This mid-afternoon blog post is brought to you by Daylight Savings Time, which I am blaming for being sleep-deprived this morning and not hitting “publish” like I thought I had.So Happy Monday afternoon!
The longer we have lived in this house, the more I feel like I’ve honed in on a specific vision for it. I’m so glad we didn’t do major renovations when we first moved in; living here has shown me how we actually need certain spaces to function and that has completely changed my mind on some ideas I had when we first bought the home. As I’ve spent nearly four years tackling smaller renovations room by room, I’ve cultivated spaces that feel right for our family and it’s been really gratifying to see those spaces now work together throughout the house like pieces to puzzle.
That being said, I have been feeling like some of my earliest projects don’t quite fit that puzzle very well. These renovations happened so early on that I didn’t necessarily have the “whole house vision” in mind and now that I do, I’m wanting to go back in and re-address some things. There’s one space in particular I’ve been thinking about a lot lately and feel ready to tackle: our guest suite!
When we first moved into our house, the guest suite immediately rose to the top of the project list. Technically, it couldn’t be considered a bedroom at the time because there was no window, but I immediately saw the potential. We hired a contractor to put in a window, strip the wallpaper, and demo the en suite bathroom – you can catch up on the initial renovation in previous posts (click here for the bedroom and here for the bathroom).
We initially finished the guest suite in early 2020 – just in time for a global pandemic and a very long pause on hosting guests. Ha! Eventually, I decided I wanted to add a bit of interest to the plain white walls and started a botanical wallpaper look using paint and a stencil. It was fairly labor intensive and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go all the way around the room so I paused after two walls. Along the way I also updated the bed and bedding and swapped out the nightstands for the ones from Justin and my bedroom (I still love all those changes!)
I recently had some inspiration for the guest suite that I think is going to make it make so much more sense with the rest of the house – it gave me that excited, adrenaline feeling in my gut that made me know this is the right direction to take the room! Here’s what I am going to be addressing:
1. Finishing the Faux Wallpaper. I do want to complete the wallpaper look all the way around the room and I’m going for it. I know that it will be time consuming, but I truly believe it will be worth it!
2. Paint the trim + doors + built-ins dark. Initially, I chose white walls and a light greige contrast trim because I thought it would help brighten the fairly dark room (the window is partially shaded by our back deck and with that + the angle of the house compared to the path of the sun, it never receives direct, bright sunlight). Now I have more confidence in leaning into the natural shadowiness of the bedroom and I want to go dark green on the trim. The goal is a cozy, moody retreat!
3. Finally update the ceiling light! The last remining boob light (if you know, you know) in our home has numbered days and I cannot wait to see it go.
4. Repaint the en suite bathroom. With the wallpaper going on every wall in the bedroom and the trim going dark green, I think I’ll need to change the guest bathroom color. I am currently leaning towards a pink and again, it’s giving me that adrenaline feeling of being nervous for a dramatic change but also excited because I think it’s the right call.
5. Replace the carpet. We are finally ready to get new carpet in the works throughout the whole basement. The current carpet is very worn, stained, pulling up in places, and just very much in need of being replaced. I do want to replace with another carpet because a) our basement gets very cold and carpet is such an easy way to keep it warm and cozy and b) this is a big rec space/entertaining space for kids and carpet makes more sense to me for kids to play on.
I’m starting this week on the wallpaper stencil – you can follow along on Instagram for the play-by-play!
Over the past week, I’ve been working to remove the paint from the kids’ shared dresser and restore it to a natural wood finish. It all came together yesterday and to say I’m in love is putting it mildly!
Somewhere between 7-8 years ago, Justin and I bought this vintage midcentury dresser on Facebook Marketplace for $30. It had signs of wear and tear and the easiest solution at the time was to paint it, so I chose a mid-tone blue and gave it a little upgrade. It has lived happily as a kid dresser for the past 5.5 years (even serving as a changing table when LJ was younger) and is still one of my favorite thrifted finds to date.
I recently completed the mountain mural accent wall in the kids’ shared bedroom, and when I got everything back in place, things didn’t feel quite right. It seemed like a lot of painted surfaces: painted walls, painted trim, painted door, painted dresser. It also felt really heavily blue! I knew I needed to bring in some natural elements and decided to try to strip the paint off of the dresser. I had never attempted this before but figured worst case scenario would be I could just repaint it in a different color if stripping didn’t work.
After doing a bit of research online, I bought a product called Citristrip to try. First things first, I removed the drawers and hardware and placed the drawers face up on a drop cloth (I save old bedsheets for this purpose!) I wore a double layer of latex-free gloves and assembled things in my basement where there is a big open space and plenty of circulating air – Citristrip is safe to use indoors but I still wanted lots of ventilation.
I poured it out directly onto the dresser and used an old paintbrush to roughly apply it everywhere. After some trial and error I learned that thicker is better – you want a pretty thick layer on top of the paint!
I stashed the brush in a ziploc baggie and let the Citristrip soak in, quickly learning that leaving it on longer produces better results. You don’t want it to dry out, but you do want to give it time to work. And when it works, it looks wild!
My mind was blown! I kept thinking the paint looked like really elaborate frosting and couldn’t believe how much it bubbled up. The first round, where I did a light layer and only left it on 30 minutes, left a lot of residue but the second round, where I poured it on thick and left it on 2 hours, took nearly everything off!
I used a plastic scraper to remove the paint; sometimes I needed to do a bit of extra scraping to get it all off but it did not require a lot of muscle or effort to do the vast majority!
The main frame of the dresser took an extra round of Citristrip because the paint layer was thicker, but once I got everything stripped it was time to clean off the reside. I used mineral spirits (again, you want ventilation and gloves!) and a clean cloth to wipe down the surfaces; it works best to give the mineral spirits plenty of time to fully dry before sanding.
The dresser had a very thin layer of wood veneer on almost everything (more on that in a bit) and sanded well for me. I used an orbital sander, first with 80-grit sandpaper, then 120-grit, then 220-grit to get the surfaces down to raw wood. At this point, I started to feel optimistic that this was actually going to turn out well, because things were looking so much better!
I have never used a gel stain before but it’s super easy to apply: I painted the stain on using a brush, first going in the direction against the grain, then immediately going over it with the brush again (without adding more stain), this time with the grain.
I let it set 2-3 minutes and then wiped it off with an old pillowcase (I’m telling you, save your old bedding for projects!) Here’s a look at two drawers in the process, one with the stain wiped off and one with it still soaking:
One unusual thing I hadn’t remembered about the dresser was that the top is actually laminate. Hmmm. The paint stripped off it fine and I used 220-grit sandpaper to get the remaining residue off, but it’s hard to tell how much of the gel stain it took. The walnut color I chose pretty closely matched the original color and I was afraid of blotchiness so I did the whole top at one time; it looks great with the rest of the dresser and definitely did darken, so it at least took some of the gel stain. It worked out and I’m happy with the result!
The legs did not take the stain well, although that’s probably because I didn’t want to sand them, so I decided to pivot and use Rub n Buff. My goal was to try to match the patina of the original brass drawer pulls. I removed the legs and used just a tiny bit of product, rubbing it in with an old cloth. I was pleasantly surprised to see the legs really did look similar to the drawer pulls!
After everything had a chance to dry, I put it all back together in my kids room and WOWZA, this was exactly what the space needed!
I LOVE the richness of the warm walnut color. It is seriously stunning, and the patina on the brass hardware + faux patina on the legs brings so much character!
This is still a $30 thrifted dresser, so it’s far from perfect, but I just think she’s a showstopper now. I am so so happy with how this dresser now ties in with the other wood tones throughout and completes the room . . . even though I don’t really ever think a room is totally finished. Our needs and tastes are constantly evolving and I like to make little tweaks to our rooms here and there along the way. Plus this room will likely need an overhaul of sorts down the room when there are two teenage boys sharing it (!!!) That being said, the kids’ room feels like it’s in a really good place for their current stage of life so for now…it’s done. 🙂
Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Eider White and Nordic Bleu
It’s been five months since I shared my mood board inspiration for leveling up the living room. It’s been four months since I painted the walls white. It’s been two months since we installed the sconces . . . and nothing much has happened since. In terms of speed, this room transformation is practically glacial.
You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve slowed down on the pace of home projects around here lately. This was a choice I made very intentionally for a few reasons, and I can honestly say it’s been such a healthy decision for me and my family. Today I wanted to take a minute to just talk about why I’ve moved to a more sustainable pace and how I approach slowly transforming my home.
One big reason I’ve slowed down is: money. The vast majority of our projects up to this point have been on the smaller scale. I’ve gotten creative with finding ways to transform a space with a small budget: stenciling instead of wallpaper, upgrading thrifted furniture, painting cabinets, painting countertops, etc and we’ve done the large majority of work ourselves. Now we’re looking ahead to hiring out some bigger projects in the next year or two, so we’re quicker to save money and slower to spend on smaller projects.
Another, probably obvious, reason I’ve slowed down lately is due to time. I have three kids, so life is full! I’ve learned I can take advantage of nap time and preschool and yes, their daily allotted screen time to get things done. I can work late at night or wake up early in the morning. I’m good at finding ways to squeeze in projects but also, I don’t want to spend all my time on projects. I’m so aware of how fast these years are going and have been working really hard to strike a healthy balance of life and projects.
A great example happened this past weekend: we had a gloriously empty calendar where nothing was planned for anyone in our family. It was the perfect opportunity to update the kids’ bedroom dresser. It was also the perfect opportunity for some quality family time. We landed on a best-of-both-worlds solution: for our family, we chose a Saturday family adventure day (science museum, lunch, walking to a bakery for a special treat) and Sunday afternoon campfire (popcorn + smores!) together.
For ourselves, Justin played tennis with his friends Saturday morning while I played with the kids, then he took the kids in the evenings and Sunday morning before church so I could have time for the dresser. Saturday night we even had a movie-in-the-basement date night while I waited on the paint stripper to work its magic on the dresser. We both got time away for hobbies that energize us AND we got quality family time and couple time together. True, the dresser could’ve been completed if I buckled down and said no to all the other things, but that’s not healthy for anyone in my family. We’re ALL much happier with a slower project pace and a balance of time together and time on our own things.
The last reason I’m slowing down is hard to describe, but is a mixture of learning contentment and leaving space to figure out how this home can best serve our family. It takes time in a space to discover what it needs. Do I want a gallery wall here or one large piece of art? Do I want a console table here or something with storage? Learning to live with a blank wall or empty space in the meantime has been an exercise in contentment – I don’t truly need anything and I don’t want to buy things just to fill the house, so I’m okay with nothing until I find just what I want. Spending time in spaces helps me hone in on a vision and think through possibilities, and half the fun is in anticipating/dreaming/planning anyways. Just recently I decided that eventually, I’m going to swap the dining room and playroom. Not now, because our current setup is working in this season, but long-term, the switch will make more sense for us. It takes time to let my mind wander and think through these possibilities. In the meantime, I’m learning to be content with my house as is and let me tell you, there’s joy to be found in that contentment too.
So how have I been approaching a slower, more intentional way of working on my home? I’ve been reflecting on this quite a bit lately and here are some of the things that come to mind:
Thrift for Budget-Friendly Items
It’s no secret that I love thrifting. Buying secondhand is sustainable for the environment and easier on the wallet – a win-win in my book. I have had great luck slowly sourcing items over the years, thrifting everything from bigger items like chairs, side tables, and dressers to smaller décor pieces like picture frames, planters, and little tchotchkes. Thrifting has allowed me to fill my home with unique items and allows me to try out different things without a big commitment. I can also hold onto items loosely – if it breaks or ends up not working in our home, it’s easier to let go of.
All that being said, thrifting is not a quick, one-click process. It took me months to find a little lamp I loved for my kitchen countertop! I try to carve out time once a week or every-other-week to pop in to a thrift store, whether I have an hour to browse or just ten minutes to glance around (if you’re not sure where to start or how to maximize a quick trip, I wrote a post about making the most of thrifting when I’m limited on time). I’ve been thrifting for items for years and over time, my home is slowly filling with items I truly love. The hunt for items that speak to me takes time and patience, but it’s so rewarding once I find a gem for our home!
Use Placeholder Items to Determine What I really Want
I bought a teal-colored accent chair for the living room in our last home and absolutely loved it there. We moved here with it and it just hasn’t translated the same way. I’ve tried it in multiple rooms and in multiple places and have come to accept it just isn’t going to be a piece I keep long-term in this home. BUT! It has been an excellent placeholder for me while I determine what I do and don’t want.
When it sat in the playroom, it helped me determine I wanted a couch instead of a chair for more seating. When it sat in my office bay window it helped affirm that space worked perfectly for a chair – and I soon thrifted my beloved yellow chair. When it sat against the stairs in our living room, it made us realize that the extra seating was nice but the placement felt odd so we’d have to find the perfect option, otherwise it’s better to have nothing there. When it sat against a small wall in our living room, it helped me determine I really needed something with a smaller profile, leading me to this $5 thrift store chair.
Now it sits in the bay window area of our living room and has confirmed we do want another chair there (just not this one). And with that, I think this chair is ready for its next home. I’m glad we kept it for so long, even when I knew it wasn’t meant for this house, because it helped us figure out what DID work here. Now that we’re filling up with things we love and that work for this house, it’s ready for its next life . . . at my sister’s house! I’ll be sure to visit 😉
Shop My House
I love shopping my home to find just the right thing for a space! This is different than a placeholder, because these are all items I use, love, and want to keep in my house. I used to get stuck in a rut with thinking one item had to stay in the place where I first put it, but I realized once I held a looser grip on arrangements, it became so much fun to see the same old items in a new way! If you want to know more about how I do this, I wrote a whole post about shopping my home.
Again, this takes a little time to walk through my home and try to look at items individually and objectively. And then obviously, when I move something to a new place, I might have a blank space where that item used to be for a while. Maybe I’ll thrift a new item for that spot, maybe I’ll find something else in my home, or maybe it will be an empty place for my eyes to rest for a bit. It’s a process!
Live with Less
It’s actually pretty refreshing to have some blank space in my home. For example, my dining room is pretty bare – just a hand-me-down table and chairs and a large blank wall – but there are perks to that. It’s super easy to clean and maintain. My kids love racing around the table and there’s space to do that. We have a nice big floor area beside the table to make messy art projects. The blank slate-like nature of the room also makes it easier to dream of the future possibilities. There’s no clutter distracting my mind and I can just breathe and imagine what it could be . . . while enjoying the freedom that comes with less for now.
I realized that living with less also helped me recognize when an item really speaks to me – if I see it in the store and it feels worth giving up the blank space for, I know it’s a good one!
Enjoy the Imperfect House
I have been craving slowness in other areas of my life and lately I’ve been leaning into leaving space for that. I love to curl up with a blanket and a good book. I love the rhythmic process of baking homemade bread. I love sitting around the table playing the 15th round of Old Maid or Go Fish (my kids are in an era of loving games and it’s so much fun!) Life is happening in this home whether it’s “finished” or not, and I have been savoring the moments I step back from the projects and just enjoy living here.
We live in an era of instant gratification (Streaming services! Same day delivery! Instant downloads!) and I think this impacts home renovations too. You can turn on HGTV and watch an entire home undergo months and months of renovations in the span of 60 minutes. Before-and-after pictures on Instagram can show you a room transformation with just a simple swipe of your finger. We’re used to the process happening quickly, or at least, being shown to us quickly, but that’s not reality. Most transformations happen slowly and I have become much happier with a slower pace.
It also feels worth ending on this clarification: my chosen pace feels slow to me, but may not feel slow to you. Previously, I was going from project to project, finishing one and jumping right in to the next. I was challenging myself to complete entire rooms in a small amount of time and I was working on big projects one after another. My current pace is much slower and is more sustainable for my life and my family; it’s a balance that works for us. What that looks like will be different for every person – maybe one space a year is all you have the capacity and resources to handle and my pace seems unsustainable. Or maybe you have the capacity and resources for one room a month and my pace seems super slow. It’s true what they say: comparison is the thief of joy. I encourage you to find a pace that feels right for YOU and enjoy how that works for your life rather than dwell on anyone else’s.
Now I’m off to keep working on my kids’ dresser – slow and steady, just the way I like it. 🙂
It’s always surprising to me how fast February feels (especially since January is 87 days long) but here we are somehow in March already. I’m ready for longer days, more sunshine, and the beginning of Spring so I’m here for it!
In February I read two books and while one fell pretty flat for me, one is going to be added to my Top Recommendations List because I loved it so much. Let’s get into it!
Last month I read Bringing Up Bebe and really enjoyed it. I joked with Justin that I was “entering my French era” and decided to try another book along the same lines. This particular one was written by a British woman living in France and follows kind of a similar thought process as Bringing up Bebe – she’s noticing the differences between herself (and other non-French women) and French women and wants to “uncover the secrets of [their] chic living.”
Here’s the thing. I did not have the same warm, affirming feelings as I did reading Bringing up Bebe. In fact, I found some aspects of this book to be more of a turnoff – like a strange recurring interaction with a Frenchman that borders emotional (and potentially physical) cheating and gave me the ick. While some chapters were interesting and entertaining, overall I wasn’t as charmed by this author’s deep dive into the world of French women. I tried to put more of a finger on why that was and checked the publication date: 2006. Oddly enough, this seemed to make things click. The book feels like the early-00’s obsession with thinness – the “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” era, you know what I mean? And reading it in 2023, yes we want to look good, channel fierce energy, worry less, take care of ourselves more, etc. . . . but in a healthy, well-rounded, accepting our flaws kind of way. And this book doesn’t seem to leave the same kind of room for that. Looking through that lens, I actually don’t think it’s a bad book, I just don’t think it aged particularly well and so it fell flat for me.
Nora adores her close-knit, quirky building and never wants anything about it to change. Unfortunately, the newest tenant, Will, is determined to bring change. After inheriting one of the six apartments in the building from his late uncle, he is clear about his intentions: renovate the apartment and rent it out. Horrified by the thought of a revolving door of renters ruining the familial feel of the building, Nora decides to make things difficult for Will in hopes that he changes his mind. Despite the ensuing sabotage and complications, Will and Nora get to know one another better and neither can deny that underneath the animosity they each feel a strong connection to one another.
I ADORED this book! I thought it was so fun and charming and sweet. Nora and Will are both really likeable characters and I enjoyed their back-and-forth dynamic. Their characters are relatable and down-to-earth and I particularly enjoyed Nora’s inner dialogue. I love a good alternating narration, enemies to lovers trope and this book did it so well. The vast majority of the story takes place in their shared apartment building and the rest of the cast of characters is eclectic and delightful. I just wanted to hang out in this building! I’d rank it as PG-13; there’s a bit of language and one steamy chapter (could easily be skipped over if you prefer). It’s predictable but not overly cheesy and is a great choice when you just want a realistic, feel-good romance. I highly recommend!