Monday, June 30, 2014

The Orb Chandelier from Ballard Designs

The new house is still a work in progress, but the last week has been really fun. We rented a U-Haul and vacated the storage unit we rented two years ago when Keith moved in with me. We set up the guest bedroom. And, best of all, we hosted our first overnight guests. Keith's parents visited us over the weekend and helped us with some home improvement projects. Keith was so proud to finally show his parents our house!

On Saturday afternoon, Keith and his father removed the big, ugly, off-center florescent light fixture in the kitchen and replaced it with the Orb Chandelier from Ballard Designs. I had my eye on it for months, and I finally snagged it on sale a few weeks ago. If you like it too, I have good news: It's easy to install. Keith and his Dad swagged it from a hook so they could hang it in the center of the room without moving the electric box. The chandelier is open and airy, and it provides a lot of light. The crystal at the bottom is the perfect finishing touch. I'm very happy with it.

A word about the orb chandelier: If you purchase it, or another fixture with completely bare bulbs, I strongly recommend frosted light bulbs. When we hung the fixture, we put in clear 40 watt GE Reveal bulbs. I normally love the clean white light you get from Reveal bulbs, but in this case the undiffused light was too harsh. It was almost painful to look directly at the chandelier. The next day, we put in 60 watt bulbs with frosted glass. The light is brighter, but much gentler on the eyes.

The bad news? When they removed the old fixture, we discovered that the ceiling used to be mauve. MAUVE! *shudder* It's a big room, and I can't imagine that gross pink spreading over the entire ceiling. Can you? Luckily, we have a lot of leftover white ceiling paint. Since we want the paint to go on nicely, we're spackling, waiting, sanding, and repeating. And repeating. And repeating.

Once the orb chandelier was up, Keith and John took down the eyesore of a chandelier that hung over the kitchen counter. Aside from being ugly, it was off-center, and it visually cut the room in half. I wanted two small, evenly spaced pendant lights over the counter instead. So they measured, cut a hole in the ceiling for the second light, went up in the attic, and added an electric box for the new pendant. They made it look so easy! I was in awe. There's just one problem: We haven't found the right pendants yet. Right now, we have a goofy pair of light bulbs sticking out of the ceiling. Progress isn't always pretty. But I'm glad the chandelier is gone. And hey, if you've seen any pretty pendants, please let me know.

My Mom made a big contribution to the house on Saturday, too. But I'll save that for tomorrow.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Out With the Old

Last week we made some progress: Keith installed a chandelier in the bedroom and six sets of blinds on the windows. He replaced a busted electrical outlet. I found the perfect rugs for the bedroom, bathroom, and dining room. And, sadly, I sold some beloved Mid Century furniture that just didn't look right in the new house.

If you've been following along for a while, you know that I'm a stickler when it comes to scale and proportion. And I firmly believe that a well-designed home does not fight the house's architectural style. Though there are exceptions to every rule, oversized and overstuffed McMansion furniture does not generally work well in a small apartment or Mid-Century ranch house. Likewise, some of our petite Mid-Century furniture doesn't look right in a 1980s Tudor(ish) house with soaring ceilings. 

The wall unit is gone, and the chairs are for sale. Let me know if you want them!
As much as I hated to admit it, I needed to get rid of the beloved Danish wall unit that stood by my kitchen table for seven years. It didn't look right in the new house, and it was too big to tuck aside somewhere. On Friday, I gave it one last loving coat of Liquid Gold and listed it on Craigslist. On Saturday morning, a couple came to purchase it for their son and daughter in law, who enthusiastically collect Mid-Century furniture. 

I was happy it was going to someone who would appreciate it, but as I watched them load it onto their truck, I got a bit choked up. The wall unit was the first piece of furniture I purchased for the condo, and a family friend who is now deceased helped me move it. I fondly remember how my sister and I stood in the back of his pickup truck laughing and trying to keep it upright as he slooooowly drove it to my place. 

Less than a year later, he was gone and she had moved to China. All that remained was the furniture. So saying goodbye to it wasn't easy. Now that it's gone, though, I'm excited to start fresh. We're clearing out reminders of the past so we have room to make new memories.

Likewise, I realized it was time to freshen things up here on the blog and separate the past from the present. Yesterday I made a tab at the top of the page for My First Home and another for Our Current Home. For now, the pictures of our current home are the photos from the real estate listing. Feel free to laugh at them; they're pretty crazy! For us, it's fun to look at them and see how much we've already changed the house. As we finish decorating each room, I'll update that page.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Once Upon a Time I Designed A Fairy Tale Bedroom.

When I started thinking about how to decorate our bedroom, my thoughts immediately turned to the set of Once Upon a Time. I love the way their set designers evoke the feel of an enchanted place with an eclectic mix of antique furniture, modern fixtures, and incredibly patterned wallpaper. The sets always looks cozy and a just a bit magical, without ever looking themed or childish. My first instinct was to decorate our bedroom in shades of taupe and mossy green, and to crown it with a chandelier that looks like a wild bramble of flowers and thorns.
The Ethan Allen Somerset bed is gorgeous, but we aim to spend about 10% of the Ethan Allen price.
Keith likes the show even more than I do, and he's on board with a bedroom loosely inspired by Once Upon a Time. He has just one request: He wants a big, wooden sleigh bed. That's fine with me, because there are dozens of sleigh beds for sale locally on Craigslist for about $250. I think sleigh beds were trendy 15 or so years ago, but now everyone wants an upholstered headboard. Their devotion to trends is my good luck.

A place to dream: A grown-up fairy tale bedroom

Paint Color: Stone Hearth by Benjamin Moore
Night Stand: Hooker Furniture
Rug: Milliken
Lamp: 1stDibs
Curtains: World Market.
Chair: Victoria & Albert Museum, HA!
Chandelier: Ballard Designs
Not gonna happen. 
I'll hunt for a 70s-does-Spanish-Gothic chair on Craigslist, instead.

I made this board yesterday to show Keith the concept I'm planning. He likes it for the most part, but he's not sure about the chartreuse curtains. I'm not sold on them yet, either, but I think they're more interesting than my original plan to use moss green curtains. Also, I'm in love with the chartreuse curtains used here. What do you think?

The other rooms are coming along nicely. Since Friday, the wallpaper in the bathroom went up (!), we rearranged the furniture in the living room, moved in a bookshelf that's been sitting in the storage unit for the last two years, and I started unpacking (and alphabetizing!) books. Everything is still in transition, but it gets better every day. Tonight, we're going to play with electricity install a big, sparkly, thorny looking chandelier in the bedroom. Please cross your fingers that we don't electrocute ourselves.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Be Vewwy, Vewwy Quiet. I'm Hunting Sofas!

If you ignore the temporary paper shades, it's really starting to look like and feel like home.
Until last night, our living room was like nail art or a Kardashian: Pretty, but completely useless. No one was going to use the room until we bought a living room sofa. So all week I was a hunter, and Craigslist was my hunting ground. 

I knew exactly what I wanted: A clean, neutral sofa with nailhead trim, slim arms, an overall square shape, and exposed legs. No bun feet, no leather, and nothing from a cheap big-box store. Bonus points for linen upholstery. And, sadly, nothing Mid-Century. I love Mid-Century furniture, but with our high ceilings, long and low Mid-Century sofas look like dollhouse furniture. 

Specific much? Um, yeah.

I went about the search with strict precision. Every morning and every night, I typed "Neutral Couch." "Neutral Sofa." "Linen Couch. Linen Sofa." "Nailhead Trim." I kept a long list of search terms, and late on Wednesday night, I found my mark and took aim.

GASP. It ticked every single box, and the seller was asking less than half what I'd pay for a piece of doodoo couch from Rooms To Go. A moment of research confirmed that it's the Simone sofa by Robin Bruce. It's not the most high end sofa ever, but it's nicer than what I expected to find on Craigslist. And did I mention that it ticked every single box?
Simone Sofa by Robin Bruce
In a heart pounding flurry, I e-mailed the seller immediately. I didn't waste her time with "Is it still available?" Instead, I pretty much said, "I have cash and a van and a husband who can carry stuff and I will be at your house ASAP." I tried to wave my qualifications at her the way that Mrs. Bennett would wave her daughters at eligible bachelors. Victoria Elizabeth Barnes, thank you for teaching me everything I know about winning the Craigslist race.

The big game hunter's trophy.
It's a bit darker than what I originally imagined, but I'm quite pleased with it regardless. Now I need your opinion. There is just one set of red pillows in this picture, but it came with two sets. I guess it would be fun to use this set of red pillows at Christmas, but I'd like to reupholster the second set in a neutral color. But what kind of upholstery would look best? A solid or a pattern? Something similar to the sofa, or something that contrasts with it? Please let me know what you'd do.

And good luck to everyone who is scouring Craigslist and thrift stores for something special this weekend!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Much Ado About Wallpaper

I've spent the last month obsessing over this wallpaper from Sanderson's new Voyages of Discovery collection. I'm going to pepper this post with other designs from the collection so you can ogle them, too. But this pattern is by far my favorite. Doesn't it look like it came out of a Wes Anderson movie? I spent more than a month trying to get my hands on it, and it just arrived. Woo-hoo! But before I could get it, I had to deal with the most laughably incompetent salesperson ever. She was so bad, I think she was trolling me.

Be still my heart. Picture Gallery by Sanderson, as seen at Jane Clayton
Here's the thing: Sanderson is an English company, and if you don't live in the U.K., it's not easy to examine their wallpaper in person before ordering. You'd think that in the era of Internet and overnight shipping, it would be easy to order a sample, right? But I couldn't find a single online retailer who would ship the wallpaper to me for a reasonable price. Undaunted, I walked into a local shop, Wallpaper & Designer Home in 100 Oaks, and asked the saleswoman if she would start carrying Sanderson so I could order a sample through her.

Galapagos by Sanderson, as seen at Fashion Interiors
She enthusiastically agreed. As far as I was concerned, she grew a halo and angel wings in that moment. Wallpaper Lady told me she would call me once she set up an account with Sanderson. I waited for a few days, and I didn't hear from her. I called the store a few times, left messages, and never received a call back.

Christabel by Sanderson, as seen at Jane Clayton
So I visited the store again. Wallpaper Lady laughed: "Ha ha ha, I lost your number! But now I have an account with Sanderson." I was annoyed, but I placed an order for a wallpaper sample. It was supposed to be sent directly to my house. A few weeks later, my mom showed up at my house with the sample. Um, what? Mom told me, "Wallpaper Lady mistakenly had the sample sent to the store, AND she accidentally threw away your phone number again." Seriously?! Mom was at the shop on a different errand, and she randomly asked about my sample. Wallpaper Lady was beginning to lose her halo and angel wings.

I loved the wallpaper even more when I saw it in person, so I measured the wall and dropped by the store that day to place an order. Wallpaper Lady couldn't calculate how many rolls I needed, so she asked me to wait until she could have the store's owner calculate it. She said he would call me. Okay. A week later, I hadn't received that call, so I dropped by the store. She said, "Oh! You haven't gotten a call? Let me check on that and call you tomorrow." Wallpaper Lady was beginning to grow horns and a tail.

The next afternoon, she actually called me back and said I would need three rolls of paper, and each roll would cost $100. That was weird, because based on my math, I thought I needed either one or two rolls. Here's where it got crazy, though. She called back 10 minutes later and dropped a bomb: "I accidentally gave you the price that WE pay to Sanderson for the wallpaper. YOU have to pay us $198 per roll. I can give you our special 30% discount we normally reserve for designers, but that's the best I can do." OMGWTF. At this point, Wallpaper Lady grew fangs and was no longer recognizable as human.

Picture Gallery by Sanderson in Aqua, as seen at Decor Supplies
I'm a little crazy and obsessed when it comes to decorating, I admit it, but there was no way in hell I was going to spend $600 on wallpaper. And based on the prices I've seen online, her quote just seemed wrong. I declined to place an order, hung up, and cried.

Picture Gallery by Sanderson in Red, as seen at John Lewis
Yes, I cried over wallpaper. And yes, I know that's stupid. I was about to give up when Keith called me. I blubbered, "Wallpaper... $600... Crazy...", and he got the gist of it. He went all white knight and began hunting for the paper online while I ranted about Wallpaper Lady. He put my librarian search skills to shame; he found it almost immediately!

Holy mother of high ceilings! As seen at Sanderson
It turns out that while I was busy going back and forth with Wallpaper Lady, Shades Colour Centre listed it on eBay for $97 a roll. Before I bought it, Keith rechecked Wallpaper Lady's math and determined that two rolls will be plenty. The wallpaper crisis was narrowly averted! It arrived a few days ago, I danced around like a giddy kid. I might have done the twist while singing, "I LOVE EVERYTHING BRITISH!" But that can't be confirmed.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

What's Cooking? A Fresh, Clean New Look in the Kitchen.

I'm really starting to like our kitchen. Most of the house is either empty or a disaster area, but I get all warm and fuzzy when I look at this spot. With new paint, appliances, and hardware, it already looks completely different than it did the day we bought the house. Check it out.
Stella can't believe how it looks, either.
And here's how it looked when the house was on the market. Umm... yeah. It's JUST A LITTLE different now.
For anyone researching paint colors, we used America's Finest brand paint and color matched it to Benjamin Moore's White Dove (walls), Natural Cream (cabinets), and Black Beauty (trim). America's Finest is pretty much the cheapest paint you can buy, and our painters recommended it to keep our costs down. I think they were kicking themselves by the time they were finished, because I hear it didn't work well. FYI. 

But I love the way it turned out. I originally wanted to paint the cabinets a soft greige color, but the kitchen is the darkest room in the house. At the last minute, I chose a creamy, warm white. It was a good decision; I love the way it brightens the room and plays off of the bright white walls.

Cup pull. Bin pull. Whatever you want to call it, it has a good vintage-industrial look. From Lowe's.
I like the way the oil rubbed bronze hardware stands out against the white cabinets, too. The cup pulls on the drawers are made by Sumner Street. They were five bucks apiece at Lowe's, and I love them. LOVE. The cabinet pulls are by Century Hardware, and they were just $2.69 apiece. You can't beat the price, but I think they look a bit small. The cabinets had holes drilled for 3'' center-to-center pulls, so we went with that size to keep things simple, but I wish I'd chosen something with a heftier look. But compared to what was there before? WIN.

The grayish-taupe concrete counter tops are just right. But the golden brown backsplash looks weird next to the counters. The gold undertones clash against everything else in the kitchen, and the pictures don't show just how weird it all looks. I can live with it for now, but I'd like to either retile the backsplash or put up vinyl wallpaper there in the not too distant future. I'm still not sure about that orangey terracotta floor tile, either. What do you think? Sometimes I like it, and sometimes I want to change it. I probably just need to put a durable indoor/outdoor rug down in the kitchen. Preferably one that has the same pretty aqua color as the Kitchen-Aid mixer. 

Can we talk about that mixer? My thoughtful and generous sister got it for me last year as a bridal shower gift. Thank you, Erin! Sadly, it sat in storage for months because our old kitchen was so small. When I unpacked it, it was like being given a gift all over again. I LOVE IT. I keep walking by and grinning at it like a lovesick middle schooler.  

The next thing on my to-do list (after I use that lovely mixer to whip up some cookies!) is to replace the lighting in the kitchen. I didn't show it in the pictures, because I didn't want to burn your eyes out with the ugliness, but there is a large and terrible florescent ceiling fixture in the  middle of the kitchen. I hate florescent light. HATE IT. So that monster is coming down as soon as the replacement fixture arrives.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Moving is Hard. And Cigarettes are Nasty.

We've never talked about this, but I used to smoke. I never smoked every day, but I loved to have a cigarette or five when I was out drinking with friends. Keith and I actually first met on the balcony of Mercy Lounge when I smelled vanilla flavored Sweet Dreams cigarettes and went looking for their owner so I could charm one off of him.* I always knew it was bad for me, and I was never proud of it, but now I'm kicking myself even harder. Not because of what cigarettes do to the body, but because of what they do to a house.

This picture doesn't even capture how musty and gross the walls were.
And what's up with the weird spotlight placement?
Were they trying to highlight the art, or make shadows with the ceiling fan?
I've said it before, but the previous owner of our house smoked. We had practically every visible surface of the house painted to get rid of the smell (and because new colors are awesome), and the smoke smell is gone. Seriously, gone. It's like magic. But everything that wasn't painted was still coated with tar and nicotine. It actually dripped down the master bathroom walls (the only room we didn't have painted) in sticky brown trickles. The shelves in the closets were gummy with it. Even the light was orange until we removed the nicotine covered light bulbs. 

I've spent most of the last week scrubbing walls, windows, light fixtures, the insides of the kitchen cabinets, and all the shelves inside the closets. Before I can unpack anything, I have to unleash elbow grease and Pine-Sol on the place it will be kept. It's made the move-in process really slow, but WE FINALLY MOVED! 

We hired two guys to move in all the furniture last week. In just three hours, two guys from 6th Man Movers had all the big stuff I can't carry by myself moved into the house. Now I make a trip to the condo every day to pack up a carload of stuff and move it into the house. Moving gradually makes the transition easier. It's saved us money and sanity, if not time.

The first day in the new house was really frustrating: I woke up super early to blinding sunlight because our new bedroom faces east and the windows were bare. Oops. AND THERE WAS NO COFFEE MAKER. Needless to say, the first thing I did that day was grab the kitchen stuff from the condo and buy blackout shades for the bedroom. But when I brought the kitchen stuff home, I realized I couldn't unpack it. Why? Because the cabinets were filthy on the inside. And now we return to our original topic. *sigh*

For the last week, my days have been a blur of cleaning, moving stuff by the carload, and visiting Home Depot for boring things like temporary paper window shades and toilet seats that aren't squishy. Why do they make squishy toilet seats, anyway? Does anyone really need a toilet seat that expels a tiny fart of air every time they sit on it? *shudder* But I'm getting sidetracked.

I can't even tell you how much I love the new carpet and the black trim against the white marble.
That fan has got to go outside on the porch, though. What should go in its place?
The unexpected side effect of all the nastiness is that I've gotten to know every weird nook and cranny of the house as I've scrubbed the nicotine away. Now I feel oddly close to the house and fond of it. We've already been through so much together. Like the stomach-turning moment when I discovered that the master bathroom floor tile doesn't have black grout; it had really dirty pale beige grout. God, I wish I could forget that. Soon, I hope I can stop cleaning and unpacking, and start making it beautiful.

* Yes, Keith used to smoke candy flavored cigarettes. And my mother told me once that my grandma met my grandpa when she asked him for a cigarette. It's a family tradition, y'all.