A Leather District Kitchen

>> Monday, April 21, 2014

Last summer I was contacted by a new client who was moving from Manhattan to Boston to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren. She had just purchased a loft in Boston's Leather District and wanted help renovating her kitchen and bathroom. Here is the before:

The kitchen was not terrible (the bathroom was, I will show you that later) but the big fail was that it looked like a typical condo kitchen shoved in the corner of this huge, open, wonderful space. Loft spaces are not about hard lines defining this area from that. They are about seamless flow and spaces that spill over into the next. The whole is definitely greater than the sum of it's parts.

So my goal with re-designing this space was to break it up and weave the kitchen space into the rest of this massive living space. We eliminated the overhead cabinets that were sadly hiding the beautiful, original columns.  We relocated that storage space to large plate drawers in the base cabinets, full height pantry storage on the refrigerator wall, and a series of open shelves for everyday use. The kitchen footprint was enlarged and centered on the two columns it awkwardly straddled in the before shots. We built out a second pantry/storage unit in the space directly facing the kitchen area and painted the original factory door, which you can only see in the before photos by the hula-hoop that hangs on it, a chalky black. And after I begged and pleaded we kept that gorgeous, gorgeous floor.

Here is the after:
The Boston Globe ran a piece on this kitchen yesterday and I think they nailed it when describing the ins and outs of this specific project. My two sentence summary would be: City work is hard, but city work is fun. Helping showcase people's best personal style can be hard, but helping showcase people's best personal style is fun.
Thank you Doug Most for writing the article and thank you Michael J. Lee for the beautiful photos. 


Who Is Your Favorite Character in Frozen?

>> Sunday, April 13, 2014

To their mama's delight, the Frozen bug has bitten the Sabbe boys. We recently asked Remi who his favorite character was, figuring he would say Anna since he's been walking around for the past two weeks singing "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" BUT his actual answer..."the stairs". And if giving birth to him was not proof enough, I knew in that moment, he was my child.
Who doesn't like a well designed staircase?
He also calls it "Frozens" which I find equally adorable. Year three may be the cutest yet.


Let's Just Stare a While

>> Saturday, March 29, 2014

For a long time now I've been really into collecting paintings of strangers. I purchased my first, five years ago at a little antique shop on the Cape. We used to think it was weird. Bryan and I would tell people that the portrait was the Remi Sabbe that we named our oldest after [white lies].  But then, before Christmas, I bought myself the book, Humans of New York. I had not seen the Facebook page and only came across it after reading a rec from Joanna Goddard's blog. The moment it came in the mail, I sat down on the sofa and devoured it. I could not look up. It was beautiful and touching and it was basically portraits of total strangers. And since the book is a New York Times best seller, I have come to the conclusion, we all like to look at strangers. Whether in photograph or on a canvas, there is something intimate about being able to look at someone, study them, ponder who they are, and where they've been, with no hurry to look away.


And here is a creepy man who made it into one of my recent project shoots. 
The one on the wall, not in the tub:) Just kidding Michael!
True story, I remember being out to eat as a child and getting told not to stare. In that moment I remember thinking "I cannot wait until I grow up. I'm going to stare at anyone I want, as long as I want"  I think my social skills have slightly improved, but some things never change. You people fascinate me.

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>> Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Did I ever show you guys pictures of the coffee shop I finished over a year ago? My friend Rachel posted an instagram of it last week and it made me wonder if I ever showed the completed project? 
Here was the rendering I posted.
And here are a few quick shots I took a few days before she opened. 
 I had a really cool shelving unit designed for that niche where the Odwalla cooler is. Darn you, Odwalla rep and your "free" refrigerators, you ruined my life that week. I got over it.
If you remember, my client told me she wanted it to look "country". Which both scared me and, being from the South, excited me. She's from Montana, different kind of country. Country ended up being embodied by the toile wallpaper, which made my life long Southern Living reading heart happy. Not a lot of toile in Boston.

The frames are Ikea and I printed black and white images of the coffee bean growers she purchases from for $3/image at Kinkos. The picture rail really made me happy and gave us a nice point to terminate the wallpaper. The chairs are from Overstock, and I found the tables on Craig's List for $200. The benches are two church pews, also from Craig's List, $50. The flooring is VCT, the cheapest flooring in the whole world. I do not try to make it my calling card or anything, but I can find a good deal:)
The work counters are butcher block. The fascade is sort of a modified ships lap. She could not afford to do real hardwood floors, so this was my way of kind of adding that element back in.
For anyone curious, we used Corian Raincloud and it's held up fabulously to 
probably thousands of coffee spills.
The lights are from Ikea. I wish I would have cleaned that sneeze guard before I took this one:)
This is not an old building. It's a new building actually, built to replace a building that burned down. But there were two little slivers of brick from the facade that were exposed when it was just studs and I told the contractor that we had to keep those. And so we did. And they are my favorite corners.
The lights are hard to see in this shot but they are from Home Depot, the Home Decorators collection. When we walk by at night on our way home from our city garden it makes me so happy to look inside here.
Little story about the curtains; in commercial spaces you have to use fire rated fabrics. As I have spelled out in the above, this project was on a shoe string budget, but I really thought she needed some little curtains. So I found some inexpensive gingham, sprayed it with THIS spray we found on Amazon. We had to pay to have it tested per fabric, thus the reason we went sans lining. But it passed! I was pumped. It was the cherry on top of my super budget cake.
Commercial bathrooms are never that cute, but these walls are still my favorite. 
 I would love to get a real photographer in here, but one lesson I have learned is; if you are going to shoot a commercial space, like a coffee shop, do it before it opens. The space was actually on an episode of the show House Hunters. We have basic cable so I did not get to see it, but it aired late last year. The couple was house hunting in Boston and chose to visit Neighborhoods to "get to know the area" a little better. House Hunters also filmed in one of the condos I renovated last year in Brookline. Isn't that weird? Two totally unrelated projects.

But go check it out yourself! Neighborhoods Cafe. 96 Peterborough St. in Fenway. The Spanish latte is the bomb.


Sneak Peek: Before and After

>> Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I have a project in Cambridge that will give all of you before and after junkies a good fix. We started renovating the last un-renovated bathroom yesterday and my sweet, pregnant client said the sound of swinging hammers was the most wonderful sound she heard all day...a light at the end of the construction tunnel.

But here is a peek. This cabinet was here. It made me sad to think of ripping it out. It was not gorgeous, or very functional. But I am always for saving solid millwork when possible.

So we (my clients are very design savvy)  re-thought it a bit, and whala. The cabinet lives on.
Can't wait to share more from this project! 
It will make you want to buy a 1980's condo and make some magic happen.


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