From White Box to WOW by Kimberly Reuther

Most of us love, or at least appreciate, architectural moldings and finishing touches in our homes.  However, not everyone’s home is “born” with these elements.  I am often asked how to decorate a room that looks like a white box.  Bare walls, no moulding, basically a square.  While seemingly uninspired to some, for designers this is a wonderful challenge.  We get to create!

Here are my ideas to help differentiate your space from every other “white box” on your block!

– First, you could experiment with adding simple elements such as a picture ledge.

These can be installed at various heights depending on it’s desired function.  In this instance, we did the shelf along one wall above the headboard and the pictures and objects are within reach to change out regularly.

In the second photo, the ledge was installed higher up on all 4 walls as a purely decorative element.  This is great in a contemporary home that doesn’t have crown moulding.  Make sure you allow enough space for a mirror or TV to hang on the wall.

– Another idea is to add really special elements that don’t make you miss the architectural details.  These uniquely beautiful pendants make a statement all on their own.

– Just because you don’t live in a loft doesn’t mean you can’t achieve the look.  This home is in the middle of a brand new development outside of San Jose.  No lofts for thousands of miles.  The brick wall adds a much needed urban element to the space.

– A basement is really an extension of your home and offers much needed entertaining space.  Boring white walls and extra high window sills left this vast lower level feeling lifeless even after the furnishings arrived.  My solution was to add beadboard paneling up to the windows on 2 major walls.  We painted it a rich caramel color which tied into the color scheme and immediately warmed the whole room.  Topped off with a picture ledge full of personal accessories and this room has been transformed into an inviting family space.

– Another area to consider is the coffered ceiling.  More often than not, the builder stops with just the soffits that step up.  Adding in crown moulding and even painting an accent color will make such a finished statement to the room.

Some of these projects you could tackle in a weekend, others require a professional.  With the right amount of imagination, you too can be proud of your home’s unique appeal!

Previously written by Kimberly for St. Louis AT HOME’s website.  Read more of Kimberly’s work and view her portfolio at

LeaderSpeak: Marketing & Branding

November was another great month for DesignSpeak, as we launched a new discussion series for design professionals, LeaderSpeak!  We plan to hold these every other month with rotating speakers and topics.

Our first topic on Marketing & Branding was a great success!  We were very fortunate to have such talented people for our first panelist lineup.  We really appreciated David, Nate, Araceli and Tom for being so open and offering insight into their marketing strategies.  Also, a huge thank you to Global Furniture for hosting the event with us!  Their showroom looked fabulous and turned out to be a great source for seating our crowd!

David, Nate, Araceli (& Bella Rue), and Tom offered fantastic insights to the group!

Meet our panelists:

L. David James, III – Read DesignSpeak’s bio for David
Hospitality & Senior Living Sales Team Leader at Colt Industries
visit Colt’s website

Araceli Kopiloff-Zimmer – Read DesignSpeak’s bio for Araceli
owner of Rue Lafayette
visit Rue Lafayette’s website

Tom Niemeier – Read DesignSpeak’s bio for Tom
owner of SPACE Architecture + Design
visit SPACE’s website

Nathan Sprehe – Read DesignSpeak’s bio for Nate
owner of Almanac A Design + Marketing Studio
visit Almanac’s website

Great idea to hold the event in a showroom full of comfortable chairs!

From my perspective, the key points to take from the event were these:

– Be authentic and real in your professional dealings.

– Ask and you never know what doors may open for you.

– It really is about who you know; building relationships is more important than ever.

– Find a niche that plays to your strengths and core values.

Our hosts Tom (far left) and Cate (far right) were wonderful!

We hope you enjoyed the event and we’re looking forward to many more intriquing discussions in 2012!

october “speakeasy” at Rhine Haus

October was a thrilling month in St. Louis to say the least!  We were fortunate that the World Series was rained out for one night to allow a few more people to attend our “speakeasy” at Rhine Haus.  Great venue, yummy snacks and inspired conversations as always!  Thank you to Rhine Haus & Jeff Day, the project’s architect, for such great hospitality!  And thank you to all who came out for the evening!  Here’s a photo recap:


meet our panelist: l. david james, iii

David James wears a lot of hats in his role of Hospitality & Senior Living Sales Team Leader at Colt Industries, none greater than his unofficial title as “supreme networker.”

You see, David’s real “business” is people.  Remembering important events, lending a helping hand, getting to know what is important to his friends as well as his clients.  He really enjoys making new connections and often uses social media to foster important friendships.  He prides himself on the fact that Facebook helped him land some fairly large hospitality projects.

His motto is “90% rapport, 10% selfish promotion” and is passionate about connecting people and helping them improve their business.  Bottom line, David excels at developing relationships which is really what good business is all about.

Leaderspeak is an event for industry professionals on 11.9.11 and will be held at Global Total Office.  Click here to view the invite.


meet our panelist: tom niemeier

Tom Niemeier has worked on basically all the sides of the table in the design and construction process, from that of architect, to client, to contractor.  During that time, he has evolved a three pronged approach to marketing and branding.

First; it starts from within.  The design Team must understand, believe in, and practice the core philosophy of the company.  Hire correctly. Let your team contribute throughout and see the project all the way through. Do quality work and let it speak for itself.

Second; relationships.  Stay in touch with your clients after working so hard to create something special with them.  Do this casually, and keep it fun and down to earth.

Third; name recognition.  “Hit ’em from all sides.”  Do good work and promote it.  Win awards and announce it. Get to know the print media and get published. And social media is particularly special as “architects have the ability to do really interesting tweets”.  But no matter what, keep it casual, real, and approachable.  And hopefully when the time comes and somebody is looking for an architect, your name is the one that comes to mind first.

Click the link below to get a glimpse of the SPACE experience.

Note:  Tom was recently featured in St. Louis Magazine.  Click here for the article.

Leaderspeak is an event for industry professionals on 11.9.11 and will be held at Global Total Office.  Click here to view the invite.

meet our panelist: Araceli Kopiloff-Zimmer

In the few years since Rue Lafayette opened, Araceli has successfully marketed her cafe/boutique as a little slice of Paris in the Midwest.  Yummy treats, a relaxed atmosphere and vintage French touches keep you coming back for more of the “joie de vivre.”   To do this she combines modern day technology with old fashioned friendliness and a great personality.  Rue Lafayette has received accolades both locally and nationally in the media.

Rue Lafayette Cafe & Boutique

An offshoot of her overall concept, Bella Rue the canine “hostess”, has developed into a brand personality all her own.  Araceli has been smart in marketing this adorable little Boston Terrier with humorous accessories/toys, videos and even her own Facebook page. Click here to learn more about Bella Rue!

Araceli and Bella

Leaderspeak is an event for industry professionals on 11.9.11 and will be held at Global Total Office.  Click here to view the invite.


meet our panelist: Nathan Sprehe

Nearly seven years ago I met Nathan Sprehe, a free-lance graphic designer at the time, over breakfast and sketches to discuss our company’s brand and identity.  As a company that had yet to get its business license, Integration Controls was nothing but a concept at the time.  I left the meeting thinking, “There’s no way he got anything valuable from that conversation”…

Little did I know that all of our buzz words, concepts, hand gestures and napkin doodles inspired Nathan in a way that translated into graphics and company identity.  From our first round of logo designs, to a completed brochure – and beyond – Nathan provided a great foundation for our company’s image.

As a proprietor of Almanac, Nathan brings to the table a wealth of real-world experience blended with a passion for great design and architecture.  His easy demeanor and probing questions make him easy to chat with while he figures out how to best create a company’s image.  I’m proud to know him and eager to pick his brain for our first leaderspeak event.

Leaderspeak is an event for industry professionals on 11.9.11 and will be held at Global Total Office.  Click here to view the invite.

Intro to “Designing Small is Designing Smart” by Derek Maschek

Smarter and Smaller Houses, an Introduction to Design

Last year, Merriam-Webster voted “austerity” the apparently coveted status of Word of the Year.  The negativity around the term can be seen in the riots of Greece and Spain and Great Britain.  The word “austere” includes definitions such as “stern and cold in appearance”, “markedly simple or unadorned”, and “giving little or no scope for pleasure”.  No word better captures how many people would react if I were to suggest the concept of building small, particularly at a time when more is perceived as better.  And no word could be more misleading and wrong to the great potential of this “other” design approach.  So, to establish a new frame of reference, let me throw some new words into the pot for consideration;








In only sixty years, we have witnessed an interesting phenomenon in the United States.  The average size of a family has seen a 30% decrease, from 3.6 to 2.7 or one person.  Over the same period, the average house increased by 140%, from 1,000 to 2,400 square feet.  I’ll let you make any connections between life then versus now, as that is another conversation altogether and getting preachy here detracts and distracts from the power of a very powerful design methodology.


Put simply, when built using the same conventional methods, small houses cost less to build, operate, and maintain.  It seems obvious, but building less means a directly proportional reduction in the materials and time required to build, and in many cases the actual per-piece costs for materials is reduced as well.  Operationally, costs are reduced by limiting the resources needed to make the house work and be comfortable to live in.  And from a maintenance perspective, less time and money is put into cleaning, repairing, and eventually replacing all the components that go into a house. When capitalizing on the full capabilities of new technologies and the better understanding of traditional ones, these savings are compounded.  And by corollary, for the same cost, if you reduce the square footage, you can increase the cost per square foot, meaning a smaller house provides an opportunity for higher quality or more features.

This is a topic that has been covered by smarter people than I, and in greater detail than I’ll get into.  I intend only to provide an overview, emphasize a few simple points, and show some commonly pursued tactics as well as some uniquely innovative ones.  Most importantly I hope to reveal the underlying philosophy that supports it all, to shed light on the “other” design approach I mentioned at the top.

Architecture specifically is commonly perceived as an answer to some problem, a solution, a thing.  The emphasis is on the result.  However, architecture specifically and design in general, has been more accurately defined as “problem solving” or “problem seeking”. Design as process, not product.  In order to solve a “problem”, it is critical to first understand it, to ask questions in order to discover its essence in as much detail as possible.  So, when it comes to designing a small house, let’s focus on the questions being asked as a means to understand the answers that result;

What do you want in a home?

What do you need in a home?

What limitations are there?

What opportunities are there?

I would invite you to go through a sort of design process with me moving forward, answering these questions as best you can.  Consider the design of your dream home, your vacation home, or just reimagine your current home.  Consider the addition or renovation you’ve been contemplating.

Designing a small home, as it should be with any home or any building, is really nothing more than being smart about it, balancing what you need with what you want with what you have.  Designing small, is designing smart.

Stay tuned for more installments on this topic in the coming weeks.  Derek can be reached via email to discuss a specific project.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...