At home with Laura Lee

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.

Screenshot 2015-04-26 16.38.27

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


Screenshot 2015-04-26 16.39.37

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.


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.


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 🙂



My home is a charming 1929 Tudor Cottage with loads of least from three sides.  What I mean is that some unenlightened soul did a dreadful addition to our little abode circa 1980 and it is quite, well... UGLY.

That is all about to change though!  With the help of a very talent and even more patient architect, Kelly Stockie of Schaub & Srote in St. Louis, we are going to make some major modifications to the exterior elevation while adding a new family room, powder room, en suite bedroom for our teenaged daughter and a lower level covered patio.



These before photos show some of issues with the inappropriate addition.  The lack of eaves over the west windows and north side of the addition has created wood rot at the drip edge and damaged several of the windows.   Where you see snow, there is rot all along the edge.  If you look  closely, you can see several holes where a woodpecker has been busily stabbing the structure.  We are hoping the damage is limited to the exterior siding.

Here is the proposed plan.  Note the centered gable between the two original gables.  The new addition will have reclaimed clay roofing tiles as well as mimic the original stucco with half timbers that proclaim a classic Tudor home.  We have specified simulated divided light double hung windows like the originals and limestone on the lower level.


I am so excited to see this transformation!  Stay tuned each Friday as we chronicle the progress of our project.



Window treatments are expensive.  Whether you are considering drapery, blinds or shades they are costly.  Make the very most of the dollars you investment by adding a little creativity to stretch your window covering budget.

In this client's "No Boys Allowed" TV lounge, I added major drama to the simple white linen drapery and roman shade with a large scale navy geometric border.  The vertical pattern was cut into strips and integrated into the panels for a wow impact at a fraction of the cost of using an extra wide tape trim.  For this treatment, I used a 7" border.familyroom2

Since there was not a privacy issue with the window behind the sofa, I used a faux roman shade.  Having a stationary shade required less fabric and I avoided the pricey mechanism required to make the treatment operable.   Adding some bright green fringe creates a cohesive look with the navy, hot pink and lime green story.

familyroom3There is also a small 1 inch band of green between the navy border and white linen for a fun little detail on the drapery panels. 

While these drapery were custom made, you can use these fun ideas and embellish stock treatments to create your own drapery statement,



Helping clients remodel a bathroom  is one of my favorite projects.  Taking a dated, dingy space and transforming it into a well designed, crisp, clean and function space is often life changing for my clients.  If you have ever tried getting ready to start your day in a cramped poorly lit bathroom, you know exactly what I mean.  Depending on the specifics of the particular bathroom, plumbing and electrical costs can be significant.  Then, add to that the tangible things such as tile, plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, counter tops and lighting to name a few.  It adds up to big dollars pretty quickly. are my top 5 tips on how to make the most of your remodeling dollars.


(In this teenaged girls bathroom, we used a prefabricated cabinet that included the black granite top and under mounted sink.  I changed the stock silver knobs to these charming hexagon crystal ones for a vintage vibe)

(1) Specify Chrome plumbing fixtures  (They are timeless, easy care and almost always the lowest cost finish)

(2) Find an accent tile and use it as a feature in a small quantity

(3) Consider white subway tile for the shower walls or tub surround.  (It can be installed horizontally with staggered joints, vertically for a more transitional look, in a herringbone pattern for a custom touch)

(4) If at all possible, leave the toilet in its current location. (The plumbing pipe for the toilet is much larger than the pipes needed for sinks, tubs or showers and it is the most costly fixture to relocate)

(5) Add color and pattern.  (This is a low cost way to add pizzazz to your bath. Create interest on the ceiling with a pop of color, fashion stripe with two shades of the same color or try a bold wall covering (make sure  you select a paper that is rated for moist spaces) or even use a few colorful accessories to bring your personal style to the space.


(This marble tile was quite pricey per square foot, but by cutting the 12" square piece into three 4" strips we only need two square feet to make a major impact on this classic black and white bathroom)

I hope these tips get you thinking about how to make the most out of your remodeling dollars!



Screenshot 2015-04-12 18.05.48

This is the week! Starting officially on April 18, the biggest thing in Interior Design begins...High Point Market. Designers from around the globe descend on the town of High Point, North Carolina to see the newest trends in design, connect with vendors, attend continuing education classes and see friends old and new. One of my first stops at this market is going to be CR Laine. Specifically, I am gushing over the Tobi Fairley collaboration that is debuting in a few short days. Tobi's signature style is Bright, Bold and Tailored and the preview of her fabulous collection doesn't dissapoint. The showstopping brass accented chair shown above is going to make its way into one of my projects very soon.

During this week, I will be shopping for a few projects on which I am currently working and looking for pieces to inspire the direction in a couple of others. One of the things I always do while at market is sit, sit, sit and open, open, open. What I mean by that is I check out key pieces in my vendors' offerings and make copious notes about how the upholstery sits and check out the workmanship and attention to detail. I open countless drawers and inspect the little details that tell the tale of quality. There is no substitute for having evaluated a line of furnishings in person and going to market gives my clients the inside scoop on furniture they purchase.

Stay tuned next week as I post my favorite finds from High Point....Happy Monday All!


I am excited to launch my new Blog! This is a perfect place for me to share design ideas & inspiration and Before & After stories with you. I will also post ways to maximize the investment in your home through remodeling and decorating. Each Friday, I will be taking you on a real world journey chronicling a residential construction project in my own home. We will be addressing an architecturally inappropriate addition (circa 1980, yikes) as well as adding 1,000 square feet of space. Groundbreaking should be the second week of April. I love construction and can’t wait to get things started!


Before & After Guest Bedroom

Today, I am sharing a client’s guest bedroom Before & After. This grand early 20th century home has great architectural details and beautiful original hardwood floors. But, these guest quarters were less than inviting with zero privacy on the four windows and busy patterns on the area rug and bedding competing for attention. My goal was to reuse many of the client’s things to update this space without starting from scratch.


BEFORE Guest Room:

Before Guest Room


AFTER Guest Room:

After: Guest Bedroom

To update this guest space, I added a large neutral area rug and simple ivory linen drapery. The french iron drapery rods echo the bronze in the chandelier and the dark wood tones of the bed. The ceiling fan was swapped for a vintage crystal chandelier and I traded the oversized leather chair for a pair of the client’s existing silk striped armchairs to provide a place for guests to relax. Matching bedside tables in a distressed taupe painted finish were added with vintage alabaster lamps   from the client’s collection. We rehung the botanical prints above the bed to create a focal point. This guest suite is ready to welcome company!


After: Guest Bedroom

The ornate rococo chest was replaced with a piece from the client’s master bedroom. This armoire fits nicely with the traditional mahogany furniture and provides guests with a television and storage.