One freezing cold January, Vicky and Marinique Dabissiere visited an uninhabited house in Queens, New York, after receiving a call from a former client. Her parents had bought an older house, and the client wanted the sisters of LaVie Design to bring it into the 21st century for them. When Vicky and Marinique crossed the threshold, they discovered a house stuck in the 1970s. Mirrored walls loomed all around. Layers of dust covered the wood floors, parts of which needed serious repairs. The old cracked plaster walls were painted a shade of white that had obviously lost its umph over the decades. As you’ll see, this talented design duo turned the neglected 1,438 square-foot New York house into a traditional, but unexpected refuge that exceeded their clients’ wants and needs.
Vicky says: After touring the first floor, we asked the clients about their design style and tastes. The wife, who was at first hesitant, eventually voiced that she liked prints and that while she liked color, she tended to gravitate towards earth tones. She described her style as traditional, but not too traditional. The husband’s main wish was that the family room be “comfortable”. We had four weeks to work with their contractor before the family would need to move in. That is no time in the design world! As we sketched, photographed and measured the space, we could see that the rooms had great bones and underneath the layers of dust and years of neglect, there was indeed a hidden treasure.
The clients were originally from the Caribbean, so we chose to interpret the island feel through color, fabrics and accessories. We painted the living room walls in Benjamin Moore’s Leisure Green. The only moldings in the room were those that accented the walls, and they were caked with decades old paint. We all liked the visual interest they provided to the walls, so we had the contractor replace them and paint them in Benjamin Moore’s White Dove. The moldings certainly help the mother of pearl mirror and black/amber accent chest pop against the possibly overwhelming green walls. Since the clients decided to forego installing central heating and opted to keep the radiators original to the house, we painted those the same color as the walls so they would seamlessly disappear into the background. (On the right in the top photo.)
When it came to the lighting in the living room, in addition to the wall sconces, the space needed more central lighting. Rather than adding wiring to the ceiling for a chandelier, we had the electrician install an electrical socket in the floor in the center of the room for side table lighting. This gave the clients the option of turning on only the table lamps for a more intimate mood.
Windows filled the very small family room. The abundance of sunlight played off the beautiful green and cream print fabrics we made into wall coverings. However, the sized of the space presented a serious design challenge: create comfort with out it feeling cramped. The clients had stressed that they wanted a desk for their computer and personal bookkeeping. They also wanted the use room for hang out in and watching TV. We chose a deep-seated sofa in caramel-colored twill that could seat four people comfortably. We selected the brown leather tufted ottoman, because it could be used for additional seating or serve as a table. Double-duty pieces are a must in a small space. The straw-colored black-trimmed sisal rug on the wood floors, along with Benjamin Moore’s Pale Sea Mist help to further infuse the space with an airy and light feeling.
While we embraced soft color schemes throughout the house, the dining room is the homage to the wife’s love of earth tones and prints. The Mannequin Cream walls help offset the brown wood furniture. The drapery fabric, appropriately called Cayenne, adds just a hint of spice to the space. We upholstered the dining room chairs in three different fabrics to provide some interest and flair in the room.
I felt confident that Marinique and I successfully brought out the best in this hidden treasure when we caught a glimpse of the wife sitting at the foot of the stairs, reveling in her surroundings. When searching for a home, don’t be afraid if it doesn’t appear perfect at first sight. Sift through the home’s bones. Take note if you find wonderful touches that you can capitalize on. You’ll have something no one else has if you give something dusty and dingy a chance.