Thursday, January 28, 2010

House Tour: Master Bedroom (Before Pics)

When I posted yesterday about rearranging the bed in our master bedroom, I was surprised to see that I hadn't yet posted anything under a "master bedroom" label. Haven't I shared our master bedroom before pics, yet? I guess not! So, in the interest of making everyone else feel better about the stylishness of their own bedrooms, here's ours :)

It's a pretty good sized room. Not huge, buy not tiny, either. I'd say it's big enough to be comfortable without really being too large. The best thing about this room from the get-go was the window looking out at the woods. Now that it's nearly twice as large, it's really a great feature.

I know, our bedding is bizarre :) It's really wrong-side up even. We bought this comforter years ago as a temprary solution right after we graduated from a full-sized bed to a queen. We didn't use it for a long while, then the way things worked out after the move, it wound up getting pulled back out and we're using it for the time being. Those pillows were originally sofa pillows - everything is pretty much hodge podge on this bed right now.

I'm hiding nothing here, people. Every corner of bare, neglected space is now out in the open for you all to see. This is pretty much the way it's looked for the past year. Hopefully, hopefully, we'll be moving on to the first layer in here before too long.

These photos were taken at the end of November '09, so - actually - they aren't really 100% before photos. There's a new door, for instance. Painted black :) Still loving the black doors; although, you do have to pay extra careful attention when going to check on a fussing toddler in the middle of the night. Black doors look a lot like open doors in the dark.


Pretty ceiling fan and all :) There you have 'em! Our master bedroom before pics! Since these photos were taken, we've enlarged both windows and we've also hung white curtains - those chages have made a pretty big difference. The natural light literally doubled in this room. Yay for natural light! Next up in here will be the trim and painting... and maybe I'll sneak some new bedding into the mix just for kicks.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Number One Thing to Make a Blah Room More Pleasant

And get this... it's free!

It's not glamorous, though...

and it does take some time...

(check out our vacuum - I think I'll start calling it The Relic)

but, it can transform a room in nothin' flat :)

It's a massive cleaning day, of course.

Remember that master bedroom dilemma I mentioned earlier this month? This is it. Our window was encroaching on the headboard before we had treatments, but after the curtains went up, it was really looking "off". I am a symmetry girl, and this headboard/window arrangement wasn't going to fly. So, we moved the bed and the headboard is now against the opposite wall. There's something about moving furniture that makes me want to clean like a maniac. I get some sort of weird deep-cleaning adrenaline going. See? Even the sheets were stripped off. Had to wash everything, you know :) Anyone else identifying here?

And vacuum, and dust every little thing.

Does random stuff pile up in your bedroom, too? We've always used our bed to fold the laundry. No more! It's been getting folded on the girls' full-sized bed for the last few weeks. I think there is at least less piling up than there was before :) Our bedroom was so squeaky clean after this! The new windows had already made a big difference, and the white curtains added a lot, but getting it (almost) clutter-free made just as much of an impact and didn't cost a thing. Even with the old trim still in there, the hodge-podgey bedding, and absolutely nothing hanging on the walls - the room is actually pleasant to be in now. Makes me excited about how it will be when all of those things have been done, too!

We can't all have everything just so all the time, but it is nice to have our room as a place of relative order and rest. Nevermind the army men and legos in the living room! :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Erika McPherson Powell, Designer

Here I am, all snuggled up on the couch and munching away on a frozen chocolate Whip with my trusty laptop. Children are snuggled and snoozing. Sam is playing indoor soccer for an hour or two, and the house is - get ready for this - quiet.

I felt like it was just about the perfect night to write that post I've been promising. The title doesn't keep many secrets :) Tonight, we're taking a closer look at Erika McPherson Powell of
Urban Grace Interiors.

If you aren't familiar with Erika, her work, or her blog, let me introduce you! This is Erika :)

via My Home Ideas

Isn't she super cute? She strikes me as one of those moms you'd see at the playground, hanging out and looking all carelessly chic in her jeans and tank - and killer shoes. You know, those size 4 moms with great hair ;) From her blog posts and from a few brief email interactions, she also strikes me as totally genuine, natural, and truly sweet. And did I mention the woman's got style? Here, take a look...

I love this room. Just like Erika, it has a pulled-together, chic look without trying too hard. After I planned on writing this post, I was delighted to discover that these clients of Erika's had their home featured in Southern Living's February 2010 issue. It just hit newstands and I snapped it up. The photos of this room, in particular, fascinated me and gave me a whole new appreciation for the design. I won't scan them here, though - you'll have to sneek a peek next time you're at Barnes and Noble. Incidentally, if you've been reading for a little while, you know I've sort of adopted "timeless character" as my catch phrase for our home. I had to chuckle when those exact words were part of the Southern Living title for Erika's article - "New House, Timeless Character".

A month or two back, I decided I really needed to edit the design influences that were cramming themselves into my head. Swedish, Belgian, French, Farmhouse - yeesh! I went through my blog reads and nixed the ones that really didn't match up to my own (barely, barely defined) aesthetic. I decided to quit looking at IKEA catalogs, books on cottage style, and - this one was a little hard - even House Beautiful. I had gleaned what I could from all those resources for the time being. I needed to focus. I set out to find images that really encapsulated what I loved in a space and to discover designers that "nailed" the look I wanted.

Enter Erika.

At about the same time that I decided on this edited path, I wrote down my current thoughts on our aesthetic and posted them in my sidebar. This was before I had really taken a good, hard look at Erika's portfolio. When I did go through it, photo by photo, I was struck by how much her rooms reflected my own goals for our home. Although, let me be the first to point out, Erika is a professional designer. So, try as I may, I just won't turn out the same caliber room, regardless of what my sidebar says. That's pretty much a given. It's easy to look at something someone has already done and tell yourself you could do that, too. It's a whole other ballgame when you actually have to do it - and do it on your own. Suddenly you realize that the pros make it look so easy because they're pros! :)

Plus, I don't have the coin her clients have.

Erika's rooms inspire me without distracting me from my own design direction. That's nice. Here are a few more photos...

via My Home Ideas

High contrast neutrals. The dark photo frames and the medium-dark tone of the painted bench against the light walls provide exactly the kind of contrast that I love to see in a room. This bench illustrates another point I recently made about avoiding too many new purchases in our home. I don't want our house to look canned or formulaic. It would have been really easy to grab a standard bench from Pottery Barn for this area and call it a day. But, instead, with Erika's direction, her client took the time to really find a one-of-a-kind, vintage piece for her home. The green paint gives it that extra element of character and charm that just isn't going to come straight out of a stockroom. It's classic.

Here's another example, from Erika's portfolio, of that same principle. Same home, too (did I mention that the Southern Living article has lovely, lovely photos?). A brand new, mass-produced side table would've looked fine here, and would have certainly been easy to come across. But, a little patience, a little time, and there's a table with personality and timeless character. Honestly, a table like this needn't be any more expensive than a newer one, either. Depending on where you look, you may be able to find a solid wood, vintage side table for roughly the price of a similarly sized table from Target! I love that Erika doesn't design solely with to-the-trade pieces. I mean, the girl even trash picks! In an article with My Homes Ideas, Erika says, "I still find myself doing things I remember them [her parents] doing when I was a young child -- stopping to pick up furniture, frames, or lamps out of someone's trash, hitting up the local antique shows to check for new items (antique shows and flea markets are my choice of entertainment), gardening, etc." You have to love the down-to-earth approach :)

Are you beginning to see why I really like the homes Erika designs? It's because I like the basic foundations of her aesthetic - the thoughts behind the rooms.

White. Lovely, bright, perfect white. The dark wood anchors it all and gives that interesting element of contrast, again. I think, too, the white has a feminine feel that is balanced by the heavier, more masculine wood tones. This is one of my favorite rooms in Erika's portfolio.

At the risk of really beating a dead horse to, well, to death - I have to share this excerpt from Erika's website that pretty much sums up her commitment to timeless style (how many times can I type "timeless" in one post?) Here's the quote: "Erika’s style is both modern and classic, an ideal just-right mix of old and new that is forever timeless (apparently, at least once more!). Reluctant to define herself by one certain look (or place), one thread runs common throughout all her projects: impeccable attention to details. Considering the architectural bones of each project is a source of pride for Erika. She has commented, 'Ignoring the architecture would be like a dressmaker making a dress without a proper fitting'. This level of details is what her happy clients have come to expect." Can I tell you that I nearly jumped up and down with glee when I read that? All this time and work to change our mouldings, doors, windows. I feel like we must not be too far off the right track when I read something like this :)

So, that's a little of Urban Grace Interiors. Such great sources of inspiration. It's obvious that Erika has worked hard to study and develop her talents. She's been able to work alongside some highly respected names in the business. She has training, experience. Are you wondering why I bother drooling over her rooms when I'm a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom and wife with zero background in interiors?! :) Well, the short answer is that I think we can all come at design from our own starting points. I'll just learn what I can, when I can, and hope to at least come close to my goals and not waste money on poor decisions. By taking the time to observe and really learn to see, I feel like I can learn something, even if I don't know everything. Really, I just get tickled when I feel like some of my thoughts and directions are validated - like I'm not totally out to lunch. Erika's designs push me along in my own thought process. It's encouraging to be able to say that I've found a designer who regularly hits on an aesthetic that resonates with me and whose thoughts align with my own.

Not to mention that it's just a huge bonus when that designer has such an adorable baby. I just had to fit her in this post somehow :)

All images, except where noted, are used with permission courtesy of Urban Grace Interiors. Quotes are taken from a recent My Home Ideas article. It's a great overall introduction to Erika's thoughts on design, and also features more photos of her work.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Welcome, New Refrigerator

We think you're pretty fun.

Mama thinks you're pretty white

and that you make our cabinets look

which I guess she didn't like, but she only cried for a few minutes. Mama can be kind of silly sometimes. We love her anyway.

Then she said she'd deal with the color part later, and hung our paintings up :) That made her smile.

You're very shiny and bright, Refrigerator.

We're glad you're here. Now we don't have to keep our milk in the garage anymore.

The End.

Posted several days later: I just wanted to say that perspective is everything. So my fridge is too white. Oh, well. I cried for a few seconds - more at the thought of possibly having to repaint the cabinets than anything else - but in an hour I wasn't thinking about it anymore at all. Life goes on and, in the grand scheme of things, that extremely white fridge matters very little except that it meets a need for our family. I really am thankful to have a new fridge to keep food for us all. We have been given so much. Lord, help me not take it for granted.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Nary a Classic Fridge to be Found

Well, not within our price range that is. It's the handles that present the problem. You would think you could find one fridge that has just a normal, traditional refrigerator handle on it, but no. It's a conspiracy, I tell you. A conspiracy that keeps us coming back for "updated" appliances every ten years whether we need them or not. I left Home Depot scowling.

But, eventually, we chose a refrigerator that will do. I like it, and I'm very, very thankful that it's coming in the morning. Our garage has been a decent replacement fridge for the last week and a half (yay for freezing temps), but I'm ready to get this new gal in place. Sam's employer has some kind of deal with Whirlpool that gives us big discounts. We were able to get the refrigerator (Whirlpool Gold) for nearly 40% off the list price. What a blessing, considering we weren't really planning on this purchase this month.

I've never had anything but the standard freezer-on-top-one-door style, so I'm interested to see how we like the new one. The too-easily-dated-for-my-tastes-handles are hard to see, but here's a photo of it...

I've also never had a freezer on the bottom style. Have any of you? What did you think of it? A little late to ask now, though, isn't it? We chose the french doors mainly for looks, but also we figured it might be nice in our galley kitchen. Novel to have the fridge open and still have room to pass through the doorway that's right there. Well, maybe. Thanks to everyone who chimed in with their two cents on whether or not we should order it in white. We did. So, now we have a black stove, a cream dishwasher, a white fridge, and a black microwave. I'm hoping that the magazines don't call too much this week - I'm rather busy for a photoshoot these days.

It is fun, though, to get a new appliance in! I hope it won't be too terribly long before we can get the others in, too. Here's the stove I have my eye on (really hoping the whites match up well)...

It's a duel fuel range with a double oven. The bottom oven is convection. Love that! I am excited about this little girlie.

Maybe, just maybe, after all of the children have completed their higher education, we'll spring for one of these puppies.

We actually debated it for a day or two. Apparently, Big Chill has showrooms in both Michigan and Tennessee, and they sell slightly damaged models at discounts. But, there weren't any in white and we needed a refrigerator ASAP. If you have a spare $2700 hanging around, maybe you can splurge on a new one now and send me photos :)

Or, better yet, make me a wall calendar. Because I just think they are so great-looking :)

Don't you?

And about as classic as they come.

But, I really am thankful for the new, white fridge that's coming in the morning. Maybe when the Conspiring Appliance People declare that our handles are totally out-of-date in a few years, we can figure out some way to switch them out instead of buying a more up-to-date version ;) Ha! Take that Conspiring Appliance People!

I'll post a photo or two of the refrigerator "before and after" tomorrow. Thanks for reading, everyone!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Now It's Getting Fun

I've come full circle with my new camera today. Earlier this afternoon I was convinced it was defective :)

But, with Darby's help, things started to make a little more sense. She also encouraged me to dig into the software that came with the camera - Digital Photo Professional. I can't tell you how great it was to have her encouragement today! If I haven't mentioned it before, let me say it now - there are some really great bloggers out there.

Our second term of school starts tomorrow, so I'd better get my pretty little head in bed! Thanks so much for all of the input on our brick, guys :) We're hoping to get going on the walls and paneling once we get a good thaw. Then, the plan is, as of now, to paint it ALL!!! Woo hoo!

Have a good one!


Friday, January 8, 2010

Should We Paint the Brick?

It wasn't very long ago that I announced I was fairly certain we were not going to paint our brick fireplace wall in the family room. Note to self - don't make public announcements like that.

I had a few examples of rooms where the brick was left untouched, and it sure seemed the safer route to me.

But, the brick in those photos was generally more aesthetically pleasing than ours, and besides, safer isn't always better...

... and painted brick can really be lovely...

... especially, white painted brick...

... there's a good chance I would really love the look of our brick painted white...

... but, then again I might not. But then again, again, I don't think I'd like it any less than I do right now. So, what do I have to lose? It's not like I'm messing around with something that I already love.

What do you think? Picture the paneling and walls painted white and the fireplace surround black. Kind of like wrought iron-ish black. Picture our long, white IKEA curtains. Would you paint the brick? White? What finish?

please click on the photos to see source credits in the address bar - thanks!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pioneer Woman's 2 Millionth Reader (and Playdoh, too)

Well, I finally got on board. Since everyone and their mother's mother is reading her, I decided to add The Pioneer Woman to my bloggy reading list. I read blogs old school style - no readers. So, I keep track of who's posting what by following the right sidebar of my own blog. High tech, I know. I'll give the PW a few weeks to decide if she stays there or not.

I've browsed The Pioneer Woman's blog before - a few times actually. But,
Darby's post today finally convinced me that I need to be trying some of those PW recipes. I admit, this does look pretty tasty...

I'll let you know if I try any. I think we might have to have a fridge, though, before we stock up on some of her ingredients. That's in process, still, but I think we're narrowed down to two choices.

New topic, now :) One of my few New Year's Resolutions for 2010 was to make sure I'm fitting in pre-schoolish fun time for the younger ones on a more regular basis. By the time we take care of regular housework, do second grade and third grade school work, and do academic preschool/kindergarten things with Punkin each day - I admit, there isn't a lot of craft time going on. They play a lot, of course, and come up with all kinds of unstructured, fun things to do and the older girls often sew, knit, bead, etc. during the younger ones' naptimes, but Little Dude and Punkin get much less of that painting-cutting-pasting sort of thing than the olders did at this age. So, I've resolved, by God's grace, to fit that into our days more this year. Also, to actually sit down and craft more with the older girls when they do their thing.

So far in 2010, I've spent one afternoon sewing doll clothes with SweetP and Shug and we've busted out the Playdoh (with MANY new colors from Uncle Will) for a serious Playdoh session. Of course, all of those pretty colors meant I had to practice some more with my new camera :)

We have 4-6" of snow forcasted for the next 24 hours. We have about 2" on the ground already. Six inches of now means one thing at this house - SLEDDING. Hopefully, we'll be able to go before the week is out! In the meantime, today's plan includes watercolors and cocoa :) Hope you're enjoying cozy days wherever you are, too.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Man Ears and Dead Appliances

So, we're going through the drive through at McDonald's last night, and Sam says something under his breath about a noise coming from one of the glowing, golden arches. I hear nothing. Do you think men hear pitches that women do not and vice versa? Is there any research on this topic? Seconds later, Little Dude pipes up - unprompted - and says, "What dat noise? It goes zzzzzzzzsh". Are you kidding me? Clearly this was a case of man ears. Finally, after intently listening for a few seconds, I heard it, too. But, I would never have picked up on it had my Y-chromosome loved ones not pointed it out.

Fast forward a few hours and the children are all in bed. Sam is reading The Deerslayer and I'm typing the post about American Foursquares. Suddenly, he looks up from Natty Bumpo and says, "The fridge just broke". Again, I have no idea what he's talking about. "Didn't you hear it?", he continues. "That sound was no good". Man ears. But, guess what. He was totally right.

Our fridge kicked the bucket.

We were planning on replacing the fridge, just not yet. I had wanted to get all the appliances around the same time. I don't know why, probably for the same reasons that I want to have a name for our design style, a clear designation for our inspirational period, and I always begin anything new on a Monday (and preferably at the beginning of the month). But, it broke. So now the money we were planning to use for lighting is going to a new refrigerator that I'd rather not buy right now. Oh, well.

I'd rather not buy one right now because I have absolutely no idea what I want. Actually, I kind of do, but it's not a realistic option. If money were no issue and if I were daring enough, I'd buy one of
these... in red :)

If for no other reason than so I could then also get one of these (ignore the leafy stenciling and just absorb the porcelain awesomeness...)

Sigh. I shall not covet. It's not healthy to stare at porcelain and chrome in this greedy manner. Moving on... :)

I cannot buy a beautiful, gleaming, sparkly, shiny, refurbished O'Keefe and Merritt nor a Tappan nor a Northstar nor a new Big Chill. But I wish they made a calendar so I could put it up in my kitchen the way some guys put up fancy schmancy vintage car calendars. And, actually I'm not supposed to be thinking about stoves anyway. It's my fridge that's dead.

I have no idea what I want to buy, but I do know that I do not want stainless steel. I really believe in my heart of hearts that this stainless steel bandwagon is on its way out of town, and there's going to be a new Appliance King in town. Have you seen the colored washers and dryers? Red ones? Of course you have, and I'll bet you anything the next appliance trend is going to be retro stoves in all kinds of cheery, pretty colors. Like red :)

But, we can't afford a cheerily colored fridge right now. And I don't want a stainless one. I have to choose between white, bisque, and black. Honestly, none of the refrigerators I've looked at online today (and there have been a LOT of them) did it for me. I keep asking myself, "What's the most timeless choice?" and "What will still look good in 12 years?" or "What looks good now and would've also looked good back in 1998"? Oh, and "What costs less than $800?".

What do you all think? What makes an appliance withstand the test of an entire decade or - let's be really ambitious - two decades?

I'm thinking white. Jennifer at
The Old Painted Cottage has all white appliances and her kitchen is fantastic. And no one doubts Maria's sense of style when she eschews stainless and shows us all her gorgeous vintage-inspired kitchen (again, with all white appliances).

So, maybe white? But there's the issue of the white possibly not looking right with the white of our cabinets. We could just get wild and crazy like Jennifer did. Hmm. I'm kinda stuck on this one.

Ideas anyone? My yogurt is hanging out in the garage tonight :)