Standing in line at the Home Depot, hand basket filled with paint thinner and sand paper, I realize that I may very well be insane, for I was gearing up to update an old, hand-made family dresser that I had previously– not once, but twice — tried to tackle. Would this third attempt at a creating a modern, fun and functional piece of home decor be my last? If history was any indicator, probably not.
On attempt one, an unfortunate lapse of judgement in the paint department resulted in a dresser that could have been dreamt up by the Harlem Globetrotters.
Exhausted, defeated, and in no hurry to continue my intimate relationship with the orbital sander and foam paint brush, I resolved to hastily fix the problem with fabric and a staple gun. Undoubtedly an improvement, but only a temporary fix to buy myself some time before once again taking up arms against the contrary cabinet.
What I had always been shooting for was something modern, grown up but still a little fun. The fabric fix was most certainly fun, but you have to acknowledge, it was also a tad alienating. So I went back to the drawing board to come up with a solution that would age gracefully as styles change, but still maintain a little “edge” so to speak. Something a la this…
The fabric would have to come off, as well as the multiple layers of blue and yellow paint. But that wasn’t the whole of it. I would also remove the trim around the base and add some hairpin legs to really drive home that updated modern feel. The only thing that would stay was the hardware. Finally, finally I think I nailed it.
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s funny how there are some plans you stew and stew over before putting them into action, while others seem to be executed nearly immediately. The latter was the case for my most recent DIY–installing a set of shelves in the corner of our office. A routine Saturday browsing of the internets led me to stumble across a photo of an ingenious design for wall mounted display shelves that I felt compelled to emulate post haste.
Normally, I think it’s best to leave corners open and free of clutter, but there is so much I love about this design from A Home West. I think it’s a super way to display the artifacts that help define us while still maximizing storage capacity. And since storage has always been an issue for Heath and myself–I’m a bit of an impulse buyer, Heath’s got a smidge of hoarder in him–this solution seemed ideal for both storing Heath’s collection of history books and my random assortment of knick knacks. I don’t exaggerate when I say fewer than 10 minutes passed from the moment I stumbled across this clever home remedy and when I departed to Home Depot for supplies. A couple of hours later, the office was rejuvenated.
It turned out to be an incredibly simple, fast, and affordable way to freshen up a neglected space. We already had the wood from an old project Heath and I worked on at our last house, which, coincidentally, was also one we embarked on to create storage in our old office. So the only real cost was the hardware:
- 20 1/2-inch wood screws (four for each shelf)
- 10 L-shaped brackets
- 20 washers
- 20 metal anchor screws
- 20 3-inch wall screws
- Black spray paint
That was it! I think I spent something like $34 total and a Saturday afternoon to see the transformation through to fruition. I still need to stain the edges of the shelves, and I’ll admit, I kind of miss my map wall, but my lust for this new unit is keeping me pretty satisfied.
Our unplanned bathroom renovation has come to a close and I’m thrilled with how it turned out–not only from a design perspective but by how quickly the whole thing came together (despite my month lag in posting). We had always figured we’d get around to doing a reno ourselves at some point, but truth be told I’m grateful for our little pipe bursting fiasco because the pros got it done faster, cheaper and better than we ever could have. It’s just like the bible says: there’s a time for everything– a time for DIY and a time for LOPDIFY–Letting Other People Do It For You.
Previously, on the doodle house…
The contractors got in and out in just over a week (though the week living in our house without a working toilet was not one of my favorites) and did a masterful job. The final product is not too far off from the first-and-only mood board I created a few months back when I first started day dreaming about a restroom redux, though their are some key differences between the vision and the reality.
What stayed from the original plan?
Hexagonal tiles: I clung tight to my original plan to use hexagonal tiles on the floor. I’ve always thought it was a classic and clean look but still had plenty of character and dimension. I also like how they fit in with the era of the house and appeal to my tendency to gravitate toward anything with an entrancing repetitive pattern (see stencil wall). No, I never deviated from wanting those in any bathroom renovation we would undergo. There’s no denying, that look is pretty dope.
Blue and white color scheme: I love all shades of blue (especially anything in the teal/turquoise family, as is evident by the nagging urge I experience to paint everything from tables, to dressers, to walls in one shade or the other) and I wanted to bring it into the bathroom as well, though initially, my vision was for it to come through mostly via accessories–a variation, I’ll note, I had no qualms with. The wall color we chose? Ash blue by Valspar.
Round mirror: Most everything else in the bathroom is angular, so I wanted to invite some playful curvature to provide contrast to an otherwise predictable space. We got ours for $40 at Target.
Wooden accents: In our kitchen, we try to blend modern design elements (counters, light fixtures, cabinet hardware) with things that are a little more true the home’s original design (knotty pine cabinets). I wanted to do the same in the bathroom–update the space, but without losing some of the warmth and richness that can come when you modernize. I figured incorporating some soft wood accents would help accomplish that. Our towel cabinet (Home Depot) gives a nod to our knotty pine kitchen but still has some of that sleekness that ties it into the rest of the bathroom and house. Though, to be honest, I’m still weighting whether or not it’s dimensions are right for our very small space. Though, I dare not try to make my own after our last DIY kerfuffle.
Water/animal-themed art: I knew whatever art ended up in the bathroom I wanted to be water themed because, get it? Initially I thought about something with dogs, and then briefly considered this goofy otter pic from Etsy, but when we spotted this Grace Potter and the Nocturnals poster by LandLand at a renegade craft fair, it seemed like a winner. It had all the shades of blue I was after, featured water creatures (crawfish) and, you get cool points cuz it’s a band poster–a band we’ve seen before. High fives all around.
Wall tile: it was old, and the grout desperately needed to be redone, but I was fond of the bathroom’s original celadon green tiles. Like blue, I’ve always also always been drawn to green, and since I’m a gal on a budget and not tremendously opposed to letting my retro hang out, I assumed if we updated the bathroom, the green tile would probably hold steady. Of course, once the experts came in and said the whole thing would have to be demolished, I started singing another tune. Because the space is so small, I opted not to replace the tile with something similar, but to go bright and understated. White subway tiles fit the mold and go oh-so-well with the white hexagonal flooring.
Shower curtain: I originally planned for white to try to keep the already small space from feeling too busy. But in the context of our white walls and floors, a white shower curtain made the space a bit boring, and that’s not in compliance with doodle house code. I briefly considered spending way too much on some of the perfectly marketed curtains on Anthropologie, but wound up spending only $10 at Marshall’s for a print that I think turned out to be perfect for the color, size and tone of the space.
What makes me happy?
All of it!
Once upon a time, our fiddle leaf fig was a contained, petite and well-groomed specimen. But these days, the branches of my beloved ficus are pretty sprawled out, each one is in business for itself. Not that I mind that, necessarily. For a while, I thought this particular plant had gone rogue, or at the very least was in a rebellious state against its doting caretakers based on how it looked when we initially brought ‘er home (unfortunately, no pictures exist of that banner moment).
But this perceived independent streak is not quite as it seems; in fact, after some research I have found that it is my preconceived notion of what this popular house plant ought to look like that is at fault. As it happens, fiddle leafs come in all shapes and sizes, depending on how they are groomed and cared for, which means there’s pretty much a style to fit anyone’s idea of beauty. That’s a pretty swell shrub if I have anything to say about it.
Long and leggy
I’m digging the different looks the Ficus lyrata can pull off, it’s essentially the Carrie Bradshaw of house plants. I’m gonna go ahead and go out on a limb here (eh, eh?) and say, fiddle leaf fig, you’re my ideal house plant. You’re pretty easy going (Or should I say growing?!), you’re nice to look at and I doubt I’ll ever be bored of you.