Friday, March 8, 2013

pretty easter egg palette

Apparently Easter is early this year.  I've never really cared much for Easter (save for when I was a child and got an Easter basket), but my mom is pretty gung-ho about it, and every year asks me what I'm doing for the holiday.  When I respond, surprised, "Oh, it's time for Easter again?" and tell her I have no plans, she says she feels bad that I'm going to spend the day alone (when, in reality, I generally have no idea when it even takes place).  But one thing Easter is good for is signaling the beginning of Spring, which I'm most definitely ready for at this point in mid-March.   

Anyway, this introduction has nothing to do with the few images I'm posting today.   I was prompted to write this post after seeing a picture of vegetable dyed Easter eggs in my Facebook feed this morning from one of my friends, and I thought they were so lovely, I couldn't help but share. This isn't the traditional pastel color palette for Easter eggs, but I find it so much more beautiful, and then when I read that the eggs were dyed using natural ingredients, I liked it even more.   I confess, even though I like the conveniences of modern life as much as the next guy, I have an affinity for homemade stuff like these eggs.  Did you ever see the PBS series "Frontier House"?  It's probably over ten years old now, but it was public television's answer to reality shows that were starting to get really popular around the year 2000 or so.  The premise was, a bunch of families went to Montana and lived there for a summer as though it were 1883 (i.e. in houses they built themselves, with 1880s "technology," clothing, etc.) and they were homesteaders; the point of the show was to see if they could, over the summer months, get enough wood chopped, food canned, meat smoked, provisions stored etc. in order to last through the winter.  And even though they seemed to work their fingers to the bone, at the end of the series, not one of the families was evaluated as being ready for the winter.  It was totally fascinating.

But I digress!  Here's the picture that prompted this post and my stream of consciousness rambling:

After I saw this one, I started looking for other images of natural Easter eggs and found a bunch:





Wouldn't you like to have a room that incorporates all these colors?  So beautiful.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

basement: before and after

If you're one of my few readers who knows me in real life, you also know that I'm a professor at a large university here in Chicago.  We're getting hit with a crazy snowstorm today and the administration canceled classes, meaning we have a SNOW DAY, one of those sweet free days that makes you feel like you've cheated the system and somehow gotten extra time.  I've spent most of today catching up on work and writing an article that's (over)due, but decided to take a break and photograph my basement, so that I could do a before and after for you.  The basement is one of my favorite spaces in the house, and is super duper cozy, especially in the winter.  Before showing you the finished product, here's a quick photo of what it looked like before I moved in: 

And another, after I had some of my furniture in, but before the walls were painted:

As you can see, the basement was more or less a dungeon.  I don't think the previous owners really used it very much, except for storage purposes.   The carpet was dingy, there was barely any furniture, and gag!   Look at that slate tile around the fireplace!   

Well, here's a first shot of how it looks now, before I break things down a little:

Massive improvement, I think.  Like I said, I wanted this to be a space that I would enjoy spending time in, since 1) I feel like it's a waste of space to have a finished basement that never gets used, and 2) since I only have a small-ish TV in my main floor living room, I bought a gigantic TV for the basement (it's a man's TV - a whopping 55") and wanted the room to be comfy cozy so that I, and my guests, would like being down here if I/we wanted to watch a movie or something.  

So let's take this tour step by step.   First things first, I painted the walls Behr's "Road Runner," which is a really lovely light gray with just the tiniest plummy undertone.  I like the color so much that I also used it to paint my home office.  Some pics of the painting, in progress:

I wanted to take a panoramic shot of the basement from a vantage point on the stairs, but since my cameras are all crappy, I didn't have a wide enough lens to do that.  So here's what the room looks like, in three separate images, going from the front of the house toward the back:

That couch used to be in the living room of my old condo and is really big - something like 9 feet long and 46" deep.  It's super comfy and a great sofa for lounging/TV watching.  The marble coffee table (which I love, love, love) was a $30 craigslist score and the overdyed rug was a pretty good deal - can't remember what I paid now - that I got on sale from Rugs USA.   The poufs are burgundy leather and were an eBay find; the dresser is IKEA malm in the whitewashed oak color; the picture hanging to the right of the fireplace is also from IKEA; the white bench under that picture was made by my dad and painted by me; the small faux bamboo shelf/stand to the right of the fireplace is from Nadeau Chicago.  The pictures above it are my grandmother's old high school photos in floating frames I got from Target; the trophies are from thrift stores, etsy, and eBay.  The mercury glass lamps and paper shades behind the couch are from Target, and the mirror above the fireplace is from Home Goods.

Phew!  Some close ups and other angles:

There's that big TV again!

It was hard to get a close up of the top photo, but here's a close up of the bottom one.  My grandmother is in the top row, second from the left.

Yes, that record you see is "John Denver's Greatest Hits."  Don't judge: it used to be my dad's.

Some of these trophies are quite strange.  Case in point:

It reads, "Best Meat Bird - Mannheim Fair - 1955."  Must have been a pretty tasty bird.

The old sconces in the basement before were heinous, and so I splurged and bought these awesome lights from Restoration Hardware (damn it; they're on sale now for $89 each!  I paid $129 for each and it KILLS me to see them on sale now).  But anyway - they look fantastic and kind of work as spotlights for the pictures below them.

Just take a look at that coffee table again.  Solid marble top (it weights a ton) and awesome vintage base.  Lordy, there are so many steals to be found on craigslist.

You might be asking yourself, what happened to all that ugly slate around the fireplace?  Well, lemme tell you what happened to it.  I PAINTED IT!  That's right: I considered getting it re-tiled when I moved in, but then remembered that I had no money whatsoever for that kind of project, and was inspired by Erin Gates' re-painted fireplace in her new house on her blog, Elements of Style.    I believe I took some pictures of the painting while it was in progress, but basically I primed it with a foam roller, let it dry, and then foam-rolled it in Behr's "Stealth Jet," eggshell finish, which I had left over after painting my front entryway.  The whole project took about an hour and a half and I was totally thrilled by how easy it was, and how awesome the end product looked:

The previous owners didn't have a gas log set in the fireplace, either, so that was one of the first things I installed after I moved in.  It was a pretty penny, but worth every cent, since basements can be cold anyway, and with the fire on, this is pretty much the coziest room in Chicago.

Last but not least, I rigged up a skirted table for behind the couch, since I wanted it to be closer to the fireplace and TV, but it looked weird just hanging out three feet off the wall.  Plus, I needed a sofa table, but didn't want to spend too much money, and since the couch is so long, it was nearly impossible to find a table that was long enough to span the entire length of the sofa. The table I made might be one of the DIY projects I'm most proud of.  I'll post step by step photos later, since this post is getting long, but here are a few shots of how it turned out:

Since it looks like this outside today...

...I've been spending most of my time today in the basement with the fireplace on, watching old episodes of "Downton Abbey," reading, grading, and writing.  All in all, not a bad way to spend a snow day!

Thanks for checking out my basement!!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

more sweet fabrics for little coin

Did I speak too soon in my post yesterday?  I may have.  I gave so much praise to and then ended up stumbling across Hawthorne Threads.  I spent many an hour last night - when I should have been sleeping - searching their extensive collection of pretty prints that I hadn't seen elsewhere.   Here's a small sampling of some of their fun fabrics.  Again, many of these come in colorways other than the ones I'm copying here:

First off, I had never heard of Alexander Henry fabrics before, but I loooooove the items in his new collection, which apparently is arriving in late March 2013.  If you're a fan of this Scalamandre zebra wallpaper and fabric...

... but can't afford it because, like me, you're not massively wealthy, then Alexander Henry's new Africa collection is a pretty good facsimile:

I am developing a newfound love of zebras and really want to use one of these fabrics in my house.  At first I was worried it would be overkill, but then I thought, who cares?  Either that hot pink or that chartreuse zebra head fabric MUST be used somewhere.  It is too awesome.

Generally I'm not a huge fan of Amy Butler, but I think she really hit it out of the park with her latest  Alchemy Collections.  Even better, these seem to run around $14/yard, so definitely within a budget.  The other colorways are awesome, too, but this is just a little taste:

A few others that struck my fancy:

Domestic Cat in Aqua - no price yet; arriving early April 2013

Matilda in Brandy - $6.99/yard

Pretty pretty!