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All Hail King of the Blues

 

So we’ll set aside the kitchen renovation for the moment as it gears up for it’s finishing touches. What else has been happening? Well, after years of longing to paint every place I lived in and either pleading with landlords, or my husband as the case may be I finally get my chance to do what I want. Well the jokes on me. I froze. I couldn’t pick a paint colour for the life of me. There was one ‘general idea’ that I was quite set on, but then the specifics eek. I knew I wanted a dark room. Maybe dark grey…maybe dark blue, maybe bright blue. I wasn’t exactly sure, but I knew I had too many  in my inspiration folder to ignore.

Credits (Clockwise) :  Zoe’s Dark Bathroom | Martha Stewart | Molly’s dark bedroom  |  Braided Extension Cord | (middle) Emily Henderson’s old office

I really wanted the dark blue bathroom. As it is in the photo above. In fact, when we viewed the house, I thought, oh the bathroom is the perfect size to make my dark piegon bathroom. BUT, then I had warring loves with a certain tile and I decided to move on. So the guest bedroom seemed the next best thing. Somewhere I could make cozy and interesting. Now. which. blue. It took like 3 months to pick one..and then I tried out some samples and changed my mind. Then changed my mind and then I couldn’t even remember which one I chose. Then on Labour day weekend (the weekend before I realized I discovered I was pregnant, I spent the entire three days attacking the guest room, which is not large by any means. And I painted the heck out of that room. Badly. Oh, and guess what I didn’t even get to the walls, I was so busy trying to get rid of the maroon trim. Painting old windows is dreadful and when you have to have 3 coats, it’s 3x the fun. But oh-so-rewarding.

So this room’s checklist (not necessarily indicative of what is shown in the photos, but what is done in real life (blast these belated posts!):

  • Get rid of the horrible dark trim. Repaint walls dark colour with fresh white trim.  Nearly all the way done. A few touchups needed and doors need to be reinstalled but 93.5% there.
  • Replace light fixture  Done, but not featured in these photos. Ceiling mount fixtures are NOT easy to find for a decent price. I don’t LOVE any of them really and when I find something that I’d be willing to live with/part money for–I see the price and go, heck no if I’m spending that much, I’m going to get something I love! We found a decent shade at Ikea that I was happy with in terms of look (not amazing, just not ugly and a great price), but it did have a few headaches with the European sizing/holes I don’t know what it was. All I know was that I was responsible for looking things up on my iphone to tell David and his Dad (who was over visiting) what wires they should or shouldnt’ be touching. Stressful. One of those situations where my father-in-law knows exactly how to do this in the UK, but halfway through the process we find out that all the colours/roles of wires are all confused and different in the US. Gulp. No one was shocked/died etc. and the light works soooo, success?
  • Furnish with bed, side tables, lamps, dresser and rug at minimum 90% done but not featured in the photos. More on this later.
  • Find and hang artwork 2% done. We have a painting that was a gift from my last birthday that looks amazing popping off the dark blue wall, but has yet to find a home on the wall.
  • Find and hang a mirror 0% done. After 5 trips to Ikea and finding the Stockholm mirror out of stock they finally had ONE last week. I was waiting in line along with the rest of Brooklyn when I though to peek in the box. The mirror was smashed. So annoyed, but also delighted I discovered it sooner rather than later!! So still no joy.
  • Replace curtain rods (hung way too close height and width wise so they were covering most of the light even when pulled all the way open) . Explored the plumbing supplies curtain rods as I loved them but we were really worried about the weight…I liked the west elm fixtures but was worried about the costs adding up since we have so many to replace so we took a gamble on a set from Wayfair. Ugh. Mistake, we’ve put them up and I’m guessing no one will notice, but I’m not pleased with the quality and am not going to get any more. Anyway, they ARE set higher and wider so that’s good!
  • Hang new curtains-full length, no more of this cafe curtain business! 90% done. Again, curtains have been an unexpected challenge. I utilized my beloved Emily Henderson’s curtain round-up and went with her recommendation with the Aina Curtains from Ikea as they are fairly affordable for curtains,  nice shade of soft grey and dont’ look horribly cheap. The downside is that hemming them (which I did with the hemming tape) is a bit of a headscrew as you have to measure from the top as opposed to the bottom (which would be a lot shorter of a measurement) but the bottoms are massively uneven. One set are hung and the others are awaiting curtain rings. Because apparently a pack is only enough for one curtain. All those people out there just hanging one curtain…all 3 of them in the world.

 

I’m definitely less marooned out…although by now I’ve found out that painting old mullion sash windows is harder than opening a pickle jar without hands or arms. I looked up HOW to paint the windows, get a giant sense of relief that now that I’m prepared it will go better the next round…

Hah…then I laugh at my stupidity. It’s not easier and now I’m more annoyed because I’m ‘doing it right’!

Don’t let the joyful greenery outside trick you. This room is still nowhere near done.

By now everybody is going ahh…it’s so much fresher. But don’t get too attached. I’m about to switch it all up on you. Don’t worry it will all be okay.

One coat of the blue…and I seem to have straddled the ‘too school locker room blue vs. black’ line well and am generally happy with the hue-o-blue. If my memory serves me correctly we finally settled on Hale Navy from Benjamin Moore. Of course that isn’t the ‘finished’ shot as there is another coat to go as well as the furnishings that haven’t been photographed, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I’ll build the suspense (and actually take some photos) but I am pleased to announce this room was the first one that even resembled a finished room and has been for a few months.

It hasn’t had doors as it took us HOURS to get them off as the hinges had been painted over so many times that it required heavy digging to even find a screwhead let alone get some grip to take it off. We finally got them off and then I lost the will to paint them. BUT, thankfully we wised up to this renovation and realized with David’s back, my baby cookin’ and our limited time on the weekends + the less than easy crooked house to paint that we were going to bite the bullet and hire a painter to take care the rest of the house. The alternative was that we had the baby, raised him, taught him the way of the paintbrush and when he reached 16 we got him to paint the rest of the rooms. We decided against that route and I’m very pleased. We FINALLY called someone and they came out the weekend before Christmas to spec and started the day after Christmas (to all the Brits, can I just be clear I didn’t ask him to start then! ). He was supposed to be done last week but some unforeseen issues on another job have slowed him down a bit but I don’t mind a bit. Most is done and to be honest this whole process has sped it up so much a week or two over is ’nuffin’. Anyway I’ll get more into what else he’s done, but in terms of this room, he has added these doors to his pile from the other rooms and is dipping the hardware to strip the paint off, so this room will finally come to a close in terms of paint. Err, well there are a couple of areas that should really have a touchup but I’ll take care of that in good time–heaven forbid we actually finish something concretely!

 

 
 
 

Ding…Kitchen’s Nearly Done!

 

 

Well the last kitchen update post for the house renovation was a bit delayed so I get to quickly follow it up with lots and lots of progress. Not quite a finished product, but lots of box ticking happening! I can’t tell you how exciting it is to have a moderately working kitchen again. Going up to the house started to become a bit of a drain last fall. Everytime we went up we spent most of the Saturday trying to clean up and then most of Sunday trying to tidy stuff away again so that they could continue working. Don’t get me wrong our contractor is INCREDIBLY accomodating always cleaning things up, tidying etc. but there is only so much you can do when there is drywall cutting, timber cutting etc going on. Dust/filth just gets everywhere. So we spent our weekends tiptoeing on filthy floors (they need to be sealed, so they just hold everything in them) trying to keep Tilly out of the renovation area and trying not to track all the nastiness around the rest of the house. Tilly was most often found either jumping over ginormous obstacles on a search for the random dropped screw, or trying to eat insulation or something else equally irritating. Plus, there are just the small things of using the upstairs sink for everything water related.

 

The last two visits we’ve had have been infinitely more enjoyable since Tilly can be free to roam and we can do simple things like make a cup of tea and have a countertrop to prepare some food. I like that it makes me appreciate the finished product even more! I feel almost guilty that we didn’t do more of the renovation ourselves like Smitten Studio (LOVE both their cabin and their house updates-gorgeous!!) or Manhattan Nest but then I see shows like ‘Reality Renovations’ and I thank my lucky stars I’m not as naive as some of those couples. When you couple that with our general lack of time, David’s back issues and my ‘condition’ of pregnancy I feel happy with our decision to support local businesses and hire! Oh had I forgot to mention that ‘little fact’…well that’s happening and has impacted things a bit which I’m sure will be revealed as we continue through our whirlwind progress reports! Tick tock till May 12th!

 

Here’s the updated list as of January 19, 2014:

  • Remove wall between kitchen, dining room and bathroom
  • Expose existing (hidden) fireplace pillar (for heating venting only-no fires) The good news was that there weren’t major issues and it wasn’t horrible red brick. The bad news is that we ended up having to build out a big pillar off the edge to run some heating pipes. Hey, ho…
  • Remove existing cabinetry 
  • Install new upper and lower cabinetry in it’s current placement as well as an addition of a peninsula that will run up to fireplace pillar
  • Create breakfast bar area at peninsula Wood panelling is on order and yet to be installed
  • CANCELLED Create wall of shelves/closets/cabinets to house extra storage and potentially stacked washer and dryer Cue the sadtrombone . I don’t know what plan we were looking at, but this wasn’t quite feasible. We were so happy with the openness we achieved by tearing down walls that we hesitated (thankfully) to add something as deep as a washer/dryer in the hallway of the kitchen. Bit of a shame but there is still scope to add a thinner area of storage. Just waiting to see how it all feels towards the end.  
  • CANCELLED Install barn door on a track to hide washer/dryer on ‘wall-o-storage’  See above…snif sniff
  • Remove faux brick flooring, lay wood (fir) flooring down so living room, dining room and kitchen all flow together as there are no doors in this space.
  • Sand existing wood floors and restain darker shade (includes other existing fir on the first floor–more on this later) Being done AS WE SPEAK.
  • Replace 1972 appliances-fridge, dishwasher, oven, stove as well as add in new fan/extractor
  • Insert new farmhouse sink and faucet
  • Remove the bizzarre mexican folk art backsplash and replace with new white tile. Selected a slight variation on subway tile that is longer and skinnier for a simple but not quite bog standard approach
  • Install new countertops that are NOT square tiles. We went with soapstone that we love. Not loving the fact the price jumped by a third at final install, but looking at the positives right? We’re aiming for the middle ground of darkness. We aren’t going to actively oil as I don’t want them black, but will do the occasional oiling to make it a mid grey.
  • Remove random off center can light that sits akwardly close to the others, whilst adding a few more to balance out the line of lights
  • CANCELLED Add pendant lights over the peninsula Once the walls came down our contractor recommended that we forgo the pendant lights over the breakfast bar as they were going to be akwardly close to the other can lights so we moved our plans to over the dining room area. So many lighting options in this room it’s crazy, but I love how bright (without being obnoxious) it can get!
  • Paint the walls 
  • Furnish the kitchen with all those kitchen-y necessities like pots, pans, plates etc. In progress as we go
That’s a lot of lines off, no? Hooray. A bit off the six week schedule we originally spoke about but onwards and upwards. Overall, I’m really pleased with how things are going and how it’s all coming together. Previously I mentioned  some  of my concerns after ordering items sight unseen (or without side by side comparison) and I’m happy to report back…
Concern #1 : Wall removal Issues. I watch too much HGTV and their drama laden programmes that make you believe that everytime you touch a house you end up coming across a previous reno botch that requires you to build a new house or bring in an excorcist or something else ridiculous (have you seen Love it or List it?!? The houses are all out of code and falling down?!). Anyway, we were erroring on the side of caution and assumed we would have loads of obstacles or have to be very flexible with the solutions. Apparently this and a somewhat elastic budget are the keys to sanity because everything went quite well. We were able to remove the walls we wanted. Sure, there was a beam that went up and an addition to our existing pillar…and some soffetting that went up, but nothing enough to make me feel like we didn’t achieve our ultimate goal. Verdict: Success

 

 

Concern #2: White on white. I quite quickly became determined to have brass accents (not bright, but brushed/rustic) in the kitchen, but that led to the question of what to do with appliances. Stainless steel is the appliance coating du jour but I’m not overly keen on it. Again, not anti-it just didn’t love it enough to make it a purchase on my own terms. In the end we decided to make things either invisible, ‘invisible’ or blatantly in your face. The invisible award goes to the dishwasher which is happily tucked behind a cabinet panel. The ‘invisible’ award goes to the oven and stove top. The oven which sits in the lower cabinet area was ordered from Ikea in white in the hopes that it would just blend in with the rest of the wall. As the stovetop was going into a greyish/black we opted for  a black ceramic top. My biggest concern was whether or not the whites would be really off as we had to tell the cabinet company which appliances we were using before they ordered them and we never got to compare them side by side. The result is better than expected and doesn’t jar so whew! Lastly, the ‘blatantly in your face’ award goes to the Smeg fridge and the Ikea exhaust fan. Originally I wanted a white smeg fridge, only to find out that all the photos I had saved online were misleading as white only is available in Europe. Cream was the only ‘non-colour’ version available in the US. We had seen it in person at West Elm Market and thought it could pass for white so we stole a panel from the kitchen, brought it back to Brooklyn and actually for the first time in the reno actually got to make a decision on sight. Thankfully we discovered it looked dreadful so we went with a light blue to make it obviously different as opposed to just dingy different! The exhaust fan has a much more boring story. It was black or stainless so we went with black…zzzzzz. Verdict: Success

 

P.S. it really irritates me that the photo captions are all different sizes and it’s all a bit of a visual mess, but as I’m averaging about 2 a year otherwise, I’m trying to let those irks out into the wind. I just want to call it out so you know, don’t think I’ve lost my eyes. I see it and I get it…and I’m getting over it. I think.
 
 
 

Home Sweet Renovation

Whoa, who are you and why are you here? Do you come here often? I, sadly do not…as you can see. Unless you have a horrible memory and keep visiting and rereading posts saying, ‘Great new post Brittany!’. Which if this is the case, thank you! Hmm, so what have I been up to? Well, I started my own *small* company back in September which has kept me busy. What else…oh and we bought a house…in Massachusetts, but we still live in Brooklyn. Ahh yes, you see, right? No? Okay I’ll start from the top.

I’m a homey person…I love being at home, I love decorating a home, I like projects yada yada. But up to this point in my 9 year relationship with my husband we’ve lived with his parents and in three small rentals in London (okay, they weren’t all small, but we lived in the largest one with no money, and then they grew smaller as our funds got larger which was sort of torture). Then we got rid of basically all of our possessions in our move to NYC where we lived with two borrowed camp chairs and a mattress on the floor for months until some of our stuff turned up and our furniture orders finally started trickling in. Meanwhile, over the course of all these years we’d been saving for that eventual grown up house and my biological house clock was stamping it’s little foot. But, as I’ve probably mentioned I’m not the biggest fan of New York so I’m not keen on giving her a buncha money for a cockroach infested (okay our place is lovely and NO cockroaches, but is also rental only) apartment where renovations and all the fun stuff would be hampered by city regulations and 9,000 neighbors. Soooo, where does that take us? Two states away. To our second home…without owning the first home.

It all started with visits to our friends at the Briarcliff Motel in the Berkshires in Western Massaschusetts. We’d visit, we’d love and then we’d drive sadly back into the city. We joked on our first visit that we should just buy a place up there where you could get a giant house with land for a third of the price on a studio apartment down the street. That very night I started a realtor.com list and that became my go-to nighttime ritual where I scoured areas I’d never even been to before. Then, the day after I left my job last September, we went up to look at 12 properties. There were 2 that really stood out, but to be honest we had other things on our mind as the next day we picked up Tilly and then the day after I started my new company with work on the table. We visited the two houses again, but things just weren’t clicking on some of the finer details regarding internet connectivity etc. so we sat on it…and sat…and made random day trip drives into Connecticut to scout some neighborhood we’d seen online. We had this amazing imaginary neighborhood in mind, but weren’t actually finding it in the flesh. We toyed with an AMAZING really expensive property for a bit and then cooled on that as well when I smelled heart palpitations on the horizon. Then in April we were having lunch at Le pain Quitodien and I got an email for a price reduction on the property we still thought about from our initial viewings…I told David (the calm and cool one to my emotionally driven being) and he said, ‘Oh, let’s just make an offer.’ Ehhh…really?!? He decided that if we could get it for price X it would be a good deal and he set off on negotiations. Three days later we had a deal and then we had 2 days to get everything in order to make our paperwork/mortgage deadlines before we went away for my 30th birthday. Needless to say we did it and we closed 30 days later!

So how does this all work? Well, the house needs love…not crazy amounts of horrible-plumbing-not-working type of work, but just updating. We bought this as a project, a place to flee to when we can’t take the city and want fresh-air and maybe further down the line as a holiday rental. It’s also an investment of sorts, but not in the way that I have to only work in a palette of creams, granite and stainless steel to appeal to everyone, but more in the way that the housing market was low, mortgage rates were low and our money wasn’t earning anything sitting in the bank. The more I open my eyes to other renovation blogs, I’m finding a lot of people like Door Sixteen and Manhattan Nest to name just two, who are also doing the two home thing–which I suppose is reassuring! We’re happy that is a blend of work and redoing every room, but totally liveable in the meantime. Some rooms are just repainting and furnishing and others..buh bye.

I’m currently brainstorming the heck out of it–which you can view just a small portion of my visual mush here. The rest is clogging up my dropbox folder just pleading to be organized nicely. The first project which involves half of the ground floor and will result in tearing out the kitchen, a bathroom and reflowing things is set to get started in a few short weeks and nothing has been ordered yet! I do feel like I’m starting to make some headway into the style though (I’m definitely guilty of having way too many styles!), so now it’s just a case of trying to get personality and style, while making sure it’s not wacky. More to come as we develop the space…In the meantime, enjoy the good, the bad and the certainly ugly  of the ‘befores’ and I’ll go dream up a colour palette that is a lot less yellow, brown and burgundy.

 
 
 

Are you a Professional…what?

I’m fairly certain my obsession for a library card catalogue unit started way before they were cool. I love drawers and organization (despite being an INCREDIBLY messy youth)…I even had a metal drawer version that I stuck index cards in containing, ughm, super secret really cool things that I didn’t even know about. Well fast forward to the 2000s and, well, a wooden library card catalogue is on every designy/interiors bloggers list, isn’t it? Well.lookie.here what became the newest member of the  household this weekend! AND it’s best friend- a piece of old store signage. Way. Too. Excited. I very nearly brought home the entire word ‘TODAY’ as well. It was the same colour as the ‘H’ but in uppercase italics, which I have a bit of a personal relationship with that borders on frenemies. I love uppercase, and even have grown to love italics, but upperitalics. Nuh, uh.

Best part of the whole ‘adoption’ experience (one that included the handover of money) was when I was asked something to the effect of, ” Are you going to be using this professionally or just for decoration?” Ughm…well I don’t have a library, and I don’t use the Dewey Decimal System in my house YET…so does this count as decoration? I mean I’ll use the drawers for other stuff? Does rubber stamp pads count as professional? Trust me, this running inner monologue was as painful to be a part of  as it was to read and I ended up stuttering out something like, ‘oh,well I’ll use it, can I use it?… I mean i want to use the drawers…’ until my sister-in-law saved me from my own social awkwardness with, ‘she’s an artist’. Whew, he seemed okay with that response and off we went to find arty stuff to stuff in the drawers in case the professional organizing/library police come sniffing around Brooklyn anytime soon.

 
 
 

Seat Yourself…

Ever since Ilse Crawford worked her magic on the Grand Hotel Stockholm a few years ago, I’ve had a windsor chair (or two or three) on my wishlist. But not just any old frumpy chair, but one with a twist. I mean Ilse’s is on a pedestal all to herself due to it’s be-ah-u-tiful play on proportions…those super tall spindles….lovely!

But I’m a realist and fully aware an Ilse Special is not the cards so I had to move further afield—and West Elm played perfectly into my plans (well aside from the ol’ international problem) with a whole ‘collection’ of  accent chairs, chaise lounges and dining chairs. With the amount of stock I’m considering taking in, I might need to open a hotel just to be able to store it all…

To get in on the spindly seat love action yourself:

Modern Windsor Chaise $699 USD

Modern Windsor Dining Chair $149 USD each

Modern Windsor Accent Chair $399 USD each

 
 
 

Type of Wall…

What ‘type’ of walls do you have…painted, wallpapered or TYPED? This fabulous texture just goes to show that even a sportstore* can be the source of drool and inspiration. Okay, yes the store is an experiential giant for one of the biggest brands in the world, but still… Although I’d pass with having random tennis players on my wall, I would most certainly fill up a bit of blank white wall with some textual texture. Sadly, I don’t think there is a cheap and easy DIY of this… In fact, I can’t even think of how you would do it WITH a budget. It reminds me of something House Industries would do for an exhibition, which is a compliment if you ask me!

* spotted at the Nike Town on Oxford Street in London (on the womenswear floor )