Psssst… Courage Confidential vol. 4 Before & After… A Silk Purse | Greenwich Moms
Once upon a time an adventurous young couple, wishing to escape the bustle of city life, challenged their designer (moi) to the ultimate test; to transform a 70’s style, orange-stained pine, ersatz ski chalet into a modern, yet welcoming weekend retreat. We entered the dark wood-paneled, orange-stain floored house and got to work on the basic shell. We stripped the

before living

floor stains

after living

before closet

after closet

existing wide-plank pine floors and treated them with a clear stain by Swedish company Bona with a touch of white pigment mixed in. We removed every piece of door and window trim, base, moulding; every cheap Colonial raised-panel door; every bright brass door hinge with ball finial doo-dads (no doo-dads in this house!); every louvered bi-fold shutter; all wood-stained venetian blinds. We stripped the house bare. We like to think of it as a metaphor for living a clean and simple life. We organized the space by function vs traditional labeling of living, dining or family room. We removed walls, enlarged openings and created open space.

before kitchen


after kitchen

after kitchen

The kitchen deserved and received a complete makeover. Mexican terracotta floor tiles (circa 1971) were replaced with smooth poured concrete with heat coils below. Dove gray shop-coated cabinetry is comprised primarily of large drawers and rustic antique brass hardware to lend a modern country look. Countertops are indestructible Ceasar Stone in a raw concrete color to match the floor. Floating shelves with puck lights below provide the homeowner with display space for her vast collection of Danish home goods. A peculiar, unused bump-out in the kitchen was transformed into an inviting breakfast nook by painting it a dark grey by Farrow & Ball and installing a deep window banquette, cushioned in vivacious apple green velvet. Pink molded plastic stools by Charles Eames and a lively striped rag runner activate the otherwise neutral palette. It feels like a Modern American Rural Loft and it feels gooooood.

before kitchen

during kitchen

after nook

after kitchen

A small, closed-in entry foyer with the ubiquitous pine panelled doors was opened up by demolishing the closet and replacing it with a wall of classic Eames “Hang-it-all” coat hooks. And we popped the ceiling up to reflect the slanted “barn roof” on the exterior. The enlarged entry is furnished with a mid-century telephone chair bought at auction, a round tweeded gray braided rug and topped with a Tom Dixon pendant light. We carved out a small much-needed powder room off the living room and covered it with a head-to-toe-to-mirror-frame retro wallpaper and resident giraffe hook. A farm sink sits on a repurposed antique end table.

before entry foyer

after entry foyer

powder room

giraffe hook detail

Rustic cedar paneling covered the walls and ceiling of the family room and, though we decided to keep the Flintstone fireplace, the dark wood had to go. Walls were repaired and painted stark white. The windows and glass french doors leading to the terrace were draped in gauzy white sheers and the room brightened up. Modern technology met the Stone Age when we mounted the new TV with a “wall as screen saver” feature to blend into the stone.. This room now has the right balance of freshness and warmth to work as a 4 season retreat.

before family room

after family room

before family room

after family room

The family gathers at the large dining room tavern table which was given a French ebonized treatment to lighten up the generic matte black finish. We purchased a set of vintage Marcel Breuer chairs with polished chrome frames and caning in mint condition. And what Classic Modern home would be complete without Nogouchi’s Akari lantern hovering in the night sky?

after dining

after reading

after chatting

after living

Lastly, what every mom wants to refresh her in the morning and relax her at the end of the day – a spa-like master bathroom of rounded elements and natural materials. Below is the miracle transformation that leaves the rest of the Befores & Afters in the dust! We scraped, blasted and demolished the existining bathroom and floated the tub and round shower enclosure in the space. Natural stone floors, a marble mosaic shower bed and quartzite vanity top unifiy the apace with a light and airy feel.  The last image shows the seasonal refresh as the D. Portault floral towels replace winter white and the house comes back to full bloom.

after master bedroom

before bath

after bath

spring towels / light on

As a designer there’s nothing more rewarding than looking at the Befores & Afters and seeing how a house can truly be transformed physically and transformative for the homeowners within. It’s a little like pregnancy….. the beginning is thrilling, the 9 months (you WISH construction could be 9 months!) goes by quickly and reveal is…..well……wow.
Ciao from the Silk Purse and remember…..

“Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.”
– Salvador Dali

Please check out our IG at CourageandCo and write us at – with all of your design questions and dilemmas. We can help. That’s what we’re here for.

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