Extreme Makeover – kitchen turned walk-in closet: Kelly Lawson rocks a ‘Lady Cave’!

So, one night my husband and I are at a dinner party at Kelly and Jeff’s charming two-storey on the West Side.  After one too many glasses of grape, Kelly announces she wants me to design her a ‘lady cave’.  A what?  Up to the second level we go.  She pushes open a door open at the top of the stairs, turns on a light (one naked light bulb attached to a dated ceiling fan), and brandishing her wine glass in one upraised fist cries, “Seeeeee.  I need a new walk-in closet.”

Indeed I did see, though I could hardly credit what I saw.  Talk about a sobering experience.  Could it be that Kelly Lawson — charming gadabout, refined fashionista, photographer extraordinaire — actually performed her toilette in this dreary, defunct kitchen, several cubic metres of all cave and no lady?

Photo: Judith Mackin – The picture pretty much sums it up.  The gutted room, once used as an upstairs apartment kitchen, had been conscripted into doing temporary service as a walk-in closet ..and obviously wasn’t happy about it.  But hey, what’s a closet without a gum machine and guitar?

Photo: Judith Mackin – I found it fascinating that Kelly placed her clothes rack so that you have to walk around it upon entering, on a wall and between two doors that need to open.

Photo: Judith Mackin – Kelly’s ‘makeup/hair’ area on the ‘white’ carpet with mirror leaning against the multi-layered weathered wallpapered wall.  Cinder blocks, boards and white plastic containers worked as storage for her jeans, sweaters and ‘smalls.’

For a more comprehensive tour of the ruins — i.e., the ‘before pics’ — take a scroll-stroll through the pics below.  Spelunking anyone?

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Who lives in a lady cave and what do they require?

Photo: Kelly Lawson? Lady Cave? When I first heard the term I envisioned dark and dank, with Kelly hanging upside down waiting for night to fall.

A week or so after the introduction to defunct galley, Kelly and I sat down to discuss what she wanted.  “Make me a punch inside lady cave,” is what she basically told me.   That is, she didn’t want to give me any specific direction or point me in the direction of any preconceived design ideas. On the practical level, she just wanted a place to organize her clothes, do her hair/makeup in a proper chair, and have an additional chair for Jeff or the kids should they wish to visit.  Oh, and one other thing:  she wanted a piece of Amy Ash‘s artwork hanging on a wall.

Here is what I already knew about Kelly.

  • Kelly is feminine but isn’t ‘girly-girl’.
  • Kelly (and Jeff) are huge lovers of living in uptown Saint  John; true urbanites.
  • Kelly has a passion for industrial design and decor.

The design I came up for her included wall coverings, furnishings, décor, lighting, window and door coverings — no existing feature of the cave was to be left unchanged or unmolested; notwithstanding the relatively restricted space, it was going to be a total makeover.

Kelly and her father agreed to do the work with whatever design I came up with (Arch Lawson — Kelly’s father — did a tremendous job in putting together his daughter’s space).

Here are the ‘in between pics’ (taken by Kelly):


Looking out of Kelly’s window the first thing that struck me was the expanse of beautiful sky blue above the city skyline across the water.  The day I took room specs and the ‘before pics,’ there were three massive cruise ships in the harbour.  I took the blue of that vista as my launching point; the rest of the design would follow from a bright blue wall.

Photo: Kelly LawsonAs you enter the completed ‘cave’ you now are greeted with the cloud chair, designed by Lisa Widén for Design House Stockholm (available through TUCK Studio).  Beside the ‘cloud’ chair floating on the ‘sky blue’ wall is Kactus designed by Enrico Bressan for Artecnica (available through TUCK Studio).  Kactus provides dual purposes; one as a table and then turn it upside down and you have a laundry basket.

Photo: Kelly LawsonHere is the lady herself, Kelly sitting on her cloud chair underneath her new painting by Amy Ash. Kelly provided Amy with some pictures of her as a little girl. I suggested we add the wagon and place a camera inside it. Amy’s work provides a wonderfully personal and vibrant accent to the room.

Photo: Kelly LawsonHere is Kelly’s new hair and make-up station. Remember the previous carpet on the floor with makeup scattered everywhere? Kelly now sits at a table designed by Sara Szyber  for Design House Stockholm (through TUCK Studio), makeup nicely stored in the drawers provided. She now enjoys a new backlit mirror (the light is off in this photo) designed by Lumidesign, a Canadian company, also available through TUCK Studio. The white walls serve as airy counterpoint to the blue accent wall.

Photo: Kelly Lawson – On the wall adjacent to the blue wall and Amy’s painting we installed a full wall of floor to ceiling PAX IKEA closet system. Choosing mirrors for the doors expanded the small space, literally doubling the room visually. Behind the glass doors Kelly is provided with floor to ceiling storage for her boots and clothes and no longer has any use for her cinder blocks or plastic drawers! Oh Chair designed by Karim Rashid for Umbra (through decor8).

Photo: Kelly Lawson – Another view of the feature wall.

Photo: Kelly Lawson – This pillow was a collaboration between me, my co-worker at punch inside, Sarah Tapley, and photographer Sean McGrath (Our colleague and mutual friend).  I saw a photo that Sean had taken of Kelly and Jeff earlier that year and was knew it was the perfect image. Sarah simply sewed the pillow together and it was complete. This was my ‘thank you’ gift to Kelly for allowing me the opportunity to work together.

Photo: Kelly Lawson – Details of decor on table. All the elements brought into the lady cave were deliberately ‘non-feminine.’ The white walls with blue accent and a cloud chair with white furniture don’t exactly scream ‘girly’. The few pieces in this otherwise clean and even austere space add a touch of ‘bling’ or glamour. Left: signature punch inside pig used in many of our designs; ‘bank in the form of a pig’ Harry Allen for Areaware, Kontur (silicone vase) by Normann Copenhagen, Dahlia placemat (gold) by Chilewich, Fin Vase and iphone stand by Flat Packables (Japan); ‘Thinking of you vases’ by Tord Boontje for Artecnica (All products available through TUCK Studio.) Magnolia’s courtesy of Anne Weaver Downey’s Garden.

Photo: Kelly Lawson. And what would any self-respecting Lady Cave be without an animal hide? This reindeer hide (available through Tuck Studio) lends considerable warmth to the space. Apple dog (the family pet with the tautological name) loves to lie on it watching Kelly transition from cave girl to fashion plate.

Photo: Kelly Lawson – The Lady Cave takes on an intimate warmth in the evening. Here you see the Lumidesign backlit mirror takes on a ‘different’ look and feel.

Photo: Kelly Lawson – Here are Kelly’s boots (by Minnetonka through Urban Shoe Myth) resting on a new boot mat carpet by canadian designer, Anne Tomas for Toma Objects (carried through TUCK Studio).

Photo: Kelly Lawson – Detail shots of decor from TUCK Studio.

Photo: Kelly Lawson – Detail shots of decor from TUCK Studio.

Photo: Kelly Lawson – But wait, what’s this? Pregnancy books on the side table? Will the newly-christened ‘Lady Cave’ be turned into ‘Baby Cave’ before the next snow flies?

Thank you to Kelly, my friend and my collaborator.

To view all photography of Kelly’s finished Lady Cave please view the gallery below.  As always, thank you for reading.

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