Design Solutions: Rearrangement and Color Refresh a House

Ellen Miller
Written by Ellen Miller
Updated March 20, 2017
The living room was the starting point for the redesign of a 13-foot-wide Baltimore row house. (Photo courtesy of Mary Yeager)

Hot pink, gray and turquoise were part of the transformation at a narrow Baltimore row house.

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Lindsay Porter wanted to redecorate the first floor of her Baltimore row house on a budget, but a bigger obstacle lay in the space itself, which was as long, narrow and open as a bowling alley.

Porter struck out with the first professional she contacted. “The initial  interior decorator wanted to use all these expensive fabrics, do everything custom and only use certain stores. She just wouldn’t work in my budget,” Porter says. “So I went on Angie’s List to find someone.”

She found her answer in the collaborative, cost-conscious approach of highly rated decorator Mary Yeager, owner of Singular Design Interiors of Parkville, Maryland. Porter was delighted by a photo on Yeager’s website, depicting another row house.

“There was a hot pink couch and a tiger rug,” she says. “It was just so crazy and I loved it.”

row house, pink wall
Don't be afraid to use a pop of color in smaller rooms. (Photo courtesy of Mary Yeager)

Yeager left her first visit to the 1900s-era house with a Porter-approved palette of pink, gray and turquoise, and initial thoughts on how to bring definition and style to 13-foot-wide, 75-foot-long area.

“The major challenge was to bring connection and flow between the various functional areas,” Yeager says. “I suggested we move the dining area closer to the living room. This eliminated a huge dead space. With spaces now delineated, we needed to furnish and accessorize.”

For the living room, which Porter envisioned as a reading spot and conversation area for informal entertaining, Yeager started her design from the floor up.

“I suggested a patterned geometric rug in gray tones and Lindsay found one she loved. I also suggested a turquoise geometric or floral pattern for upholstered slipper chairs,” Yeager says. “But where was the pink? The search was on for a small, hot pink furniture piece to anchor the corner of the space and provide some storage. Lindsay found a cabinet in the perfect size, shape and color.”

Client legwork cuts costs

Having clients do as much online and in-store legwork as they’re willing to do is one way Yeager keeps costs accessible. “I bill by the hour. If I have to get in my car, it’s $75 an hour. If it’s something I can do without leaving my office, I charge $60 an hour,” she says.

Porter says she enjoyed being part of the process. “I would send her links of furniture and accessories I liked, and she would help me narrow it down.”

Yeager says the process works well for her. "I can almost always say 'no' from a picture, and see if it’s a strong 'maybe' or a 'yes.' That saves me from having to run around, which costs money, and also gives them a personal investment in the project.”

For the dining room, there was less to buy, since Porter kept her black table, chairs and mirror.

“Our major design decision was centered on lighting. We needed something really special over the table,” Yeager says. “The table is quite long, as is the space, so a linear fixture seemed the logical option. Lindsay fell in love with an amazing crystal stunner and it was installed to be reflected in the center of the mirror.”

Yeager proposed a wine bar area near the kitchen. Porter bought a large server and a rug for the space. “This would create an additional gathering spot when she entertained and would define the function of this piece of real estate,” Yeager says.

The final design challenge

Yeager stresses that decorating is a process, and that she understood the final design challenge only after new furniture and accessories were in place.

“The space looked like a bunch of disjoined, albeit lovely, vignettes in a bowling alley,” she says. “We needed to designate areas and break up this long expanse.”

Yeager says her solution tested Porter’s trust. “I suggested we paint the walls hot pink in the bar and dining areas,” Yeager says. “Lindsay needed faith, but she found it and moved forward. And suddenly there was ‘wow.’”

Porter acknowledges her doubts. “I told her that the hot raspberry pink was crazy. But in the end, it ended up looking very nice,” she says. “I get a lot of compliments.”

As for the cost, Porter says her decorating budget started at around $5,000 but she ended up spending about $7,000, including about $950 for Yeager’s services. It was worth it, Porter says. “I bought a really expensive chaise and a chandelier, but those are the best pieces.”

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on April 3, 2013.

What else would you do to freshen up your space this spring? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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