Sunday, January 11, 2015

Restoring Charm

       Remodelista:  A Bewitching Old Stone House                                                            Old House Dreams

                                  In the Fields                                                                  Madeline Stuart

I was talking with someone about renovating an old house a few months ago and I came to
the conclusion that my goal isn't always "renovation" as much as it is "restoring charm."  One 
of the things I love about old houses are the details, sometime quirks, that they have.

Darryl Carter's Living Room

Darryl Carter, same room, different view

Some of my favorite details are shutters and moldings.

(While Darryl's shutters seem more decoration than original details, I like how he's paired
the shutters with roman blinds of the same color as a window treatment.  I also notice he
typically uses shutters that cover about 2/3 of the window.  I need to add, I love this room!)

Shutters, in particular, are really common on old New England houses.
I wish I could find the photographs of my old condo; it had shutters that
folded back into the wall.  I'll show you if I can find them.

This is one the charming old houses in Marblehead, Massachusetts that
looks still has its original shutters.

Shutters are also great for privacy if your house is right on the street.

I believe my house was originally built for laborers so there aren't a lot 
of fancy details; in fact, in typical Yankee style, the detailed mouldings
were installed only in the living room where guests would see them.

Now that I've replaced all of the windows downstairs, I thought adding shutters 
to all the windows would be a way to add charm and provide a privacy solution 
since my house is so close to the street.  So last summer I took down my drapes 
and rods so I could try living with the windows open and uncovered during 
the day.  I found that when it's light outside, you really can't see in at all.

I had just a few months earlier, seen Loi install shutters in his Maine house
so I contacted his source, Shutterworks in Lewiston, Maine, to see if they'd (A)
provide me an estimate and (B) be willing to work with me long-distance.
The price seemed really good and yes, if I measured carefully, they would
make the shutters and I would drive up to pick them up so save shipping costs.

Fred at Shutterworks does almost every style of shutter imaginable 
so my task was to choose something that "fit" the house.  I decided to
base the shutter panels for the windows on the panels in my tiny basement 
door which I believe to be original to the house.

Just to make sure I liked it, I asked Fred to make
me up a sample so I could see what it looked like.

And the "Urban Cottage" shutter was born.

I carefully measured each of the windows--three times each--and
sent the measurements off to Fred.  I think it took about two months
for building and painting the shutters and I drove up to Lewiston the
week before Christmas to pick them up.

And here they are!

Fred works with a painter so I was able to get them spray painted before the pairs
were assembled.  I used Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray.

So my first project of the year is getting these installed.

I'm looking forward to the old New England charm these 
will bring to my downstairs.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year 2015

I always think of my grandmother on New Year's Day.  She was a very superstitious woman 
even though I now suspect many of her beliefs were made up to keep my brother and me in line.  
But she was clear about New Year's Day:  what you did on this day determined your fate for 
the next year.  Things such as cleaning the house or doing laundry would certainly doom you 
a year filled with endless housework for the next year.  I wish she were still alive today so I 
could get some clarifications on things such as painting window mullions, blogging, cooking, 
or even eating for that matter, because I don't know if these are positive or negative endeavors.

I'm also not sure where she would fall on issue of undecorating the Christmas tree.  It certainly
includes a cleaning component.  But this New Year's Day has become my traditional day to
undecorate and take down the tree.  There's just something about cleaning up, putting away and 
cleaning up that feels to me like a good way to start a new year.  And, even if she would claim it's wrong, I would argue it's a perfect way to spend a few moments thinking of her.

However you spend this first day of the year, I wish you best throughout the new year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014

I had big plans for the Christmas tree this year.  I ordered a Silvertip 
and had it shipped from California.  Itplanned it to arrive the first week of 
December and after my office move I was going full-on in to Christmas decorating.

The office move went perfectly and the next day I came down with the flu.
I am thankful that the flu waited until the move was done I was 
disappointed I just didn't have the energy to do everything I wanted to.

Silvertip trees grow naturally in layers, very much like
the tree I created a few years ago.  Pottery Barn uses these trees
for their catalog, although looking at this post about their trees, it's
clear they must still do some trimming to get that spare feather tree look.

So I've done a much scaled back tree using some things I could easily
get my hands on.  It's mainly pine cone garlands, birds, and leftover
flowers from Thanksgiving and flowers and leaves from the garden.

Even though it wasn't the tree I planned, I still love it.  As much as 
I cherish all my collection of vintage, shiny ornaments, there's something
about using all natural materials that just feels right on a tree.

I hope that everyone is well and preparing for a wonderful time
with your family and friends.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rooibos Cranberry Sauce

As I was finishing up my Thanksgiving cranberries and enjoying 
a cup of chai, I thought the chai flavors would work realy well with the
cranberries.  So I dunked a rooibos teabag in the bowl of hot cranberries
and left it in for about 10 minutes.  I was really pleased with the results.

I thought I'd make another batch by making the chai first and using
it as part of the liquid in the cranberries.  Here how it goes:


12 oz. bag of cranberries
3/4 cup of strong chai rooibos*
3/4 cup of orange juice
One cup sugar
Pinch of salt

*Make chai rooibos using 3/4 cup of boiling water with
two teabags of chai rooibos.  I used Yogi brand.

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes until thickened.

Pour into a bowl and bring to room temperature.
Cover and refrigerate when cooled.

The spices in the chai are subtle but add a warm, almost
floral quality to the cranberries.

I love cranberries and will eat all I can for the rest of the year.
I always make extra and enjoy them on toast (or even on ice cream)
after all the Thanksgiving leftovers are all gone.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend
with their family and friends.  Let the holidays begin!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm happy to have a few days' break to relax, to cook and share
time with friends and to be thankful for everything I have.

I might even get in another post.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(Flowers are from my friend Shelley at Bow Street Flowers.)

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Around the House, Kitchen Update

I don't know how I ever found the time to blog so steadily for three years.
It just doesn't seem to be happening lately.  My office is moving in about five
weeks and designing the new office, planning the move, building a new
corporate identity and building a new website has really taken up a lot of
time the past several months.  But here it is November so I've been
trying to get the house and kitchen ready for Thanksgiving guests.

In particular, I wanted to get the floating shelves stained before the holidays so when we
had a few warm days where I could have the windows open, I decided to get them finished.

Above was the before.

And here they are freshly stained to match the old bin drawers.

I'm happy with the color but I think I want to ding them up a litttle
bit and apply some dark wax that I'll leave in the dings.

My mom visited last week so we drove out to Hudson, NY to pick
up a few new things for the shelves.  If you haven't been to Hudson, NY,
it's really worth the trip.  The town is just packed from one end to the other
with great antique shops, art galleries, restaurants and cafes.

My mom also has great knack for arranging things.
I caught her a few times moving things around on the shelves.

I'm sure these will evolve but I'm really happy with how this looks right now.

I still have to paint the windows before I can call the kitchen done but the snow
outside tells me that I'll have a lot of time indoors coming up to get that done.

Hope to show you around Hudson, NY sometime soon.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Happy Fall

It's hard to believe that fall has arrived.  It seems like July 4th was just a few weeks ago.
But I will say I really enjoyed summer.   My job is requiring a lot more of my time and
attention and something really needed to give.  I took a vacation from the house even I
didn't  take a vacation away from home.  I appreciate all of you who left comments or sent
e-mails wondering where I was and how I am.  You're all the best!

Backing up a few months I was experimenting with stains to match my old bin drawers.
I thought a good match was somewhere between golden oak and golden pecan.

So a couple of weeks ago, I mixed up a 50/50 mix of golden oak and golden pecan
and just went at it.  This was right after I had stained one of the little
floating shelves.  And I was pretty happy with the outcome.

And then on to the upper cabinet next to the fridge.

This is the before...

...and this is after.

I didn't want the wood to end up too shiny so I decided to finish
off with just a coat of wax.  I've done the little shelf on the left
which you might notice ended up just a little darker than the cabinet
from the wax finish.  In the end, I'm happy with it,

Having the upper cabinet stained may seem a little unusual but I
think it's necessary to balance the bin drawers on the other side
of the kitchen.  And it's unexpected which I like.

You might also notice that I painted the panels around the fridge
the same color--BM Chelsea Gray--as the lower cabinets.
I really like how this turned out.

I have this constant internal battle between wanting
everything to be edited and spare on one had, and wanting
to display all my collections on the other hand.

Right now, edited is winning.

Next I'll be moving on to the shelves that flank the stove.

And I need to paint the windows.  There's plenty of time
to be indoors though coming in the next several months.