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garner cape house

as you may have read last week, my best friend joia and her husband T recently bought a house! it’s in my hometown (well, sort of–the town next to it!), about a 4 minute drive from my parents, and i’m super excited about it. it’s a 1940s cape style home that was recently renovated, but more in a “let’s flip this baby” style than a “let’s really think about design” style.

as a result, joia and T have more than a few changes they’d like to make (but over time!). i’ll be helping joia choose some of the paint colors and furniture pieces, and while the design boards below may never totally come to fruition, they’re a good starting point for helping the two of them think about the space.

i have thoughts for pretty much all the rooms (you can see part 1 and part 2 of the before tour if you’re tardy to the party), but i’m starting with one of the spaces in which they’ll spend the majority of their time: the living room.

Garner Cape_Living Room Wide Shot 2as you can see, it’s a rather big space. the wall to wall carpet was put in recently, but we’ll probably cover it up with at least one area rug. joia and T already purchased a large grey sectional, so we’ll be working with that (pillow party time!). beyond those bigger elements, my overall thinking is this: it’s a large room with good light but rather low ceilings–so we want to keep it bright and airy, paint-wise, and bring the eyes up, curtain-wise. beyond that, i’m going for a collected, cozy, homey traditional vibe. think: antique pieces with soul, but nothing too old or stuffy.

in terms of the placement of things, i’m hoping to anchor the various parts of the room with little vignettes. for example, the front right wall (right by the entrance to the kitchen/eating area) is BEGGING for a bar cart. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PUT A BAR CART IN FRONT OF ME! it says.

Garner Cape_LR_Front Right Corner_Design Notes 2next to it is the perfect wall for a big art piece. speaking of art, i’m thinking mostly vintage pieces–either ones that joia and T already have, or pieces we can find at antique stores and flea markets. again: i want the room to have soul.

anyway, back to the rest of the space. so you don’t have to scroll back up, here it is again–this time with notes!

Garner Living Room_DesignNotes_1as i said above, with the lower ceilings, i think we need a bright, airy color. enter chantilly lace by benjamin moore. it’s a cooler white (blue undertones), but i think with the natural light in this room, we can totally do it. i’m worried that a warmer white will go dingy with the carpet, so blue-ish white it is!

i’m also advocating that they hang those ceilings ALL THE WAY UP, as a way to draw the eyes up, and get a large area rug to cover up some of that carpet. in a perfect world, we’d tear it up and get beautiful hardwoods (there are likely some underneath!) but that’s not in the cards right now, so we’ll make do with what we’ve got! the back corner will be the heart of the room, with the ginormous sectional that joia and T recently purchased (we’ll zhush it up with fun pillows and throws).

the biggest change (which is actually already in progress!) is tearing out that fireplace/tile surround. because, get this: it’s FAKE. like, that shiz does not work. honestly, i don’t understand people sometimes. why on earth would you tile the thing and make it a focal point when it’s not even real?? especially in new england, where MANY HOUSES have real, working fireplaces (it gets colllllldy cold in western massachusetts)?

Garner Cape_LR_Fireplace_Design Notes 3then, to the left of the fireplace, they’ve got some additional space–space that needs to be filled, either by a bookshelf, or by (my choice) a pretty vintage wood dresser like the one in the design plan below. bringing in wood elements will give the room a sense of gravitas, and best of all, can be found secondhand (without spending a fortune). the house is old and therefore, not exactly chock full of closets, so a dresser will also provide a nice home for extra table linens, china, silverware, etc. (the home doesn’t have a formal dining room).

okay, NOW FOR THE FUN PART: THE DESIGN PLAN! this is obviously just the bigger pieces, and just an idea of things–not necessarily the actual pieces.

Garner Living Room_Design Plan_v1i’m hoping that we can find a vintage rug–there’s a great dealer a few towns away that sometimes gets huge rugs for a (relative) steal (he’s where i snagged my colorful hallway runner!). we’ll need a really big one (likely a 9 by 12) to fill the space, but i’m confident we can do it. to balance out the giant sectional (which is from a big box store), i want to hunt for an overstuffed leather armchair. you know, those big snuggly ones that make you feel like you’re sitting in a british library sipping a cup of tea and smoking a giant cigar. i once found one of those on the side of the street here in new york, and stood in front of it until i could procure a man with a van on craigslist to pick it up and bring it to my apartment (worth it!).

to bring in some sparkle (because obviously), i’m eyeing a brass bar cart and brass library-style lamp (to go by the couch). the one above is a pricey one from crate & barrel, but target makes a ton of inexpensive options that i’ve seen in person and that are QUITE CUTE. the library-style lamps are pretty much everywhere these days, so it’ll be easy to find an inexpensive one.

for their coffee table, i love the idea of finding a vintage trunk–or buying the one above from CB2, which is relatively reasonable and bridges the gap between being old and too antique-y and looking big box brand spanking new. they could certainly do a wood coffee table in here, but i searched for quite some time and couldn’t find any that i really loved. ialso love the idea of a giant leather ottoman, but that may be too eclectic for their taste.

in terms of art, we’d go vintage here as well, where possible. i love the idea of finding old oil portraits (that’s def someone’s uncle up there!) for cheap, or using old botanical prints (or something similar, like the ones above) as art. we could always mix in more modern prints, but i think older pieces help give a room a layered feel.

so, now that i’ve convinced you that i’m designing a home for old people, let me say this: between their TV area (which will have built-ins for their consoles, etc.) their couch, and potential side tables (plus finishing touches like pillows, throws, tchotchkes, etc.), there will be plenty of modern elements to balance out the space. i promise!

stay tuned over the next few months for more of the garner cape house–i’ve got big plans for their master bedroom (whitewashed walls! a yoga/meditation space!) and second bedroom (BUILT-INS!).

ps: if you’ve got specific questions about the home, the design process, or anything related to the two, ask away! i’d love to structure these posts around the parts of the process you care most about.

more on the garner cape house:

my best friend bought a house (part 1)!

my best friend bought a house (part 2)!

 

 

life is funny. the weekend before this one, i published a post about how my best friend bought a house (!). in it, i shared that joia (said house-buying bff) and i had, along with our other bff kim, been friends for 30 years. and now, as i write this post, i’m sitting in kim’s living room in san francisco (i’m here visiting her and her husband G for the long weekend). despite the three of us living across the country from one another (me in NY, joia in MA, kim in SF), we manage to find time and ways to see one another multiple times a year. the flight to SF is just long enough that it’s a bit of a pain for a long weekend, but i always find it to be worth it.

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kim, my moms, and me at the ferry building in SF

plus, my parents were here for the last two days, which made the trip extra special: i was able to spend friday with them before the three of us met up with kim and G for dinner, and they met kim and i for a post-soul cycle walk around the ferry building farmer’s market before going off on their own yesterday.

ANYWHO. back to regularly scheduled programming! we’re gathered here today so “walk through” the second floor of joia and T’s house, which is a 1940s cape house brimming with potential. if you need a refresher on overall thoughts on the house, check out this post. it contains all the details about the first floor, and paves the way for the living room design plan i’ll be sharing later this week.

below is the living room. i’m standing in the staircase that leads upstairs. this room is rather large, and leads up a cute little set up wooden steps with a circular window at the landing and a bigger window on the staircase itself.

Garner Cape_Living Room Wide Shot 2

here’s joia standing in the staircase. you can see a glimpse of the tiny little round window on the landing below, and this window is set towards the top of the staircase. it looks out onto the leafy green backyard, and lets in a lot of nice natural light.

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i actually quite like the style of the railing – it fits the house. the stairs are in great shape, and don’t need a runner–but i think one would look nice here, and would feel nicer underfoot.

at the top of the stairs, you’re given a few options: the master bedroom, which is a low-ceiling, attic-esque room with an odd layout but lots of space, and the second bedroom/”kid’s room” that has AMAZING original built-ins.

let’s start with the master. this is what you see when you stand in the doorway of the room. straight ahead is where the bed will go (on the right wall). the doorway at the right leads to a bathroom. the doorway straight ahead leads to a small (tiny) deck and side staircase. they’ll fix that spot eventually, but for now, we’ll probably just find a cute area rug to cover the linoleum area.

Garner Cape_Attic Master from Hallwaythis carpet is new, and can be found throughout the house. while it’s not necessarily what joia and T would have chosen, it’s nice underfoot, and they can add area rugs to make it look cuter. you can see that the roofline of the house is such that this room is almost like an attic space (they actually have insane storage to the left in the photo above–it extends all the way into the eaves of the house). i’m recommending they whitewash it all: walls, ceilings, trim. i think in a room like this, white and bright is the way to go. i have MANY ideas for this space, but that’s a post for another day.

Garner Cape_Attic Master_Fullabove is the room from another angle. can’t you picture it all white and bright? maybe with some white sheepskin rugs at either side of the bed? they’ll have to cut down their current bedframe to fit in this space, but they can make it work. as we were walking through the space, joia and i noticed there was an abundance of light switches and outlets (see the back wall above); she’s hoping T or an electrician can get rid of some of them/put the in spots that make a bit more sense.

Garner Cape_Attic Master_Front Wallhere’s the storage area i was referencing above (i’m now standing at the back wall, where the bed will go). behind this door is tons of open space – perfect for suitcases, extra boxes, out of season clothes, etc.

off to the right below (aka to the right of where joia is walking out of frame) is an open area that they’ll be able to use for storage (a dresser, probably), along with a large closet (you can see the door peeking out in the photo below).

Garner Cape_Attic Master into Hallway

we’re thinking of a dresser along the slanted wall below (again, picture this all a bright white). and then, setting this spot up for joia to do her yoga and meditation. with the big windows and some beautiful candles and crystals i think it’ll be positively lovely.

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here’s this side of the room from another angle. at left is the closest, straight ahead will be joia’s yoga area. the closet is quite deep, so once they really do it up in there (aka, add some more shelving/rods), it’ll be a great storage space.

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now on to the second bedroom. this is where it gets really good. sadly i didn’t take as many pictures of this space as i should have – i’ll have to get some more from joia. for now, this will be a second bedroom; in the future, it could easily be turned into a kid’s room. i think we’ll swap those sconces out, but how much do you love those built-ins?! they’re original to the house, and i love them so much.

Garner Cape_Kids Bedroom_Built Ins 2

that window area is positively begging for a built-in window seat: bench with cushion, and maybe some storage below?! picture it filled with baskets, or brimming with children’s books. heart melt.

Garner Cape_Kids Bedroom Built Ins

the floors in here are particularly lovely, which gives me faith that the same floors are under the rugs in the rest of the house (especially in the bedroom), should joia and T want to tear up the rugs later on in life. my parents had wall to wall carpeting throughout our entire upstairs when i was little, and slowly, over the years, they tore all of it up for hardwood flooring. the room i now stay in when i come home is actually the only remaining carpeted room! it sounds crazy, but it’s definitely something you can do over time/later on, especially if you don’t have the budget to do it when you first purchase your home.

SO. that’s all for now. i’ll try and snap more pictures the next time i visit, and of course, will keep you updated, whether it’s here or on stories, on the progress. coming up this week: the living room design plan.

more on the garner cape house:

my best friend bought a house (part 1)!

 

 

as some of you may remember, when i was home in late june, i got to do something extra specially fun: i got to see my best friend joia’s new house! those who have been following me for a while may recall that two of my closest friends are also two of the oldest: i met them in preschool. yes, pre-school! there we are below over christmas break. joia is on the left, i’m in the middle, and kim is on the right.

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we’re all spread across the country now–me in new york, joia in our hometown (she bunked with me in new york for a year, but ultimately moved home to be with her now husband!), and kim in san francisco–but we see each other as often as we can. because we’ve been friends for so long, we’re more like sisters than anything. we’re what my high school psychology teacher liked to call “refrigerator friends”: the people who can walk into your kitchen and open the fridge and take what they like, the people for whom your home is theirs, and vice versa.

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L-R: our friends kara and sophie, then joia, and me.

so you can imagine that their sadness is my sadness, and their joy is my joy. which is why i was positively OVERJOYED when i heard that joia and her husband were house-hunting. sure, it’s fun to decorate an apartment in NYC but it’s even MORE FUN to decorate an ENTIRE HOUSE. joia and her husband, who i’ll call T, recently purchased an adorable little cape home on a street located (happily) about a 4 minute drive from my parents. the house has a big back yard (they’re planning on building a great deck and a garden!) and is across from a bubbling brook; if you listen carefully, you can hear the water from their front steps. it was recently “renovated” but in flipper style, which means that some (read: most) of the finishes aren’t exactly what joia would have liked them to be–but it has a lot of potential!

joia and T didn’t want to take on a full gut job (they both work full time and it would’ve been nearly impossible, not to mention a big financial strain), but they’re happy to work on their new home little by little to take those not so great builder finishes from drab to fab. T happens to be very handy, so they’ll be able to do a lot of the work themselves.

i know joia is a bit disappointed that the home wasn’t instantly all she ever dreamed of, but let’s be honest: few homes are. i think this is the case with a lot of first-time homeowners, especially those that don’t have endless budgets (which i think is MOST PEOPLE). you start house-hunting and you think of all the “must haves” (aka, things you’d like to have). and then you realize what your actual budget can get you, and you learn to compromise, and to live with the fact that dream homes don’t happen overnight.

the bottom line is this: even if your home starts in a yucky place (i mean hello, look at what mine used to look like!), you can get it to a happy one. and that, my friends, is where i come in! joia and t don’t have an endless budget (who does), so they’ll likely be decorating little by little, over time–but i’m going to be helping her think through her design choices as they happen, and i CANNOT WAIT. like i said, when do you ever get to help with a WHOLE HOUSE?!

so, let’s look at the before pictures, shall we?! i snapped these in early june, right before joia and T moved their furniture in. i’ve got a lot of big plans in my brain for the house, starting with the living room (which i’ll share here next week!), but let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).

read on for an ONSLAUGHT of photos!

first up: the kitchen. when you enter the house through the back/side door (where you’ll pretty much always enter), you see the kitchen straight ahead, and behind it, a large eat-in dining area. the appliances were recently updated, and while joia isn’t in love with the cabinets, they’re solid maple, so the plan is to work with them for now. she found some nice inspiration images that show this style and shade of wood cabinets with a pretty, light sage green paint, and is contemplating going that route, as a full kitchen reno isn’t in their future anytime soon.

Garner Cape_Kitchen Island 2

the kitchen island–we’ll likely paint it, and remove that weird foot bar.

joia might kill me for the photo below, but it’s the only one i got of the (VERY SPACIOUS!) pantry. god bless non-city storage space, amiright?! here, you can also see a very weird inlay detail in the floors. joia HATES this, but short of ripping up or re-staining all the wood floors, there’s no way around it. this is why god invented area rugs. behind her is a downstairs bath (with soaking tub! odd choice but hey, a tub is a tub!) and off to the right, a small bedroom that T will use for his office (he works from home a few days a week).

Garner Cape_Kitchen Pantry

here’s a better shot of the kitchen. i for one am really excited to take this on as a design challenge, as i think this kitchen is PRETTY CLOSE to a lot of suburban kitchens out there: microwave over the stove, mid-range stainless steel appliances, oak (or maple) cabinets, odd  mediterranean-esque beige backsplash tile…there’s lots to not love, but also, lots of potential for not a lot of dough. more to come on the kitchen plan later, but my first recommendation here will be to rip out the backsplash and replace it with classic white subway tile. if i have my druthers, i’ll also have them redo the counters, but that’s likely a project that can’t be done right away.

Garner Cape_Maple Kitchen Cabinets

kitchen cabinets and appliances

here’s the kitchen as seen from the large dining area. we’re not in love with what’s going on with that weird ceiling treatment (the living room has it too; we think it hides the electrical for the recessed lighting), but like i said above, such is life with a first home. you can’t win ’em all!

Garner Cape_Kitchen Island

i’d like to help them select new schoolhouse-style pendants for over the kitchen island, and again, i’m going to advocate that they paint that baby (maybe a deeper green or a simple, clean white?). here you can see that the weird backsplash goes all the way around. but there’s LOTS of good here: new appliances, a sink that overlooks a window into the dreamy backyard, good light, loooots of storage, and plenty of counter space.

here’s the dining area. i’m picturing a nice round pedestal table here, maybe with white windsor chairs? and perhaps wiring in a chandelier to draw the eye up. obviously, the odd sconces will likely go.

Garner Cape_Kitchen into Dining Area

Garner Cape_Kitchen Hallway

more weird sconces. bye bye, sconces.

the above photo gives you a better sense of the layout (i’m standing in the dining area) in terms of front door/pantry/island, etc. it’s really quite spacious for a relatively small house (i think it’s around 1500-1700 square feet).

from here, you can also get a sneak peek into the tub in the downstairs bath–with soaking tub (more pictures if you scroll down!).

Garner Cape_Kitchen from LR

here’s the full view of the eating area. the placement of the front door will limit them a bit in terms of table size, but it’s larger than it looks. i’m also thinking that some nice built-in bench seating could work with a more oval table, but i need to get in there and measure out the space. i know T could build benches in a hot second, and then we’d just need to get some cushions made to cozy it up a bit. i can see it!

Garner Cape_Kitchen from Front Door

eating area, as seen from the kitchen. they’re getting a new front door.

Garner Cape_Kitchen Eating Area

see what i mean? plenty of space!

Garner Cape_Eat In Kitchen

insert cute dining nook here

okay, moving on. this is the downstairs bathroom, which, oddly, has both a stand up shower and a soaking tub. it’s a spacious room, and someday, when joia and T have budget, they can really make this space shine, but in the interim, it’ll likely be cosmetic fixes to make it work for them right now.

Garner Cape_Downstairs Bathroom

obviously, this space needs a mirror, and new lighting would be ideal.

here’s where it gets a bit strange. soaking tub: yay! weird beige tile + red wood: NAY. some odd choices were clearly made in this room, so for now, joia’s plan is to paint the wood strips below white, and just make the best of it. a soaking tub is a soaking tub, no matter what it looks like.

Garner Cape_Downstairs Bath_2opposite the entrance to the bathroom is a third bedroom that’s actually quite a nice size. it has two windows—one that overlooks the driveway/side of house, and one that looks out on the front yard. in the back of the room is this large closet, which joia and T are going to build out with lots of useful shelving. hooray for storage space! someday, they’ll get doors made, but for now, they may just find some cute curtains to hide what’s behind.

Garner Cape_Downstairs BR Closetbelow is the front of the room. that boob light has to go, but that’s an easy fix. this room has really nice hardwoods, great light, and will make the perfect office for T on his work from home days.

Garner Cape_Downstairs Bedroom Front Window

Garner Cape_Downstairs BR

here’s where T will put his ginormous L-shaped desk. this window looks out on the driveway.

okay, now for the fun part: the living room. the living room has the same odd ceiling situation as the dining area, which joia and T will replace someday, but not right away. so for now, it’s about drawing the eyes up via high-hung curtains, and making the space feel at once light and airy, and homey and cozy. i’ll be sharing a full design plan for the living room (at least, my dream design plan!) next week, but let’s talk about the basics.

the photo below was snapped in the living room, looking into the eating area. so, through that door is where i’d love to put the little L-shaped bench/table situation.

Garner Cape_LR_Front Right Cornerthe area below is getting the biggest facelift, because that, folks, is a faux fireplace. as of today, it’s already been torn out and covered up with drywall (more to come on that next week with the living room design plan), with room left in the middle for built-in shelving to store TV consoles, cable boxes and the like. above it, joia and T plan to mount the TV (T has to watch his sports, joia has to watch her friends reruns).

Garner Cape_LR_Fireplacehere’s the back right corner of the living room, otherwise known as sectional city. that’s right, there’s a giiiiiant sectional going right here. it’s unclear what the homeowners were thinking with the little round window, but we’ll chalk it up to 1940s charm.

Garner Cape_Living Room_Sectional Area

hey, it’s T!

Garner Cape_Living Room Wide Shot 2

the light in this room is truly lovely–and the space is BIG.

Garner Cape_Living Room from Stairs

here’s the (almost) full room snapped from the stairs. picture that fireplace gonzo and you can really see how the space will come together.

ok, friends, that’s all for now. i’m saving the upstairs for the next post, mostly because i’ve typed 2300 words and i can’t imagine any of you have even made it this far. i don’t want you keeling over at the keyboard. or myself, for that matter.

anywho, if you were one of the lucky/wonderful few to make it to the end, i’d love if you’d weigh in with any questions/comments/thoughts, and even better, if you’d tell me whether you’d be interested in hearing/seeing more about the design process as it unfolds!

this is a real life home, a real life, budget-friendly process, and i think it’ll be cool to chronicle how regular folk design their homes (without endless budget and endless time).  i’m so thrilled to be helping them pick stuff out (even if my design boards don’t come to fruition for years!), and i hope you’re thrilled to come along for the ride.