Saturday, August 31, 2013

Calendar Turned Art

While perusing the antique store booths, I'm always looking for botanical prints, etchings, and unframed prints.  Imagine my surprise when I come across prints from an old Travelers Insurance calendar.  The images are all farmhouses, small townsquares, and landscapes... and $2 apiece. 


I pick out two that I think will work as a pair...

The back of each print has a calendar on the back from a month in 1981.  I can tell a little old man owned this particular calendar. Each day has a little note about the events of the day: "rained 3 inches"; "retiree event at Little Rock Air Force Base"; "hot and DRY"; "Robert came by." I love little details like these. 

"October Landscape" reminds me so much of Tennessee just south of Nashville...

... and "The Mill Stream" looks like east Tennessee.

One word: love. And also maybe homesick.

Another word: unframed. So I head to Hobby Lobby to try and find frames for these oddly-sized prints.  As luck would have it, frames are 50% off! (I act surprised, but everything is always 50% off there, right?) I happily score two traditional, black frames for $18.

Now to find somewhere to hang these beauties.

Happy treasure-hunting!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Quapaw Quarter

I became a fan of P. Allen Smith's by watching The Today Show and public television. Lo, and behold, his Garden Home Retreat is just outside of Little Rock!  He also owns a home in downtown Little Rock's Quapaw Quarter. (Do I maybe know too much about this?) 

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, I bribed Grant with Sonic Happy Hour, and we headed downtown.

I didn't have a camera other than my phone, so the pictures aren't the best quality, but the houses are a-mazing.  Many of the houses either have been or are in the process of being restored.

We stumbled upon this block first...

Then The Marshall House...

... built in 1908.

Amazing craftsmen-style houses are everywhere...

So are Victorian homes like the Neel-Deane House (c.1890)...

I love this pretty one!

This house is attached to stunning gardens. I really wanted to peek over the fence...

...but I refrained for fear of being a creeper.

Seriously? So pretty.

Oh, yeah. The Governor's Mansion is there also.

This image has a lot of glare, but this house had NO END.

I'm dying. I love them all. Too much.

This makes me want to add a turret to our house.

Yes, yes, I think I need a turret.

So basically it's P. Allen Smith's fault that I want to add a turret to my 1970s, colonial-style house.

There are walking/driving tours of the district, just in case you're ever in Little Rock wanting something to do.

Someday, Grant and I would like to tackle a project like these houses, but for now there is still plenty of '70s needing to be removed from our current house.

Happy historic-house-looking!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

House-Hunting Tips

Finding a house can be overwhelming. How do we know? We've been through the lovely process twice: once for our condo in Birmingham in 2009 and again this spring in Little Rock.

Like most young professionals, we had a tight budget. We had the added joy of being completely unfamiliar with the city to which we were moving.  Oh yeah, and we were living 5-6 hours away from Little Rock, so we couldn't just go drive around and look at houses in the evening.

Here's what we learned (most of it the hard way)...

1) Find a good realtor.  This can be hard if you're new to the area.  We were moving for my residency, so we talked to my boss to get a recommendation.  We depended on our realtor heavily to help us decide which house had the best investment potential. A good realtor can show you what meets your criteria and help keep you realistic.  They're also very good at estimating potential travel times to work, giving restaurant recommendations, and knowing who to call when there's a drainage problem and you have no idea what contractor to call. It's all well and good if you call the top, best-selling agent in the country, but it's more important that whoever the realtor is understands your vision: if you want a fixer-upper that you can flip, they probably shouldn't want to show you planned communities in the suburbs. Also, remember: using a realtor to buy a house costs you nothing.

2) Know what you're willing to compromise on. You will compromise on something. Probably lots of things. Get used to the idea.  We looked at a lot of houses in the areas closer to downtown (great commute for me). It was the type of place where you could walk to some things and have a cutesy, little 1920's bungalow. The downside? They were cutesy, little (TINY!) 1920's bungalows: no garage, tiny kitchens, and weird layouts from years of remodeling on top of remodeling. (Ex. you have to walk through bedroom #2 to get to bedroom #3. Weird.) After living in our shoebox-sized condo, we were not willing to compromise on space, so we ended up a little further from downtown (still < 15 minutes for me), but got a house with a yard and a garage (and every 1970's decor relic known to mankind).  If you're on a limited budget, you will probably narrow the search down to two types of houses: a newer, large house with great finishes out in the suburbs or an older, smaller, dated house in a desirable established neighborhood. (So you will be compromising either on finishes or on location.) When you've made your millions, you can buy an updated character home with a landscaped lawn in the heart of the cutesy area.

3) Buy the most dated house on the best street.  You've probably heard, "Buy the worst house on the best block." A variation on the theme.  However, woe be unto the buyer of the "worst house on the block" who finds out it's the worst because the foundation is crumbling, there is no central HVAC, and the siding is falling of the house.  Take-home point: buy a structurally sound, horribly dated house.  This way, every dollar you spend will be seen buy a future buyer; if you spend $8000 on an A/C, a buyer is probably not going to care or pay extra for it, but if the house has good structure, you can spend the $8000 on new hardwood and tile, which someone would likely pay for.

4) Become familiar with  Instead of being limited to just one realty, this website shows you all the house registered for sale, along with every statistic about the house and the neighborhood you can imagine: price per square foot,  listing history (both are great negotiating tools),  school zoning, everything.  I still check it frequently to see how our neighborhood's market is doing... and to see pictures of what quickly-selling houses look like on the inside.

5) Think about resale. Yes, even before you buy the house, think about having to sell it.  If you think the street is loud, a future buyer will too;  if you think the house is worth less than the asking price because of the weird layout, so will someone else; if you think 45 minutes is a long commute, someone else probably will too.  We looked at one house that had been a four-bedroom, but they took down one wall to make a huge third bedroom. This worked perfect for us because it could be Grant's office/music room. BUT in the back of my head, I was thinking about the expense of adding that wall back because four-bedroom homes are generally worth more.  Always think about how a potential buyer would view your house.

6) Keep emotions out of the negotiating.  There are plenty of houses out there if these sellers are not willing to negotiate.  You'll likely overpay for the house once you've envisioned your family growing up there and planning how you would re-do the kitchen.  A house is a financial investment, so you need to make a rational decision based on the facts- not based on emotions.  Did I get emotionally attached to our house to the point that I would have been crushed if we didn't get it? Yes. Don't do that.

Happy house-hunting!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Just a Few Things

I embraced an unexpectedly empty Friday evening by heading to my favorite antique store to go digging.  I was looking for two of something to flank the den windows. I found two of these little things, expecting them to just be re-priced new items...

...then I flip them over to find these labels

I did not expect them to actually be vintage pieces, but hey, Jack, I'll take it (for $12 each).

You know me: I can' pass up a blue-and-white piece of pottery...

... for about $8, I had to make it mine.

You'd think I had forgotten what our last name starts with if you saw the number of "N's" displayed in our house, but I found this corrugated "N" for $7. Done and done.  It now resides on the built-in shelves in the den.

Happy picking!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Meet Lambchop

Meet the newest member of our family...

... Lambchop. (Let the record show I tried for Bessie.)

She had been for sale for a long time at an antique store I frequent.  Every time I'd walk by the booth, I'd ponder the purchase.  Today, Grant tagged along to the antique store, and when I pondered Lambchop, he said,"Well, do you want it?" Um, yes, please!

Lambchop was about $58 at the store (we got 10% off because the owner/cashier thought it was funny that we had named her before we had even paid), but there's a similar one online here.  

I think Lambchop looks perfect right above the wet bar. The space above the louvered doors is large enough to need something, but it has to be pretty short.  Also, I wanted something that wasn't an expected, horizontally-oriented canvas picture.

Happy decorating!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

An Unloved Chandelier

I have been searching for something to replace this last bit of 1970's dangling from the den ceiling...

Let's talk about how it's about 5 feet from the windows, so it's not anywhere near over my cane-back chair sitting area.  And it's faux brass. Even worse than regular, shiny brass.

It's been hard to find something that was a) affordable b) a chandelier, and c) not 70's/80's brass, so I have just avoided looking at the ceiling in the den.

I finally found this little gem at my usual antique store for $100...

...maybe it's a diamond in the rough.

So what if some of the crystals fell off when I got it home, and it was missing a light bulb? It is actual antique brass and crystal, and it has beautiful details.

Obviously, it needed some work. Fortunately I have a handyman on speed dial.


What? You wouldn't trust him with electricity?

We thought it might need re-wiring among other things so we headed to Home Depot.  We got 20 feet of silver wire...

... candle socket covers to replace the cracked, faux-dripping-wax candle thingers for about $2.50 per pack.

Plus, the new "candles" are bright white, so I think they'll freshen up the entire fixture.

We also bought 7 feet of decorative white chain to be able to swag the fixture from the weird placement over to the cane-back chair sitting area.

And check it out now...

All lit up and beautiful!

The new white candlesticks make such a big difference.

Happy lighting!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Master Bath Phase One

Continuing on my crusade to rid the house of all the remaining yellow-y beige trim and cabinetry, I took on the vanity area in the master bedroom/ bathroom...  Please note the the attractive combination of the beige cabinets and white countertops. Oooh la la.

I say "bed/bath" because this area is open to the bedroom part...

(Eventually we will hang a sliding barn door cross the door frame. It had weird double, hollow-core doors when we moved in.)

Let the record show that the cabinet doors were previously painted without taking them down and remove the hardware. Do yourself a favor and take the doors off to avoid un-reusable hardware like this...

Once again, I gathered the materials recommended by Bob at Ace Hardware: a bowl for warm water with dishwashing powder added to use with the sanding sponge, a bowl for warm, clean water with a rag, and a second, dry rag.

I prepped all the trim and cabinets by soaking the sanding sponge in the warm, soapy water and cleaning the surfaces.  Then I wiped with the warm water, then dried with the second rag.

Then, I was ready to paint!

I use a foam roller like these, which are meant for cabinets and used the same semi-gloss, pre-mixed designer white from Ace Hardware we used on the built-ins and trim in the den and master bedroom.

I finished up the trim and the cabinets, and ta-da!!!

Fortunately, we had decent fixtures to work with, and the countertops are Corian.  We found the soap dispensers at Wal-Mart.

This might be the world's largest mirror...

The towels which inspired me to choose Benjamin Moore "White Rain."

We chose to keep the hardware because it wasn't horrible, and it was free... or at least already paid for.

We replaced the painted hinges with these from Home Depot:

The trim also got freshened up from the same yellow-y beige to bright white.

Now to find a barn door to slide across the door frame between the vanity area and the bedroom... and maybe take the water closet and shower area down the studs and rebuild...

Happy decorating!