16 February 2012

changing my mind; and why blogs are bad

I love blogs. And even more than blogs, I love bloggers. My problem isn't with bloggers, it's with blogs. Is it just me? Well, let's see...

Have you ever declared that something was positively over? Remember the Keep Calm and Carry On posters?

I even did a post a couple years ago about how over they are. And when I wrote said post, had I ever actually seen a Keep Calm and Carry On poster in anyone's home? Yes, in one, about a thousand miles away from mine. But not in a single home that I would see on even a monthly basis. And yet, because I was seeing them "everywhere," they were over.

And just this week I was flipping through an old House Beautiful that was predicting the big trends of 2011. In it, Newell Turner (whose editorial leadership I adore) says that Chinese garden stools are over, along with a list of other overdone things. I nodded in agreement, "Oh yes, Newell, you're so right. Those damn stools are just soooo overused!" But had I actually ever seen a garden stool used in anyone's actually home? Nope. Not once. 

Noticing a pattern? I can't believe that I'm the only one who has ever avoided buying something for my own home because I've seen it in other homes in the blogosphere (or, to a lesser extent in magazines, since the homes featured usually belong to people with bigger budgets than ours).

Speaking of over, I have decided that I don't like the curtains I sewed for my office. The space is now feeling too busy to me, so I'm making lots of little changes, and the curtains just aren't floating my boat. (Don't worry... I'll recycle the fabric as pillows.) This is why I always say "nothing is ever done." :-)

I've been scouring the internet for new curtain fabric, and I decided that this was my absolute favorite: "Khanjali" by Robert Allen.

So I sat on that for a day or two, and then realized, "Crap! That's the fabric Sherry and John used for their curtains!" Yes, that Sherry and John.

Well, clearly the Khanjali fabric was no longer a viable option.

"Hold on," you may be thinking. "So, you'd avoid using a fabric just because some people on the internet whom you've never met and whose house you will never see used it?"

Yes, yes I would. A sickness? Perhaps. But I read their blog every day, and so do about 10 bajillion other people. If I used that fabric, lots of people who come over, and certainly most of this blog's readers would think, "You got the Young House Love drapes!" Not the look I'm going for.

So back to the drawing board. Here are the samples currently lingering on my magnet board as under consideration (the peacock Khanjali sample is still there, just because it's pretty).

And I think I'm leaning most toward this one, which is actually also Khanjali by Robert Allen, though in "glacier," which is enough of a difference to me. Most people (including me, I think) will never notice.

I know this all sounds completely whackadoodle, trying to avoid having anything associated with certain people or overused in our home. (And, notice, I apply this principle selectively, since I adore our soon-to-be-iconic David Trubridge pendant light in the dining room...

... and I would be overjoyed to own a Womb chair.)

Taniya Nayak of HGTV from Apartment Therapy house tour

I think the difference is that those things -- the light and the chair, and we could all think of a thousand examples -- are iconic. They're not associated with any one person, and they also don't seem tired and overused... at least not yet.

Back in the day, we would have all just gone through our lives only seeing our own home, the homes of our friends, family and neighbors and maybe a few each month featured in Better Homes and Gardens. The odds that we would have something that any of those folks have would be infinitesimally smaller than it is now, when anyone who peruses the blogosphere probably sees a few hundred homes each month. 

Having a home that feels unique, like a true reflection of "us," is a lot harder now. And I'm sure that's why I've gotten so into shopping at flea markets and antiques stores, because the odds someone else will have stuff I find there is so much smaller than if I shop at West Elm and Ikea. (Of course, the old stuff is also made better, and it tends to be cheaper... that helps too!)

So tell me: am I alone in this? Or have you ever felt the same way? If you've never ever commented before, this could just be the perfect day to chime in! ;-)

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14 February 2012

the unpretty things make the pretty things prettier

Say that 10 times fast.

Though various home magazines and scads of blogs would insist otherwise, I firmly believe that every home needs some not-so-pretty areas in order to maintain prettiness in other spaces. Meaning: you gotta have a lot of functional storage (and the prettiest storage is generally less functional... sad, but mostly true) in order to keep the clutter out of the pretty areas.

Okay, no more using "pretty" in this post. I swear.

So remember my ass kicking home progress rampage a couple of weeks ago? Most of my accomplishments were of the aesthetically pleasing variety, like finishing the blue guest room, the yellow guest room and the family room. But this is the one that probably makes the biggest impact in our house:

(Like how Chelsea's little caboose snuck in there? She's not as stealthy as she thinks.)

You're looking out into the hallway from inside the blue guest room. Where formerly there was nothing -- or, honestly, there was a big pile of stuff -- there is now a bench, some hooks and a shelf, all of which fit the space perfectly and keep that bulky gear out of the rest of the house. Hence the title of this post.

Here's how that area started, viewed from the door to the garage (with the yellow room and blue room on the left and the hallway to the great room on the right). 

No exaggeration. It was a big pile of ski boots, backpacks and miscellaneous winter gear. Anyone who doesn't share our desperate need for functional storage does not have athletic gear. I'm talking to you, Kelly Wearstler.

Like how we have the hooks, but they're just hanging out on the floor? A lot of our home improvement projects tend to linger like that for a while. :-)

So, as you certainly know, lots of stores will happily sell you a mudroom set of a cubby bench and a cubby shelf with hooks. The problem for us is that we just don't have the space for anything that wide or deep in our little hallway, and those cubbies don't actually fit bulky items like tall snow boots and ski helmets.

It was time to go custom. With wood and tools and stuff. All by myself. And lest you think I'm some kind of power tool maven, allow me to take a quick detour to show you this awesome project Mark undertook: a ski rack for the garage.

I feel slightly bad about posting this picture with his goofy face, but he insists on making those faces for pictures, leaving me no choice. 

That thing is rock-solid-sturdy. Or else I would not entrust the rack with my beloved Rossis (known around here as the "She Devils," because of what they make me do).

When the old owners lived here, the garage looks like this, with skis piled up in the corner:

And now, thanks to Mark's rack and some shelves, it looks like this:

So, again, not the most glamorous storage that keeps all of that stuff out of other parts of the house.

And, you're probably asking, what was that point of that detour? It was this:

Mark is the tool master around here. I may be a surgeon with an orbital sander and know my way around a drill (and, okay, I did saw most of the tiles for our first bathroom remodel before deciding that the tile saw is not my friend), but I've left all the heavy construction to him. But my little plan to surprise him with lots of progress around the house wasn't gonna work if I got scared of the big saw now.

Just to even things out in terms of that goofy face photo of Mark, here's a silly picture of me, posing with all the essentials, from a link-up post I did last spring with Sawdust and Paper Scraps.

So what did I do with all that gear? I built us a bench. Did I take pictures of building it? Well, no. But here's how it turned out:

What you're looking at is a 3/4 inch thick, 11 inch deep oak stair tread that I trimmed down as the seat (bonus: nice rounded front edge), and 1x10s (actually less than 1 and less than 10 inches) as the legs. To attach them, I bought a pocket hole jig, drilled pocket holes in the legs, screwed and glued them on and braced them to dry straight. Then I stained the whole bench with "pickled white" stain, which on the oak looks pink, and so it's probably due to get another coat, and if that doesn't work, the nice man at Sherwin Williams said he can add some green tint to the stain to counteract the pink. It's also going to get a furring strip down the middle underneath as additional bracing, and Mark wants to attach it to the wall with L-brackets. But none of that will be visible from most people's vantage points (and the dogs won't tell).

See? Making a bench is easy. For real easy. And I would actually entrust that thing to hefty bums, although it's not the deepest bench ever. But the best part is it's plenty tall to hold our tallest boots in the boot tray underneath with no obstructions.

The rest of the storage installation was easy: hanging a prefab hook rail from Tarjay (which is off-center to avoid blocking the light switch) and a little key hook, and mounting some very sturdy brackets to support a 1x12 pine board that the nice folks at Mountain Hardware cut down to the custom length for me (and which I also stained pickled white). I had to use the level and a couple of drywall anchors, but that was about all the DIY savvy required. (In case you're curious, two of the three shelf brackets are in studs, so that shelf is NOT coming down. Even with heavy ski boots on it.)

Having this faux mudroom setup allows us, for the first time since we moved in, to have a clear hallway from the garage, which is a great feeling at last. Maybe someday we'll put in better looking brackets or paint the shelves white, but for now it does the job.

Hooray for more storage.

Next up in the unpretty unsightly storage category is the laundry room. It's long been the biggest eyesore in the house, but now that we're getting a new washer/dryer delivered, it's a good excuse to help it look a little better -- and, more importantly, function better. (I wasn't big on replacing the appliances, even though the dryer took forever and used a LOT of natural gas in the process, and the washer used a lot of water and electricity, and had a funky smell to it. But the dryer just died on us, so there you go.)

I want to put a sink in the laundry room, but the nice folks at This Old House tell me that that's not as simple as splitting the washer's supply line and tapping into its drain (not that that is actually simple). We'd actually have to rip open the wall and tap into the washer's vent stack high up the wall. Ugh. Let's put that on the five-year plan. For now I'll just be happy if we can somehow gain a countertop and some cabinet space in the deal.

Any new storage around your place? Any tricks you've found to keep your functional storage looking attractive? (That is, without just getting rid of all the stuff the storage is meant to hold?)

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09 February 2012

they call me mellow yellow; or, the new "yellow room"

They don't call me mellow yellow at all. I ain't yellow, and I probably ain't mellow (much as I aspire to be). But I haven't done a room in yellow before, and probably never will again, so I had to use that title now since I may never get another chance.

In other news: Blare the trumpets, because the new "yellow room" is done! (Previously known as the second guest room. You can see how the first guest room, the "blue room," came out here.)

Here's what the room started out looking like: A tiny, gloomy, blank box with pine trim. The photo is blurry because there was such low light in the room.

As you may recall from this post, I was inspired by this photo in terms of the major elements of the room:

Designed by Vanessa De Vargas of Turquoise, photo via

Though it was only a few weeks ago that we started with a dingy, blank box, I've been busy since then. The room got new paint, a new light, a new curtain system with new drapes, furniture, accessories and all the finishing touches. Best of all? This all happened on a totally frugal budget, though I don't think it looks it. (See source list at the bottom of the post.)

Wanna see how it turned out? Because I'm gonna show you either way!


Maybe someday we'll add a DIY headboard, but the curtains and big pillows are bridging the gap for now.

A clearer shot of the chandelier: hand-painted color and lots of patina from age

The essentials for guests: maps and reading material, water, a tray for jewelry and change and an alarm clock.

The candle tin is there as much for the candle as for the subtle pink hit, to help tie in the chandelier color to the rest of the room.

That mirror frame was originally cherry wood toned until I coated it with Rustoleum "mechanical gray."

A framed Julia Child quote and cheeky map of LA (mixed with a meat map of a pig) reinforce the color scheme while also reflecting a bit of who we are.

More guest essentials: a place to check email, pens and postcards, a lamp and a mirror.

When I bought this console at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, I never imagined it would actually stay yellow. I just loved the ultra-compact size and thought it would be perfect for this jewel box of a room. But then it just happened to work perfectly in the color scheme, and the antiquey feel blends well with the chandelier and the other nightstand. I love having the mix of vintage pieces and modern stuff in an overall modern (but not minimal) space.

The tin conceals postcard stamps.

That big door will soon get replaced by bifold doors, since right now you can't even open it all the way. (Who designs rooms like that??) All the books on the bookcase are in whites and warm colors. (The cool color books went to the blue room.)

Because I want to help give a sense of where the room is in the house, this is the back hallway from the great room to the guest rooms, guest bath and garage. (Check out our new Edison light in the hall.)

Coming into the room, with a magnet board featuring a vintage postcard of the Truckee area (Donner Lake, in this case), to be joined by a special note once individual guests are scheduled to arrive.

Where the two guest rooms are in relation to each other. 

You can probably tell, but I'm thrilled with how the room came out. It's pretty and feels cohesive (it's probably the prettiest room in the house), it feels so much lighter and brighter than I could have imagined a tiny room could feel (bright light and a white duvet cover help a LOT, along with those light floor-to-ceiling curtains), and it feels "finished." Huzzah. As I said to Mark, "It's a room where any male visitor would be pleased to stay!" Ha. (Thank goodness for the blue room!)

Here's where everything came from:

Paint colors: "Hazy skies" on wall behind curtains, "Halo" on ceiling and other walls, both Benjamin Moore colors color-matched to cheaper paint
Curtain track and curtain fabric -- Ikea
Chandelier -- Already owned (from first condo)
Bed -- Free on Craigslist!
Bedding -- Overstock
Accent pillow -- Joel Dewberry "Aviary 2" fabric (which I first found here
Gray euro pillows -- Ikea
Yellow throw blanket -- Target
Small chest with drawers -- Long Beach Flea Market ($20!)
Mirror on chest -- Recycled Furniture in Reno
Lantern -- Z Gallerie
Voluspa candle -- Already owned (originally Anthropologie)
Glass water bottle -- Crate and Barrel
Yellow and white dish -- West Elm
Yellow console table -- Rose Bowl Flea Market ($10!)
Wood grain lamp -- Already owned
White and yellow lamp shade -- Target
Yellow mug -- Crate and Barrel
Flower tin -- Marrimekko via Crate and Barrel
Small mirror on console -- Target
Metal stool -- Ikea
Framed art -- Drywell and Blimpcat on Etsy
White chair -- Ikea
Vase on bookshelf -- Already owned (originally Lamps Plus)
Brownie camera -- Wertz Brothers Antiques in Santa Monica

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