Saturday, May 7, 2016

Oh Glorious Gardening!

I don't get out a lot. That's a fact. My mom tells me so. My sister does, too. So does my hubby. It was also brought to my attention by one of my editors recently!

I write. A lot. I am in a constant state of home renovations. There's always something for me to tackle in this 125+ year old house. I wrangle my dogs. I try to keep my cats out of trouble.

There are many things that I love to do. I love working on my home. That brings me so much joy. Even the big projects, such as gutting the downstairs bathroom this summer and rebuilding it from scratch. That's on the agenda this year. So is tearing down the old deck and building a new one.

I love writing. A day when I can't write is a day when I feel like I'm a little bit more insane. I love to cook. I knit, crochet, weave, sew, felt, and make lots of different things. I love doing laundry and hanging things on the line. I even love to clean!

But there is no place where I feel more whole and happy than when I have my hands in the dirt. It grounds me, no pun intended. I guess I inherited that from my amazing dad. He could look at a plant and it would just grow. One of his many gifts.

So I ask you. If you lived here, would you ever want to go anyplace else? It's true, I'm not crazy about my neighborhood. But I am cultivating a fantasyland right in my own yard. I love it!

This is my happy place.

pink peonies
Peonies from my yard

Gladiolus from my garden

Gorgeous, giant sunflowers towering over the garage! 

Camelot rose
Camelot rose

Baby pink tea rose
Baby pink tea roses

Red knockout rose
Knockout rose just getting established

Wild unkempt garden
Part of my wild, wild perennial garden

Neighbor kitty
Neighbor's cat, Kasey, checking out the garden

Morning glories tumbling over fence
My fist love, morning glories, tumbling over one of the fences out back

Perennial garden
Perennials in my garden

Perennial garden
Perennials in the garden, and the first year my calla lilies ever bloomed

Trees bent into archway
Two trees bent, wrangled, braided and otherwise wrestled into a garden archway

Red dianthus
Red dianthus

Red Asian lilies
Red Asian lilies. They are enormous, much larger than they appear here. 

African daisies
African daisies

Handmade wattle fence
So proud of this little wattle fence that I wove

Sunsprite rose
Sunsprite rose. This type smells amazing! 

Veronica (Speedwell) 

Camelot rose
Camelot rose. 

Fairy garden homestead
I built a little homestead for any fairies who might want to take up residence in the garden

Wild garden
Wild, wild, wild and I love it!

Sunsprite and Camelot roses
More Sunsprite and Camelot roses

Bleeding heart
Bleeding heart

Abstract walkway in progress
Part of my new walkway. It's time consuming, but so worth it! 

Butterflies on privet
When the privet is in bloom, there are bees and butterflies everywhere!

Natural garden archway
Naturally occurring archway out back that formed from hackberry, porcelain vine, a mulberry tree, and who knows what else! 

DIY silver spoon screen door handle
One of my favorite things. A bent an old silver spoon, drilled and turned into a screen door handle for the kitchen. If there's anything crafty to be done, I'm all over it! 

My Mister and me. He's not here these days, but hopefully soon he'll be back to enjoy everything that I've done with our gardens since he's been gone. <3 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

My Favorite Old House Renovation Things

This little thing is magic. MAGIC! 

As a lover of all things old house rehab, time and sweat and a lot of sore muscles (not to mention ruined manicures) have given me an appreciation for certain tools. Sometimes, they’re conventional. Sometimes they’re not. Right now, I’m in love with a little steaming tool. It cures an awful lot of old house renovation ills without a lot of effort.

This is a Dirt Devil Handheld Easy Steam machine. It’s not very big, which is a good thing because it’s portable. But it’s powerful. Don’t get your fingers too near the tip. Trust me on this. Good things do not happen when skin and hot steam meet.

What makes this steamer awesome is that it removes stuff that you don’t want, and it does it without anything besides water and electricity.

This is my favorite tip because it concentrates the steam. 

Got 100 years of paint on a set of door hinges? Not for long, you don’t. No soaking overnight in a crock pot, and no paint remover required.

Crud built up along a baseboard seam? This tool obliterates it AND it blows out the gunk so that all you have to do is wipe it up. You don’t even have to scrub.

What about mineral deposits around the base of a faucet handle? If it hasn’t corroded the metal badly, this steamer will soften up the deposits so that many of them will wipe off, and others only need a little nudge with a fingernail plastic scraper. The metal will shine big time. It even cleans decades of old, miserable grease off kitchen tile.

The steamer also strips paint from wood. Whaaat? Yep. It does.

The steaming part is really fun. 

I’ve been stripping my staircase for longer than I’d like to admit. It’s got more than 125 years of paint and varnish on it, and even the most eye-watering, fumey paint strippers just don’t work well. This morning, I wondered if steam would work better than paint strippers. It does.

It just peels right off. 

Awww yeah, this paint is gonna be TOAST! 

Sometimes your favorite old house rehab tools weren’t necessarily born for a job, but they work great just the same. If you can save some hours of labor? Even better.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Designing the Perfect Closet

Yes, Mr Mayer? This closet just won't do. 

How often do you think about your closet? If you’re like most folks, it happens about once a day. Even then, you’re probably wondering more about what to wear than what the closet space looks like. And you’re also probably half asleep, so that might not count anyway. I was recently introduced to Compass, and that's where I found the inspiration to design my dream closet.

So.  What if you could have any closet in the whole wide world? 

You don’t need a cavernous space that echoes when you shout inside to have a really cool closet. All that you need is a space, large or small, that works for you. 

Maybe you don’t own a hundred pairs of Manolo Blahniks. Or John Fluevogs (Oh, merciful swoon!). Doesn’t matter. A great closet is one where everything fits and you can find what you need without turning your bedroom into that scene from 27 Dresses

Here’s what I would have if money and space were no object:

What I love about this closet are the built-ins and the creative use of space. Look at the way the cupboard and drawers tuck under the slanted gable ceiling line. That’s a spot people have fussed over for an awfully long time. 

Awkward chests never fit quite right, and a chair wouldn’t use it to its best advantage. This type of corner was just made for recessed storage. Brilliant!

I also love the neutral colors. No matter what you’re wearing, the backdrop won’t compete while you’re getting dressed and doing your makeup. The only thing that I’m not crazy about is the placement of closet door mirrors. Not much to be done about that here. But in the mornings, you’d be lit from the wrong side while checking your reflection. The vanity placement might make up for that. Who doesn’t want natural light for putting on makeup?

This closet is handy X 1,000. It’s not especially big or over-the-top. It’s really just two walls of double hanging bars and a hefty shelf overhead. What’s awesome is the placement and size of the little chest. That, I love. 

My house is 125 years old and the rooms aren’t big. You wouldn't call mine an open-plan house. Because of that, Mr. Vagabond and I decided a long time ago not to use traditional bedroom storage. There’s just no room for it, not without making our bedroom feel cramped. Instead, we keep most of our clothing in the laundry room. Yep. That's right.

This little chest would give me plenty of storage that doesn’t look cheap. (Wire racks, you’re outta here!) And because it’s under a window, there’s a perfect spot to check for an errant stain that made it through the wash, and to make sure that I’m really wearing two black socks. Not that I’ve ever worn a black and a blue one. I can imagine that little chest being the handiest spot in the whole closet. 

Now, this one goes against almost everything that I’ve said so far. First, unless I convert one of the spare bedrooms into a closet, there’s no way this would work in my house. Second, the vibrant colors could make getting ready in the morning a bit difficult. The orange-reds and peacock blues would affect the lighting and the way that nearly outfit looked. 

But, my. Isn’t it beautiful? Just look at it for a second. 

This is just a reminder that a fab closet doesn’t have to look like anything that’s trending right now. It doesn’t need perfectly matched, custom built-ins. And it doesn’t need a jewelry display that makes the space look more like a boutique than a home. This closet is fun. I’d totally hang out there. 

Holy giant mirror! This closet has a little bit of everything. Except, of course, a neutral color scheme. What’s really amazing is the size of the mirror and its placement on the floor instead of mounted on the wall. You can clearly see your whole outfit plus shoes. 

I love the table at the center of the space, too. It’s a bit cluttered and wouldn’t be useful to me as-is, but without a series of bowls you could lay out your clothes for the day and have them handy. 

And can I just say that I want all of those Wellies? All of them. In every color. I'd keep them someplace else, though. More on that in a bit.

Ok, forget everything that I've said about a neutral closet backdrop. Can I get an Amen for this little jewel box? 

Look close, and you’ll see that this space isn’t anything extraordinary dimensions-wise. It would work in just about any standard walk-in. You know the kind, the ones with a wrap-around hanging bar and a wire shelf overhead.

Rip out the prefab closet hardware (does anyone really like wire racks anyway?) and go with shallow cabinets instead. And then paint them a funky color! Love the giant mirror, and love the little bench. Love this whole closet, even if this one is devoted to a little girl’s room. I can be a little girl at heart, right?

Now about those shoes. This is how I’d prefer to store mine. If you’ve noticed that most of my closet ooohs and aaahs have little to do with shoes, you’re right. 

I am not fan of storing shoes with my clothing. I’m just not. I think it’s icky, and I don’t like it. There. I said it. Icky. 

Shoes can get smelly. Yes, anyone’s shoes. And they have dirt on the bottom. And even the cleanest feet on Earth don’t smell like roses. I don’t want my clothing to smell like feet. With a separate shoe closet, they can get the air circulation that they need without sharing space with my clothes. I would actually have a closet like this in my foyer if I could. Who wears shoes in the house, anyway?

Closets can make or break any home. Too few, which is what I have in this old house, and you're constantly looking for creative ways to keep everything tidy. But too much closet space isn't much better. At least not if it's underused and inefficient. 

I know that Spring is the classic time to clear out closets and work on organization, but I propose a whole different idea. Autumn means spending more time indoors. And it brings with it heavier clothing that takes up more space. 

Maybe this time of year is a better time to rework closets and make them something amazing! I'll just add that to my agenda right now. I've got plenty of time on my hands, right? 


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Small Bedroom Interior Decor Can Be Gorgeous!

Bedroom interior decor hasn’t changed much over the past decade or so, or even longer. And if you have a small bedroom, you might be sticking with old traditional advice. Stop it. Stop it, right now. 

We’ve all heard it. Scale down on furnishings. Don’t use heavy fabrics. Avoid dark colors. And the classic, shove everything against the wall to maximize floor space. I think that all of this evolved out of the best intentions. When you’re working with a small space, you don’t want to feel like you’re in a cave. 

But I propose that you take everything that you know about small bedroom interior decor, tie it up in a neat little bundle, fashion a pretty bow, and then throw it out the window. To misquote Billy Joel, we love you, little bedrooms, just the way you are. :-)

Instead of looking at a tiny space as a deficiency in your haven, why not embrace it?  That doesn’t mean accentuating the smallness of the space. It just means forgetting about outdated ideas that say little bedrooms can never be as nice as you’d like. Bah, and also humbug on that. 

Here are some of my favorite ideas for transforming a blah diminutive bedroom into a space that you really, honestly, truly love. We’ll start at the walls and work our way in. 

Bedroom Interior Color Matters

White is always fresh, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But the sanitary, blue-toned white can feel awfully hospitalish. It makes me feel edgy, and definitely not relaxed. There’s so much more that you can do with white to soften it. Check out this white palette, which I created from a classic white-on-white bedroom image. And there are about a million more shades than this. You can get the clean look of white without any of the edginess. 

But you don’t have to stick with white. Forget about the fact that the square footage is small. Think about which colors you’d love, and just run with it. It’s true that darker walls can make any room feel smaller. So if you’re devoted to avoiding that, pick a color and move to a lighter shade in the same family. Easy peasy.  

Do you love the warm colors of autumn?

Or maybe a soothing neutral palette?

You really can use any colors that you like. 

Click here to learn how you can create your own color palette from any photo.

There’s nothing wrong with a tiny bedroom saturated in bold color, either. It will make the room look a bit smaller, but it can also look incredibly special, like a little jewel box. And if you don’t want to hose down the room in purples and golds and reds, you can always stick with paler walls and go all out with soft furnishings such as your bedlinens, draperies, pillows and rugs. 

Or, go opposite with dark walls and light neutral soft furnishings. I’m in love with the mushroomy gray on these walls. This is such a soothing bedroom. I’d love to nap there! 

Check Out the Ceiling

When was the last time that you noticed your bedroom ceiling? If it was probably when you changed a light bulb, you’re like most folks. But when you use the ceiling as a design element, you give the room a lot more personality. More important, you draw the eye up. Up is good. 

Beadboard ceilings are classic, and I happen to love them. And glossy paint gives it that much more dimension. If the pale cottage look is a bit too sweet for your taste, you can stain the wood or leave it natural and seal it. It doesn’t have to be white to draw the eye up. 

But what’s really got my attention these days are decorative ceiling treatments. OMG, check out the pic at this link! Yes, it’s a large room. But imagine this detail on a smaller scale on your bedroom ceiling. 


When you use the ceiling as another bedroom interior decor element, you get more mileage out of your space. And you also give the eye something else to focus on besides mini proportions. 

Don’t Let Your Furniture Suffocate the Walls

If your furnishings touch the walls, you probably have the opposite effect from what you really want. It seems like a space-maximizing trick, but instead it makes the room look cramped.  

Space behind furnishings won’t make the room look smaller. The shadows between furnishings and the walls gives the room a sense of depth. Without shadows, everything looks flat and dull. 


Your headboard might need to fit close, but you can still leave an inch or so. As for everything else, let the furniture and the walls breathe. 

Try to Incorporate a Chair

If you’re battling for space with a small bedroom interior, the last thing on your list of must-haves is probably a chair. But a bedroom chair boosts its comfort level about a million percent. It also looks awesome.

It doesn’t have to be a huge chair. A small one in what my mother calls “lady-size” is ideal. Plush is good, and it’s also a great spot to read. But it doesn’t have to be a tufted chair. Even a small wooden chair with a cushion on the seat makes the room look well appointed. 

If a chair won’t work, what about a bench? You can situate one at the foot of the bed, under a window, or along any awkward wall. Seating is good.

Think Vertical for Bedroom Interior Storage

Take a look at your bedroom and notice how much wall space isn’t being used. It’s probably a lot, at least if you don’t count any of the artwork that you might have.  You can claim any of it for storage, and it’s easier than you might think. 

A bookcase like the one in this photo can fit between the wall studs. It doesn't have to project out as much as this one does. If it recesses into the wall, it takes up virtually no floor space. Situated on the left and right of the bed, you can bump out the lower portion of the book case to make built-in nightstands. 

A typical wall has about 4 - 6 inches of empty space depth between the studs, and the studs in most homes are about 12 - 16 inches apart. The location of the studs might not be ideal for centering your bed between. But if you choose a wider section, you’ll have room to center the bed and trim molding can make the whole area cohesive. 

The only place where I don’t recommend between-stud cupboards is on an exterior wall. You’d have to ditch the insulation, and that’s just a bad idea on an outer wall. But any interior walls are perfect. Just remember that there are wires inside most walls, so your contractor might have to re-route some of them. It’s not really a big deal for a professional.

Tiny, diminutive, itty-bitty, little bedrooms can be enormous on style and function. You can’t change the square footage. And tricks of the eye only go so far. So instead of ignoring a small bedroom and not even trying to make it great, or worse — using mini-furniture in the hopes of making it appear larger, just roll with it. 

A small bedroom can also be flat-out gorgeous!