Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Studio Completion!

Well, like all design projects (and for the sake of argument, I'm going to say "all"), ours has come to an end. And, the story did have a happy ending! It really came down to the wire to get ready for our open house, but everyone stepped up to the plate at the last minute and got the work done.

Here are our completed doors, all hardware installed. You may recall that according to the Architectural Review Commission guidelines, the facade of our studio basically had to look like a garage. Well, there's a garage in there somewhere, if you look close enough.

This is the completed porch that Carpenter Doug constructed. Love the railing detail! Matches the back porch on our house perfectly!

Here is the porch from the other angle, showing the pergola detail above the studio door.

And this may be my favorite view of all! Why....? Look close. No more window air conditioner! Yes, we even got our LG Neo Plasma unit running properly. It took three more trips by the installation company, but it's running like a top now! We love it.

Tomorrow, I promise to honor the request of a reader in San Diego and show some interior shots. (Hey, that reader just happens to be my sister. And believe me, when she asks for something, she gets it!)

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Bright New Day! (And A Bright New Kitchen)

Okay, I know you've been on the edge of your seat since Friday. So, here's your payoff.

What better way to start this posting than with a picture of Bob Ballard, the "cabinet wizard" from Environstudio who crafted and installed the cabinetry and trim for the remodel. Compare the bright white cabinets and the beautiful soft green paint color, and how it brightens the whole feel of the kitchen.

As in the dining room, I love the way the rich dark flooring makes the cabinetry and trim stand out just that much more!
This is another good example of how you can create a kitchen that is beautiful, functional, and totally appropriate for a home of any vintage.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Face Blurred to Protect the Innocent

We looked at some pictures of the beautiful completed dining room at this project yesterday. Well, here it ain't so pretty.

When this home was purchased by our clients, it came with what was undoubtedly a very serviceable-though dated-kitchen. Dark cabinets, fluorescent strip lighting,old appliances and laminate counter tops. Definitely looks like a job for Super-Chip! Working hand-in-hand with the homeowners, Chip came up with a bright new kitchen plan that is far more functional and efficient. That, coupled with exquisite cabinetry by Bob Ballard of Environstudio, worked to create an amazing new space.

Here's what the homeowners moved into.

Anxious to see what was done with this one, aren't you? Well, sorry to leave you with a cliff-hanger on a Friday afternoon...but isn't that what all the best programs do...?

Don't miss more "after" photos on Monday!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dining Room Redo

I wanted to show you some before and after photos of a recent project we've been working on. In future postings, I'll show you more of the kitchen and landscaping which were our direct design projects...but if you're like me, I know you'll enjoy seeing some of the "fluffing" that happens after the construction.

Here is a before photo of the dining room. As you can see, the home had existing beautiful mill-work window trims, door openings and wainscoting. "All" that was needed was new paint, wall covering, rich flooring and furnishings! (Yeah...that's all!)

Okay...almost overnight, ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan! Well, maybe not overnight. I especially like the rich window treatments against the tone-on-tone striped wall covering. And against that dark stained floors....oh so nice!

Can you not just see yourself seated around this gorgeous table, dark outside, chandelier twinkling, champagne flute in hand...? Oops...sorry. I gotta snap out of it!

By the way, this is one of the homes that will be featured on our Autumn Home Tour on November 8th. You can find details at tour

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Last Minute Details--or Something Like That!

We're doing all the last minute (whether we like that or not!) details to get ready for our Design Studio open house this weekend. As you can see, the porch is almost completed, and the pergola has gone up over the door, matching the detailing of the pergola over our patio.

Painting is almost done. Hardware was installed on the garage doors....for a few minutes! After looking at it for a couple of days, Chip decided he didn't like the placement of the door handles. So, off they come! (Nobody bothered to ask me where they should go when they were installing. What's up with that?!) Not to worry. The holes were quickly filled, and will be sanded and painted over tomorrow. Then, the handles will be re-installed, and of course everyone will be happy! (2 steps forward, and 1/2 step back...but that's still progress! Am I the only one that lives with one of these ...?)

Now if we could only get the house painters to finish. (Anybody remember Elton from Murphy Brown??) The last thing that they did last Friday afternoon was put a second coat of oil base paint on the front and back porch...about 2 hours before a huge downpour. You know what they say about oil and water, right? So, try again! We're gonna get there, I just know it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Shade Garden Gone Wild

We're closing in on the construction phase of our new studio, and it was time to spruce up the garden. What we are experiencing in our garden is a two-fold problem that can be common in any garden, but I think possibly even more so in the south, where there is no real winter.

Our trees and many of our shrubs in the garden have grown quite tall. This means lots of shade, and lots of bare space under the branches. Under-story planting can be tough since some areas of our garden would almost be considered "forest floor" in their shade level.

I chose a couple of plants that should do quite well. I also asked Joe Argentine to make sure that I could get fairly mature plants. If your new plants are too large, it can be next to impossible to dig holes large enough when you're working around existing root systems. On the other hand, if they're too small they might fail before they get up into the light. The Viburnum suspensum that I have used along the studio wall and fence is a staple in Florida. Very hardy in shade and full sun. By now, it almost rings the perimeter of our lot, so I consider it an anchor plant.

The short feather plant, Asparagus meyeri or "Foxtail Fern" has a wonderfully soft look to the foliage, and I really like the texture.

Also, the bright green color-almost chartreuse-really brightens the space down at that level. The cleaning up and replanting also really shows off the great branch shapes of the Lugustrum.

All in all, I was a happy gardener at the end of this planting day!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Your Questions Answered

This week we're doing our "Can We Help?" section on a Friday.

A reader in New Orleans sent some pictures and asked for advice. He is in the situation of needing to replace the dishwasher and wanting to make some changes to the kitchen, but definitely not ready for a whole kitchen gut and redo.

In trying to make a change with impact, and still leaving most existing components, the first suggestion would be paint. It's cheap and it's easy. (That's if you don't ask the painters who just had to paint our kitchen cabinets....5 times.) I suggest trying a warm brown or tan for the walls that would go with the trim piece around the existing counter tops. Then, probably a lighter shade of the same color for the ceiling.

They have 2 large windows, and I suggested ditching the cold, white mini-blinds, and trying Roman shades in a matchstick or bamboo. These would immediately add a lot of warmth and texture to the room. Also, if there is access for electric in the ceiling, a couple of pendant lights would really give the room some personality.

As we all know (only too well!), one redo project can often lead to another, and another and... After paint and blinds, I would step back in this room and try to evaluate, "Is that enough for now?" If not, there are companies such as Granite Transformations that can put granite right over existing counter tops. I have no experience with them, but am interested in seeing how it works. (Hey New Orleans reader, wanna be a Guinea Pig??) Also, repainting the cabinet doors would be nice, but if they're not wood, getting the paint to stick and not chip under wear might be an issue.

Paint companies such as Benjamin Moore now make sample sizes in many colors so bring a bunch home, try them on the wall, and look at them several times during the day in different light. You can make a personality change, in the blink of an eye. (That's the kitchen...not you! You're perfect just the way you are!)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Studio progress

Well, we're coming down to the wire. Yes, it may still be a "thick" wire, but we're getting close to the finish line at our new studio. The porch is going in, which means no more leaping trenches and wading through sand to get in!

Here's our Carpenter Doug pouring concrete for the porch supports

You remember what your mother always said...."A dirty carpenter is a happy carpenter!"

The next day he is doing the framing and posts for the railing. Yes, I know it's tiny and doesn't need a railing, but hey, we're all about the details, right?

And no, those are not the actual floor boards. Doug just put these down for us to have something to step on until the real McCoys go in!

Finish in sight...I can almost smell it. Or that smell the kitchen painting that's been going on in the house now for a week....oh,more on that to come!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Word From Our Sponsor

Hey, just wanted to let everyone know (or remind you!) that we are having an open house at our new design studio on Saturday, September 26th.
We'll be opening the studio for all to see, along with our home and garden. Even better, we'll be serving drinks and h'ors d'oeuvres! What can be wrong with that?

All are welcome, and feel free to bring friends.
Saturday, September 26th
914 S Oregon Avenue, Tampa
6:00-9:00 P.M.
(813) 251-8862 for details or directions

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One Grecian Urn...Two Grecian Urns...

Okay, these are NOT Grecian Urns. (And, for those of you who are theatre-trivia-challenged, that is a very silly reference to The Music Man.)

In a previous posting you saw this landscape shortly after installation, and the brick pads awaiting these 4 great urns.

Well, true to the word of Michael Jones at Pondscapes, they arrived, and were picked up by Joe Argentine Landscaping. I really love the way they blend with the plantings and fountain. Next step is the planting. More fluff!! This will be done by Missy as a housewarming/welcome-to-Tampa gift from Interior Spaces. (Woops...I may have just spoiled that surprise.) I'll get more pictures once the planting has been done.

Monday, September 14, 2009

No Devil In These Details

As is the case with many projects as this remodel gets near the end, all of the beautiful details begin to appear.

You've been following as the painting, resurfacing, landscaping, cabinetry, etc, came together here. Now for the fluffing! One of my favorite embellishments on this project is this rich wall covering in the powder bath.

A difficult angle to capture, and I assure you my photo doesn't do this gorgeous paper justice. The deep red is almost a purple, and in the glittering light of this "not too dainty" little chandelier, the gold actually looks like gold leaf! A wonderful little marble-topped vanity (not pictured) pulls this all together.

So, I said no "Devil" in these details...but maybe a little evil sprite! I've been anxious to show you pictures of the installed appliances...but, there were a couple of problems.

As you can see, the dishwasher is in, and all is well. (Blue stretch wrap over stainless front until last minute.) But the amazing 6-burner stove doesn't quite slide into the allotted opening. Just a matter of simple adjustments by the cabinet makers, but until then, you'll just have to imagine what it will look like in place! (Along with me.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Storage solution-Custom Furniture

We've offered some ideas for storage solutions, and here's one that many people might never think of. Custom furniture! Sounds expensive, but it doesn't have to be.

These homeowners needed a very specific sized piece of furniture for their bedroom, and it needed to have very specific functions. (For some reason, Ethan Allen doesn't seem to make an 84" long, 15" deep chest, with bins for laundry, and drop down doors for electronics.)

By finding out exactly how they wanted to use the furniture piece, and taking very exact measurements, we were able to design a piece that met all their needs. And because we had it custom built, we could even have it stained to match other pieces in the room.
This handsome piece was constructed from mahogany by a local woodworker. The three large doors in front drop down to accommodate separated laundry (red socks+white t-shirts = pink t-shirts.....bad!), and of the 3 drawer fronts, 2 drop down to accommodate electronics for TV etc, and the third is actually a drawer.

I think as consumers we forget that furniture was actually hand-made in little shops like this long before it was manufactured in factories. And this was surprisingly affordable...less than you would expect to pay from a furniture store!
I love furniture, and I love furniture that works. I hope the lesson is to always explore your alternatives...there is rarely a need to settle!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Studio Update--New Doors, but hey who needs latches!?

Well, as the work crawls on at our new studio, the doors were finally installed. As I mentioned in an earlier post, to conform to the Historic Guidelines for Hyde Park, the front of the studio had to actually look like a garage. Chip designed these Craftsman-style doors, which were made for us by Castor Cabinets in Tampa. We were lucky that they didn't have to conform to the new strict Hurricane Codes, since they are not considered exterior doors...they only open into a storage space. (Apparently, Tampa doesn't care if all my yard tools get destroyed by a hurricane!)

I do assure you that the doors will not always be held shut by step ladders....door hardware is on the way!

The new entry door was also installed. The light streams in all day long, but especially in the afternoon, since this side faces west.

The siding is going up, and the new exterior lights (matching our other garden lights from Restoration Hardware) have been installed. The funny "U" shaped piece above the door is where the pergola piece will be attached. Now we wait for the porch deck at the entrance. Our terriers are tired of jumping all that way up to the new office space!

Unfortunately, we've still got some problems brewing. This is what we get when our brand new LG wall AC unit breaks down.

Classy, ain't it?!

And, here is the day-to-day mess we still face every time we walk out the back door. (Trust me, the camera actually makes it look kind of, well, "pretty".)

Hey...we're almost there though! I should have pictures for you with paint next time!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

One-upped by the contractor!

Well, I think this may be a first! As we all know, Chip is famous for putting every square inch of a space to good use. This time, Bill of William Stone Contracting may have trumped us.

As is often the case of the really good builders, they love woodworking, and "messing" with things. In this first photo, you see Bill standing in front of the handsome, newly-tiled fireplace and hearth. I especially like the way the thick wood mantel, which matches the wood floor stain, sits on top of the hefty bull-nose tiles. (This picture was taken before the tile was grouted.)

When I walked back into the room after taking other pictures, these Jewel-box like doors had been opened to reveal all this "secret" CD-DVD storage!

Well done Bill! But, would you expect anything less from a guy who wears such cool shoes? Hey, are those a size 7-1/2 by any chance?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Garden Idea

Often, great ideas are born out of necessity, right? It's perfect when you can come up with an elegant solution to a problem as mundane as outdoor privacy. And Missy has done just that here!

In order to block the view to the neighbors and still allow adequate air-flow on the porch and balcony, these beautiful trellis treatments were created. Remember, "blocking the view" doesn't necessarily mean a solid wall, or thick hedge. We can actually trick the eye by putting up a partial barrier, and you won't pay attention to what's beyond.

This same idea can be used to top a solid fence. In our neighborhood, we have a 6' maximum fence height rule. But, we are not restricted from putting something such as open trellis above that. This in itself may be adequate to stop your eye, or of course plants can be grown onto the fence and trellis for a more complete block.

In our own garden, we let the vines grow on the fence, but I really like to keep the rusted iron trellis pieces bare. I have the hardest time getting Chip out there to do this trimming...I mean, it's the only thing I ask! Well, almost.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Countertops delivered!

It's always a really exciting day when the kitchen counter tops are installed. During the trip to the stone yard to select slabs this homeowner was captivated by this truly unusual piece of marble. Though the original plan was to make all the counter tops from black stone, this discovery led to what I think will really make this kitchen an absolute gem! Being predominantly dark it will certainly make sense with the perimeter counter tops, but it's unique coloring and veining will make this island become a great focal point.

The stone slabs can be chosen at any time during the design process, but the final measuring is not done until the cabinet bases are installed. Then the marble company creates their templates, and the stone is cut to size before delivery. Final fitting and necessary alterations are of course done on sight.

This puts the homeowners a huge step forward towards their fast-approaching move-in date.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Your questions answered! Storage

A reader sent us a question, asking how they might find more bathroom storage. You know, I can just hear that Cavewife asking her Cavehusband, "Where am I supposed to put all this stuff?!" A question as old as time. Every case will be different, but there might be some solutions that you have passed by, that we can help you find!

We designed this custom cabinet for a recent bathroom renovation project. Now, before you're scared off by the word "custom", it doesn't have to mean expensive. In this case, we went to a local woodworker, and were able to get several cabinets made at a great price. By taking this cabinet all the way to the ceiling, we gave the homeowners a lot of extra storage. This cabinet was 15" deep and 36" wide, but even a 12" deep cabinet would accommodate a lot, and could fit into a pretty tight space.

Here are a couple of other storage ideas:

Hate all those shampoo bottles and soap dishes in your shower. (I can't be the only one who uses 3 different kinds of shampoo, plus conditioner.) Your contractor can build in a shampoo niche between the wall studs, or you can buy the shell premade from such companies as The premade niche is already fully waterproofed for extra protection, then the tile is applied just as it is in the rest of the shower enclosure.

These not-so-traditional medicine cabinets from are actually equipped with a picture frame to display your own art or photograph. The frame swings open, just like a normal medicine cabinet, to reveal great storage. (Oh, if only those Valley of the Dolls gals had had these!)

This above-toilet cabinet was also custom-made to go to the ceiling. These cabinets are traditionally 8-10" deep, but as in all bathroom storage, the taller the better!

Hope these tips might offer you some food for thought. Be sure to send us your questions, and our Saturday postings can be all about you! Send your queries to
More storage solutions to come!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Nobody knows the troubles......

I may have mentioned that like many projects, ours has been fraught with problems. Even what on paper may seem like a very simple design (4 walls, a ceiling, a few windows, and a couple of doors!), there is much more "behind the walls" than we know about...till later.

Hey, this doesn't look like the door that was in our design drawing, and should have been ordered...about 4 months ago!! Well, the real door came in too short, too narrow, and swung the wrong way! (Otherwise, it was fine.) We're growing kind of fond of this temporary door and padlock. Has a real homey look, don't you think?

Our brand new LG, wall-hung air conditioner worked great! Well, right up until it didn't work at about the 6th day of use.

These are the kinds of things that might happen on any project...but why ours?! (This cannot be Karmic justice!)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The price we pay!

Aside from just generally being a BIG MESS, this project has really taken a toll on our garden! (I won't even start on the relationship toll!) Upgraded power had to be brought from the house, which meant trenching 24" deep the 50' or so to the new studio. Much of this trench went right through our brick patio. (Luckily, it was only sand-set, not cemented.)

This is what happens when you dig a trench in Florida during the rainy season, and it's left open...FOR WEEKS! (Oops, did I sound unhappy?)

This is the trench we either leap over, or fall into to get into the studio door each morning. Oh, when will it all be over?!