Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Toy Story

Designing a space to encourage independent toddler play takes thinking like a Lilliputian. (Remember in Jonathan Swift's classic, Gulliver travels to the land of Lilliput where he meets people one twelfth the size of humans?) This past weekend, I was forced to see a room from the eyes of a year-and-a-half old little boy.

Prior to furnishing the room, it was an approximately twelve by sixteen foot caramel box with toys lined up around the walls. 

To entice a little guy to explore, the toys needed to be placed at his eye-level, easily accessible.  My daughter and I accomplished this by purchasing at Target two Circo bin organizers and two Circo book display shelves. 

We also got a Circo toy chest. 

Then to create a child-sized space, we purchased an indoor child's tent.

A bean bag chair gave the "men" a cushion for wrestling.

It was like Christmas morning for all of us.  We adults were gleeful with child-like delight when we saw this little boy literally prance from one item to the next scarcely able to contain himself.  What fun!  Happy boy! 
Happy Gigi!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Sixties Colonial Comes into Twenty-first Century

My son and daughter-in-law bought a home last year, not because they were thrilled with the exterior, but because they liked the flow of the home, the large family room with windows on three sides, and the playroom right off the kitchen. Because the home is located in a lovely old neighborhood, it could easily accommodate an investment in the exterior.  Here is how the house looked in its original 1960's glory.
Undeterred by the dated appearance, my son had a vision.  He pictured the exterior transformed by  giving some dimension to the flat exterior with a portico, unifying the two-toned colonial with paint, and restoring some historicity with authentic shutter-hardware and lighting.

The first step in the metamorphosis was to hire a carpenter to build a front portico. Like the nose on your face, this gives the front elevation depth. 

Next, the young home-owners had the first-floor brick and the second-floor siding painted the same color.  Unifying the surfaces changed the disjointed segments into a pleasing whole. The paint is Benjamin Moore Stone Harbor Gray. The light-colored, warm, soft gray makes the home feel larger. In addition, the crisp white and shiny black accents provide pleasing contrasts.

Lastly, even a seemingly small detail, like historically-correct mounting of the shutters, gave the home more curb appeal. My son ordered "New York style" hardware from  The site gives directions on how to calculate the throw of the shutters to get the correct size of s-shaped tie-backs, shutter dogs, and hinges.
He advises using this money-saving tip: On the sides of the house where the hardware isn't noticeable, add a one-inch wood block or dowel behind the shutter on the window side of the shutter. This angles the shutter, and the s-shaped tie-backs can be mounted on the outer lower edge. The shadow created by the angle fools the eye, and you barely miss the pivot point on the interior side of the shutter. Best of all, eliminating the hinges reduces the price by nearly three-quarters!
 For a tutorial on historically accurate shutters go to: What a difference angled, hinged, and properly mounted shutters make over contractor-mounted flat shutters!

Two final touches completed the duckling-to-swan transformation. A tiny out-of-date and out-of-proportion post light was replaced by an appropriately-sized, historically-accurate lantern.
A matching lantern was hung in the portico. 

Before the big reveal, remember the before:

And now the after, "ta-da".

The house has stepped from 1964 into 2010 in style! Wouldn't you agree?