Tuesday, December 24, 2013

More Holiday Decorations

Ok- so you've already seen a lot of decorations in our house. As I mentioned- I tried to put something festive in every room and got pretty close. So maybe you thought that I was done. [Sidenote, for additional context, you should know that it's been a really busy time at work for me- I'm working really long hours and through the weekends on high-profile, high-stress, quick-moving stuff. Plus, we have the usual holiday stress of trying to find gifts for everyone, get them mailed and wrapped, and find time and make arrangements to get together with our families. I'm pretty much your standard over-caffeinated, sleep-deprived, stressed out person.]  You might think that this would be a good time to just lower expectations, take a step back and chill out a bit. But you would be wrong. I say, let's raise those expectations and stress levels. You can call me "Captain Bright Idea".

So, the fireplace wasn't doing it for me. I went a little nuts over at Crate and Barrel and bought a bunch of hurricanes and candle-holding things to up the sparkle-factor.

 Fireplace mantel with extra bling.

I also got new placemats while I was there, but discovered they were out of the matching napkins.

Table with new placemats but no napkins.

In search of napkins, I turned to my favorite online fabric store and started looking around. I quickly got distracted and forgot about the napkins, but found lots of other fun festive fabrics. I thought for a bit about how to make a tree skirt, and came up with this:

Among other fabric I bought, I got crushed red velvet- (Santa in a leisure suit), and some basic white cotton for the tree skirt. It mostly worked as I envisioned above, but I had a hard time keeping the two pieces of fabric aligned as I sewed. This meant that my circles got slightly smaller and less circular as I went. It also meant that the fabric didn't lay perfectly flat. Turns out none of those are very important though. Total project took about 2 hours.

My new tree mini skirt.

I started noticing that our living room wall art (which is mostly blue), was clashing with the tree (which is red and silver). I stole some frames from upstairs, and put up anything red I already had, and a few scraps of wrapping paper. One morning I grabbed some red ornaments and put them on white fabric scraps, snapped a few pics, and printed the best one.

Festive wall art.

Along with the wall art switcheroo, I thought I should change the throw pillows on the couch (also blue). [For the record, I think this is the point where I officially went overboard.] I didn't want to spend money on new pillow covers, which would be expensive. Instead, I thought it would be brilliant to make holiday pillow covers, like envelopes, for the existing pillows to slide into. Thankfully, the fabric I ordered for this purpose didn't arrive in time, so this project will be delayed until next year.

And, if you were wondering - the little guy is still around. He's awfully cute and possibly named Max. He loves the tree and often climbs it. He loves to chew on the lights and the beads in the tree. I sweep up at least a cup of needles every day.


Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday Decorations!

Like most of the rest of the country, we got hit hard with wintery mix this weekend and last- so we took advantage of the opportunity to stay inside and get things festived up for the holidays. I went just a little bit overboard in an effort to have something festive in every room. I also took the opportunity to change up some of the wall things.

The entryway has a small arrangement of white candle holders and red ornaments on the piano.

The archway is draped with red berries, leading into the fireplace room.

The Fireplace has some branches and a red ribbon for our Christmas cards. 

Lanterns & Branches in the Dining Room

Candles and Ornaments as a centerpiece in the dining room

A floating candle on cranberries in the kitchen

I wrapped the bannister with live pine roping and lights. 

While I was at it- I decided to finally put up the wedding picture we had signed by our guests. 

To complete the wall- I added two more silver frames with black and white wedding pics. The christmas lights reflect in the frames and look really purty. 

more red berries upstairs in the bathroom. 

The wall art that was on the stairs came down to the entryway to brighten it up. 

and last but not least- the tree! 

The tree topper- my stuffed quetzal from Costa Rica, in a gold wire nest.

I've got a couple more things planned- but for now- this is our holiday house. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Painting the Master Bedroom

So we decided to repaint the master bedroom, after staring unhappily at the baby blue nursery color that I put up last January.

 The Baby Blue Color that had to go.

To pick a new color, I decided to swing by our local paint shop instead of the usual big box store. This decision was actually kind of difficult. In our last house, we would buy paint from whatever store we happened to be in at the time, so that each room's paint was from a different place. It was a disaster when we needed to do touch ups, trying to remember which store sells which kind of paint.

When we bought this house, I was actually really excited to go to one store and get like 10 gallons of paint for the whole house. The problem is, the store we picked is way out of town. Because it's such a long drive (1.5 hours), we avoid going as much as possible. When we picked the original bedroom paint, we didn't want to bother with paint samples which would involve another trip to the store, so we rushed into the original color decision. It's also not a store that specializes in paint, so I think it has fewer color options. When we were last there, I got paint chips and just didn't like any of the color choices. So all in all, not a great place to have bought all of the paint for the house.

Embracing my city life, I finally opted to check out a local paint shop that has many more color options and is located only a few blocks from home.  In an abundance of caution, we picked up a bunch of paint chips and then bought 5 paint samples. After staring at the multi-colored wall for days in a variety of lights, we finally decided on a new smoky blue/grey color. So now one room will be from one paint store while the rest of the house from another-- [unless I repaint everything else].

Step 1. Remove old phone lines, scrape trim, and caulk.
When phone lines were installed in our house, they did it the crappy way by running lots and lots of wire across the floor and moldings and stapling it in place. Since we can't even get it hooked up (and wouldn't want to anyway), I'm pulling it all out. Unfortunately, lots of it is caulked in place, so as I pull, I have to scrape the old caulk out, and recaulk as I go. [This step really made me think about the fact that houses outlive technology trends, so you should install things carefully (I'm looking at you, Iphone jacks in the wall that now don't fit the newest phone model)].

before with phone lines- after being caulked

Step 2. Replace outlets.
While making the trim pretty, I decided to replace the old black outlets. This is theoretically very easy to do. You just shut off the power at the circuit breaker (*super important step*), pull out the existing outlet, remove each of the existing wires and attach to the new outlet in whatever way they were attached to the old outlet. Then screw in to the wall and replace the cover.

The things that make this actually rather difficult to do are:
a) once you turn off the circuit breaker, all the lamps that are on that circuit go out too. In a room that doesn't get a lot of natural light, this means you need to pull out the trusty camping headlamp to see.
b) old wires are tough. They don't want to bend easily, so getting them on and off of the outlets is a little tricky, and forcing them back in the wall takes some serious effort (ie, squishing, shoving, and forcing angrily).

Step 3. Paint Trim.
Since I recaulked and the trim was pretty scuffy- I needed to repaint it. Painting trim is miserable work because a) there's a lot of it, b) it's super slow and tedious, and c) it hardly looks any different. The paint I'm using is brighter than the old color, so it looks crisper and covers old dings and scrapes. Unfortunately it's so much lighter that it needs two coats. [so much for a quick fix.]

painted and caulked trim

Step 4. Edge & Roll the walls.
Once the trim is dry, I edge. I prefer using a 2 inch slanted brush. I like to edge and roll at the same time to minimize moving my ladder and drop cloth around. I slowly work my way around the room, and then come back at the end for touch ups. Unfortunately, the new color wet is almost the same shade as the old color dry- so it's really hard to tell what has and hasn't been painted until it dries. That meant I had lots of touchups to do.

All done- looking greyer than it should.

A better representation of the smoky-blue color and bright white trim

Still lots to do in this room, but definitely feeling cozier.

Total Time = 1 week
Active Time = 10 hours
Total Cost = $50 for paint & supplies and new outlets 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

We got a new TV!

So our tv has always been small, but it seemed much smaller when we moved to the new house [At some point I'm going to have to stop calling it a new house- but not today!]. While watching, I was often squinting hard to see anything- slowly giving myself a major headache every day. The later at night it got, the harder I would squint until I started looking a little bit pug-ish.  Reading subtitles was downright impossible. "Why don't you just wear your glasses?", you ask. "Because I don't want to." So getting a new bigger one has been on the list for a while, and we just decided to rip the bandaid and do it. Happy Cyber Monday to Us!

New tv is massive! Maybe a little bigger than I would've preferred, but manfolk had a strong opinion, so here we are. And in the spirit of furniture dominos, the old tv came upstairs to the green room so that I can watch the news in the morning as I get ready. To do so, I had to commandeer the console table that was in the fireplace room, but never fit on the wall. There was already a cable box upstairs, but it was in the wrong place- so I had to rip out the cable to move it over, and then reattach. [Sidenote- we have cable running all through both the upstairs and downstairs, just nailed in place. It would be great to someday run it through the walls the nice way- but that's pretty low on the list.]

Green Room gets a new console table and tv- Little Thing tries to eat cords.

Thus, two rooms get a huge improvement, but fireplace room now really needs a new piece of furniture to fill in the hole I just created.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Master Bedroom

When we moved in, we bought a mattress for our spare bedroom (something we didn't previously have), but never got around to buying the other stuff that makes a bedroom functional. We spent the summer sleeping in the green room because the air conditioner worked better than the one in the master bedroom. After summer ended, we moved back to our proper bedroom, taking the bedding, bedside tables and lamps with us. We plan to have a few houseguests over the holidays (and probably in the future), so we really need a functional guest room. And since the green room was looking great with new curtains that complimented the bedding, it makes more sense to fix up the master bedroom and allow those things to go back to the green room where they belong.

I painted the walls light blue when we first moved in because I couldn't handle white walls- but I think I was too hasty in picking the color. I was going for a smoky, darker blue, but I ended up with a baby blue nursery thing color. Since I don't like the color and there's basically no furniture, bedding, or wall art, this room just sucks.

As winter sets in, all I want to do is snuggle and snooze, so it seems important to have a nice bedroom.  It is the room we spend the most time in, even though we're generally not conscious. [this is probably a completely ridiculous argument, but the bottom line is that I want a nicer bedroom].

Current master bedroom in all its lameness. 

The new plan is serene, calm, and relaxing. The walls will be a more effective smoky color, and everything else will be mostly neutral, with lots of texture and pattern. This is what I'm thinking:

  1. A smoky blue color
  2. A textured quilt
  3. Neutral bedding with an interesting pattern
  4. A big, dark wood headboard, preferably something salvaged not store-bought. 
  5. A snuggly chair
  6. Shiny, metallic lamps
  7. A rug that's mostly neutral with a lot of pattern

So- I found the duvet cover on sale at Pottery Barn and grabbed it with a new duvet.

Then, I went to a local market with my brother and found these cool old pieces of ceiling tin. We got four, all in the same charcoal grey color with various textures. They are all reclaimed from old houses and shops, mostly in the Philadelphia area.

snazzy tin wall art over the bed.  

Minor progress, but we're on our way. Feeling a little more snuggly already.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Furniture Dominos

One great feature of fixing up any room is that there are ripple effects that improve other parts of the house - like a rising tide that lifts the whole house-- an endless chain reaction of style.  A new thing replaces an old thing, the old thing replaces something else, and ideally the whole house gets a little better.

[Sidenote- I originally had the impression that when you buy a house, every room is suddenly perfectly furnished, exactly as you want. I realize now that that's not remotely how it works (at least not for us) and instead furnishing a house will be a long, slow process of buying one thing and reshuffling everything else to make it all work a little better].

We just got a bunch of great new dining room furniture (yay!!), which meant that we had an extra table, chairs and a bookcase that needed new homes. The old furniture was all in fine shape, it just didn't work in the dining room. Everything went somewhere, making several improvements around the house.

The bookcase moved into the living room, where it replaced an extra dining chair that was trying to be a side table.

Much more functional! The bookcase fits the corner perfectly.
[Sidenote -the fabric thing in the background is this awesome scarf we got in Thailand that's much prettier in real life.]

The table and a chair moved upstairs to replace a small table that was serving as a desk.

That smaller table came downstairs to serve as much-needed extra counter space in the kitchen.

The remaining four chairs each got new homes:

in the entryway as a mail sorter and place to take off your shoes (not permanent, but it works):

in the living room as extra seating:

 in the fireplace room as extra seating:


and in the dining room as a liquor cabinet (clearly temporary, but still mildly functional):

In total, my parents' extraordinarily generous gifts for one room ended up improving five rooms. Quite a few things got checked off the to-do list, making the house work a little better. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Unanticipated House Guest

It was freezing last night as I walked home from work. I was wearing my winter coat and annoyed I didn't have a hat and gloves, when I heard the most adorable little squeal. I followed the noise to a pile of trash near our house and found a tiny little guy, shivering and screaming his little head off. He didn't have any siblings or a mom cat nearby, and clearly didn't have an human owners. I couldn't stand to leave him there, so I took him home to warm up.

He's adorable and super friendly. He wants to be held all the time. He wants to play, but is still wobbly and falls over when he runs.

Our best guess is that he's around 3 or 4 weeks old, which is really young to be away from his mom. At his age, he needs to eat pretty often, and needs a lot of attention.

He needs someone to take him in, and unfortunately it can't be us. We are only keeping him temporarily, but can't add another permanent cat. Our real cat hates him and is not being shy about telling us.

There are a few animal facilities in the DC area, but from what I understand, they have too many kittens and are likely to euthanize him if we drop him off.

If anyone is interested in helping out a friendly little kitten, please let me know.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dining Room Furniture

Like the rest of the house, the dining room has been looking a little awkward since we moved in. This is what it looked like on moving day. Big sparkly chandelier, bright white walls, very little furniture.

The starting point.

Of all rooms in the house, I was most eager to fix up the dining room. Eating food is a major priority for both of us, and we wanted somewhere nice to do it. I think the days of eating on the living room couch are (or should be) numbered. We were hoping for something like this mood board below- traditional and formal, but cozy and comfortable. Ideally somewhere we could host a lot of great dinner parties.

  1. Dark Gray, Cozy Wall Color
  2. Our existing Copper Art

The first step was to paint the walls a nice, cozy grey color which I did in our first month in the house. It helped with the coziness, but somehow brought extra attention to the absurdity of the table (which is smaller than the chandelier).

 ittybitty table under megachandelier

This table has been with me since my first apartment - purchased specifically because it could fit in my car. It worked pretty well at our old condo, but in the new house, it looks absurd. For a few dinner parties, we brought down another spare table, which sort of worked but also looked ridiculous.

Double table trying to look cool.

So, when Dad offered to get us a new one for our wedding gift- we were both really excited. Having a real table that could actually fit more than 2 people was huge. We also really wanted a table that would stay with us for years, and not just be some crappy material that would quickly fall apart. We hunted around for a while and found E Custom Finishes, a company in Massachusetts that makes tables by hand from reclaimed wood.

We needed chairs to go with the table, and wanted something comfortable to sit in for a while. We picked these from Pottery Barn, and picked the parchment color so they would be a bit darker and stand up to some inevitable stainage.

Meanwhile, Mom offered to get us another good piece of furniture as her wedding gift, so we opted for a buffet to hold all of our new china. We found this one at Ethan Allen to replace the small bookcase we're currently using.

Bookcase overflowing with cookbooks, china, table linens and "misc".

After waiting patiently for the past few months - everything has finally arrived! The buffet arrived first, and was super easy.

New Buffet holds china and table linens easily

I'm just excited to have something to decorate. 

The chairs arrived next. One was damaged, but PB had great customer service, so it was easy to get a new one sent out and have the damaged one picked up. [Sidenote, even though we ordered fabric samples, the chairs seem lighter than we expected. We really weren't hoping for white furniture that now needs to be super protected and kept far from food.]

The table was a total headache. The company that built it was fine, but they subcontracted out to another company for delivery, and they turned out to be a disaster. Even with "white glove" service, they wouldn't call to schedule a delivery. It took me calling every day to leave messages that were never returned, complaining to the original table maker, and threatening them before we finally got our table.

Now everything is finally here, and it looks great. The room is super duper more functional, and we've started actually eating in here.  

with extensions-- should fit 10

without extensions- easy 6.

from the side- check out those sweet trestle legs. 

 Bring it on, Thanksgiving!

We're not done with this room yet, but it's come a long way. 

Dining Room To Do List:
Paint Walls
Get new Table and Chairs
Get a Buffet
Hang Curtains
New Rug
Replace Chandelier
Install Recessed Lights
Turn window into a door to the porch
Open wall into kitchen