Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Leaning wall pieces

Large leaning wall pieces always seem to catch my eye. A quick scroll through Desire to Inspire had me drooling over the following inspiration images today. I've got other similar photos that I've torn from various magazines that I'll someday post here as well, but this will have to suffice for the moment.

From Maxima Interiors

From Shoot Factory

This is an interesting, subtle effect of decorating second floors in open spaces. It would seem very easy to to do-it-yourself, especially in colors just slightly off from the wall colors. I say that, but imagine that my end result would look nothing like this...

From Irwin Weiner Interiors

This is the first update in quite a while as Mr. Big and I just returned from a bit of vacation (ahhh...). It was fantastic, refreshing, and restful all at the same time. Hooray! I also spent a bit of time in Frankfurt and Stockholm for work. And of course, I powered through as many European design shops as possible. Don't worry...I've got a few fun bits coming shortly. :)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Tankless water heaters

In our current condo, Mr. Big and I can hardly fit into the laundry room at the same time between the washer/dryer and water heater. Nor can we hear each other when the door is open. The air conditioning howls in there so loud that the door must be closer in order to hear the television...and unfortunately that is not an exaggeration.

When it came to planning for the utilities in the house, we were really impressed with tankless water heaters offered locally through the gas company. Our builders were not keen on the idea (change is not a good thing in their view), but we convinced them to allow us to try this more energy-efficient option.

As of this week, we now have facilities for hot water in the house. And better yet, it is done by two of these small units placed in our 2nd floor attic. Fab! No large water heaters, lower electricity bills (hopefully), and reduced risk of flooding. If they work as promised, we can set the starting temperature for all hot water in the house, which then can be adjusted as needed (like for the super duper hot showers enjoyed by yours truly).

Let's be honest, a hot water heater certainly wouldn't have excited us a year ago. But this is where we are at. (yes, it will be nice to get back to normal life) And after all the persuasion that we put forth to our builders to stretch their limits, it sure feels good to watch them marvel at what a neat option they have just installed. Couldn't agree more!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The front door

Our little island can be really surprising sometimes. The oddest little tidbits will fit together in really ironic, interesting ways.

On Friday, a friend mentioned that another friend of his had brought in six hand-carved front doors from Africa. Now, this individual is not in construction, or sales, or anything related to exterior doors. He was living in Africa, fell in love with their hand-carved doors, decided to buy six of them, and shipped them all the way to our little Caribbean island. Now his wife is "asking him" to sell them (giggle here gals). The doors were unloaded this week and he is storing them in a home destroyed by Hurricane Ivan...only because he has no other space large enough for them. Needless to say, when we heard the above story, we simply had to see these doors.

Mr. Big, the door guy and I trespassed across sand, through vines, and into a forlorn home. You could tell that it was just aching for a bit of attention. It rested on 1.5 acres of sparkling ocean water. It was obvious that it had been an absolute beauty before that ill-fated day. Not even the floors had been cleaned up from the storm two years ago. Garbage was throughout, ceilings falling in, broken glass all over. What a shame.

We turned a corner and there sat six enormous, beautifully carved, African mahagony doors. Wow. Each one had a different motif, almost if they each had their own story to tell and were luring you through their doors to hear more. We both were speechless. The time and effort that went into making these beauties set against the abandoned home was almost startling.

I quickly lured our builder and a carpenter out to the site to see if any could be a possibility for the house. Both gasped when the saw them. I expected that they would immediately tell us that the doors would be too large a project; to my surprise and delight, they were absolutely committed to finding a way to make the work. This included changing the arch that currently is in place for our original door selection.

The only lingering doubt is whether they really match the exterior design of the house. It was originally set to be Mediterranean and we had selected the door below, which is stunning in an entirely different way.

The African doors will probably cost a bit less than our original selection. I've posted images (slightly old...sorry) of the front of the house, but now we need your help.

Should we stay strictly to the exterior design of the house or should we risk it for the hand-carved option? (Needless to say, I love that we are in this dilemma!)

Front Doors
Which front doors would you recommend?

the original selection
the hand-carved option

view results

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Inverted kitchen

Our kitchen plan has had three very different and distinct lives to this point, but we've finally nailed down the final details (and paid the deposit...that hurt). It's most recent life and final form came from a very talented and creative individual who designs kitchens for a living. He took inspiration from furniture throughout our current condo to influence his plans. Don't worry, it's not going to be a showpiece (as in some of the inspiration images that I've posted about here), but it did turn out to be pretty exciting for us.

The ironic part is that I was flipping through a magazine at the hairdresser two weeks ago and I came across a kitchen photo that looked almost identical to our plans. Think of this image in the inverse (dark cabinets with light walls), but this is pretty much where we ended up. Ironically, we spent hours and hours designing ours, and the design gurus at Ikea came up with a very similar look (this is an Ikea kitchen pictured below). Hmmm...makes you wonder...

Of course, when I saw this image, I immediately wondered whether a cream kitchen would be best for the future. Dark cabinets have always appealed to me, but I am slightly worried that they will become dated...in about two years. Our favorite kitchen resource convinced me not to worry, but we all know the likelihood of keeping my mind from wandering again in the future. :)

In the end, the order has gone in for the dark cabinets. The final change that I may request is to mimic the horizontal handles shown above. Our cabinets will be 9 ft tall (yes, I will need a ladder in the kitchen) and this handle placement may help to distract from the height.

One final call into the designer...or so I tell myself...

Monday, May 7, 2007

Arranging artwork

Magazine images can be so inspiring. But they can also be entirely frustrating...frustrating when you try to recreate something that a professional has arranged. Somehow when you are done, it often lacks the impact that was originally so intriguing.

Domino Magazine's online site has a great article about how to create gallery-worthy arrangements. For anyone who is interested, it's worth a read here.

Colorful floors at an affordable price

After drooling online at various beautiful rugs (aka $$$ rugs), it was a complete surprise to find a number of really well designed, affordable options through Urban Outfitters. I suspect the quality isn't supurb, but the investment is pretty minimal for any of these following lovelies. The prices generally are around $29 for a 3x5 and up to $68 for 5x7. If the aim is to add color to a room, these are pretty risk free options.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Travertine Tiles

There are so many different options when it comes to floor tiles. Our current condo has travertine and we've really come to love it. So when it came to the house, we were pretty certain that travertine would be used downstairs and outside. The next question was which color option?

We ultimately decided to go with the above option which has slightly grey and beige tones in it. Rather than the above random pattern, the tiles will all be 24x16 rectangles. Here is another image of the color:

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Windows are sort of a big thing in the Caribbean with those pesky hurricanes and all. After Ivan rolled through Cayman, it was very evident which homes had hurricane-rated windows...mainly because those were the homes with windows still intact. Good friends of ours were hit particularly hard during Ivan, but their windows were perfect afterwards. Interestingly enough, they purchased their windows out of Ontario, Canada (seeing as it's so close to the hurricane belt and all). We ultimately decided to go with the same manufacturer.

As mentioned previously, our order went in late and it now appears that delivery has been pushed back even further. This is a bit of our fault for not pushing the placement of the order, but there is nothing that can be done now. Part of what is taking so long is also the application of a wood grain finish on the aluminum frames. We've seen these elsewhere on the island and they are very attractive, especially in the Dark Oak (which we've ordered).

And just because there's not much else to write about at the moment, these are the door handles that will adorn the exterior doors. (Yes, more arches)

This is probably a terribly pathetic post for those that have not had to go through the detailed building process. Be thankful that you haven't had to consider: double hung or casement, tilt (apparently the new thing in windows...) or casement, white or wood grain, light tint or medium tint, right or left hand hinges, doors open out or in, panes or no panes, screens or no screens, frosted glass for privacy or pass, and the list could go on for ages.

We felt so triumphant when the endless questions were finalized and the order placed. Now that we've waited for over two months, I'm just eager to finally see them go in...but alas, it will be another three weeks. And there's not much to do on the interior until they arrive. Honestly, who would have ever thought that there would be so much anticipation for windows?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Meet the plumber

Will you get a hot shower in the guest bathroom if the dishwasher, washer, bath and master shower are all in use at the same time? Honestly? How many times are you going to come across this question? Well, we did today.

We met up with our builder, the plumber, and the gas company today. Rather than using traditional water heaters, we will be using the tankless gas systems. It sounds rather promising, but everyone needed to "ok" the water loads in the house. There were some rather complicated calculations taking place...even for an accountant!

At the meeting, we also finalized a number of our plumbing fixtures. You may recall an earlier post contemplating whether to follow your dreams or be practical. Well, we've decided to go with the dream. Shocker. We may regret it later, but we're trying to put preventative measures in place by using a water filter at the main line entrance to the house and ordering extra parts to keep as stock.

So here were some of the decisions that we made:

Guest and Master shower
(Hansgrohe Axor Citterio)

Kitchen sink and a smaller version for kitchen island
(KWC Systema)

Guest and master baths
(Dornbracht Tara)

Master Bath
(Bainultra Amma)
Jack and Jill bathroom
(Dornbracht Belle de Bain)

Think I like arches? I'm going to be in a world of hurt if this suddenly dates homes. Oh well, it is appealing today. It certainly feels good to have some certainty in this area. There are still a few more fixtures to be finalized, but we're virtually there. Bravo!