Floor Coverings International Cleveland East had the great pleasure of speaking with local blogger Elle of Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design. In the blog, Abby & Elle explore design, fashion, and lifestyle. We asked Elle about her recent DIY projects and design style – read on to get inspiration for projects around your own Cleveland home! You can follow Abby & Elle on Facebook, Twitter, and on their blog.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
The Abby & Elle in Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design are a mother/daughter team, born and bred in the Midwest with a love of casual luxury. Our blog is dedicated to featuring easy-to-wear fashions that look expensive but won’t break the bank and to promoting Cleveland-area independent boutiques.
We recently expanded our blog’s focus to include home design and home DIY after Laura (aka Elle) and her partner, Andrejs, bought a house together. While the house was in no means a “fixer upper,” we’ve done a lot of updating and made many design improvements.
What made you decide to start blogging?
We started blogging because we felt we had something to offer readers. People — even strangers — often comment on how we always look so “put together,” and we’re often asked for fashion advice. At first, we joked about it. And then we thought, why not? We love fashion and helping others look as good as they feel.
We decided to blog about our home renovations for a couple of reasons: one, it afforded us the opportunity to document our renovation projects, and two, we felt our work might inspire others. People with all levels of talent can take on home renovation projects. Of course, some projects are more complex than others, but we hope to inspire those who might not otherwise undertake a DIY project themselves. Plus, there are many products available now that make DIY projects easier. For example, in one post, we showed how to copper a front door using a paint kit, and the result is stunning!
How would you describe your design style?
That’s an interesting question because Andrejs is drawn toward modern, industrial design, and I prefer a more traditional, “comfortable” design – and by comfortable I mean that you have to be able to live in it and live in it safely, especially when you have little ones running around like we often do. That said, we both favor an eclectic look, so 99 percent of the time we ultimately agree on how we’re going to approach a renovation and even how we’re going to furnish a particular space, down to the lighting, without either of us feeling like we’ve compromised.
Our dining room renovation is an interesting example of this: We installed the hardwood floor ourselves. Andrejs chose the wood (maple and cherry) and the design, opting to install the field on a diagonal with a perimeter of three boards, one of which is cherry. I chose the wall/ceiling colors (hunter green, chocolate, dark pumpkin and buttercream — I generally gravitate toward warm colors) and painted the brick fireplace three shades of copper, adding another element of warmth but also the feeling of a stone/metal mix. We renovated a closet into a butler pantry, mixing wood (cabinets), stone (granite counter) and metal (penny backsplash). I decorated the walls with a mix of antique paintings and prints, along with original photos we took while vacationing in Italy. I topped it off by hanging a wine-cork ball my daughter and I made for Andrejs’s birthday a few years back.
The result is that the room has a cozy European feel and hits just the right notes when we gather with family and friends over food and wine.
Where do you find most of your inspiration?
The internet has certainly opened up endless avenues for inspiration. Just search for a term such as “hardwood floor insert,” and you can view countless images of intriguing designs.
We also have roving eyes. Whenever we’re in a commercial establishment, we’re always checking out the flooring, wall coverings, architecture, lighting, décor, building materials, and so on. We’re inspired by our travels, which not only give us interesting ideas, but also a way to “bring home” the happy memories of a trip. Houzz.com is also a tremendous source of inspiration, and I’m often digging into magazines such as Traditional Home and Elle Décor for ideas.
Finally, I believe we both have a knack for looking at something and seeing its potential. For example, when we first bought the house, we knew right away that the dining room chandelier, which looked dated with its dozens of hanging teardrop crystals, had to go. But I imagined stripping the crystals and painting it bright yellow to hang in our laundry room, which boasts a nine-foot ceiling. We essentially designed the rest of the laundry room around the fixture, and now I love doing laundry!
What’s one design or flooring trend to watch in 2017?
With allergies being more common now than ever before, many people are choosing alternatives to carpet for their home. We see a real shift toward using natural and sustainable materials such as bamboo, eucalyptus and cork. Cork, because of its soft texture, can work especially well in a bedroom. In fact, we bought cork flooring to replace the carpeting in our office, which we hope to get to this winter.
Also, time is an issue for many people, so flooring products that are easier to install but still look great, such as engineered wood flooring and porcelain tile, are trending. We’re especially intrigued by porcelain tile that looks like wood and actually installed several pieces on the wall, believe it or not, when we renovated our half bath, which one of our friends routinely refers to as “the nicest bathroom in Northeast Ohio.”
Tell us about a recent project you’re proud of.
The timing of this interview is perfect because we just finished laying the field of our deck, which we completely redid as a result of two things: one, replacing a picture window with a patio door in our dining room to lead out to the deck, and two, raising the deck about three-and-a-half feet to meet the patio door.
Andrejs insisted on installing the deck boards on a diagonal to mirror the dining room floor, which we did the same way. Of course, in the case of the deck, that meant having to install many small braces beneath the deck boards. All the deck boards are treated pine, but he used a Japanese technique called Shou-Sugi-Ban, which translates to “burnt cedar board,” for one row of the perimeter boards to give the deck a two-tone look. The technique involves charring the wood, using a centuries-old Japanese fishing village technique for preserving wood; he did it using a modern shortcut technique powered by propane. Shou-Sugi-Ban offers a dynamic aesthetic. He also burned the posts for the seating and plans on burning more to create a larger frame around the outside of the patio doors.
What words of advice might you give someone who’s embarking on a DIY project?
We are happiest when we take our time on a project because we tend to make changes as we go. (We’ve regretted some of the decisions we made the few times we’ve used contractors, mainly because we didn’t have time to think of alternatives or “what if’s.”) For instance, on our latest DIY project, we planned to create stairs leading from our top-level deck to the ground level. So during renovation, we reserved a spot for those stairs. But later, when mulling over the options, we decided to keep just one set of stairs, from the lower level, and to use the spot we reserved on the top level as an outdoor butler pantry.
In a nutshell, take your time and don’t be afraid to make changes as you go. When you’re working with a contractor, those work-order changes cost money, but when you’re doing the work yourself, there’s no penalty – only reward.
Be sure to follow Abby & Elle Upstairs Fashion & Design for more style advice and DIY how-to’s!