This client spoke to us in feels. Thankfully, we’re fluent.
Some people talk in riddles (Hobbit fans? Anyone??). This client talks in far-less-puzzling descriptors.
So the new construction drill usually goes like such: Find lot. Line up architect and builder. Select interior designer. And finally (slow-crescendo drumroll please) – get started. But occasionally we run into freestylers, people who march to the beat of their own proverbial drummer. And in this case, the drummer kinda reminded us of Animal from the Muppets. (If you’re hazy on that one, Google it.) Ah, we jest. We appreciate the fact that they took that process bull by the horns and did things their own way. Especially because it meant choosing us first (clutch move) before pulling the trigger on the architect and builder. We like how they operate.
Their unconventional move turned out to be genius. That non-chronological turn of events gave us time up front to chat with the couple and better understand what was in that imaginary picture bubble above their heads when they thought about their new home-to-be. Then we helped them set allowances that were in the actual universe of what they could expect to spend on everything from flooring and lighting, to cabinetry and appliances, given their long-and-very-detailed wishlist. So when the bids came in, they were realistic – which is better for the builders too – none of that rando guessing game rigamarole. The couple reviewed the bids, selected an architect and builder, and got started on drawings.
At that point, the wife-half of this duo took charge, and as most of our conversations were with her, we’ll be referring to “she/her” from here on out, but the “they/them” is implied o’course. When it came to discussing each room, the unconventional-ness was once again apparent. She veered into yet more uncharted territory, walking us through each space with a handful of descriptors – like a sommelier rattling off tasting notes (crisp, bright, fresh, hint of bergamot). Can you call a room effervescent? Haven-esque? Party waiting to happen? Sure you can.
Not to say she didn’t have more concrete details too. Oh but she did. In the form of a freakishly organized 4-inch file full of things she really likes a lot. And who are we to question the 4-inch file? It laid the groundwork beautifully, and we riffed on it from there. Her original vision was a modern farmhouse, but as it progressed, the emphasis became far more on the modern part of that equation. So it ended up being not super farmhouse-y, which makes sense, considering it’s Wheaton Avenue and there are city ordinances, so there’d likely be no sheep pens out back. (Though a pony would be cool. Illegal. But cool.)
“This is the color I want. No, wait…”
[Requests to see 40 more.]
“…Yep, still the color I want.”
We’ll start with the exterior. When we describe the homeowner as detail-oriented, here’s what we mean. She showed us a stain color she was 100% sold on, but then the Color-Waffler Gremlins started messing with her mind, and she somehow convinced the builder to paint ohhhh, about 40-some-odd boards with minuscule degrees of variation on that original shade – only to land right back where she started. (On the bright side, she got closure. She’ll never have to wonder if maaaaybe she should have gone darker. Or lighter. Or greener or bluer. Or really anything-er.) With the color box checked as no-turning-back final, we moved on to other exterior features – each of which became a carefully considered detail, from the mailbox and house numbers (spelled out), to the exterior lighting. We had custom gas lanterns created to bring in a more modern silhouette and a mixed metal look we repeated throughout the interior as well.
Kitchen: “Wow us.”
Throughout the interior, we went with a primarily black, white and gray palette, which sounds really basic, but basic it is not. We dialed up the drama bigtime with a few unexpected flourishes (which we’ll touch on room-by-room below). In the kitchen, we painted the cabinets white and added flyovers in black. We did brass stools at the quartz-topped island, which would serve as their everyday dining table, polished nickel sconces, and custom Workstead pendant globes with black metal trim and a fun throwback pull-chain feature that probably no one will ever pull, but it has a great retro look. Then we came across a killer brass bezel option for the range. (Normally an inappropriate comment, but in this context perfectly ok: Check out those knobs.)
Hearth Room: “Make us never want to leave this room.”
In this window-lined haven of pass-the-cheese-plate loveliness off the kitchen, we used the exterior stone to clad the fireplace and had the limestone hearth run wall-to-wall to create window seats, with chopped wood stacked beneath them. Facing the fireplace, there’s lots of deep, cozy sofa/chair seating around a coffee table, and a swanky wet bar with a quartz counter, antique mirrored backsplash, and brass mesh from England on the cabinets. To TV or not to TV, that was the question. (We TV’d.)
We kept the walls light, but stained the beams black, and (in a spontaneous mid-construction move) painted the window trim black as well. Big sliding doors lead out to the bluestone patio and landscaped yard, making the space perfect for indoor/outdoor entertaining.
Butler Pantry: “Like a baby kitchen right off the kitchen-kitchen.”
Also off the kitchen, we added a large (LARGE we said!) 8’ x 20’ butler pantry, which essentially serves as a second kitchen. It’s where all the cooking equipment and pantry items go – and there’s an extra fridge, sink, garbage – plus pretty much everything you’d need for food prep.
Family Room: “Coastal yet fully aware of its non-proximity to the beach.”
We warmed up this space with a coffered ceiling covered in poplar planks with a custom-mixed whitewash to remove that green tint poplar often has, so it still feels raw and natural, sans greenish-ness. We gave it a slightly coastal vibe, then took a turn for the mid-century-modern with a sprawling 3-arm light.
Dining Room: “Drama queen. The diva of dining rooms.”
We went for some drama here. With applied molding on the walls, we opted to paint the baseboards, trim and crown molding in a deep, rich gray color, floor to ceiling, and added a striking navy and gray hide rug to anchor the room. Then we went for a pop of sheen with an antique nickel starburst light fixture centered over the table. While we were still in the throes of designing/building, we spotted these amazing watercolor prints at Market in Atlanta and quickly shot pics to the homeowners to see if she adored them too. Affirmative. Over and out. Purchased and installed.
Family Entry: “A prettier version of ultra-practical.”
Strategically placed on the driveway side of the house, the mudroom has two entrances – one on the side and one at the back closer to the garage. We installed a huge wall of lockers, shoe storage and baskets, plus a kids’ desk, quartz-topped island in the middle for the resident Crafty Craftersons, and wall-mounted trough sink for rinsing paint and glue off hands and brushes. (We’d list glitter, but we all know that sticks no matter how much washing up you do.) For the floors, we sourced tile that looks like reclaimed parquet flooring, so it has the warmth of wood, but the durability to stand up to the beating mudroom floors take, thanks to the winter (and sometimes sadly, spring) snow and slush. Ah, Midwest living.
Office: “Non-office-y please.”
In the small office off the mudroom, we got crazy and deviated from the black, white and gray theme, going for a slightly more feminine look. We wanted it to feel like more of a retreat than an office-office. The light fixture has a scalloped silhouette with aged brass trim, and PS, took FOR-EVVVVVERRRR to arrive. Patience is not one of our top virtues, but we’re sooo-sooo glad we waited it out and didn’t give up and replace it with something we could get quicker. It’s that perfect. We installed custom cabinets to hide all that stuff she didn’t want in plain view (paperwork – blah), with floating shelves for better-looking things she did want to show off. The finishing touches were textured wallpaper and a hot pink and navy modernized oriental rug.
Entry: “Whoa, whoa, whoaaaaa.”
This statement-maker of a main hallway is a dazzler. We went back to our classic neutrals palette, cladding the walls with white 3/4-high paneling, and painting the section above it black. Then, then, thennn we added a large-scale black-and-white print wall covering to the ceiling. Oh yeaaahhhhh. It’s crazy. And amazing. So basically crazy-amazing.
Powder Room: “Surprise us.”
Even the most non-observant couldn’t help but notice every time we met with this client, she was rocking some element of fashion-camo – jeans, top, hat, shoes – it’s clearly her jam. So when we happened across a subtle-ish gray/silver/kelly green camo-patterned wall covering for the powder room, we knew it’d be a go. (’Twas.)
Main Stairway: “An invitation to see the rest of the house.”
From the front entry, we carried white paneling all the way up the stairs, floor to very high ceiling, and kind of on-a-whim decided to stain the stairs and handrail black, to tie in the black & white features throughout the rest of the house. Then we added a runner that looks almost like a watercolor painting of clouds blending white, charcoal and blue/gray, neutral yet dramatic. The best of both worlds. At the top of stairs we added a giant built-in with shelves for family pics and meaningful collected items.
Laundry: “Makes me maybe not love, but also not hate laundry.”
The placement in the house, and view from the street were critical factors here. She wanted lots of natural light, and wanted the light fixtures visible from outside the house. We installed white drum shades with black trim, holding them at varying heights while she stood outside motioning for us to move them up or down to make sure they looked just right from the street/sidewalk. Then we added a light, swirly-patterned, champagne-colored wall covering – it needed to be subtle to offset the large, bold 8-inch hex floor tile.
Master Bedroom: “Quiet, relaxing, no-stress-allowed zone.”
In the master bedroom, we did a theme-and-variation move, with high vaulted ceilings and wood beams like we used in the hearth room, but with a more subtle stain – more gray vs black for a lighter look. We went with a sophisticated natural stone on the fireplace surround, white with gray veining. Above the fireplace we hung a conservative nude (painting, not actual person) that we spotted at High Point Market (#hpmkt). Client loved it via a text photo, so we promptly bought and installed it. It was the perfect romantic add to an already spot-on space.
Master Bath: “Light, bright, indulgently spa-like.”
Here, we brought in porcelain tile with a Carrara marble look (all look, no fuss). We went with a classy herringbone-pattern floor and subway tile walls. For lighting in both the bedroom and the bath, we went with more subtle, elegant glass fixtures – a softer look than the statement pieces throughout the rest of the house – which seemed more befitting of the spa-like vibe.
Kids’ Rooms/Baths: “Girly and boyish, respectively.”
For her daughter’s room, she went full-on girly, with a tapestry from RH and sparkly glitter paint in the bathroom. For her son, she went more boyish, with a navy and gray palette, and industrial edge on the bathroom finishes.
Annnnd finally, back to the Exterior: “Welcoming, hangout-able.”
In addition to the aforementioned 40-shade exercise in achieving stain-color certainty, we spent alottttta time talking about the front porch. Here lives a warm, welcoming family and they wanted to establish that right up front. If a house could hug, seems it’s the front porch’s job. So we approached it accordingly, making it an actual hangout with a sofa swing and ledges deep enough for sitting or perching a plate of birthday cake while you go take a swing at the piñata.
Want to see more of this project? Go to our portfolio.
We speak vibe.
Maybe you know exactly what you want, down to the SKU number on every light fixture, faucet and rug. We can work with that. Orrrr maybe you don’t have the slightest idea which wall covering or countertop you want. Maybe you’re more about the overall vibe, and want someone to source everything to create that vibe. Talk to us. We speak vibe quite proficiently. No translator needed.
Last chance to shop for fall, stay tuned for our winter collection.
Until next time… thanks for reading!
Photos by Stoffer Photography Interiors
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