Friday, June 27, 2014

I'm Not a Mom and I Love a Potty Training Video

I'm a huge fan of Kohler products. I think Baker Furniture is divine, Ann Sacks tile is stunning, and Kohler bathroom fixtures are best of design and functionon. The company can do no wrong in my book. I get emails from Kohler's marketing and PR folks and always find them interesting, but the one I got last night had me clicking through several times.

The most interesting of all of the features (more on the others on another day) was the one about potty training. Okay, it was really about a new touchless product Kohler created for toilets. The video is deliberately un-slick and cheeky. Kohler used a vlogger for this, which explains the less-then-professional (but still charming) acting. I actually remember seeing a commercial about this product somewhere a few days ago, but this video drove the message about the product home.



I don't even have kids and I want this thing.




They actually are making toilets with the touchless feature built into them now. I used to really want a dual-flush, but I'm thinking the touchless might be pretty cool for the guest bathroom. What if Kohler is able to combine the two some day?

I can't believe I've written this much about toilets.



By the way, they also did a "behind the scenes" video.



Side note: vlogging is one of those things that seemed to get really huge when I took a year or so off from paying attention to the design/home/lifestyle blogging world to be a wedding blogger. I'm amazed that Youtube is full of people with thousands of subscribers! I think the only Youtube channel I follow is for a band. 
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Unexpected Addition to the Living Room!

A few weeks ago, I stopped by The Artful Lodger in downtown Charlottesville just to see what they had in the store. When I saw this, I stopped dead in my tracks:

It's the Kensington Bespoke Chaise (really a tête-à-tête) by Four Hands Furniture and I immediately thought it would be perfect in our upstairs living room. I've been thinking that the room is so long that setting up two separate seating areas might help it feel more cozy. I wanted either an armless sofa or a table to sit in the middle of the space, to mask the break between the two rugs in the room (one rug came from Shades of Light's outlet and the other came from Artful Lodger after Overstock sent one that was irregular). As a reminder, here's how the first floor is laid out:





There is so much to do around the house that I put the chaise out of my mind. The living room was really low on our priority list for the last year. However, every time people come over, we either have to go down to the basement where the TV is or sit in the living room where the seating consists of two Ikea chairs and our dining chairs. It's not the most comfortable or welcoming set up.

So, this weekend, the chaise came home with us. I was so happy that I couldn't help but put an early morning picture of the living room on Instagram on Sunday.


The living room is still far from done, but I love how it's shaping up!



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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Discount Code for FilterEasy.com!

I wrote about signing up with FilterEasy.com yesterday and totally neglected to share that my first shipment came with a discount code to pass along to friends!

If you sign up for their service, using the coupon code "friends" should give you a free shipment!


This is not a sponsored post. I just like this company's service a lot!
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Monday, June 23, 2014

Our Abnormally Large Air Filters (and a Filter Easy review)

One of the major projects on our to-do list is replacing our HVAC system. The previous owner of our home put central air into the house, but the unit is purely an AC unit. There are electric heaters on the baseboards in every room (sometimes on multiple walls). The northerner in me is leery of electric heat. It's expensive and you wind up closing off rooms to keep the heat in the areas in which you spend the most time. Despite being frugal, our elective bills were high over the winter.

We heard that two HVAC companies in the area were running specials on HVAC replacement during the month of May. One was the company we used when we lived in the condo, so we had them come in at the beginning of the month to give us an estimate. They said they would follow up by phone or email, but we didn't hear from them again. Marc called our contact and she said she had gone on vacation, but would be in touch in a few days with our estimate. The end of the month was approaching and we decided to call in the other company. The technician said the special rate would run again in the early fall, which bought us a little time to have the work done.

In the meantime, we need to keep the current system in good condition since our inspector said it was nearing the end of its useful life. There was one very basic filter in a closet when we moved in and that got us through the summer. I was always good about changing our air filters at the condo, but the AC unit at the house takes a really large filter that isn't stocked by any of the stores I checked. I bought the largest filter at Lowes thinking it had to be the right one, but you can see that it wasn't nearly large enough.

The basic filter that was here when we moved in next to the largest filter carried locally.

I turned to the internet to get a filter to use this summer and found a company called Filter Easy. Not only did they have the huge filter we needed, they will send you a new filter every three months, when you are supposed to change your filter. I could choose between three different levels of filtration and went with the middle option. It was here in a couple days.


The Filter Easy folks didn't compensate me for this. I just think their service is interesting and might be helpful if anyone else out there has an HVAC system that takes a filter size that isn't stocked locally or if anyone else forgets to change their filter after three months. By the way, I *think* the code "friend" or "friends" (lower case) should give you a discount if you sign up for the service.


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Friday, June 13, 2014

From the Hoop: Bridal Edition

A few months into having my sewing and embroidery machine, Marc said something about how it was a good thing I didn't have it before our wedding. I started thinking of all the things I would have monogrammed and embroidered if I had my machine during planning and almost wanted to plan another wedding. Almost.

I love weddings, so I was so excited when I was contacted by brides and a wedding planner friend to do some projects for a couple weddings! The first bride, Samantha, is a local photographer I know because of her adorable dog. I somehow saw Samantha's puppy pictures on Instagram enough that when I saw the puppy in person on the street, I stopped to say hello. We seemed to chat all the time via Instagram and Facebook, so it was exciting to do a few projects for Samantha and Michael's wedding.

The first project was a set of banners that would be used on the doors of the UVA chapel and later moved to the backs of her and Michael's chairs at their reception. She had a beautiful wedding logo that used a shield and laurels, so I tried to pay homage to it in the embroidery work.


Samantha had bought some beautiful, gray linen for these projects. I embroidered on cut pieces of the fabric and then she created the banners on her sewing machine.

The next project was a flag or banner for her ring bearer to carry down the aisle. We went back and for on font styles and designs quite a bit until I found an amazing embroidery font that had beautiful flourishes. I can't wait to use it again on a project. Isn't it lovely?



The next project is one of my favorites.Samantha caught some of the same DIY fever I did when I got married and painted corn hole boards. She went a step beyond what I did for our wedding and asked me to embroider fabric that she'd use for the corn hole bags. We decided to put a small version of the crest from the first project on one side and the wedding date on the other.


My plain corn hole bags are looking pretty pathetic compared to these!


Samantha also asked me to embroidery a napkin for her cake table with a saying. As we talked about it, the plan changed to their monogram and then I said I wanted her to have napkins for her and Michael's place settings, too, and threw those in.

Right before I started to stitch, I messaged her about maybe increasing the side of the monogram to be a bit more dramatic than the size I would traditionally do. She was game and I love the results!


The last project was embroidering little pieces of linen for a "Thank You" banner. I was a bit nervous about this one because the pieces were too small to hoop (a hoop holds your fabric in place while you embroidery) and the embroidery would have to be huge. 
 


At some point, I'll share pictures of of all of the results, but her now, here are two pictures that include the finished projects by photographer Jen Fariello.





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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Before and After at the Charlottesville Design House with Designs by Cheryl

In time, pictures from the 2014 Charlottesville Design House will trickle out and I hope to share them here as that happens. Today, I'm so pleased to share the guest bedroom that was designed by Cheryl Jarvis of Designs by Cheryl Interiors. Cheryl is based in Richmond, but spends some time in Charlottesville. In fact, the design house team posted that she was in her room to greet visitors and answer questions every single day that the house was open.



First off, here's a wide shot of Cheryl's bedroom before she arrived on the scene:


 What hits you when enter the room is the painting. Diane Williams of Art to Di For did all that painting. In person, the variation in the wall color wasn't as dramatic as it looks in the picture. The effect was soft, as you can see in the picture of Cheryl above.


I thought the linens and mirrored room screen were really lovely!


The room had a clothes closet and a little closet with a sink inside it. I thought the sink area transformation was great. I'm not wild for most vessel sinks, but the one Cheryl found is beautiful.



Head over to Cheryl's Facebook page for more pictures! All images are by John Magor Photography.
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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

New Art by Brent Smith (and a Recap of our Anniversary Weekend)

One our first anniversary last year, we went back to our wedding venue, Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards, for wine tasting and lunch.

We adore Pippin Hill and love going back there. We inevitably run into other Pippin Hill couples when we visit. We became friendly with a couple that got married there a month before us and I think I've run into one or both of them three different times, though they live in Washington, DC these days.

We've been so busy with house projects that we didn't make big plans for our second anniversary until it was upon us. Well, that's what I thought. More on that later. I floated the idea of going back to Brookville, where we had our rehearsal dinner and thought that was our big celebration. We'd go to Brookville for dinner on Saturday, then Pippin Hill for wine and lunch on Sunday. Perfect.

For some reason, we decided to redo everything. I wore the same outfit that I wore to my rehearsal (I was a little overdressed, but who cares). We almost walked right into Chef Harrison Keevil when we arrived and he congratulated us. Maybe his wife, Jennifer, who runs the front of the house saw me Instagram my outfit from the car on the way over? If not, they have the most incredible memories.


(same dress, same clutch, one extra ring and the bracelet I wore on our wedding day)

Our meal was absolutely incredible. The amuse bouche was pickled ramps and we were also given some of Brookville's popcorn, which probably has as much of a cult following as their burger because they pop it in bacon fat. That was followed by a fantastic cheese board. I had the most wonderful muchroom ragout for my entree and Marc had fetticini with local ham. For some reason, a Brookville burger showed up at our table, to Marc's delight. If I was a food blogger, I'd be able to provide details of every wonderful bit, but I'm not. Suffice it to say we ate and drank well.


A Legend beer for Marc and Thibaut-Janisson sparkling for me

I pitched the idea of going to a restaurant called Maya after dinner because we stopped there for a drink with four of our friends after our rehearsal dinner. I remember being seriously nervous about getting a good night's sleep and not really enjoying my drink, so that night was the perfect time to rectify that. On our way, we were coaxed into a new brew pup by a boy carrying a trumpet who said "We're about to play Neil Diamond!" The former Bostonian in me had to go in and sing Sweet Caroline. Then, it was on to Maya.



Are you wondering where the art is? It's coming, I promise. Okay, the next day when we woke up, Marc went into the bathroom that we pretend isn't there. We have three full bathrooms in the house and we use the master bath and the bathroom in the basement. The "main" bath is completely ignored. We will update the bathrooms, but that one is the lowest on the list. Marc knew he could put something in there and I wouldn't find it.

He presented me with a bag from Folly (here's a little shop tour I posted last summer), the most wonderful home store in town, and inside was a painting by Brent Smith. Marc gave me a Brent Smith painting last Christmas and he went for a larger piece this time around.


I was totally surprised. I honestly thought dinner and our trip to the winery was a great gift. We might not have furniture in every room, but we have great art to put on the walls!

After the surprise in the morning, I was on cloud nine. The afternoon at Pippin Hill was wonderful. As seems to be tradition, I chatted with a couple that was there to sign their venue contract. The number of Pippin Hill couples continues to grow.


The anniversary weekend ended yesterday (Monday) with lunch at Boylan Heights. The day after our wedding, Marc and his co-host (and best man) did their radio show with our friend Steve (who was a groomsman) and then a bunch of us met at Boylan Heights, a burger bar, for lunch. You order by scantron there and I wrote my new name for the first time that day.


Why mess with tradition? We were both working yesterday, but decided to meet for lunch to finish the celebration.


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Monday, June 2, 2014

Using Bold Color in a Small Space (and a Review of Valspar's New Reserve Paint)

I never sat down to create a color palette for this house, but I have been really attracted to soft greens and corals in the last year and a scheme has developed from there. The master bedroom and dining room are both green, though neither is anywhere near complete.

 (Benjamin Moore's Crystalline in the dining room)

 (We went with Benjamin Moore's Silver Crest in the bedroom)

 The guest bedroom is painted a neutral color (Benjamin Moore's Maritime White) and has coral bedding.


I usually go for muted paint colors, but living with so many cream colored walls for the last year made me want to do something bold in one of our spaces. I wanted to paint our front hall coral or pink. I originally consulted those paint features that House Beautiful puts together in their issues. If you aren't familiar, HB gets professional designers to recommend their favorite paint colors for each issue. They even published a special edition of all of the features together. When I looked for a great coral color, Benjamin Moore's Coral Gables came up several times. When I tested it, it was a bit too orange for me. I wound up sampling Hydrangea Flowers and Passion Fruit, which were both pink corals.

Benjamin Moore Coral Gables

Benjamin Moore Hydrangea Flowers

Benjamin Moore Passion Fruit

I ultimately decided that Hydrangea Flowers was my favorite, but I worried that it was a bit too strong. I decided to get samples mixed at 50% and 25% to see if either of those worked better than the full-strength color.


I usually have a pretty easy time picking a color once I get a little bit of it on the wall, but this time, I couldn't make a decision. I painted a bit on different walls, thinking that one color would stick out eventually. Nope.


So I decided to paint a larger part of the wall to make the decision easier. No help. I liked both strengths.

Benjamin Moore Hydrangea Flowers at 25%

Benjamin Moore Hydrangea Flowers at 50% 

I just kept painting, right on up the wall. I was starting to prefer the 50% strength paint, but I thought the 25% might look nicer with the painting of Olivia the sheep that I love so much.
Benjamin Moore Hydrangea Flowers, 25% on left and 50% on right

I have never had so much trouble picking a color! I stared. I left the room and came back. I opened the front door. I turned the lights on an off in the foyer and in adjacent rooms. By the time I settled on the 50% version, my Benjamin Moore store was closed. While at Lowe's for some supplies, I saw a sign for the new Valspar Reserve paint and thought that I might take a chance and "cheat" on Benjamin Moore's Aura paint, the paint I use pretty much exclusively since 2008. The rep at the paint counter said Reserve was Valspar's top product, comparable to Aura. The Valspar Reserve was about half the price.

So, here's my little review of the Valspar Reserve.

Consistency
The freshly opened can of Valspar Reserve was as thick as Benjamin Moore's Aura paint. However, it actually congealed in the can as I worked with it. While I was cutting in, I noticed that it felt thicker and thicker as I moved along. By the time I was pouring the paint into a paint tray to roll out the walls, it was almost like pudding. It "plopped" into the tray. 

Coverage
I was most disappointed by the coverage of the Valspar Reserve. While I never expect "paint and primer" products to cover in one coat, I felt as though the Valspar Reserve was a step down from Aura. Even though I loaded my roller well, there were spots where the paint wasn't adhering to the wall. Due to the congealing, there wasn't enough paint in a quart to go back over the trouble spots.


Ease of Use
One other thing I noticed was that if I brushed or rolled over paint I had just put down, some of the paint came back up! I have never experienced this with Aura, but it happened again and again with the Valspar. I wound up working double time to get cover the wall without dragging the paint off. I tried to take video, but it was too frustrating.


Summary
I don't think Valspar Reserve is terrible. If you are using a lower end paint, you might find it to be a nice upgrade. If you're already an Aura devotee, I don't think you'd be happy with this paint, though. I was rooting for Valspar in light of the price, but I think I'll happily pay for the Aura going forward.

A couple days later, Marc picked up a quart of Aura for me so I could go back over the room. I'm much, much happier now. 

If you've tried the Valspar Reserve, I'd love to hear about your experience. Perhaps I had a dud quart? The congealing was really bizarre!



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