Pottery Barn

Our family room is complete-ish!

When we first looked at our home we were immediately drawn to this space. Well, parts of this space. We always liked the idea of a split-level home but the ones we had seen previous to this were just so dark in the lower level. This one, while the decor AND paint AND carpet were not to our taste, had tons of light and very little sub-level feel about it. The idea of having a whole level of our home for hanging out and watching tv was so exciting (being the 900 square foot city dwellers that we were).

I set out to transform this space as soon as we moved in. I wouldn't even say it's totally finished but I like the feel of it finally and I'm comfortable sharing it in it's current state. 

To start, I had the entire space painted white, top to bottom. I'm not sure I'll stick with the white forever but it's a great place to start and adding color to the upper portion over the wood paneling would be an easy fix. For now, the white works well with all of the other color going on in the space. Henry's play area adjoins this space so you'll get what I mean when I get around to sharing that. So. Many. Toys.

Next, we tore out the old carpet and replaced it with a simple loop carpet in a light sort of mist color. I'm not a huge fan of carpet but for economical reasons we went with it. It actually makes the space very cozy, so I'm ok with that compromise. The space, though bright during the day, did feel more cavern-like as evening hours approached so we also had recessed lighting installed. Isn't it amazing what good lighting can do for your mood? 

Once we had a clean slate, we started to talk furnishings. At first we wanted a GIANT sectional so I taped out a spot for the one we were eyeing. We quickly realized that Mike's beloved leather recliner would then not have a home so we scratched that plan and settled for something smaller. We custom ordered this guy from Interior Define. What we like about this sofa, aside from it's budget friendliness, is how low profile it is for being so large. Since we're sub-level in this space and the ceilings are a tad lower, something that sat lower to the ground felt more appropriate. What we don't like about the sofa is the stiffness. There are pros and cons to this. A squishy sofa can collapse on itself pretty quickly while a more firm structure will last longer before that happens. I feel like it's starting to get more comfortable but Mike thinks I'm just getting used to it's level of discomfort. Either way, there is a 365 return policy so we'll see if we are motivated enough to do something about it soon. 

For styling, as with most stuff in our house, it's a little random because budget, duh. I had been drooling over that rug from Pottery Barn for a while and saw it marked half off one day so I immediately ordered it. I like the color it brings into such a stark space (that was the point). I snagged the cinnamon-y pillows and the kilim one from our ever-evolving bedroom and the rest are from where else? Target. 

Much of the other furnishings were also beg, borrowed and stolen from other areas of the house. The mid-century chair is one of the unused captain's chairs from our dining room set and the coffee table was an old purchase from Kane County Flea Market. The media stand (Crate & Barrel) was brought over from our condo in the city. It's sentimental because it was our first big purchase after we got married. I still really like it which is good because in the Phillips family sentimental pieces die hard, i.e. we ain't never getting rid of it.

That weird little niche next to the media stand stumped me for a while. I would LOVE more than anything to put some reclaimed wood built-in shelves there but there are just so many non-fun projects to spend money on in the first year of homeownership (and probably forever, right?) For now, it's a perfect little music area. 

The space above the tv was also driving me a little mad. I don't normally care if something goes over the tv but this was a pretty big bare spot given the white paint. I found this neon guy at Target. I like it because this space is our hang out space. It's fun and doesn't take itself too seriously. I also really like that when I turn it on, Henry starts running around like a crazy man yelling "dance party!" I mean...

I love to see this space so polished and finished looking. What you're not seeing is the madness that accompanies it – Henry's play area which, of course, migrates to the adult side of the room. The perfectionist design nerd in me wants to keep it like this 24/7 while the mom side of me knows these days are short and I just need to embrace his chaos... at least from 6am to 7pm and then I can clean it up and feel like I'm still winning a little. Of course, I made his space as pretty as possible. Give me a minute to clean it all up and I'll share that side soon! 

Out with the old – our bathroom update

It's finally finished! Our main bathroom that never looked clean is brand new again! And my word this project was so simple and small but still managed to be agonizing and uncomfortable. Wouldn't it be better if all contractors just overestimated the timing of a project so that you were pleasantly surprised when it was done before then? Meh, you would probably never renovate. Except of course if you're me and you can't stop renovating. I've been so excited to show it off and then that excitement slowly wore off as it sat mostly done for weeks. Imagine my agony of not being able to decorate it! Will you? Imagine.

Let me remind you where we began. Yup. Outdated, crusty and zero storage. It's not like we have a master bath here, guys. We have two bathrooms but this is our MAIN bath where most of our stuff lives. I remind Mike often of how little "stuff" I have compared to most women but still, this bathroom. Come on pedestal sink, you're cute but you're not very smart. 


It's amazing how quickly a room can go from this to this. It took one day to gut and what felt like a lifetime to build back up. Here's the breakdown... 

Boring things: To start, we had some plumbing taken care of in addition to a new fan/light combo. This house has very little overhead lighting which is downright maddening. So, although it's not that interesting, Mike and I were super impressed with this new feature...not to mention a fan that actually fans. The contractor then found an old bees nest in the wall and little to no insulation (explains the frozen pipes this winter). Not a great surprise but we were glad to have it all taken care of for the low, low price of not worth talking about. 

Flooring: My favorite and less boring part of the bathroom is the floor tile. I originally wanted a 4" hexagon slate tile but the one I wanted was a fortune to ship so I went with a 2" hex travertine that I could get locally. The color variation makes the space more interesting and the black tile on black grout (which actually looks gray) is masculine in a good way. I love it.

Wall tile: Since we did a subway tile in our kitchen I wanted to carry over that style here somewhat. I chose a 6 x 6 inch white ceramic tile in a brick pattern. I don't think it's necessary AT ALL for your kitchen and baths to match but I like the cohesion these similar elements provide. And here's where the hold up began. I still don't know how or what happened but for some reason the white grout was not consistently white. Some areas were perfect, others sort of darker and others sort of yellow. Bad grout is what I think it was but we still don't know for sure. Either way no one was happy about it. Particularly the contractor who had to dig it all out and start over. We used new grout and distilled water to eliminate the possibility of our water being the factor. Finally, after two tries (ugh) we got a consistent white. That shower niche and new window make me way, way happy. Update: the shower niche grout is still not right so Ima 'bout to lose my mind trying to figure out how to fix it. I'll share if I ever figure it out. 

Vanity: This was also drama. Here's where ordering large items online can really bite you in the butt. I knew I wanted a floating vanity to show off the floor tile and to make the space feel more open. I found one that met my requirements. It was cute and smart...i.e. looked good and had storage. It was shipped from LA and sat in our garage for about three weeks. I looked at it every day and I just knew it wasn't right. It was too modern. Too sleek. Our house is vintage modern, not new modern. It just didn't fit. Although I said I would never buy another Ikea vanity, I contradicted myself...for a few reasons. 1. I was desperate. I waited until our guy had the vanity brackets on the wall before I told him I made a fatal shopping mistake and hated it. I needed a replacement fast and Ikea is a twenty minute drive from us. 2. It's a new product line. I am scouring Ikea.com at least weekly for affordable options for us and clients but I had completely missed this one. It's so pretty, gets great reviews, and not to make up more reasons, it really does seem sturdier than our old one. Crisis averted. Moral of the story...buying online is a gamble (big or small) check the return policy and abide by the timing of it or suffer the consequences, like paying to ship a 120 pound vanity back to LA (not cheap). Whatever you do, don't settle when it comes to a more permanent piece. If you feel unsure now just think how you'll feel in five years. 

Medicine cabinet & lighting : While being super roomy and useful, the medicine cabinet is my least favorite feature. It's just sort of there. It does have mirrors in and out and one of those magnifying mirrors inside. This piece is just smart but I'm ok with it. I wanted something pretty and non-medicine cabinety but Mike insisted on having his stuff right there in front of him. He usually lets me do my design thing and trusts it will turn out ok so I let him have this one. I switched out the old lighting that surrounds the cabinet for some white ceramic ones...clean and fresh and pretty. 

Hardware: I spent way, way more than I should have here. I am frugal and thoughtful about most purchases but nothing I found compared to these. They help to balance some of the more modern stuff and provide a nice contrast on the walls. I originally bought the matching toilet paper holder but it had to attach to the vanity because we had no other place for it. I envisioned Henry hanging from it, leaving us with two giant holes in the vanity. Instead I bought a free standing guy (oil rubbed bronze) from Target and called it a day.

Fixtures: For the sink and shower, I chose fairly modern fixtures. Always walking that line of modern/vintage/boho, I think they balance with everything quite well and the shower head is ah-mazing.

Styling: As much as I wanted a new bathroom, I think I wanted to style a new bathroom even more. I chose a natural linen shower curtain to add warmth to all that black and white. The rug is our old one from Anthropologie which still works very well in the space. I'm a huge fan of a non-traditional rug in the bathroom and this one provides color and texture that an average bath mat probably wouldn't (although dang, Target, you have some nice bath mats). The little wall shelf fit my wood tone and black hardware checklist and what room would be complete without a basket and some sort of plant life? I'm not sure how plants will do in there but I'm hoping the light from the new window will help them to thrive. Or I'll just keep replacing them ;)

Lots of details for such a little space. More storage than I really know what to do with (seriously, I need more stuff) and contrary to what you might think, it feels roomier than ever. Something to think about if you're considering switching out your vanity for a pedestal sink. You'll be left without storage and maybe a space that doesn't feel that much bigger afterall. Consider the tile you choose and the paint color. Going from a drab gray wall tile to white made all the difference here and the floating vanity also helped over something too boxy and to the floor. 

So, what started as a tiny window replacement project grew just a hair (insert teeth-gritting emoji here) but it was worth it for a space that is now cute and smart. Of course there are still dreams of bumping out the back of the house for a master bedroom/ensuite situation but for now our shared space feels like a place we want to be, not just a place we have to be. 

A bright and serene office update

When you're a city dweller, it's pretty common for your home office to double as a guest room while also accommodating all of the other stuff you're not quite sure what to do with. That was the state of affairs for my writer/photographer/all things creative client, Diana. Not the best 'before' photos but you get the idea. She needed a place to think freely and feel inspired that would also be welcoming to friends and family and a little monkey I happen to know...Diana is my mother-in-law and that monkey is, of course, Henry ;)

One of the most challenging parts of updating a space for a client is to do so while still honoring their personal style. I know Diana fairly well at this point so I know she loves pattern and deep, rich colors. I used a rug of hers as the starting point that also served as sort of check in piece for me. Any ideas that came to mind had to be cohesive with that piece to know that I was still on track with her look and not just my own. Here's the mood board I put together for her that I shared on the blog a while back. To my delight, she was on board with most of my ideas and we moved forward quickly. 

The first order of business was the wall color. To brighten the space, my initial thought was Honeymilk by Valspar but it didn't quite work with the lighting and was too similar to the trim. ALWAYS test your paint, people! We tried out a few and settled on Edgecomb Gray by Benjamin Moore (I love the color so much, I'm using it in our bedroom...eventually). It's a creamy light gray with very subtle brown undertones. Really bright and clean feeling and so, so pretty. 

Diana had expressed feeling a little overwhelmed by all of the pattern in her home so I swapped the futon cover for a solid one and found some new, fun pillows – one print, one striped. She still loves pattern, just doesn't want it everywhere. I can relate. I removed the torchier lamp and updated it with this wood toned geometric guy from Target...I'm really digging that little corner. 

    Floor lamp - Target ;  Bird pillow - Pottery Barn ; Tassel pillow - West Elm (discontinued); Futon cover - Right-On Futon; Frames - Ikea 


Floor lamp - Target; Bird pillow - Pottery Barn; Tassel pillow - West Elm (discontinued); Futon cover - Right-On Futon; Frames - Ikea 

The gallery wall was next. Diana had a lot of family photos to display but as it happens over time, frames can begin to look dated and don't always mix well with one another. I purchased varying shapes and sizes of black frames from Ikea for a more cohesive look and got to hanging. (Here's a tip for gallery walls: Arrange your frames on the floor first until you like what you see, snap a photo of the arrangement to reference while you're hanging.)

Diana's desk was a little worse for wear but otherwise a solid piece that was still very workable. I'd been following Megmade, a furniture refinishing shop in Chicago, for some time and was excited to finally get a chance to work with them. Diana and I popped in and chose a nice gray lacquer (Amherst Gray by Benjamin Moore) for the base and she kept with the same dark wood finish for the top. I found new brass hardware from Schoolhouse Electric and voila, a few weeks later, a new desk. That. Is. Gorgeous. 

Although her desk chair is not the most attractive, it's crazy comfortable. Knowing that this is an actual working office, I resisted the urge to trade it out for something pretty (and less cozy) and just threw a sheepskin over it to dress it up. 

The before photo doesn't do justice to the ledge shelves on the wall but they were too big for the space. I removed them and chose a tall bookshelf for stuff that was beginning to accumulate on and around her desk. To help her stay organized, I grabbed some pretty boxes from Ikea for mail and general miscellany and we kept her wicker file box and mail sorter, too. Mike will make fun of me because I'm into wicker lately but I really do love the softness and texture it can bring to a room...when done well. 

In the case of the shelf, I kept with her mismatched frames. If you don't go crazy with too many, I think it can work. And they also helped to keep the space more Diana and less 'decorator'. 

Pulling it all together (as rugs do) was that beautiful kilim. It was passed down from her mother who had impeccable taste in rugs and was just a super fun piece to work with. Using things of meaning for clients is my favorite part. I've mentioned this in every post (because it's true!) that it's sentimental pieces that make a house feel like home. 

So, there you have it. An updated office/guest room that we did for just over a grand. All in all, the space feels much more easy breezy which is exactly what I was going for. It's the perfect place to get creative, meditate on your day or throw down a pack 'n play and take a nice long afternoon nap :)