Things We Like: “Brick’d-Out” Bedroom Design

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

In the past, exposed interior brick was traditionally associated with more masculine spaces; reserved for offices, bachelor pads, and “man-caves.” Today, however, designers and homeowners are finding that brick is a great touch for any room, including spaces with a more feminine feel. Combined with the popularity of loft condos and other repurposed living spaces, exposed brick has quickly cemented its place among a short-list of “must-have” design features for many homeowners.

Whether you’re living in an old warehouse with exposed brick walls, or want to build a brick wall inside a new room (either real brick or a faux finish), the use of brick in your bedroom provides an organic, industrial chic feel to your design that you can’t achieve otherwise.

Perhaps the coolest thing about using brick as an interior design element is that you can use it to compliment any number of looks. Whether you’re going for an industrial, vintage, rustic, modern, contemporary, eclectic, or bohemian look in your bedroom, brick can look right at home in all of the above. With brick, anything is possible; you only need a little bit of creativity.

If you’re considering incorporating brick into your bedroom’s design, below are some helpful tips and considerations to keep in mind so you can brick-your-bedroom with style.

Exposed Brick vs. Finished Brick

The first decision to make when incorporating brick into your bedroom’s design is whether to leave it exposed (as it is) or finish it (usually with paint).

Exposed brick tends to work best in a modern, rustic, or traditional space. The rich earth tones and the rough texture work well with a number of design styles, and can be enhanced with proper accents. Finished brick, on the other hand, is usually used in more refined spaces. Finished brick walls are often painted, either in a solid color of light white wash to allow some of the natural color to still show through. Finished brick may provide better insulation and less maintenance, but comes at the cost of losing out on some of the natural charm inherent with brick.

Ultimately, the choice of whether to go with exposed or finished brick walls is a personal one and depends on the overall design of your space.

Faux Brick vs. Real Brick

While nothing replaces a real brick wall, there are a number of faux finishes that come very close. Many of these real brick alternatives are installed as a sort of veneer, using panels covered with slices of real brick to perfect the look. Even upon close inspection (save drilling into the wall), it can be very hard to tell whether you have an actual brick wall or a faux finish.

The type of building you live in, cost, and the amount of maintenance you’re willing to put up with are also contributing factors to whether you chose to go with real or faux brick finish in your design.

General Considerations

Many buildings have brick walls that were built during the original construction of the building. As such, they may be old and in disrepair. If you’re planning to use old brick, it’s worthwhile to have a professional come out and inspect the brick and recommend whether you should undergo a restoration or whether it’s even worthwhile. Bad brick can be a nightmare to live with, littering your place with dusty crumbles whilst leaking air through gaps in the mortar.

Incorporating brick into the design of your bedroom can be as involved of a decision or as simple of a one, particularly if you live in a space that already has exposed brick walls. If you’re looking for some design inspiration, there are a number of brick bedroom galleries online for your viewing pleasure. Houzz has an excellent brick bedroom gallery, and you can find additional galleries on shelterness, DigsDigs, and Home Design Lover.

Have you lived with brick walls? Do you wish you could? Let us know what you think about incorporating brick walls into your bedroom design in the comments below.

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Breakfast in Bed: Irish Wheaten Bread

Post by Alison Hein.

Irish wheaten bread, or brown bread, is one of the most simple and satisfying loaves you can make. And eat, of course. As a soda bread that requires no yeast (thus no messy kneading or lengthy rising time), this recipe takes little more than the 45 minutes required for baking.

Wheaten bread is one component of the large and complicated traditional Irish breakfast, which also may include bacon, sausage, eggs, black pudding, toast, fried tomato, sautéed mushrooms and baked beans! Maybe we’ll try that someday, but I prefer my wheaten bread all on its own. A thick slice of pure, earthy bread, lightly toasted and smeared with Irish butter, is enough breakfast for me.

The outer crust becomes thick and crusty in the hot oven, leaving the wheaten bread’s innards soft and tender – a lovely contrast and perfect first bite. With so few ingredients, the hearty wheat flavor shines through. Use stoneground organic wheat flour if you can find it. Then, try it out on your fussiest eaters. You may be surprised at how much they enjoy this simple, satisfying non-traditional Irish breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
3 cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup unbleached white flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1½ cups milk (or use buttermilk instead of the milk and vinegar)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425°. Pour whole wheat flour into a large bowl. Sift in unbleached white flour, salt and baking soda and stir to mix. Pour milk and vinegar into flour mixture and stir to make a soft dough. Mix just enough so that dough holds together – overmixing will cause the bread to become tough. Turn out onto a lightly floured board. Shape dough into one large mounded round and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Cut a thin cross in the top of the loaf, just enough so the loaf opens a little on top while baking.

Place wheaten loaf in oven and bake for about 45 minutes. When done, the bread will have a hollow sound when lightly tapped. Remove bread from oven and cool, wrapped in a light tea towel, for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf of bread.

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Bedtime Stories: Pop-Up Moby Dick!

Post by Mark T. Locker.

I have a number of books that are very appealing to children that I would never allow children to get their hands on. One is my collection of first/early editions of John Bellairs books, illustrated by Edward Gorey. Another is my artfully crafted pop-up version of Moby-Dick, as interpreted by paper engineer Sam Ita.

My boy has no interest in Gothic horror for middle readers. And it’s my fault that I was reading my Moby-Dick within sight of my boy. It’s got so many lovely moving parts and a giant pop-up 19th-century whaling ship, who could resist? And what cold-hearted soul would tell a little boy “no” to that?

Books like this are a fantastic introduction to the classics; it is obviously abridged; I can’t imagine what an unabridged pop-up of Moby-Dick would be like! So the story is short and more to the point, there are lots of fun interactive tabs to pull, whirlpools to whirl, and spyglasses to peer through. Sam Ita, creator of this rendition, has also made a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Odyssey. Personally, I’m tempted to buy 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea right this instant. Heartily recommended for children and adults of all ages.

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Things We Like: Renting Out Your Unused Bedroom For Cash

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

Ever thought of operating your very own mini-hotel? It may be easier than you think.

Many of us have an extra bedroom or two in our homes that go unused throughout most of the year. The extra space is certainly nice to have when your family or other guests come to visit, but what about the other 80 percent of the time? What if you could make money from your extra bedroom or guesthouse, all while meeting new travelers along the way.

The idea of renting your second home or extra bedroom to travelers looking for alternative lodging isn’t anything new. I can’t help but think this is how the first Bed & Breakfasts got started. While operating a formal B&B often requires special licensing and permits under state hospitality laws, there are a number of companies that specifically cater to the part-time hotel/landlord market, namely Airbnb (though, there are others like 9flats, HomeAway, and Travelmob — to name a few). However, you should check with your state laws before renting your space, as a New York Judge recently declared that short-term rentals violate its state hospitality laws if the owner isn’t present. Other cities, such as New Orleans, have similar laws.

What is Airbnb?

“Whether you have a spare bedroom, own a second property, have a treehouse, or just want to rent your place and pay for your travels, you can list it on Airbnb.”

In a nutshell, Airbnb is a directory/listing platform that connects homeowners with travelers. In addition to helping you find a guest for your underused space, Airbnb also manages payments and deposits. It even comes with a guarantee, covering you for up to $1,000,000 for loss or damage caused by theft or vandalism.

While it the idea of Airbnb may be a bit too novel for many would-be hotel managers/guests, it’s actually pretty easy. I’ve personally used Airbnb on a number of occasions when visiting cities for a couple days, and have nothing but great things to say about my experiences. Most recently, I used Airbnb to find a cheap apartment to stay at for a wedding trip. Not only did I save hundreds of dollars over staying in a hotel, I also got to experience the city more like a local.

How much do people actually make renting their empty beds? Well, that depends on your home and location. That said, one entrepreneur amassed over $30,000 renting out her bedroom and sofa on Airbnb, which she used as seed money to start a business. That’s way more than I’ve ever found between the sofa cushions!

What would you do with a little extra rental income? Would you ever consider listing your space as a short-term suite? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Breakfast in Bed: Brown Sugar Scones

Post by Alison Hein.

Last Friday I was at my sister’s house, waiting for a washer and dryer delivery. You know the drill, right? An automated message the night before provides a 4-hour delivery window. You completely rearrange your next-day schedule, report for duty at the appropriate time, then twiddle your thumbs for three to four hours. Finally, your truck arrives.

I’m wise to this schtick, so I scouted for something to occupy my wait time. I poked around in Janet’s cabinets, shelves, and refrigerator. In search of?: a project with simple ingredients and a short, hot bake time. My quick inventory yielded the perfect answer – scones!

After searching for cinnamon for 20 minutes, I decided not to use any. Instead, I upped the amount of dark brown sugar to infuse the scones with a deep, caramel sweetness. I like to pre-score my scones before baking, to make them easy to separate without crumbling. A sugar and egg wash crisps the tops, and leaves behind a textured, crystallized taste with each bite.

18 minutes later, I took the bubbling hot scones from the oven, smeared them with lightly salted butter, and  with the last of my cooling coffee, I indulged.  Still only one hour into my wait time…

Don’t worry, Jan. I only ate one scone. Plenty left for you and your family to have a sleepy Saturday morning and a sugary breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
2¼ cups flour
½ cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (one half stick) cold butter
¾ cup milk
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 eggs

Preparation
Preheat oven to 425°. In large bowl, mix together flour, 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut butter into small pieces and cut into dry ingredients.

Combine milk, vinegar and one egg in separate small bowl. Mix well, then add all at once to dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed in.

Turn batter out onto lightly floured board. Divide into eight equal pieces and shape into balls. Press each ball into a flat round, and place scones on lightly greased cookie sheet. Cut crosses in the top of each scone, but do not cut all the way through.

Lightly beat remaining egg, and brush on top of scones. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar. Place in oven and bake for about 18 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm with butter.

Makes 8 scones.

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