The hunt for sconces

We finally removed our truly awful sconces from the entryway to our living and dining room before we painted the room grey, and honestly the exposed wires are a visual upgrade over the original sconces (seen here). Now that the walls are painted, replacing the sconces is next up.

The lighting we’ve been upgrading has tended toward mid-century modern, but the architecture of our house is solidly traditional Colonial, so I’ve been torn on whether to embrace more traditional sconces or those that are more mid-century in aesthetic.

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I mocked up how some of the front-runners would look in the space, which helped to visualize how the options would look in scale.

Let’s dig in on the options.

1. The Vendome by Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort

This one’s definitely on the more traditional end of the spectrum, but the unlacquered brass and super slim lines bring this sconce into present day. The downside to this one is definitely the price tag, which comes in at nearly $300/sconce. Where, I’d really been hoping to come in at under $200 a piece. That being said, I’ve seen both Emily Henderson and Pencil and Paper Co. do great things with these sconces (I even featured one of those shots in this post).

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This sconce in Pencil and Paper Co.’s Nashville home.

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2. The Theo Sconce by Cedar and Moss

I love that the orbs play off the white globe pendants in the kitchen and that they bring a lot of light into the space. I’m struggling a bit with whether they’re too mid-century modern for our house, without having a traditional design element (e.g. ceiling medallion) balancing out the style.

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I love how Brady Tolbert used these sconces in his LA living room makeover.inside-an-editors-eclectic-living-room-makeover-1918765-1475029430.640x0c.jpg

 

3. Rachel Sconce by Dune and Duchess

These sconces would definitely be the splurge and I wanted to see how they’d play in the space. They’re so cool, but I do think they’d pop a lot better on a wallpapered wall.

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4. Zigzag Capiz Sconce by West Elm

These sconces are an unexpected contender.They bring a whole new texture into the space but definitely don’t make as big a statement as the other options. That being said, the lights don’t have to be the statement piece if I can up the contrast in other areas (e.g. punchier more graphic pillows, a big statement objet in the right corner like a giant horn)

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5. The Vivienne by Triple Seven Home

These are the most budget friendly by far and they’re bringing in both contrast and a traditional meets modern balance. Of course, if we went with this option the lamp and shade on the console would need to be swapped for one of the many other lamps I’ve got stashed away.

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I’m still contemplating but am leaning towards #5, not only because of the great price point but also because they nicely straddle the modern meets traditional vibe and tie in nicely with the black stair railing. Any thoughts?

The perfect shade of grey

The perfect shade of grey.

When we moved into our house I knew that our walls needed to be repainted grey in our living room / dining room / entryway. It seemed simple: pick a light grey shade and commence painting. If only.

I started out by identifying the conditions unique to our space:

  1. The room is very large (~650 sq. feet), so we needed to go with a neutral colour that could compliment a lot of different defined spaces.
  2. This room is not a normal rectangular shape, it’s an L-shape with so many weird jut-ins. There are 10 corners, and I’ll get to why that matters in a moment.
  3. We’re planning on taking down the wall between the dining room and the kitchen in the spring, so the paint colour needs to work with the heavy wood tones in there too.
  4. We have pretty ceiling moulding and trim around our doors and windows and I didn’t want them to recede if we went with too light a wall colour.
  5. The room gets both northern and southern light, not so much eastern or western light.
  6. The hardwood floors can read a bit orange-y, so I wanted a cool tone that would offset the warmth they bring into the space. I also have a preference for warm metals (aka brass), so a cool tone was needed to make them pop.

So, given all of the above, I knew I was on the hunt for a light, but not too light, shade of grey.

Getting back to why the corners matter, grey (and all non-white colours) reflect less light than white, so when you look at the corners in a grey room, they’ll be more defined than those in  a white room. The darker the shade, the more contrast you’re going to see in the room. In a room with 10 corners, you really want to downplay all that chaos, so painting the walls as light as possible will help draw the attention away from all the weird dimension in the room.

And on to the actual paint selection process:

I started out by researching grey rooms on my favourite design sites (Domino, Lonny, Design Sponge), on Instagram and Pinterest. As soon as I identified a colour, I would Google it and see how it looked in different spaces. Colours that made the shortlist:

Stonington Gray by Benjamin Moore
Gray Cloud by Benjamin Moore
Gray Owl by Benjamin Moore
Cornforth White by Farrow and Ball
Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore

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From top to bottom: BM Paper White, BM Gray Owl, F&B Cornforth White, BM Stonington Gray

I then painted those swatches on my wall and quickly realized that next to one another you can see immediately the undertones. Some veered too purple, others too blue and some too creamy. I really thought Farrow and Ball’s Cornforth White was going to be the winner that I had to beat, but it was just too brown-purple on our walls. Stonington Gray was the closest in reading as a true gray, but it was too dark for our space.  My backup plan, if we couldn’t find the right shade was to have the paint store cut Stonington Gray with white to lighten it up, but I was worried about inconsistency from can to can.

I then went back again to Benjamin Moore with some new colours in mind and landed on Paper White. Once I got the samples up on all our walls, I knew it was the winner. It was by far the brightest and closest to white, but the grey was present enough to allow the white trim-work to pop. So, I proceeded to paint giant swatches because I couldn’t get enough of it. When my husband got home from hockey that night, I asked him what he thought, to which he responded with “it’s the first sample that looks like grey”. Done and done.

Just a note, paint colours look so different in everyone’s room. Some of the ones I thought would win are highly recommended by designers I admire (Emily Henderson loves BM Grey Owl, Danielle Moss has used Cornforth White in several apartments), and the colour will look great in some rooms but completely wrong in others. It’s 100% unique to every space, which is what makes picking the right colour so challenging.

We set aside our Thanksgiving long weekend to paint the room, don’t worry we still made it to Thanksgiving dinner. I’m so obsessed with the new colour – it reminds me of a chic Parisian apartment and looks great as the light changes through the day. We also painted our ceiling and trim Decorator’s White, so everything is feeling especially fresh. We’ve also swapped out all our outlets and switches for new bright white ones, so the room feels totally fresh.

And for some side by side shots:

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Main Floor Bathroom Updates

It was a busy weekend spent working on the main floor bathroom makeover (learn more here and here). First, we finished touching up the paint, then we installed the freshly painted vanity with new lucite and brass hardware. Next up was swapping out the old faucet for my new brass Craigslist find. This is where we hit the biggest roadblock, our old faucet had rusted at the base and wasn’t budging. After a Home Depot run to stock up on huge wrenches, we finally freed the countertop from the faucet. Installing the new faucet was a breeze. And she’s so pretty. Following the faucet (and one minor leak situation), we installed our Restoration Hardware pivot mirror (ain’t she a beaut?). We also swapped in new outlets and switches, because there’s nothing like new, crisp white outlets on your walls.

This is a peek at how the room looked Sunday morning. I’m loving the black and white contrast so much. That pretty Anthropologie candle smells like firewood. Aka cozy winter nights. Yes.

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That afternoon we installed a vintage lion’s head towel ring (excuse the poorly folded monogram towel). As you can see, we’re still missing light fixtures. I made an audible today and reverted to a different Schoolhouse Electric sconce. The third one. The current plan is this sconce with this shade in gloss black. It’s on a 6-week  delivery delay, so we’re going to have to slow our pace on completing this room.

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And slightly pulled back so you can see the lucite and brass pulls.um5a9395

And a close up on that lion’s head. We really can’t help including some form of a brass animal in every room we complete. Seriously.um5a9398

Just to touch on the sconces again, the reason I’ve changed by mind again is that with the slightly protruding mirror, it was feeling like the Schoolhouse Electric fixed Satellite sconce would be too cramped against the mirror, so a swing arm sconce gives me the flexibility to have some breathing room, while introducing some more height into the vanity area. Not to mention that the light will be a bit better if directed closer to you when you’re at the sink. And a little example of why I changed my mind to a swing arm sconce (that drama!):

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And what’s left on the docket to call this room done:

  • Swapping in a vintage doorknob (the doorknob arrived but we had no idea we needed to get rosettes / door plates, so those are now on order #diylessons)
  • Installing a new brass toilet lever (our old one was once white but is no longer white), the new one is on order
  • Ordering a vintage Persian or Turkish rug to break up the graphic black and white floors – I currently have our Lulu and Georgia Mirabelle rug in there but it isn’t saturated enough to compete with the high-contrast graphic tiles
  • Ordering and installing a sconce, as well as an overhead light fixture
  • Selecting artwork for the wall above the toilet – I’m torn between a bold black and white fashion-forward photograph (see below) or a floor to ceiling wraparound gallery wall. I’m lazy though, so the former will likely win.
  • Build or buy a brass shower curtain rod – any suggestions here would be greatly appreciated
  • Ordering a chic toilet paper holder (if such a thing exists, I will find it. PS it’s probably this one, which looks awesome on high gloss black and is budget-friendly)
  • Order fabric for a Roman shade and construct the shade (our first Roman shade has taken us a month to complete, so… yeah. Tutorial coming soon, once we’ve figured out a less tedious method).

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Main Floor Bathroom Design Plan

Last week I shared the before photos of our main floor bathroom makeover and today I’ve got the design plan for you. Work is already well underway and I’m so happy with how things are looking. Breaking it down by category, here we go:

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Paint

We ended up going with Sherwin Williams Black Magic for the walls and ceiling. I had originally purchased the paint during a sale at Sherwin Williams with the intention of using it to paint the doors black on our main floor, but gave it a try on the walls of the bathroom and loved it. I was a bit worried about the satin finish (perfect for doors), but it lends some extra dimension to the bathroom walls and definitely isn’t too shiny.

For the trim, we had originally planned on Benjamin Moore Simply White, but after looking at the swatches at our paint store, it looked too creamy for our taste, so we took the plunge with Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White and are so happy with this decision. This is a bright white but with subtle grey undertones, so you really get to see the contrast in our decorative trim. We can’t wait to use it on the trim in the rest of our house.We went with a high-gloss finish, so it really stands out from the dark walls.

After much contemplation, we also decided to paint the vanity high-gloss black. I went back and forth on whether we should paint it black, grey or white and finally landed on black. We picked up Benjamin Moore Advance in High-Gloss Black over the weekend and the paint has been applied and is curing as I write this. It looks so much better than the grimy stock laminate. As a tip, we’ve learned to pick up the best quality paint possible to make your life and the outcome so much easier. We’ve used the BM Advance line before and have generally been really impressed. I was expecting to need to do two coats to get full coverage on the black paint, but honestly, it looks perfect after only one coat.

Hardware & Fixtures

I love warm brass tones (I know, who doesn’t) and I especially love how brass pops off crisp white and black, so I’ve been trying to source as much brass as possible, without going overboard. I’m also very picky about my brass (unlacquered is preferred, I won’t go near anything that looks too brown to be authentc).

A few weeks ago, we picked up this brass pivot mirror at the Restoration Hardware outlet, which was actually the impetus for kicking off this makeover. I’ve also sourced a heavily discounted brass faucet from Harrison Brassworks off Craigslist in a Victorian style to bring in that traditional charm. For the towel ring, we’ve ordered a vintage brass lion’s head off Etsy because you’ve got to keep it interesting!

We’ve also picked up brass shower curtain rings ($6 at Homegoods!) and are working out a plan for the shower curtain rod. We’ve been bouncing back and forth between a lucite DIY and a solid brass rod. This shower isn’t going to be used, so it doesn’t need to be the most functional, but I am worried about bowing with a lucite rod, since we can’t have a center support.

Lighting

Lighting is where I’m getting the most tripped up, right now I’m leaning towards the Schoolhouse Electric Sattelite Sconce 2.25 in unlacquered brass with a high-gloss black shade. Pencil and Paper Co.’s black powder room featured on One Kings Lane has been a huge inspiration as I’ve gotten into the design and I love how the glossy black of the shade pops off the satin black walls.

I’m also gravitating towards a capiz flushmount light that will add some new texture and lightness to the room. Right now, the Pottery Barn flush-mount has been at the top of the list, but I’m also looking at some others that hang lower into the room.

 

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Textiles

We’re also sourcing a vintage Turkish rug (I mean, I love a good vintage rug), where the one in the design plan is currently at the top of the list. For window coverings, I’d love to incorporate Schumacher’s Zimba linen fabric, though it has a two-yard minimum for ordering, so I’m trying to find it remnant or another equally chic and organic looking fabric. I may end up a linen black and white stripe alternatively.

Stay tuned for the next update – we’re re-installing the vanity, counter and new faucet this week, as well as the mirror. I’m going to pull the trigger on a number of the items on the list this week, so we can have the bathroom done in the next two weeks, wish us luck!

The front hall

When we first walked this house, we were floored by the epic wainscotting but horrified by the choice of light fixtures in pretty much every room in the house. So light fixtures have been a huge focus for us since moving in and getting started on putting our stamp on the space. We’re pretty close on finishing up the front hall, or at least as close as it’s going to get for a while. Like the rest of the house, we’re painting the walls in here later this month, though I have dreams of hanging wallpaper (this one specifically) eventually and laying a Stark Antelope runner down the stairs. Those will happen later but are dependent on some other work happening first (namely refinishing all the floors in the house).

Moving on, here’s what the front hallway looked like just after moving in. I found that vintage rug on Cragislist for a mere $40 and trekked out to Dumbo for it – and am so happy I did. This hallway was desperately in need of a few things: (1) a stylish light fixture (2) that is centered on the door (3) pretty new door hardware and (4) a pop of colour on that front door.

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So, we did all of those things. A few weeks ago we set aside a warm weekend to paint our front door Farrow and Ball’s Stiffkey Blue in high gloss, and we’re in love. Before we moved in, we ordered new front door hardware from Baldwin in unlacquered brass (SO hard to find and SO much more expensive than you’d ever imagine as a renter). Also before we moved in, Cory and I made our first trip to Brimfield during our mini-moon and found a very cool never been used vintage mid-century modern brass light fixture. It’s definitely different and we love it. There was a kerfuffle with centering the light fixture, where when we removed the old one and opened up the junction box, we realized there’s a joist running directly down the middle of the hallway, oof. Long story short: my husband told me we couldn’t center the light fixture, I said “but if we could… how would we do it” and 4 trips to Home Depot later and 1 ceiling medallion later, we had a centered light fixture. Yes.

And the after photos:

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And a close up on the light fixture, which my sister has told me looks like test tubes and is weird but probably stylish? Eh, we love it, so it’s not going anywhere.

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And that’s it for now. We still need to paint the ceiling in here, you can see some spackle that needs to be painted, but otherwise it’s a huge improvement. For consistency, we used the same ceiling medallion as in the kitchen.

Source:

Paint Colour | Front Door Hardware | Ceiling Medallion | LED Edison Bulb | Light fixture and rug are vintage

Picture perfect: Entryway

Sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly what isn’t working in a space, it’s for those times that I turn to photos. It’s usually as simple as snapping a photo of the vignette or room and analyzing what jumps out at you and what really shines.

When we finished painting our entryway faux bamboo dresser, we were so excited to style it that pulled together a vignette late at night. And while it looked great, it wasn’t 100% there yet. So I snapped a pic and identified the problem areas. It’s so much easier than any other tactic I’ve tried.

Here’s my first quick attempt at styling the space:

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The bones are really good, that mirror fills up the wall nicely and bounces light around. The lamp is sculptural and adds height, while the lamp shade adds contrast. But there are some aspects that just aren’t working.

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There are a few things that can’t change yet, we’re painting the walls later this month a cooler light grey and I still haven’t found a fabulous sconce to replace the awful one presently on both walls. But, to neutralize those two eyesores, I did some creative editing in Photoshop. So. Much. Better.

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And then I made some changes to how this entryway moment is styled that are so much stronger.

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And a side by side:

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New additions include the Target Threshold brass side table that helps anchor the dresser into the nook space, provides sculptural interest and serves as a functional place for me to leave my bag when I get home. I also swapped the basil plant for another ginger jar (a $6 Goodwill find!), replaced the tray with this great python one from Furbish Studio that had been on our coffee table and brought in these great smoked glass tea lights from CB2. I’m much happier with this little moment. Once the walls are painted and the sconce is replaced, I can call this space done.

Sources:

Mirror | Side Table | Python Tray | Smoked Glass Tealight Holder | All others are vintage

 

Tackling the main floor bathroom

When we bought this house, it was pretty evident that all three of the bathrooms were going to need to be gutted… eventually. We’re waiting to do some structural upgrades in the basement that will impact our main floor bathroom, so we’ve opted for a phase 1 update to this room. Phase 1 is all about making the most of the existing tile, tub, vanity and toilet. So, to set the tone, we’ve got some before photos: the room has cute black and white tile, nice trimwork and beadboard that I can live with. It also has nice Southern-facing light.

And now for some before photos:

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And the inspiration:

This rental makeover featured on by Nicole Gibbons has stuck with me for over a year and has been the primary inspiration for our own makeover. The high contrast of the black walls and white tile plus the chic fashion photography and brass hardware all speak to me.

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I know I want black paint in here to add some chic drama and play up the vintage tile-work, but I was stuck on where the black paint was going to go.

Option 1 was to play it safe and paint just the wall above the beadboard.

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Home with Baxter

Option 2 was to go riskier and paint the walls and the ceiling black.

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Houzz, Braveheart Design Build

Option 3 was the paint the beadboard and trim black but keep the walls white or grey.

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Designsponge, The Dean Hotel

Option 4 was to paint the beadboard and the walls black but the ceiling white.

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Designsponge, Emma Reddington

So, the final decision is to go with option 2: black walls, black ceiling and white beadboard and trim. The biggest motivating factor is that the ceiling in here is not terribly level, so the high contrast between black walls and a white ceiling with really play that up. We just finished painting the walls black, Sherwin Williams Black Magic, so the transformation is now underway.

Going glam on a faux bamboo dresser

Constant checks of Craigslist have allowed me to unearth some pretty epic finds. The most recent of which was a faux bamboo Henry Link Bali Hai dresser. I somehow managed to see past the awful paint job to impeccably chic bones (I mean not just one color of blue paint but two?!)

Here it was in all it’s Craigslist glory:

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And here she is now:

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It’s remarkable what some sanding, priming and high gloss spray paint can do to bring neglected vintage pieces of furniture back to life. We used this spray paint, by the way. The handles got a good scrubbing with Barkeeper’s Friend, aka the best fix for tarnished brass of all time.

We did run into a few issues in which we were getting a rough finish on one of the sides, so we had to sand it back down in places and repaint, which added some extra time. Also, make sure to leave plenty of time for the paint to cure.

We haven’t tackled the matching mirror yet, but I’m thinking the same high gloss black finish is in order too.

New kitchen lighting

I pretty much despise all the lighting in our house, so have been on a rampage to swap out as many light fixtures as I possibly can. I’ve also been taking the opportunity to add in ceiling medallions for an extra dose of style, where I’m obsessed with the mix of vintage, ornate medallion and the modern light fixture base.

So for the before photos:

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These pendants just felt dark. And dated. Though taking them down did give us insight into when the kitchen was renovated, roughly 6 years ago.

We installed these globe pendants from West Elm with these ceiling medallions from Amazon. Easy and efficient. The trick for finishing the medallions off cleanly is to run a bead of adhesive caulking around the edge of the medallions to ensure everything looks perfectly flush. Ta da.

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The One Room Challenge: Week Two

I keep telling myself that things will look worse until they look better… and worse they currently look. Over the weekend, we demoed the built-in bookshelves that took up one full wall of the guest bedroom. I’m usually a big proponent of built-ins, but these were killing the layout and made the room feel unusually cramped. Also, it’s just plain awkward to reach behind you into a bookshelf to flip a switch. A switch that doesn’t actually control the light… because there isn’t an overhead light. As with most the rooms in this house, we’re discovering that overhead lighting was not a priority.

So, let’s get to the photos of the damage. If you can remember, these are the built-ins bookshelves in question:

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And our current state:

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We’ve since started to prep the walls to be patched, though we’re contemplating just replacing the damaged drywall panels for a smoother finish. While the wall looks pretty terrifying right now (not to mention that strip of wood floor that needs to be refinished), the room already feels so much bigger and the view from the hallway feels less claustrophobic.

We also picked up paint samples for the room and are debating between a medium grey and a dark pewter, both from Sherwin Williams. Some days we’ve been gravitating towards the safer Summit Gray and other days it’s been the bolder Roycroft Pewter (very similar to Farrow and Ball’s Down Pipe). Fortunately, our local Sherwin Williams tipped us off to a big sale happening this weekend, so we have a few days to contemplate the right colour.

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Also, we started painting a faux bamboo Henry Link dresser I found off Craigslist in a rich glossy black. It’s already looking pretty stunning, so photos are upcoming once we complete the drawers. This transformation is very good (total ugly duckling status).

This week, I’m sourcing a light fixture for the room, where we need to wire the room through the attic for an overhead light. I’m digging this one from Sazerac Stitches with an ornate ceiling medallion. The ceilings aren’t particularly tall, so an interesting flush-mount is the ideal solution.

Some variations that are currently in the mix:

 

Alternatively, I’m also considering this one from CB2:

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And the modern meets traditional of a Serge Mouille light fixture with an ornate cieling medallion, as in the case of this image from The Decorista.

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I know I haven’t talked too much about the plan for furniture, but this is the first time I’m decorating a room without a strict plan. My strategy for staying on budget has been to comb Craigslist for unique vintage finds that we can make our own in the space, with the goal of it feeling sophisticated, cozy and like a retreat. We’re debating whether we should build a headboard from scratch and cover it in a tribal neutral fabric, or if we can find a cool burled headboard or something else with character that we can lacquer. Hopefully by next week the plan will be in place. What I do know is that we’re keeping colour to a minimum with a gray, white and black palette with brass accents and a small pop of washed lilac linen, which we picked up for a long rectangular lumbar over the weekend at our favourite remnant designer fabric store in CT.

Check out the other One Room Challenge participants over here.