Monday, June 27, 2016

A New Home For An Infill Lot

We just wrapped up plans for a new house on a narrow infill lot on a street of charming old bungalows. It was important to the clients that the house feel as if it belonged there. The hope of everyone involved is that once the house is built, passersby will be hard pressed to know if it is new or just a recent renovation.

Simple detailing, appropriate to the neighborhood, highlights the front elevation.
The main living areas and kitchen are one large space that opens to an inviting screened porch.
Upstairs, three bedrooms and a loft (complete with a hidden nook under the eaves) round out the plan.
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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

On the Market: Torquilstone

One of the houses that made a big impression on me as a child has hit the market.  "Torquilstone", in Charleston, West Virginia, was originally built as the home of William Goshorn MacCorkle, the son of a former governor. The 10,000 square foot house was built in 1926 and designed by William Martens, who also designed the West Virginia Governor's Mansion.

It remained a private home until 1961, when it was acquired by the Sunrise Foundation and used as an art museum. (The Foundation also operated the Sunrise Children's Museum across the street in a mansion that had been home to Governor MacCorkle). The museum was in operation until 2003, when Torquilstone was sold and converted back into a single family home. I always wondered what the imposing stone building I knew as a museum looked like as a house, and thanks to the listing, I know!

The rear of the house is a study in symmetry.  
The beautifully detailed front porch greets guests.
View of the house coming up the drive.
Side view of the house, showing off the formal gardens and the beautifully detailed conservatory.
The foyer is highlighted by a wide, sunlit staircase that curves gently at the end.
Another view of the foyer.
The family room is large enough for two seating areas and a casual dining table.
More formal meals might be taken in the green striped dining room.
A third option for taking meals is this breakfast room with a fantastic corner fireplace and a fun mix of patterns.
The kitchen is stunning with a coffered ceiling, furniture quality cabinetry, and marble counters.

A stone fireplace, paneled ceiling, and walls of windows mark the conservatory.

One of the porches offers space for al fresco dining and a seating area.

The master bedroom features another corner fireplace and a sitting nook with fanlight window.
It's a safe bet that the original plans didn't call for a master bathroom this huge and well appointed.
This guest room features a wall of built-ins. I wonder if those provide the closet space for this room?
A cheerful secondary bathroom.
One of the secondary bedrooms is clearly being enjoyed by a lucky little boy currently.

Pretty in pink, this little girl's bedroom is located at the top of the stairs.

A third kid's bedroom features two twin beds with beautiful scalloped canopies.
It looks like the house was restored beautifully and turned into a very comfortable  home. And it could be yours for $2 million dollars!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Take on The Food Delivery Services

About a year ago, we found ourselves in a common rut: we were tired of everything we knew how to cook at home, worn thin on the local takeout options, and not sure how to shake things up. That's when I started seeing ads on Facebook for different food delivery services, and armed with a coupon, decided to give one of them a try. Now, over a year later, we have tried three of them: Blue Apron, Hello Fresh,  and Home Chef. They have changed how we eat, made me a better cook, and made the formerly dreadful task of making dinner something I actually look forward to.
Thai Chicken Meatballs

I've been asked which of the three I like best, and that's not an easy question to let me break it down with some pros and cons for each:

Blue Apron

This was the first service we tried, and I would imagine it is probably the most well known, because I constantly see ads for it on TV and the web. For $9.95 per meal, it's a great value, and priced right along with the others. For just under $60 a week, we got three delicious, fine-restaurant quality meals. Even if we ultimately decided that a certain dish wasn't something we would care to try again, we could appreciate the complexity of flavor, layering of texture, and real artistry of the Blue Apron meals. The biggest downside for me was the prep time. It was not at all unusual for it take two hours to make a Blue Apron meal. The ingredients come garden fresh and in their natural state, so if a recipe calls for three different vegetables and four fresh herbs, there is going to be a lot of prep time getting everything ready.  What ultimately swayed us from continuing with Blue Apron was that the menus became a little TOO artistic. My better half is not an adventurous eater, and there were just too many weeks where the unpronounceable meals were picked at and pushed around the plate before going in the trash. Each week, there are several meal options, and you have some flexibility in picking which meals you will receive, but don't have carte blanche to pick any three you want. (Picking meal "a" might mean that meal "d" can't be ordered in combination.) If you have the time to spend and like trying new and unusual dishes, then Blue Apron is for you...their meals are artistry!
Chicken Sate

Hello Fresh 

Hello Fresh was the second service we subscribed to.  The recipes were unusual enough to satisfy my adventurous palette,  but familiar enough to (mostly) please my picky eater. Prep time was generally less than Blue Apron meals, so we could make them on weeknights after work and still eat before the eleven o clock news came on. Hello Fresh was the most expensive of the three we have tried, at $69 a week for three meals for two. Like Blue Apron, there are several meal choices each week--usually at least one beef, chicken, pork, fish, and vegetarian option. Fairly new is a partnership with Chef Jamie Oliver, who designs one recipe per week. Hello Fresh is perfect for cooks who don't want to spend all night in the kitchen, but still want to try new things.
Cod with pickled grapes

Home Chef

Home Chef is the subscription service we are currently using. It's priced identically to Blue Apron at $9.95 per meal. The flexibility and options with Home Chef are better than either of the other two. Each week, there are ten dinners to choose from, and you can put together any combination you want. There is also a breakfast option each week, a dessert option, and specialty menus for special occasions. (For example, there was a Valentine's menu of Filet Mignon that included chocolate mousse) The menus are not as adventurous as their competitors, but that's actually a plus in our house. I would describe their meals as "new takes on old favorites." Some of our favorites have been simple "beef and potatoes" dishes, but finished off with simple but flavorful sauces or complexly flavored compound butters. The time to prepare their meals is generally less...from start to finish in 30 minutes is the norm.

Butternut Squash Pizza

Overall, each of these services are a good value. I've tried to recreate meals from their recipes on several occasions, and have always spent at least as much as what it took to order them, largely because the small quantities of some ingredients aren't available. (If you just need a pinch of fresh dill, for example, good luck finding that at the grocery.) My biggest grumble with any of them is the packaging. They come in a cardboard box with an inner "cooler" type liner that is filled with ice packs. It's a lot of waste. I've read on social media that each of them are looking at ways to reduce that. (On the upside, the packaging does protect delicate ingredients, and keeps the food cold even when the FedEx man leaves it on our sunny front porch for half a day.) Customer service with each company is great...problems are rare. I've had the occasional missing ingredient, and one time a damaged box meant our food was ruined, but in each case, customer service took care of the problem quickly.

So which would I recommend? If I only had to pick one, for us, it would be Home Chef.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Guest Post: Gallery Walls

Inspiration: Gorgeous Gallery Walls
By Mary Sauer

In home decor, creating gallery walls in your home has been trendy for several years now, and it is one trend we don’t expect to say goodbye to any time soon. Sure, the current color and design trends may influence the elements used to create the wall, but in general, we believe gallery walls are here to stay. We can see why this home design trend has held on so tightly for so long. Gallery walls are endlessly customizable—whether you love modern, traditional, or rustic, you can make them work in your home.

Another reason gallery walls seem to be so well loved is because they allow homeowners and apartment dwellers to display everything they love and hold dear in one space. Which brings us to one very important point. Creating a gallery wall is so much more than simply nailing random items onto a wall. If you really want to create a space that captures who you are and the vision for you have for your home, you need a plan in place before you get to work. Continue reading for practical and inspirational tips for creating a gorgeous gallery wall.

Nail Down Your Vision: Before you starting nailing items to the wall, nail down your vision for the space. There are various questions you can ask yourself to help guide your plan.

     Think about the function of the room. Is this a family room meant for casual fun and family time or an office space created for focus and productivity?
     It isn’t uncommon to have a focal point for you gallery wall in mind. Perhaps you have a piece of art in your possession, or you have been eyeing a frame every time you visit a certain shop. If so, allow your focal point to guide your design.
     Consider the color scheme already present in the home, along with the style of any furniture or design elements in the space.
     If you are on a budget, plan out what you intend to spend on each piece before you head out to make purchases. At Modernize, we have a guide to budget friendly places to shop for home decor items which you may find helpful as you begin to shop.

Via Modernize

Have Fun with Different Shapes: Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in the box of square and rectangle frames. Gallery walls have so much versatility. If you find you are gravitating toward one shape or style, set out to find something unique.

Via Modernize

Try a Minimalist’s Gallery Wall: If eclectic and funky is not your thing, consider taking things to the opposite extreme. Instead of experimenting with colors and shapes, create a gallery wall from multiples of the same or similar frames and design elements.

Via Modernize

Incorporate the Furniture and Design Elements Already Present: Creating a gallery wall doesn’t require a clean slate. If you have unique furniture or design elements already present near the wall you have chosen, don’t rehome them—work with them! A unique piece of antique furniture can guide the placement and theme of the rest of the items you have chosen.

Via Modernize

Create a Quirky and Unique Theme: Gallery walls are the perfect way to display items which otherwise might seem out of place if placed alone on a wall. By sticking with a theme, you can create a space for these items and add interest to your home.

Via Modernize

Display the Things You Love Most: A gallery wall is the perfect way to share pictures of family and meaningful friendships with the people who visit your home. Create a wall entirely with photographs of loved ones or incorporate them will other elements.

Never has another design trend allowed for so much flexibility to bring family photos, favorite colors, random flea market finds, trinkets, and art together into one cohesive work of art. With a little creativity, and the inspirational tips provided above, you will soon be on your way to creating your own gorgeous gallery wall.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Before and After: Kitchen Renovation

About a year ago, friends who live in New York asked if I could offer some advice on a kitchen renovation they were planning. The existing space was an oddly shaped galley that notched around the master bath at one end.

The original kitchen was oddly configured and cut off from the rest of the house.
My friends also planned to renovate the master bath at the same time, and hoped to enlarge it into the "notch" of the kitchen.

The existing master bath was cramped.
Fortunately, the answer to the space planning dilemma was fairly obvious: a hallway that led to the master suite could be absorbed into the kitchen, and a new entrance to the master bedroom could be created off of the great room.

This before photo shows the hall we added to the kitchen.
The "after" floor plan. The kitchen absorbed the hall, and the master bath grew into the old "notch" at the end of the  original galley kitchen.  The result is a much more function and space for two of the most used rooms in the house.
The kitchen after the renovation. Bright white cabinetry, carried up to the ceiling and capped with a beautiful, tall crown moulding make this a dramatic transformation.
Another view of the kitchen after the renovation. 
The master bath after renovation. The owners swapped out the double sink I'd originally proposed for a single long vanity and linen cabinet. Tall wainscoting adds detail, and classic hex tile gives the space a timeless appeal.
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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ideas From Hilton Head

It was my privilege, for the second year in a row, to be one of the judges of the Hilton Head Homebuilder's Association Lighthouse Awards. There were over 90 entries this year, and four panels of judges tackled them over two days.

My group of judges visited all of the renovation projects, and new construction homes priced from $700,000 to over $3 million.

We were impressed by the amount of construction and design talent on the was difficult in some categories to decide which house should win.

Naturally, I took a ton of photos. (So many that I filled the memory of my iPhone, and had to spend an hour clearing it out once I got home!)

Attached are some shots of my favorites...fair warning that there are tons, but they are worth waiting for!

This fitted closet was beautifully lit with concealed tape light inside each glass fronted cabinet. The marble topped island concealed an ironing board, and an automated TV screen dropped down within one of the niches.
These cobalt blue lanterns provided a perfect pop of color in this otherwise sedate kitchen. The finish on the cabinets was stunning...a soft blue gray that changed color depending on the light.
To make the most of a small master bath, this house had a "wet room" that served both showering and bathing. A mix of carrara marble and less expensive porcelain were skillfully combined.
The beds in this kids room appeared to be suspended from the ceiling with rope. There were concealed pedestals in the center to stabilize them, but the floating appearance was a jaw-dropper.
By far my favorite feature was this industrial wall of glass that separated a masculine study from the adjacent gallery.
A pair of vintage doors were used as "backplates" for the sconces in this guest room.
This octagonal master bedroom was punctuated with light from dormers above and highlighted by a sculptural chandelier.
This polished and stained concrete floor provided an easily maintained and striking backdrop in a room awash in neutrals.
This bright modern kitchen was highlighted by a slab of stone and a rusticated mahogany eating counter.
Several of the larger houses had these scullery kitchens...pantries on steroids that served to clear the main kitchens of clutter and provide secondary food prep places.
This house had almost no sheetrock surfaces. Shiplap paneling had been laid over every surface. In some rooms, it ran vertical, and in all cases was grounded by generously sized baseboards and casings.
Many thanks to the Hilton Head Homebuilder's Association for putting on such a wonderful the builders and homeowners who opened their doors...and to all the talented folks who made these gorgeous spaces a reality.