Niki’s Blog

A Curated Home, and A Signature Smell to go with it: The Foundations.

Hi Guys! This week we are announcing something pretty minor but I’m still excited about – we’re naming the blog! So now that Northshire Living is now our business, and no longer a blog, it felt like the blog needed a new name. Did it actually? Probably not. But I thought it did and I’ve been agonizing over it for months, staring at the placeholder of “Niki’s Blog” on our website trying to come up with something better. Well, whilst re-working our about page, I had an epiphany! What I try to create, and what I try to teach others to do is how to craft a well curated home, one that feels personal & interesting, while never taking our eyes off of the big picture, making sure every detail feels purposeful and well thought out. A Curated Home. Concise, yet perfect for the spaces I aim to create, with a nod to how I got my start, in Art. I hope you like it!

For our first lesson in curation, I’d like to talk about something often overlooked by us visual people on all of our design blogs, that is vitally important to creating an inviting home – the way it smells! Smell is the possibly the most evocative of all of our senses, and of all the things we want to be able to smell just from a memory, isn’t it home? Can’t think of what your home smells like…? You’re not alone! With millions of options & products entering our home, unsavory smells that seem to linger forever, and busy lives it can seem impossible to get the kind of house that guests walk into an say “It smells amazing in here!” –  But I am here to tell you it’s possible, and give you lots of tips to get you there.

It all starts with a good foundation. 

So, this may seem obvious, but it is super easy to get used to your own “funk” (don’t be ashamed, everyone has a funk sometimes) and miss underlying odors you may not be noticing… But we promise your guests will. (And if they’re your mother in law they will tell you.)  So what is a good foundation? A neutral base, free of odors! What does that look like? It’s a clean room, dusted regularly, with proper humidity, and doing your best to combat any unsavory smells everyday life tends to produce.

Juliette Byrne.png
This Kitchen by Juliette Byrne just looks so clean! (And probably smells amazing)

Here are our top 10 funk culprits & how to stop them: 

  • Damp – There’s no disguising this one, it hits you the second you enter the house. Number one gross, damp can take a perfectly fine room and make it feel like a disgusting dank cellar full of spiders and yucky stuff. Oh and it will take every single thing in the room with it and make it smell like it came from a musty hole somewhere. Get yourself a dehumidifier, run it, and empty it on the reg. You’re welcome. If you have a problem area like a basement, waterproofing like DryLok can help mitigate this.
  • Trash – Ok this one seems like it should be really obvious but somehow there are still people out here in 2018 oblivious to their home smelling like garbage. Crazy right? All garbage should be kept in sealed containers (like these simple human ones we love) or built into a cabinet, an open trash can is just an invitation for bugs or your dog to snack. (Suzie!) Empty your trash regularly, if you open the can and get a wall of stank, take it out, even if it isn’t full. Only clean out the fridge if you are also taking out the trash. Wash your bins or liners anytime they seem a little stinky or there is a leak in the bag. This goes for compost especially!Smell Foundations 1.jpg
  • Pets – I could probably write a paragraph for each and every kind of animal but for simplicity sake I’m going to stick to what I know, Suzie Q Conte. Who if you have met you’d know her nickname is “Stinks.” Being vigilant about dog hair is key, vacuum regularly (or have an amazing husband who does) and/or buy a cute robotic vacuum (you will still need to actually vacuum with a real one though). You may want to add some baking soda to your vacuum bag to keep pet odors from coming out the exhaust of your vacuum, especially if you are a last minute vacuum-er!  Also key is keeping your actual animal smelling nice, as they are the source of the stink. If you’ve got a rascal like we do that means checking them thoroughly for mud or poop when they come inside. It also means regular baths! These can be a struggle at first but the more you do them, use nice warm water, bring treats and use a dog shampoo bar (which feels like a good pet) – the more your dog will cooperate. And don’t forget about beds, collars, leashes, cushions, or anything else your pet has a fondness for, I try to wash those at the same time as I wash Suz so they don’t stink her up again and it makes a big difference. And one last note on animals, remember that wherever you have them use the bathroom is probably going to smell at least a little bit to your guests, even if you clean up regularly, so letting them go just outside your back door, under a window you often open, or anywhere you spend lots of time probably best avoided.
  • Cooking Odors – We all know the scent of fresh cookies sells houses, but there are many meals that can leave lingering odors that aren’t exactly appealing. The number one way to avoid your kitchen smelling like last nights spaghetti is good ventilation above your range. A properly sized vent hood, with adequate CFMs for your ranges output, that vents to the outside will make a world of difference from a recirculating microwave hood combo. Big Cook? Size your hood up from your range by 3-6″ to get maximum efficiency. We spec’d this one on a job recently and love it so much! Don’t do draperies or curtains on windows near your range, not only is it a potential fire hazard but fabrics tend to hold onto odors. The same can be said for cabinets, we like to pull them away from the range hood a few inches for cleanliness (and it looks nicer!).
  • Refrigerator Odors – It wasn’t until I ventured out into the world that I discovered – with horror – that some people just put stuff in the refrigerator willy nilly with no worries about covering it. Folks, If you don’t want refrigerator funk everything should be sealed, no matter how long it’s going to be in there. I love my pyrex sets with covers for that reason, things I’ve prepped ahead of time or leftovers can go in the fridge and be tightly sealed with zero effort. I am also a Press ‘n Seal addict. Beyond keeping odors on lock but wrapping your foods, remember to clean out your fridge once a month and use a fridge & freezer baking soda box in the back near the vents, switching it out each time you clean. These are my favorite for the freezer because I don’t think they need the power of a full box and it’s easy for boxes to get buried in the freezer where they won’t do any good.Smell Foundations 2.jpg
  • Drain & Disposal Odors – You wash a lot of things down there, so even the cleanest of homes can expect problems with this. For folks with disposals, we love these plink balls they work miracles but if you’re more into the natural route grinding any citrus peel works pretty well too. For actual drain odors, SaniSticks are a great solution for odors hiding deep in your drain. And if your drain is excessively
  • Bathroom Odors – Ok so this is for sure the most uncomfortable one to discuss but perhaps the most offensive when they linger so we’re doing it for your sake! My first matter of importance is the EVERYONE should have a bathroom fan that vents OUT, and if you have a separate water closet or a powder room that should get one too. For me that’s a non-negotiable feature. It goes without saying to keep it clean in here, but beyond regular cleaning, adding an automatic cleaner to your toilet tank or placing a box of baking soda behind your tank will help keep things fresh for day to day. People often forget about their bathroom trash too, we recommend a nice sealed bin for that too, though we know the decorative ones are tempting! In any bathroom a guest uses it is only polite to have on hand 3 options for them to avoid any embarrassing odors. That includes a deodorizing spray, a candle, and matches. This citrus spray has been my go to forever. A candle is just a nice bit of ambiance and I like to leave one lit in the bathroom whenever people are over and will mask light smells without a guest having to think about it. But a match? Nothing I’ve ever used works better than striking a match and blowing it out to cover up a smell the old fashioned way. There are so many options for stylish matches now!Smell Foundations 3
  • Dirty Filters – When is the last time you cleaned your air conditioner filter? Or the filter screens on your heating system? Or your fan? Air is full of particulates and you’d be amazed by the filth that can build up on these – especially if you live in a city or on a busy road. Not only is it bad for your health, it’s often also hurting your heating or cooling systems efficiency, if not the unit itself. And, I swear to god, you can smell a nasty filter in the AIR! Ever checked into a bad hotel room and woken up feeling like you might have contracted Legionnaires? No? Lucky you, but seriously clean your filters so you don’t ever have to experience that feel. All your filters or even your entire system should be cleaned or replaced at least once a year, and check them periodically to make sure they don’t need a tune up. And like realize that everything air moves through has a filter or blades that should be cleaned at SOME point as part of proper home maintenance! That includes your bathroom fan, it will last longer and stay quieter if you give a good vent brushing 
  • Poor Storage – Friends, I’m here to tell you, moth balls are disgusting and should be treated as the enemy! Did you know cedar will do a much better job and smells amazing? You can buy all sorts of cedar storage balls & rings & hangers & boxes & panelsclosets – guys there are literally zero excuses for moth balls! But also its not just keeping stuff from getting mothy – its keeping it from getting that storage funk. Basically you should try to create as much consistency in the environment of your storage space as possible, don’t let it change drastically in humidity or temperature if you can avoid it, and make sure the area gets some ventilation. This is especially important for soft items that soak up odors like paper & fabric.Smell Foundations 4
  • Porous Surfaces Everywhere! – So this is one where me, the interior designer has a real shot at teaching you something. Did you know that the more porous a surface is, the more prone it is to holding onto odors? Fabric and paper are probably the biggest culprits here… linens, drapery, upholstery, and wall to wall carpets are all notorious for holding onto odors and people tend to focus on cleaning those, but when was the last time you had your rugs professionally cleaned? or cleaned your lampshades? Anything that exists in your home and is softer than wood (except for silicone) is highly prone to holding onto odors! Books sometimes need to be aired out. Most soft furnishings & fabrics in your home will do best with a combination of regular vacuuming to remove dust (for delicate items try a handy vac with a brush attachment as they are less powerful) AND occasional steam cleaning! (this steam system is on my wishlist!) For stubborn odors, you can add a few drops of essential oil to your steamer tank, I like tea tree as it’s really purifying. I am really not a fan of Febreeze, I don’t believe that it’s not damaging and I don’t think it works. I would sooner burn incense under a set of drapes to try and give them a better smell than Febreeze them. And it doesn’t just stop at soft things, any item that isn’t non-porous can hold onto odors! But luckily, you have that steam cleaner now and you can use it on literally anything – wood floors, marble tile, wood furniture (but be careful with this!), your walls (just not ones with wallpaper… but it will help you strip that!). Countertops in Stainless Steel & NSF Certified Quartz like Cambria and Dekton are totally non-porous and will not hold odors at all – They are considered the most sanitary which is important to know if you are remodeling! No, I’m not saying you should build your entire home out of stainless steel & Dekton (unless you want to, call me, this could be really cool) but what I do mean to say is that be aware that surfaces make a difference and what you choose makes a difference beyond what it looks like. So go for some soft marble tile if you LOVE it but maybe balance it with easy to clean and not very porous high gloss paint and enameled porcelain. Or pick an upholstered chair with a steel wrapped back for that pair of chairs in your living room 4 feet from your kitchen. And remember, as much as we all love an open concept, if your living room is open to your kitchen, burning toast is a way bigger deal. Just something to think about! Smell Foundations 5.jpg

Really Stubborn Stinks! Ok so not everyone is perfect and it’s easy to end up with a horrific stubborn smell on you hands whether you created it yourself, inherited a funk from a previous owner, or are just trying to help out a friend. Drastic times call for drastic odor sucking measures! Here are a few of our foolproof ways to get rid of even the stinkiest of stinks:smell foundations 6.jpg

  1. Open all the windows.  Get some fresh air in there, do it regularly & in combination with the next few ideas! In lieu of windows and in addition to them, fans, air purifiers, & possibly dehumidifiers if there is any kind of damp are all your friend here – forget about the rest of your house and put them all where the stink lives! (and if it’s your entire house, I’m sorry this is going to take a while.)
  2. Get yourself some of my favorite magic odor sucking powder. And put it EVERYWHERE! Yeah, I’m talking baking soda – it’s not just for your fridge! I’m here to tell you, if you didn’t know you can buy this in BULK, and you should because you’re going to be using tons of it in your life now. You can sprinkle this on soft surfaces, let it sit a few hours and vacuum it up, this it it’s most useful. I like to make little sachets with it super simply with a thin but tightly woven fabric like a hankie and place them wherever I want a little bit of freshness
  3. Put out a million gel odor eliminators, usually 1 per room is enough but when we moved into our house I had at least 6 of these working on the living, kitchen, & dining area and I think 3 more in our master, plus some spread out into every room. 
  4. Replace what you can –  Sometimes odors like mold or smoke or pet urine just can’t be rectified unless you take drastic measures. Before moving in to our house we took up all of the carpeting & laminate on the first floor, refinished some flooring and installed new carpets, removed the wallpaper and gave the entire first floor a fresh coat of paint on trims & walls. It was a lot of work, but once we were done our house smelled like a brand new house and all of the funk that was there when we bought it was nowhere in sight. If a furniture piece stinks, have it reupholstered by a professional who is going to also replace the stuffing & foam which is really where the gross stuff is hiding. Replace pillow inserts with new ones.

Beyond combating the funk, the other half of a good foundation is good old fashioned, clean air. Here are a few of my favorite ways to purify the air inside your home!

  • Plants – I truly believe this is the most effective way to purify the air in your home, as well as a great way to bring happiness and routine into your life. I go through spurts of being good at taking care of plants but they are a great way to improve the feel of your home, especially in the winter.  Some of my favorite stylish air purifying and low maintenance plants are spider plants, weeping fig ficus, snake plants, and aloe vera. Boston ferns require a little more care but do fabulously in bathrooms which I think is a great place to have some plants that often gets forgotten when it comes to homey touches. smell foundations 7.jpg
  • Himalayan Salt Lamp – It may seem kitsch but I have a big soft spot for these hippy dippy salt lamps, and maybe I’m imagining it but I feel like they work. Something about having one on just makes me feel happier & at ease, the air just feels a little cleaner!
  • A Berger Lamp – Definitely the most stylish option and a fabulous story to go along with it! Berger lamps were invented in 1898 to purify the air in hospitals, this small catalytic lamp created by pharmacy dispenser Maurice Berger, quickly became a popular for the home because of its wonderful aroma. These come in a ton of different stylish varieties with a million different scents (and you can mix them) so it is super customizable! The cube is my favorite.
  • A Stylish Electric Air Purifier – There are actually so many options for this now! Check out this customizable one, the dyson one (of course theirs is beautiful), or this black & white cutie.smell foundations 8.jpg
  • A humidifier – This is really a dead of winter tip but when the air is dry, it also seems stale. In the absence of fresh air, normalizing the humidity of your home with a cool mist humidifier will also infuse freshness into the air in that moisture. For an added boost you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. (Can you tell this is my solution to everything?)
  • Fresh Air! – Ok even in the dead of winter, sometimes it’s necessary to open all the windows and let new air in – this is like a life changing revelation if you’ve never tried it before. Especially as winter sicknesses come through its best to just let some fresh mountain air in. Just after a fresh snow is the best smelling air in the world! If it were up to me I would do this all the time, but I’m pretty sure it would drive Chris insane with all the heat going right out the window, so I try to limit it to just when I feel like we really need it. You can always crack a window for a little taste of fresh air without the commitment of having the house temperature drop a full 10 degrees. If you live in a place where opening the windows would be gross & smelly, It sounds like you need a house in Vermont to come get some! 😉

    Equinox Pond
    Image via Reddit r/vermont

So by now you probably think I’m some domestic goddess who’s home is always immaculate and smells like roses but you’d be 110% wrong. I’m full of these helpful tips but I barely have time to clean the toilet most days and if you ask Chris, he’ll definitely tell you there are quite a few areas of our home that could us a deep clean. In reality I do all of these things frantically before guests come and I usually am so behind I’m welcoming them as I’m still finishing up. So I don’t want you to read this post and feel like you are less than – these tips are here to help you and you can follow them – or not, and your home will still probably smell fine. These are just my methods for getting it to it’s absolute best – and  I’m still dreaming of the day I can afford to hand this off to my cleaning lady!

This post turned out a LOT longer than I ever anticipated – but there is just so much to cover! But I promise, this is the actual hard part and the rest of it is fun! Stay tuned for part two next week when will talk about building a scent palette and introducing scented products into your home in a way that feels cohesive and smells amazing, from the soap you use to the candles you light for company!

Cheers,

Niki

An End of Summer Salad – From Niki’s Kitchen

One of the things I love the most about summer is the absolute bounty of fresh veggies it produces! As summer draws to a close and an excess of fresh tomatoes, green beans, and corn from Chris’s garden fill our refrigerator – avocado salad is definitely my favorite way to utilize the harvest. Even if you don’t like salads (or avocados) I promise you’ll like this one – It’s that good. Just ask those who attended the Manchester VFW Annual BBQ this summer – It got rave reviews, even from the kids! (And the reason I’m writing this blog post is I promised at least ten people I’d get them the recipe.) I’ll definitely be making it again next year! This pairs perfectly with anything you feel like throwing on the grill, it’s substantial enough that it can stand on it’s own on as a side, but our favorite way to serve it is over grilled chicken breasts with Chris’s brown sugar barbecue rub.

Avocado Salad Cover Image

The following is what I’d make to serve four. Ask Chris, and he’ll tell you I have a bit of an issue with overcooking (It’s genetic, one thanksgiving my mom made two turkeys to test brining vs. not brining – sidenote: it’s not worth the trouble – and a ham just in case.) so there will definitely be leftovers. For being full of avocados this dish keeps surprisingly well and it’s so good you will be happy to have them, its also great on a taco. #yourewelcome

For the VFW picnic I quadrupled the recipe and it filled an entire Bennington Pottery Family Reunion Bowl which is probably the largest serving bowl on the market. It served about 50-75 people in a buffet of summer salads and we had leftovers (yay!).

What you’ll need: 

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large (end of summer) or two smaller sized zucchini, sliced then quartered
  • 2 small to medium sized peppers, diced – whatever you got growing! I like to use a jalepeno and a big bell pepper. Bear in mind this will affect the spiciness of the salad so if you’re not sure stick with mild peppers for your first time, you can add spice in the seasoning to compensate if it doesn’t have enough kick!
  • 2 ears of corn, cooked & chipped off the cob or 1 can of the best canned corn you’ve ever had (throwing two extra ears on the grill the night before with dinner is the best way to have fresh corn & not have it be a pain in the butt, plus grilled corn tastes better than boiled in this dish)
  • 1 cup of green beans, cut into quarter lengths
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved and diced in their skin (I sometimes do three cause I love them so much)
  • 2 green onion shoots, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Truvia Nectar (you can also use honey or agave too)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • A spritz of olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon of salt (plus a few additional sprinkles)
  • 3 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
  • Optional: 4 slices of bacon, cooked ’til crispy & broken into bits
  • Or for Vegetarians/Vegans: make this dish more substantial and get some protein by adding black eyed peas or your favorite bean!

About an hour prior to assembling the salad, Take your serving bowl and pop it in the refrigerator to cool, if you forget you can do this fast in the freezer but make sure not to let it get frosty.  You’ll also want to take the tomatoes & put them in a bowl lined with 3 layers of paper towels. Separate from the tablespoon of salt you need, take your shaker or preferably a grinder and sprinkle them well with salt, add another paper towel to the top, and set aside.

Once you’re ready to do the bulk of the salad preparation, take the onions, bell peppers, avocado oil, and half of the salt, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, and combine in a skillet over medium heat. Once the onions start to soften and brown, add the green beans, turn the heat up a little (to a medium high) and cook until the green beans are browned well but still firm. Remove from heat immediately and transfer your chilled serving bowl to cool, make sure to get all of the oil as this is part of the “dressing” of the salad.

Next line a microwave safe plate with 2 layers of paper towels and spread out your zucchini evenly. Then spray lightly them with olive oil spray, sprinkle or grind a little salt on them, and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of your garlic powder on them. Microwave for 2-3 minutes on high depending on the power of your microwave until cooked al dente.

Now add the zucchini, corn, tomatoes, Truvia Nectar, and all remaining salt & seasonings to the serving bowl and mix well. Then use a spoon to scoop the diced avocados into the bowl, pour the lemon or lime juice over the avocado, this will help with keeping the avocado green. Then, mix well – but do not over mix, the more you mix the more the avocado will dissolve into dressing and you still want some chunks of it. I usually do over-mix, and that’s where I decide to add a third avocado! So do whatever you want!

Avocado Salad Completed
Avocado Salad in Bennington Pottery Family Reunion Bowl

Your last and final step is to taste this delicious dish you just made! It should taste sweet, but have some kick to it- and the cumin should be noticeable, this is is the key to it tasting so home-y and delicious. Depending on the freshness & quality of your spices, you may need to add some more of something and adjust to your taste. Trust me – it’s amazing the difference in taste between a fresh spice and one that’s sat in the back of a cabinet for a year or more! If it feels like it needs a little more balance, between spicy and sweet, try adding a little more paprika before adding more heat.

Once you’ve tasted your work, you can serve immediately, but I prefer to let it chill for at least a half hour, especially when serving it as a hearty condiment over chicken because I think condiments should be cold.

This recipe is also super flexible and you can add pretty much any vegetable your garden may offer to it (or may need to get eaten in your fridge) and it will still be good, but make sure not to add anything too wet (cucumbers were good but did not keep and made the dish soggy), summer squash should be prepared like the zucchini if added and anything wet should sit on some paper towels for a bit before being added. I know this recipe is a little paper towel heavy – and I’m sorry to the environment for that – but it really is the key to keeping this salad from getting too soggy! If you feel weird about it, it’s ok, you can compost most of the ones you use as long as they don’t have oil on them. 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe, as the days turn cooler, we’ll be sharing some of our other other favorite meals for using up our gardens harvest like Sunday Gravy & Tortilla Casserole. But before we let summer salads go – here’s a little roundup of some of my favorite recipes by others we tested out and loved that I’m sure you’ll love as well!

Asparagus & Corn Salad from Niki's Kitchen
One of the salads I made you can find on the Pinterest board!

 

Project More than Just an Onion

You may ask what I am doing naming a project after onions here? Let’s frame it up for those uninformed about Vermont’s favorite onion, the Winooski. Winooski, both a city and a river in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, was named after what the Abenaqui called the region. It got it’s namesake for the wild onions that used to grow along the riverbanks, the Abernaqui called it “the land of the wild onion”.  You may know the city as “Burlington’s Brooklyn”, but it’s also the place some folks we hold very dear to our hearts reside, Chris’s sister Faye & our soon to be brother-in-law Corey.

Last year, when Faye and Corey announced they were embarking on a major re-imagining of their duplex in the heart of Winooski we were both wondering if they had lost their minds AND excited to help. Don’t get us wrong, they’d made a great little home for themselves in the middle of the city, managing to find space for chickens, an impressive vegetable garden, and even some fruit trees… but the chopped up layout, general cramped feeling, overall lack of space and endless city permitting had us asking “WHY on earth would you do this to yourself?!” But they forged ahead despite the naysayers, and after spending the weekend in their newly completed space, call us converts! We <3 Winooski!

It comes in handy to have two kitchen & bath designers in the family, but these two clearly did not need us. Corey’s profession as an engineer coupled with Faye’s organization & planning skills, meant they pretty much had it all figured out before they even talked to us. For this project, they drove the car, while we backseat drove… but I like to think we were at least as helpful as a driving instructor might be, offering input on their choices both visually & functionally, what brands could be trusted, and ironing out all the little details. We told them where to splurge (hello soapstone counter-tops!) and where to save (that stock vanity top sure does look expensive doesn’t it?); We forced them to enclose their refrigerator (which they later thanked us for and said made a huge difference!); and jockeyed for the “Moonshine” colored cabinets rather than a basic white (which looks SO good here), and supported all the fabulous choices they made on their own. [And we might’ve passed along some sweet family discounts]

The kitchen in itself was a beyond drastic transformation, they went from a small closed in space with a freestanding fridge next to a range with maybe 2 feet of countertop on either side, a giant old sink with drainboards and no counter space, no storage, and a high top pub table as their only dining space… to a spacious open concept space with plenty of counter space, storage, an island with seating space and a large dining space with a grown up table.

Most of this was accomplished by knocking down all of the walls in the common areas, the kitchen expanded into the old mudroom, and a small addition was added to the rear & side of the house, creating a dining & mudroom space. The kitchen kept the same layout for the most part, with the sink moving into the island to allow for oodles of counter space. Their biggest addition to the space was something they both dreamed about, a Vermont Bun Baker, a wood stove with so much more than just cozy ambiance, it has the ability to bake home-made bread inside! We can’t wait for a chilly winter visit to try some wood fired buns!

Since they still ended up with just one bathroom, which would also house laundry, this space really had to work double duty! Rather than try to squeeze a double vanity in, they opted for a single, which got them more counter space… and room for a partition wall for the toilet. To create space for the laundry, they stole space from the former large laundry closet in the second bedroom which shares a wall with the bath, went from side by side’s to stackable units, and ended up with lots of extra space for laundry baskets and towel storage (and still managed to have space for a more proportionally sized closet in the bedroom!) Though initially they hoped to get a separate tub and shower to fit – there just was not enough space, so they went with a Tub/Shower setup knowing once Kids came that would be the most practical. To keep it feeling spa-like, we added white tiled walls, a modern hand shower and rain shower head, and the Kohler Expanse Tub combined with a curved rod kept things feeling nice and spacious.

All in all, it was a great project to work on – and so nice to get to experience it fully once it was completed with an overnight. It’s rare we actually get to watch someone cook in a kitchen we sold them, or use a shower we had a hand in designing, so this was a really special experience. Faye & Corey also taught us a thing or two! They found a pullout faucet for their bathroom which was something we did not know existed – is that not the most convenient thing for cleaning toothpaste smears?! (See video evidence below!)

The Swiss Army Nook

If there’s one thing I’ve figured out designing kitchens over the years, the first thing on everyones mind when it comes to remodeling their space –  How is will it function when I entertain? Almost every client wants a space for guests to pull up a stool, a space to spread out a buffet, a place for guests to gather for drinks, and as well as a separate dining space. For any space, this kind of flexibility is a tall order but the secret is making sure that every piece you put into the space is nimble and can transform with the space as life requires it.

This is my specialty… Not only because I think your space should work for your life, no matter what you’ve got going on, but personally I think a room should be able to be re-arranged every once and a while to mix things up! I love a big living room ottoman made up of 4 smaller ottomans that become extra seats when you have a full house, or a side table you can slide a pouf under to pullout when you want to kick your feet up and relax. It’s all about flexibility!

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

So when a past client, who had removed a wall and expanded her kitchen into the next room, was struggling with what to do with the remaining space left over called me up I was thrilled to help!

First we met and discussed how to best use the space. From working with her on the kitchen project last year I knew entertaining was important. It was why we opened up the wall and added a bar height seating area. The goal was a space for friends to gather and visit while she was cooking in the kitchen.

But there we’re a few other things we wanted to get from this space, and when we got to the house it was just after Thanksgiving and they had a table set up in the space to accommodate the whole family. She mentioned how convenient it had been to have the space for that. When I asked how she wanted to use the space everyday however she wanted somewhere for her to curl up and read a book or maybe even take a nap. Oh and there needed to be storage, because who doesn’t need more of that? (You can never have enough!)

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

It was a tall order but something I felt we could do if we used the right pieces. We decided to anchor the space with a large window seat that ran the entire length of the wall opposite the kitchen. To give the space the ability to be both a casual seating area AND a dining space when needed we used a leather upholstered bench as our coffee table, that could then be pulled back and be used as a dining bench to seat 6-10 guests around a table. Slipper chairs made the perfect seats for daily lounging and small gatherings, and are super light and easily moved into the living room for extra seating or when a table is set up.

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

For the window seat we had a few challenges. Namely a baseboard radiator running the entire length of the wall. We wanted to conceal it visually but not hinder it’s function. Thankfully our client wanted a deep bench you could lie down on, and liked the furniture style look of legs both of which made things a lot easier.

The biggest mistake people tend to make when enclosing a radiator is putting a thick bottom rail at the base and focusing the “grate” to allow for airflow in the center or the top. While this does allow hot air to get out, it will also decrease the efficiency of your radiator. They work by allowing air to flow in from the bottom and allowing the heat to rise up through the top vents.

We worked around this without the expensive toe kick heater conversion by giving our window seat a 3″ leg and allowing the storage cubbies to “float” in front of the radiator. For baskets I used raffia baskets which would allow for airflow and pick up on the chairs in the dining room.

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

I wanted to add one more element of airflow and coziness, so I had Chris cut channels into the seat of the bench for the heat to rise up through and warm your cushions!

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

The coffee table choice was also key, it had to be long and narrow to still allow the room to act as a passage between the living and dining spaces, function as a bench, and be comfortable for kicking your feet up. To solve the issue of drinks we added a large metal tray which would create a nice solid surface.

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

We created three custom linen cushions and a roman shade to finish out the space. We are both so happy with the end result and our client is too, which is really the best reward! Working with a repeat customer is so rewarding because you can jump right in with a full sense of their style.

It was really fun to do a small space. The goal was to make it blend seamlessly with the rest of the home and I feel like we accomplished that well.

With tomorrow’s holiday, I’m hoping their family is enjoying their new space. I know it can be the right space no matter what they end up needing – Like a Swiss Army Knife, this space can handle just about any situation!

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

What a year it has been! 2017 in Review

I’ve heard a lot of people talking a lot about how 2017 was the literal worst…yeah the world got a bit crazy, but in our little corner of the world it was a pretty wonderful year! We’re full of goals & resolutions for 2018, but I want to take a look back at all our big milestones from this year, and trust me there were a lot of them!

January 2017 – If I had to pin down a “busiest month of the year” while working at Attention to Details it would have been last January. Our supposed “slow” time of year, it certainly did not seem that way! I had two six figure projects installing at the same time, Chris had his biggest sale to date starting construction, plus our normal workloads, problem solving a few big vendor quality control issues, and somehow we managed to fit in a weekend in Palm Beach to celebrate Papa Conte’s 90th Birthday.

Northshire Living Year Recap

What a perfect pause this was to a busy start to the year! This trip also started to scratch the interior design itch that ended up getting me back into the game – the super cute AirBnB the whole family made home base for the weekend was so up my design alley it reminded me that I was missing half the fun stuck on finishes & fixtures. Such good rugs and art and sooo many pops of my favorite color, Orange! We also got stuck on a plane on the tarmac for 9 hours but we try to block that experience out [ahem don’t fly United, but 2017 did a good job of making sure everyone knew that!]

Northshire Living Year Recap

After we got back and got caught up, I took a trip to NH to shop for wedding dresses with my Mom & my longtime Besties & Bridesmaids; Lauren & Shay. I thought this would just be a fun day to dip my toes into the water of finding a dress and have lunch with my ladies but I ended up finding my DREAM dress. If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend Country Bridals in Jaffrey, NH – they turned me, someone who doesn’t buy anything until they have looked at every. single. option. available. into someone who buys the 4th dress they try on… And they gave me Champs & goodies when I said yes to the dress. That was the perfect experience every bride deserves. Then I had to wait almost 3/4 of a year to show it to Chris!

Northshire Living Year Recap

January was also the month of my Most Liked Photo of 2017, typical me, a shoe-fie from where I stood in Village Tile on my favorite mudroom floor tile ever that I have yet to be able to use. (If you’ve got a mudroom to redo in 2018 and like this, please navigate to our “Contact Us” Section! Hah!)

Northshire Living Year Recap

February 2017 – We started February off with a fun business trip; a visit to the Kraftmaid Factory which continued our airline misfortune by arriving to the Albany airport at 6 am to a freshly cancelled flight, and the next flight wouldn’t come in ’til halfway through the tour! We drove to the nearest Denny’s to figure out a game plan when I had the realization that wasn’t Ohio like – just on the other side of New York? Turns out we were only saving an hour by flying with connecting flights and if we just drove west, we’d only be a half hour late. So we got in the car and drove!

Northshire Living Year Recap

When we got back, Chris took me cross country skiing for the first time, though it was a rocky start being my first time on ski’s Chris is a pro and taught me how to pizza and once I got that down I really started to enjoy myself. We are looking forward to lots of skiing adventures this year with all the good snowfall we’ve gotten!!!

Northshire Living Year Recap

March 2017 – March was a pretty uneventful month, ski season was still hanging on so we weren’t in to the crazy spring building fever yet. Even though I made my last delivery in January, my big whole new house project with 13 rooms of cabinetry finally completed and after the interior designer on the project, Lillian Bogossian of Decorative Interiors, finished staging the place, I was able to head over for the day and play photographer! This is still one of my favorite projects to date, it was so fun (and a little bit stressful) to work with clients with a lot of remodeling experience and fabulous taste and who weren’t afraid of a one thousand dollar faucet! We used Danby Marble in almost the entire house, Imperial in the baths and Eureka in the Kitchen and Dining spaces – which turned out gorgeous. The clients requested a custom Honey Onyx top with an ornate edge just like they had back at home in New Jersey which was NOT an easy find in Vermont, but just as I had given up, we got a visit from the owner of Surface Creations of NH filling in for our sales rep and he remembered they had a partial slab in their warehouse from an old display they did that was just barely big enough to create the built up edge – such a stroke of luck and it turned out beautiful!

Northshire Living Year Recap

April 2017 –  Spring had arrived in full force, we were crazy busy again, but we already broke the grill out of hibernation and the roadster, and we were just about to pull the trigger and move forward with a HUGE addition onto the back of our house on Cass Terrace, when just across the street, the house we later bought and now live in came up for sale! Though it took me a minute to let go of my beautiful dream kitchen, and our tight squeeze but gorgeous master suite with a great view of the Lye Brook Wilderness, it wasn’t hard to let go of the mind boggling amount of details and plans we were trying to iron out in our off hours. At the time I wondered if we were making the right choice as told our builder to give someone else our time in the schedule, but looking back I am so happy in our new home, I couldn’t imagine another choice!

Northshire Living Year Recap

This was also the month of my favorite photo(s) of 2017 outside of our wedding pictures, Chris texted these photos to me from a job site waiting for a granite countertop guy to meet him and said “Made friends with a dog” “I love you so much” along with each one.

Northshire Living Year Recap

May 2017 – The coolest thing about May was our trip to Burlington so Chris could run the Vermont City Marathon for the second time. Chris likes this marathon because it is a fun experience, the crowd really gets into it, different neighborhoods in Burlington host block parties to cheer on the runners, they set up  sprinklers and give out shots of maple syrup. His favorite sister also lives there. But if you ask Chris he’ll reply with “I just felt like runnin’ .” [this man loves Forrest Gump]. Chris beat his first time by 8 minutes, running a 3:10 marathon, so I was very proud of him, but he’s still a few minutes off from qualifying for the Boston Marathon so he’s already signed up to run again this year. We also visited the Trapp Family Lodge before grabbing dinner in Stowe and I got to have my Sound of Music moment twirling around in a field singing “The hills are alive…” so that was definitely a big highlight for me. We were the last house guests before my Sister-in-law Faye & her fiancee Corey embarked on a huge home remodel. We helped them with the cabinetry for their kitchen, that we can’t wait to share photos of when it completes in the next few weeks.

Northshire Living Year Recap

June 2017 – Not that much happened in June! We went on a lot of motorcycle rides, I delivered the most tile I have ever sold at once, and Chris wrapped up (for the most part) his really big remodel he started in January. We got The Sneaker (our little 1964 Boston Whaler boat from Chris’s Grandpa) fixed and it took it’s first fishing trip in a long time for Chris’s Bachelor party in NH. Mainly we were just buckling our seat belts for a crazy summer.

Northshire Living Year Recap

Northshire Living Year Recap

July 2017 – We started off the month by celebrating the Fourth on the Sneaker up at Lake St. Cathrine in Wells. VT. We love it up there so much we have joked, someday maybe we’ll be so Vermont, we’ll have a summer house on the lake while living full time in Manchester! The next week we closed on our Richville house and got to work on the “light renovation” prior to moving in. I had my Bachelorette party in Brimfield, MA and we celebrated my birthday at the Silver Fork! Oh and I took my first group motorcycle ride, a Veterans Benefit Ride for the Veterans Retirement Home in Bennington and had a blast.

Northshire Living Year Recap

August 2017 – Another crazy month as life was proving the closer we got to the wedding. We started off with my Bridal Shower at Aunt Peggy’s house, which was such a blast, my favorite part was setting up with all the Aunt’s beforehand!  At the end of August, we finally moved into our new house and that was the biggest reward after so much hard work, we were finally able to settle in and get OUT of our house on Cass Terrace so the real work could begin over there.

Northshire Living Year Recap

September 2017 –  WE GOT MARRIED!!! I had to do this post chronologically or otherwise the wedding would have totally overshadowed everything cause um it was KIND OF A BIG DEAL! They say it’s the best day of your life, but it’s really the actual wedding ceremony that is the best when you’re marrying your soulmate, I cannot remember a time where I have felt more insanely happy and wonderful and complete and whole and in love and not nervous and just perfect as I did as Chris read his thoughtfully written vows to me. You can see me grinning my face off as we enter the reception venue like “Pinch me did this really just happen?!?!” Though our first dance was just perfect, another highlight is when we opened up the dance floor and David Bowie’s “Golden Years” played and I danced like a maniac with Chris and all my family and friends, it was truly jubilant!

Northshire Living Year Recap

We sandwiched the wedding between a backyard bonfire & rehearsal dinner hosted by Dad Conte & Margaret and a farewell Brunch Hosted by Mom Brogan and Yoshi which was so wonderful because we actually got to talk and visit with most of our guests that way! On Monday we jetted off to Mexico and got in some much needed R&R for the honeymoon at Beloved Resorts in Playa Mujeres, just north of Cancun.

At the beginning of September, I also got some good news not wedding related – I was selected for the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s 30 Under 30 Award for 2018! In just a week from today I’ll be getting on a plane to the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Orlando & presenting some fresh ideas for new appliances! [And lets be honest I can’t wait to get away from these subzero temperatures for sunny Florida!]

October 2017 –  In October it was back to reality and back to work! I embraced fall a little too hard and made us as a household get really, really sick of squash, we broke in our new grill with a chicken roasting attachment and checked the dining room off our remodel list at the Richville house. We tried to get stuff done over at Cass Terrace but our super busy contractor had very little time and all we got done was leveling the kitchen floor which was frustrating. And we only got two trick or treaters at the new house which was also disappointing. In short, In October I was feeling those 2017 blues y’all been talking about… it’s hard to comedown from a year plus of looking forward to your wedding and when you come back and it’s over – what’s left to plan? I guess we got bored!

Northshire Living Year Recap

November 2017 – We started off November in a really not a great place, but ended November in the absolute best place, as Business Owners!!! We were working really hard but we were not happy and just came to the realization – what was holding us back from going out on our own? We have savings, we have the skills, and it’s only going to get harder to walk away from a steady paycheck – so we ripped off the band-aid, changed Northshire Living from just a blog to a website, filed as an LLC, and quit our jobs as Kitchen & Bath Designers. We found vendors and figured out pretty quickly we needed a showroom if we were really going to get into the swing of things and got to work on making it happen.

December 2017 –  After thinking the place might sell instead and going on the hunt for other places and not loving them anywhere near as much, we were able to start moving into our new showroom space on December 15th, over the past two weeks we’ve been hard at work painting & building walls for displays… we have lots of stuff in the works and on the way and can’t WAIT to host a fabulous grand opening once it’s all installed in the New Year!

A little reflection … 

We have been so lucky to receive such an outpouring of support from the community and our clients & contractors –  we are looking forward to all the projects we’ve got to come in the new year. We would like to give a big thank you to all our family for their love & support, and an extra one to my Mom & especially my Dad who came up and helped us work on both houses, we would definitely still be eating dinner at our kitchen island if it weren’t for their help.

Our resolutions for New Year the mainly revolve around eating less and exercising more, as the post wedding weight gain is definitely a thing folks, we’re looking forward to a happy, and healthy 2018! We hope to help many others make their house a home and will be toasting to the future as the clock strikes midnight!

Thanks for coming along for the ride with us! 🙂

Somedays, you really, really love your job!

Sick & working from home last week, I wasn’t super thrilled about leaving the house to visit a job-site without heat- but this was one appointment I wasn’t missing. One of Chris’s clients was converting an old mansion in the mountains to a wedding & event rental venue – a literal holy grail project combining what may be two of my favorite things, weddings and super gorgeous beautifully landscaped estates!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

As soon as we pulled up I was in love, this place is FULL of raw potential. A simple white fence lines the drive now, cross a small bridge, and ahead, “Chez Nous” An architect built mansion made custom just for his sister, where a crew works tirelessly to restore the building to it’s former splendor. But a vision for someday in the not-too-distant future see’s a grand iron gate and a tree lined drive with wrought iron railings along the sides of the bridge to ensure when guests pull up, they know they have arrived.

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

We pull up and are greeted by the new front door, a gargantuan Brazilian Mahogany  double door with intricate leaded glass is sure to drive that feeling home with future guests, I can tell I’m gonna like this client’s style!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

The entry to the home is my favorite feature – having been fresh off a wedding of my own, I can instantly envision a bride making her way down the grand staircase from the Suite on the second floor for a first look with her husband, this entry is actually big enough for it! (The photographer needs to be able to get some distance for a good shot). Some of my favorite photos from our wedding are in the entryway from the house WE rented for ours and the color of their entryway actually inspired our dining room color so I am very excited to put my signature on this space!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Off the entry sits a room I wish I had the opportunity to decorate more often, a formal parlor room! An original white mantle with a ribbon motif I am in love with and is definitely going to be used as a decorative element throughout the house anchors the center of the room. I would love to see a mural or some hand-painted wall covering make a real statement in this space.

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

On the opposite side of the chimney from the formal sitting room lies the library, This space is where the building gets it’s namesake, though it’s been removed for safekeeping during construction, the original mantle reads, “NOTRE PETIT COIN EST SI DOUX – POUR VIVRE HEUREUX RESTONS CHEZ NOUS.” Which in french, makes it clear why the original owners decided this was the spot to be, it reads “Our little corner is so sweet to live – Happy to stay at Home.” and that my friends is precisely the way our client would like their guests to feel, At Home! And right in the center, what seems to be a bit of the home’s sigil, the same ribbon bow from the formal parlor.

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Another amazing original detail in this space is the shared wall with the stone conservatory, intricate painted glass windows allow light to flow into the library from the conservatory and with its rich warm colors and details, I can’t wait to pick up on it in some furnishings. Below is another cool feature, these millwork pieces are original as well and were built in Troy N.Y. and delivered in one piece by rail car! They still have the paperwork on the backs!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Chris’s domain is the Kitchen, A bit of a reversal from our typical roles but this is his baby, truly the most gorgeous design he has put together with stacked cabinets bringing together the kitchen with a built in eating area and a massive triangular island perfect for spreading out a gourmet feast. It is appointed with everything the professional could ask for; a 48″ gas range and built in refrigerator. And just off the kitchen, a living area,  bar, and butlers pantry centered around the large brick chimney. We’ll share more as we polish the design!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Upstairs lies an array of beautiful bedrooms and baths all ready to be brought back to life, my favorite however has got to be the Bridal Suite. We will be doing a full spa bathroom and a large closet dressing area in this space that I WISH I had for my big day, the only place I could find to hang my dress day of was off the beam in the center of the living room!  As you can see from the view of that bathroom below, the space has a bit of a ways to go… nothing like a blank canvas!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Upstairs features another surprise, picture framed figured oak floors and a “Music Room” I know will become a favorite hangout for guests, both for relaxing and late night antics – The ceiling is so beautiful, I think a celestial mural may be just the thing for this space as you can see this ceiling from the front door. And just when you think you’ve seen the whole place, buckle up for Phase Two – Though for now, it won’t be touched there is a skylit staircase you’d expect to lead to an attic, but instead there’s a THIRD floor, featuring more bedrooms, two bathrooms and just when you think you’d seen it all, a ballroom!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

It’s a bit of an overwhelming undertaking, furnishing 10,000 square feet, but I’m ready to bite this one off and excited to put the Northshire Living mark on the space, I hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Note: For all you Shiplap fans, I’m sorry but it’s going, I love shiplap too but it’s totally wrong for the house – does not fit with the home’s aesthetic at all! The previous owner got a smokin’ deal on shiplap & carpet and put it everywhere. It ended up being a good thing because it protected a lot of the wonderful original bits. If I can find a utilitarian space to use it I may as a nod to the buildings story but even the laundry room has beautiful millwork on the walls so I don’t know if it will be possible!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Christmas Time is here!

Those who know me well know I’m game for just about any excuse to decorate, Christmas of course being my favorite. For years I helped my mom with decorating our house and I have grown to love the ritual. With this year being our first in the new house, it was time for us to make our own traditions… needless to say I may have gone a little bit overboard!

Northshire Living Christmas Holiday Interior Decor

It all started with negotiating a secondary tree in the dining room for my fancy ornaments; a collection of the yearly White House Christmas Ornaments. My grandmother used to give me them and Chris has since picked up the tradition. I love how classic and ornate they are, as a kid I used to dream about having a tree right at my front window filled with them for everyone to see. We have them showcased on a small 4 foot tree centered in the dining room bay window, which you see as you drive past our house. The dining room truly is my favorite space in the house now!

Before you knew it, a second tree lead to a third. As I shopped for pine roping and batteries to fill our window candles at the local hardware store, up on a shelf I saw just the thing to display all the fishing and gardening themed ornaments Chris had that didn’t really go on our big tree – a two foot tree with frosted branches, pinecones, and berries with a little burlap base! And it was 50% off! What a perfect idea for a nice little casual tree! As I drove home thinking about how perfect this little tree would be for our mudroom… I realized we don’t have a mudroom yet- Just a three season porch I fantasize about turning into one where all our recycling lives for now. Guiltily, I stuck it on the porch and hoped Chris wouldn’t notice. Though he teased me hard when he found it [Anyone in Manchester looking to start a Christmas-aholics Anonymous group?] he did admit, he loves how excited I get over the holidays.

For our big tree, we like to keep things special with ornaments that really mean something to us. Chris gives me a pewter snowflake every year from the Vermont Snowflake Company, an ornament based off of a different Snowflake Bentley photograph each year, and I have one for every Christmas we’ve spent together. Chris also has a lot of very special to ornaments from his childhood, mostly silver & pewter as well. I still have to go root through my mom’s Christmas storage for mine!

In our old house, on Cass Terrace, I just went with a silver theme, but in this house we have SO much gold and brass I needed something to tie all the silver in! I found the perfect thing in Magnolia Home’s Hearth & Hand Collection for Targetgalvanized metal balls with gold seams? Yes please! And the perfect Moravian Star you’ve been searching for for the top of the tree, even chargers and napkin rings if that strikes your fancy. The item I was really lusting for was the galvanized metal tree collar with gold stripe… we checked 3 Targets for that puppy, but unfortunately no dice!

The other conundrum we had this year was what to do with our stockings! We knew we didn’t want to mar our beautiful fireplace with hooks, and the weighted ones that sit on the mantle always fall off the second you put anything in the stocking. (I like to fill them up slowly throughout the month of December, it builds anticipation!) Once we placed the tree, the bannister seemed like the perfect place for them right next to the tree! I like this place a lot and there is definitely room for it to grow vertically once we have kiddos, so I think this idea is a keeper. Bonus: The chocolate inside won’t melt from fireplace heat! [And please excuse our half painted staircase – it’s next on our to do!]

I forgot to take pictures outside so I will have to share on insta, so far we’ve kept it simple – pine roping on the railings to the front door and the mailbox post, two mini potted trees on each side of the door, and a nice wreath. Chris is in charge of lights, can’t wait to see what he does!

Here are a few holiday tips and tricks from me!

  • Pine roping is your friend, instant classy Christmas spirit! Also you can make your own wreaths out of excess swags — this saves a lot of money compared to buying premade wreaths
  • Trim your tree – literally! Sculpting your tree to fit your space is so important! if you need it to fit tighter to a wall, flatten a side – or narrower at the bottom to make it easier to maneuver around. Trim with garden shears at intersections of the branches or back from the base if you need to take a lot out. Bend away branches before snipping though to make sure it looks good, you can’t unclip a branch if you go to far- I did this last year and had to Amazon Prime some garland to fill it in a little.
  • Be insane like me and replace every ornament hook, string and ribbon with the SAME color ribbon. Or you could do a combo of two colors, or switch up the color for each different tree if your a multi-tree person – but WOW what a visual impact this has! I LOVE IT SO MUCH! My only regret is it took me 26 years to figure this out. I am really glad I didn’t quit when it hit midnight last night and kept on tying ribbon, I woke up this morning to the most color coordinated trees I ever did see! #WORTHIT
  • Heavier & oversized ornaments make great mantle decor! We found a big box of clunky ornate gold & red ornaments in the basement which made great mantle decor with some roping!
  • String lights from the bottom and zigzag upwards dividing the tree into fractions of however many strings you have (I used 4 battery operated mini globe sets and divided the tree into quarters on my 4 ft tree) This made it way easier to string and you can use the wire as a support by twirling it around branches to help keep them from bowing with heavier ornaments.
  • Chris’s Tip: Use a laser level and an adjustable leveling tree stand to make sure you don’t end up with a crooked tree! Also, pre measure the diameter of the stump and adjust the screws on the stand to just a smidgen larger to minimize the time you need to count on your wife to hold the tree upright – these two ideas made tree setup completely painless this year! 

what a whirlwind!

Hey! What ever happened to that girl who’s blog you were reading but then you never heard from again? Well she had another crazy few months that’s for sure! We closed on the house, got married and BIG TWIST – Quit our jobs to start our own business! [Sorry, we were better at keeping the InstaFam updated! We’re visual people!] Both Chris and I are now full time with Northshire Living, and it’s no longer just a home & style blog but a full fledged Kitchen, Bath, Home Remodel, & Interior Design business. We’ll still be serving up yummy recipes and all our DIY projects and I am BEYOND EXCITED to start bringing you beautiful projects that are 100% us! I hated handing off a kitchen with no bar stools at the island or doing a bathroom and not being able to pick out the perfect soap dispenser or monogrammed towels, and even more frustrating to not really be able to help clients who wanted my help with more than just the kitchens and bathrooms… but the rest of the house as well because we had developed such a good rapport and I really got their style. So we took the plunge and went for it!

Northshire Living Story

Last we wrote, we were about to close on the house! We closed on July 13th, and we got started right away on DEMO! Luckily, my Bachelorette Party was that weekend… so I went off to Brimfield Antique Market in Western Massachusetts with my Best Ladies to scout for stuff for the house while Chris and my Dad took care of the real nasty stuff, like the drop ceiling full of mouse homes, busting out the kitchen peninsula, knocking out a useless and giant linen closet that ruined the footprint of the master bedroom and ripping out the laminate, linoleum, and plywood covering up the gorgeous original picture framed Fir floors. [Finding these under carpet and seeming to go under the other flooring was a big factor in us deciding to go for it with this house!] I came back and was in charge of carpet demo & my FAVORITE task (note: sarcasm) – Pulling up carpet strips and the 10 zillion staples left behind. Once we wrapped up that demo… we experienced some project creep [surprise!] and decided we hated the pantry, it was gross and not functional and needed to go! So into the dumpster it went!

Northshire Living Beginning

Before we could move in we had 3 priorities – get the master bedroom and living room finished and kitchen to a “move-in” place, and we could chip away at the rest while we lived there – our real priority being getting out of our Cass Terrace house so we could renovate that quickly and get it rented out.  I’m proud to say we were almost totally moved in by labor day!

We unfortunately found out during demo the original Fir floor was not salvageable in the Kitchen, due to some very very old linoleum glued directly to them which caused them to disintegrate. Though disappointing, we were thrilled to not need to rip up another room full of plywood subfloor and I’m pumped to be able to select a really cool kitchen tile. [akdo mansion lounge tile here I come!] With the difference in height, when the floors wear out (we will not get another sand out of them) and put new hardwood over, they’ll be perfectly level with the tile – which is a HOME RUN for a 100+ year old house in my opinion! I’m just hoping we can replicate the picture framing in the floors when we replace them – that is one of my favorite details in the house! In the kitchen, we put in a new bead board ceiling with low profile LED lights as we didn’t want to live with the drop ceiling, put some masonite down on the floors, gave the existing cabinets a deep cleaning, and added an old farm table from Chris’s childhood home in East Dorset to use as a temporary kitchen island. We new we wanted quality cabinetry and soapstone countertops and all the bell’s & whistles we love to sell like mixer stands, potato baskets, and tiered cutlery storage AND we didn’t want to compromise! So we decided to live with what was here for a while and once we have a little less on our plate, we’ll bite off what I KNOW will someday be the crown jewel of our house – A chef’s kitchen tailored to work perfectly for the way I cook! – It’s all about that 36″ Range with room for a full sheet pan in the oven!

Northshire Living Home Details

The master was a pretty easy undertaking in hindsight, though I wouldn’t have told you that in the middle my never ending project of painting the pine trim white. Many, many layers of BIN, primer, and Simply White paint in a huge room with lots and lots and lots of trim. The master suite was an addition to the original house of the kitchen the previous owners completed in 2001, to allow for first floor living – we found hot water radiant heat in the floors here which was a big bonus and even though there were some very dated design elements, this was truly just cosmetic. We took down the floral border, threw some primer over the magenta walls, said goodbye to the emerald green carpet & said hello to white trim, grey walls, a fabulous new ceiling fan [a sentence you never thought you’d never hear a designer say! but thats another blog post!] and splurged on some beautiful new carpeting from Milliken. I may still have some mullions to paint for the windows & sliding door to the back porch but those are a good winter project! We are ALMOST done with the furnishings for this room, I’ll do a full before and after post once we finish – Just waiting on nightstands & lampshades!

In the living room, after the hardwood floors had been attended to which we left to a professional floor sander – Scott Hurley, everything else was paint! We painted the brick fireplace grey and decided to carry the color up into the chimney chase. The trim we new we wanted to be an accent in here, Revere Pewter, so the staircase to the second floor could be painted that color. The wall color was a super difficult for me in this space as the layout is so open and I already had the other spaces figured out. I initially wanted neutral as I knew I wanted to do a very saturated color in the Dining Room but couldn’t settle on one I liked. Chris then decided it was his turn to pick out a color and requested we color match his olive drab jacket from the army. Initially I was like “Whoa, buddy lets cool it with the bold design choices young grasshopper and leave it to the professionals” (read: me) Because not a lot of rooms can carry olive walls but I have NEVER Been so happy I listened to my husband! He was so right! It is the perfect wall color and it actually works really well with the dining space. We did end up deciding to do the staircase walls Manchester Tan which is the color the Kitchen will be, because doing a fourth wall of the olive seemed like too much, which looks really beautiful & classic with the Pewter staircase and White Spindles. We are done in this room for now, we’ve got a new couch on the wishlist and Chris has some more floating walnut shelves to build but we are so happy with this transformation we are so not in a rush!

Northshire Living Remodel

We settled into the new house just a few days before the real big day – Our wedding! The night before our rehearsal dinner we hosted our first dinner at the new house, Chris’s groomsman Mike & his wife Cara. In lieu of a dining table we ate al fresco on the back porch with a sunset view of lovely Equinox – I remember this as the first time I sat back and got to enjoy the fruits of our labor and thought to myself “Man, we really did something right here.” When the best day of our lives rolled around, September 16th, we decided to spend the night back at home rather than a hotel cause there was something more special about being there than anywhere else. And although it wasn’t the first time [he practiced the day we bought the house] Chris carried me across the threshold and through the front door – that was when it truly felt real, we were married!

After enjoying a day back at home, we took off to Cancun for our honeymoon! We stayed about 40 minutes north of the City Center in Playa Mujeres – Where we found a five star all inclusive resort and the promise of leaving our stressful day to day behind to do nothing but lay on the beach. For a traveller like me, always thirsting for culture -this was near unheard of – no museums or historic sites? Wouldn’t we be bored? Well let me tell you, after a summer like ours relaxation was JUST what the doctor ordered. There were activities and a spa and about a million pools with 5 different dining options and a cafe, all with ever changing menus and specials full of foodie Mexican fusion treats – you were never bored, and if you were – there was an outing for that! We only ended up venturing off resort for a catamaran trip to Isla Mujeres, which was a great day trip to get a little dose of culture in! Though it felt great to get away, by the end of the trip all we wanted to do was get back to Vermont and nest in our new house – we only wish we had scheduled it so we had some time off once we got back! Now that we’re back to Vermont Winter… we’re dreaming of going back again!

Northshire Living Home Design Details

After returning from the honeymoon, snapping back into reality was tough – we had the Cass Terrace house in need of a new bathroom and to take a few steps back in the kitchen & uninstall the cabinets to get the floors leveled further, and a dining room at the Richville house that needed to happen before the holidays. Though we pulled off having the dining room ready for the tradition of Pre-Thanksgiving Pizza Night thanks to some help from my Mom & Dad, Cass Terrace hasn’t made too much progress given it’s the busiest time of the year for our contractors and we were working full time at ATD. Now that we’re off on our own, we’ve checked off one more room at the Richville House, the upstairs bedroom I’m writing this blog post from right now – our temporary office until we open up our very own showroom! We expected to have some downtime to plug away at Cass Terrace but… surprise, surprise we have so much on our plates we have been working 10-12 hour days! But next week we’ll have guys back over there and a January 1st goal for completion so if you know anyone in need of a 3 bedroom /1.5 Bath Rental in Manchester – navigate to our contact us tab!

Northshire Living Business Manchester VT

We’re so excited to start this journey of our very own business, we hope you’ll follow along for the ride!

what a month! –

[an update on the houses & construction!]

Well it has been a crazy month and tomorrow, this summers about to get crazier! Tomorrow, we buy our first house together and officially begin the balancing act of remodeling two houses at once. After a bit of a bumpy road we are finally closing! You may remember we were originally supposed to close at the end of June, but after a tap got left on in the bathroom and caused a small flood, the deal almost fell through, but we’ve since worked it out with the seller, it just pushed back the closing a bit.

Luckily we had a viewing a couple days after the tap got left on and found it, and the owner got everything dried out really quickly so the damage is mostly to the tile floor in the bathroom as the unfinished basement was not effected other than being a bit of a puddle! You can feel that the tile has separated from the subfloor when you walk on it, but we were planning on completely remodeling that room down the road so not the end of the world. It’s livable for now (and actually quite the upgrade from our current bathroom… just wait for the before & after pics on that one!). The tile is going to start popping up eventually, but it has a damn jacuzzi tub – and a shower with body jets!. It’s super ugly and straight outta the 80s, but you know who doesn’t care at all about the appearance of your tub as when it has hot water and jets? Your tired body when you are remodeling 2 houses and getting married all at once, and a person who hasn’t had a tub to soak in in YEARS! I am so ready to get out the scrubbing bubbles and then immediately fill that puppy right up and finally use all those bath bombs people keep giving me.

Tomorrow, we do our final walk through at 8. (Check out my insta-story @northshireliving for snaps & video from that!! Now that its gonna be official you can peep at more than just the outside!) Then I am off to a Candlelight Cabinet delivery in Weston, VT at a very cool new construction home we did cabinets for – they did concrete floors with radiant heat that are just TOO beautiful – where I will check to make sure everything arrived in once piece – and then zipping back to Manchester to squeeze out some design work before the actual Closing at 2! After work we are planning on heading over to the new place, starting to make a game plan, and having takeaway for dinner while toasting to our new home, looking at the view of Mt. Equinox! Chris is a superstar and already arranged for us to have electric, internet, and a construction dumpster delivered tomorrow so we will have all of the necessities here and can start really working on our first house to get it ready for tenants as well.

The things I am most excited about for the new house! 

  • We found super nice original picture framed fir wood floors hiding under the carpet, it seems like it goes throughout the first floor, we have our fingers crossed that they are in great condition and the patching is minimal but won’t know until the 5 different kinds of flooring on top of it comes out.
  • THE WEDDING ROOM – So one bedroom in the new house is kinda small and sad. Someone started to paint a rainbow on the wall but only got as far as the pencil outline, the floors much worse than the other rooms… some patches are literally just plywood. This made it an easy sell as a temporary wedding triage room for the next few months! After the better part of a year stashing my wedding centerpieces in the attic and favors on top of the bookshelf and my desk scattered in invitations and literally there is so much crap a wedding generates to store! I am so ready to have everything all in one place. Now I just have to decide if I live with the sad rainbow or delay the gratification of getting organized a little longer and paint the room first. #DECISIONS.
  • Going to town on the marble hearth & mantle with my magic eraser! I know marble care people are probably shaking their heads like “OMG NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!” but I swear, on old stained marble it can work miracles, it will totally take the polish off if it happens to be polished but I find it works really well on honed surfaces… or if you want a honed look! I’ve been using it on my polished Thassos Marble coffee tables about once a month (every time people come over, they’re a dirt magnet but I love them) for ~2 years and its definitely more of a satin now.
  • Swimming in our pool! As a beautiful land mermaid who grew up with a pool swimming is super fun and something I used to do a lot of until I stupidly moved away from said pool – A pool is super important! (not really, but once you get used to having one you kinda miss it and it’s one of those things thats still like a luxury so you can’t complain about not having one cause that would be like insensitive but like pools are great and you still want one … y’know?)
  • A garage that makes “projects” doable. One thing we definitely lack in our current house is any kind of space for projects, and when you can’t do anything without disrupting your living space it can make it hard to be motivated to do projects, like the headboard I’ve been saying I will build us for over a year. Projects will probably have to wait until after the wedding, but it’s nice to think about doing them and in the meantime, If I find a great piece of furniture I want to refinish for our house, there is somewhere to put it until we have time for projects! (I hope that time isn’t never but something inside me has a sneaking suspicion!)
  • GUEST FREAKING BEDROOMS < Note the plural!!! OK so it’s not forever, when we start having babies we will have less guest rooms but we went from zero guest bedrooms (our other two bedrooms are our gym and a construction zone at our first house) to TWO GUEST ROOMS, potentially 3 if my wedding room doesn’t become a craft room! There comes a time in a woman’s life, where she becomes an adult and ceases to be able to just sleep “wherever” and I so hit that, so now because I am so not sleeping on your couch, and would rather not have guests than offer them a sleeping arrangement I would grumble about if offered so I’m looking forward to hosting guests at the house and having full on bedrooms to offer. They can even have a separate bathroom!
  • A gym where I don’t have to fold up my Gazelle after working out, where it can just live, standing up, never to scratch my leg with it’s pedal or pinch my toes again. Seriously, for a moveable exercise machine that thing is dangerous.
  • The view!
  • The view!
  • The view!
  • Did I mention the view?

Things I am the least excited for: 

  • Figuring this all out and getting it all done in time! We will get it all done and make it happen I know we will, but it is going to be a lot of work! Luckily we have a beach in Mexico with our name on it to relax afterwards! And we know it will all pay off in the long run!
  • Saying bye to my gas stove and hello to a electric glass top. Forget storage, or the Oak Cathedral Raised Panel Cabinets this stove I am not ready for. I’m gonna spill so much food with my pots sliding everywhere but at least it will be easy to wipe up! 😉 Lets just hope I don’t crack it with all my cast iron!
  • Leaving our house. Though it has it’s flaws I have grown to love our humble hose and the holes in the walls. Our bathroom may be completely gutted save sink and tub but I still think it looks pretty in the morning sun. Our view might be of a different mountain range but it still is a stunner. It’s the place we fell in love and started to build our life together and even though technically it isn’t my house, it will always be our first house and we will always love it.

As if this week wasn’t crazy enough, I will be out of town this weekend for my Bachelorette Party we are going to be spending the weekend at Brimfield Antique Flea Market in Massachusetts. Luckily Chris is going to be on Demo, ripping out the floors and the wall & peninsula between the Kitchen & Dining room & a closet in the master bath that juts into the Master Bedroom on the prime bed wall. When I get back, Monday I will pitch in where I’m needed between Chris at the New House & My Dad at our First House (I gotta come up with better names for our houses) getting things rolling.

At the new house, for now, we are just doing new carpet & paint in the master, getting the first floor floors squared away & polished, and painting so that we can move in. Then we’ll slowly plug away at the upstairs bedrooms, redoing the kitchen within the next year or two, the master bath within the next five years. And the upstairs bath before we have kids who can use potty’s, we’ll see how things go, you have a plan and then it changes! At some point we would like to attach the garage to get a mudroom and add a powder room somewhere but for now, this will be a great place for us to grow into slowly & build our life together!

Check out insta tomorrow for live reporting on the house situation, I will also be documenting some cool house stuff I am hunting for at the antique market. Will be giving some photographic updates on the First House and progress we’ve made there – where we still need to go, as well as some of our “to-do’s” at the New House! Like better house letters– and a Mailbox! (there isn’t one!).

Til Next Time!

Cheers,

Niki

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

our first house

In an exciting turn of events, Chris & I are buying our first house together!

fixer upper home in Manchester, VT

Currently we live in a fixer upper Chris bought before we met, and though there are so many things we love about our house, the view, the commute, the neighborhood, living in town but not too in town — Seriously I could go on! There are just some things it can’t give us. Like a finished basement for a gym, or a master bedroom. So after scouring the market last year, falling in love with one place that was quirky and wonderful but RIGHT on Rt. 11 and deciding that was a deal breaker.

We realized, we love where we live and we should stay put. But still! We needed more space! So we planned a gigantic addition off the back of our house that involve ripping off the current one our kitchen stands in with a combination of a “stooping” height basement and crawlspace, digging a new foundation to get our basement gym, coming out 3 feet further on two sides, and going up a second story to create a master suite. Don’t get me wrong, it took this house from just okay to dream house status, but it was a ton of money to spend, so much work, and we still have only a quarter acre lot, so not a lot of outdoor space.

Just as we were about to move forward on putting the remodel into the works, the house not directly across the street but directly across from the entrance to our small street came up for sale. We live on a little plateau in the middle of a floodplain in town, our neighborhood was built at the turn of the century to house the employees of the Rich Lumber Company, right next to where the trains used to go up into what is now the Lye Brook Wilderness (And our current view). Where we live currently was the regular employees, and across the main street is where the management lived, so the houses have just a little more detail and are just a little bit bigger. They also have an amazing view of Mount Equinox.

We knew we had to go look at least out of curiosity, but as soon as we did we fell in love. It had the master suite, and the layout was great, you could instantly picture your kids chasing each other in a circle through the house, a nice big garage, and a full basement. It even had gorgeous original federal trim details and some built in’s in the dining room that are at least pre-1930, they could be original but it’s hard to tell as they are very simple. It had everything we were hoping to get with the addition and more and it just needed some cosmetic updating which fortunately, we both happen to be professionals at! It does need a substantial amount of work but we are looking at it as an opportunity to put our stamp on it. And we each get a bonus we really wanted, Chris gets a big yard to mow, and Niki gets a pool (yes it has a pool! bonus!)!!!!

Equinox Mountain View in Manchester Vermont

It’s not official yet, but we’re almost there, if all goes well we will swimming sometime this summer, watching the sunset right over the spot where Chris proposed on the top of the mountain, overlooking this place we call home.

So thats what we’ve been up to, plus things are ramping up in wedding land now that we are officially less than four months out!!! But that is for another blog post sometime next week. Later this weekend I’ll post about what is going to be happening with our current house before and after we move out and ALSO sometime next week we will be getting back into the new house and I can show you guys my plans for the revamp (It involves LOTS of paint in my two favorite Ben Moore colors, plus some other classics!) I promise I am taking this blog thing seriously (but not to serious!) so stay tuned! 😉