Resale, Schmesale: A Designer Perspective

Home automation, Residential interior designon October 7th, 2014No Comments

A common question I get asked a lot when it comes to designing and remodeling a client’s home is, “But how will it affect the resale value?”

Before I give you my thoughts on this, let me clarify that I am not a real estate agent or a financial advisor.  And anything having to do with what is, for most people, their largest financial asset might benefit from a weigh-in from one or both of those advisors.

So, with that out of the way, my response back to that question is this:  how long will you be in your home?  If it’s more than five years, then I say your design choices are of little consequence in a geography like the Bay Area where real estate is always appreciating over time.  It’s your house and YOU live here, not some future yet-to-be-identified buyer.  Your home should be a reflection of your needs and your family’s needs.  And let’s be honest:  people around here are buying $1 million dollar tear-downs (insane, I realize), so whether or not you forego a bathtub in the master bath, for example, will be of little consequence ten years or more hence.  Most people like to put their own stamp on their living spaces to reflect their own lifestyles, and to take advantage of innovative new materials and technologies. So by the time you’re ready to sell, the chances are pretty good your buyer was already intending to make changes to fit their own needs.

As a designer, while I always strive to provide my clients with timeless interiors that will last a good long time, what is considered beautiful and tasteful today might be considered very dated tomorrow. Just take a look at any given issue of Architectural Digest from the 80s, and you’ll see what I mean…;-)

“But Sabrina,” I hear you ask, “what types of things should I invest in that will make my home more desirable down the road, as well as meet my family’s needs?”

Good question.  Here are a few things I think make a great deal of sense and that will absolutely add value over time:

Built-ins:  provide architectural interest and a focal point for any room.

built-in entertainment

Custom built-in entertainment units, for example, are attractive and space-saving. And when outfitted with LED lighting, they provide a great opportunity to display art objects or photographs.

 

Home automation systems: help regulate the home’s temperature, lighting, and other power sources to save energy (and money!). Can also control entertainment and security systems.

 

Lots of choices available for home automation systems, many of which can be controlled by apps on a tablet or other device.

Lots of choices available for home automation systems, many of which can be controlled by apps on a tablet or other device.

Universal design: make design choices that will allow you (or a future buyer) to age in place.

Curbless showers are both beautiful and functional!  Add a built-in bench, a grab bar, and a handshower and accessibility is no problem as you get older.

Curbless showers are both beautiful and functional! Add a built-in bench, a grab bar, and a handshower and accessibility is no problem as you get older.

So to sum up:  don’t be afraid to design around your own needs if you plan to be in your home for many years.  The resale will take care of itself as long as the remodeling you undertake has all the appropriate city permits, is done by a licensed general contractor, and uses good quality materials that will last.

Guest Bath Makeover: From ’80s Excess to Zen-like Calm

Blog, Recent Workon August 20th, 20142 Comments

My client in the SF Bay Area is smitten with Chinoiserie and Asian artifacts.  Her entire house is filled to the brim with beautiful objects and art she’s collected over the years.  But her guest bath was stuck in the ’80s with bold floral wallpaper and gold accented plumbing fixtures and trim.  She attended a decorator showcase house located in Woodside, CA in which I was a participating designer last year, and loved my pan-Asian influenced design for the home’s sunroom.

She hired me immediately afterwards, knowing that I “got” her aesthetic. We worked hard to make the guest bath a calm, inviting space using a soothing color palette–soft grays, browns, bronze, and a hint of blue–and great texture.  The porcelain 12×24 tiles in the shower have almost a textile quality to them with a “woven” pattern etched into the surface; the glass mosaic backsplash/border adds both color and a tactile quality to the look;  the sculptural lines of the Santec Ava faucet and shower set bring in a modern twist that still feels warm and spa-like.  Lastly, we used a pearlescent faux-finish paint in an ecru tone for the walls, giving it subtle shine to lighten the space and balance out the gray hues.

Here are the “Befores”:

PianoBath_BEFORE1

PianoBath_BEFORE2

And here are the “afters”:

DJBPhoto_140814_14836

DJBPhoto_140814_14845

DJBPhoto_140814_14861

Needless to say, she loves the results!  And we finished just in time before her guests arrived for her son’s impending wedding!

A big thank you to Dean J. Biryini Photography for the great “after” images.

Dorm Room Design: The Essentials

Blogon July 20th, 2014No Comments

Those of you with kids heading off to college in a month’s time are probably stressing out about the shopping list for dorm room essentials.  Fear not.  The days of boring, solid XL Twin sheets are long gone, and the array of well-designed options for bedding, towels, and storage solutions are practically limitless.  Well, not exactly limitless:  this stuff goes fast so if you haven’t yet started, I thought I’d show you a bunch of great options I’ve found that won’t break your already tuition-taxed bank.  Target, PB Teen, Land’s End, Dormco, and the Container Store are great go-tos for well-designed options. But here are several suggestions to get you started.

Bedding

My recommendation is to buy a solid comforter (or quilt with a duvet cover; IKEA is great for those) that will go with your student from dorm room to college apartment, and then have fun with decorative and inexpensive XL Twin sheet sets–two–which will likely not be needed after Freshman year. Here are a few solid quilt options:

Target's Room Essentials Jersey Knit Quilt

Target’s Room Essentials Jersey Knit Quilt

IKEA ALVINE STRA duvet cover set

IKEA ALVINE STRA duvet cover set

PB Teen Crinkle Puff Quilt

PB Teen Crinkle Puff Quilt

Target Xhilaration Ruffle Comforter

Target Xhilaration Ruffle Comforter

And here are some colorful patterned sheet sets that are available in XL Twin:

PB Teen Cascade plaid sheets

PB Teen Cascade plaid sheets

PB Teen's Chloe shet set in organic cotton

PB Teen’s Chloe sheet set in organic cotton

Lands End Percale Dot Sheet Set

Lands End Percale Dot Sheet Set

Body Pillows

As everyone knows, college kids use their dorm room beds as multi-purpose furniture; they’re not just for sleeping, they’re for lounging and studying, too. (For that same reason, you might want to send junior off with two regular pillows, not just one, since headboards are non-existent.) So having something soft to lean up against on those cinderblock or otherwise institutional-looking walls will be a welcome addition to the basics.  Pro-tip:  get the kind of body pillow that is comprised of an insert and a removable cover, so when it inevitably gets dirty, the cover can be washed.

Fun animal print body pillow covers by Dormco

Fun animal print body pillow covers by Dormco

Soft and fuzzy Sherpa body pillow from PB Teen

Soft and fuzzy Sherpa body pillow from PB Teen

Room Essentials Heather Gray body pillow, at Target

Room Essentials Heather Gray body pillow, at Target

Towels and Wraps

Don’t go crazy buying towels.  There simply isn’t enough space in the average dorm room to have lots of extra stuff.  Two Bath sheets and two hand towels ought to do it.  And for getting from the communal bathroom at the end of the hall to one’s room, having a bath wrap  is probably not a bad idea. Takes up less space than a bathrobe.  Target and PB Teen have a slew of fun designs in their collections, like these:

Room Essentials Vine Towel in gray and yellow

Target Room Essentials Vine Towel in gray and yellow

Room Essentials Floral Towel

Target Room Essentials Floral Towel

Room Essentials Stripe towel sets

Target Room Essentials Stripe towel sets

PB Teen Classic Organic bath towels

PB Teen Classic Organic bath towels

Room Essentials Floral body wrap

Target Room Essentials Floral body wrap

Room Essentials Vine bodywrap

Target Room Essentials Vine bodywrap

PB Teen Greek Striped Bath Wraps

PB Teen Greek Striped Bath Wraps

Laundry and Storage

Saving space is critical.  If your student’s dorm gives them the option of lofting their bed before they move in, by all means do it.  Then get some good-looking but functional pieces for extra clothing storage and/or putting away seasonal items that are not in use underneath the bed.  Unless your kid’s school has very detailed drawings and dimensions of the space online, I would advise holding off on these purchases until you drop him/her off.  Bring a tape measure and then go get what fits.  As for dirty laundry storage, buy a bag, not a basket.  Easier to fit in a closet and/or hang off the end of a bed.  (Plus, they hold more stuff; kids will wait forever before they do a wash!) The Container Store is terrific for this sort of stuff; here are a few of my favorites from their collection:

So versatile! These Container Store milk crates can store files, books, computer games, etc.

So versatile! These Container Store milk crates can store files, books, computer games, etc. Stackable on both the top and the sides

Elfa Stacking Drawers at the Container Store.  See-through material means stuff is easy to find.

Elfa Stacking Drawers at the Container Store. See-through material means stuff is easy to find.

Large Rugby Stripe Bin from the Container Store

Large Rugby Stripe Bin from the Container Store

Mesh laundry bags in an array of colors, at the Container Store.  Lots of room!

Mesh laundry bags in an array of colors, at the Container Store. Lots of room!

Desk lamps

Multi-tasking desk lamps are a plus for space-saving reasons.  Here are a couple that look great and kill two birds with one stone:

iHome desk lamp with a built-in phone charger.  Available at PB Teen.

iHome desk lamp with a built-in phone charger. Available at PB Teen.

Target's RE desk lamp with pen compartments and a slot to prop up your iPad

Target’s RE desk lamp with pen compartments and a slot to prop up your iPad. Comes in multiple colors.

Fellow parents who have already sent one or more children off to college, what items have you found to be must-haves?

 

Sustainable Design: Going Backwards to Move Forwards?

Green designon April 29th, 2014No Comments

I ran across this gizmo for fuel-efficient low-tech cooking called a Wonderbag Slow Cooker.  In essence, it takes the ancient technique of wrapping or burying containers of food so they will continue to cook even after the container has been removed from the heat source.  Ingenious in its simplicity, I admire the founder of this company, Sarah Collins, who took a humble design idea to global attention.  And for every Wonderbag sold, they donate another to a family in Africa.

wonderbag

Wonderbags come in two colors and they’re made by artisans in Rwanda, Mexico and Turkey with launches in Kenya, Nigeria and Somaliland.

As someone who has a keen interest in green design and sustainability, this discovery had me wondering:  do we have to turn back the clock on technology in order to make significant reductions in our carbon footprint?  The convenience genie has already been let out of the bottle after 100 or so years of American consumer mass production.  How can we be both good global citizens and still maintain a lifestyle to which we’ve become accustomed?

Certainly companies like Tesla Motors have the right idea:  luxury design with a sustainable power source.  Who wouldn’t want to own one of these babies?

TeslaModelS

Tesla Model S in Cherry Red. Zoom!

And  if you must have that Sub-Zero refrigerator, this beautiful high Energy Star-rated bottom freezer model is as efficient as they come:

Sub-Zero Fridge

Sub-Zero panel front refrigerator with bottom freezer. Takes less energy to run bottom freezer models.

Nest, too, has taken the lowly mechanical home thermostat to new sustainably designed heights.  This “smart” control system helps homeowners save energy.  In fact, they claim their customer can get to carbon neutrality in as little as eight weeks!  Pretty impressive.  And frankly, just plain pretty, don’t you agree?

Nest

The Nest Thermostat interface is part iPhone, part “2001: a Space Odyssey”. Cool!

So there’s no question in my mind that we have to be more mindful of our consumption of energy, water, and materials.  What I love about Tesla, Sub-Zero, and Nest (for some obviously beautiful examples) is that they’ve managed to achieve the design of sustainable products that are still jaw-droppingly gorgeous and covet-worthy, using new technologies for the modern age.

What are some of your favorite energy-efficient products that look great?  Please leave your comments!

Spring 2014 Report: Color, Shine, Texture

Blog, Furniture design, Trendson March 4th, 2014No Comments

Sabrina Alfin Interiors, Inc. is always on the lookout for new goodies to incorporate into our clients’ homes and we’re a little bowled over by how much great stuff is out there, both direct to the consumer and to the trade.  The watchwords for this season?  Color, shine, and texture. So I thought I’d share some recent finds that are new this Spring.  Best of all?  Most are pretty darn affordable.  Let’s get to it! (Click on the photos to see them larger.)

Made Goods.  Clockwise from left:  Gerald bookcase, Doreen side table, Clive coffee table, Angela stool.

Made Goods. Clockwise from left: Gerald bookcase, Doreen side table, Clive coffee table, Angela stool.

I am completely in love with Made Goods’s new Gerald bookcase, in all of its sculptural brass & glass glory.  Love the way the shelves seem to float on the structure!  Similarly, their new Clive coffee table reminds me of a topiary that’s been trained to hold a glass top.  And for side tables, I love the playful Ikat fabric-wrapped Doreern parsons table and the Angela macrame stool, both in a deep Indigo blue to add some great pattern and texture to a space.

2014 HollyHunt

Big Jars, from Holly Hunt.

The colorful simplicity of these Big Jars (yes, that’s really what they’re called) from Holly Hunt are great for multiple grouping and would be beautiful accent pieces to any room.  Would love to see these on underlit glass shelves to make them glow.

2014 Wisteria

Wisteria: clockwise from left: Campbell’s stool, Red Chinese Coffee Table, Laurel Leaf mirror.

Wisteria probably owes Andy Warhol an inpirational nod with their new Campbell’s stool, this time without the label!  A great accent piece that brings some metallic wow to a room.  And I love this Chinese Red coffee table, which is both classic and modern simultaneously.  It’s not fussy, either, so it could work just as easily in a casual family room or a more formal living room.  Need an elegant but understated mirror?  How about the new Laurel Leaf?  Could see this in an entry way, or in a powder room.

2014_serenalily

Serena & Lily. Clockwise from top left: Devon coffee table, Tucker chair, Nantucket bins, Dip Dyed stools, Cooper leather stool

Leave it to Serena & Lily to bring us more preppy charm with a hint of the British colonies. The chunkiness of the Devon coffee table is great for a rustic family room, and those Tucker windsor chairs are a fun update to a classic design.  In seven different paint colors, it would be fun to mix up a set to put around a white farmhouse table, don’t you agree?  The Dip Dyed stools come in both chair height and counter height in white (shown), yellow, and blue. They’d look great in a rustic modern or industrial kitchen for contrast, or use the smaller ones as plant stands on a covered patio.  The Nantucket baskets are so practical for home office or kids’ room storage, and that Cooper leather stool could be used as an ottoman or end-of-the-bed bench in a guest room with two twin beds.

So much to discover, so little time!  What’s your favorite find from this bunch?  Or have you found something else fabulous you’d like to share?  Post a link in the comments!

 

FOG Design + Art Show, Ft. Mason

Art, Blog, Furniture design, Lighting designon January 19th, 2014No Comments

If you love design, fine art, and the decorative arts, you might think about changing your plans today to catch the final day of this show at Ft. Mason.  Filled with mid-20th century statement pieces and new objects influenced by that era, this show is as much an education as it is pure eye candy.  And because it’s San Francisco, modern Asian aesthetics abound to beautiful effect.

IMG_1362

FOG Design + Art program with all galleries showing listed inside.

Here are some of my favorite pieces from the show, with appropriate gallery attribution:

Gallery Seomi

IMG_1360

Artist Bae Se Hwa’s unbelievably stunning use of bent walnut, makes this sculptural chair simultaneously curvy, organic, and linear at once. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this in the MOMA Architecture and Design permanent collection in the future.

IMG_1348

Soft, knitted sculpture adorns the wall. Fun! Can’t find the artist attribution; sorry!

The Future Perfect

IMG_1352

Coining a new design term: industrial organic. Seems to fit these amazing blown glass pendants fused with C-clamps and a hand crafted chain. So unique and eye-catching. By NYC artist Lindsey Adelman.

Edward Cella Art + Architecture

IMG_1356

Love this grouping of ceramic plates by artist Brad Miller. The glazes and texture are subtle and tactile.

Blum & Poe

IMG_1358

A riot of color and texture in this abstract expressionist work by Chinese artist Zhu Jinshi. Layers and layers of oil paint cover the canvas to gorgeous effect.

IMG_1359

Nihlist anime meets ’60s Flower Power? Morbidly fascinated by this one.

The show is open today from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  But if you can’t get to the exhibit, you can see the work at the galleries represented on Artsy.

 

 

SAI’s Year in Review: 2013

Blog, Green design, Kitchen design, Materials, Press, Recent Work, Residential interior designon December 23rd, 2013No Comments

My head is spinning with the thought this year is ending in a week’s time! Goodness, it went shockingly fast, but perhaps that’s because it was so chock full of great projects, new clients, and some pretty darn good press.  And, given that this was only SAI’s 2nd full year of being in business, I’m proud of the fact that we’re in the black and growing.

I think it always helps to stop and take stock, so here’s a quick recap of all SAI accomplished in this calendar year:

1. Successful completion of the Peninsula Volunteers’ Decorator Show House, Woodside, CA.  May 2013

DJBPhoto_130417_0044

It really was an honor to have shown my work alongside a very talented field of Bay Area designers, some of whom have been in business for decades.  The sustainable sun room I showcased got some tremendously positive feedback and was instrumental in landing me a new client! Featured in Gentry Home (pg.64), The Wall Street Journal, and several notable design blogs, this was a wonderful experience.  And kudos must also be given to all of my design partners who so graciously donated pieces or greatly reduced the price of their goods and services in exchange for promotional consideration.

2.  Completion of a major kitchen remodel, San Carlos, CA

DJBPhoto_131122_0071

The design phase of this project began in late 2012 in order to explore multiple layout options to get just the right configuration.  Once the final floor plan and look and feel was agreed to, the work went very fast:  13 weeks from demolition to completion, including the fabrication and installation of custom cabinetry.  The results are beautiful, clients are very pleased, and the feedback has been wonderful.

3. Lots of proposals, two new clients

As someone who ran new business pitches in my former life as an ad exec, I’ve learned that not every pitch can be a winner.  So you have to do lots of them to raise your win percentage.  Pleased that two new clients have come into the fold this year for projects in progress:  one is in Foster City for a remodeled guest bath and updated living room furnishings/layouts, and another in San Carlos for building materials and finishes specification on new construction.

4. Press

In addition to the Show House press mentioned above, here’s some other notable mentions:

House of Turquoise

http://www.houseofturquoise.com/2013/07/sabrina-alfin-interiors.html

rough luxe

http://roughluxeperspective.blogspot.com/2013/05/peninsula-volunteers-show-house-our.html

http://www.mercurynews.com/columns/ci_23271434/society-very-special-decorator-show-house

http://courtneyoutloud.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/play-date-2013-peninsula-volunteers-decorator-show-house/

http://www.simplifiedbee.com/2013/05/sneak-peek-peninsula-volunteers-decorator-show-house-2013.html

5. Giving back to the design community

I’m a big believer in helping the next generation of designers and so I gave a presentation on starting one’s own design business for the students at Canada College (where I graduated from the program in 2011) back in January.  The feedback was so positive, I gave a reprise presentation to the Intro to Interior Design class just a few weeks ago, and also gave it to the interior design students at West Valley College.  One of my former instructors (and collaborators!) has already asked me to present some tips/tricks on the marketing aspect of design for one of his classes next semester, which I am thrilled to do.

In addition, I served on the Professional Development Committee of the CA Peninsula Chapter of ASID, chairing the Design Awards Gala event in June.

So, all in all, a busy year!  Planning to enter my work into upcoming design competitions and will keep you all posted on the outcome.  My very best wishes to everyone for a happy and successful 2014!

Kitchen Remodel Chronicles: The Finished Project

Construction, Kitchen design, Recent Work, Residential interior designon November 27th, 2013No Comments

Thirteen weeks after the start of demolition, the project is done!  And just in the nick of time for Thanksgiving.  Clients are happy, the design objectives were met, and the place looks pretty darn great, if I do say so.  ;-)

Shout outs to my collaborators:  Mark Hersh, General Contractor.  Noe Erazo of High Quality Custom Cabinetry.  Artistic Tile & Stone.  DaVinci Marble.  Roberto Barahona Co.  Atherton Appliance.  Hubbardton Forge.  Denny Holland Studio for the cool collages in the display cabinets.  And Dean J. Birinyi Photography for the brilliant images, below. And of course, to my awesome San Carlos clients for making all of this possible.  They know who they are!

DJBPhoto_131122_0043_9000

Full kitchen view.

DJBPhoto_131123_0087

Storage wall with LED-lit display cabinets, including an appliance garage. Work island with gas cooktop, downdraft vent, and counter stools.

DJBPhoto_131122_10504_9000

Built-in buffet with LED-lit glass cabinets, wine fridge.

DJBPhoto_131122_10500

Breakfast area with built-in, upholstered banquette.

DJBPhoto_131122_10519_9000

Mom’s office nook.

Kitchen Remodel Chronicles: Almost Done!

Blog, Construction, Kitchen design, Materials, Residential interior designon October 25th, 2013No Comments

Hardwood floors have been installed and the granite/tile are going in today.  Final painting, floor finishing, and lighting/appliance installation are next.  This is the last Kitchen Remodel Chronicles post I’ll do before the final professional photos are available.  Kitchen will be finished in two weeks and the final photos available just before Thanksgiving.  Yay!

Here’s where we are as of today:

Bergen_granitesink

Typhoon Bordeaux granite is just stunning against the creamy cabinets. Love the veiny, colorful patterns!

 

Bergen Kitchen_granite

Table top for the kitchen banquette sitting on the contractors truck awaiting installation. Island countertop sits behind.

Bergen_granitebuffet

Can’t wait to see the tile backsplash on the back wall!

Kitchen Remodel Chronicles: Cabinets and Templating

Blog, Construction, Kitchen design, Materials, Recent Work, Residential interior designon October 15th, 2013No Comments

IMG_1179[1]

Storage wall: pantry, appliance garage, and LED-lit glass panel top cabinets.

Starting to look like a real kitchen, isn’t it?  :-)  Custom cabinet maker and his crew are doing a great job with the installation and should be done with the full cabinet install by tomorrow.  We’re now at the stage in which the stone fabricator takes templates of the cabinetry to make sure the soon-to-be installed granite countertops fit just so.  The stone fabricator also happens to be the tile installer, which makes it easy for the finishes to fit together seamlessly.  Photos below show more views of the cabinet installation, in progress.

IMG_1180[1]

Island with built-in, beadboard paneled bookshelves for cookbooks and display.

IMG_1182[1]

Matt, the tile and stone sub-contractor, is creating the templates for the countertops.

IMG_1183[1]

Buffet with glass-paneled, LED lit wall cabinets and glass shelving to hold glassware. Wine fridge space next to base cabinet.

IMG_1184[1]

Office nook for Mom. Family hub for scheduling, bill paying, etc.

IMG_1185[1]

Cooktop side of the island with storage drawers and cabinets. Overhang for counter stools.

Next up:  flooring, appliance installation, plumbing installation, and banquette upholstery.  Assuming all goes according to plan, we should be done early November!