a home that says ‘e komo mai’

In February, we introduced you to the Emerald project, a Nantucket interior remodel for a family who just moved here from Hawaii. They wanted a modern update for their Omaha residence, one that would showcase their love of books and collection of souvenirs from around the world.

Drumroll, please…we’re finished! Time for show and tell:

Storage galor’age’
This project was all about creating custom pieces, and this little storage unit is one of my favorites. It used  to be a doorway that led from the family’s living room to the garage hallway. The family desperately needed a “drop zone” for coats, shoes and backpacks. Now they can leave their winter coats by the garage instead of hauling them through the kitchen/dining room/living room to hang them in the front closet. (Chances are, they’d never make it that far.)

Double duty
The home’s sun room also serves an office. Our custom chest of drawers and shelving unit allow the client to hide her office supplies and display her books, which serve as inspiration when she’s working. This custom chest has file drawers, a printer pull out and plenty of space for paper, pens and you name it. Cool, huh?

On trend and functional
In addition to being on trend, barn doors are an awesome way to close off an area without taking up too much floor space. This door was originally a swing door that you couldn’t open if the front door was open – a design no no. If you have enough wall space and you don’t want to tear up an existing wall to insert a pocket door, the barn door is your answer. The other cool thing about them? You can use them as an accent/art piece. Versatile, versatile, versatile!

Groovy grid
If you’re ever looking to tie a room’s woodwork and walls together as one unit, paint everything white. We also added a grid pattern on the walls with flat boards to create some interest without overpowering the rest of the space.

Reading is fundamental
Custom bookshelves for the living room were a must – the entire family loves to read and enjoys adding to their collection. We also used them to create a second focal point in the room – they draw your eye up to the exposed rafters and – bonus – help hide lighting wires.

Shiplap, Joanna!
When a job throws you a design challenge, you get creative. The family’s dining table was smack dab in the middle of the walkway that connects the living room/entry area to the sun room. Here’s this month’s public service announcement: THINK ABOUT TRAFFIC PATTERNS WHEN YOU’RE DESIGNING A SPACE. By creating a bench along the back wall, we were able to shift the table to one side, which created a nice, wide path for travel between rooms (see second photo below).

In order to carve out pantry space for large cooking appliances, we created column cabinets that open on the sides and covered them with shiplap (shout out to Joanna Gaines). The cabinets created a great backdrop for sconce lighting – you can never have enough ambient lighting. The bench also has cubbies for baskets – you can never have enough storage.

Bad to the herringbone
A standard mantle simply wouldn’t do  above this fireplace, so I asked my cabinet maker to create a box backed with shiplap. It’s the perfect place to display art, sculpture, fresh flowers – you name it, and it has an outlet and a puck light that directs your eye to the objects in the space. We also removed the existing fireplace surround and used white marble subway tile to create an amazing (if I do say so myself) herringbone pattern from floor to ceiling. It’s fronted by a gorgeous porcelain tile that looks like dark cement and contrasts well with the subway tile. The porcelain runs the entire length of the fireplace wall to tie all the design elements together.

Pop of positive
We added a pop of color and whimsy to the living room with this beautiful rug, which we all fell in love with. It fills the room with positive energy!

Custom kid-friendly
For my last show and tell, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: custom’s not just for adults. The youngest member of the family wanted a “cool, grown-up” bedroom that was also conducive to studying. We created an industrial wood bunk bed with a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and a huge desk surface lit by puck lights. We created the bed’s safety rail from black pipes, and the library ladder makes hitting the sack an adventure each night! BTW, I’m not showing my kids this picture because they’ll all want rooms like this (and who can blame them)!

Overall, I think we achieved the vibe we were going for: modern, relaxed, uncluttered – a place that says ‘e komo mai’ (that’s Hawaiian for “welcome”).

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM

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Be Innovative, Not Expensive

Welcome to the Jennifer Radil Studio.

Adults who work full time in the United States log an average of 47 hours a week, according to our friends at Gallup. I know many who work far longer than that in seven days time, which brings me to the point of today’s post: the design of your work space matters.

When Omaha artist Jennifer Radil asked me for some thoughts on the look and feel of her new studio space in the Hot Shops Art Center, I jumped in with both of my size 10 feet.

I’m a big fan of Jennifer’s work – mixed media pieces that evoke another era.

First, I’m a big fan of her work – mixed media pieces that evoke another era, one steeped in the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Second, I couldn’t wait to tap into the creative energy that fills the Hot Shops, a downtown landmark that’s home to four anchor studios, more than 80 studio artists and multiple spaces.

For starters, Jennifer knew she wanted to add color to at least one of her studio’s two existing white walls. I talked her into a deep gray – Sherwin Williams Iron Ore.

She was a little shocked at first, but I assured her it wouldn’t feel oppressive in the space, which long ago had served as offices for the Serta Mattress Factory. I’m a big fan of this hue – I’ve got it in my home office and LOVE IT!

I love, love, love Sherwin Williams Iron Ore that helps showcase Jennifer’s work.

“She was right,” Jennifer said of the bold color choice. “The deep grey added an edginess and showcased my artwork beautifully.” We also agreed to leave an expansive plywood wall in the studio unpainted. Jennifer’s studio is a working space in a former factory, so it shouldn’t be too “pretty.” It needs to function as a gallery and retail space for her work plus shirts, cards, prints and other items.

Since the studio is at street level, Jennifer had concerns about maintaining privacy at night, which I totally get – how unnerving would it be to find someone peering in at you from the sidewalk? We removed the plywood from a large window and discussed a variety of treatments that might work. In the end, we went with the simple and most effective solution: placing a row of tall atlases on the deep windowsill along with a framed piece of vintage wall covering on an easel. Perfect.

A carefully curated selection of books, plants and framed art on an easel provide a natural buffer between Jennifer and those passing by on the sidewalk.
This corner of Jennifer’s studio is the perfect place for a retail display.

The final thing we did was rearrange the furniture and displays in a way that maximized both appearance and functionality. We created a display along a wall outside the studio that naturally draws people in. The kicker? We only used tools and art objects plucked from Jennifer’s belongings.

“Elizabeth’s changes didn’t require me to spend a fortune or even pick up a single new object,” Jennifer said. “This, to me, is the sign of a truly resourceful and innovative designer.”

Awww, thanks, Jennifer! Want us to do the same for you? Schedule a meeting today!

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM

The King of Custom Construction

BEFORE - a little on the blank and boring side.
BEFORE – a little on the blank and boring side.

We all want to be understood.

That’s one of the reasons we love working with Gary Haldeman, owner and founder of HC Remodel & Design. He gets our vision, our Midwest spin on modern design.

A central Iowa native, Gary worked for his family’s construction business before launching his own company in Omaha a decade ago. The key to his success (in addition to his mad skills and 30 years of experience) is the relationships he builds with his clients. “Our guiding principle is to always respect our clients’ homes and space,” he said. “Coupled with that respect, we aim to be as accurate as possible in our estimating. Though we may not be the lowest estimate for your project, we will be the best value.”

We both love challenges, and we both love working on custom projects that are client specific. Together, we’re helping introduce metro area clients to the engines that drive the beauty and function of modern design:

  • Using high-quality materials and letting them stand on their own
  • Selecting a single standout piece
  • Choosing furnishings and objects that are simple in design
  • Giving things plenty of breathing room
  • Using restraint when furnishing a space to highlight its design features
  • Including little accents that add to – not distract from – the overall aesthetic

We’re currently working with Gary on the Emerald project, a Nantucket interior remodel. The family – including one elementary school-aged boy and a girl in high school – just moved here from Hawaii. Their needs (in addition to winter coats and hats and boots): a modern update for their Omaha residence that showcases a wonderful connection of souvenirs from their travels as well as their love of books. The vibe we’re going for? Modern, relaxed, uncluttered – a place that says ‘e komo mai’ (that’s Hawaiian for “welcome”).

There’s a lot on Gary’s to-do list – a living room remodel, built-in storage for the office, a built-in banquette for the dining room, new flooring throughout the main level, a custom bunk bed for the boy (can’t wait to show you this one), custom shelving for the teen (ditto on this one), and fresh paint and lighting throughout.

As of this writing, we’re in the painting and flooring stage of the project – take a look at how things are shaping up:

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Our design plan calls for using natural materials that contrast with the painted white woodwork and black iron accents in our railing and office shelving choices. Take a look at our inspiration board – dreamy, huh?

emeraldresidence_insp

Gary and I can’t wait to share our progress on this one, so stay tuned for updates.

A hui hou (until we meet again), I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM

Meet the Browns, Part 2

In my last post, I introduced you to my design concept for the Browns, an Omaha couple who loves international travel and minimal, modern spaces:

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Now I want to talk fixtures and finishes, as they’re an important piece of the design puzzle. Here’s what I proposed:

  • White gloss cabinets with a rich, warm walnut accent in the toe kick and proposed furniture
  • White quartz countertops with a simple white backsplash to achieve a minimal, relaxing look
  • A light wood-look tile for the flooring that’s also easy to clean
  • A cast concrete “makeover” for the old brick fireplace that includes a vertical inset shelving unit for display space
  • A matte black/gray finish on the cabinetry in the new sitting area/buffet and new powder bath to contrast with the white gloss cabinets
  • Irregular, dynamic cabinet door reveals to create a modern art effect
  • Cabinet panels to cover the majority of the appliances
  • Plumbing fixtures that will act as a graphic accent to the mostly white space – little bursts of “ooooh” in an “aaaah” space

Take a look…

 

brown-finish-sheet

With each large project, I love to work in a signature element that serves as a focal point for the overall design. In this case, I proposed a custom inset ceiling detail made of mosaic accent tile over the island. The inset will be lit by cove LED strip lighting – no pendants for this project!

Take a look at the ceiling inset example below…

ceilinginsetexample

Up next, an update on our actual progress.

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM

 

 

 

 

don’t fear your basement

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I feel sorry for basements.

In film after film, they’re the place where horrible things happen to good (and sometimes stupid) people. Most homeowners don’t give them much thought unless they need to seek shelter during a tornado warning. And when it comes to cleaning, they tend to fall into the once-a-year category (imagine if you treated your kitchen or bathroom that way).

It’s time to stop the madness, people, and start thinking about the potential our basements possess. That’s why I was super excited when Jamie and Susan Towles called with a request to transform their “basementy” space into a modern, bright environment that would accommodate a multitude of simultaneous activities. Their wants:

  • A tv/game area for adults
  • Conversational seating for board games and adult gatherings
  • A large island/bar area to accommodate food and drink for social events
  • An office
  • A space for guests to stay
  • A guest bathroom with a shower

I started with a completely empty basement and two windows. The only existing walls surrounded the stairway. In addition to feeling super “basementy,” the long, narrow space was divided by stairs, and the HVAC ran through the center of the ceiling space in an irregular pattern. How was I going to create an office space that didn’t feel like a prison cell and pull together the modern vibe that ran throughout the rest of their home?

Since adding more windows wasn’t an option, I brought light in with reflective finishes, using products that could take a spill and clean up nicely. I also created gloss white wall and ceiling details to add visual interest and break up the large, narrow space without closing things in.

Jamie and Susan didn’t want the bar area to feel like a full-size kitchen, so I eliminated the upper cabinets and used reclaimed lumber from Ludlow Barnwood to cover the wall and create a floating shelf with help from the incredible Dan Casey at Creative Concepts Custom Cabinets. We topped the bar’s sleek wall cabinet with a clean and classic Quartz countertop with help from our friends at Martin’s Countertops.

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In the bathroom space, the couple wanted an upscale look without the cost of tiling all the way to the ceiling. I used an accent tile in vertical strips by the mirror, then repeated this motif along the shower walls to create an ultra custom look at an affordable price (I’m always thinking about your wallet, people).

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My favorite design feature – using glass panels between the studs covered in drywall in two areas: around the stairs and along the exterior office wall. We wanted to open up the stairway and office without restructuring the home’s supports (way too much $$$$$) and sacrificing the privacy an office provides.

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Jamie and Susan, who had never worked with a designer before, encourage those about to embark on a renovation to keep an open mind while staying true to their likes. I asked them to describe the end result in three words. Their response? “Useful, modern, wow.”

Awwwwww, thanks, guys!

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM

 

 

 

the ray kitchen remodel: from claustrophobic to classic

Every home needs a version of this space-saving barn door. I covered this one in gorgeous reclaimed wood.
Every home needs a version of this space-saving barn door. I covered this one in gorgeous reclaimed wood.

Let’s face it – most homeowners are a little skittish when it comes to starting a major remodeling project. I don’t blame them a bit, especially if they’re juggling jobs, kid schedules, family responsibilities, civic/social commitments and who knows what else (there’s a long list of “what else” in my house).

Shayna and Matt Ray lived in their west Omaha home with three kids and three dogs for five years before deciding they couldn’t go another day without addressing their kitchen, a small space that suffered from bad cabinets, bad Karma and a bad layout. They described it as claustrophobic and confining – words that got me super excited (in a design sense, of course).

I love a challenge, especially when it’s rooted in the issue of usability. The Rays (well, maybe not their teenagers) love clean and clutter-free with a nod to Mid-Century Modern. Their design preferences are beautifully reflected throughout the rest of the house via their furniture, art and color choices.

I began, as I always do, by assessing how the family uses the space. When everyone is hanging out at home, we’re talking 3 kids, 3 dogs and 2 adults. The Rays also love having people over – in small groups and large bunches.

It was important for me to look at how their kitchen related to the adjacent rooms, especially the dining room. Also, the only way to access the laundry room off the kitchen (3 teens means lots of it) was through the powder room. Another issue – every visitor had a close-up-and-personal view of dog food central, which was set up (and sometimes knocked over) in the walkway between the dining room and kitchen.

In order to open up the space, I took out part of the wall between the kitchen and living room – a game changer. It allowed me to add an eat-in bar area, a must for folks who entertain. I also moved the location of the back door, which allowed me to add cabinets and create a grand 10-foot door in the dining room.

Adding lower cabinets (one of my secret weapons) allowed me to add a window that brings in more natural light. Opting for lowers really opens up a space while creating a ton of usable work surface. I also transformed unused dining room space by creating a long, narrow wall of cabinetry and a desk surface for laptop work.

Once the kitchen’s new architectural bones were in place, I started adding functional touches that met the couple’s wish list. I surrounded the refrigerator with pull-out pantries that hide appliances when they’re not being used. The sleek island surface isn’t interrupted by door handles – to access the storage, you simply push on the door surface.

And because the rest of the home is filled with warm wood, I wanted to introduce a touch of it to contrast with the kitchen’s gleaming white finishes. My solution – a barn door covered in gorgeous reclaimed wood (every home should have some version of it). This space saver allows access to the laundry without a trip through the powder bath.

One of my favorite places in the super sexy yet super functional new space is the black countertop pie shelf/coffee bar where the old kitchen sink used to be. It’s a Zen-filled nook complete with seating where you can enjoy a cup or hang out while someone’s making dinner. Shayna said the kids even enjoy preparing meals now. She also admitted that she can’t wait to get home to cook and bake.

From Shayna on hiring a designer:

We’d never worked with a designer before. What surprised us the most was that we were able to tell Elizabeth our preferences, and she far exceeded our expectations. She was able to limit the choices to make the project manageable. If we were unable to decide, we put complete trust in her decision, and she never led us astray. My advice is to find a professional designer who can design everything to scale and whose opinion you can trust. Elizabeth made a big job easy by finding great contractors and handling issues when they arose. Make sure your project is for the future and not just for the here and now.

It’s always a bonus when you get to work with awesome people. Thanks, Shayna and Matt! Check out the before and after images below.

Until next time, Dalilah and I will be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM