Evanston Kitchen Reveal: Making the Most of a Small Footprint

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Designing kitchens is one of my absolute favorite parts of the interior design process. It’s the heart of the home and can set the tone for the overall look and feel of your house. We are revealing our latest completed kitchen in Evanston, IL. It’s great example of how small kitchen design can have a major impact and be very functional when planned and executed well!

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Evanston Kitchen – AFTER

DESIGNER TIPS FOR SMALL KITCHEN DESIGN:

Here are five of my designer tips for getting the most out of a small footprint and small kitchen design. Every inch of your floor plan and organization really count in small spaces! Also, you’ve got to think big and not be afraid to really change your room’s floor plan.

TIP #1 – FLOOR PLAN IS EVERYTHING (& ELEVATIONS ARE IMPORTANT TOO)

I highly recommend working with a designer, kitchen & bath showroom or your local home improvement store to make sure you have correct dimensions and a solid floor plan for your kitchen. This is even more important in tight spaces b/c centimeters matter in kitchen design! This is hard to do on your own as a novice because you need a program that can scale everything in the plan. Google Sketch up is free and can also help if you can teach yourself (watch videos, etc.) I partner with a great cabinetry showroom STUDIO 912, which is where this kitchen’s semi-custom cabinets are from.

These cabinets are the Starmark brand in Repose Gray tinted varnish (which is essentially a paint that is baked on for tougher finish). We also added a few custom elements like the hood and command center from a local wood working company. A few custom elements can really elevate your design!

Below are different views of this Evanston, IL kitchen BEFORE. We thought hard about the new floor plan. Opening up the wall to dining room was always the goal, but we did not know how far exactly we could open it and I really encouraged the homeowner to close up the hall entry so we could get more cabinets and a symmetrical design on range wall. We also had to drywall over a window on the fridge side to get the wall-to-wall cabinetry design as intended. A lot of small (or big) changes which add up to give us an AWESOME new floor plan.

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Our Top 9 White Paint Colors

top 9 white paint colors

White is white, right? WRONG! There are thousands of white paint colors. You can drive yourself mad finding the right one. Today, I’m going to teach you a little bit about undertones and share my top 9 best white paint colors with you! These are my tried-and-true best white paint colors that I go back to again and again.

FAVORITE PAINT BRANDS

My paint brand preferences are Benjamin Moore and Farrow & Ball. I use these brands and colors in every project and I’m very familiar with the quality and colors. I recommend using Regal Select or Aura for the best Benjamin Moore coverage and easy-to-clean finish. Here I’m going to show you lots of pictures from our very own design PORTFOLIO – I can 100% guarantee the color that is on these walls! Sometimes it’s hard to be sure with photos you find online!

BENJAMIN MOORE COLORS:

Our most used Benjamin Moore white paint colors are Chantilly Lace OC-65, Simply White OC-117, White Dove OC-17 and Intense White OC-51. As you can see from the line up above, Chantilly Lace is the brightest white we use and it has cool undertones. It is great when you need a bright white in low light areas or want a modern look. It has blue undertones so it can read blue in north facing light.

Simply White is my 100% go-to white for almost anything. It’s bright enough but also warm enough to not read “hospital white.” I don’t love the stark white look, I prefer a little warmth and simply white has just a touch of warm/yellow undertones. Next is White Dove, which is my preference for cabinets and trim. It has enough gray where it feels creamy and doesn’t show the dirt as much. Finally, Intense White is great for walls when you don’t want white but a warm soft gray.

Both photos below are from a beautiful, single-family home we completed in the Lakeview area of Chicago in 2018. All walls in this project are Intense White, the trim and wood work is all in Simply White. With most paint colors, when you have lots of natural light the colors look less intense (like in kitchen) this front room gets less light (and so the color seems more saturated).

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Ben Moore Intense White on Walls, Simply White on wood work.

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Ben Moore Intense White on Walls, Simply White on wood work.

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Style Your Summer: Covered Porch Makeover!

white wicker porch furniture

Is your exterior ready for maximum summer enjoyment? Here in Chicago, our porch sitting days are limited! I am so excited to share the reveal of a beautiful covered porch we designed in Oak Park, IL for maximum outdoor pleasure. I am also sharing my tips on how to decorate your porch for summer.

Family-owned, woven outdoor furniture company, Lloyd Flanders approached me with an opportunity to use their gorgeous heirloom quality furniture. I jumped on the offer because I had this perfect porch makeover in mind! My mother-in-law has lived in Oak Park in the same home for almost 40 years and her porch needed some new life. With lots of grandchildren, family and friends in the area having an additional space for entertaining and enjoyment was really appealing.

I utilized these two collections for our wicker furniture selections. I love how many colors Lloyd Flanders allows you to choose from. We used linen and charcoal to keep a classic “white wicker furniture” look but modernize it a little bit!

Lloyd Flanders All Seasons Collection

Lloyd Flanders Universal Loom Collection

PORCH BEFORE – Here is where we started:

The following design board communicated my ideas to the Lloyd Flanders team and my trusted prop stylist, Jen DeCleene, who helped my make this vision a reality!

DESIGN BOARD:

PORCH AFTER: Here’s the finished porch!

white and black wicker porch furniture

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Claire Speaks on Style/Library Panel @ NYC Design Week

may morris lemons

I’m thrilled to be attending NYC Design Week for the very first time! I will be speaking on a panel with two design historians as British textile house Style/Library releases a brand new collection designed and inspired by May Morris. Who is May Morris? Glad you asked!

My discussion with Lynn Byrne and Natasha Thoreson will delve into the historical designer, artist and woman May Morris was and we will link to mid-century women in design, all the way up to present day women artist/entrepreneurs who are the wave of the future. May Morris was the daughter of famed Arts + Crafts artist, poet and social activist William Morris. Many of her designs were overshadowed by her famous father, but she took over the embroidery section of the Morris + Co. company at age 23.

There is lots more history to explore and if you are in the NYC area, I would love to see you at the D&D Building Style Library Showroom on May 22nd at 3PM. Invitation and RSVP information below. You can read more about my partnership with Style Library HERE. More pictures of the gorgeous May Morris collection below!

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Personal Post: Family Photography Session at Home

There is something so personal about a family photography session at home. Capturing special moments in the chaos that is your daily life and daily backdrop. I wanted to share some of our photos from when Willa was about 9 months old. I completely forgot to post these to the blog last fall and I have had several clients ask for family photographers referrals in Chicago recently! These photos are so special to us. I can’t recommend enough taking photos at home (make sure you have decent natural light) makes a big difference!

I need to talk up two of my dear friends who are also family and wedding photographers, Anna Sodziak and Joe Tighe.  Anna Sodziak did a beautiful new born shoot for us, also here at home, you can see all those picture in THIS POST. All the photography in this post is by Joe Tighe , Joe has a wedding photo company but is also a new dad! He has an amazing and creative eye. We absolutely adore how he captured our little family at home!

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DESIGN SCHOOL: French & French Interiors

Hello and welcome to our Design School series! If you are new to the blog or the series, this is where we feature a leading interior design firm and ask them to answer 20 quick questions to share insights gleaned from years in the business. We’ve interviewed a mother-daughter team in the past, but today is our first husband-and-wife design duo. I’m excited to welcome French & French Interiors to the blog!

Heather and Matt French are two of the most creative, kind and down-to-earth people I’ve met in the design industry. We all met at High Point Market in 2018. They are so fortunate to be living and working in the beautiful, mystical and natural landscape of Santa Fe, New Mexico. They run a full service interior design firm, have a boutique showroom/shop and have started their own lighting line.

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I love popping onto their Instagram feed and seeing all the color and pattern used in Santa Fe, so different than the grays and neutrals of the Midwest! Their natural surroundings are so inspiring as well; I like to take “virtual” walks with Heather as she films their acres of a backyard.

french and french interiors elegant rustic bathroom

Here’s our interview with French & French Interiors:

Heather – The most difficult aspect of my job:

Well, I think it’s the pace at which we, as a team, have to produce. I find that really challenging, but over the years have figured a way to delegate to our employees to make it all work. I still find this challenging though!

Matt – What I love about my job:

I love Heather, our clients, our team, our vendors and their products, creating new fixtures and working with other makers and artisans in the community.

Heather – Every room needs:

A sense of cozy.  Homes are a place to feel great in your environment and I try to make every space I design feel like you could stay for awhile!

Heather – What I love about my job:

I love the transformation it has for a family. We can take a chaotic family space and give them a gathering space so they can spend quality time together. To me, that’s the ultimate goal!

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Style Library Announces Partnership with Centered by Design as 2019 Brand Ambassador

william morris print dress

Style Library Announces Partnership with Centered by Design in Chicago as 2019 Brand Ambassador

 

MARCH 2019 (New York, NY) – Style Library USA, home of six of the finest British interior design brands, is excited to announce that Centered by Design, a top Chicago-based design firm, is the company’s 2019 Midwest brand ambassador. Style Library, which includes heritage brands Zoffany, Harlequin, Sanderson, Morris & Co., Scion and Anthology, will work side-by-side with interior designer Claire Staszak and her team at Centered by Design to curate spaces and installations as well as events in close partnership to bring to life the brands represented by Style Library.

“We are thrilled to embark on this project with such a talented firm as Centered by Design,” explains Paul Colley, President of Style Library USA. “Claire and her team have been a fans of our brands, using the fabrics and wallcoverings in creative and dynamic ways for residential projects. It is exciting to partner with them in such a capacity.”

The ambassador program seemed a natural fit, as Centered by Design has been discovering the Style Library brands since the Chicago showroom opened in the Merchandise Mart a year and a half ago. Last year, Style Library and Claire Staszak partnered on a promotion of the Morris & Co fashion collection with H&M. Claire and her team showed the true influence the home products are having on fashion design.

As part of the initiatives for this year, Claire and Centered by Design will lend their talents to the Oak Park/River Forest Kitchen Walk on April 27th, renovating a kitchen using Style Library products to raise funds for New Moms, an organization that helps young mothers living in extreme poverty. The design team will also serve as one of the trend spotters for Style Library during this spring’s High Point Furniture Market and Claire plans to travel to Style Library’s archives and factories in the U.K. to view the storied patterns, molds and materials from the brands’ past that inform the present for future designs. Additionally, Claire will share her design expertise during Style Library’s D&D Spring Market panel discussion Women in Design: Past, Present and Future on May 22nd and during Design Chicago in the fall.

“My love affair with Style Library began with the Morris & Co line,” explains Claire Staszak, head of Centered by Design. “Its classic patterns feel fresh and relevant with a whimsical nod to the past, perfect for many of my clients. From there, I’ve discovered the breadth of all the brands, which allows me to fill my design needs. As a business owner and mother, I’m always in need of time savers.”

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Marble vs Quartz: The Great Countertop Debate

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Should you choose marble, quartz or granite in the kitchen? The great countertop debate begins right here! Put on your scientific researcher hat as well, because some of these natural stone facts may take you back to geology class.This post will give you insight on the components of the different types of stone. It will also help you understand the pros and cons of the various options such as: marble, dolomite, granite, quartzite, and (man-made) quartz.

Also, and probably most importantly (!) I’m sharing designer feedback on the different countertop materials and what you can really expect in terms of performance, water stains, scratching, heat resistance and more. A few of my favorite kitchen designers from around the country weighed-in with their opinions.

Bria Hammel, of Bria Hammel Interiors in MN says, “I always tell clients if they want a perfect looking countertop then marble is not for them. Marble lasts forever, but it is not meant to look perfect – it’s meant to look lived in like it’s been around 100 years. If that is not their style, then marble is not for them!”

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A Bria Hammel Interiors kitchen with Cambria Quartz countertops.

All About Marble: 
  • Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.
  • Marble is found all around the world but today four countries quarry almost half of the world’s materials. They are: Italy, China, India and Spain.
  • Marble ranges in price, but is generally more expensive than granite or quartz. It is comparable in price to most quartzite.
  • Marble needs to be sealed and taken care of correctly. It will react with acidic foods, absorb water stains, scratch, etc. It is recommended that you seal every few years, use cutting boards, coasters and wipe up spills immediately to keep marble pristine.
  • In my opinion, marble is absolutely stunning and gives a depth and character to an interior that other stone is hard pressed to compete with.

All About Dolomite:

  • Dolomite is a marble, but with the added mineral magnesium.
  • Dolomites are harder than the average marble, but are still softer than granite and can etch and scratch.
  • They are heat and pressure resistant and make great countertops, but need to be sealed to help prevent staining.
  • Super White Dolomite is a popular option for countertops and backsplashes. I love the look of Milano Venato Dolomite.
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Milano Venato Dolomite

Texas-based designer, Carla Aston, another fabulous kitchen designer says this about natural stone, “Natural stone is natural stone and no matter how dense, does absorb moisture to a degree. The lighter the countertops, the more likely this might show as well. I have one project where I used a light gray/white quartzite, and some oily/moist foods left on the counter do occasionally leave a mark. It usually disappears after a time, but nothing is totally impervious!” Don’t miss Carla’s insightful and educational blog post about natural stone countertops in the kitchen.

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Kitchen by Carla Aston Design Studio. Countertops are Macabus Quartzite.

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Modern White Kitchen Reveal featured by Monogram Appliances

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We are lucky to have the Merchandise Mart here in Chicago and the ability to easily visit and partner with incredible vendors. This modern white kitchen, completed by Centered by Design in 2018 (and part of an entire home remodel) was recently featured on the Monogram Appliances blog. I wanted to share the INTERVIEW and also detail a few modern white kitchen design ideas for you, plus show you a few before photos!

Here is a before picture of the kitchen, the floor plan is not terrible but there is certainly room for improvement! Here are some of the design issues we addressed when trying to create a modern white kitchen design:

  • The soffit had to stay and so we needed a way to more seamlessly blend it into the cabinetry.
  • We wanted to create a built breakfast nook and get rid of the dated desk area.
  • The proportions and functionality of the hood and stove top needed improvement. We created a custom white wood hood, wrapped with a stainless band detail and in turn, created a nice centerpiece and focal point for the kitchen.

BEFORE:

AFTER:

modern white kitchen design

white wood hood metal band

Other ways we modernized the space from a design perspective include:

  • Recessed cabinet doors instead of raised panel
  • A stone countertop and backsplash, pale grey with white veining (these are Caesarstone Alpine Mist)
  • Updated Monogram appliances
  • Modified island to not have seating (it impeded walkway) and with the addition of the built-in banquette (breakfast nook) it was not needed for this family.
  • Improved lighting placement and choices
  • Addition of crown molding and back band over soffit (also reduced depth of the soffit in areas)

glass front white cabinets butcher block counter

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Getting Organized with NEAT METHOD

It’s a brand new year – happy 2019 friends! In honor of starting the year off on the right foot (and motivating you to get organized too!), I’m sharing a little office organizing makeover we did with neat METHOD. If you haven’t heard of neat METHOD yet, I may be about to change your life. This woman-owned business has locations all over the USA and takes home (and office) organization SERIOUSLY. They take on jobs of all sizes from moves across the country to simply re-organizing your pantry or closet.

I have referred several clients to neat METHOD and the Chicago team led by Brooke Nieman. They are absolutely fabulous, fast and professional. I was so impressed with how well they had helped my clients with their kitchen organization, linen closets and home offices I decided I needed their help as well. You can see why below! While the front of the studio looks pretty good on a daily basis, our back work area and library was becoming a total mess!

Front of studio view:

Behind that pretty black and gold wallpaper, my desk and sample area was looking scary! All of the bins and baskets I had originally purchased were overflowing and nothing was easy to find or labeled. Here are three of the before photos from Brooke.

With a new assistant and intern starting I needed everything in tip top shape. I had a few simple goals that I communicated to Brooke via email such as, dedicated client storage drawers, better use of space and simply more storage! She did one site visit, took my feed back and looked for preferred additional storage options, which she emailed me for approval on. Then she showed up on our scheduled makeover day with everything needed to get organized and labeled in one day!!

I am so pleased with how everything turned out. Larger baskets, labels, new file folders, additional hanging storage and new clients files (not pictured – need to get a photo!) have made sourcing and sampling much easier. We also have additional storage cabinets that aren’t pictured and remained the same, but we really needed to maximize storage around the desk area and neat METHOD came to the rescue!

Brooke and her team do the shopping and organizing for you at an hourly rate and also bill you for the cost of the storage items agreed to. I spent about $1000 total on the baskets, boxes, file folders, labels, hooks and client storage files (ALEX 9-drawer units IKEA). It was totally money well spent for ease, peace of mind and a more organized office!

Here are two Centered by Design kitchens from last year that neat Method organized:

Thanks to Brooke and the Chicago neat METHOD team. If you need even more organizing inspiration check out Marie Kondo’s new Netflix series, tidying up can be life changing stuff!

If you’re interested in working with Centered by Design visit our Contact or Services page, we’d love to hear from you!

XO – CLAIRE

this post is partially sponsored by neat Method but all opinions and re-counting of the experience are my own. thanks to the partners that keep this blog running!