Friday, May 27, 2016

Living (and Dining) with a Plan

I don't know how you spent the past weekend, but I spent the long holiday break getting inspired. I took the extra day away from the office perusing design sites and beautiful images. I fell in love with Laurel & Wolf's blog and Pinterest boards. Those gorgeous rooms gave me a spark of creativity to really dream about the possibilities for a recent project.

You see, last week we worked on a home that was in dire need of design help. The homeowners had simply given up on their attempt to get style and function to intersect inside their 1970's rancher. Faced with the same long, narrow living room/dining room combo that many homes of that era feature, the owners had no idea how to create a stylish, dual-function room. So they did what a lot of you do. They panicked and ran to the nearest wholesale club to buy the biggest, most awkward sectional sofa they could find. The space was adequately filled with very comfortable furniture, but style, beauty, and function were no where to be found.

Where It All Began

Of course we helped restyle this room. And the home got multiple offers in the first weekend on the market. I will share some "Before & After" photos very soon, but for today --- I'd like to illustrate the potential a room like this can offer.

Long, narrow dual-function rooms are a very common design dilemma. We see them at least once a week. From a design standpoint, they can be scary spaces, for sure. But with a little planning and help from sources like Laurel + Wolf, Pinterest, design magazines, or wherever you see beautiful things, rooms like this can be transformed into truly gorgeous and functional spaces that everyone will love.

To get started, you need to think about the room's purpose and layout. I decided the best option for this room would be to return it to its original intent -- a living room/dining room combination. The dining room would sit at the far end of the room, closest to the kitchen; and the formal living space would be located next to the foyer. This would give owners the ability to entertain large groups in a single space.

It is also important to consider the type of events that may take place here. With a family room located just a few feet away and a finished basement below, this room does not have to house a lot of media elements. It is, however, the only place in the home that can seat more than three people for dinner, so returning the dining function to the room is a must.

With a new layout in mind, it's time fill the space with the basics, beginning with color. Lightening the room with a soft, sea salt color on all of the walls helps to open the room. Because the ceilings are low, visual space can also be increased by hanging white curtain panels from ceiling to floor.

From there, a dining table and living room seating group are obvious choices. The trick, though, to making this space function well while looking beautiful is SCALE. A huge sectional sofa is not a good choice for this space. With low, 8 foot ceilings and a narrow dimensions, furniture pieces should be kept on the smaller end of the size spectrum.

Finally, to make the dual functionality of the room make sense, the space needs to be stylishly delineated. Rugs and subtle room dividers can help accomplish this task.

Take a look at the new floor plan . . .

You can see that along with the rugs, a storage buffet is also used to separate the dining and living spaces. 

With the plan in place, it is easy to fill the room with the proper furniture and accessories. Starting with a console that allows plenty of room for traffic on both sides, the sofa size can be determined. In this case, a small three-seater sofa was chosen. Sometimes these are referred to as apartment sofas because of their compact size. Along with the sofa, matching chairs complete the grouping. Then a small coffee table with a little metal bling was added to the center, still allowing room for traffic flow. 

A glimpse from the entry. Soft tones, mixed patterns, and some bling from silver and gold elements.
An interesting thing about each of the items in the living area, all of the pieces have skinny legs and open bottoms. This helps to make the area seem more open and spacious. In fact, the only item that does not feature an open bottom is the console, which serves to divide the space. 

In the adjacent foyer, a pair of matching ottomans are tucked beneath the entry table. This is a clever way to add extra seating for large gatherings. The side table/stool beside one of the chairs also  offers additional seating. Now this room can comfortably seat 14 guest without bringing in extra chairs. It's so much better than the 8-person seating offered by that bulky sectional!

Yes -- you can tastefully tuck a TV into a room. 
Once the basics are in place, it is simple to find beautiful accessories to expertly fill the room by simply keep the scale and color scheme in mind with every selection. You'll notice that the color black is repeated in both areas within the room without things being "matchy-matchy". In fact, the look is a bit eclectic with varying design styles, wood tones, metals, and shapes. It works because each separate space has elements that recur in the opposite space. 

Here are a few more virtual renderings of my design plan for a long, narrow living room/dining room filled with traditional, transitional, modern, and antique elements all working together . . . 

A view from the dining entrance. Notice how the soft panels, hung ceiling to floor,  help increase the visual space.

Simple, elegant dining room with a big piece of art. Every room can use great art!
If you're looking to spruce up your living space, but have no clue how to get started, don't fret. It can be easily done, so there's no need to wait any longer. If you're in the middle Tennessee area, contact me for a personal consultation. For those of you not in the area, send me a message and I'll help you virtually layout your dream room.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Hill Comes Alive

Wow! It's been a while. If you haven't heard, the real estate market in Nashville is booming. And that's my excuse for not posting in six months. We've been super busy, so the blog has been on hiatus.

In our time away, we've had tons of great Before & After experiences. In fact, today's post is from a property we just worked on Thursday. It's not quite complete. They still have to finish up landscaping and add some plants in a few spots on the interior. But these pics will give you an idea of the changes that have taken place.

When we first visited the home, we saw a stark, bland sort of home. It sat high up on a hill and resembled little more than a drab old farm house. It had no shutters, no sidewalk, and no landscaping. Unfortunately, I failed to get a full photo of the front of the home that day, but these snapshots will give you an idea of how neglected the exterior felt.

Exterior BEFORE
(No shutters, patio furniture in the yard.)
Exterior BEFORE
(No shutters, stacked bricks.)
Although the landscaping hasn't been installed just yet, the new shutters and walkway have really added some pizzazz into the gloomy exterior. It sure does help bring the hill to life!

Exterior AFTER
(Landscaping still to be installed, but shutters & new walkway add major curb appeal.)
Like the outside, we found the home to lacked personality on the inside too. Compounding the problem, dark, low hung window coverings in many places made spaces seem drab and confined. Do those look like 10 foot ceilings to you? They sure don't to me. 

(Dark cloth, undersized accessories, and art hung at odd heights & locations.)
(Dark, heavy valances bring down ceiling height and shorten room.)
To help the room seem brighter, larger, and less like the ceiling was closing in, we got the homeowner to invest in some simple white curtain panels in an extra long length, hung at ceiling height. Then, with just a few small adjustments to existing art & accessories, we brought the room into a scale much more in line with its actual size. Now the 10 foot ceilings are actually noticeable to visitors.
Dining AFTER
(Light curtain panels hung at ceiling height give room an open, airy, and light feel.
Larger accessories and proper art placement help give room a finished look.)
The kitchen was a great space, but it had very little personality. The lackluster appearance certainly wasn't telling buyers that this is an amazing kitchen!

Kitchen BEFORE
(Dark counters and low light make space seem gloomy.
Notice also how the kitchen towels hide the fact that the oven has dual function features.)
We added character to the kitchen by placing art, accessories, and extra lamp light to the counters. Then we put bar stools around the island to finish off the look. Now visitors can see its beauty, size, and functionality.

Kitchen AFTER
(Accessories & light help the kitchen sparkle with beauty and functionality)
Of all the rooms in the home, the family room needed the most attention. It really just showed like a bright yellow room with sloppy brown furniture. The colors scheme was harsh and the general style was awkward.

(Awkward entertainment center, drab furnishings.)
(Bright yellow walls, sloppy sofa, and low ceilings.)
To help soften the harshness and tone down the yellow, we started by once again adding ceiling-to-floor white curtain panels. Then we brought in a rug to further soften the room. Next we got rid of that awkward "entertainment center" by placing the TV on a simple console table. (And YES --The homeowner will be hiding those cords and adding a plant to the planter). To give the room a little style, we added a table, lamps, accessories and art. What a difference it made. 

Living AFTER
(Again, adding ceiling-to-floor white curtains help to soften room & tone down harsh colors.
Then accessories and better lighting were added to help the room seem neater and better coordinated.)
The office was probably one of our favorite transformations in the home. It is such a spacious room, but when we arrive it seemed rather dysfunctional.  Again, the heavy valances made the ceilings seem low and dark, and the bookcases overwhelmed the space.

(Dark, drab, and cluttered.)
We removed the valances and changed out the curtains. Then we reduced the bookcases, centered the desk, and cleared the clutter. Now the room looks bright, spacious, and very functional. 

Office AFTER
(Light, bright, spacious, and functional)
Upstairs it was more of the same. We tried to lighten and brighten every room by using simple bedding, large art, better lighting, and reducing clutter. Here are those before & afters . . .

Bedroom BEFORE
(Too much going on here)
Bedroom AFTER
(Bright, open, and calming. Nightstand on other side of bed further opens the room)

Bedroom BEFORE
(Light is horrible, shaddowy, and harsh thanks to clear bulbs overhead.)

Bedroom AFTER
(Better light using frosted white bulbs, and larger art make room seem much more relaxing)

Bedroom BEFORE
(Strange netting that doesn't fit theme and harsh overhead light is not very soothing for a bedroom)

Bedroom AFTER
(Netting replaced with bigger art. Bedside table & lamp added. Now room is a calm retreat.)

Bedroom BEFORE
(Lacks a coordinated and "finished" look)

Bedroom AFTER
(Curtain panels, larger art, and removal of awkward throws give the room a polished and coordinated appeal.)

If you take nothing from this other than the amazing impact that ceiling-to-floor curtains can have on a room, our work will be done. They really do help to increase visual space and give your rooms a finished look. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

No Swag Here!

Whew! We've had a super busy summer helping agents and homeowners get their listings sold. It's been so busy, in fact, that I haven't updated the blog since March. Since this rainy Saturday morning has put a stop to my outdoor plans, I suppose it's the perfect day for some virtual housekeeping.

I've said before that our job could be labeled an exercise in extremes. When we get called in to consult on a listing, generally we find one of two conditions exist. Either the owner has too much stuff and we need to convince them to remove items and use what remains in a more functional and aesthetically pleasing manner -- OR -- the owners have very little in the way of furnishings and accessories, resulting in the need to add some style and personality to the listing.

In the case of this listing, we faced the latter issue. The home was filled with just the basics. There was a place to sit, a place to work, a place to eat, and a place to sleep. There was little in the way of accessories, and the furnishings were very masculine and a bit dated. Essentially, it was a bachelor pad. Take a look at these BEFORE photos. . .


Master Bedroom BEFORE
Bedroom BEFORE
Pretty bland, huh? I mean the home had great bones and is in a fabulous neighborhood, but it did not show well. Aside from a lack of furnishings, the home was also short on elements of light that help buyers respond positively to a property. So along with filling the space with furnishings and accessories, our job was to introduce more and better lighting so buyers could see the home's full potential.
Take a look at the results AFTER the rooms were tidied up, dressed with a few new accessories, and injected with light . . .
Living AFTER
Dining AFTER
Master Bedroom AFTER
Bedroom AFTER

The "BEFORE" living room was a sparse, dark, bachelor's den. It needed a big injection of personality and light. Even though we added many items, the room actually looks and feel larger because it is filled with well-planned furnishings.
The room clearly needed more "stuff" in it, but we also removed things that were of poor scale or style. Chief among them was the rug. It was doing nothing to modernize or express functionality in the room. The super saturated colors were also camouflaging the furnishings. You can barely see the black Chinoiserie coffee table on that dark rug. So we ditched the rug and brought in a slightly lighter coffee table that coordinated better with the leather sofa and television cabinet.
The room also seems larger thanks to a small change in the existing window treatments. Having "swag" may be a good thing on the street, but with home design, having swag is a big no-no! The simple truth is, swag-style curtains are generally not attractive. In most cases, they hide light and look sloppy. You can see in the "before" photo that the swag curtains give the room a dated and depressing look. By extending the rod slightly outward and letting the curtains hang straight down to flank the window, we allowed light and on-trend style to be part of the new design.
As with the living room, in the dining room we had ditch the swag! You can see how just the simple step of opening the curtains and allowing more light into the room completely changed the tone of the home. Once we let the light in, it only took the addition of a few simple accessories and a beautiful painting make the room look amazing.
We often refer to the master suite as a "money room". Along with the kitchen, the master suite can make or break the sell of a home. To get the best price possible for your property, the master bedroom must convey as a coordinated, spacious, and relaxing retreat to buyers. But as you can see from the photo, this master suite was anything but a retreat.
To rescue the lackluster master, we started with bedding. Simple, neutral bedding can make a dramatic impact on a bedroom. A sleek, coordinated bedroom doesn't have to cost a fortune either. There is no need to drop hundreds of dollars on a complete bedding set from a high-end department store. This bed transformation cost less than $100. With a coverlet, matching shams, and coordinating throw pillows, you can pull together a disheveled bedroom for about $80 -- for a KING size bed!  We completed the look with a pair of taller lamps with stylish shades and large, coordinating art. With the affordable change, buyers can finally see the potential of this great master suite.
This teen's room looked like, well, a teenager's room. To help bring this room to order, we first got the teen on board with the idea of maintaining a tidy room while the home was on the market. Then we went about adding simple, economical adjustments to the room.
As you may have guessed, we started our transformation with the curtains. Although the sheer curtain panels were not hung in a swag, they did very little to give the room a light and well-kept appearance. The rod on which they hung was strictly utilitarian and designed to be hidden beneath a valance, not as a stand-alone rod. The rod was also broken and sagging in the center. We would've liked for the panels to softly flank the window as in other rooms, but in this case, the most sensible thing to do was to remove them.
Next we added a simple coverlet and coordinating pillows to the bed and a teen-friendly piece of art on the wall -- very affordable fixes.
In the photo you can also see that the "before" arrangement had an unnecessary and nearly hidden seating group in front of the window. The result was a congested and small space. To remedy that, we removed a chair and table, then placed the remaining chair at an angle in the corner. Finally, we moved the bed, nightstands, and dresser about a foot closer to the window. The small adjustment left the room feeling spacious, stylish, and orderly.
We've have many more photos and ideas from our summer projects to share with you in the next few weeks. I hope you'll check back again to see the other decorating extreme. In our next article you'll see how we removed about half the contents of a home to discover a calm, coordinated, and charming home.

Monday, March 30, 2015

From Plain to Posh in One Afternoon

As home stagers and designers, our job is to quickly transform a home from plain and boring to posh and stunning. We tell clients all the time how simple it is to make such a change, but they rarely believe us. It is true though -- with some decluttering, careful editing, smart accessorizing, and plenty of motivation, just about anyone can give their home a fresh face that buyers won't be able to resist.

 Take a look at how we took this home from plain to posh in a single afternoon . . .

Family Room BEFORE -- Haphazard furniture arrangement & lack of pizazz
Family Room BEFORE -- Lots of toys & clutter, but very little "WOW"
This family room is the first thing buyers will see when they enter the home. It had to impress. Unfortunately it didn't. When we started, it was packed with"stuff," but lacked personality. There was no art on the walls, no interesting view points, and the furniture was haphazardly arranged.
To fix it, we first had the clients declutter and make the room a Kids Free Zone. Then we swapped the sofa and loveseat to improve the furniture layout. Next, we anchored the loveseat with a console table -- giving buyers something other than the side or back of a sofa to see when they enter. Best of all we added some "WOW" by creating a focal point above the mantle using art. Doing this stirs interest in the minds of buyers and makes them want to keep exploring the home. Finally we added art, accessories, and lots of lamp light to give the room a warm, welcoming feel. Take a look at the "After" photos of this family room . . .
Family Room AFTER -- New layout, new focal point, and lots of interest piquing accessories

Family Room AFTER -- Another view of the room.
The next room we tackled was the breakfast room. When we arrived the space seemed cramped and dysfunctional. The large table & chairs left little room for maneuvering around the table. If a buyer had seen this, they probably would've had a negative impression about the true amount of space in the room.
Breakfast Room BEFORE -- Table & chairs too big for the space; making the room seem cramped and dysfunctional
To rectify the crowded breakfast room problem, we moved the large bulky table to the empty dining room. Then we added a dining set with a glass top that was more appropriately proportioned for the room. We also hung a large piece of art to accentuate the length of the room. It turned out really great, don't you think?
Breakfast Room AFTER --  Appropriately proportioned glass top table & large art shows the real size of the room
The master bedroom was fine when we first consulted on this project. The trouble with "fine" though is that it is not great. It does not leave a lasting, positive impression on potential buyers -- which is a BIG problem. Take a look . . .

Master Bedroom BEFORE -- Bland d├ęcor & in need of a more upscale, coordinated bedding set
Master Bedroom BEFORE -- Sloppy bedding and make shift electronics storage on a TV tray
Underwhelming isn't it? We remedied the problem of the bland master suite by updating the bedding set with coordinated shams and making it in a tailored & tidy fashion. We further pumped up the wow factor by adding art, a few key accessories, and improved lighting. The lasting effect is a fresh, neat, and memorable room!
Master Bedroom AFTER -- Very tailored bedding, art, & new lamps pump up the appeal of this owners' retreat
Master Bedroom AFTER -- Key accessories add interest and cleverly hide cords & electronics
In the master bathroom we found a very common issue that we refer to as "Toiletry Takeover". Toiletries, cleaners, personal products, medicines, etc. sitting out on surfaces in a bath is a very common sight. It is also a common buyer turn-off.
Master Bath -- Cluttered surfaces, visible toiletries give wrong impression to buyers
Cluttered, messy surfaces can leave buyers with the impression that the home as a whole is cluttered and messy. Even rugs on the floor can make a bath feel small, choppy, and messy. So when you are selling, bathroom surfaces should be clean and clear. Period. Fortunately for these clients, we were able to help them avoid the pitfalls of listing a home with a messy bath. See how much better a clutter-free bath looks . . .
Master Bath AFTER -- Clean, spacious appearance.
Master Bath AFTER
So roll up those sleeves and start working on transforming your home today. It's super easy. It just takes a plan and a little elbow grease.