**** Note to anyone reading this in email- I accidentally published this post before I’d written the text so you may have gotten a blank version of this earlier! I’m still learning the new platform but am clearly NOT AWESOME at it 😉 Sorry!!
It’s been a couple of months since our show, Best House on the Block, aired on HGTV and I have been meaning to post episode recaps as quickly as possible but life’s gotten in the way & they’re coming out a bit slower than I’d hoped! Anyway, I am so excited to finally be sharing them with you!! “Labor of love” and “blood, sweat and tears” are understatements when it comes to this show and what everyone involved went through to make it happen. We were up against the most insane timelines (8 homes in 11 weeks!!) and we (this includes our amazing contractor Mike Carr of CarrMichael Construction who we could never have done this without) have a serious commitment to quality so working on one of the shortest TV timelines ever and still doing it our way was killer. I’ll share more about the behind the scenes later but for now, I hope you enjoy the show!! 😉
The shows are shown out of order but this episode was the second project we completed. (We had four projects going on at a time.) It started at our house where David & I talked about our clients, the Cervones, and their upcoming renovation…
The thing I loved most about filming the show was getting to be with Dave all the time. We had a lot of “driving” scenes where we’d discuss our clients’ projects and he’d say the most ridiculously random stuff to try to mess me up. It’s basically how it works in real life but the kids are our audience instead of HGTV viewers.
Our clients, Mike & Christi Cervone, live in a typical 80’s Colonial Revival in Herndon, Virginia with their two adorable kids…
They walked us through the house and talked about what they liked and what they wanted to change and we shared our ideas with them. When Mike and Christi first bought the house, Christi put color on every wall she could so the house wouldn’t feel sterile but in the end she wasn’t happy with the rainbow of colors the house had become. The living room was painted in an intense “Monticello yellow” and I thought we could use it as a starting point for the design of the entire house… (I even dressed to match it! 😉 )
In the tiny original kitchen, I explained that we wanted to knock down the wall…
…and steal the breakfast room to make the kitchen twice its size…
…and then we’d open the whole thing up to the sunken family room:
There’s a dining room on the other side of the kitchen leading to the front living room that didn’t need any work other than a paint job so it wasn’t shown on the episode but they do still have a table to eat at. The Cervone’s were on board with all of our ideas and were incredibly trusting. Something you don’t see on TV is that all they had to go off of was a verbal description from me, a floorplan, and a price from CarrMichael Construction for the work before pressing “go” on the project. They were amazing sports and super excited about it.
The whole thing is a bit crazy but but we all dug in full steam ahead…
The way we work is that I design the plans for the house and then Mike Carr, owner of CarrMichael Construction (photo below) manages the construction. He and Dave loved playing “demo games” and this was one of their first demo days…
The house is a typical 80s Colonial Revival and my aim was to make it feel more like an authentic Colonial, taking my cues from authentic Virginia Colonials. I love love LOVE Mount Vernon and thought about it a lot as I was designing. I’ve always loved how the formal areas of Mount Vernon have beautiful moldings and Federal details and then the more functional spaces like the kitchen house are really primitive and raw. I love the intersection of the two Colonial styles and wanted to nod a bit to both of those in the Cervones’ home so I planned to keep the front portion of the house – the living room, foyer and dining room- more formal with traditional moldings and furnishings and then let the kitchen relax a bit more leading into the family room which would be very primitive with old-feeling plaster walls, a simple plaster fireplace reminiscent of the one in Mount Vernon’s kitchen and rustic, reclaimed beams. Monticello was another inspiration for me leading to the decision to keep those bright yellow walls.
I always explain all of this to Dave and Mike but I’m not sure if they listen or just nod and smile. (Dave has said he can’t see what something’s going to look like in is head and has just learned to trust me. I think Mike generally gets it. )
I wanted the kitchen’s new white oak cabinetry to feel like authentic antique furniture and didn’t want it to have the typical factory finish. I was looking for an aged oil look. Mike developed an oil to age and protect the cabinets and I have zero idea what’s in in but we call it his “secret magic awesome potion” and I was incredibly happy with the results. (If you look closely in the photo above I gave his gloves fingernails and rings before he got on site 😉 )
I was obsessed with the antique sofa in the Cervones’ living room. They got it for free and I was dying to give it a little makeover. Paul Johnson, who makes all of our curtains and pillows peeled back layers and layers of fabrics on that baby. He also found a nickel (which I got very excited about!) in the sofa and went home 5 cents richer!
The show focuses on the construction process but behind the scenes, Dave and our Lauren Liess Interiors team had been furiously ordering products and hounding vendors to get everything in on such a short timeline. (We began ordering before we even started filming.) We found a pair of vintage leather rocking chairs and they were everyone’s favorite spot to sit- you seriously just don’t want to get up when you’re sitting on those babies. Below, we got stuck but I called “nose game” for who had to get up and he lost.
The Cervone’s were on their way to the house and -after I finally got up- we raced around the house to get all of the finishing touches in place…
It’s CRAZY to do a renovation like this in such a short amount of time and it feels SO good to be handing a home back over to your clients. But it’s also nerve-wracking because they haven’t seen what you’re going to do and you’re just praying they love it!! Dave is always completely confident they will and I get a little nervous every time…
The Cervone’s arrived after having been away from their house for 4 weeks and were understandably nervous too!! We led them to the front of the house with their eyes closed…
This is what the house looked like “before”:
They spend a lot of time playing in their front yard with the kids so we created a classic front stoop with out of brick that was made to look antique and used a pattern inspired by Old Virginia brick patterns. It’s a little dusty in the photo because it was installed the day before but they were SO into it….
Next we headed into the foyer. We didn’t do much to change it but we did do new wide plank hardwood flooring in the entire main level by Cochran’s Lumber in Berryville, Virginia made to look old which really changed the tone of the entire house, making it feel more authentic. Here it is “before”.
And here’s a (very dark- sorry!!) shot of me walking in during the reveal…
Artist Joseph Bradley generously loaned a beautiful fox painting of his for the foyer, which immediately set the tone for the warm color palette of the house. We replaced the hollow core doors with painted black wood ones throughout the house.
The living room was previously barely used by the family and housed Mike’s collection of college art and drinking paraphernalia so the Cervone’s were ready to have a space that reflects who they are now an one that they can hang out in and entertain in. Here’s what it looked like “before”:
…And here’s what they walked into…
We kept the yellow walls and you can see bits of the new hardwood flooring under the seagrass rug. The coffee table is vintage, as are the chairs, plant pedestal and redone sofa.
Some of the art in the gallery wall above the sofa is by folk artist Ann Childs. She also uses some amazing tramp art frames. An old pair of sconces grounds the arrangement of art which can be added to over time.
Here’s a still of the room viewed from the dining room:
And here’s a look at the old sofa “before:”
… and now:
Paul did a beautiful job. I picked out a classic ticking stripe that works as well today as it would have 200 years ago. I accented it with a pair of black Lauren Lauren Liess Textiles “Live paisley” pillows for a little edge. I designed the lamps with my good friend, local ceramicist Lindsey Augustine of WareClay and we’ll be selling them soon! We were so excited about how they turned out. We used the prettiest brass hardware , plugs and cloth cords.
The kitchen underwent the biggest makeover and it will truly change the way they live in the house. Here it is “before:”
And here is is on reveal day:
I truly loved Christi’s reactions to seeing her house for the first time and she had us cracking up. If you haven’t seen the episode, it’s definitely worth it!!
Mike’s secret magic awesome potion cabinets were stunning:
I decided on painted V-groove paneling for the backsplash because I wanted the house to have a sense of history and to feel warm and cozy. Tile would have been a little bit cold for what I was after. We carried up the countertop material (a dekton that looks surprisingly like actual carrara marble) behind the stove for safety and easy mess wiping. I found an old cash register (oh my gosh that thing is crazy heavy- sorry Dave!!) in the basement and I love the character it added to the kitchen. It’s right near the family room bar that looks into the kitchen so I thought it would be fun for people to play with while they were hanging out too. An antique engraving above it is lit with an art light by Visual Comfort.
This sounds weird to say but this kitchen was so touchable and textural. Everything just felt good in it, especially those cabinets!! I designed a simple stainless range hood and the CarrMichael custom made it- I love how it turned out!! We found an old copper pipe during construction and used it to make the potholder.
The kitchen more than doubled in size and, once opened up, allowed so much more light into the family room and vice versa. I love to mix metals and use them as the “color” in a space and we must have used at least six or seven different metal finishes in there.
…And finally, here’s a peek at the old family room
And here it is when we were finished:
We took down the faux bricks and the paneling and had the entire thing stucco’d to look like old plaster and added reclaimed beams for that rustic primitive vibe I was after. We continued the hardwood flooring for continuity. We used a large jute rug for softeness and layered it with a vintage yellow overdye rug. The curtains are from Les Indiennes and I loooove them. We shopping for things at one of my FAVORITE places- Lucketts Store in Lucketts VA (who is having their SPRING MARKET!!! THIS WEEKEND WOOHOO!!!) and had a great time.
We layered in vintage pieces like the pillows above, Federal convex mirror and most of the accessories to make it feel interesting and collected. We found vintage turtle shells and hung them over the sofa and a tobacco basket for above the fireplace.
People ALWAYS ask where the TV went for the reveals and they are generally safely put away in storage to be installed when everything is over. I usually recommend a location to clients and in this case I said between the windows or over the fireplace. (I think they went for over the fireplace for good kitchen views of the TV.) But for now, you have a pretty tobacco basket to look at in these photos instead of a big black screen.
Brown leather wing chairs are paired with a table that gives a little nod to the bald eagle for a little more Americana. I hung a rustic ladder for a little more of that primitive Colonial vibe.
And that is that! I hope you enjoyed the recap and if you haven’t gotten the chance to see the actual episodes, they’re available on HGTV on demand and on the HGTV streaming app. The professional photos above are by Matt Dandy.
Putting this all together was A LOT for everyone involved- our clients, our contractor and his team, our vendors, the artists’ whose work is featured in the homes, Collins Avenue, our production company, HGTV, the crew, our photographers, my team, and our family and the families of everyone involved. It was a whirlwind and there were days when we honestly didn’t know if it was going to come together in time. I truly cannot express how grateful I am to everyone involved because I know how hard it was. I’ll be working on more of these posts over the next few months but they’re coming out more slowly , taking a couple of days each to put together. I’m so glad to finally be sharing it all with you though!!! I’ll be posting links to sources in my Instagram stories too.
And, for those interested in any of my outfits, I’ve put together a shoppable collage. A lot of my stuff is old- like 5-10 years old so I’ve linked to similar items for things that are long gone, and in some cases the exact items I’m wearing. (all of the jeans are the exact ones I wore.) To shop the items in the collage, just click on the item. I used liketoknowit to make the collage and I’m unable to link to certain stores so as a heads up, my red suede sneakers that I wear a ton & get lots of questions about are by Satorison and aren’t clickable.
Thanks so much for reading!!