Monday, September 29, 2014

a little bit of black & white // and free printables

good monday morning! today is my friend stephanie's (who i've mentioned before, before, and before) birthday. she's a great friend, a huge cheerleader for this blog, and the inspiration (and voice of reason) behind more posts than i can possibly acknowledge. as such, i'm turning the spotlight on her a little and giving you guys some free printables to celebrate. also, if i end up maimed by the side of the road somewhere you'll know it's because i showed you unedited pictures of her house without any permission to do this post whatsoever. (guess this is what birthday pranks look like when you're friends with a blogger. holla!)

steph has this gorgeous historic house, and has done so much to update it. i absolutely love her home and everything she's done, so when she asked me recently for some help "finishing" her family room, i about fell over. are you kidding- i should be asking her for advice! (hey, actually, that's a great idea...steph, i'll do your family do mine...)

but i totally get it. i think family rooms are really hard. they're where you hang out all the time, and therefore you look at what's in them all the time. they can feel tired really fast. they also get a ton of use, ie. wear and tear. in our phase of life, there are little ones crawling everywhere and drooling on everything, so overly styled/ breakable objects are out of the question. the room needs to be comfortable and attractive, calm yet lively, organized yet accessible. and did i mention you have to look at it all day?

sometimes you just need a fresh set of eyes on a room to get your creative juices flowing again. so i'm here to throw out some ideas and help steph get back on her game and finish this room.

i'm sorry i don't have a good overall shot of the room- i was so busy shooting all the corners, i forgot to get one! the one above is from the recent baby shower we hosted there, so ignore the bunting and overabundance of flowers.

as you can see, things escalate quickly around these parts. steph's coffee table is a brilliant choice, with deep drawers to stash toys.

the above corner of the room has a target chair which steph scored brand new at the good will for $25. i am telling you...check there often. so many businesses donate new items!

as proof positive of steph's awesomeness, she just painted this room the pale perfect pink that you're seeing in these photos. yep, pink. (she's a mom of three boys, three and under no less, so she totally deserves a pink room, right?!) it is a great color and turned out beautifully.

it used to be a lovely shade of robin's egg blue so all her current accessories are in that vein. that needs to change pronto as the baby shower look is not what she's going for here. steph is thinking that adding a little black to the accessories will help glam up and modernize the space. i'm thinking that is a fantastic idea because it also keeps her historic house from feeling too serious, and is a classic color combo that she isn't as likely to tire of.

the other side of the room has a great bookcase that steph salvaged and painted:

hahaha, i am so laughing at those kleenex perched up top. it's the beginning of cold season in chicago (which just ended three months ago, by the way) and we have kleenex decorating every room in our house too. :)

i should also mention that no one wants to devote a ton of money to this update, as there are always more pressing needs, so steph's budget is going to be her little stash of birthday money. (p.s. i am always happy to help any of you spend your birthday money...just call me up).

so happy birthday stephanie; i got you a family room design this year. :)

as was my mantra for this recent console restyle, let's start with what we have. stephanie has this print from lindsay letters as well as a chalkboard she recently made:
her existing rug will be perfect, as she'd like the overall color scheme of the room to end up being pale pink / gold / white / black & taupe:

her drapes are a beautiful silk taupe so they will certainly stay. these pillows with gold striping could stay as well:

this print was commissioned by steph's husband and is an artist's rendering of their engagement. (um, hello, hubby bonus points). it has sentimental value and pulls in pink and gold, so it gets to stay too:

the lamp you see above is perfect for the "glam" factor with its crystal base, but the silver sage shade needs an update. since steph told me the shades aren't sacred, i'm suggesting she keep the whole lamp but go at the shades with some black fabric spray paint. she'd have two whole new lamps for around $3.

my next suggestion would be to add two graphic black & white striped pillows. i could not believe it when i found the perfect covers at ikea for $5 each!

here's the part you've been waiting for. i created the two prints above for steph because it would give her some high-contrast artwork at a zero dollar price tag. i certainly don't want her to feel obligated to use these, so i'm doubling the happiness and offering them to you too as free printables.

{the best resolution way to do it is right-click on the images below, save them to your computer or device, and either print them yourself on a printer like this one, or send them off to shutterfly. they are sized to print at 8 x 10. you can also print directly from this document. promise you'll be nice and only use it for yourself or a gift, ok?}

i'd suggest putting the bottom one on this wall, then put the engagement print above the back of the chair:

over on the couch wall, i'd create more of gallery like this:

just imagine there is a couch between those photos. oh, and you can see i was playing in poor man's photoshop with how black shades (and a black clock, not sure if that one will fly?!) would look. 

if we add the chalkboard print to this side, with those great pillows and some pops of black, i think it looks really sharp. i'd also love to see steph find some high quality faux blush roses for that table.

here's what we could do on the other side:

the space on the top left with the square print - that's a spot i saved for an adorable print steph showed me of her with her mom from when she was a baby. it would round out that gallery perfectly.

one of the things i love about steph is her love of reading and how she encourages that in her kids. she values keeping books at eye level and accessible. so i'm not styling a thing on those bookshelves. they are perfect as they are- filled to the brim with books her little guys can grab anytime they want.

i did spy this bowl at target this weekend, and it was beautiful and at a very good price of around $15, it would be pretty on top of her books and wouldn't be a big investment if the worst were to happen to it.
as for that white bookcase...

that's going to have to be an in-person project. i'm thinking we'll easily clean up those books and it can look good with basically the same contents, just rearranged a tad. we could even make white and/or kraft paper book covers and go with a monochromatic look. (some people just turn the books around so you only see the pages. while i like the look, that's something you'll only want to do if you literally never read the books, otherwise put that on the list of ways to annoy yourself every day). i'm also wondering if we could find some handy little company to make three matching doors for the bottom. rather than always trying to style it or find baskets, wouldn't it be nice to close it off? just a thought.

well guys, as always, i'd love to hear you weigh-in on this subject. if you have thoughts on what you'd do with this room, feel free to share. having friends to bounce ideas around with is such a great way to narrow your vision, so i know she'd enjoy hearing it!

and to you my darling stephanie- have an awesome birthday! (i know she will since we'll be braving the adler planetarium with our girl holly and 8 kids! bring on the crazy!)

Friday, September 26, 2014

garden baby shower // natural branch backdrop

a few weekends ago, my friends ellen and stephanie asked me to help them style a baby shower they were hosting. the mama-to-be really enjoys the outdoors, so we decided it would be fun to let all the decor be inspired by nature. i was so thrilled with how it turned out!

below is a tutorial for how to create the natural branch backdrop behind our food and beverage table.

{you can also see the full gallery of professional pictures (i.e. not just my iphone attempts) that ellen snapped over on her beautiful blog. you'll see more of me rockin' my apron and my nerd glasses.}

because almost all of the decor for this shower was repurposed, found, or collected from our homes and gardens, the whole thing felt lush but was so inexpensive. stephanie and i wrote a joint post over at the entrusted blog about how we kept the whole thing under a budget of $75 (yeah, i know! $75!)- check it out!

{update: um, holy cow! this tutorial was featured on apartment therapy...huge thanks for the insane honor!}

one of my absolute favorite elements was the backdrop i made for the cake and drink table. i want to share a little bit more about how to make it, but i will warn you that, just as the backdrop itself is very free-flowing and organic, this turorial is not very precise. since you’re working with natural materials, you’ll have to be willing to let things shape up in their own direction. compound that with the fact that you'll be working with greenery that has to be fresh and picked at the last minute. in other words, you will most likely be sweaty and panicking on a ladder 60 short minutes before your guests arrive. but if you're still interested in trying...


large branch
twine & scissors
small leafy vines and branches
faux flower heads
hot glue gun & glue sticks
nails, cuphooks, or 3M hooks


first, measure your space for width. our space was 7’ wide.

next, find a branch to fit your dimensions, and that is thick enough to support some weight. my branch was 6’ long and the thickest part (at the base) was just smaller than the size of my wrist. you can go on a walk to forage or look around your yard (or ask neighbors) to see if any trees need pruning.

you will then need to make sure it is dry and bug-free. i left mine out on the deck in the sun for two days.

purchase your faux flowers. i chose large roses, peonies, cabbage roses, ranunculus and other full-headed blooms, but you can choose any styles or colors that suit your tastes. keep in mind how the colors and styles will look when they are placed close together and try to coordinate them.

on the day of your party, a few hours before it starts, go foraging again, this time for your greenery. it is hard to wait until the last minute to do this, but you will need leaves that are fresh. this style of decor doesn’t allow for practice or much perfecting time, which was hard for me! but it forces you to be flexible with the design and sometimes giving up control is a good thing. or so i told myself.

gather an overflowing laundry basket full of small branches with pretty leaves, vines or other green garden materials.

once all of your supplies are gathered, place 3-4 hooks at the top of your wall where you want to build your backdrop. if you’re using 3M hooks, you must allow some time, about half an hour, for them to adhere to the wall. (i skipped this step and had trouble with them popping off at first. trust me, that is not a good plan).

once your hooks are set, use twine to hang your large branch horitzontally on the wall.

tie several strands of twine to the branch and let them hang down from it. vary the lengths. these are just for an extra pretty touch but also give you something to glue vines and flowers to if needed. i liked how they looked like tendrils.

begin to secure your greenery to your branch by tying it on with twine, until you are happy with how full it looks. (i warned you- not a precise tutorial!) i probably used about 12 small vines and branches. try to balance the weight and have plenty that hang and drape. 

once you like the overall weight and shape of your branches, it is time to add your faux flowers. first, pop the blooms off the stems. (check to make sure they won’t fall apart- one style i bought disintegrated when i took it off the stem).

use hot glue to secure the blooms to your branches. the glue will adhere to sticks or leaves or the twine. group them or scatter them- whatever you like. i used faux because i didn’t want to risk real flowers wilting. if you want to use real flowers, you could use floral water tubes on short stems and hide the stems amongst your greenery.

{all photos (except the laundry basket) by ellen swalley // red sweater photography}

i'm sorry this is more a general guide than a specific tutorial. honestly on the day of i was just winging it, and was happy it turned out kind of close to what i planned. i think as long as you don’t expect perfection, but let the branches fall where they may, you can pull it off too. good luck! and do be sure to visit ellen's blog for the full gallery.

{update: after this party, a lightbulb really went off in my head about just how much we can collect and repurpose from what is already around us- without having to constantly buy more and more. in celebration of that, i'm partnering with my DIY blog tour girls, kyla from house of hipsters and grace of the big reveal, on a project called "Found & Foraged." if you have a DIY, great vintage find, pretty project, or something you've foraged from the garden, i'd love for you to share it with us. go here to find out how!} 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

desk styling // bastion & co. nyc

just popping in with some breaking news: that there is an article over at the beautiful bastion & co. online magazine about how i'm styling my desk!

when mats meyer, the creative director, reached out to me and asked if i would like to collaborate for their new magazine launch, i pretty much knew right away that my desk was the only thing glamorous enough in my house to feature on an NYC fashion website! haha, but no, seriously, it is.

mats was so sweet to work with and i loved giving a sneak peek of what i'm up to in the office. i know that some people are haters (you know who you are!) of the open-storage workspace, but i am a true and honest believer that, where possible, open storage will help hold you accountable to keeping your possessions edited and neat.

so i'm talking about all the ways i organized my office supplies in plain site, and came out with a pretty desk to boot. i'd love for you to head on over to bastion & co. to see the how-to's and several gorgeous (if i do say so myself) shots of how i styled my desk. enjoy!

and thank you so much to mats and team for inviting me!

10 years

ten years ago today, september 25, 2004, i married ryan. i have started and stopped this post about twenty times, because i'm not really good at being effusive in front of other people. in fact, that day itself was so nervewracking- why doesn't anyone warn brides that people are going to be looking at you. all day!? i would have punched ryan if he'd proposed to me in public. and i have banned him for life from making any kind of lovey overture toward me on facebook. in fact, i almost didn't post this at all.

but it's kind of a big one. ten years. ten years since i walked out onto that beach, locked eyes with him, and felt every fear in the world wash away and have only him remain. he took care of me in that moment, and he's taken care of me ever since. i'd do it again in a heartbeat-- faster this time if i could-- and i didn't want to let the day pass without telling my husband, in the loudest voice i could, that i love him. so there, i said it, on the internet. i love you ryan. i thank God for the gift of you, my best friend, every day.

Monday, September 22, 2014

best of the magazines // september 2014

happy monday my friends! it's been a bit of a summer break, but the magazines are back in full effect and in all their fall glory. from my time at the library with a coffee and a stack of mags, let's dive in and see what eye candy i found in this month's issues.

from house beautiful, september 2014, "wake up your life with color" issue:

i have to admit that after thumbing through this issue of house beautiful, i almost threw in the towel on this post. the over-the-top and over-decorated interiors, all the excessive moulding, fabrics, furniture, and expensive (like $12,000 light fixture expensive) accessories were a little much. i was about to toss the issue back in its pile when this pretty little tablescape came innocently along:

aww. it's perfect. while it might not be real life, (and i'm pretty sure that flatware costs $25 a fork), something about its easy charm and bright pops of color wooed me out of my anti-opulence funk. and that tablecloth? get outta here- part polka dot, part smudged ikat...what a gorgeous fabric. 

once house beautiful had successfully seduced me back in to the magazine world, i turned the page to this bathroom by bryan joyce:

opulence to the max, but it turns out i'm a sell-out for marble herringbone tile and unlacquered brass. i don't even care. i love you bathroom!

from elle decor, september 2014, "25th anniversary" issue:

i am battling with myself as i write this. i try to keep things positive here, jimmy falon style, but there was almost nothing i liked in this issue. in fact, it tempted me to write an entire post about the worst of the magazines. the most serious offenders were a purple lacquered room with a red ceiling and a playroom that looked like an asylum

luckily, there was a backyard deck with a fire table and a bed (i've just decided that every deck needs a bed on it, right?) that i could definitely get some serious lounging done on:

moving on....

from country living, september 2014, "ultimate guide to color" issue:

this one got a rocky start too, due to the 2014 house of the year with a (shudder!) pink-ceilinged zebra-tiled kitchen, but some cute bedrooms salvaged the issue.

jenny piazza's minnesota lake cottage:

she had me at the quilt. i looooooove it.

and the attic bedroom:

you know i'm always swayed by a view like that.

from dwell, september 2014, "small space big design" issue:

i thought this month's dwell was excellent. (finally!) maybe i'm the problem, and my tastes are getting more and more modern. 

oh man, how much do you want to grab your skis tartan blanket and go to there right now? i know that in every day life that an exterior this modern isn't for me, but what a perfectly luxe getaway spot. 

i also loved the brooklyn home of home of david friedlander & family:

the living room:

i like how calm, serene, and pared down this home is. unfortunately there is another kids' asylum room, so i can't give the whole thing 5 stars, but almost all of the other rooms had that minimalist part of my heart beating faster.

sliding door to the master bedroom:

from traditional home, september 2014, "fashion comes home" issue:

from kay krill's home on long island sound:

this photo betrays the fact that there is a traditionalist deeply embedded in me somewhere. and the fact that, try as i might to fight it, i do have expensive taste.

after that, a tim clarke-designed home in las vegas was really interesting to me. the neighborhood required a frank lloyd wright style house, but the homeowner's style was anything but. i thought clarke did a good job of blending their tastes with the modern and streamlined exterior. and the part of me that loves good old fashioned hollywood glamour enjoyed the results of the whole project. 

there were a lot of things i liked about it, but the master bathroom took the cake:

that chair positively needs to go, but everything else makes up for it. 

and, ok, seriously...i'm definitely back on the magazine bandwagon here, but look at this closet:

no girly girl can deny, that thang is awesome. plus, this home is in las vegas, and you have to have a closet like this if you live there, right?

well, if anything, this post let you in on the fact that i couldn't nail down a design style if i tried. now you know why i have issues at my own house...i'm part modern-lover, part glamour girl, part minimalist (if only in my head), and part quilting club country girl. good thing there are a lot of different magazines at the library.

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