Design Mom » The Treehouse The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Mon, 12 May 2014 18:42:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Treehouse: Mother’s Day Hideaway Wed, 07 May 2014 15:07:22 +0000 Design Mom

Garden Hideaway   |   Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle (some of the photos were by Ben Blair too!). This project is brought to you by Lowe’s. Find everything you need to bring sunshine to your Mother’s Day in the Lowe’s garden department. #springiscalling


I prefer a really low-key Mother’s Day, with my big request being that I get to sleep in. : ) But this year, I thought it would be fun to use Mother’s Day as an excuse to get a project done in the yard. I know I’ve been sharing lots of photos of the interior of our house over the last few weeks. But wrapping up the living room details marked a break in the interior work for awhile. Spring is here, and we’ve turned out attention to the yard. And the yard definitely needs attention!

Garden Hideaway   |   Design Mom Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

It is a wild, wild place. Last summer, just days after we moved in, we had a consultation from a tree expert and his landscaping crew. He told us that based on the layer of accumulation on the ground, he thought the yard hadn’t been touched for 20 years! I can totally understand that. The previous owners were in their 90′s, and it’s overwhelming to take care of. Plus, the wildness has its own beauty, and it can be appreciated simply by sitting on the decks that surround the house and taking in the view.

I confess, I am very intimidated by our yard. Tackling the interior is doable for me, but making a master plan for the yard requires a skill set I don’t have. So we intend to contact a landscape architect who will help us draw up a garden design — some thing that incorporates our ideas, plus the realities of the landscape and climate. We’d like the design to be something we can implement over a few years so we can budget accordingly.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

But in the meantime, we don’t want to ignore the yard, so we’ve been slowly, but surely cleaning up the thick layer of sticks and leaves and nature, and adding it to the community compost. And as we clean up, we get to know the property a little better, and get ideas of how we can make the most of it.

Off to one corner is a little shady grove that we thought had potential as a sort of hideaway — a place that’s off the main paths of the yard, where we could go to get a break from the sometimes-chaos that is life with a big family.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

So we started clearing it out. The whole family helped. We dragged fallen branches and lopped off dead ones. We raked and shoveled leaves. We climbed into the trees to shake down the fallen Eucalyptus bark that was caught in the branches overhead. The castoff pile grew and grew until it was about 6 feet high and 8 feet long and five feet wide. It was an impressive pile! And proof of the work we’d done. We we’re proud of it! But only for a couple of days — and then we hired a team to come clear that pile out. It was a bigger job than we could do ourselves.

Once it was cleared out, the little grove was really shaping up! With the old growth gone, the sunlight could filter through the leaves, and there were now pathways to access the clearing.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

Now it was time to make it pretty.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

We started by hanging a hammock — a big one with room for more than one person.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

We hung handsome lanterns overhead.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

We added pots and flowers — I kept everything in a certain palette — coral and yellow and peach and green.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

Next to the hammock, we put a little table. It’s actually a plant stand, but I think it’s just the right size for a glass of lemonade and a book.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

We gathered unused stones from other parts of the yard to make a little footpath. And we added moss. As you can see, the moss came in little roundish clumps. I hope it thrives and spreads and fills in the spaces!

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

We grabbed a blanket from the house and added a pretty outdoor pillow.

Garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

For the finale, we hung a curtain of ribbon in the same palette as the flowers.

Back in New York, we used to take the kids to the Botanical Gardens in the Bronx quite often. We had easy access from our house and we all loved it there. The entrance to the children’s garden was book-ended by ribbon walls — simple grosgrain ribbon in bright colors, hanging all the way to the ground. I loved those cheery ribbon walls! And I’ve wanted to copy them ever since. This seemed like the perfect excuse.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

The ribbons at the Botanical Gardens lived outdoors permanently and didn’t seem to sustain much damage. I’m hoping the same is true of ours! But if not, and we have to take them down in a few weeks or months, that’s okay.

The ribbons were easy to install — all we needed was a step stool and some scissors — and they make the whole thing feel magical. When June saw the little hideaway, her eyes lit up like she’d just discovered a new world.

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

In fact, with two of us working, the whole hideaway was installed in just a few hours. A day of clearing out with the whole family, then a few hours on another day to pot flowers, hang ribbons and a hammock. We took a completely unused space and made it the happiest spot in the yard. Not a bad payoff!

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

This is the view looking up, while laying in the hammock. Just looking at the photo makes me relax. : )

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

Yes, I worked on it too, but I consider this little hideaway my Mother’s Day gift this year. And I think it’s a great one. We love the space!

What about you? Are you thinking about any projects for your yard these days? Or if you don’t have a yard, maybe a little something on your patio, porch or balcony? I get really excited about yard projects! I’d love to hear what you’re working on.

P.S. — This is what it looked like when before we cleared it out:

Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom Transform a corner of your yard into a garden hideaway.   |   Design Mom

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]]> 43
DIY: Crate Shelves — Make a Set of 15 for $125 Fri, 02 May 2014 14:54:16 +0000 Design Mom

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

Images and text by Gabrielle.

As promised, here is a tutorial for the crate shelves we have in the Reading Loft. As you may remember, the inspiration for the shelves was this image. I liked that you can see through them and get a glimpse of the wall color behind. And I liked that there were various sizes.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

At first, I did a search to see if I could find a similar product to purchase — and these shelves from Design Within Reach seemed to be the closest thing. They’re gorgeous! But the price really added up fast when I considered how many I needed. Plus, I wanted more control of the exact dimensions of each box. So finally, I concluded making them was the way to go.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

We work with a handyman named Alex for some of the small projects around the house, and I hired him to help me with these as soon as I knew I wanted to make them. Alex is actually a sculptor (with an impressive portfolio) who does home projects on the side. It’s a huge bonus to me that he’s a sculptor, because it means he has an excellent eye for detail, and he’ll brainstorm solutions with me thinking as both an artist and a builder. And brainstorm we did!

I determined I wanted to use 3/8 inch thick plywood, but Alex was concerned because that was thin enough that the boards could split if we screwed them together. So I considered the thicker plywood, but it just didn’t look right — the proportions were off — too heavy looking. So we discussed ways to make the 3/8 inch plywood work. We looked at metal brackets and all sorts of fasteners. Then happily, Alex came up with this smart format.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

Notches were cut out of opposite corners of each box piece, then the pieces were fit together. Simple and brilliant! Interlocking the cubes this way adds stability.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

And I love that we don’t have to mess with the simple profiles of the boxes by adding protruding hardware.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125 DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

Want to make some shelves of your own? Then, let’s get started.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

Project Overview & Tools

I would say this is an intermediate skill-level project. Ideally, you have access to a table saw (though anything from a skil saw to a table saw can work), a jigsaw, and a palm sander with 120 grit and 220 grit paper.

You’ll also need a measuring tape, wood glue, paper and pencil. If you want to make as many shelves as we have, plan on this project taking a couple of full days.


To put them together, we bought 4 foot x 8 foot sheets of plywood. Then, had the lumber yard cut the plywood into 4 equal long strips that were 11.5 inches wide. We chose that width to minimize the plywood waste.

Note: I know 12 inches across seems like the easiest way to divide a 48 inch wide sheet into 4 pieces, but the saw eats up some of the wood, so if you go with 12 inches wide, the first 3 pieces will be fine, but the last one won’t be quite 12 inches. That’s why I recommend 11.5 inches.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

Then, using a table saw at home, those long pieces were cut into smaller pieces for the 3 different box sizes. 18 inches, 15 inches and 12 inches — 4 pieces for each box.  If you don’t have a table saw, you can likely get these cuts made at a lumber yard as well.

Note: This part was a bit of a math game, figuring out how many pieces could be cut from each length of board. And depending on what size boxes you’d like to make, and how many of each you’d like, the math will change. So plan on pulling out paper and pencil for this part and sketching and measuring before you start cutting.

You can make the boxes in any size you like. I chose 18″, 15″ and 12″ based on what I was planning to store on the shelves, and based on the small loft where they were going to live. I studied our book collection, measuring several books as I went, to get a good idea of what would work. But if I was using these to hold toy bins, I would have measured the bins first and then designed boxes to fit around them.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

For the next part, a jig saw is needed. You’ll cut out 1/2 inch notches that go halfway across, in opposite corners, from all four pieces of wood on each box. I know that’s hard to picture, so definitely study the photos to see what I’m talking about. : ) This is the longest part of the process, and you’ll have lots and lots of half inch scraps piling up.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

Once you have each piece looking like this shot (I made a blue outline to hopefully make it really clear)…

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

… you can put the boxes together like a puzzle.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

Then, to secure the pieces together, use a strip of wood glue wherever the pieces join, and 2 finishing nails on each of the uncut edges.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

We used a nail gun because we happened to have one on hand, but a hammer would also work just fine.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125   |   Design Mom DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

The last step is to sand them. A good plywood will be fairly smooth already, but going over them with a fine grit paper, then an extra fine grit paper will ensure no slivers for little hands. With a palm sander, this goes really fast! I was able to sand all of our shelves, inside and out, in less than 2 hours.

Note: I thought I wanted a clear matte varnish to give them a little shine,  so we added one, but it didn’t work the way I hoped at all! It raised the grain of the wood in a rough way and yellowed the boxes. So I sanded it all off, and kept them plain and unfinished instead.

DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125 DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125 DIY Crate Shelving - Make a set of 15 for $125

And that’s it! Our set has three of the 18″ boxes, five of the 15″ boxes and seven of the 12″ boxes — 15 crates total. (I don’t have instructions for you on the little triangle piece. Alex made that one with some trial and error from the shelving scraps. It’s so cute!) The whole set came under $125 for materials. Not bad for a full set of good-looking, flexible storage. If you make some, I hope you’ll tell me how it goes!

P.S. — Like to make things. Find all sorts of projects here.

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]]> 13
The Treehouse: The Living Room Wed, 30 Apr 2014 01:15:21 +0000 Design Mom

The Treehouse Living Room  |  Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Images by Sarah Hebenstreit. Photo styling by Rosy Strazerri-Fridman

You guys. You guys! Two happy things: 1) The Treehouse Living Room Tour is ready to share. And 2) the Joss & Main Sale — the sale based on the living room — starts today!

JM-Logo-RGB_125px The sale theme is Modern Nature, and some of the exact pieces you see in our living room are available in the sale — some at a (cha-ching!) discount. What does it mean to have a sale inspired by the living room? Well, it means that I sourced over 100 items that seemed like they would fit really well in this space, then I sent them all to the Joss & Main team, and they took those items as a starting point, and as inspiration, and created a sale. So you can think of the items in this sale as hand-picked by me!

The sale ends next Tuesday, May 6th. I hope you check it out. And maybe find something you love.

The Treehouse Living Room   |   Design Mom The Treehouse Living Room  |  Design Mom The Treehouse Living Room  |  Design Mom

Now, let’s talk about the living room!

I am straight up in love with our living room. I love sitting on the twin sofas. I love the windows. I love the white-washed floors and the white-washed bricks. I love the long row of 3 benches that provide extra seating and give easy access to the views. I love the accordion pendant lamps. I love that the living room, dining nook, entry, hallway and kitchen are one open space. I love that I can sit with a magazine, and chat with Olive while she bakes a cake, or with Ralph while he makes a quesadilla. It’s a very comfortable, inviting, useable space. I’m excited to tell you all about it!

The Treehouse Living Room  |  Design Mom

The sofas are my favorite. Their profile is handsome (see the image at top), and they’re a wonderful size — not as small as a love seat, and not as wide as a full couch. I searched and searched for something that would fit this space in just the right way. I wanted to create a sitting area around the fireplace and still leave room for a pathway between the benches and the sofas. (If you’re curious, the sofa is also available in teal, almond and mink — we chose almond.)

The Treehouse Living Room   |   Design Mom

The coffee table is by Blu Dot. Isn’t it fantastic? It looks sort of airy and sculptural, but the marble makes it so substantial — it’s quite heavy!

The Treehouse Living Room   |   Design Mom The Treehouse Living Room   |   Design Mom

We didn’t photograph the kitchen, because it’s still the nondescript space we inherited when we moved in, but you can see a peek of the kitchen island and our barstools — they face the sitting area. (The stools are great! I’ll tell you more about them in a later post.)

I bought the fringe-y throw blanket on the sofa when I was visiting Ethiopia.

The Treehouse Dining Nook   |   Design Mom

The living room leads to the dining nook. The Thonet chairs are vintage, purchased from Book/Shop here in Oakland. The reproduction table we bought when we lived in Colorado. And we’ve had the chandelier since New York. It’s a remarkable fixture — you can read more about it here.

The Treehouse Living Room  |  Design Mom

The benches! I Instagrammed the benches a few weeks ago and they received lots of ooohs and aaahs. And I’m not surprised. They’re made of reclaimed wood, the proportions are excellent, and they’re simply handsome. The benches come in two finishes, I chose lime wash. (The benches are discounted in the sale!)

I love the benches as is, but I’m also hatching some plans for these. I’d love to have long cushions made for them, to make them even more inviting. I really want the family to actively enjoy the windows and I love imagining the kids curled up on cushioned benches watching the bluejays make their nests. I’m also considering adding a shelf to legs beneath the seat of each bench. The shelves would be a place where we could store more coffee table books.

The Treehouse Living Room  |  Design Mom

We don’t have a full shot of it, but I also wanted to point out the tripod lamp by the fireplace. I splurged on this piece, but I’m glad I did. It’s really distinctive and adds some weight and gravitas to the room.

The Treehouse Living Room  |  Design Mom

The rug is by Allen & Roth. It’s 8 x 10 feet, 100% wool, and wasn’t too expensive. That was important to me, because the rug is a bit of an experiment. I really like the plain wood floors in the room and I go back and forth on wanting a rug at all. So far, I’m a fan of this one. It adds warmth and comfort to the space and it’s easy to vacuum. But I may decide to go back to bare floors as the weather warms.

The whole room has a light/neutral palette with natural touches of wood and green. My intention was to use the light colors to help the space feel open, and to reflect the sunlight when it finds it way through the trees. And I wanted to use the natural accents to connect the living room with the forest that surrounds The Treehouse. I’m really happy with how it turned out!

Okay. That’s essentially the full tour. But I do have a few more detail shots + sources if you’d like to see.


I snapped these up-close shots during the shoot, while Sarah took the gorgeous overall shots. First up is Mr. Hippo (maybe Mrs. Hippo? hard to tell). He was here in the house when we moved in. He is hand-made and heavy as can be. He’s fabulous.

Pillow by Dwell Studio. From The Treehouse Living Room Tour.  |  Design Mom

The pillow is by Dwell Studio. It’s the one and only throw pillow in the living room! This is the first time I’ve gone the less-is-more route with throw pillows — it seems like my usual instincts are to put pillows everywhere! But simplifying makes sense in this space. There’s so much going on living-wise, that it works best with less stuff. And honestly, it feels fresh to me.

But if I’m going to have only one pillow here, I’m glad it’s this one. It’s gorgeous! And the colors are perfect for the room.

Artichokes in a Wooden Bowl

Nothing too amazing about the artichokes, but I thought they were pretty. : ) Also, that wooden bowl is another favorite. It’s another piece that came with house — and we put it to good use daily!

The Treehouse Living Room  |  Design Mom

I talked about the benches above, but I thought you might like to see an up-close shot. You may notice the lime wash looks darker in real-life than in the product photo. If you want one of your own, definitely take advantage of the Joss & Main sale, because these benches are available at a discount!

Origami Pendant Lamps. From The Treehouse Living Room Tour.  |  Design Mom

The accordion pendant lamps make me smile every time I see them. They are sculptural and stunning. I know they look like a set, but three are from EQ3 and one is from Serena & Lily. They plug in (we added outlets on the ceiling) and offer a soft, warm glow.

Ceramic Bowl

This bowl is one of the best things in the house. It’s part of the pottery collection left by the previous owners. Isn’t it amazing? (The Instamax images are by Olive.)

Oversize pinecones. From The Treehouse Living Room Tour.  |  Design Mom

We collected the pinecones at Lake Tahoe. They’re huge! And I think they fit in with the Modern Nature theme in a wonderful way.

My uncle Mark and Aunt Robin’s home is in the forests between here and Tahoe. When I was growing up, they would bring us giant pinecones like this when they visited us in St. George, and we always had a bowl full in our home as part of the decor — so these also feel like a bit of family history.

The Treehouse Living Room  |  Design Mom

This stunning chair is by Safavieh. The seat is made of leather strips. I love how the chair looks, I love that it’s comfortable, and I also love that it has a small footprint — important, because if it was bigger it would get in the way of foot traffic between the fireplace and seating area.

The Treehouse Living Room  |  Design Mom

Lastly, on the little ledge that is part of the fireplace wall, you’ll find a petite painting of the home we lived in France — complete with our vintage car! It was painted by Paul Ferney as a housewarming gift for us. Such a treasure!

Okay. Now I’m dying to know. How do you like the living room? Did it turn out how you imagined? Do you remember what it looked like when we first moved in? I’ll add a few “before” pics at bottom in case you’re curious. Have you ever lived with an open floorplan where one room blends into another? How would your family function in a space like this? And is there anything in the space I forgot to mention? Ask me about it in the comments!

P.S. — You can find all the posts about The Treehouse here. And don’t forget, my Modern Nature sale at Joss & Main is on now, and ends Tuesday, May 6th.


Before photos of the Living Room:

treehouse5 treehouse2 The Treehouse

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]]> 143
The Treehouse: Boys Bedroom – Almost Done! Tue, 29 Apr 2014 00:03:51 +0000 Design Mom

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle. I had such a great time working with Lowe’s on this room — it’s one of 4 projects I’ll be sharing over the next few weeks! #springiscalling


Friends, I hope you are in the mood for some home-focused posts this week. Because I’ve got a bunch! This post is all about the Boys’ Bedroom. Tomorrow, I’ll be sharing a tour of our Living Room (plus, a Living With Kids post as well). And on Wednesday, I’m going to share a DIY about the shelves in the Reading Loft. Lots of good stuff! So let’s get right to it.

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

We started work on the boys’ bedroom last fall. I said to Ben Blair something like, “We’ll just knock down this wall, do the sheetrock, throw up some paint. It’ll be a good weekend project.”


It is the very end of April — 6 months later! — and I’m still fussing around with it. So you can imagine how excited I am to finally share some photos. I’m so happy with how this room has come together!

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

A little back story: Back in September, when I started talking about bedroom makeover plans for The Treehouse, I mentioned I wanted to expand the boys’ bedroom by a couple of feet, by taking over some unused closets in the girls room. The previous owners had used this small room as a den and it wasn’t quite big enough for 2 twin beds. We thought a bunkbed might work, but we tried our old set out and it took over the whole room and made the space seem even smaller. Plus, my boys are old enough that bunk beds have lost their appeal.

We lived with our move-the-wall plan for a few months, until we were sure that was what we wanted to do, then we got to work.

I’m happy to report, moving the wall was a great decision! The room now fits two twin beds comfortably and even though it’s small, it feels plenty big for two people.

The room is north facing and gets no direct sunlight, and it can feel quite dark in there. So I went with white walls to keep it feeling as bright and open as possible (and as I mentioned here, I’m craving mostly white walls these days anyway.)

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

This room is shared by 16-year-old Ralph and 9-year-old Oscar. They have different interests and a big age difference, so I thought hard about what a room might look like that would appeal to both of them. As I started gathering items for the space, I had in mind a loose color scheme of navy and grey and mustard yellow — there are little touches of yellow in lots of places — like the trim on a quilt and a duvet cover. I wanted the room to have a masculine feel without being forced and or overly rugged.

But let’s get on to the tour! There are lots of great finds and great ideas to share.

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

I’ll start with the floor. It’s commercial grade Armstrong VCT tile that we installed ourselves. When we were newlyweds, we had VCT tiles installed in our kitchen and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. They’re easy for even a novice to install, they’re made to withstand heavy use, they’re simple to maintain — you can go matte, or get a high-shine with a floor polish, they’re soft underfoot, and if you scratch one, since the composite material goes all the way through, the scratch won’t show. Best of all, they are inexpensive!

We used in-stock colors for this project, but you can order any of dozens of colors to create whatever pattern or design you’d like. We’ll be using these tiles in other parts of the house as well. If you’re craving fresh new floors this spring, I highly recommend VCT.

(Yes, our first thought was to put in white washed wood floors here, but it just wasn’t in the budget at the moment. And that’s okay. I really do like the VCT. It doesn’t feel like a compromise at all.)

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

The beds are metal military surplus frames. Sturdy as can be! No box spring required and they can handle the most rambunctious of kids. Plus, they have unusually high clearance underneath, which is great for additional storage — a major plus because the closet in the room is very small.

Speaking of the closet, it was only shelves at first. So we moved some of the shelves higher and added a hanging rod, then enclosed the space with a curtain.

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

The rug is by Allen & Roth — I love the braided pattern. I think it’s the most handsome jute rug I’ve come across. It’s soft on bare feet, and it’s a bargain as far as rugs go!

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

The bedding is a happy hodge podge. Sheets are two patterns from Serena & Lily mixed and matched. The seer sucker duvet cover on Oscar’s bed is also Serena & Lily. The grey quilt folded at the foot of Oscar’s bed is from West Elm, so is the grey coverlet on Ralph’s bed. The wool blanket at the foot of Ralph’s bed is from the Pendleton National Parks Collection — a Christmas gift from my mother .

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

The shelves next to the beds are actually old wine crates. They make the perfect spot for stashing books, journals and a glass of water. If I had tried to fit in nightstands, they would have been squished, but these are an excellent alternative. (And inexpensive as can be! Inquire about free castoffs at your local liquor store.)

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

The wall-mounted reading lamps are awesome. They can be directed anywhere and come with LED bulbs installed, plus they’re simple and handsome and don’t take up too much space. (I bought them in store at Lowe’s but can’t find a link online.)

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

The dresser is vintage. We bought it on Craig’s List during one of our first weekends here. I love it so much.

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

The lamp on the dresser is also super cool. Just the right size. Modern and masculine.

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

Now to the posters! They’re one of my favorite things in the room. They look vintage, but they are really just basic posters that I hacked! (DIY post coming!) Oscar is super into marine biology right now, and I thought it would be awesome to seek out old pull-down posters from classrooms featuring fish and sharks and sea life. But I spent a good amount of time hunting and kept coming up short. So I decided to fake my own!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been quite slow and thoughtful about putting rooms together, but this was an instance where I felt I shouldn’t wait to find the perfect wall hangings. It could take me years to hunt down the vintage posters I’m picturing in my head, but Oscar’s passion for marine biology is happening right now. Best not to wait.

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

Okay. I think those are the main things I wanted to share with you in the room. If there’s something I didn’t mention that you’re curious about, please feel free to leave a question in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer as quickly as I can.

In the title I say “Almost Done” and I do feel that way. I’m really happy with how the room has shaped up, but I feel like the wall behind the headboards is unfinished. I’m not sure what I want there. Maybe wallpaper. Maybe dark paint. Maybe something I haven’t thought of yet. And I want Ralph’s side of the room to have something more gasp-worthy going on — I want him to be as excited about what’s on his walls as Oscar is about the biology posters. We’ll see what we come up with.

But I’m not in a hurry. I’m moving on to new projects and will wait patiently until inspiration strikes! Until then, I’m marking the Boys’ Bedroom off my mental checklist.

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts! Would this room appeal to your kids? Have you ever had a teen and an elementary school kid share a bedroom? And how do you feel about sharing a room in general? (I’ve shared a room for most of my life, but I’m guessing some of you have had the opposite experience!) Also, do you agree the room still needs a little something? Or would you call it complete?

One last thing: here is a “before” image of the room:


P.S. — There’s some additional back story where this room is concerned — including a ceiling beam and demolition gone awry! I wrote it all up to include in this writeup, but the post became unwieldy. I’m including it here, but don’t feel pressure to read it. : ) 


Here’s the remodeling story. When we started what we thought would be a weekend project, first we dismantled the closet doors in the girls room, and walled in that space. Then, we started demolishing the wall in the boys’ room so that it would open into the newly enclosed closet. That’s when we hit a snag.

constructions1 Caption: We started taking down the wall and found an unusual configuration. Is it load bearing?

Instead of standard two-by-four + sheetrock construction, there was a vertical beam and what looked like lots of heavy duty support. It looked to be a load bearing wall, which meant we couldn’t take it down.

We were so bummed! And we didn’t know how to proceed. We had a couple of consultations but no one could say for sure if it was load-bearing — the wall had been part of a remodel at some point and it was hard to decipher the history of it.

So we hit pause until I had some head space to come back to the project. We cleared out the mess. We put the tools away. We swept up the dust. And the boys kept living in that room. It was as functional as it had been before the demolition started, but now it looked like half the room was a construction zone. Yikes.

Oh man. The boys were so patient! I had told them it was going to be short project, and here they were living with a weird, half-constructed wall for months.

In February, after Alt Summit, I was ready to dive in again. We called our favorite contractor and asked him to send his carpenters to figure out the wall. They needed to find out if it was load bearing, and if it was, they needed to figure out if we could move the support beam. They also needed to make a recommendation on the ceiling beam. Was it decorative or functional? It was hard to tell.

I confess, I was apprehensive. I knew this could turn into an expensive or complicated fiasco. But I didn’t need to worry. The carpenter team came in, started working on the wall, and found out it wasn’t load bearing! Hooray!! They cleared it out, reframed anything that needed work, and replaced the ceiling beam with one that extended across the new, wider ceiling. And the whole thing took less than 24 hours!

photo Caption: The wall is removed, but the ceiling beam is too short and some of the ceiling lumber is going the wrong direction.

Can you believe it? All those months of waiting on a 24 hour job. Hah!

Can't get your acoustic tiles down? Stop useless scraping and use a heat gun instead. Caption: Ben Blair at work. This was our first attempt at taking down the tiles.

constructions3 Caption:So much glue left behind! Frustrating.

From there, we had some hard work ahead, but it was doable and straightforward. The most challenging part was dealing with the acoustic ceiling tile. Some of the ceiling tiles had to be ripped out as we took out the wall, so we knew we would need to come up with a new solution for the ceiling. The tiles were glued onto handsome wood planks — just like we have in the hallway. Ideally we wanted those wood planks to be exposed! But when we chipped away at the tile, big chunks of glue and tile material would be left behind. And it took hours just to scrape away a small section.

Then, our handyman recommended a heat gun, and that did the trick! Using the heat gun, we could scrape away the tiles much more easily. Hallelujah!

constructions6 Caption: The new ceiling beam is in place. And all the ceiling planks are going the same direction. The acoustic tiles and glue have been removed. The ceiling has been sanded and primed.

Once the glue was scraped away, we sanded, primed and painted.

The Treehouse: A Bedroom for Two Brothers   |   Design Mom Caption: The ceiling today. Gorgeous! Much better than the previous acoustic tiles.

The sheetrock, electrical and painting (the whole room is Origami White) were done by the end of March, and since then we’ve been doing the fun stuff.

Ah. The joys of remodeling. : )

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]]> 74
The Treehouse: Reading Loft Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:00:04 +0000 Design Mom

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle. A huge thank you to Serena & Lily for partnering with me on this space.

Oh man. I am so excited to share this photo tour with you! This was months and months in the making. When we first moved into The Treehouse, and explored the house for the first time, we imagined this space as a reading loft right away. In my head, it was going to be weekend project — throw down some flooring, paint it up, add comfy chair. Done and done. But as I actually started working on the space, I found that I wanted to take my time with decisions and really put thought into what would work best.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Back in September, I thought I wanted wall to wall carpet in the loft. Then, I decided to experiment with a concrete overlay on the floors (which has held up wonderfully by the way). Then, I spent weeks and weeks figuring out what I wanted to do for shelves, and eventually decided on a DIY approach (tutorial coming!). Then, I ordered a chair with custom upholstery — which is a 6 week wait. Then, the room was 95% finished, and I realized I wanted one wall to be blue.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

It’s a tiny space, only 7 x 9.5 feet, but I really wanted to make the most of it, and to make it completely inviting and appealing for all the kids, both little and big. It took me quite awhile to get it just right.

So let’s get to the tour!

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Let’s start with some wide angle shots from each corner of the room so you can get a sense for the loft overall. I know the wide angle lens makes it look deceptively big! But it’s actually only 7 x 9.5 feet — and has a low slanted ceiling over half of the space. Take a look:

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

So. That’s the loft overall. A really happy colorful space. Now let’s get into some details for a bit and discuss some of my decision making:

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

As I mentioned, the paint color came at the last minute. In fact, we painted it on Friday night! But I think it’s a great addition. The color peeks through the crate shelving (just like in the inspiration picture) and the shade of blue is wonderful. It’s called Undercool by Sherwin-Williams — it’s bright but not too bright, and has a touch of turquoise in certain lights. It’s cheerful and calming.

The globe lights are from Ikea (they were part of last year’s holiday collection), and the Man in the Moon Garland DIY is here.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

The chair is the Spruce Street chair from Serena & Lily. The size is ideal! It’s comfortable for a an adult, but it’s not oversized, so it has good proportions for kids as well. As I worked on the loft, I was going for a mostly yellow + blue palette, and this chair was one of the first decisive decisions I made.

The Fox Pillow and Pom Pom Blanket are also from Serena & Lily.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Speaking of color, check out this crazy easy DIY poster! I saw this in the office of my book editor, Lia Ronnen and instagrammed it that day. The poster is a piece of foamcore with postcards attached. The postcards are book covers from Penguin, and you can buy them as a set here.

In the main floor of the house, I’ve focused on neutrals and whites with touches of green and natural woods — which I’ve loved. But in the family room (where the reading loft is), I’ve been using the same white on the walls, but using it as a backdrop for lots of bright color. Which has been fun!

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

The rug is a cotton Rope Rug that I am completely in love with! It’s good looking, and also super thick and soft. So comfortable. It fits perfectly in the space and looks really handsome with the DIY concrete floor.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

As I mentioned, the shelves are DIY, made from very affordable sheets of plywood. I’ve got a tutorial coming soon! I love how they turned out. There are 3 different sizes and they can be combined in endless combinations and adjusted to make room for whatever you need — like the handsome Studio Task Lamp pictured.

I should note here that I’ve been coordinating my books by color since 2009. I don’t do it on every shelf in the house, just where it makes sense. I’ve written about it a few times and I know some people find it maddening. Hah! But if you’re a visual person (I am), it’s actually quite ideal. When I think of a title in our book collection, a picture of the cover is what comes to my mind. So finding my books by color works really well.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

We knew we wanted a footstool so our kids could really relax while they read, and this Moroccan Pouf is just right for the job.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

One of the wonderful things about the loft is that it has two windows that let in beautiful light. I didn’t want to block it out, but I wanted something to filter the light, and I happened to have just the thing in my linen closet.

The sheer mesh curtains have a bit of a story. I bought them for our very first nursery over 16 years ago! And they have moved with us from house to house. I remember buying them clearly, because I bought them from Kmart and it was the first time I’d been to Kmart in years. I went there because I wanted to check out the brand new Martha Stewart line (remember that?) and I went home with these mesh curtains from her collection.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Because some of the shelves are stacked quite high, I knew we would need a stool so that even little June could access every book. This 3-legged Dip Dyed option was pretty much irresistible, and worked with the blue and yellow palette I was putting together.

Behind the stool you might notice a green palm frond basket — and there’s a similar blue one across the loft. We use them to store stacks of paperbacks — like Magic Treehouse and Time Warp Trio and Roald Dahl books (though I wish those were hardbacks).

Read instead. Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

The Read Instead print is fantastic. It lives by the ladder to the loft and tempts readers up the stairs. : ) My friend here in Oakland, Erik Heywood, created the print. He owns a little store in Temescal Alley called Book/Shop. If you ever get a chance to visit, you will be glad you did.

The sewn paper garland DIY can be found here.

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

For extra seating, I think these oversize Floor Cushions in Aqua and Navy are ideal. They’re filled with bean-bag like material and you can squash them around as you like. I knew that sometimes the kids would want to retreat to the reading loft with a friend or two, and I wanted to make sure there was more than one comfy spot to hang out.

The small yellow throw pillow was already in The Treehouse when we moved in and belonged to the previous owners.

Here are a few more shots that I had a hard time editing out:

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

Lastly, here’s a peek at what the reading loft looks like at night — because everyone knows sometimes you must stay up past your bedtime to finish that last chapter:

Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom Turn a small, unused space into an inviting Reading Nook   |   Design Mom

I think that about covers it. I hope you enjoyed the tour, and I’d love to hear what you think of the space. Wishing you a cozy, happy reading spot at your own house!

P.S. — A reader commented on Instagram with a request for a post with similar, but more affordable furniture options. I love that idea! I’ll work on it straight away.

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]]> 116
Paint Colors Fri, 04 Apr 2014 15:00:40 +0000 Design Mom

blue paint chips

Image and text by Gabrielle.

I’ve kind of surprised myself as I’ve picked paint for The Treehouse, because throughout 85% of the house, I’ve chosen white. In other houses we’ve lived in over the years, I loved putting color on the walls! I painted our first nursery in the perfect shade of sky blue. For years I was obsessed with a certain Dove Grey that had blues and pinks and purples in it — it went in the living room of the first house we bought. I remember in our initial New York rental, I painted the family room a dark blue. I’ve done a basement entirely in yellow. And I’ve painted Napoleon Dynamite in a bedroom.

But in this house, I’ve mostly craved white. Origami White by Sherwin-Williams to be exact. I love it so much! It hits that sweet spot between warm and cool and everything looks good against it. On the main floor, I used it on walls, ceiling and trim — everything in semi-gloss. In the upstairs, I chose a brighter white for the ceilings, but stuck with Origami White for the walls and trim.

There are only 2 other colors I’ve used so far: a medium grey on the woodwork in the lofts (you’ll see it when I share the reading loft tour), and the beautiful grey/green in the hallway makeover — I used it on the lower walls. Other than that, it’s Origami White all the way!

But. Over the last week, I’m feeling like there are a few places I might want to work in more color. There’s a wall in the boys’ bedroom that could use a dark shade of paint, or maybe wallpaper. And I’m almost done with the Reading Loft and feel like the wall behind the bookshelves could use a shade of blue. Something not too light and not too dark.

So I picked up paint chips the other day and have been studying them in the loft. I still haven’t decided on a color — or even if I’ll paint the wall at all. But I’m having fun thinking about it.

I’d love to hear: Do you prefer white walls in your home? Or do you long for a different color in every room? And do you pick out colors quickly? Or do you labor over the decision for weeks? Are you a white is white is white person? Or do have a particular shade of white that you know you love? What’s your take?

P.S. — This isn’t a sponsored post, but I met the folks from Sherwin-Williams at Alt Summit and have been working with them as I paint the house. We’ve done some of the painting ourselves, and hired out some rooms as well. The painter we hired is a young sculptor who paints houses and does handyman jobs on the side. After a couple days of painting with Sherwin-Williams paint, he was raving about how good the coverage was! And that he needed much less paint than when he used other brands. I’m no paint expert, but I was glad to hear it.: )

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]]> 32
Show Us Your Wall! Tue, 01 Apr 2014 16:00:50 +0000 Design Mom

Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by the Adorne line by Legrand. Win $500 in in Adorne products in the Show Us Your Wall Giveaway!


Today I’ve got a before-and-after reveal to share with you. It features something I hadn’t really given much thought to until we started getting heavy into renovations. The topic? Light switches and outlets!

Prior to these renovations, my knowledge of outlets was that A) you could pick between white and that sort-of 80′s creamy color, or B) if you’re really fancy, you might wallpaper or paint or otherwise customize your switchplate to help it blend into the wall. When I actually saw the available options these days, it was one of those we’ve-come-a-long-way-baby moments!

Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom

Friends, this might be old news to you, but there are outlets that are USB ports instead of plugs. You can get switches that have nightlights that pop out so you can carry them down the hall with you. There are outlets that disappear into the wall, and then POOF! provide 3 spots for plugs at the push of a button. You can choose wallplates in every color under the sun, and in really gorgeous natural materials like walnut, and bronze and mirror. The options are remarkable!

Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom

Essentially, what I deduced is that for the last century, we’ve sort of ignored wall plates and switches — blending them into the room, trying to strategically hide them or make them as un-noticeable as possible. But there seems to be a realization that outlets and electricity are indeed here to stay. : ) So instead of ignoring them, builders, architects and designers have embraced them, and are now making them a key part of the room decor in the same way they might consider the light fixture itself. Outlets and switches can now add to the style of the room instead of detract from it.

I love the new trend!

Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom

As we’ve redone our living room from top to bottom, we put careful consideration into the switches and outlets. The house is mid-century modern at heart, but has been added to and remodeled enough times over the decades that we could see as soon as we moved in that it wasn’t a candidate for a pristine mid-century restoration. Instead, we’ve been taking cues from the forest that surrounds the house, and have aimed for a clean modern/transitional look with lots of natural materials.

Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom

When we started the remodel, I assumed we would use plain white outlets and blend them into the white walls (Origami White from Sherwin-Williams, by the way). But once I understood our options, I went back and forth between a wood finish and the stainless steel. As you can see, the stainless steel won out!

I love how the new outlets and switches elevate the room in general and take the details up a notch. Such a small thing, with such big impact!

But they’re not just handsome, they’re practical too. In fact, the thing I probably love most about our new switches is that I strategically added built-in nightlights on key light switches throughout the room. The nightlights automatically go on if the room gets sufficiently dark, and then turn off automatically as the room gets light.

Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom

We have one as you come in the front door, so you can instantly locate the light switch even on the darkest night. There’s one across the room, one near the kitchen sink (for midnight snack runs), and one by the stair case. The lights are tiny, but in the middle of the night, they provide just the right amount of light to navigate the room. Of course, they also make it really easy to find the light switch when I need full light instead of the nightlight!

I found out about the nightlight options when I watched this video, and the switch options when I watched this video. And you have to see the pop-out outlet video. It made my jaw drop. Hah!

Okay, Friends. Would you like to makeover your own walls with new outlets and switches? Here’s your chance. Go here to enter a giveaway for $500 in beautiful Adorne products!! Just think of how much fun you’ll have choosing wall plates and accessories. Good luck!

Now, I’d love to hear what you think of the before and after. Do switches and outlets that stand out appeal to you? Or do you prefer to keep them discreet? And have you ever really given much thought to outlets and switches? (I sure hadn’t!) I hope you share your thoughts.

P.S. — Ready for the “before” shots? Here you go:

Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom

And one more “after” shot:

Switches and Outlets "Before" and "After" on Design Mom

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]]> 88
Bargain DIY Concrete Floor Wed, 19 Feb 2014 22:26:54 +0000 Design Mom

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?

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

Let’s start with a few before shots. As you can see, the loft is a small raised area above the family room. The whole area is about 7 x 10 feet, and can be accessed by a ladder. The floor was unfinished — a simple plywood subfloor ready for carpet, tile, hardwood, or in our case: concrete!

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

Next, let’s talk materials. The magic ingredient is Ardex Feather Finish. This stuff is simply a delight to work with! You can apply it in thin, thin, layers and then build it up to a beautiful finish.

The only trick is we had to call around to find someone who stocks it — it’s not widely available at every hardware store. We found a list of suppliers in our area here.

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

You’ll also need a trowel or spreader — I liked using a couple of different sizes — plus an old bucket and spoon for mixing the Feather Finish.

Once I had the appropriate supplies, I followed directions found here and here. Essentially, you pour some Ardex Feather Finish (it’s a powder) into your bucket and add some water, then stir. You’re going for the texture of a thin pancake batter. I never measured the Feather Finish or the water. I would just add a little of each till the texture was right. I also worked in small batches — because this stuff dries really fast!

After it’s mixed, I let it sit for 1 minute in the bucket to achieve a sort of “soft set”, then I would pour it out onto the floor and use the trowel to spread it. The first layer went directly on the plywood. (I swept and dusted it really well beforehand.)

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

I worked in very thin layers. In fact, I could see the plywood through the concrete for the first few layers. I was working on this late at night, so I would do a layer, then head to bed and then let it dry over night. Which means the project dragged out for days! But the layers actually dry quite quickly, so you could truly tackle this on Saturday and finish the whole thing.

Before I added each new layer, I would take a putty knife and scrape off any bits of dried concrete that were protruding too much, and I would give the entire floor a very light sanding. Then I would sweep up the dust and add another layer of Feather Finish.

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

Ultimately, I built up 6 thin layers and then topped it with a thicker layer. But the whole thing is quite thin — maybe 1/8″ thick max.

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

One thing I learned: You can still see the seams of the subfloor (notice the vertical line on the right hand side of the photo above). In the case of the loft floor, having seams showing is fine with me because I knew it was an experiment and I had low expectations — plus, I’ll be adding an area rug which will cover the major seam anyway.

But if I were doing it again, I would put down a layer of burlap cloth first. Apparently, applying the concrete over the burlap will hide the subfloor seams and prevent cracking. (I learned that little tip the day the floor was finished — I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m dying to!)

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

At this point, I departed from the tutorials I linked to above and tried concrete stain, instead of the recommended sealant. This was a tip from sculptor who has worked with concrete before and knew this would add depth. And it totally did.

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

The stain definitely created depth and also left bluish areas that look really cool! I really like how the stain affected the overall look.

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

One other thing I learned: In addition to the Ardex Feather Finish, I also bought a bag of Ardex SD-M. The Feather Finish only comes in gray, but the SD-M comes in either gray or white. I chose white. I’d read that you can add a layer of SD-M on top of the Feather Finish if you want a whitish floor instead of a gray one — and that you can even tint or dye the SD-M if you want colored concrete.

Since the floors downstairs were white-washed, I thought it might cool to keep the concrete white as well. So for layer number 5, I used SD-M instead of Feather Finish. Turns out, I didn’t like the look of the white at all! I much preferred the gray. And it might have been my imagination, but I felt like the SD-M wasn’t as easy to work with as the Feather Finish. Anyway, for layer 6, plus the finish layer, I went back to using Feather Finish.

And that’s it. Pretty darn easy. Plus economical too! A bag of Feather Finish costs about $15 (in our case, the loft needed one full bag), and then you’ll need some concrete stain. A whole new floor for about $30 in materials! The reading nook is really coming together. I can’t wait to show a full before-and-after once I have it fully furnished and looking as charming in real life as it does in my head. : )

One last note: as I mentioned above, the reading loft is low-traffic area. The concrete is doing great, but I really have no idea how this would hold up in a hallway or kitchen. That said, I think we might try it in another space — possibly the boys bedroom, or even the family room! If we do, I’ll be sure to share anything new we learn.

I’d love to hear what you think! Do you like the look of concrete floors or are they too industrial feeling for you? And would you ever try this sort of project/experiment yourself? Or do you prefer to stick to more proven methods?

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]]> 58
On the Hunt for Crate Shelves Wed, 05 Feb 2014 17:00:08 +0000 Design Mom

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…

design labryinth crate shelves crates shelving

1) I really love that they’re flexible, and that I can add and subtract as needed.

2) I love that they have a bit of messy look. With shelves like these, everything wouldn’t need an exact spot — books or trinkets could move around as needed, and that ‘perfectly disheveled’ look would stay intact. I think it’s great that shelving like this accommodates a little chaos.

3) Lastly, I love that in theory, you could put one together these types of shelves on a shoestring. You could use wooden wine crates from your local liquor store, or inexpensive crates from the craft store, or a combination or whatever wooden boxes you’ve picked up from the flea market.

crate shelves for gardening supplies ikea_prant_storage_inspiration_001

So now I’m on the hunt. But I am looking for something specific — the shelf example at top is unusual in that the ‘crates’ don’t have bottoms, they just have the four sides, and you can see right through to the wall color — which I love!

I’ve been trying to track down something similar — bottomless crates, or square wood shelves in various sizes — and haven’t had any luck. I’m wondering if the smartest thing would be to have plywood cut to size and build my own.

Do you happen to have a good source for something similar? If yes, please share! Before I get to DIY-ing, I’d love to see if there is an affordable ready-made option out there. And I’d also love to hear if you’ve ever tried shelving like this.

P.S. — I’m working with Serena & Lily on decorating the loft and I’m so excited about it! I can’t wait to share more details.


Additional crate shelving images from Ikea, Blueprint Magazine, The Design Labyrinth, Dishfunctional Designs, and Chelsea Lyn. I’ve collected lots more examples here.

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]]> 17
The Treehouse: Whitewashed Bricks Tutorial Mon, 13 Jan 2014 14:00:31 +0000 Design Mom

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?

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

This is the fireplace when we started. Not bad looking, but coated in soot.

(By the way, all but the “finished” photos were shot fairly late at night, which is when the work was happening, and why the images have a yellow tint.)

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

I really like the carved wood piece — it’s one we inherited when we bought the house. It was hanging from wires. We took it down while we cleaned and whitewashed, and I can’t decide where I want to hang it next. But that’s for another post. : )

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

Here are a few more shots so you can see the bricks from every side. You may notice there’s one brick that juts out, forming a small shelf. I put a roll of blue tape on it, so you can see it better:

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

On the sides and the back, where the brick isn’t covered in soot, I think the brick is actually very pretty. It reminds me so much of the brick my parents used in my childhood home.

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

A side story about that childhood brick: We moved from California to St. George, Utah when I was 5, and for about a year, we rented a home while we built another home. During the time period when we were building, the City of St. George decided to tear down the old library building that was constructed by the early residents of the town, Mormon pioneers. And the building was made of beautiful sandstone brick.

Well, the town offered to let residents take that original sandstone brick. You would come to the demolition site, climb the scaffolding, and use tools to chip off each brick one by one. You could take home any bricks that you chipped away.

Chipping those bricks is one of my earliest St. George memories!

And I laugh when I think about it now, because it’s the sort of thing I can’t imagine would be allowed these days — too much potential for lawsuits.

Anyway, my family used those bricks on the bottom section of our house (you can see it in this image), and those bricks were used inside on our living room fireplace as well. They were beautiful, and I loved knowing they had some history.

All that to say, I actually like these bricks! And did consider just cleaning them up and leaving them as is. But ultimately decided they could still stand to be lightened up a bit.

white washed brick09

First step, was removing the carved wood piece, moving all the fireplace accessories, and cleaning the brick. I looked up instructions online and discovered that foaming bathroom cleaner (like Scrubbing Bubbles) was universally recommended.

I’d spray it on, then let it sit for a minute or so until it was turning yellow/brown from absorbing the soot. Then I used a scrub brush and a bowl of water and scrubbed the brick clean.

I put old towels at the bottom to absorb the water that spilled down the front as I scrubbed. and I ended up coating the bricks 2 or 3 times as needed, and using the whole bottle of cleaner!

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

When I was done, Ben and I went to a late movie so the bricks could dry. We shot this photo when we got home. The bricks were about 75% dry by then. Looks much better, right?

But notice the center section of bricks is mostly red, and side sections have a white, chalky texture. The soot and cleaning apparently removed the chalky texture. Some of it did come back as the brick fully dried, but there was still a big difference. By white washing the brick, my hope was to bring that chalky texture back and amp it up.

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

As I scrubbed, I also discovered there were a few bricks that had been painted white. An experiment from decades ago? Who knows?

But having that handful of painted bricks really showed me the difference between a brick that can “breath” and a brick that can’t. The bricks that hadn’t been painted responded to the cleaning and the new paint on an individual basis — some absorbed more than others depending on their composition. But I noticed while I worked that it was easy to see why the word “breathe” is used. The bricks that had been painted didn’t react at all, and felt “dead”.

It was very interesting to experience the differences.

At that point I was fully convinced I wanted to try a paint product that would let the bricks continue to “breathe”. So I started my internet research and found something called milk paint which looked very promising. And when I posted about whitewashing the bricks on Instagram, I received some emails/comments from readers who had used milk paint, so that was extra encouragement. (By the way, the comments on that Instagram are fun to read. Lots of strong opinions on whitewash!).

white washed brick13

So I picked up some milk paint that I found at an eco paint store in Berkeley. (It’s sold all over the country, you can find store listings on their site). It was about $15 for this little bag of powder (and I didn’t even use half a bag for this job).

Two nights later, when I knew the brick was fully dry, I started the white washing. It was basically an experiment. I would pour some powder in a little bowl that had a lid (the kind you use for leftovers) — like maybe 1 to 2 tablespoons of powder at a time. Then I would add water and stir it until it was like milk.

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

Then, I would paint it on brick by brick…

Whitewashed Bricks Tutorial - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom

…and immediately wipe some off with a wet sponge until I achieved the coverage I was after.

Here’s the first section I did:

Whitewashed Bricks Tutorial - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom

About an hour after taking the photo, I decided the coverage was too thick, and used the sponge to wipe off even more. And the next batch of paint I mixed up, I made even thinner.

If you are using milk paint, I would recommend starting with very thin paint and going from there. You can always add another layer!

Whitewashed Bricks Tutorial - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom

Here’s the finished brick shot that same night, a few days before Christmas.

Whitewashed Bricks Tutorial - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom

And here’s the finished brick, shot yesterday. That one dark brick? It’s actually not dark, it’s just the shadow from the little shelf.

Whitewashed Bricks Tutorial - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom Whitewashed Bricks Tutorial - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom Whitewashed Bricks Tutorial - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom

Fun Fact: I still haven’t finished the job! I did 3 sides in time for the holidays, but I still haven’t done the back section. Conveniently, that means I can share this photo that shows the back and the side at the same time so you can see the difference really clearly:

Whitewashed Bricks Tutorial - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom

I really like the end result. The bricks are certainly lighter, but you still see lots of texture and color coming through.

One interesting thing about using milk paint: it doesn’t seem to adhere to the bricks in a fiercely permanent way. Meaning, if I wanted to scrub it off, I don’t think I could get to back to the original brick, but I could get fairly close. And if I need to clean it in the future, I can already guess I’ll need to follow up the cleaning with another light coat of milk paint.

Also, some reviews I read said the milk paint would have a slight dairy odor until it dried, but I found it to be odorless.

Whitewashed Bricks Tutorial - using natural paint that let's the bricks "breathe"  |  Design Mom

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you like how it turned out? Or maybe you prefer the original brick (it won’t hurt my feelings, I promise.)? And have you ever tried something like lime or milk paint? This was my first experience with it.

P.S. — Here’s the before and after right next to each other for easy reference:

Whitewashed Bricks Before & After  |  Design Mom

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]]> 68
The Treehouse: Whitewashed Floors Mon, 30 Dec 2013 15:00:51 +0000 Design Mom

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.

rolling carpet

Here’s the story (sorry in advance for the Instagram shots, but I hardly pulled out my big camera at all for this ongoing project). When we moved in, we found exposed wood in the kitchen, carpet in the living room and hallway, and ceramic tile in the entry. We pulled up the carpet and found beautiful wood under one portion of the carpet, plywood subfloor under the dining nook portion of the carpet, and old linoleum tiles under the hallway carpet.

We spent quite a bit of time deciding what to do, and ended up choosing to add to the existing wood. Keeping wood in the kitchen and living room. Adding wood in the dining nook. Replacing ceramic tile and linoleum tile with wood in the entry and hallway. Basically, the whole main floor is now wood (except the bedrooms).

We were told that the old wood and the new wood could be matched and that the finished floors would look seamless. Hooray!

breaking up tile

The first step was demolition. We took out the rest of the carpet, and the ceramic tiles (way harder than it looks!). We pulled off the baseboards too. Then our woodworker, Merick, installed the wood. This was estimated to take a week, but ended up taking longer because there were some surprises. For example, under the ceramic tile in the entry, there wasn’t much between the inside and the outside:

through the floor

So that took some work. But during the installation, we could still walk on the floors and use the house pretty normally. We would have to clear certain areas for the day or maybe even just the morning, but it wasn’t too disruptive.

installation begins new wood

When Merick was done, the floors looked like this, a mix of new, unstained wood, and old wood:

mismatched floors 1 mismatched floors 2

The new wood then needed to cure for at least 2 weeks. Because of the timing of Thanksgiving, our wood ended up curing for about a month.

cleared floors

Then it was time for Merick to come back. This time, everything had to be off the floors completely. All the furniture. And all the people. This included the kitchen appliances. Lots of work! Ben Blair happened to be in France for this clearing part, but happily, I’m stronger than I look. : )

final sanding

Merick prepped with putty, and set nails for about a day and half, then there were a few days of sanding and buffing. At this point, the old and new wood were starting to blend more, and it was time to discuss the stain color. I showed Merick some of my Pinterest images of “white-washed floors”. I even showed him this tutorial in case it helped.

Technically, the floors aren’t really whitewashed. They’re bleached, then stained with a white stain. But when I say “whitewashed floors” I’m meaning wood that looks white-ish, but not painted white — wood that still shows the grain.

Once the floors were sanded, it was time to bleach them (not with Clorox, but with a wood bleach), and 24 hours later, the white wash (white stain) went on. 24 hours after that two coats of sealant were scheduled to go on.

The extra challenge here is that the whole job was originally scheduled to take 7 days, but ended up taking 11 days instead — plus another two days of letting the floors rest before we moved furniture back on. And we were all camping out upstairs without at kitchen that whole time. We were getting on each others nerves for sure. We made a make shift kitchen in the office (toaster, cooler with milk & jam, supplies for making lunches, etc.). We ate out a lot during that time. And we couldn’t wait for the floors to be done!

At this point, the floors were bleached and stained and ready for sealant. They weren’t quite what I had pictured, but I trusted Merick. He had seen the inspiration photos and was the expert, so I figured the sealant would finish things off and give just the look I was going for. (Obviously, I’m a newbie as far as floors go!)

So the 2 coats of sealant went on while I was busy with my day. Eventually, I came downstairs to look at the basically finished floors. And that’s when I started to freak out.

awful floors

The floors looked awful! Something about the sealant gave the whole floor a golden slant that I didn’t want at all. And the difference between the old and new floors was striking — it was suddenly super pronounced. It’s like you couldn’t tell they had been white washed at all! Merick was coming back the next morning to do a final buffing and put on a final coat of sealant. And I didn’t know what to do.

I couldn’t sleep that night. It had been 9 days up till this point (when we had mentally prepped for 7), and we were so ready to be done. Plus, this was an expensive job. But I hated how the floors looked! I felt so hopeless. And was simultaneously trying not to care — because it’s just floors after all. But I DID care. Oh man. I didn’t know how to proceed.

Merick came bright and early the next morning (he would typically arrive around 7:00 AM). I was in the middle of getting the kids ready for school and told him to wait a second before he got started so I could talk to him. After the kids were ready, we had a talk. I told him I didn’t like what the sealant had done and asked what my options were. He basically told me there weren’t any options, and spent a good hour trying to convince me that the floors were great and that I would get used to them. I assured him there was no chance of that happening and by the end of the hour told him it was best if he didn’t put on the final coat, because I was going to have to hire someone to come in and sand off the earlier two coats of sealant so I could change the color of the floors and try again.

It took him awhile to realize I was serious.

At that point he said. Okay. Let’s just try something. Basically, since I was willing to go back to sanding, he felt experimenting was worth a try. If it didn’t work, then it would still be back to sanding. He went out to his truck and mixed up some whitewash and added a coat of it over the existing sealed wood. He covered a few boards and had me come check it out.

It was SO MUCH BETTER! It looked great.

white washing begins again

The only catch, is that the new method required board-by-board application of the white wash. There was no coating the whole floor with one fell swoop. Some boards required two coats, others more. While the new boards required a thin coat that was then wiped mostly off with a rag.

white washing in the morning

Ben Blair and I jumped in and started painting. With 3 of us working, we finished up before lunch and Merick headed home for the day.

late night final coats

As the new coat of whitewash dried. I would examine the floors and add another coat on particular boards wherever it was still feeling too golden. I did this throughout the day and into the night. But by bedtime, I felt really good about the color.

Merick came the next morning. He had a new sealant that had been sold to him with the promise that it would not yellow the floors. He didn’t buff the floor first (which he would normally do before a final coat) because he was afraid it would take off the new coats of whitewash. So he vacuumed, then went straight for the sealant. He applied this liberally over all the floors, spreading it with some type of roller brush. I watched it like a hawk all that day as it dried, willing it not to change the floor color.

And it didn’t! The floors stayed beautifully white-washed. And I truly love how they turned out.


I also feel like it ended up being a bit of a hack job. With only one coat of sealant over the final whitewash. And the final whitewash resting not directly on the wood, but on the previous coats of sealant. So I’m very curious about how these floors will wear, and if they’ll hold up. That said, for now, we’re pleased as punch. And really, the way the white stain sat on the sealant (instead of sinking into the wood) very likely helped me achieve the look I wanted more quickly.

If I were doing this again, I would have gotten more involved in the bleaching and white-washing stages (pre-sealant). I know it would have added extra days, but we probably should have bleached 2 or 3 times before we started white-washing. I’m confident we could have achieved the color I wanted, and gotten the old and new wood to look more similar before we sealed it, but we would have had to go board-by-board from the beginning, white-washing more in some areas and less in others, and it could have added another week of experimenting. Finally, I would have checked and double-checked that the sealant used would not yellow the floors (ultimately, the second type used on our floors didn’t yellow them).


And that is the tale of our whitewashed floors. Baseboards have been installed (we went with 8-inch straight-edged pine boards), the walls have a fresh coat of paint, and now I get to start doing the decorating! Hallelujah!!

Any one else out there have a flooring gone wrong story? I’m sure I’m not alone! And I’d love to hear what you would have done if you found yourself like me — with almost done floors that you hated?

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]]> 64
Hair Broaches + A House Update Thu, 19 Dec 2013 18:48:45 +0000 Design Mom

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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]]> 13
The Treehouse: Hallway Turned Mudroom — Make it Happen for Under $300! Tue, 12 Nov 2013 15:30:03 +0000 Design Mom

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.

Disappearing Wall Hooks

Here are the solutions I came up with:

1) Disappearing Wall Hooks. I adore these! Pull them down when you need them, and fold them up when you don’t. They’re handsome and sturdy — in store, they even showed these hooks holding a skateboard. We use them for jackets and hoodies, scarves and hats, for our reusable shopping totes, and the lightweight backpacks of our youngest kids. When they’re open, the hook is deep enough to hold multiple items — like a bag and a scarf.

Hang Wall Hooks at Toddler Height

We have hooks at 3 heights — two hooks were installed especially for June, at a height she can easily reach.

Sofa Table turned Hallway Organizer

2) Storage Cubbies. These are essential for keeping things off the floor and tidy. We use the bigger cubbies for heavy backpacks, and the smaller ones for shoes or packages from the mail box. I played around with a few options here (you can see my alternative sketches below), and eventually decided on this piece, which is actually a sofa table! It’s made to sit along the back of a sofa and hold magazines, books and decor. But that’s one of the genius things about IKEA — discovering new uses for their smart pieces. We can imagine this same sofa table having a second life as a book shelf in the reading nook — it’s solid wood, so we could even repaint it!

Take advantage of unused space — Sofa Table turned Hallway Organizer. Convert an Unused Hallway Into a Light, Bright, Organized Entryway   |   Design Mom

During the day, when the kids are at school, the cubbies sit mostly empty, but they fill up again by the evening.

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

3) Table & Writing Surface. I considered a long desk, but when we decided on the sofa table for backpack storage, we knew the top surface would do the trick.

Add wheels for more height.

But it was a little too low to be a comfortable writing surface, so we added wheels! This gave the cubbies a boost in height, and also makes it easy to move around — in case our needs change and we need to add anything to the space.

Magazine rack turned paperwork organizer.  |  Design Mom

4) Paper Organizer. We have a home office where the heavy duty paperwork happens, but it’s in the opposite corner of the home, and upstairs, from the front door. And instead of making it to the office, papers end up in all sorts of places as the family comes home with notes from school, and mail from the mailbox, and receipts from errands. I needed a place to gather all those papers until it’s time to take them into the home office. And some papers, like field trip permission slips, never need to make it upstairs at all, and just need a temporary place in our home. This wall-mounted magazine rack was just the thing! It doesn’t take up much space and I can assign each pocket to different needs (school, mail, etc.).

trash bin

Related, we added a paper bin directly below to gather recycling as we sort papers — junk mail goes immediately there without ever seeing the file rack.

wall colors

5) Color Palette. It’s a tight space, and with those little windows, it can feel dark and gloomy on foggy days, so I went with mostly whites, and natural accents, to keep it open and bright and welcoming. I started with a fresh coat of paint on the walls, and added a strip of color around the base to add some interest and weight without being too heavy. The colors are Origami White and Silverpointe from Sherwin-Williams in semi-gloss Harmony. I know flat is recommended to hide wall imperfections, but this is a high-traffic area and I need to be able to scrub those walls! I’d rather have clean than perfect, so semi-gloss it is.

I intentionally kept the opposite wall completely empty to make sure the hallway didn’t feel crowded.

Use a tray for gathering cellphones, notebooks, keys, pens, etc. See the full Hallway Conversion on Design Mom.

6) Gathering Tray. A place to corral phones, paperclips, pens, notepads, wallets, keys… all those little moving parts that we need to keep the house running smoothly. We own a serving tray in glossy white with a low profile that was perfect!

three-legged stool

7) A Place To Sit. Somewhere Little June can sit while I tie her sneakers, or Maude can sit to pull off muddy running shoes. And someplace I can sit to write a note or a shopping list. We have this gorgeous handmade stool, and it fit the space perfectly.

I love you because mini cards by Emily McDowell

(Speaking of notes, I keep a little stack of these tiny notes from Emily McDowell in the gathering tray to add to lunchboxes.)

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

8) Decorate. Once the hallway was functional, I was able to decorate. I added a collection of beautiful succulents (only $3 each in the IKEA garden department!) in simple, inexpensive pots, and I hung one as well in a pretty woven basket. I put my favorite Matisse print on the wall — it was actually the first thing we had framed when we married, we’ve had it for 18 years and it wouldn’t feel like home without it.

Navajo rug

I added a long narrow rug — somewhere to wipe your feet or put wet shoes. This rug happens to have some family history. It’s a Navajo rug handed down to me from my parents. My parents spent many years working on the Navajo Reservation — in fact, my oldest brother is a Navajo. So this rug means something to our family. I filled one of the cubbies with this wide lantern, just because it was so charming.

acorn garland

Lastly, I added a sweet, simple garland made of acorns and twine.

This is also one of those instances where our non-decorative belongings also get the chance to function as the decor — like our jackets and umbrellas. Since they’re on display, it’s great incentive to own beautiful things! : )

What we didn’t include, but considered? A shoe rack! We’ve had homes where we went shoe free in the house, but here, we’ve had so much remodeling that we’ve had more of a shoes on policy — no stepping on a forgotten nail with bare feet, please! Plus, with all the decks, it’s such an indoor/outdoor house that keeping shoes on often makes sense. So everyone’s shoes have mostly ended up coming off in their bedrooms. Which frankly, is kind of nice. But if the time comes when we start to see a pile of shoes forming near the door, there is plenty of room in the hallway for a handsome shoe rack.

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

The very best part is that we took a previously unused space in the house, and made it truly functional — and beautiful too! And the cost to get it functional (3 packs of wall hooks, sofa table + wheels, magazine rack, trash can) was only $270. Not bad!

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

I have to tell you, this is the first space we’ve actually painted and put together and decorated in The Treehouse and it feels so good! Now I’d love to hear: Do you have a mudroom? If not, how do you handle keeping chaos out of the entryway? Also, do you think this space would work for your family?

P.S. — Here are sketches of other options I considered, plus a before and after pic:

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

A long sleek desk + a shoe rack. But I decided no, because it didn’t solve the heavy backpack storage issue.

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

For this one I thought about working in some bolder colors. For backpacks, flexible fabric bins in black (to hide the dirt) on a simple board (like the board on this shelf) — with wheels added to take it off the floor. I like things off the floor because it makes sweeping and dusting easier. On the wall, I’d put this tall, glossy red bathroom cabinet to corral cellphones, waterbottles, etc. I thought a long bench next to the bins could be great, but ultimately decided the cubbies made more sense.

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

Two of the same sofa tables side-by-side. This would provide 8 of the square cubbies — and there are 8 people in our family! But using two of these really ate up the space for wall hooks. So I nixed this idea. We need those hooks!

How to: Hallway Before and After. Turn an unused space into an organized, welcoming starting place for your day.  |  Design Mom

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The Treehouse: Open Floorplan Wed, 30 Oct 2013 22:00:59 +0000 Design Mom

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.

House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall  |  Design Mom

Between the kitchen at the living room, there was a 3-quarter wall. I have nothing against 3-quarter walls in general, but I was glad to say goodbye to this one in particular. Although the kitchen was definitely functional and had plentiful storage, being in the kitchen was really isolating. Instead of chatting with the kids while they set the table and I stirred the bolognese, I would find myself in there alone while all the good conversations were happening on the other side of the wall — in the living room and dining area.

And the same thing happened during cleanup. Instead of family dance parties, dish duties because a solo event. No fun at all.

House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom

We originally planned to live with it until we were ready for a kitchen remodel — we were aiming for next summer. But after only a few weeks, we could already see this layout was affecting our family dynamic in a negative way. So that wall had to go!

House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom

Since it was a 3-quarter wall, we knew it wasn’t load bearing, so we felt confident tackling it ourselves. One night, after the kids had gone to bed, we just went for it! We emptied out the cupboards (there were so many, that luckily, they were only half full), and moved the fridge to an opposite corner. Then we took down the cabinets and starting taking the wall apart until the work was too loud for the late night.

House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom

The next day, we finished the loud work with hammers and drills, and hauled everything out. We swept up and surveyed the new space.

Yes, it’s a bit of a construction zone, with things like exposed wiring and an uncovered vent. And yes, we have more subfloor to deal with. But from the very first evening, the family dynamic improved! We could have conversations again. And work together more easily!

It was a major reminder to me of how much design affects us. Things like a misplaced wall can change relationships in a very real way. Kind of crazy to think about.

House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom

The layout on the main floor is now very open. It’s one big space with kitchen, living room, and dining area all sharing the windows and light. We love it!

So what’s next? Here are our current plans: 1) Add hardwood where needed (see my P.S. below for a progress report), and paint that pillar. Currently, the pillar has no less than 5 different surfaces — it’s a historical record of the house!

House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom

2) Add a free standing counter-height table/storage piece where the wall was, on either side of the pillar — where the folding table sits now, but longer. On the kitchen side, it will have drawers and storage shelves. On the living room side will be space for barstools. We still want to completely redo the kitchen, but we think this will be a good mid-step to keep the kitchen functional while we make plans and work on a project budget.

House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom

3) We want to add a wall that follows the ceiling beam between the kitchen and laundry area. This will create a separate mudroom/laundry room with an outside door, and another door into the kitchen, but will still keep the public spaces open to each other. This means the range will need to be moved.

House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom

4) Ultimately, we want to redo the kitchen entirely and have it wrap around the corner under the the second window, with a counter between the kitchen and living room. This means finding new places for the appliances, and we’re thinking about saying goodbye to the upper cabinetry as well. We’ll see. It will be fun to plan and sketch out our options!

House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall   |   Design Mom

Tell me, Friends. Have you ever taken out a wall before? There is definitely something satisfying about taking a hammer to drywall! I’d love to hear your stories.

P.S. — Remember the floor situation? Well good news! We’ve got some real progress happening. As I type, hardwood is being installed in 4 areas to match the existing wood — in the dining area, in the space where the 3-quarter wall was, in the long hallway, and in the entry (replacing the existing entry tile). This means all the public areas on the main floor will now be wood. Hooray! I’m sharing the progress on Instagram if you’d like to follow along.

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Office Storage Wed, 02 Oct 2013 16:40:05 +0000 Design Mom

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 20:03:52 +0000 Design Mom

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.

guest loft plywood floors

Right now, the floors of both lofts have plywood subfloor, and from the looks of it, the floors have never been covered before. So we can start from scratch.

Though I’m not planning to use carpet anywhere else in the house, I thought these little lofts would be a good spot for wall-to-wall. And because they’re so small, and you can’t really see them unless you’re in them, I keep thinking they would make a fun place to experiment, or use a bold flooring color or pattern that might not work in a bigger space. On the other hand, I may decide to go very neutral with the hope that it makes the spaces feel a little bigger.

One idea is to take advantage of the tinyness of the spaces and shop for a really luxurious remnant piece — something we wouldn’t be able to afford for a big room. Maybe even something in wool. Have you ever tried wool carpet before? Two bedrooms in La Cressonnière were carpeted in wool — I loved the way it felt underfoot, and it was easy to keep clean! If not wool, I’m not sure what we’d pick. I’d really like a natural fiber if possible, but I’m not sure what my options are.

Another idea is to use FLOR tiles. I’ve worked with FLOR on a few different projects over the years, and I love their philosphy, and their offerings! But I’ve never tried them for a wall-to-wall application, and I’m not sure how easy they are to trim to fit. Would we need a special tool to trim them to fit?

Of course, I could also skip wall-to-wall carpet and use a harder surface instead, and then layer on a rug. Hmmm. So many good options!

If you’ve done any carpet shopping lately, I’d love to hear what you’ve learned. Any favorite brands or styles? Have you seen anything particularly cozy out there that might be just right in the reading nook? Have you ever tried wall-to-wall FLOR ties? Chime in!

P.S. — This afternoon, we’re getting our first estimate on having our hardwood matched for the dining nook. Yay!

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Weather Wed, 25 Sep 2013 17:00:38 +0000 Design Mom


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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]]> 23
The Treehouse: Floors Mon, 23 Sep 2013 21:10:51 +0000 Design Mom

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.

My first instinct was concrete. I adore a highly polished concrete floor! And I like a nice industrial looking matte one as well. I like concrete floors when I see them in stores. And I like them when I see them in homes. Concrete floors appeal to me immediately whenever I encounter them. I’ve been warned the floors can feel too cold or unwelcoming, but after the old stone floors in France, I wasn’t too worried about it, and know I can warm things up with area rugs (just not under the kitchen table! Hah.).

But. After an initial consultation with a contractor, we thought we should also look at alternative options. Because he told us concrete floors would actually be quite expensive — even more expensive then hardwood! And he also said that the weight of the concrete floors might be too much for our house to structurally bear.

So, I didn’t totally give up on the idea of concrete (I’m wondering if there is a light-weight/skim-coat alternative? Or maybe a DIY version we can tackle ourselves?), but I began to think of second choices, and I landed on industrial grade linoleum/vinyl. Imagine the hallways of a school or a hospital. That’s the sort of material I’m thinking of.

We had this type of flooring put into the kitchen of our first home and I loved it! Because it’s industrial-grade, it’s made to handle high traffic and heavy use. The maintenance was wonderfully easy, you can give it high shine or keep it matte, there are dozens and dozens of color options available, and since the flooring pigment goes all the way through the material, if you scratch the floor, you don’t see a contrasting undersurface.

By the way, it’s been over a decade since we last looked into this flooring, but I remember hearing that true linoleum wasn’t really made any more, and that available options were all types of vinyl now. I have no idea if that’s still true.

Anyway, I started really thinking hard about linoleum/vinyl floors.

wood floors revealed

But then we got curious. We decided to pull up the carpet in the living room/dining nook area and find out what kind of subfloor we’d be working with.

Turns out the carpet was hiding (and happily, protecting) gorgeous hardwood floors!

We couldn’t have been more excited. The floors are truly beautiful, and in really good shape. We couldn’t believe our good luck! So of course, we immediately forgot all about the cement floors and linoleum floors and starting picturing our furnishings with these lovely hardwoods. We especially loved the idea of being able to use what was already there.

And then.

We pulled up the carpet in the dining area.

wood then plywood

Alas! No hardwoods there. Just plywood subfloor. Turns out the dining nook was an addition to the original floor plan. Seeing the plywood also explained why the beautiful wood was covered up in the first place — the owners had wanted one consistent flooring throughout that space. Which makes sense. We’ve already experienced that the two different floorings make the rooms feel smaller.

Which leads me to this: How hard would it be to add-on to the existing wood floors? Could we mimic the widths and the style and then refinish everything in the same finish or stain? Would trying to work with the existing floors end up being cost prohibitive compared to replacing them? I’ve never worked on any kind of wood floor restoration and don’t know what my options are.

It seems like I either need to add to the existing wood floor, or replace all the flooring in that area and pretend we never uncovered the beautiful hardwoods in the first place. Which seems like a shame. But then again, the existing wood doesn’t cover that big of an area, so maybe saying goodbye to it wouldn’t be that big of a deal.

I know it’s hard to form an opinion without being in the space in real life, but I’d love your thoughts. How would you handle this existing wood floor? Would you do everything you can to work with it? Or say goodbye and go with something else — perhaps even a different hardwood?

P.S. — Curious about that white area between the hardwood and plywood? It’s a sloping transition made of wood and plaster. There was a lip where the hardwood ended, but the owners didn’t want to feel the lip under the carpet, so this made the transition more gradual. Here’s a close-up:

plaster transition

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Solar Twinkle Lights Fri, 20 Sep 2013 13:00:13 +0000 Design Mom

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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]]> 21
The Treehouse: Bedroom Plans for the Kids Thu, 19 Sep 2013 14:30:31 +0000 Design Mom


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.)


In addition to surface stuff, there are some fairly major interior structural changes we’d like to make. For example, there is a 3-quarter wall between the living room and kitchen that is driving us nuts! But we’re not feeling too much urgency about those bigger changes, because happily, the house is livable right now, exactly as it is. Which is such a blessing! It leaves us time to think, and to make careful decisions, and to save up for the renovations.

Though I feel like I’m fairly speedy at decorating and can style up a room in a flash, when it comes to architectural-type decisions — should windows be replaced in this room? do we need to improve the electrical system? should we use the same flooring throughout the house? do we need to upgrade the trim? — I’m as slow as a snail.


The square footage of The Treehouse is smaller than our rental in France was (no surprise — La Cressionnière is a big old farmhouse!), and it’s even smaller than our old rental in Colorado, but it’s still plenty big. And the decks add a lot of living space.

One interesting tidbit: it’s a 3 bedroom home.

This can be tricky for a family of 8! And really, if the home had been publicly listed online as a 3 bedroom, we would have never even seen it, because during our real estate searches we generally looked for 5+ bedrooms. But we’ve got a good plan to make the bedrooms work.

treehouse bedrooms 1

Off the hallway on the main floor, there are two bedrooms, and a bathroom. The previous owners used the bigger bedroom as the Master bedroom, and they used the smaller one as a little TV room.

The 3rd bedroom is upstairs and the previous owners used it as a guest room:


It has it’s own balcony! (I’ll talk more about our plans for this room in a future post.)

We decided to use the space differently than the previous owners. Our first thought was to split the big bedroom in two. When the house was first built, that room was about half it’s current size, but was expanded when the house was added on to. And there’s a natural dividing line if we wanted to split it up, leaving each of the spaces with a closet and a window.


But after living here for awhile, we shifted gears. Instead of splitting the space, we decided to keep it big and make it into one bedroom for all 4 girls! (I’m sure some of you are thinking: awesome! and others are thinking: no way!)

treehouse bedrooms 3

This is our plan:

1) We want to put in 4 twin beds, with their heads along the left wall, and their feet pointed toward the mirrored closet on the right. Each bed will have a nightstand and reading lamp next to it.


2) Across from the beds, on the right wall, there is currently a bank of 4 uneven sized closets. We want to remake these into 4 equal closets, so each daughter has their own storage space for clothes. We’re hoping we can customize the closet interiors to include hanging space, plus small drawers, and shelves for folded items and shoes. We shall see if the picture in my head can be pulled off in reality. : )

treehouse bedrooms 4

3) On the wall next to the bank of closets is currently a dresser. If I can make the closets work for my kids’ wardrobes, I’d like to add a reading chair or small desk here instead of more clothes storage.

Note: I mentioned it above, but I’ll repeat here: all of these photos are “before” images and show the previous residents belongings.

treehouse bedrooms 5 treehouse bedrooms 2

4) Maybe the most fun? Along the same wall as the bedroom door, there is an additional bank of closets. We’re going to say goodbye to these closets, creating a wall here. And then we’re going to add a bank of vanities instead, where the girls can keep their jewelry, paint their nails, store the hair brushes, etc.

I wouldn’t say our daughters are particularly girly girls, but I have a picture in my head of all four of our daughters at the vanity prepping for the day and it makes me grin! (Bonus: having the vanities in the bedroom should help free up the bathroom, which is bound to get crowded in the mornings.)

treehouse bedrooms 6

I know it sounds crazy to get rid of half the closet space in a bedroom for 4 girls, but we do have good reasons. The biggest one: we need to add the two feet depth of that closet to the smaller, neighboring bedroom. That room is so little! It needs any add-ons it can get.


The smaller bedroom is shared by the boys. Right now, we have a bunkbed in that room to the right of the door, and it’s just too overwhelming. It makes the space really awkward and unwelcoming. If we add the space from the closets in the girls’ room, it will enlarge the boys bedroom on the left by two feet, allowing this room to fit two twin beds. Which would be ideal!

The plan is to have a bed on each side of the door, with a dresser and side chair under the window. Then we’ll install hanging rods in the small closet — a high one for Ralph and a low one for Oscar.

And now I’d love to hear: What do you think of our plan? Would you ever put 6 kids in two bedrooms? Would that be total chaos at your house?

Because our kids generally spend their waking time in the shared spaces of our house, and use the bedrooms only for sleeping and dressing, this actually works out well for us. But I know there are families where this would be the worst. I’d love to hear what you would do with this space!

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