Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The search for dining chairs

Searching for dining chairs seems to be a pretty common theme for design bloggers, so I might as well join the group and talk about my quest. I knew the style of chair I wanted (though I didn't know what to call it) and found a number of options at major home furnishing stores.

This amazing chair by Thomas Pheasant for Baker furniture was way too expensive, but still a fantastic start to my search.

There was this beautiful chair from Restoration Hardware, available in many different fabrics:

A gorgeous Bernhardt chair:

Then this chair from Ballard Designs, also with many fabric options:

And then this slighting different chair from Z Gallerie, only available in one, shiny fabric:

I went back and forth about which chair was closest to what I had in mind, but realized that none had the perfect combination of curved back and fabric that I wanted.

One day, I went to the now defunct Gallhans Furniture in Fredericksburg, thinking I would just look at the Baker, Century, and Hickory Chair sections. While I was looking, I saw a chair that was somewhat reasonable in price, but nothing like what I wanted. I started chatting with a salesperson, described what I wanted, and she told me we could make the chair I wanted. I was intrigued. She told me to meet her in the fabric room (bigger than some entire stores) in five minutes.

We wound up finding a chair that was almost exactly what I wanted. The company was willing to make a few edits so that the chair would be THE chair that I had in my mind. The price was high, but not prohibitively high. Considering I was getting custom pieces of furniture made, it was a pretty good deal. The only catch was that I would be waiting 6-8 weeks for the work to be done. We decided to go for it and spent the rest of the afternoon picking out fabric. Thank goodness for my salesperson, Lolly, who seemed to understand how big this purchase was for me and who was as entertained by fabric as I was.

A couple months later, I got the call to come get my chairs (I saved myself a delivery charge by diving two hours to get them). When I got to Gallahan's I was shocked to find the doors locked. They were closed, preparing for their going out of business sale! I found my way in through the loading dock and saw my chairs waiting for me. Turns out the family that had been running that store had a few more up in Pennsylvania and decided to consolidate, closing their one Virginia location. They let me poke around to see the mark downs (including some pretty good ones on all those Baker pieces I usually drooled over) before loading up my chairs to take them home.

The final product is the perfect chair. So perfect, the boyfriend's chair gets draped in a towel when we eat anything with tomato sauce in it. He's used to my decorating obsession by now and is pretty good natured about that.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sad, little patio gets a lift

My 7 foot x 5 foot patio hasn't gotten too much of my attention in the past. Coco + Kelley's post last week about small patios with big style made me think about doing a little bit more with that little concrete rectangle outside my French doors.

I'm not an accomplished gardener at all. In fact, I usually just buy already blooming flowers over growing any from seed. This year, I bought some sunflower (mini yellow and full size red) and zinnia seed back in the spring. The mini sunflowers are doing well, but only two zinnia had buds on them. One two of the full size sunflowers bloomed. The patio was looking pretty sad.

After a trip to the garden center, I added some blue hydrangea, two boxwoods to flank the space, cleaned and filled my birdbath, and cleaned my hummingbird feeder. It's not a phenomenal change, but it doesn't look quite as sad as before.

My next purchase might be some sort of bistro set so we can eat outside. It'll have to be extremely tiny, though!

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Saturday, June 27, 2009


The shams don't look as awkward as I thought they would. I had a little surprise when I went to put the filler pillows inside them, though. The monogram shop put one of them on upside down so the flap on the back of the sham hangs open on the one of them.

Oh well. The shams were $3.15 at Yves Delorme and the monogram shop didn't charge me at all after all the trouble with getting the job done.

I went to The Second Yard in downtown Charlottesville for the filler pillows. The Second Yard is a four story house in which every crannie is full of furniture and bolts of fabric. In my wandering, I came upon this gorgeous sofa and had to snap a picture of it.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Aura love

After seeing mostly rave reviews for Benjamin Moore's Aura paint, I invested in a few gallons to transform the common spaces in my condo, which had been painted a terrible, builder's beige. My experience with Sherwin Williams' Harmony paint had been good, but working with Aura made that previous experience seem like a much more tedious job.

I actually enjoyed painting my dining and living rooms! The next time I was at the Benjamin Moore store, I gushed so much over the stuff while one man was trying to pick paint that the store gave me the discount they give to designers and contractors.

Here's a look at the paint color just after painting was finished. It dried a little darker, a little grayer than this, but will change depending on the light in the room.

The next big decision was about furniture and lighting...

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Free Glidden paint...move quickly!

Glidden paint is giving away a free quart of their new paint to anyone who requests it for the next few weeks. This new paint seems to be their answer to Aura...they're marketing it as having primer in the formula.

Seeing that I'm an Aura fan, I thought I'd order a quart and see what the new paint is like.

Unfortunately, after entering my information, the site told me that someone with my address already requested a quart. I live in a condo and about eight other people share the majority of my address. Boo!

Maybe I'll give them a call tomorrow to see if we can work something out.
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The decor next door

I'm still getting used to the idea that all of my neighbors have identical or nearly identical floor plans in their units.

Here's a glimpse into another unit that's currently for sale. It's a little larger than my place. The patio furniture was "borrowed" from another neighbor for the photos shoot (without her permission). Let that be a lesson in creative staging for you!

You can see my empty unit in this earlier post. I promise the after, which will come out through future posts, is much better!

After seeing those, I'm thinking of starting my own real estate photography business. I think I could do better with my point and click!
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Monogram envy

The little look back at my early decorating is going to be interrupted by a monogram discussion. I love monograms in little doses. A few years ago, I put mine on my door and thought it looked pretty cute.

Pardon the dirty tennis balls...part of the deal when you have a golden retriever

And lately, I've been in love with Blue Heron Bags, a store at the dog-friendly Mall at Short Pump that will monogram purchases while you shop.

But something I've been noticing lately is that certain letters look really funny in certain styles of monograms. I happen to have two of these letters, J and L, in my monogram. Before I get anything embroidered, I see if I can look at the monogram on the computer screen before the stitching begins just to make sure the letters look okay.

Cut to a few weeks ago. I found some beautiful boudoir shams in the sale section of Yves Delorme in downtown Charlottesville. We're one of the few cities with an outlet at the back of the store and I got two shams for $3.15 (can you believe it?!?). I thought they'd look very cute with my monogram. So, I dropped them off at our local monogram shop and talked to two staff members about what I wanted on them. When I got home, I followed up by emailing a picture of what I wanted on the shams.

A week later (yes, a week), the shams came back...looking terrible. There were sloppy stitches, which is odd seeing that the stitching is done by computerized sewing machines. The staff agreed that the shams didn't look right and agreed to try again.

Yesterday, I got these back:

Why are the letters so disproportionate? Why does the J look like it's further away from the L than the C?

Maybe I need to change my name to get a better monogram. The boyfriend's name starts with an S. That has potential.
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Paint geek tip

I completely forgot to share one of my favorite paint geek moves. I hope the powers-that-be at the paint companies aren't upset about this. I registered as a designer with a few of them. Their websites didn't require any documentation and it was the only way I could find to get large paint chips.

I had been buying sample pots at Sherwin Williams, but was wasting so much paint on them. Benjamin Moore makes sample pots in a range of colors, but the selection is still limited. Perhaps I should frame my motivations for this indiscretion as being
green. :)

The wait for the large samples was only a few days and I was quickly able to pick my color (Benjamin Moore's Smoke) and pass the samples off to a friend who was looking for a grey-blue for another project.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

From paint geek to paint obsessed

At some point last year, the Sherwin Williams fan deck wasn't exciting me anymore. The Harmony paint had been nice to work with because of the low-VOCs, but it was no easier to roll out than the cheap, Valspar paint I had gotten at Lowe's back when I painted the bedroom red. There had to be something better! I was planning on painting the common areas in my condo and wanted to find a paint that would make the job easier than the bedroom one had been.

I started seeing all sorts of reviews of Benjamin Moore's Aura paint on iVillage's Garden Web. Some people complained, but most of the experienced painters raved about the paint. The fact that it was a full spectrum paint was also nice...the colors would supposedly be more vibrant and "true" than traditional paints.

Around the same time, I noticed that most of the designers featured in magazines like House Beautiful, Home, and Traditional Home were recommending Benjamin Moore colors.

I went to the local Benjamin Moore store to look into getting a fan deck. I was a little annoyed that they maintain multiple decks and some colors are repeated in both. I spent some time looking at the chips and bought a deck. Once home, I was almost overwhelmed by the organization (or lack thereof) of the Benjamin Moore fan deck. It didn't seem as simple as the Sherwin Williams one. I also found it hard to tell the difference between colors from one deck and those with a different name in the other (I later found out that Benjamin Moore has reintroduced some colors with new names).

It took weeks, but I finally settled on a paint color for the common areas. Pictures from that paint process coming soon!
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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Becoming a paint geek

Just a few days into this blog, I'm antsy to show you that I have more than a sad little rental on my hands. So, let's do a speed post...

Almost immediately after closing on my condo, I had the bedroom emptied and taped off to start painting. I hadn't really become a design nerd that that point and my color and product choices reflect that. I used inexpensive Valspar paint and picked a very deep cranberry red color (my brain has blocked the name of the color) for the walls (thank goodness I used white on the ceiling). My obsession with getting rid of all the beige put here by the builder led me to make the decision about the paint way too quickly. I didn't have an inspiration picture. I didn't search Garden Web, The Nest, Flickr, and other sites for rooms painted the same color.

It shouldn't be any surprise that I could only live with that red for a few months. In that time, I prowled design websites for color ideas, read about different types of paint, and bought sample pots of a few colors so I could "live" with my next choice before painting the entire room. I bought my first fan deck at Sherwin Williams and I went through it so often that I had certain parts of it memorized.

The winner: Sherwin Williams' Harmony paint in Compatible Cream on the walls and Napery on the ceiling.

Now, the finishing details took quite some time to come together and I'll do a few posts about the sources for some of this stuff in the future, but let's get to the good stuff: the finished (for now) bedroom. These pictures went over pretty well at Rate My Space and Mi Casa Style (now defunct). Mi Casa Style even used a picture of the room in ads on Facebook (thanks to message board friend Beantown for sending me a screen shot!).

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Rental decorating in the bedroom

The bedroom furniture consisted of a bed and a side table in those early days.

It was a sad beginning, wasn't it? This picture is from 2005, when I first moved in. I quickly picked up a cheap, Hepplewhite-ish side table at Bombay to give me a little drawer space while I searched area furniture stores for a dresser. Bombay wasn't the best quality stuff, but the style and price appealed to me at the time. I still have that chest next to the bed and aside from some scratches on the top, it looks pretty nice.

Looking at the picture of the room from 2005, I have to laugh at my art. I had seen some huge silhouettes with apple green backings at the Kips Bay Show House in NYC the year before and had attempted to reproduce them on a smaller, less expensive scale. Every night after work for about a week, I'd sit on the bare living room floor (there was no furniture in there at the time) and cut silhouettes. It took days to get three I deemed good enough to put into some frames I found at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They are nowhere near the silhouettes Karl Johnson made for that show house (check out what he wrote about them on his blog).

The chair next to the bed was a floor model from the Norwalk Furniture Idea in Richmond. I had gone in to look for a living room chair, but was shocked by the prices. As I was leaving the store, I spotted a parsons chair upholstered in the funniest fabric (stay tuned...I'll post a close up in a couple days). It was a floor model clearance item and I snapped it up on the spot.

You've seen the "before" and the "before-before". Stay tuned for the transition to "after."

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Friday, June 19, 2009

The Empty Condo

As promised yesterday, here are pictures of the empty condo. I get a kick out of looking at these. A lot has changed and I'll be sharing updated pictures over the next few weeks.

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Setting the scene

When I moved to Charlottesville, I had only been here once. The night before my job interview, I drove down Main Street (thinking "How cute! They have a Main Street.") and saw some townhouses down a hill. I couldn't spot the name of the neighborhood or the cross street.

Back home, successful interview behind me, I started looking at apartment websites to see if I could find those townhouses. It was surprisingly easy. The community turned out to consist of single story units in townhouse-esque buildings. The location was perfect. The rents were reasonable (compared to Boston) and when the job offer came, I arranged to be the first tenant in my unit. I never saw the apartments in person, but I used the measurements on the website to block out the sizes of the rooms in my living room in Boston.

Each room could have fit into the living room in my pre-war apartment. That was fine. I planned to sell as much of my cheap furniture as possible and move to Virginia with my desk (my first major furniture purchase) and my bed.

By the time my unit converted to a condo a few years later, I was in love with my place and was eager to start doing more substantial changes to the interior than I was allowed to do as a renter.

My unit was not the smallest floor plan available, but at 785 square feet, it didn't really warrant the "Executive" name it was given by the developer. I've grown to love my small place and at times feel liberated by the square footage. I've become a fan of small spaces and love adapting ideas I see in magazines and online to fit in them. This interest has become the impetus for this blog. I'll document the changes I make to this unit and in the future (I'm keeping this blog private for now) use it as a forum to chat with others who love design and decorating.

Pictures of the empty place are coming in the next post. Stay tuned!

785 sq ft
Maybe this blog should be called Tiny Chic?
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Giving in

I kept trying to convince myself that I shouldn't do this.

There are so many fantastic interior design and home decorating blogs out there. I have about one hundred of them on my Google Reader. Those blogs where part of the reason for my reluctance to blog. Why should anyone enter this genre at this point when the blogsphere is saturated with creative, exciting decor blogs?

Maybe there's room for just one more. One about a girl in a cool, little town living in a cool, little condo and trying to translate all the great ideas out there to a scale she can live with. Maybe she can sprinkle in a little bit about her travels and her dog and her observations along the way.
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