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When I first spotted this home, designed by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design, I felt it perfectly captured that easy summer vibe we all crave at this time of year. Cool white furnishings accented with oversized arrangements of foliage and classic summer textiles like linen and seagrass – it’s like a little sun-dappled picnic spot.

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But look a little closer and it turns out this space is the perfect year-round home. Take away the fresh green accents and you have a completely neutral, yet highly imaginative, interior that can be styled differently for every season. I love the use of classic black and white throughout this home – in just the right doses.

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White is used to blend in storage while black denotes key decorative pieces, feature surfaces, or this stunning kitchen island.

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This space has a mid-century feel tempered with antiques, such as the French glass bottles, contemporary and eco-inspired furnishings, like the kirei board cabinets below.

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It’s like a modern day treehouse! Perfect for a summer’s day – or a winter evening.

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All photos via Jessica Helgerson Interior Design. Her portfolio is a joy so do check it out.

My son has a book called ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’. It’s about an old lady who complains that her house is too small, so a wise man tells her to move all her farm animals inside. She complains even more so he tells her to move them out. And, lo and behold, she realizes her house isn’t so small after all.

Well, that’s how we feel now that our renovation is finally finished and we have our house back. It never felt so spacious! Yes, the last coat of paint has dried, the boxes are unpacked, and I have promised to buy no more accessories (for a while at least). And I can at last share some photos of the finished result.

First of all, want to see what it looked like before?

Yup, featureless and old-fashioned. I can hardly believe we lived with it for 5 years. Pretty soon, it looked like this:

Horrific, right? This is known as the ‘what-have-we-done-is-it-too-late-to-change-our-minds?’ moment. To get through it, I had to keep a mental picture of what it would look like when finished, which was something like this:

But finally, after eating every last microwave dinner in our local store and working our way through stacks of paper plates, the work was done. And here’s the finished result.

Modern white kitchen travertine tile

We blocked up the doorway leading from the kitchen to the bathroom, which gave us more countertop space and somewhere to put open shelves. Then we took out the doors that separated the kitchen from the dining room and family room to create more flow through all the spaces. We really wanted to have an eat-in kitchen but weren’t willing to do major structural work. Instead, by tweaking the layout and using a cohesive scheme throughout, we really do now feel like it’s all one space.

Modern white kitchen herringbone floor tile

The goal was to have a predominantly white kitchen but to enliven it with subtle pattern in the tiles. The backsplash is silver travertine. It was quite an adventure selecting these and we nearly abandoned the idea when the first batch of tiles arrived looking too dark. But, after much agonizing – and an overnight shipment of new tiles from LA – we decided these were the ones. I’m so glad as they really make the kitchen.

Modern white kitchen

The floor tiles were cut to size and laid in a herringbone design. I had originally wanted wood flooring to ensure continuity between all the rooms, but finding a match was impossible so we went for tiles in a complementary color to the flooring. The herringbone was intended to emulate period wood floors – and also to repeat the zigzag pattern in the family room rug.

Kitchen walnut open shelves

I have wanted waterfall countertops for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, we don’t have an island to wrap them around, but they work well at the end of these runs of cabinets. The edge profile is a reverse bevel, sometimes called a sharknose edge. It gives the appearance of a razor thin edge, which is the latest trend in countertops, but doesn’t require a special cabinet. Basically, it’s a great way to cheat!

Modern Dining-room

The kitchen used to lead onto a small sunroom, which we used as a playroom. But we took advantage of the remodel to switch the layout around and we made this little room into our dining room. It’s small but the table easily fits six, which is perfect for our needs. And the best part is now we can see the table from the kitchen so it feels like we have an eat-in kitchen. The table is from Room and Board and is a licensed reproduction of the Eero Saarinen table. The light fixture is the Link suspension pendant by LZF and I’ll admit I was nervous about how it would look right up until it was installed. It’s made of wood veneer, coaxed into the most incredible shape.

Family room zigzag rug saucer pendant

Moving the dining room freed up our former dining space to be a large family room. We needed more room for the kids to play, so we kept this space deliberately open. No coffee table – we wanted as much floor space free as possible for train tracks, Hotwheels jumps and the like. The toys are all stashed in the sideboard at the end of the day. The Cherner chair was chosen because it doesn’t create too much of a visual block between the rooms – but it’s also surprisingly comfortable.

Family-room-round-mirror-shelves

We also renovated the small powder room that used to be next to the kitchen. Filling in the doorway from the kitchen meant we finally had somewhere to put a basin. Can you believe this bathroom didn’t even have a sink before?

Powder-room-inlay-mirror-charcol-wall

I have a thing for mother of pearl inlay, so was this mirror was a big factor in the design of this space. Everything else needed to be simple and modern, so the mirror would stand out. And the dark walls (Benjamin Moore Iron Mountain) were another gamble that we feel paid off.

Bathroom-rajapur-wallpaper

This is a split powder room, so the toilet is actually in a miniscule room of its own. The good news is this created an opportunity to give the walls a different finish. I’d been longing for somewhere to use this Cole & Son Rajapur wallpaper and this tiny space was perfect for it. It really lightens everything up. Good job too as before it was a bit like being in a vertical coffin! (Despite my other half’s valiant wallpapering efforts two years ago).

Of course, I’m still tinkering with the rooms and re-styling them daily. But it’s so great to be moved back in. I’m grateful that we had a great architect (David Seidel) and general contractor (Brad Doran) to get us through the project on time and on budget. They made sure we thought through every detail in advance and that the work was impeccable.

So, next stop, the master bathroom. But, if you don’t mind, I’ll take a few months’ breather first…

Photography by Chris Gaede Photography.

I’m always inspired by the ingenuity of lighting fixture designs. A lamp or pendant light is like art and can make or break a space. But these Roofer lights by Benjamin Hubert for Fabbian are so cute and versatile that they’d work in both grand and modest spaces alike.

roofer light green

The green is great fun (imagine it with brass accents or against a fresh white interior). But I would probably go for the gray.

Roofer light black

The Armadillo light by LZF  is another shingled design. The shingles are arranged more irregularly, giving this light a quirkier feel. This cherry red is the perfect color for the style.

Armadillo light

Anyone spotted any other shingled designs I missed?

These rooms are all perfect for cocooning on a winter weekend. White and light and airy for some much-needed vitamin D, yet cozy and inviting for blustery days.

Modern living room sectional

I can’t get enough of this room. The genius combination of leather and felt on the sectional, paired with a kilim rug and marble table. Wow.

Modern living room shelves rug

Gorgeous ceiling, another kilim rug, bench seating and those shelves…

Modern living room sofa pillows

I’ve got to sort out the pillow situation in our family room. I have my new velvet pillows but this picture tells me I’m far from done…

Modern living room sofa pillows

Herringbone floors, brass accents and a bit of greenery – the perfect way to ease into spring.

All of these photos are via this wonderful Flickr photostream.

pink velvet pillows

I’ve totally fallen for these hand-dyed pink velvet pillows from Kirsten Hecktermann. I just bought two of them in Persian Green for our new family room (spotted on Remodelista). They look great – they have a vintage feel because of the variations in the dye. But now I want a whole array of them in these gorgeous berry and watermelon shades. Hmm, not sure the boys of the house would be too happy if I covered the place in pink cushions though…

I’m spotting gorgeous white rooms everywhere I look these days. Maybe it’s a January thing – fresh new beginnings and all that. But these snowy palettes are definitely speaking to me. Here are three of the very best – each of them illustrates perfectly how to keep a whiter-than-white space from looking like the inside of a refrigerator.

Wood tones and textures

A live edge coffee table, squashy leather chair and patterned rug (is that hide patchwork?) signal lived-in comfort against that white backdrop. By designer Kelly Behun via Desire to Inspire.

Glamorous gold

Gold is a great way to warm up white – yet it still reads as a neutral. More to the point, though, an utterly glamorous ceiling takes any chill out of the white. Ornate crown molding, wallpaper or a darker shade of paint on the ceiling would achieve a similar, if less dramatic, effect. Via Residence Magazine.

Brick and stone

Raw brick and polished concrete are all this black and white kitchen need to feel characterful. Of course, it’s not an easy to replicate if your place doesn’t already have these features. But a stone tiled floor or even wall with lots of texture can achieve the same effect. The lighting in the recess above the stove helps too – pools of light seem so much more inviting that a completely even glow. By photographer Stuart McIntyre.

Three gorgeous spaces – I’d live in any of them.

Have you discovered the 1st Dibs Photo Archive yet? What an amazing resource. It’s a gallery of photos from some of the most accomplished interiors photographers in the world (including the likes of Tim Street-Porter and Paul Costello). But the best part is that you can click on any photo and ‘shop the look’ with a wide selection of pieces from 1st Dibs that are similar to those in the photo.

For example, remember this room in Domino (RIP) magazine?

Turquoise+bedroom+wallpaper+Domino

And here’s the accompanying 1st Dibs shopping list:

Because the photographers featured are world-class, you’ll recognize many of the photos from your favorite upscale shelter magazines. If, like me, you couldn’t get enough of Ellen Pompeo’s house in Elle Decor, for example, you’ll love this:

Here’s Pompeo’s living room, shot by Tim Street-Porter:

Ellen+pompeo+livingroom+elle+decor

And now the 1st Dibs version:

Ellen+pompeo+inspired+living+room

Of course, the catch is that all this 1st Dibs wondrousness obviously comes with a 1st Dibs price tag to match. So, even if you find everything you need to create your own celebrity living room, you still need to figure out how to pay for it! But, one step at a time, eh?

Here I go again – raving about the wonders of all-neutral interiors. But, seriously, this house (by Neuhaus Architecture and JP Warren Interiors) would persuade even the most vocal of the anti-beige crowd that pale is, indeed, interesting. The house, which was apparently decorated by the owner – the Jessica in JP Warren – was covered by Desire to Inspire back in June but it’s so beautiful I had to revisit it again here.

The architectural details of this house are extraordinary. All that molding, the fireplace, the pilasters. In my opinion, a brighter color scheme would be overwhelming. Instead, the muted palette just emphasizes all this lovely detail.

The floor is particularly attention-grabbing. I’ve no idea if this is original marquetry or whether it was installed, but it emphasizes and defines the shape of the space beautifully.

This is evidence that neutral interiors work best when there are unusual natural textures and materials. The combination of the vintage metal sinks with the stone wall is spectacular.

Then there’s this much more feminine bathroom. I can’t really say enough good things about this bathroom. I usually like my bathrooms to be more, well, bathroom-y. But, with its custom wallpaper and elegant furniture, this room might persuade me to change my opinion.

This is a less formal library space. The shelves cleverly fill an alcove and the diagonal furniture arrangement is a good way to fill such an enormous room without over-cluttering.

More natural stone at work here. Waterfall countertops really elevate the design of a kitchen and this is no exception. It is an usual space for a kitchen. With the bay window, it looks more like a living room. The designer has addressed this by keeping the cabinetry very simple and more like furniture.

This is my favorite view of the whole house. A simple cube-shaped set of shelves (but obviously completely custom) with an artfully arranged collection of white ceramics. Very pleasing to the eye.

What I like most about this home overall, is that each room has its unique personality, and yet the whole scheme is cohesive. Do you have a favorite room?

Photo credit: Peter Margonelli

My first Ideabook for Houzz appeared recently on the site’s home page. It’s a round-up of accessories to create a curated look for your home. I think the current trend for curated spaces is one that will be around for a while. It’s a more personal, easy-going way of decorating. Curated rooms are filled with well-made, meaningful treasures, which have been carefully edited. This takes time and so these spaces have more long-lasting appeal. In fact, this trend is so entrenched that entire business models have been built around it: online retailers are all launching sub-brands that sell ‘one-of-a-kind’ pieces and jumping on the daily deal bandwagon but with collections curated by tastemakers.

I’m a big fan of the curated look. But even though it looks effortless, achieving the effect is quite an art. Here are five beautifully curated houses that I believe have got it right.

Curated mantelpiece

The first two are from Emma Reddington’s picks on House and Home. This first, although just a glimpse of the mantelpiece, indicates an artfully composed space that still retains a homey, informal feel. The key here is contrasting styles: a simple modern fireplace, gilt mirror, Moroccan rug and carefully-selected prints all balance each other out making the space accessible. The symmetrical lamps help pull the whole look together.

Curated living room

This upscale living room is at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s far from homey, in large part because of the size, grand architectural details and multiple seating areas. But the decor is a major contributor to this space’s high-end curated feel. Every piece seems so unexpected.

Eclectic global living room

This room, via Elle Decor, is somewhere in between. I just love this space. It actually has very few pieces in it, but each is so well chosen that I still class it as curated. The armoire with baskets on top is a big factor in defining this room’s character, as is the live edge coffee table. The trick here seems to be to use fewer, large-scale pieces and then used relaxed fabrics to prevent the space from feeling sparse.

Eclectic living room

The rich red in this room is mouthwatering! Also via Elle Decor, this room is much more feminine and traditional. But the coffee tables add some edginess. This is an example of a room that has a curated feel using only furniture, rather than accessories and art. There are two notable accessories – the coral and quartz pieces – but the impact comes from the rug, chairs, sofa and coffee tables, all of which look like they have been collected carefully over the years.

Modern wood living room

Yet another different curated space – this time using organic textures to unify a room that is packed with treasures. This one has such a cozy, eclectic vibe – and of course killer views. It just proves that curated interiors don’t have to feel like art galleries. Via Living Etc.

So what defines a curated space for you?

It’s at this time of year I start thinking about ski chalets. Not your typical A-frame alpine cabins, mind. I mean expansive wood structures with soaring ceilings, incredible views, and open fireplaces. So I was happy to discover that this month’s Architectural Digest has just such a home on its cover. Now this is my idea of a ski chalet!

Aspen ski home

Aspen ski home

Aspen ski home

Aspen ski home

Aspen ski home

What a great juxtaposition of mid-century and contemporary with traditional craftsmanship. The architect somehow manages to incorporate those solid wood beams while keeping the overall effect light and airy. It’s a great color palette too. It reminds me of that other great ski chalet from last year’s Elle Decor. Who could forget this?

modern ski chalet

And this month’s Elle Decor has a Montana ski lodge with a similar palette, dark fire surround and beamed ceilings.

Montana ski lodge

This modern interpretation of a ski lodge, from Living Etc, also has my vote:

Ski chalet

Ski chalet

Looks like it’s time to dust off those skis!

The design discoveries and dilemmas of a Brit in San Francisco as she turns a house into a home.
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