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Looking at 40

I turn 40 this year.  It's getting easier to say that, btw.  For some time, I've been dreaming about the ultimate getaway trip to celebrate this milestone.  You know, how you picture yourself somewhere fabulous, doing fabulous things you otherwise never get to to do?  I don't know, like sleeping in late, or lounging near a beautiful pool without wondering if your kids are drowning.  Casually browsing mesmerizing shopfronts, or lingering over dinner with your Significant.  You get the idea.

I've alway dreamed of Morocco as an incredible destination.   Can you imagine?  The sights, the aromas (spice heaven!), the shopping (I might as well book an export crate for the rugs, baskets, etc). Over the past, oh, five years or so, Morocco has blossomed as a legit and luxurious destination for Americans, but, over the past, oh, year or so, there's also been a lot of scary shiznit happening that might make you think twice about your personal security in that locale. 

So, let's just say I've had a rethinking.  Somewhere a little closer, a little less likely to see you captured and beheaded for your beliefs, but by all accounts (and we've done some Intel), incredible.

Panama.  I'm lookin' at you.  Specifically, the American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo.  It's uh-maze.  A design junkie's end all. 
Check it.
The Lobby bar, and a guest suite.  I'm all about a contrasting black trim; we've done some in our own house, and I love the crisp-ness it adds to a room.  I love it even more the way it's paired with the amazing wood floors.

They have me at hello with that perfect Trad/Colonial facade tricked out with contemporary iron-framed glass on the main floor, and yeah, you might convince me to soak in that tub. #bathdesignporn

Just stop already with the badass tile situations, 'K.  If our newly-finished study had a Central American sister, this space would be it.
Your choice of cocktail-serving spaces. (There's a pool, too.  Case you were wonderin'}

Yeeeah.  I think it might work.  For what we'll save in time and airfare, we could stay an extra day to take in more cool stuff.
Forty's not looking' so bad, ya'll.

*images by Rue and American Trade Hotel - An Ace Hotel

Staging a blog comeback: The Ick Master Bathroom

So, new year, new me.  As 'muricans, we all love a good comeback, so I'm attempting to make this mine.  Attempt being the key word.  We've done a lot of renovating over the last year and a half, and I've been a total slacker about documenting it.  So, I hope to catch up somewhat with that, but really, I just want to get back to the reason I ever blogged to begin with.  To give voice to my inner monologue, the heavy emphasis being on interiors, and to plan and organize decorating projects.

Jumping right in...Our master* bath.  It's en suite to our room, but otherwise, there's nothing master about it.  It is wee.  Eight by five feet, to be exact.  Anyway, it's next on our project list.

 It's charming in that hospital-grade kind of way, right?
Original vanity that is super low, even for a shortstack like me.
 New tile, but I just can't deal.

I feel like I just stood in front of you naked.

For the record, it came to us this way.  The tile in the shower, and the vanity are the original 1970s builder-grade selections.  The previous owners installed new floor tile, and put a fresh coat of the oh-so-flattering mauve (flat finish, btw) paint and called it a day.
In the time we've lived here, the lack of an exhaust fan caused the ceiling paint to chip, and the sheetrock to bubble/chip.  Most of the walls also have water lines from condensation.  We've since installed an exhaust fan, but the damage was done.
We've been focusing our time/money/effort on other rooms the whole family enjoys, and I've been putting off the decision-making, but now it's time to bite this bullet.  Truth is, though I may not have run out of designing steam, our checkbook might've, so my original plans to make this a tiny but luxe bath have scaled back.

And that's where I'm at:  redesigning.

As a visual, my first thoughts were to brighten it all up (obvs), add a lot of reflective and light surfaces to bounce light, and address the seriously-lacking storage situation.  Something marbly and mirror-y like these would make me happy.

BUT, after crunching some numbers, and really thinking about elements I love, I'm pulling more in a mixed materials/textures direction.

Still on the white marble train, but instead of a lot of white/light gray cabinets, walls, etc,  I'm planning to mix in some med-dark wood tones with brass to keep the color palette a little warm.  We live in a traditional Colonial, so keeping some wood tones suits the home, too.
Heading somewhere like

I would love to reclaim an old chest for a vanity, and have done some searching, but our very specific space requirements have made it tough to find the right piece.  I'll probably end up with a ready-made vanity (boo!), and will instead focus on the preeeeetty marble herringbone mosaic that'll cover the floor.

So , I have some design-boarding to do, but at least I can think New Year, New Bath!

Lovin' my Laundry Room

I've been jonesing for a decent, even (gasp!) pretty laundry room for a long time. Being a family of five means I spend a lot of quality time with the washer and dryer, so my wishes are justified, right?
Many of the homes in our area have a utility space in the basement, so I'm grateful ours is a legit laundry room on our main floor.  However, when we moved in, the layout made zero sense.  The washer and dryer were up against the side wall, partially blocking the window.  In what was a new "oh, that's...interesting," the drain tube from the washer was zip-tied (classy, right?) to the utility sink faucet, so each time the machine emptied, it splattered water everywhere. Last but not least, there was a wire-style shelf attached to the right wall.  I'm vertically challenged, but every time I'd do laundry, the clean clothes that were hanging on the bar of the shelf batted me in the head.
So, yeah, me and the laundry room were going to have a come-to-Jesus.
First, I'll address our machines: Rarely do you see top-loading machines in those awe-inspiring utility room pics, but ours came with the house, and the washer is brand new.  I would love a front-loader, so I could put a folding counter on top, but I'm gun shy.  I've had several servicemen say front loaders are finicky.  I can't deal with a temperamental wash machine, so for now, top loaders are where it's at in the Giese compound.
Layout Change: Clearly, the solution to the problem was to flip the washer and dryer to the back wall, then add storage, etc above.  First, we had a plumber install what I believe to be a "proper" water connection and drain box on the back wall.  We also had to close up the old, and cut a new dryer vent. 
Next, we dealt with the floors.  I considered painting the old linoleum in a fun pattern, but when I saw a box of vinyl wood planks for like, fifty bucks, I went for it. Ben installed them like some kind of pro. I think it took less than three hours.
Disclosure:  I was aiming for a "look," but not to spend a ton on this room.  I was really pleasantly surprised by how decent those vinyl planks look.
Then, the wallpaper went up.  I have to tell you, this was the Game Changer.  I had a general design idea in mind, so when a great Schumacher grasscloth popped up on The Designer's Attic, I jumped. NB: If  by chance you're considering hanging your own wallpaper, grasscloth is not Beginner's level.  Our paper hangers are great, and they mentioned how tough this paper was to deal with.  On the other hand, I think it probably added a layer of structure stability to the room.  The stuff is serious.

I love the durable, "wheatey" texture, and it immediately dictated the need to pair it with a glossy, deep blue on the cabinet.
Speaking of...I bought a basic stock wood cabinet and closet pole, painted the cabinet, and added some vintage brass hardware.
Can I just take a moment to say what a HUGE moment this was?  Clothes. No longer. Batting head.
OK.  Carrying on.
I can't even tell you how happy I am with the reconfiguration.  The tiny room feels so much more spacious, and appropriate for the task at hand (i.e. the endless pile of clothes.)

 Even the Hubster, who initially thought it was a frivolous project, gave it a thumbs up.  Win-win!

Vinyl wood planks - similar to these
Wallpaper - Schumacher grasscloth via The Designer's Attic - an amazing resource, btw.
Cabinet - Unfinished wood cabinet from Home Depot
Cabinet Paint - BM water-based Alkyd in high gloss Polo Blue
Cabinet hardware - vintage.

While the Girls are Away: Bedroom Redo

My "big girls" are spending a couple of weeks with their "Mims and Pops" in Texas, so I thought it would be a great time to surprise them with a room redo when they come home.   Currently, they have matching twin beds that are oriented in an L shape - not ideal or pretty.  They've been wanting bunk beds, and since it should help open up some floor space, we caved.
At the risk of going all-out girly girly, I'm planning on a (very light) lavender striped wall to coordinate with the Biscuit bedding that's on order.

Where I'm a bit stuck, though, is on rug selection.  My natural tendency is to over-match, so I often have to step back a bit to choose something that works, without looking too much like a furniture showroom.  I've put three variations into design boards to get a feel for what will look best.   I've ordered marquee letter lights in each girl's initial, but unlike the images, the letters will be gold.  

So, in general, a lot of softness going on.

My first choice is probably this loose floral rug that pulls in the lavender, but also gives me some wiggle room to accent with other colors.

Another option is this more "matchy" overdyed, low pile.

Then there's the wild card.  Offering a more high-contrast look, while still pulling in the base lavender.
Thoughts? Opinions?  Give 'em to me.

Powder Room Idea #1001

Just when I think my blogging days are over, the whim hits me to post, and I feel like I wanna share.  It praaaaably has something to do with the fact that I've been doing a cleanse this week, the last two days of which were a fast.  Brutal.  But today, I am fla fla flying with inner energy, so here ya go.

The last I stopped in here, we were in demo mode for our kitchen.  Happy to report kitchen is beautifully complete, but there's still things I wanna tweak before she's ready for her close-up.  So, patience, peeps.

We've been trying to tackle other rooms here and there.  I don't know if I've ever mentioned the scoop on the house we bought in our frantic quest for a home Stateside.  In a nutshell:  perfectly livable, but really generic.  Trying to add in character and style from scratch takes time.  And moolah.  Neither of which I have the buckets of I feel I deserve (please read: sarcasm).

For the last few months, I've been going back and forth over wallpaper choices for our tiny powder room.  It's the only bathroom on our main floor, and because of the micro nature of it, it needs a major injection of personality.

We replaced the old sink with a wider pedestal, and in the process discovered the lovely circa '74 floral wallpaper.

I've been all over the map with new paper ideas, but know I want a bold pattern, with a big repeat.  My first thought was to reach back to our Brazilian roots with tropicali afternoon - purchasable via Spoonflower.
I love this pattern, but here's my hang-ups:  Unless you specifically do a rush order, Spoonflower's shipping time is ridiculous.  Secondly, they price and parcel in single rolls.  It makes it more expensive, and more tedious to hang.

So, I never ordered it, and one day stumbled upon Enchanment from Thibaut.  A gorgeous Chinoiserie, in a bold color way, and a big repeat.  Perfect.  Ordered.
The only thing left to source is a mirror.  Because of the sconce placement, I need a tall, narrow mirror, but want it to have some shape.  I've been toying with something with beveled edges to bounce the light around (there's no natural light), but spied this black lacquer framed one, and think it might just work.  The dimensions are perfect, but is the outline too strong.  Hashtag: overthinking it.

Oh yeah, we're Keeetchin' ReeenOvaTORS

Well, I have a lot of catching up to do.  With Insta giving the 1000-words-in-a-snap synopsis, it might be redundant to blog, but I'm feeling optimistic.

When we bought this house, we hoped to do quite a bit to bring it up to speed.  It was, for the most part, totally livable, just not the style we would choose.  For example, over the past few months, we've had the basement completely renovated from a dark, cold cave to a warm, usable space.  Hopefully, I'll get around to detailing that, but today is about the KEETCHIN.

To preface:  I have some guilt over redoing this kitchen.  The people we bought the house from apparently prepped the kitchen for selling purposes - painted, and put it new granite.  They put a fairly nice face on what was still a 1970s builder-grade kitchen.

Just a note of opinion, here, while I'm at it:  Why do people renovate only to sell their home?  Why not put in the nice features to enjoy them while you live there?  As a buyer, I'd rather you leave the old stuff, and knock a few grand off the asking price, so I can make my own selections when it comes time to remodel. Sans the guilt of feeling wasteful.
So, yes, I feel guilty busting out a kitchen someone else thought was the bee's knees. 

We've lived with it for about six months to really get a feel for what did and didn't work for us in the space.  It's a decent-sized kitchen, but didn't maximize the space. There's the working wall of all the appliances, which left little counter/prep space.  Then, there was the fridge and pantry - pushed into a small walkway outside the main part of the kitchen.
The little side bar area (on right in pic) wasn't deep enough for any small appliances, nor were there any outlets.  Basically, nothing more than a catch-all for all for the papers, lunch boxes, etc that traffic through here.
I liked the idea of having an eat-in area, but a round table (staged for selling) ate up a ton of real estate. 
After visiting with our contractor about the feasibility of moving appliances around, I came up with a rudimentary sketch that included plans to replace the double ovens with a single range, move the fridge into the main kitchen area, and add additional counter space with the sink placement under the window.  
The area vacated by the fridge in the passage-way would become a coffee station, with storage underneath for heavy small appliances (cuisinarts, etc), and the pantry would rotate to be accessible from the main kitchen.
We needed the storage the side cabinet provided, but planned it to be more of a standing desk/computer situation.
It'll be a tight fit, but we plan to put in a petite banquette/table along the back wall.
...Cabinet company rendering

I've been inspired by the greige kitchen movement.  I want ours to be classic - with touches of brass, nickel, white and black.  
 Well, you know - in a non-Martha/realistic version.

My working design board...
Some decisions are still in flux, but we're going with a shaker-style cabinet in a warm, mid-tone greige.  I think the color is actually called mushroom.  Or is it stone?  Not sure. 

We're about nine days in, have endured demo, and living with the essentials in a mock-kitchen.  Amazing how complete you can feel with an espresso machine and a hot plate.

And.  There's progress to report. 
So it's a good day to blog.

The Mulligan: Skylar's Nursery Reveal

So, if you were sorta, kinda following me through the One Room Challenge link-up, you know I didn't quite make the deadline to showcase my One Room in all its glory.
In my case, it was my baby girl, Skylar's, nursery.
There was a snafu with the wallpaper hanger's schedule, and I was bummed I couldn't reveal with everyone else who participated, but I got over it quickly when...
It happened.
 Remember, her room is barely ten feet square - it's so tiny, it's really tough to photograph without distortion. 
I decided on simple styling - you could easily go overboard with such a small space, and why would I try to compete with that wallpaper?   The other side of the room holds the closet, and her changing table, which I'm still in the process of refinishing (read: barely sanded).
 The crib linens are the Katie from the uber-talented, Bailey and her Biscuit Homegoods.
 The Fiery Red is perfection, isn't it?
 Is that a Skylar in there?!
We painted the walls BM Mint Julep, and the rug was an Overstock find - it's nice and cushy, but has a major shedding habit.  The crib is the Babyletto Hudson.       
The brass floor lamp is vintage, and may I mention my husband hates it, can't understand why I'd buy it.  As Skylar gets bigger, standing up in her crib, etc, I'm sure it'll find another home.
If Ben has his way, it'll be by the curb. ;)

I'm so in love with this little jewel box of a room.
I'm even more in love with its inhabitant.
I think it's safe to say we have one satisfied customer!
What do you think?  Was it worth the extra wait time?