One Room Challenge – Fall 2019 – Week 1

If you’re new around here, three years ago my husband and I purchased our first house: a 1940’s Colonial located in a very cute coastal Connecticut town. We’ve been tackling remodeling the house room by room, where we’re always looking for ways to add equal parts function and character into our house.

Wow, I can’t believe we’re back here again: it’s week one of the Fall 2019 One Room Challenge. After taking last season off, it’s time for another big transformation, and I couldn’t be more excited! A year ago, I transformed my master bedroom and closet, the season before we tackled our master bathroom, and the round before that we completely gutted and overhauled our guest bathroom.

If you follow me on Instagram, then you know that the big project we have been talking about for a while is a massive downstairs renovation. Spoiler alert: I’m not tackling the entire main floor for this challenge, but we are focusing on one very important room.

Drum roll please…

Do we regret using marble tile in our shower?

A year and a half ago, when we set off to remodel our bathroom, I shared we were going to use marble tile throughout our shower. On the walls, on the floors, and on the bench. And immediately I started hearing from people that I shouldn’t use marble because it’s too high maintenance. It stains! It etches! It needs to be babied!

Everyone shared their horror stories with me and it didn’t deter me from wanting to install the luxe marble shower of my dreams. I mean, I challenge you to find me a material that’s more beautiful than marble.

My internal argument was that marble has been used for centuries for this purpose throughout Europe and still looks fantastic. Sure, it looks well loved, but it stands the test of time and ages beautifully over time, unlike some other man-made materials that need to be replaced more frequently because they fall out of fashion, look dated quickly, and sometimes wear unevenly. Marble does not.

So, fast forward eighteen months of daily use, how do we feel about our marble shower today?

In short, we love it.

My favourite Artists Found via Instagram

Original art can completely make a space feel unique, interesting, and cohesive, but sourcing art has always felt overwhelming and inaccessible. Until, I started discovering artists on Instagram, who I could connect with more directly, without needing to work with an intimidating gallery. Here are some of my favourite artists who are doing something special in the art world that I discovered on Instagram.

Angela Chrusciaki Blehm

I can almost guarantee that you’ve seen Angela’s modern take on pop art on Instagram. Her work is so unique and fresh, and the colour palettes are interesting, and I’ve seen her art shine in both modern spaces and traditional ones alike.

I recently captured two of her prints in this bold foyer by Diane Rath.

Favourite removable wallpaper options

Wallpaper can sometimes feel like a big commitment, but it’s also so high impact. I remember years ago when I was renting in New York that the removable wallpaper options available on the market were limited to a small handful of dated patterns (black and white damask was big!), that it’s incredible how big this market has become over the past few years!

Here are my top few by brand:


You already know that I love Tempaper from the chinoiserie wallpaper in my office, but they carry so many great papers it’s hard to rule it down.

I loved both of these that I shot in one of Diane Rath’s recent projects.

This one is Wave Pop as part of the Novogratz collection.

And this one is Wheels, also in the Novogratz collection.

Some of my other faves include, from left to right: Check Yourself, Wiggle Room, Mosaic Scallop, Dazzle

Drop it Modern

Another favourite company for wallpaper, both removable and traditional is Drop it Modern. Their patterns are bolder, a bit more modern, and very chic.

I absolutely love how one of my fave designers Christine Dovey used the Chrystalline marbled wallpaper in her master bedroom many years ago, that has stood the test of time.

From left to right: Bang Dem Sticks, Azteca Mural, Azteca, Dot to Dot.

Chasing Paper

I love that Chasing Paper has been dreaming up some very fabulous collaborations with makers across industries, including the below collab with Graduate Hotels.

And a few of my favourites are: Bubble, Parrots, Graduate Plaid, Floral Cut-Outs

And if this isn’t enough, check out this Etsy wallpaper round-up by my friend, Sarah.

Affordable outdoor rug round-up

We’ve spent two summers in our house and it only took me until this week to order an outdoor rug for our patio, despite knowing it would go a long way to making the space feel more complete. So, I finally sat down and hunted for an outdoor rug, my criteria:

  1. It had to be soft to the touch. So many outdoor rugs feel plasticky, and I wanted this rug to feel great on bare feet (more like an indoor rug and less like a beachmat).
  2. It had to be affordable. I just can’t justify spending a lot on a rug that will take a beating from the elements. I set my maximum at $400, but most of the below rugs are $260 or less.
  3. It needed to be large. I could have gotten away with a 5×7, but it would have felt undersized, so I really wanted an 8×10 that would fully encompass our outdoor seating area.

Here are the rugs I tracked down that met all the above criteria and look great! Scroll all the way down to the bottom for the one that I ended up ordering (PS it arrived today and it’s so soft).

Affordable outdoor rug roundup

One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six

I’m loving the pattern in the first one, the stripes in the third rug, and the vivid colour in the sixth rug, but we ended up ordering the second rug and can’t wait to add it to the space this weekend.

And, if you’re looking for even more outdoor rug options, check out Sarah’s outdoor rug round-up for lots more!

How to build a radiator window bench

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.

And we DIY-ed that French Mattress.

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.

When you don’t have the space for a window bench, here are more chic ideas for radiators.

For all the details on our master closet, head here.

Let’s get started.

How to install a removable wallpaper mural

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.

Modern Chinoiserie Home Office Reveal!

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.

Budgeting for Renovations & Big Projects

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.

This vanity in our Master Bathroom was a huge budget savings in order to afford the all-over marble. You’d never guess how basic it looked before, trust me.

What are your best tricks for budgeting?

Camera Gear For Interiors Photography

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.

This wide shot wouldn’t have been possible without my 24-70mm lens