take the leap
When Janelle Blakely and her husband went house hunting, they were under pressure to make a decision. “We lived in New Jersey and my husband’s job moved to Boston. He wanted to come back to Rhode Island.
The couple sold their home in a whirlwind six days (even in 2008 the market was moving fast). The pressure was high to find their new home. “We saw thirteen houses in one day and had to choose,” she says. “I fell in love with the neighborhood ugly.”
It was a sad two-story colonial house, with not enough windows and far too much Berber carpeting. The beautiful arts and crafts house they left behind, it was not. Nonetheless, this ugly duckling ticked all the boxes: in a quiet southern county town with good schools and a neighborhood that welcomes young families.
At the time, Blakely was working in communications and hadn’t thought of moving to another field, or even had much experience in renovations. “But the moment I laid eyes on the house, I had a vision of it.”
Over the next twelve years, she brought that inspiration to life and the results reflect the journey her professional life has taken, from an AT&T marketing professional to a designer with a studio, Blakely Interior Design, and a team of nine. With this dynamic work in progress, Blakely found the first ideal client: herself.
see the light
“I always want to create a design that speaks to the client’s aesthetic,” says Blakely. “In my own home I was able to achieve this to its full potential. The chinoiserie upholstery of the chairs in the living room has crazy colors of reds and blacks but it’s so much fun. I love using color in unique ways and unexpected to bring contrast Example: the bright pop of firecracker red that frames the mirror in the hallway contrasts with the black, ‘Iron Ore’ paneling by Sherwin Williams, creating a cohesive use of color palettes throughout the ground floor Truth be told, she admits, the mirror was a splurge, made by Oomph, a Connecticut company. It reminds her of old-school Charleston. “I like its unique shape,” she says.
Blakely hated the dark, dim living room, with her only slider looking out onto the patio and another next to it in the kitchen, the only source of light. She moved the fireplace, added transom windows on each side as well as floor-to-ceiling windows, converting her children’s former playroom into an open and airy dining room.
Keep the faith
Note to those of us who don’t have the Martha gene: not every home accessory or piece of furniture in a designer’s nest is carefully selected as part of a grand plan. Consider the massive four-by-six-foot chandelier that belonged to a former client. “She wanted to hang it but at ninety-five pounds it’s so heavy she would have needed a structural engineer to check the ceiling could hold the weight,” Blakely says.
Instead, the fixture has found a new home in its own entrance hall. Bold black trim on the stairs and other downstairs areas echoes the color of the chandelier and was a deliberate choice. “It makes a statement,” she says. The gallery of artwork leading up to the stairs brings together the palettes of vibrant blacks, pinks and blues.
Next on the to-do list: An upstairs bedroom is outfitted with pieces that Blakely purchased for a show home a few years ago, including a bed and nightstands that she later donated, without success, during its warehouse sale. “It’s hard to sell a blue king-size bed,” she says evenly. “My husband wants me to paint it. He thinks it’s dull.
Still, headache-inducing supply chain issues (waiting for furniture takes months, Blakely notes) aren’t even a flicker when you can reimagine your own retirement, she assures. “One of my favorite things is that the houses are re-adaptable.”