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

December 25, 2013

Why it Pays Not to Celebrate Christmas

I've heard a lot of people say that Christmas really snuck up on them this year.  I don't know if this is a competition, or if there is a prize (if there is, please let it be this), but I think it might have snuck up on me the most.  Since I've stopped celebrating Christmas I just don't even think about it.  I was in my own little world all month and then today I woke up and all the grocery stores were closed (crap).  It's Christmas!  For my Christmas-loving readers, I wish you a merry one.  For anyone else who doesn't celebrate Christmas . . .

. . . you might love this list.  Number 10 resonates most with my currently-at-work Hubby.

December 20, 2013

Canine Cut-Ups

In between bouts of feverishly working on my dissertation changes I've been tackling packing.  I'm really looking forward to unpacking because it's a chance to get organized.  Things were so tidy the first year we lived in the townhouse, but then we started cramming stuff into random places and I've been struggling to keep on top of it ever since.  The downside to packing is being confronted with just how much stuff I have.  I've been filling box after box, but I haven't even begun to touch the things we actually need and use!

Some guilt is setting in about the amount of stuff I've accumulated, but the one thing I never feel guilty about is art.  In fact, I'm about to order an absolutely adorable collage from Etsy.  For all of the puppy-lovers out there: Canine Cut-Ups . . .

Each unique collage is made from 10 to 20 hand-cut layers of paper.  The artist, Patricia, happily accepts custom orders and can create a cute collage for any American Kennel Club breed.  I've requested a Komondor on a bright turquoise background.  I'll share more photos when I receive mine and get it framed. 

And yes, life has become a little bit Szuka-centric!

This post was not sponsored, I am just so touched by the sweetness of these collages that I seriously want one of each hung in a huge grid on a white wall.   

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December 16, 2013

Black House Exteriors

It might seem like my mission is to paint everything deep grey . . .  Can you blame me?  Since a coat of charcoal grey made our dated fireplace look so much more modern, now I want to paint the exterior of the lakehouse a similar shade.  Maybe even darker - almost black.  It would pair so crisply with our existing white trim (and a turquoise door, of course).

Black house exterior
Style at Home
House painted black
Dark grey house
Carol Reed Design
Black house
As a reminder, below are some photos of our exterior.  It really isn't offensive, but I don't love the faux stonework.  What bothers me most is that the side and back of the house, even the garage, have beige siding that looks cheap and totally clashes with the wood and stonework.  A coat of deep grey (on everything, including the guesthouse exterior) could unify the myriad of materials. 

A new roof will have to wait. 

The only problem is that I skipped masonry paint for the fireplace makeover because a paint + primer was enough for an interior application.  For an exterior application, I'm worried I should stick to actual masonry paint for the faux stone, but the few brands I have tracked down so far come pre-tinted and none have a shade as dark as my inspiration pictures. 

As a plan B, I spotted this house while walking Szuka:

Taupe house exterior with mint door

It's more muted, but I've really become enamored with taupe and bright turquoise.  It's also far easier to track down a more mellow grey or taupe in paints designed for masonry.
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December 13, 2013

Adding Curb Appeal Even With Strict Condo Rules + Small Budget

Now that I can finally show you the outside of the townhouse, I wanted to share some photos of the teeny, tiny little spruce we gave it to boost the curb appeal.  As you know, with condo rules we couldn't change much: the door colour, exterior colour, mailbox design and colour, trim colour, lighting choice, door style - they are all part of a master design scheme.  Don't feel sorry for us though, because that also meant that exterior care and maintenance were up to the condo.  Every spring they cleaned our gutters, inspected the brickwork, made necessary repairs, etc. - we even got a "free" roof.  Although it was unnerving the first time I heard a stranger stomping around on the roof, and spotted a ladder propped against our bedroom window, this perk far outweighed our lack of creative input. 

This is what the townhouse looked like when we first toured the property in 2009:

Looks like someone hated gardening more than me!

The next spring, I made the left side "flower bed" (if I can call that dirt-heap a flower bed) deeper and planted a small yew bush, which I refuse to prune.  Lily of the Valley flowers (my favorite!) were both mailed to me by my mother-in-law and pilfered from my grandparents' garden and transplanted to the right.  We also swapped out the dated brass door hardware for a pretty brushed silver handle and lock (obscured by the condo-issued brown storm door).

 The house certainly looked more loved after our efforts, but I guarantee Martha Stewart would feel embarrassed for us.  Sadly, by the time we went to sell years later our little spruce had faded.  The orange mulch had turned blah and the salt had wreaked havoc on our lawn.  The colourful mat, which was originally teal, turquoise and orange (look at me coordinating) had become disgusting.  Even the mailbox was looking worse for wear.

Adding curb appeal to townhouse

We didn't do much to get the exterior ready for sale but we did plant some grass seed, splurge on fresh mulch, buy a crisp new mat, and add a colourful potted plant.  Oh yes, we also restored the mailbox with a quick blast of black spray paint.  I still refused to prune my yew.

Curb appeal townhouse
Cedar mulch gardening
Adding curb appeal with strict condo rules

During our original sprucing, I made a wreath with my Mummu, a devoted crafter.  I added teal-grey eucalyptus (the same colour as our exterior), plus gold and coppery glittery bits to complement the orange door.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!
Gold and teal wreath
Glittery eucalyptus wreath

These small changes made the exterior of the townhouse more welcoming and helped boost our curb appeal, without spending a lot of money - or breaking condo rules!

How to improve curb appeal, even with strict condo rules & a small budget
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December 11, 2013

Our Townhouse Sold!

After tentatively sharing the good news last week, I can finally confirm that the townhouse is SOLD!  It took longer than expected and we hit a few snags along the way, but we are finally able to move on - and move into the lakehouse.  We abandoned dozens of projects mid-task there, and won't even be able to unpack until we at least tackle a few, but right now all I can think about is how great it feels to no longer be in limbo (or have to clean for showings!).

The new owners take possession in January and I promise to share the whole story then, including what we learned and what we would do differently.  For now I don't want to jinx what still seems unreal.  I will tell you that we ended up re-listing with a different agent, and it was a totally different experience.  One commonality was that both hired professional photographers.  Even though I was adamant about this, it was very unnerving to see the townhouse through the eyes of someone else.  The real estate photos don't feel like my home.  Between the decluttering, bedroom re-arranging and the use of flash and overhead lighting (which I only turn on under duress because I'm all about mood lighting), the space feels . . . different.  The wide angle lens certainly helps to better capture our teeny abode, so I thought I'd share all of the listing photos with you.   

First up: never-before-seen photos of the outside of our home.  Hubby asked me not to include photos of the exterior in the house tour until we sold, so it feels like a major milestone to be able to share these.  Years ago a designer was hired by the condo board to design a colour scheme for our neighborhood.  Luckily I liked the blue-grey with the brick and Hubby loved the orange door, but I'm really looking forward to painting the exterior of the lakehouse, just because I can.

I'm not much of a gardener, though I did plant the little bush and the Lily of the Valley flowers by our front door.  Finding mulch that matched our orange door made me unreasonably happy.  Sadly, when we re-listed in the fall things were less green, but a poinsettia cheered things up (I killed the other plant - I'm not lying when I say I'm not much of a gardener). 

In our backyard we did so little that the condo finally sent us a letter demanding we tidy up.  The shrubbery touched the fence.  Le sigh.  The second photo shows the changes, which look more naked to me, exacerbated by the lack of leaves.

The second photographer captured the lovely green space behind our house (no backyard neighbours!):

Here are the interior photos from our first listing:

Here are the interior photos from the second photographer:

Ignore the curtains.  It traumatized me that the photographer pushed them messily out of the way. 
See?!?  My curtain pushing job on the dining room window, his on the patio doors.  Why does this bother me so?

I'm a little sad to say good-bye to the townhouse.  This was our first home and we spent a lot of our time working together on projects (you can see the before and afters, including a few befores I recently added, in the townhouse tour).  I've grown tired of some of my design choices though, because they weren't all made for us in the first place.  So, although I'm a little blue, I'm mostly tickled pink to start fresh and to see a different young couple call this home their first!
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