Monday, December 30, 2013

Creating A Calm, Quiet Bedroom with Soothing Neutrals. Or, Let's Sell This Place!

Hey, y'all! How was your Christmas? Did you drive four hours through snow and wear a gloriously tacky Christmas sweater?  Did you give any gifts that were a huge hit? What was the most-stolen item at your Dirty Santa game? My Christmas was peaceful and happy: I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with my family, ate tons of gingersnaps and peppermint ice cream, glowed when my Mom got really excited about the scarf I knitted for her, and cried when she gave me a quilt sewn together from cross-stitch blocks my Grandma made before she died. Mom said Grandma completed the blocks with the intention that they be made into a wedding present quilt for me someday. Um, yeah. I cried like a baby.

And then I started thinking: "How can I incorporate my other Christmas presents into the resale-friendly look I'm working on for my bedroom?" I'm not going to completely redo my bedroom right now, but I do need to make it look more resale friendly. And the oatmeal-colored studded wool curtains and inky blue studded velvet pillow Keith gave me for Christmas fit perfectly with everything else I had planned. Yeah, I'm into studs right now. And no, I can't say that with a straight face. 

So here's the current plan. What do you think? 

Bedroom Design for ResaleThe current wall color was a mistake that makes the room look dark and small, so I'm going to paint the walls with Benjamin Moore's Opal paint. It's a warm, slightly pinkish white with a subtle yellow undertone. It should make the room look bigger and brighter.

The current fabric on the headboard is fun, but it's not for everyone. To give the bedroom more classic appeal, I bought light brown linen at Textile Farics' last 50% off sale to reupholster the headboard. I'm going to use nailhead trim on it, too. 

To create some pleasing-to-the-eye symmetry, I thrifted an incredible pair of vintage Stiffel lamps. They're going to look so sharp with black shades. I'm craving the contrast of black and white, so this is my favorite part of the plan.

I'll be honest: It's a more sophisticated look than I've done before, and I'm not sure I can pull it off. It's kind of... I don't know... straight from a catalog. Part of me is thrilled at the prospect of having such a grown-up looking bedroom, and another part of me wonders if it's too generic. Where is the mountain of pillows? Where are the novelty fabrics and all the books?! But it's time for a new year and a new look, and I'm ready for a change. Besides, if everything goes as planned, I won't be sleeping there long. This is how the room looks now. It's kind of a mess, and painting is an even bigger mess. It's going to get worse before it gets better. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Old Family + New Family = Happy Christmas

Skulls, butterflies, and Christmas kitsch! My favorite Christmas decor of 2013, as seen at Apartment Therapy.
I feel like the luckiest. I'm preparing to celebrate my first Christmas as Mrs. Williams with my parents, my husband, and my new Williams family. I'm so glad Keith's family decided to come to Nashville so we could all celebrate together. I treasure the traditions I share with my own family: Silly trinkets in stockings, peppermint ice cream, Chevy Chase, and wildly inappropriate holiday music (Zero by the Smashing Pumpkins does NOT qualify as "A nice song about God," but the expression on our mother's face was so, so, so worth it).

I love my new family too, so I'm looking forward to creating new traditions with Keith. I hope he's up for a cutthroat after-dinner game of Settlers of Catan for, oh, the next 50 years. Everything feels (almost) complete. If my sisters were here, it would be perfect. Kelly and Erin, I'm thinking of you today.

Whoever you are, and wherever you are, I hope you have the same sense of contented joy today. Happy Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

What's Black and White and Beautiful All Over?

THESE ROOMS! Now that I'm spending so much more time at home, I'm itching to redecorate. But the condo won't be our home for much longer, so it doesn't make sense to do any serious decorating that goes beyond staging. Since what I have in mind is too edgy for staging, I'm filing my plans away for use in our next home. Sadly, this includes the bedroom concept I came up with in May (and then promptly moved to the back burner in favor of wedding plans). 

In the meantime, I'm happily planning and finding inspiration. These pictures make my heart sing:

From the dark fireplace and cornice to the Carrera marble coffee table to the black and white Natural History prints to the pheasant feathers to the showstopping chandelier, this is perfection. Just replace the white upholstery with greige fabric to hide the dog hair, and I'll move in. Via Lonny.
That chandelier! That spiky, dangerous, menacingly beautiful chandelier! It looks like something from a gothic fairy tale. Can't you imagine Sleeping Beauty's castle at the center of it? This simple room would be the perfect backdrop for one or two very special curiosities and antiquities. Normally I'm put off by perfect symmetery, because it makes me feel like if I walk into the room, I'll ruin the balance. But this is lovely. Via Lonny.
Black Hitchcock chair + White walls = High Drama. I'm on the lookout for black Hitchcock chairs. Six years ago I found
a beautiful set of black Hitchcock chairs for a song, and I passed them up. I'm still kicking myself for it. Via Lonny
For living spaves, I'm consistently drawn to sparkly chandeliers, white marble, botanical prints, dark wood floors, pale neutral upholstery, dark wooden trim, and wooden furniture with a dark brown finish. The most consistent element in all my inspiration pictures is high contrast, with lots  of black and white and few bright colors. So here's hoping our future living room looks something like this!

Classically Styled Black and Neutral Living Room
The sofa is the same one we have, but with different upholstery. I'm a firm believer in getting a good
sofa and reupholstering as needed, so I feel like I can ALMOST check the sofa off our list. Almost.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Came Early: Santa Made Me a Housewife.

I recently made a life-changing decision: I consciously chose to leave the workforce. Yes, I did it on purpose. And no, I don’t have another job lined up right now. It might not be a permanent change, but for now I’m going to to prepare our house for sale, manage the move, get us settled into a new house, and then reassess the situation. And right now, I love it.

It's time for some real talk about women, work, and how we define ourselves, y'all.

The most uncomfortable thing about leaving my job was my fear of what other people would think. Like it or not, we’re defined by our work. When you meet someone new, the first thing they ask is “What do you do?” If I wasn’t working outside the home, would they assume I’m stupid? Would they think I’m a sad, repressed person who has no life? Would they think I’m lazing in my nightgown eating chocolates all day? I was honestly afraid of this.I’m literally the only childless stay-at-home person in my friend group, so I don’t have a personal frame of reference.

But I decided not to live in fear of other people’s opinions.

And this choice makes sense for us for so many reasons.

The first reason is that my job wasn’t working for me anymore. My position at the library had snowballed into three times the job I was originally hired to do, but without a corresponding pay raise or an extension of my hours. It was nearly impossible to do all my work in the allotted time. I was always anxious and snappish when I was at work, and I came home brittle and angry. To add insult to injury, my paychecks were painfully small.

The second reason, believe it or not, was money. When we took a hard look at the numbers, we saw that I could add more value to our net worth by quitting my low-paying job and spending the next few months repainting, doing home repairs, and staging our condo so we get a better price when we sell it.

Mind blown, amirite?! It’s crazy to think that you can add more value to your household by NOT working outside the home. But if your paycheck is low enough, it might be true. I keep finding little examples of this. Like yesterday, when I groomed our dogs and realized that we used to spend more money on dog grooming than I earned in a day. Cha-ching! Not working outside the home is paying off.

The third reason is warm, fuzzy, and impossible to quantify but infinitely valuable: Quality time. When we were both working, my husband came home from work and said Hi, then went in opposite directions to do chores and run errands. We usually didn't eat dinner until 10:00, and we usually ate crap food from a box. Real food? Ain't nobody got time for that!

But now when he comes home, everything is already in order, so we can spend more time together. We eat dinner at dinnertime. Evenings are *gasp* spent relaxing. And best of all, WE’RE NOT EATING CRAP FOOD OUT OF BOXES ANYMORE. I can’t begin to tell you how happy that makes me. 

Before I left the library, we considered all the options. One of those options, of course, was to hire someone else to help around the house. It would've taken the pressure off of us at the end of the day, but it didn't address Problem #1. It hardly seemed prudent to work at a job that made me sad so I could pay someone to do the things that make me happy.

Because here's the crazy thing: I actually enjoy cooking and cleaning and general domesticity. That shouldn't be a surprise, since  a significant portion of my blog is dedicated to home decor. I'm more Martha Stewart than Marissa Mayer, and I'm okay with that. Furthermore, I'm lucky to be married to a dude who enthusiastically appreciates what I do at home, and his gratitude makes me glow. I don't feel like a downtrodden domestic drudge; I feel valuable and appreciated. Maybe it's just an extension of newlywed bliss, but right now my passion is making our house a happy home.

Not everyone shares that passion, and I know my passion raises some eyebrows. I was especially aware of that two weeks ago, when a friend asked me if her journalist buddy could interview me. Why? Because she’s writing an article for Cosmo about women who embrace the Lean In movement, and women who have chosen “an alternative to the movement.” At first I just laughed. I didn't realize that being a housewife is so radical these days! But I was game for it, and I enjoyed our phone interview. She kept repeating one thing I said that seemed to resonate deeply with her: “It seemed foolish to work a job that made me unhappy so I could pay someone else to do work I love.

I suppose that line sums up my experience right now: Right now I'm doing what I love, and it makes me happy.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Book Review: The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon

I love classic fairy tales, and The Fairest of Them All is a fairy tale in the most classic sense. The author, Carolyn Turgeon, combines two familiar stories to spin a unique yarn, but this doesn't feel like a contrived retelling. The Fairest of Them All could have come straight from the Brother Grimm, because it's exactly what a fairy tale should be: It's sexy and visceral, intense and a little scary, and there is no saccharine Disney ending.

Best of all, it's built around a brilliant premise. Turgeon took a hard look at fairy tales, populated with beautiful maidens, jealously cruel middle-aged women, and wizened crones, and asked herself "What happens to the beautiful young fairy tale heroines who are so prized for their youth and beauty? When they grow up, what do they become?" In this story, Turgeon's Rapunzel grows up to become Snow White's wicked stepmother.

Take a moment to let that sink in. Poor, imprisoned Rapunzel grows up to be the jealous former beauty who demands an innocent child's heart. Isn't that brilliant?! As she tells the story, Turgeon drops tantalizing bits of information that create lots of questions, and I eagerly followed them all like breadcrumbs. How does Rapunzel go from innocence to bloodlust? What secret is the witch hiding from Rapunzel, and who are her true parents? What is the significance of the stag that Rapunzel shot in the woods, and why does the witch encourage Rapunzel to eat the dripping red flower that grew from the fallen stag's heart?

Turgeon's Rapunzel isn't a weak captive; she is a powerful sorceress and loves the witch as if she was her own mother. They have worked side by side since Rapunzel was a small child, and the witch has taught Rapunzel everything she knows about magic and healing. Together, they tend a magical garden and use the fruits of their labor to assist desperate women who covertly seek their help with straying lovers and sick children. The earthy descriptions of their verdant garden, well-stocked root cellar, and the beautiful but dangerous forest surrounding their home are some of my favorite passages in the book. Rapunzel's world is a gorgeous place, and I was happy to visit it.

Turgeon delves into personal, powerful emotions, especially when she describes full-body lust, a mother's grief for her stillborn child, and the rage of a spurned wife. It would have been so easy to veer into purple prose. But she uses straightforward language, nothing ridiculous or flowery, and that makes the emotions completely believable. As Rapunzel becomes more deranged, the first-person perspective made me squirm. I didn't want to be in her head! And that's not criticism; I consider that to be the mark of a very talented writer. If a book can't make me feel, then perhaps it isn't worth reading.

The Fairest of Them All, however, is well worth your time. It's intelligent, dark, and lush, and I'm looking forward to reading more of Turgeon's work. I have one final comment: The cover art is awful. Is that a Barbie head floating on a sea of glitter? I think it is, and I encourage you not to judge the book by its cover. Edit: I just received a very kind e-mail from Carolyn Turgeon. Squeeee! She says, "Yes. It is a Barbie head floating in a sea of glitter. Worst cover ever. Tried to fight it and lost!" Hehe, I'm so glad we're in accord.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Laurendy Home Holiday Gift Guides

How is your Christmas shopping going? If you're stumped as to what you should buy your favorite person, check out the holiday gift guides at Laurendy Home. Lauren has rounded up the best gifts for guys, girls, kids, people who deserve to splurge... and she was kind enough to let me write up a post on gift-giving for newlyweds. Thank you, Lauren!

But scratch what I wrote: If anyone wants to give me the gorgeous end table from Z Gallerie that Lauren recently mentioned... the one with gold legs that look like arrows... I won't complain!

Deck the Halls! Stockings Add Holiday Cheer.

I nearly Scrooged out this year on Christmas decor: Our place is feeling so small that I didn't want to cram in any more stuff. But even in the smallest home, there's always room for Christmas stockings. Neither Keith nor I had a stocking, and I was concerned: Where would Santa put the jewelry and plane tickets to London?! Ha. 

So last week I picked up a pair of silver stockings at Family Dollar for $2.00 apiece and decorated them with stuff lurking in my craft stash. For a $4.00 project, I'm quite pleased with them. I decorated Keith's stocking with feathers that remind me of the embellishments on men's hats, and I used flowers and glittery fronds for my own stocking.

Hint hint!
It's been such a full week: I saw Dax Riggs and Animal Collective play last weekend (no, not together!). I finished knitting a baby blanket for a friend's tiny new son and a cowl for my mother. I was interviewed for a Nashville Public Radio story about house hunting in Nashville, and the criteria that are important to local home  buyers. NPR might do a follow-up story on me and Keith in a few months; I hope we've made progress by then! I've been Christmas shopping, I made butternut squash soup for the first time, and I'm counting the days until Christmas. 

Oh yeah, and last Monday was my last day at the library. But more on that later!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

What are you reading? I've been on a recent fairy tale binge, reading two retellings of Rapunzel back-to-back. Yeah, that's a lot of hair. First, I want to tell you about Cress, the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. Cress will come out on February 2, 2013, but my thoughtful friend Lauren gave me an advance reader copy of Cress because she knew I loved the first two books in this series. Thanks, Lauren!

This is not that kind of fairy tale.
In the Lunar Chronicles, Meyer mixes classic fairy tales with sci-fi (and a whole lot of Joss Whedon's influence!) to create mindbogglingly fun new stories that feel a lot like Firefly. So far, a cyborg Cinderella and her colorful band of outlaw allies have traveled from New Beijing to France, and then into space, in a bid to save the world from the evil Lunar Queen and her army of genetically altered soldiers who are part man and part wolf. Are you still with me? *grin*

Yes, it's silly... but it's a lot of fun!

Cress begins with the group rescues the title character from her satellite prison. Because in the future, evil queens imprison girls in space, not in towers. I loved that! Cress is a long-haired hacker who has been hidden in a satellite by the Lunar queen and forced to use her incomparable skills to spy on the people of Earth. Many years of solitude have made Cress more than a little loopy, and she thinks everything that happens to her is The. Most. Romantic. Thing. Ever. Cress is exactly what I look for in a book: She's a vividly imagined character with a quirky and well-defined personality, and her hilarious romantic delusions are one of my favorite things about this story.

The group does get Cress off of the satellite, but the rescue doesn't go as planned. Much of the story follows the separated characters as they trek through Northern Africa and try to reunite with each other. Unfortunately, I think the playful interactions between the main characters are the best moments in this series. So until the characters were reunited, the story dragged. I forced  myself to keep reading because I looked forward to their reunion, and when they finally came together again, it was all worth it.

Are you intrigued? Download the first five chapters of Cress for free, and see for yourself how much fun it is to travel the solar system with these characters.