Sunday, February 28, 2010

Living Room Inspiration

My inspiration for the living room makeover--and probably the entire downstairs--came from the website of Kelly McGuill found here. Kelly is an interior designer, photo stylist and blogger. Her website is filled with lots of eye candy but I'm particularly in love with this room below. All of her rooms seem clean, crisp and classic that leave the highlight on the unique things we all like to collect during the course of our lives.

I would probably never pick a wicker chair but I really like the pattern and texture it brings to the room. Perhaps I'll need to get one. I also like the textures of the wicker box and rug, although I want to reach into the photograph and pull the rug over under the legs of the sofa.
Many of her rooms have a mix of white and wood with a pop of bright green that make me think of spring.
Here again, a reduced color palette of white and wood that make the unique roadrunner weather vane the star of the show. Love those chairs too.
White and wood. Love the farm table with the white chairs and vintage advertising sign.
Here's another room and that just makes me think of spring with the pops of bright green poking up through the snow.

I'm sure if you check out Kelly's website, you'll find a lot of things that inspire you too.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gone Paintin'

I would swear that no color looks good in my house.

After stripping the wallpaper in my living room and dining room, I decided to use the paint I had leftover from my condo. For some reason, though, the soft buttery cream that looked so delicious in my old living room looked like grandma's cheap makeup from the drugstore.

So I picked a new color, Benjamin Moore's Beacon Gray--I think it's even a Pottery Barn color--which is one of those soft gray blues that seemed so pretty in all the magazines. I can never wait to see what it looks like on the wall so I painted a big Mark-Rothko square of it on the wall between two windows and decided I would live with it for awhile. And I grew to hate it.
So I sat with my Benjamin Moore fan deck....and studied...and pondered...and compared....and I picked another color that I was sure would be the perfect color. I went a bought a quart of it and couldn't wait to get home to put a little bit on the wall alongside a strip of the door trim. Hated it.

I thought maybe a lighter shade so I went a got a quart, ran home and painted a few new "clouds" around the room that I thought I would contemplate for a few days.
Fast forward a few weeks--okay, months--when a good friend of mine who's over once or twice a week says "THAT'S IT; I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE! WE'RE PAINTING THIS LIVING ROOM ON SATURDAY!"

So I've gathered a few of my inspiration photos, I've picked a new color and I'm on my way to the paint store.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Architects Hired

I chose a local architect, a young-ish duo actually, to help me develop a phased plan for the house. I talked to a few architecture firms to find that they charged a percentage of the overall project cost. That could add up to a pretty hefty sum. I chose this firm because I felt like an hourly rate works better for me. I can use them as much or as little as I need...or I can afford. They will stay anonymous for now so I can reserve the right to badmouth them if I'd like. I'll refer to them as The Architects.

I did a tour of the house with The Architects, talked about some of my ideas, and went through a bunch of my inspiration photos to talk about what I liked about them. That was an interesting process I'll talk about in another post. They've been back to take photos of every room, and measurements of every possible detail inside and out of the house. This took about three hours. All of the measurements will be put into their computers so we can start playing with layouts. It'll be fun to see what they come up with.

I was a little discouraged to hear them say that an entire re-clad of the outside of a house can cost up to $100,000 in this neck of the woods. The below is a "before" photo of one of their projects, just a few blocks away from here actually.

I think this is uglier than my house but it's hard to tell how much ugly might be hiding under my vinyl siding.

And this is the "after."
This is a photo of one of their projects in a Boston townhouse which seems quite lovely.
This is the "before" photo of one of their kitchen projects....
And this is the "after." I'd be happy with a kitchen like this.

So the process is under way.

Photos: Steve Ritter and Brian Beaucher

Monday, February 22, 2010

Guest Bedroom

At the top of the stairs, the guest bedroom sits to the left at the front of the house. This is where the green carpet and pink wallpaper turned to the trendier peach wallpaper.
The dresser was left behind by the former owner at my request.
This is another shot of the room opposite the front windows.
And another photo from inside the room looking out toward the stairs. The very shallow closet has had the back removed so you can access the middle bedroom which, along with the glass door, is one the mysteries of the house.
I decided to use wallpaper again in my quick makeover. With wallpaper in the back (master) bedroom, I felt wallpaper was needed as a balance. I switched out the ceiling fan for a Moravian star and hung new cotton voile sheers on black wrought iron rods placed up by the ceiling rather than down at the window trim. I'm not completely in love with the result but there's something about the room that really sparkles.
Here's the dresser that was left behind. It's a little beat up but I love the curved front so I may paint it at some point. I'm not in love with the modern sconces from my old loft apartment, particularly with the Civil War era mirror so this needs some tweaking.
Here's a view from the front corner of the room looking back toward the closet, the front hallway and stairs. I hung a curtain inside the glass closet door just to provide a little privacy from the middle room. I need a little sconce on the wall by the bed.
And finally this is from the closet looking toward the front of the house. There's a vintage braided rug by the bed and an antique quilt for color on the bed. The chair (with the cat) is an extra dining room chair. I'd love a nice wingback or something like that for a guest to sit in and read but I want to buy too much new furniture right now. Between the two windows is a wooden sculpture by one of my favorite Cape Cod artists.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tofu "Egg Salad"

I never expected I'd be posting a recipe but after trying a (vegan) tomato soup recipe I found at The Gardeners Cottage, it reminded me that eating well can be simple and delicious. I'm not a vegan or even a vegetarian but I am severely allergic to eggs. This is a recipe I've developed for "egg salad." Everyone who's tried it likes it and I've even fooled a few people. I would recommend making this the day before as it allows the tofu to absorb the flavors of the ingredients. This is a great "faux" dish so I thought I'd share it.
Ingredients: Serves 3
1 package extra firm tofu
1 stalk celery
1 scallion (or diced onion, 2 tablespoons-ish)
1/4 cup Vegenaise (or mayo if desired)
1 tsp. dijon or yellow mustard
1 tsp. horseradish (optional, I rarely have it on hand)
1/2 tsp. dill
1/4 tsp. garlic powder (also optional)
1/8 turmeric (makes the "egg salad" yellow)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp. pepper (or to taste)
Drain the tofu and, if time permits, allow it to sit on a few paper towels or a clean dish cloth to pull more water out of it.
Cut the tofu into cubes. Part of making a "faux" dish is fooling the eyes as well as the tastebuds so you want to cut the tofu into pieces that resemble the size and shape of diced eggs. First, cut the tofu first into two layers. Then cut those layers into strips and finally into cubes. I try not to make the strips too parallel so the cubes aren't too perfect. Transfer to a medium-sized mixing bowl.
Dice the celery and scallion/onion and add to tofu.
Add the spices, mustard, horseradish (if you have it), salt and pepper. Add the Vegenaise/mayo and mix everything together. It won't look very yellow at first; the turmeric needs some time to disperse. Note: All of these measurements are approximate. I never measure so if there's something you like, add a little more.

If you let the "egg salad" sit overnight, taste prior to serving. I find the tofu really absorbs flavors and it sometimes need a little adjustment of salt and pepper or a little more Vegenaise if you'd like it creamier.
And here's the final product: A nice piece of sprouted wheat bread, a few tomato slices, some fresh mixed greens as a bed for my "egg salad." Topped with some sliced scallion greens and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, it's the perfect lunch.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Inverted Porch Greek Revivals

If porches were belly buttons, these Greek Revivals would have innies. These inverted-porch Greek Revivals, are a less common variation of the style--at least around the city--but no less beautiful. In fact, I think these look more like the Greek temples they are meant to emulate.
This one has some great stonework. Love the granite stairs.
I saw this one on the news when a bank robbery suspect fled the scene, broke into this house and was up on the roof to escape the police. I tracked it down from the news reports.
This one was just restored and it's really beautiful.
This one is just to the left of the one before. It's got a real vintage charm.
And this one just cracks me up. Those columns are crazy. The first floor windows open up like french glass doors which is really unusual. And I love the little detail over the attic window.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Beautiful Bookshelves

I keep running across photos of rooms that have these beautiful bookshelves. Some of them mix books with decorative objects and artwork but some of them just have books and they're equally as beautiful. They create a great texture in these rooms. I've never been to anyone's house that has bookshelves that look this nice so I guess there's some secret I haven't figured out yet.

This seaside cottage probably uses the same marine paint on the floor that I used as the inspiration for my master bedroom floor.
I love this one above that has the little central shrine.

I don't really collect books but these images make me want to.

Sources: 1,2,3,5: Martha 4:Domino

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Edith Wharton Hinges

I wasn't looking to buy any hinges but I was surfing the internet for old house parts and I when I saw these, I immediately fell in love. Not only are they really cool but they have a connection to Edith Wharton, author of novels such as The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome.
Actually, they're from Pine Acre which was Edith Wharton's husband's family's home in the Berkshires, a place she visited often. The mansion was recently converted to condominiums and many of the home's original parts were salvaged. I was lucky enough to buy 50 hinges which should be more than enough for me.
I love them just the way the are but if I end up buying new doors for throughout the house, I'm not sure I'll want this "chippy" look on new doors. I did some research on internet on how to strip paint off old hinges and found a lot of people who swear by boiling them in water with some kind of soap. Not wanting to sacrifice my Le Creuset to the stripping project, I talked to the salvage company I purchased them from and they suggested just soaking them in water...maybe for a few days before it would soften.
So I took one hinge and soaked in water (in an old coffee can) and some Simple Green and, indeed, after a few days the paint looked "swollen." I used the tip of an old paring knife and in about a half hour, I had removed all of the old white paint. It revealed a lot of the fine detail but it also took off a lot of the original black paint. I'm sure with a little more buffing, they'll be ready for a new coat of enamel.

A little hinge may seem like such a minor detail but I think it's these little things that make an old house sing, or at least ring true. I'm not sure when I'll get to use them, but I'll be happy to have them in my old house.
There were also a few doorknobs that caught attention. I think these white porcelain knobs are great...
...but I'm really in love with these Bennington door knobs. I think I might get a few of these to install and try them on for size.

I'm thinking mahogany doors, with my glossy black Edith Wharton hinges maybe these Bennington knobs throughout the house. It would certainly be handsome!

Last Snow

We had a few inches of snow last night. It always looks beautiful when snow falls over the city. It looks so least for a few hours. When I was out shoveling my walk, my neighbor also came out. I declared optimistically, "This is the last snow!" She looked at me and grumbled "Hope springs eternal, baby. "

Monday, February 15, 2010


As I started going through the house to do my quick makeovers my thought was make it look somewhere between farmhouse and cottage but as I consider what I'd like the house to look like after doing more major renovations, the first word that comes to mind is handsome. I like a lot of different styles from modern, to vintage, to cottage and maybe even country when it's done minimally. Here are a few images I've collected that really have a handsome feeling that I think would work for me. I'm noticing that these all have a have a reduced color palette which makes me wonder if that's part of the key.
I absolutely LOVE this kitchen (which was used in the movie "Message in a Bottle"). There's seemingly no real cabinets. Everything feels much more like furniture. Love the brown and cream, the farm table, the dark beadboard ceiling, the big lights. I'll have see if I can get the DVD. This leaves me wanting to see the rest of it. I'd just bet it has a big vintage stove.
The message I'm getting from this bathroom is to be careful not to do too much in a renovation.
It's amazing to me that even with these crusty walls and funky floors, this house has a real elegance. I want that mirror!
And in this room too, I have to say I love the walls.

And I love the simplicity of this masculine bedroom.

Does a masculine/handsome interior require dark colors and a reduced color palette?

Sources: 1,2,5) Coastal Living 3,4) Martha!

Happy President's Day, Mr. Jefferson

President's Day is normally reserved to celebrate the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. I don't think these great men will mind sharing the spotlight today with Thomas Jefferson, the father of Greek Revival architecture.

After the American Revolution and the War of 1812, the new United States of America wanted to distance itself from all things England including its architecture. Jefferson, a big fan of ancient Greek and Roman styles, appointed Benjamin Henry Latrobe as surveyor of public building to execute his vision. Latrobe interpreted these ancient styles often incorporating his own elements of decoration such as:
tobacco leaves,
and magnolias.

Latrobe's Second Bank of the United States is a fine example of Greek Revival architecture.
Sympathizing with Greece's struggle for independence from the Ottoman empire, America fell in love with all things Greek. The appetite started with public buildings but spread to the homes--the temples--of America's wealthy merchants, quickly becoming called the "National Style."
Architectural pattern books such as Asher Benjamin's The Practical House Carpenter, then made the Greek Revival home available to everyday Americans, from farmhouses in Vermont and Upstate New York to coopers in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
All along the Eastern United States, you will find these homes in communities built in the first half of the 19th Century. This style dominated the landscape until the Civil war.

So, on this President's Day, we salute you, Mr. Jefferson, for this beautiful American invention.