This morning, I needed a sweatshirt to defend against the air conditioning. For a slight blessed moment, it felt like fall. Add in last night’s happy news from our contractor that our project just might start soon, and I’m ready to lose this summertime sadness. (Don’t you love that Lana Del Rey song?)
So, in celebration of all things changing and new, here’s a sneak peek at my design for the hall bathroom at Camp Sterling — soon to be “Camp” no more. (There aren’t enough emojis in the world for that joy.)
It is easier to design for someone else – as any designer can tell you. We are our own worst clients. When it’s your own home, you think of alllllllll the things you love, and alllllll the beautiful tiles and wallpapers and faucets and mirrors that exist in the world, and you stay up at night building 18,000 design boards in your mind, which you want to talk through with anyone who will listen. I’ve designed literally 8 different hall bathrooms this summer, likely driving my assistant/mother/husband/friends insane, but this has emerged as my long-running favorite.
(And yes, I used a similar mirror for my client Casey Kadavy’s powder bath makeover earlier this summer, knowing I also planned it for mine, but that’s OK because I LOVE her.)
So let’s break it down – a little bathroom design 101:
MIRROR: In a small bathroom, it’s best to choose one item to make a big statement — a fun cement floor, or subway tile everywhere, or even a vintage rug. In this bathroom, it’s that killer bone inlay mirror or a version therof. Wisteria offers a pretty one.
VANITY: I wanted a gray-stained wood to bring in warmth, and furniture-style vanities add so much style. This Restoration Hardware piece is simple enough to hang out with that mirror and adds a classic element to tie in with the rest of my classically-designed house. It’s also sized exactly right. (Hmmm, I wonder who planned that . . . . ) I’ll buy it without the countertop so that I can add a little more detail to my marble backsplash. I like notched corners and all that jazz, like so:
FLOOR: Because the bone inlay is a natural material and carries with it that beautiful patina, I wanted a natural stone for the floor. But I also wanted the floor to be black. Slate has just the right amount of rusticity, and a herringbone pattern will add subtle interest. The grout will be black. Because black grout does not show anything, and is therefore the most glorious grout ever to exist in a bathroom to be used by actual people. I’m using Montauk Slate from Arizona Tile.
TUB: Clawfoot with a suspended shower surround – because it’s beautiful, and nods to the era of our home. Not the easiest for taking showers, but this is a bathroom for the children we don’t yet have, and the guests who will likely visit twice a year. I’ll probably do a black-skirted tub. Still hunting for the exact piece.
WALLS: I can’t do just paint on drywall in here, because I have issues, so I’m considering shiplap boards, wainscoting, or an understated grasscloth wallpaper just to add some texture. Stay tuned. Wainscoting paired with a very subtle grasscloth has the leading edge. These aren’t quite the right colors, but you’ll see the idea:
FAUCET: Bridge style, because I love them to distraction. My choice is from Signature Hardware – from whom I’ve been ordering all summer to excellent result. The interior fittings are all brass. (This matters: when you buy faucets from a discounter or a big box store, the interiors are often plastic, and eventual leaks are likely). Signature Hardware’s pricing is also more affordable than some similarly styled lines — and the faucet is available in the polished nickel finish I love. It’s just a little warmer than chrome.
LIGHTING: I’ll have can lights to do the heavy lifting, so the vanity sconces can be cute. I’m still searching for the perfect understated piece (the hardware needs a little more curvature), but this cute Schoolhouse Electric sconce might do the trick if I can’t find it.
ACCESSORIES: The Anthropologie hook I love, paired with my beloved Turkish Towels, of course.
Isn’t it exciting to have a vision come together? And wait ’til you see the before picture. Picture yellow linoleum floors paired with the original pink and gray tub tile. I’m showering in a washed-up Easter egg, people. Well, I would be showering in here — if the shower actually WORKED!
November 1, people. November 1.
When we bought Camp Sterling, my husband promised that all design-related remodeling decisions would be left to me. And then we came to the subject of the windows, and whether they’d be bronze or white. The man FREAKED out.
Inspired by those glorious steel windows all over the internet and magazines, the dark bronze window has staged a comeback. It’s a beautiful contrast in light and bright rooms — as ours will be.
I particularly love the look from the exterior — all those black window mullions popping against bright white paint.
(Guess what color our exterior will be? Yep, you’ve got it. I know, that was really hard to figure out.)
A big worry on my list: I like these dark windows best when they are actual steel, as in the photo below, and not bronze-finished vinyl, which is more common and affordable. Steel windows = please send my money tree right now.
Tyson, however, says that dark windows make a house look “like an office building” and has refused to entertain any of my rationale.
He wants light and bright, like so.
And from the exterior — we are SO having a high-gloss black front door. With a lion’s head knocker, methinks.
At our house, this decision has been made. But, what do you think? Is the bronze window a trend to skip? Would you go with light, bright and classic or bronze and bold?
If you don’t have a case of the Mondays yet, let me help you with that.
I’m depressed, friends. I worked for weeks to draw the perfect renovation plan for our house. It had everything a small family could want – a drop station, a shoe bench, an office for Tyson, a small living room, a large open kitchen and family room — even a fireplace in the master bedroom. I used every little inch of space I could find.
And then we received the construction quote to fix our house according to this perfect plan, and it was literally a knockdown and double our budget.
So I’ve been back at the drawing board, and it’s pretty maddening. (Goodbye, office. Goodbye, powder room. Goodbye, hopes and dreams.)
Also, it’s spring in Arizona. And I do not share the elation felt round the globe at the onset of spring. Spring means summer is coming. Spring means the heat is on. Spring means that yesterday we went to a park for a birthday party and I was miserable in the sun.
I have reverse Seasonally Affected Disorder. The brighter it gets, the grumpier I get. I like August better than April, because August means there are pumpkins in the store and October is right around the corner. April means that May is coming, followed by those jerks June and July.
All of which will be spent at Camp Sterling, which I am feeling particularly bitter toward at the moment.
Current mantra: if you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit next to me.
Tell me your sad renovation stories to make me feel better? Tell me your favorite pumpkin recipe? Tell me you know of a place where it is autumn year-round?
I’m going to eat more chocolate — which is not helping with my spring issues, by the way, because SHORTS! Sob.
I wake early on these spring mornings, slip on black sandals, and creep outside in my pajamas.
From the safety of the front porch, I survey the enemy’s nighttime progress. I check the stronghold by Palm Tree # 1, and then Palm Tree # 2.
I cast a frown at the house across the street, where the enemy has clearly won the battle with a full-scale invasion, a veritable forest of flags flying high.
Such carnage will not happen on my watch, I declare, and then I charge out onto the grass with gloves and a sack, swiping up any new enemies and stuffing them into a sack.
I am a conqueror. I am in an episode of Game of Thrones. I am at war.
These damn dandelions.
They have me in battle three times a day. I sweep the lawn at 6 a.m., and by noon, three new flowers have sprouted from nowhere, grown 6″ and opened.
I carefully pluck them, trying desperately not to spread the seeds. If I swipe a dandelion bud that’s just about to open, I’m even more excited. I’ve stopped the enemy before it’s hatched.
After, I come inside and show my husband the casualties. I suspect that he thinks I’m insane.
I’ve always had a weed-pulling compulsion, but it’s simple Psych 101. My life is overwhelming, almost all of the time. There are looming deadlines, paperwork, subcontractors and staffers to manage, late shipments stuck in snow, and many things I cannot control.
I can control the weeds.
As any girl in battle would do, I call upon my father for help. When he was young, he owned a landscape company and always has the prettiest yard on the street.
“Dad,” I say, “What can I do about the dandelions? They’re killing me.”
“You need a healthy lawn,” he tells me. “It will choke them out.”
He is right, but this is not really helpful. At Camp Sterling, the “lawn” is some kind of strange antique scrub grass. It is not healthy. And get this: the sprinkler system is powered by a cord that goes through a drilled hole in the front wall of the house and plugs into the only outlet in my office.
We aren’t replacing the sprinklers or the lawn until the renovation is completed, so I research and learn that you can kill dandelions with boiling water, with lawn-safe chemical sprays, and with vinegar.
Oooh, I think, maybe that will keep the dogs away too. (Oh, and a PS: Our lawn recently received a truly revolting non-liquid deposit from a dog. I figured it was karma for this. The dog’s owner left it, by the way.)
I consider my dandelion weapons and decide against them.
I want to continue my highly satisfying war.
This morning there were only 2 yellow flowers. Zero white puffs.
This is my first such victory.
Score 1 for Jaimee the Conqueror.
On Monday, Apple announced a new MacBook Air – in gold, glorious gold, and the heavens opened, gilded angels came down from the sky, women across the United States suddenly became a lot more interested in buying new computers, and I went a little insane.
My thought process: Oh, I want that. I’ve been thinking about getting a new computer. My assistant needs to use my old laptop all the time anyway. And then my computer will match my new iPhone. And my office ceiling light. And the brass knobs on my office cabinets.
Maybe I should do gold plumbing fixtures in the new house. Or maybe in just the powder room. But gold looks so beautiful with the marble I love. Maybe I should have a marble desk in my office to show off my new computer.
I wonder how fast I can get the gold laptop? Oh, shipping begins April 10. It costs $1,299.
I cannot buy a new computer because I have to buy marble and plumbing fixtures.
But should they be gold? I love the gold faucets in my clients’ homes. They make my heart do flip-flops.
I’ve had regular chrome faucets plated in gold, for heaven’s sake, and it changes everything. You take a simple but tasteful room, add gold, and then Oh baby, baby. You’re . . . golden.
Gosh, that was a bad pun.
But gosh, this is a pretty bathroom. And look at those gold cabinet pulls.
Say, if I had gold fixtures, I could maybe set a sink in my powder room into this Bungalow 5 cabinet, which I’ve used for clients and always loved.
Ooh – and maybe with my favorite Philip Jeffries Rivets wallpaper – which is grass cloth that looks like it’s been studded with nailheads.
I used that paper in a client’s office — black with gold rivets, and it’s glorious. Especially with her lighting fixture. Ooooh gold lighting fixtures.
Maybe a pair of these:
Gosh, that’s a pretty bathroom.
But what I think I really want is polished nickel fixtures. And that new laptop – in gold.
Interior design is a really personal business. We not only choose the nightstand (and, ideally, help to build and finish the wall that nightstand rests against), but we talk about what’s on top of the nightstand, and what’s inside the nightstand, and all that jazz.
Well, not all of it. But you get the idea.
The other day, my client Barb and I got to discussing white laundry, and how to keep it bright.
“What do you do?” she asked.
“You really want to know?” I replied. “It’s kind of insane.”
“Yes,” she said, and so I told her.
And she got excited. And took notes. And then texted me from the grocery store whilst buying supplies. And then went home and tried it.
I decided that it would be a shame to keep my crazy white laundry shenanigans a secret any longer.
Tip 1: GEAR
When you have the opportunity, buy a top-loading machine with an agitator. That tip comes from my mother, and my mother-in-law, and my husband, who insisted upon it, and my clients, and myself. When we ditched the front-loader, our whites came out brighter.
Tip 2: SUDS
I use Tide, and not too much. Using more detergent acts as an attractant and actually can make things dirtier. I use chlorine bleach for cotton only — and only on specific cycles (keep reading). I also use 1/4 cup of Borax – a natural detergent booster and brightener, in every load. And OxiClean — at least two scoops.
When my towels start to get stiff, it means there’s a detergent build-up, so I’ll soak them in hot water, 3-4 cups of vinegar, and a cup of OxiClean for a day or two, and then wash with just a tablespoon of detergent. I do this maybe once a year.
Tip 3: THE DOUBLE WASH
This is my mother’s epic trick. Double-wash your whites. Hot water sets stains, so wash whites first in cold with Tide, Borax and OxiClean to release the heavy stuff, and then wash them again in hot water with all of the above and chlorine bleach. I do this every time I wash whites.
Tip 4: THE LONG SOAK
When your husband’s favorite white button-up gets those telltale yellow marks beneath the arms, or your white sheets start looking a little sad, then it’s time for the long soak. In your bathtub or a large deep sink, soak the laundry in lots of hot water, 1/4 C Tide, and 3-4 Cups of OxiClean. Weigh the items down with heavy bowls to keep them submerged. I do this for 48 hours, stirring things around once or twice, and then launder as usual — with more OxiClean and chlorine bleach.
(This post NOT sponsored by OxiClean — and darn it.)
Tip 5: SHAKE YOUR TOWELS
Before you place wet towels in the dryer, give them a shake. This is supposed to keep them fluffier over time. I don’t know if it really works, but I do it. And my towels are lofty and great. (Again, the Macy’s Hotel Collection MicroCotton Towels are my favorite. I’ve been hoarding them for 12 years.)
Tip 6: KITCHEN CLOTHS
I wish I could tell you about my secret tip for removing cocoa powder stains, tomato sauce stains, and all that manner of mess. But here’s what I do: I buy affordable kitchen bar mops, use them and wash them and bleach them until they’re past help, and then I throw them all away and start over.
A package of bar mops is $5. I might spend $10-$15 per year on towels. And I’m OK with that. (Try these. I’m not picky. I buy them wherever I happen to be when it occurs to me that I can’t look at mine a second longer.)
P.S. My friend Linda Cobb, also known as the famous Queen of Clean (yes, her!) has more genius white laundry tips in her books, and also online here. I think she’s fantastic. And now I want to try dishwashing powder on my kitchen cloths.
Here’s a design trick to file away in your brains: Never ever ignore the ceiling. It’s often why tract houses can feel boring. It’s why many historic houses are so off-the-charts charming. And it’s something my clients and I spend a lot of time figuring out when building their homes. In each room — what are we doing to the ceiling?
When Tyson and I bought Camp Sterling, we had planned to raise the ceiling up a foot or two, but upon meeting with inspectors and contractors, we learned that we’ll need a new roof in 3-5 years. And by the time we’ve raised all the ceilings, it could be just as cost effective to take the whole roof off — so that’s what we will do.
Our ceiling plan is now wide open, and I’m of two minds.
The trend in Arcadia these days is the modern farmhouse – complete with beams and vaulted ceilings. Tyson and I have walked through some gorgeous remodels with peaks soaring high, like these:
Above: Clements Design
Above: Arcanum Architecture
Above: J. Banks Design Group
And I love to do the Arcadia farmhouse look for clients. But I’m more of a modern traditional girl who wants to wake up in Paris in the 1940s, with no agriculture in sight. (Except perhaps for a country weekend – with lemonade and a picnic.)
Which brings me to my second idea – the coffered ceiling. We’d raise the ceiling height to 11′ and the coffers drop down from there. There are a couple of cool ways to do this — with MDF, with traditional framing, or with actual millwork. Either way, just add trim. Lots and lots of trim.
Which would you do?
On this cold morning, Camp Sterling feels distinctly like my grandparents’ house. There is far-flung family here, which means bacon crisping in the kitchen, and orange juice and tulips on the table. The halls are filled with the sound of long, hot showers being taken ward off the chill. Beds are deep with blankets and loosely made. Hair at the breakfast table resembles the crumpled sheets.
I have a glimpse of what this house was meant for, and the lives this house has held.
And this morning, I only feel joy. Our house is going to have another beautiful life.
When we moved into our previous house, I was thrilled to have my first guest room (pictured below). I had visions of friends coming for long weekends to discover chocolates on their pillows, piles of white towels in the bathroom, and breakfast tacos and fresh juice in the morning.
I hung a canopy, bought new towels and kept the sheets bleached and crisp, but no one ever came to stay in our guest room — except my mom, who lives in Gilbert. (She is such a nice mom.)
Tonight, we are having our first proper out-of-town guest. And, of course, our guest will be coming to stay at Camp. In a room with faux wood paneling over one window and drapes hung with string over another. The hostessing gods really have it out for me.
(Dear Kip, we are still totally excited that you’re coming.)
Our former guest room – photo by Isaac Bailey
Our guest is Tyson’s brother Kip, and last night – Tyson pulled up all the remaining carpet tack strips in his honor.
I set about pulling together the perfect guest room — and oh, the dichotomies. Kip and Tyson will tease me about this for years to come. These are my requirements:
1. Chocolates on the pillow. Tyson’s mom does this for me, and it always makes me feel like she was excited that we were coming. Tyson plans to tell Kip that it’s his dinner.
2. Fresh flowers on the nightstand — and in the bathroom, and on the dining room table. May our guest not notice the garden of weeds in the backyard.
3. An extra blanket folded at the end of the bed. May our guest be protected against our 55-year-old windows that happen to let in as much cold air as a screen door.
4. A stack of fluffy white towels – always white. They feel more fresh and clean. (These are my favorite.) May our guest not notice the linoleum, which seems to have been stained in one corner with purple hair dye.
5. Mini toiletries in the bathroom. Ours are from the Ritz Carlton. Howl.
6. Quick and delicious breakfast provisions in the fridge — bacon, scrambled eggs, orange juice, and avocado toast. (Cook the bacon and whisk the eggs the night before to make the morning prep go extra fast.)
7. On the nightstand: a card with the wifi password, along with an extra house key on a large and distinctive key ring. (This one is cute.) The key ring ensures your key will come back.
8. Also, there’s a water bottle — a helpful gesture in any space and particularly at Camp – where the hall lights don’t work and our guest could get lost trying to find the kitchen in the night.
9. That reminds me. I should probably leave him a flashlight.