Friday, December 20, 2013

Radical Dude // This Tree Wants to Party

We're a little late in the game to get the tree up this year - but it's all with good intention. You see, we're planning ourselves quite the shindig to ring in the New Year and decided we'd take our traditional Christmas tree right on into 2014. As such, we're really riding this theme of coloring outside the lines and made this tree merry and very bright. It's already dressed to party.

We were able to parlay many of the black ornaments we typically use. But the neon brights called for a little handiwork. I spent a good week painting, taping and spraying in various neon hues to strike just the right balance. I disappeared last Saturday night only to return from Home Depot with a bag full of neon string and plastic chain and I have to admit, when all was said and done, I got a little thrill garnishing the tree with our eccentrically electric garland. It just gave the tree the right amount of something... 

I've had fun this week decking the rest of the halls in a wee bit of neon. I'm even breaking my own rule of keeping the wrap under wraps until Christmas in sharing with you now, the scheme we went with this year. See... coloring outside the lines. It may just become a part of everyday life in 2014.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Artful Packaging // Ortigia Sicilia

I love beautiful packaging. I've actually purchased products simply on the basis of thoughtful packaging or a particularly smart looking logo just so that I can display them unopened about the house. Little works of art can sometimes be found in a box of pasta, bottle of cooking oil, cleaning solution or in this latest case, a collection of the most elegantly packaged bath and beauty products on the planet.

Of course, having just returned from Italy, its Italian roots speaks directly to my romantic heart.

Though it takes its name and inspiration from a little island off the coast of southeastern Sicily, Ortigia Sicilia is a small Italian soap company based in Florence. It was founded by Sue Townsend, one of the original founders of Crabtree and Evelyn. The all natural products are produced by local, small family companies who pride themselves on product quality, using the essences of indigenous plants like Sicilian Lime, Lavender, Almond, Pomegranate and Orange Blossom to create exotic scented oils, soaps and perfumes.  All I can imagine is the transportive scents coming out of these bottles, something that might just get me by until I can make another trip back to my beloved Italy.

The packaging, designed by Sue Townsend herself, is truly a sight to behold. I'd love to display a few different scents and colors on my bathroom vanity.  

Ortigia ships worldwide from Italy. But if you're still searching for that indulgent little something for that someone special, you're in luck. Amazon can deliver a limited selection of these products to you in time for the holiday gifting.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Up-cycled Mineral Decanters

With the impending holidays, my mind immediately turns to party, which then inevitably leads to bar. Funny how that works. I had been wanting to update our house bar with some fancy new crystal decanters for quite some time. But frankly that expenditure falls well behind in terms of priority - particularly now right smack in the middle of the season of giving. So last weekend, I found a creative way to scratch that long nagging itch and came up with a project that would up-cycle some materials I already had on hand. In the end, it was really what I was hoping for all along.

We've been saving up our old clear wine and liquor bottles for the past couple of years - actually having friends and family save theirs for our hoard. Some are just too pretty to toss and I knew we'd find a way to recycle them into a project at some point in time. When inspiration struck for my makeshift decanters, I turned to our stockpile and picked out a few in varying shapes and sizes. Cleaning and removing the labels was the most time intensive part of this project - nothing a dishwasher and a little 'goo be gone' could not tackle. 

I knew I had a few rocks, minerals and cabinet knobs lying around that I decided could work to fancy up the caps. A dab of E6000 was all I needed to bind them strongly to the existing bottle tops and corks. 

Originally I considered purchasing some traditional chain metal tags to complete the look. But I caught a glimpse of Christine's Instagram and decided to give my decanters a little more edge with a string of bulky chain right off the hardware shelf. 

I think these decanters are ready to rock it and just in time for our big New Year's Eve bash.


Monday, December 9, 2013

The Boss

This weekend brought a pretty significant change to Holtwood House. I've shared our plans for the large set of windows here and most recently here. But as I'm sure you all can attest, one change will undoubtedly lead to another and we finally made the decision to take all of the walls back to white. When we moved in, my Pops was kind enough to paint out the room in Behr's Silver Screen. We lived with that color for the last couple of years and just could not get past it to bring the room together. Grays are tricky and this one translated blue at certain parts of the day and depending on the season, sometimes even brown. Of course, we also had our goofy window tint playing into that. But once the the tint came off and the aluminum frames were painted black, we saw the room fit for only one color - Benjamin Moore's White Dove

So it was that on a rainy Saturday this past weekend, the walls were washed in white by my Pops, who was again, back to paint out the same room he painted only three years ago. I've talked a bit about him before - remember the screen project on the front exterior of the house? There is nary a major project he has not touched in this house. I'm full of ideas and the projects never seem to end around here. The Mister and I can tackle a lot of them, but we've been lucky enough to have my Dad come in and help us execute all the big stuff. 

I love project days. After three years chalk full of them, we seamlessly slip right into our roles. I prepare and clean, The Mister helps with all the heavy lifting and inevitable 10 trips to Home Depot and Dad comes in and does his thing.  Dad teases me and calls me "Boss", but throughout the day, we pay close attention and learn, shaking our heads as he takes each line of the window or wall with a deft hand - never once needing to tape off. Truth be told, I'd have the entire room outlined in Blue Painter's Tape. Around Noon, we congregate at the dining room table for lunch break and then, he's back at it. I always marvel how he can neatly fit a project into an 8 hour day. 

Trust me, we know how lucky we are.

Late Saturday afternoon, as I stood back just super giddy at the way the room came together, I put my arm around him and said 'Aren't you just impressed with how awesome you made this turn out?!' He just shook his head and laughed at me. 

There is still so much to do to make it all come together, but I awoke Sunday morning, ran right to the living room and had one of those "I can't believe this is our house!" moments. Thanks to Dad, I've been fortunate to have quite a few of those. 


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fresh Ideas // Bare Root Pine in Water

I caught a glimpse of this first image right as the holidays were ending last year and for a good part of the following 12 months, thought about the beautiful simplicity achieved by displaying this familiar item in an unexpected way. Even in simplicity there can be drama.  

I've since spotted similar set ups among some of my favorite Scandinavian design blogs and what strikes me most is that this is a living display - one that feels respectful and a bit otherworldly to this SoCal native used to covering every square inch of a heavily flocked tree that seems to dry out the moment I bring it through the door.  There's something calming too about a glimpse of the bare roots still swimming in a vase of cool, clear water. It reminds me that it's not always necessary to fuss this time of year and that there is beauty to be found in even the unfussiest of details. 

clockwise from top: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Make This // Floral Pick Centerpiece

With the holiday entertaining season well underway, I wanted to share a quick and easy centerpiece idea that you could put together in a snap - probably with items you already have on hand. I was at my local crafts store the other day and came across some feathered floral picks that I simply had to do something with. I eventually left the store with them in my bag and by the time I pulled back into the driveway, had the idea that I could pair them up with a piece of scrap wood to create a dramatic centerpiece for our Thanksgiving table. 

To recreate a similar centerpiece, simply drill small holes down the center of a piece of 1x1 board, cut to your desired length. You could certainly insert your floral picks at this point and call it done. I took it a couple of steps further by staining the wood and adding some gold leaf into and around a few of the natural grooves in the wood. I finished it off with some spray lacquer to give it a bit of a shine and ensure the gold leaf was held intact.
I made two on the cheap and both transported well to our holiday celebration. I also had a few sheets of marble paper on hand and while helping to set the table, also whipped up some coordinating napkin rings. The 2" strips were held together with a dot of glue on the backside and added just a little more polish to our dinner table.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Design Dilemma // A Windows Update

Things have been quite busy since our return from Europe and unfortunately, the blog has suffered a bit of neglect as a result. I'm working at "balance" and not driving myself crazy trying to do it all and as badly as I feel having not posting more regularly, I have been using the additional time gained to get some of those nagging projects done around the house. One of them concerns our west facing living room windows.
Recall, I had shared some of our concerns about the irregular shaped window arrangement in a previous post. While managing around that was certainly our most prominent dilemma, it was just one of several we've been facing. In that previous post, I got a couple of comments that made me rethink and expand our original plan a bit.
The new plan:
Frame out windows with casing
Paint old aluminum window frames black
Hang rod above new casing and flank with drapery panels

We made a decision on the window casing and thanks to Dad, got that installed last week.  But as you all know, one thing leads to another and now I get to reveal the other (embarrassing) dilemma we were looking at solving before we could move on to painting out our frames.
Behold, the mirrored tint that came with all of our windows when we bought the house:

This is an old snapshot, but one that best illustrates what we saw everyday when the sun went down - our own reflections. Curiously, the tint allowed anyone standing on the outside to see clearly in, but prevented those on the inside from seeing out after dark. We understand why the previous homeowners installed tint. Left naked, our West facing windows certainly heat things up on that side of the house. But the mirrored tint would certainly not have been our choice. Did I mention these babies are also single paned? We had installed blinds on the windows, which hid the tint quite well. But we intend to ditch the blinds and leave the windows themselves undressed. The bottom line: the open, steel frame look we are desiring could not be achieved with the cheap looking mirrored tint still on. 

So while most of you were hitting the malls last Friday, I was tearing off our unsightly tint in preparation for a big paint job we now have scheduled for the coming weekend. It came off in big sheets and took only minutes. I smugly stood back and thought, "well that was easy". But the light coming through the following morning showed me that my work was only half done. The old adhesive was fully baked on and still needed to be removed.

Not knowing the best way to go about it, I consulted the guys at Home Depot (who all gave me the side eye, as if to say "don't do it"). I turned to Google and YouTube and in the end, came up with two tools needed for the job: a pack of razor blades and ammonia. So I went at it... for four hours.

I got creative and thought "soaking" would expedite removal. It didn't. Patience and frequent blade changing on my scraper were the only ways to tackle. Had we not had single pane windows, I would have attempted to steam. In the end though, I just didn't want to risk cracking them.
So that's where we are now - windows cased, stripped and cleaned and now, ready for paint. Next up: we'll attempt to get the steel frame look we've always wanted (until we can install the real thing) with a little paint. We also have a bigger paint job planned for the entire room to help brighten things up a bit and return us to a neutral canvas. Stay tuned for more updates...
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