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.
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!
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'm Arthur Teel, a craftsman who builds custom furniture in Asheville, North Carolina. Give me a call to talk about your next project!