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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.



and for my next trick…

Today officially marked the first day of my staycation and I couldn’t be more excited!!! Being an admission coordinator means that I’m pretty much “on” all the time. There are always questions, interviews, open houses, and applications waiting to be screened. So for the majority of the year, especially because the particular program I do admissions for just opened for the innaugural class, I was running around trying to figure out how to do my job, and pretty much neglecting any house projects I had wanted to do. But not now!

It’s our slow time so I’m on vacation until July 1! When I told some friends this, the first question they asked was “What’s the house project?” So without further ado…



I am finally doing the dining room! Now, some of you may ask “but… isn’t it done?” Well, my dear readers, the answer is… kinda. Within 48 hours of moving into the house a friend helped us strip the wallpaper in here. That taught us a few things. One, our walls are most definitely plaster. Two, holographic wallpaper from the 80s SUCKS. And three, if you allow your kids to write curses and their phone numbers on the plaster walls prior to hanging paper, the next owner will probably find it AND be unable to remove the writing, even with TSP. Solution? We painted right away.

We loved this color green when we first did the room. However, it later dawned on us that the base of this color is WAY too yellow for the rest of our house. In a lot of houses, it probably wouldn’t matter if one color strayed from the palette of the other rooms, but as we’re a center hall colonial, you can stand at our front door and see the hallway, living room, dining room, and upstairs hallway all at once.

I already primed all the woodwork, including the chair-rail-from-hell, so this room won’t take as long as a typical room in my house. I’m just hoping that I can get everything done in one week. And I can’t WAIT to share the results when we finish.

Wish me luck!

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.


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.


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.


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.


summer craze

So much has happened since last time I took a moment to myself to indulge in writing a blog post. We had a landscaper come and remove all of our UGO’s, we celebrated the one year anniversary of owning the home, had a Memorial Day BBQ with family and friends, and yesterday had a very successful yard sale.

When I stop to think that we have been in this house one year, it shocks and amazes me how quickly time has passed. When we moved into the house, I was desperate to start making my mark, which meant removing wall paper and painting over the previous owners disastrous ideas of decorating. I don’t care what decade they decorated in – there is no excuse to paint a bedroom violet and teal. One day I’ll share that project.

In the meantime, though, I want to share how I transformed our master bedroom. The wall paper was too country for my taste, and the ceiling fan was covered in so much dust that we had to put down drop cloths to take it off. I’m not kidding – CLUMPS of dust.

The real estate pic of our master bedroom

Within five minutes of entering the house the first time as the owners, I began removing the wall paper in the master bedroom. It wasn’t hard. Actually, it was ridiculously easy. Without any tools, it came off in sheets.

Think they should have used more adhesive?

In early July, when my husband had to go away for a training, I took the opportunity to redo the room. I couldn’t have the entire house in chaos – boxes unpacked, furniture clumped into the wrong rooms – and every night good to bed in chaos, too. Of course, the cats were willing to help me.

Loki: “Shall I stay right here? Am I in your way?”

And were not very thrilled when I kicked them out.

Loki: “Couldn’t you go work in another room? I’m busy.”

And thus began the process of washing the walls with TSP, painting the ceiling, sanding all the wood work, discovering old “Ma Bell” telephone wiring that had been snaked in and out of the quarter round, and picking paint colors. There was also the issue of repairing some of the woodwork that had been near destroyed.

My baseboards had issues…

The floors were disgusting.

This is the color of floors that have perhaps NEVER been washed.

And I learned how much I hated painting plaster ceilings.

Those would be plaster chunks sticking to my arm. Just like freckles. Only they pull your arm hair out.

The man was around when we were deciding on a paint color. But in the end, all the samples we tried, we hated.

Top was too pink, bottom was too dark, and just right? Couldn’t find it.

So we picked a paint color, didn’t try it on the walls, and that’s what I ended up using. The final decision? Behr’s “Naturally Calm“.

We were lucky when we bought the house – I had all of my grandmother’s furniture, and our master bedroom set was no exception. We didn’t need to buy a lot, but one of the things we did need was an alarm clock (thanks to knob & tube wiring and a lack of outlets) and bedside lamps, but we struggled to find ones we liked. Until we found Buffet Lamps and an alarm clock at Ikea.

Nana’s old telephone table used as a night stand, complete with Ikea lamp and alarm clock.

And of course, we needed some knick knacks for my dresser.

Candle sticks, candles, and tray from Ikea.

And then there was the issue of replacing the ceiling fan. Although my husband had doubts about a hanging lamp over our bed, I was delighted by the result.

Ceiling fixture from Home Depot.

And then I needed bedding. Our old bed was a full size, and when we inherited the furniture, we also inherited a queen size bed, so needing to get all new linens, I ventured again to Ikea. I didn’t want to overwhelm the room with more color, so I went with a simple but elegant duvet cover with a white background and charcoal grey print.  Pillows were scored from Home Goods.

When it came to finding something to hang over the bed, the man and I scoured every art store we could find on South Street, searched countless internet sites and poster stores, and could come up with nothing.  In the end, we settled on something we already owned, and couldn’t begin to imagine would fit in the room.

Tree of Life tapestry over our bed.

So overall, the project took two weeks and just about $500. The wall color seems to change throughout the season and the day. In the morning it is subdued and relaxing, and at night with our bedside lights on there is a rosy, warm glow. I’d say the result was just like our paint color: naturally calm.


And a beautiful after.

This summer I’m taking it easy. I’m almost done completing our living room, and in a few weeks we begin the process of having more knob & tube wiring removed. But in the past year, I couldn’t be happier with the transformations that have been made. What about you? What do you think of using purple in a bedroom? Did you transform your own bedroom retreat? I’d love to know!

the lonely island*

Don’t let the post title fool you.  This blog entry is not going to be prolific, inspiring, emotional, cathartic, heart wrenching… I could go on and on. It’s just not. Trust me. Void where prohibited.

Instead of blogging for the past week, I have been washing the walls of my living room with trisodium phosphate (TSP).  I cannot express to you the joy —

lies. All lies. If anyone tells you that washing walls with TSP is fun they are absolutely, positively, certifiably psychotic. Or Martha Stewart.

This week a painter is coming in to fix, treat, and paint the living room ceiling which is horribly stained and discolored. The more I look at where the stain is – above our mantle – the more I am convinced that the previous owners were pyromaniacs. When my husband and I cleaned out the fireplace, we found burnt advertisements, photos, bills, and the list goes on. So, logically, maybe it’s just that they couldn’t afford a shredder. Or maybe I’m right and they were pyromaniacs. Either way, the appointment with the painter has given me new found motivation to finish the living room, though, which is a good thing.

Because of how hard I have to scrub the walls and how many times I have to get on and off the ladder, though, I tend to only work on it for about an hour each week night. Which means not a lot of progress.  Until tonight.

Let’s backtrack:  My mom gave me – or regifted me – an iTunes gift card that I had gotten her but she had never used. So Sunday night my husband got to make fun of me and suffered through, “Wait what is that song that kinda sounds like JLo’s that is Latin in the beginning?” and “What about that one where I think he’s singing about Galileo?”** followed by his laughter, and immediately pulling up the YouTube video, with me squealing in delight, “OH MY GOD! How did you find it?! What’s the name of it?” I then proceeded to make fun of half of my music collection from college.

The point of this is, music actually made washing the walls bearable. Somehow shaking my ass while scrubbing my walls made the time fly. So if you have an unbearable task at hand that may or may not involve chemicals that may or may not make your hands shrivel up and look like prunes (even wearing gloves), I recommend music. And here is my wall washing mix.***

* In an attempt to have a melodramatic post title, I chose one of the artists featured on the playlist. Thank you for music that makes me shake my ass and laugh at the same time.

** Please see Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite”. I also at one point thought that Rihanna fell in love at a homeless place.

*** This mix does not reflect the entirety of my taste in music. And feel free to make fun of the random, bad, nostalgic songs in there. Yes, there is Backstreet Boys on there.  And yes, FCC, I bought or owned all the songs/CDs 😛