suite soirees: a valentine’s day picnic complete with an epic heartcuterie board

Resources linked below

In quarantine, home really is where the heart is. Spending so much time indoors this year and still wanting to be safe during the pandemic, I decided to move things outside and set up a heart-themed picnic for my SuiteHearts (aka my pre-fiancé, Brian and bestie, Dan).

I first set the scene with a plush faux-fur rug and scattered a few blush and cream pillows around the center table so we could all sit comfortably. Then I created a focal point on the hedge with fabric flowers and a wooden “love” cut out in front of two chairs and a small table as a conversation space.

The drinks, or as I like to call them, “Suite Sips”, were perched on their own marble table for a drink station. I knew I had to have some variety for all of our different tastes so there were two rosé wines, beer for Brian, canned vodka spritz cocktails, and a fun pre-mixed strawberry margarita that fit in perfectly with the pink theme. Of course I turned to Dan and cheekily asked, “Will you accept this rosé?”

For nibbles, I always love to create pretty cheeseboards so I took the Valentine’s Day theme and created a “Heartcuterie” board complete with cheese, crackers, fruit, candies, and deli meats that I wrapped to look like roses. What better way to ask, “Will you brie mine?”

I fell in love with the idea of heart-shaped caprese salad (even though it was a bit cheesy) and was so happy with the way it turned out that I loved it from my head, all the way to-ma-toes. It was super easy to make and really delicious to eat.

For something suite, I hand dipped cherries in white chocolate and rolled them in black sprinkles for an updated twist on the classic chocolate-dipped strawberry. There was also heart-shaped watermelon and crispy vanilla meringue perched on marble pedestals.

I love the way the whole picnic turned out and it was a nice change to celebrate love outdoors. Tell me, do you beleaf in love?

Resources

Love Sign  I  Felt Hearts  I  Glitter Hearts
Faux Fur Rug  I  Pillows  I  Marble Table
Marble Cheeseboard  I  Marble Pedestals  I  Two-Tier Tray
Crackers  I  Heart-Shaped Crackers
Bubblegum Yogurt Pretzels  I  Cosmo Popcorn  I  Meringue
Candy Lips  I  Cosmo Bears  I  Cinnamon Hearts
Rose Wine  I  Rose Wine  I  Strawberry Margarita  I  Beer  I  Canned Cocktail

What snack would you fall for first on this snack board?  Let us know in the comments below.


front yard makeover: the plan

Ever since I took over management of the building 10 years ago, re-doing the front yard has always been at the top of my wish list of projects to complete.  But along the way, other projects took priority like exterior painting, landscaping, and apartment updates.  Somehow this project always seemed to get pushed off of the docket and ended up on the “maybe someday” list.  I even applied to a few HGTV makeover shows in hopes that our building would get picked and our front yard makeover would become a reality.  I thought maybe I even had an in when I met the designer and star of one of the shows at an event.  Sadly, even that dream died.

So this project has been about a decade in the making for me and I am beyond excited to tick this one off the list.  Before we take a look at where we’re going, let’s take a look back at where we started.

Back in 2009, the building was green and taupe and hadn’t been painted in at least 20 years.  It had a ton of overgrown foliage, peeling paint, bars on some windows, rusty security doors on a few units, dirt down the center driveway, and a plethora of opportunity to whip this 1950’s-era building back into shape.  We started small by just cleaning up the existing landscaping and then adding some new plants and faux grass down the center driveway.

Then when we painted, the building really transformed.  Take a look at the before and after photos below.

why update the front yard

Well, it’s the first thing every apartment tour, resident, visitor, and neighbor sees and as the old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”.   The curb appeal of the front of the building sets the tone for what you can expect when you step into one of the apartment suites and we believe that a pretty environment makes for a nicer and lovelier place to call home.

design goals

We like to approach every project we do by first asking ourselves what we can improve on.  Here’s a few things we’d like to accomplish in redesigning the front yard:

Improve curb appeal and building aesthetics

First and foremost, we wanted to redesign the front yard to be pretty – both from the street and from the inside of the community.  We want it to feel like a natural extension of the mid-century building while still updating it to make sure it fits with timeless trends.

Enclose the front yard and building

As it is now, the front yard is very open and exposed.  We feel that by enclosing the front yard, this will make the community as a whole more private, less accessible, feel more secluded, and reduce the amount of walk through foot traffic.

Provide privacy for the lower front units

These two suites have their bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen windows exposed to the street, sidewalk, and neighboring buildings.  While this can be great for people watching from the patio, this isn’t an ideal view for a bedroom or bathroom since foot traffic on the sidewalk can easily peer into these areas if the blinds are open.  We redesigned the front yard with increased privacy for these two units in mind.

Provide a sound barrier between the building and the street

Living in one of the front four units naturally comes with an expected level of street noise.  You hear the intersection, street traffic, pedestrians walking by that can get rowdy after the bars close, and Hamburger Mary’s in all its late night drag queen bingo glory.  There’s nothing to buffer and filter the sound so we also aimed to address this in the new design.

Create an outdoor area for community events and residents

Of the 16 1-bedroom apartments that make up the community, only six of them have outdoor patio areas.  The majority of the apartments have no private outdoor space and the community does not have any common areas for the residents to get together.

Every few years, we like to throw an event in the center courtyard so that all of the residents can meet each other and get to know one another.  In redesigning the front yard, we wanted to enclose it so that we could move these events to a private area that wouldn’t impede the use of the driveway.  This also creates an opportunity for our residents to have a place to be able to read a book in the sun or have a margarita outside with a friend.  We hope that the redesign of the front yard allows our residents to do that while still being mindful of the proximity to neighbor’s windows.

the plan

To prepare for the front yard redesign and for inspiration, I’d often walk up and down the surrounding streets, stopping to take pictures of yards that I admired.  I had pieced together a few different ideas that I liked when one fateful day, as I was driving along my regular short cut through an adjacent neighborhood, an intersection was closed and I was forced to take a different street.  And thank goodness I did because I literally stopped and fell in love with a front yard right then and there that I would have never seen on my regular route.  I used this yard as inspiration for the Sweetzer design.

We’re going to start with a clean slate and will be removing all of the existing boxwood, grass, ficus trees, lighting, and wire fence.  Then, we’ll level off the soil and get to work.

First up, we’ll be building a three-foot tall wall all along the length of the front yard and set back three feet from the sidewalk.  This will enclose the front yard and act as a sound barrier while also providing additional security.  We’ll finish it with smooth coat stucco and paint it to match the building so it looks like it’s been there all along.

As a focal point, we’ll also be adding two six-foot tall pillars on each side of the driveway to define the building’s entry and add some grandeur.  To these we’ll add lighting on top and address numbers.  Eventually, we’d love for these to support a gate, but for now they will act as pretty monuments to define the entry.

We’ll also add two pedestrian gates up front to access the walkways that run along the sides of the buildings.

To soften the hardscape, we’ll add a row of white iceberg roses in front of the wall.  This will break up the space between the sidewalk and the wall with pretty foliage that echoes the already existing white roses in the brick planters and along the parkway.  We’ll also plant some fig vine that will eventually climb up the half wall too.

Behind the wall, on the inside of the property, we’ll plant a row of ficus trees that will eventually grow to form a hedge and add a ton of privacy for both the community as a whole, but especially for the two lower front units.  As the front yard exists now, these suites have their kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom windows exposed to the sidewalk and street, so having a green hedge will completely transform the view in these apartments.  They’ll feel more private and like they’re nestled in their own little secret garden.

To complete the design, we’ll add faux grass on the inside – between the ficus trees and the building.  This will ensure that this area is always green while reducing our water usage and also the need for the gardener to mow (hello, no more noisy and smelly gas mowers).  This open grass area can also double as a communal area.  Imagine putting down a blanket and reading outside in the sun with a glass of rosé in hand.  Now that sure sounds suite to us.

Let us know your thoughts on the design in the comments below.


5 ways to warm up your suite for fall

Fall is one of our favorite times of the year.  The leaves turn colors, the weather gets crisp, and all the yummy pumpkin and butternut squash recipes come out at our favorite restaurants.  We love to bring this feeling indoors and make our apartment feel just as cozy. Here are five easy and inexpensive ways to make your home feel warm and comfortable for Fall.

start at the front door Fall entry

Create an instant feeling of warmth before your guests even step inside.  Hang a seasonal wreath on your door (we love this over-the-door wreath hook so you don’t damage the apartment door with nails). Then change out your door mat to a warm color or fun pattern that immediately says “Autumn”.  If space permits, you can also add a large uncarved pumpkin or a cluster of smaller ones by the side of your door or a pot with Fall colored blooms.

suite scents DIY-Votive-Candles-with-Leaves

There’s nothing better than walking into a room that smells of the holidays or mom and dad’s house at Thanksgiving.  We love to choose one seasonal scent and then use that throughout our entire apartment so your nose gets the same fragrance from room to room. Add a few candles, scented bead jars or potpourri to each room, a spray and reed diffuser in the bathroom, and a few scented sachets in closets.  In the bathroom, you can also try this fun product, Poopourri, that even offers holiday scents.  Try not to go too candle crazy – the goal is to have a subtle seasonal scent that makes your apartment feel warm and inviting.

For Fall, try scents like pumpkinspiced cake, or cranberry sauce.  Then switch to pinepeppermintcinnamon, or gingerbread in December.

add a warm throw blanket zambia-throw-chocolate-043284624a

Cuddle under a furry blanket in the living room or bedroom when the temp dips lower.  It will instantly warm up any space.  A favorite of ours is from Z Gallerie because it is just so soft and has a warm lining.  Drape the throw over your couch or chair or fold and place at the end of your bed. And remember that faux is always the way to go when purchasing “fur” items.

change up your pillows fall-leaf-pillow-21

Give your daily throw pillows a break and bring out some harvest inspired or Autumn colored ones to spice up your apartment’s decor.   Add one or two to the couch, a side chair, and a few on the bed to make any space more festive. We found these cute DIY pillows on fab blog Positively Splendid.

treat yourself to fresh flowers pumpkin-vase-fall-flowers-sunflower-bouquet-decoration

Fragrant blossoms instantly make any room feel brighter and Autumn offers some beautiful blooms.  In season for Fall are the rich hues of chrysanthemums, calla lilies, roses, dahlias, and gerbera daisies.  Add a small bouquet to your kitchen table, your nightstand, bathroom counter, or coffee table for a fresh and fragrant statement.

How do you cozy up your apartment for Fall?  Let us know in the comments below.

photos: ciao domenica, b lovely events, z gallerie, positively splendidlush home