Friday, January 29, 2010

The Office

One of the reasons we fell in love with our house was the sun room. Since it sits right next to the living room we knew right away it would make a nice office.

It was painted a lovely shade of Kraft-Macaroni-and-Cheese by the previous owners. Interesting. But for a sunroom it looked so dark and dreary! This should be a place filled with light!

Way back when, I thought I could tackle this room, in addition to a few others, in a day - HA! Of all the rooms in the house this one is probably the hardest to paint because of the number of windows - 7 (yep). It took me hours just to tape off the window panes - plus adding to the fact that this wood does not want to be painted. The dark color just leeches through so it needs primer, multiple coats of paint - ergh! It still needs touch ups. But it's halfway decent for now:

Floor: Minwax Jacobean
Ceiling: Benjamin Moore - Decorators White (Matte)
Trim: Benjamin Moore Ben - Decorators White (Semi-Gloss)
Walls: BM Aura - Stonington Grey (Matte)

What still needs to be done? The fun part! Office furniture and accessory inspiration board:
Clockwise from top left:
- New desk chair, preferably one that doesn't fall apart every 5 seconds - this one is from Pottery Barn.
- Add desk accessories like these lacquer white organizers from West Elm.
- Radiator cover - have to call in the experts for this!.
- Tripod floor lamp - like this beauty from Visual Comfort.
- I'd love to curl up with a book on this cushy Ikea chaise on a nice sunny day.
- Cute ikat pillows and a cozy striped rug, like these from Madeline Weinrib

Plus lots of other things:
- New roman shades - they look ok in these pictures, but in reality they are yellow and gross!
- Original windows = drafts = I'm freezing right now as I type this. We have to figure it out.
- Do something to the fan to make it look less fan-ish, or remove it and put up something more awesome.
- Paint file cabinets white, add a new wood desk top, maybe glass on top of that?
- Neaten up those wires.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


My Hero

I spent almost every waking minute this past weekend painting our bedroom and dining room. I haven't had a chance to take decent photos, because I haven't been home much during daylight hours. But lots of photos to come! And more painting!

In the meantime I can't say enough about Benjamin Moore's Aura paint. It costs more than the average can - about $55-$65 per gallon --- but it acts as primer, 1st coat, and 2nd coat in the first layer you put on. I've covered bright orange walls with a soft pale grey in one coat! So I've actually saved money using this paint.

You have to follow 2 rules if using Aura:

1) It has to be applied in a specific way. You can't "go over" an area that's halfway dry. If you do, your brush or roller will actually "pick up" the half dry paint, leaving the old color underneath exposed. To avoid this, you have to either let it dry completely before touch ups or keep your leading edge damp, or skip around the room. Or you have to do your "cut-in" edging and roller the wall very quickly and all at once. It sounds more complicated than it really is. You just have to stay conscious of these issues while you are painting. And if you mess up, which you will if it's your first time, it's ok, just avoid the problem area until it's dry, then go over with the roller.

2) You have to use a nice white roller, no yellow or cheapy-foam stuff. After all, this is the "Cadillac of Paints" according to our local True Value.

It dries very fast. I finished painting my bedroom 10pm on Sunday night and fell asleep in the same room shortly after. There are absolutely no fumes.

Love you Aura paint!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hong Kong

As some of you may or may not know, I just returned from a business trip to China... as much as I dislike leaving home for a week, I do appreciate the opportunity it gives me to see things I probably would never have seen otherwise.

This was the view from my room - the Hong Kong skyline at night...
and this when I'm up at dawn...
Since there really is hardly anything I could do for work on Sundays, I took advantage of a long day of walking, walking, and more walking! I was lucky enough to get a chance to visit the Big Buddha at Po Lin Monastery on Lantau Island. It's something I was vaguely aware of for years and vaguely on the list of things I've always wanted to see.

You can reach the Buddha by bus, but we took the MTR subway to Lantau Island then it took about 20 minutes by cable car. We were seated with about 8 other people in our car and we all had to hop in and hop out while it was moving.

Once we got going it was really quiet up in the air! We could see up and down the bay, the airport, and all the mountain peaks. Towards the end of the ride you could see the 110 foot tall Tian Tan Buddha emerging from the mountain - it's so gigantic and so random and crazy!

There is a little tourist-y village at the top filled with restaurants and gift shops. You have to take a little walk to the Buddha, then climb the 268 steps to the top...
When you climb to the top of the stairs, you can get a closer look at the lady statues surrounding the Buddha...

and a closer look at the Buddha...
Also nearby is the Po Lin Monastery and an outside area where people were burning gigantic incense sticks...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dining room / wood work

When we first bought our house, the dining room looked like this:

I spent the better part of New Years Eve taping the windows...

Yes, I did this New Years Eve, the pictures were taken the following morning, ok??

Then one more task to do before painting... the house originally had a door between dining room and kitchen - how depressing! So I removed that weird doorway piece that no longer served any purpose - because humans don't live like this anymore! (The last time I can remember seeing a door into a kitchen must have been the Cosby show!)
weird doorway piece
At first I thought I was crazy - why am I ripping stuff off the house? I asked John - should I use a crowbar for this? He laughed as I trudged upstairs to find one. Well, I am officially a complete dork because I had no idea a crowbar weighed about 75 lbs (or so it seemed). I didn't even attempt to carry it out of our tool room extra bedroom. But I managed to wedge in a scraper tool thingy and hammer away at the doorway until the wood piece broke free, nails and all attached.
Sorry no action shots!

Next I scraped away as much excess old paint as I could, patched it with plaster, and sanded down for a smooth finish.
before                         after removal                    after plaster
At this point the room was ready for painting. 
Yes, this is actually what I did New Years Eve!

New Years Day - I spent about 8 hours priming and painting...
...and painting
...and painting

By nighttime I was done. For the day. This was harder than it looks! The old wood keeps leaking through and staining the paint. Errrrrr. So I did one more quick coat the next day (At least each coat gets easier and quicker). 

In total this is 1 coat of Kilz primer and about 3 coats of semi-gloss Ben in Decorator's White. Yes, 3 coats. And to be completely honest, it could use another coat. I plan on going back to caulk some troublesome areas and throw another coat up at some point in the future. I'm going to do all the touch-ups downstairs at once to save my sanity.

But look how pretty! Compared to the before photos, the room is so much brighter and happier!

Watch out, dining room, the walls are next...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Woodwork Saga

Almost every single person I know who has seen the house has said something about the wood work and what I plan to do to it (paint it while laughing my Evil Under-Lord laugh) I feel the need to set the record straight...

1) I've been looking a LOT at home design blogs online and print magazines. This is an obsession that has at time taken over many an evening and lunch hour at work. I've been squirreling away photos that I like; any photo of a room that appeals to me, for whatever reason, gets put into a folder on my desktop. I've amassed almost 1000 photos from online blogs and hundreds of pages ripped from magazines. This has been going on for about 2 years - long before we even looked for a house to buy.

2) When we found this house - my immediate reaction was - let's paint the woodwork! Of course a lot of nay-sayers said - NOOOO! Don't paint it! You can restore it!

I started bargaining in my head - well, maybe we'll just do this one room, maybe I'll just do these windows in the sunroom, or maybe I'm supposed to leave everything as is.

I was lost, confused! I didn't know what to do as we were closing on the house and I started obsessively looking at the snapshots I took of the house during our viewing - I even photoshopped a couple to see what it would look like if we painted the woodwork white.

3) I decided I needed inspiration and I turned to my aforementioned decor pictures. I looked through every last photo - I couldn't find one single picture that had dark wood trim (or even light wood trim!) All the rooms I loved featured crisp white painted woodwork. My original hunch was based on something!

4) When we actually closed and got the keys to the house - we saw things differently than at our first viewing - what's this thing? why is this here? Why does this window frame look as if someone had chewed on it?

We spent a whole weekend with our families, caulking, patching, sanding and cleaning the rooms with the wood work - it was a mess! And when we were done - the woodwork still looked dirty and dingy.

5) But wait! Another problem came up right away - we hated our wood flooring. It needed badly to be refinished, re-stained a better color. It was greenish puke brown. It was worn down and squeaking in spots (squeaking is an understatement!) We knew we wanted a dark wood floor. But a dark wood floor with dark wood work all over?

6) So we came to the conclusion - in order to even get the woodwork looking nice, we would have to spend a lot of time and/or money getting it into acceptable condition. Spending a lot of time and/or money on something that we didn't even like! Something that was making the house look dark and cave-like.

It didn't make sense - why would we live with something we don't like? We might be here forEVER!

So we painted it...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ornament storage

After being left with two empty clementine boxes that were just too bulky to add to the kitchen trash bag, I peeked around the house to see if I could use them for anything. I noticed we had a bunch of ornaments to put away until next Christmas - Epiphany!

And since they're stackable they fit nice and snug in my bigger Christmas storage bins.  

A bonus is that both Clementines and Christmas ornaments only come around in December :)