Exploring the Van Aken District

Hi guys!

Today I want to chat about a little area that has been majorly revamped over the last couple of years: the Van Aken District in Shaker Heights, OH.

Van Aken is the name of the street that ends at the intersection of Warrensville and Chagrin Boulevard (about 4 minutes from our house conveniently!) and has experienced a complete renaissance as of late!

A few years ago, it was a mess of an intersection (literally, it had 6 stoplights) and a collection of aging strip malls. Today, it has been reimagined and redesigned with amazing local shops and restaurants. It has quickly become one of our favorite places to visit and discover. It definitely reminds me of downtown Cleveland, or an area you might see in a more urban setting vs ~the ‘burbs.~

Let’s start with the #eeeeeats. This place has so many good options (mainly casual but a few sit down restaurants), your only problem will be choosing where you want to dine!

To name a few:

  • Brassica– casual Lebanese restaurant. Think Chipotle but with roasted veggies, falafel and tahini instead of fajitas, steak and salsa. So delicious!
  • Restore– juice bar/ all around healthy options (smoothies, bowls, avocado toast, and of course fresh pressed juice). I have been getting smoothies here after my spinning classes and they are fantastic. Highly recommend Smoothie #1- Bluebs, Almond Butter, coconut oil, flaxseed, banana and almond milk.
  • Mitchell’s Ice Cream – no description necessary. My ultimate indulgence/forever craving.
  • Rising Star Coffee– my favorite coffee in Cleveland. Amazing lattes, mochas, espresso drinks, delicious vegan pastries.
  • On the Rise Bakery– the original location is just a mile or two away on Fairmount Boulevard. Amazing bread, pastries, and sandwiches. Their croissants and tarts are heavenly. Good iced coffee to boot!
  • Nature’s Oasis– a small organic grocery store with a full service cafe inside. They make fantastic waffles, and a smorgasbord of other options as well. Their other location is in Lakewood, OH and was one of my favorites!

There’s a bunch we haven’t tried too, and I can’t wait to check them out this summer:

  • Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink (have heard good things)
  • ChutneyB (casual Indian joint from Doug Katz)
  • A new TBD Jonathan Sawyer restaurant with a rooftop wine bar!
  • Banter (poutine… drool) – the other location is in Gordon Square on near west side
  • Scorpacciata (fresh handmade pasta, double drool)

A lot of these places are housed in “Market Hall,” sort of like a giant cafeteria. They offer beer and drinks too. There is communal seating inside and outdoor seating available as well, which is perfect for the summer weather we’ve finally been having!!

There are also a ton of shops in the area. Most are local, and all are fun to stop into!

Personally I am more into eating than shopping, but why not support a few local businesses while you’re grabbing a meal!

  • Cleveland Clothing Co– all things Cleveland + clothing. I love their t-shirts!
  • Room Service– mix of trendy clothing and home goods
  • Shinola – a fancy boutique featuring American made leather goods and watches (started in Detroit)
  • Stem (handmade and yummy smelling soaps)
  • Luster– cute boutique with home goods and fun knick-knacks
  • Bonobos– fun menswear with a flair for patterns and prints (and fitting well)

As I referenced earlier, there is also a spinning studio here. I took my first class a few weeks ago and I have to say, I can see what the hype is all about! The studio is called GrooveRyde and so far each class and instructor has been amazing! It is such a challenging workout, but actually fun at the same time (sounds cheesy buttt its actually true). The studio staff are extremely welcoming and helpful, especially to a nervous newbie like me 😁.

Outdoor seating for Market Hall:

^Nature’s Oasis, one of many casual (and wonderful) dining options.

Love this mural in the little square area.

I am so happy to see this whole space focused on local shops, stores and restaurants doing so well.

The area also hosts pop up shops with other local shops, the North Union Farmers market every week, and has happy hours every Friday as well!

It’s easily accessible via the RTA for Clevelanders who live in other areas. Have you been to the new Van Aken District? It’s definitely worth checking out!

Charleston Architecture Appreciation Post

Ryan and I just got back from an amazing trip to Charleston, SC. We had perfect weather the whole time and it was a great mix of beach days and sightseeing. I want to share some pictures from the walking we did around the historic neighborhood. This is definitely not an all inclusive blog post, but a good starting point with a focus on the city itself.

This post is all things beautiful in historic Charleston! Without further ado….

This picture below might be one of my favorites from my trip.

The curved scrolling iron handrail, the trails of ivy on the steps, magnolia leaves dappled with warm sunlight…. and the red brick driveway of course, all come together in such a charming and classic way.

I love the worn facade below:

Pink and green perfection!!

^notice the chimney between the two homes!

The below photo is another favorite. I love the weathered white exterior and gray shutters with the scalloped roofing. This house is on East Bay Street, overlooking the Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumpter.

The boxwood 😍. Can you imagine how tall the windows are inside? I often found myself wondering if the interiors matched the outside of the homes. Beautiful, majestic, and ancient (for us Americans!).

^The iconic “Rainbow Row. ” Very hard to photograph because there are many cars in front. The colors of the houses dates back to the prohibition era, while the actual structures themselves are much older.

^ a random private courtyard I spotted. I love the salmon door and half moon window above it. It kind of reminds me of an orange slice πŸ™‚.

I guess I have a thing for brick + ivy. Again, I love the windows here.

^One of my absolute favorite homes I saw. I’ll take it! I love the pink door leading to the carriage house on the far left.

Ryan in front of St. Phillips cemetery.

Church steeples dot the entire city skyline (there are no skyscrapers). Charleston is called The Holy City because back in the early 1700s, in order to attract settlers to the (swampy and very muggy) newly formed settlement, the government allowed people to practice whatever religion they chose (vs. adhering to the Church of England). Many different churches belonging to different denominations sprung up because of this.

^ The way the clouds are passing behind the steeple almost makes it look illuminated or glowing! They are really framing the outline of the building quite well!

^ Beautiful live oaks along the harbor.

Me + flowers = pure happiness! Also already dripping in sweat by 11AM if you couldn’t tell🀣.

Details on a building (below). Not sure what this was! But thought it was neat.

^ We had an amazing meal at Husk, a delicious restaurant set inside an old Victorian home on a quiet cobblestone street. The interior is even more stunning, but I forgot to take any photos… I had food on my mind!

That’s about all for this post. I am hoping to put together a more comprehensive weekend travel guide soon!

Have a great week everyone.

St. Augustine Fun

Happy Saturday!

I wanted to share a super quick recap of my trip to St. Augustine, Florida a couple of weeks ago.

We went to St. Augustine for my stepsister’s birthday. It was such a fun getaway and it was so nice to be able to spend some quality time with the ladies in my family.

St. Augustine may seem kind of random (and it kind of was 😁) but we wanted to avoid a big spring break crowd (Mid-March in Florida), and still enjoy some warmer temps. This location worked best for the group (we were flying in from three different cities) and it was such a blast.

St. Augustine is the oldest city in the US, founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, and it has some amazing architecture and buildings that have survived through the centuries.

The trip was super relaxing. We enjoyed amazing food, drinks, conversation and Publix Key Lime Pie (if ya know, then ya know). I am going to share a few pics below.

These are mainly iPhone photos since my camera died on Day 1 and I forgot the charger 😫.

St. Augustine Light House:

Beautiful old southern live oak trees:

I just love these southern oaks. They look so majestic and the sunlight filters through so beautifully. Plus they just remind me of warmer weather and sunny days πŸ€—.

Boardwalk on the way to the beach in Anastasia State Park:

^ you can see the lighthouse in the distance here!

It was a perfect beach day. I cannot overstate how welcome even a little bit of sunshine is in the depths of a long winter. After this trip I vowed to do another warm weather trip next year!

Had to get a pic with my sista – we were matching in stripes (not planned).

We walked around and explored the historic area of St. Augustine:

^ Group shot! We also enjoyed a wonderful sunset harbor cruise. The captain was personable and informative and we saw dolphins playing 😁 .

We had brunch at a cute Mexican place that reminded me of Tulum. I had chilaquiles and the food was all phenomenal! Definitely recommend a stop here if you ever visit.

More tree pics 🀣:

^ the view from our lunch spot.

On our last day, we visited a local distillery and did a tour. It was very cool (although that tour guides were somewhat bizarre- think SNL sketch within a Distillery). We learned that they source all of their ingredients, materials, and workforce locally. Their alcohol was pretty tasty too, and we got to sample four different drinks. For more information check out their website here: St. Augustine Distillery

We also visited a cute art gallery. One of my favorite souvenirs to get is a piece of artwork from the city I am visiting. This trip was no different and I purchased a beautiful print. I will share it once I get it framed.

All in all, this trip was amazing and so relaxing. It was nice to spend time with family and reconnect. Hope you enjoyed the pics, and if you’re looking for a cute, easy weekend trip, St. Augustine is a perfect option!

Powder Room Renovation

Hi all, and happy Sunday!

Our powder room renovation is finally complete and I wanted to share some pictures from the makeover!

First I need to give some background (and before photos!). Our house was built in 1937 and probably didn’t come with an original powder room (meaning it was added into the existing first floor layout at some point).

It is a very small room, probably smaller than my cube at work or a typical closet. It’s also a very odd shape which presented us with some design challenges.

The before: a lovely bright lilac color 🀣.

Ugh that flooring ^.

We had already ripped out the sink and toilet at this point. The sink was covered in various layers of paint from over the years, and the toilet was so large, you could barely sit down.

My Dad and Ruth helped us with the “demo.” The powder room butts up to a small entry way closet which we wanted to keep for some storage. We took out the walls of the closet (to make the bathroom bigger) and moved them inwards, took out all the trim, and removed all of that lovely laminate flooring.

We enlisted the services of a local contractor to help with rebuilding the walls, putting in new marble tile and hardwood flooring, new light fixtures, and bead-board amongst other things.

The project took much longer than anticipated due to long shipping times for certain items (the tile and toilet). We weren’t in a big hurry but this is definitely something we will keep in mind if we do any other home projects!

Now, time for some after pictures!

We are so happy with how the bathroom turned out. I especially love the tile which was a little bit hard to find. Our contractor also did an amazing job installing the hardwood and staining it to match our kitchen.

^In process pic- new hardwood floor!

We wanted to keep the overall aesthetic in line with the age of the house and therefore didn’t do anything too modern or trendy.

I had hoped to use wallpaper in the powder room, but I literally couldn’t decide which pattern to use! I ordered at least a dozen samples and couldn’t decide on any. When Ryan suggested we use the paint leftover from our guest room it seemed like an easy (and cheap) solution! I absolutely love the color and think it looks perfect and better than any of the wallpaper samples I received.

    • Some other details/ sources for anyone who is interested.
    • Bead-board/baseboard – purchased by our contractor in Amish country
    • Marble tile- 2 inch style, purchased online by our contractor
    • Light fixtures and mirror- Amazon (I know)
    • Paint- Sherwin William’s “Hinting Blue,” we had some leftover from our guest room
    • Faucet- purchased online at Vintage Tub & Bath
    • Sink & Toilet- Home Depot

    Some things to keep in mind if you are embarking on a home improvement project:

    I think a project of this size could be largely DIY if you are at all handy with “home stuff.” Since we were moving walls and installing new drywall and light fixtures in a different part of the drywall, we went with a contractor.

    Any home improvement project will take longer than you expect, for any number of reasons! Items may be on backorder, there may be scheduling conflicts, unforeseen structural issues may come up (hopefully not the case ever). Patience is key in all of this.

    You can get great deals for your home projects if you’re willing to do a little research! We got everything for a steal by planning ahead and having an idea of how we wanted the room to turn out. You can also use some materials you may already have on hand, like we did with the paint.

    Too many choices can hinder progress to meeting your end goal. Just stick with your gut intuition and move forward with your selections. I wasted so much time trying to force myself to like any of the wallpaper samples I had ordered, but it just didn’t end up working for me!

    We worked with a great contractor and couldn’t be happier with the results!