Category: Home

The House Hunting Chronicles

Guys, this month has been tough. Have you noticed I’ve been pretty silent since I posted that we’re moving? (Side note: I just read through all your amazingly supportive comments on my last post and I want you to know how much they meant to me. I’m so sorry it took me so long to respond but you guys rock!)

Anyway, house hunting in a seller’s market feels like a full time job. Especially when Mike and I both had to travel for work this month. I spent a week in New Orleans for a trade show (being there for work isn’t NEARLY as fun as vacation) and Mike has been to Chicago and other satellite offices numerous times. I promise, this isn’t a “poor me” post. We’re extremely blessed to be in the position where our house sold quickly (again: seller’s market) and we’re able to shop for a home with more space in our ideal location, but this whole house hunting process has been way harder than I ever expected. By the time this is all over I’ll be so ready to kiss 2017 goodbye and look forward to starting the new year getting settled into our new home. I know there are great things to come, but getting there has been a HUGE learning experience.

Let’s get into the nitty gritty, shall we?

I’m the kind of person who stalks real estate listings ALL DAY EVERY DAY. Okay, maybe not ALL DAY. But definitely for a few minutes before bed each night. Mike jokes about how I’ve been looking for our next house since a few days after we moved into this one. I don’t know why, but I love looking at listings and imagining the potential of each place. So when the master bathroom in our townhouse was finished (our last big project) and a gorgeous listing in a great neighborhood hit the market we decided it was time to finally put our house up for sale so we could bid on it.

LESSON 1 // HOUSE 1

We went to see the house. Totally loved it. And like the conservative beginners we were, we asked for a second showing. Ha! You don’t have time to do a second showing in a seller’s market! If the property has been newly listed you better make an offer quickly or else, I’m sorry my friend, but you’re going to lose out. When our realtor asked for a second showing he was told the house that we put our house on the market for was already under contract. Cue the heart break. Cue the second guessing. Cue the panic of WHAT DO WE DO NOW?! But oh, that was just the beginning.

LESSON 2 // HOUSE 2

We had already fallen for the house we lost. We imagined the ways we would fix it up to make it ours and all the fun entertaining we could do there. But it was gone so we had to move on. We got back to scouring listings, scheduled some showings and stumbled upon a gorgeous colonial with an awesome layout and an incredible flow. The part of me that loves the character that older homes instantly fell for the dental crown molding in the foyer, the gorgeous hardwood stairs with a pretty paisley carpet runner and the big family room that opened onto a magical backyard full of flower beds and mature trees. This house wasn’t in our target location (mainly because of the school district) but the town had an exciting up-and-coming vibe with new micro breweries, coffee shops, boutiques and restaurants on the main street less than 5  minutes from the house, so we were hooked. Everyone we talked to instantly said, “Ohh, I love that town!” We felt better about the location with each person we talked to and started falling head over heels for this house. We made an offer, negotiated and came to an agreement. Everything was on track. Contracts were signed. We thought this was it.

Cut to: Mike chatting with a friend who used to live in the same town and had since moved away. Mike asked for his opinion about the town and he said, “Oh, it’s a great little town. They’re really revitalizing it. But there is that landfill that always concerned me.”

WHAT?!

We instantly turned to the internet to find out more and the search results were so, so scary. This house was located less than a third of a mile away from not just a landfill, but a toxic waste dump that was once the EPA’s #1 Superfund Site in the entire country back in the 80s. Apparently the owner of the landfill allowed several companies to dump their chemicals, heavy metals and other contaminants over a period of 20 years from the 1950s through 1972 when it was finally closed. The EPA lead a massive clean up effort through the 1980s and early 90s in the site and surrounding area, but we just couldn’t get over the fact that there could still be heavy metals in the soil and toxic gases in the air. My stepdad happens to work for an environmental remediation company and he warned us of the potential danger. The final nail in this house’s coffin was that even if everything had been remediated and we were never exposed to the pollution the dump was a huge negative factor in resale value. I didn’t want to be stuck with one of the more expensive houses in the neighborhood and have potential buyers scared away by the same research we did.

Even though it broke our hearts and the thought of having to start back at square one was overwhelming, we ultimately made the decision to walk away from the deal. Luckily we were able to get out of the contract without losing our deposit, so it was on to the next. The big lesson we learned was to really do your homework about all aspects of the neighborhood you’re buying in. The EPA’s superfund site list is public information so make sure you check it. If our friend hadn’t mentioned something we may have been stuck in a crappy situation so we’re super thankful to him for his honesty.

LESSON 3 // HOUSE 3

At this point we were feeling demotivated, but we chalked everything up to the fact that the first two houses just weren’t meant to be and kept on looking. Shortly after we walked away from the second house we were leaving for New Orleans so we lost an entire week (which is a lifetime during the house hunting process). We stalked listings and made plans while we were away, and Mike came across a newly listed house in one of our target neighborhoods that looked like it was completely renovated. It was on the smaller side but we decided to take a look at it since we both liked it and we were running out of time. You guys know I love a project so I was kind of bummed at the “move in ready” status of this house. Plus it had been over improved and was a much more traditional style than my taste, so I knew any changes we made would be a waste of money. The owner of this home went above and beyond with upgrades — granite EVERYWHERE, gorgeous hardwood floors that looked brand new, a massive EP Henry paver patio, HUGE fully grown arborvitaes, the works. The house was so nice and I was getting used to the idea of having a place we could move right into, especially since we were supposed to be closing the week before Thanksgiving. I figured I could focus on furnishing and decorating and knew there were some small, inexpensive tweaks I could make to give the house a more modern aesthetic.

The funny thing is I had to go see the house on my own because Mike flew right from New Orleans to Chicago for work, so I scheduled a showing for the night after I got home. He told me if I liked it we’d just make an offer because he knew he’d love it based on the photos and location. Having already lost a newly listed home because we were slow to react we made a strong offer the night of the showing and hoped for the best. We were thrilled when the seller responded right away and we had a contract signed with 24 hours, but our excitement faded when we learned she was still moving forward with an open house that coming Sunday. We signed the contract on a Friday which meant our 3-day attorney review period didn’t start until Monday so she knew if she got a better offer at the open house she’d have a few days to back out of our contract and go with the highest bidder. It’s definitely an unethical thing to do but totally legal. Our hearts were guarded and we were hopeful everything would work out.

We still went to the open house and lingered there for a while to try and figure out if we had any competition, which we totally did. Remember, this is the first time Mike had even seen the property. And our friends Joe and Laura were nice enough to come to the open house with us to give their opinion. As an engineer Joe is well versed in all the inter workings of homes that Mike and I aren’t as familiar with, so we always try to get his feedback. He actually caught a water problem in the basement which was pretty serious and would have to be dealt with, and he told us he thought the house wasn’t graded properly so water would continue pouring into the cinder block walls of the basement and causing mold unless a professional reconfigured the water drainage system. It was good to know but not a reason to walk away, so we waited to see what happened.

The next day our realtor broke the bad news that an all-cash buyer made a full price offer and the seller was cancelling our contract. We lost yet another house. This one was probably the easiest for me to get over since I wasn’t as gaga for it as Mike was, but I felt for him because this was his dream house and he was really crushed. But we quickly rallied and found a few more properties of interest so we had showings scheduled by Monday night. We were getting used to having to trudge on and do the next thing. Lesson learned: don’t count your eggs before they hatch.

HOUSE 4 // LESSON 4

One of the first houses we looked at after the third house fell through was in our absolute dream location and school district. We had driven through the neighborhood a few times during our house hunt and even looked at another house in the same development but it was too small and had way too many major projects. We knew the house was a foreclosure and it had, until then, been slated for auction in November. But all the sudden it was an active listing and IT WAS IN OUR PRICE RANGE! Most of the houses in this neighborhood go for much higher than we were looking to spend. We looked at the house and it was in great shape for a foreclosure. There were some projects to be done but we could move in and live in it comfortably right away.

We were cautiously optimistic that maybe this was finally the one. Maybe this was the reason all the other houses fell through. It probably sounds silly but throughout our house hunt I’ve been looking for the number 7. Mike and I were both born on the 7th and it’s always been our mutual lucky number. He was actually born on the same date as my great grandmother — March 7. Our current town home is on Lot 7 in our development and when a house had a 7 it sort of checked a tiny box I had in my head. Well, this house’s address was just plain old, straight up 7 — and I totally took it as a sign. We made an offer the same day as our showing and waited to hear something back.

…and waited…

…and waited some more. Two days passed and we heard nothing. At this point we’re completely running out of time since we’re closing on our current home on November 29, so the pressure is starting to mount to figure out a solution and get it locked down. Short sales are notorious for being a long, drawn out process but foreclosures are already approved by the bank that owns the property, so everything should be straight forward. Key word: should. We got antsy so we decided to keep looking. I REALLY didn’t want to keep looking, but we couldn’t just leave it up to fate with the chance of ending up homeless, so the search went on.

HOUSE 5 // LESSON 5

Cut to a rare Sunday where we had nothing planned and decided to check out a local open house. The place was a flip so it was completely done and move in ready — but here’s the miraculous twist. It was actually finished to my taste. There was nothing I would change. I loved the tile, paint color, hardwood floor stain, carpet. Everything. The place had two negatives — it was in a good town but it wasn’t necessarily our dream location, and it had a pool. It was also a bit on the small side but big closets and a finished basement and two car garage made it seem like plenty of space for living and storage. It was also one of the lowest priced homes we’ve looked at which was a plus. The open house garnered a ton of attention so we knew we had to move fast to make something happen and we decided to make an offer. Our realtor actually negotiated back and forth with the seller that same night. We made a really strong offer and were hopeful, but knew anything could happen at this point.

The lesson here is to keep thinking with your head, not your heart, at all times. Remember, this is the FIFTH house we’ve bid on at this point. We’re exhausted with looking at listings and getting our hopes up just to be disappointed. Our moving date is looming and this would be a quick and easy sale since the seller is an investor. Key word there is investor. The seller was trying to get every last penny out of his investment and we just weren’t willing to overpay for the house. We actually offered $5,000 over asking right off the bat to try and lock down a deal but he wanted even more and the neighborhood comps just didn’t justify the price, so we had to pass. Yet another house came and went — all within a matter of 12 hours. What a whirlwind.

HOUSE 6 // LESSON 6

We’re still in negotiations on house 4, but the bank isn’t budging much and we’re not convinced they’ll meet us in the middle, so we knew we had to keep looking. On yet another Monday night we went out for more showings in this new town we hadn’t considered before. I would still say it’s our ideal location and in a great school district. It’s closer to our best friends and to my family (who live across the bridge in PA). And it’s really convenient for us to both get to work, so it checked all the major boxes. At this point we weren’t messing around so we lined up five showings and got to work.

We quickly nixed four of the houses off the list, but one of them stuck out from every other house we’ve looked at so far. Mike and I both equally loved the style and layout. It was another foreclosure so it was similar to house 4 where that made it affordable in a really great neighborhood that we may be priced out of otherwise. The house had all the major features we were looking for — plenty of space to grow, a two car garage and a basement, a fenced in backyard, and open kitchen/family/dining area, and more. We were shocked by the quality of the home since it was a foreclosure. The bank had spent the money to replace all the carpeting and put a fresh coat of neutral gray paint throughout most of the house so it felt like new. And truthfully this was the newest house we had looked at — it was built in 2008.

Here’s the really funny part, guys. We looked at the house at night in the dark. There’s no electricity on the property since the utilities are turned off so we used the flashlight feature on our iPhones as we toured through each room. But we could tell this house was something special so we made an offer for $10,000 less than the asking price and hoped to hear back more quickly than we did with house 4. They countered back the next day at $2,000 above our offer and we accepted. Now we’re waiting on the contracts to come through and trying to get all our ducks in a row to close on both properties by the end of November!

At this point everything could all fall apart with House 6 and we could be back at square one yet again, but we find ourselves being cautiously optimistic that things will work out while still having a plan in place just in case it doesn’t. If you guys could send any prayers or good vibes our way it’d be greatly appreciated. Hopefully we’ll have some good news to share next week, and you better believe I’ll keep you posted.

What have you done to keep the faith through trying times? How have you helped support your spouse or partner while keeping yourself sane? It’s times like this I feel so blessed to have a strong marriage and a partner in life who helps pick me up when the going gets rough. I’m grateful for how this process has brought us even closer together and for all the friends and family who have supported us through these trying times. We are very, very blessed and I know whatever happens is meant to be.

We’re moving!

Ahhhh! I can’t even believe I typed that headline. Everything has moved SO QUICKLY these last couple weeks. As soon as we finished the master bathroom I threw the idea out to Mike that we should contact our realtor just to feel him out. Next thing we knew we were signing contracts, photos were taken and our house was officially on the market. I’m talking in less than 48 hours, guys. If you know me — you know I go big or go home when it comes to executing an idea. 🙂 Our house went up for sale on the day of our fifth wedding anniversary which seemed kismet. The whole time we were sort of like HOLY CRAP what are we doing?! But it just felt right. And we were excited.

Fast forward several showings (read: lots of daily tidying. Lots. I’ll admit I was neurotic) and our house was sold in 8. freaking. days. 8 days guys! I like to pat myself on the back and think our updates and my “staging” helped, but I also think the market is hot in our area right now and there wasn’t much competition. Also, major kudos to our realtor (I’m looking at you Conrad Kuhn) for pricing our house right. The offer was for full ask. No negotiating. Needless to say we were thrilled!

One of the coolest things about listing our house for sale was seeing the photos our real estate photographer took of the house. After putting nearly five years of work into this home it felt so good to see the final product. Are you ready for a tour?! Check it out!

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We’re officially under contract on a new house but I want to get through the inspection process and make sure it’s a sure thing before sharing any details. It’s an older single family home that’s chock full of character but definitely needs some love. Needless to say I’m excited about the possibilities! Has anyone out there moved lately? Do you have any tips to share? What helped you stay organized while packing and unpacking? I need all the advice I can get!

Master Bathroom Renovation Reveal

Eeeeek! Put a fork in our master bathroom because — it’s done! Finished! And oh so fine! This was our biggest renovation to date and it felt so good to see it all come together. Before we get into the nitty gritty I need to make a public service announcement. My brother-in-law rocks, you guys. As in my next door neighbor has told me three times how great of a guy he is (just based on some quick exchanges out front while he was cutting tile and trim). We asked him to be the muscle behind this renovation and agreed to help us tackle this project at a fraction of the cost of a general contractor (he didn’t work for free but we definitely got a deep family discount). We’re super lucky to have him in our lives and we can’t thank him enough for getting knee deep in this project with us and making it come to life on his days off from being a local police officer. We love you, Jesse!! 🙂

Without further ado, here’s the new master bathroom…

I’m so excited with how it turned out. If you want a more detailed breakdown of all the sources take a look at my mood board post. Are you undergoing a major renovation right now? How are you making out? Did it turn out the way you wanted?

 

DIY Succulent Pumpkins

So, there’s this thing called a succulent pumpkin. And it’s pretty darn cute. I’m sure you’ve probably seen one on Pinterest or Instagram. But when one of my customers asked me to come do a workshop on how to create these fall fancies later this month I jumped at the chance. I’ll be teaching more than 50 floral specialists (who are amazing designers — no pressure) how to put these together, so I figured I’d better practice by creating a few samples. Let’s just say it wasn’t the worst way to spend a Thursday afternoon. If you’re looking for a weekend project, I highly recommend it! Here’s how it all went down.

The materials I used were simple and fairly easy to find (especially since I had a sea of succulents to choose from). I was shocked at how quickly they came together and I highly recommend giving this a try for a fun fall project with your friends. Heck, it’s something you could get the kids involved in too if they’re fairly gentle with the plants. The first step? Head to your local farm stand and pick out some pumpkins. I scored these three for a whopping $7.50 at a little place just a few minutes from the office. I was going for small, medium and large here but also wanted to try different shapes and colors. I’m a sucker for a pastel-hued heirloom pumpkin and the donut shape is the perfect perch for succulents. The bright orange of the traditional round pumpkin was a nice base for the blue/green color of the plants. And of course the mini white pumpkin is just too darn cute.

I may just blow your mind with this one, guys. It’s something I didn’t know until I started working at ArizonaEast (like all the other plant knowledge I’ve gained these last three years). Good old Elmer’s Glue is just about the best adhesive you can use for succulent-related projects. It’s non toxic (very kid and pet friendly). It dries clear, and it washes away as you water the plants (which is okay because the plants will be rooted into the moss by then). It doesn’t dry as quickly as hot glue, but as long as you have patience (or some floral wire) that doesn’t really matter. All the tutorials I referenced while tackling this project used hot glue to adhere the plants to the pumpkin and I disagree with that approach. Almost every time I’ve ever used hot glue on succulents they sizzle and dry up which ends up killing them. You could try experimenting with a low temp if you’re dead set, but Elmer’s is a no brainer as far as I’m concerned. 

The next step is the most fun. Pick out your plants! You’ll want to grab one or two echeverias to act as a visual anchor in the front of your design, with lots of leafy, leggy succulents filling in the backdrop.

You’ll need to cut the succulent at it’s base to remove the root system and soil. Don’t worry! You’re not harming the plants! Succulents are resilient and they can last as cuttings for weeks before they dry out. If you glue them to a growing medium (moss in this case) they’ll grow a new set of roots and continue being a happy plant. And what’s even cooler is the root system you left behind will grow another succulent in a few weeks, so don’t throw away those plastic grower pots!

Once your plants are all cut it’s time to start building. The first step is to apply a generous amount of Elmer’s Glue to the top of the pumpkin. Then lay your sheet moss on top of the glue. This will act as the foundation of your succulent arrangement. Use your leafy, leggy succulents as the base, starting in the back, and then build from there. Since Elmer’s Glue stays wet for a while you can rearrange your plants as needed so there’s no pressure to get it perfect the first time. You can do a dry run by layering your plants on top of one another to achieve the look you want before gluing them all into place.

Scroll through the slideshows below to see how I designed all three pumpkins, starting from the largest at the top to the smallest at the bottom. I’m still new to this whole tutorial thing so don’t hesitate to leave me questions in the comments. I’ll be happy to help answer them if I can and I’d love to see photos of your creations. If you happen to post them on Instagram tag me so I can see! 🙂 Happy fall crafting!

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Cut the Cable Cord

There’s a slew of streaming services out there today. Ya know what? I don’t even think the word slew covers it. Gazillion? Yeah, that’s more like it. From Hulu and Netflix to Sling and Playstation Vue, the tech savvy have a ton of options for cutting the cable cord once and for all. My husband? He’s the epitome of tech savvy. Our house is basically a smart home at this point. We have an Amazon Echo (you know, that “Hey, Alexa?” thing) on both floors, an eco-friendly Nest thermostat, a dead bolt on our front door that’s controlled by an app, a robot vacuum, a robot camera that can ride around the house and check on things when we’re not home, and… need I say more, or have I lost you yet? 🙂

I’m the opposite of tech savvy. I know enough to use all the tech in our home, but how could I tell you how it works or how to hook it up? Nope. Nada. Not at all. But do I appreciate the convenience (and cost savings) it provides? Yup. You betcha. So when Mike presented me with an option to get rid of cable while reducing our monthly bills by more than $100 all without sacrificing our entertainment options — I didn’t even blink an eye. And one day later we were switched from Comcast to DIRECTV Now.

Here’s a low tech explanation of how it works. It’s not that complicated — I promise. We use AT&T for our cellular service and we recently upgraded to an unlimited data plan which somehow ended up being a really great deal. Thank goodness for market competition (I’m looking at you, T-Mobile). For $10 more per month we not only got unlimited data, but we became eligible to use AT&T’s partner streaming service DIRECTV Now.  If you’re like me you’re probably thinking I DON’T WANT A SATELLITE DISH! We had DIRECTV service via Satellite when I was growing up and the service went out the second it rained. But this is different.

DIRECTIV Now can operate through any streaming device (think Amazon Fire Box, Roku, Apple TV, etc.) We’re running ours through an Apple TV for our main TV downstairs and we’re using an Amazon Fire Stick on our TV in the master bedroom. First of all, the guide is INCREDIBLE! You can go through and favorite channels so they show up on a separate list which makes channel surfing easier than ever. All the channels we watch are included in the service, in addition to some we couldn’t get through Comcast (Tru TV, Travel Channel and Viceland). There have been ZERO interruptions in our service since we started using it a few weeks ago. And it even has a ton of content available on demand. So far the only thing it doesn’t include is DVR, but everything I would typically record is available on demand, so it hasn’t been an issue. And Mike tells me the DVR service is coming soon.

But the BEST result of us making the switch has been saving a cool $100 on our cable bill each month. By canceling our Comcast cable service we were able to increase our internet to blast speed and drop our bill from $198 per month down to $89. Pretty awesome, right? Just think about what you’d do with an extra Benjamin in your wallet every 30 days. So. Many. Things.

What do you think? Are you ready to cut the cable cord and start streaming your entertainment? Have you tried any other streaming services? If so, what’s your favorite?

Master Bath Mood Board

Our dated master bathroom is currently undergoing a much needed renovation and I’m SO excited to share the details. We’ve always looked at our home as an investment so any updates have to be resale friendly. I love our town home. It was a great deal in a nice neighborhood on a decent sized corner lot. But it’s not our forever home. We had a realtor in earlier this year to give us an outside perspective and his biggest criticism was our master bath. We already knew it needed to be done so when he confirmed our suspicions we got serious about making a plan. Months of research later and my plan is finally coming to fruition!

I love the idea of using white and gray as foundational colors with hints of warm brass to make things feel cozy. I decided to use gold accents in places that are more easily interchangeable like the vanity light, mirror and vanity hardware. It’s much more complicated and costly to swap out the shower head, diverter and faucet since those require a plumber, so I chose a timeless brushed nickel for those finishes. It’s simple, neutral and very resale friendly. Do I dream of infusing more custom finishes into my spaces one day? Of course! But I’ll save those choices for my forever home.

This remodel is very budget friendly. Kitchens and bathrooms sell houses so I didn’t want to cheap out, but I’m also being realistic about the sale price of a house like this. A $20,000 (or even $10,000) renovation just doesn’t make financial sense. Luckily my brother-in-law worked in construction before recently becoming a police officer and he’s a DIY nerd like me, so it didn’t take much coaxing to get him on board. And I’d much rather invest in someone who will get the job done then take a risk on an unknown contractor. Once he agreed to help with the project we were off to the races.

Here are some ways I’m sticking to our budget without sacrificing style:

  • Use an inexpensive shower pan but bring the wall tile all the way to the ceiling. Our shower is small, but it’s a standard size. That means we could source an acrylic shower pan from a local big box store and save money on having to tile the shower base. The plumber we hired set the shower pan with Quikcrete to give it added stability for the long haul and we’re thrilled with how it turned out. I chose an inexpensive white subway tile in an oversized style (12″x4″, source “h” below) and opted to bring the tile all the way to the ceiling. This tricks your eye into thinking the shower is much bigger than it really is.
  • Recycle leftover materials from another project. We had a ton of faux wood flooring tiles, mortar and grout leftover from a flooring project in 2015, but I held onto it “just incase” — and boy am I glad I did. The tile will be the perfect foundation of our new, modern bathroom and it’ll only cost us the labor to have it installed (which is super affordable thanks to Jesse, my brother-in-law). We bought the tile at a professional supply store, but I also found it online (source “l” below).
  • Add upgraded hardware to an off-the-shelf vanity. Searching for the perfect vanity has probably been the most time consuming part of this project. Most of the options at big box stores feel chintzy (which is sure to scare potential buyers down the road), but spending $1,200+ on a more custom option just isn’t in the budget. Kudos to my husband for spotting this Scott Living vanity on a recent trip to Lowe’s. It has drawers for extra storage (something our realtor recommended) and a shelf to keep things feeling airy while giving us easy access to towels. Great find, Mikey! 🙂 It already comes with a synthetic stone top that compliments my gray & white theme and at $400 the cost can’t be beat. The low price gives me some wiggle room to add a special touch, so I’m planning to remove the stock hardware in favor of these gorgeous unlacquered brass misson-style pulls that will age with a gorgeous, warm patina over time.
  • Choose one or two places to splurge for a more custom look. I chose to splurge in two key places to give the bathroom extra style. First, we added two shower niches that will be tiled in marble mosaic accent tiles. At $13 per square foot these tiles are much more expensive than the subway tiles, but we only needed four sheets to get the job done. Our second splurge will be this Metal Framed Round Wall Mirror from West Elm. At $249 it’s more expensive than some other key pieces in the room, but it’s the exact style I’m looking for and it’s the first thing you see walking into the space, so it’s worth the splurge (and it blows your basic builder grade mirror out of the water).
  • Add an architectural element to boost character and charm. I wanted to add something to make the room feel extra special. It’s a small space for a master bath so a little WOW factor will go a long way. The trend setter in me wants to add wallpaper in the worst way, but that’s not realistic for resale. Potential buyers could swoon like me, or it could totally turn them off. The solution? Ship lap. My house was built in the early 90s and it really lacks any architectural detail, so this simple infusion of charm and character is just what the doctor ordered. I’ll probably end up painting the whole room a crisp white which will give the ship lap a classic feel like it has always been there.

I can’t wait to see it all come together and, of course, I’ll keep you posted as we make progress. What major renovations are your taking on these days? How do you stay on budget? What are your favorite ways to infuse your personal style into a space?

Source List

a | b | c | d | e | f | g | h | i | j | k | l

Fancy Friday: Mint to Be

Welcome to my first ever Fancy Friday post! One of the things that makes me happiest is finding ways to elevate an everyday situation to feel truly special. Yes, some of my friends have called me extra as a result, but who cares. Paying attention to the details has always been my thing, and it helps amp up my ability to entertain. I’ll be sharing simple and attainable tips and tricks for making things feel fancy without much added effort on the blog (hopefully) each week.

If you follow me on Instagram you’ve seen the incredibly awesome tiered planter that made a debut on my patio this season. It was a very thoughtful birthday gift from my best friends Joe & Laura last year. They gave it to me in May 2016 and it promptly sat in the box. All. Freaking. Summer. Mike and I were both swamped with work and traveling and we just didn’t have the time to dedicate to gardening the right way, so I resigned myself to being a complete gardening failure last year. Isn’t it nuts how our own negative thoughts can be the worst criticism? Ugh…

But when spring finally came again we both made a commitment to finally putting the planter to good use. (Read: we were prepping for my annual Cinco de Brieo birthday party when he suggested we finally put it together and I lost my mind because we had so much else to do excitedly agreed and jumped right in.) Needless to say, I was thrilled we finally made use of it early in the season to start a small veggie & herb garden.

I had no idea what I was doing. This is the first year I’ve really tried my hand at cultivating edible plants. So we chose a few of our favorite herbs and picked up three different types of tomato plants and two types of peppers and with a little sweat equity we were off to the races. My biggest piece of advice? Invest in a drip irrigation line! It’s a major time saver and it snaked easily through the tiers of the planter box. Mike handled this part of the project and once I saw it come together it was way less intimidating than it sounded. And all the necessary materials are available at your local home improvement store.

So, what has been the all star of my container garden so far? M-I-N-T! Mint. Mint. Mint. I’ve developed an obsession for this fragrant, hardy and fast-growing plant. After a juice cleanse and a whole hearted attempt at doing the Whole 30 (more to come on that) since the summer started, I was looking for no-calorie ways to amp up food and drinks, and mint was it.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use mint to make life a bit fancier:

Sweet Potato Toast with Almond Butter, Smashed Blueberries & Mint (Whole 30 compliant)

Take a sweet potato and slice it into several thin slices. You want them to be thin enough to crisp up in a toaster by not so small to fall through the grates. I don’t have exact measurements, so I recommend experimenting to see what’s best for you. Put two slices in the toaster on the highest setting. You’ll need to put it back in two or three times to get the right level of crispiness/warmth. I liked mine when it was warmed all the way through and slightly blackened on the outside. Once toasted, smear a tablespoon of almond butter on each piece. Smash a few tablespoons of blueberries in a bowl and spread on top of almond butter. Then top with julienned mint. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re not on Whole 30, adding a bit of honey or agave to the blueberries would sweeten it up a bit, but it’s not necessary.

Coconut Mojito Mocktail (Whole 30 compliant)

Cutting out fun stuff like alcohol, cheese and desserts was hard during my Whole 30 program. When I stumbled on this recipe for a Coconut Mojito Mocktail I knew I had to try it. I’m pretty sure I used too much fresh lime juice (hello, sour citrus) but it was still delicious. For looking fancy, it came together quickly and was super easy.

“Spa Water” with Lemon, Cucumber and Mint

Summer is a great time to try and increase your water intake. Drinking “fancy” water (either sparkling or flat) with lemon wedges, slices of cucumber and muddled mint was a way for me to treat myself and help change my habits during Whole 30, and it’s something I’ve continued because I love it so much. I keep all the ingredients prepped and ready in the fridge and it’s become a fun ritual in the morning to make my spa water for the day. I use a stainless steel tumbler so all I need to do is keep adding water throughout the day. It’s the perfect way to stay hydrated while feeling like you’re doing something special for yourself.

What are your favorite ways to feel fanciful? What have you been harvesting from your home grown garden?

 

 

Living Room Refresh

The “house tour” section of my blog is woefully out of date. It’s so funny to scroll through those photos and realize how far my house has come in the last few years. Old photos help me appreciate all the time and energy I’ve spent turning my house into a home since we moved here in March 2013 (shortly after we married). We were lucky enough to score a short sale at a bargain price and scrape enough money together for a very small down payment. And my favorite DIY project to date began as we started transforming the house room by room.

Here’s the living room soon after we moved in.

Not the worst room I’ve ever seen, but looking back at that photo makes me cringe so hard.

Fast forward through four years, three couches, two area rugs and countless gallery wall attempts and the living room reflects my personal style now more than ever. It’s as close to feeling finished as ever. Part bohemian and part elegant with a dash of cozy and a hint of quirky is the best way to describe my style. I’m instantly drawn to anything with a tribal print like kilim or ikat — especially if it features an array of saturated hues. I’m a sucker for color, but a steady foundation of greige (a neutral shade of trendy gray mixed with *gasp* traditional beige) is the common thread keeping it all feel grounded.

Here’s a view from a similar angle of what the room looks like today.

So. Much. Better. Psst… see my little pup hiding behind the coffee table? His fur matches my color palette, but I swear that was a happy accident. 🙂

Here’s a more straight on view. This is what you see at the back of the house when you walk in through the front door, so it’s the first impression visitors get when they walk in.

Loloi’s gorgeous new Javari rug in Berry/Sunrise is the foundation of this room. It was certainly a splurge but I’m at a place where I’m ready to start investing in key pieces and this rug was love at first sight. I’m so happy I pulled the trigger and I’m thrilled with the quality and softness of this rug. Two thumbs WAY up!

The light gray fabric of the Paidge sofa (fabric: performance velvet; color: stone) and rich brown of the Henry power recliner (fabric: top-grain leather; color: tobacco) are similar tones to the rug and I love the way they all came together. Both are from West Elm and, like the rug, were investment pieces — so I went with neutral, durable fabrics that will have longevity. Did I mention this is my third couch in four years? It needs to stick around for a while.

Rounding out the seating area are two modern slipper chairs. The size and scale allow them to float in a high traffic area without making it feel too crowded. These are from Target’s budget-friendly Threshold line and at $129 each they helped balance the cost of the pricier pieces without sacrificing style. The color is called pepper and they throw a navy hue (not black) in person which adds a nice hint of color without competing with the rug.

Three cheers for finally seeing this room come together. It’s such a good feeling! What home-related projects have you tackled lately that make you take a deep, soothing breath when you look at them? What rooms are next on your to do list?

 

Fa la la la Living Room

I’m continuing this week’s tour of Christmas decor in my house with a peek at the living room where I’ve decked the halls with red, green and silver accents.
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I mixed some of my old favorites with a few new pieces this year to make the room feel extra festive.
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I splurged on a pair of green and white houndstooth pillows that coordinate with my table runner in the dining room. The couch is the first thing that draws your eye in when you walk through the front door so I focused my attention there this year. A trio of new pillows, glittery garland and DIY holiday-themed art transformed this spot for Christmas. My couch and rug are so neutral that it’s easy to change the look of the room by switching up a few accent pieces and swapping out the yellow pillows for green. My strategy for decorating the living room was to take away yellow and replace it with green which complemented my existing red accents nicely.

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A few silver accents go a long way to make this space feel Christmas-y, too. I found this wreath made of silver, vintage-looking ornaments that I placed on a tray on the coffee table as a statement piece. When we put the tree up it will make my large silver ornaments really pop.

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Silver also makes a statement atop my entertainment center where a bevy of glass Christmas trees in a variety of sizes add interest to this side of the room. I treat my entertainment center as if it were my fireplace mantel (because I’ve always wanted one). It’s one of my favorite decorations in the whole house and I love how it turned out.

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Last but certainly not least is the stairway where I draped the same glittery garland down the banister and secured it with some red and green striped ribbon. I like the fact that you can see the ribbon holding up the garland and I think it gives the banister added character.

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And with that, the tour of our indoor Christmas decorations is complete. Next up I’ll share with you my Christmas tree and our display of lights outside. Also, look out for a new vlog with a video tour of our Christmas decorations which will give you a better feel for the layout of the space!

Red, green and… Copper?

When it comes to Christmas decor I don’t play favorites. Red, green, white, silver and gold all have a place in my home for the holidays. This year I added a small splash of a new metallic tone to the mix — copper.
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My husband’s favorite holiday drink is the Moscow Mule which is traditionally served in frigid copper mugs. The bright hue was the inspiration for my dining room sideboard this Christmas season. It makes a bold statement and a little goes a long way so I paired it with some rose gold pieces, deep reds and classic greens for a playful holiday look.

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Take a closer look at my DIY Noel sign.

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I used the cover art from another pretty notebook as the background with a metal “Noel” ornament (both from Target) on top for a custom piece that goes perfectly with my color scheme. I nabbed that rose gold Nicole Miller frame and Earth & Vine cocktail mixer at Marshall’s a few weeks ago.

Here’s a closer look at the rest of the dining room:

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I’m really excited about how the dining room turned out this year. Have I mentioned how much I love that preserved boxwood wreath? Vern Yip’s go-to decoration for December in HGTV Magazine was preserved boxwoods because they look like real/living plants and are maintenance free. I got the wreath from Target last year but I spotted it in the store again this season along with a smaller version.

More photos of my living room are in the works and I still have to trim the tree, so more to come!