Thursday, December 22, 2011

I can't believe I did it!

When I posted about Christmas crafts a few weeks ago, I really didn't think I'd get to any of them.

I'm happy to report that I've got a few finished products to show off!

First of all, I finished the yarn wreath that I never thought I'd finish.  It was really only a matter of gluing on the leafy/branch thing, but I did it, and I am happy with the outcome.  The funny thing is, I started it over a year ago, and at the time we hadn't yet wallpapered our dining room.  So I had no idea how close the colour scheme was to the wallpaper we put up in May.  It's almost like camouflage.

Next up, I created a whole slew of snow globes a-la-Anthropologie.  I had some delays on these, because I had to purchase new lids for all the jars (the lids that came with the jars said Classico all over them).  Also, I found that everything I put in the jar was hiding behind the neck of the jar.  It took me awhile to come up with a solution, but I eventually boosted the lids up in height with some corrugated cardboard covered in cotton batting.  I also used cardboard platforms to vary the heights and positioning of the trees.

I love the one that I created with the little fawn.

These jars look very sweet mixed with a few jars holding just tealight candles - it definitely gives it a magical, glistening appearance.

And one thing I'm most proud of, is the new stockings I made for Matt and I.  In-keeping with my current love for all things buffalo-plaid, I made one with the red buffalo plaid, and another with a white variation.

The cuffs are black velvet, they are lined with coordinating gingham, and I even figured out how to add cute pom-pom trim.  I am pretty proud of myself for starting AND finishing these so quickly, and it really warmed me up to my sewing machine too.  Now I can't wait to try more sewing projects!

And I should mention the napkins I was so determined to make:

I will admit.... there just happened to be a great sale on at the Bay, and for less than $2.50 each, I couldn't resist buying 8 of these plaid napkins... So okay, I cheated on these, but how great are they!?  They totally fit the bill.

So there you have it!  I didn't think this post would even exist.  Thanks to all you other crafty bloggers and "Pinners" who were so inspiring!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I'm dreaming of a new bedroom

When we moved into our house, we had two Queen-size beds between the two of us.  One is simply a frame with no headboard or anything really, so it went to the guest room in the basement.  The other is an IKEA Malm bed with the attached night tables.  My thinking was that the retro look of it suited the house, and it would be okay for our bedroom.

Well, we've been living with it for over a year now, and I hate it.  It just really brings me no joy at all.  I hate how low the headboard is, and the bed itself is only knee-high too. I just feel that the whole room feels cold, stubby, and unwelcoming.

So I've had it in my head for months now, that I would like a taller, upholstered headboard.  I hope it will soften the room a bit. 

I also want to replace the night tables with some new tables (or new-old tables) that allow you to see the floor, and the wall behind.  The tables attached to the Malm really block off the wall, and I prefer a more open look.

This room that I came across is almost exactly what I have in mind:

I love the dark accent wall and the white night table.  The bed looks a lot like a bed I liked at Crate & Barrel.

I love the bold yellow colour of this one at Urban Outfitters:

But I would worry that the colour would be too limiting over time.  So I am more likely to stick to a neutral colour.

I am also drawn to beds with a wing-back look to them, or some sort of wrap-around headboard.  I can just imagine cuddling up in the corner of this one (from Restoration Hardware) with cozy pillows and a good book:

West Elm also has a version, albeit boxier:

And even Sears has a version:

But my #1 contender at this point (for availability in Canada, fit, and budget), is the "Scroll" headboard from West Elm.  In the US there are tons of choices for colour and fabrics.  In Canada we're limited to a Dove Grey velvet or Natural basketweave, and I'd be happy with either!

Again, I love the dark accent wall - I'm thinking slate grey for us.  And I also love the white night table.  For those, I'm considering doing some Kijiji/Craigslist refurbishments - I'm always so inspired by the finished products I see on others' blogs.

And I can't WAIT to choose bedding.  I have a serious love for bedding... that will have to be a whole other post on its own.

As I understand it, the Malm bed can't be attached to a standard headboard.  So I'm on the hunt for a new affordable bed frame. I'd like the bed to be a bit higher than the one we currently have.  And I prefer a platform bed with space for storage underneath.  My only other criteria is that it needs to be visually appealing without a bed skirt.  I don't mind bed skirts, but I like the option of not having to use one.  Anyone have any suggestions where I should start my search for a cheap bed frame that meets all the criteria? excuse me, but after all this talk about beds, I think I'll go visit mine!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Christmas tree that tells a story

Every year I am so inspired by the many beautiful Christmas trees I see in other people's houses, in stores, and on websites and blogs.  There are so many varying colour combinations, themes, and techniques used for decorating, that leave me totally in awe.

I spend a little time every year pondering whether I could do this in my own home.  But in the end, I always decide it's not for me.

My tree is a smorgsborg of ornaments collected over the years, a mismatch of old coloured lights, new LED lights, random bows and garlands, and just a general eclectic display of stuff.  I feel like if I replaced these with a new theme or colour combo, I would be missing out on all the tradition that my tree holds.  My tree tells a story.

On our recent trip to New York, we saw an exhibit at the Guggenheim by artist Maurizio Cattelan.  For lack of ability to explain it myself, I've copied a description from the Guggenheim's website:

"The exhibition brings together virtually everything the artist has produced since 1989 and presents the works en masse, strung seemingly haphazardly from the oculus of the Guggenheim’s rotunda. Perversely encapsulating Cattelan’s career to date in an overly literal, three-dimensional catalogue raisonnĂ©, the installation lampoons the idea of comprehensiveness."

As we circled the Guggenheim, our eyes were constantly finding something new to look at, and each piece of the exhibit contributed in a unique way to the overall artistic display and the story it tells. 

Not to get too deep and analytical about my Christmas tree, but I can't help but think it's a little bit similar! 

In some ways, the story told is a bit of a joke.  For instance, I have many ornaments, which I bought  on sale, and in bulk at drug stores and department stores the first year that I lived on my own.  My tree wasn't huge, but I had to fill it up!  The cheap plastic and glitter ornaments represent that early stage of my ownership, where quality is compromised and money is definitely an issue!  While I may someday phase a number of these out, I think a few token ones will have to remain as a reminder!

This was a gift from a friend, also during my first year living on my own.  It totally reminds me of what I thought it would be like to be a young, single girl living on her own - except I ended up meeting my husband ONE week after I moved in!  I wasn't single for long!

This one was a gift from my parents when I was a teenager.  It hung on their tree for years, but now has a home on my tree:

There are also a number of other ornaments on my tree that I stole from my parents' tree, which have been around since I was a little kid.

I also have a collection of balls similar to these, which my now-husband started buying the first year we were dating. Each has our names and the year on it.

This year, on our trip to New York, we bought two ornaments to remind us of our trip. I'll always remember that these are from the first year we were married.

As a whole, my tree is definitely not as stunning as so many others' I've seen.  But the beauty of the tree in my opinion, is that it tells a story, and reminds me of so many other Christmases and traditions over the years.  I can't wait to see what else accumulates in the years to come!

P.S. For more beautiful trees, check out the Link Party at Thrifty Decor Chick!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Working 9-5 on the Office Planning

After a lot of non-progress, I'm finally making some progress with the new built-in office plans.  It is surprisingly difficult to find exactly the right cabinets to fit the space.

My criteria is:
  • Enough storage under the desk to hold an array of things, and the size has to also accommodate file folders. 
  • Metal feet/legs on the cabinets under the desk, rather than sitting right on the floor.  This way, if we ever DO have a water issue again, the cabinets won't have water-damaged bases.  Also, it would be far easier to see if we had a problem again if the furniture is off the floor, making the floor visible.
  • Desk surface about 28-29" off the floor.  30" max.
  • Cabinets above the desk, flanking either side.  But these shouldn't be very deep, to keep the room feeling open.
  • Overhead, between the two top cabinets, I'd like open shelving, just for books and other accents, to add some visual interest.
I started my search at 
Ikea: the only office furniture that was really working for the plans, was the Effektiv systems.  I loved that these have a metal foot option, and file drawer inserts.  However, cabinets at either side would have to be either 21" high for one set, or 37" high for two sets.  Too low and too high to have the desk extend over the cabinets.  We could just have a desk surface between the tall cabinets, but I prefer the long look of the desk reaching the entire length of the room.
I also had a look at their kitchen cabinetry, but none of the base cabinets are less than 30" high, so I wouldn't be able to add feet without going too high.

Next stop:
Home Depot: The good news was that they have base cabinets of many different heights, and I could get some low enough to add metal feet.  The bad news was, after sitting with a consultant and pricing out the configuration with some of the least expensive finishes, the price came in at over $3000!!! For just a few cabinets?!  How do people afford to do entire kitchens with nice finishes?  There goes THAT item off my Home Wish List!
On the way home from Home Depot, I stopped at the local
Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  I got this idea from the wise folks over at Young House Love.  (I am a little jealous of how perfectly their office turned out).  Unfortunately, the ReStore near us had little to choose from, and I don't think I have the energy or dedication to check on an ongoing basis.  
I have a number for a custom cabinet maker, so I considered calling him... but the price of standard cabinets at Home Depot ruled out the custom option.  The same goes for some of the custom closet companies, who also do built-in office furniture.  I'm ruling them out before I waste their time.
I decided to revisit Ikea.   This time I walked through the entire store, examining kitchens, offices, even bathroom vanities, in an effort to find SOMETHING in my price point that might work.
I must have been in a better mindset that day, because I discovered two very viable options!

One is "BESTA".  I stood at their planning computers, and drew up the whole plan:  It's on feet, it has filing inserts, there are lots of different finishes available, and it's Ikea pricing!  It's a dream.

But then it got even better.

I stopped at the kitchen department on my way out, and on a whim I asked one of the staff members "just to confirm, you don't have any base cabinets less than 30" high.... do you?"  And she gave me the answer I've been looking for for weeks:  I can take the 24"-high over-the-fridge cabinet and add feet to that.  That would get me 28" of height plus the desk, which would bring me within my 28"-30" range!!  Amen!!  The over-the-fridge cabinets come in two different widths, and at 24" deep, provide lots of storage - big enough to hold some Banker's Boxes of files.  I can also choose from tons of different overhead options in coordinating finishes.  Some only 12" deep, which is what I'm leaning towards.
At home, suddenly so overwhelmed by my options, I decided the only way to narrow it down was to use my Dad's old method of to-scale plans with moving parts.  I cut out all the cabinet options (using different colours for backgrounds to indicate the various depths), and played around with them on paper.  I think we've almost got our plans in place!!

The desk surface itself is also a search in progress.  My only criteria for that, is that it can't look too kitchen-y, but also not too corporate, since this will be in the family room.  In my opinion, this pretty much rules out granite and other stone, and leaves only laminate or wood as options.  If we go with laminate, it will have to be a fairly simple, non-stone looking pattern.

I'm not wowed by any of these options.  But I'm liking the look/idea of wood...

A contender at Home Depot... I wouldn't love it for an upscale
kitchen, but for a basement office, it might do the trick.
Stay tuned, we're making headway!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

'Tis the Season... to buy tenants gifts?

With the holidays upon us, and my Christmas shopping in full swing, I have been thinking about our tenant, and wondering whether it is appropriate to give them a small gift of good tiding.

My thinking is that our tenant has been very agreeable thus far, and prompt with rent, so we would like to show our appreciation with just a small token.  This is a time of year where my workplace is flooded with gift baskets, boxes of chocolate, and bottles of wine, all sent to us by other companies trying to maintain a good business relationship.  I feel it would be a similarly nice gesture to foster the tenant-landlord relationship. 

I am fairly certain that our tenant celebrates Christmas, but I don't want to make that assumption and buy a Christmas-specific gift.  I tend to lean towards more consumable/practical gifts, since I really can't predict personal tastes. 

Some of the ideas I've thought of so far, are:
  • Box of chocolates
  • Movie passes
  • Bottle of wine - unsure whether the tenant drinks though
  • Tin of Kernel's popcorn
What do you think of these ideas?  Which would you personally choose, if you had a choice?  I'm open to other suggestions as well! 

Another question I have, is how can I make it clear that the tenant need not reciprocate?  This is really just a gesture of "thanks", and I don't want to make the tenant uncomfortable.

Landlords - what have you done before?  And tenants - what would be the ideal for you?

Monday, December 5, 2011

People who live in glass houses...

I spent last week visiting my parents, who live just outside of New York City.  We shopped til we dropped, went to a Broadway show, saw a great exhibit at the Guggenheim, walked through Times Square, stopped to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, and ate many a great meal.

But a highlight of my trip was definitely our tour of Philip Johnson's Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut.  Philip Johnson was a well-known and influential architect who was inspired by, and worked closely with Mies van der Rohe.  In 1949, Johnson built the Glass House, which he occupied until his death in 2005.

There were a few themes pointed out to us throughout the tour.  One was the very simple juxta-positioning of a circle beside a rectangle.  The furniture placement, and even the site placement of buildings on the property, often played up this theme.  Another theme was the concept of a "hide" followed by a "reveal".  In other words, we were often presented with an obstructed view before seeing the truly amazing features of the property.  It creates a bit of mystery and awe.

Here is just an example of the hide before the reveal.  Entering the property, there are a number of obstructions before you get a proper glimpse of the actual glass house.

Even as you approach very closely, there is a stone wall that is just at/above average eye level, and obstructs the view of the house. This entire theme is full of wit, when you consider that the house itself hides nothing!

Another example of the hide and reveal.  We approached this circle expecting to find water or a garden.  The surprise is that there is nothing!  In the spring there are some wild crocuses.  But the grass inside the circle is level with the grass outside the circle, and the effect is mostly trickery!  This circle also plays up the circle/rectangle theme, as it contrasts against the surrounding rectangular buildings.  The edge detail is also mirrored in the pool.

Once we finally got a good look at the glass house, I was amazed by its beauty and simplicity.  I love the clean lines, the bold framing, and the overall serenity of the scene.

One takeaway I had from this tour, was that no matter how great the architect, effect sometimes overrules practicality, and mistakes in judgement can be made.  We were not able to enter the Brick House, as it has had extensive water damage recently - partly caused by its location at the bottom of a slope, where runoff would be an issue.

The Sculpture Gallery has also experienced water damage, but we were still able to take a peek inside:

There are a number of other buildings on the property.  The Painting Gallery houses three giant rolodex-type apparatuses used to display paintings by a variety of famous artists.  This is the very cool entrance to the gallery:

An Andy Warhol work of Philip Johnson

Back in the Glass House, we also witnessed the rectangle/circle theme:

Rectangular box and circular light are the only items atop the desk.

The bathroom is really the only part of the house with any privacy.  It is enclosed in a circular chimney-like structure (in fact, the fireplace is on the backside of the bathroom).  

Again, practicality was not the focus, as Johnson initially had all leather tile  in the bathroom, which doesn't smell great as it holds moisture.  So most of the tile was replaced, and the only leather remains on the ceiling.

Circular ashtray and rectangular cigarette box are the only items on the coffee table.

Circular table beside rectangular bed.  No pillows on the bed as they would change that effect!   

Even as the sun set, I was so impressed by how the glass continues to demonstrate artistry - here you see that outside the glass reflected the sky and surrounding trees.

It was an amazing tour.  I can't say I would love living in a house where effect overrules practicality.  A balance of style and comfort is important to me.  But I was also inspired by the property which was simple in details but complex in thought and design.