Monday, March 28, 2011

We need some color in this place

Painting the front two rooms is definitely not a necessary project. The current paint is in great shape. When we moved in, the plan was to keep it for quite awhile. But the more I live with the eggnog colored semi-gloss in every room of the house the more I dislike it. And I definitely want to show off our new curtains against some darker wall color.

Don't these look so much nicer ironed?

We also have a lot--a lot--of orangey wood in this house. We are definitely fans of wood and two of our rental houses over the years have had gorgeous dark wood trim that we wouldn't dream of touching with a paint brush. But in this house we have thin, orangey wood trim that is not pretty. It is not even installed very well. It doesn't even match throughout the house. We are planning to replace all the trim and add some crown molding at some point down the road and in the meantime I plan to feel not the least bit guilty painting all the trim. Also the last person to paint did a really sloppy job and a lot of the trim is splattered in eggnog semi-gloss anyway. We'll still have plenty of natural wood in our floors, the pocket doors and much of our furniture.

Since we don't plan to hire someone to paint for us and we have limited time for projects that require emptying whole rooms, I'm also planning to be okay with adding paint color in stages so I wanted to spend some time coming up with a color scheme we liked. One of the things requiring paint is a large piece of furniture which is fairly easy to haul out to the back patio some weekend:

This was the last thing I built last fall before a series of unfortunate events put a halt to all furniture work. I had to assemble it in our kitchen, in fact, and didn't want to paint or stain it indoors while pregnant so it has remained unfinished for months. This was built for a very specific spot in our old apartment and I'm so glad it fit nicely somewhere here. I loved building this. Every step came together just beautifully until I got to the drawers. Plans came from my favorite Alaska mom and it turns out that 1 x 12 stock is a different size in Alaska than the Lower 48. But I think if I paint it I can fix the drawers with plywood and the whole thing will look nicer.

Anyway, here's our current thinking on paint color:

The red is for the side table in the dining room. And I might give our red bookcase a new paint job as well. It's a color pretty close to this now but is very beat up. The greens are for the walls. We're thinking that the darkest green will go behind the bay windows, the next darkest in the dining room/library, and the lightest on the other living room walls. Then I'm thinking about white trim throughout. I like these greens--they come across as more gray depending on the light but since they're actually green it should feel warmer than gray would (gray is quickly becoming my favorite color. Is that depressing?).

I feel pretty settled on those painting choices but I'm not sure about the ceilings. Ceiling white? Or one of the greens? Something else? And I'm also not sure what to do with these louvered closet doors (there's another set behind the other end of the sofa). Paint them the same as the trim? Or one of the greens? We want to get rid of these closets someday but that's a big project and we have to live with them in the meantime. I would be hesitant to add a third color to the room because we have a good amount of color going on already. But I'm certainly no design expert.

Feel free to weigh in. My rule for giving advice, solicited or otherwise, is that you are free to give it and I'm free to ignore it :)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

After breakfast

Joseph can't stop reading.

And the other two are close on his heels.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

More than you ever cared to know about my curtains

The vast majority of the planned projects for our house are purely cosmetic and, for the most part, they are all on the back burner while we tackle a leaky roof, a wheelchair ramp, and investigate a couple of upgrades to the rental unit upstairs (two Ph.Ds are arriving this summer--it'll be a regular nerdery around here). Fortunately, most of the windows in our house look out at absolutely nothing so investing in curtains is not a high priority. In the bedrooms we've just re-hung the light blocking curtains on tension rods that I made a couple years ago. But the bay windows have that public view right out to the street. Sellers are required, I think, to provide window coverings with the house and these windows were equipped with snazzy roller shades. We just didn't want to live any longer than necessary with something that took six tries per window to fully lower each evening.

The first problem was how to hang curtains on bay windows. Ours have three sections but then the wall turns again to come straight out rather than just keeping its angle. Does that make sense? And the windows run right up to that turn with hardly any space between each window. Normally you want to mount the rod bracket at least two inches beyond the window frame and I would have gone even further so as not to lose any of the natural light coming in. We picked up some rods and figured out how to hang them by removing the finials on the center window. This at least allowed us to maximize every centimeter we had. Then we settled on dark wood blinds and sage-green linen curtains. We figured the blinds would be light-blocking and insulating and the linen curtains would be sheer and breezy enough to not obstruct too much light. We could have just mounted decorative panels on the side walls but I wanted slightly sheer curtains that work for blocking the afternoon sun in the summertime.

Definitely should have bought an ironing board while I was at IKEA.

The first glitch was with the wood blinds. I'd seen them at Home Depot for only $20 each. For real wood! But when I went and double checked our window measurement I found we needed blinds just eight inches longer and--get this--that added $38 to the price tag for each blind. No way. We decided that curtains alone would probably be fine and I went off to Ikea to pick up our sage-green linen drapes.

Second glitch: the sage green drapes were definitely more "lime" green in the store. They were pretty cool but they didn't exactly go with the traditional/classic/folk vibe we're going for eventually. There were no other colored curtains that would have let in any light and, of course, Eric wasn't with me so I was flying solo on curtain selection with a hard deadline to get these up before Gregory's baptism party. I reluctantly decided to select a white or off-white curtain which is actually what Eric had wanted in the first place. But I wanted contrast between the walls and curtain. I didn't want to buy any synthetic fabric and I didn't want to dole out the money for linen curtains that matched my walls. Just as I was about to give up I spied the Birgit curtains. Mostly white, yes, but 100% cotton, plenty sheer, and with a really cool folk-art motif in the center that actually match cushions I've wanted to buy for ages for our leather chairs.

Even so, the thing that really decided it for me (other than the embarrassing amount of time I'd already spent pacing the curtain department) was the much lower price. I figured I'd feel less bad about replacing them down the road if they were inexpensive to begin with.

I got them home and we hung them up and--as I feared--I hated them against the cream walls. And then I had a startling epiphany: I own those walls! I can paint the walls! As soon as I realized that, I fell in love with the curtains and Eric and I even managed to more or less plan out the entire color scheme for the living and dining room based on the colors in the flower motif.

They look awesome pulled back to the side and equally great left hanging--they let in a great amount of light all day long. And we've done a few outdoor evening checks and Eric is pretty sure we have nothing to worry about as far as privacy goes.

I got even more giddy when I realized that I could paint just around the bay windows for now to make the curtains pop. In order to paint the entire room we'd need to move the piano and I have a feeling that even if I could convince Eric to do that, we'd have a hard time recruiting even one or two friends to help. The plan is to make that alcove a super-dark green to match the stem of the flower (think a "gray-green" rather than "forest green").

Monday, March 21, 2011

Quick Poll

I promise that I have a real post coming soon! Part of the delay has been that I was trying to rig up a "two blogs in one" approach so that I could post on the main page about what's up with the kids and in a separate tab on what's up with the house. But I can't do that as easily as I'd hoped.

We love our new house but our list of projects for it is already miles long. That mostly makes me pretty happy and I'm excited to tackle things as we find the time, energy, and money. And I will definitely want to post updates here. I know some of you would like nothing more than to read my endless thoughts on choosing curtains and paint colors. And I know that others of you would rather eat tacks than hear one more person go on and on about home improvement projects.

So, a quick poll. Please take a second to answer via e-mail or by leaving a comment here or on Facebook.

Which of the following statements best describes you?

A. I don't care what you write about! I'll read anything you post!

B. I really just log on for pictures of the kids and I would be very annoyed to open a post about your curtains.

C. As much as I would enjoy reading a dissertation on paint color, it offends my organizational sensibilities to find such things on a blog that is, ostensibly, about your kids. Please start a new blog and send me the address.

Thanks for the feedback!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

We're in!

We've been in for a couple of weeks but, true to my blogging style, I haven't had a chance to update things. And I'm glad to have such enthusiastic support for my little blogging project. I love an excuse to write lots of words about pretty much anything but matching a topic to a willing audience is often the tough part.

Our move went really smoothly thanks to the help of some amazingly generous friends and even a few generous strangers. Actually, I think there was only one mover who neither Eric or I knew, but there were a few we only know very slightly. And there were more than a few who moved all this stuff for us (including our piano!) less than a year ago.

With a fair amount of help we managed to get ourselves pretty well unpacked within a week. Then some friends came for the weekend and we unloaded our storage unit and spent the next week unpacking that in preparation for Gregory's baptism yesterday.

Normally I would be hesitant to put up any pictures at all until the boxes are gone, the house is clean, the pictures are hung, and I am generally satisfied with the state of things. But within a couple days of moving it became obvious that we will probably never feel "done" with our own house. We have very, very long lists of projects we'd like to tackle. They range from huge and necessary (wheelchair ramp, new roof) to small and optional (changing out the dated and mismatched switch plate covers all over the house).

For a brief, preliminary tour of part of the main floor, come inside . . .

The previous owner took us on a tour immediately after closing. She was lovely and helpful and had obviously loved the house. She had her brother in tow and he had personally done much of the work on the house. She claims that the house was in very bad repair when she bought it in 1997. We have no idea how old it is (yes, I know, you'd think this information would be on file somewhere). The realtor thought 1950, the inspector suggested 1940, and the previous owner explained how they had found the old gas lighting lines and capped them off. Maybe someday we'll know the real answer. Some of the original details were preserved:

These wide-plank rustic floors are definitely gorgeous but I'm not sure how long their charm will last. The cracks are wide crumb traps and there are a lot of splintery, damaged spots. But refinishing the floors is pretty far down our list.

The front room has fantastic natural light thanks to the bay windows and we love having a cozy sitting area. The two louvered closets are not my favorite feature. These front rooms are typically used as master bedrooms around here and those closets were added with that in mind by covering over a chimney (and maybe a fireplace?). We are thinking hard about tearing that out, re-exposing the brick and reclaiming that closet space for part of the living room at some point. For now I'm trying not to go nuts every time I look at the off-center couch on that wall.

And, no, that's not one of my kids! We were babysitting for a friend the day I took these pictures.
There are frosted-glass pocket doors separating this room from the dining room but they are off their track so it's an enormous project to get them closed. Someday . . . it's on the list!

We pretty much planned our furniture layout based on memory and the few measurements Eric was able to take on the inspection day. We had decided on this wall for the bookshelves and we figured that I would take at least one unit apart, cut it all down and put them back up to fit the wall. Imagine my delight when the existing width was exactly perfect for the space. The gap on the right is to allow for the baseboard heaters. We've since added the top shelves back on as well so they go all the way to the ceiling. Since those pieces were bottomless two-shelf units I just stood each one on end and trimmed the "feet" to accommodate the slightly lower ceilings here. Then I moved the shelf up a bit to split the difference and create two smallish top shelves. They look great but they are over full already so there may be some new shelving in our future.

The kitchen is probably the best I've ever had. I've had bigger kitchens and prettier kitchens but this one combines good design with decor that is not completely awful. I'm not in love with the textured blue floor tile, the faux-marble paneling on the walls, the faux-marble formica, and the psychedelic wood grain on the cabinets but I can definitely live with it. The previous owners had a stainless steel suite of appliances in here but stipulated in the contract that they would be taking the "stove, refrigerator, and microwave" with them. That was fine with me since we own a fridge, don't use a microwave, and were thrilled to be getting a new dishwasher with the sale. I shopped for a stove (not quite the stove of my dreams but definitely the "we're on a budget version" of the stove of my dreams) and bought it in black. I'm not a fan of the stainless thing in kitchens but I figured the black would match the stainless dishwasher and stainless vent hood nicely.

Imagine our surprise when we came for a walk through the day before closing to find a big, gaping hole where the dishwasher had been! Our agent got on the phone and had a check promised from the sellers to cover part of the cost of a dishwasher (which was really kind since I think it was an honest misunderstanding with one or more of the attorneys). Honestly, I'm on the fence about dishwashers anyway. We aren't rushing out to buy one and for now I'm enjoying an easy-to-clean spot to house my trashcan and recycling. Though I'm open to suggestions for making that spot a little more aesthetically pleasing.

The owners had also changed out the vent hood so I now have a black stove, cream vent hood, and white refrigerator. But that's okay. It's a work in progress.

The rest of our main floor is a nice large bathroom and two small bedrooms. Lots more pictures to follow as we set things up. And as soon as I have baptism pictures I will post those as well. It's good to be home!