From the category archives:

The Treehouse

Bargain DIY Concrete Floor

February 19, 2014

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I’m pleased as punch to tell you about the concrete floor experiment that we tried in the reading loft of The Treehouse. I love how it turned out! The texture is wonderful. The floor looks layered and feels like it has depth — but the whole surface is barely 1/8″ deep! It’s easy to clean and maintain. It has the industrial look I am every drawn to. Plus, it was inexpensive and totally DIY-doable.

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

I originally thought we would put carpet in the loft, but then I changed my mind and thought I would rather install a sweepable surface with an area rug on top. I made some inquiries about concrete floors and was told the weight of true concrete would be too heavy for this area, so I shifted my attention to tiles. But about that time, Jenny Komenda published a blog post about resurfacing her laundry room counter with a thin layer of concrete and I wondered if I could try the same method on the reading loft floor to achieve a concrete look without the heavy weight.

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

I finally concluded: why not try? The space is small and a low-traffic area. The materials are a bargain, so if it failed it wasn’t too great of a loss. Plus, if it was a disaster, I could cover it with tile or hardwood and hide the evidence. : ) So I gathered the materials, and when Ben Blair was in France (and I was consequently bored)  I went for it!

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

Would you like to see how it came together?

Click here for the full tutorial.

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crate shelves

By Gabrielle. Image from Serena & Lily.

I’m on the hunt for book shelves for the Reading Loft. It feels momentous to finally be furnishing it and making it comfortable and inviting! In my head, the loft was going to be a weekend project that we managed to fit in a few weeks after we moved here. And now it’s months later and I’m remembering all the people who told me renovations would take much longer than I expected. Hah!

There are two key pieces of furniture that we need for the loft: a comfy reading chair, and book shelves. I’m all sorted on the chair (more on that later), but the shelves have been perplexing me. I feel like every evening for weeks, I’ve had a date with my laptop while I surf for bookshelves. But then I saw the image above, and a lightbulb went off in my head! Turns out I’ve had a thing for crate shelves for years — in fact, I’ve posted about them twice, here and here. And this sort of shelving would be perfect for the loft — just picture them with less baskets and more books! : )

I’ve thought about it, and there seem to be three reasons why I like crate shelving so much…

Click for my reasons — and more photo examples, too!

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How to Whitewash Bricks - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle.

I’ve got another Treehouse report for you today, all about our fireplace bricks and how I whitewashed them. Plus, I worked in a little story about the bricks in my childhood home as well (find it when you click through).

How to Whitewash Bricks - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom

When I started to consider whitewashing the bricks, I looked up as many tutorials as I could find. This one and this one seemed to have the most clear instructions, and both mentioned using leftover white wall paint they had on hand. They both showed examples of more paint coverage than I was looking for, but I figured I could just dilute the paint more and get less coverage.

As I read further, some commenters recommended using lime, or other natural paint products that would let the brick “breathe”. I didn’t know if I cared whether or not the bricks breathed, and whether or not it was worth looking for alternatives, when I already had spare latex wall paint I could use. But the more I read, the more I thought it was at least worth looking into.

How to Whitewash Bricks - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom

In the meantime, I decided I’d better do what I could to clean the bricks first, because the front of the fireplace was covered in soot.

Ready to see what the process was like?

Click through for the full story.

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finished floors 2

By Gabrielle. Images by Ben Blair and Gabrielle.

I’m still giddy as can be about our finished floors! I’m definitely in the honeymoon phase where I tenderly sweep and sponge-clean them each day, and passionately apply felt protectors to any furniture that is even thinking about moving on to those floors.

finished floors 1

The whitewash finish is exactly what I hoped it would look like. But my-oh-my it took some work to get them to this lovely state.

Click through for the whole story.

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Hair Broaches + A House Update

December 19, 2013

By Gabrielle. Accessories via ASOS.

A little update from the Blairs: Our floors in the living room and kitchen were finished on Saturday and we moved the furniture back in on Sunday and Monday. Such a treat to have a kitchen again — we took so much pleasure in cooking a dinner on Monday night and eating together at our family table! On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we painted the living room in a fresh coat of white — in fact, the same white we used in the hallway transformation. It’s Origami White by Sherwin-Williams and I love it! It has a hint of grey to it that works really well with the new floor color.

Today, we’re installing baseboards where the new floors meet the walls — 8″ plain pine boards with crisp edges. This will be a much more substantial baseboard than we had before and my hope is that it will add some weight to the room and some architectural impact. We’ll see! I don’t know how long the baseboard installation will take, but I’m crossing my fingers it’s a two-day project and that we’ll finish up by Friday night.

Then there’s one more project to tackle — maybe even tonight! — and that’s white-washing the brick fireplace. Very exciting! I’ve been looking up tutorials and it sounds very straightforward. I’ll be sure to instagram as I go, and write up a post about the floors and paint and whitewash process when it’s done.

Like I said, we really, really want to wrap all of this up by Friday, because on Saturday, we want to get our Christmas tree and hang our stockings! Can you believe we haven’t done that yet? It’s just been too crazy with all the remodel work. I’m comforting myself by imagining that getting the tree this late will make it feel more special or that we’ll appreciate it more. Hah! At the very least, I think this means the tree will stay alive through Christmas. : )

And speaking of the weekend, on Friday and Saturday evening we have holiday parties to attend. I haven’t given a minute of thought to what I’ll wear, but if I did have a minute, I think I would search out a lovely way to bedazzle my hair. Like a tiara, but a little more subtle. (Kidding…kind of!) Something that catches the light in an interesting way, but doesn’t involve constant readjusting or pain. I saw these hair accessories at ASOS and I’ve been thinking of them ever since!

Tell me about your holiday hair, will you please? Any fancy parties this weekend?

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Convert a Hallway Into a Mudroom on a Budget   |   Design Mom

This post is sponsored by IKEA. Use our ideas to organize your hallway, and avoid having your entryway be an obstacle course.

ikea logo

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Do you have a mudroom? And by mudroom I mean a place to put jackets and bags and school work and backpacks and cellphones and on and on as you come into the house? We don’t have a mudroom at the moment — in fact, I don’t think we’ve ever had one. So in every house we’ve lived in we have to figure out an alternative solution. In The Treehouse, our entry is very simple — no coat closet or any storage at all — and it opens immediately to the living room. It was filling up with backpacks and jackets and deliveries every day after school and we couldn’t quite figure out how to best use the space — until I spent some time considering the hallway.

Succulents Convert an Unused Hallway Into a Light, Bright, Organized Entryway   |   Design Mom Stay True How-to: Hallway Turned Mudroom  |  Design Mom

The hallway in question is just off the entry, and you don’t see it when you first come in, so it’s not part of the first impression of the home — making it a potentially good option for stashing that mess that was piling up each day. As I’m sure you know, hallways have a reputation for being a sort of waste of space — square footage that you can’t really live in. But the more I looked at it, the more I wondered if we could make the hallway more functional, if we could transform it into our “mudroom”. IKEA really shines when you need to problem solve a solution like this in your home, so I was delighted as can be to partner with them on this project. They have so many options that work in a tight space!

Succulent Convert an Unused Hallway Into a Light, Bright, Organized Entryway   |   Design Mom

At first, I was mostly thinking hooks. Hooks everywhere! As many as we could fit. But then I started really thinking about how we would use the space, and hooks didn’t quite cover it. We needed a place to gather papers and mail as they came into the house. We needed a place to corral keys, cell phones, ipods, etc. We needed a place to tuck away heavy teenage backpacks (the sort that are too heavy for wall hooks).

Succulents Navajo Rug Convert an Unused Hallway Into a Light, Bright, Organized Entryway   |   Design Mom Moose Convert an Unused Hallway Into a Light, Bright, Organized Entryway   |   Design Mom

So I went to IKEA, measuring tape in hand, and walked through every space in the store making notes about products that might work, snapping reference photos, and jotting down ideas — I particularly kept my eyes open for narrow pieces that would leave plenty of pass-through space in the hallway. Though it might look more generous in these photos, the hallway measures a typical 45″ wide (see the “before” pic at bottom for reference). Then I sat down at home and sketched out some options.

Click through to see what I came up with — and find a before and after shot at the very end!

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House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall  |  Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle.

It’s been almost a month since I’ve shared a post about The Treehouse, but I have a fun little update today. We took down a wall!

House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall  |  Design Mom

And it changed everything in the best possible way.

Keep reading to see how it looks with the wall down.

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Office Storage

October 2, 2013

Storage Bins by PB Teen

By Gabrielle.

I ordered a big piece of furniture yesterday, and I’m feeling so proud! Though my head has been doing better lately, I still feel like I’m working at about 60% of my usual speed. Which is frustrating! So being decisive and placing the order somehow felt like an accomplishment. (So odd, I know. But there it is.)

We have a terrific home office space with lots of windows where we’ve placed our oversize worktable, and I can see it’s going to be a wonderful place to work (hopefully soon!). The biggest issue at the moment is that there is no closet or storage in the room. Combine that with the fact that as we settle in, the office is currently where we’re putting everything that doesn’t quite have a place yet, and you can imagine, it continues to be a big, giant mess in there no matter how much sorting and organizing I do. (Though we are making progress, see before and after.)

I wasn’t sure what I wanted, storage wise, but I started searching for armoires, cabinets and lockers to get a sense of what was out there. Of course, I’m always hoping to happen onto some unique piece on Craig’s List, or a university surplus sale, or at a used furniture store (like Urban Ore), but that takes patience and time. And I’m out of both as far as the office is concerned — I really need to get this place shaped up!

Storage from PB Teen

So I also started hunting for new pieces. And who would have guessed, PB Teen had my top two choices! This Metal Chest of Drawers and this 15 Drawer Set of Bookshelves. Both choices are industrial looking, which I’m always drawn to, and both have enclosed bins so I can hide messy storage (like craft supplies, and Maude’s yarn collection). We picked the red ones! Bonus, I’ve been holding on to some credit at the Pottery Barn companies for over a year now, making the purchase more affordable.

I always feel a little funny buying something new that has been artificially aged, but I think this piece will be really functional, and go a long way toward getting this space organized. And I think the red will be a fun focal point! What do you think of it? And have you ever felt that sense of accomplishment from finally making a decision?

P.S. — Sometimes I forget about PB Teen — especially when shopping for something in an office space — but their designers are spot on! I mean, look at this Love Rug. And this good-looking Alarm Clock (on clearance!). Also, the shelves are actually on back order till later this month. So it turns out I’m having to be patient anyway. Hah!

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Carpet in the Lofts

September 30, 2013

Guest Loft

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Today, I’m thinking about carpet in the two little lofts we have.

One loft is in the home office. It measures approximately 7′ x 10′. A small space, but there’s a nice tall window that offers lovely light, and it’s just the right size for a double bed with a nightstand, and a place to set some luggage. So we thought it would be a good spot for a guest bed. And we have lots of guests coming this month — which makes a great excuse for sprucing things up!

reading loft

The other loft is in the family room. It measures a little smaller than the first loft — about 7′ x 9.5′, and it has two windows that offer really beautiful light as well. Our plan is to create a cozy reading spot here! And I have to say, at the moment, I think I’m more excited about creating this reading nook, than any other project in the house. It’s just the right kind of project. Bite-size, which makes it approachable and doable, but meaty too, because it has so much potential for being a wonderful, and useable space — a little getaway from the chaos that is sometimes inherent in a family of 8.

More on our plans when you click through.

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Weather

September 25, 2013

waterfall

By Gabrielle. Photo by Ben Blair.

Sometimes, it feels like the weather reports are all about incessant rains, extreme draughts, wildfires, and tornados. Crazy weather also seems to dominate pretty much every conversation I have these days! (Or am I just reaching that age where weather is fascinating?!) And usually, these aren’t tame discussions about “Gosh, it sure is a hot one today!” Nope. Depending on the crowd, you might hear about global warming, weather whiplash, fossilized carbon, overzealous meteorologists, and even Doomsday predictions.

Do you talk about the weather? What’s your personal opinion on extreme weather? Do you think it’s always been there, but we’re just more aware of it now? Or do you see distinct changes, and feel like you understand the whys behind them? I’d love to know… because I am reaching that age where weather is fascinating! I’ll admit it!

P.S. — We have a teeny tiny stream in that runs through our backyard. It’s really just a trickle, but I love it — the sound of the running water is so soothing! First thing in the morning, I like to go out to the balcony off of our bedroom and listen to that water. Last weekend, Oakland had it’s first rain of the season and Ben Blair instagrammed the image above — our tiny stream was a river!

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The Treehouse: Floors

September 23, 2013

pulling up the carpet

Images and text by Gabrielle.

When we moved in, pretty much the first thing on my fix-it/change-it list was getting rid of the carpet in the dining area. Partly because the carpet was stained and worn, but mostly because carpet + eating doesn’t work for our family. I realize there are many, many people the world over who have carpets or rugs under their kitchen tables and get along just fine. But I feel like carpet under the table leaves me spending too much time scrubbing out stains from spilled milk, and I also find myself feeling angry at totally normal messes or spills that wouldn’t typically stress me out. Best to get rid of the carpet.

So we immediately started scheming about what kind of flooring we would put in instead.

Click through to find out what kind of replacement we’re considering.

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Solar Twinkle Lights

September 20, 2013

solar twinkle lights

Image and Text by Gabrielle.

Something fun that’s on my mind at the moment: We’ve been experimenting with solar twinkle lights! We ordered two strings and put them in the trees above our decks. One string glows cool and blue and one glows warm and yellow. They charge during the day, then automatically come on at night. I hung them in the trees and haven’t had to touch them since! No plugs. No remembering to turn them on and off. So cool! I can’t believe what a smile they bring.

If you’re considering these for your own house or for an event, be aware, they don’t offer intense light. Meaning, a string of them set above your outdoor dining table would not be bright enough to eat by. Not even close. They’re more for ambience and setting a mood. Also, the strings aren’t super long — they cool blue string has 30 lights, and the warm yellow has 20. I’m guessing we’ll need maybe 4-5 strings for the tree over our main deck, but maybe only one string for the front porch.

Have you ever tried solar lights? I’m curious to know how many months they last!

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treehouse9

By Gabrielle. Note: These images are “before” photos showing the belongings of the previous owners. I know, I know, I need to shoot some current photos. Working on it, I promise!

I’ve shared the story of how The Treehouse came to be ours. And I’ve explained that the house came fully furnished. But I haven’t really told you much about the layout or what our plans our. So I thought I’d dive in today!

I’ll start by saying the state of the house, renovation wise, is pretty much ideal for someone like me. The home hasn’t been resurfaced in a long time — for example, the kitchen looks to be strictly from the 80′s. Throughout the house, walls need a fresh coat of paint, worn carpets need to be replaced, and light fixtures need to be upgraded. 

I know that’s a lot of work, but it’s perfect for me! Because I’m someone who wants to make those sorts of decisions in my home. So if The Treehouse had been recently redone, then I would have felt awful about changing things up and wasting that work. (As I’m sure anyone would! I know Jenny, who has been doing major renovations, is feeling stumped about her kitchen counters. They’re not her style, but they’re so new she feels bad about changing them.)

Keep reading to find out what we’ve got planned!

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The Treehouse: Part 2

September 9, 2013

pottery collection

Image and text by Gabrielle.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared the story of how The Treehouse came to be ours. And today, I thought it would be fun to tell you a little more about what the house was like when we arrived.

One of the most interesting tidbits about The Treehouse, is that when we moved in, it was furnished almost exactly as we had seen it in photos.

Keep reading, I’ll tell you more.

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The Treehouse

August 17, 2013

Oakland House

By Gabrielle.

This is the story of how The Treehouse, our home in Oakland, came to be ours.

This is the long version of the story. I’m still figuring out how to tell it in a short version.

Starting last summer, when we embarked on our final year in France, we started looking online at real estate in Colorado. We had loved living in Colorado and our plans never strayed from moving back. We just needed to find a house. We wanted to buy something and settle down. In fact, that was our original plan when we first moved to Colorado, but at the time, we weren’t able to find a house, and then we got distracted by France. : )

treehouse4 treehouse5 The Treehouse

We really wanted to buy a house before we moved back, because I was overwhelmed by the idea of moving twice — first into a rental, and then into a purchased house, possibly in two different school districts. Ugh. Purchasing a house and moving directly in sounded ever so much more appealing.

See lots more photos and get the full story.

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