#Project2Months: The Before, The Design, and Some Progress / by Alaina Kaczmarski

I RANDOMLY TOOK ON A HUGE INTERIOR DESIGN PROJECT THIS SUMMER FOR FUN AND THIS IS WHERE WE ARE WITH IT

THE BEFORE

About two+ years ago, I received an email from a reader asking me for styling help with her and her husband's Chicago condo. Last year, I got an email from the same reader asking for help with a nursery design (they were expecting!). After a few months of radio silence, I got another email saying, change of plans, they purchased a single family home in the suburbs and were looking for a designer to do the whole thing. Whoa hello big challenge! Did I have the time for it? Not really. Did I want the job? Absolutely. It was an amazing and fun challenge for me–my homes usually come together piecemeal, bit by bit, over time. This was designing an entire home, blank slate, all at once. Sign me up! Note: this was on top of my full-time job running The Everygirl so it was understood from the beginning I could only work nights and weekends on it.

(Second Side Note: To those who have asked, no, I did not take this on so I could transition into a full-time job as an interior designer. I am still very passionate about my full-time role as editor of The Everygirl, working harder than ever on that front, and I am ecstatic to say Danielle and I just hired our first full-time employee! Ahh! Amazing! But I am available for freelance styling and decorating jobs, and always have been as it says on my about page.)

THE ASSIGNMENT:

Design an empty, new construction four-bedroom single family home in two months so it would be completed by Thanksgiving (hence #project2months). Includes full design and styling for living room, dining room, breakfast nook, master bedroom, nursery, and guest room. Styling of kitchen, four bathrooms, hallway, and second guest room.

THE CHALLENGES:

- the biggest challenge of all (for me) was that the home had to be baby/kid-friendly! This is something I've obviously never had to worry about and it proved very challenging when choosing fabrics, dining chairs, counter stools, coffee tables, etc. that LOOK GOOD and are also kid-proof. Speaking of which, 97% of the coffee tables out there are definitely not safe for babies learning to walk, 2.8% are but are decently awful looking. Fortunately, I found the .2% that is gorgeous and safe with its rounded wooden edges.

- painting wasn't really an option since it was a beautiful new construction home and quite frankly the paint colors were already very nice! (except we ended up having to paint the family room/breakfast nook which I'll explain in a bit)

- the living and dining room are one room, so the furniture in each of those spaces had to compliment the furniture in the other space. Same thing with the kitchen, breakfast nook, and family room. So it was like designing three rooms in one, which actually made this a lot more difficult since the materials, fabrics, and colors had to balance one another and couldn't get too repetitive. It was like a big huge puzzle.

- similarly, you can see both dining areas when you walk in the house, so both the dining room furniture and the breakfast nook arrangement had to be different enough while still complimentary. We couldn't do two square/rectangular tables or two round tables. Chairs had to be different enough. Lighting had to be different enough but again, not clash.


THE DESIGNS

I know most people really struggle to visualize how a room will look with these little Photoshop renderings I create, but they give me crystal clear vision and it's how I work best, and it's how I make sure the items I'm choosing work together. So here are a few of the original mock-ups I put together.

dining room/living room/entry mock-up Kid-friendliness includes dark fabrics, velvets, and leather. The coffee table actually got great reviews from parents but the general idea is the baby/kids won't be in this room much.

dining room/living room/entry mock-up

Kid-friendliness includes dark fabrics, velvets, and leather. The coffee table actually got great reviews from parents but the general idea is the baby/kids won't be in this room much.

master bedroom design Since the first floor has more of a feminine look in the wife's style, we went with a more masculine look for the master to balance her husband's taste. I'm kind of obsessed with how this room came out, complete with his and hers dressers and this massive Dash and Albert rug.

master bedroom design

Since the first floor has more of a feminine look in the wife's style, we went with a more masculine look for the master to balance her husband's taste. I'm kind of obsessed with how this room came out, complete with his and hers dressers and this massive Dash and Albert rug.

boy's adventure-themed nursery design We easily could've elected to do a white/grey/pastel blue nursery for the baby boy and it would have turned out perfectly lovely. But I really wanted to try something different, and I thought it would be smarter to choose less pastel-colored items that could transition to his big boy room (like the rug, dresser, bookshelf, art). And I'm not sure what piece I found first that guided the design for me–it might have been the national parks map. But I thought we'd go with an explorer/adventure theme. Fortunately my client was totally on board and I just love the finished product of this space (see below–note the curtains and pillow are different in finished product).

boy's adventure-themed nursery design

We easily could've elected to do a white/grey/pastel blue nursery for the baby boy and it would have turned out perfectly lovely. But I really wanted to try something different, and I thought it would be smarter to choose less pastel-colored items that could transition to his big boy room (like the rug, dresser, bookshelf, art). And I'm not sure what piece I found first that guided the design for me–it might have been the national parks map. But I thought we'd go with an explorer/adventure theme. Fortunately my client was totally on board and I just love the finished product of this space (see below–note the curtains and pillow are different in finished product).

not shown: family room, breakfast nook, kitchen, guest room, or bathroom styling designs


PROGRESS ALONG THE WAY

The deadline for the home to be completely finished was Thanksgiving, and we started designing in late July. We were in such a rush largely because some of these items could take up to three months to arrive and my clients were due with a baby in October. 

We started with the family room/breakfast nook/kitchen and the nursery since those would be the rooms most used by my clients. Once designs were approved, I got to ordering, and as early as the beginning of August, things slowly started trickling in. I'd live vicariously through images sent by my client who, bless her heart, was responsible for handling the deliveries–which let me tell you–I'd say 4 out of every 5 large pieces of furniture were delivered broken. I don't know how furniture companies stay in business with the luck we've had. I'm telling you–broken nightstands, lamps, coffee tables, wrong items we never even ordered... literally everything's gone wrong. BUT these little progress shots along the way kept me hopeful and I could see my designs starting to take form.


WHERE WE ARE NOW

This brings me to where we are now. The breakfast nook, nursery, and guest room are done (although the guest room nightstands are not shown here). They have family from Texas who would be staying in the guest room most frequently–hence the longhorns above the bed. Amazing.

Family room is nearly there–waiting on art and window treatments which we all know are the finishing touches to any room AND we switched out the ceiling fan for this insane light fixture which I don't have a photo of here. You may notice the family room has NAVY and colorful coffee table books in an otherwise neutral home. My clients and I both love love neutrals, but we talked about the fact that this is going to be a family home with kids and we wanted to bring some color into it. Navy was a safe choice and we stuck to small items should she tire of it and want to switch any of it out down the road.

The master bedroom still needs window treatments, nightstand lamps, and for the second dresser to arrive.

The dining room still needs the table, end chairs, and two additional silk curtains to arrive. Also need a plant/planter plus styling. 

And then there's the living room which is basically still empty due to shipping errors. The sofa, coffee table, side chair, window treatments, and entryway floor mirror are all still MIA. Fortunately, this room is largely for formal gatherings so the fact that it will be completed last means we planned everything peeeerfectly. Hoorah.

I CANNOT wait to you the finished product–which I should have as we head into Thanksgiving!

***Please note that I cannot divulge the sources of the products since this was a paid design job. I'll share a few favorite finds in an upcoming post, but that's all.