I'm constantly amazed at the things that I find years after they're published, that I fall head over hills in love with. For instance, the apartment of Belgian architect and designer, Gert Voorjans. I was knee deep in a Pinterest search for a friend, when I came across pictures of his living room/parlor pinned from the Wall Street Journal. I fell in love with the colorful frivolity and eclectic look that I long for, but can never quite seem to get right. It's bohemian at its best, and I quickly started looking for more pictures of the space.
Of course, I found them - but they were all different. Furniture shifted, new things came in, the evolution of the space literally unfolded right before me. While most things stayed the same, I loved how the simple addition or subtraction seemed to make the room feel new and different.
So, I brought it here to show all of you, because that's what you do when you have a blog, right? HA! Ok, so here we go. Voorjans was published in the May/June 2012 issue of Vogue Living Australia:
Here you can see his parlor, likely photographed months before. I realize that this may not be everyone's cup of tea, but roll with me, won't you? I actually am not a huge fan of this angle of the room, in fact, if I had seen this picture first, I wouldn't have paid all that much attention to the space. Even though the tapestry is absolutely amazing, and I'd trade my car for a set of those citron leather Louis chairs, I would have kept on scrolling.
I wanted to give this to you in order though ... so in August 2012, he was interviewed and the house was photographed for an online blog/magazine: Interiorator. Photos of the parlor showed it very much the same way that it was in the two page feature in Australian Vogue Living:
Except ... here you could see more of the architectural integrity of the room: those floors, the built in book cases that flank the rather modern fireplace mantel; the collection of other furniture and how it all relates to the feeling of the room. After seeing this picture, promptly falling in love with that knoll sofa, purple English roll arm chair, spindle officers chair, and still figuring out how I could get my hands on those Louis chairs covered in that superb citron leather ... the hunt was on.
I searched every blog, every google page, every pinterest post, every online source I could think of to find as many pictures as possible of the space. I love the collection of unique pieces, the color, the pattern, the layers ... it's really remarkable. Gert has an affinity for Uzbekistan textiles (as do I) and you'll see silk ikat pillows on every sofa. The desk looks as if it's wrapped in old aviator cloth, and books fill the shelves haphazardly, completely lovely and unintentional all at the same time.
There are interesting pieces EVERYWHERE! The iron garden stool, for example, painted in a lacquer Kelley green. That lavender slipcover with the knife pleats on the English roll arm chair, the art, the Chinoiserie chest in the corner ... clearly, Gert loves to live with things he loves.
Now, after all of this press, the Wall Street Journal did an article on Gert and published it in January 2013. This is where things in the apartment start to really shift:
Now the knoll sofa, with its tattered fringe and well worn upholstery is against the tapestry, and we get to see the function of the desk in the corner, with computer screen and telephone.
The opposite corner of the room, more art, and that gorgeous marble topped commode, hand painted. That lamp is spectacular, and while the shade rings a little circus, the sheer size of the lamp is spectacular. Layered mirrors lean against the wall, and more silk ikat shows up. It's a clever mix of modern, antique, and the long forgotten. I mean, when was the last time you saw a rattan bucket chair? EXACTLY! And even then, I'm sure you didn't see it paired up with a beautiful chest, complex master-work art on canvas, and period French mirrors.
Then, sometime after, this photo shows up with no real source. Sure, the photo is professional, but I can't seem to find where the room was published, or who took the photo.
All sorts of new things show up. The grisaille paper screen, the antique leopard hide, more ikat pillows, art and mirros now leaned against the tapestry behind the knoll sofa - still looking fabulously worn. The table is new, and these nail head trimmed kilim covered bergere chairs have appeared.
Then this picture popped up:
Gone is the desk, the table, and the citron leather chairs I loved so much. Now, a textile covered table and aqua rattan chair are floating on this very blue wool rug. It's so daring, and bold that I can't help but stare at it, and wonder - why can't I make this work in my house. Every time I try it looks so contrived and wrong.
About 8 months ago, the parlor looked like this, according to an image that Gert shared on his instagram page:
Everything is similar, except for new placement of some of the accessories and chairs. And really proves to be a gorgeous photo with the natural light. Then, I hit paydirt when I found a Dutch online magazine that did a story on the way the room looked just last week!
Wow, what a difference, right? I mean, the paint is the same, the architecture is the same. The books, the light fixture, the major art (the tapestry) has never changed, and yet the room still looks different every time because of the gentle shifts in accessories and furniture.
Whether it's your cup of tea or not, I think that this is proof positive that with a little creative flair, you can really change the mood of your room without breaking the bank, or creating a lot of unnecessary mess. Here are some tips:
1. Slipcover your furniture! Even if it's in good shape, a slipcover can act as clothes for an upholstered piece and completely change the look and feel of a piece. When you're ready for a change, simply take the slipcover off and voila. If you can't afford an entire slipcover, and your piece has a removable seat cushion, consider having that done in a contrasting fabric.
2. Don't overlook pieces that can be repurposed. I'm guilty of it too. I see a great chair, table, heck even suitcase and it's a super low price, and I walk right by it because I don't think I can use it. But if you keep a creative outlook, you can score some super loot at crazy low prices and have an eclectic and collected home that everyone will covet. Suitcases can become side tables, and can be easily changed up with some paint. Wood or Rattan chairs can easily be painted to fit into a décor theme, and then repainted when you're ready for a new look. Lamps, particularly floor lamps are super useful! If you find a base you love, don't let the shade scare you into not buying it. Garden and yard furniture and décor. That little green lacquer garden stool might have been a rusted mess when Gert found it. But after a few coats of high-gloss spray paint, it's a fully functional and beautiful piece of furniture.
3. Mix Patterns Without Fear! This is my biggest problem. I'm always pairing up fabrics one by one to see if they work together, when the reality is that sometimes you're better off just using a better formula. If the fabrics are all from the same region, that is to say: ikat or kilim from Uzbekistan (like above) they will be fine together, regardless of color combinations. Likewise, some prints (such as damasks or animal prints) can become neutrals in the right situation. (For instance the sofa above, and the knoll sofa from the first iteration of this space.) If you love it - buy it. It'll work, somewhere!
4. Avoid Trends. Easier said than done, I know. If you're shopping at Pottery Barn, HomeGoods, TJMaxx, Marshalls or any other sort of chain store for your accessories, you're probably only going to find trendy, or (once trendy soon to be passé) stuff for your house. You gotta branch out. Check out your local thrift stores, flea markets, antique stores, and decorating outlets. That's where you're going to find stuff with history, stuff that's relatable and fun ... not just pretty.
5. Layer, Layer, Layer! I find the most interesting and beautiful things to be layered from fashion to interior design. So when you find that rug you just can't live without, don't walk by it thinking, but I already have a rug in the dining room. Buy the darn thing and throw it down on top of it! The same can be said for lighting, (yes, you can put a lamp near a sconce), furniture (who said a sample sized chair or children's chair couldn't do double duty as a footstool) art and mirrors,
It's snowing in Buffalo, and I'm not happy about it. Thankfully, we didn't get hit in our area as hard as some others, who have seen 4 feet, yes, FEET, and are getting hammered even now with the expected accumulation of 6 feet or more.
When days like this pop up, it's nice to just pretend you're somewhere else. I chose the rooms of Mario Buatta. Indulge me, won't you?
Alright, so you've read all about the renovation process, right? If not, go here. Now, for the reveal photos. There are a few things that are left to complete, but we accomplished so much with such a limited budget and an even tighter timeline.
I don't want to clutter up with a lot of pictures of the before - and quite honestly, there aren't a lot of before pictures anyway. But, if you want to compare - go here, and get a glimpse at where we started.
Are you ready!??
One of the biggest changes in the dining room came in the form of color. The room used to be a deep, barn red and now is a light and fresh taupe with crisp white trim and built-ins, which we added. The old Ikea chandelier was thrown out, and replaced with this beautiful fake crystal chandelier. Honestly, people, they're fake! Want one for yourself? Get it here!
The new built-ins are home to lots of decorative stuff, but also store all of Allison's entertaining china, crystal, silverware, tablecloths, and napkins. They also are home to baskets of gloves, and scarves. They are standard kitchen cabinet depth, since we used kitchen base cabinets to create the bulk of the unit. So there is plenty of room up top for my favorite dining room display: the bar in a basket!
The side table and mirror here used to be in Allison's foyer, where the new doorway was created. So we moved it here, only for the time being. Eventually, this wall too, will come down and the dining room and kitchen will become one large space with a center island. For now though, it was great to have a spot for its reuse. Two captains chairs flank the table, and are perfectly positioned to pull up to the table when it extends from round to oval. I gave Allison these chairs, and she recovered the chair seats with a Waverly blue and white fabric here.
Here you can see the decorative rope braid trim that we added to the top of the counter surface, and to each of the shelf fronts. The case pieces have shelves that can be adjusted, and still need the crown molding, which we're waiting to install until it can go around the entire open space. That'll happen after the wall between the kitchen and dining room comes down.
Most everything on the shelves came from the attic of Allison's house, or from the basement at my house - which I was all too happy to give her. You can see the boho beads I used to sell on Cross Bottle Guy draped over a beautiful gilt column base. Allison's oldest daughter Grace was kind enough to model those beads for me when I first made and sold them - so I gave these to her as a thank you.
Isn't she beautiful!? I don't know why I stopped making these. They really are beautiful and so versatile. Perhaps they'll make a come back at Christmas.
The curtains are not custom, another cost savings; but they are back-tabbed which gives them a much easier fold back and a nicer look than the pole top curtains. They just kiss the floor, and are made from a synthetic silk. Allison knew she wanted purple, olive, and blue in the room - but couldn't figure out how to get them all to work together. I think we did it here, with splashes of purple in candles, and books in the case pieces, olive curtains, and blue and white fabric on the chairs. We've kept the room otherwise neutral for easy shifts to any color changes she wants to make.
For color, we spray painted the bindings of paperback books with gold and purple spray paint until we got the look we desired. We then tied bundles of them together with jute twine, and they made for really wonderful shelf filler. Allison is an avid collector of my cross bottles, so there are several of those in the dining room, too.
Allison also collects blue and white porcelain, as I do, and many of you. So a lot of it ended up in her dining room, including this little garden stool - which I've been told has become some sort of desk chair to that little console table for her youngest daughter. SO cute!
Here you can see the need for that crown molding, but again - one project at a time. We all know how that goes, right? The heavy wool rug with the bold, rich colors was replaced by this seagrass option with a fawn border. The whole room feels so much bigger, and brighter than it ever did before. We added light to the inside of the case pieces, along with 5-outlet strips to the top of each piece for Allison to be able to more conveniently plug in things - like crock pots, etc..
I love the top of this table, which was a honey oak before Allison stained it with an ebony and then walnut stain.
The case pieces have brushed nickel bin pulls on the drawers, and crystal knobs on the doors, to help tie in the crystal door knobs on the french doors, and the chandelier. The shelf styling, done by me, was really a lot of fun. I just went from room to room, and picked what I thought would look best. Sure, it left the rest of the house in shambles, but we can work on that later!
The room has really gracious windows, and gets a ton of natural light - which floods the room and adjoining foyer with a beautiful glow. We reused Allison's curtain rods, and just hung them higher to accommodate the new curtain length.
So there you have it. A BIG change from where we started, right? Alright, alright. Here's a before:
... Fun Vignette Time ...
I hope you enjoyed this little story of friendship and renovation. All of Allison's family LOVES the new room. She has hosted several family dinners with her extended family since we finished the renovation, and she and her family eat there every night. I told her that we'd have to wait a year before the kitchen wall came down if she wanted me to help - so, while it won't be anytime soon, keep your eyes peeled for more photos and stories of friendship and renovation!