Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Oval office makeover

Apparently, each United States president does a little extreme makeover of their office. Today, President Obama's oval office makeover was revealed.

Although I do enjoy a little traditional style (I do live in a colonial style house built in 1900 after all), this office is a little too traditional for me. 

An interesting design concept worth mentioning is surrounding yourself with what inspires you. The quotes bordering the presidential seal are prominent American statements. For example, 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' - FDR inaugural speech. 

Whether it is a written statement, a family heirloom or an image that brings back fond memories, it is great to be in an environment that makes you happy. Of course, second only to the people that make you happy.

I recently found a print that makes me smile each time I walk up the stairs. It also happens to get the Beatles song 'All you need is love' in my head quite often, but hey, that is something I can deal with. Happy Tuesday!

*Oval office images from the Associated Press.

Monday, August 30, 2010

I can build you that

One night I was reading a book and Kevin was reading 'The Family Handyman' magazine. He turned to me, pointed at the page and said, 'I can build you that.' It almost did not matter what it was or where it would go, I was going to love it! And so Kevin's first woodworking project was born; a floating box shelving unit for our entryway. It was sort of our solution for what to do when you do not have a mud room, but you have mud.

Prior to the floating box, we had a metal shoe rack from a big box store; I cannot remember which one. It was pretty flimsy and 2 pairs of Kevin's Shaq-like shoes was about all it could take. We needed a place for more shoes and boots in the winter as well as a place to stash scarves, gloves and small shoes. Therefore, the entryway was just the place for the floating box.

Materials required

  • 1/2" birch plywood
  • Table saw
  • Wood glue
  • Nails
  • Ryobi hand-held router
  • Toe molding
  • Wood filler putty
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer
  • Semi-gloss paint in your color du jour
  • 3" screws
  • Shed (hey, I'm just making a list according to Kevin's instructions)

A how-to guide according to Kevin -

Here is my color coded design.  I got it from 'The Family Handyman' magazine.  I color coded it so that it would be easier to keep straight.

I basically cut out all the pieces as shown in the drawing first. Then I assembled it in my shed. I used 1/2" birch plywood.  Not the best wood you can use, but pretty good.  Especially for a first timer.  It's not too expensive, so if I messed up, it wouldn't cost as much to fix.

It's a little bit like a box inside a box.  You build a simple 1/2 plywood box, glue and nail another layer on top of the first. I got an inexpensive Ryobi hand held router so I could flush-trim the edges that didn't line up perfectly.

In the end, I added a decorative front edge using some toe-molding I had left over from another project.  I simply glued and nailed the toe-molding to the front rim, then the router to trim it flush, because it was slightly wider than the rim.

I used wood filler putty to fill in any cracks or gaps between the wood.  I sanded it all down and rolled on some paint that Marie had gotten.

I then screwed the whole thing to the wall using 3" screws into 2 studs.  Marie put some baskets inside to hold shoes or whatever.

It looks great and is extremely handy.

Marie here again -

Some after shots. The baskets are from Pottery Barn. Less expensive alternatives can be found at Target.

For those of you that are interested, Kevin drew out his design in Microsoft Visio. Being the techy geeks that we are, we like to have everything planned out and visualized in advance to make sure it all fits together right! Of course, this is not a necessary step, but fun for us. If you think this is detailed, you should see the wrap-around deck schematics that Kevin has in the works!

Anyhow, I digress. After the floating box was constructed and primed, I decided to paint the coat rack above the box and the box itself a matching color. The hallway is a very neutral color, Latte from Restoration Hardware, so I decided to spice it up a bit with a peach shade by Benjamin Moore.

Now we have a place for shoes, coats and winter gear. The other added benefit of the floating box is that we placed it so that we could put our boots and larger shoes beneath the box. All in all, it was a very successful first woodworking project. Now the question is, what's next?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What would Candice do?

Every time I have a tough time making a design decision, Kevin says to me, 'What would Candice do?'. Candice Olson that is. Candice is my design mentor. Ok, I have never met her, but I just know she would take me under her wing if only she knew me. After all, we are both six feet tall and used to be competitive volleyball players. She has a team of people that make her designs reality, I have Kevin. She makes divine designs and I wish I could. 

I bring this up because I recently decided that although I am happy with our living room configuration, there was nothing that was jumping out as being the focal point of the room. The small convex mirror from Restoration Hardware is great, the lamp from Pottery Barn, the wedding photos and so on. However, none of these stuck out as the centerpiece of the room. And then it happened; I met Pierre

There were several suitors first, including the Mansard mirror from Restoration Hardware and the Devon mirror from Z Gallerie. I ended up going with Pierre because I was drawn in by the geometric design and the scale was just right at 34" in diameter. 

Ok, so the mirror decision was not that difficult. Once I had the mirror, I needed a lamp. This is where I ran into trouble. Nothing seemed to work, so I gathered up lamps in the house and bought a few options, then asked myself what Candice would do. 

First up, a lamp from Pottery Barn that was already in the living room on a different end table. Bonus, it wouldn't cost anything. Non-bonus, I would have to replace it. Also, the traditional look of the lamp did not look right next to the geometric mirror.

Next up, a gourd-geous lamp from West Elm with Luster base and Natural shade for $179. I really love it. Definitely a possibility.

Third was an existing lamp that was on my desk. It is a crystal block lamp from Target that was $50 for the lamp and shade. The scale was all wrong, all wrong.

Lastly, another lamp I found at Target that was worth trying. The base was $39.99 and the shade $19.99. I liked this one about the same as the gourd lamp. Therefore, the decision came down to price. Since this one was 1/3 the price of the gourd lamp, it will be living in my house for the long run!

Here is a wider shot. The mirror is now the focal point of the room and the whole set-up works!

Kevin is pounding away outside so we will have another project to blog soon! Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hidden gem - Amy Butler Design

There are a few design elements that always seem just out of reach. Things I have trouble finding in mainstream shops include convex mirrors (ok, I admit, this is pretty specific!), quality fabrics and cool affordable rugs. Other items such as lamps, desks and end tables seem to be a dime a dozen.

Many of these design needs can be found in smaller shops of talented designers. I was recently talking with my friend Leslie about art and design. I swear we could go on for hours on the topic. Leslie is very talented at surface design and sewing! During our discussion, Leslie brought Amy Butler Design to my attention. Amy Butler's fabrics, organic bedding, rugs, wall art and wallpapers are all worth checking out. Her designs are amazing and can be found at her online shop or used as inspiration for your own designs or projects.

Leslie has made a little girl's dress out of fabric by Amy Butler. The dress has all sorts of little interesting details and is adjustable for a growing child. 

One of the great things about the dress is that the combination of fabric patterns really compliment each other and create interest. This same principle can be applied to interior design. Consider making your duvet cover out of one fabric and curtains out of another or pillows out of one fabric and contrasting wall art with another design.

Woah wait, did you say wallpaper? Don't we all hate wallpaper and immediately begin the arduous task of removing it when moving into a new house kind of like the ceiling fan situation? I think the backlash of dusty rose florals and crafty designs have jaded us from considering wallpaper for a looooong time. I personally had rainbow wallpaper in my room in the early 80's. I loved it! I am not so sure the people that bought the house after us really loved it. 

The thing is, there are some pretty amazing wallpaper designs out there. However, there are things to consider before pasting art to your walls in a semi-permanent fashion.

  • How much do you love it? The answer should be a 9-10 on a scale of 10. Wallpaper is not for the faint at heart and cannot be easily painted over or removed.
  • How about wallpaper on just one wall? The thought of removing wallpaper in a few years on one wall is much easier to stomach than an entire room.
  • Does the room already have a focal point? If yes, wallpaper may possibly be overkill. If no, wallpaper on a focal wall may be just what your room needs to be fabulous.

Here are some examples of some of Amy Butler wallpaper designs.

*Amy Butler images can be found here.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Flea market finds

In my opinion, there are two types of flea markets; the ones that sell complete junk and the ones that sell junk and antique furniture, vintage jewelry, cool wooden frames etc. I had only been to the former, when I finally found the latter. Oh yes, the secret is out, Todd Farm flea market is swarming with hidden gems and good deals.

If you live north shore Boston or even in New England, it may be worth the trip. I do not find something great every time I go, but enough to make it worthwhile. Todd Farm is open Sundays, April through November. Most folks get there early. In fact, the tag line on the Todd Farm website is 'be up before the cows.' 

Some benefits of flea market shopping

  • You will have pieces that no one else will have
  • Some of the furniture you will find it much more solidly built that anything you will find today
  • It is green!

 I made the trip last Sunday and the best find was a vintage turquoise guitar. I thought I'd feature my best flea market finds, so here they are!

A solid oak buffet that I paid $110 for! The piece is really cool as the wood has a sort of tiger pattern to it. The stain used to be dark brown and there was filigree, but I removed it, stripped it down and stained it ebony. I also lined the drawers with crushed velvet from Exeter Handkerchief Company. I replaced the old brass hardware with new polished nickel pulls and knobs from Restoration Hardware. I will post more on the process later. All in all, the project was around $200 and now we have a place for keys, our bar and DVDs!

*The stain is much more even in person than in the photo.

A few of my favorite accessory finds include a vintage satin handbag with feathers and a wood frame. The handbag was $15 and the frame* was $10. There are several cool frames at this place. I have also found sparkly clasps that have made amazing jewelry pieces.

*The image in the frame is one of my jewelry designs photographed by Leah Haydock Photography.

I have saved the best for last! My all-time favorite find was a solid mahogany desk with a pull out drawer and legs that would make Gisele Bundchen jealous. I paid $115 for it and didn't have to do a thing! Right now, I have a large granite piece on top of it which used to be in the kitchen.

Some tips for happy flea market shopping

  • If you love it, buy it - I am still upset about the incredible mahogany end table that I had my eye on. After I walked away to think about it, I decided maybe 60 seconds later that I should buy it and when I came back it was sold. True story. You should not buy everything that catches your eye, which brings me to the next tip. 
  • Have a goal - it is very easy to get distracted at a place like a flea market, so if you have a goal, it will be easier on everyone, particularly anyone you are with.
  • Bring a tape measure - now that you have a goal, you will know what you are looking for and where it will go, right? Ok, now measure the space so that you know the scale you are working with. It is difficult to gage if the dresser will fit in your room when it is sitting in an open field.
  • Bring a truck or large vehicle - you know, just in case.
  • Bring cash - these places do not usually take credit cards and it is easier to negotiate with cash.
  • Negotiate - it is accepted as part of the culture of these things. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, bring a friend that does or accept that you will pay a little more.
  • Go early - I do not really do this and I am probably missing out, but I guess I will never know.
There you have it, everything you need to know about flea market shopping! If you do not live near Boston, then ask around or search online. There may be a markets in your area every weekend that you do not even know about!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A man cave for my man

Little by little, I took over every-room-in-the-house. I really did not mean to, nor is every room just mine, but each room has a purpose and that purpose is not a man-only, cigar smoking, gargantuan flat-screen TV, beer drinking sort of haven that just about every American man aspires to have. 

My husband is definitely deserving of his own space so I set out on a quest to make something work. Enter, the room that I have no interest in being in ever; the basement. That may sound bad, but the risk of me taking over the room manifest destiny style is very low. It also achieves the objective as being a man cave. 

I have to say, this design challenge is going to be downright hard. It certainly will not be your run of the mill, paint the wall a new color and buy some nice accessories sort of makeover. It is dirty, small, old...well I will let the as-is photos speak for themselves. 

I really considered tidying up the basement before I posted these because it is such an atrocious! But hey, this is the real deal and it will make the afters look all that more impressive;)

As you can see, this design challenge needed a plan. I am a big fan of planning ahead so here it goes...

Objective - design a man cave that allows for tinkering, inventing, smoking cigars, drinking beer, watching TV and possibly working out that is comfortable to be in and has an industrial feel.

Budget - $600

As for the design, I got the idea to put together an inspiration board from Young House Love (love them!). The concept of the inspiration board is that the products do not necessarily all need to be used exactly as-is, but they provide a very solid start to the design process to get things moving. And alas, my first formal design board!

The products & colors

  1. Grey grommet curtains. Target. $25/pr. I put these curtains in white in our recent guest bedroom reno and they are fabulousness.
  2. An image from my macro time warp photography project. An extreme close-up of my bike gears. Already printed at 10x15", professionally matted and industrial looking. Bonus!
  3. Wall shelves. Ikea. $14.99 for 47x11" and $9.99 for 31x7".
  4. Brackets for wall shelves. Ikea. $15/pr.
  5. White desk. West Elm. $299. We already have an old desk from the previous owner that will be painted Benjamin Moore's Mayonnaise.
  6. Kegerator! Wal-mart. $584. This will likely be phase II of the design.
  7. Storage boxes. Ikea. $3.99 for a pack of 2.
  8. Lamp shade and wood lamp base. Target. $19.99 for shade and $29.99 for base.
  9. Paint colors. Benjamin Moore's Fairmont Green, Restoration Hardware's Ash, Right White and Graphite.
  10. Ottoman. Target. $69.99. Includes storage and reversible top for setting glasses on.
  11. Picture frame for the image. Target. $29.99.
The plan (brace yourself for the amount of times you will see paint in this design. Ick!)

  1. Paint brick Benjamin Moore's mayonnaise
  2. Add moulding around the window
  3. Put up drywall on framing between front basement and back basement (i.e. where all of the make shift wood shelves are in images 2 & 3 above.
  4. Paint drywall Benjamin Moore's Fairmont green
  5. Compound floor to even it out and paint light grey
  6. Sand stairs and paint Restoration Hardware's Ash
  7. Paint a runner on the stairs with Restoration Hardware's Graphite. Maybe add stripes to the side of the runner?
  8. Paint desk Benjamin Moore's Mayonnaise
  9. Install shelves and curtain rod. Thinking of using iron pipe as the rod to keep with the industrial feel.
  10. Rearrange, finishing touches, wire management (noooo small task) etc.
  11. Clean-up field stone on the bottom half of the wall, but keep as-is
I will post more on the process as we make our way through it. So what do you think? Any other ideas that will make this the man cave of the year? 

Thanks for listening. Wish me luck and let the fun begin! 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Deck TLC

The surface boards on our deck used to be so rotten that when I left for work my heels used to get stuck in the wood. Luckily I never landed on my face, but it was a distinct possibility. 

As a result, Kevin and I tore up our patio last year. The frame looked great so we left it intact and replaced the surface boards with gorgeous mahogany decking. Yes, mahogany. It was important to Kevin so we splurged. I will blog more on this process in a bit, but for now, I am going to take you through the deck project we did this weekend. Trim painting and deck staining! Yesssss!

This weekend started out with a nice little Saturday and by this I mean a trip to Home Depot. To complete this project, we used the following materials:

Deck staining
  • Broom
  • Screwdriver
  • Wet/dry vac 
  • Hand brush
  • Bucket of soapy water
  • Old torn up shirts
  • Knee pads
  • Cabot Australian Timber oil stain in Mahogany Flame

Deck trim
  • Behr paint + primer in one. Exterior paint in satin finish. Color matched to Benjamin Moore's Mayonnaise (my favorite trim color used in several places throughout the house).
  • Electric palm sander
  • 100 grit sandpaper (1 sheet)
  • 2" paintbrush. Nice quality.
  • Safety goggles
  • Face mask
  • Earplugs

Other helpful items
  • 50 SPF sunscreen
  • Water
  • Sweet tunes - I am loving Pandora
  • A sunny and breezy weekend with temps in the mid-80s
After we gathered all supplies, it was time for lunch! So after lunch, we got to work. Some before pictures...

Staining the deck 
  1. Sweep the deck with a broom
  2. Clean between the deck boards with a screwdriver and wet/dry vac
  3. Brush between the deck boards with a hand brush (this may not be necessary, but we don't mess around!)
  4. Hand wash the deck boards with soapy water
  5. Rinse the deck
  6. Gently sand any blemishes (it is easier to see true blemishes after the boards are clean)
  7. Apply the stain with an old t-shirt and wipe off
Cleaning between the boards.

Brushing between the boards.

Hand washing the deck boards.

Staining the deck.

 A little contrast with and without stain.

Painting the deck trim
  1. Assess trim boards. If clean and decent, you probably do not need to sand. If they look anything like the ones below, you should consider sanding.
  2. Use the electric hand sander and 100 grit sand paper to sand the areas to be painted. Be sure to use the appropriate safety measures like a face mask, goggles and ear plugs.
  3. Wash the boards with soapy water and let dry
  4. Paint the boards. You will likely need 2 coats.
Before sanding.

After sanding. 

Carefully painting.

The stained deck after.

Close-up after.

If I were to do this over again, I would probably use wood filler on the trim boards where it needed it prior to painting. Overall, it was a pretty easy peasy project. Painting the trim took about 5 hours from start to finish once I had all supplies. It cost $35 for the gallon of paint which I used about 1/8 of. 

Staining the deck took the same 5 hours on Saturday for prep only plus about 5 hours on Sunday to stain. The cost was $30 for the gallon of stain which we used about half of. Our deck is 16 ft. by 13 ft. to give you an idea how long it may take you! 

My Sunday morning was spent at my favorite flea market, Todd Farm. Stay tuned for my tips on flea market shopping and my best finds to date! Cheers.

When shopping for our deck materials, we had a tough time deciding between real wood and composite. Please weigh in below on your preference.