Designer Lookbook: Jessica Helgerson’s Authentic Mid-Century Remodel

When Portland interior designer Jessica Helgerson faced the daunting task of renovating a mid-century treasure, her first question was: “What would Saul do?”

The residence in question, the Feldman House, was designed by local architect Saul Zaik in 1956. The wood-clad home, which features a sensationally low-slung gable roof and floor-to-ceiling glass walls, was suffering from a bit of an identity crisis: The kitchen with cheap white laminate cabinets had been raised so it was not level with the adjacent floors, and the ceilings in the bathroom were taller than in the master bedroom.

And that was just the beginning. “There was a real disconnect between the front and the back of the house,” Helgerson recalls. “The living room was lovely and relatively unchanged, but the back of the house got progressively funkier.”

The interior floor plan, which had been altered over the years by a series of misguided remodels, lacked cohesion and seemed to detract from Zaik’s original vision – an experimental but harmonious marriage of indoor and outdoor spaces.

Helgerson made it her mission to be authentic to that vision, “to use materials that felt of the area” and make it feel as if the home had not been remodeled. “We weren’t slavishly recreating the past,” she says, “but we really were trying to think about the vintage of the house, and the goal of the house, and to be respectful of that when we were designing.”

A significantly different plan

Presented with three design plans, the young family who had purchased the home decided to go with “the most significantly different plan, which was the one we were advocating for,” Helgerson recalls.

That meant replacing the wooden shelves that had been removed from the living room wall, adding new windows, and overhauling the kitchen with new birch cabinetry and a custom screen that mimicked the original front door.


A mud room, which solved the problem of a front door and garage door that met in the same spot, was later added, along with a carport entry.

As the family oversaw the progress, Helgerson studied up on the little details that characterized Zaik’s work – his use of brass, and how his doorjambs climb past the doors, then meet a panel. The family room, which had an awkward post in the middle, was ultimately shrunk back to its original size, which in turn allowed the master bedroom to be relocated away from the noise of the children’s bedrooms. Speaking of those bedrooms, all were resurfaced to be in sync with the rest of the house.

“We don’t try to put our stamp on it,” Helgerson says of the vintage home remodels she tends to take on, “but then I hear, ‘Gosh, I can tell it’s one of your projects.’” This time, the original architect might disagree.

Get the look at home

  • Hire a professional. Renovating a vintage home is “tricky, and not everybody gets it,” says Helgerson. “We see a lot of funny stuff.”
  • Hold back a bit. “Some restraint is a good thing,” says Helgerson, who aims to have all the materials she’s picked for a home “fit into a really small bin, and all look good together when we dump it out.” Even for a really big house, “ideally the palette is consistent enough that it all looks nice.”
  • Embrace the space. “I advocate for letting spaces be … what they are,” says Helgerson, who doesn’t believe in painting a dark basement “sunny yellow” or trying to create a moody room in one that gets a ton of natural light. “Let spaces speak to you and dictate what they want to be.”


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Designer Lookbook: Jessica Helgerson’s Authentic Mid-Century Remodel was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home


Designer Lookbook: Urban Dwellings’ Breezy Maine Remodel

Only one thing really mattered to the young family who tapped Urban Dwellings, a New England design firm, to upgrade their late-1960s ranch house: killer views of the water.

“They were living in a house that was very dated, and views were blocked at all possible points,” recalls founder and lead designer Tracy Davis, who spent eight months on the project. The goal was to bring the view inside and make the Cumberland, ME home feel more modern.

The sprawling two-story property, which sits on an inlet, had great “bones” to start with, but the exterior and interior needed an overhaul. “We replaced almost all of the doors and windows,” Davis says, and they expanded several small rooms as well.

With the aim of bringing the outdoors in as much as possible, the living room now features two doors that slide open, allowing people to survey the view from the wraparound deck.

Beneath the deck, the team added a covered area for rainproof entry into the home. Just beyond is a guest bedroom with an en suite bath and media room. And around the corner, one floor under the kitchen, another covered area beckons people to eat by the pool looking onto the water.

The home’s exterior, with its clean horizontal lines, is decidedly of the moment, and there’s no denying the appeal of the wide-open kitchen. Fully remodeled, from the baseboards to stainless steel appliances, it features a sizable island with sleek walnut accents – reminiscent of what you’d see on a boat, Davis notes – applied in a slatted pattern to reveal shadow lines. Deep white cabinets keep clutter at bay, while the walnut shelves allow the couple to display their collection of cake stands and stemware.

Facing the kitchen is a large dining area, where a group of pendants in different sizes and shapes hover over a long wooden table. “The whole space was designed to be open, so it was inherently airy,” Davis says of the section, which leads to the deck.

The same can be said of the living room, which they sparsely furnished with a locally made driftwood table, a sea foam-colored couch, and a pair of Risom-style lounge chairs. No photos or art are visible, and the tall, slanted ceilings seem to reach to the sky. Like the dining area, its dramatic views of the water provide all the character necessary.

“We didn’t want furniture that would block the views or create conflict with them,” Davis says. Nor did they want to distract with color.

“This was a unique opportunity for a full house renovation because it was so broken up,” Davis continues. “The views should have been more a part of the living environment, and they just weren’t.”

Take the full tour:

Get the look

Inspired by Davis’ design? Here’s how to achieve a similar look in your own home.

Borrow from your environment
Because the home is near water, Davis selected muted blues and natural materials to make it feel as though the environment is seamlessly interacting with the interior.

Don’t overhaul it
Reworking the concept of a home is perfectly fine, but strive to keep its integrity, Davis advises.

Hire the pros
“Spend the time and money up front to get professional assistance,” says Davis. “There’s so much value that our trades bring to projects that you, as a do-it-yourselfer, may not be aware of.”

Mix it up
“A combination of styles just feels fresh,” Davis says. “Here, we incorporated contemporary with a bit of ’70s style.”

Photos by Trent Bell


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Designer Lookbook: Urban Dwellings’ Breezy Maine Remodel was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Create a Chef-Worthy Kitchen Remodel for $50,000 (Or Less!)

For those who love to cook, a gourmet kitchen is the dream. However, unlike a living room or bedroom, this space is much harder to remodel. Kitchens can’t be rearranged at whim, cabinets can’t be easily changed, and counters — well, there’s very little you can do to hide 1980s laminate countertops. (Their existence is proof that not everything comes back in fashion.)

But don’t shelve your dream just yet. It’s possible to get a luxurious look for under $ 50,000, which is close to the average price spent on a budget kitchen remodel. We asked designers where they’d splurge, where they’d save, and other projects to consider for a space worthy of your culinary creations.

Before you start: Know thy space

“Design your kitchen for the way you live 90% of the time,” says high-end kitchen designer Karen Williams. “Not the holidays or a visit from the in-laws.”

She ranks the overall layout as the most important element in a kitchen renovation. “Good design is good design. A proper prep center, cooking, and cleanup [space] is essential.” So before you get carried away on Pinterest, think more about the layout that best suits your daily habits rather than, say, Gwyneth Paltrow’s.

Making a list of your main concerns will be invaluable for efficiently communicating with a designer. “Share your ideas and priorities by listing them top to bottom,” says Sandra Brannock, principal at Expert Kitchen Designs. “Listen to the kitchen designer and ask for clarification if you are unsure about the design direction. If it is suggested something you want is not cost-worthy, listen and heed this advice.”

Where to splurge on your kitchen remodel?

Stained wood cabinets gourmet kitchen

Cabinets: estimated cost of $ 20,000–$ 25,000*

“The materials you choose for the kitchen cabinets will define the style,” says designer Natalie Kraiem. “If you are going for a modern look, I love to use high-gloss or matte lacquer or frosted glass in a solid color. If you want to achieve a richer look, then go with wood veneers. You could use laminates for a similar but less expensive look.”

Lifestyle also plays an important role in selecting materials. “Cabinetry will endure the most abuse, so look for all-plywood construction along with a superior finish and top-notch door and drawer hardware,” advises Brannock. “Your investment will require 20% to 30% more upfront, but the obvious return will be realized five or more years later when your cabinetry looks and feels as great as when it was first installed.”

Brannock has a few recommendations if you’re looking to trim costs: “Opting for cabinets with MDF construction will save you approximately 12%. Oak, knotty alder, and hickory are no-upcharge wood species that will save you 6% to 22%. Consider high-pressure laminate for a contemporary look.”

Appliances: estimated cost of $ 10,000–$ 14,000

Obvious as it may be, quality appliances are key to the gourmet kitchen. Kraiem likes side-by-side refrigerator and freezer models that offer custom panel options, which can blend in with your cabinets for a seamless look. A high-end dishwasher is also a luxury worth looking into, especially if it also offers the custom panel option. Hoods can be customized to suit the overall design.

If you’re currently using an electric range, don’t worry about converting to gas for a pro-caliber kitchen. Instead, replace the old stove with an induction model. “There are many high-end professional kitchens using this marvelous method,” Brannock says. “It is instantaneous, efficient, and also minimizes the extra heat generated in a hardworking kitchen.”

Luxe details

Accessories have a big impact in a kitchen. “I like to splurge on hardware,” Williams says. “It should look good to the eye and feel good to the hand. You see it and touch it every day.”

Expanding storage options

Clutter can cramp the style of even the fanciest kitchen. However, you’ll want to go for storage options that suit your kitchen.

“Extra deep drawers can be a blessing or a curse if not thought through for one’s individual needs,” Brannock says. “If incorporating them, consider a smaller hidden drawer above them or a narrow partition to house smaller items such as lids or food processor accouterments so all the space is utilized. These drawers add $ 200-plus each but are totally worth it.”

She also says that shallow-depth base cabinetry (13 to 18 inches deep) is especially cost-effective and can fit most people’s storage needs.

Where to save on your kitchen remodel?

Gourmet kitchen with white cabinets

Backsplash and countertop: estimated cost of $ 7,000

Renewed interest in marble means other natural materials can be found for a bargain. “With the popularity of white marble right now, granite may be a good choice. The marble yards have an overstock of the material and are usually offering to make a good deal,” Karen Williams says. “Stay with the softer, neutral tones so your kitchen won’t look outdated.”

Additionally, new designs in porcelain present another cost-effective yet stylish option for counters, floors, and other surfaces.

Since a backsplash tends to cover a smaller space, it’s easier to cut costs here. “I tend to like to use the same countertop and backsplash material for a modern look. In this case, quartz is great because it doesn’t stain or get damaged easily,” Kraiem says. “I also like to use frosted glass or stainless steel for a unique look that’s not so expensive.” For more traditional kitchens, a tile or mosaic backsplash is the most budget-friendly option.

Flooring: estimated cost of $ 2,000

Your flooring is a big element of your kitchen, so it can have a big impact on overall style. “For example, with floors, 24-by-24 or 24-by-48 large porcelain tiles in a concrete or minimalist color will ‘speak’ to those who walk on them as highly sophisticated,” Brannock says. “Another option is wide and random-width hardwood flooring such as fumed white oak for a rustic yet timeless elegance.” But the square footage here is probably less than in other areas in your home, so it’ll be less costly than, say, redoing the floors in the living room.

Miscellaneous “extras” like faucets, sink, and garbage disposal: estimated cost of $ 1,000–$ 1,500

While these smaller elements play an important part in the function of your kitchen, they aren’t as noticeable, meaning you can get away with budget-friendly options. “Focus on the look and quality without splurging,” Kraiem says.

*Costs were estimated by designer Natalie Kraiem and are based on a 10-by-10 kitchen. Of course, your costs may vary depending on individual design choices.

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Featured East Metro Atlanta Homes

Create a Chef-Worthy Kitchen Remodel for $50,000 (Or Less!) was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

How to Keep Kids and Pets Safe During a Remodel

When it comes to remodeling, safety is a priority. Power tools, piles of dirt, plastic covers, holes and more beckon to children as their next play area, and pets are simply curious what that new thing is. It can be very easy to turn your back for one second and have something go wrong, so here are some tips to keep your family safe during your next remodel.

1. Talk to Your Contractor and Family

Talk to your contractor and establish the following:

  • Work hours
  • Who will be in your house
  • When they’ll be in your house
  • Who will have access
  • Make sure they take their tools and materials at the end of the day

In return, tell the contractor how many children there are, who is mischief prone and if you have any pets. Introduce your whole family to the contractors, subcontractors and foremen so they’re not startled seeing new people in the house. Don’t count on them to keep the primary watch, but it’s understandable to ask contractors and workers to keep an eye out should your children or pets wander into an unsafe area.

Just remember that the contractors are not babysitters. Similarly, children will then know it’s ok if a worker comes into the house to turn off the electricity, for example.

Child Safe Zone During Remodel

2. Establish Safe Areas

The best way to keep your kids safe is to establish boundaries with the construction site. Make sure they know the area is off limits, and if your kids are particularly rambunctious, maybe add a buffer zone. Teach them to never touch the building materials or tools, and show them where a safe play area is.

For your pets, set up gates where possible. If not, keep them safe in a familiar room, crate or backyard and be sure to give them extra attention so they don’t feel threatened by the changing environment.

These are just two main precautions to take during a remodel. Make sure that your contractor takes necessary measures to do the work safely, such as setting up plastic sheeting, ventilating the area and containing hazardous materials. But on days that seem especially hazardous, if they’re using extremely toxic materials or heavy equipment, consider getting your family out of the house for the day.

Dog in Crate


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How to Keep Kids and Pets Safe During a Remodel was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

10 Tips to Avoid Getting Burned by a Kitchen Remodel


When it comes to making magic happen during a kitchen remodel, there are oodles of options you can cook up. Which means there is a lot that can go wrong.

Before you take the hammer to your old kitchen, read these 10 tips to avoid getting burned on a kitchen remodel.

1. Don’t overspend

Consider the market and decide whether a low-, medium-, or high-end kitchen remodel makes the most sense. Costs can run the gamut from $ 2,000 for a simple paint-and-hardware upgrade to $ 50,000 if you’re installing expensive countertops and luxury appliances.

Evaluate neighborhood comps to keep from overspending (or underspending). You may not get your investment back installing travertine in your tiny starter, and let’s face it, you’ll never see Formica in a high-end home. So check out for-sale properties in your area before shelling out for high-end upgrades.

2. Avoid an identity crisis

Don’t try to remodel a ’50s ranch-style kitchen into a contemporary cooking space. All homes, however humble, are built in a certain architectural style. Work with it, not against it. Otherwise, you’ll spend too much money and time on a complete overhaul, and you’ll likely end up with a kitchen that looks out of place.

3. Keep the plumbing where it is 

Moving water and gas lines to reconfigure sinks, ovens, stoves, or dishwashers is extremely costly, especially in older homes. So keep any pipe-connected elements where they are — and keep some extra cash in your pocket.

4. Watch out for the wrong floor plan

If you do have the budget to rearrange appliances, make sure to keep your floor plan in mind. Does it follow the natural triangular traffic pattern between the refrigerator, stove, and sink? Is the dishwasher next to the sink? It should be. Otherwise, you create a mess every time you walk across the room with a dripping dish in your hand.

5. Don’t trash existing cabinets

If your old cabinets are quality wood and still in good working order, you’re in luck. This is one of the first things to check when sizing up a pre-remodel kitchen, since cabinet frames are the most expensive component of the entire space.

It’s quite simple to give salvageable cabinets a face-lift. Three common ways to repurpose cabinets include: adding new doors and drawer fronts, relaminating fronts and sides, or repainting.

6. Never DIY spray paint

Have the cabinets cleaned and lightly sanded, then hire a professional painter to spray them. Don’t try to DIY this one; a couple of cans of spray paint from the hardware store just won’t do the trick. A professional spray job can make ugly cabinets look factory-new. You can’t get the same look by painting or rolling the cabinets yourself.

7. Don’t scrimp on new hardware 

Home remodeling superstores carry a great selection of door hardware. Choose knobs and pulls that complement your architectural style, and don’t cut corners. It’s like a nice piece of jewelry — an added touch that makes the whole outfit (or room) work.

Don’t forget to remove and replace any old, painted-over hinges with shiny new ones. It may be time-consuming, but it’s very inexpensive, and it makes a huge difference.

8. Take advantage of free advice

Check out large home improvement centers for free, computer-based design services that help lay out your kitchen. Their professionals are at the leading edge of today’s decorating trends, and their services include one-on-one client assistance as well as in-home consultations, complete project management, and installation services.

9. Don’t mismatch appliances 

When buying new fridges, ranges, and dishwashers, stick with the same brand. Fortunately, appliance manufacturers have begun creating good-looking, low-priced lines with matching sets — giving your kitchen a designer look for much less. With a little research and some smart shopping, you can find affordable appliances that look very high-end.

10. Don’t forget to budget for sinks and fixtures 

Get the best possible faucet, one with a pullout spray attachment or a gooseneck with detachable head. It’s a necessity — and the difference between good and great is only $ 50 to $ 75. Stick to one consistent fixture finish since mixed finishes can look patchwork.

What’s the one thing you’ve done in a kitchen (past or present) that really gave it that “wow” factor? Share in the comments below!

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10 Tips to Avoid Getting Burned by a Kitchen Remodel was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home