Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dining Room Chair Search

One of the things I love about Pinterest is that it is easy to spot commonalities.  So when we decided to be grown ups and buy a set of matching dining room chairs, I knew just where to look.  All of the above photos are from my dining rooms board.   I think it's pretty safe to say that I like a black Windsor or Windsor-inspired chair with a stained wood table.

We already had the wooden table, but not the Windsor chair.  My search eventually led me to two chairs, both of which I adore:

Above is the Salt chair from Design Within Reach.  I had my heart set on this chair.   I think it's practically perfect.  Simple, classic, well-made.   DWR even let me take it home to test it out overnight, but when we tried it, we found the scale to be quite small.  My husband looked like an adult sitting in a child's chair when he sat in it.  Sadly, I decided to return the chair and continue my search.  Incidentally, this chair comes in a variety of colors and costs a pretty decent $100 each.  I've read that Serena and Lily's Tucker chair ($168 each) is made by the same manufacturer in the Czech Republic.  It also comes in a variety of colors. 

Crate and Barrel's Willa chair (above) has the same clean lines and classic feel.  After sitting in it, the scale felt larger and the chair more substantial.  At $149 a piece, they are more expensive than the Salt chair.  I read a few reviews and one thing that kept popping up was that the paint chipped easily.  When at the Crate and Barrel outlet one day, I spied a few of the chairs and sure enough, every one of them had chipped paint.

About this time, a friend reminded me that I had discovered and liked another Windsor style chair at a different store.  When I went back to try it, I found that it was both comfortable and substantial. 

So I pulled the trigger and here they are in our dining room:

Would you believe me if I told you they are a new design at Ikea?  And that this solid wood chair is a mere $35 a piece?  The name of the chair is Lidingby, and for some reason is not listed on the Ikea website.  I don't know why...testing a new market maybe?

My one bone to pick with the chair is that in typical Ikea fashion, there is a silver screw visible in the cross bar that supports the legs.

Nothing that a little black craft paint can't disguise, however.  In fact, the nailed-on felt tabs I added to the legs of the chair might be more conspicuous!

Regardless, I'm pretty pleased with this purchase.  

Monday, April 21, 2014

Our little patch of green.

As mentioned in the previous post, the first thing we did to the small garden on the side of the house was build this play house for our twin girls.

The garden is on a slope, so below the rocks you see in the above photo was a strange patch of mulch.
It invited lots of this:

My girls spend hours digging holes in the the patch of mulch until it ceased to look anything like mulch.  A bog of mud would have been a more appropriate description. 

So I got to work with a shovel.   Here you can see part of the rock terracing below the play house.  I moved a ton of plants within the second tier of rock flower beds, including that newly planted plum tree. 

 After a ton of digging and dirt moving, I leveled out the former patch of mulch and moved all the rocks which had completed the second part of the terrace to make a small rock retaining wall.

 And with my father-in-law's help, we laid new sod.    Large enough for little girls to practice doing cart-wheels.  Long enough for little girls to run through sprinklers.  (Add to the list:  Get rid of the chain link fence!)

  Yay for a DIY patch of green!

Next up, keep adding to the succulents I've already begun to plant in the rock wall.   The above photo is the goal. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What's that color?

How breathtakingly beautiful is this wall color?

You know what it reminds me of?

A weimeraner.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Garden-y Things

Like our house, we have a miniature yard.  And like our house, I think it's good to have a small yard because it not only means we have less to take care of,  I also feel required to think carefully about what I want to include and exclude.

This is the stairwell that leads from the door in our kitchen down to the utility room and garage.  It also leads to the back patio and our small side yard.  The gigantic fern, which is evergreen in the Bay Area, annoyed me when we first moved in. You practically run into it as you go out the back door.  But now I love how this vibrant shade of green greets me as I go down the stairs to do the laundry. 

Now that it is spring, there are always one or two of these new fronds near the center of the fern.  It astonishes me that something so tightly wound, hairy brown thing unfurls itself into such a delicate green frond! 

Also on the back patio are these tiny and delicate baby's tears are growing along the side of the brick steps. With all of our recent rain, they have begun to spread.   The patio is a lush, shady area so I've been researching shade plants to add to some raised planters against the fence..

We put in an offer on our house last October and got the keys in November.  The trees had no leaves and much of the space in the yard had been scraped bare and mulched.  So it's been wonderful to see what was hiding under all that mulch waiting to come out in spring. 

I've been on the edge of my seat watching for the climbing roses outside of the kitchen window to bloom.  They are full of buds just waiting to explode.  This is the first of the bunch to reveal its color to me.

 Also outside the kitchen window and all along the fence is this climbing jasmine vine.  It has been blooming for several weeks and the smell is divine.

There was absolutely no sign of this fern on the side yard when we bought the house.  It has sprung up in the last month.  It now perfectly conceals the hose faucet and the coil of hose below it while still allowing easy access to turn the hose on and off.

We put up this play house, which was a Christmas gift to my girls from their grandparents, shortly after we moved in.  I took this picture in the rain hoping to catch the wren who has made a nest inside the dormer window of the play house.  The baby birds have hatched, and their poor mama is in and out all day long (even in the rain!) bringing worms for them to eat.  First she he flies onto the top of the door, which we have been keeping open for her, and from there she flits into the dormer window.   Each time she does, they make a racket.  They are hoping, I suppose, to catch the attention of the one with the worm. Hard work to be a mama wren.  Seems harder to me than having twins!

In the area beyond the play house, we have begun the work of moving plants, building a small retaining wall with rocks and leveling the ground in order to put in small patch of grass for our girls.  (They want to "run through the sprinklers and do cartwheels!")  The girls love to "help" me with their kid-sized wheel barrow, hoe, and shovel. 

This bougainvillea is what I am most excited about.  I have planted it against a bare patch up wall that goes up two stories.  My dad has agreed to help me build some kind of trellis on his next visit and I can hardly wait to see the bougainvillea climb that high.  I've got my fingers crossed that I can keep it alive until then. 

All of the rain and all of the work in the garden has made for one big muddy mess.  It reminded me of something I've been meaning to show you. 

Attached to my sister's garden gate in New Mexico is this antique copper lavabo.  They were originally used in churches and in houses (especially in France) for washing hands in the days before running water was installed.  My sister's lavabo has a lid at the top.  You can fill it with water and when you are done gardening, you can turn the spout to wash your hands before going inside.  The basin below catches the dirty water and can removed to empty the contents.  Sure beats holding the hose with one hand as you attempt to wash the other!  

Antique French Lavabo, $120 on Etsy

I've been keeping my eye out for a lavabo.  You can find some pretty great ones (white enamel, anyone?) on ebay and etsy.  Unfortunately, they don't come cheap, but I think they make a beautiful and useful accent for a garden. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Scenes Around the (New) House

Today I am posting little bits of things around the house that make me happy.

Let's start with this scene in our living room.
Because it's been raining all day and the beautiful California sunshine just made an appearance.

This newly reupholstered antique armchair.
Because I finally bit the bullet and decided on a durable neutral navy which I have layered with color and pattern in the from of a throw, pillow, and a table runner. (Yes, a table runner.)

The natural wear and crackling on this black chest that I'm using as a coffee table.
 Because you can't fake patina like that. 

 This tide clock peeking in the dining room window. 
 Because it was a gift from my husband and because even if I can't see the ocean from our house, I always know if the tide is coming or going. 

  These blue and white demitasse cups stacked on the shelf above our espresso machine.
 Because it's nice to finally use these family heirlooms which have been packed away in boxes for the last five years as we moved from rental to rental.

This wall-mounted faucet handle in our kitchen.
Because the the "Hot" label has faded from 90 years of hands turning it on and off.

 This silver platter filled with broken crayons. 
 Because not only is it easy to find a color, it makes the act of coloring extra beautiful.

And finally, this rumpled scene in my girls' room. 
Because I can't get enough of the the sunlight in our house. 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Extending Counter Space

How clever of these homeowners to use a small amount of space in order add more counter -- either to eat at or work on. 


Notice how the above counter extends past the the edge of the kitchen onto the adjacent wall.
When I first read about this one, I remember thinking it was a particularly creative use of space.  The breakfast bar kind of wraps around the dining room wall with cabinets below and shelves above for more storage.

The same idea is used here in this narrow hallway space.  The breakfast bar turns into counter space above narrow cabinets on an adjoining wall.

While this appears to be a bar rather than a kitchen, we again see how the counter is wrapped around the adjacent wall.  Only in this example, the counter ends so that a fourth person can face the other three.

If in-kitchen seating is what you are looking for, you can also add counter space with a folding table.
This fold down table surface normally covers the upper part of the bookshelf and is supported by a door covering the lower half of the shelf.  (Click picture to see more photos.)
This table surface also folds down from a hutch.  Love that the toaster can be stored inside for an instant breakfast bar.
 And this counter top, while appearing to be fixed in place simply extends from a built-in and has seating at either end.

If all that fails, you can also extend your counter across a window that might interfere with lower cabinet installation.

Do you lack for counter space or a spot to sit in the kitchen?  If so, would any of these ideas work for you?

I've been mulling them over for the kitchen in my new house and will discuss how they might apply in my next post. 

(click on photos for sources)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Our Vintage Kitchen

Here are a few pics of the kitchen in our new house.  Though the layout is awkward, and there is very little counter space and storage, this is still my favorite room. I haven't done a thing to it since we bought it, other than decorate and purchase a fridge.

This little built in is a life-saver in terms of storage.  The skinny little pantry on the right holds most of our dry food and canned goods.  The microwave (are they not like the TV of the kitchen -- something we always want to hide?) sits in that spot because it had the only outlet at counter height in the entire kitchen when we moved in.  We have since had an electrician add two more outlets.

There's plenty of light in here, but I still think this wall is begging for a huge mirror.  I'd want to find one big enough to cover the opening for the old stove vent.  Perhaps that's a job for Ikea.   I had originally considered a wall of open shelves here, but I think I have plans for those elsewhere, as you will see in a minute.  (The ledge on which the glasses sit came with the house.)

 This strange little cupboard built into the wall is a California Cooler.  It is basically the equivalent of an icebox and was used in the days before refrigeration.  Also a topic for another post.  Right now I'm using it for baking pans and the like, but you can see there's a ton of unused space near the top.  Need to add shelves stat!

This little nook next to the dining room door proved to be a perfect spot to hang pots and pans -- since there was nowhere else to put them. 

Here is the kids corner.  My girls sit at the little table for crafts and to eat their breakfast and lunch.  This little nook has given me so many fits in terms of what to put here.  But that's a topic for a future post.  I keep changing my mind, but I'm currently considering built-in shelves floor to ceiling -- a project I think I can do myself.  For now, the ticking stripe curtains are hiding cubbies full of art supplies for my girls.  That shelf near the top was there when we moved in and it looks fairly easy to replicate.  On top of the shelf, the left basket holds picnic supplies while the right one holds extra paper towels.  

This is the second place I've lived in with commercial grade vinyl tiles -- the kind you might see in a grocery store or school.  I love them!  They look clean, even if they are dirty and they are SO durable.   The pattern in which they were laid would probably not be my first choice, but they kind of lead the eye diagonally across the room, making it feel bigger.

The fridge.  Oh boy, did I agonize over that choice since I never saw it in person before ordering.  I insisted on getting something counter-depth so it wouldn't stick out beyond that wall next to the garage door.  It is extra tall, and with only 13.8 cubic feet of storage, the interior is small.  But the layout is so efficient we can fit a week's worth of food for a family of four.  Again, perhaps a post for another day if folks want to know more.  Anyway, it has a sleek, white glossy finish, rather than pebbled, and I dig those handles.  Next to the fridge is the Ikea shelf from our previous kitchen to add more storage.

Our island is actually the portable dishwasher, since the kitchen came without one.  I added a remnant piece of butcher block cut larger than the top and mounted a small towel bar to the underside to hide the power and sink hook-ups, which feed into that slot on the back.  It's funny, we've had so many visitors comment on our small island, and they are so surprised to find out it's actually a dishwasher.  That was my goal!  I basically do 100% of our food prep on that little butcher block rectangle. 

The counters, oy.  I dislike the tiled counters, but at least they are white.   What I do love are the porcelain undermount sink, the wall-mounted faucet, and the original subway tiles on the backsplash. 

So there it is.  I have lots of topics for future posts here.  We won't be doing any kind of remodel to this kitchen in the near future.  Our 1925 house has some dry rot issues to be dealt with and the frame needs to be bolted to the foundation since we live in earthquake country.  So any extra funds are going to that for now.  In the meantime, I do want to come up with some clever, inexpensive solutions to make it more workable.  Any ideas are welcome!