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  • Ann Duchene

So Much Drama: Part 2

Updated: Feb 27, 2020

Unless you're the kind of person who prefers to start in the back of a magazine and flip forward (okay... so I do that sometimes), you'll want to read part one to this post before continuing on.

Do you own a house with a history you love, but you're stuck trying to figure out how to transition your home into something that feels current instead of like a blast from the past? Then this post is for you! I'm going through the same process with an old American Gothic Revival church we're converting into a Grand Ledge hotel. So I thought I'd share some of my experience as an interior designer with a step-by-step guide. We can do this together!

None of the steps - either from this post or the last - should take you a long time. We're talking about a few minutes per step, so don't go perfectionist on me and spend hours. Unless you're having fun. Then you can fall as far down the rabbit hole as you like.

The first three steps were a) do a little detective work and note unique, original features inside and outside your home, b) figure out the general time frame in which your place was originally built, and c) identify how you and your family want to feel when you're home. Did you do that? Did you discover anything interesting?

Keep in mind that this is macro level. You are not planning a decorating strategy yet! It might be tempting to go out and buy some blue paint when you discover you want to feel relaxed in your bathtub instead of feeling energized by the lemon yellow that is currently on the walls. But hold up! Right now you're just trying to take the old parts that you love, think about what is important to you in your everyday life, and come up with a plan to mesh the two.

When I did this for our hotel, I had to get less personal. I know what kind of space I like to stay in, but I can't assume that most people are coming from the same perspective as me. So we did a lot of research to find out what most of our guests will be looking for. We tracked current trends, took surveys and read the experts. (On that note, please shoot me your own thoughts. How do you like feel like when you're in a hotel?) I also spent some time focusing on our geographic area because it is important for us to create a space that is in sync with the Grand Ledge vibe.

I found out that people want to feel a combination of being energized and relaxed. They wan to learn something new. They want to be comfortable. They want places to connect in groups with friends, but they also want space to be alone. They want to know they have options.

So, I took the information I'd gathered from what people are looking for in a getaway and added it to what I had learned about American Gothic Revival - the era our building dates from. In the image below, you'll see some of the main ideas split into two columns. The left column is a short list of how American Gothic Revival buildings were designed to feel. The right column is what we want people to experience during their stay at the Rabbit & Mitten.

And here's where you can pick up the thread of "homework" from the last post. Make your own list - one column with a few of the obvious historic themes in your house, and another column listing how you want to feel when you're home.

Remember that you don't have control over the original design of an old building. For example, I would not have added mysterious and moody elements to just any building we bought for this hotel; but because of the building we did buy, I am going to weave those pieces into the plan because it will make things feel "right". If we completely disregard the history of a space, it can easily feel disjointed and uncomfortable.

Next thing to do is start a Pinterest board (or start tearing photos from magazines - it doesn't matter which) with photos that line up with things on your list. Here are a few of mine:

Keep in mind that these are not specific plans - they're ideas. So now when I am working on detailed plans, I can say "this will work really well in one of the bedrooms because...." For example, see that gray bedroom on the lower left? Something like that would work well because it looks kind of melancholy, but also cool and cozy.

Just start collecting ideas, but not randomly. You have to be a little ruthless. No images are allowed unless they line up with at least one thing from each column on your list. You can even draw lines between the two notes a photo strikes, like I did here for the bedroom image above.

That's it! Now you have the groundwork set for knowing how to draw the past into the present in your own home. Feel free to email me any questions at, and I would love to see photos of your project!

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