Friday, September 30, 2011

Jewelry for my Dresser

Well technically it's not jewelry, but I swear these knobs are pretty enough to be sold as women's jewelry. This post has been a long time in coming as knobs that were perfect for my dresser really weren't easy to find.

This picture shows how my dresser started off. As you can see in the bottom of the picture, the dresser originally had black iron swirly pulls. They were fine with the dresser when it was just pine, but didn't really stand out enough against the dark gray.

Then, about two weeks ago, I found these knobs at the local Ace Hardware. They were a great price for vintage-looking knobs (only about $3.20 per knob) and the glass work was surprisingly pretty. I was able to find some cheaper knobs at places like Walmart, but the plastic looked so cheap that it really wouldn't have given the splash of class I was going for.

This picture shows the glass part better. I just wasn't sure how I felt about the gold. I didn't think it looked bad per se, but I wasn't in love.

Then the other day I saw these knobs on Pottery Barn's website. I was immediately hooked. So I packed up the Ace knobs and returned them for a full refund and ordered 11 of these knobs (8 for the dresser and 3 for the bedside table drawers). I love the intricate glass details and the chrome finish.

I think the silvery finish is just right and I'm so glad I held out for the perfect knobs. Unfortunately, they were more expensive (which isn't a surprise because I think they look way more expensive). Good news is they weren't the $10 plus that the Restoration Hardware knobs would have cost, bad news is they were just over 7 dollars. However the way I see it, I saved a ton of money by not buying a new dresser and just repainting my old one (actually my mom repainted it for me while I was still in DC) and gorgeous knobs will ensure I will keep this baby for a really long time to come.

When I received the box of knobs, I was on my way out to class, so I haven't put in all of them yet, but I couldn't resist snapping these few pictures to share. This picture shows how the knobs look from a little farther a way. Nice and understated, but up close have tons of detail. Once I get all eleven of them in place, I'll be sure to share pictures!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pantry Re-Do

Ok the title is a major exaggeration. Really, I just made a few small updates. But they did help.

One of the things that is on my "not-so-favorite" list is the storage space in the kitchen. I love that the kitchen has great counter space and opens to the rest of the apartment, but the storage really kind of sucks. This is the best pantry space I could create- and by doing so I took up two whole cabinets. But since I bake and cook a lot, I needed the space. I have some ideas in the works about how to add more space to the kitchen, but I haven't quite decided yet. Anyway, you can see that the pantry is already bulging and I haven't even brought in all of the crazy ingredients that usually reside in my kitchen.

I got this awesome spinning spice rack at Bed Bath and Beyond and I love that it twirls. It really makes the space so much more usable. And of course, the spices are organized alphabetically.

But, unfortunately the shelves aren't high enough to accommodate the spices standing on the top layer (and they can't be moved up). So I have the spices laying on their side. Which works fine for storage, but I can't see the labels (because I'm short).

So, to solve this problem, I bought labels and created individualized labels for each spice bottle. It worked great!

In my efforts to get the baking supplies more organized, I wanted to get some air tight containers. Unfortunately, the only containers big enough to hold a bag of flour didn't fit in my shelves. Since I have counter space to spare, I figured I would get nice pretty canisters. These babies were from Amazon and were only like $36 for all three! So far the quality seems to be really good.

I also love that each one has a different design- subtle enough that they go together well, but not too matchy. Here is the big one.

Here is the little one. This picture is terrible, but basically it's a little olive branch.

Here is the mid-sized one. It has stripes like the big one, but rather than dots, it's more of a branch-like design.

And here is what the left side of the pantry looks like after I removed the three bags. It's still kind of crazy, but it's better!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Place to Write....Thousands and Thousands of Words

I'm usually not much of a desk studier. I'm more of a couch, chair, floor, recliner, you name it type of studier. I absolutely can't read in a desk. But when the next few years are going to be filled with hundreds of pages of papers, I have to adapt accordingly- either than or completely destroy my neck, back and carpel tunnels. So a desk quickly became a to-buy priority. My goal with this apartment was to buy furniture I really loved. I wanted to start collecting pieces that I would keep for years, even decades. I figure I might spend more now, but in the long run I'd save money by not buying several pieces I only feel so-so about.

I found this gorgeous desk at another consignment store in Walnut Creek, Consignment Plus. It has a dark mark where the lamp base is- but other than that, it's perfect. There are three drawers on the left, the large one in the center and then two drawers on the right. The bottom drawer is actually extra deep and has a built in hanging device for files.

I love the detail on the legs.

Here is a close up of the pulls.

Here is a view from farther back. You might not be able to tell from this picture, but this sucker is huge. It's five feet wide. That's a lot of space for notebooks, laptops, keyboards, etc.

Although it was  more expensive than a Craigslist find- I had to do nothing to improve it and it was only a little more expensive than this new desk from Office Max. But mine is vintage and I think way prettier. I hope you agree!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A tool chest for my tootsies

Well technically it's my new coffee table. But originally it was a tool chest from the second half of the 1800's. I really wasn't expecting to find a coffee table like this one- in fact, I was searching for something round and something rustic. I definitely wanted something that had a more warn look to warm up the space. And I was thinking I needed something pretty large because the open space in between the TV and the couch.

My mom and I were browsing through some antique and consignment stores on Friday and I found this beauty at Sundance Antiques in Walnut Creek. This store is full of treasures. It was love at first sight. Although it wasn't really what I expected, I wondered if I could make it work for my coffee table.

Aren't the handles on the side incredible?

Here is the front. I did a little research about these chests and apparently they were never mass made or made in a factory. The only one that exist are handmade and usually lived in garages for years- so they are super rare. Be still my beating heart.

The storage is also pretty fantastic- and one can never have enough of that!

For a coffee table, it's also really practical because the top is nice and rough and loved. I like to say it has "character". But that means it will only get prettier with time. The color in this picture is weird, sorry, it's not at all gray- it's actually a warm honey tone.

This picture shows how it adds some nice warmth to the room.

I think the contrast between the couch and the table is particularly nice.

So in terms of numbers, it was what I like to call an "investment piece". It was expensive. And I'm pretty cheap so it hurt my soul a little. But, I will have this piece of furniture forever. The other coffee table I was looking at was about half the price, but I didn't love it. The way I figure it- if I bought two coffee tables in my life (which, lets be honest, is probably a low estimate) then it would be the same amount as this one and this one will be paid off. I know that the money is worth it in the long term to have something I love. Plus it's crazy sturdy and has small wheels on the bottom so it can be used wherever I need it. I could even use it as a bench or a seat at some point.

I hope you like it as much as I do- let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I had such a productive apartment weekend. I also got to spend lots of quality family time, including attending an olive oil tasting with my mom, seeing a production of the Wizard of Oz with my nieces, and cheering on my niece at her soccer game. Tomorrow, I will start to share some of the amazing furniture I purchased, but until then here are the textiles I purchased. I got both from Pier 1- there are some great sales going on now!

First, I got this throw. It feels like heaven- sort of a mix between a soft rabbit, a chinchilla and the soft side of velvet. I think it was originally priced at $36, but it was 30% off.

This is what the texture looks like on the one side. I was originally concerned that the cream would look weird with the white bookshelves and some of the white walls, but I learned an excellent design lesson. The minute I brought it into my apartment, it immediately warmed up the space. The texture and design of the blanket and the variation of color really added some much needed dimension.

I also bought this small carpet for the kitchen. It's a little more colorful and contemporary than my taste usually runs, but it's perfect for the kitchen and adds some great liveliness.

Here is what the texture looks like up close. The red also goes great with my red cooking accents. Oh and the best part: it was $16.99. Awesome.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Three Bean Pasta e Fagioli

I finally cooked a real meal in my kitchen! I know, it's about time- I haven't had a real recipe on here in ages! I actually made this dish Monday night while watching football and it was quite nice. I think I'll probably make Sunday night, soup and football a tradition from now on.

I found this recipe while watching Rachel Ray. The thing I like about it is how light it is. It's the perfect soup for summer or early fall when you don't want anything too heavy- especially since it takes advantage of in-season green beans. The lemon zest and lemon juice also really help keep the flavor fresh. It is definitely something I will make again!

Three Bean Pasta e Fagioli
from the Food Network

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
3 to 4 ribs celery from the heart, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stems fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans
1 (15-ounce) can chick peas
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1 cup mini pasta with lines or ditalini (I used shells)
1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds on an angle
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Grated Romano cheese, for topping

I started by doing lots of chopping. I cut up the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and then added them to the pot with the olive oil. I cooked all the veggies with two springs of rosemary and a bay leaf for about 7 minutes, or until the veggies were tender.

Then I added both of the cans of beans and the tomato paste and cooked for about another minute, or until the tomato paste was thinned and distributed evenly.

Next, I added the stock and the water and brought it up to a boil. Once the liquid was boiling, I added the pasta and cooked for about five minutes. Then, I reduced the heat to medium-low.

After the pasta had cooked for five minutes, I added the green beans. I let them simmer for about 3 minutes, then turned off the heat. I grated in the lemon zest and squeezed the lemon juice into the pot.

Then I served myself a big bowl of soup, with some Parmesan on top and a yummy wheat roll. It was delicious!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Living Room: Do I or Don't I?

The other day when my godmother was visiting, she suggested an alternative layout for my living room. Today, I was determined to procrastinate from the thousands of pages I have to read for school and I decided to give her suggestion a shot. I never thought it would work, but since I was procrastinating anyway, I didn't much care. I'm still not entirely sold on either layout and so I want your help. Which do you think looks better?

Old Layout
Reading Nook

Corner of couch against the bookshelf

Dining Space

New Layout

Please ignore the mess.

See how badly this space craves a coffee table?

A little squished.

Someone was pissed I was touching his house. He laid on the bottom shelf the entire time I was moving it and wouldn't get off.

I realized after I moved stuff around that I don't have any big pictures of the old layout, so it's a little hard to picture. Of course, if everyone thinks the new layout looks wacky, then I'll move stuff back. But I'm 5' 3" and moving a couch and a recliner by myself isn't exactly simple. 

As far as I can tell, these are the pros and cons of the new v. old layout.

Pros of new layout:
1. My couch isn't in the direct sunlight, so it won't fade and I don't have to worry about covering it with a blanket to prevent fading.
2. The position of the couch is more central and conducive to watching television. Since it's really comfortable (and new), I'd like to use it more and this position definitely makes that possible.
3. I use the living room more than any space in the apartment, so having the best possible layout in here makes sense.
4. The sofa does provide a little separation and definition for the different spaces.
5. I like that the window side of the living room is less visually heavy and it frees up a few of the lower shelves that were semi-blocked by the couch.
6. Winston is obsessed with the new location of his scratchy post/house/tower thing. He lies in the sun for hours and looks out the window.

Cons of the new layout:
1. The dining room is a little more squished. Not totally squished, but just a little. I'm not sure this is a major issue since I don't use the table that often, but when I do entertain for more than 4, I'd need to move the couch.
2. I don't love how central the cat's scratchy post thing is- while he loves it, I don't want it to the be the focal point of the living room.
3. I'd really need to step up my game and get a coffee table/ottoman sooner rather than later. A place for my drink/books/feet is really necessary if I'm spending a lot of time on the couch. Not to mention the room looks weird without it.

It appears that the pros outweigh the cons. But the truth is, if it looks weird, numbers don't matter at all. So, anyway, I need your input! I want your opinions!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Falling for Fall

While I will always be partial to the Christmas season, I love Fall an awful lot. The leaves, colors, cooler weather (in theory, although it's yet to be a reality here), pumpkins, hot cider, start of school, etc. all get me pretty giddy. Despite my excitement, even I think that early September is too early to decorate for Halloween. However, I think I can get away with putting up fall decorations. Here is my plan: do fall decorations now, add a Halloween layer for October, then remove the Halloween stuff and use the fall decorations for November. This plan has three benefits. 1) My fall decorations work twice for me. 2) Adding layers of decorations gives it a well thought out and rich look. 3) They make me smile whenever I walk into the apartment. And frankly even if the first two reasons didn't apply, the third one is all I need.

You already saw the appearance of my candy corns. There are less of them now than in this picture. I can't help it.

At the end of last week, I took a little trip to the local Michael's and went nuts. I was originally only intending to buy these flowers because I thought they would look awesome in my bookshelves.

Not to be arrogant or anything, but I think I was right. I love the pop of color and how they provide a nice balance to some of the smaller things in the shelves. They are technically a fall flower which is why I get to include them in this post. Oh and they are fake. I know that's a little tacky but I can't keep real plants alive and especially from far away, you really can't tell.

While at Michael's, I also got some fall colored leaves and mini pumpkins to make a little display on the tv stand. Yes, that's a baseball game on the tv. I couldn't turn it off to take a picture because then I'd miss a pitch. I think the trick with leaves is to buy the bunches and then tear the bunches apart and arrange them in a more natural way. I used some of the orange ones, some of the red ones and the ones with berries.

My godmother also came into town last week and bought me a few housewarming presents. This beautiful fall towel was one of them.

During the move, my gorgeous cake stand broke. I hate the post office. To replace the one I had, my godmother bought me this one.

The detailing is actually really stunning and it has more character than the one I lost. It has a bubbled look to it in the center.

While at Michael's, I picked up this candle that smells amazing- I think it's a spice something.

I also got these little guys at Michael's, from far away they look kind of like nuts, but are actually tiny little pumpkin things.

While I was putting it together, I had an audience.

While visiting family this weekend, my mom gave me these beautiful blown glass pumpkins. I love that they feel light- not to clonky on the shelf.

Here is how they look in the grand scheme of things. I haven't decided if I like them all in one place or want to spread them out a bit. Any thoughts?

Have you started your fall decorating? Are you a must-get-to-fall or not-yet-done-with-summer type?