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hi, friends. wow, two posts in one week?!  i don’t even recognize myself. is this what i look like when i have a project to write about? i’m like a changed woman over here. {editor’s note: i started this post on july 16th. it’s now august 1st. OOPS}

just kidding. {editor’s note: CLEARLY}

but only kind of – i really do feel like this project has gotten my creative juices flowing again. i hate that phrase, but it’s true. my day job got really crazy for about 6 months straight (though it’s been way more chill the last few months! advertising ebbs and flows), and i think working pretty much all the time just kind of zapped my energy. i never wanted to bring my laptop home, let alone open it to write or design or do any of the fun creative things i generally like to do.

now that things have calmed down (and more importantly, now that i have a project to focus on!), i feel like my brain has switched back on. there’s all sorts of stuff whirring around in there, but lest i freak you out, i’ll only share some of it. in particular, we’ll start with the bedroom design plan, which, if you’ll recall from my previous post, is currently sitting unused, because allie got uninspired and couldn’t seem to figure out how to make the room work for her.

right now, it looks like this:

IMG_7457a blank canvas of sorts, just BEGGING to be repainted and freshened up a bit. i love the wainscoting in here, and i think once we soften things up a bit (we’re going very neutral in the space), this room will feel crisp, calm, and happy. which is generally how bedrooms should feel, if you ask me. i’m all for bright colors, and fun prints, and i love how moody bedrooms look when i see them on the internet, but when it comes down to it, i just want the place i sleep to feel a bit like stepping into a cloud. allie’s mind moves a mile a minute, and i’m hoping to give her a space that helps her slow down (even just a little bit).

IMG_7459

so, without further adieu, here’s the plan. like i said above, we’re going deep into neutral territory. we’re switzerland, in a design board. this is more neutral than any space of mine, but with the amount of light allie’s bedroom gets, i think it’ll be beautiful.

Allie's House_Bedroom1

while i was home over july 4th, we went to the paint store and picked up sample pints of the two colors above (both benjamin moore, my main man). you’ll notice i’m proposing that we go lighter on the walls, darker on the trim. this is the opposite of what’s traditionally done, but it’s a trend i’ve been seeing a lot of lately (i’m particularly smitten with jenni yolo’s barnhouse paint choices and this kitchen from amber interiors, while not exactly the same, they show the concept has legs!). i’ve saved a bunch of inspiration shots of this look on instagram, and i’m thrilled that i was able to convince allie (and my parents, whose opinion means a lot to us!) that it’s the right way to go.

side note: does anyone else call places the “xyz store”? my friends at work recently made fun of me, HARD, for saying i was going to “the food store” after work (ie, the grocery store). i’ve just now realized this is a thing i do with lots of things. paint store, food store, drug store, etc. AM I THE ONLY ONE?!

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we started by putting the two paints up on the wall, just to see how they look next to one another. i didn’t want to go painting the wainscoting if we hated one of the colors on the wall. i’ve asked allie to take photos of the swatches at various times of day, so that we can see how it looks in the daytime vs. the nighttime. so far, we’re pretty sold. i can’t wait to see how fresh this space feels with some bright white on the walls.

the freshly painted walls will serve as the perfect crisp, clean backdrop for the other pieces we’re bringing in, while the brass accents in the lighting and curtain rods will help keep the space from reading too cold (which is often a risk when you go all white + neutrals).

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so, let’s break it down a bit, shall we? allie hasn’t had a ton of thoughts on what she likes, design-wise, but she did have a few requests when it came to the actual pieces in the room.Allie's House_Bedroom1

  1. a bed with a headboard. this is a relatively easy fix, because allie already has a box spring, mattress, and metal bed frame. a brand new bed + mattress would blow our budget, but a new headboard (the kind that attaches to a metal bed frame) is totally doable. we’re going for a simple linen option: pretty, but also comfy enough to rest her head on/sit up against.
  2. better lighting. when we moved allie into this apartment, we skimped on lighting. there’s an overhead fixture in her room right now, but it only has a single bulb, and doesn’t give off much light. the new option above will offer ALL THE LIGHT while still looking verrrry cute (if i do say so myself). we’ll also be adding bedside/reading lights (either in the form of plug in sconces, or small table lamps).
  3. more storage. as discussed in the previous post, we’ll be building out some simple shelving in allie’s closet (there are two in this room!), but we’ll also be getting smart about storage elsewhere. nightstands with drawers offer a place to shove all your inevitable bedside clutter, while pretty baskets serve as a resting place for extra blankets, shoes, etc.
  4. a full length mirror. i love the option above (from urban outfitters) because it not only provides a mirror, but also offers some hanging options. allie can pick out her clothes for the next day, or hang delicates to dry on the right side, and admire her fabulous self on the left.

in addition to those four things, we’ll be purchasing a new rug (would you believe the one above is MACHINE WASHABLE?!), new bedding (simple striped jersey from target), and new art (from my favorites over at juniper print shop). then, if the budget allows (i’m working my magic to make it so!), we’ll also splurge on an accent bench (i love the pattern of the textile on this one, and it’s a great extra seating spot in a small space), a pretty clothes hamper (so the laundry doesn’t end up on the floor), and the cutest dog bed i ever did see for her cockapoo, daisy.

i’m sure that as we start painting, ordering things, and of course, assembling them and getting them in the space, this plan will change a bit – but right now, i’m feeling pretty darn happy with how it’s coming together. the living room and dining room are presenting a bit of a challenge for me (odd angles, columns, different flooring, less natural light) but this room…this room,  i can see.

as some of you may remember, when i was home in late june, i got to do something extra specially fun: i got to see my best friend joia’s new house! those who have been following me for a while may recall that two of my closest friends are also two of the oldest: i met them in preschool. yes, pre-school! there we are below over christmas break. joia is on the left, i’m in the middle, and kim is on the right.

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we’re all spread across the country now–me in new york, joia in our hometown (she bunked with me in new york for a year, but ultimately moved home to be with her now husband!), and kim in san francisco–but we see each other as often as we can. because we’ve been friends for so long, we’re more like sisters than anything. we’re what my high school psychology teacher liked to call “refrigerator friends”: the people who can walk into your kitchen and open the fridge and take what they like, the people for whom your home is theirs, and vice versa.

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L-R: our friends kara and sophie, then joia, and me.

so you can imagine that their sadness is my sadness, and their joy is my joy. which is why i was positively OVERJOYED when i heard that joia and her husband were house-hunting. sure, it’s fun to decorate an apartment in NYC but it’s even MORE FUN to decorate an ENTIRE HOUSE. joia and her husband, who i’ll call T, recently purchased an adorable little cape home on a street located (happily) about a 4 minute drive from my parents. the house has a big back yard (they’re planning on building a great deck and a garden!) and is across from a bubbling brook; if you listen carefully, you can hear the water from their front steps. it was recently “renovated” but in flipper style, which means that some (read: most) of the finishes aren’t exactly what joia would have liked them to be–but it has a lot of potential!

joia and T didn’t want to take on a full gut job (they both work full time and it would’ve been nearly impossible, not to mention a big financial strain), but they’re happy to work on their new home little by little to take those not so great builder finishes from drab to fab. T happens to be very handy, so they’ll be able to do a lot of the work themselves.

i know joia is a bit disappointed that the home wasn’t instantly all she ever dreamed of, but let’s be honest: few homes are. i think this is the case with a lot of first-time homeowners, especially those that don’t have endless budgets (which i think is MOST PEOPLE). you start house-hunting and you think of all the “must haves” (aka, things you’d like to have). and then you realize what your actual budget can get you, and you learn to compromise, and to live with the fact that dream homes don’t happen overnight.

the bottom line is this: even if your home starts in a yucky place (i mean hello, look at what mine used to look like!), you can get it to a happy one. and that, my friends, is where i come in! joia and t don’t have an endless budget (who does), so they’ll likely be decorating little by little, over time–but i’m going to be helping her think through her design choices as they happen, and i CANNOT WAIT. like i said, when do you ever get to help with a WHOLE HOUSE?!

so, let’s look at the before pictures, shall we?! i snapped these in early june, right before joia and T moved their furniture in. i’ve got a lot of big plans in my brain for the house, starting with the living room (which i’ll share here next week!), but let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).

read on for an ONSLAUGHT of photos!

first up: the kitchen. when you enter the house through the back/side door (where you’ll pretty much always enter), you see the kitchen straight ahead, and behind it, a large eat-in dining area. the appliances were recently updated, and while joia isn’t in love with the cabinets, they’re solid maple, so the plan is to work with them for now. she found some nice inspiration images that show this style and shade of wood cabinets with a pretty, light sage green paint, and is contemplating going that route, as a full kitchen reno isn’t in their future anytime soon.

Garner Cape_Kitchen Island 2

the kitchen island–we’ll likely paint it, and remove that weird foot bar.

joia might kill me for the photo below, but it’s the only one i got of the (VERY SPACIOUS!) pantry. god bless non-city storage space, amiright?! here, you can also see a very weird inlay detail in the floors. joia HATES this, but short of ripping up or re-staining all the wood floors, there’s no way around it. this is why god invented area rugs. behind her is a downstairs bath (with soaking tub! odd choice but hey, a tub is a tub!) and off to the right, a small bedroom that T will use for his office (he works from home a few days a week).

Garner Cape_Kitchen Pantry

here’s a better shot of the kitchen. i for one am really excited to take this on as a design challenge, as i think this kitchen is PRETTY CLOSE to a lot of suburban kitchens out there: microwave over the stove, mid-range stainless steel appliances, oak (or maple) cabinets, odd  mediterranean-esque beige backsplash tile…there’s lots to not love, but also, lots of potential for not a lot of dough. more to come on the kitchen plan later, but my first recommendation here will be to rip out the backsplash and replace it with classic white subway tile. if i have my druthers, i’ll also have them redo the counters, but that’s likely a project that can’t be done right away.

Garner Cape_Maple Kitchen Cabinets

kitchen cabinets and appliances

here’s the kitchen as seen from the large dining area. we’re not in love with what’s going on with that weird ceiling treatment (the living room has it too; we think it hides the electrical for the recessed lighting), but like i said above, such is life with a first home. you can’t win ’em all!

Garner Cape_Kitchen Island

i’d like to help them select new schoolhouse-style pendants for over the kitchen island, and again, i’m going to advocate that they paint that baby (maybe a deeper green or a simple, clean white?). here you can see that the weird backsplash goes all the way around. but there’s LOTS of good here: new appliances, a sink that overlooks a window into the dreamy backyard, good light, loooots of storage, and plenty of counter space.

here’s the dining area. i’m picturing a nice round pedestal table here, maybe with white windsor chairs? and perhaps wiring in a chandelier to draw the eye up. obviously, the odd sconces will likely go.

Garner Cape_Kitchen into Dining Area

Garner Cape_Kitchen Hallway

more weird sconces. bye bye, sconces.

the above photo gives you a better sense of the layout (i’m standing in the dining area) in terms of front door/pantry/island, etc. it’s really quite spacious for a relatively small house (i think it’s around 1500-1700 square feet).

from here, you can also get a sneak peek into the tub in the downstairs bath–with soaking tub (more pictures if you scroll down!).

Garner Cape_Kitchen from LR

here’s the full view of the eating area. the placement of the front door will limit them a bit in terms of table size, but it’s larger than it looks. i’m also thinking that some nice built-in bench seating could work with a more oval table, but i need to get in there and measure out the space. i know T could build benches in a hot second, and then we’d just need to get some cushions made to cozy it up a bit. i can see it!

Garner Cape_Kitchen from Front Door

eating area, as seen from the kitchen. they’re getting a new front door.

Garner Cape_Kitchen Eating Area

see what i mean? plenty of space!

Garner Cape_Eat In Kitchen

insert cute dining nook here

okay, moving on. this is the downstairs bathroom, which, oddly, has both a stand up shower and a soaking tub. it’s a spacious room, and someday, when joia and T have budget, they can really make this space shine, but in the interim, it’ll likely be cosmetic fixes to make it work for them right now.

Garner Cape_Downstairs Bathroom

obviously, this space needs a mirror, and new lighting would be ideal.

here’s where it gets a bit strange. soaking tub: yay! weird beige tile + red wood: NAY. some odd choices were clearly made in this room, so for now, joia’s plan is to paint the wood strips below white, and just make the best of it. a soaking tub is a soaking tub, no matter what it looks like.

Garner Cape_Downstairs Bath_2opposite the entrance to the bathroom is a third bedroom that’s actually quite a nice size. it has two windows—one that overlooks the driveway/side of house, and one that looks out on the front yard. in the back of the room is this large closet, which joia and T are going to build out with lots of useful shelving. hooray for storage space! someday, they’ll get doors made, but for now, they may just find some cute curtains to hide what’s behind.

Garner Cape_Downstairs BR Closetbelow is the front of the room. that boob light has to go, but that’s an easy fix. this room has really nice hardwoods, great light, and will make the perfect office for T on his work from home days.

Garner Cape_Downstairs Bedroom Front Window

Garner Cape_Downstairs BR

here’s where T will put his ginormous L-shaped desk. this window looks out on the driveway.

okay, now for the fun part: the living room. the living room has the same odd ceiling situation as the dining area, which joia and T will replace someday, but not right away. so for now, it’s about drawing the eyes up via high-hung curtains, and making the space feel at once light and airy, and homey and cozy. i’ll be sharing a full design plan for the living room (at least, my dream design plan!) next week, but let’s talk about the basics.

the photo below was snapped in the living room, looking into the eating area. so, through that door is where i’d love to put the little L-shaped bench/table situation.

Garner Cape_LR_Front Right Cornerthe area below is getting the biggest facelift, because that, folks, is a faux fireplace. as of today, it’s already been torn out and covered up with drywall (more to come on that next week with the living room design plan), with room left in the middle for built-in shelving to store TV consoles, cable boxes and the like. above it, joia and T plan to mount the TV (T has to watch his sports, joia has to watch her friends reruns).

Garner Cape_LR_Fireplacehere’s the back right corner of the living room, otherwise known as sectional city. that’s right, there’s a giiiiiant sectional going right here. it’s unclear what the homeowners were thinking with the little round window, but we’ll chalk it up to 1940s charm.

Garner Cape_Living Room_Sectional Area

hey, it’s T!

Garner Cape_Living Room Wide Shot 2

the light in this room is truly lovely–and the space is BIG.

Garner Cape_Living Room from Stairs

here’s the (almost) full room snapped from the stairs. picture that fireplace gonzo and you can really see how the space will come together.

ok, friends, that’s all for now. i’m saving the upstairs for the next post, mostly because i’ve typed 2300 words and i can’t imagine any of you have even made it this far. i don’t want you keeling over at the keyboard. or myself, for that matter.

anywho, if you were one of the lucky/wonderful few to make it to the end, i’d love if you’d weigh in with any questions/comments/thoughts, and even better, if you’d tell me whether you’d be interested in hearing/seeing more about the design process as it unfolds!

this is a real life home, a real life, budget-friendly process, and i think it’ll be cool to chronicle how regular folk design their homes (without endless budget and endless time).  i’m so thrilled to be helping them pick stuff out (even if my design boards don’t come to fruition for years!), and i hope you’re thrilled to come along for the ride.