#5 and What We've Been Up To

03 May 2017

 

It's been a busy couple of months since I last wrote!!  I've been posting via Instagram but blogging has taken a bit of a backseat as I've tried to keep the wheels from falling off the wagon over here!!  SO... I have a doozy of a blog post full of random info including house updates, work project updates, friends' business launches, a finished project of ours I'm particularly excited about, and an update on our TV show.  Apologies for the randomness and length, but I just happened to wake up at 4 AM and thought if I didn't get it all in today, who knows when I would!!

First, as you can see from the above pic, we're expecting Liess baby #5.  We're beyond excited to have another little person in our family!!  He/she is due August 15th so we're attempting to get things in as much order as possible with the house renovation over the next three months so we can relax with baby.  I've been feeling good physically, but #5 is NO JOKE and I feel super-pregnant and have been feeling this way for a few months.  I'm attempting to take a maternity leave so we've been piling it on at work (with some side projects in the mix) and we've also been filming our pilot TV show so it's been madness!!!   

 

{We painted our house last week.  It was a little bittersweet... I loved the storybook red trim/shutters it originally had but red just isn't "us" and we wanted to put our stamp on it, so I took the windows to black and the trim to a greige with a slight green undertone.  I love it so much.  I desperately wanted to take the (working) shutters to a natural but with the cost of labor (sanding, staining etc.) we would have been better off purchasing new shutters so we've decided to wait a good long while on that.} 

Our kitchen is almost finished so we've really been loving just getting to enjoy being home and cooking & eating with the family.  Mike Carr of CarrMichael Construction & his team have been amazing and we've included so many atypical details that they've handled beautifully.  Below is an in-process pic where you can spy a few unfinished things that I'm working on (like my missing hardware! ;) but it gives you an idea of how it's looking.

I was inspired by old French and Italian kitchens that were really simple and rustic, many of which had plaster walls and cabinet frames like Brooke & Steve Giannetti's kitchen at Patina Farm, which was another big inspiration for me.  I also noticed I was drawn to darker countertops and wood cabinets and wanted a lot of warmth.  I do a lot of light kitchens and I love them but this house felt different to me.  I wanted to get a bit of that old-fashioned "working kitchen" feeling with hanging pots & drying herbs and everything out in the open, but with a few modern touches like our light fixtures, bar stools and appliances. After moving & designing 3 personal kitchens for our family in 4-5 years, I've developed some major kitchen opinions and I'm LOVING how this one is functioning for us.  I'll post the whole things sometime soonish and will be sure to share all the details.

On the decorating front at home, I am just starting to think about it. (but barely.)  Thankfully, all of our existing furniture fits and is working for us.  I'm planning on adding a pair of chairs by the fireplace in our living room eventually, but we are functional!!  I've taken TWO naps in the past couple of weeks in the living room which I guess means I officially approve because I can relax enough to fall asleep in there.  (Though I also recently fell asleep outside on a wooden bench so that's debatable ;)

 

 {The cypress tree root my dad found while fishing is, once again, a focal point in our living room.}

The original massive French casement windows with cremone bolts (above & below) were part of the reason I fell for this house...  They feel like big open doors and really bring the outside in.  

We hosted Easter with my family and we ate in the dining room and the screened porch off just off of it through the french doors. (below)  Here's a quick pic of the table -complete with wrinkled linens!- (I'd like to say it was because I'm busy and that one day I'll be the ironing type, but that's probably untrue. ;)  I recently ordered fabric for curtains (for the french doors) and, one of these weekends, plan on filling the walls in here with paintings that the kids did.  

 

Here is the view towards the two-sided fireplace/ living room:

 

{My guys helped set the table}

 

We're working on some amazing projects at work and I wanted to share a peek at one on a bluff on Gibson Island we've been working on for almost a year with Hutker Architects & Banks Development Co., two phenomenal companies with serious vision and attention to detail.  Our clients are so sweet & cool, and it's been so much fun!!  The project is slated to finish up this winter but it's already getting beautiful!!  (I'm OBSESSED with the steel window situation, see a photo of the living room, below.)

 

And some of my dearest friends are launching creative businesses and/or products and I'm so excited for & proud of them!!  They are using Kickstarter Campaigns to raise funds & awareness.  With a kickstarter campaign, the people only receive money if the ENTIRE goal has been met so I'm really pulling for all of them!!!

The first, my talented illustrator, designer & artist friend, Veronica El-Showk, and her wellness advisor & nutritionist mother, Nydia Kastre, who are children's health advocates, have created "Fruityland" an imaginary world that teaches kids about healthy eating.  Their goal is to educate kids about the importance of eating right through imaginative stories and (now- hopefully!!!) a new boardgame so that our next generation can grow up healthier & stronger than the last, resisting junk foods and learning to make healthier choices.  Here's a peek at the game, FRUGIVORO, that Nydia wrote and Veronica illustrated: 

My kids have played it & love it (and the beautiful books!  You can purchase them here.) and Nydia & Veronica have really done their due diligence in creating it, tweaking it and turning it into something kids love.  They've launched a Kickstarter Campaign to raise awareness and to financially get the game off the the ground.  Investors have lots of incentives, depending upon the amount pledged, including books, games, opportunities to have their children drawn into the next Fruityland book, and even tanks!! (love, see below)  If you're interested in becoming involved, definitely check it out.  It's such an amazing cause and a great step in the movement to turn around eating habits for the next generation.


And the other very special business being started is actually being spearheaded by my good friend's (& photographer!) Helen Norman's older son, Peter, who is planning on planting lavender fields at the family farm.  Helen and her husband Mark bought the rundown farm over 20 years ago with dreams of raising their young family there and one day seeing it brought back to life. They've painstakingly and lovingly rebuilt it into one of the most beautiful places I've EVER been.


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https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/525890098/star-bright-farm-our-first-field

We shot our textile collection there with Helen, and Helen & Mark were so generous when they opened their doors to us and hosted a farm-to-table party featuring my book this past summer.  They have slowly but surely begun to host events at Starbright in hopes that the surrounding community become involved in understanding and celebrating agriculture, home grown food and a more simple way of living.  They now host weddings, parties, farm-to-table dinners, barn sales and more on the grounds.  Their son, Peter, has returned home from college and wants to join in with the family business/ passion and is hoping to plant the very first crop for Starbright Farm- lavender!!  

 

I can't even imagine how beautiful the field will be and it's such a special thing to bring to the community.  He'll sell the lavender and use it to make cocktail bitters, infused honey and more.  Peter has been doing everything in the fields by hand at this point but really needs to some machinery to get it going so he's started a kickstarter campaign to help get his business off the ground.  They hope the lavender will lead to other herbs and fruits and that they'll be able to host more lectures. workshops and local chef dinners, with the draw of the lavender, to help make agriculture a more central part of the community and to spread the love of farming in this next generation.  They're also offering some amazing incentives (including a stay at their STUNNING stone guest cottage!!) so definitely check it out!! (you can see the video here .) Peter is super close to achieving his financial goal!!  

And back on the work front, a project I've been working on since last summer was just completed and I'm so excited to share it with you!!  It's a custom home by Ironstar Building Co. with architecture by Charles Moore of Moore Architects.  Ironstar just listed it for sale this weekend and so I can finally share it with you!!  First of all, this project was a labor of love for all of us.  It's Ironstar's first spec home, and rather than go the typical builder spec route with builder grade finishes, "meh" design and the whole make-the-house-fill-the-entire-lot- thing, they worked tirelessly to have a custom design created by Charles Moore that would be totally different from what we're used to seeing in Northern Virginia.  It's fresh and thoughtful and seriously livable.  (The yard is huge and private too!!)

{A photo of the back of the house}

They brought us on board to select the finishes, fixtures, consult on the architectural details, kitchen/ baths, etc.  It's been such a rewarding process and the team we worked with couldn't have been nicer, more down-to-earth or more detail-oriented.  The amount of thought & care they've put into everything is incredible, from the rift & quartered white oak floors with herrinbone inlay (below) to the way the indoor/ outdoor living spaces create such a seamless, relaxed transition for the house- I'm crazy about it.  

We worked with the team at Staged Interior to stage the house so it would appeal to potential buyers and help them envision how they how they can live in the space.  They were great and did a wonderful job of pulling the house together, even purchasing a few new important pieces for the project, which we were so appreciative of.  We were also hoping to show how the house would feel if someone were living there for anyone who was interested in seeing it that way and to really showcase what Ironstar is all about, so I heavily styled a few rooms (using a ton of stuff from my place- We filled a fifteen foot truck with furniture & accessories!!) for a one-day shoot with super-talented photographer Gordon Beall last week and I have those images to share with you.  

 

When you fist walk into the foyer, you step onto the herringbone floors and look past the center hall table to a set of french doors that walk out onto a stone colonnade and a row of hanging lanterns:

{"In real life" I would have put the center table on the herringbone inlay but the shot worked better this way;) Some out-of-control wisteria from my arbor sits atop an antique wine table.}

If you look to the right, you'll see the living room (and you might recognize some of the pieces in there from my place, including the paintings over the mantle by my nine year old.)...

And then, down the hall, I had SO MUCH FUN working on this kitchen.  We were going for a hard-working kitchen where multiple cooks could have stations.  I pictured kids eating at the island (or better, washing dishes in the right sink) with someone being able to prep veggies at the island sink.  The centered range creates a strong focal point in the room and I love the symmetry.  We went mostly white with a blue-gray island and hardware in bronze & brass and a full-height marble backsplash with windows flanking the hood.  

{You might recognize the furniture in here too ;)

On the left side of the kitchen, we paneled the refrigerator and did open shelving between it and the pantry doors:

 

Furniture "feet" (below) instead of the typical plain toe-kicks are some of the details we used to make the kitchen feel special.  The range is by Ilve and she's a pretty one!!

 

There is a pass-through from the kitchen to the family room on the right:

 

I love love LOVE the architecture in the family room:

 

It's so open and airy yet the woodwork keeps it feeling comfortable & cozy.  We picked out a limestone mantle that is classic & almost modern to keep the space from feeling too traditional.  (I was DYING to get a custom seagrass or sisal rug under the striped rug for the photos but I'll just have to pass that tip onto the new owners ;) ;)

 

One of our team members brought in fresh lilacs from his family's farm for the shoot.  I could NOT get over them!!! mmmm mmmm!!!!  

 

Upstairs in the master bedroom, I left it pretty much as it was, swapping lamps & pillows, pulling in a bench & chair from downstairs, and changing the more traditionally scaled artwork above the bed with a strikingly small framed timepiece from my own bedroom to make it feel a bit quirkier.   

 

 

And finally, here is the master bath:

Another labor of love, we decided on mostly white with paneled walls, pairing typical white subway tiles in the shower with an amazing gray stone floor by Ann Sacks.  

The aged silver chandelier is vintage and mixes right in with the newer polished nickel sconces at the vanity area. I went with a classic slipper tub with polished nickel hardware:

There is so much more of this house to see, so if you''d like to, you can check out the real estate listing here: 1103 Towlston Road .  It's also interesting to look at how different houses look when they're staged to sell vs. when they are decorated.  (The pics above are sort of a hybrid.)  I started out staging almost ten years ago and it was actually what got me so interested in decorating.  Staging & decorating seem very similar at first glance but they're actually very different in philosophy/goals: one is to appeal to a large number of people and depersonalize the space whereas the other is meant to appeal to the people who live there to make them feel at home/ showcase their personalities.    Two side of the same coin I guess!   Staged Interior was wonderful to work with and if you're looking to sell your home and need a staging company, I'd highly recommend them.  (And same deal with Ironstar & Moore Architects!! It was such a pleasure!!!)

And back on the home front -but outside this time!- I've been having so much fun seeing our new house in spring for the first time & seeing all of the amazing things the original homeowners planted.  It was really so well thought out.  I've wanted a wisteria-covered arbor for years and now I have one!!  The wisteria is going NUTS and I love it:

We've had one of the bridges powerwashed & stained along with the doc:

We've been having fun in out little Jon boat and the geese have NOT had any goslings this spring so goslings are something we're thinking about for next spring when the construction's over.  

The flowering trees are insane around Northern Virginia/ DC right now.  I came across an area of the grass that was being littered in dogwood petals and they looked like heart confetti:

It was SO pretty.  Louie, our four year old,  asked me if it was snowing.

David & the kids surprised me for my birthday this weekend with a pond full of floating candles...

 

...and it reminded me of "Sha-la-la-la-la-a... You gotta KISS d' girl" from the Little Mermaid - except with loud children instead of evil eels!!-  but this pregnant lady still may have gotten a little choked up.

{Hansel & Gretel were super curious about it ...  As we went in for the night, the two of them swam on the pond with the candles and we're pretty sure he told her he made the humans do it just for her.  He's so romantic.}

This has been one of our most insane home renovations yet and I've been pregnant almost the whole time so I haven't had my usual level of energy and it's been NUTS.  (Lol, I usually move AFTER I've had a new baby, not BEFORE ;)  When I made it out of first trimester about 3 months ago, things definitely got easier though and I'm really feeling like we're getting there!! Our attic studio is pretty much complete (we are still adding built-ins & details) and we're working on bathrooms & hope to finish up in the next week or two, and then just have to finish the basement.  I'm finally doing a little to the kids' rooms and am attempting to finish Gisele's nursery before the baby comes.  (They're going to share a bedroom)   I'm REALLY excited about doing the nursery because I haven't really done one in a couple of kids and I'm doing some fun things in there.

 

{this little thing turns TWO on cinco de Mayo!!}

And, FINALLY almost done here (if you're even still here!!) we wrapped up filming for our pilot TV show Saturday night and WOW, it was an amazing, eye-opening experience. (And also really fun being filmed while pregnant- NOT ;) It was kind of like a still photoshoot on steroids, for over a month. It was seriously satisfying to see something come to life so quickly and I'm really looking forward to the future because it was such a fun experience. We adore our production team so much and got really lucky there. Our clients for the episode were super sweet and I'm so glad we got to work with them. Having never done anything like this before, we didn't know what to expect and I'm usually a worst-case scenario-er so I was SO pleasantly surprised and really loved it. (And I've also decided that someone could probably play a pretty good drinking game while watching the show and drinking on the key phrases,"I'm so excited!!!" or "I love it!!"... but hopefully they'll edit me better.) I will let you know as soon as I can when it will air and will share more details as soon as I can!!

 

Thanks for getting through all of this if you did!!


 

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