One year later

A little more than a year ago, we were making our way toward the 2011 ACL music festival when our realtor called to tell us the sellers of a little house on Corona Drive had accepted our offer to buy their place; a month later they handed us the key. Even though the process of buying our first home happened fairly quickly, in many ways this one year anniversary of life in our first home seems like it took a lifetime to reach–especially when I think about all the projects I wanted to accomplish in the first year.

I had a lofty checklist of things to add, modify and remove in the new house. Admittedly, I was a little too ambitious. I wanted wood floors within the first month and new counter tops within the first two weeks. Fast forward 365 days and the original counters and carpets are still here. I still don’t have a dishwasher in the kitchen, and we still let the dogs out into the backyard through a window and not a proper backdoor. But while there are many, many, many improvements I still haven’t found the time or money to make, I’m careful to remember and be proud of all that we have accomplished in one year together in our first place.

For starters, we (with A LOT of help from my mom) we were able to install some much needed landscaping in the front yard.

The uninspired and lackluster front yard before we got our hands (and feet and faces) dirty with gardening.

And here it is today.

We put in a path that leads to the front door.

And planted lots of native color.

Echinacea is forever smiling.

We painted and added windows to our front door for much needed character.

And in the backyard we did even more.  When we first arrived, the only life in the backyard was a 30-year-old pecan tree.

The bare backyard.

So we added a shed and built a new and improved chicken coop for our feathered friends.

We put in raised beds for veggies…

…and a rain garden to help with drainage.

We built a fence to help with privacy.

And we added some spunk to the patio with a pallet planter, and dining area.

Inside, we got things done too…like painting more walls than we can count.

The bland walls before we got our hands on them.

And after many iterations of furniture placement, we  finally found the perfect layout for our massive living room.

We put up invisible book shelves in the office.

And I finally found the perfect way to incorporate a map wall into the house.

In the kitchen we refinished the cabinets and added new hardware, bringing some much needed shine to a kitchen that was in the running to be named one of the country’s ugliest.

Dinged up faded cabinets and rusty black metal hardware makes for a creepy kitchen.

A little shine goes a long way. At some point we’ll get to updating the backsplash and countertops.

We also stripped the knotty pine paneling to make room for more shelving and storage.

For me, knotty pine is beautiful in small doses. The original kitchen had more than what I prefer.

On top of the big projects, there were dozens of weekends and evenings spent painting furniture, framing artwork, hanging curtains and performing the many other tiny tasks that culminate in having a happy house that feels like home. I didn’t get to a lot of the big projects, but I’m learning to cope with our revised timeline. As my older and wiser home-owning cohorts have told me, the list of home improvement projects never goes away, it just changes over time, and that’s part of the fun. So on our one year anniversary, I’m opting not to lament the projects we have not yet gotten to and instead will celebrate what we have accomplished. Plus, we still need things to keep us busy as we head in to year two.

A weird thing I never thought about until I tried to do it

I’m quickly learning that while I love to look at pretty things and can recognize something pretty when I see it, I am not so great at coming up with something pretty myself. Case in point, beautifying my dresser.

Until recently, my dresser sat in front of a window, practically negating any need for some sort of artful display of eclectic whatchamacallits on its surface. But in preparing for Bro’s arrival, we did some room switching and I was left with a simple dresser against a bare wall. I knew I wanted needed to do something to give it some gusto, but figuring out WHAT should go there was more difficult than I anticipated. Giant artwork was out of the question (I don’t own any) as was a television (we only have one and it’s in the living room). What I did have on hand though, was lots of mismatched junk. So I figured I could probably find some way to make several random pieces look good together. I mean, if Pinterest can do it…

I started fooling around with some of my favorite little pieces, but that’s when I figured out that, while some of the items in my inspiration images look like they were casually placed there, it actually takes a lot of thought to make several elements with varying characteristics work together cohesively. For example, when I tried to pair a framed map with a a jewelry stand, it looked more like a bag lady’s campsite than quirky but beautiful dressing table. I played around for a good 45 minutes before I finally threw in the towel and googled “How to dress a dresser.”

I felt like a chump.

Fortunately I am not the only person who has had this weird “problem,” and I found a great step-by-step guide to creating an area that is fashionable and functional.

And with that little maneuver, I came just a little bit closer to having a grownup house. Move over, Martha.

Lunchtime Lookyloo

Sometimes on your lunch break you have to grab a sandwich. Other times you have to grab some good design ideas to get you through the weekend. No, I don’t mind if I do spend 30 minutes of the lunch hour perusing the rooms of Uptown Modern, my favorite vintage furniture shop in Austin.

There’s a lunch where I won’t mind asking for seconds.

Modern Eclectic

And the answer we were looking for folks was “modern eclectic.” Yes, “modern eclectic” is the correct answer.

In the past couple of weeks I have become somewhat of an expert at performing google image searches. (It’s a very difficult process. Needless to say, many of you will never be able to master the art.) The primary objective of said searches is to find interior design inspiration for *ahem* someone’s upcoming relocation project. Yep, we are buying our first home and I’m needing some decoration guidance without having to actually READ anything or put in any intellectual research.

Finding the key words that get you to the most applicable images the fastest really might be some kind of a weird talent, and it took me a long time to find the right mix of random interior design-ish adjectives to produce photos of scenes I can realistically imitate. Like Goldy Locks, I combed through the internet searching for those key phrases that would get me to to inspiration images that were “just right.”

“Mid Century Modern” turned up some awesome shots that ultimately were too minimalistic or ridiculously unattainable. “Colorful Interiors” lead me to images of what appear to be fun-houses. And a slew of other randomly placed together words got me close, but not quite there.

Enter MODERN ECLECTIC—the term vague enough to encompass all things modern, traditional and in between. The wishy-washy, bi-polar, ADD wannabe designers like myself finally have a designated style to call their own. Modern Eclectic it shall be. Behold the fruits of my labor.

That last one is a real-life inspiration from my friend Maggie. Check her place out on airbnb.


Cheers to Modern Eclectic, and hopefully soon you’ll be seeing real photos of the doodlehouse 2.0….

Naughty Pine

I didn’t think I would ever perform a google search for the term “knotty pine,” or as I more commonly think of it, naughty pine, but certain recent developments, which shall reveal themselves in greater detail later, have had me on a mission to figure out how to make knotty pine look not so naughty.

Normally I love all design components from the 1950s-60s, but knotty pine is one element I would be happy to leave in the midcentury. Don’t get me wrong, in a log cabin or other woodland retreat, I would welcome the rustic look no questions asked. But for some reason it is just not a look that says, “Hello, an urban Austinite lives here.”

The knotty pine kitchen from Mad Men

The knotty pine kitchen on Mad Men is probably the only room from the show I didn’t want to emulate. But I guess when you embrace the midcentury look you must embrace it all.

Fortunately, the great beast we call Internet had a few suggestions that gave me hope for a knotty pine kitchen.

(Photos from Retro Renovation)

Knotty pine brought up to date

Bright colors lighten up a knotty pine pallet

A midcentury kitchen

And that will pretty much do it for the knotty pine spaces I can aspire to. I haven’t written it off yet, but let’s consider knotty pine on probation.

Another man’s treasure

I like to pretend that my fascination with and adoration of vintage furniture and knick knacks is rooted in and based on actual interest and not of the that’s-all-we-can-afford ilk. But who am I really kidding. Despite being out of college and now one of millions of living, breathing working adults in this country, I admit that 90 percent of the furniture in our house is either a) a hand-me-down, b) homemade or c) purchased second-hand… not ideal for the wannabe interior designer that lurks within. Luckily, we live in Austin and the city has no shortage of wonderful places to visit if you’re in search for a truly unique furniture find that is second hand, yes, but also completely funky and affordable.

Last weekend we took inventory at a few of our favorite second-hand shops in Central Austin. Even if you’re not in the market to buy, these places are least worth dropping in if only to oogle at their outrageously wonderful mid-century modern treasures.

Uptown Modern
5453 Burnet Road, Austin

This place is ideal for tracking down well put-together Danish modern finds at reasonable prices. We actually transitioned from window shoppers to real-life customers when we purchased a dresser there last year—marking our first major furniture purchase as a married couple. The prices are moderate, it’s true, but what’s fun about this place is the set up and showcase or each of their pieces. The organization is spectacular and walking through the doors really feels like walking onto the set of Mad Men.

Room Service Vintage
107 E. North Loop,  Austin

As great for its clothing, light fixtures, and kitchenware as it is for its furniture, Room Service Vintage is, to me,  the anchor vintage shop of myriad second-hand joints popping up in this corridor of North Loop. The atmosphere is hip, the shopkeepers friendly, and the walls always covered in wonderful ’50s through ’70s eye candy from retro clocks to back issues of Playboy.

Second hand? Yes. Boring? Never.

Nooks and Crannies

Some of my favorite nooks and crannies in the doodle house.

I made the green curtains myself.

The quilt is actually a wedding quilt, custom made for us by Eric and Lisa. Heath made the platform bed himself.

The map wall is one of my favs. It adds a lot of spunk to the kitchen. Wyatt likes it too.