Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Our living room

Let's take a look at the evolution of our living room.  After we moved in and got settled, it looked like this.  I don't have any 'Ashfordless' photos, sorry!
Right before we redid the floors, the cleared out room seemed full of potential.  My plan for the living room was to use things that we already had to 'decorate,' while purchasing only the large furniture that we needed.  We needed a sofa so the one in here could go downstairs (we gave our old living room furniture to my brother before we moved) and bookshelves for storage. 
It was always the plan to get a sectional for this room.  Shaun wanted something comfortable (men!), and I wanted something not huge, overstuffed, and ugly.  So, we ended up with the Teddy sectional and storage ottoman from Macys in the stock 'otter' fabric.  It was the least ugly one we could afford that was also comfortable.  When it was delivered, it was huge!  And sort of purple-y, which was disappointing.  It immediately became clear that the brown zebra rug and red print curtains were not going to work anymore, so we swapped in the orange rug and white curtains from our old bedroom. 
And then I went on the search for a paint color that didn't suck.  I tried a few SW colors...Alpaca, Popular Gray, Versatile Gray.  We ended up choosing Popular Gray, which is a very pale shade of warm gray that is almost white.  Wow, it was a breath of fresh air going over that old tan!  I don't have anything against tan, but it just looked oppressive in this dark house. 
We also desperately needed the storage we lost in our old living room, so we took a trip to Ikea and came home with the Hemnes entertainment center.  I had to burn the midnight oil painting the wall behind it so I could put it up asap.  The difference in paint color is incredible!
And after we got this sort of workable for the time being, we had to pull the entire thing out to install baseboard before we attached the bookshelves and bridge unit to the wall.
I have chosen to do white baseboard throughout the house, it is a simple 3.25 inch casing, rather than traditional base.  I have no plans to paint all the door and window casings white, so we will see what that looks like when it's all installed!  If I hate it, I can always paint it out later. 
And here is the (almost) finished room!
It feels so good to have everything mostly done in here.   We still need to paint the inside of the front door, and rip out the casing around it because it is that tacky 'colonial' profile in honey oak.  I'm going to replace it with ranch casing like the rest of the house, stained to match the floors.  The orange front door pretty closely matches the rug, it is blown in the photo from the light streaming in, but it looks great in person!  That was a total accident.  I had no plans to match the front door to this rug, and had painted the door long before we put this rug in here.  Love that!
All the throw pillows we already had.  I'm glad that I had orange and teal things from our old den.  I am not a fan of the enormous pillows that come with sofas these days.   
As with most houses from this time period, our entry is really tight, but we wanted a low-profile coat rack because we are lazy and like to hang our coats on hooks.   This rack with fold up hooks from Umbra is perfect!  It is under 4 inches deep when they are open, perfect for the tiny strip of wall next to our door.  
We did opt to buy the Ikea Format lighting for the bookshelves, it is wonderful to turn those on, it just makes the entire living room so cozy yet doesn't light up the tv screen.
Our old TV stand fits nicely behind the sofa as a 'drop off' point for keys, a place to set a drink while lounging, and also a nice place to store shoes.  I love that I could reuse this piece, the measurements were perfect!
For the little wall dividing our living area from the kitchen, the console table we had in our old entry still works great with the pineapple lamp.  I decided since there was a plethora of ugly items on this wall (smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, thermostat) that I would aim for distraction rather than try to hide them.  I'm pretty happy with the result!  I do wish you could actually look in the mirror, though....oh well, I can't lower it.  The sea urchin wall art from Target fills in that space on the left and adds more interest. The teal frame on top was formerly hot pink in my dressing room!   
As you might have noticed, the former boob light in the dining room is not hanging around for much longer.  I know, nice and safe to have it dangling by wires.  A new chandelier is going up soon, and then I have to figure out where to put the hook to swag it.  Don't you love when builders put electrical boxes centered in the room, instead of where the table will go?  The ribbon I have hanging there is to visualize where the light should hang.  More on the dining room later. 
With a two year old, obviously we need a lot of places to stash crap.  These bookshelves and drawers have been a lifesaver!  We thought about doing built-ins, but we just didn't want the expense and work when we aren't planning to stay here.  We are most likely going to leave the Ikea stuff when we sell, so it still adds resale value without being such a huge project.  I also thought about 'hacking' the Ikea stuff to look built-in since we needed to install baseboard anyway, but this way we can access cords and outlets easier...and again, less work.  I love that it holds books, baskets and bins for toys, and also gives me a place to display my recent photos. 
I do not 'style' bookshelves, I just put things on there that make me happy.  (Unless you count putting my books in rainbow order, then I do a bit of styling...I love the way it looks, dated or not!)  I don't have a lot of doodads, so picture frames, books, albums, and stuff Ashford plays with is about all you see here. 
The bottom of the Hemnes bookcases have removable bottoms, which is a lifesaver if you need to run cords.  It is also a slightly wider shelf area, so I can fit larger things like the mustache totes and bead maze.   Right after I took these photos that kid took out every toy I had arranged and littered the living room with them! 
We don't really have a lot of wall space in this house.  I suppose it's good because I hate hanging stuff on walls, but it's also sort of sad because I have so many beautiful photos I want to display.  I decided to hang the large gallery frames that used to be in our upstairs hallway above the entertainment center.  It might be too busy for some, but I love it.  The white frame in the middle will probably get replaced with another wood frame.
I love this view, it is so satisfying!   
I know that this room isn't terribly inspired or unique, but it totally fulfilled my goals of using things I already had while purchasing furniture that would work best for our lives.  I am also very happy that I found a home for the orange rugs!  I love how the wood windows interact with all the white while tying in the other wood furniture in the room.  I find wood and white together to be beautiful, so I'm hopeful that my white base and stained casing experiment will work out.  Now, I'm off to hang that dining room chandelier! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My new website is live!

Hi everyone!  I have done a lot of projects on the inside of the house, I'm just trying to get all the details in order before I snap some pics and post it for you.  The living room is like a different place!  But before that, I wanted to let you all know that my new photography business website is up and running.  www.sarahiltonphotography.com
I am looking for clients, and this weekend is supposed to be beautiful...so if you live in the Twin Cities area and want to do an outdoor session before the leaves are all gone, please let me know at sarahiltonphotography@gmail.com or the 'contact' form on the site. 

And because I love you all, I'm offering a $50 discount on my session fees, which include ALL the high-res digital images  (I usually deliver around 40) and a professional 11x14.  Hope to hear from you!  Thank you all for your comments and support! 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Recapping the landscaping

Do you ever respond to an email and then realize later that you never sent it?  Or read a text message and mentally respond but never ACTUALLY respond?  I do that all the time.  I did that with this post about our front landscaping.  Half composed, photos all renamed and ready to go, but never posted.  I swear my mind is shot!  Anyway, to commemorate the end of summer, here is the work we did this summer... 
We had a nice big bare spot in the front, where a huge pine tree used to be before it was knocked down in a storm last summer.  Before:
We started by marking the area we wanted to be our planting area with spray paint, then went to the nursery to pick out our plants. 
We knew we wanted some larger foundation plants around the edges and then room in the middle for perennials and smaller shrubs. 
The beauty of our yard is being able to expand this area as the plants grow.  We did NOT do a great job of weeding, removing all the grass, tilling the soil.  We also didn't edge the area with anything, so all summer we were picking weeds and grass out of the bed.  Dumb.   Ashford picked up our slack by pulling rocks out of the planting area. 
We ended up with a dappled willow, two grasses, three weird perennials with little pink ball flowers, a few purple salvia, a dwarf evergreen, two orange rocket barberry, and a bunch of hostas that were elsewhere on the property.  We also planted a tiger eye sumac that my mom gave us, and it looked really sad from the transplant.    
Fast forward to a month later, and the space is just boring....so we went and picked up 400 pounds of flagstone to make a nice little feature on the back end of the bed.  The star would be the sweet globe blue spruce on a grafted trunk that I just had to have.  
We cut a 6 foot circle into the ground, and dry fit the stones.  We had just enough to do a two-high circle.
This project was so easy, the low profile means that there was no adhesive necessary and we can always move things around or add on as we like.  We would love to get flagstones all the way around, but I'm not sure we can afford it! 
The day after this pic was taken, we replaced the severely burned dappled willow with the golden falsecypress in the bottom of this photo, and we also planted a smaller 'dark horse' weigela.   Here is the way it was all looking in July.   
And here is the way it looks today.  Wow, those grasses exploded!  I underestimated how large they would get, and while the falsecypress is eventually going to be huge, right now it is dwarfed.  I may be moving those grasses at some point. 
Also, can we just say again how much better the house looks painted?!  So then there was this side area where another tree fell down last year (I saw a picture, it was like the apocalypse) on the other side of the driveway. 
We planted seed in the bald spot to the right, but the bigger dirt pile needed a planting bed.  We also wanted a tree, so we went to pick up a nice 'snowdance' lilac tree.
 It is always a tricky thing to plant a tree.  The depth has to be perfect, and there is a small graft on the bottom of the trunk that needs to be exposed to the sun, it was quite a task.  When it was finally in there, we filled in the rest of the area with additional hostas, some coral bells, lilies and coneflowers. 
I decided to put Glimerace the frog in this area, the neighbors think he's cute and Ashford likes him. 
We had a lot of overgrown stuff on the east side of the house, but I thought I could work with everything but the tall dumb weed on the right side. 
It seemed to be about three different weeds that had grown into tree size. 
It looked a lot better after we cut that one down, of course there is still a stump there.  And we have trimmed all the other stuff, I just don't have a picture.  I've considered cutting it all down, but I sort of like how tall they are - and removing all the stumps would be a pain.     
So, that is the bulk of what we did in the yard this summer. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Orange is the new red

The front door is (mostly) painted with SW Obstinate Orange!  Here is the before:  
Yes, this is a very boring builder special door.  But for now, it has to do.  Unfortunately, I did a very very stupid, very bad thing.  I thought since I bought fancy Sherwin Williams paint - Resilience Exterior Satin - that I could just sand well and paint.  
Yeah, well that was dumb.  The parts that were painted tan still looked....tan.  Oh, and the paint I got is completely underwhelming.  It was runny as hell.  Don't buy Resilience!  This picture show two more coats.  Oh my gosh, this project will never end!!
I even started just putting coats of orange on the insets where the tan paint was...it helped a little, but the whole door still needs another coat.  For awhile we had a lovely orange and green combo. 
We had to replace the green door, the glass insert was ugly with a beveled design around the edges, and we didn't have a screen.  The door itself was a weird brand I've never seen before, so I couldn't easily buy just a screen.  And I didn't want to paint out the green!  I called a contractor that only installs storm doors and he picked up our new doors (one for front and back), installed them, and hauled away the old ones for $125 each.  After we purchased the doors, of course.  I thought that was CASH WELL SPENT since it took the guy almost two hours for each door!!
Of course now, the stupid new storm door looks PINK.  I knew 'sandstone' would be a little more pink, but next to the body color and the trim on the rest of the house, it doesn't please me.  
I carry my color swatches with me everywhere I go these days, and last trip to Home Desperate I happened to find this spray paint that is almost exactly the same color as our Clarksville Gray trim. 
And when I sprayed a piece of paper to see how the color compared to the door, the difference was subtle, but I think it would look a ton better. 
Now I have to decide whether I should waste time spraying my brand new storm doors, or just live with it.
The farther away you are, the harder to see the pinky beige door.  What do you think?  Is our door too loud?  We have had a couple neighbors tell us they like it, but I think most of them are still a little shocked.  I think once we get our lights and house numbers up, it will look more finished. Still do to: a ton of trim paint, garage door paint, and addressing those lower windows.    

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sara B Snappin

Wow, it's been awhile since I've posted.  The reason for that is a three-week visit to my home town where I started a new adventure!  While sleeping in my parent's basement and letting my fabulous mom take care of Ashford, I did photo shoots for 21 friends and their families to build a portfolio for my new photography business.  
I know, I know.  Another 'momtographer' who thinks she can start a business because she has a nice camera.  Trust me, I have done that eyeroll a million times.  However, I am taking this very seriously.  I have dedicated countless hours to learning, practicing, researching techniques....and it just seemed like this was the right time for me to see if I had the talent.  
I had never done formal photo shoots before, so I decided to start with friends, just in case I bombed.  I put together a contract and a plan to make it as professional and legitimate as possible.  I never dreamed I'd get so many interested friends!  I was so busy, doing 4 shoots a day some days and I was always up until 1am editing photos at night, it was crazy!
After my first few sessions, I realized a few things:
I need more practice with posing
I need more tricks up my sleeve to deal with kiddos that aren't into photos
I need to be religious about using a gray card or my Expodisc to avoid all the post-processing white balance fixing!  That takes up SO much time. 
I need to have a checklist of poses/activities that I wanted to capture, a sort of workflow that will help me get everything I want, for me and for the client.  
After all the sessions were over, I assessed my portfolio and was pretty happy with the variety and quality of the images.  I am very critical about certain things:
  • Focus.  All of my images must be SHARP (unless the artistic vision is to be blurry/out of focus)
  • White balance.  Skin tones must look like skin...green people sitting in the grass, anyone?
  • Interesting light.  A well-exposed image in flat light can be boring.  I try hard to look for and use shadows and sun to make a more powerful image.
  • Poses, or lack of.  I try to capture moments rather than forced smiles.  Yes, I take a lot of posed smiling shots, but I also take a ton of photos with no eye contact. Sometimes (most of the time?) those are the best ones.  
  • Distractions.  If there is a big blue garbage can behind my subject and I don't realize it until I've taken the shot, you bet I will take the time to clone it out in post.  
  • Editing.  I like a clean edit.  I sometimes use the matte finish that is so popular now, but it's rare.  I always have a light touch with my editing, to remember things as they actually were. 
  • Time of day.  I prefer to shoot at sunset, like every other photographer, but during this visit it just wasn't possible to do that for everyone.  So, I've learned to love full sun in the morning and afternoon!  Here are some of my favorites in full sun:


Next steps for me include registering my business with the state, setting up my tax info, figuring out what platform I want to use for my website and blog, the list goes on and on.  But one thing is certain, I'm going to do it right.  (Shaun wanted me to call my business Sara B Snappin because my middle initial is B, but I just couldn't agree to that!  ha)
If you would like to check out my Facebook page, it is Sara Hilton Photography.  I also have to give a shout out to the forum that has given me the confidence to pursue this, Clickin Moms.  Their tutorials, advice, and wealth of information have been so instrumental to my growth!  
So, that is what is taking up all my time lately.  However, I did get some work done on the house...mainly a new color for the front door.  Here is a teaser of the color painted on some cardboard (SW Obstinate Orange), full post coming when I get the last coat on!  It's awesome!