Last year I was asked by my alma mater, Reed College, to help with the re-design of the Prexy Building on the college campus. It was designed in 1914 by the renowned Portland architect, A.E. Doyle, as a home for the college president, hence its name. The building was subsequently used as a boys’ dorm in the 1940s and ’50s. Starting around 1960, Prexy was the music building, where students (including myself) went to practice the piano or other instruments. When the music department moved to its new home in the Performing Arts Building in 2013, the college decided to repurpose Prexy as the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations and the Center for Life Beyond Reed. Staff offices would be on the upper floors, but the college wanted a residential feeling for the entry and living room of this historic house, so even though there was an architect doing much of the construction design, Emery & Associates was asked to do the concept and furnishings for the entry and living room in order to make the spaces feel inviting, and uniquely Reed-like. Here’s a “BEFORE” photo I took the first day I met with the architect and Reed staff members:
Prexy Living Room “BEFORE”
The architect and I agreed that if we were going to keep the dark wood trim throughout the main floor, which the college staff wanted, we needed to add recessed lighting in the ceiling, and keep the walls fairly light colored. We were all hoping that under the worn industrial carpeting there would be hardwood floors that could be refinished, and in fact, that turned out to be the case. My challenge was to come up with a furnishings concept that would keep the English cottage style feeling that A.E. Doyle intended, but would still be functional and inviting for alumni, staff, and students today. I began by pondering some old photographs of the house as it was furnished nearly 100 years ago:
As I contemplated the kinds of furnishings that would have existed around the turn of the century, I was inspired to explore the English Arts and Crafts movement, since it was born of ideals that grew out of a concern for the effects of industrialization, placing great value on work, the joy of craftsmanship and the natural beauty of materials. Eventually, I found myself looking at reproduction hand-blocked wallpapers from the period. As soon as I spotted the “Lion and Dove” frieze (see below), I knew I had found my starting place. The calligraphic banner alone knocked my socks off (calligraphy having been a major aspect of Reed life for many decades), and the roses represented the City of Portland in my mind. I loved the earthy color palette, and thought it would pair nicely with the dark wood trim. And the lion and dove? Well, you just need to keep reading!
Key Design Element: Lion & Dove Wallpaper Frieze by Walter Crane
Walter Crane was a socialist artist involved in the creation of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society and the Art Workers’ Guild in England. He worked alongside prominent artists of the day such as William Morris and Edward Burne Jones, who shared the belief in the socially reforming power of art that could be appreciated and consumed by the masses. They repudiated the idea that fine art was “higher” than decorative art. This magnificent wallpaper frieze was Walter Crane’s critical response to the Second Boer War (1899-1902). In this very floral design (c. 1901), Crane features the belligerent British Imperial Lion being gently pacified by the White Dove of Peace. The text of the calligraphic banner, “The Wilderness shall blossom as the ROSE,” is a paraphrase of the words found in the first verse of the 35th chapter of the Book of Isaiah. Bradbury & Bradbury, an American company that specializes in hand prints from the English Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic Movement, made the hand-blocked reproduction. The original frieze resides in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Kathia’s Concept Sketch for Prexy Living Room
My concept sketch (above) shows how the wallpaper frieze would scale out on the focal wall above the bookshelves, and I presented it, along with a color board of textiles (below), to the college staff for their approval.
With the concept and color palette established, I also gave them a scaled out furniture plan for upholstery that would be custom built locally for the space. Once the college approved my designs, we placed the orders, and all of pieces went into production. By the end of summer, we were ready for the installation. Here is the “AFTER”shot of the living room:
What you can’t see in this shot is the large screen TV that is mounted on the wall opposite the pair of chairs. Since this photo was taken, we have also made a lot of progress with filling the bookshelves with books by Reed authors.
Adjacent to the living room is a charming inglenook–a fireplace with built-in bench seating on either side, paneled in dark wood. We added a rug, reupholstered the cushions, added some large toss pillows, and a number of accessories to enliven this area. Here is the inglenook BEFORE:
Prexy inglenook BEFORE
Here is the inglenook AFTER:
Prexy Inglenook AFTER
Inglenook detail: The art print and candle sconces pop against the dark wood.
And at last comes the entry, which looked like this BEFORE:
Prexy entry BEFORE
The refinished hardwood floors make the most dramatic difference–they gleam and reflect the light. A new reception desk says “welcome,” and the area rugs and reupholstered antique chairs invite one in. Prexy feels like a home again!
My thanks to the Alumni Office staff at Reed College for being such a pleasure to work with, especially Mela Kunitz, Mike Teskey, and Todd Hesse; to Reed Archivist, Gay Walker, for providing the information and historic photos of “olde Reed”; to Jennifer Russina, AIA, from ZGF, for her design skills and for pulling with me about the lighting; to Michael Conner, wallpaper installer extraordinaire; and Jack and Luis at Design Furnishings Inc., for all of the upholstery.
Kathia and Jim’s 4th of July table
We are blessed in the Pacific Northwest with a moderate climate that makes outdoor entertaining possible from May through September. If you are new to outdoor entertaining, here are a few tips to make it easy and fun:
1. FOOD: Don’t try to do it all yourself. Plan simple menus, prepare most things the day before, and take advantage of the amazing variety of items you can purchase from specialty stores. One of my good neighbor friends, Marsha Buono, tipped me off to New Seasons’ pimento cheese dip for crudités, and Trader Joe’s mushroom turnovers. Yum! You could do entire menu with take out. Put everything on your own beautiful serving dishes–who will know?
2. SEATING: Mix and match chairs to make enough seating if you are planning a sit-down meal. We have wicker, iron, and wooden chairs from inside the house mixed in the photo above to seat 8 around the 48″ diameter table. If you are planning a really large party, and don’t have enough seating, become acquainted with your local party rental company. Most of them deliver, and it’s well worth the money for guests to have places to sit.
3. TRAYS: One can’t have too many trays. They are useful for grouping condiments, coffee service, barware, drinks, and many other small items, and necessary for transporting things from indoors to outdoors and back again. A rolling teacart (photo below), which is a tray on wheels, can be useful as a drinks station, dessert server, or auxiliary buffet.
4. SHELTER: Make sure to have something to give respite from the elements. You can see from the photo above that our dining table is sitting underneath a porch overhang. If you don’t have a built-in shelter, add a large umbrella to your outdoor space (see photo below). If you are having a really large party, and the weather is dicey, renting a canopy makes good sense.
Jim and Kathia’s upper deck
5. COLOR: Pretty dishes and table linens, along with pots of plants, add interest and seasonal color . Cloth napkins and tablecloths, and food served on real dishes, are my preference if we are having 8 people or fewer, but for a large crowd I go with paper plates and napkins. Do what works for YOU–it’s the social aspect of the party that is important. If you don’t want the expense of buying linens for a once-a-year event, give the party rental place a call (that’s what I did this year, since I don’t own a 108″ round, red tablecloth, and really wanted red/white/blue for the 4th of July).
Entertaining friends in the summer is a delight if you plan ahead and start small. It gets easier the more you do it. All of the items I’ve mentioned above are available at a variety of price points, from garage sales and thrift stores to expensive retail outlets. I’ve been collecting dishes and linens for years (my husband teases me that we have enough sets of dishes for TWO Kosher families), but you don’t need multiple sets of dishes to entertain well–just the desire to enjoy the company of friends in your own backyard.
It’s not often that I design a room around a dog, but Samoa is a very special dog. She’s a Bernese Mountain Dog, and it was her chewing behavior as a young dog that prompted her owners, Sue and Bob Van Brocklin, to ask Emery & Associates to redecorate their family room. Eventually we worked our way to the dining room, and when we brought this rug to their home, Samoa immediately gave it her stamp of approval. Here’s what the dining room looked like BEFORE:
DINING ROOM BEFORE
We spent a lot of time talking about their lifestyle and what they love. They love traveling, especially in France, and have collected French dishes in Monet’s pattern, and French Indienne linens. Their old furniture had served them well while their children were small, but they were grown up now, and Sue and Bob wanted furnishings that reflected their current taste and interests. They wanted a dining table large enough to seat their extended family for holidays, and comfortable dining chairs. They needed everything redone: walls, window coverings, rug, furniture, and lighting. When I presented them with my concept sketch for the makeover, I told them it was easier for me to draw a picture of Samoa than four more dining chairs.
KATHIA’S CONCEPT SKETCH
Along with the concept sketch, I also presented a vision board with fabrics, furniture finishes, rug ideas, and photographs of dining table and chairs:
VAN BROCKLIN DINING ROOM VISION BOARD
The “BEFORE” room was calling out for a mix of color and pattern to wake it up. I found a fresh blue and white fabric from Pindler & Pindler for the Roman shades that flank the built-in buffet, and used it to drape the large front window as well. The drapery adds softness and color, and a bit of sound dampening. The next piece was the rug from NW Rugs, which adds a pop of red to the blue/white/yellow palette, and also the advantage of enough pattern and color to hide a multitude of sins, including Samoa’s paw prints, food crumbs, and spills. The small blue and white textured fabric from Brunschwig & Fils was the perfect choice for the dining room chairs. The classic “Tula” table from Ebanista, is eight feet long most of the time, but expands to ten feet when needed for larger groups. Since Bob is 6’5″ tall, the French antique mouton chairs they both loved were not practical. My upholstery workroom created the custom-sized chairs to accommodate modern dining height, with a slightly higher and deeper chair for Bob. The trick was to make sure that the arm of the host chair, and the host’s knees, would not hit the apron of the table. So far, so good! Here’s how the room looks now.
When I took the “BEFORE” shot (below) of the dining room, looking toward the front window, the table under the window had been used to extend the former dining table for large holiday meals. It had also became a dumping spot for clutter.
DINING ROOM BEFORE, VIEW TO FRONT WINDOW
Since the new table can grow to fit their large extended family, and the original built-in buffet has been re-styled, the dining room doesn’t need a secondary table anymore. The rug is sized to fit the generous proportions of the room, large enough that the chairs can be pushed back without them falling off the rug, but allowing a band of the beautiful hardwood floors surrounding it to show. This room is company ready!
DINING ROOM AFTER, VIEW TOWARD FRONT WINDOW
We love working with families who have children and pets. Nothing is more wonderful than the fun of watching their antics, not to mention the companionship and unconditional love they give us (well, dogs give us unconditional love–cats and kids, not so much). On the other hand, nothing is more frustrating than the muck, disorder, and chaos they can cause. If you need help decorating around kids, cats, and dogs, give Emery & Associates a call. We can help. We’ve been there.
It’s a sad story–hardly anyone “lives” in their living rooms anymore. This is a tale we hear over and over, and here is one example of how we fixed it. The “AFTER” detail above shows a small slice of the adjoining living and dining rooms featured in this post. When the homeowners called Emery & Associates in June of 2012, the living room was the lowest priority on their list of residential “must haves,” coming in third after the family room (#1) and the master bedroom (#2). Part of the reason they weren’t very interested in the space is because nobody ever went into this room except on rare occasions.
The living room looked like this “BEFORE”:
BEFORE Living Room (view from Entry)
This view from the entry shows that the back of the sofa blocks traffic into the room. The wife disliked the awkward furniture placement, and had tried rearranging things with no success. I knew we could fix that with a different combination of furnishings, and I also felt that the peach walls and tapestry sofa fabric were dated. The mantel needed reworking, and their beautiful antique furnishings which had been passed down through the family seemed lost in this “NW transitional” architecture (those furnishings really wanted to be in a more traditional space).
AFTER Living Room (view from Entry)
With a large window wall and two large openings into the room, no wonder the owners were stymied about how to arrange the furniture! We scaled out a new furniture plan on paper, then carefully introduced furnishings to exactly fit the space. We began by replacing the too small and informal teal Gabbeh rug with a room-sized Kirman from NW Rugs. The melon and gold of the new rug established the color palette for the space. We also dispensed with the sofa/loveseat combo, replacing them with a short sofa (right above), a large club chair/ottoman, and a pair of chairs.
BEFORE Living Room Window Wall
Part of the difficulty with furniture arrangement was due to the necessity of keeping the large grand piano. Centering the piano in front of the large window allowed us to use the adjacent wall for a pair of chairs. Now the room is much more open and inviting, and offers more seating than was possible before.
AFTER Living Room Window Wall
Curtains hung from medallions frame the window, and add a dressy, traditional touch to the room. We carried the same drapery fabric into the dining room, and added upholstered host chairs at both ends of the table for warmth and cushiness.
AFTER View to living room from dining room
AFTER Dining Room
Now these two rooms feel pulled together, because we have integrated the owner’s antique pieces with the perfect rug, comfortable upholstery, and elegant drapery. The room is now comfortable for one person to read, sitting in the big club chair with feet up, as well as for a small crowd.
I want to express my appreciation to the clients for their willingness to do everything I recommended, and I also want to thank my talented artisans for all their custom work: my sewer, Tracy Quoidbach, for curtains and pillows; Triena Capers at Castec for the Roman shade in the living room; my window coverings installer, Ken Chupp, for measuring and installing all window coverings; Design Furnishings Inc., for fabricating all of the custom upholstery; and Parker Furniture for the pair of chairs in the living room.
“AFTER” photography by StickleyCreative.
Susan Bach and Doug Egan combined their households some years ago. When they asked Emery & Associates for help redoing the entire house, it was apparent that what they needed help with the most was integrating Susan’s family pieces and whimsical country style with Doug’s more formal, traditional French style. We began in the TV room, since it got daily use. Here is a shot of the room “BEFORE”:
Both Susan and Doug were tired of the dated valance, wallpaper, sofa, and peach-colored cellular shades, and they also felt they didn’t need a sofa in this room; a pair of chairs would do. After scouting around the house, I suggested moving a rug from the master bedroom into the TV room to use as a jumping off place for a new, more vibrant, palette. The Tibetan rug not only amps up the color palette (Susan is very fond of red), but the fleur-de-lys design and colors telegraph “Provence,” thereby keeping a French vibe going for Doug.
Inspired by this rug, I proposed Dijon yellow for the walls, a cayenne red fabric for a pair of chairs, and a media cabinet painted in traditional cream like the room’s trim to hold the TV, books, and objets d’art. New Silhouette blinds replaced the old cellular shades, giving much more flexibility as they diffuse the light during the day, while at the same time affording a view to the outside. At night or when needed, the blockout vanes can be completely closed for total privacy.
Once the painting was completed and all the new furnishings were installed, we moved a pair of whimsical pastels by Anora Spence from another room, and added a lamp and table between the pair of chairs. Now this room has a warm, cozy feeling, and reflects both Susan’s and Doug’s taste. Here’s how the room looks AFTER (also, see detail, above):
One way to unify a space is by the use of color, which is what we did in this case. ”We’re really pleased with the house, its transformation and all your work.” I’m pleased that they are pleased.
Emery & Associates did a major remodel of a client’s living room fireplace several years ago (see my previous post ”Hot New Looks for Old Fireplaces,” February 24, 2011). The clients liked the remodeled fireplace so much that this year they rearranged their furniture so that the sofa faces the fireplace, which has become the focal point of the room. There was just one hitch–something wasn’t right about the arrangement of the furnishings. They called me to come over and figure out what wasn’t working. What I did took less than an hour, and illustrates the concept of “redesign,” which means an inexpensive way to create a fresh, harmonious look without purchasing anything new. Redesigning is taking the homeowner’s own furnishings, and moving, rearranging and remixing them in a short amount of time for a fixed fee.
Here’s the renovated fireplace, which triggered the homeowner’s furniture rearrangement:
The first thing I do when beginning any job is ask the client what they think is the problem. In this case, the wife said “I’m not sure it’s good because it’s all the same colors over there (on the sofa wall).” These clients have lovely furnishings, so I knew they didn’t need to add anything. After walking around a bit, I said “Let’s take a photo of the room. That’s always a good place to start.” So here is what the living room looked like from the entry:
Living Room BEFORE
As you can see from this “BEFORE” shot, to get to the sofa, you almost had to walk through an occasional chair next to a table with a lamp on it, and the torchiere lamp behind the sofa seemed oddly placed. I told my clients that I thought we could fix this problem, just the three of us, in about 20 minutes. I also asked the wife if she minded if we turned one of the beautiful Oriental rugs the opposite way, and put the other rug into another room. She agreed, and after a bit of huffing and puffing, the husband, wife, and I pushed and shoved and rearranged so that the sofa now has a lamp table plus lamp on each end, which allowed us to move the torchiere lamp to the adjacent wall, next to a piece of art. The wing chairs are at right angles to the sofa, which facilitates conversation, and the room feels much more open and inviting. The chair that you see the back of in the “before” photo was moved to a spot next to the fireplace, so it’s still in the room, but not visible from this view. It can be pulled up near the wing chair if need be when guests are present.
Living Room AFTER
Sometimes “redesign” is referred to as “Use What You Have Decorating,” and I think there is an interior designer out there somewhere who may have even trademarked that name. It helps if you already own beautiful things, as these clients did, but we do redesign on most jobs, since nobody gets rid of everything when they begin a design project.
If you’re not sure whether you need a remodel, a major redecoration or a “redesign,” please give Emery & Associates a call. We would be happy to meet with you for one hour at no charge to assess your design needs.
Yes, I’m kidding. But even on dark and rainy days the mood in this room is sunny and warm, like a day in Provence. When we first started talking about what kind of changes they wanted in their home, Sue and Bob Van Brocklin let me know their color and style preferences, and we spent a lot of time talking and walking through the house, discussing the things that they loved and didn’t love about their home. We began in the kitchen nook (see my post “French Dressing for Kitchen Nook,” under category “kitchen nook”), which firmly established the blue-and-yellow color palette. Sue had a large collection of table linens, china and other objets d’art from France, including the very china from Monet’s table in Giverny. This became our color palette inspiration.
My challenge was to determine what else needed to be changed to make the space warm and inviting, and to present the changes to Sue and Bob. Here’s what their living room looked like BEFORE:
Living Room BEFORE
They told me they rarely spent time in this room, and it was obvious to me why they didn’t. For starters, the furniture arrangement didn’t encourage conversation. The sofa and chairs were too far apart, there was no coffee table to set down drinks or snacks, and the colors were bland. The lighting was dim, and the fireplace wall, with the oddly mis-matched windows flanking it, lacked charm.
I did a concept sketch of the fireplace wall, showing a European-style carved stone fireplace to create a dramatic focal point for the room. I also added drapery to minimize the window differences, and pairs of sofas, lamp tables, and lamps, to give a slightly more formal and dressy feeling.
I presented blue-and-white fabrics for drapery, upholstery, and pillows, which would contrast beautifully against the sunny golden walls, and a magnificent Oriental rug from NW Rugs, which added a vibrant tone of red. New recessed lighting in the ceiling, on dimmers for maximum control, would keep the room warm and inviting no matter what the weather or time of day.
Last week a friend sent Sue and Bob a lovely magnolia wreath, so I suggested they put it above the magnificent custom-carved limestone fireplace, fabricated by the Stone Center, for the holiday season, since we are still on the lookout for the perfect piece of art.
We finished this room the day before Thanksgiving. My gratitude is unbounded for Sue and Bob’s willingness to go along with my ideas for their space, as well as for the massive inconvenience and mess that goes along with a major renovation of this kind. Emery & Associates is also grateful to all of our vendors and skilled artisans, who work so hard to create beauty and value for our clients. This response from the Van Brocklins warmed our hearts:
“Thank you so very much for making such an improvement in our home! We truly love everything you did in the living room.”
When it comes to interior design, most people think of me as a colorist. Fact is, I think of myself that way. But recently we needed to replace the flooring in our guest room, which is on the lower level of our home. After consulting with my good friend, interior designer Jamie Devlin, who works for CFM, we chose Mannington laminated flooring in a warm cherry color. The installers Jamie recommended were wonderful, and in a few days we had a beautiful, shiny floor instead of the black carpeting that had been there since we moved in 8 years ago. Trouble was, all our furniture was old and brown, so I was faced with the dilemma of too much brown wood, which forced me into DIY mode. I decided to paint my furniture. I can hear the gasps now–”Oh, NO! You can’t paint those antiques!” But, as you can see from the “BEFORE” shot, below, something needed to change.
BEFORE: View of Fireplace Wall
So I painted the fireplace wall, and the armoire with the mirrored doors. The mantel had fallen off the wall a few years before, and my husband had moved out his old desk (where the Christmas tree sat). The loveseat and draperies stayed the same, but we moved the armoire to sit in front of the doorway to a storage room, since we can access it another way and never used the door. A new mirror (from Pier One) and a pair of chairs moved from the living room makes a great conversation area in front of the fireplace. Doesn’t the room look fresher now?
AFTER: View of Fireplace Wall
I haven’t been a DIY-er since the ’70s, so painting the armoire and the dresser took me days and days! I then decided to refresh the bed linens so I’d have an all white room. Here’s how the bed looked BEFORE:
BEFORE: Headboard Wall
You can see the brown dresser to the left of the bed, and while this room had its charm, I was really ready to lighten everything up. Also, the brass headboard had fallen out of style, so it got a coat of flat black paint. The old lamp went away, and a pair of vintage alabaster lamps from a local design shop were added to the mix since we often have a couple staying in our guest room, and I think each person deserves a reading lamp. New linens from Tuesday Morning and Macy’s completed this budget makeover:
AFTER: Headboard Wall
Probably the best response I’ve gotten after this makeover is from my son, Tony, who said “Wow, Mom! This looks great! It reminds me of Anthropologie.” He then asked ”What do you call this style?” I hadn’t thought about it, but decided that perhaps “Paris Flea Market” might describe the look. What do you think? I’d love your feedback in the “comments” space, below.
While some people have an innate sense of scale and proportion when it comes to furnishing a room, most of us could use a little help, which is the reason most professional interior designers and architects carry tape measures with them at all times. At Emery & Associates we usually start with scaled floor plans, and then go on to develop the the rest of the space, adding color, texture, furnishings, and art to make a harmonious, finished whole. The example below is a very large master bedroom, roughly 16 feet square, with eleven foot ceilings, in the penthouse at Tanner Place in the Pearl District.
This beautiful room resulted from taking note of the generous proportions of the room, and searching for furnishings that would be in proper scale with each other and with the size of the room. When my clients first looked at this condo, they took photos of the rooms with the previous owner’s furnishings. BEFORE:
BEFORE Tanner Place Master Bedroom (Previous owner’s furnishings)
The queen-sized four-poster bed and delicate night stands belonging to the previous owner are dwarfed in this space. I told my clients that they needed a king-sized bed, with large chests on either side, as standard-sized night stands would be out of proportion with the size of the room. So we installed a bed with a six-foot-high, fully-upholstered headboard and proportional footboard. And when I say “we,” I mean the excellent delivery crew from Parker Furniture.
Installing the bed at Tanner Place
Standard-sized night stands would be out of proportion with the size of the room, so I found oversized chests that measure four feet wide by three feet high to flank the bed.
The crew wrestle the chests into position
The mirrors above the chests are each five feet high by 41″ wide, reflecting back the views of downtown Portland from outside the condo windows. Bed, chests, and mirrors by Hickory Chair Furniture through Parker Furniture.
Putting the mirrors into position
Draperies mounted just below the crown molding emphasize the high ceilings, and add color and pattern to the room. Since the clients wanted to keep the lemon-yellow broadloom carpeting and walls, I thought the cool grey/spa blue tones in the fabrics worked as a perfect complement to the warm walls and floor.
DETAIL: Drapery and chair fabric by Calvin Klein through Kravet Fabrics
Proper proportion and scale are essential design principles. If you’re not sure about how these principles apply, or if you want to learn more about the elements of design, contact Emery & Associates. We would love to hear from you.