Monday, October 9, 2017

Our living room - as done as it gets

I put off sharing my living room for such a long time, because I just didn't think it looked nice enough.  There are always kid things around, and I finally had to accept that this is as done as it gets.
It's the same general layout as the house in Minnesota, except we don't have a door to the garage in between the living and dining areas.  We reused our Ikea wall unit, accessories, lighting, side tables, and console behind the couch, but everything else in here is new.  We needed a new sectional when the original went to live downstairs.  We needed a new rug when I took the orange one for our bedroom.  We needed a huge curtain rod to span the 10 foot window, and white curtains since our old ones were much too cream. 
The wall unit has served us well in both houses.  It's pretty much destroyed by the kids, but you can't tell unless you are right above looking down at the finish.  All in all, it's done wonders for making our boring box living areas look fancier, without the expense of actual built-ins.  I decided to put my treasured pole lamp in between the two 'rooms' to act as a sort of divider, it also puts it front and center instead of putting baby in a corner. 
We really don't have a lot of wall space in here since much of the room is taken up with the wall unit, window, and railing.  For the little stretch of wall shared with the kitchen, I chose to hang some photos of the boys. 
They are so hard to photograph!  I love these gold frames at Target, they are gorgeous and not too expensive.
I've chosen to use a mix of gold, wood, and black in the main areas of the house to unify everything.  I found so much of my d├ęcor at Target, it's just very nice looking and the right price!  With kids ruining things every day, I can't spend a lot.  This rattan mirror from Target is the perfect piece for the top of the stairs. 
The sectional is a soft denim colored fabric, we had it custom made at Walter E Smithe, and it's been perfect for us.  Here are the pillow+sofa fabric swatches against our rug when I was making the decision.  Don't mind the paper plane!  I loved the retro look of the pillow fabric, but it turns out this print isn't really working for me.  The couch fabric is a different blue from the rug, but it looks great in large scale. 
I tried various grays and tans, but I wanted something different.   I also couldn't find a ready made sectional with a simple style in the small footprint we needed, for less than 3k.  We ended up paying $2500 for a custom sectional with warranty, which I think is great.  Rather than getting a matching ottoman, I opted for this one from West Elm because I loved the simple shape and low profile.  Why are all ottomans so tall?  I don't want my feet elevated when I sit, thank you.  Anyway, I like mixing the different pieces for a more eclectic look.  The rug is discontinued from Crate and Barrel, and I wouldn't recommend it, anyway.  It's literally falling apart!  After spending $900, it's irritating to say the least.     
I still want to get new pillows, but I'm waiting for the perfect ones.  I also want to find cooler end tables, but I'm waiting until the little guy is a bit older.  I have done my best with the shelves.  It's a mix of books, photos, and candles for the most part.  There are also some 'tchotchkes' and quite a bit of 'crap holder' baskets down at the bottom. 
I still like to have this little strip of books in rainbow order, it's not 'in' anymore, but it looks pretty. 
The right bookcase has the majority of toys and junk.  I try so hard to purge, but I end up throwing my hands up and dumping it all back into the baskets. 
It's ok, I think this is pretty good for a family home!  I upgraded the standard Hemnes knobs on the tv stand with the mid century star backplate knobs from Rejuvenation.  I love the look!
The dining room has a lot to talk about, so I'm going to save that for another post.  Here is a look at the living room at night.  We don't have a ceiling light, so we really love the Ikea lighting above the unit.  Also, I just love that Amazon commercial on the tv!  Almost makes me cry.  Yes, I was too lazy to turn off the tv.  And there you go!  The most used room in our house. 
The post wouldn't be complete without some before and afters!
When we bought this house, there was not much to be excited about.  The previous owners are very nice people, but the house was very dark and cluttered, with heavy drapes and different carpet in every room.  I could see the potential, but a lot of people probably wouldn't.  Here is a true before and after from when we first saw the house to now.  What a difference!
I can't wait to share my dining room transformation with you all soon.  Have a great week!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Finishing the deck almost killed me

I'm such a damn perfectionist, and I was losing my mind dealing with this deck.  I couldn't imagine sealing over it in the condition it was in, there were a lot of very rough parts on the deck boards particularly around the screws.  I spent foreverrrrr sanding all the screw areas smoother, thinking about the little feet in our family.  Shaun told me I was crazy, but I'm glad I took the time.  I also was totally disgusted by all the red chalk lines everywhere.  Good old deck man told me they would wash right off with soap, no that is not true.  Stop lying.  They were very obvious, and I've come to find out that type of chalk should never be used on visible portions of projects.  Figures.
I went out of my mind trying to get them off, dawn soap, other cleaners, scrub brushes, light sandpaper, even a magic eraser!  I was pretty happy with the magic eraser method initially, it seemed to work great.
Then it dried, and it looked pretty much like I had sanded it off.  Meaning, white blotches on all the boards.  I knew this might happen, since magic eraser is an abrasive, but it was still a bummer. 
Anger!!  After I did my best to remove the most obvious lines, things looked better after we used a deck cleaner on the entire thing.  More about that later in this post.  I had such a hard time trying to figure out what to do as far as the sealer.  Our deck builder recommended Ready Seal, so I got a collection of sample cans of every color (plus fan decks on pine and cedar) through their website.  It was fun to try all the different shades. 
I thought I had it all worked out to do two different shades to try to blend the pine with the cedar.  Here are two scrap pieces that accurately show the difference in color:
I tested a bunch of variances, but I thought doing mahogany on the pine and golden pine on the cedar looked the best...those are the bottom two colors. 
Then I tried doing an entire pine board with mahogany, and it looked awful.  I forgot how much I hate how pine accepts stain.  I also put the golden pine on the ACTUAL railing and hated it!!  I didn't realize as it was going on, but it turned out so orange. 
 I had only sealed the top and right post.  Not that it's hard to tell!
I was cursing myself for over an hour sanding this railing, but I did manage to get it all off.
Thank goodness!  I'm an idiot. 
Then I realized how badly the top of the railings had already turned silver since it was built.  In these photos, I had sanded the edges, not the top.  The difference between them was crazy. 
 I tried using Olympic deck cleaner like my deck builder suggested, but sanding worked much better.
The cleaner also bleached the nice patina that had developed on the pine, so we had to use the cleaner on the entire deck.  I was so annoyed, but it did help with the lighter spots we made from removing the red chalk lines. 
After everything got cleaned with the bleach, we made the decision to just keep it simple and do clear on the entire thing.  It didn't make sense to try to even out the wood tones, and I hated the way the pine accepted any colored stains.  I did compromise by taking a quart of the clear and adding the rest of the 'cedar' sample can to it for just a tiny bit of extra color - only for the top rail along the perimeter.  That top rail had been bleached so badly by the sun, it was almost white.  I think it made a difference in matching the top to the rest of the wood.
 I was very happy with the way it turned out. 
After the railings were all sealed, but before we put the clear on the deck boards:
Even the clear sealer left a very amber look to the cedar, which is not my favorite, but to be expected with an outdoor oil-based product.  And the floor was done in a flash, I initially tried to use a roller, but it used way too much sealer and wasn't any faster.  A large brush and lots of bending was the fastest way.  The final product:
I was a little disappointed by how orange the railings turned out, and how the rough cedar that is wrapped on the outside of the deck is SO dark compared to the rest, but it's really growing on me.  It just looks like wood, and I'll take the natural look of wood over composite or painted decking any day.  Here are some additional photos of how it looks right now:
I love all the knots on the cedar.  I plan to plant tall shrubs/grasses in front of the greenish framing so you don't notice that as much....and eventually, we will put in a patio at the bottom of the stairs running to the edge of the deck.   
 This is the board in particular that is so dark and distracting, but there isn't much we can do about it. 
 Lots of different wood tones in this corner!
And that is the end of my story.  I'm very glad it's over, and I'm sure we will be sealing it every single summer since there isn't much UV protection in a clear coating like this.  Here is a little before and after sealer photo for fun:
If you are curious about Ready Seal, it is a very nice product and very easy to use.  I would definitely recommend it! 
 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Little things

While I am still in the mess of sealing our deck (it's a very long, tortuous story) I thought I'd share some smaller projects I did around the outside in the couple kid-free hours I have during the week.  The first was on the side of the house. 
This rusty, ugly meter had always bothered me, but I didn't do anything about it until I wanted to plant a perennial right next to it.  I figured it I was going to paint it, now was the time!
I had already started painting on the rusty metal primer when I snapped these photos.  After scrubbing everything with a wire brush, of course.  But this is pretty much what it looked like. 
I considered painting it cream to match the siding, but I just thought it would get dirty and look a little 'grandma,' so I went with a more modern approach.  And here it is after a nice coat of black flat rustoleum!
You really can't see that much of it since the hydrangea and juniper are so big, and they will only get bigger.  I'm really pleased with it. 
This side of the house is a little bit of a bummer for me, if I'm being honest. 
I wish we had planted a couple tall things against the house, and some shrubs that flower in the spring/early summer instead of a row of hydrangeas.  They don't start blooming until July, so the whole side is totally green and boring until then.  Rookie move!  I tried to remedy this by putting Siberian Irises in on the sides, so we will have tall purple flowers in the spring while the hydrangeas are getting started.  I also put early-flowering low perennials in the front to help spruce it up.  I may still move the two small hydrangeas on either side of the large middle one, I'm just not sure. 
At any rate, the meter looks nicer and everything is pretty while it's blooming.  I also scraped, primed, and painted the railing on our front porch with the same paint.  After I started scraping and wire-brushing, it became obvious they had used a pretty saturated red paint on the railing at one point.   
There was also a ton of rot and rust, I just coated it well and plan to use an epoxy to fill the holes next summer. 
 Rust!!
I decided to use the rusty metal primer on the entire thing, rather than just the bad spots.  I wasn't sure how the black would cover an unprimed area, so I played it safe. 
Here is an action shot of me allll the way up on a ladder taking care of the top.  I made sure to do this while the mailman was making his rounds, so if I fell someone would hear my screaming.  Note my foot is on the 'This is not a step' part.  Don't worry, I didn't put any weight on it, it was just for balance while I put all my weight on the wobbly, rotting railing. 
 Of course, the kids wanted to help.  Not sure if he realized I gave him a dry brush.
Painting all those curly parts twice was torture.  I really wish I could've just ripped out this whole thing, but we don't have the money.  It was so satisfying to see it newly painted black, that I used the paint on an old plant stand, too.
Here is a series of photos showing before, scraped, half primed, painted.  Love it!
And our honeysuckle vine is all the way to the top already!  It's not doing so well right now, but it grew like crazy this summer.  I'm working on the health of the plant now, and I'm excited to see what happens next year. 
The last project we did out here was something we've wanted for awhile - landscape lighting.  I kept putting it off because I was intimidated by all the 'stuff' you need, then I finally just went to Lowes and saw how simple it really was.  Anyone can do this themselves!  Here is what I bought, (not pictured is 7 more spot lights and a 100 foot roll of low-voltage landscape wire):
I just ran the wire where I wanted, and I actually cut some of the roll off to go over to the other side in between our driveway and sidewalk.  There is a rather large crack between the step and the sidewalk, so it fits ok in there and runs to one of the two receptacles on the power pack. 
Once the wire was ran with a generous amount for repositioning down the line, I just screwed the spot lights onto the included stakes, and clamped the provided connectors onto the wire.  It has tiny little teeth that pierce the plastic on the wire, so easy!  The only tool you need is a wire stripper for the ends of the wire to connect to the power pack. 
Speaking of power pack, I forgot to take a picture of the wiring, and I'm not interested in removing the thing from the ground to see the bottom.  Here is a stock photo where you see the two inputs for wiring:
Number 1 holds the wiring for the area to the left of the sidewalk, and number 2 holds the wiring for the rest of the front planting area.  After I stripped the coating off the ends of the wires, the two sections simply get placed under the screw and plate and tightened with a screwdriver.  So easy!  Since this is on the bottom, the unit needs to be elevated and can be mounted to your house.  I chose not to do that, instead I bought a $20 stand for the pack.  It isn't super visible, and will look even better once the rose and coneflowers get larger. 
I still have to remove the white tags from the cord and bury all the wire before the ground freezes.  Maybe this project isn't so small!
Anyway, here it is at night.  I am in love with this look!  Very dramatic, and highlights our landscaping so well! 
The spot lights come with different 'lens covers' depending on the kind of light you want.  This is standard, warm light.  There is a 'moonlight' option that is supposed to be a cooler light, but I like this because it matches the bulbs in our porch lights. 
I still have one spot light to put somewhere, not sure where it will end up.  Lowes gives you a 10% discount if you buy at least three lights at a time, so plan accordingly!  I'm also thinking we must add some lighting the other side of the house, we just don't have an outlet over there, so it would be challenging.  I'd love to light up my blue spruce globe tree, especially!
The landscape lighting cost me about $350 and a couple hours of time when it was all said and done.  Well worth it, in my opinion!  Hope you all are enjoying the last days of summer!