Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Fireplace and a DIY Garland

Are you guys ready for some holiday house updates?????????


Let's dive right in!

The fireplace is the center of our living room, and an obvious focal point to decorate for the holidays.  I was so excited to be able to string up garlands, and doll it up this year since our old apartment didn't have a central focal point in the living room.  Everything was centered around our TV which was practical, but not the most attractive option.

As stoked as I was to decorate the fireplace, I REALLLLLLYYYYYYY wish that it had a mantle.  If you look closely, you'll notice that it's a flat facade, surrounded by a piece of crown molding, so there's no spot for long beautiful taper candles, leaning art, or cool decorative accents like that on top of it.

I've spent many hours scheming about how to create a mantle here, but with the fireplace being completely surrounded on all sides by a slab of mirror, it just won't work... unless I dare risk 7 years bad luck by breaking it... which I'm not down for. Sometimes we just have to make do with what we've got.... right??  Kind of the story of my life, but let's be honest - I'm just happy to have a fireplace to decorate this year!

When I lived here before, I always loved how we strung a pre-lighted garland across the fireplace, but after digging that garland out of storage it was looking pretty sad.  It was all smushed, and had little (if any) resemblance to real greenery.  Imagine something like this... but faded, and flattened after being stored in a box for several years....

It was time to find a new game plan for our mantle - I loved the idea of a garland, but wanted it to be super full, and really eye-catching.  And what would be more eye-catching than a bunch of gold ornaments strung together and wound up with fairy lights and greenery??  This garland DIY is super easy to pull together, so for anyone looking for a fun holiday project, this is the one for you!  In fact, the more wine you drink while working on it, the better.

May I present to you our Gold and Green(ery) Garland.  It's two separate garlands woven together to make one massive, awesome, holiday focal point.  It's sparkly - especially once the garland is plugged in at night - and a little over the top but I'm totally in love with it.

The ornament garland was a DIY project I worked on one afternoon while catching up on bad reality TV.  Nothing to get you in the holiday spirit than watching the Kardashian's bicker.


I actually tested it out last year on a smaller garland that we now have hanging in the kitchen (yep, even the kitchen got a little holiday love in 2014), and making it is soooo easy.  Look back at this post for the original instructions, but there isn't much to explain.  

Basically you need to start with a TON of ornaments - do not use glass.  They WILL shatter.  I used 4 boxes of plastic balls in assorted gold tones from Ikea... LOVE the Ikea holiday section this year.  They win the award for "best everything".  More on them later... back to the DIY.

Start with tons of balls {insert joke here}.

Get your hands on a long strand of thick wire.  Ribbon might work but I like that the wire forms to the shape you want.

Sting balls onto wire while accidentally drinking the better part of a bottle of wine and watching trashy TV.

Here's what you'll end up with:



Super technical DIY project *wink wink*

Once I had all the ornaments strung on the wire, it was time to hunt down a pretty green garland to replace our sad looking one.

I wanted one that was hefty, and that looked natural (at least somewhat).  I looked into ordering a fresh garland for about two-seconds until realizing fresh garlands in SF ran about $160.  Um, no thanks.  

Off to Michael's I went (with my coupon of course) and scored this beauty for something like $25.  I think without the 40% off coupon it was in the high $30 range.  Still, not bad for a lighted green 9' garland with pine cones interspersed and several types of faux greens in the mix.

Once I got the green garland home, I wound the two garlands around one another, and secured them to the wood molding around the fireplace with two small nails, and more of the wire that I'd used to string the ornaments.

The nails will leave the smallest of holes, and will be easy to conceal with wood putty, and a coat of white paint.


Another new addition to our holiday fireplace, is this starburst mirror.


I love a good starburst - we have one hanging over our bed as well - but this is one of the best finds of my shopping career... EVER.

Such a score!

I consider myself to be a pretty serious bargain hunter - not on the same level as those crazy extreme couponers, but I take the sale sections seriously.  As I was at the Home Depot over the weekend, wandering the aisles in search of a ceiling medallion (another story for another day), I found myself in the aisle with decorative moldings, hollow core doors, and what else... mirrors!

Easily distracted, I ventured over to the mirrors, and there, hanging on the wall was a mirror very similar to this one that I've been trying to hunt down!!  It was a bit smaller than I'd wanted, but I was intrigued.  I picked up the box below the sample mirror, and guess what?  It a box for a completely different mirror.  A sunburst mirror.

A sunburst mirror that was marked down to $6.

SIX DOLLARS.

I cannot make this stuff up.

I grabbed that box so fast, and was out of there before anyone could fight me for my $6 mirror.



Not only was it SIX DOLLARS (which I still cannot wrap my mind around), but it was bigger than the octagonal mirror I was originally admiring, and it fills out this space above the fireplace so well.

Here she is close-up - isn't she pretty??
 

I also love that the center of the sunburst is convex, so it sort of distorts the reflection.  Very cool.


It was a Christmas miracle actually.  I've been agonizing over what to hang here for a while.  The empty expanse of mirrors above and on the sides of the fireplace felt really 80's to me.  

On the one hand, all these mirrors make the room feel larger, but with no mantle above the fireplace to lean art on, place picture frames, flowers, branches... basically anything to draw the eye up, and compliment the spot above the fireplace, it was just so empty.  It needed something.

I toyed with the idea of trying to hang a large piece of art here, but wasn't loving that idea.  Every time I had Kris hold something up there it just felt odd.  I also toyed with the idea of hanging a mirror over here, but never found the right thing 


I am so thrilled with how this looks but I'm not completely sold on the ribbon that secures it to a nail above the mirror.  For now, with the holidays, it's fine, but I'm not sure if the ribbon will stay - perhaps a string of clear fishing wire or something similar would be best, so it looks more like it's mounted to the mirror, and less like it's dangling from above.

Surprisingly enough, Kris is on board with the ribbon, so if we do keep it, I won't have to worry about his complaints.

Also in the living room are several wrapped presents - I like to get them wrapped and under the tree as early as possible since they just add to the festive feel.  I'm liking the simple feel of this brown paper, and bold ribbon, and a sprig of douglas fir finishes it off so nicely!  And guess what... the branches were free! I may or may not have been scavenging the discard bins at the Christmas Tree Tent at Home Depot, but it's fair game!  The guys working the saws at the tree lot confirmed that these branches that get stripped from the bottoms of the trees are headed to the chipper at the end of the day, so I see it more as rescuing them.



And how awesome is that red cardinal ribbon??  Michaels was having 60% off their ribbon over the weekend, so 25 yards of this stuff was $3.  Yes please!!  Red cardinals and festive tartan ribbon for everyone!!!


I've been spoiling myself this year with fresh flowers only in the house, and have found that I can make hydrangeas last for a solid month, if I take care of them JUST right.  I made this arrangement feel a bit more holiday-like with the addition of woodsy greenery, and some cool burgundy branches.

Apparently hydrangeas like HOT water, with a little bleach.  Cut the stems vertically so they can soak up as much water through their woody stem, and they are good to go. I learned this little trick from an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, and I never forgot it!  Just change the water out once a week, they tend to last and last and last.  

I think my record was 7 weeks of keeping a cut hydrangea alive. #impressive



So that's our holiday mantle fireplace!  More festive updates coming your way soon, but the whole house got decked out - there's a tree, an inappropriate Santa, and a really festive dining room still to share!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Green and Gold Christmas

I'm in the process of photographing and posting some of the holiday decor we've got up in our house, but wanted to share where I was pulling my inspiration from this year...


Green and gold baby!

I'm loving the look of the overabundance of greens in the forms of wreaths, greenery in vases, swags of greens and garlands on stairwells (which we don't have), across fireplaces (which we DO have), and everywhere in-between.


If it's crusted in gold, or glitter, or both, chances are I want it.

I just think that the combination of the greenery with all the gold is just so pretty with all the twinkle lights, and I think it adds a bit of glam to what could otherwise really be a rustic, woodsy look.


I mean how amazing is that tree, and that entryway, and that staircase, and that garland?!?!  My future house in the Hamptons will look JUST like this at the holidays :-)

THAT DOG!!!! 

What a muffin, although, clearly this is the most well behaved dog in the world.  All those leftovers on the table, and he's not even trying to touch them?  

Yeah right.


How pretty are these trees by the way??  There are so many gold ornaments and gold lights, they take over the branches, and it looks like something straight out of Kind Midas' palace.

That said, I'm a sentimentalist, and so every year our tree gets decorated with the ornaments I've collected over the years.  It is such a fun tradition, remembering where each ornament came from.  One of my favorites is a pair of ceramic ballet slippers that miraculously have not yet broken.  They are HEAVY but so pretty, and remind me of all the Decembers I'd play with them (carefully) as a little girl.

That said, I did go a little wild this year, and we have a few trees in our house........

More on that soon!






I think the photos speak for themselves, but are you loving the green and gold as much as I am?? I also love classic red and green - red apples, berries, cardinals, and a crisp red plaid!  The gold is a really fun change for us this year though, and it's all coming together so well!  

Literally cannot wait to share with you guys some of the decorations we've put up at home!!

xoxo

Monday, December 8, 2014

Living Room Tour


Keeping good on my promises you guys!  I really wanted to start back writing on my blog somewhat regularly, and sharing some of the exciting updates we've made to our place!  First up, our living room.

Since moving back into our new/old apartment in February, I've been working slowly but steadily to attack each room with updates.

I actually used to live in this apartment with my best friend Kira, but when Kris and I moved in together, he and I found a new apartment, and Kira stayed in this one that we shared. Fast forward almost two years later, she decided to move cross-country to Chicago, so Kris and I moved back in. It has a great layout, lots of natural light, and so much more space than we had in our first place together.

The only problem was that after 5 years of wear and tear, things were looking a little worn.

I've got to say, it was somewhat of a surreal experience to be living back in an apartment that used to be mine - it wasn't the normal process of getting to know all the quirks of a new home.  I already knew that the fake drawer front below the sink fell out from time to time.... that there is a super creepy clicking sound in the middle of the night as the steam heat turns on and the pipes warm up... that you have to open the refrigerator to open the dishwasher.  Nothing about the apartment was a surprise, but instead of feeling like I was coming back home, it felt like I was moving into a strangers' apartment.  The apartment was the same, but somehow it had changed in the time I was gone.  It was older.  There were more holes in the walls.  There were more scuffs in the paint.  Nothing abnormal, just older, more worn, and not mine.

Luckily for me, the process of getting everything updated and back in tip-top shape felt like a fun project to tackle instead of a massive undertaking.  It's been a slow process, but don't they say "slow and steady wins the race"?  It's taken me almost a year, quite a few gallons of paint, spackle, sandpaper, and elbow grease, but it's feeling refreshed, and most importantly, like it's ours.

Today I want to share with you the living room - it's the room where we spend the most time, and one of my favorite spots in our house. Here's where it started a few days after we moved in.

Here's what we started with:

The Bones of the Room:
The walls were all scuffed from the multiple moves, had tons of holes from past pictures and shelves, and were painted a yellowed beige color.  The fireplace had a really dirty, cracked stone facade in a peach-y color.  The curtain rods I'd hung up when I was 24 years old weren't hung straight, and were staggered to fit into the tight bay window space.

The Furniture:
We started with two sad looking love seats that I've been dying to replace for the past two years, a console table that really felt out of place for not only the space but our style.  We had our huge, dark, bulky coffee table, that took up more space than the love seats, and matching side tables.

This is not to say that I hated everything we owned.  Quite the opposite.

I really tried to be creative in our last apartment with how to make what we had work for our space - while nothing matched, and everything was a mish-mash of our starter furniture from our early 20's, I used new throw pillows and decorative accessories to doll things up, and I'll always think back fondly of our first apartment together, and all the things in it.

The truth was, all the stuff we were holding onto wasn't functioning well with the new layout, and it wasn't comfortable.  Aside from nostalgia and feeling frugal, there was literally no reason to hold onto any of it anymore.  What was worse, our old furniture, paired with the dingy walls felt especially bland and actually kind of dark and dingy, despite the light color palate.

This past year was a big one, and for so many reasons, it felt like the start of a new chapter. I turned 30 and got engaged, so moving into a new place felt like the perfect opportunity to get rid of the falling apart "starter" furniture we'd been holding onto, and invest in things we love... pieces that we'd take with us to our future homes, and have for a long time.  What I wanted was a bright space that felt new, while highlighting the lovely architectural details this space has to offer, and pieces that could transition from an apartment to a home that we own.

So what updates did the space get??

Well first, we painted - all the walls got a coat of Intense White by Benjamin Moore.
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The first rule of renting is to not make changes that the landlord won't approve of.  This color is so fresh, light and neutral, we won't be re-painting when we move out.

It's hands down my favorite color of grey - coming from the same color card as Grey Owl, it's the lightest on the paint card, but it is definitely grey - not white, despite it's name.  It's a very bright, clean neutral grey, and doesn't err on the blue side which absorbs light, and can make a room feel dark.  The first color I painted was very blue, and I ended up having to paint this room twice.  Lesson learned - paint swatches and lots of research when it comes to grey.

The trim got a coat of Decorator's White - another Benjamin Moore color, and together the trim and walls look really crisp and fresh.
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My goal with the walls was to minimize all the imperfections - cracks in the wall, paint blobs from drips the last time this room was painted, and little bumps and nicks, holes from pictures and shelves but as you can see it's not perfect.  I patched all the holes in the walls with spackle, sanded them down, but it's an old building, and these walls are plaster from the 30's, so there's not just 5 years of wear and tear, but almost 80 years... at least. While there are still some lumps and bumps, the paint and the touch-ups changed how bright and new the room felt.

Simple, easy to do, and inexpensive fixes with paint = huge difference.

I also updated the fireplace.

I posted about that process a few months ago, and we're still loving the updates.  The stone that was there was not very beautiful to begin with, and was so dirty and cracked - even scrubbing it, the years of soot were not going anywhere.

Here's a close up of how it looked before:

Let me also add, that this "before" picture was taken AFTER scrubbing and scrubbing... the dirt was not going anywhere.

Here was how it looked during it's facelift:


And a few more pretty afters:



Inside the fireplace, you'll notice an abundance of candles.  I would NOT light a fire in the fireplace at this point.  It hasnt been used in years, it likely is full of soot and god knows what else, and I don't want to risk setting this building on fire.

So candles are a good alternative - they are super cozy at night when they're all lit, and in the day, they offer a pretty architectural element.  As we burn them, I love the wax drips that come down the sides.


The contact paper is holding up really well, and everyone who comes over always comments how much they love it.  No one knows it's not marble, and I'm certainly not going to be the one to tell them :-)  Read about the whole process here.

Another update?  The old coffee table (which was part of a matching set) got sold to a new home on Craigslist, and we replaced it with this beauty.



This is the Box Frame Coffee Table - Café from West Elm.  Overall, we're really happy with it.  The wood is such a pretty warm color, the metal frame is incredibly sturdy, and without the storage shelf on the bottom that we had on our last coffee table, it invites less clutter, and looks really open and light.  My ONLY complaint is that it scratches easily.  It came with a few small scratches in it already, but after waiting for months for it to be delivered (it was back-ordered) the tray camouflages those little scratches, and some good wood oil also helps them disappear.

Padded coasters are our best friend.

You might also notice that those awful mis-matched love seats are gone.  Woooooo hoooooooo!!

They've also gone to greener pastures on Craigslist, and we replaced them with the BEST sofa ever made.  It's the PB Comfort Square sofa, with chaise from Pottery Barn.


First I want to say how much we love this couch.  Second, let me say that Pottery Barn was THE WORST company to work with from a customer service perspective.  Truly awful.  I won't go into all the dirty details on here since everything ended well, and we love the sofa so much, but if anyone wants to hear about our experience, send me a private message.

What we love most about it:

It has really deep seat cushions, a nice high back, and it's BIG.  It looks kind of dainty in these pictures, but Kris and I can both lay down on it without touching - he's 6'3" and I'm 5'8".  The pillows on the sofa here are 24" square, so you can really see how large it is from a scale perspective.  It's amazing.


A few more glory shots of our amazing sofa...


We got the cushions filled with down, and let me just say, it's worth the extra money my friends.  Not only can we re-fluff the cushions, but it adds this element of sinking in and being so cozy when you're curled up on it in the evenings.

Here's a close-up of the fabric.

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We ordered the Textured Twill in Oatmeal after seeing it in the store on another sofa.  It is really durable for scrubbing IN CASE something spills, but has the look of a more organic linen which I love.  The other twill options are flat looking - similar to denim almost - and this color is wonderful at masking everyday wear and tear.

Kris was the one who wanted it, and he could not have made a better call here.

Final details?  The new lamps, the woven rug, layered with the cowhide from our last apartment, the new pillows, and long white linen curtains.


I ordered the pillow covers off of Etsy, and agonized over which to get.  I loved the large greek key trim, but matching the navy velvet was tough.  I wanted a small scale print to coordinate, and ended up with this Schumacher fabric.  I love the heavy weight of each - perfect for the colder months right now, and my mom and I are working on others pillow covers that we'll swap in for the spring / summer months.

The knit creme colored throw was a find at Ikea (of all places), and it's so cozy, and adds a bit of texture to the sofa.  It also lives on the chaise lounge, and protects the sofa from dirty feet.


You can kind of take a peek into the entry and the dining room, but more updates on those spaces later...


The lamps are from Target, the side tables were the ones we had in our last apartment, and while I wasn't crazy about them before, they don't bother me anymore now that the big bulky coffee table is gone.  They just sort of blend into the background, and the idea of replacing them is in the very very VERY distant future.  Like years maybe.

The large frames are from Ikea also.  A great find - the wood ties in with the coffee table nicely, and you cannot beat the price for a frame that size.  The sailing prints are from Art.com, and as my dad aptly pointed out, I've hung them in the reverse order.  It's actually two prints of one single boat!

Oops!  Need to rehang those.....


There are a few last pieces to finish to room off - a nice chair to fill in the seating area around the coffee table, a small side table for placing cold drinks, and a few more small details, but I'm really happy with where we've come in the last year.

It feels clean, refreshed, and is incredibly comfortable and welcoming, which to me was the most important part.  It was impossible to lounge around watching movies on those old teeny love seats, and all the furniture we've got now, are things I want to keep for a long, LONG time.


OH!  And I almost forgot one of my favorite things... rounding out our coffee table is the new book from Erin Gates - Elements of Style.  I love her so much, and her book is absolutely beautiful - from the striped spine that kills me, to everything inside.  One of my favorite books to flip through - not a surprise coming from her #designporn


So that's where we are!

It's taken a year to get here, and I'm sure that there are more (minor) changes to come, but I'm so happy with the space as it stands now, and let's be honest... I've got a wedding to plan, so our house will be the furthest thing from my mind in a few months.

Next update coming your way... the dining room!

Happy Monday friends!
xoxo

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

An Apology


So... it's December.  Where oh WHERE does the time go??

If 2013 was the year I really dedicated myself to my blog, 2014 has been the complete opposite.  I've completely neglected you guys, and while I feel awful about it, the truth is, I've just been lazy.  And kind of un-inspired.

You'll notice that the more recent posts on here aren't some of my best.

I'm sorry for that.

But there is a silver lining!! As a result of my neglect, I've had the opportunity to dedicate myself to being creative outside of this blog, and it's allowed be to turn our apartment, into an actual home.  It feels so different from when we moved in - so cozy, and so refreshed.  Nearly every room has gotten a fresh coat of paint - just the hallway near the bathroom, and our bedroom are still outstanding right now.

There's also a lot of new furniture - a new couch!  Yes, it happened.

A new desk and office space!

A new coffee table.

A new side table.

New lamps.

New dining room chairs.

New shelving.

New rugs...

...And possibly soon, a new dining room table.  Boom.

So, my promise to you is that I will start actually sharing some of these projects, and updates with you all soon.

xoxo

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pillows that take your House from Summer to Fall

Hands down, the EASIEST way to bring a season into your living space is through textiles - most specifically, throw pillows.  You don't have to make a ton of big changes to make your home feel like summer, or Christmas, or in this case fall, and they are the easiest, and cheapest way to do so on a budget.

Obviously, there are certain fabrics and pillows that easily run into the hundreds, but there are so many affordable options.  Some of my favorite sources... Etsy, Target, and Homegoods.

A few of my favorites out there right now??

BOTANIC PRINTS:
I love a good floral print - combine a large scale floral with the colors we associate with fall and bam, we're in business.  I ALMOST bought the top pillow here from Target, but could only find one.  Sad day friends.  It's so luscious in person, and a sweet deal too!

I also love the look of the branches and leaves, and the more understated print of the lumbar pillow here.  It could really be used in any season, but the rust red and mustard yellow say "fall" to me.




ETHNIC TEXTILES:
In a different color, any of these pillows could be perfect for other seasons, but something about the texture (especially in the Kilm pillow) along with the colors, these would be perfect for the season.  In colder months, I especially like thicker fabrics.

They just say, it's cold outside, so come snuggle on the couch. 

Am I right, or am I RIGHT??


IKAT PRINTS:
Again, it's all in the colors that make up the ikat print, but I'm loving the soft melon colors with lots of white.  These are kind of perfect for those that live in more temperate climates, so your house doesn't feel bizarre on those random warm days.

Mixed with neutral pillows, these are lovely and warm for fall, but mixed with fun blues, you could re-use them again in summer!




Any good ones you've seen recently?  I missed the boat for the blue and white pillows I have yet to make - I have a few months to stitch those up, and we can use them after the holidays are over, but for now, I'm on the hunt for some good autumnal pillows!

xo