Home design trend talk from Remodelista’s Julie Carlson

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

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Seven years ago, Julie Carlson, author of Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home (Artisan Books, $37.50), had just completed a second remodeling project in three years and found herself exhausted from the seemingly-endless process of perusing websites in her quest for cool products and resources. Realizing that many of her frustrations were shared by others, she joined with three design-savvy friends and created their now-popular blog, Remodelista , which, she notes, “gravitates to classic, streamlined and uncluttered interiors.”

“We knew there had to be a better way than going to a plumbing website and looking at 1,000 faucets,” she said. “There’s more than 2,000 decisions to make in even the simplest kitchen remodel.”

Remodelista eventually evolved from a simple blog to a full-fledged digital home design resource featuring carefully curated products, photos and remodeling and decorating ideas. Much akin to listening in on a group of chatty personal shoppers and DIY decorators, the idea-inspired blog is filled with in-the-know design tips everyone ought to hear before their construction crews arrive curbside.

“We would get together and nominate our favorites and pick the ‘best in show,” ” said Carlson. “It just took off.”

This year, with the release of the book, Carlson and her colleagues have gone old school, providing a printed product that echoes the content and theme that has made Remodelista such a hit in the remodeling marketplace and with the DIY design crowd. Within the 387-page book is an inside look at 12 homes, among them, an 1850s farmhand’s cottage, a Brooklyn apartment and actress Julianne Moore’s Greek Revival townhouse. In the last chapter, the editors have done all the clicking for you by winnowing down their all-time favorite everyday objects — the Remodelista 100 — and the book made Amazon.com’s 2013 list of 100 Best Books, taking top honors in the home improvement and design category.

“The book has 95 percent new photos and material on home remodels that aren’t on the website,” said Carlson, adding that the tagline “a manual for the considered home” was inspired by a quote by William Morris, the English Arts and Crafts designer, about not bringing anything into your house that isn’t useful or beautiful. “It’s easy to get caught up in the consumer culture and fill your house with clutter,” she explained. “We’ve tried to create a website and book of projects and products that we carefully considered — and keep it pure and focused.”

Following are the results of a recent chat with the remodeling maven and author, plus some of her comments regarding mistakes, worthy splurges and trends.

What remodeling project is worth splurging on?

If you have a well-thought-out kitchen with good counter tops and appliances, you’ll get your money back.

Other smart upgrades — a good, solid, heavy front door for curb appeal, and simple brushed stainless or porcelain light switch plates. It’s surprising to me when I go into an expensively remodeled house and they still have cheap plastic ones from Home Depot.

What’s the first step before you dive into a major remodeling project?

Research, research, research — so you know what you want before you talk to an architect. And choose the right team by interviewing at least three contractors and architects. These people are going to be part of your life for a while and you need them to work like a well-oiled machine.

What are common remodeling mistakes people make?

hey don’t finish the last 10 percent because of decision fatigue. I have a friend who didn’t pick out a pendant light because he was tired of making decisions, and the contractor put in a fluorescent fixture. Many people don’t correct errors right away and just live with them. I ended up with movable, instead of fixed, shelves next to my bed. When I hit my alarm clock, the shelf falls down. The little things can bug you.

Some of the projects use Ikea cabinets and curtains. What are other ways to cut costs?

Be creative with your sourcing. For fixtures and fittings, look at industrial suppliers such as McMaster-Carr. Schoolhouse supply stores are great for library book carts.

What are some tricks for bringing light into dark spaces?

Our first home in San Diego was a dark pine-paneled ranch house. Painting the interiors white made such a difference. Add skylights or transom windows. Put on doors with frosted glass to let light filter through. There’s nothing like natural light.

What are the emerging trends for 2014?

L.A. has some of the more refreshing design. There’s a big trend toward a 1960s hippie revival of bohemian interiors, macrame and hanging spider plants — it’s looser and craftier. But will it filter to the rest of the country? In the kitchen, granite counte rtops have become identified with McMansions and spec houses. I think Carrara marble has become much more desirable.

What will have the biggest impact on home design and remodeling in the future?

Everyone should be thinking about green materials and sustainability. Stay away from plastic, and stick with reclaimed wood and natural stone, and you’ll end up with a better product.

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