Monday, February 15, 2010

Borrowing vs. Stealing in Design

Design influences come from all over: a visit to someone's home; a hotel you stayed at; an era; a culture... Most commonly though, they come from things we've seen on a website or in a design or decor magazine. There's nothing wrong with seeing a space designed by someone else and saying, "That is fantastic! I want a room like that." I often have clients hand me pages from magazines requesting the same. But I explain to clients that there is a difference between stealing and borrowing, and that they would be happier with something influenced by the photo, rather than reproduced from it. You have to make it your own; put your own mark on it.

This washroom, designed by architect and interior designer Charles C. Almonte ( of Maryland, is clean, timeless, and approachable. Who wouldn't want something like it in their own home?

Use photos as a starting point instead of as a "how to". Figure out what it is that appeals to you and focus on that instead of on the whole.
Stagger your tiles vertically instead to emphasize height. Put towels on the shelf and frame the art in stainless steel and hang them on the wall above. Opt for a bowl or vessel sink with a wall-mount faucet on a wall-mounted cabinet. Choose a wallpaper that speaks to you, maybe something a bit more modern, or a bit more geometric. The overall feel of a decor can be reproduced without having to seek out exact replicas of the materials used.
When Shakespeare said, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" he certainly wasn't talking about design concepts. Borrowing is almost unavoidable, and if you are in a position to "lend" a design idea then you should be proud. But thievery is quite another matter, and morals aside, you won't be happy with something intended for someone else.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

D.I.Y. Project Attitude

The term "do-it-yourself" either makes people cringe or gets them excited. Those who enjoy a good D.I.Y project may look at it from a financial point of view (who doesn't like to save the $70 a plumber charges to change a faucet?), or they take pride in being able to say: "Look what I did!", or they simply enjoy working with their hands and have some confidence in their abilities. Most who frown upon all manual labor are  scared of the outcome or of failure. I'll be the first to confess that there are few feelings worse than the one you get after having spent an entire weekend on a D.I.Y project just to finally admit defeat and have to call in a pro on Monday morning - hopefully before too many people see your meager attempt.

It's all about attitude. If you set out expecting professional-looking results in half the time that the contractor would need, you're going to be disappointed. The same is true if you have the belief that the project is going to be easy. Every project requires 10% more material than expected, 20% more time than anticipated, and will leave you 30% more tired than you figured.

Again, it's all about attitude. If you start off with a reasonable sized project and make it fun, it can be a huge success. Involve the family. Blast the stereo. Invite friends over to help and order a pizza. Take pride in your work and be willing to laugh at your own trial-and-error learning. You're doing it for yourself - enjoy it!

My fiance made the most of the tedious job of repainting my hobby room, and made me smile in the process. Although I wouldn't appreciate this type of non-professional painting method from a contractor, it made our D.I.Y project something to remember.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Value of a Floor Plan

Most often, floor plans, or layout plans, are used for renovation purposes and people don't generally think to make one, or have one made, for any other reason. Having floor plans can be beneficial to residential and commercial property owners, as well as to tenants, in many ways:
  • Take it with you when you go shopping for new furniture to eliminate the guess-work about the right size desk, table or sofa to buy.
  • Use it as a sales tool to help sell your property or to find the right tenant. It can be put on-line with the property listing (see the photo section of this property listing) or a paper copy can be given to potential purchasers or tenants.
  • Make furniture pieces for your floor plan so you can rearrange as often as necessary until you find the right layout without hurting your back or damaging the floors.
  • Start to visualize renovation options before calling in a designer, architect or contractor. On paper you will see your space very differently.
 If you are going to make your own floor plan, the easiest way is to use graph paper. Figure out a reasonable scale based on the size of your graph paper and the size of the space you are going to be drawing; while a single room can be drawn with 4 squares representing one foot (or 1 square = 3 inches), an entire building would have to be drawn at a smaller scale, such as 1 square = 1 foot.

Having a floor plan done professionally is quick and simple. Depending on the space, it may take anywhere from an hour to several hours for a pro to measure the space including doors, windows, and so on. Within 10 days you should have the completed floor plan. Costs for professionally drawn floor plans vary depending both on the professional you hire and on the size of the space to be measured and drawn, but for a small average home you should expect to pay approximately $240.