By Jaqui Lividini
Since we’re just waiting for the foundation to be poured, nothing too dramatic has been going on at Renovation Central. So for this week’s post, I thought it would be helpful to talk to my good friend and decorator extraordinaire, Charles Riley, and share his top decorating tips.
Charles’ design aesthetic is vibrant. He’s not afraid to use color, likes his clients to include personal items throughout their homes, and has an amazing eye for proportion and balance. He’s helped me with my Manhattan apartment as well as my business L&Co’s headquarters.
So, without further ado, Charles’ tips for navigating some of the most vexing decorating questions:
COLOR: Don’t be afraid of color! Color is such a personal choice, but nothing enlivens a room more. Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by it. I like to say, “It’s only paint!” One way to try out color is to buy small cans of paint in the colors you like and paint a patch of a wall, so that you can see it in natural daylight as well as at night. Live with it for a bit and then make your decision. You can always paint over the small test area.
In that same vein, I think that you really must see the color in the actual room. Paint chips in a store do not give you the same sense of color as painting a bit of the room in your selection. Nor does looking at a swatch of fabric in a showroom give you the same sense of the color and how you will live with it, as it does to look at the sample in the room.
Another tip when looking at paint chips: If your eye is drawn to one of the darker palettes in the store, go with the color one shade lighter on the sample card. Often that lighter shade is just right when covering a large space.
SCALE: Furniture out of context often belies its true size—it’s often in a huge showroom or all by itself on the internet. In order to truly understand the size and scale of a piece of furniture, I like to tape it out in the room. If you just look at the dimensions, it can be deceiving. But placing an outline of the dimensions on your floor or wall in tape or newsprint really shows you how much space the piece will actually take up in the room. This tip has been a lifesaver for many of my clients.
WINDOW TREATMENTS: Every window should have a shade and a soft treatment with it. Jaqui will probably disagree with me on this, but I like this combination because it softens the look of a room while also allowing the resident to control the light in the room as well as privacy. Window treatments dramatically change the way a room looks, and layering the windows is a great way to create a particular style. Do you want to make the room look more formal or more casual? You can do either by mixing patterns, colors, or stripes. Sometimes if a client doesn’t want to use color on the walls, I am able to show them how much the room will come to life with a more dramatic window treatment.
By Jaqui Lividini
Delays are a fact of life when it comes to renovation. As I’m sure you’re well aware, our house has been lifted 9 feet in the air, and at some point (which was, by the way, supposed to be three weeks ago) they have to lay a foundation.
In order to lay foundation properly though, they have to break up all the granite below the house. It seems the granite is so hard that they keep breaking drills, which has delayed the process immensely. So are the situations you get into when you renovate a house.
We were up there this Sunday looking at it in dismay; it resembles more of a war zone at this point. There’s quite a lot of broken rock, broken granite, and the progress is moving at a glacial pace. At some point I know it will be quick, once they get these issues resolved. Foundations are always a difficult part of building a house. You have to expect delays, and now we’re looking at a mid-February completion date. I’m hoping we can make up some of time we have lost in the last three weeks; never a dull moment.
The Perfect Powder Room
By Jaqui Lividini
This week is all about the new powder room. Originally, I was an advocate for a third bathroom—John, not so much. It became a debate for several weeks, each of us listing the pros and cons. I had my heart set on it and, eventually, through perseverance, I was victorious. The compromise—the third bathroom—became a powder room, a more efficient solution and a better fit for the house. More importantly, a decision that made everyone involved (namely John and me) happy.
It’s a very cozy powder room sitting between the office and the kitchen. Our challenge, because we were starting from scratch, was to make it feel authentic to the house—as if it had always been there. The first step was to search high and low for a unique, turn-of-the-century corner sink. Much to our delight, we found a peg-leg one, which is the nirvana of corner sinks! It’s so beautiful, so perfect and so organic and we found it only a few blocks from our NYC apartment. After so much searching, it ends up that it was right under our noses.
Our next dilemma involved finding the faucets, handles, etc. to fit this 113- year-old sink. Kohler to the rescue! They had it all, including the perfect toilet. It seems Kohler is my Branford bathroom fairy godmother!
Next issue—there’s no window in this particular powder room, so how to make the space feel light and charming. The sink goes a long way, and I also rediscovered an antique shell encrusted mirror I had bought years ago. It is the perfect addition to this bathroom with its infinite charm and character.
Going shopping in one’s own storage is quite gratifying to both the soul and the pocketbook. We are also in the midst of trying to decide between sea-chart wallpaper and swimming-fish wallpaper. We have yet to make our decision but I can say, by the time we are done, our little powder room will be a showstopper. Ironically, at this point, it’s the only room that’s fully designed!
Carving out the Kitchen
by Jaqui Lividini
It’s finally time for some of the fun things that go with home renovating, like designing the kitchen! Selecting appliances was first on our agenda. Our kitchen is somewhat cozy (like our house). So finding the perfect appliances is super important. Our goal—to find the largest appliances possible that would not overwhelm our intimate space.
We looked at everything on the market (and I do mean EVERYTHING) and finally settled on Electrolux. Their appliances seem to be just what we are looking for—all the right shapes, sizes, finishes and add-ons. For example, originally we needed a refrigerator for a space that was 30-inches wide. Ultimately we felt that a 36-inch-wide fridge would be more appropriate for our family, so we had to squeeze 6 additional inches out of the cabinet next to it, compromising storage space. That was a big and difficult decision for us. Then the question of add-ons surfaced—who knew refrigerators had accessories? Do you want an ice-maker, a juice-maker, a water dispenser, a French door or a side by side? Will there be a freezer on the bottom, side or top? There were a million choices.
So far, surprisingly enough, we’ve been really careful about not getting add-ons that we were just never going to use (clearly I exercise more responsibility with fridge accessorizing than my own!) I had to think about things that make the most sense. So the verdict was a 36-inch stainless-steel French door refrigerator with an ice-maker and water-dispenser. Rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?
The next item on our agenda—the stove. I was very particular about the stove. It had to be a slide-in style with no backsplash, which is one piece and gives the kitchen a cleaner look. Since we selected a mirror backsplash for the stove, it was ultra important to find this slide-in feature. Electrolux made the perfect one in the form of a dual-fuel range, both gas and electric.
The last big item was the dishwasher, and what was most important to me was one with a custom wood front panel so that it would disappear into the cabinets.
We are extremely happy with all of our selections, and with the simplicity of Electrolux. There were enough add-ons and customization options, but not so many to make my brain hurt . . . or my wallet!
This week is all about lighting, the next project among our never-ending scope of projects!
Surprise! The house has an antiquated electrical system, so everything needs to be rewired. This means we now have to start from scratch, an exciting but complex process. We have to figure out which rooms need lights and what type of lights they need.
The first step was to go room-by-room and attempt to picture each room during both the day and night. It helps to envision the function of each room–will we be primarily working or relaxing?
After function comes aesthetic: We need to answer questions such as whether a light should be recessed, a sconce, a pendant, or even a lamp. Then what will the switches look like? That was easy–we decided on vintage mother-of-pearl button switches from a favorite source of ours, Rejuvenation Hardware.
Next comes the question of where the switches and outlets should go. It’s all quite complicated and takes time; each room is a project unto itself.
The house has great light to begin with: It’s filled with amazing natural light due to the reflection from the water. So we spent the weekend with our second family–our Design Development gurus and our brilliant designer Charles Riley– and went room-by-room to analyze which type of lighting we wanted. We also needed to take into consideration what is acceptable for the budget, which always seems to rear its ugly head. It’s tough setting limits here because lighting is such a crucial element in the creation of ambiance.
After all of our initial traumas, however, it’s nice to work on the icing-on-the-cake elements of an already great house!
Now that the house is lifted, it’s time to get down to everyone’s least favorite part of renovating–the budget! Surprise, surprise (I bet you never would have guessed after reading this saga), we’ve found ourselves terribly over budget. I spent the weekend looking at every minuscule detail of work being done on the house, trying to reduce costs. I like to think of it as trimming the excess. The problem is you have to make such profound decisions, such as whether or not to move the furnace to the attic in order to make more room in the pantry. Is that worth the expense? Or whether there should be stairs off the back deck, or whether you need an outside shower–can you do those things now or later?
There are things that have to happen, things that don’t have to happen, and then things you can decide to do now or later (possibly procrastinating on an inevitable cost). It’s an arduous task, especially when you’re slightly obsessed with aesthetic in general: Specific taste is both a blessing and a curse in home renovation! There were so many things on the design front that John and I wanted–a wood stove, for example. It’s expensive and not necessarily necessary, but there was such an appeal for us in winter, looking out at the water while cozying up to a wood stove. All in all, you really have to envision yourself living in the house in order to make the right decisions. The budget is always where the dream slips out the door for a moment and reality sets in; finding the balance between the two is key.
By Jaqui Lividini
This week miracles occurred: The house is finally lifted!
What was once a house set firmly on the ground is now 9 feet in the air and it’s pretty spectacular. I thought I’d hate it, but I’ve ended up loving it. It’s a completely different house now; it’s not necessarily a cottage-style house anymore, but it has such incredible presence at its new height.
My team at Design Development did a spectacular job….but now the real work begins. They’re pouring cement floors, constructing piers, and building walls around the base; basically it’s like constructing a house under a house.
The lift, though, was a very pleasant surprise. I’d been anxious about it for months, making the DD team crazy, but upon seeing the new lifted house from across the harbor on our drive in, I knew everything was right with the world once again. At this point in my saga of renovation, that smoothness has been a jarring, surprising, and most pleasant experience!
This week we went to visit our cottage, anticipating it being suspended ten feet in the air. Surprise, surprise, we found it still very much grounded (literally). Because really, things can never go smoothly at this point, right? That would go against everything this blog has been about!
The problem, we discovered, is that the house is set on a stone foundation, causing the lifters to determine that it would be cleaner to lift it from the middle rather than the bottom. So now there are rows and rows of huge steel beams going through my sweet seaside cottage. Actually, the inside looks less like a house now and more like a tic-tac-toe board. My crackerjack team at Design Development determined this was the most efficient process. I thought after finally getting the permits the lifting would be painless; wow, was this renovator wrong.
As you know, the house is old. It’s been around since 1901, so they really had to be delicate. Sadly, there were a couple of casualties: The staircase gave out when they put the steel beams through the house. I can’t help but think that my dream house is completely vacant and vulnerable right now. All the shrubbery and stones surrounding the house had to be cleared to make room for the lifting equipment, giving the house a spooky abandoned feeling–more nightmare than dream.
So finally (we’re told), today’s the day they’re lifting, and we’ll see how it turned out on Saturday when we go back to take a look. It’s a scary thing, almost like when a person you love goes into surgery. It may sound dramatic, but let’s face it, this house has been a long…long, labor of love.
By Jaqui Lividini
The lifting saga has finally come to a close, with the house finally being lifted Thursday. I’ll be going up over the weekend to see how that goes. This is so exciting to me—the lifting process has taken so long to actually come to fruition that I can barely believe it’s happening!
Next week, though, we have the always stressful big budget meeting. When it comes to renovations, whatever the budget is supposed to be; it never actually is. That’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. Every problem has a price tag attached, and as you well know, this house had a lot of problems…and a lot of price tags. When we first started, we weren’t lifting the house so that added a big element to the price. We’re really trying to figure out how we can actually afford the renovation. We’re tempering our plans, because when you do a renovation like this, it’s not like moving into a house and renovating just one room. You’re doing everything at once! It’s a big chunk of change to chew off at once.. Even a creative dreamer like myself simply cannot get carried away when renovating. The budget must always be top of mind. I’m constantly toeing that line between being a passionate renovator and a calculated businesswoman…let’s just hope the balance works out.
By Jaqui Lividini
It’s rare in a house renovation that there’s literally nothing to report. This week, unfortunately, that rare fact rings true. Everything is at a standstill! We’re still waiting for the town to approve raising the house, and I can’t express how disappointed I am. I figured when we came back from vacation, when I was still recovering from my bracelet loss, I’d at least come home to a lifted house. In my state of deflation I was so looking forward to seeing the house elevated. But we came back to see that the raising still hasn’t been approved.
We’ve been at this since April—I guess that’s what happens when you renovate. The best-laid plans go awry: I thought I’d be enjoying the house this summer and it’s not even halfway done. Design Development is at a halt, everyone is on hold, and it’s a frustrating standstill. Looks like by the time I move into my house the Christmas tree will have to be in tow…if I’m lucky.