Archives for March 2012

Choosing art for your home

When I was 19 my sister and I took a trip to Europe {compliments of Mom & Dad} to celebrate her college graduation. It was January & rainy & she is a true art lover (while other girls were doing their nails, she was digging into gigantic ancient art history tomes). So, we spent much of our time looking at art. I was out of shape and in a bad mood about spending hours trecking to and from art museums, and didn’t appreciate my knowledgeable, personal tour guide adequately…But now, 14 years later, the thing that stands out most in my mind from the trip were a few works of art that really moved me (both at the Musée d’Orsay). The first was this gorgeous piece, The Floor Scrapers, by Gustave Caillebotte:

The next was the only piece I actually looked forward to seeing because I had already fallen in love with the beautiful work, The Angelus, by Jean-François Millet (his painting the gleaners is also breath-taking). Seeing it in person did not disappoint. It is a stunning, serene painting:

I think there is a glimmer of the magnificence of God in truly great Art. That is the allure of seeing these gorgeous works in person. However, we can’t all own these, so we must settle for more earth-bound art that pleases us and gives us daily satisfaction to look at.

Art taste is one of the totally unpredictable things about a person. You can’t look at someone and guess what kind of art they would like, you can’t even always look at their home and guess. It is such an individual thing – because art that can “speak” to some people, is something another would walk by without notice. I’m not really sure how tastes are shaped, it’s just so individual. That being said, we are living in a super accessible time for every taste in art, primarily due to the etsy craze. Lots of art is still out of reach, and some people don’t love any art enough to spend real money on it. My sister, on the other hand, has made it her only investment. She has good taste and can spot trends (has since we were tiny, really) but mostly she just buys what she loves. Not Sotheby’s material, sometimes Saturday market finds, lots from etsy. It may never be worth anything, but she will have a lifetime of enjoyment out of it nonetheless.

My art taste is all over the map (as you will see), but I always know it when I see it. The first piece of art we bought was something we saw in a coffee shop exhibition in our neighborhood. It is by the artist Nat Meade. The truth is what we loved was a little painting of cumquats, but it was already sold. So, for my birthday my husband surprised me and bought a different still-life by him, that we have loved ever since. It has some oddly shaped avocado/nose suck bulb item that we have never been able to identify, which makes for a conversation piece:

We bought these sweet prints (over the crib – for a better look click on the link) by marisa at creative thursday for our daughter’s nursery. She has so many adorable & affordable prints:

Here are some more favorite artists and pieces we hope to own someday (if you follow the links you will get to some great sites to browse and discover what speaks to you):

In the depths, by Lisa Golightly

The Road, by Daniel Robinson

{love, love, love his work + he lives and works in Oregon & paints many places my family has lived}

Book of poems, by Anna Magruder

Bison Buffalo, Lucy Snowe Photography

{I have had a mild obsession for years with finding a close-up of a Buffalo in black & white. The one I dream of is so close that it is just a head shot and it’s taken on a cold day so you can see the Buffalo’s breath – this is the closest I’ve come, &  it is stunning. I may give up on the one in my head and buy this one}

I also love her photo entitled Ewe in the Fog:


Blue Door New Orleans Number 1, Lesha

time to plant your garden

Time to plant your garden…only problem is (as you know, if you’ve been reading) we are homeless, which means garden-less. The location we are currently residing in gets much of it’s beauty from loads of large, shady trees. Which means I can’t even plant a make-shift container garden. March in Oregon basically means rain (snow the last few days, strangely enough), which could be a downer, except if you are a gardener.

Here is the upside to all the rain (I am hoping to convert a few non-gardeners):

1. It keeps the soil really easy to work with

2. It gets me outside during a time of year that I normally would stay in all day.

3. Once outside, I realize how pleasant it is to be outside in the March rain.

4. The rain keeps you cool when you really get into the pitch-fork motion and start to get all sweaty.

5. Your kids will love it – rain or shine (give them their own little section and some seeds & let them have at it).

Since I probably will not be moved in time for a garden this summer, I am soothing myself by looking at our old garden & daydreaming about some new ideas for our next garden. Here are some pictures of our backyard, which was made up almost entirely of weeds when we bought the house (not the good kind with worms and such). This is the summer we moved in:

Husband building boxes and laying cover for the rock (this took a lot of math to get the angles right so the tops would be level, lucky for me my husband is meticulous about these sort of things):

This is the first summer of planting (that’s me in a sweet hat my mom got me at a yard sale, that is perfect for face sun-coverage). I adore the process of seeing the fruits of my labor unfold in neat little rows of beautiful food (not to mention the eating):

Each raised bed usually sees 2-3 different crops each season (or replanting of the same crop) & the perimeter bed is reserved for longer growing periods (like winter squash) & perennials (like raspberries) & things that climb (like beans).

some beans waiting to be pickled & some carrots waiting to be roasted:

Let’s face it, I could scour the internet or my favorite pinterest boards for hours looking for the perfect garden inspiration OR, I could just look at Martha Stewart’s AMAZING garden and start the daydreaming right there.  Some people like a free-form, here there and everywhere appeal to their gardens, with surprises and such. Not us, we like order (pretty much everywhere around the house, the garden being no exception). My husband and I both love having things tidy & organized. Martha’s garden takes this idea to a whole new level – It is a thing of beauty (just try not to be inspired):

you can find the full tour (& truly helpful garden information) here.

Hope you have been inspired to get outside, get a little wet & put your first seeds of the season in the ground. You won’t be sorry!

details matter

I recently went with my husband to help one of his clients choose paint colors for her home, prior to putting it on the market. As we were leaving she threw in “hey do you think it would be worth it to change out the house number & mail slot?” (picture old, boring font, brass numbers screwed to the siding and a matching mail slot). The answer to this question is always YESSSSSSS! Of course. Especially when you have a $500k+ house that you’ve spent oodles of money on (and are even having the whole exterior painted). Don’t fall short of the finish line, the details make the house.

A few years ago we bought an enormous project of a house, in a really great neighborhood. I took my sales partner (at the time) over to the house and he looked it over and said, “that house looks like a bag lady!” He was right. BUT, it had a pretty lot, in a great location and potential (turns out by the time we finished the project we spent so much money we could have ripped it down and rebuilt it – oh well, live and learn).  It also, unfortunately, had cedar siding. There is nothing wrong with unpainted or stained cedar siding weathering to a soothing grey at the beach, but other applications tend to never quite look clean and finished. It’s all those darn grooves. That being said, we did the best we could and painted it a super dark brown to try and make it look it’s very best. We think it turned out nice – I think that was in large part due to the choice of details (porch light, good front door, house numbers, mail box). Here are the before and after shots (the before one is pretty poor quality, which makes it look kind of charming english cottage – trust me, it was much more cobwebby ‘Wuthering Heights’):

front door after

It is true that to get nice finishing touches you may have to spend a few bucks, but it makes a big impact. I put together a few collections that would look nice together:

{  mail box – Umbra, numbers – Seattle Lux, light – Geoform }

{ light – Kirkham, mail box – Waterglass Studios, numbers – Hamilton Sinkler }

{ numbers – Atlas, light – John Timberland, mail box – Ecco }

{ light – Bellacor, numbers – Ecco, mail box – Ecco }

My personal favorite would be a splurge at $275 but you get 2 for 1, with the combined house numbers & mailbox ( by Austin Outdoor Studio):

Hope this gets you inspired about sprucing up the front of your house. There are SOOOO many options I may follow-up with a second post on this theme.

new construction – So good, or SOOOO bad

I used to work for a very large home-builder. In fact, they often have “#1 home-builder” on their sign. Which, I can say from first hand knowledge must mean that it is simply the largest builder & not anything as lofty or admirable as being chosen from a peer review group as being somehow #1 at anything other than mass production. Which, when I think about it, really means nothing to someone buying the house and actually in my opinion has negative implications like, a. we’ve so streamlined the home building process that there is no charm or thoughtfulness in our homes or b. we take no consideration of what an individual actually wants in the home, we are just trying to make as much margin as possible on the sale (I don’t fault a builder who does this, since it is the business they are in- I just don’t particularly want to own one of there homes). I think a real statement for a home-builder would be “local & meticulous home-builder”. Probably not that catchy.Anyway, I was driving by a neighborhood today that was developed by my former employer and noticing something that has driven me absolutely nuts about mass-produced neighborhoods forever. They have a facade to them, as though they are a set for a play. The front of the home gets masonry accents (usually poorly conceived) and trim around the windows – sometimes they get shutters or other decorative accents. What do the other 3-sides get? Nothing but siding. Not even trim around the windows for crying-out-loud! And it’s not as though the other 3-sides are hidden, considering the hallmark of these types of neighborhoods is typically barren landscapes or tiny seedlings of trees (which are often poorly placed and will need to be removed by the time they are big enough to be lovely and shady). I can almost instantly write-off a construction project as something I will like if I drive-up and there is only window trim on the front of the house!

On the other hand, these projects stand in stark contrast to a new home that has been lovingly considered and executed. You know these homes when you see them. Here are just a few examples:

My husband and I were walking in NW Portland years back and stumbled upon this little in-fill development (Jake’s Run – developed by Nick Stearns of Salient Properties) that I just couldn’t get over- it is so lovely! And it will stand the test of time (it already has, at over 10 years old. Think about most new construction from 10 years ago, already outdated, like a wedding dress):

These next homes are from the prolific architect Ross Chapin. I fell in love with his tiny houses years ago & he has gone on to create beautiful houses of all sizes. A few years ago we stumbled on a mixed development of his tiny cottages and full-sized homes in White Salmon, WA. As soon as we drove by them (& then got out and poked our head into all the windows) I freaked out, yelling at my husband that they had to be Ross Chapin Plans. I recognized his attention to every detail and sweet elevations (that is the fancy term for the way the front of a home looks). For more of his fabulous work check out

In beautiful Bend, Oregon there are 2 new construction projects that have been developed in the last decade that are note-worthy. Actually the entire town is note-worthy, but I’ll save that for another post…First, is a town home project in the Mill Quarter (where an Old Mill was converted to a fabulous shopping/living/events hub). Again, we drove by this when it was being developed and had to go inside (we can’t help it – there is a reason we both got into real estate) so we wrangled a sweet, local agent into giving us a tour. In this case, the exterior far out-wowed the interior details…But really the majority of the world will only ever experience the outside and the developer really out-did themselves when they planned these gorgeous homes (one that we saw even had an amazing roof-top deck).

Lastly, Here is a home in Northwest Crossing. A new neighborhood (also in Bend) that has somehow captured the charm of a long-established neighborhood. Again, I think the thoughtfulness of the architecture (much of which is from the Bend based Bungalow Company) will stand the test of time.

I hope you are inspired that new construction can be done really, really well. I am!

p.s. ANY home is a blessing, whether or not it has trim around the windows on all 4 sides – I get it.n