About this time last summer, I was neck-deep in our kitchen renovation.  The demo portion of the job started in April and lasted much longer than I anticipated, mostly because I was often working alone (picture me pulling upper cabinets off the wall in the direction of my face!).  When I wasn't worried about knocking my teeth out (again) or dying alone under a pile of 100 lb vintage cabinets, I was really excited to uncover some clues about our home's history.

My first discovery was under the oven cabinet.

A Wally Walrus coloring book with marbles and bouncy balls out the wazoo.  Clearly, children lived here!

The next discovery came while my sister Amy was up helping me get ready to paint and tile.  We spotted two small pictures stuck to the wall behind the counter.

How about those jackets!  We think these are school pictures of the two adorable boys who grew up here.

Circa 2010, but with many original features.

Our house was built sometime in the mid-sixties (we think 1964) by the Jones family.  We are the third owners, but little was changed in the home by the family we purchased it from.

From what I've heard, Mrs. Jones was very instrumental in the design of this house.  For example, she was insistent that the house be situated so that the basement could have a large sliding glass door -- a feature which I love for the light it brings in.  She had an affinity for bright paint colors, which I've discovered in little leftover spots around trim and behind outlet covers. She also seemed to have generally bold, fashion-forward style all the way around.  This picture of our kitchen with its bright turquoise counters (which is not totally representative of what it looked like when we bought it) is a pretty good indication.

I love that she and I share some favorite colors.

Another fun discovery, though not related to our house or the Jones family, came later last summer in a Goodwill purchase for our patio.

My older sister, Jennifer, came up to help me wrap up a couple kitchen projects and update our patio.  She spotted this mid-century piece at Goodwill and suggested I use it for outside storage.  It was the perfect size and in such bad shape that I didn't feel guilty about putting it out in the weather.

While I was prepping it be repainted in black exterior paint, I found this sweet Father's Day note for its previous owner.

I think the signatures read "Dan, Sheree, Damian & Harmony."

I know that the sixties were not all that long ago, but it's still been fun to discover these little reminders of a time gone by.

All of my best wishes to the Jones children and their families, wherever they are these days.

Garage Windows

In the vein of Tuesday's Year in Progress post, here's another exterior-related project that we tackled last fall. For some odd reason, the light in our garage is connected to the switch that controls the light in the stairwell that leads to our basement living spaces.  Consequently, if we're downstairs at night, our garage is lit up like a lantern -- with all of our tools and junk illuminated for the world to see.

The previous owners tackled this issue by tacking polyester lace (one of their favorite fabrics !) and a pink printed textile over the windows.

While I appreciate the thought, it wasn't my favorite solution.

Not only was pink not my color of choice for this application but, after years of use, the fabric had also become stained and dirt filled.

I had seen John & Sherry Petersik of Young House Love tackle a few projects with privacy film (like this and this) and thought it would be a great alternative to all of this pink.  This was for two reasons: 1) I knew it would still provide privacy while allowing more light to enter the garage during the day, and 2) it would provide a more neutral appearance from the street.

We purchased this Gila frosted privacy film and an installation kit from our local Home Depot and got down to business. Removing the old fabric only took about 10 minutes since it was just attached with thumbtacks.  

Once the fabric was removed, the natural light revealed a lot of the dirt on the inside of the door.  I decided to go ahead and spend some time wiping down the inside of the door with some Simple Green and a sponge.

Once I had cleaned all the glass thoroughly with glass cleaner, we were ready to apply the film.  If you're curious about how to apply it, John & Sherry made this helpful video detailing the process (the instructions that came with the film were also pretty straightforward).  Alex helped me cut and apply most of the panels.  It was nice to have two sets of hands since our panels were on the longer side.

In the end, I think that the privacy film accomplished just what I had hoped.  It provides just enough privacy while still helping to keep the garage light and bright during the day.  While it did reveal some flaws in the glass/plexiglass panels on the garage door, I think it was an excellent and very affordable solution.

Doesn't it look so much better?  Between cleaning and application, the project took most of an afternoon.  I think it has a pretty big impact for only taking a few hours.  Quick change projects are good for the soul :).

Remembering Kay

On Friday morning, we lost my beautiful grandmother to Alzheimer's Disease.  She was 95 years old.  I saw her last around Christmas time.  Though I'm sure she could no longer remember my name, she embraced me warmly as she always did, with a hug and kiss on the cheek.  I am thankful that my last words exchanged with her were words of love.

Kay's Engagement Announcement

Kay with her children, Ted, Kathy, Curt, and husband, Henry

I was born ninth in the sequence of Grandma and Grandpa Lind's ten grandchildren (nine granddaughters and one grandson) which meant that most of my experiences with her were during her later years.  Though my sisters and I had the privilege of being geographically closest to her, I often wish that I had more time with her when her mind and body were well.  I've found myself wishing to know more of what she was like as a young girl, about her experiences growing up in Providence, RI, and her time as a young female interior design student at the Rhode Island School of Design.  I wish that I had time to ask her for her shrimp dip recipe (an appetizer staple at all of our holiday meals) and for her to teach me how to watercolor a Beaux Arts rendering (she was an immensely talented artist, a trait that did not go uninherited).

I do cherish the time I got to spend with her shopping in Historic Fredricksburg, swimming at the lake in Locust Grove, and learning to play clock solitaire in her den.  I thank her for teaching me the importance of hospitality and etiquette -- the respect, love, and care inherent in a neatly made bed, a properly set table, a napkin across the lap, and a slowly eaten meal with mouth closed.  I attribute my design sensibilities and good taste to her influence.  I can only hope to mirror her class and dignity, dedication to family, and appreciation for heritage throughout the rest of my life.

Kay (standing in black), with her parents and sisters, Nancy and Avis.

I am so grateful that she is well and at peace now in heaven, watching over our family.  She is missed dearly.

Adventures in Appliance Shopping

Unfortunately, it's very seldom in life that I feel I have the upper hand.  This is especially true in my role as a consumer. I abhor high-pressure sales situations.  Mattress stores, car dealerships, bridal salons, furniture stores -- any place with sales staff that works on commission -- I despise them all.  There's nothing like that feeling of extreme discomfort that comes with the possibility of a salesperson trying to trick you into overpaying for some "big ticket item" for the sake of their commission.  I always leave feeling as though I've been taken advantage of.  The reality is, the house always wins.  Needless to say, I was less than excited to go appliance shopping.

Over the summer, Alex got to move into our new house nearly a month before I did.  About a week after he arrived, he called me to tell me that both our refrigerator and our washing machine were not working properly.

The freezer portion of our side-by-side refrigerator wouldn't freeze anything because the door wouldn't stay shut.  His solution was to stick a box in front of the door to keep it shut but that seemed to trap too much moisture inside, coating the freezer and everything in it in a gross, frosty film.  Add to that, the shelving in the refrigerator side had obviously broken long ago and the sellers had precariously tied them back in with wire.

The washing machine stopped draining all the way after the first couple washes.  Fantastic.  Of course, we were planning to replace most of the major appliances eventually but this was not a cost we had anticipated so soon.  And of course, conveniently, the 1-year home warranty that came with our house covered nothing related to any major appliances, despite the promises of our Realtor.

With Labor Day sales not far away, our plan was to hold out for a few extra weeks.  In the meantime, Alex had to drag all of his laundry to the laundromat and forgo all ice cream and other freezer-bound foods.  Last week the time had finally arrived.  Alex started poring over Consumer Reports, looking for the best of the best refrigerators and washing machines.  I began dreaming of stainless steel refrigerators and beautiful high-efficiency front-loading washer/dryer sets.   Alex started price comparing in preparation for our shopping adventures and made plans, at the recommendation of his oldest brother, to check out scratch and dent appliances at the local Sears Outlet.

A few days before we were set to shop, I discovered that our dryer was much newer than we realized and had to abandon my front-loader dreams.  We decided to search for a high-efficiency top loader that would match the general aesthetic of our dryer.  In terms of refrigerators, we were looking for either a 33" french door or side-by-side stainless steel refrigerator.  Finally, we ventured out.

We headed to the Sears Outlet first, not really sure what to expect.  We pulled up to a large warehouse in the middle of a rundown area and navigated our way into a large room filled with slightly damaged appliances.  After taking one step towards the washing machines, we were approached by an overeager 19-year-old salesgirl.   She seemed nice enough.  We explained our intentions to her and she left us alone to browse for all of 3 minutes before coming back to check on us.  We thanked her and sent her away as we researched various products on my iPhone.  As would any discount store, all of their stickers indicated several hundred dollars worth of savings on each appliance.  In reality, the prices we looked up on my phone revealed in most cases, savings of about $30 on most of the washing machines.

We finally landed on a high-efficiency top loader by Kenmore.  There were two small dents on the side.  The price was $493.93, a savings of over $200.

Next, we moved onto the refrigerators.  Alex had earmarked a 33" French Door refrigerator by Kenmore that had excellent ratings on Consumer Reports.  We were surprised to find two of them in the outlet.  One had a little too much cosmetic damage to live with.  The other had one small scuff at the bottom and one small dent at the top.  Our backup was to purchase a brand new side-by-side somewhere else.  The price is what sold us.  This fridge was much nicer than a side-by-side and the savings were at least $400.  After some browsing, we decided to bite the bullet and get it.

We paid $1907.93, saving us about $400.

Lastly, we were surprised to discover they sold mattresses.  We had been in the market for a queen mattress for our guest room at the request of Alex's parents.  The prices were pretty good and since we were allowed to have up to 4 pieces delivered, we decided to go for it and get a Sealy mattress/box spring set.

The most unusual and frustrating part of the experience came at checkout.  As she rung up all of our purchases, the salesgirl proceeded to tell us how important it was for us to purchase Sears' Major Appliance Protection Plan.  Alex and I had received some warning of this sales pitch prior to checkout and had discussed turning it down because of the prohibitive cost and monetary risk on betting that something would break sooner rather than later.  She explained that for an extra ~$150 for our washer and ~$650 (!!!!) for the refrigerator, we would get 5 years of free service calls, maintenance check-ups, and other supposed perks in the event that something went wrong.  More or less, she was telling us that we would absolutely need this because the appliances they were selling us were sure to break.  I did a mental double take.  Excuse me?  In not so many words, she told us that Sears was selling us pieces of crap.  She told us about how Kenmore doesn't manufacture their own refrigerators and how if the computer in the door shut down, our refrigerator would completely stop functioning, ruining hundreds of dollars worth of food.  Still, we resisted.  Another saleswoman, a sassy older lady who had been observing from the other side of the counter, intervened on behalf of the young salesgirl.  She proceeded to accuse us of being young idiots who were taking an enormous risk by not purchasing this very expensive extra insurance policy.  She told us that she always purchases the protection plan because "she knows things aren't made like they used to be."  Again, I was baffled to have two different salespersons tell me that they were selling us p-o-s products.  I mean, good grief.  Manufacturing has reached an all time low.  Still, the extra expense seemed outrageous -- nearly an extra $800 (eliminating nearly all of our savings for the day!) just in case something happened.  At this point, Alex started to cave.  Having been in these high-pressure situations with him before, I knew that I would have to be the one to hold strong.  I said, politely, once and for all, that we would not be purchasing the protection plan that day.  The sassy older woman walked away, frustrated, and the young salesgirl told us that we still had 14 days to purchase the plan if we changed our minds.  Finally, we paid and walked out.  I started researching the protection plan, finding a mixed bag of answers from people who bought the plan and some that had not.  It sounded like there many people who live by "buyer beware" and others who claimed that it was a huge ripoff on Sears' end.  In the end, we decided to risk it.

Despite the pressure and the threats of failure, I'm proud that we saved some serious cash by shopping at the outlet.  Sears delivered all of our items last week and so far, so good.  The dents aren't too noticeable and it's nice to have some functional appliances (for now!).

Has anyone else had experiences like this shopping for appliances?  Did you buy the protection plan?

Big News

1) New look on the blog!  Streamlined design courtesy of the "Chunk" theme and a new header. 2) The real news: we're moving....again!  To Pittsburgh.  And....we're buying a house!  We can't close until Mid-June but this is the house we have under contract (altered slightly for privacy until it's official):

It's a 1963 split-level.  It's not quite as old as I was hoping for but boy, does it need updating.  My lifelong dream has been to buy an old house and fix it up.  It's hard to believe that it's about to become a reality. We've certainly got our work cut out for us.  It's hard to keep from wasting the days dreaming of all the plans I have for this house.  Here's to many more blog posts to come!

Hello world!

Welcome to circlegdesigns! I'm a young designer based in Charlottesville, VA looking to build my design portfolio.  I'm excited to share my work and inspiration with you.  Please bear with me as I continue to develop this site and my own work. Thanks for visiting!