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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guest Bathroom Reclaimed

When I first stepped inside this narrow bathroom, it was a bit like being trapped inside a lemon drop!  It was so confining and the space had been taken over by my client's product loving, messy, teenage son.


What the clients asked for: A lighter, brighter space that their daughter could enjoy on visits home from college, but also a space that would accommodate visiting guests.  And, do it without using high end materials since most of the budget would be allocated to the master bath renovation.  The storage concerns would be partially addressed by relocating their son to his own little "man cave" in the the basement that already had a full bath.


What I proposed: Put a skylight in (agreed) to bring in some desperately needed natural light.  It's an interior space, so a small window was not an option.  Eliminate the door going into the son's former bedroom.  This was the worst layout for an ensuite bathroom I have ever seen.  There were literally 3 doors converging onto one another, all within mere inches of the next! The one that led into the bedroom, directly behind the main door entering into the bathroom (although surprised by this suggestion, agreed) needed to be eliminated.  And by making this change, the cabinet doors and drawers would no longer collide with the entry doors.  It would provide some sound proofing for the bedroom and also create some much needed wall space in the bedroom to place furniture.  A white (nixed) wood sink cabinet with deeper drawers for storage.  A slab mirror with a beveled edge (agreed) so nothing would protrude into this narrow space.  Wall mounted lights centered over each sink (agreed) versus their current location, which was in the middle of the wall.  Plus, add a light over the shower (agreed) and new exhaust vent.

There was another thing that really struck me, but in a comical way, when I first entered this space. Did you spot the bizzare feature?  The mirror extended beyond the sink console and over the toilet.  Charming.  We all had a good laugh about this "design" feature that builders employ to make small bathrooms appear larger. However, this certainly isn't the way to do it!

I suggested using a medium format subway tile in the shower with a green glass listello banding (nixed-the wife dislikes all brick patterns and the husband is not crazy for the color green) and a glass shower enclosure with gliding doors (agreed) to add more visual length.  Install a large porcelain tile on the floor and lay it on the 45 (agreed) to make the space feel wider.  Select fixtures and hardware in a brushed nickel (agreed) finish in a modern style.

The end result: A much lighter, brighter space with an airy feel to it.  We found a large white tile that was installed vertically in the shower and added a glass and marble mosiac band, a little splurge, flanked by the green glass listellos.  The daughter loved all the green! The mosaic originally had some blacks and grays mixed in, which I liked, but the clients did not care for the variations.   So I had the tiler remove them and replace them with the preferred tones.  I picked up the toffee color from the marble band for the sink console.

I really struggled with the paint on this project.  If you look at the shot of the back of the shower (above) you can see the clouds parted and there was a ray of light streaming through the skylight that illuminated the little fern on the back of the toilet.  Choosing the paint was challenging because of the lighting conditions, the size of the space, and the various materials to consider.  We did several large test samples and in the end settled on one the husband preferred that had a more gray undertone. In the daylight it is really lovely and calm. This was quite a transformation and the clients were pleased with the outcome and again vowing never to let their teenage son set foot in the space!

What could be better at the end of a bath reno than a stack of fluffy white towels!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday Tip

I think many of us, whether we are designers managing tight budgets or home owners looking to make little updates, watching for sales is an often necessary part of design.

My pick today is Anthropologie!  I have a long standing affection for this store.  It has an eclectic array of merchandise that appeals to a broad range of ages and tastes.  I do however, have a great deal of trouble paying full price for items that are often deemed unnecessary.  I shop their sales and pick up items that I can use in my own home, design projects, or to give as gifts to friends and family.  So, with the 20/10 rule in place, here's what I found:

Woodland Creatures Pot Au Chocolat:  I am certain any hot chocolate will taste divine poured from this pot, as well as delight both young and old with this whimsical design!!!  At $19.95 it is the most expensive item of my lot, but who could resist???

Love Bird Salt & Pepper Shakers:  For spring luncheons, Mother's Day, a friend's birthday, a collector, or dining alfresco in the summer.  At $12/pair, a very sweet tweet-tweet!

Laurel Leaf Bowls:  Wonderful raised details and a soothing blue color to compliment many dishes already in your cupboard.  And if you have glass front cabinets, like I do, your dishes need to be pretty and practical to hold up to everyday use.  These bowls are a good deal at $7.95 each because they are microwave and dishwasher safe!

Olive Picks:  These look like miniture tulips!  Made from olivewood, each one has its own unique characteristics.  At $3.95 each, buy them to encourage good manners!!!  Add your favorite jar of olives, a beautiful ribbon and you just created the perfect 10 minute hostess gift!  They would also be great tied on packages or dropped into stockings.  I wish I had bought hurry!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Famille Rose Chinese Celadon Plates

I was drawn to these plates simply for the color and beautiful artistry after first seeing them at an antiques fair.  I began to look for them each time there was an opportunity.  Several years ago during the fall, my husband and I attended an antiques show and purchased one large, two medium, and two small plates from an English dealer.  We were so fortunate that day, because not only were we able to purchase these plates at very reasonable prices, but they were void of chips and the overall condition was excellent.  In addition, he took a few moments to give us a brief history:

The celadon plates were made only in the 19th century.  They are hand painted using a raised enamel technique.  Along with the rose details, butterflies and the bird of paradise are prominent features.  The plates also have gilding around the edge.  The dark blue Chinese signature on the back makes them more desirable to some.

Later, I came across this absolutely stunning collection of celadon plates in the November 2004 issue of Country Home magazine.  The homeowner is an antiques dealer!!!  Not only was I still (and continue to be) on the hunt for more small plates, originally I had no idea there were so many other interesting sizes and shapes.  Occasionally, I will come across one on ebay, but still prefer to see them in person.  Hopefully,  one day, I will be able to add some of these beauties to my tiny collection. Then maybe, I too could create a more interesting arrangement!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Tulips.  It was a beautiful day in Virginia and a great day for flowers.  Trader Joe's had Tulips for $4.99 a bunch!!!  Every color you could possibly imagine.  Even on a tight budget, flowers are one of the things I always think are worth a little splurge.  My pick today was purple. And here is my version of a 10 minute arrangement.  Fill your favorite vessel with cold water, cut the stems, gather the bouquet in your hand, submerge the ends in the water and gently release.  Voila!

I thought it would be fun to have the focus of my Tuesday posts be on sharing an inspiring or informative tip following what I call the 20/10 rule.  I will share either a great decorative item, inspiring idea or information about a product that costs $20 or less and/or takes about 10 minutes to execute.  I find so much pleasure in the smallest detail or thoughtful gesture and hope you will too!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dunhill Chair: The Saga

My affection for leather chairs boasting nailhead trim began quite by accident.  It was February 2001 and I was in Paris strolling the flea markets with my husband on the last day of our trip.  I had already had a very successful shopping day having found an elusive pair of blue enamel opera glasses, a beautiful lock with it's original key, and an iron hook with a brass acorn tip!  But then, as we turned to leave, I spotted them. They were old, worn and a bit tattered.  Perfectly imperfect.  My husband and I loved them, but even in our very limited French knew we could not afford them.  The quest was on. When we returned home I began the search.  Little did I know it would more than take 8 years.

That same year we moved to Williamsburg, Virginia and I became friends with a women who had lived in Paris.  She had chairs.  And they were exquisite along with  her many other fine French antiques. Torture.  In the summer of 2005 we moved back to our home in Northern Virginia and embarked on a four year, and counting, long renovation of our home.  My husband and I agreed early on we needed to find chairs that had the character and essence of the French chairs for our small library.

So I consoled myself with pictures like this...

                                      Country Home -April 2003
and this...

                                                  Traditional Home

In October of 2007 while waiting for a gift to be packaged at Crate & Barrel, I browsed.  And there at the top of the esculator were my chairs!  They were not remotely typical for the style C&B is known and loved for.  And, the price tag indicated this at nearly $2,000 each!!!  Not only did they have brass nailheads, but this unique suede band and carved wood details,.  I called my work.  I took a picture with my phone.  I printed out a picture from computer when I returned home.  I talked about the chairs...a lot.  I would visit my chairs every time I came into the store.  I would save for them.

Along with the renovation costs, other unpleasant things like a new roof and HVAC system kept the "Objects of My Affection" away.  The saga rolled on....until November 2009.  Again, I found myself at C&B at the end of a very long day of Christmas shopping.  I browsed.  I did not see my chairs, but was so tired, I did not mind.  I left with my purchases and drove home.  When I got home I checked the C&B web-site for assurance.  None to be found.  I quickly snapped out of my shopping induced coma. I called the store and a women with a very nice voice on the other end of the line said a very bad word called "DISCONTINUED"!!!  However, they might be able to locate some on the computer or from another store.  But with each keystroke hope was dashed.  At just that moment, her manager arrived and she put me on hold, presumably to relay she was talking to a nut bag ready to have a meltdown!  But she didn't say that.  Instead she said a really good word called "ACTUALLY" followed by "we have two".  The last two had just been marked down and sent to the lower vestibule to be sold as floor samples.  They could not hold them.  I had to come now, pay and  pick them up before they closed.  YES! YES! and YES!

I left $20 and a note for my teenage son to buy dinner explaining that I had a "crisis" that couldn't wait.  And back I drove, in rush hour this time, in the same direction I had just come from an hour earlier.  I thanked everyone profusely and drove home...smiling all the way.  When my husband arrived home from Afghanistan(where he has been working as a civilian) for Christmas and saw the chairs, he smiled so broadly and said "finally".  I smile every time I walk into this room.  It was worth the wait.

So, if you hung in there for this story, tell me about something big or small that possessed you?        

Monday, January 11, 2010

Combining Classic and Modern

This photo is from the October 2006 issue of Traditional Home. Sadly, I was so enthralled with the image that I ripped it out without so much as a tiny notation.  I go back to it often.  I think it is a beautiful example of what can happen when we combine modern & classic pieces together for everyday living.  The three classic elements: the secretary, the floors and the wall color are balanced by the three modern elements: the artwork, pendant light with it's oversized shade, and the sculptural chair.

I would  have never thought to put this chair(wish I knew more about sexy!) in this space.  I may have considered a Louis Ghost chair, but that's likely as far as I would have dared.  I think I would have prefered to see maybe orange tulips on the desk instead of the roses and far less collectables behind the fretwork of the secretary.  But maybe these elements are part of what makes it all work.  Love it or hate it? 

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Master Bath Renovation

My final project for 2009 was the renovation of three bathrooms for a husband and wife.  They were new clients and a pleasure to work for.  I worked primarily with the husband and that was a new experience for me, since most of my clients are either women or my main interactions are with the wife.  I would love to have more male clients. It is always refreshing to gain a new perspective.

The before pictures show what is a very typical bathroom for this neighborhood.  Most of the homes were built in the early 90's.  The lighting was dismal, storage not ideal, the sink console was very low, and the shower was extremely small for a master bath in a tradtional home that is over 4,000 sq. ft. And, then there was that awful roman tub.  A concept that I will never understand!

What the clients asked for:  Work within the current footprint to create a modern space.  Include plenty of lighting, better storage, but nothing too shiny, and no white cabinets or espresso stained wood.

What I proposed:  Eliminate the soffit over the sink console that contained the recessed lights (something they originally did not embrace) in favor of 3 sconces (nixed-they wanted them wall mounted over the mirrors) on the back wall between two rectangular mirrors.  Put in a free standing tub (nixed-the husband has a very stressful job and wanted a large jetted tub) in order to make the shower longer and more comfortable to move around.  A serene pallete of creamy marble and a spa- inspired blue,their favorite color (agreed-loved) and understated hardware and fixtures (agreed) so the tile would garner most of the attention. Shorten the counter run a bit to widen the shower as well as do a pony wall on this side too to let in more light (not sure initially because again it meant losing the soffit) as well as help with the ventillation issues.

The end result:  A modern space that is a serene, spa- inspired master retreat. The storage is now more efficient with lots of drawers, the lighting more than adequate (there are also seven 4" recessed cans in the vaulted ceiling), the ventillation issues addressed, as well as a wider and longer shower.  When the walls came down, there was a surprise waiting behind them ...isn't there always...but this time it involved 10 inches of prime real estate! The plumbing had originally been "cheated" to line up with the sink run.  I remember when the GC called to tell me of the discovery.  I was over the moon with excitement and rushed over to see the "find"!

As with any large renovation that involves many trades, it was an adventure in issues, errors, delays and compromises.  The final result was  a wonderful collaboration, two happy clients, and a project I am proud to put my name on.
Note: On load in day the two mirrors had not arrived!  Super disappointing because we had three people scheduled for this, all with very tight schedules...days before Thanksgiving!  I took comfort in knowing this has even happened the great Vicente Wolf!  See his blog for the story.  When I do my web site hopefully it will include the shot with the mirrors.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Fresh Take on a Kitchen

I received my February issue of House Beautiful a week ago and finally had a chance to read it.  The story of the kitchen renovation by designers Richard Norris and Mark Leslie was a reminder of why design is so captivating.  They live in a 1915 Federal Style Home and reworked the interior to allow the kitchen to be relocated to the existing unused dining space.  The goal was to create a space that did not feel like a kitchen but to make it translate to more of a dining room.  Mission Accomplished!

I've seen mirrors used behind stoves before and rather like the application...but this enormous Napolean III beauty is a show stopper!  It serves to not only make the stove virtually dissappear but gives the room such an elegant atmosphere.

I love this photo!  A  truly fresh and original design.  The unique chandelier is actually two antique sconces that were screwed together. The sink is incorporated into a sideboard.  The faucet is wall mounted on a rectangle slab of marble and becomes art itself while surrounded by 5 prints in the exact same size hung in a grid.  The owners have other prints to change out at whim.  A stroke of genius!  This kitchen renovation will definately go in my book of favorites.