Coastal Make-Over: Part 1

A few months back when I was asking for willing volunteers to be my Guinea Pigs as my first interior design clients, my friend from the gym bravely raised his hand! He and his wife and three young kids have a new-build home in Roseville, MN that they had built for them around 7 years ago. They wanted to make-over the main floor living area, which is an open-concept kitchen, dining and living area.

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When I first assessed the space, I noticed how light-filled and airy it was, even with all the dark wood. The space was cozy, but had grown a little tired over the years. The layout was generally good, it just needed a bigger seating area.

The clients used to live in Florida and wanted to bring the light and airy, comfortable coastal style to Minnesota. They also wanted it to be more of a grown-up, coordinated and clutter-free space, with hard-wearing fabrics and more storage for toys. They loved the arch feature above the fireplace and wanted to accentuate it more. They also wanted a more comfortable TV viewing area, where they could all curl up and watch TV together. They had a decent budget for these rooms at up to $10,000.

After learning more about how they wanted to use the room, their style and their hopes for how it should look, I created three moodboards for them. I like to create three as I don’t feel any of us have a purist design style, we all like elements of different styles, so by offering three options that lean different ways, it gives the clients better choice and helps me as a designer to see which way they lean most.

The first moodboard was ‘Classic Navy’. The styles they liked most were coastal, but with a mix of more traditional elements – the classic ‘Potterybarn look’. So with this moodboard I brought in more traditional elements with the navy and dark wood, and kept the more traditional coastal feel.Slide5

The second moodboard was a little more contemporary, even a little bit farmhouse with the more rustic woods and textures, but definitely still coastal in its feel. The pallet was monotone with warmth added from the natural wood.Slide7

The third moodboard was a bit of a ‘wild card’. It was a fun modern take on coastal, using pops of yellow to liven up the space. Whilst still preserving the coastal feel through uses of lots of white, linens and handmade glass.Slide9Slide10

When I presented the moodboards to the clients they leaned more towards the traditional coastal feel with the navy and dark wood accents. They loved how the navy highlighted the arch over the fireplace. And how the dark woods tied in with their existing kitchen and flooring. They also loved the pops of yellow in the wild card design. They had both attended the University of Michigan, and unbeknownst to me, navy and yellow were their school colors!

I moved onto the next stage of the process which was to create a revised moodboard. I stayed with the classic navy design and added the pops of yellow and gold to liven it up and make it more contemporary. I kept the natural linens and handmade glass of the true coastal style, the dark wood and navy of the more traditional coastal style, and now with the pops of yellow and gold the design felt fresher and livelier.Slide7Slide8Slide10

The clients loved it! My first happy clients! It felt so good! I’d underestimated just how much pressure I would feel designing spaces for other people. They look to you to be the expert, and perfectly translate what they want in their heads onto paper. When you design for yourself, you can experiment and make mistakes; but when you’re designing for somebody else, you want to get it right first time, or at least soon after. There’s also the worry that they’re afraid to tell you their true feelings, especially when designing for friends. That’s why it’s important to spend plenty of time up front understanding the verbal and non-verbal cues from what they truly want from the space.

There were a few more tweaks to the moodboard to arrive at the final design, this was mostly when we started shopping for the items. The sofa and wallpaper we were able to save money on by shopping around, and opting for paint instead of the grasscloth wallpaper. The TV unit in the moodboard was a dark wood design with textured wicker panels to the front. However we swapped to a white unit with dark wood top, which looked equally as good and still fitted with the coastal feel.

Stay tuned for my next blog to see the grand reveal!

Thanks for reading.

Jo (aka Britflipper)

Continuous Improvement

The subject of today’s blog is along the theme of ‘continuous improvement’. It’s a term we regularly use at work in a quality / lean process sort of a way, to signify the journey towards being world class in something. Never stopping with being satisfied with what you did today, and always striving to do better. It seemed like the perfect title for the design journey I’ve been on over the past few years.

The entrance hallway in our house is the perfect example of how skills evolve, and admitting that sometimes you don’t get it right the first time.

This is our hallway when we first moved into our 1969-built Prairie Style Minnesotan home. It was very beige, and very dated.

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Hallway when we moved in (circa 1969)

I set about renovating it to make it feel more like a modern cabin (as we live in the woods.) I tried to make it feel rustic with the use of the aged wood wall partition that we made, and the antler chandelier. To give it a modern twist, I added faux taxidermy in white only on the gallery wall.

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Hallway after reno No.1

To give it more of a British hunting lodge / country feel, I opted for flagstone style flooring, and added things like the antique umbrella stand and horse bit artwork. We gave the wall a gold paint effect finish to add some richness and the traditional feel.

But it felt dark…

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After living in the house for 4 years now, I’ve come to realize that living in the middle of the woods, with such heavy tree coverage, that the only time the house is ever bright inside is during the winter when there are no leaves on the trees. So the decoration inside has to account for this lack of natural light.

The other thing I’ve noticed whilst living in the US, is the growing trend for light, bright and airy spaces. Practically every new-build and renovated home has white-painted trim. The spaces are made bright from large white windows and white or light grey walls. Any wood is generally kept natural, such as natural white oak.

After living here for a while now, my tastes have evolved to the more contemporary side, so we set about with renovation No.2 to our hallway…

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Hallway today (after lessons learnt)

We removed the aged-wood partition wall we made, as we felt it made the space darker, and the dark wood made it feel a little dated. We opted instead for a more open half wall, which we painted in white and grey to match the new open-plan kitchen / dining room. And changed all the floors for natural white oak.

The biggest change was to the feature wall. Now when you enter the house, you’re met with a wall of white split-face marble, which adds depth and texture to the room, whilst still being bright, and yet at the same time, rustic.

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I had to keep the antler chandelier, it’s the little nod to the modern hunting lodge theme we were originally trying to achieve. I think now we’ve actually managed to achieve it. By keeping the colors light and limited, and introducing interest through texture, and pops of natural wood colors.

I’m the first to admit that my first attempt at ‘modern cabin’ was not that successful. But with a few more years of experience of both living in this house, in the US and having completed many more renovation projects, I can gladly say my skills have improved for the better.

To quote Lloyd Dobyns:

“Continual improvement is an unending journey.”

Thanks for reading, until next time.

Jo (aka Britflipper and continuous improvement seeker)

5 tips to get the Restoration Hardware look

Since moving to the U.S. I’ve fallen in love with Restoration Hardware. Every time I see one of their images online or walk into one of their stores it warms my heart. I know, a big reaction, but to me this is perfect design, just like when you see a beautiful natural view or an impressive painting.

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Image courtesy of Restoration Hardware

So I tried to put my finger on why I love it so much, and to figure out how I could recreate that look. Here’s how I deconstructed it…

Symmetry:

I noticed that in all the images I loved, everything was symmetrical. I learned that symmetry in a design gives a feeling of formality and grandeur. So pro tip, arrange your furniture around a central feature and make sure everything mirrors.

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Image courtesy of Restoration Hardware

Monotone:

I also began to notice that everything is very monotone in color, I.E. everything is of the same tone. They tend to use darker colors on the walls, a warm grey / brown. This helps to create a cozy atmosphere and makes the lighter furniture stand out.

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Image courtesy of Restoration Hardware

Greenery:

Although there’s no color in the fabrics, furniture or wall color, they add hints of green with the use of plants. Simple topiaries or maybe a white a orchid, which also adds to the classic feel.

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Image courtesy of Restoration Hardware

Mixing old and new:

Restoration Hardware are expert at mixing old and new. Through classically designed tufted sofas, French casement cabinets and balustrade coffee tables. And even in their artwork, with prints of classical architecture and old maps. They juxtapose this against modern simple lines for a perfect balance of richness and interest in the design. So my fourth pro tip is to mix old and new. Try a modern coffee table and a tufted sofa to recreate this look.

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Image courtesy of Restoration Hardware

Sparkle:

Restoration Hardware have some impressive light fixtures and accessories. They add interest in what could otherwise be a drab room, by using mirrors, crystal chandeliers and tall lamps. This is like adding the jewelry to a simple and classic outfit. It has the ability to completely change the look of the room. So instead of adding a plain light fixture, chose one with a bit of sparkle to elevate the room to the next level.

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Image courtesy of Restoration Hardware

I hope these tips have helped you figure out how to get this look in your own home. If like me, you don’t have a Restoration Hardware sized budget, you might want to read my next blog to see how I re-created this look for less: ‘How to get the Restoration Hardware look for less.’

Thanks for reading!

Jo @britflipper