Archive for June, 2009

Guest Cottage Update

June 30th, 2009


Little by little, the guest cottage is coming together.  It’s one of those projects where I’m really in no rush. If any guests happen to come during construction, they can stay in one of the other bedrooms in the main house.  So, in a way, a stress-free project is really the best kind because you can think, take your time, research materials and watch progress come together over time.

A few blog posts back, I asked about paint color for the walls.   But since paint is really the very very last thing to happen, I thought I’d share some snapshots of what’s going on now.    Right now, the “wet bar” area in the kitchen is coming together.  I love the new cabinets (still covered to protect them) with the gray soapstone-ish countertops.    The Karbon faucet from Kohler is—simply put—amazing.   It can twist and turn a million different ways and it just looks so cool.   The green glass tile is up, waiting to be grouted; it’s the same tile I’ve used in the main house in the kitchen and all the bathrooms.  I’m a big fan of consistency.   


For lighting, I was so happy to find a use for this stainless steel outdoor lighting fixture I had stashed away.   When I first started renovating the house, I bought these gooseneck fixtures (you see them all the time in public places like restaurants) for use outside the house.  While most of the fixtures worked, this large one looked awkward in the place I had it.   So, it went into storage in the hall closet.    Here, INSIDE the guest cottage, this OUTDOOR fixture looks great!   Really happy with this.


Across from the wet bar, the mini kitchen is coming together.  Glass tile backsplash is in waiting for grout.  A mini fridge replaces an outdate large one (which I had recycled) and will do a much better job at keeping juices and fresh chilled for guests (plus, it frees up counter space).  A tiny electric stovetop was just put in, just big enough to boil a kettle of water for tea or pop some popcorn.   I’m looking forward to hitting some flea markets to find accessories for this part of the cottage.


Grainy pic… but here’s the Sanyo ductless heating and cooling system. I installed one on both sides of the cottage.  They’re remote controlled and super energy efficient.  Since someone will only be staying in here a few days out of the year, I didn’t see a real need to rip everything up and install a new system.  These systems are remote controlled, so it’s super easy to adjust the temperature for the user.


And the cottage bathroom is sorta coming together.  The wall mounted sink is in, but the exposed pipes are not what I hoped for.  Apparently, the plumber was unable to find a chrome piece that fit, so a PVC pipe had to be used.   Yuck.   The dual flush Kohler toilet is in and the new shower/tub cast iron tub and glass tiled wall is in, too. 

Now what to do about those pipes….

Store Visit: Zelen Home

June 29th, 2009


Last week, I was in Los Angeles for meetings with various production companies about a possible TV show I’m thinking about doing.  Yes, it’s very “Hollywood,” but I’m still a Pennsylvania boy at heart when I’m traveling in LA.   I tend to fly in and fly out as quickly as possible, so I can get back home to the bucolic woods of my Pennsylvania home. 

But there are highlights and favorite spots that I do love.  One of them is Zelen Home (8055 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048).  It’s owned and operated by Dan Zelen, who has a philosophy that his store only stock items you can’t find anywhere else.   Lots of one-of-a-kind pieces, a mix of vintage and new, just available at one store, in one state, in one city: Los Angeles.

The store is stocked with styling and decorating ideas, too.  Like taking a collection of paperback books and just simply tearing off the cover to reveal stacks of white books.  Stacked on a wall, it feels very Anthropologie meets library.  Sure, it works better in a store environment, but it does remind you that the best ideas don’t have to cost a lot.  It all comes down to the execution.


Here’s another idea.  Silverleafed pinecones.   I wish I could find that blog post I did years ago where I took shells, branches and other found objects in nature and silver leafed them.  I wanted to do it as a project for the now defunt Country Home magazine, but my colleagues passed on the idea.   Was I ahead of my time?


I was excited to see these ceramic peanut shell containers.  At a junk store a few months ago, I found one half of these peanut shells and wondered what on earth it was.   So, they DO have a matching top and they DO contain two “peanuts” on the inside.   If you can find these in your junk store adventures, pick ‘em up.  One of these is $80.


And I snapped this pic because, well, I just liked it.  It demonstrates Dan’s creative skills at putting a hodge podge of items together into a cohesive collection.   I talk all the time how I like to “curate” a home when I’m putting it together, picking and editing through everything and trying to make random objects just work together.   This is a great example of that.   Artwork…metal tools…random faux deer heads.

Collecting Shells

June 26th, 2009


A couple of weeks ago, I took my parents to the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Amelia Island, FL as a gift to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary.  It was part gift on my part, but also part vacation, too, since I tagged along and intended on doing as little as possible the time we were there.

One of the nice aspects of the hotel (other than the fact it was incredibly luxurious with great service) was that it was on a private beach that was never, ever crowded.  In fact, one morning, I had decided to go for a run on the beach and turned around to realize I was the only person there.    All you could see were footprints behind me in the wet sand.   It was calming, but scary at the same time.   Had I tripped and twisted an ankle or something, I would’ve had to crawl back alone with no assistance.    And there you have some insight into how my mind works: I go to the deep, dark place of worst case scenarios.  Anyway….

Each morning, the ocean dragged in an abundance of seashells onto the shore in a wide variety of earth tones.  Instead of a random shell, there would be thousands of them waiting to be rummaged and picked through.  Which led me to the question: Is it OK to collect shells?

The overwhelming consensus seems to be that it’s OK to collect shells in moderation, and only shells that can not be reused by living creatures like hermit crabs.   So, shells that are clamshell shaped and are “dead” are legal and safe to collect.  But, again, in moderation.   


Many of the shells I was sorting through had this perfectly drilled hole at the edge of the shell.  I couldn’t figure out if that was the inherent design of the shell or if someone with a Drimmel drill had made them.   I assumed the first.  But it turns out there are certain types of mollusks and snails that feed on what’s inside the shells, drill the holes, and eat what’s inside.   That kills whatever was living in the shell and thus, it ends up in piece up on shore.    What I saw was an opportunity to just collect the shells that had these pre-drilled holes. 


So, I cleaned out an empty coffee cup from the trash with sea water and filled it with shells that had this hole.    At home, I strung them with orange hemp string one by one….


And now I have a collection of shells strung on the door to the craft room.   It’s a small reminder of my trip to Amelia Island and it was something very easy and simple to do.   Instead of throwing some shells into a bowl, I can do something a bit more organized and interesting with them.

Who Knew? New Balance Made in the USA

June 25th, 2009

A very very long time ago, I met with a very famous fashion designer for a meeting and commented that one day I hoped I would be able to design and sell my own products and that they would be manufactured in the USA. He said, “that’s impossible. There’s no way you’re going to make any money by hiring American workers.” Flash forward 10 years later, and I’ve got a mattress line that’s made in multiple factories around the USA and a USDA-certified bath and beauty line manufactured in the USA, too. So, Mr. Famous Designer, take that.

A press release that came in my inbox intrigued me.  It was from  New Balance, the athletic sneaker company, tauting the fact they are the ONLY athletic company that still makes all their sneakers right here in the USA.    They just released a documentary video (above) that shows all the workers who make the shoes from start to finish in one of five factories in the Boston area. Keep in mind not all New Balance shoes are made in the USA—many are still made in China—but there are many models of both men’s and women’s sneakers of all types that are manufactured here.   The New Balance website does point out which models are made in the USA.

I never even thought about my sneakers (other than how to recycle them) until recently.  But now I’m more inclined to buy my next pair of sneakers from New Balance knowing they are American made and manufactured not too far from where I live!    In a tougher economic climate, there’s something refreshing about knowing the products I’m purchasing for myself and my home can also be helping Americans stay employed.    I know it’s impossible to buy everything made in the USA, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try and we can’t support those brands that are made right here. 

You can learn more about New Balance and their American success story here:

WIN! Pure Water 2 Go Bottles

June 24th, 2009


There’s a company down in Texas I’ve been fascinated by and promoting called PureWater2Go.   I’m not a spokesperson or have any stake in the company…I simply like the products they sell.   They manufacture and sell reusable water bottles that have built-in filters to purify regular tap water.  In other words, you fill up the bottle with cold, regular tap water, screw on the cap, and squeeze fresh-tasting filtered water.     It’s brilliant.   And hence the name…Pure Water 2 Go.

The reusable bottle I’ve been using is good for a couple hundred refills, meaning I’m saving literally hundreds of plastic disposable water bottles from being used AND saving hundreds of dollars (300 refills X $2 a bottle equals $600 in savings).    If you want to go green but want fresh tasting water, too…this is a product I highly recommend. 

Anyway, the President of Pure Water 2 Go emailed me to show me a new product they are launching called their Eco Bottle.   It’s colorful, it’s reusable, it has a  built-in filter…but it’s also biodegradable.    They say the bottle will even biodegrade in a standard landfill in just 1-5 years.  So you can save hundreds of plastic water bottles and safely dispose of this when you’re done and leave no waste stream behind.  Not bad.   It’ll retail for $17.95 at

But, I’ll be giving THREE Daily Danny readers one of these bottles.  Just a leave a nice comment for your chance to win!   

Good luck!

CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. Congrats to Joanne Greene, Felicitas and Lisa for winning.  The winners have been emailed, so please reply with your mailing address.  Congrats again!