February 26, 2010

Let the Composting Begin

I get excited about composting. There I've said it. I can almost hear my sister snickering, and I understand. She has been been witness to my utter nerdiness on many an occassion and been subjected to my exponential nerdiness during countless discussions where I proudly recite what I learned that day on NPR. I have been known to utter the sentence "Math is fun." I read Milton for fun. So she understands (though I am acutely aware that no one else will) why I got so excited when Mr. called me the other day from Costco. Guess what he found:

It's not a spaceship. It's a composter. For composting. And I am giddy. GIDDY. Last fall we were in Orlando and saw this very same one at Costco. (Yes, we frequent Costco. Yes, even on vacation. No, there is nothing wrong with that.) Well, we figured it would suck to try to get it on the plane so we passed it up figuring we could find it back home. Wrong. It was nowhere to be found. Until now. Why this composter? Well we tried to DIY it (big surprise) and the results were slightly less than disastrous.

Stuffing food scraps, leaves and grass in an old tupperware with holes drilled into the side does not a good composter make. Everything gets stuffed in there so tight it is impossible to turn or aerate. Not enough room to mix + not enough air to circulate = not enough compost = one unhappy gardener.  Mr. and I felt compelled to take it to the next level. Extreme composting if you will.

Our new composter can hold 80 gallons of 'black gold' goodness. Look at all that room!

After our little tupperware experiment we learned a few key things about composting that helped aid us in our hunt for the perfect composter:  
  • You need to be able to turn or tumble the compost really well in order to incorporate all the goodies and to aerate the mixture. 
    • Piled compost that isn't turned takes a year or longer to make finished compost.
    • Tumbled compost produces the finished product in as little as 3-4 weeks.
  • Heat accelerates the process.
  • Even a small garden (or small household) produces unreal amounts of garden waste, and a small tupperware will not contain it all.
I looked around for ideas to make a better DIY version and came up with some good options here and here and here. These plans, while good, did not quite fit the bill for us. We needed something that would fit in our small urban garden yet produce a large amount of compost (I love to garden). We also wanted something that had the ability to produce compost at a faster rate. Thus our store-bought (gasp!) compost tumbler. It's relatively compact so it fits neatly behind the garage and I have an immediate soft spot in my heart for this spacey looking thing.

February 23, 2010

Spray Paint is My Friend

I'm not sure if it was the shiny garish gold, or the shiny garish gold set against faded 60 year old teal paint, but this chandelier was the first item in the house to make it onto my 'chuck it' list. After a year and a half of tolerating it's brassy vegas-esque presence, I just couldn't stand it hanging in our cottage one more minute. 

So shiny garish gold chandelier was introduced to my new friend, oil-rubbed bronze spray paint.

Much better.

February 22, 2010

House Stalking: Midway, UT

Every so often I'll be driving innocently along, minding my own business when a house jumps right off the side of the road and pleads with me to stop and take it's pretty picture. Okay that last sentence was a lie. I'm rarely innocent; my goal on most days is the pursuit of pretty houses. I even alter my route to the grocery store every single time in the hopes that by driving down a different street I'll catch a glimpse of some adorable house that I can then dream about moving all my furniture into. Crazy? Possibly. But I do refrain (most of the time) from actually getting out of my car to peek in the windows. I do have limits to the craziness you know. 

So, a few years ago we (myself and Mr. - the usual suspects) were driving through Midway, Utah (30 minutes from Park City), a city that was founded by Swiss immigrants and has a lot of pretty great architecture.  We were driving along, talking, laughing, listening to Counting Crows when all of a sudden Mr. brings the car to a screeching halt. Traffic was piling up behind us and I was about to assert my duty as co-pilot to inform him that the car was no longer moving when I followed his gaze across the street to the most adorable cottage I have ever laid eyes on. It was love at first sight, for us both (Mr., though he would never admit to such a calamity, is just as crazy as I am with the house stalking). 

The minute we saw this house we were mesmerized. I love that unique wood shingle roof that mimics a classic english cottage thatch roof - the craftsmanship is out of this world! The stone on the house with the stone fence surrounding the property lend such a unique organic quality, like it just sprouted out of the earth. This home belongs in a fairytale or at least a movie based on a Rosamund Pilcher novel. I was half expecting a little white haired lady to appear in the doorway at any moment wearing a white lace-trimmed apron and holding out a freshly baked pie, surrounded by blue-birds, and fawns, and baby bunnies.

Are you wondering why there is a hideous date stamp on these first two pictures? I was trying out a new camera and didn't realize the date stamp was on (doh!) but it does give evidence of how long we have been stalking this house! We drive past it every chance we get. In fact I have more pictures of the exterior of this home than I do of my own. I'm sure Elena (that's the name of my sweet fictional white haired lady) won't mind. 

These pictures were all taken at different times of the year  (I told you, we drive past here often)- thus the changing landscaping. I imagine that Elena loves to come out here in the early morning while there is a layer of dew covering the grass to pick a bouquet of fresh flowers for her kitchen where she is hard at work making scones and cream tea for an afternoon get together with the Garden Club. 

This one shows the carriage/guest house. It is also done in the same stone that is on the main house and has its own little entrance gate. I'm sure this is where Elena's grandchildren stay when they come for a visit every weekend. Yes every weekend, her grandchildren are the best. 

Unlike the weeds infesting my lawn (much to Mr.'s horror) these dandelions actually look quite charming when in front of this beauty. Elena has been visiting her best friend from childhood this week and hasn't had time to mow the lawn. No problem, I'm sure her kindly old neighbor Henri will send over his yard boy, Gabriel, for a quick clean up. 

Chop, chop Gabe! Elena will be home any minute.

February 19, 2010

Pretty Jewelry Storage

I have quite a few mismatched tea cups and plates that were once my grandmothers. Up until now they have been squirreled away inside a closed cabinet (I have two kitties. Kitties & breakables don't mix). Then I ran across this idea from Martha Stewart and I knew that it would be the perfect use for all those pretty little tea cups that I rarely see, and even more rarely do anything with. Instead of putting them in a drawer, like the inspiration photo, I put several cups, saucers, and bowls on a tray that I picked up last year from Pier 1. That way I can move the tray around the bedroom or closet any time the fancy strikes. And a bonus: every time I put on my favorite pair of earrings I will also be reminded of my late grandmother! 

It actually makes all my cheap costume jewelry look rather pretty! Thanks Martha (et al.) for the great idea!

February 17, 2010

New Life for Old Frames

We love art and have a lot of original oils and watercolors in our home, some of which were done by my talented mother. Most of these paintings have come to us in old frames that don't do a lot for the artwork in them. Two of our favorites had frames so bad it was hard to see past them to the beautiful scenes within. We intended to have them reframed or build some new frames ourselves but time and and our little friend budget got in the way (it always does!).  The right frame can really make a painting, and while I would usually leave this decision to the professionals, I knew that I could make them better with minimal effort. So, with a little leftover black paint, some champagne colored gilt craft paint from Michaels, and one afternoon this is what I came up with:

Before: The frame was chipped and completely the wrong color

After: I painted the whole thing black and accented the inside molding with the champagne colored gilt craft paint. It looks more gold in this picture, but in person it is the perfect cross between gold and silver. 

Here it is in the dining room above the antique hutch I inherited from my grandmother.


After: I first primed and then painted the whole frame black, then dry brushed the champagne paint over the black. The new color really brings out the blues in the painting. This one is hanging in the bedroom and is my inspiration for the bedroom decor which is patiently waiting to get some attention. 

February 12, 2010

Not Your Grandma's Curtains

We have started planning for our future kitchen renovation and because I am not very patient when it comes to starting projects, I thought I could start on the window coverings while I wait. Yes, I know it doesn't really make sense but I figure we can put them up now and just take them down during the demo. Besides it is completely within my character to do things backwards. 

Our kitchen is in the front of the house facing the street. This is not where I would have put it, but since it is cost prohibitive to move it (trust me, we have looked at every possible option), it needs to stay where it is. There are four windows and a full light french door on the side. I have been searching my inspiration files for ideas on how to achieve privacy without blocking all that glorious light and this is what I have come up with. Cafe curtains. I know it sounds shockingly 1980's country but when done properly they are the perfect solution. Don't believe me? Take a look at these:

Nancy Serafini via Traditional Home


Southern Living

Country Living

Southern Living

unknown via Cote de Texas

February 10, 2010

Project Pepto Phase 1: The Master Closet

In this last post I explained the plan, and I showed our awkwardly small closet (singular). What I didn’t mention was that we were this close to moving to the burbs in search of closet space. (feel free to scroll down to see the pictures and skip the boring story :)
Our closet situation certainly wasn’t ideal, but we were willing to make do until we could figure out where on earth we were going to pilfer a few feet of square footage for a bigger one. We were ‘fine’ maintaining the status quo until one horrible fateful day. 
This horrible fateful day we happened upon a new construction open house in the suburbs (about 30 minutes from our home). This particular house had all the usual accoutrements of a builder home - big kitchen with bigger island, three car attached garage, an actual ‘master suite’ - and we still weren’t impressed. Our little cottage had character, a history, was close to the city, within walking distance of restaurants and a market. This newly built house was...well...too new. But then something awful occurred. 
I happened upon the master closet. 
 o.k. not the actual closet (this one came from here) but this is what I saw in my head, along with a choir of angels, and a beam of heavenly light coming in through that window.

We have never once considered moving to the burbs. We love our urban neighborhood. We are city people. But standing in that cavernous (to me at least) closet I became a weak woman hatched an immediate plan. I would sell my house. I would pack up all my stuff. I would move into this closet, errr... house. All the way home I explained to Mr. the many merits of having a closet that size. “You wouldn’t have to get dressed in the other room,” I explained. “You could actually buy that new pair of basketball shoes you have had your eye on because you would have a place to put them!”  Yep we needed that closet. 

Then we drove back to our lovely tree lined street and I knew that I couldn't leave. Not even for that beautiful closet.  So we buckled down and hatched a plan (together this time!) to stay in our cottage. Enter Project Pepto.

Behold the completion of phase 1: 

new french doors - view from bedroom

Using stock shelving from Lowe's and closet organizer components from Ikea we were able to create a space that works for our needs. Scivvies, socks, and other small items go in slide-out baskets. (wow, did I really just publish a picture of my scivvies for all to see? my mother would be horrified!) The basket on the top shelf holds necessities such as lint roller, stain spray, febreeze, shoe shine kit, etc. I did initially intend to take pictures of the empty closet, but I was so excited to fill it up that it stayed empty for exactly 2.5 seconds. An empty closet? Not in this house!

Her side. Plenty of space for my healthy love of shoes and handbags (I even have space for more!). Having everything up off the floor (except for my snow boots) makes swiffering so much easier. 

In an effort to make the closet feel more like a dressing room, and less like a storage facility for clothes, I hung some framed hand painted porcelain buttons that belonged to my grandmother, along with an old key my husband brought back from Brazil (it was a gift from a sweet old lady who fed him often). 

His side. Having a place for everything has really helped us keep our bedroom clean. Getting dressed in the morning is also easier and quicker. There is no more running around to various closets/rooms to find that favorite scarf or pair of converse sneakers.  

This window was here already and we considered taking it out to have more wall space. We decided instead to place the shelving in front of it. It partially covers the window but not to worry, the window is still fully functioning so if a fire breaks out and I am stuck in the closet I can still make a clean getaway. (I love a good emergency plan, don't you?) In hindsight, we are so glad we kept the window as it adds much needed natural light. And because we wanted maximum light and maximum privacy (we get dressed in here!) we decided to put up privacy film instead of window coverings. 

A chinese garden stool provides a place to sit and put on shoes.

Sir Leopold approves of the new closet space. 

And just in case you forgot how the space looked before:

Stay tuned: We are in the process of phase 2 of Project Pepto.

February 8, 2010

Project Pepto: Curing Our Space Problems

While we are quite smitten with our house, there are still some quirks we can’t overlook. (Does that mean we would make terrible parents? Are we unable to love unconditionally? Should I be comparing home ownership with parenting? )
The most pressing problem areas:
The closet situation in the “master bedroom:”

In case you are thinking to yourself “what’s she complaining about? this is a normal sized closet” let me clarify. This closet is three feet wide. Oh, and it was the only one in the room. As a result, my clothes were packed in here so tight that if I bought one more item of clothing it would have had to stay in the car. I had sweaters in the linen closet, shoes in the front entry closet, and out-of-season clothes under the bed. Mr.’s clothes were in the guest bedroom closet (equally as large) which turned problematic when we had overnight guests and he had to go traipsing through in his skivvies to get a change of clothes.
The other problem area: the dining room.
I told you the whole house was teal and pink!

Big enough for the table but nothing else. 
The solution?
This room cured heartburn, nausea, indigestion, upset stomach, and...closet space
I know what you’re thinking: this isn’t a solution, it’s another problem (and a pepto colored one at that). Oh yee of little faith. This little room packs a wallop. Within this tiny 7 x 10 footprint hid untapped potential to quiet my seething desire for both a closet AND a dining room. 
Here is a rough sketch of the space before:

and here is the plan:

Phase 1: Close off door to 'pepto' room from the hallway and cut opening for new french doors into master bedroom.
Phase 2: Expand dining room by moving wall two feet into 'pepto' room.
Phase 3: Close off old tiny closet in the master bedroom and open it up on the other side to create a bigger closet for guest bedroom.
Stay tuned for the after pics (yes, I'm tired of these pastel before pics too!) from the recent completion of phase 1: the master closet. For a sneak peek look here.

P.S. These lovely ladies have been so kind to mention us:   
Carolyn at My Backyard Eden featured our bathroom renovation on a recent post. Thanks Carolyn!
Kimba at A Soft Place to Land included us in this post. Thanks Kimba!
Head on over to their blogs to check out the other great projects they featured.

February 5, 2010

Southern Inspiration

French Quarter, New Orleans

When we aren't working on the house (which seems like ALL the time) you can usually bet we are somewhere else entirely. We love to travel, anywhere and everywhere. If the opportunity arises we take it and immerse ourselves in another city, country, or culture for as long as we can. And, because we love all things house related our travels (and subsequently our photos) revolve around architecture.  We love to tour homes, gardens, and public buildings wherever we go, and have found inspiration for our home from far and wide: from Guatemala to Wyoming, New York City to Hilton Head Island. I thought I would share some of that inspiration from a recent trip to Louisiana. 

Jackson Square, New Orleans

French Quarter

Creole Cottages - French Quarter

French Quarter - Love the turquoise shutters

Typical Shotgun in French Quarter - so much detail

A private courtyard garden - French Quarter

The French Quarter is famous for the iron work. These lush balcony gardens are everywhere.

Many stops were made here: the famous Cafe du Monde - is there anything better than fried dough and powdered sugar?

Corbel detail - Garden District, New Orleans

Beautiful rounded porch - Garden District

Ironwork detail - Garden District

Lime green and lavender creole cottage - Garden District

Pup keeps watch over a lovely line of Cottages - Garden District

Iron entrance gate - Garden District

I think I have about nine different photos of this leaded glass french door and transom. I love everything about it!

The famous Oak Alley Plantation

Live Oak - Oak Alley Plantation

No photography was allowed inside the plantation, but here is the view from the balcony. In the distance is the Mississippi River bank. 

Old Carriage House - Oak Alley Plantation

The beautiful Houmas House Plantation and Gardens - A surprise highlight of the trip

Japanese fish fountain - Houmas House Plantation & Gardens

The foyer at Houmas House - the pictures don't do it justice (no flash allowed). The walls and ceiling are covered with the most gorgeous hand painted murals. 

Mural detail - Houmas House Foyer

Again, this picture isn't great but I couldn't resist showing the amazing curved staircase.

An old sugar kettle that is now being used as a planter - Houmas House

Our gracious tour guide at Houmas House

Garconierre - Houmas House 

Gardens at Houmas House Plantation

Louisiana really is a magical place. From New Orleans (THE foodie capital of the south) to Baton Rouge, Lafayette to Lake Charles, there is so much beauty, culture, and graciousness.  We spent a week there and wished it could have been longer. Save me some jambalaya, we'll be back soon!

p.s. all pictures were taken by: A Tree Lined Street.


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