Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Found It! Antique Marble Top Coffee Table

I never thought it would happen so quickly, but it did!

Remember my mood board for our new living room that had some very specific harder-to-find antique furniture?

To be precise, see the wood and marble coffee table in the middle?

Well now it's sitting in the middle of our living room!

All of this came about when I was perusing online all local upcoming auctions for the week and saw one of my favorite auction houses was having a furniture sale [see my best resources for finding your local auctions and estate sales here]. Pictures were already up of most of the items that would be for sale, so I started looking through and...nestled between some bigger pieces...there it was!

One of the reasons I love this auction house is because I have found it to be one of the best kept secrets in our local area: there's a very high chance that you will be able to buy a piece for a great price as compared to other places I've been. Not to mention the owners run it as a family and are personable, trying their best to know their frequent clients. Even though it'd been a few months since I'd last been to one of their auctions, they still recognized me and mentioned how it'd been awhile. Very cool.

Bidding started and we moved our way down rows of furniture. Most pieces were going for fantastic prices. I bid on a drafting table that Karl wanted and scored it for $15.

Got to say, nearly everyone bidding at auctions plays it so cool and nonchalant. They flash their bidder's card, they calmly give slight nods to acquiesce to the price being asked, and perceive the difference between when the auctioneer is fishing for a higher bid or asking them for one.

I wish I felt as collected as they looked. It's nothing short of amazing how from the time I go from listening as a bystander to the auctioneer to actually participating in bids how suddenly my understanding of what the auctioneer is saying goes out the window.

When I'm bidding on an item, I'm excited! I can grasp what the going price is, but feel a bit lost as to whether I'm winning or not with all the vague head nodding happening. It's something I'm working on.

Life goals, yo.

As we came closer to the coffee table, I was a bit concerned as I had tried bidding on a similar table back in March at a different auction house that was in less favorable condition and it had gone for $75 - more than I'd wanted to pay for something I'd have to fix up and regrettably I'd had to bow out.

Bidding started on the coffee table. Auctioneer's opening offer started high but went low before someone else took the bait (good rule of thumb - never accept the auctioneer's first offered price). From what I could tell it was just myself and that person interested in the table, and we went back and forth a few rounds.

I won.

Winning bid?

A steal at...$15.00.

Told ya I liked this auction house.

Karl, not very interested in the auction now that he had his drafting table but more interested in when he'd get to load things and go home, popped his head up from his phone a few moments after I'd won the table and asked if I had bid on it. I was tempted to tell him "Yup, we got it for $200! Great, right?"...but he knows me too well and that kind of comment would have made him pause for only 2 seconds before realizing the jest...not to mention the happy dance I was doing kind of tipped him off that we'd gotten a bargain. ;)

Being the awesome hubby and gentleman that he is, he took on the arduous task of lugging the HEAVY marble top into the pickup and then into our living room that night.

...and now here it is!

I still can't get over how quickly things happened from the time I posted my mood board here on the blog to scoring this table, not to mention the price!

Now to find that empire bookcase...

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Where to Get a New Thermostat for Waaay Less Than Retail

Our thermostat was dying.

Several times over this past winter our heat would kick-off because the thermostat would randomly kick-the-bucket. One morning we woke up to find the heat had gone off sometime in the night and our home was a chilly 52 (Fahrenheit) degrees!

We soon learned that in order to restart the heat during these periodic acts of rebellion by our thermostat, we'd have to slide the temperature to somewhere above 70, and once we heard the heater kick-on in our basement we'd then slide it back to somewhere just below 70 and hope it stayed on.

Also going against the thermostat was that it took a bit of guess-timation with the slider to get it "around" the temperature we wanted inside the house. Was it sitting at 68? 71? Were we wasting money with our utility bill?

A new thermostat thus became a new priority.

However, do y'all realize how tech-crazy thermostats are nowadays?

via Lowes

I've been well aware of the fawning happening over the Nest thermostat and other similar devices that one can monitor with your cel phone. Karl, being a tech & gadgets guy, was team "cool thermostats" and reiterated to me why these devices can be useful.

I wasn't convinced.

I'm team "keep it simple, stupid".

Yup, I have old-fashioned preferences. I mean for goodness sakes, it's a friggin thermostat - does it really need a touchscreen or be wifi enabled?! I submit that unless you travel extensively, it does not.

For us, our thermostat really only needed 2 things:

1. a digital backlit screen
2. was budget-friendly

With a quick online search through Lowes and Home Depot, it quickly became apparent that even the most basic, non-programmable digital thermostat would run $25 and up. Wanting to see if I could find better, I looked around at a few other places online.

Craigslist didn't provide much.

I hopped over to Ebay.

Ooo...there were a lot of choices on Ebay.

It was the jackpot really - everything from a basic thermostat to the Nest, and a significant number were new or like new (returned out of box) and most from reputable sellers.

After a little more research we ended up with a programmable digital thermostat from Ebay that cost us only $13, s/h included. Booyah.

We received and installed it a few days later.

like the addition of our color swatches on the wall? ;)

Happily, we haven't had any more trouble with our heat shutting off since installing it last month, and it's wonderful being able to know and set an exact temperature.

...and dudes...never go retail when you don't have to! ^_-

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Entryway Gets a $35 Antique Glass Pendant Light

If you're following along on Instagram you know some other exciting news is that in one evening last week we were able to knock out a project from start to finish: our entryway light!

 Goodness, do you know how good it feels to get a project done in one evening?! With so many large home projects to tackle, I'm appreciating all the more the smaller to-do's we can start and finish in one evening. 

I found this antique glass amber pendant light at a shop for $35 almost 2 years ago when we were beginning our house hunting. Back then I joked with Karl that we just needed to find a house that matched the pendant. Amazing that we found a home that not only fits it, but has it hanging in the foyer as a special memento to our journey finding this home.

p.s. - with the light now installed, it's also nice to be able to see that last stair tread we seem to often miss in the dark! ;)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Update: How Our England Sofa Is Holding Up in 2016

Since posting our review of our England sofa, it has become one of the most popular and still-discussed posts on this blog. The most common question I receive is how well our sofa is holding up with each passing year and if we still recommend England. Therefore, now that 3 years have passed since it arrived in our home, I felt a follow-up post is in order!

This was how our sofa looked the day it arrived:

How it looks today:

No difference whatsoever.

We have kept up with rotating our cushions every few months and have no issues with them sagging. Our armrests are also in tip-top form.

The sofa gets heavy daily use from Karl and I, but the only wear n' tear that shows is some very minor pilling of the fabric in one spot on the cushion my husband used for a few months before we rotated them while wearing a heavy robe that apparently rubbed it a lot. But still, not very noticeable.

When friends use our sofa, we often get told how comfortable it is and asked where we got it, and that says a lot to me that we chose a good one.

We are more than happy with our choice still and recommend England furniture!

Monday, April 11, 2016

There's Furniture in our Living Room! [Bonus: Bright & Cozy Victorian Makeover Plans]

It's happened! As of last week, we have our first livable, functional, 75% finished room!

Why 75%?

...cause although we sanded and stained the floors and painted the walls, we still have crown moulding, furniture, and decor to do. However with some more important rooms to get started on making livable, namely our master bedroom, we can easily take it slow in this room for now.

In fact we can't help but smile every time we walk into this room.

For some perspective, here's what it used to look like when the past owners still lived here:

...and now:

This is the first room in the nearly six months we've lived here that is finished enough for decor. Do y'all know how excited I am to DECORATE a room in the house?!

As one can see, it's also in need of some furniture.

Given the difference between our last mid-century rental home and our current Victorian era forever-home, my decor choices are a bit different from what we had before. I have begun formulating the general aesthetics I want for the room: traditional antique furniture, plants, pops of color, airy and bright feeling yet cozy. For a glimpse inside what my brain has been dreaming up for this room, here's what I'm thinking:

1. RH Drapes in charcoal: we'd like a bit of drama in the room, and these dark velvety curtains would also anchor the room. I'll be finding similar fabric & making the curtains myself. 2. Plants: they bring life into a room, and I want to have several varieties scattered around 3. Coffee Table: very specifically looking for a Victorian wood with marble-top coffee table. Auctions, estate sales, etc. are my friends for finding one at a good price. 4. Bookcase: an antique empire-style bookcase would be amazing. I'll again be keeping an eye out at auctions, estate sales, etc. 5. Chairs or Loveseat: I would love for the piece/s to be emerald! 6. Rug: I wanted something that you can't find as easily at your typical persian rug outlet and also had lots of vibrant colors. Karl and I are both digging having a vintage wool Karastan Kirman 717 rug. I found one on Craigslist so far but haven't heard back yet from the seller (boo). 7. Pillows: Keeping it simple and moody again with gray pillows. I'll be likely making pillow slipcovers with the same material I'll use for the curtains.

Note: Wall art will be kept to black and white prints and photos.

For both those of you who are just joining in or have been here awhile, I am a big time budget-keeper and thrift-seeker. When we decided to have a budget of $5,000 for furnishing and decorating our entire previous rental house, we kept very well within our means and in fact by the time we moved 3 years later, we still hadn't spent more than half of the budget!

Moving forward with furnishing and decorating our beloved Foursquare, we'll still be working off of the same budget from where we left off, meaning half of the $5k. I will be selling some items that no longer work in this home and that will give us a little more pocket money to use toward decorating our current home, but otherwise it's still going to be our $5k Challenge. I do plan to do a break-down of where we are currently with the budget and future strategies in another post soon!

I'm excited to get started on the living room and share any tips and tricks I stumble on along the way! Any of you beginning to decorate a room as well? Do share!

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P.S. When working on the mood board for our living room, I briefly considered joining in on the biggest semi-annual design blogger linkup to hit the internet called One Room Challenge. However because so many of the pieces I'm looking for aren't your usual off-the-shelf items and I like to keep to a strict budget (waiting for the right piece and price before pouncing), it wasn't meant to be this season. However, if there's one blogger I'll be especially following and recommend to y'all, it would be Naomi of Design Manifest. She's a fellow Pennsylvania gal situated in the Main Line who designs fabulous kitchens for clients, and now she's tackling her own kitchen in a mere 6 weeks for ORC. Definitely hop over to her blog and give her words of encouragement! I know she'll knock it outta the park!

Shared On: theinspirationgallery, diylikeaboss, diyvintagechic, diyshowoff

Monday, March 21, 2016

Living Room in Chantilly Lace [& Benjamin Moore's Low-VOC Natura Paint Review]

Up until now our only local paint stores have been Sherwin Williams, Lowes, and Home Depot.

As far as our living room goes...they haven't served us well.

(you can review our two previous attempts at painting our living room here and here).

However, with the most perfect timing, a Benjamin Moore store was beamed down from heaven and opened up in our area within the past few weeks, so naturally we pounced!

We had decided to ditch gray paint altogether in our living room and go for white. I'd narrowed it down to choosing between BM's Simply White and Chantilly Lace before going to the store. As fate would have it, Chantilly Lace happened to be on the walls in the store and it was also painted in a south-facing room, same as our living room - woot!

It looked like a true and warm white on the walls, with no yellow or blue undertones; at the very faintest it might be said it has a super-small tinge of grey undertones.

Having seen it on the store walls...and adding in the low risk of white turning out wrong...and at a point where we're both too tired of painting the room to care anymore...I went straight ahead with buying a gallon in the Eggshell finish and lugged it home.

Of special note, I chose Benjamin Moore's Natura line of paint. It's a super-low VOC paint in which there are almost no VOCs in both the base paint and the colorant; a hard combo to find from most paint brands. It is a water-based acrylic paint that hardly compromises air quality and is friendly for asthma sufferers. In fact they claim there is almost no smell from the Natura paints.

Any kind of chemical smells easily overpower me in a way that I can't be in the same room - most household cleaners fall under this, and so do paints. Our last paint in the living room, Valspar, had been so bad that I could smell the paint for days afterwards not only in the entire main level but also the second floor and I was keeping our windows cracked open in 30-degree weather. Not ideal.

Therefore I was very keen to try the Natura line and see how well their claims stacked up.

This was also our first time trying Benjamin Moore, so both of us were curious to compare the quality of it to Sherwin Williams and Valspar.

We were not disappointed.

The paint was a nice consistency - it wasn't watery, didn't splatter, and gave great coverage.

Even better was that it really didn't give much of an odor. As in, I seriously had to go right up to the can to get even the faintest whiff of "paint" smell. I'm sold.

It also dries in approx 30 minutes - pretty fast, and a big help for knocking out painting a room in one afternoon.

Oh and look - we have a uniform color happening behind the radiator now!

We're planning to do crown moulding, thus why we didn't bother finishing off the tops of the walls. As for when we'll actually get to install the moulding...

We're really digging the white with the wood trim and are both happy with our final color choice. I can't wait to get our living room furniture moved in from the dining room and start decorating!

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Shared On: beforeandafterwednesday

Friday, March 18, 2016

American Foursquare Home Style & History 101

You've probably noticed on past posts and our 'about' page that we refer to our home as an American Foursquare (jump over here for a quick tour). Being the nerd that I am and the fact many of you wonderful peeps are old-house lovers as well, I thought it'd be fun to go a bit into what makes a Foursquare different from other turn-of-the-century homes and the neat attributes that one finds in such a style home.

our beloved Foursquare after Snowmageddon 2016
Exterior Characteristics

- 2 & 1/2 stories
- boxy 4-corner home with simple lines
- commonly had a least one roof dormer, if not four (one on each plane of the roof)
- pyramidal or hipped roof (sometimes also very steep)
- front porch (half or full-width) with 2-4 supporting columns

The Foursquare was One of the Most Widely Built Homes

Introduced in America around 1890 and lasting into the 1930's, the foursquare was popular across the nation with the growing middle class for its simple and economical design. During this time period people were turning away from the seemingly ostentatious Victorian and similar design homes that required more expensive craftsmanship and labor. Interest was beginning to shift toward owning a well-built, modest, and functional home that would serve its purpose of raising their families and engaging and entertaining with society.

via whyberwyn
A Foursquare home's simple boxy shape was straightforward for builders, less materials were wasted, and it was designed to make use of every square foot of the home making it an affordable and dependable choice. Its size also allowed it the ability to fit into town and city lots, which suited it well for the times as more people were moving to the cities and suburbs for manufacturing jobs.

Variations in Style

The simplicity of the foursquare lent to it having great variations in style; it's an infinitely changeable house that can be made to fit the owner's tastes. On the exterior one can find a Foursquare in any number of finishes: brick, stucco, wood clapboard siding or shingles. The porches were often Craftsman or Greek/Classical inspired and were a focal point of the home.

via Houzz
via Flickr
The cost of raw materials were very affordable with the advent of the industrial age and trains transporting goods from coast to coast. It was a standard for most homes of the time to have wood floors and plaster walls, materials that would be a lot less affordable in today's time for your average working middle class.

The main floor was usually kept more traditional with french or pocket doors, and the staircase was often more than just a function but a piece of architectural craftsmanship.
via youtube Amanda Emerson
via showing247
Woodworking of door and window mouldings were given special attention and detail, as well as tall wood baseboards and sometimes intricate floor pattern inlays. Light fixtures, radiators, staircases, even details such as doorknobs and hinges, were often either Craftsman inspired or as ornate as the Victorians in their neighborhood.


The American Foursquare got its name not solely from its shape, but also for its total of 4 rooms on each level. In the beginning years of the Foursquare's popularity the floor plans consisted of four separate main level rooms: a formal entry and stairs, kitchen, living room, and dining room. Upstairs were typically 3-4 bedrooms and a bath. All rooms were simple 4-corner squares and would sometimes have built-in wardrobes and bookcases.

via Sears Roebuck Co.
Starting around 1905 and on, the floor plans began incorporating an "open floorplan" option by incorporating the stairway into a large living room that would usually span the width of the front of the home, with the kitchen and dining rooms in the back of the home.

via antiquehomestyle
Lots of natural light and good cross ventilation were priorities to keeping one's health at the turn of the century, so large exterior windows and interior transom windows were often incorporated.

Foursquares Are Awesome

I know I appreciate the attention to detail and craftsmanship in our own Foursquare, and I love how functional the spaces are (architects, take note - wasted space is annoying to today's consumers too!). We're grateful to have our home, and having learned its history a bit makes me even more fired up to get our home back to its roots and bring its true beauty back!

Be sure to follow along!

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