Summer Departs from The Manor

Over the last five months we've done a lot of planning at The Manor, but don't have a great deal to show for it (yet). Here's a quick recap:

After months of my complaining that the house was too big, too old, too falling-down, too overwhelming, Bill offered me a tantalizing offer: what if we alternated one "maintenance" project and one "fancified" project (aiming for one each year)? That way we would always have a fun project in the works to think about while we slog through the stuff that must be done to keep the roof from crashing down on us. 

So, what's on the list for consideration?

I did a quick tally of some of the major (e.g. >$30,000) projects that we would like to tackle at some point in the next 10-15 years and they look something like this:

Fancified Projects

  1. Renovate the kitchen 
  2. Build a carriage house/garage
  3. Put in a pool
  4. Turn attic into a 3rd floor master suite
  5. Landscape the backyard and complete the garden

Maintenance Projects

  1. Replace the pillars on the front porch
  2. Repair/replace the rotten wood on the exterior of the house
  3. Dig up the basement, waterproof it and put in sump pumps

Let's start with the not-fun project. We've started a separate savings account for the pillars replacement project -- we're hoping to have $45,000 ready to go by the spring to get this major structural issue take care of within the next year. (The pillars are load-bearing and I hope every day not to wake up and find the front of the house caved in because the rotted wood has finally given out.) Our contractor consultations have confirmed that this is, indeed, a necessary (exorbitant) expense -- largely because pillars 40+ feet tall need to be cast in a single piece and trucked up on an 18-wheeler truck from Georgia. Then they have to lift the front of the house to remove and replace the pillars and that involves a lot of equipment and manpower. Yee-haw.

But enough about that...

While the pillar fund slowly grows, I've turned my attention to the biggest (and best) project on our list -- the kitchen renovation. We hired a designer in April, who has mocked up an awesome design that manages to include every item on my wishlist. That part was pretty straightforward, but then we hit a roadblock in June because getting a contractor  in our town is apparently like pulling teeth. We're still waiting for bids to come in (hopefully in the next week or two) and then we'll decide how to proceed. 

We estimate that once the project gets started (and it could be 2-3 months until the chosen contractor has an opening), it will take about 4 months to complete the kitchen renovation. That means it's very likely that we won't get started until January, since I don't fancy the idea of hosting Christmas dinner for my extended family in a partially-renovated kitchen.

Smaller projects need love too.

Of course, smaller projects proceed in the meantime, and rather than provide a long description of each, how about a photo montage? Yeah, I like the sound of that too.

Long story short, Bill started working on a garden and we got a lot of great produce this year (but only about 25% of what we will eventually get!), we found a new kitten in the backyard and adopted her into the family (and said goodbye to another one of our cats, who had to be euthanized after major health problems), and got 7 new chicks -- none of which are pulling their weight in the egg department yet.

Next Up

In the three weeks since I started this blog post, it appears that we're inching closer to pulling the trigger on the kitchen remodel, and I've got some lovely new updates to share on the entryway. Expect that blog entry in 4-5 months, since I obviously can't be trusted to update more regularly. Mwah!

Crowdsourcing a Color Scheme

I road-tested the couch today, and I'm happy to say that it is quite comfy for an afternoon nap. In fact, I did some rough calculations and have decided that Bill and I could sleep end to end with a couple of spare inches between us. Score!

But, this afternoon's nap and subsequent lounging did reveal one glaring oversight: a lack of pillows. The couch cushions are quite firm--which I love--but we definitely need a couple of pillows that are fluffy, big enough to accommodate propping up a laptop, and possible to create from my current fabric stash.

Let's start from the beginning.

We're thinking that we'll go with pretty simple, primary colors for the basement. The wall color is (and will continue to be) an ivory/beige to keep it bright, despite the lack of any natural light. The new couch anchors the space in a dark navy blue. The rug is an ivory color with geometric lines of red, yellow, gray and navy blue. 

We've also added two ottoman poufs of ivory and blue. These items came from my office upstairs (which mostly sits empty because of my new office space downtown and the utter lack of internet access in that corner of the house).

I haven't decided whether they should be permanently relocated down to the basement, or whether we should find another option -- I like the idea of poufs rather than a wood coffee table -- but maybe in something in another color? Suggestions are welcome, dear readers!

And now we get to the pillows.

We've narrowed the fabric choices down to two main options. The first option is a set of blues that coordinate with the navy color of the couch. 

The second option is a set of yellow-oranges, which contrast with the couch but coordinate in a larger sense with the rug and the intended color scheme.

Keep in mind...

Right now we have three pillow forms, but can add additional pillows later if we decide we'd like more. So once you cast your vote for Option #1 or Option #2, you also need to decide which three fabrics we should start with.

Also: while it's hard to get a really good picture in the basement (because of the aforementioned lack of natural light), Bill and I agree that these photos are a good representation of the colors and what the fabrics will look like in real life.

And now...

... your opinion, please!

The Library-Parlor-Music Room

Bill and I have quite different ideas of what "good interior decorating" looks like. He goes for 5-piece matching mission-style bedroom sets and overstuffed beige sofas with fringed cushions. I go for anything in the IKEA catalog. 

How we ended up in a 1907 neo-classical manor is anyone's guess.

Moving into this new house has left us with a bunch of empty rooms to fill. Right now the second parlor is one such area -- it's totally bare of furniture. It's also large, with a gorgeous fireplace, high ceilings, and big bright windows on two sides. 

We've been debating about what to do with this room since before we moved in. We've discussed:

  • Turning it into my office. (Nixed that idea when I got separate office space.)
  • Turning it into Bill's office. (Nixed that idea when I realized it would just be covered in papers, with Bill working on his laptop in whatever room was most temperate.)
  • Turning it into a separate guest space -- either as a living area connected with the guest bedroom, or as a separate bedroom of its own. (Nixed that idea because we wanted to keep it open to the family, at least most of the time.)

In the end, we're leaning towards turning it into a more formal parlor cum library cum music room. The idea is to have a grown-up room where there is no evidence of pets or children, so that there is always a tidy and pet-hair free spot to entertain guests. We'll keep the smaller living room across the hall for more casual living.

Eventually, we'll line the room with built-in bookshelves that run all the way to the ceiling, thus necessitating a book ladder (at which time I can die a happy and fulfilled person). We'll also put a piano in one corner, a gas insert for the fireplace to keep us toasty in the colder months, and some comfortable-yet-sophisticated furniture scattered about to impress our guests.

Sound grand, doesn't it?

While the plan will have to wait a while (likely a LONG while) to come to fruition, we took the first step in making the dream a reality by purchasing a new sofa. 

We got it from Joss & Main (now sold out) and can't wait to see it in person. It will be delivered sometime in the second half of the month, so in the meantime we can only look at the photo online and dream of an armchair to go with it.



Over the weekend, Bill and I went to Lowes. At our last house, a weekly trip to Home Depot and/or Lowes was de rigueur, but I had so far managed to avoid getting sucked into DIY land until now.

Our primary goal was to pick up some paint samples for the guest room, which is currently painted a shade of "grandma blue." We're planning to tackle this room first, for reasons I will explain elsewhere, but suffice it to say that we need some new paint on the walls ASAP.

I like the idea of have a "whole house palette" that works cohesively together. In our last house, we did each room up separately, and while I loved the finished product it could be a bit jarring to walk down the hallway and be confronted by radically different colors and styles from room to room.

Bill was on board with the idea of choosing a handful of colors that would generally repeat throughout the house, although not necessarily on the walls -- we envision that furniture, pillows, and accessories will provide most of the pops of bright color.

Picture Bill asking sarcastically, "but will it POP!?"

I love our high ceilings and (mostly) white walls, and want to keep the feeling of clean and airy spaciousness, regardless of the decor direction we choose. We also want to respect the history of the home, and so will work hard to keep the mill work, over-sized doors, scroll work, and other period pieces in place. At the same time, our style is definitely more modern, so I'm trying to find inspiration at the intersection of modern and historical. 


Anyway, I've been keeping a Pinterest Board called 1907 house inspiration, specifically for photos that make me believe that we can successfully find balance. Looking over it last week, I noticed that I have repeatedly been drawn to delicate hues of pink and mint, with bolder shades of coral and emerald and sapphire. I lean towards gray more than brown, and prefer colors on the cooler end of the spectrum.

Fast forward to this weekend at Lowe's and a whole bunch of paint chips. We brought them home, where I promptly put them in a drawer and forgot about them until today. I pulled them out and set them on the bed, where I immediately realized that my choices leaned towards what we already had in the house: our duvet cover. 



I've whittled the stack down to my favorites. Unfortunately, the photos don't quite capture the nuance of the paint chips, but I think they are a pretty good approximation. The green swatch is definitely more on the minty side (at the top) and there are bold emerald, lemongrass, coral colors that are mostly cut off at the bottom. 


I still need to run this final choice by Bill, but to date he's been pretty accommodating. (Anyone remember the pumpkin orange color we painted the basement?) But now we have a problem, which is basically that we're back where we started.

What color should we paint the guest room? 

I'm thinking that Silver Spoon (top left, above) will be safe, gender-neutral, and easy to accessorize. What do you think?

Hint of the Summer to Come

It's my final day of single-parenting while Bill travels, and I needed a few minutes alone on the hammock tonight before tackling the kids' bedtime routine. 

This backyard has real potential, and my wish list is beginning to take shape:

  • An overhead fan on the second-floor balcony (to keep away the bugs)
  • A pair of comfortable Adirondack-style chairs for lounging in the evening
  • White paint on the middle part of the back fence (there's one section that's raw wood)
  • A swing attached to one of the high branches on our massive tree
  • Better lighting near the house (a different spotlight would be great)
  • Lighting around the perimeter of the fence (which would give me a better sense of security, make it easier to spot the dogs at night, and create some nice ambiance when we're entertaining in the evenings)
  • A gazebo with a comfy couch, lighting, and an overhead fan
  • Some better form of dandelion control (they are taking over like a tidal wave)
  • An updated fire pit, with circular seating and tables for s'mores
  • A pergola area with patio seating (so we can dine al fresco with some shade)
  • A gigantic table for outdoor entertaining (so when we do potluck dinners with the four families there is ample seating for all 19 of us)
  • A raised garden area as beautiful and productive as our last house

I think that the first step is to contact Bill's friend from high school, who lives about an hour away and is a professional landscaper. This backyard is so big that we need a clear master plan before we go making the small changes, to ensure that it all flows together when we invest in the big changes.