This Home Transformation Revealed Something Unexpected
A basic bathroom reno turns into a whole-house refresh and the delightful discovery of bonus space
In design, as in life, isn’t it funny how something can start as one thing, transform into another and ultimately reveal something wholly unexpected? Such was the case for designer Ramey Caulkins when her neighbor from a few doors down (and, coincidentally, the brother of a dear college friend) approached her, seeking advice on a small home project.
Turns out a leak in the plumbing had wreaked havoc on their master bathroom, and rather than simply patch it up, he and his wife decided to go for a total bathroom renovation. Hoping to tap into Caulkins’ expertise (she began her design career working with tile, stone and plumbing in 1996 at Ann Sacks and seven years later opened her own design firm, Griffin Design Source), he asked her to look over a bid. One thing led to another, and before long, Caulkins signed on to a whole-house overhaul. “It really started as just helping them with a basic bathroom fiasco, as a friend and neighbor, and it rolled into an entire redo of the house,” Caulkins says.
In addition to the sparkling, new master bath, Caulkins freshened up the kitchen, dining room, living room, bathrooms and bedrooms. But the project entirely changed in scope with the unveiling of a massive loft space, all rafters and dusty insulation, hidden behind a wall at the front of the house on the upper level. “The clients knew the space was there, but they really weren’t sure to what extent,” Caulkins says. She transformed it into two sunny sitting areas and a comfy sleeping alcove, as well as a laundry room and full bath.
“It turned out to be 950 square feet of living space that became the brightest, most functional room in their house. They have all of this room to entertain friends and family, and a place where their children can have sleepovers. It has become a space the whole family uses all the time, and they love it.”
As rewarding as the work was, the most gratifying part of the project for Caulkins was the relationship that developed. “It was really fun to work with somebody I knew,” she says. “We became better friends through the process. And having your neighbors as clients is so nice, because all of your meetings can happen at off-hours.” (It helps that Caulkins’ home office is located in a little bungalow next door to her home, right down the street from her client.) “Our appointments became so fluid,” she says, “and it became a relationship where they just really trusted me with the space. I think in the end they were so excited and surprised with the way it turned out. They’ve actually found themselves entertaining more, which is the greatest compliment—that they are so proud of the space because it feels like such a reflection of their family. That’s really at the heart of my decorating.”
Dining Room Caulkins transformed this underutilized space by adding layers of details to the homeowners’ dining set, mirror and rug. The dining-room chairs were reupholstered with nubby, easy-to-clean fabric from Kravet. A showstopping, painted-metal light fixture from Caulkins’ inventory, found at a vintage store in Florida, highlights the space. Curtains custom-made from plain, inexpensive linen, paired with panels of Sister Parish fabric in the Waldingfield pattern, frame the sunny bay windows.
Kitchen “We just did a pick-me-up in here,” Caulkins says. Working with the existing cabinets and granite countertops, an inexpensive matte-bronze backsplash from Ann Sacks was installed. Brand-new Viking appliances complement the existing space-saving chrome pot rack above the island. Counter-height stools upholstered in Peter Dunham fabric from Lee Industries create a comfortable space for cooking and hanging out. The colorful rug, a vintage find from Caulkins’ inventory, tops the warm-wood floors and coordinates with the colors of the dining room.
Loft Caulkins decorated the loft space using a mix of purchased items, pieces collected over time in her sizeable inventory and the clients’ existing pieces. “I like layers and eclectic combinations of materials, so that everything doesn’t look store-bought,” she says. Caulkins custom-designed the sofas for the space and added throw pillows covered in Schuyler Samperton textiles and a Peruvian throw available through Griffin Design stores. Aztec carpeting grounds the vintage green-leather ottoman, bought at a going-out- of-business sale at an L.A. design store. Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace eggshell paint on the walls and semi-gloss on the trim keep the room light and fresh. In the adjacent sleeping alcove, simple linens by Serena & Lily cover affordable Ikea trundle beds. On the floor is a simple sisal mat, also from Serena & Lily.
Master Bathroom The master bathroom underwent a total renovation. Bateig Blue limestone tile from Ann Sacks frames the sunken tub, which features a chrome Waterworks faucet. Bright, cheery wallpaper from Krane Home makes for a whimsical accent wall, offsetting the funky angles of the architecture. An armless slipper chair, upholstered in a simple, natural linen by Lee Industries and accessorized by a sassy zebra bolster, creates a cozy sitting area. The vintage rug was purchased in NYC. “It’s an unexpected bathmat,” Caulkins says, “not just your typical white terry cloth—it’s sort of something else.”
Front Porch Designer Ramey Caulkins relaxes on the front porch of her clients’ home with their dog Bluebell and neighborhood children. The entire exterior was spruced up with fresh paint from Benjamin Moore: Minced Onion on the body and Chantilly Lace on the trim. The front door was treated to the high-gloss finish of Sherwin-Williams Tempe Star.