Monday, March 31, 2014

Old House Dreams, Part II


Today when I cam to work, I spied some notes I had written during a few quiet minutes, where I listed traits of my dream house.  The reason why this is fascinating is that upon waking this morning, I was giving up on the house I posted about yesterday, mentally moving on by choosing to not go anywhere.  Moving is expensive and completely unnecessary for us to do right now.  Our border collie loves being out in the country with acres to patrol and deer to chase off.  I love the views seen from my great room and hearing tree frog serenades as I fall asleep.  My cats love the avian life that flocks to our bird feeders, strategically placed where they are visible from cat perches around the house.  My husband loves having an office with a view and a deck.  I was resolved to the notion of staying and maybe, someday, adding on to our tiny house so that I could have an art studio and a mud room.

And as I get ready to see my first client of the day, I see this hand-written list on the top of my clipboard.

My Dream House:

1.  is an OLD house (1920's or older) with original details-- floors, doors, trim, windows, fireplace, staircase

2.  has a claw foot tub

3.  has an abundance of windows and natural light

4.  has plaster walls

5.  has a second story

6.  has a proper entry

7.  has an open staircase

8.  has a front and back porch

9.  has high ceilings (at least 9')

10.  has a proper dining room

11.  has large rooms in the common living areas

12.  has been well-cared for

13.  has period features, such as pocket doors and built-ins

14.  sits on a property with mature trees and space for gardens

15.  is located somewhere quiet either out in the country or possibly in town on a quiet street

16.  feels solid and protective, is well-built

17.  has good views through the windows-- either natural scenery or a pretty street with nice houses

18.  has a connection to nature, either through woods being close by or through a well-tended garden

I wrote this list a few weeks ago and had not yet seen the grand old house, aside from the fact that we used to live in the same neighborhood and I would wonder about the house as I walked my dog past it most days.  That house has about 90% of the things on this list.  I am not sure exactly how quiet the street is on a daily basis, but when I used to walk my dog there at random times throughout the day, it seemed pretty quiet.  I don't know any details yet about how good or bad the major systems in the house are, which could certainly be a deal-breaker.  I just find it curious that I write out this list on a whim, and this house shows up for sale.  

If I hold out a little while longer, perhaps a house possessing 100% of these traits will become available at my price range.  

And yet, when I left for work today, it finally felt like spring in the country. There were many birds singing their little hearts out, the grass is becoming greener by the house, trees are in bud, the sky is perfectly blue.  

Life is really made up of a series of choices.  At most times we have the power to choose, if not what happens to us, at the very least, how we relate to it.  Not all choices are easy.  Sometimes there are two right answers; other times, two wrong answers.  Right now, I am choosing to embrace to mystery and the wonder, not making any decisions either way.  I need to let this percolate a little while longer and see if the flavor changes or deepens.

Any thoughts on this?

Until next time...


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Old House Dreams


I have been bitten by the old house bug once again.  Even though there are things I love about my house, like the expansive views, there is a core part of me that still longs for an old house.  I miss the interior features of the house we left last year, but definitely do not miss its main street location.  
While looking at yesterday, I spied this new listing.  There was a note of panic in my husband's voice when I took my computer into his office and said I had found a newly listed house I wanted to see.  I understand that anxiety-- we have moved every year for the past 3 years, and it is so much work, on top of everything else that we struggle to keep up with.  Nonetheless, we went to see the house.

The pictures from the website are awful and do not highlight the coolest features of the house, like both sets of pocket doors separating the parlors from the main hallway/entry way.  The house was built in 1907 and is basically a large foursquare with Victorian-style trim and three-sided bays in the two front rooms.  It has 10' ceilings throughout the main level.  There are 2 bathrooms, both with claw foot tubs.  The overgrown yew bushes completely obstruct the front porch and front door, which is surrounded by sidelights and topped with a leaded-glass transom.  Most of the plaster walls are covered with 1970's era paneling, but all the original trim and doors remain intact.  The original floors are also intact, although the finish is badly worn in some of the rooms.  

Here is a poor quality photo of the staircase:


It shows the paneled walls (yuck) but also shows the style of the trim.

There are obvious cosmetic needs, but those are less concerning than the potential needs of the electrical system and the plumbing.  We have only taken a cursory look and have not had anyone inspect the place, so there are a lot of unknowns regarding its true condition. The roof, exterior, and foundation seem to be in good repair.  The furnace is older but allegedly works fine.

This house is more than we need, twice as big as the one we are now living in.  The yard is one sixth of the size of our current lot.  There are neighbors close by, and streetlights.  Plus, the house needs a fair amount of work at best.  It is not practical and possibly not even affordable, depending on the overall cost of improvements.

She is a grand, old dame, however, and a girl can dream.

Until next time...


Thursday, March 27, 2014

A hint of spring in the air

Spring has been quite coy this year, teasing us with promises that she is nearby, only to dash our hopes with frosty nights.  I picked these daffodils a couple of days ago, still in the bud at the time, when below freezing temperatures were being predicted.  They have fared quite well on my kitchen counter.

Today we have warm temperatures and gusty winds; a thunderstorm is looming just beyond the hills to the south.  

It is my hope that wherever you find yourselves, you are experiencing the lightness, anticipation, and relief that come with the turn of the seasons.

Until next time...


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Winter survival tips and winter photography

Let's face it... if you live in the mid-west, the northeast, the mid-atlantic, and even the deep south, this has been one very long winter!  The entire eastern half of the country seems to have grown weary of dreary, cold, snowy days and is desperate for spring-- this could just be me, but I doubt it.

Here are some ways I am coping with this seemingly interminable winter:  by focusing on the beauty that still abounds in these frosty days; by reveling in the sun when it shines, bathing in its warmth as it streams through my windows in the late afternoon; by getting outside and just breathing in the fresh air, letting it fill my lungs and rejuvenate me; and by celebrating the occasional, warm days that have been interspersed with the cold. 

 Planning garden projects has been helpful.  So have tending to my houseplants and bringing in fresh flowers from the grocery store.  Forcing bulbs in pots or bulb vases provides a way to bring a bit of spring and new life indoors.  The dormancy of winter can feel like death after awhile, so focusing on new life is a way to counteract that.

Taking my camera outside also helps. Practicing photography is a way of staying in the present.  When I am shooting, everything beyond the lens just fades away.


Yesterday morning, there was mist rising from the creek and ridges to the west of my house.  With snow still on the ground from our most recent storm, the entire scene was magical.  Looking through the bedroom window as the sun was beginning to rise, I felt as if I were being offered a glimpse into something rare and fine in the challenging, sometimes dirty world.  This pulled me from beneath the fluffy, warm comforter. I zipped my long, down coat over my robe, pulled on my winter boots, and headed outside with my camera and discovered something even more magical than the mist.

Overnight, frost had settled on every leaf, seed head, blade of grass, and tree branch.

I had never examined frost this closely before. 

Nor do I recall ever noticing that it resembled spines or thorns, protecting every surface in its icy embrace.

The four previous photos show a rose of Sharon bush, seed heads still intact.

Even the remnant of barbed wire fencing seems delicate when adorned with frost.

If you also live somewhere where the winter seems intolerable and far too long, how are you getting through?

Until next time...


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Decorating with vintage pieces

Is your home decorated with vintage furnishings?  Are there cast-offs, hand-me-downs, flea market finds, yard sale purchases, thrift store scores among your possessions?  I am going to explore how vintage items are used in my own home and share a little of the story behind each piece.

All of the houses I admire have pieces of furniture that had a previous life.  There is a richness in these interiors that cannot be purchased from even my favorite retailers (Pottery Barn, One Kings Lane, and Restoration Hardware).  In fact many of the items these companies offer for sale are based largely on vintage styles.  Oftentimes, however, these reproductions are more expensive than the real things that inspired them, which you might find on perched on someone's front lawn or on advertised on Craigslist.

All the pieces of furniture we own,  aside from our bed, 2 modern grey velvet chairs, and the desk in my husband's office, were previously owned by someone else.  I started going to thrift stores and yard sales when I was in my early 20's.  At that time, I was driven by the need to furnish a home as inexpensively as possible, but I was also motivated by the pursuit owning of something of quality, something with a history, something of beauty, and something classic in design that would stand the test of time. There are items in my home that have been with me all these years.

Some pieces in my house were hand-me-downs, some were bought at yard sales, the rest came from resale shops.  There storied pieces add a sense of history to our home, giving it the feeling of one that has evolved over time.  When buying old pieces of furniture, I look for solid, all wood construction, steering clear of pieces that are constructed of particle board or are rickety.  Most of the items in my house originate from the 1920's to the 1960's.  High quality pieces can easily be made over either through refinishing or painting.  When is comes to true antiques, however, changing the finish typically lowers the value, so it is important to do your homework first before taking that step.

My bedroom is a study in mixing modern pieces with vintage ones.  The centerpiece of the room, our beloved campaign bed, is 2 years old, although it is styled after campaign furniture of the 19th century.  It is modern in the sense that it was made recently, not in terms of style.

The bed is flanked with mis-matched, vintage, side tables, both of which were purchased for $15 a piece from a yard sale.

The white and wood dresser is one I purchased in the 90's for about $15 dollars at a yard sale.  The mirror actually came with the dresser, but I haven't used them together in many years, hence it was painted grey.  Vintage mirrors are among my favorite things.  I love the look of the speckled, faded silver backing, which adds an ethereal quality to the entire room.

The white painted sideboard is a vintage piece that I currently use as my dresser.  This piece cost $100 and also has a hutch, which I haven't used in years.  It was a splurge at the time it was bought, back in the 90's.  I keep baskets inside the doors at the bottom, and that is where my clothes are stored.  Being placed near the edge of the loft, the top provides a surface for my cats to sleep and keep watch over the happenings downstairs.  The houseplants in the corner add life to the room, provide a visual buffer, and clean the air.  

The full-length mirror and grey chair next to it are both modern pieces.  The mirror represents the softer, more feminine, somewhat glamorous side of modern design.  The chair is also more modern in style, but with curving lines.

Vintage pieces can also be accessories and not just large pieces of furniture.  For example, the chandelier hanging in the window, which has also been with me since the early 90's is vintage and was made in Italy.  I have added to the crystals over the years.  It now hangs in a place where it catches the rays of early morning sunlight, casting rainbows around the room.

Incorporating vintage pieces into your decor is not only economical and environmentally-friendly, it is an avenue for creating a home that is uniquely yours, one that cannot be purchased from a catalog or home furnishings store.  If pieces are well-chosen, they may live with you for many years to come.

No matter what your style, from mid-century modern to cottage style, from coastal style to French rustic, there are vintage pieces to suit your tastes.  My style tends to lean toward cottage/coastal but is evolving, as I am quite fond of more rustic and industrial elements, which seem to suit my current home.  Some of the most personal and dynamic interiors are achieved by mixing styles and eras and by mixing vintage finds with newer pieces.  You can check out the Home Decor Resource page at One Kings Lane for more ideas and inspiration.

How do you use vintage pieces in your home?

Until next time...



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