Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Current State of the Living and Dining Room

This is the first in a "current state of" series about the various rooms in our house and how they look now that we've lived here for a few months. These are by no means "after" pictures, but we can call it progress. Eventually we will be ripping out the wall in between the dining area and kitchen and completely renovating the kitchen, so this is phase one of decorating the first floor. 

It was incredibly difficult to photograph this room so don't judge me too harshly on that front, I'm still learning how to use my DSLR. 

The room is challenging in that it is long and pretty narrow, and it needs to accommodate both a living and a dining area. I used rugs and a buffet with shelving above to separate the spaces. The u-shaped seating area in the living area further separates the spaces and provides plenty of seating in the small space. 

In terms of style, I've always wanted a home that feels classic and collected. I love when someone's house not only speaks to their style but the life they've lived in it. My taste can run a little overly-feminine and I tried to be mindful of that while designing a space for a man too. Budget played a major role in some decisions, and I'll get to more of that when I touch on the various pieces. 

The living room rug is an 8x10 Safavieh rug from Wayfair. I searched high and low for a vintage rug for this space but just couldn't find the right combination of color, size, and price so I finally gave up and started looking at new rugs. I selected this one because it has the vibrant colors you see in older rugs but trends a little more red/blue than some of the other colorful ethnic-style rugs on the market. It hides dirt really well and is stain-resistant, both of which are super important since this rug is right inside our main entry. 

We went with the Ikea Stocksund sofa in Nolhaga grey-beige for the sofa and I would totally buy it again. It's the perfect scale for our small space and I find it to be plenty comfortable. It also hides dog hair pretty well and is easy to clean with loose back and seat cushions. 

I bought the navy blue velvet chair on One Kings Lane when they had a sale recently. It's by Skyline Furniture and they sell a version of it at Target and Wayfair, but the upholstery choices seem to vary based on the vendor (One Kings Lane was the only vendor selling it in Navy Velvet). Honestly, the quality of the chair is not where I had hoped it would be. I didn't expect very high quality but the seat cushion is so uncomfortable and I always feel like I'm falling forward in it. The fabric feels super cheap, but it's holding up so far. It's really too bad because I love the shape of the chair, but I definitely wouldn't buy it again, at least not for a space that we use all the time. 

The two chrome chairs were vintage purchases from Chartreuse & Co. (a barn sale in Frederick, Maryland). They are actually little larger than I'd like but since we've used them both with friends over I'm planning to keep them there. Wayyyy down the road I may put one in the eventual nursery because they have arms and rock like a rocking chair but take up very little space.

The "media stand" is a vintage piece I bought on Craigslist. I think it's a buffet but I'm not really sure. I absolutely love the lines and the beautiful wood grain on it, and it fits on that wall perfectly. The coffee table is part of a set of marble-top tables I bought on Craigslist, finally ending my search for a marble coffee table after all these years. We are using the other two tables as nightstands in our bedroom. Eventually I would like to paint the base of the coffee table black or graphite, but I haven't had a chance to get to it yet. 

The buffet between the living and dining areas is also vintage from Craigslist. I would've put my gold Ikea Vittsjo unit in that spot but we really needed some closed storage for serving platters, bowls, cheeseboards, and other fun goodies we got as wedding presents. To visually divide the two spaces and provide a spot for some pretty things, we hung the Ikea shelves over the buffet. 

The rug in the dining room is an indoor-outdoor rug from Target (no longer available). It was pretty affordable and we will probably go with something else when we redo the kitchen but it totally works for now. The table, which is actually table 2.0, was a steal of a find at Chartreuse and Company for $35. It fits the space SO MUCH better than our previous table and has two leafs stored in it to add some space when we entertain. The chairs are antiques from my grandparents' house and I would actually like to get a set of four that match, but I am patiently waiting for the Craigslist gods to deliver me the perfect set (these chairs will then find other homes in the house or my parents' house). 

So that's the living/dining room...for now at least. Stay tuned for more updates about the other spaces in the house!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

New House Tour

It's been well over a year since I've written anything here but I've decided it's time to revisit this little blog of mine. I'll get into my long break from blogging eventually, but for now I just wanted pop in with an update.

2015 has been a pretty big year over here. I earned my MA in interior design in May and we closed on a house the next morning. The boy and I got married in late June and moved out of his parents' basement (where we lived for about a year) into the new house after our honeymoon. If you even remotely follow me on Instagram you know that we adopted our goofy walker coonhound, Fred, in July. I got to spend a few weeks at home with Fred before starting a new job in August working for a residential design+build firm in Alexandria. It's been a wonderfully busy year: graduate degree, new house, wedding, honeymoon, new dog, new job. I really don't know how I got this lucky but life is good and I am grateful for it.

For today's post I thought I'd give you a quick "before" tour of the new house. The place is modest at barely over 1,000 square feet so the tour is a pretty quick one. The front yard has a little landscaping and I'd like to do a big overhaul of it eventually but for now it's low on our list of priorities. This picture was taken after we let the grass grow a little too high during the final wedding countdown weeks...whoops.

The first floor has the living/dining area, kitchen, a laundry/utility/storage space and a door into the back yard. The hardwoods are original and were hidden under carpet for many years. They were refinished right before the house went on the market and are in pretty good shape. I love that they aren't a pre-finished style and that the stain is a natural color. The finish hides dirt pretty well and appears to hold up to the wear and tear or a dog slipping and sliding on it.

The main living area has space for a seating area and dining room table.
You can't see it in this photo but there is a nice little coat closet off the stair landing. 
The nice big window in front gets great light...when we actually have the shade open. The shade can open from the bottom up or top down and we have it open at the top most of the time for privacy and to keep Fred from getting too amped up by anything outside. 
The kitchen isn't original but it's definitely old...like, doesn't have a dishwasher old. Many of the houses in the neighborhood have been renovated to add a half or three-quarter bath on the first level and we plan to do the same at some point. We're hoping that kitchen and laundry/utility/storage area will get a complete overhaul sometime next year.

See that range hood? It's plugged into the outlet on the wail near the sink, along with the stove. That silver thing on the wall is the original vent for the stove. It's essentially just a fan in the wall with a cover on it but it actually works pretty well. 
No matter what I do this kitchen never looks clean. 
This is the storage/utility area with an ancient washer and dryer. Many of our neighbors have a bathroom at the very end of this nook, with a door opening onto the dining area. 
Three locks on a door with a big window on it. Once upon a time this neighborhood was pretty rough. It's much better than it was 10 years ago but still has a little ways to go. 
The second floor has two decent-sized bedrooms and one tiny bedroom. One of the things that sold us was that the upstairs is configured for three bedrooms while many of the other houses in our price range/target locations had two upstairs and one in the basement. We realized that if we plan to stay here for 5-7 years, three bedrooms on the same floor would allow us to have two kids without a newborn and toddler having to share a room. Not that kids are anywhere in the immediate future, we were just thinking about farther down the road.

We are currently using the tiny bedroom for an office (aka storage area) and the second extra bedroom as a guest room/second TV watching room.

Tiny bedroom/current office
Second bedroom/guest room 
Our master bedroom is on the front of the house and gets a lot of light. We leave the shades open at the top so we can get good morning sun (or what little we have at 7:00 am right now). 
The second floor also has the only bathroom, complete with the original black and white tile and an intriguing skylight that opens and serves as the only vent in the space.

Eventually we will redo this bathroom but it is not a priority. I actually really like the tile but it is old and dingy. I'll likely replace it with something very similar. 
Our back yard isn't huge but it's large enough for a patio and some gardening space. The fence is new and this photo was taken when we began taking down our deck, but I'll discuss that more in a later post.

This deck was so small that it was basically useless so we decided to take it apart. 
I mentioned buying the house because of the three-bedroom setup and kids down the road earlier. That was really the hardest part of house hunting for us, finding a house in our price range that felt like it suited our lifestyle now and our lifestyle 5-7 years down the road. I think we managed to do it. Although the house is definitely small, it's configured to work for us for just long enough. I really love our neighborhood and know the house is a great investment. We are a $10-$15 Uber ride to all our favorite nightlife spots and can get to some fun neighborhoods like Old Town, Alexandria in 10 minutes. We can easily walk into Del Ray, a charming neighborhood in Alexandria with a thriving main street, and get dinner or take Fred along to pick up some frozen custard and a puppy pop at our favorite dessert spot. And a Metro station is planned to be built about a mile from our house...fingers crossed, it happens before we move!

It's safe to say that we are loving this little life we've built for ourselves so far and we're looking forward to what the future holds...especially a new kitchen.

I'll be back with an update about what changes we've made since we moved in but until then, here's a Fred picture because that's all I take right now.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Rustic + Glamorous Living Room

It's been a while since I've posted a mood board so I'm very happy to get this post up today. This living room is meant to capture a rustic glamorous feeling--to incorporate some of the glamorous elements popular in today's trends but use more rustic elements to make it a comfortable, accessible space. 

The elements in this space are definitely a mix of high and low. The sofa is about $1,300 (which really isn't all that high when it comes to sofas, but it is on my budget) and the side chairs are only $169 each. Some of the decorative boxes are in the $50 - $70 range while other decorative items are less than $20. Although the items aren't all inexpensive, they are definitely on the lower end of investment in a space using retail pieces, and it's a space that someone on a budget could build over time. There are also elements like the media stand that you might be able to find vintage or used. The artwork is a print from Minted and can be printed and purchased in a range of sizes. This room actually makes me wish the boy and I were moving into our own place sooner because we both totally love this look. Here's a list of sources if you want to replicate it:






Sofa: Phulkari Embroidered Chevron Pillow in Marine Blue - Pottery Barn
Sofa: Tryst 16" Pillow - CB2
Side Chairs: Jacquard Leaf Silk Pillow Cover in Light Pool - West Elm


Picture Frame: Nate Berkus Glass Frame, 3"x3" Gold - Target
Decorative Box: Eduardo Garza Crystal Box - West Elm
Succulent: Potted 4" Succulent - Crate & Barrel 
Coasters: Agate Coasters in Natural - West Elm
Tray: Nate Berkus Wood and Resin Hexagon Tray - Target
Decorative Box: Nate Berkus Decorative Tortoise Shell Box - Gold
Decorative Box: Agate Jewelry Box, Small in Natural - West Elm

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Design-Savvy Art Prints and Stationary at Minted

Thanks again for all your kind comments and well wishes after our big announcement last week! We feel so lucky to have so many wonderful friends and family supporting us.

Before we really dive into wedding details, there's something else I'm excited to plan for in the nearer future. The boy and I plan to move into his parents' basement when our leases are up so we can save some money while we're engaged. Part of the moving in together/getting married business is that for the first time in my entire life, I have to share a bedroom with a boy. That aqua paint and fashion print wall gallery in my current bedroom that I love so much? Yeah, probably won't translate well in our new digs. And I'm a little bit regretting buying him Americana artwork over the years...

So I was pleasantly surprised when Minted approached me to review their new collection of art prints. Minted is a website that sells stationary-type products that are designed by independent designers all over the world. I still plan to have a gallery wall in our new room, but it will need to be a better balance of masculine and feminine styles. Minted has a great collection of design-savvy limited edition art prints, photography, and typography art that could easily work their way into our new space. Here are a few prints I'm eyeing for our new room:

1 - 2 - 3
In addition to their art prints, Minted sells tons of great stationary and I'm hoping I'll get to use one of their great designs when we choose some save the date cards. I'm especially loving the place-based designs.

Minted also writes a blog, Julep, that has some really cute Valentine's Day craft ideas in addition to a bunch of other fun paper/graphic ideas.

Painted Hearts Valentine
Valentine Present Toppers
Be sure to check out Minted next time your in the market for some graphic goodness!

This post has been sponsored by Minted.com. All opinions included in this post are my own. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Big News!

Big news, friends -- I'm engaged!

I debated writing this, at first thinking I should maybe keep it between the boy and me, but this blog  functions as a journal of sorts for me and I want to look back in a year and read this again. I also know that most of the people reading it are my friends, many of whom I won't get to see or talk to very soon, so it's nice to be able to spread the word this way.

Oh, there's also the fact that the boy did a really great job putting together a memorable weekend for the two of us. He planned everything perfectly and was so thoughtful and he kind of deserves to have all our friends and family know just how wonderful he is. Sorry, am I gushing? Anyway, let's get to the story.

Once upon a time, Kyle was out of town for work during the week, and our plan was for me to pick him up from the airport on Friday night and then grab a bite to eat together in Old Town, Alexandria. His parents were (supposedly) out of town for the weekend, so we were going to head over to their house after dinner, something we do once in a while when we want to have a nice staycation and get out of our respective group houses.

Per usual, I was running late and hardly had time to freshen up and pack a bag before I headed to the airport to pick Kyle up. The whole way there I was stressing that the poor guy was standing out in the cold because I was late. I pulled up to our usual pick up spot at the airport, he through his bags in the car, and we headed to Old Town.

This is where I probably should've picked up on things. He told me that he had a Groupon for Jackson 20, a nice restaurant in the Hotel Monaco. In the back of my mind I was thinking, "A Groupon? Man, they must not be doing well." He was also kind of irritated about the parking situation after we circled a few times and had trouble finding a spot. I just figured he had been traveling all day and was in a bad mood so I didn't think much of it.

Once we got in front of the Hotel Monaco things started to change real quickly.  As we walked through the doors he stopped and admitted that we were actually staying there for the night. I got excited and walked towards the check-in desk, but he directed me towards the elevator bank. At that point I knew exactly what was coming. When we got to the room he had rose petals on the floor, champagne, and that's when he proposed.

Wait, what? I know you want to know how he didn't even have to check in and did this moments after stepping off the airplane. Well he actually had gotten in at 2:00 pm, picked up his car, gone to the hotel to check in and prep the room. After that he drove to his parents's house and his mom--who was in town, by the way--drove him back to the airport with a suitcase so I could pick him up at 6:00 pm like we had planned all along. He even called to tell me he got bumped to a flight that connected in Philly so that if I checked the arrivals (which I tend to do to see if there's a delay), I would see a flight that was coming in right around 6:00.

OK, back to the proposal moment.

I was thrilled! But I'm also pretty sure I was super awkward for about 30 minutes as evidenced by the photo above. During really important moments I can kind of get stuck in my head and at that point my mind was racing through thoughts like oh my gosh this is awesome and I hope I seem happy enough! Or I can't believe he did all this for me! And how can I possibly give the reaction that this deserves? And, wait a minute, he doesn't have a Groupon. For a while I just sat there asking questions and saying, "Kyle this is so sweet!"

It was fun to sit in that gorgeous room together drinking champagne and just taking in the moment between the two of us, so I kind of dragged my feet when it came to calling everyone. I wish I could explain why I don't love making phone calls to a bunch of people even when I'm super excited. I'm pretty introverted and the idea of calling people, even my own family, to tell them news that places me right in the center of everyone's attention feels overwhelming to me. I also feel like there's a lot of pressure to be reacting in the way everyone expects me too, so there's an intimidation factor there, especially when I'm constantly over-analyzing things. But I'm glad Kyle encouraged me to start making phone calls because once we called everyone, the reality of the moment set in and I was in celebration mode. Shortly afterwards we got dinner at The Wharf, a restaurant down the street. Oh yeah, funny story, Kyle had no idea until after he made the reservation that his parents ate at the Wharf the night of their engagement too. So that was cute.

Kyle surprised me with another plan he had in the works that night. In addition to our amazing room at the Hotel Monaco, he had booked a room for Saturday night at a bed & breakfast close to Charlottesville, home of my alma mater and generally one of my favorite places in the world. So on Saturday morning we briefly stopped at our houses to pack a bag and then drove to Charlottesville where we walked around UVa's Grounds and the Corner. Kyle knows how much I love Charlottesville and it always makes me happy to walk around and marvel at the Lawn, so that was a really thoughtful move.  Once we were sufficiently frozen and had picked up a few souvenirs from the bookstore, we headed to our accommodations in nearby Louisa.

We stayed at The Prospect Hill Inn, which is an historic property in Louisa, Virginia. The Inn consists of a large manor house that is home to the dining room, a few other main rooms, and the owners' family residence. The buildings on the property date from the late 1600s and the entire property is on the national register of historic places. It's also part of the Green Springs National Historic District.

Can we just pause for a moment and take in how amazing it is that Virginia is dotted with little places like this, built pre-Revolutionary War and still standing and operating today? I love this place.

The guest rooms are in the smaller buildings that surround the manor house. We stayed in the second-oldest building on the property, which was originally built as a residence for the family who lived there. It's also the cabin Kyle's parents stayed in for a few nights of their honeymoon. The bedroom had no TV, no wi-fi, and a wood burning fireplace. The little cottage also had a sitting room and a bathroom, which was SO COLD. The rooms had baseboard heat, but they didn't really keep the place very warm so we were happy to get the fire up and going...which took a bit longer than we expected. But that was just part of the experience. Once it was finally roaring we sat down in front of it and talked for a while. It was so much fun to say things like "someday when we're married we should..." and "one day when we have a family I really want to..." and know that whatever we said wasn't just a hypothetical statement put out into the universe, but something that we could very easily accomplish some day together. Sitting in front of the fire together in that gorgeous little building out in the countryside was easily the most romantic part of the whole weekend.

Although the B&B part was awesome, Prospect Hill is especially well known in the area for their food. They serve a prix-fixe four course meal for dinner on the weekends, and you don't know what they'll be serving until they announce it right before they serve the first course. Guys, this meal was AMAZING (or "amazeballs" as they say in Kyle's favorite commercial). Everything was great, and the main course had the best pork medallions I've ever tasted. I highly recommend eating there even if you're not staying there, which you can totally do by the way. I think only two of the five couples in the room were actually staying at the B&B.

The next morning we had breakfast delivered to our room. It was also delicious and we felt so pampered having it delivered to us.

Sunday morning we drove home and got dinner with both our families to celebrate. I haven't really started any planning. I really wanted to make sure I focused on how meaningful the engagement was before we dive into wedding logistics. But within the next week or so we're going to start thinking about the big things so that I don't consume all my free time perusing the internet for venues and vendors in the area and actually start working towards something.

Thanks to everyone who wished us well and to our friends and family for helping Kyle orchestrate everything and keep it a secret. We are so excited for what's to come and it's so wonderful to have the support of everyone. Rest assured that this blog will not be full of wedding details, and I hope to get back to some good ol' design posts in the near future. Thanks again for your support!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Family Visit

Friday I traveled with my brother and parents to New York where we met my sister who came in from NYC. We spent the evening with my cousins and then ventured to our hotel room where we came across this weird room-width mirror over the headboard. While it actually did come in handy when my sister and I had to get ready the next morning, it still felt a little uncomfortable. My family likes to do hotels on a budget, so that generally means that I share a room with both my siblings and a bed with my sister. At least this place had two queens instead of two doubles.

Saturday we hung out all day at my cousins' house. We played a little bit of heads up and watched basketball through most of the day and ended the evening with our traditional meal of pizza and wings, and played a spirited game of Trivial Pursuit. And, by the way, my team totally lost and the winning team had everyone in my immediate family but me on it. My dad was the captain. What the heck, John? At least there were our favorite chocolate chip cookies.

Sunday morning we packed up the car and headed to about an hour west to visit my grandma and hang out at my aunt's house nearby. Last year my grandma, although confused and tired, was able to leave her assisted living facility and hang out at the house with all of us for an afternoon. This year that wasn't so much the case. Now my grandma lives in a nursing home. As a designer I think the space could be greatly improved, but the real draw of this places is that my aunt works in the same health complex and can drop in on her regularly. Seriously, how lucky are we? How many families have that luxury?

The rest of my dad's family lives closer and sees Grandma more often. They warn us, "It's really bad. Like really bad. Just be ready for it." They do a wonderful job managing my expectations because I felt like for 89 with dementia, my grandma seems way less "Is that person still breathing?" than most of the people I've seen in the two facilities she's been in. She can still kind of hobble her way through a conversation. She relies a lot on reacting sarcastically or playfully saying something like "oh phooey" to the stuff we tell her. She also likes to be silly, like hen we told her to smile and she crossed her eyes and made a silly face instead. She spent the better part of our visit asking us how we were all able to get off of work and did we all come there just to see her?? It's quite confusing to her because apparently her work schedule is pretty inflexible and she has to work weekends a lot. Her mind spends a lot of time back working as a nurse. Whatever, we roll with it.

Perhaps my favorite moment of the entire trip was seeing her light up when my dad walked in while she said to him with a big smile "hey, there's my son!" I suspect that within minutes of us leaving she forgot we were even there, but for the time we were there she seemed happy and even touched by the idea that we all came just to see her.

Sunday afternoon we did more visiting with family. I got to play with my cousin's son who is six and wildly imaginative. I cracked up when he said things like , "Mommy, can I have a pretend blanket to tuck in Monkey?" and (to my mom) "And you know what? I love you." We did lots of "exercising" and I'm pretty sure my mom caught many lovely photos of me crawling around on the floor.

Monday morning we packed up and, after dealing with a pretty major train delay with my sister, headed back to VA.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Art Collection: Favorite Fashion & Figurative Prints

My hands-down favorite part of my bedroom is the gallery wall over my dresser. I pieced it together over the years with everything from notecards to antique artwork to framed fabric swatches, but my favorite pieces are the fashion/figurative artwork. My sister liked one of the prints by Leigh Viner so much that she asked for a set of three of her prints to put over her bed for Christmas.

I'm kind of picky when it comes to figurative artwork. I don't really like to see open eyes illustrated. I think there's something about the eyes closed or the back turned that makes the featured woman a bit of a mystery and lets you fill in the blanks about who she is and what she's thinking and feeling. I also find it makes it a little easier to see yourself in the artwork, which is nice when you are bringing feminine artwork into one of the most person and feminine places in your home (well, at least if you are still living sans boy like I am). 

Here are some of my favorite prints by my go-to artists for fashion illustrations. Most of these artists sell their items via Etsy. If you don't see a size you like, it's always worth it to message the artist directly - most of the time they will print anything in a custom size for you. Enjoy!

Row 1: 

Row 2: 

Row 3: 

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