From Toddlers to Tween and Teen

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In the years since I finished their home, my client’s two toddlers have grown to be a teen and a tween. We recently redesigned both rooms to reflect this change. The top two photos feature before and after looks at the tween’s room.

There are design cues looking forward and back, the profusion of stuffed animals illustrating the playfulness of childhood, while the simpler, cleaner, more stylish elements look forward to the teen years. She loves lavender, as her bedding and flooring testify, but her favorite new piece is the faux fur covered swivel chair, from which she can twirl around to survey her new domain. The added custom cabinets provide a desk surface, as well as shelves and drawers that will house the inevitable adornments of a growing girl’s life. Right now you can just make out her large collection of tennis trophies.

The next two photos show the before and after of the (early) teen’s room. She was emphatic about the choice of bedding, and her desire for a mannequin. I put together a bright, buoyant space, with plenty of storage and room to study. The faux skin, blue-dotted wallpaper and soft, thick carpet create the sense of a personal, comfy hideaway. And I love the cool mannequin standing at fashionable attention.

Both girls are a joy to work with. It will be fun to watch them grow into their new bedrooms, to see how the rooms evolve as they do. Right now the designs are a delightful mix of the whimsical and the practical, as these charming girls navigate the tween and teen years ahead.

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The Light at the End of the Tunnel?

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As I suffer through another cold, snowy winter, I came across a website featuring a new product that, if it can deliver on its promises, might make the dark days of winter much more pleasant. Using some kind of high-tech system involving nanotechnology, a faux skylight is installed that produces the illusion of a warm, sunny day, complete with sunlight and shadows on the walls and floors. You can choose three different intensities, Tropical, Mediterranean and Nordic, each with the sun at a different angle and the light with a different intensity. The photos are convincing. I’m doing several lower levels at the moment, and I’ll find out more to relay to my clients. For rooms with minimal windows or no windows at all, a skylight with pure, bright blue light pouring in might make the next blizzard much more livable.

 

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Putting Meat on the (Good) Bones

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Recently I posted about an old sofa I’m thinking of refurbishing. It has good bones. My upholsterer Javier is where I’d go to make it happen. Here we are discussing the skeleton of a chair that also has good bones. We work on furniture with greater or lesser degrees of distress. Often the fabric is simply tired, or perhaps it needs to fit into a new design scheme. Either way, working with Javier is a fulfilling experience, as we decide how to make an old piece of furniture new again.

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A Peek Behind the Curtain

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Last weekend was a kitchen marathon. I produced a mountain of cookies for assorted special occasions, not least my son’s birthday. A special package is now winging it’s way to England with comfort cookies that cure all ills. You can see the tools of the baking trade in the photo—aluminum sheets, mixers, measurers, and ingredients—eggs, flour, sugar, all distributed around the counters and tables in my handily sized kitchen. I also cooked a few roast chickens and assorted vegetables for a lunch on Sunday with old friends. For me, cooking like this is therapeutic. I focus on sights and smells, tastes and textures, working by instinct to create something elegantly delicious. Not too dissimilar to my day job in the interior design studio, though the result is a touch more ephemeral. Here’s what my kitchen looks like in a less frenzied state.

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You Haven’t Aged a Bit

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I’m redoing the bedrooms of my client’s two girls, now that they’ve grown from toddlers to young ladies. As I walk through the home, I revisit the work I did years ago. Unlike the homeowner’s children, the design hasn’t aged a bit. The home is well taken care of, which helps, but my goal is always to use quality materials to create timeless design that transcends fads, design that stands the test of time. In this master bedroom—woven wood shades draped with a sheer panel, French upholstered bed and shaped front chest/night tables, TV rising from the classic wood cabinet—I think I’ve succeeded.

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On the Trail…

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When I enter an antique store there are usually a half dozen answers I’m looking for. Like a sleuth, I use a well-developed instinct to match decorative needs—buried under a haystack of options—to the object that fills the need. It could be an armoire for the client with tall ceilings in need of a liquor cabinet. Or a porcelain figurine or gilded pillbox or carved frame or a set of cookie molds. Or it could be the perfect substitute for the side table that was discontinued by my supplier. If I’m being honest it goes beyond needs: Once on the trail I become consumed by the chase, and often find objects with no use, at least for the moment. They’ll find a place in my home, or our shop, where they’ll sit, much as they did in the antique store, the perfect piece of some yet unknown puzzle.

I may not know the people in whose homes these antiques lived, or whether they were cherished or ignored, but they carry with them a patina of their past, a resonance with the bygone culture they represent, which makes them so valuable to me, and such lovely objects to be around.

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Making the Dining Room Work Harder

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Listening to my clients desires for her new condo, I realized that we should make the dining room work harder. The single purpose room in the photo taken before was transformed into a mix of dining room, home office and living room, with a pinch of den thrown in.

The built in cabinets (see earlier post on built-ins) and added crown moldings make the room appear larger, as well as housing art work, books and decorative accessories, for an airy, den-like feel. You can just make out the rattan boxes on the lower center shelves for home office paperwork. The sleek wood finished table with graceful legs and upholstered chairs work for dinner or for working on the laptop. The low profile bench provides seating for up to four additional diners or guests facing towards the living area opposite. Whether eating with her grandchildren or hosting her reading group, doing paperwork or research on the web, the space provides my client with the flexibility that fits her lifestyle perfectly.

 

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Plan of Attack

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Here I am meeting with the plumber and electrician who will make the finished lower level of my client’s Tudor home a reality. My plan has been approved and these gentlemen are advising on the best way to get it done. As in most basements the exposed heating and plumbing pipes must be dealt with. The challenge is to keep as much height as possible while creating new ceilings and soffits to hide the pipes. We will be pulling down and adding walls to make the plan work, as well as enclosing the bearing columns. The space will ultimately house a room with billiards, foosball, air hockey and a large screen TV, plus a bedroom with en suite bath, a powder room and a craft space. I like these projects because I like solving intricate puzzles, putting the pieces together so the space fulfills my clients practical desires while being a joy to look at and to use.

 

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Fixer Upper

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Found this captivating diamond in the rough at a favorite local antique store. Where some might see a hopelessly dilapidated relic, I see an American Empire settee from the 1850s that I can transform into an elegant addition to the right entryway or living room. My restorer will bring out all the beauty in the detailed wood carving. I’ll add a sleek, contemporary fabric to create an engaging counterpoint to the traditional frame, and the result will be a unique piece of furniture with a sense of history and style. It may need a little work, but the result will be spectacular.

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Like a Well-Tailored Suit

Built in custom cabinetry does for a room what a well-tailored suit does for an individual, bringing a bespoke level of functionality and beauty to an interior design.

 

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In my kitchen I’ve created a French Country style pantry, which gives the illusion of a larger space through the use of antique mirrors on the upper doors. There’s plenty of hidden space for kitchen storage and a small TV. I’ve added a collection of wood and metal chickens on the top, for a whimsical touch that adds visual interest to the area above the built in.

 

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This Lake George built in needed a strong dose of Adirondack design, so all the doors and drawers feature birch bark veneer with wood details. There is additional space around the TV for decorative antique books and a collection of antique Majolica plates. You can see that the bead board on the ceiling is repeated inside the mahogany shelving.

 

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Another solution to a kitchen breakfast area, this built in opens up a confined space through the use of paint color and clean, detailed design, while housing the TV, kitchen storage and elegant accessories.

 

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A stone tower in the center of this built in houses the fireplace as well as two display cases faced with copper, lit from the inside, housing mid-century vases. I decided on the tower to emphasize the room’s height, the nine foot cabinets with floating shelves on either side balancing the column.

 

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An attic is transformed into a home office, and the built in bookcases are central to the transformation. The size and shape of the built in mimics the room, angled against a wall, surrounding a window and housing a radiator. The result preserves as much space as possible and provides valuable storage.

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