Household Projects and Decor

When we bought our house in March, it was recently renovated, so luckily we have not actually had to tackle any new renovations and have been able to simply decorate and put our personal touches to the space. When we first moved in, I was so happy with the clean slate and beautiful decor that was already in the house, that I said I could just unpack and be satisfied. But of course, that lasted all of 2 seconds before I was daydreaming and stalking the internet for decorative inspiration. That being said, even just decorating and furnishing an entire new house is a big task and has taken us quite some time (and LOTS of money) – and we are still no where near complete! But we decided to approach this slowly, allowing time to live in the space and let our ideas, and bank accounts, grow. And in the 10 months since we’ve been there, I will say we have accomplished quite a lot! So, since I’ve recently spent way more money than I’d like to admit on home decor – and since I’ve also full-blown entered the nesting phase of pregnancy – I figured now would be an appropriate time to detail some of the projects we’ve completed in our new house and what is still in the works:

Repurposing Furniture:

I’m a big fan of flea market flip – actually I’m a huge fan of most HGTV shows – but I have absolutely zero experience repurposing furniture and wouldn’t exactly say I’m the most handy or crafty person. Despite that, when we first moved into the house, I decided to try my hand and take a few old pieces of furniture and give them a new look. When my grandmother passed 2 summers ago I inherited her dining room furniture. At the time I had no place to display it – but I had so many fond memories of all the holidays we spent at her house and couldn’t bear to see the furniture go to a stranger. So I stored it until we bought this house and I’m glad I did – because furnishing a brand new house is a big task and these pieces most certainly came in handy. That being said, they looked like antiques and didn’t quite have the decorative feel I was going for in the new home. So I did a little research on how to use chalk paint and set to work painting and distressing the pieces. Chalk paint is actually super user friendly and after watching and researching a few tutorials, I’m pretty happy with my method and finished products. My one surprise was the whole process took a lot longer than I thought and required quite some effort – the tutorials made it look so easy! And don’t get me wrong, it was easy, but it was also really time consuming!  I’m a bit of a perfectionist with any kind of project and I have a really hard time stopping when I’m in the middle of something.  So maybe a ‘normal’ person would have an easier time with this, but once I got started, the perfectionist in me came into full swing and I literally worked day and night for a solid weekend, with very few breaks to eat, pee or sleep until the pieces were done (crazy, I know, but also productive). Here’s what that involved…

I started with an accent chest. I loved the painted detail and the fact that it was multi-functional and could be used as a jewelry chest. But the brown paint was dull and chipping and in desperate need of a small makeover. I painted over the brown in a white chalk paint – to be honest I wasn’t really sure of my direction here, and was thinking I might just keep it white, but something about it, at this stage, just looked unfinished:

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So I tested out an antique wax, to be applied over the white paint – and wow! Again, I wasn’t sure what the antique wax would do, but liked its results immediately.  Here is the finished product:

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The antique wax was super easy to use, required one coat and totally transformed the piece into exactly what I wanted.

My next 2 pieces were a matching dining room hutch and curio cabinet – I wanted to give these a complete makeover with a lighter color scheme.  This was my inspiration for these 2 pieces:

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This is the best ‘before’ photo I have of the 2 pieces when we first moved in

I started with the curio cabinet, since it was smaller and seemed more manageable.  I permanently removed the doors to give it open/bookcase feel and set to work with a french linen white chalk paint for the exterior and duck egg blue for the interior. Here’s where I learned my lessons in chalk paint – it’s easy to use but also very finicky. After 2 full coats of both paints, and countless hours, I still could not achieve a seamless, solid, shiny painted look. Maybe it was the brush I was using, maybe my method, but the paint looked streaky and dull – I could see every brush line. But I was tired of painting and not willing to commit to a 3rd coat – and I knew the final exterior wax would improve the look, so I set to the waxing the final coat. I used a clear, solid wax, which naively I thought would give it a shine – like real paint. This did not happen. It did give it some shine, but, really, looked nothing like I was envisioning. Again, I am still no expert in this process, but thought – perhaps chalk paint is called chalk paint for a reason and its not meant to shine (like real paint)?? So I changed my direction and stopped striving for a perfect shiny exterior and took Paul’s advice to distress the piece instead. Hours of sanding later and we finally had a result I was happy with:

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Piece in progress, after the wax
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Finished product – we sanded the exterior for a more rustic, distressed look

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In the end my process consisted of 2 coats of french linen white chalk paint on the exterior, 2 coats of duck egg blue chalk paint on the interior, 1 coat of finishing wax over the entire piece and a medium grade sandpaper to sand down in select sections, giving the piece a ‘distressed’ look. A bit of trial and error, mixed with a bit of frustration but I think I finally got there.

After spending, literally, an entire weekend working on the curio cabinet, I’ll admit I was a bit terrified to tackle the hutch (which is easily double the size and a much more complicated piece with cabinets, drawers, doors, shelves, etc). Also – and I swear this is not a cop out – a little piece of me protested when I painted over that beautiful solid oak wood on the curio cabinet, and decided maybe I should preserve the original look of the hutch, instead of painting over it. So I split the pieces up, no longer part of a set with the curio cabinet having its own new look, and I kept the hutch in our dining room and moved the newly improved curio cabinet/bookcase to our bay window/sitting area. I gave the hutch a bit of a refreshed look by removing the glass doors and switching out all of the gold antique hardware for something more industrial. I dressed it up further by buying lots of colorful, eye catching decorative pieces to place inside – and I’m satisfied with this, for the time being. Maybe someday I’ll give the hutch a fresh coat of paint and a new look, but for now, I am glad that one of the pieces retains the old character and that I was able to preserve it’s original beautiful golden oak wood, while still giving it a fresher look:

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The final step in my dining room/hutch decorative process was to create a gallery wall in the spaces on either side of the hutch. Again, it worked out nicely that I ended up moving the curio cabinet to another room, because this gave me plenty of wall space to design the photo gallery. We decided to stick with all landscapes and travel photos for this space (no people), and picked out our favorites from Paul’s photography. What makes this even more special is the fact that all of the photos feature places we’ve visited, and were created by Paul. I chose two of my favorite travel quotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson for the end frames, and here is the final product:

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Quote on the end, over one of Paul’s photos of sunrise in Lake George, our first trip together: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not”

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This space is nearly almost finished but I’ve had my eye on 2 patterned end chairs for the dining table (like these from Pier 1) and also an eye catching rustic chandelier (something like this). Probably also a rug would be a nice addition but Dodger (the dog) still insists on chewing up every rug that comes into our house… so we’re not quite there yet.

Den:

With the old furniture given new purpose, and the gallery wall complete, we turned our attention to our den. First up was a new coat of paint. Paul had the fabulous idea to paint our fireplace white (I can’t believe I didn’t come up with that on my own, honestly) and we decided to go with a sage green on the walls:

Den before, old fireplace and old furniture

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Den before, old fireplace and old furniture

To complete the look, we purchased these amazingly comfortable couches from Raymour and Flanagan, and decided to swap out the dark wood end tables and TV unit for a lighter, sand color, to coordinate with the overall lighter feel of the room:

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New paint, old fireplace and furniture
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New couches! Yes, there’s usually a dog in the way of all my photos…
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New TV unit – I love this piece from Home Depot. It was amazingly affordable and looks beautiful

 

Lastly, came finishing the fireplace. We removed the old coal stove (because I had zero intentions of actually burning coal in our house, and we couldn’t really find another purpose for it), installed a floating beam mantle and transformed it into a cozy open fireplace. Having never had a fireplace in any home we’ve lived in, we are both loving this feature this winter:

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Dodger loves it too!
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Floating beam mantle from Wayfair

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And for now, this room is complete.  It could still use a nice rug, some window treatments and additional decor on the wall. I’d even like to go so far as to someday install solid, rustic beams across the ceiling for some added character. But for now, we are happy with the progress and will keep those items on the ‘Future To Do’ list. Most likely the next, most easily achievable project in this room will be a friends/family gallery wall in the empty space next to the TV (once we have pictures of baby Guetter to add!)

Bedroom:

When we first moved into the house, we bought new bedroom furniture and bedding, then abandoned the bedroom for other projects. Recently we finally refocused our attention to this space and I’m so glad we did. I’ve been wanting to paint the walls for months, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. Well, no better time to finally tackle such neglected projects as when nesting during pregnancy! But in all seriousness, I knew if we didn’t finish the bedroom before the baby came, we never would, and though I loved what we picked out in terms of furniture and bedding, the room just still felt incomplete. I had my eyes set on painting the walls grey, and decided to go for a darker shade rather than my typical play-it-safe-neutral-color-scheme tendencies.  I always prefer a darker bedroom, I think it helps me sleep better and feel more relaxed. So we went with the dark grey wall which nicely offset the silver hardware on our bedroom furniture. The bedding was gold, which I kept for a fun mix of silver and gold, but I swapped out the sheets and casual duvet cover for a chocolate brown. Lastly, I picked a grey patterned curtain for the windows – these bedroom windows are a strange size, so I went with a top treatment only for now, but will probably add a neutral blind underneath:

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Bedroom paint in progress, old sheets
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Testing curtains
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In these photos the walls look pretty green, but really, in person, they are much closer to a dark gray
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Furniture from Jennifer Convertibles, curtains from Amazon and bedding from Homegoods (my favorite store ever)

 

And with the major room makeovers complete (for now), here are a few additional photos of my favorite decorative pieces throughout the house:

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Front entry way. I LOVE this set of drawers from Raymour and Flanagan and reclaimed driftwood mirror from Homegoods!
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Bay window/sitting area – after completing the den, we were able to move some of the old furniture into this space, giving it much more function.
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Dining room
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I love this silver and gold runner from Homegoods
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Kitchen – which required very little work other than the purchase of the island bar stools from Wayfair
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Master bath – which again required very little work. We purchased this shower bench and medicine cabinet and the mirror was an old find from Lowes that we brought over from our old house – and just happened to coordinate perfectly!

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I’m kind of obsessed with this shower curtain in the main bath – Amazon!

Paul took on the office all his own, I love what he did with the space. He put a lot of thought into all of the wall decor and transformed the room into a place that really reflects his style and interests:

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The basement has become kind of a ‘catch-all’ for all of our old stuff, but I will say its shaping up nicely into an enjoyable space, and one I know will see much more use as our family grows:

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And last but not least, most people would not care much about a storage room, but I am a huge sucker for anything organized, so sharing my living space with this makes me super happy:

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Our next big/current project is the nursery and then we (hopefully) switch our focus to the outdoor spaces this spring and summer. We did a bit of landscaping and clean up last spring and for this year I have my heart set on new, rustic, reclaimed wood shutters and window boxes for some added curb appeal  – more on these projects still to come!

 

Disclaimer: Paul really helped with every single one of these projects. Though a lot of the ideas were mine, he lent his creative opinion often and usually we approached major decisions together. He also handled almost all of the physical work involved- in fact I never even picked up a paint brush once, except when working with the chalk paint! So thanks, Paul, for your willingness and assistance in making our home beautiful!

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