Sunday, April 14, 2013

The thrifting gods have smiled upon me

Hi! This is going to be a photo-heavy post, so I won't waste time with lots of jabbering.

Oh, who am I kidding? Jabbering is my fave thing to do. The past couple of weeks I have found some really fun stuff for really cheap, and I can't wait to share the photos. Last weekend I was lucky enough to get to go thrifting TWICE - on Sunday I somehow got my brother Pete to agree to go with me. Sucker.

Now that spring feels like it's fighting its way through the cold and snow, I feel more excited about buying clothes. Last week I got a great Max & Cleo printed jersey faux-wrap dress for $5. It's really comfortable and perfect for work. $5 is a little rich for my blood, but I know I'll wear it at least 2-3 times a month during the summer, and in the winter I can just pair it with tights and boots, so it's really a year-round dress. On Friday I got a vintage handmade skirt that's reversible. I paid $2 for it, and I can't decide if it's ugly or cute. That's kind of how I feel about half of my closet.

Yesterday I got a button-down shirt for my brother, a Garnet Hill  wool cable knit cardigan, a vintage dress, a leopard-print sweater and a great black knit skirt for $8. Goodwill has a different-colored tag on sale for $0.99 every week, and this week's color was red, so I zeroed in on anything with a red tag that looked wearable. Most of the time I strike out with this approach, but not yesterday! The only thing I paid more than $1 for was the sweater at $3.59. I also found a beautiful Catherine Malandrino skirt for $1, but it was stained beyond wearability so I reluctantly put it back. Not because I'm so cheap I won't relinquish the dollar, but because I don't need more junk clogging up every corner of our house.

While I had great luck with clothes, I had even better luck with fun decorative stuff for the house. Lots of great things for the walls and another brass animal to add to my collection.

I could write about this stuff all day, but the pictures are the fun part, right? Without further ado:

Retro vintage plate for $1. This will be part of a gallery wall in the guest room.

Bird art for $3. The bird is actually made out of feathers. 

Mama and baby giraffe! I paid $4 for this, but I love it so.

Gorgeous botanical print for a gallery wall I'm working on for the master bedroom. It's not in perfect shape, but for $2, I can't complain.

Okay, I know what you're thinking, but this $1 dress is actually super cute on! It's ever-so-slightly too small for me, so I'm saving it for the Etsy store I hope to open some time this summer.

The obsession with birds continues. This gorgeous brass and enamel plate already has a handy wall-hanger thing on the back. $2.

This little mini-painting is only about 3"x4", and I love it. According to the signature, I think it was done in Venezuela? It was $2 and I'm almost certain it's an original.

I got this metal tray at the Goodwill Wearhouse, which is essentially a Goodwill outlet. More on that later. Ugh.

This framed print was $8, so not the cheapest ever, but the colors are so vibrant and I just couldn't leave it at the store. It's also enormous, so takes up a good bit of wall real estate.

Cute brass apple container for $3. 

I got this B. Makowsky crossbody bag last weekend. It didn't have a tag on it, so I wasn't sure they'd sell it to me, but my homegirl at the St. Vincent de Paul store said I could have it for $3. Woot!

Close-up shot of the rose gold hardware. Love it.

And here's a pile of brass junk I have no idea what to do with. I think maybe it will be part of the master bedroom gallery wall. I just don't know.

So, I mentioned the Goodwill Wearhouse above. You guys, it was truly terrifying. I'm trying to branch out with my thrifting spots, but I don't know if I could be convinced to try this one again. The by-the-pound Goodwill in Queens is full of the surplus donations they just don't want to sort and individually price. The one here in Omaha is where janky shit goes to die. The bins were full of broken stuff, filthy books, a crushed Cadbury egg (?!) and various other junk no one in their right mind would want. On one side of me was a woman feverishly snatching any book she could find, and on the other side was a homeless man who seemed mostly interested in records. I got the floral tray, an embroidered pillow front (more on that in a later post) and three of the brass butterfly/bird wall hangings above. I paid $3.50 for the haul, so it actually wasn't that much cheaper than buying them at the regular old Goodwill. The experience was pretty traumatizing. I got all scratched up by broken junk, and you should have seen the color of the water when I went home and washed my hands. Yuck.

I think I'm a pretty seasoned thrifter, but there are some places even I'm willing to write off. I think that's one of them.

So, that's that. Two weeks' worth of thrifting goodness. I would estimate I spent about $40 total and got a bunch of clothes and housewares that are unique and fun. That's what it's all about. (You do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around...)

If that's stuck in your head now, I am so sorry.



Saturday, April 13, 2013

Better, not perfect

I was just out running this morning and thought of how I characterize my approach to our house, and pretty much my life. I think my new mantra is "Better, not perfect."

There's still a bunch of unpainted trim in the house, the floors need refinishing, the sunroom needs painting, the yard needs tending and the basement is a wreck. I'll never be one of those women with cute laundry rooms and sparkling kitchens and windows that never get dirty.

But we have brought an old house back to life and enjoy every minute of living here. Beyond the physical improvements, there is something really special to us about taking over the house from someone who owned it for 50 years and raised four kids here. I'd like to think we're doing right by her.

So the house is definitely not perfect, but it is better. I am going to really try to remember that when I'm flipping through Pinterest photos and lamenting my lack of motivation to get moving on the myriad little things that need to be done around here. For all the good social media does, it's also a breeding ground for jealousy and inferiority, two things I struggle with enough as it is.

Anyway, sorry to get all philosophical on your asses. I've gotten some super fun stuff thrifting these last couple of weeks, and I hope to get some photos up on the blog tomorrow. Have a great Saturday! I hope it's sunny and beautiful wherever you are!



Sunday, March 31, 2013

Little things that make me happy

Whad up, yo? I hope everyone is having a great Easter weekend! I went to Estherville, Iowa with my sister, brother-in-law, niece and parents to help my sister and her husband move into their (ridiculous, stunning, gorgeous) new home. They will be there for 3 weeks while he works at the hospital in town and they're moving there for good in July. It's bittersweet. I am so happy for them because I know this means great professional strides for my brother-in-law, but I will miss them more than I can say. I've been so lucky to see my niece two or three times a week since we moved back, and now they're going to be 3 1/2 hours away. But life goes on, and we will try to make the most of this summer.

That oddly sad intro was all to say I am freaking exhausted so this will be a short post. I did my usual drop-in at the Salvation Army across the street from work on Friday and found a couple of really cute things, starting with this cloisonne-style trinket box for $1 (yes, I hate the word "trinket," too):

The base is brass. Obviously I could not leave it there.

I thought it was really pretty and it's a good size - probably 5 or 6 inches in diameter. I can use it to store coasters... when I buy some damn coasters.

It has a happy new home on my incredibly dusty and finger-printy end table. 

Next up, I found two cute things for the upstairs. This watercolor/pencil drawing had the price tag halfway scraped off, so I asked the checkout girl how much it was. Similar items there go for between $10 and $15, but I thought I'd give it a shot anyway. She gave it to me for $2!

Sorry so fuzzy - camera's still acting up.

I planned to paint the mat something less 1980s cornflower blue, but someone had it custom framed and I didn't want to mess with the pristine kraft paper backing. For $2, I can live with it.

Pretty, huh? I like it, anyway.

Lastly, I got this heavier-than-it-looks floral figurine, I think made out of brass with some badly chipped enamel on the flower petals:

Wow, that is an awful picture. It's the little doo-hickey on the left.

It cost me $1, and I just thought it was pretty. For some reason I am obsessed with weighty stuff. If it feels like I could clock an intruder in the head with it and really do some damage, I will usually want to take it home.

So for $4 total I got three things that pretty much made my day. That's less than some people spend on coffee. I mean, I don't know anyone who spend $4 on a single coffee, but that's what you're supposed to do. Feel holier-than-thou because I spend less on junk from thrift stores than some people do on coffee.

This weekend I think I am going to try out the Goodwill Wearhouse, a Goodwill "outlet" of sorts where they just have waist-high bins bigger than a studio apartment through which you have to dig for your treasures. I went to one in Queens with the ladies of AuH20, the world's best clothing store in the East Village in NYC. Seriously, they are fabulous girls with amazing taste and I have never left their store empty-handed, even on the many occasions I dragged Alexis there "just real quick" before brunch.

Anyway, it was an awesome experience and you pay for your junk by the pound, which means I spent something like $17 for several pieces of clothing (including a Tory Burch coat that was sadly beyond repair), an art deco beaded purse and a pair of shoes I wear at least twice a week. Love it.

Have a great rest of the day!



Monday, March 25, 2013

DIY Fabric Roller Shades (AKA, no more crack den curtains!)

Woot! Remember those painted vinyl roller shades I told you guys about? Finally, they have been banished to the basement to be used as drop cloths or something. Yesterday I spent about 2 hours ironing and gluing my way to fancy new window treatments for the guest room. Here's the result:

Yikes, sorry it's so dark. MAYBE THE SUN COULD COME OUT SOME TIME.

Edit: I got another, better photo:

I was so excited to get started on these I didn't even take before shots. I am the worst blogger ever. Suffice to say, sloppily painted white vinyl is not pretty. Not even a little.

I followed this tutorial, but the process was pretty simple: measure, cut, "sew" hems on 3 sides with hemming tape, and use this miracle glue to glue the top, raw edge of the fabric to the cardboard tube from which you ripped the offensive white vinyl.

This was a really economical way to dress these windows. And economical is a really nice euphemism for cheap. But still, they turned out nicely and I'm happy with the results. Full curtains would have been expensive and not very practical since the giant desk at which I blog and Pete does his homework butts right up against the wall. And I don't know if you've noticed, but nice-looking curtain hardware can be really expensive! These roller shades were only $7, and the mounting hardware was already there from when the previous own had her curtains and shades up.

Oh, if you want to actually be able to see the fabric, here it is:

Waverly Lovely Lattice Jungle

It's a print by Waverly called "Lovely Lattice" in the Jungle color. I bought 7.5 yards of this stuff when I foolishly thought I would reupholster a sofa I got on Craigslist. I paid $10 a yard at Joann during a sale. The sofa now resides in the burn pile at my Aunt Sue's farm.

So since I had the shades, hardware, and fabric, this project only ended up costing me $5 for a bottle of glue (using a coupon, of course!). If I had to buy all the stuff I still think I could have gotten it done for around $40 or $50, depending on how much I spent on fabric. I searched high and low online for something else, but nothing caught my eye and it finally dawned on me I had a huge stash of something that would work sitting in the basement.

Also this weekend, the search for a new coffee table to replace the brass-and-glass monstrosity ended. Seriously, never buy a glass coffee table unless you own stock in Windex.

I went to my very first estate sale and found this beauty tagged at $50, but then the woman running the sale said all furniture was half price, so I jumped on it. Well, not literally. I had write my name on a piece of painter's tape, which she gingerly placed upon its surface.

Say hi to Pete's legs and sock! Also, yes, I did use the same fabric for that lumbar pillow in the middle of the sofa. How else do you use up 7.5 yards of fabric?!

It's a solid slab, about 1 1/2" thick, and has just the right dimensions. The only thing I'm torn about is the legs. They're kind of skinny, almost 70s colonial-style turned legs with tiny brass caster feet. Although I love the caster feet with my whole shriveled heart, I kind of hate the legs. They feel very old-lady to me. I'm trying to get Pete to agree to replace them with something tapered to give the whole thing a more modern feel, like this one:

We shall see. Maybe I'll learn to love the little old-lady spindly legs.

So do you like the roller shades? Do you want to come stay in my guest room? It's nice, and yellow, and now it has non-scary things to cover the windows! Yippeeeeeeee!



P.S. - Here's a lovely shot of a couple of cute paintings I got at the thrift store for $1 each. They're obviously not masterpieces, but I love the colors with the yellow walls (and now green-and-white shades!) and anything nautical is a-okay in my book.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Master Bedroom Part 2

Holy crap, you guys! It's been a week since I last posted. Sorry about that. It's been a busy few days. (It will always be busy, I'm realizing. Must come up with some way to get stuff done ... stuff besides the stuff with which I'm busy.)

I know you've been waiting with bated breath to see the second half of the master bedroom, so here goes:

Ta-da! The sleeping area. We are dealing with the dreaded window-behind-the-bed situation. I haven't figured out if we should do a headboard or not. Please ignore the wonky bedding. Pete made the bed that day. (Love you, honey!) The monogrammed shams were the first thing I bought after our wedding. They're from Pottery Barn, and I remember feeling absurdly swanky for buying them.
I don't know how to reconcile my being over "shabby chic" with how much I love this decidedly shabby chic bedding. It is, in fact, from Target's Shabby Chic line, although naturally I hunted it down on eBay for 30% lower than the store price. I wasn't about to pay triple digits for bedding.

Isn't the linen texture so pretty? And I love the colors, but I guess I want something more... I don't know. Sophisticated or something.

Remember that chair-as-nightstand thing I posted about in the kitchen entry? If you look closely you'll see two chairs flanking the bed in the first photo. Here's a close-up. The clamp lights are $7 from Home Depot. At some point I will get around to spray painting them antique brass or something a little softer than brand-new aluminum.
Close-up of what might be the weirdest art project ever. I had these ugly dark red "distressed" metal stars we bought 1 million years ago and displayed on the walls in our Brooklyn apartment. I used Mod Podge to adhere pieces of newsprint to them. I liked the results enough to put them up, but they're definitely not my fave.

That is an old bench that was in our house in Ashland when I was a kid, then spent some time at my aunt's farm, and now lives happily in our room. The throw is Cynthia Rowley and the leather journal was a gift from Pete a long time ago.
I keep meaning to hang these brass bird thingies but I don't have a good spot for them yet. They were $1 each (there's two, it's hard to tell) at the St. Vincent de Paul store.

And that's about it. The room still needs lots of finessing. I'm hoping to add some more mid-century modern pieces to the mix to steer it away from the direction it's in now. I would repaint, but it was such a beast the first time that I resolved not to paint it again until we could pay someone to do it. It. Was. Awful. Plus, new paint means new curtains, new curtains means new bedding, and before you know it, you've had to sell your damn house.

Oh, and if an antique/mid-century mash-up sounds super weird to you, take a look at this awesome space I saw on SF Girl by Bay. (Won't let me copy photos in, boo.) Isn't that room amazing? I know we don't live in an East Sussex farmhouse, but we do live in a Southeast Omaha brick house - it shouldn't be that hard to replicate!

So if anyone has a vintage white leather lounge chair or freaking awesome credenza, please let me know. I will pay you five American dollars for them, which I believe is the going rate.

By the way, thrifting was sort of a bust this weekend. I got a cute little brass and glass side table for $7 (I posted a photo on Instagram), a couple of paintings for the guest room for $1 each, and a brass picture frame. I could have kept shopping, but it seemed like everywhere I went there were homeless creepers and it was just making me tired. You really have to be in the right mood to be okay shopping alongside a couple of meth heads trying to load two bed-bug-ridden armchairs into their van.

On that cheerful note, have a lovely night!



Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Work in Progress: The Master Bedroom, Part 1

If my boss is reading this (hi, Shelley!), please don't judge my inconsistent capitalization in the post titles. I can only follow the rules so many hours a day. Outside those hours I am a major rebel.

Ahem, so. Sorry no post yesterday - we went to see The Lion King at the Orpheum. That is to say, we saw half of The Lion King. Joanna, my stepmom, had ants in her pants by intermission (okay, so did I) so we left before the second half. How do kids sit through a nearly 3-hour theater production?!

Today I wanted to share some photos of the master bedroom. Our room occupies the entire 2nd floor, and has a little "getting ready room" and the "sleeping room." I'm splitting this up into two posts because I have about 1.8 million photos.

This room is probably my least favorite right now. The decor is tending toward French country/shabby chic and that's not really where I wanted to go. It's pretty and soothing and it's not like I'm going to rip everything out tomorrow, but when I have the resources to redecorate, that room will be #1 on the list. It just feels a little disjointed from the rest of the house, which has a distinctly eclectic-vintage-mid-century feel.

The before and afters are better than the kitchen's, if I do say so myself. And I do.

Here's the before, as you've just come up the stairs:

Please note the globe light fixture, weird laminate elf door on the right, and paneling EVERYWHERE. Oh, also, the house was wired for Life Alert so there were phones, wires and buttons on every wall surface upstairs.

And as you round the corner to the left, here's what is now the getting-ready room:

If you look at the ceiling you can see the gorgeous acoustic tile. I mean, perfection.

This is what that space looks like now:

At some point that banister will get replaced, probably when we refinish the floors and drywall the walls and ceilings. Much better, though, right? Don't mind that weird pop-out thing over the mantel. There was a lot of slap-dash carpentry done up there; we'll fix it eventually.

The biggest improvement, for me, was the ceiling. We used this textured wallpaper from Lowe's to cover the acoustic tiles. Thank GOD my dad is so experienced with wallpaper. He had this up in two days, with me as his assistant. It still needs some touching up, but it's such a difference from the dingy commercial ceiling.  

In case you were wondering, the globe light, sadly, was discarded and replaced with this $5 pendant from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore near our house:

It reminds me of an earring. I thought it was pretty and it was certainly the right price, so up it went! 

You may have noticed that beautiful mantle. Pete rescued it from the trash pile on one of his jobs in NYC, and we hauled it here with us when we moved. It's by far my favorite part of the upstairs:

What sort of fool would throw that away?!
 To fill in the center of the mantel (you know, where a fireplace would usually go), I  used some scrap wallpaper and pasted it to a section of the cardboard box in which our bed frame was delivered. Pete attached a leftover piece of molding from the kitchen so the bottom looks a bit more finished. That little project was free. Love it.

Close-up of the detail on the mantel.

Plant-less planter, gilded photo frame and glittery silver bird procured from thrift stores and TJ Maxx.

Thrifted vases and little wicker purse.

My dad gave me that book when I was 10 years old and I still read it and love the illustrations. It's The Random House Book of Stories from the Ballet. The primitive stool it sits on was $6 from a thrift store and I love all the chippy paint.

Little vintage cup and saucer set from a shop in Kansas City.

Busted-ass chair also from the store in Kansas City. I had big plans to repair the seat, but I kind of like it as-is. I hung a vintage Whiting & Davis mesh drawstring purse from it. If I could carry that purse everywhere, I would. It's like jewelry in which you can carry your phone. 
 And to wrap this all up, here are some shots of the junk sitting on or hanging above the dresser I got on Craigslist before we even owned a house to put it in (you can see it peeking out on the right side of the first "after" shot):

Thrifted brass tray for my perfumes, and a votive holder I got from TJ Maxx for $0.30.

Pretty silver bowl from a thrift store - it holds my bracelets.

I use the votive holder to stash my rings when I'm not wearing them.

Pete brought this thing home from somewhere. God only know what it's made out of. It weighs about a million pounds. He does a great job of holding me necklaces for me.

The engraved brass lamp and deco beaded purse are from - where else? - thrift stores for $8 and $1.50, respectively.

Here's the mirror I hung over the dresser. It was $6 from TJ Maxx. It's not really big enough for that spot, so I filled out the space a little with antique backplates from my dad's house in Ashland. I love having them up there.

That about sums up Part 1 of the bedroom tour! I'm sure you're all waited with bated breath for Part 2. I mean, I know how excited we all were for Part 2 of The Lion King.

Oh, wait...



P.S. - If you've seen drop-cloth curtains on Pinterest and wondered how they turn out in real life, without seamstress skills or complex stripe-painting or any other nonsense, they look awesome. And are much heavier and expensive looking than comparably priced "real" curtains.

I ironed a "flap" at the top that's about 18" tall - no hemming or sewing involved, just a lot of time with an iron on its highest setting and lots of water to steam the wrinkles out. You will want to wash and dry the cloths before hanging them. They stink.
Shot of the awesome drapery clips I used to hang the curtains. They hold on tight and slide really nicely over the rod. Man, I could totally write romance novels.