Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Story of a Project: Space Planning

Yesterday I introduced you to a project that has been long in the making.  We chipped away at the whole-house shell over the course of a year or two, putting in some hardwood floors, replacing carpeting, stripping wallpaper and re-painting everything.

My client was living in her parent's old house, where she had lived as a teenager.  Often we get set in our ways, putting a couch against a certain wall simply because it has always been there. What we needed to do was create a space that worked for HER life.

In came the floor plans.

Generally, there are a couple of good ways to configure any given room, and I usually give options.  I find that clients usually know pretty quickly what layout will work best for their lifestyle.

Case in point:

The living room has a bay window at one end and an archway to the dining room at the other.  It is visible from the front door, and a step down from the hallway that leads to the back of the house.  Here are the options I presented.

This option orients the space to the view out the front window, and uses the bay as a cozy reading spot.  An armoire houses a stereo and books. and there is plenty of ambient light.

Casual entertaining

This option orients the room towards the dining room and creates natural flow between these two public areas, and the entry.  A sectional is perfect for seating a group, or stretching out when home alone.

Formal Entertaining

This option leaves the flow between the two spaces, but creates a tight conversation area within the living room.  The chairs back to the hallway and create a sense of wall between the two spaces.  Strong symmetry and pairs also feel more formal and buttoned up.

Great for TV

A pair of facing loveseats flank an armoire with a flat screen.  Each perch has its own large side table for drinks and popcorn.

We were lucky that the client was starting from scratch for furniture, since no one existing piece dictated our layout.

What would you choose?  What do you think she chose?

Tomorrow: the design boards.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Story of a Project

When I started my business four years ago, I thought a lot about whether I wanted to be an artist or offer a service.  While every interior designer is a combination of the two, I saw a niche in the market for people who never thought they would work with a designer, but knew they needed help, and I decided to focus on the service aspect of this work.  I often work with people who want help finishing up, or who have a larger project in mind, but must do the work in phases, as budget allows.

This was just such a project.  My client was living in the house she lived in as a teenager.  Her parents had passed, but the house was still filled with their things.  Since they were collectors, ghosts of the past were everywhere.  More than selecting sofas or creating floorplans, this project was about claiming this space as her own, while honoring her family.

The house had also never been updated since it was built in the 80s, and she knew she would need to update some finishes for eventual resale.

This week, I'd like to take you through our process.

Here's what we started with:

The living room was basically being used for cat toys and drying laundry, largely because there was only a lone couch in there.  Worn out carpet, a dated wallpaper border, and a half-railing only detracted from a room with high ceilings and a pretty bay window.

The living room is open to a dining room.  The small space was kind of choking on that 80s floral wallpaper, and too much furniture obscured the fact that there were some fantastic pieces--like those Danish modern rope chairs.

The kitchen was standard-issue for a house of this era, with golden oak cabinetry and laminate countertops.  The dark blue walls were only adding to the dark feeling of the room.

Our first step was to rip up the carpeting in the living room and dining room and install Hickory floors.  We also replaced the old carpet upstairs with a new neutral grey.  Next, we decided which treasured pieces to keep and build our rooms around, including this rug, which set the color palette for the main floor of the home: grey-green, teal, coral, cream, and black.

Finally, we repainted every inch of the house, including the kitchen cabinets.  All of this work happened in phases, but in the meantime we formulated a plan. 

This week, I'll show you the process, ending with a dramatic before and after!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A knock off of un-knock-off-able chandeliers

OVer the past several years, Lynsey Adelman has become something of a design darling, creating iconic chandeliers with hand-blow glass globes and gorgeous, organic, gravity-defying shapes.  Her work has spawned many a DIY project (like this and this; she even offers a make your own kit), but they just don't stand up to the real thing.

I wouldn't have thought that anyone could knock these off, but France & Son has done it!

Pretty authentic-looking, and all around $1000.  Not cheap, no, but the real thing is upwards of $10K.

Here's the question:  with something so identifiable, would you ever be happy with a knock off?  I myself have authentic Ghost chairs and vintage eames fiberglass shell chairs, knock-offs for both of which are now readily available, so perhaps I am something of a purist?  At the same time, I have a giant Noguchi-style lantern in the dining room, which I will readily admit is from PB Teen. 

If you are into modern design but not so into the price tag, and you are down with the whole knock-off thing, France & Son has many, many items you might like to see.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

It gets worse before it gets better

That's kind of a general rule of house projects, right?  It gets worse before it gets better?
Yesterday our house was totally torn apart.  But there is something to be said for nearing the finish line.

We are choosing exterior colors (without great success)

Washing window screens

Painting bathrooms  (painting bathrooms is the worst!)

And in the midst of various wallpaper projects.

Doesn't this stripe look gorgeous in the laundry room?  Well, it might have to come down.  A couple of pieces went up upside down, creating a double stripe in a corner, and I may not be able to get more paper.


All of this means that we have spaces looking like this:

Meanwhile, I have a hacking cough and all over body aches.  The best conditions for inhaling primer fumes.

Back to it!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Another Decision

Thanks for your input over on Facebook yesterday on how to lend polish to the Happy Hallway.  Colorful frames were definitely a hit, and ultimately I think I am going to go for grasscloth AND frames, possibly in a standard ikea color (bright red or high gloss gray) to save myself a huge DIY headache.  We'll see how it looks when the grasscloth arrives.  (I have to say, I have forever and ever wanted grasscloth and have never used it in my own home, so this is a double treat.)

Moving on!

I asked for input on the powder room wallpaper a while back, and many of you liked our favorite: Raphael from Sanderson.

I went ahead and put in the order, only to discover, to my dismay, that the use of a liner is recommended with this paper, which significantly increases the labor cost.

I hemmed and hawed and pulled additional possibilities.

Surprisingly, my husband liked the butterflies (Nina Campbell's Farfalle), and my girls liked the leafy print up top (also a Nina Campbell pick.)

But we put the tree sample back in, and it sort of felt like no comparison.  The trees are magical.

I have written before about how I would rather "get a great deal" than "pay for the perfect thing."  I have said before that it is the lesson I refuse to learn.  Hanging wallpaper is pretty much never cheap, and my husband suggested that if we were going to spend the money to do it, why not spend a little more to get something we really loved?

No decision made, but I am leaning back towards those trees.

What about you: do you splurge on things that are "just right?"  Or are you more one to "make do?"  I think we need a balance of the two, and you know what?

I got a great deal on the grasscloth.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Decision Time

The Happy Hallway needs polish, wouldn't you say?

It's go time.  Do I:

A.  Go for colorful frames, a la Steven Gambrel's now-famous hallway:

or B: Create the effect of a giant bulletin board, hanging grasscloth and trimming it out with ribbon and nailhead, kind of like this

meets this


I have to order the grasscloth today, if I go that route.  I was playing around with a sample I had on hand for someone else, with some vintage trim, just to get the idea.

As for the frames, well, after a search turned up colorful frames only at too-high prices, and quantity will be a problem most places, I realized I would need to pick them up from Ikea and spraypaint them.  There are only 130 or so, so not that big of a deal to paint, load, and hang, right?  (And my husband may not be thrilled about the 130 holes in the wall.....)

Thoughts?  Votes?

One more decision question, coming up next!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Happy Hallway

I have long been tortured by our long, plain, windowless, featureless upstairs hallway.  After "finishing" the space once with unhappy results, I have had MANY ideas for the space, most of which were either prohibitivly expensive, relied on DIY work beyond my ability, or fought desperately with the rooms attached at either end.  I was also trying to avoid the obvious.  It almost did me in.

But then, I had a great conversation with a client who said she is trying to put her resources primarily to things that will make her family happy or improve their relationships and general well being.  A pretty solid plan, but one that too many of us forget to follow.

Lately things have felt a bit heavy.  Like we all are just a little crabby most of the time.  I decided that we all need some lightness, to be reminded of the silly side we all have, so I went through some old photos and printed out the ones that made me smile.  People making crazy faces, being silly, or doing something we don't normally associate with them--like my husband surfing.  I want us all to remember that we have many sides, that we have wonderful people in our lives, and that we are loved.

$12 in photo prints at Walgreens and one hour later, I had this.

All four of my kids' grandparents were here this weekend, and my, oh my, did my girls LOVE to look at these pictures with them!  I do a big photo book each year that tells a chronological and somewhat event-based story of our lives, but this one?  This one is purely emotional, and we all just love it.

To make it easy on myself, I printed the photos in black and white so I didn't have to worry about a color story.  To put them up, I grouped the loose prints by people--each of the girls, the girls together, the girls with parents, with grandparents, great grandparents, etc--then just sort of distributed them on the wall.  It was fun to make some connections between pictures, too, like having someone look out of the frame in one photo at something silly happening in another.

Now, of course, I want it to all feel a little more "finished."  I'll be back with ideas for that!

Tell me: are you a family-photos-in-the-house type?  Or do you just keep them in your phone, like I used to?

Monday, September 8, 2014

More Before and After!

Did you have a good weekend?

My in laws were here, the weather was beautiful, and the mouse on my computer broke, forcing me to disconnect a bit from technology and reconnect with, you know, actual people.  It was lovely.  We also picked up about a zillion paint samples for the exterior, but still no decision.

Last week, I showed you the before and after of a girls' room.  Her parents were the recipients of the surprise makeover back in July.  We needed to tweak one corner, but now I can share!

Before, the space was okay.  A pottery barn bedroom set, a nice, neutral rug, and a family heirloom chair.  But the linens were all the same neutral, the lighting was all a bit traditional, and the walls were bare. The space just lacked a little life, color, and polish.









What do you think?

Happy Monday!


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