Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Best v.227

Diana (linocut) by Alex Katz

Friday, December 19, 2014

Just Call Me the Goldilocks of Couches

When Sean and I moved in together in 2009, we invited some friends to help us schlep our inherited couch to our second-floor apartment. This couch is a sleeper and I was honestly relieved no one died trying to move it. That night, Sean declared, "I will NEVER move that couch again." And he wasn't kidding, one bit.

So as we prepared to move into our new house, I tried to convince him it might not be the best time to take on the expense of a new couch, but to no avail. Not that I needed a lot of convincing...I was PSYCHED. After a lot of internet window shopping, I identified these prospects:

Couch Options

The West Elm Peggy, the West Elm Henry, Room & Board Loring, Room & Board Jasper, and the Room & Board Easton. In general, I wanted a neutral color, thin and elegant arms, and possibly pretty tapered legs. I love the look of a two-cushion sofa (obviously), but from a practical standpoint, it means the couch could be hellish when three people are sitting on it, one trapped forever in the crack.

But before I decided to look at West Elm or Room & Board, we went to almost every furniture store in Newport News to see what was out there. There was this $399 sofa from Grand...I didn't like the way the back cushions looked lumpy and frankly, that price made me dubious.

And then there was this little was okay but it wasn't lighting my heart on fire.

Sean liked this couch from Haverty's, but I thought the arms were offensively wide and huge. I mean, they're like TV trays for this sofa, right?

So that sent me to the Georgetown West Elm, where I could check out some of those sofas in real life. Sean really liked the look of the boxy Henry and although it wasn't my favorite option, I figured it would work. But then I sat down and it was the worst! It's the company's most popular sofa, so I'm sure it was just me, but I like to curl up when I sit on a sofa and it was far too shallow to curl up comfortably.

But then I sat down on the Peggy, which I really hadn't even considered and it was like, *cue Mariah Carey* "Dreamlover, come rescue me!" The seat is perfectly wide for me to curl up, I love the low back and if you remove the back cushions, you legit almost have a twin bed. 

The couch was delivered last week and it's true love. It's definitely not the kind of couch you sink into, but it's totally comfy for someone who curls up like I do.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hardwood, Ahoy!

 We are almost completely moved in, and staring down a ton of projects at both the apartment (spackling, cleaning, vacuuming) and the house (painting, painting, unpacking, painting). The past week and a half has been a total whirlwind, with hardwood floor installation, moving and a trip to the Outer Banks all happening in the span of 8 days.

Speaking of hardwood floors, I thought I'd give you a little before-and-after eye candy! When we first toured the house, we were disappointed to find out it didn't have hardwoods underneath its beige carpet. Hardwood floors were super important to me, and almost every other house we saw had them, but those other houses didn't have some of the great things this house had: a big yard, a great floor plan, a bonus room, and some important updates, like a fairly new water heater.

When we realized that some of the houses we were considering were more expensive AND needed new roofs and/or HVACs, we realized buying this house for less and splurging on hardwoods actually made more sense. As I told Sean the day we made an offer: "Adding hardwoods will make me love this house 85% more."

 I seriously can barely remember what this room felt like, but I can tell you it was depressing as hell.

 We wanted to go with solid hardwoods  because we are making an investment and we want to improve resale value. Laminates look better than ever, but they still look like laminate to me, and they don't offer any option for refinishing, which could be important to a future buyer. But sadly, it turned out the subfloor wasn't plywood and that eliminated solid hardwood as an option, because installers cannot nail or glue hardwood onto anything other than a plywood or oriented strand board (OSB) subfloor.

We were seriously devastated by this, but then we learned you can float a hardwood floor over a non-wood subfloor and the installation would actually be cheaper. That still has drawbacks (dips in the floor, a bouncy feeling in spots), but compared to spending thousands more to rip up the old subfloor and replace it with plywood, it was a better option for our budget. We still are a little sad we couldn't do a traditional hardwood floor, but we keep reminding ourselves it's still better than the carpet.

 We ended up getting Bellawood's natural red oak engineered planks, which are strips of real wood layered with fake wood on the bottom, so it's technically more environmentally friendly because fewer trees are being felled. Although I had moments of waffling about the color, I am SO happy with it. It just glows, especially against all my mid century-inspired furniture and the bright white walls in the den. We had it installed in the living/dining room, den and hallways. It makes a HUGE difference.

Can you even believe that's the same room? We spend most of our time here and I catch myself just sitting and admiring how cozy and bright it feels now.
This is a comparison of the entry from the day we bought the house to the weekend we moved in. It's amazing how hardwood makes spaces look much bigger!

And this is the living/dining room without the wallpaper, random railing or wall-to-wall carpet (but plus a super dirty old faux-flokati rug I'm using for the time being). I cannot wait to paint in here and hang some art!

The hardwoods were a huge investment, but I cannot even express how much they improved the look and feel of this house. I think if the house had these floors when it was on the market, it would have sold for at least $10,000 more dollars. Now I just have to take care of best believe I've been slapping felt furniture sliders on anything that stands!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Holiday Wrapping 2014

 In between all the craziness of moving, one of my friends Alex sent me a note that said basically, "I know you're moving and congrats on that, but where's the gift wrapping scheme?!" Every year since I graduated college, I've picked a gift wrapping color scheme. I do this for two reasons: 1) I hate most Christmas wrapping paper and I like to have paper I could use all year and 2) it pushes my creativity and makes me think a lot about color theory.

 Maybe I should just *sings* Let it goooooo, let it gooooo, but I couldn't get the "Frozen" colors out of my mind this year. It's super girly, but I wanted to see if there was a sophisticated way to pull off those wintry colors of blue, silver and purple. Let me tell you, there is very little purple wrapping paper out there right now, but I found a way to work it in with ribbon.

My papers include:

  • A gray herringbone print from TJ Maxx
  • Blue triangles from Target
  • Blue-green geometric print from Target
  • Gray gingham from Target's baby shower gift wrap section
  • Purple floral from World Market

 I always get my ribbons at Michael's or fabric stores. This year, I bought skinny and fat rolls of purple satin, a wired silver ribbon, a sparkly blue, a braided purple ribbon and this awesome star ribbon from World Market. The rest of the ribbon is left over from previous years.

See all my previous gift wrapping themes: 2013, 20122011, 2010 and 2006-2009.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Best v. 226

I spent this wonderful weekend in the Outer Banks celebrating the 30th birthday of my bestie, Ashleigh, who nagged me for not blogging. Needless to say, the past week and a half have been a whirlwind! We are 90% moved into our house, but that last 10% of stuff at the apartment is weighing me down. But soon enough, it will be a distant memory and we'll just be focused on making our house a home.
  • Adorable stories made up about strangers.
  • What happened to overtime?
  • An amazing underwater ballroom!
  • SNL cut this hilarious sketch mocking those VH1 countdowns.
  • A powerful article about acknowledging privilege.
  • Darrell DMC says Sarah McLachlan is a god. (Seriously, listen to that story. It's amazing.)
  • What you learn in your 40s.
  • All the women in peril in entertainment who somehow find time to shave.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

House Chronicles

Things are moving along quickly at our house! On Saturday, I went over there with a spray bottle and some Snuggle and went to town on the wallpaper in the dining room. Everyone had warned me removing wallpaper is the WORST, but I actually found the removal of the top half super satisfying. The bottom You'll see.

Following the wisdom of the Internet, I created a mixture of half hot water and half fabric softener. I spritzed it on the top layer of the wallpaper first, let it sit a few minutes, and then pulled from a corner to take off each panel of paper. Sometimes this worked amazingly well, sometimes it was a little more tedious, but I can't recommend this method enough if you have paper wallpaper (as opposed to vinyl).

After I tore off my first sheet, I was greeted by this patchy mess of backing paper. I then spritzed that with my fabric softener mixture, waited a little bit, and then got to work peeling it off. It comes off in amazingly large strips or — if you're really lucky — entire sheets!

Sometimes I would spritz and be greeted by these really delightful air pockets, which meant it was TOTALLY WORKING.

After four hours, I had accumulated this trail of wallpaper dead and it was SO rewarding.

And then I tried to tackle the bottom half of the walls. And lo and behold, underneath the (MUCH TOUGHER) wallpaper, the walls were completely different: textured and blue, like clouds. Unfortunately, the backing paper was really stuck to this mess and with Sean's help, we finished peeling off the last little bit after four additional hours.

Which meant it took a total of 8 hours to remove all the wallpaper. Completely worth it!

About that textured on the wall: unfortunately, more than half the walls in the house have been texturized. It's entirely possible to remove wall texture with a lot of water, diligent scraping, skim coating and sanding, but on we lack the time, DIY know-how or resolve to really tackle that. Maybe someday if it's really driving me crazy, we can try, but for now the plan is to paint the texture walls a nice flat finish and call it a day.

On Monday, we painted the molding in the den and it made SUCH a difference. I know it's hard to tell, but it makes the ceilings look taller and really makes the beams pop.

We will be painting the baseboard, too, but it will have to be after the hardwood floors are installed, which starts this week! It's amazing to have gotten some of these projects done already, but I've learned in my few weeks of homeownership that nothing is EVER done. Every time I walk through a room, I see to-do lists. But it's okay...that's the beauty of it right?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Probably a little late (almost a week...shush!), but I wanted to share some snapshots from our Thanksgiving. We ate like kings at the home of Sean's uncle and aunt, who served up this impressive spatchcocked turkey (the backbone is removed, so it cooks faster and stays juicier). It was delicious.

Our lovely, lovely table, complete with mango calla lilies.

My fantastic spread: brussels sprouts with bacon, green bean casserole (the first time I've ever liked it!), bourbon sweet potatoes, turkey and cranberry sauce with multiple fruits!

 Kennedy Kids!

 On Black Friday, Katie and I spent a couple hours sitting on couches in various decor stores in Georgetown...we found a winner, but I'll reveal that a little later!

 We gorged ourselves on overpriced treats from Dean & Deluca: PB&J, Apple Brandy, Birthday Cake and Peppermint macarons.

And for Small Business Saturday, I popped into Shadetree Upholstree and picked up two of these natural fiber tassel tiebacks from Bangladesh for $5!!! I'm pumped to find a spot in the new house for them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The First-Ever Winesgiving!

 Five whole years ago, a few girls got together and started a wine club. The premise was pretty simple: we would get together every few weeks like a book club, but rather than pretend to read a book or complain about hating a book, we would share wine instead! It was a stroke of genius on the part of our founders, Miranda and Erica, and one of the things we've wanted to do for a long time is go on a winery tour to celebrate our big anniversary.


It is very hard for seven people to schedule a weekend away. So instead, we settled for a mini Wine Club excursion that was so fun, we deemed it Winesgiving and hope to repeat for years to come! We decided to pay a visit to the nearby New Kent Winery. We started our trip with a stop at The Cheese Shop in Williamsburg to pick up provisions: sandwiches (with their House Dressing, natch), cheese and chocolate.

We ate our treats family style, which truly made it feel like a Wine Club version of Thanksgiving. Here's my little spread of cheeses (that cranberry goat cheese was to die for) and chocolate. 

We bought bottles of wine to share, and my favorite was New Kent's White Merlot (who knew that was even a thing?). It was so nice to visit and catch up. New Kent's staff put us in the private area upstairs since we had a fairly large party, so it was like we had our own private party rental for free! We also made sure to enjoy their gorgeous porch overlooking the grounds, complete with outdoor heaters.

After the movie, some of us ventured out to see the latest Hunger Games movie, which was the perfect ending to the day! I'm so thankful to have this group of ladies in my life. Many folks have asked over the years how to start a wine club, and it's really as simple as inviting a friend, encouraging them to invite a friend and so on. I only knew two of our members prior to the club beginning, but now I feel like I have a little family!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Best v.225

Great painting by Christopher Wool.

How late is too late to share some links? I've missed Sunday Best for two Sundays in a row (I'm the WORST) because I've been working on house stuff...can't wait to really settle in and blog more about the house plans! Needless to say, some of these links are on the older side, but they're still fun!

Friday, November 28, 2014

House Progress: Painting Wood Paneling

When we toured our house and saw the wood-paneled room, we both agreed there was no way we could live with the room being that dark. Every time we walked through the door, I said, "I cannot WAIT to paint that room white." So, with less that one week of homeownership under our belt, we settled in for what turned out to be a three-day endeavor (and still isn't completely over). I don't think it would take three days of solid work, but we had other stuff to do, so it had to be done in chunks.

I started the project by reading about 1,000 tutorials online, some of which recommended de-glossing the walls. It's definitely a stinky project, so make sure you can turn on fans, open windows and wear a mask.

Once the walls were deglossed, we started the tedious task of cutting in with Zinsser 1-2-3 primer. This includes the extremely necessary (and extremely annoying) step of painting inside every single paneling seam. We had a little help from our friend Ashleigh, which made the job go much faster.

Sean, surveying his kingdom.

After about 5 hours, we were fully primed! We left for the night and returned the next day to cut in, paint the seams and paint two coats with Benjamin Moore's White Dove.

White Dove has a little warmth to it and I can't wait to see it in daylight, with art on the walls and the trim painted. I think we're going to paint everything white except the beams and the mantel, for now. The next step is the installation of hardwood floors (!!!), after which we can paint the baseboards.

I feel so accomplished!!