Cozy Marco condo got an office, extra bedroom and plentiful storage in 863 square feet
As president of American Research Company in Washington, D.C., Jeannine James spends her days crunching numbers, analyzing statistics and preparing compensation reports of CEOs.
Yet there is a budding Martha Stewart-like creative side to her as well.
James recently helped design and decorate a three-season porch and screened-in verandah to the 8,200-square-foot home outside the city that she shares with her husband, Philip.
But she is most proud of the way she converted their 863-square-foot Marco Island condo from a one-bedroom to two-bedroom and added decorating touches that make it appear even larger.
"If we had a family coat of arms, it would a measuring tape," jokes Philip James about his wife's passion for interior design.
The couple bought the condo in 2005 as a vacation retreat and selected the Sandcastle II building because every unit has a water view. They wanted a one-bedroom with a den, because Jeannine works daily while away from her office. This unit didn't have a den. So James created one by converting the bedroom closet to a second bedroom that also functions as her office.
The 7- by 9-foot space now houses a custom desk, custom cabinets, a small rolling ottoman that houses a trash can and serves as an extra seat for the condo, and a custom day bed that is 5 inches narrower than a standard day bed. At the same time the bed features underbed storage for large items such as suitcases and bedding. James had the mattress cut at Verlo, which no longer has a Naples location, but she said other local mattress stores may offer this service.
She also moved the bedroom entrance by opening up a side wall in the closet, which gives the space two entrances and a more open feeling. Another trick was to put up mirrors, so the reflections bring in the rest of the apartment to the smaller space.
The mirrors worked so well that James put one in a narrow hallway at the condo's entrance, to make that space feel bigger. But she realized that the frame made the mirror stand out to the point that people felt they would hit it. So, she painted the frames of both mirrors to match the wall colors; now they blend in seamlessly.
James says she gets inspired by reading House Beautiful, Veranda and Traditional Home magazines and going on model home tours. And though she didn't use a decorator to help with the Marco condo, she says Andrea Valdes from California Closets was extremely helpful, especially in making the best use of the bedroom space, which had no closets.
Valdes recommended building his-and-her closets on either side of the bed, with a chest of drawers on Philip's side and a vanity with pull-out seat for Jeannine. The closets have areas to hang long items, shelving and shoe racks to best utilize the space. An additional set of eight cabinets stretch above the bed. There isn't a headboard, because that would have set the mattress too far into the small room.
Instead of traditional nightstands, they built units that are 10 inches wide by 19½ inches long. And because these units are so small and won't hold a typical lamp, they used wall sconces for lighting.
When these projects were completed, James tackled the kitchen. She switched doors that swung out, overtaking the space, into bifolds that open like accordions, allowing her to work better in the areas. She added shelving in the storage closet, pullout shelves in the pantry, and wire racks in the cabinets that allow her to put dishes over mugs and bowls over dishes, so she can access what she needs quickly without having large stacks of heavy items that need to be moved. She picked a light granite countertop and white cabinets by Cornerstone to make the space look airy.
Throughout the condo, James added crown molding "to draw the eye up," she explains. The large painting in the dining area may seem counterintuitive, but James says filling that space also draws the eye up and makes that section of the condo feel like a larger room.
Because the couple doesn't live in their condo year-round, they worked on one project a year since they moved in. It helped that construction work could take place in the off-season, so it didn't interrupt their visits, and that their building manager worked with the vendors.
The elegant, beach-themed space decorated with soft pastels and neutral colors is now "a little jewel box," James says, noting that "we actually have more space than we need."
She's looking forward to relaxing and enjoying the "small space" that she made appear much bigger.
Jeannine James' expansion tricks
n Instead of a headboard, nail a decorative board to the wall or use wallpaper or paint.
n Manufacturers will make a mattress at a specified size for little additional cost.
n Use space below beds for storage drawers.
n Hang mirrors where possible to create a feeling of depth as well as for functionality. Paint the frames the same color as the wall, so the frame will "recede" and provide more depth to the room.
n A built-in chest of drawers can abut a built-in closet that has center-opening if one door is split to open above the furniture.
n In every available space, install cabinets, shelves or drawers, because storage is essential in a small space.
n In a narrow room, paint the narrowest facing walls white or off-white and the opposite wall a color, to draw attention away from the narrowness.
n Use neutral, light-colored flooring, and match rugs to the floor color.
n Furniture should do double-duty whenever possible. For example, James has dining room chairs on coasters that can be wheeled in the main living area when she and her husband have company.