Getting a Fresh Start with House Paint + Restoring Old Light Fixtures

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So it’s the first heatwave of 2018 here in Central Massachusetts, and our first in this house. Let’s just say it’s been, um, a tad uncomfortable. Our regular window-unit air conditioners we brought from our old house don’t fit in any of the windows here (which are awning-style casements) and the existing wall-unit ACs in the master bedroom and family room are ancient and don’t appear to work. There is also a whole-house fan (I had something similar growing up, anyone else?!), but it doesn’t seem to do much except make loud rattling noises that scare the shit out of the cats. While the roof overhang and high windows protect us from the sun beating down, there just isn’t any cross-ventilation and everything feels stuffy. The large surface area of the roof is also probably acting as some sort of heat-sink as well, making matters worse. I can put up with the 95-degree days until it’s time for bed and then I am just downright cranky. Poor Veronica’s room, which is at the back of the house, was nearly 90 degrees even after 10 p.m. on Sunday. We’re going to have to fix that situation very soon in order to get some decent sleep this summer. We’re mulling over a few options right now, and trying to figure out the best solution in terms of costs and efficiency. Stay tuned for that riveting post!

On a more exciting note: we watched paint dry! Heh. But seriously, the house painting is finally DONE and it looks amazing. It’s been a long slog to get this project complete, due to weather, our surprise gas line replacement, and a few scheduling issues. I’ll give you a little overview of the process, in case you’ve got a house that needs a complete exterior overhaul. Here are some lovely Before photos for comparison:

BEFORE

When the painting contractor first walked the property with us, he noted that the house probably hadn’t been painted in about 25 years. He found the shingles to be in ok-shape, and mostly just needed a good scrub and fresh paint except for some spot repairs where woodpeckers had spent several joyful years going to town on the side of the house. On the soffits (the flat panels that join the line of the roof to the walls of the house) however, the paint was coming off in sheets. This was most likely due to past water damage. We haven’t had any new leaks since the chimney was repointed and gutters were installed--knock on wood it stays that way. But nonetheless, the soffits needed to be repaired, scraped, and sealed to get them back up to snuff. There were large, overgrown shrubs at the front and north side of the house, which we removed, and in the process revealed lots of mildew and dirt. As Ronnie would say: YUCK.

Our painter did the following:

  1. Power-washed the entire house. This removed the mildew, caked-on-dirt, and loose paint. The house looked 50 times better just with this step!
  2. Next, he went back and scraped the house to go over any spots the power-washing didn’t get, such as window and door frames. He caulked and sealed around the windows and doors. 
  3. Finally: time for paint! He applied one coat of primer to the whole house. He used a brush on the windows and door frames and a sprayer for the shingles and soffits. 
  4. He applied one top coat to the house and trim, again using a brush and sprayer combo.
  5. Scraped and painted the front doors.

This amounted to about 6 days of work for one person, and I’d say almost half of that time was just on the scraping and prep. 

Paint Details:
House - Benjamin Moore White Diamond (Low Lustre)
Front Doors - Benjamin Moore Teal Tone (Semi-Gloss)

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So check it out! I plan to take some better photos with my real camera, when I'm a) home during the day and b) not chasing after a toddler, but you get the idea:

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We kept the same color combination--white house and aqua doors--and we love it! It really goes together well with the house’s style and feels classic and bold at the same time. Our painting contractor did a great job, and said we should be good for 8-10 years before needing to re-paint. We plan to do that ourselves, but really wanted a professional to do it this time to make sure everything was repaired and scraped and the paint was applied well. It’s a fresh start for this li’l ranch!

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With the house looking so fresh, the exterior lights looked even more crappy:

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These babies are original to the house, we believe, and are a cool Spanish Revival style, with amber glass and painted black metal details that emulate wrought iron. Like most of the house, they were in great condition underneath years of caked-on dirt and cobwebs. If anyone knows who the manufacturer might be, let me know! I looked on the back of the fixtures and didn’t see a stamp or label. Bringing them back to life was really easy, actually. It’s always nice to have a project like that, when there’s a million and one other things that are difficult and take ten times longer than you thought they would. 

Here’s what we did:

  1. First, we did a gentle dry scrub with a wire brush to remove any loose paint and dirt. 
  2. While Frank was doing that, I washed the glass globes with warm water, dish soap and a soft-bristled brush and then let air dry. I was hesitant to run them through the dishwasher, in case they broke.
  3. Next, we applied this metal primer to each fixture and let them dry.
  4. Once the primer was dry, we applied two coats of this spray paint. It’s not a flat black spray paint, but rather a very dark “metal look” paint. It has tiny flecks of gold and copper that give the paint a nice depth and looks pretty close to wrought iron.
  5. Finally, we replaced the bulbs with edison-style LEDs

After everything dried, we put them back together and hung them back up in their original spots. Easy-peasy! The whole thing probably took a couple of hours and most of that time was just waiting for the fixtures to dry in between coats.

Here's a close-up of the finished product:

So that’s the news from here. Tomorrow is the holiday, so I plan to sit outside and admire the house some more, while enjoying some All-American noms and drinks. Hope you have a great 4th of July!
 

Landscaping Plans + New Gas Line

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Now that the One Room Challenge is over, we’ve taken some time to chill and relax, and enjoy the nice weather we’ve been waiting all winter for.  The big hubbub around here is that Ronnie got a tricycle! Breaking news for sure. After seeing the older girls (there are four or five elementary school-aged girls who scoot and bike around our block) with their wheels, she’s been practicing with her new trike non-stop.  Ask her what she’s up for and you’ll inevitably get: “I wanna go outside; ride my trike!” and so we head outside, rain or shine, and she rides around, alternating between frustration and laughter when she gets the hang of it and pedals for a good long stretch across the cul de sac. 

Speaking of cul-de-sacs, I never really understood the point of them until now, but I’m 100-percent on board with it.  At our old house, cars would fly up and down the block, oblivious to the world (and pedestrians) outside. It’s so much more relaxing to watch her play here, instead of having to constantly be on the look-out for speeding cars.

Being able to spend lots more time outside has really driven home the point that our house’s exterior is currently shite, however. The peeling paint, woodpecker damage, and a group of giant, overgrown shrubs really give the house that creepy, haunted feel that’s all the rage right now, heh. But we’ve decided to go in a different direction--less like the house where Edward Scissorhands lived before Dianne Wiest came to sell him Avon, and more bright and fresh with new plantings that bring in some color. Below is a photo from the real estate listing (apologies for the small, grainy photo), and you can really see how overgrown everything is:

BEFORE

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AFTER SHRUB REMOVAL

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MUCH better, right? Well, before we could get too excited about our fresh start, we had to undertake an unexpected upgrade: a new gas service line! It all started when Frank was preparing to pull out the root balls of those giant shrubs, and he gave Dig Safe a call to come and mark out where the natural gas pipe was located. The roots were deep and tangled, and pulling them out required a fair amount of digging and pulling with chains and a pick-up truck. Dig Safe showed up, and their handheld meter showed immediately that something was off. They called Eversource, and long story short, there was a small, but noticeable leak near where the pipe from our house meets the gas main under the street. Within 5 hours, the original gas line--installed in 1965--was replaced! While I’m psyched that we have a new, efficient, SAFE gas service line to the house, I’m not super-psyched with the huge gas meter that is now right next to our front door:

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Lovely, isn't it?! Once the gas meter was installed, however we proceeded with more root-pulling:

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However: this new gas meter is really cramping my style. What to do, what to do…

I did some googling and found several ideas. Thankfully, our house’s MCM style lends itself to some cool opportunities to both display house numbers and provide a little screening for eyesores like gas meters and water spigots. Here's one I like from Etsy:

Obviously, Eversource will need access to the meter, so we can’t enclose it completely, but we can screen it so it’s not too noticeable until you’re up close. I also like how these little structures can be part of the exterior design concept, adding function and a little something interesting to look at.

For the rest of the landscaping, our plans aren’t finalized, but we do we have an overall idea of what we want. Here is the existing and proposed front elevation:

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Starting from left to right, we plan to add a large flowering bush, most likely a hydrangea or lilac in front of the chimney. In front of that shrub will sit a mix of smaller arborvitae (I like juniper best!) and perennials such as tulips. I'm leaning towards bright, orangey and pink shades to complement the aqua front doors.

Surrounding the front door will be a mix of (existing) hostas and day lilies, and some small shrubs to frame the steps and entryway. To the right of the door will be the gas meter screen, which will be made out of stained wood planks and will display our house number. We'll put a small rose bush there too and some small, low plantings around the wooden screen, as well as an uplight so that the address can be read at night.

That large space between the banks of windows to the right of the front door is begging for a small, flowering tree! I don't want anything too high--I'm thinking 12-15' at the most--here to  dwarf the house, however I feel like the long, horizontal plane of the roof needs to be visually broken up a bit and I think a perky little tree would be a great way to do it. I'd like to mirror the mix of arborvitae in front of the chimney on this side of the house as well, bringing it all together in a neat, simple design:

This week (if it ever stops raining, ugh), the painting crew is coming and we'll get this place looking fresh and good as new! Then we can really get going with our landscaping plans in earnest. Until then, I'd love to hear your Zone 5 landscaping ideas and what's worked for you, what hasn't. Happy Tuesday!

One Room Challenge Week 6: THE REVEAL!

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Whew! It’s been quite the six weeks, but I am excited to finally share our living and dining room!  I am also excited to have my life back, haha. Transforming a space in six weeks was pretty intense, but I’m so glad I did the One Room Challenge and now I have a living and dining room that I love. It feels wonderful to have this one space that feels finished and inviting in a house with a million and one other things to fix and update.

If you’ve just found me through the One Room Challenge, I’m Mara Inangelo. In October 2017, my husband Frank and I bought a 1966 time-capsule ranch in Worcester, Massachusetts and we’re restoring and renovating it, bit by bit. Welcome, and I hope you enjoy my blog! You can read more about me here or contact me here.

Let's take a trip down memory lane for a minute and check out what it looked like BEFORE:

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The forest green carpet, the dingy curtains, the tiny furniture, and that sad little wall clock!

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I count 7 down lights in the photo above! There were at least 12, and all incandescent, with a confusing jumble of dimmers and switches throughout the room. 

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There was a hutch against that wall at some point...can't tell you how I know that, just a feeling...

And now for the AFTER:

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SO MUCH BETTER, AM I RIGHT OR AM I RIGHT? What do you think? Would you want to chill here and have a cocktail? Or maybe relax with a pop-up book while you sip on a juice box?

If you saw my previous posts, I explained my goal of creating a serene and inviting room where we could relax, but also serve as our entertaining space and be the social hub of our home. Visually, I didn’t want a lot of clutter that would interfere with the breezy vibe I was going for. I felt that it needed to be interesting and pretty, but not too precious, if that makes any sense. As the house was built in 1966, I wanted to incorporate Mid-Century Modern elements, as well as some Hollywood Regency (both post-World War II styles that I love), pared down with some inviting textures and warm, richly stained wood.

By the way, the room is actually pretty kid-friendly! Natural cotton rugs with a stain-hiding pattern, sturdy side tables (I actually caught Ronnie coloring with a purple crayon on the formica-topped one already, but thankfully it was easy to clean with a sponge and Bar Keeper’s friend), and nothing too easily breakable. Even the rattan accent chairs stand up to her yogurt-fingers!

Let’s get started with the details, shall we? Scroll down the end of the post for all the sources!

PAINT + COLOR PALETTE

My first instinct was to keep the room white, but remove the grasscloth wallpaper and give it a fresh coat of paint. After more thought, though, I felt like it needed some color to keep it from feeling sterile. It’s a big space (the living room is 14' x 22', and the dining room is 9' x 12'ish), and I worried white would make the room feel cavernous or I’d have to compensate with lots and lots of knick-knacks and other decorative pieces to bring in some color and personality. As the front doors are are bold aqua, I decided to play off that by using a similar color, albeit much lighter and more muted. I settled on Ice Rink by Behr, which is a pale blueish green. In this space, it actually looks much closer to blue than green. The moldings and ceiling got a new coat of bright white.  I went with orangey-pinks and blues to complement the walls, as well as rich, warm browns and khakis and some warm- and cool-toned metallics.

FURNITURE

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Let’s start with this sectional we bought last fall, before we had any idea what we planned to do with the living room. We bought it because it’s extremely comfortable, made in the USA, and really, really, really good looking (Derek Zoolander voice). I like its clean lines and the linen fabric. Plus, the orange ottoman and throw pillows make it feel special. The speaker on the 1950s hi-fi (which Frank’s grandparents bought when his Mom was a teenager!) has a nice woven texture with little flecks of gold thread and I knew I wanted to play off that pattern in other elements of the space. But how? I love rattan and wicker (it’s also kid-friendly) and after a few days of ruminating on it, I remembered our two Ikea accent chairs collecting dust in the basement! They used to be on our sun porch at the old house. I think they are perfect for the space--complementing the hi-fi and sectional, yet easily moved around the room depending on the day or occasion. The two pink armchairs are from West Elm, and create an additional seating area that's more intimate, but still has sight lines to the sectional and accent chairs. The silver side table is also from West Elm, and the other side table is vintage, a $50 Brimfield find from a few years ago.

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In the dining area, we bought a new table and sideboard that fit nicely in the space, both in terms of size and style.

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LIGHTING

The lighting is pretty simple! I wanted to keep the smooth horizontal plane of the ceiling to enhance the feeling of an open, expansive room without any light fixtures hanging down. We removed a few extraneous down lights, and swapped out the remaining ones for new LED fixtures. We also incorporated a Mid-Century table lamp with a cylindrical, pink and aqua shade we've had for years. But, the real showpiece of the room is this crystal chandelier over the dining table that came with the house! Man, I love it:

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WINDOW TREATMENTS

The window treatments are sheer drapes that span the entire length of the room. They are pleated at the top, and all those extra folds give them a luxurious look, don't you think? They were already here when we bought the house, and we just washed 50+ years of dust off them (it was gross). I think they give the space a dramatic look and when they are closed, they bathe the room in a warm, diffused light that is really lovely. Yay for using what's already there!

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ART & STYLING

Rounding up the back--artwork! I knew I wanted a gallery wall above the vintage hi-fi and sectional and I wanted a large piece for the dining room area. Other than that, I wanted to incorporate a lot of pieces we already owned and/or were special to us in some way.

This bullseye mirror used to sit in our foyer at the old place, but I don’t think anyone ever noticed it, judging by the fact that a few people have asked me if it’s new! Now it’s front and center and I really feel like it brings some depth and interest to the gallery wall. It also picks up the details of the chandelier over the dining table. It's from Crompton Collective

I’ve had the Jackie O New York magazine cover for years, and the framed letter is from JFK to Frank’s grandfather in 1951, thanking him for being a gracious host to the then-Congressman’s personal secretary, who had visited Worcester earlier that year. Jack and Jackie, together again, at least on our living room wall!

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The other photos and art pieces are things we’ve collected over the years, picked up in thrift shops or received as gifts. We brought them together visually with matching frames from Ikea.

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I bought two boldly-colored abstract canvas prints over at Society6 and this large print of the Hollywood Sign from Jenny’s Print Shop. I love how it’s the back of the sign, instead of the front. It’s easily recognizable, but at a different angle that I find interesting.

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In the dining room, the wicker mirror is from Target (though no longer for sale, booo), and the candle-sconces are vintage, from Crompton Collective as well.

SOURCES

  1. PAINT - Ice Rink, by Behr
  2. SECTIONAL, ORANGE THROW PILLOWS + OTTOMAN* - Audrina, by Klaussner
  3. RUGS - Burbank Faded Denim Stripes Rug, RugsUSA
  4. RATTAN ACCENT CHAIRS - Agen, by IKEA
  5. BLUE AND CORAL THROW,  Opal House, Target
  6. MARTINI SIDE TABLE, Silver, West Elm
  7. DINING ROOM TABLE*, Carolina Preserves
  8. DINING ROOM SIDE BOARD, Carolina Preserves
  9. ABSTRACT CANVAS PRINTS, Society6 here and here
  10. HOLLYWOOD PRINT, Jenny's Print Shop
  11. PICTURE FRAMES, Ribba, by Ikea (assorted sizes)
  12. PINK EARTHENWARE VASE, Project 62, Target

VINTAGE PIECES: Hi-Fidelity Stereo and Record Player, Bullseye "Federalist Style" Mirror, Dining Room Wall Sconces, Two-Tier Formica Side Table in Living Room, Art and Decorative Items

*I couldn't find these for sale online, but we found ours at a local furniture store.

So, that’s it--I’d love to hear what you think, and let me know if you have any questions!

CHEERS

I’d like to give a few shout-outs: first, to Joe Gonzalez-Dufresne for the beautiful photos that really tell the story of this room and to all of you reading this blog--my family and friends--who have been following along with the positive vibes and encouragement! Thanks to Linda Weinstein for organizing the One Room Challenge, and House Beautiful for being a media partner. And to all the featured designers and my fellow guest participants, I am so inspired by everything you’ve created. I’m already thinking about the Fall ORC (don’t tell Frank)!

Speaking of Frank, he deserves the biggest thanks of them all for putting up with my shenanigans and helping to execute my vision with his hard work and attention to detail. The room looks incredible because of him. Coincidentally, today is also our 4th wedding anniversary, so I’d like to send gratitude and love to him for being the best partner I could ever ask for. Here's to many more years, and many more DIY projects (heh) together. Love you, Frank!

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THANKS AGAIN, EVERYONE!

One Room Challenge Week 5: Get ‘er Done!

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So I’m a day late and a dollar short with this week’s post, but a lot has been happening behind the scenes! I’m literally typing this from my phone as we take some photos of the space, haha. I’ve spent the week taking inventory of my own art work and decorative pieces, and also bought a few small things to add color and depth to the room. 

Some highlights from our collection: an antique camera, our tiki mugs, and a framed letter from JFK to Frank’s grandfather from 1951. Its always tough to find that balance between keeping things pulled together with a consistent color palette and style while giving the space personality and not feel like an uptight furniture store display or something. 

We spent last Sunday hanging artwork, which turned out to be quite tricky with the angled walls! The house is shaped like a boomerang, and comes to a point where the living and dining areas meet with a 30-degree angle. Making things look symmetrical took a lot of MATH, which is not typically my forte but I did remember a few important points from high school gemometry and I think it came together nicely, tee hee.  

Next week is the Big Reveal and I’m excited to share all the work we’ve put into it! Check out my insta, where I’ll be sharing some sneak peeks this week. Have a great weekend! 

One Room Challenge Week 4: Artwork and Styling!

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It’s Week 4 and I’m definitely feeling better about how the space is coming together! Now is the fun part where I get to style the room and bring in the personal touches that will really make it ours. The rugs arrived, and the chairs are on their way. In addition, I’ve ordered some dandy artwork to go with the pieces we already own. Frank and Veronica made an IKEA run for more frames and somehow also came home with a kid-sized armchair and two bags of Swedish meatballs. Toddler priorities! Could have been worse. 

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As I mentioned in the home tour post, the architectural style of our home is a bit eclectic. The house has midcentury modern elements (the floor-to-ceiling  windows, the simple moldings and casework, the open floor plan), Spanish/Mediterranean influence (the masonry work, the wrought iron railings), and even baroque-inspired pieces (the crystal chandelier over the dining table). This gives me lots of room to be creative and bring in a few different styles. However, the challenge will be to keep it visually fresh and pulled-together and not have it feel like a flea market. 

I’m going for dreamy and serene overall, but in terms of style I’ll be doing a little bit mid-mod, a little bit classic, and a little bit tiki (imagine Donnie and Marie singing it)! Wait, you’re thinking: what did you just say about feeling fresh and pulled together? I know, I KNOW. That sounds like a lot of stuff going on. But I have plan! And that plan involves the following:

  1. A consistent color palette. I’m using blue, green, and warm neutrals (cream, tan, brown) coupled with pops of pink and orange. Using metallics and textures consistently as well.
  2. Right-sized furniture. Our furniture isn’t a set, so in order to make it feel like each piece belongs together, I’ve chosen items with similar proportions and *here is the most important part* nearly identical seat heights. This goes a long way towards making the room feel intentional, and not just a weird collection of craigslist finds. 

Our sectional and chairs have the clean, simple mid-century modern lines I love. I’m doing two gallery walls above the sectional, with a mix of photos, abstracts, and decorative pieces all within the color palette. The vintage hi-fi has a mid-mod design with a textured speaker cover that will play well off our rattan accent chairs and a wicker mirror I bought a few years ago at Target. I’m going to display our tiki mug collection, which will add some sculptural shapes and color to the dining room. I’m thinking my bullseye mirror, which used to hang in the foyer of our old house, would be a fun element to showcase on one of the gallery walls and complement the details on the chandelier. Here are some highlights of what I'm using, if you're interested in sources:

Rattan Circle Mirror, TARGET (2016) // Pink Sky Canvas Print, SOCIETY6 //  Spring Landscape, SOCIETY6 //  Hollywood Sign Photograph, JENNY'S PRINT SHOP // Antique Bullseye Mirror, CROMPTON COLLECTIVE // Ribba Frames, IKEA

Next week, we'll be finishing up the details. I'll be sharing some snaps in Instagram, so check it out there! 

One Room Challenge Week 3: Finalizing the Room Layout + Hanging in There

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So it’s Week 3 of the One Room Challenge, and I’m feeling a little stressed and hoping I can pull this all together by Week 6! The troops over here are suffering from decision fatigue and low morale due to a hectic couple of weeks at work and at home, many back-ordered items, and lack of sleep thanks to some dodgy off-brand sleep diapers. Intrigued, are you? I thought so!

Although I'm on the Freak Out Train currently, I HAVE made progress on the room lay out! See my quick Sketchup model above. My goal is to create two distinct seating areas that can be easily combined into one when the need arises. Seating Area 1 will have two arm chairs and a small table. There’s a clear line of sight straight from the front doors and the foyer into the living room here, and I want to create a nice vignette as you enter the house: two cozy and inviting chairs with a view out to the backyard beyond. Seating Area 2 is for the sectional and matching ottoman, and will have two smaller accent chairs that can be moved around the room, or moved out completely for dance parties, playing ice cream truck, playing taco truck, or playing hamburger truck (we’re heavy into food truck cosplay at the moment). It’s all about creating a couple of smaller, intimate seating areas within the larger space. I want to retain the open, expansive feel of the room while creating a couple of areas that feel more snug. A space within a space, if you will. 

So, back to my neurotic ramblings: we thought we were ahead of the game last week: we had scraped the wallpaper off, patched and painted the walls, and updated the electrical outlets and switches and installed new down lights. I went to order two chairs I had selected (for Seating Area 1), and saw that they were on back order. Grrrr. My second choices were also out of stock. Ugh emojis all around. So I was back to square one, and starting to panic. I was looking for two armchairs that would:

  1. Complement our new sectional in terms of style, color, and scale
  2. Not cost an arm and a leg

Apparently that's a tall order. After a solid week of scouring the interwebs, however, I did end up finding a couple of gems! 

My other big struggle, while we’re on the subject of First World Problems, has been finding a rug to fit nicely in this room. While the space is big (14’ wide by 24’ long), its proportions are a bit unusual. Most standard rugs are 9’ x 12’, 10’ x 14’ or 8’ x 10’--all sizes that would look downright puny in the room on their own. I’m starting to understand why the former owners covered the hardwood floors with wall-to-wall--they probably got tired of rug shopping!

After sketching out the room and trying all different shapes and sizes, I finally decided to go with two smaller 5’ x 8’ rugs and one large 10’ x 14’ rug of the same style. The patterns will be oriented in the same direction to give the sense, visually, that they are one element. I'm hoping this works. I never know how it will truly work out until it’s in the room, but since they have free shipping and returns, I’m giving it a go! Here there are:

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I will probably need covers to keep the chairs from getting destroyed by cats and toddlers, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. Any tips would be appreciated in the meantime!

As for the diapers in question, when they were out of our regular brand at the store last week, we bought the generics, thinking, hey, what’s the worst that could happen?! The worst that could happen was four straight days of night-waking, a lot of Curious George at 3 a.m. and all of us feeling like zombies during the day. We finally put two and two together and realized it was the cheap diapers making us miserable. I love an easy fix--and that was probably the easiest fix I've encountered as a parent so far. Now we are sleeping through the night, thankfully.

I'm feeling better even as I write this--I'm ready for Week 4 and finishing up the room with artwork and styling! ONWARD! 
 

One Room Challenge Week 2: Scraping Wallpaper + Prepping Walls + We've Got Paint!

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Week 2 of the One Room Challenge! During Week 1, I shared some BEFORE photos as well as my plans for the space. This week we’ve been getting the room prepped and ready for its transformation. This involved removing the existing grasscloth wallpaper (which had been painted over), repairing some small holes and cracks in the walls and ceiling, and updating the electrical fixtures, outlets and switches. So, it doesn’t look super exciting yet, but believe me, it feels 1000x fresher up in here!

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We pulled up the green carpet soon after moving in about six months ago. At the open house, the seller’s agent had mentioned there were hardwoods under the wall-to-wall and she wasn’t lying!

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When I was trying to decide on a color for the living room, my mind initially went towards keeping it white. Even though the room was tired-looking, I felt the white walls and ceiling made it feel airy and expansive. However, the more I thought about it, I felt that it needed some color. I fell in love with this very pale blue-green, called Ice Rink, by Behr. The color plays well off the kitchen backsplash tile, as well as the house’s other aqua elements (the front doors, the sinks) but in a lighter, more muted way. It will provide the perfect backdrop for pops of coral, pink, royal blue, and yellow!

Oh, and we bought a sectional! Actually, we bought it a few months ago, in desperate need of something for guests to sit on during the holidays. It's wonderfully comfortable and looks great; I highly recommend Klaussner if you're looking for good quality furniture that's in the mid-range in terms of price. We got a great deal on it during a Black Friday sale. It also happens to be Josie's favorite chill spot. She clocks at least 4 hours per day on this sofa, so you know it's comfortable.

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Sully prefers the ottoman:

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We also removed the old 1967 dimmer switches and outlets and replaced them with safe, tamper-proof ones. Still cool to see the manufacture date and that it was made in the U.S.A.!

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So here's a recap of what we've* completed so far:

  1. Removed 3 extra down lights, patched ceiling
  2. Replaced remaining down lights with LED fixtures (our electric bill went down $60 after replacing these, and a few others in the house!)
  3. Repaired and Painted Ceiling
  4. Removed existing wall-to-wall carpet
  5. Removed painted over wallpaper, patched walls
  6. Painted Walls
  7. Replaced existing light switches and outlets

* Frank

And here is a sneak peek of what the room is starting to look like! Don't mind the anti-scratch tape on the sofa, the cats decided, after never really scratching at furniture before, to really go for it in 2018. You have to respect them for sticking with their New Year's Resolution. 

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That's all for now...next week I'll be finalizing the furniture layout. I've got a few decisions still to make and I'll explain what makes selecting furniture for this room tricky!

One Room Challenge Week 1: Plans For A Dreamy Midcentury Modern Living and Dining Room

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As I mentioned last week, I’ve decided to join in the fun over at the One Room Challenge this spring, with the goal of transforming a space in 6 short weeks. I've chosen our living/dining room, as that's the largest space in the house and the place where we hang out and entertain guests. I'd like to have at least one room that's up to snuff for the summer. For my own house (i.e. without the external deadline of a client or work project), I’m TERRIBLE at finishing spaces. I’m great at getting started--with colors, the overall look and feel, and statement pieces like a new sofa, but when it comes to finishing it up with artwork, styling, and that final polish, I agonize about finding the “perfect” pieces and before I know it, it’s been a year and my walls are still mostly bare. I think the ORC will be a great way to get inspired, as well as hold me accountable and help get ‘er done so we’ll have a nice living and entertaining space heading into the warm months.

Here’s My Plan:

  1. Remove the carpet and painted-over grasscloth wallpaper

  2. Repair the plaster cracks in the ceiling and remove extra down lights

  3. Replace existing down lights with efficient LED fixtures

  4. Re-wire the light fixtures, switches, and outlets and add new (safe) covers

  5. Paint ceiling, walls and trim

  6. Add new seating, an area rug, light fixtures, and storage

  7. Style the space with artwork, accessories, and decorative pieces

Easy, right?! I’m sure I’ll be working right down the wire, but what’s the old saying? If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done. I’ll be posting my progress each Thursday, so be sure to check back here to see how it's coming along! 

So here is the room as it looked just after we moved in. It's a sunken living room on one side, and on the other side is the dining area, which is two steps up. It's a pretty great space for dance parties with a toddler, family dinners, and cat naps in the sun (whether you are human or feline).

BEFORE

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We threw that area rug over the green one so I could have a level of comfort allowing Ronnie to play without getting 50 years of carpet cooties. And our furniture looks like it came from a doll house! The scale is way off due to this room being about 2.5 times the size of our old living room.

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It’s got lots of potential, but the green carpet? The grasscloth wallpaper they painted over (with haste, I might add)? The cigar-stained ceiling? The multiple incandescent down lights that easily added fifty dollars to the electric bill each month? Just--no.

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The former owner had a giant hutch in the dining room, and apparently they just painted AROUND it! Haha. I hope he didn't pay full price. 

I think the layout will be the biggest challenge for this space. The previous inhabitants had a lot of furniture (a sectional, a sofa, multiple accent chairs, tables….) and the space still felt big. It’s about 22 feet long by 14 feet wide, so I’m going to be playing around with a few different furniture plans, with the goal of keeping the room feeling airy and spacious, but not empty. I’ll also need to go with larger pieces that feel appropriate for the scale of the room. I'll be working to make the room feel cozier and not too big or cavernous. In my past homes and apartments, I've had the opposite problem--constantly trying to pare down and make the space feel bigger and not claustrophobic. 

So here’s what I’m thinking: a serene, ethereal space with lots of blue, pink, and gold. I'd like it to feel like a happy afternoon daydream! I'm still working out some sources and details, but here's what I've got so far in terms of inspiration:

My homework for the weekend is to nail down a furniture layout and finalize a budget. Frank is going to be finishing up the lights, patching/repairs, and paint. Whoo, let's do this!

 



 

Our $979 Downstairs Bath Renovation

Last year, I shared some “Before” photos of the downstairs bath at our old house. It was a room we didn’t really think about until a guest would ask to use it and then I would cringe a little. Stained baby blue and pink linoleum (the previous owners kept their dogs in there during the day), a crusty old oversized sink and vanity, and weird frilly-looking light fixtures. The faucet was a big pet peeve of mine--it was one of those cheap, 1980s styles with the knobs so close together your fingers would get stuck trying to turn the water on or off. That being said, this little ¾ bath did its job, providing a shower, sink and toilet on main floor of the house. If you've lived in an older house (ours was built in the 1920s), you know how tough it is squeezing an extra bathroom into the house! I don’t think anyone would complain about an extra bathroom, no matter how ugly.

Before we got on the house-hunting train last summer, we had started our bathroom project, choosing paint colors and sourcing some fixtures, but we weren’t in any rush to finish it and were actually planning to get it done in the fall after the nice weather was gone. When we decided to sell, we had to hop to it, and finish the job! We also had to really prune the budget, especially when it came to things like art work, hardware, accessories, decor, and a back splash I had wanted to add. Despite the fast-track schedule and pared-down budget, it came out nicely, and, I believe, was one factor in selling our house quickly!

Things were so hectic, I didn't even get a chance to take photos of it after it was done! So the one below is from our real estate agent, who was taking photos for the listing:

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And, as a reminder of how yucky it was before:

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We kept the toilet and shower stall, as well as the existing light fixture over the vanity, the mirror, towel rack, and towel bar. We replaced the floor tile and purchased a new vanity/sink combination that was actually on sale for Memorial Day weekend. We also gave the ceiling, walls, and radiator a fresh coat of paint. For the lights, we found new shades that fit into the existing fixture, but were a simpler design. We did the work for less than $1,000! Below is a rough breakdown:

  1. New paint, about $40

  2. New exhaust fan/light, $89

  3. New vanity cabinet, top & faucet, about $500 all together (Saved about $250 due to a Memorial Day sale + coupons at Lowe’s)

  4. New tile floor, $320

  5. New toilet seat, $30

Total: $979!...and probably $100 or so in supplies like paint brushes, grout, etc. Ok, so a little more than $1,000, but still nothing to sneeze at.

Keeping most of what was there, and dedicating the biggest portion of our money to the new floor and vanity helped keep our budget in check, while really giving it the look and feel a completely new bathroom. What do you think? Did this help sell our house? Would you complete a renovation like this before putting your house on the market?

Fixer-Upper Friday: Replacing the Electrical Panel, Shoring Up the Basement, and Making the House Safe to Move In

This week I’ve spent considerable time on fun stuff--working on a cohesive color scheme for the house, poring over the internet and shelter mags for inspiration, researching products and sources, and generally having fun with the process of making this place ours. We’re going to start with our living/dining room, and I’ve decided to join in the fun over at the One Room Challenge, an online event where designers and bloggers are challenged to transform a room in 6 short weeks, chronicling the progress via instagram and a weekly blog post. There are so many great spaces, in all styles and budgets, so if you’re looking to fluff your feed with some eye candy, give them a follow! It starts next week, and I’ll be sharing our plans for the living/dining room then.

But enough about fun stuff for a minute! Today I wanted to discuss a few less sexy, but vitally important tasks we undertook upon moving in last October, that were fairly large investments, and the reason we haven’t done much in the way of cosmetic upgrades until now. If you’re considering buying a house that needs work, this post will hopefully give you some solid information about the process. 

Last week, when I wrote about our home buying experience, I mentioned that there were several times we thought the whole deal was going to fall through. This had mostly to do with getting approved for a mortgage and finding an insurance company willing to cover us. Luckily, we had an experienced mortgage broker and we were longtime home and auto customers of our insurance company, Amica, and after much hemming and hawing and hand-ringing, they finally approved us under the condition that we do repairs immediately upon moving in.

From most of the pictures I've shared so far, she doesn't look that bad. But believe me, she's in rough shape:

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As an aside, when we were first shopping for mortgages, we looked into the FHA’s 203k program, which is specifically for properties that need rehabilitation and renovations to bring them up to code. In this type of loan, the costs to fix up the property are rolled into the mortgage. The idea is to help someone buy a distressed property and renovate it, therefore helping the homeowner and by extension, the whole neighborhood. It’s a fairly complicated process; you need to find a mortgage broker participating in the program (there was only one in our area) and an approved contractor to do the work (also hard to find). The one bank I did talk to said we didn’t qualify because our “pay stubs don’t match our tax returns”, even after I explained that was because part of Frank’s income is in the form of tips. Our income was accounted for, it was just in two different boxes on the form but apparently that was too much work for them. Long story short, it was a dead end.

I knew the house wasn’t a horror show, but there were a few things that definitely needed to be taken care of first for me to feel safe with a toddler and two mischievous cats living there. Our mortgage broker, Steve, whom Frank had worked with before on our old house, had an idea. He asked us if the house was “habitable.” In Massachusetts, that essentially means the house has working plumbing, water, and no structural issues, insect infestations, etc. It’s a fairly low bar, actually, haha. The house was also on city water and sewer, so we didn’t have to worry about Title V, which regulates septic tanks and basically states that a property isn’t habitable if there are any issues with the septic system.

We told him, yes, the house met the definition of habitable. He suggested we apply for a standard (non-FHA) mortgage, and do a minimum 3% down payment. Not ideal, who wants a bigger mortgage payment? But this would allow us to buy the property “as is”, and also free up cash to handle a few things right up front so we could move in and not feel like the house could catch on fire or a tree could fall through the roof at the first winter snow. And hopefully allow us to get an insurance policy. As for the income verification, he took the time to ACTUALLY LOOK at our paperwork and could see that we had the money we said we did. Phew!

Next, we had to convince Amica to insure the property. We submitted the home inspection and let them know we had money set aside to replace the electrical panel, take down a tree branch hanging over the roof, and remove the water-damaged wall panels in the basement. Different people kept calling us back every few days to ask the same questions over and over and then say “I have to send this back up to under writing for approval…” After about 3 weeks, we started to panic. What if we couldn’t get insurance?! No insurance = no mortgage = no house. And we were scheduled to close and move out of our old house soon. FINALLY, they approved us, under the condition that we make the repairs and send them proof (photos, building permits, etc.). Phew #2.

So one, two, skip a few to actually moving in! Here are the things we handled straight away:

  1. Ordered new appliances (because #priorities)

  2. Replaced the Federal Pacific electrical panel and upgraded to 200 amp service

  3. Removed a tree branch hanging near the roof*

  4. Sealed the leaks in the basement; removed some water-damaged material

  5. Hired an exterminator

My blood pressure went down about 50 points after our electrician replaced this scary and defective electrical panel!

Before:

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And the After (those scraggly wires on the left are from the old telephone wires, and no longer in use):

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And our lovely basement, the day after we moved in. Happy to report we haven't had water since we sealed the cracks (fingers crossed it stays that way).

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Now that it’s spring, we’re going to focus on repairs to the exterior. This week we had a painting contractor at the house, and once the weather is decent we’re planning to have it power washed, scraped, and repainted. I really can’t wait, she’s going to look fabulous with a fresh coat of paint. Happy Friday!

*As luck would have it, the largest tree branch of concern actually fell onto the roof about 3 weeks before we closed after a storm. The sellers had it removed, fixed some minor damage to the fascia, and sent us the receipt for the repairs. They also had the chimney repointed.

Getting Started: Developing an Overall Color Palette For Our House

As I shared on Monday with some inspo pics, I’d like our house to celebrate its 1960s roots while also *taking it down a notch* and making the place a little less...visually arresting. The 60s were all about straightforward forms (simple moldings, casement windows, single panel doors) coupled with elaborate finishes. Think crazily patterned tiles, color-coordinated plumbing fixtures and appliances, textured wallpaper, faux wood paneling, shag carpet, and formica in every color of the rainbow.  As you can see, they really went for it, bringing a new boldness to home decor that I really appreciate:

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The pink tub and toilet above is what we have in our master bath! (Via Mid-century Midcentury Home Style)

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Remember that crazy awesome house the Dad lived in from the original Parent Trap? Loved that house so much! (Via The Silver Screens Blog)

On the flip-side, all these design elements can end up vying for your attention and it’s a little disorienting. For example, I love the backsplash tile and aqua sink in our kitchen, but be honest, do you even notice them with ALL THE THINGS going on in that room? The floral wallpaper, the dark maple cabinets, the brass hardware, the beige floor tile (which isn’t original, btw)...they all compete with each other and your eyes don’t really know where to look. Not exactly a relaxing reprieve from the chaotic world outside. 

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I want a consistent color palette that plays throughout the house, for a couple of reasons. First, I, like 99% of people, like to mix styles in my personal spaces and items (art work, knick-knacks, furnishings, etc.). A consistent color story that carries from room to room will help ensure the house doesn't get that Sanford & Son vibe with a bunch of stuff thrown together and no unifying elements. Second, our home has a pretty open floor plan and so keeping things simple and consistent in terms of colors will bring in an overall sense of harmony. 

So my goal is to create an updated, refreshed version of the 1960s. What does that mean? I’m thinking soft, serene walls with a mix of bright, poppy colors in the furnishings, fixtures, artwork, and other decor. I love patterns and textures, but I’d like to limit their presence in each room, to keep them special and interesting, instead of assaulting the senses. Since aqua already plays a starring role in this house, I’m taking my cues from the blue/green side of the color wheel and fanning out from there with complementary coral pinks and yellows:

I’ve come up with a few shades to get me started:

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I'll be playing with some shades and tones (lighter and darker versions of these colors), and adding a few more accents, but this is a start. I'm excited!

Home Sweet Home: Style Inspiration

As I mentioned last week in the home tour, our new house is a sprawling (some might say rambling) 1960s ranch, a charmingly weird cross between mid-century modern and Spanish/mediterranean revival, with a few “storybook” details as well. She looks like she was plucked straight out of the San Fernando Valley, but also somehow like she’s always been nestled here in the New England hills.

I love so much of the original work, but I also don’t want to live in a time capsule. Some of the decor is a bit jarring on the brain (the matching wallpaper and drapes in the kitchen, for example), and some of it unfortunately can’t be saved (the linen wallpaper in the guest room). So my goal is to bring in some new pieces that celebrate our style and tastes, and the fact that it’s 2018, while also respecting much of what’s there already.

Since the house has an eclectic style with lots of room to play with color, patterns, and texture. It’s going to be fun! I’ve been busy perusing Instagram, Pinterest, and various shelter mags and websites, coming up with some ideas and inspiration for the place. Some stuff from the internet I’m loving right now:

That tile! The stone work! That pop of yellow! At the Hotel Tiki Tiki in Tulum

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Below is from a restaurant in NYC  by Gundry Ducker, but COME ON NOW. The two tones of pink? The emerald green velvet seating? The marble table top with flecks of gold? The brass details? I'm in love:

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This fun living room by Alison Damonte is everything. The mix of pastels and brights, the lucite coffee table, those oversized lamps, THAT PORTRAIT OF DOLLY: 

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This simple and updated mid-century modern shower via Atomic Ranch has great tones and the different colors and shapes of the tile work well together:

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Loving this kitchen by the Summerlin Home that mixes cool- and warm- toned neutrals (brown, black, navy, gray) with a PEW! PEW! PEW! of patterned tile. The tile is Kelly Wearstler for Ann Sacks.

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Speaking of my girl Kelly, I love this bedroom with its gold patterned ceiling, those fun lamps, and details on the bed:

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I'm sure I'll have more to add here as I continue to comb through the internet, but I'm excited to get the ball rolling. We've already started work on the family room and painted the foyer a bright, fresh white and I'll be sharing that progress soon!

Our Home Buying Experience: Triumph Over the House Flippers

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Last July, we were finishing up some projects at our old house, getting things ready to sell in the fall. We had already met with our real estate agent, Brian, and had an idea of what our home would sell for, got a pre-approval for a mortgage, and were casually looking at real estate online.

Every day, I’d scroll through the Redfin app, seeing what was new in a few of the neighborhoods we were considering. As the real estate market was “hot” last summer, it was a little discouraging. First, houses were selling in a matter of days. I’d tag a house as a favorite and within 24 hours it would disappear from the list, already under agreement. Almost everything in our budget and preferred location was either the same size, or smaller than our current house. Not necessarily a bad thing, but we were looking for a little more space and hopefully a garage. Aesthetically, we wanted a house with some character, although we weren’t tied to a particular style.

We also considered designing and building a house, although finding land that was affordable and not in the middle of nowhere was a problem. Ultimately, we really like being in a neighborhood suited for walking and easy trips to the store, restaurants, daycare, and work.

One afternoon I got my usual email update from Redfin and decided to do a quick scroll while I waited for a meeting to start. More houses just like our current home, but smaller and needing a new roof and also $20,000 over our budget. Blech.

Scrolling down, I came across a ranch. Hmm, that’s pretty cool, I thought. I swiped through the photos. Ok, that’s VERY COOL. I googled the address and saw that it was in a great location--tucked away in a cul-de-sac on a quiet street but still close to restaurants, shops, parks, and the art museum. It was also less than a mile from one of the city’s best elementary schools. And priced about $50,000 below similar houses in the neighborhood. My first thought: something must be very wrong with this house! I had visions of squirrel-infestations, mold, and giant holes in the roof. Despite my ingrained Yankee skepticism, I added the house as a favorite and it turns out, so did Frank (it was actually the only house out of dozens that we both tagged as a favorite). We decided to at least go and have a look at the open house scheduled for the following Saturday.

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When we pulled up to the house, the place was busy. There were some older folks who were clearly interested in single-level ranch living, some nosy neighbor types, a few youngish couples like us, and about a million house flippers (approximate). They had their tape measures out as they pointed to which walls they were going to rip out to give the house more of an “open concept” (the house already has plenty of open space) and two of them kept referring over and over to the kitchen as a “total gut." It was all the typical stuff you hear on TV: open concept, insert a beam, yadda yadda yadda.

As they trampled through the space, shouting to each other, and rapping their knuckles along the walls to see which were load-bearing, I felt oddly protective of the place being invaded by all of these loud-talking people who didn’t notice or appreciate any of its features. Don’t get me wrong: I think *some* people who buy houses, renovate, and re-sell them do a good job. I think *many* of the people who do it don’t have the skills or experience required and ruin a lot of perfectly good homes in the process.

But the house flippers had a clear advantage over us that day: immediate access to cash. For one, our house wasn’t even on the market. For another, we didn’t have much wiggle-room in our budget. If there were multiple offers, we wouldn’t have been able to compete with those folks, or anyone else who came along ready to buy.

We chatted up the seller’s agent anyway and she let us know that there had been quite a bit of interest in the property and that the sellers would consider offers starting that evening. She also mentioned that a pre-sale home inspection had been done, and that we could review it if we wanted. We got her card and said we would be in touch, and that we were definitely interested in putting in an offer. We left out the little fact that we had our own house to sell first, no big deal, haha.

As we sat in the car looking at the house, we talked about all the work that it needed, how it smelled terrible in the basement and how it would most likely be one of the biggest projects of our lives (notwithstanding the toddler sitting in the back seat). But we also knew it had potential, that someone had designed and built the house with a lot of thought and care, and that it had clearly been loved and taken care of by the people who had lived there for many years.

That night, the agent sent us the home inspection and we were quickly brought down to earth. Long story short, the man who built the house and lived in it for over fifty years, had passed away at the age of 91, and it had been at least a decade since he had done any real maintenance on the place. When you’re 91, you’re not going to buy green bananas, let alone fix the water heater. As a result, this pretty ranch needed more than a facelift. She was in rough shape all around. Cracks in the foundation. Water damage in the basement. Broken windows. Crumbling chimney. An electrical panel that had been recalled in the 1980s and could burn the place down any minute. Fun stuff all around!

Still, we forged ahead. Brian warned us that in the current market, sellers generally weren’t interested in offers that were contingent on financing or selling another property. They simply didn’t have to, as many homes were getting multiple offers and bidding wars were common. Since the ranch had generated so much interest, there was really no incentive for them to entertain our offer. We had Brian reach out to the seller’s agent to test the waters anyway. Would the seller be willing to accept an offer contingent upon us selling our current house? We waited with our fingers crossed. The answer back was a polite “no.”

So we were back to square one, and figured, oh well, that house will probably sell this week and that’s the end of it. Something else would come along when the time was right. We still stuck to our plan of putting our house on the market ASAP, just in case the ranch was meant to be ours.

That week, we busted our humps (mostly Frank did, while I was on Ronnie duty) getting it ready for a listing and open house, which we had planned for the next week. With a deep breath, our house went on the market. We were nervous about selling it, for a few reasons, which I’ll go into later, but mostly the fact that we were on a busy street. It felt like a huge hurdle and we hoped someone would look past it and see how great our little house was. We kept our fingers crossed that week as multiple people came to look. Our open house came and went with quite a bit of interest, but no offers that day. On Monday, an offer came in right at asking, and we accepted! Phew. One hurdle down.

Every couple of days, I would come back to the listing for the ranch. It was still for sale. Hmmm. Three weeks passed, and the price had dropped $10k. Curiouser and curiouser. Two more weeks passed. Still for sale. I suspected that the sellers weren’t interested in just getting a quick cash offer. Or perhaps they needed a decent offer that would pay off debts in order to settle the estate. Whatever the reason, the house wasn’t selling, and it wasn’t for lack of interest.

Meanwhile, we had a lot of homework to do. We needed to figure out, if it came back to that, what we could comfortably offer on the ranch without losing our shirts. While we were still in love with the house, we needed some facts and figures in place to truly decide if putting in an offer on this house would be a good idea. We were sure there had been plenty of low-ball offers already. We needed to come up with an offer that was fair and realized the potential of the home, while facing the reality that it needed a ton of work. We also needed to show them we were serious and had done our due diligence.

I took everything from the pre-sale home inspection and put it into an itemized spreadsheet. An architect I know gave us an Opinion of Cost for the items, which provided an estimate for what it would take to get the house up to current code, as well as ballpark figures for the cosmetic stuff. We also had a structural engineer walk through the house and take a look at the cracks in the foundation. He concluded that the cracks were non-structural, and a result of the house settling slightly. He surmised that the original contractor probably hadn’t done the best job of compacting the earth when the foundation was poured. All that was needed was some epoxy to seal the cracks and prevent water from coming in. Overall, the house was structurally sound. After we walked through, he joked, “I don’t see anything scary here, well, nothing structural.”

That gave us a clear idea about what kind of money we were going to be spending on the house. We took the Opinion of Cost, and came up with an offer that we felt would be reasonable, about $13k below the already-dropped asking price. We made it clear that our offer for the house was "as is", meaning, we weren't going to have another home inspection done and then come up with a laundry list of things to be fixed before we closed on the house. We also wrote a letter to the sellers, two sisters who had inherited the house after their Dad had passed away, explaining all the reasons we loved and appreciated the style of the ranch, how we wanted to keep a lot of the original fixtures and finishes, and even included our secret weapon: a cute snapshot of Veronica.

Finally, with the signed purchase-and-sale agreement for our old house in our hands, our letter to the sellers, and the architect’s opinion of cost, we sent over our Hail Mary of an offer. If this didn’t work out, we would throw in the towel and start touring other houses. We felt that we’d done everything we could, gave it a solid effort, and were at peace with whatever happened. This was a Thursday.

On Friday at 5 pm, we finally got an email back: the sellers loved our letter and felt our offer was fair, but they were still hung up on the fact that we hadn’t officially sold our current house. Could they have until tomorrow to think it over? Sure, we emailed back. Saturday is fine. We also had a little glimmer of hope--it seemed like they were leaning towards accepting our offer.

We waited all day Saturday and heard nothing. Around 5 pm, we fumed as we pushed Ronnie around the neighborhood in her stroller. Did they just blow us off? We had busted our asses for the last month trying to make this happen and these people don’t even have the DECENCY to respond?! All of the emotions from the past month frothed to the surface and we were really upset. Like, REALLY UPSET. We ranted and raved and carried on about how terrible it all was. It felt like a slap in the face, to have done all this work and then not even get a response. Around 8:30, we put the baby to bed, ordered some take-out and were just about to start our pity party on the couch when we got a text from Brian: “They accepted your offer. Happy?”

We looked at the text, looked at each other, and both started hysterically laughing. Whaaaaaat. We couldn’t believe it. We kept reading and re-reading the text. After a solid three minutes of laugh-crying, we sent back a “Whoop! Yes!” and started high-fiving each other and jumping around the living room. I can’t even begin to describe how we felt that night. Elated? Victorious? Terrified? All of the above.

It was a long trip from that evening to finally getting the keys to the place, but it was a huge step forward and it meant everything. There were a few more hiccups we had to deal with along the way, and many points when we thought everything was going to completely fall through, but in the end, we made it work. I’m so glad she ended up with us and after about five months living here, I can honestly say we love the house even more.

One of my favorite books as a kid is called The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton. No spoilers, but basically it’s the story of a once-proud little house that, over the generations, is neglected and falls into disrepair. Guess what happens next? :-)

 

House Tour: The Befores

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As promised, here are some photos of the new casa! Our plan for the next few years is to restore what we can, replace what we can’t restore, update a few things, and generally have fun with it. So without further ado, let’s dive in, shall we?!

The house was designed and built in 1965-66 and has mid-century modern elements, as well as Mediterranean, and even a few Hansel & Gretel/Storybook details, which I'll snap some pics of and add to this gallery as I get to it. Although the house is tired, many of the finishes and fixtures are original to the house and are in great shape, considering they're over 50 years old.

Most of the images below are from the real estate listing, as I wanted to show some truly "before" photos:

EXTERIOR

Those aqua doors, though

Those aqua doors, though

It's hard to tell from the photos, but the outside of the house is in pretty rough shape. It needs to be completely scraped, caulked, and repainted. There were also a few (thankfully non-structural) cracks in the foundation that had been letting water into the basement for who knows how long. A woodpecker had pecked a 5" diameter hole into one of the exterior walls, and a family of squirrels had taken residence in the attic. In addition, the doors and windows are all original and need some restoration and/or replacement to make them fully operational. The roof is about 20 years old, so we know that will need to be replaced in the next 5-10 years. The yard and landscaping is also pretty overgrown, so we'll need to address that. We did put gutters on the house before winter hit, and I think that was a pretty wise investment, as the basement has stayed dry (knock on wood, as we're supposed to be getting yet another storm today).  Now let's move inside...

INTERIORS

The foyer, looking in from the front doors

The foyer, looking in from the front doors

The house's layout is not quite an L-shape, but more like a boomerang with two "wings" radiating out from the front doors and foyer. To the center and left are all the "public" spaces (living/dining room, family room, kitchen, garage) and to the right are the "private" spaces (bedrooms and baths). 

View into the foyer from the living room.

View into the foyer from the living room.

Underneath that green carpet is a pristine hardwood floor!

Another view of the living room...

Another view of the living room...

The dining space, looking down into the living room.

The dining space, looking down into the living room.

Today, most homeowners want an open kitchen-dining combo, but this house has an open dining-living room instead. I think that's pretty smart--keep the dirty dishes and cooking smells out of sight when you're entertaining! As Frank can attest, I'm the messiest cook on the planet. Speaking of cooking...

The simple, understated kitchen.

The simple, understated kitchen.

The kitchen is pretty far-out, man. It's got the original formica countertops, some crazy floral fabric and matching drapes, and custom maple cabinets with Spanish-style brass medallions on each front panel. The backsplash is a baby blue arabesque tile, which is gorgeous and in great condition. In short, I love it, although I admit we need to take it down a notch (or three). When we moved in, it even had the original General Electric stove and "radar range" with its own custom setting for hot dogs! The sink is also original to the house, and aqua as well (noticing a theme?). 

Matching wallcovering/drapes! 

Matching wallcovering/drapes! 

The original GE range and oven still worked! But took about 35 minutes for the burners to get hot...

The original GE range and oven still worked! But took about 35 minutes for the burners to get hot...

A close-up of the range. All the food groups represented...

A close-up of the range. All the food groups represented...

Off the kitchen is Mike Brady's office, I mean, the family room:

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Did I mention every room has a NuTone intercom? If you need pork chops, no need to yell all the way down to the kitchen! Super civilized, yo.

Did I mention every room has a NuTone intercom? If you need pork chops, no need to yell all the way down to the kitchen! Super civilized, yo.

Heading back past the foyer, is a hallway to this amazing bathroom. Hope you like blue! Also notice the cabinets and hardware match the ones in the kitchen, they are just painted cream. Original formica in here too.

Blue tile, blue sink, blue toilet...

Blue tile, blue sink, blue toilet...

Cutting-edge 1966 American Standard baby blue toilet. Not a low-flow plumbing fixture, as evidenced by our water bill.

Cutting-edge 1966 American Standard baby blue toilet. Not a low-flow plumbing fixture, as evidenced by our water bill.

The light fixtures are dreamy though! The wallpaper, not so much.

The light fixtures are dreamy though! The wallpaper, not so much.

Past the blue bathroom are three comfortable bedrooms, including the master bed and bath. The master bathroom is PINK and I'll add some photos soon, it's in really rough shape and we don't really use it right now. 

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Another bedroom...RED SHAG CARPET, BABY!

We closed on the house at 8:30 a.m. and by 10:30 a.m. this carpet was in a dumpster...

We closed on the house at 8:30 a.m. and by 10:30 a.m. this carpet was in a dumpster...

Heading downstairs, is a whole new world of wood paneling, another fire place, and a wet bar! The basement has a lot of water damage (we think the water heater gave out, in addition to the leaks from rain and snow), and is in need of some major TLC. Right now it's just storage for all of our junk as we work on the rest of the house.

Wish the sellers had left those cool and kinda creepy crests over the fireplace.

Wish the sellers had left those cool and kinda creepy crests over the fireplace.

So there you have it! She's a little rough around the edges right now but we know she was well-designed and solidly built--and loved. We've done a few projects already (replaced the appliances, pulled up carpet, and scraped some painted-over wallpaper, for example) and we've got a lot more to come. But, we see this place as our home for good, and so we can take our time and enjoy the process. Next, I plan to back-track a bit and talk about the process of finding her, and putting in a solid, realistic offer on fixer-upper (if you're not totally terrified after looking at these photos--ha!). 

Back To It

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Whoa, what a whirlwind the last 9 months or so have been! You can probably tell that by the lack of posts, haha. Well, despite the crickets over here, non-internet life has been very busy with lots going on. I’m ready to dig in and start blogging again, but I thought a quick update and recap would be helpful to get started.

As  many of you already know, we bought a house! We moved in mid-October and we’re still getting settled, as this place is a fixer-upper for sure. I’ll be sharing a lot about the house hunt, as well as the buying and renovation process. My goal is to give people some useful information about the challenges and opportunities that come along with buying a home that needs work, everything from the cosmetic stuff like scraping old wallpaper and restoring light fixtures to more complex projects like keeping water out of the basement and replacing the electrical panel.

I also want to give an honest account of the true costs (in money, time, sanity) associated with purchasing a home that needs updates, as I’ve found our experience so far has been a lot different than what is portrayed on many home and DIY websites and TV shows. Spoiler alert: it’s been a much more positive experience so far!

We also sold our old house (which we loved), in our old neighborhood (which we also loved). How did that happen? Making the decision to sell, and getting the property ready to go on the market was another adventure that took up the better part of our spring, summer, and fall. It was a rollercoaster for sure, and there were many times we felt totally overwhelmed and wondering if we were in over our heads. I’m also a sentimental fool and saying goodbye to our first house was a lot harder than I thought it would be, as we had experienced so many major milestones and memories there. I’ll be sharing that process as well, in the hopes that it will be helpful to some of you out there considering the same.  

My posts here will be focused mostly on the remodeling process, restoring what we can, and the fun interior design and styling projects that this house has in store. For variety, I’ll probably also write about non-house stuff here and there. I'm still reworking my site, so bear with me as I update pages and links, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on what you'd like to hear about, or questions you have about the renovation process!  

When you stop blogging for awhile it’s easy to lose momentum and hitting that ‘publish’ button again after so long is a little intimidating, but here goes nothing! Onward!

David Sipress for the New Yorker. LOL for days.

The Downstairs Bath: To Do

Last November, I wrote a post about our plans for the downstairs bathroom. After the holidays and the loooonnng winter, we're getting back into the swing of it. As I said before, it's in dire need of some TLC, and by that I don't mean the time Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes burned Andre Rison's house down by throwing all his shoes in the bathtub and lighting a match (all-time favorite Behind the Music, btw). It was the second-most embarrassing thing to happen to the Atlanta Falcons (zing), but speaking of humiliation...

Josie always needs to be in the mix.

Josie always needs to be in the mix.

The story of this bathroom, we think, is that it was added fairly recently (in the last 15 or 20 years). It straddles the kitchen on one end, and the front hallway on the other, which leads us to believe that half of it was a pantry and the other half was a coat closet originally.  What I wouldn't give for a pantry! Or a coat closet! But seriously, I think the folks who lived here before us made the right choice. A 3/4 bath on the main level of our house has been clutch.

Here is the floor plan:

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I don't see any problems with the layout, and there's no need to move any plumbing or electrical hook-ups (thankfully!), so this will be a simple "pull and replace" job and is mostly about upgraded finishes and a new vanity/sink combination. The toilet and shower enclosure/fixture are in good condition. 

I wanted to keep things light and neutral, so I could have some fun with the artwork and accessories in a small space. In the end I settled on creamy grays and whites with pink, green, and coral accents. Check it out: 

Serenity now....

Serenity now....

Here is the Plan:

  1. Replace linoleum with new tile flooring
  2. Install new base molding
  3. Install new exhaust fan/light combo
  4. Paint walls, trim, ceiling
  5. Install new off-the-shelf vanity/top/sink, upgraded with nicer hardware & plumbing fixture
  6. Add tile backsplash around vanity
  7. Paint Mirror
  8. Paint vanity light fixture, replace shades
  9. Replace toilet seat/cover 
  10. Scrub and repaint radiator

So that's where we're at. I really CANNOT WAIT to start demo! I love tearing things up and peeling back the layers of this little house. 

 

 

Veronica's Nursery Tour

Now that Veronica is nearly 17 months old, I've finally gotten around to photographing her nursery.  First, let me just say that typically this room has clothes, books, and toys strewn about and basically looks like we've just been robbed at all times. We pick up and then the next morning the fun begins again. She also likes to "organize" and "put things away" now, and by that I mean we will spend a half hour looking for her left shoe and finally find it in the bath tub. A few weeks ago, I threw a load of her laundry into the washing machine, not thinking too much about it. I came back an hour later to discover that she had thrown 5 or 6 (unused, thankfully) diapers into her hamper and they had exploded in the washing machine, requiring a shop vac and two garbage bags to clean up. Rookie mistake!

Where was I? Oh yeah! The nursery. So I tidied up and sent Frank and Ronnie to do errands while I snapped a few photos. It wasn't a great time of day for photo-taking with the light, but sometimes you just gotta let good enough be good enough, right? 

The back story of this room is that, before Ronnie, it was technically our guest room, but in reality it was just an extra space to store junk.  We didn't do any redecorating or improvements, pretty much keeping it the way the former homeowners had: the walls were an eggshell beige, the wood floor was beat up, and somebody had covered the cracking plaster ceiling with a 70s popcorn finish.  We furnished it with a lonely twin bed and a cheap nightstand, and that was about it. Well, besides various Christmas decorations and cat toys.  So, picture a guest room, but the type of guest room you'd stay in if your host really didn't like you. Pretty terrible all around.

In the spring of 2015 we found out we were having Ronnie, and realized that this crash pad for our friends was not really going to cut it as a baby's nursery. It was downright depressing. Frank got to work on taking down the popcorn finish and patching the plaster and I did the heavy lifting of scouring the internet for inspiration photos.

We knew we were having a girl pretty early on, and while I love gender-neutral nurseries, for some reason I was drawn to sweet little feminine bedrooms with a mid-century flair.  I also liked the rooms that could transition from baby to toddler to kid easily, with a mix of decor suitable for any age. Frank's input was that he was keen on some type of purple wall color.  So here's what we came up with:

  1. The wall color is Sugarplum by Benjamin Moore
  2. I love PAISLEY patterns and I knew I wanted a bright, colorful pattern to add some oomph to the room. I wasn't sure where to use it at first (quilt? wall tapestry? changing pad cover?), but settled on a cornice board above the window. We bought something similar (and nicer) by P/Kaufmann
  3. For the rug, I wanted something 100% wool and on the neutral end of the spectrum. This is the rug we purchased.
  4. The light fixture was tough. All the ones I loved cost waaaay too much or were just not the right scale for the room. We settled on this cute one from Ikea for now. I may switch it out if I come across something I like better. 
  5. This Ronettes album cover is a little twist on the traditional baby name sign! 
  6. I love the artwork of Richard Scarry, it is so freaking cute and full of life and emotive! However, I wanted some artwork that was a little softer, color-wise, and so I ended up buying these from a great Etsy shop.
  7. A little set of frames from Ikea, including this adorable one that reminds me of I don't know what--Cinderella's castle? The Brady girls' bedroom? I'd like to add to this wall of family photos as she grows. 
  8. I loved this dresser from West Elm, but I thought the front was a little plain.  We ended up finding the one we used at Good Will for $30! It was a dark wood veneer that we painted white. 
  9. The crib is Ikea.  We had selected the one above but it was out of stock so we purchased a similar model with solid panel ends
  10. One of our favorite local shops is Crompton Collective for handmade goods and antiques. Browsing one day, I knew I needed one of these sweet handmade stuffies from Teddy Bear Republic!
  11. I found this vintage 1960s Disneyland tray at a flea market instantly fell in love. I thought I'd keep lotions and other baby sundries on it but it's too cute not to be displayed. I keep moving it around to different spots but I'm thinking of hanging it on the wall.
  12. The starburst mirror is from Target.
This blanket was made by Frank's Nana!

This blanket was made by Frank's Nana!

The $30 thrifted mid-century style dresser + $20 of white paint = SLAY

The $30 thrifted mid-century style dresser + $20 of white paint = SLAY

 Still loving this pretty paisley patterned fabric--it reminds me of a watercolor painting. 

 Still loving this pretty paisley patterned fabric--it reminds me of a watercolor painting. 

My next project is going to be a little reading nook for Ronnie. A little chair and (child-safe) reading light would be great next to the bookcase. And yes, Pharrell Williams is writing children's books now.

My next project is going to be a little reading nook for Ronnie. A little chair and (child-safe) reading light would be great next to the bookcase. And yes, Pharrell Williams is writing children's books now.

So, that concludes the 5-cent tour! I'm still working on adding to her gallery wall, and like I mentioned, creating a reading nook for her. Also, a moment of silence for the poor rug...since it's taken QUITE a beating over the last year. In hindsight, instead of a rug, I probably should have just put a tarp down. Light gray and white with a baby? Rookie mistake indeed...

Don't Read the Internet, and Other Lessons from the First Year of Parenthood

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Photo: Elise Meader Photography

A year ago, I was 36 weeks pregnant.  I was anxious, excited, and above all, I was READY CAPS INTENTIONAL to meet my new baby!  She was kicking away in my belly, getting more and more impatient, just like Mama.  I had washed, folded, and put away all her clothes, my hospital bag was packed, I had read every single baby book, and now all I had to do was wait.  My due date was Christmas Day, but I was hoping she would come a little early, if only to ease my aching back and swollen ankles.  


On a Wednesday two weeks later, I was feeling tired and under the weather and finally realized about 11:30 pm that I was in labor.  I called Frank, who was at work, and told him it was Go Time, but not to rush home, since the contractions were very weak and over ten minutes apart. I took a shower, got dressed, and watched Jimmy Fallon.  Within an hour, the contractions got much stronger, and suddenly they were only two minutes apart! I thought first babies were supposed to take forever, so you could commiserate with other Moms about being in labor for 36 hours? Frank was home at that point, rubbing my back and letting me squeeze his hands in a death grip as I got through each wave. We arrived at the hospital, got settled in, and yada yada yada Veronica was born at 9:35 a.m.!  It was incredible to finally meet this sweet baby and the adrenaline and parade of visitors kept me giddy until that evening when I drifted off to sleep with her swaddled next to me in her bassinet. What felt like 30 seconds later, I was woken up by her tiny squawk, demanding milk and wondering why the hell it was so cold in the outside world.  


It was at that moment, not when I had pushed her out into the world that morning, that the gravity of what it actually means to be a parent hit me. I was beyond exhausted, physically and emotionally, and my whole body was sore.  I had bruised my tailbone during labor and it was excruciating to put any pressure on it.  I felt, you know, pretty much how every woman who has just given birth in the history of the world has felt: miserable. But my baby needed—in the true literal sense of the word—me and her Dad to survive. Half-awake, I jumped up from the bed without thinking, like Pavlov’s dog. Biting my lip to keep from yelping out in pain, I picked my little bundle up. I snuggled her close and fed her. After a diaper change (more squawking!) I swaddled her again and she fell right back to sleep. To be honest, the reality of this new responsibility was humbling. Scary, even. The next few weeks were a blur of feeding, diapering, swaddling, and crying (all of us) as we navigated this new world of family-hood.  It was amazing and intense. 


Fast-forward to today, and I can’t believe that 6 pound, 15 oz infant is now running around the house, dropping her toys and yelling “UH-OH!” at the top of her lungs. She is a happy, giggly little gal with a stubborn streak. She loves cucumbers and ice cream (sometimes together) and Bruno Mars. If you have a drink with a straw, you have to give the straw to her. That’s one of her rules, and she won’t compromise. She also loves to give hugs now, and offers to share her snacks and toys with us and the cats. She really is such a sweetheart. Although we have still have the Terrible Twos to look forward to, we have cleared the first year hurdle! 


As I’m planning her first birthday party in a couple of weeks, I keep thinking back to this time last year, when I was waiting anxiously, hoping everything was going to be all right during labor and delivery, not sure how I was going to be as a parent, a little sad that our child-free life of spontaneity was going to end, and above all, excited to finally meet this little creature whom I already felt a deep connection to. I realize now that many of the things I was worried about, the things that took up so much of my mental space, were merely blips on the radar, while other aspects of parenting I thought I was completely prepared for tested my strength and perseverance.  


If I could go back and tell my 36-weeks-pregnant self a few things, here’s where I’d start:

 

Don’t Read the Internet.  We all know the internet is full of weirdos, and fake information is everywhere.  For some reason, the “pregnancy industry” seems to have more than its fair share of false and misleading information about everything from breastfeeding to fertility to baby products.  And since there is a lot of judgement and fierce debate around many aspects of pregnancy and child rearing, there are thousands of websites promoting methods, products, and philosophies that have no basis in research, or even reality sometimes. The truth is, these sites are fairly easy to spot for what they are, but for me it was more frustrating than anything else. All I wanted was a simple answer to a question I had, it was 3 a.m., and I was too tired to think straight. Instead I had to weed through a bunch of nonsense message boards and “articles” written by content farms to find solid information.


Oh, and speaking of the pregnancy message boards: they are something else.  I swear they must be a front for some kind of NSA spy program, because they make no sense and use certain acronyms and initials for things that don’t need to be abbreviated.  A typical thread will start something like this: “My DS and DH are out and I’m at home with my DD and I’m 30 wks and I’ve had some bleeding now for 3 days and having some contractions what do you guys think it is?” And the replies would be matter-of-fact, offering advice on what it could be, instead of things that a normal person would write (“Um, call the doctor maybe? Why are you posting this question to strangers on the internet, it sounds terrible and serious...what does DD mean?? WHAT IS HAPPENING????”).  It was just all so odd and not helpful and potentially dangerous.  Oh, and Spoiler Alert: DD = dear daughter, DS = dear son, DH = dear husband.  Not sure why these ladies don’t have time to type “husband” or “son” but are able to bang out “amniocentesis” without a second thought. 


Save the internet for Netflix documentaries and setting up automatic bill pay and cat videos (all necessary when you are home in January with a newborn), and go radio silence on any sites pregnancy related.

Need Help? Ask Baby.  I have been really fortunate to have a great support system of friends and family, and our pediatrician, to turn to when I had a question or was struggling with some aspect of baby care, but I never thought the baby herself would actually be a resource. I am amazed at how early Veronica’s personality emerged, and her preferences for certain ways of doing things. I always assumed newborn babies were sort of oblivious to the world, as long as they were fed, clean, and snuggled.  For example, every time I tried to feed her “on the go” she would fuss and turn away, and I took that as a signal she wasn’t hungry. But when we arrived home, she would immediately start that desperate hunger-wail and would be almost inconsolable. When I could finally get her settled down, she would nurse for 45 minutes to an hour and a half straight! After this happened a few times, I realized she didn’t like to be fed anywhere but home. Fine by me! I didn’t necessarily enjoy breastfeeding at the mall. Most of the breastfeeding books tout the advantages of being able to feed the baby anywhere, anytime, but my baby wasn't having any of it. Once I figured that out, we made our plans around her feeding schedule—it was a little less convenient, but we were all much happier. 

Veronica also showed me she has some very strong opinions about books that she will “read.” If she doesn’t like a book, she grabs it from your hands and throws it to the floor. Don’t insult my intelligence with ‘Where is the Baby’s Bellybutton?', Mom. This book is terrible! I was under the impression that all children’s books are the same—throw some brightly colored illustrations on a page with some nouns (apple, car, cat) and call it a day.  Nope.  Eric Carle is a special snowflake genius. 


Babies are opinionated and have their quirks, even from Day One!  Pay attention to them. 

You’ll Be Tired, But You’ll Also Be More Focused, Creative, and Energetic.  Everyone told me how tired and stretched I would feel with a new baby, and that’s definitely true at times, but parenthood has also made me more focused, better at time management, and able to prioritize my life in a way that still gives me plenty of time for myself. I’ve learned to get so much more done, and be creative about how I use my time.  I’m now an early riser (5 a.m. most week days) and it’s become my time to myself when the house is quiet and I can work on my business, read, make breakfast, and just generally feel centered and peaceful and ready for the day. Another bonus is that other people respect my time more! Who knew?! When they know you have a baby at home or you’ve got to be somewhere to pick up your kids, there’s a lot less yackity yack. Refreshing. 

 

When it Comes to Parenting Decisions, Apathy is Your Friend.  Last summer, I read Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes, Please.  The book was an entertaining read about her childhood, career, and personal life that I finished in about two days. In one chapter, she talks candidly about working in show biz and how, to be successful, you need some degree of apathy. To set your heart on something, and invest all your energy (financially, emotionally, and otherwise) into it can leave you disappointed and crushed if it doesn’t work out. Especially when you are relying on others to fund your project, return your affections, or follow the sleep schedule you’ve set for them. Instead, keep yourself a little removed from your ideas and goals so that you can maintain some degree of objectivity.  I found this advice could translate into many areas of life, not just career goals.  Passion and persistence are important, but don’t get so focused on any one particular thing that you lose sight of the big prize.  If one thing doesn’t work out, something else will. 

Before I gave birth, I made several decisions about how I was going to do things. I think all Moms do. Part of it is that when you’re pregnant, people will pepper you with questions about whether you plan to nurse, use pacifiers, co-sleep, put baby in day care, use cloth diapers, etc etc etc and you need a prepared answer! And you also need to defend your decisions in case they challenge you on—which they probably will. This causes us to become attached to different ideas and philosophies on parenting and raising children, when there’s really no reason to. After all, we’re dealing with a little dictator who has his or her own ideas about how they like things! We are powerless to defy Kim Jong Baby.  


One decision I made early on was that I wanted to breastfeed for a year. Instead, it turned out nursing was something I really struggled with. My milk came in late, the baby had trouble latching, she wasn’t gaining enough weight, she developed thrush, and then when I went back to work and had to pump, my supply dropped significantly. I was only able to get about an ounce of milk, despite pumping three times a day. When she was about 6 months old, she stopped showing any interest in nursing, and so we weaned. Oh well.

At the end of the day, just keeping stumbling onward and upward, and if something isn’t working out, try something else. Everything will be OK! 


A couple of weeks ago John Oliver had this funny bit about how 2016 was just awful. Between David Bowie and Prince passing away to more terror and chaos in the world to the divisive (to say the least) election, the year has definitely challenged us. But this morning on the baby monitor, I could hear Veronica in her crib singing her little songs and playing with her stuffed rabbit, Bun Bun. 2016 was actually pretty great. 

The Half Bath: Before

Current half-bath situation, with Josie photobomb

Current half-bath situation, with Josie photobomb

So it's November 28, is it too early to start talking about New Year's Resolutions?  The holidays will be for relaxing and enjoying time with my family and friends, but come January, I know I'll be itching to tackle a new house project.  Something smallish and manageable, because #baby #work #sanity and I'm all about setting achievable goals for myself in 2017.

The former inhabitants of our house kindly converted a pantry and coat closet on the first floor into a half-bath. For that, I'm extremely grateful.  Otherwise, guests would have to traipse upstairs (and see our totally spotless, always organized second floor LOL), and for a family of three like us trying to get ourselves ready and out the door, the second bathroom has been key. 

Blech.

Blech.

We haven't done anything to the half-bath yet (clearly), because 1) most everything works and is in decent condition, and 2) we don't use it as our main bathroom.  That being said, I cringe a little every time a guest uses it.  It's pretty dated, with a pink and blue linoleum floor, and a toilet seat with--I kid you not--some kind of raised floral detailing.  The faucet is one of those $10 Home Depot deals popular with cheap landlords the world over. You know the ones--where the knobs and spout are so close together anyone larger than a 5 year old will get her fingers stuck trying to turn it on and off.  Oh, and the hardware is a mish-mash of finishes ranging from chrome to oil-rubbed bronze to brushed nickel and the laminate top is sorta trying to look like granite but obviously isn't trying very hard. 

 

Meh.

Meh.

And the shower is just one of those pre-fab fiberglass stalls with a shower curtain.  It's in decent condition.  And that concludes the tour of the room in our house we forget about until someone asks to use it.  

Pretty lame, right? It definitely needs some updating! My goal for the new year is to give this half-bath a new lease on life and make it a space I can be proud of.  What are your home goals for the new year? Oh, you haven't thought of any yet? Don't worry, you've still got 34 days! 

 

 

Cool Holiday Decorations to Get You in the Spirit

I know it's been quiet up in herrrr lately; I've been busy working some interesting and fun projects (!!!) and also doing my thing (work, husband, baby, house, Netflix, etc.).  The same old stuff that keeps us all busy and happy.  It's been a great year--a fast year--and I can't believe we're about six weeks away from 2017.  I keep texting people the wide-eyed screaming emoji.

Anyway, this started out as a post about Daylight Savings Time and why my fingers are crossed that it goes away.  For years I've been a DST conscientious objector. I just really really don't like it. I always have a hard time adjusting to the time change, feeling groggy and out of sorts for days afterwards, and the dark afternoons feel so...uninspired. Especially here in Massachusetts--we're so far east and north that the sun sets just after 4 p.m.  

So when it's time to decorate for the holidays, I get a much-needed pep in my step.  Tinsel! Twinkly lights! Animatronic lawn Santas! I get excited to see how people decorate--everything from modern and understated to traditional and classic to kitschy and fun--I love it all.  And everyone has those ornaments that have been passed down from family or picked up on travels that make the house feel extra special.

As for myself, I'm looking for a few new pieces to freshen up my holiday decor.  Here a few items I'm loving right now (clockwise from top):

Kate Spade New York Arbor Village Mug, Macy's

Vietri Lastra Gold-Rimmed Holiday Plate, Belk

Rose Gold Ball Garland, CB2

All I Want for Christmas is You Mariah Carey Print, Etsy

Set of 4 Abstract Christmas Trees, CB2

Norway Spruce Cone Wreath, Wayfair

Gold and Red Prism Ornaments, All Modern

Moravian Star Tabletop Decoration, Cameo Nouveau

Door Mat, Target

Happy Decorating!