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Thursday, October 8, 2015


Life can really move by in a clip, can't it? Just six months and several posts ago I was revealing my last One Room Challenge design to you all. Now here I am again, embarking on yet another design adventure, by the end of which I will have a completely new space to work and create from each day. 

Undoubtedly by now you are all familiar with the 6-week design sprint (I'm not calling it a marathon!) known throughout the blogosphere as The One Room Challenge. Created by Linda of Calling it Home, the event centers on twenty design bloggers hand-picked to lead the charge in making over a room of their choice over the course of 6 weeks, all the whilst blogging and photographing their progress on Wednesday of each week. I'm lucky enough to get to join in on all the fun along with other design enthusiasts who share progress each Thursday.

This will be the fourth space in our home I've tackled thanks in part to all the moral support I've received from so many of you throughout previous ORC seasons. Check out previous designs completed for our guest bath, master bedroom and my husband's home office. For this round, I'll be transforming our unused and oft neglected guest suite into my own personal workspace.
Though I'll only reveal one redesign, the collateral effect of this makeover really will address two troublesome rooms. You see, I actually already have a home office I work from each day. While it was one of the first rooms I outfitted when we moved into our home 5 years ago, it has slowly morphed into a hodge podge of storage, project and shipping paraphernalia where amongst I have a desk and computer that I use for my day job. It's no longer an inspiring place to work from and it too is in need of a redesign and reorganization. The current guest room that sits adjacent to it has long played overflow - to both my current workspace, the linen closet and my growing collection of fabric and project supplies. The bottom line: because of the chaos, we have been underutilizing precious space in our house. My goal is to clean out and convert the catch-all guest room into a beautiful and productive space to both work from and create and share that final result with you on Week 6.

Why am I moving into the guest room? To be honest the room gets far better light and it is also in the center of the house and is better situated for quiet daytime work away from the street.  I also like its cozier set up. Give me an inch and I'll take a mile, I swear! I think half the battle in maintaining an organized office is not allowing too much extra space to fill up with "stuff" that really should be stored properly elsewhere. So, I'm looking forward to purging, donating and getting creative in a smaller space.

The "before" photos I'm sharing in this post were brightened up a bit for presentation. The current walls are actually a light gray and are on the target list for some brighter paint and trim. By post time, I've already disassembled the guest bed (it was a fold-away bed from Grandinroad), removed the makeshift headboard and cleared the space of the pileup of linens, gift wrap and artwork that had started to accumulate in the room.  I've also gotten into that closet (yes- doors bulging under the weight of more "stuff" behind them). I've been on a transformative purge, inspired in part by this philosophy (I'm going to Kondo the entire house!).

I'm not tossing it all however. I plan on repurposing quite a bit of what you see (and frankly may not be able to see) here. I'll be giving new life to the hacked IKEA chandelier that currently hangs in the center of the room (originally concepted by Jenny of LGN). It has fallen into disrepair and this makeover seems like the perfect opportunity to give it a more streamlined look. 

I'm excited about the design direction I've chosen and look forward to sharing it all with you in next Thursday's update. Until then, be sure to follow along on Instagram for all kinds of design shenanigans and don't forget to check out plans from the 20 design bloggers and the others taking part each Thursday.  
Until next week... 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

New Entryway Tile

Over the years, every house endures a new stage of life - be it through new occupants or renovations alone. We bought Holtwood House both for and in spite of all of the idiosyncrasies that come with those various life stages. It's funny, but walking into the house on that first tour, I looked down at the original, 1960's grimy, avocado green glazed ceramic tile in the entryway and I think it struck me as "cool". Original details usually pique the interest of a buyer like myself who was looking to purchase an older home. It wasn't too long after purchasing that I started to rethink that cool tile - partly because it never really looked clean, but also because I was trying to work in a lighter, more modern palette and the dark, dated tile in the entryway always bore such a challenging contrast to all the progress around it. 

We battled it for 5 years, largely based on budget and other renovation priorities. We tried distracting away from it with colorful artwork and covered it up with rugs and furnishings. I actually even painted it out once in my most epic DIY fail to date (please don't even think of doing this - just don't) and inevitably had to scrape all of the paint off it to live with it yet another year.  I have to admit we even thought about coating over it with feather finish to give it an industrial warehouse type look. Obviously I was getting a bit desperate.

Once we decided that we would finally make this a priority in 2015, we waffled between a colorful polished concrete and tile - eventually landing on the latter. We shopped various tile styles and budgets for our roomy 100sq. feet of entry and eventually made the decision to purchase an inexpensive plank style from Home Depot. 

We played around with different layouts right there on the showroom floor and in the end, decided to lay it in a herringbone pattern. A light gray grout complimented it nicely and will save us from scrubbing out stains that will eventually come in an entryway had we gone with a bright white.

What a difference it makes walking through the front door or looking on from adjacent rooms. It brightened up our tunnel-like entry so much. I also can't help but be amazed at how all of those furnishings that once clashed, now settled in and became part of the overall landscape of the space, the way they were always intended to.

*Tile is Marazzi 'VitaElegante Grigio' available at Home Depot
Grout is 'Delorean Gray'

Monday, June 8, 2015

Recent Event Work // Strawberry Dessert Bar

Chocolate covered strawberries can get a corny reputation- often synonymous with really only one holiday - Valentine's Day. That seems such a sad and unfortunate missed opportunity to indulge in one of the easiest, tastiest and even somewhat healthy sweet treats! For one- February is not even peak strawberry season so while you're feeding perfectly red, large stemmed berries to your Valentine, they are surely some hothouse grown specimen purchased from a restaurant dessert cart at a premium. I say, right now is best time to dip and enjoy those berries. 

So it was no wonder then that I recommended a strawberry bar when asked to create a dessert station for a recent engagement party.

Our grocery had just received their first shipments of local berries plucked right from the field- many of which were giant sized and perfect for dipping. I set out to make 4 dozen dipped and rolled in various toppings to give the guests variety and the presentation some visual variation. This could not have been easier friends (nor more fun!).  I presented them on tiered platters and a bed of shiso leaves which kept things looking bright and fresh.

Looking to do the same (and you should!)- here's my hot tip: Use your microwave to melt your chocolate. The trick is to heat it at 50% power for 90 seconds. The chips won't look like they are melted at first, but stir them up. If you still find you need a little more melting time - again heat at 50% power for 10 second intervals. Full power will surely burn the chocolate. I also found that Ghiradelli now makes "melting chips" akin to those little fondue fountain disks you see. They work great and offer a low risk option to your dipping chocolate. 

I also added a little flair to the adjoining coffee station. Remember these mineral decanters I made for our home bar? I used them to create a flavored creamer presentation. Sometimes you have to sell the coffee- especially at a celebration where signature his/hers cocktails were flowing until the wee hours of the next morning.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The One Room Challenge // Week 6 Reveal

With another One Room Challenge 6-week design marathon now complete, I am happily revealing my husband's newly made over home office. Folks, this was a nail biter, subject to late night electrician work and a last minute design change in the final hours of this challenge. In the end, I shut my eyes last night feeling very good about the space I created and grateful that the end result was just as I had envisioned. 

Some shout outs before we really dig into the big reveal. Thank you to Linda of Calling it Home for once again organizing such a fun and inspiring event. I'm grateful for not only the opportunity to make new friends through this event, but also for the motivation to complete another room in the home we've been painstakingly renovating for nearly 5 years now. Over various seasons, that's three rooms completed now because I had a 6 week deadline and didn't want to fall on my face out there in blog land. 

Also a big shout out to the last minute crew that showed up last night to make sure I didn't: Ryan "The Electrician" who helped trick out the lighting situation with a dimmable wall sconce and Kyle for "project managing". Also, thank you to the dude who added his muscles to some of the heavier projects in this space and worked for 6 weeks at the kitchen table with nary a complaint. 

As a reminder of where we started from, see the unfinished, boring before here

To add visual interest to our standard white box room, a faux brick focal wall was added and painted "Nightfall" by Benjamin Moore. Adjacent walls were brightened up with BM "White Dove". Shelves were built and hung to showcase my husbands collectables. I tricked out some IKEA curtain panels and the old aluminum window frame was painted black to mimic steel case windows. I also built a desk from scratch, including my first solid wood table top. 

Previously poorly showcased and unnoticed in the room,  many of the accessories came from what we already had on hand. I also hosted a big 40th birthday bash recently for my husband and in preparation for that, collected some new pieces that made their way into his office. A trip to the flea market over the weekend turned up this set of steel drawers, remnants of an old library card catalog. It actually has several more pieces that form a tower that I'll use to help organize another space.

We didn't get to replacing the door and hardware just yet. I decided to swap those out when we are ready to do so with the doors in the adjacent two rooms so we can tackle that project all at once. Likewise, my lighting selections DID arrive on time. However, a late design change had us sticking to the original industrial pendant as the room sort of grew around this piece and the new one just didn't match up.

The new sconce was hung over the artwork facing my husband's desk. Thankfully this piece arrived on time and was installed just under the wire on the eve of the reveal. 

Aside from the fact that it's a more inspiring place to do paperwork from each day, the happiest outcome of this work space makeover is that it also created a space that my husband can retreat to for some time on his own. It gets the most amazing morning sun and overlooks the vegetable garden right outside that window. I think it's important to have a little corner in our shared home that is meant for each of us to grab some alone time when needed. This space is perfectly suited as an area where he can listen to music or just reflect.

So that brings another round of The One Room Challenge to a close. Be sure to stopover and see all of the jaw dropping reveals by over 150 bloggers this week over at Calling it Home.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The One Room Challenge // Week 5

It's Thursday! So that means we just closed out Week 5 of The One Room Challenge, a trademarked room makeover event I'm participating in along with 150+ bloggers.  This is the third time I've participated in the event, hosted by Linda of Calling it Home. Link back to see my previous room reveals for Fall '14 and Spring '14

I'm happy to report that there was a lot of progress made on my husband's office makeover this week. Recall, my plan is to infuse some spirit into a room that had largely been previously left unattended to pick up any odds and ends that did not fit elsewhere in the house.  This room is shaping up to be a truly modern industrial masculine retreat where he can be inspired as he works from his home office.

I just completed one of the biggest projects scheduled for this particular makeover.  I mean, talk about taking it down to the wire for a Week 5 update. I just turned this baby right side up in the wee hours of the night to finally see the fully finished desk I built from scratch. Well... ok, I had a little help from my friends. Cut to NINE separate trips to Home Depot to wrap this one up. I also borrowed my husband's muscles for help tightening all the pipe fittings. 

The base of the table was built from galvanized plumbing pipe, sprayed black. I went with a 1 1/4" pipe for the version I drafted. If I had to do it over again, I might have gone with the 1" pipe as it would have been a little easier to work with (these pipes are cumbersome and heavy folks!). When you get your pipe cut by Home Depot, they will automatically thread it for you as well so that you can screw it together with your joints, caps and flanges. I read up tons before I attempted this project and knew going in that the threading would be my biggest obstacle. It takes some maneuvering to make sure you end up with the same height on all four legs. My initial measurements also landed me with a counter-height table, so those pipes had to be re-cut. Luckily, the guys at Home Depot were happy to oblige. Lots of learnings on this one. 

For every challenge, there is also a success. I am so proud of my first solid table top, built from five separate pieces of lumber I had cut down at my local mill. I glued it up, filled, sanded and stained it before finishing it with poly to absorb all the wear and tear my husband will undoubtedly give it in the years to come. This is solid my friends and smooth as but-tah! I tested various stains and was really happy with the warm hues in Varathane's 'Provincial'. 

Likewise, I made some progress on the shelving system that will eventually showcase my husband's collectibles. Rather than use the MDF typically paired up with this simple rack and bracket system, I had 12" shelves cut to the lengths I needed and then sanded and stained them to compliment the desk.

Finally, the window treatment is now complete. I hacked my favorite go-to Ikea curtains with some grosgrain ribbon at the base. I went with the off-white to keep things bright and clean against the contrasting charcoal brick wall. Using some fusible fabric tape and my trusty measure, I had these babies hung in just 2 hours. From where I sit, when you're running fast and furious in a 6-week design marathon, it's always nice to throw a quick results project into the mix for continued motivation. 

Can you believe it? The reveal is just one week from today! Be sure to check back next week to see the finished design in its entirety. I have a hard time keeping a secret though and you'll likely see some sneak peeks over the weekend on Instagram. Are you following along?

Catch up on previous weeks here:

Be sure to pop back over to Calling it Home and give my blog-mates some support as they cross the finish line on their own designs.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The One Room Challenge // Week 4

I spent the final evening of Week 4 of The One Room Challenge sliding around the perimeter of my husband's soon to be made over home office, painting out trim and baseboards. This stretch of the ORC is always a little sticky. Fatigue and doubt typically bring some of the excitement from the earlier weeks to a grinding halt. The bank account begins to dwindle while receipts pile up on the kitchen table. It's also usually right about now where I make belated decisions on product orders and subject myself to spending the final two weeks chewing my nails, anxiously hoping boxes will arrive in time for install. Having done this twice before, I know what I'm in for at this stage of the game and have learned to embrace it as the calm before the storm. Slippers and chardonnay help as well.

The truth is, Week 4 is typically boring. For me, I find that I'm still laying the groundwork for all the colorful pretty, which in my house, means I'm still seeing things largely in black and white.  I did manage to get the brick wall painted out in my favorite dark and moody charcoal. I'm super pleased with how this turned out. It's exactly what I envisioned and appears as though it's been here all along.

Aside from the painted brick wall, the windows are another transformative update in the room. I carried the paint job we've completed in other parts of the house into my husband's office and painted out the aluminum frames in black satin enamel. The result, a dead ringer for the steel case windows I've so desperately wanted to install for quite some time. I can't wait to show you... 

Adding both height and dimension to our square white box is the gallery wall, now taking shape above the credenza. We'll skip the laminate shelves that usually go hand in hand with this type of system and use real wood as a contrast to warm up all the black and white currently found in the room. 

 These lights are currently on order. Crossing my fingers that they clear customs in time for the install and photos in Week 6.

 So that's where I am as I bring you the latest update on my husband's masculine office make over. 
As a refresh, you can view where I've started from and progress in preceding weeks here:

I post updates throughout the week on Instagram. Follow along for some behind the scenes outtakes.

I'm not alone in this! There is a great community of 150+ bloggers also participating in this edition of The One Room Challenge, a trademarked online makeover event created by Linda of Calling it Home. Please be sure and stop by and give my blogmates some encouragement in one of the hardest weeks of the series.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


With any good party, comes a good hangover. Well, if there's any merit to my party philosophy, this one was one for the books. You see, it's been a whole 38 days since I hosted this shindig for my husband's 40th birthday and I'm just now feeling like the haze has lifted enough to break it down for you all. The truth is, I've been anxious to tell you all about it because it was one of those rare, near perfect occasions where most everything fell into place exactly as I had envisioned and a good time was had by all. The hangover I speak of arrived promptly the next morning,  manifesting with equal parts exhaustion and apprehension that I properly share the details here, lest you miss out on the truly magical vibe of the night. 

Pool Party, Cocktail Party

I had planned this one out for quite some time in my little head, refining and calibrating all of the little details I would spend hours and days creating to bring the pomp and circumstance of East Coast prep, privilege and tradition to life here in our casual West Coast home. I did a lot of my own research as I worked feverishly to build out, source and buy all of the little effects that would eventually set the tone for the evening. In the end, it came together with a truly handmade, vintage spin that I was quite proud of on a swelteringly hot California evening in March. 

I'm a big believer in setting the tone for guests before they ever walk through the door to a party. Invitations go a long way. But for this event, we asked guests to dress in their finest prep attire, keeping it flexible to include anything golf, yacht, tennis or equestrian club related. While I worked out the background details for the party, our partygoers worked on their fashion, in essence becoming part of the decorative backdrop itself when we all came together. I always say build up and anticipation go a long way to creating a successful party and as it turns out, planning out what we were all going to wear worked to stretch out our timeline beyond just a 5 hour event.

 I'm a big do-it-yourself-er when it comes to hosting a party. Looking back at our most recent events, I can easily make out a formula to my "brand" of event - 60-75% handmade, 25-40% store-bought or hired in. It's true that I like to control the outcome as much as possible to gel with the vision percolating away in my little brain, but I'd also argue that a lot of the work I take on is driven by my own budget. It's hard for me to rationalize the spend when I think I might be able to create or do something myself that even comes close to what I'm envisioning. Cut to hours and hours of singular focus and many, many trips to Home Depot, my retailer of choice when it comes to creating a party backdrop. But, if I'm being completely honest, I enjoy every darn minute of it - don't let the bags under my eyes tell you otherwise. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Spring Rolls

Cheese Platter

Ceviche Shooter

For my husband's bash, I lined our entire kitchen in smooth, tongue and groove cedar planks to create a neutral, masculine base on which I built a multi-tiered food buffet, comprised of single-serving hors d'oevres on silver spoons and platters. With most of the staging already complete well in advance, I was free to spend two full days on food prep and flowers. Though loaded with plenty of variety, the prepared food was relatively simple by design, allowing me to make most of it well ahead of our start time and keep me free from standing in the kitchen all night. For all the work, I was free to enjoy this party you guys with the guest of honor and that meant so much.

Tray Passed Appetizers

Dessert Bar, Donut Bar

I served almost 100 party guests, utilizing several stations to maintain both flow and impact. I staged the dessert bar in the entry-way, because let's face it- first and foremost, everyone always wants to see what's for dessert. As guests continued on into the house, they were greeted by a cheese presentation before they reached the primary food display using all three counters of our U-shaped kitchen. 

Several beverage stations beckoned beyond the patio, maintaining motion while keeping liquids outdoors where they could be easily mopped up if needed (this was a party after all!). My mom and I made custom linens for all of the pub tables throughout the party, embellishing them with preppy decorative ribbon borders. The best part, no returns.  For a fraction of the cost (albeit some sweat equity), these are ours to keep for the next party. 

Scotch and Beer Tasting
 My husband makes a damn good cocktail- of any sort. But I wanted to make sure he had the night off. So I stocked several bars with just about anything a guest would want and instructions on how to build out several custom-cocktails I created befitting our theme, cocktails with names like "The Haa-vad" and "The Handsome Dan" (recipes to come in a future post!). There were craft beers and plenty of scotch for tastings as well. 

The outdoor bars were staged with old photos found online and on eBay. Many of these photos pre-dated 1950, lending a bit of a vintage patina to our modern day interpretation. I pulled frames from other parts of the house to display artwork and photos, creating a men's club feel to the covered poolside bar. Authentic Ivy League Pennants and painted wood rowing paddles also helped to create that feel. There was lots of wood and leather and of course old silver trophies, pulled from my flea and thrift store jaunts throughout the party, which played well into our theme.

Our crescendo moment came with the cake presentation. It's an important moment of any birthday celebration, but I wanted a cake to mark 40 good years to be something extra special. Cue a presentation complete with fireworks and pretty girls (all our sisters!). It was a VIP moment for sure and these are the sparkly photos I look back on and get a little thrill remembering how much fun that night was.

VIP Sparklers

 We are party-people people and you know what, we like to dance. I was pretty tickled to find some old photos from a famous weekend-long dance party that actually took place at Princeton in 1960.  I blew up some grainy photos and mounted them on insulation board sourced from, you guessed it- Home Depot. These were light in weight enough to hang from fishing line along our windows around the dance floor. And yes, we were crazy enough to ditch all of our furniture and store it for nearly two weeks to allow ample set up time ahead of the event.

My home office was outfitted with a photo booth and props that were well utilized throughout the night. Guests were able print off a copy of their photo strip and take home a souvenir from the night.
Pool Bar

Fire Pit, String Lights, Cocktail Party

I put a lot of myself into this one, as sort of a love letter to my husband. Our guest of honor is still reminiscing nightly about his big birthday bash, so I count that as the biggest measure of success. I have to say we had one hell of a night and honestly we have the best friends and family - always willing to show up and make even our smallest parties a proper celebration.   I hold this one close to my heart as one of my favorites yet. 

There is still so much more to share! Look to some future posts focusing on recipes and some other fun effects that gave this one a little extra... well, something.