Today I'm chatting with Linda Merrill of Surroundings
. Surroundings is the official blog of New England Home
. Personally, I never leave Logan airport without a copy of that lovely glossy to enjoy on my flight.
I first met Linda when she was blogging for Bravo's competition reality show, Top Design
, and it seems I run into her on the web everywhere I go. You can also find her chatting up a storm with Megan of Beach Bungalow 8
and Joni of Cote de Texas over at The Skirted Roundtable
(their most recent interview with Stephen Drucker, the Editor-in-Chief of House Beautiful
, posted this week. Be sure to check it out).
Linda's blogging grew out of her interior design business, Chameleon Interiors
. She lives in Duxbury Massachusetts, a lovely, colonial coastal town located about halfway between Boston and Cape Cod. She has completed scads of cosmetic
renovating, as well as a recently completed kitchen overhaul. Her story is also a great lesson in looking beyond a real estate listing that only shows a bad picture of a front door!
Please tell us about your “first meeting” with your house.
I was condo shopping and I'd originally passed on looking at this place because the only photo the real estate agency had was a bad photo of the front door. It didn't seem like the kind of place I wanted to live, so I didn't look further. But a few weeks later, I was driving by and stopped. The homeowners association keeps everything very woodsy and naturalistic, with lots of beautiful flowering trees. It was spring and I was hooked.
What was the very first step of your remodeling/decorating process?
The condo was very dated - terrible wall to wall blue carpeting, nasty dated lighting. The first thing I did before I moved in was replace all the flooring. Cherry stained oak in the living room/dining room, black and white checkerboard in the front hall
and kitchen, Berber on the staircase and in the bedrooms.
Please tell us about the biggest renovation/decoration challenge you faced.
The high ceilings are a big challenge. They are 16' at the peak. The biggest job I took on was my recent kitchen renovation - repainted all the cabinets, scraped popcorn off ceiling and painted it, added recessed lighting
and beadboarded the walls. I've also been working on a 360 degree mural in the front hall for over six years and it's still not done!
Do you have a favorite style / color combination?
Green has always been my favorite color. I was doing green and deep red, but now I'm mostly pink and green.
Where is a favorite spot in your house that makes you happy?
Any room that's completely finished. My bedroom makes me very happy. The new kitchen will.
I never thought about it like that - you are so right - I don't think any room in my house is really ever "completely finished" and it prevents me from relaxing!
What is your most precious piece (accessory/furniture/art)?
An antique desk that my late father found for me when I was in elementary school and refinished to go with my bedroom. It's been with me in every apartment/condo I've lived in.
What is your next house project?
Finishing my mural. It's theme is the "secret garden" and is on four walls in my front foyer which is also the stairwell
to the lower level. At its tallest, the ceiling is 24 feet.
We will look forward to seeing it when it's complete!
Please give us your best tip for the remodeling/decorating beginner.
Take your time and really think about what your goal is. Don't just buy individual items, but really think about their usefulness and functionality and how they fit into the big picture
. Measure twice and be patient! And don't forget that you can always sell or donate that which is no longer useful.
What is your favorite source for home decor (Etsy? flea market? grandma's attic? Fyndes?)
I love hand-me-downs and much of what I have came from my family. Second hand stores are great as well. And, of course, I've done Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn and similar places.
What is your biggest design pet peeve?
Cheap furniture that people think of as "throw away". Spend a little more and expect to hold onto a piece of furniture
for a long while. It's better financially in the long run, better for the environment and one's own health! Cheap furniture falls apart quickly and has been treated with pesticides that can be harmful.