Growing Paperwhites for a Beautiful Holiday Centerpiece

A Holiday Tradition

Growing paperwhite bulbs for the holiday season is one of my traditions.  Paperwhites are so fragrant, and they are so easy to grow.  Best of all, they can be grown in all kinds of fun containers, so the creative possibility are endless.

Paperwhites are a bulb, a variety of narcissus, and they can be forced to bloom indoors during winter.  If timed right, they can be blooming gloriously in your home just in time for the holidays.

Think Outside the Box

I’m sure you have seen the paperwhite kits in home and garden stores.  They come in a box and include some bulbs, a container, and planting medium.

But if you want to get more creative, it’s easy to learn how to pot paperwhites using your own container.

Potting Up Your Customized Paperwhite Container

First, pick a container that you love.  The only requirement is that it is water tight and a couple of inches deep.

With such limited requirements, you can have all kinds of fun with this.  Use a vase, a teacup, a gravy boat, a trifle bowl.

Here are just a few containers that I have used to pot up paperwhite bulbs.

Growing paperwhites - choosing a container
Paperwhite containers – the possibilities are endless

Growing paperwhites

You don’t need soil for paperwhites.  They grow best in just pebbles and water.

You can find a wide variety of decorative natural or glass pebbles in the floral department of most hobby stores.

Is your container all glass?  Then choose a highly decorative pebble since it will be seen.

If the container is not glass, then in some cases you can just use unglamorous walkway gravel (example to follow).

Next you will need the paperwhite bulbs.  For just the bulb and not the whole boxed kit, the best place to go is a garden center or nursery.

Make sure the bulbs you buy are for indoor forcing.  Ask if you have any doubt.  There are many new varieties of paperwhites for indoor forcing.  I  have always had the most reliable luck with the most common one, Paperwhite ‘Ziva.’

Plan on spacing the bulbs at last a half-inch apart in the container, so buy your bulbs accordingly. I have found that as long as they are not touching each other, the bulbs don’t mind being crowded in a container, and it makes for a fuller display.

So now that you have what you need, let’s start potting.

Just put the potting medium (pebbles, gravel, or glass beads) into your container at least a couple of inches deep and space the bulbs on top of the medium.

Then add just a little more medium to hold the bulbs in place.  Most of the bulb should still be above the surface.

Here are two examples:

Growing paperwhites. Starting in amber bowl
Starting paperwhite bulbs in amber bowl.
Growing paperwhites: Starting bulbs in green vintage bowl
Paperwhite bulbs in vintage container

You can see how the bulbs are spaced.  The bulbs in the green container are in plain old walkway gravel because I intend to put decorative moss over the gravel later to finish the look.

Once the bulbs are set in, just fill the container with water until it reaches the bottom of the bulbs.  They need to have access to the water but not be  submerged in it.

Nap Time

Once your paperwhites are potted and watered, you can put them in a cool, dark place for a week to take a nap.  But I have skipped this step entirely and it didn’t really impact the bulbs that much.

Once they have been in the dark for week, bring them into the light, somewhere in your house not too warm but near a window.  By now you should see that the bulbs have started to sprout.  Make sure the roots always have water.

It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere

Once the growth on the bulbs gets about four inches tall, your paperwhites are of drinking age and can have a cocktail.  Seriously.

This step isn’t for everyone and feel free to skip it if you like.  But feeding your paperwhites a little alcohol will stunt the root growth making the plant less gangly and less likely to lean over, yet not impacting how nicely it will bloom.

Give them the hard stuff – 40-proof clear, uncolored booze, diluted with water.  Cheap vodka is a good choice.

Mix one part booze to seven parts water.  If they still have water in their container and you are just topping off, then their first drink can be one part booze to five parts water.

A Little Support

Even with the booze, the paperwhites might lean toward the light so you might have to stake them.  I use decorative artificial berry sprigs (found at craft stores) for stakes since they add a little color to the arrangement.

Potting paperwhite bulbs - using florist berrie as stakes
Most hobby or craft shops carry these decorative berries around the holidays.
Potting paperwhite bulbs - craft berries as stakes - closeup
The berries have wired stems so you can bend them around any leaf or blossom that is leaning.

Finally in Bloom

Here are is my amber glass paperwhite container four and a half weeks after the bulbs were potted.

 

Growing bulbs - after 4.5 weeks

 

And here is the green vintage container where I used plain old walkway gravel.  Now the gravel is covered with moss and other natural accents.

 

Bulbs at 3-5 weeks closeup of moss

I wanted the arrangement to look like something growing naturally on the forest floor.

Paperwhites usually boom four to six weeks after they are potted, and continue to bloom for at least a week and usually much longer.

After they are done blooming, they won’t bloom again so you can throw them in the compost bin with no guilt.

I plant several paperwhite containers at intervals during the winter so I always have them booming.

But then again, I am a little obsessed with them.


Get The Look

Bulb kits also make wonderful hostess gifts, and here are a couple of especially nice choices.  Plus, for DIY arrangements, extra-large bulbs in bulk (the larger the bulb, the more flowers!) and some sweet containers for one-of-a-kind arrangements.

paperwhites-get-the-look

Clockwise from center:  Paperwhite Bulbs, 20 Count, Largest Commercially Available | Netherland Paperwhite Growing Kit in Blue Ceramic Planter (green also shown here) | Vintage Green Jug | Glass Flower Vase | Milk Glass Tear Drop Design Footed Bowl | Bamboo Flower Pot Self-Contained Garden Kit


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Arts and Crafts Dining Chairs Get a Wild Makeover

Earlier this year, we bought six antique quarter sawn oak dining chairs and an antique oak dining table at a moving sale.

We have not been able to attribute the chairs to a particular manufacturer, but as close as we can tell they are a fine example from the Arts and Crafts Movement that influenced design from around 1880 until 1910.

This movement was a reaction to the decorative excesses and the mass production of Victorian furniture and décor.  The Arts and Crafts Movement featured simple, honest designs and focused on the quality of the materials and the workmanship.

Lesson Learned

We made the mistake of not sitting in the chairs before we bought them.  But that probably wouldn’t have change our minds anyway.

The chairs had been recently reupholstered with a nice neutral fabric that went with just about everything.

Reupholster dining chairs before reupholster
Chair with neutral fabric

But there really wasn’t much cush there.  Sitting in them for any length of time hurt the old tailbone.

The chair seats had sturdy oak frames, and they were holding up wonderfully.  But the thin, flimsy wooden seat inserts inside the frames were failing on most of the chairs.

reupholster Dining Chairs - insert
Cracked seat insert

I could just imagine, at our next dinner party,  guests sitting uncomfortably in their chairs until someone (probably me) fell through their seat.  A memorable dinner for all the wrong reasons!

We decided to reupholster our dining chairs with thicker foam and new seat inserts.

Chris started cutting the inserts and I headed to the fabric store.

Tired of Playing it Safe

Once at the fabric store, I realized I was tired of playing it safe.  None of the tidy geometric designs that a sensible person would choose for dining chair upholstery appealed to me.  I had done all that before.

I was drawn to a Waverly print called ‘Santa Maria Adobe.’  The print is really too large for a dining chair and is definitely not for everyone.  But for these chairs, I loved it.

The Makeover Begins

The chair seats were the kind that are easy to reupholster.  Basically, you fold the fabric under and staple.  But we decided to go with 2-inch high-density foam, so I would have to have the right tool to cut foam that thick.

I stumbled on a YouTube video where someone had built a table saw for cutting foam and the saw blade turned out to be an electric carving knife.

Luckily we had one sitting forgotten in a kitchen drawer.

Reupholster dining chairs - foam cutter
My foam cutter

But before I went through the trouble of building the “table” part of the table saw, I thought I would try cutting the foam with the electric knife by simply holding the foam vertically and cutting downward following an outline I had drawn on the foam.

It worked like a charm, like I was cutting through butter.  What a time saver.

It was hard to get the seat corners to look right with foam that thick under the fabric.  It took me a while to find the best way to fold the fabric at the corners.

But the oversized fabric pattern was easy to center.  In order not to waste fabric, I made a couple of different looks for the chairs by centering different parts of the fabric – something I had never tried before.

Reupholster Dining Chairs upholstery 1

Reupholster Dining Chairs upholstery 2

Double Duty

When we have parties, we sometimes bring some dining chairs into the living room for extra seating.  Now with the thicker pads and the crazy upholstery, each chair can stand on its own as an interesting piece that looks good wherever we put it.

Reupholster Dining Chairs with side table
Chair with antique side table

And no one will fall through their chair.


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Fall Dinner Party: Setting a Festive Table

When my mom, Erika, invited me to her dinner party, I knew I should bring my camera.  Mom always sets such a pretty table.

Fall Dinner Party Table Setting

Mom has had many careers and artistic interests, but her first career in Germany was as a florist.  She got her start at 14, working as an apprentice in a nursery/florist shop.

At first they had Mom pulling weeds but quickly realized her talents were being wasted.

Soon she was working on large floral installations for hotels, for festivals, and for special events.

She still can’t resist turning her parties into an opportunity for a little creative fun.

The Centerpiece

For this fall-themed party, Mom made sure the centerpiece was  large enough to be interesting but small enough to be kept on the table when the food arrived.

Fall Dinner Party centerpiece
Fall Centerpiece

Dinner party table setting

How She Did It

Mom used an ornamental pumpkin and two small gourds.

First, she cut the pumpkin in half horizontally and hollowed it out.  The bottom of the pumpkin would be the bowl to set the flowers in.

Dinner party centerpiece pumpkin

Then she lined the bowl with plastic* and placed florist oasis foam in the center.

Dinner party centerpiece construction

*Mom advises using a small plastic bowl instead of the plastic lining if you can find one that would fit inside the pumpkin.  If you do use plastic lining, it’s also a good idea to have a small plate under the pumpkin in case it leaks.

The lid of the pumpkin is then re-attached off-center with wire, so that there is still an opening to arrange the flowers.  The small gourds are set on either side.

Dinner party centerpiece

All of the flowers and greenery came from her own garden except for the orange Gerbera daisy.  She used sedum, hydrangea, maple leaves, and other garden greens.

I’m standing by to see what she does for Christmas!


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Kitchen Remodel Part 1: Plan “B” for Better

The Weird Room

Our house used to have a Weird Room.  It was right behind the kitchen.

Chris would ask me if I’d seen his cell phone and I would say, “It’s in the Weird Room.”  Visitors who saw the Weird Room would always ask, “And what is this room for?”

The best way to describe it is that it was a wide hallway that led to another hallway.  It was a windowless, interior room that we used as a catch-all for furniture that had nowhere else to go.

Kitchen remodel before: The Weird Room
The Weird Room

Walking in from the back door and through the mud room, you would come across this mess – a wall.  On the left side of the wall was the Weird Room and on the right side was the kitchen.

Kitchen remodel: Before with two rooms and dividingwall
Wall with Weird Room on the left and kitchen on the right

From the first time I walked through the house, when we were looking at it as potential buyers, I knew that wall should be torn down and the whole space made into one nice big kitchen.

Sad Little Kitchen

The little galley kitchen had issues too.  Someone had lowered the ceiling by almost a foot.  Measuring only about 9′ X 11′, the space was cramped with hardly any counter space.

Kitchen remodel: kitchen before south side
South side of kitchen before model
Kitchen remodel: north side before
North side of kitchen before remodel

Having  a closer look at the wall between the kitchen and the Weird Room, we noticed it was not as thick as most walls and probably not load-bearing.

When Chris discovered the pipe vent for the original kitchen stove tucked back inside a cabinet in the Weird Room, it confirmed our suspicion that the Weird Room once was originally part of the kitchen, and someone, at some point, found it necessary to cut the kitchen in half.

The house had changed hands in the 1950s and a builder purchased it and subdivided the lot.  It was likely that this was when the unfortunate “remodel” occurred.

Tear Down That Wall

Tearing down the wall to get a bigger kitchen was just a no-brainer.  It was amazing to me that no one had done so in all those years.

But how to configure the space?  It was hard to imagine what the space would even look like without the wall.

For several years, our kitchen remodel was on hold while other projects took priority.  Still, sometimes I kicked kitchen ideas around.

Our dining room is small, so it would have been nice to factor in a kitchen eating space, maybe even an old fashioned farmhouse-style dining table.

I ended up ruling out the dining table idea.  Not quite enough space.  But once I gave up on that, it was easier to come up with ideas.  Soon I had a rough idea for a kitchen layout which I sketched for Chris.

But I am such a horrible artist that my sketch only confused him.  We realized we both needed a better visual.  Chris made a detailed scale drawing of the existing space, and I made arrangements for us to meet with an upscale kitchen designer.

I thought the designer might come up with some brilliant ideas of her own that would blow my plans out of the water.  But she just drew up what I had already sketched to use as a starting point.

She did find a good placement for the refrigerator, something that had been stumping me.

We also talked about cabinets and decided that a certain style of cabinets made by Medallion would be a nice fit for our kitchen.

The designer’s drawings were detailed and beautiful.  Finally we could see what our kitchen would look like!

Kitchen remodel drawing
Instead of seeing a wall from the mudroom, this is what you would see

Who Needs Reality?

At one of the many meetings we had with the designer, she asked us what our budget was.  She said we should meet with the contractor that she liked to work with.

In the meeting, we learned that our budget was not realistic.  In fact, the word “reality” was uttered several times during the meeting just to emphasize how out of touch Chris and I were with it.

But we were not going to let a small detail like reality come between us and our dream kitchen.  We needed a good Plan B.

Chris Assembles His Dream Team

Chris decided he would be his own general contractor.  Being in real estate, he had all kinds of contacts and go-to guys to get the job done:  plumbers, electricians, drywallers.

But he needed a really good carpenter, and those are hard to find.

We knew that the contractor we had used for our master bathroom remodel had retired.  But what happened to his great crew, especially Bruce, the project lead?

Chris managed to track Bruce down.  He was taking on his own jobs now and not working with a contractor.  But would Bruce work on our project? Could we be so lucky?

When Chris asked him if he would be interested in our project, Bruce declined.

Again Chris ignored reality.  He called Bruce back a little later and asked him a second time.  I suspect this call may have included some begging, and I know daily pastries were promised.

Bruce finally took pity on us and agreed to work on the project.  And he also had plenty of good contacts and go-to guys.  The tables were turning in our favor.

We took the designer’s drawings to Lowe’s and met with their kitchen designer, a nice man named George.  He helped us fine-tune our plans.

We learned that the Medallion cabinets we wanted were sold at Lowe’s under a different name, Schuler, at a significantly lower price.

Plus Lowe’s happened to be running a rebate program on kitchen cabinets.  This would save us a lot of money without having to compromise quality.

Now we had Plan B ready to set into motion.  B for better.


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Heidi’s November Plant Pick: Cyclamen

The Caged Tiger

The Florists Cylamen (Cyclamen persicum) is like the tiger that someone is keeping in their apartment as a pet.  It is trapped inside, but it really wants out.

Although often marketed as an indoor plant, a cyclamen will slowly wither away in a warm indoor environment as it craves coolness.

But like the apartment tiger, it needs to be saved from itself.  It needs to be cool, but also protected from rain, wind, and freezing temperatures.

Location, Location

It needs a covered, protected porch.  And the person who can provide this will be rewarded with continuous blooms for several months.

With this plant, location is everything.  Last year I had a potted cyclamen on my covered porch next to the front door (in Seattle, hardiness zone 8a) that bloomed from early fall until late spring.

I had another cyclamen on the opposite side of my front door, the side that is less protected and gets more wind, and that plant lasted less than a month.

A Great Container Plant

Cyclamen come in some striking colors – white, pink, red, and lavender.  The foliage is also very attractive.  They bloom pretty prolifically and continuously in the right environment, and they do well in containers.

They make a beautiful floral accent next to your front door to welcome visitors at a time of year when nothing else is really blooming.

 

Cyclamen with Golden Spikemoss
Cyclamen with Golden Spikemoss

This year I planted my cyclamen with just a little Golden Spikemoss as a contrast, but they can be used with a wide variety of other plants for an attractive container garden.  Try them with small evergreens, winterberry, or miniature ferns.

Care and Feeding

Cyclamen that are sold as indoor plants are usually still happier outside in a protected environment as long as the temperature stays above 40 degrees.

Cyclamen sold in a nursery as an outdoor plant usually can tolerate even cooler temperatures.  Be sure to read the plant tag.

Cyclamen do best in pots with excellent drainage, and when the soil is consistently moist.  But be careful not to overwater them.  It’s best to deliver the water close to the base of the plant and not get the leaves wet or they might start to rot.

They like dappled sunlight or light shade.  So indirect light or a little morning sun works better than heavy shade.

They need occasional fertilizer,  but not more than once a month.

After blooming like mad for several months, a cyclamen may hit a dormant period, especially when temperatures begin to climb.  With the right care (discontinue watering for a while, keep out of sunlight, repot and resume watering, put back into the light) you can get the cyclamen to come back for a repeat performance, but honestly I have always found it easier to just get a new one every year.

Call me lazy.  But at least the tiger was free from his cage while it lasted.


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Mid Century Modern Chair Revamp

Chris had this little chair in his bedroom when he was a kid.  He remembers his mother, Betty, reupholstering it with the striped fabric.

Mid century modern chair before revamp
The chair with Betty’s 1960s upholstery work

For some reason, he held onto it.  We would use it sometimes as extra seating at garage sales, or as a stool for reaching high places.

For the last decade, it’s been buried under empty boxes in our basement.  Recently I decided to organize the basement, and I brought the chair upstairs into the light of day.

We’d just been to an exhibit featuring the work of Danish modern furniture designers – the best of the best from the Mad Men era.  Those chairs certainly outclassed our chair, but this cute little guy was sure trying.

Proud Origins

After a little research, we learned that we had a “tubular cantilever chair.”  The back and seat are attached to a continuous steel frame that then sweeps beautifully to an L-shaped base.

This simple and ingenious design has been around for a surprisingly long time and was actually once the center of controversy.

An early version of the cantilever chair was designed in 1925 by Marcel Breuer, a Hungarian modernist designer and architect.  But it is said that his design was inspired by the work of Dutch designer Mart Stam.  The two designers wound up  in a patent lawsuit in a German court, which Stam won.

Contemporary furniture designers of the time embraced the cantilever concept and were inspired to create all sorts of variations.

Better Than New

With the recent renewed interest in mid century modern design, these chairs are popular once again.  So Chris decided to give his chair a little facelift.

First he removed the upholstery his mother had added to the seat, and the yellow bathrug that she had cut to fit as padding.  As a child of the Great Depression, Betty never wasted anything.

Mid Century modern chair cushion taken apart
Unpeeling the layers on the chair seat

Then he dealt with the chair back.  It still had the original upholstery but had been painted several times.  The little steel tacks, a nice decorative detail, had been painted over.

old tacks
Removing the tacks from the chair back

He stripped paint splatter from the steel frame and polished it.

Mid Century modern cantilever chair frame

You can see in this photo how the entire frame of the chair is one continuous piece of steel tubing.  So with the back and the seat, the chair is made up of only three pieces.

Chris reupholstered the back and seat with a red leatherette fabric.  I love his choice of the red – such a versatile color.  Now the chair can work in either a whimsical retro setting or in a more serious classic contemporary environment.

Mid Century modern chair reupholstered
Cantilever chair after new upholstery.
Midcentury modern chair closeup
Close-up of steel tacks after being stripped of paint.

The original upholstery fabric was nothing special and there were no maker’s marks on the chair, leading us to conclude that it is not a high-end piece.  I suspect it looks better now than when it was new.

I don’t think it’s going back in the basement.

 


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Greenhouse on the Brain

I have always had a thing for greenhouses.  There is just something magical about walking through a door on a cold winter’s day and instantly being transported to summer, or more accurately to a humid, earthy, tropical climate.

Practical Romance

Of course, traveling instantly to the tropics is only one advantage greenhouses have to offer.  This greenhouse, at the Kruckeberg Botanic Garden in Shoreline, Washington, dates back to the 1970s and is where cuttings of exotic and rare plants are nursed to success.

Hobby greenhouse:  Greenhouse at Kruckeberg Botanic Garden
Greenhouse at Kruckeberg Botanic Garden

Many miracles happen here in this modest, hard-working structure.

But the needs of the average homeowner, the hobby gardener, are usually simpler.  A hobby greenhouse could be used for overwintering tender garden plants, forcing winter bulbs, starting seedlings, or giving vegetables like tomatoes a running start in spring and a longer season to produce.

Because of all the great things a greenhouse can do, I have wanted one ever since I first took an interest in gardening.

Fantasy Becomes Reality – Sort Of

Unused and seemingly forgotten greenhouses, like this one at a winery in Woodinville, Washington, hold a special intrigue for me.

Hobby greenhouse:  deserted greenhouse
Old greenhouse at a Woodinville winery

What a fun rehab project this would be.  I just want to load it onto a flatbed truck and take it home.

And to continue my fantasy, once I was finished renovating it, it would look more like this:

Volunteer Park Conservatory
Volunteer Park Conservatory, Seattle, WA

Not that our garden would even be large enough for this, the Volunteer Park Conservatory in Seattle.

But a girl can dream.  And I’m thrilled to report that recently my dream has come true.  Yes, we bought a greenhouse!  And here it is:

Hobby greenhouse:  Sunglo Lean-To
Disassembled Sunglo “Lean-To” Greenhouse

As you might have noticed, it needs a little work.  It’s sitting in pieces in our garage waiting for us to prepare the site and pour a foundation.

It’s a small, lightly used Sunglo greenhouse that Chris found on Craigslist.  It’s a “lean-to” greenhouse, which basically means it’s half of a greenhouse, attached to the side of a building.  In our case, it will be attached to the south side of our garage.

Hobby greenhouse future site
Future site of greenhouse

And I plan to make it the cutest, most productive little lean-to greenhouse this world has ever seen.  Or at least a better place to overwinter plants than our mudroom.

Once we break ground on the construction, I will be providing updates.  So stay tuned!


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Trapped in Time: How a Couple Rescued Their Dining Room

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you make a purchase by following these links.


Dining Room Envy

I wish I could say this big, elegant dining room is mine, but it actually belongs to my brother, Dan, and his wife, Maura. With Chris’s help, they found their sweet 1908 cosmetic fixer a few years ago, and they have been remodeling it ever since. Their most recent work is this gorgeous dining room remodel.

Mistakes of the Past

Their dining room had suffered a cosmetic “upgrade” in the 1960’s. Apparently the goal was to make the room look like a cave.  The south wall was covered with wood paneling, and the 9’3″ ceiling height had been lowered to eight feet by installing a false ceiling.

The interior moldings around the bay window had been stripped away.

Dining Room Remodel: before with lowered ceiling
Bay window with moldings stripped, and ceiling lowered.
Dining Room Remodel: before with 1960s paneling
Dining room with 1960s paneling

And in this sad state, the dining room sat for 50 years.

Finding Inspiration

Miraculously, the remodeling rampage had ended before the bay window itself could be compromised. The window, with its original cylinder glass, was still intact.

At least that was a starting point. And, with its generous size, this room had loads of potential.

But how to lift this room out of the 1960s and take it back home – to 1908?  Dan and Maura poured through design magazines and catalogs.  Dan also found real-life inspiration in his own neighborhood.

“If I ever see a pre-1930s house for sale that looks like it’s still in original condition, I’ll attend the open house,” says Dan. “I get a lot of good design ideas – and a few bad ones – just from poking around someone else’s home.”

They decided to install period-inspired paneled wainscoting and a built-in china cabinet. If the original high ceiling height were restored, the wainscoting would look stunning and add texture to the wall space.

Although not a carpenter by trade, Dan had done extensive finish molding projects on several other homes, so he knew the impact that moldings and wainscoting could make in a room. And with so many years of experience, he was up to the challenge.

Out with the Old

But first, he needed to tackle that false ceiling from the 1960’s remodel and bring back the original 9’3” ceiling height. He assumed the false ceiling was a simple suspended ceiling.

But in old house remodeling, you never know what you will find, and nothing is ever as easy as it should be.

It turns out the previous owner was a carpenter.  He had built an entire secondary joist system for the lowered ceiling and sheetrocked it with half-inch drywall.  He really wanted that ceiling to last!

Dan took on the arduous task of removing this heavy material – mostly overhead work while on a ladder.

Once the false ceiling was removed, Dan hit another speed bump: The previous owner had sheetrocked over the lath and plaster walls, but only up to 8 feet.  So the wall space that was above the false ceiling had to be patched with new sheetrock.

Dining room remodel - original ceiling height
Dining room with the original ceiling height exposed
Dining room remodel: refinishing the floors
That’s me, helping refinish the wood floors
Dining room remodel - wallpaper behind panelling
The wallpaper under the paneling. Dan built new framing around an old opening that didn’t make sense.

The Design Process: A Plan for Success

Finally the room was ready for the wainscoting installation. Before starting, Dan had researched the correct wainscoting ratio – 2/3 the total wall height – for a house of this era.

He made various sketches of how he might build up the wainscoting and plate rail to make them look substantial.

“Only when I knew exactly where every nail and screw would go did I start building,” says Dan, “and the whole thing went together pretty easily that way.”

Since he was planning to paint the wainscoting and moldings, he could use inexpensive MDF for the moldings and trim, and birch wood for the wainscoting panels and the built-in hutch.

dining room remodel

Maura selected the period-correct paint colors: Valspar “Seaweed Wrap” for the walls, and “Bistro White” for the trim, wainscoting and built-in cabinet.

Salvage Shop Bargains Take Center Stage

The cabinet was designed around a serendipitous bargain find.

“By pure luck I found a set of four old cabinet doors at an architectural salvage shop in Ballard,” says Dan. “I used two of the doors for the built-in and designed the rest of the cabinet around them.”

An earlier trip to the same salvage shop netted another bargain find: $200 for the “Mt. Tabor” light fixture, originally sold at Rejuvenation for $640. Someone had swapped out the Rejuvenation shades for four antique shades – a nice upgrade. There was a broken light bulb stuck in one of the sockets, which Dan easily removed with needle-nosed pliers.

He ordered the knobs and hinges for the built-in from House of Antique Hardware.

dining room remodel

“I like to roam the salvage shops for parts, or even for inspiration,” says Dan, “but if I can’t find any specialty parts I need there I’ll shop online. It helps to do a quick online search for coupon codes once you know where you’ll be shopping.”

All Dan’s years of experience doing finish work, coupled with Maura’s eye for color, have really paid off. The dining room is a masterpiece.

And I am green with envy.


Here’s a little before and after recap:

old light fixture2

 

dining room remodel

wallpaper behind panelling

 

dining room remodel



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Confessions of a Pumpkin Thief

Okay, I didn’t really steal any pumpkins on my recent visit to Molbaks Nursery.  But I did steal ideas – pumpkin decorating ideas that go way beyond carving.

Turns out the employees at Molbaks are a very talented bunch, and I’d stumbled upon a display of pumpkins that they had decorated.

This one is smiling, but somehow it’s clown creepy.

pumpkins4

This one, just plain creepy – and imaginative.

Pumpkin decorating ideas spider on head

These two are intricate works of art.

Pumpkin decorating ideas: day of the dead Pumpkin decorating ideas tree with leaves

And here is the one that I stole – or at least tried to steal.  For some reason I thought, “hey, I can do that.”

Pumpkin decorating ideas: plant face

I loved the wacky face made up of plants and flowers.

So I got a pumpkin for the head and a small turban squash for a hat.  Luckily some of the plants and flowers used in the Molbaks pumpkin were things I had on hand in my own garden:  I used hen and chicks (an evergreen succulent) for the eyes and clipped Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ flowers for the brim of the hat.  The last summer squash of the season made a perfect nose.

Then I wound up in the basement, sifting through our collection of old hardware, for the mouth.

My efforts yielded this disturbing image.

Pumpkin decorating ideas using what you have on hand
My crazy pumpkin

So what I learned with this one is that it’s fun to use what you have on hand, and there really are no rules.

But there was one more pumpkin at Molbaks that inspired me:  This fun planting of mixed succulents using the pumpkin as a potting container.

Pumpkin decorating ideas: planter

I found a small, lopsided white pumpkin (called a “ghost pumpkin”) with very cool veining trickling down from its stem.  It was such a unique look that I left the stem on and cut the opening for the plant behind it.

Pumpkin decorating ideas: ghost pumpkin planter
Violas with ghost pumpkin

The drawback of course is that these pumpkins won’t last long before they start to get mushy.  By now all the employees have taken their pumpkins home.

But what a fun way to enjoy the season while it lasts!


*Photos of Molbaks employee pumpkins courtesy of Molbaks Garden and Home, Woodinville, WA.


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Master Bathroom Remodel Part 3: Adding the Jewelry

Our Master Bathroom Remodel

This is the last of my three-part series on our master bathroom remodel, where we took a small half-bath and turned it into a large master bathroom.

We went from this:

Master bathroom before remodel
Half bath before remodel

 

To this:

east wall portrait (2)

south wall (2)

toilet alcove (2)

Part 1 covers the planning process, and Part 2 covers the actual remodel process.

The Finishing Touches

In this part, we will zoom in to have a look at some of the little decorative details we added to our master bath after all that heavy lifting was done – the “jewelry,” if you will.

Needless to say, this is the part I had been waiting for.  My decorating style is usually simple, timeless and traditional.  I’m not a fan of clutter, even if it’s cute clutter.  I feel that if you have just a few interesting pieces in a room, they tend to get noticed more.

Using Family Heirlooms

I love to repurpose items and use family heirlooms in new ways.

Here, across from the claw foot tub, we found a great home for an antique dresser that had belonged to Chris’s mother.  She had found it at an estate sale, stripped off the white paint and refinished it.

Since most of the bathroom is so light colored – white wainscoting, white marble – it is nice to have a wood piece to add warmth and contrast.

wash stand (2)

The pitcher and water basin set is also a family heirloom from Chris’s great-grandmother.  The set is very old and also very large.  We were happy to finally have somewhere to display it that made sense.

pitcher closeup (2)

I also could display a few small pieces from my collection of vintage textiles.

Bargain Finds

I had purchased the two blue leaded glass windows 20 years ago – a bargain find from a discount hardware store.  I had been schlepping them around ever since, never really finding the right place to use them.

Finally!  I had them framed and we hung them above the dresser, a fun nod to the other leaded glass windows in the room.

master bath blue glass window
Leaded glass window panels with custom frame

Vintage Mirrors

We have three antique mirrors in this room, two on the walls and one on the makeup vanity.  The makeup vanity mirror was a birthday gift from Chris.  The smaller wall mirror was a bargain find from a second hand store.

It might seem like a lot of mirrors, but this room can handle it.

tub from shower (2)

master bath makeup vanity
Vanity desk with vintage makeup mirror

vanity from mirror

An antique mirror in the toilet alcove reflects the vanity and shower stall

A Crystal Chandelier

The wonderful high ceiling was ideal for hanging this Italian-made crystal chandelier.

master-bath-chandelier-1024x842 (2)

We finished this remodel several years ago, but since we designed it around the existing style of our 1920’s house, we think it will stand the test of time.


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CREATIVE HOME AND GARDEN IDEAS FROM THE HOUSE DOWN THE STREET