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It’s finally here. The sweet summer season has arrived, and with it, your plans to spend days, weeks, or months at your vacation home. But if you only enjoy your getaway during the summer, there are a few things you’ll need to take care of before getting settled.

To make opening and closing your summer home a breeze, keep it maintained during the winter months. If you don’t live close to your vacation home, have a friend check on the house from time to time or hire a property management company to address any off-season issues. If the temperature drops below the freezing level, pipes could burst; and there’s always the chance that an appliance could leak or the electricity could go out and reset timed systems.

Assuming there aren’t any major maintenance issues when you first arrive at your summer home, setup shouldn’t be too complicated. Turn on any circuit breakers that were off and plug in appliances. Check and replace or refill smoke detector batteries, light bulbs, and any propane tanks if needed. (If your home is heated by propane, keep track of the level throughout the year and, if possible, have the tank refilled before you arrive for the summer.)

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peak performance

For Nick Bratton, his love of mountain climbing began early. As a young Boy Scout, it was a natural progression for him to get into mountaineering at a young age. That, coupled with a desire to overcome his fear of heights, ignited a passion for mountain climbing in the author of Guided Currents: Notes from the Banks of the Tugela. “My first time rock climbing was in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and I was instantly hooked,” he says. “Nothing I had ever done before compared to the sense of accomplishment and appreciation of the wilderness I got from climbing.”

Much goes into planning and prepping for a climb. “It’s a physically demanding sport that requires a diverse set of skills, good judgment and decision-making, and comfort with adversity,” explains Bratton. “But mountain climbing is also a fantastic social activity because you get to spend quality time in amazing places with friends.” So how do you get started? Follow these tips before setting out on your own adventure.

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Photography provided by ©


Magic in Maya


When Salvador Reyes Ríos first saw Hacienda Petac, there was no immediate inspiration for what would eventually become the property’s impressive post-restoration design. After all, for Ríos, the initial concept for a historic property doesn’t necessarily stem from its surroundings, but rather its rich history. “In a restoration project, an interior design concept should come out from the research of the old building in terms of history, local culture, and resources, as well as materials used for the construction and finishes of the original building,” says Ríos, whose firm, Reyes Ríos + Larraín Studio of Architecture and Design, has established the gold standard for colonial remodeling and hacienda restoration in Mexico. “The idea is to make a recreation of the new from the old.”

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Island Monarch

Londoners Lay Claim to a Stately Southern Vacation Home

Spanish moss drips from trees gnarled by Atlantic winds. Sandy earth supports native scrub and flora. A grand home rises above the flat barrier island plain of Sea Island, one of the Golden Isles off the Georgia, US coast. The relationship between this home and its island setting was cultivated intentionally. “We wanted something that was quite natural and in sync with the surroundings,” explains London-based designer Louise Jones. Her eponymous firm serves clients in the UK and abroad.

Weeks of research informs Jones’s initial design work on every project. Her UK office library brims with books that describe the history of houses throughout eras and across geographies. “I wanted the house to look like it belonged in that part of the world,” says Jones of this island abode. “Getting the exterior right was probably the most difficult part.” Although new construction, this home adapts the strict symmetry, simple ornamentation, and rectangular shape of the Georgian architectural style, which was popularized under the reigns of Kings George I, II, III, and IV. The style was exported to the American colonies during the late 1700s and experienced a revival in the mid-twentieth century.

Her clients’ primary home is in Chelsea, a district of Southwest London, but the family also enjoys vacationing in the US. The Sea Island setting provided a perfect paradise with a climate suited to enjoying the outdoors. “In London, we live so internally. We rarely step outside,” says Jones. A vacation spot in a rural setting with a mild climate requires a different type of focus. “In a holiday home, you’re outside a lot more. With this type of home design, you set a goal of linking to the outside and maximizing the light.”

This home meets both those goals. Light floods through the many windows and French doors in the home, as do the picturesque views of the adjacent lake. A screened-in porch, outdoor eating area, and second-floor balconies serve as transitions from bedroom and living room spaces to the peaceful green vista. The balconies are meant for private use, while the porches and dining spots serve to entertain the homeowners and their many visitors.

As part of her design process, Jones helps her clients visualize the design master plan. She sketches images that are then hand-colored or watercolored. Those images prompt discussion and Jones gathers feedback from her clients in weekly meetings that occur for several weeks.

In this home, the orderly architectural style helped set the direction for the interior. Each room feels balanced and proportional. This type of symmetry often shows up in more formal designs that can feel stuffy and stiff. Yet in these rooms the evenness evokes peace and balance—the sensations most of us strive for when on vacation.

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island time

Less than an hour flight from South Florida, Havana’s treasures await: music, food, art, architecture, and of course the cars. Going to Cuba is like traveling back in time sixty years in only sixty minutes, but this time warp won’t last long. Now is the time to go.

With its colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and rolling museum of classic American cars serving as a backdrop, Cuba will surprise you with the modern treasures that are being created in this artistic hotbed. Havana’s artists, chefs, and mixologists are showing the world what can be made with Cuban sabor (taste/flare).

Whether you stay in a hotel or a casa particular (bed-and-breakfast) in Vedado, Miramar, or Old Havana, the best way to see Havana is on foot. Put on your adventure hat and comfortable shoes as the streets of Havana are to be explored. Cuban life is outside of the house: in the streets, parks, cafes, and of course the Malecón, the five-mile ocean promenade that is nicknamed the largest sofa in the world.

Begin in Old Havana at the first of four squares, Plaza de Armas (Arms Square), to see the government palace, colonial fort, and its daily bookfair with new and used books and antiquities. Perhaps you’ll find a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man in the Sea to bring home. For more history about the author, continue on to Hotel Ambos Mundos (Both Worlds) where he lived for seven years, and its sixth floor, open-air terrace with a view of all of Old Havana. Enjoy a café cubano espresso drink while scoping out the next square, Plaza de la Catedral (Cathedral Square). After a visit inside the splendid Baroque church and a stroll along its restored square, take time for a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio (small store in the middle), another of Hemingway’s haunts, which is just up the street from the cathedral.

Whether you continue on foot or choose to hire a bici-taxi (pedal cab) from Cathedral Square, you are only minutes from Plaza Vieja (Old Square). The brilliant colors of the buildings as well as the art sculptures in the center of the Old Square make a great stop for a treat: a chilled coconut, a craft beer, or a piece of art from one of the many galleries.

En route to your final plaza, you will pass Havana’s aqueduct built in the 1800s. Then, you will feast your eyes on Plaza San Francisco, which is near the harbor with a beautiful fountain and numerous modern art sculptures. It makes for yet another shutterbug stop.

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checking in

Host Friendly Pollinators with a Bee Hotel

It’s the newest trend in insect travel. Everyday people are becoming bee hoteliers by setting up nesting sites, called bee hotels, to attract a variety of the pollinators. The targeted guests are the various genera and species of small, nonaggressive mason and leafcutter bees.

Known as tunnel-nesting bees, they look for dry tunnels in which to lay eggs, seeking out hollow plant stems, abandoned borer-beetle holes, and similar spots. Both mason and leafcutter bees lay their eggs in existing holes, and do not damage structures to make their nests. Both genera also stay close to home, foraging for pollen and nectar within 300 feet of the nest.

Unlike honeybees that live communally in hives, these mild-mannered bees that rarely sting are solitary, going about their business of preparing for the next generation without social interaction. But they like nesting near other members of their species; thus the bee hotel, which is simply a collection of hollow materials mounted in a frame and covered by a roof to keep out the rain. These dwellings provide a dry environment that mimics the conditions the bees prefer. There is a wide selection of bee hotels available for purchase, but it also is easy and inexpensive to make your own. Continue reading

Urban Loft Design Stirs the Senses with Pops of Color

When decking out her former digs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Naomi Stein was definitely ahead of the curve with her alternative style choice that she calls modern bohemian glamour. “I’ve always loved a collected feel with some things that are new, some things that are old, some traditional, and some modern,” says the creative director for Ardmore, Pennsylvania-based Design Manifest.

Stein learned about the home design industry early on from her father who owned a construction company. But her 1,400-square-foot, open-concept loft wasn’t a custom build; it was a rental, which drove a lot of her design decisions. While working within the guidelines of what could be altered in the bachelorette pad she shared with her beloved pug, the designer also had to find the best way to divide and conquer the wide-open space, which she did by creating different zones and vignettes to give each area a purpose and to make it feel cozy.

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Credit: Home by Design Magazine April/May 2017


From Black to White

Fabrics, Textures, and Patterns Make This Home’s Neutral Palette Anything but Boring


Exterior stonework is presented in every shade of gray; a front door and garden furniture are dressed in bold black; snow-white flowers flank the entry. The facade of this King, Ontario home provides subtle clues to what’s inside. Like the exterior, the interior dramatizes stalwart neutrals of black, white, and gray.

“My clients didn’t want strong colors,” explains William MacDonald, owner of Toronto-based WillMac Design. “They like things warm and classic. There’s a lot of texture and there is color, but it’s not over the top.”

In an open staircase circled by windows, light and shadow become ever-changing design elements.

The foyer instantly reveals the design themes found in the home: repetition of color and shape that has been energized by a mix of textures. Black entry doors open onto gray marble. MacDonald calls the tile design a “marble carpet,” which is an apt description. The black-and-white curves in the tile repeat in iron railings found inside and outside of the home. The curved shape in the tile repeats in the round hallway mirror. The rectangular shapes of the door and sidelights are mimicked in the marble tiles, low benches, and console table.

A formal sitting room off the entry provides a master class in mixing shapes effectively. Squares and rectangles occur in the sharp angles of the fireplace tiles, firebox, tray ceiling, sofa, and artwork. Yet a round chandelier shade, corner floor lamp, and metal support structure of the side table soften those angles. Neutral colors dominate the space, but touches of blue and red accessories draw some of the focus. Bright brass sprinkled through the room offers warmth and contrasts the cooler neutrals.

A graceful chandelier draws the eye into the dining room. “The chandelier has traditional elements but it’s been deconstructed,” says MacDonald. “The shape is elongated so the fixture doesn’t simply sit in the middle of the room.” Dove-gray velvet covers the side chairs. Head chairs use the same gray fabric but an elegant scroll covers the backs; that same fabric frames the window.

Drama continues in, of all places, the powder room. The room was inspired by a black vessel sink that the client purchased. “When I saw that sink, I said, ‘Let’s create a black powder room,’” says MacDonald. Marbleized wallpaper adds boldness, as does the touch of color provided by oxblood shades on the sconces.

“This house is large and the rooms are big. The challenge was to use interior design to make it feel cozy and homey,” says MacDonald. That challenge becomes most obvious in the family room. In the two-story space, MacDonald used color to ground the room with gray cabinetry at the same height as the gray drapes. Yet the height of the space isn’t ignored. The chandelier draws the eye up, as does the stenciled pattern on the fireplace feature wall. That painted pattern matches the shape in the drapery fabric.

Calm gray and deep black turn the white island and stove surround into kitchen centerpieces. Oversize art and chandeliers make even small rooms feel grand, as in this formal living room.

The kitchen mixes gray-and-white cabinets and uses a diamond pattern in the glass. Gray stools with nailhead trim and silver-back rings sit next to the white-marble topped island. The other kitchen countertops are black granite. An informal dining area partners with the kitchen. Nine slim windows circle the round dining table. That view is framed by fabric that strays from the neutral palette by adding in a cool blue. “It’s quite a bohemian fabric for such a traditional house,” says MacDonald.

Upstairs, the master bedroom animates a monochromatic scheme. The room contains nothing but shades of gray, yet each shade varies levels of shine and pattern; the lilac undertone of the simple bedding contrasts with the shimmering tufted headboard; the silvery lamp base is topped with a smooth, dark shade; and the lattice pattern on the nightstand echoes the rhythm of the carpet pattern.

Because designing an entire home takes time, it can be difficult not to stray from the initial plan. “Design is a very fluid process. Nothing’s ever set in stone until the last lamp is put on a table,” says MacDonald. Despite that fluidity, the overall vision was realized. “From our original concept, this house became exactly what we all wanted it to be.”


Monochrome, Not Monotonous

Consider these tips from William MacDonald to help make a monochrome color scheme more exciting.
Use touches of color. “I advise clients to create an accessories closet to make it easy to swap things in and out,” says MacDonald. Collect accessories in the same color family and then switch them out a few times throughout the year.

Think about texture. In every room of MacDonald’s design, the color scheme is unified but the mix of materials within that scheme—soft leathers, plush wool, shiny metal, sparkling glass—adds vibrancy.

Mix shapes. “If you have a beige room with a square sofa, square table, square rug, and a square lampshade, it’s boring,” he says. “Go out of your way to mix shapes. If it’s all the same, it’s boring and unsettling. You don’t want to be in a room like that.”

As featured in Home By Design Magazine

The Psychology of Color – How to Use Color to Influence Your Mood and Productivity

The five senses are an incredible thing. Smell and taste are two of the most powerful tools at evoking emotion. But sight must not be forgotten. After all, what you see can have an incredible impact on how you feel. Even more so, color can inevitably influence how you feel on an everyday basis without you ever really noticing. Which is exactly why incorporating the most appropriate hues into your own home can have a profound effect on how you feel (or would like to feel) while completing a specific task.

“Color can have a tremendously powerful influence on people’s lives,” explains Sally Augustin, PhD, an environmental/design psychologist and the principal at Design With Science. “I see a lot of people who are scared of it, who create one white space after another.” But, she says, you shouldn’t be afraid of the rainbow. In fact, you should embrace it. “Color is a fantastic tool to utilize in interior design. You can create a mood in a room instantly with the use of color, especially when utilizing it on your walls and in your accessories.” Here, Augustin details the best hues to add to the most common rooms in your home and the feelings they evoke.


It’s no secret that certain colors influence you to eat a little more—and a little less. In fact, a 2012 study out of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab found study participants, who had a low contrast in color between their food and plates—for example, mashed potatoes on a white plate— served themselves 30 percent more food than those whose plates and food were high contrast in color. That same study found that the color of one’s placemat and tablecloth had the same effect. The same can be said for wall color, says Augustin. “Warm colors, generally, do seem to make us feel a little hungrier. They get our appetites flowing,” she says. “You can use this information in one of two ways: if you have children who never eat and weight isn’t an issue for you or your partner, you might want to make spaces like your kitchen or breakfast nook a warm color like an orange or brown. On the other hand, if someone tends to overeat, you would want to avoid those warm colors and opt for cooler hues such as blues and grays.”


The bedroom is meant for sleep and relaxation and, as such, says Augustin, you want to avoid colors that will excite you such as a color in the red family. “Because of our cultural associations, we view blue as a calming and relaxing color,” she says; however, if a pale blue is not what you’re looking for, Augustin recommends a “color that’s not very saturated but relatively bright. A sage green with lots of white or a dusty blue with lots of white mixed into it are perfect for the bedroom.”


If you have a home office, you know that it’s oftentimes a place to brainstorm ideas. Research shows that green can actually get your creative juices flowing. Like the bedroom, Augustin recommends “a sage green that isn’t very saturated in color to achieve that ideal balance that enhances creativity without over-stimulating you.”


Need a burst of energy to crank out that workout? Go red! “Seeing the color red gives you a burst of strength,” explains Augustin. “If you have a place in your home where you work out, paint the wall you’re looking at red to have that burst of strength while you exercise.”


Pantone is the authority on color. In fact, the color-system company’s forecasted color of the year is so closely watched that industries beyond interior design—think fashion—look to it as one of the biggest trend-setting announcements of the year. Here’s a look at the last five years of colors that Pantone has deemed the “it” hue of the year.

2017: Greenery
Get ready to see plenty of this fern-colored hue as the current color of the year dominates trends.

2016: Rose Quartz and Serenity
Pantone says they chose this pink-and-blue duo to evoke feelings of warmth and tranquility.

2015: Marsala
The company notes that this warm wine color is ideal in a kitchen or dining room.

2014: Radiant Orchid
This shade of purple has fuchsia and pink undertones. The company suggests pairing it with deeper hunter greens, turquoise, teal, or even light yellows.

2013: Emerald
This jewel-tone green hue is ideal in accessories such as dinnerware, or in an entryway or foyer, dining room, home office or library, or a powder room.

Article written by Blake Miller. Original source can be found here:

Photography provided by ©

CORAL CODE – Bold Hues Abound in This Project Built for Two

When designers Jacy Painter Kelly and Kerri Robusto were first approached by their home builder client to design the interiors of a model home that was about to be completed, the design duo jumped at the opportunity. For the last few years, the friends turned design partners (they founded 431 Designs) have completed the interiors for several model homes in North and South Carolina, so the task was nothing new to them. They were familiar with creating eye-catching designs that combine comfort and style while sticking to a budget.

But unlike the duo’s previous model-home projects, which required designing for a potential family, this time the client requested the interiors appeal to an empty nester demographic. “That was who their market research said would be the potential buyer, so that’s what we had to run with,” explains Kelly. Though it was a different type of homeowner they would be designing for, they knew they could easily create a seamless design that appealed to not only empty nesters, but growing families, as well.

The first order of business: choosing a color palette. “We really wanted to focus on [the] Sherwin-Williams color of the year at the time: Coral Reef,” says Robusto. “It’s such a fun color to use and incorporate into a home.” Without hesitation, the designers added bold doses of the color throughout the entire home starting with the downstairs living spaces. “We fell in love with the drapery fabric in the family room and went from there,” says Kelly of the chinoiserie-inspired pattern. “The draperies have a lot going on in them so we wanted to balance them with fairly solid and neutral furnishings.” Organic materials coupled with semi-modern metallic accents throughout the home help balance the boldness of the coral such as in the family room where a wooden console and gold geometric fireplace screen anchor the space…


Content Source & Photograph courtesy of: Home By Design Magazine April/May 2017