Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Our Living Room Plan: Part Two

I've known from the get go, that the blue-gray carpeting in our entire house would have to go. Its underfoot in all areas, less the kitchen and bathrooms. That makes for a lot of blue-grayness up in here. We're fortunate that it's in pretty good shape and ist's well padded. It certainly helps keep our tootsies warm, and has been a nice cushion while Quincy has been learning to crawl and for all of Nolan's tumbles. But the color of it is unfortunate. And the fact that it's in the dining room (to be fair, the previous owners did not have young children), is unfortunate. Luckily, Jon and I were on the same page when it came to the carpeting. It had to go. And going it is!
       The first thing I did was to explore lots of images
of flooring to figure out exactly what I wanted.
I consistently liked the same thing:
Medium warm-toned floors.

Unknown Source, Houzz
With rustic character.
Unknown Source, Houzz
And wide planks. 
Unknown Source, Houzz
I found lots of inspiration of warm wooden floors
paired with whites and neutrals.
Milk and Honey Home
From all of the images I was drawn too,
I found that most (if not all) featured White Oak.
Ballard Designs

 With this in mind, we went and saw our uber knowledgeable friend at a local store and she gave us the low down on all of our various options (we did stop by another local retailer to compare samples, but were under impressed by their knowledge and genuine interest in assisting us). We decided pretty instantly that we wanted real hardwoods as opposed to engineered hardwood or laminate. We're traditionalists like that. From there, we were able to determine what we wanted pretty quickly. We decided on a Character Grade White Oak. Character grade is on the more affordable spectrum of hardwoods, as it receives less processing, leaving it with...character. If we had deeper pockets or if this was our forever house, we might have gone with an Antique or Reclaimed floor option, but those are on the pricier spectrum and we'll be able to achieve a similar look with this. Our 1980's home is dying for some character, so bring it.

 The widths of the planks were actually a harder detail for me to decide on. I was immediately drawn to wide 7" planks, but they didn't have the same magical effect on Jon. So we considered all 5" planks, all 6" planks, or a mix of 3", 5" and 7" wide planks. In the end, I thought the mix of widths was too busy for our small house and so we settled on 5" (apparently the wider you go, the more unstable the flooring can be, and with the variables in our climate we decided to lean towards the safe end). Here's how she was looking in the shop when we went in for one final visit (slightly blurry shot, as I was juggling two kids):

Did I comparison shop? A bit. It's my nature. I was happy to be utilizing a local shop who gave us loads of information and I know will be happy to assist with any questions during our installation process. While I know I could find better deals online (although one of the biggest online retailers had them on back order until 12/14!), I wasn't willing to make this type of purchase online. I needed to feel the product. Stand on the product. See pictures of recent installs done with this wood. I'd rather pay a bit more for a sense of security and confidence, then risk such a big purchase through an unknown seller.

After pricing everything out and talking through the installation process, we decided that it would be best to first tackle the living room, dining room, kitchen and half bathroom. Yep...our whole upper level is getting the hardwood treatment. In another year or two, we plan to tackle the stairs and downstairs hallway. I love the look of hardwood on stairs with white risers, and I can't wait to have a set myself. But while Quincy is crawling and toddling, and while so many of our friends have small kids and babies, we figured a softer and safer set of stairs is probably a smarter option.  
The downsides of all of this is that we'll be installing them ourselves. This will save us thousands but it's going to drag the process out a bit.  And in addition, these hardwoods will have to be sanded and stained in place. Ugh. Are you getting the sense of how long this process will take us? So please, bare with us.

Deciding on the stain is going to be another huge hurdle for us. I'm hoping to pull out the brown undertones, as opposed to any yellow/orange/or red undertones. So that will involve some stain play, in our house with our lighting, once the wood arrives. From what I've been advised, sanding is a messy process, so we've avoided hanging curtains or any additional frames/art/accessories because it will ALL have to be removed when we sand and stain. We've also put off purchasing any furniture until after the hardwoods are in, because all furniture will have to be stored in our garage…in the winter. So the less furniture to move and store, the better.

These beauties are being ordered this week, and after arriving in a few weeks will need 2 additional weeks to cure in our house. So, we'll keep ourselves busy with some other projects at hand in the meantime. This is our first venture into the worWhat about you? What kind of hardwoods are you consistently drawn too? Dark? 2 1/4" planks? Hand scraped? Do tell!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Switch it Up

We're working towards updating just about every square inch of this house. What that means for me, is I am constantly thinking about four steps ahead of any decision I am currently making. Is the ceiling fan that I love going to work well with the living room wall sconces I was leaning towards? Is this pattern getting repeated too many times in the house? If the chair is this color, should I consider a different area rug color, which may not compliment the other rug in the space. Get my drift. 

I want our house to flow. I want there to be consistency and repetition from room to room. I want decisions to look intentional and complimentary. And this comes all the way down to light switch plates. Riveting stuff here people, I know.
This house has an amazing array of light switch plates. It's impressive actually. There's no rhyme or reason to them. Cheap plastic white ones are right next to metal plates with bears on them. There are silver ones next to bronze ones. For someone who boarders obsessive compulsive at times, it can really throw a girl out of whack.

I'll have to address my general feeling about
the orange peel texture walls at some point too.
I'm fairly certain it's a bear, because people try to
incorporate bears in any possible way they can in Tahoe,
but it looks slightly bobcat-esque to me.
And then, of course, the good ole' stand by.
I snapped these pictures pretty much from just our dining room.

But my favorite of all of them, is this beauty.

She may just end up framed as a moment0. 
And she speaks volumes about the need for updates in this house.

Here was a certain three and a half year old boy who was following me around the room
and did not quite understand
why his mom was taking photos of our power outlets.
After we finished our behemoth planked wall, I just could not bite the bullet and purchase the economical .99 cent plastic white switch plates. I just couldn't do it. There is really nothing wrong with them, but I couldn't convince myself that there was anything right about them either. So I did what I do best, and I comparison shopped for white switch plates. I was so happy when I came across this option, on sale. They were several dollars cheaper then the comparable option I found at target, as well as at several other online retailers. I placed a big order, based on all of the various types of configurations and quantities that we needed. I purchased enough for all of our needed living room and dining room switches and outlets. They kind of add up. There will have to be a phase 2 and 3 for the bathrooms and downstairs outlets.

Then I had to wait. I waited and waited. Who knew you could be so anxious to receive a box of switch plates. Leave. It. To. Me. They arrived. They're up. And they're glorious (okay, as glorious as switch plates can be). They were the crowning jewel that we needed for our plank wall.
They have clean lines, and a nod a traditional detail, which I like.
I guess I need to go and clean all of the actual switches now...
Aaaaah…so much better. 
My obsessive compulsive heart can rest a little bit better at night now. 
Anyone need some secondhand light switch plates?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rolling Out Our Living Room Plan: Part I

       Let's have a little chat about our main living floor, shall we? I've shared bits of it lately, but I thought I should reveal to you our overall plans for the space.  It might make it a tad bit easier for you to follow along with us these next few months. 
       We use to love entertaining. In our rental (and before we had two blessed children), we had people over for dinner one to two nights a week. It was standard for us. We had the energy. We were able to get beyond how ugly our rental was. But now, we've been homeowners for over six months, and we've only hosted people to dinner two or three times. Granted, we are generally exhausted, but more so, we are kind of embarrassed of our house. It's sad, but true.
       Our house features a reverse floor plan, with the bedrooms located downstairs, and the living/dining/kitchen on the upper level when you enter the house. You find this layout in our area a fair amount, as lots of homes are built onto hillsides. The verdict is still out on whether we like the layout of this home (certainly wasn't what we set out to buy), but we're making it work for us at the moment (and don't really have a lot of other options, now do we). Because the living room is the most important area of the house, we actually did need to live with it for a while so that we could discern what exactly the best design plan would be. I think we (or more like, I) have a really strong plan of attack devised for the space now and I'm DYING to roll it all out. But as I've learned, it's step by step, and it will be slow going.
 Here's the before shot,
taken while the sellers were packing up.
They had a love of house plants.
They offered to sell us that entertainment shelving unit...but we kindly passed.
Here are a few other angles of the space, 
since we've been living here.
I didn't bother staging these "before" photos because this is our life at the moment,
(staging would have involved time and energy).
toys, dog, paint samples and all.
I'm cringing for you.
That door pains me.
The view from our front door.
For the love of old hideous fireplaces. That thing has Got. To Go.
Outdated fan anyone?
       I knew the space had potential from the day we first saw it, and I try to see it in that light every time I walk in the door. Soon after moving in, we realized that nice furniture and some new light fixtures wouldn't really disguise the biggest problems in the space…the flooring and the peach walls. And no amount of pretty pillows or cool area rugs would take away from theses glaringly obvious issues. 
       So after tackling some little projects and making some small purchases the first few months, in November, we started on two things. We began the daunting task of painting this level of the house and we went shopping for hardwoods (cue the choir!!!).
       The existing paint color is a peachy, yellowy, creamy bunch of ugly, commonly known as "builder beige". It reads very differently depending on the wall and time of day. I decided that white was the route we would take. But Not. So. Fast. Apparently choosing the best white paint color for the job is no easy task. I sampled whites for weeks. WEEKS! They were all even starting to look  the same to me. 
Over on Instagram, I shared my white paint laboratory.
Choosing the right paint colors, is an absolute science!
I picked up several of the most popular, designer picks for white, 
and tested them out in four (4!!!) different spots in our main living floor. 
 I figured why not go with a white that was a favorite of a designer-
something already tried and true. 
First off, many of them read differently from wall to wall do to lighting and shadows.
Here you can see how crazy peach/yellow/orange the current color is in comparison.
Second, some of the most popular recommended whites
(Benjamin Moore White Dove, Benjamin Moore Decorators White) 
read as gray or blue on our walls. 
I couldn't believe it. 
I was determined to get it right. 
It would basically be coating most walls in our house (and the ceiling).
So as I narrowed it down, I painted larger and larger swatches.
      What I realized, is that I needed a creamy warm white, with no grey or blue undertones. It's cold and freezing here half to the year, and I want our home to feel warm and embracing, rather then blinding and stark when people walk in the door. So I finally decided on Benjamin Moore's Marscapone. It's a creamy, almost Ivory White, with more yellow undertones then grey. I had to make a decision, I was losing my sensibilities. We started painting in November, and yet still, only portions are done. Our plan is to continue tackling the paint issue and have it completed by the time we install the floors (the magnificent floors!!!)
       Here's the color palette that I've been playing with:
       White will clearly be our jumping off point, and it will be layered with lots of greens, blues, beiges, and grays. We'll be warming up the palette by layering in lots (and lots!) of natural fibers (i.e. baskets, area rugs, wicker) and antique brass. Black will work as a really nice clean contrast to the white, and will repeat itself through most of the light fixtures. These colors are choices that I'm attracted to time, and time again. 
       Next up, I'll be sharing with you our floor selection and the images that we were inspired by, but for the time being I thought I should show you the mood board that we're using as we piece together this area of the house. Drumroll….
       Can you picture it? I can…and I'm dying to see it come to fruition. I'll break down this board more over the coming months, and we'll see how it all evolves together!

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Very Milam Christmas 2013

       I thought I should make a pit stop and share some images from the holidays with y'all. Our Christmas season was busy and chaotic, just like most are. We tried to fit in a fair share of festivities, but also kept life as simple as we could. I had just about all of my shopping done by Thanksgiving, which helped relieve some of the holiday pressures. If you didn't get a card from us, you weren't forgotten. I just couldn't pull it off this year.
       I think there is so much pressure on us to do soooo much during the holidays. From Elf on the Shelf, homemade Advent calendars, Polar Express outings, family photo shoots so that you have just the perfect holiday card, holiday pajamas, fancy party outfits, and the list goes on.  This year I was really feeling like it was all just a bit too much. I was really and truly trying to just keep it all together. Despite all of the pressures, it really was a very blessed season for us. Our little family had so much to celebrate and be thankful for.
Quincy had her first encounter with the big guy this year. 
Nolan wouldn't get close, and I didn't pressure him.
He did however really enjoy the candy canes Santa was giving out.
He proceeded to talk about candy canes the whole month of December.
Nope, my kids just aren't the type that embrace Kris Kringle.

My resort does it up every holiday season.
Jon brought the kiddos by one evening so that Nolan could have  
a gander at our Gingerbread village, complete with a train.
Jon was just barely able to have Thanksgiving Day off and w
were very thankful to have him with us.
We lucked out again when we thought he might have to stay over at work on Christmas,
 but didn't. He was working on Christmas Eve,
 so we joined the guys and the other families at the station
for a Christmas Eve dinner (the guys did all the cooking!)
       Our Christmas' will probably never be filled with the same exact traditions year in and year out. That's something that I'm trying to come to grips with. Many years, Jon will be working on Christmas (in 2014, he'll be working Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), and we'll have to flex our plans accordingly. This year we decided to forgo a rushed trip to the bay area to be with my family, because it's a lot for our kids (and us) at this age. Next year, I will surely be out of town with the kiddos while Jon is at work. But what I already learned this year, is that it truly doesn't matter which day we celebrate. As long as we take a day together to celebrate as a family. Waking up without Jon at home with us on Christmas morning was made much easier by the fact that he was getting off and would be home to join us soon. 
        Nolan really just started to comprehend Christmas and all of it's magic this year. On Christmas Eve, I couldn't get the kid into his bed, but after explaining that Santa and the reindeer needed him tucked in before they could arrive, he was happy to oblige. He helped me set out a cookie, some brownie bites for the reindeer, and a glass of milk. He then asked me to close his bedroom door so that Santa couldn't get in. 
       First thing in the morning, I heard him stirring in the living room. 
I entered to find him checking out the leftovers from the night prior.

He was happy to help finish off the bits that Santa and Rudolph left behind.
The kids and I made some quiche and set out breakfast,
waiting for dad to arrive home.

I figured it was best to snap a couple of pics of the kids while I could.

This is Quincy's new trick.
Nolan really became the gift opener extraordinaire.
He may or may not have opened a gift at one point and said,
"this can't be for me…it's clothes".
Oh, the Christmas spirit at it's finest.
       More then anything this year, I was reminded of how much we have. Too much really. We are so blessed and fortunate. It was certainly a time to reflect on how content we should be with all that we've been given (health and family, not physical gifts).  We spent the remainder of the day watching a movie as the kids napped, and then making some homemade ribs. It was lazy. And simple. And great.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

That Nook

       *** The response to our planked wall was encouraging, so Thank You! Back to our previously scheduled program...

       This house is full of poorly used space. Wasting space drives me bananas. Most of us can't afford the square footage we dream about, so we have to ensure we're using all of our precious space as best we can. We have to make our homes work for us. Sure, it takes some energy, planning, and thought, but there's lots we can do to make things function just a bit better for our needs. Nice interiors with expensive furnishings would be nothing if it weren't for good storage. So as we save up our big bucks (and energy) for a few key pieces of furniture and hardwood installation, we're working on some smaller storage solutions that will make our home much more successful.
Enter: That Nook.
It sits just to the right of our entry door 
(which will be upgraded to a single pane french door -after the hardwoods)
You can see it from any vantage point in our living area.
It is such a waste of space!
It is only 17" deep, so not deep enough to actually hang human size coats.
This nook is complete with a cheap faux wood shelf, 
and a cheap wood dowel hardware contraption.
Imagine us digging through that puny basket for the other glove,
the missing shoe, or a hat for Quincy.  It's not good. 
The other night, I finally realized what we could do to make that area work better for us,
so it's full steam ahead on some organization.
Compared to our plank wall, this should actually be a pretty quick fix type of plan,
and should take us less then two months to complete. Fingers crossed. 

I saw these striped canvas baskets over on pinterest several months ago, 
and I've been trying to figure out a place to use them ever since.
Many designers have used them and in every image I've come across, 
I love them.
       More amazing about these bins, is that they are so obtainable. They are available over at the Container Store, and they start at $10.00 a pop. I watched for a sale /free shipping for months (our nearest store is about two hours away), but just in case you're wondering, they don't offer much in the way of sales online. So, at 10 bucks a pop, I decided to get a little crazy, and pay full price (gasp!). They are on their way here, at this very moment. Consider it a little New Years, Let's Get This Damn House Organized, gift to myself. We're getting five, one for each of us, including Blue (to wrangle his dang leash, collar, tennis balls, bones, etc.).
       But I know you're dying to know what these beauties will now be perched on. Easy. In walked some thick wood shelves.
Source Unkown
       We'll be keeping this project totally affordable by building ours from wood that we already have on hand, and picking up just a bit of what we need. I'll be using some stain to darken it to our taste. In my head these shelves will look very intentional, built in, and cleaned lined with no brackets showing (Jon loves it when I give him a little challenge). Now I'm on the hunt for the perfect letters, so that each bin can also be labeled for each of us. Hopefully, I'll have an "after" soon which will include a more final view of our planked wall! Until then...