Sunday, August 19, 2012

It is so… eclectic.

She said.

And not in a good way. In my memory, her face was slightly upturned and her nose crinkled. There were no other witnesses, so I stand by the description.

Yep, I said.

And there we were, standing on my deck disagreeing but not being disagreeable. She was the landscape architect and I am the homeowner.

I like things that go together, but I don’t like matching. She clearly was a fan of manufactured coordination.

I seek the thrill of finding something close to what I want and working with it to make it close to my dream. She invested in perfect.

I enjoy a bit of whimsy. She was a bit more buttoned up.

I swoon at dashes of random. She would look the other way.

This wasn’t going well. She was looking the other way. Not hearing me. Not hearing how Michael and I live, and how we wanted to live.

She wasn’t mean. She wasn’t unpleasant. But, I wanted her to leave just the same. I didn’t care that she owed us seven more hours. She was stealing the potential that I see every day just by being here. She didn’t see what I saw and she wasn’t going to.

She was supposed to be our prize. We won her expertise in a silent auction. In the name of philanthropy and a pretty good deal, we won not just one session with a landscape architect, but two. 

We actually didn’t mean to win both last year. We signed up for one two hour session and then ran across another for five hours. We knew we needed the additional help, and thought someone would outbid us on the first. Nope. We ended up with both and were actually giddy at the idea of seven hours of expert consultation.

And then she arrived. And then it went bad. First she told me that we just had to have a front deck on our house so that we could drink coffee in the morning before work. I smiled. Then replied, we actually like the back of the house much more. More privacy, more grass, no street, and oh, Michael won’t drink coffee. Ever. Unless it has Bailey’s or something like that (OK. I didn’t really say that last part, but I thought it.).

We then got to the back of the house and the deck with the unfortunate “eclectic” comment.

We went inside to see how the inside relates to the outside. This is when the gloves came off, well, mine. She still had the plastered smile on her face. She was convinced we needed to “just move a wall to have a walk in closet.” I responded, we have moved walls, to have more livable space and a walk in closet is “just not a priority for me.”

Silence, but for too brief a moment. She did not listen to what I said and continued with…

Then, when you move that wall, you can have a terrific walk in closet, blah, blah, blah. Well, I said with more force this time, we have a small home. A walk in closet is just not something that we want.

Walk in closet, blah, blah, blah.

No. We will not have a walk in closet. Not ever. Not in this house. I don’t want one.

Silence. Stare. Look away.

We headed back outside. But not before she commented on my mason jars.

They are for canning, I explained. Canning, she questioned.

Yes, we have a garden and then I just gave up. I didn’t want to tell her why I canned and why gardening was important to me. I didn’t want to explain why I didn’t want to sit in my front yard and have coffee with Michael, have a deck with matching pots and have a ginormous closet that was bigger than my bedroom.

But then something pretty amazing happened.

She also knew that we weren’t connecting. At all. She took a moment, digested the entire time we were together and suggested that she send someone else from her office. Someone who could help us make a plan that we could build upon.

Yes, I said. That sounds lovely. That was the first thing that we really agreed on. She left happy, and I was happy she left.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Have a seat

I found two chairs at a yard sale. We ended up there because our experience at a local “man sale” was less than satisfying. For weeks a sale that would appeal to the men of Kent Island was advertised on local web sites and on strategically placed signs. I fell for it, and Michael did too.

I had visions of power tools, equipment, gear… all at affordable prices. I talked it up to Michael and we agreed to get up early on Saturday (but not poor-yard-sale-etiquette early) to be among the first to arrive. I think he was just as excited as I was… until we got there.

There was a lot of stuff: most of it rusty or broken; all of it over priced. Now we were caffeinated and driving the streets looking for a deal. Okay, not really.

On our way out of the disappointing man sale neighborhood, we saw a small sign for another yard sale – no fanfare, just the words “Yard Sale” with an arrow. We followed. There wasn’t a lot of stuff, but I found two sturdy chairs that I liked.

New, old chairs
Lately we had been sitting out at the pond to watch the turtles (I realize any illusions of our exciting, wild lives were just shattered by the previous sentence). I was convinced these two chairs could live by the pond so that we didn’t have to move chairs back and forth from the deck to the pond. Clearly, we needed these chairs.

And for $2 for the pair, we didn’t even need to consider the deal or bargain for them. We took them home and set them up by the pond. For a few nights, we sat on them and watched the turtles. They were comfortable and for the price even somewhat disposable, but I thought they could be even better.

I fixed up any loose parts with wood glue, did some minor repairs and painted them yellow. Now they are way too nice to sit down at the pond. They found a new home at either end of our picnic table under the covered deck.

Old, new chairs
So I was on the lookout for new chairs for the pond. I didn’t have to look past our shed. There were three redwood aluminum chairs that we had purchased as part of an auction lot a few years (eight?) ago. These are the same chairs that every family in the 70s had on a patio or deck. They are sturdy and durable if not a little plain. I already had the paint from the last two chairs so I took these apart and painted the wood slats complete with a racing stripe.

Much better. And, we have three more chairs for the deck and/or turtle watching.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Someone’s in the kitchen…

There is a list still a mile long and this is just to get the current kitchen livable. Yes, outlet covers are still missing, the ceiling needs to be patched and painted, and the other side of the kitchen is still missing drywall. Yikes.

Not quite an "after" photo, but close enough.
But, we have curtains, a pretty back splash (and all my fingers!) and paint on the walls. Gone are layers of wallpaper, faux beams, a frighteningly sticky windowsill and any trace of teal (unless you count the blue in the custom* curtains).

And the distraction of planning a new kitchen – one twice as size with a wish list just as big – can be overwhelming. We still expect to use this kitchen for a good number of years and the small efforts have helped. In fact, over the holiday we spent time sitting around the island in the kitchen – the very kitchen I would try to block people out of when we first moved in.

And the before. Almost the same angle.
That’s definitely progress. 

*and by "custom" I mean fabric from Joanne's on discount and eight sides of straight(ish) sewn hems complete with a light blocking material Michael insisted on. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

It was really bad….

It's at this point, you know you can't go back
Before it got a little better. Our kitchen was one of the more usable rooms in the house, but we didn’t really like it. We started by finding some really inexpensive tile about a year ago. For less than $100, we thought we could transform the current kitchen to a slightly prettier version that we could live in for about five years.

Our ultimate goal is to build a new kitchen in the current dining room and make the current kitchen a small dining room. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up to the simple tile purchase that got this project rolling.

Tiny, pretty 1 x 2” glass tiles on 12 x 12” mats. Did I mention that I’ve never tiled? Ever. Clearly, that hasn’t stopped us before, but this was our kitchen that we would use every day, multiple times a day. Not a roof that is far, far away from our daily lives.

I looked at videos online and books that we had on the shelves and realized that they all had very good, but conflicting advice. Off to the big box store for supplies. Grout, trowels, tile snips and the like. I tried the snips on the tiles with no luck. They are glass – they shatter. A tile saw was the only solution with a special blade for glass. It was my Christmas gift – the one and only thing I asked for.

Yeah, I’m a dreamer. But, I am in love with the tile saw. It worked and I still have all of my fingers. A Christmas miracle because you have to get pretty close to that blade with these little bitty tiles.

Action shot
Nice, right? And it was loud and wet and dirty and GLORIOUS. But I should have been wearing a hat: it would have kept the glass pieces out of my hair and also hidden that great style I was sporting while standing out in the freezing cold cutting tiles with no gloves (the water plus tile made for a slippery mess).

Kitchen renovations are no place for the vain, so I continued.

The transformation was almost instant. Even when I just taped up the tile to see what it may look like, it was dramatic. So much better than the layers of random wallpaper from before (go figure). The tile is done, but while I was waiting for grout to dry, I started painting and other fun things. A work in progress, but there has been progress.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Sometimes I wonder...

Why we didn't just knock it down and do this:

Minus the highrise buildings in the background, of course.

Monday, February 27, 2012

More places to stick the ever-growing to do lists

I made a magnet board with found objects. Well, mostly found objects, I had to buy the magnets. Scrap pieces of wood plus photocopied crab placemat and champagne corks (drilled out the cork and stuffed in the circle magnets – no glue, friction just keeps them in) make for a rustic and fun board.

Not sure of where it will end up, but it won’t be on the kitchen counter (note the sneak peek of the glass tile backsplash).

Top that... counter edition

We had really ugly countertops in the kitchen. This is the first step of thousands to make our kitchen more livable. We have plans to move the kitchen to another room, but keep this intact and usable until we tackle that project. My conservative estimate? 2015.

The first photo was taken the second weekend we had the house as you can see by the circa 2005 cell phone charging. The second was… later. Many minor changes – hardware, layers of wallpaper, new sink but the most visible (maybe not in this photo) are the countertops. With two coats of the worst smelling paint I have ever used, our countertops went from teal to olive.

I remember vividly the former owner, Bob, asking me if I liked his wife’s choice of countertop color. Um, no, but the paperwork was already signed.

We were hesitant to use the product after reading many conflicting reviews online, but then realized what could be worse than teal? About 18 months of wear and these countertops are still better than the teal. Here’s the product in front of the old color.

Best $20 makeover ever.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Top that... and that

We had a very functional card table, but not very pretty. I think it’s the same table every family had in the 70s with the gray vinyl top complete with cracks and a random cigarette burn or two. I’ve used it for years with a nice bright white tablecloth and it worked just fine. But with a little spray paint and super discounted fabric purchased online, it is now ready for any event.

Because I still had plenty of outdoor fabric left, I made a little tent for Michael’s grill stand. It makes me smile because I think it looks like a circus tent.

I have an addiction to outdoor fabric. Unfortunately, it’s been documented.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Tale of Two Fans

I don’t like ceiling fans. I understand the benefits of fans, of course. But, aesthetically, they are ugly. And, our house came with the ugliest of the ugly. Eventually, we will replace them and Michael and I will again discuss the merits of light fixtures with and without rotating blades. Until then, we are stuck with fake wood, bronze monstrosities with weird flower-like glass appendages.

As I started making improvements in the kitchen (much more on that later), the fan distracted me in all its [the opposite of] glory.

Enter the hero of this story… oil rubbed bronze spray paint.
My fan went from this… to this. (I didn’t think to take a photo of the before until I had one blade off, oops! Also, I haven’t landed on new glass covers, but this is a work in progress.)

Not bad for a day’s work and a little asphyxiation. Yes, I sprayed the sucker in place in the middle of the kitchen. Imagine Michael’s horror when he walked in to this:

If I took the entire fixture down to paint it, I might as well have replaced it. And, that wasn’t the point. OBR (oil rubbed bronze for those in the know) is my new obsession. Now I walk around the house trying to figure out what to spray next. Maybe those fumes did get to me…