Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sprucing Up the Front Hall

We've lived in our home for more than eleven years and I'm super excited that we are planning to update our front door and entry hall.  Even though we've had to put this project on the back burner for awhile, I'm actually glad that bigger and more urgent projects took precedence over this entry hall.  Taste can change a lot over the years and by now I've had plenty of time to think about what I really want...years to read about traditional colonial homes and the various materials they would have been constructed from.  I have always been drawn to early American homes, but also to Colonial Revival homes of the early 20th century, the kind that you see in old movies.  But I don't want to strictly adhere to the design of these original homes, just be inspired by them.  After all, this home has to work for our family in the 21st century.  

I also love English country homes and the warm and lived-in feeling they evoke…entries where you can trudge in with wet boots, rooms where you can put your feet up and where kids and dogs co-exist with pretty furnishings, flowers and art.  I've never been in an actual English country home, but that's what I imagine one would feel like.  I do have an English uncle though.  And he and my aunt have a pretty, cozy, charming and super comfortable home filled with English antiques.  I must crave that kind of cozy home from them.  When you stop by, they always have the kettle ready for a hot cup of tea and a good chat.

Our reno begins with the need to replace the existing almond colored floor tile.  High gloss tiles just aren't compatible with wet shoes.  We've all slipped on this floor coming in from the rain or snow.  It's hazardous and needs to finally go before someone truly gets hurt. I'm trying to avoid future litigation here!  We would like to replace it with brick tile.  The texture will add warmth and give better traction for wet Wellies.  It will be easier to camouflage the dirt (between cleanings) from a dog and the muck that gets brought in from our horse riding daughter.

The huge brass chandelier will be replaced with a lantern.  We considered painting the old light, but with sixteen light bulbs, it's an energy hog.  We rarely have it on because it's so bright and hot.

Gil Schafer
Hoping to replace the current front door with a more energy efficient one.  Love the one above with the panels and strap hinges, although we have more narrow sidelights, and no transom.  

Skavullo Design
We'll replace the cheap builder's grade stair treads with new oak treads.  I removed the stair carpet years ago and painted the steps white just to clean them up until we could have nice oak treads added.  That was my "Phase One" cosmetic upgrade, and now this is what I like to think of as "Phase Two," the good stuff.  Also, the more permanent stuff.  I really want to make careful choices to avoid buyer's remorse! 

I'm also thinking about some type of molding on the walls as pictured above.

Below is our current front hall.  It's not super bad, but it will look so much fresher with a few changes to bring it out of the suburban 1980's.

current front hall

current front door

We're so hoping we can make our front hall feel more welcoming and comfortable! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer in Snapshots

Our summer was spent at the barn...

...and the soccer fields...

…with one of our sweet nieces who visited from Germany for nearly a month...

…a trip to Minneapolis and St. Paul…
Como Park Zoo Conservatory
A day at Como Zoo
…and lots of walks, bike rides, late night movies and S'mores…

As usual, the summer passed too quickly and it was time...

…for my eighth and fifth graders to go back to school!

Friday, July 11, 2014

1920's Inspired Guest Bath

In our home, we have a space that our realtor referred to as a "FROG, " finished room over garage.  In our "FROG" we have an office/guest bedroom and adjoining bathroom.  When we bought our house, we liked the attic feel of these rooms, with slanted ceilings,
dormers, and window seats.

However, the bathroom desperately needed to be updated, especially after learning about extensive mold behind the shower wall.  We decided to select simple materials that could be found at our local home improvement and retail stores, and stay within a realistic budget, so we can save our cash for a dream master bath reno down the road.  We wanted to use simple, classic materials that could have been used in American homes of the 20's and 30's, understated, timeless.

We actually remodeled this bath almost two years ago,
but as it often goes, all the little finishing details were only completed recently!

Here is our vision of a 1920's inspired vintage bath for our guest room...

I had to throw in some peonies, which were blooming at the time I took these photos.
Normally, we don't have such lush flowers waiting to be knocked off the sink!

This American Standard sink has a profile which is great for holding curling irons, makeup bags, shaving supplies, etc.

Over the years, I've collected odd, cupless saucers for use as soap dishes.  The indented ring where the cup usually sits makes it easier to pick up a bar of soap.

I made the shower curtain from a flat queen-sized ticking sheet.  I cut it to match the size of the liner curtain.  I reinforced the grommet area, above, by sewing canvas tape on the back side.  You can see the hem below, which is normally the part at the head of the bed.

We considered a custom tiled shower floor vs. a fiberglass pan.  In order to stay on budget, our contractor recommended an Onyx shower pan.  It's a solid surface material, available in several colors, and the gray color we chose ties in well with the gray grout color and soft gray walls.  We love it, and it turns out to be a local Kansas made product.  Made in the that.  Also good, is that it's easy to clean!

This niche next to the shower used to have old plywood shelves.  We had drawers made to hold everything guests might need...a hair dryer, toiletries, towels and toilet paper.

Hex knobs + hex tiles <3 <3 <3

One of my favorite, and simplest, details is the wide marble threshold that bridges the tile to the hardwood floor in the guest room.  I plan to add the same detail to the master bath in the future.

There is a small closet immediately to the right when you enter the bath.  I haven't decided yet, 
but I might still paint the doors white?

And here is what we started with...

There was sooo much mold behind that old shower gross!

The vinyl flooring was curling up at the edges...

This dark corner had cheap plywood shelves where the built-in drawers are now.

We were so fortunate to have help from a young and talented contractor who enjoys working in older homes, so he had a lot of great ideas to make things look more vintage. 

We love the end result.  In hindsight, the only thing I would do differently would be to skim coat the ceiling and slanted walls.  They have a "knock-down" texture and I think the smoother skim coated surface would look a little more vintage...but that can always be done when it's time to paint again.  
Or not.  Sometimes you gotta know when to stop.  If I had skim coated this room, then I would have probably wanted to skim coat the whole house!

 We have a lot of projects to do in this house, so it's a nice feeling to check this one off the list!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cafe Demel...and the Spanish Riding School

On our third and final day in Vienna, we had breakfast at Cafe Demel.  We tried the famous 
Sacher Torte (very good) and a pretty fruit yogurt parfait (also very good).  I had a Viennese Melange, which is similar to a Cappuccino.  The day before, we also tried the Sacher Torte at the Sacher Hotel with my husband's brother's family, who came in from Munich.  I can't believe that we were so busy talking that we forgot to take pictures =(

We sat in the back of the cafe, near a wall of glass, and watched goodies being prepared, such as the huge apple strudels above.

The waitress said the more famous treats are prepared here, such as the Sacher Tortes and Apple Strudels, while the other baked goods are made in a separate kitchen.  It was fun to watch how fast they could whip up such perfect and thinly rolled out strudels!

Next, we went to our daughter's choice of what she most wanted to visit...
the Spanish Riding School.
Our son had picked the hedge mazes at Schonbrunn Palace the day before.

The fanciest horse arena we've ever seen!

This is a traditional school for Lipizzan horses, which were formerly used in the imperial court.  With classical training in dressage, the school is also a tourist attraction, allowing visitors to watch the morning exercises of these famous horses.  We actually had the opportunity to see them perform in KC a few years ago when they were on tour.  They perform with amazing precision and can jump incredible heights.  Photos were not allowed inside, so the one above is a real quick phone pic of them just starting to walk and warm up.

After we left the arena, we walked around to the back courtyard to get a glimpse of the horse stalls, and encountered the one female rider we had just seen riding.  She very graciously stopped for a photo with our daughter, who was absolutely thrilled!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Imperial Vienna/Schönbrunn Palace & Hofburg Palace

Schönbrunn Palace...the summer house!

On our recent trip to Vienna, we asked the kids to each pick one thing they wanted to do most, since we only had just under three days in the city, before traveling to see family in Budapest.

Our son wanted to visit the hedge mazes at Schönbrunn Palace, and I have to admit, I really wanted to as well!  So on our second day in Vienna, a very rainy one, we headed to the summer residence of the former imperial family, the Schönbrunn, and toured the interiors and gardens in the morning and then spent the afternoon at Hofburg Palace, the main residence.

Photos were not allowed inside either palace, but we were able to get a few shots outside, in between rain showers, at the Schönbrunn.  The palace interiors were opulent and FUN to tour, while having a glimpse into the history that took place within.  A bit of American history included Kennedy meeting Khrushchev in the summer palace in 1961. And for a china and silver addict like me, it was unreal the vast amount of dishes it takes to run a palace!  But we most enjoyed watching the kids run and laugh in the mazes and beautiful gardens. 


Hofburg Palace...the main house...not too shabby either!

Three things are certain...I'm very grateful to have been able to visit such a lovely city, the gardens at Schönbrunn Palace are a sanctuary, rain or shine, and Vienna is an easy city to fall in love with!