Before and After: the Living and Dining Room

Slowly I have been painting and making changes to our new house, and I’ve talked about it without sharing as many photos as I’d like.  Not many rooms are finished yet, in fact at least some details remain to be done in every one, but the living/dining areas are complete enough to show off the general transformation of drastically different paint colours and such.  Here are a few After shots:

living room after toward lounging area and desk living room after after dining area

And Before:

living room before 1 living room before 3 living dining room before living room before 2

dining area before fireplace beforecolumn in living dining before living room corner before

Before painting the walls I spent a lot of time on fixing small details that end up having a big impact.  Unfortunately I did not remember to document it very well.  First thing, I took down the “column” dividing the dining area from the living room.  Swapping out the almond coloured plastic switch and outlet covers is something quick and easy, but I also have begun to change the switches to Decora style in white/black too.  (Annoyingly I haven’t finished doing this, because it is a pain to run up and down the stairs testing which circuit things are on or I don’t want to accidentally turn off my computer, the washing machine or some other appliance at that time.)  For now I simply rolled paint over the outlets (without the cover) to make them look a bit better until I get around to replacing them.

Instead of plastic we like these brushed nickel cover-plates.  Home Depot used to have nice ones but no longer have the finish I want.  Luckily Amazon has them, and I can get every configuration I could possibly need.  They even have dimmer knobs!  Another really cool thing that I found browsing in the electrical aisle were things to make in-wall coaxial cable connectors and phone jacks work with Decora style cover-plates.  I used to prefer the old style of outlets, but I am beginning to see the ease of having Decora throughout a house so that any single gang cover-plate works on any outlet, switch, or more.  That said, I would love the really old fashioned push button switches if I could have them.  In fact, I just found this cover-plate that could be used by our entry door!  This may just have to be added to my long term to-do/to-buy list!  The door handle and lock are the same kind of dark bronze, so it would look nice.

I also switched out the wall sconce in favour of a less traditional style in brushed nickel and frosted glass.  It was actually one of the cheapest options, but I liked the shape better than any of the others I saw anyway.  Win, win!  It reminds me of a candle holder from some long past time although it is technically a fairly modern style fixture.

A more important detail to take care of before painting was to caulk and patch every last crack, hole, and crevasse.  Doing this is key to improving the look of a room, but admittedly I didn’t know about caulking until pretty recently.  The difference made by filling in all the gaps along the crown moulding is really impressive.  I should have taken some photos focusing on this before starting, but I totally forgot.  It is not very easy to spot in the Before shots, but you can find some examples, and I hope that the After photos show a more solid and finished looking home.

Some in progress shots:

painting living room entry area painting dining area (and OMG mess)

I am sooooooooooo glad that the moving mess is mostly over.  Just looking at that second photo makes me anxious!

The previous owners painted the fireplace brick wall white and told me it had been a multicolour sort of brick.  To freshen it up, and for continuity, I repainted using the same mushroom-y, warm, off-white, “coconut ice” colour which will be carried throughout on most of the trim in the house.  Between the brick and drywall there were gaps ranging from barely there to well over a centimetre, I caulked it all, and it looks much better now.  I also took down the mahogany mantle.  I felt badly about it, because the previous owner had a nice story about her father bringing it from the airport and installing it, but it was such a traditional style that didn’t seem right to me, added a wood finish that was hard to decorate around, closed in the room somehow, and was a “stuff” magnet to my husband (what a great place to set down all of my things!)  😉  It is being stored though; just in case.

fireplace after fireplace after removing mantle, changing light, and painting

I am not quite finished painting in here.  The built-in shelving area must be touched-up before I can install the last bit of hardware, and the shelves should probably be painted.  I suppose I’ll go with “coconut ice,” but I haven’t decided if that will stick out terribly.  I’m still pondering the options.  Meanwhile all of the windows have only been primed and await their coat of “coconut ice.”

In the dining area, living room, and the hallway I didn’t want to call attention to the baseboard trim or have pale doors to the coat closet and cellar.  Thus I chose a grey even darker than the walls for them.  At first I intended to use a glossy formula in the same colour as the walls, and I probably should have stuck to that, but at the last minute I chose the only shade offered that was darker.  I did that in the store without even knowing for sure how well it would work, and although it looks as intended it probably would have been a bit nicer with just the glossy version of the walls.  I do like how the baseboard heaters no longer pop out, but one day I may re-coat all of it.

Planning Flower-Beds (and Mystery Plants)

This weekend was busy, and I didn’t have a chance to write.  Today I may post twice, because I planned for this gardening post to be done already and I have a progress report on the changes inside (with photos) that I really wanted to share.

On Friday I wrote about some of the gardening tasks that I’d done.  After that more plants arrived, and I transplanted others:

honeysuckle hellebores onyx oddyssey planted

The honeysuckle is next to an archway over a gate in the fencing.  I was reluctant to let anything grow too near or on the fence, but… in the end I placed it there.  Three hellebores now grace the foundation under the window of our family room in the front of the house.  They aren’t part of the dark goth-y garden, like the honeysuckle, and had to be out of sight of it.  😉  I believe I mentioned already that I ended up moving some existing plantings from the back of the house to the front and side?  One was a hydrangea or something, I think, and there were some sort of rhizome-y things, and I moved the rose that was in the bed along the house.  Without knowing what they are going to look like I’m just assuming they are not in my colour scheme.  😉  As far as I know this is the time of year to do transplanting and not when they are in bloom or whatever, so moved they have been.  I felt a bit guilty disrupting them and making the changes though.  Someone put time, money, and love into the plantings here, you know?  Speaking of, there are many mystery shoots coming up all over!

irises? more irises?         mystery shoots more mystery shootssnow drops

Right away as the snow melted we saw thick mats of green blades spread around the decks.  We debated wether they would turn out to be snow drops or crocuses, and it turns out that they are snow drops.  This spring has been pretty gross (cold, snowy, and unpleasant… we were even shocked by freak snow this morning!) so they only started to flower in the past week.  There are many more ringing the few trees in the yard, and around the trees there are also a few other things coming up.  To me it looks like some are irises or perhaps daffodils?  (I am betting on irises.)  The little reddish ones could be, maybe, tulips?  I don’t really know domestic plants.  The colour reminds me of peonies, but they aren’t in a large group, and as they get bigger the leaves are wrong… but I’m not knowledgable in these matters.  My gardening friend will visit this week, so I expect she’ll tell me what everything is.  I did figure out what all the weird shrubs were.  They have this crazy ridged bark like razor blades the length of all the branches.  Google eventually informed me that they are Japanese “fire bush,” and… it is extremely invasive here.  I could already see that it has been trying to spread like wildfire, but the main specimens are well pruned.  Between these and the English ivy I’m going to be in constant battle, it seems.

I also spent Friday afternoon setting out bulbs and planning the flower beds.

planning the grill area bulbs

I did my best.  In the corners at the ends are “onyx odyssey” hellebores.  Choosing a location for them wasn’t easy since they bloom at an odd time (late winter,) but their greenery will look well enough in the grill area bed.  There are two “Arabian night” and one “duet” dahlias in there marking ends and corners along with a “black charm” lily in each corner, then a line of “black walnut” gladiolus.  The unmarked row in back is acidanthera.  When they arrive this fall I’ll add “queen of night” and “ice princess” tulips in the front section, but meanwhile I guess that some seeds will go there.

planning the house bed

By the house I have “crimson and gold” quince, “duet” and Arabian night” dahlias, more gladiolus, and eventually the sea holly that was ordered.  Closer to the deck is one chocolate vine, mentioned in Friday’s post.  I’ve used a lot of bulbs thinking that they are easy and will be there each year with little trouble.

With the nasty cold on Saturday I covered most of the transplants.  (I forgot the two black hellebores.)  Everything fared well even the forgotten hellebores.  They were all happy in the warm sun yesterday.

We enjoyed the afternoon warmth and sun too by taking our first bike ride of 2015.  We went down to the Hudson river, and it was very nice.  I spotted some nifty looking pods and gathered a handful or two to use in a display or maybe a necklace.  In the back of my mind they seemed familiar and I thought they came from a water plant.  Sure enough Google helped me place them: water chestnuts, another invasive species, but a tasty one that I hope to try this summer.  We are talking about getting a pair of inflatable kayaks, because I’d love to kayak, but we don’t have a way to transport normal plastic ones.  If we do then I ought to be able to gather water chestnuts, right?

water chestnut pod pile of water chestnuts

Lastly we sat on the deck and grilled while enjoying this sunset:


I am very happy.  🙂

The Gardening Continues

In spite of rain I’ve been gardening a lot the past few days instead of painting or doing much else in the house.  Today when I attempted to “accomplish” something inside it went poorly and made a mess instead, so blargh.  (I was going to install new shelving hardware, but the wall anchors were craptastic caused trouble, and now more patching and painting must happen instead of being able to enjoy a finished project.)  Today I ordered black “queen of night” tulips, white “the ice princess” tulips, and “greenland” tulips for spring colour starting next year.  Several varieties of plants will not arrive for a while, even until fall, but I did a lot of decorative gardening already.

In a previous post I mentioned using steel tubs as cost effective large planters, and here they are after I drilled drain holes into them:


I presume that is enough drainage considering that most pots have only one?  Today I marked the placement of bulbs and planted any that I already had.  Sadly the “hello darkness” irises will not be here and flower until next season.  We are really looking forward to those!  I ought to buy more than just two, but I cannot right now.  Also, the “eyeliner” lilies will arrive in May or so, but everything else is in as of today.

tub two tub one

How do you like my clogs?  😀  I love them and found them on eBay.  You should see my giant straw hat too!  It is meant for SCA or historical re-enactment.  😉

Over two days I created a new flower bed around our grill platform and reworked the one along the house.  I wanted to do a narrow strip around the other deck for tulips and annuals, but it turns out the existing stones are partly mortared in.  Drat.  For now I am marking the borders with stones from our yard and also gathered, precariously, from a steep hillside between us and one side neighbour.  It turns our that our yard is more moss than grass and barely covers some sort of metamorphic rock.  On the up-side the rocks are very pretty with glistening scabs of mica, glowing quartz, and gleaming black biotite (I presume it is biotite anyway.)  I also placed two trellises for the chocolate vines.  I like that they are black and gothic.  Now I want to get another or two for sweet peas.

flower bed around grill

trellis onetrellis two

I only planted the chocolate vines a day or two ago, but I swear they already grew!  Both appear to be a third larger with obviously new shoots like this:

growing chocolate vine

I’ll be very pleased if they grow well.  Some reviews complained they barely did.  I’ve been tracking by daily photo.  All of the plants I transplanted the other day look very happy.  It rained a lot since then which must have helped.  Sadly the weather will be nasty tomorrow with lows under 20 Fahrenheit.  You can see that I use leaf debris to mulch, and I plan to cover all of them with boxes or even a couple of glass domes that I have on hand.

Here is my way of organising the plants somewhat.  I used bits of paper with the names and pertinent information so that I could easily shift them around.

organising planting

Lastly is one of the starter trays.  I’ll write another post about them eventually.  I have been keeping notes about the sprouting progress or lack thereof.

seed tray

I am surprised at how easily and well cabbage and cauliflower sprout.  Some peppers have done okay, but the Romanian ones are pretty much duds so far.  Happily all the tomatoes are doing alright.  Anyway, I’ll post about that later.  Now I must go to the grocery store.

A Simple Tomato Salad

Last night I made this simple tomato salad for our supper.  I hadn’t gone grocery shopping, and we weren’t extremely hungry, so a quick three ingredient salad was perfect.  (And you don’t even need the feta cheese for it to be tasty!)

tomato salad with feta

All this requires are several chopped tomatoes and some sliced scallions.  If necessary, it is alright to substitute the scallions with thin slices of onion, dried chives, fresh dill, or dried dill.  Salt it generously, grind pepper over it, drizzle with olive oil, and you are done!  The feta was a nice touch and made it even more satiating, but don’t underestimate the filling power of a few tomatoes.  In smaller portions it’s also an excellent side with steak or grilled chicken.  🙂

Dark Gardening: Even More Goth Plant Suggestions

Since last night I have poked around the internet, and I found far too many interesting dark plants not to post again.  The first beauty, which I absolutely must order, is “black cat” petunia.

black cat petunia

I’d love to have some of these strange “cummins” and “rococo” tulips too.  They are fantastic!  The look of hoarfrost on the cummins is spectacular!

rococo rulip cummins tulip

Lunaria might be fun if I could find the white flowering variety rather than bright purples, because the silvery pods are really neat, but “silver lace” dusty miller may be a better addition anyway.

silver lace dusty miller lunaria

Lastly, “moulin rouge” astrantia and “black star” calla lilies are a nice deep red and also have interesting shapes.

black star calla lily moulin rouge astrantia

I’ll recap with yesterday’s images so that everything can be seen in one place:

eyeliner lilyhello darknessred giant castorperuvian daffodil  white christmas caladiumblack charm lilyblack is blackqueen of night and maureen tulips    black swan poppypaper moon scabiosadelft blue love in a mistmother of pearl poppyoriginal sweet peadangerous mood irisdonard sea hollychocolate vineonyx odyssey hellebores*Links to the photo sources are in the previous post.

a Dark Garden: Gardening Goth Style

My husband and I have a rather dark style.  He goes for black and maybe some dark reds or blues while I prefer muted colours and greys.  We both shy away from anything neon or tropical-bright although I can appreciate such colour outside of my own home or wardrobe.  (My mother and my sister-in-law on the other hand seek out pinks and bright colours.)  😀

When it comes to gardening it seems to me that the goal is to have a lot of colour.  I could be wrong since I am no gardener, but what comes to mind are swaths of bright sunny colour, punctuated by bold flashes, all along a deep green leafy backdrop ideally with interesting paleness or reddish hues or interesting textures.  Looking at seed offerings and the world around me it sure seems that the more shocking and unusual to nature a colour the better.  I’m sure that coaxing previously wild plants into ever more showy specimens of domesticity encourages this bold display, but it isn’t really my cup of tea.  I don’t want my own garden full of fuchsia, crazy pink, and the like.  That just isn’t our style.  😉  So, I have begun a dark garden.

Today I planted some bulbs, and I ordered a few more.  It may not be very warm yet, but I am inspired by the spring sun and am planning flower beds that will reflect our Adams Family tastes.  I’m excited to share my plans, so I’m going to link to places that may not actually be where I made my purchases but did have good photos of the plant varieties since my own photos would be of nothing but dirt.  I’ll start by showing two which I did not yet obtain but plan to in coming years: “black is black” iris and “paper moon” scabiosa.  The iris is simply gorgeous, and the dried scabiosa is something I included in my wedding bouquet, but both were unavailable to order when I was placing mine.

black is black paper moon scabiosa

Today I ordered “eyeliner” lilies and “hello darkness” irises (as well as saffron crocus for my cooking.  How awesome is that?!!)  I love the black outline on the pure white lily petals, and the black iris is simply perfect.

eyeliner lily hello darkness

Today I planted “black charm” lilies, “peruvian daffodils,” and “dangerous mood” irises (which I hope aren’t too bright in reality.)

black charm lilyperuvian daffodil

dangerous mood iris

To be sown/transplanted later are these dark and misty pretties: “mother of pearl” poppies, “black swan” poppies, the “original cupani” sweet pea, “delft blue” love in a mist, “donard” sea holly, both of these chocolate vine varieties, and “red giant” castor.

mother of pearl poppyblack swan poppy    original sweet peadelft blue love in a mistdonard sea hollychocolate vinered giant castor

Two more stunning selections to add, if they come into stock, are “queen of night” & “Maureen” tulips and “white Christmas” caladium.  Aren’t they lovely?

queen of night and maureen tulipswhite christmas caladium

I’m eyeing up “onyx odyssey” (and some dark red) hellebores too!

onyx odyssey hellebores

I never knew such interesting and dark plants were out there.  I hope my little gothic garden works out as nicely as I envision!

A Full Day to Edge; an Hour to Roll.

I am so glad to be done!  *Not really done, because all the white is only primer which awaits the “coconut ice” that I didn’t have time to brush on before the party this weekend.

done hoosier area

Yesterday I had a loooong day.  My back was nearly spasming which made it extremely difficult to work on anything.  The plan was to paint the kitchen and hopefully do some other to-do list items too.  I spent the entire day painting the edges of the kitchen, but I didn’t have a chance to do the rolling.  Today my back is barely any better, but I did the walls.  It looks pretty great at least.  My husband LOVES the shade of red, and I like it a lot, but I’ll admit that I had a lot of remorse about losing the sea-green.  I kept stopping to dwell on regrets, but there was no going back.  Since my husband despises green there was no keeping the old colour anyway.

done clock and vlad done old kitchen area

I do adore that red, but it is very different look than the sea-green.  The kitchen is our style now and the colour dramatic but… dramatically less light is bounced around too.  😉  I used flat, and it went on so gorgeously; covering with one coat.  It has such a great velvety appeal, and I need to remember to check if the paint was nicer (more expensive) than I usually select or what.  All that I recall offhand is that it is called “new brick.”  I saved the lid from my kitchen two apartments ago, and this is the fourth kitchen that I’ve used it in if you count my mother’s.  Every other time I chose eggshell, but the flat is freaking fantastic.

Here is some of yesterday’s progress:

edging kitchen edging edgin old part of kitchen

The last one shows the sea-green best.  You can see the huge difference?  The red just sucks in all of the light.  Both are gorgeous colours, but very, very different.

I also re-painted the dining area and painted the built-in shelving nook there too.  Weeks ago I already painted the living-dining room, but I knew I would run out of paint.  Foolishly I didn’t pay attention to the formula beyond having the chip and that it was flat.  I did mix the old and new, but not before painting a couple of walls.  The sheen was not even close in spite of both being flat from the same store… of different formulas (same brand.)  It caused me to have to repaint all the edges back then and today the the odd walls.  I will not be making that mistake again.

dealing with lazy work painting nook done nook again done nook

Lastly, I switched outlet covers from almond plastic to brushed nickel and also the hinges of the pantry door.  There is so much left that I hoped to do besides painting the trim and bead-board (not happening) before the housewarming party tomorrow.  I have to go to Home Depot and to buy food/beverages still.  Tomorrow is Big Cleaning too.  I’m so tired.  Having the party as a goal helped me get as far as I did, but as a control freak it irks me to have so many details unfinished.  😦  The perfectionist side of me has kept me from attempting more work than I could do my best at.  😀


Yesterday  I saw a few sprouts in the trays that I started.  Yay!  I have a few more to do next week, bulbs to plant, and plants to find homes for.  A few were delivered a day or two ago, but the areas I planned to put them in were solid granite just under the surface.  Crap.  It is snowing right now anyway.  (Go away wintery weather!)  The week after next my friend, mentioned in the gardening post, is coming to visit, so maybe she’ll get me sorted out with where to plant things?  For now I’ve decided to put most of the bulbs in two containers to make it easier.  Those were the most cost effective I could find.  I’ll drill some holes, and they should be fine?

Alright, I need to go…