May 22, 2010

The Purples of May - Irises

I took an extra minute this morning to take a few photos of the lovely irises - purple, yellow, white - that surround the country house. I love May in the Northeast - it's the "purple month" to me - all those glorious florals - lilac, iris, rhodadendron, azalea - emerge and remind us that Spring is about bright, rich colors and renewal. So, while I continue painting at the city house (and I finally chose the color to transform the tired aqua/turquoise kitchen - yes, you guessed it -Benjamin Moore's Berkshire Beige again!), enjoy the flowers blooming in the country that greet me every morning...



May 12, 2010

Just a Musical Note

I was saddened to learn of the passing this weekend of the marvelous singer and actress, Lena Horne, at 92.  She was a stunning woman and she was arguably the very first African-American woman to blaze a trail to real show business stardom in an otherwise all-white entertainment business in the U.S. in the mid-20th century.

My dad was a big fan of Ms. Horne's as a singer, so I grew up hearing her voice and seeing her on television appearances in the 1960s, knowing all the while that she was indeed a very special performer.  I have a lot to thank my dad for, especially with respect to influencing the musical tastes that were shaped in my childhood and which I still enjoy.  I've always been a fan of what I call "Great Girl Singers" and Lena Horne was among the first that I saw on television and heard and truly appreciated. 

I'm very sad that we've lost Ms. Horne, but I'm very glad I was introduced to her wonderful talents as a singer and actress as well as an activist for the rights of people of color when I was so young and impressionable.  As an homage to the immense talent that she embodied, I've added a tune by Ms. Horne to my playlist here for you to enjoy and to celebrate her long and well-lived life.  She will be much missed, but she always will be much admired.

May 8, 2010

Adventures in Preparing the Family Home for Sale

Yikes!  It has been a month since I last posted.  Sorry for the huge gap, but, as I mentioned previously, I've been very busy working on getting the family homestead ready for sale.  So far, I've repainted the living room, dining room and open stairway hall (leading to the basement - an original design feature). 

Just before I started painting, a very dear friend of many years - a contractor who has built high-end custom country homes for more than 30 years - had a few days between projects just when I needed him, so he came with his son and colleague and took care of several interior challenges and repairs that were just a bit beyond the limits of my capabilities.  (I do have a few power tools, but I know better than to tackle things that I haven't done before when there is both a time imperative and the prospect of financial return on the line!  When you need first-rate quality, call a first-rate contractor!)

Here's a peek at the painting work in the living room, featuring the newly repainted walls and tongue-and-groove paneling. 

The paneling, which is prevalent in these three areas of the house, was original and had been a pickled natural redwood, so it had a pale beige tone.  It held up well, but after 50 years, there's just no easy way to make it look fresh, clean and crisp, so I made the executive decision to paint it.  That's the sad news, but the good news is that it looks great in its new coat of Benjamin Moore's Berkshire Beige, which is the color I also used on all the window trim and baseboards.  I couldn't be more pleased with the paneling here in the living room, dining room and stairway hall - it is just what the space and these paneled walls needed to look bright and new again, and the color is the perfect complement to the wall color, Moore's "Clay Beige," which I actually chose to complement the trim, not the other way around!  The spaces sparkle again and that's what they need to do to make the house easy to sell. 

I'm not that worried since it's a great house in a great neighborhood (location, location, location!) and I already have interest from potential buyers, but spiffing a house's appearance up as much as possible always helps maximize the sale price.  Repainting tired rooms in soothing, neutral tones is a very cost effective thing to do yourself whenever you can to prepare a house for sale.  Can you tell that, among other things, I've been a realtor?  I've been in some pretty sad looking houses that people have put on the market in my realtor days, so, needless to say my house will sparkle in every way possible before anyone is allowed in the door to see it!

One of the other improvements that I'm making is to replace some very dated appliances.  Fortunately, I stumbled upon an incredible sale last week, so I purchased a double electric wall oven to replace the old one (in that oh-so-fun chocolate brown finish that was so popular in the 1960s) - and the best part was that I got the new ovens at HALF PRICE!  That was such a terrific coup, but the only trade-off is that they won't be delivered (and installed) for another month.  Oh,'ll be well worth the wait.  Then, yesterday, I went to see a stainless steel refrigerator that a local dealer had for half the usual cost of such a popular item - another score!  I happened to see the dealer's listing for this fridge on Craigslist two days ago and I've done business with them in the past, so I knew they were reputable.  Needless to say, I zoomed over to their showroom and bought it on the spot yesterday. 

They'll bring it next week, will take away the old one (yay!) - also in that lovely chocolate brown - and even will replace a switch on the washer I bought from them 20 years ago that was broken when I moved it back here five years ago.  (I haven't used the washer more than 7 years since my subsequent houses already had washers, so this one, while 20 years old and a front-loader, still has plenty of life left when I move it to my next home, or sell it to a friend who is in need of one, along with the dryer - both are in great shape.)

I won't bore you with the gorey details of removing a 500-gallon underground fuel oil tank (unused for several years) and will let the photo below illustrate, but that was one of my home improvement adventures during the past week.  Two young guys and one small backhoe made relatively short work of getting the tank out of the ground (a few hours and out it came), but it left me with some regrading and remedial drainage work to do next to the foundation of the house.  Not unexpected, but not exactly the most fun job on the planet.  Still, a load of mulch for the planter, a layer of lanscape fabric and some nice gravel for the drainage bed between it and the house should remedy that situation.

So, as you can see, I have been going nonstop here at the homestead, but not so much that I haven't enjoyed seeing the arrival of Spring unfold over the past month.  The forsythias were glorious and the lilacs and lily of the valley are now in bloom in the country, and I'm eagerly awaiting the emergence of the irises that surround the east side of that house.  All things considered, life right now is pretty good.