Friday, August 1, 2014

Friday Musings

I had the best afternoon yesterday. Without saying too much (there will be a post coming on it next week) I spent about three hours cleaning, measuring, cutting, and assembling copper pipes. And then turned them into something I'm awfully proud of. As far as DIYs go it was a first for me, and it might be my favorite project yet.


I taught my first piano student this week! Hooray! It was a fantastic first lesson with a very interesting student and I feel so lucky to be able to do this job that I love. First lessons are a little nerve-wracking for me--it feels a bit intimidating to let strangers into your home, have them sit at your piano, and proceed to talk for 30 or 60 minutes about one of your deepest passions. It's a vulnerable business I'm in and anonymity and privacy aren't really available. But that's one of the reasons it's so rewarding. I ended the lesson really believing I'd passed on something valuable and important and enriching.


This is a silly thing, but I wore my favorite rosy red lipstick on Monday as a pick-me-up and I'd forgotten how much I love it! Do you have a makeup product, or maybe a shirt or pair of shoes, that makes you feel your best? That's what this lipstick does for me.


Last Saturday I had such fun spending a few hours with Tina, who is a blog-turned-real-life friend. We had a delicious lunch together and then walked around the historic part of Manassas, Virginia (which is halfway between where she lives and where we live). I stopped for fresh peaches and corn on the way home and thoroughly enjoyed the mountains and corn fields and grazing cows that kept me entertained on the drive. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday. Even after two years of doing this I think it's just wild and so wonderful that I've been able to make real friends through this little blog.


I'm getting very excited about two local chamber music festivals that are just around the corner--the Staunton Chamber Music Festival and the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival. Oh, to again live in an area where I can attend concerts!


I've been on the lookout for some new blogs to add to my daily reading list. Do you have any recommendations?


And last but not least: I've been thinking a lot lately about my marriage and what our first almost-three years have brought us, and I feel so intensely lucky. We had an unusual beginning and for most of it, didn't have the ability to make a lot of the decisions that newly married couples make--where should we live, what jobs will we take, are we ready to buy a house? Now that I have a bit of perspective and feel 100% confident that we're now in exactly the right place, I look back at some of the messiness and see more beauty than I ever gave it credit for. This time of just the two of us. That time of living so far from family and friends, feeling frustrated together, falling more deeply in love through it all--there was a raw grittiness to it, and there was grace. Our issues didn't weaken our marriage, not in the slightest. I think my husband would agree that it did the opposite and strengthened us in unbelievable ways. We've gone through things together and dealt with life together and felt powerless together and made it to a better place together. To have those experiences with the man you love is a rather beautiful thing.


Happy weekend, friends! Make it a lovely one.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

All About Plants

In Alabama my husband and I had two plants and they both had names. Allie and Audrey both survived the move--amazingly--and have since been joined by quite a few other plant friends, too many to even name. Our new house just begs to be filled with fresh green plants. The street we live on has these incredible old trees and wild day lilies that spring up out of nowhere and there's lots of thick foliage surrounding us. Our neighbors' houses are positioned pretty close by but our house and yard feel private because of all the greenery. Even though we live five minutes from downtown, in the heart of Charlottesville, we lovingly refer to our home as our little cottage in the forest. It just has that feel.

Anyway, I guess my environment has been inspiring me because I've been on quite the plant kick. Our porch has several hanging plants that drip and drape beautifully and provide some extra privacy when we're chatting or having dinner out there. We potted a dracaena tree that has the most exquisite magenta-tipped spiky leaves. This bushy fern-like plant (not sure of its exact species) is our newest. I love how narrow it is at the base and how voluminous it is at the top. And I'm working on a homemade plant stand that I can't wait to show you soon. I told you I have plants on my mind!

I don't have a born knack with plants but I'm learning that most houseplants are fairly forgiving. I always err on the side of under-watering and try to notice how much light each one is getting. And did you know that plants help to filter and clean the air? That's a very cool added bonus.

In the past I was always a cut-flowers-in-a-vase kind of girl, but these days I'm loving the wild, fresh, earthiness of green leaves and stems and branches sticking out of dirt. It's fun to nurture each one and watch them grow and we so enjoy the natural liveliness they bring to the rooms they fill.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

DIY Large Scale Photo Art

I've found that while my design and decor style definitely leans traditional in some ways, I also like making dramatic statements in my home. Not in a hot-pink-chairs, super-modern-art, bright-turquoise-walls kind of way, but in the sense that I don't shy away from a good dose of unusual, quirky, eclectic, or even daring when it comes to how I put together our home. My funky ideas don't always work (I have a post coming later in the week about a paint color that didn't at all turn out the way I thought it would i.e., it looked terrible) but when they do work, I always feel so happy that I made the less typical choice and went with something a little more interesting and unique.

Anyway, for the longest time I've been trying to figure out how to display our wedding photos in our home. This is an area where I don't lean traditional at all. I don't love the idea of leaning framed wedding photos on a mantle, or putting together a multi-photo collage, or hanging several together on a wall. There's absolutely no problem with this approach and it can look very beautiful but it doesn't feel "me." I knew I wanted to put at least one of our favorite wedding photos in our home but I wanted to do it in a way that was a little more bold and modern.

When I came across this post on blueprint-sized black and white family photos something clicked. So dramatic! So elegant and unique. The more I thought about framing just one, poster-sized photo of us nestled under the dome of the cathedral ceiling (as opposed to framing several smaller photos) the more I fell in love with the idea.

I had the photo made at an Office Depot and asked for it to be printed as a blueprint. It's incredibly inexpensive--I think it cost less than three dollars. It's printed on regular paper, not glossy, and the resolution isn't as pristine as it would be if you sent it off to be professionally printed on photo paper (although it is quite clear). That was part of the charm for me though--I wanted it to look just a touch faded and fuzzy, like a vintage photo would.

I framed it in a really basic poster frame and it's currently leaning up against a wall in our living room. I'm not sure my husband likes or gets the leaning art thing but I'm really into this look lately. To me it makes artwork look casual and effortless and spontaneous, and it's just a bit unexpected (for my husband, that makes it weird; to me, that makes it cool!).

I've really enjoyed how this project turned out. It's certainly bold but taking design risks and going with your instincts are what make a home special and personal. What do you think? Too mod or do you love it too?

p.s. Yes, I hung our gallery wall! Sneak peek above and more to come soon (once my brother can capture some photos for me).

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Most Perfect Summer Lunch

Start with real mayonnaise, crusty bread, and juicy, ripe, colorful farmer's market tomatoes.

Toast the bread and slice the tomatoes thickly.

Spread a good layer of mayonnaise on the bread while it's still warm and then top with ruby-red slices of tomato.

Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Bring your tomato sandwich outside and relish each perfect bite.

Repeat every single day of the late summer tomato season (believe me, you'll want to).

And one more: "This is better than pizza." -my husband

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kitchen Sneak Peek

Our kitchen is the room I've had to get most creative with. It has some wonderful features--tons of natural light (there's a window above the sink, a door to the screen porch that lets in light, and a window above the area where we eat), lots of storage and countertop space, and the layout is super functional. It's a great kitchen to cook in.

There are other things (aesthetic things) about it that aren't my favorite--namely the honey oak cabinets and laminate cream countertops. They aren't horrible and I'm grateful that at least the kitchen is neutral, it just isn't really to my taste. What I've discovered though is that the challenge this room presents excites me--it's been fun to figure out temporary renter-friendly ways to make our kitchen feel more modern and beautiful and to make it more "me."

I think painting the walls a deep rich color (maybe a midnight navy blue) would do wonders in here and I may try to eventually get permission to paint from our landlord, but in the meantime I'm focusing on simpler changes.

To bring in a little vibrancy I made this hanging rope planter for the kitchen window. I'd been wanting to try this tutorial for a while! I potted a succulent in a simple white bowl and then followed the instructions on how to tie the knots. I love how the plant spills over the sides, and the bright green lends a welcome dose of color.

Another change I made was taking the doors off of some of our cabinets. I didn't do this on all of them, just the ones holding our glasses, mugs and dishes. I've always loved open shelving and I think this look makes the space both more modern and more eclectic at the same time. If you're proud of your dishes, why not show them off?

I also hung a piece of art on the "backsplash" underneath the cabinet with our dishes to break up some of the beige-ness. I've noticed that having art in the kitchen isn't super common but I love it. It can add so much personality and charm.

I have a few more changes in mind--a DIY rug that I'm making out of a funky vintage piece of cloth, a potential lighting fixture change, and I'm considering making a white backing for my open shelves (do you think that's a good idea?). And I'm dying to try out these Smart Tiles near the stove area.

I'm actually so glad our kitchen looks the way it looks. It's giving me the chance to be creative and clever and really make something beautiful out of a pretty basic kitchen. I can't wait to keep plugging away at it and recruiting my brother to take some higher quality photos when he's here in a few weeks.

Do you have a space like this in your home? One that needs a little extra creativity and love to look its best?

Monday, July 21, 2014

DIY Yellow Lamp Update

Remember this DIY lamp makeover I did for my parents last year? Well, happily, that cheery yellow lamp now lives with us!

My parents no longer had a need for it on their houseboat, and by that I mean that my Dad asserted his veto rights on the grounds that the lamp is mustard yellow. Totally a fair critique--mustard yellow is a color that appeals to a fairly limited audience. It's coming back into fashion but it's still a little too reminiscent of the 70s for some. Luckily for my Dad, he has a daughter who was more than willing to step up to the plate and take this not-to-his-taste lamp off his hands. Anything mustard yellow will always find a friend in me.

It's now sitting on this little hexagon side table and it's one of the first things you see when you walk in our door. I love how the angular shape of the lamp base and shade mirror the geometric lines of the table. And the yellow pulls peeking out get me every time--I think they're so sweet.

Life here isn't as exciting as life on a houseboat but we hope the lamp doesn't mind. It's such a sunny addition to our living room and we sure are happy to have it!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Writing Nook Among Bookcases

I'm about to share with you a part of our house that I'm head over heels for, a dreamy little spot carved out in a corner of our living room for a girl who loves reading and writing and cozy, miniature spaces. Meet my sweet little writing nook!

It was a multi-step process for how this area was dreamed up and how it came together. We have a good amount of books so I knew I would need to store them somehow, preferably in a pretty way. When my parents were here my Dad helped us choose this corner (I initially thought I wanted wall-mounted shelves but my Dad rightly convinced me that traditional standing bookcases were the way to go) and we decided on two tallish bookcases in a V shape. This configuration fit the room well and provided a lot of storage and some visual interest.

We didn't want to spend a lot of money on the bookcases--we were after basic white modern shelves with a streamlined design, nothing fancy, so we ordered two of these from Home Depot. They're certainly basic and won't last forever but for price and functionality and simplicity they're just what we were looking for. 

One thing I didn't love was the backing. While the shelves and tops and sides are pretty sturdy the backing is a flimsy piece of white cardboard, essentially, and it came folded in thirds so that it fit in the box. When we held up the backing it looked really cheap, the lines were obvious, and it was just utterly boring. 

I mulled over different options--going to Lowe's and having a piece of plywood or beadboard cut to fit, leaving the shelves backless (you can see that in one of the photos below), or painting the flimsy cardboard. 

You can see which option we picked! After trying several colors we chose this gorgeous deep green/blue. I think the dark paint gives the bookcases depth and sophistication, it mostly hides the folded lines, and it provides a bit of a custom touch to our pre-fab bookshelves. I'm so happy I put in this extra bit of work and energy.

Once the bookshelves were finished I moved this antique square table into place. This is something I already had (from my parents) and I love how the shape mirrors the angular configuration of the bookshelves.

While there's plenty of room to sit here and it doesn't feel cramped it was a bit tricky finding a chair that worked. Traditional chairs looked bulky and out of place and took up too much space. This chair looked cute here but it isn't super comfortable and I wanted this spot to be a functional place for me to sit at my computer.

We made a stop at Ikea in Pittsburgh last weekend and on my way out I saw this folding chair in the "As Is" section and I just had a feeling it would be perfect. It's narrow and petite but still very cozy to sit in, and the criss-cross metal legs make it look delicate and light. The opposite of bulky. And it was only $15!

With this chair it all came together and I couldn't be happier. There is a window on either side of each bookcase and the afternoon light that streams in is glorious. I can look out the window at the trees and foliage on the side of our house, and I love that I no longer have to blog from the couch. It's also so fun to look up and see all of our books. Such an inspiring environment for a writer!

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