It probably won’t surprise you to hear that major home renovations can cause you to lose your mind. Like literally go insane. Kind of a home-decor version of Bridezilla. But (and it’s a big but), if you can actually withstand the time and aggravation involved, you will likely find the process – or at least the finished result – to be one of the most rewarding things you’ve ever done.
As I mentioned in the last blog, my apartment renovation was a gut job, and it took twice as long as expected. But every single day when I get home and walk inside, I absolutely love where I live.
One of the big decisions many people make is whether or not to hire an interior designer. I think most people consider whether or not they can afford it. Well, my personal opinion is unless you are an interior designer, you really can’t afford not to use one. Why? Because no matter how good your taste is, there really are things an interior designer can do for you and your home that you just wouldn’t do or think of yourself. You know when you flip through pages of Architectural Digest or other magazines, you even admire how beautifully the shelves are arranged? That’s what I’m talking about. Most of us can pick out a couch and a bed and other big pieces of furniture. But the placement and proportion, the mix of textures and colors, along with the finishing touches like those shelves, are absolutely worth the investment of an interior designer.
Of course you have to work with someone you respect, whose taste you admire and whose personality meshes with yours, because that’s the only way you will have the kind of relationship you need. Ideally you want someone that understands what you love and want to accomplish, and whom you can trust to choose things that will achieve that desired result.
I was fortunate enough to be referred to Christian Zavala of Zavala Interiors in NYC, and I literally couldn’t love him more. He fit everything I was looking for, and I trust him implicitly. Yes, there may have been a few suggestions he made that I didn’t follow, but it wasn’t very long that we were working together before I began answering his inquiries regarding choices of tables/lighting/tiles/wallpaper with “if you think that’s what we should do, then let’s do it.” I didn’t necessarily love every single piece individually, but I understood the process and trusted Christian when he assured me that once it was all in, it would all look amazing together. And he was 100% right. Here’s a look at the finished product! Hard to believe this is even the same apartment I bought!
While I do really love the entire apartment, here are my most favorite parts, and why they wouldn’t have happened if I had tried to go it alone.
This entryway area is everything I wanted, but never would have achieved. I initially had a different console in this space – a piece that was too large and dark, but one that was good enough. It was fine. Not fabulous, but fine. And I totally would have kept it, had Christian not gently encouraged me to replace it. This piece from Worlds Away is something I never would have chosen, but it’s beyond perfect. Contemporary, sleek, sophisticated and works beautifully with my mom’s painting. Then we added the frame from ZGallerie and the vase from Arteriors in one of the last stages of finishing touches.
The dining area is one of my most favorite spots, which is fortunate since it’s now my office, too. I knew I wanted a round table, though I wouldn’t have given this one from Safavieh Home a second thought if I’d seen it alone in the store. But when Christian sent me the link, I nearly died. It was so gorgeous…and grown-up! Unlike anything I owned, but absolutely something I would have admired in someone else’s home. The marble top, the sleek metal trim and the amazing base! Omg, I had to have it. We were not far into the process of actually choosing furniture when Christian sent this, and the second I saw it I knew it embodied everything I was hoping the apartment would be. It was an investment, yet Christian was able to suggest affordable options for chairs, and we actually bought these Abbyson Living Annalise Chairs from Wayfair (but now they're available in white on Amazon)! I already owned the Jonathan Adler chandelier and the painting, which was by my grandfather. The vase from Arteriors was another of Christian’s suggestions, and the kind of thing I’ve balked at buying in the past. It wasn’t until this apartment that I was willing to pay for the little extras that really pull everything together and make such a difference. And people, that’s what working with an interior designer is all about.
Living room/hallway wallpaper
This wallpaper is everything. I had been in a friend’s apartment that had grasscloth wallpaper a few years ago and have been obsessing over it ever since. Hoping that one day I was going to have an opportunity to have it in my own apartment. So it was one of the first things I told Christian, and it was nonnegotiable. He was totally on board, which was awesome, but who knew there were so many options and colors to choose from? Fun fact: one of the bonuses of working with an interior designer that you adore and trust with your life is that they will cull down all of the potential options and show you a select few, rather than you having to spend the rest of your waking days trying to decide between 17,000 shades of gray. Initially the plan was to wallpaper the living room and my bedroom (in a different shade), but Christian said we should continue the wallpaper throughout the hallways of the apartment, and maybe forego the bedroom. Totally the right decision. It is probably the biggest thing that really makes the apartment feel like a home, and I just couldn’t love it more. Quick note – if you’ve never had grasscloth wallpaper and decide to install it, you must know that the wallpaper pattern runs horizontally, but it’s still wallpaper, hung the way all wallpaper is hung, so you will see vertical seams between each piece. I was unaware of this, and when I first went alone to check it out after it was put up, I thought it was done wrong! Christian assured me his guy had done a fantastic job, and that one the furniture was in I really wouldn’t notice the seams at all. Of course he was right. And I am completely obsessed with it. (Also LOVE the ZGallerie frame he suggested for the wall!)
Living room ceiling
The modified coffered ceilings are definitely one of my favorite things, not to mention a genius design of Christian’s to solve one of the biggest problems, no overhead lighting. My apartment building is postwar, with fairly low ceilings – certainly not high enough to drop them and install lighting. We discussed at length what we could do in order to bring more light into the space, and specifically how to get it above and not just rely on lamps, which I don’t really care for. I thought I was brilliant by suggesting a soffit along one wall, until Christian told me that he had just finished sketching a design for modified coffered ceilings to show me. Amazing! We did tweak it a bit upon install, by removing two central beams that crossed the entire ceiling, and in the end that actually made it even better. Then Christian told me we were painting the ceiling gray, which would add interest and dimension with the white beams. At that point, in my mind, it was practically his apartment too, so of course I said go for it! And look how fantastic it turned out!
I think most people want their bedroom to be a sort of sanctuary…peaceful, serene and relaxing. As a semi turbo-charged high strung personality, that’s been a goal of mine for many years. I was determined to make it so in this apartment, and Christian was more than willing to work around my existing bedroom furniture, which had been purchased a mere year before. So there was no way I was getting rid of it. But again, the idea of getting a curated and pulled-together look that can only be achieved with an interior designer is on full display here. For while I did have a bed, bedside tables and a dresser, that was kind of it. Christian helped choose the Arteriors bedside lamps and these mirrors from One Kings Lane, which just make the room look amazing. And it’s funny, because when the mirrors first came and my husband and I pulled them out of the boxes, we thought there had been a mistake. They were huge! We didn’t think there was any way they’d fit and we could not even begin to picture what Christian was envisioning. But of course, when he came to hang them, they fit perfectly! And the results are yet another example of something I never would have achieved without him. Couldn’t have visualized it, never would have chosen the pieces but am beyond thrilled with it all! (And to keep with the peaceful, sanctuary retreat bedroom theme, the white square you see is my diffuser…I use a blend of essential oils for calming and relaxation, and which allow me to sleep like a rock! More on that in an upcoming blog, but feel free to email me for more info.)
I hope my experience and results inspire you to make whatever changes you’ve been thinking about in your home. And if it’s more than a minor tweak, hire an interior designer! You’ll be glad you did!
What are your favorite things in your home?