Category Archives: Uncategorized

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So, pretty much anytime I stop blogging it’s because Something Big Happened. In this case, not only did we move again (only about 5 minutes away and to a much better house), but we also opened up a furniture/housewares store.

I know, no big deal right?

When we moved down here in November we had a real hard time finding furniture, housewares, pretty much anything to outfit our house. At least not that cost us a ton of money. Steven and I started building our own furniture and some furniture for a few select clients of Steven’s. But word got out quick (I mean, we did advertise this, so it’s not that surprising), and soon Steven was making far more furniture than he was repairing homes and my living room looked like a woodshop. Not really my thing, you know?

We had already talked about “One Day” maybe opening up a store, though we were thinking in different terms (a general store maybe) but with more and more orders coming in and the need for a work shop becoming more pressing we thought, well why not just do it all now? We still had a healthy amount of savings and would even if we opened, and Steven had the flexibility to jump headfirst into it. There really wasn’t ever going to be a better time. The universe seemed to agree and a large store front with a perfect workshop area in the back was available, right in town. The only issue with the whole building was that there was a window where a door needed to be for it to work for us, but fortunately the owner also owns the hardware store and we worked out a deal where he cut and installed a door for us. The rent is fair (especially considering we have a workshop attached to the store) and there’s plenty of space for us to show case everything. So, we took a leap of faith and signed a three year lease. Given that we’ve only ever lived in one city for more than three years (since becoming adults) this was a huge commitment for us, but we’re still happy with that decision and with our new home.

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We named the store Woodstock (a play on wood furniture, which is our stock. Also, we thought the name would go over well here. The island has that kind of vibe). We spent a month and a half painting, building, ordering gazillions of things from sellers on Etsy and planning (and yes that’s a ridiculously short amount of time to go from inception to opening our doors and we lucked out that we have so many good friends already on the island and the resources to make it happen).

Our schtick is “hand made”. Most of the things on the island are mass produced. People order what they can get, or bring it over from the main island and as a result there’s very little that’s hand crafted. There are some amazing artists and creative folks on the island, so it’s a little unfortunate that so much for the house and home is mass produced. But that gave us a great opportunity to do something different and since we’re pseudo-hipsters and we love the whole “artisan” thing, it just made sense to try to source everything from small producers around the globe.

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On March 1 we opened our doors, and while I’m not one to get all mushy about things, the response thus far has been kind of overwhelming. We’ve only been open for less than three weeks and we already have to hire someone just so Steven (and I, when I’m able, since I still work full-time) can actually build all of the orders we’re getting. People come in to tell us how beautiful things are and we get stopped by people telling us how happy they are that we opened. The community has really rallied behind us and bolstered us up and it’s so beyond amazing that it’s really hard for me to put into words.

The actual opening was a whirlwind. I had a major work deadline that I didn’t know about when we picked the opening date and of course we both got sick, but it was fun, I was able to dress up and decorate and make food and host and it was just great. People hung out until well past when our grand opening was over and all-in-all we had almost 80 people show up, which was a great turnout considering we forgot to do any real advertising. The opening deserves it’s whole own post, but considering we forgot to take pictures and were almost delirious by the end of it, suffice to say it was awesome. Here are the pictures we managed to get:

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(Please note: we were so sick by the time the last picture was taken and we totally forgot to get any actually good photos of us. We’re so good at things)

In the meantime, if you’re ever in Vieques, Puerto Rico please stop by!

New Years and The Office

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Well, Happy New Year. I’m more than happy to ring in 2014 this year, as 2013 was probably one of the worst years of my adult life. While alls well that ends well (and boy, did it end well), it was an extremely trying year, both financially and emotionally that had far more downs than ups. But I’ve been blown away by the kindness, generosity and caring a lot of our friends and family have exhibited over the last few months, and I think going through trials and tribulations are good reminders to focus on everything positive in your life and work through the negative at whatever pace you can manage. This year also drove home the importance for a healthy savings account and smarter buying decisions (something I’m still very much struggling with). While I would like to have not learned that lesson the incredibly hard way, I’m just fortunate that I’ve learned it and things didn’t end as poorly as they could have.

So, hopefully 2014 will be a much less disastrous, much more creative and fun year. I don’t really do resolutions, as I’m an over-planner and goal setter by nature, but I hope to lose some more weight (I think I dropped maybe 18lbs last year? I’m not really sure as I don’t own a scale anymore). I want to build and be creative with furniture and our home (which by default needs to be a DIY project), and I’d like to save up to eventually buy another house, where-ever we end up. I’m also on a “trial period” for working remotely from home, so it’d be nice if I could swing an indefinite position. If not, Steven and I are working on some back-up plans that I’m almost more excited about, so we’ll see where it lands.

Speaking of my job and DIY (oh what a forced segue!), one of the first and most important things to set-up when we moved in was my office. By the nature of the work that I do, I’m chained to my desk for usually a minimum of 8 hours, sometimes more in the 12+ realm, and I really needed something that was calming, visually appealing and comfortable.

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I went kind of hog-wild with a semi-bohemian look. From the rustic metal and wood desk, to the crazy plants (that giant thing was only $25!) and the patterned rug, it all really fits in well together. I’m still waiting on some lamps and I need to start painting again so I have more art. My parents graciously supplied me with canvas and paints for Christmas and may be sending some of my paintings that I left with them soon, I just need to find some motivation to get started.

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We also built a little console/bookshelf to house some of our stuff (mostly our printer). The supplies maybe cost us $30, as opposed to something from Ikea that would have run us about $200 and while it’s rough since it was pre-mitre saw, it kind of goes with the whole bohemian, battered look.

Bartok and Nyx like to sleep in here while I’m working, so eventually I’m going to make them beds since the concrete can’t be comfortable, and Klaus is a big couch-hog.

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During the day we usually have a few horses that wander in and out of our yard, and they’ll come right up to the window to check out the house.

All-in-all, it’s a pretty good office.

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One of the challenges of moving to a very small island is that there just simply aren’t staple products or furniture for sale. Sure, there are small shops that sell some of these items, but there isn’t really a concentrated location and everything is twice as much as going to the main island. Getting to the main island is it’s own ordeal. There’s only two ways off the island: The ferry or flying on a very small plane. The ferry is ideal for picking up supplies, but it takes about 2 hours total each way, is always packed and often times delayed or just doesn’t show up at all. Add to the fact that as of January 7th, the ferry service is being reduced by over a half (right in the peak of tourist season!) and well, it’s a cluster.

When you do get to the main island your choices are: Costco (which doesn’t carry much furniture in store, and you can’t ship to the warehouse), Wal-Mart (I found I could have bought some pieces there, but what I wanted they couldn’t ship to stores), low-quality Puerto Rican stores, Ashley furniture and Bassett which are both extremely expensive, and oddly enough, West Elm. There is an Ikea, but you have to order everything, and well, Ikea is bad enough in the states. Just extrapolate that to Puerto Rican standards (which at least in Customer Service are extremely low) and it’s not a fun experience.

As much as I love West Elm, and fully took advantage of the 25% off sale to buy furniture, we just can’t furnish the entire house with West Elm. We’d go broke. Especially considering it wasn’t just furniture, but linens, lamps, etc. All things that if I had realized we would need I would have had shipped down, but I didn’t because I’m a dummy. I also thought we could live in a house without all the bells and whistles, minimally and it wouldn’t drive me nuts. Sadly, that’s just not who I am.

So, what to do? I think that saying “necessity is the mother of all invention” was made for this island. No decently price furniture stores? No problem. We’ll make our own! No knickknacks or homeware stores? No problem. We’ll make our own (and obsessively comb west elm/crate and barrel/anthropologie sale sites)! And so far, I have to say, I’ve been extremely happy with what we’ve been able to come up with.

Our house is a traditional La PRRA style house. When it was built in the 40s (fun fact: this is the newest house we’ve lived in in the last 7 years) it had a big open room, a kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom. It was meant to be a communal living space, with all the rooms coming off of the center living area. Over the years, the different owners added new rooms to make the house bigger, but kept with the original style and left the living room as the main space. Now it has a sunroom (my office), three bedrooms, and a second bathroom off the master. It also has an awesome entryway, which is great, because I’ve wanted a real entryway for ages! There’s also a biggish back deck.

In the entryway, I really wanted a table. And a welcome sign (but not a “country style” welcome sign. Something fun and hip). And some neat accessories and a cool rug. We’ve lucked out and our door is this beautiful shade of teal blue. It’s about the only color blue that I think goes with pink outside of Navy, and the walls in the house are all white. I’d like to say this is because I’m into minimal design, but our landlord is really adamant about keeping the walls white. Oh well, I probably wouldn’t have painted it anything else otherwise.

Entryway!

The table we built is pretty rough. It’s uneven, kind of wobbly and I didn’t bother to finish it properly, but I kind of love it for all of those reasons. It feels rustic in a not-log-cabin sort of way, and the whole house has this really casual feel, so this fits right in. Plus, I just didn’t want to unscrew things to make it less screwed up (haha).

We’re building and selling some furniture to people on the island (yeah, we fully plan on taking advantage of the lack of furniture options), and I would never sell something this poor of quality to anyone, but for our own person uses/experimentations? Sure, why not. Maybe one day we’ll even fix it.

The super sweet lamp is from the local Humane Society thrift store and was a whopping $8. I brought some framed pictures of us from Baltimore and added a capiz shell frame with some local pottery.

But the absolute best part of the entryway is this (if I do say so, myself) Welcome sign.

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It was free.thirty, as I had everything on hand. I took a piece of driftwood found on a beach (which, I’d like to mention, finding good bleached driftwood? Not as easy as it should be on an island with 41 beaches), ripped up a white pillow case to make the trips and used hot pink spray paint and white glossy paint I had on hand. I just tied all the strips of cloth onto the piece of drift wood, took it outside and had Steven hold it out and sprayed it far enough away that I intentionally got some overspray. I didn’t really wait for it to dry, because I’m impatient, and painted WELCOME! onto it.

Oh, I’m sorry, this did cost me something. I spent $2 on hot pink string to hang it up with. This is an oddly easy thing to find on the island. Hangers? Not so much.

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I’m not really sure why this photo looks so weird, but we picked up this crazy bright floral rug from Urban Outfitters during one of the holiday sales, and it works really well with the blue and the table. For perspective, that rug is a 3×5 and fits comfortably in the entry way, so it’s actually pretty sizeable. Bartok came courtesy of the island.

In an effort to drag out my motivation/posting I’m going to save the other builds for another day. Once we get our act together I’ll probably even post DIY how-tos! It’s a Christmas, erm New Year’s miracle!

That time we sold our house, moved to Puerto Rico, I finished grad school and we got another dog

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So, there have been some changes. To cover the majors, we sold our Mt. Rainier house in September, to a wonderful couple who seem as if they will really and truly love the house. We had a 60 day closing and it was just a bit stressful, but fortunately that’s all passed. Our Baltimore house is being prepped for renting right now, and hopefully we’ll have a tenant in ASAP.

We were fortunate enough to turn a profit on the Mt Rainier house (we had a contract on it within 2 days and had over 29 showings!), even having only been in the house for a few months, and when we were contemplating what to do post-house, we realized we had a lot of options open to us. We originally put the house up on the market because we were considering buying this beautiful, giant old house in Frederick, MD with the intent to turn it into a wedding venue and potentially a Bed & Breakfast. Unfortunately, it was an estate sale and the owners were not only unwilling to make any repairs, but they would not allow any contingencies on the contract, so we would have potentially had to carry three mortgages and there was no way we could have supported that or even gotten the mortgage for that.

With that as a dead end, we turned towards other options. After a particularly good visit, we had both talked about wanting to live in Puerto Rico, or someplace very warm. For a variety of reasons, I need to be in a warmer climate year round, and we had loved the atmosphere, culture and personality of the island when we came to visit in January. I had thought Steven and I would need to hash it out more, and would possibly waiver back and forth, but we were set. We did do our homework and look at other cities (mostly because Puerto Rico presents a logistical issue for my company, and I’m still working for them remotely). However, we just kept coming back to Puerto Rico. Specifically the small island of Vieques off the east coast of the main island.

Vieques is a beautiful but very small island, measuring at just over 3 miles wide and 21 miles long with over 41 beaches and terribad infrastructure and services that are pretty much non-existent. A large part of the island was used by the Navy until 2003 as a bombing range. In 2003 the Navy gave back the land and started a massive clean-up project. By 2010 the land was fully reopened to the public as a national park, and tourism opened up considerable.

Fast-forward to 2013 and the tourism is booming, at least for an island of this size. During busy season the population swells from 9,000 to 15,000, which, is really kind of crazy.

All that to say, we now live in Puerto Rico and have for the last month or so. We rented a cute little house with a lot of land (albeit a ton of problems, the landlord is still fixing, and which presents a lot of design challenges for me, which I will hopefully be blogging about consistently), I finished up my masters degree the first week we were here (I even passed all my classes!) and on the 6th or 7th day we were here (which happened to be Thanksgiving) we found a dog on the side of the road who had been struck by a car and left to die.

So, now we have a new dog (who after a fairly extensive surgery will hopefully make a full recovery), I have a masters and we have a new kind of life entirely. One filled with beautiful beaches, wonderful people (not that the people we left weren’t wonderful — this is just a completely different kind of community), fresh fruit and many, many challenges of a new and interesting variety (for instance, yesterday internet was finally¬†installed, and it’s kind of really slow).

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It’s going to be a fun ride.

Getting there…

Every time I get into the swing of writing, a million things come up and writing goes to the bottom of the list. Isn’t that just the way? Of those millions of things going on, we’ve been working diligently in getting the Mt. Rainier house back up to snuff.

We’ve been re-drywalling the basement, some plumbing work (mainly to fix the half-bath, finally), landscaping and general cleaning/decluttering. This weekend we worked on the upstairs quite extensively, and for the first time since we bought the house, have a completely clean second and third bedroom! We also brought furniture down from the Baltimore house and re-did the bedroom a bit.

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The higher, lighter headboard, paired with the white nightstands and the jute lamps really elevated this room from “teenager” to “adult”. The wallpaper is still wild, but it looks more like a purposeful design decision. I’m very happy with this.

Another part of the house that got some attention was our entry/stairway. We had this console table in the Baltimore house, that ties in well with our dining room table, so we brought it down. We used to have a gallery wall there, but Klaus (and Steven) kept knocking pictures off the wall, so we patched it, painted it and put in the console.

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It’s my new favorite spot in the house. That crazy plant is clippings from a plant from the front yard that exploded and I needed to cut back. I love how sculptural it is.

There’s still plenty more that’s been going on, but I’m going to have to save that for another day. Back to the grind.

Landscaping in Mt. Rainier

Bland, bland, bland, boring, awkward, and bland.

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That’s what our house looked like when we bought it. No landscaping. No real character (I’m sure you’re thinking but it’s a cute farmhouse from the 1900s! but trust me, in comparison to the rest of the neighborhood? Not. at. all.). Just a big house situated awkwardly on a big plot of land.

In our area, .25 acres is a LOT of land, so we really wanted to take advantage of the space that we were able to get, and make it very lush and welcoming.

Fast forward five months and several Lowes plant sales later and we now have this:

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We weren’t necessarily aiming for “tropical” when we started planting, and many of the plants intermixed with the banana leaves and tobagos are butterfly bushes and black eyed peas, but the over-all look and feel of the garden ended up being pretty Caribbean. I mentioned before that we went to Puerto Rico in January and I think that being fresh from that experience certainly influenced our gardening decisions.

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Maybe just a little.

Steven’s biggest requirement for a new house was that it had to have a porch. He tried very hard to find a house that met our needs that had a wrap around porch, but as we’re not in the deep south, and the style of the neighborhood is “Sears Craftman” this was about as close as we could get. It’s a great porch, with a tile floor, and plenty of room. But like most of the house, it was just very bare and spartan when we moved in, with no real character. I think if we stay in the house long term, then the goal is to build a deck on the side of the house, and at that time we’d probably repaint the entire house (including that awful periwinkle blue trim) and maybe add stained beadboard to the porch to make it more authentic. Steven really wants to put a fan out there too.

In the meantime, to liven up the porch we added flower boxes, hanging plants and picked up those excellent Ikea chairs. They’re super awesome and once it gets cold, they’re coming inside. I love the look of them, especially with a lambskin thrown over We also added our metal west elm martini table to give ourselves some table space.

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I created the hanging lights out of an As-Is light pack from Ikea and have been pretty impressed by how much light it gives off. The structure was very organic; we just put a hook into the ceiling and I looped the strands until I got a structure that I liked.

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We also found a patio (yup, found) the first week we moved in. There was a small piece of concrete exposed and my parents recommended digging around to see what it was. Turns out it was an almost pristine concrete patio. We know our house had plumbing issues when the investor who we bought it from originally bought it, so I imagine they dug around in the yard and the dirt run-off resulted in sod growing over the patio. It took about an hour to remove, and suddenly we no longer felt the need to invest in building a deck right away.

We added a little flower box and a trellis to give the area a privacy screen. We also planted squash and cucumber. While we got some of the cucumbers, the squash has really taken off. So has this crazy set of weeds and bushes.

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The nice thing is it blocks the chicken coop from view from the street. And is a great place to hang lights. The downside is that we constantly have to hack away at it, or else it takes over.

We’ve named it Audrey II.

Reno Realities

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Boy do I wish this was the post where I could exclaim, WE’RE DONE! and move on with our lives. But alas, as with most projects, we’ve hit a snag and we’re not done. We’re only about 50% done, but hey! 50% isn’t so bad!

When we had the sewage back-up, the half-bathroom on the first floor essentially had to be gutted. Our insurance is cool enough that we were able to select our own finishes, and as I mentioned we were going with something more appropriate to the existing style of the house. Lowes had this pretty, not too contemporary-but-still-contemporary vanity. Given that we’re pretty positive the vanity that had to be removed was also from Lowes, we figured that the sink that we were able to salvage would fit, no problem.

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Oh how naive we were. The sink is the right length, but its missing about 5 inches of depth. Rookie move, since we should have just measured, but ultimately no big deal. Onto craigslist it goes, and back to Lowes we go.

The other issue we encountered is that our tile cutter is just no good when it comes to this slate/porcelain hybrid so we can’t make the detail cuts we need. It snaps the tiles in weird sections, which happens usually only with natural stone, but I guess because it has the slate top it’s not cutting right. We have a wet saw in the Baltimore house, and will pick it up tomorrow and hopefully get these cuts done quickly.

Once we’ve done that, it’ll be all gravy. We have some touch up work to do, a toilet to install and we’ll need to get paint on the wall at some point, but hooray! 50% done.

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Ok, so that’s mostly for Steven’s hooray face. It’s my faves.

Bathroom reno in progress!

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So we’re working on the bathroom. It would have been done last night, but alas our car is not big enough to fit a 36inch vanity that’s pre-assembled. We’re hoping to borrow a car big enough tonight and pick it up, so we can wrap this up. Originally we were going to go crazy and do up the bathroom how we really wanted, with penny tile and a floating vanity and the like, but then we thought about it and decided we’d rather save money and in the process stick with the style of the house.

Now, normally I’d be charging ahead to turn the house into something that is completely 100% ours, but we are in complete agreement that this is not at all our forever home (who buys forever homes in their 20s?!) and the work that was done isn’t offensive by any means, so let’s not reinvent the wheel. If we were staying here for even 5 years I’d probably have a different outlook on it, but I doubt 5 years is in the “plan” so to speak, so sticking with the style we have, it is.

So, we bought some slate/porcelain hybrid tiles at Lowes for super cheap. I eyeballed the spacing because we forgot to pick up spacers and I think it came out pretty well. We grouted last night, and have all the necessary mouldings, mirrors, and other appliances, except for the vanity. Once we get that, we’ll paint, install everything and consider this baby done.

Then, on to even more fixes!

In the meantime though, we’ve been enjoying actually being able to come home after work and see our animals. They’ve been enjoying it too.

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Here’s looking to you, ceiling

We’re very close to finishing the Baltimore house. One of the joys of owning a very old house is that you get to undo bad renovation decisions (which I’m happy to say, we will pass on that torch to the new owners of our house – can anyone say joint compound mouldings?) and one of those bad decisions was ceiling tiles. Layered on top of a wallpapered ceiling. And while wallpaper on the ceiling can look quite nice, wallpaper circa 1950 that has been painted over, covered in glue and hidden by ceiling tiles is not nice. At all. So Steven has been diligently scraping and sanding and cleaning and it’s delayed us by a few days.

As an ode to wallpaper on the ceiling, here’s a few examples that don’t suck:

As you can imagine there just aren’t a lot of good examples of this. But when it’s done well, it’s great. I think a ceiling has to be pretty ornate for it to be pulled off, but in the case of the edged floral wallpaper, the wallpaper makes the ceiling look ornate, without the aid of mouldings. A crystal chandelier doesn’t hurt things either.

So would you ever put wallpaper on your ceilings? I kind of want to try it in of our spare bedrooms in our new house.

Sleep is at a premium

Back when we decided to move, we realized that the housing market in our neighborhood hadn’t really progressed to where we wanted. This wasn’t really a surprise to us, because we kept dibs on what was happening, but still annoying because that meant to move would have to rent out our current house.

As our current house was gotten for a bargain price, renting seemed like a great way to generate positive cash flow. I’m still pretty positive about the whole concept, but we had some pretty terrible renters and now the house is vacant again. Fortunately, while we were dealing with our tenants, the market rebounded to where we want it to be. So, we’re listing the house.

Of course, the tenants smoked (which wasn’t allowed, for the record) and just generally had too many people in the house, so a lot of repainting was in order. And there were somethings we just wanted to change and some improvements that could be made just to help sell the house quicker and at a higher price point.

So this is what’s been going on in this blogging hiatus:

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We’re thankfully almost through with this stage, and in order to “elevate” the house, we’re staging it. Not only is this exciting because I get to buy furniture and try out new designs, but it means hopefully more posting material! Involving things that aren’t my paint covered jeans and exploding paint sprayers.

I can’t wait till we get to the pretty part.

17 more days till list.

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