Homeowner's Resource Guide. April 2005, pp. 16-25.
decorate like a pro
Creating Your Home’s Signature Style
By Michelle Ramage
Like many people, Lisa and Dale Liccardi had certain ideas in mind as they built their dream house in Brecksville. But the key to completing any look is a decorative artist who can make it happen just as they envisioned it. Fortunately, the Liccardis found out about James Todd of Dances With Walls.
“I saw the woodwork Jim had glazed at a friend’s house and knew I wanted that glazing,” says Lisa. “I made sure I had crown work with detailing built in.” But that was only one aspect of their new house. She had definite ideas for some rooms, and no ideas for other rooms. That’s where a decorative artist with an eye for design becomes crucial.
“I knew I liked faux stonework,” Lisa says. She had seen some in the foyer of another friend’s house; but she didn’t know where she wanted it. “I worked with Jim to figure out where to put it.” They decided on the master bathroom.
“Jim suggested not doing all the walls with the faux stonework,” Lisa adds. “He said it would be good to just do some walls as a focal point.” The walls around the Jacuzzi tub and picture window, and the high-ceiling wall above the vanities and walk-in shower, have the stonework. “Everybody comes into the bathroom and wants to touch the stone,” says Lisa. “We have to tell them it’s painted!” The remaining two walls have the same faux finish, but no stone lines.
Lisa wasn’t sure what she wanted in the master bedroom, but “I knew I wanted faux and for it to be relaxing.” Jim melded the colors from the master bathroom and the foyer outside the bedroom, plus tied in colors from their comforter, so the two outer areas married in the bedroom. The result is a stunning look of marble, uncomplicated in its design yet impressive and soothing. “When I saw the sample, I loved it,” Lisa adds. This room turned out to be the most difficult for Jim.
“It wasn’t coming out at first like I’d envisioned,” he says. “So I stayed late into the evening to bring it around to what I’d had in mind.” Jim also glazed the woodwork in the bedroom (around the fireplace, built-in cabinets and shelves) and the master bathroom vanities, bringing out the beauty of the details. And he suggested the Liccardis keep the foyer a neutral tone. “He said you want the eye to rest,” Lisa says.
With no ideas for the piano room, where does one start? “I try to get a feel for what will be in the room,” Jim says. Lisa planned to have a black grand piano and an oriental rug over a hardwood floor. “I made the walls fit with the floors, knowing the walls would be a good support for the piano,” Jim explains. The faux finish is subtle, yet evokes movement, lending itself perfectly to a music room.
Lisa had a coffered ceiling built in, planning to paint the inner portions a shade darker than the walls to bring out the woodwork. But Jim had another idea. “The room looked like it needed a stamped metal ceiling,” he says. He showed Lisa and Dale a sample of lightly glazed anaglypta wallpaper (with a raised design), approximating that look. They loved it.
Lisa wanted the dining room to tie in with the kitchen and have a faux suede finish. “Jim said it doesn’t wear well over time and gets dirty easily,” she says. “I was very honest with her that I could do that, but she wouldn’t like it down the road,” he explains. “A faux leather finish would have the same textured feeling but would wear better.” Jim used a sample of the kitchen’s custom cabinets to get a complementary color for the dining room walls. “I was amazed our dining chairs matched perfectly,” Lisa adds. “We didn’t even consider them.”
For the great room, “I knew I wanted Venetian plaster,” Lisa says. This was Jim’s most fun room. “The work was very physical, very textured and layered,” he says. “It came out very soft and warm.” And it flows effortlessly into the kitchen. Jim also helped pick the ceiling colors, to allow that woodwork to show.
“Jim does have that eye for color – to get the right tone and shade to blend in as it should,” says Dale. “Everything just seems to flow.” Overall, Lisa and Dale love the faux work Jim did in their house. “It gives the house a warm, cozy feeling.” And Lisa had a wonderful time working with him.
“He was one of the best trades I worked with,” she says. “He listened whenever I had ideas. We worked really well together, and didn’t have any problems at all.” Dale was impressed with how flexible and exact Jim was. “When he brought a sample board, if he knew it wasn’t the right shade, he’d do it until it was right,” says Dale. “He even accommodated our timeframe, bringing samples on weekends and even helping us paint on a Sunday.” Jim also really enjoyed working with them.
“They were great; a lot of fun to work with,” he says. “Lisa had a lot of artistic ideas, knew what she wanted, and wasn’t afraid to express herself as far as what she wanted.” And that can really make the difference. “It’s difficult with clients who are afraid to tell you they don’t like something; like they’re going to be insulting,” he adds. “This is their house – I’m doing this for them, not me.”
With any client, it’s always easier if they know what they want. “Then I know if I’m on the right track,” Jim explains. When they don’t know, there’s more guesswork. “With Lisa, I got to know her taste after a while and would know if she wouldn’t like something,” he adds. Maybe his artistic background as a movie and theater scenic painter helps Jim get a feel for a client’s house.
“It’s not just finding out what someone wants and figuring out the mechanics of how to do it,” he explains. “There’s a lot of care and consideration for how it will work for them in the house; it’s about them being happy when it’s done.” Dale and Lisa certainly are.
“I talk to everyone about him, and always refer people, saying, ‘No one does better than Jim,’” she says. “A lot of people see the house as a whole, so we make a point of showing the work that’s been done,” Lisa adds. “Then people get excited and want to see each room.”
221 Race Street - Berea, Ohio 44017
(c) 2004-5 James E. Todd : Dances With Walls : Berea, Ohio