Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sarah's House 4: Entrance, Kitchen, & then Some

This week Sarah and Tommy shared with us how to make a long lasting first impression and a builder's kitchen that fits for an A-list chef!
Episode 3: Entrance, Mud Room, & Powder Room

When building a home from scratch, many of us focus our attention to the kitchen, bathrooms, and the Master Bedroom. One room we often neglect is the entrance and it is the space that sets the tone for the rest of the house! In this episode, Sarah and Tommy showed us how to create a lasting first impression, a show piece powder room, and a practical yet very attractive mud room with $15,000 of upgrades.

First off the entrance, let's check out the flooring plan:

True to Sarah's signature style, natural stone was selected for practicality and a sense of luxury, and hardwood was installed throughout the main floor for uninterrupted flooring flow. And here is the furniture layout. Love the idea of having two benches for a symmetrical look and having a dynamite high back upholstered chair next to a stunning sideboard.

Here is how the plan comes to live!

Tip 1: No faux!

When it comes to choosing durable and attractive materials for the entrance, Sarah and Tommy always favour natural stones. In this case, a beautiful natural stone in shades of cream and grey made the cut for a delicious color scheme that is also low maintenance. It is the first material your guests experience and you definitely don't want anything faux! One important thing to keep in mind, stone is a natural material and therefore it comes in slight color variation even from the same batch. So talk to your suppliers to see if you can order a little extra and lay them out on site to make sure you have enough tiles with minimal color variation.

Tip 2: Side Board over Console

When you have an entrance that's over 200 square feet in a grand Georgian style home, you can afford to place a beautiful sideboard, instead of a console (which most people use in front hall), for personality and a whole lot of storage. For $4,000, this gorgeous sideboard adds warmth, charm, and luxury to this builder's home.

Tip 3: Don't Settle with Basic

The baseboard, door casing, and crown moulding are often on the "thin" side and not speaking enough volume for the grandeur of a spacious period inspired home. For a small investment and lots of attention to detail, Sarah and Tommy upgraded all these architectural elements and the visual interest is phenomenal! I live by this rule and actually installed a 6" high baseboard in my own condo.

Tip 4: Patterned Powder Room

Who says wallpaper shouldn't be installed in a powder room? If you pick a paper with heavy pattern, it is actually more forgiving when it comes to hiding soap scum. Check out the drama and impact from this cheerful birdie wallpaper! Powder room is often small, so be brave, be whimsical, and treat it like a jewel box.

Love the shell mirror, full height drapery, and that vintage Moroccan shelve! Small investment but wow, what a difference!

Another tip I picked up is installing tongue and groove panelling in the mud room. Mud room is the perfect space for hooks and it is far more secured to installed hooks on wood than drywalls. Install the wood panels for up to 48" in height and top by a chair rail, you've got yourself a practical solution to stand up against daily abuses and an opportunity to use yet another color on the upper part of the wall!

If you are tight on upgrade budget, take the builder's basic stair and spindles but customized them for a designer's look with paint and stain. To up the cozy factor in the long entrance, Sarah painted the front and back walls in warm grey to contrast against the creamy side walls. The area rug is to die for and I've used it in my nursery project too!

Episode 2: Kitchen

Wow, what a kitchen!! Sarah and Tommy spent almost $30,000 of their $100,000 entire upgrade budget in this kitchen. Afterall, it's the most important room of the house and so a fair chunk of the budget should go toward making this kitchen a showstopper! Here is the floor plan for this kitchen:


By flipping the kitchen with the family room, Sarah was able to create a spacious kitchen and a much better traffic flow for the main floor.

Loving the idea of using grey in the kitchen. The pale grey looks amazing on the cabinets, while the darker grey gives the island its stately presence. This grey kitchen is light and airy during the day but loungy and cozy when the light is dimmed. What an ingenious idea and a quick tip from Sarah: if you selected a custom color, check your cabinet before installation. It's far easier to have them re-sprayed while they are still in the shop.

This island is equipped with everything you can dream off: a drop-down cabinet for bar sink and wine fridge, a raised bar for casual dining (and hide all the mess), and a spot to house the microwave. This island has it all!

Who says big lanterns can't be used as pendants in a kitchen? If you have a large kitchen like this one, you so can install a pair for personality and drama. Not to mention ambience in the evening.

Loving the fabric scheme in this kitchen. My favourite pop flower as back cushion, grey and cream floral as window coverings, polka dot on bar stools, and ikat/stripe as durable seating ... there's always something to learn from Sarah!

Really, who doesn't love a eat-in kitchen? Sarah combined my ideal kitchen plan with my favourite faux bamboo chairs!

 Tips from Sarah to save on upgrades:

1. Stick with basic faucet: changing a faucet in the future is easy and you may be able to find designer faucet at fraction of the cost on clearance.
2. Honed your granite: black granite can be spotty and well ... a little shiny. For a small upgrade, you can hone your typical granite and the end result is a soap stone look-alike (a much softer charcoal grey) that work perfectly with the grey cabinet.

3. Baseboard on island: you will probably only noticed the baseboard on your island. Taking baseboard off the base cabinets save you thousands!

4. Pick your knobs: they are the jewels of the kitchen and so if you don't like what the builder offers, pick your own and have them installed later. Just make sure the holes on the cabinet work with the knobs of your dreams.

Do you like the pendants and the chandelier Sarah got for the kitchen? Well this consignment store also carries a few items from Sarah. This week I'm sharing with you the Liza stool I found a couple of weeks ago.

image via Sarah Richardson Design

It was used in Sarah's own cottage and I absolutely love the cheerful fabric. For only $234 (after a couple of price drops), it is now part of my SR collection!

Thanks HGTV Canada for the amazing pictures!  Also thanks Pam for the amazing source guide for the first impressions and the kitchen.  Can't wait until next week to check out the making of the dining and family room.  You can also read about the living room and Sarah's buying tip here.


  1. Thanks for the low-down. It looks like Sarah and Tommy are making magic again this season (down here in the U.S. we'll have to wait awhile to see it). Sarah definitely has a way with kitchens. I don't think she's done one yet that I don't care for.

  2. So funny, we watched the same show but picked up on different details. That Sarah is full of good ideas! Cute bench, Tim.

  3. I love this show! And definitely Sarah's talent in seeing the space and envisioning how to best use the space! Can't wait until next week for the dining room and family room!

    @Jen: I know! So interesting how you picked up different things than me while watching the same show!

  4. I found through aDesign dock and saw the beautiful nursery you designed. It's the perfect gender neutral nursery and just great - great work! And oh how I love Sarah and Tommy - I'll have to catch up on more of your Sarah recaps.