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A Clean Slate

Published by Catherine Nguyen

We sold our house! Let’s face it, buying and selling a home is a stressful, exhausting experience, but crossing the finish line feels exhilarating. Now that Jeremy and I are preparing for our move, a flood of memories is rushing back to me, becoming even more vivid after I recently photographed our home for Walter magazine. I have photographed countless homes for the art and culture magazine for years, bringing readers into the impeccably designed spaces of owners who graciously share their style inspirations and the designers who bring those ideas to life. Turning the lens on my own space was truly a full-circle moment for me, in fact, the title of my November feature is “Full-Circle Style”

Photographing my own home was vastly different from creating images for the listing. It’s a lot like a commercial fashion shoot vs an editorial feature. One sells clothes while the other tells a story. For our home in North Hills, the story (or rather the story behind the magazine feature) begins with the iconic and ubiquitous Sherwin-Williams wall color named Agreeable Gray. We were fastidiously involved in the design process of our townhome, working closely with the builder to select paint colors, cabinets, appliances, and fixtures that were both stylish and cohesive; the result was a classic, modern colonial design consisting of a light, neutral palette complimented by sleek, contemporary finishes. Agreeable gray was featured prominently throughout. 

When we moved into our completed house in 2015 it was a clean slate; easy on the eyes, tastefully done, yet vaguely unresolved. Something was missing– we needed to coax out our individual style using design elements that would put a unique stamp on the place. 

One design spark that ignited this transformation was a marbled Feizy rug I picked up on Gilt; its soft tonal gray lines were punctuated with golden yellow veins running through it. After my friend Caroline Lizarraga visited us in 2016, she sent me a painting that hangs over our mantle in the living room where the rug resides (Caroline also painted our bedroom walls that I shared with you last month). The abstracted cloud forms in hues of blue, gray, and white are bifurcated by a single yellow horizon line that evokes a stormy sunset at dusk. Over time we slowly transformed our living room from agreeable gray into a moody mix of dark hues, anchored by Benjamin Moore’s Kendall Charcoal which is offset by luxe, metallic, furniture finishes in bronze and silver. Through this design evolution I started to think of color and texture much differently, and from there we transformed our white kitchen, painting our cabinets a deep shade of charcoal containing purple undertones in a Benjamin Moore paint shade called Baby Seal Black.  

Another early project that inspired additional room makeovers in our home was a powder room refresh inspired by a silver on silver geometric York wallpaper pattern I found with my cousin at Allen Funk’s Wallpapers; we paired the art deco design pattern with a silver beaded edged, beveled oval mirror. These two small design changes made a massive impact on the space, taking it from greige to glam.  

What I loved most about looking through the final spread in the Walter article is that every bottle, print, painting, and light fixture reflects our shared passions and conjures special memories of collaborating with a community of designers who helped us pull together this incredible space. Our bar area is a beautiful example of this process. During one of her visits with us from San Francisco, Caroline planted a seedling of an idea to transform a corner coffee nook into a bar. This led to interior designer Lauren Burns who designed the space and commissioned craftsman Jim Koger to create a custom bar dedicated to my husband’s love for mixology and my collection of vintage champagne coupe glasses. This was one of the last projects we completed before putting our house on the market and I am going to miss it tremendously. The Walter Magazine article is truly a love letter to the creative village that I’ve cultivated over the years. Trust and communication are the foundation of the relationships that I hold dear. 

A clean slate is a fresh start–an opportunity to listen, observe, and create room for growth. That fresh start can be a color, an item of importance, or a state of mind. Sometimes it takes an important look back in the rear-view mirror to see how far you have come; that perspective will prepare you for the journey ahead.  

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