Thursday, August 29, 2013

No Longer Small and Chic?

This post has been in the works for quite some time. I'm a "small living" enthusiast. I lived in a 785 square foot condo for 8 years. What am I doing in this big house?

Back when we were looking for homes, I was drawn towards the smaller ones. I remember saying that a few of them "felt appropriate in size." They were bigger than the condo, but not too much bigger. They'd allow us to have people over more comfortably than before, but weren't set up for hordes of visitors. Marc was drawn to larger homes and larger plots of land. In an ideal world, he'll have vast stretches of land. The compromise was something in the middle. So we nixed a few of the really large homes and therefore didn't bump up against the top of our budget.

Where does that leave the blog? Several people have flippantly said "what are you going to name the blog" after seeing our house. I don't think changing the name is so easily done. This blog has been around for five years and in blog years, that's a pretty long time. When the blog veered into wedding stuff, it was still right here at I don't think I want to abandon it.

I'm still a lover of small spaces, even if my new home isn't small. While I'll still blog about projects here, I'll also include small living topics. I have been thinking of changing the name on the blog header, but the URL isn't going anywhere.

I hope you'll stay with me!
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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

U-Fab's New Custom Furniture

While at Charlottesville's U-Fab last weekend to order drapes, I got to see their new line of custom furniture. The U-Fab folks have made custom headboards and window treatments for quite some time and they do upholstery work, but the new line is quite an extension of their services.

Kendall and her colleague, whose name escapes me right now (so sorry!), told me that the company owner discovered a fantastic furniture company in Texas that had worked with some other fabric stores on custom lines. The U-Fab team was very happy with the quality of construction and decided to develop some items for their customers.

Samples of all of the current pieces are at both U-Fab stores (Charlottesville and Richmond). Here's a look at the items at the Charlottesville store. The prices shown are for construction. The only added cost is for your selected fabric.

Most of the space at U-Fab is taken up by racks and racks of fabric, so many of the pieces are on display on the lower level (which is also where there are some great deals on remnants!).

I've never seen a curved sofa with such a low price on it. Amazing.

I guess I forgot to take a close-up picture of the prices for this last collection, Ripley. By the prices on the other collections, you can guess that it's probably around $1,000 for the sofa.

I thought the scale of the pieces was wonderful. They weren't at all wimpy in size. The cushions felt well-made. Though they were probably all foam, it didn't feel like the cheap stuff that would break down over time.

By the way, Kendall said that two people who were on a road trip made a stop in Charlottesville to visit them after seeing pictures of the store on this blog. Whoever you are, I hope you enjoyed your time in Charlottesville!
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Monday, August 26, 2013

My Sudden Entrance into the World of Sewing

After much hemming and hawing, I ordered drapes for the guest bedroom the other day. I went into U-Fab and looked at my fabric again, then I looked at the drapery options for several minutes.

I chatted with the staff for a few minutes. Then I got distracted by U-Fab's new custom furniture options (I'll share images tomorrow). Then I left the store. Why? Because I get overly cautious when making a "forever" decision. Paying a lot of money for custom drapes, to me, feels like a forever decision.

I stood outside for a few seconds and walked back in. "I have to do this." I said. And they wrote the order up. When the total came up, it wasn't a surprise because U-Fab is awesomely straightforward about costs, but it was a lot of money (for me).

As I drove away, I counted the number of windows in the house in my head and did the math to determine how much I might spend in drapes in the coming years. I was already driving to Jo-Ann's Fabric to sign up for a sewing class. I decided that it was time to learn to use a sewing machine.

I asked to sign up for a basic sewing class and the salesperson told me to return a little later when April, the Husqvarna Viking rep, would be there. I didn't realize it, but the sewing area in the middle of our Jo-Ann's (and I guess many others) is a store-within-a-store. I returned when the rep was there and she told me about my options. There was a Sewing 101 class offered at Jo-Ann's but if I was going to buy a Husqvarna Viking machine, I would have a series of free classes to get me comfortable with my machine. I'd also have unlimited access to her by phone and software classes every month, if I wanted them. She showed me a good, beginner machine and I was floored by all the features. It had a threading assistant, an on-board computer, and a fabric sensor that would adjust the thread tension based on how the fabric felt to the machine. I felt like I'd be cheating if I learned to sew on it.

There was a machine next to the one she was showing me that intrigued me, so I asked her to give me a demonstration.

And my mind was blown. This machine had all the features of the ones the first machine had and then some. On top of that, it had the ability to do embroidering. We designed that monogram on her computer, saved it to a USB drive, then loaded it into the machine.

I thanked April for the demo and left the store in a daze. Not only could I set myself on a path to make curtains, pillow covers, and other home things, I could do my own monogramming. Heck, I could do monogramming for my friends. What's more, the design options were far greater than the ones available at our local monogram shop, which only has about a dozen fonts and monogram designs.

I know this monogram is off. Our original design wasn't a diamond, where the last name initial is in the center.

Husqvarna Viking machines are expensive. They're probably in the same world as Bernina (we have a store here in Charlottesville), Pfaff, Babylock, and Janome. I didn't know this just a few days ago. I thought I was going to Jo-Ann's for a cheapie "I wanna play Project Runway" machine. I did some quick research because the Husqvarna Viking folks are offering free copies of the $850+ design software we used to create that monogram through the end of the month (a new version is coming out soon, but I think I'll be fine with the current one).

If you follow me on Instagram, you know what happened.

I spend a good part of Sunday reading the manual and learning to use the machine. By the early afternoon, I had this:

I tried another design and though the spacing is a little off, I'm pretty proud of myself. Next up, I'll try a design that uses multiple thread colors.
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Friday, August 23, 2013

Model Homes with Quirk

A friend who is a real estate agent in the Washington, DC area shared a recent article from that get me a little fired up. I shared it on the blog's Facebook page, but I still want to discuss it, so I'm writing about it here.

The story is about "ridiculous" wallpaper that is an "eyesore" in a $2.2 million model home. I clicked the line my friend shared and prepared to be offended by some hideous wallpaper and I saw this:

Clearly, the art needs to go, but I find the wallpaper quirky and cute for a mudroom. The paper is Osborne & Little's Best in Show. It's a high end paper and if you've been around the design blogsphere for a few years, I've seen it in plenty of professionally decorated rooms.

Different? Yes. A little risky in a model home? Maybe. Ridiculous? I don't think so. As one comment on the article pointed out, model homes need to be memorable. Buyers, after all, are probably touring several in a day. I don't know if the house will be remembered as "the one with the dog wallpaper," but that's better than being so bland that it's forgotten. The rest of the house is lovely.

So, what do you think of a quirky element in a model home? Would the Best in Show wallpaper make you shy away from the house?
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Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Visit to Philadelphia's Hotel Monaco

I'm a huge fan of Kimpton Hotels. They're scattered around major cities with names like Monaco, Palomar, or locally inspired monikers. The hotels usually have a bold decor scheme (there are exceptions) and I can't help but take pictures when we visit a new one. We're loyal Kimpton fans for many reasons, but the biggest is their pet policy. Kimptons aren't just pet friendly, they're pet enthusiastic. At many properties, Baxter is greeted like a preferred guest with treats and gifts. Any business that is sweet to my dog has a client for life in me.

Here are a few pictures of our last visit to Philadelphia's Hotel Monaco. We had a very short visit, but it was wonderful.


I normally wouldn't bother with a picture of doors, but this sunny yellow was so unexpected that I had to snap a picture.

Closets usually don't get much attention, but the ones at the Monaco were so cool.

This room had pattern layered on pattern and it all worked beautifully.

Mr. Bear loved it.

And the view made me want to sing songs from 1776.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Fun with Vanguard Fabrics

The key characteristic we wanted (who am I kidding, I wanted) in our new bed was a headboard that was in the neighborhood of 60 inches tall. Many of the beautiful beds we considered had headboards that were a bit shorter. One bed seemed to fit the bill and it was from Bassett Furniture.

Yesterday, I talked about backing away from going to Richmond to order from Bassett because there were overwhelmingly negative reviews of the company online and some said that the company recently moved production abroad. I wound up settling on a bed by Vanguard that could be ordered through a local store, The Artful Lodger.

On Saturday afternoon, Marc and I went to the store to comb through the Vanguard fabric racks. Marc was draw to velvets and micro-suede. He's all about comfort. I thought the bed could use just a little bit of shine and picked some smoother, silkier fabrics. We went back and forth on our favorites as we walked around the table where we were working. The way the light was hitting the samples was affecting our perception, so the ladies at the store told us to take our favorites home and see them in the bedroom.

Here are the top contenders, along with swatches of our not-yet-ordered bedding:

1. A stunning, thick, chocolate brown silk with a pebble texture

2. A light brown silky fabric with some shine  

 3. A light beige velvet

4. A mushroom colored velvet

5. A beige linen with a little bit of a sheen 

I decided to carefully hang the samples up on the wall where the bed will go to see them all side-by-side.

The linen was almost immediately eliminated. While I loved the fabric and the subtle shine to it, the color wasn't right. The lighter brown fabric with the most shine was eliminated next. I was in love with the thick, chocolate brown fabric, but it didn't really make sense since we are trying to create a soothing space. It's a gorgeous fabric, but high contrast wasn't right for us.

 We came down to the two velvet (or maybe they are micro-suede? I need to check the tags) samples. Marc picked the lighter of the two and I agreed. It'll look great with our bedding and in the room.

Now we have to wait a little over a week so we can place our order during The Artful Lodger's 15% off sale, which starts on September 1st.
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An Eleventh Hour Change

I wrote Friday's post about deciding to buy a bed from Bassett Furniture after an exhaustive search for the perfect tufted, wing back bed. I kept thinking about the negative reviews I found about the company. I felt even more pressure when I visited Bassett's Facebook page and saw that they were running a 30% off sale on Saturday. Some reviews said that sales are 15%-20% off sales are frequent, but 30% off seemed too good to be true.

I wound up bailing on the trip to Richmond to order the bed. The reviews were just too numerous to ignore and my sister-in-law even chimed in about some pieces she bought when Bassett had a store in Charlottesville. We're looking for pieces of furniture that can work with our home now and in the future and I wasn't convinced that we'd be making a forever purchase, especially if the company had moved a lot of its production abroad in recent years.

On Saturday afternoon, I wound up going to Charlottesville's The Artful Lodger, which carries furniture lines like Bernhardt, Precedent (owned by Sherrill), and Vanguard. The art that used to hang on either side of our bed is from The Artful Lodger and I have seen their work at the Charlottesville Design House. As we talked about the dimensions of the bed I wanted (I wanted the headboard high, but not too high), we zeroed in on the Parisian Loft bed by Precedent (I had considered it when I found it as the Georgia bed on the High Fashion Home website)

and a bed by Vanguard called WL521K-HF. Awesome name, right?

The wonderful thing about Vanguard is their willingness to customize their pieces. Notice the difference in the way the nailhead trim is applied on the two versions I'm sharing here. Above, the nailhead is applied in a tight row and runs along the headboard and bottom of the rails. Below, there are spaces between the nailheads and they run along the headboard and both edges of the rails. There are plenty of options when it comes to fabrics and wood finishes, too.

The nailhead won me over. Though the Vanguard bed was expensive, all custom upholstery goes on sale starting September 1st at The Artful Lodger. With 15% off, the price comes down to the same range as many of the other beds we were considering.

I love the height of the headboard. It's a high headboard, but not super high. The owner at the Artful Lodger described too high as "hotel room" high and I think that makes sense. Those almost-to-the-ceiling headboards look amazing in a boutique hotel, but I didn't want one in my bedroom.

Tomorrow, I'll share some of the fabrics we're considering.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

The Bed, Revisited

I posted about my search for a tufted, wing back bed a few weeks ago. Since then, I've been looking at the options repeatedly and blocking them out with a tape measure in the master bedroom.

My top choices originally turned out to be a bit shorter than I had hoped. The bottom of our current bed is 10 inches off the ground and the top of the mattresses wind up being about 34 inches off the ground. We have nice mattresses, but they aren't super tall like some with pillow tops are. I love hopping up into bed. I also like that our bedside tables are higher than the bed. Here's how everything looked in our old condo bedroom:

After I went through every option's measurements, I started to look at fabric options. Many had linen-like options, but a couple were only available in microfiber. I don't think microfiber is quite right for us, so those are coming off the list. I'm looking at you, gorgeous Amelia bed at High Fashion Home.

One came out ahead and it wasn't even on my radar originally. It was a bed by HGTV Home, made by Bassett Furniture. A commenter named Katie suggested it in the comments on my original post.

The bed is tall and has a slew of fabric options. However, when I started googling Bassett Furniture, I found tons of complaints online about the company. However, they were on sites like PissedOffConsumer, so you can imagine that there are no positive reviews to counter the negative ones. Several mentioned that despite the company promoting its base in Bassett, Virginia, much of the furniture is made abroad. All of the pieces in the HGTV collection have icons that say they are made in the US, but There isn't anything in the text descriptions of the furniture that says that.

The only first-hand knowledge I have of this company is that they used to have a store in Charlottesville and they closed it. When they were having their closing sale, I went in and wasn't impressed by the state of the store. They weren't selling floor models, they were taking orders. Everything was just being moved to their Richmond store.

Does anyone have experience with Bassett Furniture?
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Decision to Make for the Home Office: iMac or MacBook Pro?

I switched from using a PC to an iMac at home years ago. I have liked my iMac, though there are a couple things that I still find easier to do on a PC (which I use for my day job). For example, I don't think I'll ever move over to using Apple's mouse. I'm too attached to right clicking without using the keyboard!

My iMac has been slowing down over the last year or so. I feel like I'm crawling towards publishing my blog posts each morning. The purchase of a replacement is imminent. I'm conflicted between buying another iMac or buying an Apple laptop.

Option 1: The iMac

The new iMac is fast and sleek. It can probably handle everything I need to do, from photo editing to working with music files for Marc's radio show, easily. It obviously isn't portable.

I love having a big screen and a full keyboard. When I got a wireless keyboard a few years ago, I returned it within hours because it is missing some of the buttons of the wired one.

Option 2: The MacBook

Confession: I don't know why some people say MacBook and others say MacBook Pro. Maybe it's a difference in the age of the device? The Apple website just shows two laptops: the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro. I'm pretty sure the Air doesn't have enough power to do everything I need to do, so the MacBook Pro is what I'm considering.

I worry about the lifespan of a laptop vs. a desktop and screen size is also an issue. It'd be nice to be portable...just about a week ago, I wanted to show a friend some SEO strategies for her website and blog, but I didn't have a laptop to take with me to our lunch meeting. She brought her MacBook and I couldn't figure out how to show her some things on it because there were differences in how they worked. Such techie I am, huh?

I already dealt with a switch from a PC to a Mac (and I have my feet in both worlds because my work computer is a PC), but is there also a big difference between the iMac and MacBook?

Meg Biram's office | via The Foundary

Sherry and John of Young House Love in Richmond | via HGTV Magazine

I am shocked that Sherry and John have managed their blog on two laptops for all these years. My work machine is a Dell PC, but I have monitor, so I do my work on two screens. I guess you can get a lot done on just one screen.

Has anyone moved from an iMac to a MacBook? How was the transition? Did anyone go in the other direction? If you do a significant amount of work from home, which machine is better for your needs and why?
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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Overstock Comes Up Short

When I found an amazing dhurrie at the Shades of Light outlet (aka Decorator's Outlet) in Chesterfield a few weeks ago, I figured I could use two of the rugs side-by-side to fill our very large living room. The full-priced rug was still available through the Shades of Light catalog, so I took home the discounted one with plans to order another soon.

After Kelsey commented that Alaina from The Every Girl had the rug in her office, I decided to do some googling to see if I could find the photos of the rug. I stumbled upon the rug at for a couple hundred dollars less than retail and decided to order it. The description said the side could vary and I knew that a handwoven rug wouldn't be exactly 8x11 (the one I got from the Shades of Light outlet was 8'1" x 11'1"), but I wasn't planning on attaching the rugs, just having the in the same room.

The rug came very quickly and as I unwrapped it, I quickly compared the colors. They were slightly different shades of coral, but not so different that they would look strange in the same space. I was getting excited!

As I unrolled the rug, I got more excited. As I got towards the end of the roll, I was a little concerned that it didn't seem to have enough rug left to be 8x11. As the last bit unrolled, you could have cued sad trombone from The Price is Right. Fail.

When I measured the new rug, it was 8'4" x 10'6". As I wrote before, I didn't expect the rug to be exactly 8x11. Ten inches off seemed really unusual. So, I turned to asking folks on the Facebook page that's tied to the blog about this. My friend Abbe had a really interesting comment.

The majority of my family does some type of crafting/creation and my mother's hobby is fiber and all that goes along with it (spinning yarn, knitting, crochet, weaving, etc.). Even when making a rug by hand, variability of the dimensions should still be within an inch or two unless the creator is new to the process - and in that case, measurements should definitely be taken and confirmed before final purchase, possibly with the extreme outliers such as this one being marked/sold as defects and chalked up to the learning curve.

So perhaps this rug was sent to Overstock because it was so irregular. Even at a discount, the rug was still expensive (to me), so I packed it right back up and we are taking it to the UPS depot tonight to go back to Overstock. I'll wait a little bit and then order from Shades of Light.

I love a good deal, but every once in a while, you get what you pay for. Lesson learned.
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