Hi everyone and welcome to my design blog! I hope we can explore and exchange a lot of ideas and inspirations on this site. Every house I've lived in is a challenge I totally look forward to and this house was no exception. In this blog, I'll talk about some of the improvements and design elements we incorporated into our new house here in Savannah and share my thoughts about other design hacks and ideas.
The exterior of this house is a great study in before and after! This house was built in the early 80s and needed some exterior upgrading. We replaced the smaller, square columns and railing with larger round columns, added our version of bead board to the porch ceiling, painted the whole house SW Pure White with SW Tricorn Black on the doors and shutters, installed gas lamps on either side of the front door, and painted the porch SW March Wind. Voila! A rustic Southern bungalow gets dressed up!
My first challenge...my continuing challenge....the foyer. This house opens up to a very LONG foyer. I could create a design vignette on the short wall, but the longer wall will need some help. Short wall below. Here's a trick: that antique mirror was a little too shiny for my taste...just a little too much gilt. My husband very cleverly sprayed the mirror surround with frosted glass spray and it really took it down a notch! Better and longer-lasting than dulling spray!
The alabaster grapes belonged to my grandmother and they've been in the foyer of every house we've lived in.
The wall across from this table is very long and I'm searching for the right piece of furniture or bench to go there. Meanwhile, I've filled the space with three lovely prints of the Brazilian coastline I found at Scott's Antique Market in Atlanta. But, man, do I need something under them! Patience is not my middle name!
Here is a "before picture" of the master bedroom, which shows some of the challenges I faced. It's interesting to note that many homes in Savannah historically have one red room. Not sure why, but this isn't to my taste, so painting this room was a priority. I chose Sherwin Williams Alabaster, (SW7008) because honestly, you just can’t go wrong with a warm, angelic white. Alabaster is a bestseller and one of my favorites.
I also wanted to replace the carpet. I generally favor rugs or naturals like sea grass in all rooms, but
unfortunately, the bedrooms didn't have hardwood floors under the
wall-to-wall carpeting. Nonetheless, I found a pretty neutral linen and cream patterned wool carpet at Culver's here in Savannah.
So here's the "after" picture.
I've had those round bedside tables with fabric for so long but I hear they're
coming back into style! Would love to replace those at some point,
however. The room is square, so placing the chairs and ottoman, which
are covered in a sage green chenille, was a bit of a challenge since
this is a king-size bed and there's two doors and a large dresser in the
room as well...so the foot of the bed seemed the right (only)place. It works
even better from a design standpoint if you have a foot board to help
block the space. The linen headboard is from Wisteria and the cream
linen coverlet is from Peacock Alley. The paintings are
Cezanne prints I found at the Interiors Market in Atlanta.
This lithograph above our dresser belonged to John's great aunt in New Zealand, with whom he was very close. She was a world-renowned concert pianist and a big influence on John as he spent part of his childhood there. John's maternal family are all from NZ and we've visited multiple times. It's such a beautiful country and anything from there or from the family has great sentimental value to us.
some more stuff for the walls, but every room is always a work in progress. This room may be a little too neutral for some, but I like serenity in the bedroom. Oh, and after spending my life in television, there is no TV in this room. :) One less problem to solve!
The next challenge was putting together the main room. We decided to keep the paint color - a pale neutral bluish grey. Kind of goes with everything.
The room is good sized, so the first thing I did was order a large piece of sisal for the room and top it with a 9x12 antique Persian that I already had.
I reupholstered one of the chairs in Antelope fabric (see below), which is a little trendy right now. I try to stay away from "of the moment" design trends, but I liked it and it's an animal print and they will always be classic. Still trying to figure out where to use a Scalamandre tigre pillow in the room (another classic!). I think all rooms benefit from a bit of animal print and a bit of something black. Both make a room pop! I also used the antelope fabric on the pillows for the leather chairs in the room (which came from Pottery Barn...their furniture has gotten much better since they brought their manufacturing back to the U.S.) And the only reason I have arm covers (ugh) on that chair is because our dog, Cammie, seems to think this chair is her bed! I will say it's a good dog-proof fabric! Hides all kinds of sins. Meanwhile, time to slipcover the other chair in the room - looks too much like the antelope and it's really old!
I had ordered a new couch ahead of our move to the Landings from Acquisitions in Atlanta, one of my favorite stores for furniture, antiques, etc. They have an Acquisitions in Charleston and Charlotte as well. I picked a gold fabric striated with grey a.) because I liked it and b.) it seemed impervious to dogs (we have two) and husband. The two sets of pillows on the couch are both from Lacefield Designs in Atlanta. They have a great selection of very pretty, unique pillows and fabrics that are sold in stores, but you can also purchase from their website, https://lacefielddesigns.com/. By the way, those cuttings are from my backyard! :) They dried out and I replaced them with magnolia branches...no shortage of those around!
Here's looking from the living room into the dining room. I know, I know. My coffee table is a little big. Kind of takes over the space. It's on my list to replace sometime soon. I'm kind of over the reclaimed wood trend, although this one has some nice hardware on the drawer in front.
The table behind the couch is one of my favorite pieces. It's an old 18th century farm table that has a wonderful patina. It's too tall for a dining room or kitchen table, but makes a great sofa or accent table. By the way, arranging stuff on tables is always fun! (She says with a grimace). I must have gone through ten different arrangements and will probably go through ten more! I had this table against a wall in the living room of our old house with lots of framed family pictures on it. That wouldn't work here, as you would see the backs of the frames, which is never very attractive, so I had to "shop" my own house to find a different look. That pretty little blue and white bowl actually came from the Village Pharmacy here at the Landings! Not kidding.
Okay, let's talk about bookshelves. Always a challenge, but I love doing them, too. No really, I do! I've collected a lot of antique books over the years and I love all books in general. I think they tell you a lot about a person. I have multiple books on the Kennedy family and Bruce Springsteen. What can I say? I'm a Jersey girl and Jackie is my style icon. We had to give away multiple boxes of books before our move because we had many less book shelves in this house. Always hard to edit a collection.
I bought these old prints at Scott's Antique Market in Atlanta - they're early lithographs of the campuses at Princeton, Dartmouth, Amherst and Columbia. I like old architectural designs and maps. And I like hanging things on the front of book cases or leaning them in the back of the book case.
Right off the living room is a gallery along the back of the house or as John likes to call it, our garden room. This can be another design challenge, but I had the perfect square table and square Persian rug to place in the center to anchor the space. This is an old English walnut table I found in Atlanta that we had once used in a very small dining room in one of our previous homes. Very small! We found those candle sticks or "prickets", as they're known, on a trip to Italy in an old antique shop in Rome.AND, the proprietor of the shop threw in this little old oil painting on wood for free. Getting all this back to the States in one piece was a FedEx challenge, believe me! Not to mention the clothes I bought. It was the nineties...the dollar was very strong!
So here we go again with the table arrangement! Let me count the ways! However, I knew the table would be laden with books because I didn't have nearly enough bookshelves for all of them, so that gave me a starting point.
A word about the shutters. Along the back of the house were/are three 1980s sliding glass doors. We thought about replacing them with French doors but that seemed a bit pricey. We knew we wanted to do wide slat shutters throughout the house and we learned you can do them over sliding glass doors! Who knew? So it looks like a wall of shutters but they slide and the doors are still operational. Very clever. The shutters are from Norman USA http://www.normanusa.com/NormanShutterND.asp and we chose a dusty gray sort of driftwood color for all of them. Nice quality, without the Hunter price tag.
At one end of the garden room gallery I created a nook because I had this extra chair and I needed a tall wall to hang this antique French trumeau I found years ago at Scott's antique market in Atlanta. I loved this one because you don't often find them with pastoral scenes and this was a particularly good one! Don't think you can find many quality goods like this anymore at Scott's, but I hear it's improving. About the chair....it's from Restoration Hardware. I'm not a big fan of their furniture usually. It's all made in China from cheap wood and it's what I call "40-footers". Looks good from 40 feet away...not so much up close. Having said that, I do think RH has great rugs, linens and fabrics. But furniture? Meh. Anyway, this is a nice spot to read or just contemplate the view out back. (oh my...gotta do something about that light cord!)
About our dining room - hmmmm. We had a very formal dining room in Atlanta and this house has a rather large one which could have come down a notch on the formal scale. Ya think? Anyway, the dining room is always the least used space in the house, but you gotta fill it up, right? So, our dining room here remains a bit more formal than I would like, but I do love some of the pieces in the room including the hanging antique wall cabinet I found at Parc Monceau Antiques in Atlanta. The paint is Sherwin Williams Ramie and it changes beautifully with different lighting. Another one of my favorite paint colors!
This is the only room we didn't put shutters in because I've had these custom-made drapes in a box for seven years and I was going to use them come hell or high water because I love the fabric! Looks like Fortuny, but it's not and the colors are so beautifully muted. The drapes were made for a house we had in the 90s, but were too short for the very tall ceilings in our last house in Atlanta. They fit pretty well here, so there they will hang! Possibly for eternity considering the cost.
Here's a trick we've employed quite a bit in this house. Changing out pictures or prints we're tired of without buying new ones. I have a lot of prints in really nice custom frames. The prints on this wall in the dining room were originally old English botannicals that I was kind of tired of, but I love the frames. With help from the Library of Congress and John's high-resolution printer, we found these great prints of two of our finest Native American citizens. They just "spoke" to me and seemed comfortable in the room. You can't see it very well, but that apple wood buffet is one of my favorite pieces...found at Acquisitions in Charlotte one day while driving up to see my parents in Greensboro, NC.
The renovation of the kitchen and master bath are now done. You've probably seen a sneak preview in some of the previous photos. John and the trades folks here inSavannah did a super job of transforming a 1980s kitchen into one I can actually cook in! You can check out John's comments about the process, the appliances and the fixtures we chose under the other tabs at the top of the home page. Be sure to check out the Before and After photos! But here's the finished product:
Not a big kitchen, but it's a whole lot bigger now that we took down a wall between the kitchen and living room! Then we could add the island which made a huge difference and gave us back the cabinet space we lost by taking the wall down. Before and After below:
I'm a cook so I have to have a gas stove. That meant installing a gas line to the house. Pictures on the Before and After! We went with quartz counter tops - as beautiful as marble, but more durable - and Frigidaire Pro Appliances. We had Thermador and Sub Zero in our old house and were not impressed enough to spend that kind of money again. Some of the "older" American kitchen brands have really stepped up their product lines, but have kept the price more reasonable. Works for me!
There's a dining area off the kitchen as well. I went a little too "blonde" in there with the table, chairs and sea grass because that's what I had, so I may have to adjust in the future....I'm thinking of changing the paint color as well. It doesn't show here, but the paint is very white. Too white, IMO. All suggestions for alternative colors are welcome! Then again, I probably just need more stuff on the walls. And there's always the dilemma of the TV, isn't there? In this case, function before form rules the day.
So, we turned one of the guest bedrooms into a home office for both of us. One way to keep this room from looking like a hodge-podge of furniture was to at least go with matching desks, which we found on sale at Ethan Allen. Sweet, feminine French design, but strong enough for a man! We also turned the closet into office storage space which really helps with the clutter, where to put the printer, etc. Please forgive our messiness, but it's an office!!
Here's a quick look at the other guest bedroom, which is still a work in progress, but where those of you who come visit will lay your weary heads! You can see one of the challenges here....very small spaces for bedside tables. Thinking about swing-arm lamps and small tables. The pillows are again from Lacefield Design, the headboard was from Pier One. This room needs a lot more work for sure!
I'm sure many of you have family pictures, framed or unframed. I've always like creating a wall of family pictures in every house. I looked through my parents' old pictures to find early black and white photos of family members because I wanted to preserve them before they're forever lost and end up in someone's flea market stall or worse! That's my Mom and Dad in their dating years. And yes, that's me on the rug.
I still have more to frame at some point. The tip is to keep the frames similar, yet different. Don't stress about hanging them....just lay them out on the floor first and play with them until you get the layout just right. Then start hanging the middle pictures first and work your way out.