Thursday, April 28, 2011

On the Market--A Southern Castle

Though I am loathe to play any part in it, for better or worse, the collective attention of the world seems to be focused this week on the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. I thought it was a perfect time to take a little tour of a castle in the unlikeliest of places--Greenville, SC.

According to listing information, the over-100-year-old castle was built for a German baroness and was modeled after a castle on the Rhine. The $2.75 million asking price not only gets one lucky buyer their very own schloss, but 30 acres on Paris Mountain with incredible views of Greenville and the mountains.

From what little information I could gather on the internet, the castle has been lived in for years by an elderly couple (the listing confirms that it has been held by one family since the 1920's). Teenage lore of the 1980's pegged the estate as "Devil's Castle" and it was a longstanding rumor that it was used by Satan worshippers who, every Halloween, would abduct a child to sacrifice on the castle's grounds. (Naturally, there was no basis in fact to those rumors.)

While the castle is in need of some updating, it's an undeniably beautiful structure. Take a look:

The exterior, love the ivy growing over the building!

Not sure what this space is, but it seems to be just a large hall.

View of the castle from the 1/3 mile driveway.

Beautiful lush landscaping.

The kitchen could use an update, but that shouldn't be a problem for new owners who have almost three million to spend.

Beautiful beamed ceiling in this great room.

Stone arches frame the view from this porch.

This face of the castle peeks through the trees to the town below.

Great stone trim inside at the stairway.

Another view of the exterior.

(all photos taken from current listing information)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Luxury On The Rails

On my recent vacation I read the best selling book, "Water for Elephants", the film version of which stars Robert Pattinson and Reece Witherspoon. It's a wonderful book that I'd recommend for anyone searching for a few summer reads. The main characters of the book are part of a traveling circus. They move from town to town by train, setting up their big top and marching out their menagerie of animals for curious townspeople. The stars of the circus live in comfortable train cars, while the lesser workers often sleep on hay with the animals. Naturally, this living aboard a train got the designer part of my brain churning. Turns out, luxury travel by rail is still alive and well. Take a look:

Posh train car living room. I wonder if that fireplace works?

Traincar bedroom suite. Such beautiful doors! Has the air of an old luxury ocean liner!

Luxurious bedroom on rails. Check out the gorgeous stenciled ceiling.

Bentley, the luxury carmaker, chartered this train to carry owners to an event at their factory. The colors and details remind me of an old gentlemen's club.

The dark walls and striped ceiling of this club car make quite a statement.

Beautiful attention to detail. Notice the art hung over the mirrored wall in the back left corner.

A light filled "observation car"--like a sunroom on rails.

Outfitted like a fine hotel, this Palace on Rails would be quite an interesting way to see the world.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Transforming the Study

The biggest do-it-yourself project that we've embarked on at my  house is the transformation of the study. It was originally set up for one person, and had a hodge-podge of furniture that functioned fine, but the room overall did not make an impression. And it needed to, as it is on the main floor of our house and guests walk right past it if they use the powder room.

We have more guest rooms than we will ever need, and had tossed around the idea of a home office for each of us. But as both myself and my other half work from home a lot, often right up til bedtime, we decided to create one office for ourselves otherwise we knew there would be days at a time where we only saw each other passing in the hall. This new office for two had to serve a few functions. First and foremost, it had to work for our needs. We took stock of all the things we needed to store and have within easy reach, all of our computer equipment, etc. We also wanted the room to have a spot for reading, and room for a television and space for all of the game system equipment. And it had to look nice.

It was a tall order. Here's a look at what we started with:

Builder white walls and unsubstantial furniture.

And only enough room for one to work!

I got to my drawing board and came up with a few solutions. Once we had settled on one, I had a cabinetmaker price the job for us. It was much higher than I expected, and more than we thought it was worth. So we got the bright idea to do a slightly simplified version ourselves. Using unfinished store-bought kitchen cabinets (which are a bit higher than a standard desk, but perfect for me because I tend to recline and sit cross-legged while I work, so my knees smash the bottom of a regular height desk) and a bevvy of unfinished trim pieces, we spent the weekend building a custom desk for two.

The number of trips to the home improvement store it took to do this project was almost comical!

We pre-painted the walls around the new desk area Sherwin Williams "Silver Strand"--a perfect soft blue-gray. Here, the base cabinets are in place. We stained them a dark mahogany to match bookshelves we already had.

We needed some overhead shelves for storage. I found some wonderful chunky "floating" shelves at the local home improvement store, and because we loaded them  up beyond capacity, decided to install soem sleek brushed nickel brackets for extra support. To give us a surface to tack reminders and notes to, I found a great framed corkboard at TJ Maxx that softens the whole composition up with it's curvy form.

Not bad for a couple of amateurs! Since this picture was taken, I've put a matching pair of lamps on the desk--repurposed from the living room.

The other side of the room.

I'm not a fan of rugs over wall-to-wall carpet, but I had this wonderful graphic rug ("Argonne" from Home Decorators Collection) that I just had to use. The drapes are Imperial Trellis-knock offs from Z Gallerie ($25!). I'm currently having an old shield-back chair reupholstered for this room. The one in here now is an antique from my great-grandparents farmhouse, and it's upholstered to match one of the guest rooms. Can't wait for the new chair to arrive--will be "unveiling" it in the next couple of weeks. The little silver tray table is a Target find ($30!) Having a lightweight arm chair here allows us to sit and read and also to easily spin the chair around to play Wii games on the television. The framed animal prints are from my college apartment--I bought them probably 15 years ago on clearance at Pier 1. The wooden tribal mask atop the bookshelves is a gift from a dear friend and quite a conversation piece. People either love it or find it completely creepy.

This is the room we spend most of our waking hours at  home in, and overall, I'm thrilled with how it turned out, particularly given how much we saved by doing it ourselves and finishing it off with bargain finds and repurposed items.

I am linking to the Metamorphosis Monday Party at Between Naps on the Front Porch.

And to the DIY Showoff Party:

And to the party at Addicted to Decorating:

And, one more at Passionately Artistic!

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The Ubiquitous Red Dining Room

Particularly here in the south, red is the default color for formal dining rooms. As surely as a little girl's room is pink and a little boy is saddled with blue, when all else fails, the dining room is red. So prolific is the red dining room, that it isn't unusual to walk into a spec-built house and find that the only room that the builder hasn't painted Navajo white is the dining room. Because it is so common (and, because I once tried to paint the fireplace wall of my former townhouse red, and after five coats, it still looked like a bad faux-finish) I've never considered doing a red dining room. But taking a look at these red dining rooms has me reconsidering:

Red trim and doors play off the chinoiserie wallpaper in this dramatic dining room. Love the chairs!

Definitely not your grandmother's red dining room, a crisp modern take.

Deep red paint over traditional paneling is a handsome backdrop for this gorgeous Baker furniture.

Love the contemporary chandelier in this red dining room.
(Metropolitan Home)

Glossy red walls and dark trim make for a dramatic space. Love the mix of art here.

Bright red and crisp white combine for a fresh dining space.

Very traditional red dining room, but the upholstery on the chairs provides an updated and unexpected touch.

Who says you can only use chairs to seat guests? In this glossy red space, the table is pulled up to a comfortable sofa.

Great mix of patterns on the upholstery and wallpaper keep this red dining space from looking too heavy.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

My push to finish my own formal living and dining rooms is in full swing. The rooms take the usual positions on either side of the foyer, and both are painted one of my favorite colors--Sherwin Williams Pearl Gray. I've previously blogged about some of the great finds that I've landed for these rooms--the $200 mirrored chest, the $75 end tables, the $300 table, and the $150 chandelier. And I've shared my transformation of some inherited tables.

The biggest thing I've struggled to find for these two rooms is art. The formal living room has our piano in it, so I really hoped to find an abstract piece that had some sort of musical theme. I played with doing a gallery wall of framed sheet music, or a grouping of beautifully matted labels from old player-piano rolls. I tossed around the idea of a gorgeous mirror flanked by sconces. Some of these ideas may still come to fruition on a smaller scale, but after purchasing two pieces at an auction for the dining room, and finding an absolutely perfect abstract for the living room, I am feeling much better about the art situation for these rooms.

The perfect abstract for the living room!

Similarly, I struggled with what to do on the windows. Initially, I wanted imperial trellis drapes, but the cost was really outside of what I wanted to spend. And after finding a close facsimile for my study, I scratched them off the list altogether. I thought of a black and white stripe, considered a black and white damask, and even thought of doing a textured linen in a color to match the walls. Ultimately, I've decided to do an almost-white roman shade with black ribbon trim (I did a trial run of this technique in my guest bathroom--the how to can be seen HERE) and black silk panels with either a plain almost-white ribbon detail on the edge, or I may dress it up and do a Greek key border. Very simple and elegant solution, and since I'm just adding embellishments to off-the-rack drapes, very cost-effective.

But the drapery decision means that neither of the rooms have ANY pattern. I'm not opposed to this, as some of my favorite spaces right now are very simple and devoid of pattern, but these rooms needed a little life. And, so, I had to decide on some fabrics to use as accents. We need  host chairs, and having had no luck in finding any, I've resigned myself to the fact that they'll probably just have to be custom made. Luckily, the upholsterer I use has a great source for chair frames, so "custom" doesn't mean "outrageous." I also want to get an arm chair for the living room--something along the lines of a Martha Washington chair but with straighter lines.

So these three as-yet-unbought chairs will provide some much-needed life to these rooms. And the throw pillows. Let's not forget the ever-important throw pillows. I pulled various sized pillows from all around the house (I have a bit of a pillow fetish, so chances are there is a pillow of every possible size lying on a guest bed or sitting in the corner of a sofa somewhere here.) Ultimately, I decided on two 22 inch pillows for the sofa, and a total of 4 14" x 18" "kidney" pillows--two for the sofa, and one for each of the living room chairs (including the as-yet-bought accent chair.)

Off to the fabric shop I went. I came home with samples no less than five times. Crisp geometrics, fun suzanis, traditional damasks, an ikat or two, stripes, flamestitches, houndstooths, and there was even a polka-dot that caught my eye.

In the end, I narrowed it down to these choices:

But even once I'd narrowed that pool down, there were decisions on the trim. There are, of course, 7.8 million possible fringes, cordings, braids, and tassels to choose from. (Number is approximate). I wrung my hands, looked to the guidance of my seamstress, and did my "fabric dance" (laying the possibilities out, studying them carefully, then walking away for a few minutes.) But, the decision is made. The fabric is bought, and the seamstress is happily spending her Easter weekend putting them together. These six pillows, with their carefully thought out trim, cost more than any of the other "steals" for these two rooms. That's right--the pillows cost more than the dining room table, more than the cocktail tables, and more than the substantial mirrored chest. But, that's ok. I saved on those things so I could splurge on these, and, really, when I divide the cost out among six pillows, it seems quite reasonable. It occurred to me that most folks probably have a similar philosophy--there are certain things they simply MUST splurge on.

So next week the new art will be hung, the new pillows in place, and I'll provide a sneak-peak at the living room. I'm three chairs and eight panels of drapery away from a full unveiling.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Celebrating the Bunk Room

When I was around five years old, I got new furniture for my childhood room. I remember being so excited that I was getting bunk beds. Kids just naturally love them, don't they? A few well-placed props and an active imagination could turn the lower bunk into a train car, a motorhome, or the cockpit of a plane. Stretching the imagination a bit further, and both bunks turned into a cozy townhouse.

As I got older, the bunks became less practical. An adult-height person can't comfortably take the top bunk in a room with eight foot ceilings, and can likewise expect to smash their head against the top one if they take the lower bed. So the bunks went away once I hit my teen years, but I've always had a warm spot for them, and incorporated built-in bunks in many of my designs.

Bunks aren't only great for kid's rooms, but dedicated bunk rooms are a wonderful solution for homes that expect a large number of overnight guests. Lake houses, beach cottages, and mountain getaways where whole families and extended families gather are all great candidates. They are a great use of square footage--why waste money on a half dozen guest rooms that will only be used a few times a year when the grandkids will love sharing a great bunk room? Here are some wonderful examples:

Love the panel detail and the repeating arch and the great plaid rug in this one.

The beadboard details and built in  bookcase make these bunks wonderful little retreats.

This trio of bunks goes all the way to the rafters!

Love the little "windows" with the hanging fisherman's lights.
(from Coastal Living)

A white and aqua bunkroom from Coastal Living. Great built-in drawers!

This rustic set of built-in bunks is gorgeous! Love the log ladder.

A single built-in bunk can allow a study to serve double-duty as a guest room, or make the most of a wide hallway. (via The Enchanted Home)

This crisp blue and white bunkroom is by Sherill Canet (via The Enchanted Home)

A nautical bunk room by Steven Gambrell.

Keith Summerour designed this bunkroom by Morgan-Keefe builders. Love the paneling in this space!

What little girl wouldn't love the built-in vanity here?

Another nautical theme in this bunkroom.
Willow Decor

Do you have a favorite? Where would you use a bunkroom?

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