Tuesday, September 30, 2008

An Oasis, or a Desert?

When I began painting my house in technicolor- my fuchsia bathroom, orange dining room, the bright yellow swatches for the kitchen- friends and family asked me what my ideas were for my beige living room. I said to them, "I kind of like the color in the living room, I feel like it's an oasis of calm, a place for the eye to rest among all the excitement of the rest of the house." And I meant it.

Until one day, a few weeks ago, when I came down the stairs in the morning and looked at my living room and was absolutely revolted. This wasn't an oasis, it was a desert! A barren wasteland of blah! I furiously set to digging through anything I could use to add color- recovering the couches, hanging tapestries, adding rugs and throw pillows. Which had an effect of something like putting fake plants on y
our font porch- something was wrong. For about three days I tried to find a way to work with the color of the walls that I had professed to so adore. But the feeling did not pass, and I began perusing my inspiration file once again. (really, if you don't already collect pictures from ads and magazines of things you adore, start!!)

I had a vague idea that I wanted to do a shade of blue, but the shades I was leaning toward were feeling a little too dark, or too grey for the feeling I wanted. But then I found the perfect picture in the current issue of Elle Decor. Once I found that, I realized that a shade that I had dismissed as altogether too bright- light bright, not loud bright- was actually the color I wanted. Oddly enough it was the color my younger brother had picked out a few days earlier... maybe I should just ask him next time...

So I broke out the painting gear onc
e again and set to work. And about 6 hours later, my husband came home to a whole new room!

I am quite pleased with the result!!
Unfortunately, the mirror in the shape of a Moorish arch up in that top picture was the previous owner's, and all I have for the moment is an antique, possibly mercury glass, rectangular mirror to put in the same spot. I've framed a print I picked up in Italy in the mirror since my husband professes to be frightened by the distorted, speckled reflection the mirror shows. It's ok for now, but I'd love to find something like they had, I think it fits perfectly in that space and matches the style of the fireplace really well.
Another thing for the shopping list!

Time: 4ish hours- it takes me about an hour per wall to prep and paint.

Cost: $30- about $20 for one gallon of Dutch Boy in Clear Turquoise, plus a new tray liner and roller cover.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Impromptu Reupholstery

I have this cute little storage ottoman that I bought awhile back, about two years ago, I believe.
It was just what I wanted in the way of footstool/magazine storage/extra seating for under $30, and while I liked the fabric, the colors have never been entirely suited to my style. Hitherto, that's never been much of an issue since my rental apartments usually came with beige walls, and if I added color it was always considerately pale. (except for one notable hallway foray into apple green, which was fun)
So the other day I went to the fabric store looking for some nice velveteen with which to make curtains. Instead I came home with some wild velvet remnants with which to finally recover my ottoman. Which I did:

Isn't it cute?!

The Technicalities:
-I began by removing all the hardware- 8 screws holding on each tiny little hinge!!- and the legs, which screw off.

- I then measured the height of the lower part and cut strips of the tiger-print fabric, leaving about an inch of extra on the top and bottom. Since I was working with a pattern, I carefully chose the bit I wanted to be font and center.

- Folding the fabric under at the edge I used my upholstery staple gun and, starting in the middle, stapled the fabric about every inch.

- To save money I purchase less fabric and ran two strips end to end. To avoid sewing altogether, I simply overlapped the pieces, folding the overlying piece under to avoid a rough edge. I also put a staple in the center of the underlying piece to keep it from slipping out. (the seam in the picture is about an inch from the lower corner.)

- For the top half of the ottoman, I wrapped it like a present and also cut the edges with an inch of seam allowance all around, tucked the rough edges under, and stapled.

- I treated the corner pretty much like a present, too, though I wrapped them square for a neater look. You may need to trim a bit of fabric and use some extra staples to make it lie flat.

One Caveat: If you don't want the dog to sleep on your velvet, don't leave it on the floor.
Once she got on, there was no way she was going back to her own bed. Oh well.

TIME: About an hour.
COST: $8.50
I got a great deal on the remnant table, so one yard of the pink velvet was $3.50, and the tiger was $5.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not White Anymore!!

You remember that dining room that I was saying didn't match itself? The one with the off-white textured walls and while trim? There's one picture down in the flooring post, here's another angle:

Well, once I got the floor up I realized that something dramatic was going to have to happen to make that a warm, inviting room that I would want to spend time in. In case you hadn't noticed yet, I love color. LOOOooooooove bright, warm, sexy colors. And my general idea for my house is that I want it to feel like an exotic escape: Arabian Nights, meets India, meets the Caribbean/ Mediterranean tropical feel. I had these pictures in my tear sheets and really liked the feel of

I have no idea why the picture on the left will NOT rotate... clearly this type of technicality isn't my forte...

Anyway, I went to a couple of different stores and picked out a bunch of different samples of red, brown and orange paint and had them up on my wall for a couple of weeks. None of them were looking quite right- some were too dark, but the next brightest version of that color was too fluorescent...

Until one day, completely frustrated, I began taking the color swatches down and accidentally stacked a brick red sample on top of one of those too-bright orange samples and realized, DUH! I had to LAYER colors to get that effect. So I did!

This picture isn't fantastic- I'll have to dig out my tripod and take one without the flash to get a real idea of the depth of the layered color, but you get the idea. It's not white anymore!! Not even close!

What I did to layer the color was put one coat of ColorPlace Jungle Orange in a satin finish (from WalMart) all over the walls with a 3/4 inch nap roller (for textured walls), and let that dry for about 4 hours. Then I used a smaller, lower nap roller with a very small amount of Valspar Terra Cotta Red in a satin finish to do like a dry-rub layer over the top. I did the first layer quite lightly since it's easier to add more color than to take it off, but actually liked the first results a lot and decided to stop there.

I love how the room is coming along! I get tons of compliments on the paint treatment. It's the first room you see when you enter through the back door, and it really sets a tone! Well worth the extra effort!

TIME: One Day.
COST: $35 in paints, plus the usual brushes, rollers and trays. (you can get a pack with all you need at WalMart or Home Depot for about $10.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Four Year Project

That really should have taken about four days...

Four years or so ago, I grabbed two cute little arm chairs out of someone's trash pile. The upholstery was pretty gross and the wood pretty banged up, but the lines were very nice,they had good detail, and they weren't wiggly in the least. So I took them into our apartment, despite my husband (then boyfriend's) objections, crying out how lovely they would be once I refinished them.
Shortly thereafter we took a trip to the fabric store where I picked up the red fabric that is on the seat of this chair here. The back of the chair is the original gold crushed velvet. The seats of both chairs were disgusting enough that I pretty much immediately tore the covers off and stitched these new ones to recover them. And this is how they sat for about 6 months until we moved out of our apartment building and into a two family house where I had space to sand them.
Which I did to one.
The sanding, you see, caused quite a bit of noise (I used a Black and Decker Orbital sander) which landlords didn't seem to appreciate, and mess, which stressed me out, it being someone else's house. And so there the chairs remained, half sanded and half covered, for about four years.
But then we moved into our great big house out here in the boonies! So the work finally continued. I ripped the backs out of the chairs, grabbed my trusty sander, and took them out to the deck. It took me about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, to get all the old stain and polyurethane off. (Yes, I wore a mask and goggles.) I intentionally left the old stain in the recessed parts (not that it was coming off very willingly) because I wanted to stain them a slightly lighter color to bring the detail out more.

Next I applied three coats of MinWax stain/poly combo in Dark Cherry. The directions advised letting them dry for six hours, but they still seemed tacky after seven, so I let them dry overnight in between each coat. I used the old covers as patterns to cut the new ones, but the old seat and backing were fine, so I reused those. Hot glue held things in place while I stapled them in with an industrial stapler, and Voila!

A chair is reborn! I have to make another trip to the fabric store to pick up some kind of trim to cover the upholstery edge of the seat-back, but I think they look pretty good. Unfortunately, I've realized that they are about 6 inches shorter than the ideal piece to furniture would be in the place I want to put them... but they'll do for now. And then at some point it will be a great excuse to go furniture shopping!

TIME: Realistically, about a week.
COST: $90, if you're starting from scratch
Fabric- 2 yards at ~$10/yd.
Orbital Sander- I owned mine already, but a new one will cost you about $50.
Stain/Polyurethane- About $6
Others- (brush, mask, safety glasses, fine-grit sandpaper) About $15

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fun in the Suburbs

Speaking of ways my husband and I keep ourselves entertained... we chased a balloon over the weekend. I think it was Thursday night, I was watching an old movie and heard something that I thought was thunder, but didn't sound exactly right. I muted the movie a couple of times to try to hear it more clearly, but really didn't care enough to actually turn the TV off and go investigate. Moments later, my husband came tearing in the door calling for me to put on my shoes and come outside. I already had my shoes on, and thankfully I had put on real clothes (you know, jeans instead of flannel pants) so I grabbed the blanket off the couch (it was chilly out) and ran out to meet him.
Now, he's all kinds of excited grabbing my hand and pulling me down the street, babbling something about a balloon caught in the trees. I didn't entirely understand what was so exciting about a balloon in the trees, until I connected the thunder sounds with the balloon word and realized he was talking about a HOT AIR balloon being stuck in the trees.
I apologize for the picture, I took it on my husband's cell phone, so it's a little crappy.
So here's this hot air balloon with it's basket caught in the trees firing it's flame every few seconds desperately trying to clear the ridge. And we have it from our friends on the next block over that this is a regular autumnal occurrence. Apparently a hot air balloon has landed in the shopping plaza driveway across the street once, and another time in the church parking lot, which they knew were mistakes, but weren't quite sure where they actually were trying to get to. So, when the balloon finally cleared the trees, rather than heading back to my cozy place on the couch, we decided to accompany the kids on a wild-balloon-chase to find out once and for all where these balloons were heading.
So down the street, around the corner and toward the school went me and my afghan, doing my best to keep up with the 6 and 8-year-olds. After about a half mile, we chased it down to the middle school football field where it landed right smack in the middle of the pee-wee football game! Okay, it was a bit off to the side of the field, but the ensuing chaos was still pretty entertaining.
Looking at ourselves from the outside, we couldn't help but laugh at our excitement over such a little thing, but we actually enjoyed ourselves! Running down the street with childlike abandon, trailing my blanket behind me and not caring who saw because half the neighborhood was right behind us, it's a freedom that you can only find out here is the good ol' suburbs.
TIME: About 2 hours.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Flooring... Flooring Once, Flooring Twice...

While my muscles were nicely built up from hours of wallpaper remover removal, I thought I would continue the manual labor streak by tackling the god-awful green shag wall to wall carpet in my would-be dining room.
Not to mention that the super-white trim on almost white walls greeting me every time I came in the door was beginning to depress me. I didn't have the budget to put down the wood floor of my dreams immediately, but I was hoping that the plywood under the carpet would be in good enough shape that I could paint it a nice dark brown and live with that for a few months.

I began by thoroughly vacuuming the carpet in hopes that pulling it up would be much less gross that I suspected it would be.
It didn't help much.
One corner of the rug was already loose, so donning some goggles and work gloves I began pulling from there. With a little elbow grease and an ENORMOUS dust cloud, I had the carpet up in three strips within half an hour. The edge of the carpet was periodically nailed down to tack strips (which are strips of plywood with upside down nails in them) but where the carpet ripped rather than popping the nail, a pair of pliers did the job.
The carpet pad under the carpet came up equally easily (and filthily) to reveal about a quarter inch layer of solid dirt which I scraped, swept and mopped away to get to my...

Old, glued, stapled and nailed down linoleum. Now, getting up the old loose tiles that had been stapled down was actually pretty easy- I just had to work the staples loose with the edge of my scraper and pull them out with the pliers and then the tiles floated right off. The problem came with the ones that still had viable glue- they came off in about one inch square sections. But they did come up!

What didn't come up so easily was the afore-mentioned tack strips. I would get the edge of the scraper under one piece, then use the hammer as a lever to begin prying it up, and the wood would immediately splinter. There had to be a better way. And there was!

My mother-in-law.

I cannot lie. I did go to Lowes and purchase a tool specific for the job that neither my mother nor the man that led me to it at Lowes could remember the name for. It was not a Cat's Paw, they knew that, but a more specific and useful tool. And useful it was indeed! It made the job of removing the tack strips require very little actual force, but quite a bit of patience. Of which I was running out after about three quarters of the room of tiles- patience, not force.

BUT! The new tool intrigued my mother-in-law (who was visiting from India and staying with us for a couple of months.) In India there are people that do these jobs, not tools to bring home that make it possible to do them yourself!
The afternoon after I had purchased the tool I found my mother-in-law sitting on a little green stool, doubled over and prying up my tack strips.
Honestly- how lucky can a girl get? I offered to take over for her, but she professed that she was truly enjoying the opportunity to work on her son's new house.

Far-be-it for me to reduce my mother-in-law's joy! So I let her keep going.

For about 6 days she worked an hour or two a day and got up
every last speck of linoleum and plywood. Down to the plywood I was aiming for anyway.
Which, sadly, was covered with glue residue. I hoped that leaving it exposed to the open air for awhile would dry the glue out and then I could paint over it. When I discovered the cat stuck to the floor (ok, not TOTALLY stuck, just walking in circles in slow motion with his paws sticking to the floor) a week later,though, I realized that my plan was not going to work.

So this is where my dining room floor is at the moment, and will remain until the wood-floor funding materializes. Don't you just LOVE the way that the filth from the carpet filtered down through the tiles and left that great checkered pattern on the glue residue?
Now, I'm sure there's a way to dissolve the glue residue and therefor get rid of those squares so that I actually could go ahead and paint the floor. But that, I'm certain, would involve chemicals, and mess, and my mother-in-law has gone back to India, so I'm on my own! For now I've covered a good portion of the floor with a nice rug (I pulled it back here to show more floor, but you can see it there- isn't is it lovely?) so the current state isn't driving me too crazy, so I'm leaving it. For now. (That AMEX rewards points gift card to Home Depot is in the mail somewhere!)

Besides, there are other things in the house that are driving me crazier that the state of the floor, and will be easier to fix. Like that white on white-ish wall color (back up the first picture there) I mentioned earlier... I'm feeling highly motivated to do something about that!

TIME: About a week.
COST: $20 so far!
Not-a-Cat's-Paw (15 inch pry-bar)- about $10
I already owned goggles, but if you don't own a pair, you really ought to invest the $5-10 to get a basic pair if you're thinking about doing any DIY projects.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Think Pink!

"Well," I said to myself, "there is, after all, not a lot you can do to un-do the impact of full-on 80's pink and black tile. And since pink is the new black..." I decided to embrace the pink whole- heartedly:

I went for "Le Bathe" with a strong pink boudoir-ish color, and some cheeky accessories. The picture in the corner is an old Victorian porn print (she is showing cleavage and has a VERY large feather in her hair...) and above the sink I've displayed a pair of pink and black poodle shaped soaps that a friend gave me ages ago. A shimmery cream and gold shower curtain and coordinating towels keep it all from being too dark.

Someday I plan to make the mirror frame metallic (I can't decide whether to go silver or gold, is gold just too predictable?) And new lights will be nice, maybe a shimmery chandelier when the budget allows...

- To remove the wallpaper I peeled off the big pieces, then scratched up the leftover bits and sprayed them with the anti-adhesive Zinsser DIF.
- DIF made a MESS! It was more work removing the goo residue than scraping the adhesive itself. We're talking four hours of scrubbing mess! I have since been told that simply spraying the walls with water and then scraping off the adhesive is simplest.
- The walls and ceiling were primed with KILZ basic white primer and allowed to dry for about 4 hours. If I were to do it again I would allow the primer to dry overnight. I did get some streaking that showed through.
- The paint color is 3 coats of Olympic Heart's Desire in a semi-gloss from Lowes. I would choose a lower-gloss version of this paint next time- a flat or eggshell paint would be much more forgiving of the streaking I got on the first layer from not letting the primer dry enough. Also, I might observe that the Olympic semi-gloss is VERY shiny.
TIME: About two days
COST: About $50 all told... so far!

Welcome Home!

Hello friends! Welcome to my home!

We purchased and moved into this, our first house, on June 26th, 2008.

The setting, with a river and 55 acres of conservation land in my back yard, is idyllic, and the house itself... could use some help.

And THAT, my friends, is where I begin. More specifically, in the first floor bathroom:

Black and pink tiles and floral wallpaper- what's a girl supposed to do with that? Well, my friends, I will tell you, in just a little while...