September is the new January! I’ve told that to Brian so many times in the last week as he’s questioned why I’m de-cluttering, he now just rolls his eyes. Going back to school has permanently ingrained in me the feeling of fall being a fresh start, a time to refocus on old goals and make new ones. Maybe that’s why they say “turn over a new leaf,” because fall … leaves… MIND BLOWN.
Even though it’s still devilishly hot here in Arizona, I’m not going to let it get me down or chill my autumnal instincts. I’m preparing for one of my favorite fall traditions – the purge. Before I can cozy up for winter, I first have to get rid of all the stuff that’s creating disorder, stress, and holding me back from clarity and purpose by its mere existence.
Once you’ve moved (and here’s 7 tips for making that easier) decorating your new place is the fun part. Unfortunately, that kind of comes last, after the clean-all-the-things stage, and the get-it-functional stage. Eventually, you reach the why-are-there-still-boxes-here stage, but somewhere in there, your house becomes a home. Once again, Casper was collecting these tips, and I decided to join in.
It’s almost a fact of life that once you move to a new place, some of your rugs will no longer fit your new rooms, or you’ll have new rooms with new floors to be covered. I hate carpet with a passion, so rugs are my friends. I choose my friends with great care, which is why it seems to take me years to pick out rugs. And even then, I’m guilty of chronically picking rugs that are too small. Here’s a guide for how your rugs should fit in any room, from Home Depot.
Nothing personalizes your new place like artwork, and when you’re ready to hang things on the wall, you know you’re really settling in. Etsy is one of my favorite places to find affordable art, and also Society6, but I also like finding unique paintings at craft fairs and antique stores, and then customizing thrift store frames for cohesive gallery walls.
But not artwork has to be purchased. In the gallery wall in the entry way, I have a blue jay painting by Brian’s great-grandmother, a framed cover of a catalog, and a free print I found online of eggs, mixed in with flea market and craft store finds, and a DIY moss covered letter.
3. New mattress, sheets, and pillows
When we moved into our first house, we took the opportunity to upgrade our mattress. Because we upgraded from a full to a queen, we also had to get all new sheets and a bedspread. I think we kept the same pillows, but if you’re moving, it’s a great time to evaluate how those are holding up too, and consider having your pillows shipped to your door.
These marble sheets from Urban Outfitters aren’t cheap, but I’m seriously in love with them and trying to figure out if there’s a good way to DIY them. How awesome would these look in a bedroom with rose gold accents?
4. Cleaning Kit
When you’re living in chaos, the last thing you need is to not be able to find where you packed the cleaning supplies, or lose them in the maze of boxes. One of the most useful wedding presents we received was a plastic caddy full of cleaning supplies, like this one. This has been invaluable during all of our moves, and still comes in handy for keeping cleaning supplies corralled and portable.
5. Inexpensive Organizing Solutions
While you’re unpacking and organizing your new closets and drawers is the perfect time to invest in some new containers. My favorite are clear plastic shoe bins. I use them for craft supplies, office cords of all kinds, and of course, shoes. You could also get a little fancy and try some of my painted paper Trader Joe’s bags for storage.
6. A Special Item to Mark the Transition
When we moved into our first house, our realtor bought us a wooden cutting board shaped like the state of Arizona. Regardless of whether you’re upgrading or downsizing, excited about your new place or dreading it, I think marking the transition with something special and celebratory is important. Some people frame keys or a photo of their old house, or you can have a custom portrait made of your new place. My DIY state art would be perfect if you’ve moved out of state. Find something that either pays tribute to where you’re leaving, or celebrates your new beginnings.
Here’s a handy graphic to pin for next time you’re moving:
Edison turned two on the 21st, so last Saturday we had a little fiesta for him. My sister-in-law was able to come, and some good friends of ours. My idea was just to have a casual pool party, no stress and no work. But what fun is that? Somehow I ended up with a whole theme, decorations, and special cakes. Thanks Pinterest.
Overall though, I was able to use a lot of things I already had, kept the purchases to a minimum with a few high impact decorations, and decorating and making those special cakes was super fun.
In the entryway, I changed my letter board to reflect the theme, and added this very cute cactus light. Over the fireplace, I added this cactus banner. I expected it to be made out of paper, but it’s actually felt! I think it will stay up year-round somewhere in my house.
This giant #2 gold balloon made a big impact everywhere we put it. Apparently, there were several size options on Amazon that I missed, and I bought the 40″ one. Go big or go home!
Although he doesn’t look too excited about it when I made him hold it for photos, Edison calls it “Shiny” and talked to it the whole way home from the grocery store (where they filled it up for free!) and cried when we put it inside before we went to airport to pick up my sister-in-law. It’s still going strong after a week.
Outside on the porch, I brought out all of my blue metal kitchen chairs, and bought a folding table from Target. The aqua plastic tablecloth I already had, leftover from a bridal shower I threw a year ago. I decorated the table with some of my little succulents on tiny cake stands, which I already had also.
I bought an outdoor rug, something I’d wanted for awhile, and this seemed like the perfect occasion for it. I also bought the “Papel Picado” Mexican tissue paper banner and Fiesta fans, and mixed in some of the honeycomb balls from the bridal shower. I used a Mexican blanket for a table cloth on the food table.
Walking Tacos. Apparently, this is a Midwesterner thing, because no one in Arizona had heard of this. You take individual bags of Doritos or Fritos, open them, and put a scoop of taco meat and all your usual fixings inside the bag, mix it up, and eat it from the bag. These are the original Doritos Tacos – but deconstructed. I cooked the taco meat in the crock pot to make life even easier.
Guacamole, sour cream, cheese, shredded lettuce, salsa – all purchased and packaged, again, making life easy.
Fruit from a handy fruit tray.
Peanuts and M&Ms – Conley family tradition.
Fanta, lemonade, and lime La Croix as well as bottled water. I wanted brightly colored, kid-friendly beverages. Although the La Croix was really all for us non-soda drinking adults.
Taco Cakes!!! I’m still so thrilled with how these turned out. I made two round cakes, cut them in half, and stacked them to make the taco shape. Then I frosted and decorated them to look like a taco with fillings. Here’s a tutorial that I based my cake on, but instead of using crushed Oreos, I used the star shaped decorating tip and chocolate frosting for the taco meat. I didn’t create the tomatoes and cheese from separate frosting either, I just used the small round tip to pipe them on.
No, I’m not moving, at the moment. But in the seven years we’ve been married, we’ve moved six times. The first year after moving into our house, it felt almost weird to not be scouring for boxes, busting out the packing tape and sharpies, and uprooting again. But now we’ve happily lived here for over three years, moving is a distant nightmare.
With all that relocating, I do feel like I have some expertise in making moves … of the home kind. So when I noticed Casper (the mattress company) was sharing home moving tips, I thought I’d get involved. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make a big difference. I’m not sure moving is ever totally easy, but at least we can aim for easier.
Let me explain. As Edison grew more and more mobile, we quickly realized that we could no longer use the coffee table as a table, since now he could reach almost anything on it. Yes, I know, we shouldn’t eat on the couch in front of the TV, but this is real life, and sometimes after we’ve both had long days at work, the best thing ever is to order a bunch of wings and fries, and settle in on the couch to watch the next episode of Last Man Standing, together, or now that it’s fall, the next Harry Potter movie. Or we might just have leftovers and popcorn for dinner. Don’t judge.
Not being able to use the coffee table for food meant that we were down to one side table at one end of the couch: my end. That lead to some encroaching, and much annoyance on my part.
So to save our marriage, we needed a second side table. I’d wanted a tree stump side table forever, but they’re not cheap. This one from West Elm is $249.
So we made our own, for the total cost of about $50.
A tree stump that’s 6″ shorter than your sofa arm. Look on Craig’s List for free tree stumps! We found tons of options to choose from. I recommend pine; the bark comes very easily, and on some types of wood, like walnut, it can be really hard to remove.
Wood shims, unless your log comes leveled already.
A level, in case it doesn’t.
Long screws. The screws that come with the legs may not be long enough.
An impact driver.
Step 1: After you’ve picked up your free tree stump from someone’s woodpile, the next step is removing the bark. I’d assembled a variety of tools for the purpose, but the bark fell off so easily, I only ended up using the screw driver! It only took a couple minutes to scrape it clean.
Step 2: Sand the top and sides of the stump. Edison was a great helper during this step. Just kidding. He wasn’t allowed near the sander while it was turned on. I, however, did do the sanding, and this is the closest I’ve ever been to using power tools. It was exhilarating!
You don’t need to go crazy with sanding, but just make sure the surface feels smooth. Run a tack cloth over the surface to remove any dust before the next step.
Step 3: Stain the stump. This step is optional – if you like the wood’s natural color, you can skip this. I wanted just a tad richer and more even color, so I used Miniwax stain in “Natural.” Use a foam brush to apply it in a thin layer, and let it dry according to the instructions on the can, which is about 8 hours. Don’t sand it after applying the stain; that will essentially undo everything you’ve just done.
Step 5: The next day, apply an even coat of polyurethane in the same way. This has to dry overnight between coats. Now, if you find rough areas on the wood – sand these down between coats of polyurethane. You don’t need to sand between coats like you would if you were using paint, the sanding is just to keep it smooth.
I applied about three coats before I was satisfied with the finish on this stump.
Step 6: Attach the legs. This is the only moderately tricky part. Turn your stump upside down, and arrange the legs on the bottom. I used this set of four from Amazon, but fitting all four was going to be tricky. I was concerned that three might not be stable, but Brian explained that you only need three points to establish an infinite plane, or something to that effect (that’s what happens when you ask an engineer).
The tricky part about this is making them level. Because we got an already cut stump, and we didn’t want to try to cut it again, because that would make it too short, we used wood shims to level out the bottom.
Hold the level from the end of each leg to the others to check the height, and add shims underneath as needed.
After each point is level, put in at least one screw to hold in the legs. You may need to use larger screws than the ones that come with the legs. Then turn the table over, and check to see if you succeeded.
But what about those unsightly pieces of wood sticking out? To clean it up, you’ll have to flip it back over and trim them off, as Brian is demonstrating with the saw.
Then secure the legs with the rest of the screws.
Step 7: Carry it inside, and enjoy having a place to put your wings out of the reach of your toddler, and having your own spot on the couch back!
We did leave that long branch sticking out, as you can see above, for the only reason that it really helps make it easier to move. This thing is heavy! But at least we don’t need to worry about Edison tipping it over.
I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! Now, I’m tempted to switch favorite spots on the couch with Brian … if he’s willing to trade.
Our quick weekend project that turned into over a month of weekends is finally finished, and I love it!
First things first: here’s our before.
Big, dated oak cabinets. With such a low ceiling, these cabinets made the kitchen feel very small.
Although I’d love to tear out the entire wall of cabinets and the double oven (which I’ll never in a million years use) and reconfigure the entire space for a better pantry … baby steps. And this baby step made the whole kitchen so much more inviting.
I liked the glass front cabinets that showed off my pretty dishes, and the other corner cabinets contained double-decker lazy susans, which gave us tons of storage. But, I regret nothing.
1. Take down old cabinets. We donated ours to Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, although Edison would have like us to keep one for a playhouse.
2. Paint and patch the walls. We also replaced the white outlets and outlet covers you see below for black ones that will blend into the granite.
3. Paint your hardware. After much back and forth, I went with these Ikea brackets and spray painted them with this copper paint. Actually, I spray painted them, and then I got too impatient while they were drying and I flipped them over too soon to paint the other side, and they had to be sanded and completely repainted. So, pro tip – don’t do that.
Second pro tip – buy more paint and primer than you will need. I had to make two trips to Home Depot for the primer after running out, but most inconvenient was having to reorder the copper spray paint, since shipping was not fast. Waiting for the paint to arrive delayed this whole project, so be smart and buy three cans to start with. Besides, you’ll find uses for the extra.
4. Build your shelves. This is the part that I can’t tell you much about, because Brian did all the work. As I told Brian, I’m the Johanna, he’s the Chip in this relationship – I come up with the ideas, and he builds it (Fixer Upper fans know what I mean). Here’s the tutorial we used.
We originally planned on sanding and staining the shelves. And then since this project had already taken forever, we decided not to. Our excuse is that someday, we’d like to replace these pine boards from Home Depot with actual weathered barn wood planks, so these are just temporary.
5. Install shelves, and begin never ending process of styling them.
A commonly asked question: Do you have to dust or wash all the dishes to keep them from looking grimy?
So far, no. The vast majority of the dishes I chose to put out are ones that we use relatively often, so they don’t collect any dust. and so far, the more decorative dishes haven’t either. I’m not sure if it’s because we have good air flow through the kitchen, or what the reason is, but honestly, if I did have to dust them once in awhile, I really don’t mind.
Another question: What did you do with all the stuff that used to be in the cupboards?
Some of it, like the white plates, bowls, glasses, and most of the mugs, stayed. Other pieces were moved from lower cabinets, like the bigger bowls. I was able to move some of the dishes to the lower cabinets, and others, like all my Tupperware, to a cupboard in the laundry room. So far, I haven’t had any issues with the new arrangement.
There you have it: my copper kitchen!
Would you ever do open shelves, or is that a trend you’d pass on? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook.
Yes, I know that the height of the chalkboard craze was like, so 2014. Like everyone else, I wanted a giant chalkboard, but without having to paint an entire wall or pay for an expensive board. I entertained the idea of building one for a long time, but just couldn’t muster up the motivation to do that much work. And then one day, I realized that the perfect chalkboard had been right under my nose.
Actually, I think it was hidden away in a closet.
Ever since we moved, I couldn’t find a spot for the large mirror we’d bought with a dresser we found on the curb for $30. The dresser I eventually painted and it found a home in Edison’s room.
With a few supplies and couple hours, you can turn any large frame into a chalkboard. Here’s what you’ll need:
A frame. I used a mirror, but you can also use photo frames, or framed art from Goodwill.
Chalkboard paint. I used chalkboard paint in a spray can originally, and eventually used chalkboard paint in a can for touch ups. Also, you can make your own.
Paintbrushes for touch ups.
Paint for the frame. Those little samples from Lowes or Home Depot only cost a few bucks, and they’re perfect for this.
Sandpaper for sanding the frame.
Start by sanding your frame lightly, just to be sure your paint is going to stick well. Then, spray on your chalkboard paint. Spray from about a foot away, using a continuous sweeping motion from side to side. Go slowly so you get a nice thick coat. Let it dry according to the instructions on the can, probably about an hour. Then repeat, until you’ve covered the glass well.
Then, use the painter’s tape to protect the chalkboard surface while you paint the frame.
Two words of caution: First, put down enough tape that you don’t paint beyond it onto the frame, or else you’ll have to touch it up.
Secondly, be careful not to stick the paint down too well – this is the opposite of advice where you want to be sure the paint doesn’t bleed underneath. We’re just using the paint to protect the chalkboard, and in this situation, if the paint sticks to the chalkboard too much, it might pull off the chalkboard paint from the slippery glass surface beneath. Again, you might have to do some touch ups with a paintbrush. It’s not that big of a deal.
Then you need to season your board. If you skip this step, your fresh chalkboard paint will retain the outline of whatever you write on it first. To avoid ghosting, rub the side of a piece of chalk all over the surface of your chalkboard, and then rub it in before erasing it.
Hang it up, and get to work!
Another word of caution. Around Christmas, you may see some gold and silver metallic chalk markers on Amazon. You may begin dreaming about all the sparkly, glittering possibilities for how these chalkboard markers will transform your hand-lettering into a work of art. You may buy said markers, and create a masterpiece. And then discover … it will not come off. Even after googling how to get it off, and using Windex.
It. Will. Not. Come. Off.
And that means you’ll have to repeat the steps above to paint over it.
It may not look as pretty, but it will come off!
Do you have an inspirational message or message board chalkboard anywhere in your house? If you haven’t joined that bandwagon yet, what would you write on one? Share in the comments below or on Facebook!
Long, long ago, I shared my inspiration for where I want to take our home office, and these “Before” photos – Beige walls, shaggy cat pee reeking carpet, and a hodgepodge of bookshelves, mismatched desks, and printers sitting on blue totes containing our files.
Remember that? I’m glad it’s a distant memory now. One Saturday morning I awoke to a clatter, and when I came to the living room I discovered all of our office stuff crammed into the living and dining rooms, and the carpet ripped out. It was a bitter sweet surprise. On the one hand, I was excited that Brian took initiative to tear into the project, and on the other, I knew we didn’t even have new flooring purchased, and I dreaded having to eat on the couch and navigate the stacks of books for months on end.
Thankfully, we made good time. Brian repainted the room while I was traveling to a lovely light blue.
And after a few more weeks, we found matching bamboo flooring and a friend willing to spend a day helping lay it. Thanks Paul!
Then we moved the hodgepodge back inside the now bright and happy space.
But first, we put in “built-in” bookshelves. It took a few trips to Ikea, but we used the Billy bookshelves with height extensions and two of the half glass doors, along with bookcase lights.
Yes, there’s a big gap in the middle of the wall, and there’s a reason for that. We planned to build a Murphy bed, you know, those ones that fold up into a cabinet? One of those was supposed to go there – before Edison was born, so the office could double as another guest room. Yeah, he’s a year
old, and that bed still isn’t built. But maybe by the time he’s having sleepovers, it will be ready. In the meantime, it’s the perfect spot for the play pen!
On the other side of the room, we added navy curtains (also from Ikea) and a double curtain rod, so we could hang sheers and still let in plenty of light. I also moved my desk so that I could look out the window when working.
Up next: I’ll show you how we upgraded our desks, and found a better storage solution for my craft supplies than the pile in the corner.
We’re still putting on the finishing touches, like getting a nice rug, desk chairs, and a cool chalkboard/bulletin board/calendar situation. It remains to be seen!
And arranging the bookshelves. There’s always more to be done on that front.
Here’s the inspiration photos from this post. After all this time, I’m still torn on which color scheme I like better!
While it’s been a loooong, gradual process, it’s amazing how much progress you can make a little bit at a time. This room has come a long way from it’s humble cat pee beginnings!
This year, I started a new habit. When the Sunday night blues start to creep over me as the sun sets, and the anxieties about facing the next week of work begin to rise, I retreat to our hallway bathroom for a bubble bath, magazine and candles in tow.
It works wonders for my mood, and I always feel relaxed and recharged to face the next week. But of all the rooms in our house, we’ve spent the least attention on the bathrooms so far. Probably because they’re adequate. They all work, and other than the master bath, were painted normal colors.
Yes, it’s painted brown. Not a great color for a bathroom.
And the idea of tackling a bathroom remodel is more than a little intimidating. In addition to the brown walls, which we repainted a light aqua, the shower floor is a good two feet lower than the bathroom floor. The configuration of the shelves in the walk-in closet create a lot of wasted space. The sink has an actual hole in it, and the countertop is a weird tile. That’s why the hallway bathroom is my bubble bath destination – even if this is supposed to be a shower/tub combo, it’s just too weird.
Brian’s idea is to not do anything until we can tear everything out and start over, which somehow (inexplicably to me) includes moving some of the bedroom walls. My idea is to start small – a new light fixture, perhaps. Then a new sink and countertop, followed by flooring, and a new shower/bath situation.
But Brian and I do share the same dream of a sliding barn door separating the master bathroom and closet from the rest of the bedroom. And I’ve noticed a few other reoccurring themes in my dreams for the perfect bathroom:
So, on our honeymoon, we stayed at the fanciest hotel we’d ever been to in our entire lives, and it had a glass shower, AND a bathtub. Since then, that’s symbolized the height of luxury to me. In the bathroom above, Glass, the Lucite support for the sink, and white marble tile and walls make a very small bathroom feel spacious.
2. A Variety of Textures and Contrast
First of all, I like the the pendant lights in the bathroom above. Secondly, the cowhide rug is a surprise touch on the floor. I’ve read that they are easy to maintain, and I’m guessing water resistant maybe?
Fluffy towels and a robe = must haves. I’ve noticed that many of the images that caught my attention use black and white tubs, black and white flooring, or a black ceiling, or even further down in this post, a black wall. I like that the black and white contrast feels a little retro and yet, modern. Plus, it’s minimalist and simple, and allows the gold accents or pretty marble to really shine.
Several weeks ago, I spent some time with some girls, one of whom was shopping for a first home, and one of her “must haves” was two sinks in the bathroom, because she’d never lived in a house that had only one, and wouldn’t know how to function. I realized that I’ve never lived in a house with two! Although I do know how to share a sink, having two in the master bathroom would be ideal.
Our first change was to paint the fireplace white, which immediately made the living room feel three times larger. Then in January, we tackled repainting the main living areas of the house, the laundry room, kitchen, dining room, living room, entryway, and hallway from their original beige to a bright, serene gray.
It feels like we gained a few hundred square feet!
On the wall with our TV, I created a mini gallery wall. It still makes me happy every time I look at it. The print, “The days are long but the years are short,” is from Handlettered Design.
I got my navy wall! It only took two tries to get the right color, but it was totally worth it.
I love the pop of color when you first come in.
Here’s the view into the kitchen:
I’ve got big plans for our little kitchen. As much as I’d like to start by tearing out that low ceiling Fixer-Upper style, it’s not all that feasible to tackle first. But I do want to make the kitchen less cave-like by replacing some upper cabinets with open shelves, and painting the lower cabinets white. That will do a lot to take it from totally 80’s to farmhouse chic.
And our little dining room, where one end of the table is often occupied with some craft project I’m working on:
Obviously, this photo was taken around Easter. Or let’s just pretend that I update the chalkboard frequently.
As you can see, the table is pushed all the way against the wall. And still, it feels too big for the space. So tragically, as much as I love my farm table and chairs, I’ve decided to sell it and replace it with something smaller. If I can’t find a table that’s narrow enough to fit, I might end up having Brian build one. I may not have run that idea past Brian yet, so I’ll keep you posted on how that turns out.
No more beige! I love the gray – it really felt like a new house. The color is “Quiet Rain” by Glidden.
One question to those of you with light walls – how do you disguise cords? I hate that the TV cords are black and show up so much against the wall. Do you paint the cords to match the wall? Maybe I’m crazy, but I’m thinking about it.
Next up in this space: finding a smaller coffee table and two small end tables, and a new rug that fits with the color scheme better. I continue to go back to my living room inspiration post to gather new ideas.
Soon I’ll post an update on the progress we’ve made on our office over the last year, and a handful of DIY projects.
What do you think of the new look? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook.