There is about a 3-4 week period in the spring where, in Austin, we experience essentially the opposite of the perfect storm:
- We enjoy moderate rainfall several times a month
- The average temperature ranges between 50 and 80 degrees
- The sun’s rays bathe the garden until around 8:30 p.m.
- The threat of a late winter freeze is virtually non existent
- Mosquitoes and other pesky insects have not yet metamorphosed from their larva state
It’s absolutely the best 3-4 weeks of the year where the temps are perfect, the insects are minimal and plant life is stunning. Without question, this is the happiest of times for man, beast and plant. I’m going to document this moment like crazy because I won’t see it again for 12 months.
All the blooms make it ideal for picking centerpiece bouquets, a hobby we can really only enjoy during this brief window of opportunity.
Great news! I made good on my promise (to myself) to stencil an accent wall in my living room. (Bless Heath for going along willingly with my wacky, wacky ideas for designing the house.) I started the project Dec. 15 and finished about a week later, just before the fam came down for Christmas. What timing!
Thus far I’m really loving our dizzying scalloped wall. I’ve always been a fan of bright and bold patterns on my blankets and pillows, so an entire wall of a retro and repetitious pattern is right up my alley. Since it has been up, I find myself zoning out on the couch, getting lost in the sequence of scallops.
The stencil pattern was ordered from Cutting Edge Stencils and set me back about $40. I already had the paint and rollers, so the cost of the stencil and my time was all I ended up investing on the project. So, I’d say it’s worth it to give stenciling a shot if it’s a look you’re keen on, though, admittedly it’s not for everyone. Should you give it a go, I’d recommend the following:
- Keep a level handy. I eyeballed everything, which works OK with the guide of a stencil, but as I was finishing the project, I noticed a slight upward movement of the pattern as I went along. It’s not something that’s really visible when you’re just glancing at it, but during my long stare-down sessions with the wall, I can notice the slight slope of the pattern. It’s minimal, but were I to do it over, I’d definitely recruit the aid of a ruler.
- Start at the very edge of the wall and work your way over. When I got going, i didn’t exactly start at the very edge of the wall, leaving instead a small gap between where my pattern started and where the wall started. It ultimately affected the all-over, saturating effect of the pattern I was going for, and I had to go in with my individual stencil to fill in the gaps. Start the stencil so that parts of the pattern flow off the edge of the wall so you don’t have to go back and fill in the holes when it’s done.
- Keep a blow dryer handy. When stenciling, you don’t load up the roller with paint, so the wall itself drys fairly quickly. However, when you’re layering the plastic stencil with paint, it takes a little longer to dry. So moving the stencil pattern over the wall can result in wet splotches of paint where you don’t want it. I got in the habit of using a blow dryer on the stencil so I could move through the project more quickly.
- Use a small brush for touch ups. Careful as I may be, it seemed inevitable that there would be drips and smudges as I went along. A tiny paint brush was crucial to cleaning up the oops-ies.
The whole thing took a few days to complete, but I wasn’t the most committed of painters. I stopped to bake, attend holiday parties and watch Christmas clay-mation movies…leaving only a couple hours a day devoted to stenciling. Should you choose to get your stencil on, I’d say it’s a project that could easily be knocked out in a day if you were truly diligent.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll offer a peek at the good, bad and ugly of the project.
Everyone here, dogs included, agrees the end result is bad ass.
For many moons now, I’ve been flirting with the idea of wallpapering a surface of the house. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out which wall, much less nail down the sort of pattern I wanted to lose my wallpaper virginity to. Then I got scared off by all the reasons wallpaper naysayers give for not tackling the project. Primarily, it’s not easy to put up and it’s not easy to take down. And taking into consideration my tendency to obsessively rearrange furniture and redesign my living spaces, something as permanent as wallpaper probably wouldn’t be a good fit for little old me. Stenciling though, stenciling is genius. I can get behind stenciling.
For whatever reason, stenciling seems more manageable. I mean, it’s essentially painting, and your girl has painted her fair share of walls before. It also seems to be a cheaper alternative to ordering designer wallpaper. And, if I screw it up, which is likely, it’s much easier to fix or paint over than wallpaper. So stenciling it is!
The lime green wall below is the one I’ve singled out to be my stenciling guinea pig. In the picture, it’s home to a collection of friends’ photos, but I’ve since moved those to the hallway and the bare wall has been screaming for some quirky new treatment, STAT.
At first I was toying with the idea of using painter’s tape to create some kind of geometric wall art. Maybe something a-like-a-this….
Or even better, this…
Inevitably, all that searching for inspirational images led me to stenciling, and then all bets were off. Stenciling it would be. I found Cutting Edge Stencils and Royal Design Studio to have the best collection of stencils in the look I’m after. But settling on a pattern might be easier said than done with so many cool options to choose from.
I love the modern edginess of the chevron, but also the movement and flow of the peacock pattern. Our design style is a little modern and a little eclectic, so I think after much searching, I’ve decided on the same pattern I would have been likely to choose as a three-year-old…the mermaid.
I think it does a good job of combining what it is I like about the other two patterns. The mathematical repetition fits in nicely with our modern style, but the cloud-like arches soften it, for an effect that just feels good in all the right places.
The Internets have me believing that stenciling an accent wall is a DIY project that can be completed relatively quickly, and for someone with as little patience as me, “quick” is a word to be cherished as much as “cheap” or “easy” or “fun”. Of course, when I’ve actually started the stenciling process and am growing increasingly frustrated by the painstaking attention to detail it requires, I might be singing another tune. As it stands now though, stenciling and I have a date. If you’re looking for me this weekend, you’ll know where to find me.
ATTENTION: Oye. I am a little embarrassed about the lack of blog posts I’ve churned out over the past couple of weeks. I wish I had a more legit excuse for being MIA, but the truth is I’ve just been a bit exhausted by my 9 to 5 and haven’t been able to muster up the strength to do much home improvement during my downtime…much less the strength to blog about it. Fortunately though, I feel like I have enough ammunition to fire off a blog post about my most recent discoveries in nesting. So please forgive my foolish absence.
After a year of inhabiting our current place, I thought I had pretty much tackled all of the little touch-up projects that would make the house feel like home: painting the walls, switching out light fixtures, installing shelves. You know, the small-ish projects that make a big impact. Foolishly, I thought the only things left to address to make my home “magazine worthy” were the big remodeling projects like putting in new counter tops in the kitchen, building a fence in the backyard, and laying down wood floors in the living room. With a trip to India just around the corner, I resigned myself to the fact that it would be a good long while before any of those projects would be checked off our to-do list. Nothing to do but sit and wait, right? Wrong. A recent trip to mum’s house for Thanksgiving reminded me of the impact homing in on the small stuff can make on your GDH (gross domestic happiness). So I’m pretty jazzed about some of the micro-projects I’m going to take on this week that will help me get my head, house and heart in a good place.
Project One: lining the kitchen cabinets with vinyl tile
When Heath refinished the cabinets last Christmas, he did a swell job of giving the musty exterior some much-needed sheen. The interiors, however, were left untouched. The bottom cabinets especially feel like a 50-year old dingy crawl space, which, let’s face it, they essentially are. Good old mom had the genius idea of lining the bottom of the cabinets with white vinyl tile. It’s easy to clean, easy to install and gives some brightness to an other wise dark and dirty nook of the kitchen. Wouldn’t have thought to do it, but I’m glad mom did. I’m planning to use the peel-and-stick tiles for mine, but I found some cool projects on the interwebs that have other suggestions for bringing character to forgotten spaces. Check out this tutorial from Apartment Therapy, or this one from Pink Shirts and Car Wrecks. And for a whole post dedicated exclusively to making dreamy drawers, check out this one from I Heart Organizing.
Project Two: fridge focus
Since we’ve taken to harboring Bro in the house, it means sharing areas of real estate that I once had complete control over. Sadly, one of the areas over which I relinquished rule was the fridge. Once upon a time I kept it relatively organized, with specific spaces designated for particular foods. A cheese drawer, a produce container, etc. But when we started sharing the space with Bro’s foreign food stuffs, I kind of let keeping tabs on the fridge fall by the wayside. This is foolishness. I’ve got to rethink the way I manage the fridge. Rather than just throwing our groceries in there willy-nilly, I’ve got to reestablish a system of order. It has become a new priority for two reasons. First, we’ve got a pretty bad case of fridge blindness, which is the term I’m making up to describe what happens when you only eat the foods you see in the very front. The leftovers in the back get pushed further and further backward until they’ve spoiled. (Embarrassing fact: we recently discovered a gallon of milk in the depths of the fridge with a September expiration date. So you can see this is a serious problem). Putting everything (our food and Bro’s) in order will help us save money by not wasting food. Secondly, I think having a spruced up fridge will encourage better eating habits. I’m thinking of it like a department store. I always get lured in by the fancy displays of intricately folded blouses and color-coded dresses and inevitably spend money on something I didn’t need because it just looked so damn fine in the store. Maybe I can mimic that effect in my fridge. I’ll want to eat more lettuce, fruits and produce if I display the healthy foods properly in the fridge. It’s not the worst idea I’ve ever had. Just ask Real Simple, which has an entire article on the subject.
Project Three: a clean coffee tableI think maybe a dirty coffee table is the unmade bed of the living room. Think about it, whenever you want to give the appearance of a clean house, the first thing you do is make the bed, right? Every morning when I get up to let the dogs out through the back window (like all classy people do), I inevitably wind up doing the face palm dance over how grotesque I left the coffee table from the night before. There are always at least two of the following splayed across our already decrepit cedar chest coffee table: finger nail clippers, half empty glasses of OJ, remote controls, coasters, pencils and bobby pins/hair ties (obviously, those belong to Heath). Of all the things in my house not worthy of a magazine photo shoot, I think our coffee table situation might take the cake. I’m starting my new year’s resolution early and committing to finding a way to organize the items that are meant to live on the coffee table (coffee table books for instance, plus the coasters and remotes), and I’m committing to ridding it of the dishes, hair ties, and other nastiness that doesn’t belong there before I retreat to the bedroom at night. It’s a small change in behavior that will increase my GDH tenfold. I hate leaving for work with the house a wreck, and this measure is bound to help address that.
There you have it! My commitment to improving the home on a $0 budget before the we leave for India. Hold me to it, readers!
There are lots of things Heath and I add and take away from our dream home checklist, but there is one item that has stayed constant throughout: the built in book shelf, or rather, a wall of books. Having a mini library, a focal point around books, would be alright by us.
The wall-o-books is appealing for 23426423 reasons.
Reason 1: We’ve got tons of books. We needs a place to put ’em. Book cases are perfect storage units for said books.
Reason 2: They can be completely fantastic to look at. Not only do they bring color and interest to a room, they can also serve as little windows into a person’s life. You can learn a lot about someone by checking out what’s on their bookshelf….pictures of family or friends, the trinkets they want on display and, oh yeah, the books they enjoy reading. And if they don’t have a bookshelf, you probably don’t want to be friends with that person anyway.
And for something a little less remarkable, a look at our attempts to master the bookcase–albeit on a smaller scale.
Heath built this moveable unit for me back at the rental. Not bad for a DIY storage project, still not quite the Lordship’s library.
Trying to give some gusto to an Ikea unit.
Literally going outside the box with a floating book shelf.
Trying to get a little unconventional with something pink.
The book case from long ago, stained and re stacked.
So we have not yet created a room, a wall, or sadly even a focal point of books. But perhaps singing this ode to the book case will get us on our way.
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.
We put in a path that leads to the front door.
We painted and added windows to our front door for much needed character.
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.
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.
We also stripped the knotty pine paneling to make room for more shelving and storage.
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.
I was first introduced to floating bookshelves a few weeks ago during our trip to Mexico, and I fell in love almost immediately. A way to store books without buying more furniture?! Sign me up. Discovering this magical storage trick couldn’t have come at a better time either because Bro officially took up residence at the doodle house this week and we have been dumping furniture like crazy to make room for his arrival. Efficient storage solutions just became priority one.
Before we got started, I had to do my due diligence (AKA Pinterest research) to make sure I was truly down with invisible bookshelves in all their forms. My journey was fruitful.
Exhibit A was definitely the end goal. But how? Gravity seemed to be working against us, but my internet research showed two possible solutions. The first, was to purchase special brackets from Umbra.
Easy to install, but at $15 a pop, it seemed a little steep. I had a hard time justifying spending $75 on something “invsible.” The other option, from Instructables, was significantly cheaper but involved destroying a book to make it happen. Cheapskates we are, we went the $20 route and opted to sacrifice a book for the greater good, which looks a little something like this.
- Step One: Cut a section of the book out with an exacto knife. We traced the bracket to get the most accurate shape.
- Step Two: Place the bracket into the section you have just removed and screw it into the pages.
- Step Three: Use wood glue to secure the back of the book to the newly applied bracket. Best to let it dry over night.
- Step Four: Secure to wall with wood screws. Make sure to locate studs before attaching.
Care for a cheeky video more accurately explaining the process? Click here.
So, $24 bucks and 24 hours later, we had ourselves an invisible book shelf.