a long long time ago…

It seems like forever since I last posted, which is probably because it has been (or since the end of September). So many things have happened since then but every time I think, “I’ll sit down and post on my blog,” I try so hard to get the perfect words, the best picture, the funniest retelling, and end up losing the desire to even sit down and write.

For our 5 year anniversary in October, we did a little celebrating in the form of getting the bathroom most of the way done – finally!

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A little bit later in the month, we celebrated an early Thanksgiving with the Man’s parents which also happened to be their anniversary. They happened to be down visiting us before they went to Puerto Rico to ride out the cold months, and we surprised them. It was lovely.

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Abby continues to be her usual crazy self, including an experiment in eating lemons while we were at work one day.

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I November I decided that I missed the ER and my ankle gave out as I stepped out my back door. Hello, fractures… (and this is a “healing” picture of it)

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And for Christmas, we had an amazing time with family (and tortured the dog, per usual).

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On this quiet, snowy day I figured I would just take a moment to say hello. I hope you’re well, I hope you’re safe as this storm takes over the east coast, and I hope you come back again next time I post.

 

beginning of the end…

The one perk to being home for a week after surgery was that the company we had chosen to use for sheet rock in the bathroom called and they were able to squeeze us in! It was like getting  a 2 for 1 deal – home recuperating and resting, while someone else did the work in the house! Bonus? No extra time needed off from work.

We finally can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the beginning of the end to the year and a half saga of not having our main bathroom!!! Of course, we needed to have a quality inspection as the work was being done.

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Hope everyone is having a lovely furry friday! Next week I’ll share pics of the finger post-surgery. At least now I can type with all 10 fingers again!

The saga of the bathroom

A long, long time ago, in a land far  you may remember me mentioning that we had no second floor bathroom, which is our main bath. Other than that it’s a toilet in a closet in the basement, or the third floor bathroom. I’ve actually been embarrassed about the state of our house for a long time because of this project. Well I figured it was time for an update!

We still have no bathroom.

On December 31, 2013 the saga of this all began with a leak dripping into our center hall, AGAIN, just above the radiator by our front door. The leak was coming from our main bathroom just above. The ceiling was discolored and at the advice of a plumber who had come over when it had leaked previously and couldn’t find anything, we opened up the ceiling so we could see where the drip was coming from. No such luck. The leak happened after we showered, and was sporadic. We couldn’t replicate the issue no matter how many times we filled the tub, ran the shower, jumped in the shower…. nothing. It leaked when it wanted to leak.

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We went back and forth with the same plumber a few times, with him basically telling us he had no idea what the problem was. Fast forward to June 2014 when I was walking Abby and ran into one of our neighbors. We got to chatting and I told him about our issues (because all our houses are built very similarly) and he was like, “Oh, that’s your main stack. It’s gone bad. Call “Plumber X” down the street. He does this work all the time.”

A few weeks later, Plumber X came down and gave us an estimate and asked what our insurance company had said. Insurance? The Man and I had never thought of that, but we were lucky enough to get some compensation for the damage. Because the bad news? The stack is located in the front wall of our house. THE LIVING ROOM WALL and THE GUEST ROOM WALL. Plus the hole in the ceiling. Plus the rest of the pipes were corroded. Plus all the pipes are laid in the original wet bed. All said and done, we were going to need to gut EVERYTHING.

I liked our bathroom. Off white and sage green, a vanity we had updated, a cheap mirror and light fixtures that I had spray painted silver… Very simple, but in keeping with the house and it worked.

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before this all began

We began demo in late July, early August. So now, it’s been six months, and we have nothing. New pipes, a new stack, but nothing else. Why? Because apparently Plumber X doesn’t believe in finishing the job. After demo and re-piping finished in early September, he just never came back. Toilet was picked, tub was picked, fixtures picked, inspiration photos shared, a layout, insulation purchased, and I had the bathroom electrical rewired. But nothing.

I pestered, and in October he came back with his finishing guy so we could get a quote for dry wall in the bathroom, replacing an entire wall in our guest room (which Plumber X put an irreparable crack across doing demo), closing the wall up in the living room, relocating the linen closet, putting in a sliding door so we could have a full size vanity, and redoing the ceiling in the center hall. Measurements were taken, plans laid out, tile discussed. Never got the quote.

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This is the wall where our vanity and medicine chest and toilet should be.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving after more pestering, I told him I was having 11 people in my house for the holiday and at least needed the toilet and the old vanity hooked up. He promised it would be done and HE would do the wall repair in the living room so I could paint it because that’s where our Christmas tree goes. I also said I needed the estimate for the final work and he said no problem. Never showed, never returned calls and texted. Thanksgiving came and went.

Finally mid December, and he comes over again and says he has the estimate. What he had was a wrinkled copy of the original one, and he proceeded to tick off what he had done and make generalizations about the price of what was left. I told him I was going to have possibly 25 people over the day after New Years. I NEEDED A BATHROOM. Here are the dates we’d be home, here is what we wanted, and once again not a problem. And once again, never showed.

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The back of our linen closet where we should have a tub and shower head

The Man finally got involved a few weeks ago and once again Plumber X promised he’d stop by. Shock of all shocks, no show. He’d get the estimate, he was meeting with the guy. No estimate. Now most of you are probably reading this and thinking, “FIND SOMEONE ELSE ALREADY!” Easier said than done. This guy lives on our street, knows our house, knows what we want, and has no problem with us leaving Abby home while he works. Plus? Abby LOVES him. Do I really want to start over again with someone I don’t know and don’t trust to leave alone in my house? I don’t have endless vacation days.

Yesterday, The Man and I went to the Philadelphia Home Show. We had gotten the tickets through Groupon, mostly because I wanted to go see Jeff Devlin from DIY/HGTV “I Hate My Bath” (and a bunch of other shows I’ve drooled over). He gave an awesome talk on some basic “dos and don’ts” of renovating. The Man and I spent half the talk laughing because all of the “don’ts”? Yeah we had basically done them. But I have to say I did learn a lot (and scored his business card!!). The major point? We screwed up, we should have done this differently, and we should have given up on Plumber X a long time ago, even if he does live 5 houses away. And what did The Man learn? That his wife TOTALLY geeks out when she meets someone she admires.

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IT’S JEFF DEVLIN! And yes, I currently HATE my bath.

stir crazy demo

I need to get myself a Harry Potter t-shirt that says “I solemnly swear I’m up to no good” and wear it on snow days. Because I go a little crazy. Cleaning, baking, crocheting, devouring shows on Netflix, and OH! DESTRUCTION!

The Man is at work on this fine, snowy day and if I were to email him right now it would probably go something like this:

“Dear Husband,

You know how I was asking what Dremel bits we own and you said I could go get a diamond bit at Home Depot for that little project I wanted to do of removing the tile toothbrush holder in the bathroom? Well…. I found a mallet and a screwdriver instead. Love you!  PS – Don’t come home early.”

Hehehehe….

So my mom got me a really pretty soap dispenser for our kitchen a year or so ago and I decided it would actually look really pretty in our main bathroom. So yesterday I brought it upstairs and the stupid tile toothbrush holder that is affixed to the wall was (keyword: was) totally too low for the dispenser to sit in a logical place and still be usable without being in the way.

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before

This morning, as I drank coffee, I googled “how to remove a ceramic toothbrush holder” and found a really helpful article on eHow Home. I asked the Man about the Dremel, and he said sure, we could buy a bit, it’s cheap, but not today because of that whole snow thing and he had to leave for work in less than 2 hours. Okay, not a problem.

So he goes to work, I reorganize my office and move my bookcases onto different walls (oh yeah, forgot to mention that! hehehehe…. that’s another post) and then I’m bored. I’m trying to quit smoking, so I need to keep myself really busy, so I decide screw the article, we’re gonna see what a mallet and a finely tipped screwdriver does. Yay! Great idea!

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totally sophisticated tools

For starters, you need safety equipment. So what I wore was a black Marine Corps hoodie, red/pink plaid flannel PJ pants from LL Bean, slippers, and my everyday glasses. You also need to assume you’re not going to be successful, so don’t bother taking pictures with your actual camera, just use your phone.

I closed the drain to the sink (I did read the article, just ignored a lot of it) and put a towel down so that any flying chunks wouldn’t damage the sink top. I then got the vacuum, closed the bathroom door, and began trying the utility knife. That did nothing to the grout, so I started working the screwdriver around the edge and pounding with the mallet very lightly.  The grout actually started coming away really easily. At only point, I got a whole CHUNK to come off and was really excited! So what did I do next? The next logical thing, of course.  I aimed with the mallet, turned my head, closed my eyes, and just SMASHED the holder.

About 3/4 of it came off and I jumped up and down like a 5 year old I was so excited. The whole process only took about 30 minutes. I vacuumed a lot in between so I could see where I was working. Of course, there was no tile behind the holder, so I was left with a bit of a hole.

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The DIYer in me took a step back and thought: “Hmmm…. I’m not going to replace this with another tile, but I don’t want a hole showing. So what do I have that I could artfully cover up the hole with?” TADA!!!!!!!!!!!

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It’s a frame I’ve had for FOREVER from Ikea, hung on a tiny little Command hook. I don’t think I’ll get rid of the tile soap dish, mostly because it’s convenient if you need to take off a pair of earrings or a ring before you shower, and it’s not in the way.

If you have a ceramic toothbrush holder you hate, my best advice is to be careful, go slowly, and just get rid of it. My mom has told me repeatedly, and in the mostly loving way possible, that sometimes I’m just a little bit too stupid to know when I shouldn’t try something, and I laugh every time knowing she is totally right. It may be a little change, but I couldn’t be happier. And I didn’t even break a finger or toe! Those slippers really are great for foot safety.

So what did you destroy this snow day? 🙂

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RIP, toothbrush holder

 

picture perfect

Considering how hot it has been, it’s been hard to bring myself to cook. But we’ve been making simple meals that don’t require standing over the stove too much.  Regardless of what we’ve been making, though, we’ve certainly been enjoying eating in our newly redone dining room.

My family and friends have been bugging me for an update on how it all went, and the stubborn blogger in me was waiting to get the “perfect pictures” of the room when the light is just right and you can truly appreciate how gorgeous it turned out. Well, I’m not waiting for that perfect shot anymore. I want to show you all how it looks!

When we first looked at the house, we knew we had a challenge on our hands but I was thrilled that the dining room was so big.

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realtors picture

The only problem was the floor. And the wallpaper. And the light fixture. And the radiator cover. So okay everything other than the size was a problem. But particularly the wallpaper.

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UGH. WHY?!

A few days after we moved in, a couple friends were helping us unpack and somehow we ended up stripping the wallpaper and scrubbing the walls with TSP.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe light fixture didn’t bother us too much until we realized what it did when you turned it on.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATextured ceiling + beveled glass fixture = AWESOME light patterns cast on the room. OR HIDEOUS.

I would have been content to leave the room as is except for one small problem. On one of the walls, the previous owners had let their kids scrawl their names, phone numbers, and some well wishes (“have a nice f*($#n day”), and we could not get it to scrub off. So, with a house warming bbq a few days away, we hastily picked a paint color and got to work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATADA! We used Behr’s Happy Camper Green (which comes out really true to their website pics) and absolutely LOVED the paint color. Then we were able to find a new light fixture at Home Depot for $179 and it really changed the look of the room. The only problem was that once we redid the living room, we realized the green did NOT go with the rest of the first floor which were mostly gray undertone colors. But for almost two years we lived with it.

Gradually we added furniture in the room. And by new furniture I mean a child size chifferobe and chest with shelving that I rehabbed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABoth the chifferobe and the dresser were made of pressed wood, but some heavy cleaning, light sanding, and half a dozen spray paint cans later, we had two very nice pieces.

P7030609This summer, with a week and change worth of vacation, I decided I was redoing and finally finishing off the dining room. First, I had a LOT of spackling to do, which we had neglected the first time around.

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The painting was easy. This time around we used Behr’s color Mountain Sage. I have to admit, though, that I had a gift card to Lowe’s so I decided to get the paint from there. With my color sample in hand, I got Valspar’s Ultra Interior Flat Enamel which is paint and primer in one, PLUS low VOC.  I was able to do two coats in the same day, a few hours apart, even though it was at least 80 degrees out and humid. I was ridiculously pleased with how thick the paint was, and as quickly and sloppily as I was working, it did not spatter at all. At $25 a gallon it was a bit more than some of the paint I’ve used, but WELL worth it in the long run.

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The only part of the room that was a pain was the wood work.  We have gorgeous dentil moulding around the ceiling and as our chair rail. The only problem? Dentil moulding was created as PUNISHMENT for people who have to paint it.  Now you all know that I’m psychotic and paint my woodwork in oil. What I learned the first time around doing the room was that you cannot paint the chair rail with a normal brush because it splatters and drips like crazy and you can’t get into the crevices. So this time?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYes, that is a paint brush that you would usually use for oil paint on canvas.  The chair rail took me at least two hours. See the X and hashes on the tape above? That’s how I kept my sanity and made sure I didn’t lose track of what dentil I was on. I COUNTED THEM. We have 382.

When all the tape was removed, it was time to dress the room. This definitely happened in stages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst I put everything back in and desperately wished there was a way to hide the hideous tile floor. So I turned to CraigsList. $70 later….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABRILLIANT!!!!!!!!!!!!! I found a rug JUST large enough to cover the center of the room. It fits almost perfectly inside the white border tiles. I cannot tell you  how happy this makes me. Even though it darkens the room a little bit, it has also worked to dampen the horrible echo we always had. And now some glamour shots for your viewing pleasure!

The metal radiator cover was scored about 6 months ago for $40. Add two cans of spray paint and you have a gorgeous piece.

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It is dressed with a Limoges Bird of Paradise condiment dish, a bird and container from Michaels, a Lenox vase we received for our wedding, and a silver candy dish (devoid of its usual supply of M&Ms).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Limoges dish (also known as the Eden pattern) was scored for $15 at an estate sale and matches china that I have.

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd yes, the flowers are fake which I have people ask me all the time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur “hutch” is dressed with a handmade bowl we received for our wedding that is personalized, some R mugs, a bird I bought during a trip we took for our first anniversary, a whiskey set from friends, our cake topper, and a few other sentimental items. While the display is nice, the drawers were a huge plus in the room as they house most of our linens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe refinished chifferobe houses more linens and entertaining pieces like wine glasses and serving trays. The paint crackled when it was drying (as I refinished it last fall which was a mistake because of the cool, humid nights) so some time this summer it will go out piece by piece to get a finish coat.  The red bird is also from Michaels. Can you sense a theme here?

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The wall that was so horribly uneven is now smoothed out and has photos I took in Ireland.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI think one of the things that excited me the most about finishing the room was the harmony when you look from the dining room into the living room and see how the colors go together. (Please ignore the drop cloth on the floor in the living room!)  The fact that the rug goes with the valances my mom had treated me to when I had found the living room ones. They were purchased from Swags Galore and I would never buy valances without looking there first. Their prices are AMAZING.

Overall I’m just thrilled. The first few days, as I stumbled into the kitchen to get my coffee, I was overwhelmed by the difference that paint color can make. Before, when you walked into our dining room it said HI! I’M GREEN! and now it says Please come sit down and enjoy a savory meal.

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I hope you enjoyed seeing the dining room as much as I enjoy it. Every night as the gloaming approaches, I walk into my dining room and think this is why I do this. This was worth the wait. This is something good and safe and beautiful.

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i missed earth day but…

It has been a crazy few weeks here at casa de restoration (it sounds good but I didn’t take Spanish so that is probably wrong…) and I can’t wait to share with you the recent crazy!

Last week, The Man turned 31  so I took off Monday and Tuesday to celebrate. And by celebrate, I mean he had drill on Saturday and Sunday and we didn’t get to do anything, and we spent Monday and Tuesday attacking the gardens! I would say that he was disappointed, but after a weekend at drill, he seemed happy that we went out for a birthday sushi lunch pre-gardening.

The amount of gardening refuse we accumulate whenever I decide I’m going to garden “just for a little bit” (which invariably turns into 4 hours or so) has been amazing.  I think the Man wanted to kill me last week when we had to take it to the curb. (And I think the garbage men may kill me if I continue on this trend…)

alllllllll from the garden

alllllllll from the garden

What pisses me off most is that my little yellow collapsible gardening bag was taken by the garbage men. And by taken, I mean they threw it out.  So while I am in mourning for my favorite gardening garbage receptacle, I soldiered on.

I meant to share these pics with you for Earth Day, and I missed the boat, but better late than never!  If you remember, a few weeks ago I began attacking the front of the house by removing some bushes. While the Man was at drill, the attack continued! This time, I drafted some friends.

Meet Kat.

hi Kat!

hi Kat!

Kat is my very tall friend who can reach things that I can’t. He is also has INFINITELY cooler power tools than I do.  While he originally came over to use my driveway with my painting friend, Julie, I innocently asked him for his opinion on removing the columns and he either a. decided I couldn’t be trusted with tools or b. figured I was just pretending to be clueless and he was going to get roped into helping anyway.

2013-04-14 17.35.18Kat was able to unscrew everything holding the columns together and find the seams to split the columns apart in about half the time it took me to get the ladder and find the battery to my drill. We already knew that the columns were not supporting anything so we were surprised to find a giant wooden 4×4 inside each of them.

4x4 brought to you by Kat and Julie

4×4 brought to you by Kat and Julie

Once the columns were off, we found a surprise:

2013-04-14 17.42.42A bazillion anchors that fell THROUGH the columns when the Man and I tried to attach a flag holder to it. After the third time the flag holder came loose on a windy day, my hatred of the columns was confirmed, and the columns’ death note was signed, sealed, and delivered. I cannot tell you the squeals of joy that erupted from me as the beams came down. And the transformation is truly amazing.

Before:

before

AFTER:

tada!

tada!

Rest assured, there is a master plan to this transformation, albeit a slow going plan. However, I’m already in love with how the front of the house is opened up. The columns just don’t go with the period of our house, and now we had room to put our bench on the front steps, which I’ve wanted to do since we scored it at an estate sale the summer we moved in.

bench love

bench love

Monday and Tuesday moved to tackling the ivy in the backyard. And by tackling, I mean I have a vendetta against the ivy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen we moved in the house, we had no idea that the pavers along the back of our property existed. Why? BECAUSE THEY WERE EATEN BY IVY. One of the reasons I hate the ivy so much is because we have gorgeous day lilies and yucca plants that were so overgrown you could barely see them.  While I made a lot of progress last year, it truly is a battle to get to the ivy roots and remove them without damaging the other plants. Over the fall the ivy started creeping back over the pavers, but after a few hours of work, I think it came out pretty good!

clean again!

clean again!

I have to say that removing the ivy is backbreaking, but the satisfaction afterwards is immeasurable.

post ivy-pulling glow

post ivy-pulling glow

All in all, the 4 day gardening extravaganza was a success.  AND I’m very excited because I finally get to use our rehabbed wheelbarrow (a $5 score at an estate sale!).

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And when all was said and done, I finally sat back and relaxed.  As the two year anniversary of being in the house looms, I can’t wait to show you the continuing projects, inside and out. If you had told me a few years ago that this is what I would be getting joy from, I would have told you that you were crazy.  But here I am, and I couldn’t be happier with the house, and myself.  Happy belated Earth Day!

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new year, new room reveal

When we first looked at our home, one of the things that attracted us was the sheer size of the living room. The decor, however, was…. not us.

from the real estate listing

A year ago Thanksgiving, we started peeling wallpaper in the living room.  Needless to say, we were in over our heads.

Closeup, complete with grime from previous owners.

Closeup, complete with grime from previous owners.

Luna really didn’t mind the room, but I couldn’t stand the grimy, metallic wallpaper, even when we began setting up the room with our furniture.

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I tried everything from hot water, to a steamer, to fabric softener, to vinegar. NOTHING helped take this paper off. Long, sweaty hours over a period of months were spent dedicated to the frustration of getting the paper off. It was March before the room was even 3/4 of the way stripped.

Layer upon layer of wallpaper HELL.

Layer upon layer of wallpaper HELL.

That was when we hired a painter to do the ceiling.

I’ll be the first one to admit that painting a textured plaster ceiling is a pain but doable. In our case, though, we had a blackened stain about three feet in circumference right over the fireplace that we had no idea how to deal with. In the end, it was well worth it to leave it to the pro – a local painter recommended by our plumber – who not only treated the stain and made it disappear, but also leveled the texture where he could and caulked around any areas of the molding where it had separated.

Ceiling in progress.

The biggest challenge was the prep work. Washing the walls with TSP meant taking painstaking care in protecting the original wood floors, which was one of the few things both clean and in immaculate condition when we moved in the house. We ended up draping/taping down 4 mm. sheet plastic and left it down throughout the washing, sanding, caulking, and painting.

Surveying what lie before me in my sexy painting jeans.

The most frustrating part of the room was that once I got the paint on, I noticed that there were odd waves in the wall where the TV would be going. I contemplated just leaving it, but in the end, decided I wasn’t going to leave the room half done. So out came the spackle again.

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I like spackle!

When it came to picking the paint color, we were set. While we picked Behr’s Arctic Ocean, we had the paint mixed at MAB which was well worth it for the size of the room and the coverage we needed. At an estate sale last year we scored the beautiful rug that became our inspiration for just $100. The rest of the room was easy, too. The sofa was my grandmothers, the settee was a $20 score at an estate sale, the secretary $150 from an estate sale, and both radiator covers were purchased together for less than $100 at Philadelphia Salvage. They needed love, but I’ve become a pro at refinishing metal covers.

Just a little dirty...

Just a little dirty…

Add in my grandparents antique radio, and our existing TV and stand, and some art, and voila! Room! Well, almost.

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The goal was to have it done by this Thanksgiving when we were hosting the Man’s aunt, uncle and two cousins. There was some last minute touching up to do, but the cats were more than happy to help.

"This drop cloth was for us, right?"

“This drop cloth was for us, right?”

I sent my mom some preview pictures to see what she though, and what we realized immediately was that I needed valances. Desperately. I have never had much luck buying fabrics online. Instead of guessing, I ran down to my living room, took a picture and uploaded it to my computer. Using the “pop out” feature on the website I layered the two to see the effect. I highly recommend this method, as unscientific as it may be.

screenshot decorating

screenshot decorating

And it was done, and soon after decorated for Christmas. And we couldn’t be happier. Enjoy!

peacock prints: $12 at Michael's

peacock prints: $12 at Michael’s

Valances from swagsgalore.com: $34 per panel

Valances from swagsgalore.com: $34 per panel

stockings: $8 ea. at Target.

stockings: $8 ea. at Target.

Fireplace Candelabra: $79 at Crate&Barrell

Fireplace Candelabra: $79 at Crate & Barrel

radio, sofa, coffee table, and lamp table: grandmothers. map print: $20 at estate sale

radio, sofa, coffee table, and lamp table: grandmothers. map print: $20 at estate sale

secretary with antique books, purchased and already owned

secretary with antique books, purchased and already owned

A Merry Christmas & Happy New Year: priceless.

A Merry Christmas & Happy New Year: priceless.

I think this room has been one of the biggest transformations so far. We are still contemplating painting the fireplace white, but that can wait. While a year is a long time to renovate one room, I’m glad I took the time, and I think that the end product was worth it.

beforeafter