Tuesday, September 30, 2014

DIY Dresser Redo

We've got a funky attic space in this new house and I'm so very thankful for every odd inch of it.

Most people put guests in their guest room. (Our guest room has been taken over by pianos.) And have closets in their bedrooms for nice dresses and suits. (Our closet is teeny and fits only seasonal essentials.) And have an extra shelf in a bathroom or maybe a hall closet for linens. (We don't.) But our attic has come to our rescue and taken on these challenges and more and it does a beautiful job with all of it. It's part guest getaway, part storage area, part linen closet. The layout is sort of odd and the blue carpeting isn't my favorite but it's as cozy as can be up there and we (and our guests) love it.

This old dresser at the top of the attic stairs is where we keep our sheets and extra blankets and comforters. It's a really roomy piece of furniture and fits our linens perfectly but the finish and hardware were just the worst. It needed updating in a desperate sort of way.

I decided to paint it white and there was no way I was going to lug this downstairs and outside in order to paint it, so I grabbed some drop cloths and milk paint (which is non-toxic and isn't harmful to breathe in, even when painting indoors) and got to work. I chose a color called Grain Sack, which I know looks uniformly white in these photos but in person the color has amazing dimension and depth. It sometimes looks more grey, other times more beige, occasionally more ivory than white. It's a brilliant color and I really enjoyed working with it.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Favorite City

In a week from today I'm jumping on a train and heading up to...New York!!!

I'll be there for about four days visiting both my brother, who goes to school there, and my sister-in-law (two of my favorite people in the world!). I'm so very excited.

After college I lived in New York for two and a half years. I know that isn't a very long time but in those few years this city made such an imprint on my heart. I love New York. By the time I left I was ready, and of course there were crazy things about my life there (the great lengths you must go to for groceries!) that I wouldn't want to have to deal with again.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Favorite Pairing: Masculine Against Feminine

I love stealing my husband's clothes. He has this grey cashmere v-neck sweater that I wear with the sleeves rolled up and it still looks enormous on me but in a deliberate, effortless sort of way. I pull it on over my head when I'm in need of some serious coziness and comfort.

Ironically, I think there's something so feminine about wearing men's clothing or clothing inspired by menswear. I'm really not a tomboy at all (although I do know how to handle myself at the shooting range) and of course, wearing clothes meant for the guys requires careful balance. Skinny jeans under the slouchy sweater, gold studs in your ears, some delicate shoes. Something feminine to offset the masculine and provide that delicious and confident contrast. (Because getting mistaken for a boy is not the goal here!)

I would compare this to my love for old against new. Contrast is everything when it comes to style. Aged wooden furniture paired with the most dainty, white porcelain china. Boxy, masculine oxfords with a flouncy dress. Bright white walls and a worn, cognac leather chair. A loose white tee tucked into fitted black pants. It's the layering, the mixing, the balancing act--you could even say the contradiction--that makes these pairings so chic.

Do you or would you wear men's clothing? Do you agree that menswear can be (counterintuitively) quite feminine? I'd love to hear!

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Monday, September 22, 2014

An Afternoon Like This

I was folding laundry yesterday and putting things in their places when I got the itch to do a little change-of-season organizing. Yesterday didn't really feel like fall weather-wise, aside from the acorns falling (surprisingly noisily) on the neighbor's roof. But our bodies have clocks and mine has always been especially in tune with seasons, the shifting of tides, the subtle newness that starts gradually and then happens all at once in a rush. It's why I feel unsettled living in places that have less than four seasons--my body and mind anticipate and crave these regular, predictable, natural movements and without them I feel a little adrift.

With fall comes my desire to tidy up and reorganize my drawers and hangers and make our home feel simpler and softer. We have only one small closet (which we share) in our bedroom and the rest of our clothes that need to be hung are in a closet in the attic. I was initially bummed we didn't have a larger closet and that our clothes had to be separated but now I'm ok with the setup. It means that I have to regularly rearrange and rotate my wardrobe, edit out the clothes I no longer wear to make room for the ones I do, and be efficient with space. Positive things.

It felt good yesterday to tuck away my sleeveless tops in exchange for wool dresses, to make a pile for the dry-cleaning and a pile to bring to a local consignment shop. I rebelliously kept my long white linen dress out and day-dreamed about pairing it with leather booties and a chunky sweater this fall. I folded and tried things on and reflected on how neutral my wardrobe is (just the way I like it). I made a mental note about two pairs of shoes that need some help from a cobbler. I listened to the acorns falling.

There's something about the quiet pace of an afternoon like this. The sun streaming in the bedroom, small improvements that are just for you, not talking just thinking, doing it all not because you have to but because it's satisfying and makes life just a little tidier. Pure therapy, I tell you.

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Case For Doing It Yourself

I've learned that my penchant for DIYs is not especially common or normal. And I definitely get it--painting furniture, making things from scratch, shopping for supplies at the hardware store, it all takes time and effort and energy. I myself love to DIY because it fuels my creative juices and stimulates my brain and brings me joy but I understand that isn't the case for most people.

Under certain circumstances, though, I do think there's a pretty good case to be made for the DIY route regardless of interest level. Let me use my recent project as an example.

Our bathroom was in desperate need of a place to store shower supplies. I have mentioned before that clawfoot tubs, while charming, do present some technical challenges. I've been mulling over different options for the past few months and finally decided we needed a wall shelf on the curved end of the tub (as opposed to the shower head end).

I looked at a few shelves online and was shocked at how expensive some of them were! First point for DIY--it's almost always easier on your wallet. I also didn't want to settle for a style I didn't love. I had a vision for this shelf (that fit in with the rustic ski town spa style our bathroom reminds me of) and I was finding that what was in my mind didn't exist out in the real world. (Surely this happens to you too, right?) Doing It Yourself is wonderful because you can choose the colors, textures, materials--every inch of the design is purely your call.

And a final reason for why a DIY made sense for this project (even for someone who dislikes DIYs): it was so painless. Certain projects do take a little skill, or special tools, or might be frustrating, but this one truly was as easy as putting up curtains or hanging a piece of art. I did add an extra step by spray painting the aluminum brackets a copper color, but other than that all I did was drill them into the wall and rest this beautiful piece of floor tile on top (similar to my plant stand, where the marble is heavy enough to sit on the pipes without any actual adhesion). The tile also had to be cut to size but my trusty friends at Lowe's did that for me for free.

So that's my case for Doing It Yourself. When a purchase is prohibitively expensive. When what you have your heart set on just isn't out there. When making is as easy (or almost as easy) as buying. And maybe, just maybe, you'll discover you even have a little fun. I can just about guarantee that your pride in the final product will make it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Good For The Soul

We had one of those good-for-the-soul weekends.

We met new people. We tapped our feet while listening to a local a capella group. We picked Mom and Dad up at the train station.

I played some Schubert, we heard some (wonderful) Beethoven.

We roasted a chicken, sampled Virginia sparkling cider, prayed in church.

I shopped with Mama, we drank lots of mugs of tea, we gulped in cool September air.

I locked my keys in the car. (Not good for the soul.)

I was rescued by a combination of Dad, Uber, and USAA Roadside Assistance. Mostly Dad. And he was repaid with more sparkling cider.

We told stories, we joked, we spit out our words during a rousing round of Catch Phrase.

I went to bed tired and thankful. Thankful that our new lives in our new home have plenty of room in them for weekends like this.

p.s. Also good for the soul--painting furniture. The above dresser is in our attic and I'm thinking of painting it in Miss Mustard Seed's "Grain Sack" and updating the hardware. What do you think?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Notebook And Pencil For My Studio

I recently bought this pretty notebook and even prettier pencil both for practical reasons and as a little treat to myself for making it halfway to one of my teaching goals. Hooray! It's fun to celebrate little achievements, don't you think?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

House Tour: Bathroom

Phew! Almost done with this house tour. I hope you've been enjoying it! One of my motives all along has been to demonstrate (hopefully) that renting a house doesn't have to be limiting. We've been able to make ours feel like home in no time. I think the key is not to be shy about hanging art, making (temporary!) changes, putting up your own curtains and window treatments, and not holding back from settling in and allowing it to become "yours."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

House Tour: Living Room

Our living room is the beating heart of our petite little home. It's a fairly large room that you walk into as soon as you enter the front door. It's a lounging space, a writing area, an entryway, a waiting room for students and parents, a library, and a hangout/conversation space for guests and visitors. We love this room and its many purposes and the great light it gets (hard to tell from my photos, but it's been an overcast few days) and its overall comfort and coziness.

One thing that I'll mention only because it's something a lot of guests have noticed: there's no TV in this room or anywhere else in the Harvey household! A little known fact about me (on Something Ivory anyway) is that I grew up without a TV. My parents are not extremists and I had a very normal childhood, they just decided that they wanted to raise their kids sans TV and believed strongly that it was a healthier way for us to grow up.

As a result I've never had any interest in having a TV. Interestingly enough, while my husband did grow up with a TV he's never had one of his own in his adult life either, not in college or afterward when living by himself. We use our computers to watch shows and even have an awesome projector screen setup in our basement for movie nights. So while it might seem weird to some, we've both arrived at our TV-less state in a very natural and organic way and we never even needed to have much of a conversation about it (by that I mean that I didn't have to convince him of anything or lead him over to my side of the tracks). We both believe that our home is healthier and more wholesome without a TV, and our computers provide all the digital entertainment we need (thanks, Netflix!).

Because we didn't have to design around a TV we were able to put this room together in a way that really encourages conversation, intimacy, connection. We're lucky enough to have two couches and putting them opposite each other makes for a great chatting setup when friends, family, or potential students of mine come over. I love having our books displayed and within easy reach in the corner, and of course you know how I feel about my writing nook.

There are so many stories to the things in this room, so many personal and familiar elements and it would take far too long to talk about them all. Suffice it to say that everywhere I look in here I'm reminded of a family member, a friend, a memory, a fun project, a specific moment in our lives, a funny story, a loving gesture. This room makes me happy.


(As much as I love it I do have two small wishes for our living room: a working fireplace and white walls!)

Thanks for letting me share. What's your favorite element of your main living space?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Wicked Yet Loved

“The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope—at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

House Tour: Bedroom

If I had three words to describe my ideal bedroom I would choose simple, luxurious, and calming. Simple because sleep and rest come easiest in uncluttered spaces. Luxurious because I learned early on that good sheets and down comforters last forever, never go out of style, and are worth the extra expense for the coziness they provide. Calming because we all need a safe haven in our home, a place to bring a cup of tea and a book on dreary Saturday afternoons, a place to get ready for the day in peace.

Monday, September 1, 2014

House Tour: Screened Porch

In honor of Labor Day, let me introduce you to the most sunshine-y, relaxing, low-key part of our home: the screened porch!

Having a screened porch is a total bonus. Not necessary but absolutely loved and appreciated. Virginia summers are so much more delightful than Alabama summers and we've been living out here ever since we moved in, and I imagine we won't have to close it up until maybe early November or later. We eat meals, drink tea, and even watch Netflix out here!

What's amazing about this porch in particular it feels like you're in a jungle. We have neighbors on either side but looking straight out the porch you can see only trees and birds (we've had cardinals, bluejays, woodpeckers, and once a hummingbird!). Every so often a family of deer will putter through which is always adorable. There is a pretty deep ravine behind our house that must have made the area un-buildable and we're so grateful for that. To be in our own home but out in (bug-free) nature at the same time is quite a treat.

Like much of our house we've outfitted our porch almost entirely with things we already had. It's a random mish-mash of things, just as a porch should be! I think it feels pretty earthy and rustic which is what I was hoping for. The white painted ceiling keeps everything light and cheery.

This fall, when the temperature dips, I'm imagining us bundling up in sweaters and sipping hot soup by candlelight out here. When I lived in New York I always loved it when restaurants kept their sidewalk tables out even when the weather got crisp. There's something so invigorating about eating outdoors on a cool fall day!

Do you have an outdoor space in your home that you can't get enough of?

p.s. In case you missed the tour of my piano studio.

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