Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Best Kind of Hero: Atticus Finch

This weekend Mr. Man Friend and I went to a local stage production of To Kill a Mockingbird. Good, but hard to compete with the Scout that we all know and love from the 1960 book or with the 1962 film that won Gregory Peck an Academy Award for Best Actor as one of my favorite heroes, real or fictional, Atticus Finch.

Hope you all had a good weekend. For me, it was nice to take a break from home improvement projects. We'll see you soon in future posts!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Renovating a Teen Boy's Bedroom, Part Two

Wednesday I had a blast showing off the results of my teenage son's room renovation. Today is part two of the bedroom renovation blog post. I'll just do a little mop up on the smaller details, and (because I'm a realist) I'll also list the things still left to do (sigh).

Grant's bedroom was actually one of the easier ones to pull together because we had a good start: the narrow-strip oak floor had never (by some miracle) been carpeted over, and the walls, while so grubby they were yellow (ick), they were the original plaster and relatively smooth and undamaged.
We chose Valspar Polished Silver, a nice medium gray, for the walls.

I'm geeked because the chest of drawers wall was pretty economical to put together. The chest of drawers was free, found in the house. I'm glad I had the courage to look past the dirty salmon paint color, the spiders (eek), and the smell. That got spruced up with a quart of Valspar Almost Charcoal, and some low-to-mid price range knobs from Lowe's (and buckets of Lysol solution to get rid of the odor).

The round mirror was also found in the house, leaning up against a wall on the screen porch. The architectural prints were $5 each from The Candy Shoppe on Etsy and just popped into inexpensive discount store frames. I didn't even matte them--it's just white typing paper backing them. The fan I've had for a long time (I'm not sure about you, but the longer you have something the less what you paid for it "counts." Amiright? Right!)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Renovating a Teen Boy's Bedroom, Groovy Style (part one)

My oldest son Grant will be seventeen at the end of this month. Minimally, this kid would have been fine with a cot and a laundry basket and a pile of Sports Illustrated magazines, because he is a guy's guy, and really isn't fussed about this sort of thing. At the other end of the spectrum, if his mom was going to "decorate" his room, he certainly didn't want anything embarrassing.

We settled on school colors black and orange, but nothing overtly mascot or varsity looking, since he only has one year of high school (gulp!) left after this. I added gray and cream to keep it from getting too harsh, but still keep it masculine. I was shooting for a 1960s mod look after a loud orange lamp I found on Etsy.

Instead of "befores" we had lots of "almosts" over these last months didn't we? Let's take a look:

We had the "before" on his dresser:

This shade of pink does not exist in nature. And that's a good thing.

And the half done painting on the walls:

Are we done ye......oh, crap.
At first I didn't want to post photos until I was FINISHED finished. You know, everything done. But I realize that doesn't happen quickly, and I didn't think my blog readers would stick around for another year while I got my inner perfectionist satisfied. I decided I needed to share my SO FAR in stead of my FINISHED.

And then there's been the weather. The sun's been gone, here for half an hour, hiding for an afternoon, back out again, and then gone for days at a time. It's been aggravating trying to get good photos instead of grainy, dark, underexposed stuff.

But now we're ready to rock. Here we go:

Let's play find the photographer in this photo...
A great deal of Grant's room was put together on a dime rather than a dollar. We already had the double bed. The mod-style black/gray/white comforter set was an online WalMart find. I know! It's shocking but true.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bathroom Lighting Update: New and Vintage Choices

Those who've been following along may remember that I recently lost, after a frenzy of down to the last second bidding, an auction on Ebay for a very fun vintage bathroom light bar. I share my post-auction let down in the post here, and here's what I lost out on. Look at that mid-century starburst design:

Anyway, I'd stumbled upon it not on Ebay, but from the ladies over on No Pattern Required, who regularly post collections of great stuff they find for sale on Ebay.

It was good thing I lost the bid. It went for over $100, which is getting a bit pricey when you consider that it's a 50 year old fixture that may need re-wiring.  That, and I wasn't just ON FIRE to redo my bathroom. I'm considering some quick fixes to make it more "mid-century" looking until I get some other priorities taken care of. Down the road, I plan big things for this bathroom--aqua tile, shower doors, chrome's one of my inspiration photos:

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Even though I'm in no big hurry, the ladies at No Pattern Required still managed to save the day. One of the blog contributors, Sara, is helping her mom fix up a mid-century-aged condo, and in the quest to find a vintage light bar for the bath, they figured out the option of a simple 4-light bar from Home Depot to get the light kit, and a vintage shade they found second hand. You can read about it in their blog post here.

They also shared the find of another blogger, Eartha Kitsch, who found a brand new but very vintagey looking bath light bar. It's by Nuvo Lighting and you can find it on their website along with the item number on here:

It's a great piece of information to file away for future use. But now it's got me itching to look at tile and paint and......that is how the renovation adventure starts.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Armchair Daydreaming: Vintage Upholstery

I'm having fun tonight daydreaming about new (old) armchairs. I've got an outdoor wicker armchair standing in for a proper one in my living room. It doesn't look bad, but I'd like it to move out to join its partner on the screen porch someday. As I shop around I wonder if like the simpler lines and more horizontal build of chairs from the 1940s and 1950s:

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Or if I prefer the more traditional styles and homey feel of tufted back chairs from the 1930s:

Source: via Laura on Pinterest

Those chairs remind me of the illustrator Mary Englebreit, and I suppose that's no surprise, since she took her inspiration from children's book illustrations and postcards of the 1920s and 1930s.

Either way, I'd probably reupholster in an apple green with brown cording, and plenty of very modern stain-proofing for the boys.

Here's the link to my Pinterest board. Enjoy!

Bedroom Renovation Updates: Coming Soon

Quit monkeying around.
After a couple of weeks grabbing 15 minutes here and an hour there to get little home improvement things done, I'm close to being able to show my blog readers the progress. I need to hang a blind and do one last spray paint job, and I'll be ready to take some photos!

Mind you, the phrase "one last spray paint job" with me is a thing fraught with meaning. Anything involving spray paint OR spray adhesive with me is better translated into, "watch Laura as she turns a simple task into an alligator-wrestling melee, only with inanimate objects."

I confess I meant to have the twins room upstairs ready to go for a blog post sooner. Last week I hung the last of the art work, cleaned and tidied, vacuumed, and took photos. But it was a cloudy dark day, I admit I was in a rotten mood over half a dozen petty things and the results were bad. I had to discard most of the photos. I can't tell you how much I wish I was a better photographer. The photo above is one of them that made the cut. D'awwwww, cute monkey!

I'll also have some photos from my 16-year-old son's room. For a guy who'd just as soon make do with an army cot in the corner and a laundry basket of (sorta) clean clothes in the other, he's been remarkably patient with all this painting and banging around in his room. Now I'll have to get him to put his socks away just to take photos.

Also recent/coming up:

I made some changes to the blog's appearance to make it more readable, clean-looking, and attractive. I chose a typeface that has a rounded, sans serif, Art Deco look to it, and I like it a lot. I'm still trying to figure out a background that works for me. The blog's graphic design is very much a work in progress, and suggestions are welcome.

I'll share some recent finds from research about gardening, and things I've figured out from poking around in my front and back yard. Let's get ready for mud-pie season!

We'll get take a look at progress on my kitchen (thank you, Mom!) and start the painting. After about 3 months staring at a paint chips, I think I'm ready.

YeaY for progress! Check back soon!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

More Late Night Lamp Lust

I have a problem with lamps. There are too many to love. Like this one from Val's Vintage Shoppe on Etsy:

Even back in the day, they were putting a bird on it.

If these were pictures of men, you'd think I was, well, a bit loose in my affections. Someone on another blog I sporadically read said that her husband was a bit of a lamp slut. Or something like that. I'd give credit if I could for the life of me remember where I found it, but I loved it, because I completely identify with the accusation. I guess you could say I'm a lamp slut that's sort of under control-- I don't buy every lamp I love. If I did it would sort of be a hoarders + lighting store nightmare. But my affection for quirky, tacky, colorful, odd shaped lamps is endless, and I spend many a late night cruising the internet looking for more beauties.

It's made me a bit of a snob and reactionary about this recent trend in spray painting old lamps and light fixtures, like here. Now, I have done just such a thing with an nondescript old lamp of no value, here. I admit I'm particular. If it has no value, is some hideous overwrought shiny brass thing from 1980s, or is some newish home improvement store mainstream item and you just must have a clever color, be my guest. I'm as in love with a bargain as the next gal, which is why I brought home the lamp I found in the gutter and spray painted it up in a cheerful red for the twins' room. 

But I believe in a some serious judgment calls when it comes to altering old lamps and light fixtures. I have wept rivers over home design blog posts and home improvement TV shows that cheerfully spray paint over the character and uniqueness of mid-century-ish lamps and discard the shades for brand new ones, until they look like the same dang thing you could pick up in the aisle of any local Hobby Lobby. Why, you could just picture these same ding-dongs spray painting the charmer depicted above flat taupe so it would fit in with their Pottery Barn living room. Agh! I shake my fist at the light fixtures! In that respect I'll be glad when this fad quietly goes away. And that's speaking as a person with an otherwise deep and abiding affection for spray paint.

As we go along in my blog I'll share some of my favorite finds with you, both from these late night internet browsing forays, but also the ones I own. I'm still searching for just the right little lamp for a 1940s era side table. I can't wait to share with readers what I find when the day comes. And I promise you, spray paint won't be involved. Turn off the lights, and Good Night!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day: I Love My Sister

 What's not to love about this?

My sister, the very same sister superhero of my renovation summer, sent me a package that arrived this weekend. I'm terrible at waiting if it isn't Christmas or birthday, so I just went on ahead and tore into it. And you see above, my lovely Valentine's Day gift.

My sister is a painter (I just love saying that. I love bragging on her talented behind). And the little nuthatch on a branch is just what the doctor ordered for my usual mid-February slump (I'm not much on winter). It's a nice perk of sisterhood with Dyan that I get the blessing of her talent. She also paints pet portraits and jewelry: her Etsy Shop is here.

The little ACEO (Art Cards Editions and Originals, if you've always wondered) came in the pocket of an apron, also made by my sister. Aqua floral, crisp white, and red ric rac. How can you go wrong?

The aqua print is from a vintage feed sack that came from the fabric stash of our Great Aunt Elizabeth. Aunt Elizabeth passed away last November, and we miss her. She was a school librarian and band director/music teacher in rural Missouri schools her entire adult life. She was a little prim, but she was smart and good and an enthusiastic follower of all her many great nieces and nephews, since she never had children of her own. It's a gift with the extra sentimental value built into every stitch.

Here's a closer detail of the fabric. It's so cheery and bright:

I hope you had a great Valentine's Day too!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fabric Finds: Make Your Own

Have you heard of Spoonflower?
Apparently I am late to the party, but I'm so glad I discovered it. It's a website where you can design your own fabric, have it printed, and then order yardage.

Wait, what?

Let's go over that again.

You can design your own fabric, have it printed, and then order yardage.

I KNOW. Isn't that the coolest thing you've ever heard? And LOOK:

Say Goodnight, Gracie
Somebody just said: "I'd like a retro print in lime, coral, and aqua, with little TVs and big loopy circles." And that's what they got! This one is called, "Say Goodnight Gracie," which is the best fabric name EVER.
I bumped into Spoonflower accidentally and coincidentally when I was in the middle of some angst about fabric choices concerning curtains. I like to make my own, because then you get something that's made to fit the window, and in the exact design that looks best (within reason. I've yet to do pinch pleats, though I'm considering learning).

I'm very picky. Pattern, color, whatever. It HAS to be just right. And I have this theory that you really have to love the fabric you're sewing with, or you're not going to love your house when you look at those windows. I detest choosing fabric on the "well, this was the best I could find" proposition. ARGH. And where I live, there's a lot of that. Not a lot to choose from.

Right now we're about at the half way mark with my kitchen. The cabinets are completely re-finished and the new appliances and countertop are in.  I guess I should say the most expensive and time consuming things are in (you'll get an update sometime in the future). But at some point in time, paint and curtains are going to come to my 1970s era kitchen built on to my 1930s house.

But the curtains on the sliding glass door are some sad, limp, dirt beige tab tops from Target. They've stayed there for lack of time to address the situation, and a continuing need for some privacy from the backyard neighbors. Here's a photo. Please excuse the quality, but I guess "before" photos are supposed to be bad, right?

I see these every morning, and they make me want to go back to bed.
Let's get this out of the way: I have something against tab top curtains. I've NEVER liked them. They just look like the manufacturer was too cheap to make a proper casing for the curtain panel. I know that's not the point. The point is that it's a stylistic choice but one that, for whatever reason, my eye rebels against every time I see them.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Unexpected Guests On the Doorstep

Just as I am brand new to home ownership, I am also just a new little fishy swimming in the giant blogosphere. I've got some modest (Hi, Dad!) blog traffic and I'm still trying to figure out what my page should look like, and trying to "find my voice as a writer," though I suspect my voice is coming from inside my head and in that very "get some help" sort of way....


The blogosphere paid me a visit on Wednesday in the craziest and best way possible. Did I mention I'm insecure about this blogging thing still?

Anyway. (Note to "voice:" work on transitions)

The best thing about the best blogs is that they are stories with chapters that come out, bit by bit, and you become absorbed into them. You want to know what happens NEXT.

One of those blogs is DIY Diva, and I found Kit's blog months ago when I was still in the home shopping phase simply by Googling "do it yourself." I figured whatever kind of house I could afford, I was going to be doing a bit of it.

As blog categories go, she is in a different part of the family tree of "house blogs" from mine, I think. I am more of a historic home, paint-some-rooms, isn't-this-vintage-whackadoodle-cute, sort of blog. I'm not going to over-reach at this point. If you've seen me with a drill, you know why.

Kit, however, is not "do it yourself" in the sense of spray painting a few crappy garage sale picture frames, though there's a time and place for that sort of thing (hi, everybody!)

THIS is Kit with a drill:

Stand back. This is DIY Diva.

In the years she's maintained her blog, she's rehabbed one old house, bought another and added a major addition to it, and has drawn up plans to build a third. Oh, and she became a licensed general contractor. Then there are the miniature donkeys. She calls herself a power tool wielding badass. She once wrote a post (with diagrams) about the disintegration of her work jeans.

I'm not sure whether I want to go grab a beer with her or HIRE her. I mean, damn, girl.

For awhile now I'd been following DIY Diva as she went looking for just the right piece of land to build her dream house, her Hillside Cottage, as she calls it.

On Monday she posted a real bombshell: she'd gone and bought a 150-year-old farmhouse and 6 acres. Not for the building of Hillside Cottage, but just because foreclosure auctions are the sort of trouble which a woman who collects power tools for fun and recreation would get herself into. You can read about that here.

I was moved by this. That is my kind of crazy. I am three for three in buying a house based purely on emotion. Or gut instinct. Lack of a grip on reality. Whatever.

So along with all the other friends, family, other bloggers, and whosomevers that were commenting on her surprise purchase I commented for the first time on her site:

"I’ve been lurking around your site for some time, mostly in profound appreciation of your general kick-assery. Don’t second guess yourself on this, no matter what. I did the same thing with my house. I walked in the front door and said, “Oh, yes. This is it.” The real estate agent thought I’d gone ’round the bend (and I probably had), but it ended up being the place I signed for. Wish you the best in your unexpected adventure!"

To which Kit responded:

"The Unexpected Adventure — Laura, you just named the next 3 years (okay, 5 years) of my life. I love it"

And I'm thinking, cool, she seems nice too.

Wednesday turned out to be one of those days that other single working mothers will recognize--I was wretchedly tired. It was a packing lunch boxes/finding socks for little boys/putting on mascara/get in the car NOW! kind of morning, all underpinned by the distinctly nagging dread that not only had I forgotten to pay some bill, I was hopelessly behind in the laundry, and what in the HELL was I thinking getting a divorce, going back to work, and buying an old house all in two years? Self-doubt never hits the single mom in little bits and pieces. It's more like the total shit-storm, all at once. I pulled out of the driveway looking at the tired paint and the tired yard and just felt distinctly defeated by the enormity of it. And then I went to work.

I came home from work early because I also had to work a turnaround night shift, headachey and dangerously crabby. I checked my blogs, and realized that Kit had posted something titled, "An Unexpected Adventure: The Extended Version." Nice, I thought. She must have liked the ring of I clicked on the link.

And she'd blogged:

"I know, I know, I kind of dropped a little bomb in the middle of the “Hey I’m going to buy some vacant land and build a garage on it” party yesterday. I have to start by thanking all of you for the support, laughs, words of encouragement, and– specifically Laura from Door Step Home– for calling this my Unexpected Adventure instead of my Have You Lost Your Ever-Loving Mind moment."


She'd given me a shout out and a link to my blog, and here I am with no good graphics yet, the place is a mess, and I haven't combed my hair.....

Just THAT was just a good, good thing on an otherwise crappy day. But then I found this comment posted on MY blog, from someone named Gayle:

"I just found your blog via DIY Diva, and I just want to let you know that you CAN do it. I'm a single Mom too, and when I was raising my two kids, we worked on several "distressed" houses (kind words) that remind me of your plumbing travails. Can you say "former homeowner who was too cheap to buy electrical wire, so patched together little pieces with wire nuts and strung them inside the walls."?? So hang in there, and remember to sit back and enjoy your progress so far once in awhile. Your kids will have fun learning how to fix things, and it will all get done eventually, so don't sweat it. Take care."
I had no idea the blogosphere dealt in good Karma until Wednesday. And it arrived just in time. So thanks, Gayle and Kit. I needed that.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lamp Love: a classy mid-mod pair

From Old Lighting Spot on Etsy. Here's the link to these gorgeous babes, here.
This week's lamp love affair is with these two black ceramic and tiled lamps from Old Lighting Spot, an Etsy seller. While these don't fit into my home's decor at all, I love the evening dress black and gold and the sophisticated look. They'd be great for those who've got a Hollywood Regency decor thang going on. I love the tableaux that the seller has put together: great ideas for staging these great lamps. The shades don't come with, but they look silver, and that's another great idea too. Very classy!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Sore loser: I lost a bid on EBay!

So tell me fellow EBay stalkers and auction addicts--how do you handle defeat? Gracefully? Or do you stomp your foot like a spoiled little girl (or boy)?

Just minutes ago I lost a bid on a tasty mid-century modern light fixture for sale on Ebay:

The one that got away. It was a big one too: 25 inches long, four lights.  From Seller Inventordreams on EBay.
The super-nice neighborly gals over on the blog No Pattern Required turned me on to this beautiful thing in a blog post of great stuff here. I even posted a comment that I'd be bidding. Like I said over on No Pattern Required, way to out yourself.

But I didn't win. Oh, poop and expletive deleted, I didn't get it. It went for over $100, and I admit I blinked. In retrospect, I could easily spend twice that much on a new bathroom light fixture, and maybe another Benjamin wouldn't have killed me. Gah!

Please join me in a group pout. Better luck next time, I hope. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Colonial Revival: Revisiting Tradition in the 1930s

The Richmond, a Liberty Home by Lewis Manufacturing of Bay City, Mich., from a catalog published in 1939. From the web site Antique Home.
I'm a research geek. I'm also a history geek. So, it was only going to be a matter of time before I went all geeky on the history of my house, built in 1939.

Despite all the good stuff out there on the Internet, you'd be surprised what's NOT out there. So while I was able to pin down the label to stick on my house, which is 1930s Colonial Revival Cape Cod, it was less easy to find out a lot about the era, and WHY that architectural style was so popular with the masses during that time.

Mr. Man Friend, a cultural studies academic, was able to help track down a wonderful article, "The American Colonial Revival in the 1930s," by David Gebhard, published in the Winterthur Portfolio, 1987.

Here is what I learned from the article, as well as from my own on-line research.

By the 1930s, Colonial Revival was nothing new. In fact, elements of colonial style, including the Federal, Georgian, and even some Tudor elements (which borrow more heavily from the colonies' English heritage) were in the mix since the 1870s, when the country's first centennial of independence from England generated a higher level of interest in the colonial style.

The world also had the radically new in the 1920s and 1930s in the design movements of Art Deco:

I'm sure you're familiar: The Chrysler Building ca. 1929-30. Public Domain photo, Library of Congress.
...and then Streamline or Art Moderne, which was basically Art Deco with much of the ornamentation removed. By the mid- to late- 1930s, its design standards had filtered down to the basics of American life:

The Club Moderne Diner in Anaconda, Mont. Photo in the public domain, Historic American Building Survey.

A 1934 Chrysler Airflow, by Randy Sterns. A Wikimedia Commons Photo.

While Americans seemed to embrace those design movements in everything from their commercial buildings to their cars and diners, when it came to the homes they lived in, they just didn't go for it. Instead they went searching for elements of the country's past.