Deuce Cities Henhouse

5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
Last July, my internet pal, Dana over at House*Tweaking sent me an e-mail asking for some tips on taking interior photographs. First of all let me say, I don’t think she be needing any tips, but because she asked I obliged and let her know a few of the simple rules I follow. She followed up thanking me for the info and encouraging me write a blog post, and I said “yeah, good idea, I should do that soon”. Well my friends, it’s March, you guys, M-A-R-C-H and I haven’t gotten around to writing about how I take interior photos. It just so happens that I am in project limbo as of late, and I finally have the time to put together a post outlining my five steps for successful interior photos.

A little back story: A long time, back in the ancient days of the early 2000′s, I got my BFA in photography. Back then people took photographs with a box that had a tiny hole on one end, and film on the other. The plastic film was covered in emulsion that only reacted to light and a certain mix of chemistry, weird right? Back then I took semi-artful portraits of folks using a 4×5 camera. Basically all this info is a long and drawn out way of me, trying to tell you, that I had been properly taught how to take a photo, how to print a photo, how to understand and produce artful ideas. However, I had barely trained in the ways of editing pics using photoshop, I had never composed an interior shot that didn’t have people in it and I had no idea what a camera with a digital light sensor was even good for. Although I know about digital photography now, I obviously don’t know all of the stuff and I’ve been learning as I go over the last ten years. I continue to learn new tricks all of the time.

What I learned in school was how to use my camera, how to meter and analyze light, how to push and pull film, and most importantly how to compose a photograph. Those sorts of things stick with ya. What I’ve learned a long the way is how to use my camera along with a bit of photoshop to make that well composed, well lit, well exposed bit of pixels. So I’m going to be separating this little “How-To” into two parts. The first of which I will be sharing with you today, focuses specifically on what to pay attention to while taking and composing the shot. The second part will focus on some of the go-to tools I use in photoshop to edit that image – that should be coming next week.

Today I’ll be using my living room to illustrate how following a few of these simple rules will really improve your photos. To start, the living room is set up as I normally would have it on any given day. In real life it’s usually clean, tidy, nice to look at, and all the furniture is laid out in a way where it relates to each other and promotes comfort and a nice flow of traffic. Although the room looks good IRL, that doesn’t mean it will photograph the same when it’s not set up to be all fancy for the camera.

Alright, hang on to your butts, here we go!

Camera Position

5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
The first horizontally framed picture I’m sharing with you (on the top), is me taking the photo from a standing position. You can see that the visual focus becomes the top of the coffee table instead of the room itself. The vertical lines begin to skew inwards due to the perspective of shooting at a downwards angle. The photo on the bottom left is also taken from the same standing position, but the camera position is now vertical which makes it slightly more tolerable – let’s not stop there though. The photo of the bottom right is taken from a vertical distance of about 18″ lower, now the window becomes the primary visual focus of the frame, instead of the coffee table. The sofa brings your eye towards the center of the image and all of the vertical and horizontal lines in the room are plumb and square. When in doubt taking a photo from straight on is a really easy way to take a successful interior shot.

Please, guys – if you’re going to take interior photos and share them with the internet don’t do these two things.

1. Don’t take your photos from a standing position with out-of-plumb vertical and horizontal lines!
2. Don’t take them handheld, please use a tripod! Please!

Also, try flipping that camera vertically – I think it looks good on the internet when you do that, especially to us folks who like to read it on our phones and tablets and such business. I probably take two thirds of my photos using a vertical frame.

Use Natural Light

5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
I used to think that to take a good interior photograph you needed to have all the lights in the whole damn place. There was a period of time where I was taking black and white portraits of people in interior spaces and the lighting didn’t matter (because the end result was B&W). I got kind of used to always leaving lamps and overhead lights on when shooting, even when I started taking photos of the interior of my house with my DSLR – it never looked good and I couldn’t figure out why. Here’s a good example of me doing just that for a House Tour I participated on Apartment Therapy back in 2010. I slaved over these photos trying to get them perfect, I can’t imagine how much better the results would’ve been if I just turned the lights off and used a tripod. I understand that it’s only natural to try and light a space, thus resulting in shorter exposure times, BUT this problem is easily solved with a tripod. I have a Manfrotto that has worked great for me for the last 15 years. Using a tripod allows you turn up the F-Stop, turn down the ISO, and take really long exposure photos – remember your subject isn’t moving. I’ve been known to take minute long photos – in fact, a long time ago I used to take photo inside of room-sized camera obsucuras, and the exposures sometimes were up to eight hours long. Using a long exposure with a tripod shouldn’t scare you away. Last winter when my pal Nicole and I shot my kitchen makeover it happened to be on the grayest morning in history, and we were really pushing those exposure times – most were a minute or more.

1. Make sure your only light source is pure day light. Turn of all of the lights and lamps. Even a light left on in the next room over can cause your camera to pick up a yellow cast.
2. To take the best photos wait for those over cast days. You won’t get better more even light, than a gray day can provide.

You can see in the two photos above the difference in lighting. In the photo on the left you can see a yellow cast on the white chair, ceiling and floor. In the image on the right you see natural white ceilings, photo frames and no yellow cast.

Compose & Style

5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
Alright, this one is pretty obvious, but composing and styling your photo is really one of the key steps to taking a good pic. I am always learning when it comes to this. I’m no stylist, but you can learn a lot from just looking through the frame on your camera before releasing the shutter. First, notice the image on the left, the table is off center – this is just the way we have the furniture arranged in the house. In real life it looks totally normal like this, but in this image it looks off center. The coffee table throws the entire image off balance, to see it better take your hand and cover the image on the right then do the same to the image on the left – see the difference? The window is in the center of the image, and it seems only natural for the coffee table to be in line with it, naturally I moved the coffee table. Next I moved the white chair, sidetable and footstool out from the corner so that it balanced the sofa.

Styling for me is all about showcasing the elements of the space. This means you can move everything around! The whole point of styling is to describe your space in the best possible light (punny). For instance, I took the sheepskin off the ottoman and set it on the coffee table to add texture and break up the surface. I then set the tray and a vase on top. I moved a plant with a lighter pot from behind the sofa to the top of the ottoman, now the plant stand out against the bright window. I grabbed another plant from the dining room and set it in the space next to the white chair to even out the composition. I made sure the curtains laid flat and even, and I moved the pillows and throw on the sofa so you can see them better in the frame of the image. I even went as far as to move the artwork on the wall so that it would feel more centered within the frame of the camera.

Use a Low ISO

5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
There are two things on your DSLR camera settings that you need to pay attention to. The first being ISO. The tripod allows you to set your ISO as low as possible. Using a low ISO gives you a high quality image, a high ISO would result in more noise and grain. Using the tripod affords you exposure time, so set your ISO low. I usually shoot around an ISO of 100. As a comparison I took a photo with a really high ISO of 6400 (on the right), you can easily see all the noise that is created at this high ISO.

Depth of Field

5 Tips for Taking Successful Interior Photographs
Now that you know to set your ISO set low, pay attention to your aperture. Aperture is the hole that lets light in through the lens, the smaller the hole the more in focus the image, the larger the shorter depth of field. A small hole is considered f22, a large hole with narrow depth of field would be anything below f5.6. On wide angle general shots I typically shoot around f22, this allows most of the photograph to be in focus. For vignettes such as the ones pictured on top, I shoot at a lower f-stop (f3.2) to achieve that beautiful martha-stewart-living sort of a pic. The bottom vignette was shot at f22 FYI. A note on vignettes: I try and use them as an opportunity to describe the main elements of the room in little sweet bites. For instance, in this pic I moved the pillows behind the flowers so that the viewer could get a feel for the color palette, patterns and textures used in the space.

Now that I have dropped some Scoops-photo-taking-knowledge on you, take some time to look at your pinterest boards, magazines etc. Find images that you are really drawn to and try and analyze how the image was created. Understand why you like it, look at the angles of the room, the point of view the images was taken from, look at the vertical lines and perspective and pay attention to how your eye flows through the image. What are you drawn to, what makes it interesting? The next time you take a photo of your space try and replicate some of things you’ve seen in these inspirational photos. Good luck guys, and feel free to throw your questions my way. I’ll try and help.

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in Photography, Tutorial

Refinishing the Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Six years ago we bought a mid century 1958 Drexel dining room table from a seller on craigslist. I didn’t know how much I’d grow to love the table when we first purchased it, at the time it just fit the bill. It had good lines, minimal wear and most importantly was in our price range. It cost us a whopping $325 for the table and a set of 6 chairs which included 2 captains chairs. I love this table! It’s seen its fair share of battle though: LEGO building, board game playing, puzzle making, Christmas-meal eating, friend feasts partying, and beer & cocktail-drinking sort of battles. The table top has been badly scratched and water marked for over 2 years now – to the point of having to cover it up with a table cloth any time we have anyone over.

We keep saying we need to get that table refinished – who has time and money for that though? Not us. I couldn’t imagine taking it apart, packing it up, bringing it to a refinisher and paying mucho bucks to get it refinished. I also couldn’t imagine that I had any qualification to refinish it myself.

Somehow over the course of the last few months I’ve built up a lot of skillz and confidence and started feeling more and more sure that I could do this. My big reservation was the walnut veneer top – I didn’t want to do anything that would harm the veneer and make this project into an even bigger can of worms (this happens to me more than I would like to admit). After careful and close inspection I determined that the veneer was about an 1/8 of an inch thick – thick enough for a good sanding.

It just so happened that I was a band widow last weekend – so while the old husband guy was not around, I decided it might be the perfect time to tackle a project like this. I did baby steps, starting with test refinishing one of the leaves. When that seemed like it was turning out well, I jumped right in and started on the table top. I’m so glad I did, I can’t stop staring at it now! I actually wish I would’ve had the guts to tackle this sooner; it’s a hard life being ashamed of your dining room table.

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Step 1:
Wash Table
Wash the table with a household cleaner. I used some Mrs. Meyers diluted in water and gave it a good scrub with a heavy duty scouring pad. Let it dry.
Step 2:
Use Acetone to Strip Finish
I had never used Acetone before, but discovered that people on the internetz recommend it for stripping finishes off of things that might have finishes on them such as this table. Never having worked with it before it took me a bit to get the hang of it. Work in small sections pouring the acetone on the table, give it about 30 seconds to soak in and lift the finish, the wipe of with medium grit steel wool. I followed this up by wiping the excess gunk off with a paper towel. Continue doing this as you move around the table. Tip – it stinks, so open up a window.
Step 3:
Now is when you start to see results. Sand the table starting with a 150 grit sandpaper – if that’s not strong enough for ya, step it up a notch and go for the 100, then move to the 150. Follow it up by giving it a once over with a 220 fine grit paper. I started off doing this by hand as I didn’t want to sand through the veneer but realized that my mouse sander was gentle enough to do the job.
Step 4:
Use Denatured Alcohol to Find Imperfections
The internet taught me that I could use denatured alcohol to get a preview of the natural finish. Wipe it on your table in the direction of the grain of the wood and then look closely to see if there are any major scratches that still need to be buffed out. The alcohol will evaporate within a minute or so, so look quickly. I found this step very helpful in achieving a perfect finish.

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Step 5:
Apply Teak Oil
Now its time for the fun part, the part where you really get to see how beautiful your messed up furniture can be, plus it smells kind of good in a weird sort of way. Apply some teak oil to the surface allowing the wood to soak it up for about a half an hour, then wipe off the excess and repeat letting the oil sit on the surface for about 20 minutes. I did this 7 times because I really wanted a perfect finish.
Step 6:
The table was looking pretty great after the teak oil, if this was furniture that wasn’t going to be used all the time, I’d probably let it go at the teak oil but since this is our dining room table I opted to add a few coats of a satin poly. Here’s a few things I learned about poly – you need to mix it well and use a good brush. All polyurethane is natrually glossy, they add flattener to give it that dulled down satin finish and that stuff likes to sink to the bottom of the can. Use a stir stick (not to shake, shaking can cause bubbles) to stir in the flattener and do this often while applying the poly. I accidentally didn’t stir my poly enough and ended up with one shiny coat which I had to sand down and start over. Also, lightly hand sand between coats of poly with a 220 grit paper.

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

Refinishing a Mid Century Dining Room Table

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in Around the House, DIY, Tutorial

Sowing Seeds Indoors

Sowing Seeds Indoors
Hey! Guess what? This is going to be my first official post of the year for Ace Hardware! I’m sincerely so, so excited to be working with them – I just love my neighborhood Ace Hardware store, and I feel really fortunate to be teaming up in a brand that I truly adore and use all the time.

I’m madly excited for spring, and I wanted to write a post to share with you guys on indoor seed sowing. Sowing seeds indoors is one of my cures for the winter blues – there’s nothing like a little seed sowing to get you amped for spring. In case you’re new to this idea, “sowing” is planting seeds in soil with the hopes of having them germinate and sprout. Many seeds can successfully be sowed indoors before the ground thaws – with patience and daily maintenance your seeds will germinate, turn into plants, and grow! Before you know it you’ll be ready to plant them in your spring garden. Don’t have a veggie garden? That’s just fine, consider starting a flat of Impatiens or Petunias indoors and save yourself the cost of paying up for mature plants at the nursery.

Sowing Seeds Indoors
There are many options when it comes to materials to sow your seeds in. You’ll find items on the market that range from sterilized seed starting soil to sponges designed for growing seeds. My first few years sowing seeds I used a soil made specifically for seed starting, then last year I started seeds in coconut husks for the first time and was happily surprised at how easy they were to use, and I had more success germinating my seeds. I’m a coconut husk girl now. The coconut husk pellets expand and grow as soon as they are introduced to water, within a few short minutes they’ll be ready for seeds.

Sowing Seeds Indoors

Sowing Seeds Indoors

Sowing Seeds Indoors
Refer to the instructions on your seed packet for depth of planting. A good rule of thumb is to cover the seed with a fine layer of soil, usually only as thick as the seed.

Sowing Seeds Indoors

Taking Care of Your Seeds
Germination is the stage in which the seed sprouts after you have planted it. Light isn’t necessary during germination, you could even start flats of seeds in the basement if it was warm, it is imperative that provide a warm environment for them. There are seed mats available to guarantee a warm spot for your seeds, but it isn’t necessary. I put my germinating seeds in the warmest room in our house, and place them about a foot away from the radiator.
Keep sprouting seeds at a room temperature 60-70º Fahrenheit
Sow seed in a moist mix, or in this case husk. During the germinating phase cover the seeds with the plastic cover that comes with the seed starting kit to trap in humidity. Remove the plastic top once you notice the seeds beginning to sprout. During the germination phase keep the seeds moist with a spray bottle, once the seeds begin to grow and sprout water the seedlings by pouring water directly into the bottom of the tray.
Once seeds germinate (usually 10-20 days) and sprouts appear they will need a lot of light. These young seedlings need 16-18 hours of light per day! Sun is hard to come by here in the upper-midwest, so I got serious about my seed sowing and invested in a 48″ grow light. It made a huge difference, within days my seeds had germinated and are now growing fast and furiously. Remember, if you decide to use grow lights you’ll want the lights to hang 3 – 4″ over plants as they grow. The Hyrdofarm system that I am using is easily adjustable to accommodate growing plants.
Seed Scheduling
It’s important to schedule your seeds! You don’t want to have plants that are too big and outgrowing their containers, or too small and unable to survive transplanting. Below you’ll find a schedule that I like to use – for the Twin Cities area May 15th is generally a good rule of thumb for the last frost.

Schedule for Sowing Seeds

Around the 6-8 mark, your seedlings will be outgrowing their husk homes. Now is a good time to move them to a larger container until it warms up enough to transplant them outdoors. In reality you can use any container as long as it’s sterile and has adequate drainage. Recycled food containers, newspaper and biodegradable pots are a few options for good planting containers. To sterilize, use a mixture of 1 part bleach 9 parts water.

Sowing Seeds Indoors

Sowing Seeds Indoors
Once your seeds begin to have one to two leave sets, you’ll want to thin them out if you have multiple seedlings growing in one husk. Most will be 2-3″ tall by then and easy to grasp. Make sure to water your seedlings before thinning them as they will be much easier to remove in damp soil. If you’d like to keep excess seedlings place them in their own individual husks, do this in the evening as it will give the plants a chance to adjust to their new environment before being exposed to light.

When it comes time to move your plants outdoors you’ll have to get them ready. This is called hardening off. To do this, bring them outdoors for a few hours daily, increase the amount of time they are exposed to the outdoors over the course of a week. Then go ahead and plant them in the ground.

Sowing Seeds Indoors

Sowing Seeds Indoors
My pals over at Ace Hardware want you to get your green thumb on too. I’ll be giving away a $100 Ace Hardware gift card to one of you lucky people. Giveaway runs through Friday, February 27th at midnight, the winner will be announced within this post.

This giveaway has ended, Congrats to Renae!
I’m excited to be collaborating with Ace Hardware as a part of their Ace Blogger Panel! Ace has provided me with compensation and the materials necessary to complete this project! All opinions are my own. Thanks a biznillion, Ace!
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in gardening, Sponsored

Let’s Think Green!

+++ source +++
French By Design

Only one more week of February left! I always put these milestones in my head during the winter, it helps me cope. March 1st is a biggie, you see once we get to March the weather eventually has to warm up, the sun will have to stay out longer and everything will get better, it just has to. There is light at the end of that wintery tunnel (hopefully). This is the time of year where I have to muster up every ounce of positivity that I can bare, and try and focus on the end. I know it can be so hard to do, the winter is weighing so heavy right now. For me, this war on SADZ is always best fought by tending to green living stuff. I have a lot of green this year – my collection has grown by leaps in bounds over the last few, and I have to say, I don’t feel as down in the dumps as I have in other winters gone by. I sincerely believe it helps. If you’re picking up what I’m throwing down, I highly suggest you go out to the nursery and grab some green before it gets cold again, or at least look at these pretty photos and feel better. It will help, I promise.

I’ll be dropping an indoor seed sowing post early next week – looking forward to sharing. Have a great weekend and hang in there, it’s almost kinda sorta over!

+++ source +++
Liz Marie Blog

+++ sources +++
Varpunen | Sand and Sumac

+++ source +++
Urban Outfitters

+++ sources +++
The Design Files | SF Girl By Bay

+++ source +++
Congo Studio
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in Inspiration

A Plan for the Basement

Alright pals, I’ve got some fun stuff to share today. At least I think it’s fun, maybe you will think it’s lame and boring, but it’s my blog, so whatever ;)

We are in the midst of starting our big basement revamp project. This will be the biggest investment we’ve put in to the house to date. We’ve been scrimping, saving and dreaming for years now and are really excited to get this project started.

I’ve been really getting into planning the space out with sketchup – I’ve spent hours and hours messing with different designs and plans, and I think we’ve finally realized on paper (or ‘puter as it were) our dream basement situation. Below you’ll see a cool animated sketchup movie I provided you with to get the full effect of how awesome this could be.

You may have notice we’ve included a sweet TV watching area with a big screen TV (we’ve never had a big TV!) also, under the TV is a gas fireplace, something we always wanted in our dream house and had to compromise on when we bought this crappy place (I kid). Tons of built-ins utilizing ikea cabinetry to make it feel really cozy and nestled in. There is also going to be a hang area for board games and projects and beers and what have you. Also, a mini fridge bros, and an egress window to let the light in. We’re going to enlarge the currently unuseable bathroom and have it be the boys’ primary bathroom, and we’re going to put the washing machine and dryer in their own room, I think when that happens they call it a “Laundry Room”.

Now you’re probably wondering what this place looked like before. The only time I’ve ever posted any pics of our basement was right after we moved in because it’s basically an embarrassment. Really, it’s more like a shame cave then a basement. We hide it from everyone and apologize to guests who might have the unpleasure of encountering it. BUT today I’m sharing it with you, you’re so, so lucky! Welcome to what we affectionately call ‘The Cocaine Den’. You’ll see why we named it that in a sec.

No you’re not seeing things, those are beveled glass mirrors all over those walls. Also, why do we have two televisions down here, and Christmas lights hanging haphazardly from the ceiling? Cause we gave up on giving any of the shits a long, long time ago.

The space is currently overly segmented, the storage space juts out into the main space and is crammed full of boxes that could easily be moved to the attic. The bathroom is small, and the shower is inoperable. There is a “bar” (made of glass blocks) in the back 1/3 of the space – the bartender is our washing machine, dryer and a full sized fridge. The space just doesn’t function for us, and I have given up on trying to make-do with what it is.

The good news is that we do have a basement space that has been updated at least once in the last 100 years, so we aren’t exactly starting for scratch. The bad news is that the “now” version wasn’t executed well. The design is poorly planned (like I said) and the materials used are low quality – it shows. The tile needs to be torn up, the ceiling needs to be removed, the lighting is not up to code, the electrical box needs to be moved, and we need to replace some of the plumbing.

I don’t have the slightest clue as to how much this crucial behind-the-scenes stuff is going to cost us. We haven’t gotten quotes from contractors yet – that will be the next step. We’ve already established a list of what we will be eliminating first to accommodate the budget. Our intention was to have a detailed plan to share with a contractor (recommendations warmly welcomed), then scale back if the budget dictated.


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in Around the House, Basement