Month: January 2017

More Fun with Home DIY

Those of you who are long time readers know that there is nothing that my husband and I love more than a-spur-of-the-moment home DYI project. It’s true. I was only about 50% sarcastic in my original statement, by the way. I have lost track of how many corners of our house have been upgraded in this fashion, so we must love doing it … even though we swear each project is the absolute last one. The problem with home DYI projects, from my perspective, is the fact that they take at least twice as long to finish as originally anticipated, and a bazillion times longer than HGTV would have you believe. My husband’s problem with home DYI projects is that I expect them all to get wrapped up in the space of an hour, and under budget. Our only common ground is a shared love for Mike Holmes and Bryan Baeumler, which can only get us so far when the hammer and paint chips come out.

Notwithstanding our track record (and the continuing saga of the still-unfinished-6-years-later basement), earlier this month we jumped feet-first into another DYI project. To be fair, it was a project aimed at a fixing one of my long-standing complaints against our house, so while it was an impulsive decision, it was a logical one at least.

Here’s the deal: we bought our home seven years ago, at a time when our budget could only comfortably stretch to cover property of the “starter pack” flavor. In other words, our house is on the smaller side for a suburban detached, and short on upgrades. However, soon after moving in, we decided that we were going to make it our “forever” home (barring any lottery windfalls); laziness (I loathe moving) and the perks of having a relatively small mortgage top our list of reasons, which have held steady over the intervening years. With that in mind, we’ve put a lot of “sweat equity” into the house in the last 7 years, upgrading and adding components (like a built-in library) to make it fit our aesthetic “vision” and our lifestyle. It’s no Architectural Digest masterpiece, don’t get me wrong, but I love it – square footage and all. There are only two significant things I don’t like and wish I could change.

One is the open concept kitchen/dining/living room. I know open concept has been popular for years, and continues to be, but I’ve developed a visceral aversion to it. I don’t want people being able to see the (dirty, let’s be honest) dishes in my kitchen sink. Or smell what I’m cooking. Or be able to catch a glimpse of my messy pantry. Since changing the layout of the first floor would require some structural work, this is a project we’re not rushing to tackle … for now. My husband would also like a larger dining room and more separation, though, so it’s probably something we’ll deal with at some point in time.

The other thing I hate about our house is the master closet.

Yeah, I know. And you have no idea how ironic that is.

We originally made an offer on our house based on my viewing of the house. That’s right, my husband didn’t see it until after we had already put in an offer. (We were in a bidding war situation. It’s a long story. Luckily, he didn’t hate it.) I liked the general layout of the house at the time (even the open concept, sigh), and obviously the size and overall design of the master closet did not deter me. To be fair, my then-current closet was a standard non-walk-in affair so this one must have looked positively cavernous by comparison. It’s not. It’s small and awkwardly shaped and terribly organized. Look at all those sad, basic rails:

whomp, whomp
whomp, whomp
view from the door
view from the door

When we first moved in, my husband and I shared the master closet. It very quickly became apparent that this would not work in the long term. In the ensuing “closet divorce”, we came to a mutually agreeable compromise, whereby he relocated his clothes to other storage facilities in the house in exchange for free reign over the garage, and I set about trying to make the most of my new domain. The results of my various efforts, over the years, have been unsatisfactory at best.

No matter how I tried to organize my things, or how clever I got with the storage options, I was never able to make really efficient use of the space. It always felt cramped and messy. Part of the problem was my large wardrobe, certainly; but the solution was not simply to purge it. My closet just looked sad and forlorn, as the pictures above can attest. While something like Carrie Bradshaw’s Mr. Big-financed walk-in closet slash clothes temple was out of the question (due to, among other things, insurmountable space constraints), I wanted my space to look a bit more Pinterest-ready.

Nothing happened for years.

Then, right after the New Year, after a disastrous trip to IKEA with the kids (during which I may or may not have lovingly fondled one or two Pax wardrobe displays), my husband decided he was going to re-model my closet. Sometimes, I think he just wants an excuse to play with his AutoCAD program. Anyway, three or four hours later, he presented me with a blueprint and various options for built-ins using, what else, IKEA pieces. (There’s nothing we love more at our house than a good IKEA hack.) Two hours after that, he was driving back to IKEA to pick up the stuff we’d selected. This is what I mean about being impulsive, by the way.

And, just like that, it was on. I mean, it was ON.

mmm, bare walls, dusty old storage unit ... what's not to love
mmm, bare walls, dusty old storage unit … what’s not to love

I did a lot of impromptu purging as I moved things out, but it still took a bloody long time. (Well, like, an hour. By HGTV rules, it should have taken 1.5 minutes.) Then it was time for the demolition crew – aka my husband – to move in. We plan on re-purposing the old metal shelves and rails, as well as the wall-mounted storage unit elsewhere in the house. The old door was also removed, and will be eventually replaced with a sliding door contraption that my husband assures me will blow my mind. We shall see. For now, I will have to guard my sanctum sanctorum from would-be Vandals (aka the two small people roaming my house) by sheer vigilance, sans physical barrier.

After we stripped the place down, it was time for assembly. Because the space is so small, we only had to build 3 Pax units (two large, one small) … but because the space is so small, this was no logistically easy feat. Unfortunately for me, the process required that two people be involved; generally speaking, I prefer to limit my involvement in home DIY projects to the initial planning and the final decorating stages only. I will spare you a description of the nitty gritty involved in the construction phase, but rest assured that it involved blood, sweat, and tears, from all parties involved. As usual.

Thankfully, from beginning to end, the whole project took just about a week’s worth of evenings to complete, which makes it some kind of record for efficiency at our house. Huzzah! With that said, I will be a terrible tease and make you come back tomorrow to see the “after” reveal. Think of it as a commercial break.

We’ll be right back, folks!

Ginger All Around

Blazer, BR (thrifted), top, J. Crew (thrifted); jeans, Paige (thrifted); shoes, Tommy Hilfiger (via consignment); scarf, F&F (thrifted); bag, MbMJ
Blazer, BR (thrifted), top, J. Crew (thrifted); jeans, Paige (thrifted); shoes, Tommy Hilfiger (via consignment); scarf, F&F (thrifted); bag, MbMJ

It might be hard to tell from the photos, since the colour proved almost impossible to capture accurately, but this blazer is a lovely shade of brick. I normally would have avoided it, since it’s uncomfortably close to my hair colour (and, as a ginger, I have been indoctrinated with a fear of orange and orange-leaning shades), but I loved the relaxed fit of the blazer and it was only $7. YOLO, and all that. I also thought that, hair considerations aside, the colour would provide an unexpected contrast (or complement) to some of my core wardrobe colours. Case in point, navy.

flock of seagulls!
flock of seagulls!

I also like how the colour of the blazer picks up on the copper shades in the scarf. I tend to wear mostly cool colours, but it’s nice to switch things up from time to time. That also applies to wearing scarves as accessories, which I haven’t done nearly often enough lately. I resisted the urge to add a brooch, which surely deserves a pat on the back because restraint is hard, you guys. On second thought, maybe only half a pat. I did give in and buy a bag charm flouf.

all the autumn colours
all the autumn colours

What I Read: All the Mysteries

Well, not all of them, not yet anyway. Thanks to Sherry, I recently discovered the Phryne Fisher series, and quickly read my way through the first 3 books. I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about the protagonist, although I appreciate that she’s not your typical 1920s detective. (Weirdly enough, Phryne’s spending habits stress me out. I am perpetually worried that her seemingly endless supply of funds will run out. As I said, weird.) I unreservedly love the author’s attention to detail (especially for clothes, swoon) and ability to recreate the atmosphere of the era and location (Melbourne, Australia). I’m a bit miffed that the books are rather pricey; I like buying my favourite mystery novels, as I tend to re-read them periodically, but the series is some 20 plus novels strong and counting, and at $15+ a pop I don’t fancy my odds of collecting the whole lot. I haven’t been to the public library in years — it may be time for a visit.

On a related note, if you love the fashion described in the books as much as I do, I suggest checking out this Reddit sub for some Phryne #styleinspo.

For Christmas, one of the gifts I bought my husband was a copy of the Atlas Obscura, which struck me as the sort of thing he would enjoy; he is forever looking up obscure factoids on Wikipedia, and emerging from some unlikely rabbit hole hours later, way past his bedtime (ahem). To be honest, though, it also looked like the kind of book I would enjoy reading as well, and indeed I have been dipping in and out of it over the last few weeks. It’s similar to an encyclopedia, except with more photos. Would definitely recommend for the adventurer-at-heart in your life.

Branching out a bit from the usual here, but I would be remiss if I did not tell you to watch the new Victoria series on PBS (Sunday nights). I have been waiting for this show to come to our side of the Pond for months, and so far it has not disappointed. If you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, you may be disappointed; but if you love watching gorgeous people wearing gorgeous clothes on gorgeous sets, then you will be hooked. The cast is led by Jenna Coleman, whom you may recognize from Doctor Who (which I have not watched since Rose and the Tenth Doctor parted ways) and who is fantastic as teenage “Vicky”, and Rufus Sewell, who is always fantastic and whom you may recognize from my occasional drooling posts. Sewell plays Lord Melbourne, who was a sort of (much older) father figure to the young queen at the beginning of her reign, prior to her marriage to the “dreamboat” Albert. By rights, this should make the Vicbourne “ship” a tough sail except that I am *totally* on-board, no questions asked — and that is even after Lord M rocked some truly unfortunate looking high-waisted trousers in the premiere episode. Albert who? I have an enormous soft spot for RS as Aurelio Zen — another, too short-lived “must watch” series — but Lord M might be one of my favourite roles of his to date. His chemistry with Jenna Coleman is strong enough to make me sit through the palace servants’ Downton Abbey knockoff storyline without too much grumbling.

[Fun historical fact: Lord M was married to Caroline Lamb, who had an infamous fling with Lord Byron. The spouses apparently reconciled after the scandal, only to separate again later. He never remarried. He also didn’t look as dashing as Rufus Sewell but then again, nobody does. The man would have chemistry with a phone book, and I volunteer to play the part of said phonebook in any future screen adaptation.]

On to some interesting articles … this Refinery29 post took a look at the (typically negative) way in which women with fertility issues are portrayed in pop culture — The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, anyone? Personally, I think it’s just a part and parcel of the problematic way that women in general are depicted — female characters are frequently either negative stereotypes, Mary Sue improbabilities, or completely lacking in agency. And I say that as a white woman, who at least gets to see characters who look like her, no matter how unsatisfactory their personalities and actions. Invisibility in the media is still, in 2017, a thing that women of colour have to deal with, sadly. On that note, I am really excited to go see Hidden Figures.

On a style-related noted, The Fashion Law recently featured a good article on counterfeit couture. Knock-off designer bags are a well-known issue in the industry and among consumers, but few people realize how pervasive counterfeiting is; everything can and is being knocked-off, from clothes, to all kinds of accessories, to perfume and make-up — and with the off-shoring of so much luxury manufacturing, the counterfeits are becoming harder and harder to distinguish from the real deal. One thing that the article did not touch upon was the dark side of the counterfeit business; I know that, in the past at least, the trade in knock-off bags was linked to gang activity, which added a whole other level of ethical/moral issues to the discussion. I’m not sure if the same is true nowadays, and particularly in respect of high end counterfeits, and I’d be interested to read more on that topic.