The 80's Weren't Kind To This Room

Intense peach, powder blue, linoleum floors....

they all seemed like good ideas at the time.

This is a master bathroom that I was hired to redesign for some dear friends.  Their house was built in the 80′s in a contemporary style--and they knew that the time had come for a big change.

The existing bathroom was long, low-ceilinged, and narrow, with a single tall window at the far end.


Knowing that the adjacent space was a walk-in closet featuring the same type of window, and that the room was in the front gable of the house, I knew that we had the opportunity to make some really dramatic changes, gaining vertical and horizontal space, to create a stunning and very functional master bath. YAY!

It is hard to believe that the images below are of the same room....but I know they are. I was there for each step of the transformation.


Now with a vaulted ceiling and expanded footprint, the bathroom has a luxurious and relaxing feel.

One of the things I found to be so satisfying and fun with this project was the opportunity to use many interesting and high-quality materials. From the gable end wall highlighted with clear cedar planks (further accenting its vertical lines and feeling so at home in the house's wooded setting)....

to a Mid-Century styled ceiling the antique botanical print framed especially for the space, the marriage of traditional and contemporary elements into a funky, eclectic mix, reflects the style of the house and its occupants.


Do you have any rooms in your house that are stuck in a past decade? Perhaps a Disco Dining Room or Flashdance Family Room? :) Take heart! Transformation can happen, and what used to be an eyesore can become your favorite place in the house.

You Know It Is Time For A Change When.....

Things can have a way of being put in place.... and then staying that same way for a really, really long time.

The truth is that oftentimes we don't know when the time has come for a change. Being comfortable with the way things are --and uncomfortable with change (who isn't??)-- can sometimes keep us from recognizing opportunities for improvement or updates that may be needed.  After a length of time, we no longer truly see the space, and  most importantly (especially in a place of business), don't realize what impression it may be giving to our associates and clients.

I was honored to be asked to redesign a prominent local law firm's reception area over the past several months--a space that had had the same furniture in it since the firm had moved to the building decades ago.  Even a large reception desk remained in the room, despite the fact that there had been no receptionist working at it for quite some time. While many exciting things happened in and all around this place of business, this particular room remained stuck, stagnant and not an accurate reflection of the firm it represented.

(I am sorry about the smeary, weird appearance of the "before" pictures. Don't know what was on my lens that day. Let's just pretend it is a 80's dream sequence, okay?)

The vestibule had an old metal rack for coats and the original dusty pinch pleat draperies.

Because this is the first area that clients would see when entering the building, I knew I wanted it to be more welcoming and elegant. AND I knew with some paint and new curtains and accessories, a much better first impression could be gained.

Just inside the door, there are many new pieces--mixed with some of the old--that invite visitors to sit down and hopefully feel quite at home.

Where the unused reception desk was, there is a lovely seating grouping that is now the focal point of the room...

making room in the corner for a secondary seating area.

Are there rooms that you live or work in that have been the very same way for as long as you can remember?  Try to look at them with fresh eyes and see how they can be updated and brought to life again. Change can be a very good thing!

"Is That A New Window??"--A Perception Changing Kitchen Re-Do

I love the unexpected things people delight in after a room is completed.  Like the perception that there is a "new" window in this kitchen....although it isn't new at all,  just newly appreciated!

This kitchen, new in 1991, was quite the hang out for family gatherings...but the owners couldn't figure out why no one ever sat at the table --the place in the room with beautiful sunlight & the best view.  Everyone instead always gathered around the peninsula--crowded really--with the view of the door to the garage, of all things. They acted as though that big space behind them didn't exist. I know this to be the truth, having squeezed in there myself on many a Christmas Eve, since this is my step-father's kitchen.

Here was the eating area before....

You can see the old kitchen was dissected by the peninsula....

and seemingly half of the space in the room was never used. Just silly.

My family asked me if I would help them figure out how to make the kitchen work better (my favorite thing to do!) and they had lots of thoughts and questions about what might be the best solutions: Should the cooktop in the peninsula be removed so it wasn't in the way while entertaining? Maybe a high top table would make the eating area more attractive to people?  What elements of the current kitchen could be retained/re-used?

When I sat down to work on the space on paper, I knew I wanted to stretch the room along its length, making it seem bigger, creating a better focus when looking into the room from the adjacent family room, highlighting its architectural features, and, of course, putting the existing space to its best use. I am very happy to say that now the project is done, there are rave reviews, and every inch of the kitchen is well used and loved.  Whenever someone is in the kitchen, they now find themselves sitting, relaxing, and enjoying the view out of that "new" window.

The existing tile floor was in great shape, so it was left in place and we worked the palette for the new room around it. I think the new complimentary wall, cabinet, and countertop colors give the old floor a fresh and updated feel....once again, it is hard to believe it was there all along.

The kitchen sink remains in the same spot, as does the refrigerator....

 but now with the new island, the cook has his or her own space while still being able to visit with those who sit on the other side of the counter.The separate cooktop was switched for a slide in range, creating more counter space and working more efficiently for how the family actually used their kitchen.

I hope that seeing all of these possibilities inspires you to creatively think about rooms in your own house. What features does your house have that aren't currently being enjoyed to their fullest? What  already works well?  What can be given a whole new or new purpose?  Even if you aren't in the market for a big renovation, small changes can bring about big results.

A House Divided

When I was five years old, I was awakened early one morning and summoned to the first (and last) family meeting my parents ever had.  I stumbled down the stairs in my nightgown,  groggy and confused--I had had a fitful night's sleep, sensing that something was coming undone, something was changing in the house where I lived.  I was told that a decision had been made, and life was about to change in a very big way.... Divorce is a painful, sometimes ugly, always disorienting life event for all those involved. Some relationships are severed, others altered, belongings separated, addresses changed. Now as adult, I can offer that little girl understanding, support and the knowledge that things that are broken can heal...and end up better than they were in the first place.

However, the transition (please excuse my language) can be a bitch.

If you find yourself in the midst of just such a transition, you deserve to have a place where you feel at home, a place that is restful, a place that helps you picture and create the life you want going forward--and that place should be wherever you are living right now. This can be especially hard to envision if you aren't the one who wanted the change in the first place and your home now has one less inhabitant whose absence is deeply felt, or if you find yourself evicted from a home you never thought you would ever leave. Much like a caterpillar needs the safety of his or her cocoon to transform into a colorful, graceful butterfly, you are going to need a protected, comfortable place for yourself while in this vulnerable state, so that you too can unfold beautifully and prepare yourself to fly. Here are some ideas to help move you forward in a positive way and create just such a space:

1. Create A Vision of What You Want Things To Look Like –How can you arrive at a destination when you don't know where it is?  It is important to create a vision of where you want to end up--picture what you want your life to look like going forward now that this change has happened. This is a process that I call "drawing your map," and doing things such as collecting pictures that inspire you and writing down two or three words that capture the feelings that you want to create in a space are key steps to take. This "map" is going to be a very important tool in creating a nurturing, supportive home that supports and facilitates your vision for you and those you love.

2. Be Patient With Yourself– You aren’t yourself.  Things are going to be confusing, decisions hard to arrive at. The place you are living is in a state of flux. Progress with things may be slow at times, but any progress is good. Give yourself a loving dose of care and understanding daily and keep moving forward.

3. Life Transitions Always Create Clutter–Whenever we go through a change in our lives, there are things that we don't need or want anymore, and things that will simply be in our way. Whether you are anxiously looking forward to wiping the slate clean, or you dread having to sort through boxes and closets, this  STUFF has memories and emotions attached to it that can stick to us, just like the dust that settles on our clothes as we are cleaning out, and make us feel weighed down. These heavy emotions can make us want to avoid dealing with the clutter all together, but it is a very worthwhile undertaking that will make you feel lighter when you are done. Refer to tips #1 & #2 to first see if items fit your vision for your new life (if not, drop it like a bad habit), and then to remind yourself to be patient & kind to you during this process--this is hard work.

4. Revisit Special Places from Your Past:  In Winifred Gallagher’s book House Thinking, she writes of research connecting the recognition of meaningful places in a person’s past, and the ability to then create a “just-right home” that provides a “deep, gut-level feeling of identification and comfort.”  What could be a better description of what is needed right now?? So, what are the rooms, homes and gardens of your past–environments in which you felt truly yourself, truly alive? These are spaces that Gallagher refers to as your “best places.” Take some time to reflect, and you may find some clues to help you create a very meaningful, special, and comfortable place in which to live and thrive today and in the future.

A house divided cannot stand, which is why  I encourage you to create your own whole, complete, and nurturing home that stands on its own. This shelter contains the foundation for your new life within its walls.

Beautiful butterfly photo via