*Lyrics from Beck‘s Say Goodbye from his (their?) latest album Morning Phase. It’s a great album, very mellow and sophisticated. Really a nice offering. Check it out – if you liked Sea Change you’ll like this one.
So, remember how, regarding our house hunt, I was all ‘we’re just going to stay put, and be for now?’ Yeah,that lasted about three weeks. I mean, we’re ok here, we really are, but the selling season was in full swing, and it’s really hard to not look when you have an easy-to-use real estate app on your phone. At any rate, we both kept looking, and we both kept seeing things, debating things, and discussing our future (ad nauseum).
We bid on another apartment (that’s the third one, if you’ve been keeping track), and got pretty far into the process. We were one of the top three offers – a change from earlier situations where we were merely told we were in the middle of at least 10 offers – and we really thought we could get it. Until our competition decided to waive any bank appraisal or mortgage approval contingency from their offer. That meant that they were promising to pay a particular sum of money no matter what a bank said it was worth, and no matter how much money the bank would agree to lend them. That’s insane, by the way. And it’s the new NY normal.
*Lyrics from I Wish You Love as sung by Frank Sinatra (though the National Youth Jazz Orchestra performance is cheerful and delightful, and certainly worth watching on a day like today). I considered an alternate title – “I wish you shelter from the storm, a cozy fire to keep you warm” – especially because the entire Eastern portion of the US is being battered by yet another bracing, snow-filled, ice-capped, rained upon bit of winter goodness, but I thought the above excerpt was more fitting. I heard this song ages ago and jotted it down to use at the end of something. Today’s weather makes the timing even more apt.
Le sigh. It’s over. This is the last installment of the Project W AFTER Tour (catch up here: master bedroom, kids’ rooms, main floor part one, and main floor part two). I am so proud and grateful that I got to have a hand in the complete transformation of this now gorgeous home. So, now, pictures! (Get ready, this is a long one…)
Boom. Project W kitchen. Do you remember it when it looked like this?
Sort of major, right? When we toured the space, there was a giant spiral staircase – de rigueur in 1982 – that cut right through what I saw as perfectly usable kitchen real estate. When we first met, the clients – craving brightness, space, and fluidity – wanted to open up the wall between the kitchen and dining room, but I felt that they would lose too much storage space. The kitchen was a galley and, while efficient and completely appropriate to the home, it didn’t exactly ooze storage space. With a tween, a teen, and a big, hungry dog, I knew that losing those uppers would be a risk. read on…
*Lyrics from Careful What You Say by Class Actress from their EP Journal of Ardency. This song resonated with me for this post because during the process of building/designing this home (and perhaps especially these last spaces), my relationship with my friend (the builder) was, to say it politely, strained. It’s inevitable to quarrel with those closest to you, and likely to happen again with someone else during my career/life. I’m sure it’s happened to you – with your spouse/partner, your client, your family – and I’m sure you hated it as much as I did. I loved this job, and was so completely grateful to have been able to be a part of it, but it took an emotional toll. And I guess I’m feeling a little nostalgic for the good times. (This winter feels really, really long this year.) Cheers to the happy times, to the promise of a new season, and of the hope for smoothing the scuffs and scratches that will just add patina to what I hope is a lifelong friendship.
And the AFTER tour continues… When we last met, I shared with you most of the main floor living spaces for Project W. Today I’m going to share the dining room, foyer, and powder room. When I first walked through the house with Mrs W, we both had the same vision for the foyer: gray, almost concrete-looking rectangular tile that would feel modern, not too dark, yet be easy to care for with two kids and a sweet, but sloppy dog. It took some doing, and some negotiating, and some pretty strong-willed moments (high five, Mrs W!), but we found our tile, and were able to achieve the exact look we imagined. Sometimes less is more, but sometimes you have to invest in a bit more to get more. At any rate, we ended up with a wonderful update to this formerly vinyl-floored space.
Just off the side entry – the mudroom area – is a powder room. Now, this space used to house the original kitchen; in fact, the old house stopped along the wall separating the new kitchen and dining room from the game room and entry hall. So the bathroom that was put in was decidedly from its time (1982).
I wanted to reclaim the character as we did with the master bathroom design, but knew that we couldn’t really spend too much to do so. We had to work with the space as it was for the budget’s sake, and we had to use materials that could withstand lots of traffic. We ended up finding a really reasonably priced ceramic mosaic tile that picked up on the black and white theme we used in the master (I love it when spaces in antique homes, like kitchens and baths, seem like they could have been installed during the house’s original build), which really helped to reinforce that 1920s feel we were after.
Having connected the powder room to the house’s architecture, I wanted to let the dining room really connect to the homeowners’ love of mid-century design. I knew they had some cherry and rosewood pieces that would look really nice atop their newly finished oak hardwoods, but that they needed a wall color that could support all of that rich, warm wood. Probably the most contentious battle with regard to the color palette happened regarding the dining room walls – SW Hazel – which virtually every woman loved and every man loathed. In the end, though, my clients agreed that the initial scheme was what they loved, and they stuck with my suggestion. I love the color. This room floods with light in the afternoon, and can really stand a rich hue on the wall. They are also avid art collectors, and I knew that an art wall would eventually really sing atop this rich but modern hue.
The entire first floor connects visually from room to room, zone to zone, and I think we really created a soft, watery, and flowing palette that is peaceful and soothing. I know that the clients’ soft furnishings, curtains, pillows, rugs, etc., will shift as time goes on, but the harder, more permanent things – tile, flooring, lighting – will enhance whatever additions they make.
I still have one last space to share with you. Stay tuned!
*Lyrics from Hang On Little Tomato by Pink Martini off their second album. I heard this while cooking, or washing up, and it completely cheered me up. It’s a sweet little song about remaining optimistic. Lately that has felt difficult, likely in part due to the lack of sunlight (and never ending days of being trapped in our tiny home). But I’m hanging in there, not like a kitten on a branch, but like a little tomato on the vine, waiting until I’m fully ripened before I burst forth with heirloom flavor (I’m certainly NOT a regular tomato – probably I’m one of those weird colored heirloom ones that look awful but are the best tomatoes you’ve ever eaten). How long until summer again?
When we moved back to the city full-time, I had to lose my office. My glorious, large, occasional guest room, sunlit, breezy, private office. Enter one of my daily mantras: it’s only temporary, it’s only temporary. But, while we’re hunting for a more permanent place to settle, we’re still trying to make this one work for us as best it can.
Once we decided to take the pied-à-deux, we had some furniture rearranging to consider. The previous living room layout included a nearly 5′ long niche to the right of what was clearly an old chimney breast. In our prior space, this little nook happily housed our TV and assorted media accoutrements. In our current space, however, that single niche layout was replaced by two niches flanking the chimney breast: on the left, one about 20″ wide, and on the right, one just shy of 32″. Yeah, so, no TV nook here.
Since there is no proper closet in the apartment (it’s technically a studio apartment), and the giant storage unit in the kitchen was removed so we could re-install our dining room nook, we decided to turn one of the niches into a closet of sorts. It’s pretty basic: a rod, a hamper, and some not-so-glamorous odds and ends tucked and stacked behind a chair, but when you’ve got 320-ish sf to work with, you make do. We considered making the other niche, the larger one, into a closet, too, but then we realized that it was just big enough to house a tiny desk, and could therefore serve as my office.
Not the enormous roughly 12′ x 14′ room that I had to myself before, but the 24″ x 31.5″ (that’s right, INCHES) space seems to be just big enough to store my computer, a lamp, some art supplies and books. Just the essentials, but a hell of a lot better than having to throw (or gently place) the laptop on the floor when we want to eat dinner at our table at night. Jeff had a leftover IKEA desk from a temporary employee at his office, so we just took it home one night and tried it out. It fit perfectly. Even fit with a little space leftover that is just big enough to hold a canvas so I can work on art projects at my own pace. What more could I want?
To make the space really work for us, we installed a few shelves made from some simple boards and brackets from Lowe’s. I wanted the space to recede, visually, since it’s really just a corner of the living room, so we painted the shelves the same color as the walls, and chose black brackets. The effect is especially helpful at night, when the dark corner just expands, and the room feels bigger than it really is.
I can’t really do any hand drafting in this mini-office, nor can I really go crazy with painting/drawing. But I can have a little space to call my own, and that ain’t bad.
*Lyrics from I Miss Your Bones by Hospitality. This is a single, but they have a new album coming out in January. I think I’ll wait to order it (not pre-order it) until I can hear it all. I struggled to find a song for this post – sometimes finding these lyrical inspirations isn’t as easy as it should be – but this one felt just right (plus, their new album is called Trouble, which is fitting here). Especially since this part of the Project W house tour is all about good bones. House bones. Bones. If you say it too many times it starts to sound silly. Anyway, moving on.
Remember my beloved Project W? Want to see some more?
The next part of the Project W renovation (the AFTER tour) that I want to share with you is the main floor: specifically the library, sun room, and game room. (Now, a small disclaimer: it is virtually impossible to show you only portions of the main floor without sneaking peeks at other room/areas which I will share in greater depth at a later date. Otherwise this post would be 80+ pictures long, and ain’t nobody got time for that. Consider your interest piqued.) This is really where each family member got to carve out space for just themselves.
Mr W got half of the library as an office, and Mr and Mrs W will share a cozy seating area by the working fireplace.
You see, when the house was originally built, before the giant addition in the early 80s, the library was the only living room (and we think the desk area was a 3-season porch), the sunroom was non-existent, and the game room was the former dining room. In fact, the powder room, and hallway connecting the (now tiled) side entry to the front entry (and beyond) was the original kitchen. All that is to say that the house pretty much doubled in size in 1982, and this family of four didn’t quite know what to do with so much glorious space.
With plenty of room to spread out, yet lots of zones for family interaction my clients got the best of both worlds: the connection of open plan living with the necessary privacy of homes that were planned with appropriate separations. I firmly believe that in the future, all of these Great-Room-styled homes will fall away, and there will be a return to separate rooms. Anyone who has ever lived with, or been a part of a large family knows that as much as you can love each other, getting away from each other is as equally precious. I think I was able to help the homeowners delineate spaces for specific family activities so that there is plenty of togetherness as well as comfortable, and much required, distance.
Mrs W got the sunroom – a media-free zone – for reading, entertaining and relaxing, while the kids got a section of the same room for homework, and quiet projects.
The kids also got an entire room just for their video game console, but in fairness it is the smallest room in the house, and has no doors, which means lots of parental supervision (much to their chagrin).
This home really had a great set of bones. All I had to do was help the clients choose colors, fixtures, plan out how to place their furnishings and lay out their zones, and they did the rest, injecting so much home into this house that it felt inviting from day one. Eventually they’ll get to the window dressing part (which we all know costs a small fortune), but for now they get uninterrupted views of a gorgeous neighborhood, dappled sunlight from hundred year-old trees, and lots of space to call home.
*Lyrics reluctantly from a Taylor Swift song, Never Grow Up. Reason one: the younger of the two Project W kids, and the one who was most interested in the whole design process, LOVES her, or at least did the last I heard. Reason two: the song I really wanted to use was, well, a bit of a downer, and not at all representative of the beautiful and loving family that I was honored to work with. But, in my defense, the lyrics I was going to pick out from the rejected song (Jeff thought I should leave it out of the post entirely) were the (sweetly, sad, yet) positive bits: “Kid, have your say, ’cause I still love you, even if I don’t see you again.” So, instead I give you vapid tweenie-bop music. You may choose to listen as your mood dictates, but know that the second, deeper one by Neko Case is brutally beautiful, and will probably make you cry. (The first one might make your ears bleed. You have been warned.)
Now it’s time for another installment of Project W: The AFTER tour! When we last left off, we were sneaking around the master bedroom and bath, basking in the improved flow and potential for timeless style. Let’s move into the kids’ wing of the upper floor, shall we?
Just off the area where the spiral staircase used to be (we nixed it in an effort to gain more usable space in the kitchen), is the kids’ wing. It’s private, away from the parents’ master suite, and has its own family bathroom (still to be renovated). While the hallway boasts the same color as all of the transitional spaces in the home – foyer, mudroom, hallways, stairwell all in Toque White (early on my builder asked me to choose only Sherwin Williams colors) – the kids’ rooms depart from the main thrust of the home to reveal individual and personality-based spaces perfect for the rejuvenation of young minds.
*Lyrics from Lily Allen‘s Hard Out Here. This video is NSFW (and is controversial, so it would seem), but the message is pretty spot on. Anyway, I wanted to find something to listen to that would compliment this post, but instead I found something that made me want to persevere, challenge the status quo, and fight the good fight, which is just as important. Plus, it’s way catchy, and probably great to add to an exercise playlist. I always like a little ‘tough bitch’ music when I’m feeling less than that, don’t you?
When we moved from the pied-à-terre to the pied-à-deux we brought our kitchen with us, like the good faux Italians we are. Our IKEA cabinets, countertop, and pendant lighting made the trek down one flight to become our new old kitchen. The only real difference between the two spaces is the color of the existing laminate countertops, and the age of the refrigerator (the old place had a brand new one, this one, not so much). We actually had the landlord move our stove down one flight, too, when we discovered (much to our chagrin) that the stove in The Deux was mostly not working (one out of four burners worked, and the oven didn’t heat up at all). Oh, and the other difference is that the upper floor unit had about 18″ more space in the dining area.
*Lyrics from Mean Streets by Tennis from their new EP Small Sounds. It’s no secret that I love this band, but this mini album is excellent. I dare you not to get this song in your head for several happy days.
I know you’re all still geeking out over the amazing, awesome, inspiring transformations from the One Room Challenge, but do you remember me teasing that I’d soon have pictures to share from my clients’ Project W house? Well, first room, here you go. This is a major BEFORE & AFTER post. Get ready.
It seems like so long ago that I first met with my clients on Project W, and first glimpsed at their terrible, wonderful, overwhelmingly dated raw material of a house that was to become their dream home. It seems like another life ago, not only because so much time has passed (and so much has happened), but because their home has completely transformed. You know those makeover shows where people don’t recognize a loved one, or think they’re in someone else’s home? Yeah, their house is kind of like that.
*Lyrics from These Foolish Things as sung by Sam Cooke. I heard this song on my Pandora station (Ella Fitzgerald, et al) the other week while cooking, and jotted it down for the blog. When I went searching for a song for this post, this one matched what I was writing about regarding color palettes. Things happen, and they remind us of other things, and these (foolish) things can get permanently emotionally attached to colors. Well, anyway, read on, play on.
For many moons I’ve believed that the most beautiful and cohesive homes have a unified paint palette. Now, this is not to say that each room must match, or be party to a theme per say (ok, in fact, no themes at all, please – stick to moods), but that the spaces that open onto one another should have harmony, and should relate to one another in some way, so that when you move through the home you feel at ease. For me it’s easiest to approach this idea by beginning the design process by choosing a palette that is connected, and brings together the emotional feeling of the entire home – the people, the architecture, the furnishings, the mood that we want to evoke, the emotions that we have about colors (and saturation levels of colors) – and sticking to it.
*Lyrics from Human by Daughter off their album If You Leave. I found this on spotify (naturally) and really enjoyed their acoustic “spotify session’s” version. I recommend you check it out before you hear their original album version. The song felt appropriate for my first substantive post in a while. After all, we’re all just human, underneath it all.
I know. I know! It’s been a long, LONG time since we moved in. Since I shared anything relevant to design. I know. Let me make it up to you?
So, here it is, the Pied-à-Deux: our tiny, sweet, tiny, small, cozy, small, bitty, efficient, annoyingly small living room. And it’s our entryway, and our closet, and my office, and our guest room, and part of our bedroom in that the TV sits on a dresser 2/3 full of our clothing. It’s small. It’s been tough to cope with how small it is, but we really tried to make it as beautiful and practical as possible. And we do like it very much.