Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Skirted Roundtable: Chatting with Suzanne Kasler and what is color sequencing anyway?

This week on The Skirted Roundtable, Megan, Joni and I chatted with the fabulous interior design Suzanne Kasler about her work, career and her newly released book "Inspired Interiors". During our discussion, Suzanne mentioned the concept of "color sequencing" or "progression", which raised some questions about what this meant and how it applied to interiors. I had specifically mentioned a section of the book - the chapter on "Color and Light" which had a series of images that very clearly showed this concept. And, even though these rooms were not actually related to each other (they weren't from the same homes), there was a clear relation that made reading that section of the book all the more interesting. Below are all the images that we discussed during this segment, plus the 2 minutes of conversation around it. Enjoy!




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    And don't forget to listen to the entire conversation here.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Linda's Kitchen: Cabinets, Colors and Cooking

I had a great meeting with the nice folks at Ferguson's on Friday. I've never shopped for kitchen appliances for myself before and it's fun! Paul Gillis was my sales guy and we spent quite a while looking at various products and their features. My kitchen is tiny, so my appliances also need to be fairly modest.  I'll have more on that process in a future post once the final selections are made, but I wanted to share a few images from their showroom.

Here are some beautiful - and huge - Viking appliances. The red fridge is pretty eye catching, as is the double oven range. Those wouldn't even fit in my front door, let alone make it into my kitchen!!

Here is a refrigerator and freezer built into the cabinetry. I do love this look, I have to admit.

And, speaking of cabinetry. This weekend was basically D-Day when it came to painting my kitchen cabinets. After months of dithering and questioning myself - do I want black or green kitchen cabinets. Guess what I've decided on?

I decided on a very dark, nearly black, green. Once I started painting my cabinet insides with Farrow & Ball Cooking Apple Green it just felt right to go with a deep, dark green exterior. So, I headed off to the paint store and selected two possibilities - Ben Moore's Black Forest Green or Essex Green. These are part of their exterior trim line and should (hopefully!) be very durable for a kitchen cabinet.

Black Forest Green

Essex Green

Now, clearly these two colors are very close and this is where we start questioning ourselves. While I'd been planning on going black all along (after a short detour towards lighter green), I got chicken committing to the Black Forest Green, so ordered a quart of the Essex Green in semi-gloss. I got it home and opened the can and pretty much knew that there was too much green and too little black.  So, I started painting some of the cabinet box exteriors (we took all the doors off last week). And yes, as I feared, too green. Ah, what's a girl to do. Well, first, I texted Rob to find out what time he was going to be here today and then to tell him about the color. And then I decided to see what he thought and moved on to cleaning and de-glossing all the cabinet doors. That was a fun Saturday night...

So, today, in the light of day, the Essex Green was still significantly too green, but I decided to use it as a base coat for the cabinets and use the Black Forest Green as the top coat. It's my own personal formula. Well, it's an experiment.

Here's the lineup on cabinet doors on my deck with one coat of the Essex Green. I want a slightly aged look, although not too "shabby country". Once the paint was mostly dry, I sanded down the sheen with a fine steel wool, which also pulled off some of the paint. Next step will be a coat of the Black Forest. I'll then see how it's looking. I am thinking of a final step of waxing the cabinets.

On other fronts, we primed and painted the entire insides of the cabinets, both uppers and lowers today. A second coat is needed on the uppers and then the cabinet exteriors can be painted the dark green.

These home improvement projects really get me thinking about my dear Daddy.  As I wrote about him a couple of years ago on Father's Day, my Dad was the ultimate DIY guy. Growing up, I knew there were carpenters, electricians, painters and plumbers out in the world,  I'd just never met any because Dad did it all. So, when I tackle a multi-part project such as this kitchen makeover, I really miss him terribly. He would have loved this project and every time I think about cutting a corner, he's whispering in my ear - do it right! So, as I was ruining my manicure sanding my cabinets today, I knew that I was doing as I am told. And the end result will be better for it.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Thanks for the mention: Boston Architectural College

Thanks to Julia Grace at the Boston Architectural College for the mention in this month's CE Newsletter. Appreciated!

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Skirted Roundtable: On Accessorizing and books for reading and books for show

Cover image from the new book ©Suzanne Kasler "Inspired Interiors" by Suzanne Kasler with Christine Pittel, Rizzoli New York, 2009.

This week on The Skirted Roundtable Megan, Joni and I discuss accessorizing. Our conversation ranged from ferns to frames, bouquets to books. And, speaking of books-how does one fill up a big bank of books shelves? Are fake books okay, or just filler? Listen here to find out what we all think - and heads up, we definitely don't agree!

Cover image from the new book ©Suzanne Kasler "Inspired Interiors" by Suzanne Kasler with Christine Pittel, Rizzoli New York, 2009.

And stay tuned for our upcoming chat with Suzanne Kasler!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Michael J. Lee Photography - Architectural Photography 101 is now in session

A couple of months ago, I had the honor of having a room that I designed photographed by Michael J. Lee. I have long admired Michael's eye and how he captures a space.

Michael's photograph of New England Design Hall of Famer Richard FitzGerald's Cape Cod house. See more here.

Prior to hanging out his shingle as a professional photographer just two years ago, Michael was an interior designer and worked for two of New England's biggest names in design Celeste Cooper and Richard FitzGerald. Michael holds a BS in Interior Design from Wentworth Institute of Technology and is a self-taught photographer.  After years in the design field, Michael found that his passion was photography and made the switch!

It's clear that Michael's design background informs his photographic vision of a space. For one thing, he knows what he's looking at. It's one thing to have technical knowledge about lighting, mega pixels and Photoshop - but those can be taught. Michael has a deep understanding of scale and proportion and knows about architecture and design. He "sees" the room through a designers eye and shoots the room with a photographers skill. What comes out the other end is pure magic.

Another bonus that his design background brings is that he's not afraid to move things around. And no, that doesn't mean he imposes his own views on the designer's project. Simply that he's not afraid to push something out of the way in order to capture the best essence of the space.

As I said, I was so lucky that he was willing to give me a day of his time to shoot this project! As an amateur photographer who has shot all her own portfolio, I was taking copious notes on how to improve my own skills. Architectural photography 101, as it were. Well, school was in session and session started the week before the actual shoot when Michael and I did a walk through so he could become familiar with the space and we could determine what shots would be taken and what, if anything, needed to be done prior to shooting to "finish" the space. My clients and I were left with a to-do list that was focused and made for a great shoot day.

Here is the living room on the day of the shoot. This is my shot, with no additional lighting except what is in the room already. Now, this isn't a bad shot, if I do say so myself. But, there are shadows everywhere and there is a lot of fine detail missing. (Note - this was pre-styling like fixing the window treatments!)

photo by Linda Merrill

Here is Michael's shot. The lighting is even across the entire shot and the fine details are easily visible.

photograph by Michael Lee

Now, here is a little bit of photography magic. See those beautiful Japanese Leaf panels hanging over the sofa in the image above? Well, they are not hanging over the sofa.  My client's are slowly selecting art and that wall is big and bare. So, Josh of Studio 534 at The Boston Design Center kindly loaned me this pair of framed panels for the photoshoot. Rather than actually hang them on the wall, Michael shot one image without the panels, and then jumped into the scene and by eye, we decided on placement.  While I had my finger on the shutter button (oh, the power!), Michael crouched on the sofa under the art to hold it against the wall and we shot the photo. The same was done for the second panel (this is the image below) and with the magic of Photoshop, Michael merged the three shots into one beautiful image.  Because of the extreme angle, the panels (and pillows on the sofa) all had to be placed quite a bit to the right of the sofa in order to look correct in the final photograph.

(photo by Linda Merrill on Michael Lee's equipment)

One thing I learned is that there is pretty much no point in completely styling a room before a photo shoot, because it's all going to be torn apart before being put together again! Here's all the equipment as Michael is setting up a shot. Note the furniture is all in disarray.

Photo by Linda Merrill

And here's Michael setting the camera. He shoots directly into his computer, which is all coordinated with the lighting. He gets everything set up and takes a test shot so we could see - on the computer screen - how it all looked and make adjustments to the position of the camera, or tweak a pillow, etc.  The final image is shot and approved on site, viewed in large scale on his computer screen.

 Photo by Linda Merrill

A very important aspect of Michael's process is that he gets the best shot possible the first time. As he said, he "shoots for the outcome" and doesn't rely on the tech tools of the trade (Photoshop, etc) to make corrections after the fact.  Some types of post production work done on an image can break down the quality of the final product. This is a great tip for all of us – take your time make sure the image is as straight as possible and don’t rely on Photoshop or other photo software.

And here is the final shot from this set up:

Photo by Michael Lee

This next shot below was only possible because of the walk through we did the week before.  I would have never thought of shooting out the room, down the hall and into the adjacent room. Or, more likely, it would have occurred to me too late. The room across the hall is actually the client's television/media room and aside from the wall color, window treatments and rug, I had nothing else to do with the room and the only furniture is a bank of movie-style leather seats that are not particularly pretty. With advance notice, we were able to create the little vignette of chair (moved in from the living room), mirror (which was purchased at a second hand store for the photo shoot) and the window with bold, striped treatment. Here is another little tip from Michael - create context. What we don't see in this photograph is that the hallway includes a stairwell on the right and a bathroom door and staircase on the left. Michael suggested adding the bench (which we bought down from the client's bedroom) to place against the wall, just peeping into the photograph. Without the bench, the viewer would be left wondering what that space is. Just the added bench gives a context and draws the eye towards the room in the background.  The sun was shining full on into the window, so Michael took two images - one with the treatment up and another with the treatment lowered to reduce the glare off the floor. Reducing the glare preserved the beautiful look of the original parquet floor while preserving some of the light from the window. Michael’s shots were taken with a small aperture and a long exposure time, in which he “feathers” in his artificial lighting through the use of several strobes.

 Photo by Michael Lee

Here is the setup for the final image, a detail of the small round table, chair and floor. You will see how far out from the bay window Michael pulled the table and chairs and how far over the bowl has been placed. 

 Photo by Linda Merrill

Michael wanted to capture the special quality of the original parquet floor, the beautiful table and window treatment. We spent quite a lot of time setting up this shot and Michael was always asking how I liked it and encouraging me to speak up. The first test photo of this shot seemed, to me, like it was lacking focus and a point - it was just a shot of some pretty details. But, they didn't hang together. We played around with rotating the table so that the base was more prominent and it just made the shot. So, the moral of that is if you're shooting your own space or working with a professional photographer, don't be afraid to ask why a shot is being taken if it's not making sense to you visually. As a designer, I know what this room was meant to look like and how it was meant to feel. The look and feel needed to come through each shot, so patience is key!

 Photo by Michael Lee

Here are some of Michael's tips for making a beautiful architectural shot:
  • You can't move architecture, but you can move the furniture
  • Set the camera to suit the architecture
  • Then move the furniture to suit the camera
  • Set the camera close to the ground to make the furniture appear at a proper scale. Most rooms are viewed from sitting height, so take the photos from the same height.  You can see that in my shots vs. Michael's. Mine are mostly taken just below my eye height, or just under 5' off the ground.

Unlike many photographers, Michael grants “rights usage” of his images to his clients. His belief is that he is simply (or not so simply!) documenting a space that he was asked to, he doesn’t own the room or the design of the room, nor did he discover it like Ansel Adams wondering through a national park. As such, why should he control how the image is to be used? His fees covers his services (walk through, shoot day, post production). He doesn’t feel the need to hold the photographs hostage in order to collect ongoing revenue from the designer or homeowner. Love that about him! His goal for himself is to capture a beautiful image – of someone else's work. The final image is not about Michael Lee and it’s not about high tech computer knowledge and photographic bells and whistles.

Just get the shot, and move along.

Photo by Michael Lee. Design by Barbara Bahr Sheehan

On his own portfolio, he always lists the designer and he never sells his photos as stock imagery. A designer will never find his or her own work staring them in the face in a publication without attribution. Michael also suggests that for larger projects where there may be a team - such as architect, builder, designer, etc - all the parties should hire the photographer as a team, which reduces their overall photography costs and makes for the most consistent documentation of a project across the spectrum of disciplines.

Michael's services include single shots to full day rates. Many photographers won't do the single shot - but often a designer or architect may only need a single shot for an advertisement or other specific use. This willingness to do the small job stems from his time with designer Richard FitzGerald who said "Always take the single chair upholstery job, you never know what it may lead to".

His passion for photography and architectural design is palpable. As he says "I look forward to capturing beautiful environments created by New England's mot talented Architects, Designers and Builders as I share this passion with all of you".

Michael's website is here, take a look and enjoy the beauty!

Michael's photograph of New England Design Hall of Famer Richard FitzGerald's Cape Cod house. See more here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gosh this is pretty

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Don't ya love when you find something great - in your own cupboard!

One of the benefits of a kitchen makeover (aside from how it will look when it's all finished!) is that it forces you to totally clean out the cabinets. I actually found a can of refried beans that had a sell-by date of 1999. Gross, I know. The really weird thing is that I moved to my condo that year and had moved the beans with me!! Expired beans and I paid to move them. On the other end of the spectrum, however, is that I also found this fabulous tea pot that I'd totally forgotten about. How beautiful is this! My recollection is that I inherited it from my great Aunt when we cleaned out her house after she passed away many years ago - something like 20 years ago.  My Auntie Marion had lived in her home, a two-family in Arlington, MA since the 1920's when my Great Grandparnts bought it. The downstairs apartment was my mother's first home (my Great Aunt was my Grandfather's sister) and my Auntie lived upstairs until her death at the age of 87. I've inherited several beautiful items from the house that all date to the 1920's and earlier. Apparently, this little tea pot is no exception!

The mark on the bottom shows that this is from the Hall's Tea Pot company and was made in the USA.

This ad dates to 1921.

And this ad is late 1920's actually looks like my tea pot!

I can attest that I had a pot of tea this morning and it did indeed stay very hot, it does look good, and if the maid is careless, I am certain it will stand up to my her clumsiness!

A 1920's Trade Ad. This pot is the "French" shape and has the same floral pattern as mine.

Teapot shape names:
Top: French, Boston, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston
Middle: French, Aladdin, Hook Cover, Los Angeles, New York, Windshield
Bottom: Hook Cover, Hollywood, Boston, Windshield, Aladdin, Parade

This is an ad from the 1950's. There's my little pot in the upper left!

A vintage promotional shot of the Hall gold decorated tea pots. Mine is upper right. 

Hall China is still in production in Ohio. A very big thanks to the Ohio Pottery Company for all the great information and images above.

Have a cuppa with me?

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