Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How to style your jean jacket for fall

Layer it with grays and camels. I love it worn with a simple gray tee, black jeans, a long tan trench and a floppy black felt hat. This will be my go-to fall outfit and I love that all of these items are already in my closet (save for the hat, but nothing a little eBaying can't fix: how about this one for $5?) I'd style this for work with a black pencil skirt - like this one from Vince that would look wonderful with a gray tee, jean jacket, black heels, and a trench. It would also work well with black leather leggings or a black leather skirt plus sheer tights and booties.
The Sartorialist captured a couple of perfect layered denim looks a few falls ago that I love to copy when it starts getting chilly. I love both of these outfits: they're fresh yet practical, and use denim as a neutral. My favorite fall work outfit is a chambray shirt with a pale gray skirt and tan blazer with tomato red lipstick.

It's still too hot in the South for any of these outfits, but I've already packed up all of my summer wardrobe. Knock on wood, but living in North Carolina has really made me miss chilly Chicago fall days that are made for outfits like these. Is it October yet?


Sunday, August 24, 2014

$5 makeover for distressed French bistro chairs

Ever since the first time I sat in a French cafe, I've been wanting to buy these patio armchairs but didn't have the room to hold them (nor the patio.) They've been on my want list for awhile now, so when I finally found them for sale (in bulk) on Craigslist for $15 apiece I bought as many as I could hold (which is 8). The problem I'm having is the wicker seats are distressed and starting to break, and despite all my Googling I've been unable to find anyone with the skills to re-weave patio chairs.
So they have been taking up space for months, stacked unused on our back porch until one fateful day as I wandered the aisles of Costo hunting for cheese samples and primed for impulse purchasing (this has become a weekly activity for me, if we are being totally honest.) I stumbled across a giant box of velvet seat covers, and just as I was about to walk away to get a better look at some $99 sheepskins it occurred to me that these seat covers were the solution to my weave problem: I could use them to disguise the distress (and up the comfort level for people like my friend Ashley, who brings koozies in her purse to tuck under the backs of her thighs to protect them from the dangers of textured chairs).
So I dug through that box (really, up to my elbows) until I found the perfect hunter green color that would pair perfectly with the maroon-and-cream wicker and bamboo colors on the chairs.
For just $9.99 for a 2-pack at Costco plus a few minutes of effort for the ties, it was the easiest and most attractive DIY chair cover project I've ever done (and I am addicted to recovering chairs - see here and here for a few projects I've done on my road to becoming a professional upholsterer/carpenter.) Needless to say, I have been enjoying the change to these patio chairs. (I'm sitting in one with a glass of wine on my front porch as I write this.)

Don't they look comfy? Does this porch make you want to take a seat and stay for a big glass of Chardonnay? Because that's the look I am going for, and I think the fern and flag really add that extra Southern pizazz it needed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My new (old) favorite easy chair

In June, my parents drove from Chicago to Charlotte with all of my grandmother's china in tow (service for 16, no less) and since they were going to be loading up the old Kelly family van anyway I seized the opportunity to have them transport a few things that I've always wanted to take off their hands but couldn't carry home on a plane.

Enter this chair, which has sat in my dad's basement workshop for most of my life and (literally) collected dust. According to my mom, it's a patio chair from the 1950s that used to belong to her grandmother. I love the midcentury design and that it's astonishingly comfortable, especially covered in a lambskin.

We moved to a new house, but what I didn't tell you is that the new house is not even one block away from the old house. (What can I say, I am attached to my neighbors.) Anyway, the new house and the old house have some similar features which is why I was able to basically recreate the exact same living room in the new house but with a few key changes: moving the loveseat to a separate sitting room, and adding some accent chairs like the oldie-but-goodie one I just acquired and an IKEA Poang chair that I've never quite loved but fits in so well now.

Even my drapes fit in well here. I love seeing all of the things I've collected over the years come together. It's a good test of taste over time. I think the same goes for friends: at my wedding, I was so deeply proud of my friends becoming friends. They each came into my life at different times but mixed so well together (and made for a truly amazing dance floor, I might add. Shout out to Chi Omega and the infamous Double Dutch dance).

Anyway, this is the current state of the living room - but also imagine that it includes an upright piano that came with the house and lots of unhung pictures and wayward shoes strewn against the unpictured wall:

(By the way, I would like to proudly announce that I painted that entire fireplace myself. Doesn't it look chic and fresh? Thank you, Lowes, for the encouragement and proper paint roller.)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

How to install open kitchen shelves

Before I begin to tell you about how to install open shelving in your kitchen, I should start by explaining that we moved last month into a new (old) rental house because we needed a dog-friendly landlord for our (extremely expensive) boxer mix mutt named Sophie, and desperately needed more space in general. The house is a 1934 Craftsman bungalow with high ceilings, hardwood floors and a bathroom with the original hexagon tile and cast iron sink and tub. After those good bones, there were no redeeming qualities: it was bent out of shape and desperately needed to be cleaned, painted, and loved. You would not have rented this house.
But the landlord was willing to entertain my ideas to tear down her upper cabinets, rip up a carpeted room to reveal the beautiful hardwoods, and paint the place from baseboards to ceilings in exchange for rent that is drastically below market price. It's a blank canvas filled with projects for this blog, the reason I went to work with paint in my hair for two weeks in a row, and why I count a few salespeople at Lowes as part of my social circle.
Needless to say, the place needed lot of work. The kitchen, by far, was the worst: so bad, in fact, that I didn't take 'before' pictures because you would judge me for agreeing to live in the place. (Think lime green walls, dingy brown wood, and derelict upper cabinets not fit for my Crate and Barrel collection.)
After lots of elbow grease, now it looks like this (a work in progress, but major improvement nonetheless):

After tearing down the upper cabinets (with work gloves, a crowbar, goggles, and lots of confidence), I sanded the wall where the cabinets had been mounted, repaired the drywall with drywall tape and spackle, sanded it again and then cleaned the walls, trim and ceiling. Then I primed and painted the walls, trim, and base cabinets, and got to work on installing the open shelves.

I wanted simple white shelves to match the base cabinets, and my goal was for the entire project to be as simple and cost-effective as possible (which should be the goal for all rental home projects). I settled on prefinished laminate white Rubbermaid 72" X 12" shelves that were $12 apiece and white brackets that were $7 each. Below are the step-by-step instructions and the materials I used.
Step-by-step instructions for installing open shelves:
  1. Take measurements of the area (length and width) where you want to hang the shelves.
  2. Using a stud finder, identify the studs in the area where you want to hang your shelves and mark an x in the center of each stud. (Disclosure: I failed to find studs in the area where I hung my shelves, so I used EZ Anchor Stud Solver Drywall Anchors to hang the brackets.) 
  3. The first stud x (or, in my case, 16" from far left corner) marks your first column of brackets. Moving 16" to the right, mark off your second, third, fourth columns of brackets (depending on the length you selected).
  4. For each bracket column, measure 62" from the floor and make a pencil mark - this will be where the lowest shelf should be hung (it matches typical height of the lowest shelve of a base cabinet).
  5. Moving up from your 62" mark and using a level to keep both marks in line, measure 14.5" up (or 76.5" from the floor) for the height of the second shelf. Repeat using increments of 14.5" for additional shelves.
  6. To ensure your shelves will be level, use a straight edge to draw a line connecting the marks in each bracket column (the line the shelves would sit on) and then confirm the line is level with... a level.
  7. Using a bracket as a guide, I penciled in the screw holes for each bracket on the wall.
  8. Using my new power drill, I pre-drilled all of the holes and then installed the drywall anchors, and eventually the brackets themselves.
  9. Once all of the brackets were in place, I placed the shelves onto the brackets and fit them to where I wanted them to sit exactly.
  10. Next, I penciled each of the screw holes needed to secure the shelves to the brackets (again using the bracket as a guide) and pre-drilled holes for the screws.
  11. Finally, I attached the shelves to the brackets with screws, and added all of my plates, bowls, serving dishes, etc.
(I also added these coated hooks that I found at Target to the bottom of the base shelves for my coffee mugs and LOVE them over my Nespresso machine.)

 My other ideas for this kitchen that I have yet to discuss with the landlord: installing a pegboard wall opposite the open shelving to hold all of my cooking tools; adding a pot rack above the oven; replacing the (terrible) overhead lighting with a chandelier; adding butcher block countertops; and tearing up the (awful) linoleum to reveal the hardwoods underneath (yes, I pulled up a corner of the linoleum to confirm).

Monday, August 4, 2014

If you don't have enough time, stop watching T.V.

This print has been taped to my refrigerator for months and although it's usually unnoticed among the magnets and movie tickets hanging there with it, every once in awhile I stop to re-read it and remind myself to pause and consider what I do every day and how I do it. My summer has been a flurry of flights, meetings and moving boxes, powered by coffee and three meals a day eaten over my laptop (there is balsamic vinaigrette in my keyboard as I type this). This quote begs an uncomfortable question: for all of the effort and energy you expend every day, is it getting you what you really want?
For me, the answer is usually no: I wish I spent more time with the people and pets in my life, that I could meet my parents for dinner on a Sunday night instead of living 1,000 miles away, or that I could be the really devoted yogi that completes the 30-days-of-Bikram challenge. Or even just tackle the pile of laundry on the floor of my bedroom or learn to use the sewing machine I impulse-bought as Costco last winter. (Sadly, it has never come out of the box and my tailor has been as profitable as ever.)

There are a handful of people who I look to as role models for truly living life to the fullest, operating based on individual standards and making it according to an unconventional definition of success instead of one that the rest of the world around them expects them to adopt. One of those people was my eight grade language arts teacher, who once told me that being a 12-year-old bookworm with braces, glasses, and a bowl cut would serve me well in the long run. She gave me this E. E. Cummings poem that I still have (and find inspiring) to this day - it goes so nicely with the one on my refrigerator and is sometimes the only answer I have as to why I don't want to get an MBA: "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Everyday jewelry

For the most part, I've been wearing the same jewelry every day since I was a senior in college. As my disposable income increased over time (and once I started wearing Wes's life savings on my left hand ring finger that doesn't go well with nickel), I've been slowly upgrading to the fine jewelry counterparts of my former favorite everyday staples. Jewelry is the one thing that I've never impulse bought: most of what I love is simple, and I rarely find a piece that fits in perfectly with my tried-and-true favorites (usually two thin gold chain necklaces of varying lengths, one holding a thin gold band; gold, silver and copper bracelets and cuffs, a vintage opal ring from Wes's mom, and a classic two-tone watch).
This summer, my everyday jewelry collection has grown by two items which is revolutionary for me. If we're not counting my Fitbit (which is amazing, by the way), it was an impulse purchase discovered on my walk to a Saturday brunch: I passed Bonnie Boardman's tent, stopped, stared, and snapped up a simple 14 kt gold chevron bracelet and have been wearing it every day since. (And I am adding this chevron necklace, these goldfill hoop earrings, and these gold rectangle earrings to my collection before the end of August...)

Speaking of everyday items, this outfit is all of my summer favorites worn at the same time: an old vintage fishing vest that goes with nothing yet everything; a cotton Joie Soft dress that I am actually wearing as I write this and will probably sleep in; a gold Hobo messenger that limits me to a credit card, Chapstick, and a phone (after all, everything else is in the pockets of the fishing vest); $5 turquoise  earrings from the best costume jewelry shop in Manhattan; and a pair of over-loved leopard Charles David pumps that desperately need to be replaced but I just cannot part with them.

Monday, July 7, 2014

How to create an awesome, masculine room

Brought to you by Spruce in San Francisco, the inspiration behind the study I'm working on in the new house that Wes and I just impulse-rented (discovered around the block from where we are currently living: it has an amazing oversize front porch, beautiful wooden floors, a pet-friendly landlord, plenty of Southern charm, and is a blank canvas for my amateur interior design experiments).
Anyway, I've been on the lookout to recreate the mix of colors and textures at this amazing restaurant I visited a few weeks ago - I love the deep navy walls combined with warm camel faux ostrich leather and dark brown velvet chairs, plus touches of crisp white in the tablecloths and oversize sketches and mirrors hung in silver frames offset with antique picture lights and ornate chandeliers. It's traditional, luxurious, masculine - and refreshing, thanks to a handful of bold, well-positioned abstract paintings on unfinished canvases.
Although I'm not ready to commit to the navy blue walls, I'll get the color combination in our new house by using rich rugs, fresh white drapes, a deep walnut armoire and prints of sketches sourced from Etsy and hung in frames spraypainted with my trusty favorite paint (in silver tone) from Michael's. This restaurant is also motivating me to research how to recover the distressed pair of studded leather office chairs that my dad pulled out of the garage and hand-delivered to Charlotte last month along with other Kelly family castoffs (including at least six different types of cacti that have been flourishing* in the Chicago climate).

*They arrived drooping and nearly dead, handed off by my guilty parents who didn't want the blame (aloe on their hands) for killing them all.