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Such a breathtaking before and after (a farmhouse kitchen)

You guys are going to love today’s post.

We went to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for lunch this weekend. For the past year, Eric and Jess have been completely renovating a little 1960’s lake house that was in desperate need of some updating. Besides living in the house as they fix it up, they also have the sweetest almost two year old (I can not get enough of her) and Jess is due any day with a baby boy. The house is still a work in progress, but they’ve made big steps forward in the past few weeks.

When we came by for lunch, we were so impressed by how great the kitchen turned out!

Just to give you a feel for how far they’ve come, here’s a pretty amazing before shot:

Impressive, right?!

We ate a delicious lunch, the kids played on the lake and then Jess casually mentioned that they wanted me to style the shelves. I jumped at the chance because 1. anything I can do to help a pregnant mama feel like her home is in order, I’m in and 2. I love styling shelves (Ryan has a great eye for it, too).

The open shelves were recent additions and dishes and glassware were just thrown up there to get them off the counter. The haphazard organization and clutter both on the shelves and countertop was bugging both Eric and Jess, so it was time to add some order.

The risk with having open shelves in the kitchen is that they can look messy pretty easily.

The great news is that with a bit of intention, you can reorganize the shelves, group like items together, keeping the color palette simple and enjoy the casual look of open shelves without the clutter.

We started by taking everything off the shelves, reassessing and creating zones; everyday dishes grouped on one side of the stove, drinking glasses on the other, pantry-ish items next to the fridge.

The items that are most used are on the lowest shelves and least used are at the very top. To keep things minimal and cohesive, we kept to just plain white dishes and clear glass. The colorful coffee mugs and Ellie’s sippy cups live in lower cabinets out of view, but are still easily accessible.

Once the shelves were styled, we cleaned up the countertops, too. Some countertop essentials stayed – a jar with cooking utensils, olive oil, salt and pepper, bowl of fruit, coffee maker, coffee pods, blender and mixer. Everything else found new homes in the drawers and cabinets. Clearing off the counters made the small kitchen look so spacious!

After we were done, I couldn’t help myself and snapped a bunch of photos. It is such a charming kitchen.

Okay, now for the fun part … before and afters.

The sink and window placement stayed, but is looking so much brighter with the removal of the upper cabinets (and wall oven):

The stove/oven and hood received a big update:

Here’s a full shot to give a better feel for the size. It’s a small footprint, but Eric and Jess have done an amazing job of optimizing the layout to make the most of the space.

What a fabulous transformation.

SOURCES

Cabinets – IKEA
Pulls – IKEA
Counters – quartz
Floor – Shaw Floorte (luxury vinyl flooring)
Shelves – TRM Lumber Cedar
Brackets – Rockler Woodworking steel bracket
Wall Color – White Moderne, by Behr
Light – Gooseneck Barn Light

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Updates to the Studio just in time for summer

The last time I showed you the studio, the desks had just been finished and it was styled with hints of pink for spring.

Since then, I have added a few new pieces of furniture and switched out the pink for summery blues so it felt like a good time to do an updated studio tour.

Classic Summer Studio Tour In case you missed any of the previous posts about this space, here is the before and after and this was the initial design plan. When we bought the house last fall, this room was just an unfinished storage area above the garage. We decided it would be the perfect spot for a home office and creative studio.

It is such a treat to have this big, bright room as an extension of the house. I am up here everyday either working or doing a barre workout (more on that soon), and now that there is a big work table in here, it will be used even more.

Summer Studio Tour The big work table is actually our dining table (seen here in our old dining room). We bought it over 10 years ago at the Restoration Hardware outlet store and I still love its classic style. Instead of using the table in the formal dining room in the house, we decided we really didn’t need it there and we have plans to remove the wall separating the dining and kitchen, so the table won’t be needed once that happens. It was not an easy task to move this massive, heavy table up the skinny staircase, but we did it and it’s such a nice addition to the studio.

Summer Studio desk space The table sat up in the studio for a couple of months without any seating while I figured out what I wanted. Individual chairs would have been the obvious choice. It just seemed like having 10 extra chairs would feel really busy in room that already has a lot going on in it.

Instead, I scoured the internet for inexpensive, simple benches that could hold two people comfortably and fit the width of the table.

summer studio tour work table and benches After lots of searching, I ended up ordering four upholstered benches from Target during a sale (you can also find them here for a great deal). I wasn’t totally sold on the nailhead trim (maybe too busy with everything else?) but I planned on making simple slipcovers to make for easy washing anyway, so I went ahead and bought them. They arrived over Memorial Day weekend, I talked my 9 year old into helping me put them together and now that they’re in, I’m so happy with how they look, feel and function.

work table and benches Perhaps my favorite thing about the benches is that they can be pushed in under the table to keep the floor open and visually disappear.

built in desks The rug is another recent addition. Originally, I had my eye on this plaid flatweave rug from Rejuvenation. I just didn’t have room in our budget to spend $799 on a rug (FYI, the rug is now on major clearance and had I known, maybe I would have waited a little longer before choosing a different rug!).

studio work space and desks desk | desktop | pulls | chair | benches | blanket | rug

Instead, I found this cotton rug from Home Depot and waited for it to go on sale. The size of this one is a little bigger than the average 8×10 and fits under the table perfectly. It is a flatweave with stamped design. I didn’t use a rug pad under because the table holds it down just fine, but it is recommended, so keep that in mind if you order for your home.

summer studio tour computer desk shelves  | blue vaseribbon | linen files | stapler + tape | chair | throw | lamp

To add in a summery feel, the spring pink accessories were put away and switched out for pretty blues.

built out studio space for summer This is one reason I like decorating with neutrals so much; it makes decorating for the seasons so easy.

Starting with a simple palette of white, natural wood, brass and those handsome leather chairs means I can switch out a throw blanket, add a vase or candle, a few notecards and artwork and change the feel of space.

summer styled shelves shelves | linen file box | basket | Q&A book | She Reads Truth

summer styled work desk I’m so fickle about color and can’t commit to living with any one color for longer than a few months, so keeping things mainly neutral with just a few touches of color keeps me feeling creative.

desk and shelf summer styled details computer on desk summer flowers art and peonies Not much has changed on the other side of the room. The reading area is a favorite spot with that sweet light, cozy chair and bright natural light. There are window boxes right outside each dormer window that add extra cottage charm.

studio reading area lightchair | table | rug | pillow | floor lamp

I still have a few more projects to complete over on this side – a diy white board and extra storage. We’re hoping to finish up those in the next week or so and you know I’ll share details along the way :)

studio plant string of pearls My #plantlady obsession is going strong in the studio. Our house does not get great natural light, but the studio does, so the plants seem to thrive up here.

Perhaps my favorite summery touch is this little wooden bowl I bought in Rwanda holding a bit of stolen sand from my favorite beach in Seaside, Florida.

sand in bowl After taking all of the photos, I had a few minutes to spare before the kids came home from school and filmed a quick studio video tour. Now, fair warning, I talk with my hands and was only holding the camera with one hand while the other was flying about. Therefore, the video is a bit shaky. But it shows how the room works together AND you get to see all the unfinished, messy parts that don’t make it into photos :)

I hope you enjoyed the tour!

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How to get the look of graphic cement tile (for much less)

As promised, I’ll show you the steps for creating the look of graphic cement tile, for much less.

Off the entry of our house is a quiet living room. One thing we loved so much about this new house was the potential for impactful updates that didn’t cost a fortune. This room is a great example. With the help of paint, we’ve created an updated space that works with our modern/traditional style and sets the tone for the rest of the house.

The biggest impact in the room is undoubtedly the graphic fireplace tile.

We have long-terms plans to change up the whole facade of the fireplace, which left me with an almost risk-free freedom to try something completely crazy to give the fireplace a much-needed facelift. If it was a total flop, no big deal. We’ll likely pull it all out eventually anyway. Sometimes I just need creative license to try something new and the fireplace was the perfect canvas.

Before we get into the how-tos, let’s look at the before and after:

Ah, I love a good transformation!

The tile is a little crazy, I’ll admit. And yet, it feels so fresh and happy, and that makes it worth it.

If you have a space in your home (a fireplace surround, backsplash, floor) that needs an inexpensive update, perhaps this how-to will give you just the inspiration you need.

Gorgeous graphic cement tile has been a trend in home design for the past few years and it just keeps growing. While I could have just purchased tiles to replace the granite tile on our fireplace, I wasn’t excited about spending a bunch of money on an update that might not stay longterm. So rather than buy, I turned to my DIY ways and decided to just paint the surround to look like cement tile. And I’d say it worked!

To get started, I had to select a pattern. A quick search on Pinterest offered so many gorgeous examples. I looked through photos and tile companies until I found a pattern that I met my two criteria: 1. I could live with the pattern and 2. The pattern could be easily replicated and handpainted.

After narrowing it down to a couple of finalists, I decided on this pattern from a company called Tabarka Studio. I loved the simplicity, the handpainted feel and it seemed like a very simple pattern to paint.

The trickiest part was figuring out the math to make the pattern perfect.

The tiles on our fireplace are 12″ x 6″ rectangles, but I figured I could fake them into 6″ x 6″ tiles. I used a piece of grid paper, a ruler and pencil to find the correct proportions and then painted a few samples to give it a try.

DOWNLOAD MY TEMPLATE BELOW

With my pattern selected, I started in on the fireplace makeover.

STEP ONE | Clean the tile to remove any dirt, soot, etc.

I just used dish soap, an old scrub brush, and a magic eraser.

STEP TWO | Paint tile with primer

For the base coat, I used basic Zinsser Primer, taping off the carpet and around the mantle first.

With just that first coat of primer on there, I knew this was going to be a good choice. I taped up my paper samples just to make sure I loved the pattern, the scale, and figure out placement.

STEP THREE | Paint the base coat

I could have used two or three coats of primer, but the white was a bit stark for our house. Instead, I pulled out extra flat ceiling paint (Shoji White, by Benjamin Moore) which has a much creamier, warmer undertone.

STEP FOUR | Draw the pattern

Using a ruler and pencil, I first marked the tiles into 6″ squares (just drew a line in the center of each 12″ tile). On every tile I made small marks in equal increments along all sides and connected the lines, alternating the diagonal direction.

(That sounds super confusing. Sorry. I explain the pattern making process in the template pdf. Download below.

Penciling in the pattern was the most labor-intensive step. It took a few hours (maybe 4 or 5? split between a few evenings) and I just popped in my headphones and listened to a book or podcast.

STEP FIVE | Paint the pattern

Using a 1/2″ flat artist’s brush, paint between the lines. This part doesn’t have to be perfect – in fact, one of the things I love the most about the inspiration tile is how imperfect and handpainted it looks.

For paint, I used black chalkboard paint. My main reason was that I was hoping to get that dusty, slightly aged look (see below for more on that) and didn’t want any sheen.

Painting was much faster than marking the pattern. The first coat took about 2 hours.

The tile would have been fine with one coat, but it was a little more transparent and the brush strokes were slightly more visible than I wanted, so I went back over with a second coat.

You can see the difference between one and two coats above, and the finished fireplace below.

FULL DISCLOSURE: 

Our chimney has a small water leak that has caused the paint to bubble. I started the project earlier this winter and only got so far as painting the base coat and marking the pattern. At that point, we were having carpet installed and everything from the upstairs was piled in the living room for several weeks. Once the carpet was done and furniture moved back up, I went back to work on the fireplace. We were experiencing the wettest winter ever and unfortunately, moisture had caused the paint to bubble.

My two options:

Sand down the paint and start over (knowing that until the chimney is completely fixed, water will likely leak and cause damage again).

Just keep going and embrace the bubbled paint.

Guess which option I chose :)

You can’t really see the texture unless you are up close and it honestly doesn’t bother me at all. It may cause the paint to wear more, so I’ll keep you posted if it all starts peeling off anytime soon.

Also, when I removed the tape, it pulled up a bit of the paint from the tile. I just went back over with my brush and touched up.

STEP SIX | Season the chalk paint

 

To get that more aged look, I rubbed chalk all over the black paint and lightly wiped it off.

You may remember I did the same thing with the painted lamps in my studio. This post explains the process a little more.


And it’s done!

The graphic pattern gives the otherwise traditional room a nice dose of energy and the classic black and white pattern still feels versatile.

Many have asked – on the living room reveal post and Instagram – if the paint holds up the heat of the fireplace. I would love to give a great answer … but the truth is, we haven’t had a fire in the fireplace since painting the tile. I think it will be just fine because the tile doesn’t get very hot, but I can’t guarantee it. Most interior latex paint is rated to withstand the heat of a fireplace surround (around 200*).

If you paint an area that gets much more wear and tear, be sure to use several coats of protective finish (like this) to seal. This post is a good one from another DIYer who shows how she painted her tile floors.

I put together a guide with my template and how-to instructions to make recreating this project a bit easier.

The download is free and can be found in THE ARCHIVE, my library of freebies. If you are already a JDC subscriber, just enter your email address; if you are new, pop in your email and you’ll be in!

If you do paint your tile, please let me know! I’d love to see how it turns out …

Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you asap.

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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!

SOURCES

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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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.

SOURCES

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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