A Picture-Perfect Breakfast Nook
Photographer Christina Wedge takes pictures of gorgeous interiors for a living, but until recently her own home was a far cry from being camera-ready. While the majority of her 1920s cottage is colorful, eclectic and feminine, the breakfast nook had been stuck in what she calls “house purgatory” for years. The old plaster walls were crumbling, the linoleum floors had come up, and the single bulb fixture supplied almost no task lighting at all. Christina was eager to ditch the room's war zone past for cover-shot status. She called up her carpenter friend, Chris McClellan, who suggested the two barter services. She would professionally photograph his home if he would whip her place in to shape. It was a win-win situation for both.
For years the photographer would do most of her photo editing while sitting on her living room sofa. "Not only was I scared to actually eat in the breakfast nook since it was falling apart, it was in such disarray that I couldn't concentrate on my editing work," Christina says. "With my business currently growing at the speed of light, having a serene place to start the day off, then kick it into high gear with my photo retouching sessions was a must."
Christina and Chris both agreed that the room had tons of potential. The arched entryways could become true show-stoppers with a little TLC; natural light streaming in from two adjacent areas would illuminate the editing station; and the backdrop wall in the breakfast nook could easily become a showcase for a collection of vintage cameras. She thought the biggest challenge would be repairing the unsightly walls, but a drywall replacement is fairly easy. It can be messy, though.
To make the space 100 percent Christina-centric, Christina got a designer pal to help her decide on the flooring and paint finishes for the room. The photographer would throw out some of her favorite ideas, then rely on the decorating pro to fine-tune them. "I knew I wanted something underfoot that was linear and low-maintenance but never in a million years would I have thought to use modular carpet tiles," Christina says. Carpet tiles were a great choice, not only because the finished product looks gorgeous, but because using them saved more than $1,000 in labor costs which would have gone to cutting, installing and grouting a ceramic tile floor. Shades of powder-blue and chalky-white tiles were installed for a look that is easy to change as year go by.
Bright and Cheery
Photographer Christina Wedge was inspired by functionality and bright colors in her newly updated breakfast nook. The space was previously in tear-out condition. By bartering services with carpenter Chris McClellan, she was able to outfit the space for three uses: as a breakfast nook, a post-production work space and as a display area for her vintage cameras. Previously colorless, she was also set on bringing in coral and powder blue into the space.
Crumbling and Cluttered
In its previous state, the breakfast nook's plaster walls were starting to crumble, the linoleum floor had almost completely come up on its own, and it had absolutely no storage. Wedge would continuously stack her photography supplies on the floor, keeping the space in a constant state of clutter.
Soft Blue and Coral Jewel
To put her home's architecture to good use, she used the archway as a division point between the breakfast nook and the photo editing station. The walls in the workspace were painted Soft Blue and the walls in the breakfast area were done in Coral Jewel, both from Porter Paints. This would allow each area to have a slightly different feel, almost giving the illusion of two separate rooms coordinated with complimentary color schemes.
No Space for Collectibles
For years she has been collecting vintage cameras from the 1950's and 1960s but lacked a proper way to showcase them. When deciding on the new look for her breakfast nook and studio area, she was determined to come up with a cost-effective display idea to use them as a focal point.
A Sophisticated Showcase for Cameras
In order to showcase her vintage cameras in a sophisticated, architectural manner, Wedge consulted with her carpenter friend. Since he had to remove the old plaster and sheet rock anyway, he suggested they simply incorporate recessed alcoves in between the studs. To create each alcove, 10 inch boxes made from sheetrock were fastened in between studs with screws, framed out using 1X3 MDF, then given a display ledge also made from MDF in a 1X6 size.
Functional with a Mid-Century Feel
When choosing the lighting source for the newly revamped editing space and breakfast nook, Wedge wanted to make sure the new fixtures wouldn't distract from the view of her camera showcase wall. The best solution was a four-globe pendant made of clear glass and chrome. The globe pendants provided more light and introduced a mid-century feel. The rods are adjustable and can be heightened or lowered to sit exactly where the photographer wants lighting.
Bold Patterns for Seating
As far as seating was concerned, she wanted to introduce a graphic pattern through cushion upholstery, one that wouldn't compete with the camera display wall just a few inches away. "By choosing vintage white fiberglass chairs which you can almost see directly through, then simply using a bold pattern on their seat cushions, it allows the pattern and focal wall to exist without competing," Wedge says.
Powder blue and chalky white colors of FLOR tiles were installed in a style called "Toy Poodle" to soften the overall area and help delineate breakfast nook from post production work space. This cost effective product allows her to change up the look as the years go by. "Right now I've got the colors separated and solid, but later on I can change it to a stripe or checkerboard pattern," Wedge says. "The photographer in me is always thinking about changing up spaces for sets and backdrops." The product is easy to install (all you need is a utility knife and a level), and this project only took Wedge two hours to complete.
The breakfast nook previously had no storage space whatsoever. With everything stacked in boxes next to and on top of the dining table, it was nearly impossible to find anything quickly. To add custom storage without breaking the bank, Wedge picked up a desk from a flea market then had a friend spray it with lacquer in a coral color.
The photographer does a lot of her own prop-styling and will often return home after a hard day's work with leftover items from her photo shoots. "One of the best benefits to my job is coming home with pretty flowers that end up in bud vases on my desk or as centerpieces in the breakfast nook,” Wedge says.
Since her personal collection of framed photography is ever-evolving, it would have been impractical to hang each piece on the wall, then constantly shuffle each one around. For a more versatile display method, she decided to showcase framed images on open kitchen shelving meant for cups and glasses. The depth is perfect for leaning framed images against the wall and layering.
Configuring the Two Attached Spaces
Christina knew she needed a round table to maximize seating in the breakfast nook and saw only one possible place for a desk in the photo-editing space. Finding that perfectly scaled desk was the only challenge. The solution? A 1950s flea market find which she had re-finished in a glossy coral lacquer. The one big configuration challenge was spacing and layout for the vintage camera display wall alcoves. After Christina removed the old drywall, he found that the studs were randomly spaced, some three inches apart, others 12. This meant placing the alcoves was going to be tricky. "We had to get really creative with placement which became a game of mathematics and angles," Wedge says.
Staying on Budget
A budget of $2,500 required the photographer and carpenter to save wherever possible. Drywall, electrical supplies and molding quickly added up to $500. With $2,000 left to put in a new floor, add seating, install new lighting and design a well-organized work-space, it was a stretch. The saving grace for the project was Christina's barter with Chris. With 100 percent of the budget going toward materials, she didn't have to spend on labor. As a tradeoff, she even helped pitch in with the messy stuff, "As of today, I can officially say I have installed drywall and even mudded seams," Christina says. "I wouldn’t necessarily like to ever do it again but at least I can say I did it!"
Now that the project is complete, the homeowner finds the vintage camera display wall to be the star of the space, constantly receiving commentary from guests. The new editing station is more efficient for getting images finished and out the door and the colorful breakfast nook has her inviting nearly everyone she knows over to eat. “I’m no longer ashamed of the area; I want everybody to see it," Christina says. "And they can actually eat it in now, safely. Who knew?" With an original design, perhaps the photographer will soon be giving her interior designer clients some decorating tips.