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?

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 swimsuit drying rack

This little hack for drying swimsuits may seem like a no-brainer, but the concept eluded me until this summer. We used to throw wet swimsuits over the shower curtain rod, which meant that the suits dripped into the bath but also out onto the floor. The other issue with this technique is that the kids could not reach their own swimsuits,  and since they were in and out of their suits all summer it became frustrating for all of us that they required assistance to retrieve their suit.

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A friend gave me the idea to buy a separate shower curtain rod just for swimsuits, that hangs on the inside of the bath so that suits only drip into the tub. I found shower curtain hooks that worked perfectly for hanging suits, and hung the rod at a height that all the kids could reach. And voila . . . swimsuit independence.


Win your own interior designer: a Box of Design giveaway!

If you have always wanted to hire a professional design but it’s been out of your price range, you are going to love the concept of Box of Design. Interior designer Hillary Nichols started Box of Design with the mission to make design accessible and affordable. Here’s how it works: Hilary let me try her services with my living room, and I can’t tell you what a help it was for me. I love design, but I have never worked with  a designer before.  I tend to get a bit paralyzed in the decision-making process. I lived in our former home for over 7 years and there were still areas I hadn’t finished just because I couldn’t make up my mind on something. So I was thrilled to have Hilary’s guidance. First, I measured the room and sent a sketch of the space to Hilary. Then, I sent her some of my favorite photos from Pinterest so she could get an idea of what my style is. Here are a few of the photos I sent: Modern Eclectic Living Roomvia Houzz Modern Eclectic Living Room from Young House Lovevia Young House Love Mid-Century Modern Eclectic Living Room #MCMvia Houzz Hilary took over from there! I was a little nervous, because while I do struggle with indecision, I also have very strong opinions. I wondered if she would understand my aesthetic, and what I would say if I didn’t love what she came up with. Well . . . I have to say she NAILED IT. When my box arrive it was like Christmas morning, and when I saw her design it was the perfect mix of items I loved and ideas I wouldn’t have even imagined. The box started with a folder of the overall concept, including space planning. IMG_8090 Box of Design interior design services Hallelujah for space planning. I had it set up differently and once I saw Hillary’s drawing I changed it, and it all clicked.  Box of Design interior design services The box also included a resource guide for all of the items in the room, so I could purchase them myself. All of the items for really affordable, and from accessible stores like Urban Outfitters, IKEA, and Crate and Barrel. IMG_8083 Box of Design interior design services We are still waiting on lamps and window treatments, but you can see that we are getting there. A few items are slightly different because I found something similar for less at Joss and Main or One Kings Lane. (And all of the pillows are from Target.) Living Room with IKEA sofa, Urban Outfitters rug and coffee table, and Target pillows.Living Room with IKEA sofa, Urban Outfitters rug and coffee table, and Target pillows and credenzaLiving Room with IKEA sofa, Urban Outfitters rug and coffee table, and Target pillows. Would you like to have Box of Design help with a room in your own house? I’m giving away one Box of Design to a lucky reader this week. To enter, just leave a comment telling me what room or design dilemma you need help with. The contest will close Sunday at midnight and I will announce the winner next week! Box of Design interior design services giveaweay! urban outfitters banner