Project Profile: Chestnut Hill Living Room.

Today I wanted to share my own thoughts on a recent project; the living room in our client’s Chestnut Hill Home.   This project was featured on Style Me Pretty Living back in April and I have been slowly working my room through each room sharing details.  This home was one of my first major decorating projects and challenged me to create a space that was much more neutral and traditional than my own style tendencies.  I’ve been delighted with the results and relish the opportunity to tackle more neutral spaces.  I find pushing my own boundaries really help me grow as a designer.

I wish I could call this post a Before and After, but sadly I have no “before” photos of our Chestnut Hill Living Room Makeover.  Just imagine an empty white room with high ceilings, crown moulding and no furniture.  We tackled this room after previously working with our clients’ on several projects including the family room, powder room, bedroom and dining room.  By the time we got to the formal living room I knew my client’s tastes quite well and this one came together harmoniously and quickly.

Design Manifest Chestnut Hill Project- Living Room wide

The room is a smaller square space and our first challenge was working out a floor plan.  When thinking of space planning I always ask how a room will be used.  In this case, they wanted a more formal, yet cozy space to read the paper, entertain, have a glass of wine and relax.  We opted for four chairs around an ottoman as it felt more intimate.  My client’s husband’s main request was that he be able to put his feet up on the ottoman.

1 Design Manifest Chestnut Hill Project Living Room

With the ottoman as the driving factor in the room, I knew it needed to be special.  I sketched up a custom octagonal piece and presented it to my client.  The legs had a slight Moroccan flair and the faux snakeskin fabric had definitely attitude.  My client could have easily said “NO” or “that’s too bold” but instead she told me she was scared, but trusted me.  Boy am I glad she did, because we absolutely LOVE the result.  When doing a neutral space you need a few surprising elements and some interesting textures!

3 chestnut hill living room ottoman

Keeping consistent with most of the first floor, we used bound sisal rugs and off-white walls.  This flow from room to room really tied the rooms together and created a soothing effect.  Each space has it’s distinct feel yet you also could swap pieces from room to room and they would look great.  I love creating flexible design.  Some people never shift rooms around.  I will walk in a year later and everything is exactly how I left it.  Others evolve in their spaces and continue to tweak.  Neither is wrong.  Your home, your happy place.

black bamboo armchair with cushion- design manifest

Keeping that airy feel, we opted for creamy sheers.  They are stationary panels-not functional- just a little something to add softness to the space.  The shutters provide all the privacy they could need.  (Side note- loving shutters right now and I just want to use them everywhere!  Well at least at my house.)

For additional seating, I found these vintage bamboo chairs and had cushions made in a Kelly Wearstler weave.  I love a little black, a little eclectic and a little old in every space so these chairs checked off quite a few boxes!

living room wingback lounge chair

For the main seating, we used 4 wingback lounge chairs from Lee Industries.  I love how they are super cozy, elegant yet not too massive either.   The proportions were just right for the room.  We let the chairs curves do the talking and used a quieter simple linen.   The pillows provide just enough pop.

My client used personal pieces for art on all four walls.  Above is an antique rutter found on the Cape.  My client’s vacation up there and it feels very “them.”  I love that it is not traditional art, but is still beautiful and tells a story.  I think its so important for a room to have these little bits of personal character.

vignette on vintage tea table

Besides seating, we filled the room with two tables.  Above is an antique tea cart that sits between the two front windows.  Below is a wood console table that fills the long empty wall.  While it’s not an antique, it matches the tea cart quite well.  By limiting the finishes in this room it felt softer and more serene.  Sometimes I feel like in an effort to be layered rooms can have texture overload.  Wood, metal, stone, lacquer, rope, lucite, animal print…. it can all be lovely mixed together, but sometimes less is more.  (And sometimes more is more.  It’s personal ;)

wood console table flanked by floor lamps- design manifest

For the console table, both my client and I were in sync with our desire to flank the table with floor lamps instead of placing them on the tabletop.  This was great for two reasons.  1) It filled in this long empty wall nicely and 2) it left room on the table for collectibles and plants!

Design Manifest Chestnut Hill Project- Living Room sideboard detail

My client commissioned the painting above the console table.  It is based on a vintage family photograph.  I just love that!  As for the fab lamp shades, we added the black trim ourselves.  I love the little bit of definition it adds to the lights and the wall.

There was this framed moulding above the fireplace that was a little bit perplexing.  We discussed filling it with paper, art, paint, even taking it away.  We ended up mounting antique mirror inside the frame and floating a piece of art over it.  In my opinion you can never have too many mirrors in a room- I love the brightening and expanding effect.  (When done in a tasteful way.  Scary 80′s plate mirror would be an exception.)

art hung over mirror- design manifest

A couple of white pierced garden stools do double duty with providing a little visual texture AND a place to plop that glass of wine.  I like the mix of shapes and lines we used in this room: round, linear, curved, octagonal… it helps make the square room flow better.

white pierced garden stools as side tables

And that is my two cents on the Chestnut Hill Living Room design.  I hope you enjoyed the tour!  You can see the whole project HERE.

Images by Courtney Apple

If you live in the Philadelphia area and would like to discuss your own home project, please contact me at naomi@designmanifest.com

Amateur Work: My Yard

I am by NO MEANS a gardener, but I’ve been getting great joy out of designing and working in my yard recently.  Previously a city gal for the past 10 years, I now feel a little overwhelmed with both a front AND back yard.  It will probably take me years to get the whole area together.  The back  is particularly full of challenges.   In typical Naomi/George overzealous ambitiousness, we’ve discussed a deck, adding a fence, an outdoor living room, tiered vegetable garden beds, a shed/workshop, a fountain, a firepit.  The truth of the matter is, I don’t see this as a forever home, so it’s probably crazy to do so much work.

For now, I’ve been mostly focused on upping my curb appeal and making my front yard a little less embarrassing.  I’ve trimmed down ugly bush trees and completely removed the grass.  Since the space is so small I’d prefer to have mulch and plantings.  The idea is for it to be a cutting garden, with something or other blooming throughout the warm seasons.  I love having fresh flowers in my home and having them come from your own yard is even more special.

When I first bought the home in September 2012, my front yard looked like this…

front yard on closing day
And now in June 2014 we have progressed to this…

Cottage Front Yard June 2014

I know, I know, I have a long way to go and I’m not exactly winning and curb appeal awards yet.  Would you be more impressed if I told you the yard looked like this on May 31st?  Not even exaggerating.

4 Weeks Ago

yard from front june 1

yard from side june 1

And Now…

Left side on June 21

A little less terrible.  Not done weeding.  (Does it ever end?)  Need to re-mulch.

I half mulched the right side and it makes me feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

right side half mulched

right side detail

Container Garden

I know this isn’t very impressive.  I’m mostly posting to hold myself accountable and keep it real.  Gardening is hard work!  I’ve gotten a lot of help from my Mom so far and hope we can make some headway in the next few months.

GOALS:

- paint fence

- add second section of fence on left side

- hide recycling/ trash cans

- finish weeding

-finish mulching

- tackle front porch

That’s it for me today.  Wish I could go outside and play right now, but it’s work time.

How are your gardens growing?  Are you into plantings or grass?  And do you have any tips for me to help me pull my front yard together?  I’m all ears!

Mixed Seating in the Dining Room

One of the most common requests my clients give me when designing their dining room is a mix of seating.  Benches, head chairs, a mix of firm of soft… gone are the days of the matching sets of table, chairs and sideboards.  People want flexibility and style to entertain in different ways.  We try to design dining rooms to be used as more than just the holiday dinner spot that sits empty most of the year.  Formal dining rooms can double as libraries, lounges, homework headquarters, or your favorite room to sip your morning coffee.

 

For our Chestnut Hill Project, we provided three types of seating in the dining room.  We wanted the flexibility to host large groups or intimate gatherings, formal adult events or children’s dinner parties.  The kids love to pull the bench up to the table and draw.  The head chairs, slipcovered in a linen are super cozy and provide a little drama in the room.  And the Louis XVI oval back chairs are surprisingly comfortable for a good price.  (Thanks Ballard Designs!)

Here is how we set up the room….

Layout Option 1: 6 chairs with 2 Head Chairs

5 chestnut hill dining room

Layout Option 2: 3 chairs, a bench and 2 Head Chairs

MIxed Seating in the dining room design manifest

When the bench isn’t needed, It sits against the window wall

dining room bench

How other people use mixed dining seating

mixed seating in the dining room christine dovey

Christine Dovey

seating with bench in dining room

Laura U

mixed seating in dining room tulip chairs with settee

Marie Olsson Nylander

mixed seating in dining room wing chairs with benches

Tracery Interiors

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(Images of DM Dining Room by Courtney Apple)

Sources for the DM Dining Room can be found HERE

Seasonal Rug Switch

With the hot days of summer upon us I have adapted my living room to better suit my mood and season.  Gone is the layered jute/cowhide look and layered ottoman.  I wanted something a little more minimal, a little cooler.  So we just have the cowhide down and I’m really enjoying the wood floors for a change!  I also switched up my La Fiorentina bench for my vintage live-edge table.  I love the organic feel of the table and it’s a nice scale for the petite room.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

BEFORE

DM Living room- Layred cowhide with jute rug, patterened ottoman, slipcover sofa-

NOW

Cowhide rug slipcover sofa and bamboo chair

One of the benefits of the smaller rug- besides enjoying those wood floors- is that my entry mat and rug no longer overlap.  I have a teeny house with no foyer so the front door walks right into the living room.  It’s nice to have a little visual space there.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Next up is a little pillow and art change up.

But I’m in no hurry… it’s summer after all.  Let’s go outside!

Living Room with cowhide and vasarely

Dish: Do you change up your decor for the seasons?

It makes all the difference.

Profile Piece on Design Manifest

Recently my dad and I were featured in a great article in Inside Magazine.  I was so happy for my dad to share his story and get a little bit of the glory around here.  My father is so humble and generous that he is perfectly happy for me to prance around in the spotlight like some kind of puffed up peacock.  The fact of the matter is that we are team and each project we create is a collaborative effort.  Without him there would be no Manifest in Design Manifest.  Our pairing is complex: father/daughter, contractor/designer, traditionalist/innovator,  old/young (sorry Dad!) but I truly feel that together we are able to give an excellent service to our clients.    I’m so lucky to have Andrew Stein in my corner.  Love you, Dad.

Below is the article, originally published in Inside Magazine and also viewable Here.

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As far as Andrew Stein knew, none of his four children were anxious to join him in the family business.

Stein, who was born and raised in Lower Merion, founded Design Manifest, a full-service residential contracting firm with a specialty in artisanal craftsmanship, in 1974. Stein and his wife, Carol Parker Stein, always encouraged their children to follow their dreams, which led his oldest daughter into fashion design, his youngest to teaching and his middle daughter, Naomi, into the mortgage business. Their son is still in school, but other than working summers, he isn’t planning on following his dad’s lead. “It’s a tough business,” said Stein. “It’s dirty and very physical — it’s not for everybody.”

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So it is easy to imagine his surprise when Naomi, the middle daughter, came to him “completely out of the blue” with a written proposal in May 2004. “She was doing well selling mortgages, but she didn’t love it,” recalled her dad. In the proposal, Naomi outlined what areas of the business needed improvement and why she should be the fixer. “She even proposed how much I should pay her. Turns out, she was right about everything.”

“I didn’t want to rest on my laurels and join my dad’s company right away,” said Naomi, 32. “But I found the mortgage business stressful and boring. I wanted to get my hands dirty.” Although her idea was to “turn the business around in a year or two,” Naomi found it took more like six or seven — not to turn the business around, but to learn the necessary skills and make her mark on the company.

Dynamics between fathers and daughters are always interesting. Add working together on a daily basis into the mix, and there can be challenges. The road’s been a relatively smooth one for this family duo, though, with Stein leading the charge on the construction side, working closely with Naomi as she’s gradually taken over and developed the design aspect of the business.

EUROPEAN CRAFTSMANSHIP

Stein’s own parents weren’t thrilled when he informed them that he was pursuing construction as a career. “They’d been grooming me to be a lawyer or something like that,” he recalled. His dad was in the financial business, and tinkered around the house as a hobby. “Growing up, I was always helping him. He was always building something and I took an interest in it. By the time I was 13, I was better at it than he was.” What his folks considered a temporary summer job as a teen turned serious when he apprenticed with Otto, an old-school, Old Country carpenter from Czechoslovakia.

“Otto taught me some of the old methods of working that a lot of people aren’t doing anymore,” said Stein. While he is constantly staying up to date with new advances in his field, knowing traditional methods is something that has set his career apart for more than four decades. Stein, 60 (“Sometimes at the end of a hard day I feel 80!”), is a veteran carpenter, as well as a skilled tile-setter, cabinetmaker, craftsman and designer. The company maintains a wood shop to handle custom work. Recognized by the National Kitchen and Bath Association as a certified kitchen and bath designer, Stein works primarily in the Main Line and takes tremendous pride in personally overseeing all projects.

Like virtually every other contractor, Stein said that working on a renovation while the clients are living in the home is especially challenging, with the care and management of the construction dust the No. 1 concern on all sides. “It’s very important to communicate to the client, prepare them for what to expect and how to live most comfortably through the project,” he elaborated.

Job costs include equipment and time to set up exhaust fans to maintain negative air pressure and prevent dust from migrating. Main Line clients have a reputation for being particular, which suits Stein just fine. While working on a full-home mold remediation job in Gladwyne, the crew covered all of the house’s beautiful wood floors with 160 sheets of 1/8-inch Masonite, a steam-cooked and pressure-molded hardboard. “The floors were perfect at the end, and that cost just got built into the job,” Stein explained. “The end result — a happy client — is paramount to us.

“Everybody is in such a hurry to get things done with a close eye to costs,” he continued. “Obviously, I’m in business and I’m conscious of costs, too. But there’s a way to do a job properly without cutting corners. It’s about educating yourself, knowing what works and giving a damn.”

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OLD SCHOOL MEETS NEW SCHOOL

When Naomi first approached her father, the idea was to put her business degree to use by managing the office. “She wasn’t a great office manager,” her father said. “Both of us are creative — we don’t like doing the paperwork. Naomi found her passion with design, and I hired an office manager. It was the right move.”

Unflappable in the face of the problems inherent to construction, Stein considers himself a practical contractor at heart. Although trained in design, it isn’t his favorite flavor. “It turns out, with Naomi’s talent with design, we make a great team,” he said. Naomi jumped in with both feet, learning skills like CAD on the job and taking classes through the National Kitchen and Bath Association and Moore College of Art & Design. “I trust my dad completely,” she said. “If there’s any way to make my vision a reality, he can do it.”

As is the case in every successful family business, keeping home and work separate is critical. “We’ve always gotten along well,” said Andrew. “That being said, there’s a built-in tension between designers and builders. Builders always want to build and get it done efficiently; designers want to elaborate with detail, to pursue all options.”

Longtime clients get a kick out of the father-daughter dynamic at meetings. “We sometimes bump together in a good way even if we don’t always agree,” he said. “It produces the best compromise between design and practicality.” Now the company’s vice president and principal designer, Naomi admits that sometimes she finds her dad set in his ways. “The problem is that a lot of times, his ways are right. I bring a different energy into the mix, though, which is good.” One area of disagreement has to do with the locations of the company’s jobs. Her dad doesn’t like commuting past the Main Line; Naomi is interested in working in Philly. “I sometimes take on design projects outside of our usual area if the job is really special,” she said.

Another way Naomi has impacted the business is through her design blog on the company website (www.designmanifest.com/blog/), an approachable, chatty forum for her experiences with everything from rugs and color schemes to lighting and girly glam. “Both my dad and I like interesting custom details and beautiful finishes. We may have different tastes, but together, they mesh perfectly.”

Beth D’Addono is a longtime contributor to Inside. This article originally appeared in Inside Magazine, a Jewish Exponent publication.

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