March 18, 2010

Painting v. Picnic - Round One

Yesterday was a glorious day - sun was shining, birds were chirping, daffodils inching their way heavenward. Really made me want to do this...

image via Country Living - photo by Laura Moss

image via S.R. Gambrel

But instead, I was doing this...

I have been a serious slacker on finishing Project Pepto: phase two. It is impossible to get any work done inside with Spring Fever running rampant in our household. I just want to be outside, fiddling in the garden, watching my bulbs sprout out of the ground centimeter-by-centimeter (which despite what you've been told is definitely more fun than watching paint dry.) Because of this our dining room has been in the grips of construction mania for many many months now. So with Mr. out of town I thought I would surprise him by painting the cabinet doors for the new built-ins that he has worked so hard on (besides, a picnic for one just doesn't hold as much appeal). This will come as no surprise: I didn't finish. BUT I am hopeful that I will get it done this weekend (read: Mr. will be back by then and can help!) I'll post the big reveal when I get my act together  finish.

The little antique glass bomb chest in the foreground was my late grandmothers and has been a thorn in my side for five years now. I am finally doing something about it. More on that later.

So the score:

Picnic: 0
Painting: 1

March 16, 2010

The Banquette Effect

Last week, I was discussing my kitchen renovation plans with a friend of mind and I told her that we are planning on incorporating a banquette into a corner of the kitchen. Her response? Ew yuck, along with a look of terror! Now mind you my friend and I don't always see eye to eye (she prefers Jean- Claude Van Damme, I prefer Matt Damon, she likes high heels and running (separately, of course), while I go for ballet flats and biking) but when it comes to design we usually have the same instincts.  So I was understandably shocked at her reaction to my brilliant plan. I demanded an explanation and got an earful of her phobias of dive-e, greasy spoon, poorly lit diners. You know the ones - the place where your *insert male figure with terrible taste* drags you to every weekend because this place has the best tuna melt/six egg omelet/other nausea inducing indelicacy. The type of place with fake flowers stapled to the wall, an inch of dust dating to the 80's, and a cold, sterile booth covered in plastic coated checkered cloth which makes a screeching sound as you slide your rear across it. Yes, at this point in our discussion my friend was curled up in a fetal position singing 'You Are My Sunshine." I get it, THAT banquette is bad. Fetal position inducing. 

So I dragged out the laptop and opened the folder titled "kitchen inspiration" and coaxed her out of her hell and into a happy place. Banquettes don't have to look like they were installed in the 50's by a red-faced screaming chef wearing a starched white coat and barking out orders in German. Banquettes can be good. 

Here are three reasons why I will be putting one in my kitchen: 

1. Banquettes are perfect for small spaces, an unused corner, or an awkward nook because they take up less space than a free-standing table with chairs.
2. You can create one with a free-standing settee or bench, or opt for a built-in upholstered bench which can provide an abundance of storage space (did you hear that? Storage space!)
3. There is always room for one more friend at the table, just scooch up a little closer on the bench. Relax, you're friends. 

Caroline Scheeler via Country Living

Rachel Ashwell



Chris Barret via House Beautiful

Metropolitan Home

What about you? Does the idea of a banquette make you want to curl up in a ball and cry? Or does it impel you to invite your friends over and whip up a big batch of strawberry crepes? 

March 12, 2010

Composting 101

After this post on my spacey composter I got a few emails from readers with questions about composting, so I thought I would put together a basic primer on composting to answer some of the questions you may have. So...let's get down to the dirt (sorry I couldn't help myself).

Why is composting important?
Composting reduces the amount of waste that each of us sends to the landfill each year. (read this to find out how I feel about that). The United States EPA estimates that roughly 23% of the 'waste stream' in the U.S. is made up of yard trimmings and food scraps while Canada estimates that 30% of their landfill is organic and compostable.
Composting returns vital nutrients such as nitrogen and carbon back to the soil which are natural fertilizers. It loosens clay soils and helps sandy soil retain water. It improves soil structure, texture and aeration. It makes your soil happy.

Why should I compost?
Homemade compost is cheap. You are using garden waste and food scraps that you would normally put in the garbage. Besides, buying fertilizer in the store is for suckers.
Composting makes you a responsible gardener. Every year we expect our gardens to produce copious amounts of beautiful roses and peonies, tasty tomatoes, crisp lettuce and sugar snap peas, fragrant leeks and herbs. Its time to give something back. Say thank you to your soil. 

What can I compost?
Almost any organic material is compostable. The trick is to add both brown materials which are rich in carbon and green materials which are rich in nitrogen. Brown materials include: dried leaves, wood chips, straw. Green materials include: kitchen scraps from fruits, vegetables, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, garden waste such as trimmings, dead headed flowers, lawn trimmings, and weeds. You can even compost paper napkins, shredded newspaper/paper, and pet hair. Some people (crazier than me) have even suggested urine but I (being female) have not quite figured out if I will go that far for good soil. 

What doesn’t go in compost?
Meat and dairy products. Weeds that have pervasive root systems. Chemically treated wood products. Diseased plants. 

Will my compost pile smell?
Only if you let it. Smelliness is usually a sign that your brown and green ratios are off kilter. Adding more brown than green goodies  will give you that nice ‘earth’ smelling compost pile you’ve always wanted. The exact ratio is up for debate, you'll need to use your sniffer to know when it is right or wrong.

Will composting bring out my inner nerd?
I can pretty much guarantee it. Just embrace it and smile smuggly while you harvest your “black gold.” 

For more information visit: 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Happy composting!

{all photos by A Tree Lined Street}

March 5, 2010

Beauty in the Details

I recently came across the website of designer Michelle Dunker and I thought I would share some inspiring photos from her portfolio. To see more of her beautiful spaces, visit her website here

I love the mantel above the range top. The pendants lights bring in a vintage vibe while the blue and white pottery nods to a more classic style.  Notice the shallow coffer on the ceiling with the beadboard. This idea could be used on even the lowest ceilings! 

That green penny tile is fantastic.

I love how the green glass tile is carried all the way up to the ceiling. It really sets off those gorgeous venetian mirrors. 

A small glimpse into the bedroom through a lovely round gilded mirror. 

I love white paneling with dark stained wood floors. So classic!

Another great mantel over a range. This one would work wonderfully in a small kitchen as the brackets don't interfere with the counter space.  Love the fresh take on a classic style with the blue-gray subway tile.

That tile! Oh my!

More great tile, this time used in an entryway.

Another great kitchen with those same pendant lights.

A detail of the cabinetry and backsplash. I love the mix of of the tan marble with the green glass tile.

A beautiful unique soaking tub with a marble ledge. This girl has got a way with tile!

The crown molding at the top of the cabinets is really what gives this kitchen it's presence. Love the polished nickel pendants, and the dark charcoal wall. 

March 3, 2010

Sycamore Street Cottage: Before and After cont...

I'm back with the last installment of before and after photos of Sycamore Street Cottage. If you missed the other posts on this you can catch up here. It has been really fun for me to dig up all these old photos from our past renovations.  It may sound strange, but looking back at what we have accomplished really helps keep us motivated on our current house renovation (it should make us tired, because holy hannah that was a lot of work!) Looking at these photos, I realize how much we have learned about creating a well designed, well loved home that is welcoming for all. After all, that is what we are striving for. But back to why you really came here: The photos...

Before: The house had no bedrooms on the main floor. Seriously. Some genius decided that a wood paneled, shag carpeted, wood-stove heated, drop ceilinged great room would be a good idea. So sometime in the 70s said genius removed the walls between the two bedrooms on the main floor and made a shag-a-delic space fit for Powers himself.  On a side note: My next door neighbor once mentioned that said genius happened to be an architect. To which I responded: An architect of what? Surely not houses. An actual architect could have never lived in this house. Maybe he was a George Castanza type of architect? Maybe he also designed the new addition to the Guggenheim? (geez Cate, watch Seinfeld much?) Notice the window in the above picture. That window was the one that the "Rabid Ivy Monster" ate. Look closely and you'll see his green beady eyes. 

After: Yeah, I didn't have a photo of the entire bedroom, but you get the idea. New wall, new closets, new molding, for the floors which were hidden under all that shagginess. This closet is actually where the old stove in the above picture lived. On the other side of the room is another closet that used to be a coat closet that opened into the living room. Simple fix, we closed it off from the living room side and opened it on the bedroom side. You have to be creative about storage in such a small cottage. 

Close-up of new molding. We are big proponents of adding molding wherever we can and we put a lot of thought into it. It really adds the architectural detail that this home was lacking. 

Before: Basement bedroom. Yes, someone actually slept here. Shocking.

After: We added a board and batten wainscot to add some detail to the downstairs family room. I am not sure why I can't for the life of me get a good photo of the colors in this house.  The walls are actually a very light neutral, and the carpet is not pink. We added tons of recessed lighting because the ceilings are fairly low and I didn't want anyone banging their heads on a hanging light fixture. We put in the same doors that we did upstairs, as well as the same baseboard. We opted for a different window and door molding because the header piece on the upstairs molding (that is the piece on the top of the door) would have been cut off so much, due to the lower ceilings in the basement, that it was pointless. We still stayed with the craftsman look, though, by using a flat piece of MDF that was cut on an angle for the header piece. 

After: Looking towards the stairwell. There is a bedroom through that door, and to the right is another bedroom, a laundry, and bathroom. We purposefully left the stairwell open because I like it that way. It looks cleaner. BUT, it is not code (just in case you are thinking of doing the same), and if we had kids we probably would have done it differently. 

After: This is looking from the bedroom into the family room. The wall color looks better in this one, but the carpet is still off. Drat. 

Before: Through that door lies a bathroom. Or so I've been told. It was too scary to step foot through that door. 

After: Bathroom. White subway tile to the ceiling made the ceilings appear taller. There is a linen closet to the right of the bathtub. 

This is the tile we put on the floor of the bathroom and also the laundry. I love it. It has an Ann Sacks look with a Home Depot price. They might still carry it, I haven't checked. 

So there you have it, Sycamore Street Cottage. I miss that little home, with all its quirks. But when I start getting sentimental about selling it, Mr. always reminds me that if we did it once, we can do it again, and the next home renovation will be the better for it. And you know what? I think he is right. 


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