From the category archives:

The Treehouse

Family Portrait in Swings   |   Design Mom

Text and how-to images by Gabrielle. Family portraits by Sarah of Modern Kids. | This post is brought to you by Lowe’s Home Improvement — they have everything you need to tackle your own weekend projects, just in time for Memorial Day!  #springiscalling


There are 3 reasons I’m super excited to share this project with you. 1) It’s awesome! I thought of it last fall, and the whole idea still makes me grin. 2) I’ve been sharing behind the scenes peeks on the Lowe’s Instagram stream for the last few days and it’s fun to get to finally share the finished photos. And 3) We haven’t had family photos taken since the Vintage Car photo shoot in France — 3 Christmases ago! We were long overdue and this was a great excuse/opportunity.

Sarah of Modern Kids did the portraits. She also did our French Greys portraits back in the day. She lives here in the Bay Area and it’s been wonderful to be able to work with her again!

Blair Family Portrait in Swings   |   Betty Family Portrait in Swings   |   Design Mom

The idea for The Family Swing Project came to me last fall. We had just started to get to know our yard, and Ben Blair pointed out how pretty the view of the stream was from under this particular tree. He mentioned we should hang a swing so someone could relax and take in the view.

I loved that idea and looked up to consider where a swing should go. And when I looked up, it hit me that there were a ton of options — ten or more branches growing horizontally.

There was a lightbulb moment and all of a sudden I could picture our whole family spending a warm, lazy evening under the tree — each child in their own swing, and Ben Blair and I sharing a bench swing. We could sway and chat and listen to the stream, and just be together.

Blair Family Portrait in Swings   |   Oscar Family Portrait in Swings   |   Design Mom

This vision has been stuck in my head for all these months, and this last weekend, we decided to bring the vision to life!

Ben Blair was the how-to master mind. He figured out how to build the swings and get them to swing properly. I’ve included a complete photo tutorial when you click through, so you can see what he came up with (and in case you’d like to build your own swings!).

Blair Family Portrait in Swings   |   Ralph Family Portrait in Swings   |   Design Mom

They’ve only been hanging for a few days so far, but they are already a major draw for the kids, for their friends and for the cousins. It’s easy to see they are going to provide hours of entertainment, and a bucket full of memories for our family.

Blair Family Portrait in Swings   |   Maude Family Portrait in Swings   |   Design Mom Blair Family Portrait in Swings   |   Flora June Family Portrait in Swings   |   Design Mom

We hung the swings at different heights — one particularly low swing was hung especially for June. And all but two hang from their own branch. The bench hangs from the sturdiest branch and we tried to sort of center it — with the other swings hanging around it.

The project turned out wonderfully, and it feels good to have made a bit more progress in the yard. I already said this, but the whole thing still makes me grin!

Blair Family Portrait in Swings   |   Olive Family Portrait in Swings   |   Design Mom Family Portrait in Swings   |   Design Mom

Man oh man, I like those kids.

Would you like to learn how we built the swings? Keep reading.

Click here for the full tutorial.


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.

Click through for more photos and details.


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.

Click here for the full tutorial.


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.

Click here for more photos and sources — plus before pics!


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.

Click for the full tour and a before photo as well.


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!

Click here for the full tour.


Paint Colors

April 4, 2014

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.: )


Show Us Your Wall!

April 1, 2014

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!

Click for the before shots and to hear more about how we chose these plates.


Bargain DIY Concrete Floor

February 19, 2014

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

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

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

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

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

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

DIY Concrete Floors — Easy & Inexpensive!   |   Design Mom

Would you like to see how it came together?

Click here for the full tutorial.


crate shelves

By Gabrielle. Image from Serena & Lily.

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

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

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

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


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

Images and text by Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ready to see what the process was like?

Click through for the full story.


finished floors 2

By Gabrielle. Images by Ben Blair and Gabrielle.

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

finished floors 1

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

Click through for the whole story.


Hair Broaches + A House Update

December 19, 2013

By Gabrielle. Accessories via ASOS.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

ikea logo

Images and text by Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall  |  Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle.

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

House Remodel: Taking Down A Kitchen Wall  |  Design Mom

And it changed everything in the best possible way.

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


Office Storage

October 2, 2013

Storage Bins by PB Teen

By Gabrielle.

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

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

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

Storage from PB Teen

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

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

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


Carpet in the Lofts

September 30, 2013

Guest Loft

Images and text by Gabrielle.

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

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

reading loft

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

More on our plans when you click through.

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September 25, 2013


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!


The Treehouse: Floors

September 23, 2013

pulling up the carpet

Images and text by Gabrielle.

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

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

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


Solar Twinkle Lights

September 20, 2013

solar twinkle lights

Image and Text by Gabrielle.

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

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

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

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