Weekend project: decorating with reclaimed wood

A few weekends ago, we did a little home renovation that had a big impact, adding a reclaimed wood frame to our giant map and some shelves to an awkward alcove on the side of our fireplace.

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This is how the alcove looked first. It was an awkward space that was left after tearing down the wall to open the kitchen into the living room. There were some pipes in the wall that had to stay, so we were forced to build this little drywall box to hide them. We weren’t sure what to do with it.


We thought about trying to find a painting to fit there but it was such a long shape. Eventually we decided to make it a small bookshelf space, and I’m so glad we did. It’s now the perfect spot for cookbooks, right next to the kitchen.

I wanted a rustic look so we visited a local store that has a huge selection of reclaimed wood.

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That is $100 of wood taken off of an old barn in North Carolina. I realize that in most parts of the world, paying a lot of money for old wood seems ridiculous. But this is California. We don’t have old barns here.


We pressure-washed the wood and the kids helped us sand it down.


Making the map frame was really easy – we just screwed the wood right into the wall. I think the frame made a huge difference in the way the room looks, and dresses up the map to look less like a poster and more like a piece of art. The map is still uncovered so we can continue to add pins to the place we visit.

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For about $100 and a couple hours on a Saturday, I think a little reclaimed wood went a long way.

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Design Dilemma: decorating our bedrooom

After living here for nearly a year, our "fixer" is nearly fixed. We’ve remodeled and finished every room in the house with one exception: our bedroom. It’s a little sad, seeing as this is supposed to be our place of respite and sanctuary. But in our home, it’s the room that has been aesthetically neglected.

I started out with the best of intentions, choosing a nice celery green for the walls with big plans to work around that color. Except that the color I chose was less "celery" and more "sage".  It is an awful color of pastel green . . . like something that would have gone with "mauve" in my bedroom in high school. The color doesn’t work, and everything else sort of fell apart from there since I’ve yet to correct the color. Also, we have two chairs in the room that need to be recovered or thrown away, and the windows still have black temporary blinds hanging on by a thread. It’s a hot mess.

I need to figure out some style for this room, and I need to work it around our bed. I feel like our bed is a bit dated (it’s over ten years old), but it’s the most expensive piece of furniture in our home and therefore, it stays. (Also? It’s practical. I use those drawers under the bed every day.)

So, we’ve got to work some design around the Modu-licious Platform Bed that we own. We need two chairs, because we require them for reading and meditation as a place to throw our clothes instead of on the ground. We have white sheets and blankets. So we have a bit of a neutral palate to start from . . . but then what? We need chairs, and I need to keep the chairs down around $200, which doesn’t leave a lot of options. We also need pillows, and window coverings for two windows, which is where we can pull in some color.

Here are some of the directions we could take:


accessorizing a neutral bed with red and bright pop colors
I like the idea of using bold, bright colors. I could use two knock-off Eames Armchairs on either side of the bed, do some bright pillows, and use some colorful fabric for the window treatments.

I’m also tempted to go a bit more neutral, using more ethnic textiles and a knock-off Eames molded plywood chair beside the bed.


accessorizing a neutral bed with orange and black

Another option, using the plastic armchairs in green.

accessorizing a neutral bed with multicolor green

Or the molded plywood chairs in a bright blue, with gray and yellow? (Why do I feel like gray and yellow might be on the way out?)

accessorizing a neutral bed with ye;low and gray

I was also thinking about going with gray and coral. But once I did this little collage with the slipper chair, it occurred to me that they really don’t match. I like the accessories I’ve put together here, but not with the bed.

accessorizing a neutral bed with red and bright pop colors

These are my grand ideas so far. I’ll probably do a light gray on that walls so that no matter what we choose, we can swap out pillows and curtains and still have the neutral bed and walls.

What option would you go with?

Decorating with maps

I made heavy use of Pinterest as I dreamed about how to decorate our new house. One thing that kept standing out to me was the creative use of maps as a focus wall. Since we’re a family that loves to travel, I loved the idea of having a prominent map that could help us visualize where we’ve been and dream about where we want to go.
Here are some of my favorites Pinterest finds that feature wall maps:

It took a while to find the perfect map for our space. I wanted a political map that delineated countries, but I also wanted more muted colors that would go with the turquoise walls in our dining room. Eventually, I found one I loved at Amazon.com.  We hung it up with thumbtacks, and then built a frame around the map with reclaimed wood. (I will detail that process in a future post.)
After hanging the map, we enlisted the kids in pinning all of the places in the world that we’ve been together as a family. It was fun to see the kids pin Haiti, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, and all of the islands we visited on our cruise.
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I don’t know what this face is about.
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Jafta has now decided that he wanted to go to Japan for his 9th birthday. I love his vision, though I think he’ll probably have to settle for the local skatepark.
Do you have any maps or globes in your house? Have you seen any creative map ideas that you’d like to implement?

BEFORE & AFTER: converting our garage into an office/playroom

It’s been several months since we moved into our new house but we have just finally finished converting the garage into an office/playroom. I have been working for home for 7 years now and this is the first time I’ve ever had a dedicated office space. Sure, it’s technically the garage . . . but home prices in Southern California are at a premium, which means that we have to use every square inch of space that we’ve got.

Here is a quick look at what it looked like before, and how it looks now:

garage remodel (playroom conversion) before and after
Our first step was to insulate and drywall the walls so it feels more like a room and less like a garage. We also added two windows. We don’t have air conditioning in our home (our proximity to the beach means we usually get a decent breeze) so with the windows and insulation, the garage is now about the same temperature as the house. It’s even a bit cooler when we open the garage door.

For the flooring, we went with a stand cork from Globus Cork. I have always been intrigued by cork floors. They are environmentally friendly, soft on the feet, and they absorb noise (hallelujah).  I really debated putting cork throughout the whole house but chickened out because it was new, so we decided to do it in this space. YOU GUYS. I love it so much. It’s so easy to clean, so comfortable, and it really does dampen the sound. I wish I’d done it through the whole house. It was also insanely easy to install – you just paint the glue on the floor with a paint roller and adhere the cork tiles. It has the warmth of wood with the comfort of carpet.

I wanted the kids’ space to be really flexible, so I found a shorter table at IKEA along with some small-scale chairs that are easy to adjust. This way, the kids can all be seated around the table for a game, or some kids can pull a chair up to the computer desk.



The kids go to a technology school and their homework is all online, so I outfitted three old computers so that they can use them at the same time.  We also found a 30-minute sand timer that helps with regulating their earned screen time.


On the opposite side from the kid’s desk is a bookshelf that holds toys and games. There are also four Montessori mats to encourage the kids to only play with one thing at a time before getting out another activity. (You can read more about that technique here.) A few people have asked where we keep our “crap” and that’s why the bookshelves are there. Behind them is a workbench for tools and all of the junk that accumulates in a garage.




My workspace faces out so I can watch the kids on their computers as well as
when they are playing in the driveway. I cannot tell you how exciting it is to have a dedicated workspace. No more sitting at the kitchen table! I have files and drawers. (My desk is the Bedford set from Pottery Barn with an extra file cabinet, and my chair is an Eames knock-off from Amazon. The lamp above my desk is George Nelson. The kids’ desk is from IKEA.)


Behind my desk, the wall is lined with wardrobes from IKEA. They were cheaper than the garage shelving at Home Depot and I think they look better. We’ve got some toy storage in them, and it’s also where we keep holiday decorations, suitcases, and all the other miscellanea that tends to accrue in the garage. In front of my desk, we built three IKEA bathroom vanities that I found in their “AS IS” room for $30. I stacked them up on top of each other to create a chest of sorts and it provides some extra storage.


I love having my own desk, but I do have to admit that sharing the space with the playroom is less than ideal. It’s great when the kids are home and I want to do a few small tasks while they play. But it’s hard to keep the space picked up, and I find I’m often being driven crazy by a mess of toys on the floor when I’m really trying to get some writing done. Also, this is common:


So I do still revert to the sofa when the playroom has been left messy and I want to sit in a picked-up space.

Incidentally, some friends of mine recently posted their work spaces and I find it so fascinating. Laura posted hers and then Jenny posted hers, and then Karen made a whole Tumblr of a whole tumblr about Where Bloggers Blog.

If you work from home, I would love to hear what your work space is like. Do you have your own room? Or a section of the house? Anybody else kickin’ it in their garage or sharing the space with kids?

DIY personalized bento lunchbox

I’ve been wanting to give the bento box concept another go. We had some a few years ago, and while I loved the idea of reducing waste with it, the kind I bought kept falling open in their backpacks. I’ve heard great things about the Goodbyn Bynto brand so when I saw some on Amazon for $9 I snatched them up. A $9 bento and a $1 cell-phone bling pack = a cheap way to personalize a kid's lunchbox and reduce waste. While we were pursuing the dollar aisle at Target, as we always do, India found a cell phone bling packet and had the idea to use it as decoration on her new lunch box. A $9 bento and a $1 cell-phone bling pack = a cheap way to personalize a kid's lunchbox and reduce waste. I thought it was a pretty genius idea. She decorated it all herself, and it looks cute. And for $10 total ($9 for the bin, a buck for the bling) I’m happy! (The glasses are also from the Target dollar bin and she has worn them every day for weeks. May be a rude awakening when I don’t let her wear them when school starts.) A $9 bento and a $1 cell-phone bling pack = a cheap way to personalize a kid's lunchbox and reduce waste. I’m hoping the bentos can help the kids be more independent with making their own lunches. We are still using our handy-dandy sign to help them make good choices: An easy chart to help kids make good choices and pack their own lunch I’m excited to try these Goodbyn Byntos when we go back to school next week. I will take some photos of our first couple of lunches and let you know how it goes. Do you bento?