Wednesday, June 12, 2013

House tour - mud room & powder room

One of the most functional rooms in our home is the mud room.  When we designed our house, we built the entire first floor around having a mud room.  It's a place to dump handbags, backpacks, coats and car keys.  I wanted the space to be functional and fun, with a utility sink.  We also put in a pocket door, in the event that we get a dog and need to block the space off from the main living area.

Another consideration when designing the first floor of our home was where to put the powder room.  We didn't want our guests to feel too close to the main living area when using the bathroom.  With that being said, we put the powder room adjacent to the mud room.  It feels private and since it sits on the south side of the house, we were able to put a window in the powder room to allow for some natural lighting.  Since the powder room shares a wall with the garage, we had our architect add a large linen closet.  Currently I'm storing my Swiffer and a few seasonal decorations as well as extra hand towels.

Stepping into the mud room from the garage.  Kentwood Originals Maple Del Rio flooring, Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter on the walls

Mud room bench, $36 at a flea market.  Rug by Dash & Albert, online flash sale.  Coat hooks, IKEA.

Mud room bench - one of my favorite pieces in the house! 
The door to the garage.  Knobs and back plate custom assembled by Schlage, polished chrome finish.

Pocket door, separating the mud room and main living area
 The work horse of our mudroom is the cabinets and counter.  We have all of our reusable bags and art supplies in the lower left doors.  Underneath the sink is where we keep our mop bucket and all of the cleaners for our hardwood floors.  The drawers just underneath the counter is where we keep our maps, keys and sunglasses.  The upper cabinets house our extra paper towels, cleaning supplies and baby wipes.  Costco baby wipes are one of my favorite cleaning products!  I use them on the millwork, countertops, the track of our sliding doors, virtually anywhere that requires a gentle cleaner.
Mud room cabinetry.  Kohler faucet and cast iron sink with Formica Sand Crystal counters.  Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter on the walls

Formica Sand Crystal countertops.

Powder room.  Pental Alpine quartz remnant used on the countertop with matte subway tile backsplash.   Faucet by Kohler, Bancroft series.

Powder room sink.  Kohler Bancroft lavatory faucet, Kohler undermount sink, Pental Alpine quartz counters with subway tile backsplash.

Linen closet in the powder room - custom knobs and back plate by Schlage, polished chrome finish.

 I wanted to take a minute to talk about floor registers.  Our contractor supplied us with two choices: tan or white.  Obviously neither of those color selections work with the hardwood flooring that we installed.  I scoured all of our local big box stores and came up empty.  Since I was working with a difficult size (2x10"), I took to searching online.  I was really excited to find these registers by A Touch of Brass.

Remember: when ordering your floor registers, the size that you purchase is that of the actual opening of the duct.  The actual register that you see on the floor is larger than 2x10".
Oil Rubbed Bronze floor register, by A Touch of Brass

Monday, June 10, 2013

House tour - piano room, updated for under $200

The piano room is my least favorite room of the house.  It's the room that has gotten the least attention and is really a hodge podge of random furnishings that we used to fill the room.  

Let's take a look at the before photos.  Since a new couch for this room wasn't in the budget, I had to work with just a few hundred dollars to update the room.  Sticking with the old, green couch, I wanted to add some coastal touches and make it an inviting space for people to sit and relax.  

Here's the old couch with some framed floral prints that I yanked off of an outdated calendar.  The rug is the thorn in my side, and comes from my husband's old bachelor pad apartment.  It just wasn't working for me.  The size was all wrong and the pattern lends itself to more of a funeral home decor.  Relaxing?  Maybe, if you're dead...
The old green couch with the old floral prints and the old bachelor rug

Our beautiful upright Steinway piano with the antique bow back chair from my parents' house

The old floral prints - worked in our last home, but screamingly outdated in this one

The bachelor rug, in all its glory
I had been scouring the bowels of the Internet, looking for some sort of modern rug to put in this room.  Like I mentioned, I wanted to spend less than $200 to update the room.  If you've ever been rug shopping, you know that it's nearly impossible to score a decent 5x8' rug for less than $200.

Enter Craigslist.

I randomly searched for "striped rug" and found a lady selling a brand new, still in the wrapping, 5x8' striped wool rug.  Apparently she had ordered the rug and the actual color wasn't quite what she was expecting.  Since she wasn't able to return it, she was selling it heavily discounted on Craigslist.  I hopped in the car, drove about 24 miles north and scored this great rug!  Total cost = $150.

Piano room with new rug - starting to look a bit more updated
I picked up a curtain rod at Lowe's for about $35 when I realized that I had some simple tie top curtain panels tucked away in the guest room.  I've always outsourced the curtain rod hanging to my husband, which he gripes about incessantly.  This time I decided to give it a whirl myself, and I think I did a pretty good job!
The updated piano room - Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter on the walls

The old green couch, striped rug and bow back chair
The top of the piano is mostly uncluttered with the exception of a small orchid and a set of candlesticks that my grandfather picked up during a Naval deployment.  Familial rumor has it that they're either from India or Africa (and yes, they're made of ivory).

The small frame that sits above our piano was a simple craft that I completed in our old house.  I typed out a portion of our wedding vows on printer paper, and then soaked the paper in a pan full of coffee.  Basically I stained the paper to look like parchment, giving it an antiqued look  A cheap and easy way to bring memories from the past to the present!
Coffee stained wedding vows, candlesticks and an orchid on top of the piano
 This bow back chair needs some love.  I thought that I might want to tackle recovering the cushion myself.  I even went to unzip the bottom cushion to see how I might be able to deconstruct it and the foam inside has crumbled.  Eventually I'm going to update this chair with a new cushion and some modern fabric, but that will have to wait for now.
Remember those horrendous floral prints that I snagged from an expired calendar?  They had to go.  I wanted to bring something fun and nautical into the room.  I found a great website that sells "pocket size" prints of most NOAA nautical charts and ordered a set of 3 to group on the wall: Chicago Harbor, Elliott Bay (Seattle waterfront) and Cleveland Harbor.  I thought it would be a nice way to bring our birthplaces and our current home on to one wall in the house.
Seattle Harbor nautical chart

Cleveland Harbor nautical chart

Chicago Harbor nautical chart
Tucked in the corner of the room is an antique that my aunt handed down to me.  It's a handmade end table, made by my great great ________ on my Mom's side.  It's not known whether it was a grandfather or an uncle as there were 10 children in that generation - 5 stayed in Sweden and 5 immigrated to the United States.  My brother has the Swedish Bibles that were housed in this great, little piece.  It's pieces like these that I absolutely love - the pieces that have a story behind them.  

Handmade Swedish side table - a family heirloom

As always, thanks for reading!  I'll be sure to come back with a few more tours: powder room and mud room are next.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Things that I love - a brief update

We've been in the house for a little over 3 months, and obviously I've been a slacker on updating this blog.  What can I say?  Boxes needed to be unpacked, we don't really have a functioning computer, and my little family seemingly stays busier than ever.

I recently checked my stats and have over 10,000 page views with some of my pictures ending up on Pinterest!  I never thought that this blog would become popular enough to make Pinterest, so if you're a regular reader: thank you.  I'm not a professional blogger, I have no idea how to take great pictures (other than by accident) with our digital SLR camera, but it's really fun to know that this blog is helping people in their quest to build and decorate their dream home.

I've gotten several e-mails in the past few weeks asking about paint colors.  One reader said that she had a custom color consultation with Sherwin Williams, hoping that it would lead to picking the perfect gray.  In the end, she thought that the color suggested by the consultant was a bit too green.  One of the biggest lessons that I learned is that choosing a paint color takes time.  You want to splash the color up on the house, preferably on walls facing in different directions, and then take the time to look at the walls in different lighting.  I can assure you that a paint color will look different in the morning, noon and night, so be sure to take the time to look at your favorite swatches throughout the day.

I took a couple of pictures to show you some of my favorite things here at our house.  I'm going to come back and take you on a tour of each room, detailing what I love and what I would do differently.  But in the meantime, here are a few things to get you started!

I love the way our front porch turned out!  I have yet to hang a wreath on the front door, because I'm too afraid to scratch the finish.  I'm sure that will change when Christmas rolls around.  In the meantime I'm content to just let the front door be the focal point.  We used a chrome handle by Schlage on the front door and it adds a nice touch of visual interest to an otherwise classic front porch.

You might be wondering what my thoughts are on Sherwin Williams Cityscape Gray:

I love it!

Sherwin Williams Cityscape Gray has proven to be the perfect gray.  It's not too blue, not too green, not too light and not too dark.  How's that for an overall description for you?  I can honestly say that I've never had a moment looking at the house where I didn't love it.  I was recently across the Sound near a naval base, and I said to my husband "The perfect color gray is the color of naval ships."  I think Sherwin Williams Cityscape Gray is really close to that.

The flowerpot by our front door has been with us through 1 apartment, 1 house, 1 18-month stint living with my parents and now graces the front porch.  It was given to us by our landlord in our first apartment.  This year I went with hues of red and put in 2 varieties of geraniums, creamy orange petunias, white and red "million bells" and a small fern.  
Our front door with Sherwin Williams Cityscape Gray and pine tongue in groove ceiling
 One of my favorite rooms in the house is the kitchen.  It's the heart of our house, where we spend a lot of time and a place where visitors congregate.  I can honestly say that I adore the quartz countertops.  They're easy to clean, seem to take a beating with pots/pans/baking dishes and have a distinct look that is different from granite.  You may remember when I was selecting the quartz for the kitchen countertops - and now that we've put the Pental quartz to the test, I have absolutely no regrets!

A tip: Our particular quartz is a brushed finish, so it doesn't have the sheen that many other quartz countertops do.  Upon installation, someone ended up sealing the quartz by accident.  If you know anything about quartz, you know that it doesn't require a sealant.  With a bit of acetone and some strong elbow grease, we were able to get the residue off, bringing the quartz to its natural and intended look.

Once we decided that we were going to put quartz throughout the house, I decided to e-mail Method.  It took a few days, but the customer service folks got back to me and assured me that my favorite products were safe and effective on quartz.

I've been using two Method products to clean my quartz countertops:

  1. Method Daily Granite spray.  This spray can be somewhat hard to find, but I did find it sitting on the shelf at my local Target.  It's exactly what it says: a daily spray for natural stone, including quartz.  Don't let the black bottle scare you as it smells like apple.  It's not too strong or too heavily scented.  I like to use it when the counters really need a good cleaning.  Otherwise I use #2.

  2. Method All Purpose Pink Grapefruit spray cleaner.  This is by far my favorite spray cleaner.  It smells nice, cuts grease, does a good job cleaning up the counters and an entire bottle seems to last for several months.  I like to keep one bottle downstairs and one bottle upstairs.  Again, this product is safe for use on quartz.  It's also safe to use on marble, which we put in our master bath.

One of my favorite features in the kitchen is the small 8" pendants by Kichler that sit above the island.  I was worried that they wouldn't be the exact look that we wanted, as they don't have a diffuser.  Pendant lights with a diffuser were significantly more expensive and generally tended to be 10-12" in diameter.  These 8" mini pendants are perfect!  The inside of the pendants are white and since the actual pendant is pretty deep, you don't really even see the bulb - even when you're sitting right underneath them!  In hindsight, I might have moved the pendants about 6 inches towards the center of the island, but that's neither here nor there.
Pental Riverbank Brushed quartz counters, Kichler 8" mini pendants, Kitchen Aid stainless appliances, Moen prep faucet, stools from School Outfitters (approx $30/ea!)
 My next "thing that I love" is the keypad on the outside of the garage man door.  My Dad installed this for us during construction and it was a great way to access the house without a key.  We were also able to give individual codes to our subcontractors so that they could show themselves in and out.  It's easy to use, codes can be added and deleted at any time, and it's great to have access in and out of the garage without raising and lowering the main door.
Garage man door keypad, by Schlage
 Our master bath soaking tub is awesome.  Our builder gave me two choices for tubs.  While I attempted to find this tub in real life so that I could actually sit in it before purchasing it, I wasn't able to.  Thankfully, the Maax Slimline Oval has been a dream!  It looks unassumingly small, but let me assure you: this thing is plenty big and deep.  The drain is in the center, just below the hand shower.  My only word of caution with this tub: if you're changing from a drain at the end to a drain in the center, don't forget to watch your toes!  I ended up giving myself a pretty good slice on the drain.
Maax Slimline Oval with Kohler Bancroft fixtures
 The last thing on my list for today is the caulk job that I miraculously did adjacent to the master bathroom hutch.  If you've ever seen my parents' kitchen sink (sorry Mom & Dad!), you'll realize that the picture below is nothing short of a miracle.  Let's just say that I had previous tendencies of applying caulk a little too thick.  After reading an online tutorial and a few plumbing message boards, everyone said to line your area with blue tape.  Why I never did that, I have no idea - but that explains my prior caulk jobs.  Lining your work area with blue tape allows you to get the perfect amount of caulk into the space.  Put the tape on, dispense caulk, smooth with a wet fingertip, remove tape and voila!
My best caulk job yet!  Silicone, white caulking