The last recession gave many designers – myself included – the time to contemplate and re-examine the future of our industry.

One sector that has emerged as an important new design tool is new materials. The flooring industry, in particular, has unveiled some wonderful and inventive options – especially related to wood look flooring.

We have used real wood in many of our projects, including in this hacienda style great room, which features Australian cypress flooring. As wood costs go up, we have been looking at the many alternative flooring options for clients.

We used Australian Cypress flooring in this hacienda-style great room we designed before the recession; now we look at many alternative flooring options for clients.

While many traditionalists would turn up their noses at anything other than real wood, in some instances an alternative material makes good sense. Solid wood is not always functional – especially because it does not hold up to high moisture content. Wood floor alternatives offer a more sustainable, cost-effective option. Because of the growing restrictions on – and extinction of – some exotic woods, installing a true and authentic three-quarter inch thick wood floor has soared in cost. What used to $6 to $10 a square foot has skyrocketed to $21 – $ 28 per square foot. To put this in perspective, the installation of wood flooring for a typical 1,000-square-foot kitchen and family room could now cost up to $21,000 to $28,000, depending on the amount of space covered.

Engineered wood floors – like this one from Mohawk  –  are actually made from real wood.  Unlike solid wood flooring which is made from one piece of wood is comprised of three to ten layers of wood, making it exceptionally durable.

Solid wood flooring is constructed from one piece of wood, while engineered wood – like this one from Mohawk – consists of three to 10 wood layers making it very durable.

The good news: the economic downturn has caused manufacturers to rethink their product lines and determine how they can become more competitive as well as conserve the earth’s limited resources resulting in many new flooring options.

Among the many new products on the market:

  • Porcelain tiles. Shaped and textured to resemble wood plank flooring, this product is hard as rock. It will never need to be refinished and resists most abrasion or scratches. Adding to its appeal, the wood grain pattern is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
  • Select Step. A new product by Mohawk Flooring, it was originally developed for the commercial industry. This luxurious vinyl tile is a great product for residential applications as well. And it is very reasonably priced at under $6 per square foot installed.
The rich beauty of real wood is captured in today’s wood flooring alternatives. This room features Mohawk laminate flooring --  which takes naturally occurring patterns and painstakingly replicates the color tones, hues and textures of wood.

This room features Mohawk laminate flooring and captures the rich beauty of real wood by replicating the color tones, hues and textures found in wood.

  • Direct print bamboo. This product takes strand-woven bamboo boards and overlays a hardwood pattern and color range directly onto it, resulting in an exact replica of a real hardwood species. This flooring is highly durable and inexpensive.

There are many other alternatives to hardwood flooring – from vinyl to laminate to engineered wood. Again, while there is nothing quite like real wood, in some scenarios it may be cost prohibitive or simply not functional for your home. So before you take the time to install new flooring, take a close look at all your options – there are plenty of them.

The beauty of real wood is undeniable though can be cost prohibitive. In this kitchen nook, solid walnut flooring sets the tone for the room’s vintage look.

The beauty of real wood is undeniable though can be cost prohibitive. In this kitchen nook, solid walnut flooring sets the tone for the room’s vintage look.

 

Known for its spectacular views as well as its rich history, La Jolla is truly a jewel of the Southern California coastline.

The coastal town of La Jolla is renowned for its pristine beaches and spectacular ocean views.

The coastal town of La Jolla is renowned for its pristine beaches and spectacular ocean views.

Our firm has done quite a bit of work here, so I like to think of this seaside village as my home away from home. I especially love La Jolla’s casual but sophisticated oceanfront ambiance and vibrant heritage. Real estate developers first took an interest in this coastal town in the 1890s, and some of the original cottages and bungalows still dot the landscape, interspersed amongst outstanding restaurants, elegant boutiques and world-renowned art galleries.

Visiting the many special places in La Jolla is a lovely way to spend a sunny summer day, so in this blog I will share with you some of my favorite spots, many of which evoke the lively history and heritage of this colorful beach town.

The Cottage is housed in a turn-of-the-century beach bungalow and is especially famed for its breakfast menu.

The Cottage is housed in a turn-of-the-century beach bungalow and is especially famed for its breakfast menu.

I suggest starting your La Jolla day with a hearty breakfast at The Cottage. Housed in an original turn-of-the-century beach bungalow, this charming spot features breakfast, lunch and dinner, but is especially famed for its breakfast spread with favorites such as eggs benedict and lemon ricotta pancakes.

Next, wander down the street to K. Nathan Gallery, with an excellent collection of early American and early California art, including works by artists such as Anders Aldrin, Brian Blood and Maurice Braun.

Nearby The Grande Colonial is La Jolla’s oldest original hotel and a member of the Historic Hotels of America. In addition to its classic architecture, it is located in the heart of the village near the area’s best beaches. In anticipation of the hotel’s 100th anniversary last year, we were charged with enhancing its still intact turn-of-the-century architecture, redoing all public areas. Stop by for a drink in the elegant lobby and take in the spectacular ocean views.

The Grande Colonial, a landmark La Jolla hotel, emerged with fresh interiors by Warren Sheets Design in time for its centennial last year.

The Grande Colonial, a landmark La Jolla hotel, emerged with fresh interiors by Warren Sheets Design in time for its centennial last year.

Also on your list should be Prospect Street, a hub for fine shops and dining. Fortunately for both locals and visitors, the talented Chef William Bradley has brought his culinary prowess to the area with the newly opened Bijou French Bistro – featuring his preferences for tried-and-true classic French bistro favorites. We are proud to have played a part in the design of this new venue, which is casual and comfortable in an elegant European style.

Noted Chef William Bradley lends his culinary might to La Jolla’s new Bijou French Bistro.

Noted Chef William Bradley lends his culinary might to La Jolla’s new Bijou French Bistro.

Next stop: Girard Street, home to original La Jolla shops such as the Ascot Shop, a La Jolla tradition since 1950 and originally founded as a men’s haberdashery. It now has a more modern bent, but continues to offer fine men’s clothing and services such as wardrobe consultation, tailoring, reweaving and more.

Another La Jolla original is Meanley & Son Ace Hardware, in business for 65 years. This classic hardware store has it all – from kitchen gadgets to plumbing supplies to gardening gear – and is a must for anyone with an interest in home repairs.

A visit to La Jolla is not complete without a stop at the Museum of Contemporary Art which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The Museum was founded in 1941 as the Art Center in La Jolla, and was originally the 1916 Irving Gill-designed residence of philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. A true local treasure, it features evolving exhibitions, such as the current “Treasures of the Tamayo Museum, Mexico City” with fine art from Mexico’s foremost museum of contemporary art. After perusing the galleries, stop by the Museum Café for a bite to eat and a cool libation. And don’t forget to check out the museum’s X Store, known for its collection of books on contemporary art, architecture, photography and culture.

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, The Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla is one of the region’s top museums and features evolving exhibitions.

Overlooking the Pacific Ocean, The Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla is one of the region’s top museums and features evolving exhibitions.

Your final La Jolla stop will involve hopping in the car and taking a ten-minute drive to La Jolla Playhouse on the UC San Diego campus. Founded in 1947 by Hollywood icons Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, the not-for-profit playhouse has impressive credentials – creating 24 productions that have gone on to Broadway to earn a whopping 35 Tony Awards. Even if you don’t have time to take in a play, walk the grounds and check out the four theatres: Mandell Weiss Theatre, Mandell Weiss Forum, Jacobs Center & Potiker Theatre and the Theodore and Adele Shank Theatre.

What do you love best about La Jolla? I feel I have barely skimmed the surface, so please send me your ideas and suggestions for must-visit spots in La Jolla – so I can write a “part two” piece that touches on more that La Jolla offers.

 

Since most spas are carefully designed to soothe the mind, body and soul, incorporating certain spa design elements can turn any room in your home into a serene sanctuary.

When we designed the 21,000-square-foot Spa at The Grand Del Mar we created rich, opulent interiors that reflect the beauty, grace and culture of the Renaissance period and epitomize the soothing qualities that characterize spa design.

With that in mind, following are some pointers for incorporating elements of spa bliss into the interior design of your home – or room.

Mood Lighting is an integral part of creating the right ambience and should be soft and indirect. Previously restricted to commercial environments, LED lighting is often used in spas for cove lighting, corridors and bathing rooms, and is increasingly prevalent in homes. LED lights have been re-engineered to replace Zenon lighting – not only as cove lighting at ceilings, but also in vertical strip light applications in bookcases and étagères, under cabinets, at the toe kick of furniture pieces, beneath platform beds and as night lights underneath vanities. Ultimately, spa lighting should lend to a soft, dreamy atmosphere.

Lighting sets the mood for any space – especially spas. Flooded with natural light, this airy, open master bathroom is anchored by a custom chandelier of crackle leaf finish over gilded metal.

Lighting sets the mood for any space – especially spas. Flooded with natural light, this airy, open master bathroom is anchored by a custom chandelier of crackle leaf finish over gilded metal.

Color Schemes should be simple and soothing – but never bland. The color scheme at The Spa at The Grand Del Mar features earthy creams, warm slate colors, ecru, French beige and their derivatives – but a soft azure blue accent color lends energy and life. In the Women’s Lounge area of the spa, we used a pleasing larkspur accent color on the back wall and incorporated snippets of that same color family in the accent sofa pillows as well as in a drapery pinstripe.

Color schemes in spas should be clean and soothing – but not bland. For this bedroom, we used earthy creams and soft whites with a blue accent color to infuse energy and life.

Color schemes in spas should be clean and soothing – but not bland. For this bedroom, we used earthy creams and soft whites with a blue accent color to infuse energy and life.

Restricting the use of color to various shades of the same color scheme imbues a relaxed feeling – and this is certainly a technique that can be used at home.

A casual ‘California Style’ with indoor/outdoor furniture and fabrics is a great way to create an informal, comfortable atmosphere in a spa – and at home. You can use outdoor furnishings inside your home, as we did in the adult lounges at The Spa at The Grand Del Mar. By using hand-forged iron outdoor furnishings in tandem with classic European motifs reflected in the stone fireplace and coffered ceilings, we created a juxtaposition of the two styles.

We used casual 'California Style’  indoor/outdoor furniture and fabrics to create an informal, comfortable atmosphere in the spa lounges at The Grand Del Mar.

We used casual ‘California Style’ indoor/outdoor furniture and fabrics to create an informal, comfortable atmosphere in the spa lounges at The Grand Del Mar.

An inventive designer who has broken the mold when it comes to outdoor fabrics, Joe Ruggiero, has created a vibrant, durable line of outdoor fabrics for Sunbrella that can easily be used inside. Nearly all the fabrics in his line are designed for indoor/outdoor use.

Flat, one-dimensional ceilings do little for a room, while Detailed Ceilings lend depth and interest. With this in mind, we incorporated considerable detail into the ceilings at The Spa at The Grand Del Mar – designing a large circular dome with cove lighting that mimics the shape of the oversized Jacuzzi below. Within the dome, we added our creative input through stenciling that follows the shape of the dome. We often use similar techniques within a residence – creating detailed, intricate ceiling designs to add dimension to what otherwise would be an uninteresting surface.

For The Spa at The Grand Del Mar, we created rich, opulent interiors that reflect the beauty, grace and culture of the Renaissance era to evoke a sense of rebirth, in a soothing color palette.

For The Spa at The Grand Del Mar, we created rich, opulent interiors that reflect the beauty, grace and culture of the Renaissance era to evoke a sense of rebirth, in a soothing color palette.

Use Natural Elements such as eco-friendly materials like bamboo, hemp, jute area rugs or pieces/furniture made of grainy wood. Flowers, plants and fresh fruit add beauty, bring the outdoors in and engage the senses with a fresh scent. I have always believed that a living space should evoke qualities of nature.

When you look into a forest, you become fascinated with the visual landscape, yet at the same time it has a calming effect. A home – and a spa – should evoke that same feeling.

Which room in your home would you like to feel spa-like? Share your pictures and ideas on our Facebook page or comment below.

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Stenciling is the age-old technique of transferring a single pattern or multiple designs onto the surface of an object, door or wall, with paint or ink. Typically, it is done using a thin sheet of material with a design cut out – through which a different colored paint or ink is carefully applied.

Stenciling is often applied as a decorative border on ceilings and at the top of walls (Courtesy of The Grand Del Mar)

Stenciling is often applied as a decorative border on ceilings and at the top of walls (Courtesy of The Grand Del Mar)

Dating back thousands of years, the Egyptians used stencils to decorate tombs, while the ancient Greeks utilized them to outline mosaic designs. In recent years, the art of stenciling has reemerged as an intriguing way to liven up and add warmth and dimension to a room, and it can be a more cost-effective alternative to wallpaper.

Stenciling accentuates any area, as well as brings color and design to previously drab surfaces.

Stenciling accentuates any area, as well as brings color and design to previously drab surfaces.

In addition to walls, try stenciling ceilings, furnishings, doors and even glass, lampshades or the back plates of wall sconces and watch as new life and color is added to previously tired surfaces. Stencil designs, including classic motifs, floral and leaf patterns, abstract or geometric designs and Asian-inspired patterns, will personalize your space or object.

Like so many design techniques, moderation is the main rule of thumb to how and where stenciling should be applied. Stenciling is ideally used as decorative border on ceilings or at the top of walls, placed an inch or more under the crown molding. The colors used within a space can be incorporated into the stencil pattern. Another interesting technique is to mute the coloration through a process called “aging,” which is accomplished by applying a tinted oil-based glaze on top of the painted stencil design.  Stenciling is especially nice if walls have been originally painted with a flat paint in hues of brown, beige or blue.

Stenciling is especially useful if walls are painted with a flat paint in hues of brown, beige or blue.

Stenciling is especially useful if walls are painted with a flat paint in hues of brown, beige or blue.

We’d love to see what you’ve created already, or what your next stenciling project might be. Please share your ideas and pictures with us by posting them on our Facebook

page.

 

With glimmers of optimism in the economy, homeowners are more confident and ready to change their homes and experiment with different colors and design styles that reflect the following trends emerging in 2014.

Back to basics. Black and white will be popular for 2014. Both are timeless classics and can be easily juxtaposed with different colors and textures. Charcoal will remain de rigueur.

Pops of color. Vibrant hues such as coral, yellow-green and bright blue and green will dominate infusing vivid accents into neutral palettes. You can never go wrong with a blue and white combo.

A crisp blue and white color scheme is always in style, especially along the coast.

A crisp blue and white color scheme is always in style, especially along the coast.

Old-school symmetry. Humans are inherently comfortable with balanced spaces. With this in mind, a longstanding element in traditional interiors returns in 2014 – symmetry.

Open it up. Instead of adding square footage, homeowners are redesigning their layouts to provide an open design that is visually appealing and more functional. Rather than specific rooms, think in terms of creating zones – for example a cooking, eating and lounging zone, and a living room/dining room as another zone.

Combining different areas in one space is becoming more and more popular. For example, this space combines a game table, reading and sitting area with a bar and outdoor patio. (Photo courtesy of The Grand Del Mar)

Combining different areas in one space is becoming more and more popular. For example, this space combines a game table, reading and sitting area with a bar and outdoor patio. (Photo courtesy of The Grand Del Mar)

Countertops count. A new generation of resilient, easy to maintain materials is emerging as an alternative to polished granite for countertops. Surfaces like ceasarstone and recycled composite materials are ultra-durable and impervious to stains and scratches.

Backsplashes. Adding a backsplash is an easy way to update your cooking space, and for this reason, kitchen backsplashes continue to be popular with subway tiles and metal finishes prevailing. Artistic materials – such as mosaic and glass tiles – are in high demand too.

Bathroom finishes. Tile is popular in bathrooms, replacing marble and granite. Instead of standard 12 by 12 inch shapes, 12 by 24 inch tiles – set vertically – offer a compelling new look.

 Black and white is a timeless classic and will be big for 2014 – both colors can easily combine with other hues and various textures.

Black and white is a timeless classic and will be big for 2014 – both colors can easily combine with other hues and various textures.

All about texture. Natural fabrics like corduroy, linen and velvet continue to create a fashionable, warm and inviting setting. Try accents like fabric window treatments, corduroy upholstery, velvet over-stuffed pillows and linen wallpaper.

Light up. Lighting is fundamental as it illuminates your design. LED lighting is increasingly popular and because it is long lasting, offers a cost-effective, sustainable alternative. And it is aesthetically appealing. Colored LEDs create beautiful, dramatic color changing effects from a single light source.

A touch of metal. Copper and brass were hot in 2013 and will remain in style through this year. Metal continues to be a key home accent. Consider using it for furniture, lamps, artwork, accessories and more.

Vibrant hues such as coral will prevail this year.

Vibrant hues such as coral will prevail this year.

Go green. Sustainability continues to reign in interior design. Reclaimed and repurposed materials – among them rustic wood planks, bricks, glassware, metals, wall coverings, natural fiber materials – remain popular. Repurposing brings old furniture and other materials to life – revealing intriguing new details.

What are your design predictions and goals for the coming year? Please share your thoughts and ideas – I always love to hear from you!

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Today, anything goes in holiday decorating. Gone are the days of simple red and green décor. While these colors are still important, holiday accents now run the color spectrum from amethyst and deep blue to metallic to bright white and ivory.

Our mantra this holiday season? Keep it simple and ultra-chic with a personal flair. Read on for timeless decorating tips that will add fun and festivity to your holiday home this season:

  • Always use fresh items in your décor like evergreen and tuberoses because the scents of the season are as important as the visuals.
  • With this in mind, use scented candles and fragrance diffusers throughout your home – cinnamon sticks also add a wonderful aroma.
  • Create a vignette of your favorite ornaments, photos or mementos. This works well in an entry hall, sitting area or front porch.
  • Consider reducing your color palette to one color plus a metallic such as gold or silver. For a modern look, a cool white pairs well with many colors.
Consider simplifying your color palette to one or two colors plus a metallic such as gold or silver. (Photo courtesy The Grand Del Mar)

Consider simplifying your color palette to one or two colors plus a metallic such as gold or silver. (Photo courtesy The Grand Del Mar)

 

  • White in the winter is always elegant – and makes color pop. As an example, use a bright white tablecloth with colorful accents.
  • Change or add lampshades with a vibrant holiday motif.
  • Show off large red and white poinsettias wrapped in silver or red foil tied with red or silver bow.
  • Decorate a staircase banister with an evergreen garland accented with plaid bows. Add miniature pinecones with tips dipped in Bic Wite-out or Liquid Paper and sprinkled with silver glitter for a snowy effect.
  • Spray glitter to greens for an extra sparkle, especially when evergreen branches and boughs become dry.
  • Fresh flowers are an important element of your décor any time of year, but especially during the holiday season. In addition to tuberoses, white lilies are striking when paired with evergreen. Fresh red roses are always beautifully festive.
  • Add clusters of gold or silver balls to floral arrangements.
  • Colored ribbon is a fabulous way to decorate the tree, mantel or banister.
  • Create a theme and incorporate into your wrapping, table settings and overall décor. Whether it’s a ribbon color used for packages and napkins or a particular style of font on your place card and gift tags, this will help create a cohesive look.
Use plenty of white miniature lights and don't restrict them to the tree – incorporate into garlands, centerpieces or wreaths, such as this one at The Grand Del Mar.

Use plenty of white miniature lights and don’t restrict them to the tree – incorporate into garlands, centerpieces or wreaths, such as this one at The Grand Del Mar.

  • Change out pillows, throws and other room accents with more festive option for the season.
  • Conserve, reuse and upcycle. You certainly don’t need to buy new decorations every year. Use a scarf as a table runner or a blanket as a tree skirt. Pull out and polish heirloom family silver to use as sparkling silver accents.
  • Skip basic ornaments such as glass balls. Instead add your own personal touches such as vintage ornaments, personal cards and clusters of miniature ornaments.
  • Use plenty of white miniature lights (minimally 150 lights to one foot of Christmas tree height), but don’t restrict them to the tree – incorporate these tiny twinklers into garlands and centerpieces as well.
  • Collections are always a fun way to add a personal touch to your décor – especially during the holidays. Collections of vintage toys or ornaments, nutcrackers, stockings and photos make distinctive holiday accents.
Decorate a staircase banister with an evergreen garland accented with plaid or striped bows. (Photo courtesy The Grand Del Mar)

Decorate a staircase banister with an evergreen garland accented with plaid or striped bows. (Photo courtesy The Grand Del Mar)

 

  • To mitigate clutter, stow away non-holiday accessories and other items for the season.
  • Remember that LED lighting is beautiful and saves electricity.
  • And always hang mistletoe above a focal doorway!

However you decorate, have fun with it and make it a team effort. Put on your favorite holiday play list, pour some champagne and invite your friends and family to help transform your home for the season.

Ribbon adds a festive accent to the tree, mantel or banister. (Photo courtesy The Grand Del Mar)

Ribbon adds a festive accent to the tree, mantel or banister. (Photo courtesy The Grand Del Mar)

And please share your own holiday designs, decorations, front entries and trees. Upload your pictures of your holiday décor to our Facebook page. And visit our Pinterest board where we’ve set up beautiful seasonal design ideas to inspire you.

 

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