanted to embrace it.  Still popular today are the posters and graphics showing the famous Twentieth Century train and the magnificent early cruise ships, Il de France and The Queen Mary.

Today many are seeing the style for its historical significance and working to save and restore buildings that remind us of this great time in architectural history.  One of the best in the Bay Area is the Art Deco Society of California.  They sponsor walking tours, special events, speakers and even dances. The organization works hard to bring this fabulous look to the public and educate on how to save landmark buildings. Their website is: www.artdecosociety.org.

With the resurgence of Art Deco in the 2010’s, designers are looking to the color palette of that era in today’s paints, with grays, pastels and metallics becoming the new trend in interior design.  At this month’s High Point Furniture Market, furniture buyers will see an array of styles with deco influences. This timeless style can bring a glamour and sophistication into your own space. So, pour a martini, order “Flying Down to Rio” from Netflix, but on your best bias cut dress or tuxedo and enjoy.

Steve Wallace lives in Danville.  An interior designer for more than 20 years, his work has been featured in Palm Springs Life and he is completing a book about design for publication soon. He writes a monthly entry for www.allnewsnoblues.com about design and style. Contact him at www.stevewallacedesign.com or call 925-915-1005.---SEW

Last Updated (Sunday, 18 July 2010 20:23)


PostHeaderIcon March Designer's Log-- Countertops

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Editor's note: This is the third installment of the Designer's Log by Danville designer Steve Wallace. Look for Wallace's column once a month, usually the first Thursday of the month and feel free to email him ideas.

Conserving natural resources is an important consideration for us all, and interior design is no exception. So, the challenge becomes how does one combine style with a nod to the environment?

We can start right here in the East Bay. Vetrazzo®, started in Berkeley, uses recycled glass to create colorful, unique countertops.

Back in 1996, a glass scientist teamed up with a Bay Area architect and started making small custom-made recycled glass countertops for local use. This new and innovative material was soon being used in major hotels such as the Ritz Carlton in South Beach, Florida.  Word spread fast among the design community. The company outgrew many spaces and 10 years ago took recycling to a new level by installing a state of the art facility in the abandoned Ford auto plant on the bay in Richmond.

Most of the glass used in Vetrazzo comes from curbside recycling programs. Glass also comes from windows, dinnerware, stemware, windshields, stained glass, laboratory glass, and reclaimed glass from building demolition, traffic lights and other unusual sources. Every Vetrazzo surface has its own history. After your purchase and registration, the company provides you with a Certificate of Transformation that tells you where the glass in your Vetrazzo came from.

The color palette is constantly evolving as their designers discover new sources of discarded glass. When you think about it, the possibilities are endless. The current palette consists of 19 colors, from Hollywood Sage (for that hip modern look) to Bistro Green (think of a Parisian café) to Alehouse Amber (no, it’s not a barmaid).

A Vetrazzo surface lets you express both your individual style and your respect for our planet without compromise.  The end product is 85 percent glass and their whole manufacturing plant is green; with such innovation as using daylight for working, negative-pressure dust booths and by recycling the water they use. They are a Certified Bay Area Green Business and a winner of the U.S. EPA Environmental Award.

Vetrazzo’s artful countertops are incredibly strong, beautiful, timeless and a joy to live with. An extremely durable and easy-to-maintain surface, it's comparable to granite in strength, scratch resistance, heat resistance, durability, and care & maintenance. Vetrazzo is less porous than marble, concrete or limestone. 
But you do have to care for it. Since 85 percent of the surface is glass, it’s impervious to most staining. However, acids (like red wine, lemon juice and vinegar) will etch the matrix of the surface (the concrete area between the glass) if not cleaned up right away. And staining agents (like coffee and tea) will leave a trace if allowed to remain on the surface.  Luckily, like aged butcher block, marble, and concrete, signs of living can actually enhance the character of the surface. If you clean messes up quickly, your Vetrazzo will remain unchanged.

If you prefer a more carefree lifestyle, you will appreciate the natural patina that can develop over time. Keep it clean with soap and water, (avoiding harsh abrasives). When the mood strikes you, buff it with a wax a few times a year and reseal it once every year or two. 

Dwell magazine calls Vetrazzo surfaces “a superhero of the countertop world” and you will, too. After years of granite, it’s refreshing to find a new material that is so easy to maintain, so colorful and so much fun to enjoy every day.  It’s also a great feeling personally to be using a truly green product and investing in our local economy. Your home is a reflection of your style and your values.  Sustainable materials are the only way to go today.  We must think about cutting down on mining non-renewable resources like virgin stone.  

Vetrazzo can be seen at many East Bay kitchen design studios.  I am currently specifying it for a client. You can also find out more by going to their Web site at www.vetrazzo.com.
An interior designer for more than 20 years, Wallace's work has been featured in Palm Springs Life and he is completing a book about design for publication soon. Contact him at www.stevewallacedesign.com or call 925.915.1005.

Last Updated (Sunday, 19 December 2010 18:15)

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