Before & After: New Dining Room Light for City Condo

I have good news and bad news about my quickie update to my Philadelphia condo.

The good news is that I have partnered again with Del Mar Fans to give a much needed update to the dining room chandelier.   Thank you Del Mar- You rock my world.

The bad news is the rest of the project is totally stalled.  My “small” renovation started to feel kinda big and I really had to step back and think about the money being spent.  Adding to my stress is my complete uncertainty with the space.  Do I want to rent it?  Do I want to sell it?  Do I want to use it for myself?  We are just so busy right now with REAL work, that unfortunately the condo has taken a back seat.  It is sitting, mostly torn apart and unfinished, like a big ole black cloud looming over me.  I literally had to haul in furniture from my own house to stage around the chandelier like it wasn’t a disastrous job site.  Note the pictures below are pretty tight… that was to avoid a massive table saw just off to the right.

While the place is a mess,  I’m seriously thrilled and so thankful for the new light.

Let me back you up and show you the dining room before.  It’s a open floor plan with just a small space carved out for the table and chairs.

dining room capiz chandelier mirror houdstooth rug

Years ago (2009) I had DIY’d myself a capiz shell chandlier.  It’s been hanging in the apartment ever since.  While I’m still fairly happy with my little project, it wasn’t feeling fitting for what I wanted in the condo.  I wanted something a little more modern, glamorous and appealing to several types of people.

Here is the space right after my tenants moved out in June.

condo light before

And here it is again a couple of weeks ago.  Heaven help me.

Photo Jun 08, 10 12 35 AM


Choosing a chandelier for the condo was challenging because I didn’t know how I would be using the space.  I knew most likely I would be trying to appeal to a renter or buyer, so it was important I choose something not too wacky or impractical.  Also, since it’s a tight dining area, I wanted something smaller, but still felt visually commanding.  Since I chose a brass fixture for the kitchen (which is open to the dining area) I thought it made sense to continue the brass theme in here.  (You can see my previous Del Mar Kitchen Light post HERE.)   Also, this is the only light in this general area, so a good wattage was important as well.

Here are various lights I considered for my kitchen table.  I choose my kitchen light and dining light at the same time- so I considered all sorts of finishes before settling on brass.

Dining Room Chandelier Lights by Design Manifest

1 / 2 / 3

4 / 5 / 6

7 / 8 / 9

I ended up selecting the Cadence 2-light Pendant from Murray Feiss.   I just adore a mix of brass and black.   And it’s not overwhelmingly brass in your face- just a touch of it.   It has the feel of the popular Hicks pendant by Visual Comfort, but at a much better price!  At 13″ wide, it is small, yet still feels substantial.  And it has 150 watts, which was my minimum for lighting a table.  I hung mine 30″ above the table top.

tulip table with panton chairs black and brass pendant light

black and brass pendant light with tabletop

pendant detail

Cadence Pendant with tulip table and panton chairs- Design Manifest- black and brass pendant light

pendant 2


Seeing the light installed this week made me really happy.  Will this be the inspiration we need to finally finish this space?  Even though it’s still deceptively a construction site, now it is a stylish and well lit one!

One more piece of Good News. Del Mar Fans is doing a another giveway on their Facebook Page!!  Free pendant light, people!!

It starts tomorrow and you have 7 days to enter.  Please head over to their page for details.

This post is sponsored by Murray Feiss & Del Mar Fans & Lighting.


What We Are Working on Right NOW- Gladwyne Master Bath

Well it’s our Family vacation week, so dad and I should technically be down the shore, but both of us snuck back mid-week  to get a little work done.  There is just SO much going on right now!  We are collaborating on a lot of exciting projects.  We’ve been hired to design and specify two different major additions.  They will both be two-story expansions with new kitchens and master suites.  I just love juicy renovations like this mixed in with smaller decorative projects.

On the Manifest (Build) front lines, the guys remodeling a showstopper master bathroom.  I’ve been giving little teases of it on instagram (#blackrockmasterbath) and I’m thrilled to see the design finally come to life.  This is the best part.  (For me…. I don’t have to live in the house during the renovation.  Ha!)

I would describe this bathroom design as modern, yet it blends really well into their more traditional home.  I did a blog post back in May while I was designing the vanity wall.  (You can see the post HERE.)  As I mentioned in that post, my clients wanted a space with pizzazz.  Of course we wanted to add function (better storage, improved lighting, window treatment solutions,) and luxury (multiple shower heads, heated floors, stone pedestal bathtub) but mainly we wanted style.  We decided to frame an arch over floating vanities.  It will be the focal point when you walk in the door.  We are also doing a fabulous patterned (neutral) tile in the shower.  There are so many good moments here- the plumbing fixtures, cabinetry, countertops, lighting(!), hardware, wallpaper… its goood.

This is the bathroom layout.  Same as before, we just made the shower larger, switched the tub and re-worked the vanity wall.

gladwyne master bath layout


master bathroom before


vanity wall before

(OH GAWD remind me to dress better on BEFORE photo day!)

This is a little rendering of how the bathroom will look…

gladwyne master bath rendering

We are currently in week three of the renovation.  The old bathroom is all gone, new plumbing and electrical lines have been run and all framing and drywall is done.

Here is the sink wall now:

master bathroom framed out

Once the painter primes we will begin tile work!  We were over there yesterday looking at the layout together.  We’ve already had our first “challenge” in that floor tile came in slightly different than we expected.  These things happen and what’s most important to us to deal with it, find a solution and keep our clients happy.  It looks like we will be keeping the tile, but dropping the plan to do a herringbone pattern.  The dark wood-look porcelain is so pretty on it’s own, it doesn’t need the extra pattern.

dad with tile

Here is a pic I snapped of the cabinetry sample (two-tone gray!) with the floor tile (left,)  vanity wall tile (upper right,) and shower wall tile (lower right.)

tile materials cabinetry sample

A few weeks ago I went to my favorite stone yard to tag stone for the countertop, shower bench and sills.  Here are a couple of options we considered.

quartztie 1

quartzite 2

quartzite 3

Which would you choose?


And here is the delicious stone tub I mentioned above.  I would SO love to soak in this baby.

stone pedestal tub

Stay tuned while we make progress on this project.  In the meanwhile, I’m heading back to the beach!

How Long will this Brass / Gold Trend Last?

Brass is HAWT in interior design.  So hot that I’m kinda already over it.  But what’s the next big trend in decorating?  Someone asked me that the other day and I didn’t have an answer quite yet.  Even though brass/ gold is so popular, I’m not sure I’m ready to give it up… I love it that much.  But I do think I’m ready for a little less overall and certainly less predictable combinations in decorating with brass.

While the warm goldy hue has been growing in popularity over the past few years, suddenly it seems like it is EVERYWHERE.  I know this because I’m working on a  living room design where I was told NO BRASS and we were just searching for cute little metal end tables and lights.  It was surprisingly challenging!  When it comes to finding good looking and well priced metal end tables/ coffee tables/ and lights it’s seems manufacturers have got the memo: nickel is out and brass is in for the win.  (PS- I like both nickel and brass.  Mix it up, Yo!)

So if something is trending so strongly, does it automatically push those of us who strive to be ahead of the curve past the gold phase?  In this era of pinterest / houzz / instagram saturation where design moves so fast, can you ever be ahead of the curve?  I instead try to follow my mantra:  Live with what you Love.  

If you buy what you love and mix in a few of the following, your love of gold can last a long long time.

1.  Do only 1-3 pieces in gold finish.  It’s so easy to want to paint your home gold, but for real, Less is more.  Let your special pieces shine.

gold coffee table by julie hillman- brass light christine dovey

left / right

2.  Don’t be scared to mix those metals.  I know some people won’t agree with me here.  But I think it adds more depth and feels more collected.

jessica alba dining room

via Domaine

3.  Mix in something rustic.  Woody, stone, even honed marble, just something to contrast with the metallic.

gold mirror with rustic wood- design manifest

Our Bala Project

4.  Don’t be afraid to clash.  Some golds are soft and leafy, some brasses are shiny and modern, some are antique.  Just trust your gut and mix it it.

polished brass with antique brass sketch 42

Nicole Cohen via sketch 42

5.  Skip the matching pieces.  I’m never a fan of the matching set- but a matching gold coffee table & end table set makes me especially mad.

karli kloss living room

Like this mix, but I would actually prefer it if the coffee table weren’t a metallic and it was just two gold side tables.  VIA

6.  Start with a table.  My favorite way to mix in a  little brassy goodness is an end table.  It’s low commitment and there are SO many cute options out there!

gold end table

Angie Hrankowsky via Domaine Home

There are so many great end tables out there.  Here are a few of my FAVES at all different price points.

gold end tables for every budget

1 / 2 / 3

4 / 5 / 6

7 / 8 / 9

10 / 11 / 12 / 13

How to mix a Colorful Sofa into a Neutral Room

We had a pretty successful initial design presentation yesterday with our new Chestnut Hill clients and they surprised me by being pretty open to velvet teal sofa.  This space is going to be soft, pretty and fresh with a blend of traditional and modern pieces.  I envisioned using various pastel tones of grays, blue-greens and lavenders in a mix that felt mostly neutral  One might think that throwing something bold like a colorful sofa into the mix would automatically make the space overwhelmingly colorful.  On the contrary, I picture one stunning, grounding colorful moment with a pretty muted palette mixed around it.  Forget the pop of color on the pillow, this is a more elegant grown up version.

So how do you successfully mix a colorful sofa into a more neutral room?

1.  Limit your use of accent Pillows

how to use colorful sofa in neutral room- teal sofa no pillows

image source

I know, I know, pillows are super fun, but I noticed a common themr amongst stunning rooms with colorful sofas- Very Few Pillows.  It makes sense really, if you are going bold on the sofa, shouldn’t the focus be on the sofa instead of the pillows?  I’m not saying no pillows, but don’t use pillows for big personality, maybe just soft colors, quiet patterns, etc.

2.  Keep the rug Neutral!

how to use colorful sofa in neutral room- neutral rug

Studio MRS

With a bold sofa, it is really essential to keep the other big pieces simple.  Nothing takes up more space in the room (visually and physically) than the rug.  To maintain a neutral feel, stick with a sisal, creamy Moroccan, of a softly colored patterned rug.  We aren’t doing white in our space (hello it’s a family room with little kids!) but it will have a quiet, yet interesting feel to it.

3.  Place the Sofa in front of a window

how to use a colorful sofa in neutral room- in front of window

Ashe and Leandro

Instead of making a statement with a piece of art over the sofa, it can feel very serene to have the sofa in front of a large in window.  Obviously it doesn’t work in every scenario, but it will work in our layout and I think it will help the room feel more neutral.

4.  Limit your color pallet to two colors

how to use colorful sofa in neutral room- similar tones

The sofa doesn’t need to be the only color in the room!  Go up a few tones on your color wheel to find softer tones that coordinate well without feeling too busy.  Choose a completely different color that works well as your second color.  I love the use of lavender in the room above.  By limiting the pallet to two colors the room will feel softer and more cohesive- thus more neutral.  Note that I don’t consider white or gray “colors” so feel free to mix them in with wild abandon as well.

5.  Mix More Textures, Less Colors

how to use colorful sofa in neutral room- blue tufted sofas tamra sanford

Tamra Sanford via Erika Brechtel

For a softer feel mix varying levels of the same tone in different textures (velvet, shimmery, furry, matte.)

6.  Resist the urge to repeat your sofa color 

how to use colorful sofa in neutral room- mix neutral chairs

It can be tempting to do an accent chair in a coordinating pattern that ties into your sofa color.  That’s fine and good, but it will take you away from a soft, neutral feel real qick!  A little color goes a long way, so keep the accent chairs white, cream, gray or a coordinating softer color.  Keep the other Upholstery Neutral instead of Matchy.

7.  It’s OK to Match a Little.  Pick one Tie-in Piece.

how to use a colorful sofa in neutral room- tie in with art

Leverone Design

Wait did I just totally contradict myself?  Whatevs.  I think you can repeat your color ONE Time.  I love how the art ties into the colorful upholstery the room above.   This was one of my main inspiration for our design.

We still have a lot to finalize with our Chestnut Hill project and our client has not committed yet to the teal, but I’m starting to get pretty excited!  What do you think… Is the concept of a colorful sofa in a neutral room make sense to you?  Or do you think of “neutral” in a more strict non-color terms?

Before & After: Gladwyne Girls Bath Makeover

Today I’m sharing the last of our projects we completed in 2014.  Time to photograph some of our projects from this year!  This bathroom was a fun one because it was for a young teen girl.  I always enjoy designing spaces for young people.  It’s a chance to be a little more playful and whimsical, but it can also be tricky, because the room will typically have to last them until college (and perhaps beyond.)  Just because you love pink at 9 doesn’t mean you are going to be a fan at 15.  This little lady had excellent taste and we created a neutral and classic bath that I know she will enjoy for years to come.  I’m seriously jealous that I didn’t have this kind of space growing up!

The original bathroom, like so many old homes outside Philadelphia, was teeny-tiny.  This space was particularly difficult because it is a Jack and Jill bath.  Meaning, we needed two different doors going into two separate bedrooms.


before bath


{This vanity was NOT providing enough storage.}

before bath sink


before bath tub toilet

I went to task working on a new floor plan.  I was able to steal a few inches from the guest room AND take over a closet.  This allowed for a larger, upgraded bathroom.  We had to gain the closet space back, so we re-worked that into her bedroom, which I will show below.  In the new space we are able to have lots of drawers for storage, a nice big counter, a hamper, plus we ditched the tub for a shower with a bench.


My favorite element of this space is the cabinetry.  I really wanted to design a vanity cabinet that felt like a furniture piece.  I sketched up a stepped drawer design, showed it to my client and luckily she went for it.  I love how it’s crisp, clean and traditional yet also one of a kind.

White Framed Vanity hexagon mable floor carrera white subway-Bath By Design Manifest

I designed the vanity to look like 3 banks of 4 drawers.

Actually, the sink is a door and the bottom two drawers on the left and right are deep drawers.

So different function on the inside / symmetrical on the outside.

design manifest cabinetry detail 1500

The color scheme is mostly just a soothing mix of gray and white.

White Cabinets / White Subway Tile on the main bath walls.

Gray (and White) marble floor, Marble countertop, Marble Shower Walls, Nickel finishes.

design manifest cabinetry detail 1500-2

Across from the vanity is a hamper with hutch above.

The mirrored back and glass shelves help this piece from feeling too heavy.

I also help how it partially obscures the toilet.  Now its not the first thing you see when you walk into the room!

Also- note the radiator cover below.  My signature favorite touch.

hamper with glass shelves above- bathroom by design manifest

My client worked with her existing decorator, Mona Ross Berman, on the soft finishes for this space.

Items like wallpaper, roman shade and sconces were sourced by them.

{My Elevation of the Vanity Wall}

Chief Architect Premier X5: Kopelman Elana bath 3D.layout

{And the Real Deal}

Stepped Vanity with Feet by Design Manifest

In the shower we looked at tons of options for tile and settled up a 2″ hexagon marble.  I’ve never mixed hex with hex before (the floor is 1″ hex) but I think it worked out nicely!  Again, the limited palette and shapes her keep the space really clean and soothing.

marble hexagon shower by design manifest

I like the base moulding we installed at the shower.  That little detail helps break up the hexagons.  Another fun detail was the chair rail trim around the shower opening.

Chief Architect Premier X5: Kopelman Elana bath 3D.layout

marble hexagon shower by design manifest

To make up for losing a closet in the bedroom, we designed and built-in cabinetry into the room.  I’ll let the pics do the talking there…


Before- closet wall


After- Built-in Closets by Design Manifest

{Decor by Mona Ross Berman}

We really thought through the insides or these armoires.  Each is packed with different storage- double hanging, shoes, shelves, etc.

Chief Architect Premier X5: Kopelman Elana bath 3D.layout


A little close up of the cabinet details.  We did inset cabinets here with a beveled frame.  The doors and drawers have an applied moulding.

I like to think if it as just enough detail to feel traditional and interesting, yet simple enough to feel transitional.

cabinetry detail- built in closets

I hope you enjoyed this project!

Images are by Courtney Apple Photography.

Hopefully Courtney and I can get together in the early Fall (!!) so we can keep bringing you guys reveals of our work.