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Mix Metal and Wood Species To Create Soul

Michael Ferzoco is the principle of Eleven interiors and a contributor to my blog. The post below is a wonderful take on mixing different design elements to create soul.

I was recently asked by a client why I’m not proposing to use the same materials throughout a project.  “Ugh… not again”, I thought.  This question rears its ugly head more often than I care to admit.  As is the case with many people, this client was afraid of mixing different wood grains and finishes on furniture, floors, built-ins etc. in any one room.  I’ve had people question the use of different metal finishes on faucets and light fixtures.  Many people believe that the finishes should be the same… that they should “match”.  I hear things like, “But that doesn’t really match what we’re doing in the other bathroom” or “the wood on the coffee table doesn’t match the wood on the side table” or, my favorite “shouldn’t the bedside tables match?” My answer is always the same…. we never match anything. The magic is in how we mix materials and finishes together to create a space that has soul.

Yes, it’s okay to have zebra wood bedside tables next to a dark walnut headboard and platform bed all of which sits opposite a built-in cabinet that’s has a grey-wash-on-rift cut oak.  Go right ahead and place a vintage chrome finished cocktail table with a glass top in the middle of your living room… the same room that has antique brass sconces on the wall and gun metal black hand-forged hardware on a credenza with a raw steel base.  Of course it’s acceptable – very chic, actually – to use polished nickel faucets with bronze finish towel bars along with patina lighting fixtures in the bathroom.


Every room in your home should have a mix of various woods, various metals, glass, stone…. in some manner of combination… not that you have to use all of these elements in one space!  Choose which elements are appropriate for which space and then branch out within that element and employ it in different ways.  If you don’t take the risk of mixing the elements and the finishes, then you risk looking like you have no more insight to interior style than someone who purchases the 8 piece living room set (the phrase makes me cringe) at Bob’s Furniture.  Trust me, I’m not wrong about this….

And when creating a successful space, it’s important to remember that you can continue to add pieces as long as you continue to edit along the way.  The space will feel harmonious when the mix of furniture and accessories, in all their various finishes, are cohesively working together to create a thoughtfully orchestrated room with soul.  It takes time and effort.  It can be a bit of trial and error.  But the results are well worth it.

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Interior Designer Michael Ferzoco’s North End Makeover.

Michael Ferzoco is the principle of Eleven interiors, the Interior design  firm he founded in 2005. Michael’s post below starts a work in progress in the North End. Enjoy.  Michael

We recently began working with a client in Boston’s North End neighborhood.  Over the past 18 months he’s had a number of issues with water leaks and this past summer he began noticing mold on the walls and baseboards.  Our client realized that he needed to bite the bullet and completely renovate the space to guarantee that it was sealed from the elements.  The space is quasi-free standing in that it only shares a fire wall with a mirror image space.  These two units each have their own private entrance from the street.  They are part of a condo association that includes a multi-unit building with 8 condos. It is the mirror image of my client’s space.  The unobstructed views of Boston Harbor from my client’s home are magical.  The space has the potential to be a sweet, little oasis in one of the most ethnically European neighborhoods in the city.

The space feels small at 750 square feet because it’s a duplex.  Yes, that’s right, just about 350 square feet of livable space on each floor in order to accommodate the stair case and entry area.  The space is also awkwardly shaped with two fairly long exterior walls that actually follow the curve of the sidewalk/street. The client has lived in the space for more than 10 years without making any changes. It was originally developed in the late 1990’s.  The space is so poorly laid out that whoever did it originally should have their license revoked. WOW!  Talk about bad flow, bad energy, a poor use of limited space and mediocre, at best, materials. This place had everything wrong with it. See for yourself…


The big question is, how do you take a space like this and create something that’s actually wonderful to live in? Check back here from time to time to follow the transformation.

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Design Budgets. On The Table.

Michael Ferzoco is the principle of Eleven Interiors, the interior design firm he founded in 2005. Michael is a regular contributor to my blog adding a fabulous design component to the conversation.  You can reach Michael at [email protected].

Given the “new economy” in recent years, most prospective clients considering a design project have had to tighten their belts.  I’ve had my share of clients approach me with financial trepidation about starting a new project.   They may have the finances, but they may want to implement the project in phases.  And many, I have found, are also a bit leery of beginning a project without some kind of certainty that they’re budget will be honored.  As professionals we owe it to our savvy clientele to “put it on the table”… to let them know exactly where they are financially at all times during the life of their project.

Budgets are a tricky conversation to have with a client. They often feel like they’re taking a leap of faith by telling a designer that they have a given dollar amount to put toward their project. I always insist on defining the budget.  There can be that cat and mouse game where the prospective client explains what they want to do and then asks “how much do you think that will cost?”  Well, it could cost a little or a lot, depending on how much they have available to spend!  Yes, a kitchen can be renovated with Ikea cabinetry and basic granite countertops or it can be done in custom cabinetry with all the bells and whistles and Caesarstone countertops, or perhaps it’ll fall somewhere in between.

Every client’s project is important regardless of the budget.  There are $20k clients and there are $500k clients….but to each of those respective clients, that’s a lot of green.

In an effort to “keep it all on the table”, I’ve always prepared a detailed budget and presented it to my clients at the beginning of a project. Inevitably, over time, that budget will change (the built-ins cost X instead of Y because they decided on a more, or less expensive, wood or finish; or they absolutely had to have those vintage chairs), but the client receives an update every week with the respective line item highlighted for their review and approval. That way, both of us can be assured that there won’t be any financial surprises at the end of the project. Good faith, all around. They share information with me and I share it with them. It makes the entire process so pleasant.

A client’s budget is the most important piece of information they can share with me.  Of course, chances are highly likely that I’m going to spend it because that’s what they told me they had available to spend!  But more than that, knowing the budget allows me to present clients with product that will work within that budget.




Scale And Proportion

Michael Ferzoco is the principle of Eleven Interiors, the interior design firm he founded in 2005. Michael will be a regular contributor to my blog adding a fabulous design component to the conversation. His first post distinguishes the differences between scale and proportion in design… fascinating. Enjoy. You can reach Michael at [email protected].

Let’ take a minute to clarify a couple of terms used in daily communication in the design world – scale and proportion. These terms are frequently used interchangeably because their meanings can be confusing, but they are quite different.

In the simplest and fewest words, scale refers to overall size. Proportion refers to relative size. But that doesn’t really help very much, does it? How about this instead?

The scale of an object or a space is relative to the idea of that object or space, literally the human perception of what is the norm or the ideal for that object or space. For example, the scale of a sofa is either small or large when compared to other sofas. So when you walk into a friend’s 1,000 s.f. apartment and he has one of those overstuffed, lounging sectional sofas, you’re correct in thinking to yourself  “Wow the scale of that sofa is HUGE!” And of course you’d be thinking of that sofa relative to other sofas that you’re familiar with…and you’d graciously keep your thoughts to yourself!

On the other hand, proportion refers to the relative size and scale of the various elements in a space. The issue here is the relationship between objects, or parts, to a whole. So your thoughts about the aforementioned sectional sofa would now be “wow the scale of that sofa is HUGE and the proportion for this room (basically the amount of space it requires relative to other furnishings in the room) is all wrong”.

Our most universal standard of measurement is the human body. Think about it. We judge the appropriateness of size of objects by that measure. For example, a chair in the form of a hand is quite an attention getter because of the distortion of expected proportion of a human hand, and therefore it becomes the center of attention in the space.

Architectural spaces that are intended to impress us are usually scaled to a size that dwarfs the human viewer. Public spaces, such as churches or government buildings, corporate spaces and museums are often very large in scale relative to other buildings. These structures impress us with their grandeur and size, creating a sense of power and invincibility. In contrast, the proportions of a private home are usually more in scale with human measure, and as a result the home appears friendlier, more comfortable, less intimidating.

Not so confusing after all.