Friday, July 27, 2012

Before & After in The Magic House: Outdoors

For the last installment of the Magic House series, I'm going to share before and after shots of the house exterior and the yard.  The house was sort of nondescript before and the yard was a little lacking.

Okay, a lot lacking. The door in this picture leads to the boiler room that became a laundry room. 
I shared pictures of that room a couple days ago.

The pipe coming out of the wall is about where the hot water heater is located. 

The property takes up a slice of the block, with a street on the front and a different street on the back.  Below, you'll see a storage shed that's on the other side of a little stream that cuts across the back part of the property.  The only way to access the shed was to drive around the block to the street that borders the back of the yard.

You've already seen the after picture of the front of the house.  I shared that when this series began.

The porch they added is really cute, don't you think?

Here's one of my favorite parts.  The backyard is so much better!  They cleaned up the area around the little stream that runs through the back of the property and added a little bridge so the storage shed was accessible with out driving around the block.

They also added a small deck and patio to the back. 

Now, let's revisit the idea that this is a "magic" house.  I started saying the house was magic because it never lost power when the rest of us in the neighborhood did (we've probably lost power three times so far this year).  In all likelihood, this house is connected to a different part of the power grid that the rest of us.  It doesn't make sense because this house is no older than the other homes on the block.  Before the renovation, it wasn't any more prominent, either.

 Did you miss any Magic House posts?  

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Before & After in The Magic House: The Living Spaces

Working with the Magic House's before pictures is starting to depress me, so I'm going to cover all of the interiors in one big post today.  It's not that the house was in terrible condition, it just needed to be taken care of better.  The neglect in some of the pictures makes me a little sad.

The fact that there's still a real estate agent's lock box on the front door in this pictures makes me think that this is how the house was left.  I have to imagine that many buyers just ran the other way when they saw construction debris and unfinished projects in the house.

Moving on, let's look at these space after work was completed. 

I just found this picture from the little room that became the laundry room, which I shared yesterday.  The HVAC and water heater used to be just sitting out in the open. 

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Before & After in The Magic House: The Kitchen & Laundry

The owner of the Magic House told me that she refused to step into the scary boiler room that was behind the kitchen when her family first moved in.  The door alone has an ominous look to it, don't you think?

The space behind the door was pretty creepy and really, really dirty.  It was probably considered storage space for the previous owners.

Looking back towards the kitchen

What do you do with a room that has a drain in the floor?  The Magic House couple turned the space into a laundry room.  It's kind of amazing that the room is downright cheerful now!

The kitchen's looking pretty cute, too.  They probably took pity on me by not sharing the before pictures of the kitchen.  They probably would have made me weep.

Here's a little post script for the bathroom post from last week.  If you've ever lived in an old house, you've probably seen a slot in the medicine cabinet.  Those where were men dumped their razors when they became dull.  I don't know why someone decided this was an awesome idea.  Maybe they didn't imagine a time when people might open up the walls to renovate.  If they did, they'd imagine this lovely pile of used razors, found behind the walls of the Magic House's bathroom:

Isn't that charming?

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Before & After in The Magic House: The Bathroom

I have loads of before and after shots to share of The Magic House, but I thought I'd start with my favorites. 

The Magic House's bathroom wasn't horrible, but it had a "this is a rental" feel to me.  It also felt a little small.  The after shots make it seem pretty spacious and modern, don't you think?

Yes, one of the "during" shots is of the living room.  I thought it was funny to see the toilet sitting front and center (the front door is to the right of where the camera is). 
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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Magic House

A few blocks away from where I live, there is a house that was pretty forgettable.  It had symmetry on its side, but it looked a little sad.

One day, someone I know moved into the little house.  They worked on the little house, inside and out, until it looked like this:

Now, what about the magic part?  The magic became apparent in the aftermath of a horrible storm.  The storm caused a massive blackout that affected almost every part of town.  The little house never lost power.  The Magic House doesn't have a generator.  The owners don't know why they don't lose power.  I've guessed that they're somehow on a different part of the "grid" than the others on the street, but I don't know enough about how electrical lines are laid to know for sure.

Over the next few days, I'll share before and after shots from around and inside the house.  I also got a few pictures that the owners took during the renovation work they did.  You'll notice that the "after" pictures are from the MLS.  Sadly, they are moving away from Charlottesville, so someone else will get to take on the Magic House soon. 

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Marc's Hidden Talent

I assumed that I would be in charge of writing our thank you notes after our wedding, but joked with Marc that we'd be sitting down to write our notes together.  I went so far as to make two lists of letters that needed to be written, one for me and one for him.  For some reason, I though he'd procrastinate and I'd just take care of everything.

Well, wasn't I surprised when we sat down to write our notes and Marc not only wrote more than the ones on his list, he demonstrated an amazing talent for writing them!

Our writing styles are very different. It takes me 30-60 minutes to write a thank you note.  I feel like being succinct requires a bit of thought.  One can't really ramble in a thank you note, which you may have noticed is a habit of mine.  Marc can write a heartfelt, personal, and amusing (when appropriate) note in a fraction of the time I take.

One of the gifts we received was an amazing trivet designed by Michael Aram.  Michael Aram designed our china, but parted ways with Waterford at the end of last year.  My china was discontinued, but some beautiful new items Aram designed became available at the stores where we registered, so I added a few serving pieces, the trivet being one of them.  Part of Marc's thank you note for that gift reads:
"...thank you for the beautiful trivet designed by Michael Aram.  Jeannine is  looking forward to using it and I am looking forward to learning what a trivet is.  You'll have to come over and join us for dinner to see it in action!"
Another one reads:
“I didn’t know we needed a ___(gift)___, but Mrs. Mink assures me we did and that it’s lovely.”
As I read Marc's notes, I started to feel sorry for the guests who were on my part of the list!

How did you tackle writing thank you notes?  Did you divide your list or did one of you write more notes than the other?

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Monday, July 9, 2012

I have a big secret...

I've been hiding something from you, Hive. The fear that you'd think I was silly or wasteful has prevented me from sharing this with you.  I also wanted it to be a surprise at our wedding and though Mr. Mink doesn't read Weddingbee, I know some of our friends and family do.

So I'm going to close my eyes and type it out really quickly.  Here we go.

I am a two-dress bride.

Let me back up and start at the beginning. All of the dresses I felt drawn to in my preliminary searching for a wedding dress were by fairly expensive designers.  I also wanted to try to buy from someone who was making their gowns in the America.  I went to shops and tried on dresses and wound up with six dresses that I liked. I didn't think I could afford any of them new, but could definitely afford them used or as samples. I started searching the sample/secondhand sites every morning for those six dresses.

 Dari by Rivini, via Recycled Bride / Bernadette by Monique Lhuillier, via Style Me Pretty
L191 by Romona Keveza, via Project Wedding / Celine by Amsale, via Project Wedding

Then, I won a one-of-a-kind Jorge Manuel gown, The Star. I stopped looking at the sample sites. Jorge's team flew me to Charleston to pick up my dress. Not knowing who would win the dress, Jorge wisely made it in a bridal size 8.  Lindsey from Maddison Row clamped me into the dress and I felt beautiful in it.  But, I felt unworthy.  I had settled on the idea that I would wear a secondhand wedding dress and then I was whisked away to try on a one-of-a-kind gown (and put up in a villa at a resort for the night, too).  I have to admit that I felt guilty.  I figured out how to get a dream dress at a big discount.  What about the girls out there who hadn't done that?  Did I deserve the dress more than them?

On the practical side, I also felt a little scared. I had read online that a seamstress could take a dress up or down a size or two.  I wasn't sure about my size in bridal sizing, but I was worried that altering the dress might ruin it. I was also worried about how much it would cost to do extensive alterations.

When I got home, I brought that gorgeous Jorge Manuel gown to a charming seamstress named Thuy and she decided to do two rounds of alterations.  She'd bring the dress down to my general size right away and then I'd return closer to the wedding to having it fitted. Thuy loved my gown, but as she inspected it and clucked over adjustments she'd be making, I was worried about whether she could make it work. She had to work around the floral detail that stretched around the sides of the dress (my favorite part!), from one side to the other and she also had to negotiate her way around pleats in the skirt.

I love that this happened while I was wearing a stand-in ring / Photo by Paige Winn

Soon after, I went to Boston for business and tacked on an extra day to visit with family. I was so worried about what would happen with the dress that I asked my mother to go with me to Vows, a store that specializes in selling sample dresses.  I described a few of the six dresses I had liked originally, thinking that we could possibly find an inexpensive back-up dress.  Just a few moments after we separated to browse, my mother showed up next to me with an Amsale dress in her hands.  It was one of the six dresses.  I had tried it on at a salon early in my planning and didn't think it was romantic enough for our venue, but I thought it was a gorgeous party dress.  The sample was 70% off the retail price. We bought it. Vows had it cleaned and repaired a loose bow before shipping it to me in Virginia.  I tucked it away on a high shelf.

For a while, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. Thuy, the seamstress, did a great job getting The Star to fit me. Some pleats on the sides of the skirt were sacrificed, but I didn't lose any of the beautiful details from the bodice.  The only problem was that bustling the gown was going to be has what I believe is a court length train (shorter than chapel length, about 1 foot of train on the ground). I think people usually just let that sort of train be.  How the heck was I going to dance with a train?  Since I couldn't imagine it bustled, I figured I'd just deal with it as is.

A few weeks before the wedding, Jorge asked me to come to Washington, DC to help him announce this year's winner of the Upon a Star contest. I resolved to ask his advice about bustling the dress that night.  We went to dinner after the event and out of the blue, he said something along the lines of "Are you going to change for the reception? I like it when brides change."

I was shocked.  Did he have some sort of extra sensory perception?  Information about the sample, the bustling, and the alterations came tumbling out of me.  It was the least eloquent I've sounded in a long time.  At the end of our conversation, I felt like I had his blessing to wear both dresses.

So that's the story of how I became a two dress bride.  

Are there any other brides out there who have two dresses?  How did you wind up becoming a two-dress bride?
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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Custom Clutches for My Bridal Party

Back in January, I mentioned that I've met some interesting people while doing volunteer work.  I wrote about meeting Anita Gupta of Maliha Creations, who is baking our wedding cake, while working with the Charlottesville Design House.  I made a friend who turned into a vendor while I stumbled upon some volunteer work at a bridal salon last year.

About an hour south of Charlottesville, there is a charity bridal shop that sells samples donated by bridal salons to raise money for several women's programs.  I wandered into the shop a year ago and was stunned by the number of gowns they had from high end designers (we're talking Carolina Herrera, Rivini, Monique Lhuillier, and more).  At the time, they were getting a steady stream of donations from a major bridal salon that is a household name.  Though I was only there looking for a hair accessory, I had a blast looking at all the gowns on their racks.  I decided that I had to do something to get the word out about the place.

So, I posted about it on the Weddingbee boards and Bees from around the world started buying gowns from them.  I decided to spend a few days at the shop as a volunteer to help with photographing dresses.  Hauling dresses was hard work, but Michelle Duncan, the amazing woman who managed the shop at the time made the experience so much fun.  I didn't want to stop volunteering and was a little sad when it was time for me to go back to the office. 

Michelle eventually left the shop to focus on a small business that had taken a back seat to mountain of work she was doing for the organization behind the shop.  It was a handbag business called e&a handbags that had a small, but loyal group of enthusiastic clients. Since she's also into interior design, Michelle was using some fabrics meant for home in her designs, which I found so appealing.  When a dress or veil came into that bridal shop that was too damaged to sell (some salons are really rough on their samples!), she often salvaged the trim and incorporated it into a clutch for a bride.

I decided to give Michelle the fabric I had leftover from my framed table number and escort card board projects to see if she could make some clutches for the Mink maids.  I threw in some solid satin to use for lining and some ribbon to use for trim. 

Photo by David Duncan Photography / used with permission

The result: the Claire Clutch!  When I went through Michelle's site and loved the Duncan clutch, which was named after her photographer husband (who took all these pictures for me!).  I asked her to shrink the Duncan down a bit and she decided to name the resulting bag after me!  Actually, I suggested that she use my middle name since my first name is long and often mangled a bit when people read it. 

Photo by David Duncan Photography / used with permission 

I gave Michelle some solid satin to use for liner.  I thought it would compliment the pattern of the outside perfectly.  She also did an amazing job with the blue-green grosgrain I gave her to use as trim.  
I also noticed that she made a label that matched my colors for the back. 

Photo by David Duncan Photography / used with permission 

I didn't even think to ask, but she added feet on the bottoms of the bags.  Isn't that neat?

 Photo by David Duncan Photography / used with permission

I can't wait to see pictures of my gorgeous bridesmaids in their dresses with these bags.  They looked so awesome!

 Photo by David Duncan Photography / used with permission

Michelle even made a clutch for me.  I'm not sure I'll use it on my wedding day, but I'm so excited that I'll have a bag made out of my favorite fabric.

While I think all of my vendors are wonderful, I'm so happy to have a few that I consider to be good friends now.

Did any of your vendors become good friends during your planning? 

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Handling Last Minute Changes to Wedding Plans

When it came to serving meals, we assumed that Pippin Hill would follow the protocol we've seen in use at every wedding we've attended in the area.  Guests would pick up escort cards and their meal selection would be indicated by a jewel on their card.  I realized that some couples assign specific seats for their guests, but we could only remember escort cards and figured that was the way things went in Charlottesville.  I created our fabric covered escort card board to put a slight twist on the practice and bought ribbon to match the fabric for hanging the cards and colored jewels to attach to them once we knew what meals our guests wanted.

Our tasting came and went and invitations went out.  Once we had all of our replies, we met with the venue to give a final headcount and numbers for the different kinds of meals that would be served.  This is when things came to a halt. 

Eighteen days before our wedding, we were told that the venue required us to assign seats and provide a diagram showing what meal was being sent to each seat.  Here's a snippet of the example we were given:

I don't know if I was more upset about their practice or about the fact that they were telling me about it with such short notice.  At that point, a totally different me emerged.  We're talking total metamorphosis, my friends.  I looked at the venue representative, the same one we met with sixteen months prior, and told her it just wouldn't be possible to change our seating plans.

It was a surreal moment for me. When brides in the Weddingbee forum seek advice for dealing with people who want to change plans they've already made, I often tell them to say "I'm sorry, but it just isn't possible."  I never imagined that I'd be saying those words myself.

I understood that the venue had trained their staff to serve in a certain manner. I imagine they established their practices soon after they opened.  Had that information been shared with us or our planner early on, we could have made adjustments. 

From that meeting, the idea of using ribbon to indicate meal preferences arose.  The venue was worried about the speed of serving, so they asked that we tell our guests to hang their cards on their chairs so staff could tell what meal was going to each guest as they approached a table.   We just needed to make sure guests would hang their cards on their chairs.

As we drove away from the venue, I mentally designed a sign that might make the escort cards work.  I looked up a picture of a chiavari chair and sketched one as soon as we got back to the office and tucked it away to look at again when I got home.  Once home, I worked on the wording for the sign and tried to copy the sketch I made at work.  It wasn't going well.

I remembered when Miss Hawk on Weddingbee used a pencil transfer method to get letters onto her chair signs and did the same with the chair picture.

I colored it in and made a mini escort card to "hang" on the picture of the chair.  I thought it was a cute way to explain something that might seem a little strange to our guests.

After mounting the sign on a scrap of fabric, it was ready to be framed.  I made a sign for our favor table at the time time.

The situation wasn't ideal, but I think we handled it well.  Meal service wasn't exactly smooth.  We had to switch a couple plates at our head table and I noticed that my parents' table was not the second table served, which had been our instruction.  With so many great hors d'oeuvres and a nice selection of beer and wine being served, no one should have felt desperately hungry and therefore gotten upset about a slightly slow service.

Photo by Amanda Gray of Ashley Baber Weddings / Used with permission

Did you have any last minute surprises that you had to handle?  Did you have a creative solution for a problem at the eleventh hour of your wedding planning?
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