Living Well

Kitchen Must-Haves

Who doesn’t love a beautiful kitchen?   Throw a little — or a lot — of function in there, and you may possibly end up with your favorite room.

I am working on a kitchen remodel right now, and there are a few must-haves I always try to incorporate.

1. Natural Stone Countertops: To me, there is nothing prettier than an aged piece of marble or limestone.   I love the texture it provides and the fact it has endured many years of the elements.

looks clean but still has texture thanks to the gorgeous marble! (Image from...)

2. Warming Drawer: Okay, not a must have, but I sure do like them.  For a family on the go, it is a wonderful luxury.

3.  Function: Yes, a kitchen can be beautiful, but if it is not functional, what’s the point?   Make sure the flow works well and that there is plenty of good workspace. After all, this may be the most lived-in room in the house, and cooking is so much more enjoyable when everything has its place and is within reach for your next great meal.

beauty + function = perfection (image from...)



4. Soften the hard surfaces: With so many hard surfaces found in a kitchen, try to incorporate ways to soften the room.  Many of you know I love adding banquettes whenever possible, as they are a great way to make a kitchen more functional and unique.

banquette design by Dana Wolter, photographed by Jean Allsopp

Also, wood is a great texture to incorporate against shiny surfaces found in kitchens. Whether on your island, on the ceiling, or as an accent, it whispers “nature” and takes the edge off all those kitchen appliances.

5.  Good lighting: Natural lighting is ideal, but a good kitchen also needs task lighting in all of the right places.  Again, think functional!

6. Make your kitchen a reflection of you: Yes, you can create a beautiful kitchen many different ways, but if it does not look like you or fit your lifestyle, what good is it?   Your home should be your haven, and your kitchen is no exception!

a little piece of heaven! copyright kalamazoo


Living Well

Fun Fall Trends

My segment on fall trends for the home is airing TODAY, October 19th, on NBC-13 Daytime Alabama at 11:30 AM.  I have to say, I adore this season’s looks!  If I had to sum it up in one word, I’d say — lush!

Here’s a preview for what’s in for fall 2011:

1.  Brass —  It’s back!  Whether it’s lacquered or unlacquered, this is not your 70s flashback.  The shapes are uber-modern, and the color is rich and refined.  I’m also loving bronze right now — see the large handle below.

2.  Driftwood — The gorgeous shape and color of wood touched by the sea is showing up in homes all over.  It acts almost like a piece of sculpture, and I’ve found some amazing accessories made out of it.   What better way to bring a bit of nature into your home, while still keeping it chic?  Check out the chandelier below to see what I mean…

unhung chandelier made from driftwood

The wall below makes a bold statement, but check out the crafty yet chic driftwood lamp next to it.   Driftwood in the home is definitely a trend, so a little goes a long way.

from pinterest

3.  Colors — We saw a lot of turquoise last spring and summer, but as it cools off, the deeper hue, teal, is popping up in its place, and it is beautiful!  I especially love it as an accent with warmer neutrals and even grays….  Other colors to pair with gray are the softer purples that I’ve been talking about, as well as eggplant.

Here is a great example of grays and purples by Susan Ferrier:

Another color that is a must for 2011 — saffron!

close up on fall colors!

4.  Wool — As far as materials go for fall, wool cannot be beat.  Softer wool is making its way into homes and fashion this season.  The look is draping, feminine, and sophisticated.  In homes, it is being used as upholstery as well as on pillows, rugs, and throws.

Tune in tomorrow to NBC-13 — that’s Friday, October 7th– for more on these amazing fall trends!

Living Well

Top Five Faves Of My Home

What do you love about your home?   Is it your large closet, your heirloom pieces, or even your garage? I posted this question on my Facebook page, and it was interesting to see all of the diverse answers from my friends.

When I began planning the layout of my new home six years ago, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted…..Tall ceilings, character and personality so my home did not look so “new,” gathering spaces for friends and family, and easy transitions from room to room.

Working as a designer, I see some pretty incredible spaces.   Yet, when I think of my own home,  there are simple features I have grown to not only appreciate but to absolutely love!

Here are my TOP FIVE FAVORITE things about my own home:

1.  Built – Ins. Whether you choose to build in a banquette, a bookshelf, or window seating, built-ins give a space weight, texture, and above all, personality.  Whenever possible, I love incorporating custom sofas and banquettes into my clients’ homes.  Here are some examples from my own.

the banquette in my kitchen


this built-in bench adds so much to this bedroom
a serene space for those times when I need it!
a built-in sofa in my foyer is a great use of space


2.  Hidden Storage. My mother laughs when she comes to our house and finds several pairs of flip flops on the stair landing.  Yes, we do live in our house.  I wanted to incorporate a few places in my home where we “hide” our everydayness by creating spaces that we are able to close off.  Everything has a place, and it’s out of eyesight so tidiness comes easily (most of the time).  A desk area behind a closed door in each of my children’s bedrooms serves this purpose perfectly.  This way, their papers and schoolwork stay out of the way, and their rooms tend to remain neater and more organized.

shut the doors, bye-bye desk!

Here is a picture of my foyer where there is hidden storage under the stairs.  If you look closely, you will see that the paneled wall has a built-in jib door.

surprise! there is hidden storage under the staircase



camouflaged door beneath the stairs

3.  Light. Big windows mean big light.  I love the feel of sunlight flooding into a space.  When designing a room, it is important to look at its function as well as the type of light it receives.  For daytime, there is no better lighting than natural.

Large windows also “let the outside in” and give a feeling of spaciousness in the right setting.   See how this window allows light into the space and accentuates it?

4.  My Warming Drawer.  I know, I know – it’s odd to love a warming drawer, but with a family-on-the-go, it has become the appliance we cannot live without.  While I try to have all of us sitting down and eating together, it is not always conducive with everyone’s schedule.  It has saved time, energy, meals, and well, my sanity, as a result.

5.  My Family. Design and decorating go a long way, as a pretty home is a wonderful place to lay one’s head at night.  Yet, as I look around mine, it would mean nothing without the people that inhabit it – my husband, three daughters, and my Yorkie-Poo.   It’s the fun times we have using and enjoying the built-ins, hidden storage and yes, warming drawers, that put these items on my list of favorites.  After all, as the author, Lois McMaster Bujold, once said, “My home is not a place, it is people.”

The Wolters!