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.
Spring is here (at last) but as any long-time Asheville resident knows, it's not time to put away your coats and boots yet. By local tradition, we still have several "winters" to go until we hit the last "blackberry winter" in late April or early May.
I dropped by to see one of my customers, and she had still coats on the new entryway cubby bench which we recently installed for her.
Before, she only had a narrow space in her foyer for guests to take off their coats. There wasn't really even room to set down a chair. This is when fitted furniture is a great idea: you can turn a tight spot into a useful area.
This reminds me of a project I did years ago for an attorney who moved into an office that also had a narrow entryway. The previous lawyer had chairs in the vestibule, and clients were always tripping over one another's feet when they came in. The new bench was narrow, with no chair back to get in the way, so it made for more leg room.
Anyway, back to our current project...
Before I started work I had my wife, Faith, draw a model of the entryway cubby and bench so the homeowners could see what we planned to build for them.
This was helpful because it gave them a chance to visualize how high the various elements should be installed. The family ranged in height from little kids all the way up to a tall Dad, so we had to place the hooks where everyone could reach them.
On the other side of the entryway was the home office, which was separated from the rest of the house by a column.
We installed a pair of French doors with trim that coordinated with the existing door and crown molding. With these two projects done, the whole foyer was transformed. As the Mom said, it was surprising that a such large piece of furniture could make the room seem bigger.
This bench is mostly for guests. There's another coat closet near the kitchen which the family uses for coats and backpacks. So our next project will be to transform an empty niche nearby into a catch-all for mail, wallets, purses and keys.
(Plus an art desk for the little girl in the family. She's very excited!)
If your foyer seems "too small" to hold all the stuff it needs to hold, give us a call. We can turn even the slenderest space into an organized entryway... so you always have a place for your coat and keys.
If your family loves to do paperwork (or homework) in the dining room, this is a great solution for keeping everything tidy.
At first glance it's a cozy built-in banquette... which is already really cool... but wait, there's more!
It opens up to reveal a hidden "secretary" desk where you can stash your papers and books.
We started by building the case in our studio. As you can see, the benches are also hollow, with flip-top lids to hide large objects. You could even hide a computer router in here, and stash the laptop behind the seat, to make a home office that's invisible when it's not in use.
The dining room we installed it in was fairly small...
...so the built-in banquette seating made efficient use of the space.
You may notice that there were a few changes to the design. For example, we added two doors to the back instead of one, and painted the bottom kick to match the baseboard. That's what sets custom furniture apart: the ability to customize it to your preferences.
With cushions and pillows, the built-in windowseat became a comfortable place to relax with a book and a mug of tea.
If you've got stuff all over the dining room table, this banquette could help you reclaim your eating area but still have a place to stash things out of site. Give us a call to get one for your home, so you can be beautifully organized.
Our latest project is perfect for when you've all been playing in the snow and you need a place to capture those wet boots and mittens.
Our customers have a goal of becoming a "no shoe" household to preserve their white carpets, but there was no place for people to sit down and take off their shoes.
As usual, we worked with them to create a 3D model. They weren't sure whether they wanted to use horizontal ship-lap or vertical V-groove panels, and this really helped them visualize it.
That's just the first draft; there were several rounds of revisions to add and remove features.
We eventually included a pair of figures in the model so we could put the hooks at the right height for kids to reach them, while making them high enough to be easy for Dad to use.
Models are always theoretical, and the customers and I made a few small tweaks while I was building the cubbies. We had hoped to build a bench with a single span from wall to wall, and I even tested several methods support it in the middle. But in the end we decided that there was still too much flex, especially since several people might be sitting on the bench together.
Speaking of the bench, the homeowners requested a hardwood seat. I used a beautiful piece of oak which I stained to coordinate with the floors.
The final piece turned out really well. One of the homeowners said that she was surprised that such a big piece of furniture would make a small room feel larger.
On the other side of the foyer is a pair of French doors which I also installed, so the whole space has that elegant feeling which traditional moldings bring to a room.
We can bring the same beautiful style to your home. Just shoot us an email with your ideas. We'll be glad to help.
Remember these offset library shelves with the integrated brass lights and the flip-top windowseat?
Well, I got the chance to stop by and take a few photos with all the books in them, and they look fantastic. Move over, House Beautiful!
The shelves now house a themed book collection containing biographies of every American President to date. And of course, a comfortable chair with a reading light so you can peruse them at your leisure.
On the other side, the homeowner has added cushions to the windowseat:
(And a very nice light fixture overhead.)
I'm always gratified to see how my customers style my furniture once I leave. People in Asheville have such good taste.
If you're ready to transform a room to something you might see in a magazine, give us a call. We'll help you take your home to the next level.
I'm Arthur Teel, a craftsman who builds custom furniture in Asheville, North Carolina. Give me a call to talk about your next project!