← Older posts

Ormolulu Vintage Works is Beautifully Designed Interior Space


Ormolulu Vintage Works is overflowing with  beautiful decorative accessories and home furnishings.


Ormolulu Vintage Works is a beautifully designed and absolutely stunning antique and vintage treasures emporium which has opened in Bellingham, WA.  It is the collaborative efforts of Debi Burton and her partner, Jim Blondeau. The pair, having done antique shows for years, is well known in the Pacific Northwest for their vintage finds and specialty antiques.


This beautiful display just inside the the large bay window has an elegant and classic feel. The antique Chinese altar table is an especially fine piece.


Ormolulu  is housed in the former and much beloved Blue Horse Gallery space at 301 West Holly Street in the Old Town District of Bellingham, WA. This 3,000 square feet space— with its large windows, heavy timbers, and beautifully mottled vintage floor [the result of much hard work and a concrete grinder] is an architectural gem bursting with character. Debi and Jim call it a ‘dream come true retail space’ for them to gather their wares. And gather they have!


Another of Debi Burton's clever display of her wares. It is a masterful example of her curatorial skills and merchandising talent. A random group of objects are placed and arranged in a composition that is  both striking and disarming.

Another display of Debi Burton’s vintage wares.This is a masterful example of her curatorial skills and merchandising talent. A a seemingly random group of objects are placed and arranged in a composition that is both striking and disarming.


Debi is an absolute master of display with a most refined artistic eye. Jim says that she has a ‘knack for it” which is an undeniable truth and a major understatement.  In their capable hands, this open warehouse space has become a visual and sensory masterwork. It is arranged into casual yet distinct display areas, which are broken down further into arresting and magical vignettes. The store on a whole is whimsical and mysterious; astonishing and often . . . sublime!



The shop as so many different personalities within the single space. An exotically dressed mannequin mingles comfortably with the fanciful vintage lighting fixtures.


Truly unique is this collection of one-of-a kind objects. It defies definition in any typical sense. The luxurious and the flawed are placed side by side as though it is the most natural and logical pairing in the world. You will just need to experience the full range of it all. Debi defines the collection as Rough Luxe, Upcycled Lighting, French Antiques, Industrial Chic,  Farm House and Garden. It is all of that and so, so much more.


This is another example of the pair of found objects that support and reinforce one another in their placement. The chippy green paint peeling through and the green industrial wringer machine are perfection as they rise from the beautiful modeled floor of the old car dealership building.

This is another example of the pairing of found objects that support and reinforce one another in their placement. The chippy green paint peeling through and the exuberantly designed green painted industrial wringer machine are perfection as they rise from the beautifully modeled  concrete floor of the old car dealership building.



As an interior designer, what I admire most about the shop and Debi is her ability to create such a unique and compelling atmosphere—unlike anything that you have ever experienced.  Somehow, like a pied piper, Debi attracts orphaned objects to her which she lovingly scoops up and then places and arranges in the shop in a way which allows the rest of us to see them for their intrinsic qualities. Nothing really is odd or out of place here. Nothing is too grand or too low.  Distressed, rusted, chipped, worn, used, weathered, stained. All are part of an extraordinary extended family that Debi and Jim have gathered up. You will just need to experience the multidimensional qualities of Ormolulu yourself . . . words cannot adequately capture the depth of the experience.


There are also quiet corners that you happen upon like this one where there is soft lighting from vintage alabaster lamps. The quiet, the intimacy and clarity of the display is a sudden surprise and a delight!

The shop also has quiet corners that you happen upon, like this one, with soft lighting from vintage alabaster lamps. The quiet, the intimacy and clarity of the display is a sudden surprise and a delight!


Jim is responsible for the upcycled lighting which he calls Ormolumiere. These are scavenged objects that have fancied Debi’s eye. Jim transforms them into delightful and inventive lighting.  Lighting is displayed throughout the store and adds a wonderful vintage glow to the space and to the displays. Check out the tall porch pillar converted with a spiraling group of vintage chrome automobile side mirrors mounted to face upward which are begging to hold and reflect shimmering votive candles.


Vintage metal boxes stacked

Vintage metal boxes stacked and rusting as though outlined in gold rest sit on a metal table along with shells, vintage envelopes, spools of thread and twine. 


If you need to be inspired—for whatever reason, if you need a gift, if you are looking for that perfect piece for the mantle, if you looking for a vintage lighting fixture for your bedroom—if you are looking for nothing at all—there is no better place to start than Ormolulu. Whatever you desire, it is it probably has already been gathered up by Debi and Jim and is just waiting for your discovery and approval.


There are also corners of pure understatement and exquisite objects like this

There are also areas in Ormolulu of pure understatement with exquisite objects like this Ikebana floral vase and  the Japanese metal vase. Debi Burton has an eye and an appreciation for fine art as well as salvaged chic. This is an emporium where all found objects are equal and all are fairly and honestly represented.




301 West Holly Street [in the Bay Street Village Building]

Bellingham, WA 98225


Tel: 360 201 9535

Email: info@ormolulu.com


Store hours:

Store hours:

Friday, 12:00 – 6:00 pm

Saturday, 12:00 – 6:00 pm

Sunday, 12:00 – 6:00 pm

Monday, 12:00 – 6:00 pm





Posted in General | Leave a comment

Some New Ways to work with an Interior Designer



The interior design profession has been changing and morphing in the last decade. As a result, there are many more options of how you can work with an interior designer. Working with a designer can range from full service interior design for an entire home to a form of design coaching for a DIY home project.

Each interior design business and each designer will have their own ways of working with their clients. Each will provide you with a description of the services that they provide and each will talk with you about how they like to work. Listed below are some options that you should know about, especially if you are not looking for whole house interior design services, or if you have a limited budget and need to be selective about which services you purchase.

In-home Design Consultation

An in-home design consultation is usually a onetime meeting in which a designer comes to your home and you work through the design issues that you seek professional assistance with. This could be about how to arrange the furniture in a particular room, which colors to paint a room or to discuss which art and accessories would nicely complete the space. There is generally no follow up or follow through after the meeting. A meeting like this is usually billed on an hourly basis plus travel time, although sometimes a flat fee is charged for this kind of service.


Full Service or Whole House Interior Design Services

Full service design services would be the optimum choice when you are building a new home or moving into a ‘new’ home which will need new furnishings and the selection of new finishes. This service is focused on the full range of design decisions which are required when a new house is being designed by a home designer or architect—these include ‘space planning decisions’ or how the individual rooms or spaces are best laid out for your comfort, safety, and aesthetic pleasure; selecting interior finish materials and specifying them; the selecting and purchasing of furniture, fabrics, art and accessories; design and fabrication of custom furniture and fixtures; design of interior architectural detailing; architectural lighting plans and lighting fixture selection; selecting exterior building materials and finishes; etc.

This is the most comprehensive approach and will result in the best overall result because your designer will be involved in all phases of the project and will be coordinating decisions with all the other building professionals on the job such as the building designer/architect, contractor and project specific craftsmen. Your design professional will be your representative and he or she will work to directly influence the finished product to suit your desires and lifestyle while promoting your design project interests through the entire design and construction phase.

Pulling a Home Together

‘Pulling a house together’ is a service often needed when you have moved into a new house or perhaps when entering a second marriage in which there are furnishings from two separate and diverse households. This can often be a daunting task for the home owner/ new couple to sort out especially when they realize that the furnishings from their last house[s] do not work in the new house. When it comes to new couples uniting who have existing furnishings it becomes an exercise of choosing the very best pieces from the entire inventory of furniture and deciding where to put what where. Inevitably in this situation, there will be essential pieces of furniture which will be lacking which will need to be filled in. These will need to be sourced out and acquired. A professional designer can help you with this and he or she can save you a lot of time and prevent you from making many costly mistakes.


One Day Makeover

The One Day Makeover is when you hire an interior designer, either at an hourly rate or day rate, to help you arrange furniture, hang art and place accessories. You may also want to consult with the designer at the same time on design questions that you have which you plan to follow up on in the future.

One client I had recently was moving back to the United States after twenty years abroad. They had been living in a condo twenty stories in the air in Southeast Asia and were moving to a country house on twenty acres in Bellingham. They were tentative about arranging the furniture in the house and wanted some assistance. When I got to their house they were really confused as to where the sofa should be—looking out at the tall Evergreen trees or facing the wood fireplace? I helped them with this decision which freed them up to move forward, allowing them to enjoy our rearranging the rest of the furniture. One of the homeowner’s made notes along the way as to what additional pieces that they would need. Then we moved on to hanging art and placing accessories. I came back the next day for a few hours to finish up what we had not gotten to the previous day. This time was billed hourly at my professional rate.

Personalizing & Accessorizing Your Home

Personalizing your home is when you already have the major furniture that you need [either from a previous home or perhaps purchased from a furniture store] which has been placed in groupings but the house lacks the flair or the personality of the home owner. This usually involves picking up on a particular interest/passion that the client has such as textiles, hand knotted rugs or a collection of baskets or folk art masks and playing that up in the designed space.

Lykke Music Room
Design Coaching for DIY Home Projects

Design coaching is when a designer agrees to answer the client’s questions about a home project that the homeowner is undertaking themselves. This would usually involve an initial visit to become familiar with the home/space and to become familiar with the homeowner’s goals. After which the designer and client would settle upon a business arrangement so that when design questions came up the designer would be on a retainer to respond to the owner’s questions or offer opinions on design decisions.

This could be done on an hourly basis or there could be a flat fee for this service. I should state, however, that this is an arrangement that some designers would not be interested in participating in, whereas another designer might be interested in this arrangement especially if there is a clear understanding of the number of hours and compensation involved.

Home Staging to Put A House on the Market

Home staging is a term that has become familiar to most of us. When it involves an interior designer like me [who does not keep an inventory of furniture for furnishing an empty house] it involves meeting the client at the home that will be for sale which they are still living in or have left furniture in. My job is basically to work with the home owners to make the house look as good as it can for showings and for open houses.

This generally means editing and clarifying rooms—these rooms want to be free of clutter and furnishings which will obscure the architectural features of the house or somehow put a perspective buyer off. This often will involve rearranging furniture to work with the architecture of the space. Sometimes suggestions are made about painting walls or about making some minor repairs to improve the viewing. Also, I like to work with the home owner on how to stage counter tops or surfaces which cab add a nice visual and sensory appeal to walking into the various rooms.

This service can be billed at a fixed rate—half day or whole day, or by the hour.
Talk with your designer to see how they like to work when staging a house.


If you have additional requirements or a particular situation that would require something other than these options be sure to talk to your designer and inquire whether they would be interested in accommodating your particular needs or situation.


Posted in General | Leave a comment


Standing in the foyer and looking through the glass door into the custom cherry wood library. The African medicine man  sculpture is reflected in the door glass.

Standing in the foyer and looking through the glass door into the custom cherry wood library. The African medicine man sculpture is reflected in the door glass.


What’s involved in transforming a small, nondescript room into a stunning home library? One thing that I discovered through the process is that the more I understood I was designing a three dimensional puzzle the easier the entire process became.

This is a relatively small room immediately adjacent to the foyer of a fine Bellingham, WA home. The room is only 11’-4” by 10’-6” with a corner lopped off to fit a pair of French doors. There is also a large 6’-0” wide window on the North wall. There is also a coat closet on one wall with a double door. Therefore only two of the walls would have floor to ceiling bookshelves [West & South], the North wall has the window and the East wall has the double door closet which takes up two-thirds of that wall.


The floor plan of this small library. The design problem was how to work with the shape of the room and the number of opening in the wall and for it to hold together as a whole design.

The floor plan of this small library. The design problem was how to work with the shape of the room and the number of openings in the walls and to design it in a way that it would hold together as a unified design.


With so many openings in the walls the question quickly became how should I design the room so that each wall elevation holds together as a unit and, how can these four walls hold together to form a traditional custom paneled library. Well, one solution which the owner was happy to go along with was to give up the closet so that the bookshelves could continuously run along that wall too. We explored various designs to access the closet space but in the end he decided it would be good enough to access some of this storage space from the bottom cabinets but not to proceed with a design to access the upper area through doors in the upper bookshelf.


Cabinet construction drawing for East wall elevation. This design shows the detail for the paired doors to storage space in the former closet. This design was eventually scrapped. A solid wall covered in raffia was the final design.

A cabinet design drawing for the East wall elevation. This drawing shows the detail for the paired doors to storage space in the former closet. This design was eventually scrapped. A solid wall covered in raffia was the final design choice.


The other concept crucial to the design, in my opinion, was to bridge the openings above the entrance door and the window. These bookshelf ‘bridges’ would frame the openings and make for a visually continuous wall of bookshelves. The other sticky issue was how to handle the bookshelf walls which frame into each other at right angles and at 45 degree angles? It was decided that these areas would be blocked out so that each bookshelf would all have squared off ends, making them more functional.


Architectural study of possible designs for the exposed end panels of the custom cherry library.

Architectural study of possible design layouts for the free standing end panels of the custom cherry wood library.


Other concerns were how to handle the exposed end panels of the upper bookshelves. Two of them were at different heights and so they had to be designed accordingly. Four different elevation studies were developed so the owner could choose which design he preferred. The other major decision was whether to have floor to ceiling bookshelves which of course would allow for greater display of the books or, whether the lower bookshelf should actually be a cabinet with paneled doors. The latter concept was chosen as it creates a more refined and traditional library look and because it offered the opportunity to pull the lower unit forward creating a deeper shelf for placing a book or a hot cup of tea.

My favorite local custom cabinet shop built the library from my cabinet design drawings. Because the room is small I was quite certain that I wanted the stain to be rich without being any darker than it needed to be. Therefore I worked with the cabinet finisher to develop just the right custom stain for this cherry wood library. Clear coat was sprayed over the stain to give it a durable and fine furniture finish.


This is a view of the North elevation of the library with the large window. The lower bench below the window and the bookshelf  bridge above the window are important elements that hold this wall design together. Getting all the pieces to work together was like designing a three dimensional puzzle.

This is a view of the North elevation of the library with the large window. The lower bench below the window and the bookshelf bridge above the window are important elements that hold this wall design together. Getting all the pieces to work together was like designing a three dimensional puzzle.


A custom lighting plan was also developed for the new library. The owner was originally not sure that he wanted to go to the expense but I made a case for the importance of illuminating the books while highlighting the fine workmanship and beautiful cherry wood. After some deliberation he decided that it would be a good idea and is happy that he made that decision.

The other feature that I would like to point out is the dramatic architectural cornice with a 3 ¼” crown molding. It is another key element to the success of this library. A simple recessed flat panel door design with inset ogee molding was selected to coordinate with the crown and set just the right traditional tone for the library.

My final comment is about the spatial quality of the finished room. Because the room is relatively small but the concept for the library, in my opinion is large, I was very sensitive throughout the design process that the built-out room not feel overwhelming. That did not happen. The room is warm, welcoming and rich with detail—and books! The owner spends his mornings here reading and reminiscing about his beloved Africa and his many adventures on the African continent!


A view of the North and East elevations in this custom Bellingham, WA library. The lower cabinet unit opens to the storage area that was the former coat closet. The deeper cabinet below with the bookshelves above forms a solid base for the bookshelves above and provides a shelf to place books on, or a cup of tea.

A partial view of the North and East elevations of this custom built Bellingham, WA  home library. The lower cabinet unit opens to the storage area that was the former coat closet. The deeper cabinet below forms a solid base for the bookshelves above and provides a shelf to place books on, or a cup of tea.



Posted in General | Leave a comment


Architectural study for the remodel of an a period craftsman home in Bellingham, WA.

An architectural study for the restoration of the main entrance of a period craftsman home in Bellingham, WA.


I met with some clients last week who remodeled their previous house themselves. They were unhappy with some of the results. Not wanting to make the same mistakes with their new home they wanted to know how they should proceed.


Working with an experienced design professional is certainly the best place to start. A talented designer can help the home owner envision a comprehensive master plan for the project. Most home owners tend to focus on individual aspects of the remodel, and less frequently on ‘the big picture’ and how it all fits together.


The scope of the master plan is the entire remodel—now and future. It imagines the renovation project as a whole. Once this new floor plan has been developed, the project can be broken down into individual projects or phases. Whether you have a need to phase the renovation to accommodate your budget, or because you plan to be living in the house during construction, or because you’re going to do the work yourself, the master plan will serve as the map of how this can happen.


One of the greatest values in developing a master plan from a construction point-of-view is that it will assist you in understanding the horizontal and vertical connections between rooms and spaces. If you plan to remodel the foyer what will be the impact on the living room? If you plan to update the shared fireplace between the living room and the dining room will those two rooms need to be addressed at the same time? The master plan for the remodel will address those questions—and many others—as the new plan is designed and developed.


This is a section of the master plan that includes the living room and eat-in kitchen. This is the first remodel that was completed. A future remodel would include the bath rooms and the bedroom wing. 


Allow me to share with you one recent example of the value of a master plan. I have some wonderful Seattle clients who bought a vacation house which will become their retirement home. They intend to upgrade the house over time and ready it for retirement while enjoying it as a weekend home. They have a decade or so before it becomes their full time home. However, they want to be confident that the improvements that they make will fit together over time and give them the house which will satisfy their future requirements.


A master plan was developed based on their current understanding of their needs. The value in developing this tool is that now they have a road map of where to go with the house. Interestingly, the master plan has encouraged them to ask questions which had not occurred to them until they saw the whole design on paper. This plan is allowing them to ponder whether this design is what they want to build out or, are there additional improvements that could be made? For instance, this plan raised the question of whether the guestroom and the office would be better if the locations were switched.


As in this example, you can see that the master plan is a useful tool to determine if the remodeled home will look and function in the way you imagined. The plan will allow you to assess whether the spaces flow together and whether the design satisfies your needs. The master plan will also show you which areas need to be handled together and which can be done independently.  Developing a well thought out and creative master plan is going to help you each step along the way!



Architectural study of exterior street elevation with with new sun porch cottage windows and and restored entrance door.

Architectural study of the exterior street elevation with with new sun porch cottage windows and and restored Craftsman entrance door.


Posted in General | Leave a comment



Bamboo room divider.

Stained bamboo sculpture/room divider.

On a recent shopping trip for a client I was in search of home furnishings made of natural materials to furnish their beach side home. I discovered some interesting finds at Designer Furniture Gallery at the Seattle Design Center in Georgetown. I would like to share with you some of these finds.


This piece is simple and dramatic at the same time. A dark rectangular base of plastic material is punched with holes to accept the large bamboo poles. Ten poles are inserted in the holes which fall this way and that which looks natural and artistic at the same time. The large bamboo poles in this particular example have been stained dark but a natural finish would be pleasing if one were desiring a California, Big Sur kind of look.


Palecek twig lamp.

Palecek Natural Branch Lamp.

This tall Palecek floor lamp has a concealed metal center support but the upright members appear to be a casual collection of standing twigs which might have been found on a beach or along a river which were then bundled together. The large drum shade is in natural raffia with a ball finial. The overall effect is organic, airy and textually pleasing.


Three drawer chest covered in natural raffia.

Three drawer chest covered in natural raffia.

This chest has wonderful texture and the pleasing look of natural linen. It is both sophisticated and casual. The simple pulls have a classic contemporary look. This piece could be featured in a foyer or the living room.


A weathered wood pedestal column.

The simple raw nature of this piece is the perfect counterpoint to dramatic crystal vase that it supports. The contrast between the two materials is what is most effective. The top has a thin metal plate that establishes a smooth and level surface to place objects on.


Lido Noir Woven chair.

This chair evokes another era and maybe even an ancient past, perhaps Egypt. The simple woven lampacanai back is a striking counterpoint to the dark-stained mindi wood frame. The natural canvas cushion adds another element that is just right. A lovely composition that has many different applications. The chair seat is very comfortable and the slight curve of the tall back offers wonderful support.


Side chair in staine woven raffia  and leather seat.

Side chair in stained, double woven rattan peel with leather seat.

This chair is a great accent chair and would be a nice companion to a writing desk that  is freestanding, perhaps in a large living room or alcove. The clean, swooping  lines are very appealing and eye-catching..


Palecek chair with woven back, sculptural wooden arms and leather seat.

Palecek chair with woven back, sculptural wooden arms and leather seat.

The Boulevard Arm Chair by Palecek is made with a plantation hardwood frame and hand-turned arms and legs. The back features woven core rattan front and back. This is a very interesting chair which is truly unique. The back reminds me of a woven shawl and has some shadow resemblance to an American Shaker chair.


Posted in General | Leave a comment




In the solid fence along the lane the framed entrance of this home suddenly appears through the metal gate.

Set in the solid wood fence along the lane, the metal gate suddenly reveals  the framed entrance of this home.  

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I spent a sun splashed afternoon in Surrey, British Columbia. Welcoming front doors was the object of my desire. Crescent Beach was my destination—a charming sea side village with a fine collection of interesting houses, both new and vintage.

When designing a home, I think of windows as symbolic eyes and the front door as the mouth. The human mouth can be without expression, it can be caught in a frown, or it can radiate a welcoming smile. I was in search of front doors which beckoned me and delighted me in one way or another. I would like to share some of my discoveries with you.

One of the first houses that caught my eye was down a narrow lane which I had never taken before. This house which is on the south end of the beach has an intriguing, gray stained wood fence which runs along the lane and shields the adjacent house and grounds from the public domain. This entrance [and the house itself] is nothing less than a meditation in gray—sun washed, sun bleached, with a gently weathered collection of found objects.

The front door is a serene, understated composition in shades of gray.

The front porch is a serene, understated composition in shades of gray.

The front door is viewed through a human-scaled paddock style metal gate.
This gate offers a visual pause in the long wall of protective fence and yet it does not extend public invitation. Nevertheless, the gate tastefully frames the composition at the front door which is a carefully composed visual gift freely and cheerfully shared with the street. Each of the carefully selected objects creates a tranquil and poetic front stoop which is also a clever reinterpretation and extension of the beach.

The second home by comparison is designed in a more open and invitational way. The wide curved walk, the wide stairs and generous porch, and plant pots lead one visually to the front door. The intriguing color scheme is also immensely welcoming and begs one to look closer. In addition, the two groupings of French doors augment the house’s open and accessible quality. The craftsman style front doors with the understated spiral wreathe and sidelight is as open a Canadian welcome as there can be.

This home, wide and open in feel, invites one to the front door.

This home — wide and open in feel–  invites and draws one to the front door.

The third house, a tall yellow vintage craftsman style home with white trim has its formal front entrance off to the side of the house but beckons the visitor in another way. Here the lovely sun splashed brick walk flanked by two large cast iron urns leads to a white picket fence and a gate. A vine covered arched trellis frames this opening, The gate is half open creating a friendly invitation to enter into the private domain beyond.

This craftsman home has its entry off to the side and might be confusing as to where it is located but for the trellis and gate that leads the visitor in.

This craftsman style home has its entry located off to the side which might be confusing ; however, the arched trellis, gate  and walkway show the visitor there.

The fourth home is a more recent addition to this neighborhood and was built in the last few years. It is contemporary and very different from the traditional Crescent Beach style home. Clean lines and modern materials set the tone here. Glass panels of various sizes seem to swirl around the vertical grain fir door creating a stylish composition. Aluminum, stucco and concrete materials are counterpoints to the wood door and siding. This front door does not beckon—it is more of a stand-and-admire composition. Relief comes from the man made tree to the right which becomes a important component in this composition. The container to the left of the front door which is planted with living plants and seems to have been added to give color and life to this smart yet restrained front entrance.

This contemporary home has a completely different take on the entry door than its vintage neighbors.

This contemporary home has a completely different take on  entry door style than its vintage neighbors.

A pony wall of poured concrete is the element that partially screens the entrance from the street while providing a location for the mailbox and house numbers. This barrier suggests that while the front door is right there, no overt invitation has been extended to casually walk up to and stand at the front door.

The concrete pony wall is a well-placed barrier to the front door, suggesting limited access to the non-invited.

The concrete pony wall is a well-placed barrier to the front door, suggesting limited access to the uninvited.

The fifth home is a grand, old Victorian which is all about framing a beautiful and welcoming front door. From the lovely paved walk, to the granite retaining wall and piers, to the wide stairs and the framed shingled opening in the porch, this front door pulls one inevitably to a warm welcome. This house, named Wailea Sunrise has the most surprising and invitingly colored front door in the entire coastal enclave. This house makes me smile in its unabashed enthusiasm for warm and neighborly seaside living.

IMG_8210 (2)

This Queen Anne Victorian is a casebook example of architecture as invitation. The painted front door both surprises and delights while pulling you inevitably to the entrance.


The sixth house is a newer infill house in this neighborhood which is executed in a shingled, seaside cottage style. What intrigues me about this house in particular is how friendly and approachable it appears. The low sheltering entry roof is intimate and protective at the same time. The front door, side lights and horizontal, small paned windows come together in a beautiful composition. However, it is the tongue and groove paneling and the matched pair of nicely detailed wood benches that is most invitational. This elevation reminds me of a craftsman style mudroom [Blog post: Updating A Mudroom/ Laundry Room In a 1920’s Bungalow]  that I designed with craftsman paneling and its own bench but which surprisingly here, has all been turned inside out! This entrance gives one the feel that one has already entered a beautiful paneled interior! This is an entirely new concept which I had not previously encountered. I find it very appealing and friendly. It was also enjoyable to see a group of kids casually sitting on the benches while hanging out and having fun with one another.

This  contemporary shingle style home is friendly and invitational. The pair of wood benches and the tongue and groove paneling are features usually reserved for the interior.

This contemporary shingle style home is friendly and invitational. The pair of wood benches and the tongue and groove paneling are features usually reserved for the interior.

The seventh and final house treats ‘welcome home’ in another way entirely. There is not a more spectacular and exciting entrance in Crescent Beach than this pair of doors inset in a tall wooden fence. This covered entrance is Gothic in inspiration, dreamy and deeply romantic. Any gardener would find himself or herself stopped in his tracks as I was when I happened upon this image. This creation is so immensely pleasing and sharing in its unrestrained enthusiasm that it I am content not to be invited behind these closed doors. What has been offered to the casual stroller is so glorious and satisfying that my creative spirit is set free—free to imagine the wonder and magic which lies beyond. The homeowner has graciously offered so much beauty to the street I feel deeply grateful for the encounter.

This gated entrance is surely a showstopper in this quaint seaside community.

This gated entrance is surely the show stopper in this quaint seaside community of Crescent Beach. And while there is no suggestion of what lies beyond, this display is so utterly rich and satisfying  that one feels deeply gratified for the encounter.

Posted in General | Leave a comment


In a multi-purpose guestroom which is also a video watching room, would a Murphy bed or a sleep sofa be the best choice?  I started the project assuming that the Murphy bed was the logical choice. I became familiar with a Murphy bed when renting a condo with some Scandinavian friends of mine at the Big Sky Resort in Montana. That experience inspired me to think about a Murphy bed as a legitimate sleeping option when extra sleeping space is required as in the one bedroom mountain resort condo.


Before the current renovation of this craftsman cottage, the guestroom was a dedicated bedroom with a full bath in a wing off of the garden patio. It was a pleasant enough room whose sole function was sleeping.  It had a queen size bed with bedside tables, a dresser and a small bistro table and two chairs.

The breakfast bar/ kitchen is the focal wall of the guestroom. In this small space the counter and the walk space in front of it takes up twenty-five percent of the total area of this nonfunctional room.

The breakfast bar/kitchen is the focal wall of the guestroom. In this small space the counter and the walk space in front of it takes up over twenty-five percent of the total area of this multi-functional space.


As I was looking at re-designing the house for this couple’s retirement years, it occurred to me that this space which was still needed as a guestroom was valuable square footage which could satisfy other needs that this couple had. This home is a vintage farmhouse cottage with small rooms. When the main house was renovated, the owners decided that they did not want the living room to be dominated by the TV and relegated it to the basement which has a low ceiling—the husband is a tall guy—and, not surprisingly, the space has been seldom used for this purpose.


As we turned our final remodel focus to the guest room, the problem-solving renovation designer in me sought to explore how this space might accommodate several different functional needs. Oh, I should mention that the wife, thinking of possible future needs wanted to incorporate a small kitchen/breakfast bar so that a live-in assistant could inhabit this space and be self sufficient. Also, it should be mentioned that this room is only 200 square feet so we are trying to accommodate three different functions in a relatively restricted foot print. The breakfast bar and work space/circulation space in front of it would require more than 25% of the total square footage of the main room.


Upon researching rooms with Murphy beds designed into them, it became evident that when those rooms worked well it was essentially because there was a void or empty space in front of the closed bed; more or less, the footprint of the bed when open. This meant, of course, that it was easy to extend the bed without much, if any, alteration to the space. That, however, was not going to be the case in this situation because the room was going to be used primarily as a second living room, TV room and an adjunct party space to the garden patio. Consequently, the sleep sofa was the preferential choice. The room would be arranged with a furniture grouping for these more frequent functional needs and when a house guest came visiting it would be converted to a bed-sitting room.


The furniture plan for the guestroom suggests the strategic challenge of furnishing the space and where to store furniture needed from one use of the room which needs a resting spot in another use of the room--say, guest bedroom or caretaker apartment.

The furniture plan for the guestroom suggests the strategic challenge of furnishing the space  as a comfortable ‘sitting room’; but then the problem  arises as to where to store furniture when unneeded in another configuration of the room–say, guest bedroom or caretaker studio apartment.

The next design issue that needed to be solved was how to make the room as convertible as possible when it was being used as a guestroom or as a self-sufficient living space. This required studying the different configurations for each use and then looking at how to accommodate furniture as it was shifted around the space. An adjustable shelving unit in the walk-in closet was designed so that sofa cushions and pillows could be slid into the upper shelves while the bottom was designed to accommodate the ottoman. The two occasional chairs are slid into a custom console table designed for that purpose. There is also a cavity in the breakfast bar in which the bistro table/bedside table can also be pushed out of the way.


The resulting design with a very comfortable sleep sofa accommodates all this family’s functional needs while being a captivatingly rich space with its high ceiling, recycled pine beams,board and batten wall treatment and new double French doors, sidelights and transom. While the room is still in the design phase, there is a certain satisfaction in being able to problem solve the functional needs of the client and the demanding requirements of a relatively small space. It will be fun to test our assumptions as it is built out and as stylish yet comfortable  apartment-sized furniture is selected to grace the space. I will post some images of the completed space as they are available.



Exterior entrance elevation of  the guest room with a new pair of French doors, side lights and transom windows above which open the room to the light, the patio and the garden beyond.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Exterior Paint Consultation—Special Pricing for the Month of May


In honor of May Day and the ‘promise of Spring’, I am offering special pricing for the month of May on our expert color assistance in selecting an exterior [or interior] paint color palette for your home or office. Inspired by the lush beauty of nature bursting from the earth, I would like to create a harmonious and striking color combination that will please you every time you turn into your drive.


Paint colors have the power to relax, inspire and connect us to our home and community. I will work with you to explore the perfect combination for you and your home. Selecting paint can be a difficult and daunting task. Working with a professional can transform that into a fun, collaborative and satisfying adventure.


Contact me and we can talk specifically about your project. Once I see your home, I will be happy to quote you a special price during the month of May. Why wait, when you can embark on a colorful new life right at home?


Rob Austin-Murphy

Austin-Murphy Design

Bellingham/ Seattle, WA




Posted in General | Leave a comment




Rob Austin-Murphy at the garden entrance to the Inn at Paradise Farms, circa 2008.


Creating a ‘sense of place’ is, I believe, the ultimate achievement of a well conceived and executed interior design project. Why? Simply because a space that embodies a ‘sense of place’ is so enjoyable to experience, because it’s rich and memorable, and because it is increasingly rare in a mass produced and generic world. A sense of place is what we seek when we travel. And, I believe it is ultimately what we seek at home—if only we knew how to create it. A ‘sense of place’ is not easy to achieve, it is increasingly rare to encounter and it is not that easy to define.


So what do I mean by ‘a sense of place’? My definition of a sense of place is a space that has a certain presence about it which speaks to you in a deeply personal and profound way. It is some place that your senses recognize as something special and a place you want to experience. It has a certain essence to it that is at once intriguing, alluring and perhaps mysterious. It is a place where you want to be, or hang out. It is the kind of place that I am drawn to study because as a designer I want to understand exactly what it is about this place that grabs me in the way it does.


If I take a quick moment to remember a few of these places which come to mind—a Moroccan inspired room at a friend’s summer house, the mid-century modern beach side cottage furnished simply and inspired with Coast Salish artifacts, and a tiny bistro nestled along a slough in the Skagit Valley outfitted sans apology with cast offs and mismatched furnishings and fittings. [I should mention that the food is really good also and that just adds to this sense of place].



A detail of the  mudroom entrance at the Inn at Paradise Farms Bed & Breakfast. This design project was a study and celebration of a sense of place–in this case a relaxed and comfortable country B&B.


One of the things that I find most astonishing about these simple, yet remarkable spaces, is that they do not come across as being self-consciously designed. It may even be this quality that is required for these places to live long in our minds and hearts. These places also tend to be the natural and authentic expressions of their owners who care about such things as evidenced through the selection and placement of furnishings and objects. Another aspect is that these places have a vision behind them which is the engine that drove the creation of them in the first place. Throw in a certain measure of doggedness and creativity and you have the beginnings of what I am attempting to articulate.


The inspired Moroccan room resulted when a friend took a trip to Morocco to study plaster work techniques. She fell in love with what she encountered there and wanted to capture that sense of place in a small room in her home. It wasn’t an attempt to recreate a traditional Moroccan space. Rather, she was able to capture ‘the feel’ through color, diaphanous Moroccan fabrics, an abundance of multi-colored pillows plus the traditional, low-slung wall-hugging banquet that lined the walls. A few small pieces of exotic furniture, a brass tea server and a few objects that she brought back in her luggage completed the room. Sipping fresh mint tea in that space was enough to transport you to another time and place. My mother who was not much of a traveler and who did not imagine that she would ever travel to Morocco felt she experienced something genuine, real and truly exotic within the embrace of that space.


To create a sense of place is a very high achievement indeed. And, I know this is what I want achieve in each of my design projects whenever and wherever possible. The pay off and the rewards are huge for all involved in its creation and use. Spaces like these inspire, nourish and restore us—especially in an increasingly virtual and rapid paced world which is invariably branded with someone else’s name and aesthetic. Is it any wonder that a place with a genuine sense of itself would speak so deeply to us and that we would want to linger a moment longer . . .  or for a life time?



Table top detail of the mudroom hall stand. Simple objects, dappled sunlight and flowers from the garden conspire to evoke an undeniable sense of place.


Posted in General | 1 Comment


The master shower 'as-is' condition prior to design consultation.

The master shower in its ‘as-is’ condition prior to consultation with Austin-Murphy Design.

When I meet with clients, they are often unclear as to what is involved with a master bath remodel.

Each remodel is unique. Some clients want to take two bedrooms and a bath and develop a new master bath suite. Others want to remove the jetted soaking tub that they no longer use and reconfigure the bathroom  adding a large tile shower with two shower heads. Others simply are interested in updating their space with new fixtures and finishes.

Whatever you are considering in your bath remodel, this outline of a ‘typical master bath remodel’ will be helpful to understand the work involved and the sequence of the tasks. This outline will be especially valuable if you are looking for a quality project and want to be completely happy with the end result.

If you have an actual remodel project that you are considering, please contact me. I will be happy to meet with you to view your space and address your specific needs and concerns.


MASTER BATH REMODEL, typical scenario

  • Meet with clients to view house, remodel space, and site
  • Outline the client’s needs, desires and preferences for the remodel design
  • Measure the space ‘as it is built’—this becomes the architectural base plan


  • Preliminary design
    • Study space to assess suitability with client’s needs
    •  Study ways the design requirements could be accommodated in the space
    • Develop several alternative initial space plan designs to present to the client for review
    • Meet with clients to get feedback and preferences; establish a design direction
    • Determine final location for plumbing fixtures


  • Design development
    • Develop a ¼”=1’-0″ scale floor plan of the space with the fixtures located
    • Study wall elevations, floor and ceiling for design opportunities
    • Study mill work cabinet options, architectural trim, new openings, etc.
    • Study options for finish material types, i.e. granite, tile, wood—stained or painted
    • Study specialty glass features—windows, shower enclosure, mirrors
    • Develop architectural trim details
    • Study decorative lighting—type of fixture, use & location
    • Develop room lighting plan schematic—upper and lower level
    • Meet with client to get feedback and preferences; establish a direction


  • Material and Product selections
    • Cabinet door style and material
    • Granite/tile selections and decorative accents
    • Light fixtures
    • Other features—heated towel warmer, heated floor mats, etc.
    • Cabinet hardware
    • Architectural doors
    • Specialty features, steam generator, etc.
    • Plumbing fixtures
    • Plumbing hardware—faucets, shower head, hand-held, body sprays
    • Paint, stain and decorative finishes selection


  • Construction Documentation set
    • Site plan
    • Demo plan
    • Floor plan
    • Lower level electrical
    • Upper level electrical
    • Wall elevations; shower elevations
    • Tile floor and shower design drawings
    • Architectural trim and cabinet details
    • Schedules—door, lighting, hardware
    • Miscellaneous hardware, special features
    • Miscellaneous specialty items


  • Project bid and construction phase
    • Project coordination with contractor
    • Supervision of construction documentation content and intent
    • Procurement of finish materials, decorative lighting and cabinet hardware, etc.
    • Coordination with sub-contractors and suppliers—cabinet maker, decorative painters, craftspeople and artisans



The completed master shower is the result of using the checklist which led to this exceptional design and quality project.

The completed master bath is the product of following the checklist,  resulting in this exceptional design and quality project.

Posted in General | Leave a comment
← Older posts