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!

Source
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.