Thursday, March 31, 2011

The girl cave

Some homes have a man cave. Ours has a girl cave. Ok, really it's a tiny back bedroom that we're not sure what to do with for the time being. One day it could be a kid's bedroom or a play room, but for now it's going to function as our 2nd guest bedroom/girl cave.

It was the very first room we tackled in this home renovation and it still isn't completely finished ( that's beside the point), but we've got all the elements in place for completion one day (or month) very soon. We had hoped to incorporate a couple of key elements into making it a guest room/ girl cave, namely a work/craft area and a sleeper sofa and now they are in place. Since it's a small room with 2 large windows, deciding on the furniture arrangement was a bit tricky. In the end we deiced to take the door off the small closet, install some shelving and a desk top and make it my very own sewing station! If we ever decide to change things back it's a easy fix, but for now it's perfect. I found a cute little stool (that needs to be painted) at the ReStore and it slides out of the way, under the desk in a pinch.

The sleeper sofa was the more difficult part. I knew in my mind what I wanted - something that sleeps 2, slipcovered (white if possible) & comfy - you know, Pottery Barn style.

Isn't this space inviting?

Geez, those babies are expensive though (even with my discount!). So I shopped around for a while, in cheap furniture stores and Craigslist, but couldn't find anything nice at a good price. We thought about the Ikea Ektorp, but I don't love the rounded arms and the price is still fairly high for questionable quality. We also have a bit of a space issue with traditional pull-out style sleepers. We had hoped to put a narrow console across from the sofa, limiting the space even more. In walks Karl. The Ikea Karlstad sleeper. The perfect solution! It requires a lot less pull out space and I like the square style. So off to Ikea we went......and went.....and went, each trip not finding it anywhere on the showroom floor. Finally we tracked down an associate and got the the bottom of things. It seems that the Karlstad Sleeper has been temporarily pulled from the showroom inventory due to quality control issues. One associate explained to us, that it's not that there are issues with Karl itself, it's that they are having issues with the manufacturer's quality when constructing Karl and no one knows when it is expected to return to stores. Just our luck!

I had just about given up until we stumbled upon exactly what I had hoped for in the Pottery Barn Outlet - a PB Basic square arm sleeper. Various times before, I had looked but this was the first time I saw a sleeper sofa there. Not only was it exactly what we wanted, but it was also a great price! Yipee! Ok so it didn't come with a slipcover, but that just means that we get to order whatever color we want! So in the end we're giving up that console space (or moving it when we pull out the bed), but we know it will last us a long time. Now we just have to save up for the slipcover (which are a bit more pricey than one would think!).

So now onto the decor.

I've been looking to work some of our gorgeous Guatemalan textiles into our home without feeling overly themey, and I think this room is a good place to start. I picked up a pretty kilim rug & some matching pillow covers at a sweet price with my discount and I'm thinking it will work well with one of the fabulous faldas (woven skirt) fabrics I brought back from Guatemala.
I also scored some very real looking Bugambilia flowers that are just like the ones that grow all over Antigua.

I would love the do a white twill (or linen) slipcover but we're also going to entertain some gray swatches since white......well, you, red clay dirt.......white.......not so white. But in white's defense, it won't be the most used sofa in the house........

Back to the decor.
We're also planning to put up some overhead shelving for display, similar to this. Back to Ikea I went....and went....and went. Gosh this store has a problem with keeping things in stock! Finally last night I found what I had been searching for. Now all that's left to do is paint & install. And find a spot to work in this guy......

(The antique door that we used as a headboard in Guatemala).

What do you think? Are you packing your bags for a stay yet? I better hurry up and get things done if you are!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I've said it before...

...and I'll say it again. It's a small world after all!

I've had some crazy encounters in my life, but lately I seem to be magnet for "running" into people. Let me share with you a couple of little stories that explain what I'm talking about.

Way back when we were in Xela, Guatemala we decided to join a coffee co-op for a weekend field trip to a real coffee farm. After an hour of searching for the office where we were to purchase the tickets, we finally found the place. As I rounded the corner to enter the room, I heard a voice that I knew I recognized, but how could I? We were strangers in an rarely heard of Guatemalan town. Turns out the girl leading the tour had a friend (who was visiting her at work) that was from Denver and she used to work at a camp that I spent a couple of weeks at while interning at Children's Hospital. Random meeting half a world away.

Then a couple of months ago while running some errands at a Charlotte shopping center, I pass by a woman that looks oddly familiar to me. Before I could even filter myself, I blurted out "Are you Kay's sister?" as we were passing. Guess what? She was! (Kay was a member of one of my vision teams.) And that's how I ran into former Common Hope long term volunteer, Sally (who didn't work there when I did, but did visit us on a vision team - hence I recognized her face). In a city where I really honestly knew no one, how did that happen?

But the strangest "meeting" yet has just happened last weekend. While taking a break from the house work, I sat down to check my email and was floored to come across a message in my inbox from a blog reader in Oxford. Even more mind blowing than the thought of having a reader from way far away was reading that he is going to be living in our house in Guatemala! RANDOM! And guess how he found this blog? By googling our Guatemalan address! (Hi Deekpak!) So of course I replied to his email completely excited to share with him as many tips about the house and Antigua as I could, and with all the reminiscing both Ben and I got a little sappy for our "old" life back in Antigua.

Now I know a lot of you have around here for a while and know all about that part of our lives, but just for fun (and because it's my blog) I'm going to do a photo walk down memory lane. What can I say? I'm a sap......and I'll take any chance I get to show the world my photos of the most beautiful country with the most amazing people in all of this world. (A grand exaggeration maybe, but we really do love that country!)

(And if you're not feeling sentimental like me, just move along and we'll see you back for more renovation news later this week.)

First there was the house that started it all.
We put a lot of TLC into that place and we still love and miss it everyday!
...and of course the volcano view from the balcony. ...and all the great memories we have of relaxing up there. ....lazy weekend afternoons, napping with our girl. ...and that dreaded kitchen that came alive with the curtains I sewed (& then created the perfect hiding place for a little one!)

But not all our best memories were at the house.
We were over the moon about the town we lived in too.

We spent so many great mornings & late afternoons, sitting around the fountain in the park.
....and evenings gazing at the Cathedral while enjoying a tres leches. Yum!

.....and walks through Pila Park.

.....and our friends! All of our amazing and wonderful friends!
(Sorry if you're not pictured here).

And certainly we miss some of the perks.....
like the market...... .....the genuinely kind people .....and all the gorgeous textiles! .....and the best & freshest coffee we've ever had!
(PS. That's freshly picked coffee berries)

Ahhhhhh! We lived the life.

We've said it before and we'll say it again.......
We'll be back Guatemala! We're yours forever!

Friday, March 25, 2011

My night job

In the evenings I moonlight as a stripper. A paint stripper that is! Gotcha!

You see, in purchasing an 82 year old house we acquired 82 years worth of history with. We also got some awesome solid wood doors. Solid as in at least 70 lbs. a piece. And we got 15 of them to be exact. 15 doors with at least 15 coats of paint on them....and their original solid hardware.
Way back when we started this renovation (when we were really in novices), we thought we'd strip the paint from each door, sand it and repaint them white. Well after working on that very first door for 2 weeks and still not getting it all off, we gave up on that idea and hired painters to sand and repaint our doors. Our painters however did not make our door hardware pretty - in fact, we're pretty sure they gave it another coat of white even though we specifically asked them to not do so!

So with our doors freshly painted and our hardware uglier than ever, we found ourselves in a bind. It would be impossible to strip the paint from the hardware with the doors still in place, so they'd have to come off, one at at time. And just that they have been doing over the past 6 months. We cheat a bit and take down 2 or 3 at a time to speed the process along.

It's not easy since they're so heavy, so it's a good thing my handyman is in really good shape!
So he removes all the hinges, doorknobs, and what have you and drops them in the bucket of XXXX (some toxic goo) for a few days. That's where I come in. Me and my rubber gloves.

After bathing in the stripper for a few days, the paint is good and loose. SoI don my rubber gloves, grab my wire brush and head to the kitchen sink (we don't have a utility sink yet). Luckily we have a t.v. in the kitchen so I can pass the time catching up on some shows while I strip. It takes hours. Did you hear me? HOURS. By the time I'm through my hands are wrinkly little prunes and my neck aches like crazy.

But the fun does not stop there. We would have loved to leave them in their original antique brass state, but not all of it is a pretty brass. A lot is stained dark and some parts have been replaced over the years and don't look original, so we opt to paint them an oil-rubbed bronze instead.
I've prepared an area in our 2nd floor specifically for painting. Since we don't care about anything up there we don't worry about getting a little spray paint on the rug! So I lay out the goods and get to work priming. Because of the nature of spray paint, it takes a couple of coats which takes a day or so.

The spread

Cool locks, huh?
We even got some of the original skeleton keys too!

Soldier screws - a recent tip I figured out.

After a few coats of primer.

Then I move onto the bronzing. We chose Krylon's Oil Rubbed Metallic Bronze. It's a blacker look than some of it's competitors. This process takes several coats and several days. The hinges and bolts are all curved so I have to get them from several angles on both their sides. That paired with the fact that we don't "live" upstairs so they can easily be forgotten, makes for about a week of painting. (Sorry, I forgot to take pictures of this process.)

Once everything has been painted, it then has to be lacquered. It helps the paint be a bit more durable. It'll still scrape away as any paint does on metal, but the lacquer does help. Plus it gives a nice shiny coat which makes the hardware stand out more.

After all the lacquering is through, I pass the torch back to my handsome handyman and he gets to work re-installing the doors. This process usually takes at least 2 evenings....and a lot of grunting. Once he's done his thing, I touch up any chips that have occurred in the re-installation process with our handy dandy paint pen. The color isn't a perfect match, but it's good enough.

And that my friends is the lengthy process of making our 82 year old solid doors "new" again.

PS: If you ever stop by to visit, please comment on how nice they look. (It kills us to think that these little details that we slave over, would go unnoticed by visitors and/or future home buyers!)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Special delivery

My girl Frida has finally arrived, all the way from Spain. Now there's the quest of finding a frame for her. She's a strange size. 8.5 x 11". I suppose it's not that strage, the size of a piece of paper, but most frames are 8 x 10". I know I could just trim her down, but she is made with a nice white border all the way around her so I'd like to leave her as is. Any suggestions that won't cost me an arm & a leg.....or a foot? (There's a great quote at the bottom of the print - "Feet, why do I need them if I have wings to fly?")

Moving on.

I've been pulling together some fun little pieces of art for the gallery display in the bathroom. You know, little things we've got laying around mixed with some new, fun, inexpensive art. I've been a big fan of Amanda Stone Talley's work for a while now, so when I saw that she has created some fabrics I thought it may be an affordable way for me to have a piece of her work. I sent a note over to her asking for some samples of the fabrics, hoping that one would work for our kitchen cafe curtains. When they arrived though, the color for the kitchen wasn't quite what I had hoped. What did catch my eye though was one of the other samples that pulls together all the colors I hope to incorporate into the bathroom.

(the 1st and 2nd from the top)
So I'm thinking that I'll just frame up my little sample and add it to the collection. And finally, what would a great gallery wall be without a simple sketch? Strolling thorough Slate Interiors a while back, I noticed a simple line painting of a dog's head. I loved it, but the price tag was over my budget.

It seems simple enough to recreate though. I'm going to channel my inner artist and try my hand at this puppy dog profile, tweaked just a bit to resemble my girl.

The gallery wall is coming together slowly but surely. (We're in no hurry - the bathroom is way down on the list, but I like to plan ahead). What's not coming together is the paint color. Despite bringing home samples, my Sherwin Williams color match to Benjamin Moore's Calypso Blue is looking a bit too green. I took it back and had them add a few drops of blue, but it's still not matching up. I guess I'll be paying my friends at the neighborhood SW another visit.

The current scary state of our bathroom

Nothing is ever easy at this house, is it?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Over Inspired

Lately I've been feeling overwhelmed by all the design ideas and choices we are facing for our home. I definitely know what I like and don't like but as a self-proclaimed unconfident decision maker, I have the worst time narrowing down my ideas. I hate that I only 10 rooms to work with! I know it sounds like a lot but I have about 1,000 inspiration ideas, so 10 isn't many! I hate even more that those 10 rooms all need to flow, so some of my most favorites will have to let go in exchange for what works with not only our dominant style, but this house too.

My latest challenges have been with the kitchen cafe curtains and the guest room decor.

Since like forever I've been in love with Erika's cafe curtains so when I came across a remnant of a similar Oscar De La Renta ivory/turquoise ikat print for a mere $3.50/yard, I planned to use it. I only was able to get 3 and half yards, but it was like winning the lottery. What a deal!

These are Erika's in a different fabric, but you get the idea.

Well when you're that high there's no where to go but down, which is exactly what happened to me. Turns out there wasn't quite enough fabric to do the curtains the way I wanted - pleated, so my seamstress suggested putting a wide band across the bottom in coordinating fabric. I went off to Mary Jo's and found one, but wasn't convinced that I was going to like it all together. In my mind, wide band = very country look. So we halted the project. I also started to doubt the color in the kitchen a bit. Although right now it's closed off from the dining room (except for the doorway), but one day we may plan to open it up. I know I could just change the curtains, but I don't really operate like that. Once I find something I like, I stick with it. Not only that, I'm hoping to jazz up the dining room with an ikat print also, so it would be too much to have both.

Bad photo, but the dining room is on the other side of the left wall
(behind where the fridge sticks out)

So now you can imagine the pickle I'm in.

I've hunted down some challengers, but nothing with that same feeling.

(too much light - sorry)

Our walls are Benjamin Moore Eagle Creek (a greige) and there just isn't much fabric out there in the greige (beigey gray) family. The best I have found is this one at Calico Corners by Iman.

I've loved it for a while now and was hoping to use it for a huge cushion on mudroom bench, but it may become our cafe curtains instead.

My reason for choosing it is it's neutralness. It goes well with the paint color and can be accessorized with some fun bright colors. It's neutralness is also my reason for hating it (for the cafe curtains at least). I think I'm going to pull the trigger though before the 20% off sale ends this month. I can worry about the details later!

And just for fun, here's the ikat I'm tossing around for the dining room. The walls in there are Bear Creek - a deeper greige.

I really want something in the indigo family, but again there just doesn't seem to be any good indigo printed fabrics out there. UGH! Why am I ALWAYS so difficult?

I was planning on showing you my bedroom ideas too in this post but it's already a long one, so that will have to wait! Hold tight!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Backing out

Remember the great deal I scored a great deal on Dwell Studio's Draper Stripe runner rug through the online shopping site, The Foundary? Well, I was all excited to use it in our first floor hallway but it never arrived. I waited and waited, but still no rug.

Then last week I got an email from The Foundary. Turns out for some reason Dwell Studio doesn't have the rug, so they won't be shipping it. Boo! At least The Foundary was nice enough to refund my money and give me $100 virtual bucks in my account to put toward another purchase. For once it's not burning a hole in my pocket! I'm just going to save it away for a rainy day. There's nothing like shopping with someone else's money, right?!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's warming up!

Spring has sprung here in Charlotte! Flowers are popping up all over the neighborhood and the blossoming trees smell delightful! Things are still looking rather grim at our house (inside & out) but the sunny skies have sparked a new found motivation in us to get a few of these ongoing projects finished.

For the past few weekends Ben has been working a surround for our ugly painted brick fireplace.

Here's how it looked when we acquired it.

not so pretty

Then back in January Ben's dad came down to help him install a new firebox.

That's when we stole some cardboard moving boxes from a new neighbor down the street and covered our floors . We weren't about to have any more "incidents" with the newly refinished hardwoods.

A month or so passed where we toyed with the idea of maybe using some Quality Stone Veneer (the family business), on the face of it, but we just couldn't get it to jive right with the slate tile we had already purchased and were set on using. In the end, we returned back to our original idea of a wood surround that will eventually be flanked by built-in, glass bookcases.

So here's what my handyman has been up to while I tend to other projects (like shining up the floors).

And the hearth tile work has also been set (but not grouted). Here's a sneak peek.

What do you think of the keystone? We ran into a layout dilemma, but after much thought I came up with it and we both really love it. We're planning to put another on the face.

Next up will be priming and then painting it all Benjamin Moore Chantilly Lace, just like the rest of our trimwork. We want to also box out the mantle in a thin oak and stain it to match the floors.

At the rate we work, things should be finished in a month or so! Ha! (but it's really not that funny.......and keep in mind that we've been living with dirty cardboard floors since January. Eek!!)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

We like 'em shiny!

Do you remember way back in the fall when we had the ceiling fixed in our living room and the rest of the first floor painted? Well I'm pretty sure I mentioned it because it has been a source of stress ever since, but all the dust and debris did a number on our newly restored hardwood floors. They covered everything in plastic, but still the dust settled into the fine cracks in the wood and it didn't seem to matter how many times I cleaned them, they never looked like they once had. I tried everything from apple cider vinegar to the Bona floor cleaning system. Nothing worked.

Now that spring has come and sun actually shines in our windows, we've decided it's time to tighten up and get some of our ongoing unfinished projects finished up. Things like stripping and repainting the door hardware, touching up paint, finally finishing up the fireplace surround and tile and tackling the floors. We had discussed resanding and repolyurathaning them, but since we do live here there was the big question of what will we do with all of our furniture? So instead we opted to give this product a try.
I've been itching to finally get the guest room (which is currently our room) put together, so we started there. After emptying out all the furniture, I got down on my hands and knees with one of my mother's hand knit wash cloths and worked those floors - twice. After it drying I was honestly surprised to see that they really did look clean (finally!) but still there wasn't that new floor shine. (Since we have a satin finish on the floors they were never super shiny, but still...) So I did a quick test patch of the Minwax Hardwood Floor Reviver in the closet and then took it to the floors. It's a bit of a sticky liquid that comes out in a crazy florescent purple color that you rub in and then wait 2 hours. The waiting was the hardest part - I'm impatient - but I was super glad to see that YES! IT WORKED! Since the product recommends waiting a full 24 hours before replacing the furniture we had to do a late night moving shoving of the mattress up the staircase so we had somewhere to sleep, but it was so worth it. At least our floor if finally clean!

Look at the results:

dirty, dusty & dull

(the bedroom)

(the dining room)

So far I've tackled the bedroom, dining room & my girl cave/2nd guest room. What a way to spend your day off, huh? It's not hard, just time consuming. The hard part is going to be the rooms that we pass through everyday, like the hallway and kitchen. Maybe we should go away from the weekend to make it easier!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Rub a dub dub

Hello! I'm back in action after a quick weekend away. Now that we're back living on the east coast, it's nice to be closer to family. What isn't so nice though is the forever loooooong car ride it takes to get there. I suppose we could fly, but we're pinching our pennies these days. And a certain little 4-legged someone also loves to visit the countryside of PA, so driving allows her to come along.

Silly me! I forgot to take along my trusty Nikon D90 for optimal shots of the nieces and nephews, but I did at least have the point and shoot in my purse. Here are some shots from one of the highlights of the visit. Bathtime!

It started with just this one. Lewis and his dad, Mo. (Luckily only Lewis was in the tub!)

But when oldest cousin Isaiah got word that the tub was warmed up, he wanted in too!

Pretty soon, his sister Chloe got in on the action.

And then cousin Addie joined in on the fun too. (These 3 are inseparable.)

By this time Lewis had gotten out and was well on his way to bed. Then bath time turned into a body wash & shampoo assembly line with Annie and I performing the dirty work!

The only one who didn't take a dip in the water was Joel. Poor little guy. This bath would have probably been a bit too much for his not even 3 months of life! Maybe next visit!