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Reveal Day! The lighter re-painted kitchen cabinets

When we moved into the house, our plan was to leave the dated kitchen alone, waiting until we did a full remodel and basically start from scratch.

But if there is anything you should know about me and Ryan it is that we aren’t afraid to stray from the plan.

By day three of living here, we started a mini kitchen makeover (removing the upper cabinets, painting the lowers, adding a few can lights, replacing the sink and faucet and updating the hardware) and called it good for now. And it really did help!

Even though we both loved the dark charcoal we used on the cabinets, it was starting to feel really, really dark in our already pretty dark house. We went with that dark paint color to try to tie the floors and countertops together. Neither are surfaces we would choose, but they are what we have and until a full remodel is in the budget, they will stay. The dark cabinets looked really nice (especially in pictures – see them here), they were just too dark for our house.

So I decided to repaint. Just over one year later.

It took me about a week of painting and living in a very disheveled kitchen, but here’s how it looks now:

After much sampling and going back and forth on color choices, I decided on Anew Gray by Sherwin Williams. It is a light warm gray that pulled some of the taupe out of the counters, but still works with the cool gray of the floor and stainless appliances.

Here’s a pulled back shot of the whole kitchen.

So now that the cabinets are painted the new color, here are my thoughts:

It for sure makes the kitchen feel lighter.

Whereas before the floor and cabinets blended together to create a lot of dark on the bottom half of the room, the lighter cabinets help differentiate the floor and let it be the foundation.

In a perfect world, we would change out the cold gray tile floor for a warmer wood and I think that would make a huge difference in giving us the light and warmth we prefer. But for now, the colors work together.

The same goes for the granite tile countertops. They are not my very favorite and if I got to pick, I’d choose a solid surface without much variation – probably something light.

This kitchen is an exercise in creativity and gratitude and while of course I’d love to just redo the whole thing to make it look just as it does in my head, that isn’t the reality right now.

A friend dropped by a few months ago for the first time and she was so complimentary about our kitchen. She commented on the size and the counter space and how great it flowed with the rest of the house for entertaining.

All of these things are true. It is big. There is lots of counter space and ample room between the island and perimeter cabinets. You can fit a bunch of people in here at the same time. It is a great entertaining space.

I am tempted to point out what I want to change (and often I do) … the floors and countertops and wall between the kitchen and dining room, the beam … and then always feel terrible for how ungrateful it all sounds.

So while, yes, it is a little crazy to paint kitchen cabinets twice in less than two years, it is teaching me to be grateful for this big space and make the most of it.

When the cabinets were painted dark, we also painted out all the trim and doors downstairs. We initially tried the window trim in white paint and it just didn’t look right. So we went dark.

It probably looked more cohesive when the cabinets were the same color as the trim, but I have no interest in repainting all of the trim in the downstairs. That would be a lot of painting. And I’ve already done that once.

My mom suggested just painting out the window trim in either Anew Gray to match the cabinets or in white.

I’m considering. But not yet. It doesn’t actually bother me.

You can see how the cabinets work with the trim color as it wraps into the dining room.

Everything is so neutral and the colors look nice together, so for now, it will all remain.

The black chalkboard in the eating area helps tie in the trim color, too.

So that’s where we’re at with the kitchen. It is big. It is great for entertaining. And has gone from orangy maple to Iron Ore to Anew Gray.

I would normally finish a post like this with a question: what do you think?! 

But I am not sure I really want to know ;)

Mainly, because I’m pretty sure most of you will say the darker color was more striking/more on trend/better in photos. And I mostly agree with this.

If the floors were warm and we had less trees on our property and there were fewer gray days here, I would definitely agree.

However … these things are not true. The floors are dark, we’re surrounded by tall trees that block natural light and the sky in the Pacific Northwest is indeed gray more often than we’d like.

The dark cabinets were lovely and a great experiment and I would go dark again if the circumstances worked.

clean kitchen with dark cabinets and open shelves But for now, we’ll stick with Anew Gray.

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Entry updates for spring

I’m on a total lighten + brighten kick lately and the entry was next to get a quick makeover.

(Mason didn’t know I was snapping pictures when he walked downstairs and I actually love that I captured him in this one!)

Since December, we’ve had our vintage theater seats and a favorite Lindsay Letters Doxology canvas in the entry. It was perfect for the winter but started feeling a little heavy for spring. So while the kids were being thoroughly entertained by their almost three-year-old cousin this weekend, I took a few minutes to freshen up the entry.  I used to move furniture around way more often than I do now and I sort of miss it! It makes a space feel totally different and you don’t have to buy anything new! Win, win.

In the entry, I moved over the bench that usually sits under a big mirror to the right as you walk through the door (see it in its normal spot in this post). I actually tried a few different pieces there, but the little bench felt the cleanest.

(Also, notice the difference in photo quality with only natural light and a more intentional angle! Same iphone camera, just a few little tweaks.)

Let’s talk about the giant tree limb for a second.

I know, it’s weird. But I felt like I needed more height to help the botanical prints tie in with the bench. Plus, I love adding fresh greenery and we have an abundance of trees in our yard, so I just cut a really, really big branch, popped it in a large vase (this one from Target) and I kind of love it.

As for those darling botanicals … they are from the May Collection of Paper Works – our monthly subscription club full of stylish printable designs.

Every month I create a new set of digital designs (think art prints, note cards, scripture memory cards, calendars, chore charts – all things home + paper + pretty to look at!) that get loaded into a big library with all past designs from the last five years.

There are so many cute items to choose from – Ryan just counted them up and said there are over 600 different designs. Click here to see what’s included in Paper Works.

Anyway, back to the botanicals. I just downloaded the files, printed and framed them using leftover thin gold frames that we used to sell in our shop with mats I bought on sale at Michaels to make them look fancier.

They look sweet all grouped together, but they would be cute on their own as well. Maybe added to an existing gallery wall? Or as a gift for Mother’s Day?

I like what’s happening in the entry now. It feels lighter and spring-y and cheerful. Operation lighten + brighten is off to a good start!


I made a quick video to show you a little behind-the-scenes of Paper Works and just how simple it is to find pretty designs to download and print.


Join Paper Works today to get all of the May Collection + the entire library of designs. 


Happy May Day!

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Call me crazy … but I am going to repaint the kitchen cabinets

I know. I just painted the cabinets a year and a half ago. And they look great! But I think I want to change them anyway.

Let me explain why.

(P.S. these are the exact reasons I’ve given Ryan who just rolls his eyes at me. And when a girlfriend came by the other day after seeing my instagram post about wanting to repaint, I told her these things, too. I’m not sure she left fully convinced, but she just smiled and shook her head at my crazy ways. Friends like this are good.)

Okay, so this is a picture you might see me post of our kitchen.

I took it with my phone on a very dreary, rainy day with all lights off. Then I did the normal photoshopping I do to most photos of the house – lots of lightening and brightening. It looks like such a bright, natural light-filled kitchen!

Alas, this is not true. Here’s the picture straight from the iphone camera:

See how DARK it is?! So dark.

So dark that it’s bumming me out.

Let me remind you the backstory of this kitchen:

When we moved into the house in October 2017 our plan was to leave the kitchen alone until we did a full remodel – removing a wall, adding more windows, reorienting the kitchen and dining rooms. We were going to just live with the perfectly function, yet totally not our style kitchen for a few years.

And then on our first night sleeping in the house I heard Ryan’s drill from the other room and knew just what he was up to. The upper cabinets just didn’t work for us.

And that started a mini kitchen makeover. For about $1000 we transformed the dated space to something so handsome and functional (see that before and after post here). The biggest change was painting the cabinets.

We went dark on the cabinets for a couple of reasons.

  1. I adore a white kitchen forever and always but because this was just a ‘in the meantime’ update, trying something totally different sounded fun.
  2. This house has pushed me in a more masculine direction with color choices.
  3. We needed to find a way to tie the dark gray tile floor in with the speckle-y granite tile.

I would love to replace the counters and have seriously considered finding some sort of concrete-like skim coat product (is this such a thing?) to diy my way to something less speckle-y. We won’t fully replace the counters or floors until the full remodel which is still far-off so finding a way to make both of those elements work is essential.

This is the color palette we landed on:

Shoji White for the walls, Iron Ore for the cabinets, trim and doors and the Peppercorn represents the tile floor (although once I got home from the paint store I realized that the floor is slightly lighter than Peppercorn. But you get the idea).

It really does look nice.

As long as it’s either super bright outside, all the lights are on or photoshop does it’s magic.

So I’m feeling like I should try a new color on the cabinets to see if I can brighten up the space.

Again, keep in mind that this is all just a big experiment with very little risk. We are not planning on keeping these cabinets long-term so I don’t mind painting another layer on them. And while I want them to look nice, they do not have to be perfect. This takes all the pressure off. Also? If the new color looks terrible, I can just paint them back.

I should also mention that I find painting to be fairly enjoyable.

Okay. So here’s what I’m thinking for color. I’d like to pull some of the taupy gray from the counters and warm things up. My initial thought was to use my favorite neutral warm gray – Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore. We had it in our mudroom in the old house and it is the wall color up on the third floor (see it here).

I painted a piece of paper and taped it up to the cabinet just to get an idea.

I know it’s hard to tell from this photo. I didn’t do any post-processing to try to keep the colors as true as possible.

I like the color; Ryan thinks it might be too light. And I see his point. We might want something a little richer to tie the floors and counters together.

After the boys’ football game last weekend, I popped into the paint store to grab a few samples.

The shoji white is our wall color, peppercorn is close to the floors and iron ore is what the cabinets are painted currently. I pulled the warm taupe-y grays that caught my eye.

I was going to buy a few sample pots to bring home, but the Sherwin Williams lady told me they have another sale coming up next weekend and so I decided to wait (and save 40%!). So I just came home with the little paint chips.

It’s kind of helpful to see the colors next to the counters. See that medium taupe in there? I think that’s the color I want to pull out.

I think I narrowed it down to these four:

Fawn Brindle, Mega Greige, Shiitake and Agreeable Gray (which is a near-match to Revere Pewter).

Here are the colors pulled from the Sherwin Williams website, which all feel way darker and browner than the paint chips.  I’ll go in once the sale starts and grab a few sample pots to try out. It’s just too hard to choose a color based on tiny paint chips.

Just to give see what it might look like to go lighter, I played around with photoshop.

Truthfully, I don’t really love it. But I don’t hate it either. The dark cabinets will probably always be more photogenic and striking, but I’m more concerned with how the kitchen feels on a regular day and like I said up there, the dark is feeling so dark.

The trim will stay the same for now (when we remodel we’ll replace it all with simple white trim) and so I don’t want the cabinets to clash. And I love the warm wood of the shelves so that needs to go with the new paint color, too.

So that’s what I’m thinking. I need to find a color that feels brighter, works with the gray floor, speckle-y tile and dark trim, and ties in with the wood shelves.

Am I crazy? Should I try it? (actually, don’t talk me out of it! I really want to see how they look lighter.) And which color should I pick?

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All about our kitchen shelves + brackets

The most asked questions about our mini kitchen makeover always center on the open shelves. This is the second kitchen we’ve gone with shelves instead of upper cabinets and I’m certain we’ll do it again when we do a full remodel. They function so well for us, we love the casual look and it gives me a place to style dishes, cake plates, baskets, glassware and plants to make the kitchen look lived-in and cozy.

In our previous kitchen, we used brackets and shelves from IKEA and were very happy with how they looked and how sturdy they were. If you need a refresher, here is what that pretty mostly white kitchen looked like.

This house has a whole different feel and when updating the kitchen we decided to try a new look for us. Our long-term plan is to open up a wall, add more windows and reorient the kitchen to allow for a larger island and focal point range. In the meantime, we did a quick makeover knowing that we had to work with the existing gray tile floors, granite tile counters and lower cabinets. By removing the heavy uppers, it brought so much lightness and openness to the whole space. But, of course, losing all of that storage wouldn’t really function well, so we opted for four sections of open shelves (see the kitchen before + after here and a more recent follow-up post here).

Once we painted the lower cabinets a dark gray (Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams), we loved the idea of bringing warmth into the kitchen with natural wood shelves.

What I really wanted were very minimal, thick floating wood shelves. But I wanted them at a reasonable price (aka inexpensive) and sturdy enough to hold lots of weight and we just were not able to find a solution that worked.

So instead, we found thick reclaimed cedar boards from our local salvage yard and the most minimal brackets we could find.
Now, just to be fair, the wood was not exactly cheap. We could have gone much less expensive with pine boards from the lumber yard, but it felt special to use a nice wood and worth the little extra splurge (although definitely not as expensive as solid floating wood shelves would have been).

We searched and searched for every bracket option we could find. Remember, I wanted very minimal. So while there are countless great bracket options, most were more decorative than I was going for. Looking back, it sure would have made it so much easier if I would have just gone with something mass market :)

Thankfully, Ryan obliged his picky wife and came up with this solution (after a few different tries and fails).

These simple heavy-duty stainless steel angle brackets were our perfect, affordable solution.

Ryan securely screwed the brackets into studs with heavy-duty screws to make sure they were going to hold the shelves and contents.

On the long shelf that holds all of our everyday dishes (see below), he also added screws from the side panel of the cabinet that sits next to the fridge into the side of the shelf. This gave these shelves the extra support they needed without having to put an additional bracket in the center of the shelves (which I didn’t want because remember: very minimal).

The other sets of shelves that flank either side of the windows and sit over the desk area are smaller in both length and depth (9″ deep versus the dish shelves are 11″ deep) so just two brackets screwed into studs work fine to hold them.

The wood we chose is not the heaviest of all woods, but the solid thickness of 1.5″ keeps them from sagging in the center.

Even though we did not get floating shelves exactly, the brackets we ended up using almost disappear against the wall and give us sturdy shelves that can handle the weight of stacked dishes, glassware and serving pieces.

If you are on the hunt for shelf brackets, perhaps the angle brackets we used will work for you, but also don’t forget to look at the selection at World Market, Anthropologie, Rejuvenation and House Of Antique Hardware.

Let me know if you have any other questions about the shelves. I’m happy to answer!

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My husband loves all my throw pillows

I saw a funny meme the other day:

“Throw pillows are the stuffed animals of grown women.”

How true is that? I can’t quite understand it, but men just don’t seem to value pillows like us women do :)

I recently added a whole stack to our couch.

Ryan, of course, was super pleased.

This family room is our most used room in the house. We bought the sectional first thing when we moved in because we knew we wanted a big, cozy couch for all of us to pile on for reading, gathering, watching movies, football games, Survivor marathons and lately, anything and everything Olympics (see details about the couch and why we chose this particular one here).

I painted the walls and trim this past summer to clean it up a bit (read about that chore here).

Someday we’ll change out the floors to a warm hardwood and add beams and woodwork to the vaulted ceiling. We’ve thrown the idea of a wall of built-ins around and I’m on the hunt for a great piece of artwork to hang above the couch.

Those changes all sound great and I feel slightly impatient about making this room into what we know it can be, but this house is an act of patience. We’re not quite ready for those more time-intensive/cost-intensive decisions and so for now, it’s all about the little things I can do to make the room look cozy, welcoming and pretty.

The last time you saw this room, it looked like this:

You know I have a thing for neutrals with lots of black and white, but this room was feeling a little blah. Maybe even cold. I am so afraid of committing to a color because I know I’m such a seasonal color person (warm colors in the fall, green at Christmastime, peaches and pinks in the spring). But this room – the whole house, actually – is craving some color. Until we have the warmth that wood floors will bring, I need to put it in the house with color.

There was a design show on years ago where the host decorated the room based on favorite items from the owner’s closet. I always loved the premise and the rooms felt more personal to the owner than other design shows on at the time.

When I looked at the family room – with all its black, white and beige, it dawned on me that I should take a cue from our closets.

Everyone in our family looks best in blue. Ryan passed down his bright blue eyes to each of the kids any shade of blue makes their eyes stand out.

As for me, I basically wear jeans everyday so if I am to take inspiration from what I wear, blue is definitely the color of choice.

Since blue is a go-to for both me and the rest of the family, and is a color that feels neutral, one that looks great in our house (like in our bedroom and up in the studio last summer) and is well represented in all of our closets, I decided I can commit to it for the family room. At least for now :)

I saw this denim blue throw blanket on sale at Anthropologie a few weeks ago and that is what started things. (The blanket is unfortunately no longer available. The key, though, at least for me was finding something in the perfect shade to be the jumping off point).

Then I popped into a few stores (HomeGoods, Pier One and Target) to grab a few new pillows to pull together my new blue + neutral color scheme.

I ended up bringing home a couple of blue pillows, a few white, one taupy brown and a woven stripe with a hint of blue. I wasn’t planning on keeping all of them, but once I put them on the couch and mixed in a few pillows that I already had, I actually liked the combination.

I mean, yes, the amount of pillows on the couch might be slightly excessive. But it’s a huge couch that is super deep and can handle loads of them. You actually do need a pillow or two behind you if you want to sit up straight (at least that’s how I justify it).

As I look at all these pictures, what I’m realizing is that I have a thing for texture. Every single pillow has some sort of interesting texture – stripe, woven, chunky, pom poms, faux fur, geometric.

We also switched out the tufted ottomans for our old wood coffee table and I think it helps add depth to the room.

And of course, no room of mine would be complete without fresh greenery :)

This iteration of the family room feels good. Fresh, light, happy.

And while Ryan and the boys have yet to come on board with my pillow-affection, Audrey seems to appreciate them :)


couch | rug | coffee table (similar) | floor lamp | curtains

pillows on couch from left to right:

woven stripe | stripe pom (no longer available) | woven chevron | white pom | blue geometric | faux fur | basketweave pom | mohair stripe | leather (hidden but wonderful!)

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A few more updates in the kitchen

One year ago (almost to the day!) I shared our MINI KITCHEN MAKEOVER.

You’ve probably heard me say this a million times, but I’ll say it again: our big plan is to tear out the whole kitchen and dining room and reorient everything. New walls, new windows, new doors, new layout, new cabinets, new floors, new counters. Whew. New everything.

But … we’re not quite ready to do that.

So, in the meantime, we gave the kitchen a facelift.

Truthfully, it’s not my dream kitchen. But also? It’s not bad at all. In fact, it’s making us rethink our big kitchen remodel plans.

Over the weekend, I was thinking about our kitchen and about how while it is not perfect, it feels much more in line with our style. We spent about $1000 updating it and truly, the before and afters are impressive (if I do say so myself).

Which then got me thinking that there are probably a lot of you, my favorite blog readers, who have a kitchen that drives you crazy. I’m sure you’d love to tear the whole thing out and start all over, but perhaps like us, you don’t quite have the budget or bandwidth to take on that project in the near future.

So, do you just keep living with a dated kitchen until you can redo the whole thing? Or is it better to spend a little bit of time and money to make it more your style now?

You know which option I prefer. This whole house has been an exercise in phase one makeovers. And what we’re finding is that those phase one makeovers not only transform our spaces into more stylish rooms, but also make us enjoy living and gathering in our home.

So I’m fully embracing the mini makeovers.

I put together a guide that shares six things you can do to your kitchen without tearing the whole thing out and I hope it will be helpful resource and an encouragement to think about what you can do with your kitchen rather than waiting until you can just start over from scratch. Get the guide RIGHT HERE, or keep scrolling down to the bottom for details.

Since our initial mini makeover, we’ve made a few new updates to the kitchen that I wanted to share. Styling my house and taking pictures is such a fun, creative thing for me, so any excuse I have to play stylist, I take it :)


In our frenzy to finally clear out the dining room of all the random excess that has been stored in there for the past year, we had to decide what to do with this large, beloved chalkboard. We bought it at our local salvage yard in Seattle over 12 years ago. It moved to many different locations in our last house (here it is in the old playroom) and we never could find a good place for it in this house.

This wall in the kitchen eating space is literally the only wall where it would fit (or make sense to hang it) in the house. I was hesitant to put it in here because the kitchen is already so dark that I wasn’t sure how adding another large black item would feel.

But I actually really do like it. Especially with the worn wood of the old church pew. It was really pretty at Christmas time, too, with fresh garland and sweet messages written on it (see it here).


This was a really boring, but very necessary update: a new dishwasher.

The dishwasher that came with the house was old, loud and did not get the dishes clean. Our son, Mason, even took to using paper cups because he was so grossed out by the tiny flakes of who-knows-what that were baked on to the glassware in the dishwasher. Our children literally cheered when we told them we ordered a new dishwasher :)

We ordered this one and could not be happier. It is the kind with the top pull-out tray for silverware and I even like that part. It is quiet, efficient and gets our dishes clean.

Sometimes boring updates are especially necessary and wonderful.

P.S. Ryan is a big fan of this website called Wirecutter for finding the best appliances, electronics, home products, etc. That’s how we decided what dishwasher to go with.


Right before Christmas, Ryan suggested that we use the extra pieces of wood leftover from the kitchen shelves to add two more in the desk area. Why did we not put these up right from the start? I do not know. It helps tie that spot in with the rest of the kitchen.

And it gives me more space to store and style.

The biggest update I’m just dying to do is replace the floors. We will tear up all of the floors on the mainfloor and make it all consistent. We currently have wood in the entry, white carpet in the living and dining rooms, dark tile in the kitchen, bathroom and mudroom and a different carpet in the family room and front office. It feels very hodge-podge. And dark.

Floors are expensive, so half of our delay is just needing to save up before taking the plunge. But also, we don’t want to replace the floors until we know for sure what we’re doing with the kitchen and dining room. If we take out the wall between the kitchen and dining room and change the layout of the kitchen, it makes the most sense to do all of that at the same time.

And so, we wait.

But I couldn’t resist playing around with what the kitchen would look like with new floors. Thankfully, the power of photoshop let me magically give our kitchen warm wood floors.

Isn’t that fun? I think the whole house will feel so much brighter and warmer with the addition of wood.

If you’re looking for ways you can update your kitchen, I put together a guide for you.
If your kitchen is feeling dated and doesn’t reflect your style (but you are not quite ready for a full remodel), I have six suggestions for how you can make those updates without spending a fortune.

Click the image (or RIGHT HERE) to get the guide! I hope it will be extra helpful to you as you think about updating your kitchen.

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Dark + Woodsy Dining Room Makeover

Right before Christmas, we decided to give our dining room a makeover.

It wasn’t really on our immediate house-reno list since our ultimate plan is to take out the wall between the dining room and kitchen to open up the space and reconfigure the floorplan. However, we were hosting all of our family for Christmas and figured a little paint on the doors and trim would go a long way in making the room feel slightly more up to date.

What started as two coats of paint turned into more paint and wallpaper and a new light fixture … and we’re so excited about how it turned out.

Let’s start with a before tour.

Here’s how the room looked in the real estate photos:

And the view from the living room on the day we closed on the house.

The bottom of the walls are bead board, the top was wallpapered in a sage-y green small leaf print with a border around the perimeter. I pulled the border off right when we moved in and the rest remained and basically became the dumping ground for all the things we didn’t know where to put.

Just to be clear: except for last Christmas for a brief moment, the dining room either looked like a version of the above photo or the below photo for the entire year we’ve lived here. We don’t really need a dining room and so it just stored all our extra junk and gave the kids a place to work on their cardboard + duct tape creations.

A week before Christmas, we decided to at least just paint out the doors and window trim white to match the rest of the trim. I used a coat of primer and two coats of our white trim paint we used in the studio and upstairs.

It didn’t take long and while it was definitely an improvement, that wallpaper still bugged us.

Then Ryan had a brilliant idea. I ordered a few rolls of this woods wallpaper last year for our son’s room (see his design board here) that we had not used yet. We decided to steal it and use in in here to cover over the old paper (Ethan was kind to oblige).

This was my first time installing real wallpaper (I’ve done removable a few times – here and here). After a few minutes of google-searching, I decided to try the paint-the-paste-on-the-wall method.

The install went surprisingly smoothly. I started in the left corner, cut a strip to size (plus a few inches), painted the wallpaper paste directly on the wall over the old wallpaper and then placed the new wallpaper. This particular pattern was fairly easy to match and the seams are nearly invisible.

We had just enough paper to do all four walls and loved how it looked in the room.

Except for one thing. 

The white trim did not look right. It was a creamier white than the background of the paper and the whole room ended up looking cheap and somehow off.

We keep trying to make this house light and bright and cottagy and it just doesn’t want to be. It wants to be rich and moody and handsome.

So new trim paint it was.

We’ve used this same color (Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams) all over the downstairs – the kitchen cabinets, trim and interior doors – and it instantly felt right in the dining room.

So what started as just a quick coat or two of white paint turned into several days of a dining room makeover just days before hosting 31 people and 5 dogs for Christmas :)

But, oh my goodness, didn’t it turn out so good?!

We moved the dining table and benches down from the studio (see it up there here) so we could seat our family for Christmas and we’ll just leave it down here from now on.

That crystal chandelier came from our first house we bought in West Seattle. It probably wasn’t original to our 1920’s craftsman but we’re guessing it was put in in the 50’s or 60’s. When we sold that house, we took the chandelier with us as a memento and moved it around in it our last house (seen in the old house’s dining room and master bedroom).

We weren’t sure it was right for this room – we were thinking something a bit more brass and modern – but since we had it in the garage, we figured we would give it a try. I removed the linen shades and replaced the clear bulbs with opaque white bulbs and now it feels just right for this room.

What I love the most about this makeover is how I no longer hate looking into the dining room from the living room and kitchen!

The makeover took a few days and just the cost of paint and wallpaper paste (since we already had the wallpaper, chandelier and furniture).

Someday we’ll pull up that carpet and put in hardwood floors throughout the downstairs and I can’t wait to see how these rooms look with natural wood grounding them. #someday #soonish #ihope

Also? Now that the dining room is updated and no longer a dumping ground for all our stuff, we’re feeling so much less urgent to tear out the wall and reconfigure the kitchen/dining room. Amazing what a little paint, paper and a few days worth of work will do!

Just for fun, here’s a side-by-side before and after:


wallpaper | table – old from Restoration Hardware | benches | bar cart | bay leaf wreath | wood tray (similar) | cake plate

Trim Color: Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams

Living Room Wall Color: Ancestral by Behr

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Christmas in the entry and living room

One year ago, we were mid- one million projects around the house. On Christmas Eve, we finally hung the shelves in the freshly made-over kitchen and my parents were so gracious to come help us clean and hide moving boxes in preparation for our family to come the next day.

This year, we’re hosting our family again for Christmas and it feels a little less frantic on the project front. We love having everyone here and also enjoy how having parties means we’re motivated to get the house looking its best.

There are still plenty of big projects we’d like to do in the house – and at some point we’ll get to them – but for now, it feels good to have furniture and art in place and a few christmas decorations making the house look festive.

You’ve already seen the studio decorated for Christmas (or if not, click here), a few shots of the kitchen and a little bit of the family room. Today I’m showing the entry and living rooms and in the next few days I’ll try to take advantage of our sunny weather and snap a few more photos around the house.

In the entry, we moved a few things around and finally found a place for our old theater seats. We bought these years and years ago at a local salvage yard (they came from a Seattle high school). Hanging above is my favorite canvas from Lindsay Letters of the Doxology. Ryan’s grandma always prefers the sing the Doxology at family gatherings, and while it is always just a little too high for me to sing along to, I love the song, the words and the memories.

I put up fresh cedar garland on the painted stair railing and popped in a few branches of boxwood cut from our yard. It looks so pretty … and makes such a mess. But it’s worth the daily vacuuming :)

Let’s move into the living room.

We painted the walls dark blue/green/gray (Ancestral by Behr paint) and it sets a nice moody tone in here. Earlier this year I painted the fireplace tile surround (here’s the full tutorial) and still smile every time I walk by the room. It adds a graphic, modern touch to a pretty traditional and fancy room. And it sure looks pretty with garland and stockings.

couch | coffee table (similar) | rug | side table | lamps (similar) | curtain rods | curtains

On the coffee table are a few Christmas favorites.

The brass nativity set is from Potterybarn (no longer available) and sits on a vintage tray with faux snow. Was it snowy during Jesus’ birth? Doubtful, but it sure looks pretty :)

Also on the table is a bowl of my delicious sea salt caramels (make them!) wrapped in natural parchment, which makes them look particularly fancy. And then a vase filled with winter greens leftover from my wreath-making moment. I think this is my new favorite winter ‘flower’ arrangement.

wood tray (similar) | noel pillow (similar) | wool stripe pillow | floral pillow | dot pillow

And saving my favorite picture for last:

The garland only looks this fresh and green for a day or two, but I sure love it!

Now off to deck more of our halls …


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

Rug | Sofa | Coffee Table (similar) | Floor Lamps (similar) | Throw Blanket Ikat Pillow | Curtains | Curtain Rods | Curtain Rings | Wood Tray (similar) | Noel Pillow (similar) | Wool Stripe Pillow | Floral Pillow | Dot Pillow | Canvas | Ceiling Light

Living Room Reveal

DIY Painted Fireplace Tile

Painting the Trim in the Entry

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Homemade wreaths in the family room

I posted this photo on Instagram yesterday of the project I did the night before:

Cute homemade wreaths hanging on a branch.

I wasn’t planning on doing a full tutorial – this one was just something I wanted to put on that big, blank wall over the couch to enjoy for the Christmas season.

But once the comments and likes came through (my second most liked photo of all time – this one is #1, and rightfully so), I realized that maybe details would be appreciated in case you want to try this wreath project in your home.

This one is not particularly difficult, but it is a little labor-intensive. Making wreaths is not the fastest thing and it chews up your hands a bit, so be warned :) I started my wreath-making around 4pm once the kids got home from school, spread it all out in the family room with holiday baking shows on in the background. After a quick stop to make dinner and then again to tuck the kids in bed, I was finally finished and hung everything up around 9:30 pm. So give yourself a solid couple of hours to finish this one.

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own wreath display:

embroidery hoops in various sizes | floral wire | greenery | scissors | string

Typically, wreaths are made on wire frames, but when I went to the craft store to buy a few, I didn’t see the options I wanted for size. I just figured I would make my own with wire hangers … until I saw the embroidery hoops and realized they would make the perfect wreath forms.

They come in many different sizes (I bought a large, medium, small and extra small for variety). Besides being quite inexpensive ($1.50-$3.50 each), you actually get two wreaths out of each hoop when you separate them. And, I like that even if the wood of the hoop shows through when finished, it feels more natural than a wire frame would.

Okay, onto the greenery.

I used four different types – cedar, boxwood, pine and olive. I clipped the pine and a few branches of cedar from our yard and the others I bought at the wholesale flower market. Sometimes you can find greens at the grocery store or you could try a local florist.

You could mix the greens for each wreath, or keep them separate, as I did. I do like how each type of greenery has a distinct leaf shape that is really highlighted when on its own.

To make the wreath, gather small clippings of the greenery and wire to the form, overlapping as you move around to hide the stems and wire.

Here’s a good wreath-making how-to from Martha Stewart, if you need better instructions :)

In total, I made seven wreaths – two out of cedar, two boxwood, two olive and one pine.

To hang my wreaths, I used a stick I have been saving. I think it came from our yard and maybe the boys were playing with it outside and they left it on the patio. It was a great shape and size and so I peeled off the outer layer of bark and have been hiding it away waiting for the perfect use. This is it!

I simply wrapped each end with a piece of thin macrame rope (from here) and hung from a nail in the wall.

Next, I tied on each wreath at random lengths with plain bakers twine (similar to this). I like the organic and imperfect detail the strings and knots give to the whole arrangement.

And now our family room feels so much more festive.

I hope this little how-I-made-it was helpful!

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Jingle Bell Garland DIY + Christmas Studio

While I haven’t done a full house Christmas decoration yet, I did play around in the studio to make it all cheerful and Christmas-y.

The studio space sits atop our garage and is where I work most days. It is bright and open and has turned out to be such a good use of this previously unfinished space.

To catch you up on the progress of this room, this is the before and after reveal, here is my initial design plan, this post explains how we built the desks, see the studio decorated for spring here, summer here and fall right here.

This room sure makes me happy. I was just sitting up here yesterday thinking to myself how grateful I am to have such a pretty space to work and play in.

My favorite way to decorate is to start with a super neutral foundation and add in accessories, art and textiles that work for the season. It allows me to switch things up every few months and play around with styling, which is one of my most enjoyable pastimes.

One little project I did to add a Christmas touch was make this jingle bell garland.

While walking through Target I came across these oversize jingle bells labeled ‘vase filler’. Instead of the intended purpose, I decided to string them up for a simple garland to hang across the studio window.

Here’s how I made it, should you want to give this one a try:

To make this garland, you’ll need jingle bells (they also come in silver), heavy string and scissors.

Start by cutting a piece of string about 1.5 times as long as your desired finished length. You’ll be knotting at each bell, so you’ll just want enough excess length to account for the knots.

Thread your string through the top bell opening and add a knot to hold it in place.

If your string starts to unravel, give this tried-and-true scotch tape around the end trick a try.

Keep adding on the bells, spacing evenly, until you get to the end of your string.

Then hang it up – I just pressed thumbtacks into the wall at the corner of the window and looped the strong over to hold in place – step back and enjoy.

Isn’t it cute?! And so simple.

floating shelves | white trees (similar) | green trees | joy art print | brass frame (similar) | linen file box | brass bell

On my computer side of the desk, I kept it neutral with black and white and mixed metals and little sprigs of greenery.

The globe up at the tippy top is one I found at a thrift store, added a coat of chalkboard paint and lettered the word ‘peace’ on it with a chalk marker (like this).

chair (similar) | lamp | tree (similar)| linen files | floral notebooks | stapler | blanket

 bench | rug | blanket

I am a collector of wrapping paper and ribbon and gift tags (I know, call me crazy). This year, I’ll do most of our wrapping up here so it’s nice to have all the supplies out and at the ready. It seems like every year I wrap so last minute and then don’t get to enjoy the pretty packages under the tree. I’m hoping that by having everything out up in the studio, I’ll wrap much earlier.

Also? I haven’t started our Christmas cards yet.

We took this photo last weekend that could be a contender, or I’ll try to get one at The Nutcracker next week with the kids to use.

Our cards from last year were just a simple drawing I did of our new house and I kept a handful because they are just so sweet.

Okay, that’s all for the studio. I’m hoping to take some time this week to put up decorations in the house and I’ll be sure to share a tour when it’s finished.

How are you doing with decorating? Is your tree up? Or do you wait until it is actually December to start? Let’s chat in the comments …

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there is always, always something to be grateful for

Last year I was invited to participate in an event at our local Room + Board to makeover a section of the store with a holiday theme. I was so happy with how my room turned out and realized last night that I never shared it with you!

Each of us designers chose a different look – a few did Christmas, another did New Year’s Eve and for my space, I decided to embrace the warmth of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving gets overshadowed by Christmas – I’m raising my hand this year on this one, too – but it is such a special holiday. Before we falala our way through December, we get a chance to pause collectively and give thanks.

On the wall of my space, I added a quote that I just love:

There is always, always something to be grateful for.

So before I jump into Christmas projects and gift lists and art and decorating inspiration (all coming soon!), let’s take a few minutes to talk about my Thanksgiving-inspired space.

Here is what the space in the store looked like before I got my hands on it:

It’s a furniture store, so obviously each grouping highlights the furniture. My job was to make the space look less like a furniture store and allow shoppers to imagine what the space (and products) could look like in a real life scenario.

I loved the clean lines of the furniture and the detail of the wood-clad wall. It all felt a little more ‘bachelor pad’ than my more girly style so I was excited to add an Emily touch.

After a whirlwind install, here’s how my space turned out:

And a view from the side before:

And after:

By adding in lots of accessories, a little bit of color in the throws and pillows and fresh flowers and greenery, I think I made the space feel like such a pretty place for an evening gathering.

That big back wall felt like a great place to add that Thanksgiving quote to keep us all mindful of having a grateful heart.

To make the quote, I used pre-cut letters from the Target dollar section stuck to the wall with poster putty (like this). Under the quote was a picture ledge that I treated like a mantle and added a bunch of fresh greens.

That wood fireplace wall had me stumped for a while. I wanted it to be a focal point, but in a subtle way.

I ended up finding these minimal wall-mounted tea light holders and randomly nailed in 30 of them. The glow of the candlelight was so pretty all evening!

It was a fun event and pushed me creatively, which I am grateful for.

Also? When I look at this picture, what I see is one tired mama. We had just moved, I was working on several big work projects, and was at the absolute peak of iron-deficiency. My mom came out to the event to see my space and she left feeling worried about her girl. This was the catalyst for me slowing down this year and taking time to take care of myself. For that, I am especially grateful :)

Since we’re talking about gratitude, can I just say that I am so thankful for you, my reader-friends. What a joy it is to connect with you (even if strangely over the internet).

What’s at the top of your gratitude list this year? I’d love to hear!

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A DIY pillow inspired by the new Magnolia Hearth + Hand line

Oh, new Magnolia Hearth + Hand line at Target, you are adorable.

I ordered a few things this weekend and while I was in the store earlier this week, I saw the whole collection (or at least what was left of it in my store) in person.

One of the items I almost bought was this cute embroidered pillow.

If you know anything about me, you know I have a sliiiight obsession with pillows. I’ve tempered my pillow-collecting habits a lot since moving, but still, a good pillow has the ridiculous ability to make me put it in my cart.

This sweet embroidered pillow almost found it’s way into my cart, but then I had second (rational) thoughts.

First, I don’t need another pillow.

Second, if I do add more pillows to my life, I strongly prefer down-filled inserts. Pillows from Target do not have down inserts and they do not have zippers to replace the inserts. Therefore, I have to cut the opening, pull out the old insert, add a down insert and stitch it back up. I’ve done it plenty of times before, but it’s kind of a pain.

And third, I knew I could DIY this one very easily with things I already had at home.

So cute Hearth + Hand pillow did not come home with me, but yesterday – in just about an hour – I recreated my own version and I love it just as much.

If you’re feeling crafty, this is a great, very simple project to try.

Here’s what you’ll need:

white pillow cover | down insert | black embroidery thread | embroidery needle | scissors | ruler | pencil

I happened to have a white linen-like cover from IKEA and figured it would work perfectly for this project. I usually get my down inserts from IKEA as well, as they are very inexpensive.

Okay, on to how I embroidered the pillow …

STEP ONE: mark out where your X’s will be

I started by putting my ruler diagonally from the bottom left corner up to the top right corner and marking every 3 inches.

From that mark, I measured over 4 inches and made another mark. Then used that second mark as a guide for where the next diagonal line would be.

Here’s a illustration to help explain what I mean:

You could put your marks wherever you like, of course. Mine are not perfectly equal, but that doesn’t bother me.

STEP TWO: thread the needle and knot the end

STEP THREE: Embroider an X

At a mark, make a stitch going up from under the pillow cover and over diagonally about a 1/4″. I just eyeballed the stitches to make them about equal.

STEP FOUR: tie off the thread

You’ll want to trim the ends of the knots pretty closely so that they do not show through the right side of the pillow cover.

Once you embroider all of your X’s, you’ll have this cute pillow.

I added the down insert, zipped up the bottom and my project was complete.

This pillow was a super easy project and gives that same cute look as the Hearth + Hand version.

You could try this with any color combination of pillow cover and thread. Black cover with white x’s? Green and white for Christmas? Shades of pink for your daughter’s room? So many possibilities.

I’m pretty proud of myself for resisting the store-bought pillow and using what I had at home to create my own version. Hope you are inspired to make one of your own, too!


chair (similar) | check blanket | side table (similar) | mug

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fall-ing up the front porch (but don’t get your hopes up too high)

You know those gorgeous front porches decorated for fall with cascading pumpkins and overflowing flower pots? (Maybe something like this?)

Yeah, if you came over to our house, you wouldn’t see one of those.

What you would see is my half-hearted attempt to bring life to our charming, yet totally dated front porch.

Let me pull back a little bit so you can see the whole thing:

I mean, how adorable is this house?!

I fell in love instantly with the cottage-y dormers and deep porch. The way the house is positioned on the lot means we usually enter through the back of the house, but guests do come to the front and this summer we spent a surprising amount of time sitting out on the porch.

There are some out-of-place details that need to be fixed … like the front door, the ornate (and oddly oversized) trim around the door, the light fixtures and rounded windows. The floor and steps need a new coat of paint and the posts are trimmed out awkwardly.

None of these things deterred us from buying the house, but here I am one year later and I’m itching to give the front of the house a makeover!

Until then, I’m making the most of it with fall flowers from my favorite local market:

Here’s a helpful hack – I bought a pre-made planter and just popped it right into my terra cotta pot.

I pulled out a couple of fall-toned pillows for the porch swing:

And added another pot of trailing greenery and deep red pansies between the rocking chairs.

This year, that’s the best I can do to add a hint of fall to the front porch. Maybe next year I’ll go all out with the pumpkins :)

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7 decorating essentials to have in every room

I have been a lifelong lover of home decorating. I remember watching decorating shows with my mom as a little girl, visiting our local Street of Dreams, studying my favorite rooms in old issues of House Beautiful, Country Living, Better Homes + Gardens, Blueprint and (my personal favorite) Cottage Living. I’ve learned from my mom, my sisters, my aunts, and mother-in-law what it means to create a welcoming, beautiful, personal home.

As I have grown and had the chance to decorate our own homes – first a little apartment, then a tiny falling-down bungalow, then a suburban builder-grade and now a big home in the woods – I’ve become more practiced and confident in my own style.

One of my biggest decorating discoveries is that there are a handful of elements that every room needs in order to feel cohesive, balanced and complete.

On my list:

a neutral foundation, texture, mixed patterns, a touch of black, natural wood tones, something personal, fresh greenery

I’m sure you’re not shocked about any of these things, but it is the combination that brings the magic.

Here are a few examples:

Remember our pretty kitchen from the old house? I just love how it was so light and bright, but still had personality, texture and some natural elements.

Our new kitchen has a different, more masculine feel, but has all of the same elements I adore:

You can see each essential element in the living room of our new house as well. That tufted couch is the perfect foundation, the wood of the coffee table and woven tray add warmth and an interesting mix of pattern. The buffalo skull was one of the few things we brought back with us from our family road trip. It gives the perfect little personal touch.

Okay, one more. This is just the bedside setup I have going on my side of the bed. We don’t have a bed frame and haven’t done much in our room since painting the walls and replacing the carpet, but I wanted to show you that it doesn’t even have to be the whole room that is finished and cohesive to incorporate these seven decorating essentials. What makes me love the bedside arrangement is that each one is represented:

I created a video for you that explains each element with many examples of how you can incorporate each one into your room. Enjoy!

SIMPLIFIED DECORATING is open for registration for a limited time.


(This lesson is an excerpt from the online class. The worksheet mentioned in the video is included when you join!)

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Put a bird on it … an inexpensive art option

I know birds might be a little cliche, but I actually really do like them. I am always drawn to art with birds, fabric with birds (especially this!), these chairs – oh how I want them in my house, and even clothes (like this dress for me and this adorable sweater for Audrey).

Years and years ago I came across a coffee table book filled with delightful illustrations of – you guessed it – birds.

Instead of using the book for its intended purpose, I promptly sliced the pages out to use as art. Long ago, I pasted them all up on the wall above our piano (It’s so fun to look back at old blog posts. These were taken way before the need for good photos … just me being creative sharing it with early blog readers. It’s fun to see how much my style has changed, too).

I have held on to that stack of bird illustration and continue to reach for them when I’m in need of art.

The swift print has been a mainstay around my house for a while. You’ve seen it in the entry.

You’ve seen it in the spring studio.

And again in the studio styled out for the summer.

When I was adding a fall touch to the studio, I went back into that stack of bird prints and found the perfect more muted fall-toned bird.

I just popped it into the same vintage frame (with faded mat – my favorite part!) and looks so great with my pumpkin painting.

In the Birds book, there are 46 different illustrations to choose from. Here are a few more of my favorites:

Aren’t those great? I do think a wall with a bunch of them framed would be charming, or just pick and choose the bird that makes you happy. That rook up there would be cute for Halloween, the snowy owl for Christmas and heron (bottom left) is fun for summer.

I know finding art that is affordable can be tricky so hopefully this resource will help!

SIMPLIFIED DECORATING is open for registration

I wish I could come to each one of your homes to help you pick a paint color or rearrange your furniture or shop for pillows, but since I can’t (you know, 4 kids and dinner to make and a blog to keep up and all) I have put all of my best decorating tips and suggestions and resources together in an online class called SIMPLIFIED DECORATING.

Learn how to identify your personal decorating style, figure out what items work best with your style (so you don’t buy the wrong things!), create a design board to see how everything will work together and learn my approach for layering a room to make it comfortable and welcoming. All of the videos are fun to watch, with tons of visual examples and you can move through at your own pace.

It’s basically what I would do if we were working on your home together in real life :)

Registration is open for a limited time. I can’t wait to see you in class!

Sign up today

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