A bungalow from the early 1900s already has a long history, and I recently got the chance to work with Eric, the owner of one of these charming homes in the Minnehaha Neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Bungalows are generally small, so making them work for today’s modern lifestyle can be a challenge. The goal for me was to combine the house’s story with Eric’s own personal story, to create a home that he would enjoy for years to come.
The process started with refinishing the original floors. After the small, dated kitchen was gutted, several layers of ancient tile and glue were removed from the floors. The entire main floor was sanded and refinished with a clear coat, allowing the natural beauty of the wood to shine through.
New, white kitchen cabinets that matched the existing trim were ordered. The cabinets were designed to go all the way to the ceiling to maximize storage and improve function. To add some visual drama, we decided on black granite countertops with some small streaks of white.
This underlying black and white theme would be continued in the other rooms as well. We added black hardware, a black faucet, and classic, white subway tile. Benjamin Moore’s Edgecomb Gray was the perfect backdrop; cool enough to look fresh with just enough beige in the undertone to work with the wood floors.
From there, we needed to determine a complete color palette, so we turned to Eric’s family history for inspiration. His parents had been well-traveled and had even lived abroad from time to time during Eric’s youth. He had inherited some pieces of art and some furniture as well. The first thing to do was curate the art and then determine which, if any, pieces of furniture could be used in the new design plan. This can be a difficult part of the process because they are often sentimental pieces, but not everything will work in a new design.
There’s simply no room in small homes for furniture that doesn’t fit or function well. As a result, he opted to sell some pieces of brown, Victorian-style furniture from his grandparents. Another piece was an older dining table, finished in a cherry stain with worn, cream-colored seats. After looking at newer dining tables, Eric preferred the style of his old set and it fit very well in the small dining space. We decided that keeping it and refinishing it would be the answer.
One piece of art also stood out. It was a hand-painted copy of an impressionist painting in a gold frame called Boating on the Seine by Renoir, featuring beautiful blues and greens paired with some complimentary gold and rust colors. Here’s a photo of a reproduction below.
The colors in this painting, in addition to the black and white theme we had already established, would create our color palette. We also found a collection of six pale gold watercolors and two scrolls from his parents’ travels in Asia that fit within the color scheme. Those would be used in the dining room.
Before we could even start shopping, I needed to create a floor plan for the furniture. The living and dining rooms are connected by a wide entrance and the door from the front porch opens directly into the living room. You need to pass through the living room to get to the dining room and the kitchen beyond. Eric also wanted to be able to watch TV in the living room and occasionally host guests.
I drew up a plan that allowed for a three-seater sofa and two swivel chairs, which could swivel toward the sofa for conversation or toward the TV. By creating a diagram, we knew exactly what size sofa, chairs, and tables would fit into the space. I even had room for a small storage ottoman next to the media center, making it a handy place to sit down and put on your shoes or as a footstool or extra seating in a pinch.
It was also very important that his home looked like it belonged to him and not, in Eric’s words, “my 88-year-old mother.” We wanted furniture with a clean, transitional look, so I added a round, nesting coffee table with a dark, metal base and a marble top. The nested table could be pulled out to accommodate the two chairs when entertaining. A small, round table with a gold base was placed between the two chairs and two narrow, black, rectangular tables went on either side of the sofa. Eric welded the base of the round table himself, and we used granite left over from the kitchen for the tabletop.
A low-profile, white, media cabinet tucked in under the short stair wall but still allowed ample room to walk through to the dining room. I had just enough room to fit a moderately-sized TV above it, which would be easily visible from the sofa and the two chairs.
Because there was no overhead lighting, we placed a black metal floor lamp with three, white-linen shades in the corner between the sofa and chair, and a tall, gold-metal lamp with a white shade was added to the end table on the opposite side. The gold in the lamp base and in the small table base repeated the gold frame of the painting, while the colors of the other light fixtures and the coffee tables and end tables repeated the underlying black and white theme. Here is the original mood board I created.
Armed with the dimensions for the furniture and area rug, along with our color palette, we shopped locally for most of the items we’d need for the living room. The area rug and throw pillows echoed the colors in the painting and the gold tones of the wood floor. Although both chairs were similar in size, we opted to go with two different manufacturers and two different fabrics that coordinated but didn’t match for a curated look.
White linen drapes with a subtle blue stripe were hung on black, metal rods. They were hung six inches above the window trim and several inches wider than the window edges, which served to draw the eye up and make both the windows and the room feel bigger. The same drapes were carried into the adjacent dining room for a cohesive feeling.
Keeping consistency in design is especially important in a small space. As you can see in the photos below, the floors, walls, and window treatments are the same throughout.
Once the living room was completed, we turned to the dining room, and I suggested refinishing the table and chairs in a dark “Carbon” stain. It gave the dining set an instant, modern refresh that also worked well with the black and white theme.
We also custom-designed a shallow buffet to fit into the narrow space along one side of the dining room and topped it with more of the leftover, black granite. It was nick-named the “tuxedo buffet” for obvious reasons! The watercolors were framed in slim, black metal frames and the two bamboo scrolls were similarly framed in a shallow box.
Drapes were hung matching those in the living room, along with a black, transitional-style light fixture above the table. Finally, we added a richly patterned fabric to the chair seats, which echoed the jewel tones of the inspiration painting and provided a little pop of color in the dining room. A simple table runner and centerpiece finished off the look.
Now, all three rooms had a cohesive look and feel. The colors from the painting were incorporated throughout the rooms, while the black and white theme added a slightly modern edge creating an overall transitional style throughout.
Echoes of Eric’s family history were represented in the art and the dining table, and we even found a place for some smaller, sentimental items to be displayed behind the glass doors of the media cabinet. The house itself has been lovingly restored with a design that is suited specifically to Eric and will serve him well for years to come.
Where do you find inspiration? Let’s talk about how we can showcase it in your rooms. Contact me to get started.