Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Purpose of Home.

Mom and my daughter having a chat while we were redoing the living room during the ORC.

I am not a minimalist.

I wanted to be one. But then, I always want to do what the counter cultural popular kids are doing.

My motivation wasn't to save the planet or anything (and indeed, how are you saving the planet by decluttering, exactly?) No, my thinking was: surely, if I have fewer things, I'll be able to keep my home clean and tidy all the time?

But it doesn't work like that. There is a relationship between the amount of stuff you have and your ability to keep a clean and tidy home: but there is an even bigger relationship between your habits and routines and a clean and tidy home. I keep forgetting that.

Over at Apartment Therapy, the editors resurrected the introduction to the ten part series Maxwell Ryan wrote on what AT is all about. His first installment is all about Terence Conran and his message about home. That message goes something like this:

A good looking, well functioning, enjoyable home supports a good life. Or, more pithily, a good home is the foundation of the good life.

Isn't that wonderful?

A bit of pretty.

Sometimes, it is all too easy to lose one's way, to think that the prettiness is the point. I do love decorating, I truly do. This year has been so much fun--even through the stress of a six week challenge and the disruption of painting the kitchen (and the bedroom)--but, in the end, it is all about creating a good looking space that functions well and which we can enjoy. (As an aside, they say that yellow promotes arguments...I am wondering if family meals will be more peaceful now the kitchen is grey.)

This blog, then is a record of how I get my home to the place where we can enjoy a good life. I love that. It's not about the house.

All this tired, hardworking man needs is that blanket.

I mean, I know that. But I'd forgotten, I think. My struggle with establishing good home habits and routines, my preoccupation with clutter, my passion for prettiness--they held a meeting sometime this year and wrested purpose away from the life they were meant to support and onto themselves.

And that's Ok.

For a little while.

However, reading through the series today, I came across this statement:

What you see in a home is where a person is truly at.


and this:

In a very real way, the experience of building a home becomes identical with finding one’s path in life.

Rita and Cane, of the now (sadly defunct) site, This (sorta) Old Life, said, "How we do "house" is how we do life." (Though I am sure their rendering of the idea was much more grammatically correct.)

And though I agree with this, it also makes me sad. Really? Am I doomed to be disorganized? Cluttered? A messy house = a messy mind? It makes the state of the house about me and my mental state. (And to be honest, that's a wee bit narcissistic, isn't it?)

But, of course, I am not the only person who lives here, it is not all about me--but about the state of the dysfunction in our family--and that's hardly better!

My daughter making cookies back in March when the cabinets were yellow. Does she really need the cabinets to be green to make cookies?

But, I don't want to end this post on a down note. It seems clear that what I need to do is establish habits--a routine--that works for me and my crazy life. The next ORC isn't until April (and I'm thinking hard about tackling the back hallway and stairwell). So, I have time to make the little things, the small daily repetitive things my focus. And, to extend the logic, if a messy house=a messy family, I'll need to focus some of my efforts there.

Friday, November 28, 2014


I am not a minimalist.

(I came to that conclusion, sadly, after this discussion at Lisa's blog, Trapped in North Jersey.)

But, oh, my gawd. We took down the cookbook shelf and the microwave shelf and in spite of the awful, awful walls, I love it. The emptiness. The openness.

What an incredible difference it makes to my perception of the space. Especially as I enter--since the microwave isn't there to take up all that visual (and physical) space.



In my ideal kitchen, this stove wouldn't be here at all. Here we would have a custom fit pantry (and separate broom closet) that would match the depth of that chimney flue on the right. It would stop somewhere maybe a foot? short of the doorway.

yesterday (I didn't take a proper shot of the doorway but this does show the cookbook shelf with my utensils hanging off a double row of towel bars. The towel bars will not be put back up.) 


Not a lot of painting done. Mostly repairs. Like this:

We used up so much spackle, we actually had to go out in the snow storm to get more.

I am just craving space.

ETA: After writing the above, I putzed around with the shelves in the dining room.



And yes! I got my cookbooks on them.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Style Cure 2014: Progress Report

Happy Turkey Day to all my American friends.

My husband has taken on painting the kitchen for me. (He has a week's vacation.) I am so thrilled.

He  decided to do it one half at a time. It is amazing what a can of paint can do. The first pictures were taken Wednesday morning, the second, Wednesday night.

What was once dingy is now fresh and light. All the nickel makes sense again. I am praying it doesn't take on a pink cast of any kind.

In other news, the second shade is done. I am waiting until we paint the window frames to install it. That might happen tomorrow. I am expecting we'll be snowed in.

What do you think of painting the ceiling faintly blue?

Monday, November 24, 2014

From the Weekend: The Shade

Finally, after 12 days, 12 days (and I worked on this shade every single one of them) it is done. From the mistake in my instruction book concerning measurements, (at least, I think it was wrong--I sewed and ripped out the side seams three times) to not buying enough shade tape, to pulling out all my handstitching, to repurchasing the cording, to hanging this and braiding the cord while the shade was fully up, I made every single possible mistake there was to make.

And I have the other one yet to do.

In happier news, you will notice I'm trying out "Elgin Grey" by Ralph Lauren there in the corner. Our testers finally came in.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Style Cure 2014: Day 19

As I've mentioned before, I m doing Apartment Therapy's Style Cure at my own pace (No American Thanksgiving deadline, thank goodness!). That means I am jumping around and doing things out of order. But not yesterday.

Yesterday, Day 19, our instructions were to "Dress up our space and adjust the lighting." Well, I'll save the dressing up part --best done after I paint (which the Cure scheduled for last weekend)--but I did "adjust the lighting."

On the weekend, you may remember I posted this horrendous attempt:

The $5 Nymo shade from Ikea was just too big and too loud--it just didn't play nicely with my vintage ceiling fixture--likely original to the house.

So art deco! I love it.

On Monday, I ran off to Home Depot (always awkward running into your place of employment on your day off) and looked at all kinds of shades. I found this one over in the vanity bathroom lighting section. I'd taken the IKea socket/cord with me to make sure I got something that fit.

You can see the corner sort of relates to my original fixture.

I like it.

I can't wait to paint so I can tidy up that cord.


Second cord set (I bought white) Ikea: $8.99
Shade (Home Depot): $7.96
Small appliance bulb (Home Depot): (2 in the package) $3.98
Total Cost: $20,93


I have no clue if what I go through is normal or not. But if it is, then I hope my constant posting about my efforts are encouraging to others who may feel crushed under the weight of an untidy, messy house.

Today, I reached my limit. Unfortunately, I had to work, so though I was highly motivated to work on cleaning and tidying, I couldn't.

But I could do something.

I planned to take two separate 15 minute sessions this morning and muck about in the kitchen. I took a coffeebreak between the first and second session: but after the second, I just kept going.

Eventually, I spent a total of 55 minutes whipping the kitchen into shape. I wanted to wash the floor, but I ran out of time.

I have to say, though, that it felt great to shift focus from "making progress" to actually "finishing."

Monday, November 17, 2014

From the Weekend: Hanging Light

Unfortunately, not those lights, not the Christmas lights. Ironically, it has been much too cold to hang Christmas lights.

No. I mean a light over the kitchen sink.

I don't like it. Too big, too clunky, too much cord. It competes with our vintage fixture. My daughter says she likes it, though. Says it gives the kitchen the feel of a cosy diner in the fifties.

I get that. I just need to figure out something more in scale with the space, I think. I love having more light.

Friday, November 14, 2014

ORC Fall 2014: A Grand Makeover: Cost Breakdown

This picture, right here, cost me about $500.00. 

Once upon a time, I thought about becoming a designer. Once, back in my Graduate school days, as I contemplated stealing the cobalt blue milk crates instead of the yellow ones, all stacked neatly in the alley at the back of the store, I thought about it again.

I thought that just because someone couldn't afford pricey fabrics and furniture, that didn't mean they couldn't have a fabulous, stylish looking place. And then I realised that though that might be true, that client, so broke they used milk crates as bedroom furniture (which I totally did), that client wouldn't be able to afford me.

But, things have changed. Have they ever. It is more than possible to decorate stylishly without a lot of money--though, admittedly, it does take some. There are blogs out there which show you how it's done on the high end--and then there are blogs like mine who can show what can be done on the down low.

I always wonder how much makeovers cost. I am always curious about budgets--how far can a dollar be stretched? A lot depends upon where you live: not just the price of things in your area, but the availability of second hand stores and outlets and fabric stores, and most importantly, the variety and quality of the stuff they carry. So, while this information, in its specifics, is really only germane to me and the people who live in our area, it may be generally helpful to someone who wants to know how much a makeover done "on the cheap" can cost.

Two things helped keep the costs low: I already had the fabrics I needed for the slipcover and the drapes--and my seamstresses (my mother and me) worked free of charge.

Talking about money is always a delicate thing. Think of these prices as illustrations, as examples. One can always pay more, and sometimes, one can pay less.

Major Purchases: $191.98
Rug 7x10 (from Target): $149.00
Pouf (from Target): $41.99

Projects: $211.58
Wood trim above fireplace and window wall:
already had some.
for the 5 1/2 feet we needed to finish up: $8.87
Wood putty: $3.97
Total: 12.84

Shelf above TV:
wood, already had.
stain, already had.
Total: 0

Paint for the back of the bookcase: (Marquee, Rush Hour) $26.47
Tops for bookcases: boards (Home Depot) $ 28.80
Trim pieces: $10.40
Total: $65.67

2 sets of Ritva back tab drapes from Ikea. Already had on hand.
Thread: $5.75
Total: $5.75

Slipcover for sofa:
We used one I'd purchased years ago for about $150.00  which my Mother sewed. (Not included in grand total)
Total: 0

Coffee table:
Vittsjo coffee table (from Ikea): $69.99
wood for the top (Home Depot): $18.18
stain: $7.97
brush: $3.49
Total: $99.63

End Table:
(Part of the Vittsjo coffee table, above.)
Wood for the top (Home Depot): $18.18
Brackets: $3.87
Screws: $2.97
Cork protectors: $2.67
(These last three items were needed to have something to put the glass on for the bottom shelf.)
Total: $27.69

Accessories: $527.95

Lamp base (Target): $19.99
Lamp shades (Target): $23.99 (x2)
Total: $67.97

TV area:
Wooden bird (Target): $7.49
Video box (Ikea): $9.99
CD box (Ikea): $7.99
Total: $25.47

Left of fireplace:
Branches (Ikea): $4.99
Vase (Bouclair Home): $9.99
Ceramic bird (Bouclair Home): $3.99
Total: $18.97

Scholarly Monk (Pier 1) $89.99

Right side:
Picture Frame (Target) $9.74
Squirrel: (Bouclair Home): $7.99
Boxed agave plant (Bouclair Home): $4.99
ZZ plant: (Ellerslie Gift and Garden): $21.95
Pot (Ellerslie Gift and Garden): $13.95
Total: $58.62

Coffee Table Accessories:
Candlesticks, (Ikea) $19.99
Planting Bowl (Target): $11.89
Cacti: (Ellerslie Gift and Garden): $23.75
Basket for remotes (Bouclair Home): $5.99
Total: $61.62

Pillows, textured blue-green (Target): $24.99 (x2)
Pillows, plush indigo (pier 1): $29.95 (x2)
Zebra cushion. base (Pier 1): $19.98
plus fabric (Walmart): $9.27 (x2)
Throw (Walmart): $19.97
Total: $168.37

Other chairs: $36.94

slipcover, made from fabric I already had.
Pillow: $26.95

Platform rocker:
throw (Ikea) already had
Pillow (Ikea) already had
Pillow cover (Ikea): $9.99

Grand Total: $931.51

Speeding ticket assessed while buying the rug from Target: $70.00

So, a grand. Does that surprise you? It seems about right to me.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Few Fave Kitchens

I am doing the Style Cure 2014 with Apartment Therapy. This is my "Free" Day.

Way, way back in the beginning of the process we were supposed to do some on-line or in person style collecting. I did some looking about and pinned some images to my kitchens board, but I was focused on the One Room Challenge and didn't pay too much attention.

Well, now, it is time.

I don't know if this exercise will actually change any of my decisions--but it can be fun to look at pretty kitchens, yes?

I love all the colour, of course, but also how the chair and upholstery colours reverse themselves from the chairs to the banquette. I would love to do something like that.

I love that door. Love the mix of wood and metal on the island.

This has to Karen's kitchen (by Carol Reed). I recognize the floor.  What is not to love? The black and white tile, shaker cabinetry, brass pulls, wood countertops, brick (brick!), thick white shelves and a hella nice range. Currently being featured in Canadian Living magazine, so not a lot of on-line photos available, yet.

Believe it or not, I just found this  kitchen tonight.

It's interesting to see my own idea (executed months before mine) on the web. I am glad my counter top is not green.

This is the Kate and Andy Spade kitchen, photographed by The Selby. I love the big, bold stripe of the banquette and the whole black and white thing happening everywhere. Except for the marble, that could be my kitchen table.

And last but not least:

Emily Henderson't kitchen, after it was featured in Domino. I love this to bits. It's more the ambience, though, than the specifics. The pendants are OK (love that they are white), love the airy lightness of the top--nd the wood introduced with cutting boards. Nice Roman shade, too.

Well, this exercise took a lot of time and I looked at hundreds of images of kitchens: and while there are lots of gorgeous ones out there, most of them just don't appeal to me. Most are too polished. I like mine a bit rough around the edges, somehow. I certainly like a lot of contrast--which makes for a busy environment. Especially when the dishes are piled high on the counter tops!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Returning to Normal*

First things first:

May we never forget.


For the first time in a long while, I sat down and planned our suppers for the week.  First, though, I had to create some space. (This is pretty good, by the by. I have been chipping away at this room since Thursday.)

So, I set the timer for 15 minutes and cleaned off the desk.

I am taking the week to clean my kitchen. I wondered what to tackle when it dawned on me that the most natural thing to do would be to clean the fridge.

So, I did.

And this is after the grocerey shop, too!

I picked up the sewing notions I need to make my Roman shades.

Awning cleats, shade cord, and that tape with rings. That's the fabric underneath, all washed and ironed.

I hope to get a chance to work on that this evening, but I'm pretty beat.

*well, as normal as things ever get around here!

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