Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Fireback in my Kitchen

In our kitchen we inherited a fireback, it is installed behind the stove, as a decorative back splash;  actually it is mounted on the wall with Superglue or Liquid Nails, or at least that is how I think it is being held up because it is cast iron and it weights a ton! I am sure that it will be an ordeal  to try to remove it without ending up with a HUGE hole in the drywall.

Although I think they are interesting and could be beautiful in the right setting, we are undecided if this is something we are going to keep.

After a little research I found out, for those that are interested, that cast iron firebacks date to the 1500's , and were used in the big fireplaces of the aristocracy, royalty and the church, often times depicting the family arms and shield's.

They actually served several purposes, radiating up to 50% more heat, protecting the back wall of the fireplace from deterioration and for decoration.

If you are interested in an antique fireback there are so many fabulous antique ones on the Internet, at Ruby Lane1stdibs, Beauchamp Antiques and  new ones using old designs at The Counrty Iron Foundry .

via Beauchamps Antiques

via Beauchamps Antiques

via Le Louvre Antiques

above 3 images via The Country Iron Foundry
I think the images and the patina on these firebacks are so beautiful, and could be used as art as well as in a fireplace. In fact, I have seen them in shelter magazines( no images that I can locate in my files, only in my mind) on stone walls of large houses in Europe.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day: Remember the Sacrifice


On this Memorial Day, 2011, and every day,
Please know that you are being thought of.
GOD BLESS YOU and keep you until the day we can celebrate face to face.

Let us all take a moment today between our trips to the beach and the barbeque's, and parades, and remember the sacrifice of our soldiers; those that are currently serving and those that have given the ultimate sacrifice, for us to be free.

Thank you, we miss you and are praying for your save return!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Black or white? That is the question.

Progress continues to be made in the kitchen, as I mentioned this week, the island is finished and all we have to do is narrow down our choice for the perimeter counters. That is proving to be easier said than done, for two reasons: one my husband  and I are having a little trouble deciding what we want, and two because there is definitely going to be an issue  with the part of the counters where the book shelf is.

The granite color will be the easy part. Originally Susan Serra suggested grey, I am not opposed to that but my husband is, he thinks the color is too light and not really conducive to our lifestyle. We entertain a lot and several people have mentioned to us that light granite does stain more easily and that could be a problem even though we are fastidious about maintenance on finishes.

The problem with the book case is that it is already installed on top of the counter obviously, and the bookcase and all of the other molding of the kitchen is connected. As this is a small remodel and not a gut job we have to work with what we have and this part is a challenge. Of the 3 people we have had  come over to bid  the project, one man said he did not want the job, one said he was going to carve out the counter that is currently there and push the granite underneath it, and another said that the entire cabinet will have to be taken apart and rebuilt! I did not anticipate this would be any easy job but it really is turning out to be more than I ever thought. I do not think I want to be home when they do the install, I think I will leave that to my husband. I do not have the patience for that sort of mess.

As for the color, we really did narrow it down to a black granite and a white. The granite yard in our neck of the woods is like a stone museum, there are so, so many different stones and slabs here it is a little overwhelming. In our case, we just walked through the first time and wrote down everything we liked on our clip board, as this is a stone wholesale company they only indication of price is L, M, H, E( low, medium, high, exotic).  Unfortunately, we ended up with almost all H's and E's!!!! Then we went through the second time and narrowed down the choices to two favorites and three runners up, which I might add are an H and an E. I think E stands for EEK and H for Holy Cow!!!
My choice was Princess white and my husbands was Cambrian Black leather finish. It is funny because even though my husband was against the grey color that Susan originally suggested he absolutely loved the Princess White. The slabs our yard has are pure white, in fact, we thought that it was marble upon first glance and has a little movement and a little bit of the stationary crystals.

Cambrian Black granite (The photos are terrible, you cannot get a sense of the texture)
The Cambrian Black with a leather finish is very black and has great depth and texture, and is a dull finish, so that you get a feeling of honed granite but without the issues people talk about.

And the winner is...both! After a little debate we decided to get the Cambrian Black and the Princess White! We will put the black into the kitchen and the white in the Master Bath (which is a story for another day).

Next..tile back splash, sink, faucet, and granite install.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Quote of the Week

I keep my friends as misers do their treasure,
because, of all the things granted us by wisdom,
none is greater or better than friendship.

Pietro Aretino

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Goodbye Oprah! You will be missed!

via Oprah.com

Oprah has been a major fixture in my life for the last 15 years, that is not to say that I did not watch the other ten years, but to say that the last 15 I have watched religiously.

What I know for sure, is that she has gotten people to read, that she has introduced us to books and issues that perhaps we were not aware of. She helped us get to know ourselves better, to hopefully "live our best life", she helped us with our health, both mental and physical, and with our finances. I know that I am a better person for being introduced to some of these things.

I hope that OWN gives us the same quality programs that Oprah offered us each day on her show; more programing like "The Master Class."

Farewell Oprah! I will miss your smile, your attitude, your guidance and your joy! I wish you the best on your new adventures!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Kitchen continues... African Mahogany

 Things are moving along, sometimes it feels like at a snails pace, and other times like the sped of light. The kitchen project is moving along, at a clip somewhere in between the description listed above.

We have the tile for the walls but not installed, we have decided on a sink and faucet but have not made the jump to purchase in case we see something in the interim that we like better. We have waffled on the perimeter counter top surfaces, and the color for some months because we can't decide between light and dark.

The one thing we did not waiver on was the surface for the island. From day one my husband and I decided that we wanted to have a wood island custom made, from a wood that we picked out and in our own design.

After doing some research and a few meetings with " the wood guy" as we called him, we made the decision to go with an African Mahogany and I have to tell you we could not be happier!

Here are a few photos of the counter in progress and then installed.

In Progress

First Look
Small Glitch
For those of you who are not familiar with this process, I will let you know that it is a little bit of a leap of faith. Once you decide that you want a wood counter, you visit the wood worker, and you pick your wood, your finish, which is either food grade, stained and food grade, or natural which is what we decided on.

At this point, your space is measured and then it is out of your hands. The wood in its natural state looks like plain old lumber from the lumber yard, and in some cases, old dirty wood. Even the wood worker does not know until the entire unit is assembled and then sanded what the piece will look like.

In our case you can see that there are variations in the color, some lighter than the other. We like this look, and it is what we wanted, that is why we opted out of having the piece stained to make it uniform. We wanted to be able to appreciate the natural wood and its variations of color. However, we did not want the triangle part to look like it was an after thought!

When we saw this I wave to tell you my heart sank a little bit, not because I did not think it could be fixed but because I wanted to have my island back! I was so tired of being without a space to work in the kitchen.

Judd, our "wood man" felt so bad when he called us to tell us about the counter and the little problem. But after a little discussion and Judd starting over on that half where the triangle is we ended up with a fabulous island!
Out with the old

Nice! This was left by the builders of the house 12 years ago!



The finished island

Shadow is from light above

Aerial view

Finished installation
 As you can see the island is installed and the cabinets are painted! Progress!

This island has now been installed for 6 months, and we have not had any problems with it. Although to be honest we do not cut directly on it. I know that  a lot of people have butcher block and use the surface as one big cutting board, we did not go that route. The only maintenance by the way is mineral oil rubbed on once a month. And the color does get darker with age.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Quote of the Week: George McDonald

If instead of a gem or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.
George Mc Donald

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kitchen Cabinets! We have WHITE!!!

As I mentioned in the previous posts about the kitchen, after much research and speaking with Susan Serra of the blog, The Kitchen Designer, we maid the choice to have our cabinets painted.

In the begining of this project, I of course thought we could do it ourselves, as I have seen it done on many, many blogs and we did in the bathrooms of our previous house.  My husband had other ideas and he said no; (he did not want the hassle or the mess, or to take the time to do it) and Susan suggested professionals also. So we had professional painters come in and do the job.

In our case, the painters came in and removed all of the doors, and shelves and hardware and took them to be sprayed off site and then did  the rest of the cabinets in house. This process could have been very fast, but we chose to have the painters paint, and then before they reassembled the kitchen to have the floors sanded.

That process was a challenge to say the least, because everything, and I mean everything, had to be moved out of the downstairs of the house by a moving company and stored for a week and then all brought back in. It was like moving day!!! I hated every second of the process because I hate to pack, and to move. We had to empty all of the furniture pieces out, all the art had to be off the wall, and then we had to live in a hotel for a week.

But I digress, the cabinets came out exactly as I envisioned.  I love them and could not be more happy with my choice.

I will tell you that picking out the paint color was torture. I really do not have any patience with that sort of thing, but I did give it the old college try as they say. I dutifully visited Benjamin More, Sherwin Williams, Home Depot and Lowe's, and I brought home big samples, and little samples. I taped about 25 samples to the cabinets and did everything they suggest, look at it in different lights, different times of the day, etc. I have to be honest, half of the time I could not tell the difference between one sample and the other.

Finally at the 11th hour, as the painters were leaving for the day after priming the cabinets, I asked one of the older painters who had been painting for 50 years, which one I should choose. He spent about 10 minutes looking at the samples, telling me the merits of each color, which were too yellow, which were too white, and he settled in this color by Behr and I said fine. I love the color! It is believe it or not an off white, not white as it shows up in all of the photos. It is warm and bright. Perfect for my vision.

Kitchen cabinets with primer

1st coat of paint

1st coat of paint

In progress

Delivery of Doors and shelves

Door install

Finished Cabinets

Preview of the finished side one

Preview of the finished cabinets other side of island

It is so true what they say about the power of paint! It really can transform a space.

Thanks USA

I know there are so many great causes to donate to, especially now with the flooding along the Mississippi, the earthquake in Japan, and the tornado's across America;  but today while watching the Today Show they profiled a charity ThanksUSA, that benefits the families of the US military by giving scholarship's to the children and spouses of active military.

This charity was formed in 2005 by two sisters Rachel(10) and Kelsi(8) and since then they have donated $6.5 million dollars and given 2,200 scholarships.

These are hard times, with the price of gas, the rising food prices, and the millions of people without jobs, but let us remember that at this time there are hundreds of thousands of military personnel who are deployed around the world in 150 countries. Their  families are home making the sacrifice right along with them. So this is a great way to thank them too!

There are so many groups that reach out to soldiers and their families, to include Any Soldier.com , Wounded Warrior Project, and many others.

Note: I have no affiliation to this group. I have relatives and friend's that have served and currently serve in the military and I see and hear everyday the toll it takes on them and their families.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oprah and Ralph Lauren!

via Maximinimus blog

What an amazing show this will be! Oprah and Ralph Lauren together at his family ranch for a rare look at this incredibly talented and private man. Whatever your feelings on Oprah, love her or not, you have to admire the fact that she has allowed her viewers a glimpse into the lives of so many interesting people, celebrity or not for 25 years.

I am so excited to see this show as I love Ralph Lauren and the look and  "feel" of his designs. I always think of "home" when I see one of his well worn and layered rooms. Although, I think they are all beautiful my favorites are the ones that have a traditional feel, like the old libraries with a touch or tartan and well worn leather.

Can't wait for the behind the scenes of Ralph and his amazing family. 4:00 EST

Blog Love: My Little Green Notebook

From My Little Green Notebook

I love blogs! And My Little Green Notebook is one of the first ones that I discovered . If you have not read My Little Green Notebook than you are in for a treat. This blog is a fabulous design blog written by Jenny Komeda, a self taught designer who recently relocated to New York with her family and runs the design firm Perl Street Interiors.

Jenny does beautiful design work and provides step by step instructions to all of her do it yourself projects. Everything from making roman shades from mini blinds, to a recent button art project using heirloom buttons from her grandmother, to paint projects, to re purposing furniture projects.

What I really love about her is that she loves beautiful things and makes them and her designs accessible to everyone. She looks for beautiful furniture and accessories and does not discriminate where they come from. Her finds and redesigns have come from Craig's list, eBay,  design sample sales, tag sales, and numerous other sources. All of which she shares with blog land!

In addition to sharing her sources, she gives in depth tutorials of each projects many of which are for her own home. She also shares some of the projects that she has done for her clients!

Check out  My Little Green Notebook!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Susan Serra Consultation Notes

As I mentioned yesterday I had a half an hour phone consultation with Susan Serra about my kitchen. The process was incredibly simple and very informative.

The first step was emailing Susan and letting her know that I was interested in retaining her services. Next, she emailed me and told me what she needed and then said that she would need a few days to look over the photos and would email me back and tell me when she was free.

I took about 25 photos of the kitchen and the rooms around it per her instruction and then waited for my email. In the email she instructed me to make a payment for her services via Pay pal and then gave me a few times she was available.

Kitchen Before

Kitchen Keeping Room/Eating Area

As I was 95% sure of my choices, I only needed a half hour and it was worth it to speak with Susan because she really takes the time to look at each photo, to get a feel for how you live, and she asks many questions about the following:

*Budget! The number one question.
* How do you want to spend your budget?
* How do you live? Gourmet cooks? Baker?
* Changing Appliances?
* What are the surrounding rooms to the kitchen?
* What color paint do you have in the room and around it?
* Furniture in the room and surrounding areas?
* Floor choices?
*What you are trying to achieve? Statement kitchen? Family kitchen? Main room of the house?
* She discussed materials, where to get them, how to save money, spending your budget on what is important to you, and why your budget is the number one thing! For instance if you are a gourmet cook than appliances is where a great part of your budget goes.

My plan for the kitchen:

* White or off white Cabinetry
* Brushed nickel hardware
* Possible Farm Sink or other sink
*Mahogany Top for the island
*Subway tile back splash
* Change Faucet
*Granite or soap stone on remainder of counters
* Refinish Floors

In my case I had let her know that we were thinking of having the cabinets painted white or off white? She gave me a list of paint colors and manufacturers. She also quizzed me on if we had children, pets, and  how  we were going to use the space. She told me that cabinets and the color is important for how you live, and that in her experience white is hard to keep clean with kids and pets, and she would know because she mentioned that at one point she had white cabinets with small children.

The next step was to discuss the floors. As I mentioned we had some damage to our floors from a Nor'easter. Because the damage was extensive in the kitchen area we needed to have the  floors in the entire downstairs of the house refinished. In addition to the floors we have two staircases which are hardwood, so it was a huge undertaking for refinishing  and it was also going to be expensive ( It was like moving, we had to remove everything from the house, the walls, etc).

Initially we were going to change the color and go a little darker. Our problem was that although we wanted to change the color to something a little darker, our insurance company was not going to pay for the staircases and it was an extra $3000.00 to have the staircases done and honestly we just did not want to spend the money for that.

To make a long story short I loved the fact that Susan agreed with me that the expense was unnecessary, and that the color we have is classic and would be fine. (Nice to know one is not making a mistake and being a cheapskate).

I mentioned that I loved Christopher Peacock but did not want marble and she suggested several choices in granite to get that look. She took the time to explain in detail the pros and cons of each product and if it is suitable to our lifestyle.

I told Susan that  I wanted Subway tiles, and asked her if she thought they were still classic or overdone? She told me that yes, Subway tiles seem to be everywhere but that they are classic and that I could use them but then mix it up and have a more modern look in the way we had them installed.Then she told me where I could get some that are handmade if I wanted to have something a little different that the standard ones from the big box stores.

Next, she asked about me about rugs, and the furniture we have in the room what sort of finishes we have and how to uses fabric and rugs to change the look of the space and add character and to soften all of the wood tones.

I won't go into all of the details but I will tell you again, for me it was worth the money. As I picked the finishes and products I wanted some reassurances that I was not going to be dating my property or making design mistakes. In the end I ended up talking to her for about 45 minutes, and she told me I could email her at a later date if I had more questions.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Kitchen Redesign Part 1

We moved into our house about 5 years ago, and although it was essentially turn key there were a few things that we did not like. The kitchen was one area that needed a little updating or perhaps uplifting. Don't get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with the "bones" of the kitchen; the layout and the quality of the cabinets were great.

Kitchen before

For instance, although we have granite counters, and we like the color, the granite is very thin and is flush with the cabinets. That could have been intentional, but my guess is that someone measured wrong. Consequently, the prior occupants and their children did some serious damage to the fronts of the cabinets, especially by the island and in front of the sink.

Another strange thing in the kitchen is that there was wood counters on the top part of the island and over by the book shelves. Several contractors told us that the material is plywood. Yes, shellacked plywood. Honestly, it really does not look bad and until they told us it was plywood we had not idea.

Plywood top
 Our main reason for an update is that last year our house suffered some severe water damage from a Nor'easter that blew through our area. Because of that the floors were damaged and needed to be refinished. So we decided that while the entire house was in disarray we would have the cabinets updated at the same time.

We also did not like the fact that everything was the same color, the floor and the cabinets seem to merge together.

Additional before photo

After gathering all of my inspiration photos, and making a budget, doing my research and making a few compromises with my husband, I decided to enlist the help of a kitchen designer. Although I had already decided what I was going to do I really wanted to have my ideas validated and to make sure that I was not making a mistake. As I have blogged in the past, I am not in my forever house and although I want to put my stamp on the house and enjoy it while I live here I do not want to make some horrible mistakes that will cost us when we try to sell.

I have been a fan of Susan Serra and her blog The Kitchen Designer for a long time and so I decided to send an email to Susan Serra for some advice. For those of you who do not know her she is an nationally recognized kitchen designer and her kitchens have been in many magazines, in addition she writes a column for the Kohler website. She also had/has a design consultation service by phone. ( I consulted with her about 8 months ago) I will tell you more about that in another post.

As I have mentioned before, I love Christopher Peacock, and I love the classic look of a white kitchen. So that is really the look I am after. With a little of my own stamp on the project.

Ina Garten Barn From House Beautiful

What do you think? Do you like white kitchens?

Image House Beautiful

Image House Beautiful

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Is McDonald's the new Starbucks?

New and Improved!
I recently read that McDonald's is trying to update its image to entice you to come on in and stay awhile and maybe spend some more money while you are at it. They will be updating 600 of their 14,000 stores this year and spending 1 Billion dollars to do it. Bright yellow and red( in most cases) will be replaced with muted color tones and fireplaces, flat screen TVs, lounge chairs and free Wi Fi, all in the hopes of persuading you to sit back and relax.

 Is McDonald's the new Starbucks? I don't know. I think they have an uphill battle trying to change peoples perception from a fast food joint to a place to come and relax and spend the day working or chatting with friends and I think it will take more than revamping its furniture and updating the facade. At the same time I think Starbucks adding wine and hoping people will stop by for a drink is a little strange too. But what do I know?

Images via Chicago Tribune, USA Today and the Daily Mail