Friday, June 29, 2012

Bye bye railing!

Am I the worst blogger ever? 

I don't think I'm the worst EVER. I mean, there have to be people who put up one post and then abandon their blog forever. I'm not THAT person. 

But I'm pretty bad. 

I haven't updated since August. Shame shame shame. What have I been up to?  A lot of this:

Also a lot of this:

I took a photography class and a ceramics class at our local community college the last two semesters and what little free time I had was taken up with completing work for them. I needed to take classes in order to maintain my teaching certification, but at least these were FUN classes. House projects kind of stalled. But I got some awesome photos and pottery to show for it! 

And now, I'm BACK! And a major thing has happened in our house. Remember when we were looking at our office way back in August and it looked like this.

With that railing that was wobbly and the spindles were so far apart a toddler could just fall through them?

Well for a couple of days it looked like this:

(ignore the wall color here, Adam was in charge of photography at this moment, and doesn't understand white balance)

Can we say "unsafe"? Yup, we basically had a giant hole in our floor with no railing for a couple of days. But at least that hideous railing was gone! Also, Adam doesn't do heights, so it fell to me to rip out the carpet, pull staples and generally prep this back area while it was railing-less. 

But shortly after this period of serious-not-to-code-ness we had the bookcase we've been longing for! 

You'll notice it's empty. Even those white boxes in the bottom right corner are empty. Yeah. We don't NEED this storage. We might move some things up here eventually, even if it's just for looks. But the truth is we will use the storage someday and the railing needed to go. 

Take a look at the whole office now: 

The bookcase is wonderful and we are very pleased with it. No, I don't have any in-progress photos for you, because most of it was built at Adam's father's house. Yes, we did DIY this thing, but it was with the help of Adam's dad, who is a fantastic woodworker (he made all of his own kitchen cabinets, and LOTS of other pieces of furniture in his house). So while normally I'd be telling you all about how this was built, I wasn't there for any of it. Adam and his father built all of this and I am thankful for it. 

Also, having stuff custom built away from your house allows you to be blissfully uninvolved, and then suddenly the thing you've been asking for just appears out of nowhere. These are the best kind of home improvements. 

Oh, and remember the crow's nest behind the old railing?

Well now it's display space.

I'm not 100% happy with this arrangement of objet d'art (aka, stuff), but I think it's the kind of thing that will develop over time. It'll get there, but I'd rather collect things over time than buy a bunch of stuff at Home Goods to fill it in (no lie, though, I did go buy that pheasant at Home Goods). 

We also finally hung our diplomas. 

If you didn't already notice, these are over the stairs. When I mentioned hanging them a long time ago I said we'd have to construct some kind of scaffolding in order to get them up there because there is no floor right below them. That didn't happen. How did we get them hung? Well, if you haven't figured it out already from the photo where we tore out our railing and left a giant hole in our floor for two days, safety isn't really #1 around here. Hanging these things was done in a totally unsafe manner that I'm not going to describe in too much detail. Let's just say it involved Adam holding on me by waistband of my jeans. But hey, they're up there! 

So the office is MOSTLY done. There is one last detail that needs to be tackled - the wall over the chaise. 

It's a whole lot of nothin' 

I've been looking and looking for solutions for this wall that are more interesting that slapping a painting up there. But, you know what? I think we're just going to slap a painting up there. Since big art is expensive, and because I'm an art teacher with a knack for painting, I'm going to paint something and hang it there. I don't have my own art hanging in our house (except a couple of things that were little crafty projects). But here Adam and I decide a HUGE painting of a stick or twig would look cool. Big paintings of twigs, not really something you see all the time, so we'll make that happen. Eventually. 

"Eventually" should be my middle name. 

So anyway, that's the office update. And I have some good news. I've already redone the upstairs bathroom about 90% of the way. I'll have the befores and afters on that soon! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hey, remember this?

No? How about this?

Well, now it looks like this:

We added shelve and storage boxes to the little alcove in the office. Now it isn't just useless space anymore!

The boxes are from Ikea, their Kasset line. They're holding assorted office supplies, printer paper, computer manuals, computer/accessory cords. The printer is an HP Photosmart Premium all-in-one. I have 2 of these at work and they're great! They can print, scan and copy, they can be run wirelessly or via network cable (or both, in our case) and they're pretty slick looking. It's so nice to be able to print from my laptop downstairs rather than lugging it upstairs and hooking it up to the old printer. I believe they're about to be discontinued so you can get a good deal on them right now.

Notice, though, that the scanner lid can't open all the way because of the shelf above it. 

We needed a solution for this, since I am going to be working on a big scanning job in the near future, scanning a bunch of old family photos of Adam's family. I didn't want to be messing around with holding the scanner lid up all the time. If you look closely you can see that the printer is sitting on top of its own little shelf.

That's because we installed it on horizontal drawer runners, so that it could be pulled out and the lid would open freely. But it can still be tucked away when we're not scanning.
We're pretty clever if I do say so myself.
It actually turns out it's going to be shelf mania in the office by the time we're finished. We had planned on replacing the railing in the office with, well, another railing. But while browsing Pinterest one day (that site is Trouble with a capital T) I ran across this picture: 

Originally from
Um...yes please. Though it's much bigger than a railing, it's also a lot more functional and easier to build. It also looks very similar to our fireplace remodel, and I think it would help tie the two spaces together - you can actually see the fireplace in our living room from our office. 
Also, our bookshelf in the den is overflowing with books, so the added book storage will be nice and we can maybe do something else with the space in the den if we don't need the bookshelf there. We've been talking about a bar cabinet in the den for a long time, since our kitchen is small and there's no storage for liquor. All of our adult-beverage ingredients have been sitting in a cardboard box under our guest bed since we moved in. If only our guests knew they could be living it up when they slept over! 

Adam is much more on board with this idea than he ever was with the railing, so I've been prodding him to start planning construction and get moving on it. I'm crossing my fingers, but since the weather is starting to cool down here in the mid-Atlantic I have a feeling we'll be back in the yard again, tearing out old bushes and weeds. We lost steam on that project when temperatures got into the 90s and 100s.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Office Update: 4 Months Later

It's been a while since I gave you a little update on the progress in the office. And when I say a little while, I mean 4 months (sheesh!).When last we saw the office I looked like this:

Well, the honest truth is that not a whole lot has happened since then, but we have done a few new things. Here's the office today (pardon the different lighting - I'm working on using the white balance on my camera): 

Not a huge change, but a few things have gotten done.

1. New light fixture!

I was going to get the Eden pendant from Crate and Barrel (which has since been discontinued and replaced by the Finley) but I found this one at Tuesday Morning for $20 more. With this light I wouldn't have to wait for shipping and it had 3 bulb sockets in it, as opposed to the 1 in the Eden; meaning more light, which is important in a work area. We'll be adding a dimmer to the wall switch, though, for maximum lighting control.

So, we love the light, its much better than the old off-center flush mount fixture that was there, but there was a problem when we bought it. Can you see it?

How about a closer look?

Whoops! The cover I bought for the box in the ceiling is too small. We were not interested in cutting a new hole in the ceiling, running new electrical wiring. and patching the old one, so we swagged the chain. Home Depot and Lowe's didn't have bigger covers. What's a girl to do?

We didn't want to make the hole smaller with drywall patching, because that would require painting the patched parts. Normally not a problem, but we've yet to be able to find a white that matches the ceiling color, so anything we painted over would be the wrong white, necessitating repainting the WHOLE ceiling, which is a messy, unpleasant job in a room with a lot of weird corners, a portion over a stairwell and a hallway attached. So, what did we do? Like any normal, lazy homeowner, we cosmetically covered it up!

This little ceiling medallion cost us $25 from Architectural and did the trick perfectly. It also added a little detail to the ceiling, which is nice. I need to buy a screw for the other of the silver cover. That's on my list of things to do today.

Next on the list of things we've done in the office:

2. Refinished a little side table.

I got this baby for $4 at a yard sale:

I was on board with the concept here (stained wood top, white bottom) but the actual finish was not so good.

 Distressed white-wash? Not my gig.

The top was down right beat-up. And the underside? I won't show it to you, but it was full of old spider egg-sacks (ewwwwwwww...).

So, down to the basement with it where I took it apart, cleaned of all remnants of spiders (hopefully there were no baby spiders inside...) refinished the top and repainted the bottom. All to become this:

The top is Minwax's Walnut Brown stain (I think I put on 5 coats of it, and I let them sit for 15 minutes each...I wanted it D-A-R-K) and the bottom is Sherwin Williams Roman Column (the same color as the trim in our whole house). I had the stain, the polycrylic and the paint all on hand, so this table really only cost $4 - it's holding up a $125 lamp...that evens out, right?

3. I've recovered both of our office chairs in a cool diamond print fabric:

I'd like to point out that I did not throw in a "cat lumbar pillow". That made its way onto the chair all by itself. What can I say? No matter what I'm doing- she wants to be in whatever room I'm in. She has no regard for important blog photography.

The wide shot from the start of the post is a little old, and only one chair is covered there. I did the second one a few days ago.

4. All the "stuff" that was stored in our old corner desks (remember them?) has been transplanted to Ikea Kasset boxes:

We also purchased that pretty vase (and the lamp on the little table) from some potters in Pennsylvania during a little pottery trip we took with my aunt this winter (she's our pottery guru). It's filled with sticks from Ikea and some over-sized faux pheasant feathers I found on clearance at Pottery Barn. There's going to be a couple more, but I have to transplant all of our CDs from jewel cases to paper sleeves to minimize the space they'll take up. CDs are obsolete and I don't think we even own a cd player, but we're not ready to let go of them yet. Maybe someday our kids will laugh at our ridiculous technology, just like I laugh when I find my Dad's old 8-tracks.

The boxes will be residing in some shelves we're going to build in the alcove there. We're planning the shelves this week, hoping to install them next week. Once that's done we can hook up our new printer.

5. I finally framed our diplomas! Adam graduated 5.5 years ago, I graduated 4 years ago. It's about time. Hanging them is going to require scaffolding (seriously...the wall is over the stair well) so it might be a little while before we actually get them on the wall. I tried to keep them simple, none of the fancy frames degrees are usually in. While we're both proud to have college diplomas, so we wanted to hang them up. On the other hand we don't want to boast; which is why they're in simple frames upstairs in the house, not on the 1st floor for all our guests to see.

Hanging diplomas is a hotly debated topic in the comments over on Apartment Therapy.

6. I put up a couple of little shelves for Adam's computer surround sound speakers on the wall behind his half of the desk.

His speakers used to always sit on his desk, so he didn't actually have surround sound, he had "front and sides" sound. This looks better, too. It was like he had a little wall of speakers around him before.

There's still a lot to do in the office, and it's slow going, but we'll get there. It certainly looks a heck of a lot better than it did!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Out back at our house

After a long, unannounced hiatus I'm sure you're all waiting with baited breath to see what's going on around our house.

And when I say "unannounced hiatus" I mean I didn't make time for blogging and that I was generally ashamed at the lack of work going on with the house. Now that I'm on Summer break, hopefully posting will go back to being much more regular.

We've been taking a break from decorating the office to work on the back yard.  Our back yard is, in short, a jungle. It would be one giant hill sloping toward the house, but at some point someone who owned the property installed terracing. Lots of it. Climbing up and down the terraces can make gardening a challenge.

The previous owner, as far as we've culled from our nieghbors, didn't do a whole lot to keep it landscaped. Understandable. Maryland summers are hot and humid and generally unpleasant to do any work in. Also, our back yard has insane mosquitoes, double trouble. Last summer was incredibly hot here, so we didn't do anything in the yard either. But this year, we decided to take advantage of the Spring weather to start clearing out the mess and putting down new landscaping cloth and mulch. Who knows how much we'll get done this summer, but the point is, we've started and we're really happy with our progress, even though we're not actually planting anything just yet.

Anyway, here's how it looked when we started. 

Yes, very green, but very overgrown as well. Here's where we're at now, after several weekends of tearing stuff out and putting down mulch.

Much less green, sure, but we'll get to that in the future. It doesn't help that lack of rain has sort of fried the grass, too. We are not believers in watering the lawn. 

I made a slide show of our progress. We didn't do it all in one go, for sure. We've been tackling the terraces in sections, so here it is one section at a time. 

We saved the few plants that are decent looking, including a couple of evergreen shrubs, some kind of shrub of unknown variety, some vine-y things growing on the terrace walls and a hydrangea that I bought last year and never planted and somehow it was still alive this Spring even though it sat in pot on our patio for 6-9 months.

We've got a whole lot left to do, for sure. But we're happy that SOMETHING is getting done. We've got plans to put in bushes, take out some trees, and even have a small portion of the terraces devoted to growing vegetables and herbs. We are both fiends for rosemary, and used to have a huge rosemary plant in the yard, but it didn't make it when we transplanted it 2 Autumns ago.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Excuses, Excuses

Lots of things are going on here at our house, unfortunately, none of them are actually being COMPLETED. More correctly, I shouldn't say that they're "going on" so much as they're sitting there, staring at me saying "finish me" and I'm saying "um....just one more episode of Teen Mom 2, or Real Housewives of Someplace".

But here's the list of the things I'm juggling right now.

1. I bought a small side table at a yard sale for $4. I'm staining and painting it. I started that project, oh, 6 weeks ago. Literally. It should have taken 3 days (when you consider drying time).

2. I have 2 more rolling office chairs to recover. They are sitting in the guest room where I don't have to look at them every day, mocking me with their unfinished-ness.

3. We bought a storage bench to put under the dining room window. That also needs to be painted and a new seat cushion sewn for it. When it's done, it will hold cookbooks and other kitchen overflow. Right now it holds 12 cans of cat food...and the seat cushion is covered in cat hair.

4. The office saga continues. We've still got next to nothing on the walls, no realistic storage and a light fixture that is about 3 times brighter than we really want or need. We need to fix all those things as well as hook up our new printer (which has to be networked to 5 computers...) cover the holes in the ceiling, paint 3 doors, install new door knobs, and numerous other things I don't really want to think about.

5. Don't get me started on the railing upstairs. I think we're both pretending that it doesn't need to be replaced.

Why hasn't any of this been done? I came down with bronchitis, which took 3 weeks to get over, and then Adam got it from me, in addition to some kind of weird flu thing, so he's been sick for about 4 weeks. Our home became a den of sickness, full of tissues, cough drops, soup an Robitussin. Lots of bottles of Robitussin.  I think we went through 4 bottles. Neither of us was sick at the same time, but when one of us was sick, the other one was just trying to keep the house from collapsing under piles of laundry and dirty dishes. And as we all know, men don't get sick, they get a Man Cold

And so it went. Husband care took priority over most other things. Poor little bunny.

But, the coughing has subsided around here, so I'm hoping to be back on task! I returned to refinishing the end table tonight. I purchased a ceiling medallion to deal with the holes in the office ceiling (which I'll explain later). I'm investigating solutions for putting our new printer on a shelf, while still accommodating the scanner lid. Hopefully the ol' blog will be hopping again soon.

Also, 4 more weeks of school. Then it will be summer and I will be more inclined to work on house things. I can taste the freedom.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A much needed update on the office.

I felt bad signing off yesterday without updating about the office. So, here we go.

A few weeks ago, the office ago the office looked like this:

In the last few weeks we've repainted, removed the old desks, put in a new dining room table to be used as one large desk, as well as a chaise lounge, hung new blinds and curtains and some artwork, as well as some shelves. So, here's where we're at now (click the photo to see it larger):

Note the cameo by Miss Daisy on the chaise at the left there. She was too cute not to use this picture. 
Check out another angle. 

Painting this room was an important milestone. It had the last of the stained wood trim. All of the trim in our house is now white. It only took a year and a half. 

So far, we're digging the office. But we still have work to do.

In the second angle above you can see we need something on the wall over the chaise. The shelves need to be dressed in a practical way (I don't want to fill them with fluff. An office should have purpose) The large vase to the left of the chaise needs some reeds or sticks or something to go with the giant pheasant feathers I found on clearance at Pottery Barn. The junk on the filing cabinet needs a home. I'm on the hunt for a throw blanket for the chaise (I like this one, but I'm not sure I can force myself to spend $50 on a throw blanket). 

We also need to add shelves to this alcove. It's where our new printer and network access server (which is what I discovered a networkable hard drive is called...but don't hate on me if I'm wrong) will go. It will also be where our wireless internet thingy will go. 

I also need to recover two office chairs with this fabric. 

 We need some kind of cord management solution, like whoa: 

And we still need to rebuild the railing. That will be our biggest challenge: 

Oh, and hanging the light fixture over the desk is also on the to do list. I don't have a picture of that, but the fixture has been purchased.

All in all, we're moving right along. I also got the stairwell painted and some art I've been eyeing up on Etsy hung up there. I used Glidden's Natural Linen for the paint on this. It was left over from when I painted the hallway last year.  Here are some befores: 

And Afters: 

 The art is this print from Studio KMO on Etsy. The two together are a map of Baltimore city, all made up with little tiny lines for all the city blocks. No text or street names. 

Hope you enjoyed this little update on the office/stairwell. I'm hoping to have all the simple jobs done in the next 3 weeks or so. The railing is a daunting task we've yet to plan out. Stay tuned, friends.