Incorporating Wood & a JORD Watch Giveaway

Nothing can brighten and liven up a room like a lush house plant.  Just as plants add a dose of happy, nothing can add warmth to a room like real wood.  I know white, light, bright, and airy rooms are all the rage right now, and I even love the look.  But I also love contrast, and there’s just something perfect about the combo of white and wood.  I’m a self-proclaimed lover of natural elements, including but not limited to wood, plants, leather, linen, cotton, and metals.  To each their own, but I see a lot of beautiful rooms that could be amazing if only a bit of wood was included.

So, how do you go about incorporating wood pieces without overwhelming a space?  Start with a small item, like a side table, mirror, picture frames, or lamp.  You’d be surprised at how much character just that small item can add to a room.  Don’t belive me, just look at the difference a mirror made in our main bathroom.  Before:

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After:

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When choosing and adding larger furniture, wood detailing can add a lot of character.  Look for classic, clean lined pieces with wood accents in natural places.  An exposed frame, legs, even heavy wear areas of arms.

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Avoid wood additions to odd places, like the top of the back of a sofa.  I’m totally thinking of a couch my parents used to have on that one.

Even though this petite sofa is 90 percent fabric, the slim lined exposed wood frame offers a touch of wood with a beautiful grain.

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For larger furniture, I think the most important thing to consider is the grain.  Grain is impossible to change, so if you want a more refined look, typically finer grained wood is a better fit.  If going for a rustic look, a heavier or more prominent grain may be ideal.

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Furniture is one thing, because it isn’t permanently attached, therefore easy to replace, but what about cabinetry?  Of course white cabinetry is an easy option due to the go with anything simplicity, but cabinets can look stunning in wood.  That’s not to say all wood varieties are created equal.  Pine, oak, poplar and such are prime candidates for painting based on availability and price point.  Finer, more expensive wood varieties are better suited to cabinetry.  When choosing wooden cabinets, I prefer to stick with unstained, natural walnut.  For the last ten or so years, it has been a favorite of mine and pairs nicely with many finishes.

Our Humble Abode Blog Master Bathroom Vanity

Keep in mind that trends come and go, and try to avoid the dark, nearly ebony tones of the 70’s or honey oak that plagued the 80’s and 90’s.  When in doubt, keep wood cabinets as clean lined and simple as possible, opting for flat slab or shaker fronts.

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Solid wood cabinets can cost considerably more, especially depending on the species.  Consider creating a wood wrapped island, which will give that warmth, without the added expense of wooden perimeter cabinets.

If you’re hunting for furniture at thrift shops, Craigslist, or estate sales, keep in mind that solid wood or thick veneer can be refinished.  A thorough sanding can erase dents and scratches as well as a terrible stain color.  Don’t walk away from a piece with good lines just because of an ugly finish.  I’ve found that most often, I prefer a mid tone warm stain.  Special Walnut from Minwax is usually my choice for fresh or refinished wood around our house.  In this post alone, I used that stain on the campaign style mirror, the mid-century modern chairs, the wood frame sofa, as well as the bed and night stands seen below.

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JORD-Watch-on-NightstandMost recently, I’ve incorporated a bit of wood in my wardrobe, thanks to my new JORD watch.  Based on my favorite stain color, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I chose a Koa and Ash Frankie watch.

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Though I’m far from a fashionista, I love how easy it is to slip this watch on for a casual accessory.

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I love that it’s a unique, but not glitzy or flashy addition to my daily outfits that usually consist of jeans/shorts and a t-shirt.

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Now it’s your turn to get a wood watch on your wrist.  Go ahead and enter the giveaway here, where one lucky winner will win a $75 coupon code.  All other entries will receive a $20 coupon code, so get your entries in before the giveaway closes July 28th at 11:59pm.


Watches Made From 100% Natural Wood by JORD

Upgrades to Consider

I know full remodels, big overhauls, and before and after room reveals are incredibly fun and exciting to see-in our own homes as well as on tv shows and web sites.  Sometimes, it’s easy so feel bogged down or inferior because real, lived in homes are never perfect.  Even if you can’t start a full remodel, there are minor upgrades you can add to increase the function of your home.  The following are my favorite additions, none of which are style related, but most are easy to implement.

  1.   Tubular Skylight/sun tunnel: Prices start at $170 for materials, labor/install prices will vary.

In dark, windowless rooms in the center of a home, consider installing a tubular skylight/sun tunnel.  It adds all the benefits of a traditional skylight, but are smaller and easier to install.

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Ben installed ours, so we saved the labor costs, so ask a contractor for a total cost.

2.  Rain Shower Head:  Prices vary widely based on extension arms, shower head size, and brand.

Another minor change that we adore is the ceiling mount rain shower head.  In fact, we love it so much we suggested it to our friends in their new build home.  The day after move in, they said they love it so much more than a traditional wall mount shower head.

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If you don’t want to move plumbing, don’t worry, there’s a similar option.  Hit up your local Home Depot to pick up a wall mount shower arm.

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3.  Outlets with Integrated Guide Lights:  GFCI Outlets cost $20, SnapPower covers are $15

Another quick bathroom upgrade is a GFCI outlet with integrated LED guide lights.  A small sensor turns the lights on or off automatically and provides enough light to navigate in the dark.  This style keeps outlets free and is perfect for rooms kids use.

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If swapping outlets is out of your DIY realm, check out SnapPower guidelight covers.  After nearly two years of use, I can attest to the greatness.  Not only are the covers simple to install (literally unscrew the old and screw in the new), they’re great for illuminating main walkways.  We have sever throughout the house, near the back door, top of the stairs, and halls on both levels.

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4.  Junction Box Mount LED Lights:  $30.00 per light with easy install

Speaking of lighting and the basement, let’s discuss a cool new lighting option.  Since the ceilings are a bit lower than the standard eight feet, we chose recessed lights.  During our kitchen remodel, we installed traditional can housings, then popped LED lights inside.  Each housing and light cost about $40.  After the remodel, we learned about a new style of LED light.  It gives the look of a recessed can, but installs in a standard junction box.

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Everything you need comes in this little box, and costs about thirty dollars per light.  A standard junction box costs around a dollar and accommodates this light, making install quick.

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5.  GE Bright Stik LED Bulbs:  Cost $10 for three

While you’re stocking up on LED lights, look for GE Bright Stik LED bulbs.  Some LED bulbs are still expensive, but the prices are steadily dropping as more come out.  After getting annoyed by the CFL bulbs in our main bathroom, I looked for a better option.  When I spotted a three pack for $10, I didn’t have much to lose if I didn’t like the bulbs.  What a difference!  Unlike CFL bulbs, LED lights don’t have a warm up time and are even more energy-efficient and long-lasting.  Look for the soft white to avoid a blue tint.

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So, those are the cheapest and easiest functional upgrades we’ve done, but I have a few more that we love.

6.  Central Vacuum:  Prices vary based on house size, vacuum system, and accessories package, but pipe materials are somewhere around $300.

If you’re building a house, or have an unfinished basement, I can’t recommend a central vacuum system highly enough.  Pipes are run through the walls, similar to plumbing, but come out to outlet sized receptacles that the hose plugs into.

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In our first home, Ben installed the system before we finished the basement, while we still had easy access to everything.  This house came set up, but Ben installed another system at a friend’s house.  Once the pipes are inside the walls, replacing or upgrading elements is straight forward.

7.  Whole House Fan:  Units start around $200 and go up depending on CFM

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If you don’t have central air, or even if you do, take a look at whole house fans.  On cool summer mornings, we open several windows, turn on the fan and let it run for a while to pull the cool outside air in.  Depending on the high temperature, it either delays or eliminates the need for air conditioning.  By placing ours near the kitchen, we are also able to nix a big, low hanging vent hood over our cooktop.  If the kitchen gets smoky, we crack the window over the sink, flip on the fan, and it’s cleared within minutes.

What are your favorite upgrades that increase the function of your home?  Do you have any of my seven favorites in your home?

Lingering Little To Dos

Over the course of the last four years, we’ve updated every room in this house as well as our outdoor spaces.  Pool house not included, as that is serving as a personal warehouse of building materials until we have time to finish it off.

Most rooms are completely functional, minus the basement bathroom that currently sits showerless.  Despite functionality, we’re solid 95 percenters, as I like to say.  With as many big projects to tackle as we have, it’s easy, too easy, to get side tracked and move onto the next task.  So, there are little unfinished tasks throughout the house.  All are purely cosmetic, which means they’re low on the priority list until we wrap up the basement remodel.  Ironically, most of these are quick fixes and wouldn’t take even a weekend to finish.

Replacing the cracked, stained beige entry tile with beautiful slate is on the to do list.  Removal, laying the tile, and grouting should be a weekend task.  I’m just dreading the dust storm that removal will create.

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In the living room, our entertainment center is still without doors, and I’m greatly regretting painting the backs yellow.  We’ve gone back and forth on how we want to handle air and sound flow that isn’t an option with solid wood.  Fabric and perforated metal insets are the top contenders.

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Directly across from there is where I’d love to have a wall to wall window seat with bookshelves on either side.  I’ve nailed down my plan, so the hardest part is out of the way-haha.

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Over in the dining room, I had started patching the hole from the previously off centered light fixture, but still haven’t finished sanding and painting.

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A quick addition of thin trim along the top of the bar hutch will finish it off, covering the small gap along the ceiling.

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In the kitchen, I’d love to add vertical dividers above the double ovens to store and divide cutting boards and baking sheets.  Right now, they’re stacked up in the drawer below.

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A pesky, improperly installed can light hangs down in the family room.  The housing isn’t screwed into place in the attic, so the insert can’t go completely in.  It wouldn’t take long to fix, but climbing in the hot, dusty attic isn’t high on our to do list right now.

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In addition to wanting cabinet doors on the entertainment center, I’d like to add a set covering the wood storage area next to the fireplace.  When full, it’s a dirty mess that may be easier to contain behind closed doors.

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While the back deck is finished, we still have to run wiring and install two outdoor sconces on either side of the pool house door.  Until then, we have holes with insulation stuffed inside.

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Rooms on the sleeping side of the house are more finished.  No unfinished parts in either bathroom, the guest room or the boys’ bedroom.  A simple addition of a bench at the foot of our bed would fill in the awkward open space and complete the room.

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Moral of the story, don’t feel bad if your home isn’t 100% finished.  Ours certainly isn’t, and that’s okay.  Everything is a work in progress, eventually those tasks will be completed, just in time for more I’m sure.

June Garden Update

Updates and changes inside the house are under our control and therefore, easy to notice and track the progress.  Plants however, are a totally different ballgame.  Each grows on its own timeline, very slowly changing.  So slowly it can be difficult to notice, so I’ve decided to share more frequent garden updates, to track progress.  Also, because I get excited about little changes.  Even in the month since the last update, each plant looks different, some drastically so.

Along the front walkway, I recently added five Stella D’Oro day lilies, sandwiched between two yews.

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I wish the blooms stuck around more than a day, but they’re pretty while they last.

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On the far end is a hydrangea that has grown leaps and bounds in the year since I planted it.  Small buds are popping up, getting ready to bloom.

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Near the front door is a trio of red day lilies (that deer love to eat) along with a group of Russian sage.  I cut the sage down to the ground this spring, and they’ve become much thicker as a result.

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Last fall, I wasn’t sure the coneflower plants were going to make it, but they’re back and covered in beautiful blooms.

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In the back, everything has continued to grow and fill in.  The butterfly bush has doubled in size and now has a couple of buds.

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Toward the pool house, the catmint that had been battered by the hail storm is bouncing back.  A note about catmint, it grows quickly and can over take other plants, but it also does well if sheared back to control growth.

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That said, if you have a large, sunny spot to fill, I can’t recommend catmint enough.  Some of these have already spread about three to four feet wide.  With a steep hillside, I’ll take any and all help I can get to cover as much ground as quickly as possible.

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In the above photo, the snowball viburnum has gotten a bit leggy, but I’m going to let it do it’s thing until fall before cutting it back.  On the right, the row of Karl Foerster grasses has feathery tops now.  In addition to being incredibly hardy, this grass offers great winter interest.  Behind the viburnum is the only real shade area on our property, where I’ve added two ferns.

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Curly little frond beginnings are beginning to unfurl, which I have to stay on top of spraying with deer repellent.

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Not only are the deer interested in taste testing the ferns, they have eaten all six of the hosta plants to stalks.  I’m sure they were like, “Free buffet, everyone!  Come on over here!”  When the hostas were gone (in just two days!) they also nibbled over half of the hydrangea buds off, too.  I wasn’t happy after the hostas, but when I noticed fewer flowers, it became war.  Feel free to share your deer repelling methods.

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Salvia is blooming and adding a touch of pink back here.  If deadheaded, it blooms at least twice in the season.

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Due to the nature of a rocky hillside, adding plants can be difficult.  I’d start digging, only to hit a giant boulder and have to fill back in and try a different area.  This area happened to go relatively smoothly, and it is beginning to look lush and colorful.

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Near the fire pit, the lower part of the hill has three new lavender plants, a big catmint from last year, a coreopsis, and a red-hot poker.

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Red hot poker attracts butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.

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At the far end of the house, a set of stone stairs lead up part of the hillside.  Tucked between the stair treads and the stacked stone wall are various succulents.  This hen and chick family looks adorable.

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Looking toward the waterfall from the back deck, here’s last month’s shot.

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I realize this doesn’t look drastically different, but each plant has grown enough to notice in just a month.

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Surprisingly, I’ve added only 15 plants so far this year.  There’s an area near the road that I want to address soon, but I’m working on a plan before I start buying anything.

A Fan of Fans

Ahh, ceiling fans, the most love it or hate it ceiling fixtures in homes.  We’ve pulled a few uglies out of spaces, despite their usefulness.  This faux wood, detailed, three light version quickly made its way out the door.

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I created a simple fixture made from PVC pipe, wire, and spray paint which has served well over the last few years.

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Recently though, Ben mentioned that he’d like a ceiling fan in our bedroom again.  It’s so rare that Ben asks for something specific (design wise) so I try to figure out a way to make both of us happy.  With the ceiling fan request, I scoured the internet to find something sleek, modern, with a light, that didn’t cost and arm and a leg.  I came across this Contemporary 52 inch Brushed Nickel 2 Light fan priced at $135.99 and saved it in an email and continued searching.

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I always save my favorites in an email, just to see if I stumble on something I like better, but I can easily come back to make my decision.

While searching, I saw zillions of options, where I quickly noticed I preferred three-bladed fans most.  That’s not to say I didn’t like some with four or more blades.  Generally though, ones with more blades felt more traditionally designed or, I don’t know, busy?  Spoiler alert, I ordered the one above, we installed it over the weekend, and so far, we’re liking it.

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After sharing a photo on Instagram and getting requests for sources, I realized I wasn’t the only one struggling to find a decent looking, affordable fan.

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Here’s a round-up of some that I saved in my search, for anyone that’s in the market.  First off, ceiling fans with lights.

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  1.  44″ Casa Vieja Trifecta in Brushed Nickel for $249.99
  2. 52″ Minka Aire Light Wave in Silver, but also comes in Distressed Koa and White for $279.95
  3. 52″ Monte Carlo in Rubberized Black for $286.00, comes in other finishes
  4. 42″ Moderno in Satin Nickel for $199.81
  5. 60″ Railey LED Fan in Brushed Nickel for $159.00

Sometimes, you don’t need a fan with a light, so if that’s the boat you’re in, here are a few options.

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  1.  Modern Ball Ceiling Fan in Brushed Aluminum for $316.00
  2. 52″ Minka Aire Kewl Fan in Black for $114.95
  3. 52″ Minka Aire 3 Blade Fan in Brushed Aluminum for $179.95

Although our front deck with full covered roof is technically finished, there are still a few things we need to tie up or are considering adding.  Ceiling fans are on the list, either a single centered on the middle door or a trio, all centered on the sliding doors.

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I’m still researching exactly what I want, but here are my front-runners.

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Outdoor fans:

  1.  52″ Hunter Cassius Outdoor Fan in Matte Silver Finish for $99.00
  2. Bentley II 18″ Oscillating fan in Brushed Nickel for $139.00
  3. 72″ Casa Velocity in Brushed Nickel for $134.95
  4. 54″ Fanimation Semi Flush 4 Blade in Brushed Nickel $179.95

Clearly there’s a lot of variety here, but each is so cool in its own way.  I’m leaning toward black, but that 72 inch fan is a beast and I’m sure it can move some serious air.  I’ll keep you posted on the decision, but ever so slowly, I’m kind of becoming a fan of ceiling fans.  Where do you fall on the subject?  I know people in southern areas swear by them, but in our northern climate, they’re more of an option.