Monday, April 29, 2013

The Other Half: Trimming a Lamp Shade

Hey everybody! After last Friday's half-post about my intentions to gussy up a plain lamp shade, I almost didn't get the second half done this weekend either, even though I promised.

After tons of wet, cold, even snowy weather in April, we finally had one of those stunning spring weekends--sunshine, mild temps, gentle breezes. We had to go the local Lowe's check out the outdoor stuff. After a dreary and long winter, we couldn't resist taking a few things home. Ben is going to try growing tomatoes in a pot this year:

And Joe insisted we bring home these lilies, because the color was "so cool." I agree:

But Sunday morning I had a bad case of First Day of Spring Garden Work-itis, sore muscles everywhere (hell-O abdominals) and decided that I could handle one indoor project.

Last Friday I showed you my 1960s era green ceramic genie lamp, with the shade that is just fine but could use a little something.

Just a few tools for this job-- hot glue gun, we meet again. 

When trimming a lamp shade, start at the seam, so all the least attractive parts of the lamp shade are all in one place and can be turned against the wall:

The key to doing this well is doing just an inch or two at a time. Don't spread hot glue around the entire shade and then start slapping on big lengths of trim. It doesn't work. Use as little glue as possible to make it work, so the braid doesn't end up soaked through with glue and embalmed in plastic (not a good look).

My cuticles and fingernails trashed by garden work: also not a good look. 

Looking nice, I think: 

At the seam, some people prefer to leave a short extra length and fold under. With some types of flat or thin trim, that will work. But this braided trim is a bit bulky, so I've chosen to cut it cleanly with the exact edge of the start, and butt the two ends together. It takes a little extra glue to get all the ends fastened down, but I think it's a relatively clean look:

After doing the top in the same way, it looks like this:

Here is the shade, in its habitat:

Now the before again:

And after:

To me, the trim not only made the shade seem less bare and plain, it also seemed to make the shade more balanced and in proportion in relation to the lamp as well. I'm not sure why this is, but I'm enjoying the improved effect.

I have one more lamp shade to cover in this living room, but I'm still thinking over the strategy for the unusual shape. It's for the little lamp at the other end of the sofa:

For me these projects take a little time to gel in my mind before I go forward. The last lamp shade took me two years to finish. I wonder how long this next one will take.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Half Post About a Half Lampshade Project

I didn't start out intending to break a simple post about a simple lamp shade upgrade into two parts. It's really not that big of a deal. It was getting to it that was the hard part. One of those weeks where I find myself washing dishes at midnight, still wearing office clothes.

My living room is the least offensive room in the house in terms of what the previous owners did to it. That said, it still needs paint, curtains, some electrical, and art hung on the walls. But it's good enough, and has taken a back seat to rooms in worse shape.

I'm in pretty good shape with living room furniture, and that is the positive that earned this room back seat status. I have a good leather sofa, some vintage tables and credenza, and three vintage lamps. This genie style green lamp is probably my favorite of all the lighting I own.

I am smitten by its green glaze and curvy shape:

It's pretty tall, so finding a shade that worked with it was nearly impossible. I found a shape that worked but that was covered in those fussy grandma's house mini-pleats. I bought it anyway and cut the mini-pleats off. That left me with a plain white shade. Some spray adhesive and some cussing later, I had covered it with an unbleached muslin that had brown flecks in the weave:

I thought the natural, slightly rustic fabric was more in keeping with the lamp's era than a plain white tailored (or pleated) shade. That was about 2 years ago. But I always thought it looked a bit plain.

It needed braid trim, but nothing new looked right. So I waited. Then I happened upon just the right thing in enough yardage from Etsy.

The package was beautifully wrapped, but the inner six-year-old me got ahead of the camera-wielding blogger me:

Trust me, it was gorgeous. Bad, greedy, girl.

It's from a Bristol, England Etsy shop called Pouch, and you can hook up with the link right here. Pouch sells bags, pillows, adorable little stuffed animals, and vintage trims. While there were others trims that made me feel all crafty and want to order more, this was the one perfect for my lamp. Yes, restraint is hard:

......And this is where your half post ends, my blog friends. I am sorry. My durings and afters just didn't get shot. We are predicted to have a gorgeous weekend, which means lots of good lighting for photography projects. I'll be back on Monday with the afters.

In the meantime, I offer the consolation of spring, which has finally arrived in the Midwest (I think). Or at least in my front yard.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Letting Go of Stuff (and Feelings) Post-Divorce

What happens to possessions after divorce is not something that gets blogged about, it seems. Blog World seems to be full of shinily newly married couples (And bless them, truly. This isn't me being bitter.) and people excitedly boasting about thrift finds or getting rid of their starter sofa or sewing up new curtains. All those things are about the sense of newness and of possibility that our possessions make us feel. Even the blogging that goes on about reducing possessions is more about fresh starts and an improved quality of life. Divorce and stuff--- that's more about an end, the kind of end nobody wants to think about, and yet happens to so many.

Divorce is splitting apart a life, and the hard word itself sounds like the knife for doing so. It's an ugly thing. There's no getting around the emotions involved, only through them. Often, belongings from the marriage are along for that ride too.

I'm still dealing with those feelings three years later; and with the stuff, the possessions that were a part of my once-marriage.

It's so cliche it's the fodder for soap operas and celebrity news and neighborhood gossip-- the divorces where the estranged couple fight and scheme and wrestle for every last penny, every appliance, every inch of territory their lawyers can either conquer or cede.

It's true, though the reality is mostly less sordid and more complicated than the cliches. It is in no small part about the stuff-- the stuff we claimed as ours alone, the stuff we shared, the stuff we argued about when married, and the stuff we argued about as we were packing boxes for our strange and unfamiliar new lives, separate from one another.

Some of this emotional territory was surprisingly easy for me. I walked away from dishes I'd used every day of my 18 years of marriage, realizing I didn't really ever like them that much. Of course it was easy to walk away from his clutter. I clung to certain kitchen items like they were cherished pets, but didn't take any tools or lawn care equipment; in divorce we acted on the traditional roles that had also strained our marriage. We didn't fight about it, really, which is I think also typical of the relationship we had. Confrontation of any kind was always considered a bad thing, and that avoidance ended up costing us the entire marriage in the end.

Other items were more fraught. I sobbed while I divided the children's books--some for my household, some for his. It was fair, but heartbreaking. It was important to me to be the one to do it, and yet I resented being left with a task that felt like ripping my babies' childhood into pieces.

In the middle of all this sifting of household objects I somehow, against my will even, ended up with our bedroom furniture. It's a lovely three-piece set from the 1930s, walnut and mahogany, with a chest of drawers, a vanity dresser with mirror, and a four-poster bed. I always adored them.

I'm not sure why I accepted them. I came to the house we once shared and found the pieces unceremoniously stacked in the living room. At the time I was furious about everything. I wanted nothing more than to break up the furniture with my bare hands and set fire to it in the front yard. That wouldn't have gained me anything, except maybe an arson and malicious destruction of property charge. With every fiber of my being quaking I got them transferred, one piece at a time in my minivan, to the new house. And took them straight to the basement storage room. I could hardly bear to look at them.

I learned over time not to make certain decisions in the first waves of grief, fury and stress of my new life. I had children who were hurting and adjusting, a career that now had to support me waiting, and the responsibilities of owning an older home. Those were things that could not gather dust. The dressers could. So there they sat, in a darkened basement. Sometimes I drew my finger over their dirty tops, thinking how pretty they had once looked in the sunshine of our shared bedroom. And then I'd tromp upstairs to the dinner cooking on the stove, or the garden waiting for water, and work on forming this new life.

I thought over time that I could possibly make my peace with them; I thought I might regret getting rid of them. The hesitation was natural I thought, because they were also a symbol of better times. I remember finding the set in an antique shop downtown in our small village in Michigan. It was "under" the Christmas tree on a particularly crazy holiday morning. Our then two small boys squealed through the contents of their stockings while we navigated, laughing, around the dressers standing in the living room. He had surprised me with them. It was a lovely day.

I think that's why they stayed on for as long as they did. I still thought they were lovely. But every time I considered lugging them upstairs to my bedroom, I shook my head. I still wasn't ready to let them back into my everyday life. Would I ever be?

It's not true of everything left from our marriage. I have a set of 1920s dining room chairs that I am keeping, because they hold good memories of many, many family meals shared while our children were little. But the bedroom furniture was a physical representation of all that I had gained and lost in 18 years of my life with another person. Years I couldn't have back. Years I walked away from (because in the end it was I who decided to leave). They held memories not only of my former bedroom but also that inner, private existence, the one that no one but the couple knows, the one that had crumbled from within.

It took me years to realize, but now I know. I cannot keep them, cannot use them again. They are still, nevertheless, as lovely as I ever thought them.

Perhaps I risk sounding like I believe these pieces of furniture are animate objects with feelings; but it seems unfair to keep them around, banished to the basement and punished for being a reminder of past hurts. It was too much to pack into those drawers. They deserved a better life, just like I had decided that I did when I left my marriage. If I had the courage to do that for myself, I ought to have the courage to do it for the stuff that no longer belongs on my journey.

The dressers and the four-poster are now upstairs, in my dining room, awaiting delivery to a consignment shop. I don't worry so much about getting them sold, or for how much. I know they'll be a part of someone else's happy memories, and that's a better life for them. Instead of lurking in my basement as a reproach, I'll associate my memories of them with making peace, letting go, and looking forward. Considering where I started three years ago, I'll consider it progress.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pondering Paint

I feel like I'm always late for everything. This includes preparing for painting the exterior of the house, and boy does it need it. There is chipping and peeling going on everywhere. It cannot wait another summer. Here it is April, and I don't have my act together.

In many respects I'm looking forward to it. I've said it before, but I hate the makeup beige color with a passion. Here's a photo from April 2011, before we took possession:

Also, the shutters are missing from the house. I found them in the garage, which is a very, very good thing.

A shutterless Cape Cod is like a face without eyebrows-- I think it looks naked and weird. I want color and some personality returned to her. (I keep calling the house Ruth in my mind. Is that strange?)

There are several factors involved in my preparations. Being post-divorce and a new homeowner is sort of a double whammy. There is lots of equipment I don't have, and so investing in tools will be part of the cost of this paint job. My sister and brother-in-law loaned me a siding sander power tool gadget that will help immensely. I have scrapers. But I don't have a ladder. I'll need to rent or borrow scaffold at certain points. Small pieces of window trim need to be replaced and I'm pretty sure that means an air pressure nailer, which I would like anyway, but perhaps I should look into renting.

In addition, I'll need masks and disposable drop cloths in case we are dealing with lead paint, and with a house this old we most certainly are. I don't want flakes migrating into the soil.

I've experimented with a few different color schemes for the house, including white with green shutters (classic scheme for a Cape Cod) and even some fairly bright ones (light blue with white trim, apple green shutters, and yellow door). But I keep returning to this detail of the house:

It's hard to accurately photographically reproduce the colors in the brick foundation of the house, but they are lovely. Warm orangey red, olive green, a light taupe-y green, a sort of flat mustard, and a gray-brown. The brick faces have a kind of glaze to them that is really attractive. The current color, the slightly pinkish beige, fights with the brick and makes the whole house ugly. It would be tempting to some people, I think, to paint the brick instead of dealing with the siding color. I'm so glad the brick survived unscathed all these years

With the brick in mind, these are the colors I've chosen:

For the siding:

Color Source: My Perfect Color

Valspar Homestead Resort Pale Olive

For the trim:

Color Source: My Perfect Color

Valspar City Arboretum

For the front door (I love this part!):

Color Source: My Perfect Color
Valspar Cinnamon Cake. I love the name and the color.

I'm still in the air about the shutter color. I'd originally chosen a fairly dark gray-brown:

Color Source: My Perfect Color
Valspar Tree Trunk (another name I love)

Despite the fact the window trim will remain white, it still seemed too dark. So now I'm pondering a biscuity-yellow color for a lighter look:

Color Source: My Perfect Color
Valspar Redstone Dining Room Gold

So, while shutter colors are still up in the air (and I'm open for suggestions), I'll need to get supplies soon. I don't think anybody enjoys scraping siding, but it's 90 percent of a good paint job. I'll have to console myself that every paint flake gets me closer to the blessed end of the pinky beige. The fun will start by May!

Friday, April 12, 2013

We're On a (Toilet Paper) Roll

I'll let readers know up front this is going to be a lengthy post about a relatively simple do-it-yourself task.

As a beginner in almost everything except painting and some light carpentry, I depend on the internet and Youtube tutorials to at least give me an idea of what I'm getting into. 

I not only want to read directions, I want directions to my directions. 

But for this, installing a recessed toilet paper holder, I found....pretty close to nothing. And what I did find assumed that viewers or readers knew their way around, well, everything. So they left a lot of steps out. I found this frustrating. Perhaps I lack self-confidence. Perhaps I tend to over-prepare because I'm afraid of making a dumb mistake. But if I'm going to be cutting into a wall, for pete's sake, please show me everything. 

A recessed toilet paper holder necessitates, first, removing the vestiges of the old toilet paper holder. Which I may or may not have ripped off the wall in a fit of temper (ahem). Surface mounted holders are attached to the wall with tiny screws on the underside to the mounting plate underneath. Tiny pocket screwdrivers are handy if you have them and so is a flashlight. Metal nail files work. Or the pointed tip of a knife. I'm all about the ninja skills. Then remove the mounting plate, and those annoying screw anchors.

To install a recessed toilet paper holder, you need to know where the studs are, in this case so you can avoid them. I purchased a stud finder for this task and was all geeked to play with my new toy: 

But then discovered that sometimes your 18-year-old son is just as geeked and you come home to find this has already happened: 

True story. It's like having project gnomes. 

I marked on the wall where I thought the holder should go, slightly below where the old one was mounted. The directions said to mark a 5 1/4 inch square on the wall, and I did, with a level. Then I got to thinking: 

Is there a standard measurement for this sort of thing? There is. Standards call for toilet paper dispensers to the side of the toilet to be mounted at least 8 inches from the front edge of the toilet and 26 inches from the floor. That's marked by the X on the right sticky note. Just to compare, I stuck an X on a sticky note where I had already marked the square. Don't ask me why the sticky notes. Like I hadn't just drawn right on the wall? Who knows. Maybe I thought I'd be moving those X's around a lot. I'm nearly punch drunk by 11 p.m., and that's when I was doing this. 

I decided I didn't want my toilet paper holder that low. I have little boys who stand and pee. Don't make me spell out the risks for you here. Let's just say I wanted my paper roll high and dry. But I also didn't want it to be further out from the toilet, because it seemed "reachy" from the seat on the throne. So, I decided my original instincts were correct. 

The next night I was ready for surgery. I lined up my level (mostly just to double check my work, but you can use any straight edge) with my markings and used a box cutter to cut along the lines: 

In this I want to be careful to "stay on the lines" just like they taught me tracing in kindergarten. This cuts the paper layer of the drywall so I don't tear it when I saw out the square the holder is going to fit into. 

I used the largest drill bit I had for Dorothy (which in my case is 1/4 inch) to drill some holes near, but still inside, the line of the square. This is so I can get the saw inside the drywall. 

I used a keyhole saw to saw out the drywall square. It's important to get a little on the inside of the line that I drew, to allow for the width of the cut. That's called the "kerf." My blade wasn't really very fine-bladed, so my kerf was pretty big, and so I had to cut that much further away from the line. 

This is where I sorta goofed. My saw was a big dude, and though I was trying to cut as shallowly as I could, I sawed through the vapor barrier in the insulation. Oops: 

This did not seem like a good idea to me, especially in a humid room like a bathroom. So I patched it with some plastic sheeting and plastic shipping tape (it was what I had): 

Now for the hardware!

A recessed toilet paper holder has two parts. The first is an interior piece that braces the fixture to the wall. The photo below shows the backside of the interior piece:  

and the front piece that mounts to the wall, the "business end," if you will. In the photo below the two pieces have been loosely put together with the screws that hold it all in place. The view is from the side: 

The interior piece was placed into the hole top end first: 

I pushed it up into the wall far enough that that I could get the bottom end in behind the drywall on the bottom edge:

Once the back plate was completely inside the wall, I needed to position the toilet paper holder's exterior part with the level again: 

Holding it in place, I tightened both screws until the backplate and the exterior piece are firmly clamped to the drywall. I checked for level a couple of times as I went: 

And ta-DAH: 

Sparkles always appear when you finish a project like this. It's true.

Another one crossed off the list:

10 Mini Projects for the Bathroom

1. Upgrade the cabinet hardware.
2. Grout the floor.
3. Paint
4. Replace the light fixture
5. Replace the mirror
6. Replace the toilet paper holder.
7. Replace the shower curtain rod.
8. Add art and decorative items.
9. Replace counter top.
10. Replace sink and faucet

Next up: the cabinet hardware and the shower curtain rod.

Photo credit for any photo in this post that shows both my hands: Noah, my 13-year-old. He already knows how to humor his crazy mother by taking photos in the can. He thought it was a hoot.