AEJ Cribs

Okay, okay — I’m sorry this took so long to post, but our family room redesign is now AEJ Approved — for the most part. It’s been five months in the making, and there are a few accessories to come (like a sweet black lucite backgammon set, currently in transit!), but we’re mighty close now.

Come, if you will, on a journey. A journey way back to June 2008, when AEJ and I first saw the house. The family room looked like this:

Note the tile floor. Note the rustic wooden ceiling beam. Note the painted wood paneling on the walls, and the popcorn ceiling. The vertical blinds. Note the harsh halogen overhead floodlight above the fireplace. Note… the fireplace. Let’s focus on that fireplace for a moment. This shot is from the day we closed on the house. Here, one of our contractor’s workers is getting to work on the fireplace. You can really see the wood paneling on the walls, the popcorn-textured ceiling, and the loveliness that is the original fireplace.

Here’s the fireplace straight-on, after we moved in (so the paneling is gone, the walls are painted, the brass surround and wooden mantel are off of the fireplace, and the floors are new).

One big reason we wanted to buy a house was so that we could really make a place our own. AEJ is a kick-ass designer, and there’s only so much you can do to a room if you’re renting the place. If you own it, you can go as crazy as a budget will allow (and more often than not, way beyond the budget).

AEJ didn’t think the original fireplace worked with the era of the home — late 1960’s. She wanted something to play off the low-slung shape of the house, so she came up with a new fireplace shape with a reverse-mantel (so that the top sticks out further than the fire box area). Here’s the fireplace with the new shape, freshly-framed and ready for tile.

This is one of the tile installers, putting the finishing touches on the fireplace. The tile install took five days.

And here is the finished product. It’s tough to tell in this shot, but the “logs” in the fireplace are selenite crystals, lit by recessed can lights under the mantel. In the right light, it looks like the friggin’ Fortress of Solitude. To the left is an upholstered panel (we did that part ourselves – yay, us!), and on the right is a curtain with the same fabric. The tile on top is 1’x2′ marble, and the black part is 1″x2″ black glass. I think AEJ spent three hours laying out the tile for the top.

Here’s a detail shot of the fabric. It has dragons! (Where does she find this stuff?!) The design directive for the room was “Elvis Goes to China.” I think AEJ nailed it.

Here’s a detail of the “logs” in the fireplace. We figured, living in Texas, that the fireplace wasn’t going to get much if any use, so we made it purely decorative. We filled the bed of the fireplace with black glass fire pit crystals to cover up the black brick on the bottom. (I painted the inside of the fireplace at the beginning of the project.)

These crazy guys flank the fireplace. RAWR!

One of AEJ’s biggest design things seems to be attention to lighting. (The finished room has 41 light bulbs. No joke. 41.) Replacing the overhead halogen lights, AEJ found an enormous 30-arm black crystal chandelier. This thing is completely massive, weighing about 150 pounds, and measuring four feet across. Here’s a shot of our electrician, Bernie, getting to work on hanging the support post.

This is how it started — and how Bernie left it. But we spent probably 30 hours getting it from this…

… to this. Wiring a 30-arm chandelier was a pain in the ass.

So we went from this, when we first looked at the house…

… to this, on the day we closed…

… to this, today.

From this, on the first night we stayed in the house…

… to this.

From this…

… to this.

The custom sofa (designed by AEJ, after a design by Philippe Starck) is 11-feet wide, and it’s about as environmentally-friendly as we could find: upholstered in white (white, white, white) ultrasuede made from recycled plastic bottles, stuffed with natural down feathers from birds raised for food (whose feathers are normally considered disposable byproducts), with springs wrapped in natural latex (made from the sap of trees, so it’s biodegradable). The chaise is wide enough for AEJ and I to sit next to each other comfortably — even leaving enough room for Loki. (The chaise is larger than a full-size bed.)

AEJ wanted an ultra-slick look, so I had all of the stereo components moved into a closet where they’re controlled by RF remote control (as are all of the lights in the room, so when you press “Watch Movie” on the remote, all of the room’s lights dim). The speaker wires are short enough — and each speaker has its own speaker wire port in the wall directly behind it — so when you’re sitting in the middle of the sofa, you can’t see a single wire anywhere in the room. (Inside the component closet, though — boy howdy, there are some wires.) The center speaker stand is a custom acrylic piece made by a place in Miami, thick enough to hold the 98-pound center speaker, but in clear acrylic so it almost looks like the massive speaker is floating.

It’s all soooo crazy-cool that I can’t believe it’s our house, and that AEJ designed it all herself. It’s amazing to me that she can design both our soft, pretty living room AND the sickest slickest home theater I’ve ever seen.

The house is really coming together. We really should have a party soon — but would you still come if we made you wear disposable booties?


Travis Taylor says

I would be afraid to walk into your house, what would happen if I spilled something? I would feel terrible. Seriously, that's a really white couch.


Mom says

This is the most amazing 'family' room that I have ever seen anywhere!! Abby, have you ever considered a career in interior design? You have the most incredible eye for shape, color, continuity with a "touch of whimsy" added! I loved the oriental theme and decor!

My only concern is where will I sit on your white sofa with a leather white accent rug when I visit you?

Again, thank you for the exquisite coral roses!


Mark S. says

Bring out the plastic furnature covers!

Sarah says

a resounding yes. well done, abby.

Fosco! says


I'm going to say two words: Architectural Digest.

Seriously. You need to rock your publishing connections to get their attention, because your house needs a layout.

And maybe AEJ could go on "Top Design"?

Nancy Ellison says

Where can I buy logs like that? I live in Central Texas. What are they called and how much did they cost? They are so cool!

Add comment

Your comment will be revised by the site if needed.