Just needed a fresh new look, so I decided to paint the front door. Fresh. Polished the original Art Deco front door handset. Wow.
Window coverings can be a big expense and, depending on where the window is located with reference to sun exposure and heat, an added consideration. But, if none of the above are a consideration, simple and inexpensive options are available.
For instance, we have a pair of interior windows, odd yes, but more common than you might think. If you have a home where a room was added to the exterior of an existing room and now encompasses what had been an outside window, you have a room within a room. Perhaps the window should have been covered over with the new walls of the expanded room, but often that is not the case, when costs are considered. Still not optimum.
In our case, the outside atrium was enclosed to be an inside atrium complete with a fountain, I will cover that in a few years, stay tuned.
Back to the issue at hand. The room currently being worked on, is the TV room. Originally it had been a formal dining room. Sometime in the 1950’s-1960’s I imagine it was changed into a den, I am guessing here. The large picture window that had looked out onto the atrium was removed and drywalled on the inside and stuccoed on the outside. It is possible that the two side lights in the dining room were original to the house making the room quite light and bright; imagine a large picture window and two floor to almost ceiling side lights. Once the picture window was walled in and the door that lead from the living space to the dining space was closed off, there was only one door into the room from a hallway, and only the two long side lights for outside light. The windows were stationary, so no outside fresh air was available, but they had installed “modern air conditioning”. This made for an ideal cozy den or TV room.
The problem I have with my downsized circumstances (so few complaints) is that I do not have a closet convenient for my vacuum cleaner. I have a bi-fold screen that I can “hide” the vacuum behind in my office, but it is in front of one of the two windows in the TV room. Not a lovely thing to look at from the TV room, not too bad from my office (the room that was created as an interior atrium).
What to do? At first, just to cover part of the window, I put up a pretty textured rice paper, but always intended to make something a bit more refined. I decided a fixed panel would solve that problem. I have used IKEA sliding panels in several other applications for years. Naturally, those panels change styles, and I had to find a current one that was acceptable to me. I found a simple white panel with an interesting thread pattern and cut it to fit the window, made a pocket on the top and bottom for a slender rod and had it attached to the frame side of my office window.
This is the same thing I did to partially cover the window in our back door and two bathrooms, where we wanted a little privacy, but not full coverage; allowing for more light in both cases, but obscuring the ability to view into either space.
The IKEA sliding panels are great at hiding windows, doors or unattractive views. I first used these panels in my daughter’s private practice office. She had a private bathroom that she did not want visible. The panels made for easy access, but was virtually invisible to anyone looking at the room. This same set of sliding panels has been used in subsequent offices, once to divide a lobby from a storage room and currently, again to obscure a door to another part of the building.
The Engineer worked on a friend’s Cinema Room last year and it really got his juices flowing to dig into our meager little TV room. We have had new speakers, fortunately still current and the same ones installed in the fancy Cinema Room, since before we moved nearly four years ago, just waiting to be installed.
Part of the delay, besides all the other projects that had priority, was wondering what was under all the dark blue paint. We figured it was paneling, but not your 1960-70’s paneling, this stuff, was something we had not been familiar—really wide and oddly spaced. Well, now we know. I am sure it was in Ozzie and Harriet’s den or Mr. Blanding’s Dream house, I will have to check on that.
Mystery solved, it is paneling, three quarters of an inch thick, and eleven and a half inches wide, and extremely hard wood. We knew the hard part, because we had to drill pilot holes in the surface in order to hang pictures. The reveal happened when my husband took off the crown molding at the ceiling and removed the door frame and jam. We could see the plaster they used to “fill in” the groves of the paneling pattern.
I laughed, that is exactly what I did when we bought a single wide trailer to live in while we built our home in the foothills. All the walls were paneled, but with inexpensive and thin 1970’s paneling. To add some design and color to the two bedrooms, I used good old Plaster of Paris to level out the bevels of the paneling. I added a chair rail and wallpapered above the chair rail and painted below, leaving the bevels for interest.
This discovery lead the engineer to rethink his previous plan of removing the paneling to simply adding quarter inch drywall over it. Far less messy, less work, and the landfill will not burdened with the scrap wood. A win-win, I think.
You can see from the photos that the wood expands and contracts with changing temperature, leaving vertical cracks at bevel lines. Also, the wide depressions are from shrinkage of plaster after it dries. These traits are what left us confused as to what was behind the paint.
Now the wiring begins, so there will not be much interesting stuff to report for several weeks, I am guessing.
Stay posted, I will send photos out as we move along with this project.
Several weeks ago, I got a call from a client, asking for help with a kitchen; they were buying a “new” to them house, and could only afford to paint the kitchen cabinets for starters. A real estate picture of the kitchen was sent showing the kitchen. I could only see a glaring odd bank of cabinets hanging on the wall, “what were they thinking”, I wondered. When I met my client at the house, I asked if she’d consider removing the odd bank of cabinets and we could replace them with open shelving; to sweeten the idea, I suggested she would then be able to display her favorite ceramics from Ireland. Fortunately, she loved the idea and it was agreed that the cabinets could come down. The odd bank of cabinets consisted of a pair of wall hung cabinets and one corner cabinet hung awkwardly over the peninsula. This corner cabinet cut off a view of the backyard and closed off much needed light into an already the dark kitchen.
We decided on a two color combination for the cabinets and some hardware for a more updated look. This would go a long way to brightening up the dark, dated kitchen with its brick ceramic countertops and nondescript floor tiles; both will change as the budget allows.
Once the cabinets were down I found four layers of wallpaper! Fortunately, only behind one of the cabinets. The top layer consisted of only a small tab of the former paper, the next layer appeared to be from 1970 in all its bright yellow and orange daisy, vinyl patterned glory. Once that was stripped off, the next layer revealed was something from the 1950s I believe, cute for its time. But wait, there was more; I stripped off each layer as carefully as possible to capture the history of this kitchen which was new in the 1940s. The last layer was a paper that could have been from the 1930s, as patterns did not change as rapidly as they do today. It was a sweet depiction of a victorian kitchen with an old wood burning stove, large farm table laden with baked goods including cupcakes, cookies, cake, bread and all the while the mother is mixing up more batter; a dog rested in a box near the stove, nursing her puppies. A kitty sleeps nearby, and it appears that granny is sitting at the table (her spectacles are on the table near an open cookbook) but only her skirt is shown. The paper is like a time capsule of early victorian life and it must have seemed like an appropriate walk down memory lane for the homeowner of the late 1940s.
I took pictures of each paper as it was revealed and made prints so that they can be framed and put in the laundry room as a reminder of days gone by— a bit of history for the house.
Once the cabinets were painted and the hardware installed, the kitchen had a fresh feeling. Patching and painting the wall where the cabinets had been was next, we liked the IKEA brackets, but not the shelves that fit the brackets, so we found a lumber yard that carried “full sized” boards, my handy husband planed them down to fit, and I stained and finished them.
Once the shelves were installed the kitchen began to feel more updated and belonging to the current family. While it is not my client’s ideal kitchen it is such an improvement over what it had been, it feels almost ideal—for the time being at least.
As time and budget allow, there are several ideas I have for the adjoining laundry and pantry rooms; all rooms are separated by walls with standard door openings. The pantry room actually has three doors on each of three walls. I know we can make this room much more efficient by closing off two of the doors, the family may consider non-non-essential.
Several months ago, I shared the beginning of the hall bathroom “gut job”, where handy hubby tore the room apart to the studs. Well, it’s finished and has been for sometime now. I thought I would wait until we had gotten the doors painted in the office behind the bathroom to close out this project, but that may be awhile yet.
You may recall the toilet appeared to be sitting in my husband’s office, while convenient, hardly private. The problem with this bathroom was always the placement of the toilet; right in the center of the door in the hallway that also framed the kitchen. I am certain that no one wants to see that from a kitchen.
Moving the toilet to under the window where the vanity sat had always been the plan. In the course of changing out the fixtures, it was apparent that the walls needed to be opened to move the plumbing and some wiring as well. We did have several of those, HGTV moments, when walls are opened only to discover dangerous plumbing or wiring that could have resulted in floods or burning the house down.
It was like an archeologist dig. We discovered the small window that was in the bathroom had been more than twice as large when the house was built in 1938, in fact there had not been a hall bathroom, but most likely a laundry area off the back door. To enclose the room, the window was cut down and installed poorly and out of plumb. That was corrected and a new level, matching sill was made.
The shower was expanded 4 inches, which makes a big difference in a small space. New fixtures and a niche were added along with bright white subway tile; simple and no fuss in the tight quarters was the best choice.
The standout in the bathroom would be the vintage pedestal sink, the decorative floor tile and pretty light fixture over the sink. The sink was the splurge, but it was a great size and just so pretty, I could not imagine anything else in that alcove.
To set the sink off, the floor was the next thing to catch the eye, it is a bold, black background with a white and taupe to gray snowflake like pattern. This pattern would be much too busy for my taste, if it were not limited to a small space, below eye level. You certainly notice it, but with the sink, mirror and light fixture, it is not overwhelming. The shower floor is a black pebble stone. I did not want it to have to compete with the flooring outside of the shower and did not want it to be white to draw attention to it; this way it visually expands the bathroom floor without being obvious.
You may also remember a post about the door that we installed on barn sliders, allowing more space in the tight quarters, no door swinging in to take up valuable space. We even found a clever lock for the inside of the bathroom door. The beveled glass insert in the original vintage door had to be obscured for privacy, and a piece of glass that I put an antique mirrored finish on it worked perfectly. The inside however, was a piece of plywood to hold the glass in place. I covered it with a piece of wrapping paper, that matched the color of the walls.
The room is small but adequate and we could not expand its footprint, making smart choices in the finishes was important. If you can picture a room with four refrigerator boxes set on four walls with not much space in-between, you can imagine the approximate size of the space. The shower is one box, the alcove where the sink is another, remember that is pushed into the office, the third box is the toilet space and the box left over is the floor space. A tidy space but very functional. I am not yet ready to tackle the master bath.
The recent renovation at 1930 house included a full gut job of the main bathroom; originally the only bathroom. The tub and toilet were the only fixtures to remain, since the toilet was new, everything else was removed.
There had been a shelving unit attached to the wall for open storage and a closed cabinet under the window, the tile floor was in poor shape and all of these items were demolished.
The floor was unbelievable once removed, I think they used a jackhammer to get the tile and concrete out, it looked like a war zone.
In choosing finishes for this room, we needed to find something for the floor that was spectacular and utilitarian. The current trend to go with painted cement tiles was tempting, but in the end, not as practical as porcelain. This would be the main bathroom, and not all tiles are created equally. The problem with cement tiles, is that they need to be sealed many, many times to adequately seal the tiles and protect them from the usual problems found in a bathroom. The wearing away of the painted on decoration was not an issue, it was desired, to give the tiles an old look, but not being impervious to moisture was our concern.
As luck would have it, the tiles we chose for the bathroom were right next to the decorative kitchen tiles we used behind the range. We loved the large size octagonal shape, a nod to the era of the home, but the size made them more modern; using the three colors was also a bit more modern. We tried many patterns and really liked a pattern that was reminiscent of the 1930s, but there would have been too much waste of materials and we had to buy each color separately. Adding the black boarder, eased the pattern from overpowering the room.
The cabinet was an easy buy from IKEA, serviceable and handsome. The additional storage was an opportunity to do a little fun shopping. We did look for quite awhile, and finally came upon this interesting piece that is put together with pegs, so easy to disassemble and reassemble. I think it was intended to be a bookshelf.
Son-in-law was happy with all his counter space. We were appalled with the mouthwash bottle, then laughed at the “need” for such a large size on the counter. I came up with using a handsome decanter, but my daughter came up with the perfect solution, a Bombay Sapphire Vodka bottle. Fortunately, they have friends that only needed to go to their recycling bin to pull one out! It just goes to show you there are attractive, practical solutions to the most mundane decor problems, you just have to think outside the box, or in this case the bottle.
The recent remodel of the 1930s kitchen and bath included closing off a couple of doors, one was in the kitchen. The second door to be closed off was in the dining room and lead to the front bedroom. We felt this door was misplaced from the beginning, probably someone mis-read the plans and put the door on the south end of the wall when it should have been at the north end. This placement meant the front bedroom had two doors that were in constant conflict; one went to the hallway and the other to the dining room. Additionally, the front bedroom had a door or two, or a window on every single one of its four walls. Not great for furniture placement.
We had talked for years about removing this door and opening the wall at the north end of the same wall which leads to the hallway, bathroom and two bedrooms. With the removal of the door in the kitchen this would be the only way to the hallway from any room, making all the rooms more useful, since each room would have more wall space for counters or furniture.
While we were under construction, it seemed prudent to take care of this issue at the same time. Smartest. Move. Ever.
Pocket doors have been around almost from the beginning when we graduated from one room to many rooms, and wanting privacy. It makes so much sense, takes up no space and offers privacy without the inconvenience of having to allow for a door to swing into a room. I remember the huge oak pocket door that separated our living and dining rooms in our first home, a 1917 Craftsman Bungalow, now that was a heavy door!
We did consider using the now very popular barn door installation, but there are considerations to make with this type of door. It would most likely considered a piece of furniture or artwork, since it would be “on the wall” when opened, and always on display, as opposed to be inside the wall, and out of sight. In this case it could have been partially hidden behind the china cabinet when opened, but it just felt too heavy and cumbersome in such a small space; while a pocket door would simply disappear. The homeowners leave the pocket door inside the wall most of the time, closing it only if they wish to close off the rest of the house: two bedrooms and two bathrooms. This wall actually bisects the house, which is nice if you want privacy from the non-public rooms, opening it only for access to the hall bathroom.
My handy husband and father/father-in-law of the homeowners, took the door from the front bedroom and filled in the hole where the door knob had been and made it a wee-bit wider to fit the new pocket door opening; which comes as a standard size in a kit. He filled in the holes, sanded, primed and painted it until it looked like new. Using one of the original doors kept the house authentic. Now the house functions like it should have more than eighty years ago. It was a smart move and both the dining room and front bedroom are more functional. Another win/win for the little house, now to get some flooring to finish where the wall had been.
It has been a long time since I have written in my blog, but it has been a busy, busy several months. The remodel began in September, and included the opening of a support wall, and total remodel of the kitchen and main bath. It seemed like a good idea at the time; the occupants would head off to Europe on the final leg of their honeymoon and I would oversee the contractors and sub-contractors for a couple of weeks.
The day of demolition was a most remarkable day; the opening of the wall separating the kitchen and dining room made all the difference in the world to this small Spanish house. Day one ended with the removal of most of a wall, and the arch perfectly replicated—it was a glorious sight.
My daughter and I had talked for years about the future lay-out of the kitchen, since it had such limited workspace. The first thing that had to move was the refrigerator. It was on the wall where a small ice box probably stood when the house was new. But the ice box would have been small and would not have taken up the same footprint of the more modern refrigerator, and felt as though it was standing in the middle of the room. It took several years to move into the area that was once the pantry around the corner. This change occurred when the master bedroom was expanded, master bath was created and the laundry/pantry room was expanded. With the refrigerator out of the way, the space was open for a pot wall and small work table, adding much needed counter space. See “Thank You Julia Child” June 14, 2014 and “A Great Estate Sale Find” June 29, 2014.
A year later the floor was replaced, see “Another Family Project” January 26, 2015. We were free to begin imagining the removal of the wall between the dining room and kitchen. Removing the load bearing wall proved to be economically not feasible. My daughter had worked long and hard on a floor plan including a new cabinet layout that, would mean the removal of the original built-in breakfront and cold storage cabinet. While these two features were great in their day, they offered little function in today’s kitchen. The doors on the built-in were heavy with eighty-six years of paint and offered little in the way of workable counter space. It was with some regret that they would have to go. The door from the kitchen to the hall needed to be closed off to allow for a bank of cabinets and the range to reside on that wall, formerly the breakfront/cold storage wall. Additionally, the “Julia Child Pot Wall”, could link to the wall of new cabinets forming an L shaped set of lower cabinets and countertops; already tripling the amount of counter/cabinet space.
Originally the range was on the wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room, once it moved, the two rooms were united seamlessly with the arched wall as the only separation. Now family, friends and dogs can see and be a part of the conversation while the cook’s in the kitchen, without being in the way.
What was gained in this remodel was: More counter and cabinet/storage space, a range hood, rather than a hole in the ceiling to serve as a “vent”, a dishwasher and garbage disposal, much needed ceiling lighting, a seemingly larger footprint, without actually enlarging the space and a far more functional kitchen work area. What was lost: Broken original hexagon countertop tile, original cabinetry consisting of a breakfront and cold storage area, most of a wall, and a door. The kitchen has modern features, with rustic undertones that suggest it was original. The tile behind the range was a spectacular addition of color and a nod to its Spanish origins. The slate floor continues to be the most serviceable flooring for dogs and people moving between the deck, patio and garden.
The open shelving was added to bring a sense of history and warmth to the hard surfaces of the countertops and tile backsplash. The stained glass windows with their original wood frames meld perfectly with the wood shelves adding to the authenticity of the remodel, while offering privacy from the neighbors and allowing maximum light to flow into the space.
While the process was tedious, every design and lay-out decision was exactly as imagined, and my daughter and son-in-law are thrilled with their “new” kitchen, as are the dogs who can be a part of the family without being much in the way.
Here is a sneak peek of things to come in my blog. Having completed the near complete gut-job of removing my daughter's kitchen, leaving most of the walls and floor, the rest removed, I will share a few pictures.
When the Open Concept is Taken Too Far
We started the hall bathroom remodel several weeks ago, a bit backwards perhaps— with a door. Years ago, I bought an antique leaded glass door with the hopes to use it as the door for the hall bathroom, since it was so pretty and the bathroom was not. My main objection to the hall bath was that whomever added it on, placed the toilet smack in the middle of the doorway, with the door open, it was not a pretty sight, especially since you see it from the kitchen.
My handy hubby, the engineer did another stretching job to the door, it was wide enough, but not long enough to cover the opening and hang from the sliding mechanism. Then, there was the task of filling holes from door knobs and dead bolts. And finally, hours of filling, sanding, priming and painting! A substantial header needed to be put in place to hold the heavy duty sliding mechanism to allow us to hang the door.
Next up was what to do with the leaded glass that offered lots of beauty, but little privacy needed for a bathroom. I thought an antique mirror behind the leaded glass would offer the necessary privacy, and thought it would be interesting from the kitchen/hall side. As for the bathroom side, I am planning on a sheet of wallpaper that will compliment the bathroom, or maybe blackboard paint.
The actual tear down of the bathroom or demo to the studs was next. The house was built in 1938, when a 2X4 was exactly that, not today’s shaved down version. When the bath was added, this factor was not taken into consideration, hence uneven walls with odd bulges and waviness. My engineer decided the only way to fix it was to strip it down to the studs. Besides, the reason for the remodel was to move the toilet from, “front and center”, to under the window and move the sink to where the toilet had been for a more pleasing view.
This bathroom was “carved” out of what we expect was a “laundry area” and stolen bedroom closet space on the common wall behind where the toilet was placed. We decided to take more out of the closet area, by removing some of the upper storage, that had been left with the previous remodel. We wanted the new sink area to have full ceiling height, rather than the lowered ceiling that was from the previous remodel. This would allow for a nicer lighting fixture and a more spacious feeling in this tiny three quarter hall bath.
The demolition of the surrounding walls, left the toilet standing in my husband’s office; pretty convenient for him, but lacking privacy all around! He is wasting no time getting the remainder of the closet walls reframed, thus closing in the bathroom from the office side, at least.
Next up will be further demolition of the shower tile and floor tiles. Floor tiles have been ordered along with a mirror/medicine cabinet. Stay tuned.
It’s been a long time since I posted anything about the guest room makeover, so long that I forgot I had started to write about it back in January of this year.
It has been a long five months in the making…but it is finally habitable— not completely finished, but livable at least.
One of the primary things that needed to be installed was a door to cover the opening for privacy between the guest room and my husband’s office. We actually found an entry door back in November and decided it was just the ticket for our sliding door. Except the door was a standard 6’8” door and the opening was standard for a typical inset door, to cover the opening it needed to be s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d for full coverage.
My handy husband began cleaning up the door that is 80+ years old, by filling the door handle, lockset and deadbolt openings, sanding down much of the eight to ten layers of paint and adding about three inches to the bottom of the door. I think he used poplar to extend the door; this was done by cutting and glueing pieces together to make the extension. Once the door had been made to the exact size to hang over the opening and offer complete coverage, top and bottom and side to side, it was nearly ready for priming.
But, before that, the speakeasy needed to be recessed so it would pass on the wall side of the guest room when it was completely open and not scar the wall. My husband needed to chisel out the stepped configuration of the speakeasy to match and make the depth flush with the exterior of the door.
Now, it was ready for some heavy duty priming. I used an oil based primer, since it offers the best coverage and would prevent any ghosting of previous colors. Priming and painting took time, since both sides of the door needed to be painted, and with this winter and all the glorious rains, it was a challenge to get good drying time. I wanted the door painted two different colors, since one side would face my husband’s office, it would be white to match the trim in that room. On the guest room side, I decided that I would set it up like the entry door it had been in its glory days. Painting it the same color as the sleeping alcove, a deep blue, against a cool, pale blue on the walls outside of the sleeping alcove, allowed it to stand out on its own as a showpiece.
I was fortunate to have had a small armoire, complete with hanging space, shoe rack, shelves and drawers; perfect for the space on one side of the door. The other side of the door was large enough for some kind of furniture piece, and went back and forth about what would be the most serviceable. I finally found a small dresser that looked more like an entry console, perfect! It is small enough not to crowd the available space and large enough to be serviceable for storage of sheets and towels, until guests come and then it serves well for their clothing storage; one guest gets the “closet” and one gets the dresser, they share the hanging space.
With a generous platform serving as the step down, it feels more comfortable than a small awkward step, and there is an electrical outlet in the riser for plugging in an additional lamp by the chair.
Flooring, operable windows, and at the air conditioning unit will be the next big expenses. Guests say the room is quite comfortable, except that the newest cat can open the door! So, maybe it is not so private after all.
My daughter’s closet has always been a bit dull, serviceable, but nothing special. Most closets are really just utilitarian, unless you can make-over a small room into a fantastic closet, and add lots of fancy extras: lighting, seating and specialized compartments for shoes, jewelry and accessories. Lacking an entire room to remake into a specialized closet, we are working with what we have; a small, but well organized space.
A year ago for Christmas, I gave my daughter a pretty chandelier for her closet. We always thought we would get that closet painted, and shelves covered in pretty wallpaper, and the chandelier installed; but that plan just did not happen quickly. Here we are a year later, and we decided to tackle the project.
We thought we could install the chandelier by ourselves; after all, we’ve done simple stuff like this before. What we did not realize is that the bare bulb that illuminated the closet was actually in a junction box and had a pull cord to turn on the light; it was not hard wired into the wall, to a light switch. Handy husband aka dad, had to do a little work on the chandelier to make itwork in the closet. While he could have hardwired it into the wall, he has too many other projects on his worktable at this time. He decided it was easier to rewire the chandelier to work with a pull cord; he could do without having to cut into the wall and do some plastering work to boot!
My daughter and I had decided a metallic paint for the walls would add some glam. We bought what was available, one of the three colors we wanted to try—the paint store was out of the other colors. Without other choices, we decided to plunge into the project full force, now that we had the light that would be in the finished closet, instead of the bare bulb with low wattage.
I am nearly always skeptical after the the first coat, when I start a painting, stripping or staining project. “What was I thinking” comes to my mind, but knowing that the next coat will be a huge improvement, I power on. After the second coat of metallic paint on these walls, I was still a wee bit unsure. The metallic paint is not hard to work with, but it is a bit tricky and does not cover as evenly as I expected, even with the advised paint extender meant to give you more time before it sets.
After painting the walls and trim, we were anxious to get the chandelier put together to see if we would like the paint color. The paint color was called Champagne, but it is most definitely an antique gold, much like the gold calligraphy ink, I have used. It was growing on us. The chandelier was another trial, to get all the crystals put together and then hung on the appropriate arms of the frame.
We were afraid early on that the project would look a bit more like Liberace’s closet than chic Hollywood Regency on a small scale. In the end, we love the effect. The Audrey Hepburn poster from Italy has been framed in a simple black frame. We added a pretty cord of silk with one of the crystals on the pull chain, and painted the dresser a fresh new color. All new hangers, will complete this project. As usual, small projects can morph into much bigger ones, but they can be broken down into smaller, more manageable ones too, that allow for you to complete them as time allows.
I am happy to say, the closet turned out to be a great success and my daughter loves it; just enough bling for the small area.
Christmas Project Breakthrough
I feel as though I won the Christmas Lottery! This year, the holiday project was at our house instead of at our daughter’s house. When we first looked at this house, we found it a bit quirky. Fortunately for us, the quirky characteristics caused many potential buyers pass on it, leaving it for the more adventurous.
We have not yet figured out what the original intent was for the add-on room, our project room. We believe the room was added on about 25 to 30 years ago, based on materials used. The do-it-yourself person who built the room did not have the qualifications to do a really good construction job, especially with the electrical system. The room has seven good quality, floor to ceiling windows, all dual glazed, but none of them open for ventilation. The exterior door, off the driveway, is the only access into the room; fortunately there is a screen door for fresh air. This room was not good for not much more than a sunroom or storage, which is how we have used it.
However, we always intended it to be a guest room, knowing we would need to upgrade many aspects of it. Most important was constructing direct access to the rest of the house from the room, without having to go outside walk down the driveway and enter the house through the back door. Having an accessiblebathroom without having to go outside was primary.
The plan was to cut a door through a wall in the second bedroom aka my husband’s office. We could see there had been a window in that wall prior to building the add- on room; therefore, there was an existing header in the wall. That wall was the logical place for a door. The window was simply walled over from the inside and left exposed on the guest room side, though disguised by a make-shift closet.
The biggest problem was cutting through 1938 stucco and about an inch of concrete. I was grateful to have a much younger person doing the cutting: our gallant son who was willing to do the very, very dirty work. Once the cuts were made and the wall removed, we all finally could imagine the finished project.
Sadly, there is much left to do before I can jump in and share with you all the fun decorating plans I have; but be patient, it will all be recorded here for you in the coming weeks, and months.
There is a need for only one step down from my husband’s office into the newly created guest quarters. After some discussion, we agreed that making the step into a full platform would serve best. First, my husband would not have to level the pebble path that ran under the window before the room was added, and I would not have to deal with an awkward step into the room.
We purchased an old, entry door from Pasadena Salvage, as the door that would offer the necessary privacy for our guests. I opted for a Speakeasy door to add to the interest and maintain the quirky quality of the house. This door will slide on barn sliders for access to the rest of the house. Stepping down from my husband’s office into the room and onto the platform will offer very secure footing.
Currently, my husband is working on the electrical system in the room; there will be plenty of outlets, USB ports, and lighting options. Having the platform, will afford an outlet or USB port in the riser, wires running under the step, and no encroachment on the very limited wall space, since two sides of the room are all windows.
Progress beyond the electrical will be fun to share; I am expecting the door hanging to be a whole new story—stay tuned.
A year or so ago, a tiny pebble struck the French door at my daughter’s house. Sadly, the pebble was thrown by a weeder the gardener was using— he was devastated. Naturally, my daughter was equally devastated, but for different reasons. She knew what getting a new door would entail; the gardener knew it was a costly accident for which he was ultimately responsible.
When I saw the door, I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was, the sun was glinting through it, refracting light like a prism. “We can use this”, was my first comment. After her initial shock, my daughter could see it too, but we were far from being able to implement the idea into the backyard design at her house.
Once the door was replaced, the fractured door was stored. I knew the door was still “somewhere”, but out of sight out of mind. When my daughter suggested we use it in my Alice in Wonderland Garden, I thought it was a brilliant idea. Yes, we could lay it on its side and it would act as a barrier between Alice’s garden and the grassy area behind the patio; effectively cutting off a short cut for the dogs between the two spaces. Since the door was a standard six foot eight inches, the space between the posts that separate the two outdoor areas was perfect. Transporting the heavy door would fall to the men in the family; they got it loaded onto the rack on top of my husband’s SUV and they unloaded it at our house. My husband got it screwed into the posts and it was secure.
During one of my daughter’s “scavenging for doors” trips, on a tip from a friend, she managed to pick up a four windows painted a funky yellow-green color, knowing they would be useful. Two of the windows are a great backdrop on the fence in Alice’s garden, and the other two fit side by side by the French door, in the second eight foot section of the space separating the two outdoor areas.
Alice’s garden is finally coming together. Once I got a pair of white tree roses and a shorter pair of red roses, Alice’s garden was beginning to take shape. The Queen of Hearts was the beginning of the Alice Garden, a gift from my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and grew from there. The gate I was planning to use against the back fence— when I thought I would link old doors to create a solid barrier against the snarling dogs living behind us— is now in Alice’s garden. We had to put up a solid fence between the yards to save our sanity and do it in a weekend, so the gate was free to be reused…again. I love finding new uses for old things, but I fear it is the bane of my husband’s existence; thankfully he continues to tolerate my crazy ideas.
This exercise proves that we can make good use of seemingly “broken” items. Finding new uses, is my gift. I remember suggesting to people who lost all their crystal in the 1994 earthquake, to save the shards and pieces, fill a glass cylinder and make a lamp out of the glass and cylinder. The light shining down through the glass would allow the beautiful fine crystal to sparkle and shine again, just in a different capacity. There are so many possibilities!
Statistics show that most of us have pets of some kind, and cats and dogs top the list; however, there are a myriad of other pets to consider in a household. How to decorate around some of the necessities of having pets can be challenging. Some pets require much more thought than the usual couple of cats and dogs; snakes, small rodents, small horses and the occasional arachnid may need special attention. Fortunately, other than cats and dogs, most other pets fall outside of the public rooms in most homes.
My downsized situation required me to find a suitable place for a litter box, not an unusual problem for cat caretakers. Having no separate laundry room made my litter box issue a problem. The bathrooms were not really large enough to share suitably, leaving only my office— yuck! What could I do? I was pretty pleased to get he box out of view, for the most part; however sitting at my desk, I could see it. I put a privacy curtain along one side of the desk, offering the cat and myself a little privacy.
This solution worked for over a year, but the litter scatter was still an issue for me, and vacuuming multiple times a day was not in my game plan. I took a look at Pinterest and found a simple solution using an inexpensive IKEA wicker basket idea. I had a wicker basket under the picture wall of my office, but didn’t want to cut a side away. Besides, its construction was not conducive to cutting a hole in the side. The IKEA basket was perfect for this application. Using tin snips or garden clippers, my husband and I cut away the wicker on one end of the basket leaving the heavy framework in place. We used heavy plastic and lined three sides of the basket and the floor, inside, clipping the upper edges of the plastic to the upper edges of the wicker. I found a mat at the pet shop that was intended to capture the litter from the cat’s paws as she left the enclosure, and this mat helped cut down on the tracking of litter, while the liner inside the basket took care of the scattered litter. Cleaning and scooping the litter is so much easier now; I just lift the lid and have full access to the box, whereas before, I had to clamber under the desk and wiggle the box out to remove it, and that put me way too close to the contents to be happy, I find this much easier to deal with.
My ideal would be have a “Catio”, a term I heard from a local veterinarian; I was intrigued. I have a perfect area just outside my office that I’d love to have screened in for just that purpose. It would require a door leading out to the back yard, but oh my, the cat would L-O-V-E to have her own, semi-outside space; and I would love not having the litter box inside my office. Of course, we would need a small cat door in the wall for her to access the “Catio”, but that seems minor to me, as I would not be the one cutting a hole in an outside wall.
Maybe someday, this dream will come true for the both of us. Next, I wonder if Sophie would use the area box in the cold of winter; maybe if I had a heated pathway for her to walk to the litter box—but then, maybe I’m getting a little carried away, or not.
People either love or hate red brick or used brick fireplaces; there seems to be no middle ground. People see painting brick much the way they see painting natural wood trim; and feel it a sacrilege to paint it. I find it fascinating that some people who don’t like brick fireplaces, but do not want to paint it either, which is a problem for a designer. I regard painting brick in the same way I regard painting furniture: if you do not like a piece the way it is, and it is not valuable as an antique, why not paint it and make it into something I will enjoy?
I was asked recently what to do with a red brick fireplace that the family did not like. I suggested something that I had seen done more than 20 years ago in a home in the San Fernando Valley: smear coating it with joint compound. The homeowners could use as much of the compound to cover the red or used brick as they were comfortable using and still be able to wipe away some if they felt it was too much, giving the fireplace an old world or cottage look.
Today, on design shows you may have seen the use of the German Schemer technique used, which is based on the same process. Outside, this process would use a mortar mix, but the effect would be the same: wipe on, wipe off to the desired effect, but doing it more quickly as mortar sets up far faster and more permanently than joint compound.
I like the joint compound smear because you can try it out and wash it off, if done soon enough and restore your red brick is you do not like the effect. Painting brick is mostly a permanent process. To remove the paint, you would need to sand blast it off, and that is a mess of a serious magnitude; if you think living with drywall dust is a mess, just try living with brick dust!
There are a multitude of other surfaces you can apply over your brick if you do not like the brick and do not want to paint it. You can apply drywall to the brick and paint the dry wall for a more modern look. You can use metals for an interesting change, think of copper or reclaimed wood and a metal mantle. Adding natural stone or tile will require a much larger budget than joint compound or paint.
The application of a smear technique will give your home a more cottage look and may be easier on the eye than solid red brick. One of the problems I hear from people is how to decorate around so much red. A fireplace is usually a focal point in a room and therefore will have a dramatic design impact. I find that the liberal use of a cool color will help tame the red, inside or outside. Outside, adding black trim or shutters. Inside, adding black accents to a red brick backsplash was the answer to my friend’s kitchen dilemma. Using a charcoal or blue-gray color on the trim outside is another good way to tame the abundance of too much red on a house.
I happen to love the look of brick in New England, where we can see row after row of beautiful, architecturally interesting houses on tree lined streets. However, these houses have a historic appeal and do not look as harsh as some newer red brick out West. Besides, if you look carefully at New England houses, they have a lot of black and white accents to compensate for all the red in the brick. I like correcting color with color; remember it is proportion that the makes the difference in many cases.
There are many beautiful natural elements, but copper with its rich reddish-orange color strikes me as a perfect element for fall. It mixes well with the reds, yellows, golds and oranges of the fall season.
Copper is a pure metal found in nature. It was the first metal used by humans circa 8,000 B.C. It has been used in the making of weaponry and jewelry and vessels. In relative recent times, copper is found in such common products as plumbing, roofing, electrical conductors, computers, and currency in the form of our humble penny.
In design, copper has many uses and is selected for its rich “coppery” color. When paired with cool colors on the color wheel, copper is a beautiful accent. It is often used in jewelry and paired with turquoise, a color to which copper naturally turns when exposed to the weather. Some of the most beautiful architectural icons are marked with the rich patina of copper, including cathedrals and our own Statue of Liberty.
Copper as a design element, is more common than you may think. I took a turn through my house and gathered all things copper, just to see what I had. I knew I had a copper bowl that had belonged to my mother-in-law, a small cup like vessel that belonged to my dad, but I was surprised to find lots more items than I originally remembered. There were small things like earrings, a bit of copper wire wrapped around some beach glass, a beautiful vase my husband brought back from Turkey decades ago. I also have several copper kettles. Copper is such a good conductor of heat that it has been manufactured into cooking vessels. My first set of pots and pans were copper bottomed and I loved keeping them gleaming—that is until toddlers came into my life. I also found that I have copper vessels for plants.
It is no wonder that we have such a love of copper. Besides its beauty and usefulness, it is actually an element in our bodies, and is essential to our overall good health.
There many uses of this beautiful metal. In the engraving art, copper was used in print making. Copperplate is the name of a specific handwriting style: Copperplate.. As a calligrapher, in my early days, I used this script with a split pen nib, in order to get the thick and thin stokes of the ancient style. However, I always think of the beautiful color and how it fits into our everyday life.
I know the official start of fall is still nearly a week away, but there is something about the beginning of September that makes me ready to nest and prepare for fall. The cooler mornings and evenings, the warm days, and the falling leaves signal a change in the season, albeit a slight change here in our mild climate.
When September arrives, I begin pulling out my fall decor and setting them around the house, ready for the seasonal change. There are so many little things you can do to decorate for fall that are simple and easy. Just changing out the sofa pillows is a good start. Adding some soft throws in warm fall colors adds that extra layer of warmth you need in the evenings.
I like decorating for fall as if were a holiday in itself. I can put out some pumpkins and orange lights around the entry for Halloween closer to the end of October, but fall decorating lasts until after Thanksgiving for me; it is such a satisfying time to decorate. Addinga fresh fall door mat and a wreath at the front door signals to all who enter that warmth awaits them.
Keeping fresh flowers in your home is another great way to enjoy the colors of the season. Some scented candles conjure up a batch of cinnamon cookies baking, even if baking is not your forte.
Decorating fireplace mantles is a tried and true tradition, but if you do not use your fireplace for fires, at least not this early in the season, don’t forget the hearth and firebox. The mantle can take second seat for a change. Add some candles and logs to your firebox for fall interest. Birch logs are always pretty and show up nicely against the dark interior of the firebox.
Little touches can make a nice, quiet impact in your home and hopefully will enhance your home as a sanctuary for you and your family as well as friends. A trip to your favorite home store will give you plenty of inspiration. You can easily match your purchases to your budget before you shop if you have made an assessment of your existing collections. Once things are stored for a season, I forget what I have and what has been discarded. Some things need discarding once I open the boxes again. I keep my new purchase in check by reviewing what I have decided to use again. Sometimes, just visiting seasonally decorated shops is tonic enough for me to resist spending a small fortune on more fall decor.
Everyone has a problem with commitment at some time or another whether it be personal, financial, family, or design. Design commitments will have far less impact, hopefully, than family issues or employment decisions, but hesitance to make design commitments seem to result in people doing nothing rather than something or anything, when it comes to changes in their home.
I, too, have commitment problems with some design challenges. My solution is to find an option that will give me more choices. The most recent dilemma I faced was what to do about the inside of my upper cabinets in the kitchen. The doors on the upper cabinets are glass and therefore expose my dishware, which is white; with the interiors painted white, there was no contrast and hardly made an impact. A few weeks ago, I emptied the upper cabinets of all the dishes and glassware on both sides and painted just the back wall of each of the upper cabinets the color of the kitchen walls: a soft sage green. While I liked the change, it was barely noticeable. At least that exercise forced me clean all the glass shelves, and the new color did give it a fresh look.
Still not satisfied with the lack of impact in those cabinets, I had toyed with the idea of painting the backs of the cabinets black—yep, black. I can imagine what many of my readers may be thinking, “Is she painting the entire house black”? I do like a bit of drama in design. The kitchen is one of my favorite places, and I thought the introduction of a little more black would give me the impact I wanted. Painting the backs of the cabinets is not an “in your face” dramatic change; it is more subtle. In fact, people hardly notice it; but I do, which is the point.
As for the lack of commitment, I decided to use black foam board cut to size before painting the cabinets and then painting over the black if I did not like it. I have suggested to clients over the years that to add a little color in bookcases or glass fronted cabinets, first use foam board painted the color they want, to see if they liked it, before painting the back of an entire bookcase. This option also allows for seasonal changes for displays for Easter, Halloween and Christmas.
I will confess that painting would have been cheaper and take less time than I spent on cutting foam board and going back to the office supply store for more material. I was pretty sure I was going to like the black, but thought I would give the foam board a try. I am glad I did. I like the smooth texture as opposed to the less than perfect plaster walls behind my cabinets dating back to 1938, and all the things that have been done to these cabinets over the years
I still have some black paint plans for my home. They too will be subtle, but will make an impact. If you have considered taking an old entertainment unit or bookcase, and using it as a room divider or as a display area for some of your collections, you might consider removing the back of the cabinet and painting it a bright accent color that you are using elsewhere in the room. Painting an old cabinet or dresser that you are re-purposing, is a win-win project, with little to lose and a good exercise in trying something new. Try it, you might like it.
This is a good news, bad news dilemma. The good news was that we have an actual entry in our little house, something that has always been important to me. I suppose it is because my father always wanted one in our 1950s house, but by then entries were given up in favor of more living space elsewhere in the home. We had a covered front stoop; and eventually, my father enclosed it and made a formal entry to our little home.
The bad news regarding our entry was that it was tiny and dull. It was painted the same color as the living room— a color that I love; but since the entry was so small, I felt it needed to have a little pizzaz. In truth, as you enter the house, you never see the only wall that does not have a door in it or an opening to the living room.
As I sit in my office and look out across the living room, I can see into our dining area with windows that give me a view of our mountains, and into the living room, as well as the one wall in the entry where the only interest on the wall— the three brass pipes that give tone to the door bell, but they are not very interesting.
What to do? I pondered this question for a short time, thinking paint is the quickest solution to my problem; but I was not certain that paint would be enough. I remember, when we first saw the house, I was thinking I could put a gatelegged table in that space. Then I realized there was no space for any furniture, paint would have to be enough.
This thought left me so unsatisfied that, I began thinking around my depth problem and decided I would find an image of an entry table and tape it on the wall to trace it with a chalk pen. After finding the perfect table for my aesthetic, I took it to a photocopy store and had the staff enlarge the image. This proved not so simple, since the aspect was not quite right. I ended up taking the image the photo shop provided, and cut the legs crosswise and extended them to table height—voila! Since I did not expect the table to be taken seriously, its rangy legs were not an issue.
I used chalkboard paint on the wall and a chalk crayon to get the image onto the wall. Actually, I had an artist friend come over and draw the outline, thinking that if I did not like it, she could draw something that would be suitable. It turned out that I liked it, as it was, not perfect, and a bit whimsical.
Entries are important in homes, and I have spent quite a few hours creating them in my client’s homes, when there is not a designated entry with traditional walls. Entries can be “imagined” into rooms that open directly into a living space, by placing a large table to stop guests from simply walking all the way into a room upon entering. A decorative screen can also be used to stop the eye from roaming about the family living space, and sometimes a bold paint color will serve to delineate an entry space.
An entry gives a homeowner a sense of privacy to anyone coming to your door, either invited or not. Sometimes, a homeowner may not want to have a visitor actually enter personal living space, so an entry is a way to hold them to a more confined area, even from looking in from the outside.
I am so happy to have my little entry, and now I love it even more that it offers some interest to me and my guests, once they come into the house. More likely, visitors will not see my little table until they leave; nevertheless it is more interesting than bland walls.