The lovely Victoria has decided to have a link party. I’m usually too lazy busy to participate in this kind of thing, but I like her subject and it doesn’t require me to actually make anything, just share a story. And we all know that I like sharing stories, so as my bedroom door is being moved and their is plaster dust in the air I will try and be amusing and tell you of my prior days of dumpster diving. Alas I don’t have any pictures, but I hope you enjoy the story.

In my previous life, a city dweller in her mid-twenties, I worked at an architectural firm that just so happened to be adjacent to a certain home store with the initials PB. It actually opened shortly after I started there. I was excited to check it out. Of course I quickly learned that my intern wages were not sufficient to buy much of anything. I would go in at lunch once every couple of weeks to scope the sales. Occasionally I would buy a plate or two, or some 90% off Christmas ornaments, but mostly I would lament my lack of funds. So I was surprised when I started to hear stories of the dumpster next door. Architects are generally a poor bunch, so you say “free” and we all coming running. One of my coworkers had scored some sort of PB accessory in really good condition. I said I wanted in, of course at first some of my coworkers were not so interested in sharing their special stash, but dumpster diving actually works better when there are 2 or preferably 3 people to sort through the stuff and then quickly carry it into the office. So I was a good team player and I joined in.

This was the late 90s, when the economy was good and the thought of throwing out perfectly good stuff by a certain flush retailer didn’t seem like a big deal. At first it was mostly small stuff. Candles, candle holders and plates with chips. I started a collection of colorful chipped plates to make a mosaic table. I’m not a big candle person, so I was perfectly happy to let someone else have the candles. After a couple of months of this, several of the regulars dropped out, not seeing the point. However me and the receptionist stayed at it. We would run down around 5:45 to see what was there. As we continued, the stuff started getting bigger and better. I snagged a dented metal file cabinet (the dent was in the back where no one would see it). I got some random table legs, good for my mosaic table project.

Then it started to get really good. One night there was a taped up heavy box. Sometimes these just contained broken glass or plates, but the two us decided to try our luck, because after all if it wasn’t good we could just go put it back in the dumpster. We pushed into the back door of the office. And what did we find? I box of lamps. I think there were 16 in total. Probably floor samples. But most were in really good condition. And by this point we were getting ready to buy our house, which was sorely lacking in any form of lighting. We divided up the lamps and even offered some up to my fellow coworkers. I came home with about 8 or 9 lamps all together. These are still the lamps that we are using in our bedroom and living room. They aren’t the most exciting, brushed silver with a thin stem, but they have been going strong for well over a decade now. So was this my best find? Actually no. It was the tables!

Do you think a major retailer would throw out 8 dining room tables? Probably not now, but back then YES! I was a dark (but not stormy night) and I went out to check the dumpster by myself. And there it was filled with table legs. Over 30 table legs! No tops but lots and lots of wood legs in all different finishes and styles. So still working on my mosaic table, and thoughts of future dining room tables, I decided to bring them all in to the basement. It required going into the dumpster and quickly trying to get them all out.  Fortunately we had a large storage room in the basement, so I could put stuff down there for a while without anyone really making a big deal about it.

The next day I told my coworkers of my score. I think they all thought I had lost it. What was I going to do with all of those table legs? I said I wasn’t sure, but I could always put them back in the dumpster. Well low and behold the next night I go out to check and what is out there but table tops! I managed to find someone to help me get these bad boys into the basement. It took a lot of picking through, because the employees of the retailer had scratched up and marked a lot of the tops, but over the next 6 months I put back together and gave away 5 tables (to my fellow poor coworkers) and brought a stockpile back to my new old house. Mr. S. was not as keen on my stockpile as I was. The stockpile sat in the basement for some time. We finally decided to make a coffee table out of 2 leaves and 4 chopped down legs. It is actually in the garage right now, as we have switched to storage ottomans for the kids, but someday it will make a reappearance. The rest of the stockpile I finally gave away on Craigslist to some guy who had just built himself a workshop and was going to transform them into something new.

After the tables I managed to score a couple of rugs, but as the recession of 2001 started, less and less good stuff made its way into the dumpster and my house quickly filled, I stopped my dumpster diving habit.

Do you have any good favorite finds to share? Why don’t you join the link party.




Dear Contractor,

Are you going to be late? Just give me a call (preferably not way after we were suppose to meet).

Are you not going to make it this week because of a delay? Just give me a call. In fact you can even text me if you don’t want to talk.

Do you not want to do the job? Just let me know and I will move on. I understand.

Is there a problem with the design? Please call me before you decide to just do whatever. Usually I drew it a specific way for a reason. I do actually know what I am talking about (even though I am a girl).

Do we need to spend more money and/or time on something because of some unforeseen condition? Really just give it to me straight up. I can take it!

What do you get in return? I will stay out of your way while you are doing your work. I won’t get upset when tell me that something isn’t going as planned. In fact I will work with you to come up with a solution. Trust me, I have plenty of other things to worry about. And as an added bonus I might actually recommend you.

P.S. I don’t recommend gossiping about your clients while in a crowded restaurant. It is a small world. We can hear you.


Tower Design Part 1

March 12, 2013 — 4 Comments

thirdfloor tower2

We had some amazing spring time weather over the weekend! Actual sustained blue skies, without the winter winds! We managed to open the windows in the third floor to try and air out from the sprayfoam. We also started planning for work in the tower. I’m not sure if this should really be the first priority, but it is definitely the most interesting. One of the reasons we bought the house was because it had a tower, but it has been totally unusable (at least until now). Isn’t that how all rational people choose their houses?

For years I have be imaging the space with a second story fort (even before kids) so that you could actually see out the windows. We also thought it would be really cool to clad the inside with half round cedar shingles (imagine the tower being inside out) and a beadboard ceiling to hide the new giant hole. But beyond that, it has always been a long away fantasy. Well now we are actually working on making it happen! Part of the rational is that we need to have the windows worked on, and wouldn’t it be easier to do that if there was platform up there to access them? And well why we are at, should we go ahead and put some closet space below (which will come in handy when we are working on the master bedroom and have to give up our closets temporarily). Besides the kids keep asking when their fort is going to be finished.

The Game Plan

Over the weekend Mr. S. got out the blue tape and started marking closet locations on the floor.  The room is 7′-2″x7′-1″,  far from spacious. How can we retain the interesting double height space while actually getting usable closet space and hang out space? How can we install a ladder and closet doors and make them both work?


After lots of noodling this is what I came up with. It is funny that even with all of the years I have been doing this a little blue tape and standing in the space is an important step. At first I thought I would make the closet on the left deep. Then we realized that it closed in the room too much and wouldn’t allow for good access to the corners. Once I stepped it back to a shelving depth, it felt right and meant we could get doors in everywhere. We are in luck that a standard walk in closet is 7′ wide (2′ on each side for hanging and 3′ in the middle). The area in blue is the portion that will remain double height. The area that isn’t colored will have loft above but not have closet space. The ladder will be on a track and move to allow for full access to the closets.


The kids (drawn to approximate current heights) should have enough space to look out the windows and curl up with some beanbag chairs on the wider end. Mr. S. says he might even want to claim the space for himself.

The Details

I have been trying to find details to work in the space. It has been a bit of a struggle. The ladder was the first thing on the list. I really like the library ladders but the cost is more than I want to spend (several hundred dollars just for the kit that you have to assemble), especially since I don’t need a long run of track just 3′.


Then I found this DIY ladder from DIY Show Off. They used a vintage ladder, but we could do the same thing with a DIY ladder made with 2x4s and 1x4s. The trick is using 3/4″ galvanized pipe and cutting a slightly larger hole in the top of the ladder.


After spending way too long looking at bunkbed ladders, I came across this one (originally from Joss & Main of all places).  I like the added triangles to give the ladder a little extra support.


I haven’t totally worked out the railings for up there, but I do want a fair amount of height and coverage. I like this railing above (source not identified). So I imagine I will design something similar.


I am also leaning towards this light from Ikea. We need something that is suitable for little kids hands, but provides a nice soft light. I also want something with a little style. At $24.99 I think we may have a winner. I also think it will be a nice contrast to the more traditional style of most of the room.

There is still a lot to figure out and detail, but I think we have a good direction, so I will be plugging away on refining it.

In the meantime if you want to see what is currently inspiring me for our third floor you can peak at my third floor pinterest page.



My little blog is officially 2 today! So to my faithful readers: Thanks for reading!

A lot has happened in the last 2 years and I have been very fortunate to have a supportive family and friends while I try out new things, write this blog and take on more clients. To my family and friends: Thanks and love you all!

I am still working on a full house tour, but today I thought I would show you some before pictures of our house (aka 2000 when I didn’t know any better). I finally dug out some of the old photos and took photos of them (yes, photos of photos) so you too could enjoy the splendor of the 1970s wallpaper and color schemes too! And, yes clearly we were crazy!


Above is the flyer that was handed out at the open house. I removed the price but I will say that the price was lowered 3 times and was pretty reasonable (although I suppose if you factor in the work required maybe not so much). It was well under our budget and over $50,000 less than the original price. I don’t think we were the “antique buffs” the previous owner was thinking of but we do LOVE our house.


This set of exterior photos are from the open house. I hope you enjoy the mustard asbestos shingles in all their glory (since thankfully they are all gone). Mr. S. is most amazed by our little privet hedge covered in ivy. One of my early jobs was spending many hours cutting out the ivy. The hedge is now 3 times as tall and wide (with some very stubborn ivy still there).


Here is the back of the house with the “entrance” to the basement office. I was so happy the day we took that off since it was blocking our view of the backyard (in what was the dining room and is now the kitchen). One interesting fact is that the entrance was made completely out of old Boeing crates (the previous owner worked there). The window on the left is now where the piano is located but was behind the fridge when we bought the house.


A straight on view of the back of the house. One of the things that sold us was the giant pine tree.


In this shot you can see the bulge in the siding (which we were very curious about). When removing the siding we realized that it was because the first floor was covered with fake brick in between the original shingles and the asbestos ones.


Just look at all that mustard! It was everywhere (well except for the brown trim)!


Please step inside! I don’t think we actually have a picture of the front hall from before we bought the house. Here is Mr. S. about a week after we bought the house taking out the red carpeting and wallpaper from the front hall. Fortunately at least the wallpaper came off easily (at least in this space).


Next up is the old Dining Room which is now the Kitchen. We had already replaced the light fixture in here. The first time we painted this space I went will a pretty bright light green. Later I thought that decision was a little too bright and primary, but when you are going from an endless see of 1970s gold, orange and brown gloom, all I could think of were happy bright colors.


This is looking back towards the front of the house. The middle door is no longer there (it has been replaced with a door in the hallway for the half bath). You can also see the corner of the wood burning stove sticking out from the fireplace. That was a beast!


Finally I am going to leave you will a before picture of our kitchen (now the Dining Room). And yes, that is all the counter space we had! The door on the right lead out to the refrigerator room. You can also just get a glimpse of the faux wood “rustic” beams that were on the ceiling. The light blue on the cabinet was my test color. We lived with this kitchen for a couple of years before making a much more suitable space in the Dining Room.

I will be back next week with some more before and after photos! We will be celebrating our little one’s birthday this weekend.



While we were working up on the third floor this weekend we spent a good bit of time talking about the house and its history. We realized that the house is going to be 125 years old in May. This may call for a Quasquicentennial Party! Hmmm, maybe this will give me incentive to get the AC working by then.

We are fortunate to know the age of the house, originally because a generous soul from our little borough put together a history complete with the year every house was built. This was confirmed a few years ago by a little slip of paper that we found under the stairs when we were building the half bath (the one in the middle of the picture above). It is a receipt for shingles dated May 2, 1888. It also includes the builder’s name Mr. J. Welsh (who built a number of houses in our town).


All of the items in the 2 frames above contain paper that we have found in the house. I think my two favorite are the piece of sheep puzzle and the letter in the top of the second one. It says, “Come over Bill and I will sit with you.” Then it has an o.k. (circled so I assume that he agreed).


This is our latest find. The previous owners’ signatures from March 4, 1977.  It is above the front windows in the third floor bedroom. Unfortunately a lot of this will be lost when we cut the plaster for the insulation. They also told us when we bought the house that there is an original 1888 signature in the craft room. Unfortunately the wallpaper is stuck on pretty tight and there is a really good chance we will loose it when we cut the plaster, which makes me a little sad.

Has anyone else found anything interesting in their house?



Hi All! Well we finally decided to go live with the new look for the blog. Mr. S. deserves most of the credit for this one (Thanks Mr. S!).  A lot of the work is actually on the back end. So in addition to a new logo and appearance the blog now has responsive design which is really cool and means that it should work well on phones and tablets too (which is 100% Mr. S.)!

The biggest change is probably the new logo. Which took lots of back and forth and I think is quite beautiful. We have also added a white background, which is departure for me but I think it work well for highlighting the content.  We also added a colorful border with different patterns that vary (because I need to have my color and pattern somewhere).

I still have a bunch of stuff to add including a new picture of me (in progress), social media links, a links page and most importantly a full house tour. Since the blog with have its 2 year anniversary at the end of the month, I hope to have all of that up and running by then.


Original Design from 2011

We have come a long way in the two years since we started. I hope you enjoy the new look!

And a special thanks to all of my readers who keep me inspired! xoxo


Third Floor Before Tour

February 7, 2013 — 6 Comments


I know its been a while! Things have actually been quite busy here. My contractor has been over finishing up some long over due projects (YEAH!). More to come on that later but I thought I would give an update on part of our upstairs project. I had a spray foam insulation contractor in last week to take a look at the messy, messy third floor. As part of this I had to finally draw some accurate plans of the third floor. I found it fascinating to see how it all fits together, since there are lots of bits in the eaves that aren’t accessible and it has been hard to figure out how they connect (and dream of future storage space). I thought I would share some before pictures. Beware I don’t usually let people up here and the in case you were wondering where the 1970s went, they are alive and well up here. This floor is currently a wasteland of stuff (12 1/2 years of stuff). Please try to not judge too harshly! Some of the furniture will actually stay, but it is impossible to see it will all of the boxes and piles of stuff. It is really hard to photograph the space, but it is actually one of the reasons we bought the house. The scale is perfect for kids (if you ignore the dangers of steep steps and low old casement windows).


Yes, those stairs are as steep as you think they are. Brown painted pine steps that are taller then they are wide. And isn’t that wallpaper a nice complement! We are thinking about removing the wall to the right to open up the hang out space.


This is my future craft room. It currently holds random Christmas decorations and half finished crafts, as well as my husbands CD collection. It is the one room where the wallpaper is not crazy, although it still needs to go!


This is actually not the same room as the previous photo (I know it is hard to tell). This is our future “hang out” space. I can totally picture a bunch of kids hanging out up here. We currently have a wall of low Billy bookcases on one side holding our books. I would like to replace them with built in bookcases some day.


This is the wall we are looking at taking out to open the space to the stairs. Any what is that crazy thing on the wall? Well that is a Victorian expansion tank for our radiators! Crazy I know! It actually was still in use until we redid the boiler about 7 years ago and added an expansion tank down there. I think it may become garden art someday. You can also see the craft room across the way.


This is the doorway to the bedroom. I don’t have to duck but Mr. S. does.


This is what we would like to use as an extra bedroom/ kids room (when they get older). There is actually a bed already here! I think a built in bed under the windows, with storage on either side, would be amazing.


And the one space that everyone wants to see, the tower! I can just fit through this without ducking!


Did I mention that we have a lot of stuff? This space is quite strange. There are no windows at eye level but the light is amazing.


Here are the tower windows! This is where we would like to build a fort up high for the kids. This space is a little strange. They never installed the interior trim on the windows. These unfortunately need to be rebuilt, but aren’t too hard to pop out.

So there you have it! You have now seen some interesting and embarrassing photos. You can see we have years of work ahead up here, and it will get much worse before it gets better. Stay tuned for another 100 posts or so on how we go about making these spaces our own.



This is a little off topic, but it is important so I wanted to share. The Camden Children’s Garden is being evicted by the State of New Jersey and given two months to clear the site. So I am joining the Blogger Day of Action to Save the Camden Children’s Garden I am including some pictures from over the years  (thanks Tim). The garden was designed by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates with Rodney Robinson Landscape Architects.


It was one of the first projects I worked on when I start at VSBA. I only worked on it a little bit but it was such an exciting project to be involved with and I still have fond memories of the opening party. It is one of the best examples of Steve Izenour’s built work. Not only is the Children’s Garden a great place to take the family but they also do SO much great work in Camden supporting and running community gardens around the city and offering youth education, training and employment.


Michelle Obama even highlights it in her book “American Grown”. It is a sad day that the NJ would decide to take something with such positive impact to such an under served community and destroy it.

Please consider adding your support to save the Camden Children’s Garden. Sign the petition here.

Here are some related articles:

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Blog Update Coming Soon!

January 23, 2013 — 2 Comments


Behind the scenes over here we (as in one part me and three parts Mr. S.) have been working on updating the blog design. Although I am still generally happy with the current design, we have been running into problems with it working with the latest version of WordPress.  This lead to Mr. S. suggesting a redesign (Yes I know I am really lucky!). We are really close to launching (Yeah!) but of course this means that I am behind in new posts (Boo!). I thought I would show you some of the patterns and colors I am working with though. Because after all I can’t seem to get enough of either!


We are still tweaking the scale and colors but I am really liking where this is going. I got some inspiration from the Pantone Colors for Spring 2013 along with some artwork and prints that I love. There will also be more white on the site, which is new for me, but will hopefully offset the color nicely. I am also working on adding some new features (which will probably take longer to fully implement).  The blog itself is also going to be updated with the latest versions of code and will be scalable for different viewing platforms including mobile devices and ipads, which is pretty darn cool (I am so lucky to have a husband who can code!). I am hoping that we will go live by next week, so THANKS for being patient and stay tuned!

Also if anyone has any opinions on topics or things you would like to see covered on the blog please let me know!


Woodpecker Lamp, $49.99 & Gold Woodgrain Pillow, $24.99 paired with my vintage wingback chair in a Paul Smith Maraham Fabric

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Target’s latest design collaborations. They became available on Sunday, so I was all set to run over to Target, since I had my list ready to go! First, though while I was still in my pjs, I looked online. And fortunately almost everything was still in stock (at least a 9 am). So I decided to place my order, figuring if I didn’t like something in person I could always return it. I also ordered a few items for Christmas presents (yeah!). Well almost everything arrived yesterday! In the meantime, I was in Target earlier this week doing some grocery shopping and I took a peak. They still had some items, but it was definitely already picked over and the lamps were missing their shades.  : ( Fortunately it looks like a lot of the items including the pillow and lamps are still available online.

The quality on the lamps seems pretty good. The only weird thing is that it comes with a fluorescent bulb. I HATE fluorescent bulbs. I guess it does because it is only rated for a 13 watt bulb! Eeeek, that is a really low wattage. I will be picking up an LED bulb when I get a chance.

Woodpecker Lamp with Woodgrain Pillow

The lamp itself is not particularly tall, so if you are putting it on a side table you will probably need to place it on some books or something, so that you are not looking at the bulb. For now I have it on a side table in the Living Room. This is too precarious to leave with 2 rambunctious kids, so I’m not sure where it will decide to live permanently. Maybe in my imaginary cottage in the woods?

I am liking the fall feeling of these items. I also think that the pillow could work really well with some Christmas and winter items.

There are a few other things that I picked up that I will show you sometime soon.

Did anyone else pick up anything from Patch NYC or the Curiosity Shoppe?

I hope everyone has a lovely weekend. We have been having some amazing weather here and I am looking forward to spending some time outside.

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