Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Upstairs, Downstairs

Who among us hasn't banged a nail into the wall with the heel of a shoe? Is the hammer two flights down, in the back of a closet, in a junk drawer, out in the garage, or do you not own a hammer?

Is it rare that you have the things you need, at hand, when you need them?

Living on 3 levels, I have had my share of  ***arghhhh*** moments, and I've since kept the house stocked for myself and for my guests. I doubt it's only me who has crept around my host's house, trying not to wake the dog up late at night, looking for an extra roll of toilet paper, or heaven forbid...a plunger.

The latter episode did happen to me. When I sheepishly told my cousin at breakfast that "I think there's an issue with the bathroom"...he said, "Oh Cuz, I forgot to tell you that we turned off the water to the toilet..."  NOW you tell me??  It's kinda funny in the re-telling, but I was really embarrassed! I'd closed the lid, tiptoed past the sleeping dog (who opened one eye, but did not growl), found some paper and a pen, and had written "Out of Order!"
Living so close to Manhattan, I have had my share of houseguests. Among them were tipsy friends who were better off not driving, or who stayed over because it just got too late.
Some were unexpected (including complete strangers) on the terrible night of Sept 11, 2001 as well as the big Northeast Grid blackout in August 2003.

For your own sanity and the sake of planned and unplanned guests, take a moment, take stock and stock up.

Here are some ideas:

Keep paper towels under the bathroom sink.

Grab a few (free) paper measuring tapes the next time you're at IKEA.

Keep a small sewing kit around--assorted thread, some needles, a seam ripper, small scissors.

Pick up an extra alarm clock and a flashlight or two at the odd lot store.

Extra pillows can be as little as $7 at Target.

It's an indelicate subject, air freshener and a plunger for every bathroom. Plungers come in "decorative" styles, not as unsightly as days of yore!

Purge and update the medicine cabinet(s)--stock pain relievers, cough medicine, hand cream, Q Tips, etc...

For the guest room, or near the the pullout sofa or the that guests don't have to root too deeply through your cabinets, have a small box or a basket filled with toiletries, a bandaid or two, disposable razor, sports sox for chilly feet, an extra toothbrush, and a bottle of water. You can save extras from hotel stays, or buy travel size goodies at Target, a drug store or Bed Bath and Beyond.

Save some recent magazines and give your guests a small stack for late night reading.

Stash an extra hammer, screwdriver and pair of pliers in a desk drawer--they come in handy!

Buy a small box of picture hanging nails, and keep it in your desk drawer.

Put some post-it notes and extra pens near your telephones (if you have landlines!) or near the front door.

Make some extra sets of keys, for a guest, for a trusted neighbor and maybe one to hide case you lock yourself out!

As you would do for a babysitter, have your address and cross streets and a list of phone #'s in a logical place. If you need to call a plumber in an emergency, or a housesitter smells gas or needs a relative's contact info, it's good to have info in one place, at hand. I wrote the plumber's name and number right on the front of my hot water heater.

I'm not saying you need to offer fancy turndown service and a mint on the pillow, but little niceties make your guests comfortable and you can sleep knowing that they are less likely to have to find something themselves or wake you up!

Whether you're an apartment dweller or homeowner, it's handy to have this stuff you don't have to run to an all night deli, or outside to a storage shed in your PJ's, or go down to the basement, or scramble for contact info if your iPhone dies or the computer is fried.

Out of frustrations, come solutions. It must be the Girl Scout in me...but I like to be prepared, and to anticipate what others might need. My ex called me "Two Shoes" which was short for Goody Two Shoes. I liked it, actually.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dressing up a Dresser

I picked up a small-scale, 4-drawer wooden dresser in the mid 80's for $10 at a tag sale. It was in "ok" condition, nothing great. (Hello...$10!) It's actually a great size for drawer each for solid, patterned, casual and golf socks. I'm kinda organized...

Instead of ditching it a few years ago when I renovated my master bedroom, I decided to see what would happen if I spray painted it gold and glued some fabric on, wrong side facing out, and added some trim. If it looked really bad, I would just put it out in the garbage.

It's definitely on the shabby chic end of the spectrum, but I like the way the fleur de lis repeats in the mirror's motif.

I picked up some fabric and trim, and I had the craft glue and gold spray paint on hand. Probably spent $25 on the entire re-do. Note to self: it could do with new drawer pulls.

I was purging magazines (House Beautiful, not sure what year) and came across the photo (below) of a Pierre Deux commode with La Fete toile...for $1295.00

I'm not comparing pommes to pommes...but I'm not sure I like that one any better. I'd give wallpapering a dresser a go, before dropping over $1200.00, though. Sacre bleu!

Color Blind

Is a color "in" or "out" in a given year or particular season? Of course there are trends, but if it's available at the paint store, or if they can mix a custom color for you, then I believe that any color you want is "in."  I'm not really color blind, I'm just blind to trends.

I paint whatever color appeals to me, and it seems from what I'm reading, that all of my rooms are unwittingly spot-on for trendiness. According to House Beautiful magazine in October 2009, "The hottest color for Spring 2010 is high energy yellow." What goes around comes around! I choose color over brand as it relates to distance from home to store, though I know there are strong arguments for Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams, and against big box store brands like Glidden and Behr. Home Depot is 1 mile away and I can load up my car. Millions of people can't be that wrong!

I painted my kitchen Glidden "Del Sol" back in 2001, because I wanted it to be bright and sunny after having closed off a wall with a window that looked out onto the neighbor's chain link fence. It's a happy room!

Oops, I guess I forgot how much yellow I had going on around the house when I chose Behr "Glorious Gold" for the half bath! I matched the yellow in the sink that I'd brought back from Mexico in 2008. I was just drawn to the color.

The guest room (2002) is Behr "Vanilla" and the yellow tone looks deeper or lighter depending upon the time of day.

I repainted the living room a few weeks ago, from a mustard-y yellow that had a greenish tone, to Behr "Orange Glow" (ceiling and trim) + Behr "Warm Cocoon" for the walls. It's brighter and very welcoming! All overhead lighting in my home is on a dimmer, which I keep off or low, as I am a bigger fan of lamplight.

Deep red seems to be a lasting style favorite, and I went that route for my home office, when I repainted just last weekend. I used Glidden "Red Delicious."

I haven't seen periwinkle mentioned lately, but I chose Behr "Cornflower Blue" in 2005 to complement the mid-century mint green tiles in my full bath, because I just liked it! I removed the black toilet and sink--as trendy as they might have been at one point!

 Turns out though, that "black is back" and I am pleased with the black accents I chose because I thought they'd look cool, for the office and guest room window treatments, and master bedroom furniture.

Better Homes & Gardens magazine declared in November 2008 that "Plum is chic, paired with grays, khakis and creams." Well, I guess I was ahead of the pack in 2003 when I pulled a deep plum color from the camel colored sofa's accent pillow, in the khaki and cream colored den, and had a storage ottoman upholstered!

I purchased the ottoman from Ballard Designs for $450.00 in 2003 and the prices have remained relatively unchanged. You can choose from their fabrics, or send in your own, and the upholstery is done at no charge. They'll provide a form and a guide, so you know how much fabric to buy! Here's a link:

Lest you think that I live in a crazy kaleidoscope, for me there is a logical flow, and the transitional hallways are a very tame cream, Behr's "Lunar Light" and "Belvedere Cream." I follow my own style, and I hope you're following yours! I get inspiration from many sources--family, friends, shelter publications, flea markets, department stores, catalogs, street finds, HGTV, etc...  Sure, I love peeking into showrooms at the Design Building, but I'm a DIY'er and a recessionista, and I'm not in line for cashmere draperies or hand laquered walls.

And I'm good with that!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Make Your Own Chalkboard

I was putting the accessories back in my home office after having painted, and was not excited to re-hang the 24" x 36" white dry- erase board. It looked junky against the swanky new "Red Delicious" walls. I poked around the internet for some ideas, and nothing grabbed me. Since the whiteboard has a brushed aluminum frame (that complements my office accents) and a tray for an eraser and markers, I've decided to keep it and turn it into a chalkboard.

Not neat.Neat.

At Home Depot, Rust-Oleum brand chalkboard paint is $11.75 for 1-Quart or $5.15 for a spray can in classic schoolhouse green or black. I'm going with black, in a spray can---1 quart is more than I need. They also sell a tintable base, and 12 custom colors if you're feeling fancy. An eraser is $3 and I already have chalk.

Recessionista alert---I'm spending under $10.00 for this DIY project!

The inspiration for this project comes from my sister Leslie, who painted a door in her cozy kitchen with chalkboard paint. Her daughter Hayley loves to draw and scribble reminders there. I was not aware that Mittens and Boots can read, but there are arrows to show them where their cat door is ;-)

My project:

Tape and sand whiteboard, lightly just to rough up the surface.

Spray 3 coats chalkboard paint, 30 mins apart.

Let dry/cure 24 hours, peel away the tape.

"Condition" the board by rubbing chalk over, then erasing.

Finished product! $8.00 investment.

Chalk up another quick and easy DIY project!

Here are some more expensive alternatives, if you don't mind spending $ or if you prefer ready-made:

There are lots of home office organizers available for purchase, like Pottery Barn's "Daily System." The set-up pictured below, with various "modules" like display rods, shelves, calendar, weekly planner, linen pinboard, cubbies, etc... can run well over $500.00. Yowza.

At the very least, you can make the planners and boards yourself! Rust-Oleum makes a white dry-erase 'paint' as well as a magnetic latex primer coat, in addition to chalkboard paint.

I'm not knocking "the 'Barn" (I get a lot of inspiration from their color schemes and traditional style) but as you can see, their stuff is pretty pricey.

Pottery Barn sells a Modular Chalkboard Tile 14" x 20" shown below (including eraser and chalk) for $135.00 Ouch!!

To DIY the 'tile', you can buy 1/8" thick Masonite board at a lumber store or a home improvement store like Lowe's or Home Depot--a 24" x 36" piece is less than $20...and cover it with chalkboard paint yourself! Hang it up "as is" for a contemporary look, or stick a piece of painted board inside a yard sale picture frame, and have a chalkboard! Or use an old mirror, or a big tray! The paint adheres to glass, wood, plastic, anything can be transformed.

Chalkboard Wall Applique tiles (9" x 12") 2 sets shown below, are available on in sets of 4 for $15.00/set.

To DIY that look, you can use blue painter's tape to mask off an area, and paint directly onto a wall. Leave the resulting chalkboard plain, or tack up decorative molding, or glue wide ribbon around the perimeter. Lots of possibilities!

For the very creative among us (I have not tried this...but it looks pretty cool) Martha Stewart has a recipe for make-it-yourself chalkboard paint. Who knew?! You just need flat paint in any color, and some grout. See the link below for directions:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Cloffice Part Deux: Repainting Project

The prep time you spend prior to painting will save you aggravation and disappointment in the end.

Ten steps from start to finish.
3 days.
Total Cost: $157.50
New window treatment: 2 curtain panels... $50.00
Vinyl mini blind...$9.99
3 storage bins...$32.00
Contact paper...$6.75
Paint and Primer...$44.00
Roller covers...$10.00

Before (Pewter).....and.....After (Red Delicious), and how I got there:

You'll need the following supplies for painting:
Claw Hammer (for removing nails)
Paint Roller Covers + Roller
Paint Trays (I buy disposable plastic ones for $2.79, rather than washing them out)
Detachable screw top handle for the paint roller (looks like a broomstick)
Screwdrivers (flat head and philips head, for removing window hardware and switchplates)
Blue Painter's Tape
Ziploc Baggies
Lightweight Spackling
Putty Knife
220 Grit Sandpaper
Paintable Caulk (in a small tube, no big cartridge or caulking gun necessary!)
Primer (Use Gray primer to cover the existing paint, so that the Red paint adheres and covers well)
Paint in various colors( Red for walls, Bright White for ceiling and trim. I chose Eggshell finish.)
Paint Stirrers
Ladder or Stepstool

1. Set up a staging area for all supplies. The room I'm painting (closet + office = The Cloffice) is 11.5' x 8' so I'm using the adjoining bathroom to access tools and supplies. Give yourself some elbow room! I've never stepped backwards into a pan full of paint...and I don't want to start today.

2. Clear all furniture out, remove items from desktop, take all art off the walls and take down window treatments. Remove switchplate covers from outlets. Place all re-usable picture hangers, nails and screws in a Ziploc baggie. Tape the switchplate screws to the switchplates so you don't have to hunt for them later!

3. Fill nail holes with lightweight spackling, scrape off excess. You'll have less to sand.
4. Caulk all spaces between molding and ceiling, and places where molding has separated. Use Paintable Caulk!!
5. When the caulk is dry, start "from the top" and paint the ceiling first, then the trim. No primer needed--I'm painting white over white!

6. Protect the lighting fixure with painter's tape. Do not get near the hot bulb with the paint-filled roller--the bulb will shatter!! I learned that the blonde way, helping my friend Tracy repaint about 20 years ago!

7. De-lint the roller cover by using the sticky side of blue painter's tape. Wrap tape around your hand/knuckles and roll back and forth, like taking lint off a sweater.
 This "Wooster Shortcut" brand is my new favorite brush for "cutting in" -- the angle is perfect, and the handle is short and flexible, for greater control!

8. Now, "cut in" the ceiling paint with a brush. By that I mean, paint an outline of the perimeter edges with a brush, so you can use a roller to fill in the rest. It gives you neater edges, with no globs of paint, and there is no need to jam the roller into corners.

" Cutting in" the wall seam, the edges and under the molding with the small brush, loaded with gray-tinted primer.

9. Use the roller to fill in! Roll quickly but evenly, so the texture is like a lemon rind. Trust yourself here--it looks sloppy and ugly now, but...

It dries evenly!!

Primer dries to the touch in about an hour, but let it CURE for a few hours, so that the deep red paint will go on evenly and the paint molecules will grab on, rather than smear or get muddy!!

Though it's a small room, this job does not need to get any bigger than ONE weekend---red paint can be a challenge. Follow my tips regarding the primer (no shortcuts!) and the room will have a deep, lush color with just 2 coats of red paint, rather than 4-6 coats.

Another product plug--I love this "Handy Paint Pail" with disposable plastic liners. It's been through quite a few projects! Hold the pail, rather than the handle: pushing the handle up to my wrist allows me to stay balanced when up on a ladder, rather than trying to hold a wobbly paint tray or cup of paint, and there's a magnet that holds a brush.

10. OK, time to get bold. I'm ready for the RED paint! Same deal as the primer--cut in the edges, ONE wall at a time with a brush...then fill in with a well loaded roller. Make a W shape and keep rolling with even pressure over the wall, to get that lemon rind texture, and make sure there are no drips. If you press down too hard on the roller, you'll force paint off the edges, and will get "lap marks." They'll dry into a make sure you catch any of those! The paint goes on light, and dries darker.
The first coat will dry a little splotchy looking, but I'm not worried.  I'm really happy with the way it looks so far!  Let the paint dry and cure overnight before painting the 2nd/final coat...and touching up the trim.
Gettin' there!

Detail of window treatment. I re-used the curtain rod, which is "Blomma" from IKEA. The silver grommet in the curtain adds a bit of metro flair and it's repeated in the storage bins. (All from Bed, Bath & Beyond.) I used contact paper (from Home Depot) to cover the existing blotter I'm updating (from Pier 1), and repeated it on the inside walls of the closet (where shelf pin holes were visible!)