Thursday, May 22, 2014

Urchin Friends In The Bathroom

I picked up some green sea urchins on Ebay a while back, because they were a great deal, a great shade of green, and I was sure I could figure out a way to use them. And here's where I put them!

Right above the bathroom mirror in the guest bath.

It looks great at night, when the walls look even greener.

And the best part is...the cats can't reach them!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Using Podocarpus (Fern Pine) As A Privacy Screen Part 2

You may recall my post about the firefighters, I mean, the plants I chose for the backyard. Well, the podocarpus plants were delivered and planted today!

Here is the backyard way back when.

Here the trees are in pots, being lined up and spaced. 

And here they are all in! I can't wait to see them fill out and get all fluffy.

Now, to work on that grass and to set up my patio furniture! 

Any ideas on fun plants I can put in between the trees? I'm thinking something floral and sweet-smelling - maybe gardenias?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Ingenious Mailbox Solution!

On Pinterest, TV, and in magazines, I see houses with the cutest mailboxes. Tall posts at the end of a lawn, beachy lighthouse shaped beauties at the curve of a driveway, even those adorable envelope shaped mail pockets from Pottery Barn - they're all so awesome!

But in the real world, where I live, it's a little disconcerting to have your mail out where anyone can look through it (or take it). Identity theft is real, peeps! And it can take YEARS to climb out from that mess.

So what are my options? A mail slot in the door is one - but then that leads to security issues. Not just the break-in fear, either. I have fears you didn't even think about. Like what if someone drops something stinky, poisonous, or dangerous in the slot? What if pets or children eat it? Nope, no mail slot in the door.  

How about a locking mailbox, you say? Yes, that could be an option. But guys, I've lived in apartments and condos for almost ten years. Which means I've had to unlock my mailbox and get my mail out for a long time. Which wasn't terrible, but it wasn't optimal, either. And it means I'd let the mail pile up for days before I'd drag my lazy self to get it. Is it too much to ask for a secure mailbox that is easy to collect from?

Nope. So, here's my ingenious solution. sells these awesome mail drops that mount right into the wall of your house. They're large enough for packages, they come in multiple colors, and they have an adjustable flap stop so that you can change the opening size. 

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This picture is pre-paint job, so please don't hate on my ombre yellow wall. 

So, now you have a mail drop, but what happens to your mail on the inside? It drops. To the floor? To a basket? To one of these hanging folders? If it's not going into a secure place, you still have a situation where someone could drop undesirable or dangerous items right into your house. And if you choose a hanging folder, it's not the most attractive look for the other side of the door, is it?

My ingenious solution was inspired by my parents. In my their house, they had a custom cabinet built in for the mail.


In my house, that cabinet would have directly impacted my kitchen design and layout. So, I just incorporated it.

Instead of using a corner cabinet, I had a regular 24x24 inch cabinet installed at the end of my peninsula and had the mail slot lined up with it. 

This is what it looks like to the unsuspecting eye - looks like island storage.

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This is during construction, so please excuse the mess. 

And this is what it looks like open.

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You can see the slot and even a letter that was delivered. I may add a basket in there to corral the mail, but for now, I'm just so happy having it hidden, safe, and secure.

I had them add the top shelf, to better utilize the space. I think it would be a good place to keep dog leashes, though I can't think of what else I would keep there. Any ideas?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Full Bathroom - Before and After!

I was on vacation (in Florida!) for the past week, so I didn't write a darn thing :)
And while I was gone, the house was pretty much completed! I'll be moving in this week!

So, leading up to that, I want to share the before and after transformations with you.
This full bath was in the original layout of the house, but boy did it need a makeover.

Here is the hall bath BEFORE:

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This was the view looking into the bathroom from the hallway. Yes, those walls are pink.

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Pink walls, yellow backsplash with chrome edging and a nasty medicine cabinet. That's my dad in the mirror.

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The toilet. And telephone.

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The yellow tiled bathtub - all original everything.

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The vanity was a nice size, but ancient, broken...and pink.

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The linoleum floor was yellow.

Now onto the DURING photos:
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The walls come off so the new shower tile can go up!

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The vanity comes out so we can add copper piping and redo the electrical.

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The new flooring goes in! This gray, rectangular tile runs through both bathrooms and the kitchen.

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The gray, rectangular tile goes up on the shower walls.

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We laid the tile vertically to create a feeling of more height in the 8 foot room. You can also see the new whirlpool jet tub in this picture.

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The shower niche has contrasting tile work.

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The new toilet and vanity go in!

And finally, here are the AFTER photos:

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The finishings are in!

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The new window is frosted and spiderfree. Definitely important features. 

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The new vanity, along with the new faucet, medicine cabinet and lighting. I love how the 48" vanity has a molded sink, so there are no seams to clean!

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Here is a better view of the medicine cabinet. I chose an espresso color to add some contrast and character to the white cabinet. I also like how the dark wood pulls in the dark tones from the shower niche. Isn't the asymmetrical opening on the cabinet awesome? It was the first one I noticed in the store.

There will actually be more photos (the AFTER AFTER photos), once it's decorated.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Letter From My Mother

{this is a letter my mom wrote to me when 
i was almost twelve and in seventh grade. 
she's always written me letters. 
before i was born, when i was a baby, 
when i made mistakes, when i succeeded.}

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

This was originally posted on my first blog, Kate & Oli, in 2010. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

A Light Obsession

A look at my lighting board on Pinterest will show you that I 
a. can't make any decisions 
b. love all the little lights or 
c. have a varied and eclectic taste

Probably a third of each.

We originally planned to put recessed lighting in the foyer, kitchen, and living room. It made a huge improvement, especially once we smoothed out those popcorn ceilings. Like most houses built in her time, Linda relied on lamp light in the living areas. That's kind of reminiscent of Sally and her sea shells, right?

Above is a scary before picture of those ceilings. Those lines aren't shadows, they're dirt. Gross. 

This was the foyer (which is being really generous since it's a dirty postage stamp). I wanted to put a cute chandelier here for about 5 seconds, until I realized that both the front and closet doors would hit it. :(

As you can see, the recessed lighting (and smooth ceilings) are a vast improvement. This picture was taken before the lighting trim was in, which is why it looks a little rough. 

In the bedrooms, we started out with these very 50s plate fixtures.  

I thought the fern etching was kind of fantastic, but when the electrician gave us a great deal to upgrade to recessed lighting in the bedrooms and hallway, we went for it. 

This was the old hallway light... Seriously, Grandpa?

The new hallway lighting looks 10,000 times better and since it's all LED, costs 10,000 times less, as well. 

This beauty hung over my grandparents' dining room for as long as I can remember. It's vaguely nautical and maybe could have been craftily fixed up, but I was overwhelmed by the brass... and the disgusting.  So out it went!

Enter my beautiful dining room flushmount. I'm in love with her. The soft amber glow of her Edison bulbs, the the industrial/farmhouse/rustic/hispter/modern feel of her cage, even the fun patterns she makes on the ceiling. We are soulmates. 

And when she's off, she's just as beautiful, only in a more austere, Ice Queen sort of way. You guys, she has a personality! 

Unfortunately, I don't think I have any pictures of the original lighting in the kitchen, but I'm sure you can gather it wasn't terribly updated (or clean). 

First, we added a row of  3 lights down the center of the kitchen. There's also one to the left, since the pantry snakes around the corner and there are two smaller cans above the sink. Accent lighting, duh. 

We added in a Solatube, which are amazing, economical alternatives to a skylight. I love Solatubes and I try to incorporate them into designs whenever possible. 

In the kitchen, we knocked out a wall, which allowed us to create an island peninsula. As we all know, peninsulas need special lighting. In order to showcase...the peninsula. Duh. As soon as I saw these beauties, I knew they had to be mine. They're black, but with some burnished copper/bronze areas and they tie in nicely with the bronze hardware in the kitchen and the dining room fixture. I also put Edison bulbs in these, so they're not energy-efficient, but they're gorgeous. #worthit

In the bathrooms, I REALLY wanted to go with these awesome industrial fixtures.

However, in a conversation about saving money and being efficient, my Dad and I (read: my Dad) decided that the bathrooms should NOT carry through the more expensive oil-rubbed bronze accents that I have in the kitchen and should instead have brushed nickel accents. And much more cost-effective lighting with much more cost-effective bulbs. 

So, I picked up these acceptable, slightly better than builder's grade bath bars at Home Depot. 

They're actually not bad, and I rather enjoy the arc of the piece holding the shade. It looks like they're dangling streetlamps. Or maybe Trojan helmets. 

That's it for the interior lighting changes, stay tuned for another post on the exterior lightingscapes!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Using Podocarpus (Fern Pine) As A Privacy Screen

I like firefighters. You probably like firefighters. Most people like firefighters.

They provide a service, they're courageous, and they save kittens from trees. 

Plus they work out a lot. 

I like firefighters. 

But I don't exactly want to be able to wave hello from my living room, while I'm drinking tea in my undies. 

Hi Guys! See how the height of the fire truck complements the height of my wall and provides the perfect angle for them to see my skivvies?

And even when I'm outside, I can still see the building (and the Carl's Jr. sign). Though the flags are a bit festive.

So, what am I going to do about it? Well, we already had the retaining wall removed (read about that here) and now we have this lovely dirt strip about 5 feet deep. 

I went to my local nursery, International Garden Center, and asked the knowledgeable staff for some assistance. We discussed bamboo (too invasive), bougainvillea (too much maintenance on the fire station side), and we ended up in front of a plant called a podocarpus, or a fern pine.

This guy will start out about 5' tall and will end up 10-20 feet tall. We are going to plant 11 of them along the back wall, which is 53' wide. They have a nice, leafy spread that I'm hoping will end up looking like this.


A thick, leafy, green wall that is low-maintenance and relatively drought-tolerant. And most importantly, allows me to drink my tea with some privacy. 

I can't wait to share pictures of what it looks like once the plants are in. Expect that update in about two weeks!