Who’s hungry?

It’s been a while since I’ve written about any of our (seemingly endless) home renovations.  We did the family room (Elvis style!), the living room (which we’ve improved quite a bit since the original post; I need to take new pictures), the front door and foyer, and the multiple entries about our down-to-the-studs kitchen remodel (see the links on the left, “Design: Kitchen”).  What’s left to do?  Well, of course there are the two bathrooms, but we won’t get to those until summer.  The current project is our dining room.

Like every other room in this house, the dining room was pretty sad when we looked at the house while it was on the market. As AEJ describes it, it was “droopy.”

Wall-to-wall carpet. A tragic accordion door into the (gawd-awful) kitchen. Sad baseboards around the floor. Popcorn ceilings. And the chandelier. The sad, sad chandelier.

Step one: replace the chandelier. Assembly required, but after the 48″ black chandelier in the family room, this was a piece of cake.

Soon we had this:

We also wallpapered one large wall. You can see the pattern in this shot. (It’s tough to tell, but the wallpaper pattern is a little reflective. It’s sweet.)

Now we needed a dining table. It took something like 16 weeks, but we eventually received it. It’s tough to tell from this shot, but it’s a monster. It weighs over 400 pounds, and the delivery was scary. Turned out fine, though.

But there was the problem of the other wall. The huge, empty wall. What on earth could go there? It’d need to be big — and if you’re going to go big, you want something pretty spectacular. AEJ, of course, had an idea.


She conceived of a huge art work — larger than 4′ x 6′ — made entirely of real tropical butterflies. She found a place that makes custom art with mounted butterflies inside of acrylic cases, and she gave them her plans for this piece. Assembling it took months, but last week, we received four huge boxes from Butterfly Utopia in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Inside was AEJ’s custom-designed artwork.

Wait, did you think that was it? Oh, no, no, no. That’s one box of butterflies. There are EIGHT. Mounting it was a huge task (“That’s what SHE said – ZING!”), but we did manage to eventually get the whole thing on the wall.

She picked three different sizes and colors of butterfly. They look completely different depending on the angle, and the angle of the light source.

Some are translucent. Some look blue sometimes, and green other times.

There are 96 butterflies in this thing, each placed according to AEJ’s instructions. She wanted it to look like a flock of butterflies, flying from the lower left to the upper right corner.

In person, it’s jaw-dropping, with its scale (the larger butterflies are probably 6″ across), and the colors, and just the realization that these are all real preserved butterflies. (As a side note, Butterfly Utopia actually helps preserve rainforests, because the business of providing a habitat for these butterflies prevents farms from clearing the land for logging. None of the butterflies are endangered. Well, at least they weren’t before our project.)

Because it’s really not a re-design blog entry without the side-by-side before and after… Once more, the before:

And now:

I think AEJ has totally outdone herself on this one. Most important, Loki approves. (Hey, get that cat off the dining table!)


Robyn says

AEJ really does have a remarkable eye. The butterfly installation is spectacular.

I also adore the little family of foul hanging out in the corner. Where are those from?

I can't even imagine what you the two of you will come up with for the bathrooms. Perhaps you can find a plumber who can custom calibrate your flushers so the rushing water plays original Mackey compositions--a different one for each bathroom. . .

Cathy says

Where'd you get that flooring from? And what's it called (color, wood, etc). It looks great!

John says

Robyn -- That's fun that you spotted the trio of ceramic birds! They're from Jonathan Adler. Click on the Menagerie Collection. He makes a zillion animals now -- including a little ceramic cat!

Cathy -- The black wood flooring is from Max Windsor Floors. I'm not sure, but it might be their "dutch chocolate maple" finish in the "smooth collection" (ie, not hand-scraped, which felt too rustic, and weirdly fake). I think we got it in the 5" width.

If anybody is curious about the wallpaper, it's Imperial Trellis by Kelly Wearstler. The tower light in the corner is a Cortina, the curtains and rods are from West Elm, and the dining table is Saarinen. The cat is Chocolate Point Siamese.

Robyn says

OOoh. Thanks for the link. The whale pitcher and butter dish will be mine!!!!

Jason says

I love that you included Loki's breed...but I'm not going to pretend that I could ever have cat that's as awesome as Loki.

Tay says

It looks great! The butterflies are a beautiful touch too.

Wilson says

Problem is wood is warm, marble is cold (just like a glass top). No problem in summer, but winter, wear your sweaters when you're eating. An improvement regardless over the veneered oak table.

Kelsey says

Man, I marvel every time I see Loki's eyes. He is one beautiful cat. He's probably the prettiest Siamese I have ever seen.

On a side note, WHOA! THAT CHANDELIER! I'm really into light and prisms (sadly, I don't have many), and I'm just itching to shoot that beautiful thing. I'm going to design my house around a chandelier one day. :d

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