2.21.2012

Screen Porch: Contractor Bids

After our big announcement that we are redoing our screen porch (yeah!), I kind of went radio silent on that so here's the latest. We worked for a few more weeks with our architect to finalize the plans, or at least finalize them enough to get some prices. Here's a version of the front elevation from a few weeks ago.


I have always loved railing details like this. I want the porch to be a feature in both our front curb appeal and our back yard. Lots more on that to come.

The next step was to bid the project out. Although our initial instinct was to use our builder who did our addition, we decided to bid it out to a couple of builders we know since there seems to be a little bit of a lull in the building action now until spring really comes (but it feels like spring which makes me HAPPY!). We really want to be sure we are getting absolutely the best possible price for high quality work.  We are only getting quotes from contractors we would like to work with either for the first time or again.  This is also a bit of a tough project for us because we have absolutely no idea how much this is going to cost us, so it's really important that we have comparable prices.  I feel like I have a good idea for what kitchens, bathrooms, and garages cost but I have no idea about a screen porch!

So, here's how the bid process works. Our architect had the bid set of plans printed at her printer's office (they are oversized). This set includes photos of the property, a copy of the plat, and detailed construction plans from the foundation to the roof type. This is essentially the same set of plans which we would use to submit to the county for our permits so any extra expense for us is pretty minimal.

We met with 2 of the builders who we haven't worked with in the past and gave them their set of the plans. The builder who built our addition picked up his set and has asked questions via email either to us or to our architect (who he knows through our renovation project).  All of the contractors know they are bidding on the project which is important to tell them. You will get their best possible price in most cases if they know they are in a potentially competitive process and they want or need the work.  We should have quotes from all of the builders by Friday or Monday at the latest.

Next we'll have to make a decision. We hope to have that done by mid-March and hopefully have our project underway before spring really gets going, although spring is really threatening to come early this year. If you're planning to come to DC for the cherry blossoms - I would make reservations for the first or second week of March!

Any good tips for picking contractors?  Bid processes?

2.17.2012

Goodwill Coffee Table

During a quick run through a less-traveled Goodwill in Arlington a few days ago, I found this steal of a deal.



This is a heavy table (I think probably hard rock maple). I love the lower level shelf which is a new requirement for all of my coffee tables from here on out. The price: $15!

Not sure where I'll put it yet but I have 2 or 3 options. I definitely needs some stain or paint but I'll cross that bridge after it finds a home.

2.16.2012

Never Hurts to Ask

After my failed negotiation on the desk chair, I wanted to tell a successful negotiating story to prove my point.  This is the story of Alex's caboose poster.


We bought the poster at the Day Out with Thomas even at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore (a great place if you are ever in the area). I think I paid $12 for it. At the time I did not really have a plan for Alex's room but knew I wanted to do something with gray, blue and red so I knew I could make this work.

Fast forward 9 months and I am getting all of the pieces of his room together. This piece needed to be framed. I didn't want the standard poster framing but a real wood frame with white mat.  I head over to my local frame place which I don't frequent too often since I try to DIY my framing projects, but this was something I wanted done right. I pick my frame and mat, and the saleswoman measured and gave me a price of $275.  {Gag}  Not what I had in mind. In my head, I was thinking "There goes my $150 budget".  I understand that it's a large piece but that seemed extreme since I chose a simple frame and a single mat. I told her that I needed to think about it because it was more than I wanted to pay. She asked me how much I wanted to pay and I said $150. She walked over to her manager. I expected her to come back and say $200. Instead, she came back and said "Okay." I must have looked confused because she said "Do you want it for $150?" Ummmm... yes!  I grabbed the sales slip and ran out the door. A week later I picked up this beauty and I am so glad I went for it.


Never hurts to ask.  This is why it's great to deal locally and not use chain stores whenever possible. I'm sure this would not have happened at Michael's even with their 50% off sales. Guess what? Those prices are jacked up to begin with!

Any great negotiating tips? Good stories to share?

More on Alex's room here and here.

2.15.2012

Den: Desk Chair Found!

On our way back from our ski weekend in West Virginia, I sweetly asked Handy Hubby if he would stop at a consignment store in Manassas, Virginia that specializes in model home furniture. For most Americans, the town of Manassas makes them think about a famous Civil War battle, but to me it means a large street lined with several great consignment and thrift stores. It takes me 40 minutes to get out there so if I'm in the neighborhood it's hard to resist. Of course, in the first two hours of the ride, I was thinking about which one I would ask (or beg if necessary) to stop at. Fortunately, the kids were fully engrossed in a movie so we made a quick stop!

Fifteen minutes later, I came out with this...



It was $99 so not dirt cheap but it's in absolutely perfect condition, it's comfortable, and the colors work perfectly for what I have planned in here. It looks more olive in the pictures than it is in real life - it's dark gray. It was still an impulsive decision for me since I can't return it but I think it works. I tried to negotiate the price down bit more to justify my impulsiveness, but they were having none of it. Occasionally that works so it's worth asking, right?  Not exactly like my other chair which was the hands down winner in the chair try-outs but I really like it.

What do you think? Does it work?

2.14.2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hope you had a really nice Valentine's Day. I can't say we really get into Valentine's Day anymore. We used to go all out and then we had kids and bills and other stuff going on!  Handy Hubby is always so thoughtful though and brought me flowers and the kids balloons after work today.  Nothing like a $2 balloon to make kids so happy!  I also attended the Valentine's Day party at Elizabeth's kindergarten class. I wish I could bottle their energy - I would be a millionaire!

Last night I made the kids and Jim homemade Valentine's to go with their Make-A-Plate kits, and left them on the table this morning for them to find at breakfast.



I love homemade cards!

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!  

2.13.2012

Vacation: Ski Weekend in West Virginia

We took a break from house projects this weekend to go skiing in Canaan Valley, West Virginia at the Timberline Four Seasons Resort. I skied for the first time in nearly 12 years and my daughter Elizabeth went for the first time.  Fortunately we got 8" of fresh powder which is unbelievable considering that they had almost no fresh snow before this weekend. Unfortunately it was below zero with the windchill!  Yikes. The temps made me remember why I don't ski much anymore!

But, we stayed at this fantastic house with 3 other families. It was HUGE, beautifully decorated, and had great views. I took very few pictures inside the house but there are loads in their virtual tour (along with rental info) here.


Obviously there was more white than green when we were there!

Here's my little skier. Can't wait to take her out skiing again!


To prove I actually skied, we took these pictures with my wonderful friends and ski partners (Handy Hubby does not ski!).



I'm happy to report that I remembered how to ski. I have never skied on shaped (parabolic) skis and wow they make skiing sooooo much easier!  If you have been thinking about skiing again after a long time away from it, go for it. You might be surprised.

Since we got home on Sunday afternoon and we've been doing laundry ever since!

Have you skied this winter? Any great weekends away? Any mid-Atlantic ski areas that we should check out?

2.09.2012

Kitchen Decluttering

I spent a few hours on Sunday reorganizing and decluttering our kitchen counters.  A few weeks ago we got a new coffeepot and that's what started this whole process.


It's a Hamilton Beach Scoop and I love how it's a regular coffee pot with a single serve built-in.  I am a deaf drinker but Handy Hubby requires regular on occasion so this solves the problem. I also reused one of my canisters for my coffee. It used to hold tea bags and packages of artificial sweeteners for visitors.  Along with our pot filler over the stove, we have a perfect breakfast station. 

But, the new coffee pot got the ball rolling. I put away our flour and sugar canisters in our cleaned out kitchen closet (more on that at another time).

I also took a bunch of other pictures of our kitchen while I was at it so you can see how much cleaner our counters look.  Prepare yourself for picture overload!












Sadly the island was only that clean for about 15 minutes!

What do you think? All sources here except for the tiered wire basket which is from Willow House. I also updated a lot of pictures on my house tour page. Check it out here.

Linking to: Thrifty Decor Chick

2.08.2012

Homemade Photo Valentines

When I was a little girl, I loved Valentine's Day - especially at school. I loved exchanging Valentine's with my classmates and over thinking who got what Valentine from my pre-printed box of Valentines features Hello Kitty, Care Bears, Rainbow Brite or whatever the character of the month was.  You wouldn't want to send the wrong message to a boy, right?

Now my little girl is in kindergarten and I was giddy when I read the Valentine's Day party notice. Each child has to make a mailbox and bring in Valentine's for the class. I knew exactly what I wanted to make with Elizabeth thanks to Family Fun Magazine.  



The process was relatively simple once I finished editing the picture. She held a tube of silver wrapping paper which I turned into a white stick using Pixelmator (Mac App). I then ordered copies of the pictures from Shutterfly using a free prints coupon.  Heart lollipops were from Target. Fortunately I grabbed two bags because several were broken in the first bag. I then made a slit in the picture near the end of the "stick" and slid the lollipop through. Elizabeth then taped all of the lollipops on the back of the picture, and we glued a 4x6 index card on the back for a little extra stability.  Total cost of the project was less than $8 thanks to the free prints from Shutterfly! 

Elizabeth is so proud of her Valentine's and cannot wait for Valentine's Day! 

I forgot to take a picture of her mailbox before she took it to school yesterday but it was totally made by her and adorable.

Any fun Valentines in the works? 

2.07.2012

Winter Wreath

Winter is a daunting decorating task for me. I really like Valentine's Day (especially now that we have kids), but the other aspects of winter don't really call to me. So, what to do with the door. I pinned some door decor ideas on Pinterest (see that here). The greens and whites seem to speak to me.  I started searching high and low for a wreath that fit the bill but of course the stores all have spring and Easter wreaths out (it's January people!!!). Nothing just green. So, I was determined to make something. I always have a grapevine wreath ready for customizing in the attic. I went to Michael's expecting to pick up a bunch of sprigs but found nothing that fit the bill, or they were $4.99 per stem. No thanks.  Finally, I wandered into the garland section. Aha! Lots of green. Grabbed a pussy willow stem for some white and was on my way.

About 10 minutes after I got home, I put together this wreath.

I won't insult your intelligence with a tutorial. Just wrap the garland around and tuck in the ends. Voila.



Happy Tuesday!

2.06.2012

Mommy Guilt

As I was reorganizing our living room bookshelves (more here), I reorganized our photo album collection. Turns out that Elizabeth (my 5 year old) has about 7 albums devoted to her first year of life (including quarterly shutterfly albums and a raft of prints in larger old-school albums).  Alex (my 2 year old) has 1 12-page paperback album which I got for free from Shutterfly. You can see the purple/pink pile of books in the lower right hand corner of this picture.


All I could picture down the road is him looking for his albums and not finding anything from his first year but Elizabeth bragging about her well-documented 1st year of life. Ugh. Mommy guilt!

So, while Alex was down for the count with the norovirus, I got to work putting together an album for his first year.  Fortunately most of the pictures were already on Shutterfly so popping a new one together was really quite easy.  5 days later, I got this in the mail... 
Nothing like turning lemons into lemonade! The kids have really enjoyed looking at the book. I have always been a big Shutterfly fan although they now have a lot competitors.

p.s. This is not a sponsored post. I just love Shutterfly.

2.02.2012

Den: Small desk details

I have a bunch of small things to share in the office. This may be the last update for a while unless I score a great deal on a rug this weekend!

First Handy Hubby filled in some gaps on the sides of the shelves which were really irking me. They were probably irking me when we built the shelves circa 2003-2004, but we forgot about it soon after!

Now he has filled in the gaps on the left and right side. I still need to touch up the paint but it definitely looks loads better. I still would like to add a door to the bottom right cabinet so we can store extra printer paper and other unsightly office gear.


Note to self: Do something about that random phone cable on the floor in the top picture. At a minimum, just reattach it to the wall inside the bottom bookshelf!

Finally, I added some cute details to the desk top. First, a vintage desk lamp purchased at a yard sale for $5 last summer.  I thought about spray painting it but now I love the gray in this room, so it will stay as is.


I also wanted pens and scissors to be easy to grab.  I picked up a clear plastic cup on clearance at Target for about $1.50. These are so cute and the teal color works well with the bookshelves. I have wanted a tape dispenser for a while and now I have one - sad but true. It's the first time I've had a real desk in 6 years, so give me a break!  No more digging around for tape to wrap gifts.

Let me know if you see any great deals on gray rugs! The room feels cold and loud without a rug so I am itching to find one. Still looking for a permanent chair. The acrylic chair is taking up residence right now, but that will return to the basement when my parents visit next.

Have a great weekend! What are you making for the Super Bowl? We're heading to our friends Amie and Brian's Cheesebowl. It's a blast but not good for the thighs! No idea what I'm bringing yet but it has to be cheese-based. Ideas welcome!!

2.01.2012

Old Blog & New Blog

Wanted to highlight a pretty big change I made earlier this week. Some of you know that I had a second blog detailing our home renovation process called Arlington Home Addition.  Recently I was referring to things over there which although they were old, they are still very much part of the story of our house. So.... I decided to merge the two blogs so all of the posts are in one place. It makes the labeling a total nightmare which I'll try to clean-up over the next month or so. But, it feels good to have it all in one place!   So, if you want to see my first post back in 2008 (!), click here.  You'll more than you ever wanted to learn about working with architects, contractors, subcontractors, drywall, paint colors, HVAC, and every other aspect of our home renovation process.

On a totally separate note, has everyone seen the new JC Penney catalog? How cute is that? It's part of their total revamp of the brand and stores thanks to their new CEO Ron Johnson, an Apple Executive. Read more about the changes here. If the clothes are this cute, I cannot wait to see what they do with the housewares and home decor department!


Most of my window treatments are from JC Penney but I've noticed the styles getting stale over the past year and they got rid of some things that I loved like cordless woven roman shades. Hopefully someone is listening and they bring back the good stuff!

Of course, this is really awesome news for those in smaller cities where JC Penney may be the only real department store around. 

1.31.2012

Den: Desk Chair Try-outs

I recently started calling our home office and guest room the "den".  Not sure why really but probably because my family always had a den growing up - kind of a cozy place to hang out and where my dad always had a desk covered in paper. So, from here on out, the home office may be called the den or it may be called something else!

The next step in the decorating process for the den is finding a chair. I really didn't know what I wanted. I had looked in some of the usual haunts - Home Goods, World Market, TJ Maxx, etc. So far, nothing has come along. There are loads of options online but I decided to hold some "try-outs" with chairs I already had around the house.  Of course I documented it for you!

First up, my acrylic TOBIAS chair from Ikea. Not sure I have ever shown this on my blog but it hangs out in our basement at our seldom-used desk down there - all a work in progress which needs to be documented at some point soon!



I like the look but it disappears a little too much. The desk is the centerpiece of the room and the chair doesn't feel like it really centers the eye as it should. It needs more weight at the center of the bookshelves. But I do really love this chair and it looks really expensive. Even my traditional-loving father really approves of it!

Next up, was one of the chairs from our living room (which I clearly kept after this post).


I really like this actually, but I still have one more to try... one of our kitchen chairs from World Market (documented here)


Not bad but not sure I would want to spend a lot of time sitting at this chair while working. It works well enough at the kitchen table since we generally don't sit there for more than 30 minutes at a time - we're fast eaters.

So, that little exercise really helped narrow down the options I think. I'm definitely leaning towards a parsons chair of some sort. I also like the dark wood of this chair. Hmmm.... wish I had 3 of these chairs already!!  If anyone sees one at your Home Goods, let me know... actually don't because that may cause a tizzy of calls to shipping companies which Handy Hubby will not appreciate.

Here's the zoomed out view...


The great part is, whatever I do choose will definitely not have to be the "end all, be all" because it's just a simple chair!  Remember that - no decorating decision has to be a forever choice, just the right choice for right now.

And of course, a "before" picture for comparison...


What do you think?  Is this the right choice?  Anyone else think that Ben is a horrible Bachelor? Did you have a "den" growing up?  Wondering if that makes me a child of the '70s...

1.30.2012

Living Room: Bookshelf Styling

After last week's book shuffle to accommodate our new home office, I was left with some shelf space in the living room. This made me so happy and I think the shelves were happy to be a little lighter too.

Our double-stuffed bookshelves looked like this


And after 20 trips up and down the stairs with books and accessories, they now look like this...





The best part is that this transformation didn't cost a penny! I already owned everything on the shelves. The ivory ceramic artichoke set came were a great Goodwill find last summer. I think I paid $7 for both. I love how they really lighten the look because the books are so dark.

So much better I think. What did you do this weekend? Any big projects in the works? Little projects? I have so many projects to write about that I'm feeling a little behind... Hopefully I can catch up this week.

1.26.2012

Den: Styling the Bookshelves

We have a lot of books. A lot. I cannot even begin to estimate but the numbers are in the thousands. We've moved these books from one end of the house and back through the years. Many of the books (pretty much all of the "nice" books) were inherited from my grandfather, but we also buy some books but nearly as much as we used to.  As a result of having so many books, bookcase styling was never a priority. The books had to fit wherever they could and styling was not a priority. Generally, ever bookshelf was jammed with books. Here are some examples:

Basement Built-ins
Living Room
See? Filled!  This is about 3/4 of our book collection. We had more in the attic in boxes, in our room, and in the family room. The family bookshelves were the only remotely styled bookshelves we have.


Now that we have our office back (more on that here), we could finally unpack the last few boxes of books from the attic and spread out some books in other places so things don't seem so bookstore/library-ish. 

Stage 1 was moving some living room books to the office. Here's how it looks now. 



Not at all finished but a good first step. I'm going to add some more layers over time but it's a good first start.  I've some plans for the two spaces on either side of the desk, although nothing totally ready yet. I was anxious to share because this room is coming together. The rug is definitely not staying and the roman shade needs a make-over but all in good time!

I have so much more planned for this room that I don't know quite where to begin.  At the same time, I don't have a real vision yet and I try not to decorate without an ultimate goal in mind. When I browse for things, I seem to be all over the place.  All the more reason to take a slow decorating approach, not a 2 weeks and we're done process - unless I find things for cheap or free!  

Next up is a window treatment and a desk chair, and then we'll probably be on pause for a month or two while we deal with and pay for other projects (like the screen porch!).  I have lots of organizing (free!) to do in here in the mean time so I'll feel like we're making progress even though we won't be making any more big changes.  I wish the progress was going to be quicker so we'll all just have to hang in there.