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.

Seeing (shades of) Red

Pink, to be accurate. A few weeks ago I picked up the molger shelving unit from Ikea as a low-cost way to handle an overflow of extra books and school supplies that were polluting the office. While the dimensions of the piece worked well for the space, the sex appeal of it did not.

Pretty bland and pretty blah. So of course my first instinct is to take a can of spray paint to it–just as I did with the filing cabinet to its left, the armoire to its right and the chair to it’s other left.  Sometimes it seems I have only one or two solutions to making over furniture, and both of them are painting. But hey, if the system ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The molger, prepared for painting.

And After! How fun!

The final effect is a sublimely vivid, and maybe just a little on the primary color/elementary school classroom side, but I’ll take it over the original any day.

The Office

While I love and clearly obsessive over making every square inch of mi casa a friendly, fun, and fantastic space, I have not typically shared the same enthusiasm for bringing personality to my work place. It’s probably a good thing considering I’ve switched jobs more times than I’d like to admit, but I think it’s high time I finally focus some attention on the zen-factor at work.

It doesn’t hurt that the office at my new diggs:

  1. is spacious
  2. has great natural light and windows
  3. has a downtown view
  4. has privacy
  5. is shared between myself and one of my very closest girlfriends.

No lies, it’s a pretty fantastic work set up, but so far all my coworker Mixon and I have filled it with are the sweet sounds of Pandora’s Decemberists radio station. Since we’re both in this gig for the long haul, we’ve agreed to pay special attention to our office environment and have begun debating what else we should pack in between its four walls besides music, snacks and chatter about Downton Abbey.

I’m fond of the idea of a bright and shiny office chair and some playful prints. It would probably nice to have something sunny to look at on the tougher, longer work days.

And maybe, though I am not making any promises, it might be neat to bring in some graphic prints (in curtain form perhaps) to break up the monotonous white and keep me from going to crazy. Though that could get dangerously close to mimicking Roger Sterling’s office in Mad Men. No thanks.

One element I am pretty sure on is plants. I figure if you have to be cooped up in an office, might as well bring the outdoors in.

Of course, it’s difficult to determine how much to invest in an office. On the one hand, you want to like and feel good about where you work, but on the other hand, you don’t want to get too comfortable and spend more time there than at home. Plus, investing in a space that you can’t totally control is a little nerve wracking. My mom, for example, has had to change offices dozens of times in her job, which can be heartbreaking if you have poured time and effort into creating a functional and formal space. So perhaps I’ll be all talk and no action when it comes to my new office makeover, but at the very least it gets my wheels turning. Stylish or not, I’m confident that between Melissa’s energy and my affinity for puns, we will have the quirkiest, silliest office in Austin.

Map Attack!

Other title options for this post included, “Na-na, na-na, na-na, na-na MAP WALL” (like the theme song to the Batman TV show) and from Arrested Development, “The Blue Part is clearly land.”

Despite my terrible choice in headlines, the map wall has made a comeback! Not in the dining room, like I initially planned, but instead in the new office.

The map wall in the new office

As of now, the maps have not been permanently affixed to the wall via wallpaper paste or Mod Podge; I wanted to see how much I liked them there first. But I’m thinking it’s going to be a permanent fix for a couple of reasons.

1) It is undeniably awesome looking.

2) The office is the perfect place for a map wall because, for us, the office is the room we visit to get some work done and to appear intelligent and studious, and everyone automatically looks and feels smarter  standing in front of a map. “Oh me? What am I doing? I’m just committing some political geography to memory. It’s sort of my thing. Go ahead, ask me about the largest river in Cambodia. I can tell you all about it.”

I’m definitely feeling it in here. I know there are others who agree with me. Behold other humanoids who also enjoy a little map with their office.

Muah ha ha, yet another project crossed off the to-do list. I love our house.

Going Gray

This weekend I finally decided on a color to paint the office. Glorious Gray!

It might seem slightly pointless to change a wall from one neutral color to another, in this case beige to gray, but I love the feeling of calm a gray room brings on. Plus the beige walls paired with the beige carpet had me feeling like I lived in a beige cloud, which just isn’t as cool as it sounds. I was also inspired by some of these images that show how gray can make all of the other colors in a room seem a little more vibrant.

It’s not ready for any magazines yet, but I’m pleased with how the new color turned out and look forward to many days of curling up with book in my gray getaway.







Come one, come all

…to our new and improved guest bedroom.

Once upon a time the room was a catch-all office. (see before and after part one here.) But now, almost 2 years after moving into the doodle house, the office has officially become a full-fledged guest bedroom. While I do subscribe to the theory that our couch is one of the most comfortable in Texas, I am thrilled to finally offer a real-deal bedroom to A-town travelers.

What all went down:

* Traded a twin-sized bench for a full-sized bed
* Scrapped a student-desk in exchange for something larger and more industrial (two file cabinets, spray painted turquoise and a treated piece of aspen wood stained in cherry)
* Stained bookshelves to match the desk

I probably won’t be a guest blogger for Martha Stewart anytime soon, but for now I’m pretty happy with our new space.

An Office Makeover

Our extra bedroom was the catch-all room for a while. The original wood floors were in bad shape, Heath uses the closet as his own and it was quickly becoming the room where we stored items not fit for other areas of the house. You can imagine after a year of walking by that corner of the house and shuddering, it was time for a makeover. Behold the before and after.

You can see in the photo on the left that the floors had seen better days. We plan to fix them up at some point, but until then it’s an Ikea rug that will remedy that situation. The room had two separate desks (even though we share one computer), a bulky dresser and no sleeping options for the occasional overnighter. After the wedding Heath and I sold most of our bulky furniture in exchange for some smaller, lighter pieces. That helped the space a lot, but it was still so dark and dreary. We lightened things up with a bright pink day bed from Urban Outfitters, which doubles as a sleeping space. Heath actually built the bench himself.

Still, getting rid of the dresser and book shelf left us with a tricky storage problem. The solution? Stackable wooden cubes. Heath put these together one afternoon over the holiday. I arranged them against the wall for a look that mimics built-ins. The great thing is that we can rearrange them or add to them as we need to. Super easy and cheap.

We also hung prints from a botanical book we picked up at Recycled Books in Denton. They add much needed interest to the room and help balance everything out. As most things are, it is still a work-in-progress, but it is starting to feel more and more like the inspiration room below as far as the style and color pallet.

And if nothing else, I know Wyatt likes it.