In April 2020, when most of us started to shelter in place, I initially thought that the work year was going to be a quiet one. With this in mind, I prepared to work less on the forefront and more on the backstage aspects of running my business, which involves a lot of paperwork and is certainly not as enjoyable…. And then my phone rang. The lady on the line said that she had seen my work, liked it, and that she and her husband have decided that they want to work with me on their project. As she told me about their vision, I could hear the enthusiasm and excitement in her voice. Her ideas sounded fun and our communication flowed easily. From that moment I knew that I wanted to work with them. Besides, during uncertain times like these, when everything feels so strange and surreal, who doesn’t need a hefty dose of joy?
Quarantine meant that we couldn't meet face to face, or even mask to mask, so my new clients and I had our first meeting on Zoom. They used their phone video to give me a tour of their house, pointing out where and what they wanted to remodel. Though physically distanced, their friendliness, liveliness and optimism beamed through. These were my kind of people. They were drawn to the modern farmhouse style, infused with Spanish elements and Hawaiian vibes! This combination was a first for me, but I’m always up for a challenge. It was important for me that the new design reflected their personalities in a unique, inviting and playful way. When no-one was home, and the coast was clear to enter in a Covid-safe way, a member of my crew went over to the house to take measurements. Equipped with this data I set to work designing their space and selecting materials and furniture. How odd it felt to do all of this from remote, but these were the circumstances and you have to work with what you’ve got.
Two weeks later we met on Zoom again. I showed them my design and rendering plans… and held my breath… They loved it. I was super excited! The transformation was going to be vast and included numerous structural changes. There was a pre-existing column in the entryway that drew attention to itself, as it stood sternly, glaring at anyone who entered the house. Removing this eyesore required a creative solution. The new plans made room for spaces that felt larger and flowed better. An open-space kitchen enabled my clients to gain a family room, which wasn’t even on their most important must-have feature list. As a mother of three kids, I am a huge believer in family rooms that have abundant storage solutions!
Existing and proposed plans
The kitchen cabinets are painted a deep teal hue. White oak floating shelves compliment the island, which is topped with a porcelain surface that mimics natural marble. The neutral backsplash tiles show subtle color variations, which gives it an artisan feel that is harmonious and pleasing to the eye. The brass and black colored fixtures and hardware complete this look.
See what the kitchen used to look like in the photo below:
In the living room, we retained the existing fireplace insert and demoed the facade, laying new shiplap to frame it from floor to ceiling. An assortment of beautifully patterned Spanish tiles adds warm tones and playful color to the firebox opening and hearth. On each side of the mantel, we created customized built-in storage and shelves that display family collectibles and a variety of books, paintings, sculptures, and potted plants. We selected a teal velvet sofa that ties wonderfully with the teal kitchen cabinets, and added a cozy leather armchair that was a piece of furniture long desired by my client.
The photo below shows what the fireplace used to look like:
This is after we removed the facade from the fireplace:
See the 'before' photo of the dining area below. Behind that wall lays the future kitchen.
Powder room wow-ness -- I’m a true believer in this concept. Never underestimate what you can do with one of the smallest rooms in a house. Despite its size, the powder has expansive potential for creativity, color play, and overall fun. This powder room was going to feature that Hawaiian essence. I began designing it with some super cool Beverly Hills Hotel wallpaper in mind, that features oversized lush green leaves on a white backdrop. I was delighted when my clients gave me the green light and the work commenced. To tone down the grandiose wallpaper, I used white horizontal shiplap for wainscoting on the bottom half of the walls, and classic herringbone carrara tile on the floor. Something unexpected happened during the installation of this lovely wallpaper --the wallpaper installer ditched us at the last moment. With this sudden no-show, and our tight timeframe, my client and I rolled up our sleeves and spent five hours over one weekend putting up the wallpaper ourselves.
Below is the 'before' photo of the powder room:
Entry way and staircase
The staircase needed to be re-designed entirely. It features a floating front and the new staircase railing is forged from matte black painted iron. To soften the look I designed the end of the rail, at the bottom of the stairs, to wrap around itself like a dropping ribbon. It gives the ironwork a fluid look and I love the outcome! Each step is covered in stained wood. The woodwork is lovely and ties in with the parquet floor, the natural wood mantel floating shelf above the fireplace, and the vanity in the powder room. The walls that wrap around the staircase, its surrounding walls, and the low ceiling slope under the stairs, is lined with white shiplap. This ties in with the shiplap around the fireplace, the wainscoting in the powder room, and the entry bench at the foot of the stairs. As we made sure to utilize all the space in the house in functional ways, the empty space under the stairs is a perfect place for a dog to sleep and dream of a Hawaiian holiday.
Do you remember that glaring entry room column challenge that we began with? We transformed this structural supporting column into a functional entry bench. It now provides a practical and aesthetic area in which to store everyday items such as coats and bags, and the vented drawers provide ample storage for shoes.
I loved this photoshoot. Look how all the materials blend together beautifully:
The photo below shows what the staircase used to look like. The photo below it shows what it looks like today, boasting a new stylish metal stair rail, framed with shiplap along the sides and on the wall:
The photo below is just before the bearing kitchen wall came down, and the removal of the 4x4 entry post that was holding up the second floor. This in-your-face post was the first thing you would see upon entering the house. Bye-bye lackluster post, hello aesthetic flow.
In the master bedroom I wanted to incorporate a Hawaiian vibe as well, while keeping it intimate, inviting and harmonious at the same time. We used a beautiful mauve color paint for the feature wall, and added a natural toned woven cane bed and matching nightstands. The large framed photograph above the bed also features elements of nature, which blends with the natural linen and cotton textiles on the bed.
My clients and I are so happy with the results of this remodel. Though quarantine may be keeping us all grounded at the moment, being in this home makes you feel like you’ve gone somewhere tropic.
Photos by: Vivian Johnson