The vision for this space instantly flashed into her mind and became the reason she fell in love with the property.
For nearly five years, she romanticized the concept of using the charming 500 sq foot converted garage on the property of her historic Willow District home for a creative space. However, Chrissa was petrified to actually clean it out and make it a workable space instead of just another room to hold junk as it had become. For some reason, she was “avoiding with every bone in her body, engaging in the space and being vulnerable to admit that creative expressive is her lifeline.” It was an odd feeling, because she had done it before. Creativity was not new. This time, it was different. The space represented would become her ultimate creative sanctuary, but it also became the pathway to her healing some major life moments. Here is the story of how Chrissa, a strong, accomplished, professional woman, opened her heart to summon the courage to receive my support and guidance in bringing her creative space to fruition.
Chrissa and I were marketing colleagues in our former lives. It had been many years since we had interacted, but I included her on the announcement of my new design business. To my great surprise, she emailed me within minutes of receiving the announcement to schedule some coffee time to become reacquainted. I awaited our time to rebond with enthusiasm.
During the course of our coffee chit-chatting, she stated that she wanted to retain my services to work with her on the redesign of her 500 sq. ft. art studio. Yes, the space she fell in love with and envisioned as a creative space five years earlier. My answer was yes and we quickly began a two month journey to molding that space into her ultimate sanctuary. Her She Space™.
Goals + Preferences
When we began, the design conversation centered on goals, style preferences, color loves, patterns and overall feel. I noticed her love of vibrant colors and patterns by taking note of her striped Kate Spade handbag. She expressed her affinity with teal, aquamarine, yellow, purple and black. Not so much when it comes to red. She revealed that she enjoys patterns from stripes to spirals; dots to diagonals.
Chrissa’s studio features floor-to-ceiling custom bookshelves, a concrete floor, a cottage paned window and French doors. The space needs to function as a multi-use environment as her art studio, office and relaxing area. Plus, she desired a more organized, nurturing environment room.
A few of the biggest design challenges was to find a way for the three distinct environments to flow as well as harmonize the mix of metals, furniture styles and colors in the space. My plan was to seamless integrate all of these elements.
Aesthetic Vision + Design
In order to illustrate her vision, she showed me some magazine and catalog pictures with colors and spaces that inspired her. From these images, we zoned in on her exact wall color. She desired to change the existing butter yellow paint hue to an exquisite Robin’s Egg blue. After applying the color, it was clear that it was the one. We experimented with accent colors for the trim, windows, door and shelves and found that the existing cottage white was really the most ideal.
Next, we addressed the concrete floor. It was a chipped, dull blue. The character of the floor needed to be brought to life so a contractor applied a dark, honey brown concrete color with a low luster sealer that brought the floor to life and visually grounded the space with some elegance.
Early on, we decided to keep the existing black office furniture, vintage black trunk with nail heads and stainless steel crafting table and add a statement chair and hide rug for her relaxation area.
In order to hone in on the design elements that told the story of her life passions, path and philosophies, I prepared three styled vignettes that focused on color, texture and metals to blend the three distinct areas of the space. After embarking on a journey to incorporate patterns such as polka dots and stripes (insert pictures of items and placement), she decided that she really wanted to feel stimulated and nurtured, but through a more subdued presentation.
We decided on a teal statement Wingback chair with nailheads with a gorgeous cowhide rug underneath it for her relaxation area that was the point where two walls merged with larger shelving units than the rest of the space. Behind it we began incorporating elements of those edited vignettes of art, artifacts, baskets, books and selected the pieces that she really enjoyed behind the chair. That area served as the jumping off point for seamlessly blended the metals, colors and textures in the space.
During this process, Chrissa revisted one of her inspirational magazine sheets and noticed that she resonated with a row of monochromatic baskets. We then rearranged the space and created a row of woven, alabaster baskets in two styles along the top of her shelves. We continued to work in another phase of arrangement, editing and adding of accessories. Our final accessory selections incorporated tactile pops of teal and brown baskets, trays, picture frames, statutes and some trinkets. The result showcases a variety of harmonious textures, colors and patterns that celebrate her hobbies, family, goals and life adventures.
Although we selected baskets and trays for decorative and functional purposes, we needed to focus on her lower shelves throughout the space. These shelves housed sewing instruments, fabric, entertaining supplies, work documents, files, lots of photo albums and misc. junk. In order to maintain our gallery feel goal of streamlined space, I noticed that we needed to calm the clutter and make the remaining elements invisible. We designated the longest wall for a series of cabinets, sans hardware for the bottom three shelves along three of the four walls.
Another observation I made is how Chrissa used her space holding, unwanted purple sectional sofa for extra shelving during multiple creative projects. I suggested that we create a multifunctional cabinet solution that behaved similar to a Murphy bed. Cabinet doors that she could raise up to use as extra work space for spreading out projects when needed without sacrificing space and adding clutter on a day-to-day basis. The solution is one of her favorite design elements.
The Process: Notes About This Intimate Journey
One interesting and thrilling part of the process is how often one or both of us would envision a color or item and then have it show up. For instance, her teal linen Wingback chair with nail heads came to her mind during a yoga class and physically materialized during one of my shopping trips that morning. I photographed the chair, texted her the details and it ended up being her envisioned chair. Now that we found the perfect chair, we searched for the perfect hide rug. She came across this amazing hide that blended the space perfectly together from the floor to accessories. Again, the ideal item she had in her mind.
Another transformative component of our design process is my allowing her to sit with her space and feel it to ascertain what resonated and what did not. To emotionally process what needed to be released and what deserved to stay as she entered a new chapter in her life. Even though I knew some of the suggestions and decisions along the way would not deliver the ideal end result, my position was to give her the space to arrive at the same conclusion. In the end, it is her sanctuary. Her She Space. My role was to serve as her conduit to style and design.
After a fourth installation of accessories, of frames and artifacts, we stood back to survey the selection and placement of accessories. We had some shelves that had blank rows. I felt that we were entering a zone of “forced” design. Therefore, my suggestion was for her to wait and add pieces as she discovered them. She agreed, yet had another epiphany. She decided to keep the blank space and intentionally utilize that space for her future goals which included her personal adventures and treasured moments with her future mate. She was nervous about my response. I was humbled by her admission. My response was that it was her space to continue to create as she felt inspired to do so. And that is how the design process works. It is a process unique and authentic to each client.
During this process, Chrissa experienced some strong emotions, both happy and sad. At times we cried together. I could feel when we needed to stop so that she could just breathe. At the designated end of our journey, Chrissa confessed, “I cried when it was done and it took me a few weeks to really go in there and use it in all its glory. Now I go in there to start and end my day to feel the love and inspiration.”
And that is my design goal for each and every client.
Enjoy some before, in process and after photos of this beautiful She Space.