Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Home Sweet Hotel Suite

My husband and I have been living in an extended stay unit at The Inn at Leola Village, since our home was deluged three months ago. This charming conglomeration of refurbished cottages and new buildings isn't home, but it is a palace compared to refugee and natural disaster tents.  In a global context, we are blessed.

Even by American standards, the Inn at Leola is a charming, quiet place to stay; it deserves its four stars.  From the front desk receptionist, to the breakfast servers, to the cleaning staff, every employee is professional, courteous, and efficient. The rooms are well-appointed and the grounds lovely.

But beyond the nice surroundings, we are blessed by the very reason we are here--a damaged home.  Let me explain.  This week an article in The Wall Street Journal by Andrea Petersen ("When Home is Where the Hotel Is") listed causes for the increase in long-term stay units. The article made us count our blessings.
 Allison V. Smith for The Wall Street Journal
As Petersen noted, the slow real-estate market has contributed to families opting for temporary housing.  We can be thankful we are not waiting for a home to sell in a depressed market.  Nor are we in an extended stay unit because our marriage is dissolving.  Thankfully, we are not here because a family member is seeking medical treatment, nor are we jobless.  Furthermore, we are blessed even in a local context.  Some Lancastrians are homeless, but uninsured. At least, our damage was caused by a contractor with liability insurance.  Indeed, we have many reasons to be thankful.

However, lest I sound too much like Pollyanna, true confession: I get very perturbed by the insurance company's lethargy.

Donegal Building 

When I get frustrated, I try to list the positives of our situation:

First, this unexpected dislodgment has provided a respite from daily chores--cleaning and cooking.


Second, staying in a two-room efficiency demonstrates how little we actually need. Living with less is freeing.
Third, when what you have is taken away, you are more appreciative of what you have.

Fourth, freedom from the mundane makes one focus on people--not on things.

And fifth, our homelessness has made me appreciate what Jesus gave up for us.  He did not have a place to lay his head during his stay on earth.  Why would he leave the splendor of heaven to be born in a stable, live as an itinerant, even be buried in a borrowed tomb?  To prove his love for us, which is the biggest cause for a thankful heart this Christmas season.

Won't you join me in thanking the Lord for his gift, no matter your circumstances.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Book Now" Guest Room

Thanksgiving is the busiest travel holiday of the year.  If you went away this weekend, where did you stay?  What made your stay more comfortable? In a hotel room, I appreciate a luggage rack

Porta Baggage Rack as shown on afteradornment.blogspot.com
and a tray with carafe and water glasses. 
However, when I am looking at lodging on-line, the decor is what makes or breaks my guest booking.  

Marcus and Anna have made the guest room in their stone cottage so inviting.  They converted a plain, awkwardly-arranged room into a room you'd want to book. When the house was on the market, stagers set a serving tray on the bed to welcome visitors.  Unfortunately, plain walls and awkwardly placed furniture were not all that inviting.  
Ideally, a bed should be placed opposite the entry to the room.  This allows the largest piece of furniture to be the room's focal point. In Marcus and Anna's stone cottage, a diminutive door shrank the face-wall until it couldn't accommodate a bed.

The solution to the dilemma is a tall headboard. By covering the tiny door, Anna was able to place her guest bed properly on the far wall.
Now, when guests see the gray wool headboard, matching duvet cover, and puffy pillows, they want to stay. The bedside tables and lamps add to the ambiance.

Across the room, a tall bookcase counter-balances the bed and stores some night-time reading.
An antique French colonial desk supplies a visitor with pen and paper.
The painting which set the room's color scheme is by Goxwa.  
Other niceties for welcoming guests are suggested by Carolyne Roehm, the taste-maker who writes a column for Veranda magazine.  She adds: tissues, an alarm clock, and a hot water bottle!  To check yourself against her list go to: www.veranda.com/luxury-homes/carolyne_roehm-entertaining-guest_rooms.

The stone cottage guest room checks almost all of the boxes for a room I'd book.  How about you?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Master Bedroom's Yin and Yang

A master bedroom is shared by a wife and a husband, the yin and the yang. Designing a room with a feminine and a masculine appeal is a challenge. However, rather than conflict, the two aesthetics can counterbalance leading to a more interesting interior.

Marcus and Anna's master bedroom is a prime example of how combining old and new, rounded and angular, dark and light, soft and hard results in a captivating retreat for both genders.
Anna's knack for combining opposites is obvious in their bedroom.  The two largest pieces of furniture--a contemporary a light-colored, fabric-backed square headboard on an angular bed-frame juxtaposes a mellow antique, dark-wood corner cupboard.
The cupboard holds pocketbooks and shoes.
The bed wall reveals several other contrasts.  Dark plays off light. Two black-lacquered, antique Asian bedside tables stand next to the bed which is dressed in a soft, down-filled white duvet and coverlet. Bed pillows repeat the contrast. Moreover, angular geometric pictures framed in dull industrial-metal contrast with curvy, shiny lamp bases.
Across the room, a contemporary chevron-patterned, bone mirror-frame leans against the wall above an antique dresser. Further, a vintage fan is balanced by modern bottles.
On the dresser, Anna layers a piece of dark slate beneath a shiny white-lacquered tray.  Atop the tray sits a smooth, white porcelain leaf next to a gray, knobby snail designed by Jonathan Adler.  What a fascinating vignette.

Finally, a dormer nook reveals gray linen Roman shades with a shiny metallic brocade motif and an antique chair topped with a contemporary pillow.
In a room as in marriage, the differences between women and men can create a dynamic whole.  Rather than conflict, the balanced opposites compliment each other.

Scripture sums it up, "Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him...So the Lord...made a woman and brought her to the man...Therefore, a man shall...hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:18, 22, 24).

Wouldn't you agree that Anna and Marcus' master bedroom illustrates the greater whole created by complimentary opposites?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Healthy Baby Dispels Clouds

This fall has been a blur without many posts.  First, came the house flood.  Then, came the birth of a new grandson which dispelled the rain clouds!  Who cares if your "stuff" is displaced, when a new healthy life breaks on the scene?  Truly, children are a gift from the Lord received with joy!
The day of his arrival, one great grandmother and both grandmothers entertained Will in the family waiting area.

The short couple of hours seems like an eternity, until we got the much anticipated text:  "Baby arrived.  All is well!"

Tears of joy filled our eyes. (If you remember, Rachel's first sonogram revealed a cystic hygroma on Nathan's head, neck, and back.  This finding can be highly indicative of chromosomal defects. Even though the cyst was never seen on subsequent sonograms, unspoken caution lurked in the background (http://graciousinteriors.blogspot.com/2001/04/promise of springtime.html). Thankfully, relief and praise replaced our submerged fear.
The perfect little guy brings smiles to Rachel and Gigi's faces!
Nathan was loved from the start. His daddy and mama prepared for his coming by personalizing what had been Will's nursery.  They added a gunmetal chandelier and his name above the crib.

However, Rachel's biggest job was redecorating a big-boy room for Will John.  Since Curt played baseball all his life, Rachel chose this as the theme.  Besides, this motif can grow with the two-year-old.

After painting the room Benjamin Moore "Museum Piece" (50%), she purchased a large canvas from Michael's, covering it with white linen and attaching Curt's jersey, catcher's mask, and mitt.

Then she surrounded the display with a bat and balls, using holders from Restoration Hardware's children's division.  The lamp was ordered from Ballard Design, while the reading chair was purchased at TJ Max.  The gunmetal cafe chair at the desk came from Tolix, the book crate from Etsy, and the metal letters from Restoration Hardware.

On an adjacent wall, Rachel hung Curt's prize collection of George Brett metal newspaper galleys.

Finally, Will graduated to his "big-boy" bed, a daybed that Rachel slept on as a girl. (Bill and I purchased the French colonial antique on a Port-au-Prince street in the 1980's.)
To get into his bed, Will uses steps Rachel ordered unfinished from Etsy.  We stained them mahogany to match the bed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art posters above the bed are of famous baseball cards and were framed for Curt by his parents.

Can you see why the great grandpa, grandpas, and dad voted this their favorite room in the house?

Finally, Nathan's home-coming day arrived.  That morning the high risk obstetrician came for a final discharge visit.  She looked Nathan over, commenting, "The cyst must have been very tiny."

"No," Rachel replied; "actually, it was quite large from his head down his spine."

"Then we must be looking at a miracle," she responded!

How thankful we are for Nathan's good health!

From my perspective, life on earth doesn't get any better than this!  Nathan Curtis' healthy arrival certainly put our dislodgment in perspective.  A flooded home pales in comparison to Nathan's nine Apgar score! Won't you praise God with us?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Looking for Rainbows

Five weeks ago, central Pennsylvania suffered a torrential rain which caused widespread flooding. Weathermen called it a fifty-year flood.  Rivers overflowed their banks; creeks became rushing torrents, and ground water had no place to go except into basements. Lancaster and surrounding counties were declared a disaster area.

We live about three football fields and up a hill from the Conestoga River.  Even during Hurricane Agnes back in the 70's, water never come anywhere near as high as our home.  This time rising water was impressive, but God's mercy was even more inspiring.

Thankfully, the steep hill our house sits upon protected us from flooding.

However, the saturated water-table revealed a small, but enormously devastating, plumbing problem inside our home.

Actually, the error was made three years ago, when we had our basement redone.  (See--http://graciousinteriors.blogspot.com/2010/06/basement-becomes-lower-level-suite.html.)

At that time,  the contractor had a sump pump installed.  The pump, which had never come on before this monsoon, worked very efficiently.  However, instead of pumping water outside, it pumped the water to the second floor.

When I heard water pouring out of the powder room ceiling, I ran to the basement and shut off the main water valve to the house.  That did nothing; water continued to pour.

For nearly two hours, water soaked the three bedrooms upstairs, cascaded down the stairs and through the vents and light fixtures to the main floor.  Even though I was bailing water in a five gallon bucket, I couldn't keep up with the volume.  Water soaked the main floor, drenching the carpets and my new Apple computer.  It buckled the cherry floors throughout the house, warped millwork around the fireplace, and loosened drywall on ceilings.

Eventually, the falling water reached the basement, where it was the most devastating.

How could this have happened?  The culprit was human error. Evidently, the plumber forgot where the exit pipe leading outside was located.  It had been left plugged with styrofoam and covered with drywall. So, when he came back to install the sump pump, he connected to the pipe still visible which led to the washing machine catch-pan drain on the second floor.  The seemingly small mistake wrecked major havoc.

How should we respond to such mayhem?  My own words came back to me.  In the past year, I have told several audiences, "When calamity strikes, don't doubt God's love; count his mercies."

Taking my own advice, here are few of the rainbows I recognize:

Shortly after the deluge began, a friend called.

"I can't talk now," I said. "I have a flood."

Before long she came armed with a laundry basket of towels, but when she saw the magnitude of the problem, she called her husband.  He "just happened" to have a roofer with him who was looking at a small leak in his office building.  They came right over.

The roofer crawled into the attic to check for a cave-in there.  "It's bone dry up here," he reported. However, he just happened to know the president of a restoration company. Unknown to me, after he left, he made a call.

I had already called Compleat Restoration, but with the volume of calls they were getting, they said it would be from one to three weeks before they could get to us. So, you can imagine my surprise when they called back to tell me they would be coming that evening.

Meanwhile, the air conditioning company sent out a repairman who gerry-rigged the a.c. bypassing the flooded mother-board. This kept the house cool preventing mildew and mold.

Further, a plumbing truck was next-door. When the plumbers finished there, they came, opened up the wall, and found the problem. Finally, the deluge stopped.

By nightfall, the restoration experts were on hand with seventeen industrial dehumidifiers and fans.

They pulled padding from under carpet to allow ventilation to dry out the sub flooring.

They cut out dry wall to remove wet insulation and enable drying.

The equipment ran for four days!

When the fog cleared and the extent of the damage became apparent, we got a mover who packed the contents of our home and took it to storage. While the truck was being loaded the rain held off; but as the last item was inside the van, it began to "spritz". I was thankful the furniture didn't take-on more water!

Afterward, we checked into an extended stay unit at a local hotel.  With the house empty, the warped and wet flooring could be removed.

Furthermore, the honest plumber and contractor have accepted responsibility for the negligence.

In addition, previously, we had planned to be away on vacation this particular week. Can you picture the mold and mildew, if we had been away?

To keep things in perspective, we remember many Haitian families who are still living in tents two years after the earthquake.  We are thankful to have a dry roof over our heads, culpable companies who will eventually pay for damages (we hope), and most importantly, no one was hurt.

As we wait word of settlement from the insurance companies, we would appreciate prayers for patience and piety.  :)

Throughout this ordeal, I have often thought of Noah.  Imagine how special the rainbow was to him.  As I count the Lord's mercies in our minor-in-comparison flood, I am thankful for the rainbows revealed along the way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Spiffing up the Loo

The British have a way with words. Spoken with a proper accent a post on bathroom renovations sounds almost genteel, but the only thing cultured about the stone-cottage bathrooms was the marble. So, Marcus and Anna chose those two rooms for major renovation.

This adorable sign can be purchased at: http://www.etsy.com/listing/61394373/the-loo-british-cottage-shabby-bathroom.

The goal was to transform the small spaces into mini-Cooper versions of a 1930's luxury hotel, the same era as the home. Taking  the Waldorf Astoria in New York City or the Biltmore Hotel in Palm Beach as their inspiration, the couple chose period fixtures and tile for the two bathrooms.

The upstairs bath needed the most attention. The pink marble palace was gutted, save for the bathtub.

This is an after picture; unfortunately, I didn't get the pink marble beforehand.

Restoration Hardware was a good source for vintage medicine cabinet and sink. While Circa lighting provided a contemporary take on Pullman lights (Boston Square Three-Light Sconce).

 Rhol fixtures supplied the hotel-style, train-rack shelf

and double towel bar.

The polished nickel, vintage hand-held shower fixtures are also Rohl,

as are the sink spigot and handles.

Marcus and Anna picked white subway ceramic tiles for the walls and hexagon Calcutta Gold marble tiles for the flooring to continue the grand-hotel theme. The marble baseboard is the final nod to the Great-Gatsby era.

Here is a peak of the completed room from the doorway.

The downstairs bathroom didn't need as extensive a renovation as the upstairs bath.  The black and white tile was probably original to the home, but in fine shape.  

The couple did replace the sink, the toilet, the medicine cabinet, lights, and hardware, since they had seen a lot of wear over the years. With new Rohl fixtures, the bathroom is a refreshed version of the original.

Leave it to Anna, my "necessity" queen, to find the perfect final-touch accessories.

In their refurbished splendor, I do believe these two loos could pass royal muster.