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...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

a most tedious undertaking

we live in an old house. old houses come with "old house things" - doors that stick, stairs that creak, weird night-time noises, and hidden quirks from previous owners. and layers upon layers upon layers of paint. this house has 85 years of paint. on EVERYTHING. including the door hardware.

yuck. and the doors between our den and kitchen / dining room have old metal weather stripping, since our den used to be a porch. the metal has paint all over it, too. well, one day, phil got tired of looking at it and started to rip off the metal. and he took off the door.

gorgeous. ha! luckily, the gaps that the weather stripping had been covering weren't huge. all he had to do was use some wood filler and then paint. okay, LOTS of wood filler. and LOTS of paint. 

five zillion times better, right??!? so then we had nicely painted, significantly cleaner-looking door frame. then the bad part started.

we had been researching ways to clean old hardware (the usual suspects: design spongeapartment therapythis old house), but didn't have a crock pot. well, we actually had TWO crock pots, thanks to a great wedding shower at phil's parents' church. but one we took back when we moved to DC. and the other we actually gave to phil's friend when he was in law school up at NYU (they took it back on the bus!!). i just didn't use it. i like crispy food : ) any who... we looked on craigslist for a cheap crock pot, because no one wants to use the same crock pot you use for food (as my friend alison said, "killer queso!"); but, didn't get any immediate hits. so we did the boiling water / baking soda method. 

we pulled a couple of mop buckets from the garage and started boiling water in the electric kettle. sidebar: i had a roommate in college with a british mom who introduced me to the electric kettle concept. they are AMAZING! thanks, becky! i use it way more than i ever thought possible. okay, i'm back. so we used a bucket per hinge and filled it with boiling water and baking soda. then it soaked for at least 30 minutes, so the hardware was cool enough to handle. then phil scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. the first layer of paint would peel, then he would use a toothbrush and brillo pad to get the next layer. and then we'd boil more water and start the process over again. each hinge took, oh, about five cycles of that. the scrubbing was brutal. 

one of the coolest things about the process was taking apart the door hardware. he even took apart the lock. since this used to be a back door, it has a locking mechanism - although we don't have a key. the soak and scrub got rid of more than just the paint: the rust came off, too. 

look how pretty! i can't even describe how clean the finished look is compared to the old. the patina is still there, you still know it's old hardware. i think it's brass-plated, judging by the color (and we did a magnet test), and i love it. the glass doorknob is cleaner, too. before we do the rest of the doors - there are TEN more (!!!!!) - we are continuing the crock pot search. i'll let you know if it speeds things up. man, i hope so!

ps - throughout most of this tedious process, this lucky lady was sitting at the dining room table working on a deadline for work. phil is amazing. he would let me know good times to jump up and take a photo. seriously, all you single ladies, the best traits in a husband (to me, at least!) are an outrageous sense of humor and an incredible work ethic. nothing better than knowing my good-looking guy is working hard all day and coming home to crack me up : ) 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

our most magical craigslist find yet!

it's no secret that phil is a craigslist master. seriously most of our house is furnished from craigslist. no reason to buy new when there are so many people looking to get rid of perfectly good furniture pieces in great shape. he somehow finds amazing things and we (almost) never get burned. one of my favorite finds is the plycraft eames-style lounge chair (you can see it here, it's the brown leather chair in the back). well, he outdid himself this time.

he was just browsing for "large art" or "large canvas" or something. we have next to nothing on the walls (still!! i know!), and it is starting to drive him nuts. i already knew what i was looking for. and there is a TON to wade through on craigslist art. some real doozies. so when i saw "michelle armas" i FLIPPED. OUT. what are the odds??!? a nice couple in chevy chase had two stretched prints on canvas, and we were the lucky ones. i mean, isn't it gorgeous?

we have it rotated sideways and just resting on the mantle until we find the perfect home. it's such a happy piece to see when you walk in! 

aaaaaand it made a beautiful addition to a baby shower for a sweet friend : ) 

way to go, phil! and looking forward to using the money we saved for plane tickets to texas to see friends and family.