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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.

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…

As part of our kitchen renovation, we are redoing a powder room. It’s a tiny space, so I’m keeping it neutral and simple, with a little Indian-inspired detailing. Here’s a sneak preview…

White+gray+bathroom+decorating

My starting point was the Rajapur wallpaper from Cole and Son. I’ve been dying to use this somewhere and decided this was just the space. Tiny rooms always seem larger with wallpaper, and this is subtle enough that we won’t tire of it.

The perfect mirror with this wallpaper is a white pearl inlay design. This particular one is from Serena and Lily, but it may be a little large for the space so I am still on the hunt for something similar. With all this pattern, I wanted simple white glass tiles, white paint and modern fixtures.

Here’s hoping we get started on the work soon so I don’t change my mind again…

1. Wisp White paint, Benjamin Moore; 2. Orbit lamp; 3. Mirror by Serena and Lily; 4. Dish (for soap) by John Robshaw; 5. Vessel sink by Porcelanosa; 6. Cabinet door pull in nickel; 7. Floating walnut vanity; 8. Kohler wall-mounted faucet; 9. White glass tile backsplash; 10. Flint floor tile; 11. Rajapur wallpaper by Cole and Son.

I’ve been busy sourcing fixtures and fittings for the kitchen renovation. As a reminder, we’re looking for a kitchen that combines matte white cabinets, white quartz countertops, and warm-wood flooring and shelving.

This Bulthaup kitchen has been my inspiration for cabinets:

And these two stunning kitchens from Houzz show the type of wood finish I’m looking for, except here it’s used in much greater quantities:

(By Schwartz and Architecture)

(By John Maniscalco Architecture)

I’ve found that Alno, a German manufacturer of kitchens has some great options. Here’s one in wood-effect glass. It’s not the one I’ll choose (you’ll have to wait for that!) but it gives you a good idea of the style.

So, in trying to put it all together, here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Of course, we’re still getting all the contractor bids together so haven’t even broken ground yet. But at least I know what kind of cereal bowls we’ll have….!

When we remodel the kitchen, we will have some structural work done that will require repainting the dining room. I’m planning on using this to try a new look. Here’s how it looks now.

We had the shelves put in just over a year ago and they’ve made an enormous difference to the room. Other than that, not much has changed since this post. But now it’s time for something new (apart from the table, which obviously desperately needs to be swapped out). The current wall color is Iced Marble by Benjamin Moore. I love it, but it’s been there for almost five years and I feel it’s a little drab now. So, I’m thinking of going several shades darker to Millstone Gray. As you can see, it’s a deep gray with a greeny-blue tinge.

Or else Kitty Gray, which is just a little darker and bluer (and, frankly, looks identical on my screen!)

Dark gray has been a hot color for ages, but I still think it looks fresh against crisp white moldings (of which there’s plenty in our dining room – and, if we paint the ceiling a brighter white, it should work well). Take a look at these examples.

Via Gorgeous Shiny Things.

Via the Girl in the Brick House.

Via Manolo for the Home. Although the walls here are almost black, rather than gray, this photo is particularly great inspiration because we have this Nelson Saucer bubble lamp in our dining room.

What do you think? Should we take the plunge?

The plans for our kitchen are starting to come together – although we still have a long way to go before we can start picking out fixtures and fittings. That hasn’t stopped my mind from wandering onto topics such as which backsplash to choose…

I didn’t really want to go with tiles as they can look rather traditional. But a backsplash of glass or steel seemed too plain, given that the cabinets and countertop will likely be white. The ideal option would be a Carrera marble countertop that extends up the wall to form a backsplash, but that’s out of the question for both practicality (it stains) and cost reasons.

Then I discovered the new range of tiles from Heath ceramics, with patterns designed by Dwell.

I think I may have found my solution – the Half Hex Mix. These are neutral and modern but have a little interest. The finish is matte, which is exactly what I wanted. There are several other equally enticing designs.

This is the Half Hex Stack.

And this is the Wide Hex Twist. There are many colors to choose from, although I like this selection here.

Fortunately, the Heath Ceramics showroom is right here in San Francisco (well, Sausalito) so I dropped by this weekend and wasn’t disappointed. Brought home 11 samples so surely there will be something there for us… Watch this space for the final decision.

As you might have guessed from my absence the past week or so, baby number two finally arrived! He’s a gorgeous, healthy little boy. We’re back home, getting into a routine and just getting used to being a family of four. In honor of the occasion, I thought I’d show you how the nursery turned out – having got it finished just in time.

If you recall from my earlier post, I really wanted to introduce wallpaper into this room. It had to be appropriate for a baby but last through his toddler years or possibly serve for an adult guest room or office one day (if we switch the rooms around). I settled on this Hick’s Hexagon by Cole and Son, thinking a geometric pattern would serve all those needs. I especially love the color – a really pure, clear, summery blue, which tones well with the paint (Polar Sky by Benjamin Moore).

Because I went with this classic baby boy blue, I felt the other elements in the room didn’t need to be overly childish. The wall decal above the dresser/changing table is child-friendly enough, without being cartoony. The rug is a gray safari pattern from West Elm and, again, will hopefully work for a more grown up room down the line.

Ok, now I know this rocker is pretty hideous. We bought it cheaply when my first son was born and it’s not exactly a style centerpiece. But it’s comfortable, which I know from experience is all that matters in those long, dark, sleepless nights! We looked everywhere for an alternative that we liked but cost less than $1,000. They are few and far between. We decided to keep it for a few months until the baby is sleeping through the night, then we’ll swap it for an ordinary chair, which is likely to be cheaper but infinitely more stylish. Much better than spending a fortune on a replacement rocker.

I’ve coveted this bamboo mobile for a while. You can find it online at various stores like Giggle or Branch. I found one in our local baby boutique. I don’t expect it to work as the main source of entertainment for a newborn – we have a musical mobile for that – but it’s something to look at while he’s feeding.

I also found this wicker ottoman at Pier 1 Imports for $30. I had considered a Moroccan pouf and found some stunning ones in tan leather. But, unfortunately, the smell of goat leather is just too pungent for a small, south-facing room – and way too off-putting considering the time we’ll be spending in here. Amazing the things you have to think of when furnishing a nursery! Who’d have thought smell would be a factor?

The elephant is from Restoration Hardware, the lamp from Lamps Plus and the clock was a gift from my parents.

The bedding is from Target. And no nursery would be complete without the plush toy shot! I know, you’re going to tell me I shouldn’t have anything in the crib. Don’t worry, the quilt and toys live elsewhere when the baby’s in the crib. I just couldn’t resist including them in the photo.

So, now that both kids’ rooms have been done, I’ll be able to get back to grown-up decorating only. Between feeding and tummy time, that is…

I’ve neglected to post here for a while because I’ve been so busy trying to wrap up work and get everything organized before the baby comes. The due date is Sunday and I finally feel like everything is under control. There’s just time to show you one of the decorating projects we’ve been working on at home – the guest room.

As you know, the arrival of baby number two means we needed to convert our top floor office into a multi-function office and guest room. It’s a bit of a squeeze: there’s no actual closet in this room so we needed some clothes storage space for guests. And, given that our families and friends come all the way from England, we wanted a proper bed for them to rest their jetlagged selves! Plus, as we already had a lot of the furniture, we couldn’t go out and buy new mini-sized pieces to fit.

The solution was to keep the whole room as uncluttered as possible with just a few pieces of essential furniture and a very calming color scheme of white, green and taupe. I also really wanted to blend the decor with the view outside, since there are four windows in this tiny space. The wallpaper, which is Sweet Bay by Sanderson, is supposed to echo the flowering trees and vines in the gardens visible from this room. It’s much more traditional than I intended, but it does have a beautiful painterly effect. It even seems to make the room bigger. We already had the bedside tables, found in an antiques store in San Francisco, Past Perfect. The mirror is from another SF junk store, sadly closed now. The bed and bedside lamps are IKEA. I considered using task lights to balance the floral wallpaper with a more industrial look. But the angular lines clashed with the pattern, so it was back to my trusty IKEA lamps…

Here’s a close up of the wallpaper. As it’s pretty much the only exciting feature we had space for in this room, I thought I’d better make the most of it!

The other end of the room is the business end, so to speak. As this space has to function as an office, we needed lots of storage space. The dresser is actually a very cheap filing cabinet bought online. The top drawer can be reserved for guests. I used lots of boxes and magazine holders on the shelving to keep it from looking too cluttered or busy. The desk fits here too, along the window, but we decided to take it out for now as we have various family members staying for a while and wanted to give them as much room as possible.

I used light filtering roller blinds to keep the sun out on summer days and for privacy. The thicker roman shades from The Shade Store keep the heat in at night.

What would we do without West Elm for finishing touches like lacquer trays?!

Here’s part of the view from the window. When the desk is here, it’ll be a relaxing place for working and thinking. (By the way, can you spot the photographer??)

The ceiling light fixture is from EQlight. They have fantastically intricate shades in different sizes. When the light is switched on you can really see all the detail – the shape almost mirrors the blooms on the wallpaper.

So, there it is, a little oasis of calm for our guests in the hectic mania that is our home (soon to be even more hectic, no doubt!)

As you know, we’re redecorating our guest bedroom at the moment. Well, to be precise, we’re in the midst of a pre-baby decorating frenzy which involves swapping the functions of three different rooms. It’s proving to be a bit of a nightmare as we have to shuffle pieces of furniture, stepladders and tools from one room to another so we can get tasks done as the required items arrive through the mail (as I have zero time for furniture shopping everything has to be ordered online). Anyway, the guestroom is now where the study once was and, in fact, will serve a dual purpose as both office and bedroom.

It’s not ready to show yet, but I thought I’d share some of the bedroom images that have provided inspiration (or caused design confusion, as the case may be – read on and you’ll see why!)

First, let’s talk about color. If you recall, when I blogged about it here, this room has four windows on three walls so, although it’s lovely and light, can be subject to extremes of temperature, depending on the time of year. I needed to choose a color that wouldn’t exaggerate the heat or cold. So, a while ago we painted it green and I decided to leave it that way since it really is the best shade for such a space.

This is almost the exact same shade (via Decorology) and, like this room, I’m mixing it with a lot of white (except for the roman shades which arrived yesterday and turned out to be more cream than white. Disaster. They’re up and I’m trying not to get upset every time I look at them because they’re really very nice otherwise, honestly. And also because I made my husband paint the ceiling from cream to white so it would work better with the supposedly white blinds…. say no more).

Here’s another green and white bedroom, this time via This is Glamorous. We have bedside tables a bit like this and I really like the contrast of crisp white bedding with more sumptuous wallpaper.

On the other hand, I also like the vibrancy of this room. The greens are much fresher and more modern – perhaps more in keeping with the rest of our house. Photo by Polly Wreford, Sarah Kaye Represents.

I also have a ‘thing’ for white bedrooms so am trying to keep as much of the room color-free as possible. This also helps to unify the two functions of office and bedroom. I still need to find something to anchor the space, like the pearl-inlaid trunk does in this room. Via Decorology.

Ok, now moving on from color, let’s talk about pattern. Although the room is small, I really like the idea of introducing some pattern that echoes the views outside. With so many windows, the room really does feel like it’s up in the treetops, so I want to reflect some of that in the design. I immediately thought of adding some floral or trailing wallpaper to one wall, and then remembered this stunning bedroom by Miles Redd featured in Domino. Via Style Redux.

A chinoiserie-style floral would also work beautifully and I love this turquoise wallpaper because it’s so vibrant and modern, despite its very traditional pattern. Via Automatism.

More traditional chinoiserie, like the example here via Apartment Therapy, would also work well. Unfortunately an original De Gournay is out of budget!

Although I’d like to introduce some pattern, I don’t want the space to be too traditional or girly. I like the way the rooms above and below balance feminine textiles or wallpapers with much more utilitarian and industrial elements such as task lights. Via Fondly Seen.

And this one from stylist Lucyina Moodie‘s portfolio.

Then again, I am attracted to the tailored elegance of a bedroom like this one from Canadian House and Home. A simple, calming color scheme, glammed up with the chandelier and plush bedlinens is so inviting.

So, as you can see, this one little room has a lot to achieve! It’s starting to take shape but has a long way to go before I feel it meets all these criteria. But, we’ll get there eventually!

We’ve finally finished our son’s new bedroom and I can show you some pictures. It didn’t actually take that long to do – most of the room was finished in the first weekend because we’d planned it all out. But we had a few issues with the light fitting so I haven’t been able to take any photos. At last it’s sorted out so here’s the finished (well, almost) result.

If you’ll recall, this room is for an energetic three-year-old who absolutely loves red. I didn’t think an entirely red room would be wise given the energy levels we’re talking about here! So I went for this deep turquoise blue on one wall and white on the rest. The blue is Benjamin Moore’s Electric Blue. It’s really warm and looks lovely at night by lamplight too. Then we added red accents like the chair and IKEA cabinet (just seen on the left) to satisfy the client, so to speak (!)

I must confess to there being a high number of IKEA items in this room. The chair and bookshelves are both IKEA, but who can resist their pricing? I got my son to help sort the books into colors, which he enjoyed – and the effect is rather pleasing. I’ve been dying to try out a ‘rainbow of books’ but have had to hold off in other rooms because my other half isn’t keen (makes it hard to find the one you want apparently – I can’t sympathize because I remember the color of books before I remember their title). The pillow on the chair is from PierOne Imports.

The notice board is made from a $4 IKEA frame and some Japanese wrapping paper. It has little goldfish against a blue background.

The bed and bedding we already had (the truck bedding was from Target last year). But we added the two decals – chosen by our construction-crazy son – from Decomodwalls on Etsy.

The cabinet is one I’m sure everyone will recognize as the PS Cabinet from IKEA.

It’s probably not that suitable for a child as it only closes and opens if you can master the key mechanism. But, we billed it as a cabinet where he can keep secret things and that incentivized him to get the hang of it pretty quickly!

I love this little corner of the room. The lion and blue rabbit were both baby gifts and the dog was the first item we bought after finding out I was pregnant the first time. The painting of our son is by my mother-in-law and was a gift this Christmas. We just had it framed and it totally makes the room. We’re very lucky to have an artist in the family. I just love this painting because it captures our son’s expression so well.

I’ve been dying to get these kid-sized Ant chairs from Room and Board for ages. They come in orange, lime and white too but the aqua works perfectly here. The table is IKEA (again).

The cute Humpty Dumpty clock was a gift from my parents.

On the other wall there’s a dresser and closet. I’m thinking of adding wallpaper to the closet door – or at least a paper or fabric-covered panel with hooks – just to add interest to this corner. I also need to frame the poster of The Little Prince properly. But, you have to leave some things unfinished otherwise, where’s the fun?

The light fixture (the one we had issues with) is from Urban Outfitters. It’s called the Dreamcatcher light. I love the look of it, but unfortunately it only comes with a cord kit that allows you to plug it into a wall. Very odd seeing as it’s billed as a ceiling pendant. We looked for a replacement ceiling cord kit for ages but it seems they don’t exist. So we had to buy another (cheap) ceiling fixture and use part of that.

The curtains were here already – we had them made at The Shade Store when this room was a guest room. I’ve ordered woven wood blinds too, which will help block out more light and prevent early morning wake-ups in the summer. The rug is the one we had in the nursery and it has stood the test of time pretty well, so we probably won’t change it for a while. But when we do, I’d like a Zapotec rug like this one.

So that’s it. Our son loves his new room and now has plenty of space for his toys, books and clothes. He can spread out on the floor and play and then everything gets easily tidied away at the end of the day. And I get pleasure out of seeing that splash of bright blue every time I come up the stairs.

Next stop, the nursery and then the guest room – and only eight weeks to go before baby number two arrives! Will we make it?

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