Sunday, April 19, 2015

Italy Apartment: Before and After

Last week I went to Italy to help my dear friend, Ana design her home. She contacted me shortly after moving from Montreal to Italy to see if I had time to make the trip. Because she was already living in the apartment, I wanted to get there as soon as I could. I gave myself one month to sketch out a plan and source fabrics. Today I will show you the before and after shots, and later in the week I will do a couple of posts about the methods that got us here.  As you read this post, keep in mind that the only things we purchased were the two large rugs, the white bookshelves and night stands from Ikea and a few accessories.

I was gone for ten days, but two of those were travel. Two days were taken for Milan (another project I'm working on). Sunday we "rested". Ana generously insisted I choose one excursion day for pure touristy pleasure, so that left just FOUR full days to flip her apartment! Let's get started in the entrance, right through the front door. Before:

 The entrance is generously proportioned and they owned a lovely armoire. Ana had the bench reupholstered before I arrived. I was so happy when Ana went along with my color suggestion without batting an eye. I was even happier when it came back and she was thrilled by the choice. The custom cushion and newly framed art completed this area.
This apartment is about 2200 square feet with about about 500 square feet dedicated to the entrance and hall. Some people call these non-room spaces "wasted space", but in many cases I disagree. These wide halls provide a gracious transition between the hustle and bustle of the entrance and kitchen and the calm and elegant living spaces.
Moving into the hall, there is a large niche about 5 inches deep. Although we all would have loved built in bookshelves, they only plan to be in this home for about five years. Also we were on a strict time frame, so IKEA to the rescue. They fit well and we had them professionally built and installed. They are very secure. This hallway is not only attractive and functional, but putting the shelves here has improved the flow of the home.
Now through the double doors, into the living room.  Before:
The first thing you saw when you walked through the French doors to the Grand Salon... was the giant black TV screen. This is a family who hardly ever turns it on! Ana confirmed that the girls play the piano (which at the time was sitting in the hall) every day and that music is a much bigger part of their lives, so the beautiful piano got the prime visual real estate.
The TV went to the other wall, but I left the sofas and coffee table as they had been arranged. This area was suffering terribly from RugTooSmall syndrome. After looking at dozens of vintage Kilim rugs, we finally found a new one with the modern proportions that we needed (vintage Kilims are long and narrow). The neutral grays were exactly what I had in mind to modernize the rooms' style a bit.
The guitars were being kept in the guest room, along with myself and my things. As I used the room I thought of future guests and realized we needed to find a new home for the guitars. The result exceeded our expectations. The wood tones of the guitars perfectly compliment the wood trim in the doors. Their color and finish lead your eye back and forth between the piano and the guitars. It filled in the wall in a warm and sculptural way, which was the hope, but the whole family became excited to use their instruments more, which is even better. Tim is even going to start taking guitar lessons again.  

In the dining area, the large mirror helped break up the empty wall while still keeping the area simple and elegant. As an added bonus it perfectly reflects the art wall. The wonderful basket on the table was brought back from Ethiopia by Tim's father years ago. I think I found it on top of the fridge, but now everyone agrees it's way too cool to be hidden away. Fresh flowers and candle sticks completed our little still life.
When I left we were still waiting for the last piece of art from the framer that will go on the top left, but it's a good start. I prefer an eclectic selection of gallery frames so that you can continue adding as you collect art. We edited out some photography because that made it too busy.
 We selected a book on Paris (where the parents met) and a book on Colombia (where Ana is from) for the coffee table. This room now tells you so much about who lives here. It's personal, warm and cozy and will be very easy to keep clean.

Just through the door on the left side of the above picture, you can see the girls' playroom. Here is what it looked like when I arrived:
And now!  I took the craft table from the spare room and the bookshelves from the living room and created this inviting and functional craft space.  With the added storage, we were able to pull games and puzzles from every nook and cranny in the house and put them here.  Now the girls will be more inclined to use all the amazing resources Ana has collected over the years.
In the far right of this picture you can see the rocking chair that had been in the living room.  The children insisted I use it, so I slip covered it and moved it in here.  That corner became my favorite relaxation spot.  Now Ana has a comfy place to plan her days while supervising the girl's art projects. Oh, and speaking of comfy, the girls LOVE their floor cushions, and we had so much fun making them, together.  Can you tell I "pinked" up the room?  Sneaky!

The dresser with the dolls on it had been in the master bedroom.  Now it contains every last doll, all the doll clothes and all of their accessories.  I selected a handsome piece of furniture and used one of the best pieces of art above it, because that corner is visible as soon as you enter the main living space.
Now onto the girl's room.  No before pic, because all I did was help them pick a rug, hung the costumes and moved their desk to a wall with a plug so they could have a lamp.  The style of the room is very Italian.  It's probably nothing that could be duplicated at home, but it grew on me.  The beds pull out and the girls love to set up their bunks each night.
Of all the changes, I think I am most pleased with the results in the master bedroom. Before:
And now, a serene and welcoming oasis of calm.  The 3 shams were bought at the antique fair in bologna.  They are all a little bit different, but made from antique linen.  I wanted to install sconces over the bed, but Ana didn't think it would be worth it, considering she already had two perfectly good lamps.  When I hesitated, she held them up and said, "Look.  This one's me, and this one's Tim.  They're perfect!" I had to laugh, because they are!  One thing that drives me crazy is too small rugs.  In this case, we took took two nice wool rugs and matched them up.  We had the art re-matted using the vintage frames they were already in.   The framer really wanted to replace the old frames, but I'm glad I stuck to my guns.
Here's one last picture from the other direction.  Again, the framer had no idea why I wanted a really wide mat, but when it was done he agreed he liked the look.  In the reflection, you can see my friend  saying, "You're a genius".  It was a great week and I am so pleased that she gave me the opportunity to help her make her apartment a home.  In the end, we moved every piece of furniture except the girls beds, the dining set and the sofas.  Thanks for everything, sweet friend.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Turquoise Playroom

Today it's time to reveal the boys' turquoise playroom.  This isn't it.  This is the inspiration image I took from a magazine. I have seen it published twice and I can't source it for the life of me!  I think it was originally in Veranda. If anyone knows please tell me so I can credit the designer.  Architecturally, my room is similar.  It's very small and also a pass through, as this room appears to be.
I call this room the Children's library, but that has never really stuck.  Everyone else calls it the Lego room, but I hate Legos* and refuse to give them that honor.  I hope my design is a good example of how to use an inspiration room.  It should be just that... INSPIRATION!  I can't stand it when a person on HGTV says, "We are going to show you exactly how to copy this room". Why would you want to live in someone else's room?  If a client shows me her perfect room, I get the vibe and start with that.  I don't try to source the exact sofa and fabric.  And now... for more amateur photography.
You go up the (leopard carpeted) stairs, and on the right you have the Children's Library.  You can see the little boys' bedroom through the silly little door.  People think I'm crazy for having a white sofa, but it's slip covered and I only have to wash it every other month or so.  The blanket protects it from dirty boys and dogs who brush up against it walking past.  I'm the only one who ever sits there.  The boys usually kneel on the carpet to build their Lego creations.
 The sofa is from Pottery Barn. The coffee table is from Wisteria.  The pillows, blanket and "Exlore" art are all from World Market.
I bought this antique Mexican paper mache horse on e-bay years ago, and it's one of my favorite possessions.  The tail is really horse hair and the ears are leather.  It reminds me of my dad's childhood in rural Mexico.  My husband uses this sweet little sculpture as a metaphor for wasting money, as in, "Well hey, at least it's not a paper mache horse".  I have no idea what he's trying to say.
I keep several cozy throws in the basket, and the little drawers in the back wall have sheets for the sofa.  We have visitors at least once a month. 
This was my attempt at a panorama image of both shelves.  My father in law built them for me. For your viewing pleasure, admire the missing trim on the bottom left.  So quaint. Oh! But while you're in the neighborhood... the top suitcase was carried by Dan's great grandma from Italy. It traveled through Ellis Island, all the way to Winnemucca Nevada when his Grandma was just two years old. It's another favorite thing in this room.  I have a lot of favorite things.  Curtains from Serena and Lily.
 I want living plants in every room, but this room is just too dark to keep anything alive.  I usually cut something from the yard or bring home flowers from the grocery store for in here.
I painted that little bird in Puerta Vallarta when I was nine!  I can't believe it's survived for twenty years. (ha ha) There is also a little pewter plate that my brother gave me for Christmas when we were in college.  I found this bookcase on Craigslist.  The seller thought it was from the early sixties, it belonged to her mother.  I just love it.  Seriously, Reno Craigslist is THE BEST. I had to take a break from the KonMari Method when it came to books.  They don't all "Spark Joy", but it's important for children to be exposed to ideas and culture in the home.  Since I have almost nothing in common with my kids (where did they come from?) I can't predict what will interest them in the future, so I can't edit my library.  Do I sound defensive?
The French doors leading to the balcony over the back yard.  Our house is on the East slope of Mt. Rose, so the sun sets over the back of the house very early.  It's nice in the summer when we want to eat outside after a hot day and it is already cool by the early evening.
I have two darling teenage nieces.  When one of them is visiting, they come up to this room and set up camp... for as long as a month at a time!  They make a huge mess and I love every second of it.  It always surprises me that they like sleeping here on the couch because there really isn't privacy, but they both just love this room.  It makes me so happy to be able to open my home for people who appreciate my efforts and can tell I love them.
Speaking of vintage shopping in Reno... this velvet tufted, caned settee was SIXTEEN dollars at GoodWill.  Turquoise and olive are one of my favorite color combos.  This little print was in Paolo's nursery.  I had no intention of using it in this house, but I really like it here.  I broke my own "only original art" rule for this piece.
 *Legos.  A necessary evil.  I keep them for all the right reasons (creative play, fine motor development), but I really keep them because it's the only non-screen related activity that keeps my sweet young men calm in the house.  If you don't have little boys, I'll explain the true horror of my situation. They build primarily weapons and means of transportation.  You can say, "LEGOS STAY IN THE CHILDREN'S LIBRARY!  OK, the Lego room, you know what I mean."  But they will build a space ship... and be totally absorbed in that world, and start running around the house flying it... but then there is a crash! and the spaceship explodes! Literally.  Legos everywhere.

Every three months or so I confiscate the Legos for a detox.  This Lego cleanse lasts until Legos cease to materialize in my home.  I can hide "all" the Legos, but within a few days, the boys have found enough under rugs, in the sofa cushions and in the air ducts to return to their constructive/destructive ways.  I continue to confiscate their creations until we have a couple of Lego-free days and I am confident all the Legos have been picked up.  Then, under threats like, "I will throw away every Lego that leaves this room!" and promises of "We will keep them on the table", the cycle continues. And that is why I hate Legos. 
P.S.  The little golden beaked doorstop from Anthropologie.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Italy Apartment

We got a piece back from the Italian upholsterer.  The antique post-office bench in her entrance needed some help. She was planning on trying to keep the original look and just replace the leather, but I suggested we try something really different and fun.  It was pretty tricky to make a decision based on WhatsApp pics of samples, but I recommended the magenta twill... and she went for it! 
Tah Dah!  The good news is, she is thrilled with the result! Don't you just love it when people listen to you? It's my favorite thing.
I'm going to work on four rooms while I am there.  The entrance, great room, master bedroom and girl's playroom.  We are starting out in the entrance and great room with a bright global eclectic feel.
The master will have more muted colors (buying textiles there).  The girl's playroom will have the same bright vibe as the main living space.  I just got all the fabrics together for this shot and panicked.  The black and white!  I know I had a black and white fabric!  Did I forget something?  What can I have shipped here by tomorrow?  
Then I remembered: one of the first things I asked my friend is if she has anything really rustic from Colombia, where she is from.  I was hoping for a textile, like an old blanket.  She remembered that she has this fantastic hammock.  I was so excited! 

We briefly considered covering the bench with it, but it would just get too dirty. I am so excited to work this in with the other fabrics.  My first choice would be to mount it in the playroom to be used as a hammock, but that might not be possible.  They are only planning to rent this apartment for five years, and the landlords are very strict.  We are working around some serious limitations as far as the changes that are allowed.  For example, the marble mosaic floor.

The other tricky thing is the shopping situation.  I only had about a month to plan the decoration. There wasn't time to shop or have things made in the US.  While I am there, we will mostly be limited to antiques and IKEA.  Hopefully we'll be able to order furniture, I just won't get to help with the install.  I'm really excited to get there and move around the space.  I have some rough e-designs, but it's going to be a fun adventure to walk into a space and re-do it in a week!  Very HGTV: )  Wish us luck, we'll need it!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Chinoiserie Chic Dining Room Reveal

I'm posting my Chinoiserie Chic dining room reveal, even though things are far from perfect. This is the view of the dining room from the breakfast nook.  It is one step down, so we have this amazing railing. The hardwood is laid over concrete that slopes towards the far wall... this room was the first garage addition.  When we bought the property it was being used as a media room.  There was track lighting, lots and lots of furniture and the carpet was maroon with a large scale tropical motif.  I think it was a remnant from a casino (we're just South of Reno, NV... reno-vate...).  Another thing that couldn't be moved... that front and center intake vent.
This is the dining room looking back from the french doors.  I'm sorry about the weird color!  I want to get professional photographs. This is actually the second time I have decorated the room.  At first, I had the hutch in front of the window.  Natural light shined through an opening in the hutch but it was very hard to open and close the window. The room is very long and narrow and I thought the previous arrangement would make it a more comfortable shape, but it didn't work. The curtains were hanging on the french doors, but they were always in the way.  The wide woven-wood shade works perfectly. I also thought I wanted a dimmer more moody and romantic dining room. At that time the room was painted a dark caramel color, but it just wasn't me. I love me some white and bright decor!  The plantation chairs are slipcovered and I bought them from One Kings Lane years ago.  The kid booster chairs are from Ikea. If you have kids in your life, get some!  Their little feet can sit on the rail so they are more comfortable for them than sitting in a booster in an adult chair. The Chippendale style chairs were from Ballard Design's garden collection last year.  If you don't remember seeing them, I bought the brown ones and painted them white.  Good outdoor furniture is indestructible.  My boys can tip them back and the legs won't come loose and when they get dirty I can wash the cushion covers. We eat outside all summer long so it's nice to be able to go in and get extra seating without worrying about it getting damaged.
The entire room was inspired by these vintage Scalamandre curtains.  The colors in them are so luscious.  Coral.  Teal.  Olive green.  Lilac.  Sage green.  Ballet slipper pink!  I had to take advantage of the colors, which is why I painted the ceiling green.  If I had these panels made today, it would cost about $6000.  A couple of years ago I was searching "Scalamandre" on eBay, maybe thinking I could score a La Tigre remnant or something else fun.  These draperies were left over from an estate sale with a reserve of $70!  I couldn't believe my luck when they actually arrived on my doorstep for the reserve price.  The ticket from the Estate auction was still pinned to them, with an auction reserve of $1700.  I'm telling you, half of my home furnishings are from Ebay and Craigslist.
I love the pacing of this room.  It unfolds in little vignettes.  First, "Oh, there's the dining room".  Then you see the pretty focal point of the window wall, then you notice the hutch.  Of course, my beverages were totally depleted when I went to take this picture.  This room is the pass-through to my husbands office, and he likes to sneak a bottle of Martinelli's now and then.  The picture is hanging on the wall, there is no back to the hutch.  That's where the window was before.  
My father in law's mother bought this crystal punch bowl at an antique store in Virginia City, Nevada in the early 1960's.  The family had lived all over the world, but had just moved to Reno.  My mother in law inherited it, and it moved around with them until she passed it down to me when I was living in Oregon.  We love that it's come home, just down the road from where my husband's grandma bought it almost 60 years ago.  It is 2 pieces, the pedestal and the bowl.  The bowl is so heavy, I can hardly carry it.  I love that it is safely in that little niche, tucked away from my rowdy boys, refracting the sunshine by day and twinkling in the chandelier lights by night.
I host at least Sunday dinner every week.  My table seats 12, and if more people join us, there's always the kitchen.  Last night my sister and her family joined us along with my mother and father in law.  Most weeks we have our college-student cousins over.  Their gratitude towards being in my home encourages me to keep on with this tedious renovation for another week.  Don't wait to share your home until it is perfect, because it never will be.  
Gracie wallpaper would have been so perfect in here, but it didn't quite fit in the budget.  Instead, I grouped the landscapes and still lives from around the house.  It gave the artistic watercolor affect I wanted.  I just wish I had twice as much art!  I only want real things in my home, and that includes original art as opposed to reproductions, so the collecting process is slow.  The two little "love" pieces are from TJ Maxx.  They were hung as Valentine's decorations and never came down.  They're just place holders, but they're cute and only set me back $11.  Once the art was hung, I made sure everything was level and put a bit of sticky tac on the bottom corners of each piece.  If you have a gallery wall, do this or it will drive you nuts trying to keep everything strait!  I remembered this tip because now I'm noticing the "Love" art is crooked.  The door goes to the man cave, which was garage addition #2.  That garage had been converted into an office before we bought the home. We do not currently have a garage.
I still need to replace that door... and get the new door matching hardware. Details, details.  The hutch is supposed to be installed as a built in, but that still hasn't happened.  The room isn't trimmed, baseboards are missing, and the French door either needs some serious TLC or it just needs to be replaced.  Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed the little tour.
Oh, and speaking of things being real, every room needs a living, breathing plant.  The dining room has a fern on a nifty brass plant stand.  The fern has such long fronds and you can barely see the pot.  It reminds me of Cousin It and it always makes me smile.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Paolo Castelli

I want to introduce you to my favorite furniture manufacturer, Paolo Castelli. But first, a story. When I was first married I made a friend named Ana.  She was also a newlywed and was setting up her first home. Maybe she gravitated towards me because I am a designer and she was looking for help with her apartment, maybe it was my red hair, but we became friends and have remained close ever since. She and her husband have lived all over the world (romance and wedding in PARIS!), host the most elegant dinners, and always have something interesting to say. When they moved back to Italy a few months ago, Ana contacted me to see if I was able to help her with her new apartment. For the past couple of months we have been working on an e-design plan for her current apartment in Bologna.  Next month I will go there for the install, which brings us back to Paolo Castelli.
Paolo Castelli is based in Bologna. That is also where they manufacture their high end furnishings and lighting.   While I am in Italy, I am meeting with them, attending a museum gallery opening they designed and visiting them at Salone Internazionale del Mobile, International Furniture Show in Milan.  There's a lot more to this story that I look forward to sharing but Littlenickjonas gets back from playing next door, soon. At least now I can just write about this trip in the future and you'll know what I'm referring to.  Here is some more Paolo Castelli eye candy, try not to lick your screen.