My Parent’s House

So, I’m on vacation at my mom and dad’s. Because of how spread out my siblings are this is the first time in six years we have all been together. It’s been wonderful!  But equally wonderful is my parent’s home. I grew up in a log cabin (well, log home really – and I moved in my senior year of high school.) Let me show you:

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Here is my parent’s front porch. You’ll notice they have FOUR (had to cut one out) swings across the front – each seating two people. Yes, there are green things everywhere. My mom can make rocks grow. It’s amazing.

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Here is the main floor bath. The walls look like stucco, but it’s a faux paint finish. My mom took drywall compound and sprayed it on the drywall, then smoothed out the top rough edges with sandpaper. The next step was the primer coat, then the light paint coat. Once that was thoroughly dry, she painted the darker coat and wiped it off with a rag leaving it in the crevices left by the compound. Ta-da! Amazing looking stucco bathroom!

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Here’s a wall of my parent’s kitchen. My dad found this old stove, then searched for replacement fixtures until he was able to completely refurbish it. So yes – it’s a working stove. Mom even bakes pies in it for Thanksgiving.

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Here’s the other side of the kitchen. The guy who installed the granite counter top said it was the largest piece of granite he had ever installed. In keeping with the country look of the home, she has custom bar stools made of oak and cedar, cupboards that are both glass and wood – painted a warm ivory with gold trim and satin nickel hardware. The stove, microwave and dishwasher are stainless, but the refrigerator was ordered in ivory to match the cupboards and to blend in.  Those flowers?  Not from a florist. They came from her garden.  Yeah I know – I wish she’d deliver!

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Here is the upstairs loft. My sisters and I put in the carpet. We used carpet samples that had been discontinued, and glued then stapled them to the floor. It gives the room an awesome patchwork quilt look I have never seen anywhere else!

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My parents created a lovely rock bench under a pine tree just as you pull into their driveway. What a welcoming look!

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Here is a peek into their back yard. The arbor has a chandelier hanging from the center top, a bench on one side and a fountain on the other. Yes, the chandelier can be turned on with the flick of a light switch. In the back is a children’s play set, ample seating for a crowd, and a gazebo with a full kitchen – refrigerator, sink, and barbecue. It is also fully lit, as well as floodlights for the entire back yard so the party never has to end at dark!

So, there is a brief tour of their amazing home. I hope you enjoyed it. Please share photos of amazing homes you have seen (with permission, of course!)

Outdoor Lighting

In my last post I told you about my parents house and their amazing back yard.  One of the things that makes it so special is the lighting.  Take a look at this arbor:

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See the chandelier?  He can do this type of stuff because he’s a contractor by trade. If I wanted an arbor with a chandelier, well — I’d have to call my dad!

But that doesn’t mean we have to have our parties in the dark. There are TONS of options for the electronically impaired.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1.  String up some lights: there are a gazillion options to choose from – anywhere from soft globes to rope lights to icicles. Find what works for your style and budget. This one is a good starter option for most patios.
  2. Light your path: nothing is more irritating than stumbling around in the dark.  Solar stakes that charge themselves during the day and light your garden paths, deck, patio or driveway not only make your life easier but they do wonders for your curb appeal.
  3. Flood your back yard with light: adding in some floodlights make a HUGE difference to your back yard. It literally can go from night to day! If they don’t come pre-wired with your home, there are other options you can go with.
  4. Light your front step when you step on it: one of the best things I ever installed was a motion sensor light. I got so tired of trying to unlock my door in the dark! These are also great for just general security. The modern ones are set so they won’t go off if a cat or bunny hops across your yard but if a deer or a person wanders across your drive or up to your door, it won’t be sneaky anymore!
  5. LED bulbs are worth the price! As you shop for lighting you’ll see florescent, halogen, and LED. Florescent and halogen are very energy efficient but nothing compared to LED. These use so little energy that in come cases they will last the life of the fixture. They are more expensive but you will save so much more on your energy bill it’s totally worth it.

I’d love to see examples of your outdoor lighting. What works best for you?

Designing A Living Room

When I was growing up, there were two kinds of living rooms:  “company” rooms that were always spotless and ready for anyone who should come over to visit, and living rooms that people actually lived in.  With the price of real estate these days, most of us can’t afford a room devoted to “company” and rarely are there any rooms in our homes spotless for very long. As a good friend once told me, “If you want to see me, come on over.  If you want to see my house, make an appointment!”

Living rooms can still serve multiple functions if they are designed properly.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Furniture:  living rooms serve both the family and friends, so seating should hold family members plus at least two.  Do you have a large window?  Group some /most seating to take advantage of the view.  Not all seating has to be together.  There is nothing wrong with a couple of chairs off to the side.  Don’t be afraid to move furniture away from the walls, too.
  2. Ease of use:  is there a clear path through the room to the kitchen?  Is a chair right in front of the door?  A furniture grouping may look great, but it has to function for your family too.
  3. Color scheme:  most of us tend to go with a safe neutral color.  Its great for resale, but unless you plan to sale your home in the next year, pick a color YOU like.  If your living room is on the north side of your home, choose a warm color to make up for the lack of natural light.  If it gets a lot of sun, you may want a cool color to balance it out.  Or go with a strong color on one wall.  Talk to the people in your paint department for suggestions on color ideas and treatments.  Painting is one of the easiest ways to bring a big change to a room without spending a lot of money.
  4. Accessories:  Less is more.  Living rooms tend to be the places we show off all our photographs, collections, libraries, and heirlooms.  That can make this poor room a little crowded!  I look at everything as a “dustable”.  I have to keep it, so I have to dust it – and that takes time and effort.  Do I want to display it enough to dust it all the time?  Maybe not.
  5. Flooring.  The trend is moving towards hard floors (wood, cork, stone, etc.) with rugs instead of wall to wall carpet in our main rooms.  I think this is a good thing.  Hard surfaces are easier to clean and disinfect, don’t trap allergens like carpet can, and in many cases, last longer.  Consider replacing your flooring when your budget allows.

If you keep these tips in mind, you can have a beautiful living room that can serve multiple functions with ease! Tell me about your living rooms.  What purpose did your living room have when you were growing up?

Popular Outdoor Fire Pit Ideas

One thing I love about the outdoors is getting together with family and friends around a nice fire. Whether it roasting wienies, telling stories, or just enjoying the flames, backyard fires are wonderful. But what should you consider when adding in a new fire pit? I’ve got a few ideas:
  1. Size:  Think about how you entertain in general. Are you planning to have a large crowd or an intimate few? By this I mean do you want a fire pit that is 12 inches wide or 48?
  2. Portable or permanent? You can buy a gorgeous fire pit like this that sits on your existing patio or you can build one out of stone, brick, concrete or other fireproof material. Your personal taste and budget will drive your decision.
  3. Gas or wood? Both have pros and cons. Gas is instant on and off with nothing to clean up. Wood has the traditional crackle and pop but leaves ashes behind (great for gardens as fertilizer!) What type of fire do you want?
  4. What will you use it for? Is this a gathering place for conversation and smore’s? Are you more ambitious and you want to use it as a bbq and grill as well? Do you just want as small a fire as possible without being a candle?  Trust me, there is a pit out there for every use and every style.
  5. Do you want a fire pit or a fireplace?  Some people prefer the more formal look of a fireplace.  You can have them built in or you can buy one like this that looks very elegant on a backyard patio.
  6. Is your fire pit going to be more than a fire pit?  I’ve seen many people add in outdoor home theaters for music and movies.  What a great way to spend an evening with family and friends!
  7. Keep it legal: Your city and/or county is going to have codes about fires and fire pits. When and where to have them, how far away from buildings and property lines they have to be, what they can be used for, etc. If you are going to install a permanent pit, be sure to also check with local utilities for underground lines before you start.

What do I enjoy? I have a 24-inch wood pit in the backyard for the family and a few guests that is small enough we can have a conversation without sharing it with the neighbors. Inside I enjoy this lovely gadget for s’mores because I am a chocoholic and I need a winter fix occasionally. What do you have in your backyard? I’d love to see some photos!