It is hard to believe we are already six weeks into our Linville mountain house renovation project! Through this ever-evolving, long-distance design process of many Facetime meetings with our contractor, calls, and photos sent back and forth – I am certainly learning a lot! I always find myself yearning for that next visit to witness the transformation taking place. In discussing our ongoing project with friends and family, I have been reminded of several “Renovation Mantras”. These have been collected over the years and can be valuable advice whether you are redecorating, building, or remodeling:
- “Don’t Rush the Process, Good Things Take Time”
- “Be Flexible”
- “Expect the Unexpected”
“Don’t Rush the Process, Good Things Take Time” – While we all want things done yesterday, experience has taught me that it takes time to let the space organically evolve to achieve the best possible results. I know we all have deadlines (like wanting your home to be perfect for the holidays!) but we will live with the decisions we make regarding design for years to come. It is so incredibly important to take the time to explore your options and think through a number of solutions and possibilities. One of my design goals for our renovation project was to create a feeling of openness and spaciousness, as this was not our home’s initial reality. Our first plan to help achieve this was to demolish the closets on just one side of the entry hallway and add a new window. After several months of discussion, we decided to completely demolish the closets on both sides of the hallway to further open this space up to the living room. There were several compromises along the way, but we are now thrilled with the results, and feel that the wait and process will ultimately be well worth it.
“Be Flexible” – Though this is perhaps the most difficult point for me personally, it is critical to be flexible during a design project. This flexibility comes into play with many aspects of the typical design project, but especially so in 2020. We have all had to stretch our flexibility this year – whether we are told our favorite tile selection is on backorder, lumber prices have skyrocketed, or the weather is simply not cooperative – we have to just roll with these changes and challenges! Of course we can have expectations, but it’s also important to realize that things happen and you can’t control everything. Given the state of affairs in the world right now, it is important (and realistic) to factor in longer lead times, higher prices, and less availability.
“Expect the Unexpected” – I have never been involved in a renovation project that didn’t experience a hiccup, and my project is no different. The very first week on the job, our contractor discovered the Master Bathroom shower pan was leaking and the shower tile needed to be removed. Of the two showers in the home, this was the one we didn’t originally plan to demo. This revelation caused us to look at ways we might take advantage of the unexpected and improve the space. Ultimately we were able to enlarge the Master Bathroom giving us a more functional and visually appealing bathroom retreat. We must focus on the silver linings!
Now with demo complete, several walls removed, ceilings vaulted in two additional rooms, and two windows added – our mountain house is already feeling a bit bigger and brighter. I have an exciting vision in place, and we have begun to select tile, plumbing fixtures, furniture, and lighting (always my favorite!). As exciting as our first phase has been, I can’t wait to begin to put things back together… stay tuned as the next chapter unfolds!
While 2020 has been uniquely challenging and unlike any other, there has also been an unexpected silver lining: it comes in the form of a charming mountain cottage in Linville, North Carolina, and it has captured my heart and attention. This quaint home’s property oozes character and boasts spectacular outdoor living spaces that I find enchanting.
I first visited Linville in 2014; my husband had long spoken about this very special place and surprised me with a weekend getaway. We stayed at The Eseeola Lodge, which did not disappoint with its gorgeous flower gardens, chestnut bark siding clad buildings, cozy interiors, and elegant dining experience. All these characteristics immediately appealed to my senses of wonder and beauty. Never in a million years would I have imagined one day becoming a part of this storied and cherished community!
In mid-March my husband was informed that a Linville home he had previously inquired about was back on the market. To be honest, I approached our first visit with a mindset of skepticism and trepidation. However, I was immediately struck by the beautiful setting, vast potential, multiple outdoor living spaces – and the look of excitement on my husband’s face. It turned out to be love at first sight for both of us, and there was no turning back.
Those who know me know I adore a renovation project. After all, where’s the fun in purchasing a home that is already perfect? I much prefer to find a diamond in the rough and add my own touches. The main challenges in this particular renovation project are that my husband has put me on a strict budget (so I must kick the creativity into high gear!) and managing the project long distance from Nashville.
Additionally, the bedrooms are quite small with low ceilings, and there is literally a narrow “hall of louvered doors” that could make one dizzy just looking at it! Some parts of the ceiling resemble swiss cheese (more can lights than you can imagine) and there is a sea of green shag carpeting that is begging to be removed. All in all, my idea of fun!
Renovations are scheduled to begin this month, and I can hardly wait! I look forward to sharing with you the ideas my staff and I have come up with to give this cozy cottage a much bigger presence and updated feel. With a focus on spaciousness and functionality, we hope to document the renovation process and give you a first row seat to the good, the bad, and the ugly, inherent in all renovation projects. So please join me as we learn about “Linville Living” together.
Maison Pierre Frey, founded in 1935, is a luxury fabric and wallcovering manufacturer, long known for creating custom textiles and patterns inspired by classical and contemporary art. While in Paris earlier this year, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to tour their Archives – and I jumped at the chance!
Read on for an excerpt of my journal entry from this day, and to see a photo gallery of images from this special visit:
After a quick cab ride to the Pierre Frey Paris headquarters, Emma and I were introduced to Sophie Rouart who was to be our guide. Sophie was the most lovely, knowledgeable and passionate resource on French history and textiles specifically. As it turned out, Sophie is an art historian as well as co-author of a book on Toiles de Jouy. She has managed the archives at Pierre Frey since 2003 in a space that meets museum quality standards. Each historic fabric (some dating back to the 16th century) has been micro-cleaned, inventoried, and then filed in dedicated drawers. Sophie’s narrative during our tour, delivered in excellent English, was incredibly interesting and dovetailed beautifully with my knowledge of French antiques. She lovingly handled each historic piece with gloves and showed me how these relics have inspired their most current collections. Often, the company looks to these historic pieces for pattern and texture and then updates or changes the colorway. Sophie also demonstrated how the hand blocking techniques were performed and pointed out the resulting imperfections. Today, when copying these old hand blocked patterns, the company intentionally prints these imperfections to give authenticity to the new fabric. It was then time for even more “show and tell” with antique garments constructed from Pierre Frey fabrics, old design mood boards, and even a 3D paper room model. Our time with Sophie passed much too quickly but I will never forget her kindness, the gorgeous and colorful fabrics, and Pierre Frey’s ability to partner with designers to reproduce any of their archived fabrics in ANY color. What a gift!
It is no secret that I have a weakness for antiques. In fact, the majority of my design clients seek me out because I love to mix old and new. While many people appreciate this curated look, the actual execution can be tricky and does take some mastery. I am often asked, “how do I use antiques in my home without it feeling like a museum?” or “which antiques are still in and which should be parted with?”. I have never been a fan of matchy-matchy modern interiors or stuffy antique-ridden spaces, but instead opt for a well thought-out and blended approach. I have always had an appreciation for many different time periods and styles, and believe a piece can be inspiring and beautiful regardless of its provenance.
Successful spaces are all about contrast. Bringing in an antique with warm, rich patina or a chipped, painted finish instantly creates a layered feeling. This communicates that the furnishings and details have been collected over time, and not just purchased all at once. A quote by Stephen Covey that I whole-heartedly echo states, “strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” Simplicity and complexity need each other to fully appreciate both; new and old help each other to shine in interiors.
I, like many of my clients, live for that wonderfully collected, unique mix! While striking a perfect balance is often a challenge, I strive to create juxtaposition, tension, and interest in all of my design projects. Read on to see how I embrace opposites, and why I think mixing old and new is a match made in heaven!
Contrast is Key: Place your treasured vintage collection on display near your favorite contemporary art piece, or showcase a contemporary lamp on an antique chest. Keeping these contrasting items in a few concentrated areas of the home will ensure they look sophisticated and not cluttered. In view, these pieces can play off each other, telling a story in your space – and not to mention are a striking conversation piece.
Thoughtful Updates: I am always going for a look that feels considered – not chaotic. One of my favorite ways to mix old and new is to reupholster an antique furniture piece in a more contemporary fabric. You might also consider simply adding a vintage light fixture or mirror to a more contemporary vignette. It’s amazing how adding just one antique can instantly change the energy in a room, and help the more current pieces to shine.
Cohesion through Unity: Grouping decorative objects, old and new, by a shared quality is a helpful tactic. For instance, creating a vignette of accessories in a cohesive color palette will unify the items, and be more visually pleasing. This juxtaposition will bring about an element of the unexpected, but with the unifying quality this won’t feel mishmashed or jarring.
I think it is so important to surround yourself with things you love. After all, our homes are where we find comfort and recharge. A well orchestrated “mix” can spark inspiration, joy, and energy. Both fashionable and fresh, collected and curated – the mixing of old and new will always be the hallmark of my design style. Good, versatile design is happily at home among both contemporary and antiquity.
While life is certainly looking different these days, I have truly enjoyed the opportunity to spend more time in my own home and focus on what matters most. What does home really mean? For me, it is a place of safety, refuge, and family. I find rest, joy, and comfort there. But over time, doesn’t everything, even our safe haven, become cluttered and affected by the distractions and busyness of life? I have always been one to adhere to a “Spring Cleaning” of sorts, but now more than ever I am inclined to get my “nest” clean and tidy to counteract the chaos surrounding us. While there is much work to be done, it’s nothing a little elbow grease and dedicated attention cannot handle. The season of fresh, new beginnings starts now!
There are many practical and psychological reasons to give your home some much needed love, so “Spring into Clean” and reap the benefits:
- Say Goodbye to Winter: It’s official – winter blues be gone, spring is upon us! With this new season always comes more activity, both inside and outside of the home. For that reason, it’s time to dust off the furniture, deep clean, scrub and organize, declutter your surfaces, open up the windows, and give your home a breath of fresh air! Purging your home of these toxins gives your mind a sense of renewal as well. You’ll reap the many psychological benefits of the annual rhythm of Spring Cleaning. Productivity, peace of mind, and overall well-being will likely be impacted for the better.
- Take Control: While there is so much going on right now that is totally out of our control, it is important to focus on things we can manage, like our homes! We can absolutely take the reins of getting our houses in order. Environment is always incredibly important, but especially so right now when we’re spending so much of our time in the same place. Reduce stress in your surroundings, and get a boost of energy as well. Another huge plus? It is free. Of course, enlist professionals (or your family) to help if need be; but you would be hard-pressed to find a more helpful and impactful active step to take, at potentially zero cost! A win-win.
- Interior Refresh: Perhaps you’ve been contemplating some small home updates, or even a total home makeover with professional design help. In either case, I recommend a major decluttering effort to give yourself a blank slate. It is important to first subtract before adding anything new. The best way to set the stage for an upcoming interior refresh is to honestly and thoroughly edit the old. Let the excitement of what’s to come motivate you to complete this often dreaded task. While we have this rare opportunity, let’s not miss this important first step of the design process and take advantage of our time at home!
I know as well as anyone, working on your home is a process. So much intention and care must be applied to add layers of character, personality, and organization. It can be overwhelming to even think about tackling Spring Cleaning, but perhaps these benefits will help encourage you to just start somewhere. Especially now, it is more than just a heavy duty clean – this can be a way to feel grateful for what we have, cherish those things which are important to us, and inspire a sense of rebirth. Perhaps a fresh start this Spring is just what we all need!