Home Buy Design Now Casting in St. Louis

Attention, St. Louis home-buyers, real estate agents and interior designers: Casting has begun for Home Buy Design, a new pilot series to be filmed in and produced for the St. Louis market. The series is designed to showcase the benefits of utilizing renovation loans to secure the right home in the right location with the right design plan.

Produced by Provident Development Group, BidRazor, and Tony Collins of Prime Lending, and filmed by Pounds Media, Home Buy Design will feature real-life renovation projects financed with FHA 203K renovation loans, Fannie Mae HomeStyle renovation loans and jumbo construction loans. Home-buyers who are chosen to participate will be followed through the entire process, starting with the search for the right home and lender, as well as design and renovation work, leading up to the big reveal.

“We want to take you through the real experience of how homeowners can buy and renovate a home all at once with a real budget, real time schedules and real professionals,” explains Mike Pulley, managing partner at Provident Development Group, a St. Louis concierge project management and design firm.

Provident partner and senior project manager Tom McAnally says the difference between Home Buy Design and other reality television shows is that securing the necessary financing to turn dreams into realities is a key topic. “We talk about something the reality shows don’t: where clients get the money to do their renovation projects,” McAnally says. “For a majority of the projects on reality shows, materials are given to the show by vendors, which skews the actual cost of the project. “

Producers say ideal candidates for the series are those who are looking to buy a new home, but have found the most desirable to be out of their price range. They are considering the purchase of a fixer upper, but are daunted by the prospect of a large renovation project. Additionally, they must have FHA 203K, Fannie Mae HomeStyle or jumbo construction loans pre-approved and financing in place; be “energetic, outgoing and fun;” ready to act quickly in the purchase of a new home; and enthusiastic about working on their project with Home Buy Design experts.

“Something that I see as the most attractive part will be the ability to teach the value of design,” Pulley told interior designers who gathered at the Interior Design Center of St. Louis, where the new series was announced. Designers who are selected for the series will be chosen by the home-buyers, and will get producer and creative rights for their participation. Ditto for local real estate agents who help the buyers find the right home.

Casting for the series will continue through May or June, followed by a four-month filming schedule. For more information or to apply, visit homebuydesign.com

The Artist Among Us: Margaret Von Kaenel

Are you a fan of Zuber and de Gournay, purveyors of murals and scenes long favored by discerning interior designers? If so, you will want to know about Margaret Von Kaenel, the University City-based fine-art mural painter, whose painstaking work keeps her behind the local interior design scene, quite literally. Although the days of climbing scaffolding in order to paint ceiling murals are behind her (at least she hopes so), Von Kaenel’s artistic skill and aesthetic continue to bring St. Louis interiors to new heights.

One of her more recent projects involved the design and execution of a custom mural for a design project by Alan E. Brainerd, principal of Alan E. Brainerd Interiors and design editor of Ladue News. The theme: a richly detailed hunt scene, apropos of the home’s location in Huntleigh, which has a very long and equally storied equestrian history. Although the interior design project is still a work in progress, Von Kaenel’s fine art mural truly sets the stage for what’s to come. This is not the first time she has created a custom mural for Brainerd. In fact, you may have seen her work at the 2012 Ladue News Show House, where she skillfully recreated a West Indies-style frieze based on a Brunschwig & Fils archival fabric.

Von Kaenel earned a degree in Fine Art from the University of California and has traveled to France, Italy, Morocco and Spain for a variety of painting projects. Her work has appeared in a number of magazines, including Better Homes & Gardens. In addition to murals, Von Kaenel specializes in trompe l'oeil, grisaille, faux fresco, lime-based Venetian plasters, sand stone, and combinations of the above.

“I paint on anything my clients want me to paint on,” she says. “I still love to apply textures to walls, only not so high anymore!”

Castle Design and Fibercations Merge

Two neighboring design firms with offices in the 7700 block of Clayton Road have merged: Castle Design, known for its award-winning architectural and design work, and Dana Romeis’ Fibercations, an established name in local contemporary design for the past 25 years, are now operating as a single business under the name Castle Design.

In addition to being better positioned to attract high-profile projects, the marriage of the two organizations enhances buying power for clients and provides more diversity and depth of design talent. Leadership will be provided by Emily Castle, a degreed architect and interior designer, and Dana Romeis, who will serve as managing designers of the combined operations. Other members of the design team are Jay Eiler, Lori McElvain, Jenny Potashnick and Lauren Sweet-Schuler.

“Each of our firms has unique projects, characteristics and experiences that together complement and expand our abilities, innovation and reach in design, planning and architecture,” Castle says.

“We have long admired the work of Emily, bringing her degree in architecture to every project,” Romeis adds. “We welcome the opportunities our combined firms will bring.”

Reclaiming America

After years of buying furniture manufactured overseas, Americans are looking to once again “buy American.” As part of the bargain, they are getting some of the most finely crafted furniture in the world. Much, if not most, high-end American-made furniture comes from North Carolina, the furniture capital of the world. The state is home to more than 300 manufacturers representing some 20,000 highly skilled workers, who inherited their craft from generations of master craftsmen. Among the iconic North Carolina brands with a large and loyal following in St. Louis is Century Furniture. The company has been honored as Best: Made in America by the nonprofit Made: In America, whose mission is to foster a business climate conducive to competitive American commerce and industry in a global economy. The change in consumer buying habits is coming none too soon, as American high-end furniture manufacturing runs the risk of becoming a lost art.

Soft Surroundings At Home: Calling All Francophiles

Following its debut last year, St. Louis-based Soft Surroundings At Home has expanded from two to four collections for spring 2014. The company also has continued to champion French design, incorporating the style into as many of Soft Surroundings At Home’s product categories as possible. Most pieces are designed (or at least tweaked) by the in-house design team, which searches the French countryside for inspiration—a tough job, but someone has to do it! (Note to antique hunters: Some of the team’s antique purchases are sold on the Soft Surroundings website.)

Among the design team’s favorite pieces in the spring home collection (available online and in stores) are the Fontaine Wingback, a comfortable upholstered chair; the Les Halles Cabinet , a curvaceous Louis XV-style piece with hand-painted detail; and the Le Vallee Du Loire Cabinet, recreated from a 160-year-old antique the team found in the markets of Cholet. Crafted of solid oak, circa 1780, the grand, two-piece armoire was discovered in the Burgundy region of France. Styled with an elegantly carved cornice, intricate mouldings and serpentine apron, the painted finish is aged to a prized patina, revealing an authentic provenance.

The Ancient Chinese Art of Feng Shui at Home

“Places have power, not only the physical power of sheer presence, but the emotional clout to alter our moods. Of course, the converse is also true. We have power over places. If we don’t’ take advantage of that fact, we’re squandering a major opportunity to bring positive energy into our lives.” --Martha Beck

So begins the new book, Mind Body Home, by Tisha Morris, a Feng Shui consultant and interior designer. Like all Feng Shui practitioners, Morris contends that making conscious and appropriate changes to one’s living space can improve day-to- day life. In her book, she sheds light on the principles of the ancient art of Feng Shui and offers practical suggestions for adhering to them. We found some to be matters of common sense, while others are a bit more arcane. A small sampling:

• Create an adequate transitional space between the front door and the rest of the house that allows beneficial chi (energy) to rest and accumulate instead of rushing forward.

• In the case of a hallway that feels too long and/or too dark, place a mirror on the side wall and make sure there is adequate lighting.

• Stairways can be jarring, if not positioned correctly in the home, creating an abrupt transition. Similar to a chute, energy can rush up and down a staircase and out the door. Having a landing half way up the stairs alleviates the rush of energy.

• Bathrooms are considered inauspicious rooms, flushing and draining beneficial chi out of the home. Bathrooms also are associated with financial problems and money ‘going down the drain.’ Feng Shui remedies include keeping the toilet lid down, closing drains and keeping the bathroom door closed when not in use.

• Minimize furniture with sharp corners and avoid placing pieces on a diagonal except when necessary. Organize furniture around focal points in a room, such as a window or fireplace.

• Utilize fireplaces. Otherwise, they are merely a way for energy to escape and unwanted energy to enter the home.

• All rooms within the home should not only be well maintained, but also utilized so as not to block the energy flow.

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