Sunday, January 29, 2012

Down the rabbit hole

This has been one of those weekends where I have been insanely busy and exhausted myself but have netted zero finished projects.




BG and I are working on transforming four decade-old $35 fiber-board bookshelves from Wally World into something a lot less embarrassing. These shelves will hold toys in the playroom half of the ballroom. Eventually. 

For now it feels like I'm fighting my way through a pit of JELL-O and keep saying to BG, "OK, I need another pep talk." There's so much more to do... so little worthy of photographing.

How do you keep yourself motivated to go on when you're in over your head with a renovation or makeover? My version involves a lot of masochism, standard-lowering, and cursing. If I were an emoticon, I'd look like this right now.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wall of Wonky Windows

I love a good alliterative phrase. Now that that's out of the way, I'd like to share with you my saddest moment of G-family renovations since we moved in last April.

Our ballroom has a wall of windows, as I mentioned in my last ballroom-makeover post here. This is a shot of how they looked:


The left-middle window was a slider, and it was badly rotted. There were gaps between the slider and stationary windows, and I was worried feral dogs would find their way in and eat my babies in the night <--It's not true that it was *my* worry, but my mother in law absolutely was sure it was going to happen.  My concern was the effect on our utility bills, what with all the cool air going straight out and the muggy outdoorsy air finding its way in. We weren't even giving mother nature a challenge!

We knew we'd have to sink a little money in replacement windows, but it wasn't until we got several quotes that we realized how severe the sinkage would be. The windows were custom in 1976. If you consider inflation, we were going to have to spend upwards of 12,000 on exact copies.

Yeah, that was never a realistic option.

I got in touch with my cousin's father in law. He is a skilled handyman. The best (i.e., most economically feasible) option he had for us was to go with a commercial door/window company. They offered odd off-the-shelf sizes, which was the only way to keep the cost down. My understanding was that we'd have a door and two panels of equal size to fill the 8'x8' gap where the rotted door and panels were removed. Instead, it looked like this:


I know the pic is hard to decipher. You're seeing extra 2bys and some weather protection outside of the glass. The wood is unfinished, which was by design (another way we kept the cost "low").

Our handyman did the best he could and was as surprised as I was when the windows were not equal widths. He made a call, and the manufacturer explained these were the best panel sizes they had to offer with the space we needed to fill. The wonkiness cost 3,000, by the way. Not cheap. And they were installed, and the quality of the work was lovely. Nonetheless, I was ridiculously devastated by the outcome. When I make mistakes with money, I torture myself. BG was a little worried when he found me sitting in the middle of the ballroom around midnight crying about how out of place the materials looked. We had a big decision to make.

Given the costs of the very many scenarios we considered before going with the off-the-shelf option, we decided we'd keep the new panels in as a temporary solution--temporary until we hit the lottery and can do a total dream reno on the ballroom, that is. I was unhappy with but resolved to live with this set-up. I also learned about a thousand lessons about reno management during this process.

I'm so excited to reveal that, as of today, I can say with confidence that our handyman was right on and that it would have been ludicrous to spend any additional money on replacements.


My super sweet grandma did some of her chicken voodoo magic and added white sailcloth to the tops of the gray panels I bought at Target. I painted the replacement door and windows white so that they would disappear behind the drapery. Maybe I inherited some of my grandma's voodoo powers, eh?

For a huge-mongous (210") drapery rod, we used 1/2" gray PVC pipe and couplings from Lowe's. Allen and Roth cornices (also from Lowe's) support the rod. I found them on mayjah clearance a few months ago and grabbed them. So glad I did!

The gray and white are perfect against the pale gold paint and the bright white trim. We left the original windows in their cherry encasements. Don't fix it if it ain't broke!

I think I will paint the cornices gray at some point so it all looks like a cohesive drapery set-up. But not now. Now I am going to go sit in the middle of my ballroom and enjoy the view.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hip and trendy I'm usually not

I am loving the emails and pings about gray and yellow. One reader sent me a pic of a skirt that she made out of a lovely gray and yellow fabric. Another alerted me to Old Navy's "Girls" tab feature today:

Will gray and yellow become the ubiquitous palette of the year, like brown and blue circa 2005*. What do you think? Trendy or classic?

*I can say this because I fully committed to blue and brown in our last house and then felt conned by mainstream retailers when it was everywhere.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


MBG and I are blacking out for SOPA and PIPA.

Leave our interwebz alone!

Monday, January 16, 2012

25 hours

Stick a fork in me. Twenty-five woman hours later, the ballroom paint job is DONE. Huzzah! 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Painting tips from a decidedly non expert painter... blogger... person

Two days, two gallons, two zillion square feet. That's the work (approximately) I've done since I last posted.

The ballroom makeover is totes happening--as in paint is drying even as I type. It will probably be weeks before the room is really done, so though I will do a big reveal post, I will also have to torture you all with the minutia that is my progress. 

In case you're just joining or are just paying attention to the peculiar words I use, "the ballroom" is the pet name our big girls gave the 1000+ square foot room in our house that the previous owners created in order to host their daughter's wedding in the mid-80s. It features 10' ceilings, parquet wood floors, a wall of windows, five sky lights, interior plate-glass windows (because of the courtyard-to-ballroom transition), and four antique columns. It was also covered in flat blue paint, which was a might better than the screaming peach that came before it. It is a unique room to be sure. The downer is it has been largely useless for us, except when we host parties. It's an excellent party room.


^That's from before we moved in. Now it's filled with junkola from Christmas and my craigslist furniture hoard, as in:


^That is so embarrassing, I can't even believe I am going to publish it. But you know what? That's what MBG does, y'all. She keeps it rill.

The first step in the makeover is to hide that flat blue paint under something fabulous. The specific fabulosity I am going for is light and bright. This is where Laura Ashley Pale Gold 2 comes in. Here it is after one coat of paint and two coats of white latex enamel on the formerly blue trim:


The blue trim has been an absolute hellbeast to cover. Here's a closer look, after two coats:


I know. It's awful. How many do you think it will take? Five? Seventy-four? It may be the sort of forever situation where I invite girlfriends over, hand them coffee and fruit cobbler, then trick them into the ballroom where I have paint brushes and little containers of trim paint. "So nice to see you, sweetie! Let's paint while we chat, mkay? I can't help but notice you've had two bites of cobbler in a row now. Less eating. More painting."

The gold is coming along nicely. I think one more coat plus spot touch-ups will be just right. The room already feels way more G-like.


^Those 10-foot ceilings really kept me on my toes, even with the pole extender.

Here are just a few tips in case you're really needing advice from someone who doesn't know what the hedes she's talking about. Actually, when it comes to painting, my grandpa taught me everything I know. He was not a professional painter either, so we're really back to the non-expert point of view. He's old and frail, but if you want to critique his wisdom, you do what feels right in your heart.

The necessary tools. Er, other than paint, roller, roller extender, ladder:

1. A little container for dipping your trim and cut-in brushes into. So much easier to carry around than a big honking gallon!

2. A cheap, pliable trim brush. I do not tape when I paint. *clutch pearls* Did you know that professional painters typically don't tape? I say typically because for every Wesley Snipes, there is a Woody Harrelson out there ("White Men Can't Jump" reference), but generally speaking... no tape. I dip my brush in, smoosh the tip--official paint jargon happening here--and go for it. And that brings me to...

3. An old damp cloth. Water is like kryptonite to latex paint. If you really want to bring Superman down, it's the only way to go. Just remember to act quickly. Latex paint is easy peasy to rub off as long as you don't leave it sitting to cure.

4. A cardboard (or plastic) guide for trimwork and cut-ins. I used my cardboard as an assist when I was painting around the wall of windows.

5. Woodchuck Hard Cider, or your adult bevvie of choice.

What I've learned today is that our friend C's dad is always right. BG and I bumped into him in the home improvement store last weekend and mentioned our plans. He said, "My dad used to say, 'Painting only feels good after it's done.'" I'm pretty sure I'm messing that up, but you get the idea. The process totally sucks, and the more I paint, the more burdensome it feels. But dang does it change a room in the best of ways.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to apply Bengay to my spaghetti arms and screaming hamstrings. Oof.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It'll all be ochre soon.

The color of the ballroom shall be: Laura Ashley Pale Gold 2.

I know what my plans are over the long weekend. What will you be up to?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Hayley Mills as inspiration

When I was little, I was obsessed with Hayley Mills's movies. You know her, right?

Flipping adorable.

In particular, I watched "The Parent Trap" until my eyes bled.

Something I noticed in that movie and remember mentioning to my mom even as a wee viewer is that the women's clothes were often yellow and gray. It sure was chic then, and I think it is now.

Are you doubting me? Don't be worried if you think I've gone mad with the mixing of warm and cool tones. Yellow can be cool and gray can be warm (I promise!). We find them paired in non-clashy ways all the time. In nature--rocks and flowers. Elements--Au and Ag. Rich people's houses--serving pieces and chargers. And in our ballroom-to-family-room makeover, you're going to see lots of it!

Here are a few of the purchases I've made in the last few days...

Ballard's Navarre Indoor/Outdoor Rug in gray (can I get that in a size GIANT, please):

A yard of Ballard's Scandicci Gray (psssst, BFF-J, I haven't asked you yet, so SURPRISE, would you be willing to make me a cushion cover in this gorgeousness?)

Target's Henna panels in gray:
Next I'll be picking paint colors--probably a soft gold from the Laura Ashley collection at Lowe's--and waiting for the wares to arrive. I can't wait to update you with progress. Finally, the ballroom will be useful. Please, squeeee with me!

 P.S.--I think lots of people have been inspired by "The Parent Trap." Where do you think Madonna got the idea for her cone boobies of the 90s? I'm putting my money on Maureen O'Hara's foundational garments.