January, 2014

renovation diaries: getting started and demo

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SO!  let’s get down to business with this renovation stuff so i can show you the final result, which we are living in now and LOVING.  (refresher: the BEFORE)

before i get started, you need to meet margaret.  here she is at a recent charity event we attended together.

margaret & i margaret and her husband jason are two of our very favorite people – and how lucky are we to live a mere five houses down from them?!  i met margaret years ago as one of jen’s roommates (and interior design classmates at georgia), and then became neighbors almost three years ago.  let me tell you, it is SO FUN living down the street from a good friend!  we always carpool to girl’s dinners and a quick pow-wow is oh so easy.  love it!

you may remember i blogged about her and her interior design company a while ago here…and commissioned her to help me with the kitchen and master bath renovations.  OMG she is the real deal.  i was SO impressed with her professionalism, relationships she has built with vendors and laborers, and all around great taste.  i had a loose idea of what i wanted (white kitchen, marble with pops of brass in the bathroom) and could point to things i liked, but had NO IDEA how to go about finding said things (and in my budget), finding people to then do the work, and just pulling it all together in a workable timeline.  enter margaret long designs, who solved all of these problems!

here are images that i used as inspiration…

i loved the bump out on the vanity cabinets:

marble and brass together = lovely:


a white kitchen:

72aa12e979f50ab532b4e1a580718a63white kitchen take 2:

185773553349897945_f5KCde21_cwhite kitchen take 3:

090113_hf_private01075to get started, i enlisted some of the vendors that were referred by margaret, and some that were referred by friends.  (of note: a good lot of the vendors were margaret’s contacts that she uses exclusively for her clients, so i will not be sharing them here.  i am happy to share the others, though!)

first up was cabinet guys.  my friend lindsay had recently completed a renovation (which was featured in JEZEBEL magazine here, and done by blake shaw homes) and i had always loved her kitchen.  it is so pretty…

lindsays kitchen 2i knew she had done inset cabinets (as opposed to overlay) and loved her cabinet people, and asked if she would refer them to me.  i am so glad she did – they were absolutely wonderful to work with.  andy perkins with custom kitchen design is the man.  everything they do is custom, so you’re not getting pre-fab cabinets at all, and you can customize every inch of them.  i can’t wait to show you what they were able to do!  we started with a consultation at my house while the old kitchen was still intact, and went over what i envisioned in the final space…and there was a lot of measuring.

next, countertop peeps…never knew a slab yard could be so fun!!

photo-196 copythen, there were electrician visits, plumber visits, tile layer visits, tile samples, a frantic search for faucets (will expound next post) and look-sees at lighting and hardware.  oh did i mention i acted as the general contractor?  yes, ME.  i used to work for a construction company doing marketing and would always get in trouble for wearing heels on jobsites.  (i mean, who would wear tennis shoes with a skirt suit?  ever?)  in actuality, it really made a lot of sense – i was the one that would be home all day and could “direct traffic” so to speak, and get in touch with the subs if we needed something, or to tell them it was their turn.  turns out there is a LOT of in and out in home remodeling; i felt like sometimes i just acted as a butler opening the door all day.

but i’m getting ahead of myself.

margaret only works with one tile layer; she has found him to be the best in town…and he could squeeze in our job in mid-november between two other jobs.  he told us this in late october when we contacted him, so that meant we needed to MOVE.  i was literally calling people and saying, “yeah….so i heard you do demo?  can you by chance demo my kitchen and master bath…this monday?”  we miraculously found someone to do it that was recommended by a neighbor.  and just like that, we were on – ready or not.

****  best advice margaret gave me:  she said THINGS WILL GO WRONG.  of course she did not know what, but something during a renovation of an old house ALWAYS GOES WRONG.  while scary, this was great to know going in – i was expecting bad news.  it can’t all be good news all the time.  ****

demo begins without incident on november 5th.  it is to take 3 days total.  i delight at the old wallpaper (complete with bad-a border) found behind the cabinets in the kitchen:

photo-196 copy 4

i chuckle at what a heap of junk our kitchen looks like broken down:

photo-196 copy 5i think “how charming!” when original black and white tile is uncovered beneath two layers of linoleum and one layer of plywood:

photo-196 copy 6…and then on day 2 the demo guys proceed to pull up the original black and white tile…which is from the 1940s…which is 9″ x 9″…folks, that all equals ASBESTOS, i now know.  eek!  let me also add that 1) the kitchen was not taped off by plastic (i asked but was told that taking out kitchen cabinets and vinyl flooring doesn’t create all that much dust),  2) we were living through this renovation…like 3 feet down from the kitchen entryway and 3) the guys on the demo crew actually doing the work were all new, bless their hearts.  so all of a sudden, asbestos-laden dust has been spread all around our house and my kids who live there are breathing the air.  before i could even begin to freak myself out reading what all there is to know about asbestos exposure on the internets and how my kids will be stunted in growth and development forever, i had some sense talked into me by several calm and reasonable people who all told me that it’s definitely not ideal, but as far as asbestos exposure goes, this is a best case scenario.  our demo guy (the head of the company) felt TERRIBLE and had his cleaning crew come over with a HEPA vacuum and go over every single surface in our home…and the sweet ladies told me they took an extra long time in the babies’ rooms to be sure they got every little particle (which made me cry).  he also had his environmental crew come in in those space suit-looking things and take up the original hardwoods that were underneath the tile, covered in the black tar that contains asbestos at no extra charge (margaret said this is generally very expensive).  he also paid for an air test to be done, which came back 100% negative for asbestos particles – yahoo!  so everything was fine in the end, but a tad stressful for a few days there.

see why i am so glad margaret told me not to expect all good news?

here is the kitchen after stripping it down to its skivvies (the subfloor).

photo-196 copy 11…and the bathroom too!  this is the side with the vanity and sinks.

photo-196 copy 9and the tub/shower/toilet.  (sorry so dark, i must have taken these at night!)

photo-196 copy 10more bad news to come, but i’ll save that for next time :)


bonjour bebe

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i have been so remiss in showing you parties from my majorly creative and cute clients!!  i just found photos from this adorable baby shower on my desktop, and then ran across the actual invite in my sample bin and thought it was a sign that i needed to blog about it.  and honestly…i have no idea even what october this shower is from.  the baby being honored is probably in pre-K now.  no matter.  i LOVE the theme of this shower – c’est francais, bonjour bebe!  lavender and navy were the colors, and i adore the little sprig of lavender atop the invite.

french baby shower invitation

lavender baby shower

lavender navy baby shower invitationi thought the french food and decor was tres magnifique!




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there is something so festive about a beautiful cake on a cake stand with a cloche… (btw “cloche” means bell in french.  i do what  i can people.)

get-attachment.aspx1a tout a l’heure friends.


why, hello

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well folks…  that was not pretty, but we made it through to the other side.  the good news is that lots and lots of christmas cards all made it out (even mine…at the very last second) and the workmen who have taken over my house these past 8 weeks are pretty much all gone for good.  so…i guess maybe i’ll have time to write up week 1 and 2 of the renovation diaries soon!  ha ha ha.  what a laugh it was thinking i could keep up with that in real time or even just a little bit delayed!  you see, i am always learning.  every holiday card season, i learn SO much. you would think i have this down pat by now, but oh no.  the brunt of what i learned this year is that i took on too much.  in reality, the renovation was a piece of cake, it was all of the holiday card orders that really made a difference in how things flowed around the homestead.  we did not have a week between thanksgiving and the beginning of december like we usually do and….woah.  i really missed that week!  i think a lot of us did.  all of a sudden i was turning around and there were something like fourteen days until christmas – whaaa?

i did something that i had not done before this year – i hired help!  OMG it was life changing.  i hired the BEST help too – laine, one of my oldest friends, meticulously lined envelopes and i mean meticulously.  carly, one of our babysitters / good friend’s little sister, taped on thousands (literally) of photos and made so many runs to get more double stick tape, i lost count.  these girls put the pedal to the medal for calliespondence (complete with a mid-december work session until the wee hours of the morning!) and i cannot thank them enough!!!!  i never could have made it through november and december without them, seriously.  they helped me ship out approximately 8,000 holiday cards this year – holy. moly.

this year has been record breaking for calliespondence.  it’s been steadily busy for almost the entire year, and this holiday season was the biggest by far we’ve ever had.  i’ve been thinking about the word “success” lately – i think we all think if you’re “successful,” you keep growing, you get more clients, more orders, more everything.  here’s the thing – this whole calliespondence thing?  it’s just me.  sitting here in the worldwide HQ like i do.  i do all of the designing, print proofing, photo affixing, card counting, envelope lining, packaging, shipping, invoicing, website updating, question responding, blog posting, photo taking, you get the drift.  it’s a lot, but i LOVE coffee.   generally, it’s pretty seamless – i can fit most of what needs to be done in to a preschool session, a nap time and a little bit after bedtime.  holiday card season months, it’s a lot more than that, and everything in my family life takes a toll because of it.  meals don’t get made (luckily didn’t have to worry about that this year with no kitchen! hello urban pl8 paleo meal plan – i will blog more about this because you need to know), laundry doesn’t get done, sleep is not had, floor is not picked up, a lot more superwhy is watched.  this year it was more obvious than last year that my family doesn’t really work so well when mama checks out for a span of about 6-8 weeks.  so for me, “success” is going to mean more of a balance, all 52 weeks of the year.  what does that really mean?  well, it means that i will be taking on less custom orders.  i will have to say “no” more.  i will have to limit holiday card orders next year.  i hate to do that because i absolutely adore doing holiday cards, but for me – “success” is keeping things between the mayonnaise and the mustard for my little family and designing stationery after that’s all taken care of.  plus – i mean how much longer will my kids even let me sit next to them and snuggle on the couch?  i gotta carve out more time for that stat.

thank you all so very, very much for reading, ordering or just caring – i can’t tell you how much it thrills me to hear how much my clients love their cards when they receive them, or hearing what their loved ones said about them….it makes my day, every time.  i adored working with each and every one of my holiday card clients this year, spreading a little yuletide cheer here and there, one mailbox at a time.  thank you for letting me do that!!


p.s. a belated merry christmas from our family!  and a sneak peek at one of the foil stamped holiday card orders…we will be offering this as an option this year.

gold foil christmas card

gold foil card

gold foil noel

one of my favorite pictures of the kids, captured by dylan blue photography!

dylan blue photography photoback soon with renovation updates and a “best of” holiday card post!