Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

December 31, 2010

Review of Surfside on Lake Superior (Tofte MN)

For the last week I have been secretly blogging from a vacation rental on the shores of Lake Superior.  Although we don't celebrate Christmas anymore, we do enjoy spending time together during the holidays.  Instead of gift giving and turkey eating, my parents, husband and I tend to travel this time of year.  Last year and this year have been spent in a gorgeous rented townhome on Lake Superior, called Surfside.  It's located in Tofte, MN and it's one of our favorite places to stay. 

The homes are decorated beautifully, but what I find really inspiring is the world around them.  I took tons of pictures of the ice, lake and sun setting.  I want to pick a half dozen or so to frame, and hang them in a row in the main bathroom (above the towel bar - see bathroom pics here).

Here's a look a the inside of our rental at Surfside.

Review of Surfside Rental Townhome in Tofte MN
Where to Stay on Lake Superior
Photos of Surfside Rental Townhomes on Lake Superior

The units were, at one point (not sure if they still are) available for purchase as a time share, but we go the cheaper route and just rent a townhouse for a week or so.  Surfside is beautifully decorated and spotlessly clean - with so much more space than a standard hotel room.  We can each be in our own little area, but the open concept space invites us to get together and hang out!

Beautiful Rental Home on Lake Superior for Holidays

Where to Stay in Tofte MN

The area around Tofte MN is beautiful and there are a ton of fun activities - we went dog sledding!  It's a short drive to Grand Marais, MN, where we love poking into local shops and art gallery.  There are a ton of delicious restaurants as well.  Duluth MN is a couple hours away, but still a very doable day trip for shopping.

Dog Sledding in Tofte MN

Mostly, though, we just love to unwind at Surfside!  We go for walks, binge watch TV, play board games, and read a lot.  There's even an onsite spa and pool, just steps away!  It's such a peaceful place and we always start the year feeling refreshed thanks to our vacation at Surfside.

Lake Superior Sight Seeing
Lake Superior Waves Crashing Against Shore
Lake Superior, Tofte MN
Where to Vacation on Lake Superior
Inky Blue Lake Superior in Winter
Ice and Lake Superior

December 29, 2010

Front Hallway: "Before & In Progress"

Remember I blogged about getting a photo we took in Portugal enlarged to fit a frame we had?  It was my attempt to inject a bit of "summer" into our hallway.  Here's a link if you missed it.

Well, we finally have the enlargement and already wrestled it into the frame.  Scroll down for some shots of our front entry way "before" and after a "spit and polish".  It isn't finished, but looking better.  To see another part of this hall, check out my post about making a holiday card display board here.

The picture, at last!

Hallway "before"

Hallway "before"

So, What Did We Do?
We kept the tile.  It was installed professionally and the same tile runs through the hallway toward the stairs and in the half bath.  Plus, the same tile in a different colour combo (black & white) runs into the kitchen and then is transitioned nicely to the hardwood.  To change this tile would be an all or nothing job, so we decided to work with it.  Its no secret I like turquoise anyway, so it works. 

We did give all the walls and doors a coat of crisp white paint, sewed a new curtain, changed all the door knobs and hinges to silver (mismatched and ratty door knobs and painted hinges were this home's trademark) and bought two new ceiling fixtures.  The rug is handwoven by a Finnish artisan in Northwestern Ontario using reclaimed materials.  Because my mom donates old clothes and fabric to the artisan, one of the turquoise stripes in the rug is of my old pyjama pants!

Basically, we just brightened up the space and made it look fresh and clean.  I think an overhaul isn't always necessary (or affordable) and sometimes a "spit and polish," as I like to call it, is enough.

My old ripped pyjama pants found new life as a rug!

Some trials and tribulations:
The frame we bought wasn't just a frame, it was a piece of "art" bought from the furniture department at The Bay because it was the largest frame we could find (and loads cheaper than custom).  But when we cracked it open, we saw that the "art" had  been glued to the matting and took some careful slicing to extract. 

I also tried to "save" the light fixtures with some black spray paint but they still looked awful and after a mild earthquake which involved much rattling of the danglies, we decided to scrap it and buy new.  Happily, my grandma had actually been looking for similar dangles to replace the ones on her light fixture (hers had turned yellow-y), so parts of these light fixtures lived on and weren't thrown out!

DIY Gone Bad
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TLC for Teak Update

About a week ago, I blogged about an Apartment Therapy post I found, outlining how to care for teak.  I did tackle my newfound vintage teak chair.  Although the before and after are pretty identical, I feel good knowing that my teak piece will look good longer if I care for it properly. 

One tip I learned from the super mangled bottle of teak oil I have: apply the teak oil with the direction of the grain.  Don't use circular motions or go against the grain.

Is it just me, or do my supplies look
exceptionally ratty?
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December 28, 2010

Art Attack: Nick Wroblewski

I am totally in love with this woodblock print by artist Nick Wroblewski.  The colour palette is so pretty!  I spotted it at the Siverston Gallery in Grand Marais, MN.  At $75.00 unframed, it isn't even out of reach, like much of the art I love.  But we just bought bedding, upholstery fabric and some other home goodies, so I'll have to settle for ogling this print here.  Yep, I'm blogling


Wroblewski is an artist based in America's Midewest.  Check out his website for more info.


"Polarity of Snow Geese"

"Winter Silhouette"
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December 26, 2010

Tips for Picking Upholstery Fabric

This post was originally based on my experience choosing fabric for my vintage teak chair, but it has been updated with information gleaned from choosing fabric for the chair lovingly referred to as "the garbage chair".  Frankly, these tips aren't specific to upholstery fabric, but upholstery fabric - because it's such a commitment - warrants a more thoughtful process than, say, curtain or pillow fabric (which can be easily swapped out)I compiled a list of tips that helped me through the process, and hope you'll add your own in the comments! 

-It helps to have a starting point because a good fabric store will have an unruly selection.  Flipping through all of the samples and books can take days, but a starting point will narrow down the work.  Sometimes a starting point can be really specific: for the teak dining chairs above, I knew I wanted black and white houndstooth, but that still yielded dozens of samples.  Sometimes a starting point is a bit more broad: for the garbage chair, I knew I wanted teal or turquoise - I thought tweed, but was open to other suggestions.

-I always bring a photo of the room I think the upholstered piece will be going into, as well as a photo of the furniture piece in question.  When I chose fabric for the teak chair in our townhouse guest room, I kept misremembering the shades of green in the room.  Having a photo of the room handy (on my phone) not only helped me remember, but also helped the salespeople pinpoint my style.  Bringing in paint swatches and samples of other design elements (especially other textiles in the room) is also helpful.
-I play fast and loose with the samples I bring home.  What I have fallen in love with in the store has been blah at home and what has seemed garish under their bright lighting has looked much more mellow in my space, so I'm always greedy and bring home dozens of fabric samples - anything that catch my eye and tugs at my heart, whispering "I could be the one".

-I try to get as big a sample as possibleSome companies provide stores with large samples, often on a hanger, but others provide smaller ones in a book.  Some companies provide different sizes so, when possible, I snag the bigger samples because they are always more helpful when it comes to envisioning the finished piece: 

-I try out the fabrics in evening and day light.  What looks super cute in the sunlight can read really dull at night.  Lighting can play a major role in how good a fabric looks so I make sure to test out the swatch where the furniture will be and I make sure I take a look under various lighting conditions.  The photos below are of the same velvet, taken with the same camera, but taken in different light and at different angles.

-I check the prices right away.  I don’t want to fall in love with something that’s out of the question.  I also let the store clerks know so they won't show my teasingly expensive swatches either.  (If I do accidentally fall in love with a pricey print, I know I can always order a small piece for a pillow or save it for a special small piece, like a footstool).

-I'm upfront and specific about my style so salespeople can help understand what I'm looking for, BUT, I also make sure to keep an open mind.  When I brought home samples for the mint chair, the prints I was fixated on were horrible once I got them home, but the print the salesperson had pushed on me - she MADE me it take home - was the one that I ended up choosing.  She knew my style better than me, after looking at photos of the room and chair.  You can see more photos of the minty chair and fabric in this post.     

-When in doubt, I choose a textured solid, like tweed or velvet, or a timeless pattern like houndstooth.  A piece of furniture can always be freshened up with a patterned throw pillow but it can be pricey to overhaul a piece completely if I grow weary of the pattern.  A solid is also a good choice if the final home of a piece is undetermined.

-It helps to see a fabric in action so I compile a list of inspiration photos.  I hadn't even been thinking velvet when the garbage chair makeover began but after it was suggested to me I rounded up a bunch of photos featuring velvet chairs and this helped me realize it was the right choice.  That's what Pinterest is for!

I’m always tense about shopping for bigger ticket items.  I can’t afford to re-do a large purchase or makeover if I don’t like what I bought or did.  But, the best advice (for me, especially) has to be this:  I just relax and go with what makes me the most excited.  You can feel it in your heart when you've found the right fabric, and you want to wear it like a cape all day long.  The second best advice is to accept help from trusted professionals.  I found a great upholstery place in Ottawa (Kessels) and they were fabulous at helping me choose the perfect fabrics - now that I've moved, I don't know what I'll do without them! 
What are your tips for choosing fabric? 
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December 25, 2010

You're The One That I Want

Yay!  Decision made!  We finally picked a fabric for the guest bedroom chair.  It was really difficult because I liked soooooo many of the fabrics.  We picked the green & turquoise swirly rose pattern, at the top left of the chair.  Photo #2 is a close up shot.  It is brighter in real life, the lighting and camera setting dulled the colours a bit.  The fabric will take a few weeks to come in, but I promise to post better quality pics when it does. 

Because I'm embarassed that this bedroom is looking a tad messy, click here (please?) for some pics of the room when the contents of a fabric store haven't been unleashed on it.

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December 24, 2010

Colour Me Surprised

I finished my paintings!  The basement is the warmest, coziest spot in the house (other than two feet in front of the fireplace), so I've been spending many evenings down there, painting.  But, I also line dry my clothes down there and I couldn't do both at once so there was very little laundry done. 

I was painting something dark and moody but, after a flash of inspiration, this is what I created:

I guess I wasn't feeling dark and moody.  Anyone else find that creative endeavours sometimes have a mind of their own?  These paintings are across from our black, random square headboard (see picture below).  New bedding (back-ordered until the end of January, unfortunately), colourful throw pillows & accessories are in the works.  I'll post pics soon, but a true "after" shot won't be had until February. *sad face*

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December 21, 2010

Inspiration: Eco Chic

I just picked up Emily Anderson's book, Eco-Chic Home.  I won't lie, right now I'm only looking at the sections with pictures (what can I say? I'm a visual learner).  But, I'm pretty excited about some of her DIY ideas and home-making advice.  Did you know that adding some lemon juice to a load of laundry bound for line drying can brighten your whites?  I plan to implement some of her ideas in the New Year, and I'll let you all know how it goes!

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Literally Bar None

Continuing from my post, "Bar None" from a few days ago . . .

I'm still searching for the perfect black towel bar for the mainfloor half bathroom.  This task is proving to be really difficult because I bought the light fixture, faucet, drain, and mirror separately so I need something that "clicks" with all the different elements of the room.  What are your thoughts on bathroom fixture "sets"?  Sure makes things a lot easier, right? 

Click here for more pics of the bathroom, or just scroll down through a few posts.

Thoughts on these two options?

Umbra Braid Towel Bar

Gatco Brooklyn Towel Bar
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December 20, 2010

TLC for Teak

I found this great Apartment Therapy post that provides step by step instructions for giving teak furniture an oil.  Tomorrow I plan to give my new vintage chair some lovin' following these directions.
Check out the gorgeous teak credenza featured in the article.  Anyone else jealous of the author's gorgeous teak piece (and beautiful styling)?

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Happy Anniversary!

My hubby and I are celebrating our wedding anniversary today!  We've been married two years, and together for nine.  We were planning to elope, but our family protested so we had a bit of an un-wedding-y wedding.  Here are some pictures from our wedding day:

My dress was based on the wedding dress Grace Kelly wore, but mine had 3/4 sleeves, a shorter hemline and I opted for peach silk and black lace instead of white.  I don't get to wear fancy dresses as often as I'd like, so I didn't want to waste the opportunity on the obligatory white wedding dress.  Although I "designed" the changes I wanted and purchased the materials, I had a dressmaker make it for me.  I did DIY my own hair and makeup, flowers, plus a gift for each guest, as well as the box for cards and our guestbook/scrapbook (scroll down for details).  Our invitations were from Target.  We just added our own text and printed.

We were married at city hall in Toronto, which was really nicely decorated because it was Christmas.  We then had a very small brunch reception at the Hôtel Le Germain, Toronto

For wedding favors, I made "Christmas Spiders" (because we were married so close to Christmas).  According to German folklore, every Christmas tree has to have a spider, a reminder of St. Nicholas turning cobwebs into tinsel.  There's a super cute story that goes with these glittery guys.  

I wrapped the spiders in these cream boxes with black ribbon (Our invitations were cream with black text) and they also served as place cards because each had a tag with a guest's name.  I used special scissors to create the scalloped edges on each name tag.  I also asked the chef to make a Christmas cake with icing made to look like presents for dessert.  

I made our box for cards from an old cardboard box.  I wrapped it with fabric and ribbon to make it look like a present (sense a theme?) and then embellished with some handmade ribbon flowers and leaves, made by my mom. 

Instead of a having a guestbook, I created pages for our scrap book with photos of us through the years in the middle.  We asked guests to write us messages using a gold pen.  Then we inserted the finished pages into a scrapbook I made, which chronicled the day.

Our "getaway" car!  We left for our honeymoon in Greece the same afternoon.  It was lovely to have our family wave goodbye to us as we departed.  We were headed someplace warmer, that's why we were grinning ear to ear.  Joke was on us.  We brought the cold weather to Greece. 

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