Mexicana Infusion

August 24, 2011   //  Posted in: Bedrooms, Decor   //  By: Emily   //  2 responses

Two weeks ago today we were leaving Mexico. During our 3-night stay (that you can read about over here), we did spend one morning off the resort exploring Playa Del Carmen. The town itself a great tourist trap, and not surprisingly, where we made the bulk of our souvenir purchases.

Oh look. Just me sweating my butt off at the puerto. Note to the ladies: loose cotton shift dress from J.Crew. Will not cling. The pattern will not show sweat. Makes humidity bearable.

Heading down to the beach at Playa del Carmen.

It should come to no surprise that I was looking for bargains and limited by suitcase space (we shared a single carry-on to avoid the whole checking-bags headache). Before leaving, I had wild mexican dreams of bringing home a few phenomenally embroidered tapestries like these, although I knew they would be expensive. Would have made a nice throw, or a pop of color as a bed coverlet, right? Maybe next time.

Colorful tapestries in Playa del Carmen.

During our walk up and down 5th avenue, the main touristy strip of PDC, pile of textiles outside one of the shops caught my eye (and were without a doubt within my budget, marked in a sale pile for $4 USD). We inspected few of the products (sized like a 3’x5′ carpet) trying to figure out if they were intended to be. Wall decor? For floor use? Blankets? Wearable wools? All of those things? We’re clearly not seasoned mexican travelers or well-exposed to authentic materials. In any case, our mind went to making the textile floorable, so I bought one in a blue/gray woven knit to use as an accent piece in our bedroom, where it’s happily already taken up residence. That wrinkly, wrinkly bed.

Hint of mexicana. Not sure if it's really a rug, but it is for us.

You see, the big reason it’s in there is because after the great bed switch, the beloved West Elm Pebble Rug was providing less coverage than it had been. Mostly, this was due to the size of the queen bed, because we really loved the carpet and wanted to optimize how much of it was showing in the room. So while the rug runs along the whole front of the bed and part of each side, not so much shown in these pictures, we had a small space to fill between it and the dresser right about where my feet land on the wood floor every morning.

How about a close-up of the overlapping West Elm Pebble Rug and Mexican "rug"?

It’s not a problem in this summer heat, but during the winter I do favor stepping onto something cushy and not cold and hard, so I had been on the lookout for something that would complement the existing pebble rug that I still love so much. Similar colors, different texture, different patterns, and this winning Mexican textile is all of that. It’s a nice mix of modern and classically-authentic (we think) when pulled together, so on the floor it will stay.

The carpet width was also ideal for the tight gap between the dresser and box spring, so the edges do tuck securely underneath both pieces of furniture (score!) so that the lightweight weave (which really does need a carpet pad) doesn’t move around very much or wrinkle underfoot. Yes, there are still some creases from the original folds. I’m thinking that should have been ironed first.

Fits perfectly between the IKEA dresser and bed.

Having only spent $4 on my “carpet,” I allowed myself a second souvineer, of course, it was not (and still is not) seasonably appropriate, nor does it remind me highly of Mexico because I know I have a similar one from Gap circa 2001, but it’s a big wool scarf. And I’m a girl who likes scarves.

Or was it narrow carpet runner. Or towel? Honestly, not totally sure, but I started sweating .5 seconds after draping this thing around myself in the store. Seems scarfy to me. Pendleton scarfy.

Hanging scarf. Is it a scarf?

Scarf-y texture.

Humidity + Mexico + Wool = not pleasant, but I thought it would be great in NY during the 6-month season of chill. It was only $9 USD, and I further justified the spend by deciding that I couldn’t put a textile I sweated on that much back on the rack.

Added bonus: Very cozy.

Scarf? Yes, it'll work as a scarf.

Additionally, and you already saw this, we picked up an ornament for our Christmas tree, since I’ve always liked a tree covered in brightly colored, memory-inducing treasures. I’m especially fond of the sparkle.

Mexico ornament, 2011.

Lovely Mexican Ornament. Sparkles.

Not that I’ve done an extensive online search yet, but I’m sure most of these items are also available directly from the sources (or the popular wholesalers like who were infused into each of the Playa del Carmen shops). While not direct, Sunshine Yoga showed up in one of my early searches, promoting their similar products as mexican blankets (totally not rugs), and as much as I’d love to directly fuel the mexican economy, these hammocks sold via The Mexican Hammock Company in the UK are pretty.

If anyone has recommendations for wholesalers and online shops native to Mexico, please, please leave a comment with more info

Office Progress: Refinishing A Desk

August 23, 2011   //  Posted in: DIY, Office Space   //  By: Emily   //  12 responses

Office Reno 2011 has kicked-off. Yesterday, you saw the fresh coat of paint. Next up?

I’m on a mission to refinish a Pier 1 desk that has been moving around with me since 1998.

Its simple design was never too out-of-place in all of the apartments and homes I’ve lived in, and its undeniable functionality has always come in handy. Lately though, it’s been a good surface for accumulating junk. The built-in drawer in the front is spacious, and an optional second tier of storage can be installed to extend across the back of the desk, something that I’ve intermittently swapped on and off. It’s sturdy, solid wood, but hasn’t been used as a formal workspace in a long while.

Guest room tornado.

To give you a better sense of what it actually looked like, I found this picture from earlier in the year when I had it squeezed into another room, serving no purpose but collecting dust and dog fur around its legs.

The guest room, filled with nothing that would permit me to have house guests.

My plan of attack involved removing the second tier of storage, and refinishing part of the desk with a glossy, fresh coat of paint. The biggest decision I had to make was whether I should paint the frame white, and leave the top of the desk natural wood, or do just the opposite, leaving the legs and frame natural, and giving myself a new glossy work surface.

I wanted to transform it. Less Pier 1, more CB2. At least migrate it’s design in that direction, at least.

Not that I have nothing against Pier 1, this old piece just needed an pick-me-up.

Disassembling the desk to prep for painting.

Messy room, yes, but it’s organized chaos. Everything will have a home when I’m through.

Going with my gut, I leaned towards painting the top. Main reason being because over time, careless spills and condensation had caused a few watermarks to imperfect the surface of the wood visually. Having removed it from the base, I set up my painting workshop in the sunroom. In there, I was guaranteed sufficient ventilation with shelter from potential rain. Note the mild discolorations:

Note: Mild rings and splatters from encounters with wetness.

Because most of my rollers had been used several times each already, and I wanted to work with brand new clean tools to help provide a great result, I splurged on a set of new 6″ high density foam rollers for the job.

Ultra Smooth High Density Foam Rollers.

While they were clearly categorized as the “BETTER” rollers in the good-better-best sequencing at Home Depot, I was more confident that I’d achieve a sleek, blemish-free paint surface with the high-density foam instead of the “BEST” premium microfiber rollers. I bought some of those rollers last winter when I got busy painting the open kitchen shelves, and while the paint did apply smoothly, I recalled the roller getting bogged with paint and not rolling perfectly at times.

The foam rollers claimed to be best suited for gloss paints and smooth surfaces, which was the real seller for me. The hardwood surface was already very smooth – Smoother even than my Pier 1 laminate dining room table. Great writing surface, although a softer wood than you’d want to be writing on all day long. To prep, I went over the desktop with a medium sandpaper to create a better surface for the first coat, the primer, to adhere to.

Because it was a natural wood surface, I used a basic primer that I generally use on walls. If it had been a laminate surface or melamine (like most IKEA finishes), I would have splurged on a high-adhesion primer.

Steps 1 and 2: Sanded, and primed the desktop.

My research indicated that oil-based paint was a must-have for furniture of this type; latex would have remained tacky and peeled up with use, and considering it was going to be a heavily used, banged against, surface with a purpose, the $9 cost of a quart of the glossy white Rustoleum paint (the same kind of paint that I used when I painted the radiator) was totally worth it.

The first coat of paint went on after the primer was dry; the high-density foam roller made the first coat thin, smooth, and even. I planned all along on doing 2-3 coats to ensure a perfectly smooth, even coat, and doing so required me to allow the paint to dry a minimum of 12-hours between each coat. Tick, tock. Yes, this took several days to complete.

It was fantastically glossy after the second coat.

Glossy desktop after the second coat of paint.

To even out any inevitable drips, which mostly happened along the edges where I was also painting the edges of the desktop, I very lightly sanded the entire paint surface inbetween each of the three coats (yes, I went back in for a third and it was worth it). Very shiny, very smooth.

New, painted, closer to CB2 desk.

The rest of the office is still coming together, hence the limited photos of the desk in space (who really wants to look at more pictures with all of my junk smooshed against a wall?).

In any case, the desk progress already makes a big impact and helps me begin to see the overall plan beginning to take effect.

Little Blue Cottage

August 22, 2011   //  Posted in: Other Pads   //  By: Emily   //  4 responses

I noticed on Saturday afternoon that my favorite beach cottage in the neighborhood had made it to market. Exciting, because it’s totally within budget. Sad, because I’m nowhere close to being able to buy again. Still, Sunday happened to be it’s first open house so we stopped in to walk around. I only had my iPhone, so the photos don’t do it justice, but it was lovely.

It’s on a small lot. Even smaller than mine, but loaded with mature gardens and oozing curb appeal. Porches. Bright, light blue cedar shingles. Original storm windows all around. And paned diamond glass that makes my heart thump.

Blue paint, diamond panes. The front porch opened through french doors into a living room with a pretty mantle. We loved how all of the doors and storm windows were propped; so welcoming, breezy, and cozy.

Entryway and front living room.From the same place I stood to take that last photo, I could 180-it and snap a picture of the large dining area. No pictures of the kitchen (which was small and charming, although not modern whatsoever), but it’s off through a doorway to the left.

A vintage (and rusty, but charming) chandelier hung in the dining room.Love the ceiling details in the dining room. Love the natural light. And love the built in hot-water heating baseboards that flowed from room-to-room. It was like nothing I had actually seen in person before.

Pete investigated the basement Mike Holmes-style while I checked out the three upstairs bedrooms and bathroom. Question: Do they actually make and install wall-mounted toilets? Or would someone be stuck with this mauve station until the bathroom was gutted and replumbed? Is it secure, as in, could I stand on it to fix the light bulb? I have lots of questions. Including, who would buy a mauve toilet, even in 1960? 1960’s a total guess, by the way. Wall-mounted seems futuristic to me.

Mauve wall-mounted toilet. I have lots of questions surrounding this.I should mention that the ceiling height was easily 9-10 feet on both the first and second floors, which was impressive in and of itself. At the top of the stairs, antique lighting and built-in storage complimented original trim and doors.

Me, upstairs in the blue cottage. Tall ceilings, built-ins, refinished railings, and antique light fixtures.

Better yet, which you can start to see over my shoulder, they have shared access to an enclosed porch through more matchy-matchy french doors. The porch itself was nicely staged with a sweet woven carpet, table, and hanging baskets. I’m already calculating how much it would cost to add this to my house.

Two upstairs bedrooms open to a shared, enclosed porch.

As far as I’m concerned, I’m satisfied. It’s always great to see the inside of a home you admire from afar.

As I said, it’s totally affordable compared to most other homes in the area. Like… <$130K. According to the realtor, it has actually been vacant for most of the last 3 years with the owners only fixing it up and using it as a when-we-feel-like-it summer house. I actually had noted on my dog walks that the same bottle of Windex sat on a windowsill for 1.5 years, so I’m sure it was mostly unoccupied, which is a shame for such a lovely home. That I would have bought if they decided to sell 2.5 years earlier. Damn it.

If you want to move to Rochester, or move within Rochester, I’ll send you more listing information. Just drop a comment on the post or send an email to