SQUARING AWAY YOUR WALLS

When walls collide with geometric shapes, an uninspired space can suddenly have a strong point of view. Whether iterated as patterned wallpaper, mirrors, or artwork in shapely frames, the effect can be subtle or statement making.

“Geometric shapes are very dynamic and carry a lot of visual weight,” says New Jersey-based Jennifer Matthews, co-founder and creative director at Tempaper, a line of removable wallpaper. “If they are small, they can add textural interest, whereas larger shapes create bold movement in a room.”

“When mixed with more traditional motifs, they lend a freshness to the designs,” says Los Angeles-based designer Stefani Stein. Meanwhile, the repetitive nature of geometrics lends an organization to a room, so there’s an automatic symmetry.

“Don’t be afraid to use geometric shapes, regardless of your overall style direction,” says Tulsa, Okla.-based designer Mel Bean. “An all-neutral space with limited layering of geometric shapes and patterns is an entirely different experience from a colorful, complex, extensive use of pattern and color.”

SHIFT SHAPES

Combining different shapes creates an interesting tension, Matthews says, like pairing oval sconces or circled mirrors with scalloped wallpaper and a diamond rug or bold-tiled flooring. New York-based Barbara Karpf, founder and president of DecoratorsBest, an online retailer for high-end textiles and wallpapers, recommends mixing different geometric patterns together when they have varied scales. “A small, tight pattern works well with a large open geometric—one pattern could have a touch of a color that is prominent in the other pattern,” she says.

Marimekko wallpaper, from DecoratorsBest in New York, adds a chic geometric look to a living room space
Marimekko wallpaper, from DecoratorsBest in New York, adds a chic geometric look to a living room space.

WORK WITH WALLPAPER

The easiest way to apply pattern to walls is by using wallpaper. “Geometric wallpapers range in effect from youthful to sophisticated,” Bean says. “The iconic Hicks hexagon wall covering is an elegant classic. And for a bold, modern approach, I love Cole & Son’s Geometric II paper,” she says.

“A wallpapered statement wall can form foyers from simple hallways, home offices from cozy corners, and separate dining areas from living spaces,” Karpf says. Keep in mind, a small, repetitive pattern works everywhere, whereas a big, bold pattern will work best on an accent wall, she says.

And, when considering color, generally, the lighter the hue, the subtler the experience, says Newton, Mass.-based designer Liz Caan. “Geometric patterns with high-contrast colors will always veer into bold and graphic territory, so be mindful when choosing your palette.”

Using geometric prints has another benefit: They can hide a multitude of sins. For one project, Manhattan-based designer Timothy Brown used a multicolor tonal stripe to hide some millwork he didn’t want to remove but also didn’t want to highlight. They also “allow you to control the direction and flow of a space, whether you want to cast focus on an area or guide the eye away from a less savory spot,” he says.

A bathroom with Tempaper wallpaper, a bathroom designed by Alison Pickart with patterned walls.
A bathroom with Tempaper wallpaper, a bathroom designed by Alison Pickart with patterned walls

 

MIX MEDIUMS

Combining geometrics with other patterns adds interest and can balance out the look. “A stripe or geometric pattern on a printed grasscloth wallcovering can soften the crisp nature of a bold print,” Stein says. She suggests trying a variegated stripe, monochrome geometric, or tonal variation for a dramatic backdrop that won’t overpower the other elements of the space. Caan prefers to play with “opposites” when it comes to wallpapers, such as mixing a bold stripe or geometric with a floral. “When the colors are copacetic and the scales are varying—creating some relational value—the end result can have a dramatic effect, but one with a softer edge thanks to the floral balancing the sharp lines of the geometric,” she says.

A bathroom with Tempaper wallpaper, a bathroom designed by Alison Pickart with patterned walls
A bathroom with Tempaper wallpaper, a bathroom designed by Alison Pickart with patterned walls.

THINK BEYOND WALLPAPER

There are other mediums in which to shape your walls, too. “Our favorite method, which introduces rich texture and architectural interest, is through applied moldings,” says Chicago-based designer Tom Stringer. “We’ve used a repeating geometric motif at various scales in applied moldings, and then again in other areas in carved screens to layer pattern and texture into a stark white interior.”

Stringer has also utilized painted designs, which he achieved by taping off patterns and then painting in contrasting colors to create geometric motifs on walls.

Geometric shapes, when applied to upholstery, help create depth, says Chicago- and San Francisco-based interior designer Alison Pickart. “I’ve used ceiling-mounted drapery in hallways that have utility and closet doors that needed to be concealed yet still be accessible,” she says. She also loves to use tiled geometric patterns, whether on kitchen walls or bathroom backsplashes to incorporate interest.

A kitchen designed by Liz Caan features geometric tiles.
A kitchen designed by Liz Caan features geometric tiles

 

STRIKE A BALANCE

“The biggest impact comes from either using them in excess or very thoughtfully in small, understated doses,” Caan says.

Brown considers every aspect of the room when working with geometric shapes to create an overall symmetry.

“Any room is a mix of geometric shapes—from added furniture to the decisive lines of windows and doors. Focus on the scale of any pattern or shape so that it all works together,” Brown says.

WHITE-HOT INTERIORS

There’s a restrained beauty about an all-white space; it’s a sophisticated refinement that awes in its absence of color. And, depending on accent features, furniture, and fabrics, the effect can feel warm and welcoming or modern and minimalist.

“White spaces are serene and provide a neutral setting for other more subtle items in the room to shine,” says Amalia Graziani of Noor Property Group, a Manhattan-based real estate development firm. They also create a blank canvas, says Phillip Thomas, founder and principal of Phillip Thomas Inc. in New York City. “You can build a story within the space,” he says. Creating an inspired design is all in the details.

Set against the blue of the water in Miami, this nearly all-white room designed by Phillip Thomas really pops
Set against the blue of the water in Miami, this nearly all-white room designed by Phillip Thomas really pops.

VARY THE SHADES

Playing with different tones of white and cream can keep the room from feeling too stark, says Rome, Italy-based architect and designer Achille Salvagni. He suggests incorporating prints that combine shades of either white or cream on the walls, in the upholstery, or even on the floor. “Small or subtle pops of color or metallics introduced into the room, that come from art and accessories, also add warmth and a level of sophistication,” Salvagni says. “I like to use a warmer white on the walls paired with brighter trim and a cooler ceiling,” Graziani says. “Subtle contrast makes the space feel much more inviting.”

CREATE TEXTURAL TOUCHES

Warming up the room and adding dimension is a matter of texture. “Texture is key in keeping a white space from lacking soul,” Thomas says. “Texture reflects light—both natural and artificial—in different ways, and light excites the eye.”

Salvagni prefers materials such as cashmere, boucle, sheepskin, and mohair, particularly for upholstery, to add warmth, depth, and a sense of comfort. For carpeting, he opts for a plush, warm-toned silk. “I love the idea of complementing a white ceiling and all-white walls with a printed carpet that combines different shades of white and cream,” he says. Hand-knotted and handwoven rugs add sophistication and a sense of luxury to a space, says Lance Thomas, co-founder of Room Service, a fine furniture and interior design firm in Lake Charles, La. “I personally like to contrast the style of my rug to the furniture that sits on top of it,” he says.

Graziani prefers chunky sisal rugs for warmth and texture to offset cool walls. She also loves the contrast of a rough linen weave alongside softer materials such as cashmere and boucle. But texture is not just found in textiles. Lance Thomas recommends wallpapering walls in suede or introducing a lacquered finish on a side table.

A white space designed by Phillip Thomas, feels decidedly upscale.
A white space designed by Phillip Thomas, feels decidedly upscale

 

FOCUS ON ACCENTS

Finishes such as metal play a significant role in achieving an impactful all-white space, Lance Thomas says. “Matte black or iron hardware and fixtures can add stark contrast and a contemporary spin on the space,” he adds. And contrast is a powerful tool. “When the eye sees the truest white and the truest black in a space, all of the other variations of white become richer.”

Given the neutral nature of white walls, there’s a chance to play with interesting hardware and doors, Graziani says. “Sharp stainless door handles, antique glass knobs, or a bold door will shine in an otherwise understated room,” she says. For instance, in one of the white rooms she’s designed, she added three sets of double French doors in place of conventional doors to add depth and reflection. “Adding structural details such as bold beams, chair rails, and paneling also elevates the space and creates dimension,” she says. And don’t forget about greenery, “not only for its vibrant color, but to add a sense of warmth, calm, and fragrance to a space,” Lance Thomas says.

Layering is another important tool. “An all-white space looks best when it feels collected over time,” he adds. For example, a mid-century coffee table would play nicely on top of an antique rug. Or, he recommends framing a vintage piece of art in a contemporary lacquered frame. His other musts: a healthy mix of patterns, patina, and personality, wood furniture, at least one antique—even in a contemporary space—as well as a custom-tailored piece. “When a space feels collected, it creates intention,” Lance Thomas says.

In terms of shapes, Salvagni suggests round and organic forms for sofas, chaises, coffee and dining tables, and even carpets. “These round and organic shapes will accentuate the coziness of the room,” he says.

Black and white contrast well in a room by Lance Thomas
Black and white contrast well in a room by Lance Thomas.

 

LET THERE BE LIGHT

“Lighting is probably the best way to add another dimension and elemental layering,” Salvagni says. The first thing he looks for is to add warm-hued lighting as well as an appropriately proportioned light fixture. “This will create the dimension needed to enhance the ambiance in the room, and when done correctly, always helps to keep a room feeling warm and looking elegantly stylish,” he explains.

“Ambient lighting is a wonderful way to intentionally create depth through highlights and shadows,” Lance Thomas adds. “I love the way a pair of wall sconces can cast shadows onto the ceiling and highlight slivers of surrounding furniture.”

Incorporating multiple sources of light helps a room feel more inviting, Graziani says. “Instead of relying on a central pendant or chandelier, incorporating soft secondary sources of light, such as picture lighting and task lamps, can make a big difference,” she says.

PAINT IT BLACK

HOW TO USE THE DARKEST SHADE IN A WAY THAT’S CHIC AND EYE-CATCHING

Appeared in RESIDE Magazine.

Shading your walls in black may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re considering paint colors. But black has a daring all its own that can bring character and chicness to your space.

“The result is both unexpected and incredibly sophisticated,” says Andrea Magno, a Benjamin Moore color and design expert.

“Black has an interesting effect on the walls of a room because the corners and shadows are obscured more than if a midtone or pastel color is used,” Magno says. “This can be used as a visual trick to give the space a less-defined appearance and can make a room feel a bit more expansive.”

Black walls can also bring coziness. “Dark walls coupled with dramatic lighting create an instant air of luxury and sumptuousness,” says Karen Howes, CEO and founder of London-based interior-design firm Taylor Howes.

Choosing the Right Room

It’s important to consider the function of the room and also the time of day that you spend the most time there, Howes says. Great candidates for black walls include rooms used primarily as evening spaces or those that aren’t reliant on task lighting, such as home cinemas and dining rooms, she says.

In a media room, black walls help absorb the light and won’t distract from the room’s main function, Howes says. “We also find using darker tones in dining rooms helps create a luxurious feel in the evening when our clients are entertaining,” she says.

“Often the rooms that are most successful have a balance between light and dark—where black walls are paired with a light floor color or furniture done in neutrals and whites,” Magno adds.

A black accent wall in a bedroom
A black accent wall in a bedroom

Accent Versus All Four Walls

“Black can be a superb choice, as it allows you to play with contrasts,” says Nicolas Adnet of Studio MHNA, an architecture and design firm in Paris. “For example, if the rest of the room is done in pale or pastel palettes, painting a wall black can add drama and create atmosphere.”

A single black wall can also give character and structure to a space and be used to highlight furniture or a collection of art, Adnet notes.

If used as an accent, Magno says, it’s important that it creates a focal point and architecturally makes sense in the room. For instance, accent walls work well when a room has a wall with a fireplace or millwork, or when there is an alcove or other feature worthy of attention, she says.

Adding Dimension

Black walls can handle patterned accessories or upholstery. “The black will tend to recede, causing the pattern to advance or be more eye-catching,” Magno says. Repeating black in patterns also helps tie the look of the room together.

“For instance, many materials used for countertops—whether marble, granite, or quartz—have black running through them and can instantly create a visual connection between the walls and other features in the room,” Magno says.

A nearly all-black bedroom designed by Studio MHNA
A nearly all-black bedroom designed by Studio MHNA

Perfect Finish

The finish you choose for the paint can have different effects on the space. A matte black has a soft quality, while a high gloss will add reflection and drama.

“Using a semigloss or high-gloss finish works well in dark spaces, as it helps to bounce the light around,” Howes says. “We tend to combine different finishes in one space to get a nice balance.”

Using Trims Well

Often rooms with walls painted black have white or off-white trim for a clean look, Magno notes. “Black looks great when used in a space with neutral or white wainscoting or cabinetry because the contrast is striking and chic,” she adds.

For a sophisticated look, she recommends painting walls and trim or millwork in one black hue, and either using the same finish on both surfaces or using a lower sheen on the walls, such as a matte finish and a semigloss or high gloss on the trim.

Purple furniture pops in this black room by Taylor Howes
Purple furniture pops in this black room by Taylor Howes.

New ‘HomePod’ speaker coming to smart homes

SAN JOSE, California (AP) – June 6, 2017 – Apple nodded to several up-and-coming technology trends, unveiling a new “smart” home speaker and device features touching on virtual reality, online privacy and a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning.

The “HomePod” speaker unveiled Monday is similar to devices from rivals, some of which have been on the market for years. Like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, the HomePod will play music while also helping people to manage their lives and homes. Siri will be voice activated to respond to requests for information and other help around the house.

It is the first new device Apple has announced in almost three years. It unveiled the Apple Watch in September 2014.

Apple “can’t afford to yield valuable real-estate in the heart of people’s homes to Amazon, Google and others,” said Geoff Blaber, research analyst at CCS Insight. That’s especially important because people are starting to access information, entertainment and search in a more “pervasive” way that’s less dependent on smartphones, he said.

The speaker will sell for about $350 in December in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Amazon sells the main version of the Echo for $180; Google’s Home speaker goes for $130.

The Echo, released in 2015, and Google Home, released last year, were the first entrants in a promising market. The research firm eMarketer says than 35 million people in the U.S. are expected to use a voice-activated speaker at least once a month this year, more than double its estimate from last year.

Keeping it real with VR

New iMacs unveiled Monday at Apple’s annual conference for software programmers are getting better displays and graphics capabilities. Apple said that makes the Mac a great platform for development virtual-reality “experiences.”

But Apple is late to the game on VR. Samsung and Google already have VR systems centered on their smartphones. Facebook, HTC and Sony have high-end VR systems, too.

Virtual reality has been described as the next big thing for decades. But so far, interest has been strongest among gamers, developers and hardware makers rather than everyday users.

Apple’s entry into the market could change this. Its entry into digital-music sales with iTunes, and into the smartphone market with the iPhone, upended those industries and gave them mass appeal.

New iPhone features

New features coming to iPhones and iPads include messages that sync to Apple servers in the cloud. These devices will only keep the most recent messages in local storage.

For photos, Apple is turning to a “high efficiency” format to replace the widely used JPEG standard. Although the format is not exclusive to Apple, it’s not yet clear how well the photos will work with non-Apple software and devices, which mostly use JPEG.

Apple is also bringing the ability to send money to friends or other people through its payment service, Apple Pay. So far, the service has limited payments to purchases of products and services from companies and other organizations.

The free software update for mobile devices, iOS 11, is expected in September, when Apple typically releases new iPhones.

MAC gets an upgrade

Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the latest operating system for Mac computers. Called High Sierra, it recognizes more faces automatically, which should make it easier to organize photos, and will offer more photo editing tools.

Safari, Apple’s web browser, seeks to make users’ online experience smoother and less annoying. It will allow users to automatically block auto-play videos by detecting videos that shouldn’t be playing when you open a webpage to read an article, for example.

The browser’s new “intelligent tracking prevention,” meanwhile, will use machine learning to identify and block digital-ad trackers in order to keep advertisers from following and profiling users. It will not block the ads themselves, though.

Sizing up the iPad

Apple is introducing an iPad Pro in a new size in an attempt to revive interest in its once hot-selling line of tablets. The new 10.5-inch model offers room for a full-size keyboard, something the 9.7-inch model couldn’t. Yet it isn’t as bulky as the 12.9-inch model.

With consumers less interested in buying new tablets, Apple has increased its focus on designing tablets for professionals to do much of the same work that they usually perform on a laptop computer. It’s also what Microsoft is targeting with the Surface Pro; a new model comes out on June 15.

The new iPad Pro also comes with a better camera – the same one found in the iPhone 7 – along with more storage, a better display and faster refreshing of moving images. The new model starts at $649 and will start shipping next week.

Watch the watch

Apple is also updating the operating software for its Apple Watch, including new watch faces, more personalized alerts that use machine learning to tailor information to you based on your routines and tastes.

It also enhanced its workout app to, for instance, support high intensity interval training. It will also be possible to exchange data between gym equipment and the watch.

In a nod to Amazon streaming fans, Apple is also bringing Amazon Prime to its Apple TV app.

AP Logo Copyright © 2017 The Associated Press, Michael Liedtke and Barbara Ortutay, AP technology writers. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.