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.
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.
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