That Time We Repainted the Living Room

Happy New Year!

December was a lazy month for me. I’ve been meaning to write this for weeks and am finally sitting down to do it. I wasted 15 minutes between typing the title and the first line by Googling “ab exercises, best haircut and slow cooker artichoke dip, but I think I’m good now.

When we moved in to the house in September of 2014, the living room looked like this… house.living3

I hated the beige walls (too…muddy? too blah? Plus, does anyone like beige? These people, obviously. And the lady from Calico, who recently suggested maybe we paint our living room beige. Umm). So we added the living room to our to-be-painted list.

I wanted something clean, fresh, airy. Something white. I brought home dozens of white samples (you wouldn’t believe how many whites there are) from Benjamin Moore before they started charging for the 8 x 10 sheets (which I’ve no doubt I had something to do with) and even though several design bloggers (what do they know, anyway) said to stay away from Navajo White (a “dull, boring” white), I went with it.

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Old pic during remodel. Couldn’t find recent.

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The color definitely helped the room. But it still didn’t feel right. Was it airy? Sure. But now it was too airy. And plain (damn those design bloggers!). I realized the problem was that I was fighting with the room. I wanted it to be a Northern California room when it so clearly wanted to be Grosse Pointe. Okay, fine.

In January (we’d painted the room in October ’14), I wanted to repaint while the guys were here doing the kitchen and family room, but my husband wasn’t on board. In November, he all of a sudden wants to get curtains and gives me the go ahead for a repaint as well. Hurray!

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Deciding to go blue seemed the most logical choice. Our dining room was green, our kitchen, a gray-green, our hallway, a gray-tan (not beige!) and upstairs we have different variations of gray. Yellow was too….cheery and other colors like red or orange, too Victorian. I’d actually already selected a gray-blue, back when I thought we might be painting in January.

Of course me being me, I had to go through the process all over again. Back to Benjamin Moore, scouring the internet. I had visions of this….

Blue walls, pink chairs.:

to die for, right?

and this…Blue and Green: I picked up some paint samples, just to see. But painting it a deep blue, even though it would look beautiful and moody, would not really flow with the rest of the house. I tried to justify it in my head by saying that the room could be shut off with the double doors and therefore didn’t have to flow or that it was our house, we could paint it whatever we wanted, couldn’t we? But ultimately my dark blue fantasy room would have to wait.

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But the pink chairs would have looked so great with that deep blue. Sigh.

Another issue was our huge vintage poster. It has a striking blue background, so whatever blue we came up with would need to not clash with it, not match with it perfectly, not have too much green in it, etc. I was beginning¬† to realize that blue is a tough color to get right. As my mother-in-law stated, “it’s a commitment.”

For a day or two I toyed with the idea of a light blue (the Calico gal suggested that as well, to match the little blue flowers on the couch). And went back to the store for more samples. But a light blue living room made me think of an old lady’s house where you walk into the room and there are individually wrapped caramels sitting in a bowl. Just no.

I was going mental over it and my husband was done hearing about it. One evening, after begging him to deliberate with me once more, he rolled his eyes (okay I can’t say that with 100% certainty, but there is a high probability), threw his hands in the air (maybe) and said “well you love the dining room so much, why don’t you just paint it that color!” This ended the conversation and I was beyond annoyed. I mean beyond.

And yet.

I did love the dining room color. Nantucket Gray. The perfect green. Fresh but not too bright. Welcoming, but somewhat mysterious. My favorite color in the whole house. It would solve the problem of the blue painting and would certainly flow well with the rest of the house. Genius.

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I love it. The room feels much more inviting and looks tied together. I think once we get the curtains up (another harrowing decision oh my gosh! I’m so nervous about it), it will look even better.

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So that’s the story of how the living room got painted green.

The December List is up next. It’s snowing as I write this, but just a light dusting. We’re hoping for more this month (I mean, if it’s going to be cold, I’d rather it snow), but it’s been such a warm winter. Relatively speaking. Happy January!

The Garden Wall

IMG_1604 (1024x1024)I just wrote about unearthing a bunch of stones in our backyard and creating a pathway (above) and repairing the wall around our maple tree with the new stones.

My next project was fixing our garden wall, parts of which were non-existent, mainly because the stones were buried so far underground. In the above “before” picture, you can see where the wall starts to disappear near the base of our Rose of Sharon.

IMG_1611 (768x1024)First I tackled the section of wall inside our backyard. You can see that the ivy and pachysandra have pretty much taken over.

IMG_1610 (819x1024)Mid-way through.

IMG_1646 (768x1024)And here’s the finished wall with Sam inspecting the new area.

Side note: Sam is always with me when I’m planting or working outside. I love working alone because I can get into my zen space, but I do really enjoy having him out there with me. He’s very curious about the worms. He’ll poke his nose to them and then jump back when they move.

IMG_1659 (768x1024)With that section finished, I needed to now conquer the section of wall beyond our back gate. What does one call that, our side yard? (Sometimes our three-year-old hangs out with me in the yard, too, for short amounts of time, digging or watering plants.)

IMG_1663 (768x1024)A view of the section from the opposite side.

I wasn’t 100% sure where our property line was, but I was 99% sure it was either right at the wooden gate or inches after it.

However, I went ahead and emailed the neighbors, just in case to give them a heads up, since the wall extends all the way to the sidewalk (after the wooden fence ends), so essentially there is a part of the wall that we share. They appeared skeptical at first, but once I fully explained the project, I was offered help and also a wheelbarrow.

IMG_1678 (768x1024)Figuring out where to put what stone was the hardest part. I worked section by section instead of layer by layer, because it just seemed like the easiest way. At least for my brain. The worst parts were having to fix multiple layers (the stones are so heavy!) in order to get the top layer just right.

IMG_1731 (768x1024)Here’s the finished wall – woohoo!IMG_1729 (755x1024)From the backyard.IMG_1732 (768x1024)And from the front yard (here’s the section of wall we share with the neighbors).

As I was collecting dirt (to fill in parts of the wall) from another section of the yard, my shovel made the unmistakable “clunk” of hitting stone. I quickly covered it up and walked away.

Digging in the Dirt

IMG_1676 (1024x1024)So, you know I’ve been spending a ton of time in the garden lately. I forget what in the world I was doing in our azalea/rhododendron flower bed (probably weeding), when I moved one of our decorative stones and heard a “clunk.”

Underneath was another stone. I covered it back up. But I couldn’t stop thinking about that buried stone. The fact that it was there, under the dirt, probably meant there were others. And if there were others, that meant only one thing: new garden project.

IMG_1591 (768x1024)I couldn’t help myself and a few days later I investigated. There was another stone. And another and another. Over the next couple of days, I dug up about 30 stones.

I’m not the strongest person and it was definitely a workout. I woke up in the morning with muscle aches all over, but I kind of love that feeling (which I haven’t felt since I took kickboxing before my wedding).

IMG_1589 (768x1024)So now what? After unearthing all the stones, I let them sit for a day or two and thought about what I wanted to do with them. The most obvious solution was to make a border around our maple, as that’s where most of them were found, presumably a border had been there years ago.

IMG_1602 (768x1024)Ta-da! Figuring out which stones to put where was like a puzzle and took quite a long time. I think it adds just enough polish to that area without taking away from the plants. I love natural materials in gardens

(Side note: speaking of gardens, I never used to say “garden.” I’d say back yard or front yard or just… yard. Here, everyone says “garden.” At first I thought it was a throwback to the Motherland (people are quirky here, who knows), but now I think it’s because people actually garden in their outdoor spaces. I really only started to call it my garden once I started garden-ing so that makes sense.)

IMG_1605 (1024x1024)I also used some of the found stones to repair the outer wall around the maple. It was dilapidated, falling in places and missing stones in others.

Of course once I was almost finished creating the two-stone-high section of wall, my husband came out and asked if I was going to make it three levels, “to match the other part of the wall.” Oh my gosh. Instead of going back and redoing everything, I tapered the wall down from three levels, to two and then one (near the boxwood). Perfect (okay, not really perfect. But I can’t go back).

IMG_1604 (1024x1024)I also widened and repaired, I guess is the right word, our back stone walkway. I wish I had a “before” pic because this one is a huge difference. The only stones that were there before I started were the slate one. You can kind of see they are darker and flatter than the others.

There used to be narrow pathway of slate (the path was made up of one line of six stones and some were broken and/or missing). More puzzle pieces. I moved some of the slate pieces so that they would flow better with the new stones (although technically the stones I unearthed are probably much older than the slate. anyhoo).

IMG_1603 (1024x1024)Finally I added a few decorative garden stones (the frog and three circles) that the previous owners left behind. I used to think they were ugly and/or dumb, but I love them here.

I love that yard work is never over. I hate weeding and the bugs (the bugs! three worms per every stone unturned!) and I also hate when you are trimming the hawthorn tree and a large branch with multiple thorns (they are huge) falls on your head. But it also means that I’ll never run out of things to do or get bored.

Case in point: after I stood back and admired my creation, I glanced over to the garden wall just beyond the bath. It was crooked, falling and sections were missing stones. I couldn’t look away. Next up: operation garden wall.


A Quick Planter Makeover

IMG_1216 (821x1024)IMG_1217 (768x1024)When we bought the house, we inherited a few things, including the hot tub. Flanking the tub are two planters that had a bunch of plastic vines and leaves in them. Why we didn’t get rid of them until now is baffling to me. They don’t look all that bad in the photos, but in person you could tell they were definitely fake.

IMG_1219 (769x1024)IMG_1221 (768x1024)We bought two potted Lobelias (the tag also says “techno heat violet. attracts hummingbirds”) from one of the local nurseries for about $19.00 each. They are supposed to be in full sun, but there is no place in our backyard that gets full sun (which my gardening neighbor tells me is about 6 hours of sun). So far they have done well and we’ve relied strictly on the elements (no watering or fertilizing, etc.) and they should last through winter (going dormant, then coming back the following summer).


Kitchen Remodel – The Slanted Island

IMG_9905 (768x1024)The first time I put an egg on the island, it rolled off. Splat. I thought “huh” and that was that. After this started happening frequently, I started to wonder if something wrong with the island. And then my favorite rolling¬† pin fell off and broke.

Not sure if I didn’t trust my instincts or if I just didn’t want to deal with a potentially major repair issue, but I didn’t do anything about it until a month later, when I was sitting on the couch, looking back at the kitchen and thought the island looked like it was tilting slightly to the right. My husband got out a level to confirm it was slanted (off by a little less than a quarter inch) before we called Tim, our Project Manager on the remodel (and Tim, if you think you’ve gotten out of an interview, think again!).

It was a relatively easy fix (well, I don’t know how easy it actually was, but it didn’t take Tim and Marty, the carpenter, long to fix it). They were able to raise the island and put a shim in it, which was covered up by the toe-kick. It’s all good now; no more runaway eggs.

Kitchen Remodel – It’s Never Over

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IMG_9363 (1024x768) If you’ve ever gone through a remodel, you know that just because the lockbox comes off the door and sign gets taken off your lawn, it’s not over. We had a bunch of small issues like molding separating from the ceiling, the instant-hot tasting metallic and a wonky faucet head.

Last week the guys who installed the fireplace surround had to come back and fix the top section of the surround, which was tipping back into the wall, causing the caulking to come off.

IMG_9364 (747x1024) When they arrived, they were able to fix it (vs. replace it, thank goodness) by using suction tools and a wedge of scrap wood (there’s a word for this….shim? I just looked it up and I think that’s right) behind the piece to keep it from falling back again. So far it seems to be working. There is the slightest bit of separation, but as long as it doesn’t get any worse, we’re good.

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New cap

You know I love my central vacuum, so I was very excited to use the new outlet that was rerouted in the kitchen area. I go to pull down the cap and….nothing. No suction. And on top of that, the new cap does not fit our very old vacuum unit (the guy who came over to install it looked at our vacuums, so don’t blame me!).

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Old cap

I called him to let him know (he didn’t believe me and I had to take the above pics to send him. oy) and lucky for me, the old caps we have are no longer being sold because the unit we have is so old. SO…they are going to “make good” by replacing our hose and all seven caps in the house.

IMG_9280 (768x1024)The fireplace guys are coming next week (for the actual firebox, not the guys above) to replace a faulty part and to fix the gas release valve (I totally made that up). Ever since they serviced the unit last week, there has been a six- to ten-second delay from the time the unit is turned on, to the time the flame ignites. When it does turn on, it makes a big “whoosh” sound, sometimes vibrating the glass and scaring the bejeezus out of whoever is standing nearby (usually me or the dog).

Now, if I can only get the carpet guys to deliver that carpet we ordered back in August. sigh