A Thrill of Hope

Every holiday this year, I’ve kept decorations to a minimum.  Rather than stressing about getting everything taken out, set up, and put away, all for only a couple of weeks of enjoyment, I’ve used only what I really love.  After sorting out the Christmas decorations, donating what I didn’t want to keep, I noticed I didn’t have anything to put on the mantle.


To fill the void, I knew I wanted to add a wooden sign (for warmth) with a song lyric on it.  After tossing out several options, Ben said he liked ‘A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices’ best.


To create the sign, I used two 1 by 12 inch reclaimed cedar boards, salvaged from our neighbors replaced siding.  After cutting the boards to 36 inches wide, I flipped each over to secure together with scraps of tongue and groove pine and 1 1/2 inch wood screws.


Using Photoshop, I created a digital design and had planned to print it as an engineer print to transfer.  I didn’t have time to get there, but when I picked the boys up from school, I asked a teacher friend of ours if I could use the projector to trace it.


Sure, it took some time, but it wasn’t terrible and the boys decided to ‘help’ me trace.  When I returned home, I laid the paper out, centering it on my boards, then taped one end to keep it from shifting.  Transferring the text is so easy with carbon paper. Years ago, I bought a pack of 20 sheets and have used them for different projects.  I just shift my sheet around to the parts I haven’t gotten and trace the design with a mechanical pencil tip, minus the lead.


Then, I turned on the Gilmore Girls revival and started filling in with paint.  It’s far from perfect, and you’ll see there are still bits of the carbon peeking out if you look closely.  If you have a cutting machine, that is certainly a great option to save time.


It’s the center of the mantle, with a white ceramic house (filled with a battery-powered strand of twinkle lights) and simple bottle brush trees round out the mantle top.


A string of adorable wooden and plaid trees, from Target’s dollar spot, and stockings identified by initials hang from railroad spikes.


I’d love to get a few bigger brush trees to add more height and color on the sides.  New stockings are also on my to do list, since these aren’t my favorite.  I don’t think the boys really appreciate the dangly beads on theirs.


Another super holiday addition is a red plaid throw and a vase of evergreen branches clipped from our trees.


No mess, no stress, and all is easily stored away once the season has passed.

White Versus Colorful Mats

Seven months ago, I found a beautiful vintage dresser on Craigslist, begged Ben to come with me to buy/haul it, and have loved it since.  In that post, near the end, I had taped up a gorgeous Emily Jeffords print that I planned to frame and hang above.

Craigslist-Dresser-with-Emily-Jeffords-Art-VerticalBecause this wall is large, I knew it needed a proportionately big piece of art to fill it.  I ordered a 30 by 40 inch print, but, turns out, that size is hard to frame.  Initially, I wanted to build a frame, but never took the time.  After extensive searching, I didn’t find any affordable framing options and let it simmer on the back burner.  Well, it only took me seven freaking months to get it done, but now that it is, I adore it.


Recently, while browsing Goodwill, I spotted a large chrome frame with near perfect dimensions.  The simple profile was exactly what I had in mind, keeping the focus directed at the art instead.  As a bonus, it was only fifteen bucks.  Once I got it home, I took the glass, mat, and backing out to give the frame a couple of coats of white paint.  Then, for a little drama, I decided to paint the double mat an olive-green.  Nothing as saturated as the colors in the painting to detract from the art, but enough to add interest.


But, to give the art a little buffer, I added a slim white mat inside to give visual separation between the mat and art.


White mats are readily available, an easy go to, and go with anything and everything I’ve ever framed.  Let’s face it though, it’s a safe, standard choice.


Colored mats add unexpected boost to art, and can highlight the art more than a white mat could.  However, colorful mats don’t belong around all art.  Generally, I like to use colored mats when the art is neutral, like these black and white leaf prints.



Do I think a white mat would look pretty?  Absolutely, but I also think the green gives more visual weight to the art, also bringing a touch of green from the curtains over to this side of the room.


If you’re not quite ready to go that bold, layer a colored mat beneath a white one.


A slim grass-green border, just a quarter to half-inch reveal will emphasize the art without being over bearing.


For a more subtle contrast, pull a color from the art to make a small piece of art seem a bit larger.


White frames are better suited to busier, smaller, or more colorful art because it allows the art to be the stand out.


For extra oomph with white mats, I like to use a thicker board or double up.  I found a precut 11 by 14 inch (inside, 16 by 20 inch outside) double white mat at Hobby Lobby for only five dollars to surround our new house portrait from The Littlest House.

Easy Bathroom Accessories

Utilitarian spaces like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms are always easier to accessorize than living/bedroom areas, simply because you’re aiming for function.  But function doesn’t have to equal ugly.  To finish off bathrooms, I select items that serve a purpose, are still pleasing to the eye, but aren’t always found in the bath section.  If you’re looking to add character, here are my favorite additions.

  • Cute towels and hooks:  Go crazy and pick a fun pattern and/or color because towels are so easy to swap out.  Near the shower, single label hooks hold peppy striped Turkish towels for a dose of fun.
  • basement-bathroom-finished-from-door-straightFramed mirrors:  I always ditch the builder standard plate-glass mirror in favor of a framed one.  Pretty mirrors are everywhere, so don’t settle for boring!  Our main bathroom sports a vintage campaign style mirror that came with a dresser set.


Our master bath has a unique round metal framed mirror to offset the rigid lines throughout the room.


Another vintage wooden mirror, that came with our bedroom dresser, is a welcome warm addition to the cool neutrals of the basement bathroom.


Also, to get great, flattering lighting, use sconces instead of overhead lights.  Fewer shadows are cast because the sconces light from each side.

  • Add vertical storage shelves:  Short on floor space?  Go up!  In our main bathroom, we removed a wide vanity to add a smaller vanity plus a floor to ceiling shelf stack.  At 16 inches wide, it doesn’t eat up much of our floor plan, but does offer a great deal of storage.

Main Bathroom Shelving

By widening the basement shower, we narrowed the space between it and the door.  Rather than letting that space go to waste, four floating shelves fill the void, putting it to good use.


  • Glass storage:  Especially in bathrooms that guests often use, I like keeping essentials in plain sight.  No one wants to rummage through cabinets to find cotton balls or soap.  Cylindrical jars keep band aids, soap, cotton balls and cotton swabs handy on a shelf in the main bathroom.

Store Toiletries in Sight

A triple stacked glass container on our master bathroom counter is used daily.

Master Bathroom Toilet

Four black lidded canisters fill a basement bathroom shelf, but keep those items out of limited drawer space.


  • Art, preferably without eyes:  Almost anything goes here, but I always feel strange adding art with eyes.  With moisture concerns, I avoid using anything too expensive or precious.  Vintage, almost ugly oil paintings are great.


Or you can think outside the box and hang something different, like vintage arrows.

Cedar-Tub-Shelf-in-BathroomSimple Instagram photos add a bit of color, too.


Near the toilet, an added outlet (on the same circuit as a GFI outlet, so it’s grounded) is a great spot for a little night light, or perhaps a fancy heated toilet seat.

For easy clean up, I prefer relatively clutterless counters.  Even so, I love to add something pretty, like a small plant or picture frame along with a drinking glass and soap.



  • Trays:  To keep drawers and cabinets free for toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc., I corral toilet paper in a wooden tray or basket.

House-Tour-Four-Years-In-Main-Bath-VanityAgain, keeping necessities in sight avoids awkward searching or running out.


  • Upgrade shampoo, conditioner, and soap bottles:  I know my OCD is showing here, but I really love how sleek and fancy real soap pumps make a space feel.


Also handy when you shop at Costco and don’t want to keep a giant bottle in the shower.


  • Extra towels:  Have extra space?  Free up room in the linen closet by keeping towels in the bathroom.  A great accessory, but guests can easily help themselves.


Of course stylish garbage cans and shower curtains never hurt.

Pressed Baby Clothes = Laundry Art

Our recently remodeled laundry room is almost a square, with cabinets on either side of the door.  This arrangement left a blank wall directly ahead, desperately screaming for something colorful.


I briefly hung a custom flag there, but decided it worked better in the hall, so the wall was empty again.


While getting the Halloween decorations out of our crawl space storage, I also rummaged through bins of the boys’ baby clothes.  I pulled out the baby blue two piece outfit they both came home from the hospital in and another favorite I forced them to wear.  I’m not really one for theme-y decor, but the tiny clothes were far too cute to continue to hide away in storage.  Fortunately, baby clothes are small and fit into a couple of 16 by 20 inch frames I had on hand.


After ironing the clothes flat, I carefully laid the clothes face down on the glass.  For a bit more color, I backed the clothes with a piece of green mat board before securing the bulging backs in place.


They’re certainly not perfect, but I adore the little details.


Itty bitty pockets!  Mini arms that can’t reach the head!


As usual, I’ve fallen victim to the ‘if you give a mouse a cookie’ syndrome, and am planning more art.  Near the garage door, I snagged a 20 by 30 inch American Bison screen print from Wolf Jaw Press.


A frame is still to come.  Oddly enough, the cello sleeve and tape aren’t cutting it, but he sure is a handsome fella.


In the guest room, I’m still on the hunt for a pair (matching or not) of proportionately sized dressers to flank the bed.  Until then, I’m propping a random, rotating display of art on the dresser.


Poor, poor blank room.  Still, I’m happy to give things time to naturally come together.


Same goes for the theater room, though I do have a single piece of art to go directly ahead.


Tom Selleck, one of Ben’s favorite cowboy actors and the handsome guy he is, will greet our tv watchers.tom-selleck-print

Just as soon as I make a walnut frame, thanks to the odd, custom size.  I’ve also been dreaming of the beautiful art from Linton Art.  I especially love the gigantic, detailed, graphic look of the Locust Tree to fill the large, empty walls of the theater room.

It’d be a simple, yet striking contrast against the deep green walls.  Any artful additions going on in your home?

The Progression of Our Entry

As with many remodels, some rooms take priority and are finished first and quickly.  Others are a slow but steady progression toward an end goal.  Our entry has certainly fallen into the latter category, with small changes taking place over the last four years.  In such a small space, why can’t progress go quicker?  First, let’s look at the space the day we got the keys.

New-House-Entry April 13 2012

It was as dark as it looks, heavy on the wood tones, red curtains, and stained beige marble floors.  The Tiffany style light was too ornate as were the corbels supporting an arch dividing the entry and living rooms.  Soon after, we pulled off the curtains, tore out the arch, built a slim entry shelf, and put in a new light fixture.



Oy, I don’t know if I’d say the space looked better, but it was going places.  The big blank wall with a heavy knock down texture just loomed, all peach and boring.  Knowing we’d need a giant piece of art to cover it, we decided to add a painted tongue and groove accent wall.  Not only does it add a good kind of texture, but the simple white is a great backdrop for a pair of vintage Longhorns.



Just painting over the peach walls with a warm gray made a huge difference, somewhat updating the orange oak railings.  Still, the old front door and too tall window above weren’t cutting it.


Then, a big game, ehhh, room changer happened when we swapped the front door.  Replacing the standard door and sidelight combo with an 8 foot tall by 6 foot wide full glass door floods the entry and stairs with natural light.  A shorter, transom style window above is better proportioned.

Replace a Front Door

More recently, while we had access to the underside of the posts from the unfinished basement, we built a sleek stair railing.  Ahh, the transformation was nearly complete.Lingering-To-Do-Entry-Tile

Two weekends ago, while discussing what tools Ben could clean up and put away, I mentioned the entry tile could be a quick project to tackle.  He said it wasn’t on his priority list and I carried on with painting the basement bathroom.  That was, until I heard an awful lot of hammering and went to check it out.  Turns out, Ben had started tearing out the old tile.  After I finished painting, I grabbed a hammer and gleefully broke up tile with him.  By carefully scraping, we were able to reuse the Hardie board and were left with this:


Last Saturday, Ben laid new slate tile in a staggered brick pattern and grouted on Sunday.  Baseboards are finally in and waiting caulking, filling, and painting to complete the look.



Other than painting the baseboards, I’m ready to call the entry complete.


With or without the Halloween decorations.  The bats have made another appearance, along with a barbed wire ‘wreath’ wrapped with twinkle lights.

entry-halloween-2016That concludes the entry transformation, at least I think it does.  You know, until I change my mind and want to add something.