Category Archives: Design Trends

Design Trends

Beyond Back Creek, 2012 In Review

A few days ago, I got the statistics from Beyond Back Creek 2012, our inaugural year.  There’s some pretty arcane information that I’m not quite sure how to use (most of my posts are read at 6am on Mondays, for example).  But there’s some data that I can use right away, too.  For instance, the most popular general topic was Kitchen Renovations, in all its variations. The second most popular topic was Raising Chickens.  Both of these make sense to me, as they are very much ongoing topics of conversation and the news here in Anne Arundel County.  And I’m very sure that we here in AACo speak for the rest of the world (insert winky emoticon here)

One of the many creek-side neighborhoods in Anne Arundel County (photo by Back Creek Design)

One of the many creek-side neighborhoods in Anne Arundel County (photo by Back Creek Design)

I am also not surprised that the Repurpose This series was so popular.  I started that specifically because of all the emails I was getting with ideas for recycling salvaged treasures.  But what IS almost shocking to me is the search engine information.  That’s the combination of words that people type that leads them to the Beyond Back Creek site.  Number one: “Giallo Ornamental granite“.  I knew granite was popular in kitchens, but had no idea it was so popular on keyboards!  Especially that specific color. Note to self…write a lot more about granite! (and we’ll keep on putting it into our rehabs.)

Giallo Ornamental granite looking lovely in light pools cast by the undercabinet halogens. (photo by Back Creek Design)

Giallo Ornamental granite looking lovely in light pools cast by the undercabinet halogens. (photo by Back Creek Design)

Even more surprising is the number two search engine entry…”Reusing Coffee Cans“.  I am flabbergasted, and also impressed and inspired.  There’s a lot of people creating fun and function out of empty cans. I’m happy to do what I can to further the cause.  Another note to self…drink more coffee.

Tragically empty coffee cups found a happy new life when they were featured on 'Repurpose This' in 2012 (photo by Back Creek Design)

Tragically empty coffee cups found a happy new life when they were featured on ‘Repurpose This’ in 2012 (photo by Back Creek Design)

I’m slowly recovering from the holiday lull, and my creative juices are flowing again.  Look forward to more posts addressing your favorite topics.  In fact, with this oddly mild weather, I am starting to get garden fever, so my next Repurpose This post will be about using coffee cans for gardening.  If you have any ideas and pictures, send them my way!  I’ll be happy to give you credit for them.  Sharing information is what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Thanks for a wonderful 2012.  I’m looking forward to learning more about each other in 2013.

Update: after I scheduled this post to publish, WordPress posted yet another timely article.  This one is about keeping the blogroll relevant and user-friendly….and I am making (another) commitment to doing a better job on that in the next few weeks.  I’d love to make it easier to share the sites I enjoy with the people who enjoy what I have to share :)

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Kitchen Trends 2013: Style Directions

The most-requested information at Back Creek Design is on updating kitchens and creating that ‘Great Room’ feeling. Whether or not you are ready to knock down some walls, there are decorating details that can help integrate the kitchen with the rest of the living and dining areas. Here’s some points on creating a cohesive and current look using three of the top decorating styles for 2013.
  1. The National Kitchen and Bath Association has rated “Transitional Style” as the number-one design trend for 2013. As noted before, if those kitchen walls come down, decor on the main level will need to flow. And even if you don’t intend to take a sledgehammer to your drywall, playing with this trend will tie the common areas of the home together. “Transitional style” can best be described as a balanced blend of traditional and modern components. The straight, clean lines of stainless appliances can mix beautifully with aged wood furniture and patterned fabrics as long as the finishes and textures are repeated throughout the area.

    Traditional cabinets, flooring and divided-light windows harmonize with industrial granite and stainless steel. The vintage-style rug and touches of pottery add warmth. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

    Old-world painted cabinets and an Oriental rug contrast nicely with commercial-style appliances and contemporary backsplash design. Notice how the wall in this galley kitchen has been opened on the right to allow the living areas to flow together. (photo courtesy of Kitchen Design Ideas)

  2. “Industrial Chic” components will also become more prevalent. The celebration of utilitarian details is appearing in everything from jewelry to landscaping, and the kitchen is no exception. Beyond commercial-style appliances, we see chunky pull-down faucets, extra-deep and sturdy sink basins, and industrial light fixtures. Even hood vents are getting into the act, becoming almost sculptural focal points of the great room.

    The overall impression of this kitchen is sleek and utilitarian, with the Shaker-style maple cabinets, gleaming metal, and functional granite. But the room is kept from being too stark with the addition of salvaged wood flooring, touches of nature, and the display of artisan glassware. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)

    Industrial chic design is provided by the lab stools pulled up to the stainless steel counter and the no-nonsense exposed brick walls. Salvaged wood floors and a windowsill garden add a touch of vintage warmth. The traditional mirror and accessories tie the work area in to the rest of the room. (photo courtesy of Interiorly)

  3. “Vintage Style” will continue to trend. Words like ‘homemade”, “artisan”, and “repurposed” are increasingly being used in kitchen design. Whether decorating elements are truly handcrafted, or manufactured to give that impression, details like this create a sense of history. Textured pottery, baskets, and reclaimed textiles can be used throughout the house, used from room to room as needed, and help to create a unified look.

Although the finishing touches are not yet in place, this kitchen already incorporates all three styles. Vintage charm is achieved by preserving the original door and casings, and adding antiqued bronze doorknobs and brackets. The ceiling fixture, sink, and faucet are pure industrial chic. Warm wooden cabinets in a classic style tie into the rest of the main level by repeating the colors of the reclaimed oak floors beyond the work area. (photo courtesy of Back Creek Design)


This space blends a lot of components into one harmonious look. Commercial appliances and heavy-duty cabinet pulls combine with old-school windows, cabinets, and floors. Pottery, wall art, and upholstered furniture add a hand-crafted touch. (photo courtesy of Kitchen Dahab)

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Kitchen Trends 2013: Floor Plans and Lighting

Our kitchen is the most-used room in our own house.  Renovating kitchens is my favorite part of rehabbing houses.  And judging by the statistics, it’s also one of the most popular topics on the “Beyond Back Creek” blog. So I need very little prompting to share some of my thoughts on what the next year will bring in kitchen design.  Here’s three  of my predictions for 2013…and I can’t wait to put them into practice in our next project!

1) The Great Room:  whether it’s the economy or the weather, or just a need to hunker down, there seems to be a growing desire to stay home when entertaining friends and family. Continuing last year’s theme of kitchen-as-gathering-spot, open floor plans will continue to be popular.  As walls come down and sight lines increase, the use of mixed materials will grow.  Kitchen style will be integrated into the decor of the main level of the house.

Even a small galley-style kitchen feels open with walls removed. Carrying similar decor and artwork into the cooking area integrates the main-floor design. (Lexington Project by Back Creek Design)

2) Multiple Light Sources:  once the kitchen is part of a multi-functional room,  task-focused lighting will not be sufficient to create a cohesieve style. Recessed ceiling fixtures will gain popularity as non-obtrusive general lighting.  Eye-catching pendants, and even chandeliers, will help marry the utilitarian kitchen to the decor in the rest of the great room. Accent lamps on countertops and islands will help to blur the line between kitchen and living room.  The biggest trend, and a simple DIY upgrade, will be undercabinet LED lights. These not only light the work surface, but provide high-style mood lighting as well.

This great room floor plan uses recessed cans throughout the vaulted ceiling for overall lighting. Accent lighting is provided by an amber pendant over the sink, and a mixed-material chandelier over the table. Under-cabinet LEDs function as both task and mood lighting. (Shelly Project by Back Creek Design)

3) Expanded Territory: with more people involved in cooking, eating, and spending time together, kitchen activities will creep out from the traditional floor plan. Look for peninsulas where walls were removed, which will multi-task as prep space, breakfast bars, and serving buffets. Islands will get more than one level of countertop, so the cook can work while friends sit nearby enjoying a glass of wine or some tapas. Discreet bar and storage areas can be tucked into built-in cabinetry in the living room area.  Meanwhile the TV,  sound system, and computer will all be accessible from the kitchen.

Taking down part of two walls between the kitchen and the rest of the main floor greatly improves flow without drastic changes to the floor plan. Capping the remaining knee wall with granite lets it function as a bar, serving buffet, or staging area for the chef. (Edge Creek Project by Back Creek Design)

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Repurpose This: Decorating a Bathroom for Halloween

As Frankenstorm Sandy makes her way through the Chesapeake area, it’s becoming apparent that we will not miraculously be spared at the last minute.  And, sadly, it also looks like Halloween on Wednesday is going to be light on Treats in many communities.  I was brainstorming for ways to celebrate for families that were stuck at home this week, and which didn’t involve going out to shop (last I heard, the only store still open at the Annapolis Mall was the hardware section of Sears…generator, anyone?)

Can you think of any more unexpected place to decorate than the family bathroom?  Here are some fun ideas that don’t involve special props, and are not too gruesome.  Happy (and Safe) Halloween, everyone!

Since trash and recycling is not getting picked up, might as well put those water bottles to good use! Some black magic marker or electrical tape for faces, and some flashlights, low-heat LED lights, or battery votives should add some cheer to a dark room. If you have solar landscaping lights charging outside, why not use them to light up the bathroom? (photo courtesy of Feathers and Twigs)


I bet you have plenty of wet leaves right now. Scatter some among black trash bags, old clothes, and a decorated paper-bag head.  Scavenged items will do just as well as these purchased components. No comment on the snakes…you’re on your own for that one! (photo courtesy of Halloween Forum)


Diy Mummy Pumpkins For Halloween Decor

Got any toilet paper? If you diligently stocked up for the storm, you have enough for months! Some wet TP will make a quick decoupage for a Mummy Pumpkin (or Mummy Squash, as the case may be) even if you are not prepared with bandage rolls.   Googlie eyes are a bonus, but you can get a similar effect with a black magic marker or that all-purpose electrical tape. Just tuck one or more on the vanity. Boo! (photo courtesy of Shelterness)

If you are weathering out this storm, and still want to celebrate, what are your plans?  How do you make camping at home more fun?


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Backyard Chickens, Only Better.

A while back, there was some debate in Annapolis that permitting backyard egg-layers would stigmatize the town. The thinking seemed to go along the lines that people who raised their own food were not only poor, but also dirty, and having chickens in a neighborhood would decrease property values. One Council member even said ”Do we want to go forward, or do we want to go backward? We’re becoming a farm city.”

I hope that the trial period for allowing backyard hens is successful in proving this theory wrong.

I’ve posted before about my fondness for fresh eggs, and my daydreams of having layers and a picturesque coop. You’ve seen my fantasy chicken cottages. A little over-the-top for a chicken’s needs, indeed, a little extravagant for the No-Acre Homestead, but very pleasing to look at.

Well, Neiman Marcus has gotten into the act now, and the bar for designing chicken coops has been raised dramatically.


Now THAT’S a nice hen house! (courtesy of Neiman Marcus)

Talk about picture-perfect!  And that’s just  the exterior. Wait til you see inside…


If my living room looked this elegant, I would be afraid to put my feet up. Wonder if the chickens are as impressed? (courtesy of Neiman Marcus)

Not sure what exactly you are admiring?  Here’s the scoop, straight from the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog:


Dawn breaks. The hens descend from their bespoke Versailles-inspired Le Petit Trianon house to their playground below for a morning wing stretch. Slipping on your wellies, you start for the coop and are greeted by the pleasant clucking of your specially chosen flock and the site of the poshest hen house ever imagined. Your custom-made multilevel dwelling features a nesting area, a “living room” for nighttime roosting, a broody room, a library filled with chicken and gardening books for visitors of the human kind, and, of course, an elegant chandelier. The environment suits them well as you notice the fresh eggs awaiting morning collection. Nearby, you pick fresh vegetables or herbs from your custom-built raised gardens. You’ve always fancied yourself a farmer—now thanks to Heritage Hen Farm, you’re doing it in the fanciest way possible!

The details:

  • The buyer will receive an initial farm consultation and grounds survey and two additional onsite visits from Heritage Hen Farm expert, Svetlana Simon.
  • Simon will select three to ten heritage-breed hens carefully selected to suit your region.
  • Installation includes two custom-designed and installed raised vegetable or herb garden beds.
  • Package includes a multilevel dwelling, nesting area, “living room,” broody room, library with books, two Heritage Hen Farm pasture grazing trays, waterer, feeder, and chandelier. All other props and furnishings not included.
  • Please allow 6 weeks for delivery.
  • Delivery not included.

Yes, the “La Petite Trianon” includes a living room, library, and chandelier for the pleasure of your chickens. It even includes custom-selected hens!  I’m not sure about the raised beds…from what I hear, the hungry girls will demolish those in an afternoon. But I suppose that is the gardener’s problem.

Lucky duck chicken! All this, and an indoor salad bar, too! (courtesy of Neiman Marcus)

The price for all this splendor? A cool $100,000.  One. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars. Although delivery is not included, (Seriously?  You’d think they could throw in a free truck ride for that price) Neiman Marcus is donating $3,000 from each sale to the  The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.  So there’s that.

The Annapolis City Council should sit up after seeing this. Raising hens has become a sign of privilege, much like having a stable of polo ponies. At least with a chicken coop you can make an omelette to go with your champagne.

Don’t think you’ll get anything tasty out of the stable.

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Decorating Stair Risers

If you’ve been following along with the Shelly Project, you know that the stairways in this mid-century split level underwent a dramatic transformation.

This mid-century split-level home looks dated after an earlier renovation boxed in the stairway. (The Shelly Project)

Often overlooked from a decorating viewpoint, stairs are a major visual and functional part of any multi-story home. Sometimes simple decorative changes can make a huge impact on the overall look of the property.

The same home looks so much brighter with the dark panels removed. Painting the risers glossy white adds to the open effect. (The Shelly Project by Back Creek Design)

Although a bit time-consuming, redecorating stair risers is not a difficult DIY task. And the results can be spectacular, as the following photos demonstrate.

writing on the stair risers

A variation on white-painted risers, but with added personalization. What great thoughts to keep in mind as you go up to bed each night! (photo courtesy of Accent on Design)


Aren’t these fantastic? Although they wouldn’t work in every setting, what a great way to welcome a visitor to an artist’s abode. (photo courtesy of Michelle Allen at Close 2 My Art)



Beautiful to look at, and easy to maintain, tiled mosaic risers are worth the effort. (photo courtesy of

All these examples make our stairs at Shelly look so plain. But I’m happy with the result, and proud to think that the next owners will have a beautiful backdrop for their furnishings. And if they decide to try mosaic, stencils, or impressionist painting, we’ve given them a flat, clean canvas to play with.



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For Granite Addicts

You know who you are. And I am one, too. Maybe you are lucky enough to have granite in your kitchen. Maybe, like me, your “countertops” are a hodgepodge of cutting boards, scrap Formica, and good luck. But whatever you have at home, you detour at the lumber yard to drool over the kitchen displays. You spend far too much time lingering in model homes, running your hands over the tub surround. And time just flies by when you are lucky enough to find yourself in a stone yard, surrounded by slabs of gleaming granite as far as you can see.

Ok, maybe that’s just me. But I don’t think so, when I see all the requests here at Beyond Back Creek for granite info. I really think that I am not alone in my strange love. And for those of you who have escaped granite lust, but are just tired of the past few weeks of nothing but eating and gardening…here you go. Other than being a great surface for kitchens, this has nothing at all to do with food.

Just some pictures of my growing collection of granite samples. Enjoy.

Tropical Brown, in the rain.

Clockwise from top left: Brown Eyes, Kashmir White, Autumn Blossom, and Moonlight

Kashmir Gold

Clockwise from top left: Ivory Romano, Almond Mauve, Ivory Chiffon, and Yellow (indecipherable)

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Williams-Sonoma SALE Alert

No, I am not the CEO of Williams-Sonoma. I don’t even work for them. Although I probably should consider it, based on how much time I spend drooling over their catalogs and browsing their store in town.

But I just got an email alert, and wanted to share it with you all…they are having a huge sale, up to 75% off, and free shipping!

How’s that for seasonal eating?

Just thought you’d like to know :)


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Backyard Chickens are a Hot Topic

Using WordPress as a blogging platform is pretty nifty, because you can track which stories have the most interest. The number-one topic, always, on Beyond Back Creek, is granite. And number two in rankings? You guessed it…chicken coops.

Who knew there was so much secret interest in backyard chickens in the populace of Anne Arundel County? Although we can’t support them here on the No Acre Homestead, I totally understand the desire. We go to great lengths to source pastured chicken eggs for our family. And I happen to know a few neighbors who do the same. Once you have a real, fresh egg from a happy chicken, there’s just no going back to stale grocery store eggs from an assembly line of sickly birds.

Fresh eggs from happy, free-ranging chickens.


But I digress…

What prompted my post today was an email from Lehman’s catalog. If you haven’t discovered them yet, make it a point to check them out. They carry old-fashioned homemaking and farm equipment, and the catalog is a little slice of heaven for a homesteader wannabe.

The Portable Backyard Chicken Coop, courtesy of Lehman’s Catalog

This cute little coop is about half the cost of the last one I fell in love with.  A moot point, right now.  (Don’t worry, neighbors…the corn field and the carnivorous squash are all you have to worry about!)

I also discovered that Lehman’s has a great blog, with different authors providing various perspectives on the homesteading life.  The recent post about trying to corral some wayward chickens was a hoot (a cluck?) and kind of made me feel better about not having that chore right now.

So what do you think?  Do you have backyard chickens?  Do you want to?  Do your neighbors have them?  Tell us more…



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Granite Overload

Things are moving along at the Shelly Project. Not as quickly as we had planned, but project houses seem to always have some unforeseen adventure that delays the schedule. In this case, it was the miserable multi-week heat wave that made conditions just this side of unbearable for the crew. There’s only so much relief you can get with ice pops and water bottles, so we had to have lots of rest breaks and even shut down some days entirely in order to limit heat illnesses. The guys have been pretty fantastic all around, and now that it is not quite as steamy, have been working extra long hours to try to catch up.

One of the things that reminds me of childhood summers in the city…a colorful, sticky icepop. Or six.

Painting is just about done, except for the never ending touch-ups. This week we’ll be swapping all the mismatched electrical devices for clean, new, white ones. That’s one of the touches that nobody really notices in particular, but if it’s not done, the house just seems dingy.

The cabinets have been delivered. We went with a contemporary maple design with a clove finish. The ceramic for the floor is actually called Vanilla, and it has textured variations that look like butter pecan ice cream. So could there be any doubt that when I came across a slab of granite called Chocolate Fiorito that I couldn’t resist?

Mmmmm. Chocolate Fiorito Granite. Photo courtesy of AU Granite and Marble in Annapolis

Actually, I didn’t jump on the Chocolate granite right away. I was wallowing in choices. We’ve used Giallo Ornamental in the last two houses, and I wanted to try something a little bolder with Shelly, since we have soaring ceilings and plenty of light. Here’s just a few more samples of what I was considering.

Key West Gold Granite. Photo courtesy of AU Granite and Marble in Annapolis.


The lighter slab in the middle is Giallo Napoleon. Photo courtesy of AU Granite and Marble in Annapolis

Sending thanks out to Guy at AU Granite and Marble in Annapolis for his patience with me.  I went back and forth between these three slabs over the course of a day. In the end, the dark drama of the Chocolate Fiorito, as well as the way that the pieces we needed could  best be cut out of the available slab, helped make my decision.

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