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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…

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?

Our renovation is moving ahead slowly. We still haven’t appointed the contractor, but plans are completed and we have the permit. That means we’re also at the stage of choosing fixtures and fittings – at last. In addition to the kitchen, we’re also hoping to put in a new master bath and renovate the family bathroom. For the master, I have in mind something white, light and bright, with a little warm-toned wood. So, very similar to the kitchen then… The good thing about this whole exercise is that it’s forcing me to focus on one specific style, rather than succombing to the latest fad. It’s been quite enlightening.

To give you a glimpse of the style I’m zeroing in on, here are some of the images I’m using as inspiration for the bathroom.

This is close to the effect we want, via Houzz. A honey-toned wood (in this case bamboo) floating vanity, wide mirror, square basins and lots of white. We won’t be using Carrera marble, but the faucets are pretty cool.

This, also via Houzz, has a similar color scheme, with more open shelving instead of a traditional vanity and ceramic or glass tiles instead of marble. I don’t like the glass sinks, but the mirrors are great.

More Carrera marble and the wood here is much darker than we want. However, the square sinks and frameless shower screen are spot on. Also via Houzz.

Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. Unfortunately, I don’t think wood floors are for us, but we can get a similar effect by using this type of wood in the cabinetry. Via The Marion House Book.

And, well, this one is just getting ridiculous (in a good way). Again, we won’t be duplicating this exact look (I wish), but the combination of materials is relevant. By Emily Summers.

Taking a slightly different direction now, I’ve also decided the bathroom has to have a little sparkle. I plan to add lustrous white glass tiles, like these (via Remodelista), in a banner along the vanity and around the room.

I’ve admired this bathroom, from Living Etc, for years! This is the image that got me yearning for sparkly tiles!

What do you think? Is it possible to combine all these ideas successfully?

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?

Why didn’t I know about this beautiful blog until this weekend? Of course, I’ve seen these photos of blogger Nicole’s stunning apartment all over the blogosphere, especially since it was featured in Rue Magazine. But the blog is a great source of inspiration too. Especially right now – while Nicole is off bonding with her newborn, guest bloggers are posting the cutest, most unique nursery designs.

Anyway, I just had to share some of the photos of the apartment in question since the black, white and metallic scheme is providing all sorts of inspiration for our impending kitchen makeover (which is rapidly becoming a dining room, playroom and bathroom makeover too – more of that later).

I spy a Carrera marble kitchen island…

Plattner coffee table…

Black and white ikat pillow…

And brass anglepoise lamps over the bed. Elegant and eclectic!

Photos by Emily Anderson for Rue Magazine via Sketch42.

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.

Although I’m a fan of black walls, I always felt that black was for cozy, moody rooms. To take a bright, airy room with lots of windows and paint it black would surely be a waste of all that natural light, right? How wrong could I be? Take a look at this striking bedroom from Ab Chao.

And here’s what it looked like before.

Incredible, right? Of course, it’s not just the paint color: the bright pillows, undressed windows, re-arranged furniture all make a difference too. But what amazes me is how bright it still feels, even with black walls. The black walls actually frame the windows, drawing attention to the view and making the space seem even lighter. Just goes to show that black decor can be energizing as well as enigmatic…

We’re going skiing at the end of February but, sadly, we’re not staying here…

This Tahoe home is the work of John Maniscalco Architecture (also on Houzz). I love the way all the traditional features of an alpine cabin – from the wood-clad walls to the fireplace to the fabrics – are reinvented with a more modern twist. Just beautiful.

We, on the other hand, are staying in a much more traditional cabin. Hopefully it will be nice all the same!

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