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Encaustic tile is happy tile

Ashley Winn Design - Houzz (1)

Imagine for a moment that this was a kitchen instead of a laundry room. I think I’d be happy every time I cooked a meal in such a light, bright, and airy space. This design is by Ashley Winn Design out of Salt Lake City. She is doing some very stalkable work (if you stalk designers the way that I do that is). I think it can really pay off when people take a risk and use an actual color for their cabinets, especially this light sea blue (though I also love a stormy french grey-blue).

The designer also used encaustic tile for the flooring. Encaustic tile is cement tile where the colors and patterns are not actually done with glazes. Instead, the colors are created using powdered pigments in the clay so that the color is integral to the tile itself. The end result is a matte finish and timeless look, partly because the technique first rose in popularity in 13th century and has been around ever since and been through quite a few revivals. Since one of these revivals was in the 1920’s, these look completely at home in some of San Diego’s historic neighborhoods, like Southpark or Kensington, where many of the original houses were built in the late 20’s. Want to find some encaustic tile for your bungalow? Cement Tile Shop is a great resource and their visualizer will help you picture how it will look in your own home. Tierra y Fuego also sells them affordably. Grenada tile’s Echo collection also has some gorgeous options, including unusual Arabesque shapes.

Designing with Hue: the Blue Garden

I stumbled across this fantastic garden, all done in shades of blue- I love it!

Reed Hilderbrand Landscape ArchitectsI think it is a lovely example of a classical garden design that still feels very livable and current. You can find more photos of this garden by Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects here on Definitely spend some time admiring all the different flowering plants in shades of blue (and some blue-purple and white). I also admire their use of the blue ceramic Chinese stools as accent pieces.

What does Transitional mean, anyway?

I was teaching a course recently with a section about Architectural Styles, and the Transitional Style came up. It is a style that has been showing up now for at least five years, and I am starting to see even my more conservative clients attracted to it for its sophistication and livability. The shortest definition is that it is a melding of traditional and contemporary styles, but I think that could result in quite a few looks, and the Transitional style is more predictable than that. A few typical characteristics:

  • predominance of light neutral colors including beige, silver/grey, white, and cream
  • carefully chosen accessories, often highly traditional
  • distinct, sometimes Moroccan inspired patterns
  • gentle accent colors such as mustard yellow or a variety of blues
  • clean spare lines
  • interesting textures from very smooth/refined to very rough/rustic
  • a willingness to pair good design details from a variety of styles or eras

In my mind, I can’t help thinking that Transitional is what Post-Modern should have been: a clean feel that is definitely very “now” but with plenty of richness and reminiscence to remind us all of “home”.

Trusting your designer

IMG_0324Because of the way I run business, I do a lot of design directly in front of my customers. This certainly isn’t the way most designers work, but I have found that it has taught me a whole lot about the relationship between client and designer.

One of the things I find myself telling my clients pretty often is to tell me what their problems are, but let me solve them. I tell them, “I need to learn about you, about your taste and your preferences. I need to learn about what you do and don’t like, what you want to change or fix. But, let me do the problem solving”. If you find yourself trying to solve the problems in your space yourself, and just telling your designer exactly what to put where, then you have one of two problems. Either 1) you don’t trust your designer and you should consider working with a different one, or 2) your are paying for a designer but getting a draftsman. Either way, you are missing out on a skill set that your designer has spent years honing.