Our Current House

The Tri-Light Zone

From moment one of seeing this house, something about the view of a series of three lights all in a row(ish) in the upstairs hallway made us inexplicably excited. We just knew that arrangement had serious potential. You know, once we looked past the old carpeting and the blue trim.

The existing lights were a little undersized for us (pictures don’t do it justice, but this is a 33 foot long hallway!), so although we considered spray painting them another color (oil-rubbed bronze? red? navy?), I worried it’d make them look a bit more gothic cathedral than we wanted. Plus, all three of them were crooked, one of them had a broken stem, and the middle one was actually bigger than the other two.

I’ve had these fixtures mentally bookmarked for years. Ever since we saw them in a House Crashing that we did in Portland, OR in 2012 I’ve wanted to work them into our home somehow. I like that they’re a mix of classic and modern, and that their dark finish offers some nice contrast but isn’t too heavy looking thanks to all the glass. The good news is that Sherry was with me (we don’t always agree on lights, so sometimes finding something we both like takes a while). The only issue was that the $250 price tag was a bit much for us since we’d need to buy three of them.

We hoped to find something similar at a local lighting outlet that we frequent (and even checked craigslist and the ReStore occasionally) but coming by three identical fixtures was tough. Then Sherry got an email alert about a World Market sale (25% off orders over $150) which lead her to these puppies – and we realized that after the sale they’d be $75 each, which means we could buy all three for less than the price of our single inspiration fixture.

Normally I wouldn’t take you through the installation process again, since I feel like I’ve done lots of posts like these – but I actually picked up a couple of tricks (albeit small ones) from observing the electrician work his magic at the showhouse. Trick #1 being leave the protective packaging on during installation. I guess I’ve always been so eager to unveil our new purchases that the first thing I usually did was strip away all of the plastic, cardboard and styrofoam. But I had a “well duh!” moment watching the electrician leave it all on (well, whatever didn’t interfere with installing it) to help prevent any damage while he worked. Of course he took it off before firing up the power and adding a bulb, but just hanging them with the added protection felt a lot better than rushing to strip it before manhandling things into place.

Obviously I would’ve loved to let these babies hang down on their chains a bit, but our 8ft ceilings weren’t gonna let it happen. So we had to shorten the chain by prying the links open with two pairs of pliers, the tips of which I wrapped in masking tape to keep them from scratching the finish off.

The previous lighting had been a bit low for my 6-foot self (well, the middle one outside of Clara’s room was – since that lantern was inexplicably larger than the other two), so we decided to hang the new lights by just one chain link – which would put them all a couple inches higher than that old middle light (it hung about 75″ from the ground). So even though these are larger scale fixtures, the bottom of each lantern ended up being 77″ from the floor after installation.

But back to the single link method. I kept one link handy, but left a longer string on the fixture for the time being. More on that in a minute.

In addition to shortening the chain, I had to shorten the cord. So using my wire cutters I cut open the wire cover, pulled it off, and then stripped the ends of the white, black, and green wires.

With Sherry supporting the fixture, I connected the wires to the matching ones in the ceiling. Sorry for the grainy pic, but we had the power off so lighting was limited up there.

The second trick I picked up was to hang the fixture low and then raise it to your final desired height. With most light fixtures it’s much easier to raise them (by removing chain or feeding more wire into the ceiling) than to make them lower, especially if you’ve already cut your wire. So not only is this an easier way to get your perfect height, in our case it made installation much easier because Sherry didn’t have to hold the light as high and I wasn’t wiring in such a cramped space between the fixture and the ceiling.

Once everything was secured, I swapped out the long chain for the my single link and pushed the excess wire up into the canopy. You can see my screwdriver tightening the screw that pinches the wire in place.

It still took a fair amount of time to get all three installed. Maybe 3 hours? I always have a tough time guessing since I’m slowed down by photo taking and, in this case, fielding showhouse calls. But in the end we love the result.

Just like the light in our foyer downstairs, we really like the high contrast look that these add. Even the way they tie into the dark door hinges, doorknobs, and the stained stair rail and runner that lead downstairs seems to make things feel more deliberate. They’re a bit oversized for the space, which may bother some folks – but it’s kinda what I dig most about them.

Adding some substantial wainscoting, interesting art, and other hallway updates should definitely bring more balance. So here’s our remaining to-do list:

Just for fun, here’s a hallway before shot for comparison.

In the function column, I feared that it might be a little darker (going from three 3-bulb fixtures to three single bulbs), but these take a higher wattage (60 instead of 40) and somehow the glass seems to reflect so much that it actually feels brighter. Could also be that half of the old bulbs were burned out too, so there’s that.

Here’s how things look with the clear bulbs that came with the fixtures when they’re on. They throw some angular shadows on the ceiling, but if we want less of that look we can switch them out for frosted bulbs (eventually we’d love to get LEDs in every fixture).

Anyone else have hall happenings to share? It’s weird that those “not real rooms” in the house can end up being the ones you spend a ton of time passing through, so they make a surprising difference when you show them a little attention.

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Some Overdue Office Organization

Let me tell you a tale of a girl who used to be organized, oh…. about four years ago. Since Clara came along, well, it has been a slippery slope. I’ve kept notes to myself in various notebooks, on my phone, on post its, and have scribbled in every square inch of my day planner. I’m almost never sure what I need to do next since there are so many active lists competing for my attention these days. So when John and I were asking ourselves what our home office needs to make it as functional as possible, it was about two seconds before I was pulling a Mary Katherine Gallagher and jumping around and throwing my arms in the air and shouting “command center!”

Yes, my friends, it was even more urgent to this nesting pregnant lady than painting those office walls. Although we realized as we were nailing into them to hang things that it’s sort of an accidentally genius move to hang art before painting because if you make a few bad nail holes you can just spackle them before you paint the whole room, so that’s a nice perk.

We thought this wall was perfect since it would be visible from within the office, but our scribbles would be out of sight from the foyer. And we both agreed that we needed a place to write things that had to be done across multiple categories like “projects”, “house maintenance”, “showhouse/book 2 stuff”, “future post ideas”, “website to-do”, etc. We just knew there had to be a better way than having different lists of each of those things floating around randomly (the website one just fell behind the couch, by the way).

Not only did I dream of having them all in one place in an easy to reference spot for both of us – most of all I dreamed of having a column for “top tasks” so we could lift tasks out of each of those other columns and place in there by order of priority. This will hopefully keep us from bouncing around randomly without really weighing what makes the most sense for us to tackle next.

While we were dreaming, we also wanted a place to work out our upcoming post schedule where we both could see it (so we can see which giveaways are lined up, what posts we’re planning to write up next, etc). We also wanted a smaller spot to jot down what we need to buy/get the next time we’re out (we’re always forgetting random things like new oil-rubbed bronze window locks for the freshly painted office windows).

John and I weighed a ton of options for meeting all of those needs, like: one big dry erase board, one big cork board, using dry erase paint right on the wall, going the chalkboard route, using magnetic paint to hold up small pieces of paper in a grid that we could move and shift, etc. In the end we settled on sort of a hybrid solution. We decided to make two big magnetic frames so we could use smaller dry erase magnets (which we could write on and shift around) to create a multi-column to-do list and a post-planning schedule. We even snuck a “To Buy/Get” list in there on a smaller frame while working in some sweet Clara art, a quote that makes us laugh from our last office, and a favorite family picture.

First we planned the arrangement with some old frames. We continued to shift things around a little after this photo was taken, but you get the idea:

Next we ordered some white dry erase magnets from this site. John found them and I was instantly on board because I love that they’re not small/swallowable magnets (which make my paranoid-mom-heart skip a beat) and also because we can write directly on them and move them around. So placing them in a “projects” column, then moving them to the “top task” column, and even popping them over to our post schedule board if they’re done/shot/written/ready to be scheduled would be nice and simple.

We also hit up Home Depot to see what they had in the “sheets of metal” category. There were some other sheet metal options on an end cap, but we bought a magnet with us just to be sure they were magnetic and they weren’t. Kinda threw us for a loop until we saw these panels hiding in a completely different aisle. And thankfully, these guys were magnetic.

We ended up getting two of them that were big enough to fill our frames (they came in a bunch of different sizes, and thankfully were pretty easy to cut at home with gloves and a metal snip). Here are my supplies all laid out:

First I removed the glass from the frame along with the backing and laid just the wood part of the frame over the sheet metal and used a red sharpie to trace the rectangle that I’d need to cut out.

Then I just slipped on my gloves and started cutting with the metal snip. It took a little while since it makes such small cuts, but it was pretty straightforward and I was left with two metal inserts for my frames in about fifteen minutes.

Here’s one slipped into the frame, with the backing holding it in place. It was pretty exciting to test drive a few of the dry erase magnets up there. #yolo

After I made sure both pieces of metal fit into the frames, John and I chatted about what colors we thought would be nice for the metal and the frames, and decided to draw inspiration from our new desk. And so the idea for a mixture of frames in a soft champagne color, a pearly metallic white, and a flat basic white was born. We had all of these guys in the garage already, so I was ready to rumble.

First I used clean metal primer on both of the sheets of metal we bought, just because I thought it would be a nice uniform look to spray those to match their frames. We figured with all those white magnets on them, things could get busy, so keeping the frames and backgrounds uniform might be a nice touch.

Next I sprayed the frames themselves. This is the pearl mist going on a few of the frames and one of the primed sheet metal pieces (you can see the champagne mist ones drying in the background). I left these outside to dry so long that a rogue leaf landed in the middle of that smaller frame (thankfully it was completely dry by then).

It took about four thin coats of spray paint to get things nice and even, but in the end it’s a really clean look to have the metal sheets and the frame the same color. I even used a little bit of washi tape on the end of the magnetic headers for each category to set them apart along the top of the board.

Oh office supplies, why are you so adorable?

To make our “To Buy/To Get” board, I used a smaller frame with some slightly metallic linen-like fabric slipped that into the frame behind the glass. A black dry erase marker makes it easy to write on the glass, and we just shoot a picture of the list whenever we’re running out for errands so I can remember everything instead of muttering “where’s that list?” followed by some endless purse-searching.

Here’s a closer shot of the post planning board, which got the pearl paint treatment, and some gold and yellow washi tape along those header and side labels. We don’t usually work very far out for posts (we share a lot of stuff within a week of doing it) but it’s already coming in handy for jotting down future ideas, giveaways that have been scheduled, etc.

So that’s how our little command center came to be. I’d really love to upgrade some of the frames eventually (the one with Clara’s painting in it needs a larger mat for example) but for now I’m feeling around 95% more organized. If only I could fit my massive belly behind the couch to retrieve that old website to-do list…

Might have to send Burger in for it. And by that I mean “somehow convince him the list is made of food so he cares enough to retrieve it.”

How do you guys stay organized? Do you have a big family calendar that hangs in your kitchen? We debated doing a calendar board as well, but like using my planner to write down meetings, appointments, parties, etc – so we thought keeping that in there but all the project/home maintenance/book/showhouse/post stuff on the wall would be a good combination. We’ll have to see how it goes…

Update: For anyone wondering what the octopus print says, where we got it, or where the file cabinet is from, that info is all on the first page of comments for ya.

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