Thursday, March 31, 2011

Acclimation Update

I know everyone is waiting patiently, but you'll have to wait some more. The wood is still "acclimating" to our apartment, and so, no flooring was installed (again) yesterday. Hopefully today is the day, but UNFORTUNATELY, we won't be able to report until next week. We leave today for a trip to visit our great friends R&P, and bonus, KL is back on US turf, so we get to see him, too!

The good news, then, is that I won't be frustrated any further, because I'll be on vacation and because hopefully we'll come home to something exciting.

More good news, I finally got rid of that pesky splinter! OW.

We'll be back with a flooring and travel update next week. In the meantime, here's the forecast for our vacation destination:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Floors: Day 2

There's not a lot to report on Day 2, as our contractor did not work today. After doing some research (now?) he concluded that the wood needed to sit out longer to acclimate the humidity, etc. in our home. However, most of the boxes of flooring were not opened yesterday, so why he couldn't "work" today is beyond me, because what ended up happening is that we came home (late, because we went to visit our dog and have dinner at Dave's parents') and had to open and unpack the endlessly piled-up boxes littering our home. I'm guessing you can tell by my tone how I feel about this. But it is what it is. Hopefully he'll be able to start installation tomorrow. Here's what the living room looks like thanks to our work this evening:

And here's the collateral damage:

(hard to tell, but the skin under my middle finger, where it's a bit redder, is now one gnarly splinter richer. sweet.)
It might not sound like it now, but I do feel better having typed that out, and as a famous football coach in New England has been quoted as saying, it is what it is. Tomorrow is a new day. Bring on the install!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Floors: Day 1

We said we'd have to see it to believe it, and now we have seen it, and it's true: our floors arrived! Late, to be sure, but they did, in fact, arrive. Our kindly contractor, Danny, was here to meet the uber-professional Lumber Liquidators delivery, and get things started. So at the end of Day 1, there is good news, and bad news.

The Good: wood has arrived, cork sub-floor is down in the living room, baseboards are all up, and we're ready for Day 2.

The Bad: we have no living room or dining room to speak of right now, so we are sitting on our bed while Lanie enjoys the good life at Dave's parents' house.

The Silver Lining: yummy Vietnamese for dinner.

Danny's working in sections, beginning with the living room... So here's the photo summary at the end of Day 1:

(most of the living room is in the dining room)
(the rest of the living room, some of the supplies and lumber, and Danny's tools, are in the second bedroom)
(shadowy shot, but here's the living room with the sub-floor in place and the open boxes "acclimating")
(cork close-up)
(acclimating wood close-up)
(boxes of wood flooring EVERYWHERE!)
You can be sure there's more to come of this... we have no idea how long it will all take, but this is exciting! Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Fever = Assembled Patio Furniture

Dave has been saying he has Spring Fever for weeks now. So after yesterday's three-trip Target patio furniture adventure, he just had to satisfy his warm-weather-itch by assembling our new bistro set, and, in spite of the cold and wind, relax (even if just briefly) outdoors:

(don't let the sunshine fool you, it's brisk out there!)
Now, just give us 20 more degrees and we'll be out here every day! Woohoo!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ending the Day on a Better Note...

We have ordered new dining room furniture, and bought and picked up patio furniture (part 1)! Though this has been a day of questionable customer service, ultimately, we have had success, and while it'll likely be a couple weeks before the dining room pieces arrive, that's actually better because by then, hopefully, we'll have new floors to put them on! So... here's what we selected:

(this table, from the Napa Collection at World Market)
(this bench, also from the WM Napa Collection)
(and four of these, Sophia dining chairs, in red leather, also WM)
Our next stop was Target, where we selected a table and chair set for the balcony. We had some particular needs to be met by our balcony furniture. We did a lot of research and really liked the affordability and look of this season's options at Target. As I mentioned, this is balcony furniture part 1 only - we're still looking for some other pieces, but part 1 had to be the dining/seating situation. But I digress... We needed taller pieces, because of the height of our balcony rail, which has a wide panel at the top that basically rests at eye level (i.e., blocking the view) when you're seated in an average height chair. And whatever we purchased needed to be on the smaller end of the patio furniture options, because while it is long, our balcony is not especially wide. Scale, people! We had to get the scale right. So, here's what we ended up with (after a wild goose chase that sent us to three separate Targets, including, finally, Evanston):

(Casetta 3-piece Bistro, from Target)
 Now we just need it to get a little warmer...

Lessons in Customer Service and Deep, Calming Breaths

Some of you know (and were probably expecting updates already on progress) that we *should* have been in the midst of our flooring renovation. So, we ordered our new floors (bamboo, in a beautiful, warm, honey-oak color) about a week and a half ago from Lumber Liquidators (after some extensive research and price-comparisons). Our contractor, Danny, who did the work in our kitchen, was on board to do the work, and we were ready to go. The guys at LL "expected" the delivery to come to the Chicago store by this past Tuesday, but said it would "definitely" be there by "the latest" Wednesday. It did not come. Dave called every day, and finally Thursday afternoon they said it was in the store, ready for pick-up. This morning Danny came by to pick up our keys and went to LL to load the flooring. The plan was to bring it here so it could sit out and "acclimate" and work would begin Monday. HOWEVER, when Danny got there today, they let him know that they'd GIVEN AWAY OUR ORDER TO ANOTHER CUSTOMER. Really? Who does that?

The past few hours have been spent trying to deal with LL-Chicago's incredibly inept customer service, but ultimately I was able to convince the guy that the right thing to do would be to get his manager to call us today so we could come up with a solution, as our project has now been pushed back, and we have to now coordinate a delivery with our building for Monday (and the office is closed until Monday). All the while, I was practicing breathing techniques so as not to get ugly on him on the phone. I have always said, good customer service is easier to deliver than bad. You know what to do. You have to actively decide to give bad service. You don't have to go over the top to give great service, unless you want to, which would be nice, but GOOD, SUFFICIENT, DECENT, ACCEPTABLE customer service is really easy to provide.

SO. Long story short, the manager called us. He immediately took responsibility and took an overall discount off our flooring per square foot for the inconvenience and error on their part. He also offered to personally pick up the product so we or our contractor could come get it tomorrow. But tomorrow's my birthday, and that's not how to spend a birthday, right? So, we found our building manager in her unit (that's a story for another day) and got approval for a Monday delivery, with receipt by our contractor, so we don't have to take a day off from work. They've guaranteed Monday (on their lives, apparently), so hopefully we'll have pretty updates to share in a matter of days. This change will be fantastic! and dramatic! Now we can release the frustration and be excited again.

For now, I'll leave you with a picture of the bamboo sample of what's coming:

And now we're off to maybe order some new dining furniture!

(deep, calming breaths)

Love that View

Love that view, love the weekend...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Doors/Blessing Update

Courtesy of my good friend, Ash...

"I think they mis-wrote the G - it should be a C:

A Catholic tradition for the Epiphany is the blessing of doors. With chalk the letters CMB are written, symbolic of the names of the 3 magi (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) and also an abbreviation for the Latin blessing Christus Mansionem Benedicat (Christ Bless this House). If your family is interested in this blessing, you can read more about it here. May each of your homes receive  "health, purity, the strength of victory, humility, goodness and mercy" and many other blessings!"

With this new information in my arsenal, I returned to Google and found A BILLION (at least) listings confirming this to be the case. The 19 and the 89 surrounding the three letters represent the year of the blessing (1989). And I have also found an explanation for the G/C confusion - in Hungarian, "Caspar" is "Gaspar"... so the mystery is solved! Thanks, Ash!

Has me thinking about other ways to bless/honor/bring good luck upon a home...


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Painted Doors

This weekend's big project was not the mirror - nor was it a big project. We decided to paint the inside side of the front door, as well as that of the door in the kitchen. We have been deliberating on what to do with the kitchen door for a while... At one point we considered buying like-stainless contact paper to cover it... but then thought that could be too much, and somewhat distracting, plus we couldn't find sheets of it that would be wide or long enough to cover the door, so it would have to be done in sections, which would leave obvious seams... Anyway, bad idea. So then we decided we should paint it. But if we were going to paint it, we needed to decide on a color... the wall color? the cabinet color? a contrast color? Conclusion: cabinet color - white. Here's the door before:

(not the prettiest)
And here's the door after:

(much better, right?!)
And once we were talking about painting the kitchen door, we agreed that the front door should be painted, too. The front door looked exactly the same as the kitchen door, except, you might remember it had some odd equation-looking writing etched into the top of it:

(19 + G + M + B + 89)
We were told by the realtor representing the seller that it was the remnants of a blessing left on the door by a Hungarian priest when the previous owner had the home blessed upon moving in. I have done LOTS of searching to try to figure out what it means, or even if it's truly what he claimed. I haven't found confirmation, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything, I guess. Anyway, I hope it's okay that we covered it!

This is going to be an exciting week at the HSS... we do, actually have a big project starting in a few days... and we'll be excited to share it with you!

Mirror Project

Months ago, our good friends E&Z came over to see our then-new place. I remember we chatted about how to try to compartmentalize all of the things we wanted to do, and how to begin thinking about the things we knew we wanted, but couldn't yet picture as we tried to prepare to make this crazy place our own. E had a great idea about reflecting the water throughout in our design... an idea that's sort of taken over as the guiding principle for much of the work we've already done. It's almost like every change we make is done with the idea behind it being a thank you to whatever stars aligned to make it so we could live here, and have the view we have, and be able to wake up and go to sleep each day by the water. So, thank you to E.

We found a huge mirror yesterday at a thrifty shop in the 'hood, which we've hung over the couch in the living room. We've been searching Craigslist, the numerous vintage/thrift/resale stores in our city, online shops, and anywhere else we could think of for just this find. Yesterday, Dave took Lanie for a long walk, and in the aforementioned neighborhood shop, he found two huge mirrors that he thought could work. We went back together later, and agreed that the bigger of the two could really look great. It's HUGE. It actually used to be a sliding mirrored door, maybe for a hotel closet if that helps you imagine it better. It's about eight feet long, and maybe three feet or a little more wide. We could only get it home by sticking it into the car through the sunroof. I sat in the back and held it, while Dave drove, at approximately 3mph with the flashers on, the five or so blocks home.

The plan is to spray paint the frame... probably black? Maybe a brushed silver? White? Thoughts? But for now, it's up on the wall, and it's amazing to see the lake from the front hall in the reflection when you walk in... and to see the blue hues in the paints we chose in the reflection from the living room.

20th Project - March

Seven months... Here's our beach on this windy, gray Chicago day. Love the little waves.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

For Japan With Love...

Tomorrow I will honor a moment of blog silence for the victims of the unthinkable natural disaster taking shape in Japan.

If you haven't heard of For Japan With Love, please check it out. You can donate directly (in support of ShelterBox), and if you are a blogger, you can consider joining me/us in a day of blog silence tomorrow.


Amongst the endless images we've seen coming out of this news, I came upon this one, of two dogs presumably caught in the tsunami and displaced by its after-effects. As you know, we are MAJOR animal lovers, and I have to admit I was absolutely petrified to click on the link. But I did. And what I found was a picture of animal love, which sums up just why these creatures are so special. One of the two appears to be in a grave state, and the other will not leave his/her friend's side. He/she circles the suffering dog, protecting him/her from anyone who approaches, clearly unwilling to abandon or leave vulnerable his/her furry companion.

There's a link on the page to a donation site for supporting animals affected by this tragedy. It's through World Vets: International Aid for Animals, an organization that sponsors aid efforts for animals around the world. While I hadn't heard of it before, I checked out, and am happy to find such an organization, doing such honorable work on behalf of our animal friends. For some this will be a meaningful, alternate way to participate in the relief efforts on the other side of the globe.

It's easy to get caught up in what's happening in our own present, but moments like this one across the world can and should be a reminder that we're part of something big, and that caring for those you love - your family, your friends, your home - is really what we live for. So we continue to build our Home, here in our own little present in Chicago, and we also continue to care for our bigger home...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lighting: Part II

And now Lighting Part II is complete! This one was a little more complicated. We had a challenge from the get-go because the build-out of the window in the new kitchen wall (and thus the extension of the counter into the dining area) meant we needed to move the dining room table out from under the center of the existing (wack-a-doo) light fixture. As the dining room lighting was set up with the previous wall in place, this meant that we'd need to either hire an electrician to rewire the thing, or find a light fixture that didn't depend on obvious centering to work in the space. As bonafide DIY-ers now, we clearly opted for the latter. Initially we thought we'd go with something big, and maybe flush mounted to the ceiling, taking up so much space that the true center wouldn't matter as much. But we couldn't really see something that big working in our dining/living area, so back to the drawing board. When we went to Home Depot earlier, we looked at several options that we thought could work, and ultimately landed on something that itself was off-center and could be mounted perpendicularly to the table and dining wall, such that the true center, again, wouldn't be as, well, central. Again, I have to give you the "Before" image as a recollection of where this all started...

(yes... it all began with this stunning basket-o-flowers chandelier)
The new light fixture is so different, and certainly light years more modern. We're having a hard time deciding if we will stick with it, but we're leaning toward yes, at least for now. I think making the leap from 1961 to 2011 overnight with one single home accessory is just a little bit of a jolt so we need to let it set in more! Anyway... here it is from installation to lit:

(basket gone!)
(putting up the bulbs and shades was tricky, actually)
(one up, three to go)
(much better, right?!)
(and just to further prove Dave's handy skills... lit!)

Lighting: Part I

I feel like I've been saying "you may recall..." a lot lately, but we've been accomplishing so many easy, beautiful updates, that it warrants recalling the wack-a-doo that was this place when we moved in! Today's installments relate to lighting. Part I, in the kitchen, has already been tackled with great success. Part II, in the dining room, is in-process right now, so I'll have another update shortly. So here's what the previous lighting/fan situation in the kitchen was:

(sorry for the bad lighting... but you can still see it's wack-a-doo-ness)

You may also remember that we joked about it having the tiniest fan blades in the world:

Well, goofy-old-tiny fan has been replaced! We took a trip to Home Depot this afternoon, and found a replacement that, while still small, wasn't as ridiculously small, and is a modern, sharp update for our nearly-complete kitchen. Having never replaced or put together a ceiling fan before, Dave was a little nervous. But once again, he's proven himself a handy handyman, and we have success:

(goodbye ugly oddity!)
(putting together the base for the new fan/light)
(fan: installed! now for light)
(lights going in... and...
(new ceiling fan/light fixture installed and functional!)
Now for the dining room light...


In honor of a visit this weekend from our good friends R&R from sunny Florida, we did a bunch of cleaning up to show off our Home Sweet Schwab and mostly to make room for guests! As a result, I was finally able to put up one of the sets of curtains I bought a few months ago at IKEA. I have been thinking about painting the living room a gray shade for a while, so even though we hadn't yet reached the paint purchasing or application phase, I knew I wanted a gray compliment for that room. I also knew that our curtains would probably stay open most of the time for maximum view-enjoyment. So, they needed to work as framers for the window and to help complete the room. I went for a heavier, dark charcoal-y, heavier linen material. They are simple and straight-forward, classic and lovely (in my opinion). Here's Lanie modeling the well-framed, curtained window:


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Zak Rose

I've been thinking about this post for a while now. I don't quite know how to say what I want to say... I'll just go off the cuff.

We are extraordinarily fortunate (and fully aware of this fortune) to have wonderful, loving and supportive families, and also wonderful, loving and supportive friends, who are also our family. Among these friends, we also have some incredible talents, and to be able to count these among our nearest and dearest is pretty great, just for bragging rights.

One of these, please take note, is our incredible friend Zak Rose. Please pause now and check his work out here. Thank you.

You may remember this base cabinet we bought to add storage and help support the new counter tops in the kitchen:

(courtesy of Home Depot)
We struggled with how to blend this clearly new cabinet in with the old, which we'd painted white. Would painting be enough? Ultimately, we felt we needed outside input, so we consulted with Zak. He encouraged us to try to work on the new cabinet and drawer to get them to match, and offered his services. Obviously, we took him up on his offer. To have the support of friends as we've tackled this project has been more than we knew we'd need at times. But now, to have a friend be part of it in such a notable way, and to be able to see him in the work we've accomplished so far in making this place our home, is just, in a word, beyond.

And behold -- it's amazing:

You would NEVER know they weren't original without serious examination! Can you even believe it?! Here's one of the existing (painted) cabinets for comparison:

While this certainly does not do Zak's substantial talents and artistry enough justice, it's still pretty amazing, and we love it, and couldn't be happier with the result. We never doubted Zak's abilities, but this is absurdly wonderful.

Please, if you're in the Chicago area and are looking for custom work for any reason, consider contacting Zak Rose.

Thank you, Z. We love you.

Butcher Block Cart

We have spent a lot of time debating how to make use of the narrow space between the kitchen pantry and the wall where the electrical panel is. That sounds even stranger now that I've typed it for public viewing. Who worries about these things? Anyway, I digress. You may or may not have been aware that before we bought the new base cabinet that is now in place beside the oven (where the old dishwasher previously resided), we had toyed with the idea of buying (or having built) a large cart with a butcher block top. One that would provide more shelving, but would also roll out and provide more surface space for cutting, prepping, etc. But then, we bought the cabinet, and the rolling cart faded into the distance. Well, it's back! And Dave found one that fits perfectly into that little narrow space by the pantry. And it's adorable! And it's perfect! Did I mention that it is perfect? Here it is:

(in it's new nook)
(close-up, and a different angle)
(butcher block top)
We're debating whether or not to paint all but the butcher block portion white like the cabinets... not sure about that one yet... input?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Living Room

As promised, today I present the painted living room. I mentioned in previous posts that the three paint colors for the connected open spaces (kitchen, hallway(s), and dining/living rooms) were related. The undertone to the kitchen and living room colors (the taupe and the gray) is blue - obviously the hallway is blue. Our idea was to refresh the home and reflect the greatest draw to living here: the water.

Last week we were watching HGTV for a change, and an episode of Designed to Sell provided inspiration. As the possibility of buying a home, and then the very real reality of updating a home, took over our lives, we started paying more attention to design shows, photos, spaces we passed or visited etc. Crown molding has always appealed. However, our ceiling is popcorn-y (sigh), so adding it to this place would look neither smooth/seamless nor elegant at all. So we abandoned the idea. Until the aforementioned DTS episode showed us another option. To create an architectural element, as well as an updated designed detail to the space, the designer added the illusion of molding by painting a thick stripe of white at the top of the room. Both of us reacted thusly, "Oh!" So we entertained the idea of taping off a 5-6" strip from the ceiling down in the living room. It sounded great at first, and then we got nervous. We're not experienced enough with paint to add detail, we thought. This is a little too advanced, we believed. We can't figure out how to keep the paint from bleeding behind the tape consistently, we concluded. And so we dropped it. We could add it later. I went away to a work trip in Nashville, and Dave set to work with slapping the gray (Little Falls) on our living room walls. I came home to a beautiful, fresh looking space. We finished up the second coat on Sunday, and were pleased. It looked great!

Then... Dave was off from work on Monday, and was suddenly re-inspired. No reason not to try the stripe now! He bought Frog Tape (better than the standard blue painter's tape -- again, there will be a separate post soon about the merits of investing in good tape!), thanks to his sister's advice (thanks, Lynn!), and white paint, and... check it out:

(forgive the clutter... next time you see this space it'll be put back together better!)
Now to put some stuff on these walls! Tomorrow: curtains. And once again, how great is Dave?!