Sunday, July 16, 2017

Cottage Charm

Neighborhoods in close proximity to downtown are all the rage among Nashville buyers these days. Nowhere is that trend more evident than in East Nashville. Buyers from all walks of life are gobbling up the area's bonny bungalows as quickly as a For Sale sign can be planted in the ground.

My blog posts have been pretty much nonexistent this year because I've been very busy consulting on and staging many of these charming cottages; including this one that sits in walking distance of two of my favorite restaurants in Nashville -- Holland House & The Pharmacy. Here's a peek:

Of course, not all listings in Nashville's transitional neighborhoods have been upgraded and are "move-in ready" like this one. In fact, most are not. More commonly we find either a home where the owners had good intentions but neither the time, energy, nor budget to bring it into this decade -- OR -- we get longtime owners who are elderly and the home has hardly changed since the day they moved in.

That's sort of the situation with our most recent project. The sweet family recently lost their father and are moving their mother to a small condo where they can care for her more easily. After removing the furnishings that their mother wanted to keep, the family had an estate sale and pretty much cleared out the home. Here's how it looked when we arrived . . .

Living Room -- Before

Kitchen & Breakfast Room -- Before

 Bath -- Before
As you can see, it's pretty dated. This listing, however, is in an area where real estate investors are hungry for homes with character and curb appeal; which this house has in abundance. And knowing that many buyers want to renovate while still living in the home, it was important to show off this basement bungalow's move-in ready condition. So this project's aim was to restore the charm of this 1940's cottage with contemporary style. Here's what we did . . . 

Living Room -- After

Living Room -- After

Kitchen -- After

Bath -- After
Going with light & neutral furnishings and creamy accent pieces, we helped the space to look bright, fresh, and most importantly, updated. Now, potential buyers can see that this home can easily be lived in while renovations take place. A move-in ready home full of charm -- it's an absolute win for buyers! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Simple Solutions for an Instant Style Boost

I'm beaming with pride. Nothing makes a designer happier than having a client take your advice. Not long ago I met with a client whose home had been for sale during a hot market, but had received very little attention from buyers. The house was newer, well-kept, and in a great location. So its failure to receive an offer was perplexing to her and the agent. After visiting the home, it didn't take long to identify three big issues that were making it hard for buyers to love the home.

1. Paint. Several rooms were painted in very saturated and muddy earth tones. With the current trend being light palettes and greige tones, this home seemed out of style.

2. Haphazard Design. Low lighting, disorganized & visible electrical cords, and a lack of balance in major rooms gave the home a sloppy appearance.

3. Mediocre Master. The master suite is one of the most important rooms in a home to buyers. Underwhelming details in this master suite left potential buyers disappointed and wanting to look elsewhere.

To remedy these problems, the homeowner was advised to: Paint, fix issues of bad scale, improve lighting, remove clutter, and boost elements of style -- especially in the master.

Take a look at the Before & After photos . . .

Before -- The room was a muddy, greenish-brown hue. Feedback on the color selection from potential buyers was not positive. The heavy color, particularly on the coffered ceiling, made the room feel heavy and drab. Compounding the issue were furnishings lining the perimeter of the space, making the room seem very short.

Living AFTER
After -- The room is lighter and brighter. The new paint color on the coffered ceiling helped to visually raise the height and virtual space of the room. 

Before -- The small TV on the mantle, again, made the room seem visually short. The scale was just not good. Plus, cords hanging from the mantle along with the cable box perched on a stand made for a very untidy and chaotic appearance. As a result the clutter and disorganization cheapened marble finishes and architectural elements. 

Living AFTER
After -- The large art and accessories help to give the room a polished, coordinated look in keeping with the home's grand architectural features. 

Before -- The dining room's muddy color and lack of personality failed to impress.

Dining AFTER
After -- The dining room's lighter color, well-proportioned art, tasteful centerpiece, and oriental rug soften the room and add touches of simple charm.

Before -- The master suite was drab and sloppy. It was just not the stylish retreat that today's buyers desire.

Master AFTER
After -- Bedside tables, large matching lamps, coordinated bedding, and a large architectural art piece as a headboard added instant style and luxury that this suite lacked.

It turned out really amazing and is sure to wow buyers!

If your home is sitting on the market with little interest OR if you love your home, but are just tired of your current look -- it may be time to think about making some quick, easy, and inexpensive changes. Paint, updating fixtures, coordinating bedding, and improving lighting are the easiest and most economical ways to give your home an impressive, coordinated, and polished look.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

New Home, New Challenges

Don't you just love a new home? I can spend an entire day touring one new house after the next; oohing and ahhing over all of the modern amenities. There's just something about a never-used home that grabs hold of a buyer in a way that no other property can.

Finding the right home can be a lot like finding a mate. When things are brand new, they are attractive for sure; but are they right for you? Before you sign on the dotted line, you'd better ask yourself if your furnishings will fit the size and style of the new home. If not, are you prepared to purchase new things? If you cannot answer yes to those questions, then you should probably keep looking.

Last week I had the opportunity to work with a client who just purchased a brand new home. It's gorgeous and I love it, but from a design standpoint -- the great room is a major challenge. I probably run into this same room design at least once a month, either on the staging side or the design side of my business. It never gets easier, no matter how many times I see it. This layout is tough.

For my client, decorating the long, narrow room chock-full of angled walls, oddly placed columns, and a giant breakfast bar, was overwhelming. Fortunately she recognized that she did not already have the right furnishings on hand, so she set aside a budget to make the challenging great room as spectacular as the rest of her new home.

Take a look at where we started . . .

As you can see, the room is long and narrow. That issue is compounded by a breakfast bar, a large angled fireplace, and an oddly placed column -- all of which protrude into the room's usable space.

The first step to getting this room in order was to understand the owner's personal style. We talked about what looks and colors she preferred, her family's lifestyle, and how the room would be used. From those discussions, we determined her style to be transitional and that the color palette should be comprised of soft neutrals and blues, with accents of yellow & gold. She said that her family planned to put the TV in the space above the fireplace, so we would not have to accomodate extra cabinetry or case goods.

The next step was to measure. Measure. Measure. Measure. It's super important; especially when trying to fill a narrow room with lots of seating. Good measuring can also keep you from mistakes like buying a sectional sofa that is way too big for your room. Best of all, you can transfer those measurements to a virtual design program to generate an ideal layout for your room.

When we had our style, color palette, and layout determined, it was time to shop. We focused on classic style, clean lines, neutral colors, and simple patterns for our foundation pieces (sofas, chairs, and rug). Foundation pieces are NOT where you should get trendy. Keep foundations simple and neutral. We settled on a pair of small, three-cushion sofas in a light fabric. Then the rug incorporated the blue palette in a simple, muted pattern.

Then the accessories were added. Working largest to smallest, we found an amazing coffee table and comfortable chair with matching ottoman (which is on order). Then we added side tables, great lamps, pillows, table accessories, and large art. It came together very nicely and the client LOVED it.

We're still waiting on the plantation shutters to be installed and the ottoman to arrive, but you can get a feel for how the room was completely transformed with some basic furniture pieces and great accessories. Take a look . . .

So if you find yourself lusting after a new home, be sure it's the right fit for your furniture and lifestyle. If not, make sure your budget can afford the items needed to make it a home you can love. Otherwise, you could end up with a case of buyer's remorse. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

A Blast from the Past

A few weeks ago I got the opportunity to work on a somewhat sentimental project. I'm excited to share some of my favorite "After" pics of it; but first -- let's take a short trip down memory lane.

My very first "design" job was in a local wallpaper & fabric store. Doesn't sound very design-ish when I say it now, but it really was. We sold designer wallpaper & fabrics, window treatments, and accessories to designers, builders, and D-I-Yers throughout middle Tennessee. And let me tell you, selling wallpaper and fabric in the late 80s & early 90s was a big deal. If it didn't move, chances are it was covered in wallpaper and draped with fabric -- most all of which had giant cabbage roses or thick awning stripes on it. Every house had wallpaper. It was très chic. I kid you not.

One of our clients at the shop was a developer who built communities across the Nashville area. During construction either he or his buyers would stop by the store to make wallpaper selections for the new homes. Though most of the 25-30 year old homes have long since removed the wallpaper, fabric, and accessories that we sold them back in the day, sometimes I get a glimpse into the past. This was one of those houses.

The homeowners had removed all of the wallpaper except for a striped number in a powder room. So I wasn't lucky enough to catch sight of an antique Waverly pattern from the English Cottage collection, but I did see lots of glorious brass fixtures, mauve-tinged grey paint, and more yellow oak than you can shake a stick at. I also saw something that I've NEVER seen in my life. Take a look at the shower area of the master bath.

Do you see it? Look closer. 

There's carpet on the side of that tub. Really. 

I've been in lots of the houses in this neighborhood and have never seen a tub surround that was carpeted. Carpet on the floors -- sure. But on the side of the tub? NEVER. Most of the tubs either have a matching tile or cultured marble panel on the front. Like this . . .

I asked the owners about it. They swore they had nothing to do with it. Apparently it was like that when the home was completed in 1987.  

My parents recently built a new house. During construction, one of their tubs suffered an injury after it was installed and had to be replaced. The replacement was the wrong color, but the tile had already been installed around it, so the second new tub had to be reglazed. 

My guess is that the tub in my clients' home suffered a similar mishap. And builders being builders, rather than replace the tub, they thew a carpet panel on the side of the tub because it was the quickest and cheapest solution. 

The trouble with this solution is that buyers in today's market do not find carpet in the bath charming or practical. In fact, it's a major turn off. 

To bring it on-trend, I suggested the current number one cover-up for dated surfaces -- SHIPLAP! 

My long-time readers may recall that I am horrible at taking Before and After photos, and this project is no exception. I did get a shot of the transformation; but it's really bad.  You can kinda see it in the corner of a pic I took showing the changes to the vanity. I'm so sorry. It was such a huge part of the project. I can't believe I forgot to take a good pic of it. 

Here's the tiny shot of the shiplap covered tub surround. The photo is not great, but the end result was terrific. 

Now let's take a look at some of the Before and Afters of the entire master suite.  Here's what it looked like when I arrived for the initial consultation: 

As you can see, the master was bland and uninspiring. Furniture lined the perimeter of the room, artwork was too small, the lighting was dark and dated, and the amazing architecture was being ignored. 

To boost the style factor in this room, we implemented four simple solutions: Paint, Lighting, Linens, and Accessories. 

The mauve-tinged grey walls were replaced by one of my favorite go-to colors for bedrooms, Sherwin Williams Sea Salt #6204. Then we emphasized the soaring ceilings by hanging simple white curtain sheers from the ceiling to the floor. We tied the look together by repeating the soft white color on the bed linens.

To show of the room's spaciousness, we removed the small chest of drawers, plant stands, and wicker pieces. Then we placed the dresser on the wall opposite the bed and added a matching rocker to the corner.  

We finished it off with new accessories. First, we ditched the dark, wall-mounted lamps in lieu of more contemporary lamps with lighter shades. Then we added larger, coordinated art pieces to create a soft, harmonious environment. Take a look . . .

In the bath, the oak cabinets and gold fixtures screamed, "Welcome to 1987!"

Like in the bedroom, we reminded the owners that paint, new fixtures, and dazzling accessories can mask a multitude of sins. The cabinets were painted with Sherwin Willims Foothills #7514 in a satin finish. The fixtures were replaced with new lights in a frosted gold finish to tone down the brass while still coordinating with existing cabinet knobs and door trims. Then a simple arrangement of white tulips was added to provide a cohesiveness to the entire suite. I think it is a stunning transformation.

Here's the gorgeous finished product. The owners and I were very pleased. What's more, it had tons of showings and offers in its first week on the market!

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.