Thursday, December 4, 2014

My Widows Walk Bedroom

It has been ten months since my beloved Alberto died. Many of you have been kind enough to indulge me pouring my heart out and sharing my grief with you. You might have read in older posts that I have been working on dividing my house in two, so I can rent one part of it out until my sister moves in with me in a couple of years. Photography by Sara Essex Bradley.

Valorie Hart Designs a master bedroom for a widow

It's good to have a project, though I have been sluggish making the changes. Every day spent packing away things and organizing a home made for two into a home now made for one is a volcano of emotions. It slows one down.

One of the major changes I have been working on include turning Alberto's office that was up on the second floor in a part of the house called a camel back, into my bedroom, dressing room, and sitting room. I added a bathroom up there, something I should have done long ago for Alberto. There are twenty-one steps up to the camel back, and he walked up and down them many times a day to use the downstairs bathrooms. Here is the link to see the "Before" - "The Office Of A Milonguero".

The upstairs is done. I have been sleeping up there for a couple of months. I forced myself not to return to our old bedroom once I moved upstairs. In fact that room has been reconfigured as part of the rental.

The upstairs consists of two rooms joined together by an archway.  It has an industrial loft like feeling, with an exposed brick chimney running through the center of the two rooms. There are four windows, two on each side, one set is on the east and the other set is on the west. From my bed, I can watch the moon rise on one side, and watch it go down on the other side. I see sky and tree tops. I have a birds eye few of my back patio and of the neighborhood. I call it my widows walk, a solitary aerie imagined as a garret high above the Parisian rooftops.

Surprise, surprise, I painted it white! White has always been in my arsenal and wheelhouse. I pulled out all the old Frenchy things I had stashed around here and there. I re-purposed furniture from Alberto's office and from around the house. I got something new that has been on my decor bucket list, the Etched Arcadia mural from Anthropologie. I got two murals, one for behind the bed, and one for behind the TV.

Etched Arcadia mural from Anthropologie

The bed is Alberto's old futon style couch he napped on - I added a nice memory foam mattress and an upholstered headboard - the smaller  double bed size is a perfect for me (and Cholo and Kitty Kitty Bang Bang)

I chose the mural because of the black and white and tree motif. I see tree tops outside my windows, and I love the playfulness of the idea of  being up in a tree house. It also looks like a modern version of the antique grisaille wallpaper that I loved in Howard Slatkin's New York apartment.

White drapes with black Greek key trim hung on return to the wall rods

I changed the doors from paneled ones to flat ones so I could have mural extend onto them. The mural is a stock size, and a was a little short for my walls. So I did a faux baseboard by adding a piece of trim at the bottom of the mural where the white wall is exposed, and adding trim and molding to the door. Black hinges and a black door knobs were also added. Removing the casing around the doors was too involved. I had to pick my battles.

The TV was Alberto's and it is in the same place when it was his office - The chest and mirror came from our dressing room and bedroom -  The antique Adirondack side table has been stored away for years - The rug is from our former dressing room

I kept Alberto's computer and a table he made, but I skirted in a drop cloth painted with wide black stripes, which I also used as a coverlet on the bed - the candle sconce above the computer was once in my breakfast area

This is a note I left him - we often left each other little love notes - I would be downstairs and hear him laughing at something on TV or that he saw online,  and also hear him singing tangos or playing the clarinet

This nook has a book shelf Alberto built - I organized all our photo albums or our years of teaching tango abroad. along with his important tango books here - The pair of white DIY faux marble lamps were once in our bedroom years ago

My old vanity and lamps have been kicking around for years - The pendant hanging on the lamp holds a lock of Alberto's hair

Another nook with shelves Alberto built for CDs and Videotapes

I tore out the ten year old wall-to-wall carpet and replaced it with gray faux wood (that would be affordable laminate lol). The house tilts as all old houses are wont to do, so a floating floor suits the shifting and tilting. I put in new ceiling fans (a necessity on the second floor). My closet is open with no doors or partitions.

My open closet is much smaller than the whole room Alberto and I had for our dressing room

Shoe storage is in a nook that once housed Alberto's tango video tapes now boxed and stored in the cabinets above - The little bench was once orange velvet and I had it reupholstered in faux white leather

I carved a full bath (albeit made for a petite person) out of a second unused stairway and stairwell - I used basic tile and brass fixtures - It may be a small bathroom but it is perfect for an ex-New Yorker who is used to small bathrooms.

This bathroom was once a stairwell - I used stock tile and brass fixtures - My skeleton anatomy chart makes a perfect window shade

I searched for a tiny sink - I think it is adorable

One day my lovely devoted friend Sara Essex Bradley came over to take pictures of what I had done. I was in a sad tailspin, and being with her brought me back some smiles, and the joy that comes from working with with her. 

This chaise was in our bedroom, and I had it reupholstered

All in all I am happy with the results. The only thing missing is Alberto.

My team: 
Oscar Amaya (and his wife Elvira and his son Alex) -  the contractor who did everything
Kevin (and his team) the electrician
Tommy (and team) from Pipe Wizard Plumbing
Dennis Gaultier (with his wife) - the best wallpaper installers
Designer Upholstery by Marvin
Drapes installed by Jennifer from Shading Places
My neighbor Brian for hauling away Alberto's collection of old electronics
Louis St. Lewis for hanging a mirror and his excellent company, kind heart, and sympathetic ear 
Fellow designer Penny Francis and Donna Russell for their invaluable input about the bathroom


  1. I am always completely mesmerized by your creativity and your gift for taking ordinary things and combining them in such an extraordinary way. I absolutely adore the grisaille mural and all of the aged gold accents. The bathroom is nothing short of fabulous - simple and sensational! So nice that you've reinvented the space for this new chapter in your life but still found a way to honor Alberto. So very well done and I hope it helps heal.

  2. Oh Valorie you have such great taste. We have floors like that in our kitchens and bathroom. They are wonderful People usually touch them to see what they are since they look like real wood. They don't get cold either. We have had a couple little spots where it kinda got chipped. I just use a permanent marker and it all blends. I think you will like them. It will be a hard holiday with Alberto but you have so many warm memories all around you to make it a tiny bit better.

  3. This is such a beautiful space and it is filled with the love of memory and honour of memory - which bounces off every surface creating a room full of beauty.

  4. Thank you for sharing your beautiful space

  5. This is such a lovely post... and a lovely space. Bravo!

  6. Love the results, so bright and airy. That wallpaper mural is amazing, one day...
    Can't wait to see what you do with the rest of the house.

  7. It is absolutely fabulous. I recognize pieces from other places and they look so fitting in their new spaces. Cholo and Kitty Kitty Bang Bang look equally fitting in the new space.

  8. This is your best work yet! Hope you enjoy nesting in the birdhouse.

  9. Oh it's wonderful! I would love to have a lovely getaway like that! Being in a space where Alberto spent so much time you must feel his spirit wrapped around you. How comforting yet renewing at the same time.--JT in TX

  10. Ok, this is amazing! I love love love this room. It needs to be in a book! I know you are having a hard time. After my father Mom often referred to herself as a widow and said..."Now I sit with the widows at church." I know it is a very sad thing to not have Alberto here. But you are lucky to be a widow as I have told my Mom she is...lucky to have had that. I will never be a widow. I've never found THE one for me. Everything ends at some time. You had him and you both were very happy. He was not in a desperate situation in a hospital for a long time at the end. My father was killed in an accident. He died very quickly...before the ambulance arrived. The suddenness of it was was so very hard on my Mom and I. But we were very thankful that he didn't suffer for days, weeks, months or years. He was just gone. It has not been that long for you. Two years and I was still crying all the time. You are making amazing progress. Five will be better. Ten've learned to live with it. I think of you often and wonder how you are. I'm not around as much on the blogs cause I'm working full time at a furniture store. I'm trying to make the most of it.


  11. This is just beautiful. My son lives in the IC and we (or I, really) often look at your blog for inspiration. Hoping that one day you'll be on a house tour.

  12. C'est tres belle! Magnificent and comforting! The mural is such a focal point yet you have created others that do not down play the walls. How clever the bed coverlet and furniture skirt very well may have started a new trend there. Need I speak about your bathing area. What french mademoiselle would NOT want that for herself! May the moonlight shine thru your windows and keep guiding you to calming peace. Job well done! Linda of the WB.

  13. I get the sense that you have kept many of Alberto's things, and in that, have created a space that embraces all that was wonderful about your relationship. As well, you are infusing a thread of continuity into your life, that the one who sincerely loved you would wish for. That love is still a powerful force in your life, and there is also a freshness in this room. Truly beautiful... it tugs at the heartstrings and you are a brave and inspiring woman!

  14. Your old bedroom is one of my favorite rooms ever, and now it has a rival! Absolutely beautiful....peaceful, exotic, tasteful....I could go on and on. Well done ~ Pam Clark

  15. Valorie,You have done a fabulous job and if I didn't know it was in NOLA, I'd guess it was Paris! Love to you and continued healing for your sorrow. God bless and Merry Christmas! xoxo

  16. Valorie....I had to comment today about this is so very lovely...and you have incorporated things of your beloved that bring back his memory. I can only imagine loosing my soul devastating that would are a hero.


  17. I'm gobsmacked and can't stop looking back and forwards at all the photos. I love this space, it's beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. It's like a hotel suite but one with character, warmth, and history. I think I spotted the mirror which used to live in your old dining room and have never seen the faux marble lamps before but love them and the mural looks like a million dollars. It must be bliss to hang out in that room, very bohemian but filled with memories and keepsakes of Alberto in every way.

  18. I LOVE it! It reminds me of a little French boudoir. I think about you often.

  19. Amazing Valorie, I love what you have done and your upstairs world has such warmth and charm.. I am sure it feels so cosy and comforting.

    Thinking of you this holiday season and wishing you a peaceful time... As always, I send you much love and "courage" to make it through the days without your beloved Alberto... xv

  20. Your new nest is so wonderful...being above the tree tops is one of my favorite things. I love how you have pulled all of your things together to make a mix of memories. I have a lock of hair too...treasures and memories make our lives. How lovely that you will be comfortable in the new space and looking forward to sister being with you. xoxo

  21. what a gorgeous classically beautiful room, and of course you will miss your soulmate, but what a lovely area you have decorated supremely well...adjectives abound, but I truly am in love with this room and everything in it... the colours are bold,but so right... amazing,,,, I have just discovered you, so will go and read all your other posts, what a feast I am about to enjoy I am sure... Hugs aplenty from across the pond..Happy New Year to you too**

  22. It's my first visit to your blog Valorie, and I feel very inspired at the same time very sad for your plight. I'm sure your work and your devotion to your creativity will make you more strong day by day and seeing that Alberto will be happy as well.
    I can't describe in words how amazing your work is, fabulous! You really can amaze people with your work. I wish you all the best and really hope to drop by your blog more often.

  23. Your room is just beautiful... and so is your cat !

  24. Oh Valorie, I love so much about your new quarters. Beautifully done, deliciously layered, delightful surprises. The tiny sink and shower remind me of European city hotel rooms. Utterly charming. -carey