Furniture that Speaks to Us

furniture by rupert blanchard - styling and salvage via atticmagA talented ‘scrapper’ turns discards into statement pieces.

When we were building our house I spent a good deal of time at salvage yards in search of reclaimed pieces for our house. So I have a special fondness for furniture made by reclaim artist Rupert Blanchard. A former set designer, Blanchard scours his London neighborhood for discarded objects with character that can be repurposed. For me, his cabinets crafted from odd bits of signage are noteworthy because they speak to us in two ways – with the words and with the spirit of reshaping something discarded into art for the home.


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Warming Up Modern Baths with Wood

teak wood double-shelf, single bathroom vanity – Kathleen di Paolo Designs via AtticmagOak, teak and pine mix well with contemporary aesthetics.

Traditionalists sometimes use the terms “stark” and “cold” to describe modern bathrooms which tend to have sleek stone like surfaces and square lines. One way to warm things up is by introducing wood to certain areas.  In a Southern California bathroom with white-paneled paneled walls [top], designer Kathleen di Paolo chose a set of floating natural wood-slab shelves instead of a vanity. The top one acts as a platform for the vessel sink and the partner below provides handy towel storage. In addition to minimizing space taken up by the sink, they are neutral, which coordinates well with the floor and the leather loop for the captain’s mirror.

Japanese inspired modern bath with horizontal wood-paneled tub wall – Aidlin Darling Design via AtticmagWood paneling can be tricky around a tub unless it’s tropical wood like teak. The lovely grain has decorative value and the horizontal planks that extend from ceiling to floor create a thoroughly organic accent wall.

Modernist bath with pine plank ceiling in Swiss chalet – Ardesia Design via AtticmagAn unabashed lover of both vintage pine-planking and poured polished concrete, I would not immediately think of mixing the two.  But the planked ceiling adds heaps of character to this minimalist bath in a Swiss chalet and helps keep it cool and as casual as a ski house should be.

(Source: Kathleen di Paolo, Aidlin Darling Design, Ardesia Design)

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Dark Kitchen Drama

Danish kitchen with black cabinets – via AtticmagFrom deep blue to black, kitchens go ultra-dark.

More and more often I’m seeing kitchens that are very dark – so dark they seem designed for people with reverse lives — like rock musicians whose days begin at 4 or 5 p.m. But the high contrast and dramatic effect of extra-dark kitchens is upstaging the trend for the more traditional black and white combination. In a renovated late 19th century home in Hellerup, outside Copenhagen, designers Marianne Brandi and Keld Mikkelsen went with a kitchen [top] dominated by glossy black cabinets and graceful marble accents, saying they wanted “classic and contrast.” The former quality certainly describes the black-painted drop leaf table in the center of this kitchen — a table that easily could be mistaken for a narrow island. As someone who is passionate (or perhaps obsessive) about paint-decorated Scandinavian furniture – especially black tables – I spotted it immediately. This type of table has been used in Danish and Swedish homes for centuries. With both sides extended it could could seat six in the kitchen but here, the leaves are folded down and out of the way leaving the effect of a modest island with surface for display or setting down.

While the inspiration for the black kitchen cabinets might well have come from the table, the hexagonal marble tile floor and marble backsplash add notes of luxe. I adore this floor. The sink, placed in a windowed bay, gets ample light from a triple pendant fixture, needed between two banks of black upper cabinets! And, look at the elegant English-style bridge faucet with rarely seen black china lever handles. Additionally, there are tall black-handled pillar tap faucets on each side — a traditional but stylish way to dispense filtered cold and instant-hot water.

dark gray-blue English kitchen - John Minshaw design via AtticmagI’ve long admired the deep gray-blue kitchen esteemed British designer John Minshaw installed in his home, a converted barn in Oxfordshire. Placed at one end of a great room that includes kitchen, living and dining spaces –  and dominated by a massive antique chandelier from Carlton Davidson — the kitchen is flanked by a wall of windows overlooking a garden. So while the cabinets are an inky hue (RAL 5008) Minshaw sourced from Technical Paint Services, an airy, open feeling prevails.  What interests me about this kitchen, with its double Wolf ovens, pro-style refrigerator and discreet wine cooler (right), is the way the range and sink areas are flipped. The usual arrangement has the range centered on the main wall with a vent hood above it and the sink placed directly across in the island. Here, Mr. Minshaw wrapped the island cabinetry around a big range and used the sink nook — with its high-arc sprayer faucet — as the focal point. Glass-front cabinets in the island are no less usual. These are well lighted to provide dishware storage near the dining table under the sensational 6-foot wide chandy.

Matte black German soft-industrial style kitchen – via AtticmagCabinets on legs – including island cabinets – fall into the contemporary European modular style popularized worldwide by Ikea and championed in German by Bulthaup. These are matte black with a hip semi-industrial style and unfitted. By that I mean not built-in and can be moved as easily as furniture. Note that the 24-inch oven, induction cooktop and sink are contained in the modules – you don’t leave appliances for the next tenant, either.

Matte black German soft-industrial style kitchen – via AtticmagThe portability of these cabinet modules make them easy to place in loft spaces next to pesky pillars.

Matte black German soft-industrial style kitchen – via AtticmagA modest coffee bar, on a marble top table with industrial shelves above, looks integrated and chic against the kitchen’s black-painted accent wall.

ebonized oak cabinets in neo-Craftsman kitchen – via AtticmagIn a 6000-square-foot new-build, designer Debra Toney packed a family-size kitchen with high-end features. Charcoal-stained oak cabinets update the look of the neo-Craftsman house and provide ample drama against a red-oak floor. As in many American kitchens, appliances are noteworthy. First and foremost is the massive modern range hood with a glass storage shelf. Then there are double Wolf ovens, and a SubZero refrigerator-freezer pair. In a kitchen with so many brand-name features it would be easy to get a generic suburban look. But the daringly dark cabinets keep it modern.

ebonized oak cabinets in neo-Craftsman kitchen – via AtticmagThe view down the main aisle shows a sleek Bulthaup-style steel tambor door that conceals storage and a Wolf rangetop in the island. Soffit cabinet lighting on the refrigerator wall helps emphasize the high ceilings.

all-black minimalist kitchen – wolfgangluadesarchitecture via AtticmagIt’s difficult to believe a kitchen this dark would work on a tropical island but photographer-turned-architect Wolfgang Ludes created minimalistic midnight in a Caribbean villa on St. Barthélmy. And the moody photo and lack of hardware makes it difficult to distinguish pantry cabinets on the window wall. With everything the same color, the long island looks like part of the wall until you spot a sink faucet peeking up out of the blackness. While the usual smudges and kitchen smears might never be visible, this is a stunning concept and not unsuited to a vacation retreat which no doubt provides maid service.

black Moroccan-tile kitchen – romain ricard photo via AtticmagThe surface of Moroccan tiles has a wonderful ability to catch and reflect light, even when the tile is black. I love the tactility of the pieced wall and the way it embellishes the matte minimalism of the cabinet wall. But the secret ingredient in this kitchen is the white floor, I think, since it functions in much the same way as the skylight above it.

black Moroccan-tile kitchen – romain ricard photo via AtticmagThe tiles blend well with the charcoal wall color which acts as a background for the weathered wood and wabi sabi baskets.

(Source: JohnMinshawDesign,,,, wolfgangludesarchitecture,

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Pinkalicious Bedrooms

princess crown girls bedroom - kidskammers via atticmagSmall children have favorite colors and pink is often #1.

Pre-schoolers and primary graders use color and shape to identify things, researchers say, which may explain the rosy fixation kids can develop, particularly when it comes to their bedroom decor. If pink is a must-have for a little girl, I favor simplicity and mutability versus overwhelming color and accessories. It’s easier to change out a rug, paint an accent wall, or swap out bedding than it is to break down and redecorate an entire room. For the adorable princess bedroom [top] the crown wall decal sets the color scheme and acts as a headboard, too. I searched in vain to find the source for this exact crown design which looks like a decal.

pink princess crown wall decal - via atticmagBut a search of turned up this very similar Princess Crown wall decal which comes in five different sizes and 42 colors.

pink princess name wall decal - etsy via atticmagI also like this vinyl Princess Crown Name decal, which is somewhat smaller but also very charming.

girls room with pink Madeline Weinrib Brooke carpet - atticmagSome lucky girl might get Madeline Weinrib’s Brooke Tibetan carpet in pink to set the color theme for an otherwise white room – boosted by a pink Moroccan leather pouf and a duc duc twin bed.

girls bedroom with pink built-in bed nook - homebunch via atticmagAnd with a bed nook as well designed as this one, pale pink is a great starter color. A light yellow, green, or even lavender would work well as she grows. And please send me the name of the carpenter who created that clever bed-stair pull out.

girls room with cherry blossom wall mural and pink bedding - nietylkodzieciaki via atticmagCherry blossoms are a keynote of spring and the hand painted tree in the corner creates a cozy spot for sleeping.  The old-fashioned white-painted iron bed is a wonderful find since the scrollwork also acts as a partial railing to keep restless little ones in place at night without a bolster and pink bedding looks just girly enough.

(Source:  kidskamers,, etsy, sissyandmarley, homebunch, nietylkodzieciaki)

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Weathered Wood Kitchen Islands

kitchen with horizontal planked weathered wood island - stacy bass photography via Atticmag Why weathered wood has become so fashionable as a special kitchen surface.

Age = character. So when wide-plank wood boards age naturally (which happens on flooring or barn siding) subtle variations in color including amber and gray tones appear. Those coordinate especially well with stone and metals so one logical place to showcase reclaimed wood planks in a kitchen is on the base of an island — where it becomes a focal point. The conventional attitude about barn or weathered wood is that it’s most successful for country looks. But designers, using it like paneling, are mixing it into industrial, traditional and even modern kitchens with great success, I believe.

Vertical oak planks and cross bucks are used to enrich the look of the island in what otherwise would be a classic white old-house kitchen [top] albeit one with an exceptional reclaimed oak floor. Lively brass accents on the cabinet hardware, pendant fixture as well as a luxe brass sink faucet show a yen to be different and a bit trendy here. However, the white cabinets, paneled refrigerator, and Calacatta marble back splash and counters are old-school staples that don’t upstage the island or the flooring.

kitchen with diagonal planked weathered wood island - Sarah Richardson via AtticmagPopular designer Sarah Richardson gave weathered pine barn boards (from  a modern push by running them diagonally on three sides of a island with framing that keeps things neat. The theme of the planking pattern is repeated and reinforced by the herringbone pattern of the white Saltillo tiles on the sleekly modern range wall.

kitchen with diagonal planked weathered wood island and Ikea cabinets - Sarah Richardson via AtticmagNow here’s the cleverest bit: the barn planks disguise the backs of Ikea cabinets. A Blanco sink and faucet and dishwasher are also housed in the island, which is amped up by a Calacatta marble counter.  The overhang on the end of the counter provides seating via bar stools (from  Weathered wood planks make another appearance as the backing for the open niche centered in a storage wall of 12-inch deep cabinets.

white kitchen with horizontal planked weathered wood island - Country Living via AtticmagWhen it’s orphaned, barn wood can be imposing and slightly odd. Or at least that’s how I read the vertical planking on this island which doesn’t relate to much else in this busy kitchen. With Victorian-style bracket detailing on the crown molding, and bead board for the oven cabinet and upper cabinet backs, I could see painted bead board on the island – not barn wood. But others may not agree.

French chateau style kitchen with horizontal planked weathered wood island - Cote de Texas via AtticmagAnyone hankering for a French chateau-style kitchen need look no further. The large-scale limestone block floor, antique arched doors enclosing a bar, the La Cornue with weathered stone checkerboard back splash and unhoned slab counters are old-building elements. Wide vertical planking on the island fits right in, with a clever barn-door cabinet worked into the end.

modern Dutch kitchen with weathered wood cabinet doors in the island - Elle Interiors-Norway via AtticmagMid-century industrial meets modern in this dark-hued Dutch kitchen where aged oak planks are fashioned into cabinet doors, both in the island and on the range wall. What’s interesting is how warm old boards look in combination with tinted concrete used on the counters and with the unusual textured charcoal walls – until you look up at the ceiling and see the logic of the scheme.

Long Island 1960s beach house modern kitchen with horizontal weathered wood planked island - karmatrendz via AtticmagIn a gut-renovated 1960s beach house on Long Island, interior designer Athena Calderone combined her love-of-the mix in the modest galley kitchen. Mid-century modern stacked sage-colored tile contrasts with the rough-hewn open shelving above the stove. Barn wood used horizontally on the island nods to the shelving and blends with newer flooring that dies into the island base. The simplicity and small scale of this kitchen (the house is 2000 square feet) proves that style is not necessarily limited by space.

(Source:  stacybassphotography, sarahrichardson, côtedetexas, elleinterior karmatrendz)


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