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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.

 
 
 

A cabin holiday preview


I recently chronicled our adventures back at the family cabin (aka my dad & stepmum’s house…sounds more glamourous saying ‘the family cabin’) for my old friends Boden. It’s up on their blog now so you can see how Matilda & I celebrated on our time off at Thanksgiving. Here are a few outtakes, but check out the full post here!

 

 
 
 

Hello ‘Ello

I’m a giant walking, talking hypocrite. I’m always saying I was born at the wrong time…that I was meant for another decade, preferably one where main streets thrived, were full of cute cars, people lived simpler lives and technology wasn’t so messy. And then I spend most of my life with some form of technology. I know, ick. So in a completely superficial move, I like my technology to be softened a bit, at least visually, so that it doesn’t seem so new-agey (unless it’s new-agey in Jetsons style…that’s okay with me). In the past I’ve had cork and wooden cases for my old iPhones so with the new Iphone 4s, something a bit different was necessary. Still staying with the natural vs. tech vibe, but this time it needed a bit of personalization…enter ‘Hello ‘Ello’! I found a company that would accept custom designs to be laser cut into wood. I messed around in illustrator trying out a few phrases—the one I originally wanted was ” ‘ello sunshine’ a good cheery message I’ve been known to utter…but I just couldn’t get the type to look right, so it morphed into Hello ‘Ello. I hand drew it, then redrew it on the computer, uploaded and within a few days I had an image of my new design and had it in my hands a week later. Mmm watch out iPad and iMac there might be a branch out there with your name on it.

 
 
 

Oh Deer, stuck inside a winter wonderland

No need to flee to the weather channel to figure out if New York City has been covered in snow…sadly we haven’t. But there is a little winter wonderland present in the flat right now. At first I thought I might be a bit late since Christmas is over and the decorations are all packed away…but on second thought, winter hasn’t even arrived here yet, so why should non-Christmassy winter stuff be shoved away (and because I have no idea how to pack them!). These lovely little ‘snow globes’ for lack of a better term were a real project of many inspirations–one part Anthropologie, one part Martha Stewart, one part family and voilà!

I had saved Martha Stewart’s tutorial for snow globes ages ago…and then when I saw these variations at Anthropologie with my sister-in-law we set about picking up mason jars, salt and pepper shakers and glitter. Then at Thanksgiving I went home and my stepmum had picked up all sorts of lovely bits like bell jars, dishes, moss, deer and even…a pillar box! Crowning touch if I do say so myself. I picked up a few pinecones in Riverside Park and that was it– a little piece of nature (and england) in NYC.

Along the way we learned the following useful facts that might help you if you were to take this on:

1. Using artificial snow  as a base builds up a nice shape. We then used fine white glitter on top for the sheen. I also dripped some glue around on the ridge of the deer and the top of the pillar box so some glue would stick on top…

2.  Don’t shake the salt shaker…unless you’ve made sure the holes are covered. Oops.

3. Schleich animals have a nice ‘vintage’ look about them and can be found MUCH more easily (for instance at Michael’s) than proper vintage characters…trust me we’ve tried!

and last, and certainly most useful…

3. Small town train stores have a lot of small figurines…not ice skaters unfortunately, but they do a cracking business in homeless people and prisoners….so ughm depending on the theme of your winter wonderland that could be ughm…well frankly useless.

photos by pillar box post. lamp & table from West Elm

 
 
 

Mix.Match.Wrap.

P

Perhaps this is out of season, but just came across this selection of double sided wrapping papers from Turnstyle Studio and had to bookmark them. I’m such a sucker for clashing/coordinated wrappings like this. Bit of mix and match never hurt anyone…unless of course they were mixing and matching violent weapons. Then not so much. When in doubt stick with illustrated birds, pinecones and a dashing of patterns and textures!

thanks to the dieline

 
 
 

Man the fort…

In search of a holiday this spring/summer? Yep, me too and since Mallorca isn’t for us this year please just let me live vicariously through you and book the Cap Rocat in Mallorca. For the uniniatiated to the workings of the Mediterranean, Mallorca is a Spanish island in the Med Sea. And past that sea, housed on a cliff, in a former military fort sits this boutique hotel. This hotel is a little different than most as it can list in its amenities a drawbridge, bunkers and trenches alongside an infinity pool, outdoor lanterns and the best umbrella/tent combo I’ve ever seen. I am absolutely in love with the outside setting, with that fantastic umbrella covering and persimmon red rugs. I wonder if they’ll knock the price down a bit if I just set up camp outside?

You can find out more at Mr. & Mrs. Smith or check out the Cap Rocat website where unbelievably there are more amazing photos of the turquoise sea, the sun loungers you’ll never want to leave and more torches you can shake a stick at…

Looking for more boutique hotel action in Europe, check out this beauty in Mykonos Greece or the spring/summer holiday we took in 2010, also in Mykonos! It seems like these inspirational holidays maybe do come true sometimes!