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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Garage Makeover

Two years ago, we attempted to makeover the garage.  First we added a new, more attractive,  automatic garage door with windows to let in some much needed light.  Next, I had a carpenter move the threshold for the interior entrance that leads into the laundry/mud room about a foot.  A new door was also added (still not painted...) because the original was pretty beat up. We use this door as the main entrance for our family and every time someone was at the mud sink, they would get hit in the back by whoever was coming in through the garage. The original door location was a serious builder blunder!  I also had the old short stairs removed and replaced them with a 6ft. run that went to the wall allowing for storage and safety. The old handrail was on the left.  Absurd, since there was nothing to hold onto and prevent you from falling off the right side! And, when the hand rail was on the left, it made for the useless little cubbie that just collected dirt between the stairs and the wall. We also added extra circuits to the breaker panel for media and electrical wiring needed for planned renovations. 

Before-signs of phase 1

After-all phases complete
This past spring I promised my husband his Father's Day gift would be to complete the garage makeover. To say he was excited would be an understatement! We got started in the Spring with Step 1 through 3.  Steps 4 and 5 followed.  And, this past weekend the last few things were completed! I do NOT recommend, dragging it out this long, as there is a very good chance it will never get finished. We gave ourselves a firm deadline of the end of September to complete both the garage and storage room.

The Wish List:
Lots of sturdy storage shelving
Hanging system for tools
Work bench
New refrigerator

The Plan:
Be brutal about what we really needed to keep.
Measure for everything that would stay.
Make sure the systems were flexible for possible changes down the road.
Allow virtually nothing to be stored on the floor.
Make it as attractive as possible!

Donate & Dump

The Process:
Implement the 3 D's. You may call it something else, but this is my personal system:  Decide, Donate, Dump.
I use for it myself and  my clients.

Step 1:
Decide what you are keeping and put it aside.
Donate to your neighbors, friends, favorite charity, or local thrift store everything in good condition that you no longer need.
Dump the rest in the garbage or recycling.

Step 2: 
Draw up the design plan. We already had a metal storage cabinet (used to store paper goods and cleaning products) and the measurements for the new Gladiator refrigerator, so the rest of the space was configured from there. NOTE: Don't forget to account for your automatic garage door tracks and electrical outlets! Be precise about every measurement and size of every item. Each item will need to have an exact location. This is critical in knowing what parts will be ordered. This step is definitely, the most difficult aspect of the whole job, because it will impact everything, including what you spend!  Order parts and have delivered.

Assess the mess & decide what stays for measurements.

Step 3:
Paint the walls (aqua), ceiling (white), stain the floor (gray), and the baseboards (black). I use the term baseboards loosely because in reality it was a rough uneven space between the walls and floor.  We used an exterior paint for this part.  

Step 4:
Prep the floor. Sweep and then use a cleaner/etcher solvent. Allow to dry for 2 days. Apply 2 coats of concrete stain to floor. Not difficult, but very time consuming. Apply 1 coat of stain for a mottled look, 2 coats if you want the look of paint without all the scratching/chipping in a high traffic area. Plus, it covered up oil & rust (from our renter's car) and most of my mishap of spilled paint a few years earlier...oops! Wait at least 3 days for foot traffic and at least 10 days for car parking.

The products used

Goodbye oil & rust stains

Goodbye paint spill.

Left side after etching,-Right side after primer.

First coat of stain.

Second coat on upper left.
 Step 5:
 Install the system. We chose an Elfa system because of durability & flexibility.  The old plastic shelving didn't function well. We were on our 3rd one! They crack over time and are a hazzard if you are trying to store anything heavy. Plus, debris always gets trapped underneath.  Since this was suppose to be a gift to my husband, I didn't want him to have to do this part. Instead I had an Elfa expert to the installation. With the design plan in hand (we gave them our measurements and parts list, then they put it into their software program to create the final plan) it only took him 2 hours. Worth every cent! 

Ready to get organized!
  Step 6:
Put everything away based on the design plan. Note: Our backyard deck is enclosed with lattice and there is an entry gate to access storage underneath.  Large items such as the lawnmower and wheelbarrow are stored there under a tarp. The trash can has always been kept on the side of the house, hidden from view by a large Holly tree. Recycling is now located right by the door. Convenient for tossing newspapers and cardboard!


Pleading to be rescued...

Dignity for our family & our cars restored!

The Details:

Storage Wall

Work Wall

Recreation: Bikes & Golf

Playing too!

And a little gardening...

Favorite helpers!

Big help for muddy feet & paws.

Finishing touches...they help too!
What it cost:
Design fee: Zero. I hired myself! 
Elfa shelving & hanging systems: $1,475
Installation fee: 30% of total
Gladiator refrigerator: $925
Metal cabinet: $75
Work bench: $200
Rug: $85
Materials: $150

All photos courtesy of A&A

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Hide the ugly panel.  The circuit panel, breaker box, utility panel, or whatever you happen to call it, is quite ugly and everybody has one!

Just after we got married, we moved into our new Tudor style townhouse. It had a finished basement at ground level that walked out to our little yard and was full of natural light. We spent a lot of time in it, especially watching TV.  The stupid circuit breaker panel was located in the middle of the main wall!  Brilliant, Mr. Builder. At first I covered it with a piece of artwork and later this:

circa 1988
The TV sat on a shelf that pulled out and swiveled, so we could still reach the panel when necessary. We just sold this pine piece. The person who bought said it looked exactly like the one in the family room from the movie "Date Night".  Putting it on my list to rent!

Here is what you need to make a cover for your own panel:

Plus, a long/piano hinge which I already had in the basement storage room!  Perhaps, if I completed this 2 years ago, wasn't trying to do the storage room too, I  may have taken the time to spell out "circuit breaker panel" or even added some creative embellishment. But, after weeks of work, I was dabbing letters at lightening speed...just wanted to finish!




I thought it was best to spread out parts of the garage makeover.  Otherwise tomorrow's post showing the "afters" would be far too long. I want it to be inspiring, not feel like work just reading it!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Gladiator in the House

Another exhausting weekend and with it came relief that the 5 years of crap that piled up in the garage and storage room  has come to end. Yes, Oscar has left the house!  Perhaps, I should reward myself with this:

Okay, my husband worked so hard too and the reward is for the whole family. Our Gladiator has a shield like this:

Confused? Here's a full length view:

Handsome and rugged don't you think? We have a side by side refrigerator in the A&A kitchen and if you have kids or parties, they are not accommodating as far as large platters, pizza boxes or extra beverages! So, we have always had a second refrigerator in the garage. If you examined the hideous mess of the garage "before" you probably saw your basic white fridge. It was 17 years old and wasn't keeping the temperatures level mainly because it is meant to be inside! I've had a crush on the Gladiator for some time. My favorite part is that it's on huge casters. You may recall from here my love over things with mobility!

Part of the garage makeover.....

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hello Felix, Goodbye Oscar!

Generally speaking, I'm a Felix.  I am happiest and most productive when things are neat and organized.  It makes me crazy when I waste time looking for things. My husband is a Felix too. We both have Oscar lapses. Mostly, of the weekly small type. Newspapers, magazines, books, mail, a pile or two of folded clothes, that for whatever reason didn't get put away.

Our children have always been expected to keep their rooms clean and put away their stuff. I never understood the whole concept of hiding a teenagers mess behind a shut door.  Hearing "what can you do?" from friends confuses me.  At the A&A house a room that is not clean equals not going out with friends, not using the car, etc...It works.

I've had two major lapses in the last 2 years.  Now, I could rattle off a whole bunch of circumstances excuses that led to this lapse, such as 3 blizzards, 2 busy teenagers, work and doing a two year stint as a single mom while my husband was out of the country working.  But the fact is, I knew things were getting out of control and I let it.

Traditional Home- October 2010, Photo by John Bessler

The above image is Felix euphoria and Oscar madness. It is impossibly perfect and yet, I find it calming. Our mud room has beautiful custom shelving complete with cubbies, baskets and a bench that I designed. Ours lacks wallpaper, our family doesn't wear matching coats, carry the exact same umbrellas and wear similar shoes. Our baskets are labeled...otherwise there would be daily confusion about who's it is and where it goes!  But, still I can't help finding this space desirable.


In the past, I've always had this rule for our house and that was every room and closet had to be cleaned out once a year. Typically, I would tackle them in August before the kids went back to school. Donate toys and clothes that they had outgrown, mostly to clear space for back to school shopping and inevitably what Santa would bring in December. Keeping all the other spaces and closets organized was fairly easy. You all know the mantra: if you haven't used it or worn it in a year, it goes. This worked flawlessly for years.

Then in 2001 we moved to a smaller house and a new rule had to go in effect. Now when the once a year clearing took place I pretended that a move was imminent. It worked great and kept the clutter completely under control. Plus, this smaller house was along a basement! I avoid attic storage. It's not temperature controlled and I can never remember what's up there.

Then after 4 years of small house living, we moved back to our home in Northern Virginia. Things were fine initially. Until we finished the BIG basement. The storage space that once was about 1,200 sq. feet became 200 sq. feet. That's when Oscar initially begin moving into our storage room and garage.


Here is what being an Oscar will get you...


A&A Garage Before
Storage room:

A&A Storage Room Before

Why show this awful mess? To inspire hope perhaps navigating through your own Oscar carnage!  And, of course, who doesn't doesn't love a good before and after?  We've been very busy at the A&A house! First up...the garage...almost done...dramatic changes...look for it next week.

Wishing you a  productive first weekend of fall!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Milk, Cream and Begging You to Stop!

I think decanting your milk and cream into a pitcher or carafe is thoughtful and civilized. Not necessarily on busy, get the kids out the door school days, but a nice gesture on the weekends and always for guests.

Today I went to Michaels for an item and there must have been 8 people in line ahead of me. They all carried arm loads of faux "fall" flowers. Some were arrangements. I nearly passed out.  Wish I'd had the number handy of so-and-so's therapist. I fail to see beauty in these plastic and fabric replicas. I don't think they are decorative. I don't think some are better than others. Only one category in my mind.

Miniature carnations, less than a gallon of milk, slightly more than cream. I am begging you....give fresh flowers a try.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Restoration Hardware,Ohh Nooo!!!

Over a decade ago I set foot in the first Restoration Hardware Store in the Washington, D.C. area. It was located on King Street in Old Town, Alexandria, Va.  At the time I had an office close by and I was meeting a friend and colleague for lunch. It was one of those odd moments I've remembered for whatever reason. My cell phone rang and the conversation, best I can recall, went like this:

Friend:: "Where are you?"
Me: "I am in the most amazing store.
Friend: "You're shopping?!"
Me: "No, I am falling in love with a hardware store."
Friend: "You're joking?
Me: "In highschool, I hated home economics and loved shop class."
Friend: "Really...a hardware store?
Me: It's much more than that.
Friend: Should I order for you?"
Me: No, get sandwiches to-go and meet me here."
Friend: "Are you serious?"
Me: "Yes, or you will have to eat alone."

My friend, Marc,  fell in love too.  It was probably more than an hour later that we sat outside eating those sandwiches talking endlessly about all the fantastic things we had just seen, both saying how we couldn't wait to bring our spouses to the store.

I lost contact with Marc years ago when I left the corporate world, but the love affair with RH continued. I have purchased  many items over the years for myself and in more recent times for clients.  I fell in love with a concept that was rooted in early 20th century designs that had both a modern and vintage vibe.  It had an industrial edge, but was also classic and traditional. Men loved this store. I never had to convince my husband to stop in. We even shopped every year for stockings stuffers. Fun retro stuff. It became a tradition.

Mr. Bill knows that without a Belgian linen suit & European vacation, his time at RH is over!

But, the relationship has changed. Someone decided to get a complete overhaul.  Not even a reinvention of sorts. To quote, in part, RH Chairman and Co-CEO Gary Friedman "We've destroyed the previous iteration of ourselves". Why get a facelift when Botex gray paint is all the help needed with the parts that are causing you to lose market share? Why does RH want to be only European? The entire catalogue is slathered in references to Belgian, French and Italian designs to describe the style of a particular reproduction piece. What's wrong with American design mixed with European influences? I know I would like and relate to that version. Just a slightly tweaked version of RH or at least one that I would recognize and could continue to embrace. Actually, I'd settle for a mere trace of it's original American roots aka Eureka, California.

For some reason, it reminds me how football star Tom Brady is sporting the teen boy hair style these days. Tom Brady is already handsome. So why is trying to look like Justin Bieber? Isn't the addition of Gisele Bundchen and baby Benjamin enough of an enhancement to maintain interest?

Imagine my surprised when I saw a near identical version of my pair of Aiden Gray long wall sconces that I purchased from one of my favorite local shops, almost 2 years ago, show up in the latest RH catalogue? Some of you may recall my issues earlier  this year.
Illuminating a comfortable chair 

Aiden Gray

Ohh nooo!!! Yes, Mr. Bill it  happened again this past spring. RH rolled out their version of these zinc spheres that came from my friend's shop. It seems they also have a new found interest in antlers!

A&A library Christmas 2009

 It seems RH, you are pulling a Brady and trying to be a Bieber. Trying to imitate what you may perceive is the desirable "hot" thing! Are you, readers,  able to look at many of their newest items and identify the inspiration copied source too?

Certainly, it can be a bit disappointing that things I thought were unique and interesting are now going to be greatly imitated and mass produced. But, I succumb to this possibility every time I make a purchase of something that is not hand made or antique.  But, more importantly,  it saddens me that shop owners, some of whom are friends, will now have to compete with you over merchandise they had the talent to spot and insight to fill their shops with long before you put out your game changing mission statement. Stephen Gordon, your original mission was good.  

Knock on limed-oak wood some of the enhancements, although not original in thought, are beautiful and interesting.  And, there are still a few things on the web that are from the good ol' days.  But, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to having concerns over your midlife crisis makeover RH. What if this "look" doesn't work out? What happens when interest wanes? Who will you try to be next?

Images via Restoration Hardware web site, Aiden Gray, Getty images, Whyfame and A&A

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Get pumped! The search for the perfect soap pump. Regular readers may recall my soap obsession that I previously talked about here and  here. A few of you asked about pumps. Well I like those too, especially in the kitchen and laundry room. I have an integrated polished nickel pump by the kitchen faucet and always have a pump on the mud sink. And, recently I put one in our power room. I think the key is finding one that you really like and can refill, including the plastic versions! Otherwise, it's a lot of extra waste winding up in the land fills. Try to opt for the eco-smart pouches when you need to refill your pump!

Vintage looking in oil rubbed bronze
So can we pump and still live beautifully everyday? You bet! I see pumps all the time in stores, but went searching online as well. And, here are some beautiful styles, in ceramic, porcelain, glass, stone and wood. A seemingly endless array of choices to suit every taste!

Modern & eco friendly bamboo

Old fashioned pharmacy

Timeless marble

French plastic...tres chic!

Perfect for a powder room

Spa-inspired beach glass

Classic. Reminds me of Ivory dish detergent.

Cherry bomb

Industrial look of copper and glass

Handsome hunt theme
Kitchen counter necessity in polished nickel

Mud sink...big bottle needed!

Elegant plastic for my powder room?!

Images courtesy of A&A, Kingston Plumbing supply, Frontgate, Pottery Barn, Cherry & East, Umbra, Homegoods, Target, Williams-Somoma Home, Etsy, Amazon, L'Occitane