Be our guest

IMG_4052

Though the entire concept of “interior design” and, er, decorating is still a new one for me, I’m getting better at the whole visualization thing.

When we bought our house last year, I was most excited about the idea of a blank canvas I could design to my heart’s content. I spent weeks before move-in obsessing about paint colors, art work and color schemes . . . overlooking the fact that we had repairs to make before all the fun stuff could start.

Also, that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. At all.

It’s taken almost a year, but we’ve made major progress in our guest room! Our energy had to shift to Mr. Oliver’s room this past spring, but we have the nursery just about finished (and I’ll plan to give you a tour soon). With my mother- and father-in-law coming to visit next week, I’ve felt the urge to push and get our guest space looking nice for them.

We started out with a dusty, closed-off room with featuring walls where the previous owners had painted around furniture. That’s right, friends: furniture lines.

Guest room

Guest room2

Painting that room was our first order of business, actually, because it was just so hideous. The dark blue carpet was stained, quite possibly by coffee, and the shelving in the closet had been unceremoniously ripped out. Spencer patiently patched the holes, removed any lingering wood bolted to the walls (hunks of plywood, specifically), and we painted the entire space a cool, calm dark gray.

The antique white bed was a purchase from Overstock, and the tables were recent finds at Christmas Tree Shop. I spent months looking for cute, affordable end tables that would match the overall style of the room, then stumbled upon these when I least expected it. Isn’t that always the way? Bonus: they were the cheapest ones I’ve seen!

Finding yellow lamps to pop the bedspread, purchased at Target, became my recent mission. Every yellow lamp I could find was either a) super expensive; b) the wrong style; or c) both.

Enter Goodwill!

My husband is addicted to the thrifting experience. He adores the thrill of the hunt — the serendipitous way certain items will fall into your lap. We spent many Saturday mornings at a giant outdoor yard sale, combing through others’ trash and treasures looking for it. Whatever “it” might be.

I’ll admit that, in the beginning, these adventures held little appeal for me. I went because I know he loves it, and he does have a knack for finding awesome things quite cheaply. Because he’s so handy, items that are broken or old to others are just brimming with possibilities for Spence . . . he can envision something more. I love that about him.

On Sunday, we were running errands and taking Ollie on his first Goodwill/Lowe’s run when I spotted them: two perfect, vintage yellow lamps high on a top shelf. Dusty and missing their shades, they were nevertheless exactly what I was looking for . . . and I got both for $15.

IMG_4050

We have a little more to do . . . mostly sprucing, like hanging the sheer curtains currently draped on the bed. And all the artwork I’ve found over the last year or so. But the bones are finally there, and I’m loving how tranquil the room is feeling! Especially by soft lamplight.

IMG_4046

We’ve come a long way, baby.

And now I can’t wait to go back to Goodwill.

Advertisements

Thrifty finds and learning to re-purpose

It’s kind of like a sickness.

Once you start looking at auctions and vintage sites, yard sales and estate sales, you find yourself steadfastly refusing to buy “new” and peering into every nook and cranny for something to “re-purpose.”

I blame my husband, who loves seeking out unique items to fix up and give new life. And budgeting, of course. Buying a new house devoid of most furnishings has meant I’ve spent a crazy amount of time online looking for the right this-or-that for the closet, the bedroom, the kitchen.

And friends? I bought my chair. You encouraged me and you were right: it was necessary and I’m so happy I took the plunge.

After tracking the package from Savannah with a fervor typically reserved for kids checking SAT scores, I came home to a gigantic package in front of the garage. The chair is in the library now and looks awesome — just what I wanted! I’m going to do a little tour next week because I have a library now and am simply too excited about it.

As Spence was opening the box yesterday, I was literally stamping my feet like a 3-year-old. A toddler ripping through packages from Santa.

Not even sorry about it.

But that? That was my first “new” purchase in quite a while. For the last few months, Spence and I have been getting up early on many Saturdays to check out a big flea market. Folks come from all over to sell their random stuff, and we usually don’t leave empty-handed.

My husband has loaded all manner of tools, equipment and movies into the car since we started going, but I typically leave without spending cash myself. Especially as we prepped to move, anything new we bought was something else we had to schlep from the condo to the house . . . and I was already done with schlepping.

Now that our things are (mostly) unboxed and the house is not a complete disaster, I feel pretty confident moving into the new phase of homeownership: DECORATING.

And I cannot be stopped.

It started with fall pieces here and there . . . on the mantel, for one, after I felt sure that our colony of bees living in the fireplace either a) no longer exists; or b) figured out another escape route. Other than, you know, through our living room. So with the plastic tarp removed (yay!), I felt good about adding some decorative elements up there.

Though I’m not the craftiest person, I’ve started checking out Pinterest projects and other blogs with more interest. Like all skills, I’m sure I can get better with practice — and in terms of transforming yard sale finds, I’m guessing I just have to experiment.

I’m starting slow.

After chatting with a nice older couple on Saturday, I brought home this vintage-y artwork from them:

Art print


Don’t ask me why, but I love this piece. I’ve seen similar prints in vintage shops, but they’re upwards of $50 a pop. I don’t know the history of them (anyone know?), but each month seems to have its own print with flower varieties listed.

This one? July. My birth month.

As the woman happily sold it to me, she said, “I just marked that one down! I’ve had it around forever. I guess the right person comes along at the right time.”

Indeed.

Though it seemed fated, the frame was badly damaged and a corner of the print is a bit waterlogged. Rather than just break it out of the wooden frame and buy a new one, though, I’ve decided to re-purpose it.

This is the part where I should be like, “And LOOK! Look at it noooooow!” . . . but, unfortunately, I haven’t painted it yet.

I know. I’m sorry.

I did go to the craft store for paint and a foam brush, and I consider that a win during a crazy work week. After spending way too much time deciding between various shades of red, brown and yellow, I bought a dark brown that should complement the furniture in the library really well.

Old me would have shelled out $20 for a new frame without any character, but new me — er, the thrifty me — is just makin’ it work.

Kind of proud.

And if you need me, I’ll be in the library.


Of houses and homes and painting

photo

View from the back deck


The house, the house . . . our house is coming along!

And by “coming along,” I mean we’re several Big Foot-sized steps closer to calling it home.

And moving all of our worldly possessions. But that’s another matter entirely.

We had our home inspection on Saturday, which was just the sort of heavenly spring day that makes you believe anything can be possible. Everything went well — nothing major found — and we’re very relieved. Everything is on track to head to the settlement table in a few weeks.

Though I’ve spent hours pouring through photos of the property we took over the last few months, being there in person again — with a notepad, measuring tape, paint samples, a Sharpie for assigning said paint samples — made a huge difference in being able to picture this space for us. Like so many, I’m a visual person. It took standing in each room to really picture it a different color, filled with our treasures, for everything to click.

While Spencer walked with the inspector, my dad — also our Realtor! — got to work on yard work. What a guy! He took his leaf blower to clear out the flower beds covered in leaves and mulch, also known as a hotbed for spiders, while I had the surreal experience of looking at the house as our soon-to-be home instead of a cold, bank-owned foreclosure.

The power has been turned on. The lights work. The home has been de-winterized, so we can actually turn on the water — which works, too! — and run the faucets, flush the toilets. The fact that it was a temperate 75 degrees outside certainly helped. We opened the windows to push out the damp and let the sun stream in.

It was fantastic.

And the house isn’t quite so scuffed up anymore. Though in great shape overall, it definitely needs some cosmetic fixes. Many of the walls had long gashes where furniture must have been moved, and we were worried about the time and expense of needing to paint nearly every room in the house. Thanks to the magic of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, though, I have one less item on our scary to-do list!

That sounded like a product plug . . . and I guess it was. But Mr. Clean isn’t paying me to say that. We simply found a Magic Eraser beneath the sink at our apartment and brought it over to see if we could clean the walls rather than paint them (unless we want to, of course), and . . . we could!

I was super impressed with myself, I have to say.

My thighs are screaming today from being half-crouched scrubbing the upstairs, but I was able to get many of the marks off without needing to go through the paint-sampling process. Because friends? I don’t know much about decorating. I’m learning — and quickly — but . . . it’s a work in progress.

Thanks to Mr. Clean, we’ve pared down our “must paint” list to four rooms . . .


The master bedroom (no more blue, no more dream):

Master bedroom


The upstairs guest room (they painted around furniture):

Guest room


The library (!):

Library


The main floor half bath (hard to see here, but it’s bright green):

Half bath


I’m tired just thinking about it.

But it’s going to be fun, too!

After our inspection, we popped over to Lowe’s — our new home away from home — to finally choose paint samples. I narrowed down our choices and forced myself to make a decision both Spence and I could live with, and we bought tiny pots of several colors.

There’s also new flooring, artwork, whatever furniture we can afford . . . many changes we’ll be making to transform this house into our home over, you know, many years. I’m trying to keep in mind that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we’re going to put it in a lot of elbow grease and imagination to transform our new place.

That’s part of the adventure, though. To whip a house into immediate “show-ready” shape would be . . . well, exhausting, for one, and also very expensive. Expensive in a way I can’t afford. But less exciting, too. I’m looking forward to scouring yard sales and flea markets and HomeGoods for the “perfect” chair or vase or painting. It’s the thrill of the hunt.

And anyway, what our place will really need? Right now, right this second? A good scrubbing.

And come May, we’ll be ready.


P.S. If you have any favorite websites for home inspiration or shops to find cool pieces, please feel free to drop them in the comments! I’m all ears.


The story we’re painting together

Paint samples


Buying paint is such a grown-up thing to do.

And six months from being a married woman, I’m starting to feel like one.

I don’t know why it’s taken so long for us to slap some color on the walls. Spencer became a homeowner almost two years ago, and we were both pumped to decorate his space. It was a blank canvas — literally. White walls, beige carpet. Nothing but empty space to fill, fill, fill.

But the options were overwhelming. Since we could do anything with the kitchen and living room and hallways, the options were too much. And I have no real clue about interior design. For years I was actually afraid to really make any bold moves in the house, nervous about stepping on Spence’s toes as The Girlfriend who didn’t, you know, live there. How could I decide what he should have to look at when I was only there half the time? It didn’t seem fair.

That being said, that was all firmly in my head. Spencer never gave me anything but free reign to help design and decorate his home into a very “us” space — even before we were engaged. But now that we’re six months out from the wedding, I feel the earth shifting. I’m moving in soon. And we’re trying to get things organized before that happens.

In addition to redesigning the master closet to accommodate my avalanche of clothes and shoes and bags (that should be nice and scary), we’re finally sprucing things up. Hanging prints and photos. Dusting. Vacuuming the nooks and crannies. Going through old boxes. We went through the bedroom and closet on Sunday, getting rid of the detritus that tends to accumulate, and it felt so nice and productive. We opened the windows, got a trash bag and began sorting and throwing out and organizing.

I do like to be organized.

So that’s one little corner down. After procuring the Borders bookcases two years ago, our work around the living room came to a stop. We did quite a bit of reorganization after Christmas, moving decorations and ornaments to a hall closet, but haven’t done much of a purge since then.

Spence jokes I’m moving in one garbage bag at a time, and that’s not entirely untrue. I bring something with me every time I come over. Lately I’ve been sorting through my clothes at home, donating older items to charity and bagging up the out-of-season clothes to bring to Spencer’s. I’ve already moved several trash bags full of sweaters and hoodies, plus all of my work-out clothes (Lord knows I barely use them). I’ve also dragged all of my winter coats and jackets over and hung them with Spence’s in the hall closet.

Moving is weird. I still live at home. I never moved out, not even for college, and as a 27-year-old woman with a lifetime of memories in one childhood bedroom? Well, it’s strange. It’s hard. I’ve moved beyond fear at the idea of leaving to excitement at the prospect of sharing a home with my guy, but it’s still going to be odd to live full-time in another town.

Hmm.

But not going to dwell on that. Let’s talk about paint! After years of staring at white walls, Spence and I finally made a plunge last weekend. We decided the living room was in need of an accent wall — and since we were juuuuust getting started with this whole color thing, it seemed like the logical place to begin.

We motored over to check out paint at a home improvement store, the first time I’ve ever been excited to hang out in one, and grabbed swatches in varying hues. We finally narrowed our choices down to three and bought samples, which came in cute little containers. Our living room is mostly green, brown and taupe, so we were looking for something earthy but bold to complement the palette we have going on right now.

So we chose red, naturally!


Spencer painting


It sounds weird, I know, but stick with me. Though Spence and I may not have identical tastes in decor, we’re both suckers for red (our primary wedding color, in fact). We brought home samples in deep purple, an olive-toned brown and this unusual, bold red hue . . . and after Spence painted swatches on the wall, we agreed immediately that red was it.

Plus, as an added bonus? The red will totally complement our postcard pillows. Visiting Spence’s family in New York last summer, I stumbled upon fabric featuring vintage postcards in a quilting shop. I fell in love instantly, of course, but had no clue what I would do with said fabric. My lovely soon-to-be mother-in-law is a talented quilter and certainly no slouch with a sewing machine, so she kindly made pillows out of the fabric when she came to visit at Thanksgiving. I am in love with them. And they’re beige, green . . . and red!


Postcard pillows


Are we strange enough to match an accent wall to a collection of pillows? Maybe. But in all honesty, I just think the red looks really cool. We’ll officially convert the wall to red later this week, and I’m enjoying the little splash of color in the meantime.

You know, I was terrified when Spence first dipped his brush into the paint — afraid of the enormity of bright red on a white wall. It was so permanent. And scary. But once it was done, decided and begun, it was invigorating. It’s the second life of his home — our home. We’re ushering in a new chapter, scrawling the rest of the story . . . the one we’re writing together.

Or painting together.


Of holiday decorating and skinny pants


I used to think we were the only people who decorated so early.

Then I got an iPhone — and an Instagram account. My feed has been flooded with others’ Christmas trees, presents, stockings and ornaments since Friday — and I’m firmly in that camp! After the excitement and good eats of Thanksgiving, we plunged straight into Black Friday shopping and getting the house all decorated for the holidays.

My family almost always puts the tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving — and that held true this year. Ours went up Saturday, and Spencer’s tree (with many of my favorite ornaments, and a few we’ve purchased together) was finished yesterday. With Spence’s mom and dad in town for Thanksgiving, we took advantage of their presence to get his place decorated together. It was great having them here — especially because his mom can totally get him to do things his girlfriend can’t. Like put a balsam swag on the front door. (Hey, it’s not a wreath — the least masculine of all decorating devices, according to the dudes. So whatever.)

With four days off from work, I’m slowly getting back into a groove — and trying to get my head screwed on straight. I’ve been so preoccupied with holiday prep that I’ve neglected my space here and my reading. Ack. I feel completely out of sorts when not immersed in a book, so I’m making my books a priority again starting tonight. Hopefully I’ll re-enter the literary world without issue.

Also, apropos of nothing, I’m wearing a pair of “skinny” pants today. Well, the pants are skinny . . . I am not, of course. It feels really weird to have pant legs hugging my ankles, but I decided I’m too young to look so completely unfashionable — and I needed to ditch my ill-fitting black slacks for something that didn’t make me look like I was wearing harem pants. Eh. Though I’m still undecided, I’m trying something new — and I think I like them. Or have the potential to like them, anyway.

I’ll take it.

—-

How are you this Monday? How was your Thanksgiving? Did you put up your Christmas tree last weekend, or do you wait until the week before to dig out all your decorations? So many questions. And you have all the answers.


Borders lives on with us

It’s no secret that the closing of Borders devastated me and countless other readers. Regardless of your feelings on “chain” bookstores, Borders was our only new bookstore in three counties. My closest bookstore is now a Barnes & Noble, and that bad boy is a 45-minute drive up to Annapolis. Ack.

Its loss has already been felt profoundly in my community, and seeing its shuttered doors now makes me feel sick. Though our local branch just closed for good last week, it’s been “closed” to me for a month; I haven’t been able to go in as the shelves grew sparser and Borders was being dismantled. It just made me too sad.

But my boyfriend had a great idea.

When Borders said “everything must go,” they meant it — and that included the hundreds of wooden bookcases that once supported Borders’ wares. As Spencer bought a home this summer, he’s been looking for storage options — and thought Borders’ bookshelves would be a great addition to his place. Though I was initially saddened by the idea of ripping the cases out of the store, I’ve since converted . . . and realize now that if Spence hadn’t taken them, someone else would have.



So he bought quite a few and, with the help of a friend, got them up into the condo (in the middle of a hurricane and flash flood, but that’s another story). We started getting them all screwed in so he could begin filling them last night, and I got to show Spencer my considerable alphabetizing skills — all from my Borders days, of course. We alpha’ed his DVD collection around 9 p.m. and have the first three bays ready to rock and roll.

Sorting through his movies was soothing, and it’s a little weird to see the shelves there — especially when I looked at them for years, working eight- or ten-hour shifts during college — but it’s really nice, too. I feel good that a part of Borders will live on with us, and these bookcases will be cared for by a reader who will think fondly of her days at the store as she fills them: me!

And don’t worry . . . I’m sure we will have them filled in no time. More bookshelves just mean more books, right?

The Great Schlepping of Things ’11

We’ve been through a battle.

After two months of packing, moving and relocating, Spencer is finally — like for real, for real — all moved into his new condo. We spent yesterday cleaning out the very last bit of stuff in his old garage at the old house, sweeping and dusting and packing in 100-degree heat (with 100 percent humidity). And little air conditioning.

Since my boyfriend became a homeowner in early June, the transition between old home and new home has been exhausting and daunting and scary. We were eternally grateful for his mom and dad’s help in the moving process when they visited in early July, but so much still lingered in no-man’s land between the two residences.

But it’s done. DONE. No more cruising between both places. No more dry cardboard-box hands or sweaty lumbering up staircases with random heavy objects. No more collapsing on the floor at the end of the night because I can’t physically move another moment. My arms and legs and back will be glad for the break, let me tell you — but I fully acknowledge that for every box I moved, Spencer moved four.

So I know he’s happy, too.

After the Great Schlepping of Things ’11, you’d think I’d be thin as a reed by now . . . but not the case. Of course, I tend to reward myself for a job well done with a well-timed trip to Dairy Queen, so . . . you know. That doesn’t help the Moving Weight Loss Plan in the least.

But it’s done. Done. After taking the final truckload of belongings to the condo and enjoying the working elevator’s ability to get us from the first to second floors, I’m thrilled to say that Spencer’s home sweet home is home now. Once and for all.

I’ve also gone from hemming and hawing about bathroom color schemes to breaking down and investing. In the end, I think the scheme I chose is a good balance of both masculine and feminine: dark brown and Tiffany blue. The plain bathroom has morphed into something slightly more visually intriguing, though I still have a long way to go. (I love that art on the wall, though.)


But the living room has gone from this . . .


. . . to this:


That’s right, my friends: no more folding chairs. That’s good old-fashioned furniture and an honest-to-God vintage-style New York City poster to hang on the wall. Plus? Chairs and other decorations. Actual decor.

There’s also a repurposed ice chest in that nook. You can’t actually see the ice chest, but it’s green and made of wood. We’re using it as an end table, which makes it a bargain; Spencer picked it up at the Salvation Army last year for $10. I forgot he even had it until he and his parents brought it up from the basement. Win!

And I’m super excited about an Eiffel Tower lamp I found at Christmas Tree Shop. Spence likes Paris the way I love London, so we already have a travel theme developing. (We have awesome London and Paris black-and-white dinnerware, too, but I keep forgetting to snap photos of the dishes.)

Life has been very chaotic, of course. I’ve been slammed at work and trying to keep my head above water, so dressing the ol’ nest has gone by the wayside the past few weeks. But as summer winds down and life returns to a normal level of insane, we can get back to fixing the place up and just relaxing.

Then maybe I’ll stop making this face.