Last week’s post about
the way we talk to each other online generated more deep and substantive conversation than I could have ever hoped for. Not only did I feel like I got to know so many of you better, I also got to hear more about what you’d like to see (and not see) from us here at DS. Those comments and heartfelt emails inspired us to do a few things. First, we’re launching two new columns here designed to further embrace — and give visibility to — the ups and downs of creating a home. One will focus on readers’ homes and how we can help each other through tough spots and another will focus on professional designers and how we can learn just as much from their mistakes and challenges as their triumphs. We’re working on interviews now, so stay tuned. And in the meantime, I heard your desire to see a more balanced representation of homes here on the site. We’re currently emailing hundreds of new people in a wide range of places and stages of life, but today I wanted to start with the most personal place of all (for me): our home upstate. I figured that if I want us all to be more comfortable with sharing the good and bad parts of our house online, I should start with my own.
Before I jump into our work so far, the biggest news around
our house is this: Julia and I have decided to move upstate full-time! After almost four months of living here part-time we can’t believe how much happier we are. For me, I don’t think I realized how much living in the city affected me until we left. I breathe more easily. I snap less. I relax more. I take better care of myself and the people (and pets) I love. Living in New York City felt to me like being given the greatest gift with an expiration date. A part of me always knew I would move away at some point, when I was ready to let go of the fear of missing out, the pace, the competition and the “idea” of being at the center of everything. I still think New York is the most exciting and inspiring place to live, but my priorities changed and I know that everything I need is right here at home with me. So today I’m excited to welcome you into our home and share some of the things we’ve been working on so far. These photos aren’t professionally styled, altered or photographed. They’re what I snapped around the house this morning with my phone and represent how we live at home these days. xo, grace
*This post will share photos of downstairs and outside. Stay tuned for a peek upstairs later this week.
Okay, let's start outside. This was the exterior of the house when we first saw it last fall. Shortly after we moved in we got our first snowstorm, so not much has changed here. Except for one small thing...
We added a door knocker! Julia gave me this sweet dog doorbell/knocker and we both think it looks a bit like Hope. We drilled this in and then immediately sealed the door for the whole winter.
One of our biggest investments immediately upon move-in was having a fence built. It's been our shared dream to just be able to open the door and let Hope run around and it was worth every penny. It also keeps Hope safe from any roaming critters outside and some of the area dogs that aren't always on-leash or good with other dogs (pretty common in the country).
This is what it looks like now. It's all starting to melt, but we had a solid three feet of snow in the backyard all winter. Hope dug little paths through the yard that looked like runways.
Let's head inside. This is the mudroom/entryway to the kitchen that we use every day. This was how we found it, with the original owner's furniture (she took this with her).
This is our drop zone for everything, so it's a bit of a mess right now. But we picked up an antique bench from our local affordable antiques hero, Ron Sharkey, to hold books, plants and other odds and ends. I'm planning on refinishing that chair (that currently holds my potting supplies) and finding a new home for that mirror on the right- it just doesn't work there. The colonial piece hanging belonged to my Dad and the lighting is from .
We haven't done much to the other side of the mudroom yet, save for hanging some watercolored pictures of our family (me, Julia and the pets) by and on the walls. I want to wallpaper and paint this space at some point.
This was our kitchen when we moved in. This addition was built 15 years ago, so nothing really needed to change. We decided to buy the table and chairs from the previous owner because they worked so well. She sold the full set for $400, so we took her up on it.
The kitchen, before. The only thing we changed in here was the paint color and we created more open shelving, which is more practical for the way we use the kitchen.
The current kitchen/dining room. We had a banquette bench made (over the heaters, hence the screening) to make the most of the amazing wall of windows. I hired a seamstress to create the striped cushions for the top and found the pillows on Etsy. The light is also from . The lunch sign is an antique piece from Julia's family that we still haven't found the right spot for...TBD.
The only change here from the photos we showed in our
main before & after post of the kitchen
is that I'm looking for a new rug here. My beloved Iranian runner is now upstairs in our hallway. I've always used nice rugs in the kitchen, but now that our kitchen is right next to the entrance to the yard (mud city!), it's just too much to have to deep clean the rug over and over to get the mud out. We don't wear our shoes inside, but Hope tracks mud everywhere now...
This was our den (next to the kitchen) when we moved in. It's a smaller, dark room (original to the 1850s footprint of the house), which we both sort of loved. We knew it would make the perfect cozy TV room.
This is what it looks like now. We tried to paint the beams ourselves but after 2 gallons, a full day and only 1/3 covered, we gave up and hired painters to spray it. Then the walls got a coat of grey paint. We got our dream corner sofa from Lee Sofa and ordered the same rug we use and swear by in Brooklyn, it's a Dash & Albert indoor/outdoor rug. The trunk is Julia's vintage piece, as are both lamps on the right. The small side table was from Julia's Mom's office.
The biggest expense in this room was hiring the same amazing woodworker, , who made our open shelving in the kitchen to create this faux-denza for us. Faux-denzas are one of the main blogging trends I totally give into. They hide cords and clutter and are easy to clean under- must-haves for us. We bought the IKEA cabinets and Jack cut four pieces of walnut for the top and sides. More on that piece later...
Not much has changed in the hallway right now, but we're hoping to paint and spackle this area soon. We did change out the overhead light (it was a boob light) to and we also added a . Then I shoved my favorite tiny twig table in the corner (I found it at Erie Basin in Brooklyn years ago) with a big fern to hide the spackling I need to do.
The pets approve of the new couch situation.
The hallway before. These wood floors in this area need to be redone, but that probably won't be a priority for a few years. For now, we focused on paint.
Max and I worked together to repaint and create a DIY stair runner so Hope could go up the stairs. The fresh paint really lightened things up. I also changed out the light switch and added a cute decoupage egg-print from John Derian's shop. We're going to be hanging a HUGE collection of old egg prints that belonged to Julia's family in the hallway upstairs so I thought this light switch could be a little preview of what was to come.
It's REALLY hard to photograph our tiny downstairs bathroom, but you can see more photos Max took
. The only difference is that I found a vintage mirror to hang, thanks to keen eye. He spotted one at in Kingston and we drove over to snag it- and a tea.
Our downstairs essentially has three living rooms, two of which are original to the 1850s footprint and one that was added probably around the late 1980s. This view looks from the second of the older rooms (the other older room is the one with the painted beams) and the only thing we did here was hire a contractor to open up the doorway so it wasn't so teeny tiny. It made a HUGE difference in how much light both rooms get.
This is the room now. We also painted the ceiling white to try to make it feel a bit taller. The ceilings are very low in here (even for me, at 5 feet tall) and we wanted to try to open it up a bit. We don't have any furniture to put in here, so this room will be empty for the foreseeable future. We hope to turn it into a library/work room down the road.
This is the other entry door in the living room that was added in the 80s. It's also the room that has the fireplace. This door is a hollow interior door, so we went over to in Kingston to snag a heavier exterior door ($100) to replace it. The plan is to paint the door and probably the window trim black or dark grey.
Here's our vintage door find. $100 and all it needs is a coat of glossy black paint. I'm excited because it will let some more light into the room, too. Eventually we'll want a storm glass door in front of this, but that's a while off for now.
Our house was originally listed with a working fireplace, but we found out it was damaged and unsafe to use during inspection. We were lucky to be able to convince the owner to drop the price of the house to cover the renovation, so we did that this winter when it became clear that heating the house with propane would be too expensive in the long run. So we invested in having a wood-burning stove installed. I'll show more of this room soon, but it's part of a bigger project we're doing on the site, so I can't show too much right now. The rug is a vintage Brimfield find and the puzzle is our weekend obsession. (The fireplace will eventually be painted white on the outside and black inside- but we have to wait a month for the mortar to cure).
Last but not least, this is our downstairs laundry/tool room that's between the kitchen and the fireplace room. It was the home's original kitchen/bar (it used to be a guest house) and frankly we just kind of shut the door in here. It's not going to be in our budget to make-over for a while, so we're happy to just use it as-is right now. It also serves as Turk's litter box hiding room, so I'm just thrilled and thankful to not have that in our bedroom anymore.