Ready for bed

If you could see the bedroom where we've been sleeping, with it's two-tone blue damask flocked wallpaper (missing a strip here and there), the rough, stained and damaged wood floors, the chipped blue-painted woodwork...then you'd know exactly why we're excited to turn in tonight.

Sure, our bedroom furniture will transition to the guest room eventually, and those lamps need new shades, and most importantly we've still not ordered new windows. But past that, this room is clean and new, and nearly done.
We took out a tiny closet full of slanted shoe shelves to make a normal size door into the bathroom. Our old stainless medical cabinet has been pressed into duty, with some baskets to hold products and my favorite ironstone punchbowl full of soap. I need to refold the towels (currently stashed in an armoire) and stack those in there too.

Also fun was the little bit of "shopping" I did through the house. I won't do too much as we'll move to the master eventually, but we'll be here for a while so I thought a few accessories would be nice. We're also pretty proud of our closet door handles. They're actually cabinet hardware, but chunky and heavy and nice. The shocker was the price, five bucks and change from Locks & Pulls out in Overland Park.
And finally, to break up the dark floor, the 9X12 seagrass rug., $280, shipping included. Yes, I wish it didn't have the canvas border, but I've looked and I can't find borderless rugs. If it doesn't exactly disappear, it doesn't call too much attention to itself either. We're pleased.
I've got some touch-up painting to do over the weekend, a couple curtain rods to mount, but mostly we're done. Of course from the bed we look directly into the scary bath-let that planning begin!

Raina, if you're at Target over the weekend...

Ha! Everyone have a GREAT long weekend!

Design Freak: The Christopher Barson Project - Or, why Fine Living Network is dead

I normally tend to post later in the evening as I'm kind of a nighttime guy, but I've just witnessed something so heinous it sent me running to my laptop. We changed cable companies so tonight after I changed out of my work clothes I flopped on the couch and started flipping through the TV listings to see if there was anything to watch.

Fine Living Network (soon to be Cooking Channel, and now I see why) was airing a special called Design Freak: The Christopher Barson Project.

Here's the premise: Find a smart-mouthed gay dude with a trendy haircut and a drinking problem, give him a homeowner with no unreasonable demands, a bland but perfectly serviceable room, and a small budget. Then sit back and prepare to be simultaneously horrified and underwhelmed.

Here's what the program description on the website says:

"Equipped with his non-stop snippy one-liners, Christopher takes on these projects with a droll
roll of his eyes and creates living spaces that go beyond the homeowners' wildest dreams. This
special combines the docusoap of Christopher's wild personal life and successful business with
makeover projects for homeowners who have no idea what they got themselves into."

So what did I see during my 3 minute stay? Nice young married couple, city apartment in what looked like Chicago or NYC, master bedroom reno. The room was maybe 14X16, good sized windows on one end, hall of closets at the other, painted a minty medium green. West Elm wood lattice headboard, patchwork bedspread, pair of assembly-required nightstands. Bland but neat and clean.

For the final installation (the part I caught) Christopher Barson sat on a chair, barked "COCKTAIL!" at an assistant (who produced one!), then sipped away and told some poor kid where to put the lamp and end table. He then sat a couple vases on the end table stuck in the corner, leaned a 30 inch tall (seriously, not even up to the window sills) mirror against the wall, and proclaimed it done. Art? No, none. Window coverings? Huh-uh. Candles or flowers? Oh, big Pier One bottle base on the end table got a few sprigs of something artificial. Finis!

The homeowners seemed pleased with his paint choice, a paler shade of non-descript, as well as the bedding, something gray with unironed pillow cases. Oh, and the husband liked the vases. If they enjoyed the half-ass gold leafing he did on their headboard they didn't mention it.

To conclude the segment Christopher said he felt like he made a good looking room, but had he had $15,000 he would have done something that would have ended up on the cover of Architectural Digest.


I don't know what I'm more offended by, his stereotypical sassy homo schtick, his complete lack of design skills, or his blaming the lackluster space on the size of his budget. Christopher, I just took a similar size bedroom down to the studs and built it back up, including all new electrical and floor refinishing for not much over 4K. My room is better looking completely empty than yours is "fully" furnished. Style and price are almost never related, and blaming the room's shortcomings on a lack of funds is just plain unprofessional.

I feel bad for the homeowners too. They seemed really nice. Young and cute, probably not married long, they deserve a designer that can make 3500 look like ten grand, not like 500 and change.

And finally, Fine Living Network, WTF? Find the person on your staff who thought the self-described "drama magnet" was a good idea. Fire them. If you're doing a special on design, you need someone who can actually make beautiful rooms, not some sassy homo wearing an ironic sweater who thinks that a lighter paint color fixes everything. The world is full of shelter magazines and design blogs and HGTV and people of all walks who care about their living spaces. Your audience has evolved, and we know bad when we see it.

Occasionally disadvantaged

I've been looking for a big round dining table for our big square dining room, and I think I may have found it. (We're nowhere near ready but you know how I like to plan ahead) Henredon's Warren dining table measures in at 72 inches and doesn't appear to have a leaf, which I like. I also like the simple structure and think the color of wood would work on either a carpet or our dark wood floor. At six feet across I'm betting I could get up to 8 around it comfortably.

Sadly, we don't have a Henredon gallery here anymore. Fuhr's used to have both Henredon and Baker galleries but they're long gone. And while the website directs me to Madden-McFarland or Dillard's I'm doubting either keeps one of these on hand.

You can order Henredon through the Design Center at Nebraska Furniture Mart (if you can stand wading through all the Ashley and La-Z-Boy to get to it), but I miss being able to put my hands on things while I browse.

MidMal Reviews:

Look at that, new doors! For the hallway and closet anyway, the bathroom door won't go in until we get going in the bathroom. Obviously the casing needs primed and painted. The doors came primed so they'll just need a coat or two of Snowbound, like I gave 80 feet of base moulding today.
Just as exciting as the closet doors, is the closet system itself that we ordered from How about a product review?

Let me start by letting you know I have no affiliation with, other than I've just ordered and installed their product.

Their online design tool was really very easy to use. You pick the type of closet (say reach-in versus walk-in), input your measurements, and start building. Tall hanging, double hanging, drawers, baskets and hampers are all available. There are also a variety of drawer fronts, hardware options, and accessories such as tie and belt racks. There are a range of available laminate colors and wood grains. Because this bedroom will eventually be used as a home office/project room we went with plain white laminate.

We ordered our system last Saturday afternoon. I received an email Monday morning saying that our boxes were shipping and would be delivered Thursday, and they were. All nine of them. One small thing I thought was pretty smart, each box was labeled "Corner Bedroom," the name I gave our design. If you'd built and ordered multiple closets you'd know exactly where everything should go.

We opened all the boxes and familiarized ourselves with what each piece was, and opened the instruction booklet. It came with a plan drawing printed in with the instructions. Not exactly the easiest to follow, but not difficult either. The main thing is to mount the back wall track at the right height, perfectly level, and screwed into studs.

The rest of the system was a breeze. Vertical panels simply hang on the track and receive cam pins. Horizontal pieces get cams inserted and then set on the cam pins. One turn of the screwdriver and everything tightens up. If its not in correctly you'll know. Even installing the drawer glides was no problem with the included self-tapping screws and a drill fit with a phillips head bit. Instructions even tell you how many open holes you need above your drawer rail for the next one.

Finally, scoring the plastic track cover with a utility knife allows it to snap straight and it mounts right over the track to cover the metal. With that you're done.

Overall I'm happy with the product. The closet system we used at the condo was very similar, but bigger and quite a bit heavier, but also a lot more expensive. I would probably not use EasyClosets for our master closet, opting for real custom cabinetry instead. But for this office bedroom or the guest room (the next closet we'll need to outfit) I think it's perfect. And I can't argue with the ease of customizing to fit whatever the need, the lightning fast shipping, or an installation that really was no big deal.

A lack of willpower

I know I said I wasn't going to post any photos until the room was done, but this is how I am. We're happy with the floors, and even though I think the doors/casing/base moulding are only going to crisp things up I couldn't wait.

Northwest corner looking east:
Just inside the hallway door looking west:
Close-up in front of the (still unfinished) window seat:
This last picture is most representative of the color, a charcoally off-black. Darker than what we originally had in mind, we're totally fine with going deeper. Most of our walls will be on the paler side to keep things light, and I think the darker floors will provide some needed contrast and ground the spaces. We'll use rugs throughout the house and I think the color will also help define spaces, especially in the more open areas of the house. More to come (hopefully) soon.


The floor was stained yesterday, we went with the darkest of the gray stain samples. After a full night of drying time (we ended up with water-based, long story) we woke up and the floors were...blotchy. And oddly brown. Hmm.

Brett emailed Dan the floor guy to let him know we didn't think it was looking so good, and we never heard back. Happily we came home to a floor that had been given a second coat of stain and is now...even, and charcoally and dark!

I'm not taking a picture now. The floor has three coats of semi-gloss polyurethane coming and then Bill will return to install the base moulding and doors. With that the room will be done (with the exception of the windows, which we're still looking for), and I will shoot. I'll post the original before to remind you of the horror, and the final result, which I think we're going to be rather pleased with. Thank you for your patience.

I'm floored

European Floors has been here all afternoon. Apparently our oak hardwoods are far harder than they're used to, and while it's taken then all afternoon to complete the first pass and fill, I'm kind of happy to know that we've got some tough wood up in here.

Here is your before. This is actually in the living room but trust me when I say it's a sea of tattered in every room.

And here we are after the first pass. I'm not sure if it's obvious or not, but the different is stunning. We've had a bit of a glitch in that Dan forgot to tell his guys that they needed a grey stain, so when they painted two brown patches and had us come look we had an awkward moment. But they've called Dan and are going to finish their sanding and treat the wood (a sealer most likely) and will come back for samples tomorrow. One day is no big deal if it means we get exactly what we've been dreaming of.

This is the most amazing part to me, the closet. There were asbestos tiles glued down in here before. I'd tried to pry some off and came up with some jagged bits, leaving horrible blobs of dried adhesive. We thought at first that they'd simply replaced the wood like they did where we removed a closet and there were voids, but no, this is what was underneath the tile.

We're going with an oil-based stain because while you have drying time to contend with, Dan said that the end result is a deeper, richer looking finish. And we're all about the deeper and richer you know. More to come this week.

Dining by Design 2010

Dining by Design originated in Kansas City 20 years ago. Its always a really nice event benefitting an important cause, and we've enjoyed ourselves every time we've gone. I did not take my camera last night because I didn't feel like keeping track of it all evening, but Brett managed to get some decent snaps with his iPhone. Here they are in no particular order, please pardon any blurryness.

Below was our table, designed by the Avila College design department. It was a font theme and very graphic. Fun.
There are always some asian inspired tables. In fact should Brett's firm ever sponsor a table and I get to design, that's the route I'd go.

This elephant was a photo op all evening long.

This year they put the tables that had more enclosed surroundings or tenting on the edges of the floor, and I thought the hall felt much more open and airy. Good call.

Retro living room here, I loved the TV trays, although everyone else thought it would be horrible for dinner conversation.

Barbara Cosgrove brought out this whirlwind of lawn chairs suspended over a long, gorgeous table featuring her lamps and accessories. That cloud of furniture was at least 10 feet wide. If there was any specific idea other than "white" I didn't get it, but I loved it anyway. She also used a pair of floor lamps that I've been drooling over online, so it was really good to get to see and touch them in person.

We sadly didn't get a shot of Mrs. Blandings' table, which was a lovely amalgamation of her favorite things, including a couple of pieces from her own dining room. Beautifully done, just as you'd expect. And because dressing up for the party is as much fun as the tables themselves I'll mention this: When a commenter on her blog asked what she planned to wear she downplayed her berry colored sheath dress. It was a great color, beautifully cut, and impeccably fitted (the ladies in alterations at Hall's are pretty good). Elegant and glamourous, again, just as you'd expect.

I bid on the signed copy of Thomas O'Brien's American Modern in the silent auction but came up empty handed due to the dude hovering nearby eyeing the bid sheet. You'll recall I didn't have to bid on the signed copy of Margaret Russell's Style and Substance as I have my own (thank you again Patricia). Reading through the event booklet at our table later on I saw that there was a donation by Kinkaid's Antiques, and I'm disappointed that I missed whatever it was as I like most everything in Cindy's shop.

All in all, a really great evening and way more fun than the paint touch up I have planned for today.