Interior Design tips

Best Uses for a Basement by Sharon Blaustein

A basement, or cellar-level room, can present a real challenge for designers. They often don't have windows, you may have to navigate around the boiler or other mechanical equipment, and they may have lower ceilings with ducts or overhanging pipes. All of these can be tricky to create a comfortable environment, but we don't believe in wasting space, especially in New York City, and there are tricks you can use to turn this room into a welcoming and useful area. Here are some of our favorite uses for the lower levels of your home! 

Bright Ideas

Without windows, people will often get the impression that a space is smaller and it can immediately feel claustrophobic. The best way to try to counteract this feeling is by bringing in the right amount and style of lights. Recessed lighting installed in the ceilings are a great choice, as this will help to give an impression of a loftier space and will save floor space for other uses. They are also less obtrusive than track lighting, but that can be another good option if you want to have the freedom to move lights around.

We prefer to use LED lights in many of our projects and they are an especially good fit for basements. They emit a lot of light, but they are more energy efficient and give off less heat than traditional incandescent bulbs. We also recommend installing a dimmer with any lights you go for, so you can adjust the settings based on the use. You can also read more of our tips on making a small space look bigger to get other ideas for the overall design of your basement! 

Adjustable LED light designed for recessed installation.

Adjustable LED light designed for recessed installation.

The Modern Rec Room

A recreation room is a classic choice for a basement. It's been a recurring hang-out spot in many television shows and movies, and it's a definitely a popular option for families. However, instead of allowing your knick knacks and excess furniture to accumulate, going into the task of designing this room with a theme and plan of action will allow for a much more cohesive and aesthetically pleasing effect. 

The infamous basement from That 70's Show is probably a pretty accurate depiction of the average family basement.

The infamous basement from That 70's Show is probably a pretty accurate depiction of the average family basement.

We take a minimalist approach in our basement designs. Being selective with the furniture that you use will help to keep the space feel more open and more enticing to spend time in. While it may be tempting to keep any extra boxes, seasonal supplies, or whatever else in your basement, nobody wants to hang out in your storage center! If you don't have anywhere else to keep certain items, try to keep things very organized and boxes out of sight, and you can still achieve a modern and welcoming rec room.

An artistic wallpaper, well-appointed lights with the addition of a mirror and some greenery are all making this an ideal space for entertaining and relaxing.

An artistic wallpaper, well-appointed lights with the addition of a mirror and some greenery are all making this an ideal space for entertaining and relaxing.

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Another fantastic idea that we love for a basement is turning it into a screening room! While inviting guests to a showing at your personal movie theater might sound like a classy evening, this project is actually not much more of an undertaking than any other basement renovation. If you have enough space, you can also section off a smaller section to use for a screening room with pressurized walls.

These days, there are so many options for projectors at any range of price and display, you can absolutely find one that suits your needs and budget. Painting the walls a dark color and installing carpet or an area rug will help with the acoustics. Seating should be comfortable, but that and all other design elements to make it more cozy are up to your tastes! One detail that is also a popular choice is bringing in a vintage popcorn maker for a fun nostalgia feel along with a tasty snack.

Instead of artwork or photography, we framed vintage movie posters in this basement renovation for an authentic theater impression.

Instead of artwork or photography, we framed vintage movie posters in this basement renovation for an authentic theater impression.

A Space to Relax

The most important thing about the basement is for it to serve a purpose that suits your lifestyle. If nothing calms you down more than organizing your thousands of shoes, then turn your basement into your own personal foot locker! However, we also think that a yoga studio is an inspired transformation for your basement (and your life) and can offer a wonderful space to breathe.

For any kind of workout facility, you want to be certain that the room is properly ventilated, and this is especially true in a basement. They are very prone to issues with moisture and it's important to consult with a contractor before beginning any renovation to ensure that the space is well-insulated and safe for any use. There are also humidity sensors, which you can program to send you alerts if the levels are ever rising.

Paint the walls a color that will help you relax (we love shades of gray), install a laminate flooring (or you can also opt for real wood if you're feeling confident in the humidity levels), hang some mirrors and you're ready to dive into a flow! Another great aspect of a yoga studio is that you can always pull everything up and reuse the room for different purposes should the need ever arise.

Feeling inspired by this compact and simple studio space at Studio iO in Brighton. 

Feeling inspired by this compact and simple studio space at Studio iO in Brighton. 

Our Powder Room Ideas by Sharon Blaustein

A powder room is one of those rooms in your house that are private, but not really... Visitors will see the inside when they're in your home, but it isn't a room that needs to necessarily go with the rest of the decor. It’s a great space in the house where you can feel free to show off and have a little fun! 

No matter the size of the room, you can get it decorated and make a statement where it really matters.

Here are some decorating ideas to help inspire you and make your powder room shine!

Bring Your Walls to Life

If you're a regular reader of our blog, you know that we're big fans of wallpaper! The truth is, there is a never-ending variety of wallpapers you can choose from, it's all a question of what impression you want to make. For a glamorous, unique, and super luxury look, you could go with something like this Mother of Pearl wallpaper, which is made using genuine seashells by Maya Romanoff. It's got texture, iridescence and a cool backstory! 

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Another fun and relevant wallpaper (wink wink) is this lovely textured pattern Yesterday’s News made by Innovations USA. This material comes in a variety of shades, and is made with recycled newspaper. So the statement that you'll be making is not only one-of-a-kind, it's also sustainable! 

We love the dignified effect that the unique block pattern of this wallpaper gives to this home office, but we think it would also work great in the close quarters of a powder room! 

We love the dignified effect that the unique block pattern of this wallpaper gives to this home office, but we think it would also work great in the close quarters of a powder room! 

If you want to go really funky go with something bold and colorful like this Cocobolo print from Flavor Paper. It's designed by San Francisco artist Rex Ray who was famed for using psychedelic color palettes and a retro aesthetic. This exciting pattern leaves a lot open to interpretation, and would definitely be something you could get lost in contemplation over! 

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Sink or Swim

While powder rooms are often times one of the smallest rooms in the house, we think that if you have the space, investing in a nontraditional sink is a great time to take a risk and try something different. Imagine as though you're designing your dream powder room. It can express whatever you would like, the important thing is to have go with whatever style appeals to you, whether that is modern, vintage, or totally unique! 

We loved designing this powder room, the basin sink surrounded by beautiful wood wall tiles result in a tranquil, almost zen effect. Bathroom designed by ODA Architecture

We loved designing this powder room, the basin sink surrounded by beautiful wood wall tiles result in a tranquil, almost zen effect. Bathroom designed by ODA Architecture

This powder room in an updated Colonial home below ties together all of these elements, using a deep basin sink with a subtly-patterned wallpaper. We also installed the hardware directly into the wall, which combined with the dark wood completes the overall modern effect.

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Here's another example of a sleek and contemporary powder room inspiration, this freestanding pedestal sink by Blu Bathworks would definitely make a memorable impression! 

We love the geometries at play in this powder room. Photo courtesy of Blu Bathworks.

We love the geometries at play in this powder room. Photo courtesy of Blu Bathworks.

Let Your Lights Be Brilliant

Another fixture that you can take this opportunity to go a little off the wall is with the light sources that you select. Powder rooms can make a great home for that quirky chandelier you couldn't live without, or to bring in a statement ceiling light that ties the rest of the room together. 

The chevron tiles in this powder room and natural stone panels give it a refined vintage look, which is complemented by the globe lighting fixtures. Design by ODA Architecture

The chevron tiles in this powder room and natural stone panels give it a refined vintage look, which is complemented by the globe lighting fixtures. Design by ODA Architecture

It may look like a mermaid's dream but this powder room is actually located in a Manhattan home, designed by Michael S. Smith and featuring a lantern by  Paul Marra Design

It may look like a mermaid's dream but this powder room is actually located in a Manhattan home, designed by Michael S. Smith and featuring a lantern by Paul Marra Design

Feeling inspired and ready to dive into renovating your powder room? We wish you all the luck in bringing your vision to life, and of course feel free to contact us with any design questions! 

High End Staging Secrets by Sharon Blaustein

Whether you are a real estate broker or a homeowner who has sold your own home, you probably have heard about home staging services. Whether or not you're a believer in the magical results some stagers may promise, here are a few of our favorite tips and insider tricks to help you understand the strategy behind staging your home! 

While there are plenty of great articles about the benefits of staging your home, the main objective is simply to make your home appealing to as broad of an audience as possible. A home is a very personal space by definition, so not everybody might be amused by your novelty mug collection or wacky taste in wallpaper. The right home staging can transform a stale or empty listing into a modern, serene space that potential buyers will fall in love with.

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The Secret

The number one trick for success is not to make the space look “staged”. Our job is to make the prospective purchasers feel immediately at home and to help them imagine themselves living there. So it's all about selling a life style!

In our interior design portfolio, we prefer to use a toned-down palette, and this is especially the case with staging projects. We use shades of greys, taupes and natural woods to create an atmosphere that is elegant and impressive but still feels warm. We bring in pops of color through the curated accessories and art.

Books books books!

Books add a lot of warmth and character to a home without feeling overly personal, and they can make a great decoration tool. We love using them in a bookcase, obvious as that may seem, but they also are a finishing touch on a coffee or bedside table. Occasionally, we source them by their color for an aesthetically pleasing effect. There are some vendors who sell by shape, color or size such as Books By The Foot, which is a great resource if you're selecting texts to fit a specific look.

These books were selected and organized in a way that would convey a sense of the personality of the fictional owner that was the inspiration for this  building .

These books were selected and organized in a way that would convey a sense of the personality of the fictional owner that was the inspiration for this building.

The Very Important Bar Cart!

A stylish modern bar cart fully equipped with actual bottles, wine glasses, a crystal decanter and bar accessories is a great addition to any dining or living room. It's that subtle hint towards things to come; indulging in a fantasy of entertaining in your beautiful new home with your loved ones. 

It's a great way to tie together a room in a way that looks believable, and bar carts can come in such a variety of styles, it won't be difficult to find one that complements the rest of your decor or makes a bold eclectic statement. Not to mention, if you keep it stocked with the good stuff, you'll be fully prepared to enjoy a celebratory toast once your sale is finalized! 

 

While all of the elements in this  Hudson Square Penthouse  call to mind elegant living, the bar cart is an opportunity to include lifelike details to complete the scene. this  bar cart from RH  is one of our favorites!

While all of the elements in this Hudson Square Penthouse call to mind elegant living, the bar cart is an opportunity to include lifelike details to complete the scene. this bar cart from RH is one of our favorites!

A Bed That's Just Right

To create the perfect bedroom, we like to use modern upholstered beds with a low headboard. Selecting soft luxurious bedding is also an important step to creating the perfect layered look that invites you to unwind in. Materials and thread count matter, don't use anything that you wouldn't feel comfortable sleeping on yourself!  We then add lighting and accessories next to the bed to personalize the space. Books, candles and a beautiful framed picture will make the buyer feel right at home.

Using the right neutral color palette can contribute to a warm atmosphere, which is especially important in a bedroom.

Using the right neutral color palette can contribute to a warm atmosphere, which is especially important in a bedroom.

Bathrooms

Easy to overlook, these spaces need to get attention as well. While there is usually less space for personal touches than in other rooms, the details all make a difference for the overall perception of a home. Soft towels, luxurious soaps and scent diffusers will all appeal to the buyers. Candles and a loofah can be placed on a ledge of the tub to complete the spa-like experience. And of course, absolute cleanliness is a necessity! 

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Outdoor Space is Not to be Taken Lightly! 

If your home or apartment has a rooftop, terrace or a garden you should celebrate it! It will be an important factor in anybody's biggest purchase and has the potential to be a very attractive feature that will differentiate your property. Landscaping is important, being sure to keep in mind what will work with your climate and not be too much regular upkeep while your home is on the market. We always prefer the clean lines of modern outdoor furniture, RH Modern makes the chairs pictured below, and then we add throw pillows in vibrant prints to brighten everything up. Don't forget the finishing touches, such as a colorful tray with a pitcher and glasses, and you've curated the perfect outdoor experience just begging for its next inhabitants to enjoy!

You can go a little more wild selecting colors for an outdoor space, but always be sure to keep in mind the local weather, and select materials accordingly.

You can go a little more wild selecting colors for an outdoor space, but always be sure to keep in mind the local weather, and select materials accordingly.

Purchasing a home is oftentimes the largest investment a person or family will make. While there are many opinions and personal stories out there, both good and bad, about using staging services for your home, creating a space that people can visualize themselves living in undeniably important. We wish you all the best with your sale, and we hope that these tips have helped! If you'd like to learn more about our staging services please feel free to contact us!

Picking the Perfect Accent Chair by Sharon Blaustein

Feeling ready to refresh your space, but don’t have the time or desire to commit to a full redesign or renovation? Never fear, there are lots of design tips that you can use to energize your home in the meantime! One of our favorite (and fastest) ways to bring some new life into a room is to add a fun accent chair!

When selecting a chair, don't be afraid to add in a pop of color, a funky shape, and some cool materiality. A chair has the opportunity to bring style and personality into a room, without being a huge undertaking or investment like other pieces of furniture. Keep reading to see how we've used seating to switch up some of our spaces! 

We love the deep blue color that you just want to dive into after a long day. and the enveloping design gives off an approachable modern vibe. The  Ventura Lounge  chair is one of our personal favorites! 

We love the deep blue color that you just want to dive into after a long day. and the enveloping design gives off an approachable modern vibe. The Ventura Lounge chair is one of our personal favorites! 

 

When searching for the perfect chair; comfort is key. Make a design statement that also serves a practical function. We believe comfort should never be sacrificed for style, especially in your home or workplace. A good chair should feel like it's welcoming you with open arms at the end of a long day.

Upholstery Selection

Choosing a nontraditional fabric is a great option for a lounge chair, but it's also important to keep the traffic and use of that room in mind. A stark white linen chair might make an elegant statement, but the first time somebody spills red wine at a party, it's a heartbreak! 

The sumptuous velvet of these lounge chairs provide a surface that's just begging to be sat upon. They also juxtapose with the vintage rug that we chose for this room, you can also read more on our  tips for selecting the perfect rug !

The sumptuous velvet of these lounge chairs provide a surface that's just begging to be sat upon. They also juxtapose with the vintage rug that we chose for this room, you can also read more on our tips for selecting the perfect rug!

Choosing the Perfect Print

You can also mix things up with by selecting a fun pattern! You can think of your chair like your own personal throne, it's an opportunity to have a physical reflection of your style.

This cowhide lounger is definitely making a statement in a living room or office. Organic textiles like a cowhide always give a one-of-a-kind feel, we also love to use these as  unique floor coverings

This cowhide lounger is definitely making a statement in a living room or office. Organic textiles like a cowhide always give a one-of-a-kind feel, we also love to use these as unique floor coverings

Mixing Materials

In contemporary design, selecting materials and shapes that complement one another is very important to the overall flow of the room. Another of our favorite chairs is the Ipanema Armchair designed by Jean-Marie Massaud. Named for one of Brazil's most famous beaches, its design does remind you of reclining under the sun, but the clean lines and dark walnut finish blend perfectly in a modern living room.

Dark colors and a structural design come together perfectly in this modern living area. 

Dark colors and a structural design come together perfectly in this modern living area. 

Take a Risk!

A chair is a great time to go all out and have some fun! You may have read our previous post about selecting the perfect stools for your home, having seating options that works for your home and your personality is very important. Chairs are typically not as expensive as some of the larger pieces of furniture that will define your space, not as permanent as a coat of paint or wallpaper, and they truly can tie a room together. Below are a few of the crazier seating options that we've seen over the years, hopefully you will now feel inspired to go out and find a new chair to transform your home! 

The Spanish Chair  by  Børge Mogensen  is made with solid oak and saddle leather.

The Spanish Chair by Børge Mogensen is made with solid oak and saddle leather.

The Tropicana Chair  by  Patricia Urquiola  made using wrapped threads on a tubular steel frame.

The Tropicana Chair by Patricia Urquiola made using wrapped threads on a tubular steel frame.

How to Design Your Dream Kitchen by Sharon Blaustein

There is no place like home! And there is no place in the home like the kitchen!

A kitchen is the heart of the house. It’s where loved ones gather at the end of the day for a family dinner and it's a place where friends can relax and drink a glass of wine while the food simmers on the stove. Since it is such a vital part of any home, and there are so many components, we believe it's a room that needs to be comfortable and reflect the personality of the homeowners. 

There are a few key ingredients to creating a dream kitchen:

Kitchen designed by  ODA Architecture

Kitchen designed by ODA Architecture

Space planning:

Space planning is the secret sauce for a functional kitchen. A thoughtful plan is important for the right flow within the kitchen whether you are working or entertaining (and more often than not, both!). The main component to consider is the kitchen's work triangle – the path that you make when moving from the refrigerator, to the sink, to the oven while you're preparing a meal. Make sure all three of these areas are in close proximity or easily accessible to one another.

Classic work triangle.

Classic work triangle.

 

Another important component to consider is the kitchen island, which acts as the centerpiece of the kitchen. It can function as additional counterspace as well as an eating area for when you're on the go. If you plan on placing seating around it make sure you have an overhang of 10” or more to allow for comfortable space underneath. You can read more on our favorite bar stool options here

Kitchen designed  Stefano Pasqualetti

Kitchen designed Stefano Pasqualetti

 

Countertop material:

We love natural stones! They are rich, warm and have so much character with their natural veining. However, it's important to keep in mind that most natural stones stain easily, scratch and need regular maintenance. If you like to cook, have a busy household with young kids or just don’t like to worry every time you use the kitchen, we would suggest to avoid natural stone (or stainless steel counters that scratch easily). Quartz is our go to. Brands like CaesarStone offer a huge variety of finishes ranging from stone replicas to cool, concrete-like finishes. They are super durable and need no maintenance. If you're curious about learning more about different countertops, you can read more here.

Kitchen trends:

Modern kitchens, especially in a modern home layout where the kitchen is open, are often designed to look like furniture that you will find in a living space. The appliances are mostly hidden behind panels and the kitchen cabinets are made with rich wood finishes and seamless details such as grooves and reveals to open the cabinets rather than hardware. 

 

A modern kitchen in our  Scarsdale Home  project designed by  B Interior

A modern kitchen in our Scarsdale Home project designed by B Interior

There are so many more ingredients to a perfect kitchen such as lighting, cabinets, drawings planning, fixtures, appliances and list goes on and on. We wanted to give you a taste of the perfect kitchen design and will go get back to you with more in our future blogs. Stay tuned!