Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Insanely overly-ambitious Christmas decorations

I wanted to add something to the "collection" of homemade Christmas decorations I began last year with a gold-painted square pine cone wreath.  I really like this image from, who else, Martha Stewart, so I decided to pay her the most sincere form of flattery.

Heaven forbid I should ever do anything by half measures. Instead of making a pair of window boxes as a sane person would, I decided that the right number would be, oh, about eight.  (My hare-brained math was one for each end of the balcony and two for each of the three panels along the length of the balcony.)  The first box took me and my extremely supportive fiance over three hours to make.  (This was after I sourced and ordered the perfect window boxes, stocked up on wire and floral foam, and we drove way out of the city, picked through and lugged home the perfect branches and greens).  Here are some photos of the actual building process:

Then ta-da, our first-born:

Admittedly, the other boxes went a bit more quickly (2 hours each) as we learned some technique.  He helped with two more and his daughters helped with one, and then I put my head down day after day for the rest of the week and churned 'em out.

Then they sat sadly on the balcony while I waited for the white ribbon I had decided on to arrive.  (Maybe I should have stuck with the gold after all?)  Apparently nobody sells wide white velvet ribbon, even at Christmas-time, so I ended up with satin.  Shipping cost a fortune and took an eternity, ie. one week.  As soon as it arrived yesterday, I bowed.  Then the workers came this morning and hung the boxes despite monsoon conditions.  I promise photos when it stops raining.

Another photo update of the cabinet for the master bedroom closet

Oh, if only you knew how eager I am to finally unpack my clothes, shoes, handbags, etc.!  The suspense of waiting for the closet cabinetry to be done is terrible.  Today, I received the following tantalizing image of the giant built-in piece:

My flowery antique French gesso mirror will rest on the ledge on the front, so you won't see those planks that run vertically.  Incidentally, the lower section will have five thin black velvet-lined drawers for lingerie, hosiery and perhaps jewelry.  These are the cast iron pulls I ordered for the drawers below the mirror:

The sections that V off to the side (which will have additional adjustable shelves) are for folded pants and tops.  They're hinged to let us access the space behind the mirror from either side.  That's storage space for out of season items.  Clearly some free-standing chests of drawers/armoires are needed in the bedroom proper, since there's no way that level of shelving (divided by two) is enough.  Hello antique chests-as-bedside-tables and very tall armoire for our one reasonably-wide wall.

I am so eager for the walk-in to become less of a dumping ground that I made a trip to the Container Store yesterday and bought many ultra-thin black velvet hangers, plus some U-shaped pieces of clear acrylic to keep my handbags upright on the shelf that's being built for them.  I then spent two hours transferring clothes from my motley assortment of old plastic and wood hangers onto the svelte new ones.  I'm still not done (I need more with clips for skirts), plus I need to make a decision about my huge cardigan collection: whether to fold and place on shelves (as all closet gurus counsel) or whether to hang (as I now do), which makes them feel more accessible.  Folding would probably be optimal but since there is not a single shelf in the room at the moment, they will have to stay put on their less than beautiful hangers for the time being.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

In-progress photos of the master bedroom closet built-in

The cabinet-maker sent me some photos of the built-in he's working on for our master bedroom's walk-in closet.

He's coming on Monday morning to finish off the kitchen built-ins and install the two bookcases.  Yay!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Our first fire

We had our first fire in the fireplace last night.  We'd been waiting for some black firebox paint I ordered over the internet.  Our poor painter was nearly asphixiated by the fumes, but he returned the next day with a respirator mask and did a great job.  We're still discussing the idea of staining the mantel (it was the above yellowish color when we got it from the architectural salvage place).  And of course, we need to find a couple of cozy armchairs to angle in front of the fireplace, perhaps with that round pedestal West Elm table between 'em.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

In progress photos of our bookcases

We're having some more built-ins made by the cabinetmakers who did our kitchen and master bathroom cabinets.  They are making two full height bookcases, one for the upstairs hallway (outside the master bedroom) and one for a wall in the exercise room.  Both are 9 feet wide so they should hold a ton of books.  They're being made out of the same ceiling joists that we salvaged from the building and used in the kitchen and bathroom.  The cabinetmaker was kind enough to send me a couple of in-progress pictures:

They're also making a built-in armoire for the walk-in closet in the master bedroom.  It will be nice to be able to put some more of our folded clothes away and get rid of a few more boxes in the bedroom.  Even when the closet is finished, though, we'll still be living out of boxes for a while, until I find a freestanding armoire for the bedroom proper, and/or chests to use as bedside tables.  Apparently we have a lot of clothes!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Cleaning out the dining room and living room

We spent a few hours cleaning out the unwanted furniture, boxes and contractors' equipment from our dining room and living room, sending a truck load to our beach house.  The rooms looks a lot more like a home already, even though we're missing some furniture, don't have curtains or chandeliers, haven't hung any art and still have some building materials and equipment lying about.  Oh, and everything needs reupholstering too.  Still, I thought I'd share our second floor's current state.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

An autumn view from the master bathroom window

I wish I was a better photographer so I could capture the beauty of the view from the master bathroom window and the bathtub yesterday morning.  The sky was a much darker blue than in these photos and the yellow of the leaves and brown of the tree limbs were gorgeous against it.

Friday, 11 November 2011

One furniture purchase that didn't work out, and planning another

After more than two months of waiting, our bed arrived from Restoration Hardware on Wednesday.  What a disappointment!  I ordered the Chesterfield Upholstered Sleigh Bed Without Footboard in a velvet color called "Natural" (they also sell a "White") and what arrived was as white as a piece of paper!  And so, so giant in the room besides.  The 56" high headboard, which is a pretty standard headboard height, looms and blocks a window in an awkward way.  The sleigh part of the bed makes the whole thing stick out from the wall in a way that is less than ideal in our not-so-wide room.  Long story short: I'm sending it back and having something custom made by our cabinetmakers.  I'd like something that's more like 44" high, still tufted and with turned wood legs, but with a panel headboard that curves like this bed's headboard:

I have a piece of charcoal gray cashmere-wool blend fabric that might look really great.  The upholsterer says we'd need 6 yards and I need to check that I have that my piece is that long before I get too carried away with plans for it.

Speaking of purchases from big furniture retailers, I went to our local West Elm earlier this week to see their new turned wood bistro table in person.  It's actually very nice in real life and appeals to me even though it's a modern piece.  I think that's because it's sculptural and has natural textural and variations that make it feel unique.

I've wanted a small round table for a while, mostly for quick cozy meals with my fiance (the big expanded dining room table usually has work spread out on it).  The West Elm table is 32" diameter, which is perfect.  I could see it either in the headhouse or snuggled into a seating arrangement in our living room.  (We've been playing around with various sofa-and-chair configurations and think we've found the one we like best.  It involves buying two more arm chairs and putting this table between them in front of the fireplace.)   I'm going to wait for some kind of sale on the table, even though the price isn't bad to begin with.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Glass finials

One of the final details that we still have to decide on for the red brick building is what the caps and finials on our newel posts should look like.  The architect had produced a drawing and our cabinetmaker had subbed out turning the egg-shaped wood finials to his turner, but the work wasn't completed and last week it became manifest that it hadn't even been started and that there was a problem in translating the scale of the drawing from a 3.5" square newel post to a 5.5" square newel.  (The headhouse staircase is the former size, the other two staircases are the latter size.)  Basically, if we took the drawing the architect had done - which was for a 3.5" box - and tried to make a proportional finial for the 5.5" box, the finial would be crazy tall (8.25").  So now we're trying to re-design the wheel - er - finials. 

I went finial-hunting online to see what the options might be and came across some pretty crystal staircase finials, which apparently are/were a French interiors thing (Louis XV, I think). 

Naturally they are phenomenally expensive ($350 each at the absolute bottom, up to $650 for the fancier ones) and therefore not in our vastly depleted budget right now.  I'm not sure how they would look with our staircase and in our space.  Too fancy, or dazzling? I dunno.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Invasion of the pond plants

My pond plant order was sitting in a box on the kitchen counter this afternoon when I got home.  There was no shipment-sent email or tracking info, so I actually thought the order hadn't even been processed yet.  Anyway, there were lots of exciting "Live Plants" stickers on the box and warnings not to expose to heat or to leave at the door.  I was relieved to see that it was just one box: the last time I attempted something like this (in the spring, with moss), I ended up with four enormous boxes of plant material.  (Hey, how should I know how to order plants by weight?)  Still, there was a ton of plant material in the box and it was tricky finding vase accommodation for so much.  I'm guessing I'll kill a number of them before I figure out what they like, so please excuse some of the vases, which are temporary.  Disclaimers aside, here are some family photos:

The minimum order quantity on the water lettuce was 6 plants and they sent me two extra (either because they're incredibly nice, because they wanted to make sure at least 6 survived, and/or because these guys grow like crazy and they can't get rid of them fast enough!).  I had only wanted one, or maybe 2 lettuces.  Their roots are absolutely massive.  I had no idea of the scale!  Aren't they cool, though?

Sort of like baby bok choy heads but intensely seaweedy underneath.  Wouldn't it be neat if it was edible?  Hello, indoor water lettuce farm.  Well, I guess my kitchen counter looks like that already....

My second favorite plant is the salvinia, which looks like this:

That's the entire quantity (it fit in a small yogurt container) - a "normal" size.  The leaves look a bit like mini lily pads.  I'd like to see the salvinia in a shallower, wider container.

Finally there's the azolla, which I find kind of underwhelming:

There's oodles of it, too: the amount in these two vases probably represents about 1/15th of what was in the bag.  Know anyone who wants a science experiment?  I'm going to try scattering the lettuces and the azolla around the RBB in various light conditions and see what happens.  Fingers crossed everything doesn't just kick it.