Designers: Emily Mackie and the team at Inspired Interiors
Location: Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago
Size: 675 square feet (63 square meters); 25 by 27 feet
Homeowners’ request. A space for entertaining guests that would feel “atmospheric, trendy and grand,” designer Emily Mackie says.
Fireplace wall. Two freestanding bar cabinets custom-made in Portugal. The exteriors are alternating panels of African wenge wood and leather. The interiors are mirrored, with glass shelves, interior lighting and recessing doors. Wall paint was chosen to “create a muted background for the couple’s amazing art collection to stand out,” Mackie says. The walls and millwork are painted in Navajo White by Benjamin Moore.
“Uh-oh” moment. “We wanted the liquor cabinets to look like furniture pieces but maximize the cavity space on each side of the fireplace,” Mackie says. “The design team member that measured the location only measured the drywall on each side. She forgot to measure the baseboard and shoe molding and deduct from the overall width. When the cabinets arrived on-site, she realized the error. Very expensive lesson learned. Measure everything!”
Chairs: Essential Home; rug: The Rug Co.; artwork: Bruce Cascia
Designer: Lisa Moody of Grapevine Designs
Location: Sunrise Lake, Langley, British Columbia, Canada
Size: 1,000 square feet (93 square meters)
Homeowners’ request. “I work hard at uncovering how exactly the client wants to live in their rooms and how they want them to feel,” designer Lisa Moody says. “These clients liked everything, so I helped them narrow their focus and we went with a comfortable European aesthetic with clean lines. Then the homeowners really let me take the reins, which allowed me to get creative. Their one request was to accommodate the massive TV.”
Fireplace wall. Recessed entertainment space with natural white oak shelves. Simple white tiled hearth that matches the wall color and extends to form a shelf or bench seating. Unclad fireplace chase. The “simplicity of this fireplace is what makes it so beautiful,” Moody says.
Designer secret. “With every area of the home, I try to think outside the box. ‘Standard’ isn’t a word in my vocabulary. This way the client ends up with a home that is uniquely suited to them.”
“Uh-oh” moment. “The contractor forget to install plywood backing behind the drywall to attach the floating shelves. The woodworker had to get creative in order to properly secure the wooden shelves. But honestly, other than that, this room was a dream!”
Sofa: Van Gogh Designs; poufs: Livingroom; wall unit: ADM Woodwerks; rug and lamp: HomeSense; fireplace: Marquis
Designer: Gloria Apostolou of Post Architecture
Location: Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada
Homeowners’ request. Modernize a single-story house and expand it by adding a second story.
Fireplace wall. “The owners wanted a long, modern-looking fireplace, but their budget restricted the options to the smaller-sized ones,” architect Gloria Apostolou says. “This one is 36 inches wide, Linear series by Valor. To make it visually more present, we painted the surround on either side black (Wrought Iron by Benjamin Moore) and also the hearth. This helps blur the end of the fireplace unit and the beginning of the millwork.
“The ‘hearth’ is constructed of plywood and turns into the last step on the stair landing — a winder — which otherwise wouldn’t have met the hearth corner in a tidy line. Altogether, the dark linear strip of color at the base of the fireplace unit adds drama to the fireplace, and adds a certain floating effect of the white-painted millwork above it. A similar treatment was used on the exposed steel beam supporting the second floor — the dark separation of base and upper makes it look weightless almost.”
Designer secret. “One thing you can’t do with a renovation is change existing floor-to-ceiling heights,” Apostolou says. “That would be structurally too invasive and would then qualify as a teardown and new build, not a renovation. By adding a double-height space — 18 feet — we were able to affect the sense of height throughout the main floor, even though the finished ceiling remained at 8 feet over the rest of the spaces.”
“Uh-oh” moment. “The homeowners called me one night right after the hearth was framed in to say that they hated it,” Apostolou says. “They thought it looked terrible and took up too much room. I hadn’t seen it in the condition they were seeing it, but I imagined a giant plywood box on the floor, unfinished, and the final stair not yet in place and could imagine the awkwardness of the angle, the size, etc. I told them not to worry about it until it was complete, and that we could meet at that point to discuss. It only took a few more days for the stair to come in, and the pieces fit together like a puzzle and they were sold.”
Designer: Jonathan Reisman of Alliance Designs
Location: East Hampton, New York
Size: 300 square feet (28 square meters); 20 by 15 feet
Homeowners’ request. “The idea and inspiration of this room was to tie in the main space with the already renovated kitchen,” designer Jonathan Reisman says. “We did so with horizontal clapboard that wrapped the room and hallway.”
Fireplace wall. Custom millwork with built-in back lighting for artwork and firewood holders. Italian tile covers the fireplace surround.
“Uh-oh” moment. “The tiles came in individual pieces,” Reisman says. “So we had to figure out and create our own pattern from scratch.”
Designer: Lauren Geremia of Geremia Design
Location: San Francisco
Size: 220 square feet (20 square meters)
Homeowner’s request. “When the homeowner came to us, he felt like the space was generic, and he wanted the room to reflect more of his personality,” designer Lauren Geremia says. “Through furniture, accessories and art we were able to tailor all of the selections to fit his needs and interests. Choosing the small details, such as the custom sofa fabric, board games, liquor bottles and books, really rounded out the design and made it feel perfectly fitted for the client.”
Fireplace wall. “The existing materials were great, so we left the fireplace as is and worked with the concrete base, glass screen and plaster chimney,” Geremia says. “We added the custom bronze mirrored wall and walnut shelves on either side of the fireplace as an opportunity to add storage and reflect additional light into the room. The walnut shelves match the custom bar and slatted wall so everything feels cohesive. We spent a while selecting art for the fireplace that brought in some color and texture to complement the existing materials.”
Designer secret. “The library isn’t a very big room, so opening up the wall between the library and dining room and replacing it with the walnut slats was the perfect way to define the different spaces but at the same time create the illusion of a larger room,” Geremia says.
“Uh-oh” moment. “When we started to remove the existing wood ceiling panels, the client was really worried the space was going to feel cold, but luckily he trusted us — and once they were all out, he realized how much taller the ceilings felt and how much brighter the room became,” Geremia says.
Sofa: Thomas Hayes Studio; coffee table: Milia Shop; chairs: Espasso; art: Franco Arocha, via Galeria Enrique Guerrero; sconce: The Urban Electric Co.; lights: Apparatus; wet bar faucet: Watermark in gunmetal
Designers: Dave Kilpatrick (project architect) and Tim Cuppett
Location: Rollingwood, Texas
Size: 300 square feet (28 square meters); 15 by 20 feet
Homeowners’ request. A distinct living room where adults could visit apart from other “kid-intensive” spaces, architect Tim Cuppett says.
Fireplace wall. “In order to maintain the minimalist aesthetic, plaster was used for the entire wall to satisfy the fire-resistive materials requirement,” Cuppett says. “The elevated hearth, which doubles as a seat, is made of cut limestone slabs supported by steel cantilevered arms. There is a concealed LED light strip mounted behind the hearth that provides a moody indirect glow.”
Other special features. White oak floors.
Designer secret. “As is the case in most rooms, balancing daylight is critical for creating a comfortable environment,” Cuppett says. “When we have the opportunity to have a window on more than one side, we take it. Even if there is no view, a small bit of daylight adds comfort and three-dimensional depth to the perception of a room.”
Orange chair: Geiger, via Herman Miller; sofa: Meridiani, via Scott + Cooner; tan sofa: vintage Florence Knoll; lamp on hearth: Tom Dixon; wooden stools: e15; coffee table: custom by SYD (Shota Yamaguchi Design; firebox: Spark Modern Fires
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Designer: Suzie Parkinson of Süza Design
Location: Huntington Beach, California
Size: 240 square feet (22 square meters); 16 by 15 feet
Homeowner’s request. “My client and original owner of this home was ripe and ready to make updates throughout the entire house, which was built in 1998,” designer Suzie Parkinson says. “The owner wanted a fresh, clean and contemporary-transitional look that would be both beautiful, but not fussy, and livable at the same time. The color palette for the living room was different hues of gray. In lieu of heavy drapery, breezy sheers were hung as high as possible in order to accentuate the vaulted ceiling and add some soft texture and drama.”
Fireplace wall. “The existing fireplace mostly touted its fire box, which was black but didn’t have much else going for it,” Parkinson says. “Since the fireplace is gas, we simplified it by removing its glass doors and gave it a face-lift by minimizing the firebox — by cladding its opening surround with as much beautiful, juicy, rich tile in a soft gray as we could fit.”
Other special features. “For a pop of contrast, we painted the beams at the ceiling with a charcoal gray and installed larger baseboards that were painted a crisp white,” Parkinson says. “I added some simple pendant lights, which give an extra layer of lighting that I think is key to creating mood.”
“Uh-oh” moment. “When I went to have the new drapery rods hung at my planned height, I realized I’d forgotten about the supports for the beams,” Parkinson says. “I really wanted the custom drapery to be hung as high as possible, so we just had the contractor cut down the bottom portion of the support beams and voilà. Problem solved.”
Tile: Encore Ceramics; pendants: Noir; wall paint: Ammonite, Farrow & Ball; rug: Zumba in Glisten, Fabrica; art: Leftbank Art