Old simple house plans - design inspiration

I posted an article the other day on gaining inspiration from old houses. Below is another great example - a bungalow that I stumbled upon near Forestville, California. It is so simple yet so well done. Why aren't builders and designers creating more homes like this anymore? Has the idea of doing a modest, simple and well detailed home escaped them? There must be a niche for this kind of house plan, but perhaps it's a lost art.

So here is the brilliant idea:
  • keep the overall form and roof line very simple - this costs less to build
  • use nice deep overhangs - this protects the walls, windows and doors from the elements
  • create a good composition of windows - here picture windows are combined with double hungs and centered between the porch columns and the wall surfaces
  • use minimal ornamentation - the window grid patterns and the exposed rafter tails are pretty much the extent of it here
  • create a focal point - the simple shed dormer with louvers and the stair that is "captured" with side walls helps to create a center line and create focus on the entry
  • give the house a base - the white clapboard siding provides a platform for the house to sit on and it contrasts nicely with the red shingle siding.

The Ghosts of Halloween Past: Advertising Mascots

Every year we have a crazy adult (if you can call us "adults") Halloween party with a theme. We usually start at our house & then get a limo out into Georgetown where the streets are mobbed with costumed-people. I just LOVE IT!!!! (This year, being pregnant, I just wasn't up for the crazy night out, so we had a fun kiddie one instead.) But, I thought I'd share with you one of our past themes: advertising mascots. The first one up is the Sunmaid Raisin Girl:

The box of raisins inspired the whole party. I've always thought my friend Lindsey looks like the Sunmaid Raisin girl & would always suggest she dress up as her for Halloween. Then, I thought of all the other advertising logos & how my other friends could dress up as them. Here's Lindsey, aka "The Sunmaid Raisin" girl in her costume I made from Goodwill finds. (The bonnet is the sleeve of a red button-down shirt and her corsette is from a suit.)

And next is Chiquita Banana:Marcela's costume is AMAZING. She paper mache'd the basket on her head & meticulously glued all the fruit down. She was such a trooper & it stayed on all night!!!! I made her dress out of cheap t-shirts from Michael's:

And here's our Chiquita's husband, Juan Valdez:

Billy, AKA "Juan Valdez" actually made his entrance to the party by knocking on the window and handing in a cup of coffee... It was perfect!!! The mustache got a bit crooked as the night went on & Billy is just hysterical:

And who can forget the Land O Lakes Butter Girl?
Mo was adorable!!!

And even though she's underage, we decided to let the Morton salt Girl join the party.
Erin was perfect! Check out that little mary-jane-clad foot kicked up just like the real Morton Salt Girl:
And we can't have a party without the beer! (ok, we totally can, but let's just pretend! ;)

Here I am as the St.Paulie Girl with a costume made from Goodwill finds:
(I'd originally tried making a "Chicken of the Sea" costume but it was just way too hard to walk around in!) And of course my husband, Sam Adams, was there to help host:

Here he is posing with his friend The Quaker Oats Guy (married to the Morton Salt Girl- what an age gap!! shocking!! ;):
There were a few more gusts I don't have pictures of .. argggg.. Anyway, we've had lots more of these crazy parties & I'll share some more next year. I can't tell you enough how much fun I have on Halloween. We usually start planning in September and my best friends & their husbands come in from out of state. Everyone stresses like crazy about not "having a costume" and in the end they always look awesome. I'm so lucky to have friends who will go along with my silly plans & I love them for it.
ps- the hanging scarecrow wasn't visible at night so no one noticed it (phew! ;) and the kids loved the ghost & taking pictures with him.

I hope it's not Too Creepy...

I still haven't set up all the indoor & food pretties & don't know if I'll have the time to take pics so I thought I'd post a quick peek of our outdoor "spookies" as Christian calls them. We have a big tall ghost (made from those plastic cheapie table cloths) who isn't so scary and a hanging scarecrow who looks pretty real & has been freaking me out all day in our back yard. (He's in the background of the pic above too.):

My poor next door neighbor called me this morning asking if I was trying to give her a heart attack!!! oops!! Anyway, hope the toddler moms aren't too weirded out.

A Crazy Lady on Halloween

So it's around 5 am and I've been up not being able to sleep for a couple of hours--- not sure if it's the pregnancy, the cold, or the fact that sometimes I just can't shut my brain off. But anyway, here I am up & thinking about all that needs to be done realizing it just can't happen!

I finally gave up pretending I was going to go back to sleep and started some work but I had to drop a quick post in to say I won't be able to post my kitchen today. I'm sorry & don't mean to dangle a good "before & after," I just simply can't get it all done. I had so many plans for this Halloween too!! I'm returning the fabric I bought for Christian's Max (from Where the Wild Things Are) and he's now going as a store-bought "honey bear"- as he says. The package said "honey bear" on it and I guess one of us read it out loud and now he's not just a "bear" anymore.) I've bitten off more than I can chew lately and have decided that some things just won't get done. hahah like this: (Southern Living)

I also wanted to do the ghost ring that so many of you gave me ideas on.. but when I saw the price on the styrofoam balls ($13 each!!!) I gave up on that... We have one spooky ghost now in my woods and I will post photos of our Halloween party prep later today or tomrorow. (If we can get it all done..) We also hung a very scary man/ scarecrow guy in a tree back in our woods and he looks really life-like so I'm hoping the cops don't show up to investigate. (And that my mommy friends don't get too weirded out.)

I'll be back as soon as I can to post Halloween party pics. It's going to be one of those days where we will be simply giving up at some point because there's no possible way to get all that I have planned done in time. ah vell!! I will have a nice cold rootbeer to celebrate my favorite holiday:

THAT I can handle ;)

Finding Design Inspiration in Old Houses

My better half and I just got back home from a short trip to the Napa Valley area. We don't really go for the wine, although that's nice too. For us it is really about the scenery. The area really has such a subtle beauty that we just love. On our trips I of course like to see the local architecture. I try to take snap shots of things I see that I might draw some inspiration from later on. Anyway I thought I'd show you an example from this recent trip and illustrate what I am trying to learn.
Here is a snap shot of the gable end of a historic home (the Kelley house) in Mendocino. I love the simplicity in form and the strength of it's details. This is a key to good design. If you have a simple form you need to pay attention to the details. Here are my thoughts:
  • The proportions of the gable are quite nice - neither too slender or too squat with roof pitch neither too steep or too flat.
  • I love the depth of the gable end roof overhang (this is called the rake end). The brackets underneath provide a sense of support for the overhang.
  • The crown molding at the fascia creates additional shadow line and adds a subtle detail.
  • A wide frieze board (that's the white trim on the wall below the overhang) provides a nice transition between the siding and roof overhang.
  • The siding lap is nice and narrow. The proportion of the entire gable would be altered if the siding had a wider lap.
  • I like the narrowness of the windows, and the fact the pair of windows are separated. Look closely and you can see a subtle little "pilaster" detail at the jambs and mullion. Also the trim at the head projects outward creating additional shadow line and interest.
  • One thing I don't care for here is that the upper windows are nearly identical to the lower windows. I would rather see a bit of hierarchy - with the lower windows being a bit larger and more detailed than the upper windows. Another thing that bothers me slightly is the upper window intrudes upon the frieze board. It looks a little "crowded".
All in all it's a very pleasant composition and I can take away some good thoughts that I can apply on a future design.

A Workspace to Love: Nate Berkus

I could spend hours on the Nate Berkus website. Hours. His spaces are incredible: natural and clean often with a hit of some great graphic pattern. Lots of great sculptural pieces. He's one of my FAVORITES & "DESIGN GREAT" to me!!

In this space I'm loving:

-The chrome Chippendale Chair. Found a pair here :

-The sawhorse glass top worktable: (Check out Copy Cat Chic for some great readily available options)

-The Rug: (haha how small is that image?! I'm no computer whiz!) Of course we know how great & affordable Dash & Abert's Rugs are:

-The raw concrete (I think?) walls. Check out Nelya's basement redo here and her concrete wall: (Photo taken by Nelya at Head Over Heels)

And in the end I'm also just crazy over the styling of the "messy" desk. (My desk never looks this good when it's messy.) The tulips are the bow on top of everything. I love what greenery or fresh flowers do for a space:

Have a great day & I'll be posting our finally-finished-kitchen today or tomorrow!!! (it's pretty gloomy out so pics might be rough! ;)



Pronunciation of Design Terms

Have you ever come to a point when you are about to say a word out loud & realize that you've never actually spoken it before & are unsure of the pronunciation? You've read it a thousand time & know its definintion but are now embarrassed to say it?

I think this happens a lot to book worms (myself included) who've been reading a word for years & have never looked up its pronunciation. Being mostly self-taught, when I first started out in this field a couple of years ago, I realized there were lots of design terms that fell into this category. (And I'm sure I'll run into more.) I thought I'd share a few that I hear pronouced differently all the time and others that rarely get spoken out loud. I looked them up to get non-biased pronunciations:

Damask: "damn-esk" (with the emphasis on the first syllable)

Jacquard: "Jack-ard" (with emphasis on the first syllable)

Ikat: "ee-kot"

Chinoiserie: "Sheen-waz-er-ee" (image from here)

Patina: "pa-tee-na" or "pa-tin-a"

Grisaille: "griz-ai" (pronounced just like "Versailles") Click here to read a previous post on them.

Etagere: "Ay-taj-eir" (with "taj" pronounced like the "taj" in "Taj Mahal") (image from here)

Klismos: "kliz-moss"

And finally, a name I hear pronounced every which way to Sunday is "Vicente Wolf." Now I'm not sure exactly how he pronounces his name himself, but looking up the pronunciation of "Vicente" you get "Vee-sent-ee"... we might have to "ask Vicente!"

I'm sure a lot of you have probably known these terms for years but maybe some of you, like me, are newer to the design world or had just never spoken the words out loud. (I mean honestly, how many times does the word "grisaille" come up in causal conversation?!) I think it's important for us all to be okay asking questions and to be okay admitting we don't know it all. You learn so much more once you've realized how much you have yet to learn.



ps- I know I've forgotten a bunch so if there are any more of these words that we hear pronouced lots of diffferent ways or anything you're just unsure of, be sure to mention it in the comments section! I'll post them below! :)
Matelasse: "Maht-luh-sey"

Hanging a Gallery Wall

A client of mine had a huge stash of artwork that her brother had given her years ago... always planning on doing something with some of it but never getting around to it. He made some of the pieces from tissue paper & paint so they're raised & really unique:

Each piece symbolizes something special to them. She has a huge wall going up her stairway so I thought it would be the perfect space to display almost the whole collection. I had them mounted on a dark green velvet (which was one of the few colors that worked with all of the pieces) and framed in shadow box frame sans-glass. We used a laser level, a tape measure, and of course my accommodating contactor & his ladder to hang the gallery wall and it came out perfectly. (love it when that happens!)

We switched out her builder's grade brass fixture for this Arteriors Home antique brass pendant which works with the contemporary artwork but also pays homage to the rest of the house which is actually fairly traditional:
Gallery walls can be perfect for thar forgotton hallway or stairway & often we have the artwork or photos just waiting around our house to be framed. (And prints are so cheap & easy to come by!) They have a huge impact on a space & can be really sentimental. My client loves seeing her brother's artwork first thing when she comes home every day. Do you have any artwork just waiting around to be hung??

New Dutch Colonial House Plan Unveiled!

Simply Elegant Home Designs has just made the "Tonka Dutch Colonial" house plan available for purchase. The home was designed by Ron Brenner in Stillwater, Minnesota. Ron Brenner; who has been featured in a number of National and Regional publications has gained a reputation for designing charming and functional modestly sized homes. You can obtain more information on this house plan by visiting the following link:

Stone Soup

One of our favorite things to make in the colder months is Stone Soup. I've always loved Marcia Brown's book, Stone Soup, & for years have been making real "stone soup"... first with with my little sister when she visited us (she's 15 years younger than me) and now with my toddler. Kids get such a kick out of reading the book and cooking along with it. (and you get labor for a fun meal!! :)

We pretty much use the ingredients from the book & then just add whatever vegetables we have around. ... It's all about using what's left in the fridge for us so we change the recipe up a lot depending upon what we have. (The recipe is for a large batch that will last you the week.) First we get out a big pot like they do in the book:

Then we add in 2 large cans of chicken broth. (This is the quickie way which we usually end up doing, but it's always a tad yummier when you do homemade broth.) Next comes "THE COOKING STONE." We just keep ours in the kitchen and it's literally just a big stone I found years ago. (We put it though the dishwasher & make sure it's clean of course before dumping it in to our food ;) This is usually the kids' favotite part so if you have more than 1 child, I'd suggest getting multiple stones so no one feels left out.

Then, get the pot to boiling & start with the salt & pepper just like in the book. Next come the sliced carrots & cabbage. (We never have cabbage around so I usually just cut up a little spinach or romaine or whatever we have so there's something to toss in on this page.) Then come the potatoes and beef ( which we usually substitute with pre-cooked chicken.)

Lately I've been adding yellow squash because it's in season (and so good!) and I always add in lots of fresh garlic. (Add in whatever veggies you can here!)

Next the book calls for barley and some milk. We never have barley either, so we use pre-cooked rice (add as much or as little as you like depending upon how thick you want it.) and then add in a 1/2 cup- cup of milk or so..

We've got some rosemary growing in the kitchen & lately I've been tossing a little of that in too... I almost always top with fresh chopped basil & some shredded parmesan cheese. mm mmm goodness!!!

Christian loves his "tiny bowl" and usually has 2-3 bowls at a time of his "special stone soup."

It's so great to see your kid chowing down on such a healthy meal asking for more carrots & yellow squash. He's so much more into the vegetables when they come in his "special soup" than when we serve them normally.

Like I've said before, I love having a weekly batch of soup around for lunches & meals... It's so nice not to have to think sometimes and to have a quick & easy meal ready... all you have to do is microwave it. Anyway, since I had this recipe post waiting, it was the perfect time to join Rhoda of Southern Hospitality's RECIPE PARTY!!! There are already so many great ones up there so go check it out here: http://southernhospitalityblog.com/recipe-exchange-pasta-allamatriciana/

Hope you enjoyed!!

ps- Christian just saw the pics on this post and asked for some "special stone soup" so you know what we're having for breakfast! ;)
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