TRANSFORMATIONS: A Place for Everything

Monterey — As the saying goes, when mama is happy everyone is happy.

This is true in interior design, and specifically when it comes to smart storage for women. A large organized walk in closet or pantry will melt any woman’s heart.

A recent study at Michigan State University concluded what many of us moms have known for years: Women spend 10 hours more per week than men multitasking. It’s in our chemistry; if we are on the phone, we will take that opportunity to fold a few clothes or put away the dishes.

The design of the home plays a crucial role in a woman’s mental state. Order and flow help us keep up with the day’s demands. We feel better when our children have a place to put their backpacks and shoes, when there is a place for the bills and when the flow of the kitchen works well. We need systems to combat the chaos.

The bottom line is that when the design of our home doesn’t make sense, it drives women nuts! Creating smart storage lowers stress levels and makes mama happy.

This concept comes into play in many of my projects. I love to create beautiful, functional spaces for busy families. In the initial stages of the project, some women are very clear that they must have a particular space for everything, and often others are just completely overwhelmed, not quite realizing why. I ask them to walk me through a typical day in their lives to see if the flow of their home makes sense. Where do the kids put their bags? Where do you set down your groceries? Do toys have an organized place? Kids can’t be held accountable for their part in the mess if their stuff doesn’t have a place in the home.

Making a space beautiful is the easy part. Making it function like clockwork for today’s busy overscheduled mom is the magic part.

One of my recent projects was no exception. The clients were a young accomplished couple with two preteen children and two dogs. They had just purchased a second home on Lake Buel, and were thrilled at the idea of having a new home in the Berkshires to spend their weekends, boating in the summer and skiing in the winter.

Lake houses are among my favorite projects. I love creating a relaxed, comfortable, cozy vibe for families and their weekend guests. Some of the demands of our primary homes can be lessened for families in a vacation home, but many of the same storage needs still apply.

This house was a 1,500-square-foot, 1940s one-level cottage that sits right on the lake. My clients wanted to lighten the dark paneling and add bright cheerful furnishings that would be durable for their kids and guests. The kitchen was outdated, cramped and dark and lacked adequate storage even for a second homeowner.

Liz, wife and mom, is a busy executive who travels for business much of the week and was looking forward to her days on the lake. She was organized and efficient and had created a pinterest board for inspiration. As I got to know Liz, I knew the key to her weekend relaxation was to do something about the lack of a mudroom, and the small cramped kitchen/entry area. Ski gear, dog leashes, boots and hats did not yet have a home.

With a tight deadline, my team tore out the kitchen, and I designed a plan to carve openings to allow more light and space in the overall plan, addressing electrical issues and an outdated fireplace.

Walls were opened up and white shaker-style cabinetry was installed as kitchen base cabinets. In place of upper cabinets, my carpenter team installed custom shelves to allow the kitchen to remain open and light. Monochromatic Quartz counters added the sheen and light-reflecting qualities I was going for and completed the look. They also fit our budget quite well. I was able to give the kitchen a much larger feel by doubling up the cabinetry and creating a 12-foot long serving counter. Adding a glass front beverage cooler to the sunroom/dining area was a fun way to add more kitchen storage on that side.

Another space-saving trick was to use an apartment-size range and refrigerator, and an under-counter microwave drawer unit. Simple solutions can save dollars and create space. A lake cottage is the place to forgo the 48-inch Viking range in favor of sleek, efficient appliances.

To tackle the wood paneling, we tried a technique that worked incredibly well and saved us thousands of dollars in sanding, priming and painting. We simply brushed on a coat of white Zars cottage stain over the wood paneling and watched it shrink and curl and dry in beautiful patterns around the walls, creating a washed-out, worn beachy look.

The next step was to tackle our non-existent mudroom. An unforgiving open-plan house required the storage to be incorporated into the living area, and hidden from sight. A large coat closet was built in one corner, and a bench seat with storage for shoes and boots was added to another unused corner of the living room. I used an upholstered bench cushion made with a stain and fade resistant fabric. The bench provided the perfect amount of storage that was missing and doubled as overflow seating for guests while adding a design element that softened the look of the room.

How to dramatically change the aesthetic of the fireplace without breaking the bank? I installed prefabricated stacked flagstone over the existing brick facing, and cut a large bluestone hearth into the floor.

Another “small house” technique is keep the paint colors monochromatic throughout. Light airy simple colors provide great backdrops for pops of color. The fabrics and artwork gave us the opportunity to give the finished project some texture and flare.

In the end my team met the deadline, stayed on budget, and gave the clients a fun and cozy weekend retreat that has all the organizational elements in place. The materials we used were simple and durable and will stand up to the kids, the dogs and the guests for many years to come. It’s truly a house for all seasons now and I think mama is able to relax, knowing everything has its place.