COTE DE TEXAS: BEVERLY HILLS: A BEFORE & AFTER

BEVERLY HILLS: A BEFORE & AFTER

 

First, a huge thank you to my good friend, blogger & interior designer Artie Vanderpool who lead me to this story and then scanned in a million photographs for me!!  Scanning for me is like loading the dishwasher.  Yuck!!  It’s just so boring and you have to sit there in front of the scanner and do nothing else while it goes back and forth like a metronome, but without the music.  So, a huge thanks to Artie for the scans!  I bet Artie loves to load the dishwasher too.  Right now he is re-shingling the roof of his house – so, loading & unloading is probably nothing to him!   Actually – I prefer to load rather than unload.

 

This looks like my house!!!

 

OK – enough about boring dishwashers!

 

A few years ago interior designer Mary McDonald lived with her long time partner in a gorgeous Tudor inspired Beverly Hills house.  As you know if you watch Million Dollar Decorators, Mary and her partner split up and she moved back to her own smaller house that she used to live in and had kept all these years as a large guest house.  Her partner, a high priced property developer, was left to sell their house.  Easier said than done.

 

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Too talented and beautiful for her own good.  So gorgeous and chic!!

 

The house, built by Elmer Grey (related to Christian perhaps?) in 1922, is called The Harvey Mudd Estate because the philanthropist and mining billionaire Mudd lived there from 1925 until 1958.    The original owner was Charles Boldt, the Mason jar manufacturer and one of the wealthiest Americans at that time.  

The house has quite a  pedigree of former owners:  Harry S. Rothschild of Rothschild Oil Co.  owned it from 1966 to 1968, and then the acting duo of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain moved in, staying until 1991.  They sold the house to film producer (Cast Away) Jack Rapke, who then sold it to John Bercsi.  Back then,  Bercsi was one of the all time biggest property “flippers” in Hollywood.    The Realestalker claimed that during his heyday Bercsi was flipping houses in the $5 to $25 million range.  Not your typical HGTV flipper at all, he was the big stuff.

In 2009, Bercsi put the Harvey Mudd house up for sale after it was featured in many magazines and in Mary McDonald’s own book.  In the end though, it was a foreclosure, the asking price had started at $11.49 million and was lowered to $7.995 million.  Developer Brendan Deschamps bought it for only $6.25 million and has spent the last three years renovating the house.  It is believed that Bercsi paid around $5,950,000 for the Mudd Estate – not exactly a profitable investment.  Apparently the new owner has doubled the square footage and spent millions on the renovation.  The asking price?  Just $22,995 million.  Taking a closer look at the claims,  the “original square footage” is questionable.  When Bercsi put the estate up for sale it was said to be 7,256 sq ft with 7 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms.   The current real estate brochure says the square footage is 10,993 – nowhere near doubled.   Not sure where the discrepancy comes from?

Additionally, the house is described as having a swimming pool and aviary and English styled gardens.  There is also a conservatory, a paneled entry and a wine cellar.  It has seven bedrooms, 7 bathrooms and two powder rooms.   The seventh bedroom and bathroom is located in a “guest house.”

Back when Bercsi listed his house,  most of us were familiar with the way Mary had decorated the house – especially the orange painted entry hall and its white and black patterned wood floor which had been on the cover of Veranda.  We knew all about the wood paneled living room and the animal printed sunroom.  We had seen many pictures of Mary’s bedroom and her guest room – along with pictures of her darling breakfast room.  The surprise was the bathrooms and the kitchen.  Neither had been restored and both needed it, badly, which is why buyers probably balked at the $11.49 and $7.995 asking price!   Another huge factor was Michael Ovitz.

Back then Michael Ovitz, former CAA and Walt Disney executive,  had bought the property directly behind the Mudd estate – and was building an office building, disguised as a house.  It’s size – 30,000 sq. ft. 

 

 

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The 30,000 sq ft + house was being built when Bercsi was trying to sell the house.  Of the 80 or so real estate pictures, he managed to hide the fact that a monstrosity was going up right next to the swimming pool.  But in this one photo, you can clearly see the tents right behind the hedges at the swimming pool.

 

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And in this photo, you can see the monstrosity being built – and how close it actually is next to the house and the swimming pool – right over the fence.   The Bercsi house looks like a tiny doll house next to Ovitz’s office/house.

 

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Today, the sellers are much luckier.  The house is finished and there is no more construction noise and traffic for the new owners to deal with. 

So, how does the newly renvoated Harvey Mudd Estate compare to the wonderfully decorated house by Mary McDonald?   The new kitchen and bathrooms were much needed and are much better.  But all the charm that Mary added is long gone.  Of course the new owners who buy the house can hire Mary to work her magic again.   And whoever styled the house for the sale should be fired – again, I would have hired Mary to style the house.  She has decorated a few of the houses that Bercsi flipped and they were so fabulous.   They are most famous for the renovation of the Buster Keaton house which is what put Mary McDonald on the map.  But I love another house they did together several years later.   Remember this one that was shown in Veranda:

 

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Bercsi restored this house and had Mary decorate it for the sale.

 

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Mary’s design was shown in magazines and books.  She did the living red in all red and seagrass and suzanis. 

 

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The shape of the breakfast room was very similar to her own breakfast room.  Love this!

 

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The family room was also in red – with ikats and suzanis.  I was so in love with this house and still think of it as one of  Mary’s  greatest designs.

 

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The master bedroom was similar to hers also – icy and chinoiseries mixed with ikats.

 

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One of the bedrooms was done in bamboo with Indian inspired fabrics.

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The upstairs sitting room – all black and white and zebra. 

 

20090126-1-3391-010 Even the porch was decorated to the nines.  Not an inch was left undone.

 

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The loggia – decorated with rattan and blue and white.  The staging of the house was a phenomenal feat – I haven’t even shown half of all the rooms she designed for the house.  I have often wondered if the buyers of the house purchased it furnished?  I would have – talk about moving in with just your toothbrush.

 

Selling this house was easier than selling their own.   While the house she staged for Bercsi was top of the line with everything new, their own house, the Mudd Estate in Beverly Hills, had a strange layout to deal with, along with the dated kitchen and bathrooms - and, there was also the behemoth house being built almost in the backyard.   Couple this with property devaluations and the recession, the house was finally sold in foreclosure. 

 

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THEN:  Here’s how the house looked then – the driveway ran around the front of the house from the right side to the left.  A large slate porch led to the front door.  The swimming pool was off the left.  At the back of the house was a yard with many overgrown bushes and trees.    Today, the layout of the grounds has been completely changed.

 

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NOW:   The change in the landscape of the yard is immense.   Today, the driveway has been replaced by a beautiful stone set in grass drive.  There is no longer a slate terrace.  Instead there is a very large stone terrace with a set of new double stone staircases that lead up to the front door.  The patio continues around the side of the house.  The pool is now set into the grass without a border.  A stone fountain terraces down the side of the house to the front of it.   The back yard has been cleared of the bushes and is now surrounded by a stone fence.   And another new stone terrace is off the kitchen at the back side of the house.  I can’t really see where the square footage has been added – perhaps at the lowest level, basement level, new rooms were added?   

 

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THEN:   The house is long and narrow and the property has been divided over years making its approach a bit strange.  The street curves around the side of it.

 

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THEN:   From the street, the driveway leads you in front of the house to the left side, where the front door is.

 

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THEN:  Love the tiny paned windows that are left open to capture the cool ocean breezes.  The kitchen is on the right – up the stairs.  To the very left of the house is the front door.

 

 

 

 

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THEN:  Outside the kitchen is this porch overlooking the lush front yard.

 

 

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THEN:   The landscaping is beautiful – the front yard curves around the driveway.

 

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THEN:  The urns and steps lead the way to the front door.

 

 

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THEN:   The stone stairs lead to the slate porch and the front door.  The arched door hidden in the ivy leads to the basement level. 

 

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THEN:   A slate patio leads to the wood door that opens to the large paneled entry hall.

 

Now, lets look at the front of the house as it is today.

 

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TODAY:   First, you notice the color of the house has changed – it’s more beige and less gray-taupe.  The flower bed at the very right of the house is now gone, replaced with grass.  The driveway is much prettier – stone inset in grass – but the large, newly built stone terrace juts out from the front of the house – significantly changing the way the front looks.  On each side of the terrace is a stone staircase that leads from the driveway up to the front door.  You can see the staircase here. 

 

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NOW:  A pretty night view of the same area. 

 

 

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NOW:  A close view of the kitchen with the three small casement windows – and the space to the right of the kitchen which has changed – no more windows.   Again, the new front terrace is to the left.  

 

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At the end of the house the driveway ends in a circle.  To the right is the terracing fountain that leads to the swimming pool at the side of the house.  I must say – the driveway is a huge improvement.  Much prettier. 

 

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The stone fountain that terraces from the pool down the side of the house to the driveway – this is a completely new structure.  Is that fountain too much  - too fancy?    Underneath the new stone terrace is a door that probably leads to the basement rooms.  This door was moved from where it originally was.  The room shown above on the first floor is the sunroom – formerly Mary’s animal print room.

 

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NOW:  Here is the large stone terrace that replaced the much smaller slate patio. Here you can see the front door – with the bay of stained glass to its right – that is found in the stairhall.  To the right is the leaded glass windows that follow the stairs to the second floor.

 

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NOW:  Another view of the front terrace.   The new terrace does seem grand – and well thought out.  But, I wonder if I would have put it here.  The house has survived for almost 90 years without it.   Did it really need such a grand terrace?  I assume it is good for entertaining – but the long, beautiful line of the house has been marred with this terrace. 

 

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THEN:  Here is how it was then, without the front terrace that juts out to the driveway.    It is prettier now or then?  I have to vote then – without the front terrace.

 

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THEN:  At the back of the house – the yard is long and narrow.  The view used to be hidden behind a wall of greenery, shrubs, and trees.  Here – the backyard starts at the kitchen.  A gravel path leads past a flower bed.

 

 

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THEN:  Looking the other direction.  The kitchen garden is to the left.  Ahead is the beautiful breakfast room with a terrace above its roof.  So enchanting!

 

 

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THEN:  The gravel path turns into a slate walkway.  Past the stone breakfast room,  is the conservatory off the large entrance hall.  The curtains are the deep persimmon that Mary decorated the room in.   The new owners kept the fountain, but moved it out a bit.

 

 

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THEN:  And the other direction – looking past the conservatory onto the rest of the back yard.

 

 

 

 

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Past the entry hall conservatory is the sun room that Mary decorated in all animal print.  Ahead is a stone balustrade that divides the yard from the swimming pool.   You can see the construction tents here  from the Ovitz house behind the pool.  Notice how green and lush the yard is.  To the right – the shrubbery acts like a screen. 

Let’s see how the back yard looks today:

 

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NOW:  Starting at the kitchen- the area was totally cleared out.  Along the left is a new stone fence that replaces all the shrubbery and trees.  The flower garden is long gone, replaced by a large stone terrace set in grass, just like the driveway.  There’s a table for al fresco dining.  Very beautiful, no doubt.  But I miss the English styled flower beds.

 

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A view of the entry hall’s conservatory overlooking the fountain – which came with the sale of the house.  The slate path is now stone in grass. 

 

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NOW:  And looking at the back yard toward the swimming pool.  ALL the shrubs, trees and plants have been cleared out.  There is a new stone balustrade fence – I suppose this was done to open up a view.   Seems like a compromise could have been made?

 

Remember how green it was?

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THEN:  The sitting room, conservatory, breakfast room  - green, English styled garden.  And NOW…

 

 

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NOW: The exact same view - looking back toward the sun room, the living room, the entry hall conservatory, the library, the breakfast room and the kitchen.  Notice all the greenery on the left is gone – it is now open to the view.  Better?  I don’t think so.  But, maybe the view is prettier now.  

 

 

 

 

 

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THEN:  The pool was surrounded by decking and the balustrade with stone steps.

 

 

 

 

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THEN: Mary decorated it with stone urns in the corner.

 

 

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NOW:  Today, there is no deck around the pool.  The balustrade fence is gone, replaced with the stone steps.  At the right of the pool, the water flows down, terracing like a fountain to the front of the house and the driveway.

 

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NOW:  The pool is simple and plain, except for the fountain at the left.  Shrubs and trees block the view of the Ovitz estate. 

 

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NOW:  The fountain terracing down to the front of the house. 

It’s possible that before Ovitz bought and built his office/house – there was a great view in that direction.  Now that his house is right past the swimming pool, perhaps the view is now directed towards the back yard which was once hidden by the shrubs and trees.  That might be why it was all removed.   It does seem like the new landscape is more Roman in feel than English, despite the Tudor style of the house.

 

Let’s go inside now:

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THEN:  Perhaps no other space is more identified with Mary McDonald than her former entry hall, stair hall and conservatory.  She painted it orange first, then after a few years, painted the wood floor white with a black circular pattern.   The pattern was brilliant – it circled around the area between the stone arches.  Here the door opens to the two story hall where the intricate wood paneling leads up the stained glass staircase.  For a few years the oak was stained quite dark and Mary lightened it up. 

 

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THEN:  Here you see how the patterned floor circles around the stone arches and through to the conservatory – that overlooks the backyard.   Two empire styled antique beds sit inside the stone arches.   Through the door to the left is the living room, then the sunroom which overlooks the pool at the side of the house.  

 

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THEN:  Looking at the center table, through the stone arches to the conservatory which looks out on the back yard.   Hanging from above is a huge chandelier.

 

 

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THEN:  Looking from the stone arches back toward the staircase and front door.

 

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THEN:   Looking toward the conservatory with its steel doors and blue and white porcelains.

 

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THEN:  This view show you the right side of the house – through the dining room and through the next door – the library.   The kitchen and breakfast room are past those two rooms.   Here you can see the second floor overlooks the entry hall – through the carved wood landing.

 

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THEN:  Up the stairs, Mary used simple seagrass.  The master bedroom is off to the left, over the living room and overlooking the pool.

 

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THEN:   The landing overlooks the entry hall.  Notice the stained glass windows.   Through the door are the guest bedrooms.  

 

 

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Shorty before the house was put up for sale, it was photographed for Christmas by Veranda.

 

 

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Mary decorated the stairway for Christmas.   She jokingly called the entry hall – The Lobby, because its size was large enough for a hotel.   It is surely one of the grandest entrance rooms!!

 

 

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Most surprising now – is the floor wasn’t painted then.  Obviously, she didn’t live with the painted floors very long before the house was sold.  The antique sofa was probably added for the photoshoot – it’s missing from the real estate photos.   My favorite was the orange and white ikat fabric covering the console.

 

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Through the orange portieres is the living room.

 

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And a peek into the dining room.

 

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  And this beautiful vignette under an oil portrait.

 

 

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  In her book, Mary introduced the painted floor – that she says was inspired by a house in England.     I love this vignette with the Ikat fabric and blue and white porcelains – her trademark.

 

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In this gorgeous photo  from her book, Mary implies she no longer uses the day beds in the entry hall nor the desk in the conservatory.    I do like this arrangement, but in the real estate brochure, the day beds were back, hinting that they never really were moved out of this room.

 

 

SO…..how does the entry hall look today- after the three year renovation?  Ready?

 

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NOW:   Well, first – the painted white and black floor is now gone, which is a shame!  It was fabulous!   Instead we are left with wood, and wood, and more wood. 

 

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And the persimmon walls are gone – now painted white.  The décor is tres horrible.  Ugh. Ugh.  Ugh.  Does the white look too stark here?  Was this right choice for this type of house? 

 

 

image  Go ahead, I’ll wait while you howl with laughter.  WHO STYLED THIS????????????  It’s over 22 million dollars and it looks like they went to Victorian S Us!  OMG.   Are you through laughing yet?   OK- I’ll give them this – the view does look spectacular here – without all the shrubs and trees – you can see the hills beyond.  So that is a plus.  No curtains.  I miss Mary’s Empire day beds!  Hot pink and brown wood?

 

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Ummm.  What can I say?  Red and white with hot pink?  Lovely.  Love the tufting too.  Oh, whoever styled this needs to find another job.  I’m sorry.  OK, compare this styling to the job Mary did for John Bercsi’s house that I showed at the beginning of the story.  Remember?  

 

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THIS!!!!   This is how you style a $22 plus million dollar house you want to sell!  Like this!!!!  OK.  I’ll calm down.   Let’s continue.

 

 

 

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NOW:  The upstairs – with a tacky rug – BUT at least they kept the sconces and the gorgeous French chandelier that Mary bought for the house – it’s over six feet tall, btw. 

OK, if you are going to get rid of the painted floor and the orange walls – shouldn’t maybe have lightened the paneling at least – maybe limed it?   Maybe called Segreto Finishes and let them work their magic?  I would have.

 

Maybe something like this paneling color by Segreto?  

 

Let’s move on to the living room:

For some reason, there were no pictures of Mary’s living room in the Real Estate brochure,  so here it is from magazines and her book:

 

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THEN:  The enfilade view from the entry hall to the living room to the sitting room.

 

 

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THEN:  Mary kept the dark wood walls in here – and then decorated it in sunny yellows.  The wood becomes like brown paint!  The screen is the focal point of the room.  Just gorgeous.  So Mary!

 

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Along the side wall – a series of framed maps and a French antique settee.

 

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And here, Mary in her living room in front of her famed pagoda collection.

 

 

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Another view of her gorgeous pagoda collection against the bay window that overlooks the backyard.

 

and now….

 

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NOW:   The living room – it looks like they lightened these walls.  At least the décor is somewhat better.  The room almost seems Mary inspired with the sunburst mirror and yellow pillows. 

 

 

 

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THEN:  Past the living room is the sunroom that overlooks the swimming pool.  Pictured here for the real estate brochure it looks very similar to how it looked in Mary’s book and in magazines.

 

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Mary really went all out decorating this room.

 

image Scanned from her book. 

 

 

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The chair almost disappears into the walls.

 

And today:

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NOW:  Well, the owners changed this room into a sort of pool room with a new stone floor and French doors that open to the new terrace.  I’m not sure why they would give up a sitting room for this.  But I guess whomever buys it could put regular furniture in it.  I don’t quite understand the wood reliefs above the doors that look either French or Swedish in feel – isn’t this a Tudor house?  And a tiny crystal chandelier in a sunroom?   I give up!!!

 

Ok, let’s go forward – from the Entry Hall to the Dining Room:

 

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THEN:  The dining room was painted gray with white moldings and a beautiful chandelier.  Mary had hung small gray prints around the walls.  The floor was stained in a pattern.

 

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Looking the other direction – the windows face the front of the house.

 

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THEN:  For Veranda’s Christmas story – Mary borrowed her gray French chairs from the breakfast room – isn’t her chandelier gorgeous.

 

 

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And she added Christmas garland.  Of course photographs from magazines make rooms look so much prettier than real estate brochures.

 

 

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For her book, she used different chairs again.

 

 

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NOW:  They kept the floor but painted the walls white and added contemporary styled chairs.  I’m just shocked that Mary sold all the chandeliers with the house!   They also removed all her Dorothy Draper inspired molding which is probably correct since this is a Tudor house.  Again, STYLING!!!

 

 

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THEN:   Through the door in the entry hall is the library.  It sits directly behind the dining room and there is a door that leads to the breakfast room.   This room overlooks the back yard.  Because of the dark oak paneling, Mary painted the ceiling and bookshelves a bright apple green.  She filled it with green upholstery in silk and velvet and an animal skin rug.  A red coffee table is the surprise.  I love all the green paper lamp shades!  You can tell from this unstyled real estate brochure photo that this is a room they truly lived in.

 

 

 

 

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Looking the other direction – this door leads to the entry hall.  Above is a Moroccan styled lantern.

 

 

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Beautiful mantel.

 

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From Mary’s book – the same room, more organized and cleaned up. 

 

Ready to see what this room looks like today:

 

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NOW:  It is now painted all red, including the paneling, which really clashes with the fireplace.  Again, the styling is beyond terrible.  A motorcycle????   With such terrible styling, I am really wondering why they even bothered to do it at all?  Should have left it empty.

 

 

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THEN:    The breakfast room is reached off the kitchen and the library through French doors.  There is a stone arch surround.  The floor was black and white linoleum.  Mary decorated it with a crystal pagoda chandelier and silk pink curtains with black and white toile shades and a gray silk lining.

 

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And another view.

 

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Styled for her book.

 

Remember how pretty this room is from the outside?

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The kitchen is on the left with all the casement windows – and the breakfast room is ahead with the bay windows.  

 

Ready to see the breakfast room today?

 

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TODAY:  When the house was first put up for sale, everyone was amazed to see that the kitchen and surrounding areas had not been updated in a while – especially considering the original $12 million asking price.  People also remarked on the black and white linoleum floor.  The new owners totally gutted the kitchen and in the breakfast room they added the limestone floor.  The also removed all the landscaping – the dreamy English garden, the gravel path  outside the windows.   Today, instead there is a large dining terrace with a stone on grass floor.

 

 

 

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TODAY:  and here is how it looks outside the breakfast room and kitchen – all the flower beds are long gone, along with the gravel path.  Instead there is this large dining terrace, which is very pretty. 

 

 

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THEN:  The kitchen was in desperate need of a makeover – especially with a $12 million price tag.  One side overlooks the front with its own terrace, and the other side over looks the back yard.   Many people commented on why there was a piece of toile wallpaper on the ceiling.  I suppose the light fixture had broken or burned and it was never replaced.

 

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And looking the other direction.

 

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NOW:  The kitchen is very pretty with white marble and stone floor.  I’m not sure it really goes with all the dark paneling and Tudor style of the house – but it is a definite improvement.  I think I would have used dark hardwoods through this area so it’s not such a jarring change. 

 

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NOW:  Very pretty kitchen.  Wood countertops would have been more English in feel.  This could have been a more English styled design to match the feel of the house.  And again the stone floors are just so wrong for this house.   

 

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THEN:  The master bedroom – upstairs - was typical Mary, very chinoserie styled with her copy of a Chippendale bed and her nightstands and mirrors. 

 

 

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The fireplace is original to the house. 

 

 

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She added a pattern border around the rug.  So Mary!

 

 

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Later styled for her book, the brown drape behind the bed was removed and she brought up the coffee table from her living room, along with new mirrors.  I have a feeling the drape was just photoshoped out and the hanging lamps added because the drape was there when the house was sold and those pictures were taken!

 

 

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The sitting area across from the bed.

 

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From her book – she brought in a white sofa and new pillows just for the picture.

 

 

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When Mary and Bercsi broke up – she moved back into her former house, which she had keep for guests.  She showed her newly decorated bedroom on Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorators.  The Chippendale inspired bed is now here, along with the French settee at the end of the bed and the French chairs.  No telling what happened to all the other furniture.  Not much of it appears to be used by her in this house.

 

 

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Her closet – she used it as a dressing room. 

 

 

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The gorgeous mirrored desk.  Just gorgeous.  I wonder where this desk is now?

 

 

Ready for NOW?

 

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It looks like they kept the fireplace and the moldings – but added the not-dark, not-light wood floors, which IMO are just awful.  Either go light or go dark!  They also took about out the cabinets – but that’s fine.  Furniture looks nice in here.  The white walls look pretty too – but if the floor was dark, the walls would look even better.  Pretty view. 

 

 

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THEN:   It was assumed this was the master bath or at least one of them.  And, it really needed updating – though I love the windows in here. 

 

 

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NOW:  Not sure if this is the same master bathroom – because these windows are leaded.  Not sure why they did part of it in white marble and part in green tile?  All white would have been nicer.  I feel like I’m nitpicking here, but for $23 million – shouldn’t it be fabulous???????

 

 

 

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THEN:  The guest room is right off the landing on the second floor.  The house came with this paper and Mary kept it, saying it reminded her of the play: A Streetcar Named Desire.  Of course, the room was styled for the real estate pictures and it doesn’t look nearly as cute as it did in her book.

 

 

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Then:  The sitting area of the guest room – so pretty.

 

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THEN:  Close up of the paper with the shutters drawn over the landscaping. 

 

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THEN:  On the side of the room, Mary added a long skirted table with a fabulous mirror. 

 

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THEN:  In the book, the guest room looked magical with more wallpaper and a beautiful rose marble.

 

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THEN:   In reality – the same bathroom was not quite as magical looking and looked in need of an overhaul.   Maybe it was prettier in person?

 

 

And today?

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NOW:  Surprisingly, the new owners kept the wallpaper – Kudos to them for doing so.   I’m not sure why they even bothered with these rugs – they are all the wrong size and none of them add a thing.

 

 

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THEN:  Another guest room.  Mary furnished it with items she used in a showhouse that ended up on the cover of House Beautiful.

 

 

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NOW:  Again, pretty with the white walls, dark floors would have really made the walls stunning.  I love using fake orchids on both sides of a bed – great idea!  Kidding!!!!

 

So, I’m just stumped.  Where is all the extra square footage that they say was added?  In and interview the new owners  said it was doubled – but where?

 

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THEN:  This might be the answer – before the house was renovated – there was an arched door that was found under the front slate terrace – see it there?  Did it lead to a basement?

 

 

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THEN:  And here – to the right of the front terrace, you can see windows below that are on the basement level. 

 

 

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NOW:  It looks like that door may have been moved over to the left somewhat – nearer to the terracing fountain. 

 

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NOW:  And here you can see how under the front terrace that was added on to – there is a basement level with windows.

 

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NOW:   The door leading to the basement from the outside opens up to a wine cellar and games room and a media room.    Pretty in stone floors and walls – I have no idea if this was here before, or if they added the stone.  Is this where all the extra square footage comes from?

 

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Looking out from the cellar to the front door.

 

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The guest bath – all stone.  Makes me wonder if all the stone was just added for effect.

 

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NOW:  And finally, there is this bedroom on the first level, that might be new?  This might be off the kitchen area – and could be the guest quarter.  Although the house was bought with 7 bedrooms and there are still 7 bedrooms.  I doubt the sq. ft. was almost doubled as was reported.  I think the stone basement level is where they found extra footage and perhaps this bedroom, off the garage – called a guest house.

 

So, that’s it.  Again, what a disappointment!  I’m sorry to say this, I know the new developers put a lot of money into it  - but I just question their choices.  I know they couldn’t do painted walls like Mary had – and white is a nice choice, but the medium orange oak floors are terrible.   I also think the kitchen and bathrooms could have been in a more English style and been fabulous – again with hardwoods in the kitchen area, not light limestone.   The house is so English – with the entry hall and paneled rooms – to ignore that décor and just add onto it, without taken this account seems wrong.   It doesn’t seem like they hired a designer to help with these huge decisions and I will be interested to see how long this stays on the market.  If they had hired a stylist like Mary who has shown a great talent in styling houses, would it help sell it faster?

And while I do know that selling a house looking like it did when Mary owned it would have been a tough sell, I do miss that gorgeous persimmon entrance hall:

 

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And yes, it does look like this is some house in the countryside of England.  Mary took a forbidding backdrop and made it come alive in a fun, yet sophisticated way. 

 

 

 

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Instead we have this.  

I’m curious to hear if any of you have ideas of what you would have done to this house -   how you would have styled it to make it look it’s absolute best?  Especially this entrance hall which is so hard to decorate.  Is stark white the best color against all the wood?  Is  the kitchen wrong or right?   Let me know what you think!

98 comments :

  1. It seems someone missed a golden opportunity to write a Dear Miss Cote de Texas letter. I agree with you, the original house with its English gardens and winding paths was far more beautiful than the Romanesque feel the new owners have put in place. If you just imagine this house empty, it clearly requires a superior designer to fill those large spaces with appropriately scaled pieces of furniture which highlight the style and feel of the house. While I am not certain that I find all of the rooms Mary did that appealing, she did achieve the right ambiance. Each room is interesting, but they do not necessarily flow cohesively from a color point of view. The new kitchen is great, but seems a bit too new to fit the style of the home. As to square footage, some real estate sites publish the home's footprint as the square footage, some only heated space and some the total living space. It's obvious that we don't know what criteria was used. The house would be better shown empty.

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  2. Thanks for always posting beautiful pictures. I can tell that you take pride in what you do, Joni. You put all your heart and effort and you educate us so well. I love reading your blog b/c I learn so much every single time. I obviously love what Mary McDonald did to the house. No other designer out there compares to her. Mary set the bar high and no matter what any other designer does, it will never compare to Mary's décor.

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  3. this is a before and after in reverse -how disappointing!

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  4. I think the kitchen is horrible. The colors of the cabinets and that tile floor clash so horribly with the marble counters. Using a wood floor and whiter cabinets would have looked so much nicer. It looks like they couldn't decide what to do in there!

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  5. See, this is why I alerted you to this ... I would have never done this much work to have a post so detailed. You go above and beyond!! I hate the house now. Wouldn't even take a second look. I really would have rather seen what Mary would do with the kitchen. I did hear though, and I'm not sure how accurate this person is, but they're supposed to show the house on Mary's new Bravo show: Property Envy. I would LOVE to hear what she has to say about the changes that were made to the house, wouldn't you?

    Oh, and P.S., HATE loading the dishwasher!

    xoxo,
    A

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    Replies
    1. don't lie - you love it, i know you do!!!!!

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  6. While I don't love Mary's style as much as you and many of your readers do, I think what she did with the house was beautiful and really suited its style. The gardens were just lovely, and to me, she made a mansion feel like a home. The "after" is such a shame. Even though they updated the home, they really didn't improve it, in my opinion. The kitchen is pretty, but looks like it should be in a different house. And that hot pink thing . . . well, that's just indefensible.

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  7. Mary McDonald is an absolute genius.

    PS - You need to follow @notyoursource

    I am convinced this person is truly an insider....

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    1. he deleted it today and no, i don't think he's a true insider. jmo!!! thanks though!!!!!!! love it.

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  8. IMHO re 'the now' to me it appears that there was more than one designer involved and they failed to collaborate their vision. With that said, whom ever was responsible whether it be one person or a few; I feel interior wise they neglected to honour the integrity of the house itself whereas some of the landscaping elements are an improvement. -Brenda-

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  9. My thoughts exactly Architect Design, a before and after in reverse. So heartbreaking. It just feels as though the soul has been removed from the house. Melanie

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  10. It is interesting to see the before and after pictures. It goes to show that decorating and styling of a home is a personal matter, we make it our own. I particularly like the now for the most part. However, I agree that the library and the conservatory are not at all any improvement, the hot pink thing in the middle of the conservatory looks like something Christina Aguilera would have in her home :)
    Jenny

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  11. What a shame - a missed opportunity! Obviously, the original (Mary's) was much better, however, not all to my liking/taste. Now, the house is just stripped/bland. The entry floor is not right, it should not be wood/painted wood. I like the idea of a black/white marble/stone floor or gray/white or just something - lighter - something dramatic like the painted wood Mary did - just not wood. If the floor were different, I would not mind the white walls but I would do a very rich ivory white instead. Curtains are needed - maybe something in the pale Tiffany type blue/long flowing - like the idea of a round table in the center as Mary had. One needs the light - pattern on floor - and color to offset all the wood. The wood is nice but it has to be balanced and brought in to the year 2013. The exterior was overall much better before this 3 year renovation. Money can't buy good taste. Kitchen is so plain - I think of Miles Redd's beautiful deep blue kitchen - something like that would of been wonderful here!

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    1. While I agree with a comment that the tones of the cabinets and the marble are not compatible, this kitchen is hardly plain. I suspect if Joni had featured this as one of her reader's kitchens, there would be a lot of praise. The cabinets are beautiful and the work space is generous. I think the issue is that it looks way too fresh against the interior of the rest of the house which has a lot of wood and dark tones. Perhaps a darker color in green or gray tones would have made it mesh with the rest of the house. Of all the things to criticize, however, the kitchen is the least offensive. Do we know if the owners are still living in the house and whether or not they could be potentially taking offense at these comments? Somehow, I don't see a lot of difference in many of the observations made so far here than in other posts where comments were considered rude. It's funny how that works.

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    2. i agree - antique flagstone from Chateau Domingue would be fabulous in there. or black and white marble - large squares - i like that to.

      the kitchen is beautiful - no doubt - but it's so jarring against the rest of the house. they should have hired an architectural historian to help w/ the renovation.

      no one lives there - it was just staged. i hope!!! that is what i was told.

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  12. It is so hard to figure our what to do, hating all that wood as much as I do. And I hate loading the dishwasher, and I hate refinishing wood floors, so I guess I like the stone, like I have in my modest kitchen. Thanks for the interesting post. FOr me, the lesson is that it's really hard to decorate well a busy looking mansion, as each subsequent decorating choice is more restricted than the previous. I'll take my sheet rock any day. with all that money I would buy an overdyed rug, and new modern chintz slipcovers.

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  14. I would like to see how Nancy Lancaster would have decorated this house----- she probably would have walked in the front door and said " NO I don't want this job-- you can give it to Dorothy Draper". I imagine that Dorothy would have thought she had met her match and she would have proceeded to DO HER THING in Living Technicolor --- Dorothy's famous style still lives on at the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia. I was at the Greenbrier a year ago to stage a photo shoot for a photographer and I swear I had to wear sunglasses and sunscreen when I entered the hotel. Dorothy's color selection and the saturation of it will burn a hole right thru you. In a house of this nature there is a fine line between old elegance and new gaudy. The designer that comes to my mind as the best to take on this house would be either the English designer
    Robert Kime ---or Washington designer Frank Babb Randolph. Either one of them would have probably " done this house proud". Thanks Joni for pointing out all the differences-- as usual you always seem to hit the nail on the head with what is right and wrong and how to make it the way it should be.
    Susan in Charlotte

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    1. I'd go with Kime. This house is really up his alley. FRank is too contemporary in feel. i love his aesthetic though. Bunny or Charlotte would have been great picks - probably bunny over charlotte. not sure Rheinstein would be right for it - not French.

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  15. I think what they did to the exterior is a travesty! To remove all of the ivy, roses, and boxwoods and plant all of that grass is a disgrace! Although I can't relate to Mary's style I do appreciate her glamorous style and her ability to tackle an estate of this scale. I will miss Million Dollar Decorators. Thanks for another fabulous post!

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  16. I agree with Stacy (at 8:11pm) -- it is a disgrace that they removed all of the greenery and foliage around the exterior. Compared to Mary McDonald's design, the staging of this house is HORRIBLE!! I felt like I was looking at a house staging done by Sabrina Soto of HGTV. And what's with that pink "thing" in the new foyer? Looks like it belongs in a bordello. Gina from the Midwest

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  17. The after is just horrible.It feels like something off of RHONJ. What a total train wreck. The whole thing reeks of a builder or investor with a whole lotta ego, and money, and terrible taste. Really it's a lack of taste, more so than bad. While the Mary McDonald version sorely needed to be freshened and streamlined, this is just......a kick in the chiclets. I would love to corner MM at a party after a few cocktails, and hear her take on what is left of her glorious house. Another reader saw shades Of Christina Aguleiras raping of the Osbourne's old house, and I have to say that at least Christina went all in with her hideousness. It was hot mess, but it was a cohesive mess. This after is just bad. in so many different ways, it was hard to keep up. It reminds me of what I looked out for when buying a home, it's much easier and cheaper to change what is dated and worn than it is to try and fix someones poorly designed, cheaply executed, "upgrades". Oy. More money than sense to be sure.

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  18. Before, before, before, please. Especially the ladscaping. I do like some aspects of the bedrooms and kitchen but that's about it for the interiors.
    A monumental post Joni. No blogger comes close to your thorough pictorials. Thanks for sharing.

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  19. Train wreck is a great description. My first though was the place is claustrophobic for me. Where is the corner I can hide in? I also can't relate to the exterior vs interior. Notion seems to work together. Remodeling the baths and kitchen is nice, but still doesn't do much overall. If this is what money does, I'll stick to my little cottage.

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  20. What a hot mess! Loved the before landscaping, the after not so much. I also didn't like the new kitchen. A lot of money was spent for Blah...and it's not even a workable kitchen...as if anyone would actually cook in that mansion. For the money, I'd much rather have John Saladino's house. This house has no heart, no soul and no taste.

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    1. Not workable? It has plenty of storage and work space, a large stove, a huge fridge and freezer, dishwasher, large sink - this is just what we see from only one side of the kitchen. There are no pictures from the opposite side of the kitchen. I suspect this kitchen would more than meet your needs.

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    2. Actually not. The distance from the sink to the stove, the sink to the fridge/freezer is just ridiculous. Big is not always better. In fact I thnk that could apply to this entire house. Building to impress seldom does.

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    3. The room was large to begin with. Obviously, you prefer a smaller work triangle. Some cooks gather their ingredients first and then begin prep work so a few extra steps means very little. Perhaps you can enlighten us as to how you would have laid out this kitchen. You have no clue what the motives were when the house was originally built so to suggest that the original owner built it to "impress" is simply ludicrous. It's likely that the owners entertained and wanted a large kitchen for either a personal chef or for caterers. Not everyone flips burgers four nights a week. The exterior of this home with its original gardens was really lovely and it was every bit as large then as now. I believe I detect a bit of "house envy".

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  21. What a pity! But, we all know money does not buy taste- a classic example, here. Great post, as always, Joni!

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  22. Although the way in which Mary decorated this house before may not be for everyone, at least she paid homage to the character of the house. At least there was personality to the home. This! This is what happens when all the LIFE has been sucked out of a home. This is a perfect example of how money does not buy everything. I for one cannot tell where the money has been spent. An utter lack of vision.... I mean.... a pink poof! Really??? I have no issue with white and wood paneling, what I do have issue with is someone without a clue about undertones and what they are doing. That "white" is completely wrong to go with that wood. If there goal was to kill any and all personality of this house...well mission accomplished. A little harsh?? I don't think so when talking about such a gem. Next time hire the right people for the job.

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  23. I love Mary's green library with the glossy, bight ceilings---my favorite room of all---even the "messy" picture.

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  24. Oh the before, most definitely! The landscaping was so much more charming. Those espaliers on the walls were lovely. Lots of misses in the after. I especially dislike the walled up door/window in the kitchen area, don't like the new color of the exterior. I may be in the minority, but I hate the new kitchen! I would not even like it in a home where it was more fitting. There is something odd I can't put my finger on that makes it look dated to me. Even as old as the former kitchen was, it had charm x1000 compared to the antiseptic new one.

    There are just a few things I think were improvements. The driveway is stunning. I think removing the "Dorothy Draper" moldings in the DR improved it. They were overpowering. The after is cleaner and more elegant. Meh for the rest (and that's kind). To have removed all of Mary's gorgeous floors was a crime! I would have thought it a selling point to have floors done by one of America's top designers. Best, Beth C.

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  25. to be sure, this house is decorated by the mean "anonymous" that haunts your blog, Joni.

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    1. As with many comments, this one is fraught with one big assumption - that "anon" is a designer. ElevenGables, you sound like someone both lacking facts and humor.

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  26. I've ALWAYS wanted a conservatory. The question that comes to my mind is how many people do you have to hire to take care of homes this big? Not to mention homes taken care of as well as these?

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  27. This was an excellent, educational, and inspirational post! I thoroughly enjoyed Mary's pictures (always love her design).
    I guess the new owners need to remember the quote "people with money usually don't have taste, and people with taste usually don't have money"
    They should have taken their money and hired someone with taste!!!!

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  28. Hi Joni,
    Wow, what an amazing home! I love what Mary had done. She's just so talented! Scanning or no scanning, the time you put into your posts is so appreciated by us readers!

    I just need to say this as a long time reader and huge fan of your blog... I found your comments about the person who styled the house to be very mean spirited. A PERSON styled that house, that's who. Someone who know doubt will see what you wrote and will be hurt by your insults. I'm confused why you would take this approach when I have read on your blog several times, when you reprimanded commentors for being mean, snarky and catty about homes you've posted. What up with that?

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    1. That was my first thought exactly after having come off of the prior posts with so many people in the amen corner extolling the virtues of never saying anything critical lest the homeowner read it and be offended. Well, someone owns this home whether they currently live in it or not and someone decorated it. We aren't suppose to say a word about filling up one's rooms with Restoration Hardware, but we can make an all out assault on this property and its current design because Mary McDonald once designed it. And by the way, didn't someone actually use the term "big name designer". I believe Penelope declared that term off limits as well. Can we say hypocrisy?

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    2. Both houses were published. First - Mary's was published in her book and in numerous magazines and this house was published on the internet - on a lot of web sites - for PR and advertising. There as no decorator listed. This is quite different than a local homeowner putting up her house here. And if there was a designer listed - I would have probably toned down my comments out of respect - but in all the stories I read about the house, none was mentioned. LIke - for instance - when Bescsi used Mary - he always credited her as the designers - or for instance, when Jessica Simpson's house was staged for selling - Rachel Ashworth's name was prominently mentioned so I toned down my remarks. I don't see the hypocrisy at all though I know how you are trying to create it by comparing apples and oranges.

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    3. You are in denial which is the reason you are trying your best to make it about apples and oranges. Keeping trying. I'm not buying it.

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  29. Wow, what another extensive post, Joni. The new giant stone terraces and stark landscaping made me shudder, though I liked the driveway of stone pavers inset in grass. I miss the lushness and softness of the plantings and trees. The before was so much better. As for the interiors, well, they certainly lack the glamour, style, and panache that MM gave them, and though personally her decorating style is a bit much for me, her versions are a hundred times better. The new kitchen and bath are improvements, though, like you, I feel the new kitchen totally misses the mark. It looks too new and Hollywood and would be better with more of an English feel. I would not lime or lighten the woodwork in the entry hall. It is already fairly light for a Tudor home and it would be impossible to later reverse it with all the intricacy of the carving. The new white walls are too stark with the wood - it needs to be warmer and creamier, I think. The red library - ugh. I, like others have said, think the remodelers should have studied English prototypes as well as some of the other finer mansions from the twenties, though I don't mean putting a suit of armor in the grand hall ;-)

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  30. This post was so great on all levels + "money can not buy good taste" + in S CA we are always running into bad taste! xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  31. It's interesting to see how homeowners change the work of even a big name designer such as Mary. xo xo

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  32. I am exhausted by all the research you put into this post, Joni, but I feel like crying. Mary's decor was inspired. Enough said.
    XO, Victoria

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  33. All I can say is they should've called Mary.....her version was gorgeous. You know, I still have that Veranda that showcased this house but, it didn't click. Sad to say, if I'm not familiar with the designer , i never remember who the designer was. I would never had the nerve or vision to paint the walls orange but it just works. Great post.

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  34. Mary is such a doll, love her! My taste does not always agree with her more is more , over the top style, but hands down she won this one. Thanks for all that went into this post Joni, it was a fun, but sad read.

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  35. After seeing what they did to the landscaping, I could not even look at the inside. It makes no sense to me when the landscaping does not compliment the exterior and / or when the interior does not match the exterior. What a travety to remove all those lovely, lush plantings. The only thing I can think is that while it was in foreclosure, perhaps those wonderful roses and shrubs did not receive water and died.

    Scraping things clean and rolling out sod and rocks is a typical "flippers" quick fix.

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  36. Geez! It took me TWO DAYS to get through this post. I need CdT Cliff Notes! I just don't have that long of an attention span.

    While I much prefer both the exterior and interior of the "before," it's easy to criticize the "after" without the furnishings. The persimmon walls were a good balance to all of the orange furniture in the "lobby" and, without that furniture, perhaps they would have looked as heinous as that pink settee. Okay, probably not, but you know what I'm sayin'? I can't understand why anyone would have gotten rid of the painted floors though.

    I've decided I need a stone balustrade somewhere.

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  37. What a great post. Love the "Then" and "Now" photos. I have no idea what I would do with a house this large. The "before" landscaping was so warm and welcoming. I feel like it really complemented the house. I like the new kitchen but agree that it seems so different than the rest of the home. The new breakfast room is fabulous. I suppose the lucky new owner will be looking at this house with new design ideas of their own.

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  38. Phew! Finally finished! Great read as always Joni! I think the main point you were making is spot on. The new version took a very charming and appropriately scaled home with a heart and turned it into something that takes it a step backward toward a McMansion. Luckily, it would take a very long way to actually reach the McMansion point (Although the new basement gets there a bit faster). I even sort of liked the older bathroom and kitchen....well maybe not the kitchen so much. I wonder if the wallpaper on the ceiling was put there by Mary. Remember when she put those samples of wallpaper on the walls in her old house in the kitchen when she moved back in when she was deciding which paper to pick? I bet she was trying to see if she could do a quick fix on this kitchen! Anyway....I bet the new owners of the house can make it much more charming than the staging shows. It will definitely take a great designer like Mary to turn it into such a personal space again....and new owners with vision! Oh...I much prefer the old landscaping also. I love a bit of old fashioned quirk and a little more of a lived in feel. Excellent Joni!

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  39. Some people on this blog over use the word "McMansion". It has really become the essence of envy by those who use it because they are not living in a home of this size. Therefore, the only way to digest the fact that there are people in our society who can afford homes of this size and scale, they must use a denigrating term in order to feel better about their "cottage by the sea". I would suggest that you will be much happier to find beauty where you are rather than envy at what others have achieve. You are not obligated to love this house nor its decor, but to try to diminish it by using a term like McMansion says more about you than it does about the house in question. Face the fact that there are successful people in this world who choose to spend their money in ways that you may not. It is not about taste necessarily. I believe if you earned it honestly, then spend it as you wish. Class envy is an ugly thing. Not everyone buys into the theory behind a "green" house nor a smaller carbon footprint. So be it. How many times have you gushed at homes on this blog that were just as large but perhaps owned by one of your favorite Hollywood personalities and you found it "simply divine", darling despite the fact that it also qualified to be called a McMansion? Let's put some honesty back into the conversation.

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  40. Deborah aka @D2ZenJuly 2, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    You've done it again, Joni. Compare and contrast, live and learn. McDonald has Southern California old-school glamour style baked in. Clearing the grounds for a view apres McD, homogenizing the look and feel was uninspired as was the acres o' kitchen. One of the things I love about McDonald here—and in her home featured on Million Dollar Decorators—is that she didn't trick it out in marble and appliances; the black and white lino in the mansion and little banquette corner of her MDD kitchen strike a much more interesting note than whooooosh, presto-chango kitchen reno IMHO.

    It was grand. It was swell. You're an angel to create this for your blog fans. Happy Fourth of July to you!

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  41. Joni, I think you should re-reread your last post. You could have made your points/written an educational post without resorting to insults. Would have been much classier. You are guilty of the same things you find distasteful in your commenters.

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  42. Joni, my advice is not worth much as it is free, but I believe that you are legally walking on thin ice by posting homes for sale on your blog with your commentary (particularly like this post today) as well as that of your readers. All it takes is for an owner to decide that this has diminished his or her ability to sell a piece of real estate at a price commensurate with its value because of negative comments. That coupled with an allegation that you had no prior approval to use the real estate photographs may cause you to be embroiled in a lawsuit. It is something you should think seriously about and perhaps get some legal guidance. It is likely that at least the owner of this home has deeper pockets and can outlast you in the legal battle. I really believe you should consider this despite the fun it might bring your readership, it will not be fun to an owner who deems it damaging. You may believe because these pictures have been published that they are in the public domain; however, the comments and your post about these pictures change that theory entirely.

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    1. the use of copyright is null if it is done for teaching. hard to believe this would stop anyone from buying this house if they wanted to. conversely - how about all the times the real estate person has ASKED to be put on the blog and show their house , then reported back to me the house sold that week and they 100s of calls about it after it was shown? If i had loved what they had done, it would be alright? isnt' that censorship? and there are parts of it i really liked - the way they opened up the view - that really made a difference. as did the bathrooms and kitchens. to question the style? i can only say I like it?

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    2. It all boils down to the ultimate outcome. Not everyone is a real estate agent that you know personally. The agent or agents in California could care less about you or your blog. It has nothing whatsoever to do with copyright laws, it's defamation and the fact that you may be torpedoing the sale of this or other properties. You are far too confident about this. Get yourself informed by an expert and definitely not a real estate agent.

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  43. Oh my Joni, I take it this house has NOT sold! Really the completely bare dining room really got to me.
    How can some people have so little taste! All of the wood... I did not like it 25 years ago and I cannot imagine when it
    would ever be in style again. Bleach it out! The price is crazy by the way. Of course anything can happen in Hollywood!
    someone may pay for the lot value.

    xoxo
    Karena
    2013 Design Series

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    1. Karen, in your comment on June 26 in Joni's last post I seem to remember you quoted your mother:

      "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all"

      So what changed in these past few days?

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  44. Oh and Kudos to Artie for helping you with this post!! I dislike scanning. faxing, etc.He is a good friend!

    Artie, now is this why I have not received my cross bottle!?

    xoxo
    Karena
    2013 Design Series

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  45. I look at the interior design trade as I would many trades and entities. There's the "cream of the crop" 1%, and then the 99%, which are various shades of mediocrity. Joni, you play a very important role in exposing and pointing out the differences...and you are incredibly thorough. As a one-woman couture pillow sewing workroom, who for 20 years built high-end custom upholstered seating, as well, I zero-in on the quality workmanship and detailing. A designer is only as good as the craftspeople and artisans fabricating the goods.

    This feature is an excellent opportunity to contrast the work of MM's workroom(s) vs the "NOW"....and in regard to the pillows. Almost every interior shot will expose the difference in shaping. Do you see pokie, pointy corners in any of MM's pillows? No. A number of her pillows are inverted pleat, which do a bit to extinguish this "cheapy pillow" look. But her knife-edge pillows are shaped at the corners...not just rounded at the corners. This is a sign of a quality workroom, a quality made pillow. Compare, especially, the original pillows in the entry vs the "NOW" pillows. Same with the pillows in the library, guest BR, LR. It may not matter to some, but it is all the little details, such as this, that contribute to the success of a project.

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    1. interesting! isn't that called turkish corners when they are rounded? now i have to check if my pillows have a pleat in the corner!! worried bout that.!

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  46. Did anyone see 'The Help'? Remember the pretty blonde girl who couldn't break into the snooty in-crowd. Well, that's what this post and some of these comments remind me of.

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  47. As an avid reader and fan, I totally expected the fabulous photos and befores and afters in this post.
    However, what I never expected was the mean-spirited insults directed toward another person.

    What we are missing, as readers, are facts.

    Who was the person who staged/decorated/designed the
    property as it is now? Was this person actually a designer/decorator or was it a monumental task given to
    someone as part of their "job"? What was their budget? Did they have a level playing field with MM….access
    to sources, experience, connections, staff?

    Even if we knew the answers to all of those questions and you still disagreed with the choices made, I know
    you could have found a way to suggest alternatives and express your thoughts without tearing down the other
    person. I have read as you have done that many times with class and picture proof your ideas were better.

    Bottom line….the target you shot at in this post is a person and you do not know the effects your comments have had on that person's
    livelihood, career, self-esteem, family, friends, etc.

    You have a huge audience and the responsibility to not only apologize, but to give this person/persons the opportunity to respond.

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    1. Go back and read the prior post if you want to really understand how hypocritical this post actually is. Joni would do well here to take this down post haste and apologize to her readers for the double standard.

      Delete
    2. In addition to the above, the "holier than thou readers" who flocked to Joni's rescue last week like sheep to the slaughter, should apologize as well.

      Delete
    3. Again - it's apples and oranges to compare this with a local homeowner/designer showing their work. There is no put on the design of the house. And let me say, good for that - compare this staging to that of what Mary did for John Bersci. Which I did - if staging is meant to make a house look good to the buyers, i think this staging missed in some rooms - not all, like the living room looked really nice and I said that. the bedrooms were mostly ok. the room i really thought was not well done was the entry, which is the most important room - and felt that the staging actually took away from design of the house.

      If I ever put on here a homeowner, I wouldn't be quite so blunt. But there is no homeowner here. Maybe there is a staging company that was used and in all honesty, they should pick it up a bit in order to sell $23 million dollar houses.

      Delete
    4. Joni, seriously??? There is no homeowner here only an owner. Well who knew we would be parsing words. Who in the hell is selling the house? Even in the case of it being a relocation company, that company is not going to be very happy that you believe this home is open season for you. You need a dose of your own medicine.

      Delete
  48. This blog is about interior design, right? So, Joni post pictures of this place and asked, what do you think, what would you have done here? Yes, so this house was staged. Right, maybe all they could get a hold of was a giant pink settee and bad throw pillows...I don't know. I, for one, enjoy a lively discussion about interior design, this is why I read this blog! If someone comes to Joni and request their personal home/property to be shown on Cote de Texas, I do believe we all should be very kind and not post anything negative - this is just common sense. But this house was staged. I like to think about what I would of done here - I like to study interiors and talk about interior design, I like to learn new things. Is that so bad? I don't think so.

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    Replies
    1. no, it's not bad. they are trying to say I am a hypocrite because I asked people to be respectful of the homeowners/designers who agree to be on these pages.

      this is a business endeavor, not a personal house. and i have refrained from showing houses that I didn't like. For instance, there is a house that Mario Buatta decorated that was recently redone, which is a hot mess. And I haven't shown it and won't because it's a personal house.

      Still, sometimes it's hard to be fake and say it's all just wonderful - which is one of the reason i gave for non moderating - that the anons DO add something to the discourse with their honesty.

      I have never ever denied that. I just asked that they be respectful. As in - not being sarcastic about someone's children jumping on furniture.

      Delete
    2. Sorry Joni, but some people actually raise their children to respect their home and what their parents have worked hard to pay for. If a reader has no more pride than to admit on a public forum that their children jump on top of cocktail tables while playing sword games, they asked for it. And yes, you are being a hypocrite about this home. You cannot say that because someone buys a home as an investment, pours millions of dollars into renovations and indeed lives there at some point that you are now in the clear because they moved out, had the home staged for sale and therefore it's open season on them. I am not buying it. You know that we know that excuse is pure BS.

      Delete
    3. There are art critics, movie critics, restaurant critics, sports critics, book critics. Writers are critiqued & edited. Political critics. On and on it goes. BIG DEAL. So we critiqued a house. It really means nothing! These anons are just wanting to be difficult...to pick,pick,pick. It is such nonsense.

      Delete
    4. Wouldn't be an issue EXCEPT Joni made it one with her last post. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but she crossed the line she asked her posters to respect when she posts on a home she likes. Doesn't matter if it was staged or not, some of hyperbole was completely unnecessary and made for dramatic effect - the same holds true for some of the commenters, if they posted the same comments on a home she liked, they would have been considered rude and sarcastic.

      Delete
  49. Whoa!
    Gentle readers... let's be mindful that we are not letting the anons hijack this blog.
    Don't start responding.

    Dee

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    Replies
    1. what is the problem with anons? are people who comment as anons hijacking the blog because they say something that you do not agree with? very narrow view of the world. this is the first time I ever posted on a blog and I did so because I thought Joni was hypocritical; posting as anon was the easiest option

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    2. Isn't the use of the word "hijack" just a bit dramatic there, Dee? So now in our new world order of policed speech, the mere thought that one could disagree with the post or some of it's content has now risen to the level of hijacked. Unbelievable!!! Should we bring in the TSA for mental pat downs or better still where is the NSA when you really need them?

      Delete
  50. I don't understand all the drama. I have learned so much from Joni by reading this blog over the last 3-4 years. My design sense has improved greatly and my choices on renovations and furnishings are now intentional. The process has become a joy for me and I love improving my home. That said, I doubt I could ever show photos here because my choices would be viciously ripped to shreds by commenters.

    Why? I live in the real world, with kids that have greasy fingers and a dog that sheds and slobbers. I'm also not independently wealthy with a home jammed to the gills with fine art and antiques. But none of that should prohibit me from having a lovely place to live, now should it?

    Many of the commenters display elitist arrogance. I'm all for constructive criticism and challenge. But elitism? That's just unseemly.

    I value the critical, but thoughtful comments from posters...and from Joni. Her comments on this amazing home are valid and caused me to fall in love with the original MM design. It's okay to compare and contrast the before and after and highlight some curious decisions in the remodel. I also think it's okay to similarly criticize homeowner-provided photos. It would be great if we could be civil about it, though. And why not use a real name?

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  51. It has taken days to get through this post and the comments! I want to start at the top and do it all again. I love this kind of post, with a million pictures, showing various stages and decorators. A good backstory seals the deal! First, I want to say I am surprised I am the only person who likes the new landscaping. If this was my house (ha!), I wouldn't have changed a thing, but when I saw that new driveway and the pool with the grass right up to the edges I was sold. I love the clean look - I think the new terrace adds so much to the facade of the house. I get that it isn't in keeping with the Tudor look, but I love it anyway. Once I started to look at the original landscaping it looked exactly like a beautiful family room from the 90s. Maybe a red couch, an oriental carpet, gilt-framed paintings of flowers, and red and yellow striped drapes. Lush, beautiful and fine, but once I saw the cleaner, leaner lines I realized how hopelessly out-of-date the original was. Just me though. I also agree that the staging is beyond awful. It looks like a Home Goods (where I am happy to buy tons of crap, but not for my $22mil house!)

    But, as always, it is Joni's master class in decorating that helps me really see and learn and understand what is going on. Some of those beautiful rooms appear to be a big huge mess to me. But as I read and understand, my taste is refined and I see the next set of pictures with a new eye. I also really appreciated the comment above about the pillows and the master craftsmanship. I paid a fortune for custom pillows and wondered at the time how it could possibly be worth it when there were so many $49 pillows out there, but they have stood the test of time and wear, and they photograph beautifully, and I am glad to have them!

    As always, thank you Joni!

    Elizabeth

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  52. Joni, I love the beautiful pictures and your advice but I have decided not to read or comment. Some people are so rude and mean. It ruins everything, for me. I will keep checking your site every day for more advice and beautiful decor.

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    Replies
    1. So Arla, ask yourself an honest question. Did the rude comments made by the author in this post ruin anything for you. Why the double standard. That's all some of us are asking.

      Delete
  53. I am a fresh college graduate and I've been reading this blog for a few years now, but never commented-thought why not! A few thoughts:

    1. I did read the last post about commenters. While I do believe that commenters have the right to express dissenting opinions for the sake of healthy debate, I agree that we should do so in a non-contentious manner! That being said, I do have to say that some of the phrasing/wording in this posting could have been a bit less harsh and more professional-it would help readers to take Joni's opinions more seriously. Of course, ultimately, Joni has the right to post whatever she likes as it is her blog. If you don't like it, don't read it!

    2. Mary's version of the house definitely had more character and depth than the new version. The new decor has that "new" and somewhat generic feeling. While I do agree with Joni that the minimalism of the new decor allows for cleaner views that weren't available before (I do like some aspects of the new sunroom-much more opened up!), the new decor is overall characterless and doesn't feel harmonious. Some additions were independently very nice (or would be in a different house)--the nickel bathroom sinks/tub, the cabinetry in the kitchen. I have to say that while Mary's style is very "done" and I personally would have liked her version a little better with the "when you're finished decorating, take a few things out" rule, the pure amount of "stuff" does make the house feel more English. I do wonder, though, what the house would look like if the outside were to be painted a different color?

    3. I love her use of color, and the Christmas decorations are beautiful!!

    Happy Fourth! :)

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  54. I've read your blog for years and have enjoyed it. I read your "Cote de Texas vs. Anonymous" post with sympathy-- yes, people are putting themselves out there, especially homeowners who are deeply involved in decorating their own homes. These good folks might make decisions that I don't like, but their houses need to reflect their taste and the way they live. I completely agree that people should not write in to insult them.

    After reading this post, though, I confess that I don't know what the rules are for comments. A few lines from above:

    "The décor is tres horrible. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh."

    "Go ahead, I’ll wait while you howl with laughter. WHO STYLED THIS???????????? It’s over 22 million dollars and it looks like they went to Victorian S Us! OMG. Are you through laughing yet?"

    "The upstairs – with a tacky rug" (BTW, I know a good deal about oriental rugs, and the photo suggests this might actually be a good rug.)

    "the styling is beyond terrible"

    "added the not-dark, not-light wood floors, which IMO are just awful."

    That's not polite. That doesn't ask honest questions. That doesn't come from a place of respect and humility.

    Really, I think the more active criticism should be in the other direction, used to evaluate the work of expensive, celebrity designers, in the same way movie critics tell the truth about blockbuster movies by major stars. Why should we endlessly praise a name-brand designer while feeling free to insult an anonymous one? It's particularly questionable when there were such dramatic design choices made by the celebrity designer featured here. The black and white foyer floor is interesting, I suppose, but it calls amazing attention to itself. (Of course, so does that hot pink circular sofa in the "after" view.) The big-screen TV in the green library, placed in front of a portrait, deserves mention for its role in ruining the design of the room. Medium-brown sea grass is wonderful, but regular oak floors are "just awful"? And that spotted room?!

    In my view, there are choices to be made, and these are mine:
    1. Don't be mean. But do have standards.
    2. Be fair-- if you are going to be critical about one kind of design or designer, be equally critical (in a respectful way) of all.
    3. If you need to err in one direction, err in giving the benefit of the doubt to the underdog.
    4. Act with honesty to yourself and your readers. In this case, if you really, truly think that everything in Mary McDonald's design was truly wonderful, say so. If you think pieces are less than wonderful, say that, too. Don't simply ignore the issue by describing a less effective room without evaluating it.
    5. Act with honesty, part 2: understand the different obligations you have to yourself and to your readers. Can you honestly analyze the design of a name-brand designer if your future in the design work depends upon maintaining their good graces? Maybe you can, but the answer to the question can probably only come after a long, soul-searching conversation with yourself and, if you choose, with us.

    I try to live by my own version of these standards, with respect to my own work. It's not always easy, and it requires digging deep to know where the truth lies. But the effort is worth it for me.


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    1. Gina, you only quoted about 50% of the derogatory comments made about this property by Joni. She believes that because she falsely assumes that there is no identifiable owner and designer she can say what she pleases and it's okay. After the prior posts, she has shown either that she is a phony with respect to comments, or that the same rules simply do not apply to her. Joni praises MM because she is a known and she might want to some day invite her to the Skirted Round Table where the hosts act like school girls meeting Elvis. The current designer is unknown and therefore Joni can just blow him or her off as a worthless nobody who was unworthy to have followed MM in decorating this house.

      In addition, if you go back and read the comments of the prior posts, you don't see all of the little goody two shoes stepping up and saying "what the hell is going on here". They all flocked like sheep to Joni's rescue last week condemning negative comments, but when Joni makes them, they either agree or remain silent. As they often say, you can't make this stuff up. I think the chickens came home to roost here for Joni and she will no doubt dig her heels in and make a multitude of excuses why her evaluation has merit and other comments do not. It doesn't hold water in my opinion. It looks like the wide net she tried to cast last week got tangled around her own feet (tongue).

      Delete
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    ReplyDelete
  56. If people don't care for what is said on this blog, why are they reading this blig?

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
  58. I love Mary McDonald and still have withdrawals from Million Dollar Decorators. When this post arrived I decided to keep it and savour it on Saturday morning so that I could properly enjoy it but I almost wish I had read it now. I pretty much agree with everything you said Joni. I don't understand the low rent changes. Why buy a $22 million home and then decorate it like a spec home so that the new additions look like they belong in a McMansion in suburbia instead of a grand, beautifully built, historic home. The new additions look cheap and tacky, not because they are necessarily cheap and tacky but because they look out of place, scale and class in this type of home.

    Well, at least we'll always have Mary's book to remember the house by. That awful cascading fountain - yuk! So new, unnecessary and tasteless - why?

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  59. And another thing, the removal of the trees and foliage make the exterior of the house look like a mock-Tudor home built recently instead of a home which has been there for nearly 100 years. The removal of the greenery makes the house look new - quite an achievement! Also, the new conservatory window extension also makes the beautiful old higgledy-piggledy house look new - how was that even possible!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well... if there's room for one more comment, here it goes.

      Personally, I much, MUCH prefer the clean and uncluttered rooms of the "After" version - Mary McDonald's decorating scheme left me feeling suffocated. But to each his own and beauty being in the eye of the beholder, I totally get that others might prefer the original decor.

      That being said, one must also remember that this house is for sale. Real estate agents keep telling us to depersonalize our homes when we want to sell, to make it easier for prospective buyers to picture themselves living there. So as far as I'm concerned, whoever staged the house did a GREAT job.

      Finally, with respect to Joni's comments: I admit that I was shocked. Her sarcastic tone didn't match the classy and elegant lady I had imagined her to be. But, as Confucius said, insults degrade only their author. So I just decided to skip the ugly words and concentrate on the beautiful pictures. And the pictures on this blog are, indeed, beautiful.

      Delete
  60. Dear Joni,

    You need cuckoo repellent. I picture some old dear in a ratty chenille bathrobe drinking gin out of a cracked teacup, tapping out furious, self-righteous missives with one yellowed nail.

    FYI, the mirrored desk was a gift after MM had redecorated the Buster Keaton house.

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  61. Actually Deborah, the only cuckoo here apparently is you. If you cannot see from the comment thread what the issue here is, then perhaps you are on something a little more serious than medical cannabis. This has been the most revealing post to date of the double standard employed by the author of this blog to set aside her "favorite" designers/homeowner/homes from those she casually downloads from real estate sites on the internet. Only she will determine what is and is not tasteful and if she criticizes a home then that's the okay sign for her devotees to do it also. On the other hand, if one of her favorite Houston designers gets a design posted, then we had better all man up and have our talking points in agreement with her. Yes, my chenille rode and my bourbon and branch water is at the ready and so my dear is my intellect and the ability to sniff out a phony when I see one. By the way, cuckoo Deborah, my nails are in perfect shape but I am concerned with your "gray matter".

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  62. This estate will be purchased by someone with an architect, designer, landscaper, etc. The after photos are merely a blank slate. The whole place will be re-done to suit the new owners. Mary McDonalds is very talented, but I need a fresher environment. Thank you. Such an enjoyable post.

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  63. Oh Joanie...I hate to say it but this place is just terrible...The new kitchen is lovely however. Is it just me or is it nearly impossible to keep a house of this size and magnitude up to date and current? I have a hard enough time with my own home...too big and too dated as well...but nothing compared to this monster!

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  64. The 'now" is hideous to me. Looks like it was redone by someone with no taste and even less ability to harmonize and properly scale.
    I liked the kitchen best of all, but that's not saying much.

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  65. Sorry you lost me very early on. You are extolling Mary MacDonald's painted floors.... Mary painted over original 90 year old oak wood floors. In any other country the Harvey Mudd estate would be a listed building even if you owned the property this would not be allowed. While Mary's style is very much admired it is her own. I don't understand why you have put so much energy into comparing how Mary styled her own home to how the house is now. You have pointed out many of the improvements. You are comparing staging for sale to a previous owners interior design. Personally I prefer the staging. It far more neutral and in keeping with the integrity of the era and leaves room for any new buyer to put their own imagination into the property - unfortunately out of my price range. I prefer the ottoman in that space even though I don't like the color. Mary's table with chairs facing away visually did not make sense to me. There seems to be a lot of Emperors New Clothes going on here

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  66. Real estate market shuffles from time to time. Being a lay man it won't be possible to handle the deals alone, so its better to hire a realtor to help you out. I have used http://stacygottula.com/ real estate services to get my new home.

    ReplyDelete
  67. Real estate market shuffles from time to time. Being a lay man it won't be possible to handle the deals alone, so its better to hire a realtor to help you out. I have used http://stacygottula.com/ real estate services to get my new home.

    ReplyDelete