Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's All About the Tree

Our last house had just under 1800 square feet, but it had tons of storage, which translates into a shortage of living space. Honestly, that's the way I'd prefer it, except we like to entertain. We made it work, though, and managed to do a lot of great entertaining in that house.

One of the ways we made the living room work at Christmas was to use a slim, pre-lit tree. It was ideal for the space, and placing it behind the sofa made it the first thing one would see arriving through the front door. We also put nearly all the Christmas decorating focus on the tree.

Now that we have space to spread out, I'd like a big, fat, pre-lit tree but don't want to shell out a lot of money in this economy. I may have to make the skinny tree work this year, and that's okay.

In the past, I've decorated our main tree with lots of shiny, glittery ornaments and beaded garland with the idea that I wanted it to look like it was dripping with jewelry. If we had lots of money and no pets, I'd love a tree covered in Christopher Radko ornaments. I still love that look, but when I look at different options, I get Christmas decorating ADD. Take a look, and see what I mean. I love them all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


This is today's post. There will be no pictures, no decorating and no cooking. I have been a nonprofit professional for most of my career, and I love it. I believe that God put us on this earth to use our strengths and talents to help people. My strengths are in public relations, marketing and fund raising, and I use them for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Cystic fibrosis is a life threatening, genetic disease that affects the respiratory system, as well as the digestive system. The CF Foundation has made tremendous progress with wonderful drugs and treatments to help kids and young adults live longer, healthier lives. Parents who had babies with CF in the early 80's were told their babies might not make it to college. Now many of those same kids are in the early 20's and doing pretty well.

Unfortunately, there are still too many kids and young adults, who succumb to CF, and I hate it. One of our CF patients, a 15-year-old girl, passed away yesterday. To make things even worse, her older sister also has CF, and she's currently in the hospital with an infection and fever. I am beyond heartbroken about this today.

I won't use my blog to solicit for the CF Foundation, other than to say if you ever need a cause to contribute to or volunteer for, you can't go wrong with the CF Foundation.

Tomorrow's post will be about my Thanksgiving tablescape and menu. But for today, I'm going to hug my kids a little tighter and be thankful for my blessings.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Can Do That!

Do you ever browse through catalogs, see great things and think they'd be easy to replicate? I do that all the time. That's why my last garage was so full of future projects. I'm determined to keep this garage less cluttered, but I still get inspired.

I need a piece of art over the fireplace; I just don't know what I want. I do like this piece from Pottery Barn. It's 50" square and costs $399. I'm inclined to buy a piece of plywood, some lathing strips, and a few cans of wood stain. I'm thinking it'd cost about $50 to make this myself.

I've posted this one before, but it just looks so easy to make, in spite of the geometry required. Ballard Designs no longer carries it, so I'm not sure of the price. I see mirrored closet doors for sale all the time on Craigslist. You could buy one for $10-15, and then purchase that stick-on leading stuff from the craft store. I'll bet this could be made for less than $30!

Then there are those expensive desk accessories that are so popular right now. The following ones are from Pottery Barn. Lots of times, you can get free, cheapy chests and nightstands from Craigslist. The following organizer could be made out of a drawer.

I think you could make the following two items out of jewelry boxes. I'll bet you could get them inexpensively at thrift stores.

Bulletin boards can be purchased inexpensively at WalMart. This one's covered in linen. It looks very chic, doesn't it?

Finally, though I've tried to stay away from posting anything Christmas till after Thanksgiving, I do think these pillows would be pretty easy to replicate. WalMart has solid pillows for about $7. Use fusible tape or fabric glue to adhere metallic ribbon to pillow. Surely that'd be cheaper than the $34 price at Pottery Barn.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Color Me Neutral

I like color. I enjoyed decorating my last house in shades of red, mossy green and gold. Like most of the Austin area houses I post pictures of, however, my own Hill Country home seems to beg for warm neutrals. I found this feature in Traditional Home magazine and love all the neutrals.

As with the Comfort house, this house has wonderful buttery yellow cabinets in its galley kitchen. I'm so ready to paint my kitchen cabinets. I don't think I'll paint them buttery yellow, but they'll definitely be lighter than they are now.

Shhhh. Here it? That's the sound of my kitchen cabinets begging for a fresh coat of paint.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Come With Me to Comfort

A lot of people come to the Texas Hill Country specifically to shop for antiques, and they usually go to Fredericksburg, which I've blogged about before. Fredericksburg is a great town, but my favorite Hill Country antique spot is Comfort, about 30 miles W. of Fredericksburg.

One of the best antique shops in Comfort is at Comfort Commons, also a bed and breakfast owned by designers, Jim Lord and Bobby Dent. These two talented men have decorated quite a few Hill Country homes and getaways, and several of those spaces have been featured in magazines and on HGTV over the years.

I was happy to find the following article and photos from Country Living. The bed-and-breakfast was built late in the 1800s, long before the days of central air-conditioning. To combat heat and humidity, renowned architect Alfred Giles (1853-1920) devised double porches in front and back, as well as 20-inch-thick limestone walls. It is precisely these attributes that attracted Jim and Bobby to the former hotel when they spotted it in 1990. "The porches seemed to go on for miles," Jim recalls. Though structurally sound, the interior had been "patched and repatched" over the years. To return it to its earlier grandeur, original details were restored or replaced.

The homeowners' penchant for the warm colors and worn surfaces of painted furniture is evident in the dining room, where c. 1870 Georgia ladder-back chairs with cowhide seats surround an 1880s scrub-top pine table. A pair of 1850s Windsor arrow-back chairs anchor either end of the table.

I love the buttery yellow kitchen cabinets and beadboard ceiling. Even though the granite countertop is a contemporary touch, it doesn't take away from the vintage look and feel of the rest of the kitchen.

I also love this chippy, yellow vitrine.

Have you ever seen such an extensive ironstone pitcher collection? Lord and Dent have displayed it so effectively, too.

One of these days, I'm going to get back over to Comfort and take pics of the outdoor spaces behind Comfort Commons. If you've had a long day of shopping, just steal away back there and rest up a bit.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Home of the Week -- Mount Bonnell

The home of Lance Armstrong, Austin is known for having a variety of outdoor activities. The city is full of cycling, running, kayaking, and canoeing activities, among others. A favorite place for hiking and enjoying the sites is Mount Bonnell.

Not only is Mount Bonnell an outdoorsy site, it's close to Balcones Drive, the street about which I blogged a few weeks ago, and there are houses along Mount Bonnell Road, too. This week's home is one of those along Mount Bonnell Rd.

At just under 6,000 square feet, this estate features five bedrooms, five full baths, two half baths, two living areas, and two dining areas. It sits on a gated lot and offers views of the Texas Hill Country and beautiful Lake Austin.

While I won't say who lives in this house, I did find an interesting article about the couple and the amazing pool they had built after they moved in. The article, believe it or not, appeared in the New York Times back in August, 2007:

Not all over-the-top pool owners, though, set out to build showpieces. When J. and B. M. bought their 5,800-square-foot house outside Austin, Tex., two years ago they planned only to remodel the existing pool. But they were persuaded to go further by their designer, Brent Mowry of Mowry Pools in Austin.

When Mr. M. saw the house for the first time, he said, it was essentially a tear-down. “But when I walked out onto that deck, I thought, ‘Damn, this is a million-dollar view and I need a pool that can keep up.’ ”

The M's ended up spending what they said was a significant chunk of their overall renovation budget — which was a million dollars, as it happens — on a two-story pool connected by a slide and a recirculating waterfall with sweeping staircases on either side. The lines of the pools — the bottom one is 320 square feet and the top one 450 — mimic the shoreline of Lake Austin below. At night, they glow in one or more of the lighting system’s 24 programmable colors.

Mr. M. is somewhat reticent about the interest the pool has attracted from neighbors and others, although he admits it’s been a subject of conversation. “We really wanted a place to hang out with the family, which we got,” he said, along with “something that truly adds to the value of the home.”

His wife, a stay-at-home mother, was more forthcoming. “We got a lot of local publicity about the house and the pool and it was in the local parade of homes,” she said. “I think about 600 people came through to take a look. We can see people driving slow by the house and I know they’re just dying to get in to see both the house and the pool. This is the first summer since the completion so it’s been quite the happening spot.”

“At first it made me nervous — all the people that had seen the house, but it’s a lot of fun to talk about,” she said. “People are really amazed by the before and after. It’s fun to see the look on everyone’s face when they see the pool.”

As with all open house posts, click on pics for larger views.

I really like a lot of the finishes in this house, such as the walls, stained beams and old-looking floors. Did you notice the ceiling in the wine room?

Now that you've read the story about the pool renovation and seen the pics, did the owners get their money's worth?

Oh, by the way, this home is for sale for $3.7 million. Let me get out my checkbook.