Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thrifting and a Project

Last weekend, I was so looking forward to several big events.  Two big church/school yard sales that I have scored at previously, the Lebanese Food Festival, and as always the farmer's market.

Farmer's market was first and by far the most successful.  I picked up garlic scapes, fresh strawberries, and a few other things.  Then I dragged P to the yard sales.  Complete. Bust.  Ugh.  They were both so awful that I can't say any more about them without reliving the trauma and disappointment.

Determined to get some thrifting in somehow, I made P take me to Fan Thrift, also a bust, and then to DT2 where I hit the jackpot.

First up, these beauties:
A set of old metal TV trays.  My parents and grandparents each had a set of these.

And the other big score of the weekend...this pair of gorgeous lamps (don't say a word, OF COURSE I needed another pair of lamps!):
The shades are trash and I need to check the wiring and tighten them up.  Then I'll have to go find the perfect pair of shades and finials.  And then they will be perfect and will replace the old ginger jar ones I have.  Or maybe these new ones will go up in the guest room and replace those old candlestick ones I hate.  I just don't know yet.  But look at the detail:
It's just so pretty with that delicate crazing.  Very chinoiserie without being too over the top.  Lovely. Even lovelier was they were marked to half off!  Got them for the same as the ginger jar ones.  A true steal.

So, what's the project you ask? And what am I going to do with those TV trays?  Especially since I don't have TV service?  Well, this is what I did with them:

I primed them and spray painted the trays a lovely cobalt color, and the legs went white.  Now, even though we don't have an outdoor dining table, we can still eat in style al fresco!  These can move from front to back easily.

I can't wait to try them out.

What do you think?  Have you found any treasures lately?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Home, Confidence, and Holes in the Wall

I've had a couple of odd thoughts flowing through my brain over the past few weeks.  Bear with me as I flesh them out on the old blog.  Two events in particular have prompted this internal monologue:

1. I read Young House Love pretty regularly and a few weeks ago John and Sherry posted about how long it takes for a house to feel like a home and whether it's time or personalization.  

2. Last weekend I called my mom on Mother's Day.  She was asking about renovations.  She said something that keeps floating through my brain.  She said that P and I were very brave to take a sledge hammer to our walls and just start creating holes.

When and why does a house start to feel like a home?  And am I brave because I'm comfortable dismantling parts of the house?  They seemed related question.  
For a long time, I would tell P that this house didn't feel like home. We have always pinched ourselves that we were able to buy this house.  We couldn't believe that we were able to afford and then have the opportunity to buy this place, in this unique neighborhood in the city, so close to everything. It seemed an incredible stroke of fate/luck/happenstance.   But, despite that, it didn't FEEL like home to me.  It didn't feel like MY home.  Home is an indefinable sense, almost an emotion unto itself.  It felt like a project.  It felt like work.  It felt like we were accomplishing something, but it didn't feel like home.  For the first year or so, I would ask P if this felt like "home" yet about every month or so. I think she felt like she was home sooner than I did.  

A few weeks ago, some close friends of ours who live in our old neighborhood invited us over for a backyard fire and visit.  We drove by the old house, of course.  I was HORRIFIED to see how they were taking care of my little old house.  I poured lots of hours of love, sweat, and blood into that yard.  And it looked like hell.  The gorgeous reticulated cedar had been butchered.  The grass needed cutting and it just made me sad.  But, it didn't make me feel like I had a home there.  It was just a house.  It was no longer my home.

And then my mom's statement.  Brave.  Neither P nor I thought twice about sledging out that wall to see if there was a rehabilitatable ice box there.  We had confidence in our skills, our house, and our ability to make it work.  
Bravery or stupidity?

So, to answer the question, it wasn't a single moment that made me realize I was at home in this house.  It was a series of smaller realizations.  Home is an emotion, like love, that grows in fits and starts, until one day your realize that it's taken over your whole life and has sucked all the money out of your wallet it's just home.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Random thoughts on design

First,  thank you to everyone who posted a comment yesterday.  It was the cherry on my sundae (hmm, maybe I should have posted that last Sunday, oh well).  It did really make my day.

Given that I've spent the past three weekends gardening, I don't have anything house related to post just yet.  We're going to get back on house reno this weekend.  I should have something to post then.

So, in the mean time, I saw these two pics and just had to comment.

I can't say that I have brilliant taste or a stellar design style.  Maybe I'm too "bougie" or "pedestrian" or even "low class".  I'm willing to accept that.  But some of this stuff, it just hits me between the eyes like a bullet, and that's not a good thing.   Let's examine, shall we?

Remodelista featured a hotel in Turkey.
This lighting fixture looks exactly like my car's air filter.  I'm not a mechanic and I don't change my own oil or anything, but I can recognize an air filter.  Not sure it's something I would want in my dining room.  I would kill for a pair of chairs like that however. 

Now, you know that if you had this bedroom in your house, someone (most likely me) would hang their dirty clothes from those branches, right?  Night gown, sweats, dirty jeans, all of it would get draped over those branches.

Do you ever just look at some images and think "um...wha?"?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Blogging is an odd thing.  It sorta feels like you're talking to yourself alone in an empty room.  You wonder if anyone is out there.

When I met Karen last weekend, we spoke about how odd it is.  You are alone in front of your computer and have no clue if anyone is out there reading what you are writing.  Do they like you?  Are they interested in what you have to say?  It's like being back in high school again.  You're left alone with all your own insecurities and no one to give you a reality check.

Can I ask you a favor?  If you are out there reading this, let me know.  Just say "hello"  or "good job"  or even "you suck"  something to let me know that I am not alone in a room talking to myself. Cause that means I am crazy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

More cool people!

I met Karen of Darling Octopus on Saturday.  She was having her Open House and she happens to live in my neighborhood.  She does wonderful things with paint and fabric to old, beat up furniture.  It doesn't hurt that she has adorable kids and a super nice husband. He also runs the Byrd Park Community Website.

Here are some samples of her work:
 I love what she did with these old Ikea chairs.

 I just love the lines on this chair.

And this chair is just so creative. 

Please, go check out her blog and tell her I sent you.  

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Insulate it!

ARGH!  Blogger ate my post.  And of course, like a dummy, I didn't save it anywhere before I posted it.  So, now I'll have to recreate it.

Over spring break, we did manage to cross one thing off our list and that we can call "done done."  Most things around here fall into the "done but..." category.

The powder room we put in a year and a half ago is lovely and the house sorely needed a bath on the main floor.  The only problem with it was how frigidly cold it was.  We put in a marble floor and if you went in there in stocking feet, it would make your bones brittle.  We had insulated the walls before we closed them up, but the floor was over the old scary bathroom, which was nearly outside.  We had gone ahead and insulated the ceiling in the old scary bathroom but thought we could do more.

You see, originally half the sun room was a screen porch and half was a maid's room.  The maid's room had two doorways; one into the kitchen and one to the back porch off the kitchen.  Whenever it was converted into the sun room, that door was simply covered over and then paneled over thusly:

So, when we built the powder room, we simply drywalled over this door.  On the porch, was an busted up old screen door that had been nailed closed.  So, to take care of the cold issue, we decided to insulate that doorway and see if that helps to keep that room from being so frigid.

We pried the screen door open, cut out all the old screen. Nailed a piece of beadboard paneling to the inside and stuffed the cavity between the screen and door with insulation.  We nailed it back shut and painted the whole thing white again.

So, that job is DONE DONE!

The ice box, well that's still a work in progress.  I'll save updates for a later time.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cool People!

Okay, if you come to this blog to see mediocre pictures of my house and garden, you can skip this post.  I tend to be too into the moment to remember to take pictures to post to the blog.  So, this is a wordy post, but no pics.  Next time!

Over my break I met not one, but TWO fabulous women who blog.

I met Linda of Haven on Hanover who lives just a few blocks from me.

And, I met Connie of Hartwood Roses.

Linda and I have posted comments on one another's blogs for a while and have a poodle mutual admiration society.  We had been trying to arrange a dog walk for ages and finally got the chance over spring break.  Her white poodle, Lion, is a big love and he and Vivian had a great time romping together in the park.  A few days later, P and I ventured into the Fan and she showed me her house and it is truly lovely.  The five of us (including dogs) took a walk around the Fan, got to have an adventure by rescuing a lost lab/pit mix.  I hope we get the chance to do many more walks this summer.

On Thursday of spring break, P and I were heading up to DC to see the Gauguin exhibit at the National Gallery (one of my favorite places to see an exhibit).  Just outside of Richmond, I hit on a brilliant idea to call up a perfect stranger and ask if we could drop in with about 30 minutes notice (have I said that I'm a bit slacking in the planning department?).  Connie, graciously said "Sure come on!"  She took me and P around her fabulous antebellum restoration home as well as through the gardens and outbuildings.  Amazing lady with a lot of energy!

I saw Connie again at the Lewis Ginter plant show where she was selling some of her heirloom roses.  I picked up a "Black Ice" from her and it's going to be the centerpiece of my mini rose garden.

Without the blog, I probably would never have had the opportunity to meet these lovely ladies.  What an unexpected gift.

Who have you met by blogging?

Monday, May 9, 2011


So, one of the items on my spring break to do list was to finish de-sodding the hill in front of the house and to plant the whole thing with herbs.  I can officially call this one "done done" as opposed to "done but" which is how most projects around here stand.

This is a pic to remind you what the house looked like when we bought it:

Lots of big ugly bushes and some weedy grass.  On a big hill.  Dumb.  So the first summer we had it (can you believe it's been almost two years?) we sawzall'ed (great word) the bushes to open up the yard.  Last year, I started removing the sod from the hill and planted a few herbs.  You can read about it here in this post.  The herbs did magnificently and now look like this:
Se how big those lavender got?  They are HUGE and gorgeous.

Oddly enough, the soil in the front yard is pretty decent.  The mint, thyme, and oregano took off like wildfire too.  And, I had thrown in about 50 red tulip bulbs last fall that I bought from the kids.  They were gorgeous (stupid me, I didn't take a picture).  You can see in this picture that I'd stripped the sod all off and had started to plant.  I've planted 8 thyme plants, 3 oregano, 2 mint, 8 different types of basil, 6 different types of peppers, 4 more lavender, tansy, tarragon, parsley, chives, chamomile, curry (weird plant and smells funny but pleasant), and a tomato.  It is difficult to photograph, but here's my attempt:

Curry Plant:

So here is what it looked like last year:
And what it looks like today:
Big difference, right?  Better, right?  And those lavender!

I have pretty closely stuck to the "free or food" rule in the landscaping.  I bought my plants exclusively from local sources.  Maymont's Herbs Galore plant sale, City Garden's plant sale, and LDHS's plant sale.  

In the "free" category, a friend gave me a bunch of red hot pokers (kniphofia) and they have bloomed beautifully:

Back Yard: 
Where I broke the rule was in purchasing some hydrangeas from a lady in the neighborhood.  She had lost a couple of trees in her back yard changing her shady ground to sunny and her shrubs were burning.  So, I picked up three hydrangeas from her and planted them in the back yard.  

From the LDHS plant sale, I picked up that flat of impatiens in lovely red and white.  Given that the bird bath is simply a breeding ground for West Nile, I decided it needed a new raison d'ĂȘtre.  I moved it to the corner and planted a bunch of the red and whites in there.  I think it looks pretty dang good.  I know I need to pinch them back, but I wanted them to establish themselves for a few days first.  No need to shock them unnecessarily to quickly.

I also picked up a Japanese maple from a vendor at the South of the James farmer's market on Saturday.  I believe it's a Hisaka Yama.  Where I want to plant is unfortunately obstructed by the "sidewalk to nowhere" which I really hate.  So, Saturday, I pulled out my trusty sledge hammer and started to whack at it, much to P's consternation.  In an hour, I had this:
I think I'm going to continue the break up job over the summer.  I'm going to use the big chunks to build the fire pit in the middle of the yard.  Reduce, reuse, and recycle!

This is a close up of the maple.  I love the variegation.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Back Door Project

Sorry for the bloggy hiatus.  We are back on track now.

Well, I got damn little of my list accomplished over spring break.  Why is it I always think I'm going to get more done than I do?  Am I that slow? ambitious? disconnected from reality?  all of the above?  Something like that.

I didn't touch the staircase and it mocks me every time I climb the stairs, which is far too frequently.  I didn't pick up the paint deck, caulk the terrace, measure for wallpaper, or price out shelving.

So, what sucked out time so much?  Stripping the paint off the back door trim.  This is what it looked like when we moved in.  Thousands and thousands of layers of ugly paint.  All the detail on the trim was obscured and that hideous nicotine-mustard yellow color.  The wall area below the window was covered in plastic tiles (who thought that was a good idea?) that bulged out so that the drawers just out of the right side of the frame wouldn't open all the way.  It was pretty damned ugly.

Last fall we stripped and painted the back door.
 As you can see in the pic above, P had started to strip the trim and the plastic tiles had started to pop off.  Lovely to look at, no?
This is pretty much how things stayed for a very long time.

Then, the neighbor put her house on the market (sold in 6 days!) and posted pics of her house.  Behind all that plastic tile lay the old ice box.  We knew it was there, but the neighbor had all of hers all in tact and restored and gorgeous.  I forgot to save the pic, I'm a lousy blogger.  So, we decided to start banging off all those tiles and see if the bulgy wall hid perfect doors awaiting our restoration:
 Oh, the anticipation is like waiting for Heraldo to open Al Capone's vault!
 Just like Heraldo, disappointment awaits.
So, now we had a huge hole, no doors to restore, and a mess to clean up.  What are we going to do with said hole?
A beverage fridge!  It honors the old while incorporating the new, exactly what we wanted!
So, after some stripping and cutting out of the middle bar, the hole looked about like this:

So, in lieu of more interesting progress, I started working on the transom.  It's a three light transom and I knew I wanted some art glass in there.  We pulled out the transom and I took it to the basement and started stripping it, breaking all three panes in the process.  This makes me wonder if I'll be able to rehab the rest of the windows any more successfully.  

Anyway, P suggested a fleur de lis motif that sort of corresponds to the dining room stenciling.  So this is what I ended up with:

Installing it was quite a bugger and there was a lot of swearing involved.  Mostly cause we are both short and the ladders weren't making us tall enough.  

So, this is where we are now.  I've still got to do one more coat of paint and the door trim is FINALLY done.  Please don't ask me when the hole will be done.  That's to be determined.  We have a handyman friend coming tomorrow, so we shall see what he says.

I've also made a discovery, I'm a very good list maker but not a list follower.  I make great lists to then turn around and ignore.  Some people make lists in order to cross off items.  I just make lists and then find other things to do.  So much for organization.  

Keep checking back, I've got several more posts in the queue planned.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Technical Difficulties

Sorry for the unscheduled blogging hiatus.  Hard drive and video card died.

The good news is that we have a screaming new fast old computer.  Updates and pictures to come this weekend.