Sunday, July 6, 2014

New Baby, No Time to Spare

It's amazing how much a new baby changes your life!  Sweet baby Anders made his debut a little over seven weeks ago, and since then my life has felt like a blur.  I've barely had a change to log onto Facebook, much less add posts to my design blog.  Even with a ton of help from both sets of grandparents, we are struggling to keep things running in the Mayden house.  What little energy I have to spare is going into work-related projects and running the business.  (Construction doesn't stop when you have a baby!)  So, sadly, the blogging has had to get put aside for a while, at least until we find our rhythm again.  For now, I'm posting some favorite family photos, showing what my life has been like these last couple months.

Mother's Day, pre-baby.  Jasper and Karsten were so excited to give me their cards that they didn't even take the time to get dressed first.

Anders Johann Mayden.  Born May 15th, 2014, weighing 8lbs 2oz and sporting a lovely head of dark hair.

Anders first bath at home.

One thing's for sure: this baby gets lots of attention from his brothers! Here Karsten checks in at feeding time.

Sweet little baby feet!  I take a picture like this with each of my boys, so I can remember their adorable their little toes.

Here is Anders today, hanging out with Daddy and Jasper.  What sweet boys I have! 

Anders is starting to smile now. This is the part I love!  Here Daddy makes him grin.

So there you have it--the last two months for me.  These happy moments seen here, plus more than a few sleepless nights, tons of kid-generated chaos, and all the stress of work.  Ahh, it's a wonderful life and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I feel so blessed right now.


Friday, May 9, 2014

The Evolution of a Dining Room

My last blog post featured an updated fireplace in a client's home and gave a sneak peak at some of the work we've been doing in her living room.  In addition to the fireplace, there are several other things we've been working on, including custom living room furnishings and a handful of adjustments to the existing dining room layout and decor.  While I want to save the full reveal for a time when we've been able to get in there and properly photograph the entire space, I thought it would be fun to share how we've transformed her dining area from somewhat plain and lacking in focus, to a room that is stylish and cohesive, all with just a few adjustments that can be easily replicated.  (To be fair, while I make this sound simple, the transformation took place in stages over the course of several months.)  Here's how we did it.

When we started, the client had a fairly new dining set in perfect condition.  The set wasn't necessarily in keeping with the new style direction she wanted to go in, (Translation: more contemporary, with a touch of mid-century and "glam" mixed in) but she very matter-of-factly stated that she didn't want to replace it.  While I don't consider myself a wasteful person, this type of situation is always a big challenge for designers--how to work in preexisting pieces without compromising the integrity of the new design. We smile at the client and say "no problem," but inwardly we're groaning!  Several things bugged me about this particular set.  For starters, the chair seats were covered in black leather.  Practical to be sure, but also aesthetically boring.  Secondly, the scale didn't seem right for the space.  It looked too small and all those identical chairs created visual clutter instead of supporting the room's most obvious focal point: the formal dining table.  Beyond the dining table were two additional major pieces that, while beautiful, weren't living up to their full potential.  One was a gleaming baby grand piano, tucked in a corner so far away from the viewer that it was hard to appreciate its gorgeous lines and stately elegance.  The other was a beautiful yet misplaced antique chaise lounge, which seemed to reside in an awkward location.    
The "Before" shot of the Dining Room

Clearly, the first order of business was a new furniture layout for the room.  We decided to anchor the space with a very large, custom area rug in a single, rich shade of teal.  We choose that color because it complimented the tones in the hardwood floors and because teal was also the primary accent color in the adjacent living room.  Repeating the same accent color helped us to unify these two areas.  Then we turned the existing table at an angle, which is always more visually dynamic, and allowed for better flow between the indoor dining space to the adjoining outdoor patio.  The chaise went away (sadly, it just wasn't right for this project) and instead we brought in a new console cabinet, which is intended to function as a bar area.  The new console has the mid-century feel that the client wanted, and is distinctively different in style and finish from the dining room table, to keep things from feeling too "matchy-matchy"--one of my biggest pet peeves.  We relocated the console to the corner previously occupied by the piano and moved the piano to a more prominent position, just off the foyer and next to a beautiful, art-glass wall that had been added during an earlier remodel.  In this new arrangement, the piano and the glass wall are like a dynamic duo, each calling attention to one another without competing or clashing.    

To freshen the dining set, we had the chair seats reupholstered in a fun fabric that features a popular mid-century Sputnik motif.  The fabric pattern is small in scale, so it's subtle. But it helps the chairs to relate to the character of the buffet, as well as the new pieces that were purchased for the Living Room.  (Design Tip: changing the fabric on dining chairs is always a good way to update the look of a room when operating on a limited budget.  Minimal yardage is needed and while we had ours professionally done, swapping out the fabric is an easy DIY project that can be done in a couple hours with the aid of a staple gun.  I can't tell you how many times I changed out the fabric on the thrift-store dining chairs I owned during my college and pre-married days.

At this point, things were starting to look better, but we still needed a few major tweaks to whip this room into shape.  Here's how it looked mid-project: improved, but not yet great.

A quick photo analysis told me that a handful of things still needed attention: 1) The new rug, while beautiful, needed to be balanced with the addition of some equally bold pieces.  (When I look at this photo, all I see are bold rug and black piano.  Everything else just seems to be a jumble.)  2)  Then there was the new console cabinet.  Charming to be sure, but lost and lonely looking in the corner.  What we needed was some height behind it, to balance the room and draw the eye from foreground to background.  3) Lastly, the dining set still needed some major "ooomph."  Even with the new upholstery, it continued to look like a collection of uninteresting chairs.  So I did what I always like to do when I'm feeling a little puzzled, mid-project.  I took this photo, laid some tracing paper of the top, and began to sketch ways to "fix" the room.  (I should interject here that in my line work, some rooms come together seamlessly from initial concept to completion, with no adjustments needed along the way.  Others, like this one, are a series of alternating additions and re-evaluations until the project is finally complete.)

 I then sourced the items shown in the sketch and presented everything to the client.  Thankfully, she was on board and got right to work ordering the pieces I suggested: two captain's chairs in ivory leather to anchor the ends of the dining table, a pair of over-sized mirrors to go behind the bar console, and a chic lamp to top it off.  Also at my recommendation, she replaced the large single painting behind the piano with a trio of three smaller pieces and and viola, the room  looks SO much better!  

The dining set, with the new leather end-chairs, now fits the scale of the space much more appropriately.  The ivory leather looks fresh and pretty against the teal rug and adds major pop against the backdrop of the glossy black piano.  The large mirrors behind the bar console add height and drama, while intentionally repeating the black finish of the piano.  The new art trio is more visually stimulating that a single painting and  keeps the back wall from looking too heavy.  In my mind, this portion of the project was a success and I'm glad the homeowner trusted me through the various stages of the design process.  She now she has a very interesting and dynamic dining space that  I hope she'll feel proud to entertain in.  She got to keep her dining set, and I'm no longer groaning on the inside.  "No problem" really was "no problem."  The client is pleased and therefore so am I.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Fireplace Facelift

I've been working with a client for several months now to furnish adjoining living and dining areas.  Before I arrived on the scene, the 1950's rambler had been recently gutted and overhauled, giving it a fresh, contemporary vibe.  The homeowners and project architect (Dave Heinen of Barking Dog Design) did a wonderful job re-imagining the space. They took down walls to connect the living, dining and kitchen areas, into one, big, free-flowing space.  The new layout feels open, spacious, and contemporary yet warm, with a beautiful interplay between the indoors and outdoors.  Large windows line the front and the back of the home, while a vaulted ceiling in the middle of the adjoining rooms allows for clerestory lights.  At the back of the house, just off the kitchen, one wall of windows folds up to allow complete, unencumbered access between the indoor and outdoor entertaining spaces. La Cantina Doors

When I started the project, back in August 2013, the bones of the space were already in great shape--all the space lacked was paint and cohesive furniture selections/placement.  Well, almost.  One other glaring weak point was the pre-existing brick fireplace surround, dating back to the original construction of the home.  The tired-looking brick facade just didn't seem to work with the new, clean aesthetic, even with the handsome, live-edge wood mantel that the homeowners had added.

"Before" Image of Existing Brick Fireplace Surround

We jumped right in and started working on floor plans, paint colors, and furniture/fabric selections for the two spaces (more on that in a future post), vowing to address the fireplace at some point down the road. About half-way into the project, I stumbled upon the inspiration I needed, in the form of a wedge-shaped, natural stone tile, called V-tile by "Island Stone." Vtile by Island Stone  It came in several colors and we eventually settled on a medium gray Quartzite, which had a nice neutral tone but was far from boring, with naturally occurring sparkles and flecks.  After watching a very informative video on the manufacturer's website  about suggested patterns for the product, we decided to do a dry-stack (no grout) application, with alternating rows or courses of (1) large V-tile, then (2) narrow.  The tiles were placed thick-end to thick-end, then thin-end to thin-end, producing a lovely undulating effect.   The finished fireplace is perfect for the space.  It's tall, stately, and deceptively simplistic looking.  The colors of the Quartzite blend nicely with the pre-existing black slate hearth and the undulating tiles give the room richness and depth.  So much so that the client and I both felt the fireplace no longer needed a mantel or embellishment in the form of hung art.  The fireplace surround IS the work of art.

We're still fine tuning the newly acquired furnishings and adding finishing touches to the room, so I don't want to reveal the whole thing just yet, but I am happy to say that we've found a clever reuse for the beautiful live-edge mantel that came off the old fireplace.  We've decided to use it as a floating wall shelf, just to the left of the fireplace, creating a little spot to set a drink, place a candle or two, and nestle a floating ottoman beneath.  I've very excited that we get to reuse this piece and can't wait to see it once it's hung.  

Discussing Placement of the Floating Shelf
There are so many more neat features to this project, and hopefully things will wrap up in the next couple of months and I will be able to reveal more of the space.  For now, consider this a little teaser. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Few Favorite Things

With ten weeks and counting until the arrival of boy number three, life has transitioned from fast-paced to warp-speed.  Our home is a veritable whirlwind of activity, from home improvement projects, to kid play dates, work obligations and school volunteer commitments.  Somehow it's going to all get done in time for the little man to make his grand entrance into this crazy family.  And I hope to enjoy every moment of it and HIM!

(View from Breakfast Area into Formal Dining Room)
The house has been a little torn up lately, as we're tackling some much-needed improvements in our kitchen.  (Probably not the best timing--I know!)  We started small, but then got caught up in the excitement of renovation and fell into the trap of "scope creep." At first it was just going to be fresh coat of paint and new counter tops, but then we decided to knock down a wall here, add some new cabinets there, redo a chunk of electrical, etc, etc.  Now our little kitchen project is feeling like a big project and while I'm happy with the changes thus far, I can't help but feel a little anxious about the mess and getting it all done.

When the house is torn up like it is now, it's easy for me to start fussing over all the things I don't like about this place, instead of focusing on the all the things I DO enjoy.  So, to help bring back those warm, fuzzy thoughts of gratitude, I thought it would be fun to do a quick little blog post on some of my favorite things in my home.  I'm one of those weird people that gets excited about small details, and when things "click" for me visually, I can't help but smile. So here goes...

(Living Room)
The Living Room is one of my favorite parts of the house, and not necessarily for the decor, but because one whole wall is windows, looking out onto our back yard and the golf course beyond.  I love the light these windows bring in, as well as the views of the tall evergreen trees and the well-manicured lawn of the golf course.  Inside, I love my quirky, mismatched furniture, as seen in the photo above.  The painted chair was purchased at a thrift store several years back and in it's original state was a dark brown wood.  I painted it Antique White and had new seat and back cushions made for it.  I also get a kick out of my tall, cone-shaped lamp which has a distinct 70's flair.  It's a 70's house after all, so why not??  Additionally, I'm very attached to my art.  I've hung two very large, yet different pieces side by side, behind the sofa, to break up the expanse of off-white sofa against off-white wall.  I love the texture and pattern they bring to the room, along with a shot of color.

(Living Room)
On the other side of the Living Room sits another favorite vignette.  An Indigo-colored armless chair (cozy crash spot next to the wood burning fireplace), perched next to an imported drum table (more texture and pattern!), on top of which sits my beloved Air Fern.  In general, think that house plants do wonders for the life of a room, but this one in particular is a favorite.  I baby it as much as I can, in hopes that it will last a long, long time.

(Living Room Window Treatments)
I'm a big fan of custom window treatments, when budget allows.  I splurged a bit in my Living and Dining Rooms and had roman shades custom tailored.  I like the clean, simple look of a roman shade, but for this room I added just a bit of fun with a contrasting border in a little block-print fabric.  Pattern is one of my favorite elements to play with, but the key to doing pattern well is knowing how much and where to use it for the most dramatic effect.  I like how these turned out--a bit of interest yet still understated.  

(Dining Room)
You know the old saying, "the best things in life are free", well my antique buffet might just be proof of that.  I scored this vintage piece while traipsing through a house for sale in my old neighborhood.  The seller was giving away a few pieces of unwanted furniture and this was one of them.  I was more than happy to take it off his hands.  So much so that my husband and I promptly carried it out the door, down the steps and a block up the street to where I lived.  One man's junk is another man's (or woman's!) treasure.  Granted, the finish is not so hot, but I love the whimsy of the piece, the nod to the past in an otherwise more contemporary room, as well as the very practical storage it provides.  Also note the fun buffet lamps--the silver bases have a great shell pattern stamped into them.  I love nautical motifs, as long as they are subtle like this and don't appear in excess all over the house.

(Dining Room Art)
Also in my Dining Room is a favorite piece of wall art.  While I paid next to nothing for it, it has great sentimental value.  It is a collection of four, hand-watercolored bookmarks, depicting famous scenes from the city of Florence--the Fountain of Neptune, Il Duomo, and the Ponte Vecchio. I purchased them in a little book shop in Florence while on my honeymoon  I had little money to spare, but  I wanted to bring back an interesting memento from our travels.  I was delighted to find these bookmarks for just a few dollars each and knew immediately that they would look fantastic if grouped together in an elegant frame. Good art doesn't have to cost a lot; it just has to have personal meaning and convey something of beauty.  Also noteworthy here is the little ceramic plaque, depicting a traditional German marriage scene and bearing the names of my husband and me, as well as the date of our wedding.  This piece was handmade in Germany (another location on our honeymoon) and sent to us by some German friends as a wedding gift.  It's one of my little "treasures."

(Master Bedroom)
There are several things that I love in my bedroom, the first of which is my wall of family photos.  I sifted through piles of family snapshots to find my favorite photos, then had them enlarged and mounted in simple white frames that I purchased from Target.  I love that the last thing that I see at night (besides my sweet husband) and the first thing that I see each morning, are the smiling faces of my kids.  They are a great reminder of just how blessed I am.  If I had to name a second favorite thing here, I'd have to say my funky, white, bedside lamps.  I purchased these several years ago from West Elm and had to order four of them before I finally had a matching set of two that had safely withstood shipping.  The ceramic bases kept breaking off at the narrow part of the urn and I had to keep calling the retailer to request new ones.  Luckily, my perseverance paid off and I finally have a matching set.  I sure hope they never break as West Elm no longer sells them and I absolutely adore them for their quirkiness.

(Bedroom Dresser)
Also from West Elm (love that store!) is this little, white lacquered tray.  I use trays all over the house to control clutter and and liked this one as a little gathering spot for cologne and body spray.  And yes, that's another funky lamp to the left of the tray!  I guess we're establishing a pattern here.

(Master Bath)
Lastly, here is my Master Bath, which my husband and I fully renovated last year. (See earlier blog post.) I like just about everything in it, but a particular favorite is the tiny, crystal, ceiling-mount light fixture.  I generally like my spaces simple and a tad on the rustic side, but in this instance, I felt the bath begged for a bit of luxury.  I added the crystal fixture for a touch of feminine flair and because my bathroom is the one place in my house that needn't withstand the wear and tear of (soon to be) three rough and tumble boys.  It's the place I go to have a good soak, recharge, and enjoy some peace and quiet.  Thankfully, my husband indulged me here.

(Master Bath)
This next photo is another view of my Master Bath and hopefully gives a little glimpse of how I like to contrast elegant fixtures with rustic finishes.  I clad the walls with knotty-pine tongue and groove bead board (very cottage-like), painted it white, then added matching His and Hers porcelain sinks on gleaming chrome consoles.  The faucets are higher-end and also polished chrome, but then I added more rustic flavor with a highly-distressed, wood mirror than spans both vanities.  The pairing is probably unusual, but that's why I like it.  Why be predictable?

Lastly, I included this photo to show what the top of the mirror looks like.  If has a fun, clipped corner detail that fits nicely around the pair of wall sconces that sit to the outside edges of the pedestal sinks.  I like how the shape of the mirror tied the whole ensemble together and kept the room from feeling too glam--which wouldn't really be me.  

So there you have it, a sneak peak into my life and some of my favorite things.  I always joke that my house doesn't look like a designer lives in it (I didn't show you the bad parts!), but then again, that's not really the point.  Interior design is not about perfection, status, or how much you spend, but rather what your environment does to nourish and enrich your life.  Good residential design should create functionality for day-to day living, grant warmth and comfort, and tell the story of the people who live there.  It's a story that is ever evolving, just as a home is always changing.  It's a "given" that in two months time, my home will look completely different--over run with with diapers, burp rags, swaddle blankets and binkies.  Not picture perfect, but enjoyed nonetheless by all who live here.  I can't wait!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Getting Ready for Baby (and the Superbowl)

With baby number three on the way, I've been doing my fair share of organizing and cleaning.  It all started last Christmas, when I decided there was no better time than the present to start making things baby-ready. At that time, the nursery was being used as a playroom for the boys, so with a little creativity, a lot of shuffling, and a ton of help from my husband, we moved the "big boy" toys to the basement and turned the playroom back into a proper nursery.  And so the room sits, waiting for sweet baby number three, not due until the beginning of May.

The room actually came together pretty easily this time, primarily because we're having our third boy and we don't really need anything new.  We still had the old crib (a lovely custom-made piece from a past client), a classic white Pottery Barn changing table, super-functional Ikea bookcase, and a neutral sofa left over from a home staging project.  The sofa had been hanging out in the room when it was a playroom, and since I had no other place to put it, it stayed.  Hopefully it will feel useful for middle-of-the-night feedings, snuggling with baby, and hanging out during play time.

This might surprise some of you, but I didn't even repaint the walls.  The room already had blue and green stripes from the time it served as my second son's nursery.  I sort of figured it was good enough and left the walls as-is.  The only thing that is really new in there is the graphic patterned rug.  I purchased it for another room, then decided I liked it better in the nursery.  I can already see how this works--when you're the third born, you get all the left-overs and hand-me-downs.  I'm going to have to make a conscious effort to make sure there are moments when the third child gets things that are new and fresh, "just because."

So anyway, I'm feeling good about having the baby's room ready three months before the due date, and now I have time on my hands, or at least nesting instincts in need of an outlet.  Consequently, I've moved on to other areas....the kitchen, my office and the family room, to name a few.  In the coming weeks, I will try to share some sneak peeks into the progress being made in those areas.  Hopefully we'll have things ship shape by the time the little man makes his big debut.

As a side note, I think my boys are more excited about the fact that the Seahawks are playing in the Superbowl this Sunday than they are about the impending arrival of a little one.  I'm sure they will turn the new guy (our little rookie), into a proper fan in no time.  They're even suggesting baby names that have a familiar ring to them: Marshawn, Tarvaris, Golden, Russell, etc.  Hmmm...not quite what I had in mind.  They also have the baby's jersey picked out--a Christmas gift that now seems even more appropriate.

Go Hawks!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Swedish Dreams

Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter (2012) Poster

In my third trimester of pregnancy, I have my share of sleepless nights. When I can't sleep, I often resort to watching instant downloads on Netflix.  I enjoy watching crime thrillers, provided they aren't too scary or graphic,  and recently I stumbled on a Swedish series that I really like, called "Annika Bengzton: Crime Reporter." It's a little like watching CSI, but in Swedish.  The Swedish language is beautiful to listen to and I find the background settings and architecture fascinating, almost as much as the story lines themselves.  This has got me thinking about Swedish interiors.

What I find most interesting about Swedish homes, is the use the use of white throughout.  Whether the home be traditional or contemporary, you can pretty much bet that the walls and woodwork will be white.  I wonder if the Swedes prefer to use so much white because they need it to counteract the abundance of dark, gray days during the winter? (You see much of this in the show.)  In any case, the effect is very airy and ethereal, giving the impression of space, light, and cleanliness.  I'm drawn to this because so often I feel weighted down by the visual clutter that goes hand in hand with a house full of kids.

The homes also have a refreshing simplicity to them.  Furnishings appear to be selected for practical reasons and not merely for aesthetics or image, as is often the case in American homes.  Even when individual pieces are a bit more decorative or ornate, they sit very simply in the room, like a pearl necklace pared with a white and denim jeans.  This allows you to enjoy the beauty of each piece on it's own, rather than seeing the whole room as a complicated arrangement or composition.  Fancy pieces sit comfortably alongside the old and well-worn, without any pretense or apology.  The effect is an irresistible homeyness that says "welcome--come and sit a while."

Mix and Chic: Charming and chic Swedish interiors! (Part 1)

Swedish Interior

Swedish grandfather clock - one day in my stately home I'll have one, for sure!

Also interesting to me is how warm these homes feel in spite of all the white.  Usually when I think "warm" I image color.  But these homes achieve warmth through the use of texture and aged materials.  Look at enough Swedish interiors and you'll start to notice these commonalities: wide plank wood flooring, whitewashed tongue and groove wall paneling, sisal rugs, woven baskets, cracking plaster walls, and painted furniture, often worn, chipped and rustic looking.  All this texture balances out the white, giving a sense of coziness and warmth.  I like that imperfections like nicks and dings only add to the elegance.  As of mom of two (soon to be three) wild boys, I embrace this! Perfection has no place in my home's vocabulary.

Swedish Interior

Soft white space with vintage accents. amazing rug against vertical boards.

warm woods and whites

my scandinavian home: White with a little unique touch

Swedish interior design magazine -  Skona Hem

Another thing I love about Swedish interiors is the carefree way old and new, high-end and low-end are intermingled.  You'll see a midcentery modern chair, paired alongside a Gustavian antique.  Or an Ikea light-fixture in an elegant, old-world apartment.  There is an underlying confidence in all this mixing and somehow the end result comes off as very chic.  While I think I'm pretty eclectic in my design tastes, these rooms bring that idea to a whole new level.

photo 66_zps2933576d.jpg

Interior design book | Reflections on Swedish Interiors @Stefania@coolchicstyle

Swedish Interior30

Swedish Interior - lookslikewhite Blog - lookslikewhite

So my final take-aways are these: embrace imperfections, consider white the perfect backdrop, and always remember texture-texture-texture.  We could all learn a thing or two from the Swedes, especially with all the gray days we have here in Seattle.