Curb Appeal

For the first two years in our home, we spent most our time, energy and budget on changes to the interior. We did a lot of reclaiming of yard from the parkland that borders our property, and did some landscaping, but, for the most part, the exterior of the house sat untouched.

 I've made no bones about the fact that this house was not love at first sight - but I've always thought it had potential, and craved some personality, and that describes the exterior as well.  It's nicely situated higher than street level, and sort of begs to have presence.  I always strive to take a house to its best potential, and that has been the driving force in me with this house - the unmet potential.

The style of our home is traditional - a typical colonial revival dating to the 1970s, built with brick and metal siding. The siding was faded, and needed to be cleaned, but otherwise, it was in good condition (i.e. no hailstorm dents, etc)  I can't even tell you how many door-to-door salespeople we've had trying to sell us vinyl siding!  Replacement just didn't seem necessary, and the control freak in me didn't want to be limited in my color selection when it came time to update the exterior.

This is the house as it looked when we bought it

Since the siding was in decent shape, we felt like a fresh paint job would bring out the features, adding some much-needed curb appeal.

So, we hired a local company that specializes in painting siding.  We discussed general color options, noting the benefits of going with a higher-contrast color combo, like medium-to-dark siding, with a darker color for shutters, and true white for the trim.  I knew I wanted to stay out of the true beige arena, but the brick on our house tended to pull me in that direction until I decided to ignore the brick altogether, and go with what I liked!

Additionally, I think there is a pressure among homeowners in Virginia to stay true to historic colors, which I feel is warranted and appropriate with homes with historic lineage.  Since our home is a loose interpretation of the Colonial style, and decidedly not historic (Helllo 1970s!), I put emphasis on color combos that were appealing, but not necessarily historically accurate.  

We ended up choosing Sherwin Williams colors: Functional Gray (as it turns out, a perfect "greige") for the siding, Peppercorn for the shutters and garage door, and Extra White for the trim.

...and here's how it turned out

I can't get over the change.  I keep driving up wondering if it's my house!  

Now, to be fair, we replaced other features as well.  The most dramatic being the front doors.  We were fortunate enough to start off with an opening for double doors, and I really wanted to let in as much light as possible.  We decided to forgo storm doors, and replaced them instead with custom glass paneled doors from Jeld-Wen.  We stained them a rich mahogany to work with the traditional exterior.

We still felt like there was something lacking architecturally, so we added a crossbeam above the pilasters to bring interest, and act as the canvas for fresh, modern house numbers.  

The last bit of change was to switch out the small, brass-plated sconces with larger lantern fixtures in an iron finish.  Similar to these from Lampsplus.  We put flame-style bulbs in the sconces, which add a nice vibe at night that resembles gas flame.

I never ceased to be amazed by the power of paint! I no longer feel like our house has the blahs, but instead is one of the happiest houses on the block!

Master Bath Transformation - Before and After

It's been a long stretch since I stopped in here for an update, so I figured I'd bring you up to speed on our bathroom redo.  When we moved into our house, I had a long list of "I'd like to change that." Our master bathroom, however, fell more under the S.O.S. category.  Still, I think there's benefit to living with a space, no matter how discouraging, for a while to really get a sense of what works, what doesn't, and why.  About six months ago, we decided to lift the quarantine.

Before I jar you with the "before" images, let's cleanse the palate and see what I envisioned for the renovation.

Now, brace yourselves for the "before"

(image from the MLS listing when we bought the house)

I like to call it:  the Mid 70s Builder-grade special.  With a splash of hospital. 

Original mauve tile, with walls painted to match.  Original vanity, which was curiously squat - even for a short stack like me.  Needless to say, there wasn't anything worth salvaging.

I use the word "master" bath loosely because, although it is ensuite, it is tiny.  Yes, it would be lovely to have dual sinks, but we actually don't overlap too much in terms of use.  We also didn't have much option to expand the space without creating a weird jut into our bedroom, or taking up valuable closet space.  So, the footprint had to stay.

The good news was that having a small footprint meant I could go a little more luxe in terms of finishes.  More than anything, I wanted to brighten it up, and try to expand the space visually.

I believe we accomplished that.

The design plan was pretty straight forward - I wanted marble subway tile to the ceiling in the shower, then to wrap around the other walls at a half-wall height.  The floor tile needed to have a higher grout-to-tile ratio to prevent slipping, so I opted for a small marble herringbone mosaic.  I carried the same tile from the vanity area into the shower to continue the visual line - another trick to make the space seem larger.  We designed a small vertical panel of the mosaic in the facing wall, because, hey, I couldn't get enough of it.  We were able to keep the lines all nice and clean by tucking two shampoo niches into the back wall.   So again, not an inch larger, but it feels


much more open!

P.S. - Artwork by my daughter and I (yay for freebies!)

I went with brass fixtures to warm up the color scheme, but mixed in polished nickel for the towel bar and tp holder to keep it from feeling too Liberace.

The other major component to visually enlarging the space was to mirror that baby up!  It was tricky, but I had plate mirrors cut for the dimensions of a mirrored medicine cabinet.  It's a nice, layered finish, and bounces tons of light.

The vanity base ended up giving me a bad case of the willies.  I envisioned converting an antique cabinet into a vanity, and searched for something with the


dimensions (we had no wiggle room), that would still function like a true vanity - to no avail.  Having a custom vanity built was out of budget, so I had to go with a standard vanity base.  Little disclaimer:  Unless you can't tell the difference, I'm not a fan of using Big Box store items for renovations, and I really felt like I was selling out, design-wise to use one, but I held my nose and did it. By topping it with a custom volakas marble top, though, I think I'm at least somewhat redeemed. ;)  It also meant there was room to splurge on the radiant floor heat, which. is. a. game changer.  Toasty toes instead of frozen-stuck-to-the-marble feet is a huge luxury in my boat!

I think it's fair to say the space was completely transformed.  Before, it was painful to see.  Now, it's a  pleasure to use. 


Marble Subway Tile


Marble pencil trim


Herringbone mosaic tile

(similar to)  ~  

Shower fixture

 (similar to) ~  

Basin fixture

 (similar to) ~  

Vanity base

(similar to, but think ours was more, and is nicer)  ~  

Vanity top


Mirrored Medicine Cabinet 

Inspired Spaces: White walls + Old Leather + rich wood = Luxe

Have ya'll seen the space put together by Will Kopelman (aka Mr. Drew Barrymore) in the latest


?  It's the most anti-man cave, beautiful man-space I've ever seen.  In fact, I don't see any reason to designate it a "man space," as I'd move in in a heartbeat.

I'm generally a color gal, but throw in a neutral palette with some roughed up leather, and you'll get me every time.  Besides, the home office has enough suggestion of color with the enormous John Singer Sargent reproduction (Will's an art adviser - nice work if you can get it)  What I really love is the not-in-your-face luxe of it all.  From the rich polished wood paired with the contemporary pieces to the men's suiting fabric that makes the window treatments - all against the perfectly-white background.  As Ferris Bueller once said, "It is

so choice


Moving on to the bath and dressing room portion of the program, Will turns the tables and goes dark and rich.  The dressing room in black lacquer with hits of wood and brass still serves to scratch my itch for dark, high gloss rooms.

It also serves to remind me that rooms with drastically different feels can exist beautifully as neighbors - they key is the streamlined palette, and shared materials.

The bathroom is just - wow.  It's a lot, and I'm not sure I could deal with this much going on on a daily basis, but I LOVE that he went for it.  Like all-out, gentleman's glam.  I admire a man who knows his style and rocks it to the last detail.  Drew says she cried when she first saw the space - because it made her bathroom look downright granny.

I've had this white walls, rich wood, worn leather, mix of modern soup in my brain so much, I decided to use it to put together a design scheme for a class project.  My assignment is to design a Living/Dining room space.  I put more of a feminine twist on my interpretation, and the items I sourced would be filed under a budget known as...uh,


, but here ya go.

In this room, every hour would feel like martini hour.   {sly grin}

Looking at 40

I turn 40 this year.  It's getting easier to say that, btw.  For some time, I've been dreaming about the ultimate getaway trip to celebrate this milestone.  You know, how you picture yourself somewhere fabulous, doing fabulous things you otherwise never get to to do?  I don't know, like sleeping in late, or lounging near a beautiful pool without wondering if your kids are drowning.  Casually browsing mesmerizing shopfronts, or lingering over dinner with your Significant.  You get the idea.

I've alway dreamed of Morocco as an incredible destination.   Can you imagine?  The sights, the aromas (spice heaven!), the shopping (I might as well book an export crate for the rugs, baskets, etc). Over the past, oh, five years or so, Morocco has blossomed as a legit and luxurious destination for Americans, but, over the past, oh, year or so, there's also been a lot of scary shiznit happening that might make you think twice about your personal security in that locale. 

So, let's just say I've had a rethinking.  Somewhere a little closer, a little less likely to see you captured and beheaded for your beliefs, but by all accounts (and we've done some Intel), incredible.

Panama.  I'm lookin' at you.  Specifically, the American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo.  It's uh-maze.  A design junkie's end all. 

Check it.

The Lobby bar, and a guest suite.  I'm all about a contrasting black trim; we've done some in our own house, and I love the crisp-ness it adds to a room.  I love it even more the way it's paired with the amazing wood floors.

They have me at hello with that perfect Trad/Colonial facade tricked out with contemporary iron-framed glass on the main floor, and yeah, you might convince me to soak in that tub. #bathdesignporn

Just stop already with the badass tile situations, 'K.  If our newly-finished study had a Central American sister, this space would be it.

Your choice of cocktail-serving spaces. (There's a pool, too.  Case you were wonderin'}

Yeeeah.  I think it might work.  For what we'll save in time and airfare, we could stay an extra day to take in more cool stuff.

Forty's not looking' so bad, ya'll.


*images by



American Trade Hotel

 - An Ace Hotel


 The first few weeks with a newborn always feel like I'm functioning under water.  So, I'm surfacing for air before things get really nuts. 

It's almost surreal how quickly time is passing.  Skylar turned three weeks old yesterday, and the movers begin packing us out on Monday.  We're simultaneously trying to soak up as much of Rio as we can, while mentally preparing for life back in the States.  Send us some good vibes, will ya?

Lots of good things are on the horizon, and I can't wait for them to unfold, but I'm trying to be patient.  NOT one of my strong points.

Speaking of good things...

I commissioned some paintings from the (soon-to-be-way, WAY famous)


of MFAMB.  I asked her to interpret my daughters Avery and Isla with paintings.  They were a Mother's Day gift to myself - instead of a Mother's ring or jewelry, I envision a Mother's Wall with a grouping of her fantastic work that each girl can have one day.  When the baby is a little older, I'll get her to do another one, and somewhere in the mix, I'll pick out something just for



First, though, get a load of the Isla and Avery.

Got them back from the framers yesterday, and am so loving the natural wood.

They're even prettier in person, and I think everyone (and any room) could benefit from some of Jenny's talent.  She offers originals via

her Etsy store

, and now, via


, you can purchase prints.  There's no excuse - go get yo'self some!

I also managed to have Skylar's birth announcement designed.  As much as I love a nice paper card, I know the truth is most people toss them (how dare they!), so I sent a digital announcement this go-round. #thirdchild

design by

River & Bridge

Lastly, I ordered these Paige denim skinnies about three weeks before my Due Date to act as Post Partum motivation.

I've been giving them the side-eye since they arrived...

...but succumbed to their promise of fabulous-ass-ness yesterday, and started

Tracy Anderson's

post partum workouts.  Her Pregnancy Project dvds served me well for nine months, so I have faith the post partum one will, too.  We'll see....