How To: Refresh Your Hazy Tile

So you probably remember me bellyaching about how poorly our kitchen tile was installed when we first moved into our house. AKA lessons learned. So here is a little knowledge bomb about how tile and sealer work according to my manufacturer's rep. When tile is sealed the installer is supposed to wipe away any sealer that gets on the tile because it will literally act like a magnet for dirt, and you will NEVER be able to fully clean it. I mean it will be clean, but it will look filthy. So then what's the point amiright?

That being said, our sealer had been aplied with a mop (and several coats) that not only sat on the tile, but also trapped any grout haze, dirt, footprints (I'm not even joking), and debris that wasn't properly cleaned unerneath the layers of sealer. So in our situation it was a losing battle because 1. the floor actually was filthy (yet preserved under layers of sealer) and 2. it was then coated in sealer which was an unstoppable dirt magnet. 

This is what it looked like fresh after installation and sealer. Notice the grey splotches and general haziness. I know I know its not that bad, but I mean when you want white tile you should have white tile. Oh and this was just the beginning.

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After telling my grout rep about our situation he gave us some crazy intense chemical strippers and cleaners which we still haven't tried because the back label is filled with terrifying warnings. Highly flammable, skin irritant, eye irritant, must wear gloves, googles, and a respirator. I'm like whoa buddy this is a scary project. AND we were going to be on our hands and knees with a tiny toothbrush scrubbing each tile. Fun right?

So we kept putting it off, and kept apologizing to guests for how filthy our floor looked assuring them it actually was clean. This went on for two years. You think we're exaggerating like when you go to someone's house and there is a throw blanket haphazardly tossed on their sofa and they are all "oh pardon our mess" and you're all "whatever this place is immaculate", but this is how much dirt had accumulated over these 2 years.

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I'll pause while you go and throw up. This tile was WHITE when we bought it. AND this photo was taken after cleaning and steam mopping. 

A few weeks ago I saw an Insta Story where they used vinegar and water to strip sealer and remove grout haze and I was like what.

You guys. This method is no joke.

AND you can breathe it and touch it and eat it (if you want). It's that natural.

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Supplies:

  • Spray bottle of Vinegar + Water mix (1 part vinegar 3 parts water)
  • All purpose cleaner (we barely had to use this)
  • Scotch Brite pads
  • Paper towels or rags
  • Orbital sander

The overall process is pretty simple. You just vacuum and spot clean your floors using an all purpose cleaner to remove any loose dirt and debris. Then you generously spray your floors with the vinegar water mix working in small 2'x2' areas. Place your Scotch Brite pad on your orbital sander and work work around your freshly sprayed area and you will instantly see the dirt and stripper come up like magic. Wipe away the dirty water and voila! sparkling clean floors that look just like they did when you first laid eyes on them. You may have to touch up a few areas once you wipe away the dirty water and can see if there are any stubborn spots that need a little more scrubbing. 

We (Derek) continued this process in rows all around the room and overall it took about an hour. Not too shabby. AND no masks or ventilation were required. And the house just smelled like a salad bar for a while. 

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I still can't believe what a difference this method made. You can also do this on the walls or anywhere else you have tile that is either covered in haze or just looking dull in general. I can't wait to try it on our bathroom. Even the texture of the stripped tile feels totally different. 

You're probably wondering how it has been holding up, and I'm here to tell you that we've been living in a construction zone with people coming in with gross shoes and debris falling from walls and they still look brand new sparkly white. Scouts honor!

Your Modern Baby: Nesting Without a Nest

Now that our kitchen renovation is at a screeching halt (we're waiting on countertops to be installed), I have gone into full nesting mode. However, because the future nursery is currently the staging area for all things kitchen related I can't really get started. So instead I'm digitally nesting. My goal for the weekend was to start our baby registry, which is seriously THE most overwhelming task. Especially when this is your first baby, you don't have any nieces or nephews, and only a handful of friends with little ones. I was left to my own devices. I spent the entire weekend researching every diaper, stroller, bathtub, and swaddle blanket. Don't worry. I'm a pro now.

I stumbled on Baby List and decided that a universal registry was the best way to not limit ourselves to certain stores. This way, we can choose items from Target to Amazon to Etsy rather than just living at Babies R Us (not that there is anything wrong with that, but it't not our style). So obviously after choosing all of the workhorse items on our registry it came down to the more aesthetic items (crib sheets, blankets, changing pad covers, etc.) And I was all.. "how am I supposed to pick the crib sheet patterns if I don't even know what the nursery will look like?" So clearly I had to stop everything I was doing and design that space real quick. So normal. 

I threw together a mood board of the general style and palette for the room to help me make all of these life altering decisions (cactus sheets or hedgehogs?). 

Oh. Did I mention we aren't finding out the sex of the baby? I'll pause while you collect yourself. 

That being said, we wanted a room that was gender neutral but not grey. So many times people go straight to yellow, green, or grey when they don't know if it's a boy or a girl. However, we are firm believers in color so we did just the opposite. We wanted this room to fit with the rest of our home which is sort of a mid-century meets West Texas vibe. We also wanted a room that would grow with the baby rather that appear too childlike, or theme-y.

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| Sources |

Elephant: DWR, Hang-it-All: DWR, Mobile: vintage (similar), Artwork: Jenny's Print Shop, Spine Bookshelf: West Elm discontinued (similar), Crib: Ikea, Rug: Amazon, Bolivian Blanket: The Tiny Finch (similar), Pouf: Target discontinued (similar), Rocker: All Modern, Pillow: Jonathan Adler discontinued (similar), Side Table: Bungalow5, Lamp: Target (similar), Changing Table: vintage (similar)

We tried to incorporate some pieces that we already had along with some new baby specific pieces, while also adding in some personal touches. As designers we bonded over our love of Charles and Ray Eames on our first date. We even had Eames Elephant cake toppers at our wedding, so obviously we knew one day we would have a real Eames Plywood Elephant for the baby's room.

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We wanted to keep everything light and bright since our floors are ebony and our doors are black, and that room in particular has 2 barn doors, 2 swinging closet doors, and 1 sliding closet door that are all black. I know. it's a lot of doors. We added in pops of color that aren't stereo typical for girls or boys such as coral, teal, orange, green, yellow, etc. All of which were pulled from this pillow that we uses to hold our rings in our wedding.

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I just love having such sentimental pieces in the nursery that we can one day tell our baby about. Now I'm so ready to get started on his or her room, but there is still a lot of work to do to the kitchen and a lot of pots and pans to unpack first. In the meantime, I'll keep trucking away at this registry. 

If you want to see what else we registered for go here. Feel free to let us know your thoughts on certain items we should/shouldn't get and what worked for you. When I said I'm a pro. It's really just wishful thinking.

Your Modern Baby: That's Right.

Well I haven't posted much (or like at all) these days, but we have just been so so busy with house projects, me closing my Etsy shop, client projects, oh and creating a tiny human.

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Which I'm sure a lot of you already knew about if you follow us on social media. And as I mentioned in my latest Instagram post, this was a much anticipated and longed for baby. We are just beyond thrilled to finally share our news, and we promise this won't turn into a baby blog, but there will be a few posts here and there and our lives start to shift in priorities. 

Side note: my sweet friend Adrienne from college knitted this adorable hat and mittens, go here to see more of her work she is seriously a knitting wizard.

How To: Modern Gallery Wall

After receiving several questions and sweet comments about our gallery wall, I figured that I should share a little tutorial on how my favorite gallery wall to date, came to be.

Our dining room and living room share a long wall that needed some sort of division. I wanted to break up each room with my art selections, while still allowing for the two rooms to look cohesive. I knew that I wanted a large single piece over the sofa, which meant that I would need something a little different (but still large in scale) to balance this out on the other end of the wall. The solution: a gallery wall. I had toyed with a couple of different options before landing on what it is now.

My friend Lauren over at Copper+Walnut had posted her freshly hung gallery wall on Instagram, and I knew that I wanted something similar for our dining room. I had about a 6 foot wide space to work with, so I sketched out a few ideas, and ended up landing on this:

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I ran over to Ikea while visiting Derek's parents and picked up twelve 16" x 20" Ribba frames in black. Which was a feat in itself because that Ikea (Houston) doesn't let you take your shopping cart to your car so you have to carry everything in your blue bags. And 12 large Ribba frames was a bit of a workout. 

You should know that although Ikea markets these frames as a true 16"x20", they are actually 15-3/4" x 19-3/4". Because. Sweden. Which I didn't realize at the time so I had a bit of trimming to do, but we'll get to that later.

I decided to print my photos as 8x10's which let my frames be more mat heavy and created a bit of a minimalist approach to my gallery wall. This allowed me to highlight each photo individually in a smaller format, rather than keeping them large and busy. The Ribba frames come standard with a 11" x 15" mat opening so I ordered custom mats from Matboard & More

I went through their zillions of options (seriously, you can get any type of mat there) and set the overall dimension to 16"x20" (see warning above) and the opening to 7-7/8" x 9-7/8". I did this so that the mat slightly covered all sides of the 8x10 photos by 1/8". I could have made this dimension a little larger, but I wanted to see as much of the photo as possible. While my frames would be hung vertically, I wanted each framed photo to have a bit of a museum quality so I also chose to have each opening placed horizontally on a vertical mat and offset the opening to the upper 1/3 of the overall mat (also known as Top Center on their website).

They let you set the dimensions as precise as 1/8" so really the options are endless. Ideally I should have ordered my outer size in 15-3/4" x 19-3/4" and I wouldn't have had to trim off 1/8" off each side of my mats when they arrived. Which if you've ever cut mats, it's pretty tough. 12 mats x 4 sides = 48 total cuts. #math 

When it came time to hang all of my frames I took the overall dimension which was 64" (16" wide frames x 4 frames) and then knew I was going to space everything 1" apart, so I added 3" to that width as there would be 3 spaces between the 4 columns of frames. Then I centered the entire dimension within the space and lined the top row up with the door frame to create a nice clean line visually, and worked my way down the wall. I made templates for each frame using the faux photo included with the frames because it was the exact size of my frames (minus an 1/2" on each side where the frame would be) and with a little bit of math, I placed each template so that it would end up having each frame 1" apart between each column and row of frames. I marked on each template where the hanging wire sat so that I knew exactly where to place each nail without having to make a bunch of random holes in the wall.

With each frame at $9.99 each, and the custom mats at $4.00 each the overall cost for this quick and easy project was about $160. It's such a fun conversation piece when we have guests over, especially with the photos from when we were little. Hello cowlick (this is why I can't have bangs). We choose photos that varied in composition, and I arranged them so that there weren't a bunch with similar scales right next to each other, or three Geoffreys in a row. This really helped the overall gallery feel balanced. 

My parents loved our gallery wall so much that they ended up making a similar one for their front entry and had the mats ordered with the right outer size so their gallery wall took half the time.

Playing Tourist: Marfa, TX

If I had a dime for every time someone asked me "what should we do in Marfa?", well. I'd have a lot of dimes. I finally put together the ultimate list of what to eat, where to sleep, and things to see while visiting our most treasured town in Texas. If you haven't made the 6 hour* journey, you definitely should. 

* I can say 6 hours because unless you live in West Texas, Marfa is literally at least 6 hours away from absolutely anything. But the drive is beautiful. 

What can I say about Marfa? It's an anomaly. I don't know how else to explain it. It's a little blip of funky art, hand crafted goods, the coolest people you'll ever meet, and tumbleweeds. The main strip (San Antonio Street. Imagine that.) is only about 1 mile, so everything is completely walkable. You will go from gallery, to shop, to restaurant and run into the same people. Every little rundown building or house is actually a hip art gallery or soap shop. There is so much to do, but at the same time, you can see everything there is to see in a long weekend. These are our top recommendations. Which pretty much cover all of the sights of this teeny town in West Texas.

- S T A Y -

El Cosmico - This is Glamping. If you don't like to go outside to use the bathroom in an open air facility with strangers, then this is probably not your bag. Especially if it's cold out. El Cosmico has several options for shelter: safari tents, tee pees, yurts, trailers, and self camping. Everything books up really fast so if you want to stay in a tee pee (which I highly recommend) you need to book early. If you are completely against using a communal bathroom there are a few trailers that have sinks and toilets and outdoor showers. But come on. There is a fire pit in your tee pee. It's a tee pee. There is also a killer gift shop, outdoor kitchen, hammock grove, and wood-fired hot tubs.

Thunderbird - This is your typical motel with a pool and Acapulco chairs that was recently renovated by Lake Flato. Each room has a record player and typewriter for you to write your memoir or screenplay, or some other hipster activity that requires a typewriter. The gift shop is the best part. They also have bikes that you can rent which makes getting around a lot easier.

Hotel St. George - This was under construction last winter when we were in Marfa, but we could tell by the marble mosaic exterior that it would be a showstopper. Now that it has officially opened we can't wait to stay there for a night. Texas Architect did a really great write up on it last month if you want to check it out. This hotel is a lot more high end than the other options in town, and you don't have to pee outside. So there's that.

Airbnb - There are so many cool houses throughout the town that rent out their spaces for Marfa tourists. This is a great option if you are traveling in a group. If you want to truly live like a local, this is the way to go.

 

- E A T -


Food Shark – Probably one of the best food trucks I've ever had. I mean Beyonce has eaten here so. Also, the Marfalafel is the best falafel of my entire life! And as a former vegetarian, I've had a lot of falafel. Besides that the menu constantly rotates, so you never know what to expect.

Frama – It's Marfa spelled backwards, get it? If you've ever wanted your laundromat to also serve ice cream and coffee, then look no further. 

Squeeze - The perfect breakfast destination. Their menu is full of juices, coffees, smoothies, and light breakfast items. They also have lunch, but I'd hit them up for breakfast if you have to choose.

Do Your Thing - This is an excellent place to grab a cup of coffee and a quick bite before heading out to explore. You can also buy some cool pottery from local artisans. 

Pizza Foundation – So the original location is permanently closed (pictured), but the pizza is still the same. I can honestly say this is some of the best pizza I've ever had. In America. Be sure to call ahead before you journey over to their new location off the beaten path, as they tend to be randomly closed.

Cochineal – Be ready to drop an entire Benjamin on your meal. This is the fanciest place to eat in Marfa. You should probably dress nice, or they'll seat you by the kitchen instead of the super cool main dining area. The drinks are perfectly crafted, the food is flawless, and the wait staff is annoyed to be serving anyone. It's Marfa at it's finest.
 

- D O -

Chinati Foundation – There are several large buildings planted in the middle of a field filled with art and Donald Judd's sculptures. Pro tip: the concrete sculptures surrounding the galleries are free to look at (pose inside), but the actual galleries are about $10 per person. They close early though so be sure to do this early in the day.

Ballroom Marfa – This is a rotating art gallery. There is always something fun on exhibit to ponder at.

Marfa Contemporary – This used to be in the back of Pizza Foundation, so you could peruse it while you waiting on your pizza. Now it's just a gallery, but some of the coolest pieces are there. The first time we went there were floor to ceiling sculptures of laser cut plastic laminate. I know right?

Mystery Lights – Once it gets dark (regardless of the weather) drive out to the observatory and look for the eerie Mystery Lights along the horizon. It's a pretty creepy observatory, especially in the dead of winter when we first visited. We were literally the only people there and you could hear a pin drop. It was so dark we couldn't even see each other. But totally worth it!

Prada Marfa – So this isn't actually IN Marfa. It’s about an hour away in Valentine, TX. It's definitely worth the drive to see the random prada store in the middle of the desert. Note that this isn't an actual Prada store. It's an art installation where there is only one of each shoe, the purses have holes in the bottoms of them, and the back of the "store" is covered in graffiti. It makes for fun photo ops too.

- S H O P -

Cobra Rock Boot Company - You can watch these cobblers hand make the most beautiful leather boots you've ever seen. They have some clothes and accessories for sale too.

Wrong - This is a store full of quirky home decor and prints. It's always rotating, but they are sure to have gold guns and gold security cameras. I know. Just go see for yourself.

The Get Go - Probably the most curated and perfect grocery store I've ever been to. It's like a mini Whole Foods, but cheaper. Artisan soaps, organic lip balm, a wide assortment of local beers, and the freshest produce you've ever seen. All packed into a tiny store the size of a gas station convenience store. We usually stop here on the way out of town to get some provisions for the ride home.

Marfa Book Co. – Home of the best and rarest books found in real life (I see you Amazon). Especially if you are an artist or designer. Also, they have Marcel the shop dog who will scream at you until you rub his belly.

Cast + Crew - The coolest home decor and accessories.

Marfa Brands – Home of the best soap in the world, made in (you guessed it) Marfa.

Garza Marfa – Our heaven. Hand crafted furniture and textiles by husband and wife designers. We add to our Garza Marfa collection every time we visit. Also, Constance is just a gem to talk to and pick her brain. 

Freda - Beautiful handcrafted jewelry, clothing, and home decor.

Dosa | Tienda M - Minimalist pottery, home decor, jewelry, accessories. This store is everything.

Marfa Lights & Lamps - We stumbled upon this store (and home) by accident on our last visit. This guy is a wealth of knowledge and had thousands of mid-century and Art Deco lamps for sale. A lamp hoarder if you will. Also he has about 27 rescue dogs running around the shop. So if you're not into lamps. You can just play with his dogs instead.
 

- T I P S -

  • It's the desert so you can imagine how windy and cold it can get, especially at night. The first year when we went in December it dipped into the 20s at night, but last year it only got down to 40. So bring layers!
  • Rent a bike. The town is totally walkable, but a bike is a great way to really see the town. Plus it's cute.
  • Again you are in the desert. Meaning there is negative cell reception in the area, so bring a map! You know, like a paper map. From the olden days. El Cosmico provides paper maps of the town, and trust me it's a huge help when you're trying to find secret spots. Most places have wifi, but better safe than sorry.
  • It's a small town so a lot of times a place will randomly be closed, but there will usually be a sign on the door to call that number to come and unlock the store. Always call the number. They are honestly probably next door and you don't want to miss out on whatever goods they have for sale.
  • You will stick out like a sore thumb to the locals. They can spot you a mile away. Just be cool and try to blend, you are overtaking their town that they grew up in. So leave it as you found it.