Archive for April, 2011

My mom read the post I wrote on building the addition to her house.      She said it was “nicely written, but,” she was surprised I “didn’t include any details.”     Okay, Mom–here are your details!    (I think she just wants you to see the agony I put her through!)

The Journey of a Stylish Renovation–take II

Sorry, I can’t find all the pictures to show you the progress of construction…..but, it went something like this—-

1st–the two birch trees were taken down.  Which was actually pretty interesting to see!  Sadly, they both developed Birch Bore, I think it was called…?  And she was told it would be fine to plant the new trees right away since construction wouldn’t begin for some months.

2nd–Excavating began on the crawl space for the front addition–a little hair-raising to watch!  It looked like the back hoe was going to take out the corner of the house numerous times, yikes! —good thing I don’t bite my fingernails! 

Permits in hand–    Onward & Upward!

Here are John and Gary–down to business, and where we got to know them both better from their “bantering!”  Like listening to 10yr olds!  I wish I had used a camcorder, not just a camera!  It was very funny!

Note the “supervisor!” 

You’ll notice you don’t see me swingin’ a hammer– I was the Superintendent and Project Manager!  I was the designer, the GC, and delivered materials.  I was the go’for, the water girl, and the photographer!  Fine by me–I was always on the back end of the job, anyway!  Back end=frame to finish.  The front end=dirt to frame, requires more muscle than I have!

The whole process left my mother more than a little frazzled—–this is, more often than not, where you would really find  ←her!  And, no–she’s not a hoarder.  This is how upside down the house became during construction—it was a tough summer.

This was her Christmas card for that season—some people thought she moved, until they read her attached letter!



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Well, this was the house a few years after we moved here.

Very modest.  My grandmother told my mom “It’s cuuute—but— where do you put everyone?”  We’re a family of six.

Only two “real” bedrooms, a long hallway-like bedroom, and one bathroom.  People lived differently in the 60’s–I guess…..    Omg!  Look at that old station wagon– looks like my aunt & uncle were visiting from Illinois!

                                                                                                                                                                  This is after all the renovations and addition!

Although we did add some square footage, the primary focus was renovating and updating the whole house so my mom could have a worry-free retirement!

The house was only about 5 or 6yrs old, but its aqua-colored house paint (was that a 60’s style?) seemed to have many issues.  So my parents decided to have the house sandblasted to start clean– an inconvenient, dirty, and certainly costly adventure.

As I’ve said previously, our parents felt the house had potential, and in “71 they ←raised the back side of the roof, to create a very large bedroom and full bath for my brothers, and an office for my mother.  Later on, they finished the basement, giving everyone more elbow room.

Here is the OLD and NEW             back of the house—

New windows installed throughout the house.  But when there wasn’t enough room for the french doors and headers I wanted on opposing sides of the 2nd floor, the window company built custom windows for me on my specs!  I added fixed levered door handles, and vintage iron railing panels found in a local salvage store and had them re-worked to further the illusion of french doors!

–Different phases of work–

The iron mongers did such a great job, I had them recreate the trellis and railing by the driveway door!  The two pictured below, helped me do all of this!  They’ve been friends since boyhood–and their hysterical banter made work fun!  Really!

My mom’s and the next door neighbor’s houses were built by the same man–same year, same plan.  So when people who haven’t been to the house in a while come, they invariably go to the wrong house—convinced they “know where you live!”  Their dismay is still funny!


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I’m just putting the finishing touches to

(my sister-in-law’s aunt) Joann’s house!

Everything began in that looooooong hallway–7 doors that lead to–– everything! She said The Nate Berkus Show was featuring design solutions for long, narrow halls–did I happen to see it, & would anything work in her hall…?  Sorry–I didn’t, but if you could describe it…….

Well, she struggled to describe it, and I couldn’t find it through his website, but I did have an idea to distract attention away from the obvious! And that seemed to propel the rest of the story–so to speak!













It really wasn’t about making big changes–she liked the colors, in general.  Things just needed some adjustments and refinementsdid I have any ideas….?  Sure!

The kitchen was a medium-dark gray, the living room a deeper, very cool “taupe.” The long hall was left builder-white (apparently, no one knew what to do with it.)  And all ceilings are interconnected.

Since she had such a passion for the gray, I thought it would be fun to go bolder and have the kitchen take center stage!  I chose venetian plaster by ValsparOnyx for the back splashes and dining area walls.  I troweled on the plaster in a “honed” finish, instead of burnishing it to a high shine.  It’s sort of soap stone-like, and looks especially good with the style and finish of her laminate counter tops!

The foremost issue was the balance of color from the ceiling & soffit– cabinets to floor.  Light–dark, light–dark, light-dark. Those gray soffits truncated the space, and made the cabinets feel so short and squatty.  Btw–the skylight keeps that room ba-rrr-ight!

The ceiling needed to move quietly throughout the spaces– I’m totally smitten with the warm, soft white of Sherwin-Williams’ Alabaster.  But, the living room tray ceiling?–that needed to be (even subtly) special! I used Ralph Lauren’s regent metallics– White Tail. It’s a very muted silver/gray, with a little iridescence.  I also repainted the crown molding from its flat white, to an ultra gloss white.

Finally, I just needed to adjust the very cool beige-taupe in the living room.  Hmmm.  Ben Moore has a color I really like– Delaware Putty.  It’s light but rich, and feels like there’s some underlying hint of sage in it!  And it looks fabulous juxtaposed with the gray kitchen!  I snapped a quick pic while painting to compare the old color (right) to the new (Delaware Putty left).

This is how the spaces now come together!














Here are just a few new accessories, lamps, a leather-trimmed magazine “basket,” some re-framed family cross-stitching.  

Joann likes an eclectic mix of contemp/traditional, 70’s-like, and even Scandinavian furniture. The common thread in each room is that you’ll find no superfluous items–she’s a bit of a minimalist.

So, although there are a few things I would love to persuade her to add, like, for example— a colorful 5 x 7 rug in the kitchen instead of the “scatter” rugs–I’ll just have to consider this complete. Catherine

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I’ve been soooo busy working on a design for my sister-in-law’s Aunt.

At present, I’m wrapping up work on the kitchen. No major changes, more of a refinement project, and here are a few quick BEFORE pictures….    An electrician moved the badly-placed junction box and hung the new non-chandelier for me!













The kitchen, which is west-facing and has a large sky light, seems to always be bright and cheery!

Even with this mid-range gray color—but—Joann has always liked the idea of a black, white, and red kitchen.  No, I didn’t paint her kitchen black (although I think could have been fabulous!) but I did use a darker saturation of gray in a venetian plaster!  I also changed the very cool white ceilings to a warmer white by Sherwin Williams– Alabaster.

I made other subtle changes—which I will show you next post, along with the other design changes I’ve been working on for her!


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They got home this afternoon just as I got the last of the tools and paints back to the car–whew!

Luke looked around curiously–but there was nothing to see.  No paint, no tools—I totally threw him off…!  His mom darted upstairs to see, I followed and told his sister to come see, but SHHH!  She no more than looked in the room and started yelling to “come see what happened” to their room!  Oooh, boy–little sisters!

Well–the boys came one by one—and  l-o-v-e-d it!!! As soon as I can, I need to jump on the construction-part of the surprise!  I’ll pre-build, and source the rest, and one day, while they’re in school, I’ll install and set up the rest of the surprise…!  Can hardly wait!


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While all the kids are away for a few days to a water park, the boys don’t know I’m painting their room! We’ve had lots of talks about doing this–me and the boys.  My little “clients” have told me about the colors they want me to use, the designs they want me to paint, and they can’t wait for me to install their new swing-arm lamps!  But 1st, the whole room needs a fresh coat of paint–including the ceiling : /

I’ve only got time for the painting right now, but ultimately, I’m building a very tall bookcase to fit between the wall and window.  An upholstered headboard will attach to the lower front of the bookcase, and the swing-arm lamp to the outer frame by the window.  This is Lukie’s side, Noah’s will be the reverse–on the right side of the window.


I think their Mom was a bit scared hearing all these colors they wanted–but I have a plan!



Lukie decided he wants his side of the room to be painted in the Duke Blue Devils colors! Since he loves their basketball team, I’m painting that logo for him!

Here it is closer to getting finished.




Noah loves his Green Bay Packers, so I’m painting this for him!  Again–still rough.


I think they will be happy, and so will Mom!


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