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.
You're not going to believe this transformation.
Here's the before: a perfectly fine room, but essentially a plain white box. A blank canvas, so to speak.
And here's the after...
(Brace yourself... it's going to be great.)
Yes, this is the same room! You can tell by the floor, which hasn't changed.
Of course, this seemingly magical transformation didn't all happen at once. Let's rewind a bit and tell the story of a once-boring condo living room that became the perfect cozy sanctuary thanks to an electric fireplace.
It all started in these new units at 55 South Market Street in downtown Asheville.
And when I say "downtown," I mean DOWNTOWN.
As in two blocks from tacos...
...and the place where all driving directions in Asheville started, back before GPS was a thing.
With a location like that, it's not hard to believe that these condos sold like hotcakes. (So much for my plans for a downtown pied-à-terre...)
And in keeping with the trendy location, the builder designed trendy interiors centered around simple Shaker-style white and gray kitchens, with plain white walls and white trim in all the other rooms.
However, our clients wanted a little more warmth and texture in their new home. They called in Leslie Huntley with Roost Interior Design... and Leslie called us in to help her add some bookshelves.
The homeowners had also requested an electric fireplace to bring in a little radiant heat during Asheville's chilly mountain winters. We collaborated with Leslie to design a hearth that would coordinate with the nearby kitchen.
She specified a deep violet-gray for the shelves, which was offset by the newly-painted taupe walls for a tone-on-tone effect.
Back at our studio, we built and painted the unit, then pre-assembled it to preview the effect.
Notice the poles getting in the way near the ceiling! Our workshop was built from a vintage tobacco barn, and we're too sentimental to take out the old poles. But you get the idea, anyway.
As you can see, the cabinets were fairly large and very heavy, so we enlisted Faith's dad to help load them up...
...and bring them onsite to install them.
Glenn is great to work with. He's the most meticulous carpenter I know.
The electrician and tile guy each came in soon afterward, and the final result was quite nice. The electric fireplace is surprisingly realistic. Instead of trying to fake a flame, the manufacturers made a glowing-log effect, as if the fire has died down a little bit.
It puts off a nice, warm wave of heat which will be great in a few weeks when the first frost hits.
By the way, check out that smooth finish. Leslie specified satin paint, which is a little bit unusual for trim and moldings like this. But it does have a very mellow effect.
Hopefully the French Broad Chocolate Lounge does local hot chocolate deliveries... it seems like this would be the perfect place to drink it on a cold winter night.
If you've got a "plain white box" room that you'd like to transform into a cozy retreat from the world, give us a call. We love this stuff!
In my last post I showed off a work-in-progress in my shop: custom cabinets to house a ventless fireplace. The design was based on a hybrid of Craftsman and Shaker styles, in cherry and walnut wood.
They've been installed, and boy did they turn out well! But before I show them off, take a look at what they replaced.
The homeowners have great taste, and they'd assembled some really nice pieces. (I suspect that chair on the left was handmade, and I really like it!) However, they faced a common problem: they'd collected their furniture to go in other houses, and it didn't fit well in their new abode in West Asheville. The cabinet that housed the TV was made for an older model, and it was really too tall, narrow and deep to fit well into the room.
We worked with them to design a new hearth which was lower, wider and shallower... a perfect fit to balance the room.
I started by installing the three cabinets which I'd made offsite, with the hearth in the middle. The wall already had electrical outlets in place, so I cut holes in the backs of the cabinets to allow the homeowners to use the outlets.
Next up was the installation of those Craftsman tiles which we teased in our last post. These are from Pasadena Craftsman Tile, and they're incredible! They really picked up the colors in the homeowners' painting.
While the grout was setting, I put the doors on the AV cabinets. They've got heavy-duty hinges that open extra wide, so that when you want to watch TV the doors are well out of the way. Perfect for an entertainment center.
By the way, did I mention how incredible the wood grain is on these cabinets? I picked the wood by hand from Bee Tree Lumber in East Asheville, and I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out. You mostly see the cherry in this photo, but check out that purple walnut in the lower corner of the pic! It's still one of my favorite woods.
Once the tile had set, it was time to install the ventless fireplace...
... and then caulk the piece in place so that it looks like a continuous part of the room.
The finished piece really brings the room together. It looks like it belongs there. Which of course, it does, since it was designed with this particular room in mind.
Every living room should have a hearth for people to gather around... and a place to hide the TV somewhere nearby. And nowadays you can have a fireplace even if you don't have a chimney. Give us a call to learn all about it.
Asheville is the kind of city where a fireplace is a delight to have. It's hard to remember it right now in summertime, but those cool mountain spring evenings and crisp autumn nights are perfect for a little fire to take the chill out of the air.
But what if your floor plan is too small to add a hearth, or you live in a condo and can't install a chimney? That's where the new trend of ventless fireplaces comes into play. There's a wide variety of them, including electric, gas, gel and ethanol. Someday maybe I'll devote a whole post to the various options, but today I want to show off a new cabinet we're building to house an ethanol fireplace.
I'll start with our 3D model:
Our customers had always wanted a hearth in their living room, not so much for the heat output, but more as a visual centerpiece. However, they didn't want the added complexity of putting up a chimney or getting a new outlet for an electric fireplace. Plus, the floor plan of their living room was fairly small, so they didn't have room for a big stone chimney.
We talked about various options, such as just making a nook for candles, but in the end we found an ethanol burning fireplace that was fairly shallow and wouldn't need a deep cabinet to house it.
Then it was time to discuss design features. The homeowners loved the Craftsman aesthetic, and already had little details throughout their home such as tile inset in the doorway trim. But they also wanted something a little lighter and more updated than the original Arts and Crafts style.
They also liked the combination of walnut and cherrywood... they even mentioned this free-standing entertainment center from our Lyrical Furniture Collection.
You really can't go wrong when you're putting walnut and cherry together, and that was the starting point for the design.
They had also sent us various inspiration photos of Craftsman-style fireplaces that they liked, including this one from Pasadena Tile. I love this tile! I was thrilled when my clients suggested using something like this around the fireplace opening.
There were also lots of little details to discuss. The cabinets around the fireplace will house their TV and audiovisual equipment, so they requested speaker holes on the cabinet as well. Faith, our cabinet designer, took inspiration from old-fashioned radios like this one.
We originally planned a somewhat more elaborate mantel with Craftsman-style brackets in walnut. However, our clients preferred a simpler, streamlined verson more in keeping with the Shaker-style cabinets in their kitchen.
Since the mantel would be much simpler, they suggested we add interest with ribboned wood grain. I called several Asheville lumber suppliers in search of the right pieces, and finally struck gold at Bee Tree Lumber.
Bee Tree has very personalized service, and an incredible selection of gorgeous hardwood lumber. The office manager took me on a personal tour of the lumber yard, and the owner came over to talk about the wood I was picking out.
He pointed to one board and said, "That sure is some fiery cherry you picked out." And he's right... the ribboning is like little flames licking up the board. It's perfect for a mantel, isn't it?
It looks incredible on the new fireplace!
But behind that beautiful facade is a very practical design. Although the fireplace manufacturer says it can be installed directly in a niche in the wall, I took no chances when building the fireplace surround. The fireplace will be set into a heat-resistant concrete-board niche which in turn is supported by metal studs.
Next I built the cabinets to go on either side of the fireplace, complete with the afore-mentioned speaker holes.
Notice the little detail of the curved feet... one of those nice touches that sets this apart from standard cabinetry.
The cherrywood cabinet boxes are assembled, and as I type this, the walnut doors are clamped up and the glue is drying. There are a few more details to finish, though. Including one very special feature which I'll talk about in my next post...
That beautiful handmade Craftsman tile!
Subscribe to our email list to get notified about the next post... and in the meantime, if you've always wanted a fireplace but weren't sure how to get one, give us a call. We'll make it happen.
I'm Arthur Teel, a craftsman who builds custom furniture in Asheville, North Carolina. Give me a call to talk about your next project!