Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Anti Bridezilla Wedding

Is it possible to plan and hold a wedding in 3 weeks - for under $4000?  Amazingly, yes.  But you need to have a bride that is very laid back!  No Bridezillas allowed!

I know I don't usually blog about weddings, but since this was such a huge part of our lives for the last month, I thought I'd share our plans and strategies for a low cost home wedding.

Labor Day weekend, our daughter and her boyfriend let us know they'd decided to get married.  And since they'd been living together for 6 years, they didn't want a long engagement.  They wanted to do it quickly.  City Hall was the plan.  No muss, no fuss.  They just wanted to tie the knot.

Hmmmm......well....... her sister and I thought at a minimum they should have some sort of celebration.  After all, you don't get married every day!  And after some discussion, the bride and groom agreed.  But they didn't want to be bothered with the planning - essentially they wanted a turn key wedding.  There were just a couple of 'must haves'.
  -  Their 5 dogs had to be able to participate
  -  They wanted a country-farm theme
  -  They knew we were giving them a budget to work with - and they could save whatever they didn't spend.  So they wanted it to be as economical as possible.

So Katie and I  got to work - long distance, since neither one of us lives in Atlanta.  The first challenge, where to hold it?  With so little time to book a venue (and the dog participation challenge!), we quickly realized that it would make the most sense to have the reception in their backyard.  We ordered a tent, table and linens from a local rental company.

But we wanted to play up the country theme.  We did lots of web and Pinterest searching and came up with a plan.

1)  Vintage China & Flatware - We found The Vintage Chicks online.  They have a new business that rents vintage china & silver-plate flatware to give the table an old fashioned look.  Sandee and Patty were so great to work with - and had lots of helpful ideas.
Love the vintage china!  

They also had something that was the talk of the party - a rough sawn tree trunk cake stand.  So fun!

                                                                                                                                  We used mason jars for drinks - with brightly colored ribbons to help people remember which was theirs!  And with the couples names and wedding date on the jar, it was a great little take home remembrance for the guests.

2)  Chalkboard Menu Board - I sent the groom a picture of a giant, six foot tall chalkboard menu, which he made up and had his mom (a very talented graphic designer!) draw up the menu.  She did a perfect rendition of their backyard chicken coop.  So clever!
The real coop!

3) Guest Book - Instead of the usual guest book, we asked each guest to make out their 'key' to a happy marriage.  We hung them up on this trellis I found at HomeGoods.

My favorite quote came from the bride's cousin and her husband - who had just celebrated their first anniversary the week before.

4)  Tent Decor - A tent liner would be beautiful, but pricey.  So instead, I found these Martha Stewart balls in the clearance aisle at the local craft store - $6.99 for a set of 6 (so I bought 3 boxes!)  We also wanted some color on the table.  Since the bride & groom raise their own chickens, we though vintage style chicken calico would be the perfect print for table runners.  It also gave us a nice burst of color.

5)  Pictures - We strung twine across a big window and used wooden clothespins to hang pictures of the bride and groom.  We had their whole lives photos all the way up to recent couple photos.  It was a lot of fun for everyone to see!

6)  Country Bouquets - We went to the local farmers market and bought a shopping cart full of flowers.  Daisies, mums, liaitrus, ranunculus, baby's breath, gerber daisies, statice and more.  For $60, we were able to make up 20 vases of casual flowers.  Perfect for centerpieces!

7) Food! - In keeping with the country theme, we ordered BBQ from the Community Q - a fabulous BBQ place in Atlanta.  We had mountains of pulled pork, mac 'n cheese, baked beans and salad.  It was a huge hit!  We served it buffet style and let everyone pick their own table to sit at....savings us lots of anxiety on figuring out who should sit where.  We also found these cool silverware servers at HomeGoods ($6.99), that played right into our country theme.

I'm not sure we could be objective about a wedding in our own family.  But everyone seemed to have a wonderful time and we created some wonderful memories!!!

Many thanks to Maddie Calsbeek from Called to Wander for these fabulous photos!

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Curb Appeal - Before and After Diamond in the Rough

My biggest worry when we started this house was once it was finished and we put it on the market, no one would come look at it - it totally lacked curb appeal.  After a year of sitting empty and more years with college students as tenants, this poor place hadn't seen any TLC in a long, long time.  It's taken 4 months, but we've finally completed the exterior of our Diamond in the Rough.  And we don't think it's 'Rough' any more!  Take a look at the Before & After photos and see what you think.

It was a huge amount of work (probably more than we realized when we started!), but we couldn't be happier with the results.  What were the major elements of the transformation?

Front Door - Before
The entry -  Creating a real entry, complete with a porch roof, classic handrail and front door to create a welcoming new entrance was a key element. The porch roof provides architectural interest - as well as a dry place to stand when you're at the front door!  The arches, board & batten trim and fir beadboard complete the cottage look.  The handrail was a real splurge - AZEK materials that never need to be painted. It will look brand new for many years to come.  We had the broken bricks on the steps replaced and repointed.  And to finish it all off, we added a new porch light, mailbox and numbers.  The result?  Well, we think it's a huge transformation!
Front Door - After

The siding - We removed the vinyl siding from the front of the house and were delighted to discover cedar shakes underneath!  There was some repair required - and of course we needed all new shakes around the entry - but the majority were in good shape.   Another key to changing the look -  installing the new awning window above the front door, which helps balance the big shed dormer.  For the color scheme, we kept the original color for the body of the house, but changed the dark brown trim to a crisp white.  HGTV's Refuge Blue paint from Sherwin Williams gave the front door a punch of color.

We also replaced the shutters - did you know you can't paint plastic shutters black?  They will warp in the sun!  So we bought all new shutters for the house.

The landscaping - We added this cute picket fence and arbor to the side of the house, providing a great space for a landscape border - including new hydrangeas and a climbing rose.  And we tore out the broken concrete walkway and replaced it with large stepping stones.

We still have a lot more work to do before the interior is finished.  But getting the exterior completed was a major accomplishment.  And we love how it looks!  What do you think?

Want to see more?  Like SoPo Cottage on Facebook for more pictures!

Front Door - Therma Tru
Mailbox & Doorbell - Signature Hardware
House Numbers - Architectural Mailboxes
Brackets - Architectural Depot
Light Fixture - Restoration Hardware
Porch Railing - AZEK

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Adding Personality With Artwork

Have you ever gone into a room that has beautiful furnishings and fabrics......but no personality?  While we all think it's critical to have that perfect piece of furniture, it's typically the artwork and accessories that really give a room character.   Beautiful artwork is a great way to highlight your taste and interests, as well as provide a pop of color in your home.  Whether you like something calming, energetic or funky - it adds a great touch to any room.

That's why I'm so excited that the incredibly talented artist Ellen Thayer is going to loan us a few pieces for staging our project.  Ellen has been cruising the Maine coast for years and has found it an inspiration for her work.  One of her specialities is painting water reflections and a canvas giclee print of an original oil entitled, "Reflection, Oak Island" will grace the living room. I love how you can see the water swells in this large painting.  It will be beautiful on the first floor with our open floor plan!

But Ellen is a woman of many talents and she works in multiple media.  Her 'Love Rocks Maine' collection - beach pebbles shaped like hearts - are a fun way to celebrate the Maine coast.  My favorite is this piece,  To Know ME is to Love ME (ME - the abbreviation for Maine, get it?).  It's the perfect touch for our coastal cottage.

Want to see more of Ellen's work?  Check out her website at Maine Island Treasures.

And stay tuned as we get these rooms finished and start hanging artwork!

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Before the Snow Flies.......Landscaping

Limelight Hydrangea
It's gotten a lot colder this week, which has us rushing to get the outdoor work finished.  They're expecting snow in northern Maine tonight, but hopefully we won't see any for awhile (of course we had that big Halloween storm last year). We've made huge progress this week, as we check off our exterior 'to do' list!  The team from Lawn Enforcement came to our aid to help us get everything done.

Arbor - We got the picket fence and arbor up next to the house.  I LOVE it!  It really helps define the space and adds a cottagey look to the yard.  I found a beautiful climbing rose to plant next to it, which should look fabulous next year.

Borders & Plantings -  I marked out the shrub border with my favorite technique - I lay out a garden hose and tweak it until I'm happy with the shape.  Then I trace the shape with  spray paint.  Once I planted the new trees and shrubs, Emily edged the border and mulched it for me.  This is a great time of year to find deals at your local nursery.  I found beautiful hydrangeas on sale.  This Quickfire tree Hydrangea is a perfect planting.  It will only get 6 feet tall, but will have these beautiful red flowers each year.

Quick Fire Hydrangea
Walkway - John and his tractor made quick work of removing the broken concrete path and replaced it with this stepping stone walkway.  The stones are surrounded by pea gravel, which makes a nice resilient path.  And it gives such a natural look to the front entrance.

Herb Garden - John installed a small raised bed  next to the back door.  It's not a big space, but it's perfect for parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme plants!

We can't quite believe that the outside is almost done, just a few more finishing touches.  Now we need to finish the interior!  Be sure and 'like' us on Facebook, I'll be sharing some sneak peeks in the new week.

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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Creative Wallpaper - How to Hang Nautical Charts

I wanted something different for the powder room bathroom.  It's a small space and I wanted to make it really special.  The marble floor and fixtures are great - but it needs something to punch it up.  Keeping with our coastal theme, I decided to install nautical charts for a feature wall.

I scoured yard sales for weeks and finally found a whole set of charts for the wall.  They've got some history to them - I love the fact that they have creases and notations in the corners.  Very authentic.  Very Maine!

So, how do you install paper charts as wallpaper?

Step 1 - figure out the layout for the charts (or maps....or posters....or any paper item!).  Since this isn't regular wallpaper, you need to decide what chart you want where and how the overlap will work.  This means you need to decide which charts go in first and how you'll add successive layers.

Step 2 -  cut approximately to size.  It's a little tricky to hang these charts, so you want to cut away any excess before you start.  It will make the whole process much easier!

Step 3 -  apply wallpaper paste to the back.  I used a general purpose paste, that was ready mixed.  Be sure and apply to all edges.

Step 4 - 'Book' the paper.  This means you fold it on itself, so that the sticky sides are together.  This lets the paste soak in and get the paper to a consistent moisture level.  I let it 'book' for approximately 3 minutes.  If you wait much longer, the charts are more likely to tear as you start to install them.

Step 5 - place the chart on the wall, making sure you have it straight first.  Then gently brush it to the edges, pushing any bubbles out.  Finally, and this is the really tricky part, you need to cut the edges.  Since this isn't vinyl wallpaper, it will want to tear on you.  Take a joint knife and push it against the wall, where you want to make the cut.  Then take a very sharp blade and cut along the edge of the joint knife.  I don't like those plastic blades with the tips that break off - I find an old fashioned utility knife with lots of fresh blades works the best.  It might help to let the paper dry a bit, if you find it is tearing.

Step 6 - Gently wipe any paste off the surface of the paper.  Move onto the next piece and continue until you do your final, top layer, chart.

Step 7 - If you want to protect the surface, coat it with a clear coating.  However, make sure you really like it first, because once that's done, you won't be able to strip it back off.

What do you think?  Does it make the powder room more interesting?

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Real Estate Rally

We've started looking for our next project, now that this one is getting close to completion (Richard says this is how I make sure we never have any time off - LOL!).  But it's tough to find something out there that we can buy at a reasonable price, make improvements and put back on the market in 4-5 months.

Would you buy a house with this kitchen light fixture?
We've made offers on 3 different properties in the last month or so.  And these were houses that needed lots of work - 60's kitchens, wet basements, drafty windows and avocado green carpeting.  Not to mention that eye catching light fixture in the photo!
But, we've lost every bid.  Every one of them has been a multiple offer situation.  We've tried lots of offers, no inspections, full price, letters to the owners telling them how much we love their homes.  All to no avail.

Is this just a weird phenomenon in our area?  Or are you seeing it in other neighborhoods too?  Maybe the real estate market really is starting to rebound!

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