"We planned on doing a lot of the work ourselves, but there were so many costs we didn't foresee," says Colette. "We didn't expect to have to rewire the electrical system, change the plumbing, and move heating vents."
Colette and Lee's budget dried up before they could replace the kitchen they had gutted. All they had left was a bare wall and some dangling wires. For more than a year, Colette has been traipsing across the street to prepare meals in her parents' kitchen. After hearing about Colette's desperate conditions, The Oprah Show and O at Home sent Nate down south to investigate.
She says that during renovations, she and her husband knocked down a wall that separated the kitchen from the family room. With the wall gone, the space was more open and the rooms were more conducive to entertaining. There was one problem—that wall housed their oven.
Down in the basement, Colette and Lee hide their secret solution—a makeshift kitchen complete with a refrigerator, microwave and hot plate. Lee uses this area to prepare breakfast in the mornings. But, Nate points out, there's no sink. So where do Colette and Lee wash dishes? Upstairs in the bathtub, of course!
Nate has seen enough. It's time to get down to business. "We promised only to put in a new kitchen," he confides. "What they don't know is that we're also redoing the foyer, living room, dining room, and den—so it's going to be a big surprise."
"I couldn't give you a kitchen without giving people somewhere to sit," Nate explains. "We talk a lot about adding personality to rooms, but, really, it's the people living in the house who bring that."
That said, Nate sticks to his trademark juxtapositions: The white Shaker-style cabinets are timeless, the hardware is modern, and the slate countertops fall right in the middle. Stainless steel GE appliances also add modern flair.
"Colette was leaning toward a very modern kitchen, but in this setting it would have looked like a spaceship had landed," he says. "When a kitchen's adjoining a great room or a den, the best advice is to err on the cleaner, simpler side."
Nate gave Colette the double oven she's always wanted, as well as an island that's ideal for entertaining. The refrigerator and island cooktop hood, by GE Monogram, and the other appliances, by GE profile, are all from Lowe's. The cabinets and counters are by SieMatic Möbelwerke.
Nate also sympathized with Colette and Lee's budget situation. "In any renovation, things come up," says Nate. "Without money set aside for overages, anyone could end up in a bind."
The new limestone mantle, which Nate bought from Siteworks, complements the design of Colette's dream kitchen. Nate didn't forget Colette's Southern roots—he added home accessories and floor-to-ceiling plantation blinds to bring a little bit of Birmingham indoors.
"What I love about this is that, this to me, is new Southern style," Nate says. "It's not frilly...chipped wood...lace doilies—all these things that we think of when we think of, like, Scarlett O'Hara. This is modern living now and gracefully in the South."
The artwork is from md-canvas.com, and the coffee table with a stone top is from Ralph Lauren Home.
The first step to finishing Colette's living room is filling the blank slate with color. Nate paints the walls in sea blues.
"It's very easy for people to do that [monogram] at home with a stencil," he explains. "It's just that little touch that makes the space that much more personal."
Next, Nate chooses elements that give the living room an informal look. The oak-framed mirror above the sofa meets a floating-glass coffee table ("much better than wood in an open area, since it takes up less visual space") and a mix of creamy white and taupe upholstery in durable cottons and linens. Nate's favorite finds are zinc pedestals and urns. "I love bringing in objects that are meant to be outside, and the antique finish keeps everything from looking shiny and new."
A side chair from Storehouse, made of twisted banana leaves, enhances the mix of natural textures in the living room. The coffee table is from Pottery Barn, and the Kenya rug is from Nate's collection at Linens 'n Things.
It's these kinds of playful touches—along with framed photos of Lee flipping pancakes and Colette snuggling with her niece—that give the space its personal pitch.
Credits: Nate and Colette photograph by Tim Evan-Cook
We'd like to thank the people and companies who helped make Colette's "Sweet Home Alabama" happen. Get the full list of vendors and products.
More from Nate Berkus:
- Nate and Eva Longoria complete a 'desperate house' makeover for her parents!
- Where does Nate shop for home accessories and fabulous furnishings? Pick up the Spring 2006 issue of O at Home to find out!