There’s nothing like a new (old) home full of idiosyncratic quirks to humble even the most fearless designer. When you move into a home, there’s all this pressure to go fast; to forge ahead with a redesign and remodel as quickly as possible. Over the past several months, this house has been showing me more of what it wants to be, and almost as importantly, what it doesn’t want to be.
With all of the overwhelm surrounding COVID and the state of the world right now, I’ve realized I don’t have the energy to move full steam ahead with a remodel. It doesn’t feel aligned to rush forward with any major changes or construction plans in 2020. That being said, this is what we’re planning to tackle at home in the latter half of 2020, along with a look at our tentative design plans for 2021. The motto is this: slow, steady, thoughtful, and with joy.
To be honest, the last personal project I did was stressful. I involved more community feedback while in the design process and the onslaught of varying opinions made my head spin. I’m going into this project protecting my own creative process while bringing everyone along for the ride, which is going to require me knowing when to share, when to avoid taking opinions too heavily, and full acknowledgment that the members of my family are the only ones who LIVE here. It’s a funny thing to write here, because it’s my job to share my design process, but I think it’s important to be transparent about how sharing everything in real time can take the fun out of the process.
Over the past several months, this house has been showing me more of what it wants to be, and almost as importantly, what it doesn’t want to be.
And we only do these big design projects a few times in our lives, so enjoying all stages of the chaos and, eventually, the finished product is my biggest goal.
After having lived in our home for two months, we’ve determined the initial changes we’re planning to make. Given how many competing focal points there are in the home currently, we first needed to pick the features we like the most and decide how we would incorporate them in the overall design approach. We made a list of the things we want to keep and for the remainder of 2020, we’ll work to make sure they’re cohesive and aren’t competing for attention.
The first step is to eliminate the unnecessary design features from the current house that we don’t want to live with going forward. There are currently A LOT of competing features—wallpaper in the music room, parquet flooring, the stained glass ceiling, light fixtures, molding…they are a bit of a hodgepodge that hasn’t quite felt natural to us. I’m incredibly inspired by the layering and visual eye candy baked into this place, and the goal is to take a very different stylistic approach in this home than our English Tudor home. If anything, you could say the vibe is English country with a dash of Scandinavian sensibilities.
These are the design features we’ve identified as ones we’d like to improve or remove:
Naturally, these four big issues will drive the majority of the work we do in the home. As I mentioned earlier, we’re going slow, and I haven’t even wrapped my head around the kids’ rooms. So for the rest of this post, I’ll just be focusing on key rooms on the main level that we use for guests, nanny share, and family time.
We plan to remove three different flooring materials and replace them with one cohesive polished natural stone. In looking at samples, the reflective light from the polished stone feels like a good fit here and instantly will make the dark entryway feel bigger, brighter, and more of a natural fit with the adjoining rooms.
Adding a lighter tile to the entryway, music room, and kitchen will brighten up the spaces and create some visual continuity. The lighter tile will continue into the kitchen, which may not be started or completed in 2021. That is TBD.
To bring in more continuity, we’re planning to take down molding that doesn’t match the majority of the crown molding in the house and replace it with matching molding. We’ll also remove the “Mickey Mouse ear” molding that’s in the entryway and living room (yellow room) and replace it with a simpler, matching style.
We’ve been inspired by the colors that already exist and want to update them in a way that works well together, instead of having so many colors that stand out on their own. We’re going to paint the peach room a duller pink. The music room will be painted a warm cream color. The yellow room will be yellow, but a more golden color with a white ceiling. The pink room will be a subtle lilac. We will most likely be doing all of this work at once.
Certain light fixtures need to be more functional (the entryway and library (pink room)), although we’re leaning toward keeping at least one chandelier. I would love to find a modern statement light for the entryway that sets the tone for the rest of the home. This, combined with an entry table feel like a really great place to start defining our approach to the finishings in the home—from lightswitch plates to plumbing fixtures to hardware.
There are certain improvements to functional elements that we DO want to tackle before embarking on a big renovation—all of the things that aren’t necessarily fun but are necessary for maintaining the longevity of the home. This includes repainting the siding of our home, patching holes, and removing vines. We are toying with the idea of painting our brick, which may or may not happen at the same time. You’ll have to stay tuned to find out what we decide! This work will be completed by the fall.
Along with the cost and physical labor of a remodel, emotional labor is also involved. With all that’s going on this year, we’re planning to wait until 2021 to move forward with any other big changes to the space. That being said, we are designing the kitchen now, and given that we’re going a more cost-effective route, we might be able to complete it before the end of the year. Again, I’m not going to rush into it if we need to pause! I thought I would at least give you some info on the second phase below.
Along with the cost and physical labor of a remodel, emotional labor is also involved. With all that’s going on this year, we’re planning to wait until 2021 to move forward with any other big changes to the space.
The wall between the music room and kitchen room will be removed. We are currently working through solutions for seating in the “sunroom” by removing the serving island. Ideas include adding an island or doing an island/buffet combo to make use of the space in a way that separates the activities we do daily while allowing us to host.
I’m going to remain vague on what’s happening in the kitchen—layout, materials, etc., except for the fact I can tell you we’re on a tight budget and are looking to keep what we love: the layout, some of the wood paneling, and those windows! I’m exploring some really fun natural stone and paint color combinations and am looking to save by retrofitting prefab cabinets. Details to come soon!
The last big issue we have is not having a walk-in or tub shower in our main bath. Right now we have a really nice sitting tub but it’s not functional for Joe and I…as much as our kids like to play in it. Ideally, we would find a solution where we keep the vintage tile, vanity, and other original elements and do a wall of tile and a glass shower encasement.
This will continue to be a slow process, but we will begin to move forward with the updates outlined above in the coming weeks. I can’t wait to share our progress with you along the way. Stay tuned for more, and please share any questions you may have in the comments!
BY Kate Arends - July 27, 2020
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.