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Cali on Columbia

When we first met our #CaliOnColumbia clients, their dream of making the first floor of their rowhome in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia into a bright, welcoming nest had been stalled by the constant demands of work, raising a new baby and caring for their sweet rescue pup. Old furniture from former homes sat awkwardly in spaces it was never meant for, and the narrow floorplan typical of old Philadelphia rowhomes made for poor flow and use of spaces. Our clients' Pinterest boards were full of bright, clean Scandinavian influences and airy California coastal interiors that needed some help finding their way into this urban, East Coast context. We looked around and saw all the potential that a holistic, customized approach could bring. Original inlaid hardwood floors and exposed brick were just waiting for the right palette and textures to show their beauty, and the original moldings and wainscot weren't being properly highlighted by the furniture layout and paint colors. Detailed analysis of inspo pictures over shared glasses of wine helped us mind-meld with our clients and we began to plan and strategize how to bring California to Columbia Ave.

Living Room Before

"We want it to feel light and bright" is the rallying cry of so many design clients, and there were challenges to that goal when we began. We knew right away we needed to have electrical work done to get a functional connection for the ceiling fixture of this Northeast facing room. Another easy decision was painting the walls a clean white - Benjamin Moore's Chantilly Lace- which brightened things up and made a much prettier contrast to the warm tones of the brick wall and floors. The clients existing sofa was heavy and dark, and hid the molding details they loved around their front windows. A lack of good storage and a defined drop zone was letting clutter creep in.

We chose to work with the series of in-and-out bumps in the room by adding built-ins by the front windows where books, plants and art can happily co-exist. The recessed exposed brick wall, our next "bump in", was used to add a nice sized credenza which functions as great storage and adds to the rich beauty of the brick tones.

A durable wool and jute blend rug adds just the right amount of texture to play off of the white sofa. We made the clean crisp sofa fabric livable by using a Sunbrella textile that is bleach cleanable. The gorgeous cane weave on our accent chair adds another layer of detail and texture to the design. A handsome asymmetric black and brass pendant light accents the brick wall and adds much needed illumination to this corner of the room.

The star of the living room is obviously the custom ottoman we created using a vintage Turkish rug. Its both a comfy, durable place to put your feet up and watch TV and a soft, beautiful source of color and pattern. We added tops-down shades in a natural grass fiber to all the windows on this floor to give street-level privacy while allowing the maximum light in.

We layered on more softness with this delicious mohair pom-pom throw for the sofa, and added a tray to the ottoman to corral drinks and offer a spot for a bit of accessorizing.

Dining Area Before

The 'dining area' when we began was sitting against one of the aforementioned awkward bump outs and consisted of bar-height wooden table and chairs. Tall dining sets like this are often uncomfortable places to perch, and we saw potential in making much better use of the space by pushing the dining zone back to the recessed area by the window and going custom with a built in bench.

We also decided to contrast all the light brightness in the front of the house by adding dark charcoal paint- Benjamin Moore's Wrought Iron- on the three walls in the dining nook. After extensive searching we found the perfect vintage Turkish rug with exactly the right rusty colors and pops of blue. We loved how it didn't have a strong central medallion pattern, which allowed us to place the furniture off center on it without it looking imbalanced. The dark walls really set off the soft colors in the rug and textiles in this area.

The dining nook got a custom built-in bench upholstered in a soft, durable faux leather. Pillows made from vintage rugs are cozy and inviting and the woven rattan chairs add amazing textural detail. The vintage midcentury dining table came with two leaves to extend the table out for holidays and parties- we love a flexible furniture plan that works for smaller spaces every day but has options for when its time to squeeze as many loved ones in as possible.

A new light fixture here required a brand new electric box installed, but it was a must for creating a functional, inviting dining area. We loved this modern pendant light that added some shine against the dark walls. Our clients report that this nook instantly became the hearth of the home and prime hang out spot as soon as they walked in the door.

Stair Wall Before

In addition to creating cozy custom seating, we added this storage chest with amazing linear details. We loved how it echoed the inlaid pattern in the vintage hardwood floors, as well as giving a more options for tucking away any dishes and tabletop items that were spilling over from the kitchen.

Kitchen Before

In the kitchen we created flow and continuity between the rooms by adding another vintage runner rug, a softly graphic and organic wallpaper, window treatments and some low-profile modern barstools. All of these details help the whole first floor feel cohesive.

Breakfast Area Before

Perhaps the most under-utilized area we tackled was our clients back bar area. Fabulous exposed beams in the ceiling and brick on the back wall gave a ton of natural architectural charm to the room, but the existing furnishings definitely reflected our clients lifestyle "Before Baby". Wishes for this room included a cozy eating area for "breakfast and coffee on Sundays", and so we brought in the warmth with an upholstered dining banquette, a warm vintage Moroccan rug and a marble-topped bistro table. We replaced the ceiling fan with a fixture that would provide better light and a touch of glam. Love these textures together!

Incredibly, we found ourselves sourcing, designing and installing this project all amidst the chaos of a global pandemic. We dropped sanitized samples and renderings off at our clients home, and then presented their design entirely via Zoom- a first for us! Despite the various levels of disruption and chaos we were all experiencing, we managed to pull of a pretty seamless install and possibly the hardest thing was walking away from these gorgeous spaces once they were complete! Our clients were over the moon when they came home to this total transformation, and we had the satisfaction of knowing once again that good design really can make life that much better.

photography by Raquel Langworthy


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