Monday, May 31, 2010

Setting A Budget...The Hard Reality Of Any Project

Last week I showcased two homes that have undergone stunning transformations, a client's home in the House Tour...

...and Kristin's home in Inspiration and Friendship in Blogland - My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia.

Viewing all the projects done in these homes reminded me of a post I wrote in April 2009, Setting A Budget, a post I wrote after completing my Kitchen and Family Room Redesign.

I thought this would be a great time to post it again, as a very important step in approaching any decorating project is to get up close and personal with the issue of money!! Here it is:

So you have decided to renovate or decorate, you know what you want, have collected photos of rooms that have inspired you and may have even started shopping for materials or furniture...STOP! Before you go any further, grab a pen and paper (or open a spread sheet) and put together a budget. It is very tempting to skip this step, but having a budget is an indispensable guideline that will help you move through your project, with hopes and a chance of making it to the end with enough money to buy light bulbs for that fabulous new chandelier!

Prior to moving forward with the Kitchen & Family Room Redesign, it was important to understand the cost of everything I hoped to accomplish. I made a list of all the projects and their associated material costs, in addition to furniture and accessory cost estimates. Afterwards, I met with the contractors I was considering hiring and secured quotes. With these quotes and estimated costs for everything else, I had an initial budget in hand. Numbers add up fast and it was necessary to cross out a few lines on the wish list. But after all this planning I was finally ready to move forward with confidence, knowing I wouldn't find myself in a situation where I had torn something up only to find there was no money to put it back together!!

During these past three months I have tracked every expense associated with the project. There have been happy moments when costs came in under budget, and others when costs inched up past expectations. To keep the budget on track adjustments were made along the way. For example, if I wanted to have money left over for new sofas I needed to cut corners elsewhere. I chose to save substantially on the window treatments, making the roman shades and drapes myself rather than have the pleasure of having them made for me. In addition, I passed by the gorgeous Liam sofas I had my eye on, (well over the allowed budget even with my Mitchell Gold discount) and found a less expensive source for a similar style.

Happily this project ended up slightly under budget. This is partly due to finding it unnecessary to replace the cabinetry hardware and pendant lighting (until I stumble across something irresistible!) but mostly due to not encountering any major surprises along the way.

So, dream away but don't forget to add up the numbers...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Inspiration & Friendships In Blogland - My Uncommon Slice Of Suburbia

Today I am featuring Kristin of My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia. (And to make things fun, she is featuring me today on her blog!) I first "met" Kristin when I received an email from her asking about the work I had done on my kitchen. She had seen it posted on Rate My Space and from there found my blog. Apparently before she even really knew what a blog was...well that has all changed. Not only does she now write a wonderful blog, but just look at what she has done with her kitchen!

Yes, as hard as it may seem, the picture below is the "before" of this gorgeous kitchen.

The decision to extend the crown molding effectively elevated the look of the cabinetry, and as a result, the entire space.

I certainly got a laugh when I saw this photo! It shows her kitchen in its painful "during" stage.

And look, that image has a twin! This is a photo of my kitchen showcasing it's painful "during" stage.

But it is worth the inconvenience. Here is Kristin's completed kitchen, open shelving adds charming character...

while the painted island adds drama. To see this island transformation, click here.

Looking at these before and afters, it is remarkable that the existing cabinetry was used in this kitchen renovation.

Kristin's work is an excellent example of how you don't have to do a gut renovation to have a remarkable outcome. With creativity, a lot of hard work and the ability to visualize where you want to go, you can create the house that you want. Below is another example of her ability to use what is in place and make it beautiful, this time in a hall bathroom.

To see all the projects that pulled this bathroom out of the past, click here.

And finally, here is a welcoming guest bedroom. The colors of the bathroom are repeated but with the addition of black, giving the room a sophisticated look. I think any guest would feel welcome here!

To see more of Kristin's home visit her blog, and make sure to look at the beautiful work done in the family room. The fireplace is gorgeous!

Getting to "meet" Kristin and so many other wonderful bloggers (as well as many of you who follow my blog, leave comments and send emails) has been the best part of writing a blog, one that I could not have anticipated. I am constantly inspired by all the ideas and creativity I see, and follow as many blogs as I possibly can each day...and still have any time to get work done!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Home Office Redesign - Lighting

One of the last projects for the Home Office Redesign is to bring in more lighting, as requested by my husband. Yes, he has been reading my blog...and is developing an opinion about home decor. At first I found this annoying, but now I'm coming around to appreciating his point of view. After fifteen years of living with me he's developed quite the good eye!

Before hitting the stores, I first looked around the house to see if there were any fixtures that could be used. One lamp, which has been floating from room to room looking for a home, will work perfectly placed on the cabinet. As for its shade, that was a different story, so next I went shopping for a new lampshade.

When a project calls for lampshades I nearly always stop at Lamps Plus first. They have a great selection and the prices are good. What I was visualizing as I drove to the store was a smaller design which would not block too much of the art wall. When I saw the tall slim shade, pictured above in the center, it occurred to me that perhaps I could go quite small with the shade in this situation. But I wasn't sure, so I selected two additional styles and brought them all home to try on for size.

Back at home I placed the base on the cabinet. I liked how it looked here, repeating the ceiling lantern and drapery hardware finish, while almost getting lost against the wall. (A good thing I think, in this case!) Then I started trying on the shade options.

This first shade is not what you would typically select for this base, with its width being narrower than the lamp. However, I like that it doesn't completely block the images behind it, while the shape and color repeats similar shapes and colors on the art wall.

This second option is nice, the warm brown tone picks up the same color present in some of the photographs. But the size of the shade, which would be perfect in most instances, makes me want to tilt my head to see what is behind it.

I actually like the color of the third option the most, but the band along the bottom looks too preppy for this room. And again, the size doesn't work for me.

The choice: my break the rules shade wins. In addition to minimizing how much the fixture blocks the images behind it, the lighter shade brightens this particular spot on the art wall, a dark area created by the empty frames that are hung here. It actually brings more balance to the art wall.

It is amazing how light can add life and dimension to a space.

The second area that needed lighting was the corner where the Atwood wingback chair sits. I found this simple Pharmacy Floor Lamp at Target, its utilitarian look suited the space and I liked the price.

Though once I started putting it together I wasn't so sure. It certainly didn't look like it would add up to the 48" height stated on the box.

But it did and is just the right height to light up this corner while sitting and reading.

This room is nearly done. All that is left to do is refinish the chair that sits at the cabinet and bring in a few accessories...hopefully I'll have the completed room to show next week!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

House Tour

As promised in the recent post, Isabella & Max Design Work - Sneak Peek, here is the house tour of a client I recently worked with!

While my work on this home focused on the family room, my first encounter with Kim was when she was looking for inspiration to transform her kitchen and found my blog. With no more than a few random conversations about the design issues in the rooms adjacent to the family room, Kim moved forward with great success and transformed these spaces with a beautifully unique style.

As you'll see in the smaller "before" pictures, the house was washed in golden yellow tones when Kim and her husband purchased the home. One goal of the project was to lighten the spaces and bring in a more sophisticated color scheme. First task, paint all the major areas of the home with SW Amazing Gray.

Then, working with the existing cabinetry, the kitchen was successfully updated and given a big dose of chic. How was this accomplished? The space was opened up to the adjacent nook and family room by removing a column, along with the raised backsplash running along the half wall.

Doing this allowed the countertop to be extended into the nook area at countertop height, creating a breakfast bar. This required replacing the existing countertop and a lighter granite was selected with tones that pick up the tones of the painted cabinetry as well as the new wall color. The tumbled backsplash was also replaced with my favorite Lanka Metro beveled subway tiles, adding timeless character while also lightening the room. New lighting and accessories complete the beautiful picture. Compare the "before" and "after" photos below.

Again, viewing the "before" pictures below you can see how the entire space is affected by the golden wall color, countertops and tile. Changing these surfaces helped to completely transform the never doubt the power of color!

The counter stools, found at CNS Stores, reinforce the new color palette, as does the sunburst mirror found on craigslist.

The Clifton sectional is from Mitchell Gold and the pillows are made from Citrine Imperial Trellis fabric by Kelly Wearstler.

In the above "before" picture you can see how the wide columns feel very heavy in the space, and the furniture layout is crowded, leaving a limited path to move from room to room.

The single narrow column faced with classic millwork is a great improvement. And note the wainscoting. Kim's husband installed this trim in the nook and along the breakfast bar. Its design relates beautifully to the kitchen cabinetry, adding wonderful character while visually joining the kitchen and nook.

Kim has lined the top of the wainscoting with her children's artwork. I am a big fan of decorating with kids creations...and look how they are framed. Wonderful!

The beautifully weathered table is made from reclaimed barn floor wood, with a painted black base.

And I adore these cushions with their oversized trim.

Here is the "before" family room with its fireplace wall, the issue that caused Kim to seek out my help.

We balanced this wall by keeping the fireplace painted the same tone as the kitchen cabinetry while the built-in was reconfigured and then painted the same color as the walls, Amazing Gray. This helps the built-in recede slightly, see below image, allowing the fireplace to become the focal point. The stunning vintage painting of a stork also helps bring the eye to the center of this wall.

The furniture layout was also reworked with the goal of bringing in more seating and improving traffic flow.

As I mentioned in my previous post on this space, it is a room that showcases a successful mix of "High" and "Low".

The rug and mantel urns are from HomeGoods, the pair of deer in the built-in were found at Goodwill and sit next to Jonathan Alder pottery. Many pieces were repurposed, while the splurge item are the Imperial Trellis drapes in Citrine.

The husband's favorite well worn leather chair...

and a simply fabulous mirror.

Next, the dining room at the front of the house. Again, note how the golden yellow walls and ceiling are the dominant feature of the space.

By simply painting the walls a warm chocolate brown and the ceiling white the space is beautifully transformed.

Kim tells me she is trying to get the courage to paint these chairs. I'd say with all the big changes she has made already, what is stopping her from painting a few chairs?!? I'll paint them for her if she doesn't. She feels they match the room too well and I agree. Another color would allow the beautiful table, made from beams taken from an old train station, to stand out and become more of a feature of the room.

Here she had no fear. The shelves are backed with a light blue wrapping paper, picking up on a hint of blue in the rug, which belonged to her husband's father. More "High" and "Low" in this space as well. The drapes are made from fabric found at JoAnn Fabrics for under $10 a yard, the cachepot is from Target and the vases are from West Elm.

The final room in the tour is a mud room, and while this space is still in progress...I would take it in a heartbeat! Look at all this storage and space, a dream...really.

Additional plans include hanging a large cork board over the countertop, with more shelving to hold Kim's ever growing collection of home decor magazines and a chalkboard magnetic wall. Yes, a home is never really done!

I hope you have enjoyed the tour of this beautiful home. Kim has a great eye for detail and a talent for finding special pieces, as well as the ability to see a project through to its completion. After we worked together she told me what an inspiration I had been and how I had helped her to stop doubting her own abilities. So much so that Kim has started taking on clients of her own! But that shouldn't be a surprise after viewing her home.

To learn how you can work with Kim, or to simply tell her how much you love her home, write her at: