Half Way to Happy: investigating the quasi-custom

I thought with time I might warm to No. 5. I thought that, but maybe I was wrong. It just doesn’t feel like me. I come in to the plink, plink, plinking of the AC making its way, fat drop, by fat drop into the receptacle that I have placed, less than discretely, under the offending leak, and think, why me? This is a bad way to think. It’s not personal, it’s business. NOT personal…just business, so I got to the business of investigating why my brand new split system would be doing this – not to me. The good news is, through the wonder of YouTube, and people that have a lot of time, and an altruistic spirit, I think I figured out why. Now I just need to fix the offending situation.

My inspiration.

Down the stairs I go, to the cooler environs of my subterranean bedroom, which feels a little like a boat – not quite damp, but not quite dry either. There’s still water down there, and so the ceiling will be opened up next week to find the source of the weeping, and see if I can console it into a happier state.

The closets at the Hotel Doisey Etoile . Paris.

Which leads me to something that will make me happy – I think. I really admire a good closet. It has the power to keep me on time in the morning, to keep me organized, and remind me of the abundance that surrounds me. It’s a little bit harder to feel that way as you dig through a box to locate a sundress, and you use the dryer to store your work out clothes because there is no dresser to stow them in. One must make due after all.

Left: Urban Green Furniture – Amazon. Middle: Benjamin Moore’s Airway.

I had designed a beautiful pair of amours to augment, what can only be considered, limited storage. Sadly all the glorious things I intended them to do, convert to beautiful bookshelves, a credenza, split apart, or put together, they really would have been fantastic. Some day. Those would have been a piece that could have lasted you a lifetime, even in a lifetime where taste and styles transform, and we’ve been programmed to believe that new is better.

Left: BM . Frozen Canal. Middle: Bee Hive Knobs. Right: Caning by the Yard.

After having looked in my wallet and discovering that there wasn’t enough in there to pay for my vision, I went back to the drawing board. Erik Reuda Design Lab didn’t even make me feel bad about it. When I proposed finding a simple armoire that we could retrofit with the doors that I realllllly wanted, they said yes! My simple wooden amoires arrived at their shop earlier this week and now I need to pick the paint color. They will built me doors, incorporating the caning which is so on trend and I have been lusting after, into the fronts, and spray the piece for me. I need to select hardware too, but the paint is holding up production, and I suspect making No. 5 think I am not committed to it. Once I move in properly, I suspect all will be right with the world again.

Southern Challenge: Dressing Room

I always wanted a proper dressing room. I fantasize of having a beautifully large bedroom, flanked on either side by large walk-in closets, which lead into an inner sanctuary. A boudoir I guess. My butler would bring me a martini while I soak in my bath. My imaginary husband wouldn’t be allowed in this space. It would be all mine, and in turn, he would have his own, which naturally, I would have no interest in entering. I think the reasons are obvious and I not elaborate. As Michelle Obama says – “When they go low, we go high”. So let’s keep this in the realm of the beautiful.

Joss and Main Llewellyn Desk . 30″H x 30″W x 20″D $102.99

In this southern challenge, we have a bath inside the master suite, which while it is in lovely shape, it isn’t quite roomy enough to support the necessities of female living. Hair and make-up must be straightened, braided, blown out, applied, curled and otherwise made salon quality, and that simply cannot happen in cramped quarters. I could almost hear those grand old dame’s of the bath tiles whimpering at the thought of being thrown out with the trash. How undignified. I wouldn’t think of it. They don’t make tile, tubs, and vanities like that anymore, and with a little paint that en suite is going to be glamorous all over again.

Left: West Elm’s Mid-Century Mini Desk $399. 36W x 20D x 30H (on sale now at 20% off) Right: Target Console Desk . 41.9W x 29H x 15.6D note that this option would not accommodate the tower. $104.45

That of course doesn’t solve the issue of a place to primp. Just across the corridor is a small, but suitable walk-in closet. It’s not quaint or charming – yet anyway, but it will be when we are done with it. It has a window, which I consider to be a huge bonus when it comes to closets. Natural light, such a wonderful surprise.

Ballard Design Sarah Storage System. Top pieces 86″H x 19″W x 14″D. Left: $599.25. Middle and Right: $524.25. Bottom Left: Corner $$749.25. Bottom Right: $599.25.

I did consider a California Closet, and that certainly is still an option, but I thought I would try something a little different here. The Ballard Design closet components are transitional in design style – I like that for this stately old Georgian Home. The pieces offer great flexibility, and the little nook within the closet is the perfect place for a dressing table. Again – you could have a custom vanity with drawers built for the space, but at considerable expense. I’ve selected a mini-desk that will snuggle in nicely, while still allowing a tower column with a mirrored glass door. What’s a walk-in closet after all if you can’t confirm you look fabulous before exiting.

Left: Ballard Design . Swivel Stool Slip covered. $98.48 – $310.50. Right: Target Pink Fringed Ottoman $56.99

I’ve provided several desk options, and of course will recommend mirrors for above the desk, a pendant light – every closet needs a bauble for onlookers to gawk over. Maybe a little throw rug for the sheer luxury of walking barefoot across. Oh, I do think I visualize the lady of the house being very happy in this space.

All – Shades of Light. Left: Quatre Crest $560. Middle: Deco Glam. Right: Minimalist Globe $260.

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 Sisalcarpet.com

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.