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Here’s a project I tackled this summer.

Turning a pair of these drab, stained chairs:

Into these shiny happy ones:

They’re not quite done – the back cushions need to be attached to the chair so they appear to float, rather than just sitting on the seat cushions – but I’m happy.

I made a misstep when I let the guy at the paint store convince me to try this ‘it’s not oil but it acts like oil’ product that was both the wrong color and finish.  So the project took longer than I expected.  I found a new paint guy and ended up with an oil-based, glossy black paint from Ben Moore.  While I love working with oil, I hate cleaning it up.  Also: there’s no poly or wax on top.  A lot of the blogs I read recommend it.  Maybe that’s because the blogs I read tend to use water-based paints and they chip easier.  I don’t know.

The fabric is Robert Allen, found at


I picked up this pair of lamps last weekend at my favorite vintage furniture store.

I love the burlap shades and milk glass details.

My plan is to spraypaint the wood and strip the brass plating with oven cleaner.   Yep, oven cleaner.  The blogisphere tells me that’ll work.

Will they stay in the dining room?  Who knows.  For now, they flank the bar nicely.

In 2nd floor news, Anuj painted the trim on the windows with house favorite White Dove.

We’ll finish the insides when it’s warmer and we can open the windows.

The next question for this room is what fabric to use for shades.  I was having troubling deciding what color direction to go in to offset the I-wish-they-were-grayer walls.  The truth is, I don’t hate the blue as much as I did two weeks ago.  So I taped up a few black and white swatches.

On the other window, I taped up a few brown/cream swatches.  (note: these pics were taken when the trim was primed, not yet painted)

The browns were nice, but confirmed for us that black/white is the way to go.

Excited about getting some projects underway.



We painted the guest bedroom last weekend.  Still need to paint the trim, but here’s some before and afters.

I can’t decide if I like it.  Initially, I thought it was pretty.  Now I’m afraid it’s too blue.  Why didn’t I go more gray?

I figure if I bring in some glossy black accents it will counteract the nursery feel.  Like this:

Or browns and creams like this:

Or this:


Photos:, Linda Banks via

I got a little sidetracked with my last attempt at listing my non-resolutions for 2010.  As much as I wanted to turn the page on 2009, I guess reflecting on the good things that came out of the decade leading up to (and even including) it was sort of a healthy way to do it.

Could it be argued then, that rolling over unaccomplished to-do’s from 2009 into 2010 is an unhealthy way to start the year?  Call me sickly then, ’cause herewith is my list of home improvement goals from last year, with short status updates.  I figure it will give me equal parts satisfaction for completing the things I did, and incentive to finish up the things I didn’t.  Updates will be in blue.

  1. make a home improvement binder that includes measurements for each room, including windows, closets, floors, etc.  Also include contact numbers for repairmen, hardware store, etc.  (note: this is separate from my magazine ‘inspiration’ binder –  alright, binders.)  Haven’t done yet.  Still a great idea, though.
  2. strategize about deck issue (ugh, long story) No money in 2009 put this off.  Right now we’ve got about 1-2 feet of frozen snow on the deck, which should put the issue off for another few weeks if we’re lucky.

3. add post to top of driveway with better address signage.  Nope.  Not yet.

4. mudroom – a place to sit/put on boots/store hats.  I put a folding chair out there this year.  It seems to be working fine, though it’s only helpful to one person at a time.

Update: this comment was supposed to be funny, but it didn’t translate.  I really DID put a chair out there this year – a folding chair, at that – but the idea that I would count that as some kind of accomplishment is funny, right?  Or…maybe just pathetic.  Um, I’ll work on my delivery.

5. living room – couches? Yeah, what about those couches?

6. dining room – reupholster & reglue chairs.  I’m still holding out for Annie Selke.

7. dining room – table.  I did actually speak to my furniture-making friend about this.  It will be great when we have the money to commission him to do it.

8. living room/loft – tv solution. Anuj flips through the Best Buy flyer every Sunday remarking how flat screen prices are coming down.  That’s about as far as we’ve gotten there.

9. master – bed and mattress –  no more sleeping on the floor! Wait – we really did this one!  We got a Malm bed frame and mattress from IKEA in New Jersey, squeezed the boxes and plastic into the Subaru and drove it all the way up here only to discover the headboard was busted when we opened the box.  Nice.  A week and one hellacious trip to the IKEA returns department later, we got a new one back up here and put together.  Killed my back putting the damn slats together, but we got the adjustable ones, so that’s the price you pay.

The latex Engenes mattress is a bit firm for my taste (were we gonna have to return that, too?), but Anuj needs it for his back, so I’ve thrown a camping pad under my side of the bed and I think we’re all good.

10. master – paint. This is really going to happen.  I mean, look at that yellow.

11. upstairs bath – sconces. Another task accomplished!!  Anuj installed a double sconce in the Jill half of the Jack-n-Jill bathroom last fall.  Look out, 2010, ’cause Anuj might just do the Jack half next.

12. upstairs bath – solution for storing towels, etc.  Um, we’re gonna stick with what we’ve got for now.

13. upstairs hall – clean and line drawers of dresser.  Someday, someday.

14. upstairs bedroom(s) – replace trim. Anuj will do this in 2010.

15. upstairs bedroom(s) – paint. Our painter will do this in 2010.

16. basement bedroom – bed. The room is empty now because of the water damage from all the rain.  My Dad says he’ll show us how to make a french drain in the driveway this summer which should prevent any further damage.  So, no guests, or bed, down there until then.

17. basement bedroom – paint. See #15.

18. all bedrooms – update window treatments (IKEA?).  This is still on the list.  Our windows are the original awkwardly sized from 1975, which makes finding a solution difficult.  I’m either going to follow Anna’s lead and cut the Enje shades, or buy roman shades to size from Target.  There’s no way we’re going custom.

19. water heater – wait for it to die?  replace? Good question.

20.gutters?  repair? Dad fixed this for us this year.  Thanks Dad!  No more water running off the roof onto the side of the house.  Unfortunately, we still need to repair the chipped paint.

21. document improvements more regularly, and more professionally (my photos err on the blurry side)  Yes, we need a better camera.  Anuj has finally come on board to the idea, so we’ll see what 2010 brings.

Wow.  Did I mention that 2009 sucked?  Clearly we didn’t get a lot done.  Though as I’m writing this, I’m reminded of a few small (cheap) projects I completed but never blogged.  Maybe I will.  ‘Cause this feels pretty sad.  I know, we did a lot of entertaining, and hiking, and cooking this year, and that’s all really really good.  But our home is important to me, feeling comfy and happy and inspired inside it.

So I resolve to create more reasonable to-do lists in 2010.  And not publish the lists for all to see, so I can avoid embarrassment this time next year.  I’ll just post the projects as I do them with a big “ta da!” and you can all be impressed.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I discovered two other Columbia county homesteaders last year that I’d like to introduce you to: Ann at A Chicken in Every Granny Cart and Christine at Just off the Taconic.  Take a peek at their upstate/downstate adventures if you have a moment.  2009 hit them hard, too, but that doesn’t take away from their charm.  In fact, I find it slightly comforting to know that we’re not the only ones desperate to turn the page.

2009 was not the best year.  We won’t get into the details, but let’s just say the economy took a direct toll on our household(s).  After many months, things appear to have stabilized, but we’re proceeding with caution.  The passing not only of a calendar year, but an entire decade, helps us feel like we’re really starting afresh.

Before I launch into my list of non-resolutions for 2010, I thought I’d take a brief moment to recount some of the gifts the last decade has brought me.  In no particular order:

1. My graduate school education.

2. The New York debut of two of my full length plays – with pretty sweet casts.

3. My sweet, spirited niece and nephew.

4. Our Harlem apartment with killer party terrace.  It’s a rental they’ll have to drag us out of.

(that was our first summer when we were using the fold-up picnic table my grandmother made.)

5. Two amazing trips to parts of the world I never dreamed I’d visit and now dream of returning to: Japan and South Africa.

(pictures are on the computer that died last year.  someday, we may scrape together the four figures we were quoted to resuscitate it.)

6. Meeting…

…then marrying

my husband Anuj, whom I love stubbornly, dramatically and emphatically.

Update:  Anuj doesn’t understand what loving him ‘stubbornly’ means and wants me to replace it with another word.  Does anyone else understand what I mean by stubbornly or is it confusing?  I stand by the word choice, but will happily add a fourth, more commonly used descriptor of my love: Deeply.  And lest anyone mistake my love as common, I’ll throw the poetic Steadfastly into the mix.  All good?

7. My family that continues to grow through marriages and births.

8. Our first real home and only true escape.

Discovering Columbia and Berkshire county has become an obsession of unmatched pleasure and excitement for both of us.  Our friends and family can attest: we won’t shut up about it.

Now that I’ve just listed the most important people/events/moments of the last decade, I feel less crabby about the past year.  In fact, my lip is quivering and I’m feeling downright sappy.  Perspective, it’s a beautiful thing.

Happy New Year & Decade.

Oh, and as for what’s in store for 2010…I will post soon.  Right now I’d like to ride out this glow.

We finally got some light in our upstairs Jack n’ Jill bathroom.   A Jack n’ Jill, for those of you who may be wondering, is two bathrooms that share a tub/shower.  The tub/shower room is sandwiched between the two bathrooms, and in our case, is separated by pocket doors.  I hope that makes sense.

Moving on.  When we bought the house, the bathrooms looked like this:


Above the mirror, which you can’t see, was a horrible, dressing-room type light fixture.  You know the kind, with the four or five clear bulbs in a row?  When the room was painted, those babies came right down.  This left both the Jack and the Jill rooms without much light for the past year.  So I’ve been searching for the right fixture for the part of the bathroom with the window, let’s call this one Jill.

Jill has a sloped ceiling, which limited the size of the fixture we could get.


But we found it in Pottery Barn’s Mercer Horizontal.   Purchased on Ebay for about thirty dollars less than retail.  So I put Anuj to work.  It was slightly scary watching him handle live wires, but I was very proud of his newfound electrical skills.  He had to replace the light box, cut a circle out of the dry wall to make room for the new ‘pancake box’, shave the new wires, and then match them up to the ones coming out of the wall.  It only required two or three calls to my Dad (prompted by me) along the way.


Our tools – including the pancake box.


My electrician.


And…the finished product.


I know, I know, our camera is sort of terrible.

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