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.

Powder Room Preview…

12 Aug

The powder room remained a question mark right up until the end.  I really did sort of like the original wallpaper that was in there even though it had a bit of an Oriental flare to it which did not go with my theme.  I was on the fence about it until I was not able to get it clean, then it had to go.  I did not want streaked, stained paper in the powder room.  I was able to salvage the ceiling paper though and coordinated the faux finish wall paint with the ceiling paper.  We then replaced the pedestal sink with a nice wood cabinet vanity that has some usable storage space.  I think it turned out pretty good.  Too bad about the old paper though.  I think the vote was mixed as to whether to keep it or not.  Some people said they liked it and some immediately said ‘You’re changing that right?”

Redoing our Den…

7 Aug

If you remember back to my first posts of the house one of the worst things about it was the fireplace in the den.  It was so dated and looked very 70s even though the house was built in the 90s.  We really hated that fireplace!  The den, obviously will be one of the most used rooms in the house.  It is open to the kitchen and that’s where we are every day and most times that is where friends gather too when they’re over.  We had to revitalize this room and make it a warm and inviting space.  See the afters now.  We completely demolished the old fireplace and built ins and updated it with dark wood tones and stacked stone.  We decided to take the stone all the way to the ceiling, even though it’s a two-story room.  The room somehow commanded a big fireplace.  The feel now is akin to a mountain lodge room and I absolutely can’t wait until the weather cools off enough for us to build a fire in there and enjoy it.  The fireplace has never ever had a fire burned in it.  The original people who tiled the hearth covered over the gas starter with mortar and it never worked until we rebuilt it.  I guess the other owners didn’t want to just build a fire and light it the old-fashioned way, so we’ll be the first ones to enjoy it!  Here’s the difference.

Strawberry Meringues

31 Jul

One of my favorite summer desserts is strawberry meringue shells.  They are light and airy and don’t make you feel too full in the summer heat.  I always use strawberries as the filling, but you can use any fruit that is fresh this time of the year.  You could also use pudding or custard as the filling rather than fresh fruit.  Any option works!  They’re quick and easy to make and look pretty to serve if you have someone stopping by for a light dessert.  The key to making this dessert a success is firmly whipped egg whites.  If your mixer has a wire whip attachment use that.  It makes the egg whites much stiffer resulting in a beautiful meringue.  Here’s the recipe.

3 egg whites at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
dash salt
1 c sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil.  Combine the egg whites, vanilla, cream of tartar and salt together in  a bowl.  Beat with mixer on high until it forms stiff peaks.  Add in the sugar and continue mixing umtil very stiff peaks form in the meringue batter.  Drop the batter onto cookie sheets in 8 even dollups.  Round out each dollup making a bowl indentation with the back of a spoon (this will hold your filling after it’s baked).  Bake for 35 minutes until lightly browned.  Turn the oven off and leave the shells in there for another hour to dry.  Then you can remove them from the cookie sheet liner, fill and serve.

Retro Chic…Repurposing

30 Jul

We spent Saturday with my niece who has just moved into a new apartment and is preparing to begin her Masters program, so of course we wanted to be there to help do some of the ‘finishing touches’ and decorate.  Her Mom was also there to lend support and guidance!  Of course we had to make sure we weren’t taking over with the decorating bit since it is her own place and she definitely has her own style!  We must be careful not to overstep boundaries, right!  She is going for a retro chic look, very hip indeed.  She’s using a lot of red and black with a little bit of yellow accent mixed in.  She found an old turntable stereo which she fell in love with and it is being used to play a lot of Bob Dylan!  Yes very retro indeed!  A friend of hers made a very unique clock for her out of an old vinyl album – just loved it!  The apartment is a darling  little loft studio very close to campus.  My niece selected a bright red sofa as the focal point of her living room and then based the rest of the theme around that.  She and my sister were here two weeks ago and we went to the antiques store looking for old rake heads.  Her plans were to use the rake heads as a wine glass rack.  The idea was so creative I had to share it with you on my blog.  I just think it’s fantastic and what a way to repurpose in a very chic and retro way!  One rake head ended up being a great place to store necklaces and bracelets.  Check out what she did here and I know you’ll love this great idea.

As we Enter the House, Foyer and Hall…

26 Jul

The house originally had a travertine floor in the foyer and hall that we were going to keep until all the new tile that was installed really showed up the flaws in this floor.  I think it just looked good at the time compared to the rest of the house!  The travertine had not been professionally done and the cuts were uneven, grout lines too big and again uneven, so it was replaced with new travertine.  We still wanted that look, just wanted to spruce it up a little.  The old tile came out in chunks and the subfloor was awful and uneven and required leveling compound, which is why in the ‘Between’ pictures it looks like fresh concrete had been poured!   In the foyer we decided to add to the design by inlaying the wood in a diamond design to border the tiles.  The banisters were original and were white painted wood square balusters.  They were in good shape and were super sturdy, needless to say, very hard to remove!  This was a decision we vacillated on for a while, because they were still good and the look was fine, but a little dated.  We really wanted to go with wrought iron banisters.  After researching this for a while I happened upon a contractor who does beautiful work (See my preferred contractors on the Home Renovations tab).  He hand forges the material and custom makes the design.  We had several ideas in mind as to what look we wanted and as we met with him, he pulled out his spiral composition notebook and began to drawing it right there on the spot!  He said we could tweak it in any way as he was building the piece.  We decided to go with a flowing design rather than individual balusters.  We were very pleased with the product.  It is heavy and thick metal and should last a lifetime.  He is incorporating the same design into our new front door which is still in work.  Here are the pictures showing the progression from start to finish of the foyer and the front hall.

Fresh Papaya, Hawaiian Style

21 Jul

Papaya is a delicious fruit and I had used it to mix in with smoothies before, but did not truly appreciate the wonderful taste of the papaya itself until we tried it the way they serve it in Hawaii.  Now is the time to have papaya because they are in season and are just beautiful.  You want to select one that is nice and ripe and you can tell because the outside skin will have a lot of yellow on it.  If it’s all green, it’s not ripe yet.  Cut the papaya in half, lengthwise, and remove all the seeds.  Wash and slice it.  While you’re preparing the fruit toast some coconut flakes, either fresh or from the package is fine.  For two servings toast about a cup.  I put the coconut in a metal pan and broil it for a couple of minutes until it’s partially brown.  Place the coconut flakes on the plate as a bed then place the sliced papaya on the coconut.  The secret ingredient is the lime!  Cut a lime into quarters and squeeze the juice of half a lime onto each plate over the cut papaya.  The lime mixes with the papaya and the sweet coconut and it is just wonderful!  It’s a great summer breakfast and a pretty presentation if you have company over in the summer and want to serve something a little different with your breakfast!

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