April 27, 2011

New Life for the Living Room: Part 3

Oh, the living room. We never knew how much we didn't like it until we really started digging in and changing it. Dave and I had painted the walls, rearranged the furniture, and added new lighting and artwork, and we still had more on our to-do list. We were on a roll.

Problem #1. See the corner fireplace?

Previously, the only cable outlet in the living room was located above the fireplace. Clearly, this was not the best arrangement for catching up on our latest shows. The TV sat in the corner, and viewers would have to turn their heads all the way to the left to watch. Talk about cramping your style!

Problem #2. See the huge wall mounted bookcase?

I've never liked that bookcase. It's huge, it makes furniture arrangements look horrible, and because of its size, I always felt like I was going to hit my head or run into it.

Good news for our two problems: there just happened to be a cable outlet on the kitchen side of the partition wall.

We knew that cable outlet hidden away in a kitchen cupboard would come in handy!

We could install a new cable outlet on the living room side of the wall, rip take that huge bookcase down, and have a whole new TV viewing area - problems solved! Awesome! But first we had to do the work. Dave and I didn't know the condition of the wall behind the bookcase. We hoped it wasn't in need of too much repair. Standing on stools and 60 minutes of unscrewing and prying, and we had a partition wall in pretty good shape, bookcase-free ... and a cold air return???

Sure enough, the bookcase had been mounted right on top of the living room's cold air return. Score! Dave and I were feeling lucky. No damage to the wall from the huge bookcase and we gained a cold air return? Was this Christmas? Nope, it was better  than Christmas! This was the bee's knees, people! We wasted no time painting where the bookcase had been, installing that cable outlet on the living room side of the wall, and moving the TV to its new home across from the couch. We just so happened to have a sofa table that we weren't using, and the TV fit perfectly on top. With the painted black bookcases flanking the TV, we were well on our way to loving the living room.

We weren't finished yet. More to come.

April 26, 2011

New Life for the Living Room: Part 2

Last time I left you on the winds of change for our living room; a new furniture arrangement and new lamps and mirrors promised something good in store. One more trip to Home Goods with my friend, Laura, and the living room was about to take on new life.

Laura and I have known each other for 25 years. I was five and she was four when we met, and our families kind of adopted each other. Laura, her sister, Heidi, and I spent the majority of our waking hours together throughout elementary, middle, and high school, and we've remained great friends still. Laura loves decorating almost as much as I do, and her style veers toward that modern vibe I was looking for in the living room. With full trust in my lifelong friend, we set out to find a new piece of artwork that would better suit my style. Remember when I confessed that Dave and I used to have a bit of a love affair with Tuscan decor? Still hanging in the living room was this gorgeous {HUGE} painting depicting Wine Country, one of three that we own.

Time to find a new home for the HUGE painting.
It's lovely; we still love it, actually, but we wanted our living room to have a bit more of a modern feel to it.

Cruising around Home Goods, Laura spotted this little beauty:

It wasn't so big as the Tuscan Monster, it shared the same colors as the green couches and the new lamps for the living room, and it instantly captured my attention. How did I know I loved it? For one, I wouldn't let Laura put it down. There was only one available at this particular Home Goods, and though it was a fairly quiet Friday night, I didn't want to take the chance that someone might come by and snatch it up. The Blue Green Beauty was too big to fit in our cart, so I insisted that one of us carry it around the store. "Don't put it down! That man who was in the aisle before might be coming back to look for it!" Laura had to reasssure me that we had last seen "that man" 30 minutes ago, and he had most likely left the store by now. Oops! I was getting a little territorial with the Blue Green Beauty. Home with us came the new painting, where Dave and Laura's husband, Ben, approved.
{Side Note: I don't think Dave and Ben particularly cared much about the new painting, but they nodded their heads and pretended to really study the canvas for its true meaning to entertain us. They are great guys.}

Bright and early the next morning, I convinced Dave to hang the Blue Green Beauty in her new home above the couch. Love! The new lamps went on the end tables on either side of the couch, and the mirrors from that last Home Goods trip went up above on either side of the painting.

Remember the living room before the new arrangement and accessories?

Here is the living room with its new arrangement and trying out the Blue Green Beauty, the new lamps and mirrors:

I really wanted to love the new look, but the mirrors weren't doing it for me. We'd made a lot of progress in the living room, but it still needed some tweaking; down came the mirrors. I packaged them back up and returned all but one of the circle mirrors. The lamps and Blue Green Beauty were definite winners in our book, however.

More changes were in store. Goodbye old living room; hello new style! 

April 15, 2011

New Life for the Living Room

Last time I chronicled my shopping trip for new lamps and mirrors for the living room. Safe at home with four mirrors, two lamps, and no missing children or broken items, I set out to give new life to the living room. You can read here all about how we recently added new paint to the whole upstairs. With a calmer, cleaner palette for our home, I was ready to make some changes to our family's favorite crash zone, the living room.

Last time you saw the living room, it looked like this.

I tell people all the time that having a corner fireplace is as much of a curse as it is a blessing. A blessing because it's tucked away in a cozy corner; a curse because arranging a room around it is a big fat pain in the you know what. We've had our couch and chairs in every imaginable spot in the living room and nothing ever has seemed quite right. The fireplace isn't the only one to blame, however. Dave and I purchased the huge couch and matching monster snuggler chairs before we even moved into the house {oops!}, and all that oversized comfiness makes it difficult to fit everything into a room without the room appearing cramped. One of us had the brilliant idea to move one green snuggler downstairs in order to make more space in the living room. Less seating for guests? Yes, but that was a tradeoff for a better look for this part our home. We moved the couch to the wall that joins the stairway to the fireplace and put a green snuggler chair perpendicular to the couch and opposite our piano. Breathing room! Plenty of room to walk!

I moved a pair of tall end tables on either side of the couch {the perfect spot for those pretty new lamps} and brought an old steamer trunk that we had sitting in our downstairs living room upstairs to sit next to the green snuggler chair. The steamer trunk has been in my family since my ancestors made the voyage from Norway to America {pretty cool!}, and I was happy to have it in a place where I could enjoy it more. Previously it sat downstairs in our family room as a side table for a lamp; now it's one of the first things I see when I walk through the front door. One more switcheroo for the living room - we had a huge coffee table upstairs {What was it with us and huge furniture??}, and it monopolized too much space entirely. We had a smaller coffee table sitting in our storage shed and decided to let it take center stage in the living room.

Dave and I were really starting to like our living room as its new form was taking shape. "Why didn't we do this a long time ago?" I asked. You know the answer: because it's way too easy to put something somewhere and leave it sit forever instead of reassess once in awhile. "Is this right for our home? Do I love this here?" You know the drill; it takes effort and a lot of careful thought to love where you live.

We finally had a really great arrangement for our living room space, and we were thisclose to really, really loving it. First, we had to try out our Home Goods lamps and the new mirrors and tackle a few more obstacles in the room. And we weren't finished yet. A couple more trips to Home Goods were in store, along with a project involving power tools. Stay tuned!

April 12, 2011

Shopping for Lamps and Mirrors with Small Children

I ♥ Home Goods - big, fat capital "H" ♥ it. I actually hadn't been there in awhile and was going through withdrawl, and Dave, of all people, found a reason for a visit to the sacred home decorating store. Our living room has no ceiling lights, so we rely solely on lamps for lighting. One problem, we have no lamps. We used to have lamps in the living room, but we moved them to different areas of the home and never replaced them. Four kids, a dog, a cat, and lots of balls, Nerf guns, and general wrestling around do not bode well for lamps and breakable things, so that played a part in why we held off on that purchase, I suppose. But there comes a time when you can't rely any longer on the dim lighting from other rooms, and you have to say "Enough!". Practically no light at all can make for awkward situations: "I can't see! Who is sitting on the couch? Your grandma? Or your grandpa?" We needed lamps, so off to Home Goods I went.

I waited until I was down to two kids; Greta was at school, and Charlie had been dropped off at 4K for the day. I had the pleasure of searching for the perfect lamps with a three-year-old and a one-year-old. Louisa sat in the cart, of course, but Frankie walked beside me and is especially attracted to shiny "beautiful" things, like all of the lamps in the brightly lit lighting section at Home Goods. It took all of my concentration to steer the cart clear of the racks, keep Louisa's hands far enough away from anything breakable, and convince Frankie not to touch anything. We went carefully up and down each aisle of the lighting department three times before I spotted them: a set of gorgeous aqua and green glass lamps with soft beige shades. This was it! I jammed them into the cart {those Home Goods carts are not all that big, you know}, and gave Frankie a spirited high five. And then I maneuvered us past the rugs and the lovely chairs and throw pillows to our final destination: the mirror section. Home Goods has a huge selection of mirrors. Frankie loves mirrors. It couldn't be that bad, right? I won't keep you in suspense; nothing crashed. I was just that mom who said, "Don't touch!" 437 times before picking up a set of small, round mirrors. Two ladies in the mirror section  tried to snatch the lamps right out of my cart complimented me on the lamps I had found. I knew we had made it to Home Goods just in time; if I hadn't spotted those lamps when I did, they would have been goners.

We loaded our prizes into the van with time to spare before we had to pick Greta up from school. Obviously, that meant we could stop at Target. I was forming a plan, and I thought Target might have the last piece of the puzzle: a final set of mirrors that I hadn't found at Home Goods. Into Target we went, and into the familiar red cart went Lou Lou. We made a dash for the mirror aisle where I spotted two mirrors that just might work. "Great work again, Frankie!" Another high five. We left Target and made it to Greta's school right on time.

Back at home, I laid out the day's purchases and gave myself a pat on the back. Two lamps and four mirrors with a three-year-old and a one-year-old - not bad!

When it all came together, was it a success for our living room? Partly. More to come.

April 11, 2011

A Warm Welcome

The entryway: it meets us at the end of a hard day, completely willing to let us check our baggage, literally, at the door. At my house, we drop heavy backpacks, kick off muddy rainboots, pile up library books and mail, and toss our keys down before we bolt up the stairs or down. The entryway is the first impression when guests walk through the door; it's the last impression when we bid them farewell. It's a room that's easy to forget about, but it's a room nonetheless.

Our entryway was another one of those rooms that we treated with haste; we hung some pictures, moved in what we thought we wanted, and called it "good enough." Sure, it's been painted two or three times {what room hasn't been painted at least that many times in my house?}, but as far as real thought and attention to detail, it was seriously lacking. When we did the whole Project Paint the House, I wanted to give real thought to the entryway and turn it into a space that I loved to see when I walked through the door.

Before I tell you what we did, let me show you what the space used to look like.

Upon walking though the front door, a coat closet was the focal point. We painted the closet doors white along with the rest of the doors and trim long ago, making the room a bit brighter. Jackets, boots, hats, gloves, mittens and scarves were stored in the closet; with a full four seasons in Wisconsin, we need all kinds of outerwear! Our artwork consisted of two random prints and a favorite framed photograph of Dave and me. None of it "went" together; we simply put it on the walls and called it done. Once upon a time we had a small desk as a catch all place for keys, phones, mail, etc. and a lovely antique mirror that has been in my family for many years. And finally, we had inherited a small wooden hook rail behind the door for coats and bags. Long story short, it wasn't pretty.

In planning a makeover for the entryway, I knew that I wanted a pretty focal point to lay our eyes upon  when we walked through the front door. In order to accomplish that, Dave and I decided to take away our coat closet and make a little nook at the back of the entryway. We removed the closet doors, the large rod, and one of the large shelves that ran across the length of the closet. A bold move when dealing with all of that necessary Wisconsin outerwear? Not really. We simply installed the coat rod and shelf right outside the door leading into our garage. When we're getting ready to blow this joint, we simply open the door to the garage and grab whatever coats we need - easy peasy. The entryway instantly appeared more spacious, and we were eager to tackle more. We removed the small hook rail and the three mismatched pieces of artwork. The small desk moved into our master closet. We took down the mirror and set it aside for later. With the room cleared out, our next step was adding life to the space through new colors.

In keeping with the new color scheme for the rest of the house, we painted the entryway walls Berkshire Beige, and the inside of the closet got some depth with Berkshire Beige's darker companion, Texas Leather. The railings got a do-over through new black and white paint, adding a bit of pizazz to the space. We purchased two new hook rails and mounted them to the right side of the door leading to the garage, giving us plenty of hooks for backpacks, coats, and bags. The antique mirror was placed on the left side of the garage door, a just-right spot to check yourself out before hitting the road. We decided to paint the doors black {Dave would call it dark brown} to tie them in with the railings. Remember that free dresser courtesy of my friend Emeigh? I painted it black and tucked it into the closet space. It's the perfect home for hats and gloves and mittens and scarves. That favorite photo of Dave and me hangs above the dresser, as well as a collage of our other favorite prints. Ready to see the final product?

Alice enjoys the new space as much as we do.
And I couldn't get her to move while I was taking pictures.

A possible layout

The chief picture hanger hard at work

Less clutter; more function

No more random pictures on the wall. Space to breathe!

We like our entryway a whole lot more now. It was thoughtfully decorated with a plan and style that worked for us. We don't just kick off our shoes and run up the stairs anymore. We take a few extra seconds to say, "We're home."

April 6, 2011

What's Wrong With This Picture?

What's wrong with this picture?

Not such an unusual sight at my house.

Pretty much everything. We're working on a little living room project at the moment, so books and framed pictures and telephone books and tools ended up on the kitchen counter, along with a can of Diet Pepsi, which my best friend's mother says will kill me. But did you notice my color fan deck in the midst of the mess? I've been toying with the idea of painting the kitchen cabinets green for a long time, remember? The one time I tried a sample on the cabinets by our barstools, I didn't love the color and painted them back to white. I filed the idea of green cabinets away for another day. Dave and I have recently gotten hooked on ABC's Modern Family, however, and I have fallen head over heels in love with Phil and Claire's kitchen. It's cozy, it's fresh, and the cabinets are a lovely shade of green!

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard. One blogger guessed the cabinet color to be Castleton Mist by Benjamin Moore, but it's definitely not, at least not in my home. I just so happened to have a paint sample of Castleton Mist {Ha! Imagine that!}, and it looks far different from Phil and Claire's cabinets. Different lighting and environments can alter any paint color from home to home and even room to room; in my kitchen Castleton Mist takes on a very mint green tone.

I've been mixing different samples of greens and browns to find a recipe close to the shade on Modern Family. I'll continue looking through my paint chips, too, in pursuit of that perfect color. Will it work in our house? I don't know, but I'm not afraid to try it!

What have you done all wrong lately?

April 5, 2011

Rome was Not Built in a Day, Nor was My Dresser Found as Quickly

I have been searching for months {months!} for a small dresser for an entryway makeover project I've been working on. We near a Goodwill, and I shriek, "Stop! Let me go in and see if they have a dresser." They didn't. For five months, not one of the four Goodwills, thrift stores or garage sales I've been to has had my dream dresser. I know full well that I could go into any furniture store any day of the week and have my pick of dream dressers, but I'm too frugal for that. I knew that if I was patient, my day - and my dresser - would come. Friends, it came.

The girls and I had dropped Charlie off at a birthday party a couple Fridays ago and were just about home when I saw it. "What is that? What is that? WHAT IS THAT?!" Greta thought I must have spotted a deer or a skunk or some kind of vicious animal for the amount of commotion I was creating, but there was no vicious animal in sight. Instead, at the end of my good friend Emeigh's driveway was my dresser. She was all alone sitting in the sun {the dresser, not Emeigh}. Emeigh was sitting in the sun, too, visiting her mother in Arizona, but I knew that her husband was home. How did I know that? Only because I saw him outside on the second and third time I circled the house to make sure that my eyes had not been deceived. I pulled up next to Emeigh's side yard like a lunatic and proceeded to ask her husband, "Are you guys getting rid of that dresser? Why? Why? Why?" He said I could have it and I could paint it. And then I texted Emeigh: "You're getting rid of that dresser? Why?" Emeigh also said I could have it and that I could paint it.

I called Dave at work and told him asked if he'd mind picking up my glorious find on his way home. Less than three hours later, my perfect dresser was sitting in the garage. And that's how it happened. I still get tingly thinking about it.

Absolute perfection! Thanks Emeigh!
Stay tuned to see her makeover and her new home. I'm pretty much in love.
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