Monday, February 28, 2011

Granite vs Butcher Block - Round 1,301

Disclaimer: This post contains endless pictures of white kitchens and a longwinded debate on the pros and cons of different countertop surfaces. Just wanted to warn you in advance. :-)

When I first began pulling aside inspiration pictures for ideas of how to remodel our kitchen, I was drawn to the following images:

kitchens - Chase pendant silver white pendant lighting chandelier white kitchen cabinets butcher block countertops black granite countertops
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kitchens - White Carrara Marble Subway Tiles Hicks Pendant ivory leather barstools counter stools nailhead nail head trim nickel fixtures stone countertops glass front cabinets espresso stained wood floors
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kitchens - topiaries subway tiles backsplash pot filler creamy white kitchen cabinets farmhouse sinks black marble countertops calcutta marble countertops bamboo roman shades
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kitchens - Benjamin Moore - Mascarpone - White Carrara Marble Subway Tiles creamy white cabinets apron sink chrome fixtures black countertops kitchen island marble island countertops black stools white carrara marble tiles backsplash glass light pendants kitchen
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kitchens - subway tiles backsplash white cabinets black granite countertops glass pendnats gray slate tiles floors iron chandelier
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Colour Me Happy
Cote de Texas

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The Cottage Chick
The Cottage Chick

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kitchens - pendant lights carrara marble white cabinets drum pendant lighting  beautiful white kitchen  white kitchen cabinets, white carrara
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kitchens - Pot Filler White Carrara Marble Subway Tiles black Cherner barstools counter stools backsplash glass lantern pendants marble countertops white glass-front kitchen cabinets
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Shorely Chic
To me, the most obvious similarities in most of these pictures include all white cabinets, dark wood floors, stainless appliances, light walls, white subway tiles, great lighting and my favorite part - carrara marble somewhere in the space. I also seem to gravitate towards white kitchens with butcher block countertops, as well as white kitchens with a dark granite or soapstone countertop.

Before we even actually moved into our home, we purchased all new stainless appliances. It was kind of a necessity, seeing as the previous owners walked with all appliances. Since we were buying them, we knew we wanted to do it right the first time around and go for SS. Read more about that experience here. The next phase in achieving our dream kitchen (painting our existing cabinets a creamy white) involved a little more time and debate; read about that experience here. I am happy to say that both my hubs and I are really happy with everything we've done to the kitchen thus far.

So...we've begun researching the next phase of our kitchen remodel - replacing the countertops. My first instinct all along has been to go the Ikea butcher block route and apply a dark stain to the wood so it looks just like this:
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These countertops are solid wood and gorgeous, especially when stained a deep, rich hue like above. Best part? They are inexpensive - it would cost under $1k to replace our countertops (which are pretty spacious at over 50 SF - not including our breakfast bar). Because they are such a great price, we could replace the countertops and still have $$$ left over to put in a honed carrara marble breakfast bar along with a few other upgrades (such as crown molding above the cabinets, puck lighting under the cabinets, etc.) If we went the granite route, we'd be saving for months just to afford the granite, let alone any other updates. We'd have to install the Ikea countertops ourselves, which could  be tricky but definitely not impossible. To us, the only real downside is that not everyone is a fan of butcher block, and when we resell our home we know that granite will most likely be the majority of buyers' first choice.

So we began researching granite to replace the counters and breakfast bar and bid farewell to the idea of a butcher block/carrara combo. I tried to find granite that mimicked the color and look of carrara so it'd still resemble the look I was going for while at the same time being a smart investment. Here were my top contenders:

Kashmire Ville Granite:

Kashmir White Granite:

Ivory Fantasy Granite:

During my search, I also found a few other countertop surfaces that resembled carrara, but weren't marble or granite. Even though we were looking for granite, I figured these were at least worth saving in my files.

Here is Bianca Quartzite:

And Rain Cloud Corian:

If we were going to spend all this $$$ on granite, I knew that I wanted to find something that we liked loved and would help our inspiration pictures come to life...but I just wasn't getting that feeling with my granite selections.

When I still hadn't found our granite, my husband suggested we drop in at a local granite quarry to see some slabs in person, vs. online. So we went and I am happily surprised to admit that I loved one of the granite selections there....and my husband had picked it out, no less!

With all the hours I spent searching online, I had never come across honed Jet Mist's a beautiful dark gray with subtle white veining. It resembles the look of classic soapstone, yet was granite (making the hubs and future buyers happy, too!) And (picture me happy dancing right now) - it would compliment very nicely with carrara, meaning we could bring back the marble for our breakfast bar!!!! Woo to the hoo!!!!! It had everything going for it in both our books!!!!

So we met with the manager to get an estimate for honed jet mist granite with a standard edge for our countertops and honed carrara marble with a waterfall edge for our breakfast bar. We were quoted just over $6K for all of this. To us, that seemed like a fair price for what we were asking for, but it's still a lot of mulah. Truthfully, what shocked me more was learning that the granite would actually cost us $30 more per SF than my beloved carrara!!??!!

The visit to the quarry happened about a month ago, and we've been pretty happy and secure with planning to save for the granite/marble combo....that is until last night. I came across more pictures of white kitchens with a butcher block/marble combo and I truthfully think this is just as pretty, if not more beautiful, than a kitchen with granite/marble. And we'd save a pretty penny going the butcher block route, which would enable us to take on other home improvement projects that would also increase the value of our home. Plus, we could even just get the butcher block as a short-term fix and replace the butcher block with granite in a few years, right?  So I revived the debate once again to my patient husband, and we talked in-depth about the pros and cons of both choices. Again.

Because this is our starter home, I find that it's especially hard making expensive home improvement choices because it requires a balance between what you want versus what potential buyers might want in a few years. I'm back to square one feeling torn as to what to do. Should we make the decision based on what we think looks best, or should we make the decision based on  resale? I'd love to hear your comments and advice on this one!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

How to Create and Hang any Gallery Display

Art Galleries are nothing new when it comes to decorating, but I always find myself fascinated when I come across a new image of a room containing an art gallery. Art galleries are a great way to add visual interest and color to a room, and can range in size from a small trio up to an entire wall of artwork. Art galleries can also greatly vary by theme, from personal photos to virtually any artwork you like.

dining rooms - breakfast room with bamboo chairs  breakfast room  white faux bamboo chairs and art gallery
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living rooms - living room french striped blue white settee art gallery  the blue and white stripe is just divine!!   white and blue striped
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dens/libraries/offices - photo gallery desk chair  Thanks to Suzanne Kasler!    Love the photo gallery in this office space!
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entrances/foyers - orange door photo walls beadboard lantern  Pure Style Home's   eclectic art gallery and orange front door
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As these pictures show so well, an art gallery can add beauty and a personal touch to virtually any room.

So far, we have two galleries in our home - a small photo gallery in our living room:

And a larger, vintage art gallery in our master bedroom:

Read on for my tips on how to create and hang photo and art galleries in your home!

Creating an art gallery:

There are many easy and inexpensive ways to create your own art gallery, right from the comforts of your own printer! Many websites and libraries, including the New York Public Library, have online image databases of many beautiful, vintage prints that can easily be printed out and framed. For free.

Here are just a few sites to check out:

And not to worry- you aren't violating any copyright laws by printing images from these websites as their copyrights have expired.

Besides looking online, check out art books at thrift stores and bookshops for inexpensive artwork to frame. Last summer I bought a $2 photo book of Nantucket images. Being the sea lover that I am, I love looking at the pictures in this book. It also has sentimental value because my brother is a chef on Nantucket (check out the amazing restaurant here) and my parents and I had an amazing time visiting Andy and exploring the island last summer. A few months ago I went back to the same store (Job Lot) and bought another copy of the book. With my second copy, I cut out many of the images and created a mini art gallery that is currently om display on the "big blue wall" in our family room. Read more about this space here.

Lastly, is a great place to buy inexpensive, original artwork from small businesses and artists. Definitely worth checking out and often times many artists on this website will work with you to customize your artwork based on what you're looking for.

Because our home has a coastal colonial style, I knew I wanted some kind of coastal artwork gallery. I also knew I had a big, empty wall in our master bedroom. When I stumbled across some cool vintage fish prints online, I knew that I had just killed two birds with one stone (gross expression, but so true here!) because the colors of the images matched our bedroom and went along with our theme.

I copied and pasted each print into a Microsoft Word document and used the picture tools to resize the image to 5x7" and then I printed out each image onto leftover white cardstock from our wedding. I framed the fish in dark wood picture frames purchased for $3.99 each at The Christmas Tree Shop. The entire gallery ended up costing just under $50. Easy (and cheap) enough, right!?! Well, here comes the only hard part of this project....

Hanging an Art/Photo Gallery:

There are two main ways you can display your gallery.  Here is a beautiful gallery that is deliberately haphazard in its display:

entrances/foyers - blue photo gallery white gallery frames blue glass pendant light orange leather bench  Steven Gambrel and Eric Piasecki Photography!
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And here is a gallery where the frames are perfectly spaced:
boy's rooms - airplane gallery art storage blue walls paint color  Airplane Pictures  Boy's room with blue walls paint color, toy storage and
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If you prefer the haphazard style (which is very pretty!) then hanging your gallery will be relatively simple and just require that you play around with the location of your frames until you are happy with the layout. This how-to is going to focus specifically on how to hang a gallery with picture frames evenly spaced (which is my personal preference). It is more time consuming to hang a gallery this way, but I think it is much more striking and really allows the artwork to take center stage.

So here's how I painstakingly measured and hung each frame (sorry no pics to help explain this process - I did this step before my blogging days):

- I laid out a roll of wrapping paper with the white side facing up.
- I laid each picture frame out on the paper and arranged them into a position I liked, with 4 rows of 3 pictures.
- To make the distances apart of each frame exact, I used a ruler to measure and identify how much space I wanted in between each picture left and right, top to bottom. I believe I settled on a spacing of 1/2".  I then measured and moved each picture frame so that there was the 1/2" of space in between each frame on all sides.
- I then traced the outline of each picture frame onto the wrapping paper.
- Here comes the most tedious part: I measured the distance of the nail hole on the back of one of the picture frames to determine exactly where to draw the nail hole on each frame on the wrapping paper. This means I measured how far down from the top of the frame the nail hole was and how far from the left and right side of the picture frame to determine the exact location of the nail hole. This step is extremely important if you want your frames to remain perfectly spaced when you hang them on the wall.  For example's sake, let's say that the nail hole was 1" down from the top edge of the frame and exactly 3.5" from the left and right edges of the picture frame. I then had to measure and draw a nail hole onto each picture frame outline on my wrapping paper. Tedious? Yes, totally, completely. Did it work like a charm, though? You betcha!

Once the hard part was over, I taped the wrapping paper up on the wall. All of the holes to place the nails were easily identifiable now, and best of all - perfectly spaced!

It was a pain to spend so much time measuring, but it was so worth it. When I first hung my living room photo gallery (described later in this post), I just eye-balled it and hung nails in the wall...after several reattempts I settled for the best arrangement I could get and called it a day. Check out the pictures of the living room gallery below to notice the difference measuring really can make when hanging a gallery.

On that note, I say live and learn! Hopefully you've learned some new and helpful info on how to hang a gallery in your home.

Creating a photo gallery of your friends/family:

In our living room, we have a small sepia photo art gallery above my reading nook. While using personal photos for decor seems to get mixed reviews, I believe we shouldn't take home decor too seriously and you should make your home a space that is comforting to you. If that means surrounding yourself with pics of loved ones, I say go for it. Personally, I love looking at pictures in albums and books, and each year I create a new digital photo album. Because of  this, I don't display too many photos on our walls. However, I knew that I wanted to have a small, sepia photo gallery of my husband and I in our living room.  I like using all black and white (or in this case, sepia) photos in a photo gallery to give the photos a more cohesive look.

For this gallery I chose sentimental pictures of my husband and I with one photo representing each year that we've been together. Not surprisingly, each picture was taken on a coast somewhere (we are major water lovers), including the Yacht Club at Disney for a New Year's celebration, Cape Cod during our engagement party weekend, Fiji during our honeymoon, and a day trip to Kennebunkport the first summer we began dating. Awww :-)  (Sorry, couldn't resist - but hey, we're newlyweds!) I used photo paper to print the pictures from our own printer...although many websites such as Snapfish and Vistaprint offer frequent discounts on ordering prints for super cheap. You also can submit printing orders to Staples online or just go where you typically go for ordering your pictures. I've printed pictures from our printer before and I've always been happy with the quality. Because these pictures will be displayed on your wall, if your printer quality isn't the best for printing pictures then I would suggest ordering prints.

I chose matching 8x10" white picture frames from The Christmas Tree Shop for around $5 a frame. The frames came with white mats, but I purchased deep blue 8x10" mats from Michael's for only a few dollars a piece. Upgrading your mats is an inexpensive way to give your photo gallery a high end look. I like how the deep blue of the mats matches the darker blue paint under our chair railing. I was actually inspired by this picture when deciding to buy the blue mats:

Inspiration for Home
Here are a few more tips to consider when creating a photo gallery of your friends/family:
1) Display your photos in frames that are all the same color (such as an all nickel finish, etc.) or several matching colors, such as silver, black and white, etc. *If you have a lot of mismatched (and not in a good way) frames you'd like to use for your gallery, that's nothing a bottle of spray paint can't fix!
2) Don't be afraid to change out your photos from time to time. It's an easy and fast update. Add Christmas photos in December, etc.
3) You can use a variety of different sized frames or frames that are all the same size for your gallery. Both of my galleries have identically sized and colored frames so that the photos and art will stand out..but you can't go wrong either way.
4) You don't need to spend a lot of money on picture frames! Most of the frames in my home are purchased from Ikea, Walmart or The Christmas Tree Shop.

I am linking this how-to up with the following link parties:

Ballard Design File Storage Basket for Less!

My Mom introduced me to the fabulousness that is Ballard's Design about a year ago. Perfect timing since that was right around when we officially became homeowners! That is until I looked a little more closely at my Ballard wishlist selections - specifically the prices. While I can't bring myself to purchase a lot of the furniture and even accessories from BD due to their hefty pricetags, that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the BD catalog as design inspiration, right?!

I am particularly inspired by how Ballard Designs can make home offices look gorgeous while at the same time being practical.  The office swivel chair below is gorgeous and looks pretty comfy, too. However, it's listed for $839 on sale for $699. I want to be comfortable when I'm working - but I'm definitely not comfortable shelling out 700 smackers for this chair, beautiful as she may be. 

Milan Desk Chair
Ballard Designs
BD can even take something as small and simple as a corkboard and recreate it as a vintage beauty. 
Madison Corkboard
Ballard Designs
These range from $99 up to $299, depending on the size of the board. Yes, you just read $300 for a bulletin board. Crazy, huh. Wait it gets better. The bulletin board below is sporting a $500 pricetag.

Acanthus Message Boards
Ballard Designs
I have noticed on my favorite DIY blogs that many folks out there are recreating this look on the cheap. I jumped on that bandwagon awhile ago, too, and have created not one, but two bulletin boards similar to the BD versions....along with a chalkboard for around 20 bucks a pop. I will post about these DIY projects in the near future.

Good ole Ballard D can even make a file system into a thing of art. And wouldn't you know it, my husband has mentioned that we should get some additional file storage, now that he's doing some occasional work from home. Currently we have four plastic storage bins (filled with my teaching files) that look like this:
Plastic Storage Drawers
And we also have one of these (which we use to share our important documents):
Hub Pages
While they're doing the job storage-wise, they are both kept outta sight for obvious reasons in a guest bedroom closet. We also have various stacks of papers inside coffee tables, end tables and desk drawers - all just waiting to be organized. Clearly we were due for more file storage. Before running out and buying more of the boring plastic bins, I knew that somewhere out there existed the perfect solution for our file storage needs that is functional and wouldn't require banishment to a spare closet.

So, of course, the first thing I did was pull out my latest Ballard catalogue and I opened up to the home office section to get ideas. I fell hard for these ottomans:

File Storage Ottoman
Ballard Designs
There are so many things I love about this. I love that it's not only a decent-sized file storage system, it's also an ottoman! That means it could be proudly displayed in virtually any room of the house and provide additional (pretty!!) seating! I also love that it has wheels so it can easily be moved and that it's relatively small in size. Finally I love that you can customize the fabric based on many different colors and patterns. Prices for this ottoman range from $299-527 based on your fabric selection. The specific ottoman above would set me back $419. While this piece is multi-functional and attractive....I still felt $419 was too much to spend - especially since I was planning to purchase several file systems. That could add up really quick.

My most recent BD catalogue features a woven basket file storage system for $60, pictured in the far right corner below.

$60 is actually a pretty fair price (at least compared to the ottoman)...but I knew I would need at least 3 of these puppies which would bring me up to almost $200. I also knew I could recreate this for much less...which is exactly what I did!

Here's how I made Ballard-inspired file baskets for $20 a pop:

I purchased three baskets from Michael's for $14.99 each (these were on sale from originally $29.99). Michael's has pretty good sales, especially on baskets and picture frames so I knew this was the place for me to check out first.

I also purchased a file frame kit (letter size) from Office Max for around $15.00. This kit comes with a set of 4 file frames, so I only needed to buy 1 kit and I still have 1 file frame leftover. This set is very similar.

The great thing about these kits is that you can customize the size of your file storage by cutting the poles to your desired size. There are 2 easy ways to do this:

 #1) If you have a larger storage basket (large enough to match the minimum size listed on your file frame kit - mine was a range between 22-36"), the first thing you should do is measure the inside of your basket to determine exactly how long you want your file frame to be. If you would like your file frame to be a size that is in between the range provided with the file frame kit you can easily just use pliers to snap off your desired size with pre-grooved notches and assemble the frame following the directions on the box.

  Then place the frame inside of the box and voila, you're done! If you want a file basket size outside of the range of your file frame kit, move on to #2.

 #2) If you're like me and using a smaller-than 22" basket (because you excitedly bought baskets that were on sale for a great price without actually measuring), you can also easily cut the poles to a customized size. It took less than 10 minutes to cut all 3 file frame poles for my baskets. Just like #1 above, the absolute first thing you should do is measure the inside of your basket to determine how long you want your file frame to be. Next, I snapped the poles down to the shortest notch of 22" (see #1 for more info on this). I wanted my poles to be 11" long to fit in my basket, so I hubs simply used a ruler to measure and mark off 11".

Next, my hubs used a small saw to make the cuts. It didn't look too hard to do and if my husband didn't enjoy using his tools so much than I would have done it myself. But I didn't want to take that fun away from him. :-)

Once the poles were cut to 11", I assembled the frames following the easy-peasy directions on the box. Took maybe another 10 minutes, if that.

 Finally, I placed the file frame inside the basket.

Success! It looks just like the Ballard Design version (except my baskets have cool side handles for easy transport)! My baskets are also the same size as the BD version - yet cost a whopping $20 total per basket....or $60 for all three baskets. Essentially I was able to recreate 3 BD file baskets for Ballard's price of 1 basket!!! Goooooo, me!

The *best* thing about these file storage kits is that you can customize the size. If you already own a large basket, you could make a larger storage system than my version - even Ballard's! I myself wanted a smaller basket so that it would fit on our office bookshelves. To each his own. You can also use these file frames virtually anywhere they'll fit - desk drawers, dresser drawers, etc.

Has anyone else come up with a creative way to store files??!!! Do tell!

I am linking this how-to up with the following link parties: