Sunday, August 31, 2014

My Dining Room Renovation

After I inherited some things from my parents' estate, my dining room veered into dangerous territory:

It began to look like an old lady with too many cats and a fondness for crocheted doilies lived there:

I needed to un-fussy it. I was aiming for gracious. Less stuffy. A few contemporary elements.

For the first time in my life, I hired a decorator to help me get it right. She was a friend, and--ta da!!!--she stayed a friend all through the process.

Here are my before-and-afters. I hope you enjoy the dining room's new look. (I sure do.)

Street-Facing Wall, Before: Wall-to-wall, pale carpet spotted with 20+ years' worth of stains. Padded moiré silk walls above decent wainscoting (Really? who does moiré silk right next to a kitchen? Cooking smells burrow into the fabric and never come out. The look of them was very Nancy Reagan-1980s. I must clarify: The silk was there when we moved in.) Geriatric drapes and sheers that the cleaners refused to clean any more, for fear they would fall apart. And an under-used area in front of a big window that only the plants were enjoying:

Street-Facing Wall, During: We pulled up the carpet and put down new flooring that resembles reclaimed barn wood (but it's really a gorgeous laminate--much more practical for an eating area). We tore out the drapes and created built-in bookcases flanking the window. Underneath the window, we installed a seat with lots of storage below:

Street-Facing Wall, During: We painted the walls a beautiful blue-gray from Benjamin Moore called "Nickel." The trim is Benjamin Moore's "Swiss Coffee":

We installed these gorgeous glass-and-metal starburst knobs from Anthropologie on the window seat cabinetry and elsewhere in the room:

Street-Facing Wall, After: Now there's a cozy place for me to read the morning paper and look at the goldfinches marauding the bird feeder just outside the window:

I love the happy mishmash of fabrics on the pillows. All pillowcases zip off for the occasional cleaning:

We filled bookshelves with our silver, and art and photography books (but left some space, so the displays could "breathe"):

Corner with leaded-glass window, Before: Too much stuff crammed into too small a space. Small, splotchy art on the walls. A jumble of undersized plants:

Corner with the leaded-glass window, After: One larger piece of art, a well-edited bookshelf, and a single chair:

Interior Wall, Before: The pinky-beige wood on our built-in hutch that screamed "Mid-80s!" Fussy, overly formal fabrics on the walls and dining chairs:

Interior Wall, After: Painted hutch and walls, contemporary fabric on seats:

Interior Wall, During: We painted the entire hutch wall the same colors ("Nickel" and "Swiss Coffee") as the rest of the room. We calmed down the formerly pink ceiling with a coat of white. (We added a lot more of those Anthropologie knobs, too, but they're not yet installed in photo below):

(Here's a glimpse at the color the ceiling used to be. Eeek!):

Before, Inside the Built-in Hutch: A dizzying mashup of crystal, china, and gewgaws:

After, Inside the Built-in Hutch: Some objects moved out, remaining things grouped (like objects with like) to calm down the mad jumble:

Built-in Hutch, After: With the cabinet doors closed, the display calms down even more: 

North Wall, Before: An antique sideboard with too much stuff on (and in) it, and those damned moiré silk walls again:

North Wall, After: The mirror between the upper and lower pieces of the sideboard unfortunately is reflecting a lot of extraneous stuff in this shot, below. But trust me, the area is much visually quieter now:

South Wall, After: (Sorry; I couldn't find a "Before" photo, but what used to be here was a dresser that I used to change the diapers of Lovely Daughter #2. Let's just say, baby furniture doesn't belong in a dining room.) An oil painting by The Hubby's mom, and a dignified little side table:

Flooring, After: On top of the beautiful flooring, we put down a Pottery Barn rug below the dining table. Here, Pao Pao (l.) and Mu Shu show off the blues, grays, and warm tones that are echoed around the room:

Ceiling, Before: Waaaay too many pot lights, fitted with bulbs that made them look like Alien Bug Eyes. Plus, pink paint. Ugh!:

Ceiling, After: This oversize chandelier. Pot lights fitted with the proper bulbs now. White ceiling. Calm--and a touch of modernism--prevails:

Love it, love it, love it!

Next time, I'll show you another room re-do. Because, this all started with the dining room. But I didn't stop there.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Malibu Party House

Last weekend The Hubby and I celebrated Summer with the rest of his office. His firm rented a stunning home on the Malibu Coastline for their once-a-year party. The property started atop a cliff and descended all the way down to the sand:

(That's my scary-colored Margarita, melting there in the foreground.)

The property is so steep, there's a thing that looks like a lighthouse...

...but it's really a little tram, ferrying people up and down the cliff:

What a ride!:

The Hubby and I preferred the old-fashioned way of getting to the beach:

Two-thirds of the way down the steps, this is the stunning view looking up the coastline:

Once on the beach, you can see the "lighthouse" among the trees, above the cabanas:

And at night, the place was simply magical.

It was like visiting a slice of Paradise. Not bad for an office party!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

August Polka-Dot Loves

Here's a roundup of polka-dotted things I loved in August. First up, this sweet mom-and-pup combo, with Pupster sporting a large, almost circular polka dot on the side, and possibly another under construction near the eye. Beauty mark, perhaps?:

(Sorry I can't acknowledge the photographer; it came to me without credit, off the Internet.)

Still loving my polka-dotted couch pillow (on the right, below). The fabric is from Calico Corners. It looks like there are little bronze coins equally spaced over the gray background:

I was considering recovering the living-room sofa, which is why there's a fabric swatch in both photos. (Subsequently I decided not to--not yet, anyhow.):

Another adorable Mom-and-Baby polka-dot combo--feline version. This one came to me from a friend, who also doesn't know where it came from. (Sorry, whoever took this.):

Pao Pao on our guest bedroom rug. I'm so besotted with this runner, sometimes I go in the room and just stare at it with a silly grin on my face:

This photo of Mu Shu, in the process of re-arranging the stuffing in another polka-dot pillow I love. I got this one from Pottery Barn:

This pink silk pants-and-camisole set. I would love to have these as jammies. They look comfy, a little sexy, but not tacky. Unfortunately, they cost as much as a small, used car, so....nope:

I did spring for these, however. Vans tennies in a darling pin-dot pattern:

And lastly, this pretty little feather I found on a walk. I love how it's brownish-black on the top:

And more grayish-black on the underside:

Maybe my birding-expert sister can tell me what kind of bird made this beautiful thing?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Vanilla Yogurt Taste Test

I'm lactose-intolerant yet love all dairy products: ice cream, milk, yogurt, cheese: yum! But the only way I can ingest cow's milk products is to take a lactase enzyme with the first swallow.

That's okay, but sometime I just want to dive into a dish of ice cream or a cup of yogurt without worrying about repercussions. So decided to taste-test three different vanilla yogurts--one made with cow's milk, one with sheep's, and one with goat's:

This is the goat's milk yogurt. The packaging is a little funky:

The foil lid is definitely funky, although kind of cute:

This is the sheep's-milk yogurt. Nice packaging:

The foil lid is restrained but attractive:

And this is the cow's milk version. It somehow reminds me of an IKEA store:

Simple, with just a touch of humor:

The goat's milk yogurt was a decidedly caramel color. The smell and taste of goat was overwhelming, and not in a good way. I could only handle two small bites:

The sheep's milk was delightful. There were little flecks of real vanilla bean in it, and the taste was slightly different from regular, cow's milk yogurt, but in a nice way:

The cow's milk yogurt, not too surprisingly, was spectacular. It tasted as rich and sinful as ice cream. I had to keep checking the label to make sure the sugar content was as low as it said. And nonfat? Could hardly believe it:

The cow's-milk yogurt is so good I would serve it as a dessert, covered with sliced strawberries or maybe freshly sliced peaches.

All three yogurts had admirable side qualities. The sheep's milk carton felt and acted like plastic, but was biodegradable:

The cow's-milk yogurt packaging urged you to recycle the removable, paper sleeve. And it identified the county where all the deliciousness came from:

The goat's milk folks have created a kosher, "Certified Humane" product, and they are savvy enough to mention there are seasonal variations in their product (it's close to Nature! it responds to the seasons!):

But for just plopping down on the back porch and ripping open a quick snack, I vote for the sheep's milk yogurt:

And while goat's-milk may not make the best yogurt, it makes the best non-cow's milk ice cream I've ever had in my life. I've tried all these flavors of LaLoo's (except the Vanilla Snowflake, which for some reason I can't find).

Rich, nuanced, deeply satisfying. They are absolutely amazing. I may have to go out and buy some right now.


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