Filling the hole

When we last left off, I had a hole in my wall, and now we don’t!

To summarize: what was this…mg_9214

and then this…

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is now this.

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We still have a few finishing touches to do (filling in some holes, etc), but they look pretty from afar 🙂

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The transom was actually pretty easy to install (said the person who didn’t have to do any of the installation, but there was very little cursing on Nick’s part, which is what I use to gauge the ease of any project).

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Basically, in my over-simplified terms, he had to build the window jam, which was a simple wood box that the window sits inside of. Then you put that up, and frame the edges with moulding. Somehow the window did get installed slightly off-center, but we just added a little more wood to that part and once I painted it white, you can not tell at all. It all blends in perfectly. Paint covers a multitude of sins 🙂

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This summer somehow turned into the summer of working on all of the finishing touches I have wanted to incorporate into the living room since before we even moved in. Besides finishing up the transom/french door combo, we also retiled the fireplace to something a little more “custom,” added more woodwork to the mantle, and Nick is currently in the process of installing crown moulding (which you can see in this picture, although it hasn’t been painted yet). So I will be back with all of those details!

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Programming note…

Chalk it up to the perfectionist in me…but I absolutely could not stand the pictures I took of Kate’s nursery back in February when I was huge and pregnant and had no natural light (a casualty of working til 5 every night in the winter). So I went back and replaced most of them with better lit pictures that show the room’s colors a bit better. You can find the updates here: Kate’s nursery

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A hole in my wall

We are currently in the middle of fulfilling a dream I’ve had since before we moved in! Its a bit more complicated than our normal projects, so it has been put off and put on hold for quite some time. As I talked about in this post, when we built this house, I asked them to close in our dining room, rather than keeping it open concept separated by only a column.

So instead of this:

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Ours looks like this:mg_9360

As I talked about in this post, we asked the builder to size the doorway to fit standard size french doors. It was going to be much cheaper for us to put them in ourselves rather than have the builder do it for us. Installing them ourselves seemed simple enough.

But, you know me…I can’t leave simple enough alone. One day, I got in my head that I wanted a transom window above the doors. My reasoning for this is that, although I am glad that I put up the wall around the dining room (I lived in a 1940s house all of my life, so I guess I value the “closed floorplan” more than most probably do), the room does feel very closed in since it is so small. So I thought that adding the window above would bring in more light and create an airy feeling. Plus, it would add some architectural interest to the house, and be really pretty. 🙂

Here is a picture I found online of the basic idea behind this project:

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The problem is, our opening was a foot too short to add in the transom. So we needed to extend the height. This is where we came screeching to a halt for a couple of years. Understandably so, Nick didn’t feel like he should be messing with the house’s structure. He didn’t want to be the one responsible for the roof crashing in 🙂

I was almost 100% certain that this was not a load bearing wall, since the wall would not have even existed if I didn’t request it. Luckily, we took pictures of the wall before it was sheet rocked, so an expert (which we certainly are not) would most likely be able to know whether or not extending the doorway would affect the structure in any way.

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We put it off for a long time because I had no idea how to find a reputable contractor. And I had no idea what it would cost to hire them.

I used my birthday as an excuse to get the ball rolling again. I told Nick not to get me anything, to count this project as my present. I also pulled together any money I received as a gift to go toward the project.

So on my birthday, we went to Home Depot to get an estimate on ordering a transom window and doors. It was a very unpleasant experience with a very rude salesperson. When she priced the doors at over double the price of stock french doors we have seen at Home Depot in the past, she told us “they stopped carrying those doors in-store. People don’t want doors like that. They want solid paneled doors. Too bad too, because those doors got down to $200 before we stopped carrying them.”

Really? No one else in the world wants french doors? I kind of find that hard to believe.

A day later, when Nick was at another Home Depot in the neighboring city, he texted me a picture of…. you guessed it. The very same french doors that our Home Depot “used to carry.” Lowes carries them too. So apparently someone out there is still wanting french doors.

I could also tell that the girl thought I was completely crazy for wanting the transom window above the doors. She had to call one of her co-workers to ask them a question and I could tell by her conversation that they were making fun of this idea (she wasn’t very discrete). Yes, I understand that it is not necessary. It is not functional. It is purely for aesthetics. But sometimes that’s what you do when you are doing interior design. You pick something for the architectural interest and aesthetics.

When I asked her what she thought it would cost to hire a contractor to extend the opening a foot, she said she wasn’t sure but “at least a grand.” I was like, seriously, to cut a one-foot hole in a wall? “Yes, that’s big. It is.”(said in a very rude and condescending tone).

I know that a lot of it was that the girl probably just had no clue what we were actually talking about, but the contractor we ended up going with charged $330. And it is completely eatting away at me inside, because I want to get in touch with her and say “I was right, you were wrong, na-na-na-boo-boo.” So there. Hopefully getting it out on this ole here blog will calm me down a bit about the whole situation. I just can’t stand it when people treat me, a paying customer, like I am stupid.

So, yeah, that is a roundabout way of saying, we hired a contractor and he cut a hole in our house.

So it went from this: img_3985-e1321152059370

To this:

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The one good thing that came from our Home Depot consultation was that we were told about a service they offer called Red Beacon. This service allows you to submit a project request through the Red Beacon website, and within hours, contractors contact you with a bid. It was amazing. Within days we had three different contractors come out and give us an estimate. The first one quoted us $650, then lowered it down to $500 when I acted like it was too high. The second one told us that it was a project we could do on our own and to just give him a call if we end up needing help (I thought this was an interesting approach for a contractor). The last guy quoted us $350. So we went with the last guy. If you book through Red Beacon, they offer a $20 credit (I’m assuming this is a promotional, one-time only thing for your first experience). So in the end, it cost $330, which I felt was very reasonable.

Once it was all said and done, Nick felt like it was probably something he really could’ve done on his own. This wall is basically just a dummy wall. Cutting into it did not affect any of the house structure. But in this case, it was one of those things where it was better to just know that an expert did it and gave his seal of approval on the whole project. It was worth the peace of mind. Plus I am happy to have found a contractor we liked, should we ever need him again for another project.

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So last weekend we went to the Home Depot that does carry the doors and made our purchase. It cost $305, which saved us more than $300 over the custom ordered door that our friend from Home Depot was trying to sell us. And it saved us $50 over the same door at Lowes. 1010782_695185821711_1386953947_n

Getting it home was quite the adventure. But we made it safe and sound.

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So after Nick installed it, and I painted it, here she be:
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Nick wanted to install the door first before we ordered the transom window, just to make 100% sure that we ordered the right size. So we placed that order a couple of days ago (through an online retailer “Transoms Direct,” which was much cheaper that Home Depot quoted us). With shipping, it was $180, which was much lower than I expected.
Obviously, this project has required an investment. We knew it would. But I am very proud of us for saving money where we could. This project has actual ended up costing less than I expected.

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Now I just can’t wait to get that window in, add some moulding around the doorway and call this project finished. I’ll be back with the details when that happens.

From $11 to free

So remember this post when I showed you some cheap ($11) wall art that I hung on the wall in our breakfast nook?

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It was okay, but nothing to write home about. I was ready for something a bit more substantial. So I consulted Pinterest, and decided wood planks were the way to go for that rustic, Pottery Barn vibe I’m going for.

There were a couple of different ways I could go. Painting a phrase…

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Or I also really liked the idea of painting everything and leaving the phrase wood…5a93af91159c3bcac1ba3199ac2f00daWe have a lot of construction going on in our neighborhood, so there are piles of scraps sitting everywhere. One night Nick went and picked up one of the old pallets and set to work tearing it apart.

And there it sat for a couple of months, while I tried to make up my mind. The reason for my procrastination was twofold:

1. I couldn’t decide on a phrase that would sum up our family while also being something I could stand looking at every day. I didn’t want it to be too cheesy, too cutesy, or two cliche.

2. I knew that painting the letters perfectly would prove to be frustrating and time consuming. I couldn’t muster up the gusto to actually get on it.

Then one day in my pinning, I stumbled across this:

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I loved the idea putting a chunky, rustic frame on top. I take about 1,200,025 pictures a month (if only I was kidding!), and so I am always trying to figure out ways to display them. And lets face it, a huge draw was that it would be infinitely simpler than stenciling or hand lettering a phrase.

Or at least, simpler for me. Haha. Nick had to build the frame, so I guess he wouldn’t necessarily agree. But really, it didn’t take him long at all to put it together from some scrap wood we had in our garage. And he really liked the fact that I wanted it rustic so nothing had to be perfect.

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After he built the frame, I attached the glass from an old 8×10 frame I had around to the back of the frame, and Nick used two picture frame hooks to attach the white frame to the wood planks, so that we can easily remove it to switch out the picture from time to time.

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I’m pretty much obsessed with this picture. It is not technically perfect (a little blurry), but it will forever represent this summer for me. On our back porch we have a stand that holds three little pots. After killing about a dozen (or more!) plants each year, because inevitably I forget to water them (and they dry out so fast since they are tiny) someone once suggested I just put fake plants in there. I know, it doesn’t sound all that classy, but it has been so nice because they give a little green to that area and I don’t have to water! Anyway, Kate discovered these one day and now makes it a daily habit to move these plants from pot to pot and around the porch. It is super-cute, and a nice little game to entertain her for a while each day.

So one day, I took her outside for a little photoshoot to fill this new frame (nope, not one of the 1,200,025 pictures I already had would possibly work). I intended to do an extreme close-up profile shot similar to the inspiration pic we used for the project. But Kate was more interested in playing florist and bringing me all of the plants. So I went with it, and, at least in my opinion, the result is infinitely better than any profile shot would’ve been for this space. I love how it almost looks like a generic stock photo, but there is a story behind it and a sweet reminder of this summer with my girl.

IMG_1914So since we used all scrap wood, plus used paint, glass and hooks we already had on hand, and I printed the photo from home (using my new super-awesome Canon photo printer, its life-changing, folks!), that makes this project F-R-E-E! And it is so much more visually interesting and better proportioned for the space than what was there previously. Couldn’t be happier. I told Nick, this may be the most 100% pleased I have ever been with one of our projects. It was so easy and it ended up even better than I expected. Plus, did I mention, it was free?

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Office closet organization

This post is definitely more function over form, but sometimes that is the best kind of project. I seriously cannot relax when a space is disorganized. So, you can imagine how I felt, when somehow, my office closet turned into this (brace yourself, this is so humiliating for a neat-freak like me)…

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I’m not really sure how it got to this point. A couple of contributing factors included having to move a lot of things from our old self-proclaimed junk closet when it turned into Kate’s closet. I also had just had a baby, so I had piles and piles of photos waiting to be labeled and put into albums. I had a ton of Kate’s weekly fabric in piles without a place to call their home. And I had an overabundance of tissue paper/gift bags that I had received from showers, and wanted to keep to use for the showers of all my many friends who were having babies at that point as well. Oh, and I was redoing the office, so a lot of the stuff was being held in the closet for the time being. It just made for a lot of junk.

But let’s rewind a bit and start from the beginning. This is what it looked like when we first moved in:

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I’ve always used this closet as my craft closet. I have a lot of craft supplies (papers, glues, paint, etc). When we first got married, I was actually quite proud of myself for organizing all of it into these little containers. But somewhere between three moves, these plastic drawers were looking a little dilapidated. They were capsizing under the weight of everything they were holding. So when we moved into our house, I decided it was time to invest in something a little sturdier.

So try to see past the junk, to the two white cabinets we bought from IKEA.

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I didn’t take any pictures to prove it, but before baby-palooza and office redecorating hit, they actually were looking quite slick in this space. I love the abundance of shallow drawers. The more separate compartments you have, the more organized you can be. It really is a great storage solution for all of my crafts and office supplies.

But despite that, the rest of the space still ended up looking like this:IMG_7559 IMG_7561  IMG_7563

So finally, enough was enough. After some work, the closet now looks like this:

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The real catalyst for improvement was when I started my Etsy shop in March. As the business has grown, I have been able to make an investment in a quality, large-format photo printer (it’s. awesome.). But I knew I definitely did not want to have it in my pretty new office/playroom space, so we had to figure out how to utilize the space we have in the closet to give me a space to print. IMG_1937

It is actually quite serendipitous, because one of our IKEA cabinets is actually the perfect size to snuggly hold the printer. And it has always bothered me that the second cabinet was a bit taller, but now, with the printer sitting there, it actually seems to make sense.

Another problem we were encountering with my Etsy shop, was that I needed more workspace to trim the paper/pack boxes, etc. So Nick came up with the GENIUS idea of adding a board on top of the taller cabinet, and then extending it out in an “L” shape to create a shelf on the adjacent wall. Pure genius! This totally transformed the space from closet, to a small, handy workspace!

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I like that there is also a small space in between the cabinet and the wall where I can slide in large paper, my lap desk, and other odds and ends. That was a happy little accident, and is great for tucking things away.

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I love my new printer. The quality of its prints have exceeded my expectations (I can now professionally print photos at home…you would not be able to tell a difference, it is that good). It is also awesome to have the capacity to print large format paper up to 13×19. No more trips to Office Depot or Kinkos! However, the only disappointment I have had with this printer is that I bought it specifically because it had wireless capabilities, but it has NEVER worked for us. Every time we try to print wireless, it ends up timing out halfway through the job with a “communication error.” So for a while we were having to move the (very heavy) printer over to the computer and attach it with a USB cord every time we needed to print. I wasn’t sure what to do, because I wasn’t going to let a big, bulky printer junk up my cute office/playroom space! Then one day I got the idea… I could purchase a super-super long USB cord, and whenever I needed to print, I could leave the printer where it was and just string the cord through the room and attach to the printer. No, it is still not the ideal situation, and hopefully one day we will solve the wireless printing issues, but it has been easy enough for now.

So Nick cut part of the clothes bar that we removed when we added more shelves to the closet, and attached two ends to the wall so we can neatly wrap the cord around them when it is not in use.

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So speaking of shelves, Nick added three: One on top of the existing shelf that is above the printer, and two to the adjacent wall.  They now give me the space to organize all of my Etsy shop packing materials and papers so they are easy to find and use when needed.   IMG_1957

I used washi tape that I already had on hand to make little labels for all of my different papers.

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So what happened to that embarrassing mess of gift wrap, you may ask. It got relocated to the guest room closet. IMG_1965

See those three containers hanging from the wall? They hold everything that had been sitting in a pile on the floor. I LOVE this system (from IKEA, of course). Everything very neatly folds inside and when I pull the drawer out, I can easily see everything and grab what I need. IMG_1967

It is so handy! Just another great example of how everything in the home just needs its own place. Things only get unruly when you don’t have a spot to put them.

So there you go. The story of how one closet went from this:

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…to this:IMG_1962

Ahhhh…I can breathe again 🙂

Up, up and away for Kate’s first birthday!

IMG_6240Kate’s first birthday was a labor of love for me. I thoroughly enjoying every bit of the party planning. I started early (I decided on the theme when she was probably six months old!), and I tried to delegate out the things that I don’t usually enjoy (making the food), so that I had plenty of time to devote to the parts I do enjoy (decorating and putting together all the little party details).

It is no secret that the hot air balloon party theme is hot right now. Take one look at Pinterest…its everywhere. I loved it for the whimsy. It is fun, sweet and little magical, without being too babyish or overly-girlie. For some reason, when it comes to Kate, I always seem to lean toward a slight “vintage” vibe, which is also apparent in her nursery. Strange, because I don’t usually go for this look anywhere else when I decorate.

So I picked a muted, vintage inspired pink and powder blue to serve as her party colors. As always, everything starts for me with the invitations.

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I got the idea for the invitation from Pinterest…I was pretty much obsessed with those 3-D clouds floating on the paper. Oh so fun! I pulled all the other party elements from this design. So come on in, and welcome to the party!

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I bought scrapbook paper in my party colors and used a circle die-cut to punch out circles. My sister then used her sewing machine to connect them into strands. They turned out super-cute, and yay for me delagating. Seriously, this is a skill I am trying to work on. I have a major problem with trying to do everything myself rather than asking for help.

The most time consuming part of this party was making all the floating hot air balloons and clouds. I wanted to make enough so that they made an impression. I think I ended up with 12 balloons and probably twice that amount of clouds. Totally worth it. They made the party for me. I used the same colors of scrapbook paper, cut out a hot air balloon shape, and then folded them in half and glued them together back-to-back to have a 3-D effect. I was proud of myself for figuring out how to do this…to say that math (geometry or otherwise), is not my strongsuit would be an understatement. My brain just doesn’t think that way.

We had a  slideshow of pictures on the TV with all of her weekly and monthly photos in order, so you could watch Kate grow. So I added a little “Watch Me Grow” banner on top of the tv to make this a party station. I also laid out all of her photobooks for people to look through.

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The second party station we had was a “Help Me Remember” station, where guests were asked to put their thumbprints on a sheet (to look like a basket holding tons of balloons), and then sign a special message for Kate in her Hot Air Balloon book.

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And then there was the food. I did not make one thing, and this was the key to my sanity when putting together this party. My sister is a fantastic baker, and she made everything except for the cake and the cookies (which I ordered from a local baker).

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My vision for this party was for it to be a dessert buffet of really sophisticated little “bites,” like macaroons, meringues, and cake balls. Of course, all had to match the party colors! My sister fulfilled my vision so perfectly on this. I mean seriously, these are not easy desserts to make, and she pulled it off while also being in grad school and having a conference she had to attend that weekend. I’m amazed and forever grateful.

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The cake balls were even pink inside to match the party theme. Should’ve gotten a picture of that…

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And that cake! I’m sure everyone has probably seen this cake design floating around Pinterest. I really served as my jumping off point for the entire party and I took great care in trying to find a talented baker who could pull it off. Yes, this was my great “splurge” for the party. I was also most apprehensive about the cake, since I wouldn’t see it until a couple of hours before the party. I just kept praying it turned out the way I hoped, and oh my goodness, she did not disappoint. It was exactly what I envisioned. I was giddy with excitement over this beautiful cake.

She also rocked the cookies…

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And the smashcake…IMG_6081

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I saw the highchair banner idea on Pinterest and liked the idea of “Oh, the places she will go!” Fit with the hot air balloon/up, up and away theme, plus it makes this momma a little sentimental thinking of all the wonderful things in store for her little one year old’s future. I added some leftover circle garland strands to the high chair to make it festive.

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She was a little timid with the cake at first, but eventually realized “hey, this tastes good!” It was her first taste of dessert, and now she is hooked. I can’t eat my after-dinner bite of dessert without her throwing a fit to have a piece now. I guess it’s a good diet plan for me, but I have a feeling I may have created a monster. A small part of me is relieved though, because her daddy doesn’t like chocolate or icing (basically all that is good on desserts), so I am glad that Kate took after me instead, and for the rest of my life I now have someone who will help me polish off “the good stuff” at restaurants, or share a bag of candy or a batch of chocolate chip cookies with me at home. As you can tell, this had been a great burden on my life before! Haha!

And what goes better with rich, yummy desserts than a glass of cold milk? How about chocolate or strawberry milk??

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Truth be told, I mainly went with the milk idea because I knew it would be so beautiful visually (the jugs were all Starbucks Coffee jars…I certainly had fun downing all of those before the party! Haha). But I was a little nervous about whether or not people would actually drink the milk. I was pleasantly surprised to see that most people enthusiastically went for the milk! It added a touch of fun to the party that plastic cups of Diet Coke just wouldn’t have been able to provide.

But just in case I also had water bottles on hand. IMG_6161

This party began what I am sure will be a love affair with the stripped paper straw. I got these from Shop Sweet Lulu (who also featured this party on their blog, so exciting!!).

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Notice the birthday poster in the background? This was a fun little touch that I am so glad I took the time to do. We took Kate out on a little “hot air balloon” photoshoot, and then I added text on top of it with stats and favorites from her first year. Then I had it printed as a large poster through Vistaprint, for about $15.

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I looked at this party as a celebration of looking back on Kate’s first year and just remembering how blessed we have been with this sweet little girl. I decided I would rather not have gifts (this is just a personal preference of mine. At this age, kids usually don’t even care about the gifts, and I would rather her have a few quality toys she can really get a use out of, rather than being overwhelmed by an abundance of cheap, plastic toys).

So in place of the time that opening gifts would’ve taken, I created a video compilation of her first year of life. I am so glad I did this because it puts all my favorite video moments together in one place. The three songs featured are all by JJ Heller, which was a godsend to me that first year. How many tears have I cried singing these sweet songs to my baby girl. I wish there were more “love songs to baby” out there. These are such treasures to me.


Kate’s first birthday video

As the party wrapped up, guests could leave with a little bag of cotton candy clouds and a hot air balloon lollipop (from this Etsy shop).

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The next day we had a little first birthday photoshoot with her leftover smashcake. Gotta get the obligatory cake-all-over-baby shots, after all 🙂 I took all of the circle garlands and strung them up on the wall to serve as a makeshift backdrop. It turned out so cute…and goodness knows, I needed an excuse to take even more pictures 🙂

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The hat was from Sweet Delights, and the bib was from The Perfect Puddle. All of Kate’s party elements can be purchased from my Etsy shop.

Work and play

So in my last post, I promised not one, but two room makeovers for you. So here is installment number two. It has been a long time coming. So long that it started as me wanting to do an office makeover and then morphed into an office/playroom once Kate was born.

I really like this room, because it has a huge window with tons of natural light. But for the first year or so, it sat pretty neglected. It held the couch we had used in our apartment living room, a desk we bought while we were living in the rental house, and some grey paintings/accessories I came up with while we were in the rental. Our biggest “accomplishment” to the room to date was finally buying some blinds for that huge window.IMG_6488IMG_6468IMG_6472

Nick’s grandparents offered us their old 42″ tv. We gladly accepted because…well, who turns down a 42″ flatscreen tv?? But we already had one for the living room so there was quite a bit of debate over where to put this tv. I didn’t feel like it really belonged in the master bedroom. So we decided to put it in the office, because it would be nice to be able to watch tv while I worked on the computer. So for the longest time, it looked like this. Cords hanging down the wall = classy, doncha think?

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I hemmed and hawed over this room for years. My original plan was to do a yellow and gray color scheme. But then, I saw this floating around Pinterest-land. And it changed my direction to navys and greens.

Finding these curtains (from IKEA) sealed the deal:

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But, um…notice that the curtains are highwatering? I ended up “sewing” (or maybe hot gluing…shh, don’t tell!) navy fabric to the bottom. I don’t have a progress picture of that, but you can see it in the reveal pictures below. I actually much prefer the curtains with the navy added to it. It balances out the graphic pattern and makes them look much more custom. 

So next up, I decided to jump on the chalkboard wall bandwagon. I thought it would be a really fun thing for Kate to play with as she got older (and I would enjoy playing with it in the meantime!). I figured the room could handle a black wall since that huge window lets in so much light. 

So we got to painting. 

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We actually used a can of magnetic paint underneath (although, on a wall this size I would actually recommend at least two cans, I had to go back and repaint later because it wasn’t as magnetic as I hoped it would be), then we painted chalkboard paint on top. You can see in the picture below that the chalkboard paint is a bit darker than the magnetic stuff. You can also see the paint chips we were deciding about for the rest of the walls. 

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After you finish painting it, you have to let the paint cure for a few days, then you have to condition the wall by rubbing chalk all over the entire wall and then erasing it.

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As you can see in this picture, we bought a new, much smaller desk (from IKEA…yeah, I know, where else?). One thing I didn’t like about the previous room’s arrangement was how my back was to the door, so I felt like I was just staring at a wall. I really wanted this room to serve as a way for me to be able to work on the computer while also being able to see and interact with Kate. So we put the desk in the center of the room, facing the the play area. Then Nick built some storage shelves to go behind the desk and a toy storage bench/desk for the play area. Why am I still talking…let’s just get to the pictures 🙂

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I didn’t take a picture of the tv now, but it is in the same spot (on the wall above the bench in the picture below). I can’t even begin to explain how he did it, but Nick was AWESOME and moved the electrical outlet so that it is now behind the tv.   IMG_5847 IMG_5844IMG_5863_MG_9153

The perfectionist in me needs to point out that I will be adding more pillows to this bench at some point. I’m thinking something fun, like in the shape of clouds. Just haven’t felt like spending the money yet.     

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Something worth mentioning with the canvas photo. It actually is a $30 print I used spray adhesive to attach to a canvas that I have had for years (and repainted many, many times…most recently it was the grey canvas over the couch in the “before” pictures).  IMG_5000      

I googled around and printing a canvas this size would’ve been over $200. I was pretty proud of how it turned out. Maybe one day I will paint the edges a fun color. 

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Decorating this room was SO much fun because it gave me the excuse to be playful and definitely was a departure from my normal color scheme. Hopefully the room will grow and evolve to accommodate Kate’s play needs as she get’s older. So far, I’d say she’s enjoying it 🙂

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