Fireplace Mantel

Our work pace has slowed sufficiently that I’ve taken a few hours each of the past two days to sort and organize images for an update to the Work in Progress section of our website. At one point the realization came to me, “So, this is why there’s been no time to blog these past 5 months!” The sorting and organizing should make it easier to write more blog posts as well.

I thought I’d start with a kitchen/bath and “Oh by the way, I’ve never liked the way the fireplace and closet doors by the fireplace looked.” project that is just ramping up in Charlestown. The kitchen and bathrooms are relatively simple, while the fireplace/closet door problem is more challenging. (And more fun…) Right now, the fireplace elevation looks like two doors in a wall with the fireplace in-between. Overall, the room lacks focus and has no organizing/interesting architectural detail to speak of. The client’s taste leans toward Late 1700’s French Neoclassical and English Georgian (with a little New England sea captain thrown in for good measure…). “Casual elegance” were the descriptive adjectives written in their programming form.

The obvious solution is to build a mantel surround that ties together and conceals the two doors, thus bringing coherence to the elevation and creating a focal point for the room.

With that in mind, I began to cast about for ideas and inspiration. One source I always turn to when paneling is involved is the work of my Belgian friend Greet Lefevre and Lefeve Interiors. What I’m seeing here is how the paneling frames and bridges over the mantel as well as the finish, which is saying casual elegance to me.

Lefevre Interiors, living room paneling details

Here, Greet steps the formality down even further.

Lefevre Interiors, mantel surround paneling

We can’t forget the Georgian, New England sea captain. What a contrast in styles!!! This is an example of the work of American architect Phillip Trammell Shutze.  I can see a connection is aspects of the paneling between this and the image above.

Swan House, Phillip Trammell Shutze

Winterthur never disappoints. Typical of many early colonial homes, one wall would receive paneling while the rest of the walls in the room would be plaster. Both this image and the Swan House image give clues as to proportion and detail when dealing with a lower ceiling height. (My favorite reference book on Winterthur is Winterthur Style Source Book, Traditional American Rooms, by Brent Hull and Christine Franck.)

accent paneled wall, Winterthur

While not necessarily using specific details from any of these images, I created the first of two “cartoons”. The doors by the existing stone fireplace are concealed as full height “wall panels”set within flat stock door jambs. the existing stone mantel is deep enough that I can pad the wall around and above it such that this paneling sit slightly in front of the plane of the door jambs. The full height doors and the long shadow lines created by the trimmed fireplace give vertical lift to the room and create a focal point for the room.

French Neoclassical fireplace surround A, Wilson Kelsey Design

Adjacent to the surround is the kitchen, which will be opened up so it is visually connected to the living/dining room. I have designed the living/dining side of the counter to feel/look like a kitchen island to which one can pull up chairs.

Cartoon 2 illustrates my premise that sometimes you need to draw an idea simply to prove to yourself that it isn’t as good an idea or is an inappropriate solution. The idea was to study the effect of further panelizing the doors and to see what would happen if the counter were to be de-emphasized. Too busy and too weak…

French influence fireplace surround B, Wilson Kelsey Design

The contractor LOVES cartoon 1. The client feels #1 is the best choice, too, but is concerned that it may be too formal. My feeling is with the proper trim profiles (simple and not fussy) and the right paint color (a warm griege with a glaze) the room will snap together fulfilling the goal of casual elegance.

What say you?


John Kelsey, Wilson Kelsey Design

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2014 was a very good year. This was the year Sally and I had been hoping for since the bottom fell out in 2008. Yes, it’s been 6 long years. Sometimes we’re amazed we survived, since 2004 is our residential practices birth year. Projects covered the entire spectrum, from a postage stamp sized contemporary bathroom to finishing large project that Sally began working on 2 years ago – house, pool house and all the out door furniture around the pool. If variety is the spice of life, 2014 served us a spicy helping, as we worked on Contemporary, French, New England traditional/transitional, Arts and Crafts, Continental/Belgian influence projects, to name a few.

Let’s start with a glimpse at several of the projects we worked on this year. Here’s Sally’s large Acton project, taking over two years to complete. The home owners took the long view, making decision slowly and deliberately, even though it meant moving in to the house and living with temporary furnishings, etc for an extended period of time. The results have been worth the wait! The architect was Juan Darias, now with JW Construction. Juan did a terrific job coordinating this large complex project. (I apologize in advance for Sally’s and my photographs.)

Acton shingle style project, interiors by Wilson Kelsey Design,; Photo by John Kelsey

The pool house and pool furniture.

Acton shingle style pool house,; Interior Design by Wilson Kelsey Design; photo by Sally Wilson

View of the family room from the kitchen area – designed for the relaxed lifestyle of a family with 4 children.

Acton shingle style home, family room from kitchen; Wilson Kelsey Design; photo by John Kelsey

Wish I could show more, but I can’t at the moment…

Now let’s let the pendulum swing 180 degrees to look at a tiny contemporary bath Sally designed for a client in Brookline, replete with a custom vanity in hi-gloss paint, Porcelanosa sink and a Hansgrohe Axor Collection faucet. What you don’t see is the totally cool halogen Tech lighting.

Contemporary full bath, designer, Sally Wilson; Photo by Sally Wilson

Brookline bath; Wilson Kelsey Design, photo by Sally Wilson

Then there was the project with our most favorite client of the year! It was a partial renovation in Newton – including their kitchen, family room, creating a walk in pantry, home office and mudroom. Stylish, almost modern in feel – balancing traditional and modern materials and details. We turned to our Belgian interior design style for inspiration and spun it to fit our clients American lifestyle. Check out the bleached/painted floor. Both photographs are scouting shots taken by Michael Lee.

Belgian style influence contemporary-traditional kitchen, Wilson Kelsey Design; Photographer Michael Lee

Lounge area adjacent to the kitchen. Francois & Co. mantel. Town & Country gas fireplace.

kitchen lounge, Wilson Kelsey Design; Photographer, Michael Lee

A glimpse at a walk out basement in a home at the Ipswich Country Club, which we helped the homeowner convert into a bar/entertainment area. Detail of the bar. (Apologies for the photographs…)

Bar detail; Wilson Kelsey Design

Note the painted floor.

Entertainment area, Wilson Kelsey Design

How can I forget our large French Villa Style under construction in Newton? (See previous post here.)

The Foyer.

french villa style foyer stair, Wilson Kelsey Design copy

View toward the living room from the foyer.

Foyer toward living room; Wilson Kelsey Design

Living room toward the foyer.

Frenck style paneling, Wilson Kelsey Design 2

Paneling detail…

paneling detail; WIlson Kelsey Design

Kitchen detail…

kitchen detail; WIlson Kelsey Design

Master bath in progress, sans crown molding, antique mirrors, columns at arch and Sherle Wagner sinks/faucet sets…

master bath progress; Wilson Kelsey Design

In closing, a few design sketches from several current projects.

A contemporary media wall with Arts and Crafts influence cabinetry.

arts and crafts tv wall; Wilson Kelsey Design

French Villa Style powder room.

French villa style powder room; WiLson Kelsey Design

Belgian Style Master Bath

master bath design study

Belgian Style Pantry

pantry elevations - Version 2

Finally – Several fabric/color palettes… (Sally has an amazing color engine!)

fabric pallete, WIlson Kelsey Design

fabric palette, Wilson Kelsey Design

fabric palette; Wilson Kelsey Design

Wilson Kelsey Design girls bedroom fabrics

All in all, a very good year and we’re looking forward to an exciting 2015!


John Kelsey, Wilson Kelsey Design

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Sally and I met with the home owners of the new French Country Residence for which we are designing the interiors and their contractor on Saturday. It was a marathon meeting, lasting from 11 AM until almost 5 PM. A post on the kitchen design can be found here. (The kitchen continues to go thru incremental refinement which I will cover in a separate post.) The purpose of this meeting was to review and recap where we were on wood floor selections, review all the proposed crown molding, door jambs, wood base and panel trim in the house, fireplace mantels for the living room, family room and master bedroom, door hardware and tweaking the kitchen plan. (While we were there, we offered input on the exterior limestone and stucco colors, exterior window trim color and slate roof tile colors. Sally and I are rarely without comment when asked our opinion…)

Starting with wood floors, we presented several options from C&R Flooring. The first was a rift and quarter sawn character grade white oak floor sealed to look unfinished. I loved the floor – a perfect neutral palette upon which to design the rest of the house around.. The client did not like it at all…


The second sample from C&R, a HomerWood character grade white oak oak floor, was also rejected.


So… We moved on to several other samples prepared by Baba wood floors. The first was a fumed white oak with a cream colored fill to bring out the grain of the wood. The husband liked it. Wife, not so sure…


The wife liked the honey toned Baba sample on the left. Neither liked the dark filled sample on the right.


Unable to make a selection looking at such small samples, it was decided that a visit to the Carlisle Wide Plank Floors facility in New Hampshire might be useful. Meanwhile, I am researching installation photographs with Baba.

Our attention shifted to the ceilings and crown molding for the major spaces of the house  – the foyer with it’s 18 foot high ceilings, living room, dining room, kitchen, family room, library and master bed room. The foyer molding is 14″ x 14″ and looks terrific at 18 feet! We will be adding a little embellishment on the flat surfaces between the trim molding.


The living room and dining room are to be quite formal with an elaborate crown and a chair rail and panel molding on the walls. This sample was close, but needs refinement.


We looked at two master bed room samples. This was rejected because the embellishment was on the frieze. (Very left hand sample.) Fortunately,  we had prepared a second sample with the embellishment on the crown. (Second from right.) The second from the left will be the family room crown – simpler and more relaxed. We decided to hold off on the kitchen and library crown moldings until there design of the cabinetry in both rooms is more complete.

All the samples were assembled with White River profiles. We are now considering plaster for the above rooms. I am looking forward to our visit to Boston Ornament to consider their decorative plaster options and possibilities. We reviewed the panel molding, door jambs and wood base for the house, but I won’t bore you with all the details.


Our discussion then shifted to the focal points of three rooms, the fireplace mantels for the living room, family room and master bed room. We are considering two marble mantels from Chesney’s. (The drapery at these windows is going to be a challenge, as it will be in the master bed room.)

The family room’s contenders are limestone mantels from Francois & Co. and Chesney’s. (I have a funny feeling we may see a Francois hood over the range in the kitchen.) I think the family room could use boxed beams in the ceiling, don’t you?

The Master Bed Room’s mantel is a Francois & Co. mantel. Petite and gorgeous!!! The second mantel is one I designed, which wraps around the chimney box. Due to very limited space our option were few. I’m thrilled with the outcome! (Anyone interested in the wrap around mantel? It could be made of either wood or stone.) It’s hard to see,  but I changes the scale of the crown molding in the second sketch. The first was too heavy for the scale of the room.

The kitchen was the next topic and I will save reporting on that animated discussion for another post.

While we were there, the contractor presented several options for materials and colors for shingles/slate, stucco, limestone and window trim. We of course weighed in on the subject by pulling up images of several gorgeous French homes from a previous blog post, which you can see here and an example can be seen below.

I’m loving the doors and delicate Juliette wrought iron in the second floor windows.

(Source unknown)

All in all, a very productive meeting. Sally’s next immediate task is plumbing fixtures (among many things on this project…), while I refine the design of the foyer and foyer stair, rework the kitchen, and prepare concept sketches for the master  bath and library. Never a dull moment…

Have a wonderful week!



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If you would like our assistance on your design project, contact us here.