Last week, I had the pleasure of delivering a house-warming gift to dear clients who had lost their home in the 2017 wildfires. They had made a quick decision to rebuild and took action right away.
With a combination of diligence and happenstance, they were able to move into their new (and improved) home 18 months and five days from the day of the fire. (This is not to make those who did not decide or act quickly feel badly. You faced countless factors and nearly all were out of your control.)
What was my gift? A pair of bowls hand-molded by Napa ceramicist Sarah Brown. They’re shallow enough to be used as platters and also dishwasher-proof. I mention these bowls to plug Napa’s Open Studios. Had I not attended last year, I would not have discovered Sarah. So, in thinking about a gift, I remembered that she made pieces in the perfect aqua-teal color that my clients and I used in their house. We chose it as an accent in the otherwise black, white, and natural, cerused-oak color scheme. The bowls would fit right in.
I also visited another client, Brenda. We were doing a final walk-through of the master bedroom and bath addition in her Novato home. To my surprise, I was the one receiving a gift. Brenda explained that the design of her suite would have taken a different direction had she followed the original plan.
This explanation could get a little dicey. There are, indeed, architects and general contractors who think about the interior design, decorative details, and functioning aspects of their projects. They have one or more designers on staff who develop a cohesive plan. Brenda’s architect and contractor did not have such a support staff. Their focus was on building compliance, timelines, and budgets. This was not a bad thing except that Brenda knew she was missing out on design opportunities. That’s when her sister, my friend, stepped in to say, “Call Patti.”
Before looking at the plans, I asked Brenda why she was adding the suite. She said that her house was small and all the rooms in it were small. She wanted a space to relax in, stretch and read. She wanted a view of her backyard garden because all other windows pointed to the streets. She wanted her suite to look and feel like a fancy hotel.
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With this in mind, I traced over her plans with these changes: I added a pair of French doors that opened to her backyard, re-oriented the bed to face the garden, and relocated the closet in order to make room for a comfortable reading chair and ottoman (which would also face the garden). Because Brenda’s job requires a lot of reading, I wanted her to have a good chair instead of reading in bed. Now knowing where the furniture would go, I adjusted the lighting plan. We also chose the window and door styles based on the draperies and shades we had in mind.
The bathroom also needed changes. Brenda is 5 feet, 10 inches tall. The drawing called for a narrow 5-foot tub. The space was so tight that it would have to be a stand-alone tub, which Brenda did not want. She wanted to soak and look out a window, which needed to be added to the plan.
I suggested that we choose her tub, sinks, and light fixtures as soon as possible. She responded as most clients naturally would, “It’s too early.” I explained that the size of the tub would determine the length of the vanity, the sinks would determine the size and configuration of each cabinet within the vanity, and that the placement of the sinks would determine the size and quantity of mirrors, light fixtures, and towers (shallow cabinets that sit on top of the vanity).
It’s never too early to make decisions, especially before concrete foundations are poured, plumbing lines are installed, and electrical locations are in place.
Because Brenda stayed one step ahead, she was able to take full advantage of the design opportunities she had feared losing.