Archive | decorate

Light those fancy candles

I had a funny realization yesterday while puttering around the house.

We’re still very much in the unpack boxes stage and everywhere you look there are haphazard piles and boxes. I’m trying to find little areas to put together to make a tiny bit of sense of this place.

In the entry, I grabbed a lamp and framed art, a tray, a plant and my favorite candle to put atop a dresser. It is very likely that it will all end up elsewhere, but for now, it is nice to at least have some slightly decorated space in the house.

greenmoss That candle got me thinking …

I am afraid to light it.

Why, you might ask?

Perhaps you have the same candle issue.

I don’t like to light the candle because I don’t want to waste it. 

When I had this conversation with myself yesterday afternoon, I had to laugh and shake my head at my silliness. That candle (and a handful of others sprinkled throughout the house) is there to give ambiance and light and scent to the house and the only way for that to happen is for it to be lit!

I didn’t realize this was my unconscious thinking about candles but it is totally true. I have barely melted candles that I’ve had for years and hardly ever light them.

It was time to change my crazy ways.

So I grabbed my lighter, lit that candle and let it burn for over an hour while I was home alone.

And I enjoyed every minute of it!

copper We have another candle in the kitchen that Ryan brought home from our favorite boutique in the area. It is a fancy candle (read: not cheap) and my inclination is to not light it (and therefore not waste it), but I am forcing myself to anyway. It smells so good and adds twinkly light at night that feels cozy and calm. It will run out one of these days and we’ll have to go get another, but at least we are using it.

I haven’t always been a candle person. Sometimes the scents are just too strong or sweet or headache-inducing. When it’s the right candle, however, there is just something wonderful about having them lit.

Here are a few of my current + longtime candle favorites:

Favorite Candles for Around the House

Green Moss | Driftwood + Indigo | Tocca in Florence

Roam Los Angeles | Moonshine | Iowa Pine

Do you have a favorite candle? Do you light it or hoard it?!

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Kitchen Mini Makeover | Design Direction + Progress

We didn’t mean to do a kitchen makeover. Really, we didn’t.

kitchendesign But on the first night, while I was in another room, I heard Ryan’s drill and I knew: those cabinets were coming down.

Let me back up for a minute and remind you of what the kitchen looked like on the day we closed:

kitchen kitchenisland kitchentowindows From the moment we first saw the house, we knew the kitchen/eating space wouldn’t stay this way. It took a bit of creativity and lots of sketching before we had a pretty good plan in place.

What is that plan, you might ask? I’ll spare you exact details but will say it involves tearing everything out, removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room, taking out the french doors, aligning the whole kitchen along the back wall, creating a giant island, replacing all the floors and adding in as much natural light as possible.

Needless to say, this project is not on the immediate horizon. We both decided we would live with the perfectly fine (if slightly dated and very orange) kitchen until we begin the big remodel.

And then the drill came out (on the first night! We are crazy like that!) and Kitchen Makeover Phase One began.



The first problem in the kitchen were those bulky upper cabinets. This house is pretty dark and the cabinets were not helping, so down those came.

I painted the cabinets in our old house and was very happy with how they turned out so we decided to do the same in this kitchen for the lower cabinets. My default for cabinets is always white, but in this house, white didn’t feel right.

Because we have to work with the dark tile floor and the speckled black and white granite tile, we felt like dark cabinets would be best to connect the floor and counters and minimize the contrast. If we went white, I could imagine it would feel pretty disjointed between the white walls, dark counters, white cabinets, dark floors. Grounding the bottom portion of the kitchen seemed like the way to go. Plus, the direction we’re trying to take this house is more handsome (to balance all the sweetness of the dormers and cottage-y features) and a rich charcoal was a great way to accomplish this.

I tried three sample colors for the cabinets and decided on Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams.

SIDE NOTE: I had the paint color matched at Home Depot in their highest quality in semi-gloss. Keep in mind that all of this will be replaced when we do the big kitchen remodel and so we’re doing our best to keep costs at a minimum. Honestly, I’ve been quite happy with the quality of paint.

With the gray floor, cold granite and charcoal cabinets, we’re adding a bit of warmth with brass hardware. I found brass cup pulls and knobs on sale from the Martha Stewart line and they will work perfectly in the kitchen.


There was also an issue with lighting.

A massive, old fluorescent light hung over the island that was cased in more wood and felt very heavy. The can lights were scattered randomly and had black inner rings and off-white plates that read dirty and dark. The double pendants over the eating area were off-center and for some reason having two felt off.

Ryan and a friend decided on a whim one night to add a few more recessed lights and to fix the placement of others so that they all lined up on a grid. The pendants came down, one hole will be patched up and the other was replaced with a leftover pendant light from our old house. It is amazing how much brighter it feels in the kitchen now with the extra cans and the clean white of the metal, rather than the off-white/black combo that was previously used.

lightsreplaced Once the upper cabinets came down we realized how dark the walls were painted and those got a coat of white paint to freshen up the space. You can see the contrast of the previous gray wall color on the left side of the beam. We will paint out that terrible beam and the ceiling in white once the holes are patched.


All of the window, baseboard, doors and trim in the house is the orangy-wood that was popular in 1992. Many of you have asked if we’re leaving it (no), painting it (possibly) or replacing it (most likely).

Again, since everything will eventually be torn out of the kitchen we are using what we already have and decided to paint the trim and doors. My default for trim is white and so I grabbed a can of trim paint from our old house and figured it would work perfectly for the kitchen.

It looked terrible.

Perhaps it was the wrong white? Perhaps it just needed another coat? Perhaps. But both Ryan and I agreed that white was not the look we were going for.

One day, while I was out and about, Ryan texted me with a “don’t hate me, but …” message and sent a photo of the window trim half painted in the dark cabinet color. I loved it! So did he. So dark trim and doors it is in the kitchen. At least for now. Or maybe for always and throughout the house because we really do like how it looks.


I didn’t realize the sink was a problem until we moved in and starting using the kitchen. While it is large (33″ x 22″), the split basin and off centered faucet made it difficult to wash dishes. We had a single-basin sink in our old house and I am forever and always a fan. I love being able to fit a cookie sheet or my gigantic cutting board into the sink to wash it and that wasn’t possible with this sink and faucet combination.

oldsink Since we’re trying to keep this makeover low-cost, we opted for a stainless steel sink which are typically less expensive than porcelain or enamel/cast iron versions. The one we chose is huge, square, so minimal and gorgeous.

Fun story about the faucet: I was on my computer searching on one website, Ryan was on his computer searching on another site. I said, “ooh, I like this one“, turned to him and he had just clicked on the same one. It was faucet-destiny.

Okay, ready for some progress shots?!

Here’s how the kitchen looks today:

eating kitchenback kitchenfaucet kitchenisland kitchensink Hopefully this week I’ll get going on painting cabinets and finishing up the rest of the trim. We’re still on the hunt for the perfect wood to use for open shelves and thinking through a few different art options to bring in some warmth.

So far, this little makeover is making me so happy and feels absolutely worth the time, money and effort.

Now that I really think through it, it makes total sense for us to make a few changes to this most-used space in our home. Sure, we could just wait until we do the big remodel but I don’t always believe in that. We live in our homes and sometimes making incremental changes to make a space into something you can use and enjoy now is just as valuable as saving and planning and doing it all at once later. I want this home to feel like us and mini-makeovers might be just the way to get there.


pendant light | single basin sink | faucet | brass knobs | brass cup pulls | dish towel (coming to my new shop next week!) | rug | chairs | barstools

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New House Update + Choosing White Paint

I finally got started on a few house projects this past weekend.

To catch you up to speed in case you missed it: We bought a new house. It took forever to close. We lived in our friends’ above-garage apartment for six weeks while we waited. The week we moved in was also my busiest work week ever. We listed our old house and all of our furniture is still over there since it looks so nice staged. We are currently sleeping on air mattresses, eating off a folding table and using camp chairs for seating. Basically, these past two weeks have been mildly-organized chaos and I kept feeling like I just needed to get through last week before I could mentally move on to working on our new house.

Well, here we are. I feel like I’ve come up for air and am so ready to make this fabulous house ours. I really like it here. I like the layout and the exterior and the views out the windows and our vision for each space.

It will take time, I keep reminding myself. Our last house was a work in progress for 10 years and this one will be the same (well, hopefully not 10 years, but we’ll see …).

We have plans for nearly every single space. Some plans are more involved than others and there are a handful of spaces that won’t be done until we’re ready to do a bigger remodel (take out a wall, replace the floors, new kitchen layout, move doors).

So my goal at this point is to make our main living spaces feel more like us – as inexpensively as possible – since this is really just a phase 1 fix.

The easiest way to update a space without a lot of effort or budget is paint.

And the good news is that I happen to enjoy painting.

This weekend, I pulled out our painting supplies and got to work.

First up: the guest bathroom.

redwhitepaint This bathroom is right off the kitchen, is windowless so it gets no light at all and was painted a very deep red. I know red was a thing years ago (remember how everyone was painting their dining rooms red?!), but it happens to be my least favorite color. Red and black together is even harder on my eyes.

In this tiny bathroom, the combination was not working for me and so the minute we got back from our son’s football game on Saturday morning, I popped open a can of old white paint and slapped it up on the walls.

I posted the photo above on instagram and smiled at the comments.

No, I don’t normally dress like this when I paint.

Yes, of course I use a roller.

This was just me unable to contain my neutral-loving self any longer :)

There were also a bunch of questions about picking the perfect white paint. So let’s chat about that for a minute.

Picking white paint is tricky. We went through the whole process in our old house (here is a post about that – the before and afters make me so happy!) and are doing it again in this house.

We hoped we could use the left-over paint from the other house to paint the walls in the kitchen for our phase 1 fix. Sherwin Williams White Heron is a warmish gray white that looked great and I was very happy with the choice.

But in this new house? It looked terrible. So cold and a little dirty and not what we were hoping for.

I did use the leftovers in the guest bathroom because my plan is to put up removable wallpaper (like I did here) for a pop of pattern until we can get to the bigger bathroom remodel phase. So the white was really just to cover up the red and act as a light background for wallpaper (still undecided, but I’m leaning heavily toward this one).

bathroomwhite It looks one million times better.

white-paint In the kitchen, we needed a different white. So I pulled out my massive paint chip card from Sherwin Williams and searched through the whites. We were looking for something warm, but not yellow. The house is not super bright, so stark white would feel too sterile. The previous gray on the walls didn’t read super dark until we pulled off the upper cabinets and it revealed an off-white underneath that made the gray look surprisingly dark (you can see a little sliver in the photo above where the off white and gray meet in a 90* angle).

I bought three sample pots and tried them on the wall in a few different places.

Sherwin Williams Downy

Sherwin Williams Snowbound

Sherwin Williams Shoji White

It is amazing how you look at white paint in a paint can and it just looks white but when you put it up on the wall it takes on a different hue.

The top color (Downy) looked pink.

The middle color (Snowbound) read cold blue.

The bottom color (Shoji) looked taupe.

One thing I’ve learned about picking white paint is that the color takes on what’s happening around it. With the orange-wood trim and gray background, it was a little hard to tell which white had the right undertones. I painted a few splotches on a white paper plate and that sealed the deal. It was so much easier to see the undertones and pick a winner.

We went with Shoji White.

whitepaintkitchen Now that it is up on the walls, it does not feel taupe at all. Just a nice, warm white.

Oh, white paint, you are such a challenge but you sure do make things look fresh!

So here are my best tips for choosing white for your home:

  1. Don’t pick a white paint color you’ve seen online or in someone else’s home. It’s tempting, but don’t. Every room and home has different natural light, shadows, flooring, etc. A white that looks great on my friend’s walls in Kansas will look much different on my walls in Washington.
  2. Think about what undertone you want. Blue, yellow, pink, green. If you are on the blue side, it will feel cool. Yellow will feel warm (but I caution you from going too far on either side because you’ll end up with baby blue or pastel yellow walls rather than white).
  3. Try a bunch of samples in several different places. Don’t be afraid to mess up your walls. Just paint big swatches all over to see how each color looks around the room.
  4. Sample the color on something pure white. This made a big difference for us so we could really see what color we were working with. It is so hard to tell on the little paint chips and sometimes challenging when your eye is also seeing colors next to or near the paint sample on the wall. Putting it on clean white makes undertones more apparent.
  5. Give it at least two coats. Even the best of the best wall paint looks better when covered twice. It will remove any background color and give you nice, clean coverage.

Things are slowly shaping up around here. We have far to go, but white paint makes all things better.

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A Bountiful Thanksgiving Table

This post is sponsored by Pier 1

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday. I know I say that about every major celebration, but truly, Thanksgiving ranks high (like right at the top with christmas and easter). We have the best memories of Thanksgiving from when we were kids – big family gatherings, weekends at my great Aunt & Uncle’s house in their small town, cutting down our christmas tree – and it’s continued to be a time of year that feels festive and filled with tradition even now.

One of the best parts of Thanksgiving happens around the table. The food, obviously, is a highlight. But so is the gathering of family, the conversation and the sharing of gratitude.

We love being together as an extended family and do it as often as possible. To take Thanksgiving dinner from an ordinary family gathering to a special celebration, I love to set a pretty table.

tabletwoplacesettings This year, with the help of a few new pieces from Pier 1, the table will be set with a decidedly bountiful feel. Rich, earthy colors, fresh flowers in warm shades of deep orange and dusty pink, leafy branches cut straight from the tree. These organic elements mixed with vintage silver, sparkling wine glasses and cool marble makes for a perfect setting to celebrate Thanksgiving together as a family.

tabletop To pull this table together, I started where I always do: classic neutral basics.

tablediagonal White dinnerware is a staple when it comes to setting a table. It works for everyday; it works for special occasions. I prefer a simple shape like these round porcelain dishes and layering them over a gold charger adds just a bit of fancy to their simplicity.

sneakpeek These cloth napkins – with their metallic stitching in a classic windowpane pattern – are so pretty in person. They look great on the table and pick up the gold and warmth used throughout the table. For embellishment, a rustic bosc pear laid over a sprig of greenery feels chic and simple at the same time.

wine Another classic staple is a good wine glass. On this table, I used stemless glasses which work equally well for water glasses and just one all-purpose traditional wine glass. You wine connoisseur may beg to differ, but I find you really only need one style of glass to serve either red or white wine in. Keep things simple, that’s my motto. These crystal glasses are really nice, have a small bead around the lip and feel sturdy enough to take regular use.

tablecenter For the center of the table, a gorgeous black marbled stone cheese board filled with all the makings of a tasty charcuterie not only works as a focal point (how pretty are those figs?!) but also functions as an appetizer while we wait for the turkey.

fruitplate How great is that white marble bowl filled with pistachios? It is a marble mortar & pestal combo that works just as well as a serving bowl. There’s a tip: look around at what you have and see if there are ways to use it unconventionally. A sugar dish for a vase, a breadboard as a tray, a mortar and pestal set as a serving bowl.

platter Let’s talk about that breadboard used as a tray. This one is petite and the perfect warm wood tone. It adds a bit more of that earthy, organic texture and balances the stone bringing in more warmth. You can never go wrong with collecting pretty breadboards. They are just so versatile.

And those darling salt and pepper cellars? I’m so into them. If you have a big table, you could scatter a few sets around to make seasoning your meal a bit easier. I also think they would make the perfect hostess gift.

saltpepper Once the table is set, flowers are the finishing touch. To keep things slightly less formal, I chose a few humble flower bouquets from the grocery store, cut them down short and put them in tarnished silver julep cups (and an old sugar bowl). This is my tried-and-true method for elevating inexpensive flowers and it works every time (see the quick tutorial here).

lazysusan I raised the little vases up onto Ryan’s new favorite thing: a marble lazy Susan. Poor Susan. Why does she have to be known as lazy? I would love to know the story behind that name…

tabletoliving Our new yard is bursting with leaves of every shape and size. I cut the pretty green branches and layered them down the middle of the table to create a natural table runner. The green looks so pretty and fresh and, best of all, was free.

tablediag Of course the most important part of setting the Thanksgiving table is making it warm and welcoming and a place where our family can linger over conversation and good food. I can’t wait!

If you are looking for classic neutral pieces to add to your tabletop, may I recommend these 10 items from Pier 1:


  1. Wine Goblet | 2. Stemless Wine Glass | 3. Olive Wood Cheese Board | 4. Salt + Pepper Set | 5. Marble + Wood Coasters | 6. Stone Platter | 7. Woven Gold Checked Napkin | 8. Chevron Serving Board | 9. Marble Mortar + Pestal | 10. White Dinnerware


To help get you started on your Thanksgiving table, Pier 1 is offering one JDC reader a $100 gift card!

To enter, leave a comment sharing your favorite Thanksgiving tradition. I’ll pick a random winner on November 2nd!


The winner of the $100 gift card is GRACE.

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On Changing Decorating Styles

There has been some decorating chatter over on instagram about our new house. A friend commented teasingly that she was waging bets on how soon everything in our new house would be painted white.

Because if you know anything about me, you know I have a great affinity for white paint. Paint it all! 

whitekitchen Have no fear, there will be plenty of white in the new house. I can’t help myself.

But – shock of all shocks – I’m thinking about straying from our go-to formula of white everywhere.

I like to call my style Clean, Classic and Collected with a touch of Pretty.

rejoicealways But this new house is pushing me outside of that familiar, comfortable style to something close, but decidedly different.

I’m calling it Clean, Classic, Collected with a touch of Handsome.

Did you catch that subtle change?

As before in our house I tended toward pretty, the new house feels like it needs to be handsome.

Maybe its because it is so adorable.

I love a balanced space (warm and cool tones, hard and soft, modern and patina’d) and I feel like if we went all sweet and white inside, it would be unbalanced. So I’ve been looking for ways to bring in that balance with more handsome features. Things like straight lines. Deep, moody colors. Rich textures.

I’m hoping for a good mix of cozy warmth and clean lightness. More use of vintage, salvage and found items combined with classic pieces like our tufted linen sofa. It won’t be a major stray from how our previous home was decorated – just maybe more warmth and perhaps a deep color or two.

Curious about what all that means? Here are three images I’m super inspired by for this new space.


screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-9-06-12-am via @bradytolbert

This handsome living room caught Ryan’s eye and I’m 100% with him on it. We love the texture, the classic shapes but modern finishes, the oversized art and general feeling of relaxed sophistication. Love, love, love it all.


chrislovesjulia via chrislovesjulia

Do you all follow Chris Loves Julia (the blog and on instagram)? They have transformed a basic home and made it into such a warm, interesting, personal space. This front room, in particular, always catches my eye. It has that combination of classic, clean and handsome that we’re going for in our new home.



via Mazen Studio

I’m studying this photo for kitchen inspiration, for sure, but I also love how the whole thing works together. The chalky deep green-gray with the shiny white, aged natural wood tones with mixed metals. This is the feel we’re totally into right now.

So that’s what we’re thinking. As you can see, there is still plenty of white and softness balanced with straight lines and deep tones.

We can’t wait to get started!

If you need help figuring out your style, if you have a general sense of lostness and overwhelm when it comes to decorating your home, I have just the thing for you!

SIMPLIFIED DECORATING is my newest online class. I’ll walk you through the whole process I use while decorating any space: first identifying your personal style, next assessing your room, creating a design board with items that fit your style and finally, putting it all together in a way that makes sense.

The course takes place online and you can follow along at your own pace. There are 15 lessons, each about 5-11 minutes each (for a total of just over 3 hours of inspiring video learning).

With Simplified Decorating, You Will:

  • Discover your personal style
  • Avoid common decorating mistakes
  • Create a design board for any room
  • Incorporate your style into your home
  • Save money by not spending on the wrong things
  • Get a cohesive, comfortable home that makes you happy
  • Have a clear decorating direction


  • worksheets for discovering your style
  • seven elements that are essential for every room
  • step-by-step guide for how to decorate any room
  • practical tips for where to save and where to spend
  • the best home decorating sources
  • 5 common mistakes and how to avoid them
  • how to create a design board
  • three things you can (and should!) do today

To help you get a feel for the class and to learn more about what we’ll be learning, here is the introduction for the class:


Registration is only open until November 2nd, so grab your spot now! LEARN MORE HERE

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A Design Plan for The Master Bedroom

Master Bedrooms always seem to be the last to get attention. Mismatched furniture (or lack thereof!), artless walls, and lack of lighting seem to be more the norm than not. At least that has always been the case in our home.

For this new house, one of my goals is to get the master bedroom put together first.

Well, maybe not first since there are a million and a half other things to do, but putting it together is right up there at the top.

Our old bedroom was on the main floor with all of the kids upstairs. We loved having our room downstairs, especially because it meant I didn’t have to see the kids’ messy rooms all the time!

This new master bedroom is at the top of the stairs on the second floor and runs along the back of the house. But we’re actually really loving the idea of being up high and Audrey, especially, is happy to have our room so close to hers.

The bedroom has great windows that look over the backyard and has the prettiest view of all of the changing leaves.  It feels a bit like being up in a treehouse and thankfully, the room gets good natural light. I was worried that everything would feel so dark since the property is surrounded by tall evergreens, but so far, that hasn’t seemed to be the case.

masterwindow It is a good-sized room, but not so big that it feels cavernous.  That is one of my favorite things about our new house; while the square footage is great for our big family, it still has the cozy feel of a smaller home.

master mastertobath There are a few changes we’ll make to the bones of the room – new carpet, paint, remove the phone jacks and a cable outlet from the wall (there are so many!) and we’ll replace the ceiling fan with a light fixture. The ceilings are not super tall, which means ceiling mount lighting is a must. I’m still in the very early stages of figuring out what to do with all of the lighting in the house. I love a good feature light – I wish I could use this chandelier! – but the ceiling height just won’t allow for it.

Our vision for this house is slightly different than how we decorated our previous one. While I will always gravitate toward white and neutrals, this home just feels like it needs to be cozy. Less fancy, less shiny metal, more warm textures and deep, muted color.

You may remember the bed from our old master bedroom, which we have loved for a long time.


We still do, actually. But it doesn’t feel like the right piece for this room.

That’s one of the weird things we’re finding about moving; sometimes the furniture, colors and accessories from one home don’t quite fit in another. Most of our stuff will make its way into the new house, but some things (like our bed) will not.

Here is what we’re thinking for our new room:


Cozy. Slightly masculine. Lots of texture. Mixed metals. Warm neutrals with blues.

And I definitely want to incorporate as many of our travel photos as possible. The one above is from our time at the Grand Tetons and has a moodiness quality that I hope to achieve in our home.

I’m on the hunt for an upholstered bed, those wall sconces feel like an obvious choice and I love the idea of a patterned rug (although the one shown is now out of stock. boo).

When I showed it all to Ryan the only thing he wasn’t crazy about was the scribble art (which I happen to think is fun and modern, but if that’s the only change then I feel like it is a win!).

So that is the tentative plan. There is much to be done before the actual decorating stage and still many decisions to be made (carpet, paint color, lighting), but it is so helpful to have a clear design plan with colors, mood and furniture options right from the start.

Now off to create design boards for every other room in the house …

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Three trends I’m into right now

I’ve been hanging out on Pinterest a lot lately. There are a couple of projects happening in my world right now that are pretty much taking every ounce of my creative energy and so I find myself going again and again to Pinterest for inspiration.

With all this time spent looking at pretty rooms, random tips and tricks, lovely places to travel, desserts that make my mouth water and projects that look fun but I’m sure I’ll never actually get to, I have noticed a few trends that keep showing up in my favorite indoor spaces.

There are a couple that I’m super in to. Let me share …


Indoor Hammocks + Swings


I mean, what could be more fun that having a swing in your living room?! It’s a bit of a 70’s throwback, and not really a new concept, but I keep seeing hammocks, swings and – my favorite – the hanging chair all over pinterest.


The idea works well in a kid’s room, of course. And also a playroom (as seen in Chris Loves Julia’s awesome basement).


And equally as well in common living spaces like the off the kitchen or in a cozy corner of the living room. Pile on the hanging chairs with cushions and it’s a guaranteed favorite seat in the house.


Patterned Cement Tile


This one isn’t necessarily new (they were particularly popular in Barcelona in the 1850’s), but these gorgeous geometric cement tiles are much more commonplace nowadays. The materials used to produce the tiles are environmentally friendly and sustainable, which likely explains their current popularity.


The graphic nature lends itself so well to a typically utilitarian space like a bathroom. The patterned tiles add a punch to the floor and can be styled in all different ways – from farmhouse to bohemian to glamorous.


While the tiles are gorgeous, I have heard they are a bit high-maintenance, requiring several coats of sealer to avoid staining.

I’m particularly fond of the tiles on a bathroom floor, but they can certainly be used elsewhere; think kitchen backsplash or fireplace surround. One caution: I have a feeling these graphic patterns will feel dated after a while. Maybe that doesn’t make a difference to you, especially if you really, really love the pattern and want to commit to it longterm. I would suggest using in a less-used space (like a bathroom) or as an accent rather than a major focal point in your main living spaces.


Vintage Kilim Rugs


Vintage (or vintage-look-alike) kilim rugs are all over pinterest right now. They add a sense of history, of craftsmanship, saturated, time-worn color and softness to any room.

In case you’re curious, a kilim is a flat, tapestry-woven carpet produced in south-east Europe and the middle-east. They were once considered inferior to the traditional pile rug and are now a highly sought-after collectible.


Kilims make great runners in an entry or as a flat and durable choice for under a dining table.


Perhaps the best feature of the rugs, though, are their colors. I’m not typically one for bold color and yet I am always struck by how beautiful they look, particularly in neutrally-decorated spaces.

If you’re in the market for a vintage rug, try searching on eBay, craig’s list or try The Vintage Rug Shop to see what goodies are in stock.

Those are three of my favorite current decor trends. What are yours?

(P.S. Come hang out with me on Pinterest!)

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How to Choose Art That Is The Right Size For Your Space

Last spring we rented a house in a darling beach town. Of course the second we arrived the kids ran through each room checking it all out, claiming their beds and shouting to one another about how cool the place was.

Want to know what I did first?

I rehung the lone picture on the living room wall.

The decor of the house was great – very coastal in a subtle way. And the canvas went perfectly with the style of the house. But it was so small for that big wall and hung much too high. It just floated on the wall and looked a bit out of place.

So I added a new nail hole to the fresh walls (sorry owners!) and moved it down about 8 inches so that the picture related more to the furniture in front of it. It is still small for the space, but looked much more intentional when placed lower (at eye-level) on the wall.

Ever since then, I’ve noticed artwork. Especially the too-small or hung-too-high variety.

Adding artwork to our walls is undoubtedly one of the best ways to add color, personality and interest to a space; figuring out what size of art to choose – and how high to hang it! – is the tricky part. Our walls either end up perpetually bare out of decorating indecision or with artwork that looked perfect in the store, but doesn’t quite make the impact we expected once brought home.

I’m here to help.

Guidelines in decorating can sometimes feel restricting (decorate to your taste, not as if there is one right or wrong way to do it!) and sometimes they help so much in making seemingly tricky things (like how big of art to hang on a wall) much less tricky.

So here’s the guideline to follow when choosing art for your wall: artwork should be ½ – ¾ the width of the selected space.

This is particularly true if you are hanging art over a piece of furniture or above a fireplace. Simply measure the distance of your mantle, for example, and then multiply by 0.6 and you’ll get the ideal size of artwork for the space.

Let me show you an example:

This is my friend Erica’s house. You may remember it from a Coastal Christmas House Tour we did a few years ago.

There is a large wall between the living room and kitchen/dining room that looks great with a christmas tree in front of it, but for the rest of the year Erica wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.

She recently inherited a great mid-century bench from her grandfather and had a cute setup happening and just needed something on the wall to finish it off.

We talked about adding a gallery wall and about a set of open shelves. Neither felt quite right.

Instead we decided on a single piece of art – something that could easily be taken down at Christmas when the tree went back up, and maybe something seasonal that she could switch out.

It just so happened that I had recently ordered samples of my White Pumpkin painting in varying canvas sizes and she had mentioned wanting one, so I brought them over and tried out all three. It ended up being a great visual example of how different sizes of art look on the same wall.

We started with the small canvas. It is not actually all that small; in fact, if we were shopping and saw a 16×20 canvas, I bet it would feel like the perfect size for the wall.

But once hung, it looks a bit … blah. Like it’s just floating there. It is hung at eye level, but even still feels unrelated to the furniture and doesn’t do much to fill in the tall expanse of wall.

Up next was the medium canvas.

This one is 24×30″ and does a much better job of filling in the space.

The general rule, you’ll remember, is to choose art that is ½ – ¾ the width of the wall OR of the furniture it is being placed over. This works if we’re just accounting for the bench, but because that little side table/basket is included in the grouping, the medium canvas doesn’t quite cover as much wall as it could.

The third size – you guessed it! the large canvas – obviously makes the biggest impact.

At 30×40″ it takes up more visual space both horizontally and vertically.

The bench + side table is about 60″ wide. If I do the formula (60 x .06) I get a suggested art size of 36″. This print is just a little bit over that and works well in the grouping.

When you pull back to see how the wall works in the rest of the room, you can see how nicely the large canvas fills in the space. We could have gone with the medium size, since it also looked nice with the scale of the furniture, but my current preference is for oversized art and so that is what won out.

The canvas is hung with the center at eye level (go off of the average height of 5’6″) and looks great taking up all that space on the wall.

To avoid lots of unnecessary nail holes, we used Command strips for hanging. They worked like a charm!

Erica and I had a great time trying out the three different sizes. And I hope it is helpful for you to see a tangible example of how varying sizes work up on a wall.

Try out the measurement guideline (distance of wall x 0.6 = ideal artwork size), grab a piece of art that closely matches the size and hang (nail-free!) at eye level for a once-empty wall to now be lovingly filled.

P.S. White Pumpkin canvases are now available in the shop in all three sizes! CLICK HERE to get a canvas for your home.

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Do You Have Front Door Sidelights? Try this trick …

Apparently I’m on an entry kick. First it was a collection of fabulous fall wreaths to hang on your front door, and now I’m here to talk about a little trick that’s going on inside the front door.


Come on in.

On either side of our front door are tall, skinny windows called sidelights. They do a terrific job of letting in extra light into the entry, but at night, they do very little to offer privacy.

The obvious solution? Hang curtains!

And that’s just what we did.

I first shared our entry on the blog in September 2010 (you can see that post here). I was about one year into my blogging hobby and loved decorating, styling and sharing pictures of our home (I still do!). The photos I took back then are terrible, but they were the best I knew how to do.

Turns out, the poorly-lit photo of the entry with the curtains hung on either side struck a chord and is to this day one of the most pinned images from my blog. I cringe every time I think about that!

entryfall While my style has become decidedly more neutral, bright and minimal since that first entry post, and I’d like to believe my photography skills have improved, the curtains on either side of our front door have remained.

entrycurtains They are just inexpensive white curtain panels from IKEA (which is what we use throughout our house) hung from a metal rod. I use the clip-on rings to make sliding them easy since it is something we do every night and every morning.

When open, the curtains push out far enough that they don’t get in the way of opening and closing the door. When shut, they offer privacy and make the entry feel cozy.

entrywithatlas At one point I had curtain tie back hooks on the wall, but found them unnecessary (and I think one of the kids tried to hang on one and it fell out of the wall. #lifewithkids).

So if you have sidelights next to your front door and you don’t know what to do for privacy, perhaps hanging curtains is your answer.

And please, will you do me a favor?! Pin one of these entry images instead of that 2010 one :)

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Nine Classic Fall Wreaths


(via Rejuvenation)

I love over-the-top seasonal porch decorations. You know the ones: corn stalks on either side of the door, stacks of pumpkins, piles of leaves, oversized lanterns and autumn garlands. They are so creative and put visitors in the mood for fall right away. Pottery Barn catalogs are notorious for having gorgeously decorated entries and I always enjoy flipping through to see what the designers have come up with next.

While theme-y porches are fun to look at, I can’t say I’m a theme-y porch doer. I prefer simplicity, clean lines and just the addition of a classic fall wreath to announce and celebrate the new season.

Now I know wreaths are a bit controversial (way too strong of word, but you know what I mean). People are either fans or not.

I happen to be a fan of a good wreath. In fact, in my compulsive crafting days, I made a million (here are a bunch of tutorials of the wreaths I’ve made over the years).

I like wreaths indoors – hung on a bookshelf, as wall decor (you can see the dried boxwood wreath hanging on the wall in this video house tour), for party decorations and strung from ribbon in windows during Christmas (see what I mean here).

I like wreaths outdoors, too. Especially a simple, fresh wreath hung on a black door. It is such a classic look.

If you are looking for a simple way to update your front door this fall, perhaps you could try one of these nine favorite classic fall wreaths.  classicfallwreaths SOURCES

Preserved Boxwood $44.99 (currently on sale for $38.24)

Salal Wreath $59.95

Wild Cotton Wreath $98

Bay Leaf Wreath $59.95

Wheat Wreath $44.95 (currently on sale for $38.24)

Harvest Olive Wreath $149

Reindeer Moss Wreath $88

Olive Wreath $65

Rosemary Wreath $58.95

A few notes:

Some of the wreaths are fresh which means they smell amazing, need to be misted daily to keep them fresh for about 4 weeks and then will dry naturally. Of course you can make your own fresh rosemary, bay leaf, olive or salal wreath if you have armloads of clippings. Simply wire the stems to a wreath form and you’re set!

The Olive Wreath is from this floral company with the most gorgeous farm flower bouquets. Definitely worth checking out.

You can hang a wreath with a ribbon by thumb-tacking it to the top of the door or try this brass wreath door hanger (I just ordered one for me!).

Cheers to easy fall decor!

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Is White Cabinetry Right For You?

One of the first big projects we did to our house was update the kitchen. Our friends thought we were a little crazy to mess with a perfectly good one year old kitchen, but it just wasn’t our style and so we decided to go for it anyway.

Among a few functional changes like squaring off the island, adding extra counter space and removing the upper cabinets, the biggest impact was painting the previously honey-toned cabinets white.

(This photo is of a house in our neighborhood that was listed for sale a while back but it is the exact layout and very similar coloring as our original kitchen. You can see our actual before kitchen here).

We were warned that white cabinets – though pretty – were hard to keep clean. The warnings didn’t stop us, though, as it seemed every inspiration picture we liked had a common thread of white painted cabinetry.


Here we are, nine years later, and I can wholeheartedly say that painting the cabinets white was absolutely the way to go.

In fact, we are such fans of white cabinets that a few years after the kitchen remodel, we spruced up the laundry room cabinets with white paint as well.


What a huge difference the white cabinets made to this previously depressing room. Because the wood cabinets were floating high on the wall, the dark color felt heavy and looming. The white feels much lighter and feels balanced with the white appliances and dresser anchoring the bottom of the room.

Last year, we finally took the plunge and painted out our master bedroom cabinets as well.

masterbefore masterbathcabinets

I have a dream to redo this whole bathroom (see my design board here), but that was not in the budget so rather than wait any longer, we just made a few simple updates.

In each instance, painting the cabinets made a huge impact and instantly updated each room. The clean and bright style of white cabinetry feels much more in line with our simple/classic/slightly modern aesthetic and even though warned they would be high-maintenance, we really haven’t found that to be the case.

In the kitchen, we used oil-based paint for a smooth and durable finish. This was over 8 years ago when you could still buy oil-based paint at the hardware store and before the innovation of newer high-wearing, low VOC paint formulas. The benefit of oil paint and why we ultimately decided to go with it is the hard finish it achieves. The durability is especially useful for high-traffic areas like the kitchen and I can say that it has worn well. The downsides: long dry time, toxic fumes and how the paint yellows with age.

In the laundry and bathroom, we used latex paint. Neither are high-use spaces and so we were less concerned with the durability.

If you are looking to paint your cabinets – especially if in a high-traffic zone like a kitchen – try using a water-soluble alkyd paint (basically a mix between oil based and latex like this). This will give you the quality hardening effect with the benefits of low VOC, easy clean-up and fast dry times. We used a nice quality brush, good paint quality and an additive that made the paint flow better and settle smoothly.


Paint in a satin finish is recommended to ensure that it is wipeable (very important in a kitchen where spills and drips are inevitable).

So, how do you know if white cabinetry is right for you?

Well, my simple answer is if you love the look then go for it :)

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The Beauty of a Fiddle Leaf Fig

While we were away this summer, I left my houseplants with my mom.


The Fiddle Leaf Fig did particularly well under her green-thumb care.

I told her before we left that I really was not that attached to the tree and if it died, I would be okay. These trees can be very finicky and moving it to a completely different home – with different temperature, lighting and care – isn’t always successful.

When she brought it back over once we returned, I remembered how much I love this little tree. I’m so happy she kept it alive!

Do you know about Fiddle Leaf Fig trees?

It seems like nearly every room that catches my eye while I’m scrolling through images has this variety of houseplant. They add that much-needed natural element to a room, their shape is organic and bold and fills in an empty corner just perfectly.

Here are a few examples of my favorite rooms with Fiddle Leaf Fig trees:





















Don’t the trees just make each one of those rooms? My favorite decorating tip is to add fresh greenery and the big, shapely leaves and height of a Fiddle Leaf Fig is just the thing.

Let me tell you the story of my fig tree …


I bought mine three years ago at my local grocery/hardware store for $12. It was more of a bush than a tree so I decided to experiment and trim off the lower leaves to groom it into a tree. I wasn’t sure if it would work, but for $12, it was worth a shot (see the before and after photos here).

The little tree moved around a bit until I found a spot where I liked it. Unfortunately, the spot I chose was in a high traffic area of our home and little by little the leaves were either knocked off by certain members of my household (ahem) or the tree dropped them on its own because it was very unhappy in the spot where I put it.

Fiddle Leaf Figs like indirect light and lots of it. They like consistent temperatures and only enough water to keep the soil moist (about 1 cup per foot once per week). Mine just wasn’t happy.

Normally, I would toss out a tree that had lost its leaves but for some reason, I moved it into my office right under the window and left it alone for a few weeks. Sure enough, one day I noticed a little sprouting leaf. The next week, a new one grew. The leaves grow quickly and it is so fascinating to watch!

Now, after three years and one miraculous back-to-life experience, the tree is doing well. I replanted it last year in a larger pot with new potting soil to allow for more room for the roots and richer nutrients. It is currently living under the window in our family room where it gets consistent light and seems to be happy there.

Where can you find a Fiddle Leaf Fig?

They are a little hit or miss, but keep checking regularly at your local hardware store (I’ve heard Home Depot and Ace often carry them in the indoor plant section). IKEA sells small versions (the kind with leaves all the way down. Don’t hesitate trimming off those lower leaves if you like the look of a tree better. It worked great for me!). You can also check with a local nursery. If they do not have them in stock, they could likely order one for you. Small plants a typically less than $20, taller ones will be more.

Pop it in a pretty planter or a basket and it is an instant pick-me-up for any light-filled space.

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Why Absolute Minimalism Will Never Feel Like Home

We often say that stuff doesn’t matter. And, yes, of course that is true.

In the big scheme of things, stuff is meaningless. Absolutely. 100 percent.

I always thought this was true, but now I can say that after living with very, very little, I believe it more than ever. It’s the people and the real life experiences that make life richer, not the things we accumulate.

And yet …

While all the stuff – the clothes, the furniture, the dish collections or pillow collections or christmas decorations taking up most of your home’s storage space – while these things are not the most important things in life, they do matter.

I’ve had a hard time reconciling my deep belief that stuff is meaningless with my insatiable desire to be surrounded by beautiful things.

Which one is it, Emily? If you really believe trinkets are worthless then why do you find so much joy in styling out a shelf with each new season? Why do you move furniture or arrange flowers or take great delight in a color-coded closet with matching wood hangers? 

We traveled and lived as a family for over three months in less than 300 square feet. The kids each had one small bin for their clothes. I had one wooden spoon, one set of sheets, one throw blanket, one picture on the wall. And the crazy thing was that we didn’t really miss the rest of our stuff back at home!

This non-missing had me all concerned. What would this experiment in living with less do to my lifelong love of houses, of decorating and pretty things?!

Would I get home and just want to pack it all up and give it away? Would life on the road have taught me that minimalism is the way to go?

That couch you used to love – send it away! The old books you used to collect – off they go! Get rid of it all! All this excess is getting in the way of living! 

Or would all the things we have collected and inherited and purchased for our house just make it feel like home?

And if that was the case – this feeling of being at home amidst the stuff – would that be okay? Would it be okay, after all this time of tiny living, to not choose absolute minimalism for our normal life? Would it be okay to still love the couch and collect old books and deliberately choose an afternoon of moving furniture around even though I have now tried it the other way and was perfectly happy?

Well, you want to know what happened?


We arrived home and it did feel good. The kids pulled out their toys they had not seen in months. They put on clothes they had forgotten about (the ones with bright colors and big logos that were not part the mom-approved capsule wardrobe they lived in all summer). I cut branches from the back yard to bring life indoors. I switched out our bedspread for a new change. I admired and used the things in our house that make it feel like home.

And I also packed up a carload of excess to donate.

The truth is, our home wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for the couch to stretch out on or the wall of L’s to give it personality. It wouldn’t be the same without fresh greenery and stacks of white dishes ready for entertaining.

It’s not the stuff that makes a home, but what is a home without stuff?!

So after living minimally for 4 months and now being back in our large and happily decorated home for the past three weeks, here’s my conclusion:

Our homes are here to serve us. They are meant to be a place of comfort, protection and joy. They are where we do life, where we invite others in, where we gather and grow. They are the backdrop of our lives and important ones at that.

The idea of minimalism has its benefits; there is much to be appreciated and adopted about a life free from excess. My style and shopping habits have changed over the years that definitely reflect the simple, clean, living-small and clutter-free mentality this movement is all about.

But there is also nothing wrong with surrounding ourselves with the things we love and intentionally filling our homes with beauty.

As much as I love getting rid of unused trinkets and donating items that we don’t need, want or use, I’m not sure I’ll ever stop collecting and styling the things we do choose to keep. Making a pretty home is part of me and even though popular culture says it is better and more responsible to live tiny with very few possessions, that doesn’t feel like home to me.

The goal of our homes is to be comfortable, safe places where we want to spend time and invite others in. Is my house serving me in this way? Is yours?

That’s the important question.

Are our homes doing their job?

The answer isn’t necessarily to get rid of everything just as much as the answer isn’t found in buying more stuff. What we learned about home from our time on the road is that it is not a matter of having a lot or having a little; it is about intentionally creating a space that makes you happy.

And it is about intentionally creating a home that feels like you. One that reflects your style, your needs and is a place where you want to invite others in to.

Creating a home that feels like you and makes you happy could mean clearing out the overstuffed closets that stress you out. It could mean rearranging the furniture to make for better traffic flow. It could mean painting your piano or learning how to create a gallery wall or investing in a new couch or finally figuring out what to do with the problem areas that bug you the most.

Now that I’m back, I’m more excited than ever to explore this idea of home. Of houses. Of decorating and letting our houses serve us. 

Tiny living was great for a few months, but it isn’t home to me. I’m a fan of stuff. Not too much so as it starts overtaking my life and certainly not at the cost of relationships and valuable experiences.

The privilege of making a home is adding our personal style and filling it with meaningful and pretty touches that make all who dwell inside feel happy and at home. I absolutely believe this. 

So here’s what I’d love to know from you, my darling reader-friends:

What is making you super happy about your home right now and what stresses you out? Do you struggle with making your house a place you love to be? What is getting in the way? (aside from budget. Money will always get in the way. But I fully believe you don’t have to have unlimited funds to create a home you love).

I wish we could sit face to face to talk about these things! But since we can’t, let’s chat online :)

Leave a comment and tell me, what is your biggest challenge when thinking about decorating your home? 

I can’t wait to hear …

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Easing into Fall

easingintofall Last week, when September 1st hit the calendar, my instagram feed blew up with cozy images of Fall.

Pumpkins, plaid, wool blankets, crackling fires, chunky knit sweaters, golden leaves.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am a Fall girl through and through. It always has and always will be my favorite of all seasons. I remember not too long ago when I had to restrain myself from pulling out all my favorite Fall stuff to pepper around the house before September 1st.

Now, however, I’m not quite there. Not quite in pumpkin and plaid mode.

This year I’m feeling the need to ease a bit more slowly into the new season. 

Over the weekend, I did make a few simple changes to our home to gently reflect the upcoming season.  Easy things that help it feel a little cozier without going all the way.

If you need a little inspiration for ways to bring your home into the new season, try out these three steps:


Add freshly clipped greens.

kitchenclippings When we returned from our extended road trip, the back yard was basically a jungle. I spent hours pulling waist-high weeds, trimming overgrown shrubs and spreading a new layer of black mulch. While I was out there, I clipped a few branches off the maple tree to pop into a vase inside. The leaves will be changing color soon (it’s still fun to clip when they are turning!) and I love the organic and slightly unruly look of them up there on the kitchen shelves.

kitchenearlyfall Our home is very neutral and the green just seems to make it all come alive.

While fresh flowers and bright greens are perfect for the spring, deeper green branches feel decidedly fall. Plus, they are free! Head outside, take along a pair of clippers (I like these) and clip off a big, funky branch to bring indoors.


Throw in some cozy texture.

sofatexture There is something about chunky knits that feel absolutely fall-like. This oldie-but-goodie knit throw works in any season because of its creamy white color, but I especially love having it out as Fall approaches.

fallsofa This is our main hang-out area in the house and why I insist on having the couch filled with pillows is beyond everyone in my family. They inevitably end up on the ground and I inevitably put them all back up three hundred times per day. But the combination of texture we have going on right now makes me very happy. It feels fall-ish without being overly obvious and that’s just what I’m looking for as I ease our home into the season.

I’ve heard it said that texture acts like pattern and am always a fan of mixing as many textures as I can get away with.

Mixing a chunky knit throw (like this one) with a graphic woven pillow (from here), soft leather pillow (from here), funky faux fur (found here) makes for an especially cozy feel.


Change out the scent.

lit-candle I was just talking with a friend about how I don’t like smelly candles. And then midway through the statement I had this moment of clarity: I used to not like the smell of candles.

This all started back in high school when all my friends burned sickeningly sweet vanilla ones and I got an instant headache. Since then I’ve told myself I don’t like smelly candles but actually, I do! It just depends on what it is. Candle scents (and packaging) have come a long way since the late 90’s and there are far more options than vanilla.

If you are a candle person and have been burning a summery scent, switch it up! Maybe don’t go quite to the deep fall scents of balsam and cranberry, but try something woodsy and fresh.

One of my favorite candles is this Izola Green Moss candle – half because of the gorgeous green of the glass and graphic label, half because of the rich, pleasant smell. Another good option is this Driftwood + Indigo (I have it in the cute cement container on my desk right now, but I really like the wood version too).

fallcandle The candle shown is a few years old from Anthropologie, which is always an excellent source for new scents and pretty packaging.

candleontable As the month progresses, I’m sure I’ll be switching up more around the house, but for now these three simple changes feel just right.

I’d love to know … are you ready for fall? Are you a fall decorator? If so, have you jumped fully in or are you a little slower like me? Do tell …

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A pair of matching floor lamps – do or don’t?

We don’t argue all that often. But on this particular day, I was feeling feisty and he was being stubborn and so we fought.

Want to know what we were so passionately arguing about?



I know. Ridiculous.

Ryan thought a pair of floor lamps would look great flanking the couch in the living room.

I thought it would be too matchy-matchy and preferred a floor lamp on one side and a table lamp on a table on the other.

We certainly needed more light in our living room and there is already plenty of furniture, so Ryan’s main concern was that adding a side table would clutter things up visually. My main concern was that matching floor lamps just isn’t done.

When he left the room, I immediately opened my computer and pinterest-searched ‘matching floor lamps‘ to see if it was a decorating do or don’t.


I didn’t find a lot (the table/floor lamp combo seems to be most common), but I did come across a few rooms that looked great with a pair of floor lamps on either side of the couch.

So I humbled myself, apologized for my stubbornness (and possible brattiness) and the next day we bought a pair of floor lamps.

And you know what? I actually really like them. They keep things modern, clean and less visually cluttered. The lamps we bought are sturdy, shiny, classic and add a touch of fancy to our casual living room.

Ryan was right. Matching floor lamps can be a great choice.

Here are a few rooms with matching floor lamps that helped me change my mind:


Gorgeous brass lamps in a very traditional room. (Source unknown)


Lots of symmetry happening in this room, but the colors keep your eye moving around. And I am in love all that natural light. (Potterbarn)


While not exactly flanking the sofa, I do like how these lamps fill in the space. (HouseBeautiful)


A more modern/Scandinavian approach to the matching lamps. (Source unknown)


As with our room, because of the placement of the furniture, there isn’t a lot of space for an end table. The two lamps keep things clean and streamlined. (Potterybarn)


Keeping things elegantly simple in this rustic meets traditional room. (Source unknown)

Moral of the story:

My husband has good taste. Rejuvenation is my new favorite store. Big windows are a must for our next house. A pair of matching lamps look great flanking a sofa.

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