Labor Day Traditions

September 05, 2011   //  Posted in: Backyard, Holiday-Related Projects, Other Pads   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment

Happy Labor Day, Peeps.

Last year, Pete and I celebrated the long holiday weekend by regrading the backyard as the necessary finishing step for the deck that we built. What we thought would be a simple afternoon project using free soil listed locally on Craigslist turned into a 3-day affair, because those 5-gallon buckets are damn heavy and also don’t hold as much as you’d think.

Three days, new muscles, and 7,000 pounds of clean fill soil tamped into place, the grading (and new grass seed) was looking wonderful. It was physically draining and entirely too laborious for a weekend dedicated to being labor-free, but rewarding.

Freshly tamped 7,000 pounds of soil to fix the grading coming off the new deck. Circa 2010.

The hard work didn’t kill us, after all, so why not bulk up again this last weekend of summer? Seemed like the perfect time to help Pete’s parents clean out their attic and shed storage.

I’m not talkin’ simple reorganize-some-boxes-and-clear-out-a-few-old-appliances.

I’m talkin’ we’ve-lived-here-for-25-years-so-let’s-get-a-dumpster-make-use-of-its-4-ton-capacity reorganization.

It’s the best kind of organization too. The kind where you uncover old memories and treasures in every box and decide what’s worth keeping around and what you realize you haven’t needed since 1980. Not my memories, but it was fun to see Pete and his family uncovering old business files, school projects, and photos.

We even found Pete’s original Christening outfit. Complete with the vest, bonnet, and socks.

Pete. And the baby-Pete church outfit. Including bonnet and socks.

We brought home this pair of vintage glasses that Pete thinks may have been from Del-Taco (photo pre-scrub down)…

Vintage glasses.

And this set of Testors model paints that Pete saved from his days of building little cars, motorcycles, and planes (I think he might have found a new-old hobby from the look in his eyes when he saw them). So little and uniform, someday we’ll figure out a way to display and preserve the glass bottles.

Pretty glossy enamels.

And while that cleanup is wrapped, today we’re hoping to start a few new projects, including finishing the shiplap bedroom wall and making some progress with tearing up part of the driveway (by hand). That driveway overhaul might seem ambitious and muscle-inducing, sure, but lazy considering I had planned to do this earlier on in the summer (around the same time that I removed some of the asphalt and planted the myrtle).

Updates to come (eventually, probably when my asphalt-pulling and dumpster-shot putting muscles heal).

Any cool vintage attic finds lately? And are we the only ones doing physical labor for enjoyment?


Loose Ends Exposed

September 02, 2011   //  Posted in: DIY, Entryway, Garage, Kitchen, Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  14 responses

I’m the self-proclaimed walking definition of a girl who starts too many projects and takes forever to finish the ones that bore her. I’ve been working on improving my follow-through on projects that could have been done months ago (or, in the case of the kitchen island, a year ago), though none really demand a full self-fulfilling bloggy post.

What have I checked off my list (and not told you about?)

1. I finished the second driftwood lamp and coordinating paper lampshade. After I built and wrote about the first, I had to get in the right mindset to do the second lamp. Fortunately, I crossed it off my list at the beginning of the month using the other half of the driftwood block and a selection of darker stock from the same Anthropologie coloring book that I hacked apart for the first paper lampshade experiment.

Balanced on a makeshift-and-temporary end table (really, it’s one of those shoe storage units sold for $14.99 at Target on it’s end), it balances out the living room lighting situation.

Second lamp on a temporary table.

(Sidenote: That photo looks stretched vertically, right? Weird. Camera-slash-eye tricks.)

Illuminating the living room nicely, they’re a pleasant alternative to the overhead chandelier when we’re watching TV at night.

Cozy, matchy living room lamps.

2. Speaking of the chandelier, I replaced its (dumb) dimmer switch. It somehow combusted after less than a year of use, failing to dim, but was still functioning the lights on and off… meaning, it wasn’t urgent on my to-do list. I have no explanation for its failure, but it meant getting around to buying a new $10 switch and wiring it into place. For someone who’s at Home Depot every week, it shouldn’t have taken 3 months to get around to perusing the electrical aisle. And FYI – once upon a time (last fall) I showed you how I swapped out the switch in the dining room, if you want to refer to this post for a how-to.

$10 (re)investment for a new dimmer switch. See the subtle switch on the right?

3. I finally painted the kitchen island. Last fall when we reconstructed the kitchen island, I was eager and excited and all over sanding and priming the base of the table before the snow started to fall. That’s as far as I made it though, and it’s sat primed and unpainted in the kitchen since November. Despite having gotten around refinishing the tabletop (that we made out of clearance-priced tongue-in-groove floorboards), I only dragged the base onto the porch this week to give it the finishing touches it demanded.

Um. A dirty slash primed kitchen island.

Color (or paint) me embarrassed. At least began to clean up easily.

At least a good cleaning with lysol and a fresh coat of paint cleaned it up easily.

I used exterior paint, actually. I’m not sure that’s kosher for a home decorating situation, but I’m trying it anyways in hopes that maybe it will wear better than any interior paint I had on hand. The Silver Lining paint by Behr was leftover from when I painted the garage trim and door earlier in the summer.

After drying on the porch for an afternoon, I moved it back in. Nothing new functionally, just cleaner, and looking like it’s not a work-in-progress. Yes, I keep planters on the kitchen island. Now that it’s clean, I can probably upgrade to something classier. And kitchen-y.

Ooh, yay. So fresh and clean.

4. And speaking of the paint I used on the garage… I finally finished painting the cinderblock. Getting the job done required buying an extra quart of Behr’s Porpoise, which was the color that best matched the Mastic victorian gray house siding (I segue, but you can read about that painting project with the extra poofy roller right here). For a few weeks after I finished painting the garage door, it looked like this. Not terribly obvious, but the right side of the door is definitely incomplete.

Garage door looking spiffy clean. But notice, to the right of the door, I still owe some Porpoise Gray paint.

The fresh coat of gray leading up the right side of the garage helped to clean up (and disguise) the embedded ivy vines that had made the garage their home.

Porpoise applied, garage finally complete.

5. I sloppily half-assembled a gallery of frames behind my entryway door. Earlier in the summer, I painted that wall blue and immediately wanted to extend the now-gone stairwell gallery into the entryway for that cohesive look. So up went a game plan (right on down to the same newspaper templates that I used when I worked on the first gallery), and there it stayed.

Yikes. That is all.

Really, it’s gotta come down. Not today. Maybe tomorrow. Or next month.

Are any of my fellow blogger friends holding out on lazy behaviors and finishing projects months (and months) behind schedule?

Come on. Spill the beans.

Touring A Beach Cottage

September 01, 2011   //  Posted in: Other Pads   //  By: Emily   //  11 responses

Robbie’s beach house is a top pick in my book, and I think you’ll like it too.

She was my boss when I was digging trenches in the world of advertising, and in addition to scheming about marketing strategies, we spent a lot of time on and off the clock fantasizing about architecture, home improvement, classic decor, and her never-ending list of projects.

Her home renovation is definitely one for the books. As in, the swoon-worthy coffee table books or scandalous centerfold of Coastal Living. My amateur photographs don’t do it justice, but I thought a fun before-and-after using scanned photos from her renovation archives might make for an inspiring story.

I’ll start with the front entryway.

When it comes to beach front property, the front of the house faces the water, not the road. When she and her husband Michael bought the home in 2004, it was deemed “the ugly house on the block”… and on the beach.

Before: View from the beach.

Although ugly or not, she saw its potential. And a killer view.

Before: View from the porch overlooking the beach.

A dated facade, small deck, un-landscaped yard, and wooded lot, she gradually updated the exterior and made monumental changes, which included adding the most grand, graceful, and elegant deck of any cottage on that stretch of Lake Ontario.

I should note early on that none of this renovation was architect-driven; it was developed solely by Robbie’s own sense of design and form. And that is amazing.

After: View from the beach.

While the scraggly trees and bushes were cleared early on in their ownership, the formal landscaping project only occurred this summer, which should be ever-reassuring to you if you think all projects need to be done immediately. Pacing your home improvement to-do’s allow the true vision to unfold and morph over time. What they’ve done so far is incredible.

After: View of the beach and freshly landscaped backyard from the deck.

Entering the house is enough to stop you in your tracks, but it wouldn’t have if you had visited 5 years ago.

As I mentioned, Robbie and Michael added a sizable addition onto the back of their house, extending the living space from being modest and confined, to expansive and bright. The living and dining area is the best example of open-concept that I’ve seen in person. Ever.

Front entryway opens into the living room.

I didn’t photograph it (because I forgot) but through the paned doors on the right is the media room. If you can envision it, it’s fully-finished in dark brown stained paneling, lined with shelving, and would be the coziest place to sit with hot chocolate and watch a movie at night. Plus, the big bonus is that it keeps the electronics, always borderline unsightly, tucked away from sight.

Fun fact #1: The boards you see in the peak of the entryway were from the original deck. Robbie’s as resourceful as they come, and I’m forever tapping her brain for tips on restoring salvage.

To stand in the doorway next to the mirror you see in that previous picture, the room is most easily visible in full. The oceanic palette of whites, grays, and browns is tranquil, cozy, and transports you to a perfect seaside Cape Cod retreat. The hardwoods were only refinished and stained last year – the grand finale to a cottage long in the making.

Front entryway opens into the living room. Taken from the back of the house, facing back towards the water.

They tell me that there were too many walls in place to be able to provide a clear “before” image of their living space, but the location of the supporting beam should help you understand where old walls stood. A few photos taken of the living room during the expansion construction help to show the extent of the addition.

And that white Boxer pup is Bruno. He was Cody’s beach buddy who’s missed greatly, now officially commemorated in blog form. Twice, actually, if you keep reading.

During: Addition to the beach-facing side of the house opens up the first floor living space.

During: The extended living room in progress.Both that last photo and the next were taken from the perspective from the kitchen looking out towards the beach; I’ll be using that railing of the staircase as a featured point in the next few shots to help you understand the open layout.

After: Looking past the staircase into the living room.Robbie’s taste in hardware and decor is impeccable. A cohesive combination of classics from Restoration Hardware and Crate & Barrel, mixed with local salvage treasures.

Take this Ethan Allen chandelier, and the leather ottoman in the background, for example.

After: Dining table chandelier.Fun fact #2: The chandelier that currently hangs in my living room was the predecessor to the one currently installed here. 

Fun fact #3: Robbie’s mastered the slip cover, swapping out darker covers for the ivories come fall and winter, so you can feel all cozy and snuggly while you sit and watch the lake effect snow pile up on the deck. Easy transformation from summer to fall, achievable by anyone.

Yesterday post (that you can read here if you missed it) showed you a little shiplap bathroom sneak peek, since Robbie’s first floor full bathroom was the inspiration for my own little shiplap wall project (which is going really well, but not without unexpected snafus). There aren’t any “befores” of the bathroom because it didn’t exist originally; Robbie actually likes to cite that the only untouched and unaltered space in the house is a very small closet near the kitchen.

After: First floor bathroom.

The shiplap wall details are really just the start, as she’s selected her fixtures and lighting incredibly well to both fit the space, and make them feel like they’ve been there for 80 years. While there aren’t windows on the walls, they added a pretty skylight to let in the natural beachy brightness and opted for wall sconces for nighttime ambiance.

After: First floor bathroom.After: First floor bathroom.And a final bathroom close-up of the shiplap. Because if you don’t love it as much as me based on what you’ve seen already… maybe this will help.

After: First floor bathroom. Close-up on the shiplap.

You’d hardly know it, but I’m saving the best for last.

I actually feel like I need a drumroll before I show you pictures of the kitchen that was completed only within the last 18-months. <DDDRRRRUUUUMMMMROOOOOLLLLL because I don’t actually know how to get all onomatopoeia on that desired effect>

After: Kitchen. Dreamy. That is all.

She generously found a bunch of “befores” of the kitchen, which clearly demonstrate what a labor of love this project was. This photo, taken from the same perspective as the last, is one of the first ever snapped of the kitchen during their initial walk-through of the home.

Before: Kitchen upon move-in. Circa 2004.To brighten the room up, they painted the cabinetry white. An improvement, still not renovated yet. I hope you’re noticing how small the room is (the old garage was once on the other side of that man, who I can only imagine is Michael, but was relocated on the property to allow for a large kitchen). Lovely floor. Lovelier dog.

Before: Kitchen, with the cabinets painted white. And Bruno.In 2007, the kitchen was given permission to open. Even a gutted state, you can really tell how large it was about to be. This is from a different perspective from the last, but the staircase is through that plastic sheet on the left.

During: Kitchen, gutted and being redesigned.Perhaps the best part of the kitchen is in the use of those cabinets that were bought in full from a local salvage shop. I’m not the least bit confident that I could walk into a store, see a set of cabinetry, and decide on the spot how to reconfigure it entirely for use in a new kitchen, but Robbie could. It amazes me to this day; all of the pieces sat in her garage for months while slowly being refinished: dark stain on the bottom drawers, white paint on the top. They left the original hardware, and it shines once again in this new space.

Before: Unfinished salvaged kitchen storage.Topped with carerra marble, backed with clean, white subway tile, accented with beautiful new appliances, and accessorized with a 14-foot table (another fantastic salvage find from a local antique shop which I believe is rooted back as being a table used by seamstresses), the kitchen has been transformed into a bright, airy, functional space (where you don’t mind if people are crowding in the kitchen during parties).

After: Kitchen. Dreamy. That is all.After: Kitchen. Dreamy. That is all.I wasn’t about to get all nosey with the Rebel in someone’s bedroom, so believe me that the three upstairs bedrooms and two bathrooms have also been transformed in similar fashion. Even more inspiringly, the third floor attic was refinished into an open, bright space filled with 3 side-by-side twin beds. Perfect for visiting kids.

I really hope you enjoyed it, and have to give a big thank you to Robbie + Michael for letting me photograph your home. May it soon be its own coffee table book.