Upscale: Dickey Choate

Dickey Choate's Design
Dickey Choate's Design

Dickey Choate of Upscale Urban Design discusses this stylish, luxurious, and efficient kitchen, her twenty-four years of interior design experience, philosophy, tips, and much more.

Who are the principals of Upscale Urban Design and where are you from?

I am the Principal Owner and am a native Charlottean.  I have wonderful Design Associates I bring in depending upon the scale of the project.  Presently I have Tiffany Stern on board.  She is a California native and brings her L.A. vibe which fits with the philosophy of Upscale Urban Design.

Have you always been an Interior Designer?

No. I spent my younger years working as an Executive Assistant/Bookkeeper.   I worked for a High End Builder (who was building $1,000,000 homes in 1972),  a Retail Store Designer and a Commercial Real Estate Developer.  It seemed I was continually surrounded by matters of Interior Design and was asked frequently for my opinion so  it sparked my interest in becoming proficient in the field.

Where did you STUDY OR learn your craft?  

I actually found a wonderful program right here in Charlotte through Central Piedmont Community College.  So many years ago, it was the only accredited program in town.  As I was interested in studying  that singular field, and not spending years taking general classes, it was the perfect fit.  It is an intense two year program focused on skills you can put right into practice.  

How did you decide to start Upscale Urban and how long have you been in business?  

Since 1990, I had primarily focused on Commercial Design working for an office furniture dealer.   I formed my independent company, Design Consultants Group, Inc, in 1994. In 2006 I met a wonderful young Designer, Kara Bingham, who shared my love of  modern design.  We recognized that Charlotte was changing and trending towards more upscale nontraditional  influences.  We joined forces, founded  Upscale Urban Design and began focusing on attracting the less traditional client. In 2008 we designed and furnished the interiors for  Royal Court Condos, a modern 13 story $50,000,000 building off Morehead St.   Shortly thereafter, Kara moved to another city and I continued building the brand of Upscale Urban Design.   

What are all of the services offered by your company?

We are very broad in that we provide everything from flooring to lighting and all accoutrements in-between.  We even custom build our own casegoods (wood furniture) and upholstery now.  We felt captured by time and price restraints of the major manufacturers and established relationships with fine craftsmen in the foothills of North Carolina.  It’s  simple to create high quality wood furnishings and upholstery based on a mere picture out of a magazine, or sketch an idea from the client’s imagination.  We were also finding every project has at least one unique space limitation, and we can now build any casegood or upholstery piece to suit. We can turn our client’s  dreams into reality.  Because we can provide everything you might find in a furniture store, our slogan has become  “A Store Without Doors”.

What is your major philosophy with custom kitchen design or interior design in general?

We believe in providing space plan efficiency and unique decorative details.  We interview the client to uncover their lifestyle needs, i.e., are they into gourmet cooking, entertaining, do they have special collections they want to display,  or simply want space to dine at the work island, etc. If there are extensive reconfiguration requirements, as there were in this project, it’s a good idea to bring in a Certified Kitchen Designer. In this instance the builder, Bob Hogan, hired  Keri Henley, CKD,CBD.  She was fabulous to work with and created a wonderful space plan and selected all the appropriate high-end appliances this celebrity client desired.  I worked with Keri on selecting all the finishes (Cabinetry finish, “leathered” granite counter tops, Range Hood, Plumbing fixtures and lighting).  

What were the homeowner’s overall goals for the aesthetic and functionality of the kitchen? What didn’t they like about their kitchen before the renovation?

The home is a twenty year old Frank Lloyd Wright style home. Typical of the Craftsman style, the home is  appointed with an abundance of rich cherry wood floors, ceiling and window/wall trim.  The former kitchen was all cherry as well but created a dated and dark environment. The “U” shaped kitchen contained a peninsula with overhead cabinetry which blocked the incredible lakeside view.  Keri came up with a wonderful open floor plan by eliminating the peninsula and creating a stunning 8’ center island.  This allows for plenty of surface area for serving and entertaining as well as extra storage beneath and counter height dining above.  When discussing the cabinetry finishes, I  discussed with the homeowners that I could not take them in any wood tone direction as there was already a saturation of cherry wood tones. We went with a gorgeous Antique White finish with cocoa glaze.  This offered a fresh and elegant option and using a glaze, melded  the warm cherry finishes already present in the home.   Coupled with Sienna beige “leathered” granite countertops, it totally lifted the light in the room creating a sophisticated modern look. The striking Hammered Copper Vent Hood, Bronze tone Chandelier and Bronze Tiger Eye glass backsplash tied together all the warm Cherry finishes.  And mixing our meal finishes brought us totally on point with current design trends. Additionally the Copper Hood with Stainless Steel accent trim coordinated  the stainless steel appliances and Richelieu cabinet hardware.  The Bronze tones coordinated with cherry tones, creating depth, texture and interest rather than keeping the finishes all the same and one dimensional.
Where did the inspiration for this kitchen come from?

Once clients determined they wanted to gut the kitchen,  the Antique White finish drove all other decisions.  White kitchens never go out of vogue and  the clients wish to remain in this home for a lifetime and asked for selections that would stand the test of time.

What all did this particular renovation entail?

Removing all old cherry cabinets, countertops, and appliances.  Eliminating the “U” shape and going to an “L” with a center island, totally opened up the kitchen to the dining room,expanding the entire room to the gorgeous lakeside view.  We removed all the electrical outlets from the backsplash and used undercounter lighting.  This streamlined the visual effect of the stunning copper/glass backsplash.

What are some of the BEST features of this kitchen?

The Sub Zero Pro 48 glass door refrigerator is magnificient.  Also the high-end hammered copper Vent-a-Hood lends a high degree of fashion to this luxury lake kitchen.

What words would you use to describe this kitchen after the renovation was complete?

Stylish, Luxurious and Efficient.

What tips would you give to our readers when considering a custom kitchen design or renovation?

If it’s a complicated reconfiguration I consult with someone like Keri Henley, a Certified Kitchen Designer.  Typically, I am leading the design direction in the scope of work and bring in those professionals who focus on specific disciplines.  That way you can be assured you are working to code and your selections are on trend.

What is your major philosophy with a renovation job in general?

Our philosophy is to always show the client new and  exciting products.  We stay on top of it through our market visits, trade periodicals and design forums.   It is so exciting to offer clients new and unique things, something they haven’t seen in local retail stores.

What Is your process with clients when it comes to doing a renovation?

Interviewing the clients for wants and needs, then setting up showroom tours for product selections, offering drawings and samples for approval. Once that is firmed up, I line up the right licensed professionals to carry out the work.

Would you say that Upscale Urban Design has a distinctive style and if so how would you describe it?

We offer a style that appeals to the well traveled, educated, informed buyer.  Our clients typically come from New York, California, Florida or Chicago and are in tune with upscale furnishings often found in larger markets. They appreciate high-end style and non-traditional fabrics and furnishings.  We have worked on projects from New York to San Diego and appeal to the client who prefers clean lines and smart, modern textiles.  

What separates you from your competitors?

We are not the typical southern design firm. If clients want something different then we are a good fit. We understand our discriminating clientele loves high quality and unique products, which does not always translate into high dollar. We offer a broad range of products from all over the country, not limiting our selections to just local markets and suppliers. For example, the stunning 42” dining room chandelier is from an A+ manufacturer with showrooms in Los Angeles, NYC, London & Dubai.  This fixture was custom made to order comprised of approximately 150 clear hand cut jewels. The hand knotted rug is by Stark Carpets and is an Oushak, known by its 14th Century Turkish roots and admired for its silky texture and extremely subtle designs.  The furniture is by Swaim, recognized as one of the finest makers of quality contemporary and transitional furnishings.

How did you achieve this?

Continuing research, education, networking and a strong desire for all things tasteful. My motto is “Nothing ugly in your home, not even your dish towels”.

Dickey Choate
Dickey Choate