*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).
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…
*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…)
Boom. Project W kitchen. Do you remember it when it looked like this?
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…
*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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
I still have one last space to share with you. Stay tuned!
*Lyrics from These Foolish Things as sung by Sam Cooke. I heard this song on my Pandora station (Ella Fitzgerald, et al) the other week while cooking, and jotted it down for the blog. When I went searching for a song for this post, this one matched what I was writing about regarding color palettes. Things happen, and they remind us of other things, and these (foolish) things can get permanently emotionally attached to colors. Well, anyway, read on, play on.
For many moons I’ve believed that the most beautiful and cohesive homes have a unified paint palette. Now, this is not to say that each room must match, or be party to a theme per say (ok, in fact, no themes at all, please – stick to moods), but that the spaces that open onto one another should have harmony, and should relate to one another in some way, so that when you move through the home you feel at ease. For me it’s easiest to approach this idea by beginning the design process by choosing a palette that is connected, and brings together the emotional feeling of the entire home – the people, the architecture, the furnishings, the mood that we want to evoke, the emotions that we have about colors (and saturation levels of colors) – and sticking to it.
*Lyrics from 6am off Fitz and the Tantrums‘ new album More Than Just a Dream. I wanted to find something upbeat – I’m so tired of being in the doldrums – and was so happy to learn that they’d come out with a new album (plus, any band that can play this well live is worth listening to). I truly enjoyed their first offering, and hope to get to know this one on Spotify before purchasing. Though, based on the few songs I’ve heard so far, I expect this album will be coming to my virtual home soon.
Next only to a thorough cleaning in creating a feeling of home is painting. When we took the pied-à-deux we asked for permission to paint (again – we had permission for the upstairs flat, too). Our landlord graciously allowed us to paint since that mean he didn’t have to. Win-win. So we decided to go a bit further with our selections, pushing ourselves into a slightly more bold direction. And, while the prior tenants had done a nice job choosing paints – a neutral grey with a charcoal accent – we wanted to put our own stamp on it. Plus, we had those hand sewn curtains to contend with, as well as all our other furniture and things skewing toward an established scheme.
At first, I was scared of doing the whole living room in a dark color. The ceilings in the pied-à-deux are much lower than they were in the original Pied, and we get less direct sunlight (due to the position of the surrounding buildings, and the fact that we’re on a lower floor). Both of those things mean that it’s darker to begin with, so choosing a deeply saturated hue was a risk (and, frankly, one that I’m still coming to terms with on some days). But, hanging art, mirrors, curtains, and shelves (I’ll show you all that soon, I hope!) has really helped to make the place feel brighter when it needs to, yet stay cozy and handsome. All in all, the color scheme is working for us, even if it still pushes me on some days.
*Lyrics from My Better Self by Tennis from their album Young & Old. I’ve listened to this song at least a hundred times (probably the entire album that many times) and I’m not sick of it, nor did I – until today, reading the lyrics as I sung along – even understand what I was saying. Which is ironic, given what the lyrics for the full song are. So, do this: listen to it WHILE you’re reading the lyrics, then read the lyrics (I noticed that some of the lyrics were not written down correctly – for instance, ‘what is it made?’ is really ‘what is innate?’ – I couldn’t find the official lyrics, so, sorry about that). I feel dumb for not getting it before. “Only the value given shows, that meaning comes and goes.”
Happenings are happening all around me. My brother just got a job in Los Angeles – he found out on a Wednesday, and his gig started the next Monday – and he left NYC for 5 months. All three of my sisters are currently in temporary digs (and in various states of disarray) – though my younger one is more settled, in a way, than the others – and we just moved from our old pied-à-terre to our new one. Let’s call it the Pied-à-deux. Whew, it’s been a bit of a lot. I know that’s horrible English, but it’s true.
And, mere days after we moved our things down one flight I got a call to return to land of the Big House for a meeting with a new client. And three weeks went by before I could return to Brooklyn, and to my overworked, and overtired husband. See? A great big bit of a lot.
*Lyrics from Heavy Feet by Local Natives. I listened to their newest album, Hummingbird, on repeat for three days straight, and then I took a break so I wouldn’t ruin it for myself. You all know I love them. This song is why. Plus, read on, and you’ll see why these words resonated for this post.
You see, a few Christmases ago, my younger sister gave me a print of a Kandinsky painting she spied that reminded her of my love for blurry dots. I actually and sincerely love that side-effect of having poor distance vision, that blurring of all the edges and background that happens in movies, the way that light turns into semi-transparent glowing orbs that sparkle and move when you blink. It’s really just poor vision, but I find it beautiful (and one of the reasons I don’t want Lasik). It took us years – quite literally two actual years – to muster up the effort to go and have it professionally framed. It was an odd size, and also a really high quality print – no cheap frame would do. But, once we did have it framed, we decided it would be the major inspiration point for our color scheme and vibe at The Pied.
*Lyrics from Five Years Time by Noah & The Whale. I don’t really know why I chose this song for today – I had a note about using it for this reveal in my phone. Maybe it’s because I don’t expect to be living here in 5 years’ time, nor do I expect to like all the same things that I do now. Hell, I don’t even think I’d recognize my former self from 5 or 10 years ago. Let’s just say I’m a transition-er, in transition, with transitory leanings, and eagerness to roll along. Shall we?
One glance around our pied-a-terre and you’d think we were the vainest bunch around. There are mirrors in every room, including an additional mirror in the bathroom (that means there are two in there), and a mirrored end table that makes the idea of drinking martinis in this space seem that much more glamorous. But, the mirrors aren’t all about looking at ourselves (though that extra one in the bathroom certainly is). They’re about bouncing light around, and making this teeny space feel bigger, brighter, and by extension, more livable for longer.
You see, when we first approached the paint options for the space, we knew we needed to eradicate the pale cream/dirty yellow completely (or as completely as we could – the kitchen still sports that soul-killing color, but we distract ourselves with delicious foods and tantalizing wines). So, we chose a deep tealy-blue – Gentleman’s Gray by BM – for one wall in the living room. (The other walls in the living room are Coventry Gray also by BM. Funnily enough we had chosen another gray, but the clerk made a mistake. We didn’t notice until after we had begun to paint, so we just went with it. Happy accident? Ok, sure.) We wanted the room to feel cozy, but not small, and to highlight the architectural details that were worth noticing – the crisp white painted tin ceiling and crown, the high baseboard moldings – while minimizing the ones that were more awkward – the chimney breast bump out, and the strange little locker storage areas next to it. We wanted to expand the wall to make it feel broad, tall, and rich. Though naturally all that depth came at a price, and that price was light.
*Lyrics from You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me as sung by Me’Shell N’degeOcello. I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz on Pandora lately and this soulful version just delighted me. If you dig her voice, perhaps you’ll like her latest offering, Pour une âme souveraine – A Dedication to Nina Simone.
So, the change of season has begun. I know we just had a major blizzard in the Northeast just a few weeks ago, and more snow and cold weather are on the forecast, but the sun is shining longer every day, and I am starting to notice the change – the spring fever – amongst my fellow man. The other day, the temperature reached the low 50s here in NYC, so I was able to run outside. Delightful. On my way back from the run, meandering through throngs of sunshine- and warmth-starved Brooklynites, the streets were buzzing with street vendors selling their wares, with t-shirt and shorts clad hipsters, and flower markets bursting with post-Valentine’s Day overflow stock. Naturally, I was eager to get mine, to capture just a breath of spring, so I put in a request with the husband for a mass of cheerful flowers.
He brought me three bunches of yellow tulips. read on…
*Lyrics from You Won’t Let Me by Rachael Yamagata from her album Chesapeake. Every time I hear her voice, I ‘like’ her, or I click the little ‘thumbs up’ button on Pandora. The song is a little sad, and perhaps that’s how I feel about this process of letting our house go. But, make no mistake, we’re on the market and ready to entrust this lovely spot to another deserving family. Doesn’t make me love it less, or wish I could pick the whole house up and put it in my pocket. For now, more room tours to make you love it as much as we do…
House Tour: Offices
When we first started out looking for homes, fourscore and 7 years ago (I think that’s actually about accurate!), we thought we’d want at least three bedrooms: one for us, one for guests, and one for an office. Jeff has worked from home for almost the entire time I’ve known him – starting out as a freelancer and working his way to co-owning his own thriving business – so having a space that was dedicated to his work was essential in our home search. We ended up finding this 4 bedroom house, which worked out because at one time my brother lived with us (and at another time my mom lived with us), and we had guests for most major holidays and many a weekend in between, so we had plenty of room to share and spread out. After my brother (and mom) moved on (and out) to other situations, I ended up with the opportunity to get a dedicated office/craft/design studio of my own. And, even though my artistic career is in its infancy, having a whole room (with a fireplace!) to spread out and work on projects (like the desk, or the paintings, or the art), as well as work on design drawings for client projects, has been amazing.