Friday, January 16, 2009

International E-Zine Features ME!!

I am just thrilled. Minutes Matter has featured me in the designer spotlight for this issue of their E-Zine. Minutes Matter is a software company that supplies the international interior design trade with the most advanced software available. Click on the link below to see the feature

How to deal with a corner fireplace.

One of the frequent design questions I am asked  is ‘How do I place the furniture around a corner fireplace?’ This is a bit of a problem. The guideline in design  that covers this is that the main piece of furniture in a living room (the sofa) should be oriented toward the focal point. In English this means that the sofa should be placed in front of the fireplace, on the same angle as the front  of the fireplace:  parallel.  Doing this creates a rectangle or square area around which the rest of the furniture will be placed.  That sounds easy and simple but the variables that enter in here make all the difference. For example: is there  enough room to put the sofa  where it should be? What do we do if the room is not big enough and the sofa must go against a wall? Well first of all  if you can’t keep the fireplace and the front of the sofa exactly parallel don’t bother. If the angles are off  - if the sofa points in one direction and the fireplace in another, things will look way too off skew. Better to leave the fireplace at an angle and place the rest of the furniture straight.  

When you are working with a corner fireplace - or maybe a corner window-  you will need to decide if it is, in fact, the focal point of the room.  Depending on the usage of the room the fireplace may be secondary to, for example, the TV. In this case, the TV becomes the focal point and the furniture arrangement starts there.  Start with a  room usage list  - make sure you know what the room is going to be used for-  and  design your floor plan with the TV as the focal point. Place the main piece of furniture oriented toward that, keep your angles consistent and the rest will fall into place. a perfect example of this arrangement is Frasiers’ living room on the TV series - the sofa and Martins’ chair are oriented toward the TV and away from the fireplace. 

Now, having said that, the next guideline that you really should address is traffic flow- how people move through the room.  Try to establish the furniture arrangement in such a way that people will not be moving between the main focal point (the fireplace ) and the main sitting area (the sofa) as they pass through the room. Please remember that just because you move the furniture it does not mean you will move the traffic flow. We are creatures of habit and if the quickest way through the room is in front of the sofa, that is often where people will walk, even if they have to dodge around other things to get through. A well balanced furniture placement plan will help direct the traffic flow, not interrupt it.   (Think again of Frasiers living room, the sofa table helps direct the traffic around the back of the sofa - it creates a resting place for books, briefcases, bags of groceries, etc. as it ‘points the way’ to the coat rack around the corner and the kitchen) )

This is the  (true) story I use to get my design students to remember the importance of traffic flow: Several years ago my sister lived in a small two room log cabin on a very peculiar piece of land.  Lots of animals and lots of hills. They moved the cabin to the top of a hill and built an addition.  Cute little place. I was visiting, we were sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee when the house shook, accompanied by a loud bump. Really loud. I thought it was an earthquake; she was calm and said.. ‘Don’t worry, it’s nothing’. Happened again. And again.  I got up to go look and she said ‘ Don’t worry, it’s just the buffalo. We put the house on his trail and he’s trying to move us’.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Pre-Made Drapery Panels

Well - a good thing or not? They are everywhere, they vary in price from quite inexpensive to very  costly. We can find a good assortment of styles -  grommet tops, tab tops  and even  fake pinch pleats. We now have access to longer length panels  and an astounding assortment of fabrics. They offer a very quick, relatively inexpensive solution - you can buy the panels and a rod and install them yourself . If what you want is a quick fix they are great. No doubt about it.  But they do have limitations and because I work on these panels more and more often, I thought you might like to know what my experience with them has been so you can make an informed choice. 

Please  please please be aware of lining. You are simply throwing your money away if you buy a natural fiber panel with no lining; silk should also be interlined.  I promise you will see sun damage (even in a North facing window with blinds)  in as little as one summer season.  Check the seam stitching; hems should be blind stitched- you shouldn’t be able to see the line of stitching from the front. The side seams should be secure and not roll toward the front.   Check the cleaning instructions, if they can not be dry cleaned or machine washed, you will have to wash them by hand- and iron them. Could be quite a chore.  In order for the drape to hang correctly there needs to be a weight in each bottom corner.  Often these panels are folded and packed so tightly  that even with an industrial iron and a professional de-wrinkle spray the creases can not be removed.

Very few  pre made panels  are meant to be opened and closed. Picture this: you open the curtains by pushing the panel all the way  to the side of the window. To close the drapes you pull on the leading edge and drag it to the center of the window. The extra fullness stays squished at the side, all you did was pull the drape flat across the window. In order to make it look good it is necessary to go back and move the fullness along the rod bit by bit. Which leads me to rods that expand. If you are trying to pull the drape over the expansion joint the drape will snag at this point every time - and the  drape on the side with the smaller diameter rod will hang lower than the other side. 

Of the 12 panels from 5 companies I worked on in one 3 week period, there was a variance in length from one side to the other in 9 of the panels, from 1/2 inch to 2 inches.   Only 2 of the  panels were actually the same measurements as the package stated. None had blind hems and none had corner weights. Eight panels were longer in the center than at the sides. 

I am a member of an  association of people like me across Canada  who operate drapery construction businesses  and the general consensus is that the price of pre-made panels does not indicate the quality of  construction, lining or fabric. Most of the panels we see are made in the Orient and with altering and replacing in a few years there isn’t that much cost saving between these panels and custom made to start with.  

So buy these panels with the understanding that you will be replacing them soon - use them  as stationary panels in the kids playroom or the spare bedroom. Get your sewer to add some trim to customize them and  perhaps pleat them so they function better or look a bit more individual.   I recently  delivered some shortened panels to a client and as I drove down the street I noticed the same panels in another  living room as well.  I hate going to a party and seeing someone in the same dress as me.