Thursday, February 27, 2014

House tour - foyer & entryway

Welcome to our foyer and entryway!  When we designed our front entryway, there were a few things that were important to us: lots of natural lighting, a coat closet and a place to house the antique dry sink that came from my grandparents' house in Chicago.

In order to allow lots of natural light to come into the front of the house, our architect added a large dormer window which faces west.  Originally our architect had added a plant shelf under the window, but since I tend to be a clean freak, we did away with the plant shelf (aka: dust collector).  We also wanted the Rejuvenation Neoclassical Pendant to be the focal point of the entryway space.  

I've decided that it might be helpful for my blog readers if I went through things that I love and things that I would do differently.  

Things that I love about our entryway & foyer:
  1. Rejuvenation Neoclassical Pendant.  I honestly cannot say enough good things about this light.  It's perfect.  Perfect for the space, perfect for the overall feel of the house and it didn't break the bank.  I have worked with Rejuvenation now for a second time to change out the light over our kitchen table, and they have been wonderful to work with.  Our Rejuvenation Neoclassical Pendant is on a polished chrome chain designed for vaulted ceilings as there is a slope to the ceiling at the point of installation.  That's one thing you'll need to remember if you order any light for a custom build house.  Is the ceiling flat or vaulted?  The last thing you want is to get your beautiful new light and realize that you forgot to order it to be installed on a sloped ceiling.  
  2. The feeling of light and openness.  Somehow our entryway and foyer turned out to be a really inviting space that doesn't feel too formal or pretentious.  From the very beginning in designing our house, I wanted people to feel welcome in our home.  I've always wanted our home to feel like a place where you can kick your shoes off and feel warm, relaxed and invited.  I think the details of having a dormer window with a 90 degree turn in the staircase as well as the broad opening into the everyday living space really captured that feeling.  Originally our architect had the stairway coming straight down all the way to the ground level.  With that sort of layout, we lost the requisite coat closet.  That's how we ended up with a 90 degree turn in the staircase but I like the way that the turn in the staircase makes the space feel a bit less formal.
  3. The coat closet.  Our entryway coat closet is a great space to put coats, hats, boots, umbrellas and it also houses our wireless access point (thanks Dad!).
Things that I would change about our entryway & foyer
  1. The false treads on our stairs.  You'll see in the picture that the "custom stained" false treads that our builder insisted we order from our millwork supplier leaves much to be desired.  Each tread came with several dings and bare spots in the wood.  It's also not exactly a custom match to our flooring, but that would be extremely hard to tell unless you were looking closely.  One of the biggest suggestions I can give to new home builders is to order your false treads and coordinating stair pieces from your flooring supplier.  In other words, whomever you used for your flooring product should be the same manufacturer that you order your false treads from.  In this case, we should have ordered our false treads from Kentwood to coordinate with the Kentwood Originals Maple Del Rio hardwood flooring.  Some day I'm going to touch up the false treads myself, or bring our painter back to add a deeper stain and finish to the false treads.  
  2. Put a small light in the coat closet.  Thankfully my Dad installed an outlet above the inside of the closet door, so we'll be able to install a light in there eventually.  The last thing you want when guests are tired and waiting to leave your house is to be fishing around in the coat closet looking for your guest's items.  There have also been many days where I'm searching around for a specific hat or pair of gloves before taking our kiddo to school.  Having a light in the closet to illuminate the space would be really helpful.  If you're building a new construction home, don't forget to have your electrician install a small light in closets that aren't illuminated by hallway lighting or adjacent room lighting. 
Now that we've gone through what I like and what I would do differently, let's take a look at our entryway and foyer.  Here's the view of our Rejuvenation Neoclassical pendant light in the foyer.  It gives just enough detail, but not too much to take away from the space.  I took the picture with the light fixture off, so that you can see the detailing on the glass globe.

Rejuvenation Neoclassical Pendant
Here's the view of our home when you walk in the door.  Like I mentioned above, I think it's a really inviting space that doesn't feel too formal.  While I like the look of the false treads on the stairs, I think in hindsight I might consider closing in the stairs to save money and the hassle of matching false treads to the flooring product.
The entryway view from our front door
Another great way to add natural lighting into your home is to have a front door with small windows.  Our front door puts quite a bit of light into our entryway, but also allows for privacy as we only have windows at the top of the door and side panels.
Looking back towards the Simpson front door
Another suggestion I would make is to put a security alarm control panel adjacent to the front door.  Our panel is literally right next to the front door and is programmed with a panic code in the event that we need the police right away.

Alarm control panel and light switches adjacent to front door
Here's a picture of the coat closet, adjacent to the stairway.  It's a fairly deep closet as it shares a wall adjacent to the wall of the garage.  It houses all of our coats, scarves, hats, gloves, a few pairs of shoes and a large golfing umbrella in the event that we need to dash out the front door on a rainy day.
Entryway coat closet
One thing you'll want to remember to purchase with your hardware package is a door stop for the front door.  This is a simple polished chrome door stop that our finish carpenter installed.  The door stop will prevent your large front door from banging into the millwork and surrounding walls.
Polished chrome door stop for front door

I mentioned that we changed our staircase from a straight shot to a 90 degree turn.  One of the best things about the small alcove created by the turn in the stairway is that it created a perfect space for our family's antique dry sink.  This piece comes from my grandparents' home in Chicago and it's the perfect conversation piece for when people come to our house for the first time.  I get so many compliments and questions on this piece and it truly is one of my favorites.  You'll notice that behind the dry sink is an open railing that goes to the basement.  During the design of our home, my husband was insistent that we keep the basement stairway open.  I had a really difficult time envisioning how that would look, but I can say that I love the look of the open railing.

Antique dry sink
In the following picture, you'll see the latch on the antique dry sink.  It's one of my favorite features, and I even looked at putting this style of latch on some of our kitchen cabinets.
Antique latch on dry sink
I use the dry sink mainly to store kitchen linens, candles and a few fragile glass pieces.  
Antique dry sink
Another piece that I was excited to display in our entryway is this antique brass lamp, also from my grandparents' house in Chicago.  My Dad recently took apart the entire lamp and refurbished it with a new cord, new switch and lots of polish.  It's another great conversation piece with lots of history in our family and it puts off great light in the evenings.
Antique brass lamp
On the top of our dry sink, I like to have a few seasonal items.  Since we're in between Valentines and Easter, I've kept the decor pretty simple.  I have an antique turquoise Ball jar from my aunt's collection and a very small jade plant in a sugar bowl.
Jade plant in a sugar bowl
One of the best features of the dry sink are my dad's initials "MBN," which appear to have been carved into the top.  While he denies ever doing this, I also deny skipping classes in college and trying to smoke cigarettes (don't worry mom & dad, it was only a handful of times and my physician has assured me that I still fall into the "never smoked" category).
Top of antique dry sink
I thought I'd throw in a few pictures of our box newels.  These are a standard size of box newel from our local millwork supplier.  They came with a more detailed trim, which our finish carpenter ripped off and replaced with a more boxy trim as shown in the photo.
Custom box newel trim
The width of the actual newel post put them at just shy of 5".

Custom box newel and false tread stairs
You may have remembered that one of the things I would have done differently is to order the false treads from the flooring manufacturer.  Here's a shot of the false treads "custom stained" by our millwork supplier.  The fact that we can see bare wood is unacceptable for a custom stained product.  Eventually I'd like to either stain the treads myself or hire our painter to give them a bit more depth and color and a semi gloss finish.
False treads with bare wood exposed

As always, thanks for reading!  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to post them in the comment section.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

House tour - great room

It's been quite a while since I've put up a new blog post.  We have been in our new home for almost a year, and I figured it was way overdue to continue our house tour.

Welcome to our great room!  

Great room fireplace with white built in cabinets and shelving.
I apologize in advance for the poor picture quality.  It was difficult working with the bright sunlight and using an iPhone 4s to take pictures probably doesn't lend itself to the best quality of picture.  With that being said, this blog was never meant to be a professional blog with professional quality photos.  Rather, it was a place for me to chronicle building our dream home and allowing people to search for experiences and products.  

As you can see, our great room has 2 small windows and custom built in bookshelves flanking the fireplace.  This is the room that we do most of our living in.  It's the room where guests congregate during holidays or dinner parties.  It's also the place where we relax at night, kick our feet up on the oversized sectional and curl up with a good book.  

When designing this room, we had 2 objectives.  One: have a wall to house the antique secretary that has been in my family for 3-4 generations.  Two: Have built in cabinets and shelving for hidden and display storage.  I think our architect hit the mark on both (with one small issue, which I'll touch upon in a moment).  

One of my favorite features in this room is the reclaimed wood beam above the fireplace.  If you're a regular reader, you may remember how we decided to style this room around the fireplace in this great room fireplace post.  The fireplace beam adds quite a bit of character and rich color to the room.   
Custom wood fireplace beam style mantle.
One of the things that I love the most about this piece of wood are the imperfections created by the knots and the bug holes.  I didn't want a "perfect" piece of wood - in this case, the more imperfections, the better.  Our finish carpenter did an amazing job listening to our ideas and coming up with a piece of wood to match, custom stained to match our Kentwood Originals Maple Del Rio flooring.
Close up of custom wood fireplace beam with knots and bug holes.
I consider our built in great room bookshelves to be a work in progress.  They're not quite where I want them to be style wise, but I think that a well styled look is something that happens over time.  As you can see, we have quite a few books on this grouping of shelves.  I also have a few antique glass insulators, with turquoise being one of my favorite accent colors throughout the house.
Built in bookshelves styled with turquoise blue accents.
The wooden toolbox you see in the following picture belonged to my great grandfather, a Swedish carpenter.  It used to hold his nails and tools.  The glass floats come from a dear friend's personal collection.  Her husband travels to Alaska and collected these floats on a remote beach.
Antique tool box, glass floats and a small plaque from the region in Sweden where my great grandfather was raised.
While I love thumbing through design catalogs and looking at the pristine, well styled shots, that sort of living just isn't conducive to living with a child.  I decided to dedicate one shelf for all of his books.  The red antique food scale comes from a local salvage store, and it was originally made in my hometown of Chicago.
Built in bookshelves
Antique red food scale

As you can imagine, living by the water provides us with easy access to nautical antique stores.  This lobster buoy comes from a local nautical antique store.  The glass floats are my personal collection, and they were purchased from an independent antique dealer.

Like I had mentioned, one of the requirements in designing our great room was a solid wall to house the antique secretary that has been in my family for 3-4 generations.  This piece was handmade and you can still see some of the imperfect detailing of the wavy leaded glass in this shot.  The wooden bucket next to this piece is a maple sap bucket, also a family heirloom.  

Antique wooden secretary
If you're designing your home from the start, I would strongly recommend putting in an electrical outlet near your built in bookshelves.  An outlet adjacent to your bookshelves might seem strange, but it's nice to have a spot to charge small electronic or plug in tools and extension cords when the need arises.  
Electrical outlet adjacent to built in bookshelves.  The switch is used to control the gas fireplace.

The piece of furniture that gets used the most in our home is our Pottery Barn Comfort Slipcovered 3-Piece L-shaped Sectional.  While I initially was drawn to the coastal look of white slipcovered couches, I realized that it wasn't a practical option for our family.  We settled on the Metal Gray color and have been really happy with the color.  The slipcover has been a different story.  After being in the house for about 3 months, we noticed some pilling of the cushion covers and some wear along the piping.  I thought I was going to be stuck with a defective slipcover, but decided to bring the issue to Pottery Barn's attention.  I was shocked and utterly impressed when Pottery Barn decided to send me a brand new slipcover, at no charge, assuming I would provide them pictures of the defective slipcover.  I can honestly say that after that experience, I will be a lifetime customer of Pottery Barn.  Their customer service was impeccable with regular e-mail updates from their customer service team.  Since the new slipcover was custom made from a new lot of fabric, it did take a while for it to arrive on my doorstep - but the Pottery Barn team kept me well informed every step of the way.

The couch itself is amazing.  The Comfort sectional has a deeper seat cushion.  I would say that it's deep enough to be extremely comfortable without getting stuck in the couch.

Without further adieu, here is our Pottery Barn Comfort Slipcovered 3-Piece L-shaped sectional in Metal Gray!  It's worth noting that I have yet to put the new slipcover on.  Since Pottery Barn graciously allowed us to keep the defective cover, I'm going to let that one wear out first before putting the new one on.  If you notice any pilling when zooming in on the slipcover, it's because the defective cover is still on the couch.
Pottery Barn sectional in Metal Gray

Pottery Barn Slipcovered Comfort Sectional in Metal Gray
 I mentioned that we had one small design issue with the great room.  Initially, our windows behind the couch were framed at about 30 inches.  Thankfully I noticed that issue right away and had our framers frame the windows high enough to allow for the couch to comfortably fit under them.  You can see that the actual sill sits at about 36 inches and the back of the sofa comes to 31 inches.
Window sill framed to approximately 36 inches.

Back of couch comes to 31 inches.
As always, thanks for reading!  It should be said that Pottery Barn didn't ask me to write a review of our couch or the experience with their customer service department.  All opinions expressed here are my own.

Antique secretary: family heirloom
Maple sap bucket: family heirloom
Couch: Pottery Barn
Small side table: World Market
Small table lamp: Target
Coffee table: Ethan Allen
Rug: Target
Fan: Monte Carlo

Paint colors:
Wall: Benjamin Moore HC-172 Revere Pewter
Bookshelves, cabinets & millwork: Sherwin Williams SW-7008 Alabaster