Houseplants

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We finally bought some indoor plants and what a difference they make. Can’t believe it took us a year. I think part of the reason we waited so long is that I am afraid of killing them (haven’t had much luck with indoor plants in the past).

I did research on the easiest houseplants to take care of and then headed to Charvat, a local Grosse Pointe florist. Dave Charvat (an owner, I’m assuming) greeted me and gave me an overview of my options.

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When I first walked in, I spotted a full, grassy plant by the window. A ponytail plant. Of course. Was it easy to take care of? Yes. Check. They don’t have a huge pot selection at Charvat, but I did find a perfect $10 one for it. The plant itself I think was around $35.

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They also had a rubber tree that was the exact size I was looking for, so I grabbed it as well. It looks great in the family room and I love the pot from Modernica.

After a bad purchase from Wayfair (their online dimensions were not accurate), I decided to spend a little more cash for a really nice planter, which I am so much happier with.

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I’ve been really wanting a Fiddle Fig (I love the big, glossy leaves) and thank goodness it made the list. For the longest time, I thought Dave was saying FiddleyFig, which made me think of a leprechan every time he said it, but then later I realized he was saying Fiddle-Leaf Fig.

They didn’t have one in stock, but he offered to get one for me and said it would get there within a week. I think it was about $60 or $75? Somewhere in that range. And another chic planter purchase from Modernica.

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A few weeks later I went back to the store, looking for three plants to use for our dining room table centerpiece. I spotted some aboricolas, which Dave said would grow quite a bit unless I kept cutting them back.

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He re-potted one of the plants so it would be in the same size container as the others. They fit perfectly in our IKEA pots. I am obviously big on the white pots (if it weren’t for my husband, I would have picked a white pot for the family room, too!).

ponytips (768x1024)I told Dave that the tips of our ponytail plant were turning brown. I remember the delivery guy (they offer free delivery, which is so nice) saying that the worst thing I can do is over-water, so I’ve been careful not to overdo it, but maybe I was under-watering?

He said browning tips happens to their plants as well, and they’ve figured out the reason is the chlorine in the water. He said to leave water sitting out for a day and then water the plants, or use filtered water. I trimmed the tips and am hoping they’ll stay healthy.

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My parsley plant, in the meantime, is sadly ready for the compost pile. It was only a couple dollars at Eastern Market, but I so wanted to keep it alive through winter.

We’ve only had the plants for a month and a half, so I am still nervous about keeping them alive, but so far so good. Do you have houseplants? Which is your favorite?

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To Reupholster or Not to Reupholster? That is the Headache.

IMG_8517 (800x600)So after posting my September list, stating my couch vs. rug dilemma, I decided to ask for help from my Facebook friends. Should I cover the couch (and if so, what color) or get a new rug? The response was overwhelming. I’d say it was 60/40, with the majority loving the rug, thus in favor of reupholstering the couch.

Some responses:

Mariana: “Right away I felt something is not right and it’s the zebra rug.” (she pasted a link to Restoration Hardware’s rugs. Gorgeous, obviously. But pricey. Eek.)

Marisa: “Warning: our cream sofa with two kids and two dogs? Destroyed. I love the rug. And the couch.” (She included a link of her dream couch: blue velvet. sigh And back to reality.)

Anna: “Keep the zebra rug, cover couch with cranberry red, accent with pillows and add a dark wood coffee table.” (Unbeknownst to Anna, the previous owners of the couch paired it with a cranberry rug. Indeed. AND they had pink wingbacks! As you can see below.)

homes.cloverlylivingSusan: “I like the chocolate velvet option and then you can keep it more casual/fun with cute pillows!”

Veronica: “Call me crazy but I love the floral couch. I like things that are different and light and bright :)” (she pasted a link called Not Your Grandma’s Floral Sofa. )

Titus: ” I will go with Mariana. The zebra rug looks out of place. Everything in the room (including the architecture/windows) looks “traditional” so replacing the zebra rug with something more traditional/understated would really pull the room together for not very much money at all.

Lynn: “If you recover the couch, I would think something with a texture or tone on tone would be nice. What I like about the rug is it is unexpected.” (I had already been to Calico Corners, an upholstery shop in town, and picked up a few chocolate samples, several with some texture for interest.)

IMG_8270 (480x640) IMG_8271 (480x640)There were tons of great comments, opinions and suggestions (and thank you again, everyone!). But now, I was more confused than ever. Deep down, I wanted to keep the rug. It’s exciting, unexpected and fun. But the couch is lovely and goes so well with the painting and two sets of pink chairs. And… we bought it for $800. Not retail, but not cheap. The quote I got for recovering the couch – a whopping $1800. Gulp. And that does not include the two “accent pillows.” You mean the arm rests? “Well, they aren’t technically part of the couch, so those would be a separate charge.” Ummm, okay.

I decided to mull it over. During my mulling over, I got an email from my sister-in-law, with a link to the website of her friend, Anna, who does interior design work. I clicked. I saw. I wanted. And I did what I said I would never do. I hired a designer.  My head was spinning and how could I say no to someone who loves sheepskin as much as I do?

Photo credit: Anna Versaci Design

Photo Credit: Anna Versaci Design

A few days later, she came right over. She listened to my ideas and threw in several of her own. Curtains (we wanted, but she’s suggesting them for two windows only), a gallery wall (which I wanted and the husband did not, even though he didn’t say it exactly. Thank you!), some great lighting (we have no ceiling light), tables, a better furniture arrangement, and oh yeah……she wants to keep the couch.

So oh my gosh you guys, against my deep down wishes (sort of), it looks like the couch is staying. I trust her vision, and honestly, the rug is going to look so amazing in our youngest daughter’s room, which, coincidentally, has a zebra theme. And a sheepskin rug, of course.

 

Meet Tim, the Color Expert

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My bad on the blurry photo. This is maybe the second or third time I’ve ever asked a “stranger” if I could take their photo (my introverted self applauds my bravery and excuses my poor photography. Hope you will, too).

Meet Tim, the color expert at Shelby Paint (the local Benjamin Moore store). We met at the new house yesterday to finalize colors for the walls.

But first, lets turn back time a couple weeks. I was in the thick of researching, reviewing and setting up appointments with various contractors and was starting to doubt my ability to make decisions (when you’re talking about spending large sums of money, you want to get things right. Or at least close).

My (exasperated?) husband suggested hiring an interior designer, which pretty much everyone does here. And they are everywhere. Seriously, I have seen more interior decorator/design shops and businesses here per square mile than….well, at least than any other place I’ve lived. After giving it a lot of thought, I agreed we should go ahead and take money out of the home improvement budget and hire someone. However.

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Our “office.”

My gut didn’t really want to go that route. So I called up my friend and former roommate Liz for her take on the matter. She completely changed my mind, arguing that so many places nowadays will provide design help for free or for a small fee that you can put towards goods or services (upholstery shops, furniture stores, paint stores, carpet places). And, she said, do you want to spend $150 an hour for someone to show you paint samples? No. You have a good aesthetic, she said. You can do this.

Really what she did wasn’t change my mind. I already knew what I wanted to do (or not do, in this case). I just needed someone to believe in me. Before I spoke to her, I felt so overwhelmed and stressed by all of it – the scheduling, the interviewing, the decision-making. After I got it into my head that I could do it, I just got it done. Bing bang boom. Funny how that works.

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Nantucket Gray, dining room.

One of the calls I made was to Shelby Paint. For just $90 ($50 of which you get back in the form of a gift card), a “color expert” will meet with you and help you pick out a color (or in my case, colors) for your project. Bam.

Flash forward to yesterday. How did you end up being a color expert?, I ask Tim. He tells me he started out in sales at another paint shop in town (which has since closed) in the early ’80s. One day his boss asked him if he’d be interested in helping a friend of his pick a color for his office (or house? Drat, I wasn’t taking good notes at this point). He goes over and helps the guy out. Then down the line, he helps another guy out and another, and pretty soon it becomes a regular thing.

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Athena, entryway and living room. (photo via homebunch.com)

After the shop closed, he moved to his current job at Shelby Paint/Benjamin Moore. At that job interview, he brought up his color consulting abilities and wondered if he could do the same for them. At first they said no. They were skeptical about community interest. He asked for two weeks to prove himself and they agreed. In Tim’s words, “the phones kept ringing,” so he’s still there, doing what he enjoys and is good at (as I can vouch for). At one point, as he was on his hands and knees, digging through his color swatches to find what he thought was a truer gray for the master (the one I’d picked was too green), he said, “This is the fun part, this is what I love doing the most.”

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Galveston Gray, one of two possible grays for the master bedroom.

Thankfully (and because I’m awesome), most of the colors I had on my shortlist worked well with each other, so we were able to take our time narrowing them down. Tim made a couple suggestions and substitutions, for example, selecting a creamier white for trim and suggesting we paint the dining room ceiling the same color as the walls (Nantucket Gray, a very subdued gray-green that I had at the top of my list).  That’s something I would never have thought of doing, but may actually consider (and if I like it, suggest to the husband over a glass of wine. Or four).

To give me the full effect of how the dining room could make for a dramatic focal point, he closed the french doors, then walked to the front door, pretending to be a guest coming in for the first time. He walked past the dining room to the stairs…yes, he says, this could be a real “wow” moment. Especially after we replace the chandelier. Ahem. He was also interested in the other decor (paint, light fixtures, wallpaper, drapes) the previous owners had left behind. He would ask, “and are you getting rid of these drapes?” and when I affirmed, he would let out a small sigh of relief and say, “thank you” under his breath.

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Acadia White, trim.

Before he leaves, I asked him about trends. No one is using borders anymore (decorative borders that run underneath ceiling trim). People are going more neutral (Even here in Grosse Pointe? Yes, he says. People are using furniture more as accents or showpieces now). And he’s seeing lots of soft yellow. In kitchens, but also in other parts of the house. And one more thing… Wallpaper? It’s coming back.

Our New Home!

house.backyardWe closed on our new home yesterday – what a relief. The whole mortgage process was complicated and stressful, but its over. We are now Michigan homeowners!

The house was built in 1960 and is 3248 square feet. Its exterior is traditional Midwestern brick, with painted shutters and a weathervane over the garage. It is located in the city of Grosse Pointe Farms and is walking distance to a small shopping district. It’s also super close to Lake St. Clair, a huge plus for us. We both love being near the water (in fact one of our criteria for moving out of San Francisco was that we had to move somewhere that was close to a large body of water).

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First floor bathroom.

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Family room

photo 1 (600x800)The first time we looked at the place, we crossed it off our list. We had just started looking, and everything was really dated and we thought it would be too much of a headache to redo. The kitchen window overlooked the backyard, but its appliances were over 20 years old (including the trash compactor, which I was baffled by. At first I thought it was a second dishwasher) and the cabinets? Formica. The sponge-effect painted walls, dark first floor bathroom and “heavy” decor (maroon leather couches, lots of flourishes) didn’t exactly help sell the place.

And then there was the wallpaper…

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In dining room, looking through hallway to the living room.

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Looking down to the dining room.

The second time we looked at it, we were further into our house-hunt, and paid more attention to the flow, layout and general well-being of the house. We liked the big, private (fenced in on both sides of house) backyard and nice patio (although it had just been cleaned, so was very slippery that day). My husband loved the big and very clean heated garage. Even though we didn’t love the styling (gold fixtures, ’80s lighting, carpeting selection, etc.), the rooms were decent-sized and the second floor bathroom placement made sense, unlike many other places we’d seen.

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Master

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Guest room.

However, it was a four-bedroom. Which meant that either our guests would have to sleep in one of the girls’ rooms when they came to visit, or that the husband would have to stick his office in the basement (with low ceilings that barely cleared his head). We once again crossed it off the short list.

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Basement

house.basement2We knew we weren’t going to find the perfect home, but we kept hoping something new would come on the market that would have most of what we wanted. So we kept waiting. But both of us kept looking at the house online, and somewhere along the way, we decided to look at it one last time.

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On our third visit, we only saw good things about the house. Both the kitchen and family room (which were connected by an open doorway) had sliding doors to the backyard (which housed a hot tub, which we’re inheriting), the upstairs layout was perfect (master set off from the rest of the rooms, and none of the remaining bedrooms was too large or too small), there were hardwood floors throughout the first floor (except for the kooky family room) and the dining and living rooms had big windows that extended all the way to the floor. Why hadn’t anyone bought this place, it was awesome!!

We put in an offer right away and after a short negotiation, paid just a little under asking. The home inspector who came to look at the house told my husband it was the best house (condition-wise) he had seen in a long time. Two new furnaces, almost brand new roof (it was totally redone a couple years ago), new air conditioning units, a central vacuum and a generator, all in excellent condition.

house.front2We met the sellers at the closing. They were sweet and gracious, offering to give us a walk-through to show us the lay of the land (how to use the generator, for example) and making themselves available if we had any questions. We were thrilled when they told us they were closing on a condo in the next few days and if it all went as planned, they would be out of the house by August 4th, one month earlier than planned.

So we hate the decor. It can be changed. And after meeting the previous owners I realized, they loved the decor. They loved the house. And they took care of it for us for 23 years. And you want to know something funny?…..we have a very small budget for immediate home improvements (and a larger budget for a kitchen remodel, hallelujah). We’ll need to pick and choose which things to do this year and which things can wait. Well, I won’t be mad if the wallpaper isn’t the first thing to go.

House-Hunting in Grosse Pointe

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I have a confession to make. We’ve actually already bought a house (no, not the one above, sadly). BUT we haven’t closed on it yet, so I don’t want to jinx anything by posting much about it. I will tell you that when we first saw the house, we nixed it off the list. But more about all that later.

When it comes to describing homes in Grosse Pointe, the words “formal,” “traditional” and “decorative” are at the top of the list. If you want a mansion, there’s one waiting for you here in Grosse Pointe. All these beauties below (and the one above) are on the market right now…

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Our needs (and budget) don’t call for a mansion or anything close. Just wanted to give you an idea of the larger homes in the area. Most of the larger estates line the waterfront, with a view of the beautiful Lake St. Clair, but many can also be found inland.

Moving on. Many of the homes currently for sale were last updated in the 60s, 70s or 80s, so the interiors leave much to be desired. At least by me. Although we have seen some homes that were recently updated and they also seemed to be heavy and ornate for my taste (we’re not in Northern California anymore, that’s for sure).

Some trends I’ve found:

1) Pool Tables. Grosse Pointers love them a game of pool, apparently. Usually the pool table is found in the basement or a wood-paneled room (which is another big trend – lots and lots of wood. The darker the better.).

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2) Grosse Pointers also love roosters in the kitchen.

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3) And stone fireplaces. (and maroon leather couches. That one came up a few times, too.)

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4) Matchy-matchy. Especially matching curtains to other pieces of furniture (bedspreads, chairs, couches).

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5) Telling stories on the walls. With paint.

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6) Wallpaper. I don’t think I saw one wallpapered room my entire 18 years in San Francisco. Here, it’s everywhere, in every house. Maybe just one room, maybe the entryway and hey, maybe on the ceiling because why not? I have to say that the whole concept of wallpaper is growing on me and I’m actually considering redecorating the new downstairs bathroom with some funky wallpaper (what is happening to me?).

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7) General over-the-top-ness. Let’s put down three Persian rugs in the sitting room! On top of each other! Or, wherever are we going to put our hundreds of wine glasses? I know! Let’s build an entire room for them. Made of dark wood, of course.

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8) Black toilets. And sinks. And bathtubs.

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9) The “I hired a designer” look. And by “I hired a designer” I mean, “I hired a Grosse Pointe designer.” Though I am sort of loving the pink chairs. Loving.

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10)  One of the trends I think is great is that many of the family rooms or dens here have built in bars. Useful and fun.

homes.bar (518x376)Many of the photos above were taken from homes we didn’t see, but some were taken from homes we did walk through and put on our shortlist (and one of the photos is from our new house!). House-hunting in Grosse Pointe has been a fun adventure (house buying, that’s a different story). It’s much harder to picture a house as your own when it’s not cleaned up and staged, but I’m glad they don’t bother with that here. I love looking through a home and seeing how it’s been lived in. How it was loved. (And sometimes how it was neglected).

There’s something surreal about walking into a stranger’s home. All their things, just out there. What bedspread they picked out, what kind of clothes they wear, which photographs they have on their mantel, what kind of pasta sauce they use. House-hunting has given me some insight into the people of Grosse Pointe (said as if they are aliens). Some are conservative and uptight, some are showy and want to be seen, some are laid back and comfortable, some are fun and eccentric, and some are busy and frazzled. I hope our new home will be a true reflection of who we are, too. Funky downstairs bathroom wallpaper and all.

*All photos taken from Trulia.com.