Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Short Primer on Curtain Rod Height

We all know the "high and wide" rule when it comes to hanging curtains. If you hang your curtains above the trim on your windows and wide enough that the fabric doesn't cover the window glass, your room (and windows) can appear bigger.

High and wide was great in my last home, a condo with low-ish ceilings.

Our current house has equally low ceilings. On the second floor, I hung our bamboo blinds flush with the ceiling and put the curtain rods right over them. We have custom drapes in one bedroom, so I ordered them to touch the floor. Amazingly, the West Elm drapes I used in the guest bedroom were exactly the right length to kiss the floor.

I've been trying to work on our living room and while browsing inspiration pictures, I noticed that the "high" part of "high and wide" varies a lot among professional designers. At the molding, under the molding, and even on top of the molding seems acceptable.

But what is correct? Just as I as asking myself this, Barry Dixon posted this on his instagram account:

Scrolling through his account, it seems he has a clear preference.

In Barry, we trust. I'm hanging the rods I got for the living room where the crown starts.
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Monday, October 24, 2016

Deja Vu at the DC Design House

One of my favorite rooms in the DC Design House was the living room designed Pamela Harvey Interiors.

DC Design House Living Room | Design by Pamela Harvey Interiors | Image  by Annie Seckinger

A set of tables on one side of the room caught my eye. I didn't get a picture of them, but you can see them in the 360 image that the Washington Post shared of the room.

Pamela posted them on her Instagram feed as well.

Those tables. I love them. I think I've seen them before...

Green Front Furniture has them! I recognized them from my last trip to Farmville and from my quick visit to the Manassas location the other day, thought he Manassas pair didn't have the same gold legs.

I'm trying to resist the urge to drive to Farmville right now...
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Friday, October 21, 2016

Farewell Dhuirries, Hello Seagrass!

Another round of the One Room Challenge had started - that's the blogger event where people remake rooms in six weeks. There's no way I can handle such a project right now, but seeing other people taking part has inspired me to blog about recent changes in our living room. I haven't blogged since I painted the room pink.

Since then, I sold the busy, geometric dhurrie rugs that I got from Shades of Light. They were fitting with "blogger style" when I bought them, but not really my style. The day I sold the first one, I drove up the road to Floor Fashions of Virginia and ordered a custom seagrass rug to fit the room. Floor Fashions is a fun place and they have the ability to bind rugs for you. I had them do a thin, matching trim instead of the wider, tape-like borders I have on my other seagrass rugs.  I'm still waiting for the rug to come in, but I saw the style and binding I ordered when I walked into the DC Design House earlier this week. Seeing this made me eager for my rug to arrive!

By the way...the Pottery Barn sofa that I ordered in May finally arrived in late August. My streak with backorders continues, though. Acrylic drapery rods and hardware that I ordered in August just shipped this week. I didn't want to move forward with ordering drapery panels until I had rods up and could measure (more on that at another time).

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The "Done for Now" Dining Room

Our dining room is almost a perfect square with windows or doorways on every wall and chair rail cutting the room in half. There are several narrow areas for art, but the room is so small that I have felt like if I put art on multiple walls, the pieces would have to be related.

When Marc gave me a beautiful, antique tray with a interesting inscription, I thought that it might be nice to hang on the wall. When Marc gave me a second beautiful tray, I knew the dining room walls were going to be the perfect place to display a set of trays.

I've collected silver-plated bowls with interesting engraving for years. I usually gravitate towards bowls that were won as trophies and this being horse country, there are plenty of them in the area antique shops.

One Sunday afternoon rendered an armload of trays...and I passed over ones that were made in the last twenty years! I laid the trays out on the floor to determine which might look nice lined up together and tucked the rest into odd spots.

My china cabinet started looking a little crowded after a while!

The large tray in the middle has the funniest inscription. It's the trophy for a tailgating competition that took place at a hose show. The tray was the prize for the second runner up. Which makes we wonder what the winner and first runner up received!

When we were in the condo, I styled the shelves of my china cabinet, since it was one of the first things you saw when you came in the front door. I never got around to doing that since we lived...and my stemware collection has grown, so I need as much space as possible for my crystal. 

Having something on the walls makes the room feel a little more finished. At some point, I'll do something to dress up the drapes (line them, add trim) and possibly add a rug. Down the line, we plan on redoing all of the floors since the first floor has two different kinds (parquet and laminate), but that will probably have to wait until we are ready to renovate our kitchen.

I'm pretty happy with where our simple, little dining room is now. 

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Polish Your Silver! (How One Product Banished Tarnish)

I was looking around Gordonsville Antiques here in Central Virginia a few weeks ago when I saw a beautiful, silver tray in one of the stalls. Aside from it being larger than most (18" tall and maybe 24" wide), it had the most charming inscription. The tray was presented to a couple with fantastic names (Izler and Sevi Solomon) by the Columbus Philharmonic Orchestra Association. I didn't buy the tray, but as I'm sure you can imagine, I regretted it for the rest of the afternoon. I even mentioned it to Marc when I got home because I was so charmed by the inscription.

The tray was soon forgotten because I rushed to New Jersey when a family member got seriously ill. After a few stressful weeks up north, I finally came home to find the tray, a bottle of champagne, and cupcakes waiting for me. Talk about a great homecoming!

The tray had a little tarnish on it and I used the silver polishing cloths from Target on the worst spots without much luck. I hate those cloths because they smell terrible and I find them so messy to use. While we were at an antique store, I decided to try the silver polish they were selling, Pine-Ola.

This stuff is magic. Now, one of the Amazon reviews for this product warns that it is abrasive, so I don't think this is for every day polishing. I decided to make a quick pass over all of my trays and bowls and the results were awesome.

My tray was looking shiny and new. I loved it even more now.

I started looking out for trays that had interesting inscriptions. There was one from the 40s for a Richmond man who was involved with the Federal Reserve. Another from a dog show. One more that was for the "second runner up" in a tailgating competition for a horse show (if the second runner up gets a silver platter, what does the winner get?). With each acquisition, the Pine-Ola got the tarnish off.

That Pine-Ola had a bigger test a couple week later when Marc gave me a tray for my birthday that had more tarnish than anything I've ever owned. The engraving was incredible, though. It was from 1896 and was from the employees of "Clark's Mile End Spool Cotton Company" (which merged with Coats in the 1950s to form Coats and Clark, a common thread brand.

I couldn't resist working on the tray right away. I made a quick pass over half of it while my coffee brewed the morning of my birthday.  Pardon the bad, 6 AM kitchen lighting:

When I was able to spend a little more time on it, the tray wound up looking like this:

If you let your mouse hover over this image, you should be able to see the difference between the unpolished and polished tray. I'm so happy with the outcome. Polish your silver!

So, what am I doing with all these trays? I'll show you next time.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Can Pottery Barn Deliver After the Move Back to the US?

I have written about my love for locally made furniture in the past. I have been thrilled by the upholstered pieces I've gotten from Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams and Vanguard, companies with facilities in North Carolina.

Back in May, my search for a small, navy sofa wasn't going very well. I wasn't finding the style I wanted (I won't bore you with all of my requirements...there were so many!) in a size that would work for my space (it had to be 70 inches or less) and a navy fabric that I loved. On a whim, I looked at Pottery Barn's website and saw the perfect sofa, but I talked myself out of the order because I knew PB ended their relationship with Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams years ago and moved production abroad. Some poking around landed me on this video (which won't embed, I'm sorry) and I changed my mind.

The gist of the video is that Williams-Sonoma (which includes Pottery Barn and West Elm) opened a division called Sutter Street Manufacturing to make upholstered pieces. That work is back to being done in America! Their facility is in Hickory, where I happen to have family. I was so excited. After a few days of thinking about a purchase, an email arrived from PB announcing a sale and I went into our local Charlottesville store to place my order.

My confirmation said that my May 31st order would arrive between July 28th and August 11th. I had already made plans to paint the living room in June, so a late July delivery wasn't the end of the world. I couldn't really make other decisions in the living room until that piece arrived, so progress on the living room came to a stop.

Yesterday, I decided to take a peek at my order because I wondered if there was an update on the delivery window since the 28th was the first day slated for delivery. I was pretty shocked when I saw this:

The delivery window is now between August 31st and September 14th! Pottery Barn never emailed or called about this change. They listing on their website shows a 12 week lead time for the fabric I picked. I called customer service because my new window was beyond that and I was told the same three things multiple times:

1. Pottery Barn doesn't know why there is a delay, but they are working with "the manufacturer" to catch up.
Wait...Sutter Street Manufacturing is a division of Pottery Barn/Williams-Sonoma. Why wouldn't Pottery Barn customer service be aware of why there was a delay in their own factory?

2. Pottery Barn usually beat their estimated delivery dates, so my situation is unusual.
That actually made me feel more frustrated. The second time the guy said it, I was starting to get mad. Why would you try to make me feel better about waiting an extra month or more for my item by telling me that other people get their items more quickly?

3. Pottery Barn will give me a gift card as an apology after delivery is made and the amount will be determined after delivery.
This one blew my mind. He basically told me that the amount of the gift card depended on just how badly this whole thing goes and how inconvenienced I am.

I guess what upset me most was that I wouldn't have known any of this if I hadn't reached out to Pottery Barn first. The representative apologized and said they usually email people with an update when there is a delay. He must have flagged me for one of those emails because I got it within a few hours. It didn't provide any information.

I'm kicking myself today. After I placed that order, I started shopping at Pottery Barn again. I was so proud that they brought upholstery work back to North Carolina that I wanted to support them. I feel duped. I wish I had held off and searched a little longer for a sofa from one of the long-time North Carolina companies.


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Thursday, June 23, 2016

How Everyone in Charlottesville (and maybe your town) Can Stop Light Pollution

This entry was inspired by Facebook comments written by Jim Duncan, the Charlottesville real estate agent behind the Real Central VA blog, and Waldo Jaquith, who knows a lot about stuff (read this if you need to know). Jim posted about this problem and Waldo made a comment about something we can each do to make it a little better...

A few weeks ago, Jim shared this article which says that 99% of Americans and Europeans live under artificially bright skies (add in the other continents and the number only goes down to 80%). We all know that if you live near a city or large suburban area, your skies are never totally black at night. When you've visited a less-developed area, you've probably done what I have - looked up and thought about how nice it was to see all the stars. This article goes on to talk about how artificially bright skies disrupt migrating birds, our health, and the rain forests (no joke, there's a separate article just about the effect of our light on the rain forests).

Fabio Falchi et al.

When it comes to the birds, city lighting and architecture is causing them to lose their way, often flying into windows. There's an article about how prevalent this is in Washington, DC. One building, which has trees in an atrium that is lit at night, agreed to dim their lights so the birds aren't quite so attracted...but I'm sure there are street lights that illuminate the area a bit, too.

Wouldn't you want to rest there if you were a bird on a long migration trip?
(Bill Couch / Creative Commons)

As far as our health goes, all the artificial light around us affects our sleep cycle. I started wearing a sleep mask when I lived in our downtown condo because the lights in the parking lot were still affecting the bedroom, even with the roman shades down and drapes drawn. I still wear it in our house because we have neighbors who leave flood lights on all night. I sometimes joke that it's like living next to a penitentiary because it is so bright outside. When we move into our back bedroom, we'll be installing a few layers of lined window treatments to block the light out.

There are a few things you can do at home to cut down on light pollution.

1. Replace outdoor lights with "dark skies compliant" fixtures.
I'll be honest and say that I assumed doing this would be hard, but this part is really simple. All you have to do is be aware of the shape of the light. To make things even easier, most of the websites that sell lights have "Dark Skies" sections! The options aren't limited at all.

Generally, you want fixtures that throw their light downward. If the fixture is lighting the area above it, it's probably not dark sky compliant.
Via DarkSky.org

Since seeing the graphic below, I've been looking at the lights around me at night and mentally rating them on this scale. I'm happy that the street lights on the Charlottesville Downtown Mall are compliant.


2. Put your lights on timers or install motion sensors.
Motion sensors and timers ensure that the lights are on when someone needs to see, but cuts light pollution when you're asleep.

We switched our garage lights to motion sensors a little over a year ago and I love that the light goes on when I pull in on the driveway. We have a couple more that we should switch over and it's always a pain when we get into bed and realize one of those lights is still on.

3. If you use LEDs, keep them under 3000 Kelvins.
Apparently, blue light is especially bad, so those super bright, flood-style bulbs should be avoided. This is why so many towns have lights that are sort of orange-ish. Those are dark sky compliant.

Whether your style is traditional, transitional, or modern, there are great outdoor lighting fixtures that are dark sky compliant.

Traditional wall lantern via Wayfair

Transitional lantern via Wayfair

Modern lantern via Wayfair

Want to get started? Here are some sources for "Dark Sky Compliant" lighting:

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Small Update Leads to a Big One

I'm not sure why I always have to point it out when I mess up, but here we go. In our condo, I always used the same colors on trim work - Benjamin Moore's White Dove and Sherwin Williams Alabaster. The colors seem like equivalents to me, but I have never looked into it. Anyway, I thought my trim was bright and crisp in the condo.

In this house, I continued using Benjamin Moore's White Dove in several rooms and the more I looked at it on the trim, the more I thought it looked a little dingy. Consider this picture from Halloween:

It's not horrible, but the trim is more subtle than I would prefer. Leaving something that's sufficient, but doesn't seem quite right is hard for me, so there was a point when I couldn't walk through the foyer without thinking about how that trim needed to be repainted. There are so many projects still on our list that it seemed a little crazy to fixate on the trim. I decided to give myself one afternoon to repaint the trim.

Looking for the "right" white convinced me that you are better of just picking a color randomly than googling for suggestions. Every design blog has posted about white paint (including this one). I had some BM Simply White leftover from another project and hesitated to use it because everyone seems to be falling over themselves for this color lately, but anything could be better than the sad trim I had.

Out came the paint brushes...and the little, angular craft painting brush I use for trim.

I liked it. I didn't love it at first. But it worked. I liked my foyer again. Even Olivia, the sheep, seemed happier.

The adjacent living room started looking really sad. The previous owner had ever surface painted with matte, ivory paint and next to the pretty pink and white foyer, the living room looked dingy, too. You know what happened next...

I had a lot on my plate when all this was happening and I figured that I would save a little time by ordering my paint from MyPerfectColor.com. I ordered on a Friday around 10 AM and the website said that orders placed by 3 PM would most likely be shipped via FedEx the same day. I was a little disappointed that my order didn't leave the store in New Jersey until the following Tuesday. The paint arrived on Thursday.

The cans were all dented, so thank goodness for the metal brackets that kept the lid from spilling in-transit. The only problem was that neither the packing list or website told you how to get them off. I wound us using the smallest screwdriver attachment I had to pry them off the lid.

I put my standard eggshell on the ceiling (it really is better than flat) and walls, then semi-gloss on the trim. I continued my beloved Shell Pink in the living room and by this point, Simply White was growing on me.

Here's where things were before I started working on the trim...

Better photos and "after" pictures are coming next week since I'm only home on the weekend to take pictures in daylight.
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