You guys want process? Here’s some process. Welcome into the mind of a madwoman – otherwise known as a designer. That photo is of said project – our mountain fixer. It’s generic and livable yet wonderful and spacious, but not my style and ready for a total rehaul that doesn’t embody the trends of the late 90’s. Read the whole intro post for more details and to see the full house and to see all the updates as they happen, including what style we are choosing for each room click through HERE.
The first part of any design process is knowing how you want it to look and even more importantly, feel. We use adjectives like ‘cozy, welcoming, exciting, serious, whimsical, relaxing, sexy … etc.’ (I’ve never used that last one personally but clients have). I design function after emotion as function can be adapted to any style, but if you choose function first, the emotion can be lost. For instance, if you say ‘I want this family room to have a lot of seating and storage’ then you might start pulling it together without really thinking about how you’ll feel when you are in the room.
So for me, with this house, my adjectives were ‘open, clean, simple, special, minimal, fresh, easy, cozy and warm’. No visual, mental, emotional or physical chaos. RIGHT??
I started pinning accordingly.
What you are going to read next is my progression on how I honed in on the style/s that we are ultimately doing. It’s my thought process in chronological order. Let’s begin.
In August, while in escrow when it was hot out I couldn’t stop thinking about making this house a simple, minimal, contemporary chalet. Yes, it’s in the mountains but also near a lake where the kids will swim so it kinda needs to function as both.
I loved the idea of doing something totally different than any house we’ve done before. Focusing more on the architecture than the decoration and using more contemporary furnishings (in a good way).
When you are in the house you want it to be warm and yes, woodsy, but it’s not a log cabin nor will it ever be.
Simple. Refined. Calm.
Perhaps some stark and clean moments like those black chairs (although mine would be upholstered) or intense window frames. Great. I want to be those people. Perhaps we will – or not. Keep reading.
Obviously, we want ‘cozy’ and ‘soft’ to balance out the hard finishes, so the upholstery and textiles will definitely play a huge part in making this feel like a home.
The windows, the light, the floor, the walls will all tell a story that says, ‘we don’t need things or options or stress’. And chaos or distraction can take a hike … literally out the back door. All that’s required is simplicity.
Maybe there are some accessories like above, but even those are quiet. Shh…Don’t disturb the lady of the house journaling in her Kinfolk.
GREAT. I LOVE THIS HOUSE IN MY MIND SO MUCH.
Sure. We can still have cabin-y wood on the walls or ceiling, but it would be clean, fresh and modern – in a cabin sort of way.
I presented all of the above to Brian and these are his exact words:
“THIS IS MY WORST NIGHTMARE.” After weeks or maybe even a month of really deciding on a style that was the reaction, from the man who is not designing it, but yes will be sharing it.
I wasn’t pissed. How could I be? We have a very honest relationship and whenever he has held back his opinions it has only prolonged the awkward agony. He needs to be happy, but I was BUMMED.
He couldn’t see the vision. OBVIOUSLY I, Emily Henderson, would make this home to be warm. That’s what I do!!! I’m incapable of true minimalism despite how much I love it. TRUST ME. I kept saying. I want cozy as much as the next guy.
But he pushed and pushed and finally I was like, “FINE. What You Got? Where is your mountain fixer upper pinboard? Where are your weeks of visual brainstorming?”
He didn’t have one (duh) and said he pictured it rustic and warm and basically dripping in oak knots and wool. He thinks he is this guy:
To put images to words (as we have to do with virtually every client) I created a board for him of really beautiful rustic cabins. Listen, as annoyed as I was for his critique I also really want him to love the house and want to be involved in the process so I was going to have to shove aside my weird all-of-a-sudden-strangely-minimal dreams to include my own family.
UGH. Here goes.
Brian’s cabin would have the more traditional river rock, rustic beams and ceiling and more coziness than anyone could handle.
Sure. That is STUNNING. But is it even possible in this house? How many 500,000 dollar bills do you have to drop to get that beautiful wood on the walls? Do you have to pay the sun to create that kind of shadow?
Yes, sure, I want to be in the above room but it also feels so winter cabin in the north, not a California mountain/lake cabin. Plus it didn’t feel fresh to me (I used this photo 8 years ago as inspiration on SFAS – kudos for timelessness, for sure).
Oh YAH. We’ll have deer and antler and we’ll fly in 400-year-old beams from France, to create unbelievable architecture in our generic 1964 fixer in an incredibly hard to get to remote town. EASY.
I want to be there, too, but our house is not that house.
I love that above photo and it will always be on my inspiration page, but hunters we are not.
I know. I get it. I want a super rustic old cabin, too. But after pinning for months and living in it on the weekends we BOTH agree, that our house cannot be any of the above houses.
So I kept moving … design-wise.
Ok. So maybe the full-on rustic thing wasn’t possible but being from the woods in Oregon maybe I could merge what Brian wants with my past – thus Eclectic Oregon Cabin, like they did in the Anvil Hotel.
More tree murals because ‘Emily-The-Tree-Mural-Henderson’ finds an inordinate amount of peace amongst the trees.
Maybe we would add in some more cozy traditional cottage/cabin elements like that extremely wonderful wainscot wall and cozy wool bedding (p.s. remember it’s still 85 in the summer).
We can freshen things up in some of the rooms with more of a whimsical tree wallpaper – because even ‘Emily-The-Tree-Mural-Henderson’ knows that you can’t put tree murals in every room. (#can’tyou???)
We could give it more of a haphazard vintage/eclectic vibe that is super warm and cozy and inviting but still feels fresh.
Everyone loves an eclectic cabin, right????
Yes. Obviously. But I feel like that’s not much of a challenge for me, nor does it feel very forward. You see, ‘Eclectic’ has become easy for me. I want to push myself and do something totally different than what I’ve done and than what is expected of me (this part scares Brian). If this house were our main residence then it’s a style I’d seriously consider but as a showpiece for the world… I want to stretch my creativity. Also, there is something about being eclectic that is starting to feel messy to me …. are we moving away from it???
So…the next obvious style would be…
This is where my brain said ‘ok you want quiet and neutral, but still that cozy cabin vibe’. I could get behind that/in that. At this time in my life, I was working on the Greenhouse with Niki of My Scandinavian Home where she talked about summer garden houses (remember that greenhouse we designed?). Being in that space was so lovely and perfectly merged the rustic with the modern.
That wallpaper makes me happy for sure.
Obviously, I want to be the person that has a summer cottage like the one above, but do I actually want a skirted sink???? Would I actually renovate a kitchen to then put in a ripped piece of linen as the cabinet front? No. That is a great and sweet solution to a space like the above (or like the one we did in the greenhouse makeover) but not for a freshly renovated house like ours will be.
It’s eclectic and vintage and doesn’t look too intentional. But I fear that the ‘unintentional’ look is starting to feel dated. I love it in photos like the above, but that gallery wall over that bed would drive me nuts in person if it were my house.
Of course, I want tile on my countertop, but wait, do I? Is that annoying with grout? Do things get caught in the cracks and does it feel dirty all the time? Maybe this Scandinavian summer garden house thing isn’t exactly what I want…
But I could just bring it in the furniture…
Then after spending even more time there both of us agreed on one thing – we really don’t want a lot of stuff and we both really, really want it to be comfortable. So I went sort of back to where I started…but a cozier version.
It’s clean lines but has more softness. Now that I’m staring at it I realize how close to the first one it is, but that goes to show that my initial thought wasn’t wrong, it just needed more tweaking (it’s still NOT what we are doing, by the way, keep reading).
Brian liked this more than the first round of minimal, but he still said – it doesn’t feel like us, it still feels kinda cold and it doesn’t feel like this house.
I agreed. This house wants to reference mid-century a bit, with those windows and being built in 1964, and I think ‘cozy contemporary’ isn’t exactly it (although if it were a new build it would be a GREAT inspiration).
I still love the inspiration of these photos and love the warmth and modernity that they project.
A hanging fireplace? Yes. Probably. Although Brian is against that. WHAT??
Simplicity, but using warm materials.
WHAT STYLE ARE WE GOING WITH?
Come back Monday where I’ve FINALLY narrowed it down to two that both Brian and I love. And you, friends, will be the ones to make the decision. It’s the launch of a huge series for this house and boy are we excited. I’ll actually be up there meeting with my architect and contractors that day so I’ll show you more in the stories and I’ll be checking the poll all day long.
Let me be clear (in case you missed it) – none of those styles are what we are doing (although some are part of what we are doing) to see the full house and to see all the updates as they happen, including what style we are choosing for each room click through HERE. The two styles that we have narrowed it down to (that you’ll read about on Monday) are not wildly different from each other, either. But I figured seeing the process that we go through to really land on the right design direction, the right ‘look and feel’ could be fun for you (and it was fun to actually write).
Oh and as for Brian and I…as per usual he is right and his resistance often balances me out. I can get so excited about doing a style that I go too far away from ‘us’.
Happy Friday, and see you on Monday. We are finally, FINALLY doing this. xx
**But out of curiosity, of those above styles which are your favorite?
Update: Check out all of The Mountain House REVEALS here: The Kids’ Bedroom | The Kitchen | The Kitchen Organization | The Kitchen Appliances | The Powder Bath | The Living Room | The Downstairs Guest Suite | The Loft | The Hall Bath | The Upstairs Guest Bath | The Dining Room | The Family Room