Fall Mantel Styling

A friend recently challenged another friend and I to style a fall mantel without spending a dime.  We styled at her house, and it was a nice change to work with items she had already.  To get started, we cleared everything off and wiped it down.


Next, we shopped her house, digging items out of her stash and pulling pictures off the walls.  For the first round, we set out a trio of framed items, an old window, a mirror and a black and white cow print.


With our center focal point created, we added a rustic galvanized bucket of sticks for height.  On the other size, for a bit of color, a vase of red poppies.


Lastly, we filled in the empty spaces with candle sticks, a potted succulent, and a metal E.


For kicks, we played around with other arrangements.  Whether you like a more full look:


Or a bit more sparse, there’s no right or wrong so long as you like it.


Ultimately, we landed on this arrangement.  It has it all, height, softness, wood, touches of black and greenery.  A few personalized items round out the arrangement, creating a neutral fall arrangement.


If you’re feeling stagnant with the items in your home, ask a group of friends to corral items they’re tiring of and do a swap.  It’s a fun and free way to shake things up.


Details Make the Difference

Over the course of the last couple of months, Ben has been hard at work on a main floor remodel for some fun clients.  I’ve had the pleasure of working with the stylish duo to select finishes to fit his more modern aesthetic and her traditional/farmhouse leaning style.


For the entry, we painted the door Black Magic from Benjamin Moore, to add drama and contrast against all of the white and pale gray.  A modern version of a lantern marries both styles, while giving a warm welcome.


Down the hall, I found a pair of smaller single bulb fixtures to add a bit of interest.  New five panel molded doors have cleaner lines than their original arched doors.  Simple white trim is kind of the eyeliner for the hall full of doors.


Choosing the hardwood floors was quick and painless, as we all loved this slightly gray washed wide white oak plank.  To keep the main area light and bright, we had the walls painted Crushed Ice from Sherwin Williams.  In the master bedroom, we injected a bit more personality with a wooden beaded chandelier and a dark accent wall (Peppercorn from Sherwin Williams).


Ben really loved assembling the fixture.


The new doors have matte black Latitude handles and hinges from Schlage.  In a space with so many light elements, the dark hardware is a great accent.


Looking down the hall, the stairs have a new steel horizontal railing, which is the icing on the cake.


Right upon entering the house, the fireplace and built in cabinets are a focal point from several vantage points throughout the main spaces.


We’re all in love with the deep walnut against the white of the fireplace and cabinets.


In the kitchen, brass pendants are already looking great against the in progress custom walnut vent hood cover.


Final details are all coming into place now, so I hope to have after photos sooner rather than later.

A Client Remodel: Before

Back in August, Ben and I started working on a main level remodel for a sweet, stylish couple.  Despite the house being built within the last 20 years, the before felt very dated, despite having painted every wall to update it.  The entry boasts a beautiful door, which opens toward the living room.


From the front door, there’s a beautiful view through a big back window, with a rock fireplace to one side and the dining/kitchen to the left.


Even with the two arched openings, the kitchen felt very closed off, which was tricky when they hosted large groups.



Big east and south-facing windows flood the rooms with natural light, but the yellow trim didn’t do any favors for the space.


Before, cabinets lined all walls, creating a tight walkway all around.  With only 29 inches between the island and side cabinets, there was just barely enough room to open the dishwasher.  The entrance from the garage also cramped the space.


A large sliding door off the dining room opens to the back yard.


Looking from the kitchen toward the living room, the arched walls blocked flow and the view of the fireplace.


While nice to have a fireplace, the too small mantle throws off the proportions.  Having two small children, our clients wanted more storage space for electronics and toys.


Crown molding with rope lighting tucked behind floated a few inches below the ceiling.  About half of the lights still worked, but those that did gave off a sickly orange glow.


Down the hall are three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a laundry room in need of updates.  The arched knotty alder doors and hand scraped light floors felt too rustic and traditional, all at once.


Bedrooms only needed trim, carpet, and paint touch ups, but the bathroom could benefit from new floors, cabinet, counters, sink, and faucet.


With a small laundry room, the dark appliances and cracking floors didn’t help the room.


Major pieces have started coming together in the last couple of weeks, so stay tuned for progress updates.

An Affordable Sofa

There’s a brand spanking new sofa in our living room, which is a break from my usual thrift/Craigslist purchases.


Back in May, we moved my most amazing Craigslist score, a camel leather sofa for only $220, from the south-facing living room into the north facing family room.  The sun was unevenly fading the leather.  And while I love the plushness of that sofa, Ben finds it too soft.


The gray sofa from the family room went into the living room, but that one never felt quite right for that space.


So, back in May, Ben suggested we get a new sofa, which is so out of the ordinary of him that I seized the moment.  We tried to take advantage of the Memorial Day sales, but I couldn’t find anything locally that I liked the style or price of.


Fast forward a month and I stumbled on the perfect sofa, in a sporting goods store, no less.  Each sofa is made in North Carolina, with a hardwood frame, heavy gauge seat wires, and tie wires on the back and seat to last for years.  Even better, it was $999.99 with so many great fabric options.


Before ordering, I took home several fabric samples I liked to see how the color and patterns would look in our home and lighting.  Samples usually look different in a flourescent lit store than a home.

There was a wide tone on tone herringbone that was beautiful, but after a few minutes felt like an optical illusion.  If the sample made my eyes feel funny, surely an entire sofa wouldn’t be better.


For the fabric, I wanted something with a slightly nubby texture.  A weave with some variation, but not overwhelming.  A neutral, go with anything color with a touch of warmth to coordinate with the linen sofa across the room.  Most importantly, I didn’t want a fabric with a sheen/metallic-ish thread.  Finally, I found the perfect one and dragged Ben to the store to sit on it.


He liked that the sofa is firm and supportive.  I loved the track arm and clean, unfussy lines.  With Ben’s seal of approval, I ordered the Craftmaster F9 sofa in Lilou, a soft gray with a track arm, semi-attached box back cushions, and a welt detail.   I ditch the pillows that come with sets, because it feels very one note to have the pillows match the sofa.


It took eight weeks from order to arrival in the local store for pick up, but it was well worth the wait.

The Finished Pool House!

If you’ve been following along for a while, I’m sure you’re sick of seeing pool house progress.  And guess what, I am too!  Luckily, over the weekend, we have officially completed the pool house.  Six plus years ago, when we first looked at the house, the room looked like this:

New-House-Pool-Room April 13 2012

Everyone else that looked at the house saw this big space as a money pit, but we saw the potential in it.  That’s not to say the road to completion has been easy, but it is certainly worth the time spent getting it all finished and functional.  I know this is what everyone has been waiting for, so now I’ll keep words to a minimum and loads of pictures.


Isn’t it crazy that this is the same space?!  New windows, ceiling, walls, floors, paint, kitchen, bath.  Top to bottom, the entire nearly 1600 square foot space has been updated.  Looking back toward the house, the view is equally different.


We widened the door to the house, as well as the bathroom door, and lowered the kitchen platform.


Speaking of the kitchen area, this is what i t looked like originally:


And the kitchen now:


The bench seats double as storage, handy for tucking away pool floaties and toys.


In the back corner, there was a built-in hot tub:


Now there’s a free-standing, easy to fix or replace tub:



With few accessories for the space, the towels and hooks serve as functional art.


There’s a big tv Ben saved from the neighbor’s trash and repaired for $50.  It’ll be great to play water aerobics videos.


Ignore the dangling wires, as those are for the surround sound speakers Ben still has to install.  I guess the space isn’t 100% finished.  My citrus trees are loving it so far, so I hope I can keep them happy and alive.



Usually, the reel and cover live at the deep end of the pool, and this giant swan just hangs out.


I know this project has taken a long time, but thank you for following along, offering your encouragement, and sticking it out to see the results.  We’re already putting it to regular use, which is fun considering it’s quickly growing colder in Montana.  Bring on the winter pool parties!