You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2013.

marsh and breezeI haven’t done a perfume review for some time!  Last summer, I ordered a dozen samples of colognes and summery perfumes and was looking forward to writing several reviews.  Guess what.  Not one of them inspired me enough to come up with more than about three sentences.  I did discover a whole bunch of notes that I dislike, and than light colognes on the whole make me bored, but I have not had anything perfumey to write about for a while.
Until now.
On my first wearing of Voyage d’Hermes (parfum concentration), I was definitely disappointed.  I have liked many of the Hermes fragrances I’ve tried – in fact I think it’s one of the most consistently enjoyable and interesting lines out there.   So when I tried Voyage I’d been hoping this would be a perfume to love and I was sad when I only loved parts of it.
However, there was still enough calling to me that I wore it again the next day – a sunny day over 70 degrees this time – and had a very different experience. Repeated applications have borne out the fact that for me, this fragrance needs nice weather to achieve its raison d’etre.  Have I found a summer perfume to love after all?  I think I may have!
One of the best things about a fragrance, in my opinion, is complexity.  I just love how I have been catching different things with each wearing of Voyage d’Hermes.  Sometimes I smell an initial pungency of wild carrots snapped in two and the green leaves of something like geranium.  Another time the first note was distinctly gin-and-tonic, followed by juniper tree.  This opening comes and goes quickly as the perfume develops.  There’s a high-rise “artificial fresh breeze” element for a few minutes, tingly and brisk, but it doesn’t last long.   I don’t mind waiting it out to get to the best part.
Voyage starts to warm and soften with the green zip of a tangelo rind laid over a backdrop of salty amber, and soon settling into a dry, spicy-peppery greenness.  This scent of peppery, sun-heated salt marsh grasses is one of my very favorite notes.  I love its prominence in Voyage. 
In keeping with the “voyage” theme, the heart of the fragrance reminds me of the openness of the sea and the fresh possibilities of a limitless horizon.  It gets cleaner and whiter as the heart progresses – never squeaky clean, but noticeably cooling off with some laundry musks layering in over the peppery greenness and into the whispery crisp drydown.  But aha!  This is not quite the final gasp.  The cool white musk lights up briefly with a hint of some woods and possibly vanilla making one last victory lap. watery
Now I have to mention the fantastic bottle consisting of a black vial that smoothly tilts back and forth within a metal stand.   It feels weighty and substantial in the hand and it reminds me of astrolabes and spyglasses.   I must confess that the awesomeness of the bottle makes me want to buy an actual bottle of this, as opposed to my usual decants.  This is the very first time I have ever had bottle lust. 
Hermes bottle
 The longevity is average, about 4-5 hours on me including a rather long drydown at the tail end.  On days over 70 degrees, the soapy musks with the peppery grasses was like a cool breeze on a warm day.  In cloudy cool weather, it was a bit too much like a slap of cold bathwater.   Voyage d’Hermes is best suited for spring and summer and is considered a unisex fragrance.

So I previously mentioned that fun prints aren’t really my favorite way to jazz up a room.  I tried it, I didn’t like it, and I decided to stick with my palette of solids, textures, and subdued, traditional prints.

In a stunning and unexpected turn of events, today’s post is the reveal of the vast swath of graphic printed curtains covering the six foot french doors in the dining room!  Because it’s not true that I hate prints.  I like a lot of prints – and some of the ones I like even look good in my house!  I’m talking about anything muted, or with a damask type of pattern, anything that feels kind of organic/botanical, and doesn’t have too many different colors going on.

But to get back to the story, the dining room was looking awfully anemic.

chandelier with table

Yeah.  White on rice.

I knew I wanted a green/blue/yellow color scheme with a fresh Mediterranean feel going on in the kitchen and dining room.  This is an inspiration picture similar to the actual inspiration photo that I tore out of a magazine years ago.

For Mary Fedden

So I went big on the dining room curtains.

After considering many options, the least expensive and least labor intensive option turned out to be making window curtains out of shower curtains.  They come extra wide (72″, I believe) so if you get two, that will cover a 72″ french door very nicely when drawn shut.  I found some great shower curtains at Target that were 100% cotton, soft and drapey, and machine washable, in a green and white print that reminds me of a hedge maze.  I though they would look great framing the backyard and sky and our potted lemon tree on the patio.


They were way too short for floor to ceiling drapes, so I used one of my trusty JoAnn coupons to buy a few yards of a darker green linen/cotton blend.  After washing and drying everything first, naturellement, I hemmed the edges of the extra yardage (but left the bottom edge long to hem in place) and attached the pieces to the shower curtains.  Somehow where I started on one side ended up almost half an inch off, and I didn’t notice till the whole panel was done!  Oh well.  I’m not unpicking all those stitches, believe me.


I’m glad I marked the curtains for hemming as they hung in place, because those shower curtains did NOT shrink evenly.  The dark green bottom panel is shortest at the far right of the doors and longest at the far left.  In fact, let me get my tape measure… yep, it starts 19 1/2 inches from the ground on the right and 21 1/4 inches from the ground on the left, so that’s a rise of almost 2″ across six feet of door.   Let that be a lesson to you.  Always mark the hem in place.  Oh, and as for the top hem, the shower curtain had little buttonholes sewn in there which would’ve look weird, so I just folded that hem over once more and sewed it down before clipping on some curtain rings.

Here they are, looking fresh and beautiful if I do say so myself.  They’re hung high and wide on a $14 curtain rod from Ross and with 10 clip-on curtain rings per panel.




When we had our New Year’s Party, one of the guests commented on how popular the solid stripe at the bottom of window panels was getting.   She was very impressed that I made them myself because the shower curtains were just too short.  Don’t you love it when you inadavertently do something popular?

So what do you like to do with your window treatments?  I was rocking all-white curtains up till this.  Do you like lots of color?  Something different in every room? Or do you like the cohesion of plain panels and simple treatments?

When it comes to fabrics, I’m a solid colors girl.

I try patterns, but for the most part I like solids better.  I think it’s because I prefer soothing to busy, and a lot of the patterns out there “chatter” at me.  Color is no problem – most of my wardrobe is jewel-toned solids with a few stripes and prints and textures scattered in, and it works really well for me.  In the home, I lean toward the same kind of look.  I currently have graphic jewel-toned pillows on the couch and honestly, I don’t like them very much.  But it took some trial and error to find out that graphic patterns were one design trend I don’t feel at home with.

In fact, the more I’ve observed and experienced spaces, the more I’m convinced that it’s the excellent use of texture that makes a home feel comfortable.  I believe this can apply to any color scheme and most styles.  With time I’ve slowly formed a vision for a more layered feel for our home, where color and neutrals collaborate with texture to make a space that feels warm and inviting, yet light.  I want do do this by layering seagrass rugs and patina’ed (is that a word?) wood furniture, slick bookshelves and ferny plants, burlap lampshades and glossy lamps, linen pillows and leather sofas.

Before you can make a look work for you, you have to figure out the details of HOW it works.  Here are some of my favorite rooms that create interest through use of texture.

See how this bedroom has a textured spread, a velveteen bedskirt and canopy, thick ridged mouldings and paneled doors, unfinished wood floors, and distressed paint on the side table.

This kitchen has equal amounts of sleek cabinets and rustic wood table, with matte iron fixtures and shiny stainless appliances.  The floor is subtly textured and all the glass windows are sleek but broken up into smaller (textured) grids.

This living room has plaster walls, seagrass carpet, nubbly white sofa and smooth leather chairs, lots of exposed wood, an awesomely blue-green velvet ottoman, raw edge cloth lighting shade on the ceiling with metal, and a textured throw.

This living room is more all-brown that I would do but I still love it.  It has iron and glass in the coffee table,  shiny pillows, velvet sofa, lots of exposed wood beams, what looks like textured walls, subtly patterned rugs, coarsely woven curtains, a porcelain lamp, and a reflective black piano.  I really want to go there for afternoons of reading and tea.

So this is my goal: to create a home that feels welcoming, interesting, and homey by virtue of layers of texture, rather than relying on one-dimensional color or pattern to generate interest.

How have you successfully incorporated texture into your living space?  Do you like the layers of interest that several types of texture brings, or is a more streamlined look your style?  What have been some of your winning moments with texture?

Remember when I blogged about the super chandelier find on clearance at Lowe’s?  It’s installed and it’s exactly, fantastically, how I imagined.  The process, however, was a bit more complicated than we expected.

I left the house one Saturday afternoon so the Chief could deep clean the kitchen linoleum and put a commercial finish coat on it to make it easier to keep clean.  It’s old, faded, etc. but we aren’t replacing it at this point.  Luckily it disappears visually, so even though it will be awesome when we have some kind of newer flooring, it doesn’t bother me that it’s still here for a while.

When I got back, the floor was just as it had been, but the chandelier was in the middle of the room looking like this.

chandelier apart

ERP. What happened?  Well, apparently the easy fix of chopping off the bottom of our chandelier, making it go from this, the original:

clearance chandelier

to this, the much-improved reworking:

PShopped chandelier

…was not so easy after all.   That bottom section, rather than being purely decorative and easy to remove, contained all the wiring and it was strung up and down every little tube.

Luckily, I’m married to an electrician.  He is also a mechanic, a refrigerator tech, a construction worker, and a metal worker, so basically at this point I was really really lucky.  Instead of freaking out, he re-wired it.  I should probably have baked him cupcakes.

rewiring chandelier

So there was the newly reconstructed chandelier – I think at this point we can call it custom – but it was looking a bit, well, cheap.  The finish was painted metal, but it was shiny.   Too shiny.  That thing needed a coat of mattifying spray to make it look more like wrought iron and less like an imitation.  I went to Home Depot and picked up a can of textured matte black spray paint, and we hung it outside and dusted all the surfaces twice with a light coat.  I didn’t go nuts trying to ensure complete opaque coverage, as even the first misting coat knocked down the shine almost completely and created an evenly matte, faintly textured surface that really did look like iron.
spraying chandelier

I accidentally forgot to block off the electrical sockets and they got spray paint in them.  Don’t be like me.  Thank goodness the Chief had something in his chemical cupboard that was able to remove it, and saved the day.  Otherwise I would pretty much have ruined the chandelier past saving.

So there it was!  We picked a spot to hang it that, while not perfect (it overlaps the skylight opening a bit, which can’t be helped) is the best solution for our current room configuration.  The Chief wired it in to the ceiling and left us some room to play with the height.  I feel it could be an inch or two lower, but since it’s pretty wide and the Chief is tall, we don’t want him bumping his head when he bends over the table and then stands up suddenly!

chandy reveal2

The Chief says it looks Gothic in a good way, not over the top, but as if it came out of an old castle.

chandy reveal1

Our dining room is almost there!

chandy with table

Next up: the dining room curtains, because this place needs some color.

Have you ever gotten a bargain for your home and then discovered it was perhaps not quite such a bargain because you had to rewire, restore, repaint, etc. completely?  What are some of your favorite lighting pieces that you brought home and love?

Sometimes things take longer than you think they’re going to.

Like being pregnant.  It takes a really long time to produce a baby…  when you think about it, you may as well round up and call it a year.  I’m about 5 1/2 months along now.  Gratuitous pregnancy shot, thankyouverymuch, with a sneak peek of the table.

pregnant 5 1-2 months

Or like learning a new operating system.  Posts have been thin this past month, partly due to the holidays, but partly because my dear Chief got me a new laptop as a surprise for our anniversary to replace my long-dead one, and it has Windows 8.

Have you used Windows 8 yet?  Things are not where they are supposed to be.  When I finally got around to loading my camera software on the lappy, I spent 20 minutes trying to download and edit photos and having ZERO SUCCESS.  Right clicking a pic does not produce an “open with” or “save as” option.  There is also some strange new photo editing software pre-loaded on my lappy that I did not understand.  I was just trying to do a quick transfer of two photos off my camera and onto a written draft… and I could not do it.  I could not even get them off my camera to my computer.  I had to quit.  Le sigh.  The next day I googled how to edit pics in Windows 8 and that helped.

Other things also take longer than you think they’re going to.  Like pretty much any DIY project anyone ever tried.  For example, when remodeling a room, the Chief figures that the last 10% of the work takes 50% of the time.

All this to say, THE FARMHOUSE TABLE!

It was a  bit more work than I thought.  I didn’t mind it – woodworking is very soothing to me – but I sure underestimated the hours.

Here’s what I started with: a solid maple gold and white blah thing.  In good shape, great legs, not my colors.

Kitchen Table before

Now how’d I do it?

Step 1.  Paint stripping – I did a post on that here.  My mom did a bunch of it, thank you Mom!

stripping paint from table leg

Step 2. Sanding off the remaining paint with 60 grit sandpaper – For the flat surfaces of the table and apron, I busted out the orbital sander as the lazy and chemical free way to get the rest of it off.  I had to a lot of hand sanding on the turned surfaces of the legs and the rounded edges of the drawers, tabletop, and apron because the paint stripper left a lot there even with repeat applications – especially on the legs, golly!  It took several Saturday mornings to get through all the paint removal.  There was some paint left in the crevices of grain anyway, but I decided not to worry.


Step 3.  Sanding everything with 100 grit sandpaper.

Steps 4-6. Sand sand sand sand sawdust in my hair.  Use up sandpaper.  Scrape up cuticles.  Straighten up from a hunch and stretch my tired back.

Step 7. Sanding everything, again, with 150 grit sandpaper.  Last sanding step!  Generally 220 is recommended for a final sanding, but the research I did for the type of wood my table is made of (maple) suggested that stopping at a lower grit would help it accept stain better.

So there we were.  Regarding this process, I could have just said, “Then I sanded everything with 60, 100, and 150 grit sandpaper” but that would not have properly conveyed that this was the longest step in the whole long process!  I like to give you a real life inkling here on Fig Tree Sundays.


Step 8. Get alllll the fine sawdust off of and out of allll crevices and surfaces in preparation for staining!  This was exciting. 

There were two stain color possibilities I picked up from the store.  To help the maple accept the stain evenly and with less blotching, I decided to pre-coat the wood with a treatment.  I did a test with two kinds of treatment and tried both the stains on top of them.  (Sorry for the cell phone photo, it was all I had on hand.)

On the left is the Minwax Wood Conditioner.  On the right is a concoction recommended on a woodworking site, made of half Minwax Wipe-On Poly and half mineral spirits.  On top of each area I tried the Minwax English Chestnut stain (from Home Depot) and the Cabot Pecan stain (from Lowe’s).  The clear winner was the pecan.  It had that nice medium reddish-brown that I was looking for.  The English Chestnut looked red-brown on the label but it turned out more like a walnut stain, more of a mid neutral yellow brown on this piece.  As for the pre-treatments, there wasn’t a glaring difference, but the half and half mixture seemed to result in a little more consistent stain absorption.  You can see the butcher block looks less stripey on the right.

So I asked my husband to pre-treat the rest of everything (mineral spirits smell!) and gave the old girl two coats of pecan stain.  This was the back of the table – my piece to learn on.  Mainly I learned that the Cabot brand of stain dried FAST in 75 degree weather and I had to do just a quarter of the surface before stopping to wipe it off – after just 60 seconds it got sticky and very difficult to scrub off, and my cloth left marks if I wasn’t very careful.  So doing the underside was good practice.  It didn’t turn out perfectly and obviously it’s patchy where the test stains went, but that is just fine since the only people to see will be our kids when they make forts underneath the dining table.

2 coats pecan stain on maplen - underside

Once everything had two or three coats of stain (some pieces were less absorbent of color than others) I let it cure for a week and then began sealing it.  Next time I might use Waterlox or Acrylacq which I have heard good things about, but they are not as easily available as the Minwax Wipe On Poly which I decided to use.  This polyurethane coating is thinner than brush-on polyurethane, which makes it a bit less durable but infinitely less plasticky looking.

I did six coats on the tabletop and three on everything else.  That took three weekends because it rained a lot.

And then…

Just in time for our New Year’s Eve party…

We assembled the table and put it in our newly remodeled dining room (more posts to come on that) and jumped up and down clapping our hands with how awesome it all was.  Well at least I did :)

farmhouse table maple wood with cabot pecan stain

Don’t the turned legs show up so much better when they’re stained?

table reveal2

Ophelia wouldn’t stay out of the photos so I just had her model the legs for me.

tablereveal3 ophelia

For its first ever load of food I put a paper tablecloth down for the party, but that was just a temporary concession.  Our table will have to put up with our daily non-tablecloth-using ways.


Here’s the skinny on material usage:

  • Table: $60 on Craigslist
  • 2 quart bottles of paint stripper, $20 (gift from Mom)
  • 2 pints wood stain: $10, free with gift card
  • 1 quart of wipe-on poly: $12
  • New drawer knobs: $2
  • Sandpaper: Had some on hand but had to purchase finer grit, $6
  • small amount of mineral spirits for pre-treatment: free, had on hand
  • The satisfaction of getting just what I wanted and making it myself:  yes, you know how the line goes… priceless
  • TOTAL: $110

Now we just need chairs.

You can’t possibly love this table as much as I do, having lovingly been over every inch of it many many times (don’t you know I’m a quality time girl) but how do you like it?  Aren’t you excited to see the rest of the dining room evolve?  I’ve got some neat posts lined up about how we’ve been remodeling and I can’t wait to share more details with you.