Southern Challenge: Leap of faith

Today I am filled with gratitude and a healthy dose of awe for the faith that the Walton’s placed in me with their new southern home. It’s one thing to preach about it, and another to put it into practice. I always knew they were special people, but I don’t think I fully appreciated the divergent nature of the design suggestions I was making, from that which they were accustomed, until I had changed everything that is.

Above: Family room before and after. All the surface mounted electrical was removed, the existing built-ins were modified to accommodate the wall mounted tv – which can be hidden away with the addition of the new doors. A additional corner bookshelf cabinet was constructed to the right of the door. All woodwork was painted in Benjamin Moore’s Nickle, walls in Benjamin Moore’s Mineral ice. Quite a transformation.

Above Left: Benjamin Moore’s Mineral Ice. Right: Benjamin Moore’s Nickle.

Dark, rich, brooding color palettes were packed up in boxes and left in New England to be replaced with bright, fresh, clean happy hues with a hint of grapefruit. Just kidding. I love the crazy adjectives that they use to describe wine, and I got a bit carried away.

Above: Office before.

The house was in need of a manicure and a haircut. It was so laden with window dressings and accoutrements (that’s french for a lot of trappings or extras – the fringe had its own accessories), that I was surprised that it could breathe under the weight of it all. It was entirely the wrong feeling for a family that breathes life into its visitors, allows them to see life through a new lens and find their purpose. Speaking from my own personal experience, I can assure you finding your purpose is hard enough without hiding it under all those trimmings and trappings. I love a window treatment as much as the next gal (if I am being honest, probably a little more than the next), but balance and harmony must prevail, and even I believe that being parsimonious nets a more pure result.

Above: Office after – dark wood painted in Benjamin Moore’s White Winged Dove in high gloss. Walls in same – egg shell finish.

I think I would have been really nervous if I had been clued into the doubt that was floating around down there in North Carolina. Ho boy, as Jo-Jo likes to say, I might have been up a night or two over it. You see, I am not really accustomed to working with others to realize their vision. As a flipper, I am in the business of realizing my own. It’s true, sometimes I let myself down when I make mistakes, but I have learned, well, to learn from them, and move on. It’s a weighty responsibility to please others, which brings me back to faith and gratitude.

Jonathan said: “We would never have imagined painting these colors.” “I was skeptical about the color. But SO love it!!! I’m so glad that I did not go brown and browner.” Me too Jonathan, me too. Thank you for the gift you gave to me in your trust.

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 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.

Second Time Around: new life to tired cabinets

I’m not fanatical about the environment. I don’t come unhinged at the site of a plastic straw or a single use bag, but at the same time, I try to do my part to limit unnecessary waste. That might sound rich coming from someone who is a serial renovator, but it’s true nonetheless.

Factory Finish – nearly indestructable. No. 1

So I am guessing you are wondering what qualifies when it comes to assessing whether it stays or goes? Having good bones is essential to passing that test. I am always going to struggle with getting rid of something that is perfectly good, just because I don’t happen to like aesthetically speaking. When the bones are bad to begin with, you don’t have much of a fighting chance with me. I am unsympathetic as I load you into the landfill.

No. 2 began their life in mahogany. Re-imagined in Benjamin Moore’s Dior Gray.

I got to thinking about kitchens this past weekend. Long weekends that hint of summer beg for a BBQ in the back yard. One can’t help but be in the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets in the quest for a pretty platter or the perfect stemware in which to pour ones pale pink rose. All that opening and closing of cabinet doors brought me back to the hundreds of cabinets I have owned and sold in the kitchens that I been on my journey’s path. The first was so old it could have been in a museum. The cabinets were metal, had been painted many times over, and clipped in place to close. Ba Bye. They were replaced by a traditional white painted cabinet. Factory finished – which means they weren’t likely to chip or peel or look unsightly unless you ran a child’s bike into them. That kitchen was too small to have a child or a bike, in addition to me, so that wasn’t going to happen.

No. 2 Painted off-site in a spray room. Note – no brush strokes.

My next kitchen presented a test. It had been newly renovated. The cabinets were solid wood construction, stained to look like mahogany. They were a simple Shaker style that I quite liked, but the color – no – simply no. This was the first time I embarked on changing my existing cabinet color by painting them. They really were in excellent condition and cabinets are super expensive, so replacing them was out of the question. Now I had my builder take all the door fronts off, remove all the hardware, carefully cover and tape all the surfaces and surrounding area, and then spray the base and hanging cabinets in place. This was done after giving all the base wood a light sanding. The door fronts were taken to an auto shop and sprayed in the paint room (dust free and nail hard). It’s really difficult to sand and clean surfaces, in situ, but if you are going to attempt this on your own, you must ensure all the surface are wiped with a damp cloth to remove any particulate matter. Trust me on this one, it does in fact matter.

Painted in Benjamin Moore’s Thundercloud Gray.

No. 3’s kitchen was perfection, but No. 4 – that kitchen got the same treatment as No.2, perhaps I was influenced by the fact that they were the same unoriginal faux mahogany stain – yuck. I painted these, though this time the door fronts did not leave the site, and the quality wasn’t as good as the first time around. Not my previous warning. The color however was on trend and fabulous.

No. 4. Benjamin Moore. Palladian Blue.

This latest renovation I think even an environmentalist would have forgiven me for throwing out. They were plastic coated MDF. That violates every possible rule of good taste and sustainability, made worse for the fact that their proximity to the stove resulted in the edges melting and curling up at the edges. Just thinking about it again makes gives me the shivers.

No rose while you’re painting!

If you are going to attempt to paint the cabinets on your own – I admire your DIYourselfery, but please remember the following steps:

  • strip and stand doors and base if they have been previously stained, varnished and/or painted before,
  • apply a wood knot and resin blocking primer
  • between coats allow surface to fully dry
  • apply a primer coat and/or two coats of your chosen color allowing a minimum of four hours drying time between coats. Note that different climates and weather conditions will impact drying time.

I am all about giving second life to beautifully made things, and while I promise I am not casting any aspersions on your ability to make your cabinets beautiful in the most important way – which is of course – to your own eye, it is not an easy task. Take your time, do lots of research beforehand, and maybe even conduct a test run on something a tad less precious first. Good luck!

Setting Plaster

Robert A. M. Stern’s Offices . One Park Avenue . NYC

If you think I am going to provide you with a lesson on how to set plaster – you have another thing coming. While I love a beautifully plastered wall, and believe in the fundamentals of a clean space within which to work, I happily leave the execution of that up to the experts. It’s actually the name of a paint color – a showstopper – a mon avis, but the name leaves a lot to be desired. Farrow and Ball could stand to learn from Essie’s in the naming prowess. There Rallings, Down Pipe, and Stiff Key Blue could go from marbles in the mouth to the amuse bouche (a little happy for your mouth 🙂 ) of a Touch of Sugar, Reign Check, or Tiers of Joy, but that’s neither here nor there. A rose by any other name and all that. I will not be dissuaded from my new found adoration of this hue.

One Park Avenue. NYC is the I’ve arrived of all addresses. Originally designed by York and Sawyer, it is home to Robert A. M. Stern Architects. I announced to the Receptionist, in the most uncouth way, that I needed to be shown to my room, I was moving in. Naturally she looked a bit confused, and was decidedly too polite to point out that the Ritz Carlton was down the street. After clearing up my actual reason for being there, I had a tour of this amazing space. From their lighting collection to their carpeting, hardware, tile, urns, and the recent addition of benches and bike racks for their institutional clients, RAMSA leaves nothing to chance. They are my kind of people, even if they don’t know it.

THE Office.

I joked to my colleague, that you could safely say that you were in the big leagues when you were dealing with folks that laugh at the idea of an 8″ base. This seemed to be to be excessive when I was considering it for my modest condo project two months ago. I would have happily settled for 6″ – ha. RAMSA outfitted their lobby with a base that was conservatively 21″ tall, and let me assure you, not only does it work, but I briefly considered ripping out mine and replacing it, and my paint is barely dry.

Model citizens – getting the scale right.

Ah to be in the vicinity of greatness. As I make my way quickly and efficiently through the city today, making decision after decision to accent my new space, and dare to dream, transform it into something that I like…I am ever hopeful, that some of their magic rubbed off onto me.

Towering Heights.

About a Boy: Part II

So the jury has returned from deliberations. Look No. 2 which can be seen below was selected. It’s a pretty good look. I should have known he would have gone for the platform – it’s cool. A disadvantage of this bed is the lack of storage space underneath, but the up side is that snacks can’t sneak under it. A pretty big upside if you ask me.

So now that a bed, side table, and desk have been selected, the elements that will really bring the space to life have to be factored into the equation. Color is so important to the overall feel of the space, but so is storage. We have to deal with the aforementioned sneaker collection, and these aren’t small feet we’re talking about. Size 13’s take up some space. There is a large closet in the room – with no door on it – don’t ask. If I build out the guts of the closet with plenty of shelves and a small hanging area it should do the trick.

As for which color we should paint it. I am recommending one of these three Benjamin Moore Colors: Sunrise, Ice Cubed Silver, or Hunter Green. In this last instance I would paint the baseboard interior door and casings in the color and the wall in Super White. Give it a really crisp bright feel.

Finally, I’d resort to my old favorites for finishing touches. Home Goods, Home Goods, and maybe a few local favorites like Oceana and Bungalow. Stay posted for the final reveal. Happy Sunday.

Left: Benjamin Moore’s Hunter Green. Right: Benjamin Moore’s Super White

Finding Your Way to Calm

During these in between times I usually feel like an old teddy bear whose seams have given way and whose fluff can be found in small tufts, scattered about all the places I have visited. A pair of sparkly shoes left behind at a friends house, two socks – not of the matching variety, a pair of my nickers, folders full of important documents, and most definitively – pieces of my sanity. If I thought being knocked senseless would make room for some fresh insight, I just might let someone take a whack.

It was this bad attitude that I took with me to the hardware store to get another round of sample paints for the new place. The clock is ticking and my lack of inspiration isn’t helping. So when Susan announced herself as a color specialist that was willing to assist – I did something unprecedented for me…I said “I’d love your help”. And I meant it. And even better – she did help.

Sometimes I get to thinking that I know enough about something to just go it alone, and that under the circumstances, the circumstances being, in case you’ve forgotten, are that all that fluff is falling out of my head – how could I possibly expect to wedge anything new in there and make it stick. Them, those, that.

Bill Nye said: “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” It’s both scary and reassuring all at the same time, and Susan knew something I did not. She knew what all the designers were trending toward for the new year. She had a whole file full of greys. Can you imagine. It made me swoon with happiness. She had a tiny little piece of paper that had a diamond cut out of its middle. It was pure white and she ran it across colors to show me how they were reading. She talked about cool and warm, and how the very best designers balance the two in any space. She told me I picked colors that looked expensive and that it was a sure sign that i had gotten it right.

The beauty of a renovation: we can fix that.

Maybe all that fluff has been falling out to make room for Susan’s wisdom. My palette may have looked expensive, but it cost just the same amount it always does, and as I sit looking at the enormous sample sheets that magically appeared from her folder, I feel calm. Just like one of the paint colors we selected together.

Happy Saturday.