The makeover of my condo...
Susan Dennis, Seattle, WA

Sept. 15, 2005 A bit of background:  I bought this condo in 1992 just after it was finished.  I've done precious little to it since then.  In January of 2005, I decided it was time to change that.  By mid September, I had a new, glorious, wonderful home.  If you want to cut to the chase, see Before And After.  If you want the details, this is how I got to the After. 
Jan. 10, 2005 My first job was to find a designer.  I knew there was no way I could do any of this myself.  But, finding a designer turned out to be non-trivial.  I asked people I thought should know and they didn't.  I spent a long time on the web looking at perfectly dreadful websites that were big on special effects and had very little information that I could use to make my selection.

I sent email to a couple and never got an answer.  I talked to one who really turned me off from about the first sentence of the phone conversation and then I found Sheri Orts and sent her an email.

Jan. 10 From: Susan Dennis <susandennis @>
Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2005 13:21:02 -0800
Subject: I want my own Designers Challenge


My name is Susan Dennis and I'd like to talk to you about the possibility of giving my condo a make over.

I have a 1,200 sq ft condo in Pioneer Square in Seattle. It was carved out of an old railroad ware house and finished in 1992 and had great bones. It is a living room, bedroom, and other room plus 1.5 baths. None of the walls go all the way to the ceiling and there are no doors (except on the bathrooms).

I have lived in it since 1992 and have let it go to the dogs (well, cats, in my case). It needs color and new carpet. About half of my casegoods (shelves and dressers) were damaged a little (drawers won't shut all the way) in 2001 earthquake and need to be replaced. I think I hate my couch.

I love crayon colors. Dwell is my new favorite magazine. I have a few clippings of pictures of stuff I like and a pretty firm idea of what I don't. I need design, furniture, space planning, and all the stuff that goes with it from strong guys to carry stuff to someone to organize and plan and implement it all.

I've been to your website (which I got to, by the way, via the ASID "Designer Referral"). I have never hired a designer before. Except for a fairly thorough HGTV education, I'm pretty clueless.

Are you interested and/or could you point me to a good next step?

susan dennis
seattle, wa

We quickly sealed the deal. 


Sheri D. Orts, Allied Member ASID

PH (425) 788-1180  FX (425) 844-9289


This is the layout of my condo:


This is the list I gave Sheri at our first meeting.

In order of importance

  1. New carpet
  2. New living room arrangement
    • More usable and comfortable
    • More attractive
    • Find ways to hide junk but keep it handy
    • Don't forget: transom shading and A/C
    • the terrace problem
    • Retain automation
    • hide tops of blinds or replace with shades (automated?)
  3. Paint (don't forget ceiling fix in living room)
  4. Storage (more of hiding stuff) - closet maximization?
  5. Bedroom
    • Fix headboard situation
    • Closet/drawer organization?
    • Litter box - better option?
    • Ceiling fan - wall control? install better? Different fan?
    • Paint
  6. Bathroom - paint
  7. Hallway - storage?
  8. Front room - paint and organization - entry wow - place for keys/coats/shoes?

Not critical but kind of important

  1. Bathroom - storage? - rugs?
  2. kitchen look?

Nice but can get skipped or done later or another way

  1. Stove
  2. better kitchen storage

Random thoughts:

  • Couch not a requirement.
  • Low arms.
  • Feet up.
  • Casual seating for 4
  • Modular, changeable
  • It would be very nice to have easy access to the back of the tv
  • Sleeping for one guest
  • I'm currently in love with Ligne-Roset
  • I'd like to keep an open mind but I might say no sometimes and not really mean it.  Like 'no leather furniture' = I have never had it, don't really have much experience with it, have cats with claws, am afraid it will get ruined by them. 
Jan. 29 I started hauling out the shit. The guys at Goodwill and I got to be very good friends.


Jan. 30 Even more stuff went:

Feb. 9 I started shopping online looking for furniture.  Sheri did the same and we swapped ideas and pictures.  Here are some of our early thoughts.
Feb. 12 We find still more furniture. And the clearing out continues.  I moved all my clothes into one of the closets and emptied every single drawer in the bedroom. I have yellow post it's with red markers on all of them that say "Nothing Left In Drawers". It's highly satisfying.

The Mug Project. I gathered all the coffee mugs. Well, all of them except the one currently holding my coffee. The ones on the left are the keepers. The 8 in the middle are maybes and the batch on the right are the ones that are going away. Of course, depending on what we finally come up with the batch on the left may be culled again.

Feb. 16 I liberated the TV and its attachments from the cabinet and labeled all the cables and photographed it. Hopefully, the only thing that will have to be unplugged will be the cable and the power and those just for the time it takes to move the cabinet. But, in case it has to be dismantled, at least I have a shot at getting it back together...

Colors!!! Sheri emailed me 5 color palettes and they all look wonderful to me. Every time I think I like one the best, I find another best. Oh my white disgustingly dirty walls will feel sooo much better. Sheri also reports she's rounding up closet planners. She's working on the design for the shelves and cabinets and she the big carpet samples she ordered came in. Progress! Yahoo!!  

Feb. 25 Carpet and paint and furniture... oh my! The entire story of this meeting - with pics. Let's have a look, shall we?
March 5

Sheri sent drawings!!!  Here is the office:

And the A B C detail...

C shows 3 file drawers where there are currently 2 doubles.  So today's chores included thinning out the paper.  I did good.  I'm pretty sure I have way less than 3 file drawers full of stuff now.

Next, the kitchen - future home of the remaining mugs:


And, my still favorite bit... my new windowless window seat.  Here's the picture we looked to for inspiration.

And here are the plans: 

The sky view The details

Oh and we made the carpet decision.  The winner is:

More packing up and throwing out of stuff this weekend.  Next week - wood and fabric samples so we can order furniture.  Sheri talked to Manhattan Lofts and their lead time is 6-12 weeks!!!  Yikes.

March 11

Sheri and I met to make lots of decisions!  We picked fabric for the sofa and fabric for the chaise and we nixed the chair we were thinking about.  We picked the surfaces for the desk and the office stuff and the media center and the hall shelves and the kitchen mug shelves!  It's yummy.

We picked reed shades for the living room (and, I think, for the terrace, too, but I forgot to ask - maybe she's doing something else for the terrace - basically there the chore is to hide the storage stuff on either end).

She showed me how I could have french doors for the closets in the bedroom!!  I had a condo once years ago that had french doors for the bedroom closets and I loved it.  It makes the room look huge and the closets feel glamorous.  There are two closets in the bedroom and we figured out what goes where.

We picked a dresser and two nightstands to go with the bed in the bedroom - and the finishings on all of that.

And she's hot on the trail of a very cool option for displaying all my postcards... 

Oh and we got the front room nailed, too - storage, an armoire and the kitty litter (this is my project).

Progress!!!!!  We are so making progress. 


The kitty litter.  If you treat Google right, you will see that the world of litter box fine furnishings is huge and varied.  There are faux potted plants with litter boxes hidden in them and all kinds of cupboards.  But, what I ended up going with is a bench/chest. 

I'm not going to be using two litter boxes but one big one and then the rest of the box real estate will hold the scooper, extra litter, etc.  Should be fine.  Will be painted to match the window seat.


March 12

Trash day. came and took all the old stuff.  Well, almost all of it.  I kept the sofa, sofa table, ottoman and bed.  They will all go when their replacements get here.  It took 4 hours and it was a mess but it is done and it will be far easier for the painters to paint and the carpet layers to lay.

The old and the temp.  The old is now gone Mike and Jack filled their truck 1.5 times with my junk.
all gone... yeah, like none of you have used a quarter inch drill to poke a bunch of little holes to make a big hole in the back of a shelf so you can thread the cords through.
April 2 This is really Makeover Part 2.  And it needs even more background.  The combination of seeing a number of the costs for the first time and an enforced break when Sheri went on vacation for a week led me to change my mind about a lot of stuff.  The main mind change was about the overall direction.  I realized that for the kind of money I was going to shell out, I was going to get a place that any magazine would be proud to feature... not so much a place where it would be fun for me to live in day after day.  I decided that whether it was wise or not, I wanted a fun place.  So we kind of a little bit started over again. 

I have this wonderful duvet cover that I love to bits.  I told Sheri that I wanted the kind of rooms where the fabric on that duvet cover would be comfortable anywhere in the house.  Not match exactly, but be comfortable. (It's a thumbnail so you can click on it for detail.)

Sheri was very understanding and got right on board with the new look.  And so we got new colors.

Yes... tequila lime green!  And purple and yellow... Seriously.  These are the colors.  The pillars that run down the hallway?  They will be the dark green with the walls in between them, the light green.  The fireplace wall will be purple.  The bedroom will be yellow.  The kitchen will be blue.  We're keeping the Lauren rust color for the main bathroom but the half bath will be purple with blue trim.  These colors make me smile.  Really smile.

And the painting starts on Monday, April 11!!  The painter is Dinah. 

And we have new carpet.  Unfortunately, The carpet image does not come close to doing it justice, but it's the one on the carpet manufacturer's website so it will have to be the best we have for now.  It's a low loop pile with lots of colors and I know that the 'in' thing is hardwood floors.  I'm supposed to want hardwood floors.  Seriously?  That is not me.  I love my carpet.  (It's a thumbnail - click on it for the detail.)  It gets laid after Dinah is done painting... I'm thinking probably near the first of May.

We also have new furniture!  I've ordered a chest of drawers, a night stand and a loveseat. 

They should all be here about the end of next week!!!

We're still thinking about bed options.  Sheri wants the bed to be higher than it is now and I'd love that, too but the easiest way to make that happen is to get a plain bedframe that is tallish and add deep boxed springs.  Problem is, my duvet cover is a twin size which works well on my current bed which is sunk into the frame but wouldn't work on one perched on top of a frame.  So we're thinking.

Sheri is working madly.  She is pedal to the metal and I am sooooo glad to have her on the case.  She is amazing.  I actually believe that when we are done, I will have a place that I love to bits AND one that magazines would kill to feature.

April 8 This is the pivot day.  Sheri pointed out this morning that we turned the corner today.  We've been tearing down, tossing out, packing up, and generally getting rid of the old.  Today we got the first of the new and Monday starts the painting which really starts the rebuild!! 

The cat chest arrived and it has already received the Paws of Approval!!

It comes in a box all bubbled wrapped.

Here are the wood bits.

Here are the metal bits.

And here's the prize!!  See the two strips on the left side there?  They hold partitions. But, I don't really understand why they are needed and the extra real estate is nice.  This is giant litter pan.

Excellent deal, this cat chest. 

Also today, Dinah, the painter were here planning her next 2.5 weeks.  She starts on Monday with the ceilings.  I had to move my bed to the middle of the bedroom which is weird.  And the couch will need to be moved before Monday.  But the biggest pain in the ass is that she doesn't want the cats around.  I did not think she handled it very well and it kind of pissed me off a little.  But, hopefully, she'll be a fine painter and there won't be any problems. 

Meanwhile Jake and Betty will need to spend their days out on the terrace. I figure this is better than the bathroom which is the only other choice.  I wish I could get the couch through the door.  I'd move that out there for them.  But it's too wide to go through.  They will be fine.  The painter is not going to be happy with no fresh air but hey, if she wants fresh air, she can let the cats back inside!

The fun chest and the night stand showed up today.  Both Sheri and I missed the detail on the website about the nightstand... Needs Assembly!  As it turns out, it's really better.  I just put all the parts back onto the flat box and out on the terrace where it will be safe until all the painting is done and the carpet is in.  It is a nice piece and I have no qualms about ordering more from these people. 

The crowning jewel of the day is the fun chest.

It is way cooler in person than I thought it would be.  The drawers are all painted black and beautiful inside.  They have nice stops.  The sides are bright red.  The knobs need to be tightened and Sheri suggested that we mix them up which we just might!!  It is a wonderful wonderful piece and I'm delighted. 

Plus the delivery guy had some interesting G2.  He was very very nice.  And very chatty and told us that he delivers a lot of Home Decorator stuff and they are great to deal with.  He said that if there is the tiniest little thing wrong, they will dispatch him back to pick it up - no hassle at all. And they have a lot of repeat customers. He was a good advertisement for them.

Sheri's guy, Dave, did a great job of getting down the rest of the stuff and all the closet stuff and the bathroom stuff (towel racks and stuff).  He is the one who is going to be installing my new closet systems which Sheri has put together.  We went over them today and they are good.  And she's found some wonderful fabric for my chaise. 

  We have color!!!!  Such wonderful, beautiful color.  The pix are thumbnails.  It's difficult to capture just how wonderful the color is and actually kind of tricky to get a good representation of the exact color, but here's my best shot.

This is the front door - The purple over the green is the same as on
the door wall.  The green on the post is darker than the green on the wall.

This is the kitchen.  The wall behind the toaster oven is Iced Mauve.


This is the half bath. The purple covers the walls and ceiling. The blue on the
trim is the same blue as the wall outside the bathroom.

This is the hallway looking
down towards the front door.

The yellow in the bedroom should go up today as well as the bathroom which is going to be Ralph Lauren's River Rock textured Rock Clay Brown.


The painting should be finished this week!  Then, next week, there is a guy coming to hang the new ceiling fan, put up the new bathroom riggings (toilet paper holder, etc), put together the furniture that needs it, put up the closet systems and all manner of other handy chores.  Once the closet systems get into place, I can start to organize all the crap that's been in piles throughout the house for what seems like weeks!

The carpet comes sometime the week of April 25.  Whohooo!!! 

My chaise lounge - which is the key piece of living room furniture is being made but it takes forever.  I'm not likely to see it much before July 4.  This is not only a killer to have to wait, the sofa is leaving before the carpet so my fat ass is going to be in a world of hurt about where to sit to watch TV and knit which is, of course, my Olympic sport.

May 1 Lots of progress!  The painting is all done and it looks so amazing.  Every place I look is just another delight. Some new furniture arrived - most notably three wonderful storage ottoman's on wheels.  This picture shows the three plus you can see a bit of the loveseat there - it's purple.  On the top of the love seat is a swatch of the fabric that will cover the chaise lounge that is being made for the living room.

And I put together the night stand that has been unassembled on my terrace for a few weeks.


Oh and the closet. I now have shelves galore and more on the way. I finally was able yesterday to start getting some of this stuff off the floor and put away! 

I am going to add another shelf on either side but for now, it is heaven to have stuff out of boxes and off of the floor! 

The next step is carpet.  Wednesday, May 4th.  I hope, I hope.  I have learned not to count on anything until I actually see it.  But, we have promises for carpet installation on Wednesday.  In preparation for that, my bed is gone - new one arrives next Saturday.  My mattress is on the floor for now. 

But, I think I made a major misstep.  Also gone as of today, the old couch.  The love seat is in it's place for now.  And while it's lovely to look at and fine for sitting, it's just not going to cut it for lounging and watching TV. The chaise lounge will be for that BUT it is still 2 months away from delivery.  The smart money would have been to hold onto a chair I had that I tossed out in one of the first purges.  I should have kept it until the chaise comes.  Oh well.  Too late now!  And... at least the cats are happy.

May 4 Carpet Day!!! Catch all the carpet laying action....
May 14 I think we've turned the corner... I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and it's just a wonderful sight.  We have pictures...

The latest bits. 

Probably floor lamp will go and the table lamp will be different.


This is my wonderful chest of drawers. Seen from the bed.  I love it.  Alf is sitting on a great little bench that Sheri found.  It's for putting on socks.

But, this arrangement is temporary.

I have ordered a small buffet/chest/that is like the night stand.  It will go there where the bench is now.  And the TV will go on the top of it.  The bench will, probably, move to the end of the bed.


This ceiling fan is just amazing.  It's beautiful whether it's moving or still - it's heavenly quiet and it's run by remote control and has auto temp - if the room gets hotter the fan goes faster!  It is wonderful.


This is one of the shades on the cool lamp below.  It's a stretchy black fabric - very graceful and very sexy.


Progress in the living room.  I was wrong about the purple sofa - it's is not at all uncomfortable.  And the pod chair is also comfortable and it swivels!  And don't you love that lamp?  Check out that little table next to the green chair.  It is a giant C and really elegant.

There will be a chaise lounge and the table will be painted.

The postcards are back!! Not all of them... not yet.  Poor Sheri - she must have nightmares about these postcards.  There are so many and I can't part with any and I need to display them all.  And in a manner that enables me to turn them over and find my friends.

We'll have another post card place to hold more cards - Sheri's working on it - and then I'll weed these a bit and move the excess to the othe rplace.

But, this is a cool setup.  They are mesh things that take pushpins and are magnetic. 

Oh and there will be a shelf under here - kind of a little half desk.


My elegant bathroom hardware!


This is in the front hall.  I'm not sure where it will end up but it is a beautiful piece.  And, yes, that is toilet paper and no, it won't live there forever.


Ahhhh, my new hot water heater.  Not at all sexy but I do like hot water and my old one was a model built to last 8 years.  Rather than hope it will last through it's 13th year, I thought it was a good time to replace it.

Next are shelves in the hallway (might start next week!  or week after).  Shelves for mugs over the kitchen sink. 

And the office setup.  We think we've found a great setup.  It's an internet place and Sheri is going to call and make sure they will deliver to a home (not an office), etc.  If they give the right answers, we'll order.  That will be such a huge piece since it is about half the living room!

And pictures.  We need new frames and a decisions about where they go.  That's a Sheri assignment.  One of the many!  There is also a window seat being built (for the front room) and drapes for the terrace (to hide the storage stuff) and bathroom towels, shower curtain, carpets.  Kitchen carpets.  We have more stuff to go but we are so moving forward.  And Sheri continues to be amazing.  I'm so delighted with everything.

May 31 A lot is happening but none of it is quite picture ready except for this wonderful corner. This is what I wake up to every morning and I just love it.

There is a new rug in the kitchen and one in the half bath.  The mug shelves (over the kitchen sink) might even go up this week!  There's a new, small chest, for the bedroom coming on Thursday.  And the office setup for the living room could be here next week or the week after!

June 11 Now we are getting to stuff you can really see!  Plus, I am finally able to put nearly everything away.  Finally.  Whew.  Here is the latest progress.

The desk.  This is in the living room and it is heaven!  The monitor will swing around towards the front there once we get a hole drilled for the cords - see where the arrow is?  That's where the new hole will go.  And see the box to the right of where the monitor is now?  That's going to be bigger and made out of something other than cardboard and serve as a little shelf.  It will also hide more wires and cords.  See that blue thing under the desk?  That and the CPU which you can't see and the nest of cables will all be hidden by a curtain.

Next are the beautiful new shelves over the sink that turn my coffee mugs into a work of art.  It is just beautiful.

And the fireplace.  Sheri took two of my favorite posters and had them mounted.  I also told her I wanted a Clock and I love the one she found.  The fireplace is now a joy to look at.

June 26 There is not one single box left in this house.  Everything is put away.  There are some cabinets and cupboards holding stuff temporarily - mainly books that will go onto the shelves that aren't in yet, but for the first time since January, I don't have boxes to look at or trip over or dig through to find stuff.  It's heaven.

And the bedroom is finished!  The final touch is the curtains over the closets.  They are wonderful.  See those little flowers? What you really can't see in this picture is that some of them have sequins in the middle and some have little pearls.  My curtains have bling!! The ceiling fan causes them to billow gently which makes such a wonderful ambience.


And the terrace is done.  New carpet replaces the filthy green stuff.  New dramatic draperies hide the ugly storage cabinets.  The planters are filled and even the telescope has a new outfit!

This is what it used to look like:

And here's the same view today:

Those wonderful drapes go up to the ceiling:

And here is the new outfit for the telescope:

July 16

This is what the front door
looked like Before.

 This is what the front door
looks like now.

Other Recently New...

We have a wall o' post cards!
And the hallway shelves
are getting installed.
Here are the beginnings
of the first set. 
The 'window seat' is in.

Bedding coming
this week.

And I also got a wonderful
new message shelf.

Dinah starts the mural!!!  The daily progress.

July 20 The window seat is all dressed up!! 

And the chaise arrived!  Jake loves it (actually, he chased Betty off).

Aug. 20 [By this time, the bloom was off the rose.  I was getting really tired of stuff not being done and finished.]

Although we are getting to the end, things have slowed to a crawl. Most frustrating. One item that somehow got forgotten was the valance over the windows and door.  The problem is that the blinds, while functional, never look right when they are up.  They are always crooked and impossible to get straight.  So I wanted something to cover them.

Sheri finally decided that a fabric covered valance would work.  Unfortunately, it got put to the end and was going to take way too long to get accomplished so she mounted some rods and I made a fabric valance.  Unfortunately, I think she misjudged the position and maybe the height.  When the blinds are up, I can still see them. 

But, the things took me all day to make and get up there and I am way too hot and tired to even think about fixing the problem now. 


the making

the done

Aug. 30 A new table!!  My old coffee table was huge and craftsman and really really didn't fit the space or the look.  But, it was so functional.  It popped up to dinner table height.  Very very handy.   I finally found one that comes close enough to the function and looks beautiful and it came yesterday...


Table down and it looks elegant and fits right into
the room.
Table up and bingo my instant hidey hole is revealed! 
Plus, I have a place to eat dinner.
Sept. 9
Today we are done.  The final bit was the hallway shelves.  And the placing of the stuff on the hallway shelves. 

Sheri came over today and worked magic.  This is what I left her. My only direction was to get it all onto the shelves.

She used the shelves as a canvas and the stuff in these boxes as mixed media and she created a work of art that is the story of my life, completely illustrated and organized and grouped beautifully. It's the most amazing thing I've ever seen. I can't stop walking up and down the hallway.

I need to figure out how to photograph it in a way that captures at least some of its magic as well as documents what she did and what is there. And it ain't going to be easy because of the angles - hall's too narrow and shelves are too high. But, that's a project for this weekend.

For now, here's a tidbit:

Some of those teacups are part of the teaparty set my Mom had when she was little. The rest are from her Mother's collection of teacups. The book facing out is a Golden Book illustrated by a family friend years and years ago. The baby at the very top is me - it's a tinted photograph. The egg looking thing on the shelf above the teapot was painted by my great aunt and in the middle of the picture are some of my original Nancy Drew mystery books.

Here is a very bad picture looking down the hallway. I may have to take a bazillion shots and knit them all together.

I cannot believe how wonderful it all is.  I can't believe I actually get to live here.  This is just the best. 

Final Thots The total of everything came to $51,200.00.  Next time I will be more careful about project management.  I made myself a little nuts by not knowing when stuff would be done and not building incentives and penalties into agreements. But, in the grand scheme of things, that is a nit.

The very very very smartest thing I did was the thing I did first.  Find Sheri.  If anyone anywhere is even considering making design decisions about their home, they need to check in with Sheri.  Seriously.  She is the very best.  If you are too tired to scroll back up to the top, here's how and where to find her.

Sheri D. Orts, Allied Member ASID

PH (425) 788-1180  FX (425) 844-9289