Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Week of (Nearly) Zero Dollar Decorating: the Family Room

Yesterday I showed you the big switcharoo we did with the living room.  All the toys came out, and in went some of the furniture from the family room, like the red leather chair, the Expedit, and the two leather cube ottomans.

All the toys went into the family room.  The family room does not look very different.  It went from this:

to this:

The silver mirror and the toys in their cube storage moved into the family room.  This is working out nicely, as we all like to hang out in here.  

The toy kitchen also moved in here, along with some art the Mister and I bought on our first vacation together in Montreal twelve years ago.  

George the cardboard steer moved from the spot over the tv to the far wall between the painting and the curtains.  

Nothing says young and hip like faux wood grain elasticized oilcloth tablecloths. Also, why do all my pictures look crooked?  Its like I have a peg leg. 
Inspired by Centsational Girl's lego table, I made a lego table for the boys.  Kate used the 30 inch square Ikea Lack table with nine Lego plates; I went for the cheaper version and used the 35 inch rectangular table ($20) because it would only need six plates ($30).  Mine doesn't look as nice but it still works.  We put the legos in cheap tupperware bins from Target.  I tried to get the boys to sort the bins into colors but that suggestion was met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm.  

This was not exactly zero dollar decorating, but it was the only item I bought for the room, and the boys LOVE it.  Totally worth it.  The only issue is that the brightly patterned persian rug is fabulous at hiding stray pieces of sharp pointy legos for unwary feet to step on.  

I realize that it is much easier to do zero dollar decorating when you have amassed a large collection of curtains and furniture and other decorative items that you are hoarding in the attic.  Its not like I am showing you how to decorate an entire room from scratch using only twigs and belly button lint.  My challenge to myself for the past few weeks has been to figure out the best use for the spaces in our home, and to accomplish the decorating of those rooms using what we already own. 

I have absolutely no idea why my header has disappeared.  Or how to fix it.  Do you? 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Week of (Nearly) Zero Dollar Decorating: Rearranging All The Rooms

I have been very busy in the last week. I've been decorating and rearranging, mainly with things already owned.  This week I hope to show you all the little (and enormous) projects I've been working on.  I'll start with the enormous project of switching the living room and family rooms I did this weekend, along with a story about fish.

For the last few years, we have had a loosely enforced "one hour a day" television viewing rule (usually from 6 to 7 pm).  Although we started with one hour a day, we had gotten lazy and the tv viewing had ramped up to a level that was far too high.  My children also would get up early in the morning and watch tv, and then fight over who got to pick what they were watching, and there was much drama about the tv, and I began to get Really Annoyed about the tv situation. (This is starting to sound like a Berenstain Bears book. Keep reading, it gets even more preachy with a pat ending.)  

 A few weeks ago, one of my children not only snuck off to watch television while it was expressly forbidden, but also ate a snack on the sofa while watching tv, in contravention of the "eat only at the table" rule.  The snack was a can of anchovies.  As far as I can surmise, child dropped the open can of oily anchovies over half the sofa, then covered up the mess by firmly squashing two other sofa cushions on top of it, hid the can behind the drapes, and ran away.  

I came into the playroom and noticed a suspicious brown lump on the floor.  It has (thankfully) been a long time since I have encountered a suspicious brown lump on my floor, and I approached it with trepidation.  I got down on my hands and knees, identified the brown lump (thankfully) as anchovies, and my first thought was immediately, "where the hell is the rest of the can???"  Upon which my gaze encountered the fish-oil-laden sofa.  

As a result of fish being eaten while watching too much tv, we now have a lock on our television.  You cannot sit on our sofa and snack through the contents of the pantry unless you know the passcode to turn on the tv, the passcode to change the channel, and the passcode required when a show ends.  There is WAYYYYY less tv watching in this house these days. (If you want the passcode, you have to do chores!)   

What does this have to with zero budget decorating, you ask?  Well, it is also the story of how we decided to pare back from two televisions to one, and make one room a playroom and the other room an adult space with a tv in it.  

When we moved into our new house, I fixed up the family room into a lovely library/tv room where we all like to congregate.  The living room, which is immediately off the front door, was not as welcoming. Remember how it looked when we first moved in?  The kids had absolutely no interest in playing in it.  They would go in there, pick the toys they wanted to play with, and bring them into the family room.  

Eventually I rearranged the living room a bit, which improved matters slightly.  The kids loved the teepee and the rolling ottoman, but it was hardly a "lets spend all our time in the playroom!" sort of room.  

I could not figure out how to make it a nicer playroom, since the low-set windows meant there was very little room for storing toys.  The fireplace in the middle of the room is an overpowering focal point, and made it difficult to orient furniture where you could comfortably watch television without turning your head.  This room is also right off the front door, so whenever guests come over they walk into a messy playroom full of toys on the floor and furniture oriented all wrong.  I kind of hated the room, but since I don't have the budget to hire a decorator to completely redecorate it, I've been ignoring it.  

Last week, while working unsuccessfully on a moodboard for the living room, I thought "why do we need two tvs?  The kids barely watch it anymore.  I should bring their toys in the family room, where they like to hang out, and make the playroom a tv room."  And voila, an idea was born.  

Now the living room is a room where we watch tv, and where I am not embarrassed to have people walk into my house. 

It is "nearly" zero dollar decorating---the only thing I bought was the small four cube Expedit ($39) that the tv is sitting on. (I have a few other pieces of furniture that I tried in that corner, but none of them fit with all the various cable box accoutrements, or it would have been $0 decorating.)  Every other thing in the room was already owned and living in various other places around the house or garage.  

The teepee still lives in the corner of the living room, but it was folded up for the furniture moving.  

I wanted to switch the sofas as well, but the anchovy sofa is only 76 inches long, whereas the Petrie sofa is 86 inches long and thus too big for the space.  We had the anchovy sofa professionally cleaned, and it looks much better, but a faint aroma remains.

Eventually I would like to switch out the 35 yards of fabric mistake curtains, and get a new sofa that doesn't smell of anchovies, but for now, this space is so much better than what I started with, and I'm pretty happy with the price tag of all the changes.  

Tomorrow, I'll show you the changes in the family room.  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Guest Room (In Progress)

We've had quite a few visitors since moving to California.  Since the boys are continuing to share a bedroom in the new house, we had an unused fourth bedroom (aka The Room of Requirement, housing all our unused furniture). We decided to make this into a guest bedroom.

When we moved in, I knew this room wouldn't be used right away so we didn't paint it.  It remained in the swine beige color that covered the house when we bought it.

Last weekend, on my birthday, I painted it Dunn Edwards Whisper, like the rest of the house.  Who says I don't know how to party.

I know that my not-white-balanced pictures don't adequately convey the difference, but truly, this room is so much brighter, cleaner and prettier looking with a fresh coat of white paint.

We moved the queen mattress and bed frame out of Princess's bedroom and into the guest room, since it was the bigger bed and that would be the best for adults.  We bought a full size bed for Princess. Once one of the boys move into this room eventually, the queen mattress will go back into Princess's bedroom (because it is the biggest bedroom at 15 x 11) and the full will move into this fourth bedroom (because it is a smaller room at 11x11).

My budget for this room was $0.  I planned to decorate entirely from things we already owned.  The only item I planned to spend money on was a new mattress.  I almost succeeded in the $0 quest; I spent $28 on a curtain rod and a nightstand. (Obviously I am not including the mattress.) (Although technically I moved the queen mattress that was in Princess's room in here and bought a full size bed for her room, so actually, yes, I can include the mattress as "already owned" in that total! Look how frugal I am!)

The curtains are the Pottery Barn Audrey drapes that were in our living room.  The travel posters were from Target many years ago; in our last house they graced the library at the top of the stairs.  The brown quilt and ribbon pillow shams were from our house in Haddon Township. We owned one Rast night table already, so I bought a second one and put some wicker baskets underneath.  The red mirror was from Home Goods and hasn't been used since our apartment in Fort Lee.

The art over the dresser is a paint by number piece painted by my mother in law last year.  The tall dresser was in our master bedroom.

 I'm still scouring thrift shops for a pair of lamps to go on the bedside tables.  Its hard to believe, but I have actually used my entire collection of lamps.

Casa Von Trapped is now offering turn down service and chocolate mints on the pillows.  There is free internet in your room, and my children provide a complimentary wake up service promptly at 5:50 am every morning.  We'll see you soon!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hallway Gallery Wall

Thanks for all the birthday wishes :-)   I hope that my birthday musings did not come across as "woe is me and my privileged life"; I was simply reflecting on where I am in life these days.


Our downstairs hallway is a great spot for a gallery wall.  I took the pictures from our gallery wall around the tv in our last house and swapped out a few for some fresh pictures from the kids.

For a less messy look, I aligned all the pictures along the same plane.  I taped a stripe of 2 inch painters tape from one end of the wall to the other. (I cannot figure out how to get this picture without the border.)

I aligned the top row with the bottom of all the pictures along the tape, and the bottom row was aligned with all the tops of the pictures.

Et voila, gallery wall.

The view from the front door:

The view from the stairs:

The face on the blue background is a self portrait done by Greg at school, and it is one of my favorite pieces ever.

The art is mostly pictures done by the kids, my grandmother, my sister and my friends (I am surrounded by artistes).  There are a few photographs of homes of family members in Costa Rica and Italy that we visit. The only picture that I currently consider a placeholder is the big circles; I like it ok but I have some other things I am considering for the frame.

There is room to grow on either end if we find more items that strike our fancy.

The view from the kitchen, looking towards the door into the garage.

I love how this turned out.  

Friday, July 12, 2013

on the occasion of my 39th birthday: part I

I turn 39 on Saturday.  The first of many times I will turn 39, I think.

Last year's birthday was terrible.  We had moved across the country a few months earlier, I had no friends, I had just signed my two youngest children up for full day preschool and felt that I had no purpose in life, felt terrible about my lack of career, and I was having a midlife crisis of epic proportions that came to a head and resulted in a full day of crying.  Like, a full day of crying while driving around trying to get a flat tire fixed.  It experience I hope not to repeat.

This year will be better, I think.

The summer I was 21, I came home from college in early May.  My father and I drove over to visit my grandmother, and we sat outside on the deck, enjoying the pleasantly warm evening with Grandma and Grandpa.  "What day is it?" asked my Grandma.  My father replied "May 4."  "Ah," sighed my grandmother.  "Summer is almost over."

At the time, I laughed.  But in the last year or two, I have thought about that moment more and more, because I understand that feeling now. Grandma was right. Time is speeding up.  Just yesterday it was March and I was buying a house, now its halfway through July.  Blink and tomorrow it will be Christmas. My babies are not babies anymore. Soon they will be in college. (Not really.) What am I doing here? What is my purpose in life?

Last weekend while returning home from a day trip to San Diego we narrowly avoided being part of a very large multiple car pileup.  One second we were driving along just fine, the next second it was like an action movie, with cars sliding sideways and bumpers flying past our windshield.  I saw my life flash before my eyes, and it was not a particularly long or accomplished life.

Is this what I am doing with my one wild and precious life?

The days are long but the years are short.

I keep saying that.

At 39 I have accepted "I yam who I yam".

I am a foodie, despite my many food intolerances and deep dislike of cooking.  I love to eat out but I like to eat at 5 pm, so that I can be back on my sofa reading a book by 8 pm. (When you eat out at 5 pm you may end up in restaurants that double as God's waiting room.)  I am not an evening person, nor am I a morning person.  I am a middle of the day person and would gladly sleep from 10 pm to 8 am every day if the banshees would let me.

I like reading trashy romance novels while eating cookies.  I am loyal friend, if not the most tactful. I am a homebody and an introvert. I believe in the best of people, even when I have been proven wrong.  I am mildly dorky and socially awkward, but reasonably intelligent and sort of funny, on occasion.

I am no longer that interested in my appearance.  Which is to say, I like to look pretty but am not overly interested in putting forth the effort to be pretty.  I will pick Comfortable over Pretty any day.  I do not find mascara Comfortable. I have many clothing rules (no waistbands, no polyester voile, no tight or close-fitting clothing, and on and on ad infinitum). The only time I wear makeup is for weddings and the Mister's work events. I lust after pretty shoes but will not suffer foot pain for any reason, not even weddings or funerals (see dorky, above; includes orthopedic shoes).  I like my skirts long but am not afraid of baring my bosoms in a low cut blouse.

I am a reader.  I am not, despite possible appearances to the contrary, a writer.  I read voraciously, but writing is a struggle.  I hesitate to hit Publish on every single post (especially this one. Its 10:40 pm and I'm hitting publish because otherwise I will keep this in draft indefinitely).  I hate reading depressing shite.  I like happy endings (see above, trashy romances).

I am a teacher (despite the out-of-work appearances to the contrary).  I think I am not bad at it.

I am a Big Picture person. Attention to detail is not my thing.  I once lived in an apartment for twenty-four hours before noticing that there was no fridge.

I'm working on growing and improving myself as a person, but I think I'm good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, some people like me.

The career. Oh, the career. What career, you say? The one I abandoned?  Yeah, that one.

What am I doing with my one wild and precious life?

The discussion of my first world problem of how to find a fulfilling career will have to wait till part II.

This essay is a rambling post from a disordered mind.  I have been working on it for a week (a year, really) and yet I cannot seem to marshal my thoughts into a semblance of coherence. The career portion is so disjointed and long I had to separate it out.  I apologize for my loose meanderings.  If you want a recap, I feel old and time is flying by and aside from popping three amazing people out of my nethers I haven't done that much with my life, although I like who I am as a person, basically.

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday to meeeee, happy birthday to me.

Tante auguri, peeps.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Master Bedroom (In Progress): wall of dressers

I am slowly decorating this house one project at a time but am working on about fifty projects, all over the house, so it feels like things are going very slowly.  They aren't, but it feels that way.  One of the projects we did recently was to fix the dresser situation in our master bedroom.

I bought an inexpensive Pottery Barn Kids dresser on craigslist right before moving in. In our old house we had a tall dresser chest and a long low dresser, but when we moved here I painted the long low dresser purple and put it in Princess's room.  

It looked fine, but the drawers were small, did not have smooth rolling drawers, and it just wasn't working for our clothing storage needs.  In fact, most of our clothes were in two mismatched dressers in the unused fourth bedroom, which was frustrating when getting dressed in the morning.

The new dressers went on the long wall across from the door.

We already had two three drawer Malm dressers that we used as night tables in our last house, so we bought a six drawer Malm dresser and put the three drawer ones on either side to create one long wall of dressers.  Our green lamps moved up here from the family room  (I still hate those lamp shades and am still hunting for a reasonably priced alternative). The round mirror was previously over the fireplace in the  living room

This is MUCH more useful.  Now all of our clothes are in our bedroom, which makes getting dressed less of a game of "which room are my underpants in?"

We sold the PBK dresser on craigslist for what we bought it for, so that worked out just fine.  Now that wall is blank.

I think I will put an upholstered chair here and a wooden valet for the Mister. I may put some art here, but I am enjoying the calm quietude of the blank walls.

The green lamps still need to be painted, as they clash with the bedspread. The bedspread has muddy mustard yellows, greens, blues, pinks and purples, but the lamps are a clear jewel toned emerald green.  I haven't picked a color to paint them yet. (Had I not painted over the previous green they would have matched perfectly.)  I'm also looking for x-benches for the end of the bed.

What room are you working on?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Accessory-Free Month: mildly successful

You may recall that at the beginning of June I decided to join Nester in removing all accessories from my house.  I packed away nearly all the tchotchkes in my house, keeping out only a few that had great personal meaning. I also kept out all the busts, because I really like them. (I broke all the rules in the first two minutes by not putting away everything.)  Everything else was packed in two large moving boxes and went up in the attic.

So, the majority of my busts (I cannot say the word "bust" without thinking of "we must, we must, we must increase our busts") were used as bookends.  Actually, pretty much all of my remaining tchotchkes ended up being bookends.

I used the smaller upper sections of the skinny bookcases to showcase the pictures and items not heavy enough to use as bookends.

I originally packed away all my ginger jars.  After two days I went back up in the attic and pulled them back out again, not because I feel the need for decorative ginger jars, but because my ginger jars are where I hide things like the checkbook and SD cards, and I missed their utility.  (Form follows function!)  The cigar box is the Mister's stuff-putter-downer place.  The yellow elephant is a piggy bank, and should be donated, because it doesn't have a home.  I like to leave that shelf empty, actually, so that I have a spot for library books. successful was I at going accessory-free?  So-so.  Not so great, not so bad. I did not start with a clean slate.  I could have removed even more stuff. Overall, however, I think it was a success.  I am glad that I packed away all the tchotchkes; it really helped me define the aesthetic I wanted in our family room.  It is not overly cluttered, and I am happy with the tchotchkes that remain in the room.

Unfortunately, as I was looking through the last remaining unpacked boxes in the garage, I discovered that what I thought were boxes of art were actually boxes of MORE TCHOTCHKES.  This was horrifying.  I started to cull the extra boxes, but it quickly devolved into the entire garage being covered in packing paper and MORE TCHOTCHKES.  I am ashamed to admit I simply packed it all back up into the boxes and shoved it back in a corner so as not to deal with it.

The tchotchkes that remain in boxes are older items that I have owned for a long time, and were given to me by loved ones.  I would not say that I am greatly attached to them, but I feel guilty getting rid of them. I need to sit down and go through ALL the boxes of packed away stuff, and get rid of it.  I don't need it, I don't need it, I don't need it.  If I can leave it in a box for years, I probably also don't really want it.  I just need to take that last step and get it out of the house.

Thus, I'd say that the Great Accessory Free Experiment was a draw, because while I managed to get all the accessories out of my living areas, there are still a number of boxes of tchotchkes taking up space in my attic and garage.


I do have a  related problem that I didn't really deal with during this challenge.  I have a million gazillion picture frames.  Like....three large moving boxes full?  Plus more not in boxes?  I am at a loss for what to do with them.  I have long wanted to do this picture wall (which I did do on a smaller scale here), but am now having second thoughts.  I am attempting a cleaner, less cluttered aesthetic with this house.  On the other hand, I am trying to live by my defining values, and pictures of friends and family make me happy, and need to be included.

I love having pictures of the kids and our family and friends around.  But a hundred pictures on a mantelpiece looks cluttered.  A hundred pictures thrown up on a wall looks cluttered.  I don't WANT to tightly edit my pictures so that I have one picture of each kid and one of each family member and that's it. Since the Accessory Free Experiment, I only left out one picture of all the kids, two pictures of me and the Mister on our wedding day, one picture of my grandparents, one picture of my father in law with his mother, and one picture of Peter that I just came across during the garage debacle.  Six pictures in the entire house, and four of them were taken on the same day.  That is not enough. I want more.  How much is enough? (More than six, less than a hundred, apparently.)

I love the thought of the picture wall, how it is layers of history and family.  I just wish I had a more out-of-the-way spot in which to do this.  Currently all of our living space walls are large, enormous, vast expanses of space--the bookshelves cover most of the walls in the family room, so the side of the house with the vaulted ceilings is the undecorated side.  It would be hard to do the picture wall on a reasonable scale in our house.  Also, all the remaining spots where I could do a picture wall are visible from the front door.

Maybe I need to take up scrapbooking. (Mother! I have a project for you!) (My mother is a scrapbooker extrordinaire. not very good at small-scale art projects.)

So....what do you do with pictures in your home? Do you have lots of pictures on every surface?  A gallery wall of family photos?  Are you over the whole gallery wall thing?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

the back door and my collection of religious ceramic pieces

What I refer to as our "back door" is technically in the front; it is the interior door into the garage.  It sits about five feet away from our front door.  We usually enter the house through the garage, so this area is the landing place for our stuff.  On the other side of that interior door inside the garage are shoe cubbies and hooks where the kids put all their bags and coats.  

I can't seem to find any good before pictures of this area, but here is a terrible blurry one full of our laundry.

A few weeks ago I painted the back door a lovely blue.  I double checked the name on the paint can in the garage, but sadly for blogging purposes, the paint can is labeled "custom color match."

I also pulled out my collection of ceramics, bought mostly on trips to visit family in Italy over the last decade.    I pared down this time, pulling only the items that were religious items.  My father in law recently traveled to Italy and brought back a beautiful picture of the Virgin Mary and Child for me, which I made the centerpiece of the collection.

The colors in this Virgin Mary piece are so bright and vibrant. I love that almost all the pieces contain that cobalt blue.

The small stone crucifix under the Mary and Child was mine as a child; I believe my parents bought it on a trip to Brazil.

These are some of my favorite pieces of art. I remember where I bought each and every piece, and I love having them right inside the door where I see them every time I enter or leave the house.

What's your favorite piece of art in your house?

ps. I am sorry I do not have time to write a longer blog post--it seems since summer started and the kids are in various activities there are just not enough hours in the day.  I hope to write tomorrow about the Accessory-Free month, and how successful/unsuccessful I was.  But there is ping pong to be played and food to be harvested and a garage waiting to be organized.  How is your summer going?

Monday, July 1, 2013

What all the cool designers are installing, and Posh's hair

This found its way into my living room today.

Ping pong tables are massive, by the way (5' x 9').  There will be not much room left over for your teepee.

In case you were wondering how my haircut turned out, I look stunningly like Posh Spice.

I don't really look that much like Posh Spice.  I just look like myself, with shorter hair.

And of course, you've probably heard that Google Reader has disappeared by the time this post is published.  Hopefully you remembered to switch over to a new feeder like Bloglovin or Feedly. If you didn't you can read Cassie's excellent tutorial on making the switch.