One of the most exciting aspects of our business is our ongoing work with interior designers; putting our team’s skilled craftsmen to work in helping realize the imaginative ideas of some of Chicago’s most creative design professionals. We’re especially proud when we can team up with a designer who’s both extremely artistic and committed to sustainability. Our work with Avani Mehta is just such a match.
Avani (pronounced Avni) is a passionate woman; passionate for beautiful old homes, stunning interior design and the importance of being a responsible, energy conscious homeowner. She has a certain wise warmth about her, a timeless vibe that lends itself well to historic preservation and restoration of the unique older homes so common here in the Chicago area. Her name, Avani, is a Sanskrit term meaning something very close to “Mother Earth.”
“I am a mother,” she chuckles, “It’s what is most important to me. But homes are my passion.
“Over time, working with so many homes – including five of my own — you learn a lot. What to keep and what just doesn’t work.” As a responsible home renovator, she has also learned how being green can best influence her designs. “I want to make these homes as energy efficient as my clients’ budgets and capabilities allow. I seek to bring these old houses back to life; to make them feel like homes. Even for my new construction clients I always think antique or vintage elements in the design give their homes a more authentic feel.”
“I’ve always re-used things.” says Mehta. On one project when she noticed the cedar roof sheathing was in panels, it ended up as an attic floor. She points to an elegant eighteenth century wooden chair, and invites us to look at the cushions. They’re stunning; done in a luxurious fabric, rich and laden with magnificent, muted colors. With a smile, she says, “I had the cushions on this chair upholstered in an antique drapery panel I saved from a previous house. Some things you just can’t throw away.
“I am Indian,” she adds. “We love color!”
She had just such an idea for a client in River Forest. She envisioned a surround mantle for the fireplace made from the 6” x 9” Douglas Fir timbers she had salvaged from her latest house renovation. And that’s when she called Get Dwell.
Project Manager Chris Goodnight tells the story: “Avani told us what she had in mind, and asked if we could take a look at the timbers to see if her idea was even possible. My goodness — when I saw the wood I got really excited. It was old growth Douglas Fir with a density — a richness in the grain — that’s just unavailable in what you can buy today. So I told her, ‘Yes. This is possible.’
“First I inspected the timbers to see what we had — sometimes there’s rot inside from when it was still a tree. Once we determined the amount of useable wood we had to work with, we got down to the really fun part; making Avani’s bold design work, figuring out the best way to create a the look she wanted while making sure the piece – it’s a weighty, free-floating design — would be structurally sound. After removing every nail, screw and piece of embedded metal — and some of those nails were handmade pig iron — I cut the timber into 4” x 5″ and 4” x 2″ planks. Once all the planks were milled, mitered, fit and assembled, I brought out the metal saw horses and a large torch to raise the grain, giving the piece an aged appearance, and bringing out the rich, earthy brown color Avani wanted.
“Bringing these old timbers back to life — in this case, back to a look that would normally take 150 years to achieve — is what it’s all about… and it’s a lot of fun.”
Avani Mehta is not just crazy about green design, she’s proving to be certifiable! Her own home is expected to reach silver status in Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED), an internationally recognized green building certification program. She’s been featured in This Old House and has a long track record of exceptional projects and excellent relationships throughout the region. “I’m blessed to have built a business doing what I love,” says Mehta. “I have a large commercial client — well large for me — that I have had for years. But the mainstay of my business, and the part of it I love the best, has always been the home.” Avani can be reached via email or at 847-436-0345.