abandoned quarry

A former sandstone quarry in Colorado Springs, Colorado


a weekend in savannah

My mother and I began a tradition last year on Memorial Day weekend of visiting delightful places that are within a day's drive of Carrboro.  This time our second annual trip brought us to Savannah. 

I expected Savannah to be much like Charleston, but Savannah has a flavor all its own.  The genius of the city's plan, as laid out by Savannah's founder James Oglethorpe in 1733, is based around an orderly arrangement of public squares every few blocks, originally totaling 24, but now down to 22.

And here are some of my favorite scenes from our trip...

One of the public squares:

The individual houses in Savannah are generally close together and the row houses share common walls which means that most have no outdoor space of their own.  The public squares are pocketed so that you're never further than about three blocks away from one of them.  Each square had it's own little landscaping variation or monument to distinguish it, but they all shared giant live oaks dressed in Spanish moss and plenty of benches for relaxing.

Sidewalks from the adjoining blocks often carried directly into the park:

Something my mother and I both remarked on is how the southern historic district reminded us so much of parts of Brooklyn.  Quaint row houses arranged snugly against the sidewalks.

Handsome proportions and color schemes on every corner:

A Southern necessity: charming balconies, called out here in black paint:

Wide sidewalks laid in a herringbone pattern seem utterly civilized:

A grand curving staircase:

Savannah-style palimpsest:

A walled garden in a city seems mysterious and enchanting:

A Moorish take on the double porch:

The tallest Crepe Myrtle I've ever seen:

Savannah struck me as an extremely pleasant place to live.  The aforementioned public squares are a big selling point, and the city felt quiet in its way, but not at all dead or decrepit.  The entire Historic District is only 2.2 square miles, so you can literally walk anywhere, or better yet bike anywhere in a short time.  A major presence is the Savannah College of Art & Design and we saw students carrying portfolios, biking, and working in shops and restaurants all over town.

The most touristy part of town along the river was full of shops selling tacky junk at too-high prices, but even still the buildings themselves exuded the same charm and classic good looks as the rest of Savannah.

But back to the neighborhoods... Yes, I'll take seven foot high windows any day:

Now the only question is: where to next year?


color matters: emergency house call

The brother of a good friend of mine called me up a couple weeks ago with an emergency request for help.  Painters were coming to do the exterior the next day and he hadn't picked out his colors.

Pretty much anything would have been an improvement over this salmon and dark red combo:

BEFORE: the front of the house.
One of the only determinations he had already made was to match the rest of the trim color to his new 3-panel sliding door on the back of house. 

BEFORE: the rear of the house as seen from the back yard.
The neighborhood is filled with similar late 1970s houses characterized by lots of angles, dramatically sloped roof lines and diagonally-laid siding.  Most of the neighbor's houses are painted dark brown or other lackluster colors.  Perhaps the previous owner of this house was going for a Southwestern theme with the dusty rose and red shades, but whatever they were trying for was not helping to improve upon the house's style. 

BEFORE: the front of the house.
The front door of the house is tucked away.

BEFORE: the front door (painting begun).
The homeowner here is a professional musician.  His goals for the new colors were to make the house look more contemporary and up-to-date and generally to have the exterior of the style better reflect his sophisticated style and personality. 

He had tried a couple shades of green and blue for the new color but once up, they were coming out dull or camouflaged with the green landscape.  My first though once I saw the house was to go dark, especially since the trim color was going to be relatively light.  I also wanted the doors to be a punchy color.  I felt that the combo of the dark stain and happy bright colors would instantly modernize the exterior of this 30 year old house.

At my suggestion and after I sent him this rough photo-shopped mock-up, he tried swatches of several darker stains.

Mock-up with dark stain and bright yellow doors.
Initially he was hesitant to go so dark, but once he saw the mock-up, he loved the darker look, but wasn't so much a fan of the bright door colors.

So remember what the house looked like from the backyard before:


It now looks like this:

AFTER: Sherwin Williams Caribou SW3025 on the siding, Naval SW6244 on the doors.
 What a change, right?

The winner for the siding stain was Sherwin Williams Caribou SW3025 from their WoodScapes Exterior Acrylic Solid Color House Stain line.  And the trim was successfully color-matched to the sliding door.  And instead of a bright yellow-gold or spring green accent for the doors like I had first suggested, we found a color that still pops but was more agreeable to the owner in the striking Sherwin Williams Naval SW6244 for the doors.

AFTER: the blooming pink azalea in front softens the angles and adds fun color.
The house looks so much more modern and up-to-date. 

Unfortunately, the old pink scheme was carried out a little too thoroughly in the front with pink stained concrete and pink gravel.  It'd be nice if one day that were changed, too.   But at least now the front steps are painted to match the house and the front door got a coat of navy, too.

AFTER: the new front door color says you've arrived at the home of a modern man.
In the back, the deck was stained Sherwin Williams Spice Chest SW3513 from the DeckScapes Exterior Waterborne Semi-Transparent Deck Stain line.  The orange tone compliments the gray and navy wonderfully.

AFTER: the back deck.
The flagstone patio also compliments the siding stain and tie in with the new deck color.

AFTER: I love the Naval on the doors.

All in all, a total transformation.

AFTER: the rear of the house with plants in bloom!
Really, the best part of the change for me is now seeing the landscaping and greenery all around the house show even better against this house.  What a stylish and welcoming place to spend spring days!


color matters: a good grey makes a space come together

As I reflected here, color is a tricky business.  It took me eight wall paint test colors, but I finally found the right shade for our main level which encompasses the living, dining and kitchen areas.  Behold the new color: Benjamin Moore River Reflections 1552 and the first photos of the living area posted since we moved in last fall.

Benjamin Moore River Reflections 1552
All of the colors I tested before this one became way too blue once they were up in larger swatches.  The rug in the living area has grey, but browner taupe shades of grey and not quite blue.  I don't know why I had such a hard time realizing it, but the brown-toned grey was clearly the solution.

River Reflections instantly updated the style of the house by about 20 years, providing a much better compliment to the exposed rafter ceilings and the dark parquet floors.

To add color, I replaced the back cushions of the sofa with a variety of throw pillows, as inspired by my mother who did the same in her house.  The smattering of color and texture distracts the eye from an otherwise unstylish drab sofa and adds personality and comfort, too.

The white kitchen cabinets, along with the red dining chairs, pop against the new color.

When I rehung our art and prints after repainting, I removed a lot of the pieces altogether and rearranged the rest.  The papier-mâché zebra head made in Haiti relocated to the adjacent wall and the photograph of my grandfather as a boy on horseback and the portrait of my great uncle and aunt as children now make a composition with the vintage oak chair.

On the north wall of the living room, I've been wanting all along to have something large and reflective.  I mulled a wall of antique mirrors, but figured it would be too big an expense and also I didn't really want to be looking at a reflection of myself all the time when I was in the room.  So I quickly threw together a nine-panel art piece with grey Pantone markers on sheets newsprint I had left over from eons ago.  I got the gold frames at AC Moore at 50% off and while I planned for the raindrops to only to be temporary filler, I actually was surprised by how much I like the result and will probably keep the scene up long term.

The new color is infinitely better than the Agave that came before.  So much easier to decorate around.  Fabric colors and wood tones and metallics all play well off the River Reflections.

While I had been in a state of decorating paralysis prior to repainting, I now have quickly been able to bring the room towards a filled-out and cohesive whole.  River Reflections feels calming, but also dynamic.  It has a certain drama to it in that it is fairly saturated and dark, but the color doesn't call out.  Much much improved.


styling the half bath

There's a half bath on the main floor of the house.  It's quite basic with the same almond-colored laminate and dark-stained oak cabinetry that is in the rest of the house (well, was in the rest of the house until we painted over the kitchen and upstairs bath cabinets).

But with a base of Benjamin Moore Iceberg 2122-50 on the walls (same color that's in the library upstairs) and a slightly mod design drawn in gold on the walls, the space is finally come to life. 

We used a similar but simpler technique to create the gold motif, but the inspiration was the same as our Oak Park foyer design.   This time, we used a thinner point water-based gold paint marker (Sharpie brand) and a straight edge and level. 

Last weekend, I built the black frame for the Eux Autres poster and added the gold L-brackets to it for stability and for style. 

And yesterday, I bought this little cut paper folk art piece for 75 cents at a thrift store and painted gold over where the trim had been silver.

Oh, and those little figurines down in the corner next to the mirror?  Those were a gift from a friend who travelled to China and I've always loved them. 

And as the final touch (for now), I sewed a little cafe curtain for the window out of a pinky-red-orange and gold Koi print fabric.

This bathroom still has the same vinyl tile floor that I tore out of the kitchen and when I bought the tile for the kitchen and upstairs bathroom, I also bought enough to redo this bath's floor.  So tiling the floor in here is on the to-do list, but as a low priority since the vinyl is in decent shape and is more or less inoffensive in the scheme of things. 

And even the dated cabinet doesn't bother me much now that there are other colorful elements to distract the eye.  I have a feeling I'll be adding more color and punch to this space in the future as no room is ever done around here.


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