IMG_1949there are many things i think i did wrong in this renovation. but hey, it was my first time on the job, and let’s be real: there was a slight case of amateur hour going on in these parts. i did my best, certainly, but there are many small things that i’d change if i could go back and do them again.

one of those small things, as it turns out, i can still change! and that’s my kitchen lighting. see, before i embarked on this renovation, my mindset was more, “ooh, pretty lights!” and less, “i need an actual lighting plan.” in fact, i didn’t even know a lighting plan was a thing. no one tells you these things, you know? you only hear about them while you’re listening to the chris loves julia podcast and it’s too late to make a change!

{sidenote: i am obsessed with the chris loves julia podcast, and you should be too}

anywho, suffice it to say, when the contractor and electrician told me two flushmount lights would suffice for kitchen lighting (and told me i really didn’t need under cabinet lights and that they would be way more expensive), i listened. and they were wrong. turns out, i could have used a lot more lighting in my kitchen. i should have coughed up the extra dough for under cabinet lights.

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i should have added more task lighting, and more specifically, i wish i’d added library sconces above my shelves, like the kitchen below (i also wouldn’t say no to that gorgeous simple gold pendant above the sink).

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i DEFINITELY should have gone for three flushmounts instead of two. and most importantly, i shouldn’t have gone with exposed bulbs in the kitchen. exhibit A, folks (my kitchen):

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as i pretty quickly learned, those sort of cool exposed bulb flushmounts are all well and good–when you don’t really need them to cast off a lot of light. they’re hip, yes. they look cool, yes. but functional? not exactly. i’ve tried a large variety of different bulbs in these babies (if you’re curious, they’re these from the young house love for shades of light line), and unfortunately, they simply don’t cast off enough light for a busy kitchen bee like myself. additionally, because there’s no glass shade for the light to bounce off of, they tend to be a little bit harsh when they’re on. NO BUENO.

but as my girl carrie bradshaw says, COULDA SHOULDA WOULDA. i didn’t know what i didn’t know, and so i made some mistakes. luckily, the one above–the type of flushmounts i bought–can be fixed. YIPPEE! i’ve been living in the grand apartment for almost 5 months now, so i think it’s safe to say i’m somewhat settled. and being settled for that amount of time has given me lots of moments to ponder what type of lighting i should do next. as of now, i’ve landed on doing a traditional schoolhouse style. i know, i know, so predictable. but i think they’ll work, height-wise, and for the most part, they’ll allow for a higher wattage than the ones i have now (which are limited to 75 watts).

i have my eye on something like this:

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two of them, obviously – but you get the idea. as of now, i’m not leaning towards brass (the kitchen is black and chrome, finish-wise, and i think adding brass might be a bit too much).

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i sort of had my heart on the above style (which you can find at schoolhouse electric), but with the black and white striped shade (i’m thinking the stripes will play nicely off the my floors), but it seems schoolhouse is no longer making that colorway. SADSIES.

which has led me to go back to the drawing board, and scope out a few other schoolhouse style options.

 

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too blah?

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still too harsh, what with the clear glass?

as you can see, i’m having quite a bit of trouble deciding. thoughts from the peanut gallery?! help!

IMG_1899HEY. HI. HELLO THERE! HOW ARE YOU? i know, no one wants to hear the story of the amateur blogger who got too busy with her day job and dropped off the face of the earth. but it’s true truth, really.  i know it’s been a while since you heard from me, but life got away from me, and i spent a few months living life out in the world instead of on the internet.

SO SUE ME.

that being said, a few VERY KIND strangers have commented that they’d like to hear more about the grand apartment, and when kind strangers ask for something, you must give it to them. so here i am, attempting to fill you in on the last few months, and promising, yet again, that i’m back for real. (yes, i’m aware that you haven’t heard a peep from me since december).

here’s some real talk: around the same time i moved into the grand apartment, i got promoted at work. i worked my ass off to get there, and i pushed hard for the promotion, and then i got it, and for a little while it was like, this is it? same shit, different title? then the new year rolled around. and we hired someone to work below me. and then we hired someone else. and guess what, you guys? MANAGING PEOPLE IS HARD! i know, i know, DUH, SARAH. but let’s just say i wasn’t exactly prepared for doing my workload and supervising someone else’s at the same time. so i spent the first few months of this year buried in the weeds, trying to keep my head above water (a new feeling for me, if i’m being totally honest. it takes a lot to bury me).

at the same time, i experienced a bit of renovation burnout. the apartment wasn’t (and isn’t), 100% done, but i was OVER IT. over with bugging contractors, over with dealing with the asshole who screwed up my countertops, over with handing off huge sums of money to people who rarely did things exactly right and/or in the timeline required of them.

IMG_1924so i took a break. i took some time, and i just LIVED. i didn’t order anything new. i didn’t put up my ceiling medallions. i didn’t seal my brick wall. i didn’t schedule the reinstallation of my f’ed up countertops. i just went about my life, and it felt good.

great, even. sometimes i forget that this entire process unfolded within a single year (and that the bulk of the hard work took place within mere months). GUYS, i was TIRED. physically, emotionally. so i did the very best thing a person can do when they are tired: i rested. i put my to do list on hold, and i just told myself it would all happen someday, maybe even someday soon. but it didn’t have to happen today.

IMG_1892and that revelation? it was so freeing. i am a person who thrives on the ‘go go go’ mentality. i prefer to be busy. i like when things aren’t just done, but done right. i like them to be done fast. sometimes, i can’t sleep until they are done. but that, folks, is a recipe for disaster. especially when you’re working a (somewhat stressful) full time job, juggling a gut renovation, trying to work out 6 days a week, volunteering on the side, and trying to have a social life in between. suffice it to say, i haven’t been on a date in a LONG ASS TIME.

so i gave myself some time to just be. to write if and when i felt like it (it turns out, i didn’t), to do projects when the opportunity arose (guess what? i still haven’t painted my door), and to just live my life, as T.I. says.

IMG_1949that’s where i’ve been. living. but i’m feeling ever so slightly rejuvenated, and inspired by the lovely strangers who have commented and said, “come back, we miss you!”

SO HERE I AM.  i have so many things i want to tell you! so many posts in my brain that i want to write. like the one about the 5 things i’d do differently if i did this again. or the one about the giant centipede that came crawling out of my exposed brick last week (and why that centipede means i need to SEAL.THAT.BRICK.ASAP). or the one about how my bedroom still doesn’t feel quite right.

IMG_1846starting is hard, but in the spirit of moving forward, i’m going to do just that: start. below, you’ll find a few snapshots of the grand apartment in its current iteration. it’s not 100% there yet (is it ever?), but it’s close. and it has finally, miraculously, started to feel like home.

if you’re still out there, world, thanks for sticking with me. thanks for reading, and for hearing me out. i love you, for reals, for ever (and ever and ever).

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one of the things i wanted most in my kitchen was an apron style farmhouse sink like the one pictured above. for sink novices (don’t worry, i was one as of 6 months ago), apron style refers to that overhang you see at the front of the sink. unlike undermount sinks, which are essentially dropped into the countertop/cabinet, apron sinks show a little “apron” around the front, which gives them a cozy antique farmhouse feel.

before you say it, yes, i know that i bought an apartment in new york city and not a cozy barn in the woods of vermont, but i grew up in the woods (ish) of massachusetts, and i love me some cozy farmhouse feel. my apartment isn’t big enough for the real markers of country house chic (giant wood beams, brick fireplace, wide planked hardwoods, oversized industrial pendant lights, etc.), but a farmhouse sink: that i could do.

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as you may recall, my design plan for the kitchen involved white cabinets, stainless steel appliances, a badass encaustic tile, and wood accents (again, adding a touch of farmhouse to the space!). i figured that a farmhouse sink couldn’t cost more than a few hundred dollars, and once i settled on my design plan, i started hunting around.

GUYS, i could NOT have been more wrong. sadly, this happened to me many times during the renovation process. things ALWAYS cost more than you think they will. such is life, i suppose. as it turns out, farmhouse sinks (nice ones, at least) start at around 700 and go up to 2k. TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS FOR A PLACE WHERE YOU WASH YOUR POTS AND PANS! i’m sorry, am i washing 24k gold in this shit? that price is ridiculous.

what’s a girl to do when she has her heart set on a design element that she can’t afford? she turns to the internet, of course! i started pinteresting my little heart out, and came across this blog post from one of my favorite design blogger, jenny komenda of little green notebook. jenny, too, wanted a farm sink, but she wasn’t willing to toss two thousand bones down the drain to get one.

lucky for me, jenny had a solution! it started with I and ended with KEA. god bless the scandinavians, amiright? the fine folks at ikea had a DOUBLE farmhouse sink, and it cost a (relatively, comparably) minuscule $312.

NOW we were talking.

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once i figured out that ikea had what i wanted, i researched some more. how did people style the ikea sink? (very nicely, as exhibit A above proves) did they like it? (most did!) did it scratch easily? (so long as you had barkeeper’s friend, you were fine) was it too big (my contractor said yes, i couldn’t really see it without actually seeing it in person)? was the double bowl annoying? were the grates in the back annoying? (for some, yes)

here’s what my research revealed: the ikea sink was not perfect. some felt the back grates were annoying, that water and soap scum pooled in them. some felt the single bowl was too small, the double bowl, too big. some thought it was too hard to keep clean (i mean, it IS white). but for the price, most people loved it. like, really loved it.

i was sold. so a few months ago, i dragged my ass to ikea on a wednesday night (more about that solo excursion here) and i ordered the double domsjo, which was indeed REALLY f*cking big (37″ long!), but was also really pretty. there it is below, styled in one of those faux ikea kitchens that i love so much.

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that was approximately 4 months ago. i’ve been living in the grand apartment for almost 2 months now, and i’ve had my sink connected for about 6 weeks of that time. and so far, i am VERY happy with it. it’s enormous, yes, but that doesn’t bother me. i do the actual washing in the left bowl, and stack the “to be washed” stuff in the right bowl. i keep my dish and hand soap on the grated area, and i just wipe it down every day or so. it doesn’t really seem to get that dirty (though i am somewhat of a neat freak). i’ve only had to clean it with barkeeper’s friend once, and that was only because it got a little greasy after my candle-making adventure.

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here it is looking beautiful with a gigantic bunch of fresh eucalyptus in it. ain’t she purty?!

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here’s a full, totally unstyled shot of the sink from the entrance to the kitchen. it takes up quite a bit of space, but as someone who cooks a lot and therefore makes a lot of dishes, that doesn’t bother me. i haven’t had any trouble with scratches, and i’ve washed that insanely heavy dutch oven you see there atop the stove in it multiple times. all in all, i am very happy. mostly because it’s bright white and beautiful and if i close my eyes real tight and then open them again, i can almost kid myself into thinking i’m in a cozy farmhouse where a fire crackles in the room next to me and the beds are layered with down comforters and the floors creak with every step.

so: who wants to go in on a farmhouse?!

img_8903oh hey, hello, HIII. i know, i dropped off the face of the earth for, oh, about 2.5 months. but in my defense, i was busy doing some hardcore nesting, and i was still ALL ABOUT THAT INSTAGRAM (as always).

lots has happened since we last hung out. i’ve moved in (on halloween weekend, oy)! my counters went in (they are not quite right and will cost 1700 to fix. OY)! my tile and kitchen shelving went up (YASS)!

i have my heart set on doing a professionally photographed, real, true “home tour” once things are done for realsies, so for now, you’ll have to settle for little sneak peeks here and there.

ANYWHO, one of the things i have managed to check off my list is wallpapering the entryway, which is pictured below (scroll down if you’re impatient). i went with this one, and i am straight up obsessed with it. it’s whimsical and glamorous and statement-making without being too loud.

but let’s back up a bit.

here’s the wall pre-wallpaper. nice, white, simple, but it didn’t pop. i worried that it would get easily scuffed, what with everyone and everything (humans, cats, packages) coming in and out of it every day. i also wanted something to play against my amazing worlds away light fixture, which is mercury glass and is my favorite thing in the ENTIRE APARTMENT.

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i toyed with painting it the same grey as the living room, but that felt like a design letdown, especially when i’d gone and splurged on that vintage persian rug and had spent all this dough to custom build out the entryway storage unit you can see peeking out in the left of the photo above.

i was feeling all uninspired and conflicted, and then i came across this post, from my latest interior design blog obsession, chris loves julia. HELLO, ENTRYWAY OF MY DREAMS! how freaking cute are those oversized brass hooks? (they’re from pottery barn)  how fierce is that paper?!

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suddenly, the way forward was clear: wallpaper was the answer, and wallpaper only. so down a wallpaper rabbit hole i went, pinning the shit out of paper designs and stalking the hygge & west site.

initially, i was eying the rifle paper line. i am an anna bond fan girl and love literally everything she puts out–but it felt like her papers might be just a biiiit too busy for my little wall. i didn’t want to compete with the rug or the light fixture, i just wanted a little bit of pop.

then i stumbled upon this paper. it’s by julia rothman, who is based out of brooklyn (what what), and it’s the most magical. i’m bookmarking it in my brain for my future nursery (if that ever comes to pass), because it’s got this amazing childlike feel to it without being, well, only for children.

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i’ve never installed wallpaper before (or had it installed), and after having a few conversations with people more experienced than myself, i decided NOT to DIY this, and to hire out the job to someone who knew what they were doing.

after deciding not to DIY, i asked my friend holly for her wallpaper guy (her apartment is that of a real grown up and is gorgeous and FULL of beautiful wallpaper!), and gave the man a call. as with pretty much every subcontractor i’ve dealt with in this process, mitch was a wee bit out there, but he knew his shit, and quoted me $350 for a morning of wallpapering, along with a time slot for the following week.

in the spirit of full disclosure, $350 isn’t pennies, at least, not to me. especially given that the paper itself was $150. that being said, under $500 for a beautiful entryway that will make me smile every time i walk in the door feels worth it to me. sure, it’s a plane ticket to mexico, or 10 spin classes, but hey, COMPROMISE, am i right?

i know i couldn’t have done it myself (at least, not well), and the security of having it done right (especially when the paper wasn’t cheap) was worth it to me.

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here’s the paper guy prepping “daydream” for the wall. is that a portrait of a man who knows what he’s doing or WHAT?! this is what it looked like when he started rolling out the paper on his “wallpaper table” (#industryterms!). it’s also a shot of the moment in which i started freaking out about just how goddamn pretty this paper was. as you can probably tell by the look on his face, he was anxious for me to get the hell out of the apartment and be on my merry way to the office, but hey, when a girl’s excited, she’s excited.

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and RIGHTFULLY SO, if i do say so myself. because now that it’s installed, i’m in straight up wallpaper heaven! it sounds silly, but somehow, doing this wall has made the space (and the apartment) feel way more “finished” and therefore, way more like home.

next up: going all chris loves julia on the space and adding adorable “S” hooks from anthropologie (no longer available, but similar to these), plus my favorite oversized antique gold mirror.

ps: this wallpaper experience has been so positive that i’m thinking of doing my bathroom, too. stay tuned for inspiration shots and my paper picks for my tiny little porcelain palace.

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so, remember like 3 months ago, when i stupidly thought i could “get ahead of the game” and start thinking about floor stains? SILLY, SILLY SARAH. if i could go back in time and warn 3 months ago sarah that basically NOTHING would go as planned and that there is really no way to get that far ahead of ANY of this…

well, let’s just say i would.

anywho. in case you missed the post above (clicky clicky, friends!), 3 months ago sarah thought it was as simple as choosing between “light” and “dark” – HAHA. SILLY, SILLY SARAH! TIS NOT THAT SIMPLE, GIRLFRIEND. turns out that, just like paint colors, floor stains come in basically every shade under the sun…AND YOU CAN MIX THEM. which means that there are essentially ENDLESS possibilities.

my floor guy, lou of finishing touch floors, told me that my first step was to take a look at the minwax website and get a feel for the colors. he thought i might be interested in a shade known as “special walnut” (teehee). so over i went to minwax, where i found this very helpful (read: not helpful at all) graphic.

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do you see special walnut up there, number 224? it looks OH SO REGULAR, right? REG CITY. so i turned to my friends google and pinterest, to see what they could show me about special walnut.

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….pretty regular. so i decided to hunt around on pinterest to see what others liked. as it turned out, special walnut was, surprisingly, pretty popular (#bland, america). people also had quite a thing for english chestnut, weathered oak, and early american.

so i asked lou if we could see a few (read: a bunch) of samples. and on tuesday morning, that’s just what we did.

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lou’s worker, eric, sanding down the floor for stain tests.

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amazing how much dirt/stain/grime/life comes off with 5 minutes of sanding, isn’t it? i couldn’t believe how beautiful the hardwoods were in their original oak form. imagining this room being built way back in the 1920s gave me all the feels.

once the floor was sanded, lou wiped it down with water and let it dry, creating a spotless surface for us to work with.

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here he is opening all the various stains and prepping them in little plastic cups.

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and here they are all laid out. i immediately ruled out the far right and the third from right – too dark. second from right is special walnut, which, not surprisingly, looked REGULAR, just plain old REGULAR brown, on my floors. the middle dark one is “english chestnut” – pretty, but a little too red/dark for my liking. second from the left is “early american” – meant to make your floors look, well, early american. which mine are.

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here’s a closer look. so, on the far right, we have a dark brown (i forget the color, apologies!) mixed with weathered gray. on the far left, we have the same mixture, but two parts gray to one part brown. far right might have worked if i wanted to go dark; far left felt drab. second from left is (ding ding ding!) the winner, early american. next to it is english chestnut, which read waaaaayyy too red on my floors (they’re oak, by the way, for those wondering). next to english chestnut was special walnut, looking as drab and brown as they come. apparently, this color really sings on some floors, but on mine, it was like that guy that auditions for the voice and is so horrifically bad that you wonder how he made it past initial casting, let alone got in front of blake and adam.

so, what happens next? after i left, the guys got to work, patching the part of the floor that had been ruined when we took down the wall between the entryway and the kitchen.

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remember when the living room/entryway looked like this?!

the “newer” looking floors you see below are, well, brand new. and magically, just as he promised, lou managed to match them to the old ones. he’s warned me that once stained, the new planks won’t be exactly like the old, because the new wood will take the stain differently than the old floors will, but to me, things look pretty damn good.

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for reference, i am standing at the very front of the living room; to my left is the dining area, to my right is the breakfast bar (where those cabinets are)

today, lou and his guys are sanding and staining, and by friday night, i’ll have shiny, fresh, beautiful floors. EEK!

just for funsies, let’s take a look at where the living room was when construction started…

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pictured at closing – doesn’t it look so much smaller without the brick wall exposed?

and where it is now, with the brick wall exposed, the lighting up, the front wall painted, and the floors ready for stain.

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kind of crazy, right? i have a feeling things are about to get GOOD.

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my new neighbors are, for the most part, a mystery to me. but one, in particular, i have met. he’s the man next door, and he is a RIOT. my first instagram post about sheldon – that’s his name, don’t wear it out – was such a hit that i thought it might be fun to document my interactions with him as a series here.

if you’d like to read part 1, click here. this is part 2.

this morning, upon arrival to the grand apartment, i saw that the elevator was out. really?! i started climbing the stairs – all five flights of them. around floor four, i noticed that i could hear sheldon talking – presumably, to someone – about the inconvenience of a non-working elevator. another neighbor! i thought excitedly. i’ll get to meet another neighbor!

no such luck.

when i got to the fifth floor landing, i saw sheldon, alone, holding a small bag of laundry in his hands (interestingly, it appeared to hold just one item: a denim jacket that was shockingly similar to the one currently on his body).

“are you the elevator repair man?” he asked.

“no, i’m not. i see the elevator is out – have you called the super?”

“are you sarah?”

(he remembered! so the man has a good memory)

“i am sarah, yes. hi, sheldon.”

“you move in yet?”

“no, not yet.”

“when?”

“probably about a month.”

“i didn’t go in there, you know, into your apartment. last time we talked, i know i said i wanted to go in, but i didn’t go in.”

“that’s good, sheldon, because there are workmen in there.”

“no boyfriend, right?”

“no, sheldon, just me.”

“i know we can’t go out, you and me. i know that. but we can be friends, right? you and i can be friends? i just want someone to talk to.”

“yes, sheldon, we can be friends.”

“good, because i need a friend. see, my mom’s in the hospital, 6 weeks they got her in there, and no bed! so it’s just me, i’m sleeping in her room, but i’m all alone and i just need someone to talk to. so i can talk to you, right?”

“sure, you can talk to me.”

“we don’t have to go out – i know i’m too old for you. i’m 72! that’s old, right?”

(i did not answer this question, not directly, at least)

“but we can hang out, you and me. we can watch tv. i watched the dodgers game last night, you know? and the red sox got creamed by cleveland. you watch sports?”

“not really, no.”

“i had a dream about you, you know, you and me. we went to the movies! and then we sat together on the couch and we watched tv. maybe i can come over sometime, and we can watch tv.”

“we can be friends, sheldon.”

“my social worker is supposed to be at ten to nine, but the elevator is out. how will she get up here?!”

“i’m sure she can take the stairs, she’ll just take it slow. i’m sure the elevator will be fixed soon; maybe you can do your laundry later?”

“yes, i guess i can, yes. and we’ll be friends, yes?”

“yes, sheldon.”

“because i live alone, and i need someone to talk to. and maybe you can come clean the apartment when the aide doesn’t show up. can you do that?”

“we’ll see, sheldon.”

….end scene.

 

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well, folks, we are finally starting to truly get somewhere over on grand street, and with construction (kind of) coming to a close, it’s time to get serious about THE FUN STUFF, aka, the design. the living room and dining room plans, are, for the most part, pretty set – but the bedroom has been, up until recently, up in the air.

which is, in fact, quite a nice segue into how i want the bedroom to feel. see, the grand bedroom is, well, not so grand, especially now that i’ve carved out the entire front wall for a closet. so i need to do everything in my power to make it feel big, not small; spacious, not cramped.

the goal is for the bedroom to feel like one giant cloud, like i’m floating on air, wrapped in the warm cozy hug of this bon iver song i can’t stop listening to.

that means white walls (i’m going with benjamin moore’s “white”), white trim (benjamin moore’s “super white”), white bedding (i have these sheets and this duvet from pottery barn and i love them), and white curtains (i got these from ikea).

i’ve been particularly inspired by danielle moss’ minimalist chicago bedroom (pictured above), though i can’t go quite that kondo on the space (i have a lot of stuff). hence, my goal is to stick to white walls, bedding and curtains, and then add in some warm wood tones and brass to warm up the space.

you may remember this dresser that i found in the basement of my current building – i’m hoping it’ll fit in the back corner of the bedroom.

i’m planning on order two of these urban outfitters sconces (i had my eye on these from schoolhouse electric originally, and may splurge on them at some point, but for now, i need to go more budget-friendly), and spruce up my ikea curtains with these brass curtain rods from west elm.

white sheepskins from ikea will add an extra layer of coziness, and a white ceiling fan will (hopefully) disappear into the ceiling, but keep me cool at night.

and then there’s my bed.

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this one has spurred a lot of internal debate. one of the things i wanted most in the bedroom was a bigger, better bed. for the last 15 or so years, i’ve been sleeping on the full mattress i’ve had since i got upgraded to a “big girl bed”–aka, it’s high time for a new mattress. and given that i tend to sleep spread eagle (this tends to happen when you’ve been single for eternity and the only other creature that shares your bed is your cat), i have been dreaming of upgrading to a queen.

but beds are expensive. mattresses aren’t cheap. and i didn’t exactly build a new bed into my budget.

this is where my fairy godmother, also known as my friend cassie who works at wayfair, comes in. cassie swooped in and saved the day, budget-wise, hunting down numerous light fixtures i wanted from the interwebs, and gaving me her employee discount on them. this, in turn, saved me some serious dolla dolla bills. just enough dolla bills, in fact, for me to rationalize buying a new bed after all.

which turned into a new dilemma: what kind of bed did i want?! did i want a tufted, ladylike headboard like the one above (from alaina kaczmarski’s bedroom), or an antique-esque victorian wrought iron bed like the one below?

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interestingly, when i started hunting for inspiration images of the urban outfitters sconce, i found more than a few shots of the sconce next to–you guessed it–an antique wrought iron bed!

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so cozy, right? picture this with all white bedding, white sheepskins underfoot for chilly mornings, and soft ambient lighting.

IT’S POSITIVELY CLOUD-LIKE! to recap/for visual learners, here’s the plan:

39db8dc97067ec433b62ae5b15609cdbnow: which mattress to buy? i’m going “bed in a box” – so i need your thoughts on casper, tuft & needle, leesa, et al. HELP!