Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Halloween Costumes: Agatha & Zero from The Grand Budapest Hotel

Nick and I have been wearing couples Halloween costumes for the last few years (remember Margot & Richie or Parmesan Cheese & Spaghetti?) They seem to become harder for us to decide on year after year, but dressing up in coordinating costumes is way more fun than flying solo. This year I was struggling to decide who we would dress up as, but after we went to a "Brew and View" showing of The Grand Budapest Hotel at a local theater last month, it all became clear: Agatha & Zero!

Of course this isn't our first time being Wes Anderson characters (Margot & Richie Tenenbaum being the firsts), but his characters are so unique and iconic that they make great costumes. For those unfamiliar with The Grand Budapest Hotel, Agatha is a professional pastry chef at Mendl's Bakery and Zero Moustafa is a lobby boy (and the eventual owner) of the Grand Budapest. They become friends, fall in love, and Agatha assists Zero in helping M. Gustave, the hotel's concierge, after is he arrested for murder.

Agatha's most striking feature is the large birth mark on her face in the shape of Mexico. She's most often seen in a dress and apron, baking treats in the Mendl's kitchen or hand-delivering boxes of desserts. For my Agatha costume, I wore a cream colored sweater from my closet, this dress I purchased from Amazon, and an apron I made from a length of blue fabric purchased at Jo-Ann. I made Agatha's Society of the Crossed Keys necklace from white clay, turquoise ribbon, and black paint. We printed out a few copies of the Mendl's logo and Nick built a dessert box from scrap cardboard. For the finishing touches I braided back my hair on each side and Nick used a dark reddish brown lip liner to add Agatha's birth mark to my cheek.

Zero Moustafa is the Grand Budapest's dedicated lobby boy, as indicated by his hat. Zero's work uniform is a head-to-toe purple suit with pops of red accents. He draws on a thin mustache each morning to begin his day at work. For Nick's Zero costume, he wore a purple button-down shirt we found from a local thrift store. We hemmed the bottom and cut off the collar to make it look more like a jacket. We purchased these purple track pants from Amazon and colored the white stripes with a red marker. Nick wore red socks and dress shoes from his closet. For Zero's infamous "Lobby Boy" hat, Nick used cardboard to create the basic hat shape. He covered it in purple vinyl, and finally we added the letters with a gold Sharpie paint pen.

Once we had all of the pieces, these were pretty quick costumes to put together! We're so excited to dive back into Wes Anderson's world and share our Agatha and Zero looks for Halloween this weekend.

How do you think we did? Are you dressing up for Halloween? Share with us in the comments below!

Sarah & Nick

Friday, October 21, 2016

Before & After: Nick's Music Room

On June 3rd, when Sarah and I closed on the house, we sat for hours on the empty living room floor sipping champagne and daydreaming of changes we wanted to make in our new home. Everything from big picture items like knocking down walls and rewiring entire rooms, to smaller tasks like painting the front door and removing mini blinds. The future ahead of us was both daunting and exciting.

We knew that in order to keep ourselves sane, and our lives functioning at least semi-normally we would have to control ourselves to working on one room at a time. That has been a hard guideline to follow, but for the most part, we made it work.

And FINALLY, after months of work, countless side projects, delays, and distractions, we are so proud to show off our first ever before and after post of The Surznick Ranch Reno - the Music Room!

Since the music room is essential to part of my income, I immediately knew I wanted to finish this room first. It's been functioning as a lesson space for a couple months now, but has only recently been completely finalized.

Let's check out what all we were able to accomplish!

A lot of work went into transforming this small 3rd bedroom into the lesson studio it is today. Here are the tiny details of what it took to complete this room's overhaul.

The Floor Trim:

Every time I see the before picture of this trim I am blown away by it's hideousness. Unfortunately, the ENTIRE house has this exact same trim, so my crusade against it is far from over. The new trim and quarter round is painted with semi-gloss ultra pure white (untinted) Behr paint and the contrast it makes with the dark blue on the walls is exactly as dreamy as I hoped it would be.

Door/Window/Closet Trim:

The doorway to the music room was already trimmed, but with the same skinny, brown ugly trim that exists in the rest of the house. We took that off and replaced it with a slightly bulkier white trim to better match our floor trim. The closet and window had no trim around them at all, so they had to be framed out on the inside dimensions before adding new trimming around it. It was a ton of work that doesn't serve any purpose other than to look nice, but it was completely worth it. The window looks bigger, and the closet seems less like a random cave in the wall without a door. Also, having the inside of the closet doorway finished opens up the possibility of completing it with a door jamb and door in the future.

The Walls:

The walls in this room were easily the biggest part of this renovation. Where the drywall met the studs, there were terribly deep valleys. All of the walls had really noticeable ugly patches, various textures, holes, etc. Honestly, the photos simply don't do them justice. They were so nasty. We filled the uneven valleys with joint compound, patched holes, and entirely sanded down the textures on ALL the walls. It was disgusting, time consuming, painful, arduous, loud, and terrible in every way imaginable. But we knew it had to be done since this dark wall paint was going to just highlight every uneven and multi-textured surface. Once the walls were smooth, the primer coat looked like a million bucks, and the two coats of color on top of that just made my heart soar.

The Light:

As with every other room in the house, right in the middle of this tiny room was an old, gold and wood ceiling fan. Obviously, it had to go, and obviously it had to be replaced with a sleek, bright brass fixture.

The Shelves:

The music room is pretty small, and other than the closet and some very small desk drawers, there isn't much storage. These simple shelves from IKEA were super quick and easy to install. The only customizing we did to them was to paint the brackets. They started out as just slightly off-white. I didn't like the thought of the super white trim with off-white brackets, so I painted them with the same paint used on the trim.

The Furnishings:

We refinished these orange directional chairs specifically to be used in this room, and they were featured in a previous post, which you can read here. I love the contrast of the complementary dark blue and the orange.

This desk was the perfect combination of pretty, simple, functional, and small. It nicely fits the wall, and provides me with a place to finish up some work while not taking up too much of the room's precious floor space.

Of course, seeing as this is my lesson studio, I needed a piano! The space above the piano is finished with these beautiful Harry Potter prints that we had hanging in the office in our apartment. Finally, they're not hidden in a back room anymore and their beauty gets the attention it deserves.

Maps are a mild obsession of mine, so the huge space on the empty side of this room was the perfect spot for this large map. We built the wooden hanger for it - you can read about it here.

The Plant Hangers:

The area above my new desk was the only wall we decided to keep white. Since this wall is opposite the only window in the room, we wanted to reflect that light into the rest of the space. The only problem was that it was no fun sitting at my desk staring at a blank white wall, so we decided to spice it up a bit with these DIY plant hangers that we featured on the blog a while back. I think they fill the space nicely, and the pops of green really enhance the room.

Whew! And we're done! Both with the music room and this post! I know this has been one of our longest posts, but I'm so proud of this room, and I wanted to brag about every little detail. That's cool, right? If you like reading the nitty gritty details of a room makeover/renovation, then you're in luck because we still have two more bedrooms, a bathroom, a basement, a kitchen, a laundry room, and a living room to do (some day... hopefully before I'm dead.)

Check below for links to all the things we used and purchased for this room! If we missed something or you have questions about anything, be sure to leave us a comment below!

Paint - Behr Starless Night and Behr untinted white (Home Depot)
Wall Map with Wooden Hanger (DIY)
Curtains & Rod (IKEA)
Harry Potter Prints (Etsy)
Gold Task Lamp (Target)
Globe (TJMaxx) - similar
Orange Chairs (DIY)
Copper Plant Stand (DIY)
Shelves & Brackets (IKEA)
Desk (Target)
Rug (Rugs USA)
5 Spoke Ceiling Light (Amazon)
Hanging Plants (DIY)

Sarah & Nick

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How to Get Inexpensive, Large-Scale Art

When it comes to our d├ęcor and style in The Surznick Ranch, we're really trying to do everything right. This is the first time we have the opportunity to make things exactly as we want them, and we want to be sure that it feels like our real, adult home - not like a post-college apartment, as our other apartments have felt.

The wall above our living room sofa needed art, but I didn't really know what to do at first. Our sofa floated in the middle of the living room in our last apartment, so we've never had to style above a couch before. Knowing that we wanted to do this right, I watched this video by Emily Henderson (my style guru girl crush spirit animal) about how you should style art a focal wall. In a nutshell, you want your art to take up about 2/3 the width of your sofa. You can do this through a gallery wall, a very large piece of art, or two large pieces of corresponding art hung side by side. This last option is what we chose.

But the hardest part? Where do we find two large pieces of art, and how on earth do we not make this a zillion dollars? Art ain't cheap, folks (and neither are frames.) I scoured sites like Society 6, Urban Outfitters, and Etsy, but couldn't find anything that was large enough, still our style, and not going to cost an arm and a leg. Enter: the colored engineering print.

Engineering prints, or blueprints, are large prints that you can get at stores like Staples. They are generally lower print quality and paper quality than a traditional photo print, which also means they're very inexpensive. One of my favorite blogs, A Beautiful Mess, has used them in several projects and since Staples has started offering them in color, I was eager to try them out.

I ordered my first colored engineering print through It's super simple - you just upload the photo you want to use, select the size, and order. I printed this fun "enjoy life eat cake" photo by Jeff Mindell that I already had a download of on my computer. An 18x24" colored engineering print was only $3.20. I picked up my print the following day at Staples and was IN LOVE with the results. You can see a photo from my Instagram below.

Super impressed with my new engineering print, I found a digital art print on Etsy that I wanted to use for our large living room art. When purchasing a digital print, you are just purchasing JPEG files that you download (not an actual piece of art in the mail) so the cost is pretty low - mine was $5.90. Since my design is abstract with a pop of green in one corner, my plan was to print two copies and hang them in opposite directions. Together they kind of appear as one large piece of art. I again visited, uploaded my file, and ordered two 24x36" prints for $6.30 apiece.

We picked up two white 24x36" frames from Michael's, originally priced at $49.99 but only $25 apiece with a 50% off coupon (which stores like Michael's and JoAnn's offer all the time.) We trimmed the white border off our prints, popped them in the frames, and hung them on our wall. We are so, so pleased with how they turned out. (These photos do not do them justice.)

So you want to know the total cost?
Digital Art File = $5.90
2-24x36" Colored Engineering Prints = $12.60
2-24x36" Frames = $53.48
GRAND TOTAL = $71.98

$72?! Giving myself a pat on the back right now because that is practically pennies considering the alternative.

Just a note if you're considering engineering prints for your home: do a little research to see what types of photos work best. The sites we read recommended photos with a lot of white space and minimal fine detail. Because engineering prints are lower quality, you're not going to get super crisp colors and details. You probably wouldn't use this option for family photos, or a super saturated and colorful piece of art. But for only a few dollars, you could really test anything and see if it works for you!

So what do you think? Do you see colored engineering prints in your future?

Sarah & Nick

P.S. This post is not at all sponsored. We're just super happy with our new living room art and want to share our knowledge with you! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Doors Open Pittsburgh

This past weekend was wonderful. It was one of those increasingly rare weekends where we were home, the weather was PERFECT, we were productive, and we had fun. Pittsburgh hosted an event this Saturday and Sunday called Doors Open Pittsburgh, and for any of you that know anything about me, it was literally a dream come true.

Honestly, it's almost as if someone cut my head open, peeked in, saw one of my very strange quirky interests, and designed an entire city-wide event around it just to please me. Either that, or I'm not as weird as I think I am, and it's totally normal to want to see the inside of every building in the world.

Doors Open Pittsburgh was exactly as it sounds. It was a free chance to gain access into the normally inaccessible parts of our downtown. Sarah and I got to explore the inside of private architecture firms in skyscrapers, the Mayor's office and private conference rooms, city council chambers, 25th floor hotel suite views, elite Ivy league college club houses, swanky hotel lobbies, an uncountable number of golden elevators, more marble than I knew existed, never before seen views of downtown, and so much more. Since many of our readers aren't from Pittsburgh, I'm not going to get into the details of what each of these pictures are. However, I do want to share them, because the beauty that is hidden in some of our most historic and unique buildings in this city is astounding. I'm talking architecture and design heaven. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

And remember that architecture firm who's offices we got to explore? The company is called Strada Architecture and their offices are serious design goals for dayyyyyys. It was by far my favorite place to explore. Just being in there made me want to be friends with the people that work there. It made me want to quit my job, go back in time to study architecture, and then get hired there and work in such an awesome place everyday.

Thanks so much for stopping by and checking out our photos from this awesome event. Always be on the lookout for free events in your city, and if you ever have an opportunity similar to this one, make sure you take full advantage of it!

Sarah & Nick