Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reporting on the Brass Faucet

So far, my only complaint about the Kingston Brass faucet I bought (and talked about here, though I ended up getting this one actually) is that it took a while to get here. Like, maybe two whole months?

When it did finally arrive though (I guess it was temporarily back-ordered), I was happily surprised with how heavy the thing was! And the polished brass was not so 'bad 80s brass' as I thought it might be. I was wondering if I would need to strip the lacquer off or sort of buff off some of the shine, but I think it looks pretty good as is. And I actually like it with my boring stainless steel sink. The mix of metals there sort of mimics the mix on the range.

As far as functionality goes, it ran a little slow for about a week after we installed it. The pressure was weak and it drove me completely nuts. I was worried the low pressure was because of the high bridge. But it ended up being a mistake on my part (I put the filter in the wrong way) and now that it's fixed, this faucet easily has more water pressure than the shower in our last apartment! I could probably put out a fire in our backyard with the sprayer. :)

So, I'm curious. Since this redo was done on the cheap, I've been sort of dreaming of what I would have done if we owned the house and budget was no issue (the answer begins with reconfiguring the whole lay out of the parlor floor...). If you've redone your kitchen, where did you splurge and where did you save? What kitchen element is most important to you? Appliances? Countertops? Cabinets?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Fab Gift Guide

I was a little blindsided by Thanksgiving, but now I am in full-force holiday mode. I'm not sure what's the reason, but I can't remember the last time I was so excited for the holidays! Maybe it's that my kids are old enough to really get into all the festivities? They have already written their letters to Santa and our Elf on the Shelf has been out for about a week now. There's some serious good energy round these parts! :)

I'm trying to be proactive about gifts this year so there's not such a mad rush at the end of the month. I love the Fab site and they invited me to round up some of my favorite picks from their Holiday shop (open through the holiday season!) Here's a little His and Hers round up to help get you thinking about gifts:

For the dudes in my life (clockwise from the top left):
iPhone Alarm Clock Radio - I LOVE how sleek this iPhone charger looks! Want! Need!
Chalkboard Tablet - While I love my iPad, there is something so nice about actually writing, not typing. I'm loving this chalkboard tablet for my office (or for the girls at church?)
Hex Spice Collection (similar here)- This magnetic set of hex shapes spices will look amazing on your fridge. Why hide pretty objects?
Turntable - I mean, who doesn't want a turntable??
Piggy Bank - With it's chalkboard finish just begging for a cheeky phrase, any witty design-lover would be all about this piggy bank.
NYC Neon Tee - You wouldn't find this t-shirt on Canal St!

And for the ladies I love (clockwise from top left):
Turkish towel: Stripes and tassels make everyone smile. It's a fact!
Acrylic Box Set: I MUST have this set of boxes in my life. A colorful acrylic box for every room!
I Heart NY More Than Ever: For the NYC-lifer in your life.
Apricot Ikat Pillow: This soft, peachy orange color is a not-boring neutral. Trust that it would work in any of your girlfriend's living rooms.
Slate Board: I need a cheese board in my life. These are so handy for last-minute get-togethers.
Handheld phone: Pretty much the perfect gift for your friend that works from home and doesn't have a landline.
Playhouse: For the young or the young at heart. I can testify these are hours of fun for kids, especially when you factor in the coloring time.

So what's on your Christmas list?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Topiaries at IKEA

I just got back from a marathon shopping trip to the trifecta: IKEA, Home Depot and Target. I may never walk again! :)

While I am hundreds of dollars poorer, today's outings were successful. I found everything on my shopping lists (and more! two full carts at IKEA!), including these adorable little topiaries. I will be considering the addition of some festive bows just like this.

Run to IKEA before the topiaries are gone! No fewer than five ladies and one gent asked where I found them while I was checking out. (The garden section. $15.99 ea.) Now run!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Using Painter's Tape for Mapping Out Furniture

Did I tell you we bought a dining table?? Remember I was in love with this octagonal Widdicomb table? Well, I thought long and hard about making my own version. I priced out the right wood and brainstormed how I would do it. Ultimately I decided it was too risky. The wood alone was going to cost hundreds of dollars and I wasn't sure that it would look perfect in the end. We needed a table we could use all day long, everyday. I think that sometimes, especially with the bigger stuff, it's best to buy, not DIY.

Luckily, I was doing some shopping for a client that week and had to stop in to Two Jakes in Williamsburg. I rounded the corner and saw this:

I loved the color of the wood and the shape reminded me so much of the Gibbings table, but I didn't really think more about it since it was just a desk.

Then I made my way to the back of the store, and BAM! Another desk! Now, two desks do not always a table make, so I asked the nice and vey knowledgable owner (who I assume is named Jake?) about the desks and he told me he has TWELVE of them and that they were mid-century, and designed to be configured in multiples for your needs. They can be placed long-way to make a massive conference table, or just used as a single desk. OR used in a pair as a hexagonal dining table that comfortably seats six!? Yes!

Since they had so many of the table sections available, I did the patient, responsible thing (don't worry, that doesn't happen too often), and took the measurements home to triple check that the table would fit.

I use graph paper a lot to map out furniture for my own home (the computer programs we use pretty much kill my creativity). But even when you have a perfect floor plan, it can be hard to really feel what how the furniture will sit a room. This is where painter's tape comes in. It works fine to map out furniture on the floor, but if you place the tape on furniture that is roughly the same height/scale as the new piece, that will help a lot for visualizing and there will be less surprises later.

I mapped out the hexagonal table on my old, ill-fitting table, and put the chairs where they would belong at the new table to verify they could be pulled out far enough, etc.

It ended up being a really good thing I taped out the table. I found out the table would fit well, but that the armoire I had found on craigslist (to go to the bottom right of the table in the photo) was completely too big for the space, even though it made sense on my floor plan.

The table is in and we love it. And I've moved to Plan B for the armoire, so now we have plenty of room and storage space. More photos coming up (including the step-by-step for painting the giant chandelier!).

Also, I still love the Widdicomb table and hope that maybe someday one will fall into my lap. But I'm thinking maybe this simpler design is a better fit for our small dining room? All those arches might have been a little intense. Plus, there's no way I would have been able to get the finishing the way I'd want it to be. Like how the grain changes direction in the inlay here? Love it.

I even sort of like my old chairs with the table. I might keep it this way for a while longer, though I'd still love a set of straight-back louis chairs in a pretty leather with white frames. Would it be sacrilege to paint my chair frames here white? Or to whitewash them so some of the greek key shows though? Hmmm...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Weekend Give Away: 5 Baubles from Jewelmint with Three Winners!

Ladies, am I right when I say you can change your day for the better just by putting on a pair of fantastic earrings? Or a pretty cocktail ring, or a fancy necklace? I tried out a collar for the first time on Thanksgiving and felt pretty special.

I got it from Jewelmint along with a few other baubles when they were having a sale, and was surprised at the quality of the accessories given the price! I was ecstatic then when Jewelmint reached out to me, kindly offering three readers their choice of FIVE pieces, plus a t-shirt from Stylemint! How will you possibly choose your favorites? Here's what I'm eyeing:

To enter, just register here to pick your favorites from the site. (Kate Bosworth is a style director, so you know it's gonna be good stuff!) Once you've narrowed it down to a few choices, leave a comment on this post. Contest ends next Friday at midnight. Three winners will be chosen at random and emailed.

If you're impatient, you can buy one piece and get one FREE by clicking here. I think I'm going to get the citrus earrings and that mauve and metallic ring at the top left.


Feeling Thankful

I meant to post this yesterday, but I guess it's good to feel and express thanks on days other than Thanksgiving, too. :)

Thank you all for dropping by my little site here. I think of all of you as lovely, supportive friends. Thank you for being so kind to me and for sticking around all these years. I feel like there have been so many chapters of my life that we've seen together. Half a dozen cities, more than a few moves, babies, successes and hardships, and all the decorating craziness along the way.

This year has been an especially bittersweet Thanksgiving for our family. Sandy was not kind to a few families that go to my kids' school. Two of the children in Gracie's first grade class live in Red Hook and they lost everything. I can't even begin to imagine what that would feel like - especially with kids, in the winter. Those families have been displaced for weeks and the school has been trying to help them with donations of furniture, clothing and toys. Even just extra play dates to keep those poor kids in good spirits.

At a class Thanksgiving celebration this week, the children were taking turns sharing what they were most thankful for. When it was the turn of one of the boys whose home had flooded, he said that he was just thankful for his family and grateful that he learned from the storm that you can feel at home wherever your family is. (Every adult was practically sobbing.)

It's guilt-inducing how untouched our home was by Sandy. There was so, so much damage just to the north and south of us. Every time I hop in the car and drive for just a mile or two I am overwhelmed with gratitude and heartbreak.

Some of my graphic designer and artist friends and their friends have come together to help and give back in the best way they know how. They created beautiful NYC-post-Sandy tribute artwork where all the proceeds go to the Mayor's Fund for Hurricane Relief. The prints are available through December 2 in limited editions here on Print Aid NYC.

I can't wait to share these with friends and family as holiday gifts - I know I would happily display any of these in my home. I'm so proud of my friends.

Hugs to you all. xoxo

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Don't forget the inside

Thank you all for your kind comments about our work-in-progress kitchen! (It is a mess right this minute. Flour and sugar and spices everywhere as we begin the prep for the Feast (somehow what my kids have been calling Thanksgiving?). Exhibit A.)

I took it as a sign that my readers know me well (and not at all that I'm boring and predictable) when a few of you guessed early that I would probably be painting the inside of the cabinets a crazy color. 

Who, ME?

The insides of these old cabinets were not great and they had to be painted no matter what. So I thought to myself, why not bright persimmon red?! (which happens to be the answer to a lot of my color conundrums.) I figured something this bright would be a welcome addition to my dark kitchen. But it would be like a secret-surprise-bright-welcome-addition, you know?

My friend came over last week, opened the drawer for a spoon and yelled "Red drawer!!!" Mission accomplished, I say.

PS Just found this. So predictable.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Choosing Neutral Art

While I love colorful art, sometimes it's best to go neutral in a room with other vibrant accents. Lately I've been so drawn to dreamy, soft nature-inspired art. I like how it balances and tempers the bright aspects of a room. asked me and a handful of other design bloggers to share some of my favorites for a gift guide. I broke down some of my choices here by the color of the undertones. You know how I'm always going on about color temperature balance? Well for me that goes for art as well, especially more neutral art.

I always like to find color temperature balance in a room. If your walls are a cool gray, with blue undertones, try adding a piece of art with warmer, more brown or yellow undertones.

Or, if you're renting and your walls are builder's beige, try something with a bit more blue in it.

And true black works with all temperatures and should be mixed in, in healthy doses!

PS I'm trying to not buy that swan print, but there's a 15% off deal on right now, so I don't think my resolve will last long.

PPS How are you guys? Sorry for not posting yesterday - we are nursing some serious colds around here. bleck.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Weekend Give Away: Sole Society (3 Pairs!)

It's the weekend! I'm trying to get ready for Thanksgiving (and trying to talk myself out of buying our Christmas tree so soon!). I've been hustlin' in my new pink booties and they are keeping my feet happy.

Sole Society is giving away three pairs of shoes each to three readers! Here are some of my favorites:

I'm such a loyal Sole Society fan. Every order I place, I'm pleased with the quality and fit (and the free shipping!!). And lately I'm loving that they have an Insider's Picks page, where they ask fashion editors (like Marlien!) and celebrities (most recently Julianne Hough) to share their favorite pairs.

Sole Society asked me to choose my current favorites and they'd love to hear yours, too! For the chance to win THREE pairs of beautiful shoes, simply go HERE, quickly register and then (hardest of all!) choose your favorite shoes.

Three comments will be chosen at random next Friday at midnight. Winners will be emailed. Open to US readers only at this time. Good luck!

PS Use the code LGN20 for $20 off your first order! Good through 12/15/12.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

DIY: Shaker Style Cabinets, Part 2

Hey-o! Look who has finished kitchen cabinets!

There really should be a big fat "IN PROGESS" slapped on the bottom of that photo because the space is far from done. Those white appliances are helping to brighten the space I guess, but... they're so -- white. Also, the floors need to get finished (you can see a little sneak peek here of the direction I'm going). I'm still thinking of that marble backsplash. And next spring I'm going to try making my own concrete counters for the sink side. But the good news is I won't be incredibly embarrassed to host Thanksgiving here next week.

Whereas I would cry if visitors were going to be subjected to this:

So here's the run down on how I finished these! I definitely learned some things along the way...
As a reminder, we started out with these heavily grained oak doors. (and here's what I was going for)

I sanded and filled them with grain filler,

Then added flat trim moulding to the borders.

After sanding and wiping the doors down with a microfiber cloth, I sprayed them all with a dark Rustoleum primer. I sprayed the fronts and backs

Here's where things got a little experimental. I rolled on the first coat of paint (F&B Down Pipe) with a foam mini roller and that gave me a consistently smooth surface. Then I went back to touch up the inside corners of the moulding with my two-inch angled brush and I got a little cocky. I wanted to see how well I could do fully brushing the final coat. It turned out to be a bad idea. They looked very bad-DIY once everything had dried. I thought I had a steady hand, but I will definitely be sticking with foam rollers from here on out.

So I had to sand off all the brush marks.

And after rolling on the third coat I drilled holes for my hardware. I used one of the pulls to make a template using painters tape.

It made it a really fast process to drill all the holes. I just measured the center, marked it with chalk and then lined up the center mark I had drawn on my tape.

Made for consistent holes for about 90% of the time. I've used and loved this tool before too (couldn't find it when I was ready to put the pulls on so I improvised with the tape)

I love the way the hardware looks on the gray. 

As far as sealing goes, I rubbed on a little furniture paste wax to help protect the finish (per the Farrow and Ball rep's suggestion), but I didn't want to varnish these and ruin the matte finish.

The finish is not totally perfect, but it is pretty smooth in person (sorry about the splotchy photos - the new pendants are casting weird shadows). It was a good bit of work refinishing these, but it was broken up over a few weeks, so it felt manageable. Also, I spent less than $100 to do it, which means more room in the budget for other house stuff! Totally worth it. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Painting Vintage Lighting

We're putting the finishing touches on the GIANT chandelier and it's looking really great. I'm in love! As I was spraying the bad brass away, I remembered a pair of scones we used in Abbey's dining room that I painted out. The paint on the tole was chipped enough that we need to strip down the sconces first. I slathered both with Citrastrip and scraped away the paint as it loosened up. Not a huge chore - it's actually kind of fun detail work.

Then I painted the orange on with a brush since it was too cold to spray the sconces (it was winter when we redid these). The color is one of my favorites - BM Tomato Red. It really pops against her white walls, right? And I love the orange next to the blue in Abbey's landscape.

PS I bought these at the flea market, but there are tons of super affordable tole sconces on eBay, just begging to get a coat of bright paint.

PPS More of Abbey's apartment:
Making a Wall Mural
Turning vintage side tables into benches
FLOR tiles in Abbey's Entry
Abbey's Mirror (a DIY idea)
Hungry Prints and Art in the Kitchen