Saturday, June 29, 2013

Blue Bathroom

In my medicine cabinet makeover post, I hinted that there might be bigger changes in store for the bathroom.  It didn't feel high priority, but I've been toying with the idea of painting the bathroom for awhile since a) the walls are in need of some love, and b) the space is so small (especially since half of each wall is tiled) that I knew it would be a relatively quick update.

After the medicine cabinet project, I decided to bump painting the bathroom up on my to-do list, partially because I'm procrastinating on other bigger projects. I thought a light gray would look nice, but there's already a lot of gray and yellow in the room and I worried it might be a little too much. So I decided to keep it nice and easy and use leftover paint that I already had on hand from the front hallway project (which I used in the nightstand and filing cabinet projects too... what can I say, I love robin's egg blue).

First off, here's what the bathroom looked like the start with (sorry, it's absolutely tiny which makes it hard to photograph):
(the walls look kind of gray in this photo, but they're actually just an old dingy white)

I love this shower curtain, which I got from CB2 a few years ago. Behind the shower curtain guessed it, a shower and tub. There's a window on the outer wall of the shower (which fortunately has a tree directly in front of it so the neighbors can't peep into the shower), which gives some nice natural light in the room even though we typically keep the shower curtain closed just for aesthetics.

Across from the sink is the toilet and the small set of wicker drawers we keep our toiletries in:

And that's it. It's super small, but laid out well so I never have any complaints unless I'm trying to do something unusual like bring in a chair to stand on for painting (so I was cursing its smallness at times during this project, but also praising it because bigger means it takes longer to paint).

It took me about 3 hours to paint all the walls blue (2 coats) and give the door and door frame two fresh coats of white paint. After finishing the blue paint I was very tired (I had to keep the door closed in order to reach everything and so it got really hot in there, plus a lot of the painting involved balancing on the edges of the tub while doing precision painting along the it did require some mild acrobatics), so I contemplated not repainting the door. But frankly it was gross (see Exhibit A, below), and I knew that paint would go a long way.

And here it is, freshly painted! (this series of photos may give me the push I need to invest in a new usual, sorry they're so terrible....)

The exact shade of blue is really hard to capture in photos, but here's a photo of the hallway I took once that capture it decently:
(It looks totally different than the bathroom photos, right? The one of the hall I took with my old camera before it died -- rather than the iphone -- which is one reason I think I just need to suck it up and buy a new camera.)

I need to figure out new artwork or something for the wall behind the toilet (the circle sculpture thing we had hanging there doesn't go with the new color scheme), but that's a challenge for another day. You know I'll let you know what I decide!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sneak peak inside my medicine cabinet

Since I wrote about something as boring as trim + baseboards last, I thought I'd reward letting you look inside my medicine cabinet. For those of you who have already peaked inside it when visiting, you can keep reading too because I've changed things up a little.

Our medicine cabinet is a pretty standard apartment-grade affair -- fairly small, nothing exciting, but not totally horrible either.
(note: in case it's confusing, the colorful circles on the bottom corner aren't on the mirror, it's just a reflection of something we have on the opposite wall...which I'm scheming to replace)

Frankly I don't see inside it too often because we don't keep much of value in there -- most of our stuff is in the cabinet under the sink and in the wicker set of drawers that fits perfectly next to the toilet (just FYI, in case you come visit and want to see where all the interesting things are Q-tips, hair dryer, all the extra toothbrushes and free dental supplies that appear in the apartment by virtue of having a partner who works for a dental school, etc). But I still thought it would be fun to jazz things up a little, just to induce a little smile on those occasions when I do go looking for a band-aid or whatever random other things are in there. It's not exactly organized logically....
So I decided that an easy (easy!) and free (free!) makeover was in the cards. What did I do? I applied decorative contact paper to the back and bottom to add a little interest. As for how I did it, first I cleared everything out, and used it as an opportunity to throw away everything that we didn't need/was an empty container/etc. Then I removed the two glass shelves (which slide right out), and washed them in the sink for good measure. Lastly, I measured and cut some contact paper (which I already had on hand from the tv stand project) and applied it very carefully (making sure to smooth out air bubbles using the edge of a credit card). I did it in two pieces -- one for the back that was slightly longer so that it overflowed onto the bottom a little, and one that fit perfectly on the bottom (which I put on second). The credit card came in handy for making sure the back piece was creased nice and crisply along the bottom back edge, if that makes sense.

Then I put the shelves back in and loaded in all our stuff, trying to make it a little neater than it was previously.

It's still a disorganized, small, dingy, short term medicine cabinet, but at least it's a little prettier now! And did I mention that it was free? And it only took me 15 minutes.
And now I'm thinking maybe we need to get/display some more attractive toiletries. Some Oops! products would look pretty darn snazzy in there....

Anyway, I may have some other, bigger updates for the bathroom planned, so stay tuned! (mostly because I'm trying to keep myself busy while I procrastinate painting the trim in the study (boring) and painting the kitchen (daunting)).

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Four more years?

We renewed our lease this spring, which means we're staying in the apartment for another year at least. It will be our fourth year here, which is a little hard to believe. Every year we casually toy with the idea of relocating (mostly because I love the thought of a new space to start decorating), but whenever we start looking at what else is out there we're reminded of what a gem we have (especially given that the rental market around us seems to be going especially crazy this year). This is the first year our landlord has raised the rent, but it was a very modest increase and he's replacing our old oil furnace with a high efficiency gas heater so I think we may end up saving money in the end.

We always use the lease renewal as a chance to negotiate a few additional perks for ourselves -- our landlord rents the place himself (rather than going through a management company), and we've been good tenants (he always comments on how he loves what we've done with the space when he's here) so I think he's happy to do what he can to keep us. Our standard lease add-on is that we like to keep flexibility in the end date -- we always ask to have the lease written so that we can choose whether it ends August 31 (the original term) or July 31. That way in case we decide to move any given year, we have the option of doing so over the summer as opposed to Sep 1 when the entire city of Boston seems to move (and thus trucks and movers are ridiculously expensive). The deal is that we just have to tell him by the preceding April which we'll want it to be so he can search for new tenants accordingly. Of course so far we have yet to trigger either end date, since we keep renewing. But we always think it's a handy option to have. This year we also asked him to cover the cost of repainting the kitchen if we decide to do that (just supplies, we'll do the work) -- we figured that going into our fourth year, it's a reasonable request to want to freshen things up a bit.

Anyway, in that spirit I've finally been motivating myself to start tackling some maintenance projects that are less exciting but I feel are worth the time since we're going to be here at least another year (and quite possibly longer). The things that probably no one else notices but that I sit on the couch and stare at and obsess over until I finally work up the energy to fix them. Top of the list right now is the chipping and yellowing trim around the doors, windows, baseboards, etc. Actually I can't tell if the trim is yellowing or whether it's supposed to be a cream color, but what I do know is that it's definitely not white and I want it to be white. The decorative trim is one of the things I love about our apartment -- it gives the place more character like the old house it is, rather than cookie cutter. But frankly it's also kind of gross right now.

Like this:
(to be fair, this is after I made things worse by scraping off a bunch of flaking the yellow part at the bottom used to look less terrible, at least from a distance)

Same went for the fireplace in the living room...the things I ignored about this mantle (chipping paint, markings everywhere, etc) must have felt so unloved as I spent my time making curtains and painting furniture. It must hate everything else in the living room except the walls, which are similarly unloved. I'm sorry mantle.

(How could I have ignored this???? By putting a vase on top of the worst parts and also being short enough to not really be able to see the top of the mantle that well. And also just a lot of denial. For those of you who have visited my home, I'm sorry you had to be in the same room as this situation.)

What it looked like as I started putting on the first coat of white paint:
What is that black stuff everywhere? (Note: I thoroughly wiped down the surface before painting, so this is permanent discoloration not dirt.) Where did this horrible filth come from???

Fortunately for everyone's sanity, some simple sanding + wood filler to cover the worst holes + two coats of paint solved everything:

Before                                                             After
(If you can't see the difference, just humor me and pretend you can)

Of course, painting the mantle just made it even more obvious how much the rest of the living room trim needed to be painted. So I did just that.
     Painted mantle + original trim                    Painted mantle + painted trim

Of course, now it's abundantly clear that I need to continue my trim-painting spree in the study, since the trim in there now looks even dingier than before compared to the pristine white living room trim.
   Dingy trim in study ^                  ^ White trim in living room

Also as Sam pointed out (just to goad me): now the living room walls look terrible. Joke's on him, as I informed him that he was right and we will just have to paint the living room walls now.

I'll close with a question to ponder (as my Strategy professor this past semester would say, "the question to think about in the bath" (read with British accent)): am I a terrible person for not painting the trim that's hidden behind couches and curtains? For instance, I didn't paint any of the trim on the three windows along the outer living room wall, since they're entirely hidden by curtains. Basically what this means is that I'm leaving the future tenants to deal with this issue -- since when all our furniture and curtains are gone, suddenly there will be huge patches of cream-colored trim. I'm going to tell myself that the landlord should completely repaint when we move anyway since it will have been so long since he did so, but feel free to let me know if this is a decision of questionable morality. If so, you can come help me paint the rest of the trim.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Pamper yourself (or someone else)

I know it's been awhile, and frankly I've been feeling guilty because I've had some free time on my hands but I just haven't had any projects I've been inspired to work on. There are some bigger projects on my to-do list (paint kitchen, paint bathroom), but I haven't yet mustered the courage to tackle those. In the meantime, I realized there was a DIY project I did this winter that I never posted about: making my own lotion, lip balm, and bath salts.

For Christmas, Sam gave me a bunch of craft books -- he knows how to make me happy. One of them had a section about homemade bath products, and I decided to give some of them a try. I wanted to send something to Sam's mom to thank her for hosting us over the holidays, and also to their family friend who was there over Christmas and gave us some very generous and thoughtful gifts.

All three of them were relatively straightforward. Here's what I did for each:

Lemon lip shine:

2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 tablespoon grated paraffin wax (you may need to grate it yourself, in which case you can use a cheese grater)
10 drops lemon oil
Small containers (I got mine at a local natural health store, which sells empty lip balm tins for making your own)
Label (optional) (I bought some patterned labels at Michaels for all three products, then hand wrote on them -- see photos at end)

Combine all ingredients in the bowl. Microwave until everything is melted (~30-60 seconds). Poor the mixture into the tins, and wait for it to cool to room temperature. It will harden into a lip balm texture as it cools.

Olive oil body lotion:

1 cup unscented body lotion (yes, this recipe involves starting with actual lotion, which is kind of cheating, but it's good for beginners like me)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Lemon oil
Container (I used a small glass jar)
Label (optional)

Mix the lotion, olive oil, and lemon oil together vigorously, add to your containers. Yes, it's really straightforward and basically just involves dressing up existing lotion, but the olive oil makes your skin so soft (I kept some for myself and love it).

Bath salts

2 pounds Epsom salt or bath chrystals (I just got white bath chrystals at Michaels)
20 drops lemon oil (you can use different oils for scenting any of these -- like lavender and peppermint -- but I used lemon oil for all of them since the oils can be kind of pricey and I wanted to keep things simple)
5 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 bar unused body soap (I used some homemade goat milk anise and orange soap that my mom gave me from a local Farmers' Market in Middlebury, VT)
Food coloring if you want it to be colorful (I used green and blue to make a turquoise color, surprise surprise)
Cheese grater
Large mixing bowl
Container (I used a medium glass jar)
Label (optional)

Finely grate your soap. In the bowl, combine the bath chrystals/Epsom salt, lemon oil, and olive oil. Add food coloring as desired. Mix in grated soap. Pour into containers.

Here are all the ingredients laid out:

And here's what I ended with after I'd finished making everything and writing the labels (this is just one complete set, but I made a second one at the same time):

All told it probably took me about 30 minutes, and was a lot of fun. I highly recommend giving homemade bath products a try if you're interested in an easy and satisfying DIY project!