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Mixing it up in the Living Room

Chairish Shabby Chic Challenge Living Room Design

Deer Head | Art Print | Book End | Table | Chair | Lamp | Pillow | Bin | Desk | Side Chair

Lately I’ve been dreaming about redecorating our living room to create a lighter feel. Somehow we’ve managed to collect two brown leather sofas, and three black and wood mid-century chairs. It’s a lot of brown and black, especially since I tend to gravitate towards white and light.

The leather sofas have to stay for now. We love our dogs and let them sit on the furniture, and I wouldn’t sacrifice cuddling with them just so I could have a light colored sofa. My plan is to replace some of the accent pieces around the room with some vintage or vintage feeling pieces in lighter colors. We also have a lot of mid-century modern items or new items with mid-century lines, and I think we need to mix it up a little. I really love vintage farmhouse style, and while I would never decorate our 60s ranch entirely in that manner, I think I can strategically add a little shabby chic here and there.

I always go straight to Chairish when I’m looking for vintage inspiration because it’s so easy to find amazing pieces. I would never hang a real deer head in my home, but I love this chippy white ceramic one for over our dark gray fireplace.

The faux bamboo desk, also a Chairish find, would replace my oversized big brown desk in our front window, which will really brighten that corner. I love the lines of the modern cane back chair from CB2 with the desk.

I have been really into blue lately, and it features pretty prominently throughout our house. I would mix this oversize pillow from Furbish with a couple linen ones on the sofa. And, I’ve been dying to bring a Teil Duncan print into my home. This one would work perfectly over the sofa.

In front of our other big window, I’m planning to create a cozy reading nook with the slipcovered chair, mid-century floor lamp and glossy blue side table. The bin will be perfect for holding magazines and dog toys.

I have so many other ideas floating around for this room, but this is the direction I’m planning to head over the course of the next year.


My Top Picks from the IKEA Catalog 2016

The IKEA Catalog for 2016 was just released (request yours), and I was curious to see what new products they would be introducing. Although I don’t shop at IKEA as frequently as I used to, I found several items that I would be interested to check out the next time we visit Minneapolis or Kansas City.

Curtain panels reminiscent of Josef Frank…


SYSSAN Curtain Panels – $59.99

A sleek minimalist desk lamp with an integrated charging station…


RIGGAD Work Lamp – $79.99

A modern interpretation of the farmhouse trestle table paired with slipcovered chairs…


MOCKELBY Oak Table – $699

A cozy chaise lounge with an English rolled arm that comes in several colors…



The English rolled arm is also available in a chair and sofa


A simple pine bed paired with black and white textiles…


HURDAL Bed – $399

A French bistro style chair in glossy black…



ALMSTA Chair – $99.00

A simple Shaker style storage piece for tight spots…



Kitchen cabinets used to build a banquet seat on the back of the island…


Simple matte black planters on a minimalist cork bench…


SINNERLIG Collection – Coming Soon!

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Colorful Rugs from Loom Australia

Loom Rugs Australia

Two years ago I worked with a wonderful client who was from Australia to redesign her master bathroom, kids’ bathroom and mudroom. She and her husband lived in a traditional house in a really nice suburb of Des Moines. When I met them, they had already done an amazing job updating their home. They have absolutely fabulous taste and love many of the same styles that I do. Whenever I would meet with them at their home, I would be so distracted by their beautiful area rugs. Finally, I asked her where they were from, and she let me in on the secret.

Loom Rugs Australia

Loom is located in Victoria, Australia. If you’re obsessed with international design magazines like I am, you may have spotted a Loom rug on the cover of the Jan/Feb issue of Inside Out Magazine, which is based in Australia. It was a geometric in an array of eye popping, candy colored hues. By contrast, my client’s rugs were vintage, and the colors and patterns more understated but equally intriguing.

Loom Rugs Australia


Loom Rugs Australia

These rugs are some of my favorites from the Loom collection. I wish I could import one for our living room…I’ve never seen anything quite like them in the US. Their Old Yarn rugs are made from unraveled vintage kilims rewoven into contemporary designs. The colors are just incredible.

Loom Rugs Australia

There are many more vintage and contemporary rugs on the Loom website. Prices aren’t listed, but I believe you can contact them to inquire.

Loom Rugs Australia

What do you think? Would you be daring enough to incorporate one of these bolder styles into your home? The harlequin pattern with the pop of pink and the little flowers are my top two.


Books I’ve Read in 2015 – June

Books I Read - June 2015: The Color of Secrets, The Rocks, Defending Jacob, Smarcuts

I averaged a book a week during June, which wasn’t too bad considering I went on vacation for a week and didn’t read at all while I was gone. I decided to revisit some old favorites and relied heavily on Amazon recommendations.

The Color of Secrets by Lindsay Ashford

I am pretty sure this was an Amazon Prime download before I decided to sign up for Unlimited again. I am trying to diversify and not read so many WWII stories, but this one sounded a little different. Eva is a London housewife and young mother whose husband is missing and presumed dead. She falls madly in love with an African American serviceman stationed near her home, and she ends up having his child. The story follows the aftermath of her passion over the decades following the war.

I generally enjoyed this book, but I felt like Eva’s character could have been further developed as the novel went on. At a certain point, Eva drops out of the story, and we get very little insight into her thoughts and feelings. I don’t want to give away too much of the story by adding more, but I think this would be an easy beach read.

The Rocks by Peter Nichols

I decided to read the Rocks precisely because some of the reviewers on Amazon were so adamant on how they didn’t like the overall structure of the book. The story, which is set in Mallorca, begins at the end in the 1990s, and each chapter goes farther back in time until we learn the initial catalyst for all of the subsequent events. I both loved and hated this book. I stayed up all night because I really wanted to know what happened to cause the two primary characters to seemingly hate each with such passion. On the other hand, I would get really disappointed at the end of each chapter because I knew that I was never going to learn more about what happened next, only what happened before. It was kind of maddening.

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Another one of my Amazon recommendations. I would categorize this novel as suspense. It’s told from the first person point-of-view of a middle-aged assistant District Attorney Andy whose son is accused of murdering one of his classmates. Although suspense and mysteries aren’t my usual genre, I quickly became immersed in the story. The first person viewpoint was limiting in that the reader isn’t aware of Jacob’s (the son) or Laurie’s (the wife and mother) thoughts or feelings – only how Andy perceives them. The reader is left to decide whose version of Jacob is most accurate – his father’s, his mother’s or neither. The book plays on themes that are relevant in our daily lives – like the sensationalism of the media and its effect on the justice system, bullying, and the internet.

Smartcuts by Shane Snow

I loved this book. Shane Snow uses date and anecdotes to break down how individuals and companies that emerge as top players from seemingly nowhere achieve what looks like overnight success. As a non-fiction book, it read more like a series of short stories and left me with quite a bit to think about. The book wraps up with a summary of the nine smarcuts overachievers use to break away from the pack.

The Bastard by John Jakes

I first read the Kent Family Chronicles by John Jakes the summer after 8th grade. Our library had a book sale, and I think I was able to purchase all eight books for under $5.00. I spent all summer curled up in a chair on our front porch reading each installment in succession. That was 22 years ago now, so when I saw that all of the books were on Kindle Unlimited and that I could use Whisper-Sync to listen to them in the car, I decided to re-read them all.

These books are entertaining and move pretty quickly. I like how the characters interact with notable historical characters and how Jakes weaves the story in and out of well-known events. The first book in the series begins prior to the Revolutionary War and ends just as the war is getting underway. I find some of the dialogue a little forced, and some aspects of the story drag on a little longer than I would like. For long books, they are a pretty quick read. The narrator of the audio version does a good job and is able to manage all of the character voices.

Total new books read so far in 2015: 25

In July, I plan to continue with the Kent Family Chronicles, broken up by my first JoJo Moyes novel, and dive into at least one new non-fiction book.

Links in this post may be affiliate links. If you click on them and buy something, I may earn a very tiny bit of money.


Brass Hooks Roundup

The wall space in our master bathroom is limited, and the only option for a 24″ towel bar was either over the toilet or mounted on the shower glass, neither of which is a great option. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t met very many men who will trouble themselves to hang their towel nicely on the bar. Hooks solve the space problem and the disorderly towel problem very nicely.

On our vanity wall, both the mirrors and cabinet knobs have a golden brushed brass finish. I wanted to bring some of that brass towards the shower where all of the fixtures were chrome, so I decided that brass hooks were the answer. I’ve been looking all over the internet for the perfect brass hooks, and I eventually settled on the industrial style monogram hooks from Anthropologie that are pictured on my mood board. However, when they arrived, I was really disappointed in the finish. I like rustic and industrial, but the finish on the hooks had dark smears and visible thumbprints, so I sent them back and started looking for other options.

I found some really great brass hooks, and I have my definite favorites from the ones I’ve included below. We’re headed to San Francisco soon for a little vacation, so I’m going to try to check them out in person before I commit. And, maybe I’ll find my original choice with a better finish at Anthropologie. Fingers crossed.

Brass Hooks You Can Buy Online

  1. Urban Outfitters
  2. Rejuvenation
  3. Rejuvenation
  4. Pottery Barn
  5. School House Electric
  6. House of Antique Hardware
  7. House of Antique Hardware
  8. School House Electric
  9. Wayfair
  10. Rejuvenation
  11. Pottery Barn
  12. Urban Outfitters

Today I’m going to share my inspiration for our master bathroom and the style plan that I eventually developed. I focus primarily on kitchen and bathroom designs when I take on clients, so I tend to collect a lot of images of those rooms on Pinterest. When I was ready to start designing our space, I simply went through my bathrooms board and looked for repeating themes.


Kristin Marie Interiors


Amber Interiors


Erin Gates


Emily Henderson

Black, white, gray and brass – simple and clean with vintage inspired details. In a perfect world, I would have used patterned cement tiles on the floors, all brass fixtures, marble penny round on the shower floor and a handmade subway tile, preferably by Heath, on the shower walls. The custom built walnut vanity would float off the floor, and the large medicine cabinets would be flanked by vintage modern sconces kind of like these. Sigh.

But two factors prevented me from the bathroom of my dreams – money and resale appeal.

Our budget was tight since we had no desire (aside from painting) to do any of the work ourselves. This is Keegan’s busiest season, and I just don’t have the skills. Nor do I want to learn on the most complicated room in the house. Since we weren’t going to be saving money on labor, we had to save on materials.

The idea that we might sell this house even five years from now kept me from getting too creative. I don’t tend to think of the type of people who would buy our house as being the eclectic creative types. I think they probably would want highly functioning spaces that are fairly neutral and classic.

I’ll have to save my cement tiles, floating vanity and vintage sconces for another house.

Here’s the plan…


  1. Wall Mirror – West Elm Hexagon
  2. Wall Sconces – Restoration Hardware Asbury
  3. Vanity Cabinets – Kitchen Cabinet King
  4. Cabinet Knobs – Atlas Homewares
  5. Towel Rings – Pottery Barn Covington
  6. Faucets – Grohe Concetto
  7. Countertop – Glacier White Quartz by MSI
  8. Sinks – Kohler Archer
  9. Toilet – American Standard
  10. Floor Tile – Stone Peak Ceramics Bardiglietto
  11. Accent Tile – Marble Systems Avalon
  12. Shower – Delta In2ition with Trinsic Trim
  13. Wall Tile – Florida Tile Streamline
  14. Hooks – Anthropologie

The artwork is by Emily Jeffords and available on Minted.com.

I stuck with the gray, white and black color scheme that I liked. And, I did bring in some brass accents with the mirrors and knobs – two things future buyers could easily swap out. We found RTA (ready-to-assemble) cabinets online, thanks to one of my clients, that shipped quickly for a decent price. They didn’t have very exciting color options, but I like how the almost black color provides a strong contrast to the countertops and floor.

I really really wanted those cement tile floors, but they would have been over $1000 plus the labor was more involved, so I went with an inexpensive 12×12 ceramic.  I decided that instead of laying the 12×12 floor tile in a square pattern, I would offset each tile and add an accent strip of 1″ marble mosaic next to each one and then repeat the marble in the shower niche. Usually I like to lay square tile on a 45 degree angle, but our bathroom is so long and narrow, it wasn’t worth it.

All of the fixtures are chrome, and I went for a blend of modern on the faucets and a little bit vintage on the towel rings and tissue holder.  I chose a white quartz for the countertops that has some gray veining to resemble marble. The shower will be tiled in white subway tile with gray grout. I decided to run the tile vertically to accentuate the height and keep it from looking too traditional. Not pictured, I’m planning on a woven shade for the window, and I purchased white drapery panels with a cute gray fringe by Nate Berkus for Target. I think the window treatments will soften the room and add some interest to that wall.

So that’s the plan. Demo is done, and we’re well on our way to a new bathroom.

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I’m a little behind in updating this series on books I’ve read so far this year. One reason is that I really haven’t been reading as many new books. Instead, I’ve been rereading books that I wanted to further absorb, and I wasn’t sure if they really should count or not. I’ve also been sleeping in more and trying to be kinder to myself in order to clear up some health issues. I haven’t gone back to the hectic crazy mornings with the Today Show in the background, but I don’t always take time to read and write. I’m trying to be better about it now that school is over, but it’s not a top priority.

But all of that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading at all. I read and listened to some fairly good books in the las three months. My two favorites were audio books that were both highly praised and highly rated.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

These two novels share many similarities. Both are set in France during World War II and both revolve around French citizens and their experience of the war. I’ve read many WWII novels by now, and these two really stand out along with with Jodi Piccoult’s The Storyteller.

The Nightingale follows the parallel stories of two sometimes estranged sisters throughout the war. The younger sister joins the French Resistance, while the older sister remains in her home to wait for her husband and care for her young daughter.  The ending was a bittersweet surprise that had me engaged right up until the end.

In All the Light We Cannot See, a young blind girl is exiled to the French coastal town where her father and grand-father grew up to wait out the war with her great-uncle and his housekeeper. This novel also features parallel story lines that converge at the end. The other main character is a young German orphan, who eventually turns solider. A third arc follows a German officer, who is searching for something precious, and his life depends on finding it in time – or so he believes. I was so engrossed in this book that I actually sat inside on the sofa and listened to the last hour because I couldn’t wait for my commute the next day to find out what happened.

The other books I read in the past few months were less enchanting but still worth reading. I particularly loved Three Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr, which on my list of Amazon recommendations. The story is set in Palestine and then America from the early to mid twentieth century and follows three generations of women in a Palestinian family. I have very little knowledge of Palestine and certainly not during this time period. It was fascinating to learn about history through the fictional lives of these women. I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction and is looking for something less typical. It was a nice change from all of the Downtown Abbey esque novels.

Three Daughters by Consuelo Saah Baehr

I think I found Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde on my Amazon recommendations list as well. It was out of my usual genre, but I decided to take a chance on it. It was definitely a quick read, and I stayed up late on the second night to finish it up. A divorced middle-aged high school teacher spontaneously invites two young brothers to join him on his annual RV trip. The summer becomes a pivotal time in all three of their lives. There are a few heartbreaking moments throughout the book that revealed to me how invested I’d become in the characters. This would be a good summer read.

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde

My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

I have honestly no idea what motivated me to download this book because I generally avoid mysteries, thrillers and serial novels. I think the description left out the fact that it was the first book in the new Tracy Crosswhite series by Robert Dugoni, because I probably wouldn’t have purchased it otherwise. For a typical, contemporary mystery novel it was fine, but it’s just not my cup of tea. If you like the detective serials, you will probably enjoy it. This was another quick read.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

My mother recommended this book and sent it me as a Kindle gift, and I ended up having a love/hate relationship with it. This book does not fall into the quick read category. I felt like it took forever to get through it. The story begins in the fifties in Naples, Italy and follows the lives of two girls as they navigate a complicated friendship. The story, perhaps a fictionalized account of the author’s childhood, is told from the first person perspective of young Elena. At times, it was very difficult for me to like Elena (Lena) and many more times, I actively disliked her friend Lila. I could certainly empathize with Lena and her feelings of being less than or on the outside or just wanting to be seen as enough, but I also wanted to shake her and tell her to forget about selfish Lila. Lena is also awkwardly candid about her struggles through puberty and first experiences with sex, which were definitely uncomfortable.

I hated the ending mostly because I was unaware that it was the first in a series promptly rated it four stars instead of five. Yes, instead of five. Even with all of my discomfort and dislike while reading this novel, it was oddly compelling. I loved the descriptions of Naples in the fifties and the sense of chaos and poverty and general hopelessness that pervaded. I will definitely read the next two books in the series, but I many need to give it some time first.

Other books I read in the past three months:

Total new books read so far in 2015: 21

Links in this post may be affiliate links. If you click on them and buy something, I may earn a very tiny bit of money.


Master Bath Remodel Part 1

After over four years of living with our outdated, decaying, moldy master bathroom, we’ve decided to take the plunge and do a full remodel. I have done absolutely nothing to this space since we moved in because, in my mind, it was always a hopeless situation. There is bad tile on the walls, the fixtures are blue, the mirror is cracked, and the cabinets are falling apart. Not to mention, there is an ever expanding spot on the vinyl floor where we can see hidden water damage occurring. But, the moldiness is really what pushed us over the edge. In the past year, it seems like it’s been impossible keep any surface in the bathroom free from mold and mildew. It’s a losing battle.

This is what the bathroom currently looks like. Cringe worthy, I know.


Don’t you just love the wooden toilet seat on the blue toilet? I love retro design, and would be thrilled with a vintage style bathroom, but not this kind of vintage.


Wooden accessories too, and that mirrored cubby over the counter is a real gem.

This is the current layout of the space. You can see it’s quite long and narrow – almost 15′ by 5′.


So that’s the bad, but there’s also a lot of good in this space. For a mid-century ranch, it’s actually a large master bathroom. In fact, it was by far the largest master bath of all the houses we looked at in our neighborhood. Some of them were teeny-tiny with a coffin sized shower and wall-mounted sink. Plus, it’s got that great big window, which lets in lots of natural light…some times too much. Finally, for whatever reason, there’s enough space to the right of the toilet in order to expand the shower without moving the toilet. Depending on which way the joists run, moving the toilet can be involved (aka expensive), so this was a big bonus.

The plan is to demo the entire room, including the soffit over the sink, and start from scratch. After much research and debate, I decided to go with stock cabinets that I ordered online to create a long vanity with double sinks. I searched endlessly for a stock vanity that would fit the space, but most of them are only 6′ long, and we have close to 8′ of space. We have a tub in the guest bathroom, so we’re creating a larger walk-in shower with a glass enclosure.

master-bath-remodel-new-layoutThis is what the new vanity will look like:


My goal was to create a clean, fresh, classic space with a little bit of personality while sticking to a strict budget. To save money, we’re using stock, ready-to-assemble cabinets that I ordered online. The countertop is a well-priced quartz, and the tile floor is a budget ceramic. To add a little detail to the floor, I ordered some 1″ marble mosaics that we’ll use as an accent next to each ceramic tile. I initially wanted a patterned cement tile, but the cost of both materials and labor was over our budget. Maybe in my next house.

While the fixtures are all pretty basic and on the lower end of the spectrum price wise, I did order them all through our local plumbing supplier. I learned the hard way that you get what you pay for at the big box stores.

We’re replacing the door, baseboards, window and door casing. Our house has very basic 2 1/4″ moldings, and I decided to start switching it out for 3 1/2″ flat stock instead. I hope that we can eventually replace all of our cheap hollow core doors to solid flat paneled doors.

I’ve designed many bathroom remodels for clients, and I’m always surprised as how much these small spaces can cost. Our remodel is going to come in slightly above a mid-range master bathroom remodel as estimated by remodeling.hw.net, which makes sense because their numbers are for a very basic 5’x7′ bathroom. The site has a great cost report if you want to see how much projects cost on average in your city.

Another look at the new floor plan…

3D Bathroom Floor Plan Chief Architect

Demo begins on Monday. I can’t even express how excited I am to have a brand new, clean, mold-free master bathroom. In my next post, I’ll share all of the selections that I made.

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The Best Light Gray Paint Colors for Walls

The other day I did a consult with a client to select paint colors for her open living room / dining room / kitchen. The home had been a builder spec home in a new development, and the client had re-painted when they moved in but felt the color, which was a very cool blue gray, wasn’t quite right.

Her instincts were right, and I could definitely see how she’d had trouble selecting the right paint color. The builder had used a pretty stone on the fireplace with warm gray undertones, tan carpeting, medium dark wood floors (not too red, which was good), espresso colored cabinets, and then granite countertops that were mostly gold with flecks of burgundy. The fixed finishes were all over the place, and the gray they’d picked was too cool to coordinate with any of them.

I brought my Sherwin-Williams and Benjamin Moore paint decks along with loose swatches of some of my favorite colors. I also brought drafting tape and a piece of white foam core. I like to tape the loose swatches to the foam core and then move the foam core around the room. Plus, the white of the foam keeps the existing wall color from distorting the color of the swatches.

We eventually settled on three options for the living area that were all warm grays and then three options for blue greens in the kitchen and dining area. We discussed painting the cabinets ivory to better coordinate with the cottage style the client prefers.

These are my go-to warm gray paint colors and my starting point in just about any room where I know I’m not doing a color or a beige.

Sherwin Williams Agreeable Gray SW 2029

Agreeable Gray by Sherwin Williams is definitely one of my top favorite colors for walls. It’s a warm stony color right in between true gray and beige. The undertone of the color leans more towards yellow-orange than toward green.

Domiteaux + Baggett Architects, PLLC, Dallas

Julea Reinventing Space, Palos Park

Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter HC-172

I know that everyone (on Pinterest) is loving Revere Pewter these days and with good reason. This is my top contender for my client’s living room because it paired nicely with the stone in her fireplace. It’s got a little more pigment in it than the Sherwin-Williams light grays (second swatch down on the strip) and has a more yellow-green undertone.

Scavullo Design Interiors, San Francisco

Lucy McLintic, San Francisco

Sherwin Williams Worldly Gray SW 7043

Worldly Gray is cooler than Agreeable Gray with more green in the undertone. It’s a beautiful color that looks lovely with natural wood.

Unique Spaces, Ottawa

Boyer Building Corporation, Minnetonka

Benjamin Moore Edgecomb Gray HC-173

Edgecomb Gray is right below Revere Pewter in the Benjamin Moore paint deck, but Edgecomb Gray has more yellow in it than Revere Pewter and less pigment. It’s a wonderful alternative to beige and much more versatile.

Cardea Building Co., San Francisco

Divine Custom Homes, Hudson

Sherwin Williams Useful Gray SW 7050

Useful Gray has a yellow-green undertone to it and also looks great with natural wood. It’s light and fresh feeling.

Scovell Wolfe & Associates, Inc, Kansas City

Sarah Stacey Interior Design, Austin

Benjamin Moore Stingray 1529

Stingray also has a yellow-green undertone. It’s another beautiful versatile gray that’s neither too warm (beige) or too cool.

Matarozzi Pelsinger Builders, San Francisco

Kelly Mcguill Home, Walpole

Sherwin Williams Sedate Gray SW 6169

Sedate Gray is probably my all time favorite gray. It’s definitely a green undertone, but it’s still warm. It doesn’t tend to look sagey, and it works well with all colors of natural wood. I have used most of the colors from the same paint strip and find that they are somewhat changeable with the light, looking cooler or warmer depending on the time of day. It also looks really beautiful with marble.

CM Glover, New York

T.R. Builder, Inc., New Port News

All of these grays work really well for rooms with lighter hardwood floors and for rooms with wood trim. If you prefer darker colored walls or just a little more pigment than these light grays, you can always use the third swatch down on the Sherwin-Williams paint strip or the fourth or fifth swatch on the Benjamin Moore strip (for the non HC colors). I like to use the lightest color on the strip for the ceiling instead of stark white.



Quote from The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield

I think this is a very important distinction to keep in mind whenever we’re trying to accomplish something really big or nurturing a dream way beyond our current reality. I know if I didn’t believe in this I would have given up on many goals long ago.