Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Granite for a Steal

I was at Home Depot yesterday to pick up some supplies.  Twice I passed this pushcart full of 12x12 tiles up by the front.  Well, despite the neverending list of projects - tiling has never been one of them.  So I didn't even glance down as I passed it.

But when I happened to go by the third time, I actually looked down and saw, not ceramic tiles priced at $1/sq.ft. like I had previously assumed - but granite.  That's right - granite tiles for $1 a sq. ft.


It looked like they were selling off remnants or odd packages.  They only had two packs of the granite - everything else looked like other high-end stone like slate.  But the granite caught my eye - so pretty.  It really only took me a second to go from "Huh?" to "Done deal!" and I was loading them in my cart.  Nevermind that they only had 10 sq. ft. which isn't enough to do our countertops, or a complete bathroom project.  I'll think of somewhere to use them.

Here's the color - Golden Garnet.  I liked that it is pretty neutral colored so it will work well wherever it finds a home.

Sells for $84.55 a case.  Total score!

When I was checking out, the cashier wasn't sure how to ring them up because they didn't have a bar scan.  So he called over his manager, who proceeded to try and give me all 10 sq. ft. for $2 because she thought it was $1/pack.  But I have a strong honesty streak and ridiculously spoke up that it should be $10.  Because it's still a good deal.  The $2 would have just been a better story.

Could there be a kitchen island in the works?  Or a new shower surround?  This one is going to be on the backburner for a LONG time - so I'm not rushing to decide.

Monday, August 30, 2010

West Elm Bedding

I want to get a duvet cover for the Master Bedroom.  We've collected quite a few comforters over the years and they are all in pretty good shape - so I like the idea of getting a new look through a disguise rather than throwing out perfectly good blankets.

I've put off buying a duvet cover for one reason mostly - they are horribly overpriced.  They are basically giant pillowcases - yet they routinely cost as much as an actual comforter or quilt.  Something's not right.

If you are looking on a steal on duvet covers, I suggest taking a look at Overstock.com.  They seem to have quite a few nice looking ones for reasonable prices (around $40).

However, I'm really digging West Elm's duvet selection.  They have some beautiful colors, nice modern designs, are not horribly overpriced, and have the option of matching Euro pillowcases.

I admit that when I first decided on a purple color scheme in the bedroom, my first thought of bedding was the Organic Pin-Tuck Duvet Cover from West Elm for $99 (full/queen).

Of course, Target has a knock-off version for $79.99 called the Kissing Pleat Comforter Set.  Notice it's a comforter set (not a duvet cover) and comes with a bedskirt and shams.

I instantly thought of this look because I remember how beautiful I thought it was when they debuted the color.  However, the pin-tuck/kissing-pleat design has become so ubiquitous it's boring me now.  So moving along.

This won't work in my room at all, but I LOVE it.  $59 for full/queen

I also love this one.  Glam! (Also $59)

But this is the one I want.

I know, not purple.  I need to get downtown to the West Elm store and see this baby in person.  Online it looks like the perfect shade of gold to go with the wallpaper and potential pillows/upholstery fabric.

It's not terribly expensive - $79 for the duvet and $24 for each Euro sham.  But a sale would be super nice.  Or maybe even a Target knock-off of it's own?

P.S.  So I wrote this post ahead of time on Saturday to have it posted on Monday.  On Sunday night, I turned on HGTV to my new fave design goddess/TV host Emily Henderson's special, Secrets from a Stylist.  And what do I see?  My West Elm bedding!  Well, if it gets her thumbs up, I can't be going too wrong.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Girls' Room - Art Inspiration

Can I take a moment to tell you how bummed I am that The New Adventures of Old Christine got cancelled?  It was one of my favorite shows on TV - consistently very funny and in unique ways.  Really, my only gripe about the show was the heavy use of filters that created a hazy effect (you know what I'm talking about if you've seen an episode of Oprah in the past 10 years).  Because obviously a woman in her late '40s is considered too hideous to show on TV without special effects.

I also loved the set decoration.  Old Christine's beach-cottagey house was a gorgeous example of mixing textures.  For most of the series, Christine's house featured a beautiful picture in her living room.

Here's a slightly closer look, but it's a screen grab from an online clip, so you will have to excuse the crappy quality and the fact that Barb's hair is in the shot.

I love the picture.  The colors - the subject - the vibrancy it brings to the room.  Simply adorable.

Once upon a time, when I was first thinking up ideas for my girls' room, I wanted to go with a subtle Alice in Wonderland theme.  Now, my stepdaughters are 7 and 17, so I didn't want anything too precious.  I'm also not a theme girl, but I thought it could be fun to bring in subtle hints.  Like a small white porcelain rabbit, or an antique tea cup on a shelf.  I definitely didn't want the room to feel like a Disney set.

I found these posters at Art.com and was drawing my inspiration from them.  They are by artist Arthur Rackham.

But then I saw the terrible new Tim Burton version.  For a while Alice was everywhere and I nixed the idea.

I kept looking for cute art for the room.  I wanted a fairly big piece since the room is quite small.  So I decided to google the picture from The New Adventures of Old Christine and find out if I could get a print of it.

Unfortunately, the title and artist of the painting are a complete mystery.  Everywhere I looked online, someone had asked the exact same question but never gotten an answer.  Maybe it's a really famous piece and people "in the know" feel like the rest of us are stupid for not knowing.  Or maybe it's just a really cute original by an unknown artist.  Either way, I couldn't find out anything about it.

So I looked at the picture and tried to figure out what I liked about it the most.  I decided that I liked how it was whimsical but not too much.  I liked how it reminded me of childhood and joy, but wasn't sentimental.  I loved the movement.  Could I find a another picture that did all this for me?

Initially, I didn't have much luck.  The search got placed on the back burner.  I'd browse the art section at stores and occasionally do searches online, but I figured that I'd find the right piece when I found it.

And I did.  I came across this New York Time article about an exhibition of Philippe Halsman's work.  Halsman was a famous celebrity photographer.  At the end of his sessions, he would ask the subject to "jump."  According to him, as a person jumps, "the mask falls, so that the real person appears.”  One of his most famous jump pictures is this one of Audrey Hepburn.

Now I love me some Audrey.  Graceful, talented, gorgeous, stylish - she's a Hollywood icon for a reason.  But I dislike most of the posters and prints I find of her.  Most of them are from Breakfast at Tiffany's and when I look at them I see Holly Golightly, not Audrey.  Now, of course I never knew Audrey - but this picture seems to capture her personality perfectly - despite all the bad things she lived through, Audrey had a true joyfulness about her.

If you like this picture as much as me, you are in luck.  When I found it, the only copy I could find was a postcard.  Not quite the statement art piece I was dreaming of.  Months passed with me doing searches now and again.  One day a item popped up on Ebay - a poster-sized print!  LOVE LOVE LOVE.  And only $7.95 plus shipping.  The seller seems to have plenty - so if you want one go here.

Unfortunately, although it is framed I haven't found a mat yet, so I can't show you the final result - but you'll have to believe me when I say it makes the room.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Surankari Mason at Calico Corners

Stumbled across this fabric and fell in love.

Or, as my son would say, "I double wow love it!"

(Yes, I do have the cutest kid in the entire world.  I have given up denying it.)

It's called Surankari Mason and is currently at Calico Corners for $38.99 a yard.  Yikes!

I know, I know.  This is probably a knock-off of some $100/yard fabric.  But on my budget we're looking for knock-offs of knock-offs.  Third generation, baby.

Because I have visions of doing a duvet cover and some pillows.  Major yardage.  But for that kind of money I could buy one ready-made.

So it might just end up as some pillows.

I'm not very familiar with Calico Corners.  Can I hope for a super sale in my near future?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Girls' Room - Hiding the Fake Window

Every room needs an eyesore right?

This is my girls' room/guest room.  It has two real windows, and then this window - which looks into my office.  Currently, we have a desk with a hutch against the fake window on the other side, so really, it looks into the back of my desk.

Don't forget the World's Ugliest and Weirdest Placed Plug-In.  Oh, they don't offer awards for that?

And yes - there is something written on the window frame.  It says "I Heart Me." Our landlord's daughter lived in this room before us and it was completely covered in graffiti.  I'm glad she has such good self esteem and all - but she even wrote on the ceiling.  With permanent marker.  And lots of it.

Did you notice my striped ceiling?  I still absolutely love it.  I had to repaint the ceiling anyway (because of the graffiti), so I went for fun.  However, it was NOT fun to do this.  In fact I got really dizzy measuring, penciling straight lines, and then taping.  A laser level would have been really useful, but I didn't realize I should have gotten one until I was pretty far into the process - and by then it didn't seem worth it to buy one.

I've tried various ways of hiding the window.  I tried a mirror.  Yes, the mirror in the picture.  That's pretty much life here - lots of things laying about with no home.  Anyway, the mirror worked because it hid the window.  Unfortunately, you could only see the upper part of your face because it was so high.

So I thought I could hide the window with an armoire.  I wanted one with drawers on the bottom so we could put the TV in it, and still have storage for clothes and bedding.  The boyfriend found this one for free and I was super excited.  But free is sometimes free for a reason.  It's lovely particle board and not holding up too well.  I re-glued the parts that were coming apart and placed the side with ugly holes in it against the wall.  So it'll work for right now.

Only it doesn't hide the ugly window.  Even flat against the wall - it is not wide enough.  I angled it because the door to the room is to the left - so if I kept it flat against the wall it felt like you were immediately walking into the side of the armoire when you entered the room.

So I think we'll do a little furniture switcheroo and put the bed under the window.  I spent a lot of time searching for tall headboards last night. 

I'd love to build this one myself from Knock-Off Wood's plans, but I wouldn't be able to do the curves until pretty high up (the top of the window is 70 inches from the floor) - so I think it would look stupid.

I started thinking of a nice tufted headboard.  Something like this only taller.

And then I found this picture and LOVE it.  Notice how the pale pink on the inside of the canopy even matches the pale pink already on the ceiling?  Of course it'll be a twin, so much smaller, but I think if I can do it right it will both look elegant and be useful for hiding the fake window.  And I can still do a cute tufted headboard.

I have the ribbon and probably use something like white cotton duck for the white part.  So now I'll have to find the perfect shade of dusty pale pink in a silk or taffeta or something else equally glam feeling.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Life on a Canal

My grandparents had a house on a canal in southern Louisiana and my father-in-law lives on one in Florida.  Both are locations where I would rather not live on the water.   ("Come on in, Mr. Alligator.")  However, I do find them to be a rather romantic place to live.

I watched the fabulous movie Hope and Glory a few weeks back.  It's about a young boy growing up during WWII.  His grandfather lived on a shallow river.  Since gas (petrol) was rationed, they traveled to and from the house via the water.  Such a lovely way to live.

I absolutely love the gondola.  They had a rowboat for practicality, but the gondola is pure heaven.

Too bad canal-living is a bit scarce in central Texas where we are almost constantly in drought conditions.  But a girl can dream.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chevron - Yes Please

I have been wanting to incorporate some chevron into my house for a while now.  Hopefully it's a trend that will stick around for at least a few years.  I love the bold pattern with the muted colors of this fabric.

It's Premier Prints ZigZag Village Blue/Natural.  Fabric.com has it for only $6.98/yard - which is really affordable, especially since they offer free shipping when you spend $35 or more and often have coupons floating about.

I think I'll be using it in my master bedroom.  I've been holding off doing anything in there.  It is such a disaster area.  I see beautiful color schemes or inspiration photos and get all excited, but I was having a hard time forcing myself to pick a direction.  Currently there's not a single piece of furniture in the room that I'm tied to in any way.  Sort of a blank slate.

A really ugly blank slate.

However, I do have some things on hand - and I should use them.

I have a gallon of a pretty cream color, "Heavy Cream."  It's close to the new Martha Stewart color of the same name.

I bought this 5x7 rug at Target forever ago.  I think I paid around $70.  I was so happy that I bought it when I did, because the next time I went they had the exact same rug, but they had tweaked the colors.  Instead of being lovely and muted, they were more saturated.  Does this happen to anyone else?  They also did it with a set of dishes that I bought - they still have the exact design, but the color is just slightly different.  It's really aggravating

Then, a couple of years later (but still several years ago), I bought this wallpaper.  Also from Target.  It was clearanced out to $7 a roll and I bought two because that was all they had.  I'm not usually a wallpaper gal so I didn't really realize that 2 rolls of wallpaper isn't very much.  I had no idea where I would use it - just that I liked it and that it was nice, textured wall-paper.  And I knew it was a bargain.  I've thought of putting it in almost every room in my house at some point, but never pulled the trigger.

So I think my color scheme is coming together.

Sherwin Williams - Today's Colors

I saw this palette when I was searching the Sherwin-Williams website and immediately fell in love.

Today's Colors at Sherwin-Williams

I thought, "It's so bad that I don't have a room I can do these colors in."  I saved the file in my design file and thought, "Maybe the next house."

But a couple of days later, it occurred to me that I did have a room I could use the colors in!

I'm redoing my son's room but I hadn't nailed down a color for the walls yet.  The boyfriend and I had both wanted a blue color, but hadn't found one we liked yet.  We're going to continue the trim from the living room (since the two rooms flow into each other).  That was pretty much the only color I knew we were using.  It's pretty close to the darker taupe color above.

When I saw the picture again, I thought, "That blue is close to the blue that I'm painting the bookshelves for Atticus's room."  And voila - lightbulb moment!

So which color for the walls?

How fortuitous that we actually already have a GALLON of a remarkably close yellow.  Back when we were painting the living room, I bought several gallons of coordinated colors with the idea of painting the rooms that flow off of the living room.  Seems I had forgotten about that.

So I painted a test swatch today.  It's not a terribly huge difference since the walls are already yellow - but they instantly looked much less "crazy bus yellow" and more "antiqued yellow."  Me likes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Unplanned Break

I am trying my best to be very consistent with my blog posts (despite the fact that no one so far has read anything on here), but this week was one of those times when it was just unavoidable.  Tuesday, I was cooking in my kitchen when all the power in the middle of my house went off.  That's the kitchen, hallway, bathroom, and office.  Lovely.  I figured I had tripped something and tried to figure it out.  We have 3 electrical boxes (2 in the house and one on the outside).  I tried all of them but couldn't find that anything had flipped.  So I called the boyfriend to come home and help.  He couldn't figure it out either, but he did run an extension cord to the fridge from another room so that our food didn't spoil in the 100+ temperatures we're enjoying here in Texas.

So my landlords finally came today to fix the problem.  They ran into the same thing as us - couldn't figure it out.  An electrician was called.  What did he do - flipped an outside breaker a few times and wallah!  Turns out the thing was just a little loose.  Lovely.

But oh - how wonderful electricity is once you've been doing without.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yet Another Project Idea

I almost bought this settee on Craigslist this weekend.

Almost.  We've needed extra seating at the dining room table for quite a while.  It's a rectangular, modern-style dining table with four leather Parsons chairs.  (Sorry, I don't have a pic - it is currently covered in construction paraphernalia - except for the one spot cleared off for my son to eat at.)  My mom (the bargain queen) scored the entire set for a steal several years back because the frosted glass top was unevenly frosted.  When she brought it home, I told her that if she ever got rid of it - I had first dibs.  So a couple of years ago, she brought it all of the way from Louisiana to Texas.  My parents are great like that.  Unfortunately, it makes me reluctant to get rid of the furniture they've given us.  In the case of the table - I think it is actually a good thing.  I'd love a round wood table surrounded by slipcovered chairs - but our modern, semi-transparent table takes up less visual space in a room that lacks actual space.  So it'll stick around.

Anyway - we're two chairs short on the odd occasions when we have the entire family at one time - and for some reason no one likes sitting in our substitute chairs (a folding metal chair and a rocking chair that's about 6 inches too low).

I've been drawn to the idea of building a bench.  At first I was going to buy 2 larger chairs for the ends of the table - which I think would be a good solution - but I do like the idea of having a bench that could potentially sit 3 people (well, kids)  if we had the novel idea of having Grandma over for dinner.  I was thinking of a backless version, but then I saw Jenny's gorgeous Chiang Mai settee in her dining space on Little Green Notebook and fell in love.

I love the way a settee paired with a dining table looks both elegant and relaxed.

There's a great post on the trend here.  That's where I found these pictures.

So I've been on the lookout for a settee I could use.  Preferably one like this

or this

Only instead of the $250 that they wanted - something around the $50 mark.

So I thought my Craigslist find was pretty good.  I thought it resembled Jenny's settee from the inspiration pretty closely.  The fabric had a few tears, but it was laminated fabric so I could wipe it down easily until we could recover.  Only $30.  I was happy.  I thought it was a good deal.  Luckily, I decided to take a few hours to think about it (since I am, after all, not supposed to be making ANY Craigslist purchases right now, much less impulsive ones).

And I'm glad I did.  The measurements were a pretty tight fit for the dining table.  And you see those arms - that means you would have to move the settee to get out.  A simple solution would be to put casters on - but since this spot would be geared mostly for the younger eaters - having wheels on it seemed like asking for trouble.

So I didn't buy it.

I did, however, decide to look around a little bit more.  I noticed that the seller had listed his item as a "love seat."  One of the biggest pieces of advice I can share about Craigslist shopping (or Ebay shopping as well), is not to rely on one key phrase when you are searching for a particular item.  I had previously been looking under "settee", "bench" and "loveseat".  I think I had even tried "small couch" at one point.  But I had never tried "love seat." Both ways are correct (according to dictionary.com), but they get very different results on a Craigslist search.  So I tried "love seat."  And found this beauty.

Unfortunately, it comes with a pretty hefty price tag.  $300 to be exact.  And that's after the seller reduced it from $400.  So, it won't be coming home with me anytime soon.

But I did save all of the pictures and have decided that this will be a building project.  It'll be on the backburner for a long time - I can guarantee that.  But I think it won't be too difficult to build and I think the modern design will look gorgeous with the table.  Notice how the wings leave plenty of sliding room for exiting?  And I can pick whatever fabric I like (something pretty with lots of stain repellent).  I'm really looking forward to this one.

Friday, August 13, 2010

HGTV's Design Star

Any other Design Star fans out there?

I watch it religiously.  Every episode of every season.  Must watch TV.

Which is funny, because at the end of most episodes I'm left wishing the producers would finally get around to making a halfway decent show.

And it seems that I am not alone.  Despite the fact that this season has been completely dreadful, it seems like lots of people are watching it and talking (mostly negatively) about it online.  The ratings will probably only encourage the producers to crap the show up more, but I can't help myself.

Sunday is the first time the designers get to work individually since the first episode.  Really HGTV?  Isn't this the final episode?  You would think they would be interested in making sure someone who will land their own TV show could design a room on their own.  Obviously that's not as important as making sure they can be "inspired" by tacky souvenirs and flowers.

The show has turned into a complete commercial. The designers are only allowed to shop at two pre-determined stores for their challenges - and if that store doesn't sell something like fabric (which I think most designers would put up there with furniture for a room's necessities), they just have to deal.  And don't get me started about the lack of carpenters this season - total BS.  When is the last time Vern, Genevieve or Candace put a room together from scratch by themselves?  There's such a thing as setting people up to fail.

Anyway, despite my love/hate relationship with the show, this season has given me one of my favorite new "reality celebs" - Emily Henderson.  She's been a bit of a dark horse in the show - I liked her quirky sense of humor but she didn't seem to get much camera time when it came to her actual design abilities.  Somehow I stumbled across her blog and LOVE IT.  It's called The Brass Petal.  Go check it out.  Right now.  She's so funny and fresh.  Not only do I love the behind-the-scenes scoops, but she has a great design aesthetic. 

(It seems like most of the contestants have blogs - so if you have a favorite you should definitely look them up.  From the interviews I've read here, most of the contestants are not only a lot more talented than you would think based on what we saw on TV, but are also really interesting people.)

I'm hoping Emily will win - but I realize that it is probably Casey - the "bombshell" they expect to pull in more men viewers.  Really? I'm surprised HGTV hasn't noticed that most men watching their channel aren't exactly into girls, but whatever.  Just another bad decision made in a long line of bad decisions.

Go Emily!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

New Rug

Never underestimate the power of a good rug.

Or even an adequate one.

No other surface in our house (well, maybe the kitchen sink) takes as much abuse as our floors.  And yet people routinely opt for the cheapest floor coverings possible.

If you walk through my house looking straight down, you would be reminded of a patchwork quilt.  Almost every single room has a different type of flooring.  Carpet, linoleum, tile - and no two are alike.  My landlords have "friends" in the flooring biz.  At least, that is the excuse they gave for the utter mismatch.  But the worst has to be the carpet that runs from the living room into my son's playroom.  (Technically this doesn't count as two rooms with the same flooring - the living room is only half-carpeted, and it ends at a weird spot that we've been trying to hide with furniture.)  I call it the casino carpet:

Looking at it up close, one might be tricked into thinking "That's not so bad."  One would be wrong.

Not only was it hideous - it showed every spec of dirt so that it never looked clean.  It was loud and busy.  People were so entranced by its ugliness, they would accidentally run into furniture.

To its credit, it is high quality stuff.  It doesn't show any wear after all of these years.  (Probably because it was designed for use in a hotel lobby.  In Vegas.)  I'm not sure how much of a "deal" they got from their friend, but the landlords sure have gotten their moneys worth.  And they weren't too keen on us tearing it up to put something else down.  So, I tried to "make it work."

I thought that I might be able to tone down the rug if the rest of the room was more soothing.  We went with a burgundy on the walls with a khaki trim.  Very Craftsman-type colors.  The ceiling was already a pretty light blue, so we kept that.

Didn't help.  But we survived.

I think most people are like us.  Your house is your home - you're not constantly walking into it with fresh eyes.  There are parts that bug the heck out of you, but if they're not instantly changeable - you adapt.

And then this week, the boyfriend brings home a rug.  A big rug.  He says he wants to try it in the living room.

Cue the Hallelujah choir!

I know, you're probably thinking - that is the most boring rug ever made.  If this was a true design blog it would be chevron or zebra print.  But this isn't a real design blog - this is my house.  And as much as I love chevron rugs (want one for the bedroom in the worst way) - it wouldn't have worked in the space.  At all.

Previously we had tried smaller area rugs, but you could always still see too much of the carpet, and it looked terrible.  So when he saw that they were replacing this large shaggy-type rug at his job, he grabbed it.  It's 10x10.  That was enough to almost completely cover!  We hid the fact that it didn't go wall-to-wall by putting the short end under our couch.  Since we pretty much have a wall o' furniture on that wall (bookcase, couch, and a skirted side table) - you can't tell that it's about 3 inches too short.

Of course, I would have liked it if we didn't decide the best time to install the new rug was at 2 a.m.  We're night owls, but even that was a little much for me - and really he was doing most of the work.  We tried to do one part of the room at a time so we didn't have to move the heavy furniture around too much. 

It's hard to tell what a big difference it makes in the room from the picture.  I don't feel like the living room is ready for its web debut yet - so you'll just have to imagine something 400% better than what it originally was.  We were even able to extend the rug past where the old carpet finished to make the living area feel larger.  And it's very plush - a nice bonus.

Now everytime I walk in our living room, I am filled with joy over the new rug.  It's funny how sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest differences.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Craigslist Addicts - The First Step...

I love Craigslist.


Want to write Craigslist-themed sonnets...  Draw little hearts in my notebook margins with CL in the middle...

And some days I feel like Craigslist really loves me back.  (What do you mean, it's all in my head?)

Now, I am a girl with no room in her house to store a single extra piece of furniture.  In fact - I am trying to get rid of several pieces already in it.  I am a girl who has an ongoing projects list that numbers into the hundreds (at least - I kind of run out of enthusiasm for making a projects list when it gets several pages long). 

I might also be a girl who bought two matching child-size wingback chairs for $10 a pop with the goal of re-upholstering them, and then got them home to realize she has no idea how to do that.  I might be a girl who has promised her boyfriend on multiple occasions (including the last time when the pine dresser came home) that this was it - I would not buy anything else off of Craigslist for a while.  I might have even sworn an oath or crossed my heart.  (Both? And you're sure my fingers weren't crossed? What was I thinking?)

So I am obviously not a girl who should spend valuable time perusing the "Furniture by Owner" section of Craigslist (specifically the $1-$100 group - because I live on a budget even in my dreams).  I am obviously not a girl who repeatedly finds complete steals and tries to rationalize breaking my word (to the love of my life) for used furniture.  I am not that girl.  I am not that girl.

Try and be strong, Kai.

I'm not sure why I bother looking on Craigslist when I'm not in the market.  Most days I don't even have a way to get a piece home (one car family - and it's a small car).  And I always find something.  It's like purposefully falling in love with a gay guy (unless you are a gay guy - then it would be like falling in love with a straight guy) - hearts will be broken.

So I thought, maybe I can share them on the blog? Virtual window shopping is fun from time to time now, isn't it?  And hopefully it will help me resist the urge to give the owners of these diamonds-in-the-rough a call.  Because if there's one thing I've learned from Craigslist is that every day will bring you a new deal.

After reading this post by Maggie Rose I have been dying to get my hands on an oak pedestal base dining table and take it from blah to gorgeous.  Wouldn't this do the trick?

Only $35.  Are they serious?  These are the days when I dream of buying a truck.  Actually, I would want a table with a leaf in it so we could sit the entire fam on occasion.  But it would also look totally beautiful painted white, right?  Lovely piece.

Next we have these office chairs that have sat on Craigslist for weeks.  The poor seller has repeatedly reduced the price and still no bites?  I think they're totally Pottery Barn.

$5 a pop.  This one is really hard to resist.  I don't love my office chair now - and they actually kind of match the wood tone of our desk.  But then I would want to buy 2, because I have plans of eventually changing the random storage hall by our master bedroom into an office space with two desk places.  And $10...  Seriously, I need rehab.

These chairs:

I die!  You would think that I really love wingback chairs, but I actually don't care for them much.  My scavenger boyfriend once brought home 2 wingback chairs when we lived at our old house and I sold them super cheap at a garage sale just to get them out of my house.  I do like the  new modern ones with straighter lines.  I usually hate the Queen Anne (?) style legs like these chairs have.  But the exaggerated curve on the arms just does it.  LOVE!  The kicker - $25 for the pair!  Of course they need re-upholstering - but these babies are beautiful!

And last of all, this one really hurt

I've been in the market for a china cabinet since we moved into this house.  My current china cabinet is from Ikea and it is too small - both for the place and the amount of dishes I have in there.  The seller originally priced it at $60 (a steal!) and then reduced it to $35. 

I actually tried to talk Chris (the boyfriend) into letting me have this one.  He's lucky that it was so big that I needed his help moving it - or it might have been a "he'll find out when I get home" type of purchase.  For a moment, I almost had him convinced.  I talked about how trendy it is now to paint these white on the outside and have a pop of color on the inside.  I could easily sell it for $200 when I finished. 

"If I sold it." 

Nail in the coffin. 

For a second he was leaning my way and then I goofed by admitting that I wanted to keep it.  Oh well, it was probably too tall for my house anyway.  And how the heck was it going to fit in the back of our Mazda Protege?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Some Days You Get a Bargain...

I was raised to look for bargains.  My mother is a bargain-hunting phenom.  She was one of seven children, raised in the backwoods of Louisiana.  She learned how to sew, not because it was crafty or cool, but because she had to make her own clothes.  They farmed, hunted, and raised livestock for food.  She started working at 14 years old.  There was never a time my mother did not know the value of money and how to be thrifty.  While I was growing up, my dad worked in construction and was frequently between jobs.  My mom worked wonders with the small income they scraped together, and she tried to teach her three daughters her bargain-hunting skills - they are indeed skills.

I doubt my mother owns a single item of clothing that she paid original tag price for.  While others were getting "deals" on used clothes from Goodwill, my mother knew that if you shopped on the clearance racks and the sale racks, you usually end up getting new for cheaper than they sell it used at thrift stores.  We did our back-to-school wardrobe shopping at a Dillards outlet.  (I don't know if they have these around anymore - similar to a Last Chance Neiman Marcus store - it is where all the goods go when they don't sell).  She bought bathing suits in September and winter coats in April.  Toys were bought on sale and hidden away until a birthday or Christmas rolled around.  (Note to anyone attempting this:  Make one stash and put everything there.  I made the mistake of storing my son's birthday presents in at least three different places and I recently found a "stash" - two weeks after his birthday.  Guess it'll wait until Christmas.)

When I became an adult and started working full time, one of the first things I promised myself was that if I saw something full price in the store that I liked - I would buy it!  No more restricting myself to just the sales racks.  I was proud of myself for being able to afford full price!  In fact, a lot of times I wouldn't even look at the sales rack - on purpose.  I wasn't mad at my mom for making us wear clearanced-out clothes (because really, we always had nice clothes), but I felt that I had reached a level of success when a budget didn't matter.

Well, that was short lived.  Anyone with bills will tell you that budget does matter.  I re-learned that it was more fulfilling to get 2 sweaters for my money instead of 1.  I still buy things full-price if it is something I can't live without or something I know is well worth it in quality.  But, at heart, I am a bargain-seeking fiend, just like my mother.  I admit, sometimes I get too obsessed with getting a "good deal."  Sometimes I get burned.  But I am proud that with my help, my boyfriend's one small income supports a family of 6, while some of my friends make double what he makes a year and are only able to support themselves.

Lately, I have gotten into online shopping in a major way.  We're not buying groceries over the internet, but most of my clothes and home decor stuff.  I love being able to do a little research and find the exact same thing 10% cheaper than you were looking at it in the store.  However, besides the usual warning that you should be extremely careful about buying things online, I'd like to add "Sometimes you will be disappointed."

Today I was burned twice.  Ouch.

First:  I frequent a blog called Hip2Save.com.  I can't read it every day because a lot of times the writer, Collin, posts deals that are just too good to pass up.    A couple of weeks ago she posted that Graveyardmall.com was selling a collection of 9 sunglasses for $9.99, plus you would get a 10th pair free for mentioning a Hip2Save reader code.  Now, I have a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses that have been my go-to sunglasses for at least 4 years.  They are amazing.  I don't take good care of them - they are constantly just thrown in my purse without protection - I'm always mislaying them so it is a wonder they haven't been destroyed by being sat on or stepped on.  The best part about them was that they were free, thanks to my scavenger boyfriend.  Anyway, I didn't need sunglasses, but I talked myself into the deal because I could keep a pair in the car (for when I can't find mine) and give some to my stepdaughter who has a sunglasses collection.

Well, I got the sunglasses.  Not only were 2 of them used and scratched up - they only sent 7 (not 10) and one was a pair of men's sunglasses.  I swiftly sent an e-mail (put it in writing!) to their customer service department detailing my disappointment. 

(Update:  No response to the e-mail.  So I called their customer service number and (after a few tries to get through to a real person), spoke to a very nice lady who refunded me most of what I had spent - without me asking.  I was actually asking how to send the sunglasses back and she laughed like that was crazy talk.  (So - you don't want your own merchandise back?)  Will I shop with them again - probably not.  Since I knew the sunglasses were overstock from other stores, I figured some of them would be less than perfect from being on the floor.  But for a company to send 7 items instead of 10?  No, thank you.)

Second:  Another package!  Remember those drawer handles I was gushing about only 2 days ago?  Remember me bragging what a great deal I scored?  Well, I opened the envelope they came in and my face immediately fell.  Although they were (at least) all there, there hadn't been any protection between the drawer pulls and most of them were scratched up.  If they got scratched during shipping.  Some of them had a weird residue/paint thing on them (like they maybe weren't 100% new) and one was bent (?).  One was also a slightly different color than the rest - more of an antique bronze than black.

Now, since I bought this off of Ebay, I could have easily given the seller a bad rating and called it a day.  I'm not going to return them - I'll probably just paint them a different color and make them work.  But, the seller does accept returns, so I didn't feel right giving him negative feedback since I wasn't willing to return them.  Instead, I jotted down another "disappointed customer" letter and pressed send. 

(Update #2:  The person behind Farrs Home Store quickly responded.  He told me that he hadn't had a complaint like mine before and he always ships handles that way.  The backplates do have two very sharp points sticking out of the back of them - so maybe that is what caused the damage and regular handles shipped all in one envelope would arrive not scrached up.  Without asking (again - at least I was disappointed by companies with stellar customer service), he refunded me the entire purchase amount, plus shipping, and told me to keep the handles.  I would probably do business with them again.  They had a very unusual selection compared to other stores I looked at, and I was very impressed with the customer service - so much so that I left a positive review in the end.)

Has this deterred me?  Not in the slightest.  Some days you get a great bargain.  Some days you get what you pay for.  Of the bunches of items I've bought online in the past few months, these were the only two disappointments.  They just happened to arrive on the same day - a double blow.  I would definitely be more upset if I had blown a lot of money - but that is another bargain-hunter secret:  it's hard to get upset about something that was close to free.

(And my above updates should go to show that sometimes a nicely worded e-mail or polite phone call will make up for getting a disappointing product.)

Sorry about the verbose blog entry.  I'll be back tomorrow with lots of pictures.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Room Inspiration - Boy's Room

My son's "room" is actually the playroom off of the living room.  Although there's a door frame between it and the living room, there's no door - and to add one would make the living room feel a thousand times smaller than it already feels.  My son doesn't sleep in there - he sleeps in a toddler bed in our room.  I know, I know - he's 4.  But this house has funky wiring and was built by handymen according to whatever mood they were in that day.  I don't think that we're living in a death trap, but I am a little too paranoid to trust him sleeping so far away from us.

Anyway, a while back I decided to finally pay some attention to this room.  Up until then, we had basically shoved all of my son's toys onto a mismatched collection of shelves and called it a day.  It's a small room - 8 1/2 x 11 1/2 - so I decided I needed to really concentrate on designing a room that was functional and had lots of organization.  But first I needed some inspiration.

My son is really into cars.  REALLY.  He has a huge Hot Wheels collection thanks to his older brother and a dad who can't take him grocery shopping without buying a new one.  So, obviously a car theme would be appropriate.  But I didn't want to go to "kiddie" theme in the room - it is exposed to the living room and there are already a gazillion toys in there to prove that it is a playroom.  Plus, I'm sure my 14-year-old stepson (who sleeps in there when he visits) would enjoy not sleeping under a cartoon animal of some sort.

I started looking around for some cool artwork.  I really liked these type of vintage racing posters from art.com

I played with the idea of fixing them to a board backing and distressing them to make them look truly vintage.  But I realized that what I really found appealing was the mix of futuristic and retro.  Have you ever been to Disney World?  Some years ago they gave Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom an overhaul.  The theme was Retro-Futuristic.  Instead of the ugly modernistic landscape of Tomorrowland's past, they decided to give it the look of how early sci-fi comic strips envisioned the future.

I wanted to go more in that theme.  But I had a lot of problems finding art to support it.  And since none of the furniture we had was extremely modern, I knew the art would be the key to bringing the theme to life.  One day, a web search unearthed Steve Thomas on Zazzle.  He's an artist who designed an entire series of posters that perfectly embodied my Retro-Futuristic theme.  Not only are they beautiful with incredible colors, but they have a dash of humor to them as well.

I had found Zazzle a couple of years ago when we were planning a trip to Disney (it all comes full circle, doesn't it?) and I briefly thought of making my family wear matching t-shirts.  But I had no idea that they had artists who sold their work through Zazzle - it's called ARTSPROJEKT.  With Steve Thomas' posters, I had the choice of 3 poster sizes (all very reasonably priced - especially considering the prices I had previously been contemplating at art.com).  You can even have them custom-framed.  They print the posters for you when you order, and you can even pick what type of paper you want them printed on. 

I knew I wanted to do a row of 3 posters, although I would have gladly bought the entire series if budget allowed.  I ended up choosing Travel to Jupiter, Travel to Saturn, and World's Fair Shanghai - mostly because I felt their colors were very complimentary.  I bought the Portfolio size (roughly 10x16) and because I bought 3, I received 5% off.  Total cost= $27.25.  (Shipping was free, but that may have been a special at the time or a coupon I got off of Retailmenot.com - Sorry don't remember.)  Not only are they beautiful, but I love that they are fairly unique - I don't see them every time I walk into World Market.

Please ignore the bright yellow paint (haven't picked a new paint color yet - therefore the pictures are not actually hung) and the bedspread (haven't decided it if will actually work or not).

A quick word about the frames.  I like standard frames and mats - they're cheap.  However, the posters are an unusual size and I was having no luck finding frames off the shelf.  Sadly, the posters sat in their shipping envelope for months while I half-heartedly looked around for an option we could afford since custom framing was not in the budget.

Wal-Mart to the rescue!  Sometimes I am amazed by Wal-Mart.  I rarely shop there because I find it to be a fairly unpleasant shopping experience.  They are improving a lot with their selection of home goods, and sometimes their prices can't be matched, but I always do much better on groceries shopping in grocery stores.  So Wal-Mart is not the first place I look to find something, but when all of my other searches were coming up empty - I gave it a whirl and found these babies:

$11.91 for 3 frames with free shipping to my house.  Not a typo:  $11.91 for 3!  I read the mostly positive reviews and made my selection ($12.89 after tax), but was still a little worried that they would show up cracked or really cheap-looking.  I was pleasantly surprised when they came in.  The frame part is black plastic, but that makes them really light so I don't have to worry about using anchors when I hang them up.  Behind glass, the posters look much more like high-end art.  If you notice, the frames are actually a little larger than the posters.  Instead of doing custom mats, I simply turned the white paper that came with the frame around, centered the poster, taped it, and framed it.  It looks like a more expensive floating treatment and works with the frames.

The frames are front-loading.  This picture shows how the glass pops out of the frames.  I don't know if I'm crazy about this style, but it was easy to install and hurt less than bending those little pieces of metal down to keep your picture backing in place.  And yes, that white stuff on my nail is paint, and not the nail polish variety.