Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween House Decor: Spiders on the House

As I was walking my dog yesterday, I noticed a Halloween decor theme that seems to be new this year:  the giant spider on the house.  I didn’t take pictures on the first part of my walk, not thinking I would turn my observation into a blog post, but I snapped a few pictures in the last part of my walk.

I always enjoy walking or driving by this house.  The spiders go perfectly with the color palette of the house! Architecture by Stan Dixon.

Do you spot the spider above the arch of the front door? Not visible in this picture is a giant spider hanging from the tree – it truly looks real!  Architecture by Bill Baker (Suzanne Kasler Interiors was responsible for the interior design for this house – wish I could see the inside!).

On my usual driving route yesterday afternoon, I noticed even more spiders on houses, but did not have the time to document the trend with photographs.  I will keep my eye out for it tomorrow night, though!

Have a safe and happy Halloween!

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Outdoor design elements: bluestone

Now that the new house is being built, it is quite apparent that the outdoor spaces are of critical importance in making the most of the house design, mainly because the house is an ‘L’ shape, and the inside of the ‘L’ is a courtyard that can be seen from virtually every room on the main floor.   The landscape design was a bit of a challenge, because the orientation and views from the house are as often diagonal as they are straight.  Thankfully, I have an expert landscape architect, Alec Michaelides of LandPlus, and he has created a beautiful design that balances hardscape (the paved areas, including patios and walls) and softscape (the plants). 

For budget and design reasons, we selected the outdoor paver material that will be used in the hardscape fairly early on.   When looking through my files, many of my favorite pictures seem to have bluestone, which is a very popular choice here in Atlanta.   One drawback – because of the darker color of the stone, it can get hot when placed in sunny areas.  Limestone is also used quite often in Atlanta, and has a lighter color, but it is above my price point and some say that it etches and stains very easily.  We also looked at concrete products such as Peacock Pavers, which come in light colors and don’t get as hot in the sun.  Travertine wasn’t an option because we get freezes in Atlanta, and apparently exterior travertine is not hardy enough for the cold.

I thought about this decision quite a while, and ultimately decided that my favorite look is bluestone.  I love the color, and particularly like a tailored installation of the stone.   Because my landscape architect kept mentioning the fact that bluestone can get quite hot under bare feet, I took every opportunity to test it out last summer – whenever I was at a home with bluestone pavers (even the Symphony Showhouse!), I took off my shoes and tested out the feel of the bluestone.  Ultimately, I decided that the warmth of the stone is something I can live with, especially since the stone cools quickly when out of the sun, and the area where the majority of the pavers will be located will only be in direct sun until mid afternoon.   

This is one of my favorite pictures of bluestone on a patio.  I particularly like this bluestone because it is fairly uniform in color, without the oranges that bluestone can often contain. 
Many of my favorite landscape pictures contain bluestone as a major design element.

I am not sure where this picture came from – maybe Restoration Hardware? I like the furniture, but it is the landscape design that caught my eye, with the rugged stone wall and the sunken bluestone patio.

Another stone wall combined with bluestone.  I particularly like how the pool area is like its own outdoor room, with walls and stairs.

One of my all time favorite landscape pictures – a bluestone patio culminating in an outdoor fireplace.

There is something about bluestone that looks so beautiful in combination with a pool.  This pool is actually part of the same property as the previous  picture  - what a magnificent landscape design.  I have had these pictures in my files for years, source unknown.

And last, but not least, one of my favorite backyard pictures – an outdoor room attached to the garage of a home, with architecture by Pursley Architecture.  The color palette, with the gray of the slate roof, the off white of the painted brick, the gray-blue of the pool, and all of the bluestone  - sheer perfection.   

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QD collage

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Saturday, October 23, 2010

The limewash house – a landscape and shutter update

After I posted on the beautiful renovation that I have been tracking over the past year (original post here), I got a nice email from the owner of the house letting me know that the landscape and the shutter color decision were still works in progress.  Although I have posted countless homes on my blog, this was a first; I don’t think I have ever heard from a homeowner who actually lives in one of the houses, and thankfully the homeowner of this particular house was pleased with the post!

Here is the house as it appeared one morning this week (an iphone photo, so not the best quality).  I am not sure whether morning is the best light to capture this house, but it happens to be the time when I walk my dog.  The homeowner said that the addition of the grass sod was a huge psychological boost given that he had been living with dirt and pine straw for so long!  It really grounds the house to its environment, in my opinion.
It looks like they are testing out the darker tone on the shutters.  

So, readers, what do ‘we’ think: the dark shutters or the light shutters? Here is a side by side to aid in your vote:
5104853236_ddec28381a_b[1] 5104263579_17ffd3f358_b[1]
As you can see, different lighting conditions but hopefully you can get an idea.  I loved the tone on tone, but I am leaning towards the darker toned shutters. 

Another interesting piece of information - after posting about this house, I learned that San Marco lime wash paint was used on the exterior.  San Marco seems to be the 'go to' company for many top architects and designers when striving to create beautiful paint finishes.  Click here to go to the website for San Marco, which offers a full range of interior and exterior mineral based paints.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

French windows

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Over the past year, I have learned a lot about the little details that go into designing a house.  As it turns out, one of the details that is of fundamental importance are the windows.   In the book Get Your House Right, the chapter on windows begins with this statement:
“Windows are more than a means of providing light and ventilation.  They are the ‘eyes’ of the house.  They connect to the world around it, framing a view from the inside and offering a glimpse of interior life to the passerby. Windows, more than any other single element, will determine the character of your home”.


Given that we are building a French style house, we are using casement windows.  Casement windows are hinged on the side and swing open (as seen above), either inward or outward depending on the design.   Traditionally, casement windows in Europe open inside and fold in against the pockets of the thick walls – which is the origin of the term ‘French door’ as these windows would often come all the way to the floor and operate like a door (source 1, source 2).

I am certainly no expert on casement windows, but most of the casement windows that I have personally seen swing out; this seems to be the preference or style in the U.S.  Here is a picture of outswing casement windows, which typically (although not always) use cranks to open and close.

In some spaces, like the kitchen, it often makes more sense to have outswing casement windows so they don’t open over counter space, and don’t interfere with the kitchen sink (which is frequently placed under the window).  Joni of Cote de Texas has a beautiful outswing casement window in her kitchen.  In my future kitchen, we are debating whether to make the casement windows swing in or swing out, but we are strongly leaning towards having them swing out.

These windows (in picture above) would be perfectly charming with an inswing, but the structure of the window and the cabinets that surround it makes the whole thing work better with an outswing.  Also, it allows for the roman shade window treatment, which an inswing window would prevent.  Image via Traditional Home.

My ‘favorite house’ has casement windows that open out.  If you look closely, it appears that there is a screen and a window, the screen also with the ability to open or close (I love seeing new things in a picture I have looked at so many times!).
The doyenne of French-Texas decorating, Betty Lou Phillips, has many examples of casement windows in her books.  Most of them seem to be outswing.  Image from Inspirations From France and Italy.

More outswing casement windows in a lovely family room decorated by Betty Lou Phillips.  Outswing casement windows seem to be more the norm in the states.  I have heard that it is actually hard to find window companies in the States that make inswing casement windows. Image from Inspirations From France and Italy.

However, my architect tells me that in authentic French window design, the casement windows should swing in.  I emailed the Sharon, author of the wonderful blog My French Country Home (Sharon was born in England, but has lived in France for many years), to find out her opinion on casement windows.  Sharon told me that she has never seen an outswing casement window in France, although in Britain they are very common.  Here is a picture from Sharon’s home – note the hardware mounted on the center mullion.

The windows swing open to allow for an expansive, unfettered view of the outside – isn’t Sharon lucky to get to gaze upon this scene every day?

Here is a picture from a magnificent home in France  featured in Sharon’s latest post…of course, I immediately noticed the inswing casement windows! (Click here to visit Sharon’s blog).

Greet from the blog Belgian Pearls (a designer who lives in Belgium)  also confirmed that traditional European casement windows swing in – as seen in this window  in the library of her home.

La Vie en Rose, a charming book on French homes that beautifully depicts the French way of living, is full of beautiful images of inswing casement windows (and no outswing that I could find).

In a post a few years ago, Cote de Texas posted on authentic French elements in homes, Joni notes the importance of casement windows that open like doors.  These clearly swing in.

The tall windows swing inwards, in a beautiful dining room in a home in France.

Take a look at the window on the right – it opens inward.  Often the walls in old French homes are several feet thick, and the windows are recessed into deep openings.   Image via Cote de Texas.

A charming casement window opened wide to let in the sun and air.  Image via La Vie en Rose, by Suzanne Lowry.

With inswing windows, more consideration has to be given to the placement of furniture – for windows that will be used frequently, it might not make sense to place furniture with lamps near the window (apparently this lamp has just enough clearance!). Image via Belgian Pearls.

A charming dormer window, that clearly opens inward.  I am especially enchanted with the even tinier dormer window on the right.

Although I saved this image for the picture of the window, I am enamored with the idea of a settee underneath a window that is wide open. Image from  The New Eighteenth-Century Style by Michele Lalande, via Trouvais.

Stephen Shubel’s beautiful apartment in Paris – the dining table is set just far enough away from the inswing window to allow each their own space. Image via Trouvais. (See her gorgeous post on his apartment here)

place de voges
A beautiful building in Paris, saved in my inspiration files.  This time I am looking for casement windows, and find evidence of an inswing in the upper right windows…

place de voges
Two windows, clearly opened, and clearly inswing.  I love the scrolls in the detail surrounding the window.

Thank you to the stylist who opened the upper left window for the photo shoot – it was very useful when searching for pictures of inswing casement windows!  Image via Cote de Texas.

I went through some of my favorite pictures so I could analyze the windows, and see how homes that are in the US (that are in my files!) have inswing casement windows.  The best clue that a casement window is inswing: the hardware can be seen from the inside, like the window on the right side of the fireplace. 

The window on the landing of this beautiful French style house in Atlanta has inswing casement windows. Architecture by Pak-Heydt.

Based on the design of the hardware seen on the window in the family room of the same house, I feel quite certain that these windows are inswing as well. Architecture by Pak-Heydt.

One of my favorite houses featured in Veranda has inswing casement windows, although based on the location of the concrete planters, they probably don’t open these windows too often! Interiors by Betty Burgess, image via Veranda.

Beautiful inswing casement windows seen on the house tour last weekend – I was already formulating this post in my mind, so I took a quick snapshot.

I think I have made a very strong case for the fact that inswing casement windows are quite traditional in French architecture!  My architect certainly prefers them for my house.  Truthfully, I have never really been the type who has the windows wide open (maybe because of the bugs and mosquitos that are part of life in Georgia), so perhaps whether they open in or open out is not really a huge factor (except in the kitchen).  Inswing windows would certainly be easier to clean, and I do think that they are charming, and would make my house very special.  Decisions, decisions!

The whole subject of windows has been interesting to investigate.  It seems that sash windows are much more common in the states than casement windows.  Readers, what kind of windows do you have?

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Summary of books mentioned in this post:

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