Wednesday, 27 February 2013

DC Row House Main Living Room Before & After

If you are on Instagram or follow along with my instant pics on the sidebar of the blog, you may have noticed that yesterday was an especially rewarding day:  We finished another project installation.  This project was different from most of our projects in that it was implemented over time.  We created a full design plan for our clients a year or so ago (I think??) and as the project entailed a lot of time & expense, our clients decided to implement the project in phases.  What I love about this approach was that my clients didn't sacrifice anything.  They got everything they wanted exactly as they wanted it because they were really patient & willing to wait.  They began with the paint, the built-ins, and then moved onto lighting, curtains and rugs.  The final installation (of furnishings!!) happened yesterday and I'm so excited to share it with you.  Here's what the living and dining space looked like before:

My clients decided they didn't need the additional dining area (we've got a breakfast nook in the kitchen) and so we turned it into an additional seating area with a 4- chair arrangement for playing games, reading and chatting.  Here's what the room looks like now:

Yesterday, I styled the bookshelves with all of our clients' own things and got the room feeling nice and lived in...

The childrens' books are mixed in with their parents' books and their is tons of storage for games & crafts hidden throughout the built-ins.  

I connected the spaces with two overscale lanterns which you might recognize from my previous post.  (The Morris Lantern from Visual Comfort ;) ;)

Because there's a small nook for the sofa in the TV-watching end of the room and not much room in it for end tables, we went with pivoting wall sconces on either side of the sofa.  I was excited about showing off their pretty silhouettes against the hand-block-printed Le Gracieux curtains:

{I snapped this pic as we were hanging art}

My clients wanted a really warm, cozy and energetic-feeling home.  They are some of the nicest people I've ever met and I really feel like their home matching them in warmth.  My client herself looks especially beautiful in the house becomes it complements her hair and skin tones so well.

Here's a close-up that shows the coffee table, which I love:

{The pillow is in my "Filigree Chevron" in Autumn}

 Here's a "before" picture of the fireplace wall, which faces the TV:

...And here is is now:

{The oranges & yellows & pear greens were pulled straight from the rug}

My clients have the "go ahead" to collect more green pottery on their travels so we can fill up these shelves!! ;) ;)

We're putting a fiddle leaf fig in the right nook that will look like this:

This photo shows you how the TV fits:

The 4 chairs are all on swivels so if they want to, they can swivel around and become a part of the TV-watching area or enjoy the fire...

I'm off for the day and hope you enjoyed!! I also had to share this Instagram pic of me with Dave on the way home...  There's nothing more fulfilling than getting to work with this guy every day:

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Monday, 25 February 2013

A Man's Surprise Office: Before & After

I've had some of the most fun putting projects together that are gifts or surprises...  A super-sweet client of mine decided to surprise her husband with a new office for his birthday.  He works from home, but since they've moved in, the office hasn't really gotten much attention.  I was thrilled when my client called me to discuss the project after helping her & her husband with their family room. 

The existing white office had everything the husband/my client needs to get work done, but it didn't feel like he'd really moved in yet.  My client knew that her husband would love a formal "masculine" study feeling- one that was traditional, warm, and classic... so we got to work.  Here's the view of the office when we started from the French Doors:

We knew the biggest change would be painting.  The masculine room we were envisioning was dark and moody.  (He works on computer screens and so the darker walls help with that too since the room is really sunny.)

The biggest challenge in designing this space for us was creating an office our client's husband would love, yet one that didn't feel over-the-top, too boring or kitschy...  I've noticed that there's something about men & these "man rooms."....  you know, dark paneled libraries with the big presidential desk...  They love them!!  When they see them in someone else's home or in photos, they want them!!  So even though as soon as our client said "masculine study" we knew exactly the sort of room he wanted, I wanted to make sure that we made his office extremely personal and include a couple of unexpected elements so that we weren't just recreating a movie set.  

We put together a design for my client & she approved everything without showing or mentioning any of it to her husband.  We set the project in motion and on his birthday, she surprised him with a rendering -done by Michelle Morelan- of his office in progress:  
{The rendering done by Michelle Morelan, who is always wonderful to work with...  the colors are a bit more saturated in this image than in the actual painting but this gives you the idea.}  

I was able to take a few quick pics of the finished space on installation day with my phone, but will definitely have to go back with my photographer, because with the dark walls, it was almost impossible for me to get a good pic.  (But I thought you'd enjoy a peek anyway ;)

So, again, here's the 'before'---

And here's the 'after'--

{We used three different paint colors which I'll share in just a bit}

My client went to Yale so his wife & I thought it would be special to hang a massive vintage photograph of Yale (blown up to almost 7 feet high) on the main wall.  I love it because not only is it sentimental, but it feels almost like a window in the now-dark space.

{The photo is on a linen paper and is backed with a reusable adhesive.}

I think my client said her husband's dorm is actually in this photograph!! How crazy is that?!!

We're still waiting on the custom leather chair to be finished so in the pics you can see my clients' old black leather chair.  Here's what the new one looks like, except ours will be in a warm brown leather:

The main desk was one of the first pieces of furniture we selected.  We knew our client's husband would love its masculine, traditional lines.  We call it the "Presidential" desk.  ;) ;)  We pared it with a more modern leather parsons desk with a glass top.  Using such a traditional centerpiece allowed us a little more freedom to be able to mix things up a bit while the feeling of the room remained traditional.

Since it was so tough for me to get a good photo, here's a pic with the lights off too:

The "Morris Lantern" from Visual Comfort- hanging in the center of the room- is one of my favorites and, although I rarely repeat pieces in clients' projects, this one's an exception.

I used some more modern pieces in the traditional space to add a little bit of juxtapostion:  The modern task lamp on the desk, the small folding table next to the chair...

One of my favorite pieces was the antique Civil War painting we found:

Photos just don't do it justice but the patina & colors in it are incredible... 

It's purposefully too small between the windows, which is another tiny element that defies the tradition of the room:

The plaid curtains warm up the dark navy room and we used lots of caramel browns that are a bit on the orange side to liven up the palette a bit.  

On the right wall - and not pictured- we are working in a group of framed meaningful art...  family photos, paintings and pictures.

Here's a photo of the built-ins (before the books) and it really shows how we used different paint colors to get the feeling we were after:

{The chair's getting swapped out with a tufted brown leather one.}

Here's the paint breakdown (all Benjamin Moore)...
The walls are "Gentleman's Gray" which is a very dark traditional navy. 
The woodwork is all in a semi-gloss so dark navy that it's almost black- "Polo Blue," and
The ceiling is in a navy with the tiniest hint of peacock blue... "Blue Danube" (The bit of green/peacock added to the ceiling paint makes the room feel a tad less serious and also sets off the blue-green in the rug.) 

This pic really exaggerates the subtle color differences so you can get an idea:

 I'm off for the day but will be sure to share better photos of the fully finished space when I have them.  (Looking at my photos is just sad haha)  Thank you so much to my wonderful clients who really trusted me with this one!! Going this dark takes guts and I think it really paid off!!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

ps- I'm always going to treasure all of the comments you all left in the last post... Thank you so much. Huge hug to everyone!!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Blogging & Some Honesty

In the post about my cousin's house, like I mentioned, I shared more of the design process with you & said more than I would normally say about a client.  I also showed a scarily MASSIVE home which many of you seemed (how shall I say this?? ;) ... disgusted by.   hahaha  (It may have been my initial reaction too ;) ;

There's something a little bit different when you are working on a project for a family member rather than a normal client...  I've both more and less protective if that makes any sense.  I'll be honest that 1 or 2 comments stung a little when I felt like remarks about the house reflected poorly on my cousin.  (references to an "excess of wealth" without knowing anything about his character...)

{the garage}

My cousin's worked really hard for what he's got (he started his business when he was 12 years old) and is one of the most incredibly generous people I know.  His house may not be what most of us would want, but I don't think it's fair to look down on him for it either.  He may not be married with kids yet, but he wants a full house and his doors are always open to family & friends & their kids.  He sees this house as the place where everyone can come to stay and wants lots of extra bedrooms for guests and hopefully his own kids one day.

{My cousin with his best friend's daugher}

  While I'm okay with poking fun ( i.e. "Fauxscan" ;) ;)  I never want what I say to feel mean-spirited or judgemental and I hope I didn't come across that way in my last post.  (Or hurt anyone with Fauxscan's feelings! ;) ;)

I've been thinking a lot about something I said to my 5 year old last week about diplomacy...  He was saying something to our 3-year old and it wasn't so much what he was saying that was so hurtful, but just how he was saying it.  Trying to simplify things for him during my scolding I said, "You can say pretty much anything you want to say, but you just have to say it nicely."

And I've been thinking about it since...  I think it's true.  I think most people can take honesty, corrections, and things that sting if said from a place of kindness.  But if something comes out and sounds judge mental or mean, then the person's really not even going to hear what's being said, they're just going to be angry or hurt.  It's almost a waste of breath.

Whenever I've said anything too harshly, I almost always regret it.  I think of myself as fairly diplomatic but things just come out sometimes ;) ;)  (hahaha ok, maybe lots of times... But I'm trying to work on it ;) ;)

Here's what I've been trying to work on lately:

1) Say anything you want & be totally honest, just say it nicely. (It's not what you say, it's how you say it... all that ;)

2) Take a deep breath and let it go.  You'll never regret under-reacting but you'll almost always regret overreacting.

3) Be careful what you put into writing because once you do, it's out there for anyone to see.

As you might know, a few years ago I decided not to allow "anonymous" comments to my blog.  Most of the anonymous comments I received were totally normal/nice but every now and then I'd get one or two that just hurt my feelings.  I'm laughing as I write this because some of the stuff that hurt my feeling was so silly (a bookshelf!!)  & I can't believe it did but, I could get 30 sweet comments (enough to make my month!!) but the one negative comment would just bring me down and seemed to eclipse all of the others.  They made feel stupid and they made me wish I'd never put whatever I'd written about or shown a photo of out there.  They made me question even writing a public blog.   By the end of the day, the bad feeling in my stomach would go away but it took a couple of hours for me to let it go and I realized it wasn't worth it.  Why have those feelings a couple of times a month??

(see how jam-packed my bookshelf was??  it's not for everyone...  especially my dad who has commented on how terrible it is more than anyone else I know ;) ;)

I found that taking the anonymous option off, still allows anyone to comment but that with a name on there, most people tend to just say things more carefully, more diplomatically and I'm actually able to take in the advice or criticism instead of being hurt by it.  To be honest, nowadays I'm able to shrug off any hurtful comments pretty easily...  Maybe it's because I'm older & tougher/ not as sensitive now and have been doing it for so long or maybe it's because there's a name on there?? I don't know...

But my blog is a personal one- I'm sharing bits of my life, my passions and my loved ones and I am inviting  people into my home or their homes in a way.  I can really take anything as long as it's said respectfully.  I have to protect those whose homes I share on here.  (The alternative is sharing nothing.)  I understand that I am putting everything out there to be judged, and that having a blog or being in any sort of public eye puts you out there to be critiqued harshly... and so I'm  just asking for things to be said respectfully.  I know I have no right to that, because this is a public web address & all that, but I am asking for it.  

I'm so proud of everyone who's a part of my blog too...  my mother-in-law remarks all the time on how nice everyone is in the comments...  I write for you because I feel like you're my friends and that you want good things for me and are respectful of those whose homes I share on here.  (Because BTW- they always read a post when it's about them!!!) I wouldn't be comfortable writing one of those blogs that's more like a forum where the comments sometimes get heated & dramatic and where the blog is about bashing.  I write this blog because it's my special place & I invite anyone along who wants to be a part of that.

Most of you had me cracking up as I read the comments on my cousin's house, by the way, because I think you really get where I'm coming from on & it had fun with it.  I'm totally okay and love that.

To give you an update on the plans- they're pretty much set and are being approved by the county now.  The only exterior changes I was able to get were reducing the number of columns and turning the arches into more of an 'eyebrow shape,' squaring the columns off and widening some of the windows.  I do wish I could have been brought in sooner, but let's be honest, I work on IN-teriors so I really just have to put my focus into those.  I was able to get many of the architectural details changed inside, which is where my role lies so I'm thankful for that. ;) ;)

And hahaha YES!! you all win on the overhangs!!!  I think everyone from Florida mentioned them (sadly it's never been in my hands anyway... tear) but I am feeling better after so many of you have said that your homes are still sunny with the overhangs.  (Adam's current house feels like a dark cave so I am hoping this next one won't...  The ceilings are much taller and the sun will come in from that direction so I'm really hoepful.) Just keep telling me that so I can sleep better !! ;) ;)

I'll update you on all of that next week!!!  Sorry for the heavy post on a Friday but this stuff's been on my mind!!  Have an amazing weekend and thank you so much for reading!! :)

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Our Florida Project- Part 1

When we visited the Keys last week, we flew in & out through Miami and our resort stay was a day short of our flight day so we stopped in to see my family who lives near Miami on our way home so we could make out early morning flight.  My Aunt Linda lives there & my three older cousins (Tracy, Adam & Chris) are spread throughout Florida- one on the Gulf (Chris- near my in-laws' home!) one near Orlando (Tracy) and the other cousin (Adam) right near my Aunt Linda.  Adam recently purchased an 8-acre property that he'll be building his dream home on & I'm helping him do it.  I came into the project once Adam & the architect had decided on this:

The house is pretty massive, but the most important parts of it to Adam (who owns a large residential & commercial landscape design firm in Southern Florida) are the outdoor spaces.  These 3-D drawings don't show any of the insanely beautiful landscaping that's already in place & that will be there once we're finished.  In the image above Adam built a huge rock wall with waterfalls flowing down it instead of the one-level ending of the pond you see here.

Here's the front view:

My cousin took us for a nighttime tour of the property in the golf cart on steroids:

(It's not the best picture because Adam's girlfriend, Nicki, who's sitting next to me, is completely hidden, but it's all I've got.  Adam's in the driver seat holding Christian, who drove.  Don't worry, the baby didn't come along, he posed for the pic ;)

Before we get onto the house, I need to describe my cousin, Adam, to you...  His mom (my Aunt Linda) is my dad's sister and although his last name isn't Maestranzi, (he's got his dad's last name not his mom's maiden name)  he's very "Maestranzi"--- energetic, tireless, creative, hard-working, fun-loving, business-minded, generous and crazy.  He's so good to his nieces & nephews and loves kids (and they love him) in general. Adam's also all over the place and thinks and talks a mile a minute.  If you hang out with him for more than 15 minutes, you will have been on some sort of adventure.  (And I'm not kidding here...  Adam is the type that just swoops people away and takes them somewhere or shows them something crazy...  Some of my adventures with him included a random roadtrip up a mountain in Costa Rica which ended with a blown tire from his insane driving, timing a couple mile long jog he took in the middle of the night because his best friend bet he couldn't run that far & ended with a police officer stopping us asking what as going on...  Trips to the Florida Everglades getting dangerously close to alligators and so much more.)  He started his current business when he was 12 years old and he used to mow his neighbors' lawns.  When he went to college for business, he kept the business open and it's now a huge company with both residential & commercial clients and he has kept his ten original clients.  He dreams big and lives bigger (and faster.)  I'm hoping that when we're finished with the house, he might settle & slow down a little but I really doubt it because he wouldn't be him if he did.

Anyway, back to the house...

The pool area is already Heaven:

There are tiki huts and a slide & it's like a kids' fun land. 
 It feels like this a jungle...

...So the whole house is focused on this backyard playland.  But, as you might remember, I'm a fiend for sunlight...  Natural light is the single most important element to me in houses.  It's the reason I fell in love with both my new house and my old house.  So... this house plan scares me. (It's actually keeping my from sleeping well to be honest.)  I'm also a big fan of simplicity.  My cousin is not (yet ;) ;)

We've been talking a lot about how I'm worried about how dark the house will be & how it needs to be simplified & cleaned up a little.  I want all of the "bravado" to be removed from the house plans if that makes any sense.  (BTW, I'm being this frank with you about this project because the client is my cousin & I think I can get away with it ;)

The architect will be making a few changes to lighten it up slightly.   (  :/  )

In the drawing below, you can see that there's a ten foot overhang along the entire back of the house...  In front of the family room , the living room, upstairs bedrooms including the master, and most of the kitchen.  (It makes me sick writing that haha.)  Adam spends most of his time outside and entertains all the time for friends.  He's setting this house up as the ultimate bachelor pad that will hopefully one day also work for a family.  

At my nudging, the columns will now be square, stucco and clean instead of round & decorative.  The arches will be gentler and we're removing some of the columns so that the arches will now be more "eyebrow" shaped instead of semi-circle.  Removing some of the columns will lighten it up a little so I'm glad for that, but still worried.  The bay window glass (toward the left side) will now be extended completely to the corners (this is in the kitchen) to maximize the sunlight in the single uncovered window in the entire back of the house.  

 It's not everything I wanted (I was really gunning for a removal of the overhang at least in front of the kitchen/ family room but of course that kind of changes EVERYTHING including the roof line & the pleasing look on the exterior and we're trying to get the plans approved asap...  I should've been brought in sooner!! argg)

Letting that one go, let's move on to the interiors.  I've gotten every Corinthian column inside to be turned into simple square columns.  The house will be Mediterranean in feeling and I'm opening up Adam to the idea of "less is more."  (Which is sort of a foreign concept to my cousin...  Somehow he has THE BEST taste & ideas in landscaping & outdoor spaces but inside, I swear he's got Kirkland's on his speed dial.)  He normally loves anything "Tuscan" which I've dubbed in our offices as "Fauxscan" and he's also drawn to very dark, formal, opulent spaces- burgundies & golds and TASSLES and curls & swirls. (sooooo not me.)

 (We don't live in Tuscany!! Putting up palm tree prints or street scene artwork with really terrible painted metallic frames is NEVER going to change that!!  Neither will lots of scrolly iron & dark wood furniture.  I can say this because at one time, I too, was into Fauxscan...  and it was bad.)

BUT-  Adam is really open to the idea of simplifying the house and going for more of a "rough luxe" feel...  In all honesty, even though he's been loving Fauxscan for so long, my cousin is turning into one of my most receptive clients ever.  He will initially say "No, I hate that," when I propose something outside of his comfort zone, but then he listens to why I think something should be and he usually comes around.

He really wants to bring stone and/or brickwork into the kitchen & I love this idea...  I think he was originally envisioning it as more of a dark Tudor-esque kitchen, but he's coming around to lightening things up a bit.  I love this type of stonework- seen in an Italian villa (below)& am envisioning it on the two main kitchen walls- as backsplash & above the cabinets...

Here's more beautiful stonework in a kitchen as I envision it:

Although I love it, the look above is too modern & primitive for Adam but the floors are similar to the limestone ones we're going with and the walls are spot on. 

While in Florida, I met with the kitchen cabinet maker & the designer/artist they work with to create the preliminary hand-drawn rendering of how the kitchen will look.  He is an insanely talented artist and can draw beautiful things in two seconds.  What I'm asking for, however, is very different from the normal kitchens they do which tend to be more formal and more decorative, so it's been a challenging process.  I worked on the kitchen plan before we met together and knew almost exactly what we wanted,  but because we're so different, aesthetically, I think they're having a bit of a tough time giving us what I've asked for.  (And I know how it feels to have to create a design that goes against what you believe in and it's not easy to do so I can only imagine what I PAIN I am to them.  haha)

So, I'll share with you the very first rendering of the kitchen:

I was honestly shocked when I saw a Medieval coat of arms on the island and at all of the twisted iron detailing, the drawbridge shelving and the castle doors on the fridge.  I guess someone had said "Medieval" at the meeting and so this happened.  The artist/designer is very accommodating, however, and has been amazing with giving me lots of revisions and the drawing you see below is almost exactly what I'd originally specified, except we will be going with 1 type of stone everywhere (behind the shelves too) and also where you see brickwork so that the hood doesn't jump out so much:

I'm not sure that this is the final plan for the kitchen but it is where I'd intended to start from in the first place.    Adam loves the stone fireplace exhaust above the range and it was his main stipulation.  I'm intrigued but don't know how I feel about it yet.  It's good to have this drawing to mull over.  The cabinets you see here will be in a washed cream and a second island (not shown here) will be in a darker stained pecky cypress.  To give you an idea of scale, the ceilings are twelve (!!) feet high.  It's a little bigger than I find comfortable to be honest but I know it will help with the sunlight situation because the sliders are also very tall.  

I'm envisioning it all in a lighter crumbly stone like this one:

I think the drawing still feels a bit over the top to me but that in reality with all one stone, the hood will blend a bit more and might not feel so overpowering.  (Overpowering is what my cousin wants BTW.)

The designer/artist also sent me this drawing last night, which is his own interpretation on Adam's stone fireplace exhaust, which I'm also very intrigued by:

It seems softened a bit and I like that.  I think I'd like to see the vertical portion of the chimney be widened a bit so Adam is getting a tadm ore of what he wants, but this feels a little humbler to me somehow, and I'm excited about that.  What do you think?  I haven't shown any of these new revisions to Adam yet (and he doesn't read my blog ;) but when I get down to my final choice, I'll be showing him.  

I have to run for the day, so I'll share more about the project another day but would love your thoughts on the range hood as we;re finalizing today!!  And also- if you have any other thought of how to maximize light with exterior changes... would love to know.  Anyone know of anything like a glass roof that you could walk on safely that we could maybe put over the family room overhang without frying the people under it?  

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Where I've Been...

I'm one of those people who never wants to come home from vacation.  For someone who loves being home so much, I still have trouble fathoming wanting to come home from any vacation that's under at least a month.  (And we never get away for a whole month so maybe if we did, I'd still want more.)  

{I'm proud of my little guys for carrying all of their own things through the airport and everywhere- Christian (5) and Justin (3)...  Justin got slower at the end but we got no complaints!}

We spent the past week in the Keys (Islamorada) and just had the most relaxing time. My goal (and Dave's too!) on this trip was to try to "get bored."  It didn't happen though.  I've realized I just don't think I'm capable of boredom any more.  When I was a little girl, my grandmother never let me say the word "bored."  She believed (and I now agree) there's always something that could be done and that there's no excuse for being bored.  She'd say, "Don't say that word!"

{We stayed here- The Cheeca Lodge and I've never loved a hotel/resort so much!!}

I flipped over the shower... (below)   Do you see that the back wall is a sliding glass door?  You could open it up to the private balcony for showers.


And on the private balcony was this tub:

The water for the tub came from the ceiling in a really strong (hose-like) stream (not ike a shower head but a totally solid stream of water)... It was insane & so beautiful.  I  loved looking out at the tropical foliage.  The curtains could zip close if you needed privacy.  We used the tub when Justin got stung by a man-of-war and the poor guy had to soak in scalding water to release the poison.  I felt bad that he had to endure the hot water so I did it too and I kept saying, "We're going to to this together. Mommy's here." and he finally said "Mama, why do you keep saying that??"

There was lots of quality family time, which we so needed... Our house and life are so full all of the time, so it was really important for us to be able to just focus on spending time with each other.

We lazed around the beach and the boys really bonded...

We basically just wandered around with each other, ate a TON, read, swam and relaxed:

I loved the tea stand Cheeca set out every morning....

We had some windy days and I loved being in sweats on the beach with my tea & my man:

The baby (Luke, also known as "Louie" or "Lulu") pretty much stuffed his face with crackers the entire trip:

{His favorite toy is a wooden chicken drumstick...  I don't get it}

I loved getting to be with my family 24/7 for a full week.

 We felt like were alone most of the time which was what we wanted more than anything...  We had a spot on the beach or lagoon to ourselves on most days because the resort is so spread out.

We explored the tiki torch-lit nature trails at night & I loved how they made these palm trees grow:

We enjoyed drinks & dinner under the tiki bar & I loved the lanterns:

Something for everyone:

I'm home feeling ready to rock and get moving on a bunch of exciting projects.  (And I CANNOT WAIT to go back one day!!)

I'll be back later this week to tell you about an amazing project we're working on in Florida!!  I'm so excited!!

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.