Tuesday, January 6, 2015

nursery essentials

there is a lot of time and energy that goes into pregnancy. i mean, there's the actual time and energy it takes to BE pregnant (a lot. of both. and gummy bears. a lot. of those.). and then there is the time to prepare. both phil and i are thorough - there is a lot of time and discussion prior to almost all of our purchases, even the more minor ones. which means we have spent many, many hours online researching what we "need" for a baby. i say "need" because, really, you need a car seat and a place to sleep. a way to feed the baby and cloth them. the end. but there are so many things that make life easier and / or prettier : )

so there were many hours devoted to looking through blog posts and asking other mamas what they really needed. since our house is not large and the baby's room is the smallest of all, the hope is to take a more minimal approach to baby gear and the nursery, in particular. these are some of the best lists i found while wandering online:

minimalist registry list from the fauxmartha
essentials from love taza
baby list from oh joy
the multi-post powerhouse guide from modern eve

from all of that, we narrowed it down to what we decided were the essentials for the way we live and want to live with our kiddo and her nursery. i've already shown my affection for simple, modern cribs. and that we will use a chair we already have in the house as an upstairs snuggle spot for reading and nighttime feeding. but there are a few other things we wanted in baby's room.

book shelves
i am a big reader, and actually a bit of a book hoarder. there are no less than four books on my nightstand at any typical time - a mix of fiction and non-fiction (biography, self-help, cookbooks, whatever). and my hope is to pass the love of reading on to our little bug. i'm sure by the time she's in school, everyone will be almost exclusively e-reader (tear), but until then, we need a place to store books. plus, babies use board books and cloth books and squeaky, fuzzy books with tails. because that is way more fun than swiping an ipad or kindle in your snuggly chair! so we started thinking about what we could use as book storage. there are so many great ideas out there and, no surprise, we lean toward the less cutesy-kiddie options and more toward simple, wood options.

cute, simple shelves from DIY Mama
preschool-style bookshelf
gorgeous apartment tour on cup of jo
ikea spice rack hack
changing table
pretty much everyone i talked to and every list i read recommended just using a dresser with a pad on top, because the changing table is not a multi-purpose piece of furniture. well, okay then. makes sense to me. especially since we need the dresser storage in our tiny little room for our tiny little person. so as i searched further, i found this interesting cleanable pad. as opposed to the traditional piece of foam / vinyl / whatever and washable cover. my thought is less laundry = less annoyance. and, hello, it comes in gray.

keekaroo peanut changing pad available at amazon or giggle
i already mentioned my love of calder and desire for a beautiful mobile for little nugget. i've also been reading about montessori, and how mobiles play an integral part in babies' development. i've been researching how to set up a montessori baby space, and this blog (how we montessori) has been an especially good resource. here are some mobile resources from the blog, and even some DIY ideas! we are not doing the child bed on the floor (yet - it may come as baby gets older - i am too anxious to put her on the floor in our old house now), but a lot of montessori resounds well with us. we aren't really musical elephant mobile people (no judgment), so these simple mobiles mesh with our style and baby's learning needs. win-win. i may make a few of the montessori mobiles for baby to reach for from her baby gym, but over the crib, i think we'll go with one of the beautiful modern mobiles out there.

a beautiful montessori gobbi mobile from etsy
one of the many stunning flensted mobiles available from allmodern
toy storage
again, montessori has ideas on toys and toy shelving. simple wooden shelves with only a few toys within reach of little people and baskets that sort items. but our nursery is very small - i'm not sure this is something we can fit in the room. our back room will become a play room, so perhaps we just put the shelves back there?

simple shelves and storage from this great blog post
bath storage
our house has a single bathroom for us to share. it's a family bath. i'm an architect, so i've drawn up SEVERAL plans for us to add a second bath upstairs. but we took a three week trip to africa this year and now we're having a baby, so big renovations are on hold for a bit. i've been looking for tips on sharing a family bath - most are for large families in farmhouses, roommates (been there done that, bath toys are different than 17 shampoo types), or extolling the benefits of teaching kids to share. all excellent advice, but we're going to feel it out. i'm thinking collapsible tub - like a colander : ) and keeping towels and wash cloths in the nursery. toys... again, not sure what to do.

i plan to update this once i figure out which end is up because right now it is just my blog-informed, naive conjecture... and i know it will take us some serious trial and error as we figure out how to raise our little baby in our little row house in our city : )

Sunday, December 28, 2014

chair update

remember those gorgeous mid-century chairs we found on craigslist for an absolute steal? well, the plan was to refinish them and make new cushions. then, the summer happened and the baby projects started and the plan changed to having someone ELSE refinish them and make new cushions. and maybe sell / trade them the little triangle table to help offset the cost. it's a cool table, but not anything  we need in the house. it's a strange shape and also needs a little work.

the chairs need some re-gluing, new straps / webbing (seat support), and some wood refinishing in addition to the cushions. i'd like them to be restored to their original(ish) color of wood and then add simple, navy cushions. some of my inspiration photos:

fabric is a little light, but photo of sold item from this shop
photo from expired listing at this cute shop
photo from here
however, we got a few bids on the restoration and upholstery work. and the cheapest was $500 a chair!! ummm, what?! so now it's back to the drawing board. do we sell the chairs and buy something else? at $500/chair, we can buy really nice chairs. like, really nice. do we just live with the ugly a little longer and take on the project after the baby comes? something in between? maybe just a large foam base cushion and interesting pillow for the back... 

idea & photo from here
any ideas? any good places to buy ready-made cushions?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

cribs & gliders

so big news in the dickinson house... it's time to design a nursery! we are beyond excited to welcome a baby in early 2015 : )

what does this mean for the house? well, it means we need to do a little re-arranging upstairs. our "DC third bedroom" is currently my closet. and the back room, the house's old sleeping porch, is our junk room : ( the plan is to make the closet into the nursery and the back room into a study / playroom. the guest room will stay the guest room. and pink (sorry, dad). so grateful that we are not adding "moving" to the long list of baby prep!

as for style, we want something Scandinavian and gender neutral. we decided to find out sex (a girl!!), but don't want to re-buy major pieces or be painting rooms for kiddo numero dos - should we be so lucky as to survive this one and be blessed with another : ) think lots of white and wood and grey (duh). artwork will be where we do a little gender expression... the plan is to hang this gorgeous number over the crib. I have a few art pieces left from my pre-married days (aka my feminine, shabby chic phase) that may find their way in. and I've always loved the work of Sharon Montrose, particularly the little darlings series. I mean, c'mon, so cute. or we'll do some family photos or black and whites from our travels. did you know babies only see in black and white at first??! oh, and a mobile. cannot forget the mobile. I have loved calder's mobiles since studying abroad in college, so i'm hoping to find a modern (and less expensive) interpretation.

onto the major pieces... my dream crib is the oeuf sparrow. soooo pretty. and sooooo expensive!

so if we can't find one at a reasonable price on craigslist, we'll be doing the ikea sniglar. similarly simple, but 1/10th the price. great reviews, solid wood... a real winner for under $100, in my opinion.
I feel like either crib could go masculine or feminine, and could be passed down through a few babies. we'll do neutral crib linens. as for glider / rocker, we're going to use a plycraft lounge chair (which is an eames knock-off) we found on craigslist a while back.
not our actual chair, but similar. photo from here

it leans, rocks, and has armrests and an ottoman. plus, the headrest is tall enough I can lean back comfortably. we're going to try it and see, since we already have it. it was downstairs for awhile, then in our bedroom... the leather is in so-so shape, but should be easier to clean than most fabrics. and, I have to say, i'm not a huge fan of a lot of the glider options out there. my all-time favorite rocker is the eames RAR, but at $500+ and no headrest, it did not make the short list. I mean, if we found one on craigslist, i'd find a home for it no question : )
we're also going to convert an old dresser into the changing table. and by that, I mean we will paint the old dresser and slap a changing pad on top. maybe i'm naïve, but I never understood the dedicated changing table as a piece of furniture you buy. eh. open to comments from people who actually have babies (and, therefore, informed opinions, haha).
all of this change will spur many home projects, leading to (hopefully) more blog updates. we had stalled a bit on the house: burned out, working many, many hours and traveling. during this pregnancy I have gone to south padre island, texas; eastern shore, maryland; san antonio, texas; new york, new york; ft campbell, kentucky; nashville, tennessee; ft bragg, north carolina; ft hood, texas; dallas, texas; northern tanzania; kigali and northwestern rwanda; coastal tanzania; dubai; houston, texas; san diego, california... and I've had to say no to some work travel to the west coast. but the nesting instinct is real and strong (and felt by dads, too), so get ready!

Monday, May 26, 2014

on symmetry and patience

do you have obsessions? okay, obsession may be a bit strong. but, as i've said before, i get things into my head and they just, ummmm, stick. my latest design fixation is symmetry. i've never been a big fan of matchy-matchy, symmetrical designs... until now. maybe i'm feeling unbalanced in my personal life? the lie of work-life balance? eh, instead of paying for therapy, i'll just explore my inner psyche through the redecoration of our house. win-win.

there are two places i've been especially craving the symmetry: matching nightstands for our master bedroom and a pair of arm chairs for the living room. the nightstands are abundant - i'm really into these right now:

cb2 audrey nightstand

great, right? waiting for them to go on sale. well, and waiting for a new bed frame on craigslist. not totally in love with what we have now. 

the armchairs, however, were a different story. not abundant. especially in our price range and style. phil really REALLY likes matching mid-century armchairs. in wood. with vertical back slats. a tall order to fill at any price, much less under $400 for both, finished. which means including new cushions and/or wood refinishing. ha. it was a search for a unicorn. a flying unicorn. matching flying unicorns. 

we did the usual: craigslist every day, ebay, 1stdibs, estate sales. then a friend suggested we try auctions, so we went down to old town alexandria for brunch and a live auction with another couple. they've done auctions before (they have a beautiful art collection), so it was a great introduction to the sport. the potomack auction house had a small mid-century lot up that saturday. we previewed online and saw that there was a pair of chairs, exactly matching what we wanted. we did a little research on the design manufacturer to figure out pricing and set our max before we even downed a mimosa! (i've been shopping in vegas before!! haha)

when we got there, the auction was in full swing. there was a room full of furniture and art, and then a room full of chairs for bidders. we checked in and got our paddle. so exciting! then we sat down and watched to see the rhythm of the auctioneer and bidders. he spoke fast, like in movies. and people just raised their paddles. there were also tables on either side of room, with several women on the phones with clients and also watching the online portion of the bidding. 

they finally got to our lot, the pair of beautiful chairs. the bidding started low, around $300 i think. we raised our paddle. and then were outbid. we upped it. our max was going to be $400 (maybe $450 if we got carried away). welllll it didn't really matter. someone online bid almost $800. eight. hundred. dollars!!!!! needless to say, we were out. fun adventure, but no dice.

well, i've been working a fair amount from home on the weekend lately. and using my mental breaks to search for chairs and nightstands on craigslist. i actually just search "pair" and see what comes up. because i wouldn't say no to a nice pair of lamps either... anyway, lo and behold, i stumbled across a pair of chairs. in wood. with vertical back slats. FOR $50!!!! INCLUDING A SIDE TABLE!!!!!! we were starting the car to pick it up before we even finished calling to see if they were available. i had just lost on a gorgeous pair of campaign-style nightstands and i was not taking no for an answer this time.  

hello, gorgeous!! we drove as fast as legally possible out to the maryland suburbs and loaded them into our car. the table is not 100% our style. and the triangle shape makes it awkward to put in a small space. the wood is scratched on all three pieces.

and the cushions are gross. she had at least one cat, and there are claw marks all over the place. we brought the set home and THOROUGHLY cleaned them (number 1 rule of craigslist - clean before it gets in your house!) and did a good coat of lemon oil on all the wood. already looking happier. now i'm searching for the perfect fabric for the new cushions. and a good upholsterer. i'm not going to kid myself that i can bring these beauties back to life with my meager sewing skills. so any suggestions are welcome!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

planning my garden

we've been here two years. two crazy years! things are coming together in the house, so now i need to turn more of my energy outdoors. i've done a few things. i cleaned up a lot of the plants that were not my style. we also decided that we're going to add grass... i know, i know. it seems counter-intuitive. especially as big fans of xeriscape and edible landscaping. but we want to get more light into our basement and have a little spot of grass for future dogs and / or kiddos to play : )

my style is cottage garden. old lady cutting flowers, vegetables and herbs. a backdrop of boxwoods and hydrangeas behind dahlias and rosemary. i think it fits with our 1929 house. and it fits with our life. i cook a fair amount, and i LOVE to be able to cut fresh herbs from the garden. we also entertain and i also LOVE to have fresh flowers in the house when we have guests. so my plan is to move some things around and plant with seeds for most everything else. plants are expensive!!

this is an old image of the front of our house. you can see it is missing our front walk. but you can also see a rough idea of the plan : ) we have some great existing plants: azaleas in white, pink, red; peonies; lilac; dogwood; hydrangeas; roses; irises; tulips; and infinite day lilies. i'm so grateful that we aren't starting from scratch. we've moved the azaleas and peonies toward the front (marked cutting garden above) and i've been slowly relocating all of our day lilies to the front of the kitchen garden area. a mass of blooming flowers is just so lovely, no? we'll seed grass in the fall and take it from there!

Monday, April 28, 2014

trash day!!!

we got new trash cans!!! the city brought a big truck and dropped off new trash and recycling cans on everyone's front yard and it is wonderful! i can't believe that i am excited about this, but, you know, i am. if i could only get the city to come get the old ones...

Friday, April 25, 2014

shedding some light

we've made more changes in the den. the latest is changing out a sconce on the brick wall. the original sconce was a little too shabby chic. while i love that style (i have the book, duh), it's a little too feminine for phil.

so i looked high and low for something modern, simple, and relatively inexpensive. i found a lot of fixtures i really liked, but phil would nix for price : ) finally, i found this one forty three sconce. but it was sold out. forever. so i followed the studio on instagram to know when it was back in production. and i finally was able to order it!

it took a few, okay several, weeks to come in. but well worth it for a beautiful, handmade fixture at a reasonable price! i opted for white and brass. the room is gray, the door hardware is brass (and antique brass-ish), and the trim is white. it even came with bulbs! so we took off the old fixture...

and discovered it had cloth-covered wires!

uh-oh. glad we took it off. then we painted the junction box on the wall, so it would match the shiny new white fixture. and then we installed the sconce ourselves!

actually, it was much easier than i expected. we just watched a quick youtube video after a google search. super quick, super easy.

doesn't it look great!?! i love it. we debated whether to orient the fixture with the bulbs up or down, and decided on down. it seemed less "bathroom vanity" and more "back den."

the light is bright. phil thinks maybe a bit too bright, especially for movie nights. eh. i like it. but my couch seat is further away : ) i'm looking at dipped bulbs as an option to shield some of the more direct light. but i think i'll wait until these burn out.

the den is getting close to complete; the major things left are accent pillows and artwork. the pillows we currently use are from my first apartment in denver, and a little worse for the wear. since this is "phil's room" we're having a disagreement over the artwork... he wants movie posters. ummm no? haha. we'll see. i think we may have some compromises in mind...