Monday, November 24, 2008

How to Host Your First Thanksgiving: Part I

It all started last year when I had an inkling we’d have a house by November and put in my bid to cook Thanksgiving for our families.

All hands approved, so Neil and I took to preparing the house. In July.

Top of the order: decorating the house.

After the kitchen-painting fiasco, we were a little gunshy about painting. Instead we spent more time figuring out how to use our rooms and make subtle upgrades like kitchen hardware and furniture purchases.

Oh, and we spent a ton of time doing mockups.

I spent a couple weekends tripping from store to store conducting the butt test on several dozen couches, looking for the perfect seat. We were looking for a neutral-colored piece of furniture that I could comfortably fall into, but that would provide support and not too much cushiness.

So, I made my way to Pottery Barn of all places and plopped myself into a Seabury sofa. Down-filled but sturdy, the couch passed the butt test with flying colors. My back was supported, and I was wonderfully cozy, while I sunk into the couch without getting lost in the cushions.

I put it on the list and continued to scout sofa after sofa. Then Neil and I were in the Pottery Barn neighborhood a few weeks later. Neil gave the Seabury a plop and found it perfect for our living room as well.

We procured a great deal for a very clean white sofa and chair for the living room, which looked great with the pair of brown leather club chairs we bought a few weeks earlier.

Then the real work began. What color should we paint the walls? What coffee table should we pick up? And which side tables? Should we get a bookcase? Did we need more seating?

Enter Photoshop.

I have a habit—whether it’s with work-related new media design, room arrangements or home décor—of mocking up everything in Photoshop. It’s so much easier to move things around and to undo it all on a computer screen (moving the sofa back to its original place isn’t just a click away in real life). Especially the painting.

With big furniture decisions made, we checked out dozens of paint samples from Benjamin Moore, Sherwin Williams, Valspar, Martha Stewart and Ralph Lauren. We wanted a rich color that was not only influenced by the darker season, but by our need to temper the brightness of our kitchen.

The living room sported light beige walls, which were a good neutral color, but did nothing for our light-colored furniture or the hyperactive kitchen blue. We toyed with grays and plums, dusty blues and various greens. Several colors tickled our fancy, so I came up with these living room mockups, complete with some pillow side and coffee table selections (as well as some wall clutter and decor clips I picked up off my favorite Web sites just for feel). Some work much better than others...

And it was a tough choice! We returned to the paint store with a grayish blue in mind, but still nothing really caught our attention. I picked up countless dull colors and almost settled on a few that wouldn’t have been quite as satisfying as Neil’s find: Birdhouse by Martha Stewart:

Who knew Martha Stewart had such a knack for mixing greens and blues and grays? The color turned out a touch more green (in most lights) in our living room, but it does the trick.

Living room
(While a decorative Neil in the chair wasn't part of the original mockups, I think he works pretty well in these shots. Hee hee. But the light/color is a bit off because the image was taken around sunset.)
Another living room viewNot only does it do the trick in the living room, it does wonders for our hallway as it contrasts and complements our newly stained door. Nino was kind enough to complete arduous task of stripping an old door down its bare pine and staining it anew with a reddish maple color.

New door color makes a big diffThe result? My favorite view in the house: a shot through the kitchen that juxtaposes the kitchen’s Tiffany blue against the hallway’s Birdhouse and the accent of maple on the door. Love it!

We bought new hardware for the door. But because it’s an old thing and the original lock didn’t feature a deadbolt, the workload to install the new stuff was too much. While we intend on getting the old hardware nickled and shiny, we’re already pleased with the new look a natural-color door makes on the inside and outside of our home.

And it all happened just in time for the big holiday.