Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The master bedroom is complete... well almost

We did some work on our master bedroom last weekend. We haven't really done much to this room since we installed the floor to ceiling closet system last November. (You can read about that here.) Now, I'm happy to say that it's pretty much complete. I know it's hard to believe, but we might have actually finished a room. Tell your friends.

Here's a quick glance at the changes. Here's one side of the room before. Note the ugly floor mirror, standing fan, floor lamp, and lack of curtain:

And here's after:

But let's back up so I can explain why we made these purchases. When Rob and I bought the flooring for our basement, we picked up a few extra boxes. It's good policy to pick up 10-15% more flooring than you think you need. That way, if you measured incorrectly or if you accidentally damage some pieces while cutting or installing (which happens), you still have enough matching flooring to finish the job. You can often return the unused flooring if you do wind up with extra at the end. Fortunately we lucked out because our flooring is a popular type (Ikea Tundra), so Rob was able to find some for sale on craigslist by another person who had bought too much (and likely was no longer eligible for the store's return policy). So we picked up some additional flooring for only $15. We used that stuff up first, and Rob was careful not to damage many pieces during installation.

Consequently we had several unopened boxes left over at the end of our project. So we headed back to magical Ikea land to make the return. After the return, we ended up with $200 in our hand. $200 in spending cash at Ikea? It was almost too good to be true. We decided to take the plunge and buy something that we've been wanting since we moved into our master bedroom last year. Nightstands.

I don't know about you, but I think there's something so calming about a bedroom with symmetry. Therefore I'd always wanted to pick up matching nightstands and lamps to go on both sides of the bed. We picked out the Hemnes nightstand because it's the same shade and material as our closets. Plus it's a nice height for our bed, and each stand has 3 shelves inside. You know I get excited about storage.

The Hemnes shelves are $79 each, which means we could afford both within our $200 budget. For lamps, we decided on the Grono set. It's only $15 for the set of two. We liked that these lamps take regular old lightbulbs (which is convenient).

Here's where we went over budget. On the way out of the store, we saw that there was a temporary special on a huge 6-foot tall mirror with a thick, woven frame. The mirror is normally $149, but it was on sale for $49. I'd wanted a huge mirror like this for a long time, and I knew that this price wouldn't be around forever. Similar sized mirrors at West Elm are currently $399, and up to $699 at Pottery Barn.

Yep. The mirror came home with us too. It's the Melbu mirror shown here, but the web photo doesn't really do it justice. Keep reading for better real life photos.

Somehow we managed to fit this monster into the back of our Nissan Versa hatchback. Once home, my handy husband assembled the nightstands and hung the mirror.

Oh yeah, and we decided to make a quick run to Home Depot to buy different hardware for the nightstands. We had done this with the closets, and it really added some cohesiveness to the furniture in our room.

The new things made a huge difference in the overall room.

Things look a lot more clean and streamlined with the nightstands and lamps.

Here's that storage I was talking about:

Doesn't everyone keep a camera lens in their night stand?

And I think the mirror really adds the "wow" factor that we hear professional designers talking about so often. I especially like that the scale of the mirror goes well with the long curtains and the tall closets.

Here's a detail shot of the mirror:

If you are really observant, you might notice that our bedding looks a little different. No, we didn't buy anything new. We just swapped duvet covers with the bed in the spare bedroom. We like to switch out items we already have whenever we need a fresh look.

We made a few other minor changes too. These are small things that add a lot of functionality to our room. First, Murphy decided he prefers to sleep in the dining room, so he hasn't used his dog bed in a few months. We moved that out and put a wicker clothes hamper and a stand fan in its place. The wicker clothes hamper has been great so far because it truly prevents Rob from tossing his clothes on the floor. We had this hamper already, but it was in the closet. Having it out in the open adds enough convenience to pay off. The fan is nice to have since we don't run our AC very often in the summer.

And we also added a hanging rack behind the door. It's hidden most of the time, but this provides a nice place to hang things like jackets or robes. I forgot to snap a pic of it, but you can just imagine a decorative board with hooks.

Oh and in case you missed last year's post about the closets, here's a photo or two of the other side of the window. We had an unusual sized space so we picked up a damaged Ikea Pax closet in the "as is" section and cut down all of the pieces to fit our smaller space. We then filled the cubby holes with baskets for storing things like socks, hats, and belts.

I'm so happy with our bedroom now. It's finally complete! Well... almost complete. Rob said he would still like to add crown molding around the closet units to make them look more built in. But that's a low priority at the moment. And I guess I should probably hem the curtains. And I suppose we have talked about staining the bed a darker color. For now, we'll just say this room is done.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Mood board Monday

It's Mood Board Monday over at the pewter + sage blog! This week, we were asked to design something using one of a couple different bedding sets. Of the choices, I picked this one from Urban Outfitters.

Here's the room I designed around that bedding set:

Can be clicked for a larger view

I liked the muted yellow in the bedding set and decided to mix in some grays and blues. I liked that the floors in the bedding photo didn't have much color, so I decided to make this room completely void of wood tones. I went with black furniture as well.

This was a fun design for me because we don't have blacks or grays in our house. It was also fun and challenging to start with a cheery and bright color like yellow and make a room that still has a tranquil and calming feel (which is what I want in my bedrooms).


Source list:
Bohemian Medallion duvet cover from Urban Outfitters, $68
Blue Lenda curtains, $15 a pair
Hoven rug, $29
Silver lamp base from JCPenney, $29
Lampshade from Ballard Designs, $35
Huson plant pot, $17
Hemnes night stand, $59
Round Melbu mirror, $79
Hemnes dresser, $149
Ceramic basset hound from Z Gallerie, $39
Accent pillows from Target and Linen 'n Things, $12

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Consider this before you buy laminate floors

Recently I installed laminate floors in our basement. I've done several laminate floor projects now, so I wanted to share my insight. This is the third time I've flown solo on installing floors, and I have experienced the whole spectrum of product (from cheap to primo). I wanted to let you know that this is a job any weekend warrior can tackle.

Since there's already a lot of great tutorials online for installing floors, I won't try to reinvent the wheel here. However if you need that information, here is a good tutorial of the basics of installing a floating laminate floor. Instead I want to talk about my experiences with installation based on the different types of laminate flooring that I've installed.

The first project was putting in the flooring in Kristi's parent's kitchen. Kristi's dad spared no expense and bought real Pergo flooring, which rings in at the hefty price tag of almost $4.00 per square foot.

The benefits of this product are evident in the ease of installation. The foam underlayment (for noise reduction) was already attached to the panels whereas normally you need to lay that down as a separate layer. The pieces were thick (which is a good thing), and the click-lock mechanism worked like a dream. The pieces also have a raised texture to simulate natural wood grain, which is an added bonus.

Here are photos of the before and after:

This material is great for a first timer due to the ease of installation and overall quality. The disadvantage is that it costs as much or more than real pre-finished hardwood from a discounter like Lumber Liquidators.

The second project was a real adventure. I was installing flooring for a buddy. He wanted to install flooring in his entire basement (several rooms and an entryway) and decided to save money by buying the cheapest flooring he could find. It was IKEA Slatten, which costs a whopping $.65 per square foot.

The difference was night and day between installing the Pergo and the Slatten. It was very difficult to install because the click-lock tabs would break off as the pieces were being installed. Whenever that happened, I had to throw the piece away and fish out the broken tab from the other piece. Lame. The finish on the flooring was not great by any stretch of the imagination, and the pieces were thin and flimsy. There is no attached pad, so I had to lay that out before installing the floor (not a big deal at all, but an extra step). For these reasons, it took a lot of extra time to install the Slatten. The finished product looked nice, but I am not sure about the quality or how durable this will be in the coming years. My buddy was happy, and the product fit his budget, so it all worked out.



The third project is our recently completed basement floor, and I felt like Goldilocks. Whereas the Pergo was too nice and the Slatten was not nice enough, the IKEA Tundra was just right.

Tundra is available in several colors, but we went for the lightest shade to brighten up our dark basement

It was not as easy to install as the Pergo, for sure, and did not have the attached pad. Nor was it as tricky to install as the Slatten. But it looks great (significantly better than Slatten) and was only $1.15 per square foot.



I hope this helps anyone who is looking to install laminate for the first time. It is really not too difficult. It takes a little bit of time, a little bit of swearing, and patience as you envision how great the floor will look when you are done!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Free wall art

I took this photo last week, and I thought it would look nice enlarged, printed, and framed. So it's now yours for the taking.

Download the high resolution file here

Photo information:
50 mm
ISO 200
1/1000 sec
Minimal processing - slight adjustment to white balance, contrast, and green saturation in Adobe Lightroom

This post is a part of Photo Friday, a segment of the blog dedicated to posts about photography, photo editing tutorials, resources, and other related topics.

Photography question - Shoot in RAW or JPG?

Someone asked me the other day if they should set their digital camera to shoot in RAW or JPG file type. The answer to that question depends on your own particular needs. Personally, I shoot with both RAW + JPG. My camera fortunately has that setting, so I actually get 2 copies of every photo.

The difference?
The JPG files are exactly like I shot them. If I use exposure compensation, etc., then the JPGs look just like they did on my preview. By contrast, the RAW files keep all data associated with the photo. They are sort of like a digital negative. With a traditional film negative, you could decide how to expose your photo while in the darkroom. For RAW files, it's sort of the same.

Advantages to using RAW files

  • If you are really into photo editing (and picky, like me), RAW files offer more control over specific things.
  • It's easier to fix a botched exposure or white balance if you made a mistake while shooting.
  • RAW files work nicely in Adobe Lightroom, and you can apply presets for particular effects.
Disadvantages to using RAW files
  • The files are not ready to go right out of camera. They always need post editing.
  • You need special software to open RAW files. You can use Adobe Camera Raw, Lightroom, or if you bought your camera new, it probably came with some proprietary software.
  • You can still use Lightroom presets on JPG files. You will get a slightly different effect, but I find it easy to tweak it so that it works beautifully.
  • RAW files are huge and will fill up your SD card and computer hard drive quickly. A jpg straight out of my camera is around 3,500 KB. A raw file is 12,600 KB. Big difference.
  • You can't upload a RAW file to a website. It has to be converted to another image type (JPG, PNG, GIF) so that browsers will recognize it.
In conclusion, most people are fine using JPGs. If you are too busy or impatient to bother with a lot of post editing, just stick with JPG. But if you are an advanced shooter or want more editing control, you should give RAW shooting a try.

As always, I hope this was helpful.

If you liked this, check out:

This post is a part of Photo Friday, a segment of the blog dedicated to posts about photography, photo editing tutorials, resources, and other related topics.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Miles and miles of eye candy

My sister just told me about this site, Decor Pad. It's a pretty neat site. You can browse through tons of inspirational photos (see some of mine below). There's an awesome paint colors gallery so you can see a particular shade in action in a real room (not just with the often inaccurate digital swatch). But my favorite part is the "Look 4 Less" section, where they find similar but cheaper items and compare them to the more expensive originals or name brand items. There's forums too. All in all, it's a great resource for home designers and decorating enthusiasts. Go see for yourself.

Note: I am not affiliated with Decor Pad in any way. I just like the site.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New stuff alert

I'm not sure if you regular readers out there in Internet-land have checked out the other pages on this blog lately, but you might want to give them a click. I've been updating and adding new content in the last couple weeks. Like for instance, if you click on "The Chateau" in the link bar above, you can now see our complete list of past, present, and future house projects. It's a doozy of a list, and it sort of makes me want to cry. But it's also inspiring to see the progress we've made so far, and a list helps keep us motivated and on track.

I've updated the content and added photos to the rest of the pages in the link bar as well.

Also, I finally made a link button for our site. You can find it in the right hand side bar column. If you have a website or blog, you can grab the button and code and paste it on your site. We don't have any paid advertisers or sponsors for this site, so the only compensation we get is the satisfaction of knowing that people are reading. By linking to our site or including our button on your page, you are supporting our efforts. We sincerely appreciate every single reader we get!

In addition, I'm making a brand new page with photo editing information, tutorials, and resources. And I'm working on an updated link list, so be sure to comment below if you'd like us to include your site.

That's about it for blog changes at the moment. Rob and I have many things to share in the upcoming weeks, so be sure to subscribe in order to receive regular updates and new posts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Couch shopping

It's not just a clever title. This post is about couch shopping.

Now that we've successfully moved our older microfiber sectional downstairs, we needed something for our main level living room. I had originally purchased our old microfiber sectional around 6 years ago from a going-out-of-business sale, and sadly our couchy friend was beginning to show its wear. Let's face it - we spend a lot of time on that couch. It's served us well, and we're sure we'll get many more years of use from it now that it's in our basement den. Plus, as I mentioned, I bought the couch many years ago before I knew Rob. I bought it because it seemed practical. It was a great deal, microfiber is easy to care for, and it eliminated the need to buy both a couch and a loveseat. Also the neutral color was great since I was renting an apartment (and actually lived in several different apartments with this couch), and wasn't sure what other colors I'd have to work with for home decor. Now that we own a home and can design it to our liking, we were eager to pick out our newest piece of furniture together. We hadn't really done that before. We typically rely on hand-me-downs, craigslist finds, or Ikea compromises (not exactly what we want, but things that fit our budget). So far that technique has been nice for our wallets, but this time we were determined to save up and buy the couch that we truly wanted.

All along, our very traditional design plan has included a brown leather sectional for this room. Here's the original design board from last year:

Let me quickly explain the rest. The fireplace shown here is our actual fireplace (with my pride and joy, the custom pottery that a Minnesota artist made for me). We bought the rug a few years ago at a going-out-of-business sale for an import store in St. Paul. It's an 8x10 wool rug, but we paid around $130. Good deal, huh? The leather storage ottoman is from Target. The tv cabinet is a really well-made solid wood piece that we scored on craigslist for $200. Incidentally, while couch shopping we just saw an almost identical one in a furniture store for $2000. The accent chair was a Home Good purchase, another good deal. So that brings us up to speed. The only thing left to buy was the couch.

We wanted leather for a few reasons. For one, it is a quality material that holds up well over time. Two, it would go well with the traditional design scheme we have in our living room. And three, since we have three furry pets, leather is a great material to have around because it doesn't absorb dander like other couch materials do. That's a nice perk for all of our allergy-suffering friends and family. Plus it keeps the couch cleaner.

Real leather is expensive, unfortunately. However we've been saving for this for almost a year, since we started working on the basement remodel project. Plus we weren't expecting to buy top-of-the-line, but we did want something that was quality and well made. I've said this before, but I do believe you can make a great space that you love living in without going into debt. It just takes patience, saving, planning, and occasionally some slight compromise (which is NOT a bad thing). So earlier this week, we set out to do some couch shopping.

As you can see by this clever photo collage, we made several stops.

First, we checked out a Slumberland clearance store close to home. Their selection was disappointing. If you are in Minneapolis, don't go to the Slumberland on Central. It's seriously a big waste of time.

Next we decided to check out a place that's new to the Twin Cities -- Dock 86. This place claims to be the largest discount furniture store in Minneapolis, and it's only open on weekends which makes it even more intriguing. I thought the store itself was nice, and there were some good deals, but overall the prices were nothing to write home about. You can find comparable price tags at any furniture store having a sale. Perhaps this store is geared toward people who aren't as cheap as Rob and I. Anyway there was a limited selection for sectionals in general, much less leather ones. They did have some nice area rugs, but their prices didn't come close to what we've found at Home Goods (our favorite place to buy rugs... besides craigslist).

I did find something I liked though - this reclining chair that I'd describe as half Mission, half rustic, and all comfort.

I promise my foot is not broken. I don't know why I'm doing that.

I have no emotions in this picture.

I loved that chair. We did not buy it. We never buy anything over $20 without agonizing over the decision. Plus we don't really have a place to put it.

Next we headed to the outlet mall in Albertville. There's another Slumberland outlet and a huge Ashley Furniture store. Again, we couldn't find exactly what we were looking for. We really wanted a leather sectional, but we wanted a more classically designed one. We didn't want one of those overstuffed looking ones, nor did we want one of those two-toned types that you see everywhere these days. Rob was also pretty adamant that if we were going to spend the money, we were going to get real leather. Not bonded leather or synthetic.

At this point, we had decided to compromise on our original goal of finding a leather sectional. We were striking out left and right, so we decided that we'd be open-minded to a different type of couch if it was inexpensive and still fit our needs. Sadly, we didn't find a single couch that we liked enough to justify buying. Even the cheaper couches were close to the top of our budget, and we weren't about to pay that much money for something we didn't even really like.

The search continued.

We headed back to our home area and went to a Hom Furniture store in Roseville. This was the most high-end place we'd visited so far. They even had a cookie and coffee cafe in the middle of the store! Needless to say, everything was well out of our price range, and we didn't see anything we loved anyway.

We only had one more stop left. I really wanted to check out our local Macy's furniture store, though I assumed everything would be out of our price range. However, as soon as we walked in, we saw this beauty right by the door:

It's real leather, and it's available with the chaise on the right or on the left. It's the Malina model made by Natuzzi. Natuzzi is a really reputable maker of leather furniture, but this couch is actually pretty reasonably priced based on the many models that we looked at throughout the day. We gave it a test drive, and after sitting on dozens of couches throughout the day, this one was instantly my favorite. It was super comfy, and I liked that it's a little lower in profile. It just seemed to fit us better (neither Rob or I are all that tall). And get this - it was on sale for $700 off! After talking to the salesman, we learned that we could save an additional $100 with an upcoming sale. With $800 off the reasonable retail price, we had finally found a couch that we loved AND could afford!

(Note: We actually ended up getting $1000 off, keep reading.)

Here's Rob looking intense with a measuring tape:

And here he is giving it the sit test:

We left empty-handed (like I said, we agonize over every decision). But this couch was not only our top choice; it was our only choice. And it happens to be perfect and exactly what we're looking for. Plus the quality exceeded our expectations for what we could afford. After a few days' thought, we've decided to go back and purchase it. When we got there, we saw that they had another sale going on, which saved us an additional $200. Wow. Even the store manager who rang up our purchase commented that we got the couch for an amazingly good price.

Here's a few more pics, from the Macy's website:

The bummer is that the couch has to be ordered from the warehouse, so we won't have it until mid July. Patience is a virtue, right? I think the world needs more of it.

So what do you think of our new couch? I think we made a good choice. And best of all, I can now tweak our living room design a bit with accent colors. Here comes the fun.

Good days ahead, Internet. Good days ahead.

someone else's words

"Happiness comes when your work and words are of benefit to yourself and others." - Buddha

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