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A Potting Shed…

8 Jul

I had a hankering this year for a potting shed!  I don’t know if a love of gardening is one of those things that develops as we grow up or what, but I decided that a potting shed was indeed in order.  I can tell you that as a young girl gardening was a dreaded chore.  We had a four-acre garden, is that even a garden?  I had to spend hours out there picking peas, butter beans, green beans, squash and okra only then to have to peddle my goods at the local grocery store for gas money.  Then, of course, we had to shell and put up all these fresh vegetables that we kept for ourselves.  I didn’t have as much exposure to gardening of the flower variety because my Mother did most of that.  There were times that I’d help her weed the beds or something and of course I hated it.  It interfered with my laying out in the sun time and none of my friends had to do it which made it doubly unbearable.  So to say the least, when I was out on my own, gardening of any variety was the farthest thing from my mind!  My grandparents lived across the street from us and the huge garden was in between our place and theirs.  When I would go to my grandparents’ house, my grandpa would walk me around his yard and show me every last bloom on his tomato plants or whatever else he had growing.  I would try to feign interest in it however, because he was so excited for each tiny bloom!  The first place I lived in on my own was an apartment and I was thankful for no yard work, never even crossed my mind that I would ever entertain wanting to do any.  When my husband and I bought our first house, the interest began to emerge ever so slightly.  I put out a few potted plants at the front door and on the porch.  One of my good friends loved gardening and she tried her best to convert me, and she couldn’t resist from pulling a few unsightly weeds from my front beds when she was over.  After we finished this house however, I started to turn my attention to the neglected landscape.  Most of it was reserved for the professionals who knew what they are doing, but I started to want to dig in the dirt little by little.  I wanted to do my potted plants of course, then, my love of cooking prompted me to think about growing some herbs and maybe some tomatoes!  Hence the need for someplace to do the work surfaced and it became a fun little project to create the potting shed.  My husband built it for me and I painted it to match the house.  We added the flower boxes to dress it up a little and to continue my Tuscan theme outside somewhat.  I stocked it with garden implements and soil, lots of different size pots, and as soon as Easter passed the calendar I was ready to start.  We had a really late Easter this year which made waiting all that much worse, but my grandpa swore that you could never plant prior to Easter because of a chance of a freeze.  Was he ever right!  This was a really cold spring so I waited until I could begin my gardening in earnest!  After my first few times out there I knew that the shed wasn’t sufficient.  I now needed a garden table to actually work on to save my back from all the bending over.  Then I thought, well it would be nice to have somewhere to sit down and cool off while I’m working, so chairs and a cocktail table came next.  My husband bought a hammock years back but we never had anywhere to hang it, so he put it out there near the potting shed.  Beneath our screened-in porch and upper deck is a great little shaded area that beckoned for the potting shed; it’s shaded most of the time and needed something there anyway to fill the space.  I can piddle with my plants and he can chill in his hammock while I work!  I decided to plant mint, oregano, basil, rosemary and tomatoes for my little herb and vegetable garden.  Didn’t want to go hog-wild my first time out of the gate.  It is very manageable!  Funny thing is I watch those tomato plants every day, and when the first little yellow bloom opened I was ecstatic.  I had raised this thing and lo and behold it was going to produce a tomato!  I thought about my grandpa…he would be so excited and he would be willing to walk around with me to check all my plants.  I do indulge myself by showing everyone that comes over my container garden.  Now I can’t wait to eat that first ripe tomato!

Whole area Sitting area Potting shed outside

I Render our Tuscan Kitchen…

1 Oct

The kitchen was my favorite part of the renovation even though it required a lot more planning and design.  It was awesome having a clean slate and building it back.  Everything that was lacking in the previous kitchen I wanted to remedy here, namely cabinet and counter space, even though I think you can never truly have enough.  Even now I have almost filled the new cabinets back up!  I love to cook and entertain, so the kitchen to me was very important.  I wanted it to be functional and I wanted it to be beautiful, because everyone always ends up in your kitchen right?  I wanted to have plenty of room to spread out so that several of us could be in the kitchen cooking on holidays, namely my sister, niece and me!  A large island gives plenty of work space and a prep sink was added by the range as a secondary work area.  I planned a five foot walkway between the island and the range and the island and the refrigerator wall.  Standard is three feet, but I didn’t want to be crowded or not be able to open the refrigerator door and dishwasher door at the same time.  We wanted the Old World Tuscan flare that is so warm so we chose the dark wood cabinets but contrasted those with the lighter granite color.  For the island we decided to do a laminate edge which has an extra thick border around the counter and gives it a dressier look since it’s really the focal point of the kitchen.  Copper sinks were in keeping with the Tuscan look as well as copper accent tiles in the backsplash.  The microwave, dishwasher and wine chiller are built into the island.  My preference was for a one piece range with double ovens.  When you’re trying to finish the turkey on Thanksgiving and still cook the dressing and sweet potato casserole two ovens will be great!  Also one can serve as a warming oven for parties.  I don’t like a lot of things out on the counter tops so during my design phase I planned for two appliance garages, one for the mixer and one for the coffee service.  I love my big Kitchen Aid mixer but hated heaving the 50 lb thing out of a cabinet when I was ready to use it, but I also don’t want it just out all the time.  With the garage it and all its’ attachments stay concealed and when I want to use it I only have to move it a few inches and I’m ready to mix.  Electrical outlets are in the back of each garage.  Same for the coffee maker.  That is used daily, of course, but when we’re through with our morning coffee, the pot, along with the grinder, cream and sugar containers are neatly stored away in the appliance garage.  There is no wasted space with this either because they would be out on the counter anyway!  So here we go, from yellowed white cabinetry, L-shaped counter setup, to demo and construction, to the final finished kitchen!

Guest Baths Get a Makeover…Part 2

18 Sep

Our house has been officially ‘Warmed’ now!  I have been off-line lately preparing for our Housewarming party.  We had it this past Saturday so now our home has had its’ first gathering of friends and family en masse!  It is the first of many happy occasions that will be hosted here.  Blogging took a back seat however as I was cleaning, decorating and cooking for the party.  Now I can continue with some updated posts.  This guest bath was really a hodgepodge of color.  The original tile was white which was great, but then they put in an accent row of pink.  To compliment that they also had pink grout in the white floor tiles.  Nothing against pink, it’s a great color and there was a time when my house was filled with mauve and sea foam green.  Sometime recently they had painted over the wallpaper with a bright yellow color.  In preparing to repaint we found several layers of paper underneath and removing them was a nightmare because the paper had been installed without a primer base so it came off in teeny little pieces!  Our plan was to use the darker tiles in this bathroom.  It will probably get the least amount of use by guests so I wanted to use the darker color in here.  There is a skylight in the room so that you do get some bright natural light that helps.  I love this tile though!  I chose to bring out the blue-gray color for the wall paint and then go dark with hardware and cabinetry.

Guest Baths Get a Makeover…Part 1

28 Aug

One of the reasons we wanted a larger house was so that we’d have more room for company when they come to stay with us.  In our old house we had one guest bath so if  more than one set of company stayed at the same time they all ended up sharing the hall bathroom.  There are times when we have a lot of people staying here at once (both sides of the family) so we wanted each space to be unique and comfortable to allow people to feel like they have room to spread out and enjoy their stay.  I almost did the baths in the same tile, but since I found so many different tiles that I loved and had a hard time deciding among them, I thought I would just do each bath in a different style.  That way each could be different and people could choose which room they wanted to call theirs when they are here with us.  Guest bath #1.  The tile was in good shape but it was all just plain high gloss white, definitely what the builder had chosen for a 90s build out.  I chose to keep this room light but warmed it up just a bit with a creamy tile that has a little bit of tan mixed through it.  The counter had a weird angle cabinet that just didn’t work.  I know they were trying to maximize all space but I thought a furniture piece vanity would suit better in here.  I did keep the angled mirror though and my niece actually commented that she liked that because she could get a good view when she’s doing her hair!  We chose to completely demo the bathrooms not tile over the existing tile.  Our tile guy suggested we tile over but in a 20-year-old house there could always be plumbing surprises hiding so we wanted to mitigate anything like that by tearing it all out, inspecting all plumbing thoroughly, then going in with the new stuff.  I highly recommend that because in our master we had a wall completely give way during demo and if we’d tiled over that would have just been a problem lurking waiting to destroy all our new work eventually!!

Some of the Upstairs Rooms…

25 Aug

I haven’t really focused on telling you much about the upstairs once we finished installing the hardwood floors, but let me circle back to that for a minute.  Like the other rooms I want to show you clean ‘After’ pictures without furnishings to see the difference.  I’ll later post furnished and decorated pics.  I have two before pictures –  the first is of the upstairs landing and the other is one of the guest rooms.  This particular guest bedroom had built-in furniture including a desk, headboard for the beds and the twin bed frames.  It was really horrible!  Formica built-in furniture, does that not remind you of a hospital or worse?  These things were built to last a lifetime however, because they were tough to demo.  Once the built-in furniture was torn out some patching on the walls was necessary where they were damaged from the removal.  The landing was updated with the same wrought iron balusters that are on the stairways.  The biggest improvement upstairs was painting the rooms a nice, soothing color (no more peachy/orange) and of course the hard wood floors throughout the second floor.

Master Bathroom Done…

16 Aug

When we were looking at the house initially we loved the floor plan of the master bathroom; it was spacious with large closets for each of us.  The vanities were evenly sized.  My husband complained that a lot of houses had bathrooms that catered to the women, meaning that one of the closets and one of the vanities was usually larger and somehow that one always ended up belonging to the wife!  In this house they’re equally sized.  We had a lot of work to do here though because the bathroom needed major updating.  The shower was large but the door to it was small and just did nothing for the look.  We were limited in being able to enlarge the door because there was plumbing for the dual shower heads on the vanity side which precluded us from doing a glass wall there and electrical for the closet on the other side so we were not able to glass anything but just the door.  We raised and widened the door opening by about a foot.  That’s all we could eke out, but at least it was something.  All the white tile was replaced with travertine and the shower was accented with a border of brown marble.  We put dark brown granite on the vanities so that it would pick up the brown vein in the travertine.  After the blog voting, the high-tech tub was ruled out and we went with a classic white jacuzzi bath (I do think that was the right decision!).  We replaced the light that was above the bath tub with a vintage chandelier that had been in my home where I grew up.  The matching one to this is in our butler’s pantry.  These chandeliers have been in my family for about three generations or so and hung in my childhood home, our previous house and now this house!  Here are the before and after pictures.

More of the Finished Downstairs…

13 Aug

Here are a few more of the before and then post renovation pictures of the downstairs.  First the befores.

You can see what we were working with and what needed to be updated and now this is after new paint, new floors and stair balusters.  I am showing the afters in the following order: butler’s pantry, dining room, dining room looking out to foyer, library and formal living room.The butler’s pantry really remained mostly original.  We kept the cabinets and countertops that were there when we bought the house.  I liked the antique white of the cabinets and the granite had been installed fairly recently and was very nice.  I liked the idea of this room not being exactly like the kitchen.  Butler’s pantries originally were much bigger rooms than this since they housed all the silver and china and serving pieces.  They tended to be white, more utilitarian in those days.  So keeping with that we didn’t change anything here but the wall paint and floor.  The butler’s pantry is a great space dividing the kitchen and dining room, a vestibule, if you will!  I want this to be where friends make themselves at home and grab wine glasses and cheese boards or mix cocktails when they’re here.  We actually use our dining room.  We host a lot of the family holidays and sit in there and have a formal meal.  When we have larger parties I set up the buffet in there.  The library also remained somewhat original.  I liked the built-ins that were already there so we kept those.  I just changed the cabinet pulls from brass to an oil rubbed bronze.  The tray ceiling had a weird curved section at each corner (it was a custom item, obviously, just not sure why! we referred to it as the ‘ceiling butts’) that we did remove and just went back to an original square-shaped tray ceiling.

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