Exterior Geometry

parterre hedged garden near Estoril, Portugal - World of Interiors via AtticmagA formal garden, or parterre, consists of symmetrical planted beds connected by gravel paths.

A French invention, the formal garden has gone in and out of style for more than 400 years. Certainly they are not very modern because an exquisite geometric arrangement like this one near Estoril , Portugal, requires historical skills to establish and maintain. Consider the effort of clipping concentric hedges at two different levels with such elaborate and precise voids with nary a bobble or a dent. To my mind the parterre is perhaps the ultimate forms of decorative landscape design since they are meant to be viewed from above. I can only imagine how beautiful it would be to look down from my window every day and see the changes in a garden like this one throughout each season of the year. I am constantly amazed by the beauty and intricacy of these as well as how many are in existence. I confess they are a bit of an obsession though I just wouldn’t want to pay the landscapers’ bill.

(Source: WOI)

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Linen Closet Looks

linen closet with open shelves and basket storage - pinterest via atticmagFrom a small cupboard to a large open area there are numerous options for organizing linens.

Linen storage is one of those do-your-best propositions because houses often lack really ample space for stashing sheets, pillows and extra blankets for every bed, or towels for each bath. Unless you’re lucky enough to have an old house with a walk-in linen closet or a droolworthy linen room with built-in cupboards, almost any armoire, a salvage cabinet or even a bookshelf — can do the job. Putting together a linen closet is a matter of creating available real estate combined with effective, practical tactics for using it.

I’m always impressed by the ability to organize a usable space that’s visually coordinated to an extensive degree [top]. More than a dozen shallow laundry baskets fit into an open wood storage grid to house an extensive quantity of linens. The beauty of baskets is their uniform appearance and portability. Plus, they conveniently hide messes large and small. It must be easy to stow and rotate linens with a system like this though it requires a substantial amount of space.

linen storage in small painted armoire - melinda reyes lifestyle via atticmagA narrow, primitive armoire fits well into the cottage style of blogger Melinda Reyes bedroom, where she uses it to store her vintage linens and a extra pillow.  An inexpensive towel bar, placed perfectly on the door, is used to hand pillowcases. While a closet this size might not work for everyone, those who lead blissfully pared-down lives might take great satisfaction in how good it all looks.

white painted vintage linen cupboard - tempurpedic via atticmagA free-standing, vintage double cupboard has three zones: glass doors on the upper section where colorful linens will add to the display quality, plus handy drawers above the lower cabinet. A cabinet like this should hold linens for one to two beds and the drawers can be fit with inexpensive dividers to organize mending supplies and other small items.

linen closet with custom deep shelves - atticmagWhen we renovated the house I took a piece of the fourth bedroom to create a linen closet. We have a king-size bed plus two  queen pull outs and a double bed so I needed a fair amount of linen storage. I thought twice about snapping picture of the way that closet looks every day – especially considering how extensively these linen closets are styled. But here’s a real-life peek into my highly functional linen closet with sturdy 1-1/2-inch thick shelves, each 44-inches long and 30-inches deep. The depth is really great and it accommodates a king size duvet folded up for summer storage. Each set of my sheets is packaged with the fitted sheet and pillowcases folded inside the top sheet. Towels are organized by bathroom and the shelves are labeled.

decorative linen closet with hanging towel bars - bh&g via atticmagMagazines are fond of creating how-tos that pack every inch of available space so cleverly. I know things would be falling on my head when I went to take something off the top shelf, and I don’t personally care for rolled up towels. But for those who don’t mind spending the extra few minutes it takes to maintain a system this elaborate, it certainly looks great. Here’s another example of towel bars used to create easy-to-access hanging space. The only issue is accounting for the projection of the towel bars and making sure that shelves are shallow enough so the door can close properly.

(Source: pinterest, melissareyes, tempurpedic, bh&g)

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Shower System Intelligence

bathroom with Graff ski shower - Graff via AtticmagExpanding our powder room to include a shower is at the top of my home-project list.

I’ve been brushing up on my shower research and was happy to discover that showers are getting more adventurous. Still, the two long standing types of shower system controls — pressure balance valve and thermostatic mixing valve — continue to be used. So once I decide which system to shop for  it’s easier to choose among the dazzling number of shower system choices available today. The shower is a very expensive purchase and in-the-wall plumbing sets it in cement, so to speak. Right now, I’m considering systems from Graff, a top-rated brand, founded in 1922 in Wisconsin. The Graff contemporary Ski Shower system [above] is an ultra-fashionable surface-mounted shower that’s highly adjustable and definitely a statement-maker. But the market is huge and there is a wide variety of styles, brands, price points and features to explore in order to find a shower with great function and looks.

Graff Solar 001 pressure balance shower - Graff via AtticmagThe Pressure Balance Shower
The most familiar shower system is based on a pressure balance valve. The lever swivels to regulate water from cold to hot and adjusts the variations in water pressure automatically. A pressure balance control is the most economical of the two systems. It’s basic components are the on/off valve and the shower head. But it can become more luxurious by adding on a separate hand shower accessory and/or body sprays and, of course, a tub-filler spout, if needed.

pressure balance shower value cutaway - Symmons Industries via AtticmagThe pressure balance valve itself has a long history. It was invented in 1939 by Symmons Industries. This cutaway shows the intricacy of the guts which are usually brass or stainless steel. Brass is a copper and zinc alloy combined with other metals and the copper in brass is said to be anti-microbial. Brass is resistant to corrosion (inside) and takes chrome and other exterior plating finishes very well.

Graff's Luna thermostatic mixer shower system - Graff via AtticmagThe Thermostatic Mixer Shower
This more advanced system is based on an temperature control that operates independently from the on/off operation. These systems can be complex because each component has its own control. We often see thermostatic system levers lined up, which can look confusing at first. Usually the thermostatic control is the largest valve, as it is on Luna  system, and regulates only the water temperature. It can be preset for all the components. Water flow from the shower head has its own control valve 9top0. And, the hand shower –a feature I feel is a must, budget permitting — operates independently with it’s own  on/off control [center].

Our master bath has a thermostatic mixer and our guest bath has a pressure balance shower. Having had great experience with each type, I prefer the thermostatic mixer because it allows me to regulate both the temperature and intensity of that shower. But the pressure balance shower is great, too, just not quite as adjustable.

Hand-Helds & Shower Accessories
I put a hand shower in each of our baths and I use them frequently so I believe a hand shower is well worth the cost. Sometimes called a “telephone” the hand shower head connects to the water supply via a flexible hose or tube. It can rest on a fixed bracket or adjustable slider bar. The hand shower lets me to do a quick wash down, sit down to shower off, or wash my hair quickly. It’s incredibly useful if there are little ones and pets in the house and it’s great for cleaning out the tub. In our master bath, I made sure I could reach the hand shower as well as the separate lever that operates it when I was seated on the shower bench. As a rule of thumb, shower controls (including hand showers) are located between 38” and 48” from the floor and they are usually centered below the shower head or offset. Additionally, body spray jets can be added and separately controlled.

Graff solar shower head - Graff via atticmagShower Heads

There are a wide variety of styles, shapes and spray pattern effects. Rain shower heads can be mounted on a ceiling so that water comes straight down when you step under it. I like a wall-mounted shower head which can be adjusted as I don’t always want to wet my hair. I’ve been looking at Graff’s square style [above] which is broad but can be angled. Before purchasing any shower head, it’s important to check the flow rate. By government regulation in the U.S., the maximum flow rate is 2.5 gallons per minute at a standardized pressure of 80 pounds per square inch. Some shower heads have water-saving restrictors which reduce the flow (and can make for a slightly wimpy shower). I like to visit a showroom and see how water moves through the shower head I’m considering though this information is now often available online via videos. As a rule of thumb, a shower head is located on the wall between 66” to 81” above the finished shower floor.

Fixture Styles & Finishes

Many people ignore the basics and choose a shower system based on the look of the shower head, lever and hand-shower. Manufacturers present collections and there can be a surprising number of handle and component styles to choose from. That’s great but it’s always important to determine which one will be most comfortable to turn and adjust with wet, soapy hands. In general, square shapes tend to look more modern than rounded shapes and surface-mounted systems require a bit more wiping down than in-wall systems. Chrome, nickel and stainless steel are popular finish materials which can be polished or brushed. Chrome and stainless do not tarnish while nickel requires the use of a metal cleaner. I don’t favor specialty finishes for the shower they are available for anyone who prefers them. When shopping, I carefully note the full style number of each shower system component and pay special attention to any suffixes with letters and numbers that determine the finish. I always check and double check those numbers to be sure I won’t have any surprises when I’m ready to order.

bathroom with Graff ski shower system - centennial renovation studio via atticmagA Few More Practical Shower Notes

Most local building codes require a 30” x 30” minimum space for a free-standing shower while many experts recommend at least 36” x 36.” But in any space, a 30-inch diameter circle must fit on the shower floor to allow enough room to move around. And the shower head must extend into the circle. These days, I start shopping on a website like Décor Planet, a modern bathroom fixture specialist I like. My process is to start shopping online, then go to see the style and finish in person, then search for the best deal before buying. And before ordering any fixture, I always call the website or source to be sure the item is in stock or find out how long it will take to arrive. When it comes to choosing a shower system, those critical details count!

(Source: Graff Faucets, Symmons Industries, Centennial Renovation Studio)


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Door Jamboree

salvage doors hinged together for a patio privacy screen - Emily Johnston Anderson via AtticmagNo instructions needed to create this useful hinged salvage-door screen for the patio.

It’s that time of the year when we start to move outside and revive our outdoor spaces. And having a substantial folding screen on a patio or in the yard can be an excellent way to create privacy. Hinging old doors like these makes for a privacy feature that’s high, substantial and also portable. Even if the doors aren’t as salvage-pretty as chippy white ones [top] there’s always a way to add color and texture or even faux-painted architectural details. So the next time I see an old door out on the curb, I’ll grab it.

(Source: emily-johnston)

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Mirror Images

Miami powder room with mirror mosaic tile insert - Elle Decor via AtticmagMirror tile is making a bit of a comeback.

To a certain generation, mirror tile always will have a “disco ball” association but truth is, it can look pretty great in certain spaces. Bathrooms are prime for mirror applications although a designer friend in Chicago used it on his kitchen backsplash to reflect amazing views of Lake Michigan. Even with standard 1-inch mosaic mirror dots there can be interesting variations as the outdoor Disco Kitchen Splash proves.

In a Miami powder room [top], architect Joe Serrins created a wrap around integral mirror by running a wide stripe of mirror tile dots through a variegated purple mosaic tile wall. To offset the Saturday Night fever effect, there’s a wonky organic walnut-root slab for the vanity. I can still hear the Brothers Gibb on the ipod but it’s a certified conversation piece.

Backsplash of Chrysallis mirror mosaic tile - Ann Sacks via AtticmagAnn Sacks’ variegated Chrysalis mosaic tile also comes in mirror for an evenly crackled effect. Here’s it backs a wet bar sink but I could easily see it as an entire bathroom wall – or perhaps on the ceiling of a dramatically dark dining room.

beverage bar by Mick DeGiulio with Kohler trough sink, Kallista faucet and Ann Sacks mirror subway tile - Kohler via AtticmagCelebrated kitchen designer Mick DeGiulio used Sacks’ Versailles mirror subways for a bar installation in Kohler’s Wisconsin headquarters showroom (which I first showed in my Built-In Beverage Bars post). Inspired by antique mirrors, it comes in 4×8” and supersized 6×20” field tile. The large format would be beautiful behind a tub or on an entire wall at the end of a hallway.

(Source: elledecor, kohler)

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