Blast from the Past

A few years ago I worked with a talented art director/photographer on her apartment in Santa Monica. I honestly don't even know why she needed my help since she has an artful and curated eye of her own. Maybe just having someone to bounce ideas off of is all you need sometimes. We were going for a minimal and neutral rustic look for her home and after I suggested a few pieces, she pulled it all together on her own. Just like that. She ended up being a coworker of one of my mommy friends at GloMSN, now she has moved onto freelancing. Well, lookie at her new apartment featured on the Nest.

It was super fun for me to see some of her old pieces come alive in a new place. I remember the existing sofa, those chairs, the new (at the time) coffee table. 

I think I remember that rolling cart as an UO piece. Styled to absolute perfection as a bar cart. 

I remember the hunt for the rustic table and bench and her excitement when she happened upon the right set. And the vintage leather safari chairs as Craigslist deals. The vintage buffet is new to me and a very handsome addition. What an inviting, laid back, and thoughtful spot.

Seems like her boyfriend brought an awesome midcentury storage piece into the mix, as all good boyfriends should ;)

Marvel at the creativity of her DIY closet nook. The student has clearly become the master. 

How I Use 3D Renderings

One of the best tools developed for designers in the past few years in Google Sketch Up. First of all, the basic version is free so you aren't investing thousands of dollars just to learn the program. You can mess around stress free for hours and hours until you get the hang of it. Secondly, unlike Autocad and other more complex rendering programs, it is very intuitive. You can start making decent looking models soon after you start. Third, there is a library of furnishings and materials that others more versed in the program have created and shared so you aren't spending a chunk of frustrated time trying to create an Eames lounge chair. You can just plop it into your model. Actually, a lot of architectural and interiors companies have their products officially modeled top encourage you to use them in your models and ultimately specify them. And lastly, I love the way the renderings look. They aren't photorealistic at all. There are other programs for that. They look like a very well drawn 3D view I would aim to create by hand. 

Here are the development drawings for an office build out I am currently working on. Rendering brings the 2D space plan and elevations to life and communicates more confusing concepts to make sure the client and the builder fully understand what I would like to build. I love being able to "build" the model virtually and then move through it, peek in and out of rooms, reconfigure furniture before even one dollar is committed to acquiring materials and furnishings. 

Modeling the space helps figure out the right proportions and view the design from many angles so you can be sure its going to look right. It also helps the client envision it. By the time the space is actually built out, it has lived in my mind's eye and the computer for long enough to feel familiar to me.  I highly recommend you get versed in Google Sketch Up if you are about to remodel your home or need to represent your design ideas. It will make a big difference in the overall success of the project. 

*Totally 100% not a sponsored post. I am simply a huge fan of this software*

Mar Vista Remodel: The Play By Play

There is nothing more satisfying than turning a garbage house into exactly the kind of home you would like for your family in exactly the neighborhood you envision. There is nothing more maddening than doing it for an investor and seeing the house immediately get 4 offers after the open house and go into escrow $100K over asking price. Because this is the world we live in people. You take the good with the bad. Let's start with a little before and after:

This little shack was literally a garbage house. Garbage in the scrubby front yard, scary things happening inside. Simply sad.

Whaaaat? Is that the same house. Yes, yes it is. Let me show you how it got from garbage house to super star in just a few months.

When I started designing this house in early October, the roof had already been blown off to raise the ceiling heights and the view you are looking at was the former living room and future kitchen. This is the same view before and after.

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The architectural plan for the house had already been approved so as the construction crew was moving as fast they could with framing walls, windows, rough plumbing and electrical I was moving as fast as I can to envision the final space's look.

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The hardscape and exterior entry was one of the first things I needed to design since the concrete pour for the master suite foundation was happening early on to have time to cure. It was interesting to commit to exterior elements before knowing exactly what the interior would look like, but that's how it had to happen.

Once framing was completed, the drywall could go up and a sense of the interior space started to take shape.

After the walls were taped, sanded, and primed then we could install wide plank White Oak floors and the kitchen cabinetry, counter top, and appliances.

Then we were able to get to the interior finishes such as tile and paint colors, and concentrate on finishing the bathrooms.

Finally, in early March the house was listed. Here is the accompanying eye candy.

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Yup, that's pretty much my dream kitchen. Open to the main living area, a large island with built in microwave and a waterfall edge (just imagine how much cooking and prep can happen here), floating shelves and thoughtful storage. The staging you see was done by Meridith Baer Home, but I threw in that vintage rug to make it more "Veneer" ;)

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Shut up master bathroom, and get in my house.

Yup, that's the kids bathroom. 

Since the interior SF was limited, outdoor living spaces became paramount with an emphasis on indoor-outdoor connection. The garage was converted into a studio office with an adjoining lounge to enjoy the greenery of the backyard. A large redwood deck off the living room and a smaller concrete deck off the master bedroom feed to the back yard as well. In the front, the redwood was continued with paneling at the entry to warm up the gray plaster. And a specially designed trellis overhead to shade visitors from the bright California sun. OH, how I wish I could have moved in upon completion. Next time for sure.

Lessons Learned 01

I have been setting some big goals for myself and the business that is Veneer. I think its important to have some goals to achieve in the foreseeable future to keep you focused and ambitious. I'm going to document these goals to keep me honest and with my eyes on the prize.

background watercolor source: Carolina Garofani

background watercolor source: Carolina Garofani

Goal 1: I need to get my real estate broker's licence. I have zero interest in being a broker. But we got oh so very badly burned on our last attempt to buy a house. I no longer trust the people you are supposed to trust to guide you through the transaction. So I will get my license and do it myself. Also, this will save us tens of thousands of dollars in commissions. Win win. This has to be done by Spring 2017. Until then, I need to hustle hustle to send as much to our savings account as I can to be able to pull the trigger on our next home purchase and remodel when the time comes.

Goal 2: Rent a studio space outside of the home. Working from home makes a lot of sense right now because of the need to have a super flexible schedule to cater to the needs of my young kids. Also, with daycare costs being relatively high, I couldn't justify renting a space that I wouldn't be able to use full time at this moment in time. The reality is this mode of working is a good fit for me and I can be super productive, but there is no way I would bring an intern or assistant into my home. It would be a not so inspirational work environment and a kooky schedule for my eager young recruit so that wouldn't be fair to him/her. Which means I can only take on so many projects. So when Ilana enters kindergarden in the Fall of 2017 , it sounds far away but isn't really, and my daycare costs go down to $0 I plan on renting a studio space with the savings. It will have a small retail element. It will have a  second desk for a part time assistant and renting part time to another creative. And it will allow me to really take Veneer to the next level. I have already started mentally planning this space. Some might find it lame, but I find it super motivating.

Which brings me to my reason for starting a new series called Lessons Learned. Its important for me to keep account of all the mistakes I have made along the way trying to figure out how to be an awesome freelance interior designer. Thereby more successful. Doing so will ensure these mistakes will never happen again and I just get better and better every day. A mistake happens on every project, whether its your fault or not. Its embarrassing, stressful, and sometimes costly. Navigating through them gracefully is the difference between a pro and a dilettante. Cassie from The Veda House does a wonderful series for the graphic designer. I haven't come across a good one yet for interior designers; only descriptions of what to do right. Not what things could go very wrong, so I will start one myself. Hopefully you will get something out of it and you will avoid some of my mistakes and make your own truly original ones. 

Mistake #1: Saying "yes" to a project when your gut says "don't do it". When you are starting your own business you feel the pressure to say yes to every project that comes your way, even if it sounds like its going to be a cheap client with a difficult personality. You say to yourself. "It's a good challenge for me and will build my portfolio" but you will be wrong. What I have learned is that when I get the sense the client is going to be a jerk from our initial conversation, they WILL BE a jerk. Making every interaction painful, making getting your billings paid in a timely manner nearly impossible, making that great project you thought would look neat in your portfolio something you don't even want to show because your creative ideas are too expensive for this particular client to build out and they will cut corners and delete details wherever they can. They will find ways to blame you for things that you had nothing to do with. Things will get bitter and awkward. 

I don't know why some people conduct business in this manner. I truly believe if you are respectful and treat the client, contractor, and consultants like one big team people will go out of their way to please you, reduce their fees, put love into their work, and come back willingly for new work. I have also come to realize that when a client seeks you out they appreciate anything and everything you create for them. When you answer a post, they will treat you like you need to constantly prove yourself and are disposable. Which is why I have learned to let my work speak for itself and do zero marketing. Quality clients will find me through referrals, online, other blogs.  And if I get the spidey sense that a potential client is not going to be a sweet and respectful person, I just say no, er...politely decline. And you should too. Other projects will find you and you will enjoy the process of creating and building exponentially. Trust me on this one.

PS - I know this is a very long post so if you are done reading, peace be with you. As a post script, I want to say that twice I have gotten the just say no gut feeling but said yes to miserable stress inducing work that I vowed never to work with said client ever ever ever again. After the project concluded successfully my difficult clients came to the realization that they had burned their bridges with me and yet I was talented and pretty tolerant of their tirades. I received mia culpas and glossed over apologies with the hopes that we could collaborate again. On one hand I was satisfied to get the vindication, but on the other hand I knew to say no thank you to working with them again. Life is too short. Lesson learned. 

Noteworthy 08

I believe this is the first round up of noteworthy items for 2015. And its already March. Sorreeee. I wait until I get a meaty enough collection to share and here is the my hamburger plate d' jour.

1) The voyeur in me has been waiting for this house tour from A Cup of Jo for a while. Its just as cheerful and bright as I guessed it would be.  When can I come over for a play date?

2) I have been looking at new materials and I must say that charred wood has really captured my attention. Its my new (big) thing.

3) How incredibly special is this animal wallpaper?! I die.

4) I know I should be over it, but I'm still into wall hangings. This design feels less groovy hippy and more modern and architectural to me. 

5) If you can't decide on a wall color, split the difference. Super solution for couples.

6) I am in the midst of designing a 5000 SF office within a warehouse space. I am truly enjoying the creativity this type of project demands, in a different way than designing residential work. One point of reference for me is this office, which happens to be within walking distance of my house. I have admired it ever since it moved in and tried to sneak glimpses inside. Who knew these pictures would come so handy.

7) I have been hearing a lot of buzz about the Ash NYC studio. Now that I have seen their work, I totally get it. Minimalist and controlled, in a pleasing and balanced way.

8) I couldn't believe some of the fab outdoor furniture Pier One is offering this season. On trend and attractive to boot. Color me surprised.

9) My good friend from Boston recently came in for a quick visit over the weekend. We have been getting a lot of East Coast visitors sick of the cold this winter. I thought this guide to LA was well done and I would agree with everything on the list. I would warn you that you would have to rent a car to make it work.

Castle Heights - The Nursery

Whew, another week has flown by and now that things are winding down I have the time to write about my favorite room in the Castle Heights house, the nursery.

We knew it was a boy. I knew I wanted the nursery to be as clean and sophisticated as the rest of the home with mid-century and global notes, the opposite of sickly sweet. From my own experience in setting up a nursery, it helps if you think to the future. Those tiny peanuts grow up way too quickly and if you prep their rooms for the toddler and big kids stages, you save yourself a headache and money in the long run. Painting the walls a neutral color, hanging up quality framed prints that can transition to an older stage or even other areas of the house, and choosing furnishings that don't yell "KID" are key.

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The "theme" is a super subtle safari. I looked for African colors, textures, and images of jungle animals. The Hudson crib provides mid-century modern lines and the Elsa stool from Serena and Lily has a campaign look to me. Of course I would do a kilim rug layered with a thick sheepskin.

And natural bamboo woven shades to compliment the geometric wooden lighting.

Animals were represented by way of darling felt trophy heads from Restoration Hardware, The Animal Print shop photographs, and the plush toys in the crib.  I didn't want to go overboard.

I will never suggest a changing table to a new mother. What a waste of space. A dresser is a brilliant solution. A changing pad rests firmly on top at the perfect 3'  height, and when the baby starts wiggling, you move the changing pad to the floor and use the dresser through the child's teen years. We were looking for a vintage piece but they all turned out to be too low for my taller clients. The dresser from West Elm was the right size, price, and style.

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I was really into this bookcase from Land of Nod and the accompanying framed print by Beaucamping above it (look at the shadows, it spells out Don't Feed The Animals). I had too good a time styling the shelves with the colorful books and toys received from the baby shower.

Other details that reinforced the golden sunshine yellow accents of the grayish room are the whimsical ball lights from Bright Lab Lights near the glider (the right level of dim lights for midnight nursing sessions), the woven African basket for dirty laundry, and the Freshly Picked moccasins that are simply irresistable. 

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Wouldn't you know it, 3 days after we shot this nursery - its occupant arrived on the scene.  Crazy timing.

Castle Heights - The Den

The den is a small and unassuming space that sits in between the living room to the back yard. It also functions as a part time guest room with its sleeper sofa, the one furniture item I had to work around. It was a neutral and clean lined enough piece that I had no problem with that. When its not used by guests, my clients like to sit here and read while absorbing the Western light. 

The walls were painted Wickham Gray and I started scouting for golden, caramel, and honey hued pieces to tie the wall color to the existing sofa. The Loloi rug was the perfect piece with its gray and brown accents and subtly Moroccan pattern. We paired it with another pouf in caramel brown leather.

Small modern decor accents such as the macrame wall hanging by Himo Art, the brass swing arm lamp from One Forty Three, and marbelized pillows from Tonic Living were used to weave in golden highlights.

Across from the sofa we needed small storage solutions. Vintage dressers are an affordable way to infuse a small space with lots of retro style and real wood notes. A floating circular wire shelf above provided a spot for some books, and vintage props. 

The final details that really give this room its finished and thoughtful patina is the vintage lamp that boasts both the room's color scheme of grays, browns, and honeys as well as the organic marbelized pattern of the pillows and the geode book ends. Without this one lamp, I think the room wouldn't feel as composed. Seriously, its all about the details.

I love to think that these little design love notes took the room from meh to absolutely lovely and a space you want to spend time in.

Castle Heights - The Dining Room

Moving from the living area is the dining area of the same open space. The dining room had to relate in style to the living room of course - with midcentury tones, walnut wood, and brassy accents. This room was a slam dunk as I already had a clear idea of what the client wanted and how to achieve it - casual and colorful. 

Color was brought in by way of the Eames chairs and the large vintage kilim rug (which also covers much of the wood floors that aren't in the best of shape). The large beach print by Max Wanger instantly infused the space with the laid back feel I was looking for and brought in light blue as an accent color to tie into the silvery grays throughout.  

Upon seeing a pricey brass light fixture the clients were inspired by, I thought of this accessibly priced modern brass fixture by Park Studio LA and I was a hero. PS - nothing looks better with silvery gray than rich brass.

In a small corner we stuck a brass bar cart and stocke dit with vintage bar ware for more color and personality.

The Sienna buffet from Organic Modernism was the piece that bridged the mature living room area with the relaxed and youthful dining area. Midcentury modern design and sexy brass legs provided storage space as well as room for styling on top. Its just missing that one amazing piece of abstract art on the blank wall space above. The search is on.

Something super fun that rarely happens to me was the opportunity to pick out ALL the decor objects and tabletop accessories for the space. My clients wanted pretty things that would add that final finished layer of sparkle and interest but they just didn't want to spend the time on it themselves. I put together a wish list of all the beautiful objects I had been lusting after and pinning for myself one day and they went for it. Too fun. I focused on vintage brassy, modern geometric, and naturally sculptural objects for an overall organic modern look. Just look at these gems.

That's it for the dining room. Easy breezy. Coming up next, the den.