Friday, December 16, 2016

Let's Talk About Kitchens Again!

Hey, guys and dolls!  Know what time it is? It’s time to talk about kitchens. Again! 

That’s right, my favorite room in the house. I love my kitchen. I also hate it. I’m funny like that. 

At this very moment, my kitchen is dissatisfying. I’m being kind. It’s actually awful, and that’s because I didn’t get it right the first time. I thought I was happy when I wrote about it here. But I grew to hate the room. 

Let’s talk about black granite countertops. They’re so beautiful! At least until you make a sandwich. Add in the fact that I have three cats, and you can see how black granite might be a problem once in a while. 

I didn’t want black granite. I didn’t want granite at all. But it was on sale. 

And then there are my cupboards. They’re solid cherry! And I hate them. I know, I know. Some folks are so hard to please. 

It’s not the cherry that I hate, but the style. They’re ultra contemporary with no design appeal of any kind, in my opinion. My house was built in 1890. You can see the problem with a contemporary design.  

But the cupboards were gratis from the interior design office where I worked back in the day. If anyone can pass up free, solid cherry kitchen cabinetry, I’d like to meet them. I’m not quite that strong. 

Now let’s move to the kitchen floor. Mr. V. and I had a great idea. We built the flooring from 2x8 pine boards. And let me tell you, it was gorgeous. At least until we lost our minds and painted it black. Sinner loved it because she could see her reflection. But it didn't hold up well with two dogs and now three cats.

Sometimes, we’re not the brightest bulbs in the box. 

Those things -- the cupboards, countertops and floor --  are anchors in my kitchen. Sadly, my anchors are confused and muddled. They aren’t worth a flip. Neither are my windows, but that’s a whole different story. 

If I could have any kitchen at all, it would have a bohemian/cottage sort of vibe. Some days, I’m in love with white-on-white. And other days, nothing is more appealing to me than rich, warm colors. Here are some ideas I’ve found at Houzz that really ring my bell. 

First, look at this. Just look at it. I wish my staircase led to the kitchen instead of heading straight into my front door. I love the mix of color here, especially the dark stained cupboard against the white and glass. 

I could live in this room. Think I'm joking? I'd set up a feather bed in front of the hearth and I'd be all set. I really want a fireplace in my kitchen. I really want a keeping room, to be honest. 

I've talked about this room before. There's something about the mix of color and texture here that makes me happy. 

I'm usually not a fan of turquoise in a kitchen. But this is just lovely. 

This is a red that I could live with. Not too blue, not too brown, not too orange. If I trimmed out my existing cupboards to give them more personality, I could paint them barn red and have something similar. 

One of my first loves, Windsor chairs. I'm not a fan of straight-backed chairs. I like a chair that hugs me. 

Wood countertops might seem silly. But they're no more vulnerable to burns and scratches than laminate. In some ways, they're better. If there's a mishap, it can be sanded out and refinished. I wouldn't seal the wood with urethane, either. I'd only work a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil into the wood, the same as butcher block countertops get. They'd age, mellow and look better over time. 

I really love this dinette. I'm not crazy about square or rectangular tables. And I have a strong distaste for kitchen bar/island seating. It looks nice, which is why I built a beautiful island in my kitchen and turned the back side into a bar. But it's not comfortable, which is why I took a sledgehammer to it last summer. 

Disliking bar seating puts me firmly in the minority, I'm sure. But I'm not overly tall. And the older I get, the less I like having anything in my house feel like a chore. I don't like climbing up to sit down, and I don't like choosing between letting my feet dangle or catching my heels on a chair rung. No, I like my seating at seat level, thankyouverymuch. This space looks comfy and inviting. Extra kudos for the book shelf.

Trying to choose a real theme for my kitchen has been more challenging than I thought. Mr. V. and I clash when it comes to style. I want a home that looks warm and lived in. He's not sure what he wants, but he knows what he doesn't like when he sees it. Haha!

Hopefully, I'll one day have this old girl the way that I want her. But if I didn't have a project or five ahead of me, I wouldn't know what to do with myself.


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?