Tabletop Tips: Bringing the Beauty of Flowers Indoors

Happy Summer, everyone! I love warm weather, and I love nature’s bounty that comes with it. Arranging flowers from my garden provides another outlet for my creative energy. Fresh flowers are the perfect finishing touch for any space or tablescape.

I’ve taken a few floral-arranging classes over the years, but, honestly, you can’t go wrong with fresh-cut flowers in a simple vase. I picked these peonies from my garden:

Arrangement of peonies

This small red table is just inside our front door. I like to place a pretty arrangement there to greet guests.

close-up of peonies

I created this arrangement of peonies to complete a tabletop vignette in my living room:

Tablescape featuring peony arrangement

These, again, were straight from my garden. I love to visit the farmers’ market on Saturday morning to pick up fresh cuts, too.

Bucket with flowers from farmers market

Word of my passion for floral arranging has gotten out among my friends, who often ask me to help dress their tables for special occasions. I’m happy to oblige! I created this arrangement — mixing peonies, hydrangeas and roses, among others — for a dear friend’s wedding:

Wedding arrangement of peonies and roses

Another friend asked me to help with flowers for a dinner party in May, right around the Kentucky Derby. For a dinner table setting, I like to keep the floral arrangement low, so it doesn’t interfere with conversation. Here I opted for a cluster of several small arrangements, in lieu of one centerpiece. These vibrant zinnias reminded me of fanciful Derby hats:

Tablescape with zinnia arrangements

This is an easy yet dramatic approach. A single orchid is another no-fail but stunning solution. Orchids are both simple and exotic at the same time, and I love their sculptural quality. Here is a close-up of one I grew.

Tight shot of orchid

It doesn’t take a green thumb or special skills to bring the beauty of flowers into your spaces and onto your tabletops. What are your favorite ways to showcase nature’s bounty in your home?

 

After shot of fireplace makeover in Rosslyn townhouse

Before and After: Fireplace Makeover Dials Back the Clock

Often when we’re called in to renovate a fireplace, the goal is to update and modernize a tired, old one. One recent re-do, however, had the opposite goal: to add some character and a sense of history to a brand-new fireplace.

Our clients, a young couple, became first-time homeowners with the purchase of  a freshly minted townhouse in Rosslyn. They were eager to inject a more soulful style into the nondescript interiors (they’re big fans of HGTV’s Fixer Upper and love the rustic, informal looks created by star Joanna Gaines). The living room’s existing gas fireplace, in particular, cried out for TLC:

Before shot of existing fireplace

The fireplace is centered on a short wall next to the staircase. On either side, there is less than a foot to spare. I wanted to reimagine these narrow, under-used spaces in my design. Another design consideration:  the couple’s new, flat-screen television, which would soon be mounted over the fireplace. As you can see, when in position, the large TV came right to the edges of the fireplace wall, overwhelming the already-tight space.

Before shot of existing fireplace with TV mounted

My new vision included a character-enhancing mix of materials for the fireplace wall and surround. I also specified built-in shelves and storage compartments to flank the fireplace and to fill in those awkward spaces. Here’s a peek at our presentation board, with a few inspiration photos and a rendering of the proposed redesign:

Presentation board of Rosslyn townhouse fireplace makeover

And here’s a work-in-progress look at the design taking shape:

,Work in progress shot of Rosslyn fireplace makeover with shiplap and bricks in place

For a casual look, we installed rough-hewn, shiplap paneling above the hefty, new zebra-wood mantel. Distressed bricks add time-worn appeal and the unusual layout pattern (center-section bricks are vertically placed and the two end-caps are horizontally placed) adds interest.

Close-up of new shelves and storage in Rosslyn fireplace makeover

The detail shot above highlights the new upper shelves and lower storage compartments. Glass shelves don’t add visual weight to the tight spaces. Streamlined, push-open doors — without distracting hardware — will ultimately hide all those unsightly but ever-necessary cables and cords in the lower areas.

The end result (minus a few finishing touches) balances a rustic, homey aesthetic with the realities of modern living:

After shot of fireplace makeover in Rosslyn townhouse

See how the newly introduced built-ins — which are almost flush with the fireplace wall — help to offset the TV’s girth? Now the screen “fits” better in the space.

After shot of fireplace makeover with lighting

LED lights cast a warm glow on display objects and enhance the overall ambiance of the interior architecture and design. Sumptuous new window panels don’t hurt, either, and go a long way toward softening that weighty corner of the room.

The fireplace makeover suits our clients’ soulful style to a tee and proves that some things look better with a little age on them (or at least the appearance of age). A roaring fire may not be top of mind as we head into June, but the summer is actually a great time for a remodel — if you start now, your fireplace will be picture-perfect before the temperature starts to dip.

ELLE DECOR & Dering Hall Team Up for Shopping and More

The Internet is making its mark in the world of design. I often spend my evenings checking out the latest content, posts and pins. Don’t get me wrong. I still love the printed page…sitting down with a cup of coffee and thumbing through shelter magazines. I still tack the pages I tear out to an old-school bulletin board above my desk. I love it when clients bring me pages they’ve torn out, too. But the Internet has streamlined the process of swapping and sharing ideas. And it’s made it easier for design enthusiasts to find everything, from a photo that sparks their imagination to a sofa that matches their style.

Sometimes it’s information-overload. And sometimes you have to sift through the weeds to find real beauty, lasting value, and sound advice. That’s why I’m so excited that two of my most-trusted online sources  — ELLE DECOR and Dering Hall — have just announced a new partnership. For those not familiar, Dering Hall is an online marketplace for design experts and home furnishings. I’m a big fan because the platform focuses on showcasing high-end design, top talent and quality furnishings, which is refreshing.

Graphic of ElleDecor.com and Dering Hall shopping portal

Image courtesy of ELLEDecor.com

The recently launched ELLEDecor.com shopping portal provides visitors to that site with access to over 30,000 pieces home furnishings, curated by Dering Hall’s team, along with some selections hand-picked by ELLEDecor.com editors. The shopping hub includes furniture, accessories, lighting and textiles.

Graphic for new Dering Hall and Elle Decor shopping site

Image courtesy of Dering Hall

As an interior designer, I am particularly excited about Phase II of the collaboration… a browsable directory of qualified design experts on ELLEDecor.com. Starting in May, site visitors will be able to search for pros by location and specialty, through Dering Hall’s index of designer profiles. I appreciate that both sites recognize and value the role that designers play and are committed to matching homeowners with experienced pros.

Both sites offer meaningful design content, too. Dering Hall’s Journal posts, or daily features, typically assemble compelling images from designers across the country, on a range of topics from art to upholstery. In one post, 50 Ways Designers Incorporate Eye-Catching Artwork, A. Houck Designs was honored to have two spaces featured, the hall we created for the 2013 DC Design House and the family room below.

A. Houck Designs family room project with abstract art, featured on Dering Hall

And for another recent post, Dering Hall selected our clients’ serene Arlington, Virginia, living room as the feature image! The topic du jour: 40 Glass Wall Lights.

A. Houck Designs living room project featured in Dering Hall Glass Wall Lights

An ancillary benefit of the new partnership will be increased sharing of Dering Hall’s content on ELLEDecor.com. I was thrilled when ELLE DECOR picked up a Dering Hall post, 30 Best Open Floor Plans for Life Without Walls, featuring — again! — our clients’ vibrant, art-filled family room.

A. Houck Designs family room project featured on ELLE DECOR

You can expect to see more of this type of curated content syndicated on ELLEDecor.com.

We are so fortunate to have amazing clients who invite us into their homes and allow us to create these beautiful and personal living environments. Believe me, that’s reward enough! But it’s always an extra thrill to be recognized for our work. So, of course, we were over the moon when Dering Hall featured A. Houck Designs recently in their Design Professional Spotlight.

Dering Hall Design Professional Spotlight

For those of us passionate about design, the Web offers a wealth of information and inspiration. You just have to steer to the right places. What are your favorite online sources, tools and platforms?

Close-up of selections for spa-like master bath

Navigating the Design-Build Selections Process

Building a custom home or adding on to an existing one is the stuff that dreams are made of. Right? Why, then, do so many homeowners, at some point in the process, start to question their good fortune…if not their sanity?

Sure, there are daunting decisions to make — such as the architectural style of a home or the number of bedrooms a family will need down the road. And countless smaller yet so-important decisions and selections all along the way, from the plumbing fixtures and lighting plans to flooring materials and paint colors. Add to all that, building permits, burgeoning budgets and construction timelines…it’s enough to drive anyone a little crazy.

The sheer number of decisions can be overwhelming for even the most hands-on homeowners. And decision delays or, even worse, uh-oh moments can be costly and can throw off track the whole construction schedule. It’s way easier to address needs and make the right selections upfront.

Andrea Houck perusing samples at tile showroom

Showroom photography: Bob Narod

I love when I can work with the builder and homeowners from the get-go to maximize cohesion, function and beauty, while keeping the selections process running smoothly. Our recent collaboration with the amazing team at KohlMark Group, a local design-build firm, is a case in point.

KohlMark was tapped by Falls Church homeowners to design and construct a two-story addition on the back of their house. They brought us on board to create a vision for both the new kitchen and master bath and to guide the selections process (I’m a member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, so these high-functioning spaces are specialties of mine). The clients wanted a serene, spa-like bathroom. We started by narrowing the sea of choices and presenting several options for the tiles, countertop, backsplash and other design elements. Here are the ones that captured our clients’ hearts:

Close-up of selections for spa-like master bath

White subway tiles and square floor tiles form the quiet foundation. To achieve a luxe look without breaking the bank, we added Ming Green marble accents. A speckled Quartz material, our choice for the countertop and shower-bench seat, echoes the marble’s soft color gradations, while offering worry-free durability. Picking up a fleck in the countertop, we selected a gray-green shade for the painted vanity cabinets.  The repetition of materials and hues creates a sense of calm.

Together, these samples and swatches present a pretty picture, but it’s still a challenge sometimes to visualize how the finished space will look. If our clients request, as these did, we prepare elevation drawings to provide peace of mind and avoid any surprises. This is one we did showing the vanity and his-and-her sinks.

Elevation drawing of master bath vanity and double sinks

And here’s a look at how we brought the vision to life:

A master bathroom designed by A. Houck Designs

Bespoke touches and little details make a big impact. The backsplash, shower floor and the shower’s wraparound stripe feature a Ming Green hexagon mosaic. Another designer detailer is the “rug” effect we created on the room floor. A small, marble mosaic tile defines the rug area. For the center, we turned the square floor tiles, which are laid out in a straight pattern in the rest of the space, on the diagonal.

Master bathroom showing rug effect

A multi-tasking bench is a thoughtful addition to the shower. And here’s a close-up of the shower’s bespoke stripe treatment:

Master bathroom shower with hexagon tile stripe detail

All bathroom photography: Felicia Evans

We finished the wraparound accent by adding a pencil trim above and below. We also had to ensure that the stripe was the proper width to accommodate the water/temperature control. Polished nickel for the fixtures and lighting is a timeless choice and adds a bit of sparkle.

There are a myriad of behind-the-scenes considerations in any bathroom project, from shower pressure preferences to storage needs. Here, a window in the shower required a practical tiling solution, and we mimicked, as closely as possible, the wood molding on the wall’s other window.

With a well-thought-out plan and carefully chosen fixtures and materials, we created a luxurious, master-bathroom retreat. And who doesn’t need a spa-like getaway after completing a new-build or major remodel?

Close-up of dining room window treatment

Window Treatments: The Devil’s in the Details

Happy 2017! I took a little break from the blog to focus on a flurry of client projects around the holidays. It’s human nature. We all want our homes to look their best when friends and family arrive, and there’s nothing like the approaching holidays to give us, myself included, that little push to put the finishing touches on our spaces.

And nothing finishes a space better than beautiful, custom window treatments. They add a luxurious layer and can even be the glue that holds together other colors and elements in the space. And it’s the details that take them from good to great. If you’re going to invest in window treatments that will be in your home for a while, it makes sense to get the details, large and small, right.

Take a look at the new window treatments I recently installed in my own living room. I selected a to-die-for, creamy mohair velvet for the French-pleated panels and a shimmery, metallic for the sheers (both from Coraggio).

Long mohair drapes with brush fringe

The texture and shimmer are subtle but important to the luxe feel. The panels’ solid fabric gave me freedom to have a little fun with the leading-edge trim. This metallic brush fringe from Romo, applied by hand, delivers the fun:

Close-up of Romo brush fringe

Brush fringe is fresher and flirter than the heavy trims that adorned yesterday’s swags and jabots. Tapes and cords are also modern options that lend a more masculine feel. For a client’s bay window in the dining room, I used a small brush fringe, by Samuel & Sons, on the Roman shade, crafted in a Zoffany sheer.

Dining room with botanical-print panels and sheer Roman shades

Close-up of dining room window treatment

The panels’ large-scale, botanical print, by Cowtan & Tout, can stand on its own. Because the dining room leans to the formal side, I opted again for a French pleat, but kept the hardware simple with a thin, dark, metal rod (thick, wooden rods went out with swags) and a cage finial.

Close-up of dining room window treatment

To give a truly bespoke look to the silk window panels in a client’s living room, I used a custom embroidery program from Taffard Fabrics, in lieu of separate trim. With their program, you select from a range of embroidery patterns and colors.

I went with an elegant, tone-on-tone combination. The program also provides the option of adding a contrasting ribbon of color, and I added a little pop of red silk to tie in with other red accents sprinkled around the room (a work in progress…stay tuned for photos of the finished space).

Close-up of AHD client's custom-embroidered window panel

My favorite look is floor-length panels with either long sheers, as I did above and in my living room, or Roman shades, as I did for my clients’ dining room. The architecture of a space really determines which combination I use. For the living room above, a long bank of windows across the front of the house called for long sheers that would offer some privacy. In the dining room example above, Roman shades were the perfect choice for a bay window.

When you have two windows on a wall, opposing panels — one on the outside of each window — can be a great look. This approach worked well with the layout and furniture placement in the Mademoiselle Chambre I created for the 2016 DC Design House. See how the panels frame the Oly armoire?

Window treatments in Mademoiselle Chambre at 2016 DCDH

Photography: Jesse Snyder

The panels, hung on acrylic rods, showcase Romo‘s painterly Breathe Wild Flower pattern from artist Jessica Zoob’s Desire Collection. I opted for a loose, informal look at the top, with no pleat.

Close-up of window panel at 2016 DC Design House

Photography: Jesse Snyder

Oversize, tassel tie-backs from Samuel & Sons offer both form and function.

Close-up of window treatment and tie-back at 2016 DC Design House

Photography: Jesse Snyder

The panels sweep back to reveal Roman shades fabricated in a semi-sheer, with a ripple effect, from Osborne & Little. A glass-bead trim from Samuel & Sons adds a glamorous touch.

Close-up of window treatment trim in Mademoiselle Chambre at 2016 DC Design House

With all the feminine details in this bedroom, I chose a tailored construction for the shades themselves.

There are numerous styles of Roman shades. Here’s a quick guide to the main ones:

Guide to Window Shade Styles

It can be confusing. There are so many different names for the same shade style or pleat style — and so many subtle variations on the same style. Remember that a picture is worth a thousand words!  Gather photos of details that you like to show your designer.  At A. Houck Designs, we provide our client with an elevation drawing to ensure that everyone’s on the same page. Here’s an example:

Rendering of French Door covering

This color illustration depicts floor-length sheers with a grommet-style header on a metal rod over a set of French doors. A rendering shows how the finished product will look and puts our client at ease before ordering.

The right details will make your window treatments pretty. But window coverings are practical, too. They can add privacy, control light and temperature, and soften the sound in a room…all of which makes the investment worthwhile.

If you didn’t check off everything on your design to-do list before the holidays, don’t sweat it. February is a  great month to take stock of our spaces — without the pressure of impending parties.

DC Design House 2016 Mademoiselle Chambre

A Time-Lapse Look at the Making of the DC Design House

The 2016 DC Design House opened on October 2. If you’re in the Washington area and haven’t visited yet, make plans to go soon! It’s so inspiring to walk through and see the creativity that designers poured into their projects. The finished spaces are so beautiful, in fact, it’s hard to imagine that just a couple of months ago, they were white and bare boxes for the most part. But they were.

As a veteran participant in the DC Design House, I’ve been asked many times about what goes on behind the scenes before opening day and how a show-house space comes together so quickly. The answer, of course, is teamwork. It truly takes a village, and I have the most amazing group of artisans on my team. This year, as I created the Mademoiselle Chambre at the DC Design house, I videotaped each step along the way. Check out this fun, and I hope insightful, time-lapse video and watch the transformation take place.

I hope the video sheds a little light on the execution of my interior design plan. But, most importantly, I wanted to give a shout-out to my all-star team:

  • Final Touch Productions – Painting – Dale City, Virginia, 703-585-4044
  • L&S Electric – Lighting Installation – Potomac Falls, Virginia, 703-237-0011
  • Marly’s Superior Interiors – Wallpaper Installation – Arlington, Virginia, 703-237-9257
  • Soulie’s Interiors – Drapery Installation – Fairfax, Virginia, 703-280-2766

You guys rock! Here’s a parting look at the transformation they helped to bring about:

dcdesignhousebareroom

A look at the bare bones of the Mademoiselle Chambre at the 2016 DC Design House.

DC Design House 2016 Mademoiselle Chambre

The completed Mademoiselle Chambre at the 2016 DC Design House. Photo & video credit: Jesse Snyder Photography

A picture (or two) may say a thousand words, but, in this case, a time-lapse video really helps to tell the story, don’t you think?. Go see, firsthand, the quality craftsmanship in the Mademoiselle Chambre before the DC Design House closes on October 30th. Proceeds benefit Children’s National Health System. For more information and tickets, visit the DC Design House website.

Shearling foot stool with burnished brass foot

Design House Details: A Quick Change for Kelly Wearstler’s Foot Stool

A big part of a designer’s job involves creative — and fast — problem-solving. I had seen Kelly Wearstler’s fabulous, lambswool-covered Foot Stool at the High Point Market last spring (if you missed that post, you can read about my favorite finds here). It was love at first sight!

Shearling foot stool with burnished brass foot

Fast-forward a couple of months and I was creating a plan for a Parisian-inspired, teenage-girl’s bedroom at the DC Design House…and drew that Foot Stool into my plan. The piece strikes the right balance of whimsy and glamour for a young Ingénue’s room.

So imagine my disappointment when I discovered that, due to production delays, the Foot Stool could not be delivered in time for the show house opening in October. I HAD to have one for the Mademoiselle Chambre. I called the E.J. Victor showroom in High Point to ask about buying the floor sample. It had been sold. I called Kelly Wearstler’s retail shops. I even wrote a personal plea to Kelly herself. No luck. So, time to get creative. We ordered the Foot Stool in a plain muslin.

Kelly Wearstler Foot Stool covered in muslin

And we covered it in a plush faux fur. Take a look at the transformation:

Kelly Wearstler Foot Stool with faux fur

We love the way it turned out! But, actually, we’re not quite done yet. We’re planning another fun embellishment for the Foot Stool. Here’s a little hint:

Close-up of brass foot on Kelly Wearstler Foot Stool

Visit the show house to see what we have up our sleeves (or should we say, “what’s afoot”?)! The DC Design House will be open from October 2 through October 30. The Preview Day event is October 1. Proceeds benefit Children’s National Health System. For more information and to order tickets, visit the DC Design House website.

Installation in progress of Eykon's Source One Ulf Moritz Wall Couture's Lavish Swag pattern

Behind the Scenes at the DC Design House

There’s a controlled chaos that goes on the weeks before the opening of a show house — and this year’s DC Design House certainly fit the pattern. The event opens on October 1, and participating designers, myself included, have been scrambling to get their spaces ready to dazzle the expected crowds. And, trust me, these spaces will dazzle!

But before all that, there was a moment when I wondered how in the world all the amazing design elements we selected for the Mademoiselle Chambre could possiblity come together in time (there was another moment when I wondered if my living room would ever be the same again because that’s where I’d been storing all those elements). The day the wallpaper was installed, I finally exhaled…just a little. The vision was starting to take shape:

Installation of wallpaper at DCDH 2016

The amazing team at Marly’s Superior Interiors installs the Mademoiselle Chambre wallpaper at DC Design House 2016

I knew the Eykon wallpaper would look great but it exceeded my expectations! The Lavish pattern features tone-on-tone, sugary circles made with real mica flecks. We installed Lavish on three walls. Here’s a closer look at a shimmery circle:

Close-up of mica-flecked circle on Eykon Source One Ulf Moritz Wall Couture's Lavish pattern

On the other wall, we installed Lavish Swag, which features a geometric motif and floral accents, along with the shimmery circles. As the wallpaper went up, other designers and staff kept stopping by to admire it. The flowers just pop off the wall.

Close-up of Eykon Source One Ulf Moritz Wall Couture's Lavish Swag

Installation in progress of Eykon's Source One Ulf Moritz Wall Couture's Lavish Swag pattern

Every design element was chosen to reflect a girly yet glamorous vibe. I love how the wallpaper’s flowers connect with the crystal florets and buds on the silver-leafed AERIN pendant we selected. I am obsessed with this gorgeous light fixture! I won’t give away its full effect now, but here’s a little peek:

Close-up of floret details on AERIN Claret Short Pendant

The shot above also gives you a sneak peek at the sophisticated pink shade we chose for the ceiling (my design assistant, Kim Joshi, is an amazing photographer…she snapped all the photos for this post!).

Once the wallpaper crew and equipment cleared out, we brought in the first two pieces of furniture. How fun is this vintage chair we scored at Miss Pixie’s in DC? The Currey & Company table, appropriately called the Princess Drinks Table, is studded with rose quartz crystals. Fabulous!

Shot of vignette with Miss Pixie's chair and Currey & Co. accent table

We also freshened up the look of the en suite (also known as the Salle de Bains). Here’s a glimpse at what’s in store:

Close-up of mirror in Salle de Bains in DC Design House 2016

Please plan to visit the DC Design House next month to see the Mademoiselle Chambre and Salle de Bains in all their glory. The show house will be open from October 2 through October 30. The Preview Day event is October 1. Proceeds benefit the Children’s National Health System. For more information or to order tickets, visit the DC Design House website.

Back to School Means Back to Studying

Hope springs eternal, as the saying goes. Around this time of year, parents start looking for solutions, strategies and supplies to ease the transition back to school…for themselves and their kids. I was delighted to offer my two cents to reporter Lindsey Roberts for a story in last week’s Washington Post Local Living section on how to get kids to spend more time in their study areas. The article offers lots of good suggestions, from using color to encourage creativity to choosing the right desk chair, so be sure to check it out if you missed it last Thursday.

The big takeaway, I think, is to give kids a sense of ownership over their study zones. Let your child have a say in selecting the colors and furnishings and/or allow them to add personal touches to the space. Looking for inspiration? Here’s a roundup of study spaces brimming with good ideas.

Colorful green and red study area with two work stations

Photo courtesy of Patricia O’Shaughnessy Design, NY

Child's homework station with blackboard

Three-person homework station

Photo courtesy of This Old House

Back-to-back study spaces

Homework station with desk and hanging storage

Photo courtesy of Hobby Lobby

Two-person homework station with hanging storage system

Photo Courtesy of Apartment Therapy

Two-person homework station

Photo courtesy of This Old House

Three-person work station with blackboard

Photo courtesy of Jigsaw Design Group

Wishing you and yours a successful and stress-free school year!

Mademoiselle Chambre at DC Design House 2016

You know how when you’re really busy, time seems to move at a faster pace? Between working on some amazing client projects and planning our bedroom space in this year’s DC Design House, July is flying by! October 1 — opening day for the showhouse — will be here before we know it. But our plans for a girly yet glamorous bedroom, which we’ve dubbed the Mademoiselle Chambre, are really taking shape.

Orders are in for furnishings and  accessories that capture the right mix of sophistication and youthfulness for our imagined Parisian teenager transplanted to DC. We are anxious to share the end result with you this fall, but in the meantime, here’s a little preview, courtesy of our design boards:

Design concept board for DC Design House 2016

Concept board for Mademoiselle Chambre, 2016 DC Design House

A. Houck Designs’ concept boards for Mademoiselle Chambre at the 2016 DC Design House

There will be enough feminine florals, pink hues and sparkly accents to make any young girl smile! Here’s a closer look at the overall room design:

Dc Design House 2016 Mademoiselle Chambre rendering

I hope you’ll come see how we — and 18 other area designers — bring our concepts to life this October. For more information, check out the DC Design House website. Remember, proceeds benefit Children’s National Health System, so you can support a great cause and pick up some design inspiration to boot.