Sunday, September 10, 2006

What's it all a-grout?

Since I haven't done much decorating lately, I thought I'd share a combo craft/decorating project I finally finished at the end of the summer, one that I had been planning for awhile but never got around to for many months. It's all part of my fantasy of becoming a funky mosaic artist. In fact, I've been collecting pieces of glass and tile for a few years now (even moved some broken glass from my old condo. Shhh. Don't tell my husband that).

I've had this unpainted wooden plant stand that I got from Ikea for $3 or so scheduled for my first, practice tile project, but it took me forever to find tiles to fit the space perfectly. Finally, bingo, I got lucky with these cool assorted slate ones from Home Depot (total cost: less than $20), which not only fit on the table top and second level, but also came with matching mini ones that fit on the sides.

So first I painted the plant stand black, then used off white grout (the ready mixed kind)n to stick on the tiles. After that dried I decided it would look better with grey grout, so used grey to do the finishing. Grouting is a mess, because you have to wipe off more than what stays on there, but it's really cool to see the tiles emerge from the mud.

While I had all the tiling supplies out, I also did this tray I've had planned for about a year (are you getting the proscrastination vibe?). I bought these tiles, even though they didn't fit perfectly because I loved the color and thought they had a cool Indian feel. I painted this old tray (which the previous owner of our condo left in a closet) the red from my kitchen wall. Now here's the amazing part: In order to make the narrow tiles in the middle fit, I actually sanded the edges about a 1/4 inch on two of them. This took approximately 3 hours of sanding spread out over 2 weeks. I'm learning that one of the hardest parts of tiling projects is finding tiles to fit your project. This will not be a problem with mosaics. Now that I've got grouting down, I'm ready to break some dishes. Someday I dream of a broken china kitchen backsplash (probably not in this condo, though).

Sunday, August 13, 2006

All Thai'd up

We've added more Asian flair to our bedroom, with this beautifully framed rubbing from Thailand. My mother-in-law, Marge, brought this back from Thailand back when she was a flight attendant (in the '60s). When I saw that my sister-in-law, Trish, had framed a couple of them, I remarked how cool they were, and Marge said she had another one. I had it framed at Artists' Frame Service here in Chicago, a really nice framing place that took pains to preserve this well. The mat is a pretty taupe linen one and the frame is black wood. We hope to add some framed photos from Vietnam on each side next year!

Decked out

It's been a long spring/summer of construction on our new decks (and a very long story of the contractor from hell), but we finally are getting to use them and planted some windowboxes of flowers a few weeks ago. I went with my next-door neighbor Brenda, and we did matching boxes this year. She has a much greener thumb than I. I also planted a big container of herbs. We lost a little space on our deck but we still have room for our grill and two chairs. It's nice to be able to sit out there and enjoy the sunshine again. And eat grilled food!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Bedroom headboard

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Ed's closet

I've been having problems posting photos with Blogger lately, but here it finally is. Our last closet to get the Closet Maid organizer treatment. This is part of the great master bedroom re-do. Although we have a large walk-in closet in the second bedroom, our master has this smaller closet, so Ed uses it. I designed it to hold his clothes, shoes, guitar, and on the top shelves, our towels and sheets. So this redesign frees us space elsewhere.

Ed did a great job installing the track system (superior, in my opinion, to the kind that attaches on the sides). While he was off at work last week and I was home on the forced Decorating Vacation, I learned that I can use the hand saw and cut the wire shelving, too. This closet also incorporates a new touch for us: the shoe shelves, which are regular shelves turned upside down and attached with a special hardware. This turned out really nice and should help keep the bedroom organized. Woo-hoo! We're all done now--all five closets in our home have gotten closet organizers. Thanks, Ed!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Stain master

So if you thought that wall behind the bed in my last post looked a little bare, you're right. But don't worry, we've got plans for a beautiful headboard. We ordered it from At Home Furniture, the closest unpainted furniture store to Chicago, which is halfway to Milwaukee in Libertyville! On Sunday Ed and I borrowed generous neighbor Reggie's van and drove to pick up the headboard and a shelving cubby thing, too.

On Day 6 of Decorating Vacation I set out to stain it. (Day 4 was spent painting the bedroom closet. See next post. Days 3 and 5 were spent relaxing.) Now, I've only ever stained one thing in my life, and that is this lovely frame built by my very talented brother-in-law. Originally this was supposed to be my bathroom mirror, but it ended up too big for the space (my miscalculation, not Andy's). But it does fit perfectly in our hallway and covers the ugly metal fuse box. Andy built it last summer and it took me several months to stain it, and then almost half a year to figure out how to get the mirror in the back (brads; those mirror triangles didn't work). Not knowing what I was doing, I brushed the stain/poly combo on, and it ended up dripping a lot. So I sanded and restained, but it still has some serious drippage.

So before attempting the headboard, I called my mother, who has refinished lots of furniture, for some tips. (The lady at the furniture store also clued me in.) You wipe the stain on with a rag, not a brush! Aha. That worked lots better as you can see from this lovely headboard. It's actually a bit darker in real life and should match our other furniture pretty well. I'm not going for the perfectly matched look anyway. I also have this idea to add some dark bamboo in those rectangles. We'll see how that works.

I also took this old (VERY heavy) mirror that I've had leaned up against a wall and sanded and stained it, too. This is a trash find. I'm hoping Ed can attached it to the wall behind the door. I have to have a full-length mirror to check how my shoes match my outfit. As soon as I'm done blogging, I'm off to do the all-important sealer stage. Two coats on the whole thing; and three on the front of the headboard, where it will get more wear. Then a few days of drying and we'll attempt the actual installation. Progress...

True blue bedroom

Get ready for a bunch of decorating posts, all you (five) readers out there! I had some "use it or lose it" vacation at work so have been home since last Wednesday. Last week we decided to adopt a boy from Vietnam while waiting for our adoption of Sophie from China, which means we might have a baby as early as Christmas! Of course, this threw me into a deocrating spin, as friends with children have warned me: Do all your home improvement before the baby comes, because you won't do any once he gets here. But before we get to decorating the nursey, I've got some work to finish in the rest of the house.

So, first I painted our bedroom (See photo above). Those of you who have visited Chez Schlumpf-Butler may recall that our master bedroom was already blue. Yes, but this is an ever-so-slightly different shade of gray/blue/purple that perfectly matches our new Calvin Klein Bamboo Flowers linens.

It took five tries (of sample squares, not the whole job!) to find the perfect color (and only one of those, of course, came in the handy-dandy Benjamin Moore sample size) but we finally decided on Yukon Sky, #1439. So I've got a few extra quarts of various light blues, but maybe I'll be able to use them for something in the baby's room.

Also, the woman who previously owned this condo painted with the cheapest of flat paints, so there were tons of nicks, scuffs, etc. I use Benjamin Moore Eggshell for a nice, smooth, washable finish. But I'm not done yet: I couldn't remove the fabric shades on the windows and we're planning to replace them anyway (need something that blocks out more light--for us and for baby!) so I skipped that wall. You can see the color difference above (new color on left). It's not very accurate, as the old color is somewhat shaded.

So that was Day 2 of my decorating vacation. (Day 1 involved biking to the paint store, about a mile or so away to buy a sample quart). Painting Day 2 also included two bike trips to the store, since I could only carry one gallon at a time in my backpack. Don't worry: Mom and Dad ordered their new hybrid car last week. As soon as it arrives (6 weeks to 6 months) we're buying their old Toyota Camry. After 5 years of carlessness, we're going to join the land of the driving.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Front hall closet

Four down, one to go! That's how many closets in our condo my husband and I have redone with the wire Closet Maid closet organizers (that includes one pantry, one rather large walk-in, and our laundry room closet).

Last weekend, we did the front hall closet, which is pretty small but needs to store a lot of crap. I decided that rather than have the hanging rod go all the way across, I'd break it up for his/her coats, then put shelves down the middle for all the stuff we're constantly needing to reach, like scarves, mittens, sporting equiptment, etc. I got the nice canvas bins at Bed, Bath and Beyond (using a coupon, of course).

A rolling basket on the floor contains bike helmets and is flanked by two crates, for our blades and ice skates. Games are above the coats, and photos are on the higher shelf. I'm hoping to have room to store some old photo albums here, too.

I used up some leftover paint from my last condo, a nice dark sage green, which looks nice against the gold and contrasts with the white.

Ed is getting very good at installing this system. (We highly recommend the ShelfTrack system that attaches from the ceiling. It's much stronger.) Now all we have left is his closet!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Great minds...

So I've been giving my sister a little free decorating consulting, since she and her husband are fixing up their main floor of their four-bedroom house in the suburbs. This, after a amazing renovation of their basement last winter. They're getting new family room furniture, painting, and removing a breakfast bar and putting in an island in the kitchen.

While she and I spent a weekend in Florida, we talked about color schemes. Then she and her husband brainstormed and did some furniture shopping. These two are quick at making up their minds (unlike me) and even quicker at getting things done. So I shouldn't have been surprised when they already painted their family room a lovely shade of gold.

When I asked which shade they picked, it turned out to be Benjamin Moore's Dorset Gold (HC-8)--which coincidentally is the exact same shade on my living room, kitchen, and hallway walls. I'd post a photo of their great paint job, but she's a little more private about having her life on blogs for the whole world to see. Fair enough. But here's a photo of that gorgeous color on my walls. It looks great with our cabinets, furniture, exposed brick wall, and red accent walls. (BTW, that's cherry bounce in the cannister on the right.)