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keeping craft alive: spotlight on urban electric

the urban electric co. of charleston, south carolina

We have long relied on Urban Electric Co. for exceptionally crafted lighting fixtures – all bench made to order and to our specifications.  Seeing their company featured in a recent article in Business of Home and learning more about their dedication to nurturing the next generation of artisans makes our support of their company that much stronger.

With thoughtfulness and intention, they recruit artisans from diverse backgrounds and engage them in a 12-18 month apprenticeship program to become craftspeople.  (Currently, half of the 40 craftspeople working in the shop are women.)  Based on their contributions and craft, there’s a clear path to become senior craftspeople and eventually master craftspeople with the company.

This is exactly the approach we need to keep craft alive in our field, and in our country.  We couldn’t be more proud to support Urban Electric and other artisans dedicated to the revitalization of craft.  Join us!

Only the best,

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Urban Electric Co. featured in Business of Home:UE article taste

 UE zoom in of article

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Urban Electric Co.’s Yolanda, at our client’s home overseeing the installation of their fixtures.

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Urban Electric Co.’s fixtures featured in just a few of our many client homes:

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DUNN with taste

Collaborator Spotlight

 

I was so pleased when Studio Dunn asked that I be a guest contributor to their blog.  Asher and his team are a go-to source for us – both for well crafted furnishings and exemplary client service.  We’re pleased to be a DUNN collaborator.  Here’s the interview that appeared on their blog earlier this week…

Only the best,

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1. Please tell us a bit about yourself and your work. 

I first came to design in part due to my great love of color and the decoration of space. Over the last 15 years I have built a full spectrum interiors practice engaged with far more than décor. We focus on the life changes that motivate clients to remake the most fundamental and expressive space in their lives: a home. Whether clients are facing empty nests as children leave, building a new home by the sea, or updating their living space to reflect new visions, taste brings a wealth of resources and a sophistication of experience to create balanced, future-oriented and respectful interiors. Our best work reflects a process of collaboration, analysis and design at every level from the function and mechanical needs of space to its aesthetic character. Change is what draws us; beauty is what we leave behind.

I rely on classical arrangements of rooms, proportion and scale to right a home. Then, introduce modern details like layered lighting and sink-into sofas. As a result, our interiors exude a timeless quality and deliver equal parts comfort and function.

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2. How do you define coastal design? 

Coastal design is no different from other design styles that draw from nature and in doing so, create comfort and a sense of well-being. Making this connection with the external environment grounds us and reminds us that we are part of the larger, natural world. To achieve this on the coast, we rely on textural materials, references to water and a color palette drawn from the outdoors.

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3. Can you share your favorite design/decor elements from past projects? 

Natural materials, reimagined elements and original art are our trifecta we lean on time and time again when creating interiors for our clients. Natural materials often come in the form of stone such as quartzite and bluestone (we rarely use manmade alternatives) and high character wood species. Dunn’s Kingstown Stool is a favorite not only for its beautiful use of walnut, but its honest joinery and organic form.

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Reimagined elements bring a sense of history to a space and evoke positive memories for its inhabitants. For example, I’ll forever love the use of these porcelain art sink brackets on this Kitchen island.

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Lastly, original art always brings originality and a personal connection to our interiors, like this photo that captures a natural wood floor, a repurposed antique chair and original art by Neal Walsh.

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4. Yachts! Tell us about designing for yachts! 

We love designing the interiors of yachts – our newest design venture. While there are many similarities to residential design, there are a few important distinctions.

First, every element of the interior has a functional purpose on a yacht – some seen and some unseen. A loveseat, for example, can double as a handhold through a salon and a way to safely traverse from the galley to the cockpit while heeling. And the edge of a nightstand or table, referred to as the fiddle, helps to keep elements from rolling off surfaces while at sea. Oh and the open base of the sofa you’re imagining? Be sure it can incorporate the myriad of mechanicals that need to be hidden there.

Second, every inch and every surface matters. Creating a luxury interior in a space constrained, moving interior requires extreme precision and a hyper focus on the highest quality hard and soft materials. While a residential home has endless spaces to exude quality, a yacht has far fewer, so make the most of every opportunity to convey quality luxury.

Lastly, the project timeline on a yacht provides little room for error. When it sets sail and departs the shipyard after a project has been completed, its gone and you don’t have the chance to return to make adjustments or deliver that finishing element that was on backorder. Project management is crucial. (True story: We recently had a superstar window treatment installer agree to install during ‘sea trials’ when the boat was at sail and being tested to be sure it was seaworthy. It was crunch time and every hour mattered. Supreme collaborators like him help make the project timeline happen.)

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5. What is one piece of advice you find yourself telling clients on a regular basis? 

If you’re renovating a home, move out during construction. If you’re building and renting a home while your new home is being built, rent a home with a flexible lease. Despite everyone’s best intentions, project timelines get elongated. There are far too many humans involved in the build process to expect otherwise. Mistakes happen. Shipments are delayed. Products fail. Completion dates slip. Living out of the house during a renovation helps to move a project along. It’s the best piece of advice I give, benefiting taste, our collaborators and our appreciative clients.

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6. What is the most challenging aspect of interior design work? 

On any given day, our designers collaborate with 25-30 different builders, tradespeople and artisans. We need to know enough about each craft to maximize and often stretch its potential while always respecting the limitations. Communication and humility are key.

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7. What makes working in Rhode Island a unique experience? 

Hands down, direct access to exceptional craftspeople, artisans and fellow designers. We are so fortunate to have such talent in this state. My particular joy is discovering when your favorite millworker is working with your favorite wood turner and your favorite furniture finisher to complete a custom piece you’ve designed. There’s an active collaboration current always at work in Rhode Island that I’m proud to be a part of.

8. Who do you admire today in the architecture and/or design fields, and what are they doing that you admire? 

I’m a big admirer of Ilse Crawford’s work and design philosophy. She believes design is a powerful force that is often underestimated, misunderstood and trivialized. “It’s a mistake that [interior design] is considered a luxury to be applied if there is money left at the end, rather than an integral part of making and shaping new realities from the outset.” I couldn’t agree more.

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taste furniture in the making

Wendi attends Hickory Chair University

 

North Carolina is home to numerous furniture fabricators, including one of our top choices for fine furnishings, Hickory Chair. This week, taste team member Wendi Dicely-Scalora had the pleasure of attending a unique program for designers. She and designers from across the country spent the week at the Hickory Chair factory to learn about the behind-the-scenes creative process and the craftsmanship put into each piece.

On the experience, Wendi shared, “The opportunity to see up close, the hands-on production of Hickory Chair furniture, reaffirms my belief in the product. Every piece of wood used is carefully selected then crafted by hand, not machine, making each build a highly customizable and unique piece. Hickory Chair compliments taste’s desire to incorporate American-made, hand-crafted and artisan-quality products. They take pride in offering a customizable product to solve almost any need for the client and designer.”

Hickory Chair University allowed Wendi to view the process from prefab (the blueprints of the design) to leg creation, detail specifications, upholstery, base framing, shipping prep and, alas, the beautiful finished piece. She even had the pleasure of seeing the bare bones of one of our clients’ dining chairs before being sent for staining and upholstery.

Enjoy this selection of photos taken during one of Wendi’s facility tours. So much handmade care and detail goes into each piece and I am both pleased and assured that Hickory Chair continues to be a great source for taste and our selections in fine furnishings that will last for generations.

Only the best,

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in good company: george penniman architects

the joy of collaboration

 

 

Even with today’s frigid temperatures, I enjoyed every minute of my first site meeting at a new coastal home project we’re working on with George Penniman Architects.  (Coastal ‘breezes’ in December, no insulation just yet and the polar vortex all made for a slightly limb numbing afternoon.)

George and his associate Catherine (Cat) Young have designed a perfectly scaled second home for our Connecticut clients and their active family, who have summered in the Charlestown, Rhode Island neighborhood for years. With views to the marsh and a short walk to the beach, the house is located in an idyllic coastal neighborhood and carries a skillful design that respects the local community while answering our clients’ wishlist.  Add to that well-considered details inside and out, abundant natural light and ease of flow from interior to exterior spaces, and you have a dream home in the making thanks to Penniman Architects.

And just when you think the project can’t get any better, our thoughtful client arrived today with lunch for the entire crew led by master builder Gardner Woodwrights — a consummate builder if I’ve ever met one.

Snapshots from today’s visit, along with a favorite house designed by Penniman follow below.  I’ll keep you updated as we collaborate on this project in the coming months, in good company and with great pleasure.

Only the best,

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A view into the Kitchen’s breakfast nook.

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The plumbers were on-site today, applying some elbow grease to the project.

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A view into the Sunroom.

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The afternoon sun setting on the Sunroom and Master Bedroom above.

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The front elevation, complete with eyebrow roofline.

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A view to the marsh.

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A completed Penniman project I adore…

 

locally grown

how an abundance of local talent was tapped for this custom cottage

Everyday we are reminded of the deep pools of design and artisan talent that reside in our tiny state.  (Earlier this week, I ran into three local artisans ready to excitedly share news of their newest projects/work during a 10-minute run into the coffee shop for a mid morning tea.  No August vacation time for these busy artisans!).
Many of the artists and craftspeople we work with went to RISD and are (thankfully!) staying in Rhode Island to launch their careers.  Others are coming from New York, realizing that there are contemporaries here with whom to collaborate, while enjoying the lower cost of living and seaside benefits of the Ocean State.   Like any state, we have our issues.  But access to world-class designers and artisans isn’t one of them.
With commitment, I’ve actively developed my working relationships with local artisans and craftspeople for the past 12 years of my business.  And now my fellow taste-designers are doing the same.  It’s become a guiding principal of our practice.
So nothing gives us more pleasure than these words from a client: “I really want to work with as many local craftspeople as possible on this project”.  Amen.  And so we did.
Here’s a pictorial review of this Little Compton, Rhode Island project and a shout out to the local artisans and craftspeople who helped make this interior happen.
Only the best,
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before & after kitchen interior design renovation
Studio Dunn walnut counter stools are pitch perfect in this simple and honest Kitchen.
Big thanks to Stephen Plaud for lending their craftsmanship to the Kitchen cabinetry.
And that’s a Dora Atwater Millikin painting peeking into view on the wall to the right of the Kitchen.
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Our friend David Ellison at Lorimer Workshop contributed his talent and unerring eye to the dining table, living room console and coffee table in the open Living/Dining Room.
We worked, once again, with O&G Studios and arrayed their chairs around the dining table, providing a no-worries approach to summer dining, just in from the beach.
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Lorimer Workshop‘s coffee table nearing completion at their shop.
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The coffee table at home in the Living Room.
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Lorimer Workshop built the console and the grasscloth covered parsons table, to perfection.
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The console at home in the Living Room.
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The restrained and edited O&G Studio‘s Atlantic Lowback chair is perfect in the lower level of the home.
O&G Studio‘s luggage rack is a welcoming and functional accent in the guest room.
Dunes and Duchess designs and creates their line of home accessories in nearby Connecticut.  Our client loves their Lakeside chair in this custom color and poppy upholstery.
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Whetstone Workshop created this newel post cap for us, to punctuate the walnut and stainless steel balustrade.
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Michael Boulay crafted this headboard and nightstand designed by our own Wendi Dicely Scalora.

Many thanks, as always, to the team of pros made this possible. With too many to mention, I’ll include just a few. To all others who contributed, we send our sincere thanks.

taste team members Wendi Dicely-Scalora, Kevin Baker and Ashley Delvecchio

Gibson Building Company, General Contractor

Stephen Plaud, Kitchen Cabinetry

Rustigian Rugs, Living Room Area Rug

Allied Floors, Countertops

Brassworks, Woodstove

Michael Boulay Woodworking, Bedroom Headboard and Nightstands, Sink Vanity (not shown)

Kyle Caldwell, Photography

in good company, a shout-out to Brassworks

A public note of thanks to a Rhode Island company that consistently delivers exceptional quality and personal service.

I have a fantastic client who is a human resources executive at IBM.  While working on her home, our design sessions would inevitably spill over into lively conversations about family, travel and occasionally provide a glimpse into the successful practices IBM uses to nuture its assets – the people who’ve made that company great for the past 100 years.  One of IBM’s practices is to make a shout-out to an employee or group who stands apart from the rest.  While careful to thank everyone for their contributions, I admire this practice of calling attention to an exceptional individual or group.

(I’ve since made shout-outs on my team when someone has gone above and beyond.)

Today I’d like to do the same for Brassworks in Providence, RI.  If you’re a Rhode Islander and have embarked upon a residential construction or renovation project, you’re likely to already know Brassworks.  They are the go-to resource for fireplaces, door hardware, cabinetry hardware and solving tricky problems of just about any kind that have to do with metal fixtures.  And, like an increasingly rarified retailer, they maintain a showroom (!) where you can actually see and touch these parts and pieces that make the finishing difference in a home.

As designers, we appreciate Jeff Nelson and his team for their patience, accuracy, dedication to get it right and all the early morning and late evening emails to help make the details happen.  They are consistently generous with their knowledge and talents and a true pleasure to do business with.  Thanks Jeff, Rhonda, David, Mark, Joe and everyone at Brassworks for your unending collaborative spirit.  At times, our projects would undoubtedly grind to a halt without you.

A sampling of just a few of the many residences we’ve done together follow below.

If you don’t know Brassworks, be sure to visit the showroom where you’ll be warmly greeted and pleasantly surprised with the quality that harkens back to days gone by.

Only the best,

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This Town and Country fireplace insert by Brassworks was the starting point for the design of this fireplace, surround and mantel.

 

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I adore the Chesney fireplace baskets available at Brassworks.  Here, we used the Baird Basket in this historic home.  Brassworks also restored an original, 100 year old fireplace basket found in this home, and retrofitted it to accept gas logs.  We lovingly returned it to the Library fireplace where it originally lived, now supporting gas logs instead of the original wood.

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Leather wrapped drawer and appliance pulls finish this media room Kitchenette perfectly.

 

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And, we continued the theme in the adjacent Powder Room, complete with leather strap towel holder and hooks.

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This Rocky Mountain Hardware sourced from Brassworks finished this outdoor shower we designed perfectly.  Lockable from the inside, the hammered brass with matte finish will weather nicely during coastal summers and stand up against icy winters.

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These oil-rubbed bronze pulls ranged from five inches on cabinet drawers to twelve inches on the cabinetry-front appliances. This provided unity throughout this client’s kitchen and paired nicely with these complimentary knobs.

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Brassworks installed this cylindrical soapstone stove in our client’s coastal home. The stove rotates 180 degrees allowing a great fire view from the Dining area, the Kitchen or the living space. Its soapstone body provides radiant warmth for all to enjoy, in all seasons.