Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ottomans I must own

Target has some lovely ottomans.  I wish they carried these in the stores, but the square ones look like they would be fairly easy to make with a cheap square coffee table and a staple gun. 

Favorite nook

Currently my favorite nook in the house is a little bump-out gable on the side of the living room:

My grandmother has a similar chair that I loved growing up.  About 8 years ago, I went antiquing in Red Bank with my aunt Patti.  We rounded a corner, we both saw this chair, we both said "OOOOOH!!!" and ran for it....and she got there first. 

A year later I got married, and my aunt gifted us this chair.  Woohoo!  The seat was in need of repair, and one of my uncles was handy and agreed to fix it for us.  SIX YEARS later, the chair showed up on my doorstep.  (That chair became a running joke every time I saw my uncle.) 

I've since recovered the chair a few times.  Here is a picture taken with my phone, so it looks a bit washed out.  I originally covered it in a turquoise quatrefoil pattern, which looked lovely (I used the same fabric originally in the back of the bookshelves as well), but the turquoise was very very bright, and I was having difficulty making our red leather club chair look like it belonged in the living room. So I switched it out to the current fabric (Robert Allan Kiki Pinata), which has much more red in it and pulls the room together a bit more. 

The pillow and lamp are from Home Goods, the branch side table is from Target.  The curtains are from Ikea.  The curtains have a sheer cutout of a geometric pattern. 

The walls on either side of the bump-out have a stucco texture, and my daughter loves to hide back in the corner, licking the walls.  So i guess its her favorite nook too.

Monday, June 28, 2010


I've been falling down on the blogging front....its been pretty busy around here.

This weekend we went to my cousin's wedding. It was lovely! My cousin married a Croatian girl, and let me tell you, you haven't been to a wedding until you've been to a Croatian wedding! Those people like to polka.

We also had Marsha's first birthday party (separate post forthcoming). I am exhausted from all the partying.

There's nothing like the thought of 30 people coming to your house to make you clean up your kitchen (and redo your bathroom). Of course, I did not take any before pictures, but honestly, you should thank me that I'm not subjecting you to the mess that was my kitchen before.

First, I made another cornice board for the kitchen window over the sink, just like the one in the bathroom, made from foam core board wrapped in fabric. I made it a wee bit too big, so instead of hanging it, its actually just wedged in between the cabinets.

Next, I removed the toaster oven and microwave from the countertop and installed them inside a free-standing cabinet on the other side of the kitchen. The picture below is where they used to be, and they took up the entire counter on that side.

While I am not exactly Annie Leibowitz, the picture above looks very slanted. The counter IS slanted. But not that slanted. Although you can see right next to the sink how the counter is buckled and wavy. That's not my photography.

The area above the fridge was a hot mess. Someone renting here prior to us took off the cabinet doors, and we can only find one of them, so we haven't reattached them. I hate hate hate open shelving, or anything open in the kitchen. Or generally anywhere else, for that matter. I have clutter, I just hate looking at it. Put it behind closed doors, please. So the area above the fridge was always an eyesore of plastic grocery bags, lunchboxes, giant containers of olive oil, etc. And moldy bread. Omg, the penicillin I threw away when I cleaned up there. The bread is no longer allowed to live up there.

Now, nicely corralled and sorted with pretty baskets from Target:

The toaster oven and microwave now live in a free-standing cabinet. Sadly, the two shelves now occupied by the microwave and toaster oven used to hold food items, which are now all crammed up into the upper left shelf. I will have to remedy this. Not sure how at the moment.

We also bought the kids new shoes. You may remember my previous rant about Geox and how much I hate their stupid holey shoes. However, after concerted nagging and whining by the 4 yr old, I buckled under the pressure (much like my counters) and bought the Geox. In my defense, they were 60% off. And the other shoes I was being nagged to buy lit up like a Christmas tree. I compromised with the white shiny vinyl.

I've tried to actively encourage Greg to wear the black Sperry topsiders when he goes out to play, so these shiny white shoes last more than a week. So, he goes downstairs to Grandma's apartment, walks into her kitchen, and informs Grandma "I can't wear my new white shoes on your kitchen floor, Grandma. Its too dirty, my shoes will get dirty." Grandma says "excuse me? What do you mean?" And Greg says, "Look all around! This place is filthy!" (Her place is not filthy, I assure you.)

Nice, kiddo. Inherited your mother's interpersonal skills, I see.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Before + After: bathroom

I've spent most of the last few days giving the kids' bathroom a makeover. We are renting, so the mint green sink, toilet and bathtub had to stay, as did the gray-flecked yellowish tile. The room had been painted a yellowish white, and the counter and vanity were a sort of peachy-yellowy-off-white color, and looking a bit worse for wear. Apparently I didn't take a picture of the whole bathroom prior to beginning this project. Bad blogger.

Here's a kind of washed-out picture of the gray-flecked tile, the minty green toilet, and the awesome knobs. The knobs picture two geese frolicking around an urn wrapped with ribbons and flowers.


I painted the walls and the counter Sherwin Williams Roman Column. Its very bright and cheerful but has a hint of yellow in it, so it goes nicely with the yellow-gray tiles.The vanity was painted a dark gray (Behr's Dark Granite) that I found in my mother in law's basement. I replaced the knobs with some silver knobs I had leftover from a dresser.

I bought some plain off-white twill curtains and a valance at Target. Originally I was only going to put the ribbon trim going up the inside edges of the curtain. However, what I actually did was this:

So....I ended up putting ribbon on the inside and the outside edges.

I love the look of cornices and pelmet boxes, especially love the ones that Melanie of Plum Cushion has in her bedroom. So, using a tutorial from Little Green Notebook, found here, I used foam board to make the box, covered it with batting and then used the valance to cover it. I stapled the fabric into the foam board. (Just a regular office stapler, since it was foam board.)

To get the ribbon look, I pinned the ribbon in place in the pattern I wanted, ironed it gently so the folds would stay, then used fabric glue to attach it to the valance.

The hardest part was hanging it. I used little circular hangers (that I can't seem to find the 8 remaining pieces to take a picture of), glued and duct-taped to the sides (the edge of the side wasn't thick enough to attach them directly). I bent the circle part and the hung it over the hook nailed to the wall.

For art, I had two ceramic plates picturing Positano, Italy, that we bought as souvenirs on trips to Italy. The colors in the plates go nicely with the turquoise accents. I hung them a bit too high (they are a wee bit above the curtain line) and I want to drop them lower....but that entails spackling and painting, and I don't have either spackle or leftover paint, and so they are staying too high, I guess.

On a recent trip to Home Goods I found this rattan piece, which is lots of rattan woven circles strung together inside a wider circle. There are 3 capiz shells inside that I wasn't thrilled with, but all in all I think the piece is the perfect size for the wall and it adds a nice bit of texture to the room.

Voila! New bathroom.

*Edited to add pictures of the ceramic plates and rattan piece.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

tv wall

Here is the tv side of the living room. I'm not terribly enthralled with my decorating efforts in the living room so far. I probably won't post a pic of the whole room. I want a new sofa and a new rug. And new curtains. And a new coffee table. And while I like the red leather chair, I wish it weren't red. I'm annoyed at how its dictating the design scheme. If only I had another room to put it in.

So here is the before picture.

We bought the sideboard at Uhuru Used Furniture in Philly on Spruce St. Its got great used furniture---I think we paid $40 for this piece. It was pretty beat up when we got it, so I attempted a tortoiseshell kind of effect. I was inspired by Laurie on Trading Spaces and a coffee table she did (that tells you how long ago I got this piece, doesn't it?) I painted it gold and then stippled black and brown all over it. It was ok. Not a masterpiece.

I think the shelf is about at max capacity. The Mister wanted me to leave it blank, because ack, what if we put stuff on it and then the shelf fell on the precious tv??? Every time I add a piece his eyebrows go up and he asks "does that really need to be up there?"

The Buddha and the apothecary jars are all from Home Goods.

The picture of peaches is a picture painted by my grandmother after my wedding, based on our wedding favors of peach jam (you can see in the middle of the picture is a little jar of jam). The picture of sunflowers was taken at my husband's family's farm outside of Naples, Italy. The sumo wrestlers were bought in Japan while visiting a friend.

The red pulls are so pretty. They are the medium size red Empire pull from Schaub & Co.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

two completely unrelated pictures

The two year old staged this one:

Quick, Lassie, go get help! Timmy fell down the well! (Technically Elizabeth has fallen down the well, and Woody and his friends are trying to get her up. Although Woody appears to be the only doing anything.)

Here are three color swatches on my bathroom wall. I don't like any of them. Yes, we keep our hula hoops on the bathroom vanity. Their round shape nicely offsets the square lines of the mirror, yet mimics the circular nature of the 80s light fixture.

Color ideas? I want a pretty sea-glass blue-green....but am having trouble finding one I like. I am thinking of a dark brown for the vanity, a creamy white for the countertop, and the sea-glass color for the walls. I need to do this toute de suite (toot sweet? how does one spell that?) because NEXT WEEKEND there will be a million people in my house for a 1 yr old's birthday party. Perhaps I should have started a bit sooner.

Oh, and I attempted to make my own roman shade using a bedsheet and a venetian blind. Currently I am lacking a roman shade and have only bits of detritus of a venetian blind to show for it.

Crafty, I am not.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My sister's nursery: Part II

More details on my sister's nursery....

The bedding is by Pixie Dust D├ęcor, and I just fell in love with it - and they sold all the fabrics by the yard so I could coordinate the lamp shade and curtains, and any other projects I came up with. Yes, I know crib bumpers aren’t safe – but that thing is so cute, and is staying in the crib until the baby actually starts sleeping there!

Next we get to the dresser/changing table – I refinished an old dresser that I had bought for about $20 when I was in college, and somehow kept around since then. I can never have my own decorating blog, because I can’t remember how to take the before pictures for before/after pictures. It was
painted a dark brown/black. And here’s the after - I stained the frame to match the crib, and painted the drawers white and got new hardware. A changing pad on top completed it.

If you look above the dresser, you’ll see the curtains I made. I’m not much of a seamstress – in fact I hadn’t touched a sewing machine since I was in high school (about 15 years ago). But I still had said sewing machine, and figured curtains are a bunch of straight lines, I could do it. My project started with you-tubing how to thread a sewing machine. And I took the curtains from my bedroom to see how they did the lining. I used the fabric I bought from Pixie Dust for the curtains – and old bed sheets for the lining (I felt super resourceful). There’s plenty of mistakes in the curtains, but I doubt anyone coming over is inspecting the curtains for my mess-ups.

And lastly, we’re getting to the pictures I hung on the wall this weekend – how this whole post started. Technically my husband hung the pictures, not me. I gave him lots of advice that he didn’t really follow. All of the pictures were free – I either made them or downloaded them from http://indiefixx.com/Feed_your_soul/downloads.html. And one of the pictures is actually a CD cover from my husband’s old band. Hubby did a reasonably good job hanging the pictures. There’re a few extra holes in the wall, where I wasn’t really happy with the original placement – and I think the bottom frame with the curtain fabric swatch in it still needs to move to the right. But I like the overall look, I like the overall price, and I like that there’s room to add more pictures if I choose to in the future.

So there it is- the entire nursery in detail. All ready for this little girl to move into whenever she deems it worthy of her presence. (Soon please?)

my sister's nursery: Part I

My sister J is having a baby any day now. She's put together cutest nursery for my niece! She has kindly agreed to share the room and lift the heavy blogging burden from my shoulders (yes, that's right, one week of blogging and I've already got someone else doing the work).

Yay, I’m the first guest blogger! I figured I would share my nursery with you. My baby’s due date was Saturday (two days ago), and she decided she likes her current living quarters too much to move into this super cute nursery I’ve been working on for her. This weekend, since I wasn’t in labor I decided to complete the finishing touches for her room that I just hadn’t gotten around to yet – like hanging some of the pictures. (Because I’m sure it was the lack of art on the walls that was keeping in her my womb).

Here’s a picture from the hallway looking into the room. I wanted something girly, my husband wanted something not pink. The compromise – green and brown, with plenty of pink accents.

The chair was a gift from the in-laws and is made by Best Chair, and I think it is nicer than similar Pottery Barn options – a more manageable size for a smaller room, a million upholstery options, and a much easier price tag. Behind the chair is a vinyl wall art tree by Dali Decals. I have a bunch more leaves that I could add to the tree, and I still haven’t decided whether I like it as is, or if should add more leaves – opinions? The table was a $4 find at a thrift store, and I gave it a new coat of pink paint. The lamp was also a thrift store find, and I recovered the lampshade to match the bedding (see below). I’m not so sure about the lamp base which is why I took the picture from a distance. I might end up putting the shade on a new lamp base from target or something… We’ll see. The pink and green blanket on the ottoman was knitted by my super talented sister.

Moving to the other side of the room, we’ve got the expedit bookshelf from Ikea. I love these shelves. Right now we’ve got lots of empty baskets for storage that I’m sure will fill up soon once the baby is here. In the corner of the room there is an alphabet picture I made. Zoomed in here. I need to reprint on larger paper and put in the frame straight, but you get the idea (the crookedness and paper seam is really bothering me, so I should have done that this weekend but didn’t get around to it).

Basically, I found dingbats for various animals and created the whole thing in Microsoft powerpoint. Pretty easy, and I could personalize all the details, like the colors or what animals I wanted. Some of the animals we had to think really hard to come up with (V for vampire bat anyone?) or even use google (like X for xiphias). You might think the picture is just a swordfish, but really it’s a xiphias. Duh. The problem was two-fold – we first had to think up the animal that started with the strange letters – and then actually find a dingbat of that animal. The project was a couple weeks in the making, but I’m pretty happy with how it came out.

Our daughter’s room couldn’t be too childish – and we wanted to influence her musical tastes at a young age – so we already decided she should be a wilco fan. And I loved this wilco poster. We actually went to a show on this tour with friends of ours, and they ended up buying the poster and getting it framed for us after I mentioned wanting it for the nursery. Gotta love friends who pay attention to dropped hints like that!

We’re working our way around the room here – and we’ve gotten to the crib corner. The crib… oh the crib. Started out as a saga – we were offered plenty of hand-me-down cribs that I didn’t feel all that comfortable taking – for safety and aesthetic reasons. But how do you tell people that while their crib was good enough for their child, it wasn’t good enough for ours? Plus, we were not very enthusiastic about spending a ton of money on a piece of furniture that we had been offered for free many times (three different cribs to be exact). When I started looking at cribs just to see our options, I stumbled upon the Graco eco-friendly crib – which had gotten good safety ratings, was recommended by the baby best buys book, was the color we wanted, environmentally friendly, and an unbelievable price (with free shipping if you ordered from amazon) - sold.

Above the bed are some paper lanterns that my friends used for decorations at my baby shower, and I thought they were perfect to use in the nursery. On the wall, pictures of a cat and dog – again dingbats/Microsoft powerpoint creation.

Part II to follow tomorrow....

Looking at houses

This weekend we continued on our tour of towns we can't afford in Union County NJ. (So far we have crossed Westchester NY off our list, all of Bergen County (your blue laws suck, Bergen County), said meh to Essex County....and we've kind of settled on Union County. Sort of. We really like Westfield and Cranford, which have great schools and community programs.

Since at this point we are really just scoping out housing stock and trying to get a feel for the towns, not actually looking to buy, we usually just get a list of open houses in a particular town off Trulia.com and go check them out. The first house we looked at was...well, one of the weirdest open houses I've ever been to.

For anyone unfamiliar with the process, in an open house, the homeowners clean up the house, leave for a few hours, and people are free to come in and look around while the listing agent sits in the house. When we sold our home last year, I was 9 months pregnant and had two kids under the age of 4, and I spent a ridonkulous amount of time cleaning our house so that it was spotless and ready to show at a moment's notice. (It was exhausting and stressful, btw.) Whenever we had an open house, we left at least a half hour before it started and came back about a half hour after it finished.

(My children were not thrilled with the process of showing a house. Every time we left for a showing, my oldest would ask "they aren't going to play with my toys, right?" Once I packed up the kids, drove around for a half hour, came back, and the agent and prospective buyers were still standing on the front porch, so we parked a few houses down the street where I could see them when they left. My oldest son said, Mommy, please roll down the window. I obliged. He stuck his head out the window and started screaming "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!!! GET OFF MY PORCH!!! PUT THOSE KEYS BACK IN THE BOX!!! YOU LEAVE NOW!!!!")

So, right, open house. We walk into the house, talk with the realtor, look around the tiny tiny house, and look out the tiny kitchen window....and there's a party in the backyard. Eight people are on the deck, having a cookout, drinking beer. A shirtless, mulleted, moustachioed man is digging a trench in the backyard while another moustachioed man leans on a shovel, watching him. Uh....are those the homeowners? Why yes. And all of them live in this tiny, tiny house. No, I don't want to look around the backyard, thanks, I feel a bit awkward.

We go into the basement, where the realtor shows us "the bedroom." Its a hidey-hole, with extension cords running all over the place. There is a...bathroom, for lack of a better word, with the toilet on a...platform?? a platform that was about the level of my waist? and the ceiling was about 2 inches above my head?...and no lights in the "bathroom" area. My first reaction when I walked in was to say to the Mister, "it puts the lotion in the basket..."

Next, the realtor tells us we can't go into one of the upstairs bedrooms because someone is sleeping in there. We look at him, mouths agape. He says, "yes, this open house is particularly....difficult."

Next up, we go to a house that was clearly professionally decorated. In the 1970s. And it hasn't been touched since. It was actually kind of retro cool again. I would have loved to have taken pictures of the wallpaper and carpets, but the realtor was literally breathing down our necks the entire time we were in the house. I asked a question about the school system, and she knew nothing, but said she would find out and email me the answer. Great!

So today, I have no less than 8 emails from this realtor, with listings of houses from every town in a 5 mile radius. (None of which I requested.) The answer to my question? She emailed me this: "You can google it." Wow. Value add, right there. Totally worth the the $20,000 commission the seller will be paying you.

And lastly, we go to a house where the picture on the website was a bit of a side view, that stopped at the roofline. We pull up and see this:

Um...wth? I now understand the weird angle of the picture.

Yes, its solar panels. The seller has left copies of the utility bills....which are $152. FOR THE YEAR. The weirdness can stay, for that kind of money.

I don't think we are going to be living in Springfield, but I'll keep it in mind.