The Sitting Room, an Excelsior interior design firm and store, had just opened in 2003 when Teri Mahalich bought the shop’s first vignette of furniture. As a new business owner, Kate Regan reflects, “It was so exciting! In addition to buying the vignette, Teri helped me establish my business. She was one of my first clients and sent many referrals my way.” Grateful for Mahalich’s support, Regan was presented with an opportunity to thank the Mahalich family when their home burned down in April 2009.
Regan was “heartbroken” upon hearing the news. “I was saddened to hear that this wonderful family had lost their beautiful home and all of the meaningful things in it,” she says. Once the dust settled, the Mahalich family decided to rebuild on the same lot. They loved the property and it was one of the only things they had left that felt familiar.
Deciding to rebuild provided many design freedoms. The Mahalich family and Regan agreed that they could maintain the overall layout and style of the original home while updating the space to accommodate the needs of their maturing family. Regan committed herself to the rebuild, working closely with the original builder, Lecy Brothers.
One major design change was a departure from a Tuscan influence, popular when the original home was constructed eight years ago, to a more classic, traditional look. “The interior took on a new elegance,” Regan said. “We used classic architectural details like wainscoting, paneled columns and marble surrounds to the fireplaces in the living and dining room.”
A beloved feature of the former home was a vaulted beadboard ceiling. The kitchen being the hearth of any home, Regan wanted it to be reminiscent of the good times enjoyed in the old home. To update the kitchen, Regan used board with a larger groove than beadboard. It gave the room a new look while providing homage to the old kitchen.
Without family pictures or artifacts that tell a family’s personal history, Regan identified creative ways to have the new space feel like home. “One of the major challenges,” she says, “was to update the home while maintaining familiarity.” It was important to Regan that the décor “be meaningful” and personalized. She used monograms on upholstered items throughout the house. Knowledgeable that the couple had honeymooned in Paris, Regan found and framed a great vintage map of Paris.
Although Regan loves monograms, her favorite piece in the remodeled home is a large antique hutch placed in the living room. Regan describes the piece as rustic with an antiqued mirrored back and glass shelves. “It adds sparkle and character at the same time,” she says. The hutch adds instant character and age to an otherwise completely new space. Regan admits that she never really wanted to sell hutch. “It was one of the first pieces I purchased for my store. Teri had always admired it and we both knew it would be perfect.”
Another highlight of the new home is the use of wallpaper. Once believed to be passé and to date a home, wallpaper is staging a comeback, adding instant style and pattern. Papering the laundry room with pearl-inspired Schumacher stripe made the space Regan’s favorite in the house. The paper has a white background with strings of black “pearls” creating vertical stripes. For contrast, the cabinet doorknobs are over-size and orange.
The loss of a home to fire or any disaster is tragic. One’s home becomes synonymous with one’s identity. It is a time capsule of memories, a retreat from the day to day, a space that welcomes you as you are, and a gathering place for loved ones. Regan and The Sitting Room helped the Mahalich family rebuild more than just bricks and mortar. Regan developed a space that supports the aesthetic, practical and sentimental needs of the family. “It was extremely gratifying to be a part of the rebuilding process,” she says.
The Sitting Room
380 2nd St., Excelsior