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!