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Designing an Active Family’s Forever Home

It takes collaboration (and a small army) to get a family to fall in love with their home again.

“The details are not the details, they are the design” (Charles Eames).

This quote really rang true on an interior design project I recently completed. With a grand vision for the site and with no detail overlooked, the architect, builder, design team and countless trades worked tirelessly with the homeowners to address their needs and transform the house into their new home.

With an active family of five, including three growing boys (and a cat), my clients wanted a comfortable home that would stand the test of time. They needed a place where they could feel at home… that could be lived in.

The project presented a host of challenges, one of which was that there were a lot of “cooks in the kitchen”, from the architect, builder, cabinet vendor, home automation expert, and so on. Needless to say, there were many opinions; and importantly, they all mattered. It took a lot of collaboration to move to the point where the family is in love with their home again.

In the kitchen a large 10-foot island, in Taj Mahal honed quartzite, anchors the heart of the home. This is the gathering space, providing a much-needed command center for a very busy mom. Two large pendant lights offer warmth essential to this large space while also elegantly illuminating the workspace.

Throughout the house other custom touches include a coffered ceiling, spacious rooms, large plinth blocks, pocket doors with a built-in full-length mirror and a steam shower. There are custom-designed closet systems throughout the home. A fully functioning craft room is a space that Martha Stewart would envy. There’s even an exercise room with rubber flooring (perfect for the boys to burn off an excess of energy).

My very favorite part of the design is a cluster of five lights in the foyer. This was one of the first design decisions we made after receiving the plans from the architect. We couldn’t find a single light fixture that spoke to the homeowners, so I asked, “Instead of a single fixture, how about a cluster of five lights?” It was worth a shot, so together we sketched out a rough design. After that we never looked back. Facing a few funny looks during construction, the electrician asked, “so you want 5 junction boxes?” We replied: “Yes, we do.” I am thrilled that our vision came to life exactly as we planned, and that the homeowners put so much trust in our ability to create a beautiful statement piece for them.

As far as preferences in colors, surfaces, and textures: the homeowners simply wanted anything that is current AND still classic. Remember their three boys? It was essential that any furniture acquired was able to stand up to the daily use of a very active young and growing family.

The most unique design aspect of the home may be the eight-inch plank smoked wood flooring. Smoked or fumed oak flooring was first introduced by Gustav Stickly in the 1800s, who discovered that by briefly enclosing wood in an environment where organic substances are introduced, the wood can take on a unique look that fit perfectly his craftsman aesthetic. Stickley would leave the wood in the environment just long enough that its tannins were brought to the surface, thus darkening the wood naturally from within. This meant that no substance or stain was actually applied to the wood during the process, and the organic compounds used did not contain actual smoke or harsh fumes. The result is a stunning and environmentally friendly wood floor.

We took advantage of the opened walls to make sure that cabling was installed for a sound system and home automation. Regarding additional family heirlooms, we found the perfect spot in the dining room for a precious antique sewing machine and stand that needed its proper placement, now beautifully seen from the foyer.

All-in-all, the project took about three years. Hindsight being 20/20, the homeowners told me they wished we had been brought on earlier in the process, to enable us to work more closely with the architect sooner to offer them options. We often find people wait too long to bring on an interior designer, thinking they only help with the finishing touches. Our early suggestions and contributions can mean so much more to making your home what you really want it to be.

This beautiful French Country inspired home was designed by Tinaglia Architects and built by Smart Builders. It elegantly occupies 6000 square feet on a half-acre lot, with five bedrooms, six baths, a fully finished basement complete with craft room, exercise room and gaming area. There’s a home office, kitchenette, additional second floor laundry and a bonus room.

The landscape architect was John Fitzgerald of JKF Landscape with installation by Rooney Landscape. There is an integrated firepit and three-season room for relishing a lovely yard.

Other notable contributors to this home, completed in 2019, were:

About the Author: Mollee Johnson is an interior design professional and owner of Style 1519. Visit Style1519.com and schedule a complimentary consult by calling 847.209.4194.

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