Getting a Handle on Hardware

It’s all coming back to me now.

After spending weeks poring over magazines and swatches and brochures for my parents’ kitchen remodel, I’m starting to recall just how many little details it takes to make a blueprint a reality. Sure, there are the paint colors and cabinet styles – that’s the easy part. But do you want your cabinet doors to have a regular overlay, full overlay or a flush inset? Do you want your countertops to have a mitered or non-mitered edge? Will cabinet hinges be hidden or visible? So many choices.

It’s enough to make even the most prepared planner’s head spin.

The latest do-or-die decision involves hardware. Home Depot and Lowe’s have a decent selection of contemporary handles and knobs, but they don’t fare so well with the traditional end of the spectrum.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to introduce Mom and Dad to specialty companies like Rejuvenation, White Chapel and Van Dyke’s Restorers. (Fun fact: I just learned that Van Dyke’s is owned by Cabela’s, the hardcore hunting/fishing/outdoors superstore – weird.)

Anywho, I knew what I wanted before I knew where to find it: shiny nickel-plated Shaker bin pulls for drawers and latches for cabinets. Van Dyke’s selection fit the bill perfectly.

I’d be happy to see my parents go with the same, but I’m also excited to see the outcome of something different.

Like glass hardware that mimics the classic crystal door knob, for instance.

Or traditional arts and crafts choices like square knobs and dangling drawer pulls.

Then there are the medieval-looking strap hinges that conjur up images of a cute Tudor Revival cottage. I can’t believe I couldn’t find a photo of a kitchen with these guys.

I like to imagine those cast iron hinges on white cabinets – I love the contrast of black hardware in a light kitchen.

Hardware is sort of the icing on the cake – it’s not going to make or break the room, but it really adds a finishing touch. But enough about what I like – what’s your favorite old house hardware style?

Images from Kitchens.com, Van Dyke’s Restorers, Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry, Rejuvenation and CrownPoint Cabinetry. Click on photos for more info.

3 Comments

Filed under bungalow, interiors, kitchens, old houses, renovation, Victorian

Where’s the Wastebasket?

A letter to the editor in a recent American Bungalow posed an interesting question. In all those beautiful photos of featured arts and crafts-style homes, the reader pointed out, the magazine never once included a wastebasket. Where the heck do these people put their trash?

 It got me thinking – not just about trash, but what about remote controls? What about computer cords? What about the litterbox?! Do these immaculately decorated homes have handcrafted accessories to match? Or do the homeowners just grab the most convenient doodads from Target and then hide them from the camera?

 Since then, I’ve had my eye out for ways to prettify the typically un-pretty – like this wastebasket, for instance. Problem is, when you have to request a price quote for a trash can, you probably can’t afford it.

 

Meanwhile, we’ve managed to wrangle the remotes into a bowl, keep pens, sunglasses and other small items in another dish, and toss my boyfriend’s guitar tuners, cords, and mini-amps into a bread basket.

 

And then we got this guy.

 

No, it’s not some futuristic ottoman – it’s a  litterbox. A ModKat litterbox. (FYI, our walls aren’t really fluorescent yellow, that’s just my camera playing some weird tricks).

 

I never thought I could love a litter pan, but I guess I really am a crazy cat lady, because I’m over the moon for this one. It keeps the litter (and most aromas) contained, is a breeze to vacuum around, and resembles a piece of furniture more than a bathroom receptacle – a large, candy-colored plastic piece of furniture, mind you, but you get the point.

This one, on the other hand, might be going a bit too far.

 

 All jokes aside, you never see pet accessories in photos, either – probably because there aren’t many decent-looking options. Thank goodness for Bungalow Bob’s Pet Designs. Past kitty Christmas gifts (stop snickering!) have included the pet hammock – which as you can see, has since become a home for toys – and the cat maze.

 

I’m sure if we had a dog, we’d be all over the quarter-sawn oak den.

 I totally understand that the homes in publication pages are, much like human models, part illusion — they’re primped, touched up and ultimately transformed into something quite different than the way they looked when they woke up in the morning. But since I get most of my design inspiration from magazines, it would be nice to catch a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes things that are usually left out. Like, is there a built-in pet box or cubby hiding around the corner? Or maybe a cool trash can or remote control holder? How do the design-savvy mix form and function when it comes to typically un-fun home products?

3 Comments

Filed under design, interiors, organization

Renovation Motivation

So I was feeling a tad sorry for myself last week, which may have led to even more infrequent posts than usual.

I was thinking that I’ve got all these big plans in my head, yet all I’ve accomplished recently is purchasing some kitchen canisters  and sink organizers.

Not that the updates weren’t absolutely necessary, of course. I mean, we’d been using the same soap jars since we moved in together. 

I’d like to think the end results are somewhat more sophisticated than the straw-hugging panda and his Softsoap tiger brother, who resided in the kitchen.

I might add a glass soap jar in the kitchen, too, but for now a cute Mrs. Meyers bottle in a white dish will do the trick.

 But a few days into my wallowing, I got some news that changed my outlook. After more than 10 years in their current house, my parents are finally remodeling their kitchen.

To appreciate the significance of this situation, you’ve got to understand something about my family. They have not completed a single renovation project in my 27 years of life. When we moved out of our first house, it was half green and half white because we’d started painting once and never finished. It’s been all downhill since.

Yet, they’ve hired the contractor, they’ve ordered the cabinets – they’ve even (perhaps a bit prematurely) torn out their inherited mustard and deep brown 1970s kitchen. It’s really happening. But the part that impressed me the most? The way my parents held their ground when their contractor suggested they rethink their dream of white Shaker cabinets and subway tiles and instead consider knotty pine and stainless steel, which he thought would have better resale value.

We went through almost the exact same thing when my boyfriend’s family, who was very kindly (and thankfully) helping us with the work, couldn’t understand why we didn’t want Corian counters and Tuscan-style cabinets from Home Depot. Then again, they also didn’t understand why we didn’t want a house built after 1990.

I get that we all have different tastes. I even appreciate it – it keeps things interesting. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have light birch cabinets and a recycled glass backsplash, or colored cabinets (like the cover photo on September’s This Old House) and a checkered floor.

But we wanted white cabinets, white subway tiles (apparently I really am my parents’ daughter) and a warm wood floor. We wanted to go from this…

To this! How-we-did-it post to follow sometime in the future. Please ignore the odd tiki display-turned-clutter above the sink.

Yes, in hindsight there are some things that I wish I had done differently…and there are many, many things that still need to be done. But my point is, we had a vision once, we stuck to it, and we made it a reality – and we can do it again. Any time I doubt that, all I have to do is look at our before and after photos. Two years later, I still smile every time I do.

13 Comments

Filed under interiors, kitchens, organization, renovation

Over the Counter

Nobody would ever mistake me for a neat freak. But just because organization isn’t in my blood doesn’t mean I can’t change, right?

 That’s why I thought I’d use the inevitable burst of motivation that comes with the onset of autumn to tackle a few organization projects. Rather than overwhelm myself and end up doing nothing (a common occurrence around here), this time around I aim to focus on very small areas of the house, starting with the oft-cluttered kitchen counters.

 With space tight in our pull-out pantry, we were amassing a pile of plastic bags full of sunflower seeds, pasta, oatmeal and the like, all secured with twisty-ties and aging chip clips. Not a very pretty – or convenient — arrangement. So I picked up some simple glass canisters from Target and, lo and behold, the room was (very subtly) transformed.

I can’t believe I’ve been so slow to embrace such a timless kitchen organization system. By the way, we aren’t crazy over sunflower seeds – they’re for the chickens.

 The gleaming glass containers so easily spruced up our countertops that I’m thinking of going back for more – or picking up some of the half-gallon Ball jars I hear they carry at Michael’s. I was so excited, in fact, that I whipped up my first roundup/inspiration board/mood board. It may not the most aesthetically-pleasing one out there, but I’m no interior designer and this was my first try. So without further ado, here’s a collection of cute and classic counter space savers.

 

1. anchor hocking heritage hill jars, target, $10.79 2. vintage jadite flour canister, etsy, $58 3. deruta-style canister set, sur la table, 69.95 4. old dutch decor copper canisters, amazon, $64.99 5. ball 125th anniversary jar, JC Penney, $19.99 6. Pfaltzgraff small country canister, pfaltzgraff, $9.99 or $49.99 for set of 3 sizes 7. le creuset 4 qt. cherry canister, amazon, $49.99 8. enamel bread box, the vermont country store, $59.95

Next mission in operation anti-kitchen clutter: finding some kind of caddy or plate for storing our soap, dish detergent and sponges so we don’t have to constantly wipe the wet, sudsy spots that collect beneath them on the counter. A pretty ceramic dish, perhaps?

1 Comment

Filed under design, interiors, kitchens, organization

Home Business

I can’t count the number of times I’ve gotten excited over a cute little cottage with a for-sale sign in the front yard, only to realize it’s zoned for commercial.

Sometimes it seems like half the historic homes in my town have been converted into businesses.

And while I think a mom and pop coffee shop can make a charming resident for a little old bungalow, it seems like an old house’s character and quirks sort of go to waste when it becomes, say, a law or insurance office.

And does it get any quirkier than this one’s brick wall?

I guess I like to be able to picture myself living in an old place – and a parking lot out front and fast-food joint next door disrupt my daydreams.

Of course, I’m probably missing the point. Most converted houses are situated on busy thoroughfares– good for business, not so good for raising your family. Then there’s the historic preservation aspect. I’m thankful that I live in a city where businesses and planning departments had the fortitude to preserve many (though certainly not all) of our old buildings. Better that the houses be used than left vacant and, ultimately, torn down.

Still, I sometimes imagine myself buying one of these businesses and turning it back into a home. But you know what would be even cooler?  Converting a historic school, church or – believe it or not – a post office into a home. Wish I had the guts to take on a project like this one.

Michael Luppino/This Old House

 U.S. Post Office becomes first-class home

6 Comments

Filed under bungalow, cottages, historic houses, old houses, real estate, Victorian

Tour Guide

Access to cool apps was the reason I bought my iPhone – yet I’m usually too much of a cheapskate to actually pay for them. But I may have to make an exception for some of the new historic architecture apps.

It started when I learned about FanGuide’s collection of mobile guides featuring stories, photos, maps, audio and video of Prairie School style architecture in Illinois and modern architecture in L.A.

I can’t wait to try out the Los Angeles app, but, while I appreciate Frank Lloyd Wright as much as the next girl, it got me wondering if there were any programs focused on the kind of older architecture that’s more my forte.

Turns out New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah (all on my vacay wish list) have walking tour apps centered on historic homes, buildings and districts. There’s also a similar app for Montreal.

On the west coast, What Happened Here? offers up historic trivia based on sites in San Francisco and L.A. (for instance, did you know the first electronic image was transmitted from the bottom of Telegraph Hill, marking the birth of TV? Or where Robert Louis Stevenson lived and wrote in San Fran?)

It’s a little early for Halloween, but Wicked Walks provides information about supposedly haunted old houses and locales across the U.S.

Finally, Historic Places is a more general app that searches your current location for districts, sites, buildings and objects with historical significance.

So that’s the run-down for now. I’m crossing my fingers that some techie Craftsman fans are hard at work on a few bungalow neighborhood tours at this very moment.

Leave a comment

Filed under bungalow, historic houses, mid-century modern, old houses, travel, Victorian

Fine Print

My plan this week was to chronicle Arts & Crafts San Francisco, the city’s annual sale of all things bungalow style. But after staying up past 3 a.m. the night before (my boyfriend’s band had a late gig) we just couldn’t convince ourselves to tackle an early 2-1/2 hour trek on a crowded freeway.

I’m sorry to have missed the chance to photograph all the handcrafted furniture, the pottery, the Native American art – but I’m most bummed about missing Yoshiko Yamamoto.

Colvos Passage Sunrise

Yamamoto hand carves her Japanese-influenced arts and crafts designs into wood and linoleum blocks, then prints the images on letterpress. The results are the most simple but stunning scenes of animals, botanicals and landscapes.

Here’s Autumn Leaves, a small print I picked up at the show last year (I promise it looks much better in real life).

And the pair of circle prints I got a few Christmases ago.

From cute little mice to moody ravens, I can’t wait to add another of her nature prints to my collection.

Mice - Yamamoto

Early Spring - Yamamoto

 Or 0ne the landscapes that seem to capture California’s rolling hills, oak groves and late afternoon light effortlessly.

Evening Oak - Yamamoto

Speaking of arts and crafts-inspired prints that features my favorite places, is anyone else smitten with Ranger Doug’s line of reproduction WPA National Park posters?

 

I’m really digging the vintage colors schemes. I’ve got a 2010 WPA poster art planner/calendar, and I’m thinking of tearing out the best 8 by 6 cards (I think there are about 37 in all) and framing them for some cheap wall art. Now I’ve just got to figure out where to put them.

5 Comments

Filed under art, interiors, retro, vintage

Hi Ho, Silver

I heart old houses – on wheels.

 It all started with Sunset. Ever since my July issue arrived, I’ve been pining for the shiny silver Airstream on the cover.

 

I always thought Airstreams were cute with their gleaming aluminum and  spacey shape. But lately I’ve been noticing the retro trailers nonstop – on our trip to Ferndale, camping in the mountains last weekend, cruising down the freeway through our town. I’m officially obsessed.

Apparently I’m not the only one. Renovated Airstreams for home, work or play have recently been featured in the aforementioned Sunset, as well as at Design Sponge, Dwell, The Tiny Life (pictured below) and the Washington Post.

 

We’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately – which I love, don’t get me wrong – but I miss the coziness of our little, old house when staying in hotel rooms. And I miss the convenience of showers and a stove when I’m sleeping in a tent (I know, I’m really bad at roughing it). Wouldn’t it be cool to take a familiar place –showers, stove, maybe even the pets – on the road with you?

There’s just one obstacle. New and gently used Airstreams are expensive. Really expensive. Like, you-could-buy-two-or-three-small–cars-for-the-price-of-one-small-Airstream expensive. The only way it’s going to happen anytime soon is if we buy a used rig in not-so-hot condition, gut it and start over, which would be quite the undertaking – though it has been done.

Until that happens, though, I can satisfy my dreams of silver glory by drooling over the mid-century inspired photos in this book.

Ordering lunch from this Airstream window next time I’m in Seattle.

Borrowing someone else’s trailer for a night.

Or by settling on one that’s more my size.

1 Comment

Filed under mid-century modern, renovation, retro, travel

Traditional Ikea

Wikipedia

The first time I took my parents to Ikea, they thought I was crazy. Sure, they liked the prices – and my dad loved the meatballs – but they just couldn’t see the light-toned, self-assemble Scandinavian furniture and bold prints fitting into a traditional home like their own. 

 While I’ll admit that not everything at the blue and gold giant fits my style, I enjoy hunting for the things that do. I never fail to leave Ikea exhausted, but inspired. Who knew you could set up a cute (theoretically) workable living space in 300 square feet? 

Lately, it seems that I’m finding even more pieces that I could easily incorporate into our home – or any old house, for that matter. In honor of the new Ikea catalog scheduled to hit stores early this month, I thought I’d take a look at the more traditional side of the Swedish spectrum. 

Ikea has recently been advertising this bed for $199. 

  Sure, it’s not mahogany or anything – and I’ve found that IKEA’s dark-stained pieces have a tendency to scratch easily, exposing the light wood underneath. But where else can you buy a nice, simple Shaker-style bed for under 200 bucks?

 Or how about this cute little country linen cabinet? Never mind that at $250, it’s more than the bed. 

 Since we’ve never actually had a dining room, we’ve happily made do with IKEA’s tiniest two-seater table for almost six years. But if I were to want an affordable upgrade, I think this little round table and simple chairs would suit the arts and crafts feel of our house. 

Call me boring and basic, but I like a white kitchen.  And you can’t get one much more classic and inexpensive than this. These wainscot-inspired cabinets  would be at home in a beach house, a cottage or a bungalow.

Ikea

And these side tables could work with a mid-century, traditional or country theme – or just about anything. 

 

 Of course, browsing Ikea’s website is nowhere near as fun as touring the store, where you can get a feel for how to style all the furniture in those flat boxes. Is it just me, or are there any other closet Ikea addicts out there? Have you ever found anything not-too-Ikea at Ikea?

4 Comments

Filed under bedrooms, design, interiors, kitchens, old houses

Humboldt Gingerbread

If there’s a dream job for an old house lover, it’s got to be running a bed-and-breakfast like the Gingerbread Mansion, a famously ornate Victorian home in Ferndale, Calif.

As it turns out, the position might be available. We noticed the inn was closed during our annual visit, and locals confirmed that the mansion is now bank-owned – and could soon be up for sale (for around 900K, we were told).

Personally I don’t know that I’d make a good inn owner since I’m not the best at making small talk with strangers. But it might be worth a shot to live in a place like this.

The Victorian Inn down the street – our usual lodging – isn’t too shabby, either.

Photo by tmvogel/Flickr

Of course, even the Gingerbread’s gingerbread looks like store-bought cookies compared to the ornamentation on another local stunner, the Carson Mansion.

Possibly the most outrageous Victorian building in California – well, except for the storied Winchester Mystery House – lumber baron William Carson’s green-shingled castle is a NorCal coast landmark.

Just across the street, Carson had a humble little abode built for his son as a wedding gift. Today it’s known as the Pink Lady.

Ferndale (pictured below) has been called the best preserved Victorian village in California by the Los Angeles Times, and This Old House voted Eureka one of the Best Places to Buy a Queen Anne in the U.S.

I’m not sure why Humboldt County has done such an unusually amazing job preserving its historic architecture. Maybe they didn’t have the economic means to bulldoze and rebuild with the rest of the state, considering Eureka’s median income is roughly half the California average. Maybe the arts and culture-focused residents saw the unique beauty in their whimsical old buildings when everyone else valued sleek, modern and new. Maybe there’s just something magical about the fog-shrouded communities bordering redwood forests, Humboldt Bay and the mysterious Lost Coast, an area of the Golden State that is – remarkably– still untouched.

Whatever the reason, the result is a trip back in time.

2 Comments

Filed under famous houses, historic houses, old houses, travel, Victorian