1.29.2014

What Our House REALLY Looks Like

This has been happening to me a lot lately. I'll run into a friend or relative I don't see very often, and they will say something like this:

"I really love reading your blog! It makes me feel ________"

Fill in that blank with any of the following:

"like such a slacker"
"embarrassed about my own house"
"inadequate"

Sometimes they even say things to me like, "Your life seems so perfect," or "I hope you never come see MY house!"

Quite frankly, this really bums me out. It makes me feel like a jerk. I don't want to pretend like our home– or our life in general– is perfect. We have our ups and downs, just like everyone else. We have mess all over the house, just like everyone else.

So then I thought, I'll prove it to them. I'm going to post some photos of the house when it's not staged, not styled, not even cleaned up to look nice. I'm going to post photos of the house as it really looks in normal life. Blog life is not normal life, in case you didn't know!

If you were to drop by our house without notice this afternoon, this is exactly what you would see.

You would ring the front door bell while standing on a doormat that is completely covered in crunchy leaves. ALL THE TIME. The wind blows them right up to our front door, and I never do anything about it. Oops.



When you come in, you would look past the formal dining room and living room (which, admittedly, are never used and therefore aren't messy) to the main focal point, a bright orange shop vac. What can I say, every room needs a pop of color!


Let's go in the office, shall we? The back corner features an empty dog food bag (yes, we buy in bulk), a bright green storage bin full of dog food that I'm too lazy to put back on the bottom shelf, a mess of internet cords and a stack of random photo frames I don't know what to do with. Is that a stick on the bottom shelf? I have no idea why that's there. Oh well.


In the other corner, we have the dog chair. You can't see in this photo, but it's covered in dirt and dog hair. It's gross.

The floor is completely scratched up in this room. I don't think it's salvageable, so I choose to ignore it. There is also a lovely haze of dog hair covering the scratches. This room is photo shoot ready, for sure. 


That yellow towel is used to wipe mud off the dogs' feet when they come in from the backyard after a rain storm. It is literally encrusted with dried, caked mud. It's been sitting there three weeks – at least. I'm sorry. I fail at cleanliness.

In the other corner, we have a random stool and a bag of crafting supplies I haven't bothered to unpack. I just plopped them there a week ago, and they haven't moved ever since. 
 
 
What's that? Are those some random silver Christmas ornaments on my shelf? How lovely.


Here we have the most beautiful item in our home, a baby gate. I hate that we have a baby gate and we don't even have a baby! It quarantines the dogs in this room when we leave, but man-oh-man is it UGLY. Also, our beloved dogs have scratched up the wood trim. Awesome


Yep, the back porch is also covered in leaves all the time. And don't even bother stepping into the actual backyard area because you know I never pick up the dog poop. Nope. Step at your own risk. 


 Let's peek at the kitchen and den, shall we? 


Sometimes I get to work from home. And when I do, I'm surrounded by clutter while I work on the kitchen island.  Paperwork, pens, a highlighter, some junk mail, the usual. Over by the fridge we have some trash and an empty Gatorade bottle. The green and orange really works with my color scheme.


Another computer, some coupons, my Nook, a couple bananas, a mess of cords... And you should know that cake stand is covered in cookie crumbs. I just let it sit like that for weeks without washing it. Nice.


Next, we have an empty blue cup in the den and a throw blanket that is not exactly thrown "artfully." Sometimes it's just... thrown. And rumpled. 


Hidden away behind the kitchen is the laundry room. I'm in the middle of a few loads, so it looks like this. The husband calls it a war zone. It's me vs. the dirty clothes pile. I will win, goshdarnit!


One step to the left leads you into our private sanctuary, the master bedroom. Isn't it such a sanctuary right now?


We haven't had a bed skirt since we moved in, oh, seven months ago. I keep waiting for us to buy a real upholstered bed so that we don't need one. In the meantime, the bright blue box spring shows through. That's ignoring that fact that we only make the bed about 50% of the time, and today is not one of those days. 

On the opposite wall, another snapshot of my losing battle with my own laundry. You can hardly see my gorgeous horse photo when I have that junky pile of clothes there, which is 85% of the time. The husband loves that about me, my ability to cover empty surfaces in my clothing items. ;)


Want to see something really gross? I'm embarrassed, I really am. Check out the dog hair situation on the bench at the end of the bed. Both dogs like to use it as a back scratching post. I mean, EWW. I can't believe I'm sharing this on the world wide interwebs. 


Back on the other side of the house, we have a hoarding station/home office that doubles as a guest bedroom. The husband pays the bills in here while surrounded by my thrift store treasures. He loves it.


There's another beautiful room down the hall, too. It comes with a Christmas candle and some dead flowers. I know, I'm the queen of hospitality. 


I have no idea why the lamp is on the bed, but I guarantee you it won't be moved until we have more guests come to visit. Then I'll be motivated to place it on the bedside table where it rightfully belongs.

Now you've seen how our house looks like on a normal day. So the next time you see me, please don't say anything about how this blog makes you feel bad about your own house. That makes me feel terrible and like a fraud.

The reality is, I just like to buy cheap things and use them to decorate our house. That doesn't mean I'm an impeccable homemaker with picture perfect interiors all the time. In fact, the husband will vouch for you that I'm pretty awful at cleaning, cooking, sewing, laundry and all other things that make someone a domestic maven. I can. however, decorate and doodle. That's about it!

Phew, feels good to get that off my chest! #NoJudgmentZone


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1.27.2014

DIY Dresser Makeover

As part of our ongoing master bedroom transformation, we decided to give our old Craigslist dresser a facelift. While I loved the shape and lines of the dresser, I was no longer feeling the shabby chic vibe and multicolored look. I wanted something a bit more sleek and sophisticated for our room. Plus, the off-white color was not working with our new bright white built-in wardrobes. You can see a small peek of the dresser in this photo below. See how the beige kind of clashes with the white?


We busted out our awesome Graco paint sprayer and gave it a coat of Valspar Hematite, which is basically my new favorite color. It's a beautiful deep grey with navy undertones that we also used on our front door makeover and laundry room door.


I ordered some knobs and pulls from Home Depot, but when they showed up they were two very different finishes. That was a little frustrating because the knobs and pulls were the same finish and same brand, but they didn't match at all. I ended up going to Hobby Lobby to find a knob that would work well with the pulls from Home Depot, and I was pretty happy with how it came out. I like the vintage vibe that the knobs bring to the dresser and how the white ceramic teardrops tie in the white from the new cabinets.


See those recessed lights in the ceiling in the last two photos? Those are brand new! The husband installed those recently to help us get better light in this room, which only had the overhead light on the fan and the two small bedside sconces.

We are both obsessed with these LED recessed lights from Home Depot. I'm normally anti- LED because of the blue-ish light they give off, but these are warm white. We've now installed them in our kitchen, hallway, pantry and master bedroom. They are energy efficient and give off a really nice bright light, plus they have a sleek design that looks much better than our older pot lights. All in all, we really recommend them!

So, those are the some of the projects we've been knocking off our list lately. What have you been up to? I apologize for the relative silence on the blog last week; I had a super busy week at work and simply couldn't find time to blog. Things have settled down now so I'll have a few posts for you this week! Thanks for sticking with me. :)




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1.20.2014

Budget Friendly Guest Bedroom Makeover

When we moved into this house, we inherited a pink and green bedroom that previously housed two twin girls. It was fine for two little girls, but we were not feeling it– at all. I most definitely wasn't feeling the dark brown window blinds with the pink and green walls! Not a good look.


We let it sit that way for a couple of months while my mother subtly dropped hints about how desperately that room needed to be painted. (She was the main occupant of this guest room those first few months, and apparently the pink and green did nothing for her.)

One day I was sifting through the paint reject pile at Lowe's when I spotted a deep teal color for $2. Suddenly, a vision for the guest room was born!

Although I love neutrals and all shades of grey, it was exciting to step outside my comfort zone and some fun with color in this room. I wish I could tell you what color of paint we used, but the reject pile doesn't always specify the color choice. Whatever it is, I really like it!

I would normally advocate against placing a bed in front of a window, but this room didn't give us many layout options. That window looks directly at the fence between our house and the neighbors, so it doesn't have a nice view. After trying the bed on each wall, I settled on this location with some graphic curtains (a clearance purchase from our local West Elm) as a backdrop.


To deck out the rest of the room, I simply shopped our house. These are the moments when my thrifting habit comes in handy. Both the bedside crate ($5) and task lamp ($7) are from the thrift store, as is the bright floral art ($25) on the adjacent wall. 


Opposite the bed is our old sofa table, decked out with two of my mom's old lamps. (I love hand-me-downs, don't you?) The round mirror was a thrift store buy ($10) and the rectangular mirror was left for trash pickup on my neighbor's curb, so I grabbed it for myself! I like to give our guests reading material and dinner mints, so those treats get placed on top of the table.

The striped fabric boxes are from the latest warehouse sale at Wisteria, and I like the pattern they bring into the room.

You may notice that our trim in this room is a yellow-y white. Trust us, we don't like the trim color. We're waiting for the right moment to have all of the trim in the house painted a brighter white, but for now we have to live with this beige color. At least it looks better with dark teal than it did with pink and green! We're also anxious to update the gold doorknobs and hardware, but that will also come later.



Since I was able to shop our own stuff, I only spent $2 (for a gallon of paint) on this room makeover. Not too shabby, right? 

What do you think– are you surprised with my color choice?

Additional sources:
Bed: Ikea
Throw: Dillards
Bench: Marshall's (reupholstered by me a couple of years ago)
Sofa table: Inherited from the previous owner at our first home
Duvet: Ikea
Yellow pillows: thrifted
Grey center pillow: came with our new sofa



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1.17.2014

Kitchen Upgrades that Improve Resale Value

The husband and I have recently started talking about what upgrades we want to do in the kitchen. I want to be very careful about the money we spend in this room because I don't know if this is our forever house, and any investments we make need to be worthwhile for resale. It's not the most romantic way to go about it, but we are nothing if not practical. (Most of the time, anyway. We have our moments.)

Personally, I'm concerned that some of the Pinterest kitchen trends I like are going to look dated in a few years. I like two-tone cabinets, but is that just a passing fad? Do other people care as much as I do about the back splash? What about appliances that aren't flush with the cabinets, like ours– is that a deal breaker for some people?

So when Zillow reached out to me about collaborating for some content on this blog, I was really excited to get their advice on those questions that have been percolating in my head for a while. I specifically asked them if they could give their best tips on smart kitchen improvements because who would be better to weigh in on that than a powerhouse real estate company?

Hit us with your best advice, Zillow!

***

6 Kitchen Upgrades that Appeal to Homebuyers 

By Tali Wee of Zillow


The kitchen is the heart of the home, and prospective homebuyers often view the kitchen as a make or break deal on a property. If the home needs some sprucing up to attract house hunters, a guaranteed draw is an upgraded kitchen. 


Consider these six simple and cost-effective kitchen upgrades to charm them into making an offer.

Ample Lighting

Fluorescent bulbs create less appealing lighting which is also less energy efficient. The older style lighting has a tendency to date even the most modern kitchen. Install recessed lighting to brighten the atmosphere and provide ample, unobtrusive lighting. Further, install task lighting under upper cabinets to shed light directly on the kitchen counter workspace.

Efficient Design

More so than stainless steel surfaces, effective placement of appliances and counter space is the latest trend in modern kitchen design. As recipes spread across the internet like wildfire, people are spending more time in their kitchens preparing their own culinary masterpieces. While a chef-grade kitchen may be overkill, a smart configuration is definitely a good idea for all cooking skill levels. Have a large kitchen with no center island? Consider a mobile cart with wheel stoppers. Even the smallest additions, such as a rack for hanging pots and pans or a hidden cutting board, expand functionality and help homebuyers envision working and living in a new home.

New Flooring

Linoleum floors buckling from water damage or peeling away at the base of walls are not going to impress shoppers looking for a new home. A great investment for the kitchen is hardwood flooring. Consider a high-quality surface protectant for inevitable wet messes and spills. Ceramic tile is more durable than hardwood and doesn’t scratch as easily, so it’s a good option for families with small children or pets. If real hardwood and ceramic tile falls outside of budget range, consider installing a laminate floor like Pergo to achieve the same look and longevity at a lower price. 

Open Floor Plan

An open floor layout is important to many prospective homebuyers, especially on the first floor. Parents are better able to keep a close eye on their kids and couples can entertain guests more comfortably. Consider knocking down non-essential internal walls that block the kitchen off from living and dining spaces. Not only do upgrades create fluidity in the home, it also makes the kitchen appear larger. 

Refinished Cabinets

Even the newest kitchens can look out-of-date if paint is chipping from the cabinets. An easy do-it-yourself project of painting or refinishing kitchen cabinets gives older spaces a whole new feel. Cover up builders-grade oak or ‘50s-style pink paint before putting the house on the market. Consider classic colors such as white or beige rather than a trendy shiny black lacquer. Neutral matte colors tend to stand the test of time and collaborate well with most home styles.  

Updated Countertops

House hunters today expect high-end finishes throughout homes – especially when it comes to kitchen countertops. This may scare some homeowners into thinking they have to splurge on high-end slabs in order to get their homes noticed. However, there are many reasonable alternatives to granite just as striking, such as Carrara marble. Although marble is only slightly less expensive, its sleek, classic design exudes luxury. More durable and cost-effective options include engineered quartz and soapstone. Avoid trendy alternatives such as concrete and stainless steel, as their unique style doesn’t appeal to the masses.

Don’t let a dated, lackluster kitchen turn off otherwise eager shoppers. Use these six steps to encourage interested buyers as soon as the house hits the market.

***

So now that I've read what they have to say, I'm thinking about what we can do in our kitchen. We haven't done much to it since we moved in except for painting the mustard yellow walls grey. That was a massive improvement, but I'm itching to make some more upgrades that will make it feel more like "us."


We also switched out the white appliances for stainless steel, so that looks better now. I guess I never took photos of it? Oops! And one of the things we have done that agrees with Zillow's advice is upgrade the lighting. The husband installed a large white ceiling fan with lights to replace the ceiling fan (without lights) that was there before. He switched out the pot lights for these new LED recessed lights from Home Depot, and those additions really brighten up the space.

For the next step, I think we are going to focus on refinishing our cabinets. The off-white color isn't bad, but the quality of the paint job is really, really poor. It's chipping in certain places, and the inside of the cabinet doors look pretty terrible. Plus I think I'd prefer a crisp white color like our den built-ins since the room opens up into the den.


I'm also hopping to change some of our cabinets to have glass fronts. Do you think that's a good idea? Is it something that would appeal to you as a future buyer of this house? Decisions, decisions, decisions...

I want to thank Zillow for weighing in on this topic right before we begin our kitchen projects. I'm grateful for the advice from a company whose website I used constantly when we were house hunting a year ago. We all need to be smart with our costly improvements (and we all know the kitchen can be VERY costly), so these tips are hugely helpful!

Is anyone else taking on a kitchen makeover/upgrade/refresh anytime soon?

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1.13.2014

Group Therapy: Decorating Dilemmas

We all have them– those totally awkward spaces in our home/apartment/living space that we have no idea what to do with. It could be a strange nook, crazy high ceilings, crazy low ceilings, our other half's ugly stereo equipment, terrible etc. We stare at them and try a few options and quickly get frustrated because nothing looks right. I can't be the only one that goes through this, right?

I've had a couple of friends reach out to me with decorating dilemmas lately, and I thought we'd do some group therapy on the blog. We'll present the dilemma and then chat about how we might solve the problem. Sound good?

First up, we have my friend's large blank wall. What is it that is so intimidating about a large blank wall? My theory is that the canvas is just TOO blank. Sometimes having too many choices is completely overwhelming and leaves us paralyzed, afraid to pick the wrong option. Am I right?


The wall we're discussing today is the grey wall above the recliner. Pretend the recline is gone because she told me they were getting rid of it.  So it looks like we need a good way to fill the space above the sofa.

I asked her a couple more questions:

Where do you like to shop for home stuff? 
Figuring out which store I'd like to furnish from would be difficult, as I've always shopped so randomly and according to our budget. 

How would you describe your style?
I'd say the living room is modern (with the white leather couch) and crisp. We have all black furniture (not in the photo). I'm going for a simple look, but I still want it to be pretty. 

She also shared this pretty DIY project with me that she really liked and said she was "obsessed with white."

OK, let's put our heads together on this one...

Idea #1
My first thought was that a mirror might look really nice. If you've followed this blog for any amount of time, you know I'm a big fan of mirrors. It looks like the natural light is coming from the opposite wall in this photo, so placing a really big mirror or a series of mirrors on that wall might bounce more light and make the room look much bigger. 

If my friend is on a budget and is comfortable with her DIY skills, it would be really pretty to do one of these DIY window pane mirrors using Dollar Store mirrors. Painted white, perhaps? Here's a great tutorial from The Lettered Cottage



If she wants something a bit more funky, how about a cool display with these stick on mirror tiles? One could just draw a straight line down the center of the wall with a level and use that as the starting point for placing the tiles. I think it has the potential to be very cool. (It looks like they sell these mosaic mirror tiles at craft stores.)


Another easy mirrored option is to take a large floor mirror, which you can find fairly easily at Home Goods, and turn it on the horizontal. Then it would take up most of that wall and reflect the natural light.

Idea #2
Photo bomb! I have been in love with this image for so long, and something like this would be SO cool in this space. I happen to know this friend is into social media and probably has some fantastic Instagrams she could use to personalize this project.

Pinterest
And here's an even easier, more casual way to accomplish this look:

Pinterest

Alright, those are my first thoughts. What do you guys think she should do? Fire away in the comments. Let's help each other out, ladies!

If you have a decorating dilemma you want to submit to our {very accepting} group therapy sessions, shoot me your conundrum at jgrantham106@gmail.com!
 
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1.07.2014

Oh Deer: Upgrading Thrift Store Artwork

A couple months ago I spotted a ton of huge paintings at our thrift store. Some company must have donated a bunch of them all in one load.


I really liked how big the canvases were and knew I could paint over them. Any resourceful artist knows that canvases this large are hard to come by unless you make them yourself (which is a pain in the butt). However, each one was $100. Out of my budget!

I kept my eye on them every time I visited, and my patience payed off when they marked them down to $25. I knew that was an excellent price for a 6' x 4' canvas, so I pounced.

Just for scale, check out how big it was compared to my pear painting!


The husband put some white primer in our paint sprayer to coat some furniture, and I asked him to spray the canvas white as well. Pretty soon I had a perfect blank canvas! And then it sat in our spare room for another couple of months until I finally worked up some creative mojo...

I was finally feeling artistic this past weekend, so I decided it was the perfect time to tackle this painting. I don't have an easel this big, so I propped it up on the fireplace hearth while we watched college football.

I knew I wanted to paint a deer, so I found a beautiful image online to use as a point of reference. Out came my paint brushes and three colors of paint– white, beige and black. The photo I was working from was black and white, and I knew I wanted to keep my painting in those same shades.

I asked the husband to document my progress with his phone so you could see how the painting evolved as it went along. It took about 3 hours from start to finish.

 


It wasn't perfect, but I was still happy with it. It felt good to paint again! It's nice to flex my artistic muscle every once in a while to make sure it still works, you know?


The living room was feeling lonely once we removed the Christmas tree, so I had just the perfect spot for this new artwork. Our resident deer was happy to pose in front of Bambi for me, of course.
 

So the next time you see some ugly artwork at your thrift store, try to ignore the artwork and focus instead on the materials. Is it a nice, gallery-wrapped canvas (canvas wrapped around the full frame and stapled in the back, out of view)? Does the painting/photo come with a mat and decent frame? All of those things are reusable and salvagable. You can always discard the existing art and make your own, or frame something you'd like better than what it comes with. It's a great way to save money.

Now I have a big statement piece for a mere $25 (and three hours of my time). Not too shabby!


(And if you're new here, art is one of my little hobbies. I don't do it that often, but you can see some of my other paintings and murals on my artwork tab here.)

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