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A living area. There is a couch with multiple pillows, arm chairs, shelves with objects, a dresser, and a coffee table. Works of art hang on the wall. There is a white area rug and the floor is dark hardwood.

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Rescuing a 1910 Craftsman cottage from a series of unfortunate remodels

A designer combines an array of styles in her own Tacoma home

Remodeling projects are challenging, but when interior designer Heidi Caillier renovated her personal home in Tacoma—a dilapidated 1910 Craftsman-style cottage—she faced a particularly tough set of circumstances.

On top of the fact that she was adjusting to a new town and her husband, Justin, was opening a new business, she was expecting twins.

And this was no quick, cosmetic fix. “It was in disgusting condition,” Heidi says. “It hadn’t been remodeled since some time in the 1960s, and it had been a rental for 30 years. The front porch was covered with AstroTurf, many of the shingles were falling off, the interior was covered with dark paneling, and it smelled bad. A real estate agent walked in behind us, looked around, and walked right back out again.”

The exterior entryway of a house. The door is black and the doorway is white. The house is grey panels. The mailbox is black.
Designer Heidi Caillier painted her Tacoma home with a color called Abalone by Benjamin Moore.
An entry way has a colorful Moroccan rug, a white chandelier with long ceramic tubes, and a striped runner on the stairs.
Inside, she painted the walls Simply White by Benjamin Moore. A Tilda chandelier by Arteriors hangs in the entry. The Moroccan rug is from Etsy and the designer created the custom runner on the stairs.

Many people would take the agent’s action as a bad sign. This couple, already expecting two sons, was ebullient. “We were excited that there would be less competition,” Heidi says. Although they weren’t overjoyed about the rest, they weren’t completely disappointed either.

“I was looking for a blank slate, something I could put my stamp on,” Heidi says. “And there were many positive aspects about this house too—I loved the large entrance, the bones of the house, and some of the original details—such as the doors and the door hardware—that remained. We saw the potential of it right away.”

The dining room has a large light fixtures with clear resin bubble-like globes. It hangs over a table with a light-colored wood top.
In the dining room, Caillier hung a Muriel chandelier from Oly—a piece she’d coveted for years. She designed the dining room table to include drawers for linens and cutlery. The chairs are vintage.
An otherwise white kitchen has a blue island and two spiky light fixtures above it. Black barstools pull up to the island.
In the kitchen, a pair of Nerd barstools from Muuto pull up to a kitchen island painted in Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy. The Granada light fixtures are from L’aviva.

The designer’s big ideas: remove the dark paneling, open up the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and create more storage and efficiency with a mudroom and a linen closet. Oh, and do it all quickly, before the twins were born. “I went into major nesting mode,” says Heidi. “I was on site every day, and very pregnant. I think it was a big motivation for the contractor, because we were done in four months!”

Although she loved the original details, Heidi was not beholden to them. For instance, in the living room, she removed the original brick fireplace and replaced it with a smooth, modern surround and mantel that’s flanked by bookshelves. “It wasn’t a hard decision,” she says. “I wanted some modern moments and I wanted the space to feel lighter. Putting in the bookshelves gave us some much-needed storage.”

In other places, the designer added classic elements where non existed before. “Although there were a few original molding details upstairs, they didn’t exist downstairs,” says Heidi. “We actually added them in.”

A white bedroom has a black-and-white fabric on the headboard. A collection of small framed art hangs over the bed.
In the master bedroom, a fabric designed by Peter Dunham covers the headboard. The bedside lamps are from Arteiors.
Rafael Soldi
A white crib has a bronze mobile above it, as well as a print of an elephant and a giraffe.
In the nursery, a CB2 Crop Circle mobile and prints from Natural Curiosities hang over a crib from Babyletto.
African fans hang on the wall, and a carved African wood table sits beside a white chair.
African fans and an African table are in one corner of the nursery.

Bright white is a modern choice, and Heidi selected Simply White by Benjamin Moore. “My contractor thought it was crazy to choose white for all the rooms with two babies on the way,” she says. “But I knew I wanted a clean background with pops of color and texture coming from the furniture, art, and accessories. And truthfully, it hasn’t been a problem with the kids. I’m not a fan of waiting until your family is grown to remodel your home. My policy is do it now and enjoy it.”

A bedroom. There is a bed with white bed linens and an off-white blanket. There is a patterned area rug under the bed. There is an arm chair and a window with white curtains.
A Moroccan light fixture from L’avivia hangs over the bed in the guest room. The tassled throw is from Serena & Lily.
A bathroom. There is a black vanity. Above the vanity hangs two mirrors. The floor is covered in black and white tiles. The walls are painted white and one wall has white tiles. There are brass light fixtures.
In the bathroom, Caillier playfully made a pattern using oversize black and white hex tiles. The metal Pharmacy vanity is from Restoration Hardware. The designer had the handles brass plated to match the Kohler faucets. The brass light fixtures are from Cedar & Moss.

The decor she chose is eclectic—ranging from Moroccan rugs to midcentury modern furniture. In the living room, for instance, a pair of vintage 1960s-era armchairs and a coffee table sit upon a tribal Jaipur rug. African baskets, jewelry, and masks adorn the walls, shelves, and contemporary console. “I have a master’s degree in international public health, and in a previous job I travelled to Africa and Southeast Asia often,” says Heidi. “I used the opportunity to collect things.”

Another decision that adds a contemporary feel is the choice to open the kitchen to the dining room. The move makes the kitchen feel larger, and the small amount of floorspace gained there allowed for a kitchen island. For Justin, who opened The North End Social Club as the house remodel was happening, this was important. “My husband likes to cook and entertain,” Heidi says. “This makes it easier to do.”

A bathroom. The sink is white. There is a mirror hanging over the sink which has an ornamental wooden frame. The walls are white.
In the powder room, the designer installed a vintage industrial sink. A mirror from Cost Plus World Market hangs above it.
The corner of a living room. There is a couch that is white with multiple assorted pillows. There is a black floor-lamp. There are shelves with various objects.
Caillier designed shelves for either side of the fireplace, providing a place for storage and display.

But not everything here is a precious collectible, as Heidi is not a designer beholden to to-the-trade labels. “In the downstairs powder room, I was searching for the perfect hand-carved Indian mirror,” she says. “I looked everywhere, and at all kinds of price points, but nothing worked. Then, one day I noticed this mirror at Cost Plus World Market. I spent less than $100 on it, and it’s perfect.”

That up-for-anything attitude is also evident in the entry, where the designer installed a colorful ethnic rug, a blue-and-white settee, and a collage like art wall. Magazines and Pinterest are full of art walls that rely on painstaking formulas and strategic planning worthy of a royal wedding. Heidi took a more organic approach.

A living room area that looks into a dining area. There are two green armchairs and a patterned area rug. The floor is hardwood. There is a light fixture hanging over a dining room table. A woman arranges flowers in a vase at the dining room table.
A pair of leather-and-wood armchairs in the living room are vintage finds. In the background, Caillier works around the dining room table.

“It’s a mix of family photos, fine art, and pieces I’ve picked up at flea markets over the years,” says Heidi. “I didn’t have the patience or the time to map out a wall, so I started building it piece by piece, hanging each item myself—all while I was eight months pregnant.” The result is an installation that’s more loose and allows room to grow and re-arrange the items.

This wide-ranging, global style has made the home close to the couple’s heart. “I can’t claim that we will always live here,” says Heidi. “But this will always be the first home I designed for my family and the place I brought my babies after they were born. It will always be special to me.”

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