Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Tree's Roots

While there are no hard facts about the origins of the Christmas tree, there is little question the Germans originated and popularized it.

The earliest written record of a decorated evergreen tree for Christmas appears in 1521 in the German region of Alsace. In 1561, the same region had a forest ordinance saying that no one "shall have for Christmas more than one bush of more than eight shoes' length." The German families would set up Christmas trees in a prominent location in their home and decorate them. As these people moved or immigrated to other countries, they brought this tradition with them. By the 1700s, the Christbaum, or "Christ tree," was a German tradition. It quickly spread to other parts of Europe and finally to America.

America adapted slowly to some of the Christmas traditions, because of the Puritan influence. Many puritans felt that Christmas was too sacred of a holiday and should not be marred with Christmas trees and Christmas carols. When the Christmas tree later regained popularity, symbolism was common. The Christmas tree is a symbol of a living Christmas spirit. Because balsam fir twigs, more than any other evergreen twigs, resemble crosses may have had much to do with the early popularity of balsam fir used as Christmas trees.

In 1851, the Christmas tree market began when farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. In 1856, Massachusetts was the last existing state to declare Christmas a legal holiday. Since then, it has exploded into a tradition-rich, festive season. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree. By 1920, the custom was nearly universal in the United States.

Today, the Christmas tree is common in all Christian countries except Spain, Italy, and some of Latin America. Instead, these countries share the custom of erecting a miniature reproduction of the stable and manger where Christ was born. Even the Japanese have adopted the Christmas tree, but with this twist: they decorate their tree with tangerines and delicate rice wafers-which enclose fortune-telling slips!

Towards the end of the 1800s, another variation of the traditional Christmas tree appeared: the artificial Christmas tree. It is believed that like so many other Christmas traditions, artificial Christmas trees also originated in Germany. The first artificial Christmas trees were metal wire trees covered with feathers. The most popular feathers came were goose, turkey, ostrich or swan feathers. The feathers were often dyed green to look like pine needles.
In the 1930's, the Addis Brush Company created the first artificial-brush trees, using the same machinery that made their toilet brushes! The Addis 'Silver Pine' tree was patented in 1950. This innovative Christmas tree had a revolving light source under it. Colored gels allowed the light to shine in different shades as it revolved under the tree. This silver aluminum artificial Christmas trees became so popular that it was exported throughout the world!
The story of The National Christmas Tree begins with Franklin Pierce- the first President of the United States to introduce the Christmas Tree to the White House in 1856. However, this was not the start of the tradition now known as the "National Christmas Tree".

In November 1923, First Lady Grace Coolidge gave permission for the District of Columbia Public Schools to erect a Christmas tree on the Ellipse south of the White House. The organizers named the tree the "National Christmas Tree." That Christmas Eve, at 5 p.m., President Calvin Coolidge walked from the White House to the Ellipse and "pushed the button" to light the cut 48-foot Balsam fir, as 3,000 enthusiastic spectators looked on. The tree, donated by Middlebury College, was from the President's native state of Vermont. From 1924 to 1953 live trees, in various locations around and on the White House grounds, were lit on Christmas Eve. In 1954 the ceremony returned to the Ellipse and expanded its focus. Local civic and business groups created the "Christmas Pageant of Peace." Smaller live trees representing the 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia, formed a "Pathway of Peace." On December 17, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower lit the cut tree donated by the people of Michigan. The White House used cut trees until 1973.

Center to the season's celebration is the living National Christmas Tree, a Colorado blue spruce from York, Pennsylvania, planted on the Ellipse October 20, 1978. The tree stands as a daily reminder of the holiday spirit and of the tradition each succeeding President has shared in since 1923.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Have An Interior Design Question? Let Us Know!!

In a quandry about colors? What shape should your coffee table be? Not sure about that "tropical bird" wallpaper that your Aunt Edna has offered to use? Email us your design question! Please attach any photos that you may have as well.

Send submissions to: matt@williammillerdesign.com

Thursday, December 11, 2008

How To Be A Great Design Client!

There is always a lot of talk about how to get new clients, how to better serve our clients, and how to make the project go more smoothly from the designer’s point of view. But from the clients point of view, how can CLIENTS be the best that they can be to make the project successful?

When working with an interior designer , architect or builder,
*Be clear and communicative about expectations and desires.

*Do your homework, know what you like and what you don’t like. Be clear about you’re your needs- from wine storage to shelves for your collections of first editions; from dog beds to closet space; from bathroom lighting to a home office.

*Pay attention, take notes, and listen. Be willing to perhaps expand your original plan to make it better, bigger, and more satisfying.

*You’ll be working directly with the designer, who will in turn work directly with a team of specialists, from design assistants to general contractors and architects, tile-layers, painters, and many craftspeople. The designer will also will be ordering fabrics, furniture and working with showrooms, and coordinating every aspect of the project. Mistakes can happen. Custom made items invite the possibility of error; an incorrect measurement or color, a misunderstanding in finish. It is important to have a sense of humor and trust that the designer will make it work out and solve the issues.
*Stick to your guns. Allowing yourself to be talked into something you don’t like—only to decide later you cant live with it, can be disastrous. Avoid in-decision and especially do not change your mind repeatedly. It is unnerving to the designer and it can be a nightmare when plans, paint, plumbing, plaster, or tile work has to be redone.

*An architect or designer is an advisor who does not, ultimately, have the final decision. They do not sign the checks, you do.
*It is a creative process. Stay the course and remain emotionally involved.
*Observe with optimism. Be patient. Creative people are working hard to make you happy. Always assume the best.
*Pay your invoices in a timely manner.
*Be accountable to all your decisions. Don’t rush out and purchase major items, furniture or art without first discussing it with your designer.
*Be cautious and pay attention. Try out fabric samples, paint swatches, and furniture pieces to ensure that you can live with them. Don’t rush major decisions.
*Minimize the element of surprise. Don’t make decisions without considering all aspects of the design.
*If you are not comfortable with the designer’s plans or decisions, make a graceful exit only after considerable thought. Keep the parting amicable and perhaps even open ended if you feel there is no resolution.
*Your taste should not be steamrolled, but it is also your job to be considerate of the designers’ expertise in achieving your goals. The goal is to create a beautiful project for YOU. It is not a challenge to see who “wins” every decision.
*Try not to comment on everything until it is in place. Until the rooms are finished and all the furniture is in place, don’t critique. Look at everything in context. A sense of truly “working together” makes a project go well.
*Today, the design process is a democratic one. The days of designers and architects being the dictator or tyrant with a mean poodle in the back of a Rolls Royce are gone. The designer dictator made for very unhappy clients and sad endings. Design is now a collaborative process.

*Clients feel free to voice their concerns. It can be stressful, but it can also be a rewarding team work effort to produce a livable, well designed space that is a reflection of your needs and wants and the designers’ creative talents and skills.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Building Your Built-In

Just about every interior design client and job at William Miller Design requests custom built ins- whether they be for custom closets, specialty kitchen cabinets, or multimedia entertainment centers.

From media center cabinets to Master bedroom display and nightstand cabinets, custom Design is the order of the day. Designing custom built ins is truly a detailed and thoughtful process especially when it comes to built in media or entertainment cabinets. Many things need to be considered, from the needs and requirements of the client, to the aesthetic desired from the outcome of the actual cabinet.

Media centers are the most complex in the design process. The place to start is with determining the components that the client wants to use in the particular media cabinet. Plasma TV or LCD? Stereo receiver and DVD? Will there be surround sound with integrated speakers? Will there be multiple speakers incorporated in the cabinet or will the speakers be in the ceiling ?
Once the requirements of the client are determined, the space available and the orientation of the seating (or sleeping ) In relation to the built-in must be determined and considered for maximum viewing and listening comfort.

Determining exact sizes of all components to be incorporated in the unit is critical. If working with clients existing equipment, it all is carefully measured and placement is calculated based on optimum efficiency and usage. If working with a consultant on the audio/ video components, it is essential to bring them in to the design process of the cabinetry.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

How Tall Should A Bedside Lamp Be?

At William Miller Design, we are frequently asked:
“What is the proper height for table lamps ?”

The deciding factor in determining the height for your table lamps is really the surrounding architecture,ceiling height and the height of the headboard. A taller headboard will warrant taller lamps so that the scale of the entire arrangement will be pleasing and correct.

Lamps on bedside tables for example can have a scale and size that is proportionate to the height of the ceiling and the headboard or treatment on the bed wall.

If your nightstand is 24” to 30” tall, Lamps should be at least 27” – 32” tall.

Shorter nightstands, such as a low profile modern style that is only 18” TO 20” off the floor, call for a taller lamp to equal the visual proportion if the headboard is higher than 36” above the nightstand top. Ultimately, this will depend on the height of the headboard, and or architecture of the bed wall itself.

Another deciding factor is the particular aesthetic one is trying to achieve. For a retro modern look; lamps are often very over scaled in comparison to the height of the table or surface they are placed on. For a more traditional refined setting, the look of a much smaller lamp in comparison to a larger table, may work best.

A general proportion of 1/3 to 2/3 is the most pleasing and balanced look to the human eye. Studies have shown that this proportion is recognized as interesting, balanced and appealing. In keeping with this “rule” of proportion, many design schools teach the principle of the golden section or the “golden ratio.”
At least since the Renaissance, many artists and architects have proportioned their works to approximate the golden ratio—especially in the form of the golden rectangle, in which the ratio of the longer side to the shorter is the golden ratio—believing this proportion to be aesthetically pleasing. Mathematicians have studied the golden ratio because of its unique and interesting properties.

Applying this practice even in simple accessorizing, selecting accessories and lamps or picture hanging, this “golden ratio” is a formula that will never fail to please the eye.

So when asking questions about proportion, scale and composition, remember, There are certain mathematical formulas that can be followed and applied, but truly the beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sustainable Furniture For Your Desert Home

With more consciousness about green products and sustainable business entering mainstream products, more clients are demanding more products for the interior of their homes besides wallpaper and paint. More furniture designers are making furniture from sustainable, renewable, and repurposed materials. As interior designers in the desert who are always looking for ways to put cutting-edge items in your home, here are some fine examples of what is available in the market:

Sustainable design is executed in stunning style with the beautiful Girado chair. Created by Team 7 in conjunction with the Batineau Design Group, the elegant chair has an elegant sculptural profile that belies its sustainable origins.

With a rounded back crafted from a choice of sustainable hardwoods or lush leather, the chair can be customized for any environment. Sustainable wood choices range from dark walnut to a lovely light maple, finished off with a timeless leather seat. Even the frame can be customized, with a choice of three very different shapes.

Batineau uses sustainable production methods and materials, producing beautiful non-toxic, solid wood furniture. The materials used by the design group are both natural and sustainable, contributing to a healthier home.

Team 7 is certified as an environmentally friendly manufacturer, using sustainably harvested hardwood that comes from a reforested European forest. Products are finished with natural herbal oils and waxes. Their green practices qualify them for great green design, even before one sees their actual eco-friendly furniture.

Urban Woods makes sustainable furniture from reclaimed wood, eco-friendly materials and environmentally conscious manufacturing processes. The distinct beauty of reclaimed wood, finished with rich water based, non-toxic stains, is preserved in modern handmade furniture that is made in Los Angeles, California. Their exclusive use of vintage reclaimed wood has many advantages; the grain of the timber with its tight growth rings shows the superior density of the wood from ancient trees, and the natural, aged patina and color of the old-growth timber is preserved in the manufacturing process, giving the furniture a look and feel that can not be replicated in new wood. Much of the reclaimed wood was originally harvested and milled 50 to 100 years ago, and has been seasoned in sunny Southern California for decades, giving the wood unparalleled stability and resistance to future distortion or structural movement. At Urban Woods we strive to make beautiful, eco-friendly furniture in the most sustainable way. They do not use tropical hardwoods which harm the rain forest to harvest, MDF, particle board nor toxic glues.

Acronym Designs have produced a range of unique designs that use a variety of materials and manufacturing processes. With a blend of natural and high tech materials, their furniture has modern appeal with classic sensibility. Whenever possible, they "use materials that are sustainable, renewable, reclaimed, or recycled," which includes FSC-certified wood and veneers, Lyptus (plantation-grown), or reclaimed African Mahogany.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Second Home, Second Everything: The Art Of Interior Design for Luxury Homes

Palm Desert, California-based interior designer William Miller has spent more than 20 years in the Southern California Desert planning, designing, furnishing, and accessorizing luxury second and third homes for his high-end clientele. An emerging interior design trend among these 2-million-dollar-plus homeowners is the demand for the interior designer to find relaztion through duplicity.

A second home is a second change for homeowners to rethink their priorities in a living environment. It turns out that for many in the luxury market, an individuals’ idea of indulgence stems from personal retreats, open spaces, and decadent amenities of their
very own: custom closets (each tailored to individual needs) the sunken tub for her and the mega shower jets for him, the plasma TV, sports bar, and chef’s grill for him, the trickling fountain, espresso station, and Zen courtyard for her, and separate kitchens for each, both indoor and out.

Sophisticated homeowners have moved beyond requests for his-and-hers sinks. Large his-and-hers closets as well as dressing areas are tailored to individual wardrobe needs; separate toilet rooms, walk-in showers, oversized tubs and separate sink areas with granite counter tops, etched glass and custom tile. These are elements that customers want in the luxury home market.

The master bedroom suite is the refuge for the homeowner. It is, simply put, more than a bedroom and becomes a quiet, luxurious escape from children, guests, and social obligation. A place to regroup and spend quiet times alone at the beginning and end of each day. Female clients typically want to spend their dollars on the luxurious feel of quality fabrics for custom bedding, wallcoverings, and down-filled furniture; men go for large walk-in showers with rain dome shower heads and multiple body wash sprays. Both sexes enjoy having their own separate spaces within one large shared space, which William Miller refers to as “independence through togetherness.”

Outdoor spaces are important for entertaining in California because so many activities are focused around the outdoors. “My clients live outdoors more than indoors, that’s why outdoor living rooms, kitchens, and dining areas are important elements.”

Value is found per square foot in covered outdoor rooms that are essential to today’s increasing luxury second home market. In new construction, these outdoor rooms are often the emphasis of the home and all design and planning begin in these areas.

Outdoor fireplaces as well as multimedia entertainment centers are standard fare in these luxury second homes as well as comfortable seating, outdoor kitchens and full-service bars.
Couples come together with their ideas about their great room. A comfortable great room or family room that is close to the kitchen and equipped with state-of-the-art multimedia entertainment systems. These great rooms are spaces that are casual enough for extended family entertaining, but elegant enough for more formal cocktail or dinner gatherings.

Monday, September 8, 2008

What Kind of a Mood Are You Living In?

Interior design in the desert is important because the color in our environment can have an effect on how we feel mentally as well as physically. Historically, some cultures have used color to heal- such as the ancient Egyptians and the Native Americans. When choosing colors for your home interior, keep in mind the feelings that are associated with each color- you may inadvertently have the opposite affect that you wish to create with the d├ęcor of your rooms. Too many colors can make a room look busy, and in fact, confuse or agitate the people in the room. First, determine: what mood do I want to create with my interior designer, and colors can my interior designer help me select to achieve that mood?

Black is the absence of light and color. It represents sexuality, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, and style.

Green represents health, luck, renewal, youth, vitality, fertility, and nature. Rooms that are green or yellow create happy moods, and are ideal colors for playrooms or children’s rooms. The cool quality of these colors soothes and calm.

Red is a color that demands attention. It is the warmest and most energetic color in the spectrum. Red is always associated with love, danger, desire, and strength. Red can affect blood pressure and make heart rates increase. This color, along with violet/purples can boost energy levels by causing the body to create more adrenaline. These colors can be best used in home offices, entry halls, sitting rooms, and staircases. They should be avoided in bedrooms and bathrooms, where relaxation is key, as well as the kitchen and dining areas, because these colors can boost your appetite. Inspired but not wired is the key here- a red leather magazine caddy or bouquet of red flowers is best. An interior designer can help with this sort of choice in your home.

Brown is a solid, reliable color, found in earth and abundant in nature. Light brown implies sincerity, genuineness, and dependability. Choosing brown for a home interior promotes warm feelings and an inviting atmosphere.

Blue is calm, soothing color, the color of the sea and sky. People faced with difficult tasks feel less anxious when surrounded by the color blue. Blue can be used more liberally than any other color in a room where you would like to feel less stressed.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Summer Blockbuster! Must-have items for your Desert Home Theater

Summer is nearly over, but think of the cold nights you’ll need to spend indoors entertaining- well, not so cold here in Palm Desert or Rancho Mirage, but it will get a little cooler. These sophisticated accessories and furnishings will help you enjoy your time spent in your own home theater, be it cold or not, indoors or out!

Nile Audio Planter

These planters not only dress up the garden, but also provide outdoor sound with the woofer and tweeter hidden inside. These realistic weatherproof planters are available in terracotta or concrete finish, and will hold live plans or flowers. http://www.nilesaudio.com/

Omnimount Prism Cabinet

With this cabinet, no one will even care what you’re watching, or even if you don’t have a TV! This high-design media cabinet comes in black or white, and gives your flat screen plasma TV a posh place to rest. http://www.omnimount.com/

Salamander Jump Seat Ottoman

These remind me of those great seats in coachbuilt limousines that fold out of sight when not in use- These ottomans open up in rumbleseat fashion into a theatre seat. These are ideal when you have friends over for movie watching or video games. When closed, it functions as an ottoman. http://www.salamanderdesigns.com/

Netgear EVA8000

A complete media bridge that frees up all of your media, including photos, videos, will transpose information on your computer to your video screen- simply choose from your MP3 music and your photos, and you’ve got an instant slide show!

Vantage TPI Screens

Control your home theater lighting, Music, and Temp from one touchscreen remote control with easy to read graphics.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jet Set Interior Design in Rancho Mirage

William Miller Design in Palm Desert has recently completed the interior design of this stunning 1967 home in Rancho Mirage by noted architect C.H. Barlund. Located in Rancho Mirage. This amazing home features vast expanses of glass and terrazo floors throughout, and is fantastically simple in its mid-century lines. Natural rock is utilized on the fireplaces. As an interior design project, we loved working with the Jet-set color palette of Solar Orange and Kelp Green throughout the house. Earlier this summer, this residence was featured on the Palm Springs Modern Home Tour. Those on the tour ended their day here with a cocktail at this beautiful residence in Rancho Mirage.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hollywood Regency at Home in the Desert

This glamorous style evades definition. It does so by way of incorporating so many elements of design- but most agree that its origin can be traced to Hollywood style of the 1930s and 1940s; particularly the set designs of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The popularity of this style is extending itself into the current rage in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage’s for modern glamour- and so the Hollywood Regency style is gaining popularity once again. Elements and objects found within the Hollywood Regency style are sourced globally: Asian, Moroccan accessories are frequently spotted; English and French Regency furniture which give the rooms their scale and sensibility; Greek Revival elements are certainly always spotted in fabric patterns used; and classic art deco and modern influences are used to bring the look up to date.
Historically, designers such as Billy Haines and Billy Baldwin are credited for the emergency of this style, and their contemporary counterparts are Kelly Wearstler and Jonathan Adler, both of which have completed major hotel projects in Palm Springs for The Viceroy Hotel and The Parker Hotel, respectively.

However, Dorothy Draper defines the Hollywood Regency style and is also credited with being the first successful female interior designer. Her firm was based in New York and she also was a contributing writer to Good Housekeeping magazine. Draper is most famous for her hotels including the Carlyle Hotel in New York, the Arrowhead Spa in San Bernardino, the Greenbrier in West
Virginia. The Museum of the City of New York held a retrospective of her work in 2006- a photo of the entry is featured here.

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