How long can you stand it, there’s no end in sight…*

*Lyrics from Hold On by Róisín O from their 2012 album, The Secret Life of Blue. I heard this song (easily the best from the album) in an Irish independent movie called The O’Briens, but I can’t recall if the movie was worth watching (watch at your own risk, but I recall thinking it was sweet, if predictable). At any rate, her voice is very pretty. And, for serious, the song lyrics are kind of right fucking on. This MIGHT be your life. Or, rather, my life.

The views of the city skyline are one of the best features of this neighborhood.

The views of the city skyline are one of the best features of this neighborhood.

Ok, well, sigh.

Here’s the thing: we’re no closer to finding an apartment to call our own than we were a year ago. The Brooklyn housing market, as I mentioned before, is crazy, but not regular crazy… it’s the kind of crazy that get articles written about it, that confounds (and, alternately delights) seasoned real estate professionals, and that create a sellers’ market of the sellers’ dreams (ten offers per apartment, please!). At any rate, over the past several weeks we did put in offers on a couple of places, and were promptly overbid. Like, by a lot. The price-per-square-foot is outrageous (some of that is city sticker shock) and steadily rising, but add that to the feeding frenzy of record low inventory, and you get bidding wars that are taking the prices anywhere from 4% to upwards of 13% over asking (asking price means very little right now). All of this is to say, we’re not comfortable buying (or attempting to buy) at the top of what we perceive as a real estate bubble (not to mention that we don’t have the buying power that many of our competitors seemingly have).

A friend posted this to instagram. Yep, says it all.

A friend posted this to instagram. Yep, says it all.

If the market subsides (which all indications say it won’t for some time), we’ll reconsider our position, but for now, we’re tabling the issue. Which really sucks. We might consider trying to find a larger rental apartment, but with summer on the horizon, we’re reluctant to give up our (very rare and private) roof access when there isn’t much public green space/park space to enjoy in the neighborhood. Our location is great for lots of reasons – proximity to Jeff’s office, restaurants, parking, etc – so, for now, we’re going to stay put. read on…

Lately everything I see is painted blue…*

*Lyrics from Lately I by Faith Evans from her 1998 album, Keep The Faith (I can’t believe I actually own the record this song was on, and that I’m admitting it), not to be confused with Faith Hill, who is a completely different kind of artist (I do not own any of her stuff). Do you ever wake up with a song in your head that you haven’t heard in years and years, and suddenly it’s all you can think of? Well, this song has been ruminating in my brain for weeks. A combination of serious winter blues, fruitless and tedious house hunting, and maybe some form of mid-life crisis, and this song has pretty much nailed my mood of late. Depression, party of 1… as usual (insert Eeyore emoticon here). And, speaking of a completely different kind of depression, I stumbled up on a different song with the same title – Lately I by The Maldives from part of a No Depression festival. I’m not an alt-country fan per say, but I definitely would have rather had their song in my head than Faith’s (sorry, Faith).

Winter this year left me feeling trapped in a cage, not unlike how you will feel looking at this sunset picture.

Winter this year left me feeling trapped in a cage, not unlike how you will feel looking at this sunset picture.

If you’re anything like me, or if you live anywhere in the north eastern United States (or perhaps just all of North America), you’ve had a rough winter. Like, maybe the roughest ever. The sun never seemed to peek out long enough to get a decent dose of Vitamin D, and the cold, ice, and snow (and lack of shoveled sidewalks!) trapped us in our too tiny apartment for too many weeks. Add all this to an east-facing apartment and you’ve got yourself a tiny, dark dungeon for a home, and nothing but remorse for the lost glory of the home that once was yours. It hasn’t been easy, so I’ve been trying to lay low, and busy myself with anything uplifting that I can think of. Sadly, that hasn’t been much lately, but I did think of one thing to get me eager to get out of bed in the morning: art. read on…

So with my best, my very best, I set you free…*

*Lyrics from I Wish You Love as sung by Frank Sinatra (though the National Youth Jazz Orchestra performance is cheerful and delightful, and certainly worth watching on a day like today). I considered an alternate title – “I wish you shelter from the storm, a cozy fire to keep you warm” – especially because the entire Eastern portion of the US is being battered by yet another bracing, snow-filled, ice-capped, rained upon bit of winter goodness, but I thought the above excerpt was more fitting. I heard this song ages ago and jotted it down to use at the end of something. Today’s weather makes the timing even more apt. 

Le sigh. It’s over. This is the last installment of the Project W AFTER Tour (catch up here: master bedroom, kids’ rooms, main floor part one, and main floor part two). I am so proud and grateful that I got to have a hand in the complete transformation of this now gorgeous home. So, now, pictures! (Get ready, this is a long one…)

Bright, open, airy, efficient, classic. Hello, new kitchen.

Bright, open, airy, efficient, classic. Hello, new kitchen.

Boom. Project W kitchen. Do you remember it when it looked like this?

BEFORE: Dated is a kind way of putting what this kitchen looked like. AFTER: Better space planning really took this kitchen into a new world.

BEFORE: Dated is a kind way of putting what this kitchen looked like. AFTER: Better space planning really took this kitchen into a new world, and a new era.

Sort of major, right? When we toured the space, there was a giant spiral staircase – de rigueur in 1982 – that cut right through what I saw as perfectly usable kitchen real estate. When we first met, the clients – craving brightness, space, and fluidity – wanted to open up the wall between the kitchen and dining room, but I felt that they would lose too much storage space. The kitchen was a galley and, while efficient and completely appropriate to the home, it didn’t exactly ooze storage space. With a tween, a teen, and a big, hungry dog, I knew that losing those uppers would be a risk. read on…

Well I got no place to go, I got no other life I know…*

*Lyrics from Take It As It Comes by J Roddy Walston and The Business from their album Essential Tremors. I heard this song on Conan the other night, and I reluctantly liked it (I resist grasping at my youth in unflattering ways, like with music that is clearly meant for younger people). I have yet to check out their whole album. It borders on alt-pop for me, but I did enjoy the singer’s voice, and the overall vibe. Check it out, and let me know how you like it.

Using the Glaze App to distort a nighttime view of the Empire State Building, et al.

Using the Glaze App to distort a nighttime view of the Empire State Building, et al.

During a recent walk-and-talk with the husband, discussing all the ups, downs, and turn-me-all-arounds of our sluggish house hunt, I got to thinking about death. Not death, exactly, but more like the stages of grief, and how similar they are to our search. As we began our process by first leaving our too-big-for-us house in search of a just-right apartment, we had high hopes for finding just enough space to live comfortably in the neighborhood in which we had already gotten a foothold. Well, it’s becoming evident that that desire is impossible, and that we can hope for maybe more than we have in our Pied, but not even close to what we had hoped for initially. At least not here (in the ‘hood, and surrounding ‘hoods). So if not here, where?

One of my dream streets, one of my dream homes. Completely unattainable.

One of my dream streets, one of my dream homes. Completely unattainable.

read on…

Careful what you say, oh dear, it’s too late now…*

*Lyrics from Careful What You Say by Class Actress from their EP Journal of Ardency. This song resonated with me for this post because during the process of building/designing this home (and perhaps especially these last spaces), my relationship with my friend (the builder) was, to say it politely, strained. It’s inevitable to quarrel with those closest to you, and likely to happen again with someone else during my career/life. I’m sure it’s happened to you – with your spouse/partner, your client, your family – and I’m sure you hated it as much as I did. I loved this job, and was so completely grateful to have been able to be a part of it, but it took an emotional toll. And I guess I’m feeling a little nostalgic for the good times. (This winter feels really, really long this year.) Cheers to the happy times, to the promise of a new season, and of the hope for smoothing the scuffs and scratches that will just add patina to what I hope is a lifelong friendship.

BEFORE: Linoleum, dingy paint, bad lighting. AFTER: Classic grey tile with modern rectangle shape, transitional fixtures, neutral walls.

BEFORE: Linoleum, dingy paint, bad lighting. AFTER: Classic grey tile with modern rectangle shape, transitional fixtures, neutral walls.

And the AFTER tour continues… When we last met, I shared with you most of the main floor living spaces for Project W. Today I’m going to share the dining room, foyer, and powder room. When I first walked through the house with Mrs W, we both had the same vision for the foyer: gray, almost concrete-looking rectangular tile that would feel modern, not too dark, yet be easy to care for with two kids and a sweet, but sloppy dog. It took some doing, and some negotiating, and some pretty strong-willed moments (high five, Mrs W!), but we found our tile, and were able to achieve the exact look we imagined. Sometimes less is more, but sometimes you have to invest in a bit more to get more. At any rate, we ended up with a wonderful update to this formerly vinyl-floored space.

This area was formerly the original kitchen (!), but had been adapted to include a powder room as well as transitions to the rest of the house. So we treated it as a mudroom.

This area (left) was formerly the original kitchen (!), but had been adapted to include a powder room as well as transitions to the rest of the house. So we treated the entire space as an extended mudroom.

The powder room got another black and white mosaic tile, and the ceramic grey tile provides a low-maintanence transition point for the wood floors, tile, and exterior. (Sneak peek of the kitchen, still to come!)

The powder room got a black and white mosaic tile, and the ceramic grey tile provides a low-maintanence transition point for the wood floors, tile, and exterior. (Sneak peek of the kitchen, still to come!)

Just off the side entry – the mudroom area – is a powder room. Now, this space used to house the original kitchen; in fact, the old house stopped along the wall separating the new kitchen and dining room from the game room and entry hall. So the bathroom that was put in was decidedly from its time (1982).

BEFORE: Tired vanity, wallpaper that had no appeal, and more linoleum. Yuck. AFTER: Pedestal sink and mosaic tile speak the home's origins, while making the small and slightly awkward space feel more spacious. We also moved in one of the crystalline lights from and adjacent room to add some glamour. No reason a small room can't be fabulous, and work within a budget.

BEFORE: Tired vanity, wallpaper that had no appeal, and more linoleum. Yuck. AFTER: Pedestal sink and mosaic tile speak the home’s origins, while making the small and slightly awkward space feel more spacious. We also moved in one of the crystalline lights from and adjacent room to add some glamour. No reason a small room can’t be fabulous, and work within a budget.

I wanted to reclaim the character as we did with the master bathroom design, but knew that we couldn’t really spend too much to do so. We had to work with the space as it was for the budget’s sake, and we had to use materials that could withstand lots of traffic. We ended up finding a really reasonably priced ceramic mosaic tile that picked up on the black and white theme we used in the master (I love it when spaces in antique homes, like kitchens and baths, seem like they could have been installed during the house’s original build), which really helped to reinforce that 1920s feel we were after.

BEFORE: Ugh, I mean, really. AFTER: Much, much better. Ahhh.

BEFORE: Ugh, I mean, really. AFTER: Much, much better. Ahhh.

Details: The faucet and sink have a square shape that references the mosaic tile. There was an original mirror (square) that I had planned to hang here, but, well, let's hope Mr W doesn't really get 7 years' bad luck.

Details: The faucet and sink have a square shape that references the mosaic tile. There had been an original mirror (square) hanging here that I had planned to rehang, but, well, let’s hope Mr W doesn’t really get 7 years’ bad luck.

Details: The mudroom/hallway as it transitions into the game room; the game room looking into the dining room (which is where the 'new' addition begins).

Details: The mudroom/hallway as it transitions into the game room; the game room looking into the dining room (which is where the ‘new’ addition begins).

Having connected the powder room to the house’s architecture, I wanted to let the dining room really connect to the homeowners’ love of mid-century design. I knew they had some cherry and rosewood pieces that would look really nice atop their newly finished oak hardwoods, but that they needed a wall color that could support all of that rich, warm wood. Probably the most contentious battle with regard to the color palette happened regarding the dining room walls – SW Hazel - which virtually every woman loved and every man loathed. In the end, though, my clients agreed that the initial scheme was what they loved, and they stuck with my suggestion. I love the color. This room floods with light in the afternoon, and can really stand a rich hue on the wall. They are also avid art collectors, and I knew that an art wall would eventually really sing atop this rich but modern hue.

BEFORE: This room was bright, but had no personality. AFTER: A modern wall color mixes well with the homeowners' warm wood mid-century and mission style furnishings.

BEFORE: This room was bright, but had no personality. AFTER: A modern wall color mixes well with the homeowners’ warm wood mid-century and mission style furnishings.

This wall color (Hazel by SW) was hotly contested. Every single male hated it, while every single female loved it. Weird. Color is totally personal.

This wall color (Hazel by SW) was hotly contested. Almost every single male hated it, while every single female loved it. Weird. Color is totally, I mean completely, personal.

Details: Mrs W let me rummage around her accessories to find sweet trinkets to display. The light fixture is a budget-friendly Pottery Barn find - another hotly contested search - and the cabinet in the background is antique.

Details: Mrs W let me rummage around her accessories to find sweet trinkets to display. The light fixture is a budget-friendly Pottery Barn find – another hotly contested search – and the cabinet in the background is antique.

The entire first floor connects visually from room to room, zone to zone, and I think we really created a soft, watery, and flowing palette that is peaceful and soothing. I know that the clients’ soft furnishings, curtains, pillows, rugs, etc., will shift as time goes on, but the harder, more permanent things – tile, flooring, lighting – will enhance whatever additions they make.

BEFORE: Beautiful light, and access to the exterior were this room's best features. AFTER: Sliders lead out to a breakfast patio (which will get updated eventually), but who would want to dine al fresco when it's so pleasant indoors? The doorway from the kitchen was widened to mimic the generous opening on the game room side of the space to make it feel as if there might have been french doors at one point.

BEFORE: Beautiful light, and access to the exterior were this room’s best features. AFTER: Sliders lead out to a breakfast patio (which will get updated eventually), but who would want to dine al fresco when it’s so pleasant indoors? The doorway from the kitchen was widened to mimic the generous opening on the game room side of the space to make it feel as if there might have been french doors at one point.

BEFORE: This little soffit created an awkward bump out. AFTER: That nook created a perfect spot for Mrs W's china cabinet, and created an opportunity for an art nook. Eventually these walls will be covered in art, as the homeowners' have tons of beautiful pieces. Who wouldn't want to be invited over for a lingering dinner?

BEFORE: This little soffit created an awkward bump out. AFTER: That nook created a perfect spot for Mrs W’s china cabinet, and created an opportunity for an art nook. Eventually these walls will be covered in art, as the homeowners have tons of beautiful pieces. Who wouldn’t want to be invited over for a lingering dinner?

I still have one last space to share with you. Stay tuned!

xoxo

 

Now I’m walking again to the beat of a drum…*

*Lyrics from the Hey Now (Don’t Dream It’s Over) remake as sung by Lolo (aka: Lauren Pritchard). I heard this song in the movie I Give It A Year (the movie is NOT worth seeing, btw) and really liked the quality that her voice gave to this older song. I can’t find the song available for purchase, but it’s listenable on last fm. Her voice is really something special.

The office: a mix of chic accessories, industrial touches, modern amenities, and limited space.

The office: a mix of chic accessories, industrial touches, modern amenities, and limited space.

So, a short while ago, my sister’s non-profit company found some office space to rent. They had been without a dedicated space for much of the holiday season, and had been on a desperate hunt for a better situation. The move means shorter commute times for my sister, and a more centrally located spot for her and her boss, and it’s located in a more bustling area of the city. The only problem/challenge is that it’s a shared space, and their co-tentant is already in place.

Luckily, the co-tenant, an event planner, is very open to sharing (it’s a reality in NYC for many small businesses), and was very happy to have some input from someone (me) who might just have a few ideas on how to best meet everyone’s needs, while maintaining a stylish and affordable office. Easy, right?

Enter: IKEA. Seriously, despite all of the misses that they make, and the hassle/effort of having to build things yourself, this is one of the best resources for cheap, durable and attractive office furniture. (That is, if you’re willing to think about everything they make as office appropriate. Don’t overlook dining tables as desk spaces, bedroom armoires as storage units, and kitchenware as office supply caddies.) With an eye toward spending as little as possible — non-profit + self-employed small business owner = budget? what budget? — and with a nod to the things they already had (including plenty of chic accessories), I whipped up a little moodboard for them to get inspired by.

Inspiration via Pinterest (see board: dual office), and via IKEA, Target, and Overstock.

Inspiration via Pinterest (see board: dual office), and via IKEA, Target, and Overstock.

I also sketched up some potential floor plans (with some expert help from my computer savvy husband). Objectives: desk space for three; meeting space for clients for both the event/wedding planning AND volunteer training; seating area (existing) for clients or staff alike; and, visual harmony/limited clutter. While I know they would all love it if they had more money to spend, or more space to use, they’re all happy to make the best of bright, sunlit, clean office that even sports a herringbone floor.

 

_FloorPlan-02-no-prices-Full-Res

This floor plan intended to save the most on the budget, and use the existing items to their best advantage.

_FloorPlan-01-no-prices-Full-Res

This floor plan focuses on the need for chic meeting space, and creates a more open layout.

I included two options for them to mull over. Each plan tries to make the best use of the space they have, while allowing for things to serve as double-duty. Since meeting with non-staff/clients will be a minimal event (several times per month, but not necessarily daily), I focused on making sure they had space for their day-to-day items, while allowing them access to any files/paperwork they might need. And, since I know my sister pretty well, I tried to anticipate her need to have tidiness as an option. Everyone appreciates a clean work surface, so having spaces for messes (read: piles) to go is a must. And, I know the space will evolve with time, so I tried not to fill up the entire room with stuff. Air, and light is important which is why I fought for the seating area to stay (one of the three didn’t think it was necessary, and I’ll let you have one guess as to who it was {it might have been the only male who will be using the space}).

In the end, I think we have a solid plan. I hope to help them ‘install’ the space over the next few weeks, perhaps with a few runs to Target and HomeGoods to round out the accessories, lighting, and soft touches. Once we get a finished look, I’ll share the transformation.

My first real “job” in NYC, and it feels so good to start to make some connections. Woo hoo!

xoxo

Just hang on, hang on to the vine…*

*Lyrics from Hang On Little Tomato by Pink Martini off their second album. I heard this while cooking, or washing up, and it completely cheered me up. It’s a sweet little song about remaining optimistic. Lately that has felt difficult, likely in part due to the lack of sunlight (and never ending days of being trapped in our tiny home). But I’m hanging in there, not like a kitten on a branch, but like a little tomato on the vine, waiting until I’m fully ripened before I burst forth with heirloom flavor (I’m certainly NOT a regular tomato – probably I’m one of those weird colored heirloom ones that look awful but are the best tomatoes you’ve ever eaten). How long until summer again?

See my little office tucked into the living room?

See my little office tucked into the living room?

When we moved back to the city full-time, I had to lose my office. My glorious, large, occasional guest room, sunlit, breezy, private office. Enter one of my daily mantras: it’s only temporary, it’s only temporary. But, while we’re hunting for a more permanent place to settle, we’re still trying to make this one work for us as best it can.

Once we decided to take the pied-à-deux, we had some furniture rearranging to consider. The previous living room layout included a nearly 5′ long niche to the right of what was clearly an old chimney breast. In our prior space, this little nook happily housed our TV and assorted media accoutrements. In our current space, however, that single niche layout was replaced by two niches flanking the chimney breast: on the left, one about 20″ wide, and on the right, one just shy of 32″. Yeah, so, no TV nook here.

We utilized the space as best we could: closet closer to the bedroom; office closer to the natural light.

We utilized the space as best we could: closet closer to the bedroom; office closer to the natural light.

Since there is no proper closet in the apartment (it’s technically a studio apartment), and the giant storage unit in the kitchen was removed so we could re-install our dining room nook, we decided to turn one of the niches into a closet of sorts. It’s pretty basic: a rod, a hamper, and some not-so-glamorous odds and ends tucked and stacked behind a chair, but when you’ve got 320-ish sf to work with, you make do. We considered making the other niche, the larger one, into a closet, too, but then we realized that it was just big enough to house a tiny desk, and could therefore serve as my office.

The closet is delightfully dark. The left shows how it looks with a flash; the right how it looks normally. Good thing our winter clothes are mainly black and navy.

The closet is delightfully dark. The left shows how it looks with a flash; the right how it looks normally. Good thing our winter clothes are mainly black and navy.

This has since been re-styled, but you get the general idea. It's petite, but it works.

This has since been re-styled, but you get the general idea. It’s petite, but it works.

Not the enormous roughly 12′ x 14′ room that I had to myself before, but the 24″ x 31.5″ (that’s right, INCHES) space seems to be just big enough to store my computer, a lamp, some art supplies and books. Just the essentials, but a hell of a lot better than having to throw (or gently place) the laptop on the floor when we want to eat dinner at our table at night. Jeff had a leftover IKEA desk from a temporary employee at his office, so we just took it home one night and tried it out. It fit perfectly. Even fit with a little space leftover that is just big enough to hold a canvas so I can work on art projects at my own pace. What more could I want?

I culled my design books to what I thought would be my essentials. I need to open these from time to time for inspiration.

I culled my design books to what I thought would be my essentials, and they coexist with whatever fiction we’re reading (or hoping to read). I need to open these from time to time for inspiration.

BEFORE: When we arrived at The Deux the paint job, among other things, was lacking. AFTER: With some creative repurposing and some minor investment in shelves, we have a useful, efficient and attractive space. It's only temporary, but so is everything in life, right?

BEFORE: When we arrived at The Deux the paint job, among other things, was lacking. AFTER: With some creative repurposing and some minor investment in shelves, we have a useful, efficient and attractive space. It’s only temporary, but so is everything in life, right?

To make the space really work for us, we installed a few shelves made from some simple boards and brackets from Lowe’s. I wanted the space to recede, visually, since it’s really just a corner of the living room, so we painted the shelves the same color as the walls, and chose black brackets. The effect is especially helpful at night, when the dark corner just expands, and the room feels bigger than it really is.

I can’t really do any hand drafting in this mini-office, nor can I really go crazy with painting/drawing. But I can have a little space to call my own, and that ain’t bad.

xoxo

And maybe after, when I return, I get what I miss…*

*Lyrics from I Miss Your Bones by Hospitality. This is a single, but they have a new album coming out in January. I think I’ll wait to order it (not pre-order it) until I can hear it all. I struggled to find a song for this post – sometimes finding these lyrical inspirations isn’t as easy as it should be – but this one felt just right (plus, their new album is called Trouble, which is fitting here). Especially since this part of the Project W house tour is all about good bones. House bones. Bones. If you say it too many times it starts to sound silly. Anyway, moving on.

Remember my beloved Project W? Want to see some more?

BEFORE: Flooring was in rough shape, original knotty pine panelling, pretty dated feel. AFTER: Brightened up paneling in Repose Gray, refinished flooring, new tile, updated entry.

BEFORE: Flooring was in rough shape, original knotty pine panelling, pretty dated feel. AFTER: Brightened up paneling in Repose Gray, refinished flooring, updated entry.

The next part of the Project W renovation (the AFTER tour) that I want to share with you is the main floor: specifically the library, sun room, and game room. (Now, a small disclaimer: it is virtually impossible to show you only portions of the main floor without sneaking peeks at other room/areas which I will share in greater depth at a later date. Otherwise this post would be 80+ pictures long, and ain’t nobody got time for that. Consider your interest piqued.) This is really where each family member got to carve out space for just themselves.

BEFORE: This was the first area you would see upon entering from the main entrance. AFTER: Durable tile (I'll get to that in a later post), original flooring refreshed, fresh color scheme. Welcome.

BEFORE: This was the first area you would see upon entering from the main entrance. AFTER: Durable tile (I’ll get to that in a later post), original flooring refreshed, fresh color scheme. Welcome. (Kitchen and mudroom/entry sneak peek!)

Mr W got half of the library as an office, and Mr and Mrs W will share a cozy seating area by the working fireplace.

This is the library, the area that Mr and Mrs W will use as a primarily adult space. It's handsome, yet bright and airy. I hope it gets cold enough for a fire soon.

This is the library, the area that Mr and Mrs W will use as a primarily adult space. It’s handsome, yet bright and airy. I hope it gets cold enough for a fire soon.

You see, when the house was originally built, before the giant addition in the early 80s, the library was the only living room (and we think the desk area was a 3-season porch), the sunroom was non-existent, and the game room was the former dining room. In fact, the powder room, and hallway connecting the (now tiled) side entry to the front entry (and beyond) was the original kitchen. All that is to say that the house pretty much doubled in size in 1982, and this family of four didn’t quite know what to do with so much glorious space.

BEFORE: This room was the formal living space once upon a time. AFTER: Now a cozy office and library, the Ws can tuck in with a fire, a sip of adult elixir, and enjoy the reinvented space.

BEFORE: This room was the formal living space once upon a time. AFTER: Now a cozy office and library, the Ws can tuck in with a fire, a sip of adult elixir, and enjoy the reinvented space. (Dining room sneak peek!)

The corner houses a bar, indicating fully that the kids should steer clear of this area. Adults only, please.

This corner houses a bar, indicating fully that the kids should steer clear of this area. Adults only, please.

With plenty of room to spread out, yet lots of zones for family interaction my clients got the best of both worlds: the connection of open plan living with the necessary privacy of homes that were planned with appropriate separations. I firmly believe that in the future, all of these Great-Room-styled homes will fall away, and there will be a return to separate rooms. Anyone who has ever lived with, or been a part of a large family knows that as much as you can love each other, getting away from each other is as equally precious. I think I was able to help the homeowners delineate spaces for specific family activities so that there is plenty of togetherness as well as comfortable, and much required, distance.

Mr W's former office was dark and cut off from the rest of the house. In the new home, he can enjoy a great view, while being centrally located. Now he can be properly distracted by all the lovely things and people around him. Wall color: Comfort Gray.

Mr W’s former office was dark and cut off from the rest of the house. In the new home, he can enjoy a great view, while being centrally located. Now he can be properly distracted by all the lovely things and people around him. Wall color: Comfort Gray. Trim color: Repose Gray.

Mrs W got the sunroom – a media-free zone – for reading, entertaining and relaxing, while the kids got a section of the same room for homework, and quiet projects.

BEFORE: You can see the lights that inspired the master bathroom design hanging here. Waste not, want not, as we New Englanders say. AFTER: This room is for quiet studying, reading, entertaining sans electronics, and just generally enjoying three walls of windows with dappled sunlight streaming through. It's pretty great.

BEFORE: You can see the lights that inspired the master bathroom design hanging here. Waste not, want not, as we New Englanders say. AFTER: This room is for quiet studying, reading, entertaining sans electronics, and just generally enjoying three walls of windows with dappled sunlight streaming through. It’s pretty great.

I mean, just look at the sunlight. And the actual light hanging above the kids' study table. Wall color: Sea Salt.

I mean, just look at the sunlight. And the actual light hanging above the kids’ study table. Wall color: Sea Salt.

The kids also got an entire room just for their video game console, but in fairness it is the smallest room in the house, and has no doors, which means lots of parental supervision (much to their chagrin).

BEFORE: The not original (and not wood) panelling hid what was once an exterior wall. The accordion doors were also not original and were pretty gross. AFTER: By narrowing the entry way between the kids' game room (former dining room) and the sun room (former exterior) we left room for future addition of French doors. Then this sun room can double as a guest room when the kids are grown and visit with their own offspring (don't cry Mrs W, they'll always be your babies).

BEFORE: The not original (and not wood) panelling hid what was once an exterior wall. The accordion doors were also not original and were pretty gross. AFTER: By narrowing the entry way between the kids’ game room (former dining room) and the sun room (former exterior) we left room for future addition of French doors. Then this sun room can double as a guest room when the kids are grown and visit with their own offspring (don’t cry Mrs W, they’ll always be your babies).

BEFORE: This room was the original dining room of the house, and even still had the built-in china hutch. AFTER: We kept the hutch (duh) but painted out the vertical strapping on the walls to make the room feel a bit more modern. The four doorways/passageways in this room a perfect spot for the kids' gaming system. Parental supervision ensured.

BEFORE: This room was the original dining room of the house, and even still had the built-in china hutch. AFTER: We kept the hutch (duh) but painted out the vertical strapping on the walls to make the room feel a bit more modern. The four doorways/passageways in this room a perfect spot for the kids’ gaming system. Parental supervision ensured. (Mud room/side entry sneak peek!)

BEFORE: A view to the sunroom through the former dining room. AFTER: Now a sunlit and welcoming spot for homework, and a welcoming spot for playing video games for the kids. After the homework is done, naturally.

BEFORE: A view to the sunroom through the former dining room. AFTER: Now a sunlit and welcoming spot for homework, and a welcoming spot for playing video games for the kids. After the homework is done, naturally.

BEFORE: You can see a better angle of the accordion door and cheap paneling (added in the 80s with the addition). AFTER: Now the room has more of a room-like proportion, and is just big enough to seat some gaming teens and tweens.

BEFORE: You can see a better angle of the accordion door and cheap paneling (added in the 80s with the addition). AFTER: By reducing the opening, the space has more of a room-like proportion, and is just big enough to seat some gaming teens and tweens. Wall color: Repose Gray.

This home really had a great set of bones. All I had to do was help the clients choose colors, fixtures, plan out how to place their furnishings and lay out their zones, and they did the rest, injecting so much home into this house that it felt inviting from day one. Eventually they’ll get to the window dressing part (which we all know costs a small fortune), but for now they get uninterrupted views of a gorgeous neighborhood, dappled sunlight from hundred year-old trees, and lots of space to call home.

BEFORE: This room was in rough shape, with a leak that had dripped through the ceiling, and some not so thoughtful decor decisions. AFTER: Now this is the room to beat, bright, welcoming, and soothing. I just know there will be love, life and laughter in here for years to come.

BEFORE: This room was in rough shape, with a leak that had dripped through the ceiling, and some not so thoughtful decor decisions. AFTER: Now this is the room to beat, bright, welcoming, and soothing. I just know there will be love, life and laughter in here for years to come.

xoxo

And I’m getting older, too…*

*Lyrics from Stevie NicksLandslide. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to explain this one.

This year it seems like everyone is rushing to ‘hurry up and get Thanksgiving over with’ so they can get on with the ‘real’ holiday. I mean, from stores opening up ON Thanksgiving, to those stupid emails we all get trying to cram Christmas shopping specials down our throats, it feels like poor little Thanksgiving will be forgotten if we don’t hang on a bit tighter. I for one LOVE Thanksgiving – it is easily my most favorite holiday – and I am sad to see that it is starting to be usurped by commercial interests. Let’s all cling to this moment, and get a little grateful together, shall we?

Walking in nature, even manicured paths, is enough to produce a deep and satisfying gratitude.

Walking in nature, even manicured paths, is enough to produce deep and satisfying gratitude.

There was a challenge laid down that involved photographing and denoting one thing that I’m grateful for each day throughout November. I sort of did that, sometimes in a not so direct way, but I sort of do that all the time. I’m a pretty grateful person, even if I do tend toward the sad side of the spectrum. Gratitude comes as naturally as worry, which make for an interesting inner-stew that can sometimes burn sweet, salty tears of joy when things turn out well.

And, as this is an especially special month – not only is this the classic month for giving thanks, but it is also my birthday month – I thought I ought to illuminate my Top 40 Things I’m Grateful For (in no particular order):

1. My family. They are stupid, and weird, and wonderful, and mostly I don’t know how or who I’d be without them.
2. Nature. Many of my instagram snaps this month were nature-based, and for good reason.
3. Sunsets. An offshoot of my love of nature is my love of the way the sun changes the sky into an evolving painting for about a half-hour each evening. I could watch it every day.

You may tire of seeing semi-constant snaps of this vista, but I shall not. Sunsets everyday. Sunsets for life.

You may tire of seeing semi-constant snaps of this vista, but I shall not. Sunsets everyday. Sunsets for life.

4. Organization. I have the ability to be orderly, and that comes in handy. It is not a skill I inherited, but it is one that I have cultivated over the years, and happily so.
5. New York City. This city isn’t always easy. In fact, it usually isn’t. But, every now and again, being a part of it is magical. There is a huge pile of people who actually care about people, even if they say they don’t. It’s remarkable, and can bring on some salty tears of humanity.
6. Movies. I have watched movies for all of my life, and the joy they bring me, even when they are terrible, is deep.
7. Chocolate. This might seem like a cop-out, but seriously, if it weren’t for this magical product, and all the amazing things we’ve learned to do with it, I don’t know that I’d be as happy to be alive. Simple fact.
8. Photography. I love that we have the ability to easily record our day, to craft our particular emotional vision for that moment, and save it for the future. It makes life so much more romantic.
9. Music. It’s no secret that I’m a music fan. I even started using artists’ lyrics as my blog post titles as a way to set a soundtrack to my own life. Isn’t that the ultimate fantasy?

When I got to see the Local Natives show in September, I barely took any photos, yet I remember the concert as one of the best musical moments of my life.

When I got to see the Local Natives show in September, I barely took any photos, yet I remember the concert as one of the best musical moments of my life.

10. Color. I can’t live without it, just as I couldn’t live without music, and I’m grateful I don’t have to.
11. Wind Chimes. When we moved to our first house, my oldest friends in the world gifted us with a set of wind chimes that we took with us to The Pied when we moved here full-time. The delicate sound is so romantic, and so precious to me. It always reminds me of my friends, and I love that I have a piece of them in my home life.
12. Wine. I have developed a healthy (and at times mildly unhealthy) appreciation of this incredible product. The human knowledge in each bottle, combined with the craft, the gift that is the grape, the care that goes into creating each complex sip makes me grateful for the fellow humans of the earth that understood that we needed this in the world.
13. Art. I am lucky to count myself among the creatively inclined, and I am equally lucky to bear witness to other artists and their work.
14. Instafriends. More so than any other social media platform, Instagram has given me the greatest sense of community, and the gift of finding like-minded individuals to interact with.
15. Seasons. I love that I get to live in a place where the seasonal changes are vast. The sunsets move, the moon changes, the plant life evolves, the human life shifts, and we adapt as a group together. Makes me feel intensely connected to the earth, to those that share it with me, and I love that.

There is no sweeter beauty than spring after a harsh winter.

There is no sweeter beauty than spring after a harsh winter.

16. Baking. Now that we’re fully in cold-weather living I get to create seemingly living things from seemingly inanimate objects (flour, why you gotta just sit there, huh?). Nothing is as comforting as the scents that baking things can emit.
17. Cooking. I love to cook. I love to feel capable, and creative, and useful on a daily basis. Simple cooking, complicated cooking, fast cooking, group cooking, feast cooking, you name it, I love it.
18. Health. I am healthy. I have the odd routine kerfuffle, just like anyone, but I am in good health. I count my lucky stars that I have bounced back from each cold, flu, minor injury, root canal, emotional scrape, hangover, and doctor visit thus far. Not everyone is so lucky, and I know that.
19. Laughing. I have a funny family. We are always laughing (when we’re not crying, see below). My brother is extremely funny. My husband makes me laugh every day, several times a day. I am thankful I get to laugh, easily, always.

My younger sister hamming it up for the camera. This is standard fare in our family. We're not called the 'stupid weird family' for nothing.

My younger sister hamming it up for the camera. This is standard fare in our family. We’re not called the ‘stupid weird family’ for nothing.

20. Crying. No, this isn’t a mistake. I am grateful that I can cry. That I’m not ashamed to express my emotions, happy, sad, whatever. Tears can be healing (if we’re to believe wikipedia), and they can provide a proper vent to keep yourself from exploding. Sometimes crying sucks, but sometimes it’s the best thing. I know you know what I mean.
21. Good sheets. Now, I don’t know about you, but once I became an adult and graduated from polyester-blend sheets, my life improved. Again, simple fact.
22. My eyesight. I do not have perfect vision. I do not have the worst vision, but I can’t see distance clearly. This is going to sound weird, but I actually like it. I like the intimacy that it provides when I’m not wearing glasses/contacts, and the romantic bokeh effect my own vision creates. Sincerely, I’m grateful for it. (Google ‘bokeh effect’, and check out the images!)
23. My hands. I’m a good crafter, can draw reasonably well, and have developed pretty good dexterity over the years (hairdresser training taught me a lot). It’s handy. HEY-oh!

A little self-portrait I did in art school in 2009.

A little self-portrait I did in art school in 2009.

24. Lipstick. Ok, make-up, and beauty stuff in general. Stupid stuff that when used correctly can turn a crappy day into a romantic one. I know it’s superficial, but it’s true.
25. The printing press. One of the greatest and most democratic inventions that man has ever made is the machine built for equal dissemination of information. It’s seriously awesome.
26. Humans. Mostly we say things like, “I hate people” when someone does something thoughtless or careless, but we rarely notice all the thoughtful and careful things we do for each other all the time. The farmer who voluntarily dedicated his life to nourishing other people? The person who pursued art/music/dance as their profession for the sake of contributing to culture, even when it meant struggling to make ends meet? The person who held the door just a little longer to save you some effort? That kid who smiled at you for no reason at all? Thanks, humans.
27. Dogs. Since we no longer have a pup of our own, I have some serious puppy lust. I don’t get bonkers over babies (sorry, babies), but I do love me some sweet dog face. And nose. And wriggly tail. And dog breath. And slobber. I love it all.

Maggie, Jeff's mom's new pup, is too sweet for words.

Maggie, Jeff’s mom’s new pup, is too sweet for words.

28. Numbers. Without the ability to quantify things, and easily communicate that information, we’d be lost. Numbers make life better, no doubt about it.
29. Snow. The silence and insulation from noise that snow provides is so soothing to me. That feeling of aloneness, but not loneliness, of being surrounded by something delicate, yet powerful enough to render sound dampened… it’s pretty neat.
30. Private dance parties. You know when you’re cleaning the house, or doing laundry, or just messing around on your own, and you turn up the music and just go sweaty-nuts? Yeah. That.
31. Sadness. Without it, without knowing what is wrong, without feeling the worst, you could never feel the best, have the joy, or know what is right. Grateful.
32. The internet. Honestly, where would we be without it?
33. Jog bras. A better use of apparel technology I have yet to find.
34. Paint. I LOVE to paint. I love the feeling of paint on a brush, sweeping it across a surface, and mushing it around. One of the reasons I liked doing hair color, and one of the reasons you can always ask me to help you paint your place.
35. Sunshine. Not the same as sunsets, my gratitude here is for the life-giving warmth and vitamin D creating beams. My mood instantly improves with a direct hit, and I’m thankful when I get them.

Late October sunshine warmed my heart and soul.

Late October sunshine warmed my heart and soul.

36. Shoes. I’m not exactly a fashion diva. I don’t have many fancy clothes, and I almost never wear jewelry aside from my wedding band and some earrings. But, shoes. Yeah. Plus, who would want to go through life barefoot? Thanks, shoe makers.
37. Ibuprofen. This stuff has gotten me through some tough moments in the past few years (dental woes, mainly). I’m intensely grateful to live in a time when that kind of relief is available.
38. Mirrors. No, not so I can look at myself (though, they have certainly saved me from leaving the house in stained shirts, or kept me from being laughed at as I walk down the street with a pile of messy hair), but so that I can enjoy reflections of other things. Mirrors give a distanced vantage point that can really shift your perspective on things. Plus, they can help direct some of that much appreciated sunshine around in dark places, which makes them vital to my list.
39. Language. I’m a talker, writer, and generally a word-lover. Languages fascinate me, their variance, their ability to denote emotions and culture, to bridge us together or tear us apart.
40. Jeff. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for his love, for his faith in me, for his willingness to forgive my flaws, and to support my dreams. I wouldn’t know who I was if he hadn’t let me relax into myself. I wouldn’t be able to live in gratitude so easily without his presence in my world. Not unlike a proper Oscar acceptance speech, I saved him for last because he is the most important thing that I’m grateful for.

I am sharing this Thanksgiving with my actual birthday – a feat that I haven’t enjoyed since 2002 (I looked it up) – and I’m turning (gulp) 40. I’m not sure what this all means (probably nothing), or how my life will change from listing my gratitudes, but I encourage you to spend some time listing out yours. Not because you’re having a milestone birthday on a milestone holiday at a freak time in the collective calendar when millions will be celebrating life, miracles (Hannukah begins on my birthday), and giving thanks to each other, but because it feels good to look at your life through grateful eyes. Even if they be misty.

xoxo

Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room…*

*Lyrics reluctantly from a Taylor Swift song, Never Grow Up. Reason one: the younger of the two Project W kids, and the one who was most interested in the whole design process, LOVES her, or at least did the last I heard. Reason two: the song I really wanted to use was, well, a bit of a downer, and not at all representative of the beautiful and loving family that I was honored to work with. But, in my defense, the lyrics I was going to pick out from the rejected song (Jeff thought I should leave it out of the post entirely) were the (sweetly, sad, yet) positive bits: “Kid, have your say, ’cause I still love you, even if I don’t see you again.” So, instead I give you vapid tweenie-bop music. You may choose to listen as your mood dictates, but know that the second, deeper one by Neko Case is brutally beautiful, and will probably make you cry. (The first one might make your ears bleed. You have been warned.)

Now it’s time for another installment of Project W: The AFTER tour! When we last left off, we were sneaking around the master bedroom and bath, basking in the improved flow and potential for timeless style. Let’s move into the kids’ wing of the upper floor, shall we?

BEFORE: This space started out as a strange pass-through with a skylight and a spiral staircase. AFTER: This little corner will now become a reading nook, or a homework zone if the kids need some quiet space.

BEFORE: This space started out as a strange pass-through with a skylight and a spiral staircase. AFTER: This little corner will now become a reading nook, or a homework zone if the kids need some quiet space.

Just off the area where the spiral staircase used to be (we nixed it in an effort to gain more usable space in the kitchen), is the kids’ wing. It’s private, away from the parents’ master suite, and has its own family bathroom (still to be renovated). While the hallway boasts the same color as all of the transitional spaces in the home – foyer, mudroom, hallways, stairwell all in Toque White (early on my builder asked me to choose only Sherwin Williams colors) – the kids’ rooms depart from the main thrust of the home to reveal individual and personality-based spaces perfect for the rejuvenation of young minds.

read on…

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