Here we go again, trying to embrace our greener side. Well, actually, our browner side. Yes, we’re taking a crack at composting.
While we’re looking forward to the nutrient-rich and budget-friendly soil amendment that composting provides, our main motivation was actually to reduce our taking-out-the-trash trips. And why send stuff to a landfill when we can use it in our backyard?
Some quick research online (thanks treehugger.com) made it clear that there are lots of options when it comes to composting, some of which are very intense and definitely too hardcore for us at this point. So when we found this super simple guide to making our own backyard bin, we wasted no time getting to work. Here are the step-by-step instructions we followed:
Step 1: Recycle or buy a plastic bin with a tight fitting lid about 24 inches tall or taller (it needs a lid to keep the soil moist and to keep critters out). We picked up this Rubbermaid version at Lowe’s for $7 in hopes that the neutral color would help it blend in with our backyard.
Step 2: Use a drill to make 8 – 10 small holes in the bottom of the container for aeration purposes.
Step 3: Place some shredded newspaper or dry leaves on the bottom of your compost bin, filling it about 1/8 – 1/4 full. We went the leaves route, since we’ve got PLENTY of those lying around.
Step 4: Place dirt on top of the leaves or newspaper until the container is 1/2 full. Again, PLENTY of that.
Step 5: Now place any food scraps or paper products that you’d like to compost. Check out this list for a pretty complete run down of what you can and can’t compost. Surprisingly, things like lint and eggshells are compost friendly, while lime (too acidic) and dog “waste” (could carry disease) are off-limits. So far we only collected a couple of banana peels and a small ball of lint. Maybe this will encourage us to eat more fruits and veggies? Or do more laundry?
Step 6: Give your compost a little stir (very little, in our case) with a shovel or stick, making sure to cover your food scraps with dirt. Canine supervision is optional.
Step 7: Spray with lukewarm water until moist, but not soaking wet. (Note: too much water can be the culprit if your compost starts to smell).
Step 8: Use a drill to make 8 – 10 small holes in the lid and place it securely on top of the bin.
Step 9: Place the bin in a shady area away from the house (if you live in an apartment or have no backyard you can place your bin on the patio). Be sure that it’s not in full sun or your compost will dry out. We found the perfect spot near our garage where our bin can hide behind some shrubs – inconspicuous and convenient (since we take the garbage and recycling out this way already). Can you spot it? HINT: check the bottom right.
Step 10: Now that our compost bin is set up, we can just add food scraps when we’ve got ‘em, making sure to give things a stir each time (mixing the compost helps break everything down faster). And to aid in our collection of stuff to compost, we’ve added a special “compost” receptacle under the sink (along with our existing recycling and garbage containers). Gotta love a no-fail way to get in the compost habit.
Now we just have to wait 2 – 3 months before the compost is ready for our yard or garden. It can be used as mulch or potting soil and can also be sprinkled over grass as a lawn conditioner. Hopefully we can reap some of the composting rewards in some of our fall planting or lawn overseeding. But we have to remember to save at least 1/3 of it so we can keep the composting process going.
Seems pretty easy, right? And so far the whole thing has cost us less than $10.
We’d love some tips from all the composting experts out there (so we can make sure our efforts are fruitful). And for those of you just as green at this composting thing as us, keep us posted on your own adventures in decomposing organic matter. Yummy.
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.
You guys know we’re suckers for all things Richmond related. So when a home from our very own hometown popped up in the August issue of Domino magazine, we were pumped. And it was one the most inspiring houses we’ve seen in Domino in a while (I’m trying to be as impartial as my brain will let me, I swear). The combination of a cozy neutral palate paired with playful and unexpected features (hello stenciled floor!) put us on the verge of hunting down the homeowner and forcing ourselves into her now-famous home.
So imagine our surprise when she found us. We noticed Katie Ukrop’s comment on our recent house crashing post when we snooped around Lesley’s home a few weeks ago. A few e-mails and phone calls later, and we snagged an exclusive interview with this Domino all-star just for you guys. We’re not literally house-crashing this time, since Domino beat us to the punch. Instead, we visited Katie at Quirk (the art-gallery-meets-cheeky-shop that she owns in downtown Richmond) to snag a behind-the-scenes look at her moment in the spotlight.
Here’s the scoop: It was a friend of a friend who suggested Katie’s home to Domino. She was in town visiting and stopped by to take a few scouting pictures and the rest is history. I guess this means there’s no magic formula to catching Domino’s eye. But it helps to know the right people. That and have an amazing home. Domino visited Katie’s home in Richmond’s historic Fan District last summer (yup, it took a whole year from the shoot to the presses) and spent two days photographing every detail. The crew was modest – a husband and wife photographer / story producer team of Paul and Sara Ruffin Costello, an assistant, and the writer Ruth Graham who popped in and out. Overall, a pretty low-key and painless process. In fact, Katie said it was a lot of fun.
The painted floors in Katie’s parlor were a surprise to the Domino staff when they arrived. Katie had been planning to do something with her floors for a while, but it wasn’t until after the scouting photos were taken that she took the plunge and had the floors painted and stenciled by local paint expert Sunny Goode. Katie worried the magazine would scold her for springing new floors on them, but instead she says “they loved it!”
The floors weren’t the only last minute additions. With one of her couches out getting reupholstered, Katie took the shoot as an opportunity to snag a couple chairs that she’d had her eye on for a while (which came home with her just hours before Domino arrived). Other than that, Katie’s prep included some good ol’ fashion cleaning up.
But to Katie’s surprise, Domino didn’t want things über tidy. “Domino didn’t want perfection. They like it a little rumpled.” So before she knew it, the crew was putting keys on tables and pots on the stove to make sure her home looked lived in and loved. They even asked Katie to pull her long blonde hair back to keep things less coiffed and more comfy casual. And to our surprise, Domino didn’t bring a single prop. Everything you see in the story is Katie’s – even the cut flowers that she snipped from her garden that very morning.
Katie’s thrilled with the result, especially the mention of some of her favorite things from Quirk at the end of the article. But of course some shots were left on the cutting room floor. For one, we didn’t get to see her beautiful daughters Emma and Flora muggin’ for the camera. Fortunately, Katie got to keep some of Paul Costello’s leftover polaroids for her family (and us!). And boy are we excited to share these exclusive Domino shots with you guys.
Now that it’s been twelve months, things around the Ukrop abode must be slightly different, right? “It’s definitely messier,” notes Katie. Other than that, she admits to rotating in a lot of fresh art (which I imagine is a pretty natural part of owning a gallery and constantly having great, new art at your fingertips).
We asked Katie what’s been the best thing to come from her national magazine debut (besides our stellar interview). She kindly buttered us up (“oh, well, this interview is top-notch”) and then got real. “I’ve fostered a great relationship with Domino. They’re fantastic over there.” There have also been a few old high school friends who have resurfaced that Katie has enjoyed reconnecting with. But the best part? “All the artists and jewelers that have been contacting us who want to be a part of Quirk.”
Quirk’s Domino Party last month. Katie’s the blurry, white shoulder above the “Q.”
Quirk is an eclectic art gallery that Katie opened back in September of 2005. The historic brick building was once home to several squatters, not to mention a big tree growing through the back wing (skylight, anyone?). Talk about a fixer upper. It had once been home to the Richmond Stationery Company, which left Katie and her crew with a cool “vault” space that had previously been used to keep envelopes from self-sealing in the humidity. Now every corner of the building is home to Quirk’s rotating collection of art, sculpture, jewelry, books, stationery and a whole slew of other cool things – even the vault houses some of the smaller art installations.
Quirk’s filled with conversation pieces that are bound to add some interest to your home (or outfit). And whether your budget’s measured in Benjamins or in Washingtons, you’re sure to find something fun to take with you. So be sure to check out their online Gallery Shop. And while online shopping is in the works, for the time being you can e-mail or call in your order. (I know, bummer, you might actually have to interact with Katie or one of the other gallery “rockstars.”)
We wanted to know how Katie’s home inspired her gallery. And we quickly learned that it was the other way around. “Quirk has changed my aesthetic. I did the girly, flowery, shabby chic thing at home, but I’ve always loved a crisp white room. Quirk has also given me the courage to throw in a fun chair.”
Katie says her favorite part of owning a gallery is meeting all the artists and bringing all the inspiring, eclectic, and artistic pieces together. She admits that not everything at Quirk fits her personal taste to a T, but that’s the beauty of owning a gallery- it’s helped her develop an appreciation for a wider range of styles. She also advises any budding entrepreneurs out there to “go for it, but don’t think it’s going to be easy. When we opened we didn’t know who would come in the door. But now I know my customers and I know what they want.” And boy has her hard work paid off.
Katie’s decorating advice is the same as her advice for collecting art: “Buy what you love and what makes you happy. Don’t sit and stew about whether it will increase in value. If you love it, buy it.” I’d say that philosophy has served her pretty well, considering how incredible both her home and gallery have turned out. Thanks to Katie for spending time with us and letting us pick her brain about her Domino experience. And thanks to Domino for putting Richmond in the spotlight (and letting us show their pretty outtake pictures above).