Kitchen Revamp – Cabinet Painting

The day we moved in

The day we moved in

When we first saw this house the kitchen was a major selling point – it is huge, tons of counter and cabinet space, great layout and open to the rest of the living area. I could see myself cooking and entertaining here with ease…

Finished product

Finished product

Of course in my mind, I was seeing a much more beautiful version – but the bones and layout were perfect!

Before we started tiling

Before we started tiling – only the wall color, island lights and faucets had been updated

I would never have put so much knotty pine in my dream kitchen, the faucets and lighting were not my style, the paint was dreary,  the gold, stainless and wooden outlet covers were awful, the granite was jet black, the flooring was damaged, there was a fake red brick area for the ovens, the backsplash was a dark, busy slate with a weird pewter insert of vegetables above the sink that Just. Had. To. Go.

slate everywhere

slate everywhere

The overall impression was dark and heavy, despite all the light in the room – it had no contrast everything was tonally the same. However with all the things in the house that needed fixing, we only handled the most pressing.

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Old ugly faucet &  hard water stains on backsplash

We replaced the faucets and the island lighting as soon as we moved in and I switched out a few of the worst outlet covers since that was an easy fix – goodbye gold! We also tackled the damaged flooring, which I already wrote about here.

New island lights

New island lights

But that was it for a couple years. We lived with it –  it seemed like such a daunting task. Was I really going to pull out all these perfectly good cabinets? Seemed wasteful – I would be replacing them with identical cabinets in a different finish – the layout was already perfect…. Should I rip out all the granite and put in something lighter? That is an awful  lot of granite and do I really want to spend that much when I don’t love the cabinets… The backsplash would be easy – but until I decided what to do about the granite and the cabinets, I shouldn’t touch it. I wanted to rip out the fake red brick and replace with tile – but I was concerned about pulling out the ovens and getting all the edges to line up again since it butted right up to the ceiling molding and the pantry door…. I had a bad case of analysis paralysis!

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Brick staining in progress

Then my husband suggested painting the brick – at first I was “no, no, no” – I hate painted brick almost as much as the red brick! But then I thought what if we faux finished each individual brick to look a little more like a travertine subway tile…. My husband’s business is transforming concrete pool decks, driveways and patios, making them look like natural stone or tile so this wasn’t such a huge stretch.  I thought what the hell, lets try it and see if it makes the brick something I can live with. I gave him some color reference and a couple pictures of what I wanted and over a couple days, while I was at work, he made it beautiful!

Finished brick

Finished brick

I had been considering painting the cabinets for a while but again was put off by the effort and the fact that our kitchen would de dismantled for a long time so I thought I would hold off and pay someone else to do it  – but then we had to replace a couple air conditioning units this year and that pushed the project out a little further into the future. Eric encouraged me to just do it ourselves.

Test Area Before

Test Area Before

I had researched a couple different paints that simulated oil based cabinet paints hardwearing properties but were actually water based, so much easier clean up and faster drying times. Sherwin Williams was one of them  – more expensive but highly rated for this sort of job. Then Eric came across another one from Porter Paints called Breakthrough that is supposed to be extremely durable but in addition to that you don’t need to prime and it dries in 15 minutes between coats!!!

My glam designer fabric

My glam designer fabric

I picked out the three colors I wanted – from my fancy designer fabric that I mentioned before. A off white/linen for the cabinets called Garlic Clove, a soft, light green for the mile of bead board that backed the cabinets facing the living area called White Clover and a mid grey blue for the center island called Aqua Smoke. These are similar to the colors that I have used on the walls and they were reminiscent of some of my favorite painted kitchen inspiration pics from Houzz.

Point of no return

Point of no return

When I came home from work that night, Eric had picked up the paint already (he is such an enabler LOL) So of course I had to try it out and make sure the color was ok. He popped off a cabinet door and I painted the inside.

I looked up  “You realize this is the point of no return, right?”

“Let’s do it!”

And so began the next two weeks of long days, late nights and general kitchen destruction.

Garlic clove - not white

Garlic clove – not white

Basically the process was this:-

Test area in progress - stuff still in drawers

Test area in progress – stuff still in drawers

Pop off cabinet doors and drawer fronts, remove the hardware. We were lucky ours have hidden hinges so they didn’t need to be removed – we just took off the knobs. You can leave all your stuff in the cupboards Yay! Again, lucky for us the inside of most of our cabinets was already white so we only had to paint the doors and the outside facing edge of the boxes, toe kick etc. We only had one glass fronted cabinet that we had to paint the inside. Depending on how anal you want to be you could paint the insides of all of them but I don’t advise it – it is already a lot of work – why make it harder on yourself?

LABEL EACH DOOR – you need to know which one goes where when you are done. Trust me you will not remember. We used masking tape with numbers written them – one on the  door hinge, one on the inside of the corresponding cupboard or drawer

Clean the cabinets with something that removes gease and dirt we used TSP
DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP! If you have any food splashes or grease it will show up though the painted surface and believe me you do have dirty cabinets.

Then sand very lightly and wipe down one last time before painting. I painted the back of the cabinets first – laying out a long production line along the counters. You could do it in the garage or basement or even outside  – but here in Florida it is stupid hot right now and the paint would never dry properly in that humidity.

Production line with a few stubborn knobs

Production line with a few stubborn knobs

Three coats on the backs, waiting 15 minutes between coats  – if you time it right you can just paint continuously – by the time you finish the last cabinet door, the first one has already dried for 15 minutes. Then leave them for 30 minutes before flipping the over and putting three coats on the front and sides.

If you have ever painted doors before, you will already know that the brush is good for getting in the ridges around the panels but a foam roller is your best friend – the finish is much better –  no brushstrokes and streaks left behind. Multiple thin coats are better than heavier coats – you need to avoid drips at the best of times, but with paint that dries in 15 minutes you cannot have drips.

Final tile choice on right

Final tile choice on right

We started on the one area that had no backsplash but we knew that we needed to tackle the tile before going too far – don’t want to scratch up newly painted cabinets during demo. So after we finished the uppers and lowers on the test area and stood back to admire the overall effect, it was time to go tile shopping 🙂

I picked a sort of subway mosaic with some natural travertine stones, classic subway and lightly crackled, palest hint of green ceramic. I didn’t want something that would feel too dated and that ruled out a lot of the mosaic glass tile that has been so prevalent for so long – I think that look is past it’s prime now, but I also wanted something a little more contemporary than plain subway. I was really happy with this pick from Lowes – just the right modern, yet classic look I was aiming for, wasn’t terribly expensive and looked good with the stained brick and new cabinet color.

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Bead board hell – but love that color!

Over the course of the week, I had painted the bead board behind the bar height cabinets and was pretty happy with the color choice, the room was looking lighter and brighter by the day. Bead board is a bitch to paint – no getting around it. What worked best for me was to use a brush to get into each little crevice then go over the whole thing with the roller. However those little crevices hold the paint and once gravity takes effect, you get little drips pooling along the baseboard so you have to go back and touch that up as you go. Mind-numbing – just crank up the tunes and zone out!

Goodbye Holly Hobby outlet covers!!!

Goodbye Holly Hobby outlet covers!!! Hello crisp white ones

We spent the whole weekend on the backsplash – it turned it to be more work than we anticipated. Normally you can just chisel off the tile and then retile – however they had tiled directly onto drywall, not cement board and removing the tile took the wall down with it. Sigh…

Its' going down - I'm yelling timber....

Its’ going down – I’m yelling timber….

Friday night we demod the one long wall behind the sink, right down to the studs. Goodbye pewter plate and goodbye sanity! Then Sat morning we tackled the other counters, put up new cement board and tiled like a couple maniacs. It was an long and exhausting weekend but what a huge difference it made? Suddenly the whole kitchen was transformed

Good bye ugly pewter monstrosity

Good bye ugly pewter monstrosity

My sweet husband grouted all that tile on Monday, when I was working. During the week my guys prepped doors and cabinets and I came home and painted in the evenings. They also installed recycle cans and my awesome rev-a-shelf for my mixer. No more empty bottles and cans sitting on the counter top and I no longer have to break my back lifting that heavy mixer out when I need it LOL

Hidden recycling bins

Hidden recycling bins

Rev-a-shelf

Rev-a-shelf

Rev-a-shelf activate!

Rev-a-shelf activate!

Destruction everywhere

Destruction everywhere

Demo in progess

Demo in progress

ready for cement board

ready for cement board

By end of Sat we had finished all the cabinets – it took exactly two cans of Garlic Clove paint. I had decided to keep the old hardware, we just switched out any worn ones from the heavily used kitchen with unworn knobs from the laundry room and guest baths. Now with new light cabinets the dark oil rubbed bronze hardware and black granite looked crisp and awesome – like they were meant to be 🙂

Sunny helping with the cement board

Sunny helping with the cement board

Tile begins

Tile begins

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Tiling finished – look how nicely it goes with stained brick

tiling done

more tiling done

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Production line starting up again

tiling done

tile and paint done

more cabinets

yet more cabinets

Sunday, I caulked the backsplash and painted the last of the bead board that butted up to the tile, White Clover . Then we tackled the island – the bad news is it had lots of open alcoves and shelving that had to be painted both inside and out – the good news was the darker paint only took two coats to cover! I love, love the color – Aqua Smoke

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First coat on island – time to cover the yucky green

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Island done

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Island complete – this is a truer representation of the color

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Island cabinet production line

Yes it was a marathon effort over two weeks but I now have a brand new kitchen. I am shocked each morning when I get up and see it again. That black granite looks perfect now. The kitchen is light and bright, classic yet contemporary and wonder of wonders cost less than $800. Six hundred of that went on the tile, the rest was four cans of pricy, but so worth it, paint and a couple panels of cement board.

Painting your kitchen cabinets is definitely doable as a DIY project. I am so glad we took the plunge.

All Done!!

All Done!!

Complete

Complete

Restoration Hardware – you are drunk!

Final arrangement

Final arrangement

I recently bought a console table for an empty spot in the house – it was a wall crying out for something – of course this meant I then needed things to put on it….sigh…

I remember seeing some cool glass domes in Restoration Hardware catalogs with scrolls and keys in them and I thought a few of those would look nice along with some crapola I already had – like a nice wooden horse and silver tray that were in need of homes.

I guess I had never checked the price on these splendiferous glass “cloches” – the one I particularly liked full of vintage keys was $395 – WTF?  If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would never pay 400 bucks for a bunch of old rusty keys in a glass dome! Even the empty ones were $70 – 100 – not happening!

Some of the raw materials

Some of the raw materials

Outraged, but still wanting my fancy “objects d’art” – I decided to take matters into my own hands. I ordered 3 varying sizes of cloches from Amazon – do yourself a  favor and search for glass display domes – they are automatically half the price of a glass “cloche” LOL. The largest most expensive was under $40, the other two were $20 and $14 all on a nice walnut base – just like the Restoration Hardware versions 🙂

I also ordered some old keys online for $15 and then hit JoAnnes and Michaels to pick up a few more old keys, some carved wooden eggs and a pad of that paper scrapbookers use with old letters, sheet music, maps etc printed on them I may have spent all of $30

Map scroll with Ireland and Journey Key

Map scroll with Ireland and Journey Key

Once I had all my ingredients on hand, I started with the easy stuff. The tallest “cloche” I wanted to fill with scrolls – similar to the expensive inspiration but since I was doing it myself, I was able to personalize – I rolled up a map from the scrapbooking pad, leaving  Ireland visible –  tied it up with a piece  of canvas that came with some of the JoAnnes stuff and added a small key with the word “Journey”.  Since I moved from Ireland to the US many years ago I thought this was appropriate. I made another scroll from a piece of sheet music and added a key with the word “Heart” on it  –  I did find my wonderful husband here after all – then I used a few more vintage looking letters and tied them with the ribbon that held some of the keys together  and “Voila”  for $25 bucks I had recreated a pretty cool piece.

Heart scroll

Heart scroll

Even easier was filling the smallest dome with a bunch of carved wooden eggs – I thought that would be kind of fun, since, we amazingly enough, have chickens who lay a bunch of actual eggs –  this was a quirky nod to the life we have today and love. This one may have cost me about $35

The final one was more of a project – I really wanted that damn cloche full of keys!!! The Victorians were on to something – you can put any old crap under glass and it instantly becomes fascinating and fabulous – part of an exotic collection. I needed one of these so bad – I just refused to pay a fortune for it!

Badly focused view of the hooks

Badly focused view of the hooks

I used some dark bronze wire I bought in JoAnnes to make hooks. I have some pliers from a jewelry making hobby I had back in the day that let me easily form the shape I wanted and I just made them in varying heights and arranged the keys in a way that made me happy. I used a piece of styrofoam to get the general layout and then marked the base of the largest dome with a sharpie in the approximate layout of the hooks in the styrofoam.

Putting the teen to work drilling the base

Putting the teen to work drilling the base

My teen, who loves to help out on projects and build things (wonder where he gets that from?) used a fine drill bit to drill holes straight down into the base. Make sure you mark your drill bit with tape so you don’t go the whole way through  – just 3/4 of the way is what you need.

Checking for fit on my styrofoam prototype

Checking for fit on my styrofoam prototype

Once he did that, I started to assemble the hooks into the base. I discovered that the weight of the keys made them swivel so I used a hot glue gun to put a bead of glue on the bottom of each hook before inserting it into the base – this held them securely where I wanted them, then I could hang the keys knowing they wouldn’t shift around and get tangled.

Looks like $400!

Looks like $400!

Finally, I put the glass dome in place and stood back to admire my handiwork. OK I may have spent $70 all told on this one, but it is a far cry from the $395 that Restoration Hardware wanted  – of course they may have been drunk off their asses when they came up with that price point LOL

Dining room art challenge

The formal dining room in the new house was going to be an easy one – I already had furniture I liked and a great rug I bought when I was in India years ago.  I figured a lick of paint and we would be good to go – no problem. Of course like many of the projects around here it has been happening in stages

Before - Old light fixture and paint - I know its blurry - it was 2am on moving day or something LOL

Before – Old light fixture and paint – I know its blurry – it was 2am on moving day or something LOL

The first thing I had to get rid of when we first moved in was the old light fixture – not my style at all – I wanted something more modern and contemporary. The light fixture I fell in love with turned out to be Italian and $26k – never going to happen!

New Dining Room Light

New Dining Room Light

So I scoured the interwebs looking for something in my budget that captured the same feel and finally found it – on sale I might add – yay me! Buying it was the easy part – installing it not so much….

It took four of us to get the thing up –  two of us on ladders – every bubble had to be painstakingly screwed together and hung in place – after all the sweating and cursing – we all stood back and just loved it – so dramatic 🙂

Before shot

Before shot

Maybe a month later I tackled the walls I found a great wallpaper that was tone on tone black that I put up under the chair rail. Hey, its a formal dining room – needs some drama right? Then I painted the walls 3 shades of grey to pick out some of the architectural details in the arches and niche.

After - Niche or alcove - you say potato, I say potato...

After – Niche or alcove – you say potato, I say potato…

A touch more of the awesome wallpaper and a great fractal mirror from Pier 1 to set off my Thai Angel. I love her she is the first thing I bring into every new house I have bought in the past 15 years. I think she brings me luck 🙂

Shiny happy people with my bargain mirror

Shiny happy people with my bargain mirror

I found a great mirrored cabinet online and later an awesome round mirror to hang above it. The mirror arrived broken so the company refunded my money but I was able to have the broken glass replaced at a local store for only $20 – Score!

I love shiny things!

I love shiny things!

I love mercury glass – I have used a ton of it as a repeating element to dress up the built in bookshelves in the living room so I used it again here.

My blank Wall

My blank Wall

It was all coming together except for the big wall…. the big blank wall. Originally I had purchased a great 7ft tall leaning mirror from Z Gallerie that was going to anchor that wall. But I hadn’t taken into account the 14ft ceilings – it looked tiny and lost.  Like the scene in This is Spinal Tap when they design this big Stonehenge prop for their stage show but it was built according to the scale on a napkin sketch and when it arrived it was only up to their knees LOL I was similarly underwhelmed….

Dwarfed mirror looks sad :(

Dwarfed mirror looks sad 😦

So I moved it into the master bedroom where it looks much better  –  but that still  left me the problem of the giant wall. I couldn’t find a mirror big enough that didn’t cost eleventy billion dollars. I thought about buying glass and making my own frame – but how many leaning mirrors does one house need and how the hell would I move a piece of glass that size? That would be just asking for 7 years of bad luck LOL

So 8 months later, I was still staring at that blank wall when I decided it was way past time to figure it out. I toyed with the idea of several mirrors hung in a grid, maybe a giant painting – but to be honest painting in large scale does not come easy to me – I am too detail oriented – it would likely take me a year to finish a painting of that size and that blank wall could not wait that long.

Ruby Beach WA

Ruby Beach WA

Finally, I was browsing through my photos when I came upon a trip we took to Ruby Beach back in Washington. We had taken a drive out with Jon and the dogs –  I had forgotten about all the landscape photos I had taken trying to capture the mist rolling over the bluff. I chose one with a couple tiny fishermen out on a rock and converted it to black & white – everyone knows that a black & white photo is way more artsy LOL

My guys walking the dogs

My guys walking the dogs

I thought it would make a perfect triptych. So, I went online and found Canvas on Demand – they take your photo and print it on canvas in custom sizes. I needed 60 x 90 inches – which means each third of the triptych would be 60 x 30. I choose to have the edges gallery wrapped in black  – which I think is a crisp, contemporary detail and if you like them on Facebook they give you a 30% discount which saved me a ton of money!

Close up on the wall

Close up on the wall

I waited anxiously for a couple weeks to get the final product, hoping I would like it in real life as much as I liked the idea of it. Of course nothing goes smoothly – when it arrived it was split horizontally instead of vertically – Aaaaarrrrrghhhh! I called them right away and they fixed it but I had to wait again for another couple weeks – I hate waiting…

This weekend it arrived – split the right way and it was perfect 🙂 We used a laser level to make sure we got it all lined up right which was a huge time saver.

Empty wall banished

Empty wall banished – (binds are different too but thats another post LOL)

Being able to use your own photo, a memory of a happy day spent with my family and our dogs, a photo from the state we lived in for 18 years, the state my husband and I met and married in, seemed like a fitting thing to hang on the wall in our new home and new state of Florida.

It successfully fills that giant blank wall, is unique and personal to us and I finally get to put one of my gazillion photos to good use 🙂

Outdoor Living

Pillow Puppy approved

Final result – Pillow Puppy approved

One of the things I love about living in Florida is the ability to spend most of your time outside. Yes there are three months in the summer when you prefer the AC inside but the rest of the year is glorious. Now that we are in Oct it is time to open up all the windows and doors.

I love the idea of outdoor rooms and our new house has an awesome covered area that lends itself perfectly to that. No need to worry about running out and removing cushions every time it rains – who has time for that?

I had a vision in mind of what I wanted for out there – nice contemporary wicker furniture – the kind of seating I always love when I stay in hotels with great outdoor spaces. Of course that look normally comes with a hefty price tag….

I wanted something stylish, practical and not outrageously priced.  Lets face it even protected from the rain, this furniture needs to be outside 24/7/365 and with the high humidity in Florida real wicker will eventually get moldy and mildewy – gross!

Patio furniture at last

Patio furniture at last – a bit too much beige…

I found a great collection on Amazon that is a resin, wicker look alike on top of an aluminum frame so no rust or mold to worry about. It came in the nice dark finish I was looking for with weather resistant neutral cushions. Exactly the look I wanted at a fraction of the price and since I have Amazon Prime – free shipping 🙂 Awesome!

But – hold up – when we first moved in, the budget wasn’t going to stretch to outdoor furniture – so I had to put my master plan on hold for a while. Although, I did break down and buy an outdoor rug that was a great fit with my fancy designer fabric inside – it was just too good a match to pass up – but for the past 8 months we have had a nice rug out there and no furniture. The dogs liked to roll around on it so it didn’t go completely to waste LOL

Breaking out the sewing machine for fun with fabric

Breaking out the sewing machine for fun with fabric

The weather is changing, holidays and house guests will be upon us soon – time to pull the switch. My long awaited furniture arrived a couple weeks ago, just in time to start taking advantage of the cooler weather. I got a 6 person dining set and a couch and 2 armchairs – they look great and go nicely with the two plantation chairs that I have had for just about forever. They are they best chairs for sitting outside to watch the thunderstorms roll though with a cocktail in hand 🙂

I love it – its exactly what I had in mind – it is all really comfortable and sturdy and for such a great price – I never review stuff online but I had to rate this 5 stars on Amazon. It really looks like the expensive resort furniture that was the original inspiration. However all the natural colored cushions felt a bit bland – it needed a boost

My bargain lime green garden stool - perfect spot for a cold drink

My bargain lime green garden stool – perfect spot for a cold drink

I found a great lime green garden stool in HomeGoods for only $50 and discovered a website that has great prices on outdoor fabric. I picked out two or three prints that would coordinate with the rug and they shipped them out within a couple days.  All in all it cost less than $50 and I have some fabric to spare

It only took a couple hours on a sunny Saturday morning to recover all eight throw pillows and bring a little color into the mix – clearly the final result is Pillow Puppy approved

My outdoor oasis is complete. I officially need never leave the house again! Now where is my frothy cocktail?

My Glam Home Office

My Glam Office

My Glam Office

Since I am lucky enough to have the flexibility to work from home some of the time, having a dedicated space just for work has been really important to me. I used to work remotely when I lived in Seattle and having a room with a door helped get me in the right mindset. In the room means I am on the clock and working  – both for me and my family.

My old home office in Washington was not 100% dedicated – the exercise machine ended up in there and there was a futon so it also doubled (or tripled really) as a guest room. As a result  I never really personalized the space – it just had too many functions….

In our new house there was a room that had previously been used as a home school classroom  that I quickly realized would make the perfect home office for me. This time it would have no other function and I could make it exactly what I wanted 🙂

wallpaper close up

wallpaper close up

Before we even moved in I had seen the most amazing wallpaper in a photo on Houzz.com. It was shown in a dining room but it was the exact thing I wanted for an accent wall. I had to track it down though and I was sad to discover it was to the trade only – bah! Fortunately I had already found a source in LA that could order designer fabric so I asked them to get me the wallpaper too. (see my earlier post)

Happily they were able to order it – although they did ask me to check with my installer about how many rolls I needed…. Ummm, I didn’t have an installer…  I went online again and found a calculator here that lets you put in the details and pattern drop etc and spits out a number of rolls. I let them know “my installer” said I needed 4 rolls  – no need to let them know I was doing it myself LOL

Fortunately the wallpaper arrived a lot faster than the 4 months the fabric took so when it arrived I was excited to see how it would look. I had already bought myself a nice big glass topped desk for my mac and an awesome Acrylic desk lamp that makes me happy just looking at it – Designer Porn!

So one evening after dinner I decided to just get that wallpaper up -how hard could it be one big wall with no weird angles – easy right?

Wallpaper night from hell LOL

Wallpaper night from hell LOL

NO – it was a giant mistake – the ceilings are pretty high so the pieces of wallpaper were super long – the glue was practically drying on it before I could get up the damn ladder – I was too short to do it myself so I had to enlist both husband and teenager and it took hours  longer than I would ever have thought. Turns out “English Designer Wallpaper” is thin and fragile –  we had to add extra glue under the seams adding to the frantic air of tension. Everyone was grumpy and exhausted by the time it was done…. I had nightmares that I would get up in the morning and the whole lot would have rolled off the walls and onto the floor…..

The next morning, I was extremely relieved to see that nothing had peeled off and it looked great.  Lesson learned never start wallpapering anything after 7pm LOL

decal close up

decal close up

That weekend I started painting since that stylish new wallpaper made the cream walls look dingy. I picked a silver grey for the two side walls and a deep French grey for the opposite wall to set off a decal I had purchased before we moved in.

Fav decal, retro chair and spray painted stool

Fav decal, retro chair and spray painted stool

The 7 rules to understand design and designers was a favorite of mine for years and I had discovered that the artist had turned it into a wall decal. I had ordered from his website and it was shipped from France before we even moved in. I wanted to be able to see it from my desk so I put it on the opposite wall in the corner with a great bright blue retro chair. The iron stool next to it I found half price online but when it arrived it was more galvanized nail color rather than the silver the site promised – yuck!  I enlisted my teenager to spray it bright white for me to match my desk – gotta love Rustoleum.

fun with accessories

fun with accessories

I picked up a couple of credenzas online also that my fantastic teen helped me build that look good with the desk and I had fun buying accessories like the bookends and trunks and a visit to The Container Store got me a bunch or folders and boxes in that same bright blue accent color that is in the wallpaper.

rare time Coco actually slept on her bed

rare time Coco actually slept on her bed

Coco always slept in the corner while I worked so I bought a pretty matching dog bed for her which she refuses to use –  instead sleeping behind me in a new corner LOL. The other dogs are more than happy to take turns on the dog bed so it still gets used after all

boxes on boxes

boxes on boxes

The final touch took the longest – I needed a rug – all the hard surfaces meant I sounded like I was at the bottom of a well on conference calls. I saw a great peacock blue flat weave with an indigo repeating pattern online but with no source info. It took me forever to discover who made it – Madeleine Weinrib – longer still to find out how to order it LOL

Eventually I found them and discovered it was only one location in New York but the image they had of the rug online looked like a completely different color  – after exchanging emails they assured me the bright blue was truly the color so I went ahead and ordered it and waited anxiously for its’s arrival. Fortunately it was the perfect shade of blue and my glam office was pretty much complete.

I love working here – I feel creative! I might have to reassemble my old drawing desk that has been in storage since we moved. I am pretty sure my teenager could spray it white to match the rest of the furniture – now where did I put that Rustoleum?

Decorating Dilemma

bargain lamps from Costco with replacement drum shades

bargain lamps from Costco with replacement drum shades

Normally I am  pretty confident with my design choices for the home. I love to decorate and   all these years of making a living as a designer means I don’t face the paralysis that some people experience when picking a paint color or furniture choice. Its just paint, people – easy to change and cheap – be brave and go bold 🙂

I was excited about finally buying a home again even though it was a little tired – all those rooms needing a revamp would be so much fun!

However when we found our perfect place, I was faced with a dilemma. This perfect house had tons of 6 paneled doors, crown molding, wide baseboard trim and architectural detail –  absolutely beautiful – but all of it was natural wood…. all of it.

Now some people might think  – great, what’s the problem? But I know how all that wood, mixed with the wood flooring and the wood built-ins and wood cabinets can really limit your color choices – with white trim you can do anything you want. Additionally your interior can end up looking more rustic, country or lodge like which was not really my personal style. I like a more contemporary vibe.

New Island Pendants

New Island Pendants

So I was faced with the question – do I paint it all white before I move in? Now before any design purists start screaming, we are not talking about a historic home – my new house is only 10 years old. I cringe when people buy a beautiful old Craftsman or Victorian, then go in and spray gloss white everywhere. However, in this instance, it was a modern home and it wouldn’t be an actual crime to paint it.  I could have my crisp white woodwork and choose any color in the rainbow to paint the rooms – everyone gets what they want!

But, the more I agonized over it, the more I realized that I just couldn’t do it. I chose this house because I loved it – it is a modern interpretation of Craftsman style – all one level, flowing open floor plan, tall banks of windows and french doors to bring the outdoors in, lots of natural elements and a big rock fireplace. So I finally decided that I should just accept the challenge and use my design chops to create a balance between all that wood everywhere and my desire to have a lighter, brighter contemporary style.

just some of my inspiration board

just some of my inspiration board

With that I started pulling together a virtual moodboard for inspiration. There is a great site that was perfect for me Houzz – you can search through thousands of inspirational images for interior design and filter though different styles and room types etc. You can also save the things you like in your own ideabooks – I guess it is the equivalent of Pinterest for home design and decorating.

I printed some of the images out along with furniture options from favorite stores, added fabric and wall paper swatches and finally hit the paint store to relieve them of some of their paint chips. I was having a blast planning all this before we even moved in. My poor husband would listen patiently to all my rambling thoughts on the perfect paint or fabric –  the merits of one shape of chair vs another –  how I was going to break up the monotony of all that wood using color and texture etc.

Replacement light for eat in kitchen - love this it is like sculpture!

Replacement light for eat in kitchen – love this it is like sculpture!

I firmly believe that a well designed home doesn’t feel like a showroom – it has to feel like a place you can relax – you can curl up on the couch with your dogs and kids. Equally though it should not be too matchy, matchy – like you went to Rooms to Go and  just picked out a living room to be delivered – all the pieces part of the same set… How boring is that?

Your home should have personalty based on your personal style, your interests, family photos, mementos of trips taken, pieces that look like you collected them over time and each has some meaning.

The big day arrived and we finally moved in – the frenzy of unpacking and fixing all the things that were wrong with the place was completely chaotic – it truly was a three ring circus for about a month.

My glam designer fabric

My glam designer fabric

I had based my entire palette around a fabulous fabric that I fell in love with that would help tie in those contemporary colors that I wanted with the warm wood tones that filled the house. Of course it was designer and to the trade only sigh….

I often claim to my teenager that “I own the internets as Queen of All Search!” Proof positive when I found a place in LA that would order my designer fabric and sell to me at a discount  – Yay! I ordered my fabric and the most amazing wall paper for my home office (that project I will save for another post)  However it would be 4 months before I would get it! Arrgh!

Undeterred, I charged ahead with my plan. The previous owners had done what most people do when they have so much wood work – pretty much everything was painted either olive green, forest green, buttery yellow and sage. The whole house looked a little drab and dark – even more so because the previous owners’ kids had drawn on a lot of the walls with crayons or markers LOL.  Some fresh paint was absolutely in order.

wallpaper in built ins - love it!

wallpaper in the built ins – love it!

Painting was going to be such a huge project with the open floor plan that I had planned not to take it on right away but, when the wallpaper arrived that I planned to put inside the back wall of the built in shelves in the living room – (to help break up the monotony of the wood remember LOL) I thought –  this is just a small project and besides I just want to see how it looks…

Of course then I wallpapered the accent wall in the breakfast area to “tie the whole thing together” but then the old paint in there looked so dingy….. I swore I was only going to paint a small area that was particularly “artistic” but as soon as I did then the snowball effect happened…

If you have ever watched the movies Aliens where Sigourney Weaver wipes a dirty spot on Newt’s face then says “whoops look what I did – I went and made a clean spot I guess I will have to go ahead and do the whole thing”  Cue painting frenzy and severe sleep deprivation

wallaper up - now dingy paint must go

wallaper up – now dingy paint must go

All in all we painted most of the more public spaces in record time (in time for the housewarming party – gotta have a deadline) I trusted my instincts and went with some great blues, greens and grays for the most part all tied together by the inspiration fabric. Check out my last post to see how I incorporated that when it finally did arrive.

I splurged on some big ticket items like the leather couch that will be an anchor piece that we will have forever and my designer inspiration fabric –  but I love finding low cost alternatives and mixing the high and low – like accent chairs from Pier 1 and the table lamps that I saw that were $250 each – ouch! Costco had a pair for $49 that were almost identical in style. Granted I spent more on the replacement drum shades instead of the more traditional slanted ones they came with but $130 for the pair is better than $500 for the original ones so I still win LOL

We switched out several of the big light fixtures in the kitchen and dining areas and slowly but surely our home emerged from under all that neglect and artistic scribbles. This is a work in progress  – not much is really finished yet – accessories and styling are ongoing – but it will be fun putting our stamp on the place and we wont be wondering how to spend our weekends anytime soon 🙂

The bedrooms and bathrooms will have to wait for now –  we can only do so many projects at a time and we are building a palatial chicken coop at the moment LOL

Mind you, the master bedroom is starting to whisper to me…. those scribbles on the wall need some attention…

New Beginnings – Return from Dormancy

My little slice of heaven

My little slice of heaven

I have to apologize to the people who do come by occasionally and read this blog – I have been quiet for months because life was so very busy. It’s not that I had nothing to say –  just no time to say it…

As some of you may know, after the big cross country relocation, we rented for two and a half years waiting for the right time and place to buy a new home. The search for a house finally kicked into high gear at the end of last year and after looking at what seemed like a million houses we finally bought our 5 acres of paradise.

So much has changed in the past few years of economic meltdown that despite buying and selling many homes over the years, the process this time around seemed much more daunting and difficult.  Luckily we had a great realtor who moved mountains in helping us find the perfect house – I can’t thank him enough!

Making it all more challenging was the fact that we wanted a horse property – that is a niche market – fewer properties out there to choose from – many more issues you need to consider before taking the plunge.

We put offers on two other properties before finally buying the one – I am so glad those other deals fell through, despite the disappointment at the time because the one we bought is absolutely perfect for us. Amazingly enough it was the house I wanted to see from the beginning, but it was in the middle of a short sale and under contract with another buyer so we had never been able to visit it.

Horse properties are tough – we saw some that had great barn facilities but the house was tiny and outdated – or houses that were pretty nice, but that had no barns, fencing and the land still needed to be cleared. We were getting pretty discouraged and thinking about putting the search on hold for a few months when our realtor was suddenly able to get us in to view the house I had wanted to see months ago.

I was prepared to be disappointed – I figured it would be too far a drive, the area or neighbors would be sketchy – the house would probably suck, the barn would be falling down – something…

But instead the drive wasn’t that bad – not nearly as far as I thought, the neighboring homes looked nice and well kept and as we drove up to the house I started to smile – this actually looked really promising. The architectural style of the home was a perfect fit for my taste – the barn looked to be in great shape, everything was fenced and the gates even had a horse on it! (Gotta enjoy the little things)

My Gate :)

My Gate

We checked out the fenced pastures and barn before going up to the house and the smile got a little bigger – but would the house work on the inside? This house had been on the market for over three years and was pretty beaten up on the surface – little to no maintenance all that time meant a lot of repairs were needed.

Fortunately, I can see beyond the cosmetic issues and neither one of us are afraid of taking on a project.

Once inside the main space I was sure this was the house for me – big, open plan living dining and kitchen –  perfect for entertaining family and guests. High ceilings, lots of light, good indoor/outdoor living space. It was as if someone had built it especially for me – I was head over heels in love!

But could we get it?  Still under contract with another buyer, still in negotiations with two banks that held the first and second mortgages – we couldn’t even make an offer till the paperwork was released…. We had a tense few weeks waiting to make our offer and then waiting for it to be accepted by not only the buyer and her lawyer but the two banks had to approve it also. Then the inspections began and the list of broken things mounted by the minute.

We went into it with our eyes wide open – we knew the AC system, the pool pump and windows needed to be replaced or repaired – we knew both the exterior and the interior needed a lot of work. But we knew it was the right house and it was worth the work it was going to take.

Despite all the obstacles, crisis and last minute panics – the day finally came and the paperwork was finally signed – the deal was done! We moved in Feb 15th and then the real work began because you don’t really own a horse property – it owns you…

So for the foreseeable future this blog is going to be about fixing up our new home, making it ours, painting, decorating, home improvement projects and the trials and tribulations of land management.

This city girl now has a well and a septic system – we have two horses, 4 dogs and are in the process of building a chicken coop.

Its a brave new world and we are loving every minute of it 🙂