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Home Design by the Coconut Girl

Most of my work as an architect focuses on home design. Many families with young children are just like mine: desperate!  That is to say they’re desperate for their homes to support their busy lives, not detract from them. Sometimes the solution for clients is an addition or a renovation. Other times, a few new pieces of furniture and some rearranging accomplish the goal of a saner existence. It’s amazing how much better the day goes when you can find your things (mostly), and there’s some beauty around to lift your spirits.

Here are several recent projects for families, including ours.

Before: The back porch had little visual or physical connection to back yard, plus lead paint-a-go-go. The dormers and roof needed overhauling due to to rot and loose shingles.

After: Freshly detailed dormers and roof, and a new screened porch. Kids can run wild in the back yard and still be easily supervised from the house.

When a busy client with two teenagers bought this modern home, she envisioned a calm, clutter-free entry. We replaced the garish color palate with serene tones, and built a custom entry vestibule that bears on the existing steel structure at the storefront windows. The new entry creates a human-scaled threshold between the garden outside and the high, vaulted living room. Spacious cubbies and custom lighting welcome backpacks, boots, and coats.























Here’s a small project at my house that was on my to-do list for a year. It only took two nights to complete once I got started. I rearranged our master bedroom to make room for an office area. Our bed fit into a cozy niche, but to do so, it had to back up to a drafty, off-center window. I covered the window with a thick comforter, then hung a canopy over the bed that I sewed from IKEA curtains. A Japanese obi belt purchased in Washington, DC added some nice detail at the canopy’s front edge. I supported the fabric by draping it over two closet clothes rods I picked up late one night at Lowe’s.


















When this project began, my clients had three children under the age of four–including twins. They craved more breathing room in their living/dining area, and needed two more bedrooms for their growing girls.  The addition contains a new dining room, home office, mudroom, butler’s pantry, playroom and bedrooms–all within 1,000 square feet. Custom casework provides much-needed storage; large windows and recessed can lights give the house a bright, spacious feel.













After: New dining room, mud room, and bedrooms.






























The dining room/bedroom addition is on the right. It was detailed to match the existing construction.
















Who needs a mudroom? Holy moly, we sure did for our busy family. Rather than adding square footage, we hit IKEA and World Market for some furniture and storage containers to put in our living and dining rooms. With a few friendly reminders, the kids put their backpacks in the basket, and their shoes in the cubbies. Grown-ups place incoming mail and school forms in the black file boxes until they can be sorted. Bureaus just around the corner hold umbrellas, hats, gloves, and windbreakers. An existing coat closet got a new light, bright paint, and low pegs so family members can hang their own coats.

























8 Responses

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  1. jen says


  2. Leah says

    Ashley bet me I couldn’t find the cup. After spending many nights, mornings, days. evenings, weekends and holidays playing this exact game with the family dog, I’ve become something of an expert in finding the sippy cup before it becomes yogurt. Is it the little red man on the bottom right-hand corner? It looks as if there is a tiny straw on the side.

  3. the Coconut Girl says

    Excellent guess. Regretfully, that’s not it. Don’t concede victory yet. Another hint: think Russian nesting dolls. Things inside things. Such a brilliant idea to enlist the family dog in the search. Except how do you extract the funky sippy from your dog’s eager jaws?

  4. kate murphy says

    hello…i stumbled over your name and blog in one of those accidental collisions the internet is so good at orchestrating. i am just starting out in architecture, but am trying to find ways to write more — it is my first love. your stories give me encouragement. thank you for sharing!

  5. the Coconut Girl says

    Hi, Kate, thanks so much for your kind comment. I’m so glad you made your way here. Architecture, writing, it’s all pure creative goodness. Keep me posted about what you’re up to!

  6. Sue says

    Hey Whitney- ran across ‘Coconut Girl’ and realized it was YOU!!! Love your website….How the heck are ya! send me a note sometime.

  7. sonia says

    I live in Coconut Grove, in Miami…………..& would LOVE to buy your website name.

    Are you the person using: Stuff about Coconut Oil,etc. A photo of a woman in swimsuit on a beach? A webpage created many years ago & still is ??????
    Is that you…..?
    PLEASE reply if you get this……Sonia 305-386-2911

  8. the Coconut Girl says

    Hi, the site you mention isn’t mine. Best wishes.

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