Friday, July 30, 2010

Mad house in D.C.

Well, actually the winning house from the Washington Post’s Mad Men Look contest is in Silver Spring, Maryland, but it’s all the same up here in the DMV (I’ve heard that’s the new term for the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area). The winner was announced in last weekend’s Real Estate section, and of course I am right on top of things reporting to you, dear readers. The house, built in 1953, is owned by Melissa and Christopher Talley. They’ve been recreating the past with 60’s chic decor since purchasing the home in 2007. Melissa collected mid-century furniture and accessories for many years, so finding the perfect house in which to showcase her collection was like divine intervention. Check out the Post’s slideshow for images of their home, plus those of the other winners. Second place went to a Bethesda home, and third place to a home in Hollin Hills, a neighborhood in nearby (to me) Fairfax county.

In fact, reading the article last weekend lead us to take a trek out to Hollin Hills to check it out for ourselves. I’d originally heard of this neighborhood from a co-worker that’s lived there for almost 30 years. It was developed in the early 50s, designed and site planed by architect Charles Goodman and developed by Robert Davenport. The firm, Charles M. Goodman Associates, designed 14 models of houses for the neighborhood. The current neighborhood association is actually trying to get it into the National Register of Historic Places. Goodman is interesting because he’s also responsible for designing the original National Airport (now known as Reagan National Airport) and also served as head architect to the Treasury Department.

Visiting Hollin Hills was a nice departure from the historic revival styles so frequently seen here in Alexandria and the D.C. area. Though the lot sizes were smaller than I imagined, there are lots of trees and foliage to provide privacy. Most of the facades feature a high percentage of glass, and I’m told each of the lots came with a landscape plan designed to both maximize views, light exposure, and maintain privacy. You might say much of the landscaping looks a bit overgrown at this point. I took lots of photos (while trying not to be too invasive of privacy) so take a look at this mid-century neighborhood for yourself:





I think I’m in love with this house:






This one is for sale:




Want to guess the price?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Marble Re-Cap

I’m going to attempt to recreate the post on marble I wrote last week .  Sheesh, technology and I aren’t always on the best terms.  Sometimes, technology wants to see other people.  It’s fine.  We were on a break last week.  We’re back together for now, until this baby takes over my life.  So if the blog goes dark for a while, you’ll know why.  ‘Til then, I hope to have some more posts for you, and of course I’ll plan to be back eventually.

On to marble.  I received a reader request the other day from a homeowner who wishes to install marble countertops in her kitchen (swoon).  The question- honed or polished?  As much as I’ve gone on and on about my love for marble, I’d honestly never really considered the issue.  So, this required some research.  I did some online investigating and I visited a local kitchen and bath showroom so I could see for myself.  Here’s what I found:

First of all, marble is a type of metamorphic rock (remember those three types of rock: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic) meaning it has changed form from its original composition.  In the case of marble, it results from the metamorphism of sedimentary carbonate rocks (most likely limestone or dolomite rock).  One of the reasons I probably like marble so much is that it’s cousin is limestone, my other favorite rock!

Moving on, because of marble’s crystalline structure, it’s extremely soft compared to other rocks, though relatively shatter-proof.  This makes it ideal for sculpture.  Heck, the entire Taj Mahal was carved from marble.  Varieties of marble can be found all over the world, and I love that there are Georgia and Tennessee varieties so close to my roots. 

So, honed versus polished?  Both are finish levels of production, honed being just one step before polished at the  factory.

Honed = matte finish

Polished = shiny (polished) finish

While polished marble is actually less absorbent than honed, and therefore less vulnerable to stains from dark liquids like wine, juice or coffee, it is more likely to show scratches or etches which can occur from sharp objects or acids.  These are actually probably more of a risk, since with a liquid spill there’s  a little leeway time for clean-up before the stain sets in.  Honed marble, on the other hand, already has a somewhat etched finish and will be less likely to show the everyday wear and tear that comes from kitchen use.  Whichever finish is used, it’s important to periodically seal the marble (sealant products can be found easily at places like Bed Bath and Beyond) to ward off stains.  Sealing will not prevent stains, but it will buy you some time for clean up after a spill.

So, in my world, honed wins as far as finishes.  I was further convinced when I visited the kitchen and bath showroom and naturally gravitated towards the honed marble anyway.  And now for another question for the homeowner:  what type of edging?  1/4”  bevel?  Dupont edge?  Bullnose?  So many decisions.  Now let’s look at some beautiful marble applications.

Coastal Living 1 (from Coastal Living)

Cote de Texas (from Cote de Texas)

house beautiful (from House Beautiful)

house beautiful2 (from House Beautiful)

Wash Post (from the Washington Post)

Aren’t those green fixtures amazing?

Do you have any burning questions about home products or design?  Let me know.  If I don’t know the answer, I promise I won’t make one up.  I’ll do some research and hopefully write an interesting post about it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A World Architecture Survey

Dr. Jay alerted me to this article on not too long ago, and since he may be responsible for deleting the entire post I’d written for you guys about marble and I’m not up to recreating it for you at this hour of the night, I figured it was finally time to share the VF article with you.

If you’re interested in learning what some of today’s top architects consider to be the most influential works of architecture in the world (constructed since 1980) check out the results of their survey here.  You can click on each participant (most of whom are architects or designers of some reknown) and see their top five picks.  You can also view a slideshow of some of the most popular works of world architecture.  I loved skimming through it to see how many of these buildings or structures I’ve been to or seen in person.  And making a list of where I need to visit.  It’s a long list.

Bird's Nest

Monday, July 5, 2010

Are you a Betty or a Peggy (or a Joan)?

(Pretend this post was published on July 4th, 2010, as I originally intended it to be)

Happy 4th of July everyone! This is one of my favorite holidays, and though we’re sad we can’t celebrate as we usually do in Atlanta with our family, we’re excited to spend time with friends tonight and watch the D.C. fireworks from a rooftop in Alexandria. A day off tomorrow will also be nice. We’re headed to Mt. Vernon, which I’ve been talking about since we moved here almost a year ago.

We’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men around here lately, still catching up on Season Three. It’s such a fascinating show- one of the best on t.v. right now. Thank goodness for Netflix and Hulu, because we certainly don’t make time to watch t.v. as scheduled anymore. In today’s Washington Post I noticed that they’re running a contest looking for the most Mad Men-esque home in the D.C. area. You can enter a photo by July 11 and they’ll pick a winner and document the winning home in the July 24 edition, in time for the start of the newest season of the show. Does your home have a 50s or 60s Modern look to it?

Don Office

MM image

slim aarons 1961

In case you’re interested, while searching for images for this post, I found this article from the L.A. Times about the set decorator for the series and her secrets on the best vintage shops in Pasadena. Oh, and if you’d like to create the Mad Men version of yourself, try it out here.


(that’s supposed to be me and Don hanging out in Rome)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The nursery revealed

I’m feeling very parental already today. We were up and to the Farmer’s Market early this morning (6:30 a.m. !) and last night Dr. Jay installed the car seat. Not sure what has gotten into us, other than the fact that it’s T-minus 25 days until the due date. Parenthood looms. I’m wrapping up projects at work and trying to get our place in order (getting all my ducks rowed up, as a former boss used to say). And we’re putting the finishing touches on the baby’s room, which I know is why you are all here today. I’ll get to the photos, but first I am compelled to say a little more about the process. What kind of designer would I be if I didn’t bore you with the details? And of course, if you’re really curious you can just scroll down to the After photos anyway.

So I must tell you about some of the challenges of the nursery design, the first of which is that we are in a rental unit which brings about all sorts of constraints. We had been using the room as an office/guest room (there was a pull-out couch) and decided that we really still needed some sort of desk area in the apartment and there was no good reason to move it completely out of the room (the desk wouldn’t fit anywhere else, it has sentimental value, etc). So the room became 2/3 baby and 1/3 desk area. Eventually (pretty soon, actually) we’ll be removing the computer from the desk and setting up my sewing machine, but that’s another blog post.

One of the other constraining issues is the fact that we are not finding out whether our little Lima Bean is a he or a she. So it became my mission to figure out a stylish way to do neutral without reverting to one of the two gimmicky “themes” available at places like Babies R Us. Nothing wrong with that store or neutrality, but let’s face it, from what I’ve found there’s a pretty limited palette in the market place today for old-fashioned minded folks like ourselves. Take a look around at baby stuff these days and you’ll see what I’m talking about. And that last constraint? Oh yeah, budget. We’re not exactly rolling in it since we’re diligently saving for a house (you know, so Lima Bean doesn’t always have to share a room with a sewing machine) so we wanted to stretch every dollar.

Here’s a plan of the room, just so we’re all on the same page.


It’s not a very large space (less than 12’x12’), and of course there’s that “fire”place we had to deal with. There’s a long, not-to-be-blogged-about story on that one, but just know that it’s not a real or functioning fire place, it’s just something that has to stay in our apartment somewhere, and in this room it can at least be somewhat hidden by the crib and serve as a shelf. I tried to come up with a plan that allowed the two remaining useful elements (the desk and the tool chest) to remain without being in the way, functionality between the crib and changing table, and of course a rocking chair, which I wanted from the beginning. Here’s a very rough sketch I did on the plane back from our Miami trip in February. This was when I figured out how it should work, and set about finding furniture to fit in this configuration.


I know it’s crude, but I needed a quick way to get on paper all the elements I had in my head and to explain to Dr. Jay what I was envisioning. This was helpful, because I do believe he asked me what a changing table was for.

Here are BEFORE images of the room.

017 014 015 016

Yes, that room became a catch-all for extra boxes of books from grad school, as well as framed pieces we weren’t sure where or if to hang in the rest of the apartment. We eventually figured out what to do with all that stuff (for the most part). We sold the couch on Craigslist (bye-bye houseguests), took the books to Dr. Jay’s office, and either hung or stored the rest of those pictures. Did you notice the lovely brass wall-lights behind the couch? We removed those for storage (replacing them with new lights became much more of a project than I anticipated) and added more kid-friendly lights instead. We kept the room the same neutral tan, not because I’m in love with it, but because this is a rental we only plan to be in for another year. I decided the paint color would have to work with whatever color scheme we eventually went with, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?

We took on several DIY projects for this room. We bought a bentwood rocking chair off Craigslist and painted it (project no. 1, which I plan to write more about in another post), my mom and I sewed curtains and a re-positionable crib skirt (yay for storage underneath the crib!), and we customized frames from Michael’s for the artwork. Because I know you’re ready, here are the AFTER photos.

Here’s what you see to your right as you walk in the door. We added an organizer for all those little baby things to the back of the closet door. Note the new wall lights. We still need to figure out the best thing to do with those cords. The bookcase (from Target) is the newest addition to the room, and is holding all the books we received at a shower (love that!), parenting books, and all of Lima Bean’s clothes, blankets, and various baby items.


Panning around.



The crib was a gift from my mom, a J.C. Penney find if you are interested. I love the dark finish, simple lines, and of course the fact that there is storage underneath (it’s where we’re storing some clothes that might someday fit me again and things like a swing and baby tub for Lima Bean). My mom and I had fun creating the crib skirt, following directions from a tutorial over at Young House Love. Though we did actually sew it instead of using the iron-on hem tape, just cause I like using my sewing machine.


There are actually black-out window coverings pulled up behind the curtains. I think those will be great for nap time!


An heirloom, created by my grandmother when I was a baby! This was probably the first poem I ever memorized because I saw it so often.


And here’s the room from another angle.

009 010

I plan to cover up the fireplace with another removeable skirt. I’ll be working on it later today. It might be my last sewing project for the room, unless I tackle a bumper for the crib. I haven’t been able to find one I like enough to purchase, and it’s another excuse to use my sewing machine.

We get beautiful eastern morning light in this room, so this photo is a little washed out. The changing table is part of the set that matches the crib. I know, I broke my own rule about being matchy-matchy, but the size and finish worked perfectly, and it didn’t require any painting or sanding which made Dr. Jay very happy. He got me that cool bird mobile for my birthday this year. It was one of our first nursery items.


Here’s the other side of the room, the “work” side, a.k.a. blog and sewing area.


My sister-in-law painted that colorful fish painting especially for our Lima Bean. I think the colors work perfectly. In fact, many of the items in these photos were handmade by family and friends. It means so much to us that people took the time to make something special for our baby.


Please let me know if you’re interested in a sources list. I was planning to add one, but this post is already long and I’m sure no one is reading by now.

I think that about sums it up. We’re so grateful to all the help we’ve received from friends and family on this several-month process, from gifts to advice to storage (thanks, mom!). There have been some challenges, but Dr. Jay and I have loved every minute of putting together this room for Lima Bean and we can’t wait to get that little baby in here!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Latest Inspirations (distractions?)

Yellow Collage

This color has inspired me a lot lately. You’ll see more of it when I publish nursery images. It really just makes me so happy when I see this particular yellow. Whenever anyone has asked me about the nursery, I explain that there’s not really a theme (themes make me cringe) but the color that ties everything together is yellow, and not a quiet, pale yellow. It’s a bold, bright yellow, “like a sunflower or a taxi cab”, which usually gets me a confused look by whoever asked. Oh well, babies like contrast right?

Two other blogs have been great inspirations for me lately. One is called Better After and is a blog dedicated to Before and After photos of DIY projects. It’s right up my alley. If we had a proper garage or yard workspace, I’d probably be tackling some of these myself. Here’s one of my favorites, an old “entertainment center” (another term that makes me cringe) turned in to a play kitchen for a kid:

kitcheybefore and kitcheyafter

How sweet is that? Read more about that project here.

Another blog I’ve loved checking in on is BungalowBungahigh, written by a couple of architects (they’re a couple, and they’re architects!) about the bungalow outside of Chicago that they’ve been renovating for the past year. I’ve really enjoyed reading about some of the interesting projects they’ve taken on, they update it fairly frequently, and they’re brief and to the point, which lately gets major kudos in my book. I find too many distractions, which I like to call “inspirations”.

Any great blogs or projects that have inspired you lately? What about colors?