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Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Sneak Peek: Four Beautiful Homes

Four spectacular homes will be on the Cathedral Tour of Homes in January, representing some of the best examples of Atlanta architecture from the 1930s – 1960s.  It struck me as I was writing the profiles for the homes (my contribution to this amazing fundraiser that benefits Hero for Children in 2011) that these houses represent four different decades of architecture in Atlanta – one house was built in 1930, another house was built in 1941, another in the 1950s, and one was built in 1965.  All of these houses were built to last for generations, and are an important part of the enduring legacy of Atlanta architecture.  Three of these houses have never been on a house tour before, making this truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the homes beyond a glimpse from the road.  In fact, one of the houses sits on 9 acres and can’t even be seen from the road – it was a stunning discovery to see it when I pulled beyond the front gate and caught a glimpse of it! I have passed by the home's driveway literally dozens of times, and never even knew it was there.

Here is a sneak peek of the four homes that will be on the tour on January 30-31, 2011.

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I consider this 1930s Buckhead classic to be one of the most beautiful houses in Atlanta.  A total renovation in 2005 by the architectural firm of Spitzmiller & Norris brought the inside of the home into the 21st century and transformed the interior spaces to create a wonderful flow and connection to the outdoors that is perfect for modern family life and entertaining. 

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The owners of this charming 1940s Buckhead house transferred from London several years ago, and fell in love with this home for its wonderful street presence, great bones, and gorgeous lot.  An extensive renovation was immediately begun, and in 2010 a new pool house was designed and constructed.   Linda MacArthur was the architect who helmed both projects, with Jane Hollman of Studio Entourage on the kitchen design, Margaret and Clary Bosbyshell on the interiors, and Debbie Anderson on the architectural design elements.

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This beautiful French-Normandy style home was designed in the 1950s by famed Atlanta architect Clem Ford.  The strength of the exterior, with its stone and stucco cladding and clean lines, provides a marvelous complement to the soft traditional decor on the interior and the magnificent detailed moldings in every room.  The house includes a family room and kitchen renovation by Kenneth Lynch; famed horticulturalist Ryan Gainey designed the landscape.

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I had heard about the existence of this incredible house, a James Means masterpiece built in the 1960s, but I had never seen the house as it is not visible from the road.  When visiting the home in order to write a profile on it, I literally gasped as I came around the curve of the driveway and saw the home sited beautifully on an expanse of meadowland.    The house design is Virginia Tidewater in style, and was based on the great James River plantations of Virginia, with Carter’s Grove and Westover as specific points of reference.  The architectural firm of Norman Askins (with project architect Michelle Moody) was hired in 2005 to carefully renovate this landmark Atlanta home but still maintain the integrity of Means’ original design. Ralph Harvard was responsible for the elegant and nuanced interior design, and Planters created a landscape and hardscape design to enhance and complement the new additions to the home, and redefine the approach to the front door.

Mark your calendars for January 30-31st for this rare opportunity to see firsthand the magnificent work of some of Atlanta’s most famed architects, designers, and craftsman! Ticket prices are $30.

For more information on the Cathedral Tour of Homes (January 30-31, 2011) and Cathedral Antique Show (February 2-5, 2011), please visit the event website: http://www.cathedralantiques.org.  All information on homes scheduled to be included on the tour is accurate as of late November; an update will be posted closer to the date of the tour.

All photos, with the exception of the Clem Ford French-Normandy home, were taken by me with my humble iphone.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can Lights – love them or hate them?


We are tackling the lighting plan for the new house, and I have been doing some research.  Normally I don’t think about lighting too much, although I am aware that there are some rooms in my current house that are too dark and would really benefit from overhead lighting. Ambient lighting does not seem to do the trick in all situations and all room set ups.
One thing I have started to realize is that many designers are vehemently against the overuse of can lighting  (those cans that are put in the ceilings of rooms) – they despise the way that it makes a ceiling look like ‘swiss cheese’.  Others claim that can lighting (also called downlights) is one of the “worst inventions of Western architecture”.

When we took a first cut at the lighting plan (and by ‘we’, I really mean my architect and designer – I was fairly clueless, but thanks to this post I am up to speed and well prepared for the next meeting!), I was somewhat surprised about how few ‘can’ lights Suzanne and Stan were recommending. The main task areas – like the kitchen – are well lit with downlights/can lights.  But there are no cans at all specified in many rooms (such as the living room and dining room); instead, they will be lit with light fixtures such as chandeliers, lanterns, library lights, and other ambient lighting sources such as table lamps and floor lamps (a layered approach to lighting).

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The layered lighting approach is seen in this room.  Notice the beautiful unblemished ceiling!  There are sconces and table lamps (9 that I can see) that provide the light.  (I love that painting – anyone know the artist?). 

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It is hard to get an idea for what people ‘really’ do in a room just by looking at magazine pictures. Magazine pictures often don’t contain much of the ceiling in the picture, and I have heard that many unsightly items such as can lights are instantly smoothed away with photoshop.  This room, for example – a lovely clear ceiling – but there only appears to be one table lamp in the room for light.   Yes, it is more beautiful…but is it practical?

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Case in point about magazine editing:  on the left, a beautiful home featured in House Beautiful, with interiors by Babs Watkins, Julie Baker, and Eleanor Cummings.  This picture is from the House Beautiful website. On the right: the same room, with the can lights edited out (from Cote de Texas).

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Sometimes a glimpse of a can light or two can be seen in a magazine photo.  Charlotte Moss has some can lights in her living room; they are small and delicate, but they are there! These might be directional to highlight the art, but they also provide a bit of light over the seating area.  Sconces, a chandelier, candles, and table lights provide additional lighting sources.

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Another magazine photo – although they are very subtle, there are definitely downlights in this room. They are small and blend in quite well with the ceiling paneling.

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It seems as if can lights are frequently used when the ceiling is this style (the name is escaping me).

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Real estate listings portray a more realistic picture, as they often show an entire room, and they often show the ceiling.  This room has a nice approach – largely can light free, but with small focused lights in the area at the end of the room.

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Another picture from Cote de Texas – a house that was on the market in Houston.  Looking around the room, it appears that the can lighting is the main source of light in this space.

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This room, also from a Houston house, has a few table lamps, but also relies on downlights for the primary light source in the room.

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Compare and contrast to this space, where there are can lights, but there are also many other sources of light – two chandeliers, table lamps, floor lamps, and library lights. Architecture by Steve Giannetti.

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Kitchens are a different matter altogether, because of the task oriented nature of the space.  Kitchens need plenty of light, and this is often most effectively achieved with downlights.

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One of my favorite kitchens, by kitchen designer Lindy Weaver, seems to employ a combination of light fixtures (the large pendant lights), library style lights over the sink, and very small architectural down lights scattered throughout the kitchen.  I like this approach, but my new kitchen is not going to have a light fixture over the island because of the configuration of the kitchen, so I will need to rely on downlights/can lights for task lighting.

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I love how this kitchen combined downlights, pendant lights, lamps, and sconces to light the space. 

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I asked Brooke from Velvet & Linen about her opinion on downlights, and she said that she often uses other solutions for achieving light in spaces without using cans (in her own house, she does not have a single can light!).  In this kitchen designed by Steve and Brooke Giannetti, note the use of light fixtures in the ceiling (small fixtures close to the ceiling, pendants, and a chandelier) instead of cans everywhere.

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Another example from the Giannetti’s portfolio where beautiful ceiling fixtures are used instead of cans (although I do spy two tiny downlights over the sink).

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One of my all time favorite kitchens, by Victoria Hagan,  uses vintage looking lights instead of can lights to illuminate the kitchen (plus large pendants).

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Barbara Westbrook uses hanging lights for the majority of light in this kitchen (although there is a lone downlight over the sink)

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Note the clever way that lighting was achieved near the range and sinks, through tiny focused pendants that are attached to the beam.  Image via AH&L.

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All in all, I am perfectly fine with function over form in a kitchen – and sometimes can lights are the most effective way to achieve  task lighting in a space.  I really like the look of the small downlights in this kitchen, with interior design by Jim Howard.  The beautiful airy pendant lights provide great lighting without being too intrusive, and the small size of the ‘can lights’ does not create big holes in the ceiling.

Just one of the many decisions that must be made when building a house!  Not only that, but we are also at a turning point in lighting technology; the US government has set a deadline of 2012 for light bulbs to be 30% more efficient, and yet there does not seem to be a really appealing and cost effective replacement to the incandescent bulbs that we are all used to.   I have been looking into LED lighting (CREE seems to be a leader in this market), but the cost is quite high.  Low voltage halogens are more energy efficient than incandescent, but quite expensive too.

So, readers – do you have any thoughts on can lights? Love them or hate them? Do you have any style or bulb recommendations? I would be interested to read your thoughts.

Books mentioned in this post:
Victoria Hagan: Interior Portraits (click here to purchase on Amazon.com)

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To see design, architecture, art, and decorative books that I recommend, please visit the Things That Inspire Amazon store.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sconce candidates


I have blogged about my love of chandeliers and sconces many times over the years; now that the house build is well underway, and the architectural design is set, we are starting to scout out some of the lighting selections for the new house.   Here are a few that are under consideration for the bathrooms (there were more, but these are the ones that stand out in my mind). 

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Circa Lighting Soleil Semi-flush Pendant (not a sconce, but a great ceiling mount fixture)

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It’s interesting seeing all of these together in one post.  They are being considered for different areas of the house (and we have not yet discussed decorative sconces for the living room and hallways), but there is certainly a balance of the clean straight lines and sinuous curves.  Do you have a favorite? (Email subscribers, click here to comment)

To visit my store, Quatrefoil Design, click here.
To subscribe to my blog by email, click here.
To follow my blog on Facebook, click here.
To see design, architecture, art, and decorative books that I recommend, please visit the Things That Inspire Amazon store.

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