Southern Challenge: The Drawing Room

Drawing Room – Prior to Renovation.

Living in the city as I do, and not being a person that requires vast amounts of space, I haven’t had the experience of having dining rooms and libraries, living rooms, dens and offices. I usually just have one room that isn’t a bedroom, kitchen or bath, and has to serve all the purposes of a great house in one. This is not a complaint, just a statement of fact – in fact if I did have all those rooms, I don’t know which I’d choose to sit in, but being only one person, I suspect that I’d snuggle into the same old cozy corner, every night after a long day, and the only thought I would give to all those rooms would be, how ever am I going to keep them all clean.

Inspiration in the above photos for what could be a rich drawing room with beautiful bar. Note that these cabinets are painted in lacquer finish, which is a more time intensive process then using high gloss, but it does give it that glossy sheen. Left: House Beautiful – Benjamin Moore’s Summer Nights. Right: House Beautiful – Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue.

The French perfected the art of dining in the 18th century. They had loads of rules and books on etiquette that dictated the manner in which you were to entertain. The dining room brought all the guests together, but at dinner’s conclusion, the women typically retired to the Drawing Room, leaving the men at the table to drink and discuss politics. This withdrawing to another space provided for the relaxed continuation of the evening. These rooms were not necessarily less grand than the dining room, but they were populated with sofa’s and settees, comfortable chairs, game tables, tea service, tapestries and more. The dishes and detritus of the evening’s repast left behind.

Left: Benjamin Moore’s – Gentlemen’s Gray – to be applied to the walls and the woodwork – moldings and baseboard. Ceiling to be painted in Benjamin Moore’s Nickle. Middle: Jonathan Adler’s Rio Pendant – $386.40. Left: OKL . Madison Leather Club Chair. $899.

I like the idea of the Drawing Room. It feels fitting in a home, that at its heart, will be used for a good deal of entertaining. By defining the rooms which are open to the public, from those which are for family only, is important. The adjacency of the Drawing Room to the Dining, and Dining to Powder Room feels intentional, and I am certain the architect had this in mind when their sharp pencil hit the mylar to begin its design.

Left: Benjamin Moore’s Dark Harbor for walls. Molding and baseboard in Benjamin Moore’s Mineral Ice. Ceiling in Benjamin Moore’s Mineral Ice. Middle: Modern Metal Pendant in Polished Nickle $232. Left: Pottery Barn Irving Leather Arm chair with bronze nail heads. $919.

The other rooms have all been bright and welcoming, though I have balanced cool and warm tones as you move from one room to the next. This ensures the visitors maintain an internal harmony. Why? I’m not sure, we humans are very complex creatures. We like what we like, and I try not to buck mother nature on these issues. I must reserve all my energy after all to battle her and the clock.

Left: Benjamin Moore’s Forest Hills Green – for walls. Base and molding in Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace. Ceiling in white. Middle: Carillon Pendant . Large $298. Left: West Elm . Mid Century Show Wood Leather Chair in Saddle $999.

I want this room to feel cozy, to wrap the guests in an experience. I want every surface to be in high gloss, but I will resist this temptation because the walls need to be in perfect – listen closely all you high gloss lovers – PERFECT condition. The mirror like finish will reflect every ding and dent and make someone like me, bananas. Use eggshell instead and reserve the high gloss for the woodwork. Here are my recommendations.

Southern Challenge: The Office

The dated wallcovering, paneled walls, and carpet do not create an environment that screams – higher power, brilliance and inspiration. Additionally the door to a defunct entry, with overgrown trees.

Working at home isn’t that easy. It sounds like a wonderful idea, when you are considering getting off campus, out of the corporate setting, and home to your family, your slippers, that welcoming corner of your sofa, but, once there, of the distractions. Making an office that is both conducive to work, and feels like a pleasure to be in, is critical to ensuring the activities within this space are productive .

Benjamin Moore’s White Winged Dove. A calming neutral that lends itself to serious contemplation.

When I considered the fact that not only would this serve as the Father’s office, but be a space, with desks that the three kids could come and do their homework, away from the distractions of TV, and video games, the stakes were raised.

If you wanted those stakes to be even higher, add the pressure, consider the fact that this is really a public space, a pass-through on the way to the Powder Room. You know, the one all guests will use when they are welcomed to dinner. It needs to feel polished, and stately, without being off-putting to the inhabitants – you know the ones, the kids who will be troubling over their homework assignments, and the Dad, philosophizing about the important issues of faith and trust, of commitment, and family, legacy, and stewardship. How can one be expected to grapple with these life grounding – changing – aspirational issues, in a holey distracting environment? I know I couldn’t.

Ballard Designs – Sisal Rug with a black or moss border would be the perfect compliment to this space.

Bring in the green from the Powder room in a dramatic photo to be displayed over the fireplace.

While the Powder Room will have pow, that door can be closed, the office, I propose will look like this.

Southern Challenge: The Great Room

The Great Room . Dining Hall. Prior to renovation.

I’ve always loved entertaining. Perhaps it’s a little show-offy of me, being as good at it as I am. In my defense I have been doing it for more than half my life. When I was 12 years old I got my second real job washing dishes in a gourmet deli in my hometown. I was fascinated by the constant activity of the staff, bustling back and forth between the customers out from and the back of the house where I was safely stowed away from prying eyes. I wasn’t quite old enough to be working, but I certainly was capable of washing pots.

Scheme I: Walls painted in Benjamin Moore’s Sailcloth, this beautiful Phillip Jeffries Rivet Wall Covering in Jute with Bronze Rivets will be placed on the fireplace surround only, bringing a subtle texture to the room.

This recently purchased rug will bring warmth to the room and add color, the dark wood table and chairs covered in a forest green leather will work wonderfully with this oriental.

In addition to the deli, it was a catering company. I spent most of my time with the chef and the sous chef as they prepped for weddings and the delicacies they were crafting for fabulous gatherings. My job consisted of a lot of standing around waiting for pots to get dirty so I could wash them. That left me to watch the other prep, and bake, frost, and pipe, saute and brine. Each week my boss would teach me how to make something new. It must have taken me ten years to break the habit of cooking for 60, but the cost was worth the meticulous lessons I learned, and which I carry with me today.

Scheme II: Benjamin Moore’s Shoreline Right will be the base color for the walls. The perimeter of the room will have a 1″ green line underneath the molding. This will accent the color in the rug and draw attention to the green leather seats of the dining chairs.

So it’s true that I am proud of the food I prepare and serve, the care I take with it is an expression of my love for my friends and family. This Great Room, which sits at the heart of the home will welcome scholars and dignitaries, people with a cause and an opinion, it will I bear witness to heated debates and fresh ideas, and hopefully no tears, unless they are the sort that laughter brings. It should be a fitting environment for all these important happenings. Stately, but comfortable.

Scheme III: Benjamin Moore’s Delaware Putty on Left. This would be painted on all the woodwork and wrapping to cover the ceiling in the same hue. It would all be done in high gloss. Additionally, the back side of the stair would be done in this color – also in high gloss. The walls would be painted in Benjamin Moore’s Super White in egg shell finish.

In general I find the curtains throughout the home rob the rooms of much needed light. I do admire a dressed window, but think there is a better way to do it. In the interest of economics I am recommending to the owners that they remove the valance, but keep the curtains that the previous owners left behind. I estimate that they cost between $5 – $10K, and I have other plans for that kind of money.

The red paint has to go. I’m excited to see which of these options the owners will pick.

Southern Challenge: Powder Room

Sometimes you need to know where to make a statement and what is perfectly good left alone. I love a powder room for a wow factor. There are several reasons the powder room is the perfect place to be bold. First of all, it’s a singular experience. No one else’s opinion is likely to influence your own in this room, and you aren’t likely to stay long enough – even if you live there for years – to tire of said statement.

Trends come and go, but every home needs a room that shows its guests that you aren’t afraid to make a decision. This tiny little room is just begging to be shown off.

Divine Savage . Deco Martini . by the Restoration

Now I have made it clear that Southerner’s really appreciate wallcovering. I mean, REALLY. In fact, if you had looked really closely, which of course you could not, to the family room photos, you would have seen that it was in fact wallpaper, hidden behind that green paint. No matter, for the most part, we want to utilize this trend to maximum effect, and sparingly.

Look at that amazing wallcovering. It’s just begging to be accented by these beautiful gold beehive knobs. So easy just to switch those out on the cabinet. They’ll coordinate with the ceiling mounted starburst light fixture.

As the main lavatory to be used by guests, it presents the prefect opportunity to impress. As the owners will host many functions here in their new home, I thought this wallcovering that I spied on one of my travels would be fitting.

Southern Challenge: NC – Family Room

I’d like to call it southern comfort, but it’s definitely not yet comfortable – in part because it’s a pretty enormous home, with an add on here, and there, and over the years, nearly everywhere. The warren of corridors, hidden closets, tucked away bathrooms, miscellaneous sinks inside closets. What the heck was that for? There were some real head scratchers here, and more than one instance where I quietly closed the door, pretending I was Scarlet O’Hara as I whispered to myself: “I won’t think about that now….I’ll think about it tomorrow”.

Family Room . Street facing view.

The spaces that must be addressed today are still voluminous and the builder is waiting for the paint schedule so decisions must be made. I’ve already submitted my list of pull this up, tear this out, extract, re-wire, patch, and repair. While that might sound like a lot, the home is really lovely, it’s just been under the care of a single owner for nearly three decades. It’s ready for a refresh where nothing stands in its way.

Family Room . Cabinet Wall

There are three significant factors that are contributing to the dark interior. First the trees leading up to an old entrance are overgrown. They block the natural light from filling a whole slew of rooms that line that side of the house. One of these rooms has been dubbed the family room, and will likely be used a good deal of the time, and so really needs to be a happy, welcoming space. Factor number two is the knotty pine paneling that abounds in this room and many more in the home. Not only does it give a dated look to the space, it contributes to the moodiness of the room. Finally, the heavy curtains that adorn the window, may be a southern staple, but they had to go. I was only there for 7 hours, but before I left, they were on the floor. In case you are wondering, that alone made a huge difference.

In the above scenario the dark grey . Benjamin Moore’s Nickle is to appear on all the wood work and the ceiling. The pale grey . Benjamin Moore’s Mineral Ice is to appear on the walls. The Ballard Design Antelope Carpet is to sit atop the sisal – which can be found on

The home owners have a large collection of Chinoiserie which will be displayed on the book shelves and be off-set beautifully with any of these palettes.

I’m going wild with the paint in this room – the ceiling in black will get a coat, the walls and all the paneling will be painted as well, and trust me – it will make a world of difference.

Pallette 2: All Paints by Benjamin Moore: Left: Hale Navy – All woodwork Middle: Bright White. Walls and Ceiling Right: Dior Gray. Floor.

Aside from tossing the curtains permanently, my suggestions for this room include removing the existing wall to wall carpet. It’s tired. Now this can be costly so I have an interim solution – though eventually I would like a wall to wall sisal in this room, with a smaller oriental on top – my temp solution is to rip up that carpet and paint the VCT tile that sits below it. Now some of you are probably asking why I don’t just rip that up too. There is no way to know what lies beneath that. It can get messy and costly. By simply giving the existing VCT a light sand, thorough cleaning using TSP solution, followed by Porch and Floor Paint in your selected color, and then 2 – 3 coats of Varathane Satin Polyurethane, you’ll have one tough floor to stomp on until you are ready to purchase your second phase flooring option.

Scenario 3: Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace on all woodwork and ceilings. Walls in Benjamin Moore’s Old Navy.

Which of these three color palettes would you vote for? Think family of five, two boys, a girl and a mom and dad.

Getting Muddy: A space for modern living

I’m not one of those people that doesn’t allow shoes in the house. I do live in a city, and I am certain of this, all manner of unmentionables are tracked into my home on the bottom of my shoes. This is something that I have chosen not to give myself over to considering in depth. It will only lead to another phobia, or anxious obsession, which frankly I have no time for. It’s likely to cause more damage than the germs I trek in. We have to build our immune systems some way, and this feels as good a way as any.

Not Custom job here – beautiful nonetheless. Architectural Digest

I do draw the line when it comes to rain and melting snow, and nobody, and I mean no—-body, enjoys tripping over someone else’s shoes when all they wanted was to have a nice cup of tea and read a book for a half hour. Am I right?

A tiny space, a custom bench, a shelf and a few hooks. Ca Marche

Shoes, hats, coats, bags, tennis rackets, balls, don’t think I couldn’t go on and on, because I certainly could, deserve a place, as close to the outdoors as possible. A relatively new invention – think 1950’s suburban living, and the advent of loads of free time and space – mudrooms don’t in fact have to be a whole room. A simple transitional space between garage and main living space – outdoors and in, will do. The general intent is to keep these wet, sometimes stinky, often dirty items, out of view for guests and people like me that can’t stand the sight of them, guest or no guest, and from my beautifully curated interiors – or yours as the case may be.

All in one. Ballard Design.

My challenge today is taking a small hallway closet and converting it into a mud room, or a mud space, you know what I mean. It does have doors on either end of the corridor, so in my book it qualifies as a room. If you aren’t careful, I’ll have it designated as a bedroom. Narrow it may be, but it’s got a window and a closet with a door, and with the price of square footage, I could get creative if this home didn’t already have so many bedrooms.

A clean, simple, but likely expensive custom built-in.

A mudroom ideally would have a tile floor or a material that was easy to clean, flagstones, vinyl flooring, concrete, but when you are making due, we work with what we have. Hard wood isn’t a terrible material because it cleans pretty easily, and nowadays you can find some pretty amazing indoor outdoor carpets that can take the elements with a smile on their face.

Narrow hallway, put to maximum use. HGTV.

There are a number of prefabricated storage/bench and hanging systems intended for mudrooms. I like them quite a lot. Having a custom built bench and shelving will cost you much more, but will likely adapt to the quirkiest of spaces and/or desires. I offer up and even simpler alternative for those that are seeking utility, rather than conformance with some predetermined notion of what constitutes a “real” mudroom. A beautiful bench, some great hooks, a simple shelf, and some storage containers, maybe a little paint – et voila, the elements remain on the right side of the door.

Add these happy Hable Storage bags in canvas.

Wanderlushousness: Far flung restaurants with design flare

I adore travel, though for me, it is typically relegated to the time in between.  In between flips that is, this isn’t some premeditated plan to met out the world’s destinations as if they would run out if I allowed myself to just willy nilly, visit them whenever the thought occurred to me that I was ready for a little get away.  The world is quite large enough  for me to explore away. It is sadly, much less interesting, having to do with the boring topic of money. Tragic how many decisions are ruled by having it, not having it, the thought of losing it, or not using it wisely.   When I am “with property” as some gal busting with baby might say, I stay close to home. 

Dear Lily . Hong Kong

By the time I visit Cuba in January, my hope is that all the possible leaks intent on springing will have sprung, and I can travel without threat of another infiltration.   I listened to an audio book, a Reese Book Club recommendation, if that lends any credibility to its pages, Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton.  The reason I bring it up is the narrator said Cuba in a way I’ve never heard before.  It’s almost as if she replaced the “c” with a “g” and delivered it with a lazy, muddy, moody, low voice – you know the type, a long night of whiskey drinking and one too many cigarettes – – gooba – gooba—gooba.  I listened to it said so many times, and yet I still don’t think I quite have it.  Perhaps I will have mastered in by the time I reach its sun soaked shores.

Kudu . London

I’m not quite sure if I owe my obsession with supper clubs to the tales of Cuba my grandmother used to tell, or Doris Day.  Either way, the Tropicana may have been responsible for my love of restaurant design.  Doesn’t the name make you smile?  It’s fantastical Hollywood set drew me in and the production value, frankly has never gone down. 

Lasse Salling . Copenhagen

This week I saw restaurant interiors that knocked my socks off.  From London to Hong Kong, and other glamorous places beyond, I gathered some of my very favorite things.  Is it terrible to say, even as much as I love food, if the design is divine – I’m going. 

Yall . This is Southern Design

Reynaldo . The original Estate of R J Reynolds, designed by Charles Barton Keen, 1918.

When my Clients told me they were leaving Cambridge for warmer climes I admit my long drawn out nooooooo was a little dramatic, but life is fluid and ever evolving. The exciting news is that I am going to have the chance to evolve too. My very first opportunity to influence the design of a southern home, followed the initial piece of traumatic news, softening the blow, as only Jonathan could.

Note the scale, the diamond patterned tile floor, and the acid green.

A new emotion took over – known to many as panic, I asked myself, what exactly did I know about southern design? Naturally quick to met out a harsh judgement, I told myself, “absolutely nothing”. I love talking to myself, and frankly don’t care who hears. Some of my very best conversations, are held between, me, myself, and I, and in the end, helpful recommendations to some of my biggest quandaries result.

Kelly Wearstler’s Avalon Hotel

I actually do know something about Southern design, I had just forgotten that these influencers, for whom I have great respect, all hale from, or are known for their southern design aesthetic. Kelly Wearstler, born in Myrtle Beach, SC, has a self proclaimed style, known as Modern Glamour. Derived from the Hollywood Regency era of design, it is bold and graphic, bright and accented by enormous ceramic figurines – usually of animals. Dorothy Draper – born in Tuxedo Park, NY, known most famously for the Greenbrier in West Virginia, and for being the first socialite interior designer, has been on my radar for a very long time . Suzanne Kassler, born in Waco, Texas to an Air Force Dad, lived in many places, gathering inspiration near and far, until finally landing in Atlanta, GA.

Dorothy Draper’s Greenbrier – iconic design.

So what makes southern design, well….southern? The properties are certainly much, much bigger than the urban locations that I typically design. They are grand, they are estates, they come from an era when income tax didn’t exist and amassing of wealth was easier. Aside from their size, southern design appears to incorporate the following elements:

  • Florals: from the gardens to the interiors, they are heavily represented,
  • Painted floors: intricate or simple patterns – the diamond being a favorite,
  • Heavy use of fabric: from slip-covered furnishings to curtain-laden windows, reams of fabric abound,
  • Collectables: southerns love to tell a story through “things”,
  • Family photos,
  • Mix of antiques and modern furnishings,
  • Monogramed everything,and
  • Bold colors.

Kasler brings a fresh approach to Southern Design – she doesn’t paper the walls, but brings the outdoors in and loves her curtains!

I got this. My journey begins in just a few weeks. I’ve got a lot of research to do to pull this off, but I won’t let my lovely Clients down!