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Month: January, 2013

How to make an Entrance… Part II (A Bench to Build a Dream On)

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Our sweet bench in its new home.

Two days ago I posted an entry about the nitty-gritty and how-to details of creating the entryway of my home.  In truth, there is an entirely other (and much more interesting) story to the evolution of that particular space.

That story begins with a quest.  A quest for a bench.  A bench that needed to be no wider than 40″.  I knew that once I found the proper bench that the rest of the project would come easily.  The bench would serve as the anchor piece, the roots of the area but I had no idea that finding the perfect bench would take me nearly 18 months.

My immediate thought was to purchase the classic Nelson Bench from DWR.  Unfortunately, this little gem doesn’t come any smaller than a 48″ size.  I scoured the internet:  Pottery Barn, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, CB2, Room and Board, Restoration Hardware, Serena and Lily, but there just wasn’t anything original or all that interesting about the pieces I was finding in the usual places.  Also, did I mention 40″ is definitely NOT a standard size when it comes to benches.

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Nelson Platform Bench from DWR.

I toyed with putting a single stool next to a larger basket.  This way,  at least one person would be able to sit down and the larger basket could serve as a shoe receptacle.  However, in the long run I realized that a bench is just a more family friendly, warmer, welcoming piece of furniture than a single stool.

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West Elm Curved Storage Basket and Moller Model 80A Stool from DWR .

I went in circles for about 6 months with fruitless internet searches.  Then, one day while standing in my brother-in-law’s kitchen I saw this image…

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…and I fell deeply and madly in love.  Everything about this image appeals to me; beautiful, modern, brightly colored fabrics juxtaposed against the classic lines of a curved-back, antique sofa…it really did take my breath away.  Not to mention the incredibly clever name, Chairloom.  Brilliant.  “What’s up with this?”, I asked my brother-in-law.  He replied that a dear, old friend that both he and my husband had attended high school with had started this re-upholstery company.  Her name was Molly Andrews and she was living in Philadelphia.  I surreptitiously entered the names “Chairloom” and “Molly Andrews” into the Notes section of my iPhone.  Not that I would have ever forgotten them… that image was seared into my brain.

A quick google search found Chairloom‘s website and then a little digging on Facebook revealed a Chairloom fan page.  I discovered the following statement on the their website, “Once was lost, now is found.  At Chairloom, there are two guiding principles behind our work.  One: The value of being found.  We cherish the good bones beneath torn, faded or otherwise timeworn fabric.  Two: The importance of second chances.  Life is all about second chances and there is always the hope of being found when we are lost.”  Now I was not only drawn to that initial image, I was moved by their mission.  I learned the exact services that Chairloom was offering: fabric consultations, full service re-upholstery, vintage and antique furniture sales and refinishing, customization and repair.  Combine all of those together and you get a vintage or antique piece of furniture, repaired, refinished and reupholstered in a fabulous, current fabric.  Yes!  This would take care of the originality I was looking for and the customization that I needed.

One day while visiting the Chairloom website (something I did with ridiculous frequency), I discovered a link to something called the “magalogue”.  Intrigued, I clicked through and was viewing a gorgeous spread of before and after photos of refinished and reupholstered furniture, gift guides, amazing photos of fabric samples and a few pieces of vintage furniture for sale.  I also learned that Molly had teamed up with Tracy Jenkins of Super Rural to form a new entity known as Co-Lab.

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Cover of the first Co-Lab. magalogue… Photo by Steve Belkowitz. Click on photo to view all 3 Co-Lab. magalogues.

It was within that first Co-Lab magalogue that I came across the following photo:

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Rosewood Bench… photo by Steve Belkowitz. Taken from Co-Lab. magalogue, Holiday 2011 (page 35)

The description next to the photo told me it was a 39″ wide bench.  It would fit!  Immediately, I thought I had found my bench.  I composed an email to Molly, introducing myself and inquiring about purchasing that bench.  I mentioned that I was looking for a piece for an entryway and that it needed to have space underneath for shoe storage.  Molly wrote back the next day to tell me the bench was available and she was happy to set it aside for me but that she might have something she was working on that would be a better fit.

My mind continually drifted back to that rosewood bench pictured above but something about it didn’t feel exactly right.  It just seemed a bit too “heavy” for our small space.  A few weeks later I had an email from Molly with details about a new, custom bench she and her partner Tracy were creating through their collaborative project, Co-Lab.  The bench was being called a “This Century Modern Bench” and was completely customizable.  Again…YES!

I was thrilled. I sent Molly a few pictures of our living room, including photos of the other upholstered pieces in the room and she emailed me links to fabric websites for me to check out.  I lingered on the websites of Caitlin Wilson, Studio Bon, Michael Devine and Katherine Rally.  However,  I kept thinking back to the very first time I visited the Chairloom website.   The first fully reupholstered piece I came across on the site was done in a Hable Construction fabric called “Checker”.  It stuck with me and even as I swooned over all the other fabric choices,  I kept coming back to Hable.  I narrowed down my choices, then Molly sent swatches to me out in California.  The minute I saw the Hable Construction “Chocolate Checker” fabric, I knew we had a winner.

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Hable Construction Chocolate Checker fabric.

The rest, as they say is history and we became the first owners of the Co-Lab. Custom This Century Modern bench.

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Photos of our bench in the Chairloom showroom in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. (photos taken from the Chairloom website) Please note the amazing stenciled floor in their showroom.

The final dimensions for our bench were 40″W x 19″H x 18″D.  We used cherry legs and Hable Construction Chocolate Checker fabric.  It was easily transported from Pennsylvania to California since the legs simply unscrew making for a flat and easy-to-ship package.

Simple. Custom. Original. Perfect.

Check out all the other offerings from Co-Lab. Custom.

Whatever the weather.

As I gazed out my front door yesterday, I couldn’t help grabbing my camera to snap a few shots of these beautiful blossoms on one of our Manzanita bushes.  The bees were feeding on the tiny bell-shaped flowers and it felt like spring was just around the corner.

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Blooming Manzanita.

And then, last night I was lulled to sleep by the gentle pitter-patter of raindrops on my roof and awoke to an equally lovely image out my front door.

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I love when my neighbor’s vintage, orange VW Thing is parked in front of our house.

How to make an Entrance… (Part I)

I thought I’d share my latest home improvement project that has definitely been putting a smile on my face; our new and improved “entryway”.  In reality, there is no entryway to my home.  There is; however, a 3’6″ square area that I knew could serve as a more useful space than simply housing this bookshelf.

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Before.

Below, are the steps I took to transform a dysfunctional corner into a more practical and usable space for my family.

Step 1 (create a blank canvas):

Unwilling to go through the process of precisely matching the wall paint in the room, I decided to paint the back wall a shade lighter. I took a trip to the local paint store (if you are in the Santa Monica or Culver City area I highly recommend Cox Paint) and grabbed a handful of paint swatches.  Very simply, I taped them to the wall and would look at them as the light changed throughout the next couple of days.  I finally settled on a color that was just a touch lighter than the original wall paint.  Very carefully, I taped out the edges of the wall.  After 2 coats of primer (the paint store recommended I use a primer tinted the same color as the paint I had chosen) and then 2 more coats of the actual paint, I had a cleanly painted wall.

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The Blank Canvas.

Step 2 (stripe preparation):

I waited 4 days until I could proceed to step 2… taping out the area for the center stripe.  I read this blog entry about painting stripes and I followed her advice and used FrogTape to create the boundaries for the stripe.  I measured and re-measured the width of the wall and finally decided on a width of stripe that wouldn’t be too narrow but that would also allow for the color to be seen once coats were hung over it.  As a side note, my wall is 46″ wide.  I decided on a 16″ stripe which meant I would have 15″ of the base paint on either side.  I borrowed a friend’s inexpensive laser level to tape out the edges of the stripe.  The area is so small and would be seen close up so it was important that I create a crisp and perfectly perpendicular stripe.  A laser level is incredibly simple to use…. I measured 15″ from the left side of the wall, pinned the level to the bottom edge and shot a perfectly straight laser light up the back wall.  Meticulously, I taped a straight line of Frog Tape along the edge of the laser light beam and then repeated the process on the other side.  After I laid the tape down, I went over the edges with the side of a credit card to ensure a very tight seal.  Next, using the base wall paint I further sealed the inside edges of tape.  This step is the key… if any of this paint happens to bleed under the tape, it doesn’t matter because it matches your wall color.  Brilliant!  So, using a narrow brush I painted 2 coats of the base paint “sealant” over the inside edges of the tape.  Then I waited another day to let it dry.

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FrogTaped and sealed stripe.

Step 3 (color):

This was the fun part.  Grabbing a small roller I painted the red paint in between and slightly over the edges of the tape…it ended up taking nearly 4 coats to get the deep color I desired.  Then, I waited again about 2 hours before removing the tape.  Truth be told, we were all a bit freaked out by the giant red stripe.

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Color!

Step 4 (hooks):

I had originally planned to use reclaimed wood boards with coat hooks attached to create the part of the wall that needed to provide the hanging area for coats, scarfs, hats, bags etc…  I even went as far as ordering 2 beautiful boards from an Etsy seller but once I received the boards I realized it was going to be too much to have 2 chunky boards intersecting the stripe, so I decided to just hang the hooks directly on the wall.  I needed 2 rows of hooks, a top row to accommodate my husband and myself and then a lower row where Mack (age 4) could easily hang up his own stuff.   Spending time figuring out the height and spacing of the hooks was a bit nerve-wracking.  I made each family practice hanging coats before I drilled into the wall to determine the proper height.  The bottom row of hooks had to be high enough that Mack’s coats for the next couple of years wouldn’t spill onto the bench and yet low enough for him to reach them.  Raincoats and winter coats tend to be bulky so I had to be careful not to hang the hooks too close together.  I ended up with 4 double hooks along the top row and then offset 3 single hooks along the bottom.   Lots to think about before I started drilling holes but the last thing I wanted was to have to repatch and repaint the wall because I hadn’t thoroughly thought through the placement of each piece.  I took my hooks to a local hardware store where they helped me pick out the proper wall anchors (our wall is drywall and anchors are a necessity).  Again I used the trusty laser level.  This time I used it to create a horizontal line for the bottom row of hooks and then again for the top row.  Using a pencil I lightly drew over the laser line and then I knew my hooks would all line up properly.  I used a yard stick to measure out the predetermined, proper horizontal spacing for each row.  Then using a power drill (outfitted with the correct drill bit, also purchased at my local hardware store) I drilled the holes and installed each of the anchors and hooks.

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Hooked up.

Step 5 (photo ledge):

The beauty of the wall that I used for this project is its 9′ height.  I think I began to dislike the pre-existing bookcase in this particular spot because it only went about 2/3 of the way up the wall.  The stripe really highlighted the height of the wall and then adding a picture ledge made great use of the space above the hooks.  I found a photo ledge that matched the brushed aluminum finishing on the hooks so it seemed like a natural fit.  Following the pre-made template inside of the photo ledge was simple and only involved drilling a few holes, inserting anchors and then “hanging” the ledge.

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Almost finished.

Step 6 (adding the details):

To finish off the area, I added a framed photo and a couple of pieces of artwork to the photo ledge, a custom bench (stay tuned for Part II- “A Bench to Build a Dream On”) and I threw in a basket under the bench for shoe storage.

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Entryway Details.

Completion:

Once everything was up and the coats were hung the stripe didn’t appear so ever-present in the room.  I’ve been thrilled with how this simple update has totally altered and improved our living space.  What do you think?

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After.

Sources:
Base Paint for Back Wall: Benjamin Moore, Windswept
Stripe Paint: Benjamin Moore, Vermilion
Small Single Hooks: Rejuvenation: Classic Single Coat Hook in Brushed Nickel
Double Hooks: Rejuvenation: Classic Double Coat Hook in Brushed Nickel
Photo Ledge: West Elm: 3′ Metal Picture Ledge
Bench: Co-Lab.Custom: This Century Modern Bench
Basket: Pottery Barn: Savannah Large Utility Basket