Archive for July, 2011

picking pillows

The living room got lots of use last week with all the visitors … but one thing was missing: couch pillows! The new West Elm catalog came recently, and I fell in love with their new colors and patterns. So I stopped by today, and grabbed a selection to try out.

Here’s what I landed on:

And here’s what didn’t quite make the cut:
What do you think? Am I crazy for loving the brown and cream zebra print? Does the slightly-off turquoise pillow look chic and mismatched, or just awkward? Can I really get away with two patterns next to each other? Share your thoughts, stylish friends 🙂

in visitor condition

The house is spic and span … perhaps cleaner than it has been in a long, long time, although I’m loathe to admit that. But tomorrow begins ten days of parents, aunts, cousins and friends descending upon the house for a variety of parties and visits. So I’ve been scrubbing for days. There are a few corners (especially in the basement) that aren’t as organized as I’d like them to be, but as of Saturday it’s all going to be as done as it can be.

So for the record, here’s every room of the house, shot on the same night (I can pretty much guarantee that it’s the cleanest any of them have been at the same time since I moved in).

And with that I’ve also accomplished my to-do task of giving ya’ll an updated tour of the place. So there you go. Enjoy. Come visit. I mean it – I’m ready.

a more lived-in living room

I pulled the tables and lamps that used to be in the living room back in with the new couch. The basic set-up might look familiar, but I think you’ll all agree the room as a whole looks dramatically different than the old red and white version!

I think this room might be my favorite project so far because it’s the first chance I’ve had to really create a space entirely from scratch. For most of the other rooms in the house, I’ve had existing furniture or colors to work around. But this room was a blank slate once I knew I wasn’t going to stick with the red couches.
I’m also really excited about the accessory colors and pieces that I’ll be able to pull in to accent the teal and brown. Here’s what I have so far, on the table in the corner. This will likely change when I get shelves and artwork up in the room, and I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to keep the white table and wicker coffee table/blanket basket. Lots to figure out, yet.

Decor details, for those who are interested:
The peacock feathers were only $3 apiece at a local antique store, and they’re one of the design elements I’ve had in my head all along for the room. The lantern, 3-wick pillar and candle tray are all by PartyLite. The peacock accent plate was something I found on clearance last Christmas at Anthropologie, and I’ve been saving it for this room ever since. The pashmina throw across the back of the couch was a birthday present from my mom, and she found it at Midtown Global Market here in the neighborhood. The lamps in the room are hand-me-downs — the big one is from my parents (they’ve had it since their wedding 31 years ago) and the smaller lamp came from a swap meet a few months ago. The instruments are all mine, and yes I play them 🙂
Next up: hanging shelves and other things the walls. I might be calling on some extra hands to help with that …

this year’s veggies – part I

The backyard garden is in full swing …

  • Tomatoes (beefsteak and three heirloom varieties)
  • Jalapenos
  • Habanero peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Kale (two varieties)
  • Zucchini
  • Lemon cucumbers
  • Raspberries
  • Mulberries (the mystery bush!)
  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Garlic Chives
  • Sage

And yes, I said “part I.” I have some exciting garden-related news that I’ll share more about soon!

new couch!

It arrived this morning … here is a photo play-by-play:

Now, back to the home office for the afternoon:
But I can hardly wait to get all the furniture moved back in! Decorating is the best part.

first-world lighting woes

I’m not exaggerating when I say that half the light bulbs in my house have decided to go out at once. It’s comical, really. One (of two) in the bathroom, two of four in the basement, two of two in the upstairs hallway … getting around at night before I was able to replace the bulbs was interesting, to say the least.
But not nearly as interesting as my encounter with the upstairs hall light fixture.
To set the scene: I know next to nothing about light fixtures. Paint? Sure. Gutters? I’m learning. Furnaces and water heaters and fuse boxes? Fixable.
But light fixtures scare the hell out of me. I don’t understand them. I’ve never really had to deal with them. And fixing them requires ladders and turning off circuits and buying the right bulbs and all sorts of other stressful things.
So last Saturday morning, motivated by a coupon to a nearby hardware store and tired of almost falling down the stairs in the dark, I tackled the light fixture at the top of the stairs. It isn’t a fancy light fixture. Just a shade attached to a fixture that comes straight out of the ceiling.
How does it stay up there? Not by screws, no. Heaven forbid.
Magic, my friends. Or at least, that’s what it seemed like when I reached up to twist off the shade and instead the entire fixture came down from the ceiling into my less-than-receptive hands.
Again, how does it stay up there? The hardware inside wasn’t giving any clues. In fact, there was insulation everywhere (and I know enough about that stuff to know I wanted to be nowhere near it with bare hands on a hot day.)
Did I mention I’m up on a step stool, alone, holding a light fixture above my head?
So I did what any rational person would do. I let go. And then I grabbed my camera.
The electrical wires weren’t going to hold it up for long, I knew. But I had to risk it – I had no other choice. The dang thing was still dangling from the ceiling when I got back from the hardware store, where I’d cajoled two different guys into explaining how light fixtures attach to the ceiling. (They even opened up the box of a similar fixture to show me the hardware and instruction manual, the dears.)
But the magic piece they said I should look for? Definitely not there. Not even close to existing. All I saw was a whole lot of nothing.

Boo. I still had a heavy light fixture hanging from not-very-strong electrical wires, and I knew that if it dropped, I’d not only have a lot of glass to sweep up but a substantial electrician’s bill to get a new fixture put in its place. Ugh.
Then, cousin Maria swooped in to save the day. She helped me unscrew the heavy part of the fixture, the glass shade — the part I’d been trying to get off in the first place. What was left (some metal, insulation, aluminum foil and light bulbs) wasn’t heavy at all, so we felt much better about leaving it dangling from the wires for a while. (In fact, we were so convinced it would be fine, we ran off to Lake Calhoun to bask in the sun. I got sunburned. Probably karma.)

On our way home, we stopped by her house to see the progress she and John are making on the upstairs (they bought a fixer-upper about 14 blocks south of me just a few months before I bought this place). And because John is a wunderkind when it comes to DIY house stuff, he had all sorts of ideas for how I might be able to get the light fixture back into its rightful place.

In case anyone else out there encounters this and doesn’t know what to do, here’s the secret: Underneath all the insulation (which John says is superfluous and really only useful for cutting down on heat loss through the electrical box), there were two keyhole-shaped cutouts that were supposed to catch the screws coming out of the ceiling and hook (hard to explain but common enough that maybe you know what I’m talking about?)
When I’d started screwing off the shade, I’d accidentally rotated the entire fixture just enough to dislodge these screws from their place in the keyholes, thereby removing it from the ceiling. I never would have seen the holes without taking the insulation out (and I probably wouldn’t have done that without the approval of someone like John who actually knows what they’re doing ). So, that went in the trash:

Gross, huh?

And with a few careful twists, the light fixture was back on the ceiling! Like magic, I’m telling you.

Now my problem is not liking the way the new bulbs change the shade of paint in the hallway (the yellow looks more yellow-green than mustard yellow like it did before). But at least it’s not dangling precariously from the ceiling. And if it ever does again, I’ll know what to do. And I managed to fix it without a shade or lightbulb crashing down on my head. So all that is good, right?
Like I said, first-world problems.

independence day

Happy 4th of July!

I hope you all had beautiful weather like we did here in Minnesota (for the first time all year, it seems). I spent the majority of the three-day weekend either working on house and garden projects or lounging by the lake like a good Minnesotan. So I have all sorts of sunburns and bug bites, but a very happy and clean house. Look for more updates soon!

xoxo LG

name that berry!

Today I discovered a berry bush on the south side of the yard that I don’t remember being there last summer:

The berries look like blackberries, but I’m not sure if they’re safe to eat.
Anyone know?
PS — Happy 4th of July weekend, everyone! I hope the weather is as beautiful wherever you are as it is here in Minnesota. It is hands down gorgeous here.