Thursday, June 19, 2014

Our New Master Bath (Quick Pics)

I realize that we've not shown a lot of after photos. Unfortunately, we don't have a before photo of the master bathroom shown here. The major changes to this space were really the floor: We added a concrete floor to replace the stone that we just couldn't seem to keep clean. And we also re-sloped it to drain properly. There is actually a drain in the center of the floor for mopping. I should add that the new ceiling, which is cedar plank, was added when we put in the loft above. The ceiling is now lower than the old bathroom, but it adds an architectural detail that gives this room more interest.

We replaced the original wood windows with these new casements. And, we also installed a new shower/tub fixture. We decided to mix our metals here: Brass, antique brass, brushed nickel and chrome.  I thought you had to keep one metal throughout design-wise, but this blending experiment proved not so terrible. You'll notice the door knob to the bathroom (shown in top photo) is brass and yet, on the monochromatic palette of white, cream and golden tones, the different metals somehow work together. What do you think?

I wanted to point out that this toilet is European style. It's water efficient, but its best feature is that the base of it is smooth unlike all those models at Home Depot with the porcelain "piping" on the side. This is so much easier to clean.

Backyard Living for Summer and Birthday Party Prep

It was Zjena's 8th birthday two weeks ago and we decided to have the party at home. We opted to go with a Puppy and Pool party, which meant there was some cleanup to be done. 

We tried to edit down some toys to tidy up things. And we tried to re-gravel just a bit. With big fruit trees in the back that shade a lot of the yard plus our dog, gravel seems to be the only way to go. Notice how low those big, juicy oranges are hanging. Tall people: Watch your head!

Another view of our rustic backyard. In the summer, we really do live and cook back here. We don't need to drive a couple hours to stay at a hotel, because just walking through this gate makes us feel like we are getting away from it all. 

Here's my chair when I'm watching the kids in the pool. Yup, we picked this up from the side of the road. Thanks, neighbor!  And that's not a prop book. I'm actually reading It: This one is The Mists of Avalon. Milo and I have been avidly watching the BBC Merlin TV series on Netflix so I've been newly intrigued with Arthurian legends. Marion Zimmer Bradley does an amazing recreation of those tales with Mists of Avalon.

Having a party at your house is a great way to force yourself to get things cleaned up. We lived in this guest house during our home reno and we had neglected it once we moved back into the main house. It took one week and some hired hands to get it in shape again. No more spider webs, though! And even the books have been dusted. Just cleaning the barbecue took two days!

Here's what I think looks like a fairy tale gate. This is the view from the guest house up toward the main house. It's our portal between the two worlds.

This is no fairy tale  here. Just a reminder of how far we've come--and how much we're living happily ever after now. 

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Energy of Plants

It happened that our daughter Zjena had been taking photos in the yard with her iPad this past weekend. She uses an app called Photo Booth, and it allows a setting whereby you can create mirror images of whatever you're shooting. When she showed me this series of images, I was a little blown away by the captivating energy of the plants. Is that our Bird of Paradise or an alien goddess? Apparently, the plants in our yard are quite mystical beings in their own rights—perhaps we just haven't been seeing them with the right eyes. And it would just figure that it was iPad app that could reveal their magical selves to us. 

We almost removed our giant Bird of Paradise tree, it was so overgrown. But we decided to just clean it up and trim it back. But now, after seeing these pics, I'm glad we didn't get rid of it. I think it's very happy now. 

That's a lavender plant below. It almost looks like an ancient fountain made from a living thing. 

Even the iceberg roses revealed its "hidden" self to us--and dare I say hammed it up for the camera: Are you seeing the eyes and the mouth?

Interesting aren't they? I recommend you take your iPad to the garden and start snapping some photos of your plants with the mirror setting on PhotoBooth. You may be surprised at the otherworldly creatures you'll discover to be the real inhabitants of your space.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Building Our Front Fence

Ever since I first saw the adorable cottages of Carmel, Calif., I've dreamed of having a grape stake fence. 

Rustic and cottage-y. And so pretty.

We started our fence a few weeks back. It all starts with a trench.

We opted to go with a stucco base for our fence because it would give it strength, but also using the same color stucco would help to link the fence visually to our house and overall materials theme. 

This block is the base of our side driveway gate pillars. We had to rip out all of the roses along the driveway. So sorry, roses. But it will be nice to get out of the car and not get stuck by those thorns!

More pillars, more blocks.

Another view. If you look closely, you can see our kids in the background. We created a sand pit just under our bedroom window. They love it and really do spend hours playing in this shady nook.

This is the view of the front entry gate in the making. Imagine a lantern here. A metal mailbox will go on the gate itself. Our postal carriers haven't known where to put our mail for a year now. They will happy when a real mailbox goes in! And so will we.

Topping the stone pillars with bricks helped to tie the design into the brick used on the main house. These are antique bricks. Yes, they are more expensive than regular HD bricks. But, we didn't need a lot.

Here the bricks are filled with cement, getting prepped for the same Vasari smooth stucco we used on the face of our house. We still had some leftover in the garage.

It took a couple tries to match the color of the stucco to the stucco on the front courtyard wall. Still not exactly right. But if truth be told, the front courtyard stucco doesn't actually match the inside stucco wall either. But we do plan to put a lime wash that will tone down everything anyway. 

The pillars have been grouted.

The beautiful grape stakes. They are crooked. Yes, that's just how we like them. And P.S. Home Depot seems to have the best price on these stakes. Their price was far better than any other local suppliers. Here, we're applying a coat of sealer that brings out this shiny wood grain that will also help to tie the fence into the color palette of the wood doors and windows of our house.

Here, the cross bars are added.

And the walkway gate is installed. More pics of the final to come. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Planting in the Front Yard: Landscaping Takes Shape

It's been awhile since my last post. Possibly related mostly to my camera malfunctioning. But spring has sprung here in Southern California and Milo, the kids and I have been digging and planting as a regular after-work activity. Here you can see a few lavender plants peeking over the old wood bench in the front of our new courtyard wall.

I thought I was going to stay with all French lavender plants until a trip to Home Depot turned up something called Jersusalem sage. It was so lovely with its pinkish purple flowers. Plus, it's drought tolerant. I had to have it.

A closer look shows the interesting shape of the flowers and those silvery gray-green leaves. It is native to Italy, so I figured it would work with my Mediterranean design.

Just a reminder of how things looked during the renovation process. This is well before the courtyard wall went up. Woah.

Ah, back to the lavender. This one is Spanish lavender and has the fuller, thicker flowers. Again, I thought I could stay with French lavender only, but the different types of lavender made it so hard to decide.

The bougainvillea that grows over the carport is pretty eye-catching all year long. But, it's especially vibrant in the spring.

I could say that I really thought through our landscape design, but it has just organically evolved through cause and effect necessity. Plus, anything we are given for free is usually incorporated into the design no matter what. This mound is the result of placing gravel in the front yard. Our neighbor gave us all five wheelbarrows full of his gravel, so that was a score. But it did mean we had to dig out a few inches of the top layer of dirt and well, all that dirt had to go some where. Hence, this berm.

More of that Spanish lavender. I could just look at this stuff all day.

Since this pic was taken: We've mulched this mound, added a few more lavender and sprinkled some alysum seeds where the berm meets the river rocks. Fingers crossed those come up because alysum smells like honey and it's so pretty. We also just planted a fruit salad tree, which I learned is actually five fruits in one tree. We picked the stone fruits—so peaches, nectarine, plum and apricot grow all from one tree. Amazing. Of course, one of the branches was already broken off (please don't be the apricot branch) at the store--so we got a 20% discount. And, then, we broke one of the branches getting the tree into our jeep. So, we're down to three fruits now and we're not even sure which ones.  Not sure if that's enough for a fruit salad, but the whole family is eagerly anticipating the fruits' arrival. We really hope our little tree makes it. We've been sending it prayers, love and good thoughts every night before bedtime. And the big rain storm last night may have helped, too.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Dowel Christmas Tree Construction How-To

We've been so used to building things that we got a little crazy with our Christmas tree this year. Why not build one? Plus, we had a lot of scrap wood and paint around. Voila! Our Bohemian Christmas tree was born and will be helping us to celebrate the holidays in our New House. Pretty easy to build and all of the components come apart for easy storage.

Started with an 8 foot 4 x 4. Happened to have a few of those laying around the driveway! Then, we white-washed it with the leftover Benjamin Moore Linen White.

Starting 6 inches from the top of the 4 x 4, we started drilling holes at widths to match our wood dowels, which comprise the limbs of our tree. There are 14 of these holes drilled at every 45 degree angle, so that if you were looking down on this tree from the top, the formation would be a star. This is where most of the labor for this tree was spent. Drilling holes.

The base is composed of four 2-foot pieces of 4 x 4.  This picture shows the step before last, so the final has 4 legs. All screwed in with several very long screws.  This tree is pretty heavy so you don't want it tipping over.

We selected some wood dowels at home depot at varying diameters to give the effect of a real "tree," which has thicker limbs at the bottom, smaller, more narrow at the top. While other customers were walking out with traditional trees, our kids were hand-selecting dowels. At first, the idea of an abstract Christmas tree did not go over well with Zjena. But, when considered as a giant craft project, she got on board enthusiastically. Later, she and her friend white-washed the dowels to match our "trunk."

When the tree was standing upright, we started to add the "limbs." Did I mention before we ever considered attempting this, we crafted a smaller model using a paper towel dispenser and a bunch of chopsticks right after Thanksgiving dinner? Crazy? I know. But, it was the long holiday weekend and we had some time on our hands.

Here we go. Decorating the tree with dollar store ornaments (this must be the most inexpensive tree ever!)  in silver, white and gold. Our little helper was very busy.

Not bad for Dollar  Store. We may add white lights tonight. Not sure though. 

What do you think?