Roughing It

Retro Microwave

Shortly before I was born, Mom and Dad decided to upgrade and expand our kitchen, which was very small at the time for their growing family of four, soon to be five, children. Together Mom and Dad had designed the Cape Cod style house during WWII while Dad was serving in the US Navy and then built the house several years later after he was discharged, doing most of the work themselves. While the main floor and second story were still being finished, they moved into the unfinished basement with my oldest siblings where they “roughed it” for the next few months until the house was completed. Dad always described that time as “roughing it,” and while it probably was difficult at times (more so I am sure for Mom and Dad,) it was mostly remembered fondly rather than negatively by the family. Years later when Mom and Dad decided to expand the kitchen, they once again had to set up a makeshift kitchen in the still unfinished basement and “rough it.” My sister remembers cooking and eating dinners there in the basement with our parents while helping to plan and design the kitchen upstairs. This was well before the age of kitchen designers and home improvement shows. The ideas were all their own. Dad once again did all the work himself. He fit it in whenever he could, between shifts at his job or on his days off. Everyone was looking forward to the new modern kitchen! It was a kitchen design that would be ahead of its time.

Fast forward xx years, more than I care to count! We are remodeling our kitchen in our Cape Cod style house and are now “roughing it” in the basement. We are fortunate to have a finished basement and comfortable surroundings, though it is a bit of a challenge to prepare meals without a “real” kitchen. I’ve got my two burner Coleman camp stove and cute little new retro microwave. It is true that everything old is new again. I am reminded of my family all those years ago “roughing it” in the basement. They survived. They actually thrived. Mom and Dad, are you smiling at us and remembering too? 

Demo Day!

Kitchen Demo

After a couple of years of planning off and on, the kitchen remodel has finally begun! The cabinets came out gently. The tile floors, not so gently. In this time of COVID, we are living, working, and going to school among the chaos of construction, or deconstruction at this point. Packing up the kitchen and improvising a temporary set up in the basement was tiring enough, but we are also having hardwood floors installed on the main level. So pretty much everything had to move. We are exhausted but looking forward to the end results. As my sister-in-law told me, “You’ve got to crack some eggs to make an omelet!”

It All Started With a New Mailbox

We’ve been planning an interior remodeling project for years, although for one reason or another it seems as though those plans always get put on hold. Life, kids, viruses, just to name a few of those reasons. So we decided to start with exterior home improvements on our cute little Cape Cod this summer and work our way to the inside. Specifically, we chose a new shiny black mailbox as the first project. Love it! One project down, dozens more to go. Watch your inbox and stay tuned for updates along the way! 

Our New Mailbox

Architectural Woodworker Peter Cavalier


As a former engineer, Peter Cavalier of Architectural Woodworking is all about attention to detail. For many years he worked as a chemical engineer, traveling all over the world. He always had a passion for woodworking and architecture. He alone built his entire house from the ground up. When he retired, he decided to turn that passion for carpentry into a full time business, and Architectural Woodworking was born.

Fine mantles and fireplace walls are only a few of the pieces he creates. He also designs and builds custom interior and exterior doors, exquisite libraries, studies and offices, stairs – circular, elliptical, spiral and straight. He builds fine cabinetry and complete kitchens. Custom architectural mouldings and millwork are the hallmarks of his designs.

Peter and I together designed and he built this beautiful mantle and fireplace surround. Faux painting and glazing work done by Jana Schemm of JanArt Decorative painting.

Custom Conference Tables

Custom Conference Table for 14
Sometimes the standard boat shaped conference table just does not work for a room. Since the conference table is usually the central focal point of a room, it needs to stand out. I love working with skilled custom woodworkers who enjoy the design process as much as I do to create one of a kind pieces. No cookie cutter tables here. Rich leather inlay on the round table and three complimentary wood stains on the rectangular table are all warm elements that combine into unique but timeless tables.


Custom Round Conference Table

Kitchen Makeover, Tuscan Style

The decision to remodel their kitchen was easy for these two working parents. After traveling to Italy and being inspired by the local architecture as well as the local cuisine, they knew they wanted to bring a taste of Italy home with them. The couple enjoys cooking and together with their two children, the family spends a lot of time in the kitchen and family room area, so the space needed to be both comfortable and functional.

The design began with cabinet refinishing. Going from a very dark red cherry stain to a more neutral brown tone was a smart choice on my client’s part, but as so often happens when one change is made it makes the other design flaws more evident. White counters and floors and the dark wallpaper, although attractive on its own, did not go along with the Tuscan look. We needed to make changes, and this busy mother of two called me for help.

We started by choosing the largest elements first: flooring, counter tops, wall surfaces including tile for the back splash and a decorative paint finish for the walls. Natural elements such as wood, copper, and stone are all combined to provide warmth and texture. I recommended a wide rustic plank hickory floor to evoke the time worn look of a Tuscan farmhouse. To compliment the floor we chose a tumbled natural stone back splash installed on the diagonal to give movement without being too busy. Copper accent tiles also add interest. For the counter tops, we made a trip to Dente Classic Stone in Oakmont, PA to choose our granite by the slab. Walking among the many large granite slabs, we were able to view the entire pattern on the surface, instead of just choosing from a small sample. The wallpaper had been stripped off by this time so we also chose a warm decorative paint finish custom created by a professional painter to give the walls the look of old plaster yet with a very modern feel.

With all the new earthy surfaces, we needed to also take a look at the furniture. We all agreed the old wrought iron table and chairs needed to be replaced with something that would better define the breakfast nook. My client located a wonderful copper top table with leather chairs from Arhaus Furniture, a local furniture store. A round area rug from Ballard Designs completes the look and ties all the colors together.

The beautiful black and gold damask valances, accented with beaded trim, are all custom designed by TComino Designs.

My client has told me many times how much she loves her new kitchen. She tries to find some quiet time each week before school is out for the day and the kids get home to just sit and enjoy her surroundings. Perhaps the kitchen does have some of that old world charm of Tuscany. Maybe all the elements did come together in a warm tapestry of color and texture. Italy, it seems, is not as far away as we think.