Long before the news broke across the country, I already knew there was a serious shortage of trade workers in the home remodeling industry. They agree to show up next week, re-schedule, work a few hours, disappear to another job – they’re juggling dozens of projects all across town. Once in a while we actually finish a room. . . although finished does not necessarily mean done.
Last July when we first started remodeling this house everyone decided the first floor powder room would be the first room to be finished. It was small, only needed the sink and toilet replaced, a new light fixture, and a fresh coat of paint. Then the tile crumbled when the 45-year old vanity was removed. Okay – we’ll replace the floor. Even better.
The sconce was on backorder, the electrician was delayed, other rooms in the house became a higher priority, but finally (and with the help of our contractor’s adorable baby girl) this little powder room was finally finished. Meanwhile, those walls began to look very bland.
After a great deal of research, thousands of photos searched on Pinterest, and a can (or two) of antiquing glaze, I decided to add a ribbon with upholstery tacks just above the tile for a punch of color in this sea of blah (actually, I couldn’t find ribbon in the exact color as the new paint on the doors, so I used a decorative, self-adhesive tape from Michael’s.)
We fell in love with the color of paint on the front doors (more blue than reflected in this photo) so I decided to use it on all the interior doors as well. The doorknobs, by Nostalgic Warehouse, were on Amazon last September at $15/each – 90% off retail. I bought every one available, which was just enough to replace every doorknob in the house.
There are risks to actually finishing a room. For one, my family claims I grow restless when I’ve finished decorating every room in the house, and then it’s only a matter of time before we move on. If you stick around long enough though it’s fun to look back and see how a room evolved over the years. Maybe tweaking a room is the best part of the design process – adding a plant in a found container, changing the pillows, adding fabric to the ceiling.
I was a bit intimidated to put a lovely piece of fabric on the powder room’s ceiling, but it was in my original plan. Let the tweaking begin. . .
January 2016: we bought a little cabin in the mountains to escape summer’s heat.
If home remodeling projects could be called children, our second project of this past year definitely fits the mold of the middle child – plain, drab, neglected.
February 2016: furnishings were gathered.
Taking pictures helped us remember what we had bought (and which store we had left it in!).
March 2016 – construction wraps up.
A new roof, new windows, remodeled floor plan, insulation, and running water.
Move-in day was on the last day of March. . .
April 2016: spring had sprung.
May 2016: lazy, happy days.
June 2016: back on the market.
How could we leave these beautiful mountains at the end of the summer? Instead, we hatched a plan to sell both homes (the cabin and our home in Greensboro, N.C.), and move back to the mountains permanently. Our trusted agent’s photographer captured our renovation efforts on camera.
July, August, September, October 2016: showing, after showing. . . after showing.
A showing request comes in – at all times of the day or night. Spiff things up, sweep the porch, check for cob webs, dust the furniture, put away the dog bowls, hide the dirty laundry, turn on all the lights, drive the dogs away in the Jeep. . . wait, wait, wait (sometimes an hour, sometimes 10 minutes). Two days, or two hours later: repeat.
January 2017: SOLD!
This little cabin proved to be a determined little house. It was brave, willing to think outside the box and open to compromise. It may have felt neglected for a long time, but when the time came for it to shine, it embraced the opportunity. A classic middle child indeed.
It was the windows of this home that first stole my heart – casement style with a crank handle that go beyond stylish; they’re downright romantic.
Maybe it stands to reason then that the first ‘decorated’ space in this home would be one of these lovely windows. While unpacked boxes were everywhere, and we could barely move around the misplaced furniture, I found a pair of drapes and immediately installed them in the keeping room. It did not escape my notice that there were no kitchen cabinets, stove, kitchen sink, or master shower at the time, but we had one beautiful window – then another, and another, and another. . .
It seems my house is like our American election: endless surprises, mud slung everywhere, and the end result the biggest upset in history.
As for my house, there’s no kitchen, the master bath is still under construction, the attic access has been temporarily closed off, which means the electrical work can’t be finished, the painting was done before the electrical was finished, and now there’s sheetrock repair and re-painting everywhere. . . suffice it to say, not one room in the entire house can be considered finished. And I don’t mean decorated.
Fortunately, on the days I have a meltdown my husband is optimistic, and when he has a meltdown, I’m in good spirits. I couldn’t promise the outcome if we both had a meltdown on the same day.
We moved in about three weeks ago, and ate out for all three meals a day for two days when I declared I couldn’t take it anymore. My husband purchased a small toaster oven, and made it his mission to prepare delightful meals at home, which we ate from plastic plates with plastic utensils (easy cleanup at least).
Finally, the cabinets were installed – oh happy day – except there were issues. Replacement parts have been ordered, countertops measured, and sometime before Christmas we may actually have a complete kitchen.
Although I’ve spent oodles of time studying French Provincial decor, it has not transformed one iota of my belongings into French. And, since I am unwilling to sell off the whole caboodle and start from scratch, a somewhat modified French style has emerged.
The foyer’s coat closet was demolished with the intention of settling this oversized armoire back into its alcove, except the armoire began to look more at home in the living room over time, and I discovered these great columns in the back room of a local antique store that fit nicely into the vacated coat closet alcove. Our next job is to paint the interior doors a beautiful shade of gray, and stain the columns black.
We took the drapes from our little cabin for the Keeping Room – even though I was unsure about mixing their animal print and black velvet with the contemporary blue velvet of the new Ralph Lauren chairs. The electrician will add the swing-arm sconces over the bookshelves. . . soon I hope.
The down side of this home’s mansard roof is that it eliminates the majority of the upstairs walls for artwork leaving me with too many pictures! In a diversion from my original vision, our guest bath was the only place that could support all five of these botanical prints, which led to a predominantly black scheme for our pink bathroom.
All that’s left for this room is a window treatment, and window seat cushion.
I read the advice of a designer long ago who said every room should have a touch of black, advice I have enthusiastically taken to heart. . . although blue has become the surprise companion color, including beautiful blue-green drapes for the living room that will be here – yes, by Christmas.
“Shopping“ punctuates every remodeling project, and eventually takes on a life of its own. So far our shopping list has included toilets, sinks & vanities, faucets for the sinks, shower and bath, a kitchen countertop & kitchen cabinets, the refrigerator, stove & vent, dishwasher, washer & dryer, marble for the shower walls, bathroom floors & kitchen backsplash, paint for the walls, ceiling, trim and doors, doorknobs for every door, a heating & cooling system, a fence, propane tank, and light fixtures for nearly every room.
And with every project, there’s something on my shopping list that proves totally elusive. . . wearing my patience thin. In our last project it was the drawer pulls for the kitchen cabinets. This time it was the sconce for the powder room, although I haven’t gotten to the drawer pulls yet.
With this many things to buy at once, the name of the game becomes budget.
We’ve driven to the other side of town to plunder marble remnants, made a trip to the appliance clearance corner at Lowe’s every week (we found our washer for $300 – a savings of $700!), and waited for the deal of the day to pop up everywhere and anywhere. The biggest impact to the budget, however, can be made with the one item that shows up most often on my shopping list: light fixtures.
This house had just three original fixtures that could be kept, which meant we needed 14 new fixtures. Ten choices have been made. . . four to go.
We bought the chandelier for the kitchen before we had officially bought the house (I wish I could say this was an unusual thing for us to do). Now this chandelier is in one of the many boxes stuffed between the remodeling debris, and I can only describe that it has beautifully colored crystals of clear, pink, red and purple (as best I remember).
The upper cabinets have been removed above the sink, which overlooks the keeping room. Then the price dropped on these Pottery Barn crystal pendants (from $299 to $103) and a pair of them will hang over the sink cabinet.
Gray cabinets were spot checked to be sure they wouldn’t clash with the cobalt blue of the refrigerator. Red velvet drapes match the red velvet bar stools, which I hope will also match the new chandelier, and the table and chairs we used in our previous kitchen.
The Keeping Room
Several months ago E.J. Victor held a warehouse sale at a non-descript warehouse in Morganton, N.C. We wouldn’t dare miss it. . .
Two upholstered chairs sat in a separate room from the case goods typical of these sales. Although we noticed them immediately, they were blue. . . not our go-to color. Nonetheless, they were shockingly beautiful and I couldn’t take my eyes off them.
I’ve tried not to let the chairs dictate the light fixture for this room – it is possible the chairs could wear out before the fixture needs to be replaced some dozen odd years down the road – but I can’t help but see the chairs and the room as one.
We’ve blown our budget a bit to secure fixtures that would help make the old paneling in this room sing (my husband hated the paneling). Swing-arm lights will be added over each of the three bookshelves, along with one somewhat modern yet stunning flush mount.
The master closet (shown at the far end of the photo) has been demolished with that space being added to the master shower (on the other side of the wall). Both windows include window seats, and an opportunity for seat cushions with fabulous fabric.
Rosie 5 Light Crystal Pendant by OK Lighting (Wayfair: $118) Anichini Tapestry Linens (The Red Collection $200)
A full set of Anichini’s tapestry linens showed up at my favorite consignment store in Greensboro, N.C. (The Red Collection) for just $200 (retail value: $1000+). The perfect chandelier showed up on Wayfair’s clearance rack for $118 (retail: $195) where the copper finish and smokey grey crystals will compliment the linens and new wall color (Sherwin Williams Buff). Hardwood floors will replace the green shag carpet.
I found the large gold chandelier for the dining room at a consignment store for just $45. From top to bottom left, fixtures for the guest bath, upstairs office, and guest room – each one $100 or less.
We had intended to add can lights to the barren living room ceiling until we met with the electrician who enlightened us to the consequences of those can lights – he would have to drill into the lovely crown molding. Our fallback plan is to add several well-placed sconces, although we don’t know that any one of the six light switches along the interior wall will actually control anything we add to this room.
Not every room can support my idea of the perfect light, my own design decisions have put restrictions on the perfect choice for some rooms, and the very fact that the price has dropped significantly is what makes other fixtures perfect.
In the ideal renovation where we have stripped the walls down to the bare studs, there are few compromises. Every fixture contributes to the ideal plan. Sometimes life isn’t ideal though, and in those cases isn’t it nice to know we can still find the light of our life.
There comes a time in every home remodeling project that I ask myself why on earth I thought I was qualified to undertake this project (eerily similar to what I say at the starting line of every marathon). There’s been hours of middle-of-the-night worry over some odd decision, or quite literally inches here versus inches there.
In every house I’ve remodeled, the overall design practically appeared in a flash. Seems I could see the furniture, the style, colors, and how we’d live there the moment I set foot inside the doors. Maybe because I have promised my husband this will be our last remodel (at least in the foreseeable future), or maybe just because it is one of the most special homes I’ve come across in many years. . . this house scares me half out of my mind.
Nonetheless, at the risk of divulging some design faux pas that only I have yet to see, here’s the design strategy for our new home – now nearly halfway finished.
Provençal. . .
A personal struggle ensued from the onset between the idea of French Provincial and French Country design. Nothing about this home felt country. Then my Aunt decided to sell her remaining parquet tiles, and the whole-house design seemed to take off from there. Finally, I could see a very elegant interpretation of Provençal developing.
The 28×28 tiles are made from different wood species giving them a unique design when stained. There will be enough tiles to use in the kitchen, entry foyer and master bath. (The finished floor in the far right photo is the finished version of similar tiles used in our last renovation.)
Powder Room. . .
Not one inch will be sacrificed in the design of this home, and this was especially critical in the downstairs powder room. The first toilet ordered left little room between the seat and the wall. We moved onto another room while we waited on a replacement, smaller toilet.
The pedestal sink needed to be just 17″ deep to allow ample passage to the new toilet. The wall color was a safe choice but one that seems to fit well, although I do believe there may be another paint/glazing process in my future to give the color more depth/age. Add an impact piece of art and I think this little bath will turn into wow.
Taking the walls of your house down to its very studs is so much easier for creating the perfect lighting plan. We did not take this house down to the studs.
I wanted a ‘statement’ light for this little room, but one 40-watt bulb wouldn’t shed enough light for the whole room, and the perfect fixture (top right) was too large. The crystal-laden sconce has been ordered, but will require the outlet be moved off center several inches. . . something I’m not sure is yet possible.
Guest Bath. . .
My Guest Bath Inspiration room. . . and the real pink bathroom.
Saving the pink bathroom is proving the most challenging of all tasks. We found a fabulous vanity that fit the design I had in mind, Hollywood glamour, at only $400! (HomeDecoratorsCollection) The first delivery wasn’t even attempted because the vanity was damaged so badly, so we moved onto another room while we awaited the replacement vanity. It arrived a week or so ago – in two boxes. . . in other words, assembly required.
We spent a day or two in shock. I spent another day or two re-thinking the entire design, specifically a simple 2-legged porcelain sink with the carrerra marble we’ve added to the floor taken all the way to the ceiling – although this would have been a budget buster, I was wondering why I hadn’t gone that route in the first place.
Our contractor called one evening and talked us off the ledge, and now we’ve finally made the move forward with our original design.
The vanity is exactly 61 inches wide, the space where the vanity will sit is 61 inches, although the space in the middle of the bath where it needs to be assembled is just 60-1/2 inches (thanks to that pretty, pink tile on the walls). To add to the drama, the original vanity supported one sink – our new vanity is a two-sink version, and now we worried about re-working the plumbing and lifting the vanity up and over to sit it flush against the wall in place. Ugh.
The plumbing has already been re-worked, and my husband immediately began stripping off another wall of the lovely pink tile to give us that precious 1/2 inch. This week we’ll assemble the vanity in–place. Thewalls are destined for a lavish coat of Ralph Lauren metallic white (Lustre). Everyone’s holding their breath.
Master Bath. . . the room that will change the most.
Master Bath: ‘Before’
Master Bath ‘In-Progress’
The vanity on the right (‘Before’ photo above) has been removed to provide a doorway into the adjacent bedroom, which will become the master closet/laundry.
Moving the toilet to the far wall (where the bathtub was) gives enough room for a 60″ vanity. We splurged on the vanity (having reduced our budget with the assembly-ready guest bath vanity!), and I found fabulous faucets at LightInTheBox.com for just $99 each.
With the walls open, we can put the lighting anywhere we choose. You’d think it would become a simple decision.
I love the look of a pendant over the sink, but they do cast a shadow on the mirrors and I’ve sworn them off in this house. Sconces by the mirrors are quite beautiful, but I wasn’t sure whether we should use one large mirror or two narrow mirrors, and there’s hardly room for sconces, mirrors, and electrical outlets anyway.
The right choice seemed to be a sconce over the toilet that picks up the white of the vanity countertop, also providing much needed lighting throughout the room.
We discovered 18×18 black marble for the shower walls in a local tile warehouse, which will also be used as a border around the parquet tiles (similar to the picture above). White carrerra marble will be used on the shower floor, and, of course, the vanity top. I’m thinking of a pair of simple, wood-framed mirrors over the vanity, but the jury is still out.
The new closet door entry on the left, and the makings of a laundry closet on the right.
Elsewhere around the house. . .
The guys have so willingly worked around our ‘stuff’ to paint all the walls my favorite color of pale yellow (Sherwin Williams Buff). Since this photo was taken the beautiful crown molding has also become a shimmering, pure white. Hopefully by the time I write about this subject again, we’ll be looking at finished rooms.
Most photos are courtesy Wayfair where I have purchased many of the items, or from my own camera role. My inspiration room photos have come from Pinterest. Please send me a reply if there’s a specific photo you’d like to know more about. thanks for reading!
The renovation of our new home is minor, relatively speaking. It was only the kitchen and master bath that would be demolished, while a downstairs powder room and the upstairs guest bath got new fixtures and paint.
Then I decided it would be a shame to go this far and not replace the dated floor in the guest bath, which destroyed the pink cove tile along the bottom, and exposed the rotten sub-flooring around the toilet thanks to a previous leak.
After the vanity was removed in the downstairs bath we were left with less than a complete floor of tile, and when the remaining tile began to crumble we knew it too was a lost cause. And because these things are literally happening by the hour, decisions must be made straightaway, or work stops altogether.
Left to his own devices, my husband would duplicate everything from some previous home. Same colors, countertops, cabinetry, flooring – ditto finito! As you may have gathered, I embrace change.
For several weeks my focus has been on color. For me, a home’s color palette is one of the first decisions to be made before the rest of the design can fall into place. To that end, I’ve brought home one of nearly every color card available at Lowe’s. Some of them have been turned into a sample of real paint, which I have painted onto a section of wall in almost every room. Finally, after days of exhaustive frustration, I heard what color this house wants to become: neutral. It seems the color for this house should come from everywhere except the walls.
Our last home had 2 exterior colors, which were also used in 3 interior rooms, along with 8 more colors throughout the rest of the house. In an unprecedented move, our forever home will consist of just 3 interior colors, and one new exterior color on the front doors. Our contractor is counting his blessings at this very moment.
I found beautiful draperies for the dining room and left them draped across the dining room table for more than a week hoping they would inspire this home’s color palette. They did not.
Meanwhile, dozens of color cards were collected and swaths of paint dotted the walls. The color for the front doors came about relatively easy, but to this day they look just like this. . .
The plan was to finish the 1st floor powder room so there was one working bath during construction. Sadly, there’s no ‘before’ and by the time we had snapped a photo, this little bath had bourne the wrath of my color quandary.
Three of the workers warned me those dark colors would make this little room feel even smaller. . . they didn’t realize I had exotic bathroom images swirling in my head.
In progress . . .
The upstairs guest bath carries a similar tale with it’s irreplaceable pink tile (there’s actually a movement to savethepinkbathrooms). I’ve spent hours researching how to design around the pink – mostly because the bathtub was in good shape and I didn’t want to replace it. When I stumbled onto this photo, I knew there was hope for my pink bathroom.
Another photo we sadly missed the opportunity to capture was the original 1970s guest bath vanity and medicine cabinet, and now they’re long gone. A new vanity is on order, and will fit perfectly if we all hold our breath (there’s only a 1/2″ to spare).
Next week the floors will be covered in Carrerra Marble, the walls will become pure white, and somehow I’ll mix in a little of that beautiful green – maybe on the ceiling.
By the time we reached the Master Bath design, a common theme had begun to emerge: not an inch to spare. This bath has been designed, and re-designed with every inch accounted for. I couldn’t imagine the design for this room until the layout was correct, so now the fun work begins here.
This process has reminded me that houses, like people, show their personality in different ways. Some people are outgoing, verbose and lively while others may be quiet showing their spirit through tattoos, hobbies, knowledge, or clothes.
My last home was fairly monochromatic in its furnishings while the walls spoke volumes. This home speaks differently, quietly . . . albeit no less beautiful.