Our vintage Colonial home features a lot of radiators… and not the beautiful Victorian kind. These radiators require covers to look even halfway decent, so my go-to move has been to turn an awkwardly placed radiator into a window bench at every chance.
The first time we did this, we created a massive window bench in our sunroom that is the perfect napping spot.
The next time, we opted to add a window bench to our walk in closet, that is the perfect spot for reading, folded laundry, and seating for seasonal closet purges. Today, I’m going to walk you through how we built this bench.
A few weeks ago, I revealed the transformation of my home office, which featured a Chinoiserie-style wallpaper mural from Tempaper Designs. Since then, I’ve received two questions countless times: (1) wait, that’s removable wallpaper?? and (2) how did you install it without hiring a professional?
Yes, the wallpaper is removable and it also looks incredible. Today I’m going to detail how we hung the temporary Tempaper wallpaper. I was anxious leading up to installing the paper, where I was convinced that we would somehow ruin this gorgeous wallpaper mural, but I had absolutely nothing to worry about. We remarked after the hour and half we spent installing the paper that we wished every DIY project we tackled was this straightforward, simple, and high-impact.
This post has been a long time coming! Months ago, I introduced you to my home office and shared the vision and the initial plans. Of course, I expected this project to take 4-6 weeks, and it came in at 13 weeks. Most of this was waiting on items to come in, so thank you for your patience.
Before jumping into the reveal, I want to quickly thank the brands who partnered with me on this project: Tempaper, Zartiques, and Loom Decor. Thank you for supporting the brands that allow me to create spaces that I can share with you. All opinions are my own.
Let’s remember where we started:
Oof. And then we stripped the trim and the room in order to refinish the floors (more details on that process here):
And here she is, looking so much prettier, more sophisticated, and immensely more functional.
The Wallpaper & Paint
The inspiration for this space was a modern, fresh take on chinoiserie, and from the very beginning I had this vision of a mural on the wall that’s most visible from the hallway. Once I stumbled upon the Tempaper Chinoiserie removable wallpaper collection, I instantly knew that one of their many gorgeous self-adhesive and removable wallpaper murals would be absolutely perfect. I wanted to continue the body colour onto the walls of the room to envelope the space and allow the room to expand visually, so that narrowed my focus Garden wallpaper in Metallic Champagne. When I took the sample with me to Farrow and Ball to source some paint samples for the rest of the walls, the store associates were genuinely shocked that the wallpaper was 1) not hand-painted and 2) removable, because the printing and paper quality is that good.
This is a question I receive a lot. I’m going to preface this by saying: budgeting is hard, and it’s an imprecise science, but after some experience you start to get closer to the mark on what a project costs.
I’m a big spreadsheet geek. Like for instance, for my very first Manhattan apartment I input all the IKEA products I needed for my bedroom into a spreadsheet and then cross-referenced the tax rates at each of the closest IKEAs to NYC – Long Island, New Jersey, and Brooklyn – to determine the lowest price factoring in the cost to distance and product availability at each location. Yeah, so, now that we’ve all come to the same conclusion that I’m a huge dork, let’s dig in.
Step 1: Break down a project into its components
I start by listing off all the items that go into the to-be-renovated space in separate lines in a Google sheet and classify them by category. So, for instance, I’d say in the fixture category we need a faucet, a shower head, a tub-fill, a toilet, sink, tub, and a tub drain. And then I’d go down the room by category listing off everything I need to complete the space, for instance, all the flooring materials (including grout, thinset, Hardiboard).
Step 2: Assign everything a ball-park price
At this stage, I’m doing a quick Google search for roughly how much each component costs at the size I need and then I input it into the spreadsheet. I’m also ensuring I know approximately how much square footage I need of every material, and I’m throwing in ballpark placeholder numbers for any labour that I need to hire out. If there is something specific that I already know needs to be in the space, then I include that exact item (e.g. a specific brand and style of tub).
Step 3: Add it all up
This point is where you sum up all the approximations in your spreadsheet, and if the number plus 20% feels doable, it’s time to move forward and start sourcing the actual items for the space. If the number is terrifying and way exceeds your expectations, then I go back over the figures and see if there are any big unknowns that need to be defined better (e.g. plumbing costs), if not, I think about areas I can cut back. If no such areas exist, then I put the project on hold and start saving pennies.
A lot of the projects that are more intensive (e.g. a bathroom or kitchen), can’t be done piecemeal, so you really need to have all the funds up front for the project. But, if you’re dealing with a living room or more furnished space, you have some leeway to set a plan upfront and buy as your budget permits.
Step 4: Evaluate the budget at a high level
Once I’ve narrowed down the budget to a target, then I’m taking that amount and evaluating it in the context of our house. If I spend that much, do I expect to at least break even on it when we sell it? Is the level of finishes that I want to use consistent with what houses in my area, when renovated, include? If you don’t care about overinvesting in your home, or the renovation serves to improve the quality of your life and you’re committing to the house long-term, then don’t worry about this. But, I always like to do a gut check to ensure I’m not putting too much (or too little!) into the project financially.
If I feel like I might be overspending for the return, I might take one more look at the budget and see if anything could be cut back. Personally, I love financial restraints because I think they yield a more interesting and creative finished product, but I know you can only do so much cutting down of the budget before the finished product is sacrificed. For instance, to offset the cost of the marble in our master bathroom, we bought our vanity used off Craigslist and with some wood-fill, primer, a gallon of high-quality paint and a spray gun it was completely reinvented for about half the price we were quoted for a custom vanity. However, if it got to the point where we were using lower grade finishes across the board because that’s all we could afford at the time, I would have paused on starting the project and waited until I could afford the items that I thought were important in my master bathroom and in-line with what future buyers might expect.
I receive a lot of messages asking about my camera set-up and recommendations for lenses and tripods, so I figured it was worth a post. To preface this, I’ve had the same camera for five years, so while it’s expensive, it’s definitely an investment. And one other tidbit – often times, upgrading your lenses can have a bigger impact on the quality of your images over upgrading your camera body, so I often start there if I’m feeling like I can’t get the shot I’m envisioning.
One final note, I’m not a camera tech junkie, so for me, I’m looking for gear that allows me to get crisp images for the scenarios I’m shooting in most frequently, but I’m not one to get into the nitty gritty on specs.
I’ve been shooting with a Canon 5D Mark III for over 5 years and have had zero complaints. If I were buying a camera today, I would upgrade to the newer model. This is a full-frame DSLR, which means it has a full-sized sensor and is compatible with all standard lenses.
About 12 years ago, when I first started shooting photography, I started with a basic Canon Rebel, which has a crop-sensor, meaning that when you use standard lenses with it, the images are cropped tighter than if you used the same lens on a full-frame camera body. If I were getting into photography today with the intention of it being a hobby, I would likely pick up a mirrorless camera (like this one) with a few good lenses, since it’s more user friendly and portable, making it better for travel.
When it comes to styling a bed, I almost always use the same formula: four standard pillows, with one oversized lumbar lying across the front. For me, less is more, and the fewer pillows required to get my bed looking put together early in the morning, the more likely it’s going to be made! At the end, I’ve rounded up my favourite oversized lumbar pillows.
I love the more modern, streamlined look of stacking the sleeping pillows.
We’ve been noodling on how to best tackle our kitchen for 2.5 years now, and we’ve landed on three potential floorplans (a week ago when I first took a stab at writing this post it was one, but alas, I’ve reopened a few of our previous ideas…). This is a good reminder that sometimes you have to live with your house for a while to see what makes the most sense, and sometimes you have to consult the masses because you’ve hit a wall, ha!
Backing up, let me introduce you to our kitchen in it’s current state:
And those wide-angle listing shots (we made a few changes):
A few things that I need to address before we proceed:
Yes, our kitchen was renovated about a decade ago and for the most part, it’s a reasonably functional kitchen. The appliances have served us well, and while we don’t plan to reuse them, we will find them a good home.
While this kitchen has been updated, it 100% does not align with the style of our house. It’s DARK in here. There’s no reference in the design to this being a 1940’s Colonial. It’s just a mid 2000’s bachelor kitchen.
Before you tell me we ought to paint all the cabinetry… yes, I know it’s a possibility, but for two reasons we probably won’t. The first being that these cabinets are not good quality. They’re an unfortunate laminate/MDF situation. If they were wood, yes we would keep them, but they genuinely are not good quality. The second reason being that the amount of dirt that accumulates in those ridges in the front panel of the doors is next level. These doors are impossible to really clean, and it drives us insane.
We’re going to be tackling renovating our kitchen this summer, so I’m deep in the research phase right now and am trying to learn as much as possible about how to design a super functional, beautiful, and on-budget kitchen. A few weeks ago, I asked on Instagram about what you all had learned from past kitchen renovations, and received so much incredible advice. Since the feedback was so immensely helpful, I’ve assembled it all by category below. If you have any additional feedback to add, please share it in the comments! Let’s dig in:
1. Lighting and Electrical Placement
Overhead Lights: Think about where lights are placed overhead to ensure that when you’re working at the countertops or at the sink that the light is in front of you and not behind you to avoid shadows being cast onto the space in front of you.
Dimmers: Make sure all your lights are dimmable, so you can avoid being blasted by super bright light. This is great advice for every room in your house.
Under-counter lighting: Account for dimmable under-counter lighting, it’s very helpful. Also, make sure if you’re working with a custom cabinetmaker that the bottom of the cabinetry allows for the lighting to be flush with the cabinetry.
Outlets: Don’t forget about your outlets! The placement and orientation (horizontal can be a good idea). Also, make sure to source beautiful outlets and covers to avoid them ruining a beautiful backsplash. Think about where you’re going to need power within your kitchen, so you can keep your small appliances in a convenient place in the space.
Drawers: You guys are ALL about the drawers, and I couldn’t agree more! Drawers can be a lot easier to organize and access than your standard cabinet doors with shelves. Leverage deep drawers for pots and pans, and medium-depth drawers for plates and bowls. Add drawers under your stovetop for cookie sheets, muffin trays, and the like.
Pantry: If you have a deep pantry, add drawers so you can access everything that gets pushed to the very back. This really allows you to make the most of the space. You can never have too big a pantry, so make sure to allocate a good amount of space for food storage.
Non-Cooking Storage: Consider how you can find a home in your kitchen for other items like large serving pieces, cookbooks, and dog treats.
Appliance Garage: Nobody wants to look at lots of clutter in their kitchen, so think about how you can build in enclosed storage for your small appliances like toasters, microwaves, blenders and coffee-makers. A coffee bar that’s enclosed behind doors is a nice way to keep all your morning coffee items contained and out of sight, especially if you continue your countertop into this cabinet for easy cleaning.
Recycling and Trash: Don’t forget about enough space for recycling and trash, if you have extra space, it doesn’t hurt to make room for larger trash and recycling bins.
Cutting Board: Consider a slide out cutting board that looks like a drawer with a hole for trash for easier cooking prep.
Junk Drawer: Plan for a junk drawer. As much as you don’t want to have one, you indefinitely will end up with one.
It’s amazing how complex the storage can get behind cabinet doors, some of my favourite kitchen accounts to follow for storage inspiration on Instagram are Humphrey Munson and Studio Dearborn.
3. Where to splurge
One of the biggest themes I heard was that it can be hard when you’re in the middle of an expensive project like a kitchen renovation to splurge on some big ticket items, but that a lot of you regretted not splurging on what you really wanted from the start. The lesson: don’t compromise on what really matters to you, despite it sometimes being the more expensive option, since you can’t easily go back and change your mind once it’s been installed. The items you wish you’d spent more on:
Larger 36″ ranges
A nicer backsplash, either one slab of stone or nicer tile
Also, make sure the high cost of the project doesn’t scare you away from taking some design risks.
And one area not to splurge: solid maple interiors on your cabinetry are an expensive splurge that rarely gets seen and doesn’t make much of a difference in the scheme of things.
4. Cleanability & Durability
Trim: Simpler trimwork and profiles will keep from becoming dust magnets.
Paint: Professionally painted woodwork is way more durable in the long-term. Make sure you use paint that’s graded for cabinetry.
Fridges: Measure for the exact fridge depth so it doesn’t stick out. Opt for counter-depth fridges so they don’t take up as much real estate in the kitchen (this is one of my biggest pet peeves and is currently an issue in our kitchen).
Panel Ready: For a cleaner look, opt for panel ready appliances (the standard in Europe, but are becoming more popular here), however, be careful that the weight of the panel itself is on spec for the appliance, so as not to impact the mechanics of the appliance. We’re hoping to use an integrated, panel-ready fridge in our kitchen renovation because I just don’t typically love how much visual attention the standard fridge often commands in a space.
Range Hood: Don’t do a combination microwave and range hood, the ventilation is never as good (also an issue in our current and past kitchen), and it’s a missed opportunity to make a statement with your hood. We’re going to be hiding our microwave away since we rarely use it, and have no desire to look at it every time we’re in the kitchen. Make sure the ventilation on your hood vents outside and that your ventilation is powerful enough for the room.
Dishwashers: Stainless Steel fronts on dishwashers will show water drops, so be careful about the material you choose (Another issue in our current kitchen).
6. Countertops, Backsplashes & Flooring
Countertop Material: There was a lot of conflicting opinions on this one. Some people wish they hadn’t gone with quartz because it’s isn’t actually as indestructible as people say it is and can scratch and stain. But, lots of people love their quartz counters and are happy they went with them. Some people regret doing marble because it’s high maintenance, while others are happy with how it patinas and ages. One common sentiment is that a busy or loud countertop choice will boss your kitchen around visually, so it might not be the best place to go bold.
Tiling: Take the backsplash all the way up to the ceiling if you’re tiling. Don’t feel rushed to install your appliances before your backsplash in the event that you want to run your backspash behind the range and need access.
Floors: If you’re doing tile on your kitchen floors, be aware that lighter floors will show a lot of dirt and wear quickly.
7. Layout & Size
Sight Lines: Make sure there are clear views to other rooms for watching kids and entertaining
Adjacent Rooms: Consider continuing the same cabinetry into other adjacent spaces, like the mudroom and laundry room for a more cohesive look and more functional storage.
Size: Ensure the space is large enough, on paper might look good, but the room starts to fill up fast with cabinetry and appliances.
Islands: Go with a larger island if you can and really maximize the storage within the island.
8. Sinks & faucets
Sink: Go with a big, deep sink if you have the space for it.
Faucet: For ease of use, a single lever faucet with an integrated sprayer is the way to go.
And some general advice: trust your instincts, and don’t let poor quality work slide. Know that it will take longer than you expect. And don’t cut corners, at the end of the day your kitchen is a workspace that is one of the most hard-working rooms in your home, so make sure everything is as high-quality as possible.
A few weeks ago we started tackling our last remaining room upstairs: my home office (our third bedroom). This room is pretty small at 9.5 x 9.7, and thanks to a closet that bumps into the room, an off-center window, and a radiator, it feels even smaller and more awkward than the overall dimensions indicate.
For those of you who follow along on Instagram, this is certainly a belated post – for me, designing is like a puzzle, where once I nail down one item, the next one becomes a bit more clear, and so on, so scarcely are my initial designs for a space quite where I land up, so I didn’t want to jump the gun with a design that wasn’t even half-baked.
A year and a half ago, I very nearly tackled this room for my first official One Room Challenge, and then, at the last minute convinced my husband that we should instead take on our guest bathroom. I have zero regrets about that change of plans, but it does mean that this room has been sad and neglected for a very long time. In honour of that post, below are the before photos of the room from 2017 (to be fair, the only thing that changed before we started on this room was that we refinished the floors at the end of the 2018).
Last week, when the new seasonal CB2 collection went live, I was immediately drawn to all the sculptural furniture. There’s something so sophisticated and elevated about a piece of furniture that looks like it could have been carved out of a block of stone or wood. Now, I can’t stop thinking about all the places where I can introduce more sculptural furniture in my own home, perhaps starting with a new dining table. So, I’ve rounded up some of my favourite pieces that straddle the line between art and function, and some inspiration for how to use them in your own home.