Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Another Simple Fix

When moving into a new home, we often have mental lists of all the projects we want to tackle right away. Stripping wallpapers, painting, replacing light fixtures. We want to jump in, guns a-blazing, and tear into home decorating projects.

This is usually when mistakes are made.

A better approach is to live with things for a while, listen to the house, and hear what it's trying to tell you. Watch how the light travels in rooms at various times of the day. Learn to appreciate the things that you thought you hated.

A case in point. This dining room light fixture was at the top of our "must change" list when we bought the house.

It looked so wide and awkward, with those little lamp shades askew at every which angle.

And then I had the brilliant idea to remove the goofy little shades one day.

It was as if the chandelier took a big sigh of relief and said "Thank you! I've been waiting so long for someone to take those ugly things off me!"

Now it finally looked like a colonial style chandelier that belonged in a colonial style house!

I added the bittersweet garland to really give it some drama.

Hello, lovely!

To think I went from hating the chandelier to loving it that quickly and easily. And the best part is that it cost me change is good!

I really love the warm antique brass color of this light fixture, too. By the way, did you get the memo? Brass and gold are back in style. Yep, you heard me right. It's the hot new design trend. See, the designers got us all hating our brass and gold about ten to fifteen years ago. We listened and switched out all of our fixtures to oil rubbed bronze and nickle. And now, of course, the designers have changed their minds and bronze and gold are back in fashion once again. 

Never trust a designer.

And furthermore, never trust your knee jerk reactions to the elements in your house. What was once a curse can become the blessing in disguise.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

How We Saved Our Pink Bathroom!

One of the joys of living in an older home is all of the quirky character...laundry chutes, pocket doors, original tile. Consequently, one of the challenges of living in an older home is working with what you original tile that happens to be pink.

When we started, the boys' bathroom was a whole lot of pink and sweetness. Pink sinks, pink tiles, pink toilet, pink tub. And to carry on the theme, the previous owners had left behind their pink gingham shower curtain and pink gingham bath mats. The white walls and white frilly curtains added to the sweetness.

My boys did not appreciate the sweetness.

As you may have gathered from our yellow bathroom remodel, we are not the kind of owners that rip out something that functions perfectly. Namely, because we are cheap and we are paying exorbitant amounts of money every semester for our son's private engineering college tuition.

But I digress.

The tiles and fixtures in this bathroom are in pristine condition...not a crack or chip to be seen.

The problem was all that pink in a boys' bathroom. How could we neutralize that pink? I decided that the solution was to add a new color. The always exciting, goes-with-everything taupe.

Okay, taupe may not be all that exciting, but it does have the power of having the perfect combination of acid to base. That was for the engineers out there. :)

If you are thinking of painting a room taupe, you better make sure to grab a LOT of samples from the paint department. Taupe can have so many different undertones. We found some to be too pink (which we were avoiding), some to be too grey, some to be too green or yellow. In the end, we picked a nice tone from Lowe's Historic Preservation colors...Cincinnatian Hotel Beige.


Thank you, Target, for your Threshold collection! If this shower curtain looks vaguely familiar, that's because I have the same shower curtain in our yellow a perfect yellow and gray combination. When I saw this shower curtain in shades of taupe with just a hint of coral pink, I knew that it would be the perfect thing to tie the taupe in with the pink bathroom.

I think that the taupe has accomplsihed its mission. It says "Sure, I'm a bathroom that happens to feature a lot of pink. But didn't you hear? Pink is the new neutral!"

This is a pretty big bathroom! Double sinks and big linen closet in the first room, separated by a pocket door leading to the shower and toilet.

Gone are the frilly curtains, replaced with a simple white.

I purchased new silver accessories for the bathroom to match the silver fixtures at the sink and the silver hardware on the cabinets. A rockin' dog for some whimsy, and the accessories were complete.

I love living with vintage items, but I try not to make my home a museum. There has to be a happy medium...a mixture of charming old with cool contemporary. I think that was accomplished here.

Now, when I walk past this bathroom, it makes me smile. Not in a "Ha! Ha! The boys have a pink bathroom!" sort of way. Now I smile because the room is soft and serene....and not so pink.

Another vintage bathroom saved from the demolition crew!

(Have you ever visited the website 'Save The Pink Bathrooms!' Yep, there are other folks just like me out there!)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Folk Art Friday: Pennsylvania Dutch Trivet

My mom recently put her colonial home on the market. The two story house with its half acre yard just became too much to take care of, so she made the decision to downsize.

Downsizing the square footage also meant downsizing the stuff. So Mom chose what to keep and what to get rid of, and my six siblings and I helped her sort through the rest.

I found this old metal trivet and knew I had to bring it home. This art is so typical of Pennsylvania Dutch style. The sentiment was definitely true of my parent's home...lots of love and lots of laughter. We were blessed to grow up there.

Now the trivet is at home in the kitchen of another old colonial.

Retro cool...because blessings never go out of style!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Removing An Aluminum Awning: The Simple Fix

Aluminum awning frames are a big Pittsburgh tradition.

Pittsburgh is a VERY traditional town, and many traditional homes in our area have awnings that cover their patios.

The previous owners told us that the frame would need a new awning cover, so we priced them out with a few local companies.

What's that you say? Three THOUSAND dollars for an awning? And we have to pay every spring to have it hung up? And pay every autumn to have it removed?

No, thank you!

We lived with the frame in place, just to see if the awning was an absolute necessity. Maybe, just maybe, if we lived in Tucson, we would need that shade for the few hours in the late afternoon. But most of the day, the patio was nicely shaded by large evergreens.

I also had a suspicion that an awning would make my kitchen really really dark.

I don't like dark kitchens!

So we did the sensible thing. We posted the awning frame on Craigslist, and a nice Pittsburgher couple paid us for the privilege of unscrewing and removing the aluminum awning frame!

I almost felt guilty taking their money!

When it was down, I could not believe the difference! That frame had made us feel so claustrophobic and closed in on the patio. And now?

Ahhh! That's MUCH better!

The  money from the sale of the awning frame nearly paid for this lovely azure-colored umbrella from Smith and Hawken!

The umbrella provided plenty of shade for those few hours in the late afternoon sun.

And the best part? The azure blue umbrella gives the appearance of blue skies every day!

Removing the awning frame actually updated the look and feel of this patio, giving it a definite contemporary elegance.

A simple fix that cost very little money but made a BIG impact on our outdoor living space!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Folk Art Friday: Fraktur

Traditional homes have a lot of walls. And a lot of walls means you need a lot of artwork. But not just any artwork, because you live in a traditional home.

It's a catch-22.

Consequently, I am always on the lookout for new pieces of art that will fit the period of my home.

I found this piece of fraktur art at an antique store in Noblesville, Indiana earlier this month.

The simple fraktur design spoke to me.

And when I turned the piece over to read this small plaque, I knew it would have to go back to my Pennsylvania home with me!

When I bought it, I really did not know where it would go in my house, but I knew that it would "go" in my house, if you know what I mean.

I had it propped for a few days over the piano in the living room, but I knew that was temporary. In the end, I decided that it had to go in the dining room, above the antique high chair. A happy mix of wood tones and folk art florals.

Fraktur for a Folk Art Friday...say that three times fast!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How To Love Your Wood Panelling

When you purchase old houses, chances are good that you will become the new proud owner of one or two wood panelled rooms.


What's that I hear? Groaning? Grumbling?

Sorry. I already heard that from my husband when we purchased this house.

Our family room, with its built-in bookcases, brick fireplace, and all of its wood panelled glory was destined to become my husband's man cave. But my husband had visions of the room just looking like a cave, period.

I knew that with a few design and decorating tricks, this room would become the warm and cozy place where my family would congregate every night. And guess what? The dreaded room that no one wanted to spend time in is now the room where we declare squatter's rights! We love it!

Here are a few things that helped us fall in love with our wood panelled family room:

1.) Don't fill a wood panelled room with more wood!

This is not the room to display your pine hutch or your collection of cedar chests. You are already surrounded by wood. Don't become smothered by it! Keep the wood furniture to a bare minimum.

2.) Don't fight the tones in your wood! Try to complement the tones instead.

Our wood panelling has a definite warm honey undertone.  We chose warm colors to accent this feature. If we had picked a cool palette of grays, we would not have been happy.

3.) Color is key!

Once we had determined the warm colors in our wood panelling, we chose upholstered pieces that played off this color. Our furniture has a decidedly autumnal feel, which seems to work in this room.

4.) Furniture scale is so important!

When we first moved in last summer, we filled the room with our overstuffed, large scaled, and pretty old furniture. The layout of this space left us feeling claustrophobic. When it was time to purchase new furniture last fall, we opted for smaller scaled pieces that provided optimal seating for movie viewing. What a difference! Room to breathe, with a much better flow in and out of this space.



5.) Add texture!

This is important in just about every room of the house, but it was essential in our wood panelled family room. We mixed pebbled leather chairs with a nubby sofa, and added a woolen ottoman. Then we layered pillows and soft blankets for even more texture. We mixed different metals, too. Brick, wood, metal, fabric. Over all, it makes the room a lot more interesting.

6.) Contrast dark and light!

If your wood panelling is dark, try adding some lighter elements for contrast. We added a lighter colored accent chair, along with the lighter colored ottoman to balance it out. We also have a light colored carpet in this room, which is great for brightening a darker room, but not so great when you have a black labrador retriever. Our Dyson does double duty in this space!

7.) Lighting is important!

In a wood panelled room, the lighting plays a key role in balancing the darker walls. Our room has two east-facing windows that provide a lot of natural light during the day. At night, when we want the room darker for optimal movie viewing, we've got it.

Now that being said, we still have eighties-style HUGE white track lights highlighting the fireplace wall. We also have some pretty old table lamps that need replacing, and a dark corner that really needs a floor lamp for the accent chair. It's not perfect, but it's getting there.

This wood panelled room is finally living up to its name: FAMILY room! It's a warm, wonderful space to watch movies, play board games, have a foosball tournament, or just read a book. In the fall and winter, our wood burning fireplace crackles with warmth while we eat big bowls of popcorn paired with mulled cider.

We love our wood the family room.

But did I mention that we have TWO wood panelled rooms in this old colonial house?

Our first floor den is also covered in wood panelling...dark, dark, panelling. In a few days, I will show you how we learned to love this room as well. (Clue! It involved a lot of primer and paint!)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Before and After: The Yellow Bathroom!

The first time we toured this house with our realtor, I thought the main floor bathroom was adorable.

Our realtor thought I was nuts.

"It's so dated," she kept saying.

Yes, but look at that adorable chrome pedestal sink!

"Yeah, and a yellow toilet to match!" she said with just a little sarcasm.

Yes, the fixtures are originals, but they are in fantastic shape! The tub (which is also yellow, of course) is made of the old original ceramic. These old tubs retain the heat so much better than today's fiberglass models. Every tile was perfect, not a single crack or scratch.

The decor in the bathroom was a little dated. Okay, a lot dated. I could not understand the dark mirror and light fixtures in this little room. And the truth is that even though I like wallpaper, these butterflies were more than a little scary.

I had a vision for this room that would turn it into the sweet little jewel box of our vintage house.

And as you may have figured out, when I have a vision, it is my husband who comes to the rescue, making that vision a reality.

He made me a deal.

"You remove the wallpaper, and I will paint."

Piece of cake!

After a few hours of peeling and scraping and smelling like vinegar, we then primed the walls with a nice coat of Kilz before adding the new paint.

Are you ready for the Big Reveal? Here it is!

The paint color we chose is called Woodlawn Colonial Gray, and it is one of Valspar's selections from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

I know what you are thinking.

"Gray, gray, everybody is using gray. It is so trendy."

I thought that, too. And normally, gray is the last color I'd ever pick for a room in my house. I tend to pick warm colors over cooler tones for almost every project. But the tiles and grout had just a hint of gray in them, and I knew that this was the only color that would "make sense" of the yellow in this tiny little bathroom.

This shower curtain (Threshold from Target) was the inspiration for this makeover. It had so many pretty tones of gray, and just enough of the yellow to tie in with the fixtures. Here is a tip: It is so much easier to match a fabric to paint than it is to paint a room and try to find a fabric to match.

The bath mat and towel had a fun paisley pattern that brought a little more retro flair to this retro bathroom!

I really wanted a new chrome medicine cabinet for this room, but it turns out that it would have taken too much retrofitting to make it work. A simple solution was to paint the medicine cabinet white and call it a day. We replaced the brown light fixtures with chrome fixtures to match that vintage chrome pedestal sink.

This bathroom makes me so happy!  I love the retro vintage style, and I am so glad that we managed to give it a mini makeover while retaining all of the original charm.

Total expenses: 2 new light fixtures (Lowe's), a quart of Kilz and a quart of paint (Lowes), new curtain rod and curtain (Target), new bath mat/shower curtain/hand towels (Target).

Grand total for this bathroom remodel: around $150 dollars.

That beats a gut job any day of the week!

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Give it a makeover and love it instead.