Monday, October 19, 2009

Works in Progress

The last time I mentioned the formal living room and dining room was almost a year ago. Jeez. Now I feel guilty.

Anyway, to help alleviate all this blog guilt, I thought I'd share some current pics of the formal living/dining area to keep you updated. Sorry these pics are so dark, I'm not sure why they came out like that...

One of my favorite things about the living room is my little craigslist-dresser-that-could. I talked about it when I bought it, here. So what if I started this project in '07? Heh heh. I finally got the dresser painted (BM Monterey White) and added the new hardware from Quality Bath.

After lusting over the botanical prints from Restoration Hardware, which are like, $2700 apiece (okay, I'm exaggerating), I decided to make my own - and so I did. I picked the ferns myself during one of our impromptu family hikes and bought some nice, coordinating card stock at Michael's. The little decorative labels came from Michael's as well. I looked up the names of the different ferns online. Some of them might even be correctly identified! The frames came from Christmas Tree Shop - I swear the have the cheapest frames anywhere! Their frames are all over my house. The total cost of the project was about $45 for all nine botanicals. Not bad, eh? Much better than that $1800 it would've cost at RH, anyway.

We also (finally!) hung the window treatments. These are some of the very first items I bought for the house back in '06. We stored them for years until we were ready for them. I fell in love with the drapes the moment I laid eyes on them in the Pottery Barn catalog. I patiently (or not so patiently, depending on who you ask) waited for them to go on sale, and the rest is history. And you know what? I still love them. Every day I look at them and think, "I love these drapes! I love these shades!" I do have to admit that I was a little worried about becoming yet another PB carbon-copy-house. But they ARE only window treatments and I DID see the roman shades in the Kate Townsend-Simpson house on (which, in my mind, gives them serious street cred). Moving on...

When the island became usable, we were finally able to move the round table from the kitchen into the dining room. We bought this table specifically for the dining room, and I think it looks really great in there. The table came with four leaves that extend the table to a huge 81" diameter - all while remaining round in shape. The pictures show the table with the leaves on. If you look closely, you can see the seam where the leaves meet the actual table. For the record, all those extra chairs in the room were placed there for a party and aren't normally there...

I love love LOVE the idea of having a fireplace in the dining room. I picture everyone gathered around the table at a big Christmas Eve party, with a fire warming the room while it snows outside. Hopefully, this will come true and I'll have the pics to prove it!

The only snag we hit with the fireplace was that we had to place the table so as to ensure that even at 81", somebody's seat (literal and figurative) wouldn't end up getting scorched. So, we had to set the table slightly off center. For a while, I had a hard time getting past it, but as the room gets filled in, it looks better and less noticeable.

Mike and I recently found some chandeliers that we actually agreed on (oh happy day!) online at Golden Lighting. I bought the rugs for these rooms online at Typically, I don't like buying certain things sight unseen, but I was getting desperate. At the time, I was dying for seagrass, but we were on a strict budget, and these 8x 10 rugs were something like $140 a piece, with free shipping. Hello! Mike HATES them - but I love them and he loves me. So for now, they stay. Still, I'd love to have seagrass someday...

The living room still needs lots of work and lots of new furniture, as discussed in my recent sofa post. Almost everything in these rooms came from craigslist. Literally. Some of it will stay, but some of it has got. to. go.

So, I guess that's it for now. Hopefully the rooms will be a bit more pulled together at the next update. Maybe I'll even have a new sofa!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Seamingly Obvious

So, the island is finally DONE! We have a working dishwasher! And a working convection oven! I cooked a pork roast in ten minutes flat. Not bad, eh?

Of course, I don't have any pictures of the finished island - that would be too easy. What I DO have however, is a mini-tutorial on how to seam Ikea butcher block together.

From day one of island planning, Mike and I knew that if we wanted to save money by going the Ikea route, we'd have to seam together two pieces of their butcher block to get the proper size. When we looked into doing this online, we could not find ANYTHING on seaming Ikea butcher block. Sure, plenty of people were seaming end-to-end to use for counter tops, but we needed to seam it horizontally - the long way. After searching for instructions and coming up empty, Mike decided to bite the bullet and go for it. I don't know if it was sheer luck or sheer genius or both, but the end result looks damn near perfect. Can you find the seam in this picture? Yeah, me neither - but it's there somewhere:

If you are interested in doing this, here's the play by play:

We started with two pieces of 73 1/4 x 39 3/8" birch butcher block (which you can find here: To create our 48 x 65" island, we could have bought the smaller, cheaper 73 1/4 x 25 5/8" pieces of butcher block, but decided to use the remnant we'd be creating for our future laundry room project. Two birds, one stone and all. So anyway, we used almost the entire first piece of butcher block and added about 10" from the second piece - creating a nice, big remnant for the laundry room.

To begin, Mike made horizontal cuts on both pieces of butcher block, at the first possible seam (about 1.5 inches in), using a circular saw with a fine blade (the higher number of teeth, the better). He had made a guide for the circular saw, to ensure a straight, clean edge on both pieces. These cuts were very important, as these were the ends that would be seamed together and therefore, the cuts had to be as close to perfect as possible. An added bonus to having extra butcher block to work with was the option to re-do a cut if we weren't happy with the result - we'd simply move to the next seam and try again.

Once we had two cuts we were happy with, Mike used a router with a straight tip router bit to fix any inconsistencies caused by the circular saw. He ended up taking about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch off each edge, again using the homemade guide for accuracy. He then used a biscuit joiner, roughly every six inches and a Kreg Tool (found here: to put screws in between every biscuit. This was definitely overkill, but as we have an overhang portion on our island, where part of the heavy butcher block top is supported only by turned legs rather than a base, we decided to err on the side of caution.

Then, Mike applied wood glue at the new seam and used four HUGE four foot clamps to hold the pieces together. We spread the four clamps out over the 73" length of the island and they worked fine. We then let the glue dry for 24 hours. A tip: do NOT wipe glue residue while it is still wet. This will only cause it to spread thin and it will become even more difficult to remove when it dries.

After the glue had set for 24+ hours, Mike lightly scraped and sanded all glue residue from the top. He then made the vertical cuts needed to take the 73" length to 65". Once the top was properly sized, Mike again used the router, this time with a Roman ogee bit, to put a nice custom edge on it:

At the end of the day, this is what the island looked like (before dishwasher and convection oven were installed):
We still have to treat the top with mineral oil, but we are very happy with the results so far. Not bad for $400 worth of Ikea butcher block, especially considering the laundry room table we'll get out of it. Quite a difference between $400 and the $1000-$2000 we were quoted for finished pieces of butcher block this size.

Gotta love money-saving DIY goodness.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Have a Seat?

Sofas. Couches. Settees. Divans. Divans?

Call them what you will, we need one. If I have to look at the what-was-supposed-to-be-a temporary-craigslist-sofa-that-has-somehow-stuck-
sofa in my beautiful, formal living room for one more day, I am going to become suicidal. Or, sofacidal. Heh. I just made that up.

I've seen some incredible prices on furniture lately. I don't know if it's the economy, or the fact that Ikea has recently graced us Bostonians with its presence, but prices seem to be falling. Which is a good thing.

I have been looking for a nice, sturdy (preferably slipcovered) sofa for forever. Well, it seems like forever. I've ordered fabric swatches from half the furniture companies in North America. I have my heart set on a light colored sofa, so feel free to snicker behind my back. I *think* I've narrowed it down to three options. Of course my husband, ever the opinionated decorator, will have to have a say in all of this. But, for now, here are the three I'm considering (all are under $1500):

1. The Eaton Sofa from Nantuckit Furniture. Oh, how I would love to own the two-over-two model with a beautiful natural linen slipcover on it. At $1339, this one wouldn't totally break the bank. Plus, it IS slipcovered, which ranks high on my wish list as we have small children and "machine washable" is pretty much a prerequisite for anything in our house.

2. The Brooke Sofa, which I found at Boston Interiors. Not sure if I'd be able to find it elsewhere, but at $1299, the price isn't bad. It's not slipcovered, but I do like it. I don't know much about their quality, though. Or even where their sofas come from for that matter.3. The Loring Sofa from Room and Board. I realize this one isn't slipcovered either, but look at it! So beautiful. I love the tight back and the two (instead of three) seat cushions. And of course, I could always get a slipcover made some time down the road. At $1199, it's actually the cheapest of the three and currently in the lead in the Sofa Race in My Head.

I've also always loved the Seabury Sofa from Pottery Barn, but at $2000+, it's a long shot. I might be able to track down a similar model through Rowe, as I believe they make some of the PB furniture, but we'll see.

As much as I'd LOVE to see a new sofa in my living room, I'm not 100% sure we should be looking into buying furniture right now, for three reasons...

1. We are finishing up a major home renovation. Translation: We are tapped OUT.

2. We have a four-year old and a three-year old. Both boys. Translation: Anything we buy within the next ten years will undoubtedly end up looking like this:

3. I really, really like white furniture. Translation: See No. 2, above.

Sooo, I guess we have some things to think through. I really believe we'd do okay with a slipcovered sofa, even in white. And yes, even with two crazy little boys. After all, the sofa will be in the formal living room and the boys don't go in there for much other than nerf tag and fort building. Both of which are fairly sofa-friendly activities.

Then again, these are the same kids who drew "elephants" on their new wool rug. With Sharpies.