And the Winner is... (and a special offer!)

This week's FREEography giveaway winner is Veronica Garrett of Georgia!  Congratulations!  We hope you enjoy these appetizer picks and they come in handy over the 4th of July weekend.

Still want to get your hands on a set of those picks or some great jewelry to get ready for summer weddings and parties?  Carol Shogren at H&A Designs is offering a special discount code for HOUSEography readers - 25% off!!  Get ready - it's a long one:  49F6237EDE-8A2BE7A202

Here are some of the other great pieces currently available on her site

Carol also does amazing custom jewelry and has come through for me on more than one occasion!  Send her a message through Artfire and let her know what you are looking for.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Check back soon for our next FREEography!

Images courtesy of H&A Designs

10 Minute Clean-Out

After last week's linen closet triumph, I decided to take 10 minutes last night to clean out the horrible area under our kitchen sink while watching The Bachelorette (total guilty pleasure).  Fortunately, I have a good view of the TV from our kitchen!

Admittedly, our sink cabinet was not as bad as it could have been but I had grown really tired of moving 2 or 3 things just to get the dog food out twice a day.

I have to admit that I am lucky enough not to have to clean that often.  We have a cleaning service that comes in every other week and it's some of the most worthwhile money that we spend.  Fortunately they bring some of their own cleaning supplies, and they use some of ours.  I am a firm believer in cleaning hardwood floors with nothing more than vinegar and water - especially with my little crawler on the loose.

So, first, I pulled everything out.  Then, I threw out the products that don't get used which was quite a few things.  I found some grill cleaner in the back which I put in the garage (closer to the grill - duh).  I cleaned the bottom of the cabinet which was not that dirty since we have only lived in this kitchen for 10 months. Finally, I put everything back in starting with the stuff that isn't used very often (silver polish!), and worked my way forward to the stuff that we use most often (Lysol and glass cleaner).  I wish we had space for one of those cool pull-out organizers but the pipes snaking around wouldn't allow me to maximize the storage under there, so I took advantage of the space that I had.  I put all of the smaller bottles into one wire basket so they don't get lost under the pipes and garbage disposal.

Here's the final product which admittedly doesn't look all that amazing but it seems so much more organized to me and I won't have to search for the dishwasher soap every night.  Plus, it didn't cost me a penny!

I hope this inspires you to dive under your sink and get it cleaned out!


STEAL-ography: Nate Berkus Furniture on HSN

I love Nate Berkus and cannot believe that I never knew that he has a line of furniture on HSN.  This chair is a crazy good deal at $399!  I wish I could think of a place where I could use it!  Hopefully someone else can put it to good use!

HSN - who knew?!  Just goes to show that you never know where you'll find a great piece of furniture!

The Nate Berkus Show launches Sept 13th!

Image via HSN

Serious Curb Appeal - Oldies but Goodies!


As a follow-on to my previous post about curb appeal, I thought it might be helpful to show the progression of our curb appeal over the years.  Here's our house as it looked pretty much when we bought it.  Notice the crazy overgrown azaleas and the original shutters with the clover leaf detail.  What you cannot see is that there is really no grass in the front yard, just a lot more clover!

During the first summer we lived in the house (2002) we tore out all of shrubbery and grass.  Regraded the lawn, planted seed, and new shrubs.  We did all of the work ourselves and it was a HOT summer!  Here's a picture with no shrubs (looks way better than the old ones).

Here's the after picture with the new shrubbery and grass growing.  This picture was taken in October 2002 (I remember being very proud of my pumpkins and mums).  Not sure why I didn't move the ladder before taking the picture!

The next year I decided that the trim was too much of a contrast and decided on tan trim.  In addition, most of the houses on our street at the time were brick with white trim so I wanted our house to be a little different.  We had the trim and windows painted tan and the shutters a nice chocolate brown.  The door was (and still is) a very deep eggplant to play off the purple tones in our brick.

A few years go by and our shrubbery grew in nicely.  I cannot believe how small our plants were in the above pictures.  We had also replaced the windows and changed the trim color to match. 

During our major home renovation in 2009, we added the overhang on the front so our guests don't get soaked while we make our way to the door.  We also moved the gutters which I think makes a huge difference in the front.  Finally, we had the brick washed to remove the old white paint and other gunk. I love the current look of our house, but I'm sure I'll think of some new projects (and Jim is cringing as he reads this!).


Last Chance to Enter to Win the Party Picks from H&A Designs!

Just a reminder that this is your last chance to enter to win these incredible party picks from H&A Designs.

Get ready for the 4th of July or other summer events with these adorable picks! 

To enter and see all the details click here.  All entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET tomorrow, Monday, June 14th.

Images courtesy of H&A Designs


Bring Home the Beach

My dream is to some day live at the beach or at least have a beach home of some variety.  For now, I'll have to settle with beach vacations a few times per year (mostly thanks to my parents).  Until I get to decorate my future beach home, it's great to find a few ways to bring home the beach to my non-coastal location.  One of my favorite magazines, Coastal Living, is giving me some great ideas with its online article 21 Ideas To Bring Home The Beach.

I really like this kitchen because it feels beach-inspired but not "beachy" which I think gets a little weird in the winter when you don't live on the coast.  Also, changing out the stools and some of the accessories would really allow you to ramp down the beach theme if you decide it's not for you in a few years.  I also love those pendant lights.

Are you inspired by your favorite vacation spot - a beach, historical city, or a cabin in the woods?

Photo via Coastal Living.


Display of Marital Bliss

Jim and I are very fortunate to have wonderful marriage role models - both our parents and grandparents.  As a testament to these wonderful relationships, I created a display of their wedding pictures in our upstairs hallway.  I included our own wedding picture in the middle (previously in our living room but displaced by baby pictures), and their 6 pictures all around (our parents at the top and bottom and grandparents on the sides). 

The varying formality and color tones make the display interesting but the consistent frames make it less haphazard.  I love to look at these pictures every time I walk up the stairs (about 20 times per day), and it's a great reminder of loyalty and love. 


Island Party!

When we designed our new kitchen as part of our renovation, a kitchen island was an absolute must for me.  I grew up sitting at my mom's kitchen island and wanted the same for our kids.  Happily we were able to make it work in our new kitchen.  The kitchen island is the center for any gathering in our house - whether it's 6 people or 100 people.  (Speaking of entertaining, don't forget to register for this week's giveaway!)

When we were designing our kitchen, I was dead set on an island because I wanted the great flow it provides and no one gets "trapped" as can happen in L or U shaped counter configurations.  We also opted for a standard counter height for the entire top.  Adding larger than normal fixtures, seems to make the whole thing more impressive.

But, this island is not just a pretty face - it's a workhorse.  In our overall kitchen design, I wanted as many drawers in the bottom cabinets as possible.  On the bottom, we have 4 regular cabinets and 9 drawers, plus our trash can and a corner lazy susan.  Drawers in the base cabinets instead of standard cabinets were the best thing we did in our kitchen.  They hold everything from pans to towels without an issue. 

You always have to have room for tall things so we added one cabinet with only one small shelf on the top.  On the bottom, it holds cookie sheets and cutting boards - even our huge cutting board that we only bring out once in a while!

Finally, the end cabinet holds my cookbook collection.  It's so handy to have it right there - easy to grab my favorites whenever I need them.

As you prepare for your 4th of July gatherings around your kitchen island, don't forget to register for this week's giveaway from H&A Designs!

Mini Makeover - Nightstands!

This is a mini make-over in all senses of the word - size, time commitment, and cost!  I found these cute nightstands for our basement guestroom about two months ago while shopping with my mom at HomeGoods (we both LOVE that place).  I had limited options because of the narrow space between the wall and the bed so these fit the bill.  And, the price wasn't too bad either - about $75 each.
The one thing that always bothered me about these was that the handles were white, too small, and very cheap looking.

So, I gave them a mini-makeover tonight with two new knobs that I got at Anthropologie.  I love them and I think they really make the little nightstands look SO much snazzier and unique.

No comparison, right?

Also, check out how nice it looks with the sheets and bedspread.

It took me longer to write this post than to do the make-over!


New & Old Furniture Make a Sweet Room

When we renovated our house, we not only needed to make room for the kids, but make rooms for the kids.  Before the renovation, we had one child (and I was pregnant with #2 during the reno).  Elizabeth's nursery was in our former office (like most nurseries seem to be), and that worked just fine for our purposes.  But, then as we prepared for baby #2 (sex unknown), we had to make a new room for Elizabeth. 

So, we weighed the options.  We added a new master bedroom in the renovation so we decided to turn our former master bedroom - a not very grand 11x14 sunny room facing the front of our house.  The remaining front bedroom became our guest room (about 11x11) and will ultimately be our son, Alex's room when he is ready for a twin bed.

Of critical importance to me was the right bed to set the tone for the room.  I wanted something cute and girlie but hopefully something that she will tolerate when she's 10.  I don't have any hope that she'll want to sleep in it when she's 15 but if I get 10 years out of it, I'll be thrilled.  I couldn't justify (to myself) the cost of the adorable Pottery Barn Kids beds (around $800) so I set out to find a great knock-off and JCPenney came through for me (once again) for about $300!

We opted for a twin bed to maximize floor space to play and the room is not very large to start with.  The bed is incredibly sturdy and I could not be happier with the quality and I have no doubt it will hold up for as long as she will want to sleep in it.  I also got the trundle which is currently empty but which will have a mattress at some point when we get a little closer to sleep-overs requiring more than an AeroBed for Kids

I am not a big fan of "bedroom suites" because it often feels like a furniture store showroom, so I didn't buy all of the pieces that matched the bed (and that would have gotten expensive quickly).  Instead, we decided to reuse the dresser from her nursery, a beautiful antique dresser from Jim's grandmother which hung out in his parents' basement for many years before getting a coat of white paint, a set of faux crystal knobs, and a happy new recycled life.  It's a great size (not too big or small) and it's on legs so it doesn't have a dense feeling (and her plastic stool slides under it easily).

On a whim, we put a hand-me-down nightstand from my grandparents house (probably circa 1965) as a stand-in for a future nightstand.  We quickly realized that it's height, 2 drawers for her little stuff, and a shelf in the middle make it a perfectly workable piece.  Stay tuned for an upcoming make-over on this cute little piece. 

I am really happy with our decision to buy a new bed and reuse the other pieces that we already had.  I'll source the rest of her room in a future post. 

Her room really fits the overall style of our house, despite it being decidedly pink!


Follow the Signs: Yard Sale!

Most of my friends and family know that I adore yard sales - both having them and going to them.  We hold our own annual yard sale every spring usually with several like-minded neighbors.  We had our sale in May and I made about $700 which definitely made it worth the preparation!

I like having a garage sale both to push myself to clean-out stuff we aren't using (or plan to use in the future), and to make a little dough in the process.  And, I think I may be a store owner at heart so this is a way of getting that urge out of my system once a year. 

To prepare, I have a yard sale "sell pile" in my basement at all times.  It generally starts growing a week after the last yard sale and consists of about 10 large opaque plastic boxes (supplemented with cardboard at the very end) stacked in our storage room or under the basement stairs.  I sell unused kitchen gadgets, toys, books, furniture, clothes, comforters, decorative items, etc.  Pretty much anything someone might pay at least a dollar for! 

I learned most everything that I know about sales from my mom who is the queen of yard sales.  She has had one nearly every year for as long as I can remember.  I have a feeling I am following in her footsteps (much to Jim's chagrin).

Here are my general tips on holding a yard sale:

1) Put prices on everything.  It's a lot of work but many people will not buy if they have to ask how much an item is.
2) Dollar & up.  Price everything at $1 and up.  Group small junk items (like toys from McD's) in a clear plastic zip-loc bag and price it at a dollar or more if there is a lot in it.  Generally I make my items pretty cheap because I would rather sell for a little less and sell a lot.
3) Neighbors.  Your neighbors will prove their infinite value once again if they join you in having their own sale.  People are more likely to hit "multi-family" and "neighborhood" sales.
4) Advertising.  An ad in your local paper will generally pay-off because it will bring in the most die-hard yard salers.  It is currently $30 for an ad in the Washington Post.  A free posting on Craigslist is also a good idea.  Take advantage of it's free-ness by including pictures and a laundry list of items available.  Easy to read signs on the major roads near your house are absolutely necessary (my own sample above which we reuse every year).
5) Start early.  Your sale should start no later than 8 a.m.  You'll make about 75% of your money before 10 a.m. so make the most of the time before then.  Even if you have an 8 a.m. start time, be ready by 7 a.m. because you'll inevitably have early birds.  
6) Change.  Have a lot of 1s and 5s on hand (at least $100 total).
7) Avoid competing with large group sales.  In Arlington, there is a large community sale on the first Saturday of every month.  I generally avoid the first weekend of the month although it was unavoidable this year, and I think we definitely lost out a little as a result.
8) Stick with your asking prices on large items until 9 a.m.  If you don't get your asking price before 9, then be willing to bargain. 
9) Clothing.  In my experience, clothes and shoes sell - especially men's clothing.  Put prices on major items like coats, suits, and nice dresses.  For the rest, make a couple of large signs with the prices like $3 each piece or 2 for $5.
10) Store style.  Have as many tables as possible even if it means a piece of plywood on some saw horses.  Keep like items together so all kitchen stuff on one table, electronics on another, etc.  Put the best stuff and furniture near the street so people can see that you have good stuff and will be more likely to stop.

We have a general rule (well, Jim has a rule) that nothing comes back in the house.  He loads up our SUV with whatever is left over at the end and brings it to Goodwill or another local charity.  He comes home with a tax receipt (an added bonus), and usually a big bag of McDonald's!

At lunch time (also known as quitting time), it feels great to have a big pile of cash replacing the big pile of stuff I had at the beginning of the day.  We like to find something to use the proceeds towards such as the new patio furniture we bought with last year's proceeds.  This year we didn't have an intended purpose but we have already spent that money many times over - mostly on Thai food delivery and babysitters!


FREE-ography! Beaded Stainless Party Picks from H&A Designs!

A landmark day here at HOUSEography with our first FREE GIVEAWAY!  Hopefully it will be the first of many over the coming months.  It's only fitting to keep up the summer party theme as everyone begins their 4th of July preparations!

We are giving away an adorable set of 8 STAINLESS STEEL PARTY PICKS courtesy of Carol Shogren at H&A Designs... great for drink garnishes or appetizers, or just looking cute hanging out in a glass vase on your kitchen counter ready for an olive or piece of fruit! 

They feature 8mm Swarovski crystal beads with a combination of red and blue acrylic stars, clear czech glass stars, red, blue, and white swarovski crystals, and blue Czech glass round beads.  Environmentally friendly - hand wash them and use them over and over!!  Fun for any occasion, but these red, white, and blue picks are especially perfect for the 4th of July party you are hosting, or attending - a great hostess gift!! 

Here are all of the ways to see more incredible jewelry and housewares from Carol Shogren of H&A Designs: Etsy, Artfire, Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook to hear about her awesome coupons.  Thanks Carol for sponsoring our first HOUSEography giveaway!


TO ENTER, submit a comment below and type "PICK ME!"  For fun, you can also tell us your favorite food to make or eat on the 4th of July!  Be sure you sign in before leaving the comment or leave your email address in your comment.

The contest ends on Monday, June 14th at 11:59 p.m. ET.  One entry per email address.  The winner will be chosen randomly using random.org.  Must be a US resident at least 18 years of age with a mailing address in the lower 48 states.  Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 15th.  Good luck!

It's summer time - party time!

Nothing makes a house feel like a home more than a party with loads of good friends and family!  Summer is filled with many reasons to have a party - warm weather just makes you want to hang out with a lot of friends out in the sun or under the stars, long holiday weekends, fireworks, birthdays, and the overall relaxation that inevitably sinks into your bones making you want to stay home and invite some friends in for a drink and some casual food.

Over the next few weeks, I'll give some tips on how to prepare your house for parties (both indoors and out), what serveware we love and what food to serve (keep it simple!).  We'll also be hosting our FIRST FREE GIVEAWAY starting this week!  Stay tuned!!! 

Of course, we cannot risk any excuse to have a party no matter what time of year.  Summer hadn't even officially started and we were preparing to host our son's first birthday party with 75 of his closest friends in the backyard.

This was our first large gathering outside since we moved back in after our renovation last year, and the house lived up to its potential.  Entertaining was a major consideration when we renovating our house.  We wanted great interior flow, preferably a circular flow in the entire first floor.  We also wanted the inside spaces to flow with the outside spaces.

I whipped up the below inexact floor plan to give you an idea of what our first floor looks like (for those who haven't been here).

The circular flow works great for parties, both in the entire first floor and in the kitchen around the island.  So far, it has been great and people commented on how much easier it was to get around the house during our large fall/winter parties.

Come party with us!


Crayon Masterpieces

If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or anyone with kids in you, then you probably have been the recipient of some awesome art from a child in your life.  I find it sad to see these mini masterpieces sit in the junk mail pile or in a folder in a drawer, so I set out to find a place to put them other than on our new stainless fridge (which, like all stainless steel, is not magnetic).

My favorite solution is to frame them.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), preschool art does not come in standard sizes will not fit into standard frames. I found these great 11x14 frames at Target (in the store only but I have seen them other places as well) that have a wood frame but the picture is sandwiched between them.  It looks very professional and fashionable, but doesn't detract from the art itself.

Here's our little gallery!

Since the frame is generally larger than most pieces of paper, her art fits in there nicely.  It's also really easy to change the art out, which I do every time a new favorite comes through the door.  Nothing can really top this self-portrait though.

I am considering adding a few more which will likely become a necessity as my son gains artistic skills!

I also display a lot of my daughter's artwork in her room on bulletin boards and on the walls behind her door.  She gets to look at it all time and we still talk about some of her pieces before bed.  Just another reason for her to avoid sleep!


It's the little things

Knickknacks. Chachkis. Accessories. Trinkets. Stuff.

No matter what you call them, we all have some of these laying around the house.  Some may be artfully arranged on a shelf or mantle, and others may be laying in a dusty box in the back of your attic.  I definitely have some in both categories!

I love the look of a beautifully organized bookshelf with the right mix of books and other things, or a mantle which plays up the architecture and the fireplace but doesn't necessarily compete.  But, what is too much and what is too little.  I admit, my current mantles (family room and living room) are too bare but I am not going out to buy things just for the sake of filling them up.  

Instead, I am waiting to find the right thing either on one of the many trips we are planning to take this summer, on one of my many trips to Marshalls, or a neighborhood yard sale (there's a big one next weekend!).  You never know where you are going to find something that you really like, and the perfect place to put it may not immediately present itself.  My advice - unless it's a hugely expensive piece of art - buy it.

Although my favorite little things in our house are things that remind me of trips we have taken, gifts, or family heirlooms, I still have a lot of things that I really like for some unexplainable reason. 

Here are some examples.  The new bookshelves in our family room include a conch shell that we got in Nevis about 8 years ago.  It was our first vacation as a couple after we bought the house.  Great place - I would go back in a heartbeat - but I would definitely get the requisite certificate from the St. Kitts & Nevis Department of Agriculture before trying to pack it in my suitcase!  Fortunately the security guards at the airport gave me a pass when I started to get a bit tearful!  But I digress...

The ceramic pear on the shelf came from my favorite consignment shop REfind in Vienna, VA a few months ago with my mom.  I kept walking by it and liked it - no explainable reason - just liked it.  Bought it.  Incidentally, the glass hurricane on my family room mantle also came from the same store.

Of course, not all of my displays are as glamorous but I try to save those for the top of my dresser in our bedroom.  I think this is a great place for those special things that are a bit more personal and mean a lot to you.  I contain them on my dresser using a tray that I got as a gift from friends years ago.  Most of the things were gifts from my grandmother with the exception of the adorable frame which was a Christmas gift from my cousin Victoria (and fellow blogger!).  The "flower pot" was a Mother's Day gift this year from my sweet 4 year old, Elizabeth. 

In the yard sale category, I found this ice bucket at an estate sale on our street soon after we moved into this house.  I think I paid $3!  It's not really usable as an ice bucket any more because the lining is cracked, but it's a great conversation piece and can be used to serve food with a lining of some sort.  Reminds me that I need to break out the silver polish!

My advice - look around your house and see what you already have that can be reused in a decorative way.  Maybe skip the softball trophy on the mantle but maybe you have an interesting vase, shell, or other small item that would work well in your space.


It's Curtains!

After I blogged about window treatments last week, I started thinking about putting curtains on our screen porch to give it more of a "room" feeling and less of "porch" feeling.  We also needed a break from the morning sun (it faces southeast) when we have breakfast out there on unhurried weekend mornings (rare!), and a little privacy from our next door neighbors whose driveway is right next to our porch.

I didn't want to make a big investment since it's our porch and they could get really messed up in the elements (or when I forget to bring them in before it snows).  For about $100, I scored 8 curtains and 4 large rods at Ikea.  Here's the result (with the evening sun streaming in)!

The best part (other than the price), was that I hung them in about an hour by MYSELF thanks to Jim's handy new cordless drill (a Christmas gift from my parents)!  I think it adds a lot of charm to the room and makes visitors feel like laying on the sofa and reading a book (or a decorating magazine!).  The curtains look like linen and have really interesting vertical stitching on each panel. They look expensive but they are machine washable which is critical for an outdoor application.  I am still deciding whether or not to use the tiebacks which came with the curtains (added bonus!).

I am still working on some other touches for the porch, but I feel like it really is ready for summer now!