K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

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May 18 2016

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Design Collective Unveils Signature Pantone Color


A SoHo urban loft space designed by interior designer Jennifer Wagner Schmidt, in collaboration with six ELEVATE Design Collective brand designers, showcased custom products from Delta Faucet Co., Formica Corp., Hunter Fan, JELD-WEN, KitchenAid and Schlage – each showcasing the new signature ELEVATE Pantone color: Single Malt (below).

Aiming for a modern, stylish color, the brands’ lead designers worked collaboratively to create a rich yet sophisticated neutral hue. Blurring the line between natural and man-made, Single Malt is warm and rustic, evoking the essence of whiskey, cigars, leather and coffee.

Within a record amount of time during New York Design Week, one apartment walk-up was redesigned to incorporate statement pieces with the Pantone-created color, Single Malt (below). Color accents were applied to a unique selection of products from ceiling fans to kitchen appliances outfitting the ELEVATE urban loft space.

Single Malt

The ELEVATE Design Collective is a first-of-its-kind alliance of six industry-leading brands that have come together to bring home accents to the forefront to help inspire and guide home remodeling and renovations. The six brand designers met at Pantone headquarters to explore common ground and formulate a custom color for their product collections unveiled during New York’s Design Week.

Loft Designers’ Inspirations
Jennifer Wagner Schmidt, owner of JWS Interiors, designed the ELEVATE loft and worked the opposite way in which she is familiar by incorporating the colors and materials first and design aesthetic second. This would be a challenge for any designer, but she drew inspiration from Scandinavian designs with clean whites, sharp blacks and a mix of modern and organic lines, textures and materials.

“My vision for the loft was to use the accent pieces as the starting point and really allow that to drive the color story while keeping the overall aesthetic chic, timeless and luxurious,” she added.

Schmidt collaborated with interior designers Mary Jo Peterson of Mary Jo Peterson Inc., who ensured the overall aesthetic translated into a supremely functional kitchen. Peterson said one challenge as the project manager was that the quick turnaround required her to be very hands on and dedicate more than the average hours normally required.

Scott Dannenfelser, senior design manager with Formica, discussed how his inspiration came from his walks in the New York city streets gathering color schemes from retail store window displays, coffee houses, rustic buildings, cobblestone streets and neighborhood pubs.

“Currently our world has a lot of chaos in it,” he explained, “ so we wanted to offset this with the warmth and comfort of a reassuring natural shade.”

A Look Inside the Loft
The open-concept kitchen featured a dramatic focal point with striking countertops made of large-scale 180fx by Formica Group laminate in a custom Bourbon Trail marble design. KitchenAid appliances, including the 36-in. Multi-Door Freestanding Refrigerator; Single Wall Oven with Even-Heat True Convection; and 44 dBA dishwasher – all in black stainless – further emphasize the clean lines of Scandinavian design. The designers chose Maxton and Cornell Maple cabinets from KraftMaid; Italian Alps ceramic wall tile from Daltile; and the Delta Trinsic Pro faucet in the Venetian Steel finish (below).


The designers agreed it was originally challenging to determine how to tie in the color throughout the apartment, but ultimately the warmth and versatility of the tone balanced with the cool “Scandi” feel. These “Scandi” statements were found everywhere from the steel cages of the beautifully crafted Ronan ceiling fans to the Schlage door hardware – the Northbrook Lever with colored trim accenting the sides of the hardware in upland rose and matte black.


The recently launched JELD-WEN MODA Door Collection of contemporary wood doors with simple minimalistic design offered the accent color ever so subtly on the sides of the barn pantry doors. In the bathroom, Schlage’s decorative Northbrook Lever once again accented the doors, and the Delta Ara Collection introduced a contemporary bathroom design with angular silhouettes found in the faucet and showerheads.

To learn more about the ELEVATE Design Collective, the urban loft and the participating brands, visit ELEVATE Design Collective: http://www.elevatedesigncollective.com/index.html.

– By Helene Taylor, KBB contributing writer

May 16 2016

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Living Large in Atlanta

IMG_1891This week the 2016 Southeastern Designer Showhouse & Gardens opened in Atlanta to sponsor Safe Kids Georgia and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Set near Chastain Horse Park on the northern side of downtown Atlanta, the 22,000-sq.-ft. English manor style home and 3.5-acre lot really showcased the best in Atlanta grandeur. I stopped by for a look, and I was blown away by not just the size but the way the designers took today’s styles and glamorized them.

Past the grand front doors (probably somewhere around 12 feet high) and the sweeping staircase, I passed through a formal dining room and found myself in a modern-day butler’s pantry. Designed by Lauren DeLoach, the butler’s pantry contained a microwave, a wine cooler and a wall setting for about 25 wines. A unique flowery wallpaper covered where the walls were empty of cabinetry, in addition to a custom mural.


Into the kitchen (also designed by DeLoach), I found myself in the ultimate hosting space with a massive quartzite island, a Keurig station that took up a whole section of cabinetry and a red and stainless steel rangetop and oven I coveted. Two pendant lights with a lantern effect hung above.

But the best part of the kitchen was the patio. With huge glass sliding doors, the kitchen seemed to move seamlessly outside, where squishy red couches and wicker tables lined a wraparound porch. A lovely infinite pool glittered in the distance.


My next stop was the guest house. Designed by Tristan Harstan and Company, this glamorous statement to Southern hospitality was inspired by a piece of artwork. A photograph of a beach and surfing scene in Gloucester, Massachusetts, recalled the designer’s summers on Cape Cod and inspired the calming tones in the space.


And since I’m only four months away from my wedding and therefore will have to figure out how I’m going to share a bathroom with a guy, I had to take a look at the master bath. Designed by Savage Interior Design, the bath was mainly inspired by the clean look of Calvin Klein. Separate vanities, a stone, spa-like shower and a freestanding tub gave the space the grandeur.

And the closet – my whole bedroom could fit in there – was definitely the icing on top.


May 08 2016

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Saving the Wilson House

It was 1959, and Ralph Wilson Sr., the founder of Temple, Texas-based Wilsonart, was emerging at the top of the design world with his laminate business. In the 1950s, laminate was the luxury material, because it was both durable and decorative for tabletops and counters. This past week I traveled to Temple for a closer look at the home that pioneered this material that’s now coming back in style.

Wilson built his private residence as both a model home for his company and a testing ground for the quality and durability of his own products. About 10 years ago, when laminate and mid-century design was not in favor, the house was up for sale. Wilson’s widow and fourth wife, Sunny, was told she needed to gut the home and totally remodel to make it at all sellable.

That’s where design historian Grace Jeffers stepped in. She guided us on our tour of the home and told us exactly what happened that day.

As an expert on the 1950s and particularly in surface materials, Jeffers was brought over to the house on the first day of her job at Wilsonart a decade ago. The trip was meant to just be an introduction to the company, but she was shocked at the sight of these cabinets being carried out of the home in renovations. She immediately called up her managers at Wilsonart and asked them to give her time to get a plan together and prove that the house was worth saving.

With a tub of wallpaper remover and a razor in hand (she recommended not using a razor in most cases, but this was an exception) she started taking down the heavy blue damask wallpaper Sunny had covered the laminate walls in. She found the original still intact underneath, complete with a graphic design by Wilson’s daughter – arguably the first of its kind made of laminate.


Through her research and weeks of digging through archives, she proved that the kitchen showcases some of the earliest work in post-forming, a process where laminate is bent and wrapped to form continuous curves from the top to the side edge of the counter. Other applications of laminate that had never been done before included built-in laminate cabinetry in the kitchen, the laundry and bathroom – including a very overwhelming pink shower. The house also had some of the earliest under-mount sinks in laminate tops.

While these installations are common now, they were unheard of in the late 1950s. Jeffers worked for months restoring the home to its original laminate glamour, bringing back in the cabinets and countertops (Wilsonart had held them in storage for her) and ridding the home of structural damage to the roof and mold problems. She took her research and her photos to the National Register.

“They had just shot down an important structure in New York, so I was beginning to think I had very little chance,” said Jeffers. “And of course, when I put up the pictures of the pink bath and those turquoise counters in the kitchen, they just laughed at me.”

But her findings proved worthwhile. In July 1998, the Wilson House was awarded National Landmark status by the Texas Historical Commission and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a significant architectural structure.

Although of course the pastel cabinetry and countertops is ghastly, and layout of the bathrooms strange and definitely unsafe, walking into that home felt like walking back into 1960. The years of Wilson showing off his product to his guests and testing his laminate (including putting it in the garage and never ordering a garage door – he wanted to see if it could stand the elements) were felt in here. Or that might have been the ghost of his estranged brother, Ben – but that’s a story for another time.


Apr 25 2016

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What Italian Homes are Really Like

After hunting down products and trends at Salone del Mobile in Milan last week, I spent the nights at Airbnbs and got an insider’s look at Italian kitchen and baths. Both of the places I stayed were lovely (if you haven’t done Airbnb, I highly recommend it), but unless you pay a fortune, expect to be living like most of the locals: tight quarters and very old bones.

06c11ef2-ddde-42eb-b8f2-b71c9bf66f98Location One: Milan

While at the show in Milan, I stayed a little outside the city center to be closer to the fairgrounds. The young couple I stayed with – a special needs teacher and an artist – had a little more room than most with this suburban locale. My section of the space included a fairly large bathroom by European standards that had obviously been recently remodeled.

There was the typical bath with a shower handle (always fun to maneuver) and a tiny shower squeezed by the door. The shower itself was missing interior lights and it only was hot for about three minutes – also very Italian – but other than that it was definitely an update. The sink was wide and featured a Brizo faucet, and the floor tile was some type of marble.

The couple’s kitchen definitely had some interesting character. As you can see, some of the cabinet doors were missing and instead were replaced with sheets of fabric. (I have heard that some Europeans literally take their cabinetry with them when they move, so maybe that happened here). The multi-colored drawers that remained looked rather fitting next to the plaid coverings. Other than that, it was just functional. The high point though was the balcony right off the kitchen. There was one off the main living space and my bedroom as well. Since the area was near a park and a soccer stadium, it was neat to hear the wildlife mixing with screaming Italian football fans late at night.

Location Two: Monterosso

My second stay was in Monterosso, a tiny coastal town in Cinque Terre on the Mediterranean coast. This was a studio apartment that I had to myself. It had a cheery palette of white, high walls and azure blue cabinetry and detailing. As you can see, this was more the teeny tiny kitchen you would expect. There was about a foot of prep space (I used the kitchen table instead) and the oven somehow became a storage area for extra pots and pans.

The bathroom as well was a squeeze, with a laundry machine propped between the toilet and the sink. There was a shower though, with hot water for about two minutes this time – but it gets you moving quick if nothing else.

All in all, it’s what I’ve come to expect from Italian homes over all my trips there – it’s tiny, functional, full of character (both good and bad) and always lets in the Italian air and surroundings beautifully.

And this is me eating gelato (pistachio flavored!) after a very long day of hiking at Cinque Terre. It was freezing there, but it’s never too cold for gelato!