In a perfect world, Candace Griffin would be sipping her morning coffee in a newly renovated kitchen, before getting ready for the day in a sprawling walk-in closet. “But with our life, that just wasn’t practical for us,” she says. The Evanston, Illinois–based interior designer and her wife, Pippa, welcomed their first child, Quincy, just eight weeks ago, so turning their new home into a construction zone—no matter how badly the entire space needed updating—wasn’t an option for the couple. Instead she focused on a few smaller projects that wouldn’t disrupt their day-to-day lives: creating a cozy breakfast nook, making over the living room, and building a dedicated bar where they can whip up a cocktail or two once Quincy is down for the night.
Before diving into the design of each zone, Griffin brought in a crew of painters to give the home’s dated, dark trim a crisp coat of white. (In the case of the small TV room off the kitchen, the doorframe was swathed in black for a modern punch.) Given the woodwork was everywhereand hiring professionals is no cheap thing, the process took around six weeks to complete. “I’m still a little triggered by it,” says Griffin with a laugh.
Griffin started with an unexpected source of inspiration for the main living room revamp: the Shinola Hotel in downtown Detroit. “I really wanted it to feel like a lounge; a place to have a cocktail or movie night,” she says. Because the room is so big and flooded with natural light, she took a gamble on a moody wall hue called Scattered Showers by Sherwin Williams.
“It’s definitely a deeper color, but it doesn’t swallow the room,” she notes. She layered in black drapes and mounted the brass curtain rods a tad higher than customary to create the illusion that the ceilings are even higher than they already are.
Because the ceilings in the main living space are so high to begin with, Griffin’s best option for storage was to go custom. Plus the designer wanted plenty of doors to conceal all the new baby toys. Opting for bespoke millwork allowed the designer to do things like angle the end of the built-in so it “doesn’t feel like you’re walking into a bookcase,” she suggests. “It still feels open.” Griffin solidified her investment by adding two Kelly Wearstler gallery lights and slatted wood detailing so you barely notice the TV.
While Griffin is patiently waiting for the day they can renovate their main galley kitchen, adding a bar off the dining room was totally doable in terms of the budget (the designer went with affordable black Shaker-style cabinets from IKEA). To jazz up the stock cupboards, she had her carpenter add long slabs of wood around the sides and top to make them appear truly built in.
Then they lined the backs of the glass upper cabinets with thin wood veneer and tucked a wine cooler behind one of the lower doors, the ultimate party trick.
Lastly, Griffin found a local artist who was able to give the mirror backsplash a smoky, antique finish. “It’s across from a window that looks out onto a tennis court, so it’s nice to see the activity outside,” she says of the reflective material.
The breakfast nook is already a high-traffic area, and will only become more popular once Quincy is older. The granite-top table was already there, but the designer swapped out the old bulky base for a simple bistro-style version so that everyone can admire the fresh seating arrangement. While the custom fluted wood bench fits perfectly in the corner, Griffin left it freestanding instead of attaching it to the walls. “For resale reasons mostly,” she points out. “Someone else might not want to use that space in that way.” A graphic yet neutral wallpaper makes the dining spot feel special and also highlights the now painted trim work.
Griffin opted for easy-to-clean, faux leather cushions with her daughter in mind and they’re coming in handy already. “Our dog loves getting up there and looking out the window,” she says with a laugh. “The nook is now for her. It’s her favorite little spot in the house.”