chicago

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 :)

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Bathrooms on the brain

Don't you love when you go to replace a window in your bathroom and realize you'll have to redo all of the tile surrounding it. And while you're at it you may as well address the lack of storage with a new vanity and medicine cabinet. Oh and that lighting won't work anymore either. One seemingly small house project inevitably opens a can of worms. Like when you get those new shoes that require you to buy new pants because yours aren't the right length and then what top will you wear? You get it. (That may or may not have happened to me this week...but these shoes.)

I'm (not so) secretly loving the idea of replacing all of the bathroom tile. This is one of those rooms that you can clean and clean but it still looks the same...kinda yucky. So then I think, why clean it at all? Because I'm not in college anymore and have not been in a VERY long time. Man, life was simpler (and grosser) then. 

So, I've been living and breathing bathrooms this week. I'm helping a new client select bathroom tile for her and her fiance's 1920's home and also tile hunting for us on the sly.

Here's the current state of our bathroom. 

I did my best.

I won't even show the grody window that's been painted shut one hundred times over. What I will show you is what I've been pinning this week for ideas...

 

Simple, clean, bright. Maybe a little something funky for the floor. I definitely want to incorporate some wood (maybe in the vanity?) and a fun vintage rug to soften the look. I've been seeing that white, square ceramic tile all over lately and I love how it can be modern and classic when laid in the subway pattern. I think it would work well in our mid-century home. And I guess I'm on trend because I opened my email today to a subject line from MyDomain "Could this be the next subway tile?" So it seems it is. This makes me think twice only a little. Will it still be cool in ten years? I think it's simple enough that it will be. Anyway, I'm not immune to trends. Heck, I bought these Target beauties, didn't I? 

A writer's haven in the making

Henry and I are on a little road trip to Michigan this week to visit friends and family (I'm loving the freedom of this gig already ;) Here's an office/guest room mood board I'm working on for a friend of mine. Deets and before and afters at a later date but I want to give you something pretty to look at this week. 

We're going from LOTS of pattern and darkish walls and trying to hit a bright and cozy note. It also needs to be inviting enough to write a good book. This rug is similar to hers which is a great piece to work from. The futon, desk and her office chair are staying (with some updates) and she has tons of art and family photos that we need to hang in a more cohesive way. Here's what I sent her last night. I think it's a pretty good start, don't you?

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The not-so-baby, baby room

Ok, so the baby isn't really a baby anymore but I'll be darned if that kid is moving to a real bed anytime soon (for reasons being sleep) so we'll just call it a "baby room" because the crib and all. So, another room where we had to start over – the chair rail, the navy and cream, all a little tired. Plus, I had been interested in this idea to paint 3/4 of the walls one color and leave the rest white (a la exhibits A & B).

Exhibit A

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Exhibit B

Sidenote: My friend Jayne and I stayed at the place on the right this summer on our thrifting adventure through Nashville (@eastnashvillebnb). The thrifting was so-so but this Airbnb was pretty darned inspiring, from a style perspective. (I choose my Airbnb's mostly based on cuteness, don't you??) 

With those two images imprinted in my brain for a while, I decided to go for it in Henry's room. A baby room is a pretty safe place to take some style risks since heck, probably no one is going to see it but you, and they're too young to want to paste Fathead Transformers decals all over the wall yet. Take advantage. 

So I pried off that chair rail, spackled and sanded. Once the walls were all cleaned up I painted the whole room white – like a million coats to cover that navy. Next, I taped around the top quarter with frog tape. (That stuff is good but not good enough unless you go back over it with a credit card or a dish scraper – both super technical approaches to get it to adhere so the paint won't bleed.) Next, I painted the bottom portion with the Benjamin Moore oystershell (two coats) and pulled the tape to reveal a nice straight line. 

Mike then bolted the ledge shelves to the wall for Henry's personal library. I love displaying books as art, as you might have noticed. Since the room was painted in neutral tones the pops of color from the books and toys really stand out. I hung blackout shades from Ikea for the blackout-ness but mostly because I loved the contrast they provided in the room. I also have a sort of black and white sub-theme going on so I was happy to score those. 

This room was styled with a mix of new, old, vintage and upcycled items. That dresser was Mike's when we were dating. I painted it gunpowder gray (Glidden, I think) and added those brass knobs. Is it cute or crazy that I thought it would make a good changing table one day (while we were only dating)? Don't answer that. Anyway, this sort of eclectic mix is how I aim to approach any room for any client. Which pieces do you love and which pieces are you dying to trash and replace with something more current or just not Ikea? You don't need to start fresh for a few reasons:

1. You've lived this life and done some cool things and you probably have some equally cool things to show for it. This makes a room so much more interesting than filling it up with pieces from Pier 1 that have no story. Of course you'll have those things too, but keeping some of your personal mementos present just makes the house more you.

2. You have a budget or you should.

I knocked this room out in a weekend or so and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I lied last week when I said we started with the kitchen. I actually just remembered wrong. Mike insisted that we start with Henry's room and kudos to him for being such a good parent. No really. We moved into this strange place in a strange town where everywhere you go has a parking space (aka the suburbs) and we really did want him to feel at home right away. I think it did help his transition quite a bit. Of course, it doesn't hurt when you have a really cute dad to read you stories at bedtime ;)