We often ponder what it would be like to live in a tiny house, dreaming about having a nice self-sustaining plot of land, a sturdy shelter and no mortgage. Call it our escape plan. Could we really do it? Christopher Smith and his girlfriend Merete ask themselves this same question and document the building of their own itsy dwelling in the new documentary, Tiny: A Story About Living Small. The website offers a bundle of advice and links to sites that sell plans and will help you build your own compact dream home. Check it ou!
With the start of the new year we decided to tackle our first home-improvement project – to convert our little girl’s room from a toddler space into something she could grow into for the next ten years. We had a few key goals. One, create a workspace for her to do crafts and homework. Two, pick a color palette that would be pretty yet flexible as her tastes change. And three, retain a touch of fun and whimsy. Here is the final room and we are all pretty pleased with it! It’s calm, yet fun. There’s a place for everything, and it doesn’t feel crowded. Here’s what you need to know.
The desk and shelves are from the Container Store. We went with Elfa shelves because they hold so much, yet are aren’t a heavy piece of furniture that would weigh the room down.
The curtains are from Target. We love the little tassel details. Hot fuchsia really pops off the grey-blue walls.
The room is almost too small to be arranged any other way. The space next to the bed is tiny, yet we needed something to put books and a clock on. Chad made a small little shelf which is just perfect. (And Isadora and I have loved reading The Secret Garden, btw.)
We debated by a new, colorful chair — say from Room and Board or Land of Nod — and may still do that someday. We found this one at a local online swap meet. It was $20 and says NYC Board of Education on the bottom. We painted just the top for a “dipped” look.
Isadora’s dresser is one which used to be mine. It’s a mid-century Russel Wright and quite hefty. We love the way it looks juxtaposed against the stenciled wall. Above, squirrel portraits we bought from a store in Columbus, OH when she was born, a Willy Wonka illustration we found off eBay, and a vintage globe I’ve had for ever.
A bathroom renovation has been on the agenda since the day escrow closed on our house. We’ve been doing what we can to fix our eyesore of a bath without any demolition: notably converting a traditional door into a mini french door to open up the space and swapping out a rickety towel rod for rope cleats that function as towel hooks. We’re itching to rip out the too-big toilet and cultured marble vanity — and yes, that is a sheet vinyl shower surround.
Finding the right fixtures has been a big hold up on our renovation process. We want something modern, but not TOO much so, as our house is mid-century — and the footprint needs to be small, as our bathroom is a tiny closet of sadness and despair. I know that finding a combination of size, look, and god-forbid functionality is a tall order from a bath fixture, but I’ve found all of these showers by Mira Showers. I’m absolutely swooning for the clean lines of the Mira Miniluxe ER. The exposed riser is a nod to the classic exposed plumbing often found in vintage homes, but with a decidedly more modern vibe. I’m torn between the Miniluxe and the minimalist luxury of the Mira Agile which would have the added bonus of a second hand-held shower head. Not only are both these choices visually attractive, but the showers from Mira Showers have a patented Magni-flo technology which will ensure a full deluge even at low pressure. And this lazy housekeeper won’t have to worry about limescale either, since the nozzles are designed to just rub clean.
We’ve already purchased the sink — after I wrote about it here way back in 2009. We just can’t pull the trigger on the darn faucet. I want a sturdy fixture that is 100% brass — but those can cost a hefty sum. I actually found a few options I like here and here — at Overstock, of all places. As for the toilet, after hours of measuring and internet review reading, I think we’re going with the Ariel Platinum Anna toilet, which has the smallest dimensions I’ve found. And in our lil’ loo, every inch matters.
What would you do with this little bathroom? We’re thinking white walls and subway tile, dark grout, and glossy black or dark gray floors. Clean, classic with a touch of modern — our goal is to open the space up and add some luxury to our modest bath!
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The moment everyone’s been waiting for is here! The reveal of the final rooms in the Re-Energized by Design Competition is live, in a super-sized two parter. This time, the two remaining teams have TWICE the budget, a room full of LED lighting from GE Lighting, and a full range of gorgeous and energy efficient appliances from Frigidaire to pimp their room. We are REALLY going to see some major transformations happening here.
The GE LED lighting is available in many different “temperatures” of color, something that can dramatically affect in how things look in your kitchen. I experienced this first hand after I painted my own kitchen recently. I loved the paint color in daylight, but at night, the color looked awful. I switched out to a softer LED bulb (3000K) and it made ALL THE DIFFERENCE. And I won’t be needing to change the bulb (or the wall color, thankfully) for 25 years!
I really wish our team, the Bedford family, had made it to this final round. They could have really benefitted from those new Frigidare Gallery appliances — the ultra efficient induction range alone is a huge safety boost for families with young children (less burning risk). There’s no need to replace existing cookware, either — if a magnet sticks to the pan, it will work with induction. And a convection oven is a must-have for those of us who love to bake.
The Sayers, of course, did not disappoint in this challenge by using some unconventional materials to maximize their budget — and because they are obviously just cool like that. I loved their use of the salvaged steel chalkboard as a backsplash; and that mirror in the kitchen (though I wouldn’t want to be the one cleaning it) reminds me of my days as a culinary instructor, where we taught with a huge mirror over the butcher block. All this and surprisingly below budget!
The Reilly family has consistently been more traditional in their design choices, though I’ll admit I really liked what they did in the kitchen. Nothing wrong with the combination of white subway tile and dark grout, I always say. And the paint treatment on the cabinets? Spot On. No matter what team wins the grand prize, both these families have beautiful new kitchens to enjoy for years and years to come.
What do you think of the final room? Is it the Sayers family’s funky loft or the Reilly’s clean classic kitchen that should earn the $5000 grand prize? Watch and see who takes home the giant check below!
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Even though our team is no longer in the running, it’s still fun to keep up with what’s going on in the Re-Energized By Design competition. This week, the remaining three teams made over their laundry rooms.
In addition to $500 and energy efficient lighting from GE, the homeowners each received an brand new set of Frigidaire Affinity laundry equipment. These are not your average high-efficiency washers & dryers — this is serious technology in action here. The Affinity dryer will dry a full load in less than 30 minutes, and the washer features allergen reduction and sanitizing features along with having the highest energy star rating. And aesthetically they please, too (though I have to wonder why no one picked the red option).
Love what those scrappy Sayers did in their space with that upcycled laundry drum light fixture. Their creative approach is always surprising, and will be tough to beat in the final round. In the end, the Mendes family’s pastel laundry room didn’t make the cut — that leaves the Sayers and the Reillys to duke it out in the kitchen challenge! who do you think will win?!
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It’s that time again — time for the next challenge in the Re-Energized by Design competition! This week, the remaining four teams are making over the living room. The Bedford’s room is dramatic, with vaulted ceilings and a wall of windows (with some broken panes). I found the space overwhelmed by the arc lamp and the red brick fireplace, but not in a good way. Also — there was not a lot of lighting options. Reading was impossible on the couch unless it was daytime, and entertaining? Dim lights might be fine for a nightclub, but for a family-friendly party? Not so much. The stairs were just exposed plywood splattered with paint. Not much on the walls in regards to art, either. Their furniture was good though — a nice neutral modern sectional, and an heirloom mid-century lounge chair and dresser.
Rather than using bold bright colors on the walls, we went dark — Dark gray on that red brick fireplace. Instead of painting everything one color, we only painted two walls in the dark gray; and used a lighter gray on an accent wall and staircase, leaving the rest of the room white, allowing the space to feel more intimate and cozy without overwhelming the space with such a dark color. And next to the fireplace, Slade put in some nice open shelving painted to blend into the wall, styled with art and objects from around the house. We also broke up their sectional and reconfigured it, and flipped over their old rug for a more industrial look. Kristen also repainted their coffee table glossy black.
Kristen made some colorful decoupage art; and I (along with my uber-talented seamstress pal Suzanne) got to work on some accent pillows, a floor pouf, and the reupholstering of the mid-century lounger with a colorful new fabric. I thought the chair turned out gorgeous, going from something you barely noticed to something that can anchor a space on its own. If you know me, you know I had to work in some of my signature vintage orange velvet, too. But I’m honestly proudest of that pouf: my first sewing project in 4 years, made entirely by myself, with NO PATTERN. The boys instantly gravitated toward it. Liam declaring it “his dice”, proceeded to toss it around the room and jump all over it.
In the energy improvement category, the Bedfords did a lot as well to improve their usage. Slade installed (from scratch) a LED track lighting system that we hid behind the beam, so we could add light around the room on the bookcases, on the couch, and on the new art. We also swapped out LED bulbs for incandescent in the other lamps around the room, adding significantly more light to the space while reducing the wattage in half. Slade caulked all the windows and beams, helping to reduce heat loss. They also put their stereo and charging docks on a smart powerstrip, so they can reduce that energy loss when not in use. And if that wasn’t enough, they reduced their thermostat 3 degrees to produce a significant savings in energy usage.
Alas, it wasn’t enough for the judges, sadly. I loved our room — basically, I think it all came down to a matter of points. I wish we had more time on this room, we could have done so much more. My project checklist had about 10 more to-do’s left unchecked, believe it or not. Our fatal error was when our plans to make fabric roman shades for the windows became impossible; rather than the shade choice made, I wish we could have thrown up some cute no-sew curtains on tension rods. I think that could have made enough of a difference to get us into the next round. Twenty-twenty hindsight, I guess. Honestly, I’m proud we made it this far; a lot of which I should credit to the valiant efforts of Kristen and Slade. Our rooms were up against some pretty stiff competition from professional architects and designers, so our rag-tag team of DIY’ers made a good show!
Stick around for next week’s post, where
I bitterly tear apart the remaining contestant’s rooms with derisive judgements we see how the competition proceeds with the laundry room challenge! Who will get the chop next?
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The second elimination challenge in the Re-Energized by Design competition is here! This time, each team had the option to makeover either the garage or an office. My team, The Bedfords, decided to makeover an office.
This space serves as a multi-purpose room for the Bedfords: an office for Slade, a guest room, and a napping space for the youngest member of the family, Theo. I was overwhelmed by the dark window coverings, multiple desks, and overall cluttered feel of the room. Something struck me immediately though — the giant, vintage pull-down school map of the United States. SO COOL! I decided to let that be the focal point of the space, and pulled all of the room’s inspiration from the color palate and theme. The color, Overjoy by Sherwin Williams, is a nice, warm golden yellow. It’s a perfect counterpoint to grey Seattle skies, and also complements the yellow and golden hues in the map without looking to pastel. This is a man’s office after all, so I wanted an air of distinguished masculinity to permeate the room. That being said, Slade wasn’t too convinced of my bold color choice at first.
Not having tons of money ($500), we scrapped plans for new furniture and instead focused on organizing and styling the space. We got rid of one of the two heavy dark wood desks, immediately making the room feel more open. I took the yellow-brass drawer pulls from the desk and antiqued them, making it look more expensive and more like an actual antique than the 1990’s repro it actually is. We purchased some dark wood shelving, a new set of Nate Berkus curtains from Target, and some nice dark wood blinds to help block out the light when little Theo is taking a siesta. Bonus — those window treatments will help reduce energy costs by blocking out the brutal summer sun through those west facing windows.
Instead of buying a brand new light fixture, we found a vintage one at our local buliding salvage for a song. We paired it with a dimmer switch to allow maximum flexibility for the multi-functioning room. The brassy 70’s feel of the fixture helped tie some of the pre-existing furniture into the new design. In fact, our motto for this room became “embrace the brass” — Kristen scored a few vintage hand-me-down brass lamps that really added some warmth and more focused light around the room. We outfitted everything with new GE LED bulbs, modernizing the vintage fixtures and adding an abundance of more functional light while simultaneously reducing the overall wattage.
Once again, the room was styled mostly with items from the Bedford’s home: an emerald green ceramic stool from the backyard added a touch of the orient, a vintage beer barrel from the basement served as a unique side table, and memorabilia from previous travels became art. My favorite little touch? Those three inexpensive matching clocks echoing the travel vibe. So fun.
I couldn’t be more pleased with how this room turned out. Slade, despite his reservations at first, loves it as well. And most importantly, the judges loved it! They gave me high praise for my color selection this week. Let’s see if this momentum keeps up — the living room challenge is next week!
Little darlings, it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter — and our kid’s birthday landed smack in the dead middle of it. We’ve been trying to hang on to the aloha-vibe we picked up in Maui last November, but it ain’t easy when we’re iced-in. To help us all warm up a bit, we decided that this year (number 6!) Isadora would have a hula-themed birthday. I found a local hula teacher who specialized in lessons for children, and booked her as the main event. Around the house we mixed vintage Hawaiian decor with some tchotchke’s from new, inexpensive things from Oriental Trading Co. Below are photos of some highlights!
A vintage tiki bowl mingles with some paper centerpieces from Oriental Trading Co.
On the mantle, more vintage tikis doubling as vases, along with a straw skirt — meant for a table but it worked better here for us.
Our safe for kiddies tropical punch included pineapple, orange, cranberry, and white grape juices with guava nectar and sparkling apple cider. Served with paper umbrellas, of course.
A rainbow of fruit featuring a mini-marshmallow cloud in the middle. Guess which got eaten first?
The piece de resistance: A hula girl cake! This one might need a separate post on its own, but lets say that we started with Wilton Doll Cake mold and a lot a of green food dye.
The finished piece of beauty.
What are we going to do? The damn groundhog saw his shadow last weekend and it most definitely feels like winter has not yet finished. In addition to leaving our fleece-lined boots out, we’re also slathering on moisturizers and leaving our humidifiers running in an effort to combat the season’s chronic dryness. All humidifiers have their faults — we have yet to find one that doesn’t get gunky and need a vinegar bath every few weeks. This wooden one from Gizmine has most definitely peaked our curiosity. With no plugs or batteries, it simply houses water in its base. Made entirely of cypress wood, it gathers moisture in its sail-like curved top and diffuses it into the room. Supposedly, it smells nice too. For something so simple, it is pricey ($150 at gizmine.com) but since it doubles as a zen sculpture, perhaps worth it?
Looking for more ideas? Here’s another Japanese humidifier we recommend. Found a humidifier you love? Let us know about it here!
As we wrote about the last week, our decorating brains have been hurting trying to make decisions that would last a decade in our girl Isadora’s room. We’ve been transforming it from toddler cute to something that she will (hopefully) love even as a teen, step-by-step. After choosing a paint color — Benjamin Moore’s lovely Beacon Gray — we decided to spruce up two of her walls with a pattern.
We called in a ton of gorgeous samples from wallpaper sites and were amazed at the variety. From the colorful to the clever, the choices seem endless. We kept being drawn to the simplest of patterns with classic vibes, and soon realized that what we wanted was a very basic repeat that was the same tone and color as the walls. We started exploring the idea of stencils — which at first had us cringing with thoughts of 80’s style flowers everywhere. After looking around we were pleasantly surprised to find that stencils have come a long a way! They are some very lovely patterns available, and after watching a few YouTube videos, Chad became confident that he could pull this off in Isadora’s room.
We went with Julia Allover from Cutting Edge Stencils. One kit is $53 and comes with one large repeat plus a top stencil for hard to reach spots near the ceiling. The nice thing about the “wallpaper” look is that you don’t have to worry about being perfect. It’s nice to show some slight variation in the pattern rather than perfectly straight lines.
To create this look, we simply bought a small can of the next darker shade in the Beacon Gray spectrum – November Skies. In addition to the paint, you will need painter’s masking tape, paper towels, a foam roller, a tray and a (possibly) level. (A level is more important is you are using a more precise pattern than ours.
The video below is what we used to guide us. The secret is to keep your brush nearly dry. After you load it with paint, dry it off on paper towels before touching the wall. Also, after filling in the stencil, wait for it to be nearly dry before removing to move. That way you minimize smears on the stencil itself. Make sure the previous painted section is dry before overlapping it with the plastic stencils.
One word of caution: Corners are super tricky. Chad used a stencil brush for those spots. Save the smallest spots — like over a door — for the very end, in case you need to cut the stencil down to fit.
The whole project took about five hours and cost less than $200 in total. We’ve never wallpapered anything before — but something tells us this was much less expensive and complicated.
Got any questions? Leave a comment and we’ll do our best to get back to you!