Character Free Themes

When most people set out to design their children's space, the project often begins with picking a theme.  Typically, kids are drawn to a favorite "celebrity", like Hello Kitty, the Avengers, or Paw Patrol.  That can be a super fun direction, but a big problem is inevitable.  Those favorites often change more often than the sheets get washed.  A cute room becomes quickly irrelevant to the child, and they outgrow it before you are ready to reinvest in another update.  My solution, skip the characters!  

For this project, I had two bedrooms to develop that would be dedicated to children.  This particular family has three young girls, but they will also be sharing the space with both boy and girl guests.  I knew the spaces should appeal to everyone.  Like the rest of the home, I was inspired by color.  Bright vivid colors, against soft backgrounds.  Graphic patterns and textures would also be key.  And, to top it off, vintage toys sprinkled in to add personality and a sense of whimsy.  

First up, the nursery.  This room has ceilings that vault up over 15' high.  Ample natural light coupled with white walls, and a pastel green ceiling make this otherwise smallish room feel completely voluminous.  The theme of color comes in to play with framed vintage scarves that "wallpaper" the walls in the room.  The bright colors and bold patterns against the bright white walls create an atmosphere of fun that is surprisingly peaceful.  What is great about this solution is that as this room morphs into another guest room space, all that needs to change is the bed.  

Next up, the sleeping loft. This space is primarily utilized by the family's two oldest girls.  But, as their baby sister grows, and guests arrive for visits, sleeping space needs to be ready for relaxation.  

This room is positioned in the third floor attic space of the home.  The walls are very angular making hanging space for artwork very limited. This inspired me to add a bold pattern to the wall paint.  I designed a horizontal stripe pattern that would utilize a tone on tone pale blue color.  The stripes are set 9" apart to divide the tallest wall with equal spacing.  As the stripes meet at each corner, the color is switched.  Smooth transitions make this small detail pack a strong punch.  

This sleeping loft provides beds for four.  The bed frames are a classic Jenny Lind inspired construction, and have been made special by the addition of four one-of-a-kind handmade quilts. Although the quilts were made to be roughly the same dimension and color palette, their patterns are unique. The bedding becomes the primary artwork for the space, however, an impressive vintage carnival ride sign hangs between two of the beds on the focal wall.  

As you can see, you can create children's spaces full of personality without the use of a character theme.  Instead consider color, pattern, and shape to create a space that is inspiring and timeless.  No celebrity endorsement required.  

Echoing the Outdoors: Creating a Lively Great Room

There is no doubt that if your home has a Great Room, it is definitely the heart of your home.  By having a huge multi-functiontal space, you find yourself using that one space for most of your living.  Coming off the entry of this home, the Great Room ceilings sore to almost 3 stories high.  The architectural volume of the space is undeniable, and was begging to be accentuated.  The first time I saw this space, it was as seen below. Heavy earth-tone colors were on the walls minimizing the volume of the room.  Earth-tone colors are a strategy people often use in an attempt to "bring the outdoors in". The problem with doing that, is that the walls appear dull, and the gorgeous scenery outside your windows is diminished.  I knew that approaching this room with the intention to make it appear fresh would serve to frame the scenery while also adding to the impressive volume of the space.

BEFORE: The fireplace soars over 2 stories, but the green walls blend into the slate surround.

BEFORE: The fireplace soars over 2 stories, but the green walls blend into the slate surround.

BEFORE: This is the view while standing at the fireplace.  The kitchen is opposite the fireplace, and the ceiling drops in that area.  The varying ceiling heights are perfect for making the eventual sitting area more impressive, however the heavy colors on the walls feel sporadic and closed in.

BEFORE: This is the view while standing at the fireplace.  The kitchen is opposite the fireplace, and the ceiling drops in that area.  The varying ceiling heights are perfect for making the eventual sitting area more impressive, however the heavy colors on the walls feel sporadic and closed in.

Selecting the right paint color would be critical to giving the architecture of this room the attention that it deserved.  You may remember from my previous blog post, An Entryway Defined, that the design strategies I incorporated in this home are color blocking and geometry with rustic and modern details. In order to make the idea of color blocking work, I knew that the perfect shade of white (Benjamin Moore: Winter White) would anchor the space and frame the impressive windows.  White also reflects all of the natural light creating a dramatic burst of feeling like you've stepped outside.  Now, that is how you bring the outdoors in!

 

Adding color in the furnishings would add life and interest throughout the room.  Pulling from the slate color of the fireplace and kitchen backsplash, an accent wall is added behind the kitchen.  With the addition of that wall color as well as the bright green in the stairwell, the idea of color blocking is reiterated.

When it came time to layout this space, comfortable seating was a must.  An English-arm slipcovered sectional is perfect for incorporating the comfortable aesthetic the client requested.  Accent pieces were selected to add color and personality.  The ottoman base is a reclaimed metal and wood palette table that has been topped with a hand-made cushion created from a vintage crazy quilt.  The diverse textures and colors pop off of the neutral sectional, and are anchored by the dark monochromatic oriental rug.  Driftwood furniture, whimsical lamps, and a vintage tug boat rope spool provide more interest and detail.

A whimsical lamp atop a driftwood end table is the perfect way to add personality and rich texture.

A whimsical lamp atop a driftwood end table is the perfect way to add personality and rich texture.

This rope spool was found on an old tug boat in Wisconsin.  The metal framed modern chair is made from rich brown hide and leather.  Layering multiple textures is an easy trick to add depth to your design.

This rope spool was found on an old tug boat in Wisconsin.  The metal framed modern chair is made from rich brown hide and leather.  Layering multiple textures is an easy trick to add depth to your design.

The homeowner's existing bar cabinet is softened by using a unique piece of driftwood that they found as artwork.  It is the perfect personal touch for the space.

The homeowner's existing bar cabinet is softened by using a unique piece of driftwood that they found as artwork.  It is the perfect personal touch for the space.

Focusing on the dining area portion of this space, the homeowner knew that they would need a big table.  This will be a home full of family and friends, and the oversized natural trestle table is perfect for a large group.  Touching back on the idea of color blocking, I combined multiple colorful finishes to traditionally styled chairs making the space feel friendly and modern.

I can already imagine the kids racing for their favorite color.  And, in a house with three daughters, we knew too many fights would happen if pink was in the mix.  We opted for red, yellow, green, blue, and orange.  

I can already imagine the kids racing for their favorite color.  And, in a house with three daughters, we knew too many fights would happen if pink was in the mix.  We opted for red, yellow, green, blue, and orange.  

On the whole, the success of this space is achieved with the use of color.  Mindful selections of paint and finishes create a space that is full of life and fun.  The forest just outside the windows is reflected with rich rustic wood finishes, and the colors pop like wildflowers.

An Entryway Defined

The entry to any home sets the stage for what you can expect as you move through the rest of the space.  It needs to provide certain functions, while aesthetically capturing your style.  In this vacation home, there are two main design concepts that are integrated throughout.  First of all, the overall vibe is casual yet modern.  There are rustic elements combined with clean modern lines to create an atmosphere that is truly comfortable and stylish.  The second conceptual goal for the entire home is to express the idea of color blocking and geomety.  Color blocking is often seen in fashion design. Incorporating bold transitions between colors provides contrast and a sense of playfulness. My goal with this home was to take that idea and also add a strong sense of geometry and shape. When it came time to design the entryway, I knew a bold color would be a must.

Deep sky blue walls accent the white vintage icebox beautifully.  A rich traditionally patterned oriental rug anchors the space and helps to fill the room with more color.  

Opposite the entry door, I really begin to play with the geometric aspect of the overall design concept.  After collecting an assortment of vintage crates and drawers, I mounted them directly to the wall.  You will notice there is a mixture of colors and textures associated with the boxes.  This further reinforces the color blocking idea and keeps the casual feeling front and center. I even managed to salvage the original shelves from the ice box and incorporate them in the display.  Their grid pattern is perfect for perching a spare pair of sunglasses.

Aside from adding a striking visual as you enter this home, this focal wall serves a function.  As the family that lives here begins to use this space, this wall becomes the location for a growing collection of memories.  Bold photo frames will showcase candid shots.  Empty jars can hold beach treasures found by the little hands that live here.  Each cubby can provide a home for a unique and special addition.  


 When looking at an entryway there are three things that I always try to include:

1. A place to sit.  The seating that is selected for an entry is a perfect opportunity to start dictating the home's style. In this case, a richly textured reclaimed barnwood bench provides the perfect spot for everyone to kick off their shoes and relax. The extended length also further reinforces my concept of geometry.

2. A mirror. A last second check on your appearance before heading out the door is convenient and appreciated by anyone. A small mirror above the icebox is functional and adds another texture to that wall.  By adding accessories in front of it, depth is created and  more color is reflected.

3. Storage.  Whether you need a full closet, or just a place to hide purses, keys, or backpacks, storage is critical to making your entryway function for your family. For this entryway, a vintage icebox is used to add storage.  The interior has been retrofitted with wooden cabinetry and adjustable shelving.  It's the perfect place to store your beach bag, sunscreen, and bug spray. 

Adding low maintenance plants is a great way to introduce more texture and accent color.

Adding low maintenance plants is a great way to introduce more texture and accent color.

A trick I use when installing picture frames is to insert decorative scrapbooking paper.  It adds a bit of style until the perfect photograph is found.

A trick I use when installing picture frames is to insert decorative scrapbooking paper.  It adds a bit of style until the perfect photograph is found.

The entry to your home is a place to define your style and welcome your visitors.  Provide the necessary function, but don't be afraid to make a bold statement.  Whether you select unique artwork, a bold wallpaper, or a rich color, it is your opportunity to introduce your home in the tone that is right for you.

FROM FRUSTRATING TO FABULOUS: One girl's bedroom gets a major overhaul!

It all started on August 18, 2015. I walked into my daughter's room and threw my hands in the air.  It is a constant mess! As much as I try to keep it organized, her stuff is just everywhere.

Good design is beautiful. Great design is functional AND beautiful. This room used to be great, but as my daughter has grown up, her needs have changed. Now it's cute when it's clean, but that's not very often these days. This room is about to get an overhaul to make it great once more! 

When I meet a client that is overwhelmed by where to start, my instinct is to start in the place that frustrates them the most. You should love where you live. Right now, this room puts me into panic mode just opening the door. Even on a good day it's overwhelmed with crafts, toys, and stuff. (You should know, these pictures are of a "good" day. Ugh!). It's time to bring the function back, and start thinking about how my soon to be six year old will be better using her space. 

My immediate thought was keep it economical, and take a look at some new Ikea shelving.  I picked out what I wanted and needed to get this room functioning optimally.  After adding it up it was about $400 in shelving.  Not bad for outfitting an entire room, but I felt like I could do better.


Looking through a local FaceBook garage sale group, this photo flashed across my feed. I picked up a set of 2 solid wood cabinets for only $80! MAJOR SCORE!

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But, orange brown wood? Well, I knew I could do better than that.  Plus, they needed some tender loving care.  And, of course, I have a hard time saying no to a challenge.


The fist thing that needed to be addressed was the height.  Fully assembled, the pieces measured exactly 8'.  Her ceilings are also exactly 8'.  I decided I'd trim one inch from the top to give me just enough clearance for any slight variance in my ceiling plain.  The great thing was, the top molding was already 1" taller than the side and center moldings so I knew this change would suite the piece just fine. After the top received it's hair cut, I had quite a bit of sanding to do.  All I needed was enough sanding to give the existing finish a little tooth to hold the paint.  I used a power sander with a medium grit sand paper, and went to town.  All of the painted surfaces need to be completed.  After sanding, I removed all of the dust, first with a vacuum, then a tack clothes.  I absolutely love tack cloth. It is an super inexpensive product that works like a dream.  All of that dust was quickly eliminated, and it was soon time for paint!


In thinking about her room, I knew the paint color would be very important.  She currently has ivory upholstered walls and a pale green ceiling.  That palette is very soft, and has been great for the first 6 years of her life.  But, I know my daughter, and I wanted to make sure this was a piece that would grow with her and last as long as we needed it.  So, I didn't want pastel.  I needed BOLD, baby!  

Benjamin Moore Mulberry was the perfect choice.  Fun and lively for a soon to be 6 year old, but enough of a classic jewel tone to look more sophisticated as she gets older.  

I am a huge fan of Home Depot's Behr paint.  I ended up choosing their Behr Ultra.  It is a paint and primer in one, and I have amazing luck with the coverage from this product.  Let's get painting!

In the end, I needed three coats of paint.  Without fail, shades of red are notoriously difficult to get good coverage from. In retrospect, I should have tried Behr's Marquee paint.  It is marketed as one coat coverage.  I imagine it still would have taken 2 coats, but 2 is better than 3!

Knowing that these pieces would see a lot of abuse, I decided to also add 3 coats of clear varnish to the tops of the cabinets and to the tops of each shelf. With all of the activity that happens in a kids room, we need to be realistic about how furniture will hold up.  And, after all of my hard work, I didn't want to get nervous about her actually utilizing her own furniture.  

TIME TO MOVE IT IN!....Or so I thought.

Installation day did NOT go according to plan, but I remained undaunted. The base cabinets came up the stairs and in the room easily. The bookcase portions were not so amiable. In short, they didn't fit. That was an issue that wasn't even on my radar.  The bookcase portions are almost as large as a queen size mattress. What I didn't think about was the fact that a mattress has some give.  These cabinets do not.  At one point the shelf was wedged in the stairwell. It was a very Friends "PIVOT" moment. So it was either rip up two of my stair treads giving my husband a small heart attack, or cut the bookcases up.  Neither solution sounded appealing.  I ended up having to take these pristinely painted cabinets and saw off the top. It was heartbreaking, I'm not going to lie. The bright side is that they are anchored really well to the wall now which would have been a challenge had they not been cut. They finally made it into the room, got reassembled, and spackled. It was certainly a set back to my pace, but thankfully it was something that could be overcome.


When it was all said and done the final outcome amazes me. I was so worth the few days of work. Not only did I save a couple hundred dollars, but I also got a very custom product that adds color and personality to her space.  But, above all of that, I have a super stoked little girl, and her room no longer stresses me out when I walk into it (for now anyway...).