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Monday, July 27, 2015

Why Collect?

Not to mention...collect what?!  I have often wondered why I collect what I collect.  I guess it is very simple...I love it!  But probably more than loving the collection itself, I LOVE the hunt.  And that is the very reason I am loading up my family and heading south next week for the Longest Yard Sale ever!  This will be my first year attempting this excursion, so I am quite excited about what I will find and who I will meet along the way.  I'm not after a trailer full of furniture, or a load of precious antiques.  I am in search of the HUNT.  I realize that doesn't make much sense, but to me and others as addicted to hunting as myself, it makes perfect sense!  I don't always know what I am looking for, but I certainly know when I find it.  So back to collecting...
Old wood levels.  Weird?  Maybe!  I think this collection takes me back to my childhood.  Not because my dad used them, but because it reminds me of craftsmanship and doing it yourself.  I wish I could remember which of my levels came first, but I have lost track at this point.  I do know that the first one I found was in a booth in my store.  I bought it for a friend because his name was on it. 
A week later, another came in and I was very drawn to it.  Now I have several, or should I say many!  I grabbed one in Elk Rapids, MI, with my husband on our yearly trek to Traverse City.  I found another on a trip through Ohio, and several from the booths in my stores.  I prefer the old, unpainted ones with the glass still intact, but I think my favorite is pictured above.  It is a very old metal level with a beautiful, scrolling pattern.  It seems more like a piece of art, rather than a tool.  Do I have enough?  I don't think so, but my husband probably does!
Old wood folding rulers.  Or should I call them tape measures?  These seem to be a dime a dozen, but I love them anyway!  I make stars out of them or just stack them on a shelf.  I will say, my kids seem to like them more than I do!  They love to open them up, make shapes and hang them around the house.  We even put one on top of the Christmas tree last year!  The downfall...they are worse than a mouse trap!  Watch your fingers if you decide to collect these treasures.
Suitcases!  My dad thinks I have my husband's stuff packed and ready to go at any moment, but it is really just my suitcase collection, which actually started on accident.  I was on a shopping trip for a client one day at Plain Jane's in Mattawan, MI (she's in Paw Paw, MI now).  Jane had a stack of old suitcase that I was just not leaving there without!  At the time I thought they might go in my client's home somewhere, but the more and more I stared at them in my rear view mirror in my car, the more and more they became mine. 
Now they adorn the tops of my bookcases, next to furniture and even in my kitchen!  No, my husband's belongings are not in the suitcases, but I do use them to store memorabilia, like clay figurines that all my children have made throughout their grade school years, and all the items we collected at Disney last year.
So now it is time to tell you about my clock collection.  Anyone who knows me, knows I have a clock problem.  My family thinks it is amusing to find the place in our home where you can stand and see the most clocks. The record is 6.  If that's not a problem, I don't know what is!  But don't get the wrong picture in your head.  I don't have clocks on every square inch of my walls.  And I don't collect just any clock, either.  Some are vintage and plug in, some are metal, while others are glass.  And to tell you the truth, I'm never LOOKING for a clock, the clock always finds me!
One last collection, but trust me there are more, is our family driftwood collection.  I bought a large glass jar one day with no purpose in mind for it at all...until an impromptu trip to Holland Tunnel Beach happened.  My family and I brought back a small piece of driftwood and it was ceremonially placed in the large glass jar.  And with that, brought the adventure of finding the perfect piece of driftwood to add to the jar from each and every beach we visit.  So this collection, in my opinion, isn't just a collection, it is a memory-maker.  To date, the piece of driftwood that traveled the furthest to the jar came from Coco Beach, FL!
So I answered the question about what to collect...whatever you are drawn to or love!  But I didn't answer the question of WHY to collect.  I find that to be simple, as well.  I think my husband said it best when he said, "Our house tells a story".  Each level, each tape measure and each suitcase has a story and a memory attached to it.  It reminds me of a trip, a beach or a super cool shop off the beaten path.  So if you, too, are heading down 127 next week, make sure you leave me a note on that old level you pass up.  I'll be sure to add you to my story that makes my house a home.

This is from Kalamazoo...to you!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kitty's Story

Over this past weekend, my husband and I went out to dinner with some good friends.  At some point in the conversation, I was asked about my childhood and why I was drawn to design and furniture.  After sharing my story with Kristen, and husband Erik, they encouraged me to make my story known.  So in light of our conversation, here it is!
I am no stranger to a furniture store.  I am not sure my dad originally planned to sell furniture, but that is the way it ended up.  He purchased a small hardware store named Gambles, from his father, in
Stone's Unfinished Furniture
downtown Northville, MI, at the young age of 20.   He knew the business well because he had been working there since he was 9 years old!  He spent several years growing a thriving business in this small town in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, but this was no ordinary hardware store!  It sold everything from nails to toys to furniture to gumballs.  Gumballs?  Well, that's the only part I remember because I was very young at the time, but there was an old gumball machine at the bottom of the stairs and I definitely had my fair share!  The photo above is of myself (the baby) and my 3 sisters in front of Gambles turned Stone's Unfinished Furniture Store.  As for the furniture, these were the unfinished pine pieces that you might still find here and there, if you really hunt!  Nowadays everything has been painted, at least twice, and you would never know what it originally looked like under all that paint.  So like I said, I'm not sure my dad planned to sell furniture, but it took off fast, so he moved from his small Main St. location, just down the road near the Ford plant.  This was a much larger store and filled with furniture and some accessories (sound familiar?).  Coincidentally, it was 10,000 sf and previously a grocery store (my Portage Rd. location is 10,000 sf and was previously a grocery store!).
My Dad
As business grew, my dad expanded once again.  He built and opened a huge store in Ann Arbor, Michigan,  and then another in Livonia, Michigan.  Now called, The Village Woodshop, he began making custom furniture out of solid oak.  In addition to his custom pieces, he also continued to carry the unfinished pine furniture that catapulted him into the furniture business in the first place.  This is where my memories kick in!  That pine furniture arrived in large cardboard boxes which were stored in the basement of the building until needed for the showroom floor.  A large conveyor belt carried the furniture (and my sisters and I) up the stairs all day long.  But before the furniture made its way up the belt, it was the starring role in our great game of mazes and tunnels!  We would shove, push and lift those boxes into place to make endless paths and tunnels throughout that entire basement.  Then we would strap on our rollerskates and cruise through our mazes for hours on end.  So when I tell people I grew up in a furniture store, I really did!  It wasn't all fun and games, though.  There came a point when my sisters and I were old enough to work (ugh!).  I'm not sure what my older siblings did, but I spent my days handing out brochures to customers and dusting with a tack cloth.  Hey, now I know why I hate those sticky, yellow cloths!
My Mom
Anyway, it made summers fly by and kept us out of trouble (at least that's what my parents think!).  So where did the decorating come in?  That would be my mom.  The Village Woodshop stood out from the rest because of the way the furniture was arranged and displayed.  Hmmm...I always wondered where I inherited that trait!  She managed to talk my dad into building walls in the Livonia store that would represent rooms in your home.  She then decked them out into family rooms, bedrooms and dining rooms.  This helped the customers imagine this furniture in their own home.  At that time, most furniture stores were still lining up all the beds in one area, tables in another, etc.  Custom furniture sales increased, so eventually he eliminated all the pine furniture and just created his own solid oak pieces.  By this time I was in my teen years, so I don't remember missing the furniture boxes in the basement, but it sure is one of my favorite childhood memories!  After two more moves, he finally landed in Plymouth, Michigan.  This was a much smaller showroom with a good-sized woodshop.  To this day, whenever I smell fresh sawdust, it brings me right back to that woodshop!  He continued to build custom oak furniture for many years until he retired from it and headed south to relax and enjoy life.  My parents have since returned to the Detroit area and, believe it or not, my dad is back to making furniture again and my mom is back to decorating!  Just last week, in fact, they opened a booth in my Portage Rd. location.  Sitting in what used to be "Kitty's Corner", is a beautiful cottage booth filled with painted furniture, custom-built pieces and everything else pretty that you need to finish off a room.  Talk about full circle!
My parents booth at KalamazooKitty
Whew!  That was a lot of years covered in just a few paragraphs, but it is how furniture and furniture stores became ingrained in my very being. One of my three sisters now joins in the fun of hunting and gathering treasures, but I am the only one who followed directly in the footsteps of my parents.  I never realized that rollerskating and dusting would lead me to where I am today, but history tells it all.  I am now in the process of trying to pass these experiences on to my own children.  If you flash back to my blog about the beginning of KalamazooKitty, you will see the wide open space of the Portage Rd. location. 
That was the very roller rink, bike track and ripstick arena that my kids called their own (until it filled up with furniture...and too fast in their opinion!).  We have since enjoyed family Easter egg hunts at both locations, birthday parties and many games of hide-and-go seek.  You will often see my babies (they really aren't babies anymore, but that's what I call them) at both locations, especially during the summer.  My 7 year-old loves helping at the register, my thirteen year old is dabbling in decorating and design planning, and my 15 year old helps move furniture around.  So maybe, just maybe, the furniture bug will rub off on one of them!  If nothing else, they will have fond memories of playing at the stores and helping customers.
The back door of Gamble's with my 3 sisters in 2014
This final photo is of myself and my sisters, at what used to be Gambles.  We returned there last year and took a trip down memory lane with all of our own children in tow.  Let's just say it wasn't how I remembered it, but I was a baby after all!  So next time you swing into the stores and see unusually young "employees" hanging around, tell them to get back to work, or at least get back to making memories!

This is from Kalamazoo...to you!


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Outdoor Event...Say What?!

Over the years, many people have asked about, or just wondered about, our outdoor events at KalamazooKitty.  Why do we have them?  Who can set up an outdoor booth? Will there be food?  Is the merchandise outside fresh that day, or was it moved from inside?  And so on and so on.  So with the Beat the Heat Event right around the corner (August 1st, 2015 to be exact), I thought I would offer an explanation to the many questions I have been asked in the past.

Let's start with the obvious...what is an outdoor event at KalamazooKitty?  It is exactly that...an outdoor event.  Rain, snow or shine, we set up and stay all day (well, 10-6 anyway).  This is what you can expect at an outdoor event:
*Outdoor booths set up by local people who have something, or MANY things, to sell!  You will find painted furniture, antiques, log furniture, accessories, handmade items, holiday items and much much more.  These booths change from one event to the next, so you never know who will be there or what you will find!
*Fresh merchandise inside the store.  New arrivals will be on the floor and ready to be scooped up!
*Food!  This also varies from one event to the next.  In the past, we have had hot dogs, a traveling stone pizza oven, food trucks, and local businesses sharing their treats.  You will also find snacks inside the store at each of the booths, and let's not forget about the cake!
*Give-Aways!!!  At each and every event, we give away several pieces of furniture, gift cards or both.  After wandering through the store to see what is being given away, you have the opportunity to enter your name in the bucket with the item of choice that you would love to win.  Don't leave without entering your name!

Why do we have outdoor events?  That's easy!  I love to offer something fresh and new, outside the walls of the everyday store.  I wish I had a building the size of the mall, but since I don't, I need to use the space outside to showcase local vendors, artists and craftsman.  By having these events throughout the year, we are able to keep things up-and-coming for your shopping enjoyment.

Why do we give furniture and other items away?  To me this is obvious, but to others it is not.  I want to give back to my customers for their loyalty and patronage.  I love seeing the faces of so many shoppers who affectionately call KalamazooKitty their "happy place".  So, "Thank you" to you, my loyal and special customer!

Who can set up an outdoor booth?  YOU!  Not to mention your mom, neighbor, co-worker, boss, sister, brother, dad, Aunt Betty and your sweet niece, Suzy!  In other words, anyone with stuff to sell can set up a booth outside.  Below are some of the guidelines:
*no items under $5
*items should be similar to what is sold inside the store
*all sales are handled inside the building
*bring a tent or umbrella, if you would like
*only $35 for a 10x10 space for the entire day (10-6)!
For more information, or to sign up, please stop into either location.

When do we have events?  REGULARLY! We usually rotate stores from one month to the next.  However, for this upcoming event on Saturday, August 1, 2015, we will party at both locations on the same day!  Wanna know the dates for the rest of the 2015 year (please watch the KalamazooKitty website for current info as the dates get closer in case a change has been made)?:

Sat., August 1st: Beat the Heat @ both West Main & Portage Rd.
Sat., September 19th: Autumn Air @ West Main
Sat., October 10th: Fall Kickoff @ Portage Rd.
Sat., November 7th: Holiday Open House @ West Main
Sat., November 14th: Holiday Open House @ Portage Rd.

This is from Kalamazoo...to you!





Monday, July 6, 2015

Summertime Means Curb Appeal!

Do you love your home?  Do you pull up in the driveway and sigh at how beautiful it is?  If not, pay attention!  I'll make it simple and quick.

BEFORE
Curb appeal is one of the most important aspects of your home.  It tells the world so many things about you: I'm tidy, I care about my home, I pay attention to details, I understand plantings, I understand color and scale, etc.  So what are you telling your neighbors about yourself?  I compiled a list of 5 important things you can do to improve curb appeal.  Trust me...I could go on for days about this topic!  These 5 tips apply to any style home, in any neighborhood, on any street. 

AFTER
1. Paint color.  I have noticed, because I pay attention to this kind of thing, that people just don't paint their houses!  As I am in the middle of painting my own home, I will totally agree with the argument that it is way too much work.  It takes days, if not weeks, to paint your own home (especially if it rains every day for 2 weeks, like it just did in Michigan).  But it is well worth it!  Let's start back at the beginning: paint color.  How do you choose?  I like to see the inside of someone's home before I start choosing an exterior color.  If the home is mostly browns, tans and black, I choose a color that will coordinate.  Next I look at the neighbors' homes.  If there are 3 white houses around me, I choose something other than white.  Lastly, I look at any permanent features of the home that won't be changed: brick color, chimney color, ROOF, sidewalk, fence, posts, etc.  The color must look good with those things are you will not have a beautiful home in the end.  Pinterest has tons of color combinations for exteriors, as well as the Sherwin Williams website.  

dormer
What can you paint?  Just about everything!  Wood siding, aluminum siding, vinyl siding (check out VinylSafe Paints by Sherwin Williams), gutters, flashing, brick, chimneys, etc.  Having said all that, here is a disclaimer: vinyl siding can buckle if you use the wrong paint, a brick mason will tell you to never paint brick, and wood siding will probably require scraping and priming. Don't forget to paint the trim!  A contrasting trim will make features like dormers and windows pop.
Whether you are planning to spruce up to sell your home, or spruce up to enjoy your home, painting it will do the trick!  Not a painter?  Hire one!  They will have it done in a flash and you will be able to sit back and enjoy it as you drive up the driveway.

http://lightingcenter.tk/outdoor-light-fixtures/
2. Lighting.  Most people have very inadequate lighting around their home.  The biggest mistake I see is that lights are too small and very dated.  If you haven't strolled down the lighting aisle of a home improvement store lately, you should!  Lighting is not expensive anymore.  On top of that, the variety is incredible!  Switch out your porch lights, garage lights and posts lights.  If they aren't dated and you still love them, remove them and freshen them up with spray paint.  If you need to replace your lights, check out photos on Pinterest first.  Look for homes similar to yours and see what lights are being used.  Remember to stay true to the style of your home.  A craftsman home should feature craftsman fixtures, for example.  Don't forget about landscape lights either!  Line your sidewalk, spotlight a tree or light up a dark corner.  Your home will be beautiful and safe with new lighting!

www.thisoldhouse.com
3.  Front door.  This could be an easy fix or an expensive fix, depending on your situation.  If your door is the right style for your home, then paint it!  If your door is ugly, boring, dated, the wrong style or you just hate it, get a new one! 
You could spend thousands on a new door, but you don't have to.  Check out places like KalamazooKitty.com, or Habitat Restores, before you shop for a new one.  Not sure what color to paint it?  Once again, check out Pinterest until you find a color that suits your style and home.  Just remember to make your entry inviting and obvious to visitors.  If the front door is tucked away or somewhat hidden, choose a color that will brighten it up and make it more noticeable.

4. Landscape.  This is where it gets fun!  If you don't like to garden or you don't have the plant knowledge you need to pull it off, look for help!  Garden centers are full of knowledgeable people who can answer questions about certain plants and how they grow...for free.  Still not sure?  Hire someone to do it for you.  There are plenty of landscape companies that can pull together a great look for your individual home.  Whether you do it yourself or hire it out, remember a few important things: bloom times, plant height and width, and sun requirements.  If you want a constant blooming garden, that takes research to know what to plant and where.  A quick search on the internet (I typed in "sun garden plan") will produce a garden plan that a professional put together with all their expertise.  Just follow it!

5.  Sidewalk.  I know why most people's sidewalks are boring, cracked or just plain ugly (mine is all of those things).  It is because a sidewalk isn't necessarily cheap, isn't easy to do yourself and most
www.landscape-design-advice.com
people think that no one notices it anyway.  Well, the first two are correct, but the last one is absolutely not true!  Your sidewalk can make or break the overall look of your home.  Luckily, there are endless options for a sidewalk.  If you can't tackle this alone, hire it out.  Once again, decide what you want by searching through photos online, and then pull the trigger and get it done!

Like I said earlier, I could go on and on and on about curb appeal.  It is one of my favorite parts about decorating a home.  The exterior of your home reveals a lot about you, so make sure it is telling people the right thing!  These tips will help you sell a home or love your home.  If you can't do them all at once, take it slow.  Some progress is better than none!  Still room in the budget????  Get a new garage door!

This is from Kalamazoo...to you!