Design Solutions: Warming Up Office Spaces

Much like business dress, the design in an office suite should elicit confidence from clients. This makes the typical default one that in the world of fashion is the equivalent of a two piece grey suit: a classic choice, but one that needs a little help from a necktie, jewelry, or a great pair of shoes. 

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A Designer Guide to Buying Upholstery

Upholstery is the most hard working furniture in the home, providing enduring comfort and establishing the personality of the room through its stylings and fabric. No one wants to regret this choice either on delivery day because the fabric doesn't compliment the room or a couple of years down the line because the sofa hasn't held up to wear and tear. 

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Design Snapshot: Loudoun Row


Perhaps one of my greatest passions is visual composition.  In our Loudoun Row project we employed rugs, art, lighting, and accent furnishings to add drama and warmth.  In the dining room of this historic house, a custom American-made rug softens the acoustics and provides tonal contrast to the pumpkin pine flooring.  The center hall is grounded by a steel and marble accent table with explosive lines.  Cheekily we placed an over-scaled hourglass just outside the powder room.  A found abstract painting from a regional artist in the front entry provides a bold organic graphic and a spectrum of tones to evoke the comforting energy the client gets from the color orange.  We heightened the drama of the dark grey mantle with a pair of limed oak pedestals and dynamic orange and clear glass vessels.   - PM

Our Market Insights

On our trip to the High Point furniture show this year, the MakeNest team focused on education and research, visiting our favorite sustainable makers in between a number of seminars covering everything from the lifecycle of trends to the latest perspectives on color theory.  We rounded out our trip with a visit to the venerable Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library, where the history and craft of furniture and design is reverenced with near monkish devotion.  Here we highlight a few of the big takeaways from our journey and discovery.


Mass Customization

There are a number of lifestyles for which mass customization in home furnishings can help solve problems and create opportunities.  For the millennial setting up their first apartment and the baby boomer down-sizing from a larger home, modular furnishings can make hard-to-furnish spaces into peaceful oases of organization.  In commercial applications, modular units make office planning flexible and efficient.  

Upon meeting a new resource this market, we are now in the beginning stages of collaborating with an Ohio-based maker who can create modular collections that MakeNest will design in-house, based on our aesthetic style and what we know is appealing to our clients.  The technology that our maker has developed makes optimal use of each sustainably-harvested unit of hardwood, all but eliminating waste and driving down costs to make custom an option for a greater number of clients.

Deco Renaissance

The fabulous Jenna Hall, a legend in international furniture design circles, places Art Deco style on the trend forecast.  Just before the advent of what we generally identify as mid-century design, there was an entirely unique period inspired by advances in furniture production. Mechanized technologies for adhering veneer led to supple waterfall fronts on dressers and sideboards.  Exotic and contrasting hues of wood veneers defined the proportions of doors and drawer fronts.  Then-new developments in plastics allowed designers to produce drawer pull styles that had never existed before.

As with all appropriations of an established aesthetic, the new trend will be interpretive and not a carbon copy.   As a designer, I can imagine how the satin glow of Art Deco finishes would offer a welcome contrast to the cerused woods of recent years - and how those same cerused finishes would compliment the fluid curve of Art Deco's waterfall fronts.  Thinking of the options opened up by 3-D printing, I see designers customizing hardware in ways that will bridge the divide between mass production and the consumer's desire for bespoke details.   

New Colors

At the Pratt & Lambert presentation, four highly-conceptual palettes - each based on a distinctive perspective - revealed dozens of new colors that will play a role in design in the coming seasons.  We studied a palette called Enigma, which embraces the power of deep and muted tones to convey mystery and even melancholy romanticism.  Through a collection named Intrinsic, we explored the use of saturated hues with strong dark neutrals to capture the immediacy and vivacity of nature.  In eight peaceful hues that take their cues from clay and minerals, the Purpose palette studies the use of gentle tones to produce a contemplative space for revery and self-exploration.  Driven by a point of view that celebrates innovation and altered realities, Pratt and Lambert's Convergence palette is a poem of pleasing demi-saturation and complimentary colors.

From my own perspective, and judging by the textiles that have been most inspiring to me recently, I feel that design is veering away from isolated pop colors and into complex blends of hues that exchange energy while creating more layered environments.  Pattern-makers are creating modernized florals and geometrics that provide a variety of tones all in one field.  From a design era that has embraced white space with a singular energy color, we will see a return to the vibrant multiple hues one finds in traditional printed goods.  This shift plays to the idea of environment as expressive and dimensional rather than austerely curated and Instagram-ready.


A new era in design is emerging, one in which the styles of the past are remastered, color looms large and diverse, and technology is bent to offer more options to a greater number of niche markets.  We're excited to be debuting designs we're developing with the many makers that contribute to our Nestology collection.  More inspirations are coming soon from MakeNest, so keep in touch to follow our design journey. - PM

Design Snapshot: Snowshoe Condo

For our Snowshoe Condo project, two chairs in vibrant blue from our Nestology collection are as refreshing as sparkling pools of water. A colorful rug from Company C offers up a contemporary spin on a classic tapestry motif, while a collection of found art pieces over the sofa gives this vacation home the personality of a much lived in and cared for everyday oasis.  The coffee table in soapstone on reclaimed fir wood is a study in natural contrasts.  We worked with one of our commercial furniture makers to add a dining table made from reclaimed barn wood and used graphic pillows from Arnge to give the fabric story a little more edge. This project took us through some beautiful stretches of heartland through West Virginia, so we threw in a few images from the road trip to help illustrate this design journey. Enjoy! - PM

Growth By Design

Paul Miller

How does graphic design, architecture, and interior design strengthen a brand and lay the foundation for business growth? And how did Dolly Parton and Andy Warhol help me find the right balance in a local hair salon design?

In collaboration with architect Leesa Mayfield and graphic designer Emily Christiansen, I set out to answer these questions at this year's Shenandoah University Business Symposium.  The overarching symposium topic was Your Business Legacy.  

One of the uniting themes between interior design and marketing is that both aim to express the point of view of a business.  In our break out session, Emily spoke about her use of positioning statements to help develop a marketing strategy for her clients.  This was an eye-opener for me, because it helped to highlight the intentions in design that I have always called 'telling the story'. 


Howe Hall Astro Lounge

We were approached by Shenandoah University to transform a careworn space into a sleek and inspiring area where students could participate in professional mixer simulations to develop networking skills.  Every square foot of real estate on campus is vital, so the space would also need to function 24/7 as a study area.  From the talk:

Great creative opportunities are discovered in making friends with what we cannot change. Within the project scope, we knew that making large spatial alterations was not part of the vision. We would be changing the skin of this space and furnishing it to suit.

We wanted to work with the brutalist vintage of the building and play to the popularity of mid-century design.

Thinking about things that were fresh and innovative in the 1970s got me thinking about NASA and the space age, which led me to Star Wars. I got to calling this area the Astro Lounge.

Ed's Heads was a natural fit for the Symposium breakout session.  As a locally-owned boutique business, it provided a contrast in scope from the design for Shenandoah University.  And I could offer more than one perspective on the project.  From the talk:  

I am a co-owner and so I thought Ed’s Heads would be a good case study because I know both the inside, business-owner perspective and the outside designer view of the salon.

The salon had earned a good reputation as much because of a warm and inviting vibe as it had for providing quality services.  With a gorgeous historic building on Main Street, we wanted to connect to our local roots, while doing so in a way that spoke to the dapper style of the principal owner, my husband, Ed McKee. 

After all, why hide from being a small town salon with a close-knit group of stylists when what most of us are starving for is meaningful interactions with real people? One of my mantras was ‘Manhattan meets Mayberry’.

That was where the Dolly Parton-Andy Warhol Venn diagram came into play.


Read a transcript of the MakeNest portion of the talk here.

The Dark Side of Color Theory

There are many things to consider at the high level conceptual stage of an interior design, but one of the most expressive fundamentals is crafting the color palette.  Here are two palettes from recent projects that, while distinctly different visually, rely on a similar theoretic principle.  Each palette was based on the decision to promote artistic drama rather than the oft over-prescribed notion that spaces should be made to seem larger.

The Garret Room

When we began to noodle the best approach to a family media room in an attic of an historic home, we rejected the obvious choice of painting the walls in light, bright hues to make the space appear larger.  In this home, we had already created fresh, sunny palettes on the main and second floors, so we felt the attic could be better served is a deeply-shaded and cozy away space.  We theorized that the value of visually expanding the room was not trumped by the greater goal of giving the homeowners a nurturing and even theatrical sense of place. 

Because the house has a classic mansard roof, the walls slant on four sides as they approach a narrow jot of ridge at the middle of the room.  Two dormers - one tasked for window seating and the other for a modest custom bar - provided a fair amount of natural light.  By painting the walls from base to ridge in a dark blue, we promoted a cozy sensibility for the attic.  The rather beaten up original wood flooring we had painted in a green hue equal in saturation and value to the wall color, so that while there was some variation, the floor and walls had minimal visual distinction; our goal was to keep the eye moving fluidly with the architecture instead of the gaze hanging up on sometimes awkward transitions.  A large sectional in dark chestnut leather further promoted the rich palette, while accents in bright yellow and taupe provided points of brightness and chilly contrast.     

The Jewel Parlor

There was something about this parlor in another historic home that seemed to be waiting for dramatic wall color.  And our client has a peaceful and yet magnetic energy that we felt would be nicely expressed in a space with muted variations of jewel tones.  Starting with a jade lamp the homeowner wanted to use in the room, we built an analogous palette that moved away from blue-greens and toward yellow on the color wheel.  The use of a rich plum on the walls managed to serve both a warm and cool helping of wow factor.  

Because the parlor had a large vista onto a sunny, off-white dining room at one end, and a large, off-white builtin at the other, we knew that there was plenty of lightness to offset our wall color choice.  We had purposed a boxy turret space adjacent to the builtin for a handsome Japanese travel bar; we opted to carry the soft whiteness of the trim onto this alcove to further contrast and highlight the plum tone of the primary space - and to frame the bar for emphasis.  Using dark emerald velvet on a tufted accent chair and a geometric woven in chartreuse and cream to wrap the outside back of the sofa, we pinned down our progression of green to yellow-green hues. 

We're big fans of white-wall decor and recognize the place it has taken in contemporary interior design, but our opportunities to work in dark hues are always a welcome change of pace.  The important things to consider when deciding whether or not a room should go to the dark side is how the color choice will serve the overall purpose of the room and how you will construct a palette with enough variation and contrast to not be flattened out by the weight of the main color itself.   

Tips

  • Remember that the walls will be the background of the canvas, and the furnishings will create the layering towards the foreground. If larger furnishings have sufficient lightness, they will alleviate the heaviness of the wall color.
  • Darker rooms swallow light, so consider using a paint finish with a bit of sheen to help bounce both natural and artificial light. Know that sheen will highlight imperfections in the wall surface, so we recommend a professionally applied skim coat to make the walls picture perfect.
  • In a room where the wall color is more assertive, the textures of fabrics should be far bolder and the scale of prints riskier.  The beauty of starting from a place of intentional drama is that boldness is welcome and necessary for harmony.
  • Consider how a dramatic paint color will impact the visual rhythm of a space.  If there is a series of awkwardly placed closet doors, it is sometimes advisable to paint them out in the same color as the wall.  The same can be said of a chair rail, which becomes a light belt around a dark room, often cutting the perceived height of the walls and pulling attention away from more important elements of the design.
  • Before panicking when the paint is half up and you begin to waver in your resolve, pull a few pieces into the space and view them against the walls.  You'll never feel more vulnerable about your choice than when the room is without any of the components that helped inspire the color.