Alison Victoria of 'Windy City Rehab' Reveals the Design Move That's So Standard, It's a Drinking Game
Designer Alison Victoria has a lot of moxie herself, but on the latest episode of "Windy City Rehab," she meets a client who is equally brave—maybe even braver.
In the Season 4 episode "Trust the Process," Victoria meets Levi, who has taken on general contractor duties on the remodel of a five-bedroom, 4.5-bath Chicago home built in 1911. It was a duplex when he and his wife, Nicole, bought it for $436,000, and now they have $250,000 to take it back to the studs and revert it to a single-family home.
By serving as the general contractor and not hiring one, he's saving about $87,000. But he's also buying major headaches, frustration, and time away from his family.
We’re not gonna lie: This renovation's a tough slog. But Victoria helps a ton by coming up with ideas that save thousands of dollars but look amazingly high-end. Check out how she pulls it off, plus one design move that's become such a go-to for her, fans can expect to see it again and again.
The concrete foundation had to be completely repoured, which cost an extra $25,000, so Victoria needs to economize wherever she can. But how can she pull this off when she's known for her sophisticated, upscale taste?
It's a bit of a jolt when you see her walking into a Tile Outlet store with Levi to pick out the finishes.
"You could go with the cookie-cutter look and you could go with something that's builder-standard, but I’m not about that," she says, browsing the sale section. Surprisingly enough, she finds the luxury tiles she wants at outlet prices.
"We want to elevate the house," she tells Levi. It's all about "understanding what that looks like within the budget."
Levi and Nicole found a stately, dark wood-framed pier mirror (a piece often hung between two windows), which they decide to make a focal design piece.
Victoria and Levi go shopping and find several more wood antiques, most of them nicked and scratched. Among them are a front door, cabinets, and a mantel.
Many people would sand these pieces down and stain them out of respect for their original wood. But Victoria thinks nothing of painting them—covering up that natural woodgrain coating with paint.
"When you’re dealing with pieces like this, you have to retrofit them," says Victoria. "So if you’re retrofitting a piece that is old, it's impossible to do it if you keep it in a stain grade."
Meaning: Sometimes, an antique needs paint to look current.
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There's only one color Victoria will consider using on these antique pieces.
"I mean, everybody knows the color," says Victoria as she prepares to paint the furniture. "People are doing, like, drinking games to it. Black, and then black, and black and black and black."
Yep, all those pieces—mantel, front door, cabinets, pier mirror, and then some—are all going black.
"Black is beautiful," Alison says. "It cleans pieces up, gives them a crisper look."
According to Victoria, there is only one kind of pull to put on the cabinetry in the kitchen. What she's selected is made of a substance that looks like smoked glass, set in brass.
"This is the jewelry of your kitchen!" she says. "That's like my bracelets, that's like my necklaces."
She makes sure they’re placed in the center of the cabinetry, not on the sides. They do indeed dazzle.
"This is a cool idea. Cost-effective, very modern, love, love, love this look," says Victoria, referring to a simple yet elegant kitchen hood she helps to create.
"We’re literally going to wrap a box of plywood, put some metal underbelly on it for the heat, stick the insert in there, stain it, and call it a day," she says.
The wood wrap costs only $80 for 8 feet! An attractive custom hood like that could easily cost thousands of dollars.
"I thought this could be a really cool, modern look for the hood and be very linear, and kind of brings the eye up," she explains, "and is cost-effective."
Once Nicole tours her newly finished home, she says, "This is so beautiful, I’m going to cry. I’ve never had anything this beautiful in my entire life."
Levi is ultimately gratified to see that his family appreciates all of his hard work.
"I’ve never seen a husband or a father work so hard," says Victoria. "That's the beauty of this one. And it's just turned out to be the best project I’ve ever done."
Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning writer who covers lifestyle, entertainment, real estate, design, and travel. Find her on ReallyRather.comAlison Victoria Levi Nicole