Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dabbling in Decorating

OK, OK, so I haven't been great about following up on my series of "Holiday Gift Ideas" posts (the first, and only to date, post can be found here). I've been collecting ideas on my toughest Christmas shopping challenge - gifts for guys - and I hope to share that soon. But in the meantime, I thought I'd update you on a few home improvement projects we've recently done, and in the process, share at least one gift idea.

The pictures I'm about to show you fall under the "making the house look prettier" category. I'm not going to bore you with pictures of our new furnace and air conditioner, the new basement carpet, or the new windows in the kids' bedrooms. Even though *I* think they do wonders for the house (and better make some kind of difference when we sell this thing, whenever that may be), I realize they don't make for the most interesting blog material. Instead, I'll show you what we've done in our dining room area since we moved the kids' toys down to the basement (pictures of the new playroom are here and here).

First, I'll try to give you an idea of what the "Before" looked like - difficult, because this whole effort has taken place very gradually over the last 3 months. Also difficult because I never actually thought to take any official "Before" photos. I dug through my photo archives find pictures that sort of displayed the area, but they are definitely not perfect.

Our living room and dining room are actually one big room. A set of built-ins abutting a bump out/post-thing demarcates the end of the living room and the start of the dining room. The ceiling in the dining room is your typical 12-foot ceiling, but in the living room, the ceiling is lofted and rises probably 20 feet high. Because of this, we haven't attempted to do any painting - it's way too high/too much space to paint the whole thing, and because of the open floor plan, there wasn't a way to paint just one part of the space (we would then be faced with the "where do we stop" dilemma). Thus the whole area is a sea of off-white blandness.

Here are the built-ins in the living room "Before" (although this is after our yard sale, so I had already cleared a lot of the trinkets that used to sit on these shelves out - trust me, they were much, much more cluttered at one time).

The picture with the black picture frame is hanging on the bump-out/post thing, and to the left of that is the dining room (out of view).

This is the dining room without any furniture in it, the way it looked after we sold our dining room set at our yard sale and cleared all the kids' stuff out:

The doorway and cut out lead to the kitchen, and the stairs in the bottom picture lead down to the basement.

This is what our dining room table looked like, the one we sold:

We sold it because it wasn't meeting our needs anymore - too small, too rickety, etc. This is how crowded it looked when we had only two dinner guests - and THAT was when Lucy was still sitting in a high chair (Hi Jen! Hi Daniel! Sorry for the crappy quality of this photo!):

OK, here's what everything looks like now. We painted one wall in the dining room and the inside of the built-ins a bold color to break up all the overwhelming off-whiteness. My inspiration for painting the built-ins came from a project over on Young House Love. Ours doesn't look quite as stylish (and it's also not 100% finished, as you can see from the empty upper shelves and a few spots that need to be filled in a bit). But I'm pretty happy with it! Much credit goes to my mom, who helped me shop for and display some of the accessories that are on the shelves.

Here is the space after painting, but before accessorizing:

And here are the built-ins now:

I especially like my new owl picture (from Target) and the off-white wooden @ sign (TJ Maxx).

We have a new server to house our wedding china, which my parents were kind enough to haul around on their latest vacation so they could deliver it to us, 8 years after we received it. I love the server, I think it looks great, but the top of it already seems to be slated as the newest "miscellaneous crap goes here" spot. I'll have to try to do something about that, I suppose.

Up-close view

Wide angle

We actually ordered the table that matches the server from Target. Unfortunately, it arrived at our house broken, and it was such a pain in the ass to return it (mail return only, super heavy, unhelpful customer service, etc) that we decided not to try again/re-order it. We instead decided to use the extra dining room table we've always had. It's a drop leaf table, so it's been tucked away in our kitchen with the leaves down, mainly used as a place to hold my stand mixer and a couple other awkward kitchen items. The table is old, scratched, watermarked, and rickety, but with a few placemats and/or a table cloth, none of that is noticeable. Also, it seats 6 people, so it gives us more table space to work with. We purchased some simple, cheap chairs from Target (in person, at the store) to go around the table, and it has been working out pretty well. It's not a long term solution, as the table is less stable than we'd like it to be, but it's fine for now.

I hung up two ceramic bird pictures painted by my great-grandmother by the window, our prime bird watching spot in the house since it overlooks the woods. I love having them there, as it makes me think both of my great grandmother, who I remember, as well as my wonderful Papa (and Mimi) who gave them to me.

And the final touch, just completed this past week:

A sunburst mirror, framed on either side by wonderful canvas-printed photos of each of our kids. These canvases are the "holiday gift idea" I wanted to mention. They are GREAT! We got them from Canvas on Demand - I found a Groupon deal for something like 65% off. Each canvas was only $45, shipping included. They are 16" X 20", so definitely large enough to make a statement. The Groupon deal is not uncommon, I've seen it a few times, and there are typically other deals you can find, too, even if the Groupon isn't being offered. Of course, the canvases are only as good as the photo you send in, and for that I have to send out a huge thank you to Julie Blum for the wonderful, wonderful photos she took of us. We were so lucky to spend a morning with her and get those photos!

If you do decide to get a canvas done for a loved one's holiday gift, just note that Canvas on Demand is EXTREMELY popular right now - it will probably take about 3 weeks to get them printed and shipped out. I know other places offer a similar service (including Costco, apparently), but I can't speak to their quality. I can safely and highly recommend Canvas on Demand, though.

There are a couple of other details (moved the rug from our former office up and stuck it under the dining table, bought two extra fabric dining chairs), but basically, that's it - our big "Take Back Our Dining Room From the Kids" remodel, completed!

And finally, just another quick little decorating update to show you, this one in Lucy's bedroom. Lucy still sleeps in her crib, for now. We'll probably change that in the Spring when she turns 3, because she is starting to look ridiculously large lying in that crib. But we did get rid of her changing table, since it hadn't been used in over a year. To fill the space and provide a place for non-closet-appropriate clothing like socks and underwear, I found this adorable little table at TJ Maxx that Grammy immediately insisted she buy for me (erm, Lucy). I am not normally into shabby chic that much, but I must admit that I have a bit of a crush on this table. Its aqua color (the color in the picture doesn't do it justice - it's more aqua than it looks below) perfectly complements Lucy's hot pink curtains, and it's just so fun and girly!

In addition, my mom insisted on buying some decals for Lucy's walls that we found at Kohls. Since they have perfectly coordinating colors and have plenty of owls and birds, I heartily approved. Aren't these adorable?

Lucy, per usual, was not a willing participant in these photos, but she does love the new "big girl" touches in her bedroom, all appearances aside:

That's it for now. New gift post... soon-ish? Tomorrow?


  1. Wow WOW WOW, the room looks fabulous! And I love the bird paintings. Well done, A!

  2. Looks fantastic...especially the built-ins! Isn't it fun to recreate a space? It changes the whole aura!!

  3. Looks great! I am jealous of your motivation because I think the last home improvement (deocrating) project we did was like 3 years ago.

  4. Allison, amazing job. Please looks like it was one of those Home and Garden Network redecorate shows!