Monday, November 23, 2015

The Art of Hospitality

Hospitality, I believe, is an art.  One that can {and should} be perfected our whole life long.  Though I am still honing this skill, some of my dearest friends are masters at it.  Now when I say hospitality don't think: monogrammed linens, fresh baked cookies and the one of everything from Williams- Sonoma.  Though all of those things are absolutely wonderful, if we're honest with ourselves, sometimes they can be mostly for show.
Aren't they often there to subtly convince our guests to think more highly of us? Or are they truly present in our homes to make our guests more comfortable?  If it's the latter, then absolutely! Bake those cookies and cut those flowers and press those linens.  But if the former happens to be true, maybe we need to stop for just a moment and consider the meaning and the purpose of true hospitality.
I believe the real heart of hospitality is, as a favorite author of mine writes: "about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved.  It's about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment."  
-Shauna Niequist 
One friend, in particular comes, to mind; who is the consummate example of welcome!  The instant you walk into her home, you feel special.  Not in a forced or contrived way.  She's says "I'm so glad you're here" and she means it.  And you believe her.  Her house isn't always spotless and her hair is sometimes wet when she greets you; but thank goodness it is.  Because in her vulnerability, her guests can relax. We realize she isn't perfect and therefore we don't have to be either.  We can just be us when we walk through those doors; and when we leave, we feel better somehow. More connected. More authentic.  There were spaces and there was silliness and you got to tell your whole story.
When we tell the truth about our own less-than-perfect lives, we find that others open up as well.  And in doing so, we connect.  And isn't that what we're all so desperately craving?  In an age of tweets, texts and facebook we are too often lacking those honest and authentic relationships.
So I think this brand of hospitality should be celebrated!  In turn, let's begin to consider it an honor and a privilege to be invited into someone's home; rather than just an obligation to fulfill on the social calendar.
With this in mind, I am going to begin making it a point to consistently bring hostess or housewarming gifts to those who are kind enough to invite our family to their table and into their home.  Not to impress; but rather to express genuine gratitude.  Because we all know opening your home to others isn't easy; and I never want to take it lightly.
I have recently discovered Uncommon Goods.  I love so many things about this online marketplace: their commitment to highlight talented artisans from around the globe, a heightened focus on quality and beauty; and the fact that behind each of their products is a very real story.  Uncommon Goods also allows me to find a meaningful housewarming or hostess gift that speaks personally to each of my uniquely wonderful friends.  To get you started, here are my top three picks for a thoughtful hostess or housewarming gift to simply say "thank you:"

The Lazy Susan Server:
For the host or hostess who entertains frequently and casually:
 I have found that in our faced paced world, nothing slows us down and brings us together like good food.  This pretty little lazy susan does just that.  It somehow instantly creates community and invites friends to hang out around the island spinning and nibbling away.

Agate Coasters 
For the stylish hostess who loves to make things beautiful for her guests and craves good, long talks over a fun drink:
Though agates have been on the design scene for a while now, I just can't seem to get enough of them lately.  I think your hostess will agree.  They bring just the perfect amount of sparkle and glam to any gathering.
{Especially if your host happens to have a marble island to protect}
Practical & Stylish.  Wins every time in my book. 

For the busy mom who has loads of laundry in front of her every week.  Why not make those hampers a thing of beauty?
The story behind this beautiful basket is why I love it so much and why I absolutely cannot wait to gift it to a dear friend of mine with such a heart for Africa and its many hurting countries.  Though the beauty of the basket is reason enough to make it a perfect hostess gift, it is made even more special because of  the craftsmanship behind it.  

Another little guy I know seems to love it too!

So here's to celebrating and loving our hostesses well this season.  
Thank you, Uncommon Goods for all of the gifting inspiration!

Happy Thanksgiving,

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Why Every Home Needs a Vintage Rug

I never even owned a vintage rug until this year.  True story.
But it just took one and I was smitten.  Though they are wildly popular on the interior design circuit these days, these beauties are absolutely timeless.
There's just so much to love about them:
Vintage rugs lend texture to otherwise typically structured spaces.  
Think kitchen, entryways or even bathrooms.  
{via Studio McGee}
Vintage rugs afford character to new construction homes that can often feel sterile. 

They are low maintenance and great for homes with kids (or furry friends)
{via Midwest Living}

They instantly add a curated and global vibe to any space in your home
{Via Door Sixteen}
Vintage rugs are just that...vintage.  They carry with them so much history and meaning. 
{Via Style Me Pretty}

Most of all, they are unique!  No one else in the world will have your rug.  
{Via Domaine Home}

Needless to say, I've now developed quite the addiction to sourcing these gems.  In effort not to become a hoarder and cover up every square inch of our gorgeous new hardwoods, I've opened up Shop Crisp Interiors to share some of my favorites with you.

So if you're in the market to dress up your floors or just need 5 more minutes of mindless and beautiful distraction, hop on over to our brand new shop:
New shipments are added monthly, so please check back often.
These two are my favorites at the moment:


Happy Shopping!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Nap-Time Gift Guide for Busy Moms

Every year about this time, I feel my heart skip a beat when the Christmas decorations hit the stores.  Mostly because it's just a magical season that ushers in so many traditions, family gatherings and incredible memories to be made.  And now that we have little ones, all of these highlights are even more special.  But there is also that part of me that sees the decorations and gets a tiny bit nervous about the shopping.   Don't get me wrong... I love to shop.  Never met a boutique I didn't like.  Once you have those little people in tow, though, the luxurious strolling through the mall with your steamy, red Starbucks cup just doesn't seem to happen nearly as often.

I've found the secret: nap-time online shopping saves my life!  Especially Tiny Prints go-to source for the perfect Christmas gifts.  To be honest, I didn't start using this company until last year to order our Christmas cards and had no idea that they did anything but cards.  However I got distracted when ordering cards and found SO many other personalized goodies that my in-laws ended up loving on Christmas morning.  
This year I have two babies and Tiny Prints has saved my life yet again.  I ordered early so that I could just stare at these fun treasures a bit longer before they get wrapped and find their perfect spot under the tree. 
{Learn from my mistake and double of everything.  You're going to want to keep them all for yourself.  They really are that cute!}
So for all of you busy moms out that that have a free minute at nap-time today, hop on over and start checking off that list.  Promise you won't regret it.  Here are some of my favorites this year:

First up: The Mug Tradition
We started giving Michael's mom and step-dad a mug when Elle was first born.  It was a messy, smudged hand print; but they loved anyway.  This year, I didn't think I had time to run to the pottery store and make one {especially since I have a toddler who seems to make it her hobby to break things.}  We'll get back there one day; but I have to say this one wins in my book:

Personalize your own: HERE

Christmas Ornaments: Always a win with the grandmothers.
This is another tradition.  With every new baby, each grandmother gets an ornament with their birthday and name.  I have a feeling these will be the ornaments that make me cry every year.  These sweet little ones grow all too quickly in my opinion. This year it was Beckham's turn to have his own special baby ornament:

Next up on the list: my sweet sister.  She's stylish and classy and yet somehow I never know what to get her.  Tiny Prints does it again!  They make personalized embossers for that person on your list who just seems to have it all. And really....who doesn't love getting a old-fashioned letter in the mail these days? Especially one with an embossed return address.  Just seems fancier somehow.
{image source: Tiny Prints}
 Speaking of Letters: my mother-in-law and my mom are both the sweetest and most considerate ladies I've ever had the privilege of knowing.  I am so lucky to be loved by them!  They are both wonderful at dropping notes in the mail often.  Whether it's to say "thank you" or "congrats" or just "I love you," notes from them are my favorite!  So I thought I'd re-stock their desks with some personalized stationary this year.

Elegant and timeless just like those two beautiful women.

And then there's Ava: the most adorable little niece of min. 
She'll have her second birthday in March.  I thought these would make the sweetest little thank-you notes for her party guests.  Though she can't write yet; her sweet mama is a wordsmith.  So maybe we can just let Ava Lou color a little something on her very own personalized baby stationary!

So if you're short on time this Christmas season moms, grab a red cup of your own, turn on some cheery holiday tunes, put the kids to bed a little bit early and enjoy some nap-time shopping of your own! 
Thank you, Tiny Prints for helping me check a little bit off the list this year.

Happy Shopping,

Sunday, October 11, 2015

My Rookie Painting Mistake

True confessions: This week I let my painters match a Benjamin Moore color to Sherwin Williams paint.  Sherwin Williams is their paint of choice; so why not?  
Paint is paint, right?  
And all of their "secret" formulas are linked together by one magical paint program?  
I thought they could simply access the BM formula and out comes my perfect color. 
Sadly. . .  it's just not so.

You, my savvy readers, are probably way ahead of me and shaking your heads at my rookie mistake. 
But this one if for those of you who, like me, need a little paint match 101.
Here's what happened:
I had my heart set on Benjamin Moore's "Classic Gray" as seen in this gorgeous room:
And for the trim: Benjamin Moore's "Simply White" as captured so beautifully here on In the Fields:

Unfortunately, this is what we got after Sherwin Williams did a "color match" through the computer:
 Not completely awful - but it read pink in some lights and more on the beige side of greige than I had hoped in others.  
Hardly any gray was coming through.
The "white" trim was where it really started to become obvious.  It's not so bad in the light of this picture; but at first glance, our gorgeous molding was a funny yellowish-green.  

And on the doors to our pantry, it seems so dark and dingy.  Not at all the clean and bright white I had hoped for. 

So back to the paint store we went.  Not to fuss at them for any mistake; but just to get some clarification on what had gone wrong.  

{Truthfully, Michael didn't believe that it was really off.  So a little tiny part of me needed to prove to myself and to him that I wasn't color blind and/or crazy.  I don't think we've ruled crazy out; but thankfully I can still see colors correctly.}

Without boring you completely with all of the things that went wrong with OUR paint, I wanted to pass along some tricks of the trade that we learned from sweet Victor (the poor man who stayed late on a Sunday to explain why paint doesn't translate across manufacturers. 

I give you:

Why You Can't Always Rely on Color Matching:

1.  Each paint manufacturer starts with a different paint BASE color.  Though at a glance they may all seem similar, they are actually very different and can greatly alter the final color.
For example Sherwin Williams uses a true, bright white as a base; while Benjamin Moore may use more of a pastel colored base.  When your starting point is different, your end result is as well. 
So even if you have the same formula, it will read differently in the end.

2. Sometimes formulas are outdated or incorrect. Though it is true that Benjamin Moore's paints might be in the Sherwin Williams (or Home Depot/Lowe's) computer system, the paint formulas may have changed or even been incorrect to begin with.  Obviously this leaves you with a completely different hue (and sometimes a few tears.)

3.  The "magic paint matching machine" (the one you use to match a chip you like) can sometimes be temperamental. 
Since the formula in the computer was incorrect and/or the base color was off, we decided to have Victor match the color from a board we had painted.  Easy right?  Again, I was wrong. 
He matched it.  And then he matched it again.  And again.  Three times the computer came up with a different formula.  One had more yellow in it.  Another time, there was more raw umber; and finally the last one had an extra shot of black.  Who knew colors were so intricate?

So what's the solution?

 If your painter prefers a certain manufacturer and you can't seem to get it just right, don't stress.
Here are three take-away tips which we hope can save you from buying 20 gallons and then returning it like we did:
-Ask for a match using a color chip (don't blindly trust the formula)
-Dry this match in the store and compare under all kinds of lights.  Walk outside if you need to. 
-Analyze both the paint and the formula on the can: too yellow? too blue?  Ask them to modify.
-When you find a color you love, GO FOR IT.  Don't be so tied to the original color that you can't appreciate the unique color they make for you.  After all, this color will be uniquely yours!
-Take your unique sample home and TEST, TEST, TEST in all rooms in all kinds of light.

Color really is an amazing and intricate thing.  Hopefully soon I'll be back to show you pictures of the second attempt at painting our home.
Until then....
Cheers to custom color mixes and lessons learned!

UPDATE:  Our sweet, sweet painters graciously re-painted and this is a much truer representation of Benjamin Moore's Classic Gray and Simply White paired together.

Next up...exterior brick colors!


Friday, October 9, 2015

The Next Big Thing for Hardwoods

We are two weeks away from move-in and I am just now finding the time to finalize our hardwood floor finish. 
Ultimate procrastinator...obviously.
If you've been a long-time reader you know that our floors have been ever-evolving since we first got married.

Here's the narrative so far:
Get Married: Live with orange shag carpet for exactly ONE day. 
We return from honeymoon and rip it up. 
(I was expecting we'd put in hardwoods. Right? Wrong.)
Michael tells me that it's not in the budget quite yet. 

Easy solution: paint the plywood floors (see article here: DIY North Carolina Home)
Save up some money.  Install re purposed hardwoods from a local factory.
Stain them ebony.  Love them!

Embark on our next big renovation.
Take off the roof.  Naturally we had the biggest rainstorm of the summer that very night.
The hardwoods can't be saved.  
Find similar wide-plank white oak at first sight. 

Enter: Rubio Monocoat
To be absolutely clear, this is in no way a sponsored post.  I just love sharing things with you that I love and THIS is one of my favorites for you. 
I stumbled across the genius product by chance, really.  I was researching stains that would allow us to keep the naturally beautiful color of the white oak without the usual yellowing that a poly often leaves behind. 

Nothing seemed to be a good fit.  UNTIL I struck up a conversation with a friendly man at the local hardware store.  He suggested I try mixing Rubio to get my own custom color. 
Nothing new, right? We all mix stains to get a custom color; but the options are limited. Not so with Monocoat.  You really can mix a gazillion different colors (truly, a scientific fact!)
Giving you a unique floor like no one else! (This product would be especially helpful for all of my readers who are often looking for a grey stain for hardwoods.)

Next step: I bought a few samples and started mixing.  I stayed up way past midnight channeling my inner alchemist and finally found a mix that we love. 
(More later on what we chose.)

Here are just a few sample boards to give you a better idea of the looks you can create:

As you can see from Rubio's website, there are endless color choices:

Adding to the fun even more, you can add a product called 'Fumed' to your boards to create even more unique looks with Oak or Ash floors. We found that the 'fumed' instantly darkened our floors and allowed more of the wood grain to come through.  For example the 5% Smoke is a very light color; however when you apply the fumed first, you get this:

As if all of this creativity wasn't enough, there are several other HUGE benefits for Rubio Monocoat:
1.  As the name suggests, you really and truly only need ONE COAT!  No sealer, no poly!  It goes on fast and cures within 36 hours.  (Much faster than the typical 3 coat system of stain and poly)
In their own words:
“Monocoat adheres with the first microns of wood by molecular bonding… because of molecular bonding, no surface film can form, and no variable saturation can occur. Not only is a second coat not required, the finished wood will not accept a second coat.”

2.  There are zero fumes! VOC free!  It honestly smells like flowers when you apply it.  A big plus for us with our house full of little ones.

3.  Long lasting and durable.  Unlike traditional stains, you can spot repair.  The wood will only take one coat of this; SO when you need to touch up a board or two in your home, you won't need to re-sand the entire area.  Just buff on the affected area and you're good to go.

4.  A gorgeous, natural looking matte finish.  It really does make your new boards look old.
**Hint, hint: for all of my lovely readers that inquire about how to age wood.  You're going to love it for DIY projects all over the house as well!

These hardwoods get their Rubio Monocoat makeover next week:

Since we do have two little ones under the age of two AND a dog, we plan to add an extra layer of  protection with this product that I've heard nothing but WONDERFUL things about:
If you click the picture above, you can add it right to your Amazon cart. And if you're anything like me, you've got a full cart over there already.  Or am I the only one who let's my "wish list" items sit in there for weeks before clicking "buy it."
Serious commitment issues over here!

But I digress.

I can't wait to show you the final product and reveal the winning combination of Rubio that works for our home.
Have you tried it? What were your experiences?
I'd love to hear.