At home with Laura Lee

Here it is....the inspiration for our new kitchen!

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While I have always loved white marble, this one really took my breath away!  The distinct veining pattern of Calcutta Oro is exactly what I had in mind for our new kitchen.   The soft creamy grey and white palette will set the design tone.  We are planning to have the existing natural cherry cabinetry which we inherited when we purchased the home repainted a soft white.  The island will be a darker grey tone and for the walls, I am thinking about an easy care vinyl wallpaper like the Thibaut one shown below.  It will give the few walls we have some texture and be easy to clean with busy teens in the house.

 

coastal-sisal-room-view

So for the downside of this gorgeous marble.  Maintenance.  While nothing will make marble impervious to etching and scratching, stains can be kept at bay with a 15 year guaranteed sealer that will be applied by the fabricator prior to installation.  This is well worth the investment for some peace of mind.

With the material selected, the next decision will be how to treat the edges of the marble.  Our material is only 2 cm thick versus the standard 3 cm.  Many of the more decorative edges will not work on a thinner material.  I prefer a simple flat edge and let the stone be the star of the show.

Image result for countertop edge options

While I like the thinner 2 cm countertops in an older home,  the island needs to have some presence.  The island edges are going to be mitered and will be 6cm thick for some wow factor.

Technology has made the process of laying out the countertops on the slabs a dream compared to the formerly manual process.  By twisting and turning the pieces, we can have our favorite parts of a slab where we want them.  Isn't it amazing to be able to see exactly how the slabs will look when they are installed?  I love this part of the process.  Seams in this marble full of strong veining pattern would have really detracted from the beauty of the stone.  With our expert technician at Stone Fabricators, we were able to layout the entire kitchen (and my daughter's bathroom!) without a single seam.  Success!!

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I can hardly wait for my dream kitchen and marble counters...

xo

Laura

The plumber, heating/cooling contractor and to a lesser degree the electrician had their hands full trying to fit everything in our project.  The majority of the pipes fit into the wall behind the pantry / fridge / oven wall of the kitchen and the powder room.

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The contractors really worked to problem solve when framing our powder room.  If they had followed the plans exactly, the framing would have visually cut into the stained glass window in the living room.  They solved the problem by adding one step from the landing into the laundry room (and changing from two steps to one to access the new bedroom).  We were delighted as the ceiling in the powder room below is now about 8' instead of 7'6".  In these old houses, one  has to get creative as well as be flexible.

 

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Looking from the doorway to the laundry room into the new bedroom at the rear of the house

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Artwork found!  After removing the drywall from the former laundry room, we discovered that the house originally had a gabled roof (see angled white plaster over the doorway?) and likely a balcony.  Some "artist" put their personal touch on the little porch area with the flower.  Guess you never know what you'll find behind these old walls, right?

Cheers!

Laura

There are many reasons people renovate their homes.  Some need additional space, some want to update the finishes  while others want to improve traffic flow or need to address  problem areas.  Our project is all four of the above.  While I am jazzed about having a lovely room for my daughter and am giddy over having marble countertops and a bright cheery kitchen, perhaps the single thing that I am most excited about relates to solving the awkward hallway between the kitchen and living room where the powder room currently resides.

See in the before photo the two areas with highlighting.  The two walls which form the powder room create a walk space so narrow that the doors of the basement and powder room almost touch.

before floorplan

Looking from the kitchen into the living room with the doors closed

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Look how cramped the hallway gets when the doors are open.  I for one will not miss traversing this space in the house.

The stairs behind the current powder room were narrow and steep.  There is another wider set close to the soon to be breakfast room, so these are a duplicate.  I am very much looking forward to their going away.

after floorplan first floor

In the plans, the new powder room is accessed by the former window opening in the old powder room.  It'll be fantastic to have a larger space between the kitchen and the living room.  The other impact from removing the extra set of steps is that it allows us to push the pantry, ovens and refrigerator back.  This extra space will give us a larger island and since I spend a majority of my time in the kitchen from this vantage point, I am really looking forward to having some additional counterspace.

I just love this part of a project!  Figuring out how to utilize space and create a better functioning home is at the heart of why I love my job.

Cheers,

Laura

 

We were blessed with great weather during the early stages of the construction.  The contractors were grateful for the dry conditions as they were working toward getting everything weather tight.

 

angle rear of house 6:21

roof 6:4 at rear

One thing that surprised me about the rear elevation was that in order to see the new roof line with the old gables on either side, one has to be a street behind my house.  The reality is that we live in an old historic neighborhood with small lots and with the depth of the addition, the old gables are simply not visible from my yard.

peering through trees 6:4

Peering between the trees, you can glimpse the addition next to the north gable.  It's pretty exciting to see the parapet walls (circa 1980) disappear in lieu of a substantial gable that will be covered in reclaimed clay tiles.

Looking through the door at the landing in the staircase, you can see down to the first floor family room.  This door will give way to a cased opening that will house our laundry room.  Since it will be visible from the front door, making it a showstopping view is a top priority.

6:15 looking through laundry window

6:15 opening in floor

With the door open, you can see the missing floor section between the door and the new bedroom for my daughter.  This missing area used to be the laundry room and it is located above the powder room.  Follow along next time to see how we made use of the awkward space in the hallway

5:28 dogs at entry

The contractor fashioned this little entry from the deck so they don't have to come through the house just yet...that day is coming and we so appreciate keeping the dust and noise at bay as long as possible.  Charlie and Lucy seem to know this is a hardhat area and keep watch from the opening!

Till next time!
Cheers,

Laura

There are a couple of phases of construction that command a great deal of excitement.  The two that come to mind for me are framing and drywall.  While an incredible number of things happen between those two stages of a project, both framing and drywall yield major visual impact.

Here are the beginning stages of our framing....

As you can see, the new family room is going to have a fabulous view of the pool  (and Charlie, the golden retriever) and our favorite swimmer!

framing 2

Inside the walls have taken shape and the second story floor has gone in.  With all of the angles and existing conditions, the architect has created a complicated framing plan to address the issues.  Note how the joists are going in different directions.

framing 3

For now, we can observe the addition without impacting our house.  This bank of windows in our breakfast room are going to become a cased opening to the new family room.  Our contractor, Terbrock Luxury Homebuilders, have taken great care to disrupt our family as little as possible during this stage of the project.  There will come a time in the not too distant future that we may be sharing morning coffee with a cadre of carpenters!

may reno

Speaking of morning coffee, it is always a good idea to show your appreciation for all of the hard work your contractors do by feeding them well.  Kolaches are a St Louis favorite (and my oldest son, Eric, is always willing to pick up snacks when he gets his egg and cheese breakfast treat).

More later and the dust gets cranking up around here...

Cheers,

Laura

When we started this project, the fireplace had been painted out the same light yellow as the wall color with the exception of the stones around the firebox. The fireplace lacked impact.
Side by Side
I had a local artist (aka DeAnn Bingaman!) faux finish this fireplace to look like the original limestone. The mantle was also finished to look like wood and helps to establish focal point. Adding impact and updating the look of your fireplace can seem like a daunting task; choosing the right features to highlight can make an (easy!) and gorgeous update to your existing fireplace...just in time for chilly winter nights!

cheers,

laura

 

Well, as is often the case, life can be a series of feast or famine periods.  I am happy to report that things at Laura Lee Home have been bustling.  We added a very large construction project to our list of current projects at the same time that my home renovation was getting started.  We have made  quite a bit of progress since I posted our preparation for Renovation earlier this spring.  With the summer a distant memory, follow along as I catch you up on the transformation.

Our property has struggled with drainage issues since we purchased it back in 2008.  One of the benefits of renovating is addressing how water flows during periods of heavy rain.  The contractor installed pipes under the foundation which tie into our lateral line to correct our problem.pipes in foundation

The foundation walls are poured and the concrete slab that will be the flooring in our new lower level patio is completed.gravel under slab.

After the slab cured, the contractors covered up the new concrete to protect it during the next phase of construction ~ FRAMING! Stay tune as we see the plans begin to take shape!
may cover floor renoCheers
Laura

One of my favorite spaces to renovate is the master suite.  Many of us are guilty of making the public spaces in our homes beautiful, but we wait until everything else is done before creating a personal retreat of our own.

For my clients, an impending plumbing issue was the motivation to finally renovate their outdated and cramped master bathroom.  Originally created as a Jack & Jill bathroom for the master and a secondary bedroom, this colorful tiny space had long since outlived its useful life.  The shower ceiling was barely over six feet tall and the inside dimensions were equally cramped.  A single sink with precious little counter space for the couple to share did not make getting ready to start the day an easy task. zeid before 2zeid before 5

My approach to this renovation was to remove the door to the second bedroom (which was converted years ago into a closet room) and incorporate another tiny closet into a water closet alcove.  We also opted for a large single shower and small make-up vanity area in lieu of the bathtub.

One other challenge in this bathroom was the stained glass window.  Between the colors and textured glass, the space was dark.   We opted to switch it for a plain glass window to increase the natural light.  A linen cafe curtain provides privacy while letting the light shine in the window.

 

zeid before 1zeid reno 3

Having a dedicated space is such a luxury.  I carved a small dressing area for my client where the bathtub was located.  With sconces at just the right height and a beveled oval mirror, this is a perfect place to get ready for the day.

zeid after dressing

The water closet alcove is just to the left of the vanity with the arched doorway.  We were able to add open shelving for additional storage in the alcove.  The custom vanity and marble shower complete with a rainhead and personal shower complete the space.

Zeid Vanity Shot lower resolutionzeid shower reno

Take the leap and get your master suite in shape.  Whether you need a total renovation or just some pretty flowers and crisp white towels to freshen things up, it will lift your spirit to start your day in a lovely bathroom.

Cheers,

Laura

 

 

When styling this window seat for a client, I was inspired by this intricate trim found at Samuel & Sons. Cream-colored hues framed by Grecian-style trim make this window seat as stylish as it is functional. Complimented by carefully selected pillows, this seat is certainly somewhere I wouldn’t mind kicking my feet up… So, imagine how thrilled I was when I was contacted recently by The English Home, as they were looking to feature my window seat styling as part of their carefully curated décor magazine!

Bench Seat

Find my styling, and many other gorgeous inspirations in the October 2015 issue of The English Home. The English Home celebrates English style. Taking a closer look at fabrics, textures, colors, and more, designers and home interior enthusiasts can relish thumbing through the glossy pages of this rousing magazine.

The English Home - October

Friends, we are about to break ground!!!  Yippee.  It is an exciting time to commence construction after months of planning, editing and revising the project on paper.  Now, the fun begins. But, before the first jackhammer hits our yard, there are preparations that must be made.  Having been a part of many a construction projects both as the homeowner and as a designer, there are some things that need to happen.

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The construction fence will keep Lucy and Charlie, our sweet dogs, out of harm's way during our project

 

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The gutter downspouts on our house drain into an underground system.  The contractors have ensured that the construction area isn't flooded by rerouting the water into a drain at the base of the driveway.  Overlapping sheets of plywood were installed over our driveway to protect it from the equipment that will be used to dig out the foundation.

PHYSICAL PREPARATIONS:

Each project has a specific scope, but the following  will alleviate some stress from your life as you embark on a construction project

1)  Protect the construction zone.  Use a temporary fencing to separate the work area to keep children, pets and others out of harm's way during your project.  Your contractor should be well versed in how to safeguard your project.

2)  Access to your property.  Determine how your contractor will enter the property.  Consider a lock box with a special code just for the project.  Establish work hours and days of the week.  Check with your local codes as many cities prohibit construction on the weekends and in the evenings.

3)  An Ounce of prevention versus a Pound of cure.   Secure all valuables in your home to avoid the worry about special items.  This protects both your valuables and your contractor.

4)  Keeping it clean.  Before your project begins, determine the expectations for cleaning your job site both inside and outside. questions to ask your boyfriend Construction is M.E.S.S.Y. and there is simply no way around some of the dust and dirt that is going to occur.

There are barriers that can minimize the dust that will get into your home.  Discuss how this will be handled prior to groundbreaking.  If construction can be done before connecting to the existing house, that is ideal and reduces the period in which the work is happening in your space.

5)  Temporary provisions.  Invest the time, energy and sometimes a little money in establishing a makeshift space that will suit your family while the most important room in your house is under construction.  This is a BIG one, especially if your kitchen will be impacted by your project.

6) Protecting surfaces.  Make certain that flooring is adequately covered to prevent damage.  Installing barriers to rooms that are not going to be impacted will reduce (but certainly not prevent) dust and dirt.

 

MENTAL PREPARATIONS:

1)  BRING YOUR SENSE OF HUMOR!  I really can't stress this one enough.  Many different workers will be a part of your project, even on a small project and keeping your perspective is paramount to the process.  Keeping your interactions positive and maintaining a good relationship with everyone on your project is a key to success.

2)  The unknowns and surprises.  With many projects, especially those on older homes, there are often latent conditions that are discovered during the construction process.  There should always be a contingency line item in your budget for these things.  I generally recommend 10% to 20% depending on the scope of the project.  Hopefully, they will not be significant in terms of cost or time to cure, but many projects are impacted by something not known at the commencement of the work.

3)  Establish a safe zone.  Try to create an area that is free from the noise and dirt of construction for each member of the family.  Whether that is a bedroom, playroom, office or another space; it is ideal to have an area to which you can escape the chaos.

4)  How long it is going to take.  While your contractor has likely done their very best to estimate the length of time your project will take, add at least a 20% cushion to that time in your mind at the outset.  Weather, damaged material, delayed inspections and a multitude of other factors can delay the completion of your project.  You will be far less frustrated if you begin with a longer time horizon in your mind.

5)  Project Expansion.  This is a dicey area in construction.  Once your project commences, it is not uncommon to hear the "While you are doing xyz, maybe we should abc".  Change orders may make total sense for your project.  I have seen the cost of change orders exceed the original cost of the total project.  Be mindful of their impact on both your budget and time horizon.  Modifying the project can really slow the process down.

6)  Eating out and cleaning up.  If finances allow, you might consider getting some additional support in keeping the dust at bay during your project.  Having a Friday cleaning crew work their magic so that your family can enjoy the weekend in a cleaner space may be worth the investment.  Most people find that they have less time and ability to cook meals during a construction project.  Scope out some healthy and cost effective take out solutions so you can pick up dinner on the days that cooking is not in the cards.  Spring and summer projects are a wonderful time to employ the grill and eating outdoors.

While I am on the subject of eating, I usually find that my contractors are so grateful for a treat during the workweek.  Some of my favorite ways to thank those who work on my projects include donuts, breakfast tacos, kolaches or even home baked cookies.  I will sometimes order pizza on a Friday to end the work week with a fun lunch.  No matter what suits you, thanking those hard at work is always a good idea 🙂

Cheers,

Laura