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Winning designs for Western living.

THIS YEAR, WE TARGETED PAINT; COLLECTIONS USED AS KEY DESIGN ELEMENTS; KITCHEN-FAMILY ROOMS; AND GREAT INTERIOR DESIGN IDEAS FOR LESS THAN $500. WE RECEIVED 362 ENTRIES. OUR JURY BESTOWED 17 AWARDS OF EXCELLENCE: 5 TO AMATEUR DESIGNERS AND 12 TO PROFESSIONAL.

EVERY TWO YEARS SUNSET'S INTERIOR DESIGN AWARDS PROGRAM TAKES a close look at how Westerners are making their living spaces more personal, interesting, functional, and enjoyable. It's total immersion: a sort of virtual reality check on the details of Western living. The jury seeks imaginative, original, and skillfully executed solutions to everyday design problems from amateur and professional designers, who are judged separately.

This year's winning entries demonstrate an appealing diversity, ranging from an ingenious wedge-shaped, under-stair storage cart to a color scheme inspired by turn-of-the-century Swedish painter Carl Larsson. Jurors also spotted some developing trends: the use of vintage 1940s and 1950s kitchen ranges as functional art objects, and the treatment of kitchen cabinetry as fine furniture. Our jury has singled out its choices. Now you be the judge.

THE "WEIRD PALETTE" of this interior attracted the jury's attention. Alternating wall colors create an impression of greater spaciousness by drawing the eye from room to room. Used in this way, paint became a simple, inexpensive way to turn a small, dark, 1940s tract house into something bright, fresh, and contemporary. Working for owners Rhonda Voo and Eric Alan, Los Angeles architect Alison Wright chose four Dunn-Edwards paint colors--provocatively titled "Lake Louise" (blue), "Pamlico" (green), "Milky Way" (white), and "Magentotail" (red)--that echo colors in her clients' paintings and art glass.

"IT'S INCREDIBLE," said one juror about the eye-catching TV-and-storage cabinet of painted, medium-density fiberboard that San Francisco interior designer David Livingston created and Page Kelher executed for Anne and Greg Avis. Patterns of flowers, harlequin crisscrosses, and faux wood-grain make the large, 8-foot-long cabinet appear less bulky. If it had been painted all one color, the cabinet might "have resembled an aircraft carrier moored in the room," says Livingston. Inspiration for the ornamentation came from the brightly decorated furniture associated with London's Bloomsbury Group early in this century.

A BOLD USE of vivid stains gives this house visual excitement. Jurors liked the clarity and simplicity of the colors and the way they highlighted the natural grain of the wood. By using one color for each distinct form--yellow for overhead cabinets, green for under-counter cabinets, and red for the island--architect Jon Anderson, of Albuquerque, turned the kitchen into a bright, dramatic space.

CAVE PAINTINGS on a fireplace front won front won praise for originality. Berkeley artist Michael Shemchuk, of ArtDecor, combined ready-mixed joint compound with polyurethane and applied it to a sealed gypsum board base. Using a stylus, he inscribed "cave drawings" while the compound was still wet. After sanding and sealing, he colored the designs with diluted latex paint, then applied an oil-base glaze unevenly with cheesecloth to create the weathered patina. Finally, he sealed the fireplace front with two coats of clear acrylic varnish.

THE MULTIHUED HOUSE of turn-of-the-century Swedish artist Carl Larsson inspired the color choices for this bungalow kitchen in Albany, California. Owner-architect Robin Pennell recalls: "We used our own colors, but the idea that you could put a lot of busy colors together and not be busy was Larsson's." Pennell and his architect wife, Mimi, chose dark green for the cabinetry and bright yellow for the wainscoting to evoke an old farmhouse feel. The cream window and door trim and black-and-white checkerboard linoleum floor act as neutral foils for more explosive colors elsewhere. Butcher-block counters add warmth.

ANTHROPOLOGY ASCENDING describes the way a collection of masks from Mexico, China, Ghana, Peru, and Tibet--among other countries--lines this stair hall. Each mask is mounted in a niche between wall studs. By recessing the masks, San Francisco architect Allan M. Levy was able to keep them from protruding into the narrow space of the stairway. Light from ceiling- and wall-mounted spotlights washes across the masks. Dramatically placed in a larger, vividly lit niche at the top of the stair, a wooden statue of a Thai prince draws the eye up from the front door, greeting visitors as a kind of surrogate host.

THE WAVELIKE WARP in a defective 2-by-2 furring strip was sanded into a sculptural hanger for what the jury seemed one of the most interesting collections among all entries. Owners Michelle Gringeri-Brown and Jim Brown, South Pasadena, California, used a combination of sponge-painting and glaze techniques (no brushes) on the wall behind for a rich but subdued backdrop. A spotlight behind the bureau adds a touch of drama. Brushes, a pin-striper brush far car painting; gold leaf brush; round stencil brush; coffee grinder brush; Chinese brush; wood grainer; flogger; three ordinary watercolor brushes; and an old-fashioned lint brush.

SALT AND PEPPER SHAKERS surround you in this breakfast nook. Santa Barbara architect Brian Cearnal, of Cearnal Ehlen Associates, treated the window bay as a gigantic display case far his client's collection of more than 200 pairs of shakers. Each window holds eight glass shelves. Low-voltage track lighting above the windows creates a theatrical effect at night. An intrigued juror noted, "This is a way to live inside your collection."

THE ATTENTION TO DETAIL in this kitchen-family room made jurors stop and stare. A simplified crown molding floats above the cabinets and broadens into a suspended ceiling over the breakfast nook, visually tying kitchen and eating area. An angled fin wall divides the kitchen and breakfast nook from the family room proper without blocking sightlines between the spaces. And the cabinetry resembles fine furniture; it even has legs.

Such details give the spaces an elegantly finished look, making them appropriate for entertaining as well as relaxing. Each space complements the other within a restrained palette of black granite counters, natural birch cabinets, black-fronted appliances, stainless steel backsplash and hood, and pale yellow walls. San Francisco architect Barbara Lobb and designer Doris Lobb did the design for owners Beth Brumell and Gary Wynbrandt.

COMBINING CRAFTSMAN CHARACTER WITH A MODERN SENSE OF OPENNESS, this kitchen-family room stands out. "Even before we had a rough floor plan, I knew I wanted the kitchen to be my salute to The Gamble House," says owner Robin Gilligan, referring to Pasadena's great Arts and Crafts landmark designed by Charles and Henry Greene. Gilligan explains: "I have always loved the contrast of the white subway tile and pale maple cabinetry with the heady rich woodwork of the rest of the house." And since her own shingled house was built around the same time, an Arts and Crafts aesthetic seemed the logical way to go.

Gilligan used rock from her Los Gates, California, yard for the fireplace, wood from an old trellis in the new mantelpiece, and the mullion pattern from her living and dining room windows for glass and maple kitchen cabinets.

"NICE CHOICES ON A LIMITED BUDGET," purred jury members as they unanimously voted to give this project an award. They appreciated the down-to-earth way it expresses the personality of the owner: "It doesn't look as though it's coming from an interior decorator book," said one juror.

Owner-architect Anne Phillips, of Berkeley, designed the space around three cherished objects: a 10-foot-long baker's table, a 5-foot-long ceramic sink salvaged from a silk-screen factory, and an old-fashioned, 6-foot-tall, glass-fronted wood hutch. The unusually long table--with butcher-block top over a frame of galvanized iron pipe--dominates the room. Phillips says: "It has become the heartbeat of the house; all of the activity of the house centers around it."

Table, sink, and hutch suggest a "country kitchen" aesthetic. White walls, natural pine and maple for some trim and cabinetry, and an open-beam ceiling with loft at one end form an understated backdrop and allow the furniture to dominate.

THE SKILLED USE of natural materials, such as slate, granite, and maple, won the jury's admiration for this kitchen-family room. David Stark Wilson, of Wilson Associates in Emeryville, California, designed the space to function as a sort of three-ring circus within a single large tent of space. A slate-sided, granite-topped buffet island is the principal focal point and defines the cooking zone. Its four stainless steel, concrete-filled pillars help set it off as a kind of stage in the middle of the room. A window bay forms the breakfast zone, and a fireplace and raised hearth flanked by media and storage cabinets define the sitting zone. The consistent use of materials and patterns ties the three spaces together. Sculptural metal figures holding low-voltage lights add a whimsical touch to the room.

JURORS FLIPPED FOR THE FLOORING of this remodeled 1940s ranch house in Grants Pass, Oregon. Vivid square and rectangle patterns in the vinyl floor tile function as permanent area rugs to help define spaces without enclosing them. San Francisco architect Toby Levy and associate Deborah Everson removed a heavy light-blocking overhead cabinet and added clerestory windows to enhance the feeling of openness. Most of the house now works as one big daylight-filled kitchen-family room.

The jurors also appreciated the care that the architects took to make this interior as comfortable as possible for environmentally sensitive clients. Levy and Everson replaced the fireplace with a closed wood-burning stove, removed any finish materials that would act as "dust and odor sinks," and specified cabinetry manufactured with formaldehyde-free materials.

AN 1874 WALL CUPBOARD, OR VEGGSKAP,at left, acquired on a trip to Norway by owner Curtis Solberg, inspired the design of this refurbished kitchen in Santa Barbara. Solberg's wife, Lana Rose, explains,"My husband's grandparents immigrated from Norway in the 1890s, and he maintains deep connections to his Norse roots." Lana Rose based the kitchen's crown moldings, paint color, and cabinet treatment--including the apothecary drawers--on the cupboard's ornamental details. The brass-and-crystal kerosene chandelier (converted to electricity), brass hardware for drawers and cabinets, and antique Norwegian towel rack add to the kitchen's Scandinavian farmhouse character.

"A GREAT SOLUTION to a problem that has plagued us all,"enthused one juror about this novel wedge-shaped storage cart that fits under a stairway. Owner Robert S. Michelsen, of Auburn, Washington, designed and built the "sled on wheels" to make everything stored under the stair readily accessible. Now, rather than crawling to the back of the closet to find something, Michelsen and his wife, Patricia, just roll out "Daisy," made from used 2-by-4s split lengthwise, 1/2-inch plywood, and four bicycle training wheels from a thrift shop. Cost: about $165, including the door and its frame.

INSPIRED by the agricultural nature of their neighborhood, owners Matt and Joan Hahn, of Buellton, California, treated the wall behind their son's crib (or is it a corral?) as the facade of a barn, using 1-by-6 and 1-by-3 knotty pine, tar shingles, and paint. For the frame of the "grain silo" bookcase, they used 1-by-6 knotty pine; for the shelving, 3/4-inch particleboard. Drywall screws affix both structures to the walls. The jury felt the designs for the head-board and corner bookcase were clever and attainable. The total cost for the room makeover was about $485.

THE JURY

LOU ANN BAUER ASID Interior designer San Francisco

EDWARD R. BOSLEY Director, The Gamble House Pasadena

JIM HEIMANN Graphic designer Los Angeles Jury chairman

MELISSA HOUTTE Sunset executive editor Menlo Park, California

ALLAN PALECEK Wicker furniture manufacturer Richmond, California
COPYRIGHT 1994 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1994 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sunset's 1994 Interior Design Awards Program
Author:Gregory, Daniel
Publication:Sunset
Date:Oct 1, 1994
Words:1876
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