Room with a View? Yes, Please.

In architecture, as in life, context is everything. Especially so when it comes to the relationship between a home and its views of the surrounding environment.

Whether a home is along a coastal byway, on a mountain ridge, or nestled into the countryside, the power of “the view” seen from within looking out creates an emotional connection between us and the environment we are surrounded by. Experiencing a stunning view enhances our appreciation of a place. That is why we as architects treat the placement of the windows with the same level of attention as the placement of a piece of art.

We focus intently on this unique characteristic of “view” because it is just that – an element that makes one property distinct from another, one that makes it inherently personal. Writing about the design of a home in these terms sounds like an architect’s dream: esoteric and abstract. In reality, designing with view in mind comes down to a few simple, functional considerations.

Orientation. How does a home position itself in relation to important views, landmarks, features, and sunlight patterns? No matter the scenario, arriving at the decision to highlight certain views always starts by asking, “Where are the best views, and what is the most important view to you?” Sometimes it’s a key focal point such as a mountain gap or a bay inlet. Sometimes it’s an expansive vista. Sometimes it’s obvious to everyone. Other times it’s very personal and needs to be discovered.

Once those baseline determinations are made, questions about the preferences follow. Does the great room want to be bookended by other spaces, creating a focused view to the outside, or should it be open on multiple sides to create a wide view? Should the primary bedroom look out to a favorite sculpture?  The answers come from the client and are responded to by the architect, and from there we all negotiate hopes and dreams within the site’s opportunities and constraints.

Alignment. How do certain parts of a home relate to one another in order to highlight view? Fusing portions of a home together in specific ways can help elicit certain feelings and shape the way we experience a space. While the combination of design elements and sequences are virtually endless, there are a few examples that are ubiquitous. A front door and foyer with a direct line of sight to the backyard view and beyond creates surprise and delight and promotes a sense of welcome. A long hallway feels less unending with a view of the destination – literally the end is in sight. Even the mundane task of dishwashing feels less tedious when the sink looks out to a garden.

Individuality. What about the property is special? Understanding the distinct quality of a place and its surroundings is typically one of the most active and personal conversations we have when we first discuss views. Are there long views to distant horizons, medium views to valley lowlands, or short views to important structures? Are there eyesores to be avoided (almost always yes, even if not admitted)?  Are there high points that will help see over tree lines? Are there family memories rippling in an old pond in a clearing? Internalizing and prioritizing those responses provides a rallying point for everyone to align to as the project develops.

We believe that good architecture is always connected to its surroundings. It should also never get in the way of a good view; in fact, it should only enhance the nature that surrounds it. Discussing early and often how a home is designed to best take in its unique and important surroundings helps transform a house on a lot into a home that offers memorable and emotional experiences. Both for its residents and for those just passing by.

Written by Carmine Cafiero, AIA, NCARB, WELLap

Carmine believes that good design and successful projects are the result of effective listening and solid collaboration. He combines lessons learned from the University of Virginia School of Architecture and Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design with expertise in and passion for sketching, virtual reality, and BIM. Carmine’s multifaceted approach skillfully translates a client’s vision into clear, inclusive designs that are supported by comprehensive construction documents.

An Examination of the Humble Stair

Anyone who has ever seen Scarlett O’Hara make a dramatic entrance, sweeping down the curving stairs of an antebellum mansion, knows the dramatic impact of a staircase. Less well known is the power of stairs to help set the character of an interior, provide a focal point of architectural interest, or entice a viewer into exploration of a space. Although most of us don’t live in houses as grand as Tara, stairs are a uniquely interesting architectural element that have a profound effect on the design of a space.

Despite the simple functional purpose of connecting stories or levels within a building, stairs have a lot going for them that contributes to their impact. First, stairs allow us to defy gravity. In every other room of the house, we can only move horizontally along the floor, but a flight of stairs gives us the ability to move on the vertical axis as well. Ascending toward an upper floor with light spilling down from a skylight above, following a narrow, winding stair down to a hidden wine cellar, or viewing a gathering space from above – moving through three dimensions gives us perspectives and experiences we wouldn’t ordinarily feel.

Second, no matter how tall the flight, stairs are uncommonly scaled to the human body. Treads are sized to comfortably support the foot, while risers reflect the length of our strides. Handrails sit at hand height to provide balance and assistance, and are sized and shaped to comfortably fit our grip. What’s more, the rhythm produced by repeating treads and balusters is appealing and provides visual interest. All of these factors make stairs feel approachable and comfortable, as well as beautiful and dramatic.

However, as long as the stair meets functional and ergonomic requirements, the available options in stair design and materials are practically limitless. Whether your stair is traditional or contemporary, every choice in design and finish can affect the character of the stair and the space it occupies.

One of the fundamental choices is whether the stair is open, with space visible below the stair, or closed, with walls below. While the choice can be affected by functional considerations – a closed stair can hide a closet or a less attractive stair to an unfinished basement – it is also a main driver of the character of the stair within the space. A closed stair feels solid, opaque, and grounded, while an open stair evokes lightness, transparency, and vertical movement. An open stair connecting three or more floors creates a dramatic shaft of light and space through a building, allowing rare vertical connections between stories. Open risers, which allow views through the stair itself, dematerialize the stair’s appearance, contributing to a feeling of maximum lightness and delicacy.

Material selections are nearly infinite, and each decision creates its own ripple effect of personality and appearance. Wood is a predominant material for stair design in both classic and modern houses, although grand mansions of the Gilded Age sometimes included carved limestone or marble, and avant-garde designers might stack irregular stones or arrange polished slabs on invisible supports to create steps. Wood handrails can be as ornate as an intricately carved Victorian walnut balustrade or as simple as a smooth maple ribbon with a natural oiled finish. Combinations of materials can create striking contrasts of color, texture, and transparency, where solid blocks of timber seem to float weightlessly alongside crystal glass panels with a fluid wooden rail.

Metal can be used in innumerable ways, from handcrafted wrought iron balusters evoking old-world elegance to laser-cut sheet metal stringers suitable for the most high-tech installation. Art nouveau floral patterns, industrial chic I-beams with exposed bolts, or layered metal mesh creating ever-changing patterns of light and shadow – all can be incorporated into stairs suitable for any style or environment.

Although often overlooked, stairs provide a valuable opportunity to break away from the expected and create a memorable architectural element. Small tweaks to materials or designs can transform the simple means of moving between floors into a centerpiece of a space.

Written by Alan Cook, LEED AP, Studio Director
Since 2014, Alan Cook has brought his passion, leadership, and expertise to Purple Cherry Architects. With a deep understanding of environmental design, coupled with over twenty years’ experience, Alan brings to each project a valuable interdisciplinary perspective. A graduate of Syracuse University School of Architecture, Alan has extensive experience with custom residential, historic preservation, adaptive reuse and commercial projects. He notes, “My passion for architecture is fueled by the fulfilling aspects of problem-solving combined with the delight of helping clients create homes of remarkable beauty and functionality.” Outside the office, Alan serves on the board of Girls on The Run Greater Chesapeake.

Revit and Enscape Technology

You most likely played a video game or two in your life. Anything from Pac-Man to Mario’s World or GoldenEye 007. Video games have all different types of platforms and interaction models. You may ask “what do video games have anything to do with architecture or even architects and interior designers in general?”

Technology has become so advanced in the world of architecture. Computer-Aided Design (CAD) was developed from a line-based simple software to a complete 3D interactive parametric modeling program, known as Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM is now turning our amazing homes and projects into a video game of their own!

If you didn’t know, here at Purple Cherry Architects, we use software called Revit. This software allows us to model a 3D parametric digital structure. We can directly collaborate and share our models with some of our consulting engineers like Linton Engineering or B&R Construction, who also use Revit. We can cut a building in half, spin it around, peel down the roof and even see inside the home. The model is a smart model. You may ask, “how a digital architecture model is smart?” As we draw a wall, it is packed with information from the structure size and type, the area, the finished materials, etc. When doors and windows are “dropped in”, they can easily generate schedules that are directly coordinated with the model. As we continue to develop the model, it gives the ability to cut sections, do enlarged plans, or create reflected ceiling plans all within the same file thus eliminating repetitive work, reducing room for error and saving the client time and money!

Now what gets even better!?

We can “walk” through our realistic Revit models, like we are playing GoldenEye 007, with software called Enscape. We can also send the model of the home to our clients to experience it on their own time, at their own computer, any time of the day. This technology has become so advanced that it allows our clients to explore their home before the foundation is even dug. This has become a tool that allows the team at PCA to virtually put ourselves inside these spaces and make sure that our implementation of the design intent is what we envisioned and communicated. We can walk seamlessly through, in and around the spaces and make sure we don’t have, what we may say, a silly thing occurring that wasn’t intended. This allows us to explore the use and implementation of materials. Feel the furniture within the space. It allows our designers to ensure we have enough space for walking in and around the seating area which our interiors team loves. Typically, you wouldn’t expect to find the use of this type of software at high-end residential firms such as ours. It’s mostly used in the commercial design world. And while Enscape is not the only software like this, it gives us the ability to share the models with clients, consultants and contractors. As such, it has helped our clients learn and feel their new home. Also, we found that the ability for a general contractor to easily spin around the model and walk through a house has helped reduce the need to ask questions that they can easily answer themselves, and in the end, reduces billable time which is a savings to the client.

So if you are thinking of designing a new home, doing a renovation to an existing home or even a small commercial project, this software will open your eyes to the power it has to help you understand and feel confident in the design. Reach out to us at PCA, and we can show you the power of Revit and Enscape combined!

Written by Doug Kutcha, project manager at PCA

Door and Window Installation: Details Make All the Difference

Have you ever walked by a window and felt a cool draft coming in? Looked across the room and saw light shining through the cracks of a door? Has water ever found its way onto your floor during a rain storm? For all you DIY’ers or homeowners, you may be shocked by how basic techniques of door and window installation can go a long way! Working through the smallest of details has a huge impact to ensure homes are built to last.

For newer homes, you have the benefit in most jurisdictions where the IRC (International Residential Code) and the IECC (International Energy Conservation Code) dictate the minimum requirements of things like flashing, insulation and energy requirements that ultimately protect homeowners and ensure the quality of the finished product. Unfortunately, these are not always caught by an inspector or even known by the general contractor. Luckily, we at PCA don’t need to worry as we have partnered with amazing contractors who are diligent about quality control.

Now, if you live in a much older home (say built in the 40’s), there was much less oversight, knowledge and enforcement at the time the home was built leading to lack of quality control over things such as air sealing, head flashing, sill pans , etc. So, if you are the DIY’er or just a curious homeowner, here’s a little 101 on some important terms and details that can ensure you’re getting it right the first time and know what in the world the contractor is talking about.

Rough Opening (R.O.) – The wood-framed opening that allows for the insulation of the window or door. These are typically ¼” – ½” wider and higher than the window/door to allow the door to be set in place, nailed and flashed. This leaves a gap between the door and window that needs to be filled.

Jamb Insulation/Expanding Foam – This is typically a spray foam applied insulation that fills the gap between the window frame and the rough framing. This helps stop air movement and leakage between the openings. The lack of this and weather stripping is the number one cause of a drafty door or window.

Weather Stripping – This is often a rubber or foam strip covered by a fabric-like material that sits between the operable door or window unit and the frame. This allows the door or window to seal and stop water, air, or even sunlight from passing through these gaps. These tend to get worn over time and usually are easily replaceable.

Nailing Fin – This is a little “fin” or piece of plastic or metal that surrounds the door or window perpendicular to the jamb. This typically has a bunch of holes that allow for nailing to secure it to the rough opening. While this isn’t always used or necessary, it is a very easy way to mount a window or door and allow for proper flashing techniques.

Sill Pan – This is the most overlooked item or is installed improperly. Similar to the head flashing, this is a break metal, copper or even plastic “pan” that goes under your door or window sill that gets flashed to the water resistive barrier. This allows any water that happens to get between the threshold and jamb to be caught and drain back outdoors. It is also critical that the pan has what’s called a backdamn (back leg) to properly control the water and let it escape. It is also imperative that the bottom of the sill and window is not caulked shut.

Jamb Flashing – This is a tape-like product that is applied to the water-resistive barrier that covers the wall sheathing and overlaps the nailing fin. This stops water and air infiltration through the opening.

Head Flashing – This is a metal or plastic material that is bent to form a “hat” for the top of a window or door. This allows the water running down the siding to hit it (not the window) and drip off. This also stops “driving rain” in heavy storms from getting between the window and sheathing that would ultimately rot the wall sheathing.

If you’re the DIY’er and looking to replace your front door or just the curious homeowner, hopefully you have learned a few new terms that have to do with the proper installation and sealing of your doors and windows. While not getting into the micro of walking you through installation means and methods, you now have a better understanding of what key items to look for or even to turn to your contractor and say “Hey, I kind of know what you’re talking about!”

Written by Doug Kuchta, project manager at PCA

What do you Meme?

A Meme is a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by online users. They have taken over the internet! We all have seen them and likely sent them a time or two. Have you seen the ones about Architecture? We get a few good laughs in ourselves. Especially the ones about architecture school! Go ahead and Google away “Architecture school memes”. With some of the memes out there, it makes you wonder, if people really know what Architects do or what it takes to be one? You’re about to find out in an 800 word or less blog post!

Architecture School – In order to become a licensed Architect, you must have a professional degree from an accredited university. There are two more traditional paths to achieve this. Path (1): A 4-year Bachelor of Science (or Arts) in Architecture, plus a 2-year Master of Architecture. Path (2): A 5-year Bachelor of Architecture. How you get there can vary. Some may start at a 2-year school then transfer. But, as long as you have a Master of Architecture or Bachelor of Architecture in the end, you are on your way. At PCA we have a diverse group that come from schools like Catholic University, Morgan State, SCAD, Syracuse, UMD, Virginia Tech and a few more.

Intern YearsNCARB is the National Council of Architecture Registration Boards. If you want licensure, you must go through them and their requirements. One of the requirements is “Architecture Experience” hours. Or simply put, intern hours. Now, don’t confuse an Architectural Intern with a college or high school intern that is working for the summer, etc. An architectural Intern is a college educated individual with a professional degree. Some would say they are an entry level architect. Typically, the intern hours work out to be approximately 3 ½ years. But you’re not done yet. It’s a process!

Licensing Exams – The Architecture Registration Examination (ARE) is a grueling series of exams that an individual must go through as their final steps to achieve licensure. Over the years, it has morphed into what it is today. When Cathy Purple Cherry took her licensing exam, she took 8 exams over 4 consecutive 12-hour days. For Alan Cook, it was 9 exams that could be taken in any order. Then it was reduced to 7 exams, and more recently 6. Now, you don’t have forever to take them. NCARB issues you a rolling 5-year clock. All must be completed and passed in that time or they start dropping away and you have to start retaking them. Once you pass them, all that is left is the paperwork to licensure!

One of the plus sides to the steps towards licensure is that certain jurisdictions allow these steps to overlap, so be sure to check! For instance, you could start earning your intern hours once you are a junior at a university, and you can take your exams while you are completing your intern hours. However, they all have to be completed to get licensed. So if you pass your exams before your experience hours are done, you have to still complete the hours.

People will choose all sorts of architecture to practice. Everything from government work to commercial to residential and even nonprofit. At PCA, you know it’s primarily residential with some Purposeful (non-profit/special needs) and small scale commercial sprinkled in.

At PCA, we believe in giving our staff various professional opportunities. Everyone does a little bit of everything. If you are fresh out of school, we don’t limit you to only doing one task. We challenge you to do more. As your experience grows, you will begin coordinating with the consultants, sitting in client meetings, running your own projects and before you know it, you will be the senior level designer that helps manage younger staff and get into the intricacies of shops drawings, building construction, etc.

PCA works as a team! There are younger staff members and more senior staff members on all projects. This helps keep the cost down for our clients too! If you have ever been in a PCA office, you will notice it’s an open studio environment. This is done intentionally so no one works in silos. This connectivity promotes even more learning. We also take advantage of this strategy with our interiors department. Having our interior designers share the studio allows for an even more cohesive design and integration in terms of furniture, fixtures, finishes, treatments, etc. from the early stages of planning.

Okay, so we’re a little over 800 words. And while people always enjoy a good laugh from the memes, now you know a little bit about the true process behind the Architecture. Don’t believe everything that’s meme’d!

Written by Ashley Marshall, project manager at PCA

Behind the Scenes: Shop Drawings

As anyone knows who has been through a complex construction project, thousands of decisions large and small must be made to bring a design vision to reality. From major decisions like style, size, material, and location to the infinite variety of fixtures, finishes, appliances, and colors, everything must be picked from the variety of options available. But what about custom components, things that must be designed rather than picked from a catalog? Many of these items are designed in great detail using a collaborative process between architects and fabricators using shop drawings.

Generally, shop drawings are detailed working drawings that describe a building’s components to the high level of detail required for fabrication. Highly visible elements such as cabinetry are designed using shop drawings, but concealed systems such as structural steel, roof trusses, and heating and ventilation systems are designed the same way. The process progresses from general information to incredibly specific details, with input from many members of the design team coming together to reach a conclusion. Let’s take the example of a master bathroom design to examine how it works.

The architect works with the client to understand their requirements and desires: One vanity or two? How big is the shower? Platform tub or free-standing? Gradually, more detail is introduced: Do you want doors or drawers in the vanities? Are there cabinet towers above the countertop, or medicine chests built into the wall? Is there a separate makeup vanity built at a height to sit at? The answers to all these questions are synthesized into the architectural plans and interior elevations, which show the locations and sizes of all the components in the room, as well as their shape and character. Depending on the complexity of the design, the scale and budget of the project, and many other factors, these architectural drawings may be computer modeled or sketched by hand. But still more questions must be answered before the cabinet shop can begin building the vanity and trim components.

Initial Sketches

At this point, the architect will turn over the architectural drawings to a cabinet fabricator for further elaboration and development. The fabricator will use the architectural drawings as the basis for creating their own more detailed drawings: the shop drawings. These will usually be drawn at a larger scale than the architectural plans, which allows more detailed information to be included, covering both the appearance and the construction methods that will be used. Exactly how wide are the stiles and rails on the cabinet doors? What molding profiles are used in the different areas? Do drawers have dovetailed joints? Are the shelves adjustable or fixed?

When the shop drawings have been developed, they are submitted to the architect for review and approval. The architect examines the drawings to ensure, first, that the drawings match the design intent of the architectural plans. This could be verifying the sizes, the location of functions such as pull-out shelves or electrical outlets inside drawers, etc. Then the additional detail added to the shop drawings will be reviewed. Moldings, panels, alignments, and finishes are checked to ensure that the final product will turn out as intended.

Shop Drawings

After reviewing the drawings, the architect will return the drawings to the cabinet shop, with any requested changes marked on them. If necessary, this process of drawing, reviewing, and commenting can be repeated until the final drawings are approved for production.

Shop Drawing and Final Installation

The great benefit of the shop drawing process is that it allows each member of the design team to add their knowledge and expertise to the drawings. The architect doesn’t have to be an expert in every aspect of cabinet construction or truss design, because the designers who are experts in those topics add that information to the drawings. The cabinet maker or truss designer doesn’t have to understand the entire design project, because the architect will ensure the design matches the overall design intent. By allowing all the members of the design team to focus on their own areas of expertise and distributing the work of producing all of the information that’s required, the shop drawing process helps to bring all the details and decisions of a large project to a stunning conclusion.

Written by Alan Cook, studio manager at PCA

Express Yourself with Interior Cabinetry

Many people think first of kitchens when considering interior cabinetry, but cabinets and millwork can be successfully integrated into any space in the home, and have an incredible ability to take multiple forms, adding function, beauty, and craftsmanship to an interior. Cabinetry is both functional and decorative, providing storage, concealing clutter, and displaying heirlooms while providing accent points to a space or completely setting the tone for an interior. While kitchens are necessary functional spaces as well as social hubs for many contemporary homes, kitchen cabinets can be beautiful design elements in their own right. Cabinetry and millwork can be used throughout the home for myriad uses, and can utterly transform the character of a house. Both of these elements help bring human scale to a space.

Dining rooms and butler’s kitchens, often near the kitchen and sharing some of the kitchen’s needs for storage of dishware, linens, and utensils, will often contain built-in cabinetry. In a formal dining room, care should be taken to distinguish the design of the cabinets from those in the kitchen. Changes in color or wood species, and adjustments to countertop height or cabinet depth can be used to make dining cabinetry more furniture-like.

In living rooms, one of the areas where millwork design can have the greatest impact is in mantels and fireplace surrounds. Because the size and prominent placement of a fireplace usually makes it a major element in a room, the design of a mantel exerts a powerful influence on the design of the entire space. Very often, the fireplace surround extends floor to ceiling, and can incorporate other elements such as TVs and bookcases into an extensive composition. Living room cabinetry can take many other forms as well, from bookshelves to window seats to wet bars.

Home offices, like kitchens, are both functional work spaces and beautiful rooms to spend time in. The scholarly ambience of a bookshelf-lined hideaway is something any bibliophile would want. If storage for files or homes for printers, scanners, or other equipment is desired, closed cabinets hide the mess of everyday life away behind closed doors.

Wall paneling is a purely decorative element, but it can completely surround the occupant in luxurious detail that is impossible to get any other way. Some of our most familiar archetypes involve paneling; think of a Victorian captain of industry in his dark walnut drawing room, or a family on vacation gathering around the table of a cheery coastal cottage with white-painted bead board walls. Although the specific personalities of those two rooms are very different, they are fundamentally defined by the texture and detail of the paneled walls.

Beams & coffers offer a level of elaboration and decoration to an often-underused surface of a room: the ceiling. An unadorned ceiling can feel boring and underwhelming, particularly in the large, open great rooms that so many clients desire. Adding beams or coffers to the ceiling plane creates visual interest and can help to organize the space and give it a comfortable scale. The detailing of the beams themselves can be adapted to any architectural style or room shape. In a French country house with a cathedral ceiling, the beams are shaped, with sharp corners and a warm stain. In a traditional home, the coffers are deep and wide, with ornamental crown mold applied at the ceiling and decorative beads along their edges. The weight and complexity of the ceiling ornamentation is an inextricable part of the design of the space.

For any room of the house or type of cabinetry selected, the details fundamentally drive the character and appearance. The level of detail and interest is one of the great benefits cabinetry brings into an interior, but since every detail has multiple different options, the number of decisions can feel bewildering. However, a few basic distinctions greatly influence the final appearance and character of a design.

Raised panel vs. Flat Panel?

Raised panel designs tend to feel more formal, and are often found in traditional architecture. The additional shadow lines created by the panel profile adds a gorgeous richness to the finished cabinetry that can be further elaborated by moldings or beading applied to the edges of the frame. Flat panel designs can tilt toward a modern look, although they are equally at home in a rustic or cottage-style design. Shaker flat-panel doors are incredibly flexible, working beautifully in many different styles, and they can be elaborated with the addition of shaped edges or textured panels.

A fundamental choice is between a transparent finish, which shows the color and grain of the underlying wood, and a painted or glazed finish. The choice of wood species is critical if it will be exposed under a stain, and the variety and beauty of the myriad wood species that can be used provides options for every taste. The richness of stained cherry or walnut gives a totally different feel to a room than a blond maple or a lime-washed birch cabinet. Apart from color, the grain pattern of different wood species is very different, with some species giving less contrast and grain pattern than others. Painted finishes allow a similar variety, allowing the choice of any color that can be mixed. Glazes and textures such as distressing can be layered on painted cabinets, and accent pieces such as kitchen islands can be painted in contrasting colors for a splash of excitement.

Throughout a house, cabinetry combines functional problem-solving with beauty and character. With creative thinking, it can add desired utility to any room and yet provide the stunning centerpiece to a home.

Written by Alan Cook, studio manager at PCA

Fall 2019 High Point Market | Design Trends and Finds

Purple Cherry’s interior design team made its way down to High Point, NC this fall (the furniture capital of the world) and is thrilled to share our finds! If you are unfamiliar, High Point Market is located in this sleepy little town and is THE interior design trade show to attend. Twice a year, this small town welcomes tens of thousands of vendors, buyers and designers from all over the world. One of the top perks of attending the High Point Market is discovering vendors latest and greatest in product offering. This year’s fall market provided a clear direction in current design trends and we are here to share the inside scoop!

In terms of new directions from this market, we saw a strong continuation of current design trends from the past few markets. For example, the leading colors continue to be blush-pink and white-on-white.

Back to the 80’s. The 80’s are back in full force! The over-sized scale of furniture with light wood finishes coupled with pastel upholstery evokes a familiarity of past decades. Rounded forms can be seen throughout vendor lines with their rounded edges, shapely arms and curved back profiles. This is in sharp contrast to the straight lines and clean edges we have seen in furniture design for the past five years. There appears to be a “softening” being introduced into furniture design. This new direction united with a pastel color palette gave us some serious Golden Girls vibes!

Bradley

Warm color palettes. When creating a design, we start with the color palette. Will the house have a gray and taupe base palette? Will it be cool or warm? Or better yet, will we be doing a combination of the two? (Yes, it can be done). The cooler gray scheme that has held the Pinterest audience captive for the past few years appears to be on its way out! Beige (can you believe it!), brown, and ivories are replacing the cooler gray hues. Highland House’s vignette showcases the execution of this trend, from the patterned neutral loveseat to the textured beige sofa and walls. Even right down to the beige pleated lamp shade!

Decorative lighting movement. Vendors who have traditionally not offered decorative lighting have expanded their lines to include this sought-after product. Chandeliers, pendants and sconces can greatly change the overall look and feel of a space. Natural fibers, brass and industrial fixtures were throughout market. The industry had its doubts that these distinctive looks would remain but they appear to be here to stay! The PCA team understands the importance of light and how it is dispersed and perceived. We fell head over heels for Visual Comfort’s new introductions! The clean but classic feel has a subtle nautical vibe, which pairs beautifully for many of our client’s homes.

Williams Morris has been revived! As the one of the leader of Britain’s Arts & Crafts movement, Williams Morris designed everything from textiles to interiors. This 19th century designer and visionary is back and his designs can be seen gracing showroom walls, upholstery and even fashion! Several vendors have established collaborations and have put his distinctive patterns front and center. Selamat Designs, traditionally known for their natural and bohemian flair, has found clever methods to intertwine Morris’ iconic patterns into their current line. His pattern, Strawberry Thief, was inspired by the birds that flew into William Morris’ garden at his manor.

Predictions & continual trends. Many of the color palettes across the High Point Market were right in line with what we have seen in the last few market visits. The soft pinks, blushes and neutrals have remained and even morphed into the pastel color range. Who would have predicted that! In addition, the bright jewel tones in green, blue, pink and even orange are being paired with this warmer palette to add a pop of color. We predict a continued movement away from the cooler tones and a dive into the warmer color schemes.

Global trends continue with the use of natural details such as caning and rattan. The artisanal feel of pieces as well as the back-to-basics movement have proven both are here to stay. We saw this very same theme during our trip to the NY Now tradeshow over the summer!

In conclusion. Although we saw less foot traffic at this past Market, we certainly walked away feeling incredibly inspired and bursting at the seams with creativity! We’ve had the great opportunity to share the amazing finds with our clients and now have had the pleasure to share the same with you!

Designing for the View

Is there anything better than a house with a beautiful water view? Whether it be waterfront on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay or sitting on a sheltered creek, a home site with a view of water gives homeowners opportunities for unparalleled beauty. While a spectacular water view is one of the most important factors in design, other site characteristics should always be considered. Observe how the sun moves across the sky throughout the day. Morning light streaming into an east-facing bedroom might be just the thing for an early riser, while an owner who likes to sleep late might prefer a dark, secluded bedroom on the west side and a light-filled kitchen on the east. Owners inspired by the gorgeous pinks and oranges of sunset views will appreciate outdoor living spaces such as decks or porches facing west. If those amenity spaces can have both water and sunset views, so much the better!

The most fortunate waterfront sites have beautiful views all around, but many properties have much more scenic vistas in one direction. When one direction is clearly the most attractive, you must consider the relative priority of the spaces to determine which space gets the best view. Often the main living space containing the living room, dining room, and kitchen is given pride of place, since these spaces form the core of the house where residents spend most of their time. Within that space, consider the owners’ preferences- to some, looking from the kitchen through a beautifully furnished, seldom-used formal dining room to the shoreline beyond is a fantastic way to draw the beauty of nature into the house. Others, maybe those raising small children, or those who like to casually entertain with everyone gathered around the kitchen island on barstools, want the kitchen windows looking straight out at the water.

Less important spaces where residents don’t congregate, like closets, pantries, or mudrooms, can be placed in areas with no view of the water, or even be used to screen undesirable elements such as nearby neighbors.

If the house is high on a hill, the best view will be below you when you’re inside. Window sills must be placed low to avoid blocking views. Window heads must be placed to maximize views, and when windows are divided, such as when double-hung units are used, special attention must be given to the height of horizontal divisions. Nothing is worse than a badly-placed sash or mullion at eye level. Many window manufacturers now make wood windows with narrow, modern profiles that maximize the glazed opening, such as the Weathershield Contemporary Collection. And although they tend to be expensive, all-metal windows offer the narrowest profiles available and expansive glass area, such as Arcadia Custom luxury windows.

Porches, terraces, and other outdoor spaces associated with the house also must be considered in planning for views. While they benefit from water views themselves, they also affect views from adjacent spaces. Different clients have varying tolerances for viewing through screens, or even past columns supporting porch roofs. High-visibility screens are available from window manufacturers, and can be installed in porches as well, to significantly improve the ability to see through to the landscape beyond. If the site is wide enough, outdoor spaces can be placed alongside the house rather than between the house and the water, allowing unobstructed water views from the interior. However, an outdoor space that allows a room to be opened up and expand toward the water provides great flexibility for entertaining and an unmatched sense of extending the living space into the exterior.

If a swimming pool is desired, its placement also affects the view to the water. A pool sitting between the house and shoreline becomes a primary visual element. In the summer, the sparkling water accents the landscape design and entices people to come outside and lounge poolside. This suits those who want to see the pool from the interior when entertaining or to monitor the activity in the pool. In the winter, however, a covered pool lacks that charm, so some clients prefer to locate the pool in a less prominent location and give the area in the foreground of the view to beautiful gardens or terraces.

Divisions, or muntins, in windows are a matter of personal taste, with passionate advocates on both sides. Some owners want nothing to come between them and the view, and prefer narrow frame profiles and unbroken expanses of glass. While this tends to create a more contemporary appearance, it is suitable for a variety of architectural styles. On the other side, there are clients who appreciate the classic detail and sense of scale that divided lights provide, and feel that the divisions don’t create a bothersome obstruction. One current trend is painting window sashes and divisions a dark color, which gives a cool, modern vibe to the interior. Neither conclusion is wrong, but understanding which camp the owners fall into is important.

You may want to view straight through the house from the front door, seeing the water beyond and creating a dramatic “wow” moment as soon as you arrive. Fully glazed doors with wide sidelights or adjacent windows provide this sense of drama and maximize the openness and connection between the entrance and the living space. However, there are reasons to go in a different direction. Some clients want more privacy than a transparent entrance provides and don’t feel comfortable with large glazed doors. In that case, the revelation of the water view only after being invited into the house itself can provide its own sense of excitement and create a progression from the exterior world into the private realm.

A waterfront site has so many wonderful benefits, paying attention to the wide variety of details that come into play during design can help ensure that no opportunity is missed.

Written by Alan Cook, studio manager at PCA

Bunny Mellon Home Tour

Have you ever seen a house with a painted floor that looks like blue jeans? Or, walls so thick they accommodate multiple levels of sliding doors or shutters? Well, the PCA team surely has! Where may you ask? At the legendary Bunny Mellon estate in Upperville, Virginia.

Rachel “Bunny” Mellon is a name that often comes up when talking about Paul Mellon–her second husband, banking heir and art collector–and even her best friend, Jackie Kennedy. While Bunny was most known for her glorious gardens, particularly her most famous one, the White House Rose Garden, she also designed a series of houses. Her bold design and unique flare easily draws you in.

One of the most notable of her houses was her own estate. For those who do not know, the estate is not open to the public and very few are actually granted access. Some of our very own PCA team members, Ashley Marshall and Cathy Cherry, along with Kevin Campion of Campion Hruby Landscape Architects, were incredibly lucky to tour the estate with clients of ours who just purchased one of Bunny Mellon’s other houses a few minutes away. Our clients wanted to renovate the house originally built for Bunny’s daughter, but rather than change all the unique and bold “Bunny Mellon” features, they chose to embrace them! So to renovate this house, we must embrace the Mellon! Here are a few trademark Bunny Mellon treats!

Shutters – A Bunny Mellon staple. And, they aren’t the traditional shutters typically seen on the exterior of the house, from places like Atlantic Premium Shutters. Take a closer look. Notice how the walls are extra thick? There are two individual pockets on the INSIDE of the window. Why two? Well, closest to the window you have the wood frame sliding screens. But what if you want to filter some of the light? Oh, then next would come the sliding louvers. Want to go to sleep and have the room “blacked out”? We would traditionally use blackout curtains. However, Bunny added a third layer that did not pocket, rather, functioned like traditional shutters, and were completely solid. There are also folding hidden shutters at doors and windows, much like the ones you would find in her iconic Oak Spring Farm Estate. Another fun fact, there are shutters that have a high and low portion! You know… just in case you want the privacy while changing but still want to see the magnificent mountain views of the Middleburg area.

Clipped Doors – More often than not, architects will adjust the width or the height of a door, to prevent the top corners from being clipped when designing rooms that are built under, or into, the roof of a house. But when you walk into the guest house that Bunny designed and had built for her dear friend Jackie Kennedy, you will see clipped corners in several places throughout the house. So, when one happens in a house, we as architects have to remember to embrace it!

Comfort Stations – Ever wished to have a place where you can grab a quick drink for you and some friends,\ without having to walk all the way to the kitchen? You might know these areas as “wet bars”. For Bunny, they were “comfort stations”, and these were hidden all throughout her houses. So, it’s no surprise that there was always more than one. Some of our favorite hiding places? Behind the paneling in the living room and inside the corner built-in inside her dressing room. When you open the comfort station in her dressing room, you will notice everything at a smaller scale to fit into such a tight space. One of the pieces that our team loved the most was the 4” diameter sink, because where on earth can you find a 4” sink?! What we discovered was that it wasn’t necessarily a true sink. Rather, it appeared that it was a boat drain! But what a bold and clever use!

Hardware – Traditionally, we might purchase door hardware for a project through places like Touch of Brass or Walter Works Hardware. Not Bunny Mellon. All of her door hardware, down to the latches, hinges and door stops, were custom-made. And, interestingly enough, door knobs were never large like the typical ones we touch daily. They were smaller, more discrete, and all with an intentional antiqued look to them.

Today, we see houses that look like mansions, where everything is large, over-scaled and, in some cases, not completely thought out. One thing for sure is that when you walk into Bunny’s Oak Spring home, there is a simplistic elegance to it. Furniture and accessories fill the spaces. Nothing is too big or too small. Everything is just right. Enough room to entertain and the attention to detail that will keep you on your toes. It feels like a true home.

Written by Ashley Marshall, project manager at PCA

Q&A Time with PCA Interiors

You asked and we answered! There are many ways to approach interior design. With the vast amount of available products to choose from, it can be overwhelming. The interior design team at Purple Cherry Architects decided to ask our Instagram followers for their top interior design questions. Let us share with you findings and solutions…

Q: Is wallpaper dated? It seems like a big commitment.

Absolutely not! It is that “little something extra.” We are seeing beautiful linens and grasscloths, subtle and bold printed patterns, and even embossed leathers. There are so many applications to use with wallpaper. Many of the homes we design have anywhere from 9’-11’ ceilings. Adding wallpaper to a space is a great way to fill a wall especially in a space with high ceilings. Get creative with where you use wallpaper! We love to add wallpaper in the back of a built-in bookcase to really make it pop. Still afraid of committing? Start small. Powder rooms are generally smaller in scale and give you an opportunity to test out your curiosity. This Zoffany wallpaper gave one of our clients the impact she wanted but still remained neutral and classic.

Q: What paint colors would you recommend for exterior stucco?

The key is to look at the house holistically and then to establish a color palette. Consider not only the stucco but also the other exterior materials such as roofing, siding, and hardscape. If you have stone or a stone veneer you will want to select a color that is pulling off of that material. We frequently specify Benjamin Moore colors found in the OC collection. These stunning paint colors, time and time again, have proven to be true staples. Try colors like Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist and China White

And don’t forget – sample, sample, sample, before you commit to a color palette! I know that when a color goes larges, it gets brighter. It takes a little more effort, but it is so worth it in the end!

Q: Do all of your metal finishes in a kitchen or bathroom need to match?

Yes and no. Does that answer the question? As interior designers, we look at the design as a whole. Between plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, door hardware, and all the way down to the cabinet hardware. It’s important to understand the careful balance of mixing metal finishes so that they harmonize well. We certainly specify and appreciate many metal finishes but the most common are: polished nickel, polished chrome, oil rubbed bronze, and brass. Brass has come a LONG way, and it is not the brass we all know and hate from growing up. Polished nickel and polished chrome pair nicely with both oil-rubbed bronze and brass tones. Also, the right oil-rubbed bronze and antique brass work together. It is a careful balance of combining a cooler tone metal with a warmer or darker tone metal. It can be done and it can be done well. We do have clients who prefer all of the metal finishes to match and that is ok too!

Q: I fell in love with a fabric but I am worried it won’t stand up well on a chair I am having re-upholstered. How do I know if it is durable enough to use?

There are several factors to consider when selecting a fabric for upholstery use. The weight of the fabric, and the content are essential. Upholstery weight fabrics need to be thick enough so it can stand up to use and time. If you use a fabric that is too thin, you will experience the fabric actually shifting over the cushion which will result in pilling. We frequently will do a treatment called “knit backing” which adds an extra layer to the backside of the fabric to give it more stability. Durability is a must! We hear this from our clients on a regular basis. With today’s hustle and bustle, we do not want to worry when we get home. We do not want to chase down the child, dog, or just clumsy house guest when they are using the newly upholstered chair. Knowing fabric content is key when selecting a fabric. Natural fibers will always require more care, but several fabrics are now treated with Nanotex or Crypton which are both great worry-free options! Thibaut, Kravet, and countless other vendors are all jumping on the stain treatment train.

Q: Does artwork need to match the interiors of a room?

In the past, artwork has often been selected to match the room. We encourage our clients to select artwork that is subtly cohesive with the design. Pick the room’s main accent color, like a coral or even a moody teal, and have it pop an element in the artwork. Artwork is incredible, and we encourage our clients to select pieces that speak to their taste and lifestyle.

Q: I love subway tile. Is it still going to be in trend in a few years?

Subway tile is as classic as you can get. If you look at photos of Parisian apartments in the 1920’s, you can see subway tile gracing the walls. It is true, subway tile has “come back” but it is certainly here to stay. The clean, timeless look is the perfect backdrop for your kitchen backsplash or bathroom shower walls. Want to mix it up? Change the size, the color, the texture, or even add a pattern. Winchester Tile Company, who is carried by Chesapeake Tile in Baltimore, has a beautiful assortment of subway tile in varying sizes and designs.

Q: What rug would you recommend for a family room?

Family rooms and kitchens are the heart of the home. It is where most of clients’ families gather and spend the majority of their time together. The family room is being used as the extra office space for TV watching, game playing, and even the entertaining space when sports are on the television. Wool is the most durable natural fiber in rugs. It is cozy underfoot, has excellent insulating properties, and has good stain repellency. An additional fiber that is most commonly found in indoor-outdoor rugs is polypropylene. Perennials, who has primarily known for their fabulous indoor-outdoor fabrics, has recently launched a rug line. Their polypropylene rugs are soft to the touch and offer incredible durability. You can literally hose these rugs off! Their line has expanded where we can dream up any design or custom color any of their current patterns.

Purple Cherry Architects’ goal with each project is to create an intentional, functional and beautiful home. Our interior design team takes many approaches to formulate a design that works for the client and their lifestyle. We hope our readers have found these answers helpful and thank you to our Instagram followers for participating!

The Power of Stair Design

Anyone who’s ever seen Scarlett O’Hara make a dramatic entrance, sweeping down the curving stairs of an antebellum mansion, knows the dramatic impact of a staircase. Less well known is the power of stair design to help set the character of an interior, provide a focal point of architectural interest, or entice a viewer into exploration of a space. Although most of us don’t live in houses as grand as Tara in “Gone With the Wind,” stairs are a uniquely interesting architectural element that have a profound effect on the design of a space.

Despite their simple functional purpose of connecting stories or levels within a building, stairs have multiple ways to make an impact. First, stairs allow us to defy gravity. In every other room of the house, we can only move horizontally along the floor, but a flight of stairs gives us the ability to move on the vertical axis as well. Whether we find ourselves ascending toward an upper floor with light spilling down from a skylight above or following a narrow, winding stair down to a hidden wine cellar, moving through three dimensions gives us perspectives and experiences we don’t ordinarily feel.

Second, no matter how tall the flight, stairs are intimately scaled to the human body. Treads are sized to comfortably support the foot while risers reflect the length of our strides. Handrails sit at hand height to provide balance and assistance and are sized and shaped to pleasingly fit our grip. What’s more, the rhythm produced by repeating treads and balusters is appealing and provides visual interest. All these factors make stairs feel approachable and comfortable, as well as beautiful and dramatic.

However, within the functional and ergonomic requirements, the available options in stair design and materials are practically limitless. Whether your stair is traditional or contemporary, every selection in design and finish can affect the character of the stair and the space it occupies.

One of the fundamental choices is whether the stair is open with space visible below the stair or closed with walls below. While the choice can be affected by functional considerations, such as using a closed stair to hide a closet or a less attractive stair to an unfinished basement, it is also a main driver of the character of the stair within the space. A closed stair feels solid, opaque and grounded while an open stair evokes lightness, transparency and vertical movement. An open stair connecting three or more floors creates a dramatic shaft of light and space through a home, allowing rare vertical connections between stories. Open risers, which allow views between the stair treads, dematerialize the stair’s appearance, contributing to a feeling of maximum lightness and delicacy.

Material selections are nearly infinite, with each decision creating its own ripple effects of personality and appearance. Wood is a predominant material for stair design in both classic and modern houses, although grand mansions of the Gilded Age sometimes included carved limestone or marble and avant-garde designers might stack irregular stones or arrange polished slabs on invisible supports to create steps. Wood handrails can be as ornate as an intricately carved Victorian walnut balustrade or as simple as a smooth maple ribbon with a natural oiled finish. Combinations of materials can create striking contrasts of color, texture and transparency, as in the pictured stair, where solid blocks of timber seem to float weightlessly alongside crystal glass panels with a fluid wooden rail.

Metal can be used in innumerable ways, from handcrafted wrought iron balusters evoking old-world elegance to laser-cut sheet metal stringers suitable for the most high-tech installation. Art nouveau floral patterns, industrial chic I-beams with exposed bolts, layered metal mesh creating ever-changing patterns of light and shadow can all be incorporated into stairs suitable for any style or environment.

Although often overlooked, stairs provide a valuable opportunity to break away from the expected and create a memorable architectural element. Simple tweaks to materials or designs can transform the simple means of moving between floors into a centerpiece of a space.

Written by Alan Cook, studio manager at PCA. 

Architecture & Interiors