house tour: transformation of the "piano room"
Here's what I call the "piano room." Doesn't that sound fancy? It has a special piano in it that was given to me by my step-ish mother, Leslie Parke, because I play piano. But I've never lived in a house big enough for it – until now.
Which is just one of the reasons that this is my favorite room. But this is also my favorite room because the transformation was so dramatic, like going from wearing stained sweats and oversized muscle-tees to Prada suits and Gucci heels. Here's what I mean:
The original farmhouse was built in 1880, and was obviously beautiful. But over the past 135 years some questionable decisions were made – most of which had to be unmade.
For example, sometime during the Reagan Administration the owners decided to build a chimney and fireplace smack in the middle of the room. Chimneys and fireplaces are made out of heavy materials like bricks and mortar which make them difficult to move or destroy. So instead of fighting this massive architectural feature, I decided to work with it. Here's what we (by "we" I mean the construction crew) did:
- Removed the fireplace and drywall to expose the chimney
- Coated the chimney with cement and painted it white
- Installed the Scandinavian wood stove that was in my mother's garage for 20 years (thanks mom)
- Built the bookshelf/firewood hutch to divide the dining room from the "piano room"
You be the judge, but I'd say it's an improvement.
Another issue was the installation of a raised faux-wood laminate floor that covered the original real wood floor. Why keep historic, 110+ year old, beautifully aged, original wide-plank pine boards? Cover that s%*t up! So a new owner can spend a small fortune to uncover it. Which I did. And then realized that the installation of the raised faux-wood floor had destroyed the original wood floor beyond saving. So we had to put in a new wood floor on top of the once-beautiful, original wood floor. Throughout the entire house. Oy. That's all I have to say about that.
This is a good time to show off some of the artwork, furniture and objects that make this room so awesome. Like the painting to the left of the bookshelf/firewood hutch that was made by my Mom (known to everyone else in the world as Constance Kheel). It's actually an enormous pastel called "Susie Series #22," after her friend Susie who saved me from an Italian trip gone wrong – but that is definitely another story. The piece helped determine the charcoal-gray accent color which, in case you want to reproduce the look, is a Benjamin Moore color, aptly named "gray."
The incredible table/stool is by Kieran Kinsella, who gave me a studio tour of his inspiring space in Kingston. I coveted everything. I could afford nothing. I even tried pawning off some logs I have from an old tree behind my garage, but I think I was more desperate than he was. And then something miraculous happened: he ended up donating this stool to the O+ Festival auction, and guess who won? Obviously I did because it's in my house and it's too heavy to steal.
Aww, isn't Heathcliff adorable on his new Hans Wegner reproduction cat bed? I love love love this cat bed. My only complaint is that it came with a real, totally non-vegan sheepskin. I quickly tried to replace it with a vegan faux fur thingy, but it just looked like a cheap, flammable toupée. At least I tried.
Now let's spin around and look at the other end of the room. This is where another big, expensive, questionable decision was made: expanding the house by eight feet. Here's my complaint: why go through the trouble of expanding a house (which is a lot of trouble, by the way) only to add eight feet? And in order to add these eight feet you would have to remove the original exterior wall which, according to the construction pros, would "compromise" the structure of the house. That means the house could fall down. And make the floors above the removed wall bounce anytime someone heavier than a dwarf chihuahua walked on it. But hey, anything can be fixed – for a small fortune.
I'm over it. Really, I am.
You can't tell from the interior photos, but another problem with the new exterior wall was the weird spacing of the windows that didn't line up with the windows above them. So we moved all the windows.
No biggie. Because the house also came with this cool tree that has money growing on it.
And I swear this is my last complaint about the eight-foot addition: the added entrance that was literally five feet from the original entrance. And a huge closet that was presumably for the unnecessary new entrance, and doubled as a wall to run into when you walked down the stairs too fast. Obviously, both the entrance and the bizarro closet had to go.
This is where I need to give a huge shout out to Kathryn Whitman of Quatrefoil, who spent hours with me weighing and debating every possible scenario for this room. Once we nailed down the "chunky pottery," "earthy without being hippie," "Hans Wegner showcase," "bohemian archeology," "mad botanist/musician" theme, it all came together and we knew what to look for.
I had seen the cool folding rope chairs at a friends house and loved them. Guess who designed them? Yep, Hans Wegner, the master of "put some rope on it."
Then we found this amazing rug by Nani Marquina.
And the copper "Scamp" table by Blu Dot.
Then I tried out a new design for the screen printed pillows, which look great on the rope chairs.
I threw in some of my favorite mid century, West German pottery.
And called it a day.
Or a "piano room."