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

January 29, 2015

I Need Your Thoughts: Half Bath, Round II

I recently received a new bathroom faucet to review, courtesy of American Standard.  I was able to choose from a few styles and this was my favorite because it was the most modern.  The second Hubby and I installed it though, it was evident that it's too good for our half bath, and that realization has set into motion a very mini re-vamp of the mini makeover...

Although I was really keen to give the powder room a new look when we moved in, I didn't want to spend any money.  Maybe it's because it's one of the last temporary, budget-friendly makeovers we tackled, but by the time we got to it, I was just really done spending money on anything impermanent.  I've been anxious and sweaty about spending money on some impending, more permanent updates and I didn't want to divert funds, I guess.  In my penny-pinching efforts, the half bath was spruced up with leftover white wall paint, leftover grey cabinet paint, leftover tile paint, leftover everything, and then we hung up some art we already owned.  I didn't really put much thought into it beyond, "paint the oak," and "white walls, white walls, white walls".  The towel ring was another generous blog freebie (that I picked out).  I did spring for a new curtain rod, though, because I wanted both bedrooms and both bathrooms to have the same style (there's no curtain yet, though).  The result?  Perhaps unsurprisingly, although I'm much happier since the painting mayhem, it's still not a room that I loooovvve.   

Maybe because it's a smaller room, or maybe because it's beside the cheery laundry room and across from the even brighter kitchen, but I just don't love the grey cabinets in here - even though I really like the grey in the main bathroom.  Although I'm still in penny pinching mode (especially because we've started comparison shopping for the main bath reno - yikes!), I have decided to make one little change, even if it means opening up the old wallet:  I'm thinking about re-painting the cabinets.  It's a quick fix and I think a more dramatic or cheery colour will make me happier.  I don't want to paint/cover the counter because all of the solutions seem dusty and I actually don't mind the colour (strangely).  But I am open to painting the tile again (and am wondering if just painting it the same white as the walls, but in a semi-gloss, could be a simple solution?).   

I like the green abstract (by Hubby's grandpa) that is currently in the bathroom, but I'm not opposed to moving it elsewhere.  I also have a cool, sentimental ballerina print (in need of a more modern frame) and a collection of silhouettes, both without walls to call their own, so I can easily switch up the art, if need be.  

Here are my contenders for a cabinet makeover (along with my rambling thoughts, plus a photo for inspiration - aim high!  The photos are also handy if you'd like to skip my blah, blah, blah and just breeze on through):

The same dark, almost-black grey of the fireplace (but perhaps this is too dark for the small space, or maybe even just too much of a lateral move?):

A Beautiful Mess
Leftover aqua paint from the kitchen (free and coordinating - but even I can agree that perhaps, perhaps, it's too much of a good thing.  Just kidding, it's my favorite option, but it does clash with the green painting...)

I could also mix the cabinet colour with leftover white, for a mellower hue (this has the appealing combination of still being free, but helping me look just a little bit less insane):

House of Turquoise
 A deep teal, like our velvet chair and Emily Henderson's credenza has me taking a look at darker paint swatches (but Hubby thinks it's too dark):

Emily Henderson
A rich navy, something I have very, very little of in the lakehouse and which looks amazing in kitchens/baths with lots of white, not the bisque toilet and sink I'm saddled with (I think this option would generate more problems than it solves, but look how pretty!):

Emily Henderson
I'm also considering a basic white (but I worry that white would make the bisque sink and toilet look even more blah - yeah, I just don't love having to find something to work with the beige):

Apartment Therapy
I'm really liking the idea of a minty hue to complement the painting and make the mint counter look intentional.  Maybe a kind of a vintage Jadeite colour? (I like green and there's quite a bit in the townhouse, so it wouldn't be a jarring color departure):

One Kings Lane
Even a bright, apple green would work, or a muted leafy green (many shades can be pulled from the art):

Young House Love
 Or a pretty, more muted mint (then layer in some brighter colour in smaller doses):

A Lovely Lark
SF Girl by Bay
Here's the painting, as a refresher.  I always like pulling colours for a room from art, and there's lots of fabulous greens here that I could splash onto the cabinets...

Thoughts?  Here are the options again:  Darker grey? White? Teal? Navy? Turquoise (nudge, nudge)? Pale Turquoise? Apple Green? Mint Green? Grey Green?

Leave it as-is?  Other ideas?  Lay them on me!  Half baths seem to be my Waterloo - I'm always fiddling with them, never content.  Growing up we didn't have a powder room, so maybe this whole "guest half bathroom" concept is still foreign to me.  Or maybe it's the tiny scale?  Smaller rooms are trickier.

Thank you to American Standard for providing me the Speed Connect Times Square Monoblock faucet.  I was not otherwise compensated nor was I encouraged to provide any sort of positive review.  In fact, I'm quite peeved because this shiny new faucet was the ultimate catalyst for my dissatisfaction with the room ;)  It was a snap to install (minutes!) and we didn't have to use any caulk or putty, as promised (the Speed Connect faucets are said to be the easiest and fastest to install).  We haven't yet installed the drain - is it weird that I want to save it?  Although this isn't mentioned on the website, I have to say that an exceptionally awesome feature is the way this chrome finish cleans up.  Unlike my other chrome faucets, which required a designated chrome cleaner, the water spots buff right off of this faucet with only a soft dry cloth - you're not even supposed to use cleaners on it.  Hopefully this faucet will transition to our more permanent makeover down the road and be right at home.  For now, it's like pairing a sparkly tiara with yoga pants.  Really sad, kind of bagged out in the knee yoga pants.  So yeah, now I'm a little more willing to spend a tiny bit  - a very, very tiny bit - of money in here to make this powder room a little prettier - more like a good-ish pair of skinny jeans.

January 26, 2015

An Airy Home Tour with Pops of Aqua

For awhile I had kind of abandoned my Pinterest account but recently I've been pinning again, with wild abandon.  (I credit the phone app, which is accountable for a fairly impressive piece of my monthly data usage pie.)  A board I called "Inspiring Spaces" (not such an inspiring name, I know) is where I stash photos of any rooms I like - in no particular order.  Sometimes I lazily scroll through this board to see what kinds of themes my pinning habits reveal.  I really like so many different styles (and other colours, I swear), but since the big move it's been my mission to sift through and really hone in on what I like the most; what makes Hubby and I the happiest.  I've also been trying to ignore the noise about what's in and what's out, so I can just focus on figuring out my style: things I can love for the long term and things I want to have fun with in the interim.  I like Pinterest for this.

Some of my choices for "Inspiring Spaces" might surprise you, but there are some very predicable ones in there too (aqua everything!)  In each space there's at least an idea or two that tickles me.  There are also rooms that have made me fall head over heels in love.  This home tour, for example, from Collected Interiors, is just incredible and I find myself ogling photos of it everyday, flagging ideas for the future, planning ways to adopt and adapt some of the fabulous design decisions, and just relishing its prettiness.  It's my absolute favorite home tour, so I wanted to share.

Collected Interiors
For our "forever" kitchen (and, to some extent, for our impending bath reno), I've been thinking of walnut lower cabinets, white uppers and white back-painted glass as a backsplash, but this kitchen has me dreaming of all-white again.  (Darn, does that mean I might be happier with an airier, all-white bathroom too??)  The hint of mint in the backsplash is perfection.  I love that it barely looks like a kitchen, which is smart for an open concept space.

After seeing this kitchen, I'm on a mission to add more gleaming surfaces (like our ceiling fan, the credenza doors and wall unit), to bounce a little more light around.  Using glossy surfaces in muted colours - preferably just white - will also help balance out my very liberal use of colour.  I could stand to add a bit more white/lightness, overall.

Collected Interiors
A pair of rogue pink chairs are a brief detour from an otherwise aqua-aqua-aqua palette.

Collected Interiors
I love the television above the fireplace, across from the kitchen.  I wish we could mount our television this way (as opposed to across from the windows), because then I could watch it while I'm cooking.  I swear I'd watch cooking shows, and not the Gilmore Girls on an endless loop.  I wonder if I'd have more cooking casualties...

Collected Interiors
I love the contrast of the warm wood grain against the cool white walls and watery accent colours.  Similarly, warm copper looks gorgeous with aquas and blues.  Note to self: copper in the lakehouse.

Collected Interiors
The bedroom (especially that luxurious looking headboard and coordinating artwork) might be my favorite room, although I do prefer the symmetry of matching end tables and lamps.  I know that mismatched tables and lamps are more on-trend and lend a more causal, collected-over-time feel, but my brain really like pairs of things.  I blame Catholic school and hearing about Noah's Ark during my formative years ;) 

The white curtains in this home make me miss our abundance of easy breezy sheers in the townhouse, but I really wanted to try patterned drapes in our new space.  I've really enjoyed trying something different - it was time for a change, you know?  But I do love the look of the white drapes, especially in this space - it's a classic, effortless look.   

Collected Interiors
Sigh.  I'd happily to move in.  

What do you think of this home?  If you're as smitten as me, there are more photos on the Collected Interior website; click here to take a peek.  Their entire portfolio is mesmerizing.
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January 22, 2015

Hungarian Embroidery 101 - Choosing + Transferring the Pattern

While doing a little bit of research about Hungarian embroidery - particularly Kalocsa embroidery - I learned that not every woman who embroidered designed her own patterns.  Some women were especially talented and would design patterns for other women.  They would have sketchbooks filled with designs:

There is an art to designing patterns that are balanced and aesthetically pleasing, but also some technical concerns as well: the size of the motifs, the length of the corresponding stitches, etc., all need to be considered.  In the 1930s, when colourful folks costumes grew in popularity, more and more Hungarian women started to learn the art of designing patterns.  Exceptional pattern makers were still sought after, though, and each had her own individual style.  The demand for this skill has waned, but it still has relevance in Hungary.  Interestingly, while doing my dissertation research I noticed patterns in the earlier issues of Nők Lapja.  I photocopied a few because I am completely inexperienced at designing an embroidery pattern.  The only other project I've done already had the design printed on it (purchased in Hungary):

For this new project I set about pinning motifs (I've started a board dedicated to embroidery).  I was a little overwhelmed, though, and the pressure of designing something good enough to embroider really stalled my project.  Then I stumbled across this image:

It is not a traditional Hungarian embroidery pattern, but it was designed by a Hungarian graphic designer, Lilly Baróthi Zathureczky.  From the 1930s until the 1960s (when she passed away), she designed patterns for needlework and other artistic purposes.  The pattern was shared by Needle 'n Thread, in addition to a short blurb on Lilly's life and work.  This particular design was painted by Lilly in 1956 (you can see the coloured design here), but she left no notes regarding its intended application.  Once I found it, I couldn't envision using another pattern - this was the one!

The rectangular pattern happened to be almost the exact dimensions of the pillow cover I intend to make.  I'm replacing the orange paisley cover with this project - if all goes according to plan.

Regarding the pattern, I had to enlarge the design and I'm worried that in doing so some of my stitches will be too long but I'm just going to roll with it and hope for the best!  Before starting the embroidering, I printed out a few copies and grabbed my coloured pencils to roughly plan the colours.  It took a few tries but I finally landed on something I liked.  I ended up using fewer colours than I initially intended, but I stuck to the same palette of blues, greens and aqua.  It sure was easier to embroider in only one colour! 

There are many ways to transfer an embroidery design to fabric; this article and this article list most, if not all, of them.  I chose to print my design on an overhead transparency and use an overhead projector, simply because I had these things on hand.  Then I just taped the fabric (which is a creamy silk, and much prettier in real life) onto a wall and rooked my Mom into tracing the design.  Szuka seemed really befuddled and wondered what the heck we were up to.

And I'm ready!

If it seems like this project is progressing slowly, that's because it is.  It takes me forever to actually start this type of long, involved project (especially embroidery, it seems), but then I pick up more steam.  I've already begun embroidering (I have the hand cramp to prove it), and once I've completed a substantial section, which will take awhile, I'll show you the basic stitch I'm using - it's like colouring with thread! 

Originally I had thought about adding some purple to the design, but I was on the fence about it.  While I was pondering, Szuka grabbed the spool from my dresser (bad girl!) and started swallowing the thread like one long piece of spaghetti.  I'm pretty sure I pulled half of it back out of her stomach and neither of us were impressed.  On the bright side, it made the difficult decision to add purple moot.  To be safe, I now store the spools I'll be using in a mason jar.  When I'm done, I tuck in my needle and a small pair of scissors and it makes a convenient kit.  The day she learns to unscrew the lid on a mason jar, I'm hooped.

To see read about the progress of my first embroidery project, click here.  If you're curious about Hungarian embroidery, take a look at this post. If you got tips and insights or are a master embroiderer, lay your knowledge on me because I'm pretty much an embroidering newbie!
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January 19, 2015

How to Clean Baked on, Burnt on Grease and Grime from Vintage Pyrex Bake Ware

Looking back through my Instagram photos, it looks like my most recent vintage Pyrex purchase happened 11-ish weeks ago.  (I have a memory like a sieve, so I need visual aids.)  15 weeks ago I traded some of my Butterfly Gold Pyrex to snag some pink Gooseberry pieces for my Mom's pink Pyrex collection), 16 weeks ago I found a lid for Mom, 17 weeks ago I found a piece at the dump, and 20 weeks ago I found a flamingo pie plate:

Flamingo pink Pyrex pie plate

I guess what I found recently is the motherload, comparatively: two brown fridgies (part of the town and country set, I think) and two flamingo bake ware pieces.  The flamingo colour was produced 1952-1956 and, for some reason, it's not terribly popular among collectors.  Most turquoise bake ware was only produced for one year (1956) and these pieces have become very popular - much to my chagrin.  They have escaped my grasp because my thrifting mojo is not that good and, sadly, the prices online have crept up pretty high.  I have a new appreciation for flamingo pink, which seems more plentiful.  Since selling 30 pieces in a flash vintage Pyrex sale on Instagram, I find myself with some room for these...

Flamingo Pink Pyrex Bake Ware

The two flamingo pieces are especially neat because they were made in Canada!  I'm not sure Canadians got a handle on Pyrex manufacturing because we only produced it between 1947-1954 (in Ontario!)  Look at the uneven paint application on the piece below; you can see the colour sort of fade away and become more sheer.  It's not dishwasher damage, the application even feels rough there - like they ran out of paint.

Made in Canada Pyrex

Also, the logo was applied backwards, how it would be on a clear piece - so it's readable from the top, through the glass, as opposed to flipping it over and reading the bottom. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, but it caught me off guard.

When was Pyrex made in Canada?

When I found these, they were very dirty.  You know that burnt on, caked on, un-scrubbable grease and grime that some thrift store kitchen wares have?  A simple soak and elbow grease doesn't always do the trick on the stuff that's been stuck on for decades.  Fellow Pyrex collectors have suggested many fixes: a Coke soak, Barkeeper's Friend, Mr. Clean magic eraser.  I tried some of these methods and wrote about them here.  This will be an addendum to that post because I tried something else - suggested by Instagram Pyrex friends and people who commented on the post - and it worked like a charm: oven cleaner! That's right - oven cleaner can clean baked on grime from Pyrex bake ware.

Here's the before:

How to clean baked on grease from Pyrex

I put the pieces in a plastic bag, opened a window (phew!), sprayed a liberal application of foaming oven cleaner right onto the grime, then tied the bag shut.  I waited an afternoon and then rinsed off the oven cleaner.  The grime and baked on grease had softened and slid right off, like butter, without damaging the finish.  Then I gave both pieces a thorough wash in hot, soapy water to make sure I removed the last of the goo and also the cleaner.

Look at them now!  So shiny and calling out for some brownie or banana bread batter.

How to clean grease from vintage Pyrex
Vintage Pyrex Collection

I am still relatively new to Instagram but if I'd have know about the hashtags #pyrexlove and #pyrexforsale, I'd have joined years ago!  Heck, I might have been motivated enough to invent Instagram ;) I've met some wonderful people over there and have had the pleasure of ogling amazing Pyrex collections that make my vintage Pyrex collection look like a starter set.  It's a great community of people who are always ready to help identify a piece, trade items to help one another complete sets, revel in a great find (or commiserate when necessary), or offer tips like this one!  I'm sure Hubby is thrilled to bits that I'll no longer pass by hopelessly grimy pieces - he's my designated item-carrier when thrifting.

EDIT: Although oven cleaner has been generally recommended by Pyrex collectors, I have recently heard from one gal who said it left a hazy film on her Pyrex.  She thinks it might have been because she used extra strength cleaner.  Regardless, it's good to know!  If you're going to try this method, only use it on a piece that's far gone - as a last resort - just in case.

How to Clean Baked on Grease and Grime from Vintage Pyrex Bake Ware with Oven Cleaner
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January 16, 2015

Iiiiiiiittttaala - Collection of Iittala Festivo

Whenever Hubby spots some Iittala, he sort of squeals the word and drags out the vowels, with an extra screechy-ness on the I's: "iiiiiiiittttaala".  It totally cracks me up.  What can I say?  I married the absolute best guy.  Last summer he and I were yard-saling with my Mummu (see? The Best) and while Mummu and I busied ourselves scrutinizing a table full of china, I heard the soft tinkling of crystal behind us.  Hubby was crouched down, intently sorting through a box of glassware.  Turns out, he had uncovered a honey pot of Iittala (say it with me: iiiiiiiittttaala).  Once upon a time, I never found a stitch of Iittala in this city, outside of Finnish stores, Finnish homes and antique shops.  Since moving back after a six year long absence, I've been finding Iittala yard saling, in the thrift stores, and even in the classifieds.  There are pieces I pass up, but every now and then I find a steal - or something I really want.

I was recently trolling the classifieds when, lo and behold, I stumbled across a colossal collection of Iittala Festivo candle holders.  My Mummu was kind enough to give me her complete set, which is really special because she had one of each size and each piece was a gift from a family member, spread out over years with no duplicate sizes gifted - no one arranged this, either.  It just happened!  Obviously, I love the set she gave me but I always envisioned growing my instant-collection a bit more.  I hadn't yet found any for a good price, so stumbling across a lot was thrilling.  By the time I got in touch with the seller more than half had sold, but I scooped up what remained: 9 in total, which included four signed pieces.

Here's my collection before (including two, 2-ring ones I stole from my Mom):

And my collection, a bit beefier now (but sans the two I stole from my Mom, who insisted I give them back once she saw my loot):

They're definitely squeezing out my little enamel bowl.  For some reason I felt compelled to distinguish new pieces from my Mummu's - although I'm letting them co-mingle - so I marked the bottoms of the newbies with a small silver star sticker so I know who's who in the zoo.

I have to admit that I felt a little woozy making this purchase - a mixture of sheer excitement and a little apprehension over spending the money.  I've been trying to be a tightwad recently because I'd like to make some big purchases - office chairs, bedroom closet doors, etc.  I've been squirreling away as much money as I can and forgoing the little luxuries whenever I can muster the willpower.  (Obviously, my money saving waxes and wanes).  But, as I reasoned with Hubby, I don't tend to buy many accessories for our home and when I do I've normally scored a great deal - usually snagging something fabulous second-hand.  Though more expensive than a normal thrift store score, these were an excellent price too.  Plus the Festivos are, in my opinion, a classic and timeless design.  They were designed by Timo Sarpaneva in 1966 (who also came up with the "i' logo), and produced since 1967 - although they're no longer available for sale (new) in the United States and Canada, making them even more special.  And other than our kitchen shelves and this credenza, I don't have too many spots to accessorize - so I want to make a statement with a collection en masse.

Hubby's reply?  Iiiiiiiittttaala.
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