Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Adventures in Lucy-land

Ladies and gentlemen, it happened. Tonight I took a plunge down the rabbit hole and hung up the very first picture in the living room. I've had this weird aversion to hanging anything on the walls throughout the house. I was forced to get over that in order to work in my office, as there are certain things I need hung up (like a calendar). So I hammered the first nails into our new, pristine walls. It was scary.

Since that initial foray, I've been thinking more about what to put up downstairs and in our bedroom. Our main problem right now is that we don't particularly like any of the framed art we have. When we were renting, I had no problem sticking something up on every available inch of surface just to cover up the walls. Because the rooms weren't mine, and usually painted white or a color I didn't choose, so pictures were a way to make it my own. But now this house is my own, so I'm not ready to just throw up whatever onto the walls all willy nilly. This takes thought.

So it's very fitting that the first thing to go up is a print that means the most to me. It's a page from Alice in Wonderland, which if you know a single thing about me you'll know is my favorite thing ever. When I was living in London, my sister came to visit and we took a day trip to Oxford. There we stopped into Alice's Shop, a former candy shop that the real Alice that Lewis Carroll based the story on frequented.

I picked up a print there and it traveled all the way home with me. It's a little worn and wrinkled, which I love, because it's been on a journey. The frame that I've had it in for a while didn't quite fit, and it really deserved to be properly matted.

Browsing Target this afternoon I found a large frame, with mat, made for displaying a diploma. Though I don't have a doctorate to brag about, the frame was on clearance for an amazing $3.75. Seriously. Three dollars and seventy-five cents. Crazy. So naturally I grabbed it and skipped down the aisle to the register.


And we get...


Perfection! The scale of the frame and mat is perfect for the print now. It definitely was deserving of something much more substantial than the bitty frame I'd had it in for so long.

I had no qualms about putting a nail into the living room wall when I realized that I had the absolute perfect place to hang it up.


This nook of the living room, next to the closet, has perplexed me since we moved in. But with this print hung up and some Alice-inspired decorations on the table, it's now my favorite part of this room!



The mouse teacup was generously handmade for me by a friend of my mother's. I love it so much! I know it's not for everyone, but when decor items mean something to you it makes your room feel personal and even more like home. It may seem like a small change to put up one picture, but it's made a huge difference!

In extremely unrelated news, yesterday Branden discovered that the rear windshield of my car had been shot out with a BB gun.


Needless to say, I was pissed. After two days of countless phone calls with my insurance company, glass installers, and a chat with the very nice police sargeant that came by, the windshield has been replaced. Apparently someone had gone around this end of town in the night, and at least a half dozen other cars were shot out too. What a pain in the ass to deal with. Nobody was hurt, though if we ever find out who did it that will likely no longer be the case.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Couch and office details!

As I hinted to earlier, we got a new couch for the living room. And sold our old couch in a matter of hours for an easy $60, thankyouverymuch. (Branden didn't think it was worth the trouble of trying to sell it and was convinced nobody would want it, so he can eternally suck it while I make off with my winnings. I used the money for groceries for us, but still. I felt victorious anyway.)

Anyway, here's the cranberry couch in its new home.



I picked up some pretty new throw pillows on the cheap! Gotta love a $5.99 price tag. I like the pattern and they're actually a soft almost velvet fabric, so they're nice and comfy.


Before these pillows came into the mix, the burgundy curtains that we already had were clashing big time with the red couch. Once these were added though, it made the color difference not so bad. The curtains aren't ideal, but for now they'll have to stay since curtains are like 50 bagillion dollars. I don't get why they're so expensive. I wish I knew how to sew!

In office news, I covered my ugly cork bulletin board with some leftover fabric from the bookcase project. It actually turned out pretty nice and it's a heck of a lot prettier to have in front of your face all day. Here's the ugly board before:


And after about five minutes with a staple gun:


So easy. Here are some more details of the office, which has really come together. It's not so bad working in here all day!



Working at home full time is definitely an adjustment but having a nice, organized office to work in all day makes it so much easier to stay focused and on top of everything.

The weather the last couple of days has been so hot and sticky, it was like July all over again. Very strange, but it seems we're back to fall today. We got a new patio set for the front porch, which we've been enjoying a lot. Lucy loves hanging out on the porch, watching the neighborhood and putting her nose to the wind.


Soaking up the last rays of summer sunshine!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Office is ready!

This weekend was nonstop. We busted ass and finally finished refinishing (say that three times fast) both my office desk and bookcase, unpacked and filed a bunch of things that needed to be stored in the office, moved in a new couch, moved out the old couch, shampooed the new couch, shampooed the living room and upstairs hallway, got a new patio set for the front porch, and still found time to take a long walk at our favorite wildlife sanctuary. After all that work, I need another weekend.

First, the desk. Branden has been painstakingly staining, varnishing, and waxing this thing to perfection.
Remember, this is what we started with?


Here's what we've got now, after many hours of work:



I love it. This one was definitely Branden's project, and he did such a great job getting it ready for me! What a sweet guy. :)

I picked up a fun little knob for the desk drawer for a reasonable $3.95 at a local decor shop. It reminds me of Alice in Wonderland, which is definitely why I like it. It all came together really well.


Next project was the bookcase. Man, what a pain this was. The surface was made of that really shiny wood veneer, and I just couldn't get anything to stick to it. Let's refresh our memories with what we started with:


Well, here it is now, FINALLY finished!


In retrospect, I think a light sanding before I primed may have helped, but I'm not even positive that it would have made a big difference. After a coat of primer and two coats of paint, the lightest tap would pull all of the paint off, right down to that damn shiny veneer. Out of ideas, I finally used some polyurethane on it, and that helped to seal everything in. The surface isn't indestructible, but it certaily has held up so far so that's a relief.

For the inside panels, I cut two of sheets of poster board to size and then hot glued fabric on to them. Once the panels were in place, I glued them to the inside of the bookcase.


Because the panels fit snugly to begin with, and because the shelves would add even more support, I only needed to glue around the tops and bottoms of the two panels. It was an annoyingly long project, but I'm really pleased with the result. I measured and cut wrong a couple of times, so if you were to tackle a project like this and actually measure right the first time I think it could be relatively painless. Live and learn!

The room is finally ready for me to sit here 40 hours a week. And the timing was right down to the wire, since I start working at home on Wednesday! There's still some more projects planned, like a complete closet upgrade with new shelving and added storage, window treatments, and a bulletin board.

Remember that new couch I mentioned? Here's a sneak peak...


Cranberry! More on that switch later!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


It's official. Fall is here! It's chilly, in the mornings the windshield in my car needs defrosting (okay, so it's mostly fogged, not frozen, but close enough), and the leaves on the trees have hints of red. It's my favorite time of year, and I'm totally ready for apple cider and pumpkin bread. Maybe it's the super hot and steamy summer we had that makes me want the crisp cool air even more than usual.

I've gotten into the fall spirit early this year and added some simple decorations around the house. First, we obviously needed a wreath on the front door.


I plan on picking up some pumpkins soon for the porch steps. The posts on the stairs will be perfect for some perching pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns.

I've been mixing and matching with some different fall centerpieces for the dining room, too. I just love the warm colors.






Pretty soon the two gigantic sugar maples in our front yard will be dropping leaves all over the place and we'll be raking indefinitely. I'm so excited for fall that I'm even looking forward to raking! Something must definitely be wrong with me.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lumberjacks and telephone tables

I've neglected updating this a bit so this will be a big post. We got a ton accomplished this weekend around the house. Sunday was spent chopping down tree branches in the front and back yards. We still need to get a professional in to get down the really big branches in the front of the house (they hang over the roof into the gutters), but we were able to make some progress on some of the smaller ones.

In the backyard, the big pine tree's branches were reaching out over the roof and most of them were completely dead. So we cleaned the tree up.

Here's the best "before" I could find...


Remember the giant shed we ripped down within the first week? And the overgrown rhodedendrons? Yeah, I had kind of pushed them out of my mind too.

Here's the neat and tidy after...


This backyard has come SO far from when we bought the house. It's so different and much more spacious. Night and day back here. The retaining wall that Branden and my brother built has held up really well. We dumped a ton of soil behind it, as well as the day lily bulbs that I pulled up from elsewhere in the yard, and they've already started sprouting behind the wall. Resilient little guys.



You can see Branden's handywork. I'm just glad it wasn't me way up on that ladder. :)

The next backyard plan is to get the fence installed in the next couple of weeks before the ground starts to freeze. Stay tuned for that!

While Branden and his dad did the tree chopping, I hung out with the dog and worked on inside projects. That bookcase that I mentioned earlier has been the bane of my existence. Despite a coat of primer and two coats of paint, it all somehow easily chips off with practically a light tap. I've taken chips off with just my fingernails accidentally tapping the surface. So I got some polyurethane to seal everything. Fingers crossed that this works, cause if not I'm out of ideas! I was about ready to toss the whole thing into a bonfire this weekend and dance around it like Maleficent's weird goblin guys in Sleeping Beauty. I'm working on adhering fabric to the back and though it's been really tough, it seems to be working. I hope to have a solid after photo to share soon because if not I'm probably just going to lose my mind.

One little project that did go a bit better was our recent Craigslist find. We came across this sweet vintage telephone table with a hidden seat (!) a couple of weeks ago and definitely had to make the drive out to snag it.




Secrets! I just love love love secret hidden things. It was in pretty decent shape when we got it, but needed a good refinishing, and the seat was pretty dingy and beat. That rusty looking hardware wasn't working for me either.

I primed the whole thing (it was a pain in the butt getting in all those grooves with a brush) and then Branden spray painted. Some primer, a few coats of spray paint, and new hardware and we came out with this:





I love it! The table now lives in that previously puzzling blank spot next to our television. Not sure if this will be its permanent home, but for now it works. I recovered the seat with some remnant fabric we had. It's actually leftover fabric that Branden used inside the cases at his jewelry store. It's not quite right (too pink) but for now it works.

Solid project, right? Well... umm, right after the last coat of spray paint, Branden asked me to hold the table up while he sprayed underneath. Somehow I let the whole thing topple over (it's really top heavy!) and smash onto the patio. So now there's this teensy weensy chunk missing off the top...


Whoops. Stay tuned for a post on how to fix chipped wood! This is why I'm not to be trusted with important jobs, people. I know this. It's also why I didn't try to be a lumberjack and stayed inside, far away from ladders and saws and sharp things. I know my limits.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Total transformation: the living room

I think it's time to take a few steps back and look at how far we've come with one room in particular: the living room. It's hard to believe that we closed on the house and began working just three short months ago. Going back through pictures, this is not even the same house. The change is unbelievable!

Let's start at the beginning.

Here is the living room just after closing, exactly the way we bought it:




The walls were covered with peeling, stained wallpaper. The ceilings had these horrible, weird panels with odd designs etched into them. The light fixtures were old and covered in dust. It was dingy and dark, and I had more than one thought of "why in the world did we buy this dump?"

So, we started ripping down wallpaper.


This sounds simple. But it wasn't. Layer after layer after layer, and we weren't getting anywhere. Chemicals, steamers, and scorers... it was taking forever.




At this rate, we would be lucky if we finished one room in a year. And every single room in the house was just like this one. This is when we realized we needed some help.

We brought in a contractor, who informed us that what we thought was the drywall beneath the last layer of wallpaper (the brown in the photos) was actually a thin layer of gypsum board. Beneath that gypsum was even more wallpaper, on top of solid wood beadboard. Fourteen layers of wallpaper in total.

Let me take a moment here to mention that our house was built around 1920. Now, I'm no mathemetician, but from my calculations 14 layers of wallpaper means that there was a new layer of wallpaper added every six years. Every six years! These people were seriously wallpapering junkies.

So we switched gears, and we started ripping down the gypsum board.


Branden is using our favorite tool, the Fat Max crowbar, to dig in to the wall.


You can see the solid wood beadboard peeking out from underneath the last layers of paper. We found that the very last layer was actually newspaper, which was used as insulation back then. The pages were from a 1921 edition of the Boston Sunday Post. I saved the front of the sports section, which included a headline declaring the grand opening of the Yankees' new ballpark. I plan on framing it as a memento of this crazy undertaking.

Here's a debris pile with some of the newspaper pages on top:


Once we got all of the gypsum board off, we were able to pull down those horrible ceiling tiles and put up some modern, flat sheetrock. We also chucked the built-in china cabinet that once lived in this corner of the room. Since it wasn't original to the house and was made of cheap particle board, it was an easy decision. We gained a lot of space in that corner by getting rid of it.


Next came drywall on the rest of the walls.



Once the drywall was mudded and sanded a few times, the primer was able to go on. This alone brightened the room up so much. Things were starting to come together.

010 (2)

Then the most exciting part: paint color!



We chose Benjamin Moore's Shaker Beige. I love the color so much and highly recommend it. The tones are deep and lovely, and it changes throughout the day. The room was topped off with gorgeous crown molding.

It took so much work, I can hardly believe how far the room has come. Let's go back again to the beginning, just to fully appreciate the transformation.







Lucy is obviously thrilled with the way things turned out! I couldn't be happier either. The room is warm, inviting, comfortable... everything you want in your home. Looking back at what we started with and where we are now, I truly believe that anything is possible. There's still more to do, of course, but for now I'm happy to just be enjoying this room and planning out where holiday decorations are going to go in a few months... :)