Winter Wreath

Winter is a daunting decorating task for me. I really like Valentine's Day (especially now that we have kids), but the other aspects of winter don't really call to me. So, what to do with the door. I pinned some door decor ideas on Pinterest (see that here). The greens and whites seem to speak to me.  I started searching high and low for a wreath that fit the bill but of course the stores all have spring and Easter wreaths out (it's January people!!!). Nothing just green. So, I was determined to make something. I always have a grapevine wreath ready for customizing in the attic. I went to Michael's expecting to pick up a bunch of sprigs but found nothing that fit the bill, or they were $4.99 per stem. No thanks.  Finally, I wandered into the garland section. Aha! Lots of green. Grabbed a pussy willow stem for some white and was on my way.

About 10 minutes after I got home, I put together this wreath.

I won't insult your intelligence with a tutorial. Just wrap the garland around and tuck in the ends. Voila.

Happy Tuesday!


Mommy Guilt

As I was reorganizing our living room bookshelves (more here), I reorganized our photo album collection. Turns out that Elizabeth (my 5 year old) has about 7 albums devoted to her first year of life (including quarterly shutterfly albums and a raft of prints in larger old-school albums).  Alex (my 2 year old) has 1 12-page paperback album which I got for free from Shutterfly. You can see the purple/pink pile of books in the lower right hand corner of this picture.

All I could picture down the road is him looking for his albums and not finding anything from his first year but Elizabeth bragging about her well-documented 1st year of life. Ugh. Mommy guilt!

So, while Alex was down for the count with the norovirus, I got to work putting together an album for his first year.  Fortunately most of the pictures were already on Shutterfly so popping a new one together was really quite easy.  5 days later, I got this in the mail... 
Nothing like turning lemons into lemonade! The kids have really enjoyed looking at the book. I have always been a big Shutterfly fan although they now have a lot competitors.

p.s. This is not a sponsored post. I just love Shutterfly.


Den: Small desk details

I have a bunch of small things to share in the office. This may be the last update for a while unless I score a great deal on a rug this weekend!

First Handy Hubby filled in some gaps on the sides of the shelves which were really irking me. They were probably irking me when we built the shelves circa 2003-2004, but we forgot about it soon after!

Now he has filled in the gaps on the left and right side. I still need to touch up the paint but it definitely looks loads better. I still would like to add a door to the bottom right cabinet so we can store extra printer paper and other unsightly office gear.

Note to self: Do something about that random phone cable on the floor in the top picture. At a minimum, just reattach it to the wall inside the bottom bookshelf!

Finally, I added some cute details to the desk top. First, a vintage desk lamp purchased at a yard sale for $5 last summer.  I thought about spray painting it but now I love the gray in this room, so it will stay as is.

I also wanted pens and scissors to be easy to grab.  I picked up a clear plastic cup on clearance at Target for about $1.50. These are so cute and the teal color works well with the bookshelves. I have wanted a tape dispenser for a while and now I have one - sad but true. It's the first time I've had a real desk in 6 years, so give me a break!  No more digging around for tape to wrap gifts.

Let me know if you see any great deals on gray rugs! The room feels cold and loud without a rug so I am itching to find one. Still looking for a permanent chair. The acrylic chair is taking up residence right now, but that will return to the basement when my parents visit next.

Have a great weekend! What are you making for the Super Bowl? We're heading to our friends Amie and Brian's Cheesebowl. It's a blast but not good for the thighs! No idea what I'm bringing yet but it has to be cheese-based. Ideas welcome!!


Old Blog & New Blog

Wanted to highlight a pretty big change I made earlier this week. Some of you know that I had a second blog detailing our home renovation process called Arlington Home Addition.  Recently I was referring to things over there which although they were old, they are still very much part of the story of our house. So.... I decided to merge the two blogs so all of the posts are in one place. It makes the labeling a total nightmare which I'll try to clean-up over the next month or so. But, it feels good to have it all in one place!   So, if you want to see my first post back in 2008 (!), click here.  You'll more than you ever wanted to learn about working with architects, contractors, subcontractors, drywall, paint colors, HVAC, and every other aspect of our home renovation process.

On a totally separate note, has everyone seen the new JC Penney catalog? How cute is that? It's part of their total revamp of the brand and stores thanks to their new CEO Ron Johnson, an Apple Executive. Read more about the changes here. If the clothes are this cute, I cannot wait to see what they do with the housewares and home decor department!

Most of my window treatments are from JC Penney but I've noticed the styles getting stale over the past year and they got rid of some things that I loved like cordless woven roman shades. Hopefully someone is listening and they bring back the good stuff!

Of course, this is really awesome news for those in smaller cities where JC Penney may be the only real department store around. 


Den: Desk Chair Try-outs

I recently started calling our home office and guest room the "den".  Not sure why really but probably because my family always had a den growing up - kind of a cozy place to hang out and where my dad always had a desk covered in paper. So, from here on out, the home office may be called the den or it may be called something else!

The next step in the decorating process for the den is finding a chair. I really didn't know what I wanted. I had looked in some of the usual haunts - Home Goods, World Market, TJ Maxx, etc. So far, nothing has come along. There are loads of options online but I decided to hold some "try-outs" with chairs I already had around the house.  Of course I documented it for you!

First up, my acrylic TOBIAS chair from Ikea. Not sure I have ever shown this on my blog but it hangs out in our basement at our seldom-used desk down there - all a work in progress which needs to be documented at some point soon!

I like the look but it disappears a little too much. The desk is the centerpiece of the room and the chair doesn't feel like it really centers the eye as it should. It needs more weight at the center of the bookshelves. But I do really love this chair and it looks really expensive. Even my traditional-loving father really approves of it!

Next up, was one of the chairs from our living room (which I clearly kept after this post).

I really like this actually, but I still have one more to try... one of our kitchen chairs from World Market (documented here)

Not bad but not sure I would want to spend a lot of time sitting at this chair while working. It works well enough at the kitchen table since we generally don't sit there for more than 30 minutes at a time - we're fast eaters.

So, that little exercise really helped narrow down the options I think. I'm definitely leaning towards a parsons chair of some sort. I also like the dark wood of this chair. Hmmm.... wish I had 3 of these chairs already!!  If anyone sees one at your Home Goods, let me know... actually don't because that may cause a tizzy of calls to shipping companies which Handy Hubby will not appreciate.

Here's the zoomed out view...

The great part is, whatever I do choose will definitely not have to be the "end all, be all" because it's just a simple chair!  Remember that - no decorating decision has to be a forever choice, just the right choice for right now.

And of course, a "before" picture for comparison...

What do you think?  Is this the right choice?  Anyone else think that Ben is a horrible Bachelor? Did you have a "den" growing up?  Wondering if that makes me a child of the '70s...


Living Room: Bookshelf Styling

After last week's book shuffle to accommodate our new home office, I was left with some shelf space in the living room. This made me so happy and I think the shelves were happy to be a little lighter too.

Our double-stuffed bookshelves looked like this

And after 20 trips up and down the stairs with books and accessories, they now look like this...

The best part is that this transformation didn't cost a penny! I already owned everything on the shelves. The ivory ceramic artichoke set came were a great Goodwill find last summer. I think I paid $7 for both. I love how they really lighten the look because the books are so dark.

So much better I think. What did you do this weekend? Any big projects in the works? Little projects? I have so many projects to write about that I'm feeling a little behind... Hopefully I can catch up this week.


Den: Styling the Bookshelves

We have a lot of books. A lot. I cannot even begin to estimate but the numbers are in the thousands. We've moved these books from one end of the house and back through the years. Many of the books (pretty much all of the "nice" books) were inherited from my grandfather, but we also buy some books but nearly as much as we used to.  As a result of having so many books, bookcase styling was never a priority. The books had to fit wherever they could and styling was not a priority. Generally, ever bookshelf was jammed with books. Here are some examples:

Basement Built-ins
Living Room
See? Filled!  This is about 3/4 of our book collection. We had more in the attic in boxes, in our room, and in the family room. The family bookshelves were the only remotely styled bookshelves we have.

Now that we have our office back (more on that here), we could finally unpack the last few boxes of books from the attic and spread out some books in other places so things don't seem so bookstore/library-ish. 

Stage 1 was moving some living room books to the office. Here's how it looks now. 

Not at all finished but a good first step. I'm going to add some more layers over time but it's a good first start.  I've some plans for the two spaces on either side of the desk, although nothing totally ready yet. I was anxious to share because this room is coming together. The rug is definitely not staying and the roman shade needs a make-over but all in good time!

I have so much more planned for this room that I don't know quite where to begin.  At the same time, I don't have a real vision yet and I try not to decorate without an ultimate goal in mind. When I browse for things, I seem to be all over the place.  All the more reason to take a slow decorating approach, not a 2 weeks and we're done process - unless I find things for cheap or free!  

Next up is a window treatment and a desk chair, and then we'll probably be on pause for a month or two while we deal with and pay for other projects (like the screen porch!).  I have lots of organizing (free!) to do in here in the mean time so I'll feel like we're making progress even though we won't be making any more big changes.  I wish the progress was going to be quicker so we'll all just have to hang in there.


Introducing Our Den

Since we moved Alex to his big boy room (more on that here and here), we were left with a completely empty room. When does that ever happen?  It doesn't happen to me. Even when we moved into this house after renovating, every room had furniture. Seriously - every room. And it looked full (and finished) to most people.  Not to me, of course! Now over 2 years later, we have lots more furniture and we were filled up, until I sold our guest bed and stored the night stands in the attic either for future use or sale!

So, in a matter of days, we went from this...

To this...

Of course, there was whole lot of this in between...

Here's a few more pictures of the finished colors. The wall color is Benjamin Moore Sidewalk Gray and the back of the bookshelves is California Paints English River (both color matched in HGTV paint by Sherwin Williams).  I took a few more days to pick these colors than I did in Alex's room, where I walked into the SW store and picked and bought the paint in 20 minutes or less.  In this case, I did have samples hanging on the wall for a bit.  Neither space is that big so repainting would not be the end of the world.  I should also note that this is the first room I have painted completely on my own. I even did 99% of the prep work. Handy Hubby did do the calking because I don't really want to learn how to do that.

Hard to believe this was a nursery less than 4 weeks ago!

Obviously more to come...


Our next big project...Summer!

Hope you had a great weekend. Honestly, we have had a rough couple of weeks with deaths, funerals, and illness. Having a 2 year old with norovirus (nasty stomach bug) definitely can put a cramp on your weekend plans. We did get some icy snow here on Friday night and Saturday morning so that just made us want to stay in more.  Enough of that... I'm ready for summer, so...

We're going to renovate our screen porch!  I've been thinking and talking about this for ages and we've weighed the pros and cons of doing this project which I am sure everyone does before embarking on something like this. Our porch is sufficient in its current state but needs new screens, a new door, and paint.  As you can see in these pictures, it looks fine on the surface.

But, if you look closely, you'll see the peeling paint on the posts and floor and the stretchy screens. It's pretty much a bandaid right now. During our big renovation we didn't touch the porch and it became a big storage area for our stuff and some construction supplies.  When we bought the house in 2002, we replaced the flat roof which was leaky and saggy. It was our first major project that we hired out. Then, about 6 years ago, we replaced the screens and beefed up the structural supports (some are pretty rotten). The floor hasn't been painted in 10 years and it shows.  We also never fully finished covering the screen staples on the outside, so it looked fine inside but definitely looked unfinished on the outside.  Now, 6 years later the whole porch desperately needs paint, the screens  are sagging again (maybe because they aren't fully stretched anymore), and the floor is a disaster. Add on some major mold and mildew due to a crazy wet late summer and fall, and you have a real mess.

See? Pretty on the inside.  We've done so much work on the rest of our house that this seems like a real blight on the property. Fortunately it looks pretty fine from the street but the view from our neighbors' We thought about just replacing the structure and that didn't really seem worth it - or that much fun!  I had always dreamed about making the porch bigger. At times I considered enclosing the existing porch into a room (many of our neighbors have done this), but we don't really need another room now that we've done the addition.  I also didn't really want to lose my porch. We eat out there most nights in good weather (in D.C. that's any day that is between 70 and 92 degrees!).  The main issue is that when we have anyone else over, the table is not big enough.  It's a 5 person table and that's definitely it. Even 5 is a little cozy.

You may be saying - what about your patio? Yes, we have a great patio but the mosquitos are so large and plentiful they will carry you away.  Remember, Washington was built on a swamp! I'm hoping to work on this over the spring and summer - more on that then.

So, now we're back to the original problem - rotten porch which is a little too small. We thought about extending the foundation to the front and back but there are a lot of mechanicals on both sides which would be a hassle and expensive to move.  We're going for big bang with as few bucks as possible. 

So... the only other thing is to go out. We're hoping to extend the porch 3 feet.  That doesn't seem like a lot and it really isn't a lot but it will make our very rectangular porch much more square. This will hopefully allow for a table for 6 and one extra chair in the sitting area.  This would allow us to have 2 couples or my parents over  or having everyone actually sit at the table when my parents visit.

Since this is a structural project which requires permits and inspections, we hired our architect Kaye Orr to draw up the plans.  In less than a week, she had a survey of our property line done and She already sent the first draft which we commented on. She's going to visit the County offices this week to see what's what with the property line and how far out we can go without getting a variance.  Knock on wood, it all goes smoothly.

More, lots more, to come on this!


Master Bedroom Bedding Updates

You can probably picture my Handy Hubby's eyes rolling as he reads this post.  Pillows on the bed are the bane of his existence.  Of course, I adore pillows on the bed because it makes the cozy and inviting. He shouldn't complain about that, right?

For a while I have been considering adding Euro size pillows to the back of the pillow arrangement. I felt the bed needed a little more height because of the headboard. The issue hasn't been quite as pronounced since I upholstered the headboard and footboard though (more on that project here).

So, here's my updated bedding - new duvet cover at the foot of the bed from the Pottery Barn Outlet (pattern is Sydney Palampore and it's ). On a sad note, the Pottery Barn Outlet in Leesburg, Virginia where I bought these a few weeks ago, is closing next week. {Tears}

And here's a way before of the bedroom...

I've got a few more changes up my sleeve for this room. Might take a couple of weeks to implement since I forced myself into "minimal spending in January so we can spend money on some big stuff." UGH. I hate budgets but it will be worth it when you see what we're planning.

I also added a great magazine basket to the reading corner, also from the Pottery Barn Outlet.

I spent quite a few hours here between Christmas and New Years as I devoured The Hunger Games trilogy. Have you read it? I haven't read anything since coming down from my reading high.  I need some recommendations. (Yes, I've read The Help - loved it too!)