Cozy Cottage/Rustic Decor' Ideas

Making Our New (23 year old) House, Into a Home

We bought a house…a house in the mountains rather than the city…a “modular” house rather than a traditionally built house…a house with (in many rooms) panels on the walls rather than textured dry wall…a house where most everything in it was the same age as the house itself, 23 years old!

But I fell in love at first sight. I loved that the house sits on four gorgeous mountain acres. And I loved that every single room in the house is bright and flooded with sunshine! And I loved that although in the raw, the house looked pretty ugly when we first looked at it, unlike some houses we viewed, it had such great potential!  

I mean how boring to move into a house that is finished, and finished according to someone else’s taste. My imagination went into overdrive when I entered this house. Oh, the places it could go! with a little imagination and at least a small budget.

So following are some of the changes we made so far. We had the windows and the bathtub with plumbing changes done by some professionals, but most of our changes are on our own.

I think I mentioned this window in a different blog, but windows are by far, in my opinion, the most important home improvement ever! This one started out as a “porthole,” as I affectionately referred to it, with a pine tree planted right in front of it, and ended up a window to paradise, opening up to the aspen grove and pines outdoors.

And speaking of windows, here is a before and after pic of the master bath. The tub has already been removed in this before picture, but imagine a 23-year-old non-cleanable tub, in a cubby-hole with no windows.

And now, we have a soaking tub with windows (I’m not that big on hot tubs, just give me hot water in a bathtub and I’m happy!). It’s incredible to relax and see the clouds floating by. And in this room, I left our mountain-themed decor’ that fills the rest of the house, and indulged myself in my beloved sea shells, and other nautical decorations.

That’s the beauty of decorating according to your own soul. There are no rules! If I want mountain and sea in the same house, I can do that. I love it!

Next, come outdoors with me for just a moment.

Here you see, in the first pic, the outside of the house as it looked when we first came. We still have a way to go, but we have made the entry-way so much more inviting by adding a fountain (which my husband gave me as a promise on Christmas and delivered in April), and some little inexpensive touches, like painting the old rusty flower pots and adding a rock path.  We hope to add a porch, and remove the ramp, sometime in the near future, to take away from that straight look that modular homes tend to have, and to give it some character.  But you wouldn’t believe how much more inviting it is to hear running water when the house is approached. Water adds such life!

Now back to the house, to another bathroom, the guest bath. Have you ever noticed how important bathrooms are? For someone like me, who along with my husband, run a home business, I spend lots of time, it seems, in the bathroom during the day.

And think of your guests. If your kitchen has flaws and conversely, beautiful things, your guests may or may not even notice. But in the guest bathroom, they have time to look around at their leisure and notice every flaw, as well as every delight in detail! The guest bathroom just may be your most important decorating venture in the entire house.

So the first picture shows what the bathroom looked like when the house was listed. Notice the motorhome-like panels on the walls. In the last picture you see my most fun achievement. I was able to hide those panels with a Sante Fe heavy texture. Some call this kind of texture “skip trowel” texture, but I did more of a swirl design, which gave it a Southwestern look.

The shower curtain hides the yet-to-be-made tile shower, but we were able to add some pretty tiles as a back splash on top of the vanity, which is still the original, but the tiles really add some appeal.

And, oh, changing the cupboard handles, which we did in both bathroom and kitchen, does wonders to bring out the best in the old yet still kind of nice cupboard doors.

Last but not least, at least for this blog, is the kitchen. I owe most of the transformation to my husband Mike.  This room also had the dreaded panels, and he transformed the walls to a nice orange-peel like texture. He also changed the original florescent recessed lights into really cool halogen fancy track lights.

Then we both worked on a “peel and stick” back splash. Above is a before and after (although the pictures are from different sides of the kitchen). The wall looked so blah, but this back splash really jazzed it up and made the kitchen look transformed, even though the same Formica counter is there, the back splash and the textured walls, along with the new cupboard handles and the new lights, makes it truly look like a brand new kitchen!

So that’s part I of our home improvement journey. Stay tuned for part II!

Cozy Cottage/Rustic Decor' Ideas, Mountain Aspen Glow, Uncategorized

The Beginnings and Evolution of a Home-Based Business

A Lady Worth Emulating

A few years ago, after I was no longer raising kids, or employed in any way outside the home, I asked myself what I’ve always wanted to do when I didn’t have the majority of my time defined for me each day.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved what I did during those years! But time changes things, and I found myself in a new season of life.

I thought of the times I had read Proverbs chapter 31 and how impressed I was with the woman described there! She was home-based and thoroughly committed to her family and her home, yet she was not just”the happy homemaker” whose skills didn’t stretch beyond making cookies (although I’m sure she could make a mean batch of cookies in whatever form of stove she had!)

But no, it didn’t stop there. She was an astute business woman, and a compassionate and generous person in her community. I wanted to be like her.

“She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands”  OK, thought I, she’s a sew-er. I like to sew. I’ve been sewing ever since my 7th grade sewing class. So I started an etsy shop, made table runners, and used some of the photography skill that I had recently developed to display them. The shop was then entitled “Bev’s Table Creations”  Etsy has about two million sellers, and it seemed when I looked at the shops that sold runners, there had to be thousands of table runners! I didn’t expect to get anywhere fast.

But the first week, my phone went “cha-ching” (the sound of a cash register indicating an etsy sale). You’re kidding! I was incredulous! I sold a runner! But being such an unbeliever, it turns out that I didn’t have enough fabric to fill the order. So off my husband and I drove to Denver, three hours total there and back, to get the fabric I needed since the fabric store in my town was out. We spent way more money on gas than we made on that runner. But from then on, I was well-stocked and ready to go.

download.pngAnd much to my amazement, my runners sold and sold. It turns out women love to have seasonal table runners for special occasions. And when I started making reversible runners, with ,say, Thanksgiving on one side and Christmas on the other. The orders got hard to keep up with.

But guess what. Sewing has always been fun for me but when it became such full time work, I knew that I didn’t want to do this long term.

But I did loooove being an entrepreneur. And that was the spirit of the Proverbs 31 woman. It didn’t have to take the specific form of sewing.

The Challenge That Started Everything

Now Mike, being fully immersed in his corporate job, had no intention of doing entrepreneur work. But I asked him if he would consider making something out of wood for the shop to expand the potential a bit.

Little did I know that latent within this man who had pretty much never done any woodworking in his life, lay undiscovered giftedness!

OK, this is a blog, not a book. So fast forward. Bev’s Table Creations is now Rocky Mountain Glow, with wood products being the main attraction of the shop. And Mike, it turns out, like Michelangelo who said he could “see” David in the stone before he sculpted it, Mike is able to “see” lamps, candles, and other awesome wood items in a random wood log, and make it into something beautiful!

SONY DSCWe knew we were on to something when we got an order for 16 centerpieces comprised of Mike’s awesome candles and a little decorating handiwork on my part, to be used at the Broadmoor Hotel. “Hey, people really like this stuff,” we commented to each other.

An Unexpected Inspiration

Then I did something kind of weird. I signed up for a class at the local senior center. I had never done so before. It was a wood burning class. I expected to be surrounded by feeble classmates barely able to hold the hot iron. But much to my amazement, I was instead surrounded by very talented, gifted, and able artists! And I learned much from them and from the teacher.

DSC06099ed.jpgI was however disappointed when I and one other woman in the class who were the only newbies had to work the entire 6 weeks on an ugly “tree spirit” rather than on the cute little squirrel that the others got to work on.

But as it turned out, learning to shade and color leaves would be a valuable part of our business in the future, but I had no idea of that at the time.

Not only that, but a group of the men in the class were into making walking sticks because wood carving was also among their areas of expertise, and they, along with the teacher, would go out with a pick up truck and gather wood for sticks.

I listened carefully to their conversations, as if a fly on the wall, and brought it all together as an idea for our shop. What if we made customized walking sticks with wood-burned names and designs?

Long story short, these sticks have become our best sellers. I also do some wood burning on lamps.

Fun Work Improvements

So the final part of our story I would like to share is the improvements we recently made in Mike’s working conditions. I have a lovely workshop in our lower level, where I even have a little kiln for making fused glass jewelry, as well as all my other endeavors.

But Mike has worked in a corner of our garage and outside sanding in wind, cold, heat, and snow.

I should mention that during the past year or so, Mike has come to love this work as much as I do, and when retirement comes upon us, we’re going for it full time.  Wait! I thought retirement was for stopping work. That’s not how we see it. We’ve only just begun!

Mike says he finds that the time flies by when he is doing wood working, and that it is therapeutic for both body and soul. Remember the Proverbs 31 woman who “works with eager hands’? both Mike and I find that we love this work!

Back to the point, Mike needed some improvements in his working conditions if this thing was going to be long term.

He also has been using mainly hand tools. That’s nice for home projects, but our sales have doubled since this time last year, and we need to keep up with the pace.

With a little coaxing (Mike is always slower to spend money on anything than I), we both agreed that we need to invest in some things that make our (especially his) work “faster and easier,” which has become our theme for the year.

The first thing we did was to get a small chain saw. We had been sawing down our “standing dead” aspen with a hand saw (and after a while I pooped out because it was just too hard) but now we can zoom through the forest finding the dead wood that we need. Yes, we have permission to do this. It is legal to take dead wood from the national forests as long as it is not to large and not too much.

The next thing we did was to purchase an awesome Sunset shed for a workshop for Mike. How fun it has been to get it ready.

Our son Ricky came over to help Mike put in the electrical stuff needed to have power. Mike did the digging and wiring outside and Ricky did the wiring inside.

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And now we have room to roam…room for such items as this band saw, which among many other features, is able to make these wood slices…something which used to take a huge amount of time and energy. But now…it cuts like butter.

 

Rocky Mountain Glow may or may not become a super thriving business. But one thing is for sure, we’re having a lot of fun giving it a go!

rockymountainglow.etsy.com

Cozy Cottage/Rustic Decor' Ideas

Fireplace Remodel: A challenge worth taking.

 

 

Here in Colorado Springs, many people set off on the adventure of climbing Pike’s Peak, one of the many “14er’s” on the Front Range.  Some even run it! A 14er is a mountain peak with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet.

The reason I bring this up as an introduction to Mike’s and my adventure of remodeling our fireplace with stone is because although many people our age brave the climb of Pike’s Peak, I would never be inclined to do it because having limited energy, I like to see a result from extreme exertion. And, at least for us as newbies, remodeling to a stone fireplace, was indeed extreme exertion, but worth it. By the way, kudos to those who climb the mountain! And if you’d like to read a blog about adventures on “America’s Mountain, click here.

IMG_1931So here is our tile fireplace. These shiny, hard-to-clean terra-cotta tiles were everywhere in the home we bought 10 years ago…the floor, the bathrooms, the kitchen back splash, the fireplace…everywhere! And the fireplace is the last remodel to remove them all from the home.  Good riddance!

The estimates to transform this fireplace to a stone fireplace ranged from $6,000 and up. (This, I believe, was not counting the materials needed for the project.) We weren’t even looking for anything elaborate, such as an arched stone design to the ceiling, just a rather simple remodel. So Mike and I took on the challenge to do it ourselves.

I suppose you could call this a “tutorial,” but this is different from most tutorials in that anything learned will be just as much from our mistakes as from what we did right.

IMG_1936We decided to hire a couple of high school seniors (who incidentally were in my first-grade class when I was a teacher!), to do the demolition.  They did such a fabulous job, were hard workers, and fast too! These young men are just as delightful as they were in first grade, only now all grown up!

I actually was hoping we could use them for more of the work, but from here on out, there would be so much decision making during the job, that we knew it would be slow with a lot of changing our minds and back-and-forth discussion (commonly known as arguing!), and much re-evaluation mid-course, so alas, we had to forge ahead on our own.

IMG_1979One of our first adventures was to pick out the stone. We really wanted real stone, which we bought and had delivered, but when we got it, we felt that it was kind of mono with little color, so we added some fake stone. What you see here is a combination. The real stone is kind of blah on its own, and the fake stone looked just a little fake, but together, they look just right. See what I mean about a lot of decision making?!  We ended up using about 75% real stone.

The look for this fireplace will be “lodge.” Both Mike and I love to hang out in mountain lodges by the stone fireplace. I know some people would not choose the lodge look, but then again, I would not choose many of the fireplaces that I see! So as the song used to go, “Different strokes for different folks.”

 

 

Mike’s tendency toward meticulous work paid off in this stage of things where we had to do all the under-workings of the job just right so that the heavy stone would stay on the wall for a good long time! The estimated weight of a stone wall is 120 pounds per square foot, so things must be done right!

First, he applied concrete backer board; then black felt paper for a vapor barrier since mortar tends to attract moisture; next, the metal lath to give a good hold to the mortar which is soon to come.

And finally, we applied the first coat of mortar, which is the “scratch coat” so that the final application of mortar has something to get a grip on.

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In between all this, I had been organizing rock so that it wouldn’t just be in a big pile when it came time to apply it. Trust me, in moving that stone from here to there, I have taken lots of hot baths in an attempt to soothe my achin’ muscles! And I hate to think of how Mike’s muscles must have felt as he did the heavier lifting.

 

Meanwhile, I tried different creative ideas to place over the fireplace unit. I tried wood burning some designs. I tried some beautiful tiles I got from a fellow etsy seller (potsbydeperrot.etsy.com).

SONY DSCStill, the whole thing was just not striking us right, and after all, whatever we decide will be “in cement” literally!  So the tiles with wood burning now have a wonderful home…in the guest bathroom! The colors coordinate perfectly.

I take time to share this, to show that it involves lots of experimenting and thinking to hit on just the right thing. And in the process, though plans change, good can come from the experimenting, but be completely different from what we first had in mind!

IMG_2030edIt’s amazing what a big job can be done with such relatively small, regular tools. This is Mike cutting the flagstone for the hearth with his angle grinder, the only adjustment he made is that he purchased a diamond blade…cuts right through thick stone! When we bought the stone and the person behind the counter found out we were cutting our own, she told us we could make lots of money shaping stone because people and landscaping companies come in all the time asking for that service. But Mike was quick to say, no thanks! (He much prefers his woodworking that we do for our shop rockymountainglow.etsy.com)

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And the hearth is laid, but not yet mortared on. Our achin’ backs tell us…quit for today. It will be there tomorrow!  After lifting the heavy flagstone much of the day, the rocks are going to seem feather-light for the next part of the job!

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A day or two later, finished! With the hearth, that is. We get to sit on it…how exciting 🙂

 

 

 

IMG_2041So the first rocks went up. We loved the look. But one problem, the lovely reddish-brown mortar we chose absolutely stained all the rocks. Nice color, even on the rocks, but we didn’t want all the rocks to be the same color! So we pried them off while there was still time, and decided to use good ol’ grey non-colored mortar to proceed. It too gets all over the rocks, and is hard to clean, but doesn’t stain. These are the kinds of setbacks that newbies have. Problem is, once we learn the ropes, it won’t help us, because I’m quite sure that we will never do a stone fireplace again!

IMG_2071edMost masons recommend working bottom-up rather than top-down due to the stabilizing effect it has on the higher stones. The ones who prefer starting at the top give these two reasons: You can choose and arrange your stone lines rather than just ending up with whatever you end up with working from the bottom up. The other advantage is that when the wet mortar falls, it doesn’t mess up the rocks below and there is less clean up. All things considered, it’s probably safest to work bottom-up, which is what we did for most of the project.

IMG_2074edSo we have finished the upper part of the rock work. We have textured the side walls and still need to decide on what paint to use. We still have the bottom part of the long hearth bench to do, but you know what? We’re tired! So remember the young men I mentioned who took out the tiles? We have hired them to help us with the rock work on that area close to the floor. It will be good experience for them perhaps for the future, and Mike and I will have a much needed break from doing it completely alone. Plus lifting rock from that low position? Nope. That is for young bodies!

IMG_2084edWe have a week before we begin the last leg of the journey, the bottom of the hearth, so we are doing some things while we wait, like painting the side walls. Earlier, we textured the walls with a technique called “skip trowel,” which gives a little bit of a Sante Fe look. Mike textured one side of the fireplace and I did the other. In this picture, he is painting the base color over his texturing, which is different from the texturing I did. In fact, no two persons can ever texture exactly like the other. It is, as they say, an expression of the soul. I like them both, and it will make a conversation piece that our two sides look different from each other…expressing our personalities.

IMG_2098edThe other thing we are doing while we wait is to condition and seal the flagstones, as well as the rock around the fireplace.  This product (511 Seal and Enhance) is really good, and although it is pricey, I did one whole side of the fireplace and a couple flagstones with just about 1 1/2″ of product in a plastic cup. So it goes a long way. It conditions, protects and takes away the chalky look of the stones. With just a one quart bottle, we should have enough left when we finish to treat the stamped concrete sidewalk outside.

Back to the paint for a moment. We decided to flip-flop the paint we had above the mantel shelf, where we used a darker brown paint for the base and then added a lighter brown faux finish with a feather duster! We did that about 10 years ago and it still looks good.

SONY DSCSo on our current project, we took the same paints but used the lighter paint for the base and the darker paint to feather dust the faux finish. This is my side of the texturing. The wall above the mantel does not have the skip-trowel texturing as this does, just a regular orange peel texture.

 

If you have hung in there this long in your reading, I am happy to inform you that this fireplace “journey” will soon be over (this weekend) and this blog will come to an end too!

However, there is the bottom part of the hearth bench to finish. Above are pictures showing what I hope will be an interesting part of the rock hearth. In our home, not only are we blessed to have a full view of Pike’s Peak from our windows and deck, but we also see our very own bluff, Pulpit Rock, which is pictured above. And also pictured above in front are some rocks that we gathered from this bluff on Easter morning. So we plan to use them in the hearth to kind of bring the out of doors right into our house. I only wish we had thought to gather stones from the top of Pike’s Peak when we were there, but too late now! The show must go on.

 

 

After a short briefing on laying stone, we let Jonathan and Luke do the lion’s share of the work of actually getting the stones onto the wall. By the way, real stones are considerably more difficult to adhere than lighter fake stone. Meanwhile, Mike cut stones outside (stone laying is a lot like fitting a puzzle together). I followed along with the work inside and applied mortar to the joint lines and washed the stones, because, obviously, it is easier to remove unwanted mortar when it’s wet than when it’s dry.

And just in case you really are reading this as a tutorial, earlier I said that we used some (about 25%) manufactured stone to add color. Shows you what we know! After we treated the stones, the real stone was much more vibrant and the fake stone faded when it was washed and looked blah. Just the opposite of what I thought would happen. So on the bottom part of the hearth, we used zero manufactured stone.

 

IMG_1931IMG_2139So here you have it, before and after!

I haven’t yet cleaned and conditioned the bottom rocks, and when I do they will be much more vibrant. But I’m going to send this picture because I am so ready to be done with the fireplace and with writing this blog (although I have enjoyed it!), and now…I just want to relax by my fireplace for a while!

Cozy Cottage/Rustic Decor' Ideas

Cozy Cottage: How To Make a Leafy Lampshade

 

SONY DSCIn our etsy shop Rocky Mountain Glow we sell a variety of wood items. Among those items are aspen lamps, awesome aspen lamps, I might add! That’s not bragging, but when you start with the beauty of God’s creation in the wood itself, it is a delightful medium to add your own skills to. My husband, Mike, does the wood crafting, and on some of the lamps, such as this one, I add some hand wood-burning.

But the thing I wanted to highlight in this blog is the lampshade.  Many times we sell these lamps, and people are disappointed that we don’t include the lampshades. The reason we don’t is because they cost a fortune to ship! So we encourage people to purchase their own shades. But often they are disappointed because they like the leafy lampshade, and of course, those are nowhere to be found.

They are easy to make, and I’m happy to share the secret with you!

SONY DSCThis particular lampshade is from Lowes, but any good quality shade is fine as long as it fits your lamp well.  The materials you need are surprising few and simple: Leaf die cuts, which can be purchased already cut at Hobby Lobby. A “die” tool, to cut out the branches, good quality paper for the branches, some good-holding glue such as E6000 (something like Elmers or Tacky glue may not hold long-term)…and that’s it!

The paper you use cut the branches with the stamping tool can be just plain white, but I prefer to use paper that is rustic-looking on one side, just in case someone takes a peek inside the lamp; it looks more professional and classy.

So plan your design. I find that two or three leaves is best. It looks a little “much” with more. Add just a small dab of glue with a toothpick to the first leaf on all of the points of the leaf plus one dab on the center. Place inside the lamp to the highest spot of the leaf design. Next turn the lamp on to get a picture of where your design is going,  and then turn the lamp off again to apply the next leaf. Repeat this until all the leaves are placed. No need to add lots of glue or to press hard. Just a little bit with a small amount of pressure will work well. Best not to move the leaves once you place them! You don’t want glue globs showing through your shade.

Cut out your branches and turn the lamp on to use your creative imagination in where you want to place them among the leaves. Applying the glue is a little messy with the branches since they are so small, but keep a wet paper towel handy to wipe your fingers. Remember to place the rustic side of the paper out where it can be seen from the inside. Otherwise, you might as well just use white paper.

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Let dry. When you turn your lamp on, the magic will happen! And no one needs to know just how easily you made your awesome leafy lampshade!

Please feel free to visit our shop!
rockymountainglow.etsy.com

*I suggest not using more than a 60 watt bulb if you use incandescent, for safety reasons.