Dining Room: Before and After

For a while, I believed that a large cowhide rug was the missing piece in our dining room. I scoured the internet for black and white salt and pepper cowhides that would be large enough to make an impact in the space, inspired by the below image. Yes, those are the same dining chairs, and the designer, Elizabeth Mollen of Slate Interiors in Nashville is a genius.

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Source: Lonny Magazine

But when we ordered an XXL cowhide, it just felt too diminutive in the space, so I started to consider other options. After some online inspiration hunting, I realized I already knew what the perfect rug would be: the Ikea Stockholm black and white striped rug. This rug is a gem with a fabulous price tag ($300) for an 8×12 wool rug, which is pretty much unheard of. Some quick searching for how the rug worked in high-end spaces sold me immediately.

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Source: Rebekah Gainsley 

Source: Unknown

So, here’s the thing, Ikea furniture and accessories are the top items on Craigslist, so while the rug is a steal new, I knew I could do better used. I didn’t have to wait long for the rug to pop up on Craigslist for $75, so as of last week, our dining room is looking much closer to ‘done’. The bold graphic stripes pack a huge punch in the room and play SO nicely with the David Hicks La Fiorentina fabric of our dining chairs. That pattern mix makes my heart so happy.

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The finishing touches for this room are roman shades for the windows and reupholstering the Milo Baughman brass cantilever dining chairs.

And because everyone loves a good before and after, let’s throw it back to move-in day:

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And to October, before we had painted the walls or hung the West Elm waterfall chandelier.

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We’ve come a LONG way in a few short months, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with how this room is shaping up.

 

Art that matters

Moving from an apartment into a house with 3x the square footage, there are a lot of walls to fill. I have, however, over the years started to become more particular about the quality and meaning behind the pieces I bring into my home (and my wardrobe). Like many, I buy into the movement toward fewer, better things and want to make sure that I’m investing in pieces that I can hold onto for a long time.

So, when it came time for my bridal shower over the summer, I was extremely reticent about having a standard bridal shower, where you’re gifted lots of stuff for your home. While, I know it works for many brides, we were in a position where we already had a fully stocked kitchen, hadn’t yet made an offer on a house and didn’t want to transport lots of stuff from Toronto to Connecticut. So, I put forth the idea of my friends and family contributing to a piece of art by a Canadian artist, that Cory and I could cherish forever. While it’s not right for everyone, it worked for us tremendously well.

When it came time to choosing the art, I narrowed in on Zoe Pawlak, a painter from Montreal. I’d seen her work in design publications that I follow and was always transfixed by the soothing yet dynamic abstract compositions. Not only did I get to fulfill a bucket-list item of commissioning a painting, we also now have the most beautiful painting hanging in our dining room. Every day, I have an opportunity to think about my loving family and friends just north of the border. And, I know we invested in a piece of art that will stay will us infinitely longer than linens or appliances.

I can’t express enough how much I love this piece of art.

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The Perfect Brass Sconces

As a follow-up to this post, we now have sconces and they’re magical! After two months of staring at exposed junction boxes and electrical cables, our new brass sconces are a welcome sight. After much debate, we ended up going with the Vivianne Sconce from TripleSevenHome on Etsy. These sconces checked all the boxes: pretty brass finish, modern meets traditional in design and very easy on the wallet. We got them installed with only a few minor headaches, all related to poorly installed junction boxes in our house (lame, but Cory engineered it, as he does).

Since we’re in an old house in which few things are square, we were meticulous in using a level at every step in the installation process to ensure they were 100% level and even with one another.

Since these sconces are handmade in Florida, there was definitely some added anticipation and waiting time from when we placed our order in late November to when they arrived on our doorstep on Friday, but it was absolutely worth the wait.

And now for the photos:

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And a reminder of how far we’ve come with this entryway nook:

 

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It’s so. much. better. And pretty awesome to see my vision come to life in just a few short months.

The only downside to these sconces is that I had to shuffle some lamps around to keep it from getting monotonous with the brass base and black shade, so my architectural vintage brass lamp has a new home in the living room.

Sunroom Inspiration

Our house has mostly an open floor plan, and will be even more open when we take the wall down between the kitchen and the dining room. But, we do have a sunroom that runs the width of the house, alongside the dining room and living room. This room has been a challenge for me, but I’m determined to make it into usable space for us. The room is long and narrow (8″ x 26″), has incredible sunlight with 3 walls of windows but also has a disproportionate number of radiators and baseboard heaters plus a depressingly low ceiling.

The long-term plan is to open up the sunroom into the living room and dining room, but due to the expense of the work that would need to be done to make that happen, we’re putting that on the back-burner for at least another year. So, whatever we do now needs to be on the cheap, but also needs to flow well from the rest of our house and create an incremental space for us to use, especially during the morning when the sunlight is fantastic.

I started gathering inspiration photos for the room, where the vibe I’m going for is, as always, glam meets eclectic, but with a heavy dose of bohemian coziness. You should feel like you can kick back and enjoy the brilliant light with lots of warm textures.

One thing we’ve already decided on is that we’re going to be ripping up our carpet and laying black and white vinyl tiles. Originally, I was going to do a similar harlequin pattern to what Brady Tolbert did in his rental kitchen, below, but I think that stripes across the room will be more interesting since the space is so long and narrow. But I’m going to try both pattern out before adhering them and will make a call based on what works best in the space.

DIY-Vinyl-Kitchen-Floor-Tile-Peel-and-Stick-Retro-Brady-Tolbert-Kitchen-Vintage-Dining-Room-After-768x1024-1.jpgSource: Emily Henderson

Beyond that, I’d love to bring in another seating area with a settee or daybed you can curl up on and read a book, a hanging chair and lots of plants. We’re also going to be using our newest Milo Baughman brass etagere as a bar space.

And for some visual inspiration:

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Source: unknown

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Source: Apartment Therapy

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Source: Pencil & Paper Co.

 

 

What I’m crushing on: Mirrored Cube Side Tables

I love the now ubiquitous mirrored side tables and dressers, but always felt like they were a bit too ornate for my style in our house (plus my husband has some sort of vendetta against them). So when I stumbled across the mirrored cube side table, I felt like I’d found my mirrored furniture soulmate – these tables are super sleek without any knobs or drawers but offer that luxe, glam mirrored look. I can’t wait to order a pair for our guest bedroom (yes, we’re working on that room again – an update is upcoming). In the guest bedroom, our side tables don’t need to offer any real storage and just need to be a place for some fresh flowers, inspiring books, a ring dish and a carafe of water. We’re going to be installing sconces, so we don’t need real estate on top of the tables for lamps (huzzah!).

But look how chic these cubed tables are:

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Source: The Decorista

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Source: Wendy Labrum Interiors

And I’ve even found a pretty great looking one on Amazon for a totally reasonable price.

 

Easy DIY Polaroid Art

So I accidentally took a month-long break from this blog, whoops! Surprisingly, it’s not because we didn’t get lots accomplished (we did), but mainly because nothing feels quite done yet, since we have lots of light fixtures on order that have yet to arrive and have a few finishing touches remaining on our other projects.

For our wedding, we made the last minute decision to pick up two Instax Mini cameras and encourage guests to snap themselves (or other guests). At some point in the evening, I got my hands on one of the cameras and selfies with most of our guests ensued. Instead of stowing the photos away in a guest book, I liberated the photos. One evening I did a quick art DIY and framed them so we can be reminded of our wedding daily and have a conversation piece for guests when they come over.

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What you’ll need:

  • Assortment of polaroid mini photos
  • IKEA Ribba Frame
  • White poster board
  • Double-sided tape
  • Cardboard

Step 1:

Lay out your photos in a grid on a table and visualize how they’re going to layout in the frame.

Step 2:

Cut the poster board to size, so it covers the entire inside of the frame.

Step 3:

Cut cardboard down into roughly 1×1 squares.

Step 4:

Mount your polaroids to the cardboard squares with double-sided tape and then mount the cardboard to the poster board so all your photos are elevated. I wanted to accentuate each polaroid by floating them on the cardboard to get them closer to the glass in the frame.

Step 5:

Close up your frame and hang on your wall. Voila, you have sentimental but cool art!

In an effort to travel lighter, on our most recent trip to Miami, I left my DSLR at home and just brought one of the polaroid cameras. It made documenting the trip more fun and interactive for my family (there’s nothing like huddling around together waiting to see how a photo came out). I’m planning on mounting them in a smaller IKEA Ribba frame using this technique with the photos we took, so we always have a reminder of the vacation.

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!