Inside A Bold Massachusetts Home Makeover

Designer Sara Story helps her sister redefine her space

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Melanie Acevedo

Designer Sara Story helps her sister redefine her space

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Melanie Acevedo

One of the perks of having an interior designer for a sister is that if you invite her over for lunch, she just may decide to redo your entire home, gratis. At least that's what happened to Lisa Story. When she, husband Phil Kaplan, and their two children moved into their Connecticut house, the drab, heavy interiors practically reeked of the 1970s. Though Lisa didn't love the way it looked, she admits she would've spent years "slowly muddling along. I can see a picture in a magazine or catalog and know what I like, but I find it difficult to deal with a blank slate." Her sibling , on the other hand, barely made it through the meal.

In this photo: Blue and white pillows and a custom roman shade (made with fabric) reinvented this entryway as a real destination.

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Melanie Acevedo
Before: Living Room

"I would've ripped everything down the first day!" says Sara of the pink metal blinds, tired wallpaper, and light fixtures "straight out of Long John Silver's." (Lisa's response? "I kept those blinds up as long as possible, just to torture her.") Instead, Sara devised a four-month plan: Some of the changes—new floors throughout, updates of the kitchen and bath—qualify as true renovations, but most required little more than wallpaper, fabric, and paint.

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Melanie Acevedo

In the renovated family room, new window seats also function as storage for blankets and toys. A sectional sofa by mingles with a denim-upholstered seat and a coffee table from .

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Melanie Acevedo
Before: Kitchen

Sara and Lisa retained the room's basic floor plan to avoid the expense of moving plumbing and gas lines.

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Melanie Acevedo

Cabinets: Sara banished the awkward upper cabinets—and dated wooden valance—from the wall with a pass-through window. She replaced the rest with sleek custom units and got rid of the hulking island.

Counters: "We went with CaesarStone, because it's more durable than marble," says Sara of the stain- and scratch-resistant surface.

Walls: Who says a kitchen must have a backsplash? Not Sara, who scrapped the bricks and installed plain Sheetrock, painted white.

Sink: The sisters' parents bought Lisa her stainless steel appliances by and . But her favorite update? 's apron-front sink.

In this photo: Sara (left) and Lisa share a laugh in the much-improved kitchen.

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Melanie Acevedo
Before: Family Room

Sara made sense of the den's narrow, bowling alley-like space by dividing it into two distinct areas in the renovation.

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Melanie Acevedo

Floor: Laid in a pattern of concentric squares, tiles help differentiate the two zones. The material's also far more practical than the old parquet and carpet.

Wood trim: 's French Gray lightened up the dark ceiling beams, window frames, and door.

Window treatments: Roman shades—in fabric by —introduce a cheery hit of blue.

Chairs and tables: When Sara redid her own place three years ago, she put these chairs in storage; now, coupled with a coffee table, they work like a charm in Lisa's house.

Wall art: Rustic nesting tables and a vintage biology chart lend natural flair.

Bright idea: No need to go whole hog with patterned fabric. Sara limited this print to a just-right stripe.

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Melanie Acevedo
Before: Dining Room

A wallpaper swap—and some savvy catalog shopping—dramatically changed the tune of this space in no time flat.

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Melanie Acevedo

Walls: Sara chose 's Chenonceau paper because it feels both modern and old-fashioned, with a pattern reminiscent of traditional paper-cutting. "It's so bold," she adds, "that you barely need art."

Chairs and table: A round table by softens the room's right angles; 's white bentwood chairs provide contrast. A sideboard from pairs with a $10 tag-sale mirror.

Window treatments: The old curtains were the home-decor equivalent of a dowdy skirt that hits midcalf; new floor-length, linen drapes "give off a relaxed elegance," says Sara.

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Melanie Acevedo
Smart Storage

Lisa nabbed the hutch on a Texas antiquing trip, and the art at a Paris flea market.

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Melanie Acevedo
Before: Bedroom

No major construction was necessary here. Sara and Lisa made a world of difference in this dated room with fabric, wallpaper, and furniture placement.

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Melanie Acevedo

Bed: The sisters reupholstered the orange headboard in 's gray cotton twill, then moved the bed to a different wall, where it now sits between two sunny windows. Seema Krish pillows and an antique quilt from Laura Fisher top the bed.

Nightstand: An bureau—which Lisa covered with wallpaper by —serves as both a bedside table and a spot to store everything from socks to magazines. The ceramic rooster lamp is a vintage find.

Chair: "I scored this at a tag sale for $10," Lisa says. "Of course, I had to pay $400 to have it upholstered."

Window treatments: Sewn from linen, the roman shades add subtle pattern.

Bright idea: Transform a dresser with wallpaper instead of paint.

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Melanie Acevedo
Before: Bathroom

As in the kitchen, the sisters steered clear of major plumbing work by keeping the room's layout the same.

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Melanie Acevedo

Floor: Moroccan cement tiles, from Artesana Interiors, almost read like a fine rug.

Walls: Ditching the sponge-painted effect for 's penny tiles delivered "the biggest impact per square foot. But it was also the single most labor-intensive project in the house," says Lisa, who left the job to the pros.

Fixtures: Sara swapped out the dated vanity for a classic pedestal sink; an efficient commode by replaced the old water-wasting toilet.

This story originally appeared on

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