Dec 27, 2012

Post Christmas

H and I have forever been fans of the immediate post Christmas take down.  Barely unwrapped presents and we're packing up the Christmas village and roof racking the Christmas tree.  This year has been different. It's what, now the 27th? and there's nary a 'xmas box 1 of 9' in sight. Maybe it's the first white Christmas we've had here...

Hoar?? frost.  (ha.)
Perhaps celebration that the Mayan's were wrong?  Maybe that the girls were complete angels (until the day after Christmas when they stole my bag of Hershey's kisses, ate them all and hid the wrappers (poorly) behind the bar in the basement); no matter.  It has been a holiday of pure bliss, family, friends, love and some absolutely perfect moments.

Baking sugar cookies with electric blue icing. These were gone well before Christmas.  

Christmas tree cutting in the mountains. 

Deciding where to cut the trees.  Young ones were creeping 'snow cheetahs'. Made for some glacial tree hunting.   
Success!!  Sort of. (We're in the prairies - this became a room tree)



New Friends. 

Christmas fire. (It was -25 Christmas day - you're on your own, buddy)
Joy. (Christmas dinner with friends and fancy bourbon drinks)

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season...


Dec 2, 2012

An Ode to the Bungalow

A feature on CBC radio I was interviewed for last month. I'm always reticent to post radio interviews.  I swear I don't know what to do with my hands.  

A Calgary Bungalow 'After' 



Nov 24, 2012

Ebay Finds

I always forget about Ebay.  These are some of my covets... 

It's a Kangaroo. Wine. Holder. 

Serge Mouille Flytrap Floor Lamp

Groovy Alarm Clock

Art Deco Teapot - since I melted the last one onto my stove. Yes.  I did. 
Aldo Londi Bitossi Rimini People bottle  - So strange, yet functional. 

Nov 14, 2012

Study Area

We live in close proximity to a C-train station (light rail train) in the inner city in C-town.   When we were looking to buy prior to moving out here, I was keen to find something close to transit - for two main reasons:

1. I'm generally lazy and don't like driving
2. Potential increase in resale value due to proximity (which we were planning to do after 2 years)

What I didn't factor into my best laid, 2-year plan was that I would fall madly in love with my house.  Drafty windows*, ugly pink bathroom and creepy wood stairs and all.  Crap. So we've decided to stay longer than originally anticipated.

Now we have been swacked in the back of the head with a new layer of complication.  The TOD (Transit Oriented Development). Dunh Dunh Dunh... 

The City of Calgary is all over the TOD, which boils down to increased, mixed density around transit stops.  I think densification is a critical step for building sustainable cities - I really do.  (Lordy knows I love Portland). Particularly if the development interfaces well with the neighbourhood, respects its original character and is designed to engage in the same way that a neighbourhood unit typically functions (see below - gooorrrrgggeeeouuusss).  Unfortunately, TOD's also affect historic neighbourhoods (with smaller houses) and many are under threat in the city from complete annihilation and replacement with soaring multi unit buildings. 

ooh_food on Flickr
When it boils down to it, it's not the planning initiative that I fear but how the policies translate in the real world. Inevitably, when a developer gets involved (who is ultimately bottom line driven), the neighbourhood is under risk of getting stuck with an ugly stucco clad monstrosity with bad vinyl windows and Lee-Press-On faux river rock. The only solace is that the building will likely be built with such cheap material that it won't even last 30 years.

ok ok - I'm over-reacting.  But it's warranted. Last week we received a letter from the city requesting our participation in an upcoming stakeholder consultation. Our property and several other neighbours were demarked within a red lined boundary known as 'The Study Area'.  Then a couple days later when I'm out, a friendly realtor knocks on our door, wondering if we would have any interest in selling - her client, (a developer) has been amassing properties near ours for the last few years. The developer picked up a number of smaller bungalows on the cheap which they are either renting or just generally neglecting in hopes of lowering their neighbourhood value. We're one of the last few he needs.  H. (hubby) takes the realtor on a tour of the house, shows her everything we've updated, peeled back, buffed, painted.  She smiles politely, looks disinterested and tells him to give her a call to discuss things after he talks to me. H. googles the developer. They reno and flip cheap apartment units. This is not good news.

So now what?  We own a ubiquitous mid century house.  What are our options?  Do we historically designate (so it cannot be torn down)?  Can we even historically designate as ours is a fairly modest mid century house? What if we need to sell and designation scares off potential buyers?  What if we don't designate and our perfect little prairie house is torn down?

I am constantly telling clients in my heritage business that a heritage house is one of the most powerful bargaining tools you can have.  And now that I'm in that very same situation, I certainly don't feel very powerful...


*the ones we haven't restored

Sep 25, 2012

Cow Town Low Down: Louche Milieu

Why hello there.  I know. It's been a while.  

I hit a bit of a rough patch this spring and unbeknown to me, apparently every cell in my body thwarted me from my blog this summer and redirected me to a (insert one) [patio, backyard barbecue, hike in the rockies, garden and river float].  It was a glorious summer; the hottest on record here in Cow-town since, get this, 1881.  And hot for Cow-town, because it's glacial here most of the time, is really very pleasant (25-30 Celsius) and solid. sun.  Honestly, you couldn't have paid me enough to leave my backyard this summer. I did loads of gardening, barbecuing and have 130,000 mini tomatoes I have no idea what to do with.  And I feel totally refreshed and ready to tackle some indoor fall/winter projects as well as a blog re-design which I plan to launch in the new year.   

So while relishing in my selfish summer, a brand spanking new/old mid century storey opened in Calgary: Louche Milieu - 'Living Modern like it's mid-century' (now why didn't I think of that?)
The lovely Laura in her store

Owner Laura Atkins has been collecting and selling mid century furniture and jewellery for some time now and finally found a perfect little spot in a converted garage in the Wildwood neighbourhood (in the same mid century strip mall as my buddies, People Food).  

I had a chance to visit the store shortly after it opened in August (and found a couple of pieces for my collection). Her pieces are thoughtfully curated and exquisitely arranged in a visual smorgasbord of want/need. Only the sexiest legged mcm furniture and glammy glam costume jewellery seem eligible to cross the threshold of her indulgent little store.  She also carries, when available, those wish list classic mcm pieces like a beautifully intact Eero Saarinen marble topped 'tulip' dining table, Herman Miller/Eames rocker, and a Hans Wegner 'X' table with danish cord CH23 chairs circa 1965. I warned her not to tell me if she finds an Eero Saarinen Womb Chair, cause lordy knows I need a new pink bathroom...

MCM feast of fields
I might need to pick up that little yellow mirror in the corner....

Gorgeous coffee table. I need to profile Gordon Atkins work soon (a native Calgarian)
Did I mention the vintage bags and german pottery? 
Scores: mcm vase and print by local artist, Thedor.  
Louche Milieu is open Friday and Saturdays 12:30-6pm or by appointment.  (Louche Milieu Blog or her Facebook Page: Louche Milieu FB Page)
Tell her I sent you.  But don't buy the stereo if it's still there. It's mine. (kidding) 


Aug 13, 2012

Prairie House Unveiled

We're only half done, but I can't wait one more minute to share... 


And After....

Note all the high points are unpainted. Fear of heights in our house, perhaps? 

This poor poor door has been painted so many times.  Soon to be replaced with a Crestview.

Body/Trim: Cloverdale Paint - Colour match to Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron (Flat for body, Satin for trim)
Door: Pratt & Lambert - eeek!! Can't find the paint chip.  I'll update when I find it.

Still a couple weeks of painting left, including the garage.  And since I'm so indecisive with doors, add a few more weeks for countless colour trials. I'm not totally sure what to do with the soffits in the interim.  White is whack so we're pondering removing the aluminum to reveal the original plywood soffits. Or just paint?  

We're completely in love with the final results.  

I'll post some pictures of future plans for the porch.  


UPDATE: Door colour - Pratt & Lambert Delightful Aqua 22-7

Jul 15, 2012

The New Patio

Re: the pause in postings - I was going to lie and say that we've both been busy working on the house.  Which we have.  But it's not the complete truth.  Frustrated with the vortex that is Facebook, I took a week off.  The weather was crappy/cold/buggy so I was trapped inside. Instead of tackling any one of the 22,653 indoor projects, I thought I'd take a moment and look at my dormant Pinterest account....  Aaaaaannnnnnd here I am one blurry month later with some gorgeous room 'boards' and absolutely no blog posts. So I'll make it up to everyone with some 'Before and After's. 

This year's landscape project included the addition of a second patio, a raised gardening bed and a firepit on the terrace closer to the garage (the concept of which was feverishly conceived on a flight from Grand Prairie).  We have new neighbours who are positively lovely (the wife, who is Lebanese, brings over Lebanese dishes at least a few times a week - so. spoiled.), but they have three girls who love our kids and our backyard.  So we have six sets of eyes peering at us on the patio through the cracks in the in fence at all times. Plus, as it turns out, the lower patio is a pretty bad ass tricycle roadway. 

We spent loads of time last and this year just observing how the girls were using the backyard. And we quickly discovered that play is focused on the hill, the lower patio and the sandbox.  So this vast area of grass by the garage was not being utilized really by anyone.  

Like our other  project last summer, most everything was built using upcycled materials (Kijiji and used building material stores, leftovers from last year's project) and almost primarily hand dug/laid/built by Jay. I took care of the landscaping.  We brought the stepped design elements of the patio and sandbox into this design, stepping the garden, the firepit and the patio away from each other.  Jay also built a narrow garden box right at the fence for some tall grasses. My dad helped build the compost in the back corner. 

BEFORE: Raised gardening area at the far right. Random kid in snowboots in May - centre. 

Planting of the new trees. Man am I ever glad we elected to have them planted for us.  We would have had to roll that mo fo in there. Mayday on bobcar, Double Flowering Plum in the foreground. 

Digging out and laying the patio stones. I think Jay paid about $150 for all of the patio stones (second hand).  He framed out the firepit as well (where he's sitting).

Sweeping the sand in the cracks.  I think I'm in a lawnchair on Pinterest here. 

AFTER: The patio has the same stepped design as the lower patio. The fire drum is actually an old rusty tire rim. I love rusted elements.  

Taken after we completed the narrow beds behind the patio. Karl Foresters line the back and we planted some rhubarb closer to the garden boxes. The black rectangular thing is an old door we painted with chalkboard paint for the girls.  And we also got a slide for the hill that has been a huge hit. (we both love play integrated into the landscape) The kids patio set is hiding what will be Phase III next year - concrete steps to the garage. 

Shot of the half painted garage and my very happy tomatoes (I'm Italian - tons of pride in my tomato plants).   New compost that my dad and Jay built is in the back corner which those stupid magpies think is a smorgasbord. When we covered it with chicken wire, they started eating my garden. Argh.  

So major 2012 Exterior Project #1 is complete. Now just a simple paint job left for this summer.  Or.. not so simple...  

Prepping for painting - day 55.  Ever wondered where fly babies live?  Under aluminum shutters.  There were hundreds.  Ewwww.

Jun 15, 2012

Mid Century Kijiji

I'm a big fan of second hand all-things-home.  When I lived in Vancouver, there was a high probability of finding mid century lust-worthy items on Craigslist. The general rule of thumb there is to not peruse if you're not in the market to buy. Because you'll undoubtedly buy. 

Calgary is a different story.  In 2 years, scanning Kijiji on a daily basis (for some reason it's the cool buy/sell site here in Alberta), all I've bought is a globe-of-the-world lamp (Scroll down to corner cabinet).  The selection is fair at best and exorbitantly overpriced. 

Yet, nearly the whole city was built post 1947. There was buckets of money here in the 50s-late 60s.  SO WHERE IS THE MID CENTURY FURNITURE?

I have a theory that a city built on new, continues to crave only new.  Infills and shiny new cars are rampant here.  Should I be looking in the dump? I'm starting to think that's where it ends up. 

Anyways, I thought I would share my pain with readers, since I'm inundated with posts/tweets/etc on daily cheap finds on Craigslist seemingly everywhere except for here*

Kijij Calgary:
This unit is lovely - I own one myself.  But I certainly didn't pay $2500 for it.  (it's been on the site for months)
8 of these for $250.  I grew up with something similar in the '70s - maybe there was avocado coloured fruit, I don't know - but $250??

1960s Warming Cart. This is actually priced at $1250. I think you can buy a stove for under that. 
This is a 2 for 1.  $750 for a pair of one of a kind leather horse chairs. Yeehaw!

Brass Shelf - $750!!!!!  Sure, brass/gold is hot right now but come on.... (although, it does have some nice lines)

Imagine this painted matte gun metal grey.  Not bad, right? If it was $50 not $350.... 

Ok, this one is a good deal - $350 for all six chairs and the table.  Kind of Brutalist inspired, which I'm a total sucker for. 
Now, check out this post from Edmonton, which is always more hopeful. 

I adore this couch so much - it's stunning.  They are asking $1000 for it.  If it was lower, I would consider driving up in a heartbeat. 
So there's a snippet of Kijiji life in Cowtown.  I'd love to hear if any readers know any secret spots for MCM or other readers experience with Craigslist in their community.  


*This post is just focused on the Kijiji mid century market in Calgary.  I would have no problem with these prices in second hand/antique stores