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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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

 

 

 

 

Meet The Browns: Part 1

I love solving design problems of all sizes. But I gotta tell you, there’s something magical that happens when clients entrust me to tackle the big ones – the kind that really change the way they live.

Today’s post is the first in a series that’s a step-by-step look at some of the larger projects I’ve worked on – it might give you the gentle nudge you need to address that big design challenge you’ve been fretting about for years.

So meet the Browns, an Omaha couple who loves international travel and minimal, modern spaces. The problem? Their home, constructed in the 1980s, didn’t reflect any of the above. We’re talking:

  • Pickled oak trim and flooring throughout the house
  • Laminate kitchen countertops
  • Appliances that have bitten the dust
  • No pantry storage (they were using portable microwave carts to store everyday dishes, which just makes me sad)
  • A small kitchen footprint that doesn’t jive with the size of the house
  • Lack of a true entertainment area (nobody uses the dining room and huge family room that are just steps away from the kitchen, which everyone crams themselves into during the holidays and other celebrations)

 See for yourself…

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 My concept:
  • Swap the existing kitchen table area with the sitting area in front of the fireplace to allow guests to sit closer to the kitchen during gatherings
  • Create a butler’s pantry by using about 25 square feet of existing garage space
  • Remove the kitchen peninsula and replace it with a long island to create an incredible cooking area as well as a secondary area for guests
  • Add full height cabinetry to store everyday items, household paperwork and entertaining supplies
  • Add an under-the-counter refrigerator drawer to the new buffet area so guests and grandkids have access to drinks without getting in the way of the cook

Take a look:

In Part 2, I’ll be talking about finishes and fixtures. Details and how they work together matter.

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

– EM

Sarah Saves: My “Custom” Basement Shower

Sarah B.
Sarah B.

I love saving, whether it’s time or money or the planet. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction, and it allows me to channel my “do it yourself” energy in a lot of different ways.

When Kevin and I decided it was time to tackle our basement, I knew we had to keep the costs down. I also wanted a nice shower – one with a custom feel that set it apart from your typical inexpensive fiberglass or acrylic surround with a curtain.

I decided to tile the shower walls, so I started with a standard sized shower pan. I picked the pan I wanted instead of tiling the floor because it’s less expensive and easier to execute, especially for a DIY’er. When you’re tiling a shower floor, you have to get the right slope for the drain if you don’t want to experience leaks down the road. If that doesn’t scare you from attempting it, consider a pre-molded base that’s ready to have the tile applied to it, like those from Tile Redi.

I love the look of thin, rectangular marble tiles, but they were too expensive for my budget. To cut costs, I bought 12 x 12 marble tiles at Home Depot for $3.99 a square foot and cut them down to 3 x 12. Home Depot sells by the individual tile, so I was able to buy a bunch of boxes and sort through them, picking ones I thought looked good together and returning the rest. I sanded one tile down with an orbital sander and 600 grit wet or dry sandpaper to see if I preferred a honed look, but I ended up preferring the polished look.

If you’re considering using marble tile in a bathroom, make sure to research all the pros and cons. It’s also a good idea to seal polished marble before and after grouting to avoid a cloudy finish on the tile when you wipe off the grout.

Curtains in bathrooms are not my thing, so we purchased a pre-made clear glass door enclosure from Overstock. (I got it for $750 with a coupon, it’s now listed at $944.99 – timing is everything!) It obviously set me back more than a rod and curtain would have, but it was cheaper because we installed it ourselves.

I do not miss that border at all.
I do not miss that border one tiny bit.

The finishing touch – a wood shower grate to hide most of the inexpensive white shower floor. You can buy pre-made grates out of teak, but that can get costly – somewhere between $150 to $200. We made one from clear cedar and stained it to match the vanity, then sealed it with an outdoor use poly. It has rubber feet and can be removed for cleaning, and we used decking screws so they wouldn’t rust. We paid about $40 for the wood, so you do the math.

Since this shower isn’t used constantly, our homemade grate has held up well, and overall, the project has added to our basement’s versatility. I can send houseguests down there to shower and feel good doing it!

– Sarah B.

shower-grate
We made our shower grate out of cedar and stained it to match the vanity.

Vito Knows Flooring

Meet Vito, the newest member of the design team.

Don’t let his age (nine weeks this week) fool you – Vito knows flooring. This English Mastiff from Summersville, West Virginia, spends a lot of time on the ground, especially since he can’t climb stairs yet.

When he’s full grown, he’ll weigh as much as an adult human (between 140 and 200 pounds), so materials of substance are a big deal to Vito. So is color. He’s particularly fond of fawn, apricot and brindle (the colors of his breed) and is interested in creating his own paint line, but more on that later.

Vito’s first piece of flooring advice to share: consider vinyl plank flooring. Take a look at the following photos – one is vinyl, the other is wood. Can you tell which is which?

If you guessed the top one is wood, you’d be wrong. And if you guessed the bottom one is wood, you’d also be wrong. Ha! They’re both luxury vinyl plank flooring – really.

Gone is the time when vinyl was relegated to kitchens, bathrooms and other spaces that trap water, dirt and other gross stuff. Today’s vinyls are known for their durability, flexibility and water resistence, and they’re also easier to install. We use the term “luxury vinyl” to describe tiles or planks that mimic the look of wood or stone, including marble, slate and the the oh-so-revered travertine.

On the down side, it will show your floor’s imperfections because of how thin it is.

Confused?

Give me a call, and we’ll take a trip to The Floor Club, one of my favorite design haunts and the latest entry in our Modern Omaha Directory. (Vito has to wait until he’s potty trained.) The Floor Club is a wholesale floor covering and window fashion showroom that caters to industry trade professionals only (that would be me). It’s got a vast selection of name brand products at wholesale pricing – I love taking my clients there when it’s time to talk floors:

Vivero from Armstrong Flooring

Messenia Travertine in Antiquity - I mean, come on!
Messenia Travertine in Antiquity – I mean, come on!

COREtec from US Floors

boardwalk-oak
Boardwalk Oak from COREtec is one of Vito’s favorites.

Luxury vinyl sheets from Mannington Residential

Majesty "slate" in Dark Forest - dreamy!
Majesty “slate” in Dark Forest – dreamy!

Let’s go flooring!

Until next time, Vito and I will 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