Friday, December 19, 2014

what's your gift?

Last Christmas, my parents asked if I would, as my gift to them, design a new living room for their Pennsylvania home.

First, I should mention that my parents have serious skill when it comes to remodeling and were a big help to Drew and I in the first year or so in our new house.  The MMD studio couldn't have happened without them and I really wanted to repay them in whatever way I could.  But.   When it came to tackling their living room, I was a bit hesitant at first.  Not because I didn't want to avail my parents of whatever design skill and talent that I possess, but mostly because I thought it might be difficult to design my parents' house.  I was concerned about making them uncomfortable with all of the change that design can bring, of insulting them when we disagreed.  I was worried that we couldn't have the kind of relationship that a designer has to have with a client because they are my parents.

And let me also add that the design evolution at my parents' house has been a little odd.  My mom has wonderful taste and great personal style and always decorated the homes I lived in with interesting art and color and furniture she refinished and restored.  I was already away at college by the time she and my stepdad moved into their current home, and in the 20 years since, I've been surprised to see it morph into a house that looked like old people live there -- especially because my parents are decidedly not.

I relented and said yes -- there was really no question -- and in the end my fears were unfounded.  At one of our first design meetings, my mom said "I don't want it to look like an old lady's house anymore."  I knew right then that she got it and was ready for something different.   I stopped being nervous and just decided to do for my parents what I do for every other client.  And if I'm really honest with myself, I've been dying to get my hands on their house for years, so I was thrilled to get down to it.

My mom is dreading this part, but here are the before photos:
The matchy old lady floral furniture.  The green carpet.  The pink walls, fake flowers, awkward floor plan, all of it.  Ugh.

Dark, heavy draperies covering big, beautiful windows.  The giant TV in front of the window.  Uncomfortable furniture.

Here's my sketch of the new floor plan:
All of the furniture was replaced by more comfortable, more contemporary pieces.  The two focal points of the room, fireplace and TV, are now on the same wall.
My parents turned out to be really great clients.  They were open to color and furniture ideas that were far more contemporary than anything in their previous comfort zone and they were really motivated to get the space done.   After a couple of design meetings we finalized a color palette and furniture plan, and they really got to work.  They did lots of furniture shopping.  My mom spent hours in fabric stores, choosing the drapery and accent pillow fabrics.  They had the place painted and had new carpet installed.  They replaced overhead light fixtures, hung the new draperies and removed the brass trim around the fireplace.  We exchanged endless photos of art, lighting and accessories options and tweaked the floor plan where necessary, but really, after the design development and my initial site visit back in February (really an excuse for me to come and hang out with my family), my parents rocked the project management and installation on their own. 

Here's what the room looks like now:
This room is filled with grey tones, but is still light and bright.  The velvet sectional is over-sized and super comfortable and serves as the anchor piece in the space.  A long, slim console table behind it is a perfect perch for the lamps.  And my stepdad still has a recliner.
I never thought my stepdad would love an IKEA chair (or IKEA anything for that matter), but this recliner is his new power spot.
Remember the corner that used to have the big TV in it?  Now it is my mom's center of gravity.  Those spectacular armchairs are my absolute favorite thing in the room.
Double drapery rods with peacock blue velvet draperies are perfect with all the grey tones.  They are also great insulation during the cold Pennsylvania winters.  The second rod is hung with pure white sheers -- perfect for creating daytime privacy while still allowing the room to fill with light.
A pair of beautiful prints, picked up on a trip to Paris my parents took a few years ago. 
Paris meets Pittsburgh in the books, art and accessories in this room.  The carpet is luxe, too.
The grandfather clock has been in the Brinker family since the 1840's.  Its the most traditional element in this room (the only room in the house with ceilings high enough accommodate it), but it seems to work.
Pillow and sectional sofa details.
We're still working on the artworks for a few of the walls and a family photo gallery for another, and I don't think that I'll ever convince my mom that less is more when it comes to accessories, but I think its safe to say that this room is a success.   During my visit last month we spent almost all of our time here.  It is comfortable and beautiful and best of all, my parents are happy with it.  They will be spending Christmas 2014 in the room I gifted them last year, and it brings me nothing but joy to think of my Pennsylvania tribe, all of them, having a fantastic holiday in their beautiful new space.
A photo from my parents as they decorated for their first Christmas in the new living room.

So. What's your gift?  What are you giving this holiday?  I hope it brings you as much happiness to give it as it does to those who receive it.