Project Chelsea Mood Board: Marrying Feeling and Function

What makes a house a home? It’s different for everyone. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is working with clients to uncover the special things to create a space that says “welcome home” to them every time they walk through the door.

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It all starts with a conversation. Does the client crave clean white walls and clear surfaces, or is it bold color that makes their heart sing? During the onsite consultation, I talk to clients about their wants and needs—the things they desire in their dream home. After the conversation, I develop a mood board. Using a range of sources, from Pinterest to furniture catalogues, to paint chips, I look for elements that evoke a similar vibe creating a visual story about what their space can become. For more of our inspiration for this space check out the Pinterest board.

This client asked for more exposed storage to display all of her special treasures including books, family photos, and tchotchkes acquired on travels. Every every item has a story behind it and each story is a precious memory to be experienced every day as they move through their home. A design that worked to both store and showcase these items was a top priority for this client.

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Functionality—like feeling—is one of the pillars of our work at DBK. My philosophy is that your home is more than a roof over your head, it’s a tool to make your life better. I work to create beautiful spaces that also work for the client’s lifestyle.

This client expressed a range of needs for every room: a place to set mail and keys when entering the door, a mirror for a last look before leaving, a spot to sit in while putting shoes on or taking them off after a long day, dining and work spaces, as well as concealing a built-in air conditioning unit.

Marrying the feeling and function the client wanted, we developed the following mood board:

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This client—who I’ve worked with on other projects—is not afraid of color. She is a passionate art collector and loves to find ways to highlight special pieces in her collection. She had a work of art in the kitchen that was already centered and highlighted simply by it's placement. We used this piece to curate the color scheme for both the multi-purpose dining/entry space and the kitchen. We pulled some playful elements into the backsplash and shelving to tie these adjoining rooms together.

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We took advantage of high ceilings and an interesting nook in the architecture, carved out a built-in bookshelf to cover the air conditioning unit and extend to the ceiling with various sized cubbies to display everything. We took it up a notch by extending it around the corner only at ceiling height create a cozy seating area just inside the front door.


All of these elements and details, combined with the colors, helped us to show the client how the rooms could be updated to create the space she wanted.

The mood board is the first step towards creating dream spaces. This client opted to hire us to orchestrate the all the moving parts—from managing contractors, to selecting furniture and fixtures, to staging rooms—to bring the vision to life. Other clients opt to take the DIY route after seeing the mood board. Whether you are looking for us to handle every aspect of the process or simply need us to help you define your vision, I’d love to help you.

Back to Designing

We got back from almost two weeks away this past weekend, and it was so nice to take a break. It can be hard for me to detach when there are so many balls in the air with various projects, and I actually planned to do a bit of work while we were away, but interestingly enough we really didn’t have cell service where we were at so I was forced to unplug-and it was just the reset I needed.


We traveled up to Niagara County, New York and camped right on Lake Ontario for a week. It was Eleanor’s first camping trip and it was a beautiful location for it. Being in nature really fuels my soul and reconnecting with my family in such a peaceful and beautiful setting fills me up with so much love and inspiration.

While we were away, we spent every other day doing ‘camp’ activities- things like hikes, trail walks, swimming and playing in the lake, kayaking, etc.; and on the other days we explored-We went to Niagara Falls and up to Toronto, and also had a day just driving around and touring the area.

Here are some pictures from our adventures:


After our trip, we had a week a few days at home, to get some stuff done -we finally finished painting the living room and made a plan to paint the stairs!!! More on that here.

And then we spent a few more days visiting friends in Connecticut at their lake house and enjoying more time playing in the water.


The thing I love the most about going on vacation, is that it fills me up and refuels me for work. When I get back to it the first day back, I feel ready to go and inspired. I love what I do and helping my clients create beautiful homes that work for them and bring them so much joy to return home to as well. There are no post-vaca blues here! Just the joys of getting some time off, and the joys of getting back to designing beautiful homes for more memories to be made-and being able to do that is truly a beautiful thing!!

Practicing Sustainability in Design

One of the first courses I took for my Interior Design degree, was a course on sustainable designs, and all the ways you can incorporate sustainability into your practice. This class was actually such an eye-opener for me that I temporarily shifted my major over to Environmental Science-but that’s a story for another day. My biggest takeaway, is just how wasteful this industry can be, and it doesn’t have to be!!

Demo Day at  project 1893

Demo Day at project 1893

From knock-down, drag-out demo days, seeing everything filling a dumpster; to single use, mass produced tchotchkes that are made to be used for a short period of time and then disposed of, a lot of our industry has a short and fast life cycle that results in dumpsters and landfills.

But it doesn’t all have to be thrown out. When we are working on a renovation, we can take stock of any pieces that we may be able to reuse either in a different room or even in the same room, and note any pieces we may want to altered with reupholstery, paint, etc., to transform their look, and then use again.

A repurposed sewing table, being used as additional storage in this family condo, and a salvaged butterfly chair frame with new cover create a cozy reading nook.

A repurposed sewing table, being used as additional storage in this family condo, and a salvaged butterfly chair frame with new cover create a cozy reading nook.

The other thing we can do to cut down on reno waste is to look over what can be salvaged prior to demo. Anything that isn’t going to be kept for the new space, but is still in decent condition can often be removed delicately to be either consigned or donated to a salvage yard, Habitat for Humanity ReUse Store, or similar in your area. This can be anything from old cabinetry, to tile, to doors! This is often just a conversation to have with your contractor. Let them know you want to salvage what you can and point out pieces in particular that you want to save to be removed with caution and stored for transport to the donation facility of your choice.

A salvaged cast iron sink, getting refinished to add a playful element and bold color to this kids bath.

A salvaged cast iron sink, getting refinished to add a playful element and bold color to this kids bath.

After demo, I like to consider these questions when selecting materials to ensure I’m making wise choices:

Where is it made? Will it have a large impact getting from the manufacturer to us?

How is it made? Is it made using materials and practices that will stand the test of time?

How’s the customer service? If something should happen down the road, will there be someone on the manufacturers side who can help us get the right parts and pieces to get it back to work? (This is particularly important with plumbing and appliances.)

What is the manufacturer’s stance on the environment? Do they have a sustainability policy in place?

This upcycled kitchen uses a combination of all things sustainable, from updating the existing cabinetry, and salvaging the grill in the island, to bringing in high quality plumbing and tiles made from recycled materials.

This upcycled kitchen uses a combination of all things sustainable, from updating the existing cabinetry, and salvaging the grill in the island, to bringing in high quality plumbing and tiles made from recycled materials.

It’s really important to me to make sure all of these things are kept in mind, and then to execute our design by selecting pieces that will stand the test of time in your home and with your lifestyle. With better quality materials and pieces made to last, we can create a wonderful space in your home and do so with a clear conscious.

Painting Ps Sugar Box: A Neutral yet Playful Color Scheme

Happy New Year! This year is one we are very much looking forward to! Last year was an incredible year of growth and big changes, all that made us stronger. This year will be the year we move into our new home and begin making memories, and what’s even better?! We will be helping our clients do the same with each of our projects on the horizon for 2019 and we couldn’t be more excited!


This weekend we are going to begin painting the sugar box (the name we lovingly use to refer to our Jersey City row house), and I thought I would share with you the neutral, light and colorful scheme we have put together for the home. I’m really excited for this palette to get up on the walls, it has an air of playfulness, especially upstairs, so while we prepare to paint, here is a look at the space and a look at the colors.


Right when you walk in the door, you are in the living room, and your eye stretches through all the way through the stairway and beyond into the kitchen. From certain angles, you can see right through to the back room as well, so it was really important that all of our choices are really symbiotic. This is something we are mindful of in all of our client projects too, we want to make sure the whole home has a flow and feels like it really all fits and works well together, like the rooms all get along, but it’s even more important when you can see all of the rooms from one another-the challenge and beauty of an open floor plan ;)


Up the stairs, the hallway splits off in both directions left to Eleanor’s room and my office/guest room; and right to the master bedroom. Again, if all the doorways are open you can see from our room all of the adjoining spaces off of the hallway, but additionally up here, we wanted to let the rooms be a little more personal through their colors. Eleanor chose the color for hers, and even though she is only 2 when she looked at the options (about 20 colors in front of her) she consistently chose the same color every time… so that’s what we are going with.



Our master bedroom color was the same and Pat and I just landed on it time and again, so we knew that was the right choice. For my office though, I had a harder time. I knew I wanted it to feel like a color, but I also wanted it to be grounding, peaceful and neutral enough not to distort any samples I may be working with in the space. We did find a really pretty color and I’ll say, Pat actually found it’s sister color and I chose a shade lighter to get it to where I envisioned it for the space.


Here are the colors again altogether and I’m really pleased with how they flow. They are as follows, left to right (all Benjamin Moore): Kitchen Cabinets (Salamander), Kitchen and Family Room Walls (Cloud White), Living Room Walls (Balboa Mist), Stairway and Halls (La Paloma Gray), Office/Guest Room (Oyster), Eleanor’s Room (Woodlawn Blue), Master Bedroom (Black Pepper).


Other paint and finish details for our modern color scheme in an old house…We are going to paint any remaining trim work cloud white and then as we work through the rooms upgrading the moldings that may change. For the doors facing the hallway, I am envisioning them being stripped and wood tone but on the interior side of the room I imagine they will be white or the trim color. The powder room and basement door (the only interior doors on the first floor right now) will likely also be stripped down to wood and those can be wood on both sides.

With the whole house we are trying to balance the character and charm of the original house (built in 1896), while also updating everything to work with our more warm modern style. I think this color palette keeps things warm and harmonious throughout the space, and details like moldings and the wooden doors echo back to the original house and the history there.

What do you think of our updated color scheme? Would you use any or all of these colors in your home? I can’t wait to share updated photos of the house and the progress in the next week or so…be sure to follow along on Instagram Stories for updates while we are painting over the weekend and I will try to share some of the details to Facebook as well!

Project AND: A look at the Kitchen and Bathroom Design Plans

Project AND is a whole home renovation that is touching every room in the house of a really sweet couple. The house was purchased from family, and after 5 years of living in a home they never really loved aesthetically, they have made the decision to get rid of the popcorn ceilings and really make it their own.

I’m so excited to be the one who gets to help them on this journey, and I love their fun sense of style. They are willing to take some risks design wise, and make selections they love, but they do want to keep resale in mind, so in some areas we are taming it down and in others, we are really making our mark.

Here’s a look at some of the larger spaces before:

Our primary focuses for the project are the kitchen, dining room and hall bath. We are also fully making over the entryway, the guest room, and the master bedroom, and then the living room and office are getting facelifts through updated floors, paint and lighting.

For the kitchen, we wanted to do a warm gray cabinet color with warm brass accents pulling through in the hardware and lighting. Here’s a look at what we put together:

Perfect Warm Gray Kitchen with Brass Accents

Light, Faucet, Cabinet knobs and pulls; Counters, tile and cabinetry all ordered locally.

For the bathroom, we wanted to do something a little more funky. We went with navy blue cabinets and simple tile overall with a bold patterned tile for the niche. I can’t wait to see this space come together! We pulled out the black in the accent tile to frame out the mirrors and kept the rest of the details chrome and white to balance it out and keep it classic. Here’s a look at the selections:

Navy and Geometric Bathroom Design Plans

Lights, Mirrors, Faucets, Cabinet knobs; Counters, tile, cabinetry, etc., ordered locally.

The current status of this project is that the last few materials have been delivered and they will be installing all of the cabinetry, tile and appliances soon. That is quickly followed by counters and then all of the pretty little details!

I can’t wait to get back on site to check in and I’ll share more of the design details for the rest of the spaces as it starts coming together. You can always follow progress on our social media using the project hashtag (#dbkprojectAND). Feedback is my favorite, feel free to leave a comment here to let us know what you think!

The Demo is Done at Ps Sugar Box


All of the demo has been done over at the Sugar Box! (Some of it even done by us!)

All of the walls have been opened up wherever they could be, the old horrible floors are out and we’ve done as much electrical and plumbing as we can do. We are ready for inspections!

While we wait, I’ve been wrestling with design decisions, making some final tweaks here and there to my mood board and working on sourcing all the finishing products.

I’ve met with the floor guy and have a meeting this week to meet with the stair railing guy, and talked to all the other guys (there are a lot of men in this industry) so we are rounding in on having everything set (more or less), and I thought I would take you on a little demo tour.

Here it goes! (If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve most likely seen an update or two in stories, but I wanted to document it here too along with some info on some of the hiccups we have had along the way, so hang in there for this post if you can!)

If you want to see what the house looked like when we bought it, you can hop back a few posts to see it here. It’s already come a long way.

Here is a look at the progress:

Living Room: Fortunately in the living room, everything has pretty much gone as expected. The wall between the stairs and the living room had to be supported along the width of the room, but I don’t mind that small post there so far. The major surprise was finding out we couldn’t just refinish the floors on the first floor. Due to the way the house was built back in the 1890’s there was no subfloor and the floors themselves were starting to wear. We were able to harvest several boards to be used to patch upstairs but the downstairs will have new wood flooring laid on top of the existing which will act as a subfloor.

New Kitchen: This room used to be the dining room, so again, we expected a lot needing to be done in here. Outside of the floors, the main thing in here was opening up what we thought was a fireplace and seeing how wide we could make the doorway to the family room. We found that there wasn’t a fireplace at all, but a chimney and we gained SO MUCH SPACE in here! The opening increased from 28” to 58” which will really make a world of difference once we are in the house and moving through the space! On the other side of the kitchen, We did run into some pipes in the wall that didn’t allow us to gain as much space from the stairway area as we had hoped but we did still get quite a bit more than what was there before so overall it’s a win!

Family Room: This room used to be the kitchen so again we expected a lot to change in here. Mainly what I’m most excited for is the addition of the new windows which will be here in a week or so. And the old pantry was built into the back corner of this room, removing that saves us so much space here, it’s crazy to see how big this room is without it.

Mud Room: This room was full of the most surprises as it was previously a laundry room and we found out we could not keep it as a laundry room. The room itself was originally a deck that was improperly enclosed, and needs to fully be rebuilt. Because of all of the work we are doing right now, we can’t take that on financially so we have made the decision to prep the room to be a laundry room down the road-installing the venting, electric, etc., now and then when we can we will demo the room down to the studs, add support where needed, fill with insulation, sheetrock, tile, etc…. and then we will have a laundry room. We will move in without one, which will be hard, but after living in a condo without a washer dryer in unit and a really gross one in the basement we never used anyway, I think we will be okay for the short term and if anything it will keep a fire under our butts to get it done sooner than later and not push it off for good.

Upstairs Hallway: This area is the worst of all the floors, which is a HUGE bummer. But the good news is that since we were able to harvest wood from the first floor we will be able to completely repair the hallway and other damaged spots on this level and then refinish the upstairs completely so the full second level will be original flooring!!

Master Bedroom: After Demo’ing around the chimney in the living room directly below the master we decided to do the same around this chimney to gain back the floorspace in the bedroom. We were surprised to actually find a fireplace here, but ultimately removed the pieces and saved them to clean up and use down the road somewhere else in the house. Eventually we will try to add more storage in here and that will take away from the floor space in the room so it is nice to keep a little bit back from where the fireplace came out.

Bedroom 2/Office: This room has the least amount of things happening to it since we are just using it for my office and as a guest room and we are trying to stretch our budget so all that will happen in here are floors and paint. Fortunately no big surprises here, just a few rough spots on the floor that will need to be patched.

Bedroom 3/Eleanor’s Room: This room had the best floors of them all!! And taking out the huge corner closet, again opens up the room so much! But taking out the closet in here also revealed a huge gap to the outside right below the roofline that was likely caused by critters. (Is your skin crawling, because mine is!) That will be closed up asap and fixed both internally and externally. Eleanor’s room is probably one of the most thought out besides the kitchen, just because I’ve been picturing the back wall of her room for ages. We will put back in built-in closets on either side of the window with a bench in between to create a really sweet little space in here for her. I’m only a little jealous that this room isn’t mine.

Backyard/Back of house: If you’ve seen anything on what this space looked like the day we closed, you know it has come along way. We couldn’t even walk back here when we bought the house, so the patio area has drastically changed for the better with the pulling of endless weeds. The back of the house itself is waiting for all new windows and siding to come in and then it will get a full makeover. We have also demo’d the old deck and rebuilt the deck, mostly, and will be rebuilding the stairs back here as well.

That’s it! A full demo tour! It isn’t pretty, and there were a few surprises, but we are moving forward. Now we just need to get the inspection portion over with so we can start working towards the pretty stuff and, more importantly, moving in!!

I hope everyone had a great holiday and enjoyed the long weekend with family! Be sure to pop over to our Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest accounts to follow DBK there. If you follow us on Pinterest you may even have a sneak peek at the inner design inspo for the house!

Project Bae: A Bright Master Bath

This project, project bae, was named for it’s large bay windows, and a fun play on words because I swoon over this space and spent so much time with it while it was all in progress ;)

Shower with Bay Windows (1)

When my client first reached out to me for this space, the bathroom was large but inefficiently used, especially for their needs. We decided on a layout to maximize the space and give them the dream shower they had been pining for.

Those large bay windows mentioned above used to surround a garden tub that really didn’t get a lot of use. The shower was the size of a linen closet, and the cabinetry in this master bath was a small single vanity and a tall linen cabinet.


Here’s what we did to make it function better for the client’s needs:

  • We changed the location of the entrance to the bathroom and turned the small shower into a linen closet right outside the door.

  • We took out the cabinetry and made space for a large double vanity to give “yours and mine” zones, appropriate for a master suite.

  • We took out that massive built in tub and replaced it with an even larger shower!

  • For privacy, we slightly shortened the windows, frosted some of the glass and placed a small custom shower curtain in the center window for added privacy when needed.

  • Visually, we replaced all the tile, finishes and accessories throughout the space to complete the look!

(You can click on any image to expand, or click over to the main project page to view more images from this project.)

What do you think? Would you be thankful for a master bath like this in your home? I hope you all have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving holiday!

See behind the scenes pics from Project Bae on Instagram and follow us there for more updates!

Buying The Sugar Box

The sugar box had been on the market for a while before we saw it. It had actually been re-listed with a new agent who held an open house to gain some attention. I had plans that day and took Eleanor with me, but Pat decided to go take a look before work because it fell within our budget, it had our bedroom and bathroom requirements met, and since there were no pictures, he was intrigued. We all know that no pictures is typically a sign that a house needs work, but to be honest, the interior designer in me had been pushing for a home that needed a little renovating anyway… something in need of a little work that I could put my own spin on.

Interior Designer Renovates Jersey City Row House 1

He called me from the house and then FaceTimed with me to show me around. I remember the service being bad, the video quality being grainy and not really sensing much more than that Pat liked it enough that he wanted to bring me back to see it. So that’s what we did.. We scheduled a showing for the coming week, and I wanted to share with you all what we saw… the woman living in the house had been there for over 30 years, and she had all of the belongings and memories to show for it.

To be honest, I really wasn’t sure it was a good fit at first. I know our area of Jersey City well and didn’t really know that street. I knew the house had potential but I just felt sort of indifferent about it. The price was right for renovations, but we had been looking for a while and all the pros and cons of the various places we’d seen were running together. I needed something to grab me about a place… something to make me see and trust it was right.

Well, I had a dream in the days that followed our showing. It was from the viewpoint of the front door, and the wall of the stairs had been removed. It was Christmas, and Brantley and Eleanor were coming down the stairs, with so much joy and excitement (yes dogs and toddlers can be equally excited about the holidays!)… I woke up with a start and knew that was it. Christmas is one of my favorite holidays, and envisioning our family there in that old row house during such a special time, as cliche as it sounds, was all I needed.

Fast forward 6 months and the house is ours, construction is underway and that stairway wall is coming down. We will be moved in soon enough, and I can’t wait to have our first holiday at home together.

Interior Designer Renovates Jersey City Row House for Family

If you’ve been following along on Instagram with #PsSugarBox you are likely all caught up. I’ve been doing a walkthrough of the property once a week sharing progress and set-backs. Next week I will try to blog the demo progress, and then soon-after (once things are finalized) I will share our design plans for the whole home! Thank you for following along on our adventure!

xo, K