One of the great things about blogging is that I get to show you how our furniture works in real homes... whether it's a big French-country style home or a modest bungalow or a tiny condo with a small living room... like this one.
The homeowners had just moved into their new condo, another unit at 55 South Market Street in downtown Asheville. As I've mentioned before, these are small homes intended as a "foot on the ground." You don't need much square footage because you do most of your living in the restaurants and gathering places downtown. And of course, there's a shared lounge and patio.
But there are drawbacks to the small space. There's not much storage, for one thing. And for another thing, there's not as much room for furniture. My clients' beloved leather sofa really dominates the living room.
Their goal was to create a custom entertainment center that would bring more storage and functionality to the room, while balancing out the large sofa. They asked us to incorporate bookshelves, an electric fireplace, media cabinets and a 55" flat screen. We also had to work around an existing light switch and thermostat.
It was quite a lot to fit on one wall, but our designer came through. It helped that the customers requested a very simple design, with a straight countertop instead of a traditional fireplace mantel.
She included the existing furniture in the model, so we could see that the new custom cabinet would offset the sofa beautifully. The unit is nine feet long, but it's balanced by the doors and the couch, so it looks proportionate to the room.
You can get a better idea of the scale of the unit with this process photo in my workshop... it takes up my whole assembly wall. This is what sets custom-made furniture apart from the stuff they sell on Amazon... we can fit the furniture exactly to the room. I think that's what makes this big unit work so well in the small space.
By the way, you can see that we ordered the electric fireplace right in the beginning so I could build the cabinet around it and make sure it would fit perfectly.
And in the spirit of showing how things look in real life, we were pleasantly surprised by the electric fireplace.
I was a little worried when they sent me the link to the unit they chose... here's an animated picture from the manufacturer.
When we turned it on, it was set to the orange-and-blue flames and my first reaction was, "Whoah! Cheesy!"
However once it was turned down and put on the orange setting, it looked very pleasant and much more realistic. (The blue setting was nice, too.)
The design of this media center was deceptively simple, but when I put it all together and stepped back, I really liked it. The nice thing about simple designs like this is that they serve as a neutral backdrop to however you want to style it.
If you've got a small or awkward space, we can work with you to design a solution that fits your home perfectly. Give us a call to get started... and hurry! The daffodils are blooming, springtime is here, the phone is starting to ring, and our schedule is filling up fast.
You might have noticed that many of our product photos look as if an interior designer has been there. Which is often the case, like with this fireplace which we built for Leslie Huntley of Roost Interior Designs. (Leslie is great at filling in a room with all of the right touches.)
Pretty pictures like this are nice, but maybe you're wondering how a custom bookcase would look in an ordinary home, with "too many books" and "too many plants." (As if you can ever have too many books or plants... but I digress.)
So this post is for those of you who wonder how our shelves look in "real life."
If you've been following along for awhile, you probably remember how we fixed an ugly fireplace mantel to make a classic white hearth. Here's a before-and-after to refresh your memory:
Before, there was a weird mantel-shelf thing that jutted out about a foot into the room, and it just didn't look right. We took it down and replaced it with a new fireplace surround and a pair of bookcases, working around the existing tile:
Looks great, doesn't it?
Now, as you've probably guessed, there is a little bit of staging in this photo. Since we don't usually get to come back and see our bookshelves in use, we added a few props so you could see the shelves as they might look with books in them.
But staged photos aren't as interesting as the real thing, which is why we were thrilled when our customer sent us a photo of the shelves after she had filled them up with books.
You can see that they've also painted or replaced the old brown tile with a dark black color to make a more modern look. And added plants galore! These are my kind of people.
The customer's boyfriend is an English teacher, so of course they have a large collection of books. They actually had us build an extra shelf for each bookcase so they could take advantage of every inch of space. We left that out of our original photo because we couldn't imagine how they would use it... but as a matter of fact it looks really cool with the extra books laying on it.
Our customer left us a very kind review as well:
"My boyfriend and I had just purchased a home where a wall in the living room was lacking a lot of character. We had an idea for bookcases and a new mantle that we wanted to execute, and luckily found the best people for the job!
Arthur and Faith were not only extremely responsive and professional, they were also kind and excited about the project. They completed the entire project within 2 weeks and it looks like an absolute dream. We are so grateful for their hard work and would definitely recommend them to anyone seeking a local and lovely couple to handle their next project!"
- Rebecca Hill
Thank you, Rebecca! We feel lucky to have such generous clients.
If you wondering how bookshelves would look in your home, get in touch with us. Our cabinet designer Faith will help you preview your project with a custom 3D model...
...and then we'll match the model as closely as possible in real life. All you'll have to do is add "too many books" and maybe "too many plants."
By Faith Teel
Our latest project gives off those French Country vibes that Marie Antionette loved so much...
No, we didn't build that... it's Marie's famous watermill cottage at the Hameau de la Reine. We're just including it to set the tone. Because after all, it's the middle of winter, in the darkest days of the year, so why shouldn't we while away a little time looking at beautiful French Country and Tuscan houses in summertime?
It's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.
Anyway, speaking of sunny Old-World style, we recently built a French Country banquette to match an elegant Asheville kitchen with European flair.
Well, most of the kitchen had flair. But this little dining nook wasn't quite big enough to suit the busy family that lives in this home. The floor plan didn't even allow for a fourth chair at the table, which was awkward since there were four family members.
Working with Elizabeth Rogers at Hannah Lowman Styling, we designed a cozy U-shaped banquette with a large bookshelf behind it to hold the homeowners' many cook books, as well as their wine racks and kitchen appliances.
The project would be faux finished with pin-striping to match the existing shelves and cabinets.
We started by building the benches, which were hollow, with flip-top lids to allow for lots of hidden storage. (This kitchen really needed more storage!)
Then we sourced custom trim pieces to match the trim on the cabinet doors. And tested out the cushion thickness... in case you're wondering, 3 inches is ideal for a seat cushion. Or two inches if you don't like a very smooshy banquette seat.
When we got to the site, we temporarily removed the window trim because the bookcase was such a tight fit. That's what makes the difference between custom and ready-made... a custom cabinet can be built to truly fit the room from wall to wall.
There was a ton of storage in these bench seats, and we included soft-close supports that really made them a pleasure to use.
And you can't see it in this photo, but the seat back on the right also folds down to allow access to the deep storage space under the shelves. That means there's lots of space for those rarely-used platters that you still want to be able to reach when you throw a party.
We found a beautiful flush-mount brass pull for the seat back. (It's these little details that count.) Here's a photo we snapped before the cabinet was finished. It's actually a bit weighty, almost like a door knocker.
The finished banquette looks like it was always a part of the kitchen. The homeowners are expecting to get the table and cushions in soon, and we can't wait to see how Elizabeth styled the room.
We've got lots more cool projects coming up in the New Year. If you saw our "Christmas card" email, you probably saw the blue bookshelves with the hidden door. But before we start that one, we're scheduled to build an elegant modern entertainment center with an electric fireplace... yet another project in the condos at 55 South Market Street in downtown Asheville.
So stay tuned, and don't touch that dial!
And if you've got an odd space in your kitchen that you don't quite know what to do with, give us a call. We'll turn it into an elegant space chock full of useful storage.
by Faith Teel
This post is just for you "blue and white" fans! I'm one of you. I love the new trend of color sneaking in with all the gray and white we've been seeing, and blue is so easy to integrate with neutrals.
Speaking of gray, remember those blue-gray bookshelves that we installed at 55 South Market in downtown Asheville?
This is project is from the same apartment, where the blue theme is carried over into the next room. But when we first arrived on the scene, it was just a plain white box.
Of course, it was headed someplace a little more daring.
The homeowners planned to use this room as an office, and they needed a shallow set of shelves (since the room is fairly narrow) that would still hold their deep printer. We were brought in to add a custom bookcase with a special deep shelf.
That's our design for the shelves. We do lots of white bookcases (they're classic!) but this was the first time we put them up against a Navy-blue wall, and the effect was really nice even in the model.
We built them at the same time as the gray fireplace surround. And in addition to all of these bookcases, we built a pair of sliding Shaker-style doors which were destined for the office bathroom.
These would take up less floor space than an ordinary door, which would allow the homeowner to use more furniture in the small room.
Then the painters were brought in...
... and we got to work soon afterward.
I love this view of downtown Asheville. I could work in an office like this!
On the other side of the office, the sliding doors leave room for a comfy chair.
Classic white bookshelves like these look good in any room. Give us a call to get yours.
We just finished up a fantastic "before and after" transformation of a fireplace hearth. Let's start with the "before."
It all took place in a very nice living room with pale blue walls and white trim. But wait... what's that...?
Whoever built this house must have run out of time when he put the fireplace together. It's hard to see from our photos, but the existing mantel jutted out almost a foot into the room and looked rather out of place.
The homeowner was having trouble styling it to look right, and since her boyfriend is an English teacher, she also wanted to add bookcases on either side, but didn't know how to tie into that mantel.
They each had different ideas about the style of the fireplace. She prefers modern, and he prefers traditional. The existing style of the room could go either way, with a wide traditional baseboard but relatively simple window trim. With that in mind, we decided to go with a "transitional" style that walked the line between modern and old-fashioned.
Our first design was based on the dark gray mantel which we installed recently in downtown Asheville:
However, that mantel wouldn't work here. That style looks its best when it stands out in front of the bookcases, and due to fire code regulations our new mantel would have to be recessed behind the bookcases. This is rare because most fireplaces jut out into the room... and it was a real design challenge to incorporate deeper bookcases!
On our next try we were getting closer. We used an even simpler mantel design, but kept the traditional molding. However, this was a little too formal for the room.
Finally we settled on a corbeled-style mantel which went well with the simple square trim around the windows. The homeowner also chose an oak top which tied in nicely with the golden hardwood floors.
Once we settled on a design, I got busy in our studio. As usual, we did most of the painting and assembly offsite, which makes the homeowner's life much easier!
After the new mantel and shelves were ready, I went to work on that ugly fireplace, being careful not to mar the tile.
Speaking of tile, I originally thought the existing tile was a bit "blah." But when we put in the new mantel and shelves, the tile seemed to pop against the white wood, and it's much more appealing.
The new bookcases and fireplace look like they've always been a part of the room, which is our goal with built-in furniture.
The classic lines are easy to style - you could make it formal or casual. It even looks great with a simple black-and-white photo and a few colorful books.
If your living room has the "builder grade" blues, give us a call. We can bring in the "ooh and ah" factor that could make a big difference in your home value, for a relatively small investment.
I'm Arthur Teel, a craftsman who builds custom furniture in Asheville, North Carolina. Give me a call to talk about your next project!