Sunday, 29 December 2013

The eco-friendly couch hunt - Part 2: Couch Acquired!

You might remember that we are in a hunt for an eco-friendly couch. (If you missed the beginning of our journey, here is the link to Part 1.So, we decided to go with Option 2 - Buy an antique couch and have it re-upholstered in an eco-friendly way.

I like antique/vintage couches. They have a lot of personality and are usually better made than their newer counterparts. We lucked out when this great Queen Anne style sofa and chair came up on an online auction; we picked them up for only $80. I was thrilled. I really like the sofa, especially the wood trim. The wood frame is in great shape and will not need to be refinished.


Our Queen Anne style sofa ready for upholstering

The chair is a bit wider than what I would ideally like but given that it matches the couch, I couldn't leave it behind.

Once home, we tried out how the couch would work in our living room. I was a bit concerned that it might be too large as it is 87" long. Misha was confident that it would work and he was right. The sofa fit perfectly and looked surprisingly well in our space. We feel comfortable going ahead with the re-upholstery plan.

We still have to decide what upholstery fabric to use but we are leaning towards this light grey, organic, 10oz cotton fabric from Tonic Living.

"10 oz Organic Stone" from Tonic Living

The next step is to find the right upholsterer to do the job. We have been in contact with a few already and getting ideas on the price/work involved.

We will keep you posted on our progress. In the meantime, let us know if you have had any upholstery jobs done. We would love to hear your experience.

Mia

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Christmas wreath - A quick and easy DIY

With so many projects on the go this winter, I didn't want to spend much time creating a complicated and time consuming holiday wreath. Normally, I would go for a more traditional look but after a bit of inspirational research, I opted for a simple and modern arrangement.

I didn't tell Misha the look I was going for as I wanted to surprise him with the wreath. I gathered everything I needed for the project. I sifted through our basement for the grape vine wreath we picked up a while back at Michael's....


... some colourful glass ornaments, a ribbon and a wire.


I cut a long piece of wire and began gathering the Christmas ornaments on the wire, one-by-one.


I mixed and matched the sizes and colours. I used up the ornaments we had left over from last year, which were predominantly red. You can go for more colours is you wish; that would look great as well.


Once I used up all the ornaments and was happy with the arrangement, I tied each end of the wire to the wreath. It took me about 15 minutes to do and the wreath was ready.


I used the red ribbon to tie the wreath to our front door.



When I showed it to Misha, the look on his face was priceless. He LOVED it! He actually said "I can't believe what a Martha Stewart you are".  I think that was a bit of an exaggeration but it was still nice to see him excited.


The wreath takes on a new life in the evening when the ornaments become illuminated by the light from the lantern.



Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

Mia


Sunday, 8 December 2013

The eco-friendly couch hunt

Our living room needs a serious makeover. Our existing IKEA furniture came in very handy when we moved in together.  It worked well when we merged our stuff and saved us a lot of money in the beginning. However, after almost three years, it's time to revisit our living room and start making some healthier furniture choices.

Starting with the couch, we are on the hunt for an eco-friendly couch. Our existing couch is made with polyurethane foam with toxic fire retardant, which we would like to replace. This means, we are looking for a couch with no polyurethane foam/fire retardant nor any stain/wrinkle resistant finishes on the fabric. We hadn't realized how big of an undertaking this is going to be.

We started out researching couches online and learning about what they are made of. We also visited retailers and asked many questions about their products. In the end, we came up with these three options:
  1. Buy a new eco-couch from Brentwood Classics. This place has an amazing show room, worth a visit if you live in/near Toronto. They use soya based poly-foam for the stuffing and they have a good selection of untreated upholstery fabrics to choose from. All sofas are made in Canada and the prices are reasonable, starting at around $1,600.
    Brentwood Classics sofa


  2. Buy an antique couch and have it re-upholstered based on our specific eco needs. This would involve  buying a used couch and finding an upholsterer who is willing to do the work for a reasonable price.


  3. Buy a futon with organic cotton batting. This is a great option other than futons are not everyone's cup of tea, especially as living room furniture.


After months of going back and forth, comparing prices, revisiting our budget, and questioning what is important to us we are narrowing down our choices. Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Eco-friendly couch hunt and see how we decide.

Mia

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Roman blinds and why we went custom

I was determined to make my own Roman blinds. We needed window coverings for our kitchen and bathroom windows and I thought Roman blinds would work well. Given that the windows are odd sizes they had to be made-to-measure. I watched several online tutorials on Roman blind making and the process looked pretty straight forward. I made a plan of what I needed to buy and checked out fabric options.

That was a year ago. Since then, the window covering in our bathroom has consisted of this ...



Living with craft paper on our window for months made me realize that despite my best intentions,the DIY Roman blinds were not going to happen..... so we had to look for alternatives. 

During my online drapery research I came across Tonic Living. It's a Toronto based business that specializes in curtains and blinds. We visited their retail location, checked out their blinds and picked up a few fabric samples.

Fabric samples from Tonic Living


Tonic Living has a great selection of fabrics but what we liked most is that on their web site you can read about the fabrics and what they are treated with. We were careful selecting fabrics that are not treated  with any stain or wrinkle resistant finishes and don't contain fire retardants, phthalate, lead and formaldehyde. We were excited to be able to access information on the treatment of the fabrics as most draperies are heavily treated with toxic chemicals with little or no information provided to customers.

We put our order in and our custom blinds will be ready in a few weeks. I can't wait to have blinds on our windows....no more craft paper.


Stay tuned for the reveal of the winning fabric and installation tips.

Mia

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Storm door or no storm door

I am not a big fan of storm doors. They get in the way when going in and out of the house and they tend to take away from the visual appeal of the entrance door. I always thought I would want to go with a "no storm door" option...... until we took our existing storm door off.

Since we don't have a storm door, I can definitely feel the difference in the air movement inside the house. Each time Misha enters the house and leaves the door open, even if for a few seconds, a cold breeze whooshes through the house.

Given that our house is small and we don't have an enclosed hallway, the cold air comes right into the living room, usually where I sit. It is not pleasant and it's not even winter yet. I realized that no storm door for our small house is not a good alternative.

So there we went, storm door shopping.

Our shopping experience was slightly more complicated than we originally thought.  Our door is not a standard sized door as it measures 82" X 34". We had no choice but to go with a custom storm door and pay the extra cost. We ordered a full-view Andersen 3000 Series storm door from Home Depot. I like it's low profile and that the glass can be replaced with a screen in the summer.

Our pick - Andersen 3000 Series full-view storm door


The order is in and our door should arrive in a couple of weeks. Misha volunteered to install it. Hope it won't give us a hard time.

What are your experiences with storm doors? Are you a fan?

Mia

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Front Porch Makeover

I have been planning to do a front porch makeover since the day we moved into our house. While it was always on my mind there was no real urgency to do it, so it kept being put on hold ......till this fall. As the weather got cooler, I thought I didn't want to go through another winter with the brown, gloomy looking porch. 

Our first idea was to repaint the whole porch and the siding. We received a couple of quotes for the paint job but as the amounts were not in our budget we decided to do what we could ourselves. So we got to work.

Misha removed the screen door and repainted our existing wood door with three coats of 0 VOC white outdoor latex paint. 



We decided on white after a long debate between dark blue and white. White won out as we wanted to lighten up the space under the porch. While it is the more conservative colour choice, we feel it works with our house. 

Then came the railing, we painted it black. That was an easy decision and the job didn't take long. We also replaced the lock, installed a door knocker, a mail slot and a new lantern. 

What I enjoyed the most was creating the new house number. We picked up an unfinished wood plaque from Michaels and Misha painted it white with a black edge.


We screwed in the black metal house numbers we got from Home Depot. Installing the plaque on the house didn't take long.



At the end, we added some flower pots and fall decorations and voila.....our affordable, front porch makeover is done. Here is the before and after.

Before


After









We will be repainting the porch and the siding at some point next year but at least we can feel better about our refreshed porch throughout the winter months.

Mia

Monday, 14 October 2013

Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

We are so thankful for our family, friends, health, our garden and to all of you who have been so supportive throughout our blogging adventure.  We will enjoy our Thanksgiving feast with the bountiful harvest fresh picked today, on Thanksgiving Day.


 ... and here is one of my favourite prayers; the non-religious version of the Johnny Appleseed song:

The Earth's been good to me,
And so I thank the Earth,
For giving me, the things I need,
The sun and the rain and the apple seed,
The Earth's been good the me.


Misha and Mia

Lavender Wands

Last year at Weir's Lavender Farm Mia made a lavender wand.  She still has it and it still smells great.  To refresh the fragrance she just rolls it between her palms and it smells fresh as ever.

I thought I would try my hand and patience at making lavender wands.  I am more a big picture kinda person and minutiae can really paralyze and frustrate me.  After a few expletives and finding my lavender zen, I not only made one but four in total.

To start, I gathered 9 lavender flower stems, bundled them so the flowers were aligned then tied a ribbon at the base of the flowers.  I then bent the stems down and over the flowers.  Leave one end of the ribbon hanging down with the flowers.  It should hang down to the end of the stems once they are bent all the way down. You will use this later to wrap around the stem to make a handle.  The other end of the ribbon should be approximately 36" to weave around the lavender.





It's tricky to start the weaving but once you get 2 - 3 rows down it gets easier.


And here is my first effort.  A little messy but not bad.


Here are the next three I made beside the dried lavender.  Each one got better and was easier to make.


For more detailed instructions on how to make a lavender wand check out this site: http://herbanlifestyle.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/how-to-make-lavender-wands/ . If I can follow the instructions, anyone can.

Misha

Sunday, 29 September 2013

THE BATHROOM REVEAL!

Our bathroom is done!  Actually, it was done a few months ago but we have been busy with life and couldn't get the pictures together and the post completed. Happy to say that we're back and blogging again.  

I am almost more pleased with the new washroom than I was with our new kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I love our kitchen, but with the washroom I wasn’t expecting much of a transformation. I knew that it was a very small space and it would remain a small bathroom, no matter what we did. However, I am impressed at how much the pedestal sink and the clear glass tub door open up the space. It feels so much larger and airier. I still tend to walk by it several times a day, just to take a quick peak inside. Enough of the talking; here are the before and after pictures. I also added a list of the green products we used.



Before

After

Before

After


Before


After


Some of the features highlighted:

The recessed shower niche was a lot of work for our tiler but we love it. The insert was purchased online from Home Depot.

The all around chair rail and bullnose borders add some interest to the finish.


Sink and faucet purchased from Home Depot. This smaller sized pedestal sink works great for our space.

Elongated water saver toilet and inset metal toilet roll holder.

Two mirrored, inset medicine cabinets from Home Depot. Great space savers that balance out and enlarge the bathroom visually.


Custom made wooden vent cover held on with magnets.

Yup, Martha Stewart Seal Harbor lights from Home Depot.

6 x 6 tile and pencil tile to create a faux baseboard. We went with a traditional black door stopper for a country look.

Birch White semigloss paint on the door and on the new casing. The black Weiser Troy door knobs and barn hooks installed by Mia.

The green products we used:

·         Toilet - American Standard, Saver Elongated, low-flow toilet. Uses only 4.8L/flush. You might remember our last toilet that used 8 L/flush.
·         Bathtub – American Standard, Steel Enamelled tub – Purchased at Lowes. Love the tub! Read about our decision HERE.
·         Glass Tub Door – We purchased this great tub door on sale at Home Depot. We love how it finishes off the look and is more environmentally friendly than plastic shower curtains.
·         0 VOC Paint – Purchased at Homestead House. This is our favourite paint and we used it in the rest of our house. 
·         Porcelain tiles – Purchased at Home Depot and The Tile Store. Read about it here HERE.
·         Cement board – Used it for all the bathroom walls. Read about our decision here HERE.
·         Dry Wall Joint Compound - MURCO M 100 – A non-toxic alternative to regular dry-wall compound. Used it to finish off the cement board. Purchased at the EcoResource.

....and off to the next project, rebuilding the deck.

Mia

Monday, 29 July 2013

Lavender Harvest

We are really pleased with our "lavender farm".  The Hidcote lavender we purchased from Weir's Lane Lavender Farm seem to love the location and the soil amendments we did when we planted them.  See our earlier blog for planting description.  We hoped to create a low lavender hedge. We really like how they work with the roses that are blossoming on our homemade trellises.

Our lavender farm

They are beautiful even though they are not yet in full bloom.  We decided to harvest the lavender, nevertheless, as it was just at the right stage to harvest for drying.  We plan to make dried bouquets and it is best to harvest them just before the flowers open into full bloom. To harvest cut the stem as close to the base as possible.


It's a pleasure to harvest; it looks beautiful and smells wonderful!


Next we stripped the leaves off of the stems.  We kept the leaves to use in potpourri and sachets.

Misha stripping the leaves from the stems
We sorted the lavender into 3 categories: Grade A for dried bouquets and lavender wands, short flower stems for sachets and leaves and broken stems for fresh pot potpourri.  Kevin from Weir's Lane Lavender, told us that the leaves and stems don't have much fragrance when dried.

Sorted lavender
The cats helped by guarding the lavender.

Poppy watching over the bundled lavender

Cinnamon on guard
We needed a warm dry place out of the sun to dry the lavender and our stair railing seemed perfect for the job.  I have to admit that after a week the fragrance of lavender was a bit overwhelming.  It's dry now and out in the mud room waiting to be packaged for dried bouquets we will give as gifts.

Lavender drying on stair rail
We look forward to an even bigger harvest next year now that the lavender is well established.  If you have a sunny dry spot in your garden, think about lavender as an option.  It's beautiful, fragrant and useful in many ways.

Lovely lavender!
Misha