I have taken a couple of prolonged ‘pauses’ in blogging, during which we completed and photographed some pretty great projects. This is one of them. At first, my thought was – the ship has sailed, the pictures have been shared on Instagram and on my website, even published, so why dig up old news. Then I thought…I never really took the opportunity to share the whole story of this renovation project for a great family – it is good to do for posterity’s sake if nothing else. And, it’s actually a pretty neat story. Especially if you are into the architectural history, or a lover of color, or both.
So, without further ado, I present the reveal of a past project…which was beautifully photographed by Michael Lee well over a year ago.
(Here’s a really quick peek, before we take a brief stroll through history!)
As you can see…we were not bashful when it came to color or pattern on this one…
The client was referred to me by another favorite client, for whom we actually did another project shortly after completing this one (also as yet unshared…but that’s another story for another day). They are close friends, and we found out we had many other mutual friends, as I went on a study abroad program sponsored by her college, and was there, in Rome, just weeks before she arrived to do the same program! Like ships passing in the night. But we found each other 20 years later! I felt like there was some sort of cosmic connection from the get-go, and that proved to be right, as we worked together on her family’s home.
The house was generic by definition – the early 20th century version of a cookie-cutter suburban tract developer home (or, more recently, modular homes) now referred to as a kit house. You could literally buy one in the Sears catalog (or from a few other purveyors), erect it on your lot and bing bang boom, welcome home to the American dream!
They offered everything from modest bungalows and English cottages to gracious Greek Revival estates, and everything in-between. Such a modern concept!
The above is not the exact model of the client’s home, but is similar in scale and style – a ca. 1930 Colonial Revival with off-center entrance, gable roof, and a side porch (which was enclosed at some point). The first floor plan is very similar – note the size and location of the kitchen.
It was honestly not far off from the above when I first visited the client at her home. Just a bit bigger…I present, the real estate listing photo of the kitchen before my client bought the house. We think the cabinetry was original.
They were torn between moving to a larger home that could better accommodate their young family of five, or staying in the kit house, which they loved, and adding onto it and renovating the existing spaces to be more family-friendly, and more reflective of their vibrant and fun personalities. They settled upon the latter, and off we went!
Regrettably, I did not take the before pictures I should have. Demo and construction got going really quickly after our first meeting, and I completely missed the opportunity. Ugh! But on with the show…
This ‘Jack-and-Jill’ staircase, which has a shared landing up two steps from both the foyer and kitchen, is an architectural oddity which, I think, was a sort of transitional step toward a more modern floor plan, opening up the kitchen into other parts of the house. It also allows for a slightly more economical use of floor space. They could have changed it, but I’m so glad they didn’t – it’s part of what gives the house its unique personality, and a sense of history – two things that are easily lost when undertaking a renovation of this nature.
Let’s continue to peek into that new kitchen!
Since the kitchen was still drawn up as a separate space, we took the opportunity to do a flooring change and install a checkerboard cork floor. It is one of my favorite floors on any project we’ve done. Cork is warm, durable and comfortable (great for cooks and bakers!), and requires maintenance that’s very similar to that of hardwood flooring. The best part is that the cost was really no different than extending the white oak hardwood flooring in from the adjacent spaces. (And it transitions really nicely into that, besides!).
The footprint of the kitchen was enlarged by slightly bumping out the back wall, allowing for a functional island, storage hutch (not pictured, but to the right of where the photographer was standing), and a bar niche that will make you count the minutes until 5:00PM. This is totally my kind of white kitchen – with just enough color, pattern, mixed metals, and interesting materials. It is happiness in kitchen form!
Believe it or not, the deep teal of the island is a standard color within the cabinet line that the kitchen designer specced for the project (Cabico). I originally started with custom colors for all of the new cabinetry in the house, but was able to find almost exact matches for all of them within Cabico’s standard palette. (Pretty amazing…you’ll see!). We had a lot of conversations about the hickory countertop on the island. Wood can be a great material for countertops, as long as you understand the pros and cons. Just like every other thing I’ve said about everything on this blog :). They love it, and so do I!
Quarantinis, anyone? I have to admit, I was a little unsure about the floor plan, which called for the bar to be recessed in what looks like a closet without doors. I knew for it to be successful, it would have to look different, yet still relate to the rest of the kitchen. Otherwise, it would look like part of their kitchen was randomly relegated to a closet! We used the island color for the cabinetry, the same white quartz countertop as the perimeter cabinets, and a small-scale yellow-printed wallpaper that makes it a special destination.
Part of the renovation called for a small addition off the side of the house, which included, on the first floor, a new hallway, powder room and walk-in pantry, and on the second floor, a brand new walk-in/walk-thru closet and bathroom for the clients.
Please don’t ask me what my favorite thing about this powder room is – doing so would be akin to making me choose a favorite child. Impossible! And do you want to know what the client sent me as design inspiration for this little jewelbox? A catalog picture of a pair of colorful leggings with a wild floral print. She was like ‘You’re going to think I’m crazy!’ and I said, ‘This is perfect! I have everything I need now.’ The wallpaper is obviously the star of bath – a delight for the homeowners as well as guests! But there is so much more to love about it…
This is your classic splurge-save design. The ceramic hex mosaic floor was inexpensive, but the black and white bias stripe pattern takes it up several notches. And remember what I always say about paint…it’s no more expensive to use a color than it is to use plain white paint…the powder room would not have been the same without the green trim. The cafe curtains feature custom brass hardware, but are made with an inexpensive linen blend fabric, admitting filtered light, providing privacy, and assuming a supporting role in the overall design.
The best thing about this lacquered bamboo mirror is that you can see right through it! I have used this trick before to show off spectacular wallpaper (with a see-through float-mounted object in this project). P.S. Can you find the light switch plate? It pays to know a good wallpaper hanger!
Now it’s time to take a quick detour down to the basement, where we gave the same cheerful treatment to the client’s new laundry room.
My philosophy on laundry rooms is that they really need to be as fun as possible. Because laundry is the absolute WORST household task there is. Amiright?? Take note – this is another standard, not custom, cabinet finish from Cabico! We used vintage-style cabinet hardware and a more traditional pull-down faucet here as a nod to the original home. The Scandinavian modern wallpaper would have come along a couple of decades later, but I just love its stylized and whimsical modernity.
OK, time to head up to the second floor and pay a visit one of the most serene and pretty bathrooms ever…
I posted this image last week in a piece I wrote about kids bathrooms, even though it was designed for the grown-ups who own this house :). They wanted it to really feel like a retreat – and if you’re a parent, you know that you literally retreat to a bathroom every once in awhile just to get away for a few minutes (but I’ve never done this…I have no idea who would do this…ha ha ha). Again here, we got a big bang for our buck with the materials. The wall and floor tile is a crystallized glass tile that is a dead ringer for polished Thassos marble. It has richness, depth, and durability for less than half the cost.
And there is another beautiful standard cabinet color! It was a PERFECT match for the minty green I had selected from my paint fan deck (that literally never happens), and looks SO good with the iridescent ceramic backsplash tile, which is an amazing value for the decorative impact it provides. Believe it or not, there are recessed medicine cabinets behind the mirrors! It was a nerve-wracking math exercise to determine the exact locations of the wall-mounted faucet valves, medicine cabinets, and sconces all in one shot during framing, but we nailed it.
It’s a super pretty place to wash one’s hands…
…and entire body! So simple and pretty, this shower. We tiled in the window jamb and used the quartz counter material for the window sill to make the best of the situation. The finish (polished nickel) of the shower trim is ‘mirrored’ in the penny round shower floor mosiac. That’s because the darker rounds you see are actual mirrored glass, mixed in with ming green and thassos marble. One of my favorite shower floors ever – it has that little touch of whimsy and fun – still with the spa-like feel – that just suits this client perfectly.
I even had an opportunity to advise the client on a new exterior color palette.
We nixed the shutters that were on the front of the house in favor of an ‘eyeliner’ of nearly-black teal paint to give subtle definition to the windows, accompanied by a soft gray-green body color with classic white (off-white) trim, and a teal front door (Benjamin Moore Everard Blue – an all-time favorite!).
It’s kind of like a preview of what’s inside…don’t you think?
Well, that is the full tour of our Colorful Kit House Renovation! I hope you enjoyed seeing this project, whether it was your first time, or just your first time seeing it all together complete with the backstory and details on the design. I feel like the project is ‘officially’ complete, now that I have finally given it its proper due with a reveal blog post!
What is your favorite room? I’d love it if you’d leave a comment below and let me know!
I had the pleasure of working with an incredible client, as well as a really special project team, whom I want to acknowlege here:
Architect: David Whitney
Builder: Leo Arria Contracting
Kitchen Designer/Cabinetry: Packard’s Kitchens
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