2.28.2012

A new view of our Living Room

I took some new pictures of our living room over the weekend. After retaking photos of my kitchen, I couldn't resist some new views, especially since I reorganized the bookshelves so they look less heavy. I hope this gives you an even better view of how this space works. You won't see a view towards our family room because I am going to be making some imminent changes. More to come!





After looking at these pictures, I need some sort of a "centerpiece" for the coffee table. The little ceramic dish from Mexico is not working. It definitely needs something with height and interest. Being unbreakable would be handy too. Ideas welcome!


Please vote for HOUSEography in the Apartment Therapy Homies (THE design blog awards!).  Thanks!!  Click here, and scroll down to you find HOUSEography!

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2.27.2012

The Den: Hand-Painted Desk Blotter

Somehow I got a little crafty last week. It came out of nowhere and shocked me as well. I wanted to add a fun detail to the plain white desk.  I had been thinking about getting a blotter but decided to save money and paint on a blotter-like detail.

So, I grabbed a roll of basic blue painter's tape, and taped out a rectangle on my desk. I did not use a tape measure and just eye-balled it. I figured if the taped lines looked okay then the painted lines would be fine.  I had to do a second coat of white on a few spots on the top, so I decided to try the "lock-in" method of painting the base color over the tape so the feature color won't bleed through. Sorry, forgot to photograph the first two steps but I did photograph the part where I painted the teal rectangle. It's the same English River (California Paints color matched to SW HGTV paint) as the back of the bookshelves on either side of the desk.

I painted on three coats because the semi-gloss is a little difficult to cover with flat paint (that I already had on hand).  I was impatient so painted the first two coats within a couple of hours and then the third coat int the evening.  After the third coat, I pulled the paint up. I only had tiny touch-ups to do, thanks to the lock-in method of painting the base color over the tape.

Here's the result.

I like the effect. At a minimum it needs a coat or two of polyurethane. It may need a piece of glass cut to fit the space so that we have a hard and kid-proof service which can withstand a lot of abuse.

What do you think?

p.s. Please vote for HOUSEography in the Apartment Therapy Homies (THE design blog awards!).  Thanks!!  Click here, and scroll down to you find HOUSEography!

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2.23.2012

Den: Cornice Board Fabric

Next up in the cornice board project is the fabric. 

Here's where we left off last.



I decided the room needed a bold punch with all of the cool silver and blue going on so far, so I went with this yellow Suzani by Premier Prints (purchased from Fabric.com for less than $9 per yard). 


I slid the cornice up off the French cleat - super easy which means that changing the fabric as the mood strikes might be way too easy!

Next up, I wrapped the board in basic quilter's batting which I already had. 

Finally, I stretched the fabric around and stapled it with a basic staple gun. This is just like stretching fabric around dining chair seats - start in the middle on both sides and then continue around the edges.  Sorry I didn't take more pictures.

Let's cut to the chase with the final product.


Here's a quick before and after because you can never have enough before and after!


I'm in love with this fabric. I keep thinking of other projects I could use it for. Wish I had bought more than one yard!

2.22.2012

Den: Cornice Board Window Treatment

After a lot of debate with myself, I decided on a cornice board window treatment in the den. It's a little old school but I think a fun fabric will make it very modern and fun for our rather dark office. Drapery is completely out of the question with the window between the bookcases. This is the only real window in the room so every speck of light is important.
The roman shade is going to stay for now although I may eventually give it a make-over. But that also necessitated something more substantial than a simple window valance. Oh how I wish that shade was white instead of cream! 

A few nights ago, Handy Hubby got to work building the cornice for me. It took him about 30 minutes total and that included digging around looking for wood scraps in the basement. Here are some pictures of the final product. It's pretty straightforward.




It will hang from a French cleat which is basically two pieces of wood cut at a 45 degree angle which fit together by sliding one down on top of the other.

Here's Handy Hubby screwing the wall cleat in with drywall screws. 

And here he is testing the fit to ensure it's level.

And here's the (almost) finished product.


Next up - fabric!

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?