My Reno Reveal in Washingtonian

Well, this was nerve-wracking. But before I get to that, here’s the good news: My editor at Washingtonian Magazine asked me to record a renovation diary for the changes we’ve made in our house since we moved in last year, and it leads the Home section for the August issue, which just came out!

Three cheers go to photographer Stacy Zarin Goldberg and Washingtonian Photo Director Anna Marina Savvidis for making our house look so good.

Now, here’s the nerve-wracking part: The assignment included listing all the costs involved with the renovations. I’ve been writing about homes for years, and this has always been a touchy subject among the homeowners I interview. When I need to include budget in a story, I always feel icky for having to ask people for their numbers. Now I know how it feels to be on the other side of that request!

But here’s the thing. It’s important for those interested in renovating to know how much the project is going to cost—especially if you use a professional designer, like we did with Aidan Design. They can literally make your home magazine-worthy. More to the point though, you know you’re getting a beautiful space and top-quality products that will stand up over over the long haul. We’re not going anywhere anytime soon (we were in our previous house for 17 years), and because I work at home and spend most of every day here, having beautiful, inspiring surroundings was really important to us.

So here you go: The kitchen cost just north of $100,000, and smaller renovations to our library, powder room and basement brought the total to about $140,000. We were lucky, because we did extremely well in the sale of our previous house, and we had enough in proceeds (plus some raiding of savings accounts for unexpected work along the way), to cover the cost.

The story is not yet online, but if you happen upon the print edition, you can see all the details—including the headaches, the surprises, and the best “bang” for our bucks—in my diary.

In the meantime, here are images of the finished project. Stacy was kind enough to send me images that were not included in the magazine—in addition to the ones that were.

This is a portrait of me and Jim at our 12-foot island, covered in luscious Taj Mahal quartzite. A special thank you goes to John Smith of Willem Smith, whom I got to know when I worked at the Washington Design Center and who now runs his furniture store in Fairfax, near the Mosaic District.

I’d spent months looking for counter-height stools, going through so many websites it made my eyes cross. Then I got an e-blast from Willem Smith about its line of stools, and we drove out to take a look. We fell in love with the Pacifico Stool. We chose from dozens of leathers and finishes for the stools that are made to order, and we’re crazy about how they turned out. John has these stools in his own home, so it’s quite a testament to how comfortable and attractive they are!

Nadia Suburan at Aidan Design (Aidan is Nadia spelled backward, by the way), drew up the plans with her talented team for this galley-style space in the family room, which used to look like this:

Special thanks to Megan Padilla, Kelly Emerson, and Nadia’s brother Richard Suburan who guided us through counter selections, for all their work on this space! I especially love the mini-subway tile in Calacatta Gold marble, the sleek cabinetry by Wood-Mode’s Brookhaven division, and the floating shelves that the team had fabricated from old wine barrels.

I feel really lucky to live in a home with so many huge windows that look out to the trees. (The previous owners had the house built by Deck House in 1990.) The kitchen design fits seamlessly into the architecture. I was also thrilled to find the Large Cuff pendant by Hubbardton Forge (available locally through Ferguson)—the style and finish looks like it was made for this space.

Upstairs in our library, we were faced with a room so big and so empty that I was paralyzed as to where to start. But thanks to my best girlfriends—who happen to be interior designers—this is what we got:

Thanks to Julie Weber of J.D. Ireland for initially telling me that this space would benefit from floating shelves wrapping the entire room. She had that vision when she visited this bare-boned space right after we moved in, below. (And kudos wouldn’t be complete without thanking Dana Tydings for having the gorgeous scarlet-patterned accent pillows made by Susan Pilchard and her workroom!)

Next, I owe a debt to Victoria Sanchez, who said this was really two rooms in one. There is a large space behind the sectional, which now serves as a study and seating area.

Just to the left of this corner is a long balcony overlooking the foyer/dining room. We found two vintage leather armchairs, which we placed at the balcony with a floor lamp and a large pouf. Victoria told me it would make a great spot to read while the boys are watching sports in the seating area above. I do find myself there quite often, reading or talking on the phone. As I write this, Jim is sitting at the desk above, working on his laptop.

Another thank you goes to Andrea Houck, who told me to choose a textured vinyl paper for these walls so the books and record albums wouldn’t scuff it. She was absolutely right. And if you’re wondering, the desk chair above is from Willem Smith and the amazing Pelle table lamp is from West Elm. The painting is by my great grandmother!

Now for our tiny powder room, which got a huge burst of energy from this wallpaper with a birch-tree design. Huge thanks to paper-hanger-extraordinaire Michael DiGuiseppe, who also hung the wallpaper in our library.

We kept the Ikea mirror—the only thing the space had going for it—and got this cool vanity from Overstock. But in addition to the wallpaper, I’m most in love with the U/2 sconces from Schoolhouse Electric. They add such a great vibe to this space! This was an unexpected project, but I quickly got tired of what was there before:

In the basement, we had to do a lot of boring-but-necessary things, like put in a new French drain and backup sump pump. But in the process, we decided to replace the naked light bulbs (that you turned on by pulling a string) with proper lighting, cover the concrete floor with tile, and turn some of the 1,000 square feet into usable space along with the storage we have down there.

The former owner left his pool table to us, so that gave us our opening. Then, after painting the cinder-block walls and the ceiling rafters so the space would look crisp, Jim and the boys hung up their sports displays. I rather like how it all turned out!

Dominion Electric provided the basement lighting and the cabinet lighting in the kitchen, along with the under-shelf lighting in the library. And Hernan Sales and his team performed all the construction—a referral through Nadia. I hope I’m not missing anyone, but when I say this was a total team effort, I mean that none of this could have been done without a whole lot of people. Thank you, everyone!

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  1. Jennifer Sergent says:

    Thanks for the affirmation Quintece — it’s like going to confession!

  2. Jennifer Sergent says:

    Thanks Joanie!

  3. Jennifer Sergent says:

    Gloria, you’re the best, thank you!

  4. Jennifer Sergent says:

    Thank you Judith, really appreciate it!

  5. Jennifer,
    You are one of the smartest people I have ever met! Being honest and open about your renovation will inspire many to work with a professional to achieve such a beautiful spaces like these. Bravo to you and all the design professionals you collaborated with! Thank you for sharing.

  6. Pretty darn cool, Jen. Love how all the pieces work together. Love the birch tree wallpaper, the lighting throughout, and the kitchen looks fab. What a project! Great job, and thanks for sharing!

  7. Gloria de Lourdes Blalock says:

    Jen, it looks divine!!!
    You’ve come a long way baby!
    So happy I was able to tour it “before” the renovations. I’m sure you cringed at stating the budget, but it’s worth every penny and your finishes are stunning.
    May you and your family enjoy it for many years to come

  8. Congratulations!!!! It looks phenomenal. I love the place you found to hang your special painting!

  9. Gorgeous and love the resources shared!