Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Big Discovery

The process of getting my house ready to market continues. I attacked the basement with renewed vigor today pushing aside cobwebs and reaching into the darkest and most remote corners. I poked into places that I have not looked into in 20 years. I made thousands of decisions in a matter of hours. Is this trash? Will it sell at a yard sale? Is there a spark of potential left in this? What is the shelf life of windshield washer fluid? How long does a 2x4 have to be to warrant saving it for a later project? Then there was the debate over flyswatters. How many do I need? (Never mind that I haven't used one in years) As soon as I throw it out there will arrive a pesky fly to drive me crazy. But do I need one for each hand?

It all gets a little overwhelming. BREAK TIME! Call a friend, laugh a little, have a beer and then get back at it. Today there was a bonus for my fortitude. I climbed onto a stool to scope out the top shelves of the dark and dirty storage lockers. I motivate myself to do this by envisioning myself opening a cigar box full of $100 bills. Come on. It happens sometimes. I found a stash years ago behind a partition in this very basement. There was an unopened bottle of Rum, a wrapped cigar, and an unloaded handgun. None of this was of much use to me but it was some one's treasure and it was hidden.

But today I found a strip of the vinyl flooring...the very one I spoke of in my first blog entry. At the risk of it being anticlimactic, I show it to you now.

This is the pattern I so had my heart set on for that first kitchen. Can you believe I still have a piece of it 30 years later?

Do you think I have a little problem parting with the things I love?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


What we sleep in can say a lot about how we feel about our personal space. No, I'm not talking about pajamas, or t-shirts or au naturale. I mean the bed we choose to sleep in and how we accessorize that bedroom.

Although I'm not big into fashion or makeup and I am definately not a helpless damsel, I am a girlie girl when it comes to decorating the bedroom.

My dad occupied this room for a short time while he helped me with some of the early rennovations. Then it became my bedroom.

I selected the smallest room in this house for my bedroom because of the lovely bay window and window seat. It was romantic and so were the delicate peach roses that wrapped the room. I even wallpapered the ceiling with a coordinating minature check. (Not without a huge struggle and lots of help from my sister-in-law, Therese. It is a wonder she still speaks to me.)


The iron bed was painted white and covered with a homespun blue and brown quilt and shams. Yes, I made it myself with fabrics I selected on a trip to San Francisco. All women of that day were proficient with a needle and thread.

White fluffy poufs framed the bay window and a heart shaped boudoir chair completed the romantic look.
This look lasted until water beds became vogue. Well, maybe I was a bit behind the trend as I bought mine from someone who was "over it." A queen size waterbed required a larger room that resulted in a move across the hall.
The roses bit the dust and gave way to the new "media" room.

At the time, this meant a TV, a futon, and a movie poster.

As goofy as it sounds, I thought this hip water bed needed a canopy of white eyelet with side panels restrained by tiebacks trimmed in soft blue. To camouflage the pedestal, I added a white dust ruffle. Another floral wallpaper, this time in pale blue on white, eased the room to the feminine.
That lasted until I needed more closet space.

Although there was a closet in this location it was recessed into the bathroom on the other side of the wall. The existing closet remained and the side walls were extended into the bedroom making for a deeper closet.

This closet served to balance the larger closet to the right of the doorway. It also provided much needed shelf space in a walk in closet.

Fortunately the room was large enough to accomodate a couple of closets. Etched bifolds kept the contents hidden and added a little interest to the room.

I transitioned to a bolder scheme of red, blue and teal. Framed sketches of women from the turn of the century and flouncy roman shades gave the room a feminine presence.
Along came a class in Feng Shui and suddenly the water bed was taboo. The air needed to flow under the bed. The energy from the doorway was crossing my body and interrupting my sleep. And worst of all, I was not in the position of authority in the house.

This meant moving into the "all purpose" room. The only room left on the second floor that had not been my bedroom. I felt a bit like Goldilocks hoping this time I would feel like it was "just right."

The walls were once again a coral color but this time in a plaster rubbed finish done in a five layer wash. It remains to this day, a soft smooth finish that glows in the early morning light.

By this time I had become enamored with a painting technique made popular by McKenzie Childs. Right on cue, a bed fell into my hands compliments of my son's friend, Dan. He snatched it from an alley for me.

I spent hours planning the layout of my design and then spent the winter months painting most of this bed on my kitchen island. It gave me the chance to practice marbling, tortoise shell, gold leafing, and a variety of other techniques.

The coverlet was a beautiful linen toile in peach with a tan background that I discovered at a remnant shop in Fredricksburg, Texas. The piece was not large enough to cover the bed so I added a border and buttons to resemble a duvet cover.

By now you are getting the idea that nothing stays the same for very long. I don't really tire of these lovely items but there is so much more to love and treasure in the world of interior design, and so this bed went to someone else who loves it.

I moved on to a headboard that I had purchased at a garage sale when it was in its pink velvet and chrome frame incarnation. I repainted the frame for a friend to use in a showcase house and then got it back newly upholstered in a lovely brown rayon velvet.

So another coverlet was fabricated and I was once again sleeping soundly in my new bed.

No matter how much our tastes change, there is a core part of who we are that remains the same.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sorting through old photos stirs up the memories like nothing else can. Sometimes even serves to make a few adjustments, do I dare say "corrections?" to a memory that has faded a bit or to a time line that has slipped slightly out of order. But the significant benefit of photos is that they jog other memories that could not be captured on film.

This photo shows my kitchen looking a tad worse than when I purchased the house in 1978 because I could not wait to start the demo. The sink you see was the extent of the kitchen. There were no cabinets or counters. The yellow wallpaper was intact at closing but it didn't last much longer than a few days. Sadly, it had been freshly hung by the previous owner and I remember her lamenting the fact that she had just gotten her kitchen the way she wanted it and now she was moving.

I selected oak cabinets and poppy colored countertops to coordinate with a wallpaper pattern I had chosen. (Keep in mind this was the late 70's) Although the floor is not visible in the pictures, the thought of it jogs my most vivid memory of the kitchen rehab. I saw this vinyl floor in a magazine ad and was convinced it was the perfect compliment to the rest of the color scheme. Tiny patches of blue, terra cotta, brown, and a golden yellow formed an intricate starburst pattern resembling a delicate hand stitched patchwork quilt. At the time I thought it was stunning! But as badly as I wanted this flooring material, I knew I had an entire house to finish and I needed to be practical and stay within budget. So when my brother left to pick up the flooring material at the discount remnant shop, I asked him to look for something in a brick color as I knew it would be satisfactory. (well, sort of.) He returned with a long face and told me he was unable to find what I wanted but said he picked out something else that would probably work. Then he carried in the gorgeous pattern I had seen in the magazine. Turns out someone had custom ordered it and then decided against it. I had the exact flooring I dreamed of having in the exact color and pattern that matched my kitchen and I had it for the discount price. When it was installed, I danced around the empty room in stocking feet on that shiny new floor and the floor seemed as happy to be there as I was to have it there.

A little later I started a bathroom remodel in the room directly above the kitchen. Plumbing access required going through the kitchen ceiling so it seemed the perfect time to add recessed lighting. An island replaced the table and chairs. The wallpaper did not survive this transition and it was replace with a lighter color above the chair rail and a lovely poppy colored pattern on the lower section. New curtains completed the makeover.

Next came the new cabinets in white. The oak cabinets found a new home in a neighbor's kitchen and are there to this day. The walls were done in a dappled teal and white sponge technique with wisteria stenciled over the pantry doorway. Actual grapevine with silk wisteria drifted across the cabinets and over the stove.
There were minor changes to curtains and wall decor over the years. Faux finish painting became my obsession and all the walls in the house became my canvas. The kitchen was never spared. A little faux brick still peeks through the broken and chipped plaster "look" on the walls. The countertop was switched out when I tired of the teal and white theme and was replaced with a varigated green. Along the way the beautiful vinyl floor was replace with hardwood.
Here is how it looks today. The chandelier over the island danced into my life one day. I wanted someone to have it and when I couldn't pursuade my brother to buy it for his house, I bought it for mine.


Over the years the appearance of the kitchen changed many times but the good times and the good food continued uninterrupted through every phase of decorating.

The picture says it all.

Danny entertains with his harmonica.

Eighth grade graduation. That helps to date the wallpaper.

Christmas cookies have become a tradition with the grandkids.
It's always great to have kitchen help.

We miss you Sheila