Wednesday, November 12, 2008

kitchen of my dreams

All photos from, done by Erica George Dines.

If I could copy the basic qualities of this kitchen in my own home, I would. It is EXACTLY what I wish I could make my kitchen look like. I have always loved Cottage Living magazine, but have recently felt like some of the content was sparse, and increasingly not budget friendly. The decor features, however, have always consistently spoken to me: classic and cozy with contemporary updates rooted in history.

This month, Cottage Living redeemed itself in my eyes, and featured the budget-friendly kitchen renovation of one of their own staffer's homes. Anne Turner Carroll turned her outdated and awkward kitchen into an efficient space that exudes cottage warmth and charm and exemplifies timeless character.

Most of the updates are things that I could conceivably do in my kitchen, and except for the all-new stainless appliances, do them on a relatively small budget. Not that I can actually make this investment anytime soon, but seeing the before and after of this renovation gave me hope. I also garnered some very concrete ideas about how to make my own awkward, and similarly laid out kitchen, function better.

Here are several of the highlights.

The existing cabinets were saved, just raised up to eliminate the wasted space up above, making the area underneath much more usable with a single, open shelf.

These photos demonstrate the wonderful mix of materials: honed black granite and walnut for the counter tops, wood floors, a classic white subway tile back splash,and two different painted finishes on the existing cabinets.

I love the light, open feel! And this configuration is so similar to my own, that it seems doable!

And here, the best part: a pass through that was enlarged from a sliver of an opening, in turn creating a major architectural feature and totally opening the kitchen up to the rest of the home. In my house, an opening like this would face the living room.

Well, that is my new inspiration... what is yours? Or do you already have your dream kitchen? I invite you to share your images and stories with me!

Monday, November 3, 2008

late fall color

Finally, some fall flair for my porch!

Sorry it has been such a long while. No excuses; just busy, tired, and struggling for motivation. Everyone can relate to that story to some degree, right? Well, aside from that remark, I hope that you find this post inspiring.
When my mom was out here a few weekends ago, we found some great deals on late plant sales at my local Bremerton City Nursery. Most plants were 30% off, and I chose a few that would last longer than just this season, once its time to put them in the ground.

Here are a few photos of the pots I put together for some fall color to last all season:

This pretty assortment greets you as you walk up the stairs from the driveway. A combo of ornamental kale, a rust orange hardy mum and a burst of brilliant red and green Japanese blood grass.

I used several types of pumpkins and an outdoor lantern to create a festive vignette next to this pot.

The juxtaposition of purples, pinks and whitish green feels fresh and fallish at once. I combined two sorts of ornamental kale with some pink heather.

The organic floppiness of Japanese Forest Grass fits the scale and shape of its pot perfectly!

I loved the natural curls and rustic, full look of this tall grass. Even the name sounds cozy: Leatherleaf Sedge. It was showy enough to be in a pot on its own.

I promise to write again soon! After all, autumn is my favorite season for decorating!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

inspiring natural elements...

Beautiful fall branches are a nice, natural way to add fall flair indoors.
Better Homes and Gardens.

It really feels like fall out here in the pacific northwest. We had our first official fall storm today: blowing rain, high winds, downed branches and even power outages. Its days like these that I am inspired to stay inside, drink tea, read magazines and listen to classical music. Today, however, I was busily running errands- to my own annoyance.

I finally sat down at five and started diving into my fall decorating magazines. Just a quick browse through them, and I am telling you, I am so inspired. I want to nest more than any woman has wanted to nest before me. I want to freshen my decor for the season; bringing natural elements indoors, layering patterned fabrics and adding texture, texture, texture! Suddenly, I am second guessing every coat of paint I have applied to my mismatched furniture over the years. Why did I do it? Why didn't I just leave them in their naturally beautiful, woody state? Ahh, I must forever be a busy decorator, that is why. I can't leave well enough alone; it goes against my very nature.

Speaking of nature, my focus for seasonal decorating this fall is going to be on pumpkins, gourds, branches, and the like. I must begin foraging for these elements, and stock up before all of the best ones get picked! I'll let you know when I've squirrelled away my stash, and share some of my fall decor tricks.

For now, here are some of the best images I found in my favorite magazines and on their websites.

Interesting embellishment for pumpkins: upholstery nail heads.
Cottage Living.

A simple assembly of tiny pumpkins and flowers on a pretty platter.
Better Homes and Gardens.

I love the twinkling and understated beauty of this carving technique.
Sunset Magazine.

A dressy buffet accessorized with natural branches and loaded with festive food exemplifies the best that fall has to offer. Domino Magazine.

I hope that you are as inspired as I am to turn indoors and get really, really cozy!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

a place to rest my head

It all started with an amazing find at the Kitsap Rotary Annual Garage Sale. This head board with faded fabric, but good bones, was only $5! Of course I snatched it up, seeing its potential.

I polled you all, and asked you what I should cover it with. Most of you thought I should do the solid red for drama and warmth. Well, I finally got around to making a decision! Although I did take your votes into consideration, I had to be implusive, but go with what as affordable, available, and practical. I didn't want to use something that would be too trendy, or too busy. I wanted to find a solution that would be classic, but add a strong design element to the bedroom.

I found the answer at TJMaxx. A solid light blue, twin-sized quilt with a simple, straight topstitched design. The texture would add a softness, and the color would perk up the room. Plus, it was just $20!

Candace helped me with the project, and we decided that keeping the existing fabric and padding on the headboard would be easiest and cheapest. In about 15 mintues we had stretched and stapled the quilt into place. At the corners where the fabric bunched up quite a bit, I used upholstery tacks, instead of the staple gun, to neatly secure the quilt to the headboard.

The coolest element though, was the nailhead trim. I condsidered not using it at all, but it was on sale at JoAnn Fabrics, and i just couldn't reisist! I am so glad I used it, it added just the right touch of refinement and really made the piece look finished. It was so easy to use too. The trim is on one long spool, with a hole in every fourth place to nail an acutal tack into the furniture. The result is seamless and professional looking.

The only thing I have yet to figure out, is how to keep the headboard rasied off the ground. For the moment, I have it resting on top of the boxspring, sandwiched between the wall and the mattress. While this looks fine, it is not a permanent solution. I want to make some legs for it in the near future. The total cost for the headboard project so far,(without the legs), is about $32. Good deal, right?

As an added bonus, my husband loves the softness of it, and we have actually spent time reading in bed. He even said that it looks really professional! The bedroom now feels more cozy and nest-like, just in time for chilly fall nights! Now, if we can only find a way to block the draft from our leaky windows! To be continued...

Monday, September 15, 2008

cupboard clean-up

Another quick change for the TV room came in addressing the small built-in wall cupboard.

The doors were impractical because I had to move the futon out of the way when I needed access to the cupboard's contents. This extra step caused clutter and disorganization to multiply in the small closet quickly.

It was hard to find anything quickly in this mess!

I decided to purchase a second matchstick bamboo blind and use it in place of two doors to hide the wall cupboard. When I removed the doors, I used the opportunity to restore some semblance of order. Now I simply raise the blind, and I can easily pull out what I need.

It is so much easier to get stuff in and out of the closet now!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

cheap and quick window update

The white plastic blinds in our TV room have always been on my list of things to change. They looked cheap and detracted from the beautiful curtain panels. But the curtains were a source of disdain as well. I wasn't happy with the way the were draping off of the rod. So with under $20 I solved both issues.

I spent $13 on a matchstick style bamboo blind from World Market. The warm brown hue compliments the wall color and the bamboo adds loads of texture.

Although I sacrificed some privacy with the new blind,the curtains now hang from ring clips,($5 at Target), and so allow me to actually close the drapes. They also make the panels drape more gracefully.

The resulting look feels more cozy and layered. The new bamboo blind filters sunlight nicely and makes the entire space glow with warmth.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

easy shelf makeover

For under six dollars and just about one hour of my time, I transformed two IKEA Lack shelves from boring black to warm and woodsy. In black, they weren't exactly jiving with the dark brown walls of my TV room. I thought about my options to remake them: wallpaper seemed to messy and possibly pricey, and I knew that spray paint might not stick and would eventually scratch off and look bad.

The black shelf before. The accessories weren't working right either.

The shelf after. The new look suits the room and the accessories make more of an impact.

I went to Home Depot looking for a solution, and found it right away: Contact paper. Normally applied as a shelf liner in cupboards or used on the inside of drawers, the paper is sticky enough to adhere to a surface, but is not a permanent commitment. The only downside is the lack of options. There are lots of ugly ones, and just a couple of decent basic colors. I chose a faux bois look, in light pine.

The process was simple. I just measured the shelves, then cut the paper using the handy grid on the back side. Leaving the shelves attached to the wall, I applied the contact paper, wrapping a single long piece around the entire shelf. It took a little fidgeting to get it to lay straight and smooth, but it was extremely easy. I cut separate strips for the front edge of each shelf.

A close up of the application of the contact paper.

The result looks pretty darn good. The warm and natural tones certainly play up the brown wall paint, and show off accessories better than the black did. A super inexpensive do-it-yourself decorating project, with instant gratification!

Shelf #2 before its makeover.

Now it fits with the room so much better!

Different accessories add a little more variety and warmth.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

coming soon: domino's decorating book

As domino is one of my fave decorating resources, I am so excited to grab a copy of their new offering: Domino The Book of Decorating. It isn't available until the fall, but you can still order it online through I can't wait to see what's inside!

Another little tidbit: My Deco File is a new feature on domino's website. In it, you can not only save images of decorating ideas, but share them and view other's files! You can create "deco books" for each room in your house, uploading photos from your own computer and also add in images from, or other websites. I just started my profile, so I have yet to explore all of the options, but so far it seems like a really neat, and potentially very useful tool.

Photo from West Elm
If you go to domino's site today, be sure to enter in the West Elm $5,000 shopping spree sweepstakes. Wouldn't it be incredible to spend all that on great West Elm stuff online, and see it delivered right to your door! So cool. Now go do it!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

a pickle of a table

The trend of whitened, brightened finishes for wood has resurfaced. While espresso toned wood is still very "hip and now", I am really enjoying this recent lightening up. This month's House Beautiful breaks down the subtle differences in these reemerging whitening techniques. I was particularly interested in this feature because I need to refinish my dining room table, and I like the aged, beachy look that results from whitewashing, bleaching, liming, cerusing or pickling wood surfaces.

Here is a look at what results from using these finishes. All of the quoted text is taken from Jennifer Dwyer's article for House Beautiful.

Pottery Barn's Shelton table series is a good example of the beauty of a limed finish.
Liming is: "An "aging" technique with pigment left in the corners and around the edges."

Their Sunburst mirror exemplifies the ocean side allure of bleached wood.
In bleaching, " A solution removes color from the wood." has a quick and dirty "how to" of the liming process, and makes it sound pretty easy. This is a photo of a chair they did.

Jayson Home and Garden,(however pricey it is) has several pieces with the same vibe.
The Kieran dining table in a cerused oak finish.
Cerused wood is, "Rubbed with white pigment to highlight the grain."

The Mandara side table in whitewashed Himalayan pine.
In the whitewashing process, "A thin coating of white pigment that evens out the wood's natural finish" is applied.

Minwax has a water based whitewash pickling stain, which seems like the product I would end up using. Pickling is similar to whitewashing but its intent is to "accentuate the physical texture of the wood. "

This is my dining table and bench. Don't you think it is a prime candidate for one of these treatments?

I think that the expressive wood grain would soak in the whitewash nicely.

Of course, this project will most likely be harder than it seems. For starters, I know I will have to strip the table of its old finish to start fresh. It would be best to do this while the weather is still warm and the air is dry. I'll shoot for September, and keep you updated on the progress of it all!

Monday, August 18, 2008

kim's decorating chronicles: ch. 3

The new arrangement accentuates the room's length and invites guests to sit and chat.

The No Longer Lonely Living Room.
Here we have the final chapter in Kim's decorating chronicles (for now).

Kim's living room is the first thing you see when you step into the house. Before we redecorated it, the room functioned more as a hallway to the kitchen and family room at the back of the house, than anything else. Kim and her husband never spent any time in the space, although they had spent plenty of money on great furniture for it. The room looked seldom used and not quite finished.

We reconfigured the pieces so that it felt more inviting and added new pieces so it could function better and serve a surprising new purpose. Here are LOTS of photos showing what we did.

Before when entering the room, the sofa acted as a visual barrier, making the space seem cramped.

Now, with the sofa facing the fireplace, a cozy seating area is created.

Looking towards the door before from behind the sofa, there was nothing to see.

Now the eye glides along the sofa and over to the writing nook.

Kim had nowhere to set a glass of wine. We found this end table at an antique mall for $13 and painted it with red paint left over from the kitchen.

The fireplace used to be cluttered with too many unrelated pieces, and did not feel like a focal point.

We found a simple second hand mirror for $12 and painted it red like the table. A couple of candle sconces that Kim had never opened went up, along with one personal photo and little bird print we found at TJ Maxx added style. The antlers are from one of her husband's hunting trips provided the finishing touch.

The chairs that Kim bought to coordinate with her sofa felt so lonely in the far off nook at the end of the room.

Placing them on either side of the fireplace gave them a context and made the fireplace feel more prominent. The floor lamp from TJ Maxx provides much needed mood and task lighting for reading by the fire.

This used to be an awkward space. No one sat here.

The nook is now home to a desk and turquoise file cabinet from World Market, and a lamp and chair from Pier 1 Imports (all incredible deals). Kim really needed a space to do scrap booking, and now she's got it!
Kim's favorite part about this redo is the fact that she is finally utilizing this room! She has been working on her scrapbooks and also envisions cozy nights in front of the fire with her husband come winter. Now that the downstairs feels done, Kim has started thinking about what do with the bedrooms upstairs! I feel another chapter coming on real soon...