October 31, 2013

halloween in the burbs

It's our first real, grown-up Halloween! Our neighborhood is pretty ideal for trick-or-treating, the houses are close, there's street lights on every corner, and there's youths everywhere. I've never handed out candy before, so it'll be fun to see all the little kids with their cute costumes, but I'm wondering if we got enough candy ... and wine for myself.

I didn't hang any Halloween themed decorations mostly because I was lazy, so we went the traditional pumpkin route. The only problem with real pumpkins is that they're tasty and something has been nibbling on them. I was suspecting one of my favorite critters, squirrels, but it could have been any of the cute furry animals that live around our house like rabbits or chipmunks. No, it wasn't any of those. 

I got home late one evening, and went to check on the pumpkins to see the damage for that day, but I found something horrible. Real gross. Slugs, yes, slugs were slowly eating our pumpkins ... why couldn't it have been cute chipmunks? I left the city roaches to be fighting slugs, on the bright side they're slower.

Apparently beer and coffee work to get rid of slugs, but let's get real, I'm not buying beer for slugs. So I got some advice from a really helpful Lowe's garden guy and got Diatomaceous Earth. It's inexpensive and completely safe, you can even eat it (although I wouldn't suggest that). Diatomaceous Earth is made up of fossilized remains of marine algae, it looks just like flour, and it dries up bugs on contact. So we decided to wash and carve our pumpkins and surround them with Diatomaceous Earth to prevent them from being further eaten. Let's hope this works.

Happy Halloween!

October 29, 2013

living room purchases

A rug and two chairs can be checked off our 'things we don't really need but should get' list, and I'm pretty excited. It feels good to move on to bigger, better things, like maybe finally painting the kitchen. Even though I did a seriously insane amount of online research, I ended up trusting my gut and purchasing an awesome rug at HomeGoods. It came down to three things that I was not willing to compromise:

1. price
2. quality
3. versatility

Buying a rug online is risky for obvious reasons, you don't see it in person so the color and texture may be off. Even though a lot of retailers offer free delivery, we'd have to pay for return shipping if we didn't like it, and let's just say that returns tend to get pricey when you're dealing with a 9'x12' rug. I visited HomeGoods once a week and even asked the manager when they typically get shipments of rugs, which I found out is totally unpredictable. Well, my persistence paid off and I took a rug home! I love the versatility of our new rug and that it looks simple at first but has a really unique texture once you see and feel it up close.

Here's some rug info:

- Broyhill brand, just like our dining room rug
- Hand-made wool construction
- 8'x11', which is one foot less on each side than I wanted
- Really thick pile, around 1/2" to 1", so it's soft
- It sheds since it's hand-made, but it's easy to vacuum

I also ordered some 'test' chairs from Target, and to my surprise we ended up keeping them. The husband put them together, and they turned out to be the perfect size and color. They're small enough to make getting around the living room easy, and they're perfect conversation chairs that allow people to sit around the coffee table. They're pretty comfortable but I have to say, I wouldn't lounge in them and watch a movie ... we have our sectional for that (it arrived!)

Throughout this whole house decorating process, I've come to really respect Interior Designers (except maybe Hildi Santo-Tomas because THIS). Coming from the architecture side of things, I definitely didn't give them enough credit. Getting a room totally completed is a lot harder than it looks!

October 14, 2013

hall bathroom plans

Lately, I've been busy with life things, saving money and energy for future projects, and catching up on some Showtime shows, four more Dexter seasons to go! With all these huge projects looming over our heads like new doors, new fence, and insulation, I've been thinking about smaller changes we could make to complete some rooms in our home. One of the items on that list, hallway bathroom.

Our hallway bathroom is original to the house, and it was redone quickly to sell the house. I can tell because it looks a little sloppy, but the basic parts of it are in good condition. Since we moved in, we added the accessories (toilet paper holder, towel ring, etc.), changed the shower curtain rod, and changed the knobs on the storage closet. It looks fine, but not as cohesive as I'd like it to be. Actually, hanging the bathroom accessories was the first real 'work' we did in the house and that is also when we realized our walls require some pretty intense anchors for hanging just about anything. Anyway ...

The shower fixtures haven't been updated in a while, so we'll eventually change them to match the oil-rubbed bronze look and add a hand held shower. I grew up with a handheld and know how much easier it is to clean a bathtub (or wash a future dog?), so there's no point in getting a fixed one if we're spending the money on a replacement. I'm thinking something along the lines of this:


The light fixture needs to be moved up and changed to an oil-rubbed bronze, I already purchased one I liked at Lowe's. I'd also like to switch the cheap faucet with a better quality oil-rubbed bronze one that'll work better with the light and wall accessories. The mirror and vanity were new when we moved in, so there's no need to change them.

The storage next to our shower is so useful! In old homes like ours, bathroom storage like this is unheard of, so we were pretty happy to see some extra space. The only thing is, it's pretty 'hand-made' looking, so I'd like to add some trim to the outside and and paint both inside and outside.

The floor is original to the bathroom and no matter how much I scrub, it will never look really clean. Since there are new white subway tiles around the bathtub walls, I was thinking we could just update the floor and the bathroom will look completely updated. In theory, this floor's vintage look goes well with subway tiles, but I'd like larger fresh tiles with a nice white trim. I saw the perfect example of the 'dark floor tile against the white subway tile' look on Young House Love

As far as color goes, I'm not set on anything specific, but I could see a repeat of our master bathroom color in here. It would look good against the white tub tiles and bright trim. We won't be tackling this project for a while, but I'm thinking it would be a good one for winter months when we aren't busy with outdoor work.

October 3, 2013

testing living room rugs

Since I moved our living room rug into the dining room, I've been on the lookout for a bigger, better rug that could fill our living room. It feels so empty and sad right now, I mean, it echos in there! Strangely, the most important thing I didn't consider first is the size. I just assumed 9x12 was perfect and didn't really bother to measure it out. So the other day I taped out the size in our living room and continued analyzing ... I didn't bother getting my camera out, so these are a little dark and blurry.

I didn't know the overlap with the dining room would be so obvious. In the second picture you can see how much of the rug will be visible from the dining room. In an effort to simplify the process, I stuck to two rug categories:

1. red rug with everything else more neutral - geometric, oriental, floral
2. neutral rug and bring in color with accent pillows and art - geometric, oriental, floral

I had no idea what would look good, so I did some room schemes with differently patterned rugs (and went a little overboard, so I got rid of a few examples). This turned out to be useful in seeing the big picture, especially since we don't have all of our furniture yet.


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west elm

I noticed that I have to be careful about reading reviews, because the coloring on a lot of these rugs isn't accurately represented. I really like the rug from West Elm, but I'm still undecided on neutral vs. red because I'm afraid a neutral rug will show dirt and spills much faster. On the flip side, a red rug might clash with the blue patterned dining room rug ... decisions, decisions. So far, these three are my favs from the trial:

October 1, 2013

yardwork with family

We have a long list of things to get done in the yard, and I'm happy to say that a lot of it was completed thanks to our family. The team consisted of my mom-in-law, step dad-in-law, aunt, grandma, and of course hubby. I have to add that I take absolutely no credit for the crazy amount of work that was done. The husband let me know about this epic undertaking the day before, but I was already committed to something so I missed the action. I have to say, the neighbors are very impressed!

Powerwashing - Our aunt has a power washer that she brought over and the whole house was washed! It was visibly green before and now it's perfectly clean, the bricks, the concrete porch and columns, the porch roof, the siding, all of it.  The most drastic change was in the green bricks near the door, it's pretty amazing. There are two action shots of the day, taken by my mom-in-law. I am so bummed I missed this!

The dirty BEFORE:

Powerwashing action:

The sparkling clean AFTER:

Removed Shrubs - We have this hedge that wrapped around our porch, and you couldn't get out of the passenger seat. Every time I pulled out of the garage, I was afraid the hedge would scratch my car. So they took it out and now we can get in the car and pull up the driveway without worrying, it's such a relief.

Trimmed and Relocated Shrubs - The husband got ladders so they were able to trim the larger shrubs in the front and in the back of the house. They also pruned the Japanese maple near our driveway, that I was honestly scared to touch. Now I know how it's supposed to be done and it'll look taken care of. While everything was getting trimmed, they discovered a hydrangea tucked under one of the larger bushes in the back of our house. I had no idea what it was before, but I know it was definitely struggling to grow. They moved it to the side of the house to give it more sunlight, so hopefully with enough watering and care it'll bloom in two years. It doesn't look like much, but I'm so excited, I had no idea we have a hydrangea!

Sink Hole?! - After everything was done, my step dad-in-law was walking back from the shed and stepped into a pretty big sinkhole in the middle of our yard! What?? There used to be a tree that was taken down at some point, so we think the large roots are slowly rotting away underground and creating sinkholes. It's a little scary, but we filled it with dirt for now, and we know for sure that we have to level the yard in the future.

Thank you all so much for coming over our house and doing all that work! We couldn't have gotten so much done without your help!