Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fireplace: The Big Reveal

Well, we did it. We painted the fireplace. Perhaps that seems sudden to you, since I was just posting about my back on forth on this matter. That's how we do things in this house... once we get an idea in our heads we jump in with both feet. And don't look back.

Actually, that parts not entirely true. I look back. A lot.

It was a Saturday morning, and we were cleaning the condo. Our son had been asleep for an hour already, but I emerged from the laundry room with a paint brush and a quart of white paint in hand.

"What are you doing?" Matt asked warily.

"Gonna paint the fireplace," I replied casually. I started dabbing the paint on, and five minutes later Sebastian started mewing from his crib. I looked at the drippy, half painted bricks, and looked back at my husband in horror. "Crap! What have we done?"

A few nap times and bedtimes later, and the fireplace was complete. I was really unsure about it, but of course, once you paint brick there's no turning back. Thankfully, as soon as the last stroke was brushed, I was smitten. I love it. It's fresh, clean, and brightens up the living room considerably. I think it also helps tone down the cover overload we have going on here. Without the additional colors of brown, rust, and mustard, our pale green walls, birch wood coffee table and entertainment center, and primary furniture and artwork can really stand out.

Fireplace Before:

Fireplace After:

So here's how we did it:
1) First, we cleaned the brick. We didn't have soot problems, so we just used soap and water to clear the dirt and grit away.
2) Thought about priming it, but didn't have any primer, so we skipped it. Most people advise primer, though.
3) Start painting! We did it by hand with a brush, so we could get into the grout more easily. You can also roll on paint with a thick-napped roller. It took us two coats and a little touching up. We used Dutch Boy Cabinet and Trim paint in Stone Arrowhead. This is the same color as our trim and cabinets, which gives it a cohesive look.

Spiffing up our fireplace has really inspired me to continue making home improvements. I'm really excited to update and refresh our condo.

Friday, April 9, 2010

To Paint, or Not to Paint

Painting our brick fireplace has become my new obsession. Well, that and planning my son's 1st birthday party (which is in one month!), but that's for another blog, or another post. Every day I seem to waver on what to do with the brick. In fact, my opinion can change hourly, depending on the light in our house. When it's sunny I kind of like the brick. When it's darker, I want nothing more than to cover up that splotchy brick with a coat of glossy white paint.

A co-worker of mine may have swayed me in the "paint" direction, with this blog post she dug up:

The second fireplace down has a very similar green to what our living room is painted. So now that I have a visual of what it would look like in my place, I think I'm going to take the plunge.

Before and after pics soon!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Condo People

My last couple of posts have made me start thinking of the difference of condo people vs. house people. I never quite know which category I fit into. Obviously, I live in a condo now, and at one time I thought buying a condo was a good idea. But I lust after houses, so that must mean I'm a house person… right?

When you think of your typical condo people, two images are conjured. The urban, young couple who eats most of their meals out, walks everywhere, works long hours and has their BlackBerries attached to their ears at all times. They buy an airy, downtown loft condo where they can walk to all the trendy restaurants and hip shops. The other image: the retired, empty nesters who sell their house and downsize. They are more likely to buy a condo in a quiet neighborhood, but close to things by car. They're interested in simple, one level condos that are neatly landscaped. Maybe two bedrooms so they can have a space for visiting grandkids and a sewing or exercise room. Most of the people in our association fit this demo to a tee.

When you think of house people, you probably think young families. Perhaps in the 'burbs. They drive an SUV or crossover with car seats in the back. They have a dog. They spend many a weekend at the Home Depot working on their next project.

But us? We're young, but we have a family. We're decidedly not hip anymore. We don't work long hours, and while we like a walkable neighborhood, we want it to be close to parks, libraries and grocery stores, not bars. We live in the 'burbs, technically, but so close to the city, where we spend a lot of time. But we're not above the suburbs at all. I love me some Target, and we're known to hit up the chain restaurants nearby us. No dogs for us… we have cats.

So maybe we should live in a neighborhood full of houses, where we can garden and play in the backyard. On the other hand, maybe being condo people is best for people like us. We are both working parents, and as any working parent will tell you, our time with our son is so precious. Instead of maintaining a house, we get to write a monthly check and sit back and let the association take care of it. That frees us up to spend time with Sebastian, walking to the park or entertaining friends.

Perhaps my dream of something bigger and better is getting in the way of seeing what's right in front of me: that I already live in a place that's perfect for me and my family. Our quiet, wooded neighborhood next to trails, schools and parks appeals to the side of me that yearns for space and nature. Our small, easy to maintain condo unit in bright, modern colors appeals to the on-the-go, city gal in me.

Maybe I don't need to cram myself, or my home, into a category. Maybe it can just be what it is, which is home.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring Fever

The beautiful, warm weather continues, which has given me a case of spring fever. I've started daydreaming about the many projects I want to do around the condo: declutter and have a garage sale, paint the fireplace a creamy white, and fix up the deck.

I have big plans for the deck this year. We barely used it last year, as we were home with a newborn baby and doing nothing but feeding and sleeping. But this year, oh, I have plans. I want to nail lattice to the sides of the deck to block out the view of the ugly dead tree and protect our son from falling through the slats. Then I want to plant leafy green plants, vines, flowers and herbs. I want to spend afternoons on the deck, with Sebastian playing with some outdoor toys, and then evenings after he goes to bed relaxing out there with a glass of white wine and a book. Ahh.

In reality: it's never going to happen if we can't even get started, and to get started we need the lattice.

Damn you lattice. It's been the bane of my existence all weekend. We went to Menards, and actually bought three panels, 2'x8', to bring home and fit along the deck, which measures 5'10" and 13'8". We bring it out to the car, and there's a slight problem. Eight feet is just a wee bit too long to fit in the back of a Saturn. After a few futile moments of trying to cram it in, we bring it back into the store to see if they will cut it. Everyone looks at us like we're crazy, and so, we return the lattice and go home empty handed. The next day, we go to Home Depot and ask them if they will cut it for us, and they tell us it's "against store policy."

Sigh. Apparently there's no way to get lattice home without a truck, and no one will help us cut it, which we really would benefit from since our tools aren't exactly the most sophisticated.

So what did we do? I went shopping instead and bought some sweet little ceramic birds to display on the fireplace. Because clearly we're condo people. I can handle decorating my living room, but trying to do some basic landscaping completely confounds me.

At least the birds are springy.