This is the best our yard will ever look

There is about a 3-4 week period in the spring where, in Austin, we experience essentially the opposite of the perfect storm:

  • We enjoy moderate rainfall several times a month
  • The average temperature ranges between 50 and 80 degrees
  • The sun’s rays bathe the garden until around 8:30 p.m.
  • The threat of a late winter freeze is virtually non existent
  • Mosquitoes and other pesky insects have not yet metamorphosed from their larva state

It’s absolutely the best 3-4 weeks of the year where the temps are perfect, the insects are minimal and plant life is stunning. Without question, this is the happiest of times for man, beast and plant. I’m going to document this moment like crazy because I won’t see it again for 12 months.

So green and luscious, perfect for patio-ing.

So green and luscious, perfect for patio-ing.

The veggie garden grows bigger by the day.

The broccoli will be ripe for the pickin' before too long.

The broccoli will be ripe for the pickin’ before too long.

green onions should be ideal in a month

green onions should be ideal in a month

purple iris and globe mallow

fireworks gomphrena

iris

iris

knockoutrose

knockout rose blooming in the front yard

knockoutrosebloom

blooming rose

marigold

marigolds

salvia

purple salvia

yellowiris

yellow iris and knock out rose

yellowsnapdragon

yellow snap dragon

All the blooms make it ideal for picking centerpiece bouquets, a hobby we can really only enjoy during this brief window of opportunity.

handpickedbouquet


Stencil me in

Great news! I made good on my promise (to myself) to stencil an accent wall in my living room. (Bless Heath for going along willingly with my wacky, wacky ideas for designing the house.) I started the project Dec. 15 and finished about a week later, just before the fam came down for Christmas.  What timing!

The before…

greenandturquoiserooms And the after…brightretrowallcolors

starburstmirrorartThus far I’m really loving our dizzying scalloped wall. I’ve always been a fan of bright and bold patterns on my blankets and pillows, so an entire wall of a retro and repetitious pattern is right up my alley. Since it has been up, I find myself zoning out on the couch, getting lost in the sequence of scallops.

The stencil pattern was ordered from Cutting Edge Stencils and set me back about $40. I already had the paint and rollers, so the cost of the stencil and my time was all I ended up investing on the project. So, I’d say it’s worth it to give stenciling a shot if it’s a look you’re keen on, though, admittedly it’s not for everyone. Should you give it a go, I’d recommend the following:

  1. Keep a level handy.  I eyeballed everything, which works OK with the guide of a stencil, but as I was finishing the project, I noticed a slight upward movement of the pattern as I went along.  It’s not something that’s really visible when you’re just glancing at it, but during my long stare-down sessions with the wall, I can notice the slight slope of the pattern. It’s minimal, but were I to do it over, I’d definitely recruit the aid of a ruler.
  2. Start at the very edge of the wall and work your way over. When I got going, i didn’t exactly start at the very edge of the wall, leaving instead a small gap between where my pattern started and where the wall started. It ultimately affected the all-over, saturating effect of the pattern I was going for, and I had to go in with my individual stencil to fill in the gaps. Start the stencil so that parts of the pattern flow off the edge of the wall so you don’t have to go back and fill in the holes when it’s done.
  3. Keep a blow dryer handy.  When stenciling, you don’t load up the roller with paint, so the wall itself drys fairly quickly. However, when you’re layering the plastic stencil with paint, it takes a little longer to dry. So moving the stencil pattern over the wall can result in wet splotches of paint where you don’t want it.  I got in the habit of using a blow dryer on the stencil so I could move through the project more quickly.
  4. Use a small brush for touch ups.  Careful as I may be, it seemed inevitable that there would be drips and smudges as I went along.  A tiny paint brush was crucial to cleaning up the oops-ies.

The whole thing took a few days to complete, but I wasn’t the most committed of painters. I stopped to bake, attend holiday parties and watch Christmas clay-mation movies…leaving only a couple hours a day devoted to stenciling. Should you choose to get your stencil on, I’d say it’s a project that could easily be knocked out in a day if you were truly diligent.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll offer a peek at the good, bad and ugly of the project.

The paint poured, brush not yet loaded. Still time to turn back…

The first round of the stencil pattern on the wall. No turning back now.

The first round of the stencil pattern on the wall. No turning back now. (You can also see here the spacing faux pas I am referring to in tip #2.)

One of the “whoops” moments. This is why a touch-up brush is so crucial.

Progress…

crookedstencil

Eventually I’ll need to redo the top. This is why a level is handy. Once I was at the top, I was eager to finish, and you can see the results of my sloppiness on the top row. Woe is me.

labradoodleportrait

Everyone here, dogs included, agrees the end result is bad ass.


Stenciling. My latest obsession.

For many moons now, I’ve been flirting with the idea of wallpapering a surface of the house. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out which wall, much less nail down the sort of pattern I wanted to lose my wallpaper virginity to.  Then I got scared off by all the reasons wallpaper naysayers give for not tackling the project. Primarily, it’s not easy to put up and it’s not easy to take down. And taking into consideration my tendency to obsessively rearrange furniture and redesign my living spaces, something as permanent as wallpaper probably wouldn’t be a good fit for little old me. Stenciling though, stenciling is genius. I can get behind stenciling.

"Morrocan Dream" All-over Stenciling

“Morrocan Dream” All-over Stenciling

For whatever reason, stenciling seems more manageable. I mean, it’s essentially painting, and your girl has painted her fair share of walls before. It also seems to be a cheaper alternative to ordering designer wallpaper. And, if I screw it up, which is likely, it’s much easier to fix or paint over than wallpaper. So stenciling it is!

The lime green wall below is the one I’ve singled out to be my stenciling guinea pig. In the picture, it’s home to a collection of friends’ photos, but I’ve since moved those to the hallway and the bare wall has been screaming for some quirky new treatment, STAT.

greenandturquoiserooms

At first I was toying with the idea of using painter’s tape to create some kind of geometric wall art. Maybe something a-like-a-this….

painter tape design

Or even better, this…

painters tape design

Inevitably, all that searching for inspirational images led me to stenciling, and then all bets were off. Stenciling it would be. I found Cutting Edge Stencils and Royal Design Studio to have the best collection of stencils in the look I’m after. But settling on a pattern might be easier said than done with so many cool options to choose from.

The "modern chevron" from Royal Design Studio is appealing because it ties in with the chevron curtains already taking up real estate in the living room.

The “modern chevron” from Royal Design Studio is appealing because it ties in with the chevron curtains already taking up real estate in the living room.

I like the wild look of the "Peacock Fancy" stencil, also from Royal Design Studio, but for our sized wall, we need something on a larger scale.

I like the wild look of the “Peacock Fancy” stencil, also from Royal Design Studio, but for our wall, we need something on a larger scale.

I love the modern edginess of the chevron, but also the movement and flow of the peacock pattern.  Our design style is a little modern and a little eclectic, so I think after much searching, I’ve decided on the same pattern I would have been likely to choose as a three-year-old…the mermaid.

The "mermaid allover" by Cutting Edge Stencils.

The “mermaid allover” by Cutting Edge Stencils.

I think it does a good job of combining what it is I like about the other two patterns. The mathematical repetition fits in nicely with our modern style, but the cloud-like arches soften it, for an effect that just feels good in all the right places.

The Internets have me believing that stenciling an accent wall is a DIY project that can be completed relatively quickly, and for someone with as little patience as me, “quick” is a word to be cherished as much as “cheap” or “easy” or “fun”. Of course, when I’ve actually started the stenciling process and am growing increasingly frustrated by the painstaking attention to detail it requires, I might be singing another tune. As it stands now though, stenciling and I have a date. If you’re looking for me this weekend, you’ll know where to find me.


Attention to Detail: 3 home improvement projects to tackle before the holidays

ATTENTION: Oye. I am a little embarrassed about the lack of blog posts I’ve churned out over the past couple of weeks. I wish I had a more legit excuse for being MIA, but the truth is I’ve just been a bit exhausted by my 9 to 5 and haven’t been able to muster up the strength to do much home improvement during my downtime…much less the strength to blog about it. Fortunately though, I feel like I have enough ammunition to fire off a blog post about my most recent discoveries in nesting. So please forgive my foolish absence.

After a year of inhabiting our current place, I thought I had pretty much tackled all of the little touch-up projects that would make the house feel like home: painting the walls, switching out light fixtures, installing shelves. You know, the small-ish projects that make a big impact. Foolishly, I thought the only things left to address to make my home “magazine worthy” were the big remodeling projects like putting in new counter tops in the kitchen, building a fence in the backyard, and laying down wood floors in the living room. With a trip to India just around the corner, I resigned myself to the fact that it would be a good long while before any of those projects would be checked off our to-do list.  Nothing to do but sit and wait, right? Wrong. A recent trip to mum’s house for Thanksgiving reminded me of the impact homing in on the small stuff can make on your GDH (gross domestic happiness). So I’m pretty jazzed about some of the micro-projects I’m going to take on this week that will help me get my head, house and heart in a good place.

Project One: lining the kitchen cabinets with vinyl tile
When Heath refinished the cabinets last Christmas, he did a swell job of giving the musty exterior some much-needed sheen. The interiors, however, were left untouched.  The bottom cabinets especially feel like a 50-year old dingy crawl space, which, let’s face it, they essentially are. Good old mom had the genius idea of lining the bottom of the cabinets with white vinyl tile. It’s easy to clean, easy to install and gives some brightness to an other wise dark and dirty nook of the kitchen. Wouldn’t have thought to do it, but I’m glad mom did.  I’m planning to use the peel-and-stick tiles for mine, but I found some cool projects on the interwebs that have other suggestions for bringing character to forgotten spaces. Check out this tutorial from Apartment Therapy, or this one from Pink Shirts and Car Wrecks. And for a whole post dedicated exclusively to making dreamy drawers, check out this one from I Heart Organizing.

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LinedDeskDrawer

Project Two: fridge focus
Since we’ve taken to harboring Bro in the house, it means sharing areas of real estate that I once had complete control over. Sadly, one of the areas over which I relinquished rule was the fridge. Once upon a time I kept it relatively organized, with specific spaces designated for particular foods. A cheese drawer, a produce container, etc. But when we started sharing the space with Bro’s foreign food stuffs, I kind of let keeping tabs on the fridge fall by the wayside. This is foolishness. I’ve got to rethink the way I manage the fridge. Rather than just throwing our groceries in there willy-nilly, I’ve got to reestablish a system of order. It has become a new priority for two reasons. First, we’ve got a pretty bad case of fridge blindness, which is the term I’m making up to describe what happens when you only eat the foods you see in the very front. The leftovers in the back get pushed further and further backward until they’ve spoiled. (Embarrassing fact: we recently discovered a gallon of milk in the depths of the fridge with a September expiration date. So you can see this is a serious problem). Putting everything (our food and Bro’s) in order will help us save money by not wasting food. Secondly, I think having a spruced up fridge will encourage better eating habits. I’m thinking of it like a department store.  I always get lured in by the fancy displays of intricately folded blouses and color-coded dresses and inevitably spend money on something I didn’t need because it just looked so damn fine in the store. Maybe I can mimic that effect in my fridge. I’ll want to eat more lettuce, fruits and produce if I display the healthy foods properly in the fridge.  It’s not the worst idea I’ve ever had. Just ask Real Simple, which has an entire article on the subject.

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Project Three: a clean coffee tableI think maybe a dirty coffee table is the unmade bed of the living room.  Think about it, whenever you want to give the appearance of a clean house, the first thing you do is make the bed, right? Every morning when I get up to let the dogs out through the back window (like all classy people do), I inevitably wind up doing the face palm dance over how grotesque I left the coffee table from the night before.  There are always at least two of the following splayed across our already decrepit cedar chest coffee table: finger nail clippers, half empty glasses of OJ, remote controls, coasters, pencils and bobby pins/hair ties (obviously, those belong to Heath). Of all the things in my house not worthy of a magazine photo shoot, I think our coffee table situation might take the cake. I’m starting my new year’s resolution early and committing to finding a way to organize the items that are meant to live on the coffee table (coffee table books for instance, plus the coasters and remotes), and I’m committing to ridding it of the dishes, hair ties, and other nastiness that doesn’t belong there before I retreat to the bedroom at night. It’s a small change in behavior that will increase my GDH tenfold. I hate leaving for work with the house a wreck, and this measure is bound to help address that.

A wire basket of sorts for storing remote controls I'm thinking will make a dramatic difference.

A wire basket of sorts for storing remote controls I’m thinking will make a dramatic difference.

Using trays with vivid surfaces to aggregate knick knacks is a winning idea in my book.

Using trays with vivid surfaces to aggregate knick knacks is a winning idea in my book.

I've got a whole bunch of books on design on my Christmas wish list that will hopefully make their way onto our made-over living room centerpiece.

I’ve got a whole bunch of books on design on my Christmas wish list that will hopefully make their way onto our made-over living room centerpiece.

There you have it!  My commitment to improving the home on a $0 budget before the we leave for India.  Hold me to it, readers!


Ode to the bookcase

There are lots of things Heath and I add and take away from our dream home checklist, but there is one item that has stayed constant throughout: the built in book shelf, or rather, a wall of books. Having a mini library, a focal point around books, would be alright by us.

The wall-o-books is appealing for 23426423 reasons.

Reason 1: We’ve got tons of books. We needs a place to put ‘em. Book cases are perfect storage units for said books.

Reason 2: They can be completely fantastic to look at. Not only do they bring color and interest to a room, they can also serve as little windows into a person’s life. You can learn a lot about someone by checking out what’s on their bookshelf….pictures of family or friends, the trinkets they want on display and, oh yeah, the books they enjoy reading. And if they don’t have a bookshelf, you probably don’t want to be friends with that person anyway.

Streamlined built-ins with some modern touches.

Pieces of a personality.

Built-ins go vivid.

Shallow shelves get dimension with wallpaper backing.

Books, antlers…whatever does it for you.

Wall mounted white cubes as bookshelves.

 

A classic. No frills, just beautiful books.

 

Walls with nothing but built-ins.

 

Creatively put together cubbies of books and other collections.

A place for treasures, literary and otherwise.

 

A basic wooden case with varying shelf sizes feels eclectic and classic.

And for something a little less remarkable, a look at our attempts to master the bookcase–albeit on a smaller scale.

Heath built this moveable unit for me back at the rental. Not bad for a DIY storage project, still not quite the Lordship’s library.

Trying to give some gusto to an Ikea unit.

Literally going outside the box with a floating book shelf.

Trying to get a little unconventional with something pink.

The book case from long ago, stained and re stacked.

So we have not yet created a room, a wall, or sadly even a focal point of books. But perhaps singing this ode to the book case will get us on our way.


One year later

A little more than a year ago, we were making our way toward the 2011 ACL music festival when our realtor called to tell us the sellers of a little house on Corona Drive had accepted our offer to buy their place; a month later they handed us the key. Even though the process of buying our first home happened fairly quickly, in many ways this one year anniversary of life in our first home seems like it took a lifetime to reach–especially when I think about all the projects I wanted to accomplish in the first year.

I had a lofty checklist of things to add, modify and remove in the new house. Admittedly, I was a little too ambitious. I wanted wood floors within the first month and new counter tops within the first two weeks. Fast forward 365 days and the original counters and carpets are still here. I still don’t have a dishwasher in the kitchen, and we still let the dogs out into the backyard through a window and not a proper backdoor. But while there are many, many, many improvements I still haven’t found the time or money to make, I’m careful to remember and be proud of all that we have accomplished in one year together in our first place.

For starters, we (with A LOT of help from my mom) we were able to install some much needed landscaping in the front yard.

The uninspired and lackluster front yard before we got our hands (and feet and faces) dirty with gardening.

And here it is today.

We put in a path that leads to the front door.

And planted lots of native color.

Echinacea is forever smiling.

We painted and added windows to our front door for much needed character.

And in the backyard we did even more.  When we first arrived, the only life in the backyard was a 30-year-old pecan tree.

The bare backyard.

So we added a shed and built a new and improved chicken coop for our feathered friends.

We put in raised beds for veggies…

…and a rain garden to help with drainage.

We built a fence to help with privacy.

And we added some spunk to the patio with a pallet planter, and dining area.

Inside, we got things done too…like painting more walls than we can count.

The bland walls before we got our hands on them.

And after many iterations of furniture placement, we  finally found the perfect layout for our massive living room.

We put up invisible book shelves in the office.

And I finally found the perfect way to incorporate a map wall into the house.

In the kitchen we refinished the cabinets and added new hardware, bringing some much needed shine to a kitchen that was in the running to be named one of the country’s ugliest.

Dinged up faded cabinets and rusty black metal hardware makes for a creepy kitchen.

A little shine goes a long way. At some point we’ll get to updating the backsplash and countertops.

We also stripped the knotty pine paneling to make room for more shelving and storage.

For me, knotty pine is beautiful in small doses. The original kitchen had more than what I prefer.

On top of the big projects, there were dozens of weekends and evenings spent painting furniture, framing artwork, hanging curtains and performing the many other tiny tasks that culminate in having a happy house that feels like home. I didn’t get to a lot of the big projects, but I’m learning to cope with our revised timeline. As my older and wiser home-owning cohorts have told me, the list of home improvement projects never goes away, it just changes over time, and that’s part of the fun. So on our one year anniversary, I’m opting not to lament the projects we have not yet gotten to and instead will celebrate what we have accomplished. Plus, we still need things to keep us busy as we head in to year two.


It’s an illusion, Michael.

I was first introduced to floating bookshelves a few weeks ago during our trip to Mexico, and I fell in love almost immediately. A way to store books without buying more furniture?! Sign me up. Discovering this magical storage trick couldn’t have come at a better time either because Bro officially took up residence at the doodle house this week and we have been dumping furniture like crazy to make room for his arrival. Efficient storage solutions just became priority one.

Before we got started, I had to do my due diligence (AKA Pinterest research) to make sure I was truly down with invisible bookshelves in all their forms. My journey was fruitful.

Exhibit A (Floating done right.)

Exhibit B (Floating shelves for the obsessive compulsive.)

Exhibit C (Not quite invisible, but definitely a barely-there bookcase in close quarters.)

Exhibit D (Upside down book shelf…that’s just silly.)

Exhibit E (Shelves made of books—cute, but not a high volume shooter.)

Exhibit A was definitely the end goal. But how? Gravity seemed to be working against us, but my internet research showed two possible solutions. The first, was to purchase special brackets from Umbra.

Easy to install, but at $15 a pop, it seemed a little steep. I had a hard time justifying spending $75 on something “invsible.” The other option, from Instructables, was significantly cheaper but involved destroying a book to make it happen. Cheapskates we are, we went the $20 route and opted to sacrifice a book for the greater good, which looks a little something like this.

  • Step One: Cut a section of the book out with an exacto knife. We traced the bracket to get the most accurate shape.
  • Step Two: Place the bracket into the section you have just removed and screw it into the pages.
  • Step Three: Use wood glue to secure the back of the book to the newly applied bracket. Best to let it dry over night.
  • Step Four: Secure to wall with wood screws. Make sure to locate studs before attaching.

Care for a cheeky video more accurately explaining the process? Click here.

So, $24 bucks and 24 hours later, we had ourselves an invisible book shelf.



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