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"How are you going to use these spaces?" (interior design)

Here's a lesson in how an interior designer works with a client--to complete a versatile to complete a versatile living-kitchen area

WHAT IS INTERIOR design? It entails the thoughtful shaping of interior space to fit particular functions and to suit the client's needs, dreams, and budget. Award-winning San Francisco interior designer Lou Ann Bauer's recent assignment to complete a living-kitchen area that opens onto a pool helps explain what interior design is all about.

After the structural shell had been built, homeowners Jane and John Willison wanted Bauer's help in selecting finishes, furniture, and lighting that would create a comfortable, distinctive interior.

Bauer's first question to her clients was, "How are you going to use these spaces?" The Willisons answered that flexibility would be important. The living area had to function as an informal living-dining room, as a guest room, and as a place where children could play. And they wanted it, and the kitchen, to be casual, able to withstand heavy use, and to serve as a contrast to more formal rooms in the main house.

Bauer sketched several design approaches. Together, she and the Willisons settled on one design, which Bauer then refined, producing a floor plan and interior elevations showing the window treatments. The Willisons hired Jeff Kraft, a contractor who was willing to experiment with new ideas, to convert the design to reality.

To give the area an outdoor feeling--capitalizing on its proximity to the pool Bauer used simple, rough, outdoor-oriented materials, such as plaster walls and concrete floors. She derived her palette of beiges and greens from earth and plant tones.

The walls and floor are integrally colored (the pigment was mixed into plaster and concrete) and an aniline dye stain highlights the wood grain of the cabinetry and the tapered window trim, which conceals shades. Timbers divide the floor into sections, giving the rooms a more intimate scale than a continuous slab would have provided. And down lights and uplights (built into the continuous plaster soffit that rings the living area) accentuate the open-beam ceiling and the texture of the plaster walls.

To keep the living area as flexible as possible, Bauer avoided heavy, hard-to-move furniture, like sofas. She helped Jane Willison find appropriate chairs--contemporary-looking and fitting the indoor-outdoor theme--during visits to interior design showrooms. In a pinch, the chairs can be used at the pool without looking out of place.

As Bauer states, "A client will describe the sort of furniture she has in mind. And then it's the designer's job to find it, or, if it doesn't exist, to know cabinetmakers who can fabricate it. The interior designer is really selling her or his consulting time and knowledge of the marketplace." In this case, the chairs her client liked had leather covers--impractical for children--so Bauer got the manufacturer to cover them in vinyl.

Bauer achieved an especially dramatic effect with the kitchen woodwork by using contrasting stains and by giving each cabinet door a saw-toothed edge. To create a work surface that would continue the indoor-outdoor theme and provide a distinctive visual accent, Bauer engaged concrete fabricator Buddy Rhodes to design sculptural counters and backsplashes. Integrally colored, the beige-and-green patterned concrete counters visually unify the room.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Gregory, Daniel
Date:Jun 1, 1993
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