Sunday, September 25, 2011

Let me stand next to your fiyah

Hello from the G house! It's been a while because I took a luxurious vacation to NYC and then recuperated for a week. I know--my life is hard.

Tonight I'm talking about an often blogged about decorating subject. The jhuhjing of the fireplace.

We have a huge fireplace in need of some decorating love. The fireplace is the focal point of the sitting room, has a cherry surround, library paneling, and dark slate. Boring, boring, boring. I'm surprised it doesn't give our guests narcolepsy.

Our old mantel at our old house sported an old mirror. For this house, I decided I wanted to do something a little less expected [No offense to the mirror lovers out there! I was among you for decades!]. Enter: BG's weird hobbies. BG is a man of many interests, and one of them is maps. BFF-J suggested on her first visit at our house last April that an old map would look really cool above the fireplace. Yes! Yes, it would! That little suggestion festered, and I became map obsessed. It doesn't take much.

I looked at probably a hundred online. Cripes! Do you know what huge old maps cost? Much too much for the Gs. I decided I'd have to improvise. Because this task didn't seem tricky enough, I decided the map needed to mean something. Furthermore, my heart yearned for a map in particular colors, like the muted citrus I went with for the breakfast-to-mud room. I didn't want just *any* awesome old map. I wanted one that probably only existed in my imagination.

I have several friends who are black belts in Google-Fu, so I put them on the task. One of them came across a map on Amazon. It was in the exact colors and specific region I wanted.

Muted citrus? Yes!
Gulf Coast focus? Yes!
The biggest damn map there ever was? No :(

I lamented the tiny perfection of the map for 24 hours before I got brave and contacted the dealer. As it turned out, printing custom sizes is what he does best. He also confirmed for me that the colors I thought I was seeing in my browser were pretty right on. The water really was more green than blue, and the orange was accurate. In the name of all that is fabulous, we don't want any more peach in our lives. He added that the original map (a 1747 French carte) was unusual in that it was painted, not drawn, so the reproduction had a watercolor quality to it. Who would have thought real maps could be better than imagined ones?! Blue Monocle provided an excellent customer service experience all around. Yes, please.

After express shipping, it was off to a local shop (coupon! score!), where I had it double-matted and framed. Lucky for me, the owner is also an art collector with a keen eye. When I told her I wanted to bring out the green in the map and frame it in something not gold but not silver but DEFINITELY not more cherry and stay within a meager budget (for custom framing, anyway), she knew just what to suggest. Here it is, fresh from the frame shop, in a distressed "champagne" frame:


Once in place, the map commanded the vast, empty, previously snooze-worthy space above the mantel. The map itself is 32 inches across, for context.

On to the next issue: I was not sure how to style the mantel itself. I looked at pics online and in magazines for inspiration. I tried a combination of: clocks, vases, pottery, books, frames, lanterns, candles, and random props including a diatonic accordion. Desperate for the right thing, I almost got into a late-night ebay bid war over a taxidermied baby alligator. Thankfully I was not the highest bidder on the forever-infantilized Cuban contraband reptile with marble eyes, and a little more online searching led me to the three plus one rule.

Decorators are evil for keeping this a secret. FYI.

As the link above will tell you, when you use three plus one, you cluster three objects on one side of the mantel and then use one object that is about twice the size or visual weight of the three combined on the opposite side. It's asymmetrical overall and pleasing to the eye, as in the examples at the jump. Here's how it all worked out for me:


Since I was dealing with a large scale, I interpreted the "three" loosely to fit my size needs. A stack of books crowned with a piece of pottery counts as one. A photo of BG's parents on their wedding day is two. An old candelabra I picked up about 10 years ago in an antiques shop is three. <--He is so sad without candles. They will be installed. One day.

Here's a closer look at the three:


The books are all related to the French heritage that BG and I share, which I think/hope ties in with the map nicely without being too cheesy.

The big item is a very large glass vase with eucalyptus stems. The vase was a wedding gift. Awww.

I'm still adjusting to the finished product. For a shameful number of months, the mantel has been the resting place for remote controls, batteries, flash lights, light bulbs--clutter that belongs out of sight, truly.  This minimal approach follows my natural design aesthetic, which is just a little under-done. I need a space to breathe... even if it does produce carbon monoxide.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"Dear God, what is that thing?" The reveal!

I'm assuming you know where that quote comes from. The Princess Bride, of course--the most quotable movie on earth.

I had no idea what a kerfluffle my silly giveaway would cause. I had bribes, begs, and on-the-sly emailed guesses. I fear this will be a very anti-climactic reveal, but since all of my blog posts are, at least I'm consistent.

The weird item (refresher pic below):



[The white space is supposed to be building on the anticipation.]

A gimpy little green bean!


My eldest, to my foodie chagrin, will only eat canned green beans. It is like a stab to the heart every time she requests them and finds them delicious (as long as I don't *gasp* add salt or attempt to treat them with anything delicious!). When I opened the can and dumped them into the bowl for nuking, this little guy fell out.

No winners. I know you're all crying into your bowls of green beans, but it'll be OK. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Sum of Its Parts... and a GIVEAWAY!!!

Everyone is doing bloggy giveaways these days. EB offered up an awesome book back in June. AspieMom is giving away a very different but also awesome book right now. It's inspiring! I am nothing if not a sheep, so I am going to do my own version of a giveaway. It's not a book, but it was inspired by my book club. Sort of. It's always more complicated than that in my warped brain. Here's how it unfolded.

I spent Labor Day unpacking (still; shameful) and organizing because I am hosting my book club dinner in a couple of weekends and started to have mini panic attacks at the thought of my friends throwing open random closet doors to see how the G Family really lives.

Would anyone actually do this? No, probably not. But the fear felt very real this past Monday, and since it was productive fear, I embraced it.

As any super quirky house should, the G house has some secret closets. They're hidden behind these panels. Can you see them?


Wouldn't it be cool if these opened to a panic room? Or if I were important enough to have a panic room? But I digress.

They are simply doors to storage in the form of shelves, drawers, and a bar. A bar!!! This is what those sneaky little alcoves looked like before Labor Day:



Wow, that's embarrassing.

I'm excited to share the after pics. You see, when I opened the boxes, sorted out the junk, let the kids rabble rouse with the scraps of bubble wrap until they were suffering *pop* *pop* auditory hallucinations (all in the name of getting them out of my hair), and gave each piece a home, the sum of the parts was actually lovely.



I find the spaces calming and aesthetically pleasing. I've stood in the open doorways more than once just to allow the control freak within breathe in the quiet organization. I have been so happy with it all, I was inspired to do a giveaway based on the experience.

And then my brain hit a wall, which is what happens when I try really hard to have my best thoughts. I couldn't imagine anything cool enough. I could give away my favorite organizational product, but that's only if I had one. Or I could give away my favorite cleaning product, but who gets excited about the Tarjay version of Clorox wipes. Other than me, I mean.

It was an MBG-brain-funk-idea-clogathon until tonight, when some really special randomness presented itself to me.


The little Gs said things like, "Ewwww! Mom! Kill it!" BG was confused when I offered it to him on a piece of notebook paper [<--there's a hint about scale!]. But I knew exactly what needed to happen. Out came the camera. It was just what I was hoping for to complete the Labor Day blog post / giveaway of my dreams!

The reason this... item... is so perfect is that it makes little sense without the rest of... them. In context, it's normal, but when it's isolated, as it is above, it's got the WEIRD! factor I just crave. And as a bonus for those of you who have shown excessive patience by reading this rambling mess from the top down, it fits the sum/parts theme I'm forcing here.

Here are the rules:

(1) Leave a comment saying what you think the item is.
(2) You may guess more than once! But please only one guess per comment (multiple comments are welcome).
(3) The contest closes Monday, September 12, at 6PM Central time.
(4) I'd love to open this up internationally, but it won't work :(  US only, please. 
(5) You need to have an email address or blog link, etc., tied to your profile so that I can circle back for your shipping deets.

The first commenter to guess right wins __________. You know what's coming, right? The sum of its parts!

Good luck!

Hint: It is not an anatomically correct Grinch heart.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Ballroom Whisperer

I can barely type the next sentence because I am so freaking excited.

We have the drawings back from the architect.

And this dude is not just an architect. He's an architect rolled in OMGWTFBBQ, deep-fried in amazeballs, and topped with awesomesauce.

He dropped by Friday with the large-scale print-out and was so relaxed about his talent. If I had 20% of it, I'd be yelling through a bullhorn approx 23 hours a day: "Bow down to me. I am awesome. Do you see how awesome I am?" at which point, I'd yank a ballroom renovation out of my back pocket as proof and stun all the haters into silence. <--Do you see how negative I am? Even in my imagination, there are haters.

I can't scan in the drawing for you because of copyright rules, but what I can do is upload my crappy interpretation of his geniusry.

Before: Ballroom (a big (1,024 square feet!) sucky rectangle)

After: Two bedrooms, a laundry room, and a study

Are there some issues with my drawing? Yes. For example, there are two hallways, but you don't see what they come off of or why they're there. It's just too complicated for my Paint skills, which I believe I have proven unworthy in a previous blog post. In full context, the hallways make so much sense it's scary. Additionally, I've got the bedrooms shown as different sizes. The reason for the size discrepancy is probably obvious. We'll give the kid we love the least the smallest room.

The thing about this architect is that he took our vision for our house and turned it into a stunner. It had me speechless for a moment--and even if you don't know me, you can probably guess how rare that is. BG was as lit up as a Christmas tree as the architect explained his logic for placement of walls and plumbing. Then the architect said something that shook me to my core: "Usually when I see a house and plan a renovation, I have a vision for it, and that's all I can see. That's the way it must be done. It's the only way. And that's how I feel about your house. Does that even make sense?"

Does it make sense?! Tunnel vision is my religion!

Would it be reality if everything had continued on such a high note? Of course not. The really depressing number stuff followed. If he were to oversee this project, it would be in the "100 k range." He actually said "kay," like the letter. I guess he knew if he hit us with the linguistic punch of "one-hundred-thousand-dollars," BG and I might drop dead on top of his beautiful drawing.

And so, for now, the drawing will be a lovely prop we show guests when they visit.

"Do you see what we have planned for the house?"

"Ooooh, aaaaah."

Even if it takes 30 years to finance it, we'll be telling the truth, right?