Monday, November 11, 2013

Tiny Nursery: Ready & Waiting

Once the main components of the nursery were in place, I was gradually able to organize and decorate the space.  I've used a combination of Craig's List purchases (the red chest of drawers), Ikea items (crib, shelves, curtain wire), hand-me-downs and neighborhood listserv finds (most of the clothes, a few toys), and quite a few things from my own childhood (crib quilt, many toys, odds and ends) to pull this little room together.

I hung a couple of my own paintings and moved my great grandmother's rocker into the room.

Closet full of little clothes.

The chest is stocked with diapers and covers (thank you, Modern Diaper Service early delivery!), socks and hats, bedding and blankets, with a changing area on top.

Some of my childhood toys, all well loved and well remembered.

 Other items I'm excited about:

Moses basket, found on the neighborhood listserv, for portable sleeping.

Beautiful receiving blanket knitted by Mr. MJ's mother.

Two paintings on paper by my friend Mike Dowley, to hang above the crib.  Need to get these framed!

There are still one or two things this little room lacks, like a lamp and a mobile, but they will arrive from Little Rock sooner or later.  For now, the nursery is ready and waiting for Baby MJ!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tiny Nursery: Potato Print Curtains!

The windows in the tiny nursery are tricky, since they are very tall and include both a window and a functioning door that leads onto the sleeping porches (and the new office-ette).  I determined that the best looking way to cover them would be to run a curtain along the whole wall.  But after weeks of Internet and in-person shopping, I hadn't found Exactly What I Was Looking For, and the time to hang them was nigh.  In a fit of pique (and energy!) I decided to make my own curtains from canvas drop cloths and paint.

I first bought two large canvas drop cloths, then washed and dried them in case they had any kind of sizing or other treatment on them.  I next carved some simple triangles into three potato halves, using regular kitchen knives and a couple of chisels.

Potato stamps!
I wanted a simple pattern that would be forgiving of mistakes and variations, and easy to cover a large surface with.  I decided to use the same paint for both curtains and wall to keep the scheme in the nursery streamlined and not too busy.

Potato stamps and Benjamin Moore Natura paint, to be used for both curtains and walls.

Before working on my drop cloths, I tested out some printing methods on scrap fabric.  I poured a small  amount of paint into a roller try, donned some rubber gloves, and experimented with brushing on the paint vs dipping directly into it.  I needed to figure out how much paint was sufficient to get a good print, and how much would just turn into a blob.

After figuring out a strategy, I stretched my first drop cloth onto one of the big painting walls in my studio.

And I started to print!

After several hours of work, I produced this thing of beauty:

One finished curtain
Each curtain took me about a day to fully print, including breaks to do other things and rest my hands.  I learned the hard way not to just leave my potatoes in the tray with my paint: rotting will occur, oozy grossness will ensue!  If you try this at home, and your project takes more than a day, wrap up your potatoes and stick them in the fridge!

Finished product, in place.  Those happy smiles are worth my couple hours of oozy grossness.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tiny Nursery: Closet Makeover

When we moved into The Ear, we had two small, crappy closets.  One was in our bedroom (improved upon last year), and the other was in our office-turned-nursery.  Both closets were used to run HVAC ducts, which is good for aesthetics but not for storage capacity.  

The nursery closet was a bit better off than our bedroom closet.  It had a couple of Home Depot supplied Closet Maid brand shelves, which, although they were hung ridiculously high, would hold some stuff; the bottom one sported a rod.  And much like with our bed room closet, we filled this space up with coats and luggage as soon as we moved in then focused on to other things, leaving its hole-y, unpainted walls and general dirtiness to fester.

At some point over the summer (maybe during the bathroom addition?), I realized that I needed to tackle this area sooner rather than later while I could still fit in there and turn around.  So I gave the space a good cleaning, patched all the holes and cracks, and tried out some leftover paint colors:

I decided on this unidentified yellow; the green was a little too bright and cheerful.

Better already!
I bought materials to hang two more shelves and two more rods.  As I mentioned earlier, the closet had been outfitted with Closet Maid wire shelves, so I stuck with that brand for uniformity and ease of acquisition.  I was not terribly happy with the hardware and installation process of this system, however.  It's really designed for modern 2x4 framed construction, not old lathe-and-plaster of unknown structure.  Hanging the new shelves took far longer, and far more patching compound, than anticipated.

Mistakes being made & fixed.
 Eventually, I got the new shelves installed and commenced shoving all the baby stuff we had been collecting from neighbors and family members and garage sales in there.

Eventually, we got everything sorted, washed, and hung in its proper place.  We removed the closet door to save on space, hung some little hooks, and I made a curtain to match the others.  I wish my clothes closet looked this cute and happy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tiny Nursery, Part 1

About a month ago, Ma MJ came to town to help turn the former tiny office into a tiny nursery (Baby MJ is supposed to arrive just before Thanksgiving).  We painted, hung curtains, put together a crib, and generally got things in order.  It was a warm end to September here, so all our windows were open, our back porch was in use for relaxing, and lots of work got done.

Before Ma MJ arrived, we had to choose a paint color to replace the vivid coral (I loved this coral, and hope to use it again, but I didn't think it was restful enough for a bedroom).  We decided to use Benjamin Moore Natura, a VOC-free paint.  We narrowed our color choices to a couple of medium-dark blue-grays.  We chose the color on the right, Pike's Peak Gray, because of the way in complemented both the trim paint and ceiling/upper wall paint that was already present.

Once Ma MJ was here, we taped off the coral area, and then we primed.  Next, we primed some more.

After several coats of primer, we got to the new color.  The BM paint is lovely, goes on well, covers well, no smell, and is worth the $$.  Really nice to work with.  After two coats of Natura, here is our new Pike's Peak Gray room (upper wall and ceiling are still Behr Linen White).

The tiny nursery's tiny closet.  More on this space later.

I created some potato print curtains for the room (stay tuned for separate post), which we planned to hang along the length of the back wall.  This seemed to me to be the best way to deal with the variety of surfaces and openings here.  We used the Ikea Dignitet tension wire hardware to span the space.

Mr MJ making it look easy.  In reality, he was drilling into brick; the whole process took far longer than anticipated.

Two + hours later: not simple or easy, as it turned out, but worth it!

The next afternoon, Mr & Ma MJ assembled the crib (the ubiquitous Ikea Gulliver).  I minded the tools, sorted the hardware, and occasionally provided a 5th or 6th hand.

With the addition of a refurbished chest of drawers from Craig's List and a rag rug we already had, plus our week of work, we had a functional room!  It was still in need of finishing touches, one or two cute doodads, and maybe some artwork, but we knew if Baby MJ arrived early he would have a place to land.  Thanks Mom! (again)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Garden's Ready for Fall, and Upcoming Large Project(s)

The garden is ready for fall: old things cleaned out, seeds planted, cat barriers (just some plastic mesh and bamboo stakes) installed.  Refrigerator pickles made with carrots and turnips.  Beans, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants still going strong!

HOT! Thai chilies

Japanese eggplant

New mustard seedlings

Verdant pole bean vines against the brilliant sky

A rather large bean ready to be picked
But inquiring minds want to know:  what's going on inside the house?  Didn't that sunny coral colored room used to be a home office?  Why does it look like such a wreck?

New paint samples to contemplate

If you guessed baby, you guessed right!  The tiny little office is becoming a tiny little nursery.  Stay tuned for its transformation.

Future nursery's closet full of hand-me-downs and garage sale finds

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Porch Projects for Summer: A New & Improved Back Porch, now with Screens!

Adding the second bathroom is not the only improvement we've made to the Ear during this summer that just ended.  Over the course of a few months, by spending an afternoon here or a weekend there, we upgraded our back porch.  Now, instead of a dumping ground for empty boxes, recycling, and miscellaneous junk, it's now a nice place to sit.  We are really looking forward to evenings out there in a few weeks.

We began back in the spring, when we ripped up the nasty, deteriorated vinyl tile flooring to expose the original wooden porch floor (which, it turned out, was in pretty good shape).  This process was much, much, much, harder than anticipated due to a well-installed subfloor.  Someone really knew what they were doing there (unlike with so many of the other "improvements" that we have corrected).  I do not have photographic evidence.  Take my word for it that it was awful.  Once the stuff was gone, we put several coats of floor paint (same used in basement) on the old floorboards.

Next, I spent several weeks trying to repair the jalousie windows.  We have nine of these, each operated by a set of two crank mechanisms.  Fewer than half of these crank mechanisms were working when we bought the Ear.  I resolved to get as many functioning as possible.  Below, a properly working mechanism.  Note that all its hinges are connected with either screws or rivets.

On the non-working mechanisms, the screws or rivets were missing.  A commonly-not-there screw was the one my finger is pointing to in the picture below, that attaches the crank to the hinges that move the glass louvers.  It's a strange one to be missing, because you can only detach it if you removed the entire mechanism from the window.  Nevertheless, we lacked most of these.  I guess previous denizens of the Ear did not appreciate air flow? 

Slowly but surely, through sacrificing/cannibalizing a few mechanisms and multiple trips to hardware stores and salvage yards to dig through bins of old screws, I got all but four (of 18 total!) mechanisms working.  Now, only the windows on the sides of the porch don't work, and they wouldn't catch a breeze anyway.  To finish up this aspect of the porch, I gave every joint in each jalousie a good squirt of silicone lubricant.

Our next order of business in our quest for a nice porch was to buy and install screens to keep out the mosquitoes. Because of the presence of many old screen clips attached to the windows' metal frames, we knew there were previously screens on all the windows (you can see an old clip in the first photo).  After carefully measuring twice, we ordered nine new screens from Frager's Hardware, a Capitol Hill institution.  (Let me stop here and appreciate Frager's for a minute.  About two hours after these screens were delivered, Frager's went up in flames.  It was a huge, multi-engine fire that raged all night and totally gutted the building.  Our community has felt the loss ever since, as it's now much harder to find parts to fix our weird old houses ((and knowledgable people to help us find said parts)).  Frager's has a garden pop-up at Eastern Market and is continually adding back products it can offer while plans are made for rebuilding.  So if you are in the neighborhood, please shop there!)

Back to the screens.  These were somewhat difficult to install, as old, bent, non-working clips had to be removed, and new holes drilled for new clips.  And since each window is slightly different in size, etc., each screen required a slightly different installation strategy.  We got this done over a couple of weekends.  Here's Mr. MJ in action with the drill on the ladder:

Behind him you can see the new screens in place all around the porch.  We worked at night when the sun wasn't beaming directly into the space.  Also notice the blue porch ceiling, a quickie paint job I did with a quart of paint left over from another project.  I touched up a lot of the wood out here too.

After this point, our porch project was put on hold for about a month while the new bathroom in the basement was created.  The porch became a holding area for tools and other items that had to temporarily move out of the basement.

But after last weekend, we've finally got our porch back!  And maybe for the first time in a long time, it is an orderly, pleasant space.  I decorated it with furniture we already had, a yard sale table cloth, and a large sisal rug I got for free from the neighborhood listserv.

I first posted about this space back in May of 2010.  At that time, I deemed the back porch a longer-term project.  I had no idea that "longer term" would mean three years and change.  However, I think we can now call this one more-or-less done!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Garden Update

Bean haul

Digging for carrots
Beautiful Eater

More wildlife -- a mantis!

All the carrots and lavender.  I'll probably try making a refrigerator pickle with the carrots.
Not sure about the lavender yet.