Ask An Expert: Jae Omar

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Custom Designs on a Tight Budget

Q: Hi Jae! Big fan of Sonobath Vessel Sinks. Constantly moving from place to place I’m usually on a tight budget when it comes to designing my apartment. What are your tips on being able to create custom contemporary work while not having to drain your wallet? Thanks so much!! -Ellen

A: Hi Ellen. In the design world (and every other realm I can think of) custom usually equals expensive. This doesn't mean something can't have a custom look and cost a lot less. For example, one of the designers in our office recently worked on a budget project and actually bought inexpensive off-the-shelf cabinet bodies from a well-known retail chain and had a carpenter make new doors and drawers out of premium wood. The overall effect is stunning. It looks like an expensive custom kitchen at a fraction of the cost.

Kitchen RemodelBefore/After

I also love picking up the occasional mid-century modern piece from an antique store or flea market. You can then update it with new hardware or even add a stone top. I recently did this for a friend. We found a nice console for $300 at a great little resale shop nearby, found a Caesarstone remnant for the top and touched up the original finish. In its setting the piece looks three times as expensive as it was. On a side note, I also like the low impact on the environment a process like this has. Smart and beautiful – the best of both worlds.

Finding Balance

Q: Hi Jae, I’m looking for some guidance. My husband likes contemporary design but I want a home that has a warm feeling. How do you find the balance with your designs? -Maddison

A: Hi Maddison, Your question is a good one. Simply put, contemporary doesn’t have to be cold. Feel free to inject or even impose heat (natural woods, vivid colors, etc.) into a cool contemporary framework. The best contemporary homes I’ve seen manage this balance effortlessly. Keyword: balance. Try mixing relaxed upholstery with ultra-tailored casework and surfaces or (as I’m sure you’ve seen) have tall clean white or light grey walls and highlight one area with red paint or a similar bold color.

I regularly mix clean minimalism with a dash of untamed nature. Opposites effectively balance each other (there’s that word again, balance) and fortify each position and personality. It’s true in design and true in life.

Modern Living Room

Homework for you: go to the newsstand and pick up copies of a French or Italian Elle Decor magazine. The balance of which I speak is done quite well by the Europeans. You can also check out the loft in Venice posted on our Facebook page and the Hillside home featured on our website. Thanks again for your question and good luck.

Modern Dinning Room

Minimalist Design

Minimalism with Design

Q: Hi Jae, I’ve been a bit fascinated with minimalism for a while. It looks so cool, and I’d love to give it a shot in my home; but, there’s a problem – I have so much stuff! For example, I have a huge record collection. I really want a sleek minimalist space for my sound system, but I also want to be able to show off my collection. Do you have any tips on how to make a space appear more minimalist than it really is? Thanks! -Matt

A: Hi Matt, thanks for your question. My first thought would be to have a yard sale and get rid of everything except the bare essentials and your record collection (who are we kidding the records ARE bare essentials).

Next, create a media wall that consists of your favorite covers placed flat on the wall and arranged by color, theme or whatever feels right. Maybe it's blues greats, rock legends or covers that have red in them. The albums are the focal point and I wouldn't clutter the room with any other visually competitive items. The impact of your albums on tailored shelves and the album cover media wall can be complemented by your sound equipment on simple floating shelves and in full view. The trick here is to pay attention to how the wall, records and component shelves relate to each other and find visual balance in the space.

I'd also look into wire management or hard wiring your power sources to best hide the jumble of wires that accompanies audio equipment. Throw a comfortable sofa or chairs in the best position for sound quality and suddenly the space is very purposeful and artful. The essence of minimalism is removing that which you don't need and highlighting what has meaning. Best of luck.

Image Sources: Jae Omar Design

This Week's Ask an Expert: Darra Bishop

Darra Bishop

Darra has a background designing industrial loft spaces and incorporating unexpected and tailored elements into client’s design projects. From chain maille shower curtains to stainless clad and curved walls to interior vertical gardens, she has done it all. Her focus has always been to uncover the personalized element that really speak to a client and to use materials in new ways. (She uses Caesarstone quartz for cabinet fronts!)

This Week’s Topic: Unconventional Design

This week Darra will be answering any questions you have about using unconventional designs in your home.
Ask your questions below! Check out answers from last week’s Ask an Expert here.

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Multi-talented Jae Omar is an interior designer, furniture designer/manufacturer, and the founder and creative force behind Sonobath Vessel Sinks. He takes a conceptual approach to solving design challenges. His design inspiration comes from nature – the interplay of light and shadow or water over stone – and the Eastern philosophical foundation of Minimalism. Originally from Boston, Jae currently resides in the Los Angeles Arts District.