midcentury home

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! 

Exterior updates and other ramblings

Most days I love our home. Other days I want to pack up and move back to the city where a condo association takes care of most housing woes. The other day was one of those times. What began with about one hundred phone calls to Nest complaining about a faulty thermostat ended with a defeated version of ourselves agreeing to the install of a new AC unit. And although an AC unit is necessary and nice to have, you can't really brag about it or show cool before/after photos (although if you ask, I will gladly snap a photo of that bad boy). So, while that purchase has me wanting to start packing, I need to focus on the stuff I'm beginning to love about our home. Here's an update on the exterior changes we've made so far.

This is where we began almost exactly one year ago. Many shades and finishes of white on the wood siding, shutters, fake grilles on the windows. I should have taken more close up before photos had I known I'd be blogging about it a year later. It wasn't a bad exterior but the home was never meant to look this way. Some owner along the way wanted to wipe the mid-century look – our goal was to honor it's roots and help to restore it. 

For the design, I put together a mood board that I shared in an earlier post

To start, we badly need new windows and we are finally moving forward with that (hooray!). In the meantime, when we moved in, I knocked out all of the little pieces of wood trim meant to look like grilles or separate panes. I am positive this was someone's labor of love. It was a total DIY that I managed to destroy in a matter of an hour but it had to be done for the sake of period appropriateness. 

Next, we moved on to paint the exterior. I had been eyeing a home not far from ours (but far enough to not look like we were copying them) that had a shade of dark gray that I was going for. Selecting paint for the exterior of your home can be challenging. You might like how a sample of it looks on your home but how will it translate on the entire house? This felt safe to me because it looked so pretty on theirs. For color matching, I used this really high tech app on my phone and voila. Or, I knocked on their door and they were so lovely to invite me in and meet their kids and interrupt their dinner while they went to find a leftover paint can. People are crazy nice sometimes. The color is Grizzle Gray by Sherwin Williams and it's a warmer dark gray - so pretty.

Once the house was painted I moved on to the front door. I'm sure this was a real gem at one point in time. In fact, a neighbor stood by patiently while it was being removed to haul it home - storm door and all. People are also really funny sometimes. I've mentioned this door in the past – it's a 90's relic. To replace it, we chose something with a mid-century feel that didn't cost a fortune (that is surprisingly very hard to come by!). Mike will say it did cost a fortune but it can be his thing to make up a number in his head of what something should cost without any frame of reference. I'm trying to be real in these posts so I will say it was not a pretty few weeks of "discussion" but ultimately I got my way and he loves it. Phew.

As for the storm door, I had that removed for good. They are so nice to have and let in tons of light but I didn't want to take away from the beauty of the new door. I miss it but ultimately, I love the way the door looks without it. And looks really are everything, right? ;) I've finally pulled the trigger on a new door handle but I haven't been able to bring myself to install it (DIY fear). The same day our AC broke down, in a sick twist of fate, our door handle busted. I can't say I was sad. I went with the pretty brass one from the mood board. It's not really mid-century but has classic lines that I think pair nicely with everything else. If you haven't checked out Rejuvenation for fixtures yet - go. They good. 

I found that bench at an antique store years ago. I'm so glad I held onto it. I stained it black and stole our pillows from the back deck for a little added interest and height. That plant/flower/birch arrangement was an experiment. Mike says birch branches are for winter...I say it's pretty year round. In my previous life I pretend I was a florist. 

We updated the rusted out mailbox and front door light for something cleaner and black to match the door and bench. It turns out spiders love our mailbox new or old. Eh, nature. Lastly, we added these brass house numbers. I bought them as a little house- closing gift to ourselves last year. Literally ANY excuse to buy home goods. 

Here's where we're at now. I think it's much cleaner and truer to our style and the original style of the home. So, while we miss the ease of condo living, it feels good to breathe new life into this house even if it is one room, facade or AC unit at a time.   

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. 

Workin' on our curb appeal

A friend recently told me that home renovation is like a disease. I think she's probably right. We're only a week into our bathroom reno and I've already started planning what to do with the next one. One project ultimately reveals other areas of your home that also need attention. Or don't really need attention but when you're OCD about interiors you make them need it. 

Since it's trying to be nice outside, Mike and I have been in the yard obsessing over every dandelion and discussing adequate grass length. We are embracing suburbia and I'm not even ashamed. I never thought I could be so proud of a mulched flower bed but man, it's so satisfying, especially when you do it yourself. And since we've been admiring our handiwork in the yard, we've also begun talking about how to make some updates to the exterior of our home. Here's what I have so far (I'll share sources at the reveal)...

Our current door is truly 90s fabulous. Lots of gold and etched glass. Anyone that knows me knows I love brass (see door handle) but this is on another level. So, we're swapping it and the storm door out for something more in the original style of the home like the one shown here. We're removing the numbers off of the gas lamp and adding something similar to these to the brick. The bench is one I've been hoarding for a good ten years now. It was in rough shape so I stained it with some deck stain and feel ok about having it as an outdoor piece. Last is the new outdoor light. Anything is better than the spider infested one of the past and the Edison bulb gives it a little something unexpected. New house paint (still deciding on the color) and we'll be in business...or ready to move on to yet another project. Happy tears.