Category Archives: Projects

We painted the dining room, and I have some thoughts on open concept houses.

The dining room was the last big room on the first floor that needed to be painted, and I was 100% sure I wanted to change the color from a tan-ish gold to something else.

32829418184_3caa1b58c9_c

Until I wasn’t.

Until I was again.

33543197681_66e35cd31f_c

I waffled on the dining room color for an absurdly long amount of time. On the one hand, the room has a ton of windows and wide trim, so there isn’t a whole lot of wall – which indicated we should go with a bold color. On the other hand, there’s a lot of dark wood and art and a boldly-colored rug  – indicating maybe a subdued neutral was in order. On the third tentacle, while our house is by no means open concept (more on that in a moment!) the dining room is visible from the (green) living room and the (cream) kitchen, so I wanted the colors to flow.

I ended up choosing another color from SW’s historical collection, Calico. We freaking love it.

33649424272_dda8b3ca7d_c

It’s serene, it reflects the light beautifully, and it pulls together the whole room.

33676187751_7c438704be_c

After we put it on the walls, we started noticing the color everywhere. It’s the same gray-blue as Jason’s eyes, for example, and his car, and a sweet French Bulldog salt shaker I bought at Target several years ago. I even used some of the leftover paint on some plastic Easter eggs.

33749059075_45ff9782ee_z

And when I pulled out my mom’s china for Easter brunch, BEHOLD, it matched.

33956722135_d2ae71404e_z

I found myself grateful, once again, for the lack of open-concept-ness in our house. The color we picked is by no means bold, but it would be overwhelming in a large living/dining/kitchen area.

I would not be happy living in an open concept house – I like privacy, and doors, and retreats. That said, I have a great appreciation for the judicious deployment of an open-concept format in a renovation. I watch “Fixer Upper” with just as much excitement as the next thirtysomething female. In our former house, the kitchen had been opened to the family room, and that was great. Even in our current house, it appears that three small rooms – an entry room, a butler’s pantry, and a kitchen – were combined to make the current kitchen.

Like every other trend (although “trend” seems a bit strong of a word for a permanent change to the structure of your home!), the open concept movement is starting to see its share of vocal detractors. House Beautiful argued a few months ago, “Why We Need to Just Stop With Open Floor Plans.”  I think all their points are fair. I would add, perhaps, something I’ve noticed with televisions. Have TVs gotten bigger in response to changing design? Or has design changed in response to bigger televisions? It seems like every open concept house I’ve seen in person (as opposed to the houses staged for HGTV shows) is designed around the TV – usually in the form of a TV-shaped space above the fireplace or within a set of built-ins. The TV is visible – and audible – throughout the entire living space. This is not appealing to me, but I also recognize that I am in the minority.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects

The Things We Carry

I spent much of spring break at my mom’s house in Jacksonville, cleaning out two large storage closets, aka The Twin Pits of Decluttering Despair. They were the final frontiers in the massive undertaking that has been clearing out my childhood home. And while I am relieved to have pushed through to this point, I am also overwhelmed with sadness at the wasted potential I saw as I dug through stacks of paper and boxes.

20641065391_24d4f2bcaf_z

(Behind that door: more stuff.)

My mother almost certainly suffers from a mild hoarding disorder. Unlike many hoarders, she does not shop, and does not Dumpster dive, and generally isn’t acquisitive. However, once items enter her house, they never leave. I started cleaning while she was in the hospital the first time, back in May of 2015. I discovered newspapers dating back to 2009 stacked on the kitchen table, a decade’s worth of telephone books, and every bank statement she’d ever received (including canceled checks). I discovered six closets packed full of clothes, in sizes ranging from 14 to 22, in decades ranging from 1980s to today. But she only ever wore the same three pairs of pants and five shirts – which were draped on chairs in her bedroom.

33172651100_35b7949141_z

When my brother and I lived at home, my parents kept things reasonably neat. I left home in 2002. My father died in 2003, which was also the year my brother graduated college and moved out. Our house went from being comfortably full to achingly empty in the space of one year, and I have a suspicion that my mother’s hoarding ramped up as she tried to fill the void in her heart.

The process of sorting and purging and organizing has been, quite frankly, depressing. So much of the clutter is just redundant waste. My mom had dozens and dozens of towels, most of them monogrammed. But the towels, and the monograms, belonged to long-dead family members – my mother’s mother (died 2008) and my mother’s aunt (died 1986). My mother has just a few pictures of her aunt, but 15 of her towels. Why? Why did she feel it was her obligation to carry the dead woman’s textiles? Similarly, she had sheets for full and queen beds, despite not owning beds in either of those sizes. I used the sheets and towels as packing materials, and STILL sent an entire vanload to Goodwill.

Some of the things I’ve had to get rid of were amusing, like the meat slicer my parents received as a wedding gift. It was still in the box. They also had a case of eight track tapes. Neil Diamond. AW YISS.

32712647004_1bdfc43886_z

I was sad about the items she never allowed herself to enjoy. I threw out pounds of food gifts she’d never opened – jams and cookies and chutneys and preserves. She raved about her friend’s homemade chocolate sauce, a jar of which she received for Christmas every year. There were twelve jars in her fridge. Only one of them was open.

I found landscape plans for the property which had been drawn up for the previous owners. A dresser drawer was filled with old film reels from someone’s world travels. When I asked mom about them, she told me she found them in the house when they moved in. So she kept them. Because of course.

At the back of the large closet, I found three cardboard moving boxes that I’m pretty sure hadn’t been opened since my parents moved into the house in 1983. One of them contained baby shower gifts from 1979, when I was born – beautiful embroidered collars, a sterling cup, hand-knitted blankets, a magic hanky. Each was still in a gift box, wrapped in tissue, with the cards attached. These made me inexplicably angry – not only did she NOT use them when I was a baby, she didn’t even tell me they existed so that I could use them for my own babies. They just took up space in her closet, and her life, for no purpose whatsoever. It’s maddening. I know this is part of a real psychological problem, but it’s hard not to be frustrated.

Most upsetting are things that she’ll never be able to tell me about – photographs of vacations she can’t remember, objects that were carefully packaged and preserved, but now she doesn’t know why or when. If we’re all stories in the end, hers is unraveling.

My biggest challenge was resisting the impulse to keep everything that might be meaningful, that might be useful. My mother kept things that other people found beautiful and useful. She kept things because people told her she should. She kept things because people told her they were valuable. In time, those things began to bury her, and now it is my responsibility to catalog them, understand them…. and decide for myself what to let go. In this endeavor, help me to not be my mother’s daughter.

Save

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Mom, Projects

Three Quick Updates

None of these is dramatic enough to merit its own post, but here is the list of the latest home improvement projects we’ve undertaken.

In the living room, we removed all of the extraneous window foolishness, including roller shades, brackets for blinds, and wooden valances. Then Jason painted the room (Ruskin Room Green, by Sherwin Williams) to cover the drywall patches. The previous color was a tan..ish?

Before:

32643088450_ae140fcbdd_b

After:

33323957826_6285277907_b

Yeay for more light! And fewer patches!

33323958796_d234704ab6_b

In the foyer, I used my newly-acquired picture matting skills to re-mat a set of pictures of my dad.

Before:

32021832822_480e093f41_z

After:

33222432642_5066a46d78_z

Spot the upgrade!

And finally, in our bedroom, I recovered a bench. The previous fabric was in good shape, but I didn’t like it, and it didn’t go with the room. I chose an oversized buffalo check in indigo.

Before:

32983483206_db4426a123_z

After:

33377699516_8099f50756_z

Inch by inch, we’re making this home our own.

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects

A Tale of Two Closets

For an old house, our second floor bedrooms have enormous closets. Two of the bedrooms have two closets apiece – but alas, neither of these is the master bedroom. Tyler, a 13-year-old boy who has decided that “closet” is code for “floor,” obviously does not need two closets, and it just so happened that one of his closets backed up on the master bedroom.

32785889236_7e82d80c8b_z

The plan was simple: hire a carpenter to remove the entire door assembly from Tyler’s side of the closet, and move it around to the master bedroom side, giving Jason and me separate closets (which would lead to increased marital bliss, and eventually our own space program).

Step 1: Cut a hole in the box

32622612461_4402d24cbd_z

At this point, we told Tyler we’d changed our minds and were going to leave this as a pass-through into his room. Much horrified gibbering commenced.

Please note the boxes on Tyler’s desk. Despite living in the house for six months, he has not fully unpacked. This drives me insane. To be fair, we have a couple of boxes of “things we will get around to sorting out eventually,” but we had to unpack 90% of the house, and he was only responsible for his own stuff.

Anyway.

Step 2: Move your junk from one side of the box to the other.

There was a slight snag in the proceedings. In Tyler’s room, the door was a left-hand outswing – meaning the hinges were on the left and the door swung out into the room. In our room, it would need to be a right-hand outswing, which means the carpenter had to flip the door inside-out. Or something. I didn’t watch.

31903097054_b1f02132fd_z

So that’s done. And by “done” I mean “except for puttying, sanding, and painting….and also putting rods and shelves inside.”

Basically, done.

This was a somewhat nerve-wracking project for me. I want to be respectful of our house’s history and the original intent of the architect, but I also want it to function for our family. Adding the gas lamps and painting the walls didn’t change the house in a meaningful way. This did. I’m very happy with the result, and I hope the ghosts of the previous owners are, too.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects

January Highlights

January 1: After 37 years, I have finally managed to properly cook rice. Yes, rice. Up to this point, my rice has been mushy, sticky, and unattractive. But tonight, it was glorious. I used Alton Brown’s technique, which didn’t take any additional time or dirty any additional cookware. It was a win for everyone, basically.

January 10: I stopped buying the hype. Some time over the last few years, I began believing that baking soda and vinegar was a clean-all miracle that would Save The Children From Exposure to Evil Chemicals and Probably Also Get Them Into Harvard. I used it to clean my shower, my kitchen sink, my jewelry, my coffeemaker, etc. In some of those applications – most notably the jewelry cleaner and the shower scrub – it performed admirably. But on two notable occasions, the baking-soda-vinegar combo let me down. Way down.

The first time was in the laundry room. When we moved, we inherited a set of front-loading, stacked laundry machines. The washer, as is common with front-loading washing machines, was pretty nasty. I washed it and washed it with vinegar and baking soda and my tears, to little avail. Finally, wedged in among the well-lit photographs and amusing mommy anecdotes on Pinterest, I found a woman who was brave enough to state a truth. Every week, she washed one load of whites with 1/2 cup of bleach. (Bleach! I couldn’t clutch my pearls fast enough!) Her machine never got moldy and never smelled bad. I gave it a try. It worked perfectly. Now we have sparkly whites and a clean washing machine. LIVING. THE. DREAM.

The second instance was in my oven. I cook a lot, so my oven gets a ton of (ab)use. I made pastes with baking soda and vinegar, I sprinkled and sprayed and scrubbed and cursed. Nothing was getting the gunk off the inside of my oven.

You know what gets gunk off ovens fast? Easy Off Extra Strength Chemical Shitshow (TM). I cleaned the new oven for the first time today, after spraying it in last night and letting that funky junk do the hard work for me. Clean oven. Zero tears. Beautiful.

January 29: After looking at photographs of my freshly-painted foyer, it seemed a little austere. So I spent some time re-hanging a gallery from the old house, and creating a new grouping by the front door. Here are the updated results:

32575067006_461c17f3f4_c

The front door group includes an antique barometer. FANCY.

31803262753_24ee48035f_z

On to February!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Food, Home, Projects

Making an Entrance….Gradually

I am happy to report that, after five months of making our house weather-tight and functional, we’re beginning the process of making it pretty.

Jason and I took an anniversary trip to New Orleans and bought two gas lamps for the house. They increased our general happiness by at least 87%.

30311662173_30d758d9e5_z

32248205335_07f50ca17b_c

Over the Christmas break, Jason and I sat down and made a (long, very long, oh so long) list of things we’d like to do to the house over the next year. It included simple things, like removing broken birdbaths from the yard, to complex projects, like completely stripping and re-painting all the trim.

We got started on New Year’s Eve by painting the foyer.

Here’s how it looked before:

31801699562_a1527360f1_z

This room totally won me over from the first time I looked at the house. I love the beautiful sidelight windows on either side of the door, and the beveled panes in the door itself. I love the spaciousness of the foyer – it’s technically a non-functional room, but it’s also the axis on which the house rotates.

I didn’t love the color. In fact, I am a little surprised by how well the color photographed. It looks like a classy gold color. In real life, it was a yellowish brown with green undertones, and looked vaguely sickly. And, obviously, the large drywall patches were an eyesore.

My dream for the foyer was a space that was warm and welcoming, clean and fresh. My inspiration was the 2015 Southern Living Idea House. It’s my favorite of all the SL Idea Houses, and I immediately fell in love with the main color used throughout the living areas, Sherwin Williams’ Steamed Milk. It’s a cream color, just enough to stand apart from bright white trim. Here’s the foyer from Southern Living’s house:

18639570194_46bb74995f_c

As you can see, this foyer and mine are very similar. We even have a gas lamp on a similar bracket just outside our front door. TWINSIES.

We bought a five-gallon bucket of Steamed Milk, borrowed a 24-foot extension ladder, and got to work.

Here’s a better picture of the “before” color. This is around a window, with the new color at the bottom of the photo. See how much greener the old color looks compared to the earlier photo? Yeah. Not good.

31995557086_fa6b77be49_m

Two days and three coats later, we were done.

31334469604_56fd7bb2f2_z

Here are a few more before-and-afters, from different spots.

Looking towards Hollyn’s room, before:

31801699472_83510c9982_z

and after:

31800921020_31b0ea7377_z

Looking towards the kitchen, before:

31949149045_83549ae865_c

(I know. Ignore him.)

and after:

32137798476_343c4b3ed2_c

There are no more visible drywall patches! It’s so nice! The foyer does feel a little spare right now, but our next step will be to bring in more color through MOAR ART. Replacing the stair runner is also on the to-do list. My dream is to add custom millwork too.

I’d better start planning a bake sale or something.

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Home, Projects

The World’s Lamest Reveal

In July, we bought this fixer-upper:

27602154416_1671bc92e5_c

After 3 months and a substantial number of renovation dollars, I present…..

(drumroll)

(hushed, excited whispers)

(maybe a little cowbell)

OUR HOUSE:

27602154416_1671bc92e5_c

(loud sigh)

That’s right, almost all our renovation dollars were spent on stuff you can’t see! Psychologically speaking, this was a terrible decision! We should have just lit a pile of money on fire in the front yard!

Here’s a breakdown of where the dollars went:

  1. New Roof – Hartsfield Roofing & Construction
  2. Complete Rewire – Chad O’Hara’s Quality Electrical Services
  3. Foundation Work – Alpha Foundation Systems
  4. Vermin Elimination – Black Thumb
  5. Plumbing and Gas – White’s Plumbing
  6. HVAC Unit and Duct Replacement – Central Heating Consultants
  7. Drywall Repairs – Wall Doctors

Fear not! It appears the hard part is over. We’ve unpacked most of our boxes and are gearing up to paint. We’re going to start with our own room. The kids are miffed, but HEY, they don’t pay the mortgage.

Jason asked for a blue room, so I picked three shades to test:

29694007121_0baac31364_z

Top to bottom, that’s Wythe Blue (Benjamin Moore), Palladian Blue (Benjamin Moore), and Flora (Behr). I liked the darkest and he liked the lightest, so we compromised on the middle shade.

And that’s marriage in a nutshell.

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Home, Projects