Designed Defined: Bookmatching

What is bookmatching?

One of the best features of natural stone is the innate variation in each piece.  No two marble countertops are ever the same, and therefore no two kitchens with said stone are ever the same.  It's a classic way to add a unique element to your design, and the fun part is going to the stone yard to pick out your slab!

That being said, slabs that are cut from the same stone often look alike, and can be made to look almost identical through a process called bookmatching.

Imagine a large marble boulder, then slice it in half, and polish each flattened side.  When opened (like a book), the polished, flat sides would essentially be mirror images of each other.  When sliced, the veining and color variations that flow within the stone would match on either side.  Not exactly identical, but close enough to appear so.  This is bookmatching.

These walls each feature two bookmatched slabs.  

With the right stone, you could repeat this mirrored look with four, six, eight, etc. slabs next to each other, although I do think the symmetry can be overdone.  That might work in a swanky bar or office building, but in my opinion, not a home.


I think vertical applications are the preferred way to showcase this style, though bookmatching could certainly be applied to a countertop or flooring or however else you can imagine, and the effect can be created out of other materials as well, such as these bookmatched wooden tabletops designed by George Nakashima.

 Source:  1stdibs

Source: 1stdibs

Designed Defined: Tête-à-Tête

What is a tête-à-tête?

Tête-à-tête is French for head-to-head.  In terms of design, it describes a furniture piece in which two seats face each other.  When sitting, the occupants face head-to-head, thus easily enabling conversation.

Much like the duchesse brisée, this is a style of furniture I don’t often see these days.  I’ve heard that this piece was originally designed for courting couples; they could get to know each other while keeping a modest amount of space between themselves.

 Source:  1stdibs

Source: 1stdibs

However, there are modern manufacturers that make this piece, though in a much different style than the original versions.  The old S-shape is out, and a longer, cushier style is in.  Now, enabling comfortable conversation is key, rather than maintaining modesty.

In today’s world, I enjoy these in two different scenarios.  Either in a very large room connecting multiple seating areas, somewhat like Nate Berkus has done in one of my favorite rooms ever.

Or, when the situation demands something extra cozy.  This is the ideal setup for when I invite my best friend over to drink wine and catch up.  

Subtle Use of Bold Color

This image has popped up in my Instagram feed twice so far this fall, once via the room's designer Nina Farmer, and once via House Beautiful.

Nina Farmer has done a stellar job here in creating a comfortable space that is color-forward without being aggressive.

It reminds me of one of my favorite spaces from Nate Berkus, which is also one of my favorite rooms of all time.  

Other than the similar palette, both spaces have multiple seating options, dark case goods and architectural details, neutral walls and flooring, statement lighting, and a mix of furniture styles.  Together these elements create a textured, layered, altogether memorable look.

But what stands out most, I think, is the subtle use of bold color.  Neither room is neutral, and the colors lack a vibrancy and pattern that overtake the space.  Rather than fighting for attention, they work together to create a relaxed background that almost acts as if it were neutral.  In addition, the bolder colors are repeated in certain accessories throughout the space that, again, don't allow any piece to feel too weighted.  You could add a fluorescent pink piece of art on the wall, which would be the statement piece, and it wouldn't look out of place.

I envision a space like these used for large gatherings, such as a holiday party, game night, or simply the room where everyone in the family meets to relax each evening.

Here is one way I would reinterpret the look.

Designed Defined: Porte-Cochère

What is a porte-cochère?

A porte-cochère is an architectural structure extending from the entryway of a building and over a driveway.  It's a drop-off point for a car or, as originally intended, a horse and carriage, and a shield from the elements as well. 

Porte-cochères make me think of the historic estates and castles in Europe, as well as the early mansions in America.  While certainly a luxury, I like them in today's world because not only do they make what could be really boring (a driveway) into something beautiful, but they make the space more practical too.

A Sunny Home Office

I've always loved the idea of a sun room turned home office, a light-filled space to get work done.  I've also always loved glass-top desks, and the Pilsen Brass Desk from Crate & Barrel inspired me to create a version of my ideal work-from-home situation.

This space from Studio McGee is the right idea.

Design Defined: Étagère

What is an étagère?

Étagère translates to shelf, and is essentially an open display furniture piece for objects and collectibles.  

I think simply by using the French word étagère, it implies something delicate and refined. Technically any open shelving unit could be an étagère, though I think what separates one from, say, the shelves storing tools and cleaning supplies in your garage, is the idea that what sits on these shelves is something you want to look at every day and/or show off.  

Here are some that I love.

 Sources, from left to right:  Room and Board ;  One Kings Lane ;  One Kings Lane

Sources, from left to right: Room and Board; One Kings Lane; One Kings Lane

What can you display on an étagère?  The bigger question is, what do you like to look at every day?  For me, it would be a box that Nate Berkus gave me, a brass bird that reminds me of an old client, agate I bought at a town along Lake Superior, pottery made by an old friend, as well as framed photos and my favorite books.

A Fun Playroom

Last week Boston-based interior designer Erin Gates announced her forthcoming rug line with Momeni, and this light blue animal print is serving as the perfect inspiration for a fun play room, or even family room.

The double chaise sectional is inspired by this space, and I think it's probably the coziest seating arrangement there could be.

Make Something Wonderful and Put It Out There

Apple's keynote last week announced the groundbreaking 10th anniversary iPhone.  It was the first event at the new Steve Jobs Theater, and opened with these inspiring words from the theater's namesake.  

There’s lots of ways to be as a person, and some people express their deep appreciation in different ways. But one of the ways that I believe people express their appreciation to the rest of humanity is to make something wonderful and put it out there. And you never meet the people, you never shake their hands, you never hear their story or tell yours. But somehow in the act of making something with a great deal of care and love, something is transmitted there. And it’s a way of expressing to the rest of our species our deep appreciation. So we need to be true to who we are and remember what’s really important to us. That’s what going to keep Apple, Apple, is if we keep us, us.
— Steve Jobs

Again, this can be applied to so much more than technology.

Design Defined: Duchesse Brisée

What is a duchesse brisée?

It is a essentially a chaise lounge, divided -- usually into three parts (two chairs and an ottoman), though often as two pieces (a shorter chaise and a chair) or other variations as well.

Duchesse Brisee 1.png

It is an 18th century French furniture style that is often too traditional to use in spaces today -- in fact, I don't really come across modern manufacturers that make this -- but the puzzle piece aspect of it is certainly fun.  With the right fabric, finish, and room, it can work.

Bringing Order to Complexity

Apple is scheduled to announce its next iPhone, the 10th anniversary iPhone, later today.  In honor of that, some inspiring words from Apple's lead designer, Jony Ive, that can be applied to so much more than technology.

We have always thought of design as being so much more than just the way something looks.  It’s the whole thing, the way something actually works on so many different levels.  Ultimately, of course, design defines so much of our experience.
I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency.  True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation.  It’s about bringing order to complexity.
— Jony Ive