Archive for August, 2008
Lock your doors folks, cuz we’ve got our house crashing pants on again. This time we’re in Richmond’s Union Hill neighborhood visiting Diana Mathews, one of the gallery rockstars we met at Quirk during our last crash. We were told we had to see the amazing century-old American Foursquare style home Diana and her family transformed three years ago (which Diana now shares with three roommates). So off we went to meet her…
And her house was fantastic, as promised. In fact, someone described the work Diana and her family did as “a gift to the neighborhood” and when you see these jaw-dropping before and afters, you’ll see why. I mean, like, woah:
When Diana began house hunting a year ago, she knew she wanted a fixer-upper. But not in the lukewarm sense that Sherry and I wanted a fixer-upper. She wanted to put her family’s renovation and restoration skills to the test (her dad is a master woodworker, for instance) to create a fresh, personality-filled home that she could save from demolition in the process (it was already condemned when they snagged it for only 45K). And check out some of the amazing exterior details that they introduced along the way – from a new, stacked balcony and fence (with hand-carved accents courtesy of her father) to the classic trimwork and columns (some of which her pops created by hand to match the existing exterior woodwork).
Once inside we loved that Diana blended the old, restored details of her home with her playful and eclectic personal style. For instance, her “music room” pairs the exposed brick fireplace with a stacked bookshelf (organized by color- which of course made me über jealous… remember how I drooled over this trend when I saw it a while back). Diana took things a step further and did the same to her DVD collection in the living room- keep an eye out for that a little later.
The “music room” occupies one of the four original first floor rooms in this foursquare, which Diana has actually turned into three by opening up the wall between the kitchen and the living room (she calls the fourth space the “art room” because “you can’t have three living rooms”). She left some original brickwork to help define the updated kitchen and living room, but used a bold, apple green wall color to visually link the two spaces. The open rooms and high ceilings have allowed Diana to make a few more bold design choices too. She turned her grandfather’s large, antique dentist chair (the death-trap looking thing in front of the brick) into a whimsical art/conversation piece and also welcomed a big ol’ hunk-of-puppy-love named Bruce into the family.
Note the floor under Bruce, as well. The house had limited salvageable flooring, so they collected planks from all over the house and used them to restore the floor in the foyer (under Bruce’s rear) and adjoining music room. The rest of the house, like the kitchen and the living space below, features new hardwood flooring that blends really well with the 100-year-old planks that they rescued. And those great french doors (framed out in impeccable wood trim, of course) open to the downstairs balcony. Green with envy yet? We were the same color as the walls.
The style continues upstairs into each of the – you guessed it – four bedrooms. Diana rents out three of them to family and friends, so we restrained ourselves and only snapped pics of her own domain (we’re nosy but not that nosy). Our host’s bedroom was a perfect example of how antique pieces (bed & trunk), original art (from Quirk above the bed) and bargain finds (that great IKEA rug) can blend together to create a one-of-a-kind space with interest and charm to spare. Think we can convince Diana to rent out her bedroom to us for a weekend or two? Or at least that swanky master bath?
My guess is that in a house this sweet, neither Diana nor any of her roommates are planning to leave any time soon. But who could blame them? We love seeing house transformations like this – especially when it’s not just a flip but a home that’s meant to be lived in and enjoyed after all the hard work (while giving back to the neighborhood at the same time). So Diana, thanks so much for letting us crash your four-star foursquare. Oh, and before I forget, Burger would like you to ask Bruce not to eat him.
In the mood to give your bathroom a shot of luxury and some dramatic height? Here’s another simple and speedy mini-makeover that anyone can do. Just upgrade from the average 72″ shower curtain to a super tall version (we snagged a 95″ curtain from here, and it works perfectly with our 98″ ceilings).
While we were at it, we also picked up an 84″ fabric shower curtain liner (the liner didn’t need to be as long as the actual curtain since it just needed to hit the top of the tub and not go all the way to the floor like the curtain). And we didn’t even have to order the liner online since good ol’ Bed Bath & Beyond carried ‘em. Now, you might be asking yourself why we went for a fabric liner over one of those clear plastic ones. Well, our inspirational new friend Lesley (who let us crash her house a few weeks ago) mentioned that she picked one up because they last forever and can be thrown in the wash if they get any sort of mildew-esque issues instead of tossed into the garbage after a year or so. We’re always down with snagging things for the long haul, and it was about time that we switched out our old plastic liner anyway, so the fabric liner really does seem just as practical as it does luxurious and hotel-chic.
And since we know you guys love a good before and after, here’s the old 72″ shower curtain:
And the high-society 95″ version:
The room looks taller, and somehow seems to have better architecture, like those old homes with extra tall ceilings. And since tiling a tub from floor to ceiling is a new trend (and our tile stops a few feet from the ceiling) it somehow makes up for the vertically challenged tile and feels super luxe and special.
Note: To further spiff up your shower, you can add some shiny new brushed nickel rings along with a gleaming new rod to totally update an old plastic shower rod (we made that change a few months ago, and they were just crying out for an ooh-la-la curtain to match). Check.
So go ahead, swankify up your shower and send us the pics (no shots of you sudsing up in your new shower necessary).
After my recent porch chair makeover, it occurred to me that as a frequent DIYers, John and I probably expose ourselves to a fair amount of chemicals. And the fact that I actually felt woozy and nauseous after ten minutes of spray painting made me wonder just how bad these toxic chemicals really could be. Were the effects only temporary or were we setting ourselves up for some serious health issues down the line? A few moments of picturing us in our perfectly painted & stained home on ventilators was all it took to iron out my priorities: health before home improvement.
So I thought to myself: self, there’s gotta be a way to keep unnecessary chemicals out of our house (and our lungs). So I did a little digging to uncover a few easy switcheroos that could make our house a little safer for us, our beloved poochkins, and the future bambinos. Here’s what I learned:
- Nail polish and nail polish remover are one of the most toxic, carcinogenic products in the house (assuming you keep all your paint, varnish and stain in a detached garage or shed like we do- or use low VOC or no-VOC paints). If giving up the ol’ mani-pedi just isn’t an option, Zoya nailpolish is a water-based organic substitute that’s thankfully carcinogen free (OPI is the world’s worst kind- dripping with formaldehyde, a known cancer causer). And when it comes to nailpoish remover, choosing something that’s acetone free is the way to go (and removing your polish outside keeps other chemicals from hanging around the house for days).
-Topical flea and tick products for your pets (like Advantage or Advantix) are extremely dangerous for children, people in general and even pets (!) – they’re loaded with carcinogenic pesticides and each box has serious warnings about washing your hands thoroughly if you come in contact with the product. We don’t know about you, but each month that we put Burger’s medication on the back of his neck we would accidentally pet him while it was still wet, he’d sit on our couch with it, it would get on our clothes, etc. In essence that dangerous chemical was getting all over our house each month… and we were putting it on our beloved dog! Not anymore. It’s in the trash and our pup (who has never had a flea problem and spends most of his time indoors) is going chemical free. And if he should have an issue, flea and tick shampoos are much less harsh than pesticides (they’re actually called that on the box) like Advantage and Advantix.
- Bleach and ammonia riddled cleaning products are another completely toxic component, which not only pollute your home when you use them but also off-gas (ie: leak into the air) even when they’re stored under the sink. Thankfully, we gave up bleaching our whites a while ago so we didn’t have a big bottle of bleach to get rid of. But we did use some pretty smelly shower spray (Tilex mildew stuff) so we happily made the switch to Mrs. Meyers Shower Cleaner, which is about a million times better for our lungs and still beats any mildew that rears its ugly head. We also grabbed another all purpose cleaning product from Mrs. Meyers for wiping down glass and other surfaces without harsh chemicals of any kind. Easy peasy (and we love that it’s non-toxic just in case Burger gets a lick here or there).
- I also read numerous reports of people switching to a less chemically enhanced laundry detergent and immediately noticing that going back to Tide or Cheer gave them rashes. Sounds like switching to something milder and sticking to it would be good for us and our babies down the line. So we grabbed some über gentle Seventh Generation Concentrated Laundry Detergent. And we ditched fabric softener altogether (which is also another great way to cut down on chemicals that you wear and breathe every day). The result is still fresh, clean and soft clothes (which makes me wonder if fabric softener really does anything anyway). Really, we didn’t even notice the change (but we’re sure our unborn children will thank us).
- Just to be overachievers, while at Target we also grabbed Tom’s Of Maine Natural Whole Care toothpaste (with fluoride), made with all natural ingredients like peppermint oil. We figured that making that switch now would make it easier for us to pass our healthy habit to our children (who swallow gobs of toothpaste in their younger years). Honestly, this change was something we noticed. The first few days we thought it seemed a little gritty compared to our old toothpaste. But we’ve totally adapted and love the stuff now. And we’ve both noticed that the peppermint oil keeps our mouths feeling clean and smelling fresh longer than the fake flavoring of other brands. Oh and we’ve also switched to natural deodorant without aluminum or phosphates (Tom’s of Maine). Now we’re so fresh and so green.
And now for a few other tips:
-Completely eliminate pesticides (bug bombs in your home, flea and tick pet treatments, lawn pesticides and herbicides, etc)- according to CancerIQ.org the risk of leukemia increases by four to seven times for children ten or under who use home or garden pesticides, and they can also be linked to childhood brain cancer. Yikes!
-Remove the plastic from dry cleaning garments and let them air out outside, in your sunroom, or on your porch for 24 hours before bringing them into your home.
-Choose floss and natural toothpaste over mouthwash (which has a whole buncha chemicals- why do you think you’re not supposed to swallow it?).
-There are a slew of non-toxic, natural, and chemical free products available thanks to Seventh Generation (from dish detergent and hand soap to diapers and even tampons!).
- Limit radiation exposure by avoiding x-rays unless necessary (broken bone= necessary, annual dentist appointment= not necessary).
- Never ever ever heat plastics (packaging that comes with tv dinners, plastic wrap, or tupperware) in the microwave and only use ceramic or glass containers that are microwave safe (carcinogens can leak from the plastic products into you food).
Of course you don’t have to follow all of our above suggestions, and we might have lost you at ditching OPI nail polish, but we love to share what goes on in this young house, and this proved to be a pretty interesting learning experience for us. We’re regularly buying all of these products anyway (from deodorant to dish detergent) so selecting the healthiest options seem like a worthwhile pursuit since we use ‘em every day on the only body we get. We also found an extremely helpful website called greenyour.com, which offers actual products to snag (as opposed to a list of what not to buy) when you click the “product” tab in each category. Oh and remember to dispose of any chemicals that you’re removing from your home (paint, bleach, etc) in a safe way, like dropping them off at your local recycling center in the designated toxic chemical area.
And so we (finally) conclude our super long post. Long live longer living!