A Recent Project - Before and Afters

Wow - it's been awhile.  Like over a year since I posted on the blog.  I attended the Antiques in the Garden Gala this past week and had several people ask me why I'd not blogged in forever.  The truth is - I'm super busy with design work, and it leaves me no time to blog.  While this is a huge blessing, I do feel a bit sad not to post more frequently.  With that said, I am posting in honor of those of you who asked me about the blog this past week.  

Who doesn't love a good before and after? These images represent a project lasting almost a year.  During this project we touched almost every room in the home.  This wonderful couple live in Vestavia Hills.  These are just a few of the after images.  If you have time, click over to my website to see the rest - we took a lot.  Also, I huge thank you to Birmingham Tours who photographed this project for me. 

So, I loved working with these clients.  They had a very interesting mix of styles - a very chic modern aesthetic but also a lovely sentimental side with many traditional vintage pieces handed down from their family.  They wanted to work some of these items in and create a completely fresh take on their home.  So, we started by editing out all the red from the home (including new hardwood floors).  We then paired the fun purple accents (the purple velvet sofa was in great shape and we decided to keep it as well as the super comfy club chair) with a contrasting green.  The result is a completely different look.  Here are a few befores and afters of the spaces:

Foyer Before:
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Foyer After:
Notice some of the changes here - new hardwood floors, new stair rail and carpet runner, and new furnishings.  We kept the fabulous winged back chairs seen in the before images and used in them in the master bedroom for a pop of color (the images of the new master bedroom are on my website if you're curious).
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We kept the chandelier in the foyer but raised it so the center table became the focal point with all the interesting accessories.  We also added a curtail step to the stairwell to make it feel more open and inviting and then completed the look with an iron rail finishing at the bottom with a beautiful volute detailing.  The stairwell runner is done in a super durable indoor outdoor carpet which reads like a wool/sisal.  
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The purple sculpture was a gift to the homeowner from a very dear friend, and we played it up by placing it in the center of the table as you walk in the front door.  A nice mix of modern and traditional styles. 
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Main Living Space Before:
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Main Living Space After:
As you can see, we flipped the seating area with the formal dining space which allowed us to create a larger hang out space with more seating.  New draperies hung up to the crown molding really makes the ceiling feel taller in the space.  Since drapery hardware can be very expensive, we retro fitted what they already had to create a larger profile on the windows.
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Main Living Space Before:
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Main Living Space After:
We took out the TV built in next to the fireplace and came back with a lovely china hutch.  We also had new dining chairs custom upholstered in a Crypton fabric for durability on the seat and a gorgeous silk on the backs for a nice blend which works for both formal gatherings and casual dining.  We styled the former bookshelves more in keeping with a dining room and used important pieces that held sentimental value to the clients.
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The overall look is an inviting space that accommodates lots of guests for parties while still perfect for a relaxing night home with just family.
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If you would like to see more of this project, click over to my website and take a look -  Mandi Smith T Interiors - Enjoy your week and the gorgeous Fall weather. 

Project in Progress - An Update

I wanted to give you an update today on our front yard project.  For the before and after pictures of this project click here and here.  With landscape projects they just get better with time as plants fill out creating a lush look.  So, I thought it would be fun to show you how it looks one year later.

If you recall, there were a couple of spots where we decided to take some time to complete.  One of those was our gas lantern.  At the time of our landscape project, we had a gas line run to our parking pad, but decided to wait a bit to get the actual lantern and post.   Well, for our anniversary this year, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves with this gift!  

We had the lantern custom made from Carolina Lanterns.  To find the perfect shape, I looked to the outdoor lighting we already had at our front door for guidance.  

I measured them to get an idea of scale and then selected a copper lantern for our post with in a similar style.  We also decided on a spider style base to add interest.

Once I had our lantern selected, I began sourcing our post.  Since we have brick that has been sacked as well as stone, and iron work, I really felt we needed a wooden post just to soften everything.  I wanted cedar, but these can be very expensive.  I found the best source for cedar posts on line (The Wood Wright Company), and called them to discuss the perfect post for my lantern.  After a great discussion, we decided on this chamfered post with a lamb's tongue detailing near the base. 

There are lots of things to consider when deciding on a lantern post including the proper height of the post given the topography of your yard.  Since we have a sloped yard, I had to be careful not to select a post that was too tall as it would look out of scale with our house and yard. 
 I got great guidance from Robert Clark at The Wood Wright Company and could not be happier with the result.  They also provided very specific instructions on the proper installation of a cedar post to prevent decay/rotting of the post as it is exposed to the elements. 

Here are a few more pictures of how our yard has grown in over the past year.  Still very happy with the results and how it has given our house so much curb appeal. 

As you can see, the leaves are already beginning to change here.  Can't believe it's already Fall.

We also added these chairs and small side table to this seating area.  My hubby and I really enjoy sitting out here in the evenings with a glass of wine.  Very funny to sit and watch the goings on in the neighborhood.

We are very happy with how private this area now feels with our landscaping.  This "green wall" will continue to grow and provide privacy from the driveway area. 

Also, I've not had a single pizza guy come to our bedroom doors!  Thanks to this very subtle - "not a public entrance" landscape trick. 

Overall, the project was so worth it, and we are thrilled with the results. 

PS: Thank you to everyone who has emailed, called and even mentioned in passing they miss my weekly blog posts.  The truth is my business has really picked up in the past year, and I simply do not have the time it takes to blog weekly.  While I miss writing for my blog as frequently, I am feeling very blessed to have the design work to take its place.  So, I will post from time to time, but if you are curious as to what I'm up to on a weekly basis, follow me on Instagram where I will be posting on projects and inspiration I see during my weeks. 


Family Room Project

Summer has finally arrived and with it some much needed R&R for my family.  I have loved this past school year so much.  We have been super busy and productive, but I have also been looking forward to some down time spent with my kiddos.  As I go "off the grid" for a while, I wanted to leave you with some images of a very fun project I worked on this past year.  

For this client, I was asked to create a modern eclectic space to function as the main gathering area for this young, super hip family.  A couple of things to note: The walls were already painted this rich gray tone which I thought felt very sophisticated and which the homeowners really wanted to keep.  Also, the TV was already placed over the fireplace in the space.  I know many of you are not crazy about this placement decision, but I have to tell you TV's are part of our everyday lives, and I think a decorator's job is not only to make the space beautiful but to make sure it is practical and works for the people who live in the space.  So, after working on furniture placement, I really felt the TV was in the best possible placement for the flow and function of this space.  As usual, I did not take any before pics (I have got to get better about this - more on that later this summer).

Here are the afters: One important mention is this client is not afraid of color.  So, I added fabulous pops of color with pillows while keeping the base tones of the upholstered pieces neutral. 

This is a view from the open kitchen looking into the family room and the backyard beyond.  Our goal was to maximize seating in this space while maintaining and open airy feel.  One trick to accomplishing this is to use an open airy coffee table.  This gives you visual floor space in the center of the room where your eye tends to land; thus, the impression of more space. 

One of my favorite features in this room are the window treatments.  We selected a gorgeous embroidered fabric. 

By creating tonal pattern, we have added interest and texture but have not created a color direction with the draperies.  This gives flexibility should my client decide to change up the color in the space in years to come.  Look how gorgeous these are up close. . .   

We added a pair of taupe ottomans that can be used as overflow seating during a party or to kick your feet up when paired with one of the swivel winged backs or the sofa for lounging in the space. 

I just love the color accents of the pillows: pink velvet, the metallic chevron woven as well as the Schumacher Chiang Mai in Alabaster color way.  These pillows paired with the fun mix media artwork my clients found on Etsy really make a statement. 

My clients were so much fun to work with on this project!  And I just love how it came together.  Enjoy your summer.  M.

A special thanks to Jean Allsopp's for photographing this space for me.  As always, I loved my time with Jean who is one of the most talented people I know! 

The Look for Less

It has been one crazy ride for me since January.  I'm feeling incredibly blessed with all the projects and can not believe it's already Spring?!  I've not given you all a "look for less" in quite a while, and this one was just to good not to share with you today.  

The Serena and Lily Herringbone Bed Blanket - $288.00 (twin size)

The Target Threshold Organic Blanket - on sale right now for $25.00 (twin size).  I loved this blanket so much I picked one up to use on the end of my chaise in our den.  It's the perfect Summer weight when you want to cozy up with a book or watch a movie.

Enjoy and Happy Spring!  M.

Casual Dinner Party In Your Formal Dining Room

There are times when you need to use your formal dining room for more casual entertaining.  There are some tricks to make it feel more casual without having to redecorate the space.  Here are a few ideas when used together you can really create a casual but memorable party. 

Consider the Menu
The type of food you are serving really sets the tone for the formality of the party.  If you are serving Osso Bucco the atmosphere is quite different from a Hearty Brunswick Stew.  The trick is to dress up a more homestyle menu or dress down a more formal menu.  Here is a menu example that would work for a casual dinner party in your formal dining room.

Arrival of Spring Casual Supper

Opening Cocktail And Small Bite
French 75
(these are my new favorite drink)
Bruschetta with Mozzarella and Fresh Favas

Main Course
Herb Roasted Chicken with Melted Tomatoes
Fried Smashed Potatoes with Lemon
Balsamic Braised Brussels with Pancetta

Traditional Bakewell Tart
 (I think dessert feels more casual with you cut slices 
rather than serving individually made desserts)
French Pressed Coffee

Select Your Centerpiece Carefully
While it may look easy and casual, when trying to get your formal dining room to "read" more casual you have to work at it a bit.  Contrast is the trick - use a more formal container with loose more homey flowers to get the look.  Alternatively, select more formal flowers and think about using a rustic container for the right balance.

Balance the Elements in Your Table Setting 
As I mentioned before, I love to mix my simple white everyday china with my sterling silver.  I think it adds some glamour without making your guests feel like they need to be wearing a coat and tie.  Also, I love texture and contrast which can also bring in a more casual feeling to your dining room.  Sometimes I eliminate the table cloth all together and just use round placemats in a contrasting color.  This gives the room a more casual atmosphere.  

Also worth mentioning - the proper table setting for an informal dinner party.  This alone will completely change how the party feels.

Which brings me to my last point.  This happens in the Smith T house a lot!  We decide to host a casual dinner party for ten.  By the time the party rolls around, my hubby has invited more couples than I have seating at our dinner room table.  The easiest solution - make your hubby eat in the garage turn the dining room table into a buffet and serve a more pick up friendly menu.  Done.  And to be honest, parties seem to be more fun with more couples.  

Another note, when I'm using my dining table as a buffet and serving dinner (rather than a cocktail party with lots of pick up items), I like to remove a leaf from my dinner room table.  That way the food looks more bountiful (even if you only have one main items and a couple of sides) - on a smaller table.  Rather than a few items on a sea of table!  Just a small trick, but it works.   Now that Spring is almost here, it's time for you to host a casual supper with friends!  M.

Things On My Mind

I've started to notice the days are getting longer.  Have you noticed?  It makes me so happy to know that Spring is on it's way.  I really enjoy the change of season, but I feel like Winter is always the longest of them all.  So ready for longer days, flowers and trees budding, change in fashion, and lighter dinner fare! Here's what I've been dreaming of lately.

I've been yearning to sit outside with friends on a Friday afternoon.  This would be the perfect place to do just that.

Been reading lots of blog posts on Spring fashion.  Seeing lots of bold florals paired with striped tops.  

Found this fantastic lamp for a client's home.  We're doing a pair of these on a narrow console table.  Great price, the perfect depth, and just a touch of glam.  I love it when a plan comes together!  

Just read this article on a Bastille party in Charleston.  Our family is planning a trip to Paris this summer, so this post caught my eye.  So many great ideas here for outdoor entertaining - particularly the signature cocktail.
I had dinner with a very dear friend I've known for 20 years.  She was in town for business, and we seized the opportunity.  The company was special as always, but we had a dessert that I can't get out of my mind. A delicate lemon pudding with a homemade lavender honey sorbet.  The sorbet was mind blowing - It was so light with a hint of lavender - the perfect prelude to Spring.  So, of course I've been researching how to make this divine concoction.  Would love any recipes you have for lavender honey sorbet.

Stay warm all!  We are almost there. M.

Our Judging Eye and Change

Our life experiences are constantly adjusting/refocusing the lens we use to see the world.  It's what allows us to change, if we are simply open to it.  Interior design is no exception, my taste and style have changed so much since creating this blog.  As I continue to explore different styles, what I perceive as beautiful also continues to change.  It seems to grow.

Love the clever use of the desk on the back of this section in this image.


The lines also seem to blur between styles and what works together as time ticks on.  What was once decidedly modern seems to become more eclectic and works with more traditional pieces.  I like to think about it like food.  The more foods you taste and try, the more open you are to combinations of foods/spices that once seemed totally strange together.

Love this interesting layout of the seating areas.  Also, notice the deer head and the floral chinz together.  Again, an interesting mix.

Talk about a mix of styles from the French style mirror and sconces, the rustic stone fireplace, traditional winged back chairs, your grandmothers afghans, mission style arm chairs, and island inspired painted ceiling.  I think what makes this major combination of styles work it the room is done in a subtle way.

Notice how the artwork has been hung in the alcoves of the built in area creating an incredibly chic art installation that is decidedly modern.  This is paired with a very traditional chandy and dining table.

I love this vignette . . . it feels fresh, fun and a bit retro to me.

But I also love this . . . which is classic, understated, and elegant.

This morphing of our sense of style is a gift.  It allows us to continue to be creative by the blends of styles which results in something totally new and fresh.  I'm grateful for this today! Hope everyone stays warm.  M.

Friday Five (on Monday)

Wow.  The last week of January really packed a punch!  But, look - we are already into February.  With the days getting longer (I've noticed it's not completely dark at 5:30) Spring is just around the corner.  Let's kick off our week with a Friday Five.  Here's what's been going on lately in my world.

I did a photo shoot of one of my all time favorite renovation projects you can read about here.  I love photoshoot days.  A great big thank you for such a fun day.  My client and I had such fun watching these pros work their magic! More news on this in the following months - in the meantime, here's a hint.  You really need to get to know this magazine.  It's too good.

Found this amazing home renovation on House Tweaking.  You will not believe the before and afters on this one.  What I love most is she used the space she had in the home and made it function perfectly for her family.  By completely throwing out traditional ideas/rules on room (i.e., kitchen, living room, dining room, etc.) she has been able to create something incredibly refreshing and oh so practical.  

I've been working on a couple of children/teen bathroom projects and just LOVE this shower curtain. Wondering if it will encourage my own kiddos to shower without being asked to do so! Ha!

While we're talking about bathrooms, I also found this fabulous piece.  It's modern but has some traditional elements.  I love that it can be styled with accents to complete the look in a bathroom and it's profile is shallow which makes it perfect for smaller spaces.  It's also on sale right now. 

So, I love mixing high and low items together for a look that appears to have been collected over time.  It's also true that you can mix high and low end items together with amazing results.  The trick is where you place them in the room.  For example, in a family room, the coffee table tends to be a major focal point for accessories, so you need at least one high end piece to elevate the rest of the vignette.  A favorite go to for the perfect accessory?  The Well Appointed House.  It's a wonderful source for curated items.  

If you've not discovered this website, let me introduce you. I adore this trophy which would give your coffee table some height or you could group several of them on your dining table for a fun dinner party. 

They have such a fun mix of decorative objects that you can create so many different looks in a room.  This reminds me of the beach and it would be perfect atop a stack of interesting coffee table books.  

Can you tell I've been shopping for client projects a lot this past week?  Have a great week. M.