The perfect trifecta

Oh lighting, you really are my favorite way to take a room from “builder-grade” to looking upscale and styled. Seriously everyone, that really is the secret. Invest in good-looking light fixtures.

I am happy to report that every light that I hated in the house has now been replaced. There are still a couple of less noticeable lights that I’d like to replace one day (for instance, in the laundry room), but all of the crucial ones have been replaced now thanks to my awesome Dad and husband who installed recessed lights in my kitchen last weekend! I’m such a lucky girl!

So first of all, let’s review what we’ve already covered as far as kitchen lighting goes. We replaced the fixture over our kitchen table pretty quick after we moved in. And I still love it! 

So after that, I was left with the two builder-grade pendants over the counter…

…and the flush-mount light in the center of the kitchen that provided most of the light for the room:

Now let’s back up a little to when we were making our selections for the house. The standard light they put in the kitchen is a florescent light. This was definitely a no-go for me. So I planned to upgrade the florescent light to recessed lights. When I got to the selections meeting though, the guy talked us out of doing recessed lighting. He was trying to save us money, which was nice, I guess. But I wish I would’ve just gone ahead and gotten what I wanted from the start, since it would’ve saved us lots of work later. So he convinced us to just get a regular flush-mount light for the kitchen. I actually picked this one out (it was the lesser evil out of the options I was offered). But I looked at it as a placeholder of sorts, and always had the intention of replacing it with recessed lighting.

Truth be told, the guy actually did save us some money. If I remember correctly, the builder was going to charge us $500 for upgrading the light to recessed lighting, and we were able to do it ourselves for under $100. It only took us over a year to finally get around to doing it.

We’ve had the pendant lights up since July 2011, but I never did a post on it for two reasons: number one, we installed them right in the height of my wonderful first trimester when I felt oh-so very, very sick. To this day, looking at these pendants still makes me think of being nauseous (I know, I’m so weird). The second reason is that the flush-mount light in the center of the kitchen totally killed the look of these pendants. They looked so mismatched. The only picture I really have to demonstrate this is this one from when we were setting up for our gender reveal party last September:

I’m sure no one noticed but me, but I was always embarrassed of how that center light looked with the pendants. So I never did a blog post about them. Sorry.

But now, look! The recessed lights blend in so nicely and really let those pendants shine.

I am such a huge fan of recessed lighting. I just think it looks upscale. And it goes with any decor. They are one of those things that once you install them, you’ll never have to change.

I’m not sure that installing recessed lighting is something that any DIY-er any one could do. The only reason we were able to do it is because my dad is a genius. Honestly, I am not exaggerating or just trying to flatter him. My dad is an engineer and the things he knows how to do with cars, electrical, etc is seriously awe-inspiring. He saved us so much money by wiring the recessed lighting for us. He talked Nick through all the “manual labor” such as cutting the hole and installing the light, then my Dad did the wiring. The two of them really had a good little system going and it only took them about half a day to get all three lights installed. I was seriously so impressed!

I just love how all the lighting looks together. What a change from what the house came with!

So from the bottom of my heart, thank you to Nick and my Dad for making my recessed lighting dreams come true. Now you ready to install some in the living room?? 😉

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My greenish thumb?

Let me preface this post by saying that I am in no way, shape or fashion a gardner. I am more certain of this fact now than ever before. I like planning and picking out plants, but I don’t like planting them, I don’t like maintaining them, I definitely don’t like weeding them, and I have no patience waiting for them to grow.

My “garden” definitely reflects the fact that I am not a gardener. There is a fine line between a wonderfully full “cottage garden” look, and a flowerbed that just looks overgrown and under-maintained. My garden is definitely walking that very fine line, and all spring I haven’t been able to decide which side of that line it is on.

But after writing this post about picking out plants last year, I thought I should do a little update to show you how they have grown over the past year.

When we moved in, this is what we started with. Pretty puny:

Here is the garden last summer:

And here it is now:

So things have definitely grown this year! It helps that we have actually had some rain this spring.

My top performers and the plant I would recommend wholeheartedly is the purple butterfly bush up front. I love this bush because it is extremely low maintenance and it blooms continuously from late spring until frost. Beautiful color, and it really does attract butterflies!

My Star of Jasmine climbing vines really have done well too. Here they were all tiny and new last year:

And now look at them:

When we bought this Texas Lilac shrub last year…

…we really had no clue how huge it would become:

It’s practically tree-like! And to be honest, I’ve gone back and forth on whether or not I like it. It looks really pretty now that it is blooming, but earlier this spring it just kind of looked like a big weed. So the jury’s still out on that one. It might just be a matter of making sure we keep it trimmed properly.

My gardenia plan (in front of the garage) is still so small and puny. But I was so excited when it actually bloomed this year! We didn’t have a single bloom last season.

But without a doubt, the all star of my garden this year is my hydrangea plant! You may recall that I ordered it online last year, and it arrived looking all shriveled and pathetic. It made a little progress last season…

And look at it now!!!!!

Yes, that is worthy of multiple exclamation marks, because that is about the reaction I had when I realized it was actually going to bloom this season!! I may have jumped and down and squeeled a bit.

Hydrangeas are my favorite flowers and it completely MAKES the garden for me. I hope it keeps growing and gets huge.

I want to plant hydrangea bushes everywhere. Oh so pretty 🙂

So that’s where we are with the garden this season. I would much appreciate any advice you have for me, since gardening doesn’t really come naturally for me. I prefer the full, cottage garden look over an uber-manicured garden with perfectly round clumps of bushes. But I am not sure how to best keep it looking neat and intentional so it doesn’t look like a bunch of overgrown weeds. Any tips?

A hallway upgrade

My last post teased about a little painting project we were starting that day. Remember, I said you could see the wall we would be painting in this picture?

Any guesses to which wall it was/what we did?? No? Okay, well can you spot it in this picture?

Yep! We painted stripes in our hallway! What a fun, (relatively) easy, and CHEAP project with some big impact. I love how it makes the hallway look so much more finished. And it even adds some visual interest to the living room as well.

But before we get into that, lets see what we started with.

As I am sure comes as no surprise, this hallway has never been very high on our list of priorities. In fact, it sat for months completely bare, except for three lone picture frames. Then I added this runner rug last summer. As I talked about in this post, we replaced the light fixtures with these fun globe ones last July.

In that post I told you about how we scored these Pottery Barn lights brand new on eBay for about $100 cheaper than what it would’ve cost to go through PB. Well, a couple of months later, Nick and I were watching TV in the living room when we suddenly heard a loud crash. Yep, you guessed it. One of the glass globes fell and completely shattered. Only then did I read quite a few reviews on Pottery Barn’s website of people who have experienced the same issue with the globes falling and shattering (it probably just wasn’t screwed onto the fixture tight enough). But all the reviews talked about how wonderful PB was about sending them a replacement light when they made them aware of the issue. But since I ordered it off of eBay I was pretty much out of luck and would just have to buy a whole ‘nother light. So, that is a word to the wise. If you try to go the cheap route, you obviously wont be entitled to the same customer service should your light break.

After that fun little incident, I just couldn’t bring myself to spend the money to buy a replacement so one of the lights sat globe-less for a good 10 months or so. We finally bit the bullet and bought a replacement for our wedding anniversary this month. And I guess I didn’t really learn my lesson, because I bought it off of eBay again…I just couldn’t stand buying it from PB when I could get the same light for cheaper elsewhere.

I also added three new frames to our gallery wall. As I mentioned in this post, my plan is to add an additional frame every year with a photo of the “big event” of that year. So I had our wedding picture for 2008, a family picture with our new puppy in 2009, and a picture of us in front of our new house in 2010. I wanted the frames to be balanced out, so I went ahead and hung up three more frames with maternity photos for 2011. But I plan to replace one of those with a picture of Kate for 2012, and then I will replace the photo in the third frame once we get to 2013.

So with our light replaced and three new frames filling our “gallery wall,” I felt inspired to finish the area off and add a little more style to it. I have been itching to do stripes somewhere in the house for a while now. I loved the subtle tone-on-tone look of our dining room stencil project, so I decided to use the same semi-gloss bright white paint to paint stripes in the hallway.

Once again, it was Young House Love to the rescue (am I a little obsessed? Hey, just because my day isn’t complete if I don’t read that blog doesn’t mean I’m obsessed. And just because I have had more than one dream with them in it and talk to Nick about what John and Sherry did as if they are my friends, that doesn’t mean I’m obsessed. What? It doesn’t… ;)) We used the instructions in this post to tape off our walls and paint the stripes.

We (well actually, Nick) divided our wall out to create 7 stripes that measured approximately 9 inches each.

He used a laser level to mark off every 9 inches, then taped off the stripes with painter’s tape. As YHL points out, the tape should go outside the stripes you’ll be painting but inside the negative space you won’t be painting (once you remove the tape both areas will be the same width).

Once it was taped off it looked all kinds of crazy.

What? You’re not a fan of the bright blue and green stripes? I actually think they could look really cool if you had a bright and bold house. I, however, do not, so it was time to get to painting my subtle stripes.

So (drumroll please)… the end result:

I’m a pretty big fan. You know I love my subtle tone-on-tones. And my favorite part is how you can see a peek of it from the living room.

From a distance it really looks like wallpaper and I love how it makes the whole space look more complete. You can’t see it in this photo but if you are standing in the middle of the living room, you would see the tone-on-tone stripes in the hallway to your left and the tone-on-tone stencil in the dining room to your right. Everything is tied together very nicely without being too matchy-matchy.

So there’s one more space that I can check off as “done” …at least for now! Now its on to the next room! I am already starting to formulate my plan for the office/playroom I want to create (you can see a peek of our office’s current “blah” state at the end of the hallway in the picture above.

I think I just heard Nick groaning in the background…will the projects ever stop?? 🙂