Our Home at Night

We all love seeing photos of beautifully designed, sun drenched homes, right?  I know I’m drawn to those bright, airy spaces that are so often featured in magazines, advertisements, and blogs.

For a few months now, I’ve wanted to share a different approach, featuring night shots to show how cozy a dark home can look.  Honestly, many rooms in our south-facing home do receive a generous dose of sunlight.  But what happens when the sun sinks?  Life still goes on, of course, but rooms don’t lose their beauty without sunlight.

Granted, taking true to life photos that capture the warmth and details is one hundred times more difficult.  Our family room, on the darker north (back) side of the house always feels a bit cozier.


I think it’s a combo of the indirect light, privacy/courtyard feel of the back deck, fireplace, and the surrounding rooms.  Being adjacent to the kitchen certainly feels less formal and more inviting.


Due to the floating furniture arrangement with main walkways around, table or floor lamp cords would pose a tripping hazard.  Instead, we have three different sources of lights; directional can lights above the fireplace, another set angled toward the right wall, and a pair of sconces flanking the door.


A little nook for firewood and family photos is laid back and casual.  How cute would a little lamp look tucked in there?  I may have to make that happen, if I can find a perfect fit.


In the kitchen, a small table and four chairs create a breakfast nook with a vintage globe light above.


In that same area, a built-in hutch cabinet stores pretty dishes and serving pieces, as well as a stocked bar for entertaining.  After I took this photo, I added a set of ceramic house candle holders for a soft, flickering option.


In the main kitchen area, simple recessed can lights shine down on the walnut island centerpiece.


Glass front cabinets are one of my favorite features because the addition of dishes and accessories add character to a utilitarian space.


Our dining room is right off the kitchen, which is where we eat family meals, entertain guests, play games, and do homework.


Finding a light fixture that offered a warm glow was crucial for us, as we wanted a diffused, candle light feel.  In my opinion, bright or downcast lights in a dining room don’t give the ‘come, sit, stay a while’ feel.


As you can see, I need to add another shell over the other picture frame, but I hope you’ve enjoyed this alterative view of our home.

Four Year Home Tour: Part One

In some ways, it’s hard to believe, but today marks four years since getting the keys to this house.  Often, I have to think hard to remember just how (bad some) things were when we moved in.  Others are fresh in my memory since we’ve only recently made changes.  Either way, it’s always fun and satisfying to take a walk down memory lane, if for no other reason than to appreciate how far we’ve come.

Four years feels fast, considering we’ve tackled every room (or are in the process of reworking, as is the case of the basement).  Four years also feels slow, chugging away, waiting for the right time to start projects, or finishing another before moving to the next.  Home is a constant creation, finding each perfect piece and putting it into place.  Overall, we’re both so happy with the progress and love living here, enjoying the views, and are excited to continue our progress.

Okay, enough of the sapiness, on with the then and now tour, starting in the entry.  In the past, I’ve done these tours in one long post, but this one is especially picture heavy so I’m splitting it into two parts; today you’ll see the living areas.

Before felt dark, dated, and dingy.  Those peach walls always looked dirty, the dark wood door and side lights overwhelmed, and an overly intricate Tiffany style light felt stuffy and too traditional.  And the railings, oh the sheer amount of orange toned oak.

New-House-Entry April 13 2012

Swapping the standard height door for a double wide, 8 foot tall one (taken from the dining room) and shorter, transom style window above dramatically brighten and update this small space.


To add interest to the large wall (and cover up the heavy knock down texture), we added tongue and groove planks, painted white, to lighten up and add the good kind of texture.  The stained beige marble floors days are numbered, to be replaced with Montauk black slate.


Replacing the traditional spindle railing for a sleek horizontal design made a huge difference.  A modern, multi arm light juxtaposes with the more rustic elements, like the horns.


Once at the top of the stairs, the living and dining rooms are to the left.  Before, the traditional windows with grids and the eight foot tall door were dark and broke up the beautiful views out front.


New windows, light trim and paint, and bold doses of green add vibrancy to the south-facing rooms.  Ignore the sofa backing the window, it’s here until the basement theater room is ready for it.


Those ornate fixtures, both hanging and the pair of sconces were poorly placed, neither centered on anything.  With the open flow of rooms, the arch separating the entry and living room didn’t make sense.

New-House-Dining-into-Living-Room April 13 2012

Knowing we planned to use this room daily, for tv watching, relaxing, and toy playing, we built a large entertainment center with drawers for ample storage.  Nearly all the boys’ toys are stored in those nine drawers, so it certainly has served its purpose.


Dual mismatched sofas, one leather, the other a slim wood and linen design, face one another, offering plenty of seating.  This arrangement still allows a full view of the mountain and city scene out the windows.


Positioning the leather sofa parallel to the dining room offers a bit of separation of the open floor plan without a formal divide.


Ugh, every time I see this light I remember how many times I smashed my head on that dang thing.  Why the previous owner placed an eight foot tall door in a room with eight foot ceilings, I’ll never know.  Not only does it look awkward, it didn’t allow for a proper header and wasn’t stable.  The bay window sagged over time, making it non functional.


After pulling the door out and installing it in the entry, we swapped the arrangement of window and door, extending the deck over to make a more usable arrangement both inside and out.  A large mission style dining set, centered on the window and door, fills the space.


To further open the floor plan, we knocked out the majority of the wall between the dining and kitchen.  The twelve-foot wide door makes entertaining and daily living even more enjoyable.


Opening the wall also floods the north facing kitchen with natural light.  Dark oak cabinets, 80’s country blue wall paper, and an over sized flourescent light didn’t help this kitchen.  However, it was a large, open size.


Swapping the dated, broken cabinets for sleek white DIY ones really changes the look and function.  A full wall of white Carrara marble brings in natural tones and subtle texture variation.  Dark slate floors are used throughout the house, for continuity and, well, we love the material.


Two more bay windows that couldn’t open properly, yet another gaudy light, and heavy knock down texture on the ceilings were primary offenders.


For the most part, the new layout is very similar to the original.  All drawer lowers keep everything organized and completely accessible.  As much as I adore white kitchens, I like the balance of warm wood tones, so we created a custom walnut island.  As with the slate floors, we’ve used white tongue and groove boards in designs around the house.  The ceiling here was textured, cracked, and had several holes from lighting.  Rather than painstakingly skim coating the ceiling and hoping it didn’t crack again, we put up our favorite material to hide the flaws.


A wall of floor to ceiling cabinets made a main walkway even smaller, and made a not so fun Ring Around the Rosie game to get pantry staples out.

Family Room Before

After opening up the wall, we still had about seven feet of space off to the side.  For added function, we built a bar/hutch in this space.


Vases, extra dishes, and overstock liquor are stored below, leaving the upper for pretty dishes and a fully stocked bar.


At the back of the house is our family room, previously seen with a dirt covered moss rock fireplace, an unused nook, and broken windows.  For reference, the arched doorway to the right leads straight down the stairs.


Covering the fireplace, adding a wood burning insert, and shelves in the nook, are all changes we love.  We also replaced the old, broken windows with energy-efficient functioning ones.  It’s nice to be able to open windows in here to get some air movement.


Another open layout, the family room backs up to the kitchen and breakfast nook.  Yet another arched divider that didn’t fit the style of the house.

Landing on the most useful, functional furniture arrangement in this room surrounded by walkways wasn’t easy.  After trial and error, testing, and rearranging, this layout has proven to work.  Sofa backing the room, large stump coffee table centered, with two modern chairs flanking the fireplace still leaves walk space.



Bedrooms and bathrooms will come tomorrow, so stay tuned to see those changes.  To see the progression of these spaces over the years, check out the first year, second, and last year.

It hasn’t been an overnight transformation, but I’d say each room is at least 90% finished.  Most of the changes I want to make are simply waiting to find the right furniture or accessory to finish it off.  A larger rug for the living room.  Perhaps a different set of chairs around the breakfast table.  A bench at the foot of our bed, but nothing major.  Nope, the main level is feeling like home.  The basement now, that’s a different story.  Don’t even get me started on the pool house situation-haha.

Luck of the Irish

I may not have Irish heritage, but I undeniably love the color green.  As a kid, when coloring or painting, I didn’t consider my work done until I added a splash of green somewhere.  If you’re wondering, yes, I was a complete nerd who loved to draw, paint, build and decorate cardboard doll houses.  I remember making a yellow-backed floral wall paper by drawing on white printer paper.  It’s too bad I don’t have photos, because I’m sure it was just lovely-haha.

To me, green adds a vibrancy and lively element no other colors can.  Yes, yellow is bright and cheery, but it doesn’t add the right warmth.  Blues are beautiful and soothing, but can’t quite make the statement green can.  Green is so abundant in nature, whether light, fresh spring green, dark mid summer grass-green, or the muted tones found in fall and winter.  As a general green lover, I’ve incorporated some of each throughout my home and I urge you to do the same.

Some rooms have just a sprinkle (nothing too in your face) of green, such as our family room. In a mostly neutral space, nearly citron green pillows liven up the couch and add a jolt of color.


A brightly colored green and blue landscape painting perks up the mantle while the lumbar pillows pull the color down to the neutral chairs.  Just a few small green accessories like books, a small vase, and candles pepper the color around the rest of the room.


Our kitchen counters are dark, nearly black green soapstone that still reads as a neutral.


Small additions like towels, plants, dishes, even fruit are quick, zero commitment ways to add even more color.


Other rooms have a slightly bigger swath of green, like our living room.  Six sets of luscious grass-green velvet curtains flank the windows.


Cover the curtains with your hand and you’ll notice just how much life and personality they bring to the room.  When in doubt, always default to house plants to get that bit of color without overwhelming a room.  Bonus, you don’t have to deal with picking paint colors or fabrics.


Speaking of paint, sometimes a quart can make the biggest impact.  At less than $20, what do you have to lose by giving it a try?  Our main bathroom rocks an olive-green vanity, which has so much more character than any neutral ever will.


Toss a few more green accessories, in this case, hand towels and a nearly ugly 70’s landscape painting, around the room to complete the look.

Main Bathroom Overall

According to the color wheel, green is a cool color, but it certainly adds warmth to any space.  A muddy sagey olive acts as an almost neutral backdrop in our guest bedroom.


Pairing with bright white it feels so fresh, clean, and simple.  But greens really shine next to warm wood tones, much like a tree trunk and leaves.


By far the most overtly green room in the house is the boys’ bedroom.  Back when I gave their room a makeover, I asked each of them what color walls they wanted.  One said green and the other said yellow.  We compromised with this lemongrass yellow-green.  It’s fun and happy, but is tempered by white, gray, and navy.


Our master suite, though mostly white and black, has green tucked here and there.  More grass-green velvet wraps the headboard for a touch of color against an otherwise white wall.


Opposite the bed, a few bright green plants and (soon to be framed) landscape painting flank a dresser, bringing color around the room in a simple, easy-going way.


Even our master bathroom has touches of green via plants and a very abstract landscape.


Though we’re not quite at the point of the basement remodel to paint and add accessories, I’m trying to narrow down green paint options to use down there in a few ways.  I think we all have a color we naturally gravitate toward, right?  What’s yours, and more importantly, how do you use it in your decor?

Another $5 Chair Pair

Around a year and a half ago, while searching for thrifted treasures in need of some love, I found a pair of chairs, each priced at only five bucks.  Of course, at that price, the chairs weren’t perfect.  Far from it, in fact with torn orange vinyl seats and dark stained wood.  Basically, all 70’s glory.


After a few hours of sanding, several yards of fabric, and elbow grease, the chairs were much more sturdy and neutral.

Update 70's Chairs

Rewind two weeks ago and I had a similar experience, stumbling on a pair of mid-century chairs in need of help, for a mere five dollars each.


The size and shape are exactly what I wanted, offering a more relaxed, reclined seat.  The wood wasn’t in terrible (or excellent) condition, but each came with only bottom cushions that had been quickly recovered in a two-tone damask fabric.  After removing the outer fabric, I found the original mustard fabric lurking beneath.  Ugly, but in good shape.



Following my usual refinishing process, I backed out the screws, disassembled the chairs, and started sanding with 220 grit paper.  Sanding is a little tedious and time-consuming, but in my opinion, the easiest and most effective way to get a clean slate.  Paint strippers leave behind a residue that’s tough to clean off and gums up sanding pads after.  For hard to reach, detailed, or delicate areas, strippers are okay, but for all flat parts, stick with sanding.  Whew, got out the pent-up feelings on paint strippers and now I’m carrying on.

With the similar style wood and linen sofa in the neighboring living room, I wanted the new chairs to coördinate.  A coat of Special Walnut stain warmed up the wood beautifully, followed with a teak oil protective coat.  As long as the sanding process can seem, that was the easy part.  I took my first crack at sewing box cushions.  I’m pleased to report, after a few trials, moments of frusteration, and a broken sewing needle, the box cushions didn’t get the best of me.  Full tutorial for the cushion covers coming at you soon.  We now have beautiful, updated chairs in the family room.


Even though I liked the previous chairs, the upright, smaller seat was comfortable, but not inviting or especially conducive to relaxing.  This low-slung style and deep base are comfy and stylish.


Just look at the old versus the new.



A slightly darker wood tone offers a better contrast against the stump turned coffee table, too.


Applying a lighter toned and thinner stain also lets the pretty grain shine through.  Before, it wasn’t obvious.


Now, look at that great detail!


For a small dose of my favorite color, I used leftover fabric from our headboard to create lumbar pillows to jazz up the neutral fabric.


Because I’m a fabric hoarder, I mean lover, I was able to use an upholstery fabric I already had.  Reusing the base cushion foam, sturdy metal zippers, and stain I had on hand means the only purchase made (besides the chairs themselves) was two-inch foam to create the back cushions.  Total monetary investment per chair: a whopping $14.  Total time invested: countless hours.  Outcome: priceless, and worth it.

Stock the Shelves

Now that we’ve lived in this house for a few years, we’ve not only made our way through the house room by room, we’ve gotten a better feel for how we use and actually live in the spaces.  Our only tv stays in the living room, but we had considered putting a second in the nook to the left of the family room fireplace.


After discussing the impending basement remodel, we’ve since agreed on creating a designated ‘theater’ room in the darker basement instead.  With that settled, and a new cabinet in the kitchen for a bar area, the single shelf seemed tall and awkward.


In a matter of minutes, Ben installed a second shelf, centered in the area.  The second matching shelf has created a display space for family photos.  Rather than touching up the old paint color around the new shelf, I worked myself up to repaint the room to match the adjacent living room and kitchen.  Painting around 8 doors, two windows, and the fireplace isn’t my favorite pastime, but the heart wants what it wants.


Naturally, I couldn’t just paint the walls gray, I should freshen up the white on everything first, no?  So that’s what I did, creating a nice flow through the open rooms.


With all the extra stuff on the shelves, I kept the mantle simple to balance.


I’m still undecided whether it’s too full or just enough, but I love having a spot to display and rotate old photos.



Having all my favorites out in the open makes my heart happy, remembering how small my babies were.


Everything’s a mixture: old frames, black and white photos mixed with color, open photo holders.



One holder is a tiny wooden easel, a second a vintage floral frog, and a stump on the bottom.


Funny how a shelf that took a few minutes to build sets about so much change.  Any projects like that pop up for you recently?