Saturday, June 24, 2017

Our favorite thing in the house

This area of the house has been completed for awhile now, but the craziness of life has made this post a little late.  Ashford, Shaun, and I all had birthdays in June, and then Zach fell off a slide and broke his arm!  Unsurprisingly, we've been using this appliance an awful lot lately.
We knew almost upon moving in that this area would be a great kegerator spot.  We really could've used another closet, but what is better....more space to hold crap you forget about, or tap beer?  As I said in my post last July, PRIORITIES. 

We still need to add trim under that cabinet, but for now the white paint on the toekick is a great disguise.  We got the kegerator from  Very unique name, I know.  It was very exciting when it arrived!  I got a 15" base cabinet from Home Depot and promptly put it there to pretend like everything was done. 
Then I realized that I couldn't take on this project myself, mostly because I don't install stone counters, but also because our children are stage 5 clingers and I needed professional help.  I called a 'handyman' company I've used in the past, and they gave me a quote I could live with.  For $1000, we got the cabinet installed and preparation for counter, quartz countertop, counter installation, a new outlet, shelves hung, and all touch ups done. 
I am in love with the quartz!  The color is Wilsonart 'Haida' and it is very simple and pretty.  Marble-esque, but really just very soft and neutral white with black/gray veining.  I haven't decided if I will caulk the edges yet, for now it looks great.  I painted the cabinet with our Behr Ultra Pure White trim color, and got some fun hardware from Anthropologie
For the area above the counter, I opted for these 'Vigneto' shelves from Ballard.  The top shelf holds a lot of vintage steins from Shaun's grandpa, and fancy liquors we never drink. 
We ended up with this off-kilter arrangement because the stud was directly in the middle, and we couldn't put the bracket for the wine glass shelf in the middle due to the glass holders.  I was initially annoyed, but I think the rustic look of the shelves makes it look ok.  Since the bottom shelf is not in a stud on the right, we opted for a light picture frame and no glasswear on that side.  (I have no idea what to put there, so baby Zach in a towel after a bath is as good as anything - considering he is the reason I drink!)  I was most excited about the tap handle holder. 
We went to a local bar that had a similar pipe-inspired tap handle holder, and the idea really appealed to us.  I got this 18" pipe towel bar from Etsy, and then went about finding the right hooks to use for the handles.  It wasn't easy, the bar was thick and the threads to go into the handles had to be right.  I ended up finding a 'clothesline' hook at Ace that worked, but it was rather long.  I just sprayed them with Rustoleum 'Black Night Metallic' spray paint to match the galvanized pipe better. 
I really love the outcome, and we have room for a few more handles of beers we get often.  I hung the print we've had since Russet street in this area, I still love it and I'm glad it found a home.
The wine glass shelf is great, but we really don't use it for wine glasses.  Those live upstairs, because we drink wine on the couch in our living room.  Often. 
Being from Wisconsin, I'm a huge New Glarus fan.  My awesome brother got me this used tap handle and a pony keg of Spotted Cow for my birthday, and it was the perfect gift!  If you've never had Spotted Cow, go to Wisconsin (it's only sold there) or have a friend pick you up a pack.  So good!
Overall, I'm very happy we did this project, and it really has given us a lot of joy and fun while entertaining.  When people don't know we have it, and come down the stairs, it's amusing to see their eyes light up when they look behind them.  I feel it was well worth the $2400 we put into it.  And obviously, it could be done for much cheaper if you have the time and skills to do all the labor!
It's also totally awesome to pour myself a tiny beer whenever I like.  Let's be honest, some days are 'it's 5 o'clock somewhere' days.  Ok, most days are.  I can safely say I have at least 8 ounces of beer daily.  It is a small indulgence to look forward to!  
I hope this post has inspired you to create a little beer nook in your house!  Your friends will thank you.  I will thank you when I come over.  By the way, invite me over.  I need to talk to adults!
 Have a great weekend!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Getting outside

Last summer we redid the majority of our landscaping in the front and sides of the house. 
I wasn't sure what to do to the back of the house, since we planned to get a new deck, and possibly a shed...and I wasn't about to plant things before that happened.  However, there was this area in the back corner (behind my soaked hubby) that was fair game.  It had a pretty boring shrub that was overgrown, and a bunch of random lilies we had brought from Minnesota and planted in haste when we moved in. 
Last fall, I got my annual hoard of catalogs from Brecks, White Flower farm, and all kinds of other bulb peddlers.  I decided to make this a lovely sun garden area, with the huge shrub removed, a nice mix of smaller shrubs, perennials, and bulbs.
The back has a tall maiden grass, flanked by two silver reed grasses.  Pink phlox in the middle, a trio of dwarf fountain grasses in front, orange lilies on either side, then a golden barberry on the left, and a blue star juniper on the right.  All the rest of this area is filled with around 45 lily bulbs in varying heights.  I was so pumped for this area because I LOVE lilies.  I even bought fresh mulch to protect it all, and sprayed pest spray all over everything to deter the horrible little squirrels from digging it all up. 
Everything was fine until the stuff started coming up this spring. 
YOU GUYS.  I forgot there were a bunch of random tulips and hyacinths and other spring flowers the previous owners had planted here.  Even though they are clearly visible in the photo I added above. 
Check out these stupid tulips completely surrounding my poor grasses!  And, I couldn't even get them out without removing everything I planted, that is how deep they are.  That makes sense, since I didn't even see them when I dug the holes last fall.  The final insult is that the single tulip shown is the ONLY one to survive the horrible rabbits that ate absolutely everything in this area.
I mean, I came out as soon as I could and sprayed everything with Repels All, but it didn't do a thing.  Literally, 90% of the bulbs and phlox I planted are gone.  Everything marked in red is gone, and this is just a part of this area:
So, I've noticed that the phlox is coming back, but the bulbs are done.  I know they will come back ok next year, but in the meantime, this whole area looks terrible!  At least the transplanted lilacs are doing great.
They obviously need to be trimmed and reshaped, but the blooms are great, and all three shrubs lived through being moved!  I love walking past here and smelling them.
The rest of the landscaping fared well.  All the hydrangeas are looking great.  We added a skyrocket juniper to the front corner of the house to block the view of the ugly gas meter, and keep some color during the winter on this side. 
Our big leaf hydrangea is so special to us, we've brought it all the way from our Russet street home, and it is still looking awesome!  I also added four new 'Angelina' stonecrop at the end to add more color.

The center planting area is still my favorite, with the pom pom in the middle, and all the creeping phlox and yellow sedum surrounding it.  The phlox was amazing a few weeks ago!
We also added this honeysuckle vine last fall, in an attempt to cover as much of the ugly railing as we can.  I've already scraped and primed it, just need to paint it black again before the vine really takes over!  Side note - why is 'rusty metal' primer the color of rusty metal? 
The other sides of the house are mostly unchanged, we added a few new perennials and a mid century style metal art above the large pot.  Yes, it's for indoors and it's from Target!  It's gold and mostly blends in to the brick, so I'm considering changing the color...not sure what I will do yet. 

So far, we only lost two plants.  A perennial that didn't come back, and one golden arborvitae that basically disintegrated.  What a goner!
One major change to the front of the house since last year occurred a few weeks ago.  I finally picked out new lights, and got them installed.  I couldn't be happier!
It's exactly the simple modern style I was looking for.  The lights I purchased are Progress Lighting cylinders, I decided to go big (18 inches!) on the main porch light, because it was directly behind the railing.  I am very happy with the purchase, even though the only option for the garage was much smaller.  I love the difference from last May! 
Now I just need to finish painting the railing, and make a decision on a mailbox and house numbers to complete the makeover.   We are also awaiting our delivery of mulch, and excited to buy some new tropicals for our pots this year. 
I hope you are all enjoying the return of warm weather, we definitely are! 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Instant workspace

So, you may recall from my entry remodel post that I had this awkward space in between our couch and the railing. 
Here is a better look at this useless clutter zone.
I had a dream to use this little strip of space for a desk area.  Up until now, my laptop lived here:
Sup, breast pump?  Obviously, this was totally unacceptable for a work area.  As a photographer, I spend hours on my laptop editing, and this setup was uncomfortable at best.  I also had the bad habit of just setting mail, paperwork to be filed, and my external hard drives right there on the couch.  It was awful!
I also had all my lenses and cameras just sitting on our Ikea bookshelves surrounding the tv.  It looked so messy.
My plan was to replace the console table with a small desk, and move all this stuff over to the desk area.  This was not easy, since the desks I liked were much wider than the 40ish inches I had in the space.  Then, I found this simple 42" desk at World Market, and took advantage of a sale.
It was sort of hard to put together, because the metal is hand forged and the holes didn't exactly match up.  But, I love the look and it's sturdy after assembly.  It was already functioning better to have a desk in this area immediately after I put it together.
Then, I looked to the wall above.  I had two acrylic shelves from CB2 that I had planned on staggering over a dresser in the guest room.  After I came back to reality and admitted that the room was way too small to fit even the tiniest dresser, they hid under the bed until now.  They came with silver screws, but I used some black ones I had laying around, I think they look so great!
These are 4 foot and 2 foot shelves, so I had to place the longer one past the width of the desk.  I thought I would hate that, but I actually don't mind.  It creates the illusion of a wider area, and also frames the lamp nicely.  They are also sturdy enough to hold my heavy lenses!
And I wanted to reuse my beloved pineapple lamp, so I got a new shade and it looks pretty good here.  Here is the final space:
I'm so in love with this!  There is pretty much a place for everything.  It is beyond thrilling to have my lenses look beautiful, and be easy for me to grab whenever I'm heading out to a photo session.  I even had enough space for my speedlight!
The top shelf mostly holds framed prints, because I love some good inspiration while I'm working.  I chose images of my boys that are cute (obviously) but also showcase great lighting, composition, or post processing.  I plan to rotate them out as they get bigger. 
The top shelf also holds my client 'Thank You' cards I include with print orders, and this little white box I found at Homegoods keeps my battery charger, tripod mount, and a couple older memory cards that I don't use often. 
Since the colors in my branding are white, charcoal, and teal/aqua, I was pretty excited when Ashford came home from school with the watercolor art you see framed here.  I found the frame at Homegoods, ripped out the inspirational 'saying' that it was meant to hold, and put his painting in.  The aqua/mint box frame in the middle was also found at Homegoods.  The clock is from Target.
Let's talk about the stag head.  Last year during Black Friday, had their annual sale.  I bought a huge rhino head for my brother, and couldn't help but snap up 'Alfred' for half off for myself.  After I got the shipment, I was sort of at a loss with where to hang him.  Luckily, he looks majestic here, and wears a wooden camera toy my kids hardly ever look at.  I still have some anxiety about him crashing down when the door slams and destroying my laptop and lenses, but I have a heavy duty anchor back there, and I can't live my life in fear. 
Since I needed a desk with small width, pretty much none offered drawers.  I didn't really mind, because I find that drawers in tight spaces just get cluttered and hard to find things in the back.  I measured the openings of the shelves, and found that CB2 had a wool storage box that had the exact same dimensions. 
It holds additional hard drives, referral cards, and my supplies for mailing prints to clients.  It was not cheap, but it's beautiful quality, and I had the best customer service from the store.  Quick story - I ordered the box for pickup at the Chicago store because it's out of stock online, then quickly realized I was never ever going to be able to drive an hour to the city to get it...they shipped it from the store to me, for free.  Awesome!
The basket on the top shelf was a Michaels find, and it has a homemade camera cushion created with a $3 Target infinity scarf wrapped around a dish towel.  I do not sew, people!
Seems to be working just fine, and the baby hasn't figured out my camera hiding spot yet!
Here's a better view of the space I have between the desk and the media stand.  It's not a ton, but there is a nice little spot to store my reflector, and enough room to pull out the bins. 
I wanted the desktop to be pretty clean, but I did need to have a spot for pens, my scissors, and lens pens.  I got lucky and found the acrylic divided organizer on clearance at Homegoods.  I got the business card holder on Amazon.  The elephant file organizer is at The Container Store, and you can mount it or use it on the desktop! 
The elephant is important because I wanted an easily accessible place to store prints until I figure out what to do with them.  I'm usually pretty good at printing the ones I like, but as you can see from the pumpkins...I don't always do anything with them in a timely manner! 
Also at The Container Store, was this clever peel and stick weekly task pad.  I thought it would be great to keep what I had to do for my business separate from the family calendar in the kitchen.  I also like that I can just stick it up on the wall in my line of sight.  I know many people use their phones, and I do as well, but I love having a visual for small tasks that don't merit a phone entry.
Here's a more realistic version of what the desk looks like while I'm working.  It's five o' clock always!
And here's what my kid is doing while I'm trying to take photos. 
Speaking of the media stand, this thing is pretty boring, and not really my style anymore.  We got it for $250 back in 2008, and the veneer is starting to bubble and chip on the top and edges from being moved so many times.  I thought long and hard about what to do with it.  Paint it?  What color, white?  NO -  I have kids and this thing is perfect drawing and rolling height.  Black?  Too much black.  The navy on the front door and closet?  Eh, too close to the blue couch and may not look good.  So, in the end, I got some new bright boxes for inside and left it as is.  And that, my friends, is how you justify doing absolutely nothing. 
I'm excited about the mint boxes, because the largest one will easily hold mailing boxes for 11x14 prints, which is something I usually have crapping up my house in every room.  The rest will hold older prints, and miscellaneous photography supplies.  I got mine for 30% less than retail at Homegoods, but you can get them full price at The Container Store
The antique tray on the top has some little doo dads, but I'll be honest - the baby just picks that stuff up and throws it, so it doesn't normally live here.  Tiny acrylic box of memory cards, succulent from Lowes, gold lid acrylic box with fancy binder clips for my packaging. 
So, the last detail I obsessed about is the chair.  I disliked using a dining chair, because I want all my dining chairs around the table.  I wandered around World Market one day, looking for accessories to spend $40 in 'explorer' rewards on, when I saw this chair was marked down to $100.  I loved the airy look, and the metal legs.   
After I signed up for their 'text' program, I got 15% off.  With my rewards on top, I ended up paying $48 for the chair.  Not bad!  It's comfy enough for working, but I initially added a little faux fur to the seat to protect my delicate heiny.  Then I saw this throw at Target, and loved the texture.  It makes the chair more comfortable, and also adds an extra element and brightens the dark corner a little bit. 
So, now that you've spent your entire morning reading about a four foot square spot of my living room, how about some before and afters?
And here is another angle that I love, seeing both my gallery walls at once. 
Thanks for reading, I hope you are inspired to turn an unused corner into something great!
And if you are in the Chicago area and need family portraits taken, please contact me for a blog reader special!