Design Inspiration at the Met

October 14, 2016

The latest AIA survey on design revenue not only shows that firms are busy, but that they are growing.  The latest wave of expansion has led to more hiring, busier weeks, and less down time.  With so much to do and so little time, finding inspiration in our daily grind can often be challenging.  A recent visit to the Met reminds us that there are those who have taken our discipline far beyond that of a service and elevated it to a level of art that is truly worthy of admiration.  Below are just a few examples:

A Stair Hall Designed by McKim Meade and White

Window Panels by Louis Comfort Tiffany

A Stair Hall from the Chicago Stock Exchange by Louis Sullivan

A work table from Tiffany Studios showing a lamp form with a shade under construction

Illuminated Armor for a Knight and his horse (not a building material but amazing metalwork just the same)

The Metropolitan Museum is open 7 days a week and located on 5th Avenue and 81st street in NYC.

New Project - A Mid Century modern hotel in San Leandro, CA

October 6, 2016

Nestled between Oakland and San Francisco is the small town of San Leandro, CA.   Originally settled by Spanish settlers, the City sits above a natural aquifer on the east side of the San Francisco Bay and is home to about 85,000 people.  San Leandro is largely known for food production with companies such as Coca Cola, Maxwell House, Ghirardelli, and Shasta all producing in the area.  In terms of Design history, the Bay area was where developer Joseph Eichler all but invented the modern American house and built thousands of units in the suburbs surrounding San Francisco.  Our latest project takes inspiration from the Eichler prototype and injects some 21st century touches into an existing Hilton Garden Inn and its 119 guestrooms.  Below are some shots from our mood board as well as some local flavor.  Stay tuned for details as they emerge.

The San Leandro Cherry Festival is an Annual Event

The International Style Architecture of City Hall

Classic Eichler Homes

Natural Materials

Havwoods Engineered Flooring - LA Loft

September 26, 2016

KKAD was engaged to make some minor upgrades to a loft in the Eastern Columbia Building in Downtown LA.  The building is one of Downtown’s Art Deco treasures and has public areas conceived by noted Designer Kelly Wearstler.

The Client asked KKAD how best to upgrade the space without doing any ‘real construction’ given that the unit came with concrete floors and painted walls throughout.

KKAD developed a multi-phase solution including re-facing of kitchen cabinets, new bathroom tile and a new engineered hardwood floor.  Given that the unit has no walls, it was important that the floor be rich in character yet be thin enough to install on top of the existing concrete.  During the effort to find the right product KKAD came across an international flooring provider looking to expand into the North American market.  The England Based company called Havwoods has been operating in the European Market for decades.  The product selected was an engineered reclaimed herringbone wood floor that is unique to the market in that it has all of the detail our team was looking for while hitting the client’s desired budget.  Havwoods makes more than two dozen varieties of herringbone and chevron patterns in varies wood species and finishes.  The variety we selected (below) is sure to provide warmth and depth to the Loft while setting the groundwork for a massive reveal later this year.  Stay tuned for final photos in the coming months.

City Scene 2016

September 15, 2016

On Tuesday night Hospitality Design Magazine hosted their annual City Scene cocktail hour at the newest boutique hotel in Brooklyn - The William Vale in Williamsburg.  The hotel is a modern architectural tower where every guestroom has a balcony and breathtaking views.  The Interior Design was executed by Alessandro Munge and his team out of Toronto and feature thoughtful detailing throughout.  Our team was on hand to experience the property and were lucky enough to snag a personal tour with Alessandro as he walked us through the challenges and victories of achieving his vision.   Much of the interiors were fabricated in Portugal which yielded a very high level of craftsmanship in the casework and fixtures.  The marble that graces the public areas came from quarries in Italy and random sizes were used to be more economical while achieving a luxurious look.   The hotel features a mix of beautiful indoor and outdoor space including a rooftop Airstream trailer serving burgers two stories above the street.  The guest quarters are modest but well-appointed with panoramic views making the spaces feel much larger than they actually are.   The William Vale is one of the few hotels that successfully marries modern design with the warmth of a personal residence.   Congratulations to Alessandro and his team for a job well done.

The Pastoral Pig

September 12, 2016

For the past six months, our team has been assisting local Chef and Butcher Sebastien Destree in creating his dream shop, The Pastoral Pig.  The Pastoral Pig is a market specializing in grass fed and pasture raised meats sourced from the finest farmers in NY, NJ, and PA.  In addition to fresh meats, Sebastien also creates several varieties of sausages, makes his own stock, and renders various lards and tallow in an effort to use the whole animal with little waste.  Given that these pursuits require very specialized machinery for storing and processing the animals (they arrive whole by the way), his budget was stretched when it came to design.  Originally he had planned to paint the store and hang FRP (fiberglass reinforced plastic) everywhere but we convinced him to consider some minimal finishes that would keep the focus on the products.  Our team helped Sebastien to create a finish palette that is both easy to clean and minimally stylish.  These include polished concrete floors, tiled walls, and solid cherry butcher block counters.  The customer area features barnwood cladding which was used to balance all of the hard finishes.  If you are in the area, be sure to drop by – The Pastoral Pig – 244 US 206, Flanders, NJ. 

Rounding the Corner – Indian Trail Residence

August 24, 2016

When you see people renovate houses on TV it often seems like they are able to completely transform a home in a few weeks which is then condensed into a 30 minute episode.  Our track record with home renovations has been slightly different for a number of reasons.  If you read our previous post on renovating an old home you know that you shouldn’t immediately jump into renovating a house until you better understand what really needs to be done.  And this can sometimes take a while.

Also, most TV renovators use inexpensive materials that look great when they are new but don’t last the test of time.  And finally, most TV renovators are not licensed design professionals so they don’t always get into the kinds of detailed drawing exercises that are part of our business.   When you combine all of these factors together,  you can start to see why our latest undertaking has lasted over 16 months. 

At first, we really didn’t want to do much as the house was acquired mostly to be a weekend property and more of an exercise in creative styling.  But then we started looking more closely at the layout and finishes and realized that we needed to do a little more work than we thought.  From new kitchen cabinets to refinishing existing hardwood floors, the house has been completely transformed without adding any additional square footage.  Through creative planning (and lots of built in cabinetry) the house seems much larger than its cozy 950 SF floor plan. 

Using many off the shelf materials, our goal was to elevate the space into a modern retreat that could accommodate a large family or even two families vacationing together.  To that end, we create two ‘master’ bedrooms with the middle bedroom serving as the ‘kids quarters’ with custom bunk beds.  The living room sofa also opens up with a trundle that sleeps two comfortably. 

We expect to finish the project completely in the next two weeks and will post final photos soon!

Boutique Design Summer Forum Recap

August 3, 2016

While it was raining in NJ, a group of Hospitality Industry professionals descended on Sonoma, CA for the annual Boutique Design Summer Forum held from July 27-29 at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission and Spa.  The three-day conference is a mix of industry round tables and intense ‘educational’ sessions where attendees learn about the local economy.   For those who are fortunate enough, a breakout session might end up at the famous ‘El Molino’ which provides top notch Mexican food to those worn weary from the heat.   All in all, another great year and special thanks to Boutique Design Magazine for pulling off this epic event.

View from the Mountaintop at Kunde Winery


Road Warriors at the famous El Molino

Top 5 Tips for Renovating an Old House

July 22, 2016

Despite what the big box stores will say, home renovation is something that should really be left to those who are familiar with the risks of construction.  You probably shouldn’t be installing electrical devices if you don’t understand the difference between a white wire and a green wire.  Home Styling on the other hand is a different story.  It’s amazing what two days and some paint can do.  In either case, a new homebuyer often needs a place to start when contemplating major changes to a home.  Here are a few of our standard rules of practice when it comes to home renovations.

1- Don't do any work immediately unless you have to.

We understand your old home may need a new roof or a heating system or something else really important.  However too many homeowners take down walls or rip out kitchens well before they should have.  You really should live in the home for 6 months before doing anything major.  Experience how the sun moves through your home.  Figure out where the cold leaks in or where you may need to change doors.  This kind of exercise will not only save you money in the long run, but allow you to make more informed decisions about what changes are necessary.  Below are two pictures of the same kitchen.  Originally the homeowner wanted to remove walls and change everything around but after a few months in the house they found the layout worked quite well if an island was added.










2- Don't start work without a REAL budget.

Most homeowners have no idea how much things really cost.  The internet is full of bad information on how to 'do it yourself' and save thousands. We once had a client who spent over $1000 on tile that he installed himself and wondered why the tiles were all popping off of the floor.  Products like tile have associated components (underlayments, grouts, sealers) that go well beyond the cost of just the tile itself.  He ended up having to rip all the tile out and start over.  There is also no substitute for qualified labor, which is not cheap.  It’s always a good idea to get bids from a qualified contractor for anything you want to tackle.  Even if you don't use them, it's good to get a reality check before starting any project.  You can also hire an Architect to give you some ideas and estimates based on their recent projects.

3- Use the internet as a tool, not as a school.

Websites like Pinterest and Youtube give people lots of inspiration and advice on how to create the home of their dreams.  There is nothing wrong with creating inspiration boards full of ideas you can take and make your own.  Be careful though when it comes to implementing those ideas.  Just as colors look different on different screens, you must be familiar with the existing conditions and the nuances of different environments.   People who have installed wood floors in humid climates often find that the floors don't stay down for long.  Professionals understand these things and videos are no substitute for hands on experience.

4- Understand your goals.

Are you renovating a starter home that you plan to sell in five years?  Do you plan on never moving and raising a family here?  Make a list of the top priorities you have for the renovation and then determine if those make sense with your goals.  It may be cool to turn your garage into a great home theater but your future buyers may not think so. 

5- Be honest with yourself as to how much you can do. 

There is nothing more frustrating than living in a renovation that never ends.  It places a great strain on a relationship as well as makes it difficult to move on with your life.  If you have a realistic budget in place, plan to get some help with the tougher stuff that might take you alot of time.  You might be able to lay a wood floor in a weekend, but tiling a bathroom could possibly take you a month of weekends or more.  If you follow steps 1-4, this one should be pretty easy to figure out.

In closing, remember that your home is your castle.  Fixing it up may be alot of work, but the rewards can also be great.  If you take your time and do it right, you are more likely to protect your investment as opposed to becoming a cautionary tale. Good Luck!

New Project - Washington Hilton

July 6, 2016

When constructed in 1965, the Washington Hilton had the largest column free ballroom in the entire city of Washington DC.   Designed by noted Architect William Tabler, the hotel featured a double arch design and gracious gathering spaces unlike any other at the time.  The hotel hosts the White House Press Correspondent’s Dinner, the National Prayer Breakfast and has previously hosted concerts by the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix.

KKAD was recently awarded the task of renovating the hotel’s lobby which features three restaurants, a lobby bar, a lounge, and all of the standard amenities associated with a full service Hilton Hotel.  Our team drew inspiration from the architecture of the building and the mid-century pedigree of the hotel.  The proposed design will include a variety of atomic age details including wood paneling, bold patterns, and intricate screen partitions.

Georges Place - Clinton, NJ

July 3, 2013

Photos from a cool mid-century addition / renovation

Latest Restaurant Design - 12 West in Montclair, NJ

February 10, 2013

Here are some shots of our latest project in Montclair, NJ - A new American restaurant called 12 West.  The site is directly adjacent to a train station and takes some of it's design cues from the location as well as a warm, jewel toned color palate.  Just some background - the building is a long narrow pre-fab structure that had no inherent charm or character.  We broke up the spaces by creating multiple zones which allowed for maximum flexibility.

If you are in the area, it's definitely worth a trip.  For a link to the restaurant and their menus visit

We will be adding some of these images to our regular site soon, but here's a first look (click images to enlarge):