Saturday, October 18, 2014

IKEA Virgin No More

Until last week I had never been to an IKEA store. I have been aware of IKEA for years. I see so many bloggers posting about visits to IKEA and using IKEA products in their homes. And, I have enjoyed the eye candy in a few of their catalogs. I had been wanting to go to IKEA to see for myself what it's all about but with the nearest store 2 hours from where I live it wasn't all that easy. Until recently I was working 6 days a week most weeks and I didn't have time to go across town to Target much less make a 4-hour round trip to satisfy my IKEA curiosity.

We were on a long-weekend trip away from home and were close by so I had the opportunity to make my first visit to IKEA. I planned to have my husband to snap a picture of me outside the store to commemorate this momentous occasion but it was pouring down rain, so I took a few pictures inside the store just to prove that I had been there.

Here is the famous EKTORP sofa. This would fit well with my vintage, eclectic decor and the price is good but it's too large for our vehicle.

Another well-known IKEA product, BILLY bookcases. The quality seems a bit better than other build-it-yourself bookcases that are available and the option to add doors opens up so many possibilities. I can certainly see why they are so popular.

The navy and white fabric used for these curtains and pillows caught my eye. It reminds me of vintage book illustrations. Navy and white is a classic for a good reason. This is not a great picture but the pattern is called BLAVINGE and you can see it better on the IKEA website. I think they have ready-made pillows made out of this fabric and the fabric itself is available.

So for anyone else who has never been to IKEA here are a few things I learned about shopping at IKEA:

Give yourself plenty of time. We were in the store over 2 hours and we were just browsing and not doing any serious shopping. 

Eat before you start shopping. I knew they had a restaurant but I didn't know there was a snack bar near the entrance. If I had figured that out, I would have had a cinnamon roll or an ice cream cone to fortify me for the shopping. 

As you go through the displays make note of the location information of any item you are interested in buying, even the small items. In the display area all the items are tagged with the location where you will find them if you wish to buy them. We weren't buying any furniture or large items so I didn't make note of any of the location information as we were browsing. I assumed that it would be easy to find the small items that I wanted in the Marketplace area but it wasn't as easy as I expected. There is just so much and you might forget to look for something until you are halfway through the Marketplace when it's not easy to go back.

For the most part, the quality seems better than expected for the price. I had heard this but wanted to verify it for myself so in the future I know if it is worth making the 2-hour trip for something I am interested in.

Are you wondering what I bought? The only furniture we need is a new sofa and otherwise our house is really pretty full, so we limited ourselves to just a few practical things: an inexpensive rechargeable drill (because our's died a couple days before our trip), 79 cent dishtowels, a hanger for the iron, a strainer, and an umbrella. The only purely decorative item I bought was a lantern that holds a candle to use on the front porch. My husband picked up some light bulbs and batteries for his business. 

Although our purchases were on the boring side, I had a blast looking at everything. Even my husband, who usually hates to go to big stores, had fun (I think he did. If not, he was pretty convincing pretending to enjoy himself).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Farewell, Old Fridge

Our old refrigerator finally gave up after 20+ years of faithful service. It had been making a strange, loud noise for about 2 years, so it wasn't sudden or unexpected. I had been expecting its demise at anytime for the past couple years although my husband was of the opinion that the noise was just a vibration and nothing more serious. The old refrigerator served us well and it even had the decency to stop working when there was very little food inside. We had just returned from our vacation the night before and had pretty much eaten everything edible before we left.

We had been home for a couple hours when I noticed that it was no longer making the almost constant really loud noise that we had become accustomed to but was now making a different strange noise .

I said to the husband, "Have you noticed that the refrigerator has stopped making that loud noise? And, now it's making some other weird noise."

To which I received no response.

The next morning, I got up, went into the kitchen and opened up the freezer to get an English muffin. It was then that I noticed that there was water in the ice cube trays instead ice. A bad sign. I might or might not have said a bad word. I decided that the best response was to just go back to bed.

We were leaving again the next day, so I put off shopping for a replacement until this week and the new one was delivered today.

I haven't talked much about our house yet, but it is a small (under 1,000 square feet) cottage that was built around 1929. The size of the kitchen and the placement of the kitchen cabinets, as well as the size of the entry doors to the house really limited the available choices for a replacement fridge.

The old refrigerator and all of the other appliances are white, so I wanted to stick with white and that narrowed down my options even further because so many models were only available in stainless steel. Stainless steel is so popular and I have nothing against. If I was doing a whole kitchen I would likely choose it. My frugal ways prevent me from even considering replacing appliances that are still working and I want all the appliances to match so I'm sticking with white.

The other thing that really eliminated a lot of choices was the height that would fit under the existing cabinet. Evidently, refrigerators have been growing taller over the past 20 years and many would not fit under what was once a standard-height cabinet.

I ended up with a Whirlpool from Lowe's. It was on sale (not sure how often appliances are on sale but I felt lucky that both Lowe's and Home Depot had them on sale the very week I was shopping for one)  and there was free delivery and they took the old refrigerator for no extra charge (not sure if they always do this but it was great).

It's a pretty basic model but it fit through our front door and it fits in our kitchen and it should meet our needs, which are pretty simple--cold food, ice. Four days of living out of a cooler and shopping for groceries and ice every afternoon were enough. Glad to have all the modern conveniences again. So here it is in a quick cell phone photo, making the kitchen cabinets look decidedly less white.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pillows for the Porch

One of my current projects is to spruce up our front porch. The front porch is enclosed with windows that we keep open from spring through fall so that it functions as a screened porch. I didn't get started on the project in time for enjoying the spring weather this year but I did get the wicker furniture painted (you can read about that here) and back on the porch in time to take advantage of some lovely summer days and I hope to add some finishing touches just in time for fall.

After painting the wicker furniture and sewing some quick and easy cushions for it, I decided that some throw pillows were needed, both for comfort and for style. Since I have given myself a budget of around $100 for this project I went to my fabric stash to see what I could find to work with. I paired some vintage ticking stripe fabric for the fronts with a blue print on a red background for the back.

I was inspired by this photo of a pillow made out of ticking fabric that I found on Pinterest to turn the stripes in different directions. That simple idea really adds a lot of interest to what would otherwise be a pretty plain pillow.

For more inspiration follow Better Nesting on Pinterest.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Selecting Exterior Paint Colors Part 2: Craftsman-Style Cottage

As I mentioned in Selecting Exterior Paint Colors Part 1, I spent a lot of time agonizing over the selection of colors for the exterior of our house. An exterior paint job is not something that is quick, easy, or inexpensive to change if it is not right. And, I wanted it to be, well, perfect. I wanted charm and curb appeal.

Our house is a small Craftsman-style cottage that was built around 1929. It is in an urban neighborhood made up of houses of similar age and style built closely together. Our house had aluminum siding which was probably added in the late 1950's. About 10 years previously I had painted the aluminum siding and that paint job held up very well. Some wood trim was in need of a touch up but nothing more needed to be done until a wind storm came along and ripped part of the aluminum siding off the house.

After much deliberation we decided that the way to go would be to remove the aluminum siding and repair and repaint the original clapboards underneath. And, so began my odyssey to select the perfect color.

We started out with aluminum siding that had been painted Sherwin William's Bunglehouse Gray and Rookwood Terra Cotta. You can see in the "before" picture above that Bunglehouse Gray was more of a grayish, green on our house than it looks on the Sherwin Williams website. I liked that combination a lot but I was ready for a change and about the time we started planning for our new paint job the house catty corner across the street got a new paint job, which, as you can see below, was very close to our house's colors.

That sealed the deal for me. Our house needed a new exterior color scheme. Some of the things that I took into consideration when selecting the new colors were:

White storm windows--We planned to re-use the existing storm windows which were white. The outside frames can be easily freshened up with some white spray paint but changing the frames that hold the glass is much more difficult because the glass has to be covered and taped on both sides. A big job when you have 18 windows to deal with.

Landscaping--I had found it a challenge to coordinate the colors of flowers and blooming shrubs with the terra cotta colored trim. So many blooms are a shade of red or pink that clashed with the orange-toned trim. It wanted to be able to use those colors in the front landscaping.

Style of the house--Since the Craftsman-style takes inspiration from nature, appropriate colors are earth tones. With the aluminum siding removed, it was apparent that the house had originally been painted white with white trim and black window sashes. I wanted to bring out some architectural details that we found under the aluminum siding, like cedar shingles in the gables and exposed rafter tails. I knew that all-white wouldn't accomplish that and since the house had never been an authentic Craftsman color I didn't really feel bound to an earth tone. 

Size of the house--Our house is a true cottage with the square footage coming in under 1,000. Common wisdom is that a dark color can make a house look smaller. So, while I did end up choosing a dark color, I had the cedar shingles in the front gables painted a lighter color to highlight them and to draw the eye upward. When I finally show the completed "after" pictures (I am still working on painting window sashes) you can see if you think that worked to make the house look taller. 

Other houses in the neighborhood--In the end this was my biggest influence/consideration in choosing the colors. 

While I was debating over my paint colors there was a flurry of painting going on in the neighborhood. Our next door neighbors painted their house a nice earthy tan and brownish, gray. Across the street the house got a coat of dark gray and right next door to that they went with light gray. So gray was out, as were various tans which are also well-represented up and down the street.

I had just about made up my mind to go with a clearer (without the gray) light green and went so far as to bring home a sample when I realized that it was a very close match to a house down the street. Not only was the color nearly the same but that house was originally the same house plan as ours. I am not a copycat, so the light green was eliminated, as were several other shades of green around our neighborhood.

The house on the other side of ours is yellow and the house next door to that is an eye-catching (in a good way) red, so red and yellow were also out. After eliminating all those colors, I kept arriving at blue. 

I spent hours looking at inspiration photos. Porter PPG Paints (which is our painters' brand of choice) has a great tool on their website which lets you upload a picture and color match it to their paint. As it turned out, most of my inspiration photos were blues that had a lot of green in them. After flipping through the paint deck over and over, I finally narrowed it down to 3 slightly different blues. I purchased 1-quart samples of my 3 favorites and using sheets of foam core board I made large paint chips that I could move around and try out on each side of the house.

As you can see, the 3 finalists were very close and I am not even sure which one is which in this photo. My final choice was Baritone for the main body of the house. I know that the paint store can color match colors from other brands, but it was easier to select from Porter's color deck since that was the brand the painters were using and they had a huge selection to choose from. So many that it was difficult to narrow it down to the final selection.

After making my agonizing choice, I proceeded to try the color out on the garage (we hired painters for the house but to save some money I decided to do the garage myself) and I just about panicked. It was soooo blue. And, so much darker and brighter than it had looked in my sample. After a few days, it really grew on me and I began to feel confident in my choice.

You are probably wondering how it turned out. I am saving the final reveal for another post because I am still working on the window sashes, which I also decided to do myself to reduce the expense a bit. Today the temperature here is 93 degrees with 53% humidity, feels like 102 degrees, so I am not getting any painting done but I will give you a sneak peek.

Come back later for the final reveal of our exterior painting. I will talk about removing aluminum siding, scraping old paint, and why we chose to hire out for the major portion of the work. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Selecting Exterior Paint Colors Part 1 : A Few Things to Consider

This time last year I was agonizing over selecting exterior paint colors for our house. I didn't just want our house to have a fresh coat of paint. I wanted it to have curb appeal and be memorable. I wanted it to stick out in  the neighborhood, in a good way. Paint costs the same no matter what color, so I wanted to get the most bang for my paint bucks.

Here are some of the things I learned about selecting exterior paint colors:

1. Think about the color of features of the house that are not easy to change, such as the roof or brick. Unless you are considering painting the brick or replacing the roof sometime soon, it's a good idea to pick a color that compliments or blends with the colors of those existing features.

2. Consider the style or architecture of the house. A Victorian cottage might look adorable in a color that wouldn't be appropriate for a Cape Cod or a ranch.

3. Don't forget the landscaping. If you have a profusion of pink bushes and flowers in your front yard, some colors might clash. The same colors can look different depending on whether your yard has shade or bright sun.

4. What are the colors of  other houses in the neighborhood? You don't want to clash or completely blend in, so make sure to take a look at your next door neighbors' houses. And, don't be a copycat. Inspiration is one thing but outright copying a close neighbor's colors can lead to hard feelings.

5. The accepted wisdom is that dark colors can make a house look smaller and light colors can make a house look larger. Also, dark colors recede and light colors advance.

6. A rule of thumb about using different colors on the top and bottom of the house is that a dark color on the lower part of the house will ground it. A dark color on the upper part will make it look shorter.

7. Where you live can play a role in color selection. Colors that are appropriate for the beach, woods, a suburban neighborhood, or an urban, historic district vary.

Are you wondering which of these paint colors are the ones I ended up selecting? None of these. These are some exterior color combinations from around my neighborhood. To find out what I chose, you will need to read Selecting Exterior Paint Colors Part 2 : Craftsman-Style Cottage.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Before and After: Quick Update of Wicker Furniture

One of the projects that I have been working on this summer is a re-do of our front porch. I want to, mostly, use furniture and accessories that I already have and spend no more than $100 in total for the porch makeover.

Years ago when I first bought the house I considered looking for vintage wicker for the front porch but opted instead for a 3-piece set (settee and 2 chairs) from, if I remember correctly, Walmart.

The new set had some advantages over vintage wicker. It was easily obtainable. I was able to walk right into store and purchase it, as opposed to searching through flea markets, antique malls, yard sales, etc. It was a small scale that worked on the small porch. And, I was worried that something more valuable could be stolen off the porch.

Fast forward a bunch of years. I still have 2 of the 3 pieces. One chair broke and was discarded long ago. The remaining chair and settee are looking pretty dirty (although they have been scrubbed down and hosed off many times) and somewhat worse for the wear.

I want to spruce up the porch and for the same reasons that I bought this wicker set in the first place, I want to give it a quick, cheap make over with some paint and new cushions and re-use it. After considering some bolder color options, I decided to go with traditional white paint.

After giving the furniture a good scrubbing with soap and water, I hosed it off and let it dry thoroughly before painting. I knew that the unpainted wicker would really soak up a lot of paint, so I started with a spray primer and then followed with regular white spray paint.

I also sewed some simple cushions since the last set was long gone. To do the cushions I made a quick pattern by tracing the shape of the seats onto paper. Using the pattern I made, I cut out the top and bottom of the cushions. I sewed them together with the right sides of the fabric facing each other, left a opening, turned them inside out, pressed, stuffed with fiberfill, and then sewed up the opening. Nothing fancy, but they do the job.

Total expenditure on this project = $53.68

Spray primer and paint was $25.68. I made a note of the amount but not of how many cans of paint I bought. It was 2 cans of primer and either 3 or 4 cans of regular spray paint. I really could have use a bit more paint but I concentrated on the fronts which will be seen and figured that to keep the white paint looking fresh they will need to be repainted often anyway.

2 1/2 yards of fabric and 1 large box of fiberfill was $28, exactly, from Hancock Fabrics. The fabric and the fiberfill were both on sale and I had a coupon from completing an online customer survey. This was enough fabric and filling to make the cushions for wicker settee and chair as well as another chair that will be used on the porch).

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer In a Bowl: Tomato and Cucumber Salad

This simple salad of tomato, cucumber, and onion says summer to me. It is a quick and easy way to use fresh summer produce from the garden or farmers' market. And, it's the perfect for a picnic or a pitch-in. It's so easy that an actual recipe is not required.

You will need: tomato, cucumber, onion, cider vinegar, and sugar. To make about 6 servings I used 1 cucumber, 2 medium tomatoes, 1 onion, 1/2 cup vinegar, and 1/2 cup sugar. To make larger quantities, just remember to use equal parts vinegar to sugar for the dressing.

Combine vinegar and sugar in a small sauce pan. Heat it enough to bring it to a boil and melt the sugar into the vinegar.

While the vinegar/sugar mixture is cooling, peel the onion. Peeling the tomato and cucumber is up to you. I always peel my tomatoes just because I come from a family that peels their tomatoes. Whether or not I peel the cucumber really depends on the individual cucumber and this one had beautiful, thin skin, so I left it on.

Chop the onion, cucumber, and tomato into whatever size is pleasing to you. I would call this medium, with the tomatoes and cucumbers in about 1 inch pieces and the onion a bit smaller. When one of my mom's friends used to make this salad she would dice everything to about 1/2 inch.  I have also seen it made with much larger pieces of tomatoes and sliced cucumber and onion.,

Pour the cooled vinegar/sugar mixture over the veggies and stir. It's best if you have time to chill before eating. It will keep well in the refrigerator, so you can make it a day or so ahead of time.