Another Hallway Impasse

The hallway downstairs is next on the painting agenda.  It’s a dark space made even darker because there is no hall light and there doesn’t seem to even have been one.  Peculiar.  We will have an electrician come in and remedy that but that light will not be on during the day, so I still have to consider this a darker space.

The paint needs to stay on the lighter, brighter side but using lighter and brighter is not always a guarantee. Without natural light, some of the lighter paint colors can look drab and almost dirty, especially whites.  The color is going to be tricky because there will be parts of the hall that do get spots of sun that others do not.

Which brings me to designer Rose Tarlow’s statement in House Beautiful regarding paint.  I can’t find the exact quote but she mentions that because of the light differences she will paint different walls different colors within the same room.


The logistics of that sound a bit nightmarish and quite honestly I think you would be spending quite a bit of money, staring down the barrel of a lot of leftover paint and possibly living with a strange hybrid of color on the wall.  I will say that I did this inadvertently in our last house prior to listing.  Our painter must have mixed paints as when I bought the same colors to do touch ups, it didn’t quite go as planned.  I ended having to paint entire walls as the color subtlety was then not as noticeable.  I knew the new owners would repaint every surface but still you want to put your best foot forward.  So, I did. . . kind of.  I can’t say I liked the multi-color approach.  And, I have never been an accent wall fan.

All that said, Tarlow’s rooms are gorgeous so maybe she is onto something.

Instead, I will be using a very un-Rose Tarlow painting plan and choosing one color for all the walls regardless of their light exposure.  I have been on a Farrow and Ball kick lately as their colors are a bit chalkier and richer than the Benjamin Moore colors.

Here are some of the colors I am considering:

FB White Tie




FB Slipper Satin




FB Pointing



The Pointing chip looks almost neon on my screen but that is my gut right now.  We’ll see how the samples go up.



Michael S. Smith Part One: The President’s Decorator

I am instinctively drawn to most rooms by designer Michael S. Smith.  And, apparently plumbing fixtures as well.  I chose a Kallista showering system without realizing Michael S. Smith was behind it.  It wasn’t a surprise though as Smith is the Gil Shafer of the design world for me.  I am bound to pick the room by Smith or the renovation by Shafer 9 out of 10 times.

Back to trim kits. . .

This is Smith’s Inigo line for Kallista in polished nickel.


And, one of the walls in our shower featuring the Inigo in a chrome finish.


The installation has been an adventure.  You may notice the handles don’t quite line up vertically when in the off position.  Kallista sent out a plumber recently to resolve this issue.  It is nearly there.  In the interim, I can almost discuss K joints and torque and sound credible.  Almost.

Now onto Michael S. Smith.  He is a native Californian defined by his curatorial knowledge and discerning eye – as written in his firm’s bio.  He mixes European traditionalism with American modernism with high impact, and is a self-defined Anglophile. Like Shafer, Smith has perfected the art of country chic.

Michael S. Smith is also widely known for being President Obama’s pick as the White House’s interior designer.  Since that announcement in 2009, Smith has worked on the Obama’s private quarters and more recently the Oval Office.  His subtle redo of the Oval Office left most underwhelmed.  A shame as Smith’s work is anything but underwhelming.  I have to agree with the masses though.

This is the Oval Office while George W. Bush was head of state, well the last hours as this was the transition day. The rug was designed by his wife, Laura who described the pattern as a radiating sun that symbolized optimism.  It has been rumored the Bushes were eager for Obama to replace it so they could have their beloved rug back.


Here is an aerial view of the stunning rug. The Oval Office under the Bushes featured creamy ivory walls and soft damask sofas.  The rug is truly the star as the paint and fabric choices serve to complement, not compete with the rug.  My favorite part about the rug is how well it shows off the stunning floors.



The chairs could use a refreshing as could the coffee table but the room looks current and beautiful this many years later.

In 2009, it was announced that the Obamas had hired a designer and at first it was very hush hush who received the esteemed position.  Eventually it came out that it was Michael S. Smith.  The press has never leaked photos of the private quarters which is all well and good, but the Oval Office is a public space and well-photographed.  Design and news junkies waited for the grand reveal . . .and a collective groan followed.  The press dubbed it the boring beige makeover.  Smith is criticized for playing it too safe, and worse, the room has been slammed for being unpatriotic.  I am not sure I agree with the latter as Bush’s Oval Office was no more ‘patriotic’, that is, if patriotic is defined by eagle paraphenalia and red, white and blue color schemes.  Do we really want a return to the Clinton Oval Office?


God, no!

Let’s dissect how the rooms compare. The portraits over and flanking the fireplace remain the same. I do not know what is on the mantle.  Is that fake ivy?  And why so much?  It is strange choice.  Smith typically knocks the mantle styling out of the park. The walls went from a painted ivory to a wallpapered stripe.  The chairs were reupholstered and the couches replaced.  The new couches are very elegant.  The end tables were reused and the coffee table replaced.  The rug, of course, is new and far less of a statement piece though on the outside ring are quotes from some of our historic leaders:

  • “The Only Thing We Have to Fear is Fear Itself” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • “The Arc of the Moral Universe is Long, But it Bends Towards Justice” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • “Government of the People, By the People, For the People” – President Abraham Lincoln
  • “No Problem of Human Destiny is Beyond Human Beings” – President John F. Kennedy
  • “The Welfare of Each of Us is Dependent Fundamentally Upon the Welfare of All of Us” – President Theodore Roosevelt

MS OVal Office


The photos of the Oval Office often read gold but the above shows the room as possibly a warmer brown which I like better.  You can see the curtains from George W. Bush remain, and it looks like they may have been the jumping off point for the room.  Another strange choice.

This is clearly not Michael S. Smith’s best work.  I love the lamps and the coffee table is a huge improvement over the Bush’s but the Bush Oval Office wins hands-down for its elegance and interest.  At least for me.

Still, Michael S. Smith cannot do much wrong by me design-wise, so stay tuned for Part II when I show you why he is one of Architectural Digest’s Top 100 designers and has risen to fame since starting his firm back in 1990.

The Basement Befores

As you may recall, the basement floor was ripped up just after Christmas.

basement 12:31

Because of this . . .

Sewer Pipe

Last week our handyman arrived to start putting the basement back together again.  He was the skill behind this room.


This time we sent him underground.  He cleaned up the floor and started framing out a new wall to block out the pipes and other unsightliness.


Our carpenter matched up the knotty pine as closely as he could just for kicks as this will all be painted in the near future.

Here is the new wall and beginnings of the shelving.   These shelves will hold board games and Legos for now.  Post-addition this basement will become a storage closet and then my husband will likely take over.  We left the original doors on either side of the built-in for access to plumbing, and quite honestly just because they are adorable!  The doors are covered in knotty pine as well and have great brass hardware.  Not right to put those out at the curb.


A tile floor is going down this week and then some much needed lighting.  We chose a ceramic tile that looks like wood.  Not that dissimilar from the tile in the picture below.


By Saturday we should have a finished basement.  We have never ever done a basement project in any of our houses so this is unchartered territory for us.

If I had all the money in the world I would hire Gil Shafer

Architect Gil Shafer had me at natural light.

His work is exquisite and featured in my very favorite book.  It is one I turn to again and again.  I prefer classical architecture and symmetry.  He does formal country best, and although we gave up our Gil-ish house in the country, there is still much to take away for a house in the “city”.

Blog- Gil Shafer Book Cover

Gil’s genius lies in knowing precisely which interior designers will perfectly complement his work.  He often collaborates with Michael S. Smith and Miles Redd.

Gil is an old house lover and even if they aren’t old to begin with Gil builds them as if they were.  The roof, working shutters, windows and beautiful stairs are all classically beautiful details and characteristic of his work.

Blog - Gil Shafer exterior

A natural light lover myself, I appreciate Gil’s ‘thinner’ builds.  Our country house has a back to front hallway with two doors that flooded the house with light.  It was my favorite feature and I remember one of the reasons I knew the house would work for me.

This hallway is flooded with the same light with a bonus landing window above.


Gorgeous!  The ceiling, fireplace surround, French doors with cremone bolts and light flooding in from everywhere are all very typical of Gil’s work. Blog - Gil Shafer Living Room

This hardworking mudroom for an equestrian family is one of my favorites.  The interior Dutch door is so charming and the slate floor and millwork are stunning.  Blog - Gil Shafer Mudroom

Here is another view of the same hallway I showed you all in yesterday’s post.  The lack of shoe moulding in most of Gil’s houses makes me a teeny bit envious.  I hate shoe moulding.  I like it better painted, but if only I could rip it all out of my house!   Blog - Gil Shafer Hallway

Gil’s kitchens do not disappoint.

Blog - Gil Shafer Kitchen 2

Blog- Gil Shafer Kitchen

These bathroom ceilings are beautiful.

Blog - Gil Shafer Bathroom Blog- Gil Shafer Bathroom 2

Gil deserves at least a post or two more as his exteriors are just as incredible as his interiors, if not moreso.