Wednesday, September 11, 2013

New website

Feel free to stay here and browse the content on this blog.

Or come visit my new website - Meredith M Howard.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

It is finished (in more ways than one)

The kitchen is finally finished.

I feel like we moved.  Not only does the kitchen look totally different, but most of our stuff is still packed in boxes in the basement.  I may just leave it all down there, because it's nice to have less clutter.  In case you can't remember what the kitchen looked like before the renovation, here is 1965 with a little 1990 thrown in -

Fast forward to 2013 -

Just in case you are renovating and want to know all of details, this is what we chose (after much deliberation) -

Kitchen cabinets - KitchenCraft Lexington doors in Alabaster (uppers) and Gunmetal Blue (lowers)
Dining room cabinets - KitchenCraft in Weathered Slate
Countertops - Caesarstone quartz in Pebble Gray
Dining room countertops - Statuarietto marble
Backsplash - Bianca carrara marble
Grout - Platinum by Polyblend (You might think it odd that I include this small detail, but if you have ever chosen grout, you know that it's a big decision.)
Range - KitchenAid
Refrigerator - KitchenAid
Mini-fridge - U-line
Floors - Red oak stained in Minwax Classic Gray
Paint color - Misty Moonstone by Glidden (color matched by Sherwin Williams)

To give you more information, I'll take the liberty of interviewing myself -

What was the most difficult part of the renovation?  By far, the constant decisions.  Also constantly cleaning up dust and finding nails on the floor all over the house (but this wouldn't have been an issue if we had isolated the renovation to the kitchen.)  Being without a washer and dryer for certain periods bothered me more than not having a kitchen.  And people showing up at our house every morning at 7:45.

What was the easiest part of the renovation?  Hmmmm....

What turned out surprisingly good?  The paint color.  My husband wanted to go this light all along.  And he was right.  Oh, and the cove ceiling, which I thought was a waste of money... until I saw it finished. That was also my husband's choice.

What was different from what I expected?  I thought that once I made a decision, it was done.  But I was constantly told - "We can't do that because - there are studs here, that's out of stock now, or this wallpaper has a selvage edge."  Yes, you will notice that the wallpaper was not used.  We couldn't find anyone to hang it, because it has edges that have to be cut off in a perfectly straight line.  I learned that you have to be able to switch directions in the design at any moment.

What do I wish we had done differently?  I wish we had decided to replace all of the doors and remove the paneling from the living room walls at the beginning of the project instead of in the middle.  It delayed us a lot.  My advice is that if you are doing a major renovation, you need to go ahead and renovate everything that is visually connected to that space at the same time.

Would I do it again?  I don't know.  The kitchen is beautiful, but the process took a toll on our family.  I was so consumed by the renovation that I couldn't focus on anything else, and I feel like my relationships suffered.  Ironically, the physical displacement and inconvenience didn't affect me as much as it affected my husband.  I think because he went to work everyday, it was always a shock to come home to such chaos.  However, the chaos and workers just became a part of my life.

What is my main advice to someone starting a renovation - Pick out as many items as you can before the construction starts, because there will be so many things you didn't even think about.  But always be willing to change - see above.  But don't be afraid to stick to your vision and tell your contractor to "make it work".   (At one point everyone was telling me we had to put our main light switch in this odd location because of the placement of the studs.  I kept insisting on moving it to a more logical spot, and they figured out a solution.)  Also, pick a contractor with a lot of experience in your type of renovation on your type of house, because his/her knowledge will come in handy (like knowing where to find used brick that matches your house when you brick in a window and door).  

With the completion of the renovation, I also feel a sense of completion with this blog.  I am ready to move past the computer into more flesh and blood.  I want to move past planning and documenting and analyzing to more doing - sewing, painting, reading books, talking to people face to face.  I am ready to move beyond myself into better relationships.  I may be back on the Web one day.  But I don't know. This has been a blessing to me...and I hope to you.  So, for now (with misty eyes but no tears), I leave you with the greatest lesson I have learned through writing this blog -

You can only find soul balance through Jesus.

(Ok, now there are tears.)

With happiness in moving forward,

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Day 39

The infamous light fixture is finally hanging in my dining room!

We're almost finished...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Day 36

It's starting to come together.  We got our countertops.  Pebble Caesarstone in the kitchen and Staturetto marble in the dining room.  

I don't have a photo of the marble yet, because it is still covered up for the painters.  As you can see above, our Bianco Carrara marble tile backsplash has been installed (but not grouted).

We have new interior doors.  (Thanks, Dad!)

And behind Door #1 is my laundry room with my new shoe shelves -

When Greg saw the shelves he said, "We don't have that many shoes."  I have almost filled it up, and I don't think everything is going to fit.  But at least most of the shoes will be consolidated from many random places in our house.

Although my contractor told me that we might get into House and Home magazine if we expanded my patchwork paint on the walls, I decided to go with one color - a much lighter shade than any that I showed you -

The color is Misty Moonshine by Glidden but mixed by Sherwin Williams.  It is almost white with a hint of gray.  It reflects so much light that we don't need to turn on the lights.  It kind of makes me feel like I'm living in an art museum...without the art.  I love it.

Now, if someone will just help me clean up all of this dust, it will look great.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

What is your everything?

I don't know if I should admit this or not, but one of my favorite shows is "The Rachel Zoe Project".  Half of you probably don't know who Rachel Zoe is (she is a fashion stylist and designer), and the other half of you may not be able to stand her "whiny personality" (as my husband describes it).  However, I enjoy watching the process of styling, and I respect the fact that she is successful at what she loves to do.  One of the entertaining aspects of the show (and something that may have made her more famous than her styling) is that she is always coming up with catch phrases to describe how much she loves a garment.  Last year, it was - "I die" or "Bananas".  Her most recent phrase is - "This is everything."  When I first heard her say that I thought, "Really? That dress is your everything?"  And although I think she would say that she loves her son more than fashion, she would probably admit that it's a close call.

It made me stop and think, "What is my everything?"  What do I get really excited about?  What do I get really upset about?  What do I worry about?  What do I think about when I wake up in the middle of the night?  Lately, it has been my house renovation.  It has been my "everything".  And I can tell you that it's a difficult, elusive, never-ending master.  I've learned that it's much better to be content with what you have than to try to reach perfection with your house, because you will never be finished.

Before my house, it was artistic outlets - fashion, painting, sewing, photography, blogging.  I still really enjoy all of those activities, but they each make for a very shallow "everything".  Art and fashion can express substance, but they can't be the substance.  You do reach the finish line in art (as opposed to house decorating), but the satisfaction of the art piece only lasts for moment.  Then you must create again to fill the void.

Today (Easter) is the most popular day to go to church, but I doubt that God is "everything" to many people.  It's just too easy to ignore God (at least in the good times), and there are too many things screaming for our attention.  This morning in church, the pastor said that we can't have a moderate view of Jesus, because Jesus made a lot of claims that didn't leave that option open to us.  The pastor's statement made me think that often I just want a moderate amount of Jesus in my life.  But Jesus didn't really leave that option open to us either.  He continually asked people he met to make him their "everything".

God was the first artist, the first fashion designer, the creator of relationships, the creator of talent and work.  He thinks all of that is good.  But he didn't mean for any of that to be my "everything".  He's the only one that has enough substance for me to soak up for a lifetime.  He's the only one with enough beauty and goodness to never lack for depth.  He's the only one I can't suffocate with my needs.  He's the only one that offers enough love to fill my soul.  He's the only one that is worthy to be my "everything".  


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 29

I can totally see how they renovate a whole house in one weekend on those television shows, because everyone is super fast when they are here working.  But when we are waiting on the trim or the doors or the countertops, nothing happens.  And when they are waiting on me to make a decision on paint color, nothing happens.  So today, in my quiet house, I looked at paint.

We have an assortment of grays and grayish greenish blues.  I actually like the wall like this. But since Greg will never agree to this paint treatment, I will have to use it as inspiration for an art piece.

Grays are hard to get right on the wall.  They so easily look too blue or too silvery or too much like putty.  And they look totally different in different lights.  The top contender so far is Coventry Gray by Benjamin Moore (second one from the left on the top row), because we could use it in the living room and the kitchen.  That would help connect the two spaces.  I really like Cloudy Day (by the molding) and Silver Mink (the big greenish blueish blob in the middle), but I don't think we could use either in the kitchen due to too many other colors already going on.  The Pewter (second from left on bottom) may end up in our laundry room as a backdrop to white shelves.

I'm going to see how they look tonight and hopefully love one of them.  I was at the paint store so many times today that they said, "See you tomorrow," when I left around 3:00.  I hope I don't have to see them tomorrow.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Day 26*

We have cabinets -

I know the base cabinets look black in this photo, but they are actually "gunmetal blue" and look very pretty in real life.  All of the handles and trim have not arrived yet, so there is still some work to be done.  But I'm glad the cabinets were the correct size.

I also finally got my acrylic chairs -

CB2 vapor barstool

 The countertops should be installed this week.  I decided on the Caesarstone Pebble Gray.  Now, I just need to decide on paint color...

* - Initially, I was only counting the days of actual construction, because I was so impressed at how fast they were going.  However, I am now counting every day since the beginning of this project, because it feels like this has been our life forever.  We might be lonely when we don't have a bunch of extra people banging around in our kitchen and living room anymore.