Friday, July 15, 2011

Joining the Gallery Wall Party

I spend a lot of time looking at design blogs. Like, a lot. So sometimes when I fall for something I see over and over, I wonder if it's too trendy. But then I remember that most of my friends and family don't log the same kinds of hours I do looking at different shades of gray, Ikat prints, white antlers, Moroccan poofs and Keep Calm and Carry On posters, and would probably hail me as totally original if I brought any of these items into my house.

So I decided to do a gallery wall.

 Yeah, they're kind of everywhere right now, but I don't care, I looove them. I decided to blatantly rip off  take my inspiration from Young House Love's gallery wall and go with all white frames. I'm glad I did, because I love the cohesive, light look, but turns out I'm not a great spray painter and some of them came out a bit drippy or bubbly. But you can't really tell now that they're on the wall, and I saved loads of money by stocking up on super cheap thrift store or clearance frames. I probably only spend $10 or so.

I laid out some different arrangements on the floor before putting it up, so the photo above is actually an earlier iteration, before I found a cute print at Target already framed for $4 of some antique keys on bright colored bands that I had to have. Some of the items we have in the gallery wall are:
-The "Hi I'm Art" print my husband bought for me on my 18th birthday, which is also the day we officially became a couple. Aww.
- An amazing pastel my mother in law did of Sebastian. That pic on the left of him looking into a pond... that's a pastel, not a photo. Incredible.
-Two prints we got on trips we took. One is a bird we bought in Canada, another is a print of Pike's Place Market from Seattle.
-Two frames have some cute fabric and wrapping paper. I thought the fabric one I did was kind of genius. I just grabbed some sample swatches of fancy Dwell fabrics I liked from JoAnn's and matted them. Free!
-There are three or four photos of S, as well as a photo of M and a photo of me as 2-year olds.
-For our wedding, nearly seven years ago, we had guests sign little cutouts of fall leaves in lieu of a traditional guestbook. I always wanted to do something with those, and I found a cute image of a tree, and I glued all the leaves overlapping one another on top.

So all in all, super personal, meaningful stuff.

It's pretty asymmetrical, but we did that on purpose, since we think this will be an evolving project. We already have a new image to frame and hang soon.

I can't express how much I love it. It just makes me happy.

I definitely don't mind following the crowd on this one.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making My House Fit My Life, Not My Life Fit My House

There are so many times I hear, "I'll put that up when we buy a house," or "we'll throw a party when we have more space," or "we can't have a baby until we move someplace larger," and it makes me feel sad. Our home is also small – 1200 square feet and only a sliver of deck space. No yard, no basement, and we share one wall with our next door neighbors and live above our downstairs neighbors. It's less than perfect in a lot of ways. But I'm 31 and living my life now. And I'm known for being impatient. I don't want to wait until I have a house to do things, like have children and throw them birthday parties. So we do the best we can with what we have. We make our house fit our life, and we don't change our life to fit our house.

This weekend we had M's family over for dinner to celebrate Father's Day. It was lovely, and we didn't need a bigger house to do it. We actually keep our old dining room table (the one we had before we made over the formal dining room into a play room) disassembled underneath our bed. When we're going to have a large dinner gathering, we just drag it out, put the legs on, and we're good to go. It takes about 10 minutes to do, and allows us to have these larger gatherings without having a place to keep a big dining room set permanently. I don't want to wait to sit around a big dining table sipping wine and eating grilled steaks, laughing with my in laws about what Matt and his sister were like as kids. I want to do these things, make these memories now.

I don't want to wait until we have a yard to plant flowers and herbs, and create a little outdoor living area. So we work with what we have – lots of containers and small furniture and a little electric grill. It's a little messy and cramped, but it's also welcoming and cozy.

We still have big parties at our house … my birthday party was a crazy gathering of 23 adults, four toddlers and two babies. It was pouring rain that day, so everyone circled around the peninsula in the kitchen, perched on the sectional, played with toddlers at the train table, nursed babies in the nursery, or sat on the floor eating pizza and drinking beer. It was loud and boisterous and fun. In theory, we totally don't have room for 29 people, but we did it anyway.

That's kind of how we operate. We just go for it and figure it will all work itself out. Because it usually does, and then we've had a lot of fun on the journey instead of waiting.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Thursday" Dinner

It's been three years or so since our "Thursday" Dinners with our dear friends and their son have actually been held on a Thursday, but we have continued the tradition of a weekly dinner night. It started in March of 2005, where we gathered for the first time to watch the pilot of the American Office and eat homemade lo mein at A and B's apartment. A tradition was immediately born, and we started rotating dinner and Office nights. In six years two homes were purchased, four new jobs started, two children born and many, many vegetarian meals and bottles of wine consumed.

These dinners ground our week. No matter what we have going on, whether it's a big project at work, or the birth of a new child, we always know we'll have a dinner with friends to look forward to. (We actually did not stop weekly dinners even when A and I each gave birth. I went into labor on a Friday, was out of the hospital the following Wednesday, and we hosted weekly dinner on Thursday!) Our sons are the best little buddies, and now that we're parents, these dinners are punctuated with little boy giggles and the occasional tantrum. With the boys running about, we don't have time to watch TV together anymore, but we still gather to try new recipes and sample different beers and wines.

It's traditions like these that I'm so happy to have, and that I never had growing up, where we moved every four years or so. To be able to look back and remember eating off TV trays before A and B had a dining room in their new townhome, the first meal I cooked in our condo's kitchen, how A announced she was pregnant during dessert on our night, and how A and B brought baked pasta to our house and came to hold newborn S (while I enjoyed my first post-pregnancy glass of wine) makes me feel so much more connected to the place I call home. There is such value in that history. Our boys will hopefully someday remember eating things like this and playing trucks together as kids.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Spray Painting!

I'm home a bit earlier than usual, to pass the parenting baton as I come home from work and Matt heads to his summer job. Sebastian decided to take a ridiculously late nap, so I jumped at the opportunity to bust out the can of spray paint. Three picture frames are drying on our deck, having gone from silver, black and brown to glossy white.

If all goes well, a gallery wall is in my future.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Letting Go

The hardest part, for me, about becoming a mother has been the letting go of my perfectionist, neat-nik tendencies. This lovely little post I read this morning says it really well. My carpets right now are absymal, there are little trucks and Thomas trains on every possible surface, but there's that silly little smile with the wrinkled up nose, and that's all I really need right now.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Finally - New Blinds

A lot of times when I complete a new project around the condo, I can't keep my eyes off it. I love to go into whatever room I've made over and sneak another peek, even if I've already peeped at it a million times. This project I didn't really do that. Not because it didn't make a huge difference in our house, and not because I didn't love it. I think the reason I wasn't quite as giddy about putting up new blinds in our bedroom was because I'd imagined this so many times in my head, and it turned out exactly as I'd imagined, that I'd already seen it a jillion times in my mind's eye.

This is what our bedroom looked like before. I don't usually show this angle of the room, because I hated those curtains so much. Our setup there before was plastic white mini blinds, and maroon black out panels. Blech. The panels were made of a really stiff fabric, and they matched the color scheme of our old Morroccan themed room, so they weren't working here at all. But, as many low budget makeovers go, it took us awhile to get around to changing the blinds (we did small changes, like adding new art and accessories first).

I'm not ashamed to show this angle any more! Here's how things are looking now.

It's so much lighter and airier in here now. The blinds are black out roller shades from JC Penny. Black outs are a must in this room, because there's a bright parking lot light that shines in at night, making it seem like we're snoozing under a spotlight. The curtains are panels from Ikea in a crisp, white linen.

I was inspired by these two photos. I love the texture of the bamboo shades here paired with the airy white curtains.

From of course.

I found this pic on Apartment Therapy, and loved how similar it was to our room - same bed, similar bedding, a kitty. I liked the casualness of the tab tops and breezy linen.


The new curtains make the room so much brighter and pulled together. And they look like they've always been a part of our cozy, warm, eclectic bedroom.

Our master bedroom went from one of my least favorite rooms in the house to a relaxing retreat. Maybe I'll head back in and take another peek.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Hard-Working Space

I attended a seminar about email writing on Friday afternoon. In the discussion, the presenter showed us an email that promoted the company’s website, had a place to opt-in for the newsletter, talked about the latest news and included testimonials from happy customers – all in an uncluttered fashion. “This is a hard-working email,” the presenter said.

Later, when I got home from work, I opened my front door and hung my keys on the keyhook on the wall right inside. I sat on the bench in our mini-mudroom and took off my shoes. I placed them in the larger wicker basket, hung my purse on a hook and then turned to place the mail I’d brought inside in our mail-sorter. And then I thought to myself, “This is a hard-working space.”

When we first set out to create a mini-mudroom, I had no idea how much it would make a difference in our day-to-day lives. This tiny little space is a real workhorse in terms of keeping us organized and tidy. It makes getting out the door so much easier - which as a parent of a 2 year old is no small feat. 

Here is what this hardworking 20 square feet provides for us:

1) A place for our shoes, coats, and other seasonal gear, as well as purses, diaper bags and the like. The nook is outfitted with five hooks along the main wall, mainly used to hang jackets, and three hooks on the inside walls for bags. There's even a small hook at child level for our son to hang his things all by himself.

2) Extra storage on a shelf, where we keep reusable grocery bags, sports equipment and extra hats and mittens. Things we might need on a somewhat regular, but not daily, basis.

3) A place for our keys and mail. I don't even know how long I've owned this wrought iron mail sorter/key hook station, but it's been in at least our last three houses. It becomes automatic to hang your keys on a hook when it's right next to your front door. I haven't misplaced my keys in years! A few spots to sort outgoing and incoming mail is handy as well.

4) A place to catch one more glance before we walk out the door. On the wall to the right of the closet-turned-mudroom is a mirror, where I can check my hair one last time before heading out for the day.

It's amazing how much function we've been able to get out of this really small landing area in our condo. And that we achieved it simply by removing the entryway closet door, and spending only $52 on paint, hooks and baskets (more on that here). It's a great little space that works hard for us.

How to Create a Small Outdoor Oasis

The time when I feel most vindicated in my choice to buy a condo over a single family home is during the winter. I get to stay toasty in my PJs reading a book while those with detached houses have to brave the elements to shovel the driveway. But they always get their comeuppance in the summer, when they're a step away from their yards and I'm stuck schlepping my kid to the park like a sucker.

But our condo does have a small deck off the living room, but it's a tricky space. It's narrow and surrounded by pine trees that shed their needles. We face north, so we don't get a lot of sun. And it overlooks a parking lot, so it isn't the most private. The last five summers always start with me hoping that this is the year we'll use the deck, and ending with shriveled up plants and us realizing we haven't gone out on the deck in a month. It's not been the most usable space.

Until now! Here's what we did to revamp our small outdoor living area. These tips can help anyone create an oasis … even if you only have a sliver of outdoor paradise to work with.

1. List your priorities. Think about what you want your outdoor space to achieve. For me, a big priority was giving my son a place to play outdoors – one he could access by walking out the back door instead of having to make the trip to the nearby park. So we found a great deal on a sand and water table that happens to fit nicely on one side of the deck. Sebastian loves it, and I'm amazed at how much more time we're spending on the deck just because he has something to do other than trying to dig up my flowers.

I also wanted to have a comfy place to sit and read a book. While our previous bistro set was nice for dining al fresco, it wasn't a great place to read outside with a glass of wine, so we swapped the dining table for a lower one, and the stiffer chairs for chairs with a slight recline. If growing herbs and vegetables are high on your list, planting will take priority over furniture.

Finally, we needed to address the privacy and safety issues. Surrounding the railing with wood lattice was an affordable and attractive way to make the deck safer and make it harder for people in the adjacent building to see what we're up to.

2. Define areas. A small space will look bigger if there are clearly defined areas with a little breathing room in between them. On our deck we have a conversation/lounge area on one end, with two chairs and a table. The side of condo is used for the grill, and then we have plants lining the railing. Finally, the far end is where my son's sand table resides. There's enough floor space in the middle for sidewalk chalk drawing and navigating the narrow 6x9 space. Someone can be sitting in a chair, someone can be grilling, and my son can be playing and we're not bumping into one another.

3. Think about scale. Before setting up our conversation area, the left end of the deck was completely filled by a glider. The glider was a freebie from our previous downstairs neighbors when they moved, and while it was nice, it was took up far too much space. Now we have furniture that's more to scale for our narrow deck, and also lends itself better to rearrangement.

4. Research alternatives. We're not allowed to have gas or charcoal grills due to our association bylaws, but I came across this great electric grill and snapped it up with birthday gift cards. One of the things I bemoaned in the past about not having a yard was the inability to grill out. And now we can! Think about what you'd like to do if you had a yard, and try to find ways to adapt it to the space you have. We'd love to host bonfires, but instead are making due with a small, propane-fueled fire bowl. And a vegetable garden would be nice, but our north-facing deck only allows us to have a couple pots of herbs instead. 

It's amazing how different our home feels now that we have a little extra living space outdoors. We're looking forward to a summer enjoying the great outdoors!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My brain is getting ahead of me

I spend a lot of time thinking about house projects these days. Like,
a lot, a lot. To the point where my inspiration file is starting to
get way too large, and instead of actually doing anything, I just
think about more things that I'd like to do. And constantly eyeing my
home with improvement in mind, adding to the mental "to-do" list.

I have tackled a pretty big project - we spruced up our deck! It has
been so nice lately, and we've spent nearly every evening outside
lounging, playing in the sand table, grilling (!) and roasting
marshmallows in the firebowl (!!) Due to my generous friends and
family I was able to procure the things I wanted to make our deck more
usable this summer with gift cards. I purchased a Char-Broil electric
bistro grill (perfect for condos!) and a table top firebowl from
Menards. Matt gave me a whole patio's worth of flowers for mother's
day, and Sebastian got a sand and water table for his birthday. I will
post some photos and description of where we sourced everything from
and how we arranged it all soon.

So here are some of the things I have twirling about in my mind that
hopefully we will do soon:
-A gallery wall a 'la YHL in our hallway. I've been collecting artwork
and frames, and should be able to do it soon, like maybe this weekend!
-I want to tie our bedroom furniture together in a more cohesive way.
We have wrought iron, light wood, medium wood, dark wood and glass
furniture in here, and it's such a mishmash. I've been intrigued by
some of the two-toned, medium wood and white mid century modern stuff
I've been seeing in the blogosphere lately. There may be some bedroom
furniture hacks in my future.
-There will also be new bedroom curtains and blinds, coming soon.
-Our living room still needs some oomph. I think our artwork is hung
too high, and is too sparse for the big couch. But I'm really
struggling with a way to improve it.
-I also am contemplating the idea of getting DVD storage boxes from
Ikea to make our entertainment unit look less cluttered and college-y.
-I haaate our carpet, but that's probably not going anywhere anytime soon.
-I want to paint the tiles above our bathtub a glossy white. I am
probably crazy to think about attempting this, but because they don't
really get wet (there's only a tub, no shower), I think it could work.
-I also thought about painting the countertop in our laundry room to
look like granite. I saw it on a blog and it looked awesome.
-We're also planning to actually start the slow process of remodeling
the bathroom this summer. The first phase will be subway tiling the
enclosure, removing the door tracks, repainting and getting a new
mirror. Phase two will include reglazing the shower pan and getting
new doors. Phase three will probably not happen for a long time, but
would involve new flooring and maybe a new vanity too.

So yeah (insert eye-roll here) that's all. In some ways, though, it's
exciting to think about these things, because even after living in a
place for five years, there are still always things you can be doing
to make it more fun and homey.

Friday, May 6, 2011

New Bedroom Art

In the last five months I have owned three new cameras. It's a long, sordid story, but basically camera #1 (a Christmas gift) was stolen, so we bought another one of the same camera. Then #1 was returned, so we sold #2 to a friend. Then #1 broke suddenly. I just turned it on, and the LCD screen shattered. This happened to be on the same day I tried to make the new artwork for our bedroom.

Remember this idea? I had wanted to replicate this silver/blue birch tree art that I spotted on Apartment Therapy.

So, I tried taking pics with the broken camera as I created the art. As you can tell, I had no idea what I was aiming at (since the LCD screen was broken), so the pics aren't exactly framed well.

But what I did for this project was purchase two pieces of foam board (since they were cheaper and in more of the orientation I wanted than the canvases they had at Michael's). I pulled up the tutorial about making this pattern, and sketched the birch trees freehand. I painted the trees with gray blue craft paint, in a matte finish, and the background with a mix of the same blue and a silvery gray in a glossy finish. Here's the final product.

Then we nailed them up above the bed... but not until after I'd already sent away camera #1 to be fixed under the warranty. A couple weeks later, Fuji contacted us claiming that there was "impact damage" and they wouldn't fix it. Of course, there was no impact (the camera resided in a padded case at all times), but by then I was completely fed up with the camera. After a night drinking wine with a girlfriend, we stumbled across a deal on for a Panasonic Lumix for $130. I snapped it up, and a couple weeks later, camera #3 landed in my hands.

So... I finally got to take some shots of the new bedroom art!

I really like how it brightens up the space, ties the gray blue sheets and blue lamps into the room, and it's much more in scale with the bed than the previous artwork.

I hope that now that I finally (knock on wood) have a camera that works, I will be doing more projects and updating my blog more frequently!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Through the Ceiling

So if you're ever planning on walking on an attic ceiling, and don't know the first thing about it, follow this advice:

Otherwise, this might happen.

M decided to tackle our storage room over his spring break, and then had a whim to go into the attic of our townhome building, which wasn't accessible before because it was blocked by stuff, and take down this stupid Christmas start that's been in the little octagonal window since we bought the condo.

He took one step, and crash, through the ceiling of our garage. Eight feet down, and he fell onto the side of his car.

Thank God he wasn't hurt. I am still shaken up by the whole experience.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Clouds and Bots: Kid's Room Themes

First two photos from Apartment Therapy (Ohdeedoh).
This cute room posted on Ohdeedoh today jumped out at me.
It reminds me a tiny bit of Sebastian's room already, with the blue and green scheme and the clouds, but it also incorporates his other two loves: robots and Ugly Dolls. I was trying to think of a way to bring robots into his room, which has more of a flying theme with clouds, airplane and hot air balloon decals. This room does it really well... I love the robot/cloud painting and the cloud shelf.
But I also wonder if in someways it's silly to totally deck out a child's room in a theme. S's room is actually more just kid-room, than an airplane room or a balloon room or whatever. He just got a big retro Curious George print that I will blog about later, and he has some alphabet paintings, his "cozy" letters and all the cloud stuff. Maybe I just need to go ahead and bring in some robot stuff (like robot toddler bedding once we switch over to a toddler bed) and not worry that it's not going to "match."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bedroom Wall Art Idea

I am getting sick of the skimpy-looking three pieces of art above our bed, and have been for awhile now. I found the second picture in this series on Apartment Therapy. It's actually hand stenciled wallpaper, and it obviously looks great with our duvet.
I'm thinking of buying a big canvas and copying this idea for above our bed. It would lighten up the orange walls and be a bigger statement piece. Even my hasty MS Paint job makes it look pretty good. I'm excited about it!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Living Room Curtains

I pride myself on being a completionist (which is not a word, but go with me). I am not really a perfectionist ... I just really like to get stuff done. So while my DIY and home improvement projects might not be perfect, they are done in a timely manner. I guess I'd rather have some imperfections then feel paralyzed at the idea of even starting something that might not be perfect when I finish.

Which is why it's so weird that it took me five years to hang living room curtains.

To be fair, I spent many of those years perfectly happy with my lack of curtains. The condo came with 1980s vertical blinds, and those hit the dumpster immediately. We have a very wooded area behind us, and we're on the second floor, so we never really felt the need to have privacy (in fact, these will provide no privacy at all ... more on that in a minute).

But I've spent an inordinate amount of my free time these days surfing design blogs, reading design books, and I came to realize that a sliding glass door with nothing over it was a bit of an eyesore. It just looked unfinished to me. Plus, curtains add that element of softness that this living room, with its cool green walls and angled fireplace, really needed.

So I talked about curtains to M for several weeks, and I know he just wanted to shout, "just buy some already!" but he humored my photo texts of cool fabric I'd found and pondering of oil rubbed bronze rods vs. brushed nickel rods.

In the end, I chose white curtains from Ikea with a subtle gray floral pattern (Alvine Trad in white/gray) for $14.99, and a brushed nickel rod, finials and curtain clips, also all from Ikea. I hung them about five inches from the door, and maybe three inches wider than the frame, to give the appearance of taller ceilings and a wider window. I really, really like them.

(An aside... we got a console table! I bought it from a friend who wasn't using it anymore for $30. I heart it. The red lamp we pulled from our storage room.)

Anyway, the curtains were hung, but it took me a good three weeks to get around to hemming them. I wanted them to hit the floor, but not pool. I finally tackled that project tonight, and used the Ikea hemming tape that came with the curtains. And it sucked! I've made curtain panels (in S's room and our kitchen) using Stitch Witchery or liquid stitch. But the stuff that comes with Ikea curtains doesn't seem to stick quite right. Plus, the instructions said to put the tape in the seam, iron it, and then cut the hem. But that meant the tape kept slipping, and I ironed part of it all crooked and it was cumbersome. For the second panel, I just cut the hem one inch longer than I wanted it, put the tape in, folded it up an inch, and ironed. It was much easier.

So the big thing to point out about this curtain project is that it's completely decorative and non-functional. The bit of wall between the fireplace and the door is really skinny, as is the other corner. If we wanted fully functioning curtains, we'd have to cover a significant portion of the sliders. Since we're north facing, we really didn't want to do this. We need as much light as we can get. And besides, we lived without curtains for five years. We obviously aren't concerned about the privacy factor. I ended up just folding each panel in half, and using only one pack of curtain clips to hang them. So each panel is half the width of a normal panel. I think it turned out nice - they look like normal curtains, but don't cover up that precious window view.

Here is the progression of our living room, from when we first bought it with the ugly verticals, to the bare window, to our nice, soft new curtains.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Road Not Taken, Part 2

Awhile back, I wrote a post about the townhouse that we fell in love with while house hunting, but ultimately decided against because it was too close to the railroad track (as in, it was 100 yards away) and not in a great neighborhood. And while I've always known it was the right decision, part of me still thinks back to that house wistfully. So much so, that when I get bored and look at the MLS, I check that street to see if that unit or any others in the very small development it was in are on the market.
A few weeks ago, I was surprised to see it pop up. And my first reaction to seeing the images online is that it's not as great as I remember, and I like my house now way better.
I really liked the light wood laminate floors, and when it was on the market five years ago, it was painted a really nice pale blue. I didn't remember the living room window being so small. I liked the dining room, and thought the kitchen was fine enough, but seeing it now, the space looks fairly small. I also remember this place being really modern and updated, but seeing it now I realize it has the same dark woodwork that we painted over in our condo, and the carpet doesn't seem to be in great shape.
After we left that place, all giddy about how much we liked it, we came to the conclusion that a lot of what we liked was the cosmetic stuff, and used some of it as inspiration for the home we bought.
I'm sure there would have been things we would have liked about that house, but it's plummeted just as much in value as our condo, and at least we live in a super awesome neighborhood. I am happy where we are.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Like an Old Familiar Friend

You remember our old yellow couch, right? The one that added a bright, cheery focal point to my bland, white-walled apartments, but was just too much once we painted our living room green?

Well, after selling it on Craigslist and buying our neutral sectional (that I totally love, by the way),  I did miss that bright pop of color, just a little. So when I saw this super cute yellow graphic pillow in the Target ad for just $8, I had to pick it up.

When paired with the blue floral pillow, and a small little red pillow, I think we tie in the painting above the fireplace (full of primary colors) and pay homage to our old living room (which had a blue chair, yellow couch and red couch), but with a more grown up flair.

Old living room

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Making Small Repairs

Fixing small things around the house gives me such a sense of accomplishment. I get to enjoy the payoff of making a home improvement with very little effort. And I get to scratch things off my to-do list, which always gives me a little thrill (I'm a nerd, I know!)
Last night we tackled two teeny projects. We replaced the toilet seat in our main bath. The old one was super icky, and the paint was crackling on the underside, making it really hard to clean. A lot of times I put so much effort into trying to clean something tricky that it's usually easier just to wave the white flag, replace it and start fresh. This was one of those times. I wish I'd spent the $5 and 5 minutes it took to replace it about 5 years ago!
The other project was a little bigger, but I finally got around to repainting the kitchen trim! You know, only a year after we got new kitchen flooring! It looks so much better! I hadn't realized how grungy and chipped and just overall bad the trim looked until it got a fresh, shiny coat of Shrewin William's Marshmallow. And now that I have the little quart of trim paint, I'm going to tackle another small-but-much-needed project over the next couple weeks - touching up our kitchen cabinets. From afar, they still look great. But when you get up close you can see a few places where the paint has chipped, especially in high use areas.
I'm looking forward to refining our house as we go along with a few more of these high impact but low cost and low effort fixes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cleaning Miracle: How I Finally Got My Shower Pan Clean

This has changed my life. No, seriously. I'm pretty sure I've complained on this blog before about our horrible, impossible to clean shower. The two main problems are the super dirty shower pan that's discolored and because of it's pebbly texture, had ground in dirt that would not come clean, no matter how much we scrubbed, and the icky, moldy grout that also will not get clean.
I really want to rip it out and start fresh, but at the moment we have neither the time, nor the money. So I've made it my mission to get the thing clean so I don't feel dirtier when I come out of the shower.
I started by Googling "How to clean dirty shower pans" which led me to this wonderful article about ground in dirt and shower pans from I bought the materials and we tried it this weekend. We let the mixture sit on the floor for about 10 hours. Then I went in to scrub it off, and started shouting to Matt to come look. "It's clean! It's actually getting clean!"
It's ridiculous how excited this has made me. But seriously. After five years of living with that scummy, dirty floor, it finally looks fresh and clean. There's not a speck of dirt left! I can't believe how simple it actually was.
We tried the mixture on the walls, and were less successful. It worked about as well as other commercial cleaners have, which is to say, you can tell it's getting cleaner, but it's still not clean. So I'm off to do some more Googling and hopefully find a successful home remedy for the grout.
But the shower pan mystery has finally been solved!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What Makes a House a Home: Warmth

During these super-cold winters, we all need someplace warm to snuggle up. Of course, there's more to warmth than just the physical. There's the mental, too. A place can feel really warm to me when I'm having a lot of fun, surrounded by laughter and family and friends. I also like to keep warmth in mind when I'm decorating.

I think a lot of my taste can actually border on too cold. I like things that are modern, but modern can often mean sterile. I've always liked color, though, which has helped keep my spaces warm even when they tend toward modern. I feel like as I'm getting older I really want a warmer, cozier, less modern space. So right now, my house feels a teensy bit like a hodge-podge of styles as my tastes evolve.

Our kitchen is a good example of this. When we moved in it still seemed a little cold, even though it was a deep red. I think that was because of all the white cabinets and chrome finishes, and because there are a lot of windows that didn't have window treatments. I made some toile curtains, which added texture. Then, a few years later we got the maple floors which have a touch of honey to them. They really warm up the space.

For awhile I switched out our wood table for a glass one we got at Ikea, and I grew to hate it. It took up less space, yes, but the shiny glass was so cold. And loud when things banged against it. It was too sleek and just all wrong.

So we went back to the wood table, and for Christmas I asked for table linens, to further soften and warm up the space. I think it looks really inviting, colorful and comfortable.

2011 Home Resolutions

2010 was a year of change and reflection in our condo. I started out feeling really negative as we neared the five-year mark of living here... the point at which it was always in the "plan" to sell it and buy a house. But with the market not making any real improvements, we'll be here awhile. And I kicked and screamed a bit, but then made peace. And with that peace came renewal of the spirit of our house. I started making changes, tweaking things, reimagining spaces, and ended up with a more open living room, a cute little playroom and a closet turned mudroom that I still find genius every time I walk in or out the door.

So what's on deck for 2011? My new year's resolution for my home is to keep improving it and continue to settle in and learn to love it. I want to experiment with some new things and breathe a little new energy into our house this year. I want to use every inch of space, for S to love his cozy home, for us to make great memories between these walls. For us to live a simple, happy, bright and colorful life. This year, I want to be cleaner and more organized at home too. I want to fix up some of the things that are falling into disrepair, and make sure our home is clean and well-maintained.

So what's on the 2011 list of changes? Well, we need to tackle touching up our kitchen trim. We were supposed to do that A YEAR ago when we got new flooring. It is time! Here's the official list (of course, I'll probably add and subtract as the year goes on):

-paint the shoe molding in our entry way
-paint kitchen trim
-touch up kitchen cabinets
-put in a kitchen backsplash
-wash the kitchen walls and maybe touch up the kitchen paint. Since it's red, there are some areas that are kind of streaky
-organize the laundry room
-get carpets cleaned
-maybe change up our entertainment center, or revamp it to give it a more "built in" look
-purchase and hang curtains in the living room. I want to hang them kind of high up to give the illusion of higher ceilings
-paint bifold doors in the hallway white and get new knobs (I have always wanted ones from Anthropologie. Maybe this year I'll actually buy some!)
-do something about the dark black shade in S's room. It's a necessity for sleeping, but it's kind of an eyesore, and we often don't bother to pull it up when it's not in use. I'm thinking maybe a cute design, like stars and a moon or something, might make it more appropriate for a kid's bedroom
-repair carpet in master bedroom entry (or get a cute runner to cover up the kitty damage)
-get new curtains for the master bedroom
-maybe repaint the master? I go back and forth on this all the time. I love the orange, but sometimes I hate it too
-completely gut the master bath (someday I swear we'll do this!) or come up with some kind of makeshift solution to make it more habitable
-paint all other doors
-new knobs or spraypainted knobs for all other doors
-the deck! I want to completely change our deck for next summer, and actually USE it! I'm thinking a new outdoor light fixture, maybe an outdoor rug, new furniture, some portable outdoor toys like a sandbox and a mini tabletop firepit.

That's all I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure other ideas will come to me. Another small project I want to tackle? Taking new photos for this blog! I got a new camera for Christmas and I think it'll make for much nicer photos. Hopefully I'll be tackling that soon

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Camera = New Photos!

We got a new camera for Christmas, which means I'll slowly be updating the photos on this blog. The camera we'd had for almost four years was yielding really washed out pictures as of late, so it was time for a new one. I'm planning a more substantive post for later, but in the meantime, here's a nicer, sharper photo of our finally finished playroom. You'll see Sebastian's new train table is in place and a huge hit! This room might look clean right now, but this was taken after the little guy had gone to bed. Usually there are toys everywhere!