Welcome to Donwell: Other Smart Stuff

Part One of this series here.

Last time we covered smart stuff in the kitchen; today we’ll reach the rest of the house.  

This little thingy makes a door shut automatically.  It’s really nice to have on a powder room door that’s right next to the kitchen.

Here is a terrible picture of a wonderful feature in the living room:  floor outlets!  I get excited whenever I see these in a home.  We had extension cords running all around our old house, so this time it’s nice to have a smarter arrangement for our cords. 

Here’s the pergola over the back deck.  See that gray stuff on the right?  It’s black mesh fabric.  Why is it there, you ask?  It provides just enough shade for the people sitting on the deck, so that they don’t feel like they’re frying in the hot, direct sun.  I was doubtful about its effectiveness, but now that I’ve spent hours sitting under it, I can testify that it works wonderfully.  It’s such a great idea.

The former lady of the house was an avid gardener, and she saw to it that her plants got plenty of water.  On the deck, that means that we have a suspended irrigation system for hanging plants.  See the hose just to the right of the plant hanger above?  It provides drip irrigation, and there are seven more just like it strung across the deck.  SO SMART!

Here’s one we haven’t used yet, but come the winter, it will get used I’m sure.  This is a gas lighter for the wood-burning fireplace in our living room.

Lastly, there are skylights in two rooms.  Above, you see the schoolroom, which is the room over the garage.  Its location over the garage means that it has sloped ceilings and just one window.  The addition of this one skylight makes a huge difference in the brightness of the room.

And here are the two skylights in the kitchen.  The bars across them were used for hanging plants; we plan to take them down.

Welcome to Donwell: Smart Kitchen

Part One of this series here.

This house has many of those details that real estate agents love to call “better than new.”  You know, those things that we would love to have but are probably too busy or too cheap to actually do.

Here are a few of these goodies…today we’ll cover the kitchen.

Ben loved to show this one to everyone the moment they came in the house during our first month:  THE SPICE CABINET.
Spices on the front

Swinging front shelf


I had achieved something like this at our old house using stuff from IKEA, but this one is built in:

A place for cookie sheets, cooling racks, etc.

 The silverware drawer has dividers, and it has two layers (this one slides back to reveal another underneath):

Why do we own so much silverware?

And when you open the pantry door, a light shines down on you from above.

Who ate all the cereal?

 Because of this little switch on the door:

So, nothing flashy, but things that make life in the space more pleasant.  This kitchen is far smaller than my old one, but it’s MUCH smarter.  I don’t feel squeezed at all.

Welcome to Donwell: The Befores

I named our new house.  I named it in my mind, anyway.  You probably think it’s pretentious, but I find it charming when people name their homes.  
“Donwell” is a Jane Austen reference; Donwell Abbey is the home of Mr. Knightley in Emma.  If you haven’t read it, you should go back and read our love story to find out why it’s so much like Emma and Mr. Knightley.  Donwell is an obvious allusion to Knightley’s doing things well in many aspects of his life.  
Anyway, when we finally found this place and bought it, I named it Donwell because if there’s one thing we want in our home, it’s to do things well for God’s glory.  But it’s Donwell in my head.  I don’t say things like, “Do pop in for a spot of tea at Donwell this afternoon,” or “You must come walk the gardens at Donwell.”
For that matter, I don’t say, “Possums drown at Donwell, poor saps.
So I’m going to introduce you to the new place this week.  You can see some before photos of the downstairs in my moving day post.  The dark wood trim was mostly primed before we moved in, and I’ve been painting it in fits and spurts since then.  
Upstairs, we have…
“tomato soup.”  That’s what I like to call this color. It morphs from pink to brown depending on the light.  Above we have the master bathroom, with original vanity, which cries out to me for replacement or at least a coat of paint.

See?  It kinda looks brown here, doesn’t it?  This is the master bedroom.  But it’s really just the BRIGHT cranberry carpet that makes the paint look brown — it’s the same color.

This is the hall bath.  I love that the kids have two sinks.  I also don’t dislike the color in here.  It’s nice.  The bathroom also has a separate area with toilet and shower with a door.  It feels appropriate when you think that five people are sharing it.

This room is on the third floor, which is really the attic.  The previous owners finished off a portion of the attic into a craft room.  We now have an extra bed in here.  I also just unpacked all my sewing stuff into this room this past Sunday.  I can’t wait to use it.

Here’s the room above the garage.  It’s our schoolroom now.  I’m so glad they put a skylight in…it really brightens the place up.  If you can’t tell, the paint is dark blue.  It makes me a little jumpy.  I need something brighter and calmer.

Down the hall from there is Maddie’s room.  This room feels HUGE right now because Maddie is sleeping in a toddler bed again since the move.  We really need to get her a twin bed.

And here’s where we’ve been eating most of our meals lately.

David thinks looking pensive is funny.

Look for more Welcome to Donwell posts this week!

For Scale

The amount, size, and gender of my children have necessitated that I begin cooking in vessels like this:

I can really get by with my normal pots if I’m just feeding our family.  But what’s the point of making a big batch of soup or chili if there’s none to put in the freezer?  Or what if we have people over and there’s not enough?

(the sink is just there for scale…this pot IS a sink.)

This Actually Happened

You’re not going to believe me, but it really did.

The week after we moved into this new place, we had one of my friends over in order to meet her new special someone.  They’d been hanging out together for a bit and we decided we needed to be nosy and check him out to get to know him and welcome him into our circle of friends.

We stood in the entryway and welcomed them, introducing ourselves to the young man.  Upon walking through the hall and into the kitchen, he remarked that he thought I’d like a friend of his, because my house looked a lot like hers.

“She has a blog.  You should check it out,” he said.  “She’s called The Nester.”

…because my house looked a lot like hers…?

Well, on the spot I decided that I absolutely approved of him and asked them if they could move next door after they were married.

Not really.

I will own up to the fact that my house looks like a lot like the Nester’s partly because I was so refreshed to find someone who decorated her home in cool tones.  After we moved here to Charlotte, I felt like every home I was in was warm browns, golds, and reds, which was very pretty in its own way, but it wasn’t me at all.

And I will own up to the fact that when I went to the Nester’s house, I asked her what the color of her front room was.  She told me the name of it, and then said that her sister had the shade that was a bit cooler, and it was called Oyster Bay.  Remember when I told you I never wanted to live without it?  I brought it with me to the new place….I wasn’t ready to part with it.

This week the Nester is in Tanzania, reminding us all that hospitality isn’t really about what your house looks like at all.

I hear so many excuses as to why people avoid hospitality.  Their house isn’t ready…isn’t big enough…isn’t perfect.  They think their cooking is substandard.  They’re too busy.  They’re just not cut out for it.  They need time to themselves.

These are all delightful weasel words for disobedience to the command given in I Peter 4:9 to “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

I get told a great deal that I’m “just good at it.” I will be the first to say that no, I’m not “just good at it.”  I am quite bad at it.  Those excuses above run through my head regularly.  But maybe I have a bit more practice at beating them back and putting my foot down in obedience.

Practice.  Prayerfully putting one foot in front of the other.  Getting a plan.  That’s all it is.

It’s not about the house at all.

Accentuate the Positive

As we’ve continued to unpack, it has been easy for me to get overwhelmed.  Every once in a while I will open one of those boxes that was packed in a hurry towards the end of the packing process which contains three dirty socks (no matches), an iPod cord, a coffee mug full of loose change, twenty-two Legos, and a tube of toothpaste.

A survival tactic that I’ve employed recently is “accentuate the positive.”  Let me give you a few examples.

Here are two shots of the new kitchen.

Ahh, the top of the cabinet.  A lovely tableau of green glass jars and my oversized Ball jar.  So peaceful.

And in the other direction, the beverage station/buffet.
Kinda makes you want to scream and pull your hair, right?
Quick, look back up above.  Ahh, all better.

Let’s try it in the dining room.

Here’s my teacup collection housed on the freshly polished hutch.
I don’t like that lamp sitting there, but it’s not offensive.

Now take a few steps back.  This picture was taken a few days ago,
and I tell you truly that the table looks WORSE and not better today.
Go back to thinking about the teacups.

Opposite the dining room…

The library.  A cohesive collection of commentaries.  Everything is lined up.  And there’s that dumb
stuffed turkey wearing a mortarboard that my husband refuses to discard.  Everything is in its place.

Except down here.  Down here nothing is in its place and everything is very upsetting.
When will I get to vacuum this rug?  Maybe today?

So there you have it:  my handy coping mechanism for the unpacking process.  It also works for children.  Don’t like the yogurt-smeared shirt your child is wearing at co-op?  Maybe his socks match.  Look at his socks.

Feel better now?

Shelf Paper Anxiety


As I said earlier in the week, we are moving soon.  Right now, right at this moment, my future kitchen is empty. All the cabinets, shelves, and drawers (there are a lot of drawers!) are open and waiting to be filled.

It’s a wonderful thought.  But I have a nagging issue called “Shelf Paper Anxiety.”

Shelf Paper Anxiety is an inherited condition, since my mother always, always had shelf paper in her kitchen.  I have not been so diligent with the shelf paper application.  But I have this lingering guilt about it, like I should really, really have shelf paper and people are judging me when they open my cabinets and see that they are un-shelf-papered.

It’s not that I dislike shelf paper, it’s just that in a relatively new kitchen, I don’t see the point of shelling out all the money required to cover shelves that can be wiped down effectively anyway.

So here’s where you can help.  Please answer the following survey.  This is HARD-HITTING, VERY IMPORTANT STUFF, people.

<a href=”http://polldaddy.com/poll/5926388/”>What are your feelings about shelf paper?</a> The poll will close just before midnight on the night before we move, so that I have ample time to frantically run to Target the morning of the move and buy yards of shelf paper. Or not.