Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reclaiming An Underused Space

One complaint I hear over and over is that people don't have enough space. Not enough closet space, not enough kitchen space, not enough bathroom space. Often, it truly is a square footage problem. But, frequently there is plenty of space, it just isn't being used properly. Now, the house I call home has way more square footage than two people need, but I'm constantly looking for ways to better use the space we have.

Perfect example, our morning room. It's a wonderful area, open to the kitchen, with high ceilings and lots of windows overlooking the back yard--where seasonal flowers bloom just outside the window, and birds of all types (plus the more than occasional squirrel) gather to feed.  But when furnished with just a dining table, it was rarely used. Despite having  a formal dining room, a counter for eating in the kitchen, AND a morning room, we take most of our meals in the great room in front of the TV. It seemed such a waste to have an inviting room that we simply didn't use. So,  a few months back we decided to change that.

First, a look at the BEFORE:

Lots of unused square footage around the room, and a table that collected dust instead of memories of family dinners. 

First, we had to decide just what to do with the room. We had no real NEEDS for it, so it became a question of what we wanted it to be. We entertain fairly frequently, so adding a bar area where we could serve drinks during parties was one idea. And with it's wonderful morning light, I pictured a space where we could sit and have our morning coffee and read the paper (or, in our technology-heavy home, read the news on our iPads.) We weren't quite ready to give up using it for meals...we did occasionally have breakfast in there. So the wish list became: a bar, some comfy chairs, and a dining table that would at least seat two. We started out thinking we would purchase a piece of furniture to use as a bar, and look for a bar-height table that would tuck into one corner. But, as with all projects, our thinking changed as deals were found and the new room came together.

After pricing several pieces of furniture, and realizing that a wine fridge would be a great addition, we decided it made more sense to do something built-in. So we tracked down the person who did our adjoining kitchen when the house was built, and had a new bar built to match the existing kitchen cabinets. (I could get long winded about the four months it took to finish the cabinetry, but that's a story for another time.) The upper cabinets provide a great spot for glassware (and frees up the cabinets that used to hold these for other uses), while the wine fridge keeps drinks of all kinds cold (freeing up space in the big fridge), and the lower cabinets provide storage for table linens and small appliances.

The new dining area is visible here too. I picked a small glass topped table and two upholstered dining chairs. When needed, it's a perfect spot for a meal for two. But the chairs are comfy enough that the room now serves as a secondary living space. 

The opposite side of the room now has two comfy club chairs, which we have used just as we imagined. Any Saturday or Sunday morning, you'll find us piled up on the chairs with our breakfast danish and coffee. While most of the furniture was bargain finds, I splurged on some custom pillows and ottoman (which has wheels to give it some flexibility)

Custom made ottoman lets us kick our feet up. The pleated skirt and button tufting add some softness to the room. 

Custom pillows with silk cording and blingy trim add some sparkle.

Much better if I do say so myself! So how about you? Are there rooms in your house that you could be using better? Let us know in the comments, and don't forget to join us on Facebook!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Dramatic Bathroom Renovation

This is one of the most dramatic before and afters I've ever worked on. When the new owners went to contract on this large house, they knew they'd want to immediately do some updating. The original owners had built the house during the nineties, and while they had fastidiously maintained it, it was beginning to look dated. Working for Design Elite architects and Bergeron Builders, I came up with a plan to renovate the kitchen and master suite.

The "before" shot reveals plenty of space, but not much in way of style. The wood trim, dated wallpaper, and inefficient layout made the huge bath feel dark and gloomy.

Yes, that is a live palm tree. A small sunken bathtub was surrounded by a planter filled with greenery. More dark wood made the vaulted ceiling an eyesore rather than a feature.
And here is the "after". Double vanities were added, specially built to be the perfect height for each of the owners. Their wish for large sinks was satisfied by deep apron-front ones specifically tailored for use in bathrooms. The clean lines and dark finish of the cabinetry contrast against the silvery blue walls. The woodwork was painted a bright white, making the space clean and bright, and a dramatic pendant lets light dance across the space.
Where the palm tree once grew, now stands a huge shower with multiple shower heads, including one cleverly located in a thin stainless steel rail across the top of the thick side walls. Bands of polished and honed tiles provide visual interest and a multi-colored accent tile gives a punch of pattern. The glass wall that separates the shower from the freestanding contemporary tub ("Soiree" by Toto), is lit from below by miniature LED lights, allowing the glass to glow dramatically at night.
We painted the wood ceiling, opting to leave the planks in place for texture, and the original bricks were left, complimented by thin brown pinstripes in the 12 x 24 rectangular tiles.
These open-backed shelves were custom designed and built to provide a graphic statement against the brick walls and a spot for stowing towels and bath products.
Stay tuned for the before and after of the kitchen in this house!
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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Little Election Day Eye Candy

I am so looking forward to the end of the election season. The Facebook political posts, the incessant ads, the campaign sign litter. It seems that not only does everyone have an opinion, but they feel the need to share it and stubbornly defend it...often stepping way past the boundaries of civility in the process. Naturally, the best way I could think of to escape it was to take a look at some political houses. Care to join me?

Former President Bill and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton call this classic home in the Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, DC, home. The timeless "five over four and a door" house is one of my favorite styles. 

Former Vice President Gore calls this Nashville mansion home. The columned portico and white clapboards are pure southern.

The first President Bush calls this seaside charmer home. In Kennebunkport, Maine, the house enjoys panoramic water views. 

Hickory Hill, in McLean, Virginia, was briefly home to JFK. He sold it to his brother Robert, and he and Mrs. Ethel Kennedy raised their family there. Restrained and elegant, the symmetrical core has been added to several times over the years.

 Finally, we get to the homes of the two candidates currently vying for the White House. This brick house is the Chicago home of Barack and Michelle Obama. The heavy cast stone window heads and door surround make the house feel a bit like an old school to me. Presidential types must love symmetry!

The home that Mitt and Ann Romney shared for many years is somewhat reminiscent of Hickory Hill--a classically proportioned center flanked by wings added later on. I love how the garage addition has barn-like detailing. 

Lastly, another former Romney house. This one is in Utah, no doubt used when Mitt was running the winter Olympics there. Massive and rambling, I adore how the house steps down the hillside. Had to be quite a challenge to design and build!

So there you have it...that's as political as we're going to get at Southgate. Do you have a favorite political house? We'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Going Up

I've got three similar projects on the boards right now, second floor additions to one story homes. The wish lists for all three are similar: create a proper master suite on the first floor, and add two bedrooms and a rec room on the new second floor.

The first house is a simple ranch, about 1,600 square feet. The current owners renovated when they first bought the house, and weren't keen on tearing out all of their work to make the renovations happen. So other than expanding one of the original bedrooms for use as a dining room, the original interior was left untouched. A new master suite, large outdoor living area, and garage are added out back, and a large front porch will be a great place to watch the neighbors go by. In the new second floor, two bedroom suites are on either side of a large playroom, and there's even room for some future expansion over the new garage.(For "After" Pictures of this house, CLICK HERE)

The second house is a similar unassuming ranch house. The existing interior was in need of updates, but since there was a little more square footage, we were able to keep the existing footprint. Two of the original bedrooms and the original master bath were gutted on the main floor--combined into a modern suite with a proper master bath and walk in closets. A few walls were felled in the rear of the house, allowing a large redesigned kitchen to open up to the family room. Upstairs, the kids will enjoy large bedrooms, walk in closets, and share a large compartmented bath. From the street, the steeper roof and dormers give the old ranch a cottage appearance.

The final house is the oldest of the three...a cute shingled cottage on the edge of a fine neighborhood of classic old homes. Tired and somewhat neglected, the old gal is in need of more space and some TLC. The interior will be gutted, the rabbit warren of small rooms giving way to an open floor plan that will feel much larger than it is. A new master suite and laundry room will be added at the rear, and upstairs two bedrooms will share a hall bath, and a large media room will overlook the back yard. The swooping roofline keeps the cottage character of the neighborhood and creates a larger front porch.

Do you have a favorite? Weigh in here! And stay tuned for more photos as work gets underway.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

TV and Movie Houses: The Golden Girls

One of my favorite all-time TV shows is The Golden Girls--the story of four ladies sharing a house, and a lot of laughs,  in Miami. NBC ran the show from 1985 til 1992 and while skeptics initially thought America wouldn't tune in to see a show about older women, it was in the top 10 for six of its seven seasons and won numerous Emmys. The show tackled some tough issues--from the (then relatively new) AIDS crisis, to the Cold War (which was just ending as the show began).

Sadly, of the four main characters, only Betty White is still with us. Each of the four women, in real life and in character, are fascinating and I could go on about them for pages. But, this being a design blog, I'll instead tackle the silent fifth star of the show--the Golden Girls' house. From the pilot episode, the house was an integral part of many plotlines. There were episodes that centered around the leaking roof, the garage renovation, the bathroom remodel, unsolicited offers to purchase it, and neighborly disputes over felled trees.

The exterior of the house is typical of the sort of ranch house that might have been built in Florida or California during the 70's--a long, rambling thing with a low pitched roof and a vaguely Polynesian flavor. While Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia were said to live at 6151 Richmond Street in Miami, the REAL house used for the exterior shots is located at 245 N Saltair Ave in Brentwood, California.
Blanche owns the house for most of the series (in a later episode, she retitles the house in ALL of their names to avoid bureaucracy regarding tenants), having lived there with her late husband George. We know most of the furniture and decorating decisions were hers, because the house looks virtually the same during the pilot episode as it does throughout the show.
In one memorable scene, Blanche returns home with one of her many gentleman callers and trips the newly installed burglar alarm. Rose, who has been traumatized by an earlier robbery, fires a shot into the living room, ruining a cloisonne style vase that sat by the front door. Rose apologizes, pointing out that "At least I didn't shoot Lester!" but Blanche retorts "I'd rather you shot Lester!" while Sophia hides fragments of the vase in a potted plant to prevent Blanche repairing it.

A glimpse of the front entrance of the house...including Blanche's beloved vase (pronounced "vozzz", natch)
Much of the show's action takes place right here, in the girls' living room. The distressed wood doors throughout the house now look fresh again--Restoration Hardware has built whole collections around wood pieces with a similar finish. The furniture screams "80s"...rattan everything, peaches and teals. and the odd sprinkling of French style fautilles. Sophia once advised Blanche, "NO MORE WICKER!" and I have to agree!
The rear of the living room features a wall of glass overlooking the lanai, vaulted and skylit ceilings, and a fireplace. With some new furniture, I think this could be a very dynamic space.
How many cheesecakes were devoured around that kitchen table? (I just noticed those Chinese Chippendale chairs! Give those puppies a new coat of paint and some snazzy upholstery and they could be awesome!) The oak cabinetry, muted earth tone wallpaper, and butcher block counters are all children of the 80's...and the harvest gold wall phone looks to be leftover from the 70s. The wallpaper in this picture is the second used during the show. It replaced a small floral pattern in a similar color. The Golden Girls were not the first TV family to use this particular kitchen, though. In the short lived ABC series "It Takes Two" (from the 82-83 season), this same set was used in the home of its main characters.

  In one episode, the ladies set about replacing the toilet in this bright and spacious bathroom. Hilarity ensues, of course, but eventually they get it all put back together. Check out those colors! Teal and pink tiles cover the walls, and that hot pink shower curtain---have mercy! But the wall of glass overlooking a small walled garden and overall size of this bathroom make it memorable. Updated with a few acres of marble, this bath could be amazing.

Blanche's bedroom might as well be wearing shoulder pads it is such an 80's icon. Mauve wall to wall carpet, green laminate furniture, and a forest of palm leaves combine beneath her mirrored ceiling. But imagine that palm print by itself. Does it look familiar? It's a pattern designed in 1942 by legendary decorator Dorothy Draper called "Martinique" and has been a signature item at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Nate Berkus used it in his own dining room in Milan, and Nikki Hilton has apparently used it in her house. It's still available and when seen without the 80's colors Blanche had, makes a real retro-glam statement.

We rarely see the other girl's rooms, but in this episode Dorothy and her sister Gloria catch up in hers. The thin metal framed artwork over the bed is typical of what hangs on the walls throughout...and her headboard reveals that the wicker isn't confined to the living room. The glimpses of the secondary bedrooms indicate that they are all large enough to accomodate a sitting area in addition to the usual sleeping functions, which has made me think the Golden Girls house might be a perfect floor plan for the increasing number of multi-generational households.

A number of people online  have attempted to recreate the floor plan. It's no easy with many sets, there are a lot of things that just don't jive. The plan above takes some liberties, but attempts to marry the plan to the elevation we are all used to. It also puts Blanche's room back at the front of the house, where it appeared in some of the first episodes.

While very similar to the first plan, I think this one captures the dynamic living room better. Again, Blanche's room is at the front of the house. I could see this plan working very well with a few tweaks. I'd give each bedroom it's own bath, and open the kitchen up to the living area, but otherwise it's pretty solid as it is.

Are you a fan of the Golden Girls? What were some of your favorite moments from the show? What suggestions do you have for the floor plan?

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's The Great Pumpkin (colored room) Charlie Brown

Fall is my favorite time of year...when cool temperatures bring relief to the heat of summer, the trees unleash a canvas of color, and nothing sounds better than curling up under a blanket with a cup of cider and a good book. I'm also drawn to the colors of fall--deep browns, warm oranges, and earthy yellows. The heart of our house is decked out in a harvest color scheme--orange tweeds mix with brown leather and harvest colored stripes in the great room, and the orange is carried onto the walls of the adjoining kitchen and morning room. Now, I've often questioned the decision of having those orange kitchen walls. Every party ends up in the kitchen, and so every single photograph that anyone has ever taken in our house is on the orange background of the kitchen. It's not always the most flattering backdrop.

But, photography issues aside, I am enjoying the resurgence orange has been seeing the past few years. The memory of the decorative horror that was the seventies meant a long hiatus for orange, but in honor of Halloween, I want to share the following orange rooms that show just how versatile and dramatic the color can be.

An orange runner and painted stripe punctuate an otherwise monochromatic foyer.

A deep spice orange gives warmth to this study. (Love the graphic artwork over the loveseat!)

Orange is right at home in a contemporary setting too. Here, it has been used as a graphic accent over a bed.

Pumpkin color walls and matching draperies with gorgeous tassel trim make this room warm and inviting.

In this crisp bathroom, a bright orange paint repeats one of the colors from the tile wall, bringing warmth and depth to a room whose clean lines might look cold with a more neutral color scheme.

Glossy light orange walls are a great backdrop for the graphic art in this foyer. The striped vestibule makes this space feel like a chic Tim Burton set.

 The peachy orange walls of this traditional foyer show just how versatile shades of orange can be.

And finally, this gorgeous foyer. If your neighbor said they were painting their foyer orange and black, would you ever dream the result would be this elegant? The black trim really makes the spice orange walls POP, and the color gives the botanical gallery weight--those prints would feel lost on a beige wall.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Amazing Garages

If there's anything I like better than design, it's cars. So this is a topic dear to my heart: dream garages. Full disclosure: I don't have one of these. My garage is like most everyone's: every corner crammed with tools, paint cans, and leftover odd bits and items making their way to the trashcan or the local Goodwill. Oh, and just enough room to squeeze our two cars in among it all.

But I can dream...

This garage apparently has space for 32 cars. Swoon. It's as if each car has it's own little cabana.

I picture this one filling out one end of a handsome country estate..probably filled with vintage British cars.

A single garage door leads to subterranean parking for multiple supercars. It's design is as subtle as it's inhabitants are flashy. 

Here, the Ferrari is right at home alongside a wet bar and a seating area. Polished, stained concrete, and a hand knotted rug IN THE GARAGE. Posh!

Another car sharing the living space. The Maserati almost feels like a piece of sculpture in the sleek, restrained surroundings.

An earlier picture of the same space...Notice how the floor tilts up to roll the car out.

Absolutely over the top garage. Could double, if needed, as a hotel ballroom. Haha!

A tumbled stone floor, stone walls, and wood beamed ceilings show that this garage was given as much attention as any other space in the house.

The ultimate home for a car collection--a Vegas inspired showplace with double decker car lifts and bold colors.

This vintage space has plenty of storage and an antique gas pump for each bay.

A masculine garage with handmade wood casework. 

So which one is your favorite? Is your garage a mess of boxes or a showplace for your autos? (Bonus points if you can still get your cars in the garage!) 

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