Category: Home decor

Home Decor: Living Room Refresh

We haven’t had any tales about home DIY (mis)adventures in a while around here, with good reason: there haven’t been any. Now, don’t go thinking that this is because we’ve become some sort of home reno geniuses in the meantime; we simply haven’t had time to tackle any of the eleventy million projects scattered around the house. A small flood back in early 2012 set us back on our basement renos, which are still only about 80% done, 3 years later. Blame the kids – we do, frequently. But this is the year, you guys! The year our house stops looking like a dump construction zone, and starts looking like the abode of human grown-ups. Like any normal persons procrastinating on an actually necessary project (ahem, that damn basement), we decided to start the big makeover with a whole different one. To wit: our living/dining room.

And I decided to write about it here because we all need the laughs, yes?

The main floor of our house has your basic open concept layout that’s ubiquitous in suburban “builder’s specials”. I’ve come to heartily dislike it, but that’s another story. The way ours is designed, the living room is larger than it needs to be, while the dining area is laughably small. This has created problems in both areas; my husband and I decided to take a divide-and-conquer approach, and divvied up the work – I took the living room, he took the dining area. (Don’t worry, we each had lots of input into the other’s projects.) Today, let’s take a look at how I did.

The main problem with the living room is that it’s a big, long space that tends to dwarf whatever furniture you put in it. The problem is complicated by the fact that one side of it is broken up by the half-wall dividing it from the kitchen; suffice to say, it is impossible to center anything with the fireplace on the opposite side, which would otherwise make a natural focal point. For the last 5 years, our living room set-up was basically inspired by the way in which the previous owner had his stuff organized when we first saw the house – we just couldn’t think of any better way to do it.

Because I forever fail at this blogging thing, of course I don’t have any photos of the room, immediately pre-makeover. I do have some ancient photos from 2010 (pre-kids!), so here you go – the before:

living room makeover
so clean … so tidy … *wipes away tear*
living room makeover
view from the dining area

Let’s take a minute to admire all that IKEA goodness. Immediately after we moved in, the leather couch was our only “adult” furniture – a wedding gift from my in-laws. Now, these pictures don’t quite convey the full effect of the room, which was one of … emptiness, mostly. Bland, bland emptiness. Blandety bland. Anyway, not long after this photo was taken, we had a kid, and all thoughts about style and design went out the window. We did eventually upgrade the chairs and coffee table, and added a side table, china cabinet, and some wall art. But the basic layout remained more or less the same. (For the curious, the glass table got sold, and the white chairs moved into the basement. The plant died an inglorious death.)

Adding piles of kids’ plastic crap toys, shockingly, did not improve the aesthetics of the living room, so by last December, I was completely over it. I wanted to have a living room that looked, well, the opposite of haphazardly assembled; one that made a statement – namely, that its owners graduated college over a decade before. When we started thinking about how we could accomplish this, the first thing we agreed on was the need for a new couch. There was nothing wrong with our old one; it actually had held up admirably well. But it just didn’t look right in this space. We decided to relocate it to the basement, and start fresh. Almost immediately, I fell in love with this baby:

living room makeover
Structube Havana Sofa

Luckily, my husband loved the colour as well, and this sofa was a go. We figured the old white chairs would work better with it than the updated models, so the latter joined the leather couch in the basement, and the former made their return to the living room. All easy peasy, right?

Well, not quite. When the sofa arrived, the real work began: figuring out where to put it. Size-wise, it was a perfect fit for the room. But remember that asymmetry I talked about? I didn’t want to put the new sofa in the place of the old one, because it would just perpetuate the same less-than-ideal layout. But placing it along the wall facing the fireplace (the only other possibility) didn’t seem like it would work either – it couldn’t be centered properly without blocking access to our kitchen high bar. And this, my friends, is when I had a stroke of genius.

Yes, suspend your disbelief, because it’s true.

I really liked how the couch looked nuzzled into the right-hand side corner of the room, off-centre from the fireplace. But this left one half of the room looking bare … what to do? Separate zones, of course! I brought down an extra armchair from the family room upstairs, and re-arranged all the other furniture we already had, and voila:

living room makeover
pre-staging (minus kids’ ephemera)

We loved how the room was taking shape, so we quickly drew up a list of finishing touches we still wanted to buy (the only thing we’d bought to this point was the couch): floor lamp, new lighting fixture above the fireplace (the old builder’s cheapie can’t be seen in the photo above), area rug, and some tchotchkes here and there to “style” the coffee and side tables. I also asked my husband to get rid of the old plant pot that remained as the only evidence of our brownthumb crimes (see corner). He also offered to stitch up the rip in my fancy armchair’s upholstery (thanks, kiddo who shall not be named!), because he’s awesome like that.

After a few more trips to Structube, HomeSense, and IKEA, our living room started to really come together. We ended up swapping out the colourful chair for a more sedately coloured rocking chair from the nursery/Teddy’s room, which fits the colour palette of the room a little better. [Considering how expensive that rocking chair was, and how little use it got through two babyhoods, I’m glad it will finally be getting some love.] Here is how everything looks now:

modern minimalist living room
view from the stairs
modern minimalist living room
so tidy (for about 5 minutes)
modern minimalist living room
view from the dining room

I absolutely love the carpet we got from HomeSense (and its very reasonable price), and so do the kids. Especially Luka. One of his favourite games at the moment involves talking off his socks and dancing/running/sliding around the carpet. I’m guessing the novelty of it will eventually wear off, but it’s been an amusing spectacle. I should also mention that the addition of the carpet easily made the biggest impact in terms of “adulting” the room, and making it look less impersonal and bland.

Seating area #1:

modern minimalist living room
my old gallery wall, still looking good after all these (4) years
modern minimalist living room
my favourite piece of furniture
modern minimalist living room
the other view

In the end, I didn’t bother “styling” the coffee table, because the kids use it a lot for crafts and such. Rather than battle them for table-top supremacy, I just left the damn thing alone. For special occasions, I can add some flowers in a pretty vase and call it a day.

Seating area #2:

modern minimalist living room
the old chairs make a triumphant return
modern minimalist living room
obligatory arty shot

I have to admit that I really struggled with the accessories. I didn’t want the living room to look like a Pinterest board come to life (i.e. super trendy), and I also wanted all the pieces to feel organic and not overly “styled”. I’m not sure if I’ve succeeded (and I can imagine that there will be an evolution in the pieces we have anyway) but I do like how it all looks together. I debated about getting a big arrangement of faux orchids, but decided that the real thing (even if it’s on a more modest scale) would always look nicer, not to mention more, well, organic. (Har har!)

Luka’s contribution was the red Buddha figurine, which was his. He brought it down from his room to play with in the new space, and I loved how it looked there so much that I asked him if he would agree to relocate it permanently. Ok, some bribery may have been involved, but it was totally worth it. The only somewhat divisive item was the ceramic horse’s head, which inexplicably caught my fancy at Winners. My husband was not immediately sold on it, but he eventually came around … to tolerating it.

modern minimalist living room
i think there is a Godfather joke in there somewhere
modern minimalist living room
toddler concert currently not in progress …

Things were looking pretty good, and there was just one thing still missing: my husband’s favourite lamp. Now, to set the stage, I have to tell you that my husband has been bugging me to buy this lamp (or a version of it), for the past 5 years. He’s a design nerd, and this is some sort of famous piece, yada yada. #philistinetalkinghere When we saw it, on sale, at Structube, I decided to make the guy happy and agree to its inclusion in my design space. It’s going to take a bit of time for it to grow on me, but I will say that the quality of this particular iteration (Structube Arc model) seems really good for the price. It has a real marble base, and the whole thing looks more expensive than it was ($149).

modern minimalist living room
aaaand … we’re done
modern minimalist living room
no, really, I promise this post is finally over

I’m still looking to add a few pieces to the mantel (I’m thinking about some vintage milkglass pieces, if the thrifting gods cooperate), but otherwise … I think we can call ‘er done. Whew.

Stay tuned for the dining room reveal … one of these years.

Closet Inventory, pt. 1

As the saying goes: you’re not a real fashun blogger until you’ve done a closet inventory. Or something like that.

It is time. Random and arbitrary decision having been made, I used the prospect of this post as much-needed impetus to actually organize my closet. Again. My closet goes through cycles of being organized, growing, getting weeded, growing again, and needing to be organized, again. It’s been in dire straits since last fall, when my daughter was born, we “lost” the spare bedroom and, as a result, I had to concede a third of the master closet to my husband. Oh, the horrors!

(Before you ask, our previous arrangement was totally fair, because my husband had not only the spare bedroom closet, but also the garage as his storage domain. He doesn’t have a lot of clothes, but he does have an enormous amount of tools, so this worked in his favour.)

I hate spending money on practical things, so closet organization has always been a haphazard thing in my world. After seeing Fran’s closet inventory post, I finally did the grown-up thing and paid for decent hangers. To absolutely no surprise, they make a huge difference in the appearance of my closet.

closet inventory; closet organization
Before and after

There is no difference between the before and after except for the hangers, but everything looks neater, and there is more space. I bought mine at HomeSense in packs of 25 for $17 each (roughly $0.70 per hanger, a decent deal … I think?).

I should mention that this is not my entire wardrobe. Most of my work clothes, plus special occasion dresses, are in an “overflow/out-of-season” closet in the basement. They used to all fit in the master closet … back when I had sole custody of it. I actually find it useful to segregate in-season and out-of-season clothes, though, so it all works out.

Here’s where everything is:

closet inventory; closet organization
Where everything goes …

My t-shirts, sweaters, and scarves are actually in one of these IKEA folding shelving thingies, which you can’t quite see – but trust it looks like this:

IKEA Skubb; closet organization; closet tour; closet inventory
IKEA Skubb (the two bottom shelves have drawers put in, for extra jewelry storage)

On the opposite wall is another IKEA wall-mounted unit, originally intended for shoe storage (I think), which I use for socks, tights, and unmentionables. It looks like this:

IKEA Hemnes shoe storage unit; closet organization; closet tour; closet inventory
IKEA Hemnes Shoe Storage Unit

Above it is where most of my jewelry is laid out:

closet inventory; closet tour; jewelry inventory
Mah joolz

This part of the closet used to be overflowing – because, hello, I have a slight addiction to shiny things – but I recently caved and got one of these things:

closet organization; closet tour; closet inventory; jewelry storage; jewelry organizer
Hanging jewelry organizer thingamagig

It helps a lot, even though I tend to forget what’s in there, as the whole thing is tucked behind my dresses. Ahem. Last but not least, there is the nail polish rack behind the door. My husband made it (all those tools come in handy) and it’s really awesome. I’ve drastically downsized my polish collection this year, so it now all fits on the wall rack. Yes, I used to have more. It’s ok, I’ll wait while your mind boggles.

nail polish storage; closet inventory; closet tour; closet organization
Nail polish wall!

So, at this point you’re probably wondering when I’ll finally get to the inventory part. Fine. You want numbers, I’ve got numbers for ya. Behold:

Tops: 23

Shirts: 12

Sweaters & cardigans: 24

Pants & shorts: 17

Skirts: 17

Dresses: 36

Blazers & jackets: 14

Outerwear: 7

Shoes: 46

Bags: 24

TOTAL: 256 (186 without bags + shoes)*

Honestly … it could be worse. It probably is worse by the time you’re reading this. For a person who writes a style blog (by definition, someone with more than a passing interest in clothes), I think it’s not bad. You guys know I’m not a minimalist. I have a vague goal of keeping the overall number at about 150 (not including bags and shoes), but I’m not super committed to it. Obviously. I truly love what’s in my closet right now, and other than a few seasonal pieces I’ll likely need to replace next year, I don’t see myself doing any major overhauls in the foreseeable future.

But never say never. There will always be more cute things to buy.

Home Decor: Toddler Bedroom

This past summer was full of big milestones for our son. He not only turned two (that most tumultuous age of toddlerhood), but also got ready to become a big brother. Part of the preparations involved moving into a new, “big boy” bedroom – which required that we wrap our heads around the idea that our son is a “big boy” now, and not the little munchkin we brought home from the hospital two years ago. Once we got over our disbelief, we got down to work.

The hardest part was dismantling what was once our spare bedroom, but had morphed in recent years into a dump pile of clothes, unused furniture, and random odds and ends. I never thought I’d see the carpet in that room again, but a couple of weekends’ worth of purging and cleaning was all it ultimately took. With the room back to its original, pristine condition, it was time to tackle the decor. When it comes to kids’ bedrooms, one of my pet peeves is over-thinking. Think of the typical celebrity baby room, or the kinds of bedrooms you see all over Pinterest; those rooms are generally decorated to please the parents’ style aesthetic, rather than the kids’ tastes or interests. I wanted Luka to feel comfortable in his room, and to love spending time in it, which meant filling it with his favourite things and making it easily navigable to him. Another pet peeve is clutter; granted, this is almost unavoidable in a kid’s bedroom, but the judicious use of storage solutions can make a big difference. Ultimately, I wanted a room that was functional, fun, and (mostly) tidy; style would have to take a back seat.

Here is the end result:

home decor diy
The “big boy” bedroom

Granted, most of Luka’s toys remain in the family-slash-play-room, which allowed us to keep his actual bedroom pretty simple. The furniture is a combination of new IKEA pieces (the bed and storage unit), and items we already had in the house (the table and chair, floor mats, mini sofa).  For decorations, we went with a car theme because that is one of Luka’s current obsessions. Most of the framing came courtesy of IKEA as well.

home decor diy
Some of his favourite things: cars, Winnie the Pooh, numbers

We chose to go with an extendable bed, which would give us several options; Luka can use it until he’s at least 6-8 years old, or he can pass it along to his sister in a few years if he ends up wanting something different (like a bunk bed). If necessary, the green bed-frame can work just as well with the current nursery wall decor, or else be painted a different colour to suit our daughter’s future preference.

Apart from the bed, the second most expensive aspect of the decor was the storage unit, particularly the various drawer units (sold separately). I customized those to be both kid- and mommy-friendly. The lowest tier is reserved for books and toys that Luka can easily grab any time. The lower of the two blue bins is filled with stuffed toys; Luka can reach it and pull it out, but won’t get hurt if anything falls out. The higher blue bin is filled with plastic toys; Luka can’t quite reach it yet, which helps prevent accidental spills. [Once he’s taller, I will probably reverse the order of the bins to avoid having any accidents with heavier items falling on his head.] The top 4 drawers are for miscellaneous items, like socks, baby creams and bandaids, which I want to have at hand but not in Luka’s hands. The remainder two sections are for extra clothes, like T-shirts and sweaters, but could easily be re-purposed for any items that we want kept out of sight.

One of Luka’s favourite things to do is to colour, so we put together a little “colouring station”. I decided to add a magnetic board with numbers and letters, because he loves having us spell things out for him and counting. The little magnetic pieces are technically for kids 3+, so we only let him play with them under direct supervision; however, it’s a fun way for him to learn the alphabet – he can already recognize most of it.

home decor diy
More of his favourite things: the “colouring station”

Our efforts paid off – Luka loves his bedroom, and took to it right away. Since he moved in, he’s added a few of his own decorating touches. Like a birds-and-flowers decal on the wall and … More cars. Of course.