Award-Winning Kitchen Remodel

Last week, we talked to Lauren Levant about her design background and inspiration. Today we’ll hear from Lauren about a recent, NKBA award-winning kitchen remodel that rings true to her town of Pittsburgh.

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From the street, this house looks every bit a handsome, somewhat traditional home that you would find in any suburban neighborhood in America. The landscaping is neat and tidy, the neighbors wave hello as they walk their dogs and meet the kids at the school bus. In this case, this couple had just sent their last kid off to college and were easing into empty nester life – but the neighborhood and the relationships they’d formed there were enough to dissuade them from leaving the family homestead behind.

The challenge for me as a designer then became to somehow transform this traditional, uninspired kitchen/living space into a much more stylish and exciting one to help celebrate this new phase of life. As you can see in the before photo, this was a fairly small space with a cramped, inefficient layout. The clients craved a bright, breezy space, conducive to entertaining, and full of visually exciting details. They wanted to be sure that beyond improving the form and function of the space, that this renovation would also add energy and interest to their daily life.

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Two major adjustments proved to be the key to everything:

  1. Relocate the garage entry door. This allowed for the addition of a continuous wall of cooking equipment and storage, compensating well for the next step…
  2. Add a series of large sliding glass doors, opening up to the pool area. This may have been the biggest “wow” moment. Everyone would swear that we added square footage, but we didn’t. Keeping your eyes moving through the glass makes it feel that the room doubled in size when it hasn’t. Game changer.

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Now for more details… Last week, I mentioned that one of the kitchen design trends that I love is the mixing of unique metals. In this case, we used a hot-rolled, natural steel hood, created by a local metal artist. Pittsburgh is Steel City, after all. I love how the natural waxed finish allows the metal to show off its natural mill-scaled patina of blues and grays. It sets off the gorgeous Monogram range beautifully. In between those two metals, the backsplash area is paneled in glass, edge-lit by embedded LED lights. This little trick not only looks sexy, but it also enables the client to have notes and recipes written with a wax pencil, which adds some more energy and fun.

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Quartz countertops in white provide a lot of light-bouncing from the view of the pool area, which helps to fill the space with even more light. Most of the time people don’t think of countertops as a light source, but in this case, they are. The cabinetry is done in a modern, textured laminate finish, which adds some contrast from the other glossy surfaces. The secondary wall of storage at the rear of the space is designed at 3⁄4 height, creating a feeling of openness and interest, and making a transition to the third level – a massive center island. Storage is incredibly important in an open kitchen plan, and in our case, we used every available inch to create areas that are functional and easy to keep up with. I mean, who doesn’t love a hidden coffee bar?

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Using high-quality products, particularly appliances, is key to a project that works just as well as it looks. I enjoy using Monogram’s technology and quality whenever I have the opportunity because it helps to reinforce the high standards that I try to emulate as a design professional. These clients are cooking, entertaining, and living in this kitchen, and I feel great knowing that with such a well-equipped new space, they’ll be enjoying this space for many years to come.

In last week’s conversation, I mentioned a recent kitchen renovation in Pittsburgh that had snagged two first place NKBA design awards nationally this year. I’m glad to have the chance to share photos of this project this week – because I think it highlights so many of the things that kitchen design should aspire to be about in the coming years. Designers aren’t always lucky enough to have clients who trust them enough to sign on for ideas that push the limits of a space physically and visually, but in this case, the courage and faith of these empty nesters helped me to transform their modest sized kitchen entirely.

 

Photos: Dave Bryce Photography, courtesy of Lauren Levant Interior

Designer Profile: Lauren Levant

Our Monogram team met and fell in love with designer Lauren Levant. Lauren is an up-and-coming, award-winning designer, and today we get to talk to her about her design background, projects, and inspiration.

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SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

I became interested in design indirectly at a very early age.  I studied fine art (drawing, painting, sculpture, and photography) avidly from the time I was seven years old.  By the time I was in high school, I had become fairly accomplished in the fine arts, and everyone expected me to go on to study art professionally.  But before I headed to college, I realized that I wanted to channel my creative energies into a more collaborative, dynamic platform that would keep me interacting with other people’s ideas every day.  I also wanted to know that my work would make a measurable impact on others on a daily basis, and help them to live their best lives.  The idea of creating artistic environments that people could live in became an answer to those things for me, and so I decided to earn my degree in Interior Architecture/Design.  After thirteen years working in the industry, I feel lucky every day to have made this my career and my calling.

SRFD: Tell us about a recent project.

I was fortunate to find that my move to Pittsburgh four years ago provided an opportunity to grow as a designer and business woman.  I had been working in Connecticut, New York, and DC before then, and I wasn’t sure what the appetite for interior design would be in Pittsburgh before I arrived.  Once here, I was thrilled with the excitement and support for my work that I found in this community.  I have been involved in several exciting projects since moving, but my favorites are the ones where I have the chance to collaborate with local artists and craftsmen, and Pennslyvania is a rich, fertile ground for that talent.  One such recent kitchen design collaboration featured a large, rolled steel cooking mantle, fabricated for the ventilation of a large Monogram range.  The mottled blue markings of the steel hood are organic yet modern, and it gave this kitchen a unique touch that has a lot of meaning in our “Steel City” context here in Pittsburgh.  It was gratifying to know that the clients are loving their new space, and it was also an honor to see this project receive two 1st place design awards this spring from the National Kitchen & Bath Association.

SRFD: What do you enjoy about working with Monogram?

One of the things I enjoy most about working with Monogram is the attention to detail – both in design and technology.  The line features pieces that are consistently at the forefront of innovation.  The smart cooking technologies in products like the Advantium ovens, or the Bluetooth-enabled induction cooktops make it possible for chefs of all ability levels to make incredible food consistently in their kitchens.  They also instill confidence for cooks to try new cooking techniques.  One of my favorite Monogram gadgets is the Bluetooth attachment for Sous Vide.  I had the opportunity to try this out myself in the Monogram center at Chicago Merchandise Mart, and it convinced me that everyone should try, learn, and love cooking in the Sous Vide technique.  Monogram’s technology makes it safe, easy and delicious every time – and that’s worth a lot to me and to my clients.

SRFD: What’s a design trend you love?

One of the design trends that I love right now is the mixing of materials – particularly multiple metals.  Stainless is still king in the kitchen – but I’m loving the way multiple finishes are being mixed together successfully, and enriching the kitchen experience.  Blackened steel, aged brass, bronze, nickel, and zinc – all finishes that can be blended and worked into a balanced design.  It started with decorative hoods, hardware, and plumbing – but these days, natural metals are also making their way into cabinetry, countertops, and open shelving.  I look forward to seeing more of this mixed material approach in kitchen design in the years to come.

SRFD: What’s a design trend you’re over?

One of the trends I’m ready to let go of is the wood planking trend – which has become fairly pervasive at this point.  In residential projects, as well as in restaurants and bars – it seems like everything is getting planked and distressed to death.  I loved the idea initially – but I think at this point, I’m ready to move on.  Let’s not leave behind natural wood – but most of us do not live in a barn – so let’s keep looking for new, interesting and authentic ways to use it in projects in the future.

Google Assistant Voice Control Comes to Monogram® Ultra Premium Appliances

Monogram® connected appliances just got smarter, making multitasking even easier with its connected appliances integration with Google Assistant. That’s important, as the 2016 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study reported that 33 percent of homeowners are choosing new kitchen appliances with tech features like connectivity.

“Consumers with high-end kitchens are looking for personalization of their appliances,” said Michael Mahan, general manager for Monogram. “Integrating our Monogram suite of connected appliances with Google Assistant makes it easier for owners to control their appliances and adds an element of fun to their daily routines.”

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Monogram® offers a complete suite of kitchen appliances that integrates with Google Assistant

Last year, Monogram integrated its connected appliances with Amazon’s Alexa using its Geneva skill. Now, with Google Assistant integration, consumers can control their Monogram appliances by simply saying, “Ok Google, ask Geneva Home to set the oven timer for 10 minutes,” which will tell the connected oven to set its timer. A few other skills include:

  • “Ok Google, ask Geneva Home to turn on Sabbath mode”
  • “Ok Google, ask Geneva Home if the dishes are clean”
  • “Ok Google, ask Geneva Home to preheat the oven to 350 degrees”

Available today, the entire Monogram connected suite of kitchen appliances will integrate with Google Assistant enabled Google Home.

Learn more about Monogram appliances and Google Assistant in the press release.

Lake House Kitchen Remodel

Following up on last week’s profile of designer Nancy Blandford, we’re including Nancy’s story of her most recent kitchen remodel.

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My clients had just purchased this wonderful lake house. The kitchen, dining, and living spaces are open and face the lake.

The new owners requested an update to get rid of the orange woodwork, the faux painted sky ceiling, and all the murals and painted tiles.

They also questioned the “why” of the angles on the existing kitchen. The home had been remodeled in the early ’80s. I was pretty sure it was just a designer being clever since nothing else in the home was angled.

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Since the kitchen is the backdrop of the living and dining room, the room needed to fit in without dominating. I was able to straighten out the angles. We kept the existing pantry and hid the refrigerator/freezer behind cabinet doors by using two 30” Monogram appliances side-by-side framed by ovolo posts. The 48” Monogram range and hood were centered on the wall space that remained. On either side of the range are wide, deep drawers.

The island is home to a Monogram microwave drawer (hidden on the back side of the island), pull-out trash and recycling bins, a Native Trails curved farmhouse sink, a cabinet front dishwasher, and large, deep drawers for dishes. The backside of the island is raised with furniture-piece cabinets on both ends and four wide, comfy stools tucked into the center.

The island cabinets were painted a custom blue with black brushing. The remaining cabinetry was painted white with a pewter highlight.

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We took the existing hutch space and made it into a dry bar with leaded glass doors above and a Monogram Bar Refrigerator.

We used a honed onyx white quartz countertop with an ogee edge.

The ceiling was painted a deep navy and glazed with silver. In the center of the raised ceiling, we hung a chandelier that when lit, makes the ceiling glow.

And for the finishing touch — what I like to call the jewelry — we used polished nickel oversized handles and a polished nickel bridge faucet.

 

Designer Profile: Nancy Blandford

A couple weeks ago, the Monogram team was contacted by an amazing designer, Nancy Blandford. She shared with us a recent kitchen remodel that she’d just completed with Monogram. Her design work was so beautiful that we had to feature her on our blog. Check out Nancy’s designer profile and learn more about her business, Built In Design. Next week, we’ll talk to Nancy more in-depth about her recent kitchen remodel. Stay tuned!

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SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

I grew up in the 70’s loving to create. I made clothing out of old jeans and flour sacks, repurposing before it was cool. I also loved to paint and draw. I wanted to go to art school, but my parents had a home furnishings store and pushed me to go into Interior Design. Looking back, I am happy that they led me that direction. I have never grown tired of helping my clients discover their design aesthetic. I believe it is important to first get to know my clients and how they use their space and then design something unique that works for them.

SRFD: Tell us about your recent kitchen project.

Most of my work is from referrals and from projects I have posted on Houzz or Pinterest. I had a client recently contact me from projects I had posted on both sites, and she hired me to do her lake house. I was her “boots on the ground” while she was back home. We had weekly FaceTime meetings so that she could watch the project progress. 

She would pin photos of things she liked and wanted to incorporate into her kitchen. I would send her sketches of different options, and together we designed her space. She described her style for this home as “Country French”, but not shabby. I would relabel it as “Elegant French”. I took her clever angled 1980’s kitchen and cleaned up the lines. Since the kitchen was front and center in the dining living space, it needed to fit in and serve without dominating.

SRFD: What’s a design trend you’re over?

Her existing kitchen was the epitome of passe` design! I am so over angles just for the sake of angles. I am also over orange wood tones. 

SRFD: What’s a design trend you’re excited about?

I am excited about the options appliance manufacturers are coming up with. I love, love, love the Monogram 30” Integrated Refrigerator! I was able to put two together and give my clients what they needed for food storage, and it looks like a beautiful piece of furniture. I also like microwave drawers, being able to hide it somewhat. Now if someone could engineer a microwave with a panel front, and while they are at it, make a reversible hinge door.

Photographer, Designer and General Contractor

Following up on last week’s profile of photographer and designer Jamie Sangar, we wanted to learn a little more about her background and most recent project – her own home.

Photography: Jamie Sangar

As a little girl, I never imagined myself being a general contractor.  General contractors carry tape measures and wear hard hats. I was going to wear tutus and make-up. In my wildest imagination I never guessed that general contractors could do both!

When my husband and I decided we wanted to build a modern, energy-efficient home in Indianapolis, Indiana, our options for homebuilders were pretty slim, to say the least. In a market with much more conservative taste overall, and neighborhood homeowner’s associations that have a tight hold on architectural styles, the challenge was real trying to find the perfect land that would allow us to have neighbors, since we aren’t the country-dwelling type, as well as the design freedom to build a modern home. So, before even getting started on the land search, we knew we were up against two major roadblocks.

Thankfully, we were pleasantly surprised to quickly find the perfect land. It’s as if fate was on our side. We knew that our next step was to find the perfect architect. Even though we are both artists (my husband, a Visual Effects Supervisor, and me, a photographer by trade) and can easily visualize and design things on our own, we put the upmost value in hiring an architect, that could not only design a functional home based around the way that we live, but also, build a home that fit the land. We lucked out with lots of tall, mature trees, and a hill that our house would set atop—all things that we wanted to help dictate our home design, rather than knock-down, flatten, and plop a house on top of.

Photography: Jamie Sangar

After meeting with three different architects, we chose to work with Jason Wolfe at Demerly Architects, who was the perfect match for us in terms of style, personality and being willing to work with, what some would consider, a tough budget for a custom home that offers some high-end technology and appliances. He had ideas on where to save money to help offset those luxuries we weren’t willing to give up.

After having our plans priced with two local builders, and feeling frustrated by the price that came back both times, we decided that if we were going to make our dreams a reality, we were going to have to get our hands dirty. And by “dirty,” I mean, take on the responsibility of being the general contractor on our build.

I managed the day to day progress, scheduling the sub-contractors, managing material deliveries, working with our lender, meeting with potential subs, getting quotes, keeping the job site clean, hiring and firing, all while managing a full-time photography business and two children.

Photography: Jamie Sangar

Our exterior walls are SIPs panels (structural insulated panels) built by Thermocore, which means that not only is our home very insulated and energy-efficient, it meant that our walls were built indoors in a factory, unexposed to the weather elements, and then delivered on two semis to the job site. A crane and a framing crew would then set the walls, which drastically cut down on framing labor and time. So within days, our home had a roof and we were ready for the rough-in stage.

Photography: Jamie Sangar

Next was the fun part. That’s when all of the finishes and final design came into play! I knew I wanted to be minimal but warm and inviting, sleek but introduce textures, and add pops of color through furnishings rather than with wall or tile colors. The palette was simple; white walls, polished chrome finishes, black windows and maple hardwoods.

Photography: Jamie Sangar

The most important room to us was the kitchen. I love hosting, cooking and entertaining, so our main “splurge” was our kitchen appliances. An example of finding ways to offset the cost of our commercial-grade kitchen “must haves” was to design and build our own cabinets from Ikea. Ikea’s white glossy lacquer cabinets were the clean and efficient look we were going for!

Photography: Jamie Sangar

I’ve always had a passion for interior and architectural design. It’s just something that’s in my blood and I’ve followed for years through social media outlets, magazines, and in stores. But the most fun and applicable way for me to put that knowledge to use was by building our own home.  With this home, unlike our last home, I wanted a clean and modern neutral palette. Our last home had lots of color incorporated by different colored painted walls. My plan with this house, however, was to incorporate color with furnishings, while keeping the floors and walls neutral. This has allowed for a consistent look and feel throughout the entire house, while each room has a unique flair based on the furnishings.

Photography: Jamie Sangar

I especially have a love of mid-century modern design, so while our home is brand new, those same ideals were used in the design of our home. The idea that large expanses of glass be used to bring the outdoors inside, with a large open floor plan concept, we’ve topped that idea off with lots of mid-century modern furniture and decor. Another goal with the design of the interiors was to be as minimal as possible, while still being comfortable. An example of this is designing our closets so that our dressers fit inside there, rather than in the bedrooms. This allows for more floor space and less surfaces that likely end up finding clutter, and not to mention, dust. We also chose wall-mounted vanities in every bathroom to give the illusion that the rooms are larger than they are, by being able to see the floor underneath. The same is true for our master bedroom with floating nightstands. From an exterior standpoint, we chose a front door that is one that you would’ve seen in the 1950s, and we chose to make it orange, to contrast our two-toned grey siding.

Photography: Jamie Sangar

Now that we’ve gotten comfortable in our new home, I decided to carry on with my design passion, and start Mod Abode. I view Mod Abode as a blend of all of my passions; photography, design and architecture! It also gets me involved in a social media community that shares those same interests. I get to take pretty photos of design elements and credit those who are responsible for designing or carrying such cool things in their stores. I am not quite sure where Mod Abode might lead me, but my hope is that new doors open that let me expand upon the things I’m always eager to learn more about.

Photography: Jamie Sangar

Photography: Jamie Sangar

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Designer Profile: Jamie Sangar

The Monogram team came across a photo designer and photographer Jamie Sangar shared on her Instagram account earlier this year and were so impressed by her design aesthetic, we needed to learn more! Today we’re sharing Jamie’s path to design and her company, Mod Abode. Next week we will feature her gorgeous kitchen.

SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

Jamie: Regardless of whether you believe in the myth of people being either right-brain dominant or left-brain dominant, I think we can all agree upon the fact that some people are just born with certain talents. Everybody has their own unique talent, but it’s up to them to discover it and apply it in a real world scenario. The definition of “talent” is “natural aptitude or skill.” In other words, someone was born that way. I have always loved design for as long as I can remember. My style preferences weren’t learned from my parents, it’s just something that I always had a flair for. It wasn’t until after college, where I graduated with a Marketing degree from Miami University, that I got to professionally enter a creative environment. First starting my career in advertising, where I was an account executive for big brands, acting as the middleman between the artists and the client, I got my first taste of the creative world. The environment was awesome to be a part of. Halfway through my 3.5 year stint at the ad agency, I started a photography business on the side. After seeing quick growth and repeat customers, while also consistently gaining new customers, I realized that there just weren’t enough hours in the day to complete both jobs at 100% effort. So I decided to take a leap of faith and pursue my photography career full-time. That was 11 years ago and I couldn’t be happier to be making my own rules as I go, meeting new clients along the way, and continually surrounding myself with creativity! That interest has always been there from an interior and architectural design standpoint, but I never tried applying it professionally. So, I thought, what the heck, and Mod Abode was born. It is a blend of all of my creative passions; photography, design and architecture. I get to take pretty photos of design elements and credit those who are responsible for designing or carrying such cool things in their stores. I am not quite sure where Mod Abode might lead me, but my hope is that new doors open that let me expand upon the things I’m always eager to learn more about.

SRFD: Tell us about your recent kitchen project.

Jamie: The number one, most important room to me, as we were designing and planning the build of our new home, was the kitchen! I love cooking, hosting and entertaining, so I wanted to put a lot of thought into the layout, the design, and most importantly the appliances and technology! Because we were working with, what some would consider, a tough budget in the custom home realm, we knew that the build process was going to be a relationship of give and take. Aren’t all solid relationships about give and take?! We knew that we weren’t willing to backdown on the commercial grade appliances that we had researched and tested-out, so an example of a “give” was to take on some of the kitchen building labor, and build our own Ikea cabinets. They were always the look we wanted, white and glossy, but sure, we could’ve saved ourselves a bunch of time and effort if we had gone with another custom (expensive) brand. But that was one example of us not backing-down to what we felt was important in our kitchen. We chose a Wolf induction cooktop, a Wolf wall oven, a 48” Subzero refrigerator freezer, and a Monogram Advantium wall oven! While the kitchen is not huge, it is very functional for the way that we live in it. It is also designed with 180 degrees of window views overlooking Geist Reservoir in the distance and woods to the side of our property. Not only does the daylight keep the kitchen bright and airy, but the beautiful views help create a warm environment, for not only us, but our friends that we enjoy hosting.

SRFD: A trend you’re over?

Jamie: I almost hate to point-out a trend that I personally do not gravitate towards, because I know that many people don’t prefer my taste. (So, feel free to punch holes in the way I like to design, ha)! However, if there’s one trend that I feel has been used over and over again for years, it’s gotta be the distressed, eclectic, shabby chic look, with mismatched furniture, mismatched fabrics and patterns, combined with distressed everything!

SRFD: A trend you’re excited about:

Not a trend, but a style I obsess over, is bringing the outdoors inside. In fact, that’s a really old idea of mid-century modern style. If you’re remodeling an existing home, you’re definitely limited by window size if you’re not into cutting larger window openings, and making sure appropriate engineering and headers are in place. However, there are some things you can do to help achieve more of this look without a hefty price tag. Simple things like removing the grilles from your windows will completely open up the room and give the illusion of letting more light in. If you have the opportunity to buy new windows, consider something like casement windows that allow you to open up to the outdoors. Consider brands with small, minimal trim/mullions to keep the look minimal, but the daylight to a maximum.

For new construction, it’s definitely easier to plan for these types of things. Think about incorporating a large window expanse towards a pretty and private part of your property. Higher-end window brands have even engineered moveable window walls, that actually allow you to open up to the outdoors, making you feel at one with nature. So while this is certainly not a new trend, it’s one that I feel should be placed at the top of the “must have” list!

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Hotel Room of the Future Winners Announced

Earlier this year two rule-breaking Louisville-based companies and Monogram partners, 21c Museum Hotels and FirstBuild, joined forces to transform the hotel guest experience through The Hotel Room of the Future Challenge. They asked designers, makers, engineers, artists and more to submit their inventive, functional designs to create the ultimate hotel stay. After receiving dozens of submissions and spending countless hours evaluating each and every idea, the judges (with the help of community voting) have come to a conclusion.

Curious about the winners? Visit the FirstBuild blog to learn about the winners and their exciting concepts.

 

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Designer Profile: Garrison Hullinger

The Chicago Monogram Design Center (MDC) brings designers to Chicago, Illinois, for two-day experiences to learn about Monogram, the design process, our appliances – and even cook with them! We interviewed each designer to learn a little more about their background and design experiences. Today we’re featuring Garrison Hullinger with Garrison Hullinger Interior Design based in Portland, Oregon.

SRFD: How did you become interested in design?

Garrison: When I was a kid, my father worked for my uncle, who was a custom home builder. My brother and I would get dragged along to the job sites and I was always fascinated during lunch time to watch them draw out plans on napkins. That interest in remodeling and design has been a part of my entire adult life. My husband and I have remodeled numerous homes over the years, and many times I would get asked by friends and neighbors to help them with their design projects. I was always reluctant to help others, knowing I didn’t have the formal training. I finally took the dive in 2010 and started my design firm in the attic of my home and hired a young lady who had been laid off from a huge firm during the great recession. She had the technical skills and I had the ideas. I hired three more part-time employees and finally, neighbors and others could hire me for their design work.

SRFD: Tell us about a recent project you really enjoyed.

Garrison: I’m really excited about a remodel project that we’re doing for a couple who bought the home a few years ago. The home was built in 1971 by Bob Rummer, whose homes are influenced by the Joe Eichler homes of Northern California. The home has a central covered atrium and all the rooms connect to the central core of the home, bringing a lot of daylight into the home. The owners have asked us to bring the home into the twenty-first century. We’re expanding the master closet, updating the bathrooms, creating a laundry niche (with doors off the hallway) and a completely new design for the kitchen. Amid all this change, we have made a very conscious decision to make sure none of the original concrete floors throughout the entire home are touched.

SRFD: A trend you’re over?

Garrison: I’d really like to see the accent wall in a room go away, though I don’t mind a feature wall. I’d much rather see someone go the extra mile and add wallpaper, shiplap, or reclaimed wood to a wall than simply paint it an obscure color they found on a paint chip at the hardware store.

SRFD: A trend you’re excited about?

Garrison: Mixing metals. I’m so happy that clients are really understanding my desire to mix metals in a space – if everything is brushed chrome you’re more likely to hate it in a few years, but if you allow me to mix in some black, polished chrome, and even a little copper it will stay fresh much longer and won’t leave a time stamp on the project.

SRFD: What did you learn during the Monogram Designer Training Session in Chicago?

Garrison: I learned so many great things about cooking with induction cooktops while attending the Monogram Designer Training session. I was able to cook on the induction cooktop and see how much faster it heats up than the gas range and how much easier it is to regulate the temperature. It was so intuitive – and that’s saying a lot for someone who doesn’t cook much. Thank you again for the opportunity to spend several days in your gorgeous showroom in Chicago and to learn from the Monogram team.

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