water gardens

Since ancient times, gardeners have used pools, ponds, and fountains to provide interest and refreshment in their gardens. Today, with the available modern materials, it is easier than ever to have a water feature in your garden.

The design possibilities are limitless and should be guided by your personal taste as well as the style of your house and neighborhood. For inspiration, look to modern minimalist projects as well as historic looks designed by the landscape masters of the past.

Take a tip from the Persians with intersected narrow waterways on an axis. Add a pond at the intersection and a fountain to enhance the garden experience with the music of falling water and a cooling element.

The sixteenth-century Italians mastered the art of gardening on a slope with terraced gardens and water features designed to flow downhill from one terraced garden level to the next. These gardens were embellished with sculptural fountains, waterways, and pools.

The French adapted the Italian water designs to their flat, local landscape, creating vast horizontal canals and reflecting pools. The impressive garden at Versailles features a canal that stretches to the horizon, thus creating enormous perspectives and reflecting the ever-changing patterns of the sky.

The Romantic movement of the eighteenth century reflected the English desire to be at one with nature. Instead of formal pools, the English estate gardens were graced with informal, naturalistic ponds and lakes. These lakes were nearly always man-made and involved Herculean feats of earth moving to create the basins and dams to hold the water, but when finished they looked as though they had been there since the beginning of time.

Asian gardens also tend to be naturalistic, but their plant palette and ornaments reflect a different overall approach to the final product.

Fountains and waterfalls add an element of magic to a garden. A pattern of falling water, which catches the sunlight and makes a musical sound, is delightful and soothing to both the eye and ear. If you have noisy neighbors or live on a busy street, install a splashing fountain to help mask the noise.

Natural rock formations, statues, and millstones drilled and piped for water are possibilities for appealing fountains; the water jets alone are pretty. You can select a fountain head to make almost any imaginable pattern of falling water from single sprays, multitiered sprays, whirling sprays, geysers, bells, fanned fishtails, flared trumpets, and multiple sprays resembling a dandelion seed head. In addition to the visual variations, each type of spray or jet makes a different sound.

Waterfalls also provide a wonderland of possibilities. Channel the water to trickle around stones or cascade over a smooth rock edge to create a smooth ribbon of falling water. You can make it splash and crash from a great height or run it down the slope quietly. Position rocks so that droplets of water falling from up high splinter into a fine mist, creating rainbows with the spray. Another possibility is to create a slender stream of falling water, known in Oriental landscape design as a silver thread.

There are good reasons to introduce a water feature to your garden. Watching water, whether still or moving, soothes the soul and refreshes the spirit, as does the sound of falling water. Water cools and humidifies the air directly around it, creating a beneficial microclimate for plants that require respite from drying heat. Still pools are magical with their reflections, and falling water can be designed to produce a myriad of sounds from a soothing splash to an incessant chatter.

What to Avoid

Trees and shrubs don’t always pair well with ponds. In addition to soiling the pond by dropping leaves into the water, some plants can cause additional problems.
On the “no-no” list are holly, laurel, rhododendron, horse chestnut, and willow. Their leaves produce salts and gasses when they decompose, by-products that are toxic to fish. Any tree with invasive roots can damage pond linings. The worst offenders are willows, American elms, silver maples, and hybrid poplars.

If you are growing water lilies, do not plant cherry, plum, or any other tree from the Prunus genus nearby. They are hosts to the water lily aphid.

Trees prone to drop fruit or shed leaves, dead twigs, or seed pods are a bad choice near ponds. Avoid ucalyptus, pecans, catalpa, magnolias, American sycamore, and river birch. Pine trees that shed all year round also are a poor choice. In addition to the mess, the needles can clog pumps and backflow valves.

Article by Homebydesign.

island escape

The request was not out of the ordinary for designer Lisa Kanning. Her clients had been on vacation in Turks and Caicos when she received the call that they were thinking about purchasing a home on the island. “I hopped on a flight the next day,” says New York City–based Kanning, who had worked on the couple’s home in Philadelphia. “We spent a day or two looking at homes, but this one had the greatest potential.”

The request was not out of the ordinary for designer Lisa Kanning. Her clients had been on vacation in Turks and Caicos when she received the call that they were thinking about purchasing a home on the island. “I hopped on a flight the next day,” says New York City–based Kanning, who had worked on the couple’s home in Philadelphia. “We spent a day or two looking at homes, but this one had the greatest potential.”

The location of the single-family home with an adjacent caretaker’s cottage was ideal. Situated oceanfront with expansive beach and water views from nearly every room in the home, the property, named Terrapin Villa, boasted a house with an open layout and a floor plan that seamlessly combined outdoor living with the indoors. As frequent entertainers, Kanning’s clients wanted the decor to be as easy as the layout was for hosting guests. And for them, that meant starting from scratch.

The house came fully furnished and dressed in what Kanning calls a traditional island aesthetic—dark, carved wood, wicker accents, and bold, oversize, floral patterns—but the homeowners were looking for something different for their island abode.

“My clients have a much more modern, funky sensibility,” she says. “They wanted color but in a more modern sense.” Though it was a departure from the interiors of their Philadelphia home, which skew more traditional with a modern touch throughout, Kanning knew that minimal furnishings with clean lines would allow the breathtaking views to be the main attraction. After living with the existing furnishings for some time, save a few updates that Kanning made while they were in limbo, the clients finally decided to renovate the home and essentially “gut it,” says Kanning. “They wanted to get rid of the dark wood and the heavy look and create a lighter, easier aesthetic.”

Once the home was renovated, a move which included the addition of classic Spanish mahogany wood trim throughout, Kanning had the interiors painted white. The paint choice would serve as the ideal blank canvas to showcase not only the newly-installed clean-lined modern interiors and bold hues, but also the stunning water views. “We were inspired by the colors from outdoors: blues and corals— everything you’d see if you looked outside,” says Kanning of the color palette. “Using those colors really maximized the indoor-outdoor feel the clients wanted.”

Knowing that the homeowners and their guests would spend most of their time in the main living space, keeping the seamless flow from inside to out was of the utmost importance. So Kanning designed multiple seating arrangements overlooking the expansive lanai, which lines the entire back of the villa. Back-to-back sofas by HBF Furniture are swathed in a durable, neutral fabric and are separated by a console to allow for plenty of seating and easy conversation.

Island Rebirth

Hurricane Irma ravaged the Caribbean in late summer, 2017, leaving many of the islands—Antigua, Barbuda, and the British Virgin Islands to name a few—completely devastated. Turks and Caicos was also hit badly by the category 4 hurricane; however, it recovered quickly and most of the island’s top resorts are now open. One of the highlights: the Gansevoort Villas & Resort. The six stunning villas are now available for rent and boast sleek, modern interiors with infinity-edge pools, sunken outdoor fire pits, over-the-water swimming platforms, interior courtyards with waterfall feature, and exclusive access to the nearby ninety-one-room Gansevoort Resort.


To add pops of color, throw pillows in blues and corals and varying textures were added while white coffee tables and accent swivel chairs also by HBF Furniture complete the look. 

In lieu of a formal dining room, Kanning created a dining area that bleeds into the family room. “Most of my clients want more informal dining, especially in secondary resort homes,” she says. To highlight the space, Kanning added an inset concrete seating area, which she covered in a bold coral wall-covering. The designer finished the space with a large wood table, all-white modern-line dining chairs, and a custom light fixture by CP Lighting.

To complement the mahogany architectural detailing inside, Kanning added Spanish cedar on the exterior trim work and pergolas to create a seamless transition from inside to out. Chaises and other outdoor furnishings in a similar wood complete the look.

After a large renovation and Kanning’s installed modern look, the home is now more modern and accessible to its stunning setting. “Updating this home made all the difference when it comes to the views and landscape,” says Kanning. “Before, the interiors distracted from those views. Now, they are the primary thing you see.”


Kanning created two separate seating areas to make for seamless entertaining. A custom headboard swathed in a vinyl fabric serves as a stunning backdrop to the space. A rich coral, woven, vinyl wall-covering is dramatic in the dining nook. The homeowners wanted an oversize kitchen island to fit several people so that “no one is relegated to the kitchen by themselves,” says Kanning.

Article by Homebydesign.

under the sea

Seafood, although available at most local markets now, is traditionally a regional specialty. Whether you live near the ocean or enjoy a visit now and then, there’s nothing quite like dining pier-side on fresh catch of the day. Thankfully, you don’t have to take a trip to get a taste of the ocean. The following classic recipes capture the essence of seafood by combining fresh ingredients that enhance the unique flavors of fish and shellfish.


Who can resist a piping-hot bowl of traditional clam chowder? This version is laced with smokey bacon and aromatics and finished with cream. Served with traditional oyster crackers, this chowder is comfort in a bowl.

Serves 4 to 6

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 large yellow potatoes, cubed
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or clam juice, enough liquid to just cover the potatoes
  • 1 cup heavy cream (or more as desired)
  • 2 (6.5-ounce) cans chopped clams
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • Dash Tabasco sauce (optional)
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Oyster crackers (optional)

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chopped bacon and cook until the bacon is soft and has begun to render some of its fat. You don’t want to brown the bacon. Remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Next, add the onions and celery to the pot and sauté until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes and then add the garlic, potatoes, thyme, and bay leaf. Stir in the white wine and when it’s almost completely gone, stir in the vegetable broth or clam juice. Bring the liquid to a boil and then turn down the heat to a simmer.

Partly cover the soup pot and let it simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. When the potatoes are soft, stir in the heavy cream allowing some of the potatoes to break apart. This will create a lovely thick chowder without the extra heavy cream. Return the bacon to the pot and then stir in the chopped clams. Add additional heavy cream if needed.

Bring the chowder back to a simmer just until it’s heated through. Do not boil.

Season the chowder with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste, and then add a dash of Tabasco sauce if desired. Allow the chowder to sit off the heat for at least 20 minutes or longer. This will allow the flavors to deepen. Reheat over low heat before serving.

Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and serve with oyster crackers.


This is one of the most exquisite and delicious seafood salads I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. Although the recipe looks long, it comes together easily and makes a lovely presentation on the dinner table.

Serves 6 to 8

For the octopus marinade:
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped Italian parsley
For the poaching liquid:
  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • Handful of fresh herbs (Italian parsley, oregano, thyme)
  • Additional water for liquid if needed
For the salad:
  • ½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, keeping the tails if you like
  • ½ pound bay or diver scallops
  • ½ pound firm white fish, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 pound mussels, cleaned
  • ½ to 1 pound baby octopus or small octopus (optional)*
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb, reserve fronds for garnish
  • ¼ cup chopped fennel fronds or fresh dill
  • ¼ cup sliced green onions
  • ½ cup sliced green olives (optional)
  • 1 cup mandarin orange slices (canned or fresh)
  • Sea salt, fennel fronds, and chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
For the vinaigrette:
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 lemons, juiced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

One day prior to serving, marinate the octopus. Whisk together the marinade ingredients, toss the marinade with the octopus, and then cover and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare the poaching liquid by adding the bottle of white wine to a large pot. Heat over medium heat and then add the whole cloves, cloves of garlic, sliced shallot, and a handful of fresh herbs. Once the liquid has come to a very gentle simmer, add the shrimp and scallops. Let them poach for a few minutes or until they are opaque and cooked through. (Add boiling water to the poaching liquid one cup at a time if needed.)

With a slotted spoon or small mesh strainer, remove the shrimp and scallops and transfer to a large nonreactive bowl.

Next add the white fish to the poaching liquid and let it cook for a few minutes. Gently transfer to the bowl with the shrimp and scallops. Repeat the process with the mussels.

The last to be poached is the octopus. Add additional water to the pot if needed. Bring the liquid to a slow simmer and then add the octopus along with the marinade to the pot of poaching liquid. Bring the liquid back to a slow simmer and let the octopus poach for about 45 minutes.

While the octopus is poaching, whisk together the vinaigrette and then gently toss with the cooked seafood and refrigerate.

When the octopus is done, toss it with the seafood in the vinaigrette and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until you are ready to prepare and serve the salad.

To assemble the salad, gently toss the seafood and vinaigrette with the fennel, green onions, olives (if using), and mandarin oranges. Pour the salad onto a platter and garnish with a sprinkle of sea salt, fennel fronds or fresh dill, and chopped Italian parsley.

Tip: You can hold the dressed seafood in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours prior to serving. Then toss with the additional ingredients and serve. The vinaigrette can be doubled if needed.

*Many markets stock baby octopus, but if you can’t find it or don’t want to use it, you can substitute calamari rings or squid. Most fish markets will special order octopus and squid. If you use whole squid or calamari rings, prepare it just as you would prepare the octopus. You can also omit the octopus and squid if you prefer. The salad will still be delicious.

Article by homebydesign.

dreary to dreamy

The new owners, who purchased the home as a vacation property, felt a remodel could overcome those shortcomings, so they approached McKeown Foster about the project. McKeown Foster owns Jodi Foster Design + Planning, a Victoria, British Columbia–based firm. She had worked with the homeowners previously on an adjacent property, so her firm was the natural choice for the project. “Once you work with a client, you understand where they’re coming from, their personalities, and how they like to work. The relationship becomes more cohesive every time you work together,” she says.

Continue reading

Cream of the crop

It’s not every busy architecture firm that would delight in fielding calls about tumbledown structures, but JLF Architects isn’t your typical enterprise. “Our philosophy is making contemporary spaces with reclaimed materials— the parts and pieces of old buildings,” says firm partner Paul Bertelli, who notes that they occasionally drive around the country searching for old, neglected—and stunning—architecture, often in areas where the air is dry enough that logs are perfectly preserved. “As architects, we identify as critical regionalists, which essentially implies that all of our work identifies with the place. Anything we build, you would be able to say, ‘Oh that belongs in Pennsylvania,’ or ‘That’s Northern California.’”

Or the Wild West. When one of JLF’s masonry suppliers phoned their office one day to say he’d come across a roofless limestone dairy barn in an uninhabited agricultural community in far north Montana, they knew it was something special. “I saw the picture he took of it and said ‘don’t show it to anybody else!’” recalls Bertelli. “We flew up to Great Falls, got in a pickup truck, bounced around fields for thirty miles, and there it was, in the middle of nowhere in a cow pasture.”

All the legwork was well worth it, because, as the saying goes, they just don’t build them like they used to. This particular dairy barn was hewn of local stone in the 1880s and 1890s by a German Hutterite community. Bertelli says the residents likely immigrated to Canada and then down into the United States fleeing persecution, where they created their own self-supporting world, much like the Amish or Mennonites. “These were some very skilled masons, unbelievable,” says Bertelli, pointing to the hand-chiseled corners, window openings, and finished planes in the original dairy barn. “It’s rare to see something of that quality. We’re a very young country. You go to Europe and that stuff is ubiquitous, so we are very lucky to have something on our soil that really represents eighteenth-century architecture.”

The entire team at JLF Architects knew they had to have it; they called a client they’d been working with for seventeen years and convinced her to help them buy it. “She’s an antique collector, and we thought this could be the ultimate antique,” says Bertelli. The client too fell instantly, head-over-heels in love. The trouble was, where would they put it? It couldn’t stay on its current Montana plot, where cows were using it as a scratching post. They eventually moved the entire barn, stone by stone, rebuilding it nearly exactly the same way on a spot the client and her son purchased for it. The new location, just outside Jackson, Wyoming, features the mountains of the Teton Range rising like a postcard sprung to life in the distance. “I’m guessing it was about 30,000 pieces of stone, and at least a third of them we labeled so we’d know where to put them back,” says Bertelli. It was no easy feat, according to JLF Architects partner Logan Leachman. “The masons we worked with were probably feeling like, ‘Jeez, I could go work somewhere else for a lot less stress!’ It’s a testament to the team of people that got it back together.”

Now the antique has been remade into a modern 7,919-square-foot home with decidedly twenty-first-century technology, yet reclaimed-fir floors, steel windows, original limestone, and a long glass-walled hallway bring the outside in. The home’s interiors are filled with timeless, neutral pieces—Chippendale chairs, a French refectory table—that while beautiful, keep the spotlight on the natural stone and the cinematic natural beauty beyond the windows. Only the fireplace hearths detract the eye from the lush fields and snowcapped mountains beyond. “We oriented the tall slice in the gable so that when you stand in the hallway and look out the window, you see the Grand Teton,” says Bertelli. “We didn’t make it this huge, big, grand window; we wanted to create a more interesting form.”

One of Bertelli’s favorite things about the building? How little they did to it. “You’re looking across a beautiful field of grass and all you see is the little stone building, and the nature formed the frame,” recalls Bertelli. “Normally, someone would come to us and say, ‘I own a piece of ground and want to build a house.’ This project was inspired by the simplicity of the building, and then we found the right piece of property. It may never happen again. It took such courage for the owner to show such restraint and respect for the original form. It was faith and love of the process that drove us to something like this, and it’s probably the most extraordinary building we’ve ever done.”

ABOVE, FROM LEFT: A connecting hall made of steel, glass, and reclaimed Yorkshire stone paving provides an effervescent entrance into the home. The master bedroom is complete with two fireside seating areas.

Article by home by design.

Bake your day


This is a special childhood cake that my Mom often made. It was her signature cake recipe and my siblings and I were always thrilled when it appeared on the kitchen counter. I’ve made this recipe into cupcakes and tweaked the cream cheese frosting with a bit of maple syrup, which complements the flavors in the cake. The result is a moist yet light cake, sweet with layered flavors and textures, and topped with a dollop of luscious cream cheese frosting. I have a feeling you’ll eat more than one!

Makes about 24 cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • 1¾ cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1 can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • Chopped fresh walnuts, for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon.

In the bowl of an electric mixer or large mixing bowl, mix together the vegetable oil and sugar until nicely combined. Then mix in the eggs and vanilla and whisk until creamy.

Fold in the walnuts, shredded carrots, crushed pineapple, and raisins and stir until combined.

Line the muffin pan with cupcake liners and fill each cupcake liner with batter about ¾ full. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the cupcakes are firm to the touch and golden on top.

Let the cupcakes cool before frosting. To make the frosting, add the butter and cream cheese to an electric mixer with the whisk attachment. Whisk until smooth.

Slowly add the powdered sugar and maple syrup and whisk until smooth and creamy.

Add the frosting to a pastry bag and pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. Garnish with chopped fresh walnuts if desired.

Store the cupcakes at room temperature.


I always bake these cookies at home. They aren’t too sweet, which allows the flavor of peanut butter flavor to shine through. I also like my cookies a bit hearty in texture, which makes them the perfect consistency to dunk into your morning coffee.

Makes 12 to 18 cookies

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup quality shortening
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 to 3 tablespoons milk (as needed)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the shortening, sugar, brown sugar, egg, peanut butter, and vanilla until creamy.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix. If the cookie dough is too crumbly, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of milk to bring the dough together.

Form the dough into 1- to 2-inch balls and then press the center with your thumb or with a fork, making a hatch print on the cookie.

Bake the cookies for about 10 to 14 minutes or until they are done. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a baking rack or tray.

Keep the cookies in a covered container at room temperature.

Article by home by design.

His & Hers

For a traditional brick-and-stone house in Flower Mound, Texas that was due for a major update, innovative interior designer Ginger Curtis was happy to save the day. Working primarily with the wife on the master bedroom renovation, she let her client be her guide. “She wanted it to feel bright but warm,” says Curtis, president of Urbanology Designs in North Richland Hills, a suburb of Fort Worth. “The walls were a very deep beige, like the carpet, so there was no contrast or brightness.”

Now the room has plenty of both. “There’s a contrast of rustic and hard with soft purple and soft touches of elegance like the bench with tufting,” says the designer, whose rustic contemporary description of the master suite fits the bill for both husband and wife. “When you’re leaning toward modern, it starts to feel cold. But rustic instantly adds warmth to everything.”

Curtis has become close with her clients and also worked on other areas of the home. The designer says she has a great deal of respect for the wife after collaborating on this project that included the removal of carpet, installation of wood floors and roman shades, and new paint. “I was so impressed by how much she honored her husband during the process,” she says. “She was so considerate. She has a beautiful heart and she’s a wonderful person.”

The end result was a win-win for the couple. “He gets this really cool rustic headboard feature and she gets her purple pillows,” says Curtis. The wood accent wall/headboard made from knotty alder provides the perfect contrast against the soothing taupe-gray walls, while a custom bed is flanked by custom nightstands that are attached to the accent wall. “The upholstered headboard adds extra comfort. I love that upholstered bed balanced against all the wood,” she adds.

To make up for the lack of closet space in the first-floor master suite, they were able to take some square footage from the adjacent great room. “The original closet was a major challenge. It was really tight, like a bowling alley, and she and her husband were rubbing elbows if they were both in there at the same time,” says Curtis. “Removing the built-in from the great room was the best decision. We lost a couple of feet in there, but it had the flexibility for them to get a bigger closet and not squash each other.”

Another consideration was maintaining continuity with the rest of the home by merging the new floors with the existing ones. “The wood species had to be just right and not look like an add-on,” says the designer about the decision to go with hickory floors.

Perhaps it’s what you don’t see in the tranquil environment that matters most. “We didn’t stuff the room full. It’s breathable,” says Curtis. “A few well-chosen pieces leave enough space to maneuver around. This way you enjoy them more because they’re intentional things that are special and give you the flexibility to layer.” This was the case for the artwork she selected that is suited to her clients’ tastes and the space, like a large abstract that wasn’t overly bold. When it came to lighting, the designer wanted to deliver a special feature. “Something as simple as lights hanging directly over the nightstands gives that bespoke look,” she says. “With the clear-glass pendants, it’s not overwhelming. It’s really interesting.”

Overall, there’s a fine balance among the design elements that doesn’t take away from the main focal point of the wood accent wall. “They complement each other,” she says. “We mixed the rustic farmhouse and transitional. When you mix it together, it really pulls together the look that’s beautiful.”

In the end, this well-blended master bedroom could win anyone over. “We didn’t want something that would be overly masculine or feminine,” says Curtis. “Any person can walk in and feel comfortable.”

Go Your Own Way

Curtis likes to blend a variety of elements to finish a master suite and she encourages others to do the same. “Pick a dresser that doesn’t match the nightstand or add a chair that’s rustic,” she says. “When you turn to big-box retailers for a bedroom set, the room falls very flat. Mix with different styles instead to create interesting looks.”

For subtle contrast, try wood against wood like the nightstands that are attached to the accent wall in this featured design. The larger rug in this bedroom is worth the extra expense, says Curtis, because a smaller style would make the entire space appear smaller.

Though Curtis likes chandeliers in the bedroom, function comes first. In this bedroom, the homeowners wanted a ceiling fan. Today’s fabulous designs make this practical feature more aesthetically pleasing than it once was.

Article by

The Gold Standard – An Arkansas Penthouse Gets the VIP Treatment

Putting the rock in Little Rock, Arkansas comes easy to local designer Tobi Fairley, who outfitted her young clients’ downtown penthouse with cinematic glitz at every turn. “They’re hip and fashionable, and they were willing to take risks with color and design,” says Fairley. “They wanted something edgy and glamorous that was also open and inviting.”

That’s perhaps most evident in the penthouse’s dreamy master bedroom, with its bird’s-eye views of the glimmering Arkansas River and the cityscape below. “It was an empty shell when we started,” says the designer. “I wanted to give them a unique space that would reflect their sense of style, and that would be unlike anything their guests had seen before.”

The biggest showstopper is one that’s too-often overlooked in interior spaces: the ceiling. Fairley had it painted in Benjamin Moore’s Midnight Navy, in a reflective high gloss, which she notes gives it the feeling of the night sky. “Although the ceilings are tall, that gorgeous navy lacquer makes the room seem cozy, particularly when the draperies are closed,” says Fairley. “It’s so sophisticated.” She amplified the starstruck mood by adding an antiqued brass and crystal Sputnik light fixture by midcentury-inspired designer Jonathan Adler. “It really adds to the idea of a night sky rather than just a ceiling, especially when the light bounces off all the crystals in the chandelier.”

Shimmery upholstery and metallic finishes create an instantly cool vibe in the master bedroom; the addition of a faux-fur throw and pillows, button tufting, and quilting prevents it from feeling cold.

Fairley brought the room back down to earth with her choice of wallcovering—a subtle Osborne & Little snakeskin wallpaper. “I wanted to keep the palette calm and restful since this is a master bedroom, but also add texture and pattern to make it a fashion-forward statement,” she notes. The Maxime upholstered headboard by Bernhardt creates a bit of a cocoon, with button tufting for extra coziness; faux-fur throw pillows and a blanket from Fabulous Furs supply luxurious texture—and are a homey godsend to snuggle up with on cool nights. “The bed is incredibly comfortable for people who like to read in bed or watch television,” says Fairley. “It adds to that sense of a lush oasis for my clients. That’s really what a master bedroom should be—a place to forget the stress of your day.”

The designer also utilized expertly placed notes of symmetry—in everything from a pair of bedside table lamps to the seating area chairs overlooking the river below—to add to the aura of spa-like calm. “Symmetry is critical for creating balanced spaces that look pulled together and complete,” says Fairley. But a room must be functional for it to be truly beautiful, and Fairley delivers, with lined blackout curtains—de rigueur for blocking the sleepless city lights—and even a practical bench at the foot of the bed. “I love using benches like this one from Lee Industries at the end of a bed because they are so versatile,” she says. “You can use them for extra seating, as a place to perch while you put on your shoes, as another surface for books or clothing, and so much more.” Fairley is a stickler for operational nightstands, too. “I like for the bedside tables to be right at the height of the bed. That keeps bedside lamps at the correct height too, so they don’t shine light right into my clients’ eyes,” she notes. She prefers to keep bedside lamps—in this case, luxe, faux-sharkskin wrapped ones from Currey & Company—within easy reach, so the homeowners aren’t exerting themselves to turn the light on or off.

“It’s all about luxe details and creating a spa-like atmosphere in this room. A deep soaking tub like this is perfect for washing away all of your troubles!”


Snakeskin-inspired wallpaper from Osborne & Little provides a neutral touch to balance the room’s more overtly glamorous touches. Brushed gold fixtures in the master bathroom are eye-catching and provide a warm foil to the marble’s cool tones.

In the en suite bathroom, which is bathed in neutral tones, Fairley truly exemplified her belief that design should make you feel amazing from the inside out. It’s like walking into a private, five-star spa: complete with a steam shower with multiple shower heads, Carrara marble subway tiles, and a soaking tub from Signature Hardware that would be the envy of any Hollywood starlet.

“It’s all about luxe details and creating a spa-like atmosphere in this room,” says Fairley. “A deep soaking tub like this is perfect for washing away all of your troubles! I positioned it so my clients could also take in the city views while they’re relaxing.” Dazzling brushed gold fixtures add a subtle glow to the room. “They’re the perfect ‘jewelry’ to finish this fashionable master bath,” she says. Fairley chose a floor that nods to the adjacent envelope-pushing bedroom: tiles from Walker Zanger called Helsinki in a Silver Dusk color, laid out in a chevron pattern. “It’s really the highlight of this bathroom,” she says.

Each choice, combined, creates a sumptuous hideaway lofted above the frenetic city streets. “I’m pleased with a space when we reach magazine-quality design,” says Fairley. “But I know I’ve been successful when a space I design helps improve relationships, free up time, and enables people to feel more relaxed, productive, and fulfilled. I believe interior design is about making your life better from the inside out.”

Original article by ‘home by design magazine’ 


Raising the bar

Raise gardening to a new level with raised beds—aboveground growing containers that are open to the ground underneath. The benefits are many.

If your property has adverse soil conditions such as poor drainage, low fertility, or poor soil structure, rise above the problem by building a raised bed filled with rich soil. Tired of weeding on your hands and knees? Build a bed with a wide rim that’s high enough to sit comfortably on the edge while you’re tending to the plants. Open the possibility of gardening to people in wheelchairs with beds build at an appropriate height.

A raised bed helps you concentrate and focus your water usage to exactly where it should be, thus reducing weeds. They also reduce the possibility of compacting the soil or damaging plants due to walking in the growing area. To provide access to the plants without the need to walk in the bed, make it narrow enough (about four feet) to reach at least halfway across from either side.

If you’re building a raised bed next to a garden living space, such as a patio or terrace, build it in a style and out of materials that complement the surrounding structures so the look is unified and harmonious. In more utilitarian areas, such as a remote vegetable or cutting garden, wood or composite plastic materials are the most common building materials.

Gardeners are spoilt for choice when it comes to materials for building raised beds. Review the following three main materials and the pros and cons of each before embarking on your new garden design.

Continue reading

Canadian Gothic Revival

Consistently rated the best place to live in Canada, Ottawa boasts the highest standard of living in the nation, Canada’s most educated residents, and a low unemployment rate. Canada’s capital city is in the province of Ontario and is situated near the US border, close to upstate New York. Sitting on the south bank of the Ottawa River, the city center revolves around Parliament Hill and its grand Gothic Revival architecture. The parklined Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is filled with boats in summer and ice-skaters in winter. Continue reading