Monday, December 15, 2014

Pinch Me. And Then Pinch a Pleat. And Then Pinch Me Again. I Can't Believe I Made Hand-Sewn Pleated Draperies!

The guest room is starting to come together. We hung the headboard and mirror, and I just finished the scariest part of the project: Sewing curtains. I spent last Thursday and Friday making hand-sewn fancypants draperies with weights, pleats, buckram, the outer edges pinned to the wall, the works! If I didn't have photographic evidence, I wouldn't believe I made them. I keep making excuses to walk by the guest room so I can stare at them. *sigh*

Voila! The fabric is Robert Allen's Neo Toile. The nickel rods and crystal ball finials are from Lowe's.
If you've been reading closely, you know that my Mom makes custom, hand-sewn draperies. And she's good. Like, so good that she's made draperies for Nashville royalty like Barbara Mandrell. Mom made the curtains in our living room and bedroom, and she wanted to teach me how to make my own curtains. So I bought the fabric, went to her house, and she instructed me and supervised my work while I did everything myself (with one exception--but more about that later!). I was a very eager student. I wanted to do everything right, and I didn't want to cut any corners. I kept asking Mom, "Is this how Barbara's curtains were made? I want my curtains to be just like Barbara's!"
On day one, I spent four hours measuring, ironing, pinning, and hand-stitching. First I cut and hemmed all four sides of the fabric that makes up the front of the panel. Next, I did the same to the lining. Last, I sewed them together. All by hand.
The lining is attached to the drape with a stitch that goes through the lining and the back of the hemmed edge, but never pierces the front of the panel. From the front, this stitch is completely invisible. I kept confusing Mom by referring to it as the "ninja stitch." *grin*
At the end of day one, I had two 94'' tall panels hemmed to size, with the lining attached. It was around this time that we turned on Napoleon Dynamite, and Mom confessed that Uncle Rico's style reminds her of my Dad, circa 1978. HAHAHAHAHA! Ew. 
Mom asked me not to share all her secrets, so I can't post step-by-step instructions. But I'm happy to share a bit of what I learned. First, you need a sewing table to do this! It would be nearly impossible to do it without a very tall, 9+ foot long work table. I imagine that for many people, not having a long, clean, flat surface to work on is probably the greatest barrier to doing a project like this. And that's a bummer.

The next thing I learned is that if you have a 9 foot long table where you can lay your project out flat, it's not so difficult to make these curtains. Ironing? Pinning? Sewing a stitch with a needle and thread? That's not hard! If you've ironed a shirt and sewn a button, you already know how to do 90% of this. The hardest part was remembering which step came next. I constantly asked Mom, "Is this right? Is this what I do next?" I was intimidated by the scope project, and sometimes I didn't feel confident about my work. But when you break the project down into small steps, none of them are very hard.
On day two, we sewed in the weights and buckram. Mom sewed vertical seams at the top of the panels to start the pleats. Then I folded and sewed the pleats into place by hand.
Look, Ma! I'm sewing pleats! Also, I'm wearing a Nuka Cola shirt. Let me know if you recognize the reference!
This is what the finished product looks like from behind. To hang the curtains, I inserted a drapery hook into each vertical seam, about an inch from the top edge, then hung each hook from a curtain ring. 
I can't promise you that it's 100% easy, because there's one major step that I didn't do myself: I didn't work the math to figure the pleat placement, take the resulting numbers, and machine stitch the beginning of each pleat. There is a formula for figuring out the placement of the pleats. It's not a difficult formula, but Mom tells me it can be time consuming, especially the first time. Mom did this part of each panel while I worked on the other panel. When I realized she did this part without me, I turned into a whiny teenager. "MOOOOOOM! I wanted to do it myself!" Ha. 

I couldn't actually be mad, though. She knew I wanted to finish the curtains as soon as possible, and it was sweet of her to make the project go faster. Also, I think she was in a hurry to get to her Bunco game. But she happily handed the panels over to me for hand-pleating, watched me work, and told me I had a knack for it. I have a knack for pleating, y'all! 
Keith and I hung the curtains together on Saturday. We used an adjustable rod/finial/bracket set from Lowe's. I chose this set for its pretty crystal ball finials. Seriously, look at those finials! Are they not the best?

Keith measured and installed the brackets and rods. I attached drapery hooks to the back of each pleat, and hung the hooks from curtain rings that have a small loop for drapery hooks under the main body of the ring. I avoided curtain rings with clips. Clip-on curtain rings are really easy to use, and they can be nice when you want a casual look. But I don't think alligator clips sticking out at the top of curtains look very professional. And after all the work I'd done, I wanted to get the most professional results possible.
Can you see the straight pins? Mom recommended pinning the pleats for the first week or so, to encourage them to retain their shape.
To prevent a gap between the edge of the curtain (aka the return) and the wall, I used this professional trick: I put small eye screws in the wall, right under the finials. Then I inserted a drapery hook at the end of each panel, and threaded the hooks through the eyes of the screws.
The curtains just hit the floor. Perfection.
To do: Paint dresser.
I'm so pleased with these curtains, I already want to make more. But the rooms that still need curtains are at the bottom of our project list. Womp womp! But I have plenty of other things to do. The guest room needs art, pretty shams, and a handmade pillow or two. And after Christmas, I'd like to paint the nightstands and dresser. I painted them black seven years ago, and they all need of a fresh coat of paint. I want to paint the nightstands white and the dresser a very bright, bold reddish-orange. I'm inspired by this piece.

Painted Campaign Dresser from Vintage Transformed
What do you think? Too bright and crazy, or just crazy enough to work?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

DIY Makeover: Thrift Store Ginger Jar Lamps

Silk shade, matte black, and shiny silver. Love. But I'm getting ahead of myself!
Last week I found out that my in-laws are coming to stay with us on Christmas Day, woo-hoo! I lucked out and married a guy with really nice parents. They say things in front of me like, "Keith, you're so lucky you married Jen." And then they take me to Disney World. Since I won the in-law lottery, I want to make the guest room especially nice for them before they arrive. As soon as I found out they're coming to town, I got started.

Step One: Lamps.

Let's rewind to one year ago. I was standing in a thrift store admiring the shape of two fugly burgundy lamps, priced at $5 each, and wondering how well they would take spray paint. As I studied them, an employee walked by and cheerfully said, "See the red sticker there? It means those lamps are only $1 each today!" SOLD. I needed two more lamps like I needed a hole in my head, but I knew we'd be moving to a bigger place soon. A matching pair of ginger jar lamps would probably come in handy someday.

The lamps sat, sad and unused, for a year.

When I started planning our guest room, I knew they would be perfect in there with a white shade and coat of black paint. Tuxedo style lamps? Yes, please! I kept the lamps simple because the curtains are going to be bold, and the overall color scheme isn't exactly tame. I wanted to give the eye a place to rest. And I figured it wouldn't hurt to make the lamps versatile, so they'll work in other rooms if I ever decide to move them around.

The actual makeover was easy: I covered the brass parts of the lamps with painter's tape, gave them two coats of matte black spray paint, and then put a few coats of silver Rub 'n' Buff on the brass. When using Rub 'n' Buff on metal, I recommend applying it, waiting a few minutes, buffing, and then waiting a few hours before applying the next coat. When the product has time to set, it works much better. The most time-consuming part was waiting for paint and Rub 'n' Buff to dry.

See the slubby silk? And the fancy shape? This shade was so worth the extra $22.
I looked for a bargain on lampshades, but the ones I saw at Target and Lowe's were about $30 each and completely unimpressive. They came in uninteresting shapes, and they were made of a cardboardish material. So I went to Hermitage Lighting Gallery, a super fancy and intimidating store downtown, and fell in love with a pair of gorgeous pagoda shaped silk shades. They were $52 each, and that felt like a big investment. But that's only $22 more than the shades at Target, and they look and feel a million times nicer. I've always been disappointed by the way Target lampshades sit crookedly, and these are straight as arrows. So I think the extra $22 was money well spent.

Now that the lamps are finished, I need to hang the headboard. And the mirror. And change the light fixture. And repaint the dresser. And buy fabric for the curtains. Okay, time to get to work. Bye!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fresh off the Knitting Needles: Diamonds and Ruffles Scarf in Patons Lemongrass Wool

Just completed: A chartreuse scarf for me! No, I can't get enough of this color.

This crappy iPhone pic makes me look all glowy and airbrushed, haha. Nice.
Needles: Size 7
Stitches used: Knit, purl, K2tog, Kf/b
Yarn: Patons Classic Wool in Lemongrass, 2 skeins
Patterns: Moss Diamonds & Lozenges and the Garter Ridge Ruffle from Up, Down All-Around Stitch Dictionary

If this pattern looks familiar, it's because it's similar to the Asherton Scarf I made for Keith. I love the geometric design on his scarf so much that I made one for myself. This time, I used the diamond stitch pattern in my favorite knitting book, Up, Down All-Around Stitch Dictionary by Wendy Bernard. And to make my scarf a little girly, I added a garter stitch ruffle. Aww, ruffles!! Cute.

The Up, Down All-Around Stitch Dictionary has patterns for lots of decorative edges and ruffles. Some are lacy, some look simple and tailored, and some even look pleated. The book makes it easy to pick a stitch pattern for the body of an item, pick another pattern for a decorative edge, and put 'em together so you can customize all your hand-knitted items. And it tells you how to knit the fancy edge bottom-up or top-down, so you don't have to seam two pieces together to make a scarf with a decorative edge on both ends. I probably sound like an ad, but I promise this isn't a sponsored post. I'm just that crazy about the book!

Do you have a favorite knitting book? I'd love some recommendations--especially for knitting garments. I still haven't mastered the art of knitting tops and sweaters that fit well. Book recommendations that address this problem would be much appreciated!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ribbon Trimmed Roman Shades from Windows by Melissa on Etsy

How was your Thanksgiving? Ours was peaceful. We'd already gone through the debacle of cooking a giant bird, and on Thursday we spent a quiet day at the lake with my family. I caught up with my youngest sister, gorged myself on cranberry sauce (my favorite!) and stuffing, watched Christmas Vacation, and played a lot of Don't Starve with Keith. So peaceful. We spent the rest of the weekend avoiding shopping, seeing friends, and playing more Don't Starve. Having Keith at home all day, for 4 days, was wonderful.

But enough chitchat. Let's talk about Roman shades.

Roman Shades by Windows by Melissa on Etsy
When I first saw our house, I fell in love with its many tall windows. The windows and natural light were a big selling point. As soon as we moved in, though, I realized we were on display 24/7, and especially at night. Our house is on a corner, so it feels extra exposed. Even the den at the back of the house is exposed to the main road that runs through our neighborhood. Hi, neighbors!

Rewind to June: This room was TOTALLY exposed to the outside world.
As much as I love the curtains in our other rooms, I didn't want floor-length draperies in the den. I was looking for something more casual that would provide privacy while still letting in lots of light. Blinds would've been okay, but I really love the softly draped look of Roman shades. They don't look too fussy or perfect, but they're pretty. Especially when they're dressed up with a crisp bit of black ribbon trim. 

To make a long story short: I did some research, read a lot of reviews, waited a few months, saved up, and bought handmade Roman shades from Windows by Melissa on Etsy. It wasn't cheap, but we needed privacy at night. And I wanted to get something we really love, rather than buy something just okay that we'll want to replace in a few years.

Working with Melissa was easy. I sent her an inquiry and our window measurements. She sent me a few questions and made sure I understood their eight week turnaround time. I didn't mind waiting eight weeks, because they make everything by hand according to the customer's exact specifications. I wanted basic white fabric with black trim, but Melissa will work with any fabric you have in mind.

See those crisp folds? These shades are awesome.
Our shades arrived exactly when Melissa said they would, and we installed them a month ago. I wanted to live with them for a while before writing this, so I could tell you what they're really like. For the first five days, we had to pull the shades all the way up and leave them that way to train the fabric into shape. It was so, so, so, so hard not to use them! It was worth the wait, though, because now when we lift the shades, the pleats fold neatly.

Three sleepy pets and four Roman shades.
The shades provide privacy without blacking out the windows entirely during the day, which is exactly what I wanted. The only thing I don't completely love is that if the shades are lowered during the day, you can see the shadow of the "guts" inside the shade... you know, the mechanism that pulls it up. That's because they don't have blackout lining. I chose to have no blackout lining, because I didn't want the room to be too dark during the day. I normally solve the problem by lifting the shade higher during the day. In the picture above, though, I left one shade lower so you can see the shadow. 

If you're shopping for Roman shades, and a) you want to leave the shades lowered during the day, and b) the shadow would bother you a lot, then you'll probably want to pay a bit extra and get Roman shades with blackout lining.

As you've probably guessed, I'm very happy with them. I like supporting independent seamstresses, and I love the custom look and fit. And speaking of custom fitted window shades, be sure to measure each window--twice. Or even three times! My mother insisted I measure each window, even though they all looked the same. As it turns out, one of our windows is half an inch wider than the others, and I never would've guessed it. If I had measured one window and asked for five shades in that size, I would've made an expensive mistake. Thanks, Mom!

* This is a totally, completely, 100% unsponsored post.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Guest Room Ideas - Chinoiserie Chic?

I'm looking forward to finally putting our guest room together. I hope that a pretty guest room will entice certain favorite people to come visit me. *poke* Are my sisters reading this? *poke* Until now, our guest room has been a place to stash decor items that haven't found a home anywhere else in our house. If I don't know what to do with it, I stick it in the guest room. Now I'm looking at all that stuff and asking, "How can I create something coherent out of this mess?"

Stephen Shubel is a genius. Source
My original plan was to blatantly rip off pay homage to designer Stephen Shubel's amazing pink and red bedroom. I was so sure I wanted to do this, I painted the walls in our guest room a barely-there blush pink. Six months have gone by, though, and I'm dragging my feet on this project. Why? Because I'm not sure amateurs should try this at home. Especially because I don't think my pockets are deep enough to do this look justice. Maybe after we win the lottery! For now, though, it's back to the drawing board.

A little voice inside my head keeps saying, "Don't spend too much! Don't spend too much!" We've already spent plenty of money on, you know, the roof. So I need to work with what we already have, and that means working with these things. We haven't installed the chandelier from our old place yet, or put up the headboard, or even put shades on the lamps. The black dresser needs a fresh paint job. I have my work cut out for me, but it's a good starting point.

show me what you're workin' with

If this looks familiar, it's because this is exactly what my bedroom looked like in the condo. That's not a good thing, because that room never came together the way I hoped it would. I wanted it to be calm and luxurious, but it looked boring and anemic. It needed color. It needed pattern. It needed... Chinoiserie patterned draperies and rusty red velvet? Maybe!

Chinoiserie Inspired Guest Room

I spent last Wednesday pawing through gorgeous fabric at Brentwood Interiors, and I kept coming back to Robert Allen's Neo Toile. It's everywhere right now--even at Target--but I love it. I brought home a big honkin' fabric sample, and I dig the coral color against the blush pink walls. It's unexpected, but it's not too weird. Maybe it's just weird enough to work. If I use this fabric for the curtains, I'm toying with the idea of giving the dresser a glossy coat of vermillion red paint to match. Too much?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Honey Lemon Pillow with Cables

I cooked a turkey for the first time yesterday. I'd never cooked a whole bird before, not even a chicken, and I was so intimidated by the process. I made a huge bird to feed 20+ friends, and it was so big that we had to cut the legs off to get it into the oven. And as soon as we jammed it into the oven, Keith Googled "How to put out oven fires." Just in case. Thanks, sweetheart! To make this long story short, it turned out moist and delicious, even sans drumsticks. I was so proud! But I exhausted myself wrestling that 28 pound monster into a brine solution, onto my roasting pan, and into the oven. Now I just want to curl up on the sofa with coffee and Gilmore Girls. And this pretty little pillow.

This pillow cover came off my needles a few weeks ago, and I love the bright bit of chartreuse it adds to my den. I didn't originally intend for this yarn to become a pillow. I was knitting it into a ribbed top, and I kept the half-finished piece on a table the corner. Every morning, I'd walk into the room and feel so happy when I saw that invigorating pop of citrus color. So when I didn't like the fit of the top, I frogged it and turned it into a pillow. Thank you, Serendipity.

This was my first knitting project with cables. Huzzah--I can officially knit cables now! They were time-consuming, but so much easier than I expected. If you're intimidated by cables, don't be. If you're comfortable with knitting and purling, cables will make sense, too.

The honeycomb cable pattern comes from Wendy Bernard's Up Down All-Around Stitch Dictionary. You guys, this is the best knitting book I've ever owned. Wendy presents more than a hundred stitch patterns, with instructions for knitting them bottom-up, top-down, and in the round.* If you're a beginning knitter who wants to make a dozen scarves that aren't all the same, this book is for you. If you're an experienced knitter who's found that Holy Grail perfect-fit sweater pattern and you want to mix it up a bit, this book is for you. And if you want to write your own patterns, these stitch patterns are a great place to start. I was so excited about this book, I even wrote Wendy a gushing fangirl thank you letter. And she promptly wrote back. You guys, she's not just a knitting genius. She's also nice.

Emboldened by all the inspiration I found in Wendy's book, I wrote the pattern for the Honey Lemon pillow myself. This cushion cover will fit a 14 by 18 inch pillow perfectly. The pattern I wrote is here on Ravelry, if you'd like to try it. Of course, you'll need to buy Wendy's book to get the Honeycomb pattern. Because Copyright. But I promise, it's worth it. Oh, and since I don't have a lot of experience writing out patterns, if you see something that doesn't make sense, please let me know. Here's what you'll need:

Yarn: 3 skeins of Patons Classic Wool in Lemongrass
Needles: Size 7 and a cable needle
Skills: Knit, purl, cable, and mattress stitch
Book: Up Down All-Around Stitch Dictionary

Okay, it's time to drift off to sleep in a post-turkey haze!

* Wendy has even written a pattern for knitting adorable polka dots. Yes, really. I'm just saying.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Craigslist Karma is Real. It Gave Me a Thomasville Dresser.

Based on my completely unscientific research, Craigslist Karma exists. This is how it works:

1. List an item for free on Craigslist, and receive 20 million messages from people who want it.
2. Arrange a meeting, and give the item away to someone who wants and needs it.
3. Within 48 hours, The Best Thing Ever appears on Craigslist, and the asking price is reasonable.
4. The person selling The Best Thing Ever is so nice that they help you load The Best Thing Ever into your car. Your Craigslist dreams come true. The end.

The rules are firm. The Best Thing Ever does not appear on Craigslist until you've actually given something away. Simply creating a "Free" posting is not enough. Creating a "Free" posting and offering to meet someone in the Fido parking lot on Friday afternoon won't do it, either. Craigslist Karma will not reward you until you've actually watched someone drive away with your old ceiling fan in the back of their Jeep. But once that happens, you're going to get your Craigslist reward. Trust me.

The skeptics are probably saying, "Jen, it's not Karma; it's a coincidence. You use Craigslist more often when you have Free postings up, so you're more likely to find good stuff then." Maybe. Okay, probably. But if you're having trouble finding the perfect Duncan Phyfe chairs or big round mirror on Craigslist, just try it. It can't hurt!

Why am I telling you all of this? Because Craiglist Karma just made it possible for us to buy this gorgeous Thomasville dresser for a crazy reasonable price. Score! I'm thrilled, because it's a perfect match for the other Thomasville furniture we bought off Craigslist in July. It even has the same shield hardware as Keith's chest of drawers. What are the odds?

 Purchased in July: Keith's massively tall chest of drawers.
I promise, it's the same color as the dresser. This is just a crummy picture.
Let's talk about design choices, shall we?

Ever since we bought the bed and chest of drawers, I've been looking for a new dresser. Initially, I wanted to avoid choosing something similar to the other furniture, because I didn't want the room to be too matchy-matchy. I thought it would be nice to find something antique, but all the antique dressers I saw were too petite. They would've looked like dollhouse furniture under the vaulted ceiling, next to our hefty sleigh bed and Keith's tall chest of drawers. 

I kept finding beautiful antique dressers like this that were just 3.5 feet wide and barely five feet tall. So sad.  Source
When I found our vintage nightstands, they provided just the right amount of non-matchiness. So I started looking for a newer dresser, similar to our other furniture. Of course, I didn't have any luck until I reaped the benefits of Craigslist Karma. The new dresser is exactly what we needed. The top of the mirror is about a foot taller than me, so it looks right under a high ceiling. And of course, it matches everything else perfectly. I can't believe my luck! 

Now that our bedroom is fully furnished, I'm ready to finish it off with a few pieces of art and some small accessories. That's always the most fun part! Meanwhile, I've moved my old dresser to the guest room. It looks much better in there than it did in our bedroom, because the guest room is smaller and the ceiling is lower. With a dresser, the guest room is fully furnished now, too. It's time for the best part: Curtains, pillows, lamp shades, art, and more. I can't wait!

The guest bedroom is a blank slate. My first task is to replace the overhead light fixture. It casts such strange shadows.
If you're hunting Craigslist for a bargain this weekend, good luck!

P.S. After I wrote about the furniture we bought in July, I received a friendly e-mail from a woman had just bought the same furniture. She was looking for the name of the Thomasville furniture collection, so she could complete her set. If you're here for the same reason, this dresser and chest of drawers are from Thomasville's Martinique collection. Unfortunately, it's been discontinued. Womp womp. But Thomasville's Fredericksburg bedroom furniture is similar in style and color to the Martinique collection. And the Tate Street sleigh bed is nearly identical to the Martinique bed.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Blog Gossip and a New Mirror. But Mostly Blog Gossip.

Let's play Find the New Thing! Can you find the new thing?
(No, it's not the dog. We are not getting a new dog anytime soon, unfortunately.)

I wasn't going to write this post, because I figured it's boring to see pictures of the same bedroom over and over and over, with just one small change in each post. So why did I change my mind? Because there's discontent in Blogland. Have you heard everyone talking? Here's what they say:

a) Sponsorship is killing design blogs. Everything looks the same, because all the bloggers get the same crap for free. It's kinda true.
b) People are sick of design blogs that just show perfect before and afters, without explaining the design process and the time it took to achieve the results. Yeah, that's not so helpful.
c) Stop the sponsored posts for Kiwicrate and fancy water filter pitchers, already!!! Seriously, stop.

I've been sitting on the sidelines, silently agreeing that sponsorship is boring and the step-by-step process of putting a room together is interesting. But mostly, I'm thanking my lucky stars that I'm not a Big Famous Blogger whose blog is scrutinized because it Says Something about The State of Blogging. I'm just quietly decorating a house, y'all. No important social commentary to see here! Gradually, it dawned on me that:

a) I'm not a big sponsored blogger, and maybe what I'm doing will interest someone because they haven't already seen it.
b) I enjoy seeing the gradual process of building a room. Even the mistakes and missteps interest me, because I can learn from them. My favorite bloggers blog every. single. item. they add to a room. I like seeing how the rooms change with each addition. And I'm not the most unique snowflake ever, so maybe you like that, too.
c) It could be worse. At least I'm not pretending to write a post about party planning when I'm really pushing a fancy water filter pitcher at you!

That's why I'm telling you about the new Safavieh sunburst mirror over our bed. We needed something BIG on this wall, and I wanted it to have a modern look. The furniture is very traditional, and I didn't want the art to push the room into Grandma territory. A sunburst mirror is traditional enough to work with the furniture, but this one is more modern. It reminds me of  Curtis Jere's Mid Century Modern sea urchin wall sculptures.

Curtis Jere sea urchin sculptures. For sale at AntiqueLane on etsy.
They're gorgeous, right? Sadly, they're not in my price range. A LOT of big mirrors and wall art aren't in my price range. Big = expensive. So when I found this 40'' wide Safavieh mirror for $83, I was excited. FYI, I always have good luck with Safavieh. The quality is high, the price point is reasonable, and I like their Transitional look. Their stuff says, "Grown-ups live here. But not boring grown-ups."

So I ordered with confidence. When the mirror arrived, I was a little surprised because it was more copper colored than I expected. But I like the way the warm copper color plays off the bright green curtains, so it's all good. When we walk in the room now, it looks welcoming and finished. The rest of the room needs work, but the first impression is good.

If you're really observant, you'll notice that I temporarily moved the marble lamps from our living room into the bedroom, just to see how they would look. Meh. Those big, boxy black shades block the windows more than I'd like, and the heavily veined marble looks too busy here. That rug is busy enough for the entire room! So the lamps have already been moved back in the living room. But hey, I learned something: Smaller lampshades on simple lamps look best in here.

The old lamps are back. And the room looks so different at night, without natural light.
Do you have any big design projects planned for this weekend? We're weatherstipping windows and insulating the attic. Yawn. I hope your project is more exciting than ours!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Nightstands: A Rant with a Happy Ending.

Nightstands are a ripoff.

I just spent more than a year looking for a matching pair of used nightstands that a) each had at least one drawer, b) were wide enough to comfortably hold more than a lamp, c) were made of actual wood and weren't totally falling apart, and d) Cost less than $200 for both nightstands.

They didn't have to be perfect. I was willing to strip, stain, paint, add new hardware, and otherwise DIY the right pair of nightstands. And it still took over a year to find something! Why? Because even the crappiest nightstands are crazily overpriced. $275 for two badly damaged 1980s behemoths? $250 for some nightstands so narrow that my cat could barely stand on one of them? $300 for used furniture made out of MDF? NO THANK YOU.

I love furniture, and I understand why it's often expensive. Upholstered furniture is painstakingly made, and good upholstery fabric is expensive. Good chairs and sofas are carefully designed to take comfort into account. A lot of wood is required to construct big dining tables and large bookshelves or wall units. But nightstands don't require upholstery fabric or large amounts of wood, and ergonomics aren't an issue. There's just no sense in the prices. RAGE RAGE.

Thanks for letting me vent, because now I have something nice to say: I finally found the perfect pair of nightstands at my favorite furniture consignment shop, Remix Furniture. Hooray!

It looks a bit darker here than it does in real life. The close-up picture below shows the true color more accurately.
I love the generous width and the big open space for storing the books on my soon-to-read list. These beauties are about 60 years old, well built, and very  heavy. They were just $55 each, and they come with a marvelous pedigree: They were made by Baker Furniture (ooh la la!) and originally sold at the chichi (and now defunct) B. Altman & Co. Department Store on Fifth Avenue.

I am totally okay with my furniture coming from this place. Source
The finish is in pretty good shape, too. The bit of wear on the edge, seen here, is the worst damage I can find on either nightstand. There are a couple spots like this, and I can live with that. The only thing I'm not crazy about is the fruitwood stain. That color has never been my favorite, but I especially don't like the way it looks next to our darker bed.

This is an accurate representation of the color.
I'd like to paint them both the same color as our walls, like in the picture below.* I like the way the nightstand blends into the walls and lets the bed, rug, and chandelier take center stage. And oh hey, a sleigh bed floral rug, and black chandelier! That looks familiar!

There's just one problem: I like to reserve paint for furniture that's in really bad shape, because painting furniture reduces its value, and blah blah blah. Normally I'd say, "But this isn't a valuable antique!" and grab a paintbrush. But the prices I'm seeing for vintage Baker end tables and nightstands on 1stDibs, in similar condition to my own, make me think otherwise. $3,250? $4,500? *gulp*

What would you do?

* By the way, the house in that photo is in England. And it's for sale. And you should go read the listing and drool at every lovely room in this house. "Located in the sought after private road in the village of Mickleham, at the foot of Box Hill." I don't know what any of that means, but I love the sound of it. It's normal for a Nashville woman to peruse real estate listing in England, right? Right.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Goodbye, Granny Chic.

Designers say the most difficult home to design is their own, and I believe it. When friends ask me for decorating advice, it's easy to see what their rooms need. "Sorry, hon, but that sofa is too large for your living room, and the orangey oak trim fights with the modern look you want. Try an apartment-sized sofa, and paint the trim white." It seems easy! But the easiest, most obvious fixes don't occur to me in my own space.

Goodbye, matelasse. Hello, contemporary duvet!
Case in point: Our bedroom. It was beginning to look like a little old lady's room, but I couldn't imagine how to change it. I had no idea what was wrong, because I couldn't look at the room with objective detachment. That is, not until we went out of town. The day after we got home, I walked into our room and knew that the cream-colored matelasse bedspread was to blame. The matelasse bedspread is beautiful, but this room needs clean, modern white and some graphic interest. Cream was making it look too old-fashioned.

This is what the room looked like before.
So the matelasse went into the guest room, where it looks much better. And I took the bright white hotel-style duvet out of the guest room and put it on our bed. The white bedspread, with its bold square border, makes everything in here look a bit more modern. As a finishing touch, a hand-embroidered Swedish throw came out of storage to grace the foot of the bed.  And I'm so glad I didn't have to buy anything new.

Of course, this set off a domino effect of changes and ideas. Eagle-eyed readers will notice another major change in these before and after pictures. But I'll tell you more about that later! For now, have fun ogling the results of the One Room Challenge.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Haunted Mansion Spirit Photography at Memento Mori in Walt Disney World

Happy Halloween! It's been a while, hasn't it? I promise I've had a good reason for being away: I just spent nine days at Walt Disney World with Keith and his parents. We rode Space Mountain almost every day, ate Dole Whips galore, sampled escargots at the Food and Wine Festival, spent afternoons relaxing at the pool, and took in so much vintage Disney kitsch that I'm still humming the Tiki Room song. But since today is Halloween, I want to tell you about my favorite spooky thing at Disney World: The spirit photography at the new Memento Mori gift shop.

Yes, the Haunted Mansion finally has a gift shop! According to Disney lore, the shop is housed in the former home of Madame Leota. Cute. The store just opened this month, and it's so popular that you have to wait in line to get inside and browse the merchandise. I couldn't get any good photos of the interior because it was jam-packed with shoppers, but this Disney Parks blog post has great pictures.

Disney spent two years designing the shop. The time they spent was worth it; the interior is wonderfully detailed, and the merchandise is really, really cool. From fine art and china to t-shirts and mugs, they offer something for every price point. Best of all, a lot of these souvenirs have classy, subtle designs that don't scream "I bought this at a theme park!" You have to look twice to notice that this damask design is the same wallpaper pattern used in the Haunted Mansion.

Photo from the Disney Store website
The fine china is restrained and elegant, too. I bought a single dinner plate to hang on the wall. But somewhere, I bet there is a couple who will put this porcelain china on their wedding registry... and I want to be friends with them! 

But the best thing in the shop, by far, is the spirit photography. For $19.95, the happy haunts at the Haunted Mansion will capture your essence and show you your spirit self. I couldn't resist them, and the entire experience was so well-done: Keith and I were taken into a small room inside the gift shop, wallpapered in Alexander Henry's skeleton toile print. A creepy cast member in Victorian garb chatted with us while never breaking character, took our pictures, and ushered us back to the main area of the shop. He advised us to wait until the spirits rang the bell. A few minutes later, when the bell rang, our photos were "delivered by the spirits" and "magically" appeared inside a cabinet.

We received these 8 by 10 inch hologram photographs that change depending on the angle at which you view the picture. I love them so much! I framed them the day after we got home, and I intend to display them every October. My best friend says, "These are going to be heirlooms. Your future children will be terrified of them at first. But someday, they'll fight over who gets to inherit them." If our children turn out to be anything like me, she's absolutely right.

If you want some spooky Disney stuff, but can't make it to Orlando, quite a few of the items in the store are available here at the online Disney Store. You can't buy everything here, but it beats buying a plane ticket to Florida! I hope you enjoyed this post, and have a happy Halloween!

Monday, October 6, 2014

It's a Bar. It's a China Cabinet. It's Perfect.

Do you keep a running list of things to look for when you're thrifting? I feel like I walk through antique and consignment stores muttering, "Pairofnightstands, diningchairspossiblyDuncanPhyfe, largedresser, buffet, antiquewardrobe, pairofarmchairs. NO QUEEN ANN LEGS!*"

White walls: Benjamin Moore White Dove. Black Trim: Benjamin Moore Black Beauty. Light Fixture: Helena Chandelier by Cal Lighting. Rug: Nyla by Loloi.
The hunt gives me a thrill, but I was glad to cross "buffet" off the list last week. I was picky, because I wanted a place to set up a bar and safely display my Grandma's china and our wedding crystal. A tall, traditional china cabinet seemed a bit too stuffy for us, and a typical buffet with storage cabinets doesn't normally display what's inside. I wasn't sure what we needed, but I had a feeling I'd know it when I saw it.

My heart skipped a beat when I saw this long, low buffet at Remix Furniture Consignment. It was perfect: The pattern on the doors matches the pattern carved into the top of our dining room table, and the cabinet lights up and makes our crystal sparkle. The crazy thing is that I'd seen it on Craigslist, hesitated, and regretted it. Lucky for me, the owner decided to get rid of it quickly by consigning it. It was meant to be! And as much as I love antiques, I was relieved that this piece isn't antique, because that meant it wasn't expensive. The shopkeepers were so nice, they even loaded it into the van I'd borrowed. This wasn't my first purchase from Remix, and it won't be my last.

I love the Duncan Phyfe pattern on the doors. I grew up with a piece of furniture that had similar glass doors, and I always admired it.
Hey, how was your weekend? Yesterday we celebrated our one year anniversary at the family lake house where we were married. It was a pretty low-key celebration: My Dad snapped some pictures of us posing in the same spot where we said our vows, and then we ate one year old wedding cake that still tasted surprisingly fresh. Later that evening, we shared dinner at Mafioza's, the same place where we celebrated our engagement. I can't believe we've already been married a year! We've grown so much closer over the last year, and life with Keith just keeps getting better. I'm so excited to see what our second year of marriage brings.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Faces Made of Flowers: The Four Seasons by Giuseppe Arcimboldo

A while back, I was at an antique show. When I saw a small oil painted version of the image above, it stopped me in my tracks. I was all, "Oh my gosh, she is made of flowers and her ear is a peony and maybe there is a ladybug on her boob and WOW. JUST WOW." She was weird and beautiful, and I fell in love at first sight.

The dealer sidled up to me and said, "I could take $750 for it." HAHAHAHA YEAH RIGHT!!! I tried to engage him in an enthusiastic conversation about the piece, and how it reminded me of 16th century Dutch Vanitas paintings, but he looked at me like I'd sprouted a tulip on my forehead. So I went home and Googled phrases like "face made of flowers" until I discovered the painter's name: Giuseppe Arcimboldo.

Here's what I've been able to learn about the artist: Giuseppe Arcimboldo served as the court portraitist to three different monarchs. He was Italian but also lived and worked in Vienna and Prague. In addition to painting portraits, he was the court decorator and costume designer at the royal court in Prague. Um, how can I get that job?! He painted a few sets of The Four Seasons collection. However, the Swedish army looted many of his pieces when they attacked Prague in 1648. Few complete sets survive.

The first painting is called Spring, and it's the first painting in a four part series. Spring is all sweetness and flowers; Summer is fresh summer fruits; Autumn is pumpkins, apples, grapes, and kegs; Winter is roots, ivy, and gnarled tree trunks. Now I can't decide which one is my favorite! Which one do you like best? Summer's cucumber nose cracks me up, but I think Winter's gnarled face is so endearing.