Friday, July 31, 2009

Keeping a tiny kitchen uncluttered

One of my friends took a look at the blog and asked what the wood box under the cabinets by the mixer was. That's a neat, cabinet mounted knife block!

I had a traditional block for my knives, but it was pretty bulky. With such limited space, I decided to look for alternative ways to store my knives. I looked at magnetic strips, but I was a little worried about exposed blades. I liked the blocks that fit inside drawers, but I didn't have any drawer space to spare. We have some great kitchen supplies in town, but I wound up having to go to Sur la Table to find this cabinet mounted block.

Pretty neat, huh?

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Painting kitchen cabinets (or, How to go from loving paint to hating paint in just a few days)

I love a good DIY project, but this one almost broke me. Painting the kitchen cabinets was a massive undertaking and one of the most frustrating projects I've done in the condo so far. There is a reason the web is full of pages that will give you tips and instructions for painting your cabinets. It's hard! It takes a ton of prep, a lot of persistence, and patience.

Hiring a professional wasn't an option. Buying or renting a paint sprayer (which renders a great finish without too, too much effort) wasn't an option. I have a very limited space in which to backyard, no garage, and no basement. So, this was a solo effort in my kitchen.

I read many different threads and sites about painting cabinets and arrived at my steps by blending a few of them together. I did not use TSP, which some sites recommend to clean the cabinets. I washed them, sanded them, used a tack cloth to clean them off, then primed, and painted. How funny that I fit that all into one sentence when these steps took three weeks (I worked at night and on the weekends).

The paint I used was Sherwin Williams' ProClassic Enamel (Waterborne) in either a gloss or high gloss finish. It's excellent paint, but you have to put very, very thin layers down and let them dry completely before moving forward. This takes quite some time. Part of me wishes I painted everything with Benjamin Moore's Aura and then added a top coat of polyurethane. Oh well.

I think the result is good, considering the cheapy cabinets with which I started:

Not all hardware is on the cabinets in these pictures

I would love to change the counters, flooring, microwave, and range at some point. For now, I'm happy with how things are progressing.

By the way, I painted the walls light blue, but hated how it looked and went back to white. Any thoughts on that? Does the white look okay or too sterile? When I get around to changing the counters, I'll also install some subway as a backsplash on both sides of the room.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Baxter graduates (and a hint at where I'm going next)

Over the weekend, Baxter had a graduation of sorts.

As a puppy, Bax loved his crate. When he was sleepy or wanted to do some chewing, he'd retreat to his crate. When he was about to get a good treat, he'd trot to his crate, looking back every few steps to make sure I was following. Though he loved his crate, I wasn't sure it was quite large enough for him to stay in all the time. Instead of getting a bigger one, I took the crate away to use in my rescue work and got a baby gate to give Baxter some boundaries, but more room to stretch out when I wasn't home.

Baxter didn't mind the gate at all. He learned to proudly demonstrate his ability to open the gate on command. When he reached two years old, I decided he was ready to have full run of the house. I had tried this with him about six months ago, but came home to a carefully shredded tissue one day and a daintily shredded napkin the next. This time, there were no problems. Baxter's a free dog and the doorway into the kitchen is a little more spacious.

As if it wasn't obvious, I'm going to talk about some changes in the kitchen next. I haven't done much and could use some opinions on what to do next!
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Happy free paint day!

I had a long, busy day at work and was so happy to come home to this happy can of paint sent gratis by Glidden. What to paint? I wonder if a quart is enough to cover a small, walk-in closet. The bedroom closets are still "builder's beige" and they're pretty dark. This sweet, buttery cream might brighten things up a bit.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Compulsive Craigslisting

Along with my case of Ikea Panic, I think I have a compulsive Craigslist habit. I'm not on a buying spree, though. I'm on a listing spree. Every time I look around a room, I mentally put price tags on things. Since I'm replacing my couch, I might as well replace my desk, TV armoire, and rug, right? Someone will give me what I want for these things, right?

Well, unfortunately, being a compulsive Craigslister is not easy in a town like Charlottesville. Back in Boston, I could list almost anything and have multiple interested parties within a few days. In Charlottesville, it can take weeks to get a nibble on a good piece of furniture. Still, I list, wait, and have fun with the scammers, who know me as Princess Zamunda (that's the country in which Eddie Murphy's character in Coming to America lived).

Anyone want a Bernhardt armoire? How about a desk I had made in Italy when I was first out of school (and fancied myself to be more sophisticated than I really am)?

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Monday, July 27, 2009

My first encounter with Ikea Panic

This weekend, I experienced something that I'm going to call Ikea Panic. I had only been to Ikea three or four times before, usually with a friend on a mission, but never with any particular purchase in mind for myself (other than a $1 frozen yogurt).

I have a new plan for my living room coming together and it includes casual, slipcovered furniture (right now, the fabrics in there are pretty formal). I settled on a couch (the Alexa from Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams) and want some comfortable arm chairs to either flank or face it. None of the armchairs I was seeing at the usual mall and furniture stores were fitting the image I had in my head. It had to be slipcovered, compact, classic, and affordable. Most of what I was seeing was oversized or too expensive for me to purchase a pair.

On the Ikea website, I saw some cute chairs that seemed to fit my needs and I verified that there were four in stock at the Woodbridge Ikea on Sunday morning. My boyfriend and I got to the store about an hour after it opened and went to see if the chairs were comfortable. During our third or fourth sit in the chairs, I saw some other people looking at the chairs with the same enthusiasm. At that point, I realized that we might be in a race of sorts. There were four chairs in stock. We were at the beginning of the show room. At that point, I got my first taste of Ikea Panic. I had to beat these people to the end! I had to get my chairs!

There was one, legless chair left when we arrived at aisle 12, section 38. There were no simple, white slipcovers. I instructed my boyfriend, who was entertaining himself by rolling up and down the aisle in the cart, to load one chair while I got on line at the help desk. As children pointed at my boyfriend as proof to their parents that the behavior for which they were just scolded was permitted, I tried to distract myself by chatting with the couple in front of me about their kitchen renovation. Still, the thought that I had not beaten the other shoppers to the end was running through my head.

The help desk attendant showed me that three chairs were sold before I had arrived, so I had the very last chair in stock. His computer told him he had at least five white slipcovers in the store and he was able to find two for me, along with the legs of the chair we had.

We left somewhat pleased, but I was a little bummed that I'd have to drive back in a week after new shipment arrives. I don't feel I can share a picture of my little, lone chair right now. I will show you the empty space where my new design plan will hatch over the next few weeks.

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bathroom post-model

Seeing the end of tile and plumbing work in my bathroom was so exciting. I had been planning the remodel of that room for over a year. There were many little details that had to fall into place before I could consider the bathroom finished. That didn't happen until a week ago, when I finally settled on a shower curtain with the thought I'd put off installing glass doors for a few months.

I won't go over the play-by-play. How about some pictures? I put these up on Rate My Space this weekend.

By the way, I love Restoration Hardware and knew I'd have their Dillon bath hardware line and Silver Sage towels in the bathroom from the start. However, certain pieces from the Dillon line are only available in the store, others are only in the catalog, and still others are only on the website. I don't understand their reasoning behind the scattered distribution of items in the same line, but I was a frequent buyer (and returner) at the RH store in Richmond.
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Bathroom remodel: Grout and fixtures

Okay, I was a bit eager to declare my bathroom done. I forgot about the insane amount of legwork tracking down the right grout took.

Originally, TG had said to get grout at Home Depot. For some reason about which many Charlottesville locals gossip, HD has been blocked from opening here. Not only do we have Lowes, we had what was the largest Lowes in the country for a while. But, TG said Home Depot, so I went to Home Depot. I was looking for gray grout, which would blend nicely with the tile. The HD over the mountain in Waynesboro only carries one gray grout color, Delorian Gray. I was pretty sure it was too dark to look nice with my tile, but I lugged a bunch of it home anyway.

After spending all that money on tile, I kept thinking that it wold be a shame to settle for grout that wasn't exactly right. I talked to TG and realized he just liked the style of grout at HD, not the specific brand. Off I went to Lowes to get Laticrete brand grout, which they had in a light gray color called Silver Shadow. The only problem: they only stocked that color in sanded grout. That was fine for the walls, but unsanded grout was needed for the basket weave on the floor. Lowes simply would not order the unsanded grout and the local tile shops didn't have it on hand. One tried to sell me the grout that has to have the color mixed into it, but that is such a chore and there's no guarantee that you'll mix the exact same color if you don't make enough.

Finally, I found a great tile supplier in Richmond with the grout in stock. After work one day, I raced over there to pick up all the grout I needed. Mind you, this was all happening during the busiest time of the year for me at work. TG had told me to get enough unsanded grout to cover 45 square feet of floor and the salesperson at the tile supply gave me one box of unsanded grout, assuring me that it would cover 45 square feet easily.

The next day, TG called me at work saying that the box of unsanded grout hadn't even covered half of the floor. In a panic, I called my boyfriend, who got in the car and drove an hour to Richmond to pick up another box of grout. By the time I got home, the entire room had been grouted and there was a toilet in my bathroom! Hooray!

The next day was the final plumbing day. The sink went in, shower fixtures were mounted, and I said good by to TG. Once he was gone, I realized how much "post model" work has to get done. That's for next time...

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bathroom remodel: And then it was done

Amazingly, once the Tile Guy's life was back in order (and I'm saying that affectionately...I really like the guy), things moved along extremely quickly. When I got home from work each day, I would run to the bathroom and see TG's progress. The day I came home to this, I was giddy with excitement:

Over the next two days, tile made its way to almost every surface. TG put down a quilt to protect the basket weave while he finished up with the baseboard and chair rail and pulling back that quilt was the best part of my day when the time was done. It was all so close to being done!

You may have noticed that in addition to being without my shower, I was without my toilet for the four days when all of this final tile work was being done. The original plan was to stay at my boyfriend's place, but the thought of packing and relocating me and Baxter was a bit much. Now don't go Jill Zarin on me, but I used the bathroom at the complex clubhouse for about four days (I continued to shower at my neighbor's, but didn't want to be in and out of her place constantly). After the first day, I considered treating myself to a nice room at the Boar's Head Inn, but I decided to stay put and keep an eye on the work being done. I convinced myself it was like being at camp. I know that's crazy.

Next time: grout and fixtures

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Baxter on Desire to Inspire

Desire to Inspire has a thing for dogs on chairs. I posted a few links to pictures of Baxter on pieces of furniture and they were posted today!

At this point, Baxter has been photographed by a USA Today reporter, appeared on TV, and is more popular than I am at work (he is on my work blog regularly). It's only fitting that he gets a little attention from the design bloggers, too.
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Bathroom remodel: delays, delays, delays

After losing a day to fixing some problems left by the builders and an afternoon to a mistake by the plumber, Tile Guy (TG) got in a few days of tiling. I was thrilled as the rows of carrera marble subway climbed up the wall.

After that last picture was taken, though, work stopped for a solid week. First, there was a snow storm. Then, the melted snow froze, trapping TG at his home in the mountains (this "refreezing" phenomenon is common in Central Virginia, where snow melts quickly during the day, but freezes overnight), then TG's daughter was in an accident and was in the hospital. I felt badly for TG, but was getting upset.

The shower had been out of commission at this point for two or three weeks. I'm lucky that I have an extremely close relationship with my neighbor (we have each other's keys so we can dog sit and keep an eye on things for each other) and because she leaves for work at a ridiculously early time, I was able to shower at her place. Baxter was loving this arrangement, as he got to come with me and play with my neighbor's dog while I got ready for work, but the whole thing had a dorm quality to it (I never broke down and used a shower caddy to bring things to her place, thankfully).

Things were looking so great...but there was a lot of work left to do and I was getting pretty tired of the delays. Taking a look around the web, I guess I was in good company. A lot of people have stories about unexpected delays in renovation work. I'd venture to guess those are on much bigger projects than mine...or am I wrong?
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Bathroom remodel: Fixing the builder's shortcuts

During demo day, TG (Tile Guy) found that the builders of my condo complex cut a few corners. The first discovery was the most nerve wracking. There was no waterproof material behind the tiles in the shower area. This meant that any wear in the grout or caulking around the tub could have easily allowed water to find its way to the drywall, insulation, and wood work behind the tile. When TG told me this, I quickly posted a message on my condo community's discussion board letting people know to repair their grout and caulk if there was any sign of problems. I got a reply pretty quickly that someone else had already experienced a problem with this.

The second problem was in the floor. Vinyl sheeting had been laid directly on the concrete base floor (I'm on the ground floor) and after peeling it up, TG found a big crack in that concrete. Had I been DIYing, I wouldn't have through twice about working right over the vinyl, but TG told me that crack could have gotten worse, so he repaired and sealed it, then laid a waterproof liner on the floor.

We lost a full day to fixing these little presents left to us by the builder. Knowing I was a little discouraged, TG managed to put a few rows of subway up so I would have something to look at overnight.

Oh! I forgot one funny incident. After TG framed out my shower niche, he instructed the plumber to run a new supply line up to where the shower head would go. TG returned and immediately called the plumber. Here is how the conversation started:
TG: Dude, you ran your supply line right through my niche!
Plumber: What's a niche?
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Bathroom remodel: demo day!

Like I was anticipating the start of my bathroom remodel, you might have been itching for an end to the "pre-model" posts so I would get to the good stuff. Well, demolition day finally arrived on February 18th, about two months after my original start date (which was delayed due to problems with my tile order). I work from home a few days a week during the winter, so I was able to document most of the process.

I didn't realize demolition was necessary. I thought TG (tile guy) would tap, tap, tap the old tiles off the wall with little effort. When he went into the bathroom to start working, I was sitting at my desk with Baxter, my golden retriever, at my feet taking a nap. Within a few minutes, I was questioning whether I could work at home at all during the work and Baxter was looking extremely distressed and worried:

Poor Baxter, upset over all the noise

When TG walked out the door carrying an entire wall, I jumped up from the desk and flew into the bathroom to see what was happening. Surprise! We're going down to the studs! It's a good thing, too, because the people who built these condos didn't put any waterproof material behind the tile. Now, that's not really a problem right now, as the buildings are only about four years old and my grout was intact. I later found out from my condo community's message board that others had problems with grout failing and water seeping into the drywall (hello, mold!).

The rest of the day was spent cringing as all sorts of noises came from the bathroom. Baxter was warming up to TG (he had to show TG how the baby gate worked...Baxter can open it, but TG couldn't figure it out), though he looked at me in confusion when he started singing along to his music (TG is the lead singer in a local band). The end of the first day wasn't so bad, though I was creeped out by the open walls and was convinced all sorts of critters would have unfettered access to my place without the drywall up.

Here's a pictorial recap of day one:

Tomorrow: Plumbing and tile

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Bathroom pre-model: paint and lighting

While I waited for my tile guy to finish the project he started during the delay of my tile delivery, I decided to change the paint and overhead lighting in the bathroom. Neither task as all that challenging, but picking paint is what brought me to the home of the decor blogging doyenne, Mrs. Limestone.

I had narrowed my color choices down to a few, similar colors and googled the names to find pictures of rooms that had already been painted in those colors (the virtual painting tools on websites never seem to help me make decisions). Searching for Benjamin Moore's Quiet Moments and bathrooms brought me to Mrs. Lime's posts on GardenWeb and then to her blog. Seeing her master bathroom made me confident that the color would look great, but it also made me realize that my tile choices were almost the same as someone else's. At first, I worried about being a copycat, but her pictures also helped a skeptical boyfriend realize that my marble tile was going to look nice in my tiny bathroom.

Before I started painting, I bought a small, relatively inexpensive chandelier on ebay for the overhead light (there was also a vanity light to buy, but I decided to wait until my medicine cabinet was up to get that). The boyfriend was extremely suspect of putting a chandelier in the bathroom and I assured him that this wasn't an outrageous thing to do. Of course, at that point, I had a hard time finding pictures of bathrooms with chandeliers, so he continued to think I was he was convinced to hold the thing over his head as I connected the wires.

The bathroom was looking pretty good, but I couldn't wait to see some bigger changes.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bathroom pre-model: Tile Shopping

Before I started my bathroom remodel, I made trip after trip to tile stores around the region in search of the perfect tile at the perfect price. One day, I went into a chain I had never heard of called The Tile Shop and was really surprised at their great prices on marble basket weave tile. Their prices were so good that I let myself order marble subway tiles to go with the basket weave (I had been planning on using bead board or simple, ceramic subway tiles). I knew the tile wasn't the very best quality, but I thought that going for the top of the line (I really loved thassos basket weave, which was $50/sq ft) would have been foolish because I was renovating a tiny condo bathroom.

I should have be suspect of the great prices and of the gentle suggestion given by a former employee of the store that I stay away from them. The tile that arrived was nothing like the tile on display in the store. They gave me boxes and boxes of yellow tile. I have to admit that I cried over all that bad tile. Even at the great price, it was a huge purchase and the bad batch also meant that the start of my remodel would be delayed.

Delivered tile with a sample pieces of subway on top of it

After about a week of promises from the store, no tile that matched what was on display was found. I even wrote to the corporate office trying to get help. In the end, the order was canceled and I was back to square one when it came to tile.

The internet, as you probably know, is full of tile stores. I was leery of trusting a store again and searched message boards for information about stores that had good prices and consistent quality. That search took me to ebay. I found a seller in Canada who had very good prices and a reasonable ship fee. Past buyers had great things to say about him. Still, I was nervous. I remember holding my breath as I hit "submit" on my PayPal payment to him.

I had nothing to worry about. The tile that arrived (bubble wrapped and cushioned) was beautiful. The only odd thing was that the subway tiles were on mesh. My tile guy later guessed that it protected the tiles from smashing together during shipment.

With the tile in, work could start, but because of the delay, my tile guy had taken another job (totally understandable...I wouldn't expect him to turn down jobs in a bad economy while The Tile Shop tried to track down tile).

That left some time for a few more projects...
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Bathroom remodel

Remember the pictures of the empty condo that I posted back when I started the blog? The bathroom bothered me in a pretty big way.

From The Empty Condo

At first, I thought I would just switch out the plumbing fixtures, get a new toilet, tile the floor, and consider the bathroom good enough. Stumbling upon marble basketweave tile last summer changed my plan. The stuff was gorgeous. It was carrera (why are there multiple spellings of that word?) and I had to have it. My bathroom plan started to come together.

Now, I should tell you up front that the total cost of my bathroom remodel was low and I think that's because I gathered materials very slowly, over the course of about five months, by shopping on ebay. The drawback was that in a tiny condo, I had an ever growing pile of supplies sitting out for months. It didn't bother me, though I did curse myself a little bit when I pushed a sink out of the way to vacuum or hid everything in my bedroom when people came over.

For the next week or so, I'm going to share the process as it happened. I'm far enough away from the project that I can laugh about some of the unexpected surprises that happened, so feel free to make fun of my missteps.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

DIY gone wrong

I'm not giving you a large image because I'm embarrassed. It's bad. I'm already looking into a simple stencil and a glaze to tone this down.

In a way, I have to laugh. So many decor bloggers seem to hit home runs all the time. I'm just not as crafty as most.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Giant stencil needed

I'm not above saying a made a mistake and I think I made a big one this weekend. Looking at my patio this morning, I didn't like it. It looked shabby to me. So shabby, I'm afraid to post a picture of it.

Maybe I can find a giant stencil...something baroque-ish to go over my weak paint job? I'll be googling as soon as I get home.

Yeah, I'll post a picture. I just need an hour or so to work up the courage to share my failure with you.
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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Feeding my paint addiction

Not having painted anything in quite some time, I was itching for a project that would let me haul out my brushes and rollers. My patio has gotten a bit of my attention recently and I thought I could try to add a little something extra to it. The project is still in progress, so I won't have final photos until tomorrow.

For now, her are photos of what is probably the smallest patio in the world. I thought I'd do some quick cleaning on Friday, but the filth was much more substantial than I expected and I was still scrubbing on Saturday afternoon. At first, I was going to use TSP, but after reading the label, decided I didn't want it anywhere near my plants and the critters that creep around out there. I read that full strength vinegar would help, but that didn't do too, too much. Finally, I went into the Blue Ridge Eco Shop and they told me that the stuff that's in OxyClean should be safe to use around plants and animals. Here's hoping...the wild sunflowers are still standing.

Can you tell what I'm doing? Can you tell that I taped and re-taped about half a dozen times because I was convinced that my measurements were off?

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Friday, July 10, 2009

DIY...on a very small (and hopefully chic) scale

I pride myself on being handy around the house, but I fall short of being crafty or a true DIYer. I love to paint, I'm pretty good with electricity, and I like using my drill. But that's pretty much it.

This weekend, I'm doing a DIY project that is a little bigger than I'm used to. It will probably take until Sunday and I'll be able to share pictures of my success or tremendous failure then.

For now, I thought I'd share my last little project in greater detail than I did on Mrs. Limestone's blog a few weeks ago (she let me guest blog and got me thinking about starting a blog of my own). I stumbled upon KaarsKoker candle sleeves on a blog last year and lusted after them. I considered ordering them online, but was a little nervous about picking the right color. Luckily a swanky lighting store called Timberlake Lighting (with an adorable logo) opened up in town and they carried the sleeves. I made a special trip up to their store one Saturday morning and was greeted with a locked door. Their hours: 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. I was dumbfounded. In this day and age, who has such hours? I wasn't interested in leaving the office to make a special trip to the store (I deliberately bought a home within walking distance of my office, so the trip would include going home to get the car).

In addition to the limited hours of the lighting store, the price of those pretty, little sleeves seemed a bit much for what they were - paper. I decided to try to make my own.

First, I bought some decorative paper as the Caspari boutique (for some reason, we have the largest and perhaps only Caspari boutique in the country). I used a paper cutter to slice the paper into strips as wide as the plastic candle sleeves on the chandelier in my bathroom.

Did you get caught on the chandelier being in the bathroom? My boyfriend thinks it's hilarious. I think it's pretty.

Anyway, I used a glue stick to secure the paper to the plastic sleeves and rolled. That's it. Done. Total cost: $2.35

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Finishing up the dining room...for now

The last big item I needed for the dining "nook" was some sort of storage piece, which would also serve as a landing spot for keys and mail. At first, I thought I was looking for a buffet, but that would also lead to needing something for the wall. I wasn't sure I wanted more art or mirrors in the space because I had already bought a set of six, large mirrors for the opposite wall.

Having never lived in a home with a china cabinet, I was hesitant to purchase one. While browsing (dreaming?) the Horchow website one day, I found a sleek, modern cabinet that was priced reasonably and I decided to give it a try. When it arrived, I was happy to see that that cabinet was made fairly locally, in Pulaski, Virginia.

The tough part came when I got out my accessories and tried to place them in groups. I was clueless. But, eventually, I decided to stop over thinking the placement of the objects. After all, they'd get moved around over time, right? Is the arrangement attractive? I don't know. It's not something I really concern myself with. I don't think a week goes by with the same items sitting in the same places in the cabinet.

If you have any opinions about where this stuff should go, let me know. Oh, and I tried to line the back with pretty paper and even considered painting it, but I'm not sure I can do it to a new purchase. Maybe in a few years!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Battle of the sexes: Alex vs. Alexa

I've narrowed my options down to the Alex sofa with the kick pleats and the Alexa sofa. It's a battle of the sexes!

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009


You'll notice that I won't be talking much about my living room for the foreseeable future on this blog. The reason is that the furniture I bought for that room five years ago isn't what appeals to me today. Oddly, what I bought in my 20s is too formal for my tastes today.

Now, I've narrowed down all the options out there to two Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams sofas. One, the Alexa, has round arms and classic lines. The other, the Alex, is similar in scale, but has squared arms. The Alex has two options when it comes to its slipcover: kick pleats or no kick pleats (at the bottom of the slipcover).

What would you do?

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

A weekend of firsts

A weekend of firsts for my nephew...

I'll be back to the design talk in a few days.
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Friday, July 3, 2009

Change of scenery

I'm in Boston to spend a few days with family and then attend a conference for work. Along the way, I hope to pop into the Design Center and a few boutiques on Charles Street to get a little inspiration for my next big project.

I have also found out that my brother and sister-in-law are undertaking a huge renovation project - an addition that will almost double the size of their home - starting next summer. Our styles are very different and obviously our space constraints are on different planets. She's also going to use as many "green" products as possible. She plans to blog along the way and at the very least, I hope she'll consider guest blogging here to give readers (all four of you, it seems) some diversity.
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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Playing with electricity

Working with electricity has always made me a little nervous. I'd rather paint a room with crazy angles or assemble one of those pieces of furniture that comes with a tiny allen wrench (which isn't just an Ikea thing...I had something from Nordstrom come that way!).

Looking at chandeliers for the dining room was a lot of fun, but as I got closer to making my final decision, I was getting increasingly worried. How the heck was I going to hang it once I got it? I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind and debated the most worthy light fixture of the finalists I had assembled.

I kept coming back to the 5th chandelier. I thought it was the right one for my space, but I couldn't see what was going on underneath the drum shade and neither the catalog, nor the website had more pictures.

Luckily, Shades of Light is a Richmond, VA based business. I didn't know this at the time...I had gotten the catalog in Boston and assumed it was a catalog business, not a brick and mortar store. Not only is there a huge showroom in Richmond, there's an outlet as well! As luck would have it, that showroom also has some of the nicest staff members and they offered to order the chandelier (it wasn't in house) with no obligation to me just so I could see what was under that shade.

When the fixture arrived, I was delighted by the scale - the drum shade was big...not too, too big, but big enough that I had to put the seats down in my car to get it home. The chandelier underneath was beautiful. It was modern, but still had some bling. Perfect.

As luck would have it, my neighbor was as comfortable working with electricity as I was about working with paint. I had her direction (along with Be Jane, a DIY site geared towards women) to guide me through hanging the chandelier.

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Small and Chic in East Harlem

While I love looking at magazine spreads about palatial homes, my pulse quickens when I find a feature showing a small, thoughtfully decorated place like Michelle Adam's place in East Harlem. Alas, only those with access to Real Living, an Australian shelter mag, get to see the article about her place in person. The rest of us can read about it on her blog.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The search for a dining room table

I'm tagging these posts about my dining area as "dining room" which isn't really appropriate. The dining room is more of a nook. The space is a tiny space with the front door on one side and the kitchen on the other. A huge part of the space has to stay open for foot traffic and the placement of the entryway to the kitchen keeps another side of the room open.

I've dreamed up having a round dining table, but it wasn't the right shape for my space. Still, I lusted after these two tables repeatedly:

That second one almost looks like a chess piece, doesn't it?

Anyway, I had to let them go and look for something else. I thought I was looking for a rectangle and was prowling the usual sites for possibilities. One night, though, I went to Target and saw something that I thought could work. But, I was convinced that my custom dining chairs were worthy of something bought elsewhere and kept looking.

A few weeks later, I came across that Target table again, this time on sale. The price was so low ($150) that I decided it wasn't too much of a gamble. When it arrived, I was surprised by how attractive it was. It actually reminded me of a Baker table.

Cotswald Dining Table by Baker

Table by Target

When I got the Target table assembled (by myself, I might add...I felt like Superwoman because the box said two people were needed), I realized that the chair legs had to be placed a certain way so the chairs could be tucked in.

Easy solution: I took the cross bars out of the equation.

For the first time in months, I could sit down in my dining area for a meal. What a momentous occasion! Of course, we promptly went back to eating half of our meals in the living room.

There was still more to be done in the dining room...

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