Saturday, November 7, 2009

22 Windows Without Curtains

When Jon and I moved in to our new house at the end of June, we were struck by the design choices of the previous owners - and not in a good way. They were lovely people so I'll be polite. As I've noted before, the wall paper covering every room was likely put up in 1982. Clashing florals: hot pink in the dining room, white and pink in the kitchen, dark green in the center hall, and tan plaid in the study.  To compliment the floral wall paper, the previous owners put up lace curtains in the living room, sheer (and not silk sheer, I'm talking straight polyester) panels of a greenish tint in the dining room, green sheers in the pink bedroom, more polyester lace in another bedroom, and brown canvas panels in the study.

The previous owners left their window treatments behind, which was a very nice gesture. And because I knew I wouldn't get around to sewing new curtains for quite a while, I decided to leave them up even though I wasn't so keen on the appearance.

Well, I couldn't take it anymore. At the beginning of October when Jon was away I just went a little nuts. I took everything down in a rampage. I called Jon like an ashamed little kid, "Jon. I have something to tell you."

"What? Are you okay?" I could tell he was worried.

"I took down all the window treatments. I couldn't stand it anymore."

"Well, what are we going to do? Just have no curtains?"

"I'm telling looks WAAAAY better."



It was a little more cordial than that, but it does look waaay better. But now I need to select fabric and at least try to get started on curtains. I have a long, dark, cold Maine winter ahead of me which will provide lots of time for sewing.

When I was growing up, there was a Calico Corners within 15 minutes of my house. Actually, pretty much anything you needed or wanted was within 15 minutes of my house, so I'm spoiled. Central Maine is a different story. Thank goodness for the internerd.

You'll remember that we painted our bedroom a light blue/turquoise color. I'm still questioning that decision a little, but I'm hoping to fix it with my curtains. I need to dress up the room a bit and to do that, I want to add a dark brown element. Here are some of the initial swatches I've ordered from Calico Corners. I WELCOME input:

The first one is called Blossom (in Chocolate) and it is made of 95% cotton, 5% linen. The second one is called Scramble (in Chocolate) and it is made of 55% linen, 45% rayon.

Here are some tips on drapery fabric (all credit to my Mom, an incredible seamstress):  Always get a swatch of the fabric before you buy all that you need. You can't tell "drape" from an image in a catalog or online. The "drape" of the fabric is key. How well does it look hanging- does it fall naturally or look stiff? Just imagine a curtain blowing in the wind: one that billows slightly will drape naturally, but one that moves in one big piece won't drape as naturally. In my limited experience, I love the way linen blends drape. I aim for natural fabrics (linen, cotton, silk), but those are usually more expensive. Just stay far, far away from polyester. I mean it.

Soon, I'll post how to make a gorgeous curtain that's actually pretty easy. It's a historic design that I learned from my Mom, but it fits perfectly in a modern home meaning that it's totally functional yet lovely and unique.

Let me know which fabric you like better!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Don't look in the attic!

Our housewarming party was last Friday and I have to say I am proud of the way everything turned out. Jon and I were discussing that this party was the first party we've thrown as true 'adults.' Hmm. I don't know how we decided that we are now adults, but there it is. I've felt it coming for a while now...but china, wine glasses, baked brie. They are all pointing in a direction. And that direction begins with an A.

Other than the disturbing realization that now we're adults, we also realized that there's nothing like a housewarming party to make homeowners productive. In the two weeks before our party we stripped the rest of the wallpaper in our kitchen, re-plastered the walls in our dining room and kitchen, primed and painted the dining room, painted the trim in our new bedroom, unpacked all of our books, rearranged our 'study' and cleaned about 8 times. Plaster dust is my new number one enemy. Yes, it's even worse than Porter fur. But the combination is downright awful.

To be honest, we made the amazing discovery that our neighbor is a plaster and dry wall professional. He is fantastic. His work is perfect. And our walls are beautiful. Slum no more!

So after all of the work and cleaning, my parents came up to Maine and helped me prepare for the party. Who knew there was such a thing as colored leaf doilies to put on your serving plates under cheese and the like? That would be my Mom, aka as Karen "Martha Stewart" Helm. And we searched all over Central Maine for these puppies. No where to be found. So my Mom bought them on her return home to PA and sent them to me for the party. And yes, I used them. I placed them under my 'made from scratch' pumpkin cupcakes. Are you barfing yet? No? Just wait.

We also purchased a burnt orange hemstitch runner and a white linen hemstitch table cloth from Williams-Sonoma. Not only does the burnt orange match my Sacred Bird and Butterfly China from Mottahedah, but it goes perfectly with the harvest theme of our party. I know you're sick now. (As a side note, I think runners give one the option of making a seasonal table, without having to buy a completely different color tablecloth. If you have a good basic white table cloth, pretty much any color runner will go perfectly with it. Next on my list: navy for summer! Yes, I'm already planning our next party!)

The funny thing about all of this is that I truly had fun getting the house ready for our party. I loved it. And instead of describing it and making myself sick, maybe I should just put some photos up.

Here's the caveat about the camera was out of batteries, so we had to use an iPhone. Not the greatest, but they'll give you the idea:

We put luminaries on either side of our front walk to welcome guests to our house.

Here's one of our two pumpkins.

When guests came in, we brought them right to the bar- of course!

We also had a 1/4 keg of Gritty's Halloween Ale

We moved the furniture in our TV room to accommodate more people. There are my fab UO chairs!

This is an antique table that belonged to my Grandmother, Mimi. On top, I covered it with an Irish linen runner, a bowl with floating beeswax candles (thanks Mom and Dad), multicolored maize, gords, mini-pumpkins, and paper leaves. I also used this table for a bowl of roasted pumpkin seeds, almonds, and candy corn!

And here's the table. Jon took this picture before I put all the food out. It looked pretty spectacular with all the food. Ugh...I wish we had better photos.

Another shot...sort of.

Before our party, I mapped out an all day workplan (complete with time limits on each activity). I made sure to get everything done on time and in order and that made for a great party, with relatively little stress. It was A TON of work, but not stressful. And I think our guests enjoyed themselves too! Can't wait for the next one!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

House Warming Party!

After working INSANE hours for weeks (evidenced by the time of this post) and never seeing Jon except in the photographs on my blog, we decided to add a fun element to our lives by hosting a house warming party.

Now...we may seem crazy. The house is currently half covered in plastic sheeting (I mean the inside) to protect everything from the dust of our renovations. And we are NOWHERE close to being finished. I will be years. But, we're going to keep it low key and fun. At least, I'm trying to despite the ugly perfectionist in me that's fighting to come out and take over.

So, first came the invitations:
Lately, I've been loving the mail. We had our 3 year anniversary last week and I got a bunch of cards (and all my magazines arrived too) and it reminded me how much I love the U.S. Postal Service. Receiving a letter feels like Christmas. I just love them. So...I decided to send real invitations using the actual postal service for our party. I couldn't afford anything fancy, but I wanted to get creative.

Several weeks ago, I stumbled on this cute antique shop in Hallowell (4 miles from my house) which had an amazing selection of old postcards. I bought up the whole stack of Maine themed postcards (20 for $1 to $2 a piece = total of $30.00) and sent them as invitations. I could have gotten much more creative with the envelope, but my insane job limits my time/creativity way more than I'd prefer. I tried to match the card to each recipient's interests or personality. Here is a sampling of the invitiations:

Upper left: "Greetings from Maine" Upper right: "Deer in Maine" Lower left: "A River Road in Maine" Lower right: "A Maine Potato Farm""Nut cracker in Maine""Surf Scene on Maine Coast""The Gardiner-Randolph Bridge" (I wish it still looked like this!)

"Lunch time in Maine" (sent to two of my favorite Maine parents)

(I forgot to add the time of our party to this invitation...luckily...I only did that once!)

So now that the invites are out, the RSVPs are rolling in. I think we'll have about 30 people. The next thing I need to worry about is food. Anyone have good hors d'ouevres ideas/recipes? Please comment and help me out!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Susanna's Strategies for a Successful Paint Job

Sure...there are tips all over the web for a good paint job, but I have some others that I've learned the hard way...and are absolutely NECESSARY for success. I hope they help you the next time you have to paint.

1. Never ever underestimate the power of primer (I suggest High Hiding Primer- Valspar is the brand I used on this job, and I was impressed).

2. If you are painting drywall for the first time, ABSOLUTELY 100% make sure you have all the drywall dust off the walls. I learned this the hard way. If you paint on top of the dust - even just a little - painters tape will take off all your hard work...because the dust prevents the primer from sticking to the dry wall. I guess I thought I could cheat...

3. Listen to music and specifically songs that tell stories (I think these are ballads?). Such as anything Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Ray LaMontagne, Band of Horses, Neil Simon, Emmie Lou Harris, Loretta Lynn, and throw in some Dixie Chicks to pick up the pace. I sincerely think Maine and its plethora of country radio is getting to me. Really, just listen to whatever you can zone out to and enjoy. I found myself lost in the stories that I was listening to while painting. When do we ever get 4-8 hours to do something mindless and listen to music? It definitely made the process more enjoyable!

4. Always paint with a wet edge. What does this mean? Instead of painting the whole room, and then painting the edges, break up your room into different sections- mainly wall by wall. Paint the center part of the wall with a roller and then while it's still wet, do the edges. When you move to the next wall, wrap the edge paint brush in a wet paper towel to keep it from drying out too much before you need it again. This will make sure you don't see ridges between the rolled center and the brushed edge.

5. A good roller and a good paint brush are definitely worth the money. I ALWAYS choose the Purdy brand.

Okay, so those are my tips. I really debated whether or not to put these photos up. We choose a blue color for the walls in our bedroom. It's a FreshAire Choice brand of paint- ecofriendly and no VOCs. I figure I'll be sleeping *hopefully* 8 hours per night in this room so I certainly don't want to be breathing paint offgas for years to come! The color we choose is called Summer Dragonfly. You can see it in the Waterscape Palette on the FreshAire Choice website.

On the website, you'll probably say: wow, how soothing. Perfect for a bedroom. And that's what I think. However...the color as it appears in these photographs is totally different from the color as it appears in reality. You'll just have to trust me! We also finished the ceiling since I took these photos. Holy hell was that long and neck-breaking. 2 coats of primer...but only one 1 coat of high gloss Glacial Tint! We still have to prime and paint the wood work. See the cool design on the woodwork- we matched it to the rest of the woodwork in our house.

Oh yes, those prison windows have been replaced since the photo was taken too. Thank goodness.

Here you can see a bit of the hell that was the floor. It looks so much better soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Floors = pain

When we tore up that gross red carpet in the back bedroom we found old wide plank floors underneath. They appeared to be in great condition except for one small problem: they were covered in layers and layers of paint. The paint was likely very old (i.e. lead?) and two tone. The middle of the floor was gold in color and the outside was dark brown. I was VERY concerned about sanding: if the paint contained lead, sanding would make the lead airborne...which is the worst way to be exposed. I figured we already exposed ourselves to some pretty terrible toxins during matter how careful we were. So we got some paint stripper...a biodegradable variety...and tried that. The layer of brown paint wiped off with a paper towel, but the stripper didn't even disturb the gold or approximately 30 layers underneath the gold.

So what to do?

When we lived in our Carriage House in Providence, the previous owners had painted the exposed beams. We had to scrape the beams to uncover the gorgeous wood underneath and Jon still had the scraper we used, so he tried it on the floors. Success.

However...exposing a few beams is one thing. Scraping an entire floor is a whole other nightmare. Jon actually sweat through his shorts. I've never seen that before. I understand sweating through a shirt...but shorts? And the whole time he was doing this he had to wear a respirator...which made it a doubly awful task. Try breathing heavily into a respirator...

So then we rented a commercial grade, EPA approved sander. Awesome, right? Well...remember that our house is over 100 years old. The floorboards aren't necessarily level. In fact most of them are bowed one way or the other. So putting a big belt sander on top, will only really work on part of the board. Ugh. But at least it helped a little.

All in all we estimate that the whole process took Jon about F-O-R-T-Y hours. I felt so bad. Sincerely awful.

In the process, we found a layer of old newspaper under the paint in one corner. Weird right? Why would they have put paint down and then painted on top? Who knows...but we did get to scrap up a few pieces that are even readable. Take a look:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Beadboard on the ceiling!

My vision is sllllowly coming together. Originally I thought I wanted the beadboard to be horizontal on the ceiling. I figured that the horizontal lines would draw your eye lengthwise making the room seem longer. Well...we encountered that old house CHARM again. It seems that there is about a 4 inch change from one side of the room to the other, so the horizontal beadboard would have made the slope look very obvious. So, we decided to go vertical with our beadboard. In the end I don't think the direction mattered too much...the beadboard looks amazing. I'm soo excited to see it completely finished!

Now that I've updated the blog...I'm off to go paint for the rest of the day. Wish me luck!

Tiling almost completed...grout still to be done

A quick post to show you the almost completed shower (grout still to be done). Isn't Jon amazing!? He also told me that because I was so accommodating by selecting a cheaper tile, we will be able to afford a custom frameless glass shower door from Portland Glass. Yay!

The Trojan Strikes Again

The only way we are able to make this project fit within our budget is because we are willing to do a lot of the work ourselves. The shower falls in that "work we do" column on our master plan. Last week (the first week back from vacation) was literally hellish at work. It took me 5 days to catch up on my email. And I made all these grand plans to update my blog, paint, tile, etc at night after getting home from work. That plan fell apart rather I got home way late and promptly began drinking to medicate the stress away (healthy...I know).

Jon, always the efficiency master, actually followed through with his grand plans. In fact, I believe our contractors are ready to hire him. Jon had never tiled anything before. But somehow...he just knew how to do it. So, we went tile shopping...and I choose white ceramic subway tile. I think it has a clean, vintage feel. I wasn't really thinking about how many cuts in the tile my poor husband would have to make.

You might remember that we also needed to choose a solid surface for the seat in our shower. After finding out how expensive even remnant granite can be, we decided on Glacier White Corian. My parents have Corian counter tops and showers in their gorgeous house in Pennsylvania, so I knew from experience that it would look great. It's also incredibly easy to work with. You can even cut and sand it at home (you need a graphite blade for your saw). It is quite cost effective, but classy. The perfect combination.

Oh yah...and I forgot that he had to cut and install all of the water resistant cement board. You would think that wouldn't be too difficult, but because the angles in our old house are never exactly 90 degrees, he had quite a challenge.

Here are photos of the Trojan at work:

I wasn't exactly sitting around while he was doing all of this. I primed the whole bathroom and sealed the beadboard for our bedroom ceiling with Kilz. Somehow...he always seems to get more done.

The Progress We Returned To

When we got back from Wyoming, I was expecting major progress. And, there was progress...just not major progress. Apparently, we missed the most humid week of the summer. Hurricane Danny, I think, brought a ton of tropical moisture up to Maine...and our drywaller said that the putty couldn't dry overnight. It was taking double the time to dry, so of course, everything else got behind as well.

Nevertheless, it was really exciting to see walls! Our contractors also lined our shower with Ice and Water Shield (more to put their minds at ease I think, since they have never done a custom shower quite like ours!).
This is the view from our bathroom door, looking at the bedroom and existing closet.

This is from the other side. Looking at the bathroom door and new closet.

This is the side of the bathroom where the toilet will be and the double sink.

Here's the shower complete with ice and water shield...and the thin plastic sheeting on the seat, which is just another layer of water shield.

Updates galore...starting with The Prison Windows

Well...yet again...way too much time has passed between blog posts. And too much has been accomplished for one post. This will be the first of a few updates on the progress.

My last update was on August 12th, a few days before we left for a week in Wyoming. The day before we left...I came home to a major problem. I'd like to name it the Prison Window Experiment.

You'll remember that we added a window to our shed dormer creating a total of 3 windows (+ 2 skylights) in the new bedroom. We also added a window to the gable end of the house, where our new master bath will be. The windows couldn't be too large given the eave constraints of our room. I also lost my battle for wood windows. They were too expensive. So after major pouting on my part, I caved in and accepted vinyl. I figured that at least they wouldn't need painting.

So, it was Friday, August 14th. I drove in the driveway...and looked up. All I saw was windows that I didn't like. I rushed in the back door, flew up the stairs and immediately started a temper tantrum...complete with yelling and stomping of my feet. Exactly what I did as a little girl....of around 5 years old.

It's hard to describe the windows. Basically...they were 12 panes over 12 panes. They looked like windows in a jail. Now, I should have taken a deep breath and thought positively. But instead...I jumped to the conclusion that we'd have to pay out our ass to get them changed. Then I started yelling again. Not really at anyone...just yelling to yell. Then I opened a beer.

I tried to calm myself down and thought, well...I just won't spend a lot on vacation so I can pay for new windows. I tried to let it go.

On Monday, Jon got up early and received a call from our contractors. They gave us the best news ever. They said, "Oh yah...our buyer made a mistake. Aren't those windows awful? Yah...we're planning on replacing them. We just wanted to get the place water tight and secure before you left."

Deep sigh of relief. Here's a photo of our prison- the windows are half open:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Construction update

After weeks of rain, our contractors were able to take down the old roof and replace it with new shingles. We also added two sky lights to the north side of the roof during that process. As you'll remember, the room needed much more light.

We've also extended the dormer window to add one more window to the room...and at some point, the contractors will frame out another window for our bathroom.

Take a look:
Here you can see the dormer extension- soon we'll have 3 windows instead of 2.Here are the two new skylights. They make a HUGE difference. The room actually feels much larger now. And we'll be able to get cross ventilation for the few hot nights we get in Maine!Here's the frame of the closet (on the left) which will be accessed by a door from the bedroom. And the shower (on the right). We wanted a large shower, but faced space constraints because of the eave. And...a custom base shower is at least $1000.00...which is way out of budget! Solution: standard 3 x4 foot shower base + a custom seat! The seat (is a little hard to see in this photo) will provide us with tons of arm room and will make the shower much larger, without increasing its footprint! In this photo you can also notice the fact that the room isn't level (typical for an old house). We're still working on how to disguise that (if we can)!
Here is a picture of the gable end of the house, where our bathroom window will go. To the left of the photograph is the entrance to the shower- on the other side will be our double sink.Here's the inside of the bedroom- those beams will be replaced with thicker beams. Notice the funny door...clearly this part of the house was added after the fact!Here's what it looks like from the outside!

The New Bathroom Takes Shape

So this blogging stuff is more difficult to keep up with than I thought it would be, but it is enjoyable to look back and see the progress we've already made. When we started talking with our contractors about the bathroom and our vision for what we wanted, we quickly learned that we would need to be a bit more creative with low-cost alternatives to the luxury bathroom I dreamed of originally.

We asked our contractors about their $750.00 budget for the vanity. Their response: "Well, whatever base you want from Home Depot and then we'll put a formica top on it." Hmm....NOPE.

So Jon and I started looking around the good old internerd as my brother likes to call it. First I looked at those really fancy vanities from Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware, like this Newport Double Sink Console from PB. I love the storage underneath and the fact that it is open in the bottom, which creates an illusion of more space in the room. The closet that we're turning into a bathroom doesn't have a ton of space, so I thought something like this would be good. And double sinks are key! Our current one-sink bathroom is fine, but it's much more enjoyable for two people to brush their teeth at the same time at DIFFERENT sinks. So, after falling in love with the Newport, I looked at the price. Ouch x 10. The sink console with the gooseneck faucets is $2,897.00. Not including $100 for shipping or the baskets. So that definitely wasn't going to fit in our $750.00 budget. We went back to the internerd. Low and behold, we stumbled into the marvelous world of eBay.

And within the marvelous world, we found edart222, a power seller of plumbing, photography items, and sink consoles. Take a look at this near exact copy of the PB console. Total price, including faucets, marble backsplash, and even the basket was $499.00 (when we bought ours, it's gone up $100 since then). The shipping from California was an additional $250. So...the total cost was $750.00- we met our budget! In addition, edart222 features that gorgeous "Newport" console with a carerra marble top, in addition to the black marble top.

Because our bathroom isn't too big, I want to keep it light filled and bright- carerra marble is the perfect material to create that feeling. So our new vanity with carerra marble, gooseneck faucets, AND baskets arrived within 5 days of purchasing it for our budgeted $750.00.

Our bathroom is still in early stages of construction, but at some point the vanity will look perfect tucked under the eave in the space. Here it is (temporarily hanging out in our to-be TV room):

And here's where it will go - you can see the hot/cold water pipes!