Sunday, September 30, 2012

My day job

Between Show House and my own house, I actually am still servicing a handful of clients.  Recently, I put together a scheme for a living room in Belmont.  Here we are dealing with adjacent rooms that already have been finished complete with window treatments.  The client wants to keep their existing caramel colored leather sofa and their oriental carpet.  The shared color in the carpet and in the window treatments next door in navy, only the window's navy is paired with white instead of cream or gold as found in the carpet.  We will be purchasing a pair of club chairs, an upholstered cocktail ottoman, making a window seat and flat roman shades for a bay window nook, and lots of pillows.  Here is my first stab...

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Always a curve ball

So the progress on my Show House room was going exactly as planned, and I was pretty confident that I would actually be able to pull this off without the usual hiccups that can happen on a job; that is, until the curve ball was thrown on Wednesday.  Because I am using vintage chairs (, I sent them to be restored before having them reupholstered.  I wanted to change the finish on the wood and have the joints tightened to make them as good as new.  When I went to pick them up, the finish was not as I had asked it to be, and they had to be redone, ASAP.  My upholsterer had me in the cue to begin working on my furniture that afternoon.  Since he has 4 pieces to either redo or actually build for me and my space, I needed to be ready when he was ready for me.  Now the poor guy is working on a Saturday just to ensure that they are done for next week. 

Meanwhile, my lighting fixtures were scheduled to go up on Thursday.  The first one was installed without a glitch; however, when the electrician went to hang the second, he found that a part was broken and it couldn't be hung.  This was a big upset - these light fixtures were a custom order made in another country, and to get another one in time for Show House is not possible.  Luckily though, the company who makes them can fabricate the broken part, and will FedEx it to me for re-installation by October 1st. 

Aside from the lighting problem, that afternoon I also found out that my painters painted a window open in it's place, and now it would not close.  After some maneuvering and a heavy hand, the window moved, but the painters need to come back and paint it all over again!

These obstacles are obviously out of my control, but stressful none-the-less when you have a vision in your head of exactly how it's supposed to go.  My room needs to be installed, staged, and ready by end-of-day this Friday.  It's going to be a busy week...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The kitchen demo

My wish has finally come true, and my terrible, awful, no-good kitchen was actually, for real, demolished yesterday!!!!

Above you see the old kitchen and then it's remains in the old dining room.  The plan is to make these two spaces one with an island separating the dining and working spaces.

This was the initial plan.  It has tweaked slightly given some structural discoveries found during the demolition.  What I'm learning first hand is that even when plans are in place, sometimes function trumps form, and you need to change the design.  

More to come...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Work in progress

Last week I gave you a glimpse of what I was working with at the Show House.  It was pretty grim.  Aside from the floor-to-90" stained and cracked wall tile, we had a rotten floor, and peeling plaster on the 90"-to-ceiling (135") remaining portion of the walls.  It took a few days to get my head around what had to be done to transform the space...

The entire first floor of the House is filled with incredible detail - stained glass windows, a mahogany library, wainscoting, latticed ceilings, and antique lighting.  My room is on the first floor in between the kitchen and the Junior League Show House office, and as said, it used to house a walk-in ice box and annex to the kitchen.  It is 8 feet wide by 18 feet long and has a 11'3" ceiling height.  Yes, it could be called challenging.

When the JLB gave me the room, they asked that it be a "lady's den".  To me, the word den is synonymous with cozy, so given my dimensions and existing materials in the space, I had to think long and hard about how to warm it up.  First, I knew that I had to lose the tile on the walls, but because this is a 150-year-old house, removing the wire mesh installation would be more work than my budget could handle.  Instead, I decided to cover it up and to give the room some architectural details consistent with other spaces throughout the house.  But even to cover it up (correctly) took a bit of carpentry and I am thankful to New England Property Contractors for knowing how to handle it.

The tiled casing around the doors and windows was removed, as well as the cap on the top of the wall tile.  These were replaced with 2x4s to give the room structure and a place to nail the new wood casing to.  The walls and ceiling were then strapped with lauan to cover the tile and accomodate a board-and-batten style application.

Here's how it went...



Saturday, September 22, 2012

Color coordinated

I have a client who loves to read and who has an incredible collection of books (yes, not the digital kind).  Before I got started with her, her living room had the TV on an adjacent wall to her existing floor-to-ceiling built-in bookcases.  It was awkward because the seating was focused on the odd wall with the TV instead of on the wall with the books.  To remedy the problem, we reworked the bookcases to accommodate the TV and switched the seating arrangement accordingly.  We also color coordinated the books to make them look more interesting.  By doing this, we took away the heaviness of the TV and created an equally weighted display, that even matches her chair...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Role reversal

Less than a week to go until my 1985 kitchen is stripped of it's broken Formica cabinetry and age-old, energy-sucking appliances.  We are taking a big leap of faith that we will be up and running to host Christmas dinner, but even if we end up at the Chinese restaurant, it is time to finally jump.  When we first moved into the house six years ago, we knew that the kitchen had to be remodelled.  We thought that it was two years down the pipeline.  Well, sometimes other things come up - like more babies, a recession, and an external makeover (, and the plan gets pushed back.  Until NOW!!!

Because I have been thinking about this for quite awhile, you would think that I would have had it all planned out.  Instead, I got stuck in a pair of my client's shoes - paralyzed and overwhelmed.  I have been exposed to so many incredible spaces throughout my career, and there are so many great products out there to choose from, that wrapping your head around it all can really keep you up at night!  So after a few (dozen) sleepless nights (and many rolls of tracing paper), I realized that if I can be objective with my clients, then I can be objective with my own project.  I got my act together and designed the kitchen following the same guidelines that I use for my clients: make a wish list; set a budget; be consistent.    

This has been a lesson in compromise.  I wrote my wish list last year in a blog post entitled The Heart of the Home (  Even though my list remains the same, I now actually have to work within the footprint of the room, and not everything will find a place in the new design.  Not-to-mention, my never-cared-about-design-before husband suddenly does, and has a wish list of his own :)   And, because I am a preacher of cohesive design, I have to make sure that the new kitchen will mesh with its already existing neighbors.  Given the parameters that I have just listed, the choices for colors and materials were suddenly not so vast, and my decisions became more obvious.  The layout is set.  Everyone is happy.  No turning back now. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

What I'm working with

I dropped my proposal off for Show House on June 27th.  They told me that I would know if I was given a room by the end of 4th-of-July week.  Well that week came and went, and then so did another, and I didn't hear anything.  It wasn't until July 15th that I was finally told I had been chosen.  The coordinator said that they had received more than three times the amount of applicants as in previous years;  over 100 proposals for only 35 spaces! 

The room that I had been asked to do was different than my proposal.  At that point, it didn't matter to me, I was just happy to have been accepted, even if this is what I now had to rework my original ideas into...

See where the floor and walls are damaged?  Until the day before I took these pictures, the room had a walk-in ice box there!  This used to be an extension to the kitchen.  Remember these photos when you come see my space at the Junior League Show House!
*Show House opens October 16th.  Tickets can be bought at

Sunday, September 16, 2012

One month to go!

When we first moved to Boston, I joined the Junior League.  During that time, I was fortunate enough to staff a few of their Show Houses.  The first one was a big, old, gorgeous house in Westwood with endless rooms and beautiful grounds.  Even though I was only a volunteer, I loved being a part of it.  I got there early for my shifts just to be able to wander around and take it all in.  I was completely amazed by the before pictures, and what all of the different designers had made of the dilapidated spaces they had been given.  And, because I was a student at the time in design school at NESAD, I daydreamed about having a room of my own to transform... 

So finally, back in May, I found out that after a six year hiatus, the JLB was putting together another Show House, and that it would be in my town.  I was thrilled, and without a doubt, I wanted to be a part of the party.  I went to the preview, toured the house, and picked up a proposal packet.  The process was a little overwhelming.  The house was old, dark, and in need of a lot of work.  As much as I wanted to participate, the investment seemed too large.  Dollar signs halted my creativitiy, and I froze.  But then after the images of the house had time to settle in, an idea started to brew, and within a few days, my proposal was all wrapped up...


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Back in the saddle

OK, so I've been back in town for two weeks and lots has been happening - Show House, remodeling plans in the works at my house, catching up with clients, catching up with friends, catching up on mail, kids getting back into school and the gazillion activities, etc...  I thought that I would be back in the saddle a little earlier than this, but after a whirlwind of a summer, I needed some extra time to regroup.

Throughout the year my kids are so over-scheduled, so every summer I try to get them to slow down, get out of a routine, and learn how to relax.  This means that I don't relax.  We drive up and down the East Coast visiting family and friends, and then at the end of the summer we do our own Benedict vacation - which included more road-tripping to see more family and friends (on the other side of the country).  In six weeks, we drove over 5,000 miles!

The best part about covering so much ground is that every place you go is so different.  There are so many beautiful things to be found along the coast and in the mountains, down rural roads, through vineyards, and in the city.  Good thing I had my camera with me to capture the moments; moments that I hope to use as inspiration this year...