Preservation vs. Rejuvenation: Questions about updating older homes

Over the weekend, I was *THRILLED* to find that Apartment Therapy featured our DIY kitchen renovation on their blog.

I have never hidden the fact that AT is a huge inspirational blog for me, so it was really humbling to see our kitchen featured on their site. One thing that surprised me, however, was many of the comments. Namely, many people were surprised (some pleasantly, some not so) to see I kept the knotty pine cabinets rather than paint over them.

I can’t say I blame those curious commentors. In fact, when we first purchased our new house, I even wrote a blog entitled “Naughty Pine” all about how much I hate how knotty pine cabinets look. They were, I reckoned, dated and dark and dirty. The fact that I decided to keep them surprised me as much as anyone else. So, why did I do it?

For one, we didn’t have it in our budget to rebuild the cabinets or change the general layout of the kitchen. That certainly plays a significant role.

But why not paint?

It’s generally acknowledged that kitchens and bathrooms are the spaces in homes that age most poorly. Today, it’s all about granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances. But in the ’90s it was mostly country chic that dominated the Better Homes and Gardens catalogs. The ’80s, dark wood trim surrounding stark white cabinets seemed to be all the rage. And in the ’70s, avocado green appliances were the standard. What I’m getting at is this: every era has had it’s signature look that ultimately becomes dated and disliked. Trends and fashions are cyclical and even if you renovate to achieve the most modern look possible, history says it will one day be out of style, old fashioned and in need of a yet another “upgrade.”

A traditional ’90s kitchen from gardenweb.com

An '80s kitchen with lattice wallpaper

An ’80s kitchen courtesy Mirror80

So rather than try and completely modernize the kitchen, I decided to embrace the era in which the house was built–1957–but still give the kitchen some life and updated style. It’s why we bought a Big Chill fridge (my most prized possession) and opted to keep the classic, mid-century cabinets in their knotty pine glory while still bringing in a shiny and new countertop and back splash.  At the end of the day, a 2012 kitchen in a 1957 home didn’t seem like the best fit.

There are a handful of other blogs that reinforce this ideology. Retro Renovation, is one that very intentionally focuses on preserving the original integrity of older homes, and which has been a valuable resource for me. Check out some of their time capsule homes.

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Courtesy: Retro Renovation

Another local blogger (and amazing photographer) that understands the importance of balancing history with modernity is Heather Banks of  Brady Bunch Remodel fame.

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Courtesy: Brady Bunch Remodel

At the heart of it, what I’m trying to say is this: old homes have their charms and their flaws. And while it’s certainly tempting to demolish and reconstruct your home (if you have the means) to a more modern and magnificent space, there’s also something to be said for preservation. And I hope other caretakers of homes of other eras will find ways to enhance AND embrace the features that make those spaces a part of their city’s history.


REDEMPTION! A dresser “recovers” from a botched paint job.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the tragic saga of the dresser that turned into a chicken. Today, I’m happy to report that the dresser makeover that went horribly wrong has been corrected! Or, at least it’s slightly less repulsive?

To jog your memory, our story began with a completely adequate dresser that I destroyed when I forgot what the color “gold” looks like.

The original

Dresser before

The Inspiration

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The Resultunnamed

The result was more eeek than chic and whatever my next move was, I knew I wanted to retain a geometric pattern because, well, it’s simply the best.

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But I also knew I couldn’t be trusted with paint again. Nor was I especially eager to repaint what took several painstaking hours to achieve. My solution? Cover the drawers in a large-scale geometric fabric print. Much like these crafty Design Sponge artisans did.

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An afternoon trip to local upholstery shop Spruce got me just what I needed. After looking at a handful of fabric samples and even wallpaper swatches, I ended up walking out some clearance fabric for $20 that was just barely perfect amount to cover the front of the drawers. No paint or sander was needed. Armed with just a staple gun and a pair of scissors, in 30 minutes I was able to save the dresser from the DIY disaster hall of fame.

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I’m not sure this is going to be my permanent solution for glamifying the dresser, but at least the fabric do-over is a vast improvement from where we started, and it didn’t require an obscene amount of effort or money to achieve. Let’s upgrade this project from a D-I-Why did I do this? to a D-I-Why, it could have been worse.


D-I-(wh)Y did I do that? or How to Destroy a Perfectly Good Dresser

About a year ago I picked up a free chest of drawers that were in good shape, of a nice size and functional but not exactly the sweetest piece of eye candy. Naturally, I took it upon myself to correct this problem.

Dresser before

You see, for quite some time now, I’ve been operating under the assumption that I am, relatively speaking, crafty and capable. I’ve taken old upholstery off chairs and put new covers on. I’ve constructed floating office shelves and painted an only partially crooked stencil pattern on an accent wall among other things. Maybe I’m no Martha Stewart but I’m no rube either. This, it turns out, is a very dangerous perception under which to operate. Oh self-esteem…how terribly you have betrayed me.

Armed with just the right amount of misguided confidence, I set about to turn this humble clothing receptacle into a work of art so grand, and creative and magnetic that furniture designers the world over would gaze upon it and come to me, weeping, begging for me to share my gift with them. A reasonable expectation. My ingenious scheme, you ask? Simple chevron stripes painted across the drawers. Something a la this:

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Perhaps my idea wasn’t all that daring, but all the more reason to believe I could successfully pull this off.

Nope.

The plan revolved around retaining the essence of the existing cloudy gold color, but to bring it some bold contrast with rich, blue stripes. Somehow, that seemed like a wise decision. Gold gives it some spunk. Deep blue makes it a little more grown up and not quite so “glam girl.” It can be a pretty dope look.

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Of course, that’s only in the instance that god forsaken cans of gold spray paint don’t suck the soul out of your body in the process of achieving it. I don’t want to entirely blame my tools as there was most definitely some user error in the process of destroying the integrity of this once fine dresser, but the project first started to go off the rails with the damned spray paint. After I had puttied and sanded the dresser with all the meticulousness I could muster,  I applied the spray paint, only to find that it bubbled and conformed to itself in little bumpy clusters that gave the drawers the texture of lizard skin. I rightfully abandoned the spray paint idea and instead selected a traditional interior paint in the shade of “turmeric” to replace it. You may be surprised to hear this, but “turmeric” and “gold” are not the same color. It actually probably doesn’t surprise anyone but somehow it took me until I was staring at the finished product to truly come to grips with the fact that instead of a sleek blue dresser with some punchy golden flair, I had instead applied the same royal blue and orangey-yellow color scheme used by the University of Delaware’s mascot.

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Oh the humanity!

To really add insult to injury, the knobs I had selected for the new (but not improved) dresser were duds. And expensive duds at that: $14-a-piece from Anthropologie but the knobs pulled right off the screws when you opened the drawers.This made the finished dresser both comically ugly and non functional. I’d give myself a hand for so artfully destroying a needed piece of furniture, but I’d probably screw that up too.

More on the fugly dresser saga to come….


Berlin: Teil zwei

If there is one thing Berlin has plenty of, it’s patios. I like this. I don’t think there is any scenario in which I take umbrage with there being unlimited options for outside dining and wine drinking. It’s how I would spend all day every day if I had my druthers. And Graffiti. They like their chaotic street art in Berlin. Patios and graffiti. Oh, and their bicycles. Patios, graffiti and bicycles. And depressing, grandiose memorials.  I should start over….

Truthfully, I was taken aback by Berlin’s laissez-faire attitude. Particularly as it is located in a country who’s people are stereotyped as being strict and rigid and preoccupied with maintaining order. As evidence of its go-with-the-flow personality,  I submit to you their aforementioned lax policy on building defacement, as well as the fact that in Berlin, it’s perfectly acceptable to stroll down the street with a beer in hand–in glass bottles no less! Definitely a no-no stateside. Further, during an afternoon outing to one of the city’s community pools, we witnessed no fewer than 3924761432342 children sliding down a water slide at once. And running on wet cement–an activity the American lifeguard community views as being on par with smoking a cigarette indoors—is not only not reprimanded, it seemed downright encouraged. Then, there’s the part where before Heath jumped off the diving board, he politely asked the pool’s only lifeguard whether doing flips was permissible. He was met with a befuddled response: Of course this is fine. Why would it not be?  Perhaps I’m applying the community pool’s gentle policies a little to liberally to the entire city, but still, Berlin as a whole seems content to let its people be.  It’s likely the result of a long and tragic history marked by a series of oppressive and totalitarian regimes. But Berlin seems to have learned a thing or two from its past, and today enjoys a vibrant and resilient atmosphere.

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Berlin Wall East Gallery

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But I say all this before arriving at the crux of my argument. Berlin–like every place–is made more special by the people you experience it with. Our German vacation was made what it was by the company we kept. As I’m inclined to list off all the things that make Berlin unique, I’m also inclined to include Nick and Melissa on that list—two people who were pivotal to the good times had.

Berlin Breakfast

Berlin Breakfast

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Street beers are definitely allowed in Germany. What a magnificent culture.

Street beers are definitely allowed in Germany. What a magnificent culture.

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Foto Friday: There’s a Yankee in the Doodle House (how dandy!)

It’s Picture Day today at the middle school where Heath teaches. With this in mind, I’m resurrecting Foto Friday this week because everyone deserves to see the outfit my favorite history teacher chose to grace the pages of the RBMS yearbook.

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Is he a great teacher or what?

(Props go to Mama Joy for making such a kick ass Yankee uniform.)


Carpet Diem

I’m going to interrupt your regularly scheduled international blog series to focus on some domestic affairs: my living room.

A few weeks ago Apartment Therapy posted this little gem to Instagram…

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…and it really got me thinking about how much I love the contrast of an oriental rug paired with sleek modern design.  It’s totally in step with the whole “modern eclectic” vibe I’m going for. So, immediately I went in search of more inspiration to satiate my appetite. The internets did not disappoint. Designers seem to be loving the whole modern-meets-traditional vibe that this pairing provides.

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Home Edit

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Lou Lou & Oscar

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Apartment Therapy

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Gattox

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Patric Johansson

Petra Bindel

Petra Bindel

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Apartment Therapy

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Caitlin Wilson

thedecorista

The Marion House Book

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Style At Home Magazine

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Design Lovers

Clearly its not a new concept, but nevertheless, it struck a chord with me. And, as his holiness The Dude professed unto his disciples, the power to tie a room together belongs to that of the truly great rug.

Naturally, I went out in search of one of my own. A couple of tryout rugs later (thanks to Kaskas very convenient try-before-you-buy policy) I ended up with a winner, and it led to a complete transformation of our living room.

before and after turkish rug

doodlehouselivingroom eclectic oriental rug labradoodlepanch modern ecelectic living room modern eclectic oriental rug
I can’t side step that one big reason for the living room transformation lies not only with the rug but also with the change in wall color. The new rug is definitely an accent piece and as such, demands a lot of attention. Attention that my beloved stencil wall could not compete with.

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While it was with a bit of a heavy heart that I painted over the old Stecie,  I remain convinced it was the right call.  One can only take so much attention-seeking behavior in one room. (Though I will say, the wall does demand some kind of artistic treatment beyond plane white. I’ve just yet to determine what will be the best fit for this new style.) Along with the stencil wall, I also big adieu to the green accent wall.  That wall too felt a little funny painting over. I remember coming in the night we closed on the house to get it painted up before we moved in. How interesting to discover how my styles and preferences have shifted over these 3 years.

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But I’ve not regretted making the change away from our vibrant walls. I loved our little green room while we had it, and as I loved that, I’m also loving this next design progression.

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Austria in pictures

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Prater

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I was very excited when I found these mini bottles at a market in Vienna for a euro a piece!

I was very excited when I found these mini bottles at a market in Vienna for a euro a piece!

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The Natural History Museum

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Vienna by day

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Vienna by dusk

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