Design Diva's Thoughts on American Style

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hello Diva Darlings! Well summer is definitely here, as the heat index is over 100 degrees I am melting in my Michel Kors lace-up platforms, but dang I look good in them lounging about in my new outdoor patio room made from all of the lovely tile from City Tile in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Looking at my cute little American designed outfit and my American made tile, I started to think about what is American home style. There are four styles that I think of as pure USA.

Beach Breeze

At this time of year my first thought is the beach. Lots of weathered and bleached woods, shells, rope and all things nautical. And of course the colors of choice are good old red, white and shades of blue. Even in my own personal summerhouse on the lake, I have all things beach. My favorite items have to be a clear cylinder vase that I filled with worn beach glass in faded blues, greens and white, sitting next to another, smaller glass vase filled with sea shells brought to me from Florida by a friend, and that sits next to a similar vase filled with sand from Hawaii. The furniture is a mixture of family antiques and rustic yard sale finds.  The house still has its original worn and stained wood floors that give it character, but the old linoleum in kitchen and bath have been replaced by some lovely stone-look tiles. If I could only chose two words to describe the laid back look, I’d choose rustic minimalism. 

Southwestern Sizzle

I have always admired Southwestern design, the hacienda and pueblo architecture blended with Navajo, Hopi and maybe even a little Aztec. Created from a true melting pot of influences, this is what makes this style pure Americana.  It is neither Mexican nor Native American, but a blend mixed with a touch of outlaw creativity. Homes are full of creams and whites, bright primary colors, semi-precious stone colors like turquois, and native prints paired with furniture that is often made of weathered wood with sculptural embellishments.  I think of cowhide chairs, rusted metals and the use of organic natural elements. Southwestern style blends with the wild and untamed landscape from which it comes, filled with painted deserts and tumbleweeds. The Sundance Catalogue has been defining this style for years and Dot& Bo carries dream catchers to grace whitewashed walls and baskets to sit on floors of warm brick-colored tiles.  It’s a touch of tribal chanting around the campfire and the log cabin filled with the Country music of Uncle Dave. This wild and free style can be described as artistic naturalism.

NYC Loft Chic

A little bit industrial and a little bit brazen artist panache, this style emerged from the SoHo lofts of  “poor starving artists” and it has grown into a look all its own. It is defined by minimal and creative arrangements of tech designs and trash bin finds in rooms with brick walls, exposed beams and floor to ceiling windows.  There are open floor plans with lots of wood, steel, bright colors and trendy art. Here is where the newest ideas in design begin. Here traditional room arrangements are often thrown out the window, form may supplant function.  A high-concept soaking tub may be found next to a platform bed covered with a used painting tarp, or a garden might be found in the middle of the living room. Here a traditional Duncan-Phyfe side table may be blended with a custom modular couch that you’d swear came from the starship Enterprise. Plastic and cement furniture might be side by side with a dresser from Restoration Hardware. It takes a special eye to blend the seemingly disjointed into a cohesive room design. This is not for the conservative; it is daring, totally modern, and constantly changing. Two words: brazenly new.

Mid-Century Modern

Mad Men. That is all I really need to say. Teak, soft rounded lines, sleek and sophisticated shapes, earthy colors, lush carpets and lots of natural fabrics. No wonder the furniture is so hot right now; the style has an organic feel that speaks to those interested in the maker movement. It was originally a response to the traditionalism of the post war years. It spoke of a new age, a time of change. We are now in a time of great change, so it feels “right.” There is a something very Andy Griffith and Leave it to Beaver about the style, which gives a sense of home and grounding, too. Much needed when nothing remains the same for very long these days. At the same time, it is very now. While the furniture design is derivative of Danish Modern, it is not quite the same as its Danish cousin. It has a bit of the in your face attitude of architects like Frank Lloyd Wright and I. M Pei. It is a blend of old and new. A reworking of the past, which is what todays design is all about. It is sophisticatedly grounding.

These are my design notes on American Style. What are yours?

Photograph: Lee Rennick

Interior Design Trends and Home Resale Value

Whether you are an empty nester downsizing to a smaller home, or a growing family selling their starter home and moving into a larger space, there are a few things you can do to increase the value of the sale of your home. In the past buyers have seen homes as pallets upon which to paint their own picture, but more and more of today’s buyers want a home that is walk-in ready.

According to Doug Young, owner of City Tile, a new floor or backsplash can mean the difference between selling your home for $300,000 or $$335,000. Kitchens and baths sell homes, as do hardwood floors that are easy care. As a matter of fact, in this go-go world of ours, buyers want homes simple to maintain while being warm and inviting.

Bathrooms Are Big. For the last several years the top item for a bathroom remodel was a large walk-in shower with luxury mosaic design. While there is still interest in large showers, the trend is changing according to Angie’s list. Freestanding soaker tubs are taking the place of large glass door showers. Beige stone-look tiles are being replaced by shades of gray and black. The look and feel of early 20th century bathrooms with small black and white hexagonal tiles with oversized art-piece tubs is a rising trend in remodeled period homes and some new construction.

Kitchens Shine. According to Angie’s list, the rumors of stainless steel appliances being passé are vastly over stated. New stainless appliances paired with a large farm sink will get your kitchen noticed. While some of these sinks are porcelain, many are stainless, stone or copper. Add a small grey glass subway tile back splash, and a granite countertop to give your home the most up to date styling. City Tile has a vast supply of kitchen flooring to add polish to any kitchen update.

Ecologically Sound.  Today’s discerning buyer wants a home that has been updated with earth-friendly materials, like Mannington’s LEED certified laminate flooring.  Sustainable materials can also be found in other products like carpeting and tile. There are low VOC versions of tile adhesive, grout and grout sealer. But of course the ultimate in sustainability is reusing what is old and giving it a new life. Textured accent walls are all the rage, the most trendy being a repurposed barn wood wall.
Lighten the Load. Especially in small homes, an open floor plan can make a house look larger. If you don’t have the desire to knock down a wall to sell your home, there are ways to make a small home (or any home) look larger. Remodelista recently shared a few designer tips. First, they suggest you “scale it down.” Make sure furnishings don’t overwhelm the space. Keep them small and simple. Second, they say to keep things low on the walls. This will make the rooms feel taller.  Third, get rid of drapes and rugs. These add weight. If you want window coverings, keep them light and airy. Fourth, paint the interior of the house white. It blurs space and moves the eye from room to room seamlessly. Lastly, leave open space. Create a visual emphasis, an obvious path through the room, a vertical focus or a horizontal focus. But, whatever you do, keep it simple.

Make It Tidy. If you have some lead-time before you sell, do tidying and purging before you move into your new home. As you are packing up boxes of your possessions, purge those times that do not bring you and your family joy. This is the time to decide what to keep, sell, donate or discard. If those boxes in the attic have never been opened in the years you have lived in your current home, get rid of them now.  This will help you get rid of clutter before showing your home, which is another way to make your home look larger and more inviting.

Whether you invest some money into remodeling a kitchen or bath to increase the sale price of your home, or simply give it an updated and airy feel, the key is to give it a feel of new life. Make sure your home is well maintained, clean and clutter free. Fill it with only those items that bring you joy, and that joy will be felt by potential buyers. They will want to make your old home their new home.

photo: MorgueFiles (Regnald Reid)