Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Design Tragedy on the Golf Course: Before, After... and After Disaster

This is what my client's husband's home office looked like when I first laid eyes on it in the summer of 2008.  It's located in the walkout basement level of a magnificent custom home in an exclusive country club community.  My clients chose this home because of its breathtaking views of both the golf course and lake, the floorplan and layout of the home, and the impeccable quality of construction and materials used throughout the home.  However, they hated the previous owner's taste in window treatments, such as this vinyl vertical blind wrapped in beige polyester chiffon that reminded my client of "wadded up pantyhose."  Most of the light fixtures and ceiling fans in the home seemed to have been someone's temporary solution rather than a deliberate choice, such as the builder grade white ceiling fans in this room.  Recent retirees, my clients were combining the contents of two previous homes, one in the United States and another in Singapore, and brought with them a unique collection of Asian antique furnishings and art as well as more traditional furnishings, like the solid mahogany desk in this photo.  My assignment was to help the clients make everything work together with new light fixtures, new wall and ceiling treatments, and to design one-of-a-kind window treatments and custom throw pillows for every room in the home. This client was a geologist, so instead of the usual "decorative accessories," this home, and in particular this man's office, was accessorized with museum-quality displays of sculptural fossils, geodes, and enormous gemstone specimens -- to say nothing of a lifetime of mementos and souvenirs collected throughout his career, family photos, and personal papers.

This is what my client's office looked like when I'd finished.  It was the first room I worked on in their home, the very beginning of a project that I worked on continually for at least a year and a half.  The solid granite coffee table in the foreground was hand-picked by my client because he loved the stone.  The armoire on the right is a hand-carved, solid teak Asian antique.  My cornice is upholstered in a menswear inspired silk woven fabric from Beacon Hill, and the multilayered rectangular upholstered pieces on the face of the cornice combine the drapery fabric with a solid black silk/linen, an "X" of Kravet feather braid trim, and a wrought iron pyramid medallion at the center.  The tall, dark cabinet behind the chair is another priceless Asian antique. 

...And THIS is what that same office looks like today, after an electrical fire that started in this room a couple of weeks ago.  The whole wall of window treatments, as well as the windows themselves, are completely gone, as are the silk oriental carpets, all of my beautiful pillows, the hand-carved figurines...  It was so hot in this room that the granite coffee table exploded, but miraculously, the solid mahogany desk protected the important papers filed in its drawers.  Although the doors were closed and the blaze was contained in this room, temperatures exceeded 700 degrees Fahrenheit and the air conditioning was running full blast, blowing smoke and soot through all three stories of the home.

This photo shows an area just outside the office -- taken before the fire, obviously -- at the base of an open circular staircase that functioned like an enormous chimney in the disaster.  I designed the quilted silk cushion and custom throw pillows for this teak bench to complement the handmade silk carpet you see here as well as some antique Indian textiles that were displayed on the wall above (not visible in this photo).  The fabrics are a silk woven from S. Harris, a wool/silk Schumacher, and an embroidered linen Saree Stripe from Schumacher that was also used to cover seats on some teak chairs that aren't in this photo.  All of the pillow and cushion trim is 100% silk from Vervain.

It was so hot that ceiling can lights melted and dripped liquid plastic all over the silk cushions -- that stuff you see in the picture that looks like a giant bird poop is a melted can light. 

This is how the basement game room looked when I first saw it, in the summer of 2008. 

Here's that same room again, in January of this year.  This was one of my favorite spaces in the whole home. The only thing I wanted to change was the stark white ceiling -- and I was working on that before the fire.

This is a closeup of the stunning Lee Jofa upholstery-weight graphic woven fabric we used for the cornices and the silk velvet drapery panels with beaded metallic trim from Kravet Couture.  This is the room with the largest television and best setup for movies, with a secondary kitchen area, a wine cellar, powder bath, and full-sized dining table that you can't see in my pictures.  It was a fabulous space for entertaining, and contained some of the client's most contemporary furnishings.  This was a space casual enough for three generations to relax and play in together, yet formal enough to serve as the backdrop for a catered New Year's Eve party.  Sniff, sniff...

So here you see the lovely game room as it looks today.  It's not that the camera was out of focus, by the way -- there was an incredible amount of lingering smoke and soot in the air when I went through the house with my client and her insurance adjuster to assist with documentation of the loss.  The ceiling isn't white anymore; it's streaked with oily soot, as are the walls and everything else throughout the entire three-story home.  The dark spots you see on the ceiling are burn marks made by the drywall nails due to the extreme heat of the fire.

You can really appreciate how much soot is on everything in this photo.  The two lighter rectangular areas on the wall were covered by artwork.  All the carpeting in this room has been ripped out, the windows across the back wall and all of the drywall, every light fixture, the draperies, and every stick of furniture will need to be replaced.  The whole kitchen area on the other side of the room needs to be ripped out and completely rebuilt as well.  Almost everything on this floor is a complete loss, and it looks like 50-75% of the contents on the main floor will be lost as well, including the kitchen cabinetry and all of my drapery treatments.  Notice how I say "my" draperies -- of course they belong to the client, but it's just devastating to see so much hard work literally gone up in smoke.

So, that's why my blog has fallen silent over the past few weeks while I've been meeting with my client and her insurance adjusters and working on replacement quotes for everything that was destroyed.  My client loved everything I did for her and wants almost everything exactly the way it was before, which is such a wonderful compliment, but some several key fabrics and a couple of trims have been discontinued with no stock available, and I'm going to have to find substitutes for those.

The silver lining to this story is that no one was hurt in the fire and the clients had updated their insurance coverage and documented the contents of their home just the previous year under the advice of their financial planner, so they will be adequately compensated for their material losses.  The moral of this blog post is to take the Boy Scouts' advice and BE PREPARED!  If you haven't done so recently, give your homeowner's insurance agent a call and check to see how much coverage you have for the contents of your home.  Most policies base the contents coverage on a set percentage of the value of your home.  If you have a great deal of expensive electronics, artwork, antiques, or anything else that might push you above that number, you can purchase additional coverage to make sure you can put your home back the way it was in the event of a fire or other catastrophic event.  It's also a good idea to go through your home with a video camera or take still photographs documenting the contents of your home room-by-room and store that information in a safe deposit box or with a relative so you can prove what was in your home if you ever suffer a loss like this one.


Ivory Spring said...

Oh my goodness... I am so sorry that the fire happened!

Thanks for stopping by.... I will try to get a photo up for you with the supreme slider. Basically, you just place it on the sliding bed machine on your Bernina. I quilt on a 640E, but hope to be able to afford an 820 soon. :) When I get my 820, I will keep my 640E for machine embroidery because the 820 doesn't come with the machine embroidery module.

Unknown said...

I really loved what you had done with that LL game room... I can't wait to see how you bring it back to life. You're so very talented.

Rissi Cherie said...

Good advice, Rebecca, about documenting the contents of your home.
You did a great job decorating those rooms. No wonder your client wants you to do it again.

Anonymous said...

Loved those window treatments! Especially his office! I did something very similar for a client several years back. Birds of a feather.....great taste.

Rebecca Grace said...

I'd love to see your photos!