The Moody Living Room Makeover Reveal

As you enter our house from the front door, to the left sits a formal living room with fireplace and three big windows.

We’ve never had a formal living room before – never wanted one, actually – until this house. Now that the kids are older, I very much like the idea of having a quiet room separate from the casual family room for reading or sitting by the fire. We imagine this room will be where we visit with adults or host bible study or just come to get a little alone time.

Funny fact: our 9 year old calls this “the lonely room” and the name has stuck.

Over the past several months, we’ve done a few small updates that make a huge difference and I can’t wait to show you how the moody living room is coming along.

I was chatting with my friends Emily + Myquillyn earlier this week about how updating this house has been a baby-step process. I get antsy to make all the changes, but it is actually quite nice (and perhaps a bit more real-life) to just make little improvements as we can and let the rooms come together over time.

This is absolutely the case with the living room. We’ll call this the Phase One living room makeover.

Let’s go back and I’ll remind you of what it looked like when we moved in:

The shell of the room was great; it was just the finishes that felt dated. Our longterm plans include replacing the carpet with wood floors, removing the half-moon window and pushing the windows up, adding wide baseboards, putting in vintage french doors from the entry into the living room and walling off the passthrough to the dining room. Whew.

Since I’m all about making small changes today that make the space feel more like us, I have been doing projects here and there to transform the dated living room into a moody space that we actually want to hang out in.

This room doesn’t get a lot of natural light and while the temptation would be to go light, we decided to embrace the cozy feel and make it even moodier with a deep gray/green/blue on the walls. The trim and fireplace mantle got a coat of the same charcoal color we used in the kitchen and entry, and the ceiling was freshened up with white. Just switching out the paint made a BIG difference in the feel of the room.

Let’s talk about the biggest change in the room, shall we?

I am so crazy excited about the fireplace.

We love having a wood-burning fireplace in here, but the original finishes were not right for our style (scroll up to refresh your memory).

My long-term vision is to pull off the over-scaled mantle, remove the granite tiles and run a flat concrete facade all the way to the ceiling (something sort of like this) for a more minimal and modern look.

In the meantime, I figured there was no harm in trying out something totally different with the fireplace and gave it a complete makeover with paint, a ruler and a steady hand.

Yep, I painted over the granite tiles. And I’m so smitten with it.

I have lots of pictures of the process so I’ll post a full tutorial with details. But for now, let’s just say faux cement tiles in a graphic pattern is such a crazy stretch for my style and yet every time I walk by the room, I smile.

The windows have been bare since we moved in and I considered letting the walls and trim be the feature, but I’m such a curtain girl that I had to add some in here. As hard as I try to go more masculine with this house, I still love adding in some softer, feminine details. Simple white curtains on brass rings help to add balance and pull the room together.

And of course a room wouldn’t be complete without fresh flowers and greenery.

I put this arrangement together using clippings from our yard and gorgeous spring peonies. My mother-in-law makes the prettiest garden arrangements and this was my attempt to follow her lead.

I also clipped a few branches from outside and let them do their organic, perfectly charming thing up on the mantle.

This spot is so hard to get a good picture of because the lighting is super dark, but take my word for it that the bright leaves and branches look so great against the dark walls. I’m thankful that we’re surrounded by trees so I can clip, clip, clip to my heart’s delight.

Well, my friends, Phase One of our moody living room makeover is complete! More changes will come, but for now, it is such a cozy, inviting space and a big improvement from where we started.

Once again, here’s the before and after – because nothing is better than a great before and after!


Rug | Sofa | Coffee Table (similar) | Round Tray | Gold Vase | Floor Lamps (similar) | Stripe Blanket | Fur Pillow | Leather Pillow | Linen Pillow | Ikat Pillow | Curtains | Curtain Rods | Curtain RingsTable Lamp | Terracotta Pot | Green Moss Candle

Wall Color: Ancestral by Behr
Trim Color: Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams
Ceiling Color: Shoji White by Sherwin Williams

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Get a FRESH start this spring with a free Caldrea gift set

There is something so lovely about spring. The flowers, fresh leaves, sunnier skies.

It also ushers in this unexplainable desire to clean.

They say there are two types of people: the organized type and the clean type. I fall deeply and fully into the organized camp. Give me a tidy house over freshly mopped floors any day of the week.

That’s not to say that I don’t like a clean house, because I truly do. I just don’t particularly love to clean.

True story: when I was pregnant with Audrey (our fourth baby, who is now 7), I developed that super weird disorder called Pica in which I was compelled to eat non-nutritive things like chalk and cleaning supplies. My mouth would literally water if I smelled lemon soft scrub or watched gymnasts on tv clap the extra chalk off their hands. It’s an indication of a mineral deficiency which I had big time during pregnancy.

Thankfully I no longer have that strange urge to eat chemicals, but I do really enjoy good-smelling cleaning supplies.

And while I may not be scrubbing my floors regularly, I am scrubbing dishes every day and I figure that’s a pretty good place to keep that delicious smelling soap.

I’m all about making the every day more beautiful and simple pleasures like good smelling soap, a neutral scrub brush and favorite dish towel seriously make my day happier.

Fun bonus: the company where I get my soap and scrub brush is giving away a Caldrea gift set for FREE! 

Right now, when you sign up for Grove and place your first order of $20 you’ll get this SUMMER STYLE set for free:

  • Free Caldrea hand soap
  • Free Caldrea dish soap
  • Free Grove Collaborative Bubble Up brush and dish set
  • Free shipping

Existing Grove subscriber? You get a set of my favorite walnut scrub sponges! Click here to claim your gift.

I had been eyeing Grove for over a year – always thinking about ordering but never pulling the trigger.

And then last fall I just couldn’t resist the free gift and jumped in.

Coming up with what to buy for $20 has been so much easier than I expected. The things we regularly use in our household are available at comparable or even lower prices and it saves me a trip to Target (which, honestly is a money trap for me so reducing the number of trips there is a good thing!)

Here are a few of our go-to’s:

walnut scrubber sponges I’m a born and raised sponge user. Some people are grossed out by them, but they work so well to wipe counters and scrub dishes. I throw them in the dishwasher every once in a while and am not shy about tossing them once they look dingy and start in on that nasty dirty sponge smell.

rubber gloves To save my hands and nails, I wear rubber gloves to wash dishes. It makes me feel super old, but whatever. It works.

bubble up refill brush We use our bubble up brush on a daily basis and I love that I can order just the brush to switch out when the old one is looking a bit frayed.

accure cleansing towelettes I buy these for our nearly-teenage son to do my part at preserving his soft baby skin. Will these keep teenage breakouts away? I don’t know. But it’s worth a shot.

seventh generation disinfecting wipes For the counter, the bathroom, spills on the floor … these wipes make clean up super easy.

tom’s toothpaste How do my kids go through so much toothpaste? Whatever it takes to keep the cavities away.

dr. bonner’s all-one toothpaste What originally caught my eye was the graphic packaging. What’s keeping us using this toothpaste are the natural ingredients and subtle cinnamon flavor. It comes in peppermint and anise, too.

facial tissue box Allergies strike our family hard this time of year. Tissues are essential.

parchment paper This brown parchment is so charmingly old-fashioned. I use it for baking, mostly, but wouldn’t it be so great for wrapping sandwiches for a picnic?

accure shampoo + conditioner Smells great, works great, sulfate and paraben free.

The great thing about Grove is that I’m not stuck with any of these items and can always order more, less, try new products or keep to a regular order. They make it super easy.

Want to give it a try?

When you click over to Grove, you’ll be asked a few questions and your cart will auto-fill with $20 worth of products. Go ahead and take their suggestions or browse your favorite brands or household items and choose your own (but I’m going to highly suggest those sponges).

To receive the FREE Caldrea hand soap, dish soap, and bubble up brush set, your order needs to be a minimum of $20.

I hope you find Grove to be a helpful service that saves you time, money and keeps you happy when you’re doing daily household things like dishes and laundry and brushing your teeth. #simplepleasures


*Please note that Grove currently does not ship to Canada, Hawaii, or Alaska

*I am happy to be a Grove affiliate

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48 must-have children’s books to add to your collection

Audrey’s sweet dormer window reading nook would not be nearly as sweet if it were not for the adorable illustrated children’s books on display.

For as long as I can remember I have loved picture books. As a child I would study the illustrations of my favorites – Blueberries for Sal, The Bremen-town Musicians, Caps for Sale, Go, Dog. Go! – I can still remember pictures and hear my mom’s voice saying, “kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!” and “Caps for Sale! Caps! Fifty cents a cap!“.

Picture books are pure magic.

My sophomore year of college my best friend and I shared an apartment. She brought a couch, coffee table, tv; I brought a small stack of favorite picture books. Now looking back, this seems like a strange thing for a 19 year old to travel with from Washington to Southern California, but I guess I felt they were important at the time. I don’t know if I ever opened the books that year, but they sat next to the couch and I saw them everyday. Fun fact: those same books from way back then are up on Audrey’s shelves today.

We have made it a tradition that for the kids’ birthdays and holidays, they get a new picture book. With four kids, lots of birthdays and holidays and a mom who can’t get enough, our collection is solid and continually growing.

Very soon, all four kids will have aged out of picture books, but you better believe I’ll still be enjoying the children’s section at the bookstore and walking out with a small stack.

We have so many favorite books. I thought it might be fun and helpful to have a big list of favorites, all of which are included in our little library.

So, in no particular order, here are 48 must-haves for your picture book collection:

The Jolly Postman

You’re All My Favorites

Guess How Much I Love You

King Hugo’s Huge Ego (get this one!)

Toot + Puddle 

Elephant and Piggie


Sam and Dave Dig A Hole (get this one, too!)

Kiki + Coco In Paris (so adorable)

Lulu + Pip

Learning To Ski With Mr. Magee


Baby Wren and The Great Gift

Triangle (we love everything by this author/illustrator combo)

Extra Yarn

I Want My Hat Back

We Found A Hat

The Day The Crayons Quit (clever, clever, clever)

The Day The Crayons Came Home

Paul Meets Bernadette

Angelina Ballerina

Penguin Problems


The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, And The Big, Hungry Bear

I Had A Favorite Dress (best illustrations)

Birdie’s Big Girl Shoes

Birdie’s Big Girl Dress

Just Being Audrey


Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

The Book With No Pictures

The Circus Ship (love this one)

Bear Snores On

Llama Llama Red Pajama

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt

Sleepy Bears

Bats At The Ballgame

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?

Today I feel Silly

Blueberries For Sal

Imogene’s Antlers

Where The Wild Things Are

If You Give A Mouse A Cookie

The Napping House

Julius, The Baby Of The World

The Princess And The Pig

Henry’s Bright Idea

Press Here

Well, that was fun! I hope this list is a helpful resource for adding books to your collection!

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What to do with a sweet but slightly awkward dormer window

In two of the upstairs bedrooms, there are dormer windows.

I have always loved how dormers look on the exterior of a house – it gives a traditional cottage feel that is charming and welcoming. The dormers on our house were what initially caught my eye while perusing real estate online (see the exterior here and here).

When there are dormers on the exterior, it likely means that there are little nooks carved out of the slanted roof. This is the case in Audrey’s room and the boys’ room.

Here’s the tricky thing about these dormer nooks: while completely charming, they are slightly awkward. These particular spaces are identical in each bedroom and quite narrow. My original idea was to build a bed for Audrey in her window nook. It is just barely wider than a twin size bed and the idea could be so cute. We’re still considering …

In the meantime, and to make the space as practical as possible, we’re using the nook as a reading corner.

One night when I should have been making dinner, I found three old picture ledges from IKEA and hung them up on the wall. I used a stud finder and level and popped those things up all by myself in under 30 minutes.

The picture ledges are perfect for displaying picture books. We had them in the kids’ old playroom when they were little (see that room here). I’m such a lover of illustrated children’s books – someday I will write one! – and adore having the covers displayed.

Should we talk about that piece of fabric tacked to the window? Yes, let’s talk about that. This is what my decorating process looks like: I try things out in very un-permanent ways and see if I can live with it (in this case, I can).

This is the same fabric that we used in Audrey’s old bedroom for the window and I loved it so much in there, I thought we would try it in this room as well. It is fabric from Minted and I’m crazy about it. My mom said she’ll help me sew proper roman shades so someday soon I’ll untack it from the wall and sew them into lovely roman shades with black pom pom trim.

Also unfinished? The trim. We still need to caulk and paint it all. The trim inside the window and the rest of the newly installed pieces will be painted the same white as the walls (in a semigloss sheen) and the seams and nail holes will be filled. It’s going to look amazing. Someday.

That sweet bench was a happy find at HomeGoods. I spotted two of them from across the store and was going to buy both. I wasn’t sure what for, but if there is anything I’ve learned about shopping at stores like HomeGoods it’s buy it now, return it later. Because if you wait to think about it, it will be gone.

Anyway, when I was heading over to get the benches, another shopper walked by and snagged one of them. You better believe I was very quick to grab that second one and claim it :)

Once home, I tried the bench in Audrey’s room and it tucked under the window perfectly. That scallop detail on the brass tacks is just the cutest and I’m a big fan of having a touch of black in every room – even a sweet girly room.

As we were unloading the picture books, we only made a dent in our collection with the three shelves.

So the next time I brave IKEA, I’ll pick up three more picture ledges for the opposite wall.

I think the reading nook idea works very well for her little dormer. I’ll keep you posted as we continue to finish her room out.


picture ledges – IKEA | bench – HomeGoods | pink throw – Target | linen pillow + insert – IKEA | fabric – Minted | Carpet | Wall Color – Shoji White by Sherwin Williams

For your reading pleasure, here are a few older posts with our favorite picture books:

3 Must-Have Picture Books For School-Aged Boys (according to my 8 year old)

Our Favorite Children’s Picture Books

Favorite Books for Boys

Favorite Books for Girls

Favorite Books for Baby

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How to make simple arrangements with grocery store flowers

Houseplants and fresh greenery are key to my neutral decorating style … but first came my love of flowers.

As a teenager, when other girls were covering their bedroom walls with cute boys and fashion tips, mine were filled with magazine tear outs of flowers. Martha Stewart Weddings was my first subscription and I couldn’t wait to pore over the pages looking at all the breathtaking bouquets, boutonnieres, arches and table arrangements. I noticed the color combinations, learn their names, and mostly, just admired the beauty and intricacy of each petal, each leaf, each bud.

This love of flowers grew deeper when I met my future mother-in-law.

Robyn has two sons and was more than thrilled to finally have a girl in the house for dinner and visits. She would show me her latest thrift store find or tell me her decorating plans and I would almost always leave with a gorgeous arrangement of freshly picked garden flowers that she threw together so effortlessly.

Robyn showed me that flowers are not only for weddings and fancy events – they are just as important in the every day.

If you spend any amount of time looking through home magazines, reading decorating blogs or following interior design instagrammers, you’ve undoubtedly noticed that flowers are always part of the equation. You can have a perfectly decorated space but until the flowers are in, the room feels somewhat lifeless.

So how do we incorporate flowers into our homes to bring life and make us happy, even if we don’t have an endless flower budget?

Here are a few of my best tips:


The main reason I have so many plants in our house is that they bring life to our otherwise pretty dark interior. If I could, I would fill the space with flowers, but that would be crazy expensive. So as an alternative, I use a few houseplants and then bring in a simple arrangement of flowers for color.


Now that spring is here, more trees and plants are blooming outdoors. It is the perfect time to clip branches or stems and bring them into our homes.

Perhaps I should not admit this, but I have been known to pull over on the side of the road and clip lilacs from an abandoned tree, peonies from a vacant lot and armfuls of hydrangea blooms from a neighbor’s yard for our wedding bouquets (don’t worry, we asked for permission). Keep an eye out for wildflowers, flowering shrubs, and branches.


Look no further than your grocery store floral department for reasonably priced blooms. Most carry a good selection of mixed bouquets and single variety bunches. With a bit of intention, you can bring flowers home, prolong their vase life by trimming and feeding them and arrange in a way that gives generic cut flowers the organically arranged look we all admire.

So how, exactly, do you arrange flowers?

The temptation is to bring them home from the store, remove the wrapping and pop them into a vase.


Instead, take a few extra minutes to cut the stems, give your flowers a chance to hydrate, clip extra greenery from outside and build a simple arrangement that looks sweet and much more impactful than the original cut bouquet from the store. Not only will it look amazing, but it will actually last longer! Win and win.

If you want to learn how to arrange flowers for your home and to give as gifts (who doesn’t love a sweet bouquet from a friend?!), if you need help figuring out the best tricks, tools and techniques for caring and prolonging the vase life of cut flowers, and if you’d like to figure out how to make those grocery store mixed bouquets look fabulous, I’ve created a class just for you.


Beautiful flower arrangements made simple.

As much as I adore flowers, it is really my mother-in-law, Robyn, who knows what she’s doing. We filmed Robyn creating a handful of flower arrangements using flowers from the grocery store. Nothing super fancy or unattainable, just beautiful arrangements to bring life and joy to your home. With the addition of teaching lessons and a workbook, this Simplified Flowers class is applicable, informative and so enjoyable to watch.

The class takes place online where you can go at your own pace, moving from lesson to lesson as quickly or slowly as needed. You will have unlimited access to the class and can always refer back to it as needed.


  • Identify common flower + greenery varieties
  • Pick the right flowers for your arrangement
  • Properly care for flowers to encourage growth and prolong cut life
  • Build shape, texture and contrast into your arrangements
  • Incorporate unexpected elements – like produce! – into your arrangements
  • Take generic mixed bouquets and make them stunning


For all of the details, a sneak peek at the welcome video, to register and claim your free gift: CLICK HERE.

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