*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 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 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.
*Lyrics from Frank Sinatra’s One For My Baby (And One More For The Road). This song pretty much epitomizes my feelings for these past weeks. Plus, who doesn’t have random Frank Sinatra songs rolling through their head, late at night, after a few too many glasses of wine? Lucky for me, I have a patient, understanding, and sympathetic husband who will play me songs while I weep in the middle of the night.
I’ve been remiss in filling you in on the progress at the Big House, and The Pied. I’ve been busy. I’ve been deeply sad. I’ve been just trying to get through it. I’m alive, so there’s that. And our house is no longer ours. There’s that, too.
*Lyrics from I Am An Ape from the collaboration album Love This Giant by David Byrne and St. Vincent. I think this album is challenging, but interesting, and quirky, and catchy, and absolutely worth a serious listen. I don’t always need music to be easy, and when I respect the artists involved, well, it’s kind of like music, to my ears at least. Hope you give it a try, and let me know how you like it.
House Tour: Living Quarters
Despite our choice to now live a
bi-polar dual-homed existence, our home is still actually for sale. And, though my focus is on making the new spot as homey as possible, I thought you might like to see a re-cap of our living space – or, living quarters as I’m calling them. The architecture of this home, built in 1920, provides for a connected-ness that most modern families crave, while at the same time allowing for some privacy, and some division of activities. For example, many people love the look/feel of a so-called ‘open plan’ space, where the kitchen, dining and living rooms are one Great Room. Not me, and apparently not builders in the 1920s. I prefer the kitchen to be its own space – after all, sharp, hot, and time-sensitive duties (i.e., people rushing around with sharp and hot things) are performed there, which can make a mess, which can be unsightly to guests and other family members alike. But, even though I treat the kitchen as a work-zone (which, if you’re like me, it most certainly is), the living room and dining room feel like fluid extensions of one another. The builders in 1920 agreed with me there, too.
*Lyrics from Good Intent by Kimbra from her album Vows. I was doing as I was told, by spotify, and checking out the latest pop albums. Must do what told. Spotify rules me. Ok, and it’s a catchy album, good voice, interesting melodies and instrumentation. So, there.
House Tour: Master Suite
How many houses from the 1920s can boast a master suite? Ok, probably quite a few at this point, but we think it’s pretty special to have our own private bathroom off our bedroom. It’s almost like its own apartment.
When we first bought the house, the bathroom adjacent was really the former maid’s bath. The sink was about 28″ off the floor (in other words, back-breakingly low), and the toilet was awkwardly placed next to the smallest shower on earth (I think it was 24″ square). Of course, I never took any before pictures of it (back then it didn’t occur to me to photograph ugly things!). Needless to say, we’ve renovated all of it: the bathroom is 100% new, including heated marble floors, recessed lighting, Starphire glass shower enclosure, and a custom trim package that matches the original 1920s woodwork.
*Lyrics from Love Is Greed by Passion Pit from their newly released album Gossamer. I first heard Passion Pit in Boston, during my summer of art, and therefore I will always associate them with my darling roommate, the light and happy mood of summer vacations, and creativity and joy. Good on them for releasing another album in the summer, especially when I’m feeling particularly vacation-y and creative. It’s as if they planned it that way.
House Tour: Family Bath
To continue with the grand tour of the home, let’s take a rest in the restroom. At least, the main one on the second floor. This room has been the trickiest one to photograph since all of the corners are occupied with things like, oh, bathtubs, toilets and cabinetry. But it’s efficient, and feels luxurious even if it isn’t ginormous like modern bathrooms tend to be (I mean, how much room does one really need to get ‘er done?). It’s one of my favorite rooms in the entire house, partly because I put in so much sweat equity into it, and partly because we worked with what we had, and took it from blech to beautiful. read on…