Greer's Toned Down Before & After

Greer's Toned Down Before & After

Sarah Rainwater
Sep 15, 2009

Name: Greer Goodman, husband Sam, 18-month-old son Ozzy, dogs Ursula & Alice, & Jonathon (sic) the cat
Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Size: 1,800 square feet
Years lived in: 3

When interior architect Greer Goodman bought this 100-year-old house in 2005, she was intending to flip it, but after 6 months of renovations (view the tour for some dramatic before & afters), she moved in with her growing family and transformed it into a cheerful and relaxed temporary home.

Though many of the color and design choices were originally made with potential buyers in mind, Greer found that the subdued palette was a good fit for her and her family's low-key personalities. The previous owners had lived in the house for 42 years so Greer's first task was to get rid of nearly half a century's worth of dingy paint, wallpaper, and draperies (you may remember the images of her entryway transformation that we posted a few weeks ago). Underneath she found wonderful period details, some of which she was able to restore and highlight, while also bringing a refreshed modern feel to the home.

Greer did eventually sell the house last month and moved to Brooklyn with her family, but it holds three years' worth of treasured memories, especially because it was her 18-month-old son Ozzy's first home. One of her favorite rooms in the house is Ozzy's nursery where she impressively hand-painted the animals on the walls two weeks before he was born.

We love the mellow and comfortable space that Greer created and even though it's not dramatic-with-a-capital-D, it's appealingly real and livable.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My style: At first I intended to flip this house rather than live in it, so I would not say that this home reflects all of the facets of my style. I strove to inexpensively (but not cheaply) update and reorganize the house for a modern family while neither sacrificing nor kowtowing to its architectural integrity. When I could, I salvaged the home's details. When I added, I did so in a fashion that was neutral and modern. For instance, the original molding is ornate and historically relevant. In spaces which I completely reinvented, such as the master bath or kitchen, I refrained from using any new moldings and instead opted (much to the chagrin of the contractors) for clean, squared-off corners around windows and doors, naked transitions from wall to ceiling. There was no way to replicate the original moldings, baseboards, etc. without having them custom milled. To try to kind of match them is just not my style, and not pure and honest design. I like the the juxtaposition of the minimal and the ornate.

Even when we decided to move in, I kept the fixtures, wall colors and more permanent details really neutral and broadly appealing, and used our own furnishings, light fixtures, art and odds and ends to express our style — which is probably best described as simple yet messy, with California modern aspirations.

Favorite Element: I'm pretty hard on myself when it comes to my work (etcetera), but I have to say I really had no negative inner dialogue about Ozzy's room. That's saying a lot for me. Everything else in the house pretty much pissed me off at one time or another.

Biggest Challenge: During the design process, the one thing I really wanted to do was adjoin the kitchen and the back room to enable hearthy, kitcheny, family roomy goodness. I struggled with designs for many weeks, and because of the footprints of the 2 original rooms, the fenestration and whole bunch of other things, I just couldn't make it work well enough, so I finally scrapped it.

While we lived there, the very age of the home was the biggest challenge (or, perhaps, irritation). To watch all of the walls settle back in to their cracks, baseboards pull away from walls, dust settle into moldings and lead dust flake off of the windows after all that money and work, that's tough. I like other people's old houses. I'm a sucker for just about any historical home tour. This Old House has been one of my favorite shows since the time I was about 5. But I never need to actually live in a 100-year-old house again. My future is all steel and glass with a dash of wood.

Proudest DIY: Hand painting Ozzy's room at 38 weeks pregnant

Biggest Indulgence: Furniture, until I had a son

Best advice: I got this fortune in a cookie at some point while I was working on the house. I keep it in my wallet, see it always, actually read it occasionally: "The greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing because you think you can do only a little." I need to heed that advice more, and it seems pretty applicable to most overwhelming design problems.

Resources of Note (furnishings, hardware, appliances & materials):


  • Le Klint pendant lamp


  • The appliances all came from factory seconds retailers.

  • Armstrong cabinets

  • Daltile subway tiles

  • One of the original "games" I played with myself on this house was, "How decent looking of a house can you make when you buy everything off the shelf." So, no fancy to the trade only things here. Mainly carefully selected from Home Depot, Lowes, Ikea and web stores like Faucets Direct and Lightology.

Living Room:

  • The crazy 60's lucite pendant was a yard sale find given to me by my friend and realtor, C.C. Wall at Residential Properties, who also sold my house in 1 day during one of the worst times in Providence real estate history.

  • The artwork is by Doris Litz, Sam's late grandmother.

Dining Room:

  • Icarus pendant by Tord Boontje for Artecnica (an awesome wedding gift)

Master Bedroom:


  • The bathrooms are 100% Ikea, except for the fixtures.

  • I went on a major internet hunt to find matte, unglazed porcelain hex tiles like the ones made for houses of this time. I found them in Wisconsin, at Subway Ceramics. I am really quite pleased with them on the walls in the master shower, used in a kind-of tongue-in-cheek nod to all of the fancy Italian glass mosaic tiles that I can't afford.

    (Thanks, Greer!)

    Images: Sarah Rainwater, Greer Goodman, Residential Properties

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