This was our first house in the CT suburbs. It was literally the first house we saw and we made an offer on it that afternoon. We were both working in New York and our son was only 6 months old but we knew we weren't going to raise kids in the big city so there was no reason to wait. It was a great location in a kid-filled neighborhood and we had friends close by. I've always been very decisive and it usually serves me well.
That bulldozer is tearing down the miniature garage so we could build a master wing for this classic Jack and Jill home that only had two bedrooms upstairs. In the process of renovating we discovered we had a basement that leaked and a yard that didn't drain properly. We created a moat fit for a king, waterproofed the basement, built a stone retaining wall and a fantastic deck made of ipe. Those double height windows in the new master bedroom were inspired by an antique house in the area with a similar window.
LFG at her
daily site visit
This was the original dining room that we would end up turning into a mudroom. I knew we would open the wall and create a new master wing on the first floor, beyond the existing dining room wall. If you look at the before image you'll see a window that became a sliding door and an access point to both front and back yards for dirty feet and muddy boots. It was a game changer regarding the flow of the house.
My very favorite cabinet maker from Milwaukee, Tad Hellmann, built the closets and mudroom paneling, mirrored to reflect the outdoors and make the small space feel larger. That Dutch door was my absolute fave, allowing light to spill into the bedroom hall while keeping our 2- and 4-legged children out. This is another shining example of how I had no idea I would share these photos down the road. Excuse the mess.
my favorite kitchen
Oh how I loved this kitchen, probably because it was my first kitchen that I designed from scratch with my friend, Tad Hellmann. Maybe the kitchen stuck with me because it was like a first love, the one you never quite forget. But it was also because it was an easy kitchen, a happy kitchen, always filled with friends and family. Isn't that what kitchens should be? Anyway, Tad flew in from Milwaukee for the night, listened to my list, sketched the room and returned 8 weeks (or so) later with this kitchen. Yes, he is that good and he and I can always make magic in minutes. He feeds my instant gratification gene. Plus I think he's a genius and trust him implicitly. I gave him all my requirements and he put them to paper. It was small but lived large, my favorite combination.
Among my must-haves: the sink and stove could not be visible from the family room; a wet bar; wine storage; a dedicated desk area with bulletin board; a double oven; a double sink; seating for as many people as possible at the counter; a vented range with hood; tons of storage under and above every counter; ability to service the dining room without losing cabinet space (notice the pass thru to the dining room with bi-fold doors, would you let me do that in your home? - without them I would have lost all that counter and cabinet space); mirrored cabinets and backsplash to give the illusion of space and add dimension.
This is the family room that belonged to the kitchen above. Any house I move into has to have a fireplace in the main living area along with a TV and lots of seating. Winter is my favorite season because I can light a fire every night and the days are short which means lots of ambient lights on dimmers - my favorite environment.
Check out the wood nook Tad built into the bookcase. I add one to every house when possible. It's hard to find room for a wood holder and stacking it on the floor leaves a mess. Just be sure to line it with metal so it wears well.
On a technical note, sometimes you need to be creative to get AC and the one in this room was pitiful so we popped a Slim Jim AC unit into the top of the bookcase. It vented out on the same wall as the chimney and didn't disturb anyone.
1st floor guest room
This little first floor office/bedroom got rearranged and gently decorated, proof that a great guest room doesn't need tons of bells and whistles, just a few creature comforts.
Have window shades that close. I love shutters because they're easy to keep clean, they're tidy and they don't rip. When space is tight, opt for wall-mounted lights at the bedside. Place a clock on the bedside, too. Always keep a bench at the foot of the bed for luggage or an extra seat. Keep a nice selection of magazines on hand and place a tray on the dresser so guests have a spot to place jewelry, wallets, etc... at the end of the day. Keep a few drawers empty and be sure there are plenty of hangers in the closet. Maybe a little vase with fresh flowers if you're really on top of your game. Have a comforter (and pretty duvet - I love the linens at West Elm) and pillows with different firmness levels. Lastly, be sure your guests know which towels are theirs.
This was the classic unfinished basement with leaks and humidity and it was not suitable for any kids to play . But after adding a French drain around the perimeter (one of those things you don't know about until you're a homeowner) it was ready to be turned into a real room.
To the left of where I took the picture is the door to the side yard. To the right are the stairs up to the main floor. So I built a Marmoleum pathway where I'm standing so kids could come in and out of the house and not get the carpet dirty. That floor continued on into the laundry room (and I also used it in the mudroom).
We added brightly colored striped carpeting that would hide dirt and a bright orange, ultra-suede sleeper sofa (hidden in the back corner) to complement the ocean blue walls, creating a 2nd guest room for extra visitors (always choose a sleeper sofa for this very reason). The colors brought this room to life and made it a fun place to be.