The perfect shade of grey

The perfect shade of grey.

When we moved into our house I knew that our walls needed to be repainted grey in our living room / dining room / entryway. It seemed simple: pick a light grey shade and commence painting. If only.

I started out by identifying the conditions unique to our space:

  1. The room is very large (~650 sq. feet), so we needed to go with a neutral colour that could compliment a lot of different defined spaces.
  2. This room is not a normal rectangular shape, it’s an L-shape with so many weird jut-ins. There are 10 corners, and I’ll get to why that matters in a moment.
  3. We’re planning on taking down the wall between the dining room and the kitchen in the spring, so the paint colour needs to work with the heavy wood tones in there too.
  4. We have pretty ceiling moulding and trim around our doors and windows and I didn’t want them to recede if we went with too light a wall colour.
  5. The room gets both northern and southern light, not so much eastern or western light.
  6. The hardwood floors can read a bit orange-y, so I wanted a cool tone that would offset the warmth they bring into the space. I also have a preference for warm metals (aka brass), so a cool tone was needed to make them pop.

So, given all of the above, I knew I was on the hunt for a light, but not too light, shade of grey.

Getting back to why the corners matter, grey (and all non-white colours) reflect less light than white, so when you look at the corners in a grey room, they’ll be more defined than those in  a white room. The darker the shade, the more contrast you’re going to see in the room. In a room with 10 corners, you really want to downplay all that chaos, so painting the walls as light as possible will help draw the attention away from all the weird dimension in the room.

And on to the actual paint selection process:

I started out by researching grey rooms on my favourite design sites (Domino, Lonny, Design Sponge), on Instagram and Pinterest. As soon as I identified a colour, I would Google it and see how it looked in different spaces. Colours that made the shortlist:

Stonington Gray by Benjamin Moore
Gray Cloud by Benjamin Moore
Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore
Cornforth White by Farrow and Ball
Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore

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From top to bottom: BM Paper White, BM Gray Owl, F&B Cornforth White, BM Stonington Gray

I then painted those swatches on my wall and quickly realized that next to one another you can see immediately the undertones. Some veered too purple, others too blue and some too creamy. I really thought Farrow and Ball’s Cornforth White was going to be the winner that I had to beat, but it was just too brown-purple on our walls. Stonington Gray was the closest in reading as a true gray, but it was too dark for our space.  My backup plan, if we couldn’t find the right shade was to have the paint store cut Stonington Gray with white to lighten it up, but I was worried about inconsistency from can to can.

I then went back again to Benjamin Moore with some new colours in mind and landed on Paper White. Once I got the samples up on all our walls, I knew it was the winner. It was by far the brightest and closest to white, but the grey was present enough to allow the white trim-work to pop. So, I proceeded to paint giant swatches because I couldn’t get enough of it. When my husband got home from hockey that night, I asked him what he thought, to which he responded with “it’s the first sample that looks like grey”. Done and done.

Just a note, paint colours look so different in everyone’s room. Some of the ones I thought would win are highly recommended by designers I admire (Emily Henderson loves BM Grey Owl, Danielle Moss has used Cornforth White in several apartments), and the colour will look great in some rooms but completely wrong in others. It’s 100% unique to every space, which is what makes picking the right colour so challenging.

We set aside our Thanksgiving long weekend to paint the room, don’t worry we still made it to Thanksgiving dinner. I’m so obsessed with the new colour – it reminds me of a chic Parisian apartment and looks great as the light changes through the day. We also painted our ceiling and trim Decorator’s White, so everything is feeling especially fresh. We’ve also swapped out all our outlets and switches for new bright white ones, so the room feels totally fresh.

And for some side by side shots:

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Main Floor Bathroom Updates

It was a busy weekend spent working on the main floor bathroom makeover (learn more here and here). First, we finished touching up the paint, then we installed the freshly painted vanity with new lucite and brass hardware. Next up was swapping out the old faucet for my new brass Craigslist find. This is where we hit the biggest roadblock, our old faucet had rusted at the base and wasn’t budging. After a Home Depot run to stock up on huge wrenches, we finally freed the countertop from the faucet. Installing the new faucet was a breeze. And she’s so pretty. Following the faucet (and one minor leak situation), we installed our Restoration Hardware pivot mirror (ain’t she a beaut?). We also swapped in new outlets and switches, because there’s nothing like new, crisp white outlets on your walls.

This is a peek at how the room looked Sunday morning. I’m loving the black and white contrast so much. That pretty Anthropologie candle smells like firewood. Aka cozy winter nights. Yes.

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That afternoon we installed a vintage lion’s head towel ring (excuse the poorly folded monogram towel). As you can see, we’re still missing light fixtures. I made an audible today and reverted to a different Schoolhouse Electric sconce. The third one. The current plan is this sconce with this shade in gloss black. It’s on a 6-week  delivery delay, so we’re going to have to slow our pace on completing this room.

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And slightly pulled back so you can see the lucite and brass pulls.um5a9395

And a close up on that lion’s head. We really can’t help including some form of a brass animal in every room we complete. Seriously.um5a9398

Just to touch on the sconces again, the reason I’ve changed by mind again is that with the slightly protruding mirror, it was feeling like the Schoolhouse Electric fixed Satellite sconce would be too cramped against the mirror, so a swing arm sconce gives me the flexibility to have some breathing room, while introducing some more height into the vanity area. Not to mention that the light will be a bit better if directed closer to you when you’re at the sink. And a little example of why I changed my mind to a swing arm sconce (that drama!):

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And what’s left on the docket to call this room done:

  • Swapping in a vintage doorknob (the doorknob arrived but we had no idea we needed to get rosettes / door plates, so those are now on order #diylessons)
  • Installing a new brass toilet lever (our old one was once white but is no longer white), the new one is on order
  • Ordering a vintage Persian or Turkish rug to break up the graphic black and white floors – I currently have our Lulu and Georgia Mirabelle rug in there but it isn’t saturated enough to compete with the high-contrast graphic tiles
  • Ordering and installing a sconce, as well as an overhead light fixture
  • Selecting artwork for the wall above the toilet – I’m torn between a bold black and white fashion-forward photograph (see below) or a floor to ceiling wraparound gallery wall. I’m lazy though, so the former will likely win.
  • Build or buy a brass shower curtain rod – any suggestions here would be greatly appreciated
  • Ordering a chic toilet paper holder (if such a thing exists, I will find it. PS it’s probably this one, which looks awesome on high gloss black and is budget-friendly)
  • Order fabric for a Roman shade and construct the shade (our first Roman shade has taken us a month to complete, so… yeah. Tutorial coming soon, once we’ve figured out a less tedious method).

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Main Floor Bathroom Design Plan

Last week I shared the before photos of our main floor bathroom makeover and today I’ve got the design plan for you. Work is already well underway and I’m so happy with how things are looking. Breaking it down by category, here we go:

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Paint

We ended up going with Sherwin Williams Black Magic for the walls and ceiling. I had originally purchased the paint during a sale at Sherwin Williams with the intention of using it to paint the doors black on our main floor, but gave it a try on the walls of the bathroom and loved it. I was a bit worried about the satin finish (perfect for doors), but it lends some extra dimension to the bathroom walls and definitely isn’t too shiny.

For the trim, we had originally planned on Benjamin Moore Simply White, but after looking at the swatches at our paint store, it looked too creamy for our taste, so we took the plunge with Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White and are so happy with this decision. This is a bright white but with subtle grey undertones, so you really get to see the contrast in our decorative trim. We can’t wait to use it on the trim in the rest of our house.We went with a high-gloss finish, so it really stands out from the dark walls.

After much contemplation, we also decided to paint the vanity high-gloss black. I went back and forth on whether we should paint it black, grey or white and finally landed on black. We picked up Benjamin Moore Advance in High-Gloss Black over the weekend and the paint has been applied and is curing as I write this. It looks so much better than the grimy stock laminate. As a tip, we’ve learned to pick up the best quality paint possible to make your life and the outcome so much easier. We’ve used the BM Advance line before and have generally been really impressed. I was expecting to need to do two coats to get full coverage on the black paint, but honestly, it looks perfect after only one coat.

Hardware & Fixtures

I love warm brass tones (I know, who doesn’t) and I especially love how brass pops off crisp white and black, so I’ve been trying to source as much brass as possible, without going overboard. I’m also very picky about my brass (unlacquered is preferred, I won’t go near anything that looks too brown to be authentc).

A few weeks ago, we picked up this brass pivot mirror at the Restoration Hardware outlet, which was actually the impetus for kicking off this makeover. I’ve also sourced a heavily discounted brass faucet from Harrison Brassworks off Craigslist in a Victorian style to bring in that traditional charm. For the towel ring, we’ve ordered a vintage brass lion’s head off Etsy because you’ve got to keep it interesting!

We’ve also picked up brass shower curtain rings ($6 at Homegoods!) and are working out a plan for the shower curtain rod. We’ve been bouncing back and forth between a lucite DIY and a solid brass rod. This shower isn’t going to be used, so it doesn’t need to be the most functional, but I am worried about bowing with a lucite rod, since we can’t have a center support.

Lighting

Lighting is where I’m getting the most tripped up, right now I’m leaning towards the Schoolhouse Electric Sattelite Sconce 2.25 in unlacquered brass with a high-gloss black shade. Pencil and Paper Co.’s black powder room featured on One Kings Lane has been a huge inspiration as I’ve gotten into the design and I love how the glossy black of the shade pops off the satin black walls.

I’m also gravitating towards a capiz flushmount light that will add some new texture and lightness to the room. Right now, the Pottery Barn flush-mount has been at the top of the list, but I’m also looking at some others that hang lower into the room.

 

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Textiles

We’re also sourcing a vintage Turkish rug (I mean, I love a good vintage rug), where the one in the design plan is currently at the top of the list. For window coverings, I’d love to incorporate Schumacher’s Zimba linen fabric, though it has a two-yard minimum for ordering, so I’m trying to find it remnant or another equally chic and organic looking fabric. I may end up a linen black and white stripe alternatively.

Stay tuned for the next update – we’re re-installing the vanity, counter and new faucet this week, as well as the mirror. I’m going to pull the trigger on a number of the items on the list this week, so we can have the bathroom done in the next two weeks, wish us luck!

Picture perfect: Entryway

Sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly what isn’t working in a space, it’s for those times that I turn to photos. It’s usually as simple as snapping a photo of the vignette or room and analyzing what jumps out at you and what really shines.

When we finished painting our entryway faux bamboo dresser, we were so excited to style it that pulled together a vignette late at night. And while it looked great, it wasn’t 100% there yet. So I snapped a pic and identified the problem areas. It’s so much easier than any other tactic I’ve tried.

Here’s my first quick attempt at styling the space:

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The bones are really good, that mirror fills up the wall nicely and bounces light around. The lamp is sculptural and adds height, while the lamp shade adds contrast. But there are some aspects that just aren’t working.

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There are a few things that can’t change yet, we’re painting the walls later this month a cooler light grey and I still haven’t found a fabulous sconce to replace the awful one presently on both walls. But, to neutralize those two eyesores, I did some creative editing in Photoshop. So. Much. Better.

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And then I made some changes to how this entryway moment is styled that are so much stronger.

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And a side by side:

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New additions include the Target Threshold brass side table that helps anchor the dresser into the nook space, provides sculptural interest and serves as a functional place for me to leave my bag when I get home. I also swapped the basil plant for another ginger jar (a $6 Goodwill find!), replaced the tray with this great python one from Furbish Studio that had been on our coffee table and brought in these great smoked glass tea lights from CB2. I’m much happier with this little moment. Once the walls are painted and the sconce is replaced, I can call this space done.

Sources:

Mirror | Side Table | Python Tray | Smoked Glass Tealight Holder | All others are vintage

 

Tackling the main floor bathroom

And just like that, the first room in our house is done. Well, at least for now. Backing it up, as I wrote about previously, this bathroom is on our main floor and is the one most frequently used by guests, so I wanted it to make a strong impression that was true to our style.

We started out with a slightly sad butter yellow room with dingy board and batten, an old builder grade vanity, mirror and light fixtures. I have a whole post dedicated to the before photos over here, but I’m sharing a few here to set the tone.

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And then I set forth the design plan, which leaned heavily on high contrast black walls with white board and batten, a warm brass mirror and faucet and a high-gloss black vanity. I also incorporated some natural materials, like a bamboo wastebasket and wood tray to bring warmth and character to the space.

Looking at the design plan, I’d say that the final room definitely stayed true to the plan.

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A few small things that changed: I ended up going with a slightly different Schoolhouse Electric sconce with an articulating arm in order to amp up the drama and make the most of the vertical space visually.

And here are the after photos.

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So. Much. Better.

I’m going to do a full post on the faux Roman shades, because they were definitely an exercise in nailing the look I wanted in a creative way without spending nearly as much as I should have for a Roman shade in a stunning designer fabric.

I also wanted to speak to the black walls – they’re dramatic and totally unexpected, and I’m completely obsessed with them. But, we definitely get less light into the room now with fewer reflective surfaces. It doesn’t bother me at all, because this is a bathroom, not a space we’re constantly using, but I do think I would hesitate to go super dark in a frequently used space in the house in the future.

And the sources:

Wall Paint: Sherwin Williams Black Magic in Semi Gloss

Trim Paint: Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White in Semi Gloss

Vanity Paint: Benjamin Moore Advance in Black

Lucite Vanity Knobs: Etsy

Brass Sconce: Schoolhouse Electric

Brass Mirror: Restoration Hardware (found at the outlet)

Brass Faucet: Harrison Brassworks (sourced off Craigslist)

Towel Ring: Vintage

Monogrammed Hand Towel: Pottery Barn

Persian Rug: Vintage from my fave rug shop on ebay

Flushmount Light Fixture: Pottery Barn

Brass Toilet Flush: Amazon

Wastebasket: Homegoods

Art Print: Mai Autumn

Frame: Framebridge

Toilet Paper Holder: Anthropologie

Shower Curtain Rod: Overstock

Shower Curtain Rings: Homegoods

Shower Curtain: Pottery Barn

Roman Shade Fabric: Schumacher Zimba in Charcoal

It’s funny, in looking over the list of sources, I realize a lot of pieces came from Pottery Barn. And yet, to me, this room doesn’t look like Pottery Barn. It’s a nice reminder of how you can make individual pieces your own in a space that mixes and matches both new and vintage and different retail shops. It’s ALL about the mix to make a style feel unique to your style and like it represents your own personality.

Going glam on a faux bamboo dresser

Constant checks of Craigslist have allowed me to unearth some pretty epic finds. The most recent of which was a faux bamboo Henry Link Bali Hai dresser. I somehow managed to see past the awful paint job to impeccably chic bones (I mean not just one color of blue paint but two?!)

Here it was in all it’s Craigslist glory:

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And here she is now:

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It’s remarkable what some sanding, priming and high gloss spray paint can do to bring neglected vintage pieces of furniture back to life. We used this spray paint, by the way. The handles got a good scrubbing with Barkeeper’s Friend, aka the best fix for tarnished brass of all time.

We did run into a few issues in which we were getting a rough finish on one of the sides, so we had to sand it back down in places and repaint, which added some extra time. Also, make sure to leave plenty of time for the paint to cure.

We haven’t tackled the matching mirror yet, but I’m thinking the same high gloss black finish is in order too.

The magic of vintage rugs

If you feel like your room isn’t working quite right, I’d recommend trying a vintage rug. From deep saturated tones to soft hues, there is always one that fits the space perfectly. The amazing thing is, that there are few design pieces that actually look better with age and hold their value remarkably well.

When we first moved into our apartment, I was obsessed with the idea of an overdyed Turkish rug. The saturated jewel tones spoke to me. But, when I went looking in rug stores, I was amazed by the retail price (some clocking in at over $10K), so I took to the internet. I found my first rug on Etsy for a fraction of the price and haven’t looked back.

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Now, that we’ve moved into our house and have a lot of floors to fill, I’ve been on the hunt for vintage rugs of all shapes and sizes. Especially with a mostly open-concept main floor, rugs are essential tools in defining the functional spaces.

This time around, I’m relying less on Etsy and more on Craigslist and eBay for killer finds. My first find, was this runner for our entry way that adds a much-needed pop of colour to the space and creates a moment in a relatively small space. I found this hand-hooked oriental rug on Craigslist and made the trek after work to Brooklyn to retrieve it… and it was absolutely worth it. Don’t mind the off-center and atrocious light fixture (we’ve already got a new-to-us vintage light ready to go in its place) or the basic hardware on the front door (also on its way). I can’t get over the amazing pop of colour as you’re walking by any of the entrances to this little space.

Some of my go-to keywords for searching for great vintage rugs are: persian, oriental, overdyed, kilim, morrocan. Sizes are all over the place and not consistent the way retail rugs are sold, so double-check the measurements of your space before purchase.

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We bought a house

I’m going to be documenting our journey of bringing a semi-fixer upper back to life in a Connecticut beach town. Built in the early 1940s, this is definitely a vintage home, and while it certainly has great bones, it’s going to need a good deal of TLC to become what we envision it can become.

So, some of the details: it’s a three bedroom, three bath colonial with some cape-style design elements. There was an addition done in the 1980s that added a good deal of square footage, but also stripped the house of some of its charm (think: polished brass 1980s doorknobs, hollow core doors and builder-grade light fixtures). We’re planning on doing as much of the work ourselves as possible and have some big plans for updating the layout to be more functional and bringing back the architectural details from the period. On the plus side, we don’t have neighbors super close to the structure on any side so the natural light is insane and completely sold us on the house. We also have some future plans to let in even more light, but those are structural and are off on the horizon. And, this house is spoiling us with some pretty epic patio space – one stone patio and another sizable deck.

And on to the before photos, that are already looking better now that we’ve moved in.

The main floor has an open living room / dining room / seating area. We’re also planning on taking the wall down between the kitchen and the dining room to open up the floor plan even further.

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Also on the main floor is a sunroom. The carpeting gives me nightmares and as soon as we properly insulate the walls, those floors are getting the boot.um5a7542

The kitchen is certainly nice and was updated not too long ago, but it’s definitely not to our taste aesthetically. We do have some short term, budget-friendly plans upgrade some finishes, before an eventual remodel.

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The stairs have amazing millwork details and a brilliant lacquered black handrail.um5a7543

Upstairs, there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms. We’re going to be using the smallest bedroom as an office.um5a7549

The master bedroom is huge with amazing natural light. The ceiling fan needs to go asap.um5a7552um5a7554

The guest bedroom is sizable and will feel even larger once we take out the built in shelving on the same side as the door. I love built-ins, but these are pretty lackluster and are getting in the way of the ideal floorplan.um5a7567um5a7563um5a7564

The upstairs guest bathroom is in need of some serious love.um5a7571

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