Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Painting primitive pine

Today wasn't supposed to be a work day but I stopped at the shop to catch up on a few things and ended up spending much of the day at Beach House. Jackie and I touched base, dealt with a little drama (yes, even at Beach House there is some drama behind the scenes), and I finished a piece of furniture. It's hard for me to see any day as productive, no matter what I accomplish, if it doesn't result in at least one new piece of inventory complete and on the showroom floor. I finished the primitive pine blanket chest/cabinet that I started a couple of days ago and wrote about in my last post. I posted a "before" picture and promised an "after". The piece turned out just as beautiful as I had anticipated. It is hard to go wrong working with primitive pine. It's easy to sand, easy to paint and it is so simple to distress. Every square headed nail that shows it's shape thought the paint is a mark of age, quality and craftsmanship-a true gem.

Friday, June 13, 2014

What are you working on today?

I get asked a few regular questions every day: 

Do you use chalk paint? 
Where do find all of this stuff?
What are you working on today? 

The first two answers never change. No, I don't use chalk paint and I buy all over. From Pensacola to Maine, there isn't a thrift store, antique store, or yard sale that I won't stop at. The answer to the third question changes by the day, even the hour. Sometimes I work on the pieces that are needed in the store. Other times my decision is driven by whatever piece ignites a creative spark.

I bought this chest from the back barn of one of my favorite antique stores. It was one of those pieces that was literally in pieces, sitting by the back door. It caught my eye and the price was right. I'm not sure what this piece is. It has a flip top like a blanket chest, drawers like a dresser and doors like a cabinet. It is square nail construction (signs of an early primitive), it is solid pine, and the storage potential is awesome. The top has been replaced, the left door needs to be re-attached and the corner has been chewed by Fido. THIS is a piece that ignites a creative spark.

I am so excited to work on it, to transform it into something beautiful! I'll post pictures when it's ready.

With a shallow storage area under the flip-up top, this piece is perfect for displaying pillows or a quilt collection.
Primitive pine is my favorite kind of wood to work with and this piece was a reminder of why that is. True antique wood (over 100 years old) is nice and dry with strong grains. This dry wood takes paint very easily but the stubbornness and persistence of the grain always works itself through the paint. You can see and feel the beautiful old lines of the grain through the paint. With only a light sanding the new paint achieves the perfect weathered and timeworn look of a true primitive.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Wooden Wall in the Family Room

I have been having so much fun with the DIY projects at Beach House that I put my house renovations on hold for a while. It's hard to believe that we've been in our home (renovating) for over 2 years already and the store is almost a year old! Motivated by Dave's retirement from the military last weekend as well as my oldest son's high school graduation, and the party I was hosting at our home afterward, I had to make some progress on the house. I didn't get as far as I would have liked, but I did make some major changes. My favorite project? It is most certainly the perfectly cottagy shiplap-look wood wall I crafted in our horribly outdated sunken family room. 

hand crafted wood wall paneling
Leave fence boards outside to weather naturally before using them for interior projects.
I used old pine fence boards for this project. They had been laying in the yard since last year when we started building a fence and never finished it. These are the same kinds of boards you see frequently at the store, we use them for walls, signs, and to make some furniture. I brushed each one different shades of aqua, white and grey. I sanded each board and put them together like a puzzle making sure each board was nailed into the stud. I decided to use rough  1' X 4" pine boards to trim out the door frames. Instead of replacing the doors, they got a new coat of white paint. 

There is quite a bit more work to do in the room but the wall is the perfect focal piece. 

Another board wall in my nice room.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Behind the Scenes Look at Our Hobo Camp

When I started this blog a few years ago I chose the name True Skinny. The name came after I had been looking through Facebook and really started thinking about the image of my life I had created online through carefully chosen pictures of my perfect family, slim body, and organized home. When I compared that life to reality I realized that only part of it was true. By posting pictures of the kids when they weren't fighting, crying or threatening to run away, photos of my skinny side, and interior shots of the one clean room in the house, my Facebook image was a pretty good-looking reality.

In contrast, I wanted my blog to be the real True Skinny, a true-to-life account of the workings of life as a mother of 7, military wife, antiques dealer, freelance writer and home renovator. But this morning I realized that some of the things that I continue to keep "hidden" are the things that make me and my family real. My philosophy has always been that actions and the way you treat people are far more important than the way you look. That being the case, why did I let our hobo camp driveway tick me off the way it did this morning?

So, this morning when I left to drive the middle schoolers to school at a little after 7:00 am I was tired. I was cranky because I stayed up too late painting furniture. I hit the snooze about 4 times and had just enough time to throw on one of Dave's huge sweatshirts before I had to run out the door. There is so much crap piled up in our bedroom that I nearly killed myself trying to find my slippers. Neither of the middle schoolers-Evi or Landon-had set alarms, so I ran franticly to their rooms banging on doors yelling, " Wake up, you're late!". We haven't grocery shopped because payday is tomorrow, so a packaged pop-tart was the best I could do for breakfast.

Evi commented, "I'd rather starve."

I decided to sit in the car and wait for them to come out. What happened next is my inspiration for this entire blog post. This is the scene that I saw out the windshield.

I sat staring at my driveway and yard in disgust. I thought "What would I do if people actually saw the way we live?" Then I realized that people do see this. My neighbors drive by my house every day. When new friends' parents' drop their kids off at my house they see it; although I always offer the disclaimer, "Please excuse the mess, we are under renovation." Then I thought about my blog and wondered what you would think, because until now, I would never publish a picture showing this kind of chaos. Would you be surprised by the mess? Would you be reliveved knowing that my life with 7 kids isn't always perfectly clean, well organized and painted a pretty shade of distressed pink paint?

When Landon got in the car I asked him, "Do you realize that it looks like we live in a hobo camp?"

His response was, "No, what it looks like is that we have a son who has a hobby of fixing up go-carts and dirt bikes. There is nothing unsafe there and it isn't going to rain."

After what I will admit was kind of a long lecture on the way to school about picking up after yourself, I really thought about what Landon said. What I saw as a mess-something to be ashamed of, he saw as a playground-surrounded by classic cars and guy toys. What I wanted to hide, because it looked messy and unorganized, he wanted to promote.

Then I thought about my blog. I realized that the true skinny is that I am the mother of 7 busy kids and a military officer's wife-that alone is enough to fill anyone's plate. If that is all I did I might be able to keep things organized and clean, be on time for practices and dentist appointments and do baths and bedtime a night with without raising my voice, but then throw in antiques dealer, freelance writer and home renovator. How do I do it all you often ask, and make things look so good, and raise great athletes and be so creative? The fact is-the true skinny is-that when one thing looks great, there are often many other things that are compromised, and doing it all flawlessly is impossible. When I post pictures of a beautiful dresser that I refinished in a day, what I am not telling you is that the kids had to hunt for clean socks out of a pile a mile high because I didn't fold any laundry. Just because I don't post pictures of my dirty dishes, publish threats from my kids that they are going to live with Grandma and Grandpa, or detail the accounts of someone sneaking beers at a family party, doesn't mean they don't happen.

Now, I am not quite ready to post a picture of my bikini clad body before the big spring diet or the condition of my master bedroom (you know, the one that I almost killed myself in this morning trying to find my slippers), but I will try to dispel the belief that I am superwoman by posting some of the pictures and stories that I would have otherwise censored before this morning's revelation while sitting in my driveway. I just hope that all of my friends out there, whether physical or cyber, will have the same respect for me knowing I live in a hobo camp. At least it's a happy hobo camp.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Modern Wing Back Chair: Love it or hate it?

Cal's new physical therapy office (for rehabbing his shoulder) sits just in the middle of my three favorite thrift stores. Not that I ever needed an excuse to shop for a great deal, but now, every Tuesday and Thursday I am guaranteed an hour to hit all three stores before closing time. Last week I found the most awesome-unusual, modern, cool, ugly?-wing back chair that I just had to have. When I say "I had to have it," I don't necessarily mean that I have to have it and keep it. I mean that I have to acquire something based on a combination of its coolness, low price and the fact that it doesn't belong in a thrift store. Later I decide where it really belongs, which might be my house, my antique booth, or in someone else's house for a slightly higher price than I paid for it. I never mark things up too high because my grandfather always says, "You have to leave room for the next guy to make a profit."

Chair side view. Piped in a dark cranberry suede cloth.

This is a handmade modern wing back chair by Vanguard Furniture. This particular chair is from their Bungalow Collection. It has a tall back (50.5" tall X 30" wide X 30" deep). It is super comfy and has a down-filled throw pillow with a removable cover. It appears to never have been sat in. It appears to be brand new.

The original tag. See what somebody paid to have this chair made?

Here is my dilemma. I saw this chair in one of the many decorating and home improvement magazines I read monthly I would think "wow, that chair is awesome!" But, as neat as it is, and as expensive as it was, it is really not my style. Although it matches our green walls and fall decor, both are temporary. We are planning on painting the walls dark tan. When fall is over, and all the pumpkins and leaf garland is put away, there really isn't any orange in my house. The light colored laminate flooring is being replaced with dark wood. That being said, this chair looks pretty nice in the corner of my dining room. Is it just too designer-ish for me? Cool in a magazine but not in my house? What do you think?

Update****March 13, 2013****

I decided to sell the chair in my shop about a week after this post. As much as I loved the chair, it wasn't right for my house or my color scheme. It lasted for a day until a sweet young couple put it on lay-a-way. Purchase price $450. What a deal!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Preparing for Hurricane Isaac

The pretty tubes at Bob's Canoes
Hurricane Isaac, the first hurricane in our new house. How exciting! How are we preparing? Well, today we spent the day with our Pensacola friends floating down the Black Water River in Milton, whiling the day away in the sun. Yes, we live in the projected path of Hurricane Isaac, but it was the farthest thing from my mind as I floated down-river in my hot pink tube with three little boys in tow pretending to shoot bad guys hiding behind the trees along the banks. A bigger fear than the pending hurricane was the snake that meandered across the river just in front of us as we rounded a curve. The hurricane is two days away, plenty of time. The snake was right there in our path. Thankfully it was as afraid of us as we were of it, and it slithered away into a half sunken pile of downed trees.

The ride home from Milton was quiet. We were sun-drenched and worn out after a long day on a lazy river. As we drove home listening to the radio the alerts blurted through the music updating us on the storm's progression. "The Florida panhandle is under hurricane warning," and "Santa Rosa County Schools are cancelled beginning on Tuesday," aired on every radio channel. My cell phone signaled notifications from the kids' coaches and the superintendent of schools with messages granting permission to evacuate and encouraging families to stay safe. I guess there is a hurricane coming.

It wasn't until we entered into our neighborhood that things were noticeably different. People were actively boarding up their windows. Boats, just pulled from the water, were sitting on trailers in driveways instead of bobbing gracefully in the aqua blue waters of Pensacola Bay. My phone rang.

"Hi Jenni, it's Dad," he said. "Is everything OK there?"

I assured him that we have a plan-a plan to prepare the house and to evacuate if necessary-we just hadn't started yet.  He, of all people, would understand. My dad always says that it makes no sense to worry about things and spend lots of time preparing for them if in the end what is going to happen is going to happen anyway. And he is right. We could have stayed home all day today preparing for a storm that might or might not hit us, or enjoyed a day on the river. We chose the latter.

After today's sunny day I am looking forward to some rain, wind, and clouds. I love the anticipation of impending severe weather and the feeling in our house when we are hunkered down, waiting. The kids get along better, they want to help out, they wait for cues from us that dictate how they should react to emergency alerts. We stay calm so they can stay calm.

But now it's time. It's time to fill vehicles and the generator with gas. It's time to clean-up around the pool and move patio furniture, bikes and yard toys into the garage so they don't become projectiles under the control of hurricane strength winds. It's time to make a mental note of where the photo albums are, the savings bonds, and each of the kids' memory boxes in case we have to flee. It's time to remember the feeling of returning to Pensacola after Ivan hit here in 2004 and the devastation it caused that can still be felt. Even today, eight years later, there are vacant lots where houses once stood. Certainly Isaac is nothing in comparison to Ivan-which was projected to make landfall as a category 5 hurricane. But it is a hurricane nonetheless. And due to the uncertainty of its path, strength and timeline, it's time to start taking Hurricane Isaac seriously-well, more seriously anyway.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Let's Add Curb Appeal: Before & After Photos

Thank you to so many of you who visited the This Old House website and rated our exterior renovation entry in the Reader Remodel contest. As you know, despite a call from Scott, the editor, we didn't win the truck this year. (Read the full story in my "Did I Catch You at a Good Time?" blog entry.) But talking with him on the phone about our project, and learning that our entry was "notable enough" to gain recognition in the issue, was a nice consolation. Alas, the reveal issue was published in July and we weren't mentioned anywhere. Having a background in publishing I am not too surprised. Some content makes the cut, and some doesn't.

Our exterior renovation included:

  • New exterior paint
  • Finishing and installing a new front door and sidelight
  • Updating house numbers and doorbell
  • Wrapping and trimming-out porch columns
  • Staining the concrete porch floor
  • Laying a flagstone walkway
  • Installing a tongue & groove porch ceiling
  • Installing ceiling fans and porch lighting
  • Constructing window shutters out of reclaimed wood
  • Installing new gutters and downspouts
  • Defining the garden spaces and planing perennials
  • Adding a fountain and yard statues
  • Furnishing the porch

I've been busy keeping up with weeding the flagstone path (despite having laid weed cloth beneath the stones), and watering the garden by hand since we still don't have the front yard sprinkler system up and running. My red potting bench is getting lots of use storing gardening gloves and an antique watering can. It also makes a great Lego table for Rowan and Davison who like to be wherever Mommy is. The bistro set and wicker chairs couldn't have been better picks for porch seating. I've spent hours this summer sitting under the ceiling fans, reading my decorating magazines while the kids have enjoyed tea parties and picnic lunches.

When we bought this house I didn't give the front porch any thought. It had been covered with clutter and camouflaged by green paint. It wasn't until after moving in that we realized the space's potential. And we're certainly enjoying the fruits of our labor on this project.

Before: Every square inch of the house was green.
Also, notice what is missing here? There is no walkway to the front door. 

After: New paint in a much prettier shade of green and a winding flagstone path
lead to a welcoming landing and a new front door.
Dave brought this door knocker of his pilot wings home from for me from Korea.
As soon as we got to FL we had Dermody engraved on the banner.

One of the first things we did when we moved into the house was start painting the exterior. We knew that a fresh coat of paint and a contrasting trim color would help transform the exterior and we wanted to see results quickly. We bought an unfinished wood door and sidelight at a building materials outlet and primed and painted the door inside once it was too late to work outside. Installing the sidelight was a breeze. I actually did it myself when Dave was at work. Cutting the door down to size, adding hinges, and hanging the door was Dave's project, and it was not easy.

This pair of solid wicker steamer chairs were a perfect find
for the porch. They recline and have pull-out footrests. 

The gardens and walkway were really important to me. I wanted to create the feel of a New England cottage-comfortable and cozy. The flower garden is made up mostly of Salvia, Daisy, Mexican Heather, Black Eyed Susan and decorative grasses. Large sago palms, the only two plantings that existed in the original landscape, anchor the two sides of the garden.

With all the other renovations on our list there was no way we could afford flagstone for the walkway-but I really wanted it to complete the look. We removed old flagstone from the backyard of a rental property that we own on the other side of town and used it to form the new walkway. We had just enough!

I found this vintage bistro set on craigslist for $20.
A good sanding and a fresh coat of paint gave it a whole new look.
The vinyl decals add a personal touch.

We repurposed wood from the old deck that we tore off the back of the house to make
hefty board and batten shutters. The shutters are both decorative and functional
and can be latched closed in the event of a storm. The fountain is another craigslist find.  

The porch floor, that used to be green along with the entire exterior of the house,  got a facelift. First, I painted it with a textured porch paint. Then, I applied a deck stain over the paint. I poured the stain on with a small paper cup and spread it around in small sections using a crumpled plastic shopping bag. It looks just like stained concrete!

A potting bench under the window adds a touch of color. 

Welcome home!