Decisions, Decisions: Window seat update

While I'm not quite ready to start on my window seat, I decided to do a little looking at home depot today to price materials for making it (I was thinking of trying to do it out of shelving supplies).  Then I spotted this from Martha Stewarts's new line:

Incredibly, it's the exact dimensions to fit inside the niche and under the window, and it comes with the cushion.  Also, it's less than $70 and reminds me off my inspiration pics:

I do plan on painting the back to match the walls, and I will one day recover the cushion.  But now, my question is :
White, which look fresh and matches trim, but since it's melamine also means it looks cheap (sorry Martha, it's true):

Or do I go with expresso, which I don't like as well, but does look a tad more expensive and will co-ordinate better with the fabrics:
All I know is thank goodness I don't have to figure out how to build it now and that it will be sturdy enough to actually sit on.


Window Seat Dreaming

Better Homes and Gardens

Are you a dreamer or a doer?  I'm actually both, I guess.  I like jumping in and getting my hands dirty with a project, but I have to admit most of my impulsive, wake up on Sat. and decide to redo a room by Monday kind of projects have been the sort of thing that have ultimately left me thinking by Tuesday or Wednesday, "Dear Lord, what was I thinking?"

What works best for me is a slow gestation process.  Ironically, when working with others, I can immediately hone in on what I think is best for them and their home; for myself, I need to think about it, stew about it, gather inspiration, puzzle over it.  Then, sometimes, after thinking about it long enough I jump into action---these, like the kitchen backsplash, are the projects that endure.
One thing I have always wanted was a window seat.  Growing up in a one story ranch style home, I used to be so envious of all the attic and second floor bedrooms I saw on tv and in movies where the teenagers had cool dormer niches and window seats---as a reader, my greatest joy would have been curling up in one with a stack of books.  I was especially drawn to the ones with curtains on the outside to really create a cozy nook.

When we moved in to this house, I have one spot (I'll show you later in the post) where a window seat would work, but for various reasons, I didn't act on it.  Later, when Thomas's brother moved in, the extra space outside of the guest bedroom became a necessary overflow for some of his things (The plus of living in a house built in the 1930's---charm;  the curse--no closet space).
Now, though, his brother is leaving, and I'm dreaming of window seats and ready to make my lifelong dream come true...if only they were all this easy to achieve.

The space is about the size of a dormer, like this one from Little Green Notebook.  I like the idea of the little table, but don't have room for one.  Oh, and mine will of necessity be so narrow that an adult would not be able to sit on it.  Usually, I am not a fan of furniture or rooms that are only for looks, that have no real function--this time, I'm making an exception.
little green notebook blog here

What I am planning is to make the seat a bookcase of sorts---I'll probably just used a reinforced shelf and stack the books directly on the floor underneath, something like this one from the Lettered Cottage (it's much wider than my space---the cushion is actually a twin mattress, but the look would be similar.
The Lettered Cottage here

I'm also planning to do a shelf above---since my home has picture moulding and the walls stop about 15" from the ceiling, I have a natural point to do this:

unknown from flikr via pinterest
Again, this seat is much, much wider than mine, but I plan on curtaining the exterior, partly because their is a privacy issue with the window--it lines up directly with a window in the neighboring house.
House Beautiful

Southern Living

Here's my window niche/hallway in all it's cluttered glory.  I thought about cleaning it out for photo, but:
1.  Am feeling too lazy
2.  Like wearing heavy clothes and shoes for your first weight watchers weigh-in, figure truly horrible befores will make after seem even better:

I'm planning to recycle my former draperies from my dining room's orange phase:

Drapery fabric on left, a fun bird print from Visual Vamp for pillows, my Grace Home blue walls, and a vintage print that ties it all together. sorry for blurry pic, but it was the only one that showed the fabric plus aqua walls.   
This gives a more accurate picture of true wall color.   I'm psyched---I have a dream, a plan, and most of the materials---now, I just need for Todd to get the Hell out of my guest room (sometime in the next couple of weeks), and at least one childhood ambition will be fullfilled.  Now, I guess I need to start work on becoming an archeologist (thanks Raiders of the Lost Ark) and a teen detective (Hardy boys), though it may be too late for that last one.....



Kitchen Addition: New Stools

The latest addition to the kitchen: twist stool from World Market.'

This is going to be a rambling post:  I want to touch on a couple of things.  First, I want to show off my new stools, a great buy from World Market and show the evolution of my kitchen--while doing that I also want to talk about the balance between true to your design loves and embracing trends and "something different."  I also want to go through the process of why I chose the stools I did--it may be tedious, but over and over from clients, I hear the same refrain, "I don't even know where to start!"  Hopefully, even though this is a very minor design decision, it will help readers understand the design process---which is really the same for both big and small choices.  Pour yourself some coffee (or a Bloody Mary if it's that kind of morning...I won't judge, I promise...well, at least not for long), and I'll begin.     
Original kitchen setup circa Oct. 2007.

  Here is the way this part of the kitchen originally looked.  It's in the pathway from stair room to back door, but since my kitchen is so small (12'x14'), I couldn't afford to leave any space unused.  It's not quite enough room for a table, even a bistro set, but there was just enough room for these two exiting chairs and a small table.  When I decorated the house, I was in the throes of my love affair with Domino and mid-century.  While I've always liked to combine pattern and intense color, this vingette with the contrast patterns never really felt like me.  Plus, while I liked funky accent pieces from the '50s, '60s, and '70s before they became de rigueur, I only really liked touches of them.  These '60s prints with the glass lamp in the avocado kitchen  felt too studied, and not naturally eclectic.  

Soon, however, fate (and a cat) intervened, and the aqua lamp was no more.  Next, the table moved on to a client's house when I realized it was perfect there; besides, as much as I resisted going the baker's rack route, I disparately  needed more storage.  I was worried about blocking the light, but in fact, plenty still comes in, and as the view is merely across an 8' driveway directly into a neighbor's window, the items do provide some privacy.  However, the chairs remained, even though they no longer worked as well with the bulkier rack between them.

I did love the original curtains made from vintage sheets---however after painting the adjoining room (now the office) aqua from it's original terracotta, I needed to move them over to replace the earth tone curtains in there;  At the same time, my cousin Barbara gave me her '60s curtains from her bathroom redo (here).  They were only 60"--luckily, she had saved the fabric from a planned (but never completed) matching shower curtain.  I stitched the extra length to the pinch pleated draperies, added buttons to the seam (from my grandmother's button collection), and instantly had draperies that look great and remind me of two of my favorite people--not bad work for curtains.

But I needed more than ever to replace the chairs with something else (don't worry eco-warriors, I have need of them elsewhere in the house)--they were too bulky for the room and they clashed even more with the new fabric---plus they tipped the look into the kitchen into a more retro look than I wanted---my inherent love of a cottage/farmhouse/English country look was fighting to break free. 

I've learned an important lesson--if you love something, and have always loved it, --a look, a color, a fabric--stick with it.  It's tempting to "try something different," to stop doing the same old, same old. But, honestly, when you go against your true nature, you're never truly happy in the long run.  I'm not saying don't change, grow, and develop---I'm just saying make sure you really have changed and are not just falling in lust with a new trend.

New backsplash.
That's one of the reasons I decided to go with the faux reclaimed wood for the backsplash---to cottage it up a bit.

My row of orchids.  After living most of my life with a black thumb, I'm excited i've managed to keep them alive this long, even if only a couple have re-bloomed.  I've discovered the kitchen has exactly the right amount of light to keep them happy.  Also, notice I've followed Joni's advice and moved the matchstick blinds up to right underneath the curtain rod to extend the look of the window.

Path to back door.

Okay, I've shown before and after and pontificated.  Now on to design process.  First, as always, focus on function and practical (you can always comprise between practical and pretty, but it's important to know how you want an item to function first).  The function--even in a kitchen as tiny as mine, people gather, and I needed a place for them to sit.  I also needed the new seating to be as small as possible, as well as mobile.  I also wanted stools with flat tops so they could serve as an extra surface for drinks, grocery bags, etc. considering my lack of counter space.  Finally, as far as appearance, I wanted something to pull out a more vintage cottage look rather than the retro '70s look I was originally going for.  Price was also an important consideration--I couldn't afford much over $100.

While certainly not close replicas, kitchens like these show my all-time favorite look--a vintage/cottage feel, a mix of pattern and natural materials, and the deployment of useful cooking items (utensils, bread boards, and pots) as the decorative items, rather than a lot of useless, dust-catching tchotchkes.   They both, not coincidentally, show vintage industrial stools.

So on to  the point of this seemingly endless ramble---if you figure out what you really need---when you go looking for an item--you're looking for something specific.  So, I wasn't just looking at all bar stools at a location----I was looking at small, backless ( I don't have enough room), vintage/industrial inspired, counter height (I don't have anything bar height in the kitchen---it's all at counter height), stools with flat seats for $100 or less.  This immediately means instead of going to an on-line or brick and mortar store and having dozens of options, I usually only had one or two per place. 

Kitchens from House Beautiful

I was leaning toward the tollix knockoff from Overstock, but really wanted a metal/wood mix:

Then Thomas found these at World Market, the twist stool.  They look just like the ones I saw all over the Dallas design district this past week, but for a lot less. They're only $109, which is a great price based on their quaility.  The top is solid wood, and if it's not raw, the coating is very light---no shiny poly coating.  They are nice and heavy, with a gunmetal frame---they even have very discreet plastic sleeves on the feet to prevent scratching the floor, as well as being adjustable from 24" to 30".  If you are interested, go now---they are going fast.

Maybe  the kitchen is done....at least for a while.


Leaving Negative Comments: What's the right approach?

I try to avoid the negative.  And it's for selfish reasons--the more I focus on the positive, the better I feel.  Critiquing other people's work is fun: snark is fun, but if you get too much into them, it's hard to avoid that negativity creeping into other aspects of your life.

Therefore, I normally don't do critiques of other people's work.  It is, quite frankly none of my business.   However, I was recently face to face with a design I hated, the living room on the cover of House Beautiful.  The designer is a major one and his work was deemed good enough to make the cover of House Beautiful, it's really only important that his client like the way the room turned out,  it seems (though we didn't really get enough photos of the room to get and idea of the size and layout) that this was a hard room to decorate, and to paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, "The opinions of one little blogger doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."  And, to be fair, the colors and furniture pieces themselves are lovely.  However, that two chair/ cocktail ottoman set up in the middle of the room is just stupid looking and completely impractical.  While I admire people who can take a fresh approach to a room, I hate it when a design is strictly about "Hey, I'm new and different....nobody's done this before."    In this case, there's a reason for that.

What I think is wrong:  Number one , the chairs and ottoman are described as easy to rearrange as needed for entertaining.  I've worked at a furniture store.  I can guarantee that high-quality furniture of that bulk is anything but "easy to move."  Besides, while I don't mind a little tweaking for different occasions, if you have to continually move furniture for a room to function---something is wrong with the layout.  I also think that the three pieces are very heavy looking.  In my opinion,  better solution would have been a huge pink round about like this one in Windsor Smith's foyer:

Or a small center table and two stools:

I think either solution would fit the space better and be more attractive when the room is not in use.

I've now broken my rule and posted a negative comment, but I feel that any one putting their work up for view in such a public display can take a little criticism.

Letitia Baldridge, Jackie Kennedy's Social Secretary, and etiquette expert.  Love her.

 Where I feel really uncomfortable, though, is commenting negatively on blogs.  What I struggle with is, is it better to take the "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" approach.  Or is that just a cop-out.  (To clarify, I'm talking about discussing impersonal design decisions or criticisms like "that mirror is too small" or "I think that rug is the wrong choice," not "you're ugly, so is your room...and your dog is too fat.").

The problem is that not having a separate viewpoint means that there is no discussion---no matter the actual design features of the room, whether they work or not, everything is "j'adore" and "lovely."  But on the other hand, part of the problem is that a lot of blog readers don't have a design background, so they end up like the celebrity judges on Project Runway.....instead of dispassionately discussing the room from a design perspective, it's all "I would have that room" or "I could never live there."

So since I'm a wienie, I usually just say nothing, though I'm often tempted to take the easy way out...a negative view via an "Anon." comment.  What led to this topic....I see so many blogs with rooms that are the decor equivalent of actress Blake Lively...undeniably pretty, but just as undeniably bland, and almost impossible to distinguish from dozens of others that look just like it.  Those rooms that look like they were (and in reality the probably were  designed from  checklists:  take this rug + this fabric+ this color+ these accessories+ this art= fashionable room.  The result is that it is attractive and on-trend, but has absolutely no personality.  None.

Oh well, at least I don't have to live there.
Ms. Baldridge checking on arrangements for a state dinner at the White House.


Guest Room Redo-The Inspiration continues

I just got back from a client shopping trip to Dallas.  After seeing all that beautiful fabric and furniture and "things, gorgeous things" I'm so excited about working on my guest room.  In fact, I couldn't get the project out of my head.  And,  ever since I've gotten back (at around 1 p.m.), I've been searching the interwebs for inspiration.  I keep seeing a moody, dark, sexy mix.  If only I could afford Miles Redd to do it, I could die happy.  Until then, I have to figure out how to translate this look into a 12 x 14 foot room with a rag tag mixture of pre-existing furniture and a budget of -$0.  Oh well, if life were that easy, where would the fun be?
Nothing better than dark walls in a bedroom.

I know it's not a bedroom, but I love that palette.  I wonder if high gloss paint can replicate this look.

Maybe I should go with teal walls?

I definitely will be painting the inside of the door green with gold trim.

I think I want the walls to be the color of the art work.

I want these walls.   Now.


Table from Scraps

Outdoor buffet made from a street find and scrap parts.

I've always been a fan of trash to treasure.  As much fun as it can be to shop for clients in high-end showrooms, what makes my heart go pitter pat is finding something unwanted and turning it into something stylish and useful.  Recently, some new neighbors moved in and promptly discarded this fantastic crate:
I immediately recognized that it could be great as something---I just wasn't sure what.  My first thought was planter.  My first step was to cover it in marine polyureathane, a necessity no matter that the end product:

I liked the idea of planter, but i didn't really need one.  But I started toying with the idea of a raised planter...but how to raise it easily, cheaply, and quickly.  When I started playing with options, I realized that the crate would be a great table--the high sides meant that I can stack paper plates and plastic cups for parties without worrying about wind or clumsy guests.  Thinking about guests and buffets made me think of tray tables---I happened to have some extra ones and realized that they would make terrific X-shaped bases (especially after a hit of color from spray paint left over from another project):
Salvaged crates, spray paint, and tray tables make an outdoor buffet.

A few accessories, and voila:  a goodlooking and hardworking addition to our party patio.


Inspiration: The start of a new project

Bedroom by Jamie Drake...one of my favorite rooms of all-time.
Hi, my name is Mitchell.  I'm a decoraholic.  I have an insatiable desire to repaint rooms, reupholster furniture, and rearrange accessories.  It is an illness, and I'm powerless before it.

That's only a semi-joke.  Like a lot of people who read shelter magazines and decor blog, I love to redecorate.  I hate nothing more than a home I have perfected...for me anyway, the real fun is in the decorating, not the finished project.  Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy coming home to a pretty house, but it's not the same sort of visceral thrill that it is to track down the right rug, lamp, etc. I do, however, sometimes feel a little guilty at redoing rooms that aren't really broken, but that I'm just tired off.  But, I have a project at my own home about to begin that I can feel completely okay about---the room really does need to be redone.  Woo to the Hoo.

Here's a pic of the room from about three years ago.

Since then, my partner's twin brother has been living there getting back on his feet after an ugly divorce (note to self, from now on, date only children---I kid, I kid).  He's about to move into his own place, and I'm getting ready to freshen things up.  The bed has been banged up in a couple of moves and by pets, and, in addition to our boarder,  a couple of hard-partying guests (it's part of the price you pay for living in a desirable to visit city) have left the room needing some love.  I've also moved the desk that used to live there to another room where it fits much better, and I plan on making some other minor changes. 

Stanley in Slate from Calico Corners.  I'm planning to use it to reupholster headboard. 
The paint chip is much more bronze green in real life.
I'll go into detail with the programming later, but I'm excited by having a home decorating project, so I wanted to go ahead and share the overall plan.  I'm basing the feeling on this Jamie Drake bedroom;  I won't be trying to copy it---I just want a similar look.

I'm planning to reupholster the bed in this navy/tan zebra from Calico Corners with nailhead trim (i'm not certain yet if i'll use brass or nickel nails).  I'm also going to freshen up the bed frame with buff colored paint (For all you wood fans---the finish is okay, but nothing special, and while it may not be apparent in photos, it's badly scratched).  As of now, I'm planning to keep the tortoiseshell bamboo blinds and cream sheers, but that may change.  The walls will be a bronzey brown/green, (pier from Sherwin-Williams). I'm planning on plan off-white bedding.   It will be delicious, I promise you.  I'll keep you posted on the progress.

I love this other view with the clothes thrown all over the bed---somehow I think this is closer to what my version will look like.