Best Of The Urban Orchard 2012

Just a quick recap of some of the more popular posts on The Urban Orchard from the last year.

10. From December 2011, here is the sourcing post for my unlacquered brass faucet in our kitchen.  It was one of the least expensive parts of the kitchen because it started out lacquered.  It was too large to try to strip myself so I had it professionally done.   If you don’t have a specialty plumbing store in your area, I have read that automotive body shops will do it for a fee.  Here’s a video from Martha about how to remove lacquer from brass fixtures.

Unlacquered Brass Faucet

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9. Furniture projects for design clients also kept me busy in 2012 but this table was one of the most popular.  It was an important part of the client’s design plan and had dual functions.

Bachelor Dining Table Before and After:


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8. The design for the bachelor’s apartment was a really fun project  and the before and afters are in this post from the spring:

Bachelor Pad Living Room Before and After:

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7. Another furniture project that went well was this little bench transformation-

Little Bench Before and After:

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6.  Another part of the bachelor pad project was this dining table/desk area.

Bachelor Pad Dining Table/Desk:


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5.  The onset of fall had me craving dark rich colors and these are my favorites.

Rich Color For Fall


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4. This year had me thinking a lot about design principles and what exactly makes a room great.

The Importance of Contrast in Design:

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3. Another post about design its impact on us led to some discussion.

The Future of Design:

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2. We did some updates to our master bedroom this fall and it led to big changes.

Master Bedroom Updates:


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1.  The number one post this year had to be the before and afters of our kitchen remodel.

Kitchen Before and After:


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Thanks so much to all of my readers and all the best to you and yours in the coming year! Happy New Year!

Goodbye Christmas, Hello New Year’s

Christmas is really over at our house.  We got all the lights and decorations put away yesterday afternoon and as sad as it is to take it all down and pack it away for another year, it does feel good to have a clean slate.  I get a little anxious when my Christmas decorations are up too long and they definitely have to come down before December 31st.  You know when you drive by that house in February or March that still has a wreath on the door?  I have to look away…

We actually don’t do New Year’s Eve decorations but we are hosting a little shindig for grown ups and kids so I wanted to start preparing the house for that.  Suddenly I see all the projects that need tackling!  I have 5 days–We’ll see what I can actually get done. :)  That is definitely one of the benefits of expecting guests–it makes me clean up and deal with all the stuff I’ve been putting off.  I’m trying to keep it simple with food and drink but my one secret for a successful party is always having an interesting cocktail for guests to try.  Still deciding on that one this year…

What about you?  Are your Christmas decorations still up?  What are your New Year’s plans?



New (Old) Brass Kick Plate

 For a while now I have wanted to add an antique brass kick plate to our front door.  I don’t have a historical or period reference for it–I just thought it would look pretty!  Here’s a reminder of what our entryway looks like–this was taken over the summer I think:

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My mom is visiting and while we were out shopping the other day we visited a salvage yard and found this old brass kick plate–the perfect size for our door.  My generous mom scooped it up for me along with some brass ager and home we went to work on it.  Here’s what it looked like when we brought it home

kickplate before

Yes, it did already have a lot of patina–perhaps too much!  It was dark and stained and uneven so I brought it home and cleaned it up with some SOS and 000 steel wool:

brass kick plate polishing

This was a little too cleaned up–a little shiny with some really brassy uneven spots.  So in comes the ager.  The bottle says to completely submerge the piece you are aging in the solution but I don’t have any containers big enough to submerge this thing in so I just dribbled it all over the surface and then spread it around with a paint brush.  I don’t have any pictures of this part because it was totally uneven and I panicked and ran to the sink to wipe it off.  The ager works fast and it turned really dark even after I rinsed it off.  I then took a dry piece of steel wool and lightly rubbed it over the plate until it was about how I wanted it:

brass kick plate aged

I also went to the hardware store and bought brass screws to install it and set them in the ager for a few minutes:

brass screws kick plate aged

After installing it my front door now looks like this:

brass kick plate after 2 wtrmrk

It definitely warms up the room–now I just have to use the ager on the super shiny door handle!

And BTW, I just noticed the blue rubber band on the bottom left corner of the rug in the picture!  I thought about retaking the pictures before I did this post, we are supposed to have several days of rain now so I won’t get good enough light to retake these photos for a while.  And really, that’s how it is around here–there are often rubber bands, markers, pencils, Legos, and other detritus strewn about that I don’t even notice anymore!  I’m just going to pretend it’s an umlaut over the U in “Urban.”

Thanks for stopping by!

So Sad

I feel like it’s taken me a few days to process the horrible events of Friday.  My heart goes out to all the families affected by such senselessness.  I hope we can find a way to put an end to this growing trend in our country.

And I am in no way comparing the two events but adding to our sadness, we also had to put our dear old kitty Figgy to sleep on Saturday.  He was our first baby and we’ll miss him.

Much love,


A Peek at Christmas

I’ve been hoping to show updates of all the rooms I’ve been working on lately but I’m just not quite finished enough to really photograph them yet.  So it’s a little hard for me to post about our tree and other Christmas decor knowing there are going to be glimpses into my half finished projects.  :)   But I did want to show our first tree with white lights.  So here’s a peek into our piano room:

Here’s what it looked like a few months ago:

I have more plans for it (that pink wingback chair is getting recovered or slipped in the new year and those 2 blue barrel chairs are lovely and have served us well but the kids have been really–I mean really–hard on them) but the new paint is definitely an improvement and I’m liking not having window treatments.  Our hedge is finally tall and thick enough that we don’t need them anymore.

You can also see our tree peeking around the corner.

This is our first year doing white lights.  I always knew I liked them more than colored lights but the kids and hubby always wanted colored ones and I grew up with colored ones so I was happy to forgo them.  But this year I really wanted white lights and I think everyone is happy we made the switch.  They really do look cleaner and brighter and help highlight our ornament collection instead of competing with it.  I don’t do themed trees in my own house–we have been so lucky to receive so many beautiful ornaments over the years from friends and family and the kids pick out ornaments each year to add to the collection and that randomness makes our tree just perfect.

What about you?  Do you do colored lights or white lights?  Traditional family ornaments or trees with a particular color scheme or theme?

Nature Inspired Christmas Craft And A Little Magic

Here are the final results of my crafting binge the other day so you can head into the weekend with some fun craft ideas.  This first one has to be the easiest craft ever.  I had some river rocks and floral wire left over from a flower arrangement so using some pinterest inspiration I wrapped the wire around the rocks, stamped some Christmas themed note cards and voila!

I added some Mod Podge to the stamps so they wouldn’t bleed.  You could also switch out the cards every season and if you had bigger rocks you could display your Christmas cards this way.  So easy–definitely my kind of craft!

Next, I saw this wonderful tutorial on Pinterest to make really authentic looking magic wands and thought I would give it a try.  You basically get chopsticks, beads, a glue gun, and paint.  Glue the beads to the end of the chopsticks and then cover that end with glue.  I used three glue sticks on each wand.  Then paint the whole thing and voila!  Magic wands:

Using a lot of glue gives them that gnarled appearance that any good hand forged wand would have. :)   Also, I found really large chopsticks at a Japanese dollar store.  These are about 20 inches long which makes them more Wizardly looking.

These were fun but definitely more labor intensive.  There’s a lot of time waiting for them to dry so you can do the next step.  (The boys kept asking “When are they going to be ready?  Are they ready yet?  When are they gonna be ready?”).  In addition to what’s detailed in the Pinterest tutorial, I added German glitter to different parts of the wand and then sealed the whole thing with Mod Podge.  I also used ASPC but any paint would do.  I realized early on that dipping them in the paint and then using a brush to remove the excess saved a lot of time.  These would make great gifts for Harry Potter lovers.  I will have these available at our studio sale December 15th.

We’re finally getting a tree this weekend and doing some fun Christmas outings with the kids around the East Bay.  What are your holiday plans (if any) this weekend?

Christmas Crafting Bug

I have been bit hard!  It’s my dirty little secret that I love crafting but am actually really bad at it.  I always wanted to be good at it and make gorgeous family heirloom scrapbooks or something like that but my crafts always end up pretty sad and actually way more effort, trouble and money than they are worth.  So a few years ago I gave it up.  Only occasionally with the kids would I break out all my old acrylic paints or my bags of felt.  It really was only because the kids wanted to…:)

But the other day I saw some great inspiration photos on Pinterest of so many cool Christmas crafts that I got inspired again.  I don’t know what got into me but I churned out three separate crafts projects in one afternoon and they weren’t half bad!  I think the fact that I spent almost no money on them helped immensely–way less pressure!  Most supplies I had on hand.

The first one might actually have been my own idea since I can’t find the pin on my pinboard.  I had a full can of primer from a previous painting project and a basket full of pine cones from last Christmas.  The pine cones were getting a little rough after being handled a lot by three pairs of little hands so I thought I would try dipping them in the paint.  Here’s how it went:

Definitely use pliers or something like that for dipping…


This is where it gets messy.  I stood there for what seemed like an eternity waiting for all that extra paint to drip off.  (It was actually probably more like 45 seconds).

Even with with letting all the excess drip off, a lot of paint pooled up on the plastic as they were drying.

And finally, after letting them dry for a day and a half, I added some German glitter and Christmas twine to make ornaments:

They also look really cute hanging on doorknobs!  I think I made about 10 of them and I still have about 6 more drying.  It’s actually good that my studio sale with Camille and Wendy got cancelled last week due to rain as now I will have these and other crafts for sale when we try again (weather permitting!) on December 15th.

I’ll have more on my crazy crafting binge soon.  Have you done any Christmas crafts this year?


I have so many things around the  house that I want to take pictures of these days but the weather has not been cooperating.  I just can’t get a good photo in my dark wintry downstairs without good natural light.

So instead I thought I would share some images from a category in my Pinterest account that has been growing rapidly lately.  It’s called “Vignettes” and it’s basically as it sounds.  It’s for any image I find beautiful mostly for its styling and which can’t be easily categorized as a particular space.

















Seems totally random when I look at them together like that but I know the images have a boldness to them that was hard to categorize any other way!  Check out more on my Pinterest page.


Also, I just wanted to say how much admiration and respect I have for all the ladies in the blog world who are moms, bloggers, designers, have day jobs, take care of family, etc.  My hat is off to you!  I find it so hard to get everything done in the hours I have everyday and lately my attention to my blog friends has been suffering.  Thanks to all the bloggers and followers who keep checking me out and especially leaving comments even though I haven’t always been able to do the same lately.  I really appreciate it!  The good news is, I have had a lot of new client design projects come my way over the last few weeks but the hard part is I am always struggling to find that balance.  I would love any tips from any blogger/designer/moms out there who have made it work.


Thanks again for stopping by!