As a designer, I like when I have the chance to share with all of you a journey of a project - from start to finish...I also like to be able to share with you ideas or thoughts as to why certain things were chosen for that project as well.
All meant to give you a bigger picture of the vision for the project...
I often tell people when I tour the country talking about home design to Look at the potential your home has now... Are there rooms you can make better? Are there areas you can open up? Is there a way to expand what you already have?
All of this boils down to - making your dream home now. Why put off having the dream home later on? Make one area of your home more like the home you wish to have down the road - but do it now.
That was the case with this client project. A three-season structure served as an enclosed patio for this family. It was probably put up in the 1970s - but then the family decided to remove the main structure -leaving the foundation and stone flooring intact. Hence, leaving the perfect stage for creating a room that could take their existing home and make it more like their dream home.
The goal - to create a year-around family dining room - the perfect gathering space. That is where I came into the creative mix...
When I came to the project, the patio structure was already removed. Immediately, for me, it was obvious that the room should be all about windows and light. The farmhouse that the room would be attached to had a certain character already - so I did not want to add a room that looked too modern or out of place.
I began to design a room that would serve as this family's new dining room - but I wanted it to look like it was a natural progression in the home's own journey. So in this case - I created it as if it were a room that could have been a porch at one time - one that eventually became an enclosed room.
So I present to you the AFTER of the dining room I produced for this family. When I look at it now, in these photographs, it looks as though the room had always been there. I like that. I also like that the room is filled with light because of the great windows - allowing all the seasons to be the backdrop of this room's mood. I also like that the room comes to life even more because of simple things that bring it so much character - the farmhouse table and the lighting.
For me, I always envisioned a room that was a perfect setting for an autumn gathering...mulled cider, red wine, apple pie, warm aromas of a harvest dinner, smoldering fire outside and just a place for friends and family to gather and enjoy a simple meal. Also, a room to enjoy the views to the outside...
As you will see below, there were certain elements that I wanted to keep from the original house exterior - the vintage exterior lanterns and keeping the existing clapboard siding along the original wall of house - now painted white - all ways to add visual detail to the room.
I also like how there are vantage points in the new room. This vignette of the side table above - with its simple square window and its framed view to the outside.
I like this other vignette of the bar area - the pass-through area created between the new dining room and their kitchen space. The top to this bar was created with a vintage barn door.
Again, you see the original clapboard siding now painted white from Mythic Paint.
The plug-in pendant light adds a bit of whimsy to the area from Rejuvenation. The metal barstools are from InStyleModern.
So I may be seeing the before space as you see it below - but I am already getting the vision of what it should be - I am seeing the details such as the light coming into the room, the table set for dinner, the simple details such as these apples placed in the gathering room above. In essence, I am seeing the stage already set.
So with the three-season patio enclosure already removed - the renovation project began by framing out the new room. From this image, you see that the room will provide access to other rooms of the main house through the French doors. At the same time, the window to the left is actually where the eventual opening to the bar area will be.
Here the framing resembles a movie set - however you can start to see where the framing allows for the windows to be showcased. As I said, I wanted the windows to take in the view and the changing seasons - but also allow light into the new room.
The opening on the left shows where the eventual square window vignette would go.
Windows are so important to me because they truly are the eyes of the home. If you choose the right windows - it can make all the difference in the way your home looks. Choose the wrong ones - and it truly takes away from a house's appeal.
Once the ceiling was framed out and covered - the essence of the room started to come to life. From there, the insulation process began. One nice thing about this room - with its stone floor - is that there was existing radiant heat from the previous patio structure. However, with the new windows - the room is now well-ventilated in summer with open windows - but in winter - it can be a greenhouse of sorts with its use of heat from the sun.
Here is my favorite view of the room - seen from the bar area opening. The two things that were in my mind at this point - finding the right farmhouse table for the room's center focal point and a simple pendant light to hang over it.
Here is the reverse view looking towards the eventual bar area. Yes, that is snow in the background.
The clapboard eventually gets painted white as I mentioned - which also makes the room comes to life with brightness and an overall sense of freshness. Also, the existing lanterns were always an accent I liked throughout the renovation. On this day, I decided to clean them up, remove the panels of glass on three sides (to make it cleaner and clearer) and I added Edison-Style bulbs to each one (all on dimmers of course!).
As I said, windows are very important to me. I knew for this project that I wanted a classic style window for this room. I knew I wanted double-hung windows with fixed divided grilles. I am not a fan of the removable dividers. I like them to be real and, again, look like they have always been a part of the house.
Having researched windows for a long time, I came across a family-owned company that makes windows the old-fashioned way - BY HAND. Plus, they make them right here in the USA - so all the more reason to support their creative work! However, the best part for me was that they are based in Vermont - which is where I grew up.
The Green Mountain Window Company truly is an extraordinary company because their products are inspired by those classic farmhouses of New England - where craftsmanship has stood that test of time - where excellence still means something in our day and age. I was excited that they were family-owned and that they were focused on quality and attention to detail - which usually is not something most companies care about now. They care. I know because I drove up to Vermont and met them, saw them building their product and heard their story. They are the real deal.
So on my journey up to Vermont, I took in the passing scenery and the beauty of an amazing part of our country...
The first thing I was impressed by was the efficiency in which they create their products. There were amazing amounts of orders already processed and created - waiting to be shipped out to restoration projects or new-builds wanting windows with quality and attention to vintage details. It was like being in an episode of This Old House.
Then, I was able to see the artists that actually bring them to life...step by step.
I say that they are artists...in every sense of the word. These guys are making these windows from scratch - by hand. There is not an assembly line of big machines or computers doing their job - these guys are actually making the windows! That is rare in our day and age.
From the wood that gets hand-picked to serve as the basic framing for the windows...
To how they are all joined and assembled together - meant to last - sustaining long-term use and the harsh dealings of Mother Nature...
Simple, old-fashioned touches that make their product stand out. I was in awe at the way these men worked in a zen-like state taking pride in their work.
Each order is unique - and personalized to what the client may want or need.
For instance, if a client is doing a restoration project and needs to duplicate existing vintage windows - they can do that. If a client is looking to create a certain look - they can work with them to create a custom style. If you want the look of vintage blown glass windows - they can do that! If you want the old windows with the old weight system inside - you can get that too.
Once one phase is done - the next person gets to work on his part. It's a family project - you do not feel that there is a sense of rushing or moving through the product production quickly - it is all about getting it right!
Here is a custom window getting some attention.
In the end, I knew that the windows were generated from the best place possible. I'll share a video about my journey there with you soon...
The windows arrived on site and were quickly put into place. Now the stage was truly set. The room was coming to life because the windows were the perfect addition.
Here you see the windows in place.
The outside will get clapboard siding as well to be painted white.
The old field stone around the perimeter of the patio base will be removed.
However, now you start to see what I was imagining.
Back inside, the eventual bar area is ready to be opened up now that the windows are installed - keeping the outside elements out of the room.
Looking the other way, the windows start to show the framed views out into various directions.
Here my thoughts are starting to shift towards finishing details. I still have the farmhouse table in my mind. I am beginning my search for the right table. I see it - but I have not found it as of yet on the day I shot these images.
The stone floor will get repaired eventually and get a top coat of concrete to make it all uniform.
Lots of windows and the centered French Door (also from The Green Mountain Window Company) need to get trimmed out and have casings installed. All of that will be painted white.
So now I'll bring you back to the finished room...
As you can see, the windows and the door bring the outside in. The room changes mood at various times of day. Here, the late-afternoon sun streams into the room. Harvest dinner anyone?
Obviously the table is center stage in the final room. I will talk about this amazing table in a second, but the other simple details in the room are worth pointing out.
I chose not to do window treatments - preferring clean and un-cluttered windows.
Everything is painted white - the walls, the ceiling and the windows. Keeps the palette simple - but also allows the wood tones in the room to stand out.
Then, warm layers - the area rugs with their autumn-infused colors and linen pendant light from Pottery Barn. I love this pendant light. It is over-sized and centered in this room. I love how it looks over the table and how it looks from outside the room at night too. This light, matched with the existing lanterns on the wall - all set on dimmers - truly allows the stage to be set for various events.
One of the my favorite "moments" in the room.
Always a fan of simple touches - like this vintage toy truck on the bar.
The view from outside the square window at twilight... To me, this kind of moment says "welcome home."
The other fun area that I was pleased to see happen was the bar area. It truly is a perfect place to gather for a glass of wine as the host prepares dinner in the kitchen. It's a perfect place for a small buffet or dessert buffet after dinner and it's a perfect 'pass-through' place when cleaning up after dinner. It also works well for a laptop work area or homework central for the kids.
Now, shifting the focus to outside the finished space...
The exterior is painted white as well with Benjamin Moore's Regal Select Low Lustre Finish. My go-to paint color for white exteriors is always this color. I like how the crisp white looks with the splashes of green from the landscaping.
Speaking of landscaping, I wanted the landscaping to be simple and serve a dual-purpose. I chose the plants and planters from Lowes garden center. I wanted the landscaping around the steps of the patio to be movable. This way, the homeowner could move things around to freshen up the look at various times. I also wanted some of the planters to be brought inside in the winter - to provide greenery to the dining room.
With the idea of mobile things outside, I liked the idea of a fire pit centered outside on the patio, so when you were in the dining room you could see the fire blazing. I also wanted clean and classic Adirondack chairs around that fire. However, if they wanted to move a table there instead - everything is meant to be moved around. The chairs fold up, the fire pit is lightweight and things can be moved to make room for something else. All of these pieces are from Patio.com.
I like that the fire pit will allow for them to use this area as an extension of the dining room. Outdoor spaces should be considered to be like a room.
In the fall they can gather around the fire before dinner or in the winter they can use the fire pit after sledding. This was one of the "moments" or areas that I envisioned from day one for this renovation. Nice to see it come to life...
Back inside, lighting was big for me on this project. The existing lanterns on the wall with Edison-Style bulbs in them, the large linen pendant over the table and this simple plug in light over the bar.
I cannot stress enough how lighting truly makes a room come to life. If you do nothing else during a makeover - update or change out your lighting!
So now let's talk about THE TABLE.
As I said, I always imagined that the room would be all about windows and a long farmhouse table. I had an idea in my head but wasn't sure where that table would come from. As the room came together - I kept searching for a table that made sense for the space. A short table would be lost in the room - so I truly was seeking a long table that could seat 12 or more. However, most of what I saw were smaller tables with extensions. I wanted one long table. Like a table you find in some French farmhouse in Provence.
Then, the day came when I heard of a family-owned company called AFTER THE BARN that go out personally to dismantle vintage farm barns and repurpose their wood into farm house tables (and other furniture) by hand.
What resonated with me about them was their story- a father and son team. A small, hands-on company that truly takes the concept of farm to table and gives it a whole new meaning. That was exactly what I was looking for. A table with a story for this room!
To me, it was more important to find a table that was made right here in the USA - not with wood found in some foreign forest or generated overseas. I wanted something that had an American story to it and brought a sense of history to this room. A table that truly would be the heart of my renovation project.
After checking out their products, I was convinced that AFTER THE BARN were the ones that should be a part of this project. In fact, their tables should be in most homes across America.
Why do I say that?
I think there needs to be a return to the thought of heirloom pieces - things you hand down through the generations. That is concept that I love and I do feel is lacking in our culture. This is a table to be cherished, loved and something that remains as part of a family.
A table with history that becomes a part of your family history!
This is literally the old barn that generated the farm house table that ended up in the dining room.
The team at After The Barn went to this site to dismantle this barn piece by piece - salvaging the wood and materials to be repurposed into furniture in their shop.
The barn was built in the 1860s and the original saw marks are seen in the surface of the table - instant character and history.
You think of all the history that barn had seen. Now, it is saved and preserved into something that can stand the test of time in a whole new way.
I have always been amazed by old barns. They always catch my eye when I drive around. In fact, there are many barns featured in my home art collection. Now I have a whole new appreciation for what these guys do. Remember - taking the barn down and saving the wood piece by piece.
I would imagine that the long planks needed for this project's ten foot table were probably from some of the wall planks seen above.
The wood is then trucked by them back to their workshop and dried for a long period of time in storage.
Then, like a fine wine, when the time is right - they produce products from that wood.
I was so impressed by their story and how they do things - I wanted to go to their workshop and see them in action.
So I hit the road to a place in New York to find their workshop. Yes, in a barn! There were cows mooing right outside the door. I walked in to find vintage wood everywhere and that great smell of a woodworkers shop. Such a great smell - saw dust and wood.
Soon I was able to find the team in action making a farm house table. Here, you see similar planks to our eventual table. All done by hand. Cut and readied for assembly. Like the windows, the table is created by one person that works on it from start to finish. Literally seeing that it comes to life in the way he envisions.
You can see the detail of the wood. It's not about sanding all that off and away - it's about the integrity of the wood grain.
Look at those marks on the wood - they were probably done by a saw from the 1860s! If that doesn't make for great dinner conversation - I do not know what does.
Again, everything is done by hand. Cutting, sanding, assembling, gluing...
Personally, the rougher the wood is the better.
Certainly they can produce various styles or models to suit your own style - but as long as you retain some of the character that is best.
They are also very open to being creative with how the wood is integrated into homes. I saw an amazing project they were working on of a full kitchen with beautiful salvaged wood being used on an island, cabinets and walls. Another project showcased a wood top with industrial metal legs. They are certainly able to work with clients to meet their needs.
Like I said, these are the kind of tables every home should have!
Attention to detail.
So with the holidays coming up - these are the kind of tables you want to gather around. These are the kind of tables that families should have in the family. This is the type of quality and attention to detail we should all seek.
Here the table frame is assembled.
Yes, the legs look like brand new wood, but that is vintage wood too from the same barn. I love that the table is always created from the same family of wood and mostly from the same barn for an individual project. Makes you wonder who the people were that built that original barn...
At the same time, I think, how important the work that these guys do is - if the barns were not salvaged - the vintage wood would be gone and lost forever. Now, they can get a new lease on life and continue on.
Thanks to After The Barn! I'll also be sharing a video about that visit soon...
So, in the end, the table that was in my mind's eye. Here it is as part of the reality of the final room.
I like the contrast between the old wood of the table and the modern sheen of the French metal chairs.
In thinking about gatherings, I wanted the table to not be too wide - but wide enough for dinner plates to be placed on either side of the table - yet allow enough room down the middle for family-style dinners and centerpieces to have breathing room down the middle.
A couple quick things about the outside renovation that are worth sharing that could be useful to all of you...
The French doors needed a screen that would stay out of the way when not in use.
I am a big fan of removing screens from windows in the winter. I just like how the open look of the windows allows for a clearer and brighter view to the outside. So with the French doors - I wanted something retractable - pull out when you need a screen - but hidden away when not in use.
So I found that creative solution from Phantom Screens. They literally come and install a track system that will allow for the screens on this door to retract into a special housing on each side of the door.
You simply pull the screens out when you want them. They click into place and can be easily opened and closed as needed.
You can see the retracted side to the right where the white handle is visible - blends into the casings beautifully.
Now, the original patio base had cracking concrete on its surface. I wanted something that would be a nice looking cosmetic fix - but also provide this area with some visual interest.
After researching it, I found a product from FauxPanels.com that I was very excited about. They literally create panels that are so lightweight and easy to use - but look like stone!
This is a great product because it offers up something creative for any DIY person. Plus, I could see their wide-variety of products working great inside the house too! Check them out!
They are so lightweight and easy to cut. Plus, they can be installed so easily. If you didn't know they were faux panels - you couldn't tell until you touched them yourself. Yes, they are meant to withstand the elements of the outdoors.
A great, great product for homeowners that want some stone accents without breaking the bank or without having to hire a stone mason.
You can see below how the edge and the steps were transformed by this product.
One last product that I was very interested in was something designed to replace the traditional rain gutter.
We all know how rain gutters can get clogged and full of leaves. We also know how stagnant water in those clogged drains can breed mosquitoes in the summer time.
This company called RAINHANDLER designed their product with the intention of ease of use, no maintenance and the idea that they can actually help our environment. A great solution for the homeowner looking to cut back on keeping those gutters clean!
Now that this project is done, I look back on it with great memories of a journey of a room coming to life in the way it deserved.
An example of taking a space in the home you already have and making it more like your dream home.
Why wait until you have that eventual dream home? What about the home you have now? What potential for a new space is there in the rooms you go through everyday? As in the case of this home - a three-season patio became a family dining room and so much more...
It's all about getting excited about your home again. Seeing it with new eyes... Imagining what could be and bringing that to life...
At the end of the day - coming home to a room we can gather in is a good thing. It's a stage set for us to live out our best lives in.
In the case of this room - it is my passionate plea to all of you - to create a place to gather - enjoy a good meal, share time with family and friends...laugh, talk and connect again.
The place to rejuvenate, reconnect and gather together again.