Sunday, December 29, 2013

Makin' A List

... Even if it's a little after Christmas.

Our Little Rock house closes tomorrow, and we had our final walk-through on the Chattanooga house today!  It was just as dated as I remembered it!

We've started prioritizing projects, which are numerous.  Round one of fix-ups looks like this:
-Paint: living room, den, half-bath, dining room, and full-bath.
-Peel wallpaper in dining room (something about embossed red wallpaper is unappealing)
-New can lights in the den
-New hardware on the cabinets in the kitchen, den built-ins, and bathroom vanities (Why brass and faux-wood? Whyyyy??)
-New light fixtures in the kitchen, master bedroom, and my office
-New toilet, vanity (we've been scouring Craigslist and antique stores for something to re-purpose), and mirror in the half-bath downstairs (it's also getting board-and-batten molding!)

Round two is still a nebulous (and ambitious) idea but it includes:
-Painting the dark brown trim on the exterior of the house
-New carpet in the basement
-New hardwood on the main floor
-New dishwasher and cooktop
-Add some sort of patio off the deck
-Paint the kitchen cabinets
-New countertops (SOAPSTONE!!!)
-A master bath complete re-do

Oy, I'm tired just thinking about it, but also excited! When we get possession of the house, I'll post pictures of the interior in all its dated glory.

Happy decorating!


Friday, December 27, 2013

What To Do with a Tudor?

Our new house is a Tudor-style, 1980's build that probably hasn't seen fresh paint since... ever.  Tudors were originally built with timber and stucco-like material, but now it's typically just dark brown trim built on top of stucco.  Because our Tudor was built in the '80's, the dark brown is pretty dated now.

This picture is graciously nice to the brown trim... It's very dark.  I especially want the front door to be lightened up.

I've started perusing Pinterest for Tudor-revival paint schemes...

These homeowners chose a light taupe.  This is Grant's favorite so far.

Kind of greener. I dig it.

So classic.

I'm partial to this dark blue-green.  Maybe I'm alone in that... because Grant doesn't care for it.

This one is the most traditional, but the dark brown is a more modern shade than the one on our house.

Ermagersh. So many choices.  Thoughts? Has anyone else out there  painted a Tudor?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Reunited and It Feels So Good

Since the beginning of November, I have been living in Chattanooga, and Grant has spent the majority of the time in Little Rock finishing the floors and keeping the house staged for selling.  He's gone back and forth a few times, but he's mostly been in Little Rock.

With about a week and a half left before closing, Grant and his mom, Donna, packed up the entire house and moved back to Chattanooga.  (It was quite the saga: the first movers didn't show up, they packed everything in the rain, Grant had a fender-bender while sitting in traffic in West Memphis, and the moving truck broke down just outside of Chattanooga. Gah.)

Now he's here! And so is Callie!  We finally live in Chattanooga as a family.  It's the best Christmas present ever.

We close on our new house next week.  We are so grateful that the Little Rock chapter is closed and the Chattanooga chapter is just beginning.

Here's to new beginnings and the new Amber Bottle House!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Center of Attention

I've probably written several times about my penchant for those antique, wooden dough bowls that are commonly seen in colonial-style homes and on tables as centerpieces.  They can be hundreds of dollars depending on the age and size. Sigh. I had resigned myself to finding an alternative. Until I found this $15 bowl at an antique store.

I love the cute, little carved handles.

Some other items I've used as centerpieces include an antique scale basin...

... and a handmade willow & chickenwire basket.

All three are long, low-profile options, which I prefer for centerpieces. (Who enjoys peering around a huge vase to see the person at the other end of the table?)

I've also enjoyed this cute little centerpiece I found on sale at Kirkland's...

It's four glass bottles in a wee wire crate... reminiscent of apothecary or or antique soda bottles.

Happy decorating!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Crafty Christmas

I have been trying to think of a way to use webbing...

... It's sort of like burlap, but it doesn't ravel nearly as much as burlap when cut.  Webbing is typically used for re-finishing upholstered furniture- it's the support for the seat cushions.  I think it was around $0.79/foot at Joann's.

I was thinking something Chrisitmas-y... and edible.

I got two 12-packs of 8-oz Ball jars for around $16 at the grocery store and the white yarn for around $3 at Hobby Lobby.  The width of the webbing was about the height of the jars, so I cut the webbing in half lengthwise.  Then, like every good crafter, I grabbed my hot glue gun and applied a short, wavy line directly on the glass.

I lined one edge of the webbing along the rim of the glass and pressed it into the hot glue.

I continued applying glue to the webbing and pressing onto the jar until the glass was completely wrapped.

When the jar was wrapped, I applied a line of glue along the raw edge and glued it down so that there was about 1/4-inch of overlap.  Then I just tied a little bit of yarn around the jar.


I filled the jars with Ghirardelli hot chocolate mix and a handful of marshmallows.  
Yuletide yumminess.

Happy crafting!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Just Tell Me What Paint Colors to Use

I'm going to help all those do-it-yourselfers and just tell you my favorite paint colors.

Benjamin Moore:

Why are all these weather-related?

I realize that last string of colors appear strikingly similar (beige), but they are more different in real life than they are on the links... plus I happen to like light wall colors.

Celery Ice
River Rock

Those are the swatches I keep around to choose from... otherwise the number of options is too overwhelming.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Things Are A-Changin'

We don't seem to want to stay still, that's for sure.

Since moving to Chattanooga, we've been living in a two-bedroom apartment.  Just this weekend, my friend, Paige, from pharmacy school moved in because she also got a new job here.  

 I must say, having a roomie to get manicures & craft with is still fun in your mid-twenties.

While Paige was moving in, Grant and I were in final negotiations with buyers for our house in Little Rock.

We signed a contract Saturday and are closing later this month. Wahoo!
After celebrating, we realized we might need to consider making an offer on somewhere to live in Chattanooga. 

We've been perusing the listings regularly and even going to look at some in person, but none has stood out as much as this one...

... three-car garage, flat lot, dated everything, built in the mid-80s, in a nice, quiet neighborhood.

We re-visited on Sunday with our parents to make sure nothing was in too much disrepair, and made an offer. They countered, so we countered, then they countered, and we countered back... after much of that, we found out we struck a deal yesterday.  We'll move in at the beginning of January.

While house-hunting in Little Rock, we learned that picturing yourself in the house makes you too emotionally attached to the house, and it can be hard to let it go... you will probably overpay.  I didn't let myself get too excited about the prospect of living in this house until we were in the last stages of negotiating.  Then, I got really excited.  

This house represents a fresh start in our home city near our families.  I feel so blessed I could cry.  The chapter in Little Rock is closed, and the future in Chattanooga seems so... happy.


Monday, December 9, 2013

Craigslist Part 2: Selling

Never posted to Craigslist? No problem.  Between our furniture refinishing for The Amber Bottle, Grant has been buying and selling music equipment on the site for years.  Hope this helps!

1) Post in several categories.  For example, if I re-finished a dresser, I would post it in "Antiques" and in "Furniture."

2) Use an email you actually check on a regular basis, like one on your phone, so you can get back to buyers quickly.  Once a potential buyer emails me, I'll give them my phone number so we can work out the details.

3) Take lots of pictures to show off your pieces.

4) Spam emails are very common.  They are generally people who want to wire you money instead of cash.  The emails are typically written in poor English, and the item's name is never mentioned.  For example, if I were selling a buffet, an email from a spammer would say, "How much would you take for the item?"  Normal people would say the word "buffet" at some point in the email.  Also, if you post several items at once, you'll get the same number of emails saying the exact same thing.  It's a spammer.

5) One of the most common mistakes is pricing the item too high.  Peruse the listings to see how much other items are going for because every city is different.  If you see an antique sideboard for $200, your pressboard & laminate desk isn't going to sell for $150.  Just because you paid $150 for your  coffee table brand new, don't assume someone will pay close to that amount now that it has been used.

6)  Generally, upholstered things sell for less than you might think.  Think about it: would you want to curl up in a wingback that's been who-knows-where?

7) The description is key!  Include dimensions because picky buyers always want to know. (It'll save you a lot of time answering the same question over and over.)  If applicable, give the type and color of paint you used. I also list different uses for a piece: could it be a dresser or a buffet or an entryway table?  If an item has several names, use them all in the title. For example, when I'm selling a sideboard, I'll title the listing as "Antique Solid Wood Sideboard/ Buffet/ Console" so that anyone searching for any of those words will come across my listing.

8) Renew your listing as often as you can.  It's around every 3 days.  This keeps your post near the top of the list of things for sale.

9)  Do not be offended by low offers. Just counter-offer!  Would you rather have three coffee tables in your garage for the next month or have the extra money?

10) If you have any non-negotiables, say so in your post.  I always include at the bottom of the post, "Face-to-face, cash-only, no shipping or delivery."For example, if you want to sell your sectional couch, but drive a tiny sedan, don't offer to meet somewhere... it's just not going to work! Include in your post, "Buyer must pick-up in North Chattanooga," etc.

Check out our post about buying pieces on Craigslist.

Happy Craigslisting!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Craigslist Part One: Buying

Starting out on Craigslist can be overwhelming... How do you know if it's a nice piece? Is that a good deal? How much should I offer? How do I avoid being mugged by a total stranger over a dresser?

Fear not! I was once a newbie, and I have been a buyer and a seller on the site.  Here's what I've learned along the way.

A complete ironstone dish set: an $80 Craigslist find
1)  When searching through the furniture or antiques (where I've found most of my goodies), refine the search to "by owner."  The listings "by dealer" are often strange discount furniture stores.  These posts are sometimes titled "Furniture your whole house for $900!" and other things that seem too good to be true.  Also, by shopping from the "by owner" section, you can almost guarantee you'll be able to negotiate a lower price because you're dealing directly with the person who owns the piece.

2) Save time by perusing the listings in "thumb" setting.  The options are just under the search box at the upper left.  The default is "list" setting, so you can only see the seller-entered description.  In "thumb" setting, you can see a little picture of the item, so you can rule it out or in more quickly.

3) Follow the seller's directions for contacting them. Seriously, they might refuse to sell or not get back to you because you emailed them when they said, "no emails." It sounds ridiculous, but it's true.

4) When you contact the seller, have an amount in mind you want to offer. Do not say, "What's your bottom dollar? What's the least you'll take?" My response to that is always, "What's the most you'll pay?" (I get feisty when negotiating.)  To negotiate, you have to throw out a number.  I generally say, "I'm interested in the ______. Would $____ cash take it? I can meet any evening."  Emphasize that you'll pay in cash and that you can meet in person soon.  Sellers want it off their hands- the sooner the better.  For the rest of my negotiating tips (how much to offer, etc), see here.

5)  The early bird gets the worm! A lot of times, when a piece is first posted, the seller gets several people interested at once.   Whoever they negotiate a price with first is going to get the piece, so respond to their return emails/texts/calls quickly, if possible.

6) Agree to meet in a public place.  It's even better if you can take someone with you.  At least call someone to let them know where you're going, then call them back when you're done. I haven't ever encountered anyone too sketchy while purchasing clawfoot tables, but better safe than sorry.

7)  I've found some of my favorite pieces by searching for certain keywords.  This is like a trade secret, so get ready!  The words I use to search to find nice things are:

- Wood/ solid wood (Maybe that's kind of obvious? Oh well.): People selling solid wood furniture want you to know it's solid wood to entice you, so they'll likely put it in the listing.
1880's tiger oak table & chairs: $250 on Craigslist
 - French and/or provincial:  This is one of my favorite styles of furniture.  It was popular in the 1970's- when a lot of furniture were still solid wood- so you can find nice pieces that just need a little painting.  The hardware typical of this style is beautiful.

- Shaker: Another style of furniture I just so happen to like.  Shaker-style things are often wood, and many times are not painted, so you can re-finish them however you like.

-Colonial: Another style revived in the good-ole days when solid wood furniture was being made.
A colonial-style, solid wood coffee table: $15 on Craigslist
Some other search terms I use to find nice things (other than just entering the name of the piece you're looking for):

- Buffet
Dining set with buffet: a $300 find on Craigslist
- Sideboard
- Console
- Dresser
- Chest 
- Trunk
- Ironstone (obviously, not in the "furniture" or "antique" sections)
- Apothecary (shocking, I know)
- Jenny Lind
- Empire

Happy hunting!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Some Progress

I'm still on a mission to decorate the temporary apartment with on-hand items, or at least as cheaply as possible.  Little by little, it's coming together!

There is now a place to eat! Aunt Flossie's (I don't know whose aunt...) late 1800's drop-leaf table is the perfect size for the dining area.  I topped it with my wooden dough bowl. (A $15 find! I've been pining over these kinds of bowls forever, and they're normally several hundred dollars.)

Chairs are yet to come. I think my mom has 4 mismatched chairs I can use while living in the apartment, and I think they will add to the vignette nicely.

The "Eat" sign finally has a home! There wasn't a place to accommodate its height at the house in Little Rock, but it fits perfectly in the galley kitchen.

This was $5 at a yard sale in Little Rock. 

Yes, those are thumb tacks holding it in place.

Two of my favorite pieces from Upscaled Pallets never made it on the walls at the Little Rock house, but the pair works nicely flanking the living room window.

There is not definition between the living room and dining area, so I put a desk from Mimaw's house along the wall to separate the two.

Seriously, do they even make furniture like this anymore?

The rest of Mimaw's set makes up the bedroom.

Of course, I had to accessorize the desk...

So far, by using estate items and pieces from the Little Rock house, the grand total is $10 spent on decor post-move.  The challenge continues...

Happy decorating!


Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Little Break & The Paint Dilemma

Hopefully you had a happy, happy Thanksgiving this week!  I took a blogging break while we were enjoying some time with the fam.  

Both sides of our families love Thanksgiving, so we did lunch with my family in Maryville, TN and dinner with his family in LaFollette, TN.  The Needhams rented a mammoth cabin in the mountains and all 431 (a slight exaggeration) of us packed in and enjoyed turkey, fire, and togetherness.  

Before dinner, Grant's Aunt Meredith whipped out her camera and took some pictures of each family unit...

She snapped this one of Grant and me out in the be-yooo-tee-ful wilderness. (Unfortunately, the girls... our dogs... were being boarded, so they couldn't be in the family pictures. Sad!)

Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday, and we had such a nice, relaxing time.  This year, we were especially grateful to be back in Chattanooga and to have supportive families and sweet pups. 

Hope you had time to enjoy the things you are thankful for! 


One of the most difficult things in decorating is choosing a wall color. (Maybe it's just me?)  The sheer number of choices is overwhelming, then throw in the thought of trying to pick just one based on a two-inch square.  It's enough to make me feel nervous already.

Fret not, though! I have painted many a-room!  Some have turned out like I envisioned, some have not.  (I painted our kitchen in Birmingham twice in the span of about six months because the first was not what I had in mind.)

Here are some things I have learned... mostly the hard way.

Find the color you like, then go lighter:  Typically colors-gone-wrong are wrong because the color is too intense, too bold, or too dark.  The lighter color will look more like the color you want once you get it on the walls.  Why? Because unless you live in a model home staged for a photo shoot, there isn't as much light in your room as there is in that room on Pinterest or on the paint store's idea card.  Also in the dark corners, along the floor and ceiling, the lighter color will be darker.

For example,

I wanted the master bedroom to be robin's-egg blue, and I really liked the gray-green undertones of Benjamin Moore's "Kensington Green" (on the center paint strip above).  However, because robin's egg-blues are tricky, and I've only ever regretted going too dark, I chose "White Rain," which is the lightest shade on the same paint chip.  This guarantees the color I chose has the same undertones and feel of the color I want, but none of the darkness... or regret.

Secondly, there is a way to narrow down all those choices:  I avoided a paint-color-choosing meltdown by finding colors I liked on Pinterest or other blogs and writing down the names. I mean, I wrote down a lot of paint color names... maybe 60-80?  Then I took my list to the paint store and found the chips I saw online.  I ruled many of them out, and some colors were on the same chip or in the same family.  I walked out with 23 paint chips (some are shown in the picture above)- a much more manageable number, but still plenty of shades of beige, blues, and grays from which to choose.  When we needed to paint the living room, my office, the hallway, etc., we chose colors from our chips; those were our only choices.  The keyring of paint chips definitely simplified the process.

Use the least sheen you can get away with:  Most paint stores recommend a semi-gloss for kitchens and bathrooms, but you can generally get a similar durability from satin or soft-gloss without the harsh reflective quality.  Also, if you're using the lighter version of the color you want, you won't need the sheen to bounce light around.

Now go fearlessly conquer paint color decisions!

Happy painting!


Monday, November 25, 2013

A Little Treasure

On Saturday, my mom (AKA "Prinny") and I loaded up the car and headed downtown to two craft fairs/ markets: one at the Chattanooga Trade & Convention Center and one at the First TN Pavilion. (Events like this are in Chattanooga all the time- it's a great way to find handmade items from the talented people who call Chattanooga home.)

There were so many fun things! Lots of crafters and craftsmen selling their wares: leather-working, jewelry, locally-made foods, monogrammed items, art, screen-printed shirts... 
It. Was. Awesome.

I found a few Christmas presents for Grant (no pictures, obviously), some burlap ribbon ($2/roll!!!) for future wreath-making/crafting...

 ...and a little treasure for me: a ring made from a 1951 silver spoon.

The pattern is called "Magnolia." I love it.  

Some of my favorite pieces were items that had been engraved with a monogram by the original owner years ago.  I can just picture a cute, little 1950's housewife carefully picking a script font to engrave her new last initial onto her brand new silver wedding china.

You can find craft festivals near you here.

Happy hunting!