Sunday, December 28, 2014

Master Bedroom and Closet: Finished!

It's been an awful long time since I posted anything, but that's because I'm in perfectionist-mode now.  Before, it was like, "Great! A wall!" but now that things are starting to look complete, it's very bothersome to me when they are not.

However, as a treat to ourselves, Ben and I finished off the master bedroom with a few small purchases and a lot of work.





I did not take a before picture, but just imagine a really dusty, empty room with some tiles and a wifi router stacked in the corner….  So, of course, we started with laboriously cleaning every surface, even the vertical walls.

The biggest purchase was the metal headboard and footboard.  We found this one on Craigslist in Highland Park for an even $100, which sounded good enough to me, so we picked it up, and I spray-painted it white the same night.

I changed up the linens on the bed.  I had a white embroidered Martha Stewart Trousseau duvet cover and some vintage pillowcases that I had purchased earlier.  I bought the pillowcases on a whim when I had no intention of switching to a different palate other than the "Salt Glaze" blue we had in the last two apartments, but now I'm glad I did!  They were only $5 a pair after all.


I saw that the room was coming together in a certain style, with the brass bed, my antique vanity dresser, the old radiators… and I just decided to run with it.  The room feels like it is from an earlier era, what some people with better taste than mine might call unabashedly sentimental, but I am so so happy with it.  I find it to be a very homey room, yet still interesting and beautiful.


Hand-me-down rugs from Ben's grandma, layered.


Garage sale lamp, IKEA alarm clock, on my very first antique store purchase (c. 1998): a vintage vanity dresser.


French doors into the sunroom.


I think these curtains are just too gorgeous.  They're an ebay find.


Antique store mirror, with pretty etching that is illegal to do now.  Etching is never like this anymore, too many chemicals.

And, my wonderful walk-in closet!  I have been doing without a closet for months now, I can't wait to unpack my tubs of clothes and hang everything up finally!


Walk-in closet, view from bedroom.


Chandelier sconce from the ballroom of the hotel where I work (the hotel was remodeled, and they gave me 9 of these, so anytime I need a sconce, it's the cheapest option.  Although it does make me look extraordinarily fancy to have one in my closet….)  The marble-topped table is actually from the hotel as well- I don't know if I'm crazy about it in this room, but it looks OK for now.



Double-hung closet rods, and an IKEA light fixture.


Prettiest radiator in the house!

The master bath is coming along.  The vanity is in place and the faucets are installed.  I love these faucets- I bought them back when I thought I had oodles of money to spend on such things.  Since then, I've thought multiple times about taking them back and getting cheaper ones, but I saved money on the vanity…. so it sort of evens out, and I think they're spectacular in this room.



The shower tile is almost finished.  Still needs to be grouted (black grout), and have the fixtures installed.




This is the door to the master bedroom.  Originally, it was actually the front door of the 2nd floor apartment.  So we have a chain lock and a peephole on our master bedroom door!  I have no intention of changing this, I like that it hints at the history of the house, and it's a beautiful solid wood door.  

I'm really happy with this room, I can't wait to see it after a few months of settling in.  I have some more ideas, and I need to finish up the sunroom, but for now, it's so nice to relax in a normal bedroom!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Decor Inspiration: Edwardian Summer Homes

Now that I'm older, I'm so happy my parents took us on summer trips to our grandparents' cottages.  As a child, I complained about missing out on what my friends were doing, but I have such happy memories now: of finally turning onto the dirt road, catching panfish, making flower crowns, roaming the beach for driftwood, and the house itself, frozen in time.  A little embroidered cover over the toaster, the packed-down cushion on the rocking chair, the fridge with the old-fashioned icebox latch, white beadboard walls and sand-dusted parquet floors.  When I think of childhood summers, I think of the midmorning light, so rarely seen and so lovely.  All other seasons and for my adult life so far, I rarely see midmorning light, the way it falls through a window and hits the floor in off-kilter windowpane rectangles.  A house lit by this light is always lovely, no matter the hand-me-down furniture or threadbare cushions.
On a larger, more elegant scale, Edwardian summer houses have the same breezy, light-filled quality to them: a disparate mix of sparse furnishings, windows hung with sheer tasselled curtains floating on a beachfront breeze.  A watery smell in the air, bowed floorboards, a screened door with creaky hinges.  Thin cushions, a lace tablecloth, faded floral papered walls, linen upholstery.  







I think it's important to create a home that looks lived-in.  It saves your sanity as you learn to live with imperfections that pop up with normal use.  The rooms below are elegant, but lived-in.  Clean seersucker fabric, raw-edged linen, well-worn wood and wicker.  Stacks of plates, old silver, exposed pipes, bowed floorboards, an old kettle.  A cast-iron sink, lace-draped windows, bare floorboards.










Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Decor Inspiration: Turn-of-the-Century Collegiate Dormitories

The "hallowed halls" of an Oxford Gothic - styled university can be breathtaking, and are meant to impress a sense of glorified history upon their viewer.  In these majestic, impersonal spaces, transient students come and go, year after year.  No one lives here, but instead, squirreled away in little garrets for a semester or two, they flock to the common areas daily.  It reminds one a bit of a medieval town, in which the common folk lived in one-room straw huts, meant only for cooking and sleeping, and left daily to pay homage in castles and cathedrals far grander, on a scale that still impresses us today.


Lately, have been admiring the aesthetics of campus dormitories at the turn-of-the-century.  How did the Gilded Age translate into the heavily-personalized, petite spaces of young, worldly scholars?  The varied markings of campus extracurriculars embellishing the walls: lacrosse sticks, oars, tennis rackets.  A rainbow of felt pennants on a backdrop of floral wallpaper, in a tiny jewelbox of a room.  The sparse furnishings of a semester: the brass bedsteads, folding cane chairs, and "Turkish Corners" made from piles of hand-embroidered pillows.  A heavy desk and set of drawers, the occasional piano.  Paint pots and jars of brushes, an amateur oil preciously framed, a daguerreotype of a long-distance sweetheart.  The trappings of a Grand Tour: Japanese handpainted fans, postcards, a set of carved ivory animals, a single large seashell.







Lately, perhaps because of the lingering dust and my unwillingness to put up artwork and curtains in such conditions, I have been craving a personalized space, filled with little treasures and curiousities. A slightly-rumpled bed with piles of pillows and a solid set of drawers in a sparsely-furnished room.  White walls, brown tweed, a Persian rug in faded scarlet, the glow of old wood.






Historically Accurate Crown Moldings

What a nice resource!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

First Thanksgiving in the New House

I was quite sick on Thanksgiving. I had spent the Sunday before in the hospital on a breathing treatment, and was thoroughly exhausted every minute because of the lack of air and an exhausting cough.  So, a lot of projects didn't get finished.

All I managed to do was make up the guest room, clean the bathrooms, and set the table, before collapsing back into bed to nap until everyone showed up at 3:30pm.  There's two and a half now of the bathrooms, which is wonderful when you're having guests and everyone wants a morning shower.  We've run out of tile for the third shower, so we're having to wait over the holidays for it to come in.

Although the chandelier did not get hung, the new powder room did not get painted, and the stairs did not get polished [all my jobs that I was too exhausted to complete], Ben did spend some serious time in the new kitchen, and made some lovely food.  I think it was the most delicious Thanksgiving I have ever had - I didn't even get sick of the leftovers!

Here's the table:

And the menu, which thankfully I had planned far in advance:

My favorite dishes were the red onions, which were roasted in pomegranate molasses until they were the color of rubies.  Ben liked the stuffing - a lot of people at the table tried their first-ever chestnuts!  I also thought the cake, a last-minute substitution because neither of us had the time or energy to make pie, was both beautiful and delicious.  I would definitely make the cake again.

Pear and Crystallized Ginger Cake
Pear and Crystallized Ginger Cake- Recipe

  1. 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  2. 4 medium, very firm Bosc pears—peeled, cored and cut into eighths
  3. 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  4. 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
  5. 2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  8. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  9. 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  10. 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  11. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  12. 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  13. 3 large eggs
  14. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  15. 3/4 cup milk
  16. 1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter. Add the pears and cook over high heat, stirring, until crisp-tender. Add 4 tablespoons of the butter, the brown sugar and honey and stir over moderate heat until melted. Off the heat, arrange the pears in an overlapping ring, with the pointed ends facing the center. Fill the center with pears and sprinkle with the crystallized ginger.
  17. 2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a large bowl, cream the remaining stick of butter. Add the granulated sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the vanilla. Beat in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the milk. Spoon the batter evenly over the pears, spreading it to the edge.
  18. 3. Bake the cake on the bottom oven rack for 30 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then invert a plate over the skillet. Quickly invert the skillet to release the cake. Replace any pears that stick to the skillet and drizzle any remaining syrup over the cake. Let cool before serving.
from Food+Wine 


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Why is Everything BACKORDERED?

Lately, I have been beset by backorders.  I have 3 lovely things on backorder.

Primarily, these lovely cabinet pulls.  I'm not being lazy about putting on cabinet pulls, believe me, I want them so badly, I'm sick of prying cabinet drawers open with my fingertips!


Also, this lovely light that I've ordered from Rejuvenation...  So the kitchen still has a lightbulb hanging from a string.



AND the tile for the downstairs bathroom, Daltile hexagon tile in "Biscuit" with "Marble" colorway dots.

I hate delays! I want instant gratification!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Seven Month Update

Well, it's (two days past) November 1st, which means it has been SEVEN MONTHS to the day since we signed on the house.  From that first day when we got the keys, we've been putting in a lot of hours of renovation, although we did take some time to just live in the house, too.

What have we done in seven months?  We've refinished two stories of hardwood floors, put in a set of French doors for the upstairs sunroom, we've redone all the plumbing AND all of the electric, framed a master bath, walk-in closet, a new bedroom, a coat closet, expanded the kitchen, and installed all new cabinets.

What do we have left? Rebuilding the downstairs pantry (which was cut up by the prior tenant to accommodate a fridge), lots of painting, tiling and putting in fixtures in the powder room, putting french doors on the coat closet, adding trim to the new doorways, framing in the foyer entryway opening, conditioning the wood on the staircase, building the dining room built-in cabinets, tiling both upstairs bathrooms, installing the new fixtures in both upstairs bathrooms, scraping the painted windows, and putting up some new trim molding in rooms where it had been removed by prior owners.

Looking back, if we had skipped re-doing the electric, we would have been saved months of work.  The holes that were cut in all of the walls could have been avoided, with a significant amount of ensuing plaster.  I don't know if I would have made any other decision if I had advance knowledge of how much new electric slows everything down, but I can say in retrospect that we would be pretty much done by now if we hadn't redone the electric.  Still, modern electric that can handle vacuum cleaners without the lights flickering is an important thing, and I feel safer knowing that it's replaced.

As for what we've done this weekend, the grout is in!  I chose "Delorean Gray", silly color name, but I think it's the perfect midtone gray color.  I'm very happy with it.  We went with pre-mixed grout because I have read that it's hard to get color consistency in the powdered stuff.  Since we were doing a rather large area, I did not want a "tie-dye" effect.  I was very happy with how it went on, and how it dried.  So, for all our other tiling, I will be going with pre-mixed for sure.

Delorean gray pre-mixed grout



Also, take a look at the picture below, do you see that?!  Isn't that awesome?!


Oh, it doesn't look very amazing?  That's because you haven't been nervously reaching into a dark electric box to flip on your light switch.  Yes, I have added SWITCHPLATE COVERS to the walls wherever possible!  Thank goodness, I won't be electrocuted (again).

And climbing the stairs, we have progress on the upstairs.  Lots of framing was finished this weekend.  Here is the master bathroom.


Yes, huge windows, in the bathroom.  We're going to frost them and do something like this, with the mirrors of the double vanity suspended in front of the windows.


And my future walk-in closet.  This is my half (seriously), Ben's half is on the other side.  I'm going from no closet to a gigantic closet!


And the third bedroom, once the second-floor kitchen.  It's all framed in.  After we took the tile down, it had holes in the wall for ages.  Glad that's over with!


And the hallway to the 2nd and 3rd bedrooms is now framed too.  

Plum says hi!
The past seven month certainly haven't been entirely smooth sailing.  There have been quite a few frustrations, several all-nighters, months with only a grill to cook on, and always, there has been a lot of dust.  Oh, the dust is unbelievable!  However, I'm happy I kept a photo diary-of-sorts of my summer on instagram.  When I look back through at our pretty garden, our travels, our cooking, and our sunshine-filled weekends spent together, I think the happy times have outweighed the frustration, and we're still following the dream!