*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 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 S.O.S. in Bel Air by Pheonix from their album Bankrupt!. Since we’re definitely still in summer-music-mode, and I’m looking for new exercise music, I poked around the recent releases and discovered that Phoenix had a new, very catchy album, perfect for summer ears, and running (ok, trotting) feet. And even though my clients moved into their house in late June, they needed some time to settle in before I could take proper pictures. You other homeowners know that it takes quite a bit of time after a move to feel at home, so I didn’t want to rush my clients into being ‘done’ before they were ready. Hoping to get some final after photos in the fall. Until then, more summer, please!
Every designer starts out with the best intentions: make something beautiful that functions really well, and keep it within a reasonable budget. Ok, I guess some people don’t have to worry about budgets, but I don’t know them, and I doubt I’d want to. We all have to work within realistic parameters, while keeping our eye on the big picture. Problem is, when those parameters are constantly changing, it’s harder to grab ahold of that vision and steer toward it. Sometimes, as with driving a car in a winter storm, you need to steer into the skid to keep from crashing, despite the fact that you won’t end up where you wanted in the first place.
Inevitably, due to situations outside of my control, I had to dramatically re-think a design concept for my clients on Project W. Despite my best intentions, and my rigorous adherence to my initial budget, my budget dollars were suddenly diverted toward other things, and I was left to scramble to come up with a new plan. Unpleasant, yes. Impossible, no. It’s how the cookie crumbles, and is a good exercise in adapting, going with the flow, and remaining fluid. I wrote about my first (and most painful) lesson in that here, and this was nowhere near that experience (thankfully), but not unrelated. There are times when someone will rip apart your idea, and your only course of action is to shift your perspective.
*Lyrics from Janelle Monáe‘s latest single, Q.U.E.E.N., featuring Erykah Badu. I loved The ArchAndroid, and am very excited about her next album, The Electric Lady. She’s also singing about acceptance, equal rights, and religious hypocrisy – things that are perpetually on my mind, but especially since the local area just sponsored the annual Pride parade. Watch the video, and await with bated breath the next masterpiece by this gifted and unusual artist.
Above: this image inspired my initial plans for the master bathroom at Project W.
After initial face-to-face meetings with my Project W clients, I started using Pinterest as a way of narrowing down my vision for their home, and as a way of discovering their style. Visual language, as it were, is tricky to decipher with only words – my use of ‘modern’ might mean clean and bright, while someone else’s might mean black leather and chrome – so Pinterest has been essential in determining what we all mean by what we say.
Above: when I say ‘modern English’ this is what I mean.
*Lyrics from St. Vincent‘s Champagne Year from the Strange Mercy album. I still really adore this album, and this song really just felt appropriate for this post. I don’t think I’ve used it before, but I apologize if I have. Plus, we at the new job were all discussing that we felt that this coming year was going to be good. Perhaps not a champagne year, but, well, we could all use a bit of a respite from doom, couldn’t we?
So, I’ve been pretty absent from the blog lately, and, well, that’s because I’ve been pretty busy in real life. We got the pied-à-deux livable, and then had to immediately return to life in the Big House, in part because I was asked to help some clients design a whole house remodel. You heard that right: they found a fixer in an incredible neighborhood (on a coveted street) and wanted to just go for it. And they requested me. (Picture a small tear of gratitude welling in my eye.)
Having seen Dave’s craftsmanship and my design work in this kitchen and bath, as well as my entire house, they asked to have us come through the house and toss out a few ideas. You can’t imagine how overwhelming it is to meet new people, have brokers, builders, and other subs there, and to try to get to know someone’s taste/aesthetic/vibe right away. As we walked through the house, I got a feeling right away for what it should look like. For how it should be changed to meet the needs of a modern family. I felt like I could do a good job. And I was scared shitless.