Friday, October 29, 2010

The last big project

My to do list has gotten a bit shorter in recent weeks, but one major project has remained: the kitchen counters. Yesterday was template day. The laminate is finally going to go!

Do you all think I'm crazy not to be picking my slab? The company I'm using has a slab yard in Manassas, which is two hours away from here. I was going to stop by on my way home from a business trip, but my schedule was too tight. If I wasn't trying to slowly separate myself from this place, I'd be all over this.

One decision I had to make (and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this) was about the back splash. Currently, the laminate counters have back splashes that go about four inches up the wall...

In my forever home, I'd probably want the counters to end at the wall, not extend up it. I'd install some tile on the walls between the counters and the cabinets. However, with outlets all over the place and my magnetic spice racks taking up one wall in the kitchen, I decided that I would duplicate what was done already and have a "poor man's" back splash installed.

Pre-paint, but you can see the spice racks here

I'm going to the granite place today to sign the contract and make my deposit. I can still change the back splash you think I should?
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Cville Design House...the next chapter

Victoria Pouncey's bedroom

I posted quite a few entries about the 2010 Charlottesville Design House last spring. After years without a design house in this little city, the Shelter for Help in Emergency bought the concept back in a big way and a slew of fantastic, local designers pitched in to transform a slightly awkward house into an interesting, and relatively cohesive house (an oddity for a design house!).

"Man Cave" by Rebecca Bell Nordin

Kathy Davies' parlor

As you may remember, a friend bought the house at the end of the design house week and even purchased some of the items the designers had brought in for the event.

Moyanne Harding's sunroom

I shared a few pictures from the house during different stages, from the MLS photos, to a few vignettes from the house, to "after" pictures taken once everyone went home.

Andrea Gibson's dining room

Living room by Tamara Lacy &Nancy Wardle of Interior Concepts

At some point, I'll post some pictures of the work that has been done since the design house looks like a totally different house!

Caroline MacDonnell-Minsky's bedroom

Anyway, if you're curious about the layout of the house and better pictures of what the designers did, there is a gallery on the website now.

Bathroom by Heidi Brooks

The hunt for the 2011 Design House has already begun. Instead of just posting about the design house when it actually happens, I thought I'd blog throughout the planning process this year, so you can see how these sorts of things come together. At times, I might ask you to weigh in on a few decisions, too! Are you game?

Gym by Pye Interiors

For now, mark your calendars for the 2011 Design House:

Saturday, April 30 - Sunday, May 15

All photos by Robert Radifera and from the Cville Design House website.
Forgive me for not remembering the designer behind each room!
More pictures and floorplans are in the gallery section of the site. Go check it out!
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A visit from HomeStyle

I mentioned a visit from a local home magazine the other day and I guess I should actually address that. HomeStyle, which is a monthly magazine published by the Daily Progress (our daily paper), is doing an issue about living small in December. They contacted me to have my place photographed for some sort of piece in that issue.

Having a professional photographer in my place was the motivation I needed to get a few projects done around the place. Hence, yesterday's patio painting.

By the way, I stopped at my favorite nursery, The Garden Spot, to pick up some flowers for my planters and learned two interesting things. First, pansies last longer than mums in the cold weather. I had NO idea. I thought mums were the most hardy flower out there. One of the staff members at The Garden Spot said that pansies would probably last far into the winter. Second, that something I thought was rare is pretty common around here. After a scratch behind the ears for the nursery's dog, Chrissy, I went in to pay for my flowers and saw osage oranges.

I first saw these on Lauren Liess' blog, Pure Style Home, and was sort of fascinated by them. They were only $2 each at the nursery! I had to grab a few. When Marc saw them, he commented that he sometimes sees them on the side of the road. Needless to say, I will find this road and bring more of these little guys home!

Okay, back to HomeStyle. I'm not sure I was the best interview. When I was asked for tips for living small, I was at a loss for words. Who am I to have tips? I know what I've done, but I don't feel like I'm some sort of authority on the subject and I really don't like telling people what to do in most situations. But maybe bloggers have to get comfortable with those sorts of questions. I said some random stuff that I don't remember at this point.

When the issue comes out in late November, I'll let you all know about it.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Patio rehab

Very early in my blogging career, I shared a terrible DIY project. It was so bad that I only posted a teeny, tiny picture of what I had done.

I tried to paint a pattern onto my patio. Without the aid of a stencil, the result was horrible. Neighbors were kind enough not to comment on the disaster.

Over a year later, the patio was filthy and the bad paint job was still there. Yesterday's visit from a Charlottesville shelter magazine inspired me to get the porch back to normal. First, I swept and scrubbed. That didn't do much.

Then I used something along the lines of OxyClean that I picked up at the Blue Ridge EcoShop a while back.

Ew. The patio was terrible. What was I thinking?

With a bit of elbow grease and some concrete paint, I had it looking like this within a few hours:

Clean slate! Now what? Should I leave it like this or go to Sunny's and get a fun stencil for the center?
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Shop Tour: The Shade Shop

I thought I snapped a bunch of pictures at the Shade Shop the other day, but I didn't. I did take a picture of the finial display, the workroom table where we played with the shade options, and the shade room.

A year ago, I wrote about Hillman Electric, the lighting store in my hometown where we shopped for lamps. While my mother shopped, I used to stare at the finials. They were in a round display case that had a motor that spun the rack around. Maybe that's why I'm drawn to finials...they're totally unnecessary, but so nice to have.

The shade rooms are pretty big...the options are pretty extensive.

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Dressing up cheap lamps

A while back, I doctored some jankety Target shades to work with a pair of pineapple lamps I found on Craigslist for $15. The result was fine, but the shades weren't a secure as you'd want.

With a local home magazine on the way to my place today, I decided it was time to get proper shades on those lamps. I already had a pair of black, oval shades on the lamps across the room and I thought I'd see if I could get another set of them from The Shade Shop here in Charlottesville (see them on either side of the bed here).

I knew I wanted the shades to come down quite low so the scale of the lamps would look right on the dresser. Having once seen a wall of lamp harps in all sizes at The Shade Shop, I was pretty sure I could accomplish the look without clamping a shade to the neck of the lamp, which I did with the Target shades.

Wouldn't you know it, I was able to get this tiny harp for my lamp.

They also had equally tiny bulbs that would fit under that harp.

My design intern was especially helpful during this project.

Oh hai.

Looking into the lamp, everything looked great. No jankety stuff here! I also found a pretty finial for the top of the lamps...snazzy, huh?

Now, the final product...better, right?

I'll post a few iPhone pictures from inside The Shade Shop in a little while. You all know how much of a lighting nerd I am...I had to snap pictures!
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Sunday, October 24, 2010

He had no idea...

Marc had no idea why I was so adamant about the size and number of pumpkins we needed.

(The star is for Starr Hill, a local brewery that he has a lot of contact with through his job.
You may have noticed Starr Hill products in the "stew room" on Top Chef this season.)
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Has your mortgage changed hands?

When I bought my condo, I got my mortgage though a company I read about on Bankrate (Bankrate is an aggregater of financial information). I can't remember the name of the company at this point, but it was based in Atlanta.

Immediately after closing, that company transferred the mortgage to Flagstar Bank, a pretty big bank based in the Midwest. I had been expecting that and happily made payments for a few months.

Eventually, Flagstar sold my mortgage to CitiMortgage. I was fine with this, as Citi had a better website and setting up my automatic payments and escrow account was quick and easy. I didn't really think about the monthly mortgage after that. Citi was humming away in the background.

When I got home from my most recent business trip, I had a letter from Citi saying they were selling my mortgage to "IBM Lender Business Process Services, Inc." This is effective on November 1st. That's in a few days. I'm supposed to send my November 1st mortgage payment directly to IBM. I called Citi about the lack of information about where to send my payment and the staffer to whom I spoke was a little wishy washy. He told me not to worry, that I'd probably make my payment late, but it wasn't a big deal. Really? Late mortgage payments aren't a big deal? That's interesting.

I went to the website for IBM Lender Business Process Services, Inc. (who in the world came up with that catchy name?) and found out that they just go by LBPS. They charge a $5 fee for paying online or by phone. If I want to set up a direct transfer from my bank, I have to mail in a form.

Here's where this gets interesting. I just called IBM because I don't have any account number or form to send to them with this November 1st payment. They were very nice (far nicer than the Citi guy I spoke to earlier). They told me that I won't get my paper work until after November 1st. In fact, my "welcome packet" probably wouldn't arrive until the middle of the month. They assured me that I wouldn't be assessed a late fee or be reported as paying my mortgage late. Regardless, I'm a little uncomfortable with the fact that I don't know where to send a very important payment that is due in just a few days.

This whole thing is just annoying. It has me wondering if the transferring of mortgages is common. Is everyone getting passed around the way I have been? Has your mortgage been transferred? How many times?
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Urban chicken keeping

I hope you'll entertain one last Preservation Piedmont post. One of the stops on the tour was something that a few of the families involved share.

The chickens seemed perfectly nice when we visited them, but according to Gillian of Dried Figs and Woolen Spools, there were some conflicts among the ladies of the coop. A few have moved on.

Regardless of how you feel about urban chicken keeping, you'll be charmed by the pictures of these hens that Gillian took over the last few months.
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McMansions are out...can we lose the oversized furniture now?

It took all this time for me to see the not-so-new Restoration Hardware furniture in person. I have been a pretty big fan of RH in the past and thought this line was pretty attractive when I saw it online and in the catalog. In person, however, I think most of the stuff is just plain ridiculous.

The scale of this furniture is huge. There isn't a stick of it that would fit in my home. The lamps in this picture were taller than most people in the store. The sofa was so deep that my legs would have stuck straight out if I sat back in it. I would look like the clown from The Comfy Couch, a scary children's show that one of the little girls I used to babysit loved to watch.

The odd thing is that because everything in this photo is HUGE, it all looks really normal. Sorry, Resto. You lost me of this collection. Scale it down and I might be on board.

Did you like this stuff when you saw it in person? Maybe I was just tired when I went into the store and wasn't giving it a fair chance.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Who else is living small?

I know you're out there. I know there are other people in the Charlottesville area who are living small, but living stylishly. Where are you?

I promise you that there's a reason I'm asking. I promise that you won't regret it.

If you're out there, won't you drop me a line?

Photo courtesy of Anne Riley
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Giving up on an icon

When I moved into my first apartment in college, I wasn't as concerned about dishes and glasses as I was about getting a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.

My mother is a baker. Some of my earliest memories involve making cookies and cakes with that mixer. She'd pull a stool up to the counter and I'd help measure out ingredients. This was so routine that we never had store-bought treats when I was a kid (as a result, we usually hoped the Easter Bunny would bring us Twinkies!). Having a Kitchen Aid mixer in the kitchen was as important as having a toaster.

Soon after I got that first apartment, I got that Kitchen Aid mixer. It served me well for quite some time, but a few years ago, it started to be sluggish. My mother's mixer is probably about 40 years old and it's going strong, but mine was having trouble at 10 years old. It protested with a pitiful whine towards the end of cookie making sessions, when the ingredients approached a doughy consistency. I started wondering if like many companies, Kitchen Aid had changed their manufacturing practices over the years. My mixer just wasn't the work horse that my mother's is.

So, I switched. I sold my Kitchen Aid on Craigslist. When I called my mother to tell her, she was very, very quiet. Kitchen Aid mixers are clearly supposed to have one and only one owner. I had already done some research and settled on a replacement.

I switched to the Cuisinart stand mixer and I'm so happy with it! It's got as many attachments as the Kitchen Aid, but most of them are metal.

I also love that it has a built in timer. You can set the mixer to run for a set amount of time and just walk away. It also works up to the speed that you select, so you never have a cloud of flour in your face after starting it up too quickly.

The latch to the left of the timer and dial releases the top. With the Kitchen Aid, you had to unlock the top and then lift it yourself. My Cuisinart's top lifts itself once you flick that latch and give the top part a little nudge.

I got the food processor attachment for free and have been making bread crumbs for meatballs and oat flour for dog treats fairly regularly (Baxter automatically hovers when I use the mixer, so I guess I use it more for him than for me!).

Does anyone else own a Cuisinart? Do you like it as much as I do? What about the Viking stand mixer? I saw that after I bought my Cuisinart and wonder how it compares. I don't think stand mixers are very popular any more, but I suspect that those who have them have stuck to the Kitchen Aid just because it's been around forever.

The Kitchen Aid mixer will always be iconic, but if you're a serious baker and having committed to a mixer yet, check out the Cuisinart. I've been really happy with mine.

I didn't really mean to write a review, but I guess this became one. No company was involved in this post.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A lightening fast decision

I'm not the most decisive person, but thinking about possibly putting my condo on the market in the next year or so has me being much more objective about my place.

The idea of picking counter tops for my kitchen has been pretty overwhelming for the last year. On Saturday, I just decided that it was time to get it done. That's been the biggest "to do" item on my list and I want to check it off soon.

Personally, I like white-on-white kitchens. If I had my way, I'd have marble counters. However, I realize that the average person is afraid of marble. Even though there is marble in Europe that is older than our country, people seem to think it's too fragile for them.

After watching a lot of HGTV and looking at real estate listings, I realized that buyers seem almost programed to want granite and stainless steel appliances. So, off to the granite stores I went. I really liked Absolute Black granite when I saw it in the first store. However, the sales guy said that most people like granite with more movement in it and the couple I watched shop backed that up. There was no way I was going for something swirly...I have to live with it after all. There was one option that had a little more going on than the Absolute Black and it was just a wee bit less expensive.

Meet Impala Black granite.

Impala Black granite against Benjamin Moore Smoke

Impala Black granite against Benjamin Moore Secret




I'm pretty meh about it, but the laminate is terrible. It has to go!
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Monday, October 18, 2010

More perspective: the living room

Once again, I thought I'd show some pictures that will give you an idea of how the different parts of my place come together.

Your critical eyes are needed once again. I'm in the very, very early stages of thinking about selling my condo. I'm kind of torn...I've put some much into this place and I'm proud of the upgrades I have done. However, I could see myself moving on in the next year or so.

So, what would you keep and what would you change about this space?

Do you think the long wall, where the sofa is, needs something else? What about the wall where the TV is? I'm a bit of a minimalist (except when it comes to pottery, I guess), so I personally like the walls, but I don't know how they "show" to a visitor.

You can't tell that a dog lives here, can you? His mat and toy box are in the corner under the HVAC return (thank goodness you all convinced me to paint that thing).

If I sell, Olivia the sheep has to come down for the listing photos, doesn't she. Might she be too awesome and distracting for the MLS?
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Preservation Piedmont House Tour, Part 4

I have one more set of pictures from the Preservation Piedmont House Tour to share with you. This traditional home was on Park Street.

The sun room off the back of the house was beautiful. I'd love to hang out here!

The kitchen was probably bigger than my entire condo.

I hope you've enjoyed the sneak peek into the homes in downtown Charlottesville!
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