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've had a beautiful set of white built in shelving posted on our Gallery page for awhile now, but I was going through my photo archive recently and realized that I've never shared a "behind the scenes" blog post to show you how it was made.
The building process is the thing that sets our handmade bookshelves apart from the pre-fab stuff. Unlike pre-made furniture that's usually installed as separate units with seams in between, custom shelves can be created as one large unit, with no seams or gaps. That's because we personally install the shelves, so we're able to add the small touches that tie everything together.
Let's start with a picture of the finished bookcase with all the books in it, so you can see what we were working toward.
Next here's the empty room to compare it to. It's a bit of a visual surprise to see that this bookcase wasn't always there... it looks like it was built with the home, but of course it's quite new.
By the way, I learned something when we designed this piece. If you compare the "After" picture to the "Before" picture, you can see that without the bookcase, the room was dominated by the big fireplace, which seemed a little too large for the small space.
It's hard to get a sense of the size of the hearth from this photo because the ceilings are fairly tall, but that mantel is about six feet up! You can get a better idea of its height from the scale drawing which Faith made for the room.
Somehow the bookshelves made the room seem bigger, even though they actually reduced the floor space. The takeaway is that if you have a large element in a room and you can't easily change it, you can try balancing it with other large elements.
And these bookcases are definitely on the large side. The ceiling is nine feet up, a little higher than standard. This added some design challenges, because standard materials come in eight-foot lengths.
In the end I decided to build each of the three bookcases as two smaller units: a short section at the bottom with a taller section on top. (I could have built it another way, but I chose this option because it brought more structure and stability to the project, which is an important consideration on tall bookshelves like these.)
Once the cases were assembled, I cut out the individual shelves. I love projects like these, where there are lots of identical pieces. You can get into a nice rhythm of work and the time just flies right by.
Building the cases as smaller units also made the delivery and assembly run smoothly and efficiently, despite the narrow hallway I had to enter through.
You may notice that the sides of the bookcases seem fairly slender in this process photo. That's because I hadn't trimmed the unit out yet.
I covered the whole side of the unit with a long floor-to-ceiling board, and trimmed out the faces of the case with white painted wood. This gave the shelving a more substantial look, and it also added strength and solidity, which is very important when you're going to be putting hundreds of pounds of books on it!
Last but not least, I added crown and shoe molding to tie the unit in with the rest of the room. We went with a simple Shaker style to coordinate with the lines of the fireplace mantel.
The onsite installation of the trim is what makes the six parts look like one continuous piece... and since they're caulked together in place and the paint is touched up by hand, they'll always look that way.
It's a great technique for building a "big" bookcase in small pieces, and it's not something you typically get with pre-made bookshelves. Those almost always have visible seams between each bookcase.
I also cut out the baseboard behind the shelves so I could install them right up against the wall. Then I secured them to the wall for even more stability, and caulked the seam between the shelves and the wall.
That personal touch is what makes the shelving read as a continuous part of the room, as if it had always been there. And it helps that we custom painted everything to perfectly match the existing white trim.
The homeowners were so happy with the large unit that they had me come back and put in another, smaller shelf on the other side of the room.
I love the way they look with the books in them. There's something comfortable and warm about a home library.
If you want a cozy library of your own, give us a call. We can do white built in shelving, or freestanding wooden bookcases, or anything else you have in mind.
I recently finished a built-in home office desk made from one of my favorite woods: Cherry. Look at that color!
While I was building it, I had ample time to contemplate the things that set custom-made furniture apart from pre-made pieces. One thing that makes this piece special is the care that I used when I was choosing each piece of wood.
Cherrywood has a LOT of variation, as you can see even in these unfinished boards.
The big left-hand board is fairly bland, while the one right next to it has an arrow-like pattern of ribboning. (This is another reason I love cherry... it can have a lot of depth and interest in the grain.)
As I added the first coats of poly, you could really see the difference.
When I built the drawers, I chose pieces that made a continuous wrap-around pattern, so they're as pretty on the inside as they are on the outside.
The sides of the desk also wrap around to match the header.
I got an especially pretty piece for the top. It's hard to get photos of wood grain, so you'll just have to use your imagination when I say that it had complex patterns that threw back gleams of light.
The desk really transformed the wall, which went from small and bland...
... to big and bold!
The cherrywood will darken over time and become redder as well, so this desk will just get better with age.
If your home office could use a little pizzazz, we can do that for you. And we'll pay attention to all the little details, too.
I'm Arthur Teel, a craftsman who builds custom furniture in Asheville, North Carolina. Give me a call to talk about your next project!