Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Painting Progress

The work on the cabinetry continues and is progressing on schedule. However, the process is truly creating a mess! I would encourage anyone having similar work done to make arrangements to stay elsewhere for the duration, as I quickly decided to do once the painters got to work.

The good news is that I can already start to see how the space will look, even with just the white primer applied. I love the change and can't wait until the workers leave and I can get in and!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Kitchen & Family Room Redesign - Progress?

The doorbell rang at 8 yesterday morning and in stomped a herd of painters. Within minutes the floors and appliances had been taped off and work on the cabinetry had begun. This work makes the removal of the kitchen backsplash look like child's play. The house is an absolute disaster!

Luckily, this is a good team and work should progress quickly! (I am definitely counting on it). The painters are caulking, filling holes (knotty alder wood), sanding, priming and painting. The door and drawer fronts will be completed off-site, taking two to three weeks to go through a series of priming, sanding and painting. So it will be quite awhile until the kitchen is completely put back together, but I am excited to have this work underway.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kitchen & Family Room Redesign - Fireplace Wall Progress

The majority of the fireplace surround tile has been installed and it is striking. The tile has just enough texture and color to be interesting, while remaining a dark neutral that will work with any furniture colors that may be brought into the room in the future. When choosing colors and finishes for elements that are going to be around for the long haul, neutrals are always a good bet.

The mantel structure was fitted in place and is currently being completed off-site. It is minimal in design as enough is going on in this room already, and again, simplification is one goal of this redesign. It is scheduled to be installed tomorrow morning, just in time for the arrival of the painters.

Now this is where I get just a bit nervous. I am taking a big leap and committing to painting the mantel, built-ins and all the kitchen cabinetry, with the exception of the island which will remain as is. The cabinetry is to be painted Sherwin-Williams Softer Tan #6141, the color of the mill work in the home. The reaction from virtually everyone who has heard this plan is to gasp in are painting the WOOD!?!

Yes, I am. The cabinetry crown moldings, boxes, doors, drawers and built-ins each sport a different stain color. (How did that happen!?) To keep the stained cabinets it would have meant rebuilding much of the cabinetry. As I have always been drawn to painted white cabinetry, I leapt at the chance to bring them into my home as the solution to this problem.

Now back to the family room, the star feature of this room is the 12' soaring window framing the trees in the backyard. In its current state this window and the adjacent dark wood built-ins fight for attention. The idea is that once both of these features are painted the same color a cohesive unit will be the result. We shall see...wish me (and the painters) luck!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kitchen & Family Room Redesign - Fireplace

This project, the redesign of the fireplace wall in the family room, highlights the importance of approaching a design project with a well thought out plan. Plans can keep you on track, especially if the work is to be done in phases, as you are able, and will keep you on course when surprises occur along the way. There are usually at least a few!

What went wrong here, causing the fireplace mantel and built-ins to have different architectural styles, stain colors and to not even fit together well (leaving an exposed thin strip of drywall between the two), is that the builder did not have a plan. After the home had sat on the market for a few months the builder returned to add additional features in an effort to entice a buyer, including these built-ins. Unfortunately, the result looks like the afterthought it was and actually ended up highlighting the fact that the mantel style did not work with the kitchen cabinetry, a design misstep from the start.

So...all in all a perfect house for me!

The mantel is being replaced with the goal of correcting the issues discussed above and to bring a stronger, more cohesive design to this feature wall. I decided removing the mantel was a job I could take on myself, to help keep the project on budget! It was a bit of work but I got it done without completely destroying the wall behind least nothing a little drywall tape and joint compound couldn't fix.

The surprise, however, was that the tile surround extended less than an inch beyond the interior edge of the mantel, preventing the widening of the mantel using the existing tile. So off came the tile as well...can't say I was too upset. I had wanted to replace this tile from the start (same tile as the original backsplash) but convinced myself to live with it for the sake of the budget. In it's place I have chosen a beautiful dark porcelain tile from Pental, Corten in Black Silver. It is black with brown tones and a silver glaze. It can be found at Using a dark tile around a dark firebox creates a clean dramatic look. This will help achieve one of the goals for this project which is to add simplicity. Also, in a room which will have light cabinetry and mill work, this dark element will add weight to the space.

Next time...tile installation, a new mantel and the preparation for painting should have begun.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kitchen & Family Room Redesign - Completed Backsplash

I am thrilled with the new backsplash! It accents the lighter tones in the countertops, actually making the granite look less (muddy) orange. This was one of my goals, and delighted the plan worked! The new subway tile also adds a bit of the elegance present in vintage inspired classic kitchens.

One project many to go?! Let's see if the budget OR my energy runs out first! However, what a great experience for me, as a designer. I think in the future I will have increased empathy for clients going through similar projects.

Apart from empathy, I think what I learned the most from this project is that in kitchens (as well as bathrooms with wall tile in the design) the tendency is to focus on the countertop surface, leaving less thought and budget for the backsplash. Granted the countertop is a working surface that requires a unique set of considerations, but from a purely visual standpoint, backsplashes are equally important. When I stand back and look at this kitchen the backsplash, being a vertical surface, is the predominate feature rather than the horizontal countertop surface.

So, something to keep in mind when working on kitchens and baths. Give the backsplash design proper thought, leaving a bit of money in the budget to do it right. The cost of a backsplash is typically much less than that of the countertop, yet can often be the highlight of the room.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kitchen & Family Room Redesign - Backsplash Progress

The progress on the backsplash is exceeding my expectations! The tile is absolutely gorgeous, looks great with the granite counter tops and is being installed with perfection. In less skilled hands this tile project has the potential to become a disaster...due to the single color and straight edges of the tile, there is very little room for error.

One can never underestimate the value of a skilled craftsman who takes pride in their work. When considering whom to hire, ask for references from people who have had similar work done and are satisfied with the completed job.

In addition, as work is in progress make sure you check in on the job, particularly at the start. If you are not going to be on site, even for a short while, make certain you can be reached at all times should questions or issues arise regarding the work being done.

It also helps if you like the people you hire...this makes what could be a painful process fun!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Kitchen & Family Room Redesign - Backsplash

Perhaps the hardest part of a renovation is the demolition. My son summed it up best, returning home from school after I had pulled off the fireplace mantel and a sub had taken down the kitchen blacksplash...drywall and all. "Oh no, that's bad, that's bad!" He's four and has no ability to visualize where this could possibly be going!

So where is it going? I made the decision to replace the multi-colored tile backsplash as it was visually busy paired with the counter tops, and brought out the orange tones in the granite. My goal is for the new backsplash of ivory subway tiles (along with the cabinets that are to be painted a warm cream) to highlight the ivory, grey and brown tones in the granite. After a messy demolition (the tiles did not want to be removed and took the wall with it), even the newly installed drywall gives a glimpse of how the simplified backsplash is going to go a long way in bringing a dose of classic elegance to the kitchen.

The subway tile I chose for this project is pictured above. With it's beveled edges this tile brings a modern edge to a tile classic. The product is from Lanka Tile, called the "Lanka Metro" it can be found at I looked at several versions of subway tile, but this is the only product I found where a 3x3 "dot" tile is available, along with the 3x6, so a finished edge can be created without a trim piece running around the edge. At $5.00 a square foot it is also priced right.

My idea of a dream kitchen is an updated version of the classic vintage style which would include white cabinets, a subway tile backsplash, dark floors and carrera marble counter tops. After many discussions with the builder and cabinet maker, in which we considered every possible way to correct the issues with the cabinets (the boxes, facings, crowns and door fronts are each a different stain), we agreed the best solution was to paint the cabinets. So, sans carrera marble, I am on my way to creating my dream kitchen. (Now if I could just learn to cook!)

Next time...what was found behind the fireplace mantel and pictures of the backsplash installation, which begins tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Rush Over to Your Nearest Target Store!

Every year after Christmas I rush to Target, and not to take advantage of great discounts on wrapping paper and greeting cards. Rather each year as the aisles are cleared of the holiday merchandise a temporary department appears full of interesting accessories for the home. In previous years it has been called "World Market" with a somewhat rustic and global design view. This year it has been renamed "Home Design Event" with a more contemporary point of view.

Each year I come away with at least one or two great finds, for myself and projects. Last year it was a gold mine of finds for two staging projects I was working on, though admittedly one does have to wade through some less than fabulous items to locate the special pieces worth carrying away.

This year I am excited to have found this brass tone bowl made up of a series of flower shaped pieces. It has great potential for a variety of uses, unexpected in a bathroom holding several rolled up hand towels, a convenient place to hold mail on an entry table or in a kitchen holding fruit.

My all time favorite is the clock below, made of stamped metal in an chic alligator pattern, that I have in my home. The shape, color and texture (plus low price) add up to a gorgeous piece I have loved for several years.

So...go out and see if you can find yourself a treasure!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Favorite Lamp

The month of December was an interesting one, with the biggest snow storm in 40 years hitting the Portland area. That meant an extended school break and more than the usual time spent at what does a mom do? Keep the TV tuned to HGTV while playing endless board games and doing crafts with the kids!

HGTV had many new shows to promote and I was most intrigued with the promo for "Dear Genevieve". Here she is shown walking past a gorgeous sofa, table, lamp and various other beautiful pieces...interestingly ALL from Mitchell Gold. (That made for an easy set design job!) I recognized the pieces instantly as I am a big fan of this companies furniture and accessories...(In addition to the fact the company offers a 30% discount to designers, something to keep in mind when working with a designer. Some designers such as myself work on an hourly fee basis and pass on any discounts to clients. If there is much shopping to be done, this savings can often cover a decent portion of the designer's fees!) Go to to see all of this companies offerings.

My favorite item Genevieve walks by is the Skler Floor Lamp. This has been my favorite lamp since seeing it in a Mitchell Gold Showroom a couple years ago. I purchased it for one of my first design projects, which is seen on the front page of my website. I selected it because the lamp approaches perfection, with it's turned patina bronze base and fabulously oversized shade. It is classic yet the shade adds a whimsical twist. I used the spice colored shade, but it is also available in ivory, and the company just introduced a new version of the lamp in a "crisp white" finish. The white version would be great in a modern space or an interior looking for some dramatic contrast. Imagine how interesting the white version would look against dark brown or grey walls!

When decorating a space that has high ceilings or one that has large furniture pieces in it (in my case it was a grand piano) consider bringing in floor and table lamps that are larger or have larger shades. Accessorizing with larger pieces in these circumstances will bring balance to a room.

Finally...during the snow storm we enjoyed the rare snow with lots of sledding, making snowmen and enjoying our snow blanketed backyard...below is my favorite photo from our ventures into our rare winter wonderland!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Kitchen and Family Room Redesign

Time to get back to work after a long holiday break. I am very excited to kick off the new year with the redesign of a large open space that encompasses a kitchen, nook, family room and a powder bath. I am also excited because it is my own home and I have been looking forward to this opportunity to rework these spaces, with the goal of infusing a big dose of style!

Although many people have said there is nothing wrong with the space, my eyes see everything that could have been better thought out when the home was built, or how I would have designed it from the start. In addition, some problems did occur during the production and installation of the kitchen cabinetry and those issues will be addressed. Also, the design of the family room mantel and built-ins are a complete more corrections to be made! I am very glad to say I negotiated a decent settlement with the builder to help fund this project! :)

Through a series of projects my hope is to add a sophisticated calm to the space. Currently the space feels chaotic. There are too many different wood and trim finishes, and an accent wall painted darker than the surrounding walls emphasizes the odd ceiling angles. Other issues are a backsplash that is visually busy against the counter tops, a limited and awkward traffic flow due to the patch of carpet set in the family room, the generic light fixtures and poorly accessorized built ins.

The projects to be done are:
1)Refinish/paint cabinets
2)Rebuild or build a new mantel to match style of the surrounding built-ins
3)Replace backsplash
4)Paint walls
5)Paint "Wallpaper" treatment in powder bath
6)Add mill work around large openings and crown molding in kitchen
7)Replace light fixtures
8)Add window treatments
9)Replace carpet in family room, extending hardwoods to visually tie together the spaces
10)Refinish kitchen nook chairs and table
11)Accessorize built in shelves
12)Rework furniture plan

The new backsplash tile has been ordered and work is scheduled to begin in 2 weeks. I have contracted a very talented trades person to help with many of the projects, along with other subs, though I will be doing as much as I can myself...with the aim to complete the project prior to funds running out!! I estimate the project should take about 3 months to here's to having my household disrupted for a good part of the remaining winter! Yikes...

In the meantime, I have recently seen some great products out in the market place, so looking forward to showing you many of my favorite finds in the next weeks as well.

Here's to a very Happy New Year for all!

The photo above shows the start of this transformation...a simplified palette.