Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To The Map!

Justin and I came across these awesome vintage-looking maps at a little shop in the Andersonville neighborhood in Chicago, and now have a Rome street map hanging on our bedroom wall!

We picked the map of Rome to pay a special homage to our Italian honeymoon. (See all our pictures here.)

I love love love the white mat and frame highlighting the map's pastel colors. (This is the white version of the frame I used on this piece.) It is less visually heavy than our previous art and we really couldn't have lucked out with a better match to our room's palette.

As soon as I swapped the new for the old, it lightened the room almost as if it was a breath of fresh art (pun intended). And who can complain about the daily reminder of an unforgettable trip to beautiful Italia? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Desk

Here's the desk for our office! In addition to adopting this awesome bookcase from Justin's grandma, we also snagged this amazing mid-century modern desk.

I'm not feeling the chair and think I have already found a replacement, but I sure do love the woodwork on the drawer and the round knobs.

I originally considered refinishing it, but after using it a few times, I have determined that I enjoy the worn surfaces and it's character too much to fix it up. The wood looks like it has been finished before (I'm assuming by Justin's grandpa) and when I see the parts where the stain streaks because it wasn't rubbed in completely, I like remembering him.

Now it seems we have all the furniture we need (or want) for this space. We've got this desk, the couch, and an open concept Vintage Modern, Thomas O'Brien bookshelf that has been sitting vacant in our basement for the past couple years—it's time to start arranging the layout.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cushed MCM Couch

The progress on our office is slow going but I have finished a project that is going to play a huge part in the room—making cushions for our mid-century modern couch frame. Remember when I picked up the MCM couch and chair frames at my neighbor's estate sale for $5? I was super happy when I finished the cushions for the chair frames not too long ago and now these are done, I'm even more excited to share my handiwork. Check 'em out!

I bought the fabric during our trip to Mill End Fabrics in Rochester, Minnesota, and I followed the tutorial on Sew Mama Sew, which was just as easy as the first time but once again very time consuming. I hate to admit it, but it took me a whole Sunday to create the long seat cushion.

As you can guess by now, a dark blue color is going to play large part in our office's color palette, but we still haven't painted yet. The past couple weekends I have intended to paint but choosing a color is proving to be extremely difficult. Though, once I've got some color on the walls, I will share some pics.

Monday, December 20, 2010

London Part 2

Welcome to the second installation of stories, photos, and recollections from the London trip I went on with my best friend Dawn. If you're tuning in for the first time, get caught up by reading part 1 here.

After a night of rest, Dawn and I got up with the sun, excited for our first full day adventuring around the town.

Our first stop, St. Paul's Cathedral.

Upon entering the beautiful structure at 8:30 a.m., we learned we couldn't visit the upper galleries (whispering, grand, etc.) until 9:30 so we walked across the square, picked up some Starbucks (go figure thank God!) toured the exterior a bit and went back in around 9.

We weren't permitted to take pictures of the interior (sorry!), so as soon as 9:30 hit we went to the upper galleries, climbing 500+ stairs. (This reminded me very much of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome except that it wasn't nearly as claustrophobic-feeling.)

As we climbed, we were able to stop at 2 different levels soaking in a 360 degree panorama of the city.

It was beautiful but really windy and cold up that high.

After St. Paul's we hopped on the tube and traveled to the Tower of London, which was really cool.

We got a free tour from one of the Beefeaters, the guardsmen that supervise and live in the tower, and he was a riot. In addition to being hilarious, he was an excellent guide, describing many historic events that happened within the tower grounds thoroughly.

After the tour we visited the Crown Jewels room which houses the royal crowns and the largest diamond in the world (530 carats), scoped out the Prisoner's tower where carvings and scribblings from of some of the most famous prisoners adorn the walls, and walked around the top of the entire gated wall.

After those two big attractions, it was early afternoon and we were starving so we took a break for lunch. I'm sure you're now chomping at the bit to hear how the rest of our first day went, but I think that's enough for one post. Don't want to tire you out only after part 2!

Over the next few weeks I plan on sharing all my stories from this trip—read part 1 here. If you can't wait for the next post (or are bored at work), check out my photos from this trip as well as several past trips on my flickr page.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Anthropologie Calls for Help

When Justin and I were in Starbucks several weeks ago, I was perusing the flyers on the community bulletin board and came across this little number.

The poster is from Anthropologie and basically says that if you are interested in learning how they create their amazing window displays, you can attend a workshop creating their displays for the upcoming holiday season. I worked in retail for several years through high school and college and my first thought when I read this was "ha! they are trying to get free labor by calling their set-change a workshop, what a scam!" and then, as I sipped my venti nonfat chai latte, I thought "who cares if it's free labor! It'll be awesome—I want to go!" Unfortunately, the day I saw the poster was the day the workshop was being held and Justin and I already had plans, so it was a no-go this time. However, I will be frequenting that Starbucks again and I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for another session.

A few days later, my curiosity got the best of me and when I was in the area, I swung by the shop to check out the display. This time, the window seemed quite simple compared to what I've seen in the past, but it still looks like it would have been super fun to help set up.

What do you think? Would you be down for attending a display-making workshop even if it ultimately meant you were providing the retailer free labor?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rethink Shipping Gifts

I have the misfortune that two of my best friends live 5+ hours away from me. For that reason, any gifts I want to give either of them, I have to ship. Generally I wrap the gift, put it in a box to send, and drop it in the mail, but this year I thought, why not wrap the box I'm shipping so they receive a pretty present, rather than some boring 'ol brown box. I knew if I used a thick paper such as recycled shopping bags, the wrapping would withstand the heavy handling by the post office—genius!

After securely packaging the gift in a sturdy box, I selected a silver shopping bag from my stash of used bags. (I knew they'd come in handy one day!)

Then I cut open the bag and laid it flat as if it was a sheet of wrapping paper.

I removed the handles with some gentle peeling and scissor snips.

And in no time, had a wrapped box in pretty silver paper!

But a wrapped box isn't a gift without a bow or ribbon, so I pulled out another pretty-paper shopping bag with a high-contrast yet complimentary color. I sure do love CB2!

To ensure the decor wouldn't be ruined during shipping, I had to create something that would lay flat against the surface of the box and completely cover it with tape, securing any corners or loose sides. When wrapping the gift, I also went over each edge with tape, sealing it from tears or water damage. Anything that is raised has the potential to be ripped off as the package is sent through the post office's mailing machine, so make sure you use a whole roll of tape on that sucker!

Although this particular package was going to my friend Heidi for her birthday, which was yesterday, and Christmas, I decided to stay in the holiday spirit, cutting a few snowflakes from the bright orange bag. I also trimmed out the white circles and added some dimension by layering the two elements. Pretty cute, yes?

I'm also pleased with how the gift for Dawn (the friend I went to London with) turned out as well.

Of course I wouldn't be posting this rethink if I wasn't positive it would run through the mail nicely. In fact, when I was standing in line I got tons of compliments and was even asked if it was my "original design." So, cheers Heidi and Dawn, keep your eyes peeled for these little babies in your mail boxes soon!

Monday, December 13, 2010

London Part 1

I can't believe it's already December 13 and I haven't even started sharing photos from my trip to London in—shock—September. Tsk tsk. (I hope no one's living vicariously through me because their life would definitely be a few months delayed!)

I traveled with my best friend, Dawn, who invited me to tag along on her business trip across the pond. Before leaving, we spent some time strategically planning our daily activities because Dawn has been there a few times before and "didn't want to do the museum thing," so I had to get my museum kicks during my solo-mio time. After putting in a full—cough—productive day at the office, I took the L up to O'Hare where Dawn and I joined forces (she flew from Des Moines) and settled in to our—cough again—comfy airline seats for the roughly eight hour flight (me in coach, she in first-class).

A delay landed us at Heathrow an hour or more late, and with an appointment to tour the Houses of Parliament that afternoon, we hustled our butts through customs and onto the Underground railway system for my very first time.

One thing I enjoyed about the tube were the tile mosaics identifying the stop and the easy to navigate signage system. (I sure hope the public transportation Justin and I encounter on our next trip are as clear!)

The one thing that still baffles me about the underground is actually how far into the ground you have to go. I swear the escalators are about 3 or more stories tall. Just looking at the picture below makes me dizzy.

Once we conquered the tube, we made our way on foot, through my first London rain shower, to the hotel, arriving to find our room wasn't ready—blast! Fortunately, we were able to leave our luggage with the bell men so we could make our appointment at Parliament. Although we arrived a tad late, the wonderful security guards escorted us in and let us catch up to our group. The tour was very informative, but being as that we had just got off an overnight flight, I don't remember much more than the basic structure of the British government and that the building was gorgeous. Check out this room where they hold ceremonies and meetings. I could have stared at that wood-beam ceiling for hours.

After the tour, we rushed back to our hotel, checked in, showered, and hustled back through the underground to see Deathtrap, a raved about play that had just opened a few days earlier.

The play was excellent and truly was a hit even though we both were exhausted, especially after splitting a bottle of wine! I think what "talked" me into seeing this show was the killer typography (pun intended).

After finding our way back to the hotel, we crashed into probably the most comfortable European bed I have ever slept on in the largest European hotel room I have ever seen.

Over the next few weeks I plan on sharing all my stories from this trip, but if you can't wait for the next post or are bored at work, check out my photos from this trip as well as several past trips on my flickr page.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mineral oil rub down

Justin and I have been doing a lot of cooking lately and as we pulled out our large wood chopping block to slice up our homemade italian pizza the other night, I was embarrassed by its condition. Let's face it, the board isn't the best or the top of the line, heck it was only $10 at Ikea, but I do my best to care for our belongings so they last as long as possible. Though, I must have been slacking on this particular piece. As you can see, the wood is extremely light and there are some darker spots, which I assume is from food.

To maintain our block's swedish quality, I follow some "rules" each time we use it. First, we do not use this board for raw meat, completely eliminating the potential for bacteria to harbor in the wood. Second, we give it a good scrub by hand shortly after using so our food doesn't stain the wood, and then let it dry immediately. Do not let wood kitchen items soak in water as this can lead to water damage, allowing more places for bacteria. Last, I treat our board with mineral oil on a semi-regular basis (every couple months or so).

Treating your chopping block to a mineral oil rub down is similar to you going to a spa. The mineral oil locks in the natural moisture and prevents cracking and other forms of wearing out. It is my understanding to not use any other type of oil such as olive or canola because these turn rancid over time and make your board unsanitary.

When Linen's-N-Things was still around a few years ago, I picked up this very large bottle of oil for less than $10. Each new wood tool we purchase for our kitchen gets an initial mild-soap wash and mineral oil rub down. As you can see in the above picture, we haven't even come close to using half the bottle—a little goes a long way.

After scrubbing and washing off the homemade pizza sauce from our board, I let it dry overnight. Then I treated our chopping block to a nice mineral oil massage. I'm not sure if each bottle has the same directions, but I put a small amount of oil in a bowl and warmed it up for 5–10 seconds in the micro. Then I used a soft rag to soak up some oil and rubbed it into the board. I have never applied the oil directly to the board because I fear really dark oil spots, but I'm sure if you follow the instructions on your bottle you'll be fine.

The last step in the application is to let the board rest for a while to allow the oil to fully soak in.

If you are treating one wood tool and have other wood cutting boards, bowls, spoons, or serving utensils you might as well fix them all up at the same time, or at least until you have used the warmed-up oil. Waste not, want not!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Empty office

After leaving you in suspense over our hoarder-esque office last week, I'm back to share evidence that we, in fact, do have a floor in there.

It took us a few days to unload everything, but having a clean slate to work with was so worth the effort and time.

I think when most people are completely redecorating a room they tend to sort through their belongings as they remove them from the space. I'm the opposite. As we start to put everything back in our office, I plan to go through and pare down. There's nothing worse than getting rid of a ton of stuff and then realizing you could have used that large leftover finial as a bookend.

So, now who's ready to see some color on those walls? I sure am. Stay tuned for more progress next week, it's going to be a doosie!

PS: If anyone has photography tips on how to reduce the graininess in my images, shoot me an email. I'm getting desperate!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cushed MCM Chairs

I finally finished the necessary work on the pair of mid century modern arm chairs I picked up at an estate sale way too long ago (over a year—eek!). They weren't in bad shape but as you can see, they were missing some crucial parts.

I couldn't find webbing material similar to what remained on the chairs, so I opted for some woven straps that reminded me of cotton seatbelts and tacked them down using a staple gun.

The webbing didn't take long to replace but it took me a long time to make these cushions or should I say build up the nerves to get started. I'm no seamstress or upholsterer and was entirely intimidated with the task of making cushions for the chairs. At first I wasn't even sure how to start but after seeing a few similar chairs on craigslist and one identical match in Emily's room on the finale of HGTV's Design Star, I knew I could do it. So, with the first task of project-cushions accomplished, aka growing a pair, I was ready to get my hands dirty.

The second task was finding fabric, which speaking from experience, I knew wasn't going to be easy. I had three basic criteria I needed the fabric to fulfill: 1. neutral color, 2. upholstery quality, 3. I had to like it. Pretty simple huh? Well, let's just talk about that. First I scoured my go-to discount shop in Chicago, Textile Discount Outlet, and when I left empty-handed was highly disappointed. However, I didn't give up and visited three other large fabric stores warehouses, perused the selections at Hobby Lobby, and even stopped at Joann's—still nothing. Then one magical weekend when we were up in Minnesota paying a visit to our friends and family, I was venting my fabric-finding frustration and my friend's boyfriend mention a store in the area that may have something. To all y'all that live in the Twin Cities area, and have a fabric fetish but don't know where to look, let me introduce you to Mill End Textiles (this is the Rochester store).

I hope the photos speak for themselves, but let me tell you that the selection there was fantastic. The Rochester store wasn't extremely large but I easily found fabric for the chair cushions as well as another project I had been needing fabric for. The best part, it was a holiday weekend and everything was discounted on-top of the already terribly low prices. We bought 4 yards for the chairs and only paid $20 and probably have at least 1.5 yards of fabric left. Woo hoo!

With that checked off my list, the next tasks I completed were purchasing foam and finding a box-cushion sewing tutorial online that I could follow easily. Unfortunately, foam is not cheap so I patiently waited for it to go on sale at Joann's and when it did, I was on it like peanut butter on jelly. In the meantime, I found this great tutorial on Sew Mama Sew and read it about a hundred times. I followed the steps to a T, omitting the handles, making one of the seats first. Can you guess which one (I hope not!)?

I am so please with my work not only because this project was a huge skill- and time-undertaking (it took about three hours to make one cushion) but because I think I did an excellent job for a first-timer and now we have two more functioning chairs! What do you think? Did you ever think I would actually finish this project?

BTW: According to Urban Dictionary, "cushed meanz dat u feel comfortable".
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