Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Here comes the sun...

Just a little music to set the mood for my over due porch update. It's finished, okay it's not finished (we still have to make radiator covers and I have some touch up to take care of and I left painter's tape around the ceiling lamp). But it looks amazing. This porch was really a tough room to visualize for us. But since someone had done the hard work for us (closing it in as a part of the house complete with insulation and heating) we couldn't just let the space go to waste. I'll admit, it's difficult to work on a "summery space" when there's snow on the ground, but at least it'll be ready for Spring! We set our housewarming party as a deadline to get everything finished and we completed everything down to the wire (procrastination is a great motivator).

But first things first. When we finally decided that I had put enough coats on the walls, trim and windows I started my favorite part of any painting project... taking off the painters tape (fully fledged nerd over here). Since I taped off every window pane very carefully, I knew this was going to be a bit of a painstaking process, but I read up on some tips for painting windows and found a consensus opinion that scoring the edges with a blade would yield the cleanest results. It was time-consuming, but completely worth it.

Being ambidextrous certainly helps for things like this.
After scoring the edges I carefully removed all of the tape. I was pretty happy with this method and really only had to use a blade on a few spots where paint had seeped underneath. Success! Here's how things looked after the tape was removed.

I was really pleased with the results, but whoever painted the outside of the windows did so freehand, leaving a crooked line of paint all around the glass. Ah well, it's hardly noticeable unless you're looking for it.

The radiators look even worse against the cool grey and white trim.

So bright and cheerful. Oh yea, the tape around that light is still there -- whoops.
The next stage involved putting up our pendant light over the daybed and putting the recently assembled furniture in place. Even though I drew a to-scale floor plan of the porch once I got the furniture in place I wasn't pleased with the footprint.

While this piece fit the space, I didn't like how boxy it felt in that space and I felt like my idea of putting a chair in that corner would cover anything fun that I wanted to display on the shelves.

One thing I often forget in our 110 year old house is how crooked everything is. It makes hanging curtains and positioning furniture challenging. As you can see in this photo, our floor is not level (that's indoor/outdoor carpet on top of asbestos tile) -- we later cut shims and glued them to the bottom of the bookcase to make it level. We also filled it with the heaviest stuff on the bottom, but we'll eventually brace it to the wall so no little ones get hurt.

This shows a better view of how boxy everything looked. Imagine a chair in the corner and you can see how cluttered it would feel. But, not to worry, we found a great place for that Expedit unit!
Pendant light installed! Woo hoo! We still have to figure out a good way to turn this on and off, currently you have to plug it into the outlet tucked behind the daybed, so it's not ideal. This $14.99 lamp is perfect for this space and has been a big hit!
Next on the agenda was painting the daybed and getting it inside the house. We were warned that you should measure your doorway before you assemble everything (which we did). The clearance recommended was 30" and the day bed juuuust fit through the door. We left the front apron support off so we'd have more maneuverability. As far as the painting process goes, it required a LOT of spray paint (lots and lots of thin and even coats). With all the angles on the bed frame hand painting would have taken a million years and just wanted to get it in the house! We probably should have taken the time to sand everything down before painting, but we figure since we know it fits through the door, we can always pull it outside and do that over the summer when we're feeling energetic. It's pretty smooth in most places, but where it wasn't the paint didn't create a very kind finish. Luckily there are a ton of pillows on there so you're never really leaning against the frame. I was REALLY nervous about the fit because God knows I've measured incorrectly more times than I'd like to admit, but I knew we had a few inches of clearance. We also never really measured the mattress or the bed frame for accuracy (we just assumed the plans wouldn't steer us wrong), so I was on pins and needles for the last part of assembly! Of course we decided to move it inside at night.
Frame in place, we put in some support beams (recommended but not mandatory)

Happy print wall. Also, I love the reflection of the pendant in the glass!

View of the main brick wall, looking around the corner.

First dressing. It was clear we were going to need a LOT more pillows.
Next, I filled the bookcase with some of our favorite things, vacuumed everything and moved some things around. For your pleasure, more than a few gratuitous AFTER photos. Tell me you don't want to curl up here with a good book, or take a nap in the sun?

Ahhhhh! Notice the bookcase is looking nice and square.

Slightly different view. The prints are all from independent artists. The camera one came from my future sister-in-law via Etsy. The one on the top says, "Enjoy the Sunshine", found at a craft fair. And the bottom right says, " Home is whenever I'm with you" found at the Art Star Craft Bazaar.

View taken as you come in the front door and look right. See how that Expedit unit would have been crazy in the corner? Also, the curtains are gracefully covering the horrible radiator, for now.

Seeing both sides at once.

More of both views. I can't get enough!
View from inside the hall (near the living room) looking out to the porch. We really wanted to find a little something for next to the door to tuck away a pair of shoes and some dog leashes/towels, we're very pleased with this little unit.

And, as if this wasn't enough, I wanted to get some photos on a sunny day (hard to come by in the Northeast during March) to really show off what is so magical about this porch.
Our house is on the north side of the street and this is a south facing room so it is sun-drenched almost all day long.

I love how the yellows tie in together and everything isn't too matchy. We tried pull in some other colors like navy and green to tone down all the grey and white.

What an inviting space. I'm so happy to say this room is complete-ish (that radiator covers will be changed eventually) and 100% usable! Success!!!
One of the things we really love about how the porch came together is that it has a completely different feel than the rest of our house. To us, it feels very Cape Cod, while the rest of our house is quite traditional and colonial even with all of our modern touches. We managed to pull off this look without it feeling disjointed from the rest of the house.

Just for reference a few before and after shots. I'm so thankful for Zach for sticking with me through this project. He's such an inspiration and is becoming quite adept in his workshop.
Sadly, I don't have a shot from the same angle for this one, but you get the idea.

House projects will be put on hold for a little while since were just 2.5 months away from our wedding, but I do have some small updates to post in between of little changes around the house, including what we did with that pesky Expedit unit. PS. everyone loved the house!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

DIY silhouette art tutorial

As mentioned in my previous post... I used a tutorial to make some art for the brick wall in our enclosed porch. The whole porch has been a situation of what-in-the-world-do-we-put-here... so it was no surprise that we couldn't commit to finding artwork suitable for that space. That expanse of brick is roughly 8 ft tall by 7 ft wide and it's the first thing you see when you come in the house. We originally thought we'd get our blueprints framed and put them there (we still might -- I have an idea for an ode-to-the-original-house collage wall) but for now we wanted something bold and inviting and without the expense of custom framing and UV glass. What better than some fun prints of the dogs?!? It didn't take long for me to find a straight forward tutorial via Pinterest and I promised Zach this was something I could whip up in a weekend afternoon.

Taking pictures of the dogs was the hardest part. I knew I wanted a 3/4 view of them sitting, but as a photographer I know that any time you WANT your pet to do something for a photo, they just won't cooperate.  Luckily Zach helped me and bribed them with treats while I snapped a dozen photos of each of them. Here's what I ended up with:
90% of Lucy's were usable, she was more than happy to play along for this game, but I liked the position of her head best is this one. It really sums up her personality, confident and willing.

Hugo on the other hand just got wayyy too excited and after about 50 outtakes, he finally decided that we didn't want him to do every single trick he knows and that all we wanted was for him to SIT and sit, only. Good boy.

I used the original tutorial instructions of utilizing Picasa to re-size my images. I'm quite adept at using Adobe but I thought that it would take a lot more trial and error to get the desired result. Turns out Picasa was straight forward, simple and only took a little bit of experimenting to get what I wanted, ultimately I cropped as close as possible to the dogs, used the "make a poster" function and enlarged the image by 200% and told it to print on 8.5" x 11", the program automatically tiles your image onto several sheets of paper which can be trimmed to match up like a jigsaw puzzle. I bought my canvases at Michael's utilizing one of their ongoing 40% off any one item coupons on two 24" x 30" canvases. The spray paint was purchased at Home Depot and it's made by Vaspar in a satin finish. They have a really nice selection of colors to choose from and I bought three options (navy, yellow and jade green) to let Zach pick from. I will admit that I am a spray paint convert. Outside of graffiti and construction usage (and the can of spray paint tattooed on my ribs), I really didn't think that spray paint was a good option for indoor projects, however the technology has come a long way. People are using it for all sorts of everyday applications in favor of latex or acrylic paints. Best of all, there are no brush strokes to worry about!

Lucy all pieced together and cut out! Her tail was too long for my contact paper so I just taped it together. *Oh, don't worry about that credit card, it's a rebate visa card with $0 left.

Hugo all ready to go. As you can see I used up all of Zach's ink printing these, but detail wasn't really important:)

I printed my tiled images onto blank shipping labels (8.5 x 11) and pieced them together on a large sheet of contact paper. After adhering them to the contact paper, I simply cut around the shape of each dog. It was now ready to stick to my canvas! This part didn't go as planned as my contact paper was not very sticky! This was pretty frustrating and I knew if I didn't get a tight seal around the edges there would be no hope for a crisp silhouette. I wound up using double-sided tape (I have a tape gun that makes this easier and more precise) to line the edges and carefully positioned each pup onto the canvas. I took them outside and started spraying each one in an open garage (use a well-ventilated space people!) and far enough apart that they didn't influence one another. I did about 5 thin coats a few minutes apart while keeping my hand moving and making sure that the edges of the cut out were nice and opaque. I let them dry for about 20 minutes and then with the edge of a blade I began lifting the edge of one of the pups. *The trick here is to pull the silhouette off while the paint is still lightly tacky, otherwise you run the risk of the paint sticking and tearing.

Once they were completely dry (I let them cure in the sunshine for a few hours) I brought them inside and touched them up with some white acrylic paint. Here's why:
Look at those weird smudgy bits! I'm not sure why hers was so much worse than Hugo's but it was really easy to fix.
I let them dry a little more and then I measured my brick wall, made an educated guess and hammered into the mortar to hang these guys (I added wire to the back to make hanging them a little more forgiving)! They make me smile every time I walk through the door!

I'm hoping to make a few more of these for friends too!

Please share and send me photos if you decide to make your own:)


A few teaser photos of the new and improved porch! I'll post a full update later... promise!

Some DIY art I made for the brick wall in the porch (the first thing you see when you enter the house) -- I used this tutorial to make these. Super easy, I whipped these up in an afternoon. This photo is right after I peeled off their silhouettes (definitely do this while the paint is still tacky). The contact paper didn't stick as well as I would have liked to the canvas, but I reinforced the seal and sprayed several thin coats of spray paint. This helps prevent drips and pooling of paint on your canvas! You can see where Lucy's (the yellow canvas) allowed a little seepage. After they cured outside for the afternoon, I brought them inside and crisped up those lines with a small brush and some white acrylic paint. I put some wire on the back and gingerly hammered some special nails into our brick and...

Tah-dah! These are hanging directly over our vintage theater chairs.
We also finished building the day bed! I have to say that last night when we were putting the final pieces together and placing the mattress on top I was super nervous about everything fitting properly.  I had measured the space for it, giving a few inches of allowance (since our house is perpetually crooked) and I knew that Zach had been more than careful about following the plans, but you just never know. We had three sides connected as we moved it into the porch... it juuuuuusssssst fit through the front door and we shimmied it into place with a big sigh of relief. Zach and I attached the front apron and the supports and it was ready for the slats and mattress (both purchased at Ikea)... much to our delight, everything worked out perfectly and it's quite solid. We put two extra supports underneath (the plans suggest putting one). Here is is in the space (so far).

It looks even better in the daytime!
I'm going to take some really nice (daytime) before and after photos of the space for a full follow up report. Our housewarming is this Saturday and we cannot wait to show everyone what we've done with the place so far!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Dreaming of sunny days.

It's safe to say that SAD has taken a brutal hold of me this winter. I want nothing to do with going outside (unless it's to play with the dogs), walking home in the dark every night at 5pm bums me out, and all this cold is doing horrible things to my Irish skin. I've been less than motivated to do anything, save for a few crochet projects that I've worked on while parked firmly in front of the TV.

We've been talking a lot about what to do with our extra room on the second floor. Our house has 4 bedrooms, three of which are on the second level. One is being used as our office/craft space, one as a guest room and the other is housing all of our "we-don't-know-where-to-put-this-slash-haven't-unpacked-this-box-yet" kinda stuff... it's a big cluttered mess. And, if winter doesn't make me grumpy enough, a cluttered room that I'm intentionally ignoring will certainly make my mood exponentially worse. So we started brainstorming on what to do with that room and our previously neglected enclosed porch. The porch was one of the features we liked the most about the house when we bought it, but we've definitely been a little stumped with how to tackle a second living space on the first floor. It's an odd shaped (L-shaped) and it's carpeted (which eventually we'll change). Up until last week, there were hideous vertical blinds covering the 14 beautiful windows that line the walls. We had just dumped more miscellany there because it was an unused space. What's nice about the space is that it's bright and airy. It's also heated with two radiators. It was added to the house in the 50's so it's a little dated looking, but we were willing to try to revamp it. There's exposed brick on two walls which makes it feel very cozy. After going through possible scenarios for the extra room on the second floor we figured out a solution for both rooms at the same time. Knowing that we'd like to have two children some day, we want the extra room upstairs to be an easy space to re-do when the time is right. We originally talked about making built-in bookcases and a window seat in there, making it a sort of lounge/library space. But that would be a mess to re-do down the road, so we decided that we'll make that space our home gym, it's easy enough to move our equipment in there and eventually we can store that stuff in the basement if we need to. We won't really have to decorate that space except for installing a TV and maybe a ceiling fan. So that left us thinking about the front porch as a second living area. We both love the idea of having a reading space that is quiet and comfortable and we knew we wanted to make a space that was perfect for curling up on a nice day with a book and hearing nature all around you.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Give thanks. Always.

We finished the dining room table just in time for Thanksgiving. That's right, our table's maiden voyage would be hosting friends and family for the biggest dinner celebration of the year!

I have to admit, both Zach and I are a little obsessed with the table. There's something so incredibly satisfying about walking past this beast of a table and thinking, "we built that". Yes, it's a little self-congratulatory, but sometimes you're allowed to pat yourself on the back!

After all, we started here:

Gross looking, neglected pews!

But let's get you caught up, when we last left off we were playing around with stains. Like I said, we wound up using a tea + vinegar/steel wool combo, which gave us a rich under color and the greyish barn wood feel we were hoping for. Yes, I'm certain it would have been easier to simply sand and stain the wood in a more traditional tone, but seeing that we were working with two types of wood and that the table was going into a room inundated with wood tones (trim, closets and floors) we wanted to make a significant departure.
Table frame, stained and screwed together. It has a massive footprint in our dining room (we're very excited about that)

Spacers and apron support beams in, breadboards attached.

Table is mostly together at this point! After this we sealed the table which significantly changed the color (we don't mind)

All dressed up for Thanksgiving! We are simple people when it comes to decorating!

Oh yeah, we are IN LOVE with the chairs we found for a steal on Overstock. IN LOVE.

Another view. We lovehow the rustic light fixture ties everything together.

Getting artsy... ha.

Little bunting I made last minute (there's a little something that is going to live in this space eventually!)

Hooray, bunting!

Did I mention that we LOVE these chairs? I whipped up some seat cushions for them, more on that later. 

The new wall in the kitchen (with a George Nelson clock we found at Homegoods when we first moved in) and our Thanksgiving menu.

It's safe to say that our 1st Thanksgiving was a huge success. Largely due to the fact that Zach and I are both planners, and I had the menu sorted out the weekend before and half the food cooked the night before. We were surrounded by wonderful friends and family and the best dogs we could ask for. We are thankful to be healthy and happy to be fortunate enough to not want for anything. Life is good.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


We adopted a puppy, Lucy -- who promptly took over.

She is soooo small.

I got new glasses, which further illustrates my cartoonish-ness.

Lucy has a heart-shaped freckle. Awwww.

Hugo is worn out from non-stop puppy playtime.

Zach and I toast a true gentleman. Gone but never forgotten.

Lucy gives us the scare of a lifetime sending us to the emergency veterinary hospital.

I make some DIY and very significant art for our living room.

Dinosaur carnage -- stay tuned for a more in depth post about these guys!

Our farmhouse table (once, church pews) -- nearly finished, this is a sneak peek!

Lucy is feeling a touch better, back to her very opinionated self!
Things are too busy for a formal update right now, hope this keeps you going!