Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Little Break

Hey, y'all :) We hope to have several more house projects knocked out within the next two to three weeks! It looks like we may be able to put the six new doors in the upstairs hall, paint them black!, finish the trim in Punkin and Shug's bedroom, and finish up one more quarter of the kitchen cabinets. I'm super excited! Lots happening! With school getting underway, too, though - there's just no time to post regularly. Home for the Better is going to need to rest a little.

BUT, when I come back, I should have some more thoughts on Design Elements and some fun pics to share! Be looking for us!!!


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Coming to Terms... Layering

This photo is single-handedly responsible for my nearly constant urge to jump the gun and decorate this house. After this weekend, though, I've come to terms with one simple fact - this house needs its design foundation first.

Its First Layer of sorts.

Plenty of professional designers will say "inspiring" things like, "Finish the entire room before you move on to the next. Otherwise, you'll spend all this time and money and what will you have to show for it?" I actually spoke with a local interior designer a few weeks back that said exactly that. PROBLEM: Many of my rooms are ugly. If I stick with just one room until it is completely finished - from paint down to the details on the end tables - I'll have one gorgeous room after a year, but the other TEN rooms will still look like crud. That does not sound like a happy plan to me.

The more I think of it, the more I am confident that we need to approach this house in layers. Over a recent family vacation, I read Bunny Williams' Point of View. Dynamite book. One of the chapters is entitled, "Layering", and in it Ms. Williams explains how to approach the development of a lived in look over time. That's what I want. That's what this house needs to become a home... our home.


So, what is the first layer to entail? What does this house need most to get it on solid footing design wise? (We aren't knocking out walls here - this is a cosmetic plan, not a complete overhaul). What does this house need? Well, if we're talking about first things first (and we are), it needs paint. It needs trim. It needs flooring. It needs doors. It needs lighting fixtures. It needs window treatments.

The first layer.

As much as I want to go out and buy thrift store tables that I can spray paint and find steals like $5 silver plated mint julip cups - I need to focus on getting this first layer in place. Paint, trim, floors, lights, door, windows. I'm still flipping through the House Beautifuls and Elle Decors of this world (the ones that are left, anyway) to gather inspiration, but the second and third layer ideas are in a holding bin. If I stick to this layering plan fairly faithfully, we should be well on our way to a completely new house within about 2 years. That's a crazy long time to wait to accessorize a room, isn't it? But, I'm going to try hard to hold off.

I think in the long run it will be a far more satisfying and encouraging approach. I suppose only time will tell.

Have a great one!


P.S. Many, many thanks to Sherry for validating my new direction. She's a rock star, y'all. Go check out her blog!

Monday, August 17, 2009

If you take your baseboards off...

... you'll want to remember that the door stop is gone, too.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lumberyard and a Movie

That's probably what all of you do for a date these days, isn't it? Lumberyard, dinner, movie - pretty standard, I'd say.

Tuesday night, my dear parents came down to watch the children while Sam and I hit the local Carter's lumber looking for trim. We're replacing it in the children's bedrooms, and whatever we decide on is planned for the entire house. It's a fairly major expense overall and an important one, too, considering that this trim will be in every single room.

Although Lowe's is undoubtedly our go-to shop for late night home improvement runs, we like to support the little guy when we can. We decided to try Carter's Lumber first, just to see if we could find what we needed. They looked at us a little strangely when we walked in dressed for dinner...

... and sportin' a camera.

In the end, Carter's didn't have anything like what we wanted. Well, we tried. Sam works close to a Home Depot and he had scoped out their selection on his lunch hour. He thought there were possibly a few options to think about. So, it was off to Home Depot.

Great date so far! :)

We spent what seemed like a very long time deliberating about this and that trim. See, we're trying to choose wordwork and trim that add character to the house without making it feel completely contrived and like something just doesn't fit in. One of our biggest non-negotiables was a wider baseboard - something between 4 and 5 inches wide. The pickin's were slim. Beyond that, we're totally replacing all of the trim around the doors as well, and we needed to choose door trim that would gel with the new baseboards. Sounds simple, but it wasn't. We decided that we really needed to get a more concrete idea of what we wanted, and also some food. Wifey was getting hungry.

At Olive Garden, Sam busted out some scrap paper and we started drawing more or less what we were envisioning.

Sam was a very good sport about my camera :)

He humors me.

He even poses, too :) Isn't he a looker? Anyway, we drew it up and agreed on what we wanted. Now, making it happen? That often proves to be a different story.

At our beloved Lowe's, we decided to take advantage of the great reference books available (for sale, technically, but we just flipped through a few). Well, actually, no we didn't. We sat on the floor in an out of the way aisle and studied them like college kids. They were very useful :)

Still, after all of that, we couldn't quite make it all work with the lumber available. It eventually became clear that we were going to need a table saw to do this thing right. Sam's in the market for one now. We're also looking for crown moulding that is less than 2" wide. We were surprised that it's not readily available. The Lowe's Man recommended that we contact the cabinet department about a special order for decorative cabinet crown. That just sounds pricey, doesn't it? We're thinking we might need to head back over to Carter's and check out the crown there.

So, we didn't buy a thing - not even the book. We did head over to late showing of Julie & Julia, though. Loved the "Julia" parts, not so much the "Julie" parts. And there really was some very unnecessary crude language. We were hoping it was a good, clean fun movie. It easily could have been, but that's Hollywood for ya. Merrill Streep was great, but the overall movie was so-so in my opinion. Sam and I had a great night, though, even without buying trim. We used to joke that even our fanciest dates always ended up with a quick run to Wal-Mart. Maybe we've entered a new stage - maybe now our dates will always have that quick-run-into-Lowe's element.

As long as I'm with my man, it's all the same :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Take Six

I'm up to six paint tries in SweetP's room now. I know, I know.

I know.

In case you're wondering how someone gets the color wrong at least six times, let me assure you that it's really not at all difficult. In fact, it's especially easy when you're a visual person who has a definite idea in her head, and you're just trying to figure out how to get it from your head to your wall. Make sense? I wanted a subtle, light, tan/beige. Not too yellowy gold, not too gray. Well, here's how I got to this point.

First, I tried Nicole Balch's nursery color - Behr "Wheat Bread". Lovely color - actually, very similar to our kitchen color. Loved it in Nicole's pictures. Too dark and too gray for what I was after, though. Perfect for Elenor, not perfect for SweetP.

Next, I tried a paint I already had - Sherwin Williams "Aesthetic White". It was one of the rejected options for the foyer - and it was rejected here, too. Super pale gray blue. Bummer.

After that, I gave Benjamin Moore's "Berber White" a try (also known as Manchester Tan). I had read lovely things about this color in House Beautiful. Swatched it up. And? Not at all tan in this room nor a white. Downright green, really. Granted, it was a really pretty pale gray green. But I didn't want green. Not the one.

What does that bring us up to? 3?

I think next I went over to Lowe's and grabbed a color that I thought looked about right, but maybe too dark. Laura Ashley "Stone 2". Since it looked a little dark for my purposes, I had them mix it at 50%. (I had actually asked for 75%, but the gal behind the counter convinced me to go lighter). Guess what?

Wrong. Way too light.

So, next I went back to Lowe's and got a can of Stone 2 as is. I was thinking this looked pretty promising. It was very pretty color on the wall - not too dark at all as I had originally thought - but it was grayer than I had been envisioning. Still - very nice color. Definite possibility.

But, I wanted to try just one more. So, Friday, when I was near the only local store that sells Benjamin Moore paints, I picked up a can of Carrington Beige to test in SweetP's bedroom and two whites for the foyer (per Erika at Urban Grace Interiors). It was totally green on my walls. There's a large tree in the yard in front of SweetP's bedroom window. All of the natural light in the room is filtered through its leaves. I have no idea how Carrington Beige might have looked had it been winter, but I know that in August in SweetP's room - Carrington Beige is green. Lighting is everything, remember?

So, tomorrow I'm going to try just one more color.

Ha - not really. I'm done. I think six is my limit. Laura Ashley "Stone 2" is the chosen color. It's not what I had in my mind's eye, but enough is enough already.

Besides, it's really a lovely color :)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Gratitude to a Much Appreciated Sponsor...

... whose constant support ensures that naptime projects like the following can be accomplished:

Removed more of the carpet tiles in Spare Oom on Friday afternoon while the younger ones napped and the older ones read. A vacuum and a good mopping made this room somewhat useable until the new flooring is installed in the spring.

Thanks, Coke Hero... I mean, Zero.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kitchen Pics

I mentioned that we had fallen off the wagon a little regarding the kitchen cupboard project. But, we're gearing up to sand, prime, and paint another quarter of the cabinets later this month. Really. No kidding. I mean it.
I thought I'd share a few pics of the first part we completed. Secretly, I think I'm hoping it will get me pumped to do more ;)

Here are the cabinets on March 10, 2009. You can see we had just started cutting the room in with primer. Good bye Pumpkin Pie!

A new wall color and the first cabinets finished! I took this photo on May 2, 2009. I think we actually finished these in late April, though. We plan on painting the cabinets directly beneath these next. One side of the galley will be light and bright while the other side stares at it in envy all day. Hopefully it won't be too long, though, before the entire kitchen is bright and cheerful. What do you think? Can we finish these stinkin' cabinets by Labor Day?

We're not worrying about the black appliances at this point. Down the road, down the road. Do you like the wall color? It's a grey beige, otherwide known as a "greige". It's "Balanced Beige" from Sherwin Williams.

We were surpised by how much the white paint brought out the vertical lines in the cabinet doors. They wound up with a little bit of an unexpected beachy vibe. Or maybe cottagey? In any case, we liked the effect. Suddenly the cabinets were actually interesting. Oh, and we added new hinges with an oil-rubbed bronze finish. At this point, we aren't adding door pulls. There's a lip on each door that makes it very easy to open them without a pull, and I like the uninterrupted white. We can always change our minds later.

There! See? Just posting this made me want to run downstairs and take the next set of doors off! Too bad it's 10:45pm. When the time comes, though, maybe I'll come back and take a look at these pics again. Nothing is more motivating than progress! :)

Thanks for reading, and thank you soooo much for the recent comments. It's always more fun with company.



Thursday, August 6, 2009

With a Little Love (and some exterior paint)

I think we're getting somewhere :)

March 20, 2009

August 6, 2009

We were able to get the flag up right on the 4th of July. It had been my goal to get it up by then (we had it by the front door of our previous house), and we made it! Sam made the mount with some scrap wood and a router, drilling it into the mortar instead of through a brick. After I painted it with one of our exterior colors, he screwed the flag holder base to it and there ya go! :) Our pole had seen better days, so I grabbed the can of glossy black paint in the garage and gave it a few coats. We finished and had the flag up, literally, on July 4th. It instantly made the house feel more like home.

Isn't it cheery? I love an American flag by the front door.

Our Special Order Doors Are In!!!

Hot dog! The new doors are here!!!

Hoping to get them painted and hung within the week. Yes, in the picture below, the doors seem too large for the space. That's because they are. We had to custom order the doors ($) because they are sooooo short here (there's a vent that runs across the ceiling there - making the door opening extremely short). This is the smallest we could get them! Sam will have to take an additional 2" off. It's the best we can do with this weird ceiling height. There are no holes for knobs, either, because Home Depot recommended placing them after resizing the doors. Makes sense.

First, though, I have to choose a paint color... I tested SW's "Aesthetic White" on the entryway walls and "Accessible Beige" on the doors and trim. Aesthetic White turned out to be more like Aesthetic Pale Blue, so that's a no go. Accessible Beige is a definite possibility for the doors and trim throughout the entryway and family room - if the walls are whiter. Of course, this does not include the doors that will be black.

I'll be testing BMoore's "Carrington Beige" for the trim/door color next week, and also BM's "White Dove" and "Decorator's White" for the entry and family room walls.

Then, I can paint the new doors and finish up those entryway doors that I've been testing on. Hoorah for covered water heaters and furnaces :)

P.S. At risk of being really pitiful - I see you people lurking and not commenting. After yesterday's post, there were 12 people on here at one time, and no comments! C'mon, now. Make a girl's day and say something nice :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Choosing Paint Colors

Among other ways, this is how I know that Sam really loves me.

A lot.

It always takes me several tries before I get a color just right for a room. And I need to paint the swatches on the walls. BIG swatches, on ALL of the walls. How can I possibly know if the color is right otherwise? ;) He's very patient with me.

Actually, swatching was forbidden in our family for a little while due to the 15 months (I'm not joking) that I had yellow swatches on the family room walls of our previous house. There was just no picking that yellow! Eventually, we realized that Sam had put energy-saving but yucky-light-warmth florescent blubs in the recessed fixtures. Aha! Not my fault at all! Any yellow I was going to choose was going to wind up sallow and slightly green at night because of those bulbs.

#1 Thing to Remember When Choosing Paint: Lighting is Everything.

So, I agreed that the swatching experience had been less than desirable that time (although, not my fault really), and I understood his negativity toward the whole now distasteful practice when I began choosing paint colors for the new house.

For the first few colors, I painted sheets of card stockish paper from Sherwin Williams. That was an okay process, but with rooms that have constantly changing light, it's a little tricky to keep holding the cards up on each different wall and at many different times throughout the day. The kitchen color and the exterior colors went fairly well with that method, but Shug and Punkin's room was a little "off". When it came time to choose a color for SweetP's room - I mean since I was going to be painting it very, very soon and everything - surely swatching this room would be okay. Right?

It actually took him a few days to notice. He looked at the wall and calmly asked, "Why are there swatches on my wall?". He loves me, I tell you :)

So far, I've tested around 4 colors in SweetP's room. One of them is really pretty, but isn't what I had been envisioning. It never ceases to amaze me how one paint can look completely different in two different rooms. That's why the #1 Rule up there in big, bold red is so important. And it's also why I test colors before I buy anything larger that a test pint. Think about it - what is color anyway? It's the light spectrum reflecting off of objects. When the light reflecting off of any paint changes, the color changes! There's no way to know how a color will behave in any given room without testing it out. Generously. I'm going to try one more color in this room after the weekend - Carrington Beige by Benjamin Moore. Hopefully, it'll be a go :)

By the way, the cardstock sheets from Sherwin Williams are not simply cardstock material. They are specially made so the corners do not curl up when wet and so the thick paper does not wrinkle up at all. It's important that the sheets stay completely flat in order to get a true read of the color against the wall. Any curling or bumps would affect the shadows/light and - theoretically, at least - affect the color. They aren't pricey, and they're very sturdy. I think around $3 per sheet. If you cannot swatch - that's the next best thing :)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Before Pics and Removing Trim: SweetP Edition

One week after removing the trim in Shug and Punkin's room, I got down to business taking down the trim in SweetP's bedroom, too. This time it was evening, Sam was subbing in an indoor soccer game, and a Pooh Bear video was my strategy. Here are the before pics... self explanatory. Thanks for looking!

The view as you come in the door.

The headboard wall (or lack thereof)

Immediately to the right as you enter (and Little Dude trying to smile)

Closet (and toad cage) across from the headboard wall


First piece off!

See my paint swatches by the doorway? It always takes me a few tries before I decide on a color.

The longest piece, yet. A little tricky to maneuver, but I got it in the garage!

Proof of the previous owner's amazing painting skills. What's funny is that this blue on the baseboards is from the 1st owner's son, who wanted his room painted Michigan Blue (I met the couple that built this house - they're lovely people). That means two additional owners lived here without do something about the very noticeable blue smears on the baseboards. We're the 4th family to live in the house. Props to the first owner for letting her kids help with the painting, but note to self - if the children help, have them help in the middle of the wall, not the edges.

Total time to finish most of the room - a little over an hour

Monday, August 3, 2009

Painting a Room in One Day (While the Little Guys Nap)

I painted Shug and Punkin's bedroom on the same Friday that I removed their trim.

A few weeks before, I had gotten started on this room and had one coat on one whole wall and 1/3 of another. This is how the room looked when I began cutting in the rest at naptime. My younger two children nap for about 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours in the afternoon. If yours are shorter nappers, you could work a video time in after nap in a room closeby (maybe using a portable DVD player that you use in the van?). Or you could just make this a two day project instead of one.

The cutting in took about an hour.

Admittedly, it went faster with the trim already removed. Regardless, though, I hardly ever tape off anymore. I use a small angled brush and freehand it. I think it gets easier the more you do it, and it's a really useful skill to have if you're often painting within a small window of time - like naptime! :)

Checked on the kiddos - sawing logs :) The older two were sewing and drawing within earshot.

It took roughly another hour to roll the first coat. Maybe a little more.

Later that night, I trimmed in a second time right after I put the children down to sleep. This time, it was the whole room at once. I didn't have one of the walls done ahead of time. It took an hour and fifteen minutes for the second cutting in. I waited about 2 hours - ate something yummy, putzed around on the 'puter (this is the weekend Sam was in Colorado, remember?). Then, around 11pm, I rolled the second coat, cleaned up, and went to bed around 12:30am.

Room painted? Check :)

Color: Restoration Hardware "Silver Sage" color-matched by Lowe's. I bought a tester can at RH, painted it on a swatch sheet from Sherwin Williams, took the sheet of painted cardstock to Lowe's for a match, and bought the paint. It's pretty stinkin' close. A little bluer than the original, and slightly more saturated, but pretty close. I think if I had to do it over again, I would've just forked over the cash for the real deal, though. The teensy variation in color probably wouldn't bother most gals, but I get really specific about my wall colors (ask poor Sam). If you're less particular and don't notice all of the undertones and nuances much, it's an idea you might want to try out.

Overall, I'm happy with it. I was more pleased with the color-match after the entire room was finished.

Have a great one!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Rrrrrrrip... Trim Removal (and Children)

Last weekend, Sam was able to go on a backpacking trip with his best pal from college - in Colorado. I was truly glad he had such a fantastic time to catch up with Edwin and enjoy the Rockies, again. He went to school out there at Mines, and it's always good when he gets to reconnect with his inner Mountain Man.

Meanwhile... what's the Little Wife to do back at home while her man hikes through treacherous terrain at high altitudes? Why, rip out trim, of course! It's helpful for me to keep track of how long certain projects take, so I can plan well for similar future projects. Mostly for me, but it might entertain you if you're a touch bored or just happen to be interested in the DIY projects of a stay-at-home-mother-of-many ;)

Here's the play by play of a *very* profitable day of DIY with four kiddos in tow.

11:25 AM - begin. The plan is to rip out all of the existing trimwork in Shug and Punkin's Bedroom before lunchtime so I can get to painting ASAP.

We move the beds out of the way. Oh, dear. Punkin! Tidy under that bed, child. See that under the bed bin lid? She has a little bin for all that junk...er... all of those "treasures".

I grab my little crowbar. Not sure I've used one of these before. I know enough to pry a little at a time and gradually loosen the board. Ripping one spot all at once would likely tear out a chunk of drywall underneath. I'm surprised to see the closet door trim coming off all in one piece.

Good thing the kiddos were sequestered in the corner ;) Aren't they great? They had a good time cuddled together, watching their crazy mom rip things off the wall.

About ten minutes later, the closet trim is down. All nails are accounted for.

About ten minutes after that, the door trim has bit the dust, too. The children are tired of watching now. It was only entertaining while it was novel. After the first few big pieces came down, things started to get a little rowdy on that bed in the corner.

11:50AM - Time to give the children something else to do. SweetP (age 8) and Little Man (almost 2 and a half), go into SweetP's room to play with some toys. My girls are a huge help!

Shug (age 7) and Punkin (4 and a half) move to Little Dude's room to play with Little People and pretend the bed is something other than a bed.

11:58 AM - I'm back at it in the bedroom. I get the first whole wall done. Easy does it. I wanted to get the entire length off in one piece to make it easier to carry out to the garage and then out to the trash on pick up day.

12:06 PM - The other wall comes off fairly easily, too. As I go, my crowbar leaves little indentations in the sheetrock. Good thing our new baseboards are much wider than the ones we're replacing. If they weren't it would've been a good idea to use a piece of scrap plywood or even cardboard between the crowbar and the drywall to prevent the denting.

12:35 PM - Finish cleaning up, including vacuuming just in case there were little bits of splintery wood lying about. Take final pictures. Time for lunch! This is how I leave the room. Plan to start cutting in with the new paint once I get Little Dude and Punkin down for nap.

Total time to get the trim off: about 1 hour and 15 minutes