ONE ROOM CHALLENGE- The City Condo- Week 2

art -the dream is free poster

Aint that the truth?

I bought this print over the weekend because I just felt it perfectly captured the sentiment of the condo.  I KNOW that when we are done, this place is going to be fantastic,… but HOLY CRAP I have never worked harder in my life.

Welcome to week 2 of the One Room Challenge.  I have a lot to catch you up on.  (See Week 1 Here.)

demolition pictures

Demolition Baby.  It goes so fast and you think YAY I totally got this reno by the horns.  And then you get tripped up by things like crazy electrical behind the walls, water leaks, un-level floors, pealing paint and a condo that seems haunted by some ghost that really, really doesn’t want you to improve the place.  Poor Georgie... the heavy hitting part of the renovation has fallen on him.  The last owners cut every corner possible and he’s been cleaning up their mess.  I love him because he will never say NO, he can figure out how to build or solve anything and he will go to huge lengths to create something he thinks will make me happy.  But tackling this reno on top of his two full-time careers has been super duper tough and trying on us both.  There was a period of time in the late summer when I was sure this condo would break my bank account and break us at the same time.  I am extremely grateful to Linda and the awesome One Room Challenge sponsors.  They gave us the boost we needed to keep going, because otherwise, the place really may have sat like this for a while longer:

condo demo mess living area


The first major decision for us was flooring.  I knew I wanted the same material throughout, so it had to be practical enough to work in the kitchen and entry.  We both wanted to modernize the apartment and felt a dark wood floor was the way to go.  We hit up Lumber Liquidators and checked out a few laminates and engineered hardwoods.  G wanted to save $$ with the top left laminate, but I preferred the engineered wood option on the bottom left or the bamboo on the top right.  To recoup the money on the extra material and padding, we plan to set the floor ourselves.  Gulp.

flooring options

With flooring solidified, we picked paint colors.  We wanted soothing and modern, so we went for varying shades of gray. Painting took FOREVER.  Seriously, FML.  Next time I’m hiring a Pro.  Walls, trims, doors, ceilings, it’s just too much and I’ve ruined at least two pairs of yoga pants and my good pair of sneakers.  Why can’t I grasp the idea of work clothes?

paint colors

With our color scheme in place, the rest of the kitchen was a no brainer.  We removed the laminate countertop and dirty beige backsplash tile.  I got a remnant of black absolute granite for the perimeter cabients.  I figure it’s neutral and coordinates enough with the green granite island if I decide to keep it.  My only regret is that I didn’t spend a little extra to have the countertop honed.  I was trying to save money, but something things are just worth more!

Kitchen Construction Progress 1

My dad lent me our carpenter Angelo for two days.  He managed to tile the kitchen backsplash, bathroom floor, and tub walls in that short time span!  Thank goodness for Angelo.

I got a new stainless undermount sink but re-installed the old faucet.  It’s looking a little lame now, so there are plans to upgrade this fella.  Then I went to town painting the cabinet frames gray.  I thought for a moment about replacing the cabinets, but just didn’t feel it was worth it to tear them out and put up new ones,  The kitchen is mostly wall cabinets and the new ones wouldn’t have bells and whistles to make them much nicer than these.

Kitchen Construction Progress 2

What I AM splurging on is new cabinet doors.  I went for a simpler style (shaker) that will overlay the frames more than the old doors.  I rationalize I’m kinda saving here because I won’t need to paint them.  They will arrive with a nice factory finish paint job.  Really looking forward to seeing the doors up and brass hardware on the cabinets.


The bathroom has been the easiest part of the reno so far.  Probably because Angelo and our plumbers handled this part.  Thanks to Lowe’s I got a new bathtub and subway tile for the shower.  The white and gray palette is like a breath of fresh air and I swear it makes the room feel larger.  The curved tub literally does make the shower larger, so that’s nice too.

bathroom construction progress

I love the chevron pattern on the floor.  It creates just enough interest.  I thought it would have been a little boring to do linear patterns on both the walls and floor.  Just need to paint, install base trim and add accessories and this room will be done.


Wanting the architecture and decor to flow we are continuing our theme of black, white, gray and brass.  We will also be adding in wood furnishings to infuse a little extra warmth into the space.  Truth be told, I DO NOT have the whole scheme figured out yet, but I will be leaning heavily on the pieces below- furnishings we already own.

condo initial furnishings scheme- labeled

sofa / mirror / cabinet hardware / pendant light / table

Little did I know, but the ORC actually began a day in late April when I talked George into accompanying me to a furniture auction.  We knew the condo would be vacated soon and thought perhaps we would pick up a few pieces to stage the place.  Well we got into a bidding frenzy and scored the rosewood credenza and wood arm chair (a pair actually) that you see above.  If I knew then what I know now, perhaps I just would have just walked ran away.

The zebra rug (printed cowhide) was another random purchase I made earlier this year.  I thought I’d use it in my house, but it felt too busy, so I folded it up and saved it for a rainy day.   This condo is totally  affirming my belief that furniture hoarding is useful and necessary.

The sofa is my own- my longtime Martin Sofa by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.  It’s probably highly cray cray to move my only sofa from my own house to this apartment, but it makes more sense here.  Down the line I’ll buy something we like better for our own home. In the meanwhile we’ll just squat on one of the 27 chairs I own.

Sorry for the massively long post, but since we got a head start on the project, I wanted to catch you up on progress.  I’m REALLY hoping to share finished floors next week.  Wish us luck on a speedy and drama-free install.  I will feel so much better once the construction is done and I can clean up and reassess the space.


ORC PARTICIPANTS- 20 top designers/bloggers have been invited to this Challenge and will report their progress every Wednesday for the next 6 weeks.  Prepare yourself for some amazing makeovers.

See you next Week!  
Follow the 6 week Progression

ONE ROOM CHALLENGE- The City Condo- Week 1

“The Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.” 

― Hunter S. Thompson, Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga


I may have taken on a little bit too much this time.


Starting today I have 6 weeks / 42 Days / 1,008 hours to transform my city condo from a dated and empty apartment to a chic modern finished home.  This is not a challenge I take lightly.  I’m not sure if it’s the perfectionist in me, or the added adrenaline from the audience, but something about the ORC pushes me right over the edge of ambitious design into full on insanity.  It should be a fun ride… for you, at least.  I really do hope you enjoy this makeover

If you are new to this blog, Welcome!  I’m Naomi, a Philadelphia interior designer and ORC addict.  This is my fifth time doing the One Room Challenge.  Huge thanks to creator, Linda of Calling it Home, who keeps inviting me back.  You can check out my previous ORC makeovers below.

previous one room challenges design manifest

Petite Kitchen          /     3rd Floor Loft     /         Gentleman’s Bachelor Pad     /       Master Bedroom


For this challenge I will be taking on my center city condo.  It has sat empty since June (!) when my last renter moved out.  What was supposed to be a quickie renovation to sell or rent has been seriously stalled due to lack of budget and more pressing work projects.  It has become a constant source of stress looming over me.  Then like an angel shining down from heaven, Linda, offered me a coveted slot in this Challenge. A-HA!  This is just what I need to finally finish this space and stop paying two mortgages.

What am I doing with this apartment? Will I sell it?  Will I rent it?  Will I move back to the city and use it myself?  I’m REALLY unsure what will happen next.  What I DO know is I plan to make it new again and style it up perfect.  From there, I’m hoping the universe will work its own magic.

Something like, If I decorate it, they will come… only I don’t know who “they” are.  Oh, Gawd, does this sound crazy?

condo floorplan


A quick history of my condo is that I lived there from 2007-2010 and have rented it out ever since.  It had a cheap, quick, partial renovation before I bought it and has slowly been deteriorating ever since.  Here is a little tour of how it looked when I lived there.

before living room (2)

before dining room


before bedroom

(ick, that bedroom- why younger Naomi, whyyy??)

Below is how it looked after my tenants moved out.  These pictures do not convey the true grossness!!

(This is a slideshow- If it is not visible to you, I suggest checking it out on the blog.)


  • Flooring.  New floors needed throughout.  Laminate is really damaged, carpet is beyond gross and I’ve always hated the green tile in entry and beige tile in the kitchen.  We need cohesion, so I am investing in new engineered wood floors in the entire unit.  (Except the Bathroom.)
  • Walls.  The walls are in terrible condition.  Need new paint / spackle / wallpaper.  Unfortunately, the foyer paper (which I love) is too damaged to keep.  That will need to come down :(
  • Bathroom.  New tub, new tile on floors and walls.  New shower/tub valves.  The rest can stay.
  • Kitchen.  The perimeter cabinets really need a new paint job.  New kitchen hardware.  New perimeter countertop.  New backsplash tile.  I’ve been working with Lowes on this challenge and thanks to them I will also be getting a new refrigerator.  (Thanks Lowes!)  Now all of the appliances will be stainless instead of an assortment of finishes.
  • Electrical.  Thanks to previous lighting partnership earlier this summer I’ve already upgraded lighting in the kitchen and dining room.  (See kitchen light here and dining light here.)  With the ceilings being concrete, I won’t be able to add additional ceiling lights, but I plan to get creative where I can and utilize a lot of lamps.
  • Limitations.  I’m trying to do this job on a budget.  The condo is only worth a certain amount, and since I’m not sure if I’m doing this for myself or not, it doesn’t make sense to over-invest in the place.  For that reason, I am stuck with my  curved green granite island countertop.  I put in the custom stained wood cabinets and countertop when I moved in 8 years ago.  Loved it then, HATE it now.  But I really can’t stomach spending another four digits $$$$ because my countertop tastes are more linear and neutral now.  This decision is literally keeping me up at night.  Sensible Naomi hopes I hold strong on this one.

kitchen island

UGGG.  This.   Can I work around it?

  • Furnishings.  And then there is the whole small matter of furnishing the place.  No biggie…Eeek!  It helps that I’m a hoarder and that my boyfriend makes furniture.  That being said, I’ll be scrambling to fill in the blanks.


I will be taking on this design & renovation with my boyfriend, George.  This is a side project for us both, so that means long nights and weekends.  We have tackled a bit of the work prior to the challenge, so I will catch you up to speed next week.  That being said, their is a sh*t-ton still to do and I’m just trying my best to stay focused, organized and not get too stressed out.  That should last about 5 days.


Modern.  Vintage.  Neutral with just enough saturation to keep it vibrant.  Warm.  Gender Neutral.  Really trying not to get all girly or overly colorful in here.  Every time I find myself wandering that way, I refer to my images below and edit, edit, edit.  I’m envisioning this being a special retreat for a stylish couple.  A Pied-à-terre, if you will.

The top three especially are my design guidebook.

one room challenge naomi condo inspiration

image credits House & Home Meg Biram photo by Abby Jiu

Lauren Gold for Lonny Mag

Design Sponge / Nate Berkus for House Beautiful / Nam Dang-Mitchell

Lauren Gold for Lonny Mag / Harpers Bazaar

Yep, that’s right, my condo design is inspired by Meg Biram.  The dress, the colors, the vibe is perfect for what I want for the space.  Whenever I find myself straying too far from my theme, I say WWMD (what would Meg do?) and I edit again.  That’s not creepy at all, right?  Love ya, Meg!


So obviously a 2 bedroom, 1 bath flat with kitchen, dining, living room and mini entry is a little more than ONE room.  You can do math too?  Cool.  So we both know I’m taking on too much.  This is supposed to be the ONE Room Challenge.  But the fact is, it NEEDS to get done.  So I may as well share it here, right?  The focus will mainly be on the living area, but I plan to share the bedrooms and bath too because I’m doing them and the design all ties together.






ORC PARTICIPANTS- 20 top designers/bloggers have been invited to this Challenge and will report their progress every Wednesday for the next 6 weeks.  Prepare yourself for some amazing makeovers.

See you next Week!  

A Trip of a Lifetime and an Exciting Announcement

Hi Guys.  Sorry I missed you last week and for the late post today.  I always write my blog posts Tuesday evening.  Usually starting around 10pm and finishing up by midnight if I’m lucky.  Last Tuesday was a really terrible day.  We had a custom sofa arrive damaged that required me scrambling up to the great Northeast to assess and determine the best solution, then my car broke down on the way home, then I had a late meeting.  By the time that was over, well there was just no energy for the blog.  I’ve been strongly committed to my weekly posts (and doing a good job if I do say so myself!) so last week was just a slip up and not an indication of future behavior.

Before I get into this week’s topic, I want to announce an exciting adventure you can follow starting next Wednesday.  I will be participating in the One Room Challenge again!!!  That’s right the 6 week makeover challenge is back and with a vengeance.  What room will I take on this time?  You’ll have to tune in next week to see.  Wish me luck… adding this onto our work-load is going to definitely stretch me, but I’m really excited.

Speaking of excitement- I just booked myself a trip of a lifetime.  I will be going to Morocco in Decembember!  It’s pretty much a dream come true.  I’ve long lusted after textiles, tiles and architecture of Morocco.  I can’t wait to get away, relax and be completely inspired.  I plan to bring back lots of goodies too.

I will be traveling with a dear friend and she planned the most amazing itinerary for us.  We will fly into Tangiers, travel to the ancient blue city Chefchaouen,  do a quick stop in Fez, and then do a few days in the desert over New Years Eve (camel rides!)  We will finish up in Marrakech where I can’t wait to do some serious shopping.

Based on pictures, everything looks amazing.  I have no doubt it will be even better in person.  A few things I hope to see….




chefchaouen 2





tangier 2



fez hotel


fez garden


Desert Tour

{Dadas Gorge}

dadas gorge




camels in desert



marrakech souk







Have you been to Morocco??  If so, I would love your input!!  What should I definitely see?  Best places to shop?  Dish it.

And don’t forget to tune in next week for the first week of the One Room Challenge.

ART ART ART and it’s impact on room design

When I find myself captivated by a pretty space, one of the first things I study is how the art is influencing the room design.  It’s crazy how much art changes the feel of a room.    Yet lots of people leave it as an afterthought when putting together their home.  It’s the cherry on top, it’s the finishing touch.

In my opinion, there is no wrong way to design.  You could start with a sofa, a painting, a fabric, rug,  photograph, whatever.  Art doesn’t have to be driving force, but it IS a strong influence.  Art is great way to contrast, soften, add color, add graphic emphasis.  You can use art to get more serious, or get a little cheeky.   Design for me is always a bit of a balancing game.  Adding a bit more traditional to a modern space,  a little bit of rustic to soften a glamorous one, etc.   A little thing like a picture on a wall can totally sway the vibe of a space.  I love seeing the way the designers below have decorated their walls.  Each room is quite different and the art really influences the personality.

loren taylor symphony house

Atlanta Symphony Associates’ Decorators’ Show House / Loren Taylor

flower print veranda


parker kennedy for atlanta homes

Atlanta Symphony Associates’ Decorators’ Show House / Parker Kennedy

Gabriella Palumbo living room

Design Sponge (Gabriella Palumbo)

yellow sofa art on bookshelves house and home

House and Home

mindy kahling ilving room


liz damrich smpl

Liz Damrich via Style Me Pretty

Gabriella Palumbo bedroom

Design Sponge (Gabriella Palumbo)

amber lewis domaine

Amber Interiors / Domaine Home

symphony showhouse'

Atlanta Symphony Associates’ Decorators’ Show House / Matthews Furniture  & Design

natural wood and black wall no art house and home

House and Home

How bout that last one?  No art at all.  Sometimes bare wall are sexy too.

Quickie Tile Update- Gladwne Master Bath

Whoa, Wednesday, you snuck up on me fast this week!  Sorry guys, I did not make time to properly prepare for a blog post this week, so instead I’m posting some progress shots from the Gladwyne bath jobsite.  This is going to be our client’s shower and I’m already obsessed.  A subtle geometric pattern, marble baseboard, crown moulding, a “floating leg” bench… this one has a lot of fun details.  See more posts about this project here and here.

shower pre tile

Shower pre wall tile- You can see 2″ hex shower floor and wood-look porcelain outside shower.

bathroom floor

Another shot of the bathroom floor.  That’s porcelain tile.

design manifest shower bench

Shower bench gets set, plus starting marble base moulding below.

design manifest tile work- shower niche

Shampoo niche.

design manifest tile work- crown moulding

The ceilings are so high in here that we could run wood crown throughout the whole room without concerns about moisture.

design manifest tile work- patterened tile and basemoulding

Pretty, Pretty.

So that’s just a little something the guys have accomplished in the past few days.  As for me, some projects are starting to wind down, while new ones are going full steam ahead.  If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen my post about being super overworked and tired.  While our schedule remains quite busy,  I’m happy to report I spent 3 days of Labor Day weekend doing zero design work at all.  Instead I went to a football game, swam in a lake and sipped cocktails by the harbor.  It was awesome and reinvigorating.

On a note about busyness, Sometimes I do worry my transparency about work load and my own personal state may scare people away, but it’s the only way I know how to be.  I always try to conduct myself and business practices in the most honest and accurate way possible. I’m not interested in portraying some facade of perfection… I just don’t have the energy or interest in that.  For those who hope to work with us in the future, we ARE taking on new clients.  We are 8-10 weeks out … which is so worth the wait!  We try to keep our project load smaller to give our current clients the best possible service and attention.

Thanks to all of you who check in on this blog.  See you next week!