Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bonjour, 30!

Recently my dear friend Lisa said "au revoir" to her 20s and "bonjour" to her 30s! So a couple of friends and I huddled together to help make her 30th birthday dinner extra special.

Lisa has said for years that she wanted to go to Paris for her 30th, and unfortunately this year with the global economy the way it is, it wasn't feasible. So we decided to bring Paris to Lisa during dinner!

To help us pull together an interesting, elegant, and decidedly fun and French tablescape, I came up with a moodboard for the dinner party that incorporated all of the essential elements:
  • Anything French (fleur de lis and Eiffel towers, included),
  • Lots of wine (dinner was to be held at a local wine store),
  • And, the color green (her favorite color!).
This is what we came up with:

And this is how it turned out:

Flowers: When asked what flowers she'd love to see, Lisa said her favorite flower was "surprise." haha, such a Lisa answer :-) Knowing how much she liked pink, we decided to pick up six bunches of 10 pink, white and aubergine mini calla stems at Whole Foods for $7.99 a bunch! Four bunches served as the main centerpiece in a glass container, and we used one bunch each for two smaller mini arrangements on the table.

Eiffel towers: We also decided to scatter Eiffel towers along the middle of the table, from end to end. Thanks to Ballard Designs, we were able to score two sets of three antique bronze Eiffel towers of three different heights that not only looked great on the table, but look great at home, too!
(My master bath)

Place setting:
Each place setting included a menu, a name card, and a napkin ring. I'm happy to say each of these items were DIY!

Menu: The menu was my good friend, Rachel's, brain child. She purchased gatefold cards in green (Lisa's favorite color), and 5"x7" flat cards in cream, which fit perfectly inside the gatefolds.

I formatted the menu for a 5"x7" card using Word, and decided to include a fleur de lis watermark on the menu, which was super easy to do. To find the fleur de lis image, I Googled "fleur de lis," saved an image I liked, and imported it as a watermark on the menu. Rachel printed the menus and adhered the cream cards to the green gatefolds.

Then, because Rachel lives in NYC and has access to all kinds of fabulous stuff, she popped into a ribbon store and found -- how perfect -- a moss green ribbon imprinted with a dark brown fleur de lis! Knowing she would have to close the "gates" of the gatefold card somehow, she decided to use the ribbon to pull them together, and adhered them with a large round label, which she stamped with an "L" (for "Lisa," of course) using an alphabet stamp set she already had.

Here's the finished product, which turned out beautifully!

Place cards: Rachel and Courtney got together on this one. Courtney made the labels and printed them, using the same fleur de lis watermark, and adhered the printed name to an identical shade of green cardstock!

Then Rachel cut into the wine corks lengthwise, about 1/3 of the width of the cork, and we squeezed the placecards into the corks.

Napkin rings: Another product of Rachel's genius. Rachel took a wine cork, and hammered U-shaped ornament wire into it, so that it looks like this:

Then, she threaded a Fleur de Lis ribbon through the wire, and tied the ribbon, with the cork ornament, around the flatware-contained dinner napkins.

Cake: Our good friend, Halpin, played Martha and baked a red velvet birthday cake for the birthday girl! It was awesome -- rich, moist, delicious -- and beautifully decorated of course!

Here is Miss Lisa just after officially stepping into her new decade:

Happy Birthday, Lisa!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Shoe Polish for Furniture Repair? Really...

Ever wonder how you can fix the nicks, dings, and scratches in your furniture?

I happened to catch a recent Martha Stewart Show (okay...maybe I DVR the series, so I "happen to catch" every single episode), that featured antiques expert Christophe Pourny, who demonstrated a couple of furniture care tips that every girl can handle.

Those nicks, dings and scratches in your wood furniture, compliments of your vacuum, your pet, a recent move, etc.?

They can be fixed with a little shoe polish, a steel wool pad, and wood filler as needed. Seriously! And according to Christophe, all you need to have on hand are three basic shoe polish colors to complement most woods: Black, Brown, and Red.

Here's Christophe's advice, as featured on Martha's web site:

Select a shoe polish that matches the piece you are repairing. Place steel wool over mark. Apply wood filler if spot is deep enough to warrant. Apply shoe polish over spot. Buff with a cloth to shine.

Sounds easy enough -- I will have to inspect my furniture for dings and try out this tip!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Speaking of Cabinet Hardware...

All this talk about cabinet hardware got me thinking -- how does a girl make sure her hardware is installed perfectly straight and level?

Thinking that there must be more to hardware installation than a pencil, a ruler, a drill, and a final hope that your eyes are not deceiving you, the knob really is straight, I headed to Google to search for a hardware installation template of some kind.

I was in luck! I found a few choices for under $6 on Amazon, some for knobs, some for drawer pulls. Here are three that look promising:

Laurey Perfect Mount Precision Alignment Template for Cabinet Hardware:Measure Pro for Doors:
Measure Pro for Drawers:

I think I'll swing by my local Lowe's this weekend to see if they have any templates in stock as well. Knock on wood (soon-to-be-painted oak cabinets, that is) that one of these templates work...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Good Buy EXPO, Hello Hardware, Part II

After reading Erica's post about the awesome cabinet hardware deal she scored at the soon-to-close Expo Design Center, I had to pay a visit to see if they had black hardware in stock, which I plan to add to my what-will-be-freshly-painted-creamy-white kitchen cabinets this summer.

Luckily Expo Design Center had matte black knobs and handles available, so I grabbed a basket and picked up what I needed.

Originally $1.99 each, the knobs were marked down to $1.19, saving me 40% off the original price!

I also noticed they had the same polished nickel knobs that we installed in our powder room last summer, so, knowing that I will paint the rest of our bathroom cabinets at some point over the next couple of years, I picked up enough polished nickel knobs to finish off the rest of our bathroom vanities.

Total spent: $52
Total saved: about $20

I love a good deal :-)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Buy 1, Get 1 - Bath Vanity Double Scones

When it comes to bathroom vanity lights I have two things to say:

1.) Builder grade bathroom lighting is hid-e-ous.

2.) Attractive bathroom lighting ain't cheap!

That being said, we've been searching for something to replace our hideous builder grade lights for a few weeks now. We started at Lowe's and Home Depot and found a few options but wanted to keep looking. While the styles and selection at both home improvement stores were attractive, we felt we could find a better quality option elsewhere. Prices ranged from $60 to $100 on the styles we liked. We made a few more trips to two different lighting specific showrooms in the area and were shocked by the price tags. Most lights were close to $100 a piece. I figured $60 was the lowest we'd be able to spend.

That's when I happened to visit Restoration Hardware's website. I knew their prices would be pretty much the same we'd been seeing but I thought I might get lucky. Low and behold, I did! I found these great double sconces on sale for $59.99, down from $119, and since we need two, I practically got one for free. Check them out!

The Haines Double Sconces are simple and sleek and exactly the look we were after. We will be installing these along with two handsome new mirrors in our master bath next weekend. (At least that's the plan!) Hopefully we'll have some before and after photos to share in a few weeks.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mini Makeover

In this economy, who wants to spend hundreds of dollars on a new vanity for their master bathroom? We certainly don't, which is why we decided to give our vanity a mini-makeover last weekend and replace the original faucets in our master bathroom. $60 later ($29 each at Lowe's!), we've brought this vanity top into the 21st century thanks to the brand new faucets.

Now I just need to paint the orange-y oak cabinets Benjamin Moore's Mink next weekend, and add some hardware to complete this cost-effective vanity transformation.

If you're interested in replacing your faucets, we found a decent step-by-step guide at Happy washing!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Good Buy EXPO, Hello Hardware

I'm sure by now you've all heard that Home Depot is closing the doors to their Expo Design Centers in an effort to maintain focus on their "orange box" stores. We decided to visit the showroom near us to see if there were any deals to be had. Our hope was to find two vanity lights for our master bath but we had better luck with cabinet hardware.

All of the hardware was 30% off so we selected simple knobs and sleek pulls to update our kitchen cabinets.

We left with a bag full of goodies: 18 knobs and 10 drawer pulls for only $40 total.
Too bad we aren't ready to install these just yet. This spring we are planning to refinish our existing oak cabinets with a coat of creamy white paint to better compliment our wall color. So we'll have to exercise a little patience and store these in a safe place until the paint job is complete.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

"Boudoir" Update

We're making additional headway in the Parisian-inspired boudoir! Just last week I welcomed a new tall chest into our master bedroom, which replaces a hand-me-down dresser that dates back to 1870!

Because our master bedroom is on the small side, I wanted to get one great storage piece that's taller vs. wider, filling the empty space above.

While I try not to purchase items at full price, I made an exception in this case. However, the day it was delivered, I received an email from the manufacturer offering 20% off all case goods. As soon as I saw the email, I reviewed the purchase agreement and -- score! -- our purchase was eligible for a price adjustment! I immediately called our sales rep and had the price adjusted.

Lesson learned: While sifting through countless emails from retailers everyday can get annoying, it does pay to sign up to receive emails from the retailers where you frequently shop, or simply have your eye on something special.

Friday, February 20, 2009

How To: Remove Wax from a Candle Holder

Here's a quick trick I learned from my Dad: After a dinner party all of your votive candles have burned down leaving you with wax stuck in your candle holders. Before your start trying to dig them out, pop them in the freezer...
That's right, just stick the candle holder right into the freezer. A few minutes is all it takes.
Then simply use a knife to easily pop the wax out. Finally, use a dry paper towel to wipe out any waxy residue and your candle holder is ready for another round. It doesn't get much easier than that!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ready for Spring!

Last weekend I decided to change up my dining room's tablescape for something fresh, and more spring. Lately I like to keep the table staged at all times. Even if I'm not dining on it every day, or even every week, at least it's serving a purpose and playing a role in the rest of our home's decor.

My hubby surprised me with pink and white tulips on Valentine's Day, so I transferred them to a tall cylinder vase and placed them in the center.

Then I remembered I have 10 of Crate & Barrel's large Diva candleholders left over from our wedding last June, so I pulled them out of our basement storage and filled them with wine corks I've been saving for the last year.

Over the course of the year I've only managed to stash about 20 corks. So the last time I was in Whole Foods I thought I would ask the staff in their Tasting Room if they had any wine corks they could give me for a dinner party. They kindly handed over a box full of corks for free!

By using what I already had on hand, we probably spent about $15 for this tablescape. My dining room and I feel refreshed.

Have you thought about how you plan to update your home for spring?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

False Alarm

Remember how excited I was about converting the armoire into a fun workspace? Not gonna work. Due to it's massive size and our tiny stairwell, it just won't fit down the stairs to our basement. Major bummer.
Sadly, we just don't have any other rooms in our house where this could work. That being said, I'll give it another try...

Anyone interested in a beautiful, large armoire? It has tons of potential, just take a look at my dreams for turning it into a fabulous workspace for a creative mind:

Hidden Office
Hidden Office - by coffee22 on

Feel freel to leave your name and email address if your interested... the price is right, only requirement is that you move it out and haul it away yourself. (tear.)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

DIY: Custom Monogram Wall Decor

Now that our master bedroom is repainted, I've begun to notice all the empty wall space in this room; one of the most glaringly vacant spots being above our bed. Since it's the first thing you see when you enter the room, I decided to take tackle a little DIY custom wall decor project that I came up with to fill the void.

I looove monograms and have always wanted to hang one in some form above the bed. So I started playing around with fonts and sizes in Microsoft Word one morning and came up with a great idea: Why not use Word to create a large three-letter monogram in dark brown, print it out on heavier paper, frame it, and hang it over our bed?

That's just what I did and I have to say I am pretty pleased with the results! Altogether, this project cost about $42.00.

Here's a step-by-step guide:

Materials: 1. First I found a font I liked in the biggest size that would fit in the center of an 8.5" x 11" page.

2. Using Paper Source Luxe Fino White Text Paper in 8.5" x 11", I printed the large letters using my inkjet printer.

3. Then, I purchased three silver metal frames from Michael's (at 50% off this week), and three white double mats using three 50% off coupons.

4. I carefully removed the double mats from their shrink wrap, and separated each set. I decided to paint the mat in the foreground of the frame, and left the inner mat white.

The color I chose to paint the mat in the foreground is Benjamin Moore's Gossamer Blue because my bedroom is espresso and porcelain blue. You can choose whatever colors coordinate with your decor. You'll see I picked up a Benjamin Moore color sample -- this little guy only costs $3.99 at your local Benjamin Moore store. Your local store likely has several dozen colors pre-mixed so you can just grab and go! I bought two samples to be on the safe side, but ended up using only one.

5. I got right to work using a mini roller fitted with a high density foam roller. The mini rollers and high density foam rollers are only a couple of bucks and can be found in any hardware store. I gave each mat two coats of paint.

Success! Now I let the three mats dry for about an hour.

6. After the mats dried completely, I reassembled the double mats. In each corner of the inner mat I placed one of these Zots adhesive dots to keep them together. I found these at Paper Source but I'm sure you can find something similar anywhere that sells scrapbooking/crafting materials.

7. After adhering the double mats, I carefully applied tiny dots to each corner of the monogram print-outs, and -- one at a time -- carefully affixed them to the mats, making sure that each letter was perfectly straight within the opening.

8. Once the monograms were affixed to the mats, I carefully placed and secured the mats and monograms inside the frames.

All done! Now all you have to do is find a place to hang these lovely 11" x 14" framed monograms! Here's how mine look in their new home:

If you like this idea and decide to do it as well, send us pictures at! We'd love to see how they turn out -- good luck!