Monday, January 28, 2013

Kitchen Updates--Part 2

Our kitchen had these incredibly heavy drapes that when closed covered both walls of the eating area of our kitchen.  There was another set above the sink but I had removed them a while back because I didn't like how they would get in the way when I was trying to access the switch for the garbage disposal.  They were stained from grubby dish-hands and felt unclean.  Here are pictures of our kitchen drapes open, and closed.
Our drapes when they were open.

We had walls of drapery when they were closed.

Close-up of fabric.

These drapes were pinch pleated (triple pleats) and I cannot imagine how much fabric it must have taken to make these.  The fabric was a nice imported linen--very high quality--although they were faded a bit at the edges on the east-facing windows.

I had mixed feelings about the drapes and we lived with them for 2 1/2 years before deciding to take them down.  I grew to feel that heavy drapery really doesn't belong in a kitchen any more than carpet belongs in a bathroom.  Ultimately, I wanted something that felt less "heavy" and showed off our beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows more in our breakfast area.  I saved the drapes and I will either use them somewhere else, give them away, or use the fabric for another project in the house.  Although I took them down, I really feel strongly about the love and work that went into choosing them for this kitchen.  It hearkens back to a time where people really, truly cared about their homes and I greatly appreciate that.  But my tastes are a bit cleaner and less fussy than that for the kitchen.

Here is a picture with the drapes taken down.  The kitchen feels so much bigger now--it's amazing.  I like it much better!

We started stripping the wallpaper--subject of another post.

At first I thought I would miss the softness of the fabric--and I do a little bit.  But I just love the unobstructed window views.  We need a bit of light control as our kitchen faces due east, so we will likely put something cleaner up--like shades--in the spring/summer.  I'm trying to decide if I want a contemporary solar shade, or a roman blind, or a Hunter Douglas luminette shade.  Shades are very pricey so I don't want to change them for a very long time.  What would you choose?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Easy, Inexpensive Powder Room Update

Our powder room had a pretty basic color scheme, black, white, and metallic gray atomic starburst wallpaper.  It also had some pretty cool original lighting above the sink.  The wall tile was  simple 4" white tile with black and gray specs throughout.  The vanity was painted white and had louvered doors (like all of the bathrooms).  It's countertop is some kind of cultured marble with an under mount sink.  The counter top is a bit faded and discolored from age and the faucet is oddly traditional, but it will do for now.  The floor was black 1" tile.  We also had a plastic dixie cup holder and a  medicine cabinet with a louvered door.  Those plastic dixie cup holders were in every bathroom!  The owner must have loved them.  Overall, the bathroom had really nice basic colors and simple styles that makes an update pretty easy.  That's the beauty of mid-century modern design.

The accents when we bought the house consisted of a red, furry toilet seat cover and a fake plant hung from a ceiling hook.   Here are some "before" pictures.

"Before" Picture of Powder Room
Original Lighting

Wallpaper close-up

I'm sure some of you reading this would love this wallpaper but I didn't.  It was coming off of the wall and it felt kind of like a shower curtain when you touched it.  Although I liked the pattern, having it all over the walls was a bit too much for my cleaner, modern tastes.  So this was the first thing to go. It was a DREAM to remove as it came off in big vinyl sheets!  We also took off the dixie cup holder, the furry toilet seat cover, and removed the fake plant.  I thought about removing the medicine cabinet but decided to leave it.  I don't know why you would need a medicine cabinet in a powder room but it didn't hurt anything so I decided to keep it. 

I painted the walls in the bathroom Benjamin Moore Chelsea Gray, which is a pretty dark gray.  I used a paint with primer in case there was any residual glue on the walls.  This room has no natural light so I was a little concerned about painting it such a dark color but I love it.  It's one of my favorite paint colors in the house.  I also printed out some vintage bird art that I found for free here and framed them in modern Ribba frames from IKEA.  I then decided to pay homage to that wallpaper and framed a small sample as art.  I love it and it's a great conversation piece when people come over.  I love that wallpaper so much (in small doses) that I've saved a couple of giant sheets in case anybody else wants a framed sample--so far nobody has taken me up on the offer:-)

A few other accessories like a brass bird from anthropologie, a vase with billy buttons from Michael's Craft stores and we're done.  Maybe someday I'll update the counter and the faucet but we have much bigger projects to tackle in this house so I'm happy with the way it is for now.  Here are the "after" pictures--much better!  Modern, clean, with a little bit of retro and glam.

Original everything.

New wall color and art

Towel from Homegoods

Framed wallpaper as art

Original everything.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DIY Abstract Art

My DIY Art

I love art. I love that art can stir emotions and thoughts and also be provocative.  I buy original art whenever I canYou don't have to have a huge budget to have original art.  I've found some great pieces at festivals, small galleries,, and thrift stores. Most of my pieces have been under $300 but I do dream of owning a Robert Dutesco photograph of the Wild Horses of Sable Island.  I'm in love with these collection of photographs and have been for years.  Let's just say that this collection is WAY out of my price range.

In an effort to bring more color into my great room, I decided I wanted to put a very large piece of art above the buffet.  I currently had a C. Jere reproduction there that I loved but decided to move that above the mantel.  So my hunt for abstract art began.  I searched at a few antique and thrift stores and on etsy, but I really didn't see anything that I loved that was under $1000.  Large art is expensive.  I almost purchased a digitally printed canvas of a watercolor from Black Crow Studios that I thought was beautiful, but it wasn't inexpensive.  And I would have had to figure out how to stretch the canvas myself.  

I was discussing decor and design with my hairdresser one day last summer and she suggested I try to make my own art.  (By the way, my hairdresser also lives in a mid-century house and considering how rare it is around here, decorating our homes is usually the topic of conversation.  Whenever I meet someone in Rochester that lives in a mid-century house, I feel like I have an instant connection.  Kind of like a pregnant woman meeting another pregnant woman:-))

So when Bridgette, my hairdresser, suggested that I make my own art, my first thought was, "I can't do that."   And then she said, "Why not--you're creative and there really isn't a lot to lose. Canvases aren't that expensive."  And she was rightWith my 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby, I got a 48" x 60" canvas for about $50.  Even with paint and supplies, I was under $100.  I already owned some acrylic paint from an earlier project, so I just had to buy a few more colors and some better brushes.  I didn't really have a lot to lose.

I spent a lot of time planning the project.  I thought about things that inspired me and how I would bring that feeling to a canvas.  I googled "DIY Abstract Art" and came upon this post that really helped me.  There were also a few YouTube videos that I found that showed some different painting techniques.  

The view from the top of the Empire State Building in NYC has always been special to me.  It is where my husband proposed and it is where I took my daughter when she was 7 on a mother-daughter trip to NYC.  I love looking at the city from there--especially the view of Central Park. That beautiful green space combined with the massive sky-scrapers all around it is a breathtaking sceneWhen you are at the top of the Empire State Building, it's quiet and serene.  It's actually a very peaceful place in the middle of the hustle and bustle.  The view and that feeling were my inspiration--greenery, sky-scrapers, peace, calm, and the winding down of a summer day.

I took a basic 4 colors plus lots of white and black to create this.  I took my time and worked on it for an hour or two each night for about 5 days.  I mixed colors, diluted colors, and put on layer after layer to give it depth. I just kept mixing and laying colors that I liked, making sure to blend them well.  I used a spray bottle to get certain colors to run--giving it movement. The vertical strokes represent the tall buildings.  The dripping colors were also my attempt to show the heat of the city in the summer.  Lastly, I added gold sparingly to give it a little bit of glamour and reflectivity. 

Here it is in its place above the buffet--I think it turned out beautifully and it works really well in our room.  It's special to me because every time I look at it, I think the same thoughts that inspired me to paint it.

In its spot in our great room


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Because sometimes you have to do things twice to do them right

An alternative title to this post could be "Another Reason We Own Scaffolding..."

The first thing we did when we moved into the house was tear out the grass green carpet in the great room to expose the hardwood floors.  (Check out the house tour--before on the right to check out that beautiful green carpet.)  I was very anxious to see what was under those carpets after 45 years!  (It was good....but that's a story for another day).   

After doing that, the walls that formerly appeared to be "white" appeared to be dingy yellow...and so did the trim, etc.  I thought I wanted more of an art gallery feel in the great room and since it gets so much natural light, I thought pure white was the way to go in this room.  Not a warm white, but a pure, pristine, cool white--I picked Benjamin Moore Decorators White for the trim and the walls.  Hubby and I painted all of the trim around the windows, the bookcase, the baseboards, and the moldings Decorators White and then we tackled the walls.  I was very much inspired by Laurie Hickson Smith (remember Trading Spaces?!) and the remodel of her Mid-Century home in her book, Discovering Home with Laurie Smith. In her book, she struggled with remodeling her home in a way that stayed true to its mid-century roots but still infused her southern style.  She picked a very pure white for the walls and moldings and then infused color through fabrics and art.  I think she did a beautiful job and highly recommend the book to anyone interested in design and merging different aesthetics. In hindsight, had I had the funds to have amazing art and recover all of our upholstery in amazing fabrics, the white walls would have looked great.  But I didn't and the walls didn'tIt took forever but here is what our great room looked like after we finished all this painting with the Decorators White.

Our so-so sea of beige.
Sorry it's not the greatest picture--I have a lot to learn about photography.  But essentially it shows the gist of the problem.  After living with it for two years, I basically felt that it sucked the life out of me--it was a sea of beigeIt wasn't "terrible" but it could be so much better.  So I hired an interior designer (Jason Longo, JDL Interiors) that I had met a year or so before to color consult with me.  Jason was one of the few designers I've found in Rochester that have a more modern aesthetic.  Rochester is a very traditional town and most folks have traditional sensibilities.  There isn't a lot of modern architecture or stores that feature modern design--although I think the area is ripe for itWestern New York desperately needs an Ikea, a Crate and Barrel, a West Elm, a Room and Board, etc.  We do however have a handful of fantastic, locally owned stores such as Room in Buffalo and Viking International for more modern Scandinavian designs.  We also have Metro Retro on Park Avenue for some great MCM finds.  But I digress...

Finding a color for this room was WAY harder than you can imagine and considering the size of the room, I didn't want to screw it up again!  It was well-worth paying Jason for a few hours to consult with me.  The thing about it that is so hard is you have to find a color that doesn't blend with the fireplace, and complements the yellow tones in the floor and the orange tones in the ceiling.  We went through a whole bunch of colors and we found a few that we thought may look good.  Our final candidates were Benjamin Moore Moonshine, Cashmere Gray, Gray Horse, or Misted Green.

Jason ordered large samples for us and we hung them all over the room and stared at them for a few months--yes, months--because we couldn't make up our mind.  Visitors who entered our home had to vote as well.  After much deliberation, we picked Cashmere Gray.  I really liked Moonshine but my hubby reallly liked Cashmere Gray so I just let him win--for once:-)  I did the low parts, and hubby did the high parts, and we knocked this baby out in one weekend. It helped (A LOT) that we didn't have to paint the trim-again.  Here are some in-process pics: 

How we reach the highest points in the room.
One side of the room is done and it is getting dark.

You can really see the difference between the BM Cashmere Gray (left) and the Decorators White (right)
Looking towards the other side of the room.

Painting into the night.

How we paint into the night.  Brings back memories of my parents working on our house by the light of car headlights. Must be where I get it from.

Finished!!  The Art will be the subject of another Post.


Night view of color

Night view of color.

Monday, January 7, 2013

New Kitchen Counters!

Our counters were white laminate and they are 47 years old.  They are in pretty amazing shape for being 47 years old!  There were a few chips on the edge from where the newish dishwasher was installed (prior to us).  They got marked up every time someone opens a can or puts a newspaper on them.  But the white laminate cleaned up perfectly with a little soft scrub with bleach. 

So the laminate wasn’t terrible but I thought our kitchen could look a whole lot better with a solid surface counter top.   There are a lot of counter top options and they all have their pros and cons—granite, quartz, solid surface (Corian), laminate, and there are others.  Here was our thought process:

Granite—it looks nice in other people’s kitchens but it just didn’t feel right for our kitchen.  I’m not a big fan of how cold and hard it feels and the shine didn’t seem right with our simple mid-century aesthetic.  Plus, I didn’t want our kitchen to look like every other kitchen with granite counters and stainless steel appliances that you see on HGTV. 

Quartz—I like this a bit better than granite but at the end of the day, it’s still cold, hard, and shiny.

Corian—I never ever thought I would like Corian until I saw the Martha Stewart counter tops last year at Home Depot.  It was solidified when I saw an Ikea kitchen a few weeks ago with the new Corian Private Collection, which is similar to the Martha Stewart line.  I simply fell in love with the matte finish, and the directional variation is extremely similar to honed natural stone.  Plus the feel wasn’t cold, which was a detractor for the granite.

Laminate—while I think laminate has come a very long way, I really wanted to upgrade beyond laminate for our kitchen.  If we had to sell our home, we’re in a price level that requires a solid surface so I really view it as an investment in our home.  We love our house and have no plans to ever sell, but realistically, I work in corporate America so you never know what’s going to happen.

So what did we decide on?  (drum roll please…..)  It’s no surprise that it’s Corian from their new Private Collection!  I wanted something light to contrast with the dark cabinets.  I fell in love with Corian’s Rain Cloud a while ago.  It looks like marble—which is beautiful but not as durable as I wanted.  Sandalwood and Witch Hazel are also stunning.  Our timeline was accelerated when I saw Lowe’s had a sale on Corian’s Rain Cloud and it was marked  down from $83 to $56/square foot installed!!   We were thrilled!  

The counter was installed by Solid Surfaces of Rochester.  The entire process from ordering the counter at Lowes to template to install took about 4 weeks.  A free sink was available but I wasn't happy with it.  Our vintage sink was HUGE and we wanted something more modern than the free ones we had to choose from.  We ended up ordering a new sink from's a Vigo undermount. They sell the same one at Lowes but I got the one from overstock for $100 less and in 3 days.  I love the modern look of the undermount and the zero radius corners.

The install took about 4 hours.  The guys did a good job and I was happy with their workmanship.  There are 3 seams in our kitchen but you can't see them. 2 of the seams were created at the fabricators and one was created during install.  It's amazing how they are able to make Corian appear seamless.  This was one of the things I loved about solid surfaces.

The other nice thing is that we were able to keep our original subway tile. One broke when the guys were tearing out the old counters but we actually had extras that the previous owners left us so it was easily replaced. 

Here are few more shots of our beautiful new counters. 

Next up--removing old drapes, removing old wallpaper, paint--ceiling trim, and walls.