The upstairs hall.

So! An actual post about house progress! Here goes…

When we bought our place, it was fairly obvious that the previous owner had bought it in an attempt to flip it and had made “improvements” (I use that term loosely) using the absolute cheapest materials possible. To wit, our upstairs doors were the cheapest plastic molded hollow core doors ever made. With the cheapest, ugliest brass and mismatched hardware ever made.

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They weren’t ever painted, and were pretty filthy, but somehow that wasn’t motivation enough to do anything about it for the last three years. I guess that’s not really true – we did buy salvaged wood doors (like the ones on the first floor) but then they sat in the basement while we did other stuff; like rounds of infertility treatment and thankfully had two kids.

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ewww, ugly door to our bedroom.

 

Thankfully we have Sean the carpenter who trimmed and scraped and painted and trimmed some more until all the salvaged doors fit where they needed to. It was no easy task – a couple of the slabs we picked were warped (oops) and since pretty much everything in this house is crooked anyway, it was quite a challenge to get them to fit. He persevered, and I’m so glad. New (to us) wood doors make all the difference.

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The upstairs hall is very short, so I took this pic with my back pressed against the railing over the stairs.

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Here’s the bathroom door that had to be trimmed just enough that the new knob wouldn’t fit without a little trickery from Sean. He was able to add in a piece of wood so that there was enough depth for the latch mechanism.

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I actually kind of like the way it looks – a happy accident. We used the same door hardware as downstairs, but only put a locking one on the bathroom door (once, while babysitting, a sassy toddler locked me out of her room while her infant sister was inside and I practically had to take the door off the hinge to get in, so, no locking bedroom doors for kiddos in this house.)

The doors will probably need a bit of adjusting as we move into the more humid summer months, but I’m so happy with how they turned out. Just the tactile sensation of opening a heavy wood door instead of a flimsy plastic one is pretty satisfying. Here’s the new light fixture over the stairs.

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It’s from Restoration Hardware. It replaces the ugly stained glass fixture that I showed here. The roman shade is from Pottery Barn. I originally ordered 3 of them for our bedroom, but since they have a blackout liner they felt a little too heavy. I kept the one I had opened and it works perfectly here. It’s open all day and only gets pulled down when we are going to bed and don’t want to see our neighbors security lights.

I really intended to get this post up sooner but I’ve been waylaid by a terrible case of mastitis this week. Thank god for on-call docs, 24 hour pharmacies, and antibiotics. I’ll have another post up about the stairway soon – it’s looking really good, but just needs a few more things before it’s complete.

xx-H

Our new arrival!

Our son, Silas Arthur Patrick Kelly, was born April 2nd at 6:12 am. He weighed in at a whopping 8lbs15oz and was 22 inches long!

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Lucy has done a wonderful job welcoming her new brother. It’s hard to put into words how much love I feel for these two. We have our first doctors appointment today and our first full day alone at home, but so far things have been going really well. I’m looking forward to sharing some more projects around the house that got done (or at least started ;) ) in the last few weeks, especially his nursery!

Xx-h

It’s all in the details.

But first, a weather update. It’s hard not to feel like nature is playing a joke on you when the radar looks like this.

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That wee blue snowstorm was hovering directly over us yesterday and we woke up to another dusting this morning. Even the most affable among us are being dragged down by the constant cold and snow. It’s a little nerve wracking getting around all the ice when I’m so tippy, but I’ll hold fast to the idea that this baby will be born in spring time. 4 more weeks!

Our contractor Sean has been working hard to wrap up a few things in the meanwhile. First on our list was replacing the rest of the baseboards and door trim on the first floor, in the kitchen and dining room.

Here’s a before pic, from when we mostly redid the kitchen in 2012. You can see the skinny baseboard, and undersized door trim on the pantry and sliding door to the powder room.

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Sean carefully removed the old trim

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Then he installed the new trim and beefed up the door casings.

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Sorry, grainy iphone pics. You can see the little closet door here too. Lots of doors in a small space!

Here are the afters – you can see that beefing up the door trim brought the line of the pantry door up to the same height as the cabinet above the fridge (which needs to be leveled).

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I like the plinth blocks at the foot of the doors. They just make everything feel really solid.

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This little closet door was red in another life and sat primed and pinkish with no hardware here for 2 years until Sean actually gave it the paint job it deserved.

So, those are some little details that have changed around here. It’s amazing how removing the little eyesores around our house have really changed my impression of our space. When we first moved in, all the doors were plastic hollow core and had shiny brass hardware. These 2 panel solid wood doors were salvaged from houses all over Chicago and the North Shore – some of them are probably one hundred or more years old, just like our house. It feels so good to bring it back the simple, high quality details that it deserves. If you’re local, we’ve had great luck with salvaged doors at the Rebuilding Exchange in the city and even closer at Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse.

Next on our list – finishing the stairway bannister and replacing the doors on the second floor. We are also planning to gussy up the powder room a little bit – hopefully before this baby makes his arrival! His nursery is almost ready to share, just waiting on one more piece of artwork.

Hope you all are well,

xx-H

In praise of comfort.

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The sweater is from Lou and Grey, the lounge collection from Loft. I would happily wear every. single. piece.

This column, by the inimitable Cathy Horyn of the New York Times, really spoke to me. The comments are wonderful too.

Some fashion blogs I’m admiring lately -

1. http://www.happilygrey.com

2. http://www.lesantimodernes.com

3. http://thechicpragmatist.blogspot.com

update

4. http://www.seeannajane.com (a great blogger who is currently wearing maternity and, bless her, wears seasonally appropriate clothing.)

Do you have some favorite minimal/chic fashion blogs on your list? I’m still working on editing down my clothes. Wearing a limited maternity wardrobe has really reinforced the ideas I talked about in this previous post. Some might say it’s unwise to get rid of clothes when you are hugely pregnant, but I find filling bags to donate pretty liberating. I’ve been lucky to cross off a few things from my “basics” list and now I’m working to replace things in poor condition that I wear all the time (like my favorite sweaters and tees.) I’m also thinking about upgrading some of my denim after being disappointed by how quickly some of my favorite jeans have fallen apart. Any recommendations for brands? I’ll obviously be waiting until after april to even attempt to try on non-maternity styles. Just planning ahead…

xx-H

Black and Grey Nursery Decor

modern grey/black nursery decor
I’ve decided to keep things pretty neutral in our little guy’s nursery, including decor. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about to spruce up the white walls.
1. I just ordered a custom nursing pillow cover from ModFox on Etsy. I love the fabric and it will look great in any room of our house. There are great fabric selections to peruse in her shop of you are looking for something a little more modern.
2. This large scale print from Banquet Atelier on Etsy. The size is great and very affordable. I love the woodsy theme of this one called “Twenty Northern Friends”, but there are also some lovely ocean themed prints for your little sailors. This print includes facts about all the animals at the bottom.
3. Thelittlechickadee Etsy shop has amazing silhouette prints, including this one called “The Stars Will Watch Over You”
4. These house shelves are on sale at Restoration Hardware Baby and Child. I know it would be pretty straightforward to DIY these, but the truth is, I’m lazy. I haven’t pulled the trigger on these yet, but I’m thinking about it.
5. Another print from Urban Outfitter! There is one in Lucy’s room too. This one was too charming to pass up and I love moon art.
6. More animal friends from Joanne Liu on Society 6. Looking at that site makes me want to change out all the art in my living room gallery wall. So much amazing stuff! Such reasonable prices!
7. This brass mobile from Comometalworks on Etsy would bring in a nice bit of warmth.
The second visit of our new friend the Polar Vortex meant that work upstairs had to pause, but our contractor was back today to get things moving. I’m so impatient to start decorating!
Hoping you all are well (and warm!)
H

he’s back!

IMG_6534My favorite carpenter/make my house better guy is finally back to work after a six month hiatus. First thing on his list? Painting the new nursery. We are so lucky to have a 3rd bedroom in this little house. It’s a small room, maybe 8×11?, but surely big enough to hold everything our little dude could need.

Here are a few more before pics - IMG_6532 IMG_6535The room was barely big enough for a queen bed and the dresser you see above, but it also held all of our coats and tons of other junk we managed to cram in there (linens, our iron, shoes, etc.) Pete and I thoroughly edited our coat collection, tossed the 10+ year old mattress, and gave the extra bedding to friends and family. We now officially don’t have a space for guests, but I’m seeing an air mattress purchase in our future. The beige paint (what was I thinking?) has been covered by a lovely coat of fresh white, which of course gave me the notion that the upstairs hallway and stairway could use a fresh coat, which then reminded me that ugly hollow core doors need replacing with the solid wood ones we scavenged and then left in our basement, and oh, this is the perfect time to build a linen closet! Epic nesting.

So. Sean is doing all of those things. The only possible place to add a closet was over the stairs, in the little strange hallway to our bathroom.

IMG_6542Here’s the view looking back at the stairs. Hallway to the bath is on the left.

IMG_6547 IMG_6548Here it is framed out. It’s really more of a linen cabinet since we needed to maintain a really comfortable head clearance for going up and down the stairs.

IMG_6550Here’s the view from inside the bath hallway ( you can see what it used to look like here) Sean will build doors and shelves once all the drywall is taken care of.

Here’s a view from today with drywall and a couple of coats of mud.

IMG_6561 I think having even a small linen cabinet will make a huge difference in our storage upstairs. We’ve always kept extra linens in our room, generally piled on chairs. I love the idea of having a place for a couple of extra pillows, an air mattress, and all the extra tp I can buy. I worried a little bit that adding a bulkhead would make the stairs feel cramped, but the truth is I don’t even notice it. I’m on the hunt for a new fixture to replace that 90′s pool table/bennigan’s style one finally. Sean will also upgrade the bannister on the stairs since the old one was quite flimsy and didn’t actually go all the way to the top.

Right now he’s using the nursery to stage all his tools while he gets all this upstairs work done – so I won’t really be able to get started putting the room together for at least another week. In the mean while I’ve been hunting for the second layer of decor for that room – I’m planning on picking up a rug and a floor lamp from Ikea this weekend and I’ve been finding tons of great artwork online. You can see my ideas on my pinterest board here.

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30 Weeks!

Hope you all are well.

xx-H

New Couch Fail.

So we bought the Jappling couch from Ikea, thinking it would be perfect for us in all it’s $399 cheap faux leather glory. Truly, it was great. The scale was good for the room, the pleather didn’t feel terribly cheap, and it was firm but comfortable. Everything was fine, until our cat realized we got a new couch made out of her favorite substance ever – plastic.

Is my cat the only cat that’s obsessed with chewing plastic? In the middle of the night she’ll gnaw on plastic dry cleaner bags or try and eat and scratch any poly shipping mailer that’s been left out on the table. I inevitably find teeth and claw marks on our shower curtain and I have to be super vigilant about plastic ribbon during the holidays, lest she choke. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised that she liked the couch so much.

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So we basically had the couch for about a week before she started methodically scratching during the night. We have had a real leather chair and a leather ottoman in the living room that she has never touched, so scratching didn’t really occur to me as a possibility.

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We’ve kept a couple of throws tossed over the couch to try and minimize the amount of damage, but at this point the couch is a loss. No one would buy it, and frankly it’s not worth donating since the damage is pretty bad on the arms and back. Now it’s just a  placeholder ( and group nap facilitator) until we get another couch, this time fabric. Our previous couch was fabric and she never scratched it, so I’m hopeful this is just her commentary on my choice of pleather rather than a new behavior. I’m really disappointed though, and feeling terribly wasteful since we’ve only had it a couple of months. I also feel a little anxious about our next choice – should we go with something cheap again in case she does keep scratching? I know there are sprays for fabric that deter scratching, but I don’t want to waste even more money on something that could get ruined. I’m praying that it’s just about the texture of the pleather. Snobby cat.

On the bright side, the couch was a bit dark for the room and I’m wondering if it might be better, style wise, to go with something a bit lighter, or at least that isn’t dark brown (brown ottoman, brown fur dog bed, wood bar, dark wood floors.) I’ve got my eye on a couple of options.

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The Pennie Sofa from Crate & Barrel – $899

I think the shape is so cool, but the obvious drawback is that there aren’t removable cushions. Considering how rough the dog is on upholstery it probably not the most realistic choice.

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The Paidge Sofa Grand from West Elm – $1449

Pricey, but I love the swoop arm and I’m really attracted to the ink blue velvet upholstery.

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The Abbott Sofa from World Market – On sale for $595

The cheapest of the bunch! I love this one. I miss the chaise part of our old couch and this one has much trimmer proportions. My brother and SIL have this one and it’s pretty comfy. Obviously the price is amazing. Pk is not crazy about the chaise since he likes how open the room feels now without it.

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The Karlstad Sofa Bed from Ikea – $849

The workhorse. Since we no longer have a guest room (new nursery!) it might be nice to have a sofa bed. It could move to the basement eventually and it has a bunch of different covers available. The cover and cushion covers can be removed to be cleaned. It’s not a particularly exciting silhouette, but maybe I could get more interesting legs for it, like hair pin or something a little more MCM (like this pin)? This couch seems like the most common sense option to me. Darn it Ikea. I can’t seem to get away from you.

So, no decisions yet, but we are definitely keeping an eye out for sales and floor samples. I’m tempted to just pull the trigger on the Ikea one, but I think I should force myself to wait in case I find something we absolutely love. In the meanwhile we’ve cleaned out every closet and some of our storage locker. I’m truly in nesting mode now at 29 weeks. We cleared out the old guest room to prep for the new nursery. An entire truck load of stuff went to be donated! The room needs a coat of paint, but most of the other large pieces are already here (dresser, crib, glider). I’m so excited to get rid of stuff. When I was pregnant with Lucy I collected an insane amount of baby gear from thrift stores and hand me downs, but this time around I’m hoping to do things much more simply.

Spotted any good deals on couches lately? Cat training ideas? Impervious fabric suggestions?

Hope you all are well.

xx-H

cold weather survival tools

Chances are, wherever you are, it’s quite cold. We rung in 2014 with almost 3 straight days of snow and now super cold temps to follow. The Chicago forecast for next week calls for highs of -8°. As in, the actual temperature. Not the windchill. It’s the kind of weather where you dare not leave your house with wet hair for fear that your tresses will instantly break off and when you open the door to let the dog outside she looks at you like you’re insane. I’ve rounded up a few things that are getting me through these wickedly cold days.

winter survival kit
1. Crane Drop Shape Humidifier – we have Crane humidifiers in every bedroom. I fill them every night and if I forget, my throat tells me the next day.
2. Gap Sweater Zip Cape – I sized up on this one so that it would last me through this pregnancy. I wear it around the house like a slightly more stylish Snuggie. The zips open so you can poke your arms out to change the channel and/or pin freely.
3.Numi Organic Rooibos Chai – Caffeine free tasty hydration. Delicious with steamed milk and a sleeve of Lorna Doones.
4. L.L. Bean 10″ Shearling Lined Boots – The gold standard of winter boots. I know everybody loves their Sorel’s right now, but these are the originals and so, so toasty. The black/black are on sale right now too.
5. Burts Bees Intense Hydration Day Lotion - I have dry, sensitive skin and this stuff is a game changer. It soothes wind chapped cheeks, isn’t greasy, layers well under makeup, and claims to minimize wrinkles (ahem, not that I need that, ahem).
6. Target Plaid Shirt Flannel - So soft. So cheap. Size up for sure. I think I might pick up the other colors too since I basically wear this every day. The perfect layer.
It’s hard not to have the sadz with this awful weather especially with the inevitable post-holiday cough we all seem to have. Lucy got an incredibly awesome gift for Christmas – the Kiwi Crate subscription service and one project box has gotten us through some long boring afternoons. You can read Shana’s super thorough review (and comparison to a similar service, Wonderbox) here.
Stay warm!
xx-H

Wishing you the happiest New Year

We’re cuddled up on the couch, waiting for Pk to get home from another trip. The snow is falling and its about 15° outside. Lucy and I both have colds and my poor little girl has a terrible black eye from conking her head on Grandma’s table. I think we’ve reached the inevitable post birthday/holiday let down, but honestly, I’m looking forward to some weeks of clean, quiet, living. My goals are to sort through our ever increasing possessions and donate what isn’t beautiful or useful to us. Even Lucy’s in on it – she gathered up a bag of toys to give away this morning. Frequent blog readers know that this time of year we are inundated with to-do lists and resolutions and plans for living better. Mine are pretty simple – prepare for the new baby joining us this year, spend a little less time on Pinterest, and remembering…

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We have an incredible amount to be grateful for. My baseboards might be dusty, and my closets in disarray, but our little family gives me the most powerful sense of happiness. I’m pretty sure perfectly folded laundry and kale smoothies can’t improve upon how much just their very existence means to me.

I doubt we will make it to midnight tonight so have an extra glass of bubbly for me!

Happy New Year to you and yours!

xx-H

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