The initial excitement of moving into a new home can lead to hasty decisions when it comes to renovations and interior design. So it’s often more practical to live there awhile to determine what truly suits one’s needs.
Such was the case for a family of four who moved into a Newtown Square Colonial almost a decade ago. “A lot of times, people want to start changing things right away,” says the owner.
And as tempting as it was to go new with everything, this family learned the virtues of patience—and that some things were worth the wait. Renovations were tackled one room at a time from a wish list that included the kitchen, living room and family room.
Wayne interior designer Lisa Furey —a neighbor at the time—was hired for the job. For Furey, the focus is always on “style, simplicity, minimal fuss and accessible design.” Since she’d never worked with an interior designer before, the client had some misconceptions about the process.
“Many people assume you have to hire an interior designer to design your whole house at the same time,” says Furey. “That’s not the case. A project can be taken in stages.”
In this instance, Furey worked with the homeowner for six years. First to get revamped: the living room, an area mainly used for reading and entertaining. “Very few people want traditional—even for formal living rooms,” says Furey. “[The owners] wanted a comfortable space the whole family could use. They didn’t want it to be a pass-by room anymore.”
So Furey created an inviting atmosphere, with furniture that’s sophisticated yet comfortable, soothing soft-yellow walls, and chic balloon valances. Replacing the heavy floor-length window treatments brightens up the room and allows for beautiful views of the spacious back yard.
Furey exchanged the glass coffee table for a round, tufted ottoman. Other new additions include a practical writing desk behind the sofa, and a corner built-in with lighted display shelves and cabinets. Furey generally recommends that clients go with a solid color for the couch. “It’s easier and cheaper to change other pieces of furniture or accessories,” she says. “It gives you more flexibility.”
The addition of sconces on either side of the fireplace provides extra light, and a demilune table set against the wall is a nice, useful touch. “A rectangular side table wouldn’t fit, so this was the perfect compromise,” says Furey. “It gives you a surface to place things on, but it doesn’t take up much valuable floor space.”
As the heart of the home, the kitchen required the most renovation. And in this case, Furey’s precise attention to detail served her well. “With proper planning, it’s possible to get everything into a space,” she says. “Though sometimes you’re planning everything down to the last inch.”
Soft, neutral hues dominate the room. The old L-shaped peninsula was too overpowering for the long, narrow space, so it was the first thing to go. On the floor, porcelain tiles were laid diagonally to make the area seem wider. Painted cream with a mocha glaze, the maple cabinetry features under-cabinet lighting. A cream-colored tumble-marble backsplash is the perfect accent. “The glaze adds depth and dimension to the cabinets,” says Furey.
Granite countertops and stainless steel appliances complete the updating, along with a custom furniture piece that doubles as an island. “It’s the perfect size for the room and allows for additional counter space,” says Furey.
The other side of the kitchen features a dry bar atop four storage drawers, plus antique seeded-glass cabinets and a pantry. Instead of a backsplash, Furey added a mirror behind the bar to reflect the light streaming in through the sliding glass doors across the room.
To save valuable counter space, a combination microwave/convection oven was installed above the conventional oven. “It’s night and day from what it used to be in here,” says the homeowner of her retooled kitchen. “It feels much more open and spacious.”
In this house, the family room was second in popularity only to the kitchen—and it begged for “a dressed-down, relaxed environment,” says Furey.
With two college-aged kids in the home, their parents wanted a place where they could hang out. Brown paneling made the room seem dark, despite a window and a glass door leading to the deck. “I wanted to get rid of it,” says the owner.
But the paneling had a great texture, so Furey thought it should stay—though it was painted a light mushroom color. Recessed lighting further brightens things up, and replacing the traditional fireplace with a gas version adds convenience. A wall of built-ins provides plenty of space for books, a flat-screen television and a home office area.
“Furniture placement was a challenge because of the multiple focal points in the room,” says Furey. “But we were able to fit everything perfectly. Everyone can see everything, whether they’re focusing on the TV or the fireplace.”
Like everything else in her house, the family room was worth the wait.
“I go into much bigger, newer, fancier homes—but I love mine,” says the owner. “It’s designed for how we live as a family. Our interiors finally fit our vision.”
Do your homework. Be prepared before you start looking for an interior designer. Consider what existing design elements you want to keep. Scour books and magazines for ideas. Establish a budget and set a ceiling on how much you’re willing to spend. Visit furniture stores and model homes for additional design ideas, taking pictures of what you like.
Avoid D.I.Y. dangers. Turn to an interior design professional for consulting and project management. Designers will help you avoid common mistakes, like choosing poor-quality materials or using insufficient lighting.
Call in the experts. Don’t estimate the amount of time it will take to effectively manage the task and the contractors involved. Managing a project requires coordinating contractors and vendors. Interior designers have the training and expertise to handle all the details.
1. Set a budget. Start with the rooms you use most.
2. Choose your style. Look through magazines and clip pictures of what you like. Make a list of common elements. Are the rooms bright and cheerful? Elegant and formal? Take your time; choosing a look for your home is a process.
3. Pick a color scheme. Choose colors you love and carry them throughout the home, letting one dominate each room. Most feel comfortable with one dominant color and two or three accents per room.
4. Mix and match prints. Begin with a print you love and design around it. Freely mix and match florals, stripes, plaids, checks or textures with your inspirational first choice. As long as you use the same colors throughout the room, you can work with a number of patterns.
5. Have fun. Relax and enjoy the decorating process.