Friday, July 31, 2009

Escape the heat

It's been hot in Seattle. So hot that you can't breathe in your house. Most of us don't have air conditioning for those couple times a year that it gets above 90 degrees. That's why you hear everyone in this town complaining that it's HOT. So you stick it out when your house feels like a sauna. You find a pool or jump in the lake in order to bring your body temperature down.

In honor of Summer, here are some of my favorite outdoor spaces.

Photo from Canadian House and Home

Photo from Canadian House and Home

Photo from Canadian House and Home

Photo from Canadian House and Home

Photo from Canadian House and Home

Photo from Canadian House and Home

Source unknown

Source unknown

Source unknown

Photo from Southern Accents

Photo from Southern Accents

Photo from Traditional Home

Photo from House Beautiful
Photo from Veranda
Photo from Veranda

Barclay Butera's patio
Photo from House Beautiful

Number Sixteen patio in London

Number Sixteen patio on London

Number Sixteen patio in London

Hope you are keeping cool and enjoying your outdoor space.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

60's & 80's Part 2

Genius. I must admit, at times I didn't feel like we were geniuses. This was a big job. Cosmetic, but bigger than we thought. We slowly attacked each room of the house, one floor at a time.

We moved in with the design inspiration of Malibu Beach Cottage. Since the house was perched high on a hill overlooking the city we pretended that the view was that of the Pacific ocean instead of skyscrapers. I grew up spending my summers in a Laguna Beach cottage overlooking the Pacific and this house's view felt very comforting and familiar. White clapboard siding on all the walls, white slipcovers, dark wood floors, sisal rugs. Clean, crisp, kid and budget friendly.

As we lived in the house we realized that the white clapboard look wouldn't suit our ever changing collection of furniture and design aesthetic. We wanted something less beachy and more refined. Something that would work with our love of Asian antiques and the pieces we had collected from our first house. We moved forward without a design inspiration yet stuck with a color palette of a warm camel and creamy white that would unite all the rooms of the house.

By the time we were done we had ripped into every wall except the upstairs bedrooms. We also changed the exterior and re-landscaped the front and backyard. So much for a cosmetic job!

Of course nothing is ever done as I'm always adding and tweaking. But here are a couple of the after pictures. I hope you enjoy it and it inspires you to maybe make an offer on that not so perfect house!

In keeping with my design philosophy, almost everything in my living room was found at a thrift store, antique store or inherited and re-done. Some of the pieces are still waiting to be done (the end tables next to the sofa need to be painted or stripped and stained. I'll get to it someday). The sofa was my grandma's yet it didn't have any redeeming style. I didn't have the heart to send it to the dump so I had it reupholstered as an English sofa. The Baker club chairs were another consignment store find. It's amazing what a good neutral fabric can do. The only pieces in my living room that I paid full retail for were the Oly nesting tables and the bamboo chest. When you love something buy it. It will make you happy.

Incredible wheat lamp. It was on it's way to the dumpster from my grandpa's house when I snagged it. Another item I love as it reminds me of him.

Check out the new fireplace. It's the focal point of the room now. So long wood paneling. White chairs in front of fireplace were 1950's white oak with floral. Very scary.

Yep, these are the chairs I found on the street. So yummy. My kids and friends dogs seem to love them too.

Yep, this was the orange and harvest gold kitchen. Not huge but it works. My kids love to wrestle on the rug in front of the sink. It makes cooking an adventure.

The old location of the bay window.

The bathroom that was covered in metallic floral wallpaper and had the beautiful wood column separating the sink and toilet.

This piece was part of a french bedroom set from the 1950's. You know the ones.. creamy yellow with gold trim. I painted it a dark chocolate. Great storage for entertaining.

Looking back at the before pictures makes me proud of our accomplishment. Our little beach house in the hills turned out okay. But, having a house that feels like home is the best reward.

Friday, July 17, 2009

60's & 80's - A beautiful combination

From our 1911 Craftsman we moved across the lake to the dreaded land of suburbia, the eastside. The place I told my husband that I would move "over my dead body" now became our home. We bought a 1960's daylight rambler that looked like it had been lifted straight out of a trailer park. Seriously.

What it did have was a view of Bellevue, Seattle and the Olympic mountains on a big lot. It was in a good neighborhood with a great school. But it also had shag carpet, an inside BBQ in the party room (aka downstairs playroom), a bathroom that had a pseudo stripper pole as a divider for the toilet and vanity, and every inch was covered in wallpaper from the 60's and the mauve and blue variety from the eighties. It was a huge cosmetic interior and exterior project.

We were feeling brave from our last project. This would be easy. It was cosmetic after all. So what if we now had a baby. We could still do everything ourselves. That was our crazy mindset as we moved into the new house. Needless to say, our son rocked our renovation world.

We tackled it room by room instead of the whole house and we brought in a contractor to do most of the work. We started with the downstairs party room as it was in it's original 60's glory and I was scared of what might be living in the carpet! I can see it now - a family gathered around the indoor grill roasting marshmellows. That carpet had to come out and fast!

Once the downstairs was livable (not finished but livable), we moved upstairs to tackle the outside and main living areas. Here are a few before pictures.

The outside during the renovation. You can glimpse the original mobile home.

The upstairs living room fireplace. This brick fireplace is over six feet long. Lovely wood paneling. Imagine this fireplace downstairs with another two openings on the left for the indoor grill and firewood storage below. How they didn't burn the house down I'll never know.

The updated eighties kitchen. Notice the orange formica countertops with the oak cabinets and bay window. The backsplash was harvest gold with leaves imprinted in the tile. You can't see the harvest yellow linoleum floor that tied into the backsplash. This is the danger of following trends.

An example of some of the wallpaper in the house. Every inch, and I mean every inch, was covered. It took me weeks just to remove it all.

Our friends thought we were crazy. How could we have given up our beautiful old home in the city for this? They didn't see the potential in this old rambler.

Now they think we're geniuses.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gorge Camping

It took me a couple days to recover from the Coldplay concert.   It was an amazing concert and pretty civilized camping experience.  Or maybe I'm the one who's become civilized (aka old and mellow) over the years.  No beer bongs for this crowd.  Only BBQ and red wine.  

The only bad part was that I didn't meet Gwenyth and bond over yoga. Maybe next time...

I thought I'd share the experience of going to a concert at the Gorge in Eastern Washington in case you don't live nearby.  My husband and I dropped the kids off at grandmas and met our friends about 20 miles away from the concert in their motor home.  The only way to travel to one of these concerts.  No porta-potties for this girl! 

You can pitch a tent, sleep in your car, or bring a motor home.  Anything goes.   The only rules are quiet time from 2am to 8am.   There was everything from $500,000 motor homes to motor homes from the seventies, to make shift tents.   Here's a couple of my favorite rides from the concert.    

Our view from the motor home.  In the middle of the picture you can see the black scaffolding for the stage.   To the right is the river.  To the left, miles of cows and grapes.  It's an interesting mix of scenery.  

This was my favorite hotel on wheels for the concert.  It sums up the camping experience at the Gorge.  Original 1970's motor home with a great license plate.  Loved it! 

This guy was nice enough to let us take a picture of the fab fridge in trltrsh.  Quilted vinyl from the 70's.  I think designers needs to bring this back.  Instead of quilted stainless bring on the quilted vinyl.  No scratches - just windex it down.  Plus it you get in an accident while walking around in the moho, it will act as a cushion. 

This was another one of my favorite tents on wheels.  I've never seen one of these before. Genius. 

If you get a chance, try to see a concert at the Gorge. It's unlike any other concert you've been to. 


Friday, July 10, 2009

Can't Wait!!

Sure you can go to a Coldplay concert, but can you go to a Coldplay concert here?

Somehow I lucked out and got free tickets to the sold out concert at the Gorge in George, WA. If I were to see any band, it would be Coldplay and to see it at the Gorge is so COOL. The Northwest is gray and rainy a lot of the time, but the natural wonders here kick ass! (Not to mention that it's close to wine country and my in-laws so there will be no children and plenty of grown in Washington beverages.

Off to see if I can spot Gwenyth, I'm as excited as a 13-year-old meeting Zac Efron.*

(Scratch that, a 30-something -- that kid is cute! You know you've thought that after having to watch High School Musical one too many times...)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Circa 1998 - 2002, Part 2

After an exhaustive four years of renovation, the "worst house I'd ever seen" was now quite livable. In fact, it caught the eye of the nice people at Better Homes and Gardens and was featured in their October, 2002 issue.

We chose to renovate and decorate in an eclectic cottage style as it worked with our minimal budget and the style of the house. I'm not one for houses decorated in literal period style, so no Craftsman furniture for us! We collected and reused materials before it was easy and fashionable. We spent many weekends sifting through junkyards and antique shops for hardware, lighting and furniture.

The outside of our first home. Wish we could have repainted it, but it wasn't in the budget. You can get a little glimpse of the steep stairs up to the house. It was a workout just to get to the front door!

The finished dining room. The antique chest has moved from room to room and house to house.

The other side of the dining room that leads into the kitchen.

The finished living room. Small but comfortable.

Our inexpensive but highly functional kitchen. We could only afford Ikea cabinets and they turned out to be a great value for the price. The wine rack was something we added when we miscalculated the space in the kitchen. It turned out to be a great feature for all those late night projects.

Our master bathroom. This original space was scary with a capital S. It was a small closet bedroom at best. We needed another bathroom in the house and this was the only space where we could add one.

Because it was a dormer, the ceiling height was limited. To visually open the space we fashioned a shower curtain rod out of wire and attached it to the built in storage unit. I loved this room as it was very functional yet warm and cozy.

The office space at the top of the stairs. If you remember from the before pictures, this is where the fireplace stood. We had to use every ounce of space in this house as there wasn't a lot of storage. The built in bookcases and file drawers became a life saver.

What you can't see is the hallway leading to our master bedroom and our actual master. To keep the small space visually open we didn't have any doors except for the bathroom. Once you came up the stairs it was one big long room. Again, because space was limited we had to be creative about closets and storage. We used the eaves of the attic for 4 custom height french door closets.

This was the sunporch out to the patio. We added all the beadboard, repaired the windows and added lighting. When we bought the house this was the scariest lime green room I'd ever seen. The paint was almost neon.

This house was an incredible project and learning experience. When I look back I'm not sure how we survived it!

I hope you enjoyed the pictures of our first home. Later I will show you the before and after pictures of our next renovation project.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Circa 1998 - 2002, Part 1

I grew up with a real estate mother who was always taking me through houses. I learned to appreciate a good house from a house that had potential from a house that no amount of money could fix. This was the 70's and raising a house and rebuilding wasn't part of our culture or vocabulary. My mother was and is, also a closet interior designer. Always moving furniture around, ripping out walls, repainting - you never knew what you'd find when you came home. She also had a passion for junking and collecting antiques before it was fashionable. She taught me to find a treasure on the side of the road or in a little crowded store. The thrill of the hunt was part of my DNA and my mother nurtured it.

My step-dad is an architect and once we blended families we needed a much larger house. As a result, I spent my high school years living in a house that he was building for us. After cramming 5 kids into a small rental for over a year, we bit the bullet and moved into the shell of the house. The kitchen wasn't finished and we had one bathtub as the only running water and sheets as divider walls. A wood stove heated the entire 5,000 square foot house. Needless to say we spent a lot of time in our ski clothes. We spent weekends shoveling gravel or dirt or whatever needed to be done. It was a family effort. It was glorious and fun. I learned a lot about houses and myself.

Fast forward to 1998. Seattle was in the middle of the real estate boom years. Houses had many bids over the asking price or weren't even coming on the market. Prices where climbing by the day.

My husband and I had been married a year. We wanted our first house and wanted to stay in the city. We happened to find a 1911 Craftsman house in Wallingford that had just come on the market and after I ran through it for 5 minutes, and we made an offer.

It was one of the worst houses I'd ever seen.

It had been a rental for over 20 years. Ceilings with water damage; A dead bird in the shag carpet of the scary torture attic (and I mean scary attic!); One bathroom where if you sat down on the toilet you're knees hit the bathtub; Pepto Bismol pink walls in the living room and original 1920's wallpaper in the dining room. The kitchen was so bad it wasn't even functional.

We were young and naive. We didn't understand the scope of the project we had just embarked on and it became our life. We were fortunate enough to have great friends who lived a street away that offered to let us move into their basement while we got the house to move in condition. Meaning, once again and not the last, working plumbing. We spent every hour outside of work rehabbing our house on a newlywed budget. It was sweat equity at it's best and this was prior to craigslist so it was harder to find treasures on a budget.

We moved into the main floor of the house, took the upstairs down to the studs and then closed the upstairs door until we had the time and money to tackle the giant project. It took us about 2 years to finally get to it.

Other than plumbing and electrical we did everything ourselves. Raising ceilings, removing a brick fireplace than ran through all three floors of the house, tiling kitchens and bathrooms, installing wainscoting and cabinets, creating a patio with the used bricks from the chimney, fixing leaded windows. You name it - we did it. We worked many nights after work until 1 am and did the same the next night. Did I mention that we didn't have a garage and it was 25 steep steps to the front door? 25 steps to haul all of our materials -- claw foot tubs, bricks! Good thing I was in my twenties.

By 2002 we had our first son and needed more space. The house was finished and we needed to move. We were addicting to renovations and we needed a new project.

Houses, remodeling and decorating is in my blood. Anything (well, almost anything when it comes to houses) is possible if you are willing to do the work or pay for it to be done. It can be very rewarding and fun.

I hope you enjoy the before and during photos.

Living Room, Dining Room During. The pink walls are still visible but the original wallpaper had been stripped by this time.

Kitchen during the demo phase. The fireplace ran through this room so we had to take everything done to the studs and start over.

Me. This was a common sight during those years. My friends couldn't believe that I would get dirty and do this work myself. It was normal to stop by and see me with a tool belt and a nail gun putting up wainscoting or installing hexagon tile. Very glamorous.

Part of the original bathroom. You can see where the tub was. All floor joists had to be replaced. All in all, this room was gutted to the studs.

Bathroom during construction. I found an original claw foot tub and did the bathroom in the period style.

Upstairs on the day of demo.

Chimney that ran through the house. This is an upstairs view in the middle of demo. You can see the sagging walls and water damage. Pretty tile floor that was under the scary shag orange carpet. Dead bird is gone by now.

Once the walls were down. Chimney still has to go....

The upstairs once it was completely gutted. A blank canvas.

Check back for the "after" pictures.
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