Friday, October 29, 2010

Mission: Possible?

My latest project (obsession?) is turning our front entry closet into a mudroom. I had an idea in my head, and then hunted around online to find the two photos above that are serving as my inspiration. One of the photos (number two) is from, one of my favorite blogs, so I'm surprised I'd never seen it before.
The reasons we need a mudroom are simple: we live in Minnesota and in the winter it's muddy! Taking off your coats and boots in our teeny entry is difficult, and now that we have the little one, we need to sit down to help him put on his shoes. I hate how occasionally we track in dirt onto the carpet because the entry is so small. We have a decent sized entry closet (not quite as wide as these, but close), and up until now it was just a bunch of coats hung on a bar, and tons and tons of shoes piled high on the floor where they're hard to find. I think taking the door down, painting the inside and putting up a coat rack will make it look really nice and be useful to boot (hah, shoe pun!).
My deadline for this project: November 6. We're having a small dinner party with four grown-ups and two kids. All of whom will have coats and shoes that need storing! It'd be so nice to have this new system up and running by the time they come for dinner, and it'll be the perfect opportunity to show it off.
Here's what's done so far:
-I've cleaned the closet of any unused coats and shoes, and donated them all to charity.
-I bought three storage bins (one for reusable grocery bags, one for mittens and scarves, and the other for miscellany).
-I scored a huge wicker basket to store shoes for only $5.99 at a thrift shop. I was going to paint it white, but I think the natural wicker color will work well with the color scheme we've chosen.
-I picked up free, mistinted paint for the walls in a minty green.
-I painted the door trim.
Here's what still needs to be done:
-I need to paint the baseboards.
-Need to paint the walls.
-Need to paint the end table that we are going to turn into a bench.
-Need to purchase a cushion for that bench.
-Need to address the flooring situation. The entry has wood laminate, and the closet is carpeted. And not very well, since a kitty got stuck in there once and scratched it up. I think for now the plan is to tear out the carpet, paint the subfloor white, cover most of it in a cute rug, and eventually buy the same wood from Ikea and extend the flooring into the closet.
Between now and November 6 I have approximately two naptimes and eight bedtimes I can work through.
Can it be done?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Is Where We Used to Live: Part 7

Through the trees in this picture is the first place I lived in on my own. It was the upper floor of a duplex in St. Paul, not too far from the University of Minnesota campus where I went to school. I lived at home my first year in college, because during the 90s there was a housing shortage on campus that caused it to be VERY difficult to get into a dorm. A friend of mine spent a good portion of his first semester in a hotel. My husband lived in a study lounge with six other students. The vacancy rate near campus was something like 1%. It was a real problem, so I just opted out my first year. Things loosened up a bit my second year, but it was still very hard to get an apartment. I found this place a ways from school, but on a direct bus line, so still convenient. I answered an ad in the school newspaper from a girl looking for a roommate to share this apartment. Her father was the landlord, and lived in the unit downstairs. They were extremely nice people, and we all clicked. I think my parents felt really good about the father being downstairs, so they happily helped me pay my whopping $350 rent.
The house was built in the early 1900s. My apartment was located in the back up a rickety staircase. When you went inside, you immediately went up another set of stairs, carpeted in white berber. There was a white wood railing I found really charming. The house had been made into a duplex in the 70s, so some of it was dated and not in a good way: cheap wood doors and trim, cheap linoleum in the kitchen and bathroom. But there were some areas where the period details were intact - there was an attic door with a glass door knob, there were intricately detailed, silver radiators in the two bedrooms and living room, and there was a big bay window in the living room.
I lived in this apartment for the rest of my college career. The rent was cheap, the landlord was awesome and it just felt homey to me. I had four roommates here: my first roommate, who was very sweet, but shy; my second who was terrible and we had a big fight and she moved out; the third, my cousin, whom at the time was one of my best friends, but living together basically destroyed that friendship; and the fourth, a friend whom I really enjoyed living with, but in the years since our time as roommates we've had a falling out, and don't talk anymore. Living with roommates taught me one very important lesson: I am not cut out for living with roommates!
Decor wise, well, it was college. I might actually have some photos of my college apartment I could dig up, scan and post, but this was pre-digital cameras. The living room was very beige. I had a beige futon, mismatched wood tables, an old tv with rabbit ears, and two chairs that came with the apartment (mauve armchairs, I believe). By the time I moved out, I'd added some decorative touches, but they were still very college-y (Gustav Klimt posters and loads of candles). My blue chair came to live with me at this apartment. My bedroom was dorm-like: twin sized bed, book case, desk and computer. On a whim one day I painted the wall my bed was against bright yellow and painted some canvases from Michael's other pastels and hung them above the bed. It looked okay, but not as cool as I'd envisioned. Our kitchen was big, but very cut off from the rest of the apartment. It was on one end, near my roommate's room and bathroom, while the living room was at the front of the apartment. It seemed like a bedroom that had been converted to a kitchen. There was a wallpaper border of fruit around the room, and very little counter space. It was really big, though, so we had a dining room table in there with chairs I got at a garage sale and painted a super shiny blue and yellow. I was going for shabby chic, but it kind of just looked shabby.
I learned to cook in this apartment. I was really into Iron Chef and at the time, and just sort of tried recipes until I learned how to cook. The first meal I ever made there was a can of Campbell's broccoli cheese soup, and one of the last was homemade pork dumplings. We held many a potsticker party in that kitchen.
I moved out of the apartment to go live with Matt after we graduated. I saw the landlord about six months ago at a local restaurant, and I kind of hid from him. I feel like I was a bad tenant when I lived there, and I wish I hadn't done a lot of the things I did in that apartment. I removed wallpaper from the bathroom without asking if it was okay (granted, it was falling down, but still! It wasn't my bathroom!), I painted without asking, I spilled blue oil based paint from those stupid blue dining chairs on the carpet and it never came out, I inflicted two terrible, non-paying roommates on him, and my cousin got a cat without telling him and we kept it. God, it's no wonder he sold the house soon after I moved out. He probably never wanted to rent to college kids again!
Still, living in this place was a great experience. I learned a lot about myself, and had some really fun, college times there.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting the Most Out of My Space

If someone were to ask me what the number one reason to buy a house was, I would unequivocally say "for a yard." I am slowly but surely coming to terms with the fact that I will live in this condo for a long time. And I'm mostly okay with that, especially as we are improving the space to better suit our needs. But the one thing we can't fix is that we don't have a yard. And I so, so wish we did.
But this weekend I hung out at a dear friend's townhome, and we spent the entire evening outside on her small concrete patio, which was kind of eye-opening. It's not really that I'm craving a yard, per se, but I want to have outdoor space I will actually use.
Our set up is a deck off the living room, accessible via sliding glass doors. So right there is problem number 1: I hate tracking dirt into the living room, so going outside is kind of a pain. The deck is 6 feet wide by 9.5 feet long. Problem number 2: It's a skinny, narrow, awkward space. There are huge pine trees that are dying (and our frustrating association can't/won't do anything about it), leading us to problem number 3: There are pine needles everywhere. Our current furniture set up is as follows: an old, rickety glider that we inherited from the old downstairs neighbors when they sold, some long planters, a couple really dirty candle holders, a couple small tables that hold more planters and a chimena that is crumbling and that we never use. It's blah.
My friend's set up was not any more interesting than ours, but she uses the space so much better. It was a small concerete patio off her front door, which she'd adorned with a few potted plants. She had an outdoor loveseat and an outdoor chair in an L shape. From the garage she brought out a very small, portable fire table like this one: It was only 15" high and fueled by propane, but sitting out there on a chilly fall night with a couple of beers and some marshmallows on fondue forks we created the atmosophere of a much larger bonfire in a much larger backyard.
It's completely silly and frivolous in a way to be thinking about our outdoor space in late October. I think we had our last nice weekend, so I won't be hosting any mini-bonfires on my deck anytime soon. However, I figure if I come up with a plan for the deck now, we can implement it in the spring and actually have a spring, summer and fall where we spend time outside.
Here's what I'm thinking:
-We need nicer outdoor furniture. The guys that live downstairs use their deck a ton, and it's really nice out there. They have wicker furniture and a string of mini lanterns that lines the railing. It's clean and comfortable looking. If their deck, which is exactly the same as ours, just one floor down, can look that nice, so can ours. I think we need to ditch the massive glider and get a loveseat and chair and maybe a little table.
-We need something for Sebastian to do outside. We tried to put a kiddie pool out there this summer, but it filled up the whole deck and it was a pain to fill it with water (we had to take multiple pitchers from the kitchen). Maybe this sandbox (if it would fit): or this if an actual sandbox is too big:
-Less is more: we need to ditch all the outdoor tschokes I have - ceramic birdhouse, mosaic globe that is supposed to be solar powered but hasn't worked in years, broken Christmas lights, dirty candle holders, chiminea. I'm thinking just furniture, a couple of planters and the sandbox. Right now our deck is cluttered and dirty and leaves and needles get trapped under furniture, inside candle holders, etc.
-Rules be damned: We're not supposed to grill, and to be fair, that makes sense. The decks are not far from the house, and it seems like a fire hazard to have such a big open flame. But there is an electrical outlet, so I want one of these (an electric grill): And, yes, technically we probably shouldn't have a mini-fire bowl like my friend does, BUT our association basically doesn't care about anything. (That can be good when you want to do something against the bylaws, bad when you want them to you know, actually fix things.) The flame of the firebowl wasn't that much higher than a candle. We're in the back so no one would even really see it. So it's a must-have for next year.
This blog has really helped me. A lot of times, when I would visit a "nicer" home than my own, I'd get jealous and annoyed. Now it just spurs me into action. The best way to cure the house-blues is to try and make my current home nicer. Then I'm able to just sit back and eat a tasty s'more and have some nice conversation, all the while plotting how I can totally recreate this at home.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Days Stretching Into Weeks

I have NOT been good about my Apartment Therapy Cure. Week 2 is still unfinished, and I started it three weeks ago. I don't know why I'm losing steam - I still have a few projects in mind and I have made some progress, but nothing's finished. Our bedroom closet is cleaner, things feel a little more organized and calm, and perhaps that was all I needed to feel content? I'm not sure what it is, exactly, but I have just felt less inclined to do projects and less inclined to write about them.
However, I have done a few things to the condo the past three weeks, which I will list here. Maybe this will help me kick it into gear?
-Purchased storage totes for the master bedroom closet, did a big purge and got things more organized. It's not perfect yet, but the difference between the photo a few entries back and what it looks like now is astounding. I will try and snap a picture this weekend for comparison.
-Purchased a coat rack for the entry closet that we're going to turn into a "mudroom." Am starting to amass storage baskets. I found one huge one to be used for shoes at a thrift store, but baskets are super expensive, so this may be slow going. I don't really want to spend $20 a piece at Target or Ikea.
-I bought new lamps yesterday for the masterbedroom. One of our lamps broke, and sadly, they don't carry that style any more at Ikea, so I replaced both of them. Thankfully, they were on clearance for $8.50 a piece, so I got a great deal. They are brushed nickel with teal shades, which adds a fun punch of color to the orange room.
Hah, most of my list has been shopping related. This weeked, though, I will gather a batch of things to take to Goodwill, and give the house a nice deep clean. The weather is turning colder (finally! It's been the warmest fall ever!) and we're starting to cozy up at home more. I want to feel like our house works for us during the long winter we'll be spending indoors.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Apartment Therapy Cure: Week 2

Well, week 2 of the Apartment Therapy Cure has actually spanned two weeks, but who's counting? At least we're finally making some progress on the tasks assigned after spending a whirlwind weekend at my little brother's wedding (Congrats, F!).
Last night, I started tackling the biggest task of week 2, deep cleaning the kitchen. I cleaned out all the drawers near the stove, organized the utensils, wiped down the drawers and put down new contact paper. It looks so neat and organized, and the best part is, I scored some extra storage space by throwing away a bunch of broken things (and the four, yes four, boxes of birthday candles we were storing in the utensil drawer). I'm going to replace some of our dishtowels and oven mitts, since they've seen better days. I fell in love with the one pictured above from Crate and Barrel while shopping for another wedding we're attending this weekend. Tonight or tomorrow, I'm going to tackle the cutlery and knife drawers. Then, the cabinets. Most are actually okay, and won't take a lot of work, but there's this one cabinet next to the bar stools on the other side of the peninsula that is b.a.d. It stores our wok and then other "necessities" such as a ceramic panda, a sake set, old phone books and leaf shaped pancake molds. I think we'll be amassing quite the donation for Goodwill when we clean that out.
The house is getting messier before it gets more organized, but I am loving the process. Maybe it's a lot of "woo," but I really feel more connected to our home and am feeling better about our cozy condo.