Friday, July 30, 2010

Didn't Take Long to Find a DIY Project

My new home is pretty young, having been built 7 years ago. It's in very good condition, and the the interior is getting freshened up with new paint, wallpaper and carpeting. The former owners used fairly dark colors, and I want to open up the feel of the space, and emphasize the fat crown moulding, french doors and window trim. I lived in a 14' wide rowhouse for 20 years, which had it's charms--but I'm excited to have a roomier feel and so many windows! I was so happy that the things that the seller "conveyed" were ones I'd have bought--plantation shutters in every window, some great lighting fixtures and curtain rods with interesting finials.

I know I have to figure out draperies of some sort down the line. I thought that the only DIY I'd be doing was repainting two rocking chairs I got for the porch at a second hand store, and assembling a few adirondack chairs for the yard.

Lo and behold--I found a project today and I'm happy with the results! The guest room had a brushed nickel-accented dome lighting fixture, flush to the ceiling. I asked the painters to take it down, thinking I'd buy a fixture (oil rubbed bronze) to match the forthcoming decor. I was in WalMart (for the second time in my whole life---it's huuuuge!) getting sandpaper and black satin spray paint for the rocking chair project this morning--when I saw Krylon Brushed Metallic paint. Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint in a satin finish. Can you hear the wheels turning?
Decent light. Great condition. Wrong finish.

Mask the areas you don't want to paint.

Cover the bulbs and tall center screw with plastic. Put down a dropcloth in a well ventilated area.

Forgot to take a pic, but prior to this step, I borrowed one brushload of white primer from the painter, so the paint would adhere better. Let primer dry, then spray fixture with 2 coats. Let dry 15 mins between coats. Don't forget to spray the 2-piece finial!

These fixtures are not "expensive" but why buy a new one when you can change the look for under $3? I'm on an O.R.B. (oil rubbed bronze) mission--next up, the brass house numbers! 

Git 'er Done!

I've blogged about the painting projects that I undertook in my old (literally old) house. Over 20 years, I painted and repainted every room, ceiling, closet and door, front steps and walk as well as the interior and exterior of the extension out back. I used loads of caulking and quarts of spackling compound to fill in moulding gaps and wall imperfections.

In Chapter Two, I'm having the interior of my new home painted, by other people! I got a recommendation for Bob Furr Painting and Wallpapering from a local couple undertaking a massive renovation of a large scale craftsman bungalow. No glops, neat edges, smooth walls, good coverage---my kind of painter.

I've got 7 rooms, 2.5 bathrooms, a hallway, laundry room, stairwell and some closets. Like a scene out of Mission Impossible, 2 vans pulled up and 10 white-clad painters swooped into the house like a S.W.A.T. team. I stood back and said "Yay, I so deserve this" under my minty breath. They covered the floors, wrapped the lighting fixtures, fixed nail pops, filled in picture holes, pulled out old mollies, patched and spackled the extraneous outlets, and painted the trim and ceilings. A great day's work! They're pros---their clothes were as clean when they left, as they were when they arrived. Dang.

My bedroom's tray (trey?) ceiling, master bath, office, guest room and powder room are being wallpapered. I haven't decorated with wallpaper since the late 80's. I labored over books at Sherwin Williams. I jotted down what info I could decipher, took pix with my phone, ordered a few samples, and did online research by cobbling together book names, collections, colorways, pattern #'s or page #'s...and found that I could save $10-$12 per roll, by ordering on the internet. Sorry Sherwin. I was initially hesitant to buy online--but my friend Joan in Brooklyn suggested it, so I resurrected my notes and I called ahead before ordering. I felt comfortable that I'd get what I was ordering. I used   My man Martin told me the # of rolls to order, once I gave him the roll width, length, repeat and whether a pattern was a straight match or has a drop. Wallpaperstogo orders direct from the manufacturer, and I had the rolls delivered within 3 days!

Here's a peek at the master bath. It's quite a sanctuary---garden tub, 2 sinks, separate enclosed shower and a water closet. Swanky! This pattern is a major departure for me. I never thought I'd choose flowers and insects...but I fell for the colors, and the movement in the pattern.  I love the way it transformed the room-- from blah to spa!
Master Bath... Before



Gary's been hanging paper since 1979...look closely to see the perfect matching on the switchplates. Can't wait to see the rest of the rooms done!

Blackberry. Legal Pad. Daytimer. Measuring Tape.

Day 1 at the house, a steady stream of folks came through, getting me set up. Alarm guy, water guy, electric guy, gas guy and my point man, Martin Pine of Bob Furr Painting and Wallpapering.

Martin and I spent almost 2 hours choosing paint colors. The first hump was choosing the ceiling/closet/hallway color--WHITE. There are true whites, cooler whites and warm whites. 56 "white" paint chips in all to compare and contrast, in the sunlight and roomlight. I chose a warmer white called "Creamy" in a flat finish. I ruled out the other 10 finish choices...matte, satin, low sheen, eggshell, low sheen eggshell, low lustre, semi-gloss, medium lustre, gloss, and high gloss. The trim will be bright white...semi gloss. Keep it simple, people! The wall colors fell into place quickly, as I had wallpaper samples and fabric swatches.

Martin left, then the carpet lady came from Empire Today. The upstairs carpeting looked "clean" when the house was furnished...but when it was empty I could see 7 years of wear and tear, spills and stains. In NYC, I vacuumed religiously and had the carpets (age 3-10 years old) steam cleaned every year...and I was shocked at how grubby they looked once my furniture was moved out! Gritty city.

I looked at all the books...low pile, frisee, berber, plush, carpet made from corn (!), and settled on a neutral carpet with a light honey tonality, that felt good underfoot. I held the wallpapers up to it and the color was perfect. Empire Today prices per room...and it works out to be less than the lowball come-on pricing from Home Depot or Lowes. The big-box stores advertise, say, "$1.88 per square foot"...but no carpet is measured by the square foot! It's by the weight (in ounces) of the carpet, by the square yard + padding and installation. Fuzzy logic and new math...don't get caught up in "free" offers...nothing is's just worded confusingly. I asked for (and got) a loyal customer discount (about $800 off the order) by letting the salesperson know that I used Empire in NYC. I sat there while she made the call ;-) She was getting my order, but I wanted the best deal I could get. Pencils are meant to be sharpened.

Once the parade ended, I walked around and figured out what all the switches and knobs were, and took an inventory of a heck of a lot of electrical outlets, phone jacks and cable jacks. I drew out each room's potential furniture placement, and put post-it notes on the wall outlets and jacks that could be removed and/or patched over. I sent a text to Martin to let him know that there were 10. I scheduled the cable company to come after the electrician puts a cable and phone jack in the small bedroom that will be my office.

Enough choreography for one day, Day One!

My New Home

Chapter Two of my life is underway! I closed on my sweet, new home this past Monday...52 days after selling my place in NYC.

I saw upwards of 75 properties.

After ruling out condos, apartments, and townhomes, I focused on single family homes.

Too big, too small, too much yard, no yard at all. Front-loading garages that took up half the front of the house. No garage.

After ruling out 1940's bungalows and mill houses in need of major renovation, 60's ranches, red brick, brown brick, buying an empty lot for new construction, and houses from the 70's and 80's that had 2 story foyers with juliet balconies, weirdly shaped picture windows, popcorn ceilings, small rooms, road noise, on a flood plain, etc...

Then, I saw it. And I knew it was MY house.

Cottage style, 7 years old in mint condition, rocking chair front porch, big kitchen with a gas stove, pleasantly proportioned rooms, detached 2 car garage out back, small yard w/flagstone patio, nice plantings and room for a fig tree and an herb garden. Great finishes and cool things I've never had before, like ceiling fans, Bose surround sound throughout the house/yard/porch, and lots of storage. It's spacious but compact, not ostentacious. Perfect for me!

I left my lawyer's office and headed for the house, stopping at Target first, for a case of water, a broom, garden hose and a welcome mat.  I've been driving around for weeks with two adirondack chairs that need assembly.

Let the fun begin. Turning a house into my home!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Eat Pray Love. Sell Rent Buy.

I'm in a state of flux this week, post-whirlwind, pre-new "to do's."  

I listed my home in March, sold it in May, moved in June, I'm renting a furnished corporate apartment, I househunted and unexpectedly came upon "the one", and will be closing on my new home July 26th.  Sell Rent Buy.

Not quite as exotic as Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love." Her journey "in search of everything" took her through Italy, India and Indonesia. My journey has taken me from New York to North Carolina, with trips to Aruba, London, Mexico and Italy in between. And...Julia Roberts is not playing me in a major motion picture.

I've only read half her book, as it's with the other 8000 lbs of 'house' that are in storage. The Italy piece of her story flooded me with memories of last summer's trip to Italy--Como, Tuscany and the Cinque Terre. The vista below doesn't even look real in the photo--it was beyond stunning in person.

I was halfway through the India chapters in Eat Pray Love, when I chucked the book into a box and got crackin' on packin'. Not very zen! I'll dig it out and finish before the movie opens mid-August.

This flux thing has been interesting. I'm living in an antiseptic (very beige) apartment, with files and paperwork spread out over the kitchen table. I haven't slept through the night yet. It might be the plastic vertical blinds, or the upstairs neighbors flushing their toilet at 3am---but I'm sure when I have my own 4 walls and my stuff around me, I'll be back on track. The journey continues.

To maintain a bit of normalcy, and to create my own sense of comfort, I cook. I brought my favorite knife, some utensils and a few kitchen tools with me, mostly because I prefer not to use "other people's" graters and peelers (provenance too sketchy.)

I've enjoyed lunches and dinners with new friends, but I have not resorted to dining out (alone) or ordering in. I'm not here on a business trip, I'm creating my new life.

This weekend was stormy with dark swirling clouds. Nice backdrop for cooking a Saturday dinner after exploring all day. The leftovers were great for a late lunch yesterday.  On hand, I had some chicken breasts, the panko that the chef at Charley's gave me (!), spinach, mushrooms and rice. See steps below for making homemade rice pilaf.

I couldn't pass up buying this pretty plate...more homey than the plain white ones that came with the rental. Those of you who know me, know my penchant for plates! Lots of plates...

To jazz up everyday rice, make your own rice pilaf. I grew up on Minute Rice boiled in water, but once I tried basmati, jasmine and arborio rices simmered in stock, it was lifechanging. Sorry, Mom!

1. Use 2 to 4x liquid to rice, depending on the type of rice you're using.
2. Add a knob of butter and a few drizzles of olive oil to a pan.
3. Heat up chicken (or veg or beef) stock in another pot.
4. Saute some diced onions, peas, celery....whatever veggies you like, or you can skip this step. I skipped it.
5. Keep sauteed veggies aside on a plate while you...
5. Break up some fine egg noodles, and brown the pasta and the rice slightly in the pan.
6. Empty the saute pan w/rice + veggies into the hot broth, simmer on low, COVERED without peeking, for 15-25 mins, depending on the type of rice you're using.
7. Fluff with a fork, let sit for 10 minutes.  Season with some pepper. Watch the salt.

There are so many variations--You can stir in sauteed veggies at the start, or toasted pine nuts, parsley, raisins, craisins at the end...or just have it plain the way I did, with browned egg noodles.

Home is where the heart is...and I'm making homey food while my heart is in transit!

Monday, July 12, 2010

U.S. Whitewater Center

A quick 20 minute drive outside the city brought me to the U.S. Whitewater Center, for a day on the water. It's a pretty cool place, and it's open dawn to dusk except for T-Day and Christmas Day. Parking is $5, and the grounds and trails are free for walkers and hikers. There's a restaurant, outdoor gear shop, restrooms and ($2) day lockers. Bring a change of dry clothes and a towel. If you're kayaking, a drybag is great to keep your wallet, camera and sunscreen handy. A $49 day pass gives you unlimited access to and equipment for mountain biking, hiking, rockwall climbing, ziplines, river rafting, whitewater or flatwater kayaking. I was just checking it out, so I got a $25 one-sport day pass, for flatwater kayaking. Dippin' my toe in the water...

I saw a big blue heron, it was at least 2 feet tall and had quite a wingspan. Also saw lots of turtles resting on logs, but they dove in when I got too close. I had my eye out for gator nostrils. Alligators are not native to the river, but every few years, a few are introduced to NC lakes through illegal dumping. Like Easter chicks that grow up...gators outgrow the bathtub.

The Catawba River is very serene, nothing but woods on either side, and no strong currents...quite unlike kayaking in the East River in NYC!

This pic courtesy of the Long Island City Community Boathouse.

Olympic kayakers train at the U.S. Whitewater Center. No doubt they dial up the waves in the man made river!

Apres-paddle, I had lunch and a beer on the terrace overlooking the manmade section of 'river.' Watched more than a few rafts lose a helmeted rider, but they were pulled right back in and everyone was high fiving and laughing.

On Thursdays at 7pm there's a River Jam with live music til sunset. I'll be going back for more--I'll add the zip line and rafting, and kick it up a notch. 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Independence Day!

Main Street. Pineville, North Carolina 2:45pm July 3rd

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I zoomed through Davidson, NC today, a pleasant little college town next to Cornelius and Lake Norman, 20 or so miles north of Charlotte. Another one-stoplight town off I-77. I had a late lunch at "Toast" and popped into the shops.

This little strip of Main St. overflows on weekends and during the school year with Davidson college kids and families walking, talking, ice cream cones dripping. The shops have cafe tables or rocking chairs out front, checkers and newpapers. There aren't many shops, but they're inviting.

One shop was shuttered, but the window display is still there. I'm not really surprised it's closed for business. Someone must have cut class the day they lectured on "supply and demand."

I guess there's gnot a big gneed for gnomes.