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The South End House: The First Floor Reveal

Last week, I revealed the roof deck from one of my favorite projects to date, The South End House, and I'm so excited to finally start sharing with you all the before and afters of the entire home. The difference is pretty dramatic and for me this was such a special project because this family has truly become great friends of ours, and I really am so proud of every single room in this home. 

Here's the backstory about how I was brought on to the project which to date has spanned the entire school year. The owners of the classic brownstone were referred to me by one of my closest friends. She had gone to boarding school with the mom / wife / owner and the two had stayed close thereafter. The family was actually living in Paris at the time they contacted me, and had just given birth to their third child, which meant they had three boys under the age of 5! They moved to Paris a few years back having lived in Beacon Hill for years prior, and were reluctantly coming back so their oldest could start school in the Fall.  (Get this, he was actually going to be in Gray's class!)

The family bought the brownstone sight unseen, relying on the word of the friend who referred me and I have to be honest here, our mutual friend has amazing taste in real estate and truly if there is anyone I would trust to pick out a house for me it would absolutely be her. I was brought in right before Labor Day and actually was able to see the property before the owners. Essentially I had three days to pick paint colors before the painters came in and our first priority was to get the kids' rooms in order so they would feel right at home when they moved in. I think we had less than 2 weeks to pull it all together and miraculously we did it! Normally, I would be a little hesitant to make choices for someone I hadn't even met, but given that they had trusted their friend with the purchase I knew they would be easy going people and I happily took on the job.

When I first saw the property it was the day after the original owners had moved out. Really, the curtains and the paint were the only thing that remained. I had spoken extensively with the client over the phone to find out what her goals were and the only guidance that she gave me was that they really wanted to warm the home up. The previous owners were architects and completely designed the space themselves and it felt that way. It was modern, a little harsh, and definitely the home of people who didn't have children. Most of the spaces were set up for entertaining and the rooms were either for guests or used as offices. This was pretty much the opposite of what my clients were going to use the home for. They were leaving a beautiful apartment with classic Parisian architecture and really they just wanted this space to feel like home where children lived.

Going in I have to say I was so HAPPY to be able to get in the home before the space was painted. Really, this is the one thing that I can say to people who are considering hiring a designer / decorator... let us get in there first! I can't tell you how frustrating it is to walk into a space that you would want to paint only to hear that they just did it, meaning everyone is stuck with it. The same can be said for buying sofas, rugs, really any big ticket item that you know you won't want to replace immediately. I saw the home first online and I knew instantaneously that I wanted to paint all the common areas gray. The previous owners had installed gorgeous, modern gray cabinets and then painted the walls a creamy tan color. Given the layout of the brownstone, 4 long, narrow floors, I knew I wanted to paint it all gray so the room would look a lot larger, rather than feel broken up by the paint. Also, because the floors were a warm honey tone I really wanted to bring in some cooler colors because ultimately it's the mix of the two that makes a space feel modern and updated, yet also warm. 

The renovation of the kitchen was actually the last thing we did in the home and it definitely made the most difference. Previously it had been red and black (definitely not my jam) and I knew that if we lightened the countertops and backsplash that we would really change the entire room. The red panel on the refrigerator was changed to stainless (amen) and the new countertops (a quartzite) were picked because of their durability but also for the cost. The family isn't sure if this is their "forever" home so we went with a neutral color way and classic subway tiles (grouted in a light gray to match the cabinets) and even though the installer warned us that technically we were devaluing the space (the existing soapstone actually having been the more expensive option) we both felt strongly that for resale the lighter counters and backsplash would ultimately be more appealing to most buyers. Once everything was installed (including a new faucet) we knew that we absolutely made the right decision and I could not be happier that the clients trusted me on this one. 

Okay, enough talk. Here is the before and after of this kitchen. This is the first thing you see when you walk in the space and really, I can't imagine a better view to come home to each day! 

Paint: Ben Moore Stonington Gray lightened 75% // Stools

As I mentioned I went with a classic gray paint and when I brought the sample my goal was to actually match the cabinets almost exactly. Once we had the right hue I had the paint lightened 25, 50, and 75% and since the house doesn't get a ton of light we went with the 75% to really brighten up the common areas. This os a great trick if you love a paint color but don't love how dark it is. By carrying the same tone through the entire room, the space felt much larger and ultimately was much more cohesive. I wanted to carry a little bit of the parisian feel throughout the home, without being too cliche, so I picked the french bistro style chairs to bring in some of that inspiration and luckily they are perfect in the space. Because they are narrow we were able to fit three in (for the three boys) and I love how the little touch of wood warms up what could have felt like a cold space. 

Settee // Coffee Table (sold out, similar here) // Pillows // Curtains (less expensive version here) // Rug // Drapery Hardware (not pictured) 

To the left of the kitchen there was this little nook that really was difficult to design around. The family keeps their stroller and coats in the cabinet to the right so we needed to pick something that would fill the space but also allow for access. I had originally planned to use two chairs like the previous owners did, but when I stumbled upon this settee I knew we had a winner. I picked a sisal rug for its durability and chose one in a hue that matched the floors. This added texture but didn't draw your eye to the space which was the idea given how narrow the room was (again, making the room feel larger and more cohesive.) The marble table was chosen to compliment the countertops and the brass (which runs through the home) adds more warmth to the space.

Before painting we had existing rods removed (they were set right on top of the windows) and I had new brass rods (not pictured) mounted as close as I could to the ceiling to make the windows feel bigger. I went with a heavy gray linen curtain to add some drama to the room, but again in a similar hue so it all flowed together. The art (which is french) is the client's own and we accented with fun pillows. There is actually a charcoal chair with a similar pillow that faces the settee and this little nook is now functional as a place for drinks, coffee or for someone to sit while the other make dinner. 

Console // Boxwoods // Lamp  // Mirror 

The previous owners had left the bench behind and while functional, it wasn't really that necessary. The client's now had an area to sit if they wanted to put on their shoes and really just needed a place for a light and to toss mail and keys. I wanted something that would make a statement, but again that wouldn't draw your eye away from the rest of the room. This brass, mirrored console and  brass mirror felt like it was made for the space and I really love how much it adds to the room, even though it is practically see-through. 

Table (clients own, similar here) // Chairs (arm + armless) // Console (client's own, similar here) // Brass Knobs

To the right of the kitchen is the dining room, and the first of three outdoor spaces. Both of the wood pieces are the clients own, and originally we had their wood chairs in there as well. For both of us, all the wood felt a little heavy and I had suggested picking up some eames chairs (replicas) to lighten the space which would also make it feel more modern. These chairs are affordable, virtually indestructible and are as kid friendly as you can get (no crevices for food to hide!) The console felt a little dated in the space so we put some new knobs on it (again in brass) and that little change really updated the entire piece! The curtains are the same as the wall opposite, and again we went with the same hardware, hanging it as high and wide as we possibly could. We ended up switching out the art for something more modern and now the space feels warm, cohesive, soft... pretty much exactly what the family envisioned. 

Below you can see the entire first floor and how one space flows to the next. I really love how it all works together and feels "grown up" but everything is also incredibly affordable and kid friendly. There really isn't one thing I would change about this space and I am so grateful that the family trusted my entirely to make this house feel like their home. 

Next week I'll be sharing more of this beautiful South End home. Stay tuned!!! Xx

After photography by Sabrina Quinn Cole, the before was from real estate listing. 

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