Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Evolution of Our Home: Exterior Edition

Writing a progress post about the exterior of our home is a tough one for me, not because we haven't done anything to the outside of our house (we totally have), but because there's some areas outside our house where I'm not at a comfortable resting point yet. And showing you pictures of those 'not even close to done' areas is not really getting me all that excited.

But I'd be full of (insert your word of choice here) if I waited until I was happy with every single area of our home before I was willing to show pictures.  For one thing, I'd only get to post about twice a year.  And for another, that's not how DIY/home improvement/decorating works around here.  We do things as we have time, money, and inspiration.  So that leaves an awful lot of in-between time.  So in the name of keepin' it real, I've got to show you the not-so-fab stages, too.

BECAUSE I'M KEEPING IT REAL!  (Movie quote, anyone?)

So, here we go.  Here's the front of the house a few days after we bought it.  We had already ripped out some of the weeds in the flowerbeds, but other than that its our true 'before' picture.
And here are a few after we did some trimming, mulching and other landscaping


The front porch before...
And during....
This is one of those pictures I'd rather not show you.  Notice the concrete that still clings to the remnants of the glue left behind the carpet in the before shot.  The zebra rug was a failed attempt to cover up the nasty concrete, but has become a haven for dirt, mulch, etc.  So it's sort of a lose/lose situation where I don't know what's better: the rug or the concrete.  I'm dying to try an acid stain on the concrete!

On the bright side,  the door has been dressed up a bit.

Onward to the back patio.  Here's the before...

And in progress.  Basically all we've done here is replace the grill and  patio set with options that better fit the space and add some potted plants.  My husband would love to install an outdoor fan, and I'd kind of like the expand the whole patio area to create a lounging area separate from the dining area.  Maybe with a fireplace? You've gotta dream big, people.


And finally, the back of the house before...

And after we trimmed bushes, replaced others, and mulched.  There's not much else to be done back here, other than add some stone pavers to line the flowerbeds. 

So that's pretty much where we're at!  I'm not nearly as inspired when it comes to our outdoor spaces, as compared to our indoor spaces (which I could easily decorate over and over again!).  How do you spruce the exterior of YOUR home?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I'll Cover You

The chairs at our kitchen table have long been a source of debate in our house.

 When searching for a dinette set, we wanted something that would fit the casual, small eat-in area of our kitchen, wouldn't compete with the wood on our kitchen cabinets, and could double as a place to write lists, pay bills, eventually have kids do homework (ie. not a wood surface, because I was worried that the impressions of our writing would transfer into the wood). 

This set fit our needs perfectly.  Except for two complaints. 

My complaint: It's pretty boring.
My husband's:  "These chairs suck. They squeak when we sit down."

So after trying my skills on my desk chair at work, I decided to try my hand at re-covering the cushions with a fun fabric.  I don't know much about fabric or sewing, but the fabric I chose seemed very expensive (I think it was over $30/yd!). However a Joann's Fabric coupon coupled with the fact that I only needed a yard made the price a little easier to swallow. 

Taking apart the chair so that I could remove the cushion was really easy.  I used an allen wrench to remove the screws/bolts, and that was all that I had to do!

If you're interested in doing the project properly, you could remove the original fabric and replace it with the new.  But if you're like me, and want to preserve the original chair in case you hate the results, you can just put the new fabric over the old! This worked because I was covering fabric that was a solid, light color.  If you were covering a print or a dark color, you might have no choice but to remove the old fabric.  Either way, removal of the old fabric should be pretty easy and would require some pliers to pull out the staples holding it onto the cushion.

To add my new fabric I just cut a piece of fabric that was a few inches wider than my chair cushions, and used my staple gun to secure the new fabric. I found it easier to staple the straight edges first in order to pull the fabric taut, and to work on the corners last.  The corners are the most difficult part, but with some patience I was able to fold, pull, and staple the fabric so that the creases were on the bottom part of the cushion and would not show. 

Once I had covered all four cushions, all I had to do was put the chairs back together and it was like I had a new dinette set!

It look so much more interesting!  And as for the squeakiness? Hey, I'm no miracle worker :)
(In all honesty, Mr. M. tightened the bolts and the chairs are MUCH less squeaky).

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Favs

Cheers to a new feature on the blog!  Friday Favs will be a post where I'll feature trends, projects, products that I'm loving.  Here's what I'm lovin' now.....

Fav #1
Sequin bracelets.  I know that I've mentioned them before, but I'm really, truly obsessed with these gorgeous, affordable bangles!  While Sequin also makes earrings and other jewelry, their bangles really have my heart. If you're on my Christmas list, you're probably getting one of these.  I love, love, LOVE all of the colors and styles available and they look so fun stacked with each other.  Shop their spring collection here :)

Fav #2
OliveLeafStencils.  OMG these wall stencils are amazing!  I'm totally crushing on them, scheming for the day I can stencil a wall in our house. I even have the wall picked out and am thiiiis close to having my husband convinced that it's a great idea. Stay tuned to see how that works out and in the meantime, check out their site oliveleafstencils.com. It's awesome!

OMG this wall is so gorgeous!!  I die.
Fav #3
Re-painted dressers, like this fabulous coral dresser.  I'm planning a little dresser redo myself, and this is providing so much inspiration!  Love giving old things new life!!

Fav #4
Meg Go Run blog.  My friend, Megan, writes this amazing fitness blog.  She is so dedicated to being fit and having a healthy lifestyle, and I find her to be such an inspiration!! Plus she's funny and cool. You should definitely check her out.

Fav #5
Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines.  Say what you want, I love this song.  It's just not getting old yet for me, and I can't contain my excitement each time I hear it.  So it's rounding out my five favs for the week. Here's hoping the rest of the album is this fun!

Have a fabulous weekend!!


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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Put a Cork In It

I love a cork project.  As a wine lover, I accumulate a small moderate large number of corks and am excited when I can find a use for them.  They have a natural feel, plenty of uses, and are free. Sign me up! 

Here are some of my favorites from the many cork projects that I have pinned:

You know I love a new wreath!

We're really into watching the birds in our yard (hip, I know!).  Wouldn't this be such a cute little home for a bird family?

I have dreams of making this happen in the buffet area of our dining room.

I think this looks easy!  And it would be cute on our kitchen counter...

And this one is just so cool.

So when I wanted a centerpiece for our kitchen table, I was excited to be able to incorporate some of my wine corks into the project!

All it took was a clear vase leftover from our wedding reception, six allium stems, and some wine corks.  I cut the allium stems to varying lengths, arranged the flowers so the colors were spread out, and used the corks as filler.  The whole process took about ten minutes, and I love the casual feel it offers in our casual dining space.

What have you created with YOUR wine corks?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Evolution of Our Home: Living Room Edition

The living room is one of my favorite spaces in our home.  It is my quiet sanctuary where I can read, drink coffee, or watch a storm as it rolls through (often all at the same time).  It was one of the last rooms we turned our attention to, so this room sat empty for the first few years that we lived here.  Here's the journey to this point (because, like every other room in this place, it's a continuing work in progress)!!

While we were unpacking from the move, the living room was our dumping ground for everything we had yet to put away.

But we hate having a bunch of random stuff sitting around, so pretty soon, it became a ghost town. We had no furniture in here for the first three years that we lived here!! We had moved out of an apartment, so we didn't have a ton of furniture. Our living room furniture ended up in the family room, so we had a large, empty room for years.  And since it has a whole wall of windows, our neighbors probably thought we were minimalists or something.

That's Mo sitting in the doorway on the right side of the picture.  We lost him suddenly to saddle thrombus on the day before Thanksgiving 2010.  We still miss him.

During The Time of No Furniture, we did manage to remove the yellow window valance and vertical blinds, as well as the flowered wallpaper.  This wallpaper was crazy easy to remove.  I literally peeled it off with my hands.  No scraper, no fabric softener, nothing.  If only all wallpaper were so easy.....

And once the wallpaper was off, we got right down to painting.  I had a vision for this room: an eggplant accent wall with a bright white sofa popping right off that purple wall.  Well, buying furniture was nowhere in sight, but I could (and did) paint that accent wall.  To this day, I can't believe that I convinced Mr. M. to let me paint this room purple.  I mean, he usually leaves the decorating ideas up to me, but this OUR home.  So he likes to have some input on the big decisions, and anything remotely feminine usually gets the kibosh.  But he said OK, so I ran with it.  Only.....

While I loved the eggplant accent wall, I HATED the beige color I painted the other three walls.  I used the same color that we had in the hallway, but in here it was just.....gross.  So, I re-painted those walls a pale gray.  And somewhere along the line, we decided to extend the Pergo that we had used in the living room, dining room, and hallway in here.  BEST DECISION EVER.  It makes the house seem so much bigger.

Which got me thinking about furniture.  I still had dreams of that gorgeous white sofa (preferably with nailhead trim), but I had done some thinking about what it would take to keep that sofa clean with two pets (and kids down the line), and was starting to re-consider it.  We weren't ready to buy furniture just yet, but my husband and I did some window shopping and found this beauty.  It was love at first sight.

I have always had a thing for sectionals, and the fabric was this gorgeous, gray tweed.  I envisioned some fun, bright pillows, and a patterned throw.  Love.  It was expensive, way more than we had planned to spend on a couch.  But I vowed to save up and buy that baby ASAP.  But as often happens, life just got in the way.  There were things we needed more immediately than a second set of living room furniture, and life threw us some curveballs that made it harder and harder to justify dropping a few G's on a couch.  Especially since we already had a fully furnished family room. 

So when a family member bought new furniture and offered us their well-taken-care-of living room furniture, we jumped on it!  Remember, a large part of our style is Castoff Chic, and I'm all about using what is available to us to make our home stylish without pouring out tons of cash.  I've ended up really loving this furniture for its comfort and neutrality.

The rest of the room is a study in bargain shopping.  The rug is from RugsUSA (it's 50% off right now), the floor lamp was a clearance find from Pier One.  I actually really hate the lampshade, and plan to replace it, but the price was amazing AND I had a coupon so I bought it anyway. The occasional chair is from Homegoods, and the silver stool-turned-side-table was a clearance find at Target. 

Putting this room (the whole house, in fact) together has also been a study in patience. This is the reason that sometimes my tables and shelves are not styled the way I would ultimately like them to be. I'm waiting until I find the perfect items, because I tend to buy things slowly and over a long period of time, usually waiting until I find items that fit my vision and my budget.   For example, the purple and turquoise pillows that look as if they have petals are from Costco(!) and were a birthday gift WAY back when this room was in the vision stage.  I knew they fit where I wanted to go, so I stored them for a few years until I had furniture to put them on.  I do that a lot, in fact I have a whole cabinet of home décor items stashed away that I have big plans for!

As always, I have a whole list of things I'm planning to "finish" this room.  Here's the list, as it stands now:

  • Replace or recover the lampshade
  • Get some artwork on that purple wall, and possibly above the TV
  • Style the entertainment center
  • Hang some sort of pendant lighting over the chair/ottoman
  • Consider window treatments (or maybe not, sometimes I kind of like the simplicity of naked windows)
  • Move the big feathers on the console table to the bedroom, and replace with something large. Possibly a white ceramic elephant, if I can find one in my budget. (I'm not kidding, I've fallen in love with TWO, but couldn't bring myself to pay for them).

But for now, I'll just enjoy the luxury of having furniture and a space to watch the world pass by while I enjoy my coffee and books.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Almost all of the fashion bloggers that I follow are touting Nordstrom's Annual Anniversary Sale. And why shouldn't they??   Nordstrom's debuts new fall merchandise at deeply discounted prices for a few weeks before putting the items back up to regular price. I was drawn in for the fashion...

...but of course I wandered over to their home décor section and found some amazing Anniversary Sale deals to share with you! 

And as always, Nordstrom has fast and free shipping for both delivery and returns! So go shop the sale, people!  It only lasts until August 5th.  And of course, don't forget to share with me what you find!

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Friday, July 19, 2013

27 Plates (Story and Tutorial)

Settle in, guys.  This is a long one.  Almost everyone who comes to our house asks about the giant plate wall in our dining room.  Where did you get that idea?  How are they hung?  Did you really put all of those holes in your wall?  Where did you get all those plates?! 

I'm ready to tell the story of the plate wall.  And I'll throw in some instructions for anyone out there who wants to make one of their own.

Anytime we paint a room, I get super excited for the part where we can start hanging art and other décor on the freshly painted wall.  I feel like that is the part where the room really starts coming together, and begins to feel like a cohesive place that makes sense to me.  So after painting our dining room gray, I felt the same familiar urge to start getting stuff up on the walls, but for the first time had no clue about what to hang. 

Our dining room really only has two walls on which décor could be hung, and both walls are fairly long.  Initially, I thought that a large mirror would be a good choice, as there are no windows in the dining room, and I thought a mirror might reflect some of the light from the adjoining rooms and brighten up the place. But the wall was big, so any mirror I hung in there would also have to be pretty substantial, or framed out with other items hung on either side of it, which I'm not really a fan of.  So I went searching for a really big mirror.  I checked my usual haunts: Marshall's, TJ Maxx, Overstock (I had yet to discover the wonders of Homegoods and flash sale sites)....nothing.  Well nothing in my budget, that is.  I could find plenty of AMAZING large scale mirrors, but they were going to cost me.  Big time.  Next idea please!

Then I stumbled upon this gorgeous piece of inspiration online.  Game changer, people.  Dozens of monochromatic plates hung symmetrically on a large wall, creating one cohesive piece of fabulous-ness. I loved the mixture of plate sizes, the symmetrical-but-not-boring pattern, and the contrast of the white plates on the gray wall. It was like poetry to my eyes, and (since this was 2009, and before Pinterest) I saved that picture in my Favorites faster than you could say #therewaslifebeforepinterest?

So over the next several months I collected plates for my plate wall. With my budget in mind,  I lucked into two four-piece sets of black and white damask salad plates at Marshalls (somewhere around $6 a set)

...and found a four-piece set of black and white saucers on Overstock.  These were quite a splurge at $23.95. 

I was getting there, but twelve plates was not going to get me the full, eclectic look I admired on my inspiration wall.  Then I stumbled upon salvation in Walmart, of all places. (now there's a sentence I bet you have never read before!!) They were selling individual pieces of plain black and plain white dinner plates for $1.50 each!  The salad plates were just $1.00!  Now, I wouldn't want these plain plates to make up my entire wall.  But I knew that they could provide the basic structure of what I wanted, and that I could integrate my more interesting (and more expensive) plates into the design and achieve the look I was going for.  I bought six dinner plates (three black, three white) and ten salad plates (five black, five white) for a grand total of $19.  A few weeks later, I happened upon a set of four tiny appetizer plates that matched the damask pattern that I already owned and brought those babies home for about $5.  So sixty bucks, many months, and thirty-two plates later, I was ready to make my inspiration into reality. 

The first thing I did was clear a large area on the floor of one of our empty rooms and lay out all of my plates on the floor to help me figure out how I wanted to hang them on the wall.  Initially I tried to replicate a version of the pattern in my inspiration photo, but I quickly realized that the diamond shape wasn't right for the horizontally-oriented space that I was trying to fill.  I played around with different arrangements for a time, before settling on a horizontal squiggle pattern that reminded me of this symbol ~ (which I don't know the name of).  While working on a pattern, I found that taking pictures of the various options was really helpful, and allowed me to step back and visualize how it would look on the wall.  Once I had my basic pattern, I called my husband in to help me with spacing and placement before I finalized that pattern I wanted to use by taking a picture of it, so that we could replicate it on the wall. I ended up using only twenty-seven of my plates in the final pattern.

Then, I used blank paper, scissors, and a pencil to trace and cut out a template of EVERY plate that I planned to hang on the wall. I even drew quick representations of the patterns on the plates in order to help us differentiate the templates from one another. We used blue painter's tape and the picture of the pattern to place each template in the wall according to the pattern. Aside from using a tape measure to find the center of the wall, we did not measure at all during this process, choosing to eyeball it instead. The painter's tape allowed us to move our templates over and over until we were happy with them without doing any damage to the wall.  This process actually took us a few days.  We would arrange, step back, move a template slightly, live with it for a few hours and then adjust again.  Once we had all of the templates in their perfect places, we decided to leave the paper templates up and live with it for a while before we went to the next step of putting twenty-seven holes in our wall.  We ended up living with it for almost two months.  I know it seems like a long time, but Mr. M. had just put a ton of effort into repairing that wall from the wallpaper removal disaster, and we wanted to be sure that we loved the pattern and were not going to want to make any changes before we started putting so many holes in the wall. 

You can see the templates taped to the wall on the far left side of this picture. 

Once we were finally ready to hang the plates, I attached disc hangers to the back of each plate so that the plate could hang on the wall without any visible screws or wires.  Annoyingly, buying the disc hangers was the most expensive part of the whole project.  I bought twenty-one 4" hangers ($2.95 each) and six 3" hangers ($2.39 each), for a total of $75.99. The disc hangers are designed to adhere to the back of each plate, using a glue that is activated when the disc is moistened.  We followed the instructions exactly, only to find that some of the discs bubbled as they dried, losing their firm contact with the plates.  Not good.  We tried wetting the adhesive and attempting to attach the discs again, but had the same results.  My husband had the great idea to use duct tape to adhere the discs, which turned out to be an equally invisible, but much stronger way to affix the discs to the back of the plates.  It sort of killed me to have spent $75 on hangers that had to be duct taped in order to work properly, but hanging the plates invisibly was crucial to the success of the plate wall and I'm not sure how I could have done so without those disc hangers.

Once the disc hangers were firmly attached taped, Mr. M. used the templates on the wall to determine the placement of each screw needed to hang the plates.  He did this one at a time, removing each template and replacing it with a plate as he went.  Doing so allowed him to maintain the pattern that we had created perfectly.

Done!!  I love the result!  It's dramatic, interesting and fits the space.  Plus, a large-scale art installation that cost about $135??!!  Awesome.  I can't imagine every getting tired of it,  I love it so much!

How have you filled the large walls in your space??  I have another large wall to adorn in our living room, and I'd love some inspiration!

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