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I thought I’d share a quick way-back “before” of the house.  When the Chief inherited this place it was in pretty bad shape – cars parked on the lawn, disrepair everywhere, bad colors, you name it.  Being a guy, he mostly has close up pictures of what the old plumbing looked like and stuff, but I did find a couple wider angle shots in his picture archives from five or six years ago.  Let me just say it was gnarly and he had already done a ton to improve things by the time we met.

The way-back machine… appropriate since we are hosting a Back to the Future marathon for Memorial Day…

Yup, that is really what the front yard looked like.

And today…

And before…

And after.

I think the picture is worth a thousand words, don’t you?  Oh yeah!  And very exciting – we are working on framing in the front door and far right window this weekend, which will add a lot of polish and curb appeal.  Just give it a more finished touch, you know?  Things are moving fast around here right now!  Further plans are to repaint the house – you can see where the new stucco around the garage is unpainted –  paint the house trim white.  Eventually (i.e. probably not this year) we will probably replace those old 6×6 windows and redo the pathway up to the door.

What do you think of the changes in the last five years?


Our home’s exterior has been improving slowly but surely.  I like to think that the outside has gone from looking like an, ahem, fixer upper, to a happy little starter home.  Maybe in 5 years more it will look like a wonderful jewel box of a cottage.   In the last 18 months the Chief particularly has done a lot of work  (with some help from friends).  We’ve replaced the sagging and dangerous wooden garage door and frame with steel and a shiny new automatic door, we’ve gotten a lawn and a good sprinkler schedule, we’ve limbed the pine tree, put out some flowerpots, and now…

We’ve painted the front door red.

This has been a tedious process, well rewarded by the high impact results.  Three times has the Chief removed the door’s hardware and taken it off the hinges, and yea three times have I brushed and sanded and primed and painted, and yet again three times has the Chief re-installed the door and all its hardware.  It was a pre-primed steel door and I did a lot of research to figure out what a good, durable method would be for painting it – here’s the link if you’re interested.

I was the one who wanted the door to have COLOR, as it was previously unpainted and a dingy bluish-white.  The only color the Chief wanted was red, which was fine by me.  There was a House Beautiful issue a while back where one designer described the red door on a recent project to be like a big welcome home kiss, and that’s what I think of when I look at our door.

Here’s our house – still plenty to do, yes, but we have come a long way!

And here is our red, red front door.   (We’ll be framing it in this summer.)

WELCOME HOME!  It is also extremely cheery to look at when driving away to work in the morning.  It makes me look forward to coming home again.  I have seen front doors in other great colors, such as bright yellow, eggplant, cranberry, and various blues, but I think that red is really the best choice for our house.  It goes well with the pale yellow paint and the charcoal black roof.  We plan to paint the house trim white (currently blue-gray) and give it a classic, yet cheerful look.  Doesn’t it just make you smile?

Today is the last day in a while that I will have a cuppa tea as part of my morning ritual.  I’m quitting caffeine for a bit.  Anytime you decide to quit something, whether it’s a man, coffee, white flour, whatever, it seems to bring up all the most pleasant memories and longings of that thing as if your brain is trying to convince you not to make the change.

This morning I’ve been flashing on one of the most pleasant cafes I’ve ever visited – Balzac’s, in Stratford, Ontario.  When I was in college, every year the theatre department would go to the Stratford Festival and catch five plays in three days.  Bliss, I tell you. 


One year there was an actor in a couple of the plays that we saw who really captured my attention.  He was one of those ugly guys with a beautiful speaking voice who has so much presence that he is just magnetic.  Did I mention his voice was beautiful?  Like chocolate silk?  Makes a woman’s insides get trembly?  I bet I can find a picture of him… yup, here he is, though I’d rather have an audio clip:

Anyway, Stratford’s a small town full of mostly tourists and Festival people, and one morning I saw him at Balzac’s.   I went over and stammered how much I’d enjoyed him in Threepenny Opera… he smiled warmly at me… and in The Swanne… his eyes flickered and his smile became stiff but he thanked me politely.  It was only after I’d walked away that I remembered it was SOME OTHER DUDE with a beautiful voice in The Swanne. 

Oh Tom, I’m so sorry.  As an actor myself and as a fan, I just want you to know that you are so great that you made my brain go haywire.   I hope I didn’t make you think you couldn’t be THAT memorable.   Because you are the best.  Sincerely, Julie.

The living room is so wonderfully livable.

All the changes I had in mind after my redesign suggestions have been (more or less) carried out, and it feels great.  The room literally feels good to me – you sensory people will know what I mean when I say the energy flows and pools well, the eye is comfortably drawn around the space, and it WORKS.  I mean the room has actually become a place where I, the husband, and the cats all voluntarily hang out. 

These were the original goals, as listed in this post:

  • Get some color in there!  Take the rust red in the drum seats and spread it around, and add another accent color to finish it.  [I ended up adding cobalt and turquoise.] 
  • Move the desk to the right corner of the room so that the landing strip is less crowded and so that small corner can be put to good use.
  • To make the double windows a focus, bring a loveseat into an L with the existing sofa, slipcovering to match.  No need for a coffee table as space is tight: the drum seats can double for that if needed by adding a tray to one. [I used the loveseat and the armchair as they fit the available space better.]
  • The bookcase on the back wall is one of the first things you see, so de-clutter it, and switch out the mirror for a bigger one. [I added a second bookcase to make this focal point more substantial and weighty.]
  • add two more sources of light for greater ambience and an inviting, layered look [still need one more!]. 

The Goods:

On the left are drum seats made by me, ditto the toss pillows.  I spray painted the lamp base cobalt blue and stenciled chevrons onto the rug.  I have made my peace with the black leather couches and am glad that at least they don’t collect cat hair.

The front door is off in this shot – I was painting it, hence the hardware at the base of the curtain.  Our “landing strip” table is a bit small but ok for now.

Here is the slightly unfinished back corner where my laptop lives.  (I do not know why our cream colored walls turn out so acidic in photos.  Maybe when I get a Real Camera – am currently using the Chief’s iPhone – I can do something about that.)

What do you think?  I’m very happy with the progress.  Naturally there are always tweaks as a newly restyled room gets lived in and I already know that the entryway landing strip will get tweaked.  I kind of want to get a big old thrifted buffet table and paint it blue. 

I also will be improving the lobster corner. (bigger rug?  hanging lamp or wall sconce?)

Here is a closeup of the quirky lobster lithograph we got from my parents, who had it from their typesetting business days.  That’s from before computers, kids.

So there you have it – the new living room! 

On my perhaps-someday-wishlist, I would love to upgrade the window treatments to be more substantial, and replace the 5×7 chevron-painted rug with a traditional pattern with more color.  I’m very happy with what we have for now, though.   I’m proud that I was able to make the most of flimsy cotton curtains with some clip rings and glued on ribbon trim, and turned an officey brown poly rug into an interesting chevron one.

I’m glad to get a color scheme established too – red and cobalt blue with turquoise.  It is a great starting point for a cohesive look that jettisons the neutral blahs.  However, I don’t want to get too narrow in my color scheme.  Mixing in bits of other colors is going to be necessary to keep it from looking too matchy and contrived.

Let’s do a last glance, shall we?

BEFORE: awkard and empty, furniture all the wrong proportions and shoved to the walls

AFTER: Cozy and collected.  Hurrah!

The house is looking put together again!  After the total plumbing re-do of a few weeks ago, and the subsequent drywall patches, sanding, and painting, it took a while for our place to become photographable once more.  Let’s get going.

After receiving some professional advice, I was re-inspired to try again with making our living room pleasant and inviting.  As you may recall, the traffic pattern was stumping me and the lack of color was getting me down.  The living room is SO much better now!   It’s time for my favorite kind of post – a Before And After.

The crux of my inspiration was the bookshelf along the back wall.   This is one of the first things you see upon walking through our front door.  Basically I realized I needed something bigger and more substantial, which I accomplished by buying a second shelf of the same design (Ikea, via Craigslist) and doubling them up.  I switched out a large rectangular mirror in place of the small round one, and edited the shelves so they looked more attractive while remaining functional.   I also came up with a creative way to wrangle lots of electrical cords and our internet router.


early living room

Another early version that didn’t work


After painting the back red, I cut a hole in the cardboard backing of the shelf so that the electrical outlet and cable/internet connections could be accessed.  All the wires were then hidden in a banker’s box which I decoupaged with pages from a book no one cared about.

Internet Box

Shelves completed but empty

 Looking good so far!


The books are a mix of mine and my husband’s.  I am going to grow that ivy into a round topiary, and I made the little aqua bowl in the middle when I did pottery regularly.   The neat champagne bucket is vintage and was a wedding gift. 

Here’s a shot from farther back.  You might notice a few other changes to the living room here :) which I will be explaining in a second post.   As for the bookshelf wall, it’s practically done.   We just need to hang and frame the large mirror, and I have to figure out how to get the little brass lamp’s shade to sit higher, which will probably involve a coat hanger in some way!


– second bookshelf: Craigslist, $15

– paint for back: already owned

– styling items, books, lamp, etc: already owned

– plant:  blue pot, Ross $6; ivy, already owned

– mirror: free, inherited.  Mirror hangers, $4. 

– moulding for mirror frame, TBD but hopefully around $10

TOTAL COST: About $35