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Operation clearinghouse: Get rid of the old (or, let’s be honest, trash), make room for the new

3 Feb

As we go through this house redecoration process, I’m vaguely following Apartment Therapy’s Home Cure. I went through this twice in my single-girl apartment in San Francisco. For a home dec newb like myself (especially at the time), it was immensely helpful in just providing a way through. I find it’s so easy for me to get lost in endless to-do lists around projects that I don’t accomplish much and I feel needlessly anxious.

Dave's Ikea Granas chairs

These chairs, from Dave’s single-guy apartment, are now on Craigslist.

One of the most helpful ideas in the Home Cure is the outbox: a place where you stick all the stuff that you either want to get rid of or are considering getting rid of. When I lived in SF, there was a Goodwill dropbox directly across from my apartment, so I’d add things to my outbox and on Sundays, I’d log it in and lug it across the street.

Together, Dave and I are not so organized. Dave once had recycling in the back of his truck for something like 4 months, and it took me two months to take all the leftover wedding stuff (vases, etc.) to a Goodwill drop-off that was maybe 2 or 3 miles from our house.

But we have a lot of crap to get rid of. And damn it, this week I am determined to get rid of it.

  • Remove all the cardboard. As we’ve been filling up the house, buying stuff for the nursery, and just ordering everyday things, we’ve been collecting a lot of boxes. I was determined to get rid of them all before New Year’s. On Sunday night, I finally did. Our dog, Dean, did escape through the open gate while I was doing that, but after a brief moment of panic and Dave tracking him down when he saw Dean run across the street to say hi to (read: jump up on) a neighbor, he was safely returned to our house. And the cardboard is ready to be picked up.
  • My single-girl apartment Ikea Ivar chairs

    My single-girl apartment Ikea Ivar chairs

    Sell stuff on Craigslist. We have 12 extra kitchen chairs. Yes, 12 extra. Two from my single-girl apartment, four from Dave’s apartment, and six 100-year-old chairs we bought for $200 ($200! for 6 chairs! what a deal!) because we were sick of the mismatched set. I then got sick of the fact that two of the chairs fell apart when you picked them up, and, as the primary light-bulb-changer in the house, I didn’t feel comfortable standing on them. So we found six more today (for $225! what a deal!) at the Alameda Antiques fair. All are now for sale on Craigslist.

  • The 100-year-old chairs

    An improvement on the mismatched set largely because these match. But these, too, are now on Craigslist

    Donate stuff to Goodwill. We didn’t register for too many kitchen things because we each came into the marriage with full kitchen set-ups. But there were some things we wanted to upgrade: the mismatched glasses (with no good option for double old-fashioned glasses), the good pots with no lids, the mediocre pots with lids, the coffee maker that made only enough bitter coffee for us each to have one mug, the wine rack neither of us liked, etc. All that is getting entered in ItsDeductible on Tuesday and getting donated. And between getting rid of the cardboard and this, we will suddenly have a clear-ish walkway in our garage. AMAZING!

My newly painted dresser!

31 May

My finished dresser!

One of the remaining projects in my Apartment Therapy Spring Cure this year was to paint my dresser. Though my apartment is too small to paint in, I do have a backyard. Finally, this weekend, the rain let up enough to paint it. I picked up a can of Sherwin-Williams Mythical on my way home from jury duty, picked up some sandpaper and primer, dug out my putty knife, and got to work.

The first order of business was removing the heavily chipped paint, the original paint, on the top. I went at it with a putty knife and got most of it off after about an hour, but the rest was pretty stubborn. Fortunately, my fab neighbor, Pat, lent me his power sander, so I sanded the rest down to a fairly even surface.

To give myself some practice painting (the last time I painted furniture was more than 10 years ago, and I did a HORRIBLE job), I put on some primer. In their excellent how-to post, Young House Love recommended oil-based primer underneath latex paint to reduce bubbling. So that’s what I did. I let it dry overnight, then spent Sunday painting three coats of the purple paint.

It took me about two hours to get the chipped paint off and the top sanded down to an even finish.

I was so afraid of putting on too much paint, that I went way too light on the first coat, only a little light on the second coat, then got it almost just right on the third coat. I was particularly careful on the top trim, bottom trip, and detail around the legs, but by the time I got to the second coat, I realized I was missing all the nooks and crannies. I painted over those with some watered-down paint, and that seemed to do the trick.

Today, I let it finish drying outside (it’s been about 22 hours since I put on the last coat), then put it back in my room. I had hoped to salvage the original hardware, but sadly, one of the drawer pulls broke as I removed it. I went to Anthropologie today and picked up a whole new set of replacements.

Everything is back in my dresser, but I’m going to wait until tomorrow to put everything back on top. Although it was really nice to be outside all day yesterday painting, I really, really, really don’t want to accidentally ding it and have to retouch the paint anytime soon. I’m so excited to have this done! It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good for a first attempt!


The finished living room | Apartment Therapy Home Cure

17 May

My reorganized living room!

My awesome property management company, their contractors, and I have been diligently working to get a leaky window in my apartment fixed. Unfortunately, it’s involved much more work than anyone could have anticipated. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working with the contractors to get the ceiling patched, the wall repainted, and, as the final step of the saga, replacing the carpet. This whole process put much of my AT Home Cure on hold, which was frustrating. But it all was resolved today, when my carpet was replaced and I put my home back together!

My reading nook.

The big change in this room was rearranging it to be a much more conversation- and entertaining-friendly space. I did this in the beginning of April, but I couldn’t put down my rug (the rug guy told me it is very difficult to get mildew smells out of tapestry rugs–who knew?) until the carpet was replaced. Since I took those photos, I moved my small bookshelf under my coat hooks so I have more of a proper landing strip. I need to find a new end table for the couch (and my poor plant, which has not been getting enough sun).

In the back of my mind, I always wanted to make this room a more inviting place to practice my instruments. I moved my two guitars, my mandolin, and my amp to the previously empty corner. Since most of my music books, strings, picks, etc. are in my landing strip bookshelf, now everything is more accessible.

Another view.

I am soooooooo happppppyyyyyyy to have my living room all back together again, with my fabulous rug. Now I just have to finish my other remaining AT Home Cure projects: sewing the curtains for the kitchen, repainting my dresser, changing the ribbon around my mirror, and making those Union Jack pillows.

Wireless router tip (courtesy of the nice customer service lady at AT&T): Lift your router off the carpet. This greatly improves reception.

Union Jack pillow colors | Apartment Therapy Spring Cure 2010

10 Apr

It is FREEZING today, so instead of going out and shopping for home items, I am sitting in my house figuring some home things out on my computer. I found some great wool felt colors on Purl Soho’s website, so I used a graphics program to play around with two color combinations for my Union Jack pillow idea.

Here they are with the quilt and sheets I bought for my bed.

Union Jack pillow colors: I'm leaning toward the two greys.


Now I have to decide what size pillows I’m going to make. I’d rather do rectangular than square, but the square pillow forms will be much easier to find, and it seems it would make it easier to get the angles right on the flag.

Oddly enough, the felt and sheets are almost the exact same shade as the color I’m thinking of painting my dresser, Sherwin-Williams Mythical.

Tackling the shopping list | Apartment Therapy Spring Cure 2010

10 Apr

400-thread count sheets for $43! What a deal!

I am both ahead and behind in my Spring Cure this year. I made great progress in my kitchen and reorganizing my living room (yay!). After an initial surge of activity, my bedroom, the room I wanted to focus on the most, has been sadly neglected.

So I decided to focus on getting a few items off my shopping list and into my home. I just ordered my dream clock, the Theo Williams jet alarm clock from Sperenza Gallery in Texas–the only place that still had it. And then I found quite a few much-needed, though boring, items on Amazon:

  • A new backup drive for my computer, highly recommended by CNET.
  • New sheets. 400 thread count set for $43! The cheapest I found, in something close to the right color, was $80.
  • A new laptop case. (OK, not really part of the Home Cure, but part of my goal to get out of my home and into the world, even when I have to work on my computer)
  • A rotating-plug surge protector. This sounds dorky, but it is SO USEFUL. I have an outlet right behind my couch, and using this kind of surge protector means that I can push my couch closer to the wall, saving precious inches of floor space.

In the process of ordering all this, I dumped an entire glass of water on my desk and onto all my cables behind my desk. This post on cable organizers helped me narrow my options down to the Cable Turtle. The cable organizers are cheaper on (and shipping is cheaper, too).

I love online shopping because you know exactly what you’re paying throughout every step. But still, as I got ready to hit “Place Your Order” on Amazon and, I felt a moment’s panic. Last year, I did not budget well for my Cure, and I ran out of money (or rather, ran up my credit card) by spending it on nice-to-haves instead of need-to-haves. I don’t want to make that same mistake this time. I’m going to hold off on the cable stuff. Phew. I feel better already.

My deep-cleaned kitchen | Apartment Therapy Spring Cure 2010

6 Apr

Week 2 of the Cure always blows my mind. When you set out to clean every surface in your kitchen, you don’t realize exactly what all it will involve. It is both far more labor-intensive a task than I expect it to be and far more fulfilling a task than I expect it to be. I love cooking. I love having a clean kitchen. And after the deep clean, my kitchen always feels SPARKLING!

Once again, I didn’t take before photos, but here are some of the afters, which took several revisions before they finally became true “afters.”

The busiest corner in my kitchen, with freshly reorganized shelves

After having several BBQs and dinner parties (and also failing to make the bottles of limoncello I planned to give everyone for Christmas a few years ago), I had amassed quite a ridiculous liquor collection. I kept the makings for my favorite drinks–Sazeracs, Old Fashioneds, and margaritas–on an accessible shelf and moved everything else (which I plan to use at my birthday party in a few months) way up high.

Close-up of my organized shelves

Also, I drink coffee every morning. I usually just shake my coffee out of the paper bag it comes in, but I often end up spilling a fair bit of it and feeling grumpy about it. So I poured my coffee into a glass jar. Now I can spoon it out without spilling as much AND it looks lovelier on my shelf.

I got these diner mugs at Loulou’s Lost and Found in Boston and have always regretted not getting more. If anyone knows where to get them, let me know. These say “Black Jumbo Coffee” and “Coffee! Nice and hot!”

My clean stove and table and chairs

I briefly had my table aligned differently (a short end was against the left wall), but I moved it back to this position. It feels more open this way.

One thing I learned: don’t cook while trying to clean your kitchen. Especially don’t roast a whole chicken, bake bread, make Rice Krispy treats (even though that will help get rid of a box of Rice Krispies that had been unopened in my cabinet for ages), roast asparagus, and make chicken stock. That didn’t speed up the process.

My bookshelf, in my kitchen. This needs serious editing.

This bookshelf is still kind of a disaster. I need to declutter it in a big way. I’m leaving that and my storage shelves for the “home office” week. All my cookbooks are on the top shelf, and all my copies of Martha Stewart Living (collected over a decade or more) are on the bottom shelf. I moved all my “books to read” off my desk and to that horizontal pile on the middle shelf.

Testing out the new fabric for the curtains hiding my storage shelves

The curtains I had covering my storage shelves before were made of this great yellow-and-green polka dot pattern fabric from ReproDepot. But the yellow just blended into the yellow walls of my kitchen, and it dragged down that area a bit. I initially bought this large-print fabric for a tablecloth, then was going to get a related print–same motif, smaller pattern–for the curtains. IKEA sold out of the smaller print, so I bought more of this. I kind of like it. Sewing these curtains will be my weekend project.

The old curtains next to the new ones.

I still loved that polka-dot fabric, and besides my mixing bowls, it was the only avocado green I had in the kitchen. I couldn’t just throw the fabric away! It did keep nagging me that the fabric in the screen hiding my water heater were so stained and, well, disgusting. You can see it in some of the photos. It took less than one polka-dot curtain panel, an hour with a pair of needle-nose pliers, and some upholstery tacks to replace the stained fabric.

Old curtains become my new screen!

I’m pretty happy with what I’ve done! (FYI, that apron on the left is what determined the color scheme for my kitchen: tomato red, orange, yellow, avocado green, and the pretty robin’s egg blue.)

My new living room | Apartment Therapy Spring Cure 2010

6 Apr

As I’ve been working on this Home Cure, I have felt this pull toward my living room. I couldn’t quite figure out what was wrong with it. But the more I read about flow and thought about the energy in my house (yeah, I know I sound like a hippie), the more I realized that the living room was the problem. Once I discovered, I came up with a solution! I just had to wait until the carpet people came to replace my carpet (and I could replace my awesome rug) to make it happen.

Well, I couldn’t wait. In a burst of energy, I rearranged my living room. I forgot to take before photos, but here are the afters.

My couch is now along the long wall, near the windows.

The desk, instead of being the first thing you see, is tucked in the back.

One of the big problems in this room was that I was spending A LOT of time on my computer. I hate being on the computer when I come home. I would rather be sitting on my couch reading or playing my instruments. So I intentionally took my computer out of the nice spot by the window, where I could work and look outside at our nice garden, and stuck it in a corner with zero view. Instead, my couch is in the sunnier spot, making it a nicer place to sit.

My new reading nook!

Even before I moved the furniture around, I knew I’d have to get a lamp for this corner. When I moved my tomato chair to that corner, I realized it would be a great place to curl up and read the paper or a book, but I’d need a lamp. I had this one in my bedroom, but it never really worked in there. And now that I’m changing my bedroom colors, the orangey lampshade didn’t work there, but it looks pretty good in the living room.

Back around to the couch, landing strip, and the sunny windows

My landing strip, just inside the door, uses a teacup to hold my keys (and batteries I need to recycle). It’s also been a great plant stand for that plant in the purple pot (I don’t know what kind it is, but I’ve had it for about 5 years or more).

The thing that really amazes me about the changes are that, even though my apartment does not get much light at all, the room feels so much brighter and happier. I can’t wait til I can get my awesome rug back down on the floor. I love that rug. That, and a few small tweaks, will make this the living room of my dreams!

Though, now I wonder if I should get curtains… Hmmm…

Better flow in the living room

4 Apr

My entire apartment, courtesy of

One recommendation in Apartment Therapy is to find a floor planner tool and use it to come up with a new layout for a room that’s bothering you. I kept putting this off, but yesterday, I thought that there’s got to be an online floor planner tool somewhere.

And there is! I mapped out my entire apartment on

Even though I’ve been trying to focus on my bedroom for this Spring Cure, I keep coming back to my living room. It’s got terrible flow.

I love that my desk is in the corner with two windows, but I hate how my couch feels so far back. When I put it there, I thought that it would be a good place to sit and look outside, but it’s not terribly inviting. I end up spending a lot of time at my desk and not much time on my couch or in my side chair. Also, when people come over, they don’t feel beckoned toward the couch, since it’s wedged back there. It’s not inviting.

So I played around with some other designs. Since I’m going to have to move all my furniture out of my living room to have my carpet replaced soon, I might as well reorganize everything, right?

Here’s what I came up with:

This, to me, feels more like a living room with a desk in it rather than the current home office + seating area vibe. I keep my current landing strip, which is handy. The couch will actually gets some sunlight, which will be really, really nice. My desk chair won’t be right in the doorway, and I have three seating positions, if you turn my desk chair around.

I think I love it. I can’t wait until they replace the carpet!

Also, I discovered my apartment is roughly 418 square feet! Not too shabby!

Brilliant ideas: Union Jack throw pillows

24 Mar

The one thing I remember from the one episode of “Man Shops Globe” that I saw was artist Becky Oldfield and her gorgeous quilts made from reclaimed Union Jack flags. I have been a devout anglophile since my mom had me watching Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery as a kid, and I think the British flag is one of the most beautifully designed flags in the world. (I work at a travel magazine, I see a lot of flags.) I really, really, really loved those quilts. But did I really want to be sleeping under a Union Jack? Probably not. Though it would go nicely with the Penguin Classic print I would love to hang over my bed…* Rule Britannia.

When I started coveting the Rosette quilt at Anthropologie, I thought about buying the matching pillows. But at $58 each, I really could not justify it. Then I remembered Oldfield’s quilts. What if I made a Union Jack pillow in grey, purple, and white? Brilliant!

Union Jack pillow, from Henry Road

Molly's felt flower pillow, from

I’m thinking something like this (left), design-wise (so a true version of the flag). At first I was thinking of using some cool calico from Reprodepot, but now I’m thinking solids. Maybe even felt, like these felt flower pillows (right), from Purlbee, so I can layer the stripes on top of each other without having to quilt it all together.

Update: Oldfield herself has printed Union Jack pillows!

*Ouch! The 27.5 x 17″ version is 99 British pounds ($147). The much-cooler 55 x 35″ version is 299 pounds ($445)! Bloody hell.

New quilt

24 Mar

As I walked to my Muni stop from doing a weeknight run, I thought, “Maybe I’ll stop by the Apple store and buy a laptop case!” Then I thought, “No, that’s too expensive.” I passed the Apple store, and I thought, “Maybe I’ll stop by Anthropologie to check out my dream quilt!” Then I thought, “OK, but I won’t buy it yet.”

Well, I bought it. As I carried it up to the cash register, a nice saleslady in a cute pixie cut said, “I LOVE that quilt! You’re going to be so happy.” And guess what? I am.

My new quilt and throw!

I had put off buying this because, well, it’s expensive, and I thought I’d need a new duvet cover (additional expense). But after I removed my dark brown duvet cover, I realized that I don’t even need to buy a new one yet. Since I sleep with a top sheet, I can use the plain comforter. My bed is feeling very cloud-like. I love it!