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Died and Gone to Devon

One thing you know when the Design Manifest team walks into your house- without a doubt- is that it's going to look a whole lot prettier by the time we leave. Our portfolio says it all as far as outcomes for our awesome clients, but there’s still quite a bit of mystery for most folks about what goes on in-between that exciting first date (er, consultation) and the final walk-through. A lot! is the short answer. That's why we are excited to share our new project that we call #DiedAndGoneToDevon. This one is a beauty and a testament to the versatility of our design team, but more than just sharing pretty pictures we hope to use the story of this project to help shed a little light on the sometimes-winding path of home renovation.

#DiedAndGoneToDevon started like all projects with a laundry list of needs and a whole lot of possibilities. Our clients had connected with Naomi while doing research for their company on local designers and builders at a time when they were not even ready to think about their own renovations. Impressed with Naomi's construction know-how and her emphasis on designing houses "from the inside out"with a focus on interior use and flow, she was their first choice when the time came to start planning their own project.

This family of five with three young children were in a great location with good schools in beautiful Devon, PA. It was an ideal place for a forever home, however the house "before" was dark, cramped and lacked function and flow. All the rooms were visually cut off from one another, and despite having a lovely, private backyard and wonderful light in the back of the house, the layout and window placement made the rooms dark. As with so many homes in the Philadelphia suburbs, this one was over 50 years old and did not reflect modern lifestyles.

Entry, Kitchen, Playroom "Before" felt narrow, dark and disconnected.

The wish-list to start with included a new kitchen, 2 new bathrooms, a new powder room, new siding, new great room, new floors, an open concept design, a new entryway, additional square footage to include a mudroom, new master suite, office, homework area, a front porch, back patio, and a functioning garage with new doors.

Our clients knew they needed more space than their house's existing footprint would allow, but where and how to create that space was the big question. The first few months of work went purely into schematic designs and construction estimates. We explored single and double story additions, additions that went out the back and additions that went off to the side.

Exploring the many possibilities of where and how big to build our addition

After many discussions and revisions that balanced beauty, budget and value we arrived at a layout that checked a now-refined list of boxes. A single story addition built out on the left rear side of the house took over the former back porch area and expanded the footprint in the middle section of the house. With these new spaces we created a airy, graceful "great room" which connected to a new, larger kitchen. Since we built the kitchen from scratch, we were able to place windows in optimal locations to maximize both views and storage.

We re-worked the original kitchen location to include a mudroom, new powder and laundry room. The former dining room was put into service as an office space. We handed construction documents to our construction expert for his itemized "guesstimate" to verify that we were on track with budget.

Next we brought our trades through to get clear "apples to apples" bids from trusted and vetted contractors. Providing contractors with itemized lists detailing the quality level of materials we intend to use- what we call "allowances" as well as noting every single new doorknob and piece of baseboard that they should account for is one way we make sure GC bids are complete and accurate. Working with this system our clients do not, for the most part, have "surprise" expenses or delays pop up during the construction process. All it takes is a little (a lot) of planning, people!

Hello pretty handmade backsplash tiles, we planned for you right from the start so you didnt blow up our budget!

Once we had a general contractor selected we moved into the permitting process. Our clients' township had stringent requirements for storm water management which meant another round of revisions as we schemed to revise our plan to fit within the permitted area while sacrificing none of the function or beauty. We always design rooms considering the furnishings and people that are going to be housed within, so its crucial to know that a new room will comfortably accommodate that nice big sectional before breaking ground.

About that nice big sectional...

Alongside the nitty-gritty of construction documents and building permits we were simultaneously finalizing finishes for the interior spaces. We opted for bright white uppers in the kitchen and base cabinets in a rich, dark stain that will hold up better to abuse from little ones than a painted finish would. A furniture-style island helps keep the room feel light and airy. We chose to stain the oak island in a lighter color to bring softness and dimension to the more graphic elements of the design. Clean classic subway tile lines the sink wall and the range hood backsplash gets a kiss of slightly rustic hand-made star and cross tiles for a bit more character.

The original kitchen didn't take advantage of views to the beautiful wooded back yard

An entire wall of tall cabinets on one side of the kitchen provides a wonderful hiding place for pantry items and extra dishes. Glass doors in the center give a little breathing space visually and an opportunity to show off pretty vases and serve ware. We had counter stools custom-upholstered with a durable vinyl on the seat and a lovely hand block-print linen on the back for the ultimate merger of function and beauty. The island is topped in a beautiful natural stone, while the perimeter counter tops are done in a durable quartz material. No kitchen is complete without a perfectly worn-in vintage Turkish runner, and we found one for our clients that played on the neutral colors and graphic pops in our design.

We designed the great room with a vaulted ceiling to add a sense of spaciousness without adding to the square footage. Our clients agreed that adding beadboard to the ceiling was a splurge that was totally worth it for the added character and drama. The great room accommodates both a living/tv area and a dining area with a table that expands to seat the extended family for special occasions.

In the cozy family room we brought in a lush wool rug to make the space feel inviting. Wool is a very durable material and naturally stain resistant. Our client opted for this rug and its comforts over a more "practical" option, making the executive mom decision that this would be a no-shoes room. The sofa is upholstered in a durable family-friendly fabric, and pillows in yummy green and blue, including hand-made indigo shibori fabrics from an LA vintage market, give a pop of color. In the left side of the photo below you can see a striped beanbag pouf we added under the tv console to pull out as needed for extra kid seating.

A carved wooden "hand" chair adds a touch of humor, and the little ones like to "high five" it when they come home Black and white family photos are on display on the cane-front credenza (the abstract art you see here was something we created for the photo shoot to protect our clients privacy!) and a shapely wood coffee table is both lovely and durable enough to put your feet up on.

In the dining room we chose a sharp, modern chandelier over the dining table that paired well with the pendants in the kitchen. In an open-concept space all the finishes and details have to speak to each other and maintain an overall balance. We worked with our clients to create this large scale framed photo that is a very personal snapshot of their time living in Ireland and the many walks they took with friends and family down to the nearby lighthouse. The formerly tired fireplace is totally renewed with a couple of coats of white paint and the addition of a rustic, reclaimed wood mantle sourced by our wonderful GC.

Fireplace "Before"

On one side of the dining table we chose to use a sculptural bench instead of more dining chairs. Its wonderful organic shape is a cool addition to the furniture plan, and it is more shallow than the dining chairs making it better for this narrow space. The dining table opens to fit a leaf in the center for larger gatherings.