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New Dining Room Chairs

I’m so excited to share my latest update to our dining room!

Dining room layout

Don’t mind the veeerrrryyy bright light. I guess I didn’t realize it was on full blast when I snapped these shots. But doesn’t this layout make the dining room feel so much more open than it did when I posted my house tour?

My new, smaller dining room chairs fit so much better around our table than the older, more weighty set. My nana graciously gave us her set of five Ballard Designs dining room chairs and they served us very well during our first few years living together — especially since we didn’t have the budget to purchase quality chairs like those on our own. Even though the chairs are beautiful and very comfortable (the two against the wall in the photo above are leftovers from Nana’s set) one of the chairs was pretty badly broken and it always annoyed me that we had to break out a folding chair to accommodate a sixth dinner guest. Not to mention the fact that the big chairs took up all the extra space in the dining room making it feel cramped. Needless to say, I was constantly keeping my eyes open for a deal on new dining chairs in the hopes of getting something more functional for our space.

As I’m sure you know, dining chairs aren’t cheap. So, when I stumbled upon a treasure trove of SEVEN brand new still-in-the-box dining chairs at Ikea in the as-is section marked down to $35 a pop, I almost had a heart attack. Picture me guarding them hoping no one else would discover this awesome deal while I flagged Mike down to come take a look. He wasn’t convinced, but I loved the style and said, “trust me, this is a great deal!!!” And in the cart they went. Just four of them, that is. I hope those other three beauties found a home.

$35 Ikea chair steal

I’m sure you can guess what I did that night, right? I spent what felt like a lifetime putting all four chairs together. Damn Ikea furniture. So cheap but such a pain in the butt. Oh well, it was worth it. I even bought a hex drill bit to speed the process along, but of course my drill couldn’t fit in the teeny tiny space they left to tighten the screws. So cranking them by hand was my only option. Here’s a look at my setup:

Chair assembly tools

Chair in box

Half assembled chair

Chair assembly

See that enormous stack of trash in the background? Yeah, that didn’t get cleaned up until the next day. I was up into the wee hours of Sunday morning finishing the fourth and final chair, and by the time I finished it I was at my wits end. But boy did it feel good to have gotten all four of these chairs for $150.

Just to refresh your memory, this is what my dining room used to look like. So sparse. So lacking in style and interest.

Dining Room

The foundation was there, but it just wasn’t quite hitting a home run. But the new look is starting to fit the bill. I’m psyched!

Dining room layout

Dining room layout from right

Dining room layout from left

Dining room sideboard

The sideboard used to serve as a sofa table in the living room way back when the sofa sat in the middle of the room. When I switched up the living room layout for the holidays the sofa went up against a wall and the table sat awkwardly on the opposite wall. Another recent living room update (post to come) kicked the table out of its awkward corner position and my brilliant husband said, “hey, let’s use this table as a dining room sideboard.” Wow, does he surprise me sometimes. It was perfect!! I love the way the white breaks up the heavy dark chairs and table and plays into the light color in the art above. And it will be perfect for serving food or drinks during a party.

Do you have a war story from the Ikea as-is section? Did you try to hide your finds from fellow bargain hunters when you couldn’t get those deals in your cart fast enough? Commiserate with me!

Weekend Thrifting

I was itching to go thrifting since I started following Better Homes and Gardens East Coast editor/producer Eddie Ross on Instagram and he posted three to-die-for finds in the past few weeks. You can see them here, here and here. That bar cart and those shelves painted white or a fun bright color? Yes, please. Sign me up.

I’d love to have a lengthy list of thrift stores to hit up on the regular, but I haven’t uncovered many stores in my area. Why can’t there be a database of these diamonds in the rough? Wait, is there? Am I totally missing out on some amazing black market thrift store list? Is ‘thrift store’ a section on Yelp? If so, you better bring me up to speed in a comment!

Goodwill

My options were limited, so I headed to the good ole Goodwill last Saturday afternoon with visions of vintage treasures dancing in my head. As is often the case, reality didn’t live up to  expectations and a quick pass through the furniture section was sorely disappointing. A few folding chairs, an ugly TV and some sad 80s lamps were all that was left in the desolate section that’s usually packed with piles of quirky cast offs. It must have been an off day. But as you can tell from my photo above, I didn’t leave empty handed.

Old Books

Some of my favorite things to look for at a thrift are cheap, beautiful hardcover books, and I found three that fit the bill during my shopping trip. Those plastic covers can be very deceiving, so you have to look behind them to see what you’re really working with.

Hardcover Books

Hardcover Book

Ta da! How great are they?! The spines are even better.

Book Spines

Pair a stack of these beauties with a frame and a piece of glassware (hello, Mason jars) and you’ve got a stylish shelf in no time. I like to choose books based on their color and title. If the title resonates with me in some way, I’m smitten. These books ended up on a shelf in my dining room.

Books on Shelf

The best part is the thrift store price. I got all three books for just over $8. You can’t beat it! That’s what I call affordable decor. Have you scored some awesome thrifting finds lately? How have you been styling your shelves?

Freshening Up the Laundry Closet

There weren’t many things I really loved about our old apartment. The position of the laundry closet five steps outside our bedroom door was probably one of the best perks of our one-bedroom place, so when I climbed the stairs of our townhouse while we toured it for the first time I was elated to see the laundry closet positioned just steps away from our master bedroom. A second floor laundry was one of those perks I wasn’t expecting to find in a house but quickly became one of the many reasons I knew this was the place for us. Now, nearly a year after moving in, it was finally time to give this functional space some much needed TLC.

This is what I started with…

Laundry Before

I know, right? Yuuuck. This closet looks the same way it did just weeks after we moved in and I shoved all those cleaning supplies and other random stuff on the shelf. Not functional at all. Nope, the clutter and dust had to go.

Speaking of dust…

Dusty Shelf

And in the spirit of keeping it real, here’s a close up.

Dust Close Up

Yup, totally horrible. I knew it was bad but when my clutter was no longer hiding this grime I was pretty appalled to find this shelf such a mess. G-to the-R-to the-O-to the -S-S. I was suddenly SO GLAD I decided to spend a random Saturday afternoon tackling this closet.

Cleaning Supplies

After emptying out the closet and sorting through all the cleaning supplies, light bulbs, sewing gear, detergents and even a spare shower head, it was time to de-dust all up in there. Thank goodness for the super suction Dyson handheld vacuum that my Mommom got me as a housewarming gift. I like to think I’ve adopted her knack for keeping these sparkling, though you wouldn’t know it by the state this closet was in. Ugh…

Dyson

The walls and floors were just as dusty as the shelf, so I spent quite a bit of time vacuuming before I was ready for round two. I mixed together a trusty concoction of hot water, bleach and Fabuloso and wiped EVERYTHING down – from the shelves and appliances to the walls and floors. It was sparkling!

Laundry Closet Progress

With the dust gone, I was determined to make the closet way more functional than it had been before. I really can’t stand clutter and I’m a big believer in not storing anything that I know I won’t use. I’m a vicious purger of unused things and I’ll tell you what – I rarely miss things I give away. It’s freeing. I recommend it.

I picked up two plastic storage bins at Target to wrangle the things I decided to keep in here.

Clean Laundry Closet

The bigger bin houses all of my cleaning supplies.

Big Bin

And the smaller one keeps my rubber globes and scrub brush out of sight.

Smaller Bin

So, there you have it. All in an afternoon’s work. I’m pretty proud.

Laundry Before & After

I’m even more proud that I’ve kept it this way for more than a week now, through at least three loads of laundry and one bathroom cleaning spree. That’s what happens when you make things more function. You stop. The. Chaos. I love it!

Oh, and this happened too.

Master Closet Before & After

It was a good Saturday, that’s for sure. I have big plans to add even more style to both the laundry closet and the master bedroom’s walk in. I know these spaces are rarely seen by guests, but they’re spaces seen by me every single day – so they’re definitely worth some beautification. I’m thinking about adding a stripe of color in the laundry closet for a fun surprise hiding behind those bi-fold doors, and maybe painting the ceiling of the walk-in closet a moody navy blue and adding a fun light fixture for some added panache. We’ll see what happens. But either way, I’m happy to have these spaces clean and organized for now. That’s more than half the battle.

Have you undertaken an organization project lately? What are your favorite tips for keeping closets clutter free?

Small Victories

Winter is in full swing on the east coast. And so is my lack of motivation. I’m sure you can tell by my absence here that I just haven’t been feeling very inspired lately. The difference between ‘try’ and ‘triumph’ is just a little ‘umph’, they say, but there’s no ‘umph’ to be found ’round these parts.

Lazy Cody

There are plenty of things on my to do list, but lately it seems like the only items that actually get crossed off are the bare essentials – just barely. There are closets to be organized, walls to be repainted, trim to be caulked, and a tricky elongated living room begging for just the right furniture placement that I haven’t quite come up with yet – not for lack of trying. I’m coming for you, 21×14.

It doesn’t help that our third snow storm of the winter just left town. My commute home from work on Tuesday was 4. hours. long. 4 HOURS to go 35 MILES! The snow started much earlier than predicted and by the time I got out of a meeting nearly an inch was on the ground. The swiftly falling snow compounded by the early rush hour that started around lunch time due to the fact that everyone and their mother was trying to make it home before the heavy stuff really hit made for the commute from H-E-double-hockey-sticks.

Snowy commute

The snow is becoming less of a novelty and more of a schedule-ruining pain in the behind with each storm. I love working from home once in a while, but I’m starting to feel cooped up, and the more I sit at home the less motivated I become. It’s a vicious cycle that has me counting even the smallest victories as a win this week.

I kept the whole house clean, cooked homemade meals and had a nice dinner out with friends. Win, win and win. I mean, c’mon, who wouldn’t want poached eggs on a toasty slice of whole wheat baguette topped with mango salsa, Sriracha and cilantro for dinner on a Tuesday night? Amiright?!

Poached eggs

It’s all about the small, wholesome, delicious little wins this week. And I’ll take it.

Clover Leaf is the New Stripe

I’m definitely suffering from a case of the winter blues. The weather has been swinging between 50 degrees and raining to freezing single digit temperatures. Yuck. I just can’t deal – but I must. With the holidays behind me I’m refocusing my attention on the house, and I wanted to update you on some new additions to the master bedroom. I love how small details can really help pull a room together.

pillows

I was given a giftcard for Homegoods for Christmas and I was chomping at the bit to use it. Mike and I were furniture shopping last Saturday so I twisted his arm to stop in and see if anything caught my eye. I happened upon a pair of white pillow cases with a gorgeous graphic navy pattern on sale for $14.99. Score! I had picked up a pair of velvety navy throw pillows by Nate Berkus at Target a few weeks ago and I knew the new pillow cases were just what I needed to pull the whole look together. I’m SO happy with the result!

pillow close up

bed

I’m equally excited about the second new addition to the master which was a Christmas gift from Mike. The stool that I DIY’d to upgrade by vanity back in September was just a little too tall (note to self, keep a measuring tape in my purse while shopping). I needed something a little more comfortable and this cushioned cloverleaf stool was just the ticket! How cute is it?! I love how the white of the cushion ties into the drawer pulls and the wooden legs match my gorgeous 1920s cherry dresser perfectly. So it was in with the clover leaf and out with the stripes. Don’t worry though, the striped stool is currently being repurposed in the office (post to come).

clover leaf stool

vanity stool

Much better than my old setup, right?

New Navy Vanity

Next up on my project list? I want to tackle some smaller finishing touches like closet light fixtures and paint touch ups, and we’re also saving up for some new living room furniture. I can’t get enough of customizing our house to make it really feel like a home.

What are you doing to beat the winter blues? Any projects of your own in the pipeline?

Trimming the Tree

The tree is trimmed! Here it is cheering up our living room in all its glow-y heart warming beauty!

Finished Tree

I mixed all of our old ornaments with a few boxes of new designs and I love the way it turned out. Here’s a closer look at the ornaments I used.

All Ornaments

Old Ornaments
Old Ornaments
New White Ornaments
New White Ornaments
New Bird Ornaments
New Bird Ornaments Leftover from Wreath Making
New Silver Ornaments
New Silver Ornaments

I started with the above silver ornaments that I picked up at Target this year to fill in such a big tree. This is the biggest Christmas tree we’ve ever had so I knew I needed some extra ornaments, but I didn’t want to break the bank. I got 12 large ornaments in this pack for $15 and they nicely filled in a few holes in the tree. I layered on the white ornaments next followed by the green and finally the red. Putting the entirety of each color on at time helps me evenly distribute them throughout the tree for a more balanced look. Last and most importantly I added our more ornate and meaningful ornaments like the angel that Mike’s grandmother gave him during their last Christmas together, and the lovey dovey snowman couple that we got for our first married Christmas – complete with our wedding date. Here’s the final product!

Tree Close Up

Red Reindeer

Bow Tree Topper

Christmas Tree

Tree & Stockings

Finished Tree

There it is! I love how it glows like this at night. I’ve become quite the Christmas sap since marrying Mike. He’s helped me see Christmas in a whole new way and appreciate little things like a cheerful tree much more than I used to. If you celebrate Christmas, do you have your tree up yet? What’s your favorite ornament?

 

 

Brightest House on the Block

Remember when I told you to just call us the Griswolds? I said that for good reason. We may have gone a bit overboard with the Christmas lights this year, and we’re just a little scared to get our electric bill come January. But hey, we’re festive!

I love the way we were able to mix in Mike’s beloved colored lights in the red and green Edison bulbs that we ran across the front roof line and the strands of colored lights we used to outline the fence and bushes in our back yard with warm white lights, wreaths and garland for a really warm look. I wish we could have lined the peak of the second story roof in red and green lights too, but there’s no way either of us were climbing up there to make that happen.

Overall I think our decorations do our expansive corner lot justice and hopefully make our neighbors feel like we take pride in our neighborhood. We decorated over a few days and there was definitely some editing and tweaking involved to land on this final look. This is our first year decorating for Christmas and we knew we’d have some kinks to work out, but our thorough planning this year should make next year a breeze!

In my conversations with friends and family so far this season it seems like men have a fondness for colored lights while women like the simpler look of warm white lights. I’m a white light fan myself, but I’m a sucker for how excited my sappy hubby gets over festive colored lights, so I’m glad we were able to compromise and incorporate them both. Are you on team colored lights or team white lights? How are you decorating the outside of your home for the holidays?

Stuffed, and I’m Not Talkin’ Turkey

Thanksgiving was late this year so we decided we would dedicate a lot of time during the holiday weekend to decorate our house for Christmas both inside and out. After spending a few days focused on our outdoor decorations, Sunday was finally my day to go crazy shopping for indoor decor to round out what we already had. I’m a pretty lucky girl with a husband who actually enjoys shopping (for at least a little while) so after a leisurely morning and a light breakfast we ventured out hoping for great deals and not-too-crazy crowds.

Scion Stuffed with the Christmas Tree

After a few hours of shopping it was time to drop off our spoils at the house and head out to get the Christmas tree. Mike knew of a local fire company that was selling trees about five minutes away from our house, so we decided to head over there in the hopes of supporting a community organization. Five minutes after we stepped foot on the lot I set foot on the beauty pictured above, and I knew that lush Douglas Fir had to come home with me. I don’t even think Mike got a second to check it out before the firemen were wrapping it with netting and carrying it to our car. He just said, “happy wife, happy life,” and off we went.

Well, it wasn’t quite that easy. You see, Mike and I have gotten a real Christmas tree each year since we moved into our first apartment nearly four years ago – and each tree has perfectly fit into the back of his trusty Scion xD. My knees were jammed in the dash and his torso was twisted every time to accomodate the tree’s trunk in the tiny car, but it fit nonetheless. Maybe it was my romantic ideals of the perfect first Christmas in our new home, the poorly lit fire company lot where all the trees were leaning or the haphazardly way trees of all sizes were packed in together that distorted my ability to tell what size our chosen tree actually was – but it wasn’t fitting. The Scion was stuffed to the gills and there was absolutely no way the hatch in the back was closing.

With the tree packed in as tightly as it could be and our hazard lights on we gingerly pulled out of the parking lot to start the quick five minute drive home. I had one arm holding onto a sturdy branch at the tree’s base (as if I could hulk out and keep it from sliding out of the car – yeah right) and the other was wrangling our vlog camera trying to capture some of the craziness. Mike’s No. 1 goal for me?

Christmas Tree in Trunk

“Just keep your eye on the rear view mirror to see if anything flies out of the back,” he said as the hatch completely flung open. “Sure, no problem,” I thought, praying that we wouldn’t hit a red light or a strange patch of Sunday night traffic. I’m a wonder woman multitasker. No sweat.

Luckily we made it home with no problems and Mikey manhandled the tree into the house. We attached the tree stand, cut off the netting and BAM! There it was. The most beautiful and enormous tree I’ve ever owned. Right in our living room. More than 1,000 lights later and this gorgeous tree made our hectic day worth every minute. I spent the rest of the night decorating our downstairs (post to come) and I was bursting with Christmas spirit by the time we rolled into bed in the wee hours of Monday morning. I’m a night owl and nothing makes me feel more accomplished than a late night spent getting things done. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Christmas Tree with Lights

I can’t wait to decorate it! I’m just waiting for a not-so-busy night when I can get really creative and inspired. There’s nothing worse than rushing to get something done when you’re not feeling creative, but I hope to get the tree decorated one night this week. Stay tuned.

How are you guys celebrating the holidays? Did you spend the weekend after Thanksgiving on shopping, decorating, or both?

Thankful

I had one of the nicest Thanksgiving holidays this year that I’ve had in a while. Mike and I have been together for five years now and we’ve been splitting holidays between our families ever since. I’m an only child (and an only grandchild on my dad’s side) so it’s tough to juggle holiday time among all the special people in our lives, so this year we decided we’d spend Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania with my family and Christmas at home in Jersey. Our agenda for Thanksgiving this year involved lunch at my Mommom and Poppop’s house with my Dad and dinner at my Nana’s house with my Mom. It was such a nice day!

Thanksgiving Table
Nana’s Thanksgiving Table

We started the day with lunch at my Mommom and Poppop’s house. Mommom knew Mike and I would be having a big turkey dinner later in the day, so she decided to make an untraditional PA dutch favorite – chicken pot pie. It was topped with my Great Grandmother Mary’s (her mother) pie crust and packed full of chicken, veggies and gravy. After lunch I helped her decorate the house for Christmas so she wouldn’t have to do it on her own. We’re a great team and we got the whole house (inside and outside) decorated in about two hours. We had a ball!

At around 5 PM we called my Uncle Brian who lives in South Korea to wish him a Happy Thanksgiving from America. It was already Friday morning there and he was getting ready to go to work since Korea doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. He’s coming home for Christmas, so we’re all really excited to see him and his wife Mee for a few days. They’re even staying with Mike and I for a night!

After we said goodbye to him we headed down the road to my Nana’s house. She and my mom are lucky to live right next door to each other, so Nana has been hosting holidays at her house for a while and they both pitch in to prepare the meal. You know dinner is almost ready when we start carrying things over from Mom’s oven to Nana’s table! How amazing does their turkey look? Mom brined it for a little more than a day and it turned out juicy and flavorful. Uncle Brad did an awesome job carving this baby up so we could dig in.

Turkey

Dinner included mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, green bean casserole, cornbread, cole slaw, applesauce, and more. It was amazing! After we indulged in dinner it was time for dessert. That’s where my baking skills came into play. I was in charge of dessert this year, and I didn’t mess around.

French silk pie and pumpkin dream cake. Yes, that happened. And it was delicious. I used a recipe from The Pioneer Woman to make the pie and another from Lemon Sugar to make the cake (same recipe I used to make my pumpkin cake pops last month). Yum!

French Silk Pie

Pumpkin Dream Cake

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving if you celebrate it, and if not – thanks for sharing mine with me. I’m so thankful that you stopped by. Get an even closer look at our Thanksgiving celebration in our vlog below. Happy Thanksgiving!

DIY Christmas Wreath

Sunday was another Christmas craft day for me as Mike and I were prepping for our upcoming Christmas decorating bonanza. Thanksgiving is a week later this year so we laid some groundwork for our outdoor decorating by laying out the grid of extension cords across the yard, wrapping the trees with lights (without turning them on) and hanging command strips that we’ll hang the garland from. I showed you the stuff I got to make my own wreaths in this post, and I finally had time last weekend to put the wreath decorations to good use.

DIY Christmas Wreath

I started with a blank slate – this $15 unadorned wreath. About an hour before I started decorating the wreath I took my decorations outside and sprayed them with a weather protectant spray so the wreaths would be weather resistent. I’m hoping to use these wreaths for years to come so I wanted to do all I can to protect them from the elements. Weather proofing the decorations added an extra step to this process, but I’m hoping it will do a lot to protect my investment in these wreaths.

Plain Wreath

 I laid out all of the decorations on the wreath until I came up with an arrangement I liked before attaching them. That way I could rearrange before my design was set in stone.

Test Wreath

When I had the design finalized, it was time to start attaching each decoration with hot glue. I set up my hot glue gun on a plate to protect my table/dining room from any dripping hot glue.

Hot Glue Gun

I started by attaching the bow at the top of the wreath so it’d be centered. Then I strung my letter “G” on some twine that I bought when we got the rest of the decorations and tied it right beneath the bow.

Bow

With those two key elements attached it was time to start placing the rest of the decorations. I started at the bottom and worked my way around the wreath hot gluing all the ornaments, pine cones and sprays until everything was securely in place.

Gluing

Here’s the final product!

Finished Wreath

Then it was time to put it up out front. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a few wreaths up before Thanksgiving, but we’re saving the rest of our decorating until later. Here’s what it looks like outside – keep in mind we’ll have more stuff out here in a few days.

Arbor Vitaes

Front Wreath

With the first wreath done, I had one more to decorate for the side of the house. Our house is a corner unit so we wanted to be sure we weren’t ignoring our side yard/window. I started with the same decorations that I used for the front wreath – minus the “G.” This is what I came up with for the second wreath.

Side Wreath

And this is what it looks like on the window outside!

Side Wreath Outside

Have you done any crafts to get ready for the holidays? Are there any holiday decorations you’re planning to DIY?