GE Monogram 48 Inch Pro Style Gas Range

GE Monogram Appliances – Behind the Scenes at the Chicago Merchandise Mart

Earlier this year, I received an invitation from GE Monogram to visit their Chicago showroom at The Merchandise Mart to learn all about their appliance line. My clients often select Monogram for their new kitchens, and they love them. I was very excited to get first-hand experience and knowledge so I could better educate my future clients during their appliance selection process.

I finally made the trip to Chicago in May. Monogram hosted the designers in our group at the Moxie Hotel. I had never stayed at a Moxie before, but it was a very unique experience. It was perfect for a quick work related getaway, and its design is tailored toward the Millenial business traveler

The only photos I took at the hotel were at the bar as I enjoyed my complimentary check-in cocktail. I have to admit that with an 18 month-old at home, this educational work trip felt a little bit like a vacation. #sorrynotsorry

On Tuesday morning, the designers in our group gathered with our Monogram guide Leslie and had a delicious breakfast at Beatrix. I’ve actually eaten there several times on trips to the Mart but never before for breakfast. It was outstanding, and I highly recommend it.

After breakfast, we made our way to the GE Monogram showroom at the Chicago Merchandise Mart. This was our view for our two days of training. Although I wasn’t born or raised in a big city, I truly am a city girl at heart. I could get used to seeing this every day (just not in the winter). Following an informative session on digital marketing and social media, we jumped right into learning all about the Monogram appliances.

Keep reading to learn all about the features, options, and benefits of these professional style luxury appliances.

Cooking & Baking

For our first session, we dove right into learning above Monogram’s options for cooking. I think most people immediately picture a Pro Style Range when they think of higher end or luxury appliances, but Monogram offers several other options for a combination of cooking and baking.

Pro Style Range

GE Monogram 48 Inch Pro Style Gas Range
48" Pro Gas Range via the Monogram Website

I forgot to take a good front facing photo of the Pro Style Range that they have on display because we were too busy test-driving the appliances to cook our own lunch. Monogram offers both a Range and Range Top depending on your preferences and space.

The Range is available in 30″, 36″, and 48″ widths and in natural gas, liquid propane, or dual fuel. The grates can be moved around and flipped upside down for wok cooking. They can go as high as 18,000 BTUs.

The dual stacked burners are crafted from aluminum and brass. The brass is better for simmering, while the aluminum is better for high heat cooking. By incorporating both, you get better control over the temperature of your cooking. The burners can be turned down very low to simmer or melt chocolate and maintain their heat without clicking.

Cynthia & Michelle Cooking Lunch on the Pro Range

The center griddle can go as high as 22,000 BTUs and is also made of aluminum and brass. One awesome feature of the griddle is that it can be tilted to drain into the grease trap.

Other Pro Range Features

  • Lighting under the front edge

    Illuminates the controls. The light comes on if a knob is turned on.

  • Knobs and Labels

    Laser etched so that they'll never fade.

  • Oven Interior

    Can fit a catering size tray and includes fully extendable self-cleaning racks.

Advantium Speed Cooker

GE Advantium Speed Cooker / Microwave / Convection Oven

The Advantium looks like a large built-in microwave or a small oven. In reality, it’s a six-in-one speed cooker that can bake, broil, and microwave as well as toast. It can also act as a warming drawer. This GE appliance is the #1 speed cooker on the market today.

The Advantium uses multiple cooking elements depending on what you are cooking. It comes with 152 installed recipes that are alphabetically categorized by type, like chicken, veggies, etc. You can customize the recipes to your personal preferences and save your favorites for easy reference.

There are two different Advantium models – the 140V and the 240V. The 140V can cook four to six times faster than a typical oven, while the 240V can cook six to eight times faster and reach searing temps. You can have a crispy, perfectly done baked potato in six minutes. No preheating required!

The 140V model can be installed under the counter top, while the 240V can only installed above the countertop. The 140V also comes in a version that can be installed over the range, like a typical micro-hood, with either a regular or recirculating vent. This is such an incredible option for small kitchens. 

The speed cooker comes with two metal trays and one glass tray. When you select your recipe from the menu, it will tell you which tray to use. Advantium can be installed with a shallow stainless drawer below it (or custom like the photo above) to store the rack and trays.

Aesthetically, you can order the Adavantium with the pro style handle shown in the photo above or with the sleeker Euro style handle.

The delicious lunch we prepared at the showroom

We cooked our own lunch in groups of three. We used the Advantium to prepare the asparagus, and it was so incredibly simple, using one of the included recipes. It was cooked absolutely perfectly and not soggy at all. 

Advantium Benefits

  • Super Easy to Use

    An integrated menu of built-in, customizable recipes makes the Advantium practically full-proof.

  • Multi-Functional Space Saver

    With six functions and multiple installation options, Advantium is an investment that pays for itself. With one appliance, you eliminate the need for a separate warming drawer, microwave, and toaster.

  • Fast & Healthy Cooking At Home

    Advantium can cook food up to six times faster than conventional ovens. The reduced cooking time also means that more nutrients are preserved.

Double Ovens

Advantium / Convection Oven Combination

Monogram’s double oven with knobs is one of their best sellers. You can get two ovens – a convection above and standard oven below – or an Advantium / convection oven combination like those pictured above.

One of the best features of Monogram’s double ovens is that is can be installed flush with your cabinetry, like those in the photo, for a truly integrated look. The Euro style handle is shown in the models pictured,  but it can be ordered with the pro style handle as well.

The oven has a 30 minute steam cleaning option, and the racks in Monogram ovens can remain in place during the self-cleaning mode.

It also has more technology driven features like a remote mode that allows you to preheat or start the oven from your home. The ovens integrate with both Alexa and Nest. It also has notification lighting, so you can see at a glance if the oven has reached temperature or if the timer is up.

Large white kitchen with quartzite drop down island by Jillian Lare Interior Design
GE French Door Oven / Advantium Combination

In the kitchen at our Winston Circle project, we installed the Advantium oven with the French Door oven below it. The French Door oven offers many of the features listed above with some key differences and advantages.

First, the French Door model is amazing for tight spaces. Since you have two doors hinging from the sides instead of one larger door from the bottom, you don’t need quite as much clear floor space in front of it.

Second, if the French Door oven is installed 17″ above the floor with the Advantium above it, it’s perfect for your ADA client. It operates with one hand for easy access, and is a registered Living in Place product.

Aesthetically, the French Door oven differs from the double ovens in that it cannot be installed flush with the cabinetry. It also only comes with the pro style handle.

Monogram Oven Benefits

  • Multiple Configurations

    Combine the Advantium with either the French Door or standard convection oven. Or opt for two ovens - one standard and one convection. Or a French Door plus a convection oven. Only want one oven? You can do that too.

  • Wifi Enabled

    Control your oven from your phone or with Alexa when you have remote mode enabled.

  • Living in Place Certified

    The French Door model is perfect for clients with mobility issues, are wheel-chair bound, or plan to remain in their home as long as possible

The perfect dirty martini mixed by Chef Nick

At the end of Day One, the Monogram staff, specifically Chef Jon and Chef Nick, treated us to an incredible meal cooked in house on the Monogram appliances. All of the staff were so polished and professional in their presentations, but Chef Jon’s descriptions of how he uses the appliances in his day to day life as a chef were the real stand out for me.

The roasted apples for dessert were prepared in the pizza oven

Induction Cooking

The induction cooking demonstration on Day Two was by far my favorite part of our training at the Monogram showroom. I am so excited for this technology because it is the perfect solution for so many of my clients.

Chef Jon explaining sous vide cooking on the induction cooktop

The 36″ Monogram induction cooktop in silver is shown in these photos. It is installed flush to the countertop, which I think is such a bonus both aesthetically and functionally. It’s basically an extension of your countertop. I love the Monogram offers the silver color as an option for white and lighter colored countertops and black for darker tops. It takes up less space than a range top so an oven can be installed below it. Or the cabinetry could have fully functioning drawers.

GE Monogram Induction Cooktop
Chef Jon searing sous vide pork tenderloin in cast iron on the induction cooktop

The Monogram induction cooktop is five times faster than gas at pre-heatings, boiling, and reducing liquids. Three pans can be on high heat simultaneously. This powerful cooktop can preheat a cast iron pan to 500 degrees in in 35-45 seconds. A huge benefit to induction is that pans heat evenly across the whole surface simultaneously.

The perfect Chicago lunch - pork and pierogies

The sous vide that Chef Jon used to prepare our pork syncs with the induction cooktop. The pork was perfectly cooked all the way through with a nice sear on the exterior. It was so tender and flavorful.

As we sat at the counter and watched, Chef Jon worked on preparing our second course. His demonstrations were totally entertaining and educational at the same time. Here, he was totally showing off some of the best features of induction. The cooktop only gets hot where the pan meets the surface. Yes, those are plastic containers spread all of the cooktop. The handle of the pan will stay perfectly cool.

You can also see that Chef Jon made a huge mess. The cooktop is very easy to clean with Ceramabrite and a non-abrasive cleaning pad. He recommends using compressed air, like you would use to clean your keyboard, to blow any little crumbs out of the groove between the top and the counter material.

GE Monogram Advantium Roast Chicken
Roast chicken cooked in the Monogram Advantium oven

Back to the Advantium for a second. That bone-in crispy roast chicken was cooked in the Advantium during Chef Jon’s demo in 16 minutes. Sixteen! And, it was totally juicy and delicious.

Our second course: deconstructed pot pie - to die for!

But what about the pans??

Clients always ask me if they will have to get all new pans if they choose induction. The answer is that it depends on the kind of pans you have. Any pan that contains iron will work on induction; however, the bottom needs to be completely flat so the pan can make a full connection.

You can use cast iron, just make sure it’s enamel coated with a flat bottom so that it won’t scratch the top. If you hear a whine when you put your pan on the cooktop, it means that you don’t have a good connection.

Chef Jon recommends the All Clad brand as a great option for high quality pans that work great on induction.

Monogram Induction Benefits

  • Faster More Even Cooking

    Pans preheat in a fraction of the time. Boil water five times faster than gas.

  • Safer than Electric or Gas

    Induction technology is perfect for Living in Plan, special needs families, and those with small children because of its cool surface and surface mount controls.

  • Space-saving Contemporary Aesthetics

    The sleek flush-mount design complements any kitchen but particularly minimalist and contemporary spaces. It also takes up less space than a range top or cooktop.

Refrigeration

Monogram offers multiple solutions for refrigeration each with their own set of features and design detailing. After years of designing kitchens, I know that selecting the right refrigerator is one of the tougher and more personal appliance selections a client makes. I’m not going to recap every single model in detail, but I’ll hit the highlights of each.

In the little video above, you can see from left to right the 36″ wide bottom freezer with Euro handles, the French door refrigerator with pro style handles, the 42″ side by side with water dispenser, and the 48″ side by side with flush integrated panels and Euro style handles.

The side by side refrigerator is Monogram’s #1 configuration for built-in refrigerator/freezer combos (as opposed to columns). It is available as 36″, 42″, or 48″ wide. One of its nicer features is LED integrated lighting, so you can really see the interior well. The climate controlled drawer can be used to thaw meat safely or to express chill wine and beer.

The side by side without the front water dispenser can be installed flush with your cabinetry and paneled to match for a truly integrated look. You can add the Monogram pro style or Euro handles or add your own custom appliance pulls.

The glass front refrigerators above are definitely not for every client. Each side is a stand-alone 30″ unit with a top refrigerator, a middle freezer drawer with ice bin, and a bottom convertible drawer. By convertible, I mean that the bottom drawer can be a regular freezer drawer, a wine storage drawer, or a fresh food drawer. It does take 24 hours to switch between the different modes.

You can order this fridge with the glass fronts as shown above or 

The convertible refrigerator is a very cool look but not inexpensive at around $7800 per unit for stainless steel and only 14.2 square feet, by far Monogram’s smallest fridge. You really do need two of these units unless you have a very small kitchen.

Monogram Freezer / Refrigerator Columns

The Monogram refrigerator and freezer columns are pictured above in an 18″ freezer / 24″ refrigerator combination. One of the best benefits of columns vs. a combination fridge/freezer is the ability to choose your overall size and how much space is allocated to each function.

The refrigerator is available as 30″ and 24″ while the freezer is available as 18″, 24″, and 30″ coming in January of 2020. So, you can easily create a 42″, 48″, 54″, and soon a 60″ combination. There is also nothing stopping you from having two fridge columns and one freezer column or two and two. You can see how versatile this is. I also love that you can split the fridge and freezer column with a cabinet in between them.

The columns are counter depth, 84″ tall, and can be completely integrated into your cabinetry with matching panels, or you can do stainless fronts with either style of handle. 

In the next photo, you get a glimpse into the interior of the refrigerator side.

24" Refrigerator Column Interior

These refrigeration columns come with some very cool design features. First, they are Wifi enabled and also have a Sabbath mode. The glass front door bins and drawers have removable mats that are dishwasher safe and also help to keep bottles stable.

The shelves are hydrophobic. You can see that they are flat glass without an edge. The hydrophobic technology keeps any spills from spreading or leaking.

LED lighting runs down each side and each shelf is lit individually, so you can really see everything in your fridge. No dark corners. The lighting can be set to dim at night.

Next to the lunch bag on the middle shelf, you can see a water pitcher. This pitcher ships with the fridge column. It is removable, like a Brita would be, and when you replace it, it autofills with water. So, you eliminate the door dispenser but always have fresh water. I also like that you don’t have to stand at the fridge waiting for the water to dispense. You can bring the pitcher to the table to serve your guests.

The mechanicals and venting are located at the bottom inside each unit. From a maintenance perspective, the columns are serviceable from the front, so they don’t necessarily need to be removed for any repair or service. 

Monogram Refrigeration Benefits

  • Multiple Configuration Options

    There really is something for everyone in the Monogram refrigerator line. From 30" stand-alone models all the way up to 54" column configurations.

  • Cutting Edge Technology

    With fully lit LED interiors, Wifi with Sabbath mode, glass shelves that automatically control leaks, and drawers that convert from freezer to fridge, the Monogram refrigerators are on the cutting edge.

  • Flexible Design Options

    Whether you love the look or stainless steel or don't want anyone to know you even own a refrigerator, the flexible design of the Monogram refrigerators means you can accommodate virtually any style of kitchen.

Dishwashers

Dishwashers are probably the least sexy of any kitchen appliance, but the Monogram staff delivered a compelling presentation. 

Clients always want to know how quiet dishwashers are before purchasing. The Monogram dishwasher is available in 39 and 42 decibels. The human ear cannot hear below 48 decibels, so yes, they are very quiet! They are rated #1 on Consumer Reports and Wired.

GE Monogram Integrated Dishwasher
Integrated Dishwasher via Monogram Website

The Monogram dishwasher can be fully integrated as shown above or purchased with a stainless steel front. You can choose from the two Monogram handle styles or purchase one to match your decorative hardware.

GE did a ton of research on dishwashers, even installing cameras inside dishwashers to see how homeowners actually used them. They observed people routinely pulling out their silverware, examining it for cleanliness, and then returning dirty utensils back to the dishwasher for another cycle. So, they installed water jets under the silverware baskets, a feature unique to GE.

Mommas take note…the upper rack features four bottle washer jets that were designed specifically to clean inside taller items like baby bottles.

GE Monogram Dishwasher Interior
Via Monogram Website

Loading the dishwasher can be a source of friction in many households, until one person takes over and everyone else gives up. Just ask my dad. The Monogram dishwasher makes loading much easier. All of the tines are angled and adjustable, and their width can be adjusted. In addition, they can lay perfectly flat to accommodate larger items. Monogram offers a lifetime warranty on the tine coatings, so you never have to worry about them chipping or degrading over time.

Like the other Monogram appliances, the dishwasher interior is fully lit with LEDs. The top rack is height adjustable so you can accommodate larger plates. It can also run half loads, which is a perfect feature for clients who live alone or are empty nesters. It’s also Wifi enabled and will notify you if it has a leak or simply if your cycle has finished.

Monogram Dishwasher Benefits

  • Research Driven Design

    140 jets (double the leading competitor), dedicated silverware jets, and top-rack bottle jets mean the Monogram dishwasher it top of its class at cleaning.

  • Adjustable Interiors

    Configure the Monogram dishwasher to suit your needs with the height adjustable top rack, adjustable and fold-down tines.

  • Living in Place Certified

    The 18" dishwasher model is ADA compliant and certified for Living in Place.

The Residential Hearth Oven

GE Monogram Pizza Oven
Monogram Residential Pizza Oven

Perhaps Monogram’s most niche, luxury product, the residential hearth oven is the only residential pizza oven on the market. This high powered appliance not only cooks perfectly done pizzas in under two minutes, it can do anything a regular oven can do, like bake oysters and roast whole sides of salmon.

At $12,500, this hearth oven is definitely a luxury indulgence for a devoted pizza chef who wants to create a real wow moment in his or her new kitchen.

Pizza oven fully integrated into the cabinetry

Each hearth oven is built by hand. It is 30″ wide and 30″ deep and requires built-in cabinetry on each side. No venting is required because it includes a catalytic converter. You operate the oven through a touch LED screen, and it comes pre-programmed for Detroit, Neapolitan, and flat bread style pizza. It does take 20-30 minutes to preheat to 800 degrees. The cooking dome on top can reach up to 1300 degrees!

GE Monogram Pizza Oven Pizza
Thin crust perfectly cooked pizza in around 90 seconds

I actually made pizza at a local pizza restaurant in high school and the end of college. As my husband will attest, I have really high standards. The pizza we sampled was thin and crispy, just the way I like it.

True confession time. I have cooked only a handful of times since our baby was born over a year and a half ago. It takes too long, I hate cleaning up, and I have no brain power left to search for recipes or the energy to go shopping.

But, the two days I spent at the Monogram showroom really inspired me to start cooking again. Having the right tools makes all the difference, and the technology incorporated into their appliances is truly life changing. The Advantium can cook frozen chicken nuggets in five minutes. Anyone with a screaming hungry toddler knows just how amazing that is, especially when your old outdated range takes 30 minutes just to pre-heat.

After this training, I feel very confident that I can provide my clients with first-hand information when they are considering Monogram as an option for their kitchen appliances. For as long as this post is, I only covered about half the information we learned and didn’t even mention ice makers, trash compactors, wine fridges, and ventilation!

Finally, if you are thinking of specifying GE Monogram for your kitchen remodel or new construction home, the staff at the Merchandise Mart showroom would be happy to host you  for a hands-on demonstration of your own.

Master Bathroom Remodel - Photo by Cassandra Monroe

The Worst Bathroom Remodeling Mistakes You Can Possibly Make

I’m currently in the midst of designing several bathroom remodels and multiple bathrooms in new build homes, so I have bathroom design constantly on my mind lately. Bathrooms are one of my specialties and really how I got my start in Interior Design (along with kitchen design), so I’ve been collecting bathroom inspirations photos for years now.

Check on my Bathroom Design Inspiration board on Pinterest…

After studying thousands of bathroom photos and designing dozens over the past ten years, I’ve learned that not all bathroom design is created equal.

As a former engineer, my clients quickly learn that I’m a pragmatist. Form has to follow function, especially in a bathroom or kitchen. I don’t care how pretty it is or how cool it looks if it doesn’t work!

I’ll be honest, in my early days as a designer, I probably made all of the mistakes listed below. But, every job teaches me something new, and I never repeat those missteps again. If you’re getting ready to remodel or design a bathroom, make sure that you or your designer avoids these critical bathroom remodeling mistakes.

# 1 You Have to Get Wet to Turn on the Shower

This list isn’t necessarily ranked in order; however, positioning the shower so you have no choice but to get drenched in freezing cold water every morning has to be the worst bathroom design mistake you can make.

For some reason, people became convinced that the shower controls – the on/off and temperature valves – need to be located directly under the shower head. But, often the shower head is at the far end of the shower from the door, meaning you can’t reach the controls unless you step into the shower.

I have seen showers where the client keeps the shower head pointed towards the wall while they turn on the water. This doesn’t really seem like an optimal user experience for someone’s dream bathroom.

The worst shower layout is one in which you have to get into the shower and also close the door to turn on the shower so there’s no escape. Terrible! I’ve definitely encountered this setup in hotels, and it totally sucks.

So, how do you avoid this happening to you? Look at the plans for your bathroom and picture yourself opening the door and reaching for the controls. Can you easily access them without stepping into the shower and under the shower head?

Remember, most shower doors swing both ways so as long as you can open it one way and reach your controls, it works.

If you can’t, then another revision is definitely in order. You can usually fix the issue by moving either the controls or the door.

# 2 Poor or Bad Vanity Lighting

Vanity lighting design definitely deserves its own post, and I am planning to publish one soon. My biggest pet peeve with many Insta-famous or HGTV-trendy bathrooms is the lighting design at the vanities.

If you have a smaller vanity (42″ or less), then often (but not always) your only solution is to place the vanity light over the mirror. However, for larger vanities, I think it’s a mistake to sacrifice optimal lighting for a cool look or fancy decorative mirror.

Spacing vanity lighting so that it feels balanced and proportional with the mirrors and the cabinetry is a fine art. I agonize over it on every single bathroom project I design. My priority is always to provide a sconce on each side of the mirror with the bulb height between 60″ and 66″. When combined with a recessed can over the sink, the three light sources diffuse hard shadows.

If you’ve ever looked at yourself in a bathroom mirror and thought you aged 10 years, look up. I bet the light source is a downward facing sconce centered over the mirror.

#3 Not Planning Storage Appropriately

So often I see photos of beautiful bathrooms with absolutely terrible storage, especially in master bathrooms. The furniture style vanities can look really pretty but are they totally practical?

It’s so important to seriously consider everything you need to store in your bathroom both for the things you use every day in your beauty and hygiene routine as well as linens and other supplies like toilet paper. Once you understand everything you use on a daily basis, then think about the best way to store it. Do you have serums, moisturizers, makeup, etc. that needs to remain vertical? How tall are the products you use? How long and wide are your hair brushes?

I like to incorporate a variety of drawer depths whenever possible as well as cabinets with doors. The sink cabinet can be a great place for hiding the wastebasket. I also keep tall products like hairspray on a lazy susan from Container Store under my sink.

interior designer des moines south of grand bathroom remodel

This Polished Nickel Medicine Cabinet From Restoration Hardware Adds Tons of Storage

I know medicine cabinets aren’t as sexy as a gorgeous decorative mirror, but they are ridiculously practical in smaller bathrooms. In the vintage style bathroom above, we only had room for a single 48″ freestanding vanity, so we maxed out storage for small toiletries by adding this polished nickel medicine cabinet from Restoration Hardware. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve used this exact medicine cabinet because it’s very handsome, generously sized, and comes with an integrated light and electrical outlet. No more razor or electric toothbrush sitting on the counter!

#4 Not Including a Hand Shower

Gray wood-look tile shower with polished nickel plumbing fixtures.

Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom: Walk-In Shower with Polished Nickel Fixtures

Maybe you do your own cleaning and maybe you don’t. Either way, someone is going to be cleaning your gargantuan walk-shower at least every couple weeks. If you don’t include a hand-shower, then the only way they’ll be able to rinse down the shower walls is with a bucket. And, that’s really just mean.

I love my hand shower for both cleaning and for rinsing my hair. If you set it up correctly, you can run your main showerhead and your hand shower at the same time. It’s a more affordable version of body jets, especially if you mount the hand shower on an adjustable wall bar, which I highly recommend.

#5 Trying to Cheap Out on Plumbing Fixtures

During my very first interior design related job – at the Great Indoors in Chandler, Arizona, 14 years ago – a very nice plumbing salesman educated me on the evils of cheap plumbing. He told me that cheap plumbing fixtures from big box stores or discount outlets are often made with cheap plastic parts that break instead of metal.

Mirabelle Pendleton Tub Filler in Polished Nickel

Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom: The Mirabelle Pendleton Tub Filler in Polished Nickel Specified through Ferguson

Fast forward ten years. I was freshening up the hall bathroom in our last house and bought an inexpensive version of a name brand faucet at a big box hardware store even though I warn my clients against this very thing. When we couldn’t figure out how to install it ourselves, we had to call a plumber. After two hours, he informed me he needed to go out and buy all new parts for the inside of the faucet because it was “cheap plastic junk.” So that $90 faucet ended up costing over $300.

I specify all plumbing for my projects through my sales representative at the local plumbing supply companies. They know their product inside out. They know all the parts and pieces that need to be included like valves, and wall elbows, and escutcheon for hand showers. And, they stand behind the product and help you when something goes wrong or needs replacing. They are completely invaluable members of my team.


I could have gone on and on with more bathroom remodeling mistakes that I see people make all the time, so maybe I need to write a follow up post. What do you think are the biggest bathroom remodeling or bathroom design mistakes people make? Are there any bathroom trends you’ve been spotting that drive you nuts with their impracticality? Let me know in the comments.

fireplace with built ins on each side, fireplace with tv above

Design Dilemmas: How to Design a Great Room Fireplace Wall with Built-Ins and Television

Today I want to talk about a challenge that I encounter frequently – designing a living room fireplace with built ins on each side, specifically the fireplace with TV above it on in cabinetry beside it.

This feature wall may seem like a straightforward solution to the issue of multiple focal points (TV vs. fireplace), but many times it isn’t. These walls can be super tricky! Often the fireplace wall is adjacent to a wall with large two-story windows, and that complicates the living room layout even further.

If you are building a new home and still in framing or hopefully haven’t broken ground yet, this article is for you. Stop what you are doing and insist that your builder, architect, or designer draws a floor plan with furniture of your living room that shows the depth of the fireplace wall.

You will also want to see an elevation of the fireplace wall that indicates the height of the television if you are planning to hang it above the fireplace. And, you will need an elevation of the window wall to understand how the fireplace and built-ins affect your perception of the windows and how they are balanced in the space.

ISSUE #1: SYMMETRY ON THE ADJACENT WINDOW WALL

Coastal white living room design by Blackband Design
Blackband Design

In two new construction homes I’ve worked on recently, the person who created the house plans (not me!) designed the window wall to be symmetrical with equal amounts of drywall on either side. Great!

Actually, it’s not great. In the first house, the plans didn’t account for the depth of the fireplace or built-ins on the fireplace wall. So, once the fireplace was framed out and the built-in cabinetry installed, we had two feet of drywall on the left side of the windows and about 6″ visible on the right. If you are a highly symmetrical person like me, this will drive you crazy.

fireplace wall ideas, chief architect rendering transitional stone fireplace with tv above
Conceptual Rendering by JLID

This house was more transitional, and the clients didn’t want a ton of built-ins or a completely built-in cabinetry look on their fireplace wall. They wanted something more simple and modern. I designed the wall with two smaller niches for some built-in storage and display, but we left the drywall exposed so the paint color continues back into the niche.

The second house didn’t account for the built-in cabinetry depth either. It was the same problem but much worse. There were only 20″ from the fireplace wall to the first window opening. When the trim was completed, there was no wall space between the built-in cabinetry and the window trim.

I bring this issue up because clients often have a vision of how a room will look based on the floor plans and the inspiration images they’ve gathered. If the floor plans aren’t fully developed with all of the elements before construction starts, they might be disappointed when it doesn’t look the way they pictured it in their head.

Issue #2: Television Height

I have been surprised at how passionate people are about incorporating a raised hearth into their fireplace design. I am not a huge fan because they jut out into the room and make furniture placement difficult. I’m also a clumsy person and often bang my shin on their sharp corners, so maybe I am just biased.

M. Architecture Group, neutral living room stone fireplace place shiplap beams
Markalunas Architecture Group

My lack of grace aside, a hearth creates a fresh set of problems for mounting the TV over the fireplace, as if there weren’t already enough (more on that another time).

A seat-height hearth, which seems to be what most clients are after for the “cozy” factor, is around 18″ high. Then the fireplace sits on top of the hearth. A large fireplace box is 42″ high. I like to have the same amount of stone (or other fire retardant material) around the top of the fireplace as the sides if possible, so that’s another 6″ at least. If you are keeping track, we are already at 66″ from the ground.

Once we add the mantel, which is probably another 6″ high, and some space from the mantel to the bottom of the TV, we’ve gained another foot. So, the bottom of our TV is now at 6’6″ from the ground, and the top is around 9’6″. That is pretty high considering the optimal TV viewing height is eye level when seated – around 30-36″.

If you are going to mount your TV above the fireplace, making it the focal point of the room, consider buying one that looks fabulous all the time, like the Samsung Frame.

Issue #3: The Two-Story Great room Ceiling

Scott Christopher Homes Stone Fireplace with built ins on one side
Scott Christopher Homes

I am also not a huge fan of the two-story ceiling in the living room. I love tall ceilings, but 18′ is really high and can often feel cavernous depending on the room proportions. In the context of the fireplace wall, it creates another conundrum – what do I do with all that space above the fireplace?

Depending on the roof design and second-floor layout, you may need to run the fireplace framing to the ceiling so the fireplace can vent through the roof. So, do you run stone 18′ high? Do you combine stone and paneling? Paneling and drywall? There are several options but my main objective is always to keep the room feeling balanced and not top-heavy.

Then there are the built-ins. If you have a two-story room, how tall should the built-ins be? I personally dislike built-in cabinetry that results in a shelf for dust to collect especially if it can be viewed from the second floor. But, sometimes this is the best solution and can’t be avoided.

 

fireplace wall ideas, two options for fireplace wall built ins
Conceptual renderings for a fireplace with TV above

In the pair of images above, I’m showing two options that I created for a client’s living room fireplace wall. In the top version, we eliminated the shelf and styled the wall above the base cabinets with art. In the bottom version, the shelf remains and is visible from the second floor landing. Here’s another look…

Living Room Built In Wall Units Fireplace with TV above
Conceptual fireplace rendering

In the living room below, you can also look down into the living room from the catwalk above. Luckily, this living room was designed properly by the architect. He or she incorporated space to recess the built-ins, avoiding the shelf issue, and maintaining symmetry on the window wall. Win-win.

Modern marble fireplace with built ins on each side, linear fireplace with Samsung Frame TV by Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer
Living Room Design by JLID

We chose to extend the marble surround high enough to feel proportional in the space but not all the way to the 18′ ceiling. 

Issue #4: Symmetry around the fireplace

Like I mentioned earlier, I love symmetry. I’m a huge fan. But, in the end, symmetry is not the only way to achieve balance. Asymmetrical balance is definitely an option, but it needs to be considerate of the room proportion to actually feel balanced. Asymmetrical balance is more challenging to create than symmetrical balance.

So, why is this an issue? If you don’t want your TV over the fireplace, then it will need to be off to the side, hanging on a wall or mounted inside a cabinet. Today’s televisions are fairly wide and require more horizontal hanging space. If your room isn’t very wide, then you will need to offset your fireplace to one side to provide the appropriate amount of space for the TV.

If you don’t think this through carefully before your foundation is poured, it might not even be possible to shift the fireplace left or right in the room. This is yet another reason why it is SO important to take your time when building a house and think through all the details.

fireplace with built ins on one side House of Jade Interiors
House of Jade

I love this asymmetrical design by House of Jade Interiors, especially the bench seat detail. By using the same white on the entire wall, they created a strong sense of unity even with the varying materials.

white brick fireplace with built-ins on one side by Studio McGee
Studio McGee

This is another asymmetrical design by Studio McGee that solves the TV issue beautifully. The television is at the optimal viewing height, and the built-in cabinetry below has mesh fronts so that the remote can talk to the components. It’s functional and beautiful.

If you are a symmetrical person, you may HATE it if your fireplace isn’t centered in the room. In that case, you can buy a smaller TV or you can mount it over the fireplace.

fireplace with built ins on each side, fireplace with tv above
Symmetrical Fireplace Wall Conceptual Rendering

I created this design concept for the house with only 20″ to the window opening on one side. The fireplace wall has symmetrical built ins on both sides which are wrapped with drywall, solving the dust-collecting shelf issue.

great room fireplace wall with asymmetrical built-ins on one side for flat screen TV
Asymmetrical Fireplace Wall Conceptual Rendering

An asymmetrical option for the same room is shown above. If I were designing another iteration for this fireplace wall, I might bring the drywall down to the tops of the built-ins. In this version, the hearth is at seat height and the TV is at the optimal viewing height. For a strongly symmetrical person, this fireplace wall idea probably wouldn’t work. It didn’t for my clients.

So What Should You do?

#1

Study lots of inspiration images of fireplace walls and identify what you like about them. It may turn out that you really love built-ins encased in drywall. You need to know this at the earliest stages of planning – it’s very difficult to add later on and sometimes impossible.

#2

Analyze your personal preferences to determine if you are a person who prefers (maybe even needs symmetry) to feel like a room is balanced.

#3

Decide if you can live with or even prefer to mount your TV over the fireplace.

#4

Determine if you absolutely need that hearth.

#5

Pick a fireplace box. If your style leans modern, maybe you would prefer a linear fireplace style, which helps with the height of the mantel.

#6

Insist on interior elevation drawings and furniture floor plans before you break ground. Read more about why this important in this post.

#7

Understand your technology needs. If your TV components have to live near the TV versus a remote location, the built-in cabinetry will need to accommodate them appropriately.

#8

Settle on an aesthetic vision. Do you like some stone or all stone? Do you like the paneled look or shiplap? Is it a formal room or casual? Is it modern and spare or traditional and maximalist? Your designer can provide drawings to help you understand how material placement and color affect the balance and proportion of the wall.

Do you have one of these fireplace feature walls in your home? Do you struggle with any of these issues or have any regrets? Are there other tips I should incorporate into this article?

Let me know in the comments!

Chief Architect X10 PBR Rendering Bathroom

Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Design Concept & Progress Photos

My masculine modern farmhouse bathroom remodel is inching closer to the finish line, so I thought this would be a good time to share the design concept and some progress photos.

When I introduced the project, I mentioned how my clients didn’t want white trim or finishes in the bathroom. White is my go-to in general and especially for bathrooms, so this was definitely a challenge. I saw it as a great opportunity to step outside my comfort zone and go a little darker with the materials and finishes.

Design Concept

My overall design concept was to create a warm masculine space that referenced farmhouse style but in a more modern way. I chose a palette of warm grays, browns, and black with subtle organic textures and pattern.

Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Remodel Finishes, Jillian Lare Des Moines Interior Designer

I chose a warm brown-gray stain for the cabinetry and paired it with black quartz countertops that have subtle taupe veining. For the floor tile, I specified a porcelain tile in shades of gray, taupe and cream that resembles concrete. It looked fabulous in combination with a gray wood-look tile in the shower. I flipped the traditional combination of white trim with gray walls and decided on Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter for all of the trim and wainscot paneling.

I like mixing metals in my designs because I think it’s more interesting than when everything matches. In this bathroom, I selected polished nickel plumbing fixtures for a little bit of shine and oil rubbed bronze lighting and hardware.

Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Plumbing Selections

The soft lines of the modern soaking tub are echoed in the curves of the faucet and the white lightens up the room and keeps it from feeling too dark.

Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Lighting and Hardware

If you look back at the floor plan, you’ll see that the vanities are asymmetrical. I decided to use pendant lights on the longer side and a more traditional vanity fixture on the shorter side where the wall space was too tight for another option.

Here is the overall mood board…

Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Design Concept

And here is a quick rendering…

Chief Architect X10 PBR Rendering Bathroom

Progress Photos

I love how the winter landscape echoes the colors in the tile.

My contractor is doing an amazing job with the trim work details.

Loving these pendant lights with the dark cabinetry.

I’m so excited by how this project is turning out and my clients are as well. We’re waiting on the countertops to wrap up the trim detailing at the vanity and to install the sinks and faucet, but otherwise, we’re pretty close to wrapping this one up.

Beaman-Black-Proposed-Conditions-Rev-1.1_1

Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Floor Plan

Our masculine and modern, farmhouse bathroom remodel is starting in about two weeks, and I am so excited to see this space transformed. Today I want to talk about the bathroom floor plan and design. I knew as soon as I saw it that the space had a ton of potential to be so much better than it was.

Existing Layout

Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Remodel - Before Floor Plan - Jillian Lare Interior Design

I mentioned in my last post that my clients wanted a double vanity with more storage, a freestanding tub, and a better shower with some privacy (no full glass walls). Floor planning is one of my favorite parts of any project, and I like to challenge myself to come up with as many options as possible while meeting the clients’ requests. Sometimes there is only one good option, and oftentimes there are several.

The primary criteria for designing the floor plan were:

  • Incorporate freestanding tub under the windows.
  • Create a double vanity with plenty of usable storage.
  • Enlarge the shower to let in natural light, making it feel open and luxurious.
  • Incorporate wall niches in the shower and at the tub for toiletry storage.
  • Include a bench in the shower.

I also wanted to explore the idea of creating an enclosed water closet even though my clients didn’t request it. I knew that I was definitely going to use the space from the office closet, so each option takes that into account. These are my basic plans completed as part of my Phase 1 conceptual design service.

Bathroom Floor Plan Option #1

In this first option, I slid the toilet down into the area I made by removing the office closet. That allowed me to create a double vanity almost seven feet long, which is a great length for two people. The shower is a generous 42″ by 64″ on the interior with a stone top bench along the exterior wall. The freestanding tub remains under the windows in every plan. I like this option because of the potential for a cool vintage-style rug and the long continuous vanity.

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Masculine Modern Farmhouse Floor Plan Option 1 - Des Moines, Iowa #bathroom #remodel #interiordesign

Bathroom Floor Plan Option #2

In option two, I shifted the toilet towards the exterior wall in order to create an enclosed water closet. I played around with a slightly different configuration for the shower, and the vanity is still a generous 66″ long.

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Masculine Modern Farmhouse Floor Plan Option 2 - Des Moines, Iowa #bathroom #remodel #interiordesign

Bathroom Floor Plan Option #3

This option is similar to the last option except I swapped the water closet and shower. This option creates the potential for some different design details at the shower. I like that the shower head is on a short wall opposite the bench.

The downside is that the hand shower would be farther away from the bench, which isn’t great for aging in place. I could remedy that with a full-height wall, but then the shower wouldn’t get the great natural light from the large windows. I do not place plumbing on exterior walls here in Iowa with the extreme temperatures.

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Masculine Modern Farmhouse Floor Plan Option 3 - Des Moines, Iowa #bathroom #remodel #interiordesign

Bathroom Floor Plan Option #4

In this last option, the shower configuration is similar to the first two plans. I did tuck the shower back by a few inches just to make construction a little easier. I created an asymmetrical corner vanity with a wall cabinet in the corner.

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Masculine Modern Farmhouse Floor Plan Option 4 - Des Moines, Iowa #bathroom #remodel #interiordesign

Ultimately, my clients selected this fourth option. They liked the corner vanity and the extra storage in the wall cabinet. After exploring the vanity design a little more, I tweaked the cabinetry slightly. I am a very symmetrical person, and I was struggling with the asymmetrical design.

Final Design

This is the final layout from Phase 2 Design Development after tweaking the cabinets and adding some details to the shower.

Jillian Lare Interior Design - Masculine Modern Farmhouse Bathroom Floor Plan Final - Des Moines, Iowa #bathroom #remodel #interiordesign

The right side of the vanity is longer, so I planned to make it feel symmetrical on its own. The right side is shorter and part of it runs under the window. I knew that I wanted to emphasize the asymmetry by using different lighting fixtures on each side rather than try to make them feel the same.

Bathroom Elevation Drawing Jillian Lare Interior Design Des Moines Iowa

Aesthetically, I wanted to add architectural interest and dimension to the room through the use of moldings, while still keeping it simple and modern. I didn’t feel like shiplap was appropriate to this project (and I’m a little tired of it), so I went with a simple board and batten detail for the wainscot. The mirrors will be integrated into the trim with a simple painted frame.

I haven’t specified pendants at a bathroom sink before, but I do like the look. In this design, they made total sense. I didn’t have space to mount them on the mirror, and I needed them to coordinate with the light on the smaller side of the vanity without matching. I felt like using two different wall-mount lights would look off, so pendants solved all of my problems brilliantly.

Bathroom Elevation Drawing Jillian Lare Interior Design Des Moines Iowa

On the left side, the vanity is shorter with less wall space for the mirror, so I did have to use a light over the mirror. I only do this as a last resort as overhead lights cast more shadows on the face.

Bathroom Elevation Drawing Jillian Lare Interior Design Des Moines Iowa

This section view shows the interior of the shower with the floating bench as well as the niches at the tub and shower. We are adding new casing to the windows to give them more architectural presence and painting them the same color as the wainscot.

Bathroom Elevation Drawing Jillian Lare Interior Design Des Moines Iowa

This elevation shows the shower pony wall and how the board and batten wainscot continues around the exterior of the shower.

One change I will make before construction is to flip the shower door swing. (I always plan my doors so that you can reach in to turn on the water without getting wet. In this setup, you wouldn’t be able to do that because the controls are behind the door.)

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my design process. I love doing these technical drawings and thinking through all of the little details. It’s the perfect marriage of my interior design love and industrial engineering education. In my next post for this project, I will share all of the fixtures and finishes that we selected.