5.22.2018

Working From Home

Do you work from home? I know more and more jobs are offering the option to work remotely, and I'm fortunate to be able to work from home three days per week. That means I only have to brave Dallas traffic twice per week, which is amazing, but working from home poses its own challenges.

When the babies were born, I gave up my home office so they could have a play room. It was 100% worth it, but I soon noticed that I was feeling more stressed and irritable on the days when I worked from home. I was doing most of my work from the bar stools at our kitchen peninsula, which meant I was trying to keep up with my job while sitting in the middle of a messy kitchen all day. Dirty dishes in my sink. Crumbs all over the kitchen table. High chairs covered in toddler mess. That's not the best environment to work in, and it was constantly reminding me that I was behind on my chores, behind on my emails, basically just behind on everything in my life. No wonder I was irritable!

I realized the easiest thing to do would be to take one of our guest rooms and make it into a legitimate home office so that I can separate from my home life and focus on my job, even when I'm working from home. We created a simple, clutter-free work space (no dirty dishes!) that suits both of us, and my teleworking days have been much more pleasant!

  

This room is really hard to photograph because it gets bright light from the windows but also has dark walls, so an amateur photographer like me has no idea how to handle those challenges. But I figure you can get the general idea from these photos.

We painted the walls Hematite by Valspar, which is one of our favorite colors. We also used it on our front door and shutters, plus a few pieces of accent furniture. I would describe it as a very deep gray with some hints of navy. It goes with everything!

It creates a perfect backdrop for some simple art, like my deer painting and the And Then Some sign Scott made to honor my dad. 

On the other wall we have a giant magnetic white board that Scott installed a couple years ago. If you don't know, my husband is a high school football coach and he used to use this board a lot to draw up plays and write out practice plans. Now that he has all of the same white boards in his office at work, I've taken over the white board with my own to-do list. We also hung up our former jerseys behind the door because they hold some really precious memories for me.  


Opposite from the desk, we found this mid-century cabinet on Facebook. It's the perfect size and has exactly what I wanted: concealed storage for office supplies. The front flap actually folds down and makes a desk, and it's a great surface for my to display the family photos and felt board messages that make me smile when I'm stressed about work.


It's a simple step, but creating a dedicated workspace has really improved my days when I work from home. My desk faces the windows that overlook the backyard, so I have a great view of our backyard makeover (the synthetic grass is bright and green all year round!). We have squirrels, birds and other animals that frequent the creek behind our yard, so things are always catching my eye out the window and brightening my day. One day I even undertook a fox rescue mission with our local animal control because I saw the most beautiful fox limping through the creek with a metal trap on its leg.

Here are a couple of things that really help me stay productive when I'm working from home:

  1. Create a dedicated work space. It doesn't have to be a separate room, but I think the idea should be to separate yourself from your chores so you can focus on the task at hand, just like you would if you drove into an office. 
  2.  Put on shoes. I know this sounds so silly, but I've always felt that my day doesn't start until I put on shoes. And house slippers don't count!
  3. Ignore your chores. Nothing distracts me from my work like "just putting in a load of laundry" or "quickly taking out the trash." It has been such a relief  to allow myself to simply focus on my job instead of trying to multitask between my home life and work life. If I simply MUST put in a load of laundry, I save it for my lunch break.
What are your best tips for working from home?








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4.18.2018

Semi DIY Live Edge Coffee Table

Back when we were redecorating the formal living room, one of the main pieces I had a hard time figuring out was the coffee table. We had been using a stainless steel trunk as our coffee table before we redecorated, but you can imagine how dirty and snotty a shiny table looks when you have twin toddlers. We needed something with a more forgiving surface. The other thing was that was giving me problems was our sofa because it's really tall and makes normal coffee tables look disproportionate. Once I realized we were working with strange proportions, I figured we might be better off doing a custom table.


I've always loved the look of a live edge table, so I had that in my mind right away. I started a deep internet search to see what was available, and there were quite a few to choose from. They are offered at several stores, including World Market, but none of them were exactly what we needed in terms of length or height. Plus, the husband was craving a project and I knew he would enjoy working on his own live edge table.

I was poking around Facebook Marketplace one day, as I do on a regular basis, and I came across a listing in Fort Worth that was getting rid of quite a few slabs of raw, unfinished red oak. Apparently they had a tree fall down during a storm, and then had a company slice it up into slabs so they could "do something cool with it." This big stack of slabs sat in their garage for over a year before the wife had enough and decided to sell a few of them on Facebook. 

Scott drove across the Metroplex to Fort Worth to check out the slabs, and he ended up buying four 3" thick slabs of red oak - two long ones and two shorter pieces - for $200. We felt like it was a great deal. He brought the different options home, and we propped them on top of our existing coffee table to look at scale. As you can see, they had a long way to go before they could resemble a coffee table.


This is the slab we liked best for the coffee table, but it needed some serious work.


Our first problem with this particular slab was that it was a little bit warped down the center of the wood, so it needed to be planed to be a flat surface. Scott actually has his own wood planer, but it's not big enough to accommodate a slab this wide. This piece was about 5 ft long, almost 32 inches wide and 3 inches thick. 

We called around to a bunch of local lumber yards to see if they could plane this slab for us, but it was still too wide for most planers. We were striking out left and right. 

Finally I was looking through Craiglist and found a guy who was building and selling his own live edge tables. I took a stab in the dark and sent him an email, showing him pictures of our slab and asking how much he would charge to plane and polish it so that we could make it into a table. 

He was super responsive and said he would plane the slab, round the edges and seal the wood for $100. ONE HUNDRED BUCKS. We were sold. You may not be familiar with the market for that type of work, but we knew that was an amazing price. This poor guy had no idea how much work it was going to be when he gave us that price (as he told us later). He was used to working with cedar, which is a much softer wood. He certainly didn't realize he was going to be spending hours and hours working with a very, very hard slab of oak. 

He told us he used an angle grinder to make the slab level, rounded all of the hard edges with a sander and then sealed it with clear lacquer. He soaked the slab with water to make it softer as he was hand-planing it, but even that was a challenge because he was working in a very cold garage so the slab was practically an ice chunk, making it even harder to work with. Poor guy. 

You may be wondering why my woodworker husband didn't try to do this part of the process by himself. The answer is that with the twins at such a demanding age, he doesn't have all day to putter around in his garage anymore. (Sorry, mommy needs help!) We have to pick and choose his projects wisely based on what he actually has time to do, and he does not have time to grind a slab of oak down by hand. It was an easy decision to outsource, and hearing everything the guy had to do to make the slab work for us, I'm really glad we did!

Things got a little weird with the guy we hired, and we were a little worried about whether he'd finish the project. That's always a risk you take when you pick someone off a site like Craiglist. You hope for the best, but you know it has a chance to be a bust. Luckily for us, this particular guy really came through and delivered a beautiful slab of wood back to us only four days after we gave it to him. (We actually felt so bad about how much work he put into it that we not only paid him extra, we also gave him our other long slab so he could make something cool out of it.)


At this point we had a really beautiful, level, polished slab of wood - complete with rounded, toddler-friendly edges - but we still had to figure out the right legs to actually make it into a table.

I searched high and low for the right legs. You would be surprised how many amazing options exist, from wood to iron to steel and everything in between. The legs really are a big part of the puzzle because they can completely change the presence of the table. 

Looking at the other pieces we had in the room, I knew we already had a sofa with chunky, thick legs, a side table with a big base and a big ol' slab of wood for the top of the table. The last thing we needed was a huge, heavy base. 

That's how we ended up with these hairpin legs. They are very strong, but they are visually light. I was especially smitten with the twist at the bottom that makes them slightly more feminine and interesting than a normal hairpin leg. It was nice to be able to choose whatever height I wanted. We went with 18" legs, which makes our coffee table slightly taller than normal, but proportional to our slightly taller than normal sofa.

The last step was for Scott to apply the legs to the slab. Voila, a live edge coffee table!



The table is perfect for our needs. It was quite a hassle, but it was worth it.  


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3.26.2018

Rugs + Toddlers + Dogs

You know the saying, "You're the reason we can't have nice things?"

We have many reasons why we can't have nice things. Their names are Evan, Hope, Rory and Shiner, and they are two toddlers and two dogs who will destroy anything they can get their hands/paws on.

Thanks to these tiny destroyers, we have burned through a lot of rugs. Because I don't like hemorrhaging money on nice rugs, we have a very practical rug philosophy. Every rug must be heavily patterned so that it hides small blemishes, and it must be affordable. Really affordable.

So when it came to redecorating our formal living room, one of my first purchases was this faux-cowhide rug from Rugs USA.


I loved the way it looked and the way it hid blemishes right away, but the only con was that it felt pretty thin underfoot. One reason that's a major bummer is because my twin toddler mom life means I'm sitting on the ground all the time, plus the kids are falling on the ground all the time. Having a thin rug isn't much better than sitting or falling right on the hardwood floors.

I mentioned to Scott that we should buy a rug pad for this room, and he was not convinced. He just felt like the cheap rug pads aren't worth their salt - they get all bunchy and don't keep the rug in place - and that the expensive ones were, well, expensive. It seemed like a lot of money to spend on something you hide underneath your rug. 

My problems were solved when Rug Pad USA reached out and asked if I wanted to try their rug pad. Um, YES! I told them it was the perfect opportunity to convert my husband to the rug pad camp. Spoiler alert: I was right.

Within days, the Cadillac of rug pads was waiting by our front door. It was the perfect size for our 9x12 rug and it instantly made the rug feel so much more cushioned underfoot. My thin, affordable rug suddenly felt quite luxurious.

The other day my friend came over, stepped on the rug and said, "It feels so soft!" The rug has a soft texture, but it's the new pad underneath that makes it feel really plush. I could tell a big difference, especially when I walked on it with bare feet.



It's not the sexiest purchase you'll ever make, but these are the main reasons we now believe a quality rug pad is a worthwhile investment:

  1. You may spill something and ruin your rug, but your rug pad will live on. Just put a new (thin, affordable) rug on top of it. You can get a lot of mileage out of it, giving you a good return on your investment. (Probably a lot more mileage than the pretty rugs that cost a lot more than the pad!)
  2.  It's softer for kids.We play in this room a lot. The kids have accidentally fallen off of that super tall sofa. Oops. Does it make us feel better than they are landing on a rug with a generous foam cushion underneath? Of course! As a parent, increased peace of mind is priceless.
  3. It's softer for adults. One day our friends came over with their two toddlers, and all four adults sat on this rug and formed a human jungle gym. It's true what they say - kids love it when you get down on their level. We find ourselves sitting on the ground very frequently. Do we need a padding underneath our rug when we sit there? No, not necessarily. But having sat on this rug before and after we had the premium rug pad underneath, I can attest that it's a much nicer experience for my bum when I get to sit on a nice cushion!
  4. It protects your floors. Wood floors can be fragile, and we all know they aren't cheap. Some rugs are pretty scratchy underneath, and it's nice to have a layer protecting the wood.
  5. It keeps your rug in place. This was my main beef with other rug pads I've tried (the super cheap ones) - that they didn't actually deliver on the promise to keep my rug in one spot. The rug pad we chose - Superior Lock 1/4" is made to be both cushioned and grippy. Trust me, your rug will not slide around with this thing underneath!
 

One last thing. Do you love those beautiful kilim rugs you see on all the design blogs? Me too. One reason I have never purchased one is because those I have seen in person are relatively thin, so I just picture them sliding all over the floor and driving me insane. Having a quality rug pad would be a game changer that would make those rugs a lot more functional in everyday life. 

Basically, a nice rug pad is one of those things I never knew I needed. And now that I have it, it would be hard to go back. It's kind of like having a rear-view camera in my car. I always think about how I lived for years without it, but now I can't imagine driving without it. 

PS. I'll be back soon to explain how we made the live edge coffee table. It's one of my favorite things in the room and it has an interesting backstory. Stay tuned...



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