Mid-Century Modern(ization)

Redefining modern for a family-friendly home


We Got an Arc Lamp!

Remember when I posted that I wanted to find an arc lamp that didn’t cost an arm and a leg for the den?  Well, wouldn’t you know the same afternoon that post published I found the perfect lamp for $120!   Please note that I still had $128 left after selling off the old den furniture so, really, it was free.  At least that’s what I told my husband when I showed up with it in the truck of my SUV one night. ;)

Either way, it retails for $420 (currently on sale!) so I feel like I got a great deal — Craigslist of course.

You’ll remember that I wanted a standing lamp in this corner so that it might better anchor the chair and incorporate it more fully into the room.   That teeny tiny light wasn’t cutting it.


It took us a while to get it assembled and it’s still not perfect, but at least it’s up.


At full extension the arc gets long and low.  The globe will reach all the way to the couch and all but touch that pillow there on the end like this one (source).


That wasn’t really the look we were going for.  This room is just not big enough for that  and we’d like to sit on our couch without getting physically attacked by the lighting source.  After futzing with it for a while we finagled it into this most upright position.  Better.   Ish.

For a few anxious minutes we thought that full extension was the only setting it had and, if so, we figured it might be better suited for the living room.  So we hauled it in there and set it up behind the couch.  It’s heavy!  It looked pretty awesome in there, but an electrical source would have been an issue.  We would have had to run a cord somewhere and neither of us were on board with that.  So I guess it was lucky that we figured out that it could telescope in.  I wish I’d remembered to take a photo of it in the living room, but as you can imagine, tensions were … high.

I was holding off on posting this on the blog just yet because in my opinion the lamp is now too upright and has lost some of it’s arc-ness, if you will.  I wanted to play with the telescoping some more before debuting it, but well, you know how that goes.  We’ll get to it when we get to it.


We may have to play around with the furniture placement or something.  Sigh.  At least we’ve got a cool lamp!


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Quick Questions

My post about the rehabilitation of our indoor planter yesterday really spurred some questions from you folks so I thought I’d pop in a write a post that would answer them publicly for all.

1. Why did you decide to use boxes to fill the empty space in the planter? Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable building a platform out of something more substantial?


In short, yes! I would feel better with a more permanent solution there. And eventually we’ll upgrade the boxes, I’m sure. I wrote in my original post that I chose to use cardboard for this project because it was free, which is true, but what I neglected to mention was why it was so important to me that I not drop a lot of cash on this little rehab. The thing is, I wasn’t certain I would really like having real plants in there. We had a lot of options for redoing this space. We could have retro-fitted it into a bench or a fish pond (or as some of you more ballsy readers suggested, a ball pit or a sand box!). My gut wanted to keep its original  purpose — although none of the options I considered couldn’t be undone. BUT because I wasn’t sure I was going to love it or hate it (I’ve never been resposible for so many plants before!) I didn’t want to drop $$ on the wood framing to do it right. Long story short, when the boxes fail (which they will) and if we’re still on board with the live plants when that happens, we will likely replace them with a simple wood framed thingamajig. Feel better? ;)

2) What is that incredible/amazing/fantastic geometric creation hanging on the wall?!


Would you believe that I made this out of coffee stirrer? It IS incredible and amazing and fantastic and I thank you for noticing! I, however, cannot take credit for this work of art. If you would like to make one of your very own please click over the Vintage Revivals where Mandi shares a great tutorial that is super easy to follow. Here’s a better picture taken right after it was completed. Took a couple hours.


It was centered on the blank wall space before we removed the fake ficus, but now it’s decidedly off to one side.  I kind of like it that way — I’m a little kooky myself, you know.


We be Plantin’ Fools

Alert the media — I now have five indoor plants.  Five!!!  For those of you wondering what the big deal is, that’s five more than I’ve ever had before.  So, fingers crossed that I can keep them alive.

Anyway, I’ve told you all about the indoor planting bed we have just inside our front door.  When we bought the house it was filled with musty bark and a bunch of fake plants that were heaven knows how old.  Not the most appealing entrance for sure, but we had other things to worry about so it took us almost a year to tackle this corner.


It took about five hours over two weekends to completely clear it out and fill it back up again — this time a bit more tastefully.   Kirk spent nearly two hours one Saturday hauling all the bark out and depositing it at the rear of our property.   I was aware that the bed had an odor — one that had definitely become more pronounced as the temperatures rose with the onset of summer (thus why we finally decided to tackle this project), but it wasn’t until we started shoveling all that bark out that the smells became completely overbearing (or we had just grown used to it. I shudder at the thought!).  Some of  the bark seemed to be perfumed.  Some of it smelled like cat pee.  Maybe it had been sprayed to cover the pee smell?  Not sure, but it was gross.


I started off with scoops. It became rapidly apparent that scooping with Tupperware would take me DAYS.  After I filled a garbage bag or two and had barely made a dent, Kirk got smart and grabbed a shovel. I think he filled that bin a half a dozen times.


Also gross was the thick coating of black dust that covered every surface in our home in the aftermath.  Oh my goodness.  If we would have had any idea that the dust from the bark would travel like that we would have set up some plastic protection over the doorways or something.  Instead I spent the next several hours sweeping, mopping and dusting.  My least favorite activities.


But at last the bark was removed, as were the yellow plastic bags that the bark was once packaged in that appeared to be lining the planter.  The original metal liner was still in place — well, about 20% of it anyway, the only pieces that hadn’t rotted away.  Kirk took it to the dump along with the eight faux plants.


One of our biggest surprises was how huge the fake plants were when viewed in perspective!  I mean, really!


They don’t look that bad in this photo, but they were.  I briefly considered posting them on Craigslist, but I just wanted them gone. They were gross.

When all was said and done, we were left with this stinky, cleaned out pit.  I sprayed it down heavily with Tilex Mold & Mildew Remover and that seemed to get rid of any lingering odors.


The next weekend my mom came down and we hit up the local nursery.  The staff was very helpful and, after asking all the important questions, like, did our planter have drainage (No) or natural light (Not really), and was I interested in annuals (Hell, no) they recommended a few plants for our space.  We went with two Chinese Evergreens and one Dracaena, some new pots with built in saucers (important since our planter has no drainage), and finally a bag soil and a little fertilizer.

Back at the house Mom and I worked on preparing the planter for our river rock.  There was no way we were filling the entire planter with river rock (that would have cost somewhere in the vicinity of $800-$1000!) so we started brainstorming how we could eat up some of that unused space.  I originally thought of Styrofoam, but it was also much more expensive than we anticipated and the stores didn’t have nearly enough in supply anyway.   On a whim I drove around behind the store and, by the dumpster, I found dozens of discarded boxes.  Free boxes.

It took a while, I ain’t gonna lie.  My mom and I cut down six giant boxes and refashioned them into 22 custom cubes. It took a lot of patience, a good bit of math, and a roll of packaging tape, but eventfully we had raised the bottom of the 11″ planter a full 9″.   See?


We also pulled an extra shower curtain that I had in the closet and laid it down over the boxes to prevent spills from soaking the boxes when we water the plants.  Where each plant would sit I cut an X into the plastic then lowered the plant into the hole I made.  These plants are not full grown — they will nearly double in size over the next several years — so it will be nice to watch them fill in.


Finally, we poured 250lbs of Mexican Beach Pebbles over the top and called it a day!


I still need to touch up the paint from the rim where we pulled the rusted liner out, but hey, we need to paint 98% of this house so that little bit doesn’t really bother me.   I’m calling ‘er done!


I love how much more light comes in through this sidelight now that the fake ficus is gone.  This space was so dark and dank and now it’s bright and welcoming … as an entry ought to be, yes?

I haven’t touched on the state of our den very much on this blog because it was never very high on my list of favorite places.  In fact, it was pretty near the bottom.  For the past year it’s been such a dark, dumpy space packed with a ton of mismatched furniture — in fact,  you should probably be thanking me for omitting it.  But things have been happening in this room people!  So here, let me jog your memory…  Remember these shots?



In short, this room needed some help and, as I talked about in this post a couple months ago, I had started to come up with a game plan.  I sold off just about everything in this space using Craigslist … the rug ($75), the coffee table ($80), the end table ($50), the leather chair ($290*), and I even got a bid on the couch — and its matching chair and ottoman which are in the master bedroom — for $475, but I got cold feet at the last minute.  If we find the perfect vintage sofa to replace it with we might relist it, but for now I figure its lines are classic enough to work.  Besides, it’s in great shape and, despite its light color, it’s absolutely impervious to stains which is so important when you have kids!

So, with a little cash in my pocket, I got to shopping.  First, I picked up this rug at Home Goods.  It was a spurge, but this room needed a large, quality rug and those never come cheap.  I knew this rug would be nice and bright while adding some interest with the charcoal pattern details.   I love that pattern, by the way — I know it looks black in these pictures, but it’s really dark gray.


Next up I found this glass coffee table for $15 on Craigslist.  Fifteen dollars!! Kirk tried to dissuade me saying that a glass table and a 2 year old aren’t exactly a copacetic pairing, but I was in love.  It’s so glam I can’t even stand it.  If it doesn’t work out I will sell it, but come on … is amazing, right?


Below you will see another of my Goodwill finds.  That Ikea Poang chair was only $15  and I thought the navy cover was perfect (it’s since been discontinued).  Sad face.


The ottoman was another $8 and at first I left it behind because neither the wood tone nor the cushion cover was an exact match.  Once I got it home though, it was obvious that the chair needed a footstool to pull it into the room — without it the chair seemed really disconnected with the rest of the space.  And for $8?  Well, you can see how that panned out.  I’m now on the look out for a navy Poang ottoman cover on Craigslist, though I’m not holding my breath.  I looked into replacing both covers, but I’m not a big fan of their line right now.  I’m crossing my fingers that next season’s Poang covers are more in tune with my style (Ikea! Bring back the Navy Blue!!).

Oh! I also picked up that little end table at Goodwill for $20.  It’s not in the greatest shape (has some peeling veneer), but the shape is cute, no?   I know the lamp is ridiculous — more on that in a moment.

Ok, so what is this space looking like now?  Well, with the new lighter rug, the breezy coffee table, the smaller profile chair and the new ottoman it’s coming along really well!



See my new brass desk lamp? $4 and it looks adorable there!

The main wall still needs some larger, more balanced art work.  And we need to seriously consider window treatments  (just say no to vertical blinds!).  We also need to paint this room, but we’ve been talking about taking the plunge and outsourcing the painting of the entire house’s interior early next year.  Details on that to come.

I think this space is also screaming for an arc floor lamp (like this) which I think will really pull that back corner into the forefront of the room and help incorporate it into the space better.  That little blue lamp was just sad, I’ve actually already tried replacing it with a table top arc lamp that I was hoping would fit the bill, but sadly, I think it failed.


The chair needs a floor lamp to anchor it from behind — without one the Poang still looks like it’s chilling there in no man’s land.  I love this lamp, but it’s probably going back to the store if I don’t find another place for it (guest room??).

Oh, and as for the other walls?  Kirk’s got the paneled wall decked out in sports memorabilia.  It works … for now.  ;)



And the door leading to the hall is actually a huge pocket door (one of three in our home — the other two are in the bathrooms).  I’d love to do some sort of paint treatment on it one of these days.   Something with a little wow factor! Here’s Logan showing you how it works.



That life-sized banner of Cal Ripken is just draped over the front of a closet door.  Every time Logan sees it he says. “Hi, Caaaal!!!”  It’s cute, so Cal stays for now. :)

So, the total cost breakdown for this room refresh?  I made $495 selling off items from this room that I no longer loved and spent $367 to replace them with treasures I really connected with.  All told, I profited $128 by restyling this room thus far.  We’ve still got a ways to go, but overall I’m thrilled with how it’s coming along!

Have you been inspired to check out your own local Craigslist listings and thrift stores??


* The sale of the chair is actually still pending, but someone is scheduled to pick it up this week it will be off my hands soon enough.


Lunchtime Thrifting

Yesterday on my lunch hour I hit up the local Goodwill.  I try to do this at least once a week, sometimes more. I haven’t found anything good there since last fall when I happened upon this credenza for a steal at $30, but I’m nothing if not persistent.  And yesterday my efforts paid off!

I nearly knocked a woman over in my haste to claim this amazing little industrial desk chair.


I love that it’s a flirty color and smaller in size than the typical wheeled task chair.  The $10 price tag didn’t sting either. It’s in great condition and with a little cleaning that blue vinyl will add some much needed playfulness to our place.  I’m not sure where it’s going to end up just yet, but right now it’s hanging out in the kitchen.  Makes me smile every time I walk by!


I also spied this great brass desk lamp.


At $4 it was mine. Wham bam, thank you, ma’am.  I’d love to leave the patina in place on this but of course the folks at Goodwill wrote the price directly on the brass with a black sharpie and I doubt I’ll be able to get it off without some scrubbing — not that I won’t try.  (Side note: how much do I HATE when they do this?!  There have been a number of treasures I’ve mournfully left behind because someone carelessly gratified on it with permanent marker.)  This task lamp will end up on the desk in the den — it will be an amazing upgrade from the aluminum Target lamp I got in high school that rests there now.

Lastly, I found this controversial console table.  I say controversial because my dear husband thinks it’s hideous, but I’ll bring him around.


Now, I know it’s ugly.  You don’t have to tell me that.  But look at all that potential!  I love the angles of those legs and, yes, I even like them in gold.  Gold is in again, people!  In the right setting I know this table can look really glam and eclectic.  In fact, I just picked up a glass and gold coffee table for the den that I need to show you guys — everyone thought I was crazy but they all agree it looks great in the room.  So anyway, I’m planning to keep the legs as they are for now, but I wouldn’t be opposed to spraying them a fun color in a high gloss if I decide to pack a little more punch.  These are things to consider.


As for the top.  It’s really kind of top heavy, isn’t it?  The material is that hard plastic, like HeyWoodite, but I didn’t see a Heywood Wakefield maker’s mark.  The top is not the most appealing color and it has some damage to it, so my plan is to replace it.  Wouldn’t this table look fantastic with a wood top?

My long term plan is to move it into the dining room to use as a side board and move the credenza that’s there now (which is really a dresser) to the guest room to be used as, what else? … a dresser!  I have long been concerned that our dining room has way too many woods going on.  Between the wood table and chairs, the wood credenza, and the china hutch, there is absolutely nothing fun going on in the space.  And you guys all know how much I like to have a little fun!  But really, even the orange and blue ogee rug is looking really tame.


But first I need to sell the vanity/desk and the matching that’s in the guest room to make some space.  (Any takers? I’m asking $175 for the desk and $50 for the nightstand — I’ll cut a deal if you buy both!)


Which reminds me — the guest room is actually falling together quite nicely following my finds from earlier this month.  I picked up both the nightstand and the chair for a steal, and sold off all the other furniture that used to occupy this space.  I’ve put very little effort into this room, but somehow it’s one of the rooms that’s made the most progress.


Anyway, until the desk sells, the console table is catching keys in our front entry way.  Wow, this post really is all over the place, isn’t it?


Which brings me to… the indoor planter.


It’s time has come y’all.  I’m getting rid of all those silk plant and dank bark this weekend and replacing it with… well, I haven’t quite figured that out yet, but wish me luck!


A $10 Coffee Table

I heart Craigslist.  I really do.  I’ve snatched up so many goodies these past few weeks for pennies.  Pennies, I tell you!  Like this solid wood bench/coffee table with tapered brass feet.  It was ten smackers.  And did I mention its 6′ long?

This is the glamor shot Craigslist photo that had me at hello.  (there’s potential there, people!)


When I first saw the listing I wasn’t sure where we would put it.  A bench in the laundry room?  A coffee table in the den?  Turns out it’s the perfect size for our main living room.  Three cheers for no longer having to use an ottoman as a toddler catapulting device coffee table.

The first thing I did the night I brought it home was apply a stripping agent.  I didn’t get any photos of this step because it’s messy.  Really messy.  I scraped the stripper off along with several beat up layers of high gloss shellac (my guess anyway) that had covered the wood top.  I was pretty surprised to find that the wood was actually a fairly pale maple.  I used mineral sprits and steel wool to get all the goo off and then applied a couple coats of stain to darken it up again.

I was afraid to go too dark, and in the end I didn’t get it as dark as I originally had in mind.  At this point I pulled it into the living room to see how it looked and decided that I like it this color though, so we shall see.  I can always go darker later if I change my mind.  And its for this reason that I  haven’t applied a sealant yet — you know, in case you were wondering.


Do excuse the half dressed little one and the crowd of items to the left awaiting seller pick up (that’s right, I’ve been selling on Craigslist like mad, too.  Last month I made over $500 selling things that we had stored in dark corners!).


Then I polished up the tarnished feet (the brass feet not the baby feet) with some Bar Keeper’s Friend.  <— Love that stuff.  Mostly because it doesn’t eff up my hardwood floors when I’m too juiced to take something outside to work on it.



Such a difference, right?


This wood top is so smooth!



It was night by the time I finished up so excuse the dark shots — I was just too excited to have found this perfectly sized piece for so cheap.


And that’s the story of our $10 coffee table.