Monday, August 15, 2011

Our Journey to Kenilworth and Our New Home circa 1891!

I think I was half out of my mind when I chose this house. You have to understand that I was totally thrown for a loop when I learned that I might be leaving Atlanta, my home of 42 years where we knew everyone and where we were very ingrained in the community. Our  children were in great schools with wonderful friends and as a mom, I knew how to navigate the world of activities ranging from  NYO pee wee football to piano lessons with the most quintessential piano teacher you can imagine! I knew who to go to for almost everything and I enjoyed being that person to whom others would refer for advice on such matters. I remember once a mom told me she called to get my take on something because I was the voice of reason...I'm laughing hysterically right now, especially after the day I've had!

Maybe I was just "too" comfortable or ever so slightly bored...I don't know? Surely, there is some underlying reason that I decided to take a risk and obliterate my "nest" to move to a suburb on the north shore of Chicago. Less than a month after that memorable Friday afternoon late last August,  I was house hunting in Kenilworth. Kenilworth is a village founded in the late 1800s. It's a very quaint and unique place full of beautiful old homes. After a very long weekend with a slightly impatient husband and three very tired children in tow, I chose this classic southern Greek revival home built in 1891. It's the only house out of the dozen or so we looked at in which I got my "vision"....ughhhh...such a curse. We looked at several other homes.

Architect George Maher, a Prairie School architect like Frank Lloyd Wright, was a Kenilworth resident and he designed many of the homes here in Kenilworth in the early 1900s. We looked at a few of these homes like the one pictured above and this one:

I was not accustomed to the prairie style, but I do find the homes intriguing.  I have such an appreciation for the historical components that lead to this very "new and innovative" architectural movement of the early 1900s. I particularly loved the interior of this home directly above. We could have moved right in. The owners had completed a beautiful renovation and although there was a new and fresh approach in the renovation, they stayed true to the historical architecture and style of the home.

This Dutch Colonial, another very popular style of home here, was also move-in ready. It was actually my first choice, but I did not trust myself in the decision making process as well as I normally do...I was feeling a bit out of sorts!

There were a number of lovely tudor style homes such as this one. I run by it daily and second guess myself. I might have had an inkling of a vision in this house, but it was time for lunch and everyone was rushing me! It's still on the market. Apparently there aren't that many visionaries looking at homes in Kenilworth. I think it could be spectacular!

Or this one below, which was my son's first choice. I do think it has the most curb appeal of all the homes we considered. It looks huge, but it's actually just one room deep. It's almost the inverse of our house which is very narrow yet deep.

And then there is this beautiful classic red brick georgian style home. Of all the homes, this one best matches my personal style. We did not choose this one because the needed renovation would not be contained to the interior. We would need to add on and I didn't think I was up for that. Some friends of ours bought it and they are currently renovating. I can't wait to see the finished product!

After journeying through this post and reliving the house hunting process it might be more clear to me now why we chose this classic Southern Greek Revival home. It was familiar and comfortable at a time when we had way too much change to process. It also needed "fixing" and I do love a project. The home was built in 1891 with a 1989 renovation that did not belong and was perhaps the most poorly planned use of space that I have ever seen. It was screaming for help! I feel like the existing home was a work of art with an "add-on" that detracted.  For instance, take a look at the master bathroom...

So this is a beautiful architecturally historic home and here is the 1989 master bath. No, that is not a small wading pool, it is the tub which took up the entire bathroom! The tiny sink vanities were directly across from each other with less than 3 feet of space in between. We had to be careful to stand straight and look directly ahead if we were both getting ready at the same time. The cornice above the window is almost aeronautical in style. These cornices were throughout the entire  master bedroom, too...with backlights!

And here is another close up of that tub that I took just before the sledge hammer totally demolished it!

As adventurous as we were and because we needed to move in before school started back in January, we put it under contract before we could even tell our friends and family we were moving. The next few months are a blur and on December 20, 2010 we moved in.

During the first two weeks, I was so busy moving in, celebrating the holidays, meeting neighbors, having house guests, learning how to deal with the snow and getting the children ready to start new schools and activities that I don't think reality had time to set in. Once the children started back to school, I looked around and thought, "What have we done?"

Maybe it's because I spent most of my time on my computer at my breakfast table....under this pool table/interrogation style light fixture:

When you are looking straight ahead, you can see the very dark and small kitchen which opens up into this gymnasium style breakfast room/family room. I never new gymnasium could be a style!  Maybe we should have installed a basketball goal and a pool table. The kids would be happy! And then there is this faux finish...

Need I say more?

So I thought I might go out of my mind, but on the recommendation of several new neighbors, I came across a wonderful kitchen and bath design company called Chester & Chester in Evanston, IL. That was in January. By March we had a plan and a builder, H/S Builders in Rolling Meadows, IL. The day after Easter we started demolition. Today the countertops began to be installed and by the end of the day on Thursday we should have appliances. I hope to have a fully functioning kitchen by next weekend! We have changed the gymnasium/granite and cherry museum of a family room and the garden room will be a media room in which I will exercise creative license like never before. I am painting it chocolate brown...everything, trim, built-ins, walls with a deep dark teal blue ceiling. The carpeting will be wall to wall seagrass and I will use a beautiful Baktiari Persian rug that I used in my previous family room. We renovated the master bedroom and added two closets and a deep window seat over looking the backyard.  We fixed that master bath! We now have a huge shower, small tub and a large double vanity. I can't wait to share pictures with you very soon!

So from all of this, as promised, helpful design tips are as follows:

1. Don't be afraid to take on a worthwhile project! It can be very rewarding! Stick with it and stay strong.

2. Always stay true to the design of a house. Juxtaposition is a great concept and I'm all for moderation!

3. Surround yourself with worthy and capable professionals like Chester & Chester and H/S Builders. Get recommendations from friends and get references. Actually call the references and check them out. Do your homework!

4. Always have a plan. You've got to begin with the end in mind for those Stephen R. Covey buffs out there. Yet, be process oriented....let the spaces evolve. I know it sounds like a contradiction, but find a designer that thinks this way. You need to end up with spaces that reflect the heart and soul of your family, not a hotel lobby effect.

5. Never lose sight of what's most important. People are most important. Your home will NEVER be perfect. Don't wait until it's perfect to have friends and family over to make the memories that make a house a home. Have friends over often. I can't wait to host all of our new friends! Old friends and family, let me know when you are on your way! Everyone is invited!

~Finely Frugal~

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Let There Be Light!

I really love chandeliers and sconces and bell jar pendants and lanterns...I love lighting! The picture above and these two following photos are from Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles April 2011 issue. Designer and homeowner, Elizabeth Elsey beautifully selected lighting for her home. All of the lighting is exquisite and each fixture relates to the space and with the other fixtures in adjacent rooms without being too contrived. 

I love the beautiful classic crystal chandelier in the dining room. The blue walls and gold mirror really showcase the crystals. Then she goes a different, but yet still classic, direction in the breakfast room with this simple lantern. I love lanterns above casual dining tables and above islands. 

 In the kitchen, a space that I assume is in close proximity to both the breakfast area and dining room, she chose bell jar pendants which compliment both the brass and crystal of the dining room chandelier and the clear pendant effect of the lantern. See how they all relate without being too similar?

One of the most daunting tasks for our current renovation has been choosing the light fixtures. Here in Chicago it seems you must either go to The Merchandise Mart and pay top dollar (even for the trade) or you must choose very mass manufactured looking pieces. In Atlanta there are so many antique sources, Circa Lighting which stocks mostly all Visual Comfort lines, The Big Chandelier ( I designed and purchased my chandelier here just prior to our glad I did!) and Masterpiece Lighting on 14th street. I've had to get a little more creative here. I've purchased most everything on-line either through Circa or directly from the Visual Comfort Lighting store. Below are a few photos of some of the fixtures I have chosen:
Family Room Chandelier

A double version of these sconces will hang above the mantel on each side of an oil painting.

A pair of these lanterns in bronze will hang above the island. The lanterns were an extreme "SAVE" as noted in the following paragraph. The family room chandelier and the breakfast room chandelier are slightly similar and are complimented by the lanterns and the sconces, but there are a variety of finishes...bronze, brass, aged iron, wooden beads. Again, it all relates without being too homogenous.

I saved the selection of the breakfast room fixture for last and I decided on this linear chandelier.

I had intended to save this topic until later, but one of my very favorite bargain "save" sources is One Kings Lane and they are having a Visual Comfort sale tomorrow! One Kings Lane is is kind of like a Bluefly for home decor. They have four or five new sales from different vendors daily.

I bought two of these beautiful lanterns for above my new kitchen island for 75% off the retail price!

Also, I thought you might like to see a sneak peek of the kitchen. This renovation is about to get the best of me, but it's almost finished! We are in the exciting phase right now. A lot is happening everyday. The countertop fabricator templated today. As soon as the countertops are installed the vent hood can go on and all of the upper cabinets can be hung. We've been without a kitchen since the day after Easter and I can honestly say that I can't wait to cook!!!

This is the view looking towards the refrigerator which is going in that empty space to the right. The stove and decorative range hood will go on the wall behind the island. Those lanterns will be hanging above the island with the range as the focal point in the background.
This is the view looking towards the sink. I chose a Shaw's apron front sink. I can't wait to see the upper cabinets installed. I'm waiting on the cabinets and then countertops to be completely installed before selecting my backsplash tile. It will be a plain subway tile, but I have not decided on cream like the cabinets or white like the sink. My countertop will be Imperial Danby white marble with gray and brownish gold veining from Vermont. It has a similar look to the Calacatta Gold Vein marble that is so popular right now. The Imperial Danby is apparently a little less expensive, yet more durable. We will see...we truly live in our spaces so I'm sure there will be some red wine or strawberry stains soon!

The picture to the right is the butler's pantry. I found the pretty brick pavers on-line through a vintage reclaimed brick company in Rockford, Illinois...Another SAVE!

The picture to the left is our breakfast room so far...waiting on countertop and then the upper cabinets can be installed. The sconces pictured above will be attached to the side of the cabinets on each side of this window and the one above the sink.

Anyway, enough about me and my project. I am going to leave you with a few more pictures of lighting I love and some great resources.....

 I love this simple lantern and the wicker chairs pictured in Southern Accents a few years ago. There is also beautiful natural light in this space!

 Also, from Southern Accents...You can't go wrong with a classic! Crystal chandeliers are a timeless touch in a formal dining room.

House Beautiful shows us a slightly overscaled example of lanterns above the island...a little too big in my opinion.

                          House Beautiful pictures this warm and inviting breakfast nook.

Again, another great example of lanterns above an island. These are very unique and quite nice with the wood beams.

I LOVE this foyer in a Charleston home featured in an old issue of Southern Accents. The bell jar pendants are simple yet elegant...perfect for a Charleston home!

It would be nice if we could all afford to go to ADAC or The Merchandise Mart and select Niermann Weeks chandeliers and the like, but that is only possible for a very few people I know! If you live in Atlanta, Savannah or Charleston you can go to Circa Lighting and see many Visual Comfort lines designed by Suzanne Kasler, Eric Cohler, Sandy Chapman and others. Otherwise you can go on-line and order them. Visual Comfort has very high quality timeless and classic fixtures. They are not cheap, but they are not exorbitant. If you go to the on-line store, do the on-line chat and ask them for a coupon code. The best case scenario is to find a fixture you like during a One Kings Lane sale! I also like Ballard Designs and Shades of Light. They both have great websites with lots of lights and shades. The prices are great!

Two more great Atlanta sources where you can actually see the fixtures are Masterpiece Lighting and The Big Chandelier. They are very near each other on 14th Street in Midtown. The Big Chandelier is great because they have refurbished vintage fixtures and some new pieces that you can customize. Check out all of these great sources...I'd love to hear your success stories!

~Finely Frugal~

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Scalamandré Fabric and Fred Reed Antique French Botanicals Meet Ballard's Backroom Outlet Tables and Steinmart Lamps!

I've got a uniquely philosophical approach to design. I suppose it's because I'm an artist at heart. I'm not acquiring "things" just for the sake of having them. I don't believe in filling spaces or decorating. Decorating is something you do for the holidays! I appreciate good design, beautiful antiques and fine fabrics because someone created all of these things...starting as a spark in their imagination and then coming to fruition through a skilled process. It's just as real and meaningful as appreciating a fine wine because of the years of effort that went into creating something so amazing. I love arranging all of these works of art together in a way that doesn't detract from one another, but rather enhances every other element in the shared space.  When it comes to interior design, I've perfected the art of knowing when to splurge and where to save while creating meaningful and timeless spaces!

One of my favorite personal examples of mixing the "saves" with the "splurges" is this vignette I created on the wall above the living room sofa in my Atlanta house. It's not a great picture with the glare on the glass, but I'm actually amazed that I could produce a picture of our former home in our current crazy renovation situation!

The Splurge: Hand painted frames with high quality mats and gold leaf inserts from Fred Reed Picture Framing in Atlanta. Look at the detail of the hand painted border and the indented corner at outer edge of the frame.

The Save: Gold painted resin sunburst mirror and laurel wreath plate holders from Hill Street Warehouse in Atlanta.


The Pièce de Résistance: Antique French botanical prints we found on our 10 year anniversary trip to Paris. Here is the element of meaningfulness that a space needs. When I see these they conjure up the memory of spending the afternoon in a little shop on the left bank with my wonderful husband. He helped to pick these out, which is very out of character for him, making them even more special

Additional examples of "saves" also pictured:

The sofa was restyled by Furniture Works on Chattahoochee Avenue in Atlanta and upholstered in an inexpensive linen fabric from Lewis & Sheron Fabrics. I love the lumpy bumpy single down seat cushion! It's very comfortable and inviting. Spaces should be inviting and comfortable even if they are designated "formal" spaces like a living room. Your home is meant to be lived in.

The lamps are also gold painted cast resin, though they look like real wood just like the plate holders and mirror. I purchased them from Steinmart and added english pleated silk shades....always a great lamps with expensive shades. I've bought lamps at Target for $20 and added pretty silk shades. Another great option for lamps is Tenille and Co. on Roswell Road in Buckhead. The lamp pictured here is great looking and it already has a pleated silk shade. The price is $125 including the shade!

The brass and marble side tables were purchased from Ballard's Backroom Outlet in Roswell, Georgia. Ballard's has a great on-line catalog with some beautiful accents pieces...a great source for the "saves".

Here is a great example from their website of an inexpensive accent table for just $149. Of course, I bet you could find a scratch and dent one for around $50 if you live near the outlet!

Additional "splurges":

The curtains are a tone on tone pinstripe silk by Schumacher. They are lined and interlined. The interlining is not just the flannel's "bump" interlining.  It makes a huge difference. I copied this design from one of Jackye Lanham's designs published in Southern Accents several years ago. It's also very indicative of Suzanne Kasler's signature style of incorporating dressmaker details into curtain design. NEVER NEVER NEVER skimp on the curtains...NEVER!

The center pillow was purchased at Scott's Antique Market, which also makes it a "save" I suppose. It is a beautiful green velvet with my all time favorite fabric by Scalamandre called Marley.

Stay tuned for more helpful topics in the weeks to come such as, "Taking the Pretentiousness out of Interior Design - Creating Meaningful and Inviting Spaces", "The Importance of Proper Editing", and there are sure to be many posts related to our home renovation presently underway here in Chicago. I'll be sharing some before and after pictures you won't believe!

I'll also be sharing more great Atlanta resources and Chicago resources as I stumble upon them in the weeks to come. I'm thinking about a "Top 10 Best Of". I've got plenty for Atlanta and I welcome any followers in Chicago to share sources with me. I'll go check them out!

~Finely Frugal~