Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Going Once... Going Twice... Sold!

Hey there! Sorry for the radio silence. It's been a busy week!

I thought I'd tell you about the auction that I went to last Saturday. It was an estate auction, which means someone was selling the contents of his or her house. Sometimes the house is even for auction, but many times it is put on the market and sold traditionally. The people who owned this estate were retiring in Virginia, and they could not take a good deal of their stuff with them, so they contacted the auctioneer to sell it for them.

Auctions may seem a little intimidating at first, but they really are a lot of fun, and they are a great place to score some deals. I won’t reveal the company whose auctions I usually attend, because I don’t want to increase my bidding competition! But search around on Google, Craigslist, and even your local newspapers for auctions near you. I find that I have the most luck with estate auctions, but there are other types of auctions, such as consignment auctions, where the auctioneer is auctioning lots of items for various sellers. If you are not sure what type of auction is being advertised, the easiest way to tell is by the location of the auction.  If the auction is at a house, it is probably an estate auction. If it is held at an auction hall, a community center, or some other venue, it is probably not an estate auction.

You saw a peek at the items that I bought in the picture of my auction card on Monday. That card is what I used to bid on the items. The number on the card was registered to me, that way the company can keep track of my tab, and if I skip out without paying, they have the info on my driver’s license (they make a copy of it when registering), so they can come find me.

So let’s take a look at what I got!

The largest piece, and the piece that I really wanted after scoping out some pics on the the auction’s website, is this double serpentine dresser.

It was made by Dixie Furniture, which is now Lexington Home Brands. It is mahogany with dove-tailed drawers, and it is in really good shape. The stain is uneven in a few places, so I think I will need to rework the finish. I’m going to see if I can restore it instead of having to sand and refinish, because I like the color.
Although this dresser was made for a bedroom suite, I put it in my dining room. I don’t follow the “rules” when it comes to furniture placement. I don’t usually go for a matchy-matchy suite of furniture in any room (though I might consider a dining room suite if I had the $$), and I use furniture wherever I like it, regardless of its original purpose. Using furniture for unconventional purposes adds interest in a room. Plus, being flexible in purposing furniture can help widen your net when you are shopping to increase your chances of finding a piece that works in your house and also fits in your budget.

So you saw the buffet that I originally had in my dining room.

Since I put the new dresser in the dining room, the buffet had to go somewhere else. I’ll save the details about where it ended up for another post. Did you notice that the lamps on the buffet are naked?


I stole the lamp shades from my brass lamps for the dining room post. I’ll get shades for them when I rewire them.
Some other items I got that also ended up in the dining room are this vase and clock.

The vase is blown glass. It is very pretty. It really helps tie in the orange from the rug and the lamps. I got it for five dollars. The clock was $15. It is solid brass, and it is a winding clock. The thing weighs like 10 pounds!

I also got this mirror.


It was $7.50. Are you kidding me??? You can’t get a mirror from Wal-Mart for $7.50. That’s a crazy good price! It looks very similar to this mirror from Ballard Designs for $250

Bella Mirror Medium

or this mirror from Horchow, which is $2600! Twenty six hundred dollars? For a mirror? I think I’ll take my auction find.

Oversized Beveled Mirror by John-Richard Collection at Horchow.

This cute little chair was another fun find.

It has a caned seat, and I’m digging the black paint with the gold accents for now. I’m thinking about repainting it, but the black works for right now, and I already found a place for it. Here it is “styled.” Haha!


This little chair works great as a by-the-back door chair. We use our back door to come and go from our house, and it opens directly into the kitchen. I have a banquette in our kitchen (which I’ll show you in the kitchen tour -- coming soon!), and it usually becomes the dumping ground for coats, hats, and bags. But this little chair is perfect for setting my purse and my work bag on when I come home. That way I don’t forget my laptop because it’s hidden away in another room (I am NOT a morning person, and I have been known to make it all the way to work before I realize my computer is at home!) Plus, I have a place to stash my bags when the boys (aka Hunter and Henry) come running to greet me in the evenings.

I got the chair for $22.50. It was a little steep for me, and I was initially having buyer’s remorse, but when I got it home and found a place for it, I was glad I bought it.

So here’s a listing of all my auction purchases:
Dresser: $150
Vase: $5
Clock: $15
Mirror: $7.50
Chair: $22.50
Total: $200 

Not bad considering all the loot I picked up.

I’ll share with you a few tips based on my experiences in going to auctions.

Rule 1. There are no rules.
You can never anticipate how much money items are going to bring. It all depends on who is at the auction and what they are there to purchase. So don’t psych yourself and skip an auction thinking you can’t afford things. You never know when you will pay $5 dollars for a dresser or $7.50 for a mirror.

Rule 2. Scout it out.
Many auctions have websites with pictures of some of their items. Go to the website or get to the auction early to scout out the merchandise. Look at the items you are interested in closely. Remember, you are buying as-is, so factor the cost to fix any damages into your bidding strategy.

Rule 3. Set limits.
The act of bidding on an item can be very exhilarating, and sometimes egos may get the best of you when  you are bidding on something. So set a maximum amount you are willing to pay for an item. That way you know when to get out when the bidding war heats up and you don’t spend more on an item than you are willing to pay (or more than it’s worth).

Rule 4. Know your competition.
Dealers frequent auctions as a place to get inexpensive merchandise that they can mark up in their stores. They often have deep pockets, so if you suspect that you are bidding against a dealer, you really need to stick to your spending limit that you set in Rule 3.

Rule 5. Know  the market.
Maybe you are the only one at the auction who is looking for upholstered furniture. If that is the case, be prepared to score some really awesome deals, because you won’t have much competition bidding against you. By the same token, if you and everyone else at the auction wants the really cool artwork that is up for auction, the prices may get out of hand quickly. Pay attention to the items the other auction-goers have purchased as a way to determine what the hot commodity is that day. It changes from auction to auction.

Hopefully these tips will help you navigate auctions and you can find some really cool stuff for a great price. Just don’t come bid against me!   (I kid!) 
(But seriously…..)

Is anyone going to take these tips and find an auction to go to this weekend? Or are you already an auction pro? Anyone want to share their best auction finds?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The House Tour Continues: The Hall

Today we will tour one of the smaller parts of the downstairs of my house: the hall. The hall starts at the front door, runs between the living room and the dining room, and ends in front of the kitchen. The stairs going upstairs, the stairs going to the basement, the half bath, and the office are all off this hall as well.

Here's a look at the hall standing in front of the stairs looking at the front door.

To the left is the dining room, and to the right is the living room.

Unfortunately, the previous owners didn't take the chandelier in the foyer with them... I have another chandelier for this space -- an auction find -- but it needs to be rewired. That would be a good post for down the road. Maybe now, since I talked about it on the interwebs, it will get done. I'm thinking about painting this chandy a lighter color (white? gray?) and hanging it in the master bathroom. There is a place for a hanging light in the master bathroom, but it was taken.

The plant stand was given to me by my mom. The vase and the blue feathery thingies were from Pier1 years ago. 

I got the table at an antique show a few years ago for $75. I love the details it and the rich brown color.

The mirror is vintage. I think I got it an estate sale. The books on the table are vintage engineering textbooks. I found them in a thrift store, and I loved the colors. I also love that they are a stylish nod to my day job.

The brass lamp was a birthday gift from my mom. I saw it in a thrift store while I was shopping with her and loved it. She went back a few months later, and it was still there! So she snapped it up, along with the brass lamp in the living room.

The two lamps don't match, but I got matching shades for them (Target). Using the same shades on similar lamps is a good way to unify them to make them feel more like a pair. Pairs of lamps can make a big statement in a room, so this is a good way to get the benefit of a matching pair even if you can't find 2 of the exact same lamp.  

This is the view of the hall standing with your back to the front door and looking back towards the kitchen.

The metal sconces were my grandmother's. My mom brought them home for me after she visited her right after we moved in this house. I like that the gold ties in with the brass lamp and the gold mirror. The little pop of blue in the candles lightens things up, and candles are cheap and easy to change, so they are a good way to introduce color into the hall.

This is the view looking to the other side of the hall.

The console table is one of my favorite pieces in my house. I got it for about $5 or $10, I can't remember exactly, at one of the first (maybe even the first) auctions I ever went to. It originally was a 4-drawer dresser that was a pea green color. I took the 2 bottom drawers out and added beadboard to the bottom to make the shelf the baskets sit on. Then I glazed the dresser with white paint mixed with glazing medium and a little bit of water. It turned out so much cooler than I ever could have anticipated. 

The color turned out to be a great shade of light turquoise. Plus, because the paint was so old, I got some crackled finish. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out! Then I distressed the edges, and added crystal knobs and baskets. I wish I had before pics, but sadly this project was completed when DIY/shelter blogs were just twinkles in bloggers' eyes. So no dice.

The elephant on the console was one of the few of my husband's contributions to the household. He actually had it before we got married. He loves elephants, and it's actually pretty cool. It's vintage, and I think it's pewter -- it's pretty heavy. The turquoise vase is Anthropologie. It was a birthday gift from a good (and stylish!) friend. I feel so chic to have an Anthro item in my home!

The back wall of the hall contains my cross collection. I started this little collection when I got my first apartment after college. I pick them up as I see one that catches my eye. My mother-in-law got me the copper one (2nd from right) in Colorado. I love copper, so this little cross was a great addition.

This is an example of why I love old houses: the telephone nook. People actually had little nooks built into the walls to keep their telephones. I guess the original owners were high-falutin', because we have another phone nook in the upstairs landing. Two telephones in one house in the thirties?!?

The phone jack is behind that little grate thingy. Just look at all the moulding they used on it! And to think - you can barely get builders these days to trim out a window...

As far as future projects for this space, I don't have much on my to do list. I would like to paint, just to freshen things up, but this color goes all the way up the stairs and into the upstairs landing. One part of the stairwell is 2-story, so we will have to get either get a mammoth ladder or pay someone to paint, and we have other paid-painter projects that are higher on the priority list.  So it will probably be a while on that.

I also would like to replace the rug in front of the door. It doesn't really go with the feel of the 2 rooms it is between (I may have a solution for this soon!)

I've also kicked around the idea of replacing the sconce that is above the console table with a more contemporary fixture, but I want to hold off until the new chandelier is installed to make that decision.

So that is pretty much it for the hall. Here is the to do list.

To Do
  • Get new rug for in front of door
  • Rewire chandelier and hang in place of existing one.
  • Paint hall chandy and hang in master bathroom
  • Repaint hall 
  • Replace sconce over console

I didn't forget about sharing my latest auction finds. I will post about that on Friday, so stay tuned!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Weekend In Pictures

I thought you might be curious about what I was up to this weekend. Instead of blabbing on and on about what I did, I thought it might be nice to show you with pictures. Because I always have my phone with me, and Instagram makes everyone into an artsy photographer, I thought I'd do the photo sharing via Instagram.

Friday night, Joe and I went to 5Church, a new restaurant in Charlotte.

The food was delicious, and the decor was amazing! They had Chesterfield couches in the entryway, and ghost chairs at all the tables. I love the color combo: black, gray, and white, with pops of fuschia.

The ceilings were really cool. They were black with white writing. I think the words were quotes and passages from books, but the writing changed directions so much, it was hard to follow. I bet someone's neck was very sore after painting that!


I went to an auction on Saturday. Auctions are a great place to find inexpensive furniture. I've gotten some of the best pieces I own from auctions, and a lot of times, I pay even less for the items than I would at a thrift store. I'll share what I got at the auction later in the week.


Part of the beer selection at The Common Market in South End, a really cool little neighborhood in Charlotte where we ate dinner Saturday night.

A view from the patio at the US National Whitewater Center, which is about 15 minutes from our house. We spend a lot of time there when it's nice outside.


Henry all ready to go for a hike on Sunday at the Whitewater Center. 


I tried to take a picture of Hunter too, but he wasn't feeling very photogenic.

That about sums my weekend up. Monday came too quickly... as usual. 
What about you? Did you do anything fun this weekend?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Living Room Progress

Let’s talk about the living room. The bones of the room are great. It has a fireplace great molding and a marble surround, three huge windows that are on the front of the house, and 2 regular windows on the side. It also opens to the study/Joe’s office.

Here are some before shots from when we were looking at the house. Since the house was a foreclosure, there was no power, so the shots are a little dark.

The color is hard to see, but it was a tan color. Not bad, but I definitely wanted to put my own spin on things. I was really wanting gray, but with the dining room and hall between the 2 rooms being various shades of gray, I wanted the gray to be a little different than just plain-old-gray. With there being at least 50 shades of gray paint (not the book – c’mon! Can’t you get Christian Gray off your mind for at least one second?) to choose from, I was a little overwhelmed by all the different grays. My mom suggested a gray with some brown under tones. (Which, for all you non-art majors/designers out there means it needs to be a warm gray.) I was a little unsure of how I would figure out which grays are warm and which are cool, but Benjamin Moore (who has the best grays in my opinion) is one step ahead of me. They have a great system to determine the undertones of their neutral colors. 

See the little “W” in the corner of the paint chip? If you read the back of the paint swatch, it tells you that this paint color has a warm undertone. If the color had a cool undertone, you would see a little "C" in the corner. Not all BM paint colors have those codes, but the codes definitely helped me in my search for a warm gray. Armed with that knowledge, I settled on Elephant Gray (in the pic above). 

So I painted the walls Elephant Gray. The result was unexpected. The room looked purple to me! 

I did not intend to have purple walls in the living room, but I was tired of painting (we painted 4 rooms at the same time – one of which was the wrong color, so we had to repaint… but that’s another story for another day). So I decided to live with it for a little while, and if I still hated it, I would repaint when the thought of painting didn’t repulse me. 

But then, my mom saved the day!

She called me at work one day and told me she found some curtains for my living room at Ikea. She said they were an iridescent coppery color. I told her I was not a fan of the idea. But she bought them anyway. She’s so stubborn! But we got them home and hung them, and….. I love them!

I think they look so great with the color of the walls. I have tried pillows and accessories in many different colors in the room, and I haven’t found a color yet that doesn’t look great with the walls and the curtains.

The other cool thing about the paint color is how it ties into the marble fireplace surround.

I originally wanted to replace the marble fireplace surround, because I thought the colors were outdated. The veining in the marble looked so 80s mauve and plum to me. But with the new purpley-gray paint, I think the marble looks like it was picked out to coordinate with the paint color. What a happy accident!

So the paint is staying. Now onto the furnishings. We got our couch at the Hickory Furniture Mart.

One of the best things about living in North Carolina is that we’re so close to Furniture Country! The HickoryFurniture Mart is a furniture lovers’ paradise. It’s like a giant shopping mall full of furniture showrooms. The prices are unbeatable, and most of the furniture was made right here in North Carolina. How’s that for buying local?

The couch is made by Taylor King. The day we bought the couch, they were having a great sale, and we were able to buy a couch that was custom made for us, but it wasn't outrageously expensive. So I was able to pick the fabric of the couch and even some throw pillows. I went with a neutral fabric, and I HAD to have a contrast cording.

I’m so fickle with color schemes; I like the main (read expensive) pieces, such as couches, chairs, and even rugs, to be neutral. It’s so much easier to change out some lamps and throw pillows when that latest trend that you HAD to incorporate into your living room is no longer in style than it is to recover your couch or purchase a new one. I mean, we all know that the chevron trend is bound to die out sometime. I’d rather toss a pillow cover when I no longer die for chevron than cringe every day for years, kicking myself for buying a chevron couch. 

While we were at the furniture mart, we also scored a great chair and ottoman in a neutral print. This chair is made by Rowe. Not a NC company – they are in Virginia – but it's still made in the USA! (So is the puppy who's crashing the picture)

Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for furniture that you want to have for generations:

  • Frame – you want a hardwood, kiln-dried frame. This will give you a heavy, sturdy frame and should protect the frame from warping and cracking. Pick up a corner of the couch. Is it really light? Does the couch twist? If you find either of these things to be true, the frame may not be hardwood, kiln-dried.
  • Springs – you want 8-way, hand-tied springs. This is the gold standard of spring systems. Ask your salesperson to explain the springing system. If he can’t, you should consider buying from another source.
  • Cushions – a big part of the cushion choice is up to personal preference. In my experience, down-wrapped cushions work the best for my house, because they are comfortable, and they can be reshaped when they get flattened (which can definitely happen with giants - like my 6'5" husband - living in your house). Foam cushions will flatten over time as the foam compresses and starts to deteriorate, but fluffing is not really possible with foam.
  • Fabric – Does the fabric match over the entire piece? Does the pattern line up over the entire couch? Are the seams even? Does the piping fall in the correct places? These are the things you want to look for in the fabric. Some other things you want to consider are how well the fabric will stand up to wear and tear and stains.

If you follow these rules of thumb when shopping for furniture, you will most likely end up with a piece that you will have in your family for many years. Even if you have to have it slipcovered or reupholstered, furniture with good bones will serve you well and will probably save you money in the long run.

So I got a little sidetracked with my living room tour… I will finish up the living room tour in my next post. I’ll leave you with one more picture.

In the meantime – What is your method for furniture shopping? Do you like the furniture to make the design statement in your room, or would you rather change out accessories to accent your style? Do you buy furniture that you could pass down to your grandkids, or is el cheapo furniture that you change out every few years good enough for you?


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Dining Room Details

So, we begin the house tour in the room that I have most recently added to – the dining room. As I said in my first post, I have been thinking about starting a blog for YEARS, I just never have been able to bite the bullet and actually start. The beginning is always so hard. I have rarely read blogs in real time from the very beginning, so starting out is sort of awkward. I am so used to just opening up my blog reader and continuing on reading the stories of John & Sherry (probably THE first blog I started reading way back in 2009), Kate, Sarah, Katie, Jenny, and so on. So last weekend something kickstarted my drive to start blogging – the purchase of a rug for my dining room.

 Here's a view of what the dining room looks like right now:

A little history on the dining room:
We moved into our house in June of 2010. We bought it as a foreclosure. Overall, the house was in good shape. It had a newly remodeled kitchen and master bathroom, and many areas in the basement had been finished. It mostly was in need of a deep clean, paint, new kitchen appliances (oven, fridge, and built-in wine fridge), and some new light fixtures (the forclosees took 4 chandeliers with them when they split - including the one in the dining room).
After appliances, the first purchases we made for the house were chandeliers. I really wanted this chandy for the dining room.

I first saw it in Kyle’s dining room. Love her dining room!

But at $800, it was way more than I wanted to spend. I found some great alternatives on Plus, my husband was a contractor at the time, so we got a decent discount as well. This is what we ended up with.

The dining room was originally a cranberry red. Sadly, I do not have any before pics. I’ll just say that red is not my color, and I couldn’t WAIT to paint over those walls. It was one of the first rooms we painted. The color we chose for the walls is Mercer from the Ralph Lauren paint line that Home Depot used to have. We were under contract on our house when Bryn wrote this post about the paint color, and I fell in love.

Shortly after picking the paint color, I found this fabric, and I knew that it would be great in the dining room as curtains.
Because our ceilings are over 10 feet tall, premade curtains are almost out of the question, and custom curtains that are lined are outrageous! So my mom and I made these lined curtains. We also recovered the dining room chairs with the same fabric.

So I had lots of gray going on in this room. It was almost a mental block, and for about a year and a half, I couldn’t decide what other colors to bring into the room. It pretty much sat almost undecorated, except for the wedding pictures I hung and random accessories that moved in and out of the room as I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with the space. Here’s a bad iPhone pic of one color trial – purple.

Finally, I decided that I needed to get a plan going. Because I had no idea about how I wanted the room to feel, I thought I’d start with fabric. So I went to Maryjo’s (maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s only one of the awesomest fabric stores ever, and it’s in my town!) looking for inspiration. And lo, I found this!

It is a Waverly fabric from the Colonial Williamsburg collection. The background is a wonderful coral color that I thought would really pop against the gray walls. It also has pops of light blue, lemon, and gray that would also allow me to bring in other colors with accessories. I was so excited I created this mood board:
Dining Room
The plan was to use the new fabric to cover cornices that would go on top of the curtains. Then I would find a coral rug to further brighten things up. To add pops of another color, I would recover 2 small wingback chairs in a peacock-blue velvet to use as end chairs at the dining room table. The buffet would get a dose of symmetry with matching blue buffet lamps.

Because the room would need a large rug, I thought that I would find a rug first, because that was going to be the major expense in the room. I’m glad I decided to do that, because I wasn’t able to find a rug that coordinated with the Waverly fabric. I found this rug instead

I found it at Home Goods (love that place!) It is an 8’x11’, hand-tufted, wool rug that was made in India, and it was only $249! You can’t beat that price. So in the rug came, and out the fabric idea went, because that coral was not going to jibe with the oranges and maroons in the rug. I was bummed out about not being able to use the fabric, but when we got the rug home and put it in the space, I was ok with it, because I love the rug in the dining room! It adds so much warmth to the space; something that the room was seriously lacking.

I shopped the house for accessories to use in the room with the new color scheme, and I found many great things, like these lamps.

I got the bases at a thrift store. They were only $5 for the pair. They need to be wired, which is no big deal. When I got them I had no idea what I would do with them, but I just couldn’t pass them up. They have such a classic shape, plus they are a matching pair. I stuck them in my basement until I could figure out what I wanted to do for them. I always thought that I would paint them a different color, but the orange looks great in the room, so they are staying orange. I may touch the paint up – it’s a little faded in areas -- and I will probably use a little Rub ‘n Buff to accent some of the neat details on the lamps.

I also brought in the items that make up this little vignette from various areas in the house.

My mom got the chest for me from a consignment shop. I love its campaign style. It’s so versatile – it’s one of those pieces that moves from room to room around the house.
The chairs were from an auction. I think I paid $10 apiece for them. They were originally stained and were covered in a red chinoiserie fabric. I painted them light blue and covered the seats in one of my favorite fabrics – Thomas Paul’s Dahlia fabric in the Aegean colorway. The fabric on the chairs does not match the new rug, so I will either have to recover (and possibly repaint or glaze) the chairs, or find new ones (on the cheap) and rework them to better fit the room’s new feel.

Since the original inspiration fabric is out, I had to find a new fabric. Back to Maryjo’s I went. Once again, it did not disappoint. I love fabric shopping in person. It is so inspiring. Sometimes when I have hit a design wall, I will just go browse the aisles of a fabric store, and most of the time I will leave with a great new idea that I am dying to try. This trip was no exception. I found a new inspiration fabric.
It is Samoan Plantation by Iman Home Fabrics in the Sunstone colorway. I think I love it more than the Waverly fabric. I can’t decide what to do with the fabric – should I make cornices? Recover the seats on the chairs? Make a table runner? There are so many possibilities.
So let’s make a little to-do list for this room:
  • Implement new inspiration fabric into room
  • Find a pair of wingback chairs and recover them in a peacock blue velvet
  • Wire lamps, touch up paint, and accent with Rub ‘n Buff
  • Repaint/recover light blue shield-back chairs or find new ones
  • Find a better centerpiece for the table
  • Introduce new art that ties in the new color scheme
  • Find some new accessories for the china cabinet, buffet, and blue chest
Well that’s not too bad! I wonder how long it will take me… We shall see! Maybe now that I am being held accountable by posting a to-do list on the interwebs, I will move a little quicker to get some items checked of the list.

So let’s hear from you – have you ever painted yourself into a corner and lost motivation in a room? What did you do to jumpstart your creativity? Have any of you found a new rug or a new fabric that is going to totally transform a room in your house?