Upcycled Alley Chair

Does anyone else pick up furniture from the side of the road? It can’t just be me. I’ve already shared our salvaged kitchen table, and I’ve talked about how many of our furniture pieces have come from craigslist, so it shouldn’t be a secret that I enjoy making old and tired furniture pieces come back to life, like this vintage chair that we found in the alley.

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We were coming back from dinner one night, back when we still lived in our apartment, and I saw that gem a few houses down. The cushion fabric was terrible, and the paint was faded, but I loved the craftsmanship in the curved back of the chair, and the carved out fleur-de-lis embellishments.

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Dan thought I was crazy, but he reluctantly carried the chair in and up two floors to our dining room. We were in the process of packing up to move, so the chair didn’t get a full makeover right then.

We did find a bit of time to give the whole chair a fresh coat of white paint. We wanted the carvings to really stand out, so we painted them with gold. The seat was droopy, so we pulled out all of the netting on the bottom of the chair. It was already a vast improvement.

We moved the chair to our new house, but it just kind of sat there for a while. Finally, one afternoon while Dan and my father-in-law were tackling some home improvement, my mother-in-law and I tried our hand at crating a new cushion with some fabric Dan and I picked out for the chair. I can’t give you a tutorial because we didn’t really follow any sort of plan or pattern, and honestly, I’m not sure I could, or would advise, replicating our process.

Woohoo – the chair update was complete! Now the problem was that the chair didn’t really have a place to go. It was in our living room for a while, but the white frame didn’t contrast at all with the white couch, so I moved it. Stop #2 was in our family room. Our couch is dark, so I thought the chair would work well. Color-wise, it did, but style-wise, it just didn’t. The couch was modern, the huge outdated rock wall was giving off a ’60s vibe, and the chair was what – 1940’s? It wasn’t working.

I didn’t want to get rid of my little rescued chair, but I was starting to think we just didn’t have a place for it. I finally moved the chair late last year, to make room for our Christmas tree in the family room. I decided to temporarily keep it in our guest room, thinking I’d make a final decision on what to do with the chair once the Christmas decorations came down.

What a happy surprise it was when I realized how perfect the chair looked in the guest room!

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The fabric is mostly blues, which worked well with the yellows and blues present in the room. The gold accents in the chair brought our the gold tones in the candleholders and desk too. Plus, I had been looking for a versatile furniture piece that would give guests another place to sit, and a place to set down their luggage. I cozied the chair up with the bird pillow I made a while back, and an ivory/gold threaded throw I bought for the guest room ages ago.

With the vintage vibe already coming from the desk, and the whimsical feeling of the iron bed, I think this transient chair has finally found its permanent spot in our home.

Let’s Talk Tile

What really solidifies a home renovation for you? For me, it’s a trip to Tile Outlet, naturally.

We wanted to get an up close look at the kinds of tiles we could get for the fireplace. I know, the tile isn’t the first thing we’ll need a decision on to move the renovation ahead. But, the tile store visit is the next thing we did. Renovations aren’t completely linear, and my goal is to share our real world renovation activities with you as they happen. Hold on for a long and winding renovation ride.

As we walked in to the store, we were pretty set on using marble. We were just trying to scope out all the shapes we could choose.

We looked at many options, which I’ve made into this handy pic, to refer to easily as we continue through the planning process.

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I walked in the most interested in the herringbone pattern (#1) from my “Stay Golden” mood board, so I made a beeline for it in the store. You can see it on the top left. I was surprised that I was underwhelmed by the tile. It was OK, but it didn’t knock my socks off. And at $17/sq foot, it was a bit more expensive than I anticipated.

Dismayed, Dan and I began walking the aisles. We were both drawn to marble hexagon tile (#2), which we did not expect. The shape could work well, especially for our “Shapely” room. At $10/sq foot, it was more budget friendly.

Nearby, we saw the subway style marble tiles (#3), and liked them. They’re simple, and we both liked the clean, even lines, which would echo the clean lines of the whole bookcase. This one was $10/ sq foot too.

We paused at this sort of geometric marble tile pattern (#4), that reminds me of a kind of Greek key style but pretty quickly discarded it from contention. We thought it would be too busy in the space. At $10/sq ft, it would make a cool kitchen backsplash.

We kept on walking and saw the lantern style tile (#5). We have a similar shape in our upstairs bathrooms, which we like, but I feel like this tile might feel dated quickly. The master bathroom’s lantern tiles were a harvest gold before we completed our $125 bathroom makeover, and they felt super ’60s. The tile was $12/sq ft, and we didn’t like it better than some of the simpler patterns, so this tile might be out of contention.

Our final stop was one we didn’t expect – grey penny tile (#6). It’s not marble, which is what we set out to look at, but I think we both liked the light grey color. It would be a way to add a bit of soft color, which would contrast an all white fireplace and bookcases, should we decide to go that route. At $6.50 sq/ft, it is the least expensive we’ve encountered this far.

So, after our visit, we’re left with some great choices to consider, but we’re going to hold to make a final decision on tile for now. We’re still tinkering with the blueprints, including the dimensions, of the new fireplace/bookshelves wall, so we’ll need to take the amount of tile we need into account before settling on a specific tile, keeping the amount of tile needed (for both budget reasons and aesthetic reasons) in mind.


In the Mood to Talk About the Family Room?

Step 1 when Dan and I renovate? Pin. A lot.

I’m a visual person in that I need to see something before I can fully understand how something will look. I’m just not great at imagining how a certain tile will look on the floor or a paint color will look in the room without seeing a sample.

That’s why mood boards are such an important step to me in renovation planning. Even if you are able to visualize a finished room before any work begins, I would still highly recommend creating a mood board. They allow you to get the whole picture in one graphic. You don’t need to know the specific lamp or rug you want when making a mood board, but it’s easy to swap those things in and out of the board, to give you a good idea of how it will look in the room without trekking to the store and back.

I typically start my mood boards by finding images of the items in the room that I know will be staying. For example, we have a fairly new couch in the family room, and we just received those awesome prints, so I was sure to include them in every mood board.

I played around with three different looks – all similar, but with some key differences.

I started with this look, which we call “Modern Mint”, as Choice #1 (Note: I am presenting these in no particular order).


The paint color is the brightest we’ve looked at. Given the room is pretty dark, with only a glass sliding door letting light in, I thought the cheery, minty color would really brighten things up. Because of such a bold color on the walls, the rest of the pieces in the room are pretty neutral, though not boring. The fireplace and built ins are a pure white (to offset the walls), and the fireplace tile is a white and grey marble, which are tones we have throughout the house, to tie it all in together. The smaller color pops in yellows and blues would come from pillows,  a throw, and the posters. The silver accents, like the table, chair legs, and mirror, add more brightness and the glass lamp keeps the room feeling airy. One of the decisions we still have to make is the flooring. In this option, I chose hardwood and would cover it up with a mostly white and grey rug.

We’re calling Choice #2 “Shapely”.


Right away, the geometric shapes in this room grab you – the chair, the end table, the ikat pillows, geometric throw, candle holders, and carpet are all very much of that MCM era. The walls are a very light and neutral grey to allow for the color in the bookcases, which will really draw your eye to the bookshelves/fireplace focus of the room. The fireplace is simple, with clean lines and an unfussy, single piece of stained wood mantle. The simplicity shows in the fireplace tile as well, with small, rectangular marble tiles mirroring the clean lines of the fireplace itself. The flooring in this option is carpet, in a pretty, subtle geometric pattern in a light aqua tone.

Last, but certainly not least, Choice #3 is called “Stay Golden”.


This is the board that I think is most outside my typical decorating style. I’m not usually one to choose gold tones over silver, but I’m drawn to the contrast between the dark grey fireplace and shiplap wall behind the TV, and the sophisticated glamour  contained in the gold pillows, votives, mirrors, and side table. In some ways, this option is the most classic, with white walls, and mostly neutral tones, but it also has the most varied patterns/textures – clean book shelf lines, triangles in the pillows, curved lines in the mirrors, side table, and carpet (admittedly, you can’t see the carpet well), and of course, the fluffy blanket. The color in the room mostly comes from the lamp and prints, which balances out the neutral white walls and grey fireplace and couch. The flooring in this option is carpet, in a bolder shade of grey, with a curvy pattern to match the mirrors.

I’m confident things will change as we progress in the remodel, and more than likely, elements of each option will make it into our final choices. But for now, this is where we are.

I really like them all, so one doesn’t stand out at the absolute winner to me. If you have any thoughts, I’m all ears!

Boozy Winter Wassail

Dan made me a warm winter drink the other night, and it was so good I just had to share it. I call it boozy wassail.

It truly tastes like winter in a cup. I can’t think of anything cozier than curling up with a cup of winter wassail in my comfy chair, covering myself with a knit throw, and reading a favorite book.



1 part Winter Wassail (from Trader Joe’s)

1 part red wine (go cheap on this – ours is three buck chuck from trader Joe’s as well)

a lemon wedge (juiced into the drink)

Optional – orange wedge, cinnamon sticks

Put everything in a pot and heat until warm, being careful not to let the liquid boil. Let simmer for at least 10 minutes to really let the flavors mix together. Serve immediately, piping hot.

Dan has also made this drink using honey whiskey as a replacement for the red wine. Both ways are great.

Hurry if you want to try our wassail. It’s a seasonal item from Trader Joe’s, so it won’t be in stores much longer.

Hope this helps keep you warm this winter!

New Year’s Renovation Plan

Happy New Year’s! I hope you had a lovely New Year’s Eve and a great start to 2016.

My 2016 began with this.

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Yes, after some much needed time off from home renovations, Dan and I are continuing on with remodeling the house. I’ve already shared our kitchen, dining room, master bath, guest room, and hallway updates, and now we’re moving on to the room where we spend most of our time – the back family room.

When we moved in, here’s what the room looked like (please excuse the mess from moving).

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There was wood paneling on 3 of the walls, beige carpet, and a “feature” rock fireplace wall. I use the term “feature” quite loosely.

We didn’t like the way the room looked, but we knew that we would be able to transform it into a space we love…once we had some time.With the kitchen remodel, as well as removing all the wallpaper, staining the floors, and painting, we only had a little bit of time to give to the family room before moving in. We decided to paint the paneling, and leave the rest as it was for the time being. Since we’ve given the room a coat of paint and put actual furniture in the room, it’s looked a lot better while we focused on other projects.

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In my eyes, definitely an improvement, but we weren’t quite to “love it” status just yet. We’re back to working on getting there.

I debated whether to wait to blog about the renovation until we made significant progress (or at least demo’d the rock wall), but decided it was better to blog updates as they happen. Rooms aren’t overhauled in a day, and to show you just a before and after felt like it would make the process seem short and painless. Anyone who has renovated their house knows that is absolutely not the case. I wasn’t able to show the slow process of most of our previous renovations (the kitchen especially) because we were in emergency mode, and I used every free moment to work and not to write. This time, I’m going to share our progress as it happens, so expect some family room updates along with some of the crafts, baked treats, and dinners I regularly post.

Don’t be surprised if my “here’s the finished look” post doesn’t come about until March. Hopefully.