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We are officially starting work on the main house this weekend, after 6 grueling weeks of getting the rental apartment ready for occupancy.  It was fun helping make decisions on the apartment but now that it’s our own house we’re looking at, I’m truly beginning to feel excited!  I want to share some of my inspirations and plans for the house as we begin the Renovation, Pt. 2.  We are only updating the main living/dining/kitchen, entry, and hallway before move in — the dated bathrooms and bedrooms will be done on a slower pace later on.

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve studied decorating is that if your house has good bones, then half the work is already done.  A room with good proportions, attention to fixed finishes/architectural detail, good window and door placement, is easier and cheaper to decorate.  You don’t generally need to spend a lot of energy and money figuring out how to decorate around or distract from weird features. To that end we are putting in engineered hardwood flooring that feels and looks like old planks.  I love it.  It’s called Novella Thoreau Hickory.


On the same note of creating a good base to decorate on,  we’ll be adding some built ins.  This house lacks architectural interest in the main living area.  It is designed with an open floor plan but it’s so small that the kitchen island floats in the middle of the living/dining/kitchen space and every furniture arrangement would feel like we are sort of in the kitchen.   Plus with all the picture windows there was no place for a TV!  So we are building a partial wall around the kitchen for better zone definition.   This allows me to have a wall opposite the corner fireplace with two built in bookshelves, very much like these.

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I love the lack of trim on these built ins – it suits the simple and clean style of the house and Southern California architecture in general.  The wooden plank shelving adds warmth.

My favorite pinned living rooms are split between more colorful and modern, and more neutral and paler.  They all have in common a big dose of natural texture, white paint, and lots of light.  We’re keeping everything we already have in the way of furnishings but there will be a little room for adding in things to tweak the feel.   Here are a couple of my very favorite inspiration living rooms.




Last but not least as far as the living areas go, there will be an insanely inviting and cozy reading nook, eek!  I’m hugely excited about that because I am a reader and this feels like the chance to make a magical spot for me and my girls.  It will have a long wide seat with bookshelves at one end and possibly some storage underneath.  (No window at the back, just a wall.)



So that’s the plan for the living areas!  I’ll share some plans and inspiration for the kitchen and dining areas next time.  I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of the future!










While my husband works hard on renovating the granny flat, I’ve begun working a bit on the main house. Since I have a 1 and 4 year old with me all the time, it happens inefficiently and infrequently, but thanks to naptimes in the Pack N Play for 1 and Netflix on the ipad for 4, I have been able to make progress!

Prior to move-in we are renovating the main living/dining space, the kitchen, the entry, and the hall.  Only the hall is not wallpapered.  Every time I find a little bit of space that’s not papered elsewhere, like behind the spare fridge in the entry, or inside the coat closet, I spontaneously give a joyful prayer of thanks! Wallpaper is hard, people.


The main living space has this thick stringcloth stuff on it (similar looking to grasscloth), and I finally figured out the trick to get it off well was to saturate it with water till it gets soggy.  It is literally constructed of natural fiber string or twine laid over thick paper backed with glue, and you wouldn’t believe how much water it all absorbs.  It also smells like wet rope.  I started the first couple days wetting it down with a spray bottle like YouTube told me to, but I was inflaming my weak wrists tendons with all the trigger squeezing and the paper still didn’t seem quite wet enough to release well.  So I bought a 1 gallon pump sprayer from Lowes and it was the best $10 spent on the house so far!  So much easier.  I saturate the paper 3 times, waiting several minutes between each coat as it soaks in, and then it comes off with a putty knife helping along behind it- very little scraping pressure required if I just apply enough water.

Even the easier pieces of wallpapers leave some backing and glue residue behind on the wall, and the places where I first worked (before I found the best technique) left quite a bit.  So I have areas that look like this, and the whole room will need the walls completely cleaned and washed before they are paint ready.  That’s going to be a whole new ball of wax to figure out, I’m sure.


Textured walls aren’t  helping me here…

As of this week I have all the stringcloth removed except what’s above the 8 foot mark, which I’ll need a ladder to do, and inside the office nook.  All those office cabinets are coming out and since the paper runs behind a lot of them I’m just going to wait till they’re gone.

The walls I’m uncovering are painted a dirty cream color, something like Antique White or Navajo White, and the tone of light inside is so much nicer with the peach wallpaper mostly gone.  Once the orange cabinets are removed and/or painted white, the orange glow will be completely gone!  I don’t think the amber tint on the windows will be so awful after that.







BEFORE (Yes that mirror which came with the house actually has an orange tint on it)IMG_2440



You will notice the flooring is also out (Thanks to a friend on that one!) We’ll have to get the adhesive off the concrete before we can lay hardwood but it can be done.


Goodbye, flooring.  You were indestructible but plastic and ugly so you had to go.



Also you’ll have noticed some of the valances above the windows are down.  I was able to remove several of those but a couple were screwed in really tightly so they’ll have to wait for someone with stronger arms and power tools to come along.

BEFORE and AFTER on the fireplace window valance


This revealed a couple more precious inches of light and removing them definitely took away some of the dated feel, but the window are still kind of low and squatty.  That’s ok, I have a plan.  My all time favorite interior designer, Lauren Liess, lived for several years in a 70’s home with similar architecture or lack thereof, and I am basically copying a lot of her ideas for our house!  Look, same windows.  She does outside mounted bamboo shades to disguise the blank space above the window.   That’s basically what the valances were doing but this is a fresher look.


Lauren Liess design



Next I have to take down the wallpaper in the kitchen and entry.  It’s a more typical “papery” wallpaper, not thick and burly like the stringcloth.  The first little section I did in the kitchen came off without too much trouble, but the second piece started to turn into tiny shreds instead of peeling off nicely.  I may try to borrow a steamer from someone and see if that helps!

Have you ever dealt with de-papering a room?  Do you have two hours to spare to come help out? ;-)  Or a steamer I could borrow?? Send your best wishes and tips my way!

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for – I am ready to show you pictures of the new and improved living room!  The impetus for all these little changes was the fact that, with no dedicated nursery, I found myself changing Miss E on the floor in the middle of the living room… and realized I didn’t really want to be doing that for the next two years.

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I redid a thrift store lamp to make a pair of navy blue lamps on either side of the loveseat, moved the diaper station to the new entryway console, and replaced the office-y brown rug with a synthetic sisal rug.

Here’s what this view looks like now.  No more diapers in the middle, hurrah :)



I love the new rug!!  It’s not the most noticeable change in the photos, but it adds quite a bit of texture to the atmosphere.  Here’s a side by side comparison of the old rug (left) getting rolled out of the way for the new rug (right).


The rug is baby-approved too.

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My next problem area was directly across from the front door.  This is what you saw coming into the house.

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I moved the grandfather clock to the dining room, where it has finally found a permanent home.  It’s been all over and it never quite looked like it belonged until it arrived at its newest spot.

I turned the desk 90 degrees so as not to have everything on that wall shoved up against it in a line, tweaked the spacing of the printer stand to create a more defined office spot, and moved in a tall bookcase where the clock used to be.  I hid the worst of the cords with some wraparound cord binder (not sure what that stuff is called).  The stroller is not bee-you-tiful but it has a good, handy home in the corner now.

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Here’s another shot with some more of my “before” issues.

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I cheated on trimming my curtains – you can read about it here.

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In this “after” you can see that the mirror has a new frame (psst… it’s a $5 thrift store find that is just leaning against the mirror while we decide how to make one that is a perfect fit.)  It gives the mirror a ton more presence!



You may have noticed that I also messed with the gallery wall.  It was a little too random for me before.  It felt more kitschy than I liked, so I regularized its shape.  I can’t swear that I’m done tweaking that…

I’m very fond of my bright pillows & throw on the loveseat.  I like to think they detract from the BLACKNESS of the black leather furniture – please smile and tell me I am totally right :)  Darlene at Fieldstone Hill Design posted about ugly duckling furniture a couple weeks back and this is mine.  When I nurse Miss E I sit in the armchair opposite and stare at my gallery wall and bright pillows instead of the loveseat, and it feels good inside.

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Finally, here is the old view of the back wall…

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…and the new and improved view.



I have a bonus for you too.  Guess what, I actually painted the inside of the front door!  It’s been this bluish gray primed steel for three years and I finally finally finally painted it white.  It took a day’s worth of naps and four coats but it was so overdue.


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And now…

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So there you have it!  This was not a dramatic makeover but a series of important tweaks that make the living room look more intentional and cohesive.  And that’s what a good re-design should do.  I’d still love to paint the walls a deeper tobacco tan shade but first I have to convince the Chief ;)  Other than that, the living room is pretty much done.  At least for now!

My new modus operandus with regards to decor is to work on ONE room at a time instead of doing a bunch of projects at random around the whole house.  I am a total fan of this discipline!  It’s helping me focus on what needs to be done next, and it’s given me a real sense of accomplishment as I see the changes more quickly when I concentrate them in one room at at time.  We all know a room is never really finished, but this way it can be finished for now.

Good news, ladies.  The living room is almost ready for the final reveal.  I need to cut some moulding for a mirror frame, hide some cords, and patch a few nail holes… but that’s it!

You might remember that in my initial breakdown of the living room tweaks, I really wanted a new rug.  The one we’ve had for 2 1/2 years has been quite functional but only slightly decorative.  It’s a 5×8 brown short loop carpet… I always think of it as “office-y.”  I painted chevron stripes on it a while back with watered down white paint but it’s mostly worn off or faded.  For some reason it shows up more in photos – in person it’s barely noticeable.  You can see it a bit in this photo from my lamp redo.

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As it turned out, we had enough money in the Large Purchases account to let me go rug shopping (yay!!).  I don’t trust online rug shopping because I really want to see the colors and touch the texture in person for something I have one shot to get right.  Returns on something that big is an expensive hassle, so picture me driving all over town on a few different weekends to look at rugs in various Home Goods, World Markets, etc., with a three month old in tow.  It got old.

Then I found the rug of my dreams – an 8×10 muted wool Oriental with the perfect colors.  If you’re going to have a rug with many colors, you really should start with it, not try to find one that matches your existing scheme.  I got really lucky with this.

I brought it home, laid it out… and whoa, it was a foot longer than the tag said.  It blocked the front door.

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And the more I looked at it, the more I realized it wasn’t actually the direction I wanted to go anyway.  Well!  I had been positive that I wanted a muted oriental carpet to add a more traditional element to the graphic pillows in the living room.   I love the designs on so many of these carpets.  But when I looked at it all together, I didn’t love it.  It pushed things too far in the traditional direction.

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So really this was a blessing in disguise.  I found literally the PERFECT rug and realized it wasn’t the right one.  I was free to broaden my scope and look for other things.

Here’s what I realized:

  • I didn’t want a lot of color or a bold graphic print – even though I love these rugs on their own, they’re too much for my living room.
  • I needed something kid friendly – we are on the first of (hopefully) several babies and for the next 10 years or so we can expect plenty of spills and spit up.  This rug will basically be the playroom floor since our house is small, so it has to be easily cleaned and hide dirt.
  • I looked through my pinned and filed living room images and discovered most of them had some sort of natural fiber rug – jute, sisal, or seagrass.

After MUCH research I settled that a real natural fiber was going to be hard to clean spills from, though they are great at hiding dirt.  They can stain with plain water!  Wetness releases natural oils that can discolor the area, and also smells are hard to get out.

To make sure I liked the look of natural fiber in real life, I bought a jute rug from Target expressly to look at and return.  I  liked it.  Texture!  Awesome.

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So I decided to go with a synthetic “natural fiber” rug.  I highly recommend Sisal Direct – you can request up to five rug samples for free (WOW) and they have hands down the best prices, about $250 for a high quality 5×8 synthetic sisal.  Other sites were in the $400 range.  I was a bit sad to pay hundreds for what is basically a plastic rug, but it really was the best choice for my situation.  Just because of the price tag on that material I found myself waiting to pull the trigger.

I found a neat textured rug on World Market’s website that looked like it would hide dirt very well, and being made of 100% wool would be easy to get stains out of too (yes, low pile and flat weave wool is very child friendly).  But it was too expensive at $400, and my store didn’t have it to check the color in person.  It’s the Peacock Rug.


And then I went to Home Depot and just for fun, looked through their rugs.  Well!  There was a synthetic sisal rug that looked extremely realistic with plenty of variety in the fiber color, was just the right shade of toast brown, and only cost $99 for the 5×8 size.  I checked it out online and out of 43 reviews, EVERY. ONE. was a 4 or 5 star review.  That just doesn’t happen with cheap rugs.  I was so happy to pay just $100 for a plastic rug instead of $250, and when I compared my Sisal Direct samples to it, the quality was only slightly less because of a somewhat looser weave.  I decided to go with the Home Depot rug. Here’s a closeup so you can see the color and texture.

HD rug

Shipping to my front door was free,  hurrah, so it should be here in a week or so and then I’ll put together a final living room reveal!  I’m so excited :)

Rug shopping – fun or nightmare?  What has your experience been?

I’ve wanted to make a mobile for my sweet little Miss Goo since before she was born, and I figured I’d better get to it before she was too old to care.  So one day I did a blitz through Michael’s and gathered things to make a mobile for less than $5.


  • 6″ Grapevine Wreath – $1
  • Variegated Yarn – $2
  • 3 different colors of scrapbooking cardstock – 29c each (87c total)
  • 1 skein embroidery thread/floss – 39c

TOTAL: $4.26

First I made the pom poms.  Pom poms are going through a revival fad at the moment and they are really easy to make.  Basically for a mini pom pom about 1 1/2″ in diameter, you wrap a piece of yarn around a fork till it is a fat wad, then you take a piece of yarn about 6″ and thread it through the tines to tie it very tightly around the middle of the wad.  Slide the wad off your fork, cut the loops with small scissors, fluff, and trim.

I neglected to get a shot of this in the making so here is a pictoral from VividPlease.

fork pom pom

Voila!  Pom poms (and my helper).  Thinner yarn works best for this tiny size.

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Next I made the hoop.  I took a 6″ wreath and simply used fabric glue to make an X shaped ribbon suspension and hanging loop for the mobile.

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I’d decided an all-pom-pom mobile would be overkill so my other pendant pieces were going to be diamond shapes made from cardstock.  I cut out a lot of these from my three colors of cardstock, using one piece as my template to ensure consistent size.IMG_1236 (800x598)

Then I cut slits halfway down each shape and slid two together to get a 3-D object.  You can do this with any shape you want from circles to butterflies.

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Next, I lined up my pom-poms and diamonds in pleasing lines of varying heights and order, making sure none were longer than I wanted the bottom of the mobile to go.

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I grabbed my embroidery thread and a big needle.  The pom poms were threaded through the middle with white glue dotted on the entry and exit points, and I just laid the embroidery thread along a bead of white glue on the diamonds.  I did glue the diamond shapes on the opposite side of the thread as well to make sure they didn’t fall apart.  I left at least 6 inches of thread at the top of each mobile string to tie them on easily, and could have left even more.

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Once I had my dangly strands all done, I tied the longest one in the middle of the hoop and then randomly arranged the rest in a balanced way.  I had to make one more strand at the end as I didn’t have quite enough – took 5 minutes.

Here is the final product.  It’s completely unique and fun to look at for us as well as Miss E.

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It’s interesting and colorful from her point of view, too.

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I just used a small C clamp to secure it on the hollow-core floating shelf in the crib corner!  (The pillow is just for pretties – it’s not normally in her crib.)  Our family crest and motto is hanging on the wall.  We had that in the living room for a while and I thought it would be perfect for over her crib.

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This is the view if you look to the left immediately upon entering our bedroom.  I want to add another something to the wall in her crib corner but don’t know what yet.  For right now, the mobile is adding a happy blast of color and texture.

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This took some time but it was so easy!  You could easily do it while watching a movie one night.  Have you ever made anything for your baby to look at?