ON MAKING DESIGN MISTAKES

This is the first house we've owned, and probably not the last, so I'm trying to think of it as our "mistakes" house. I get to try out different designs, and see what makes sense for us versus what I see on Pinterest. I've already had a few "teachable moments" of design decisions that I would have done differently.

Take, for instance, that shelf on the mantel. It was wood before we moved in, and in an effort to get away from all the 90s wood trim and doors, everything was going either white (all walls and doors ) or black (hardware). So, white it went. It looked good against the then grey/blue walls, but once everything else was white, I realized I needed to add a little warmth back in. I assumed it was a done deal but Daniel knew of a way to get it back, by heating it, scraping it, and sanding it. He did it over the course of two nights, and the cost? Zero dollars, since we already had the tools. It was a little painful seeing all those layers of paint come off, but I knew that this time, I had the space to consider all my options and I knew that I was making the right decision. As a bonus, I didn't love the tone of the wood pre-paint (which is why maybe I was motivated to change it), but now that it's sanded to a lighter color, I love it. It's the shade my wood mantel dreams are made of. Had I not mistakenly painted it I wouldn't have known about this amazing color underneath.

My second design mistake here was that I have clear, glass sconces which I assumed only Edison bulbs would look good in. Went for it. Decided I didn't like the orange-y hued lighting. So I researched all my options, and I didn't think this was possible, but I am crazy about these light bulbs. I can control them from my smart phone and the color temperature is completely custom, meaning I can make it cooler or warmer depending on the season/time of day/mood etc. So happy with them. They even look great in the clear glass which I was concerned about. Welcome to 2018 - when you can order anything online to be delivered to your house in 2 days and control the temperature shade of your light bulbs from your smart phone.

So, my lessons learned: try everything. You sometimes don't know if you like something until you see it in your own house, in your unique lighting, with your unique family. And, secondly, if you don't like it, it's probably changeable. Thankfully, home decor is not open heart surgery. If the stakes feel high, it's because we've placed that unnecessary pressure on ourselves to have these Pinteresty-perfect homes, when in reality, there really isn't a lot at stake here. It's home decor! If you try and it and don't like it, change it. This is our first house. I get to "try on" everything here, and the mistakes just mean I'm closer to finding my style and what works best for my taste and my family.

BEFORE: Beautiful, but stark and not enough contrast.

AFTER: Warmth! Texture! Variation! Love the change.

Shared in partnership with Poly and Bark, who makes the Camberly sconces, and Hue Bulbs, who makes the light bulbs.

MODERN FARMHOUSE PLAYSET DIY

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A playset has been on my wish list for a while now, but even the ones at Costco run about $1,000, so when our friends were giving away their well loved set for free, we jumped on the opportunity. Getting it was probably the hardest part. Daniel spent a couple days dissembling it into a few main pieces with our friends, and then rented a huge u-haul truck to transport it still mostly in tact.

When we reassembled it it looked like this:

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The bones were in great shape but the stain was peeling in lots of places. We pressure washed it and transformed it with paint in one afternoon.

This paint sprayer is one of my favorite tools for big DIY projects. We used it previously to spray all the doors in our house, and if we ever do walls again, I'd use this instead of rolling. It makes big project go so incredibly fast. They are pricey, but you might be able to rent one or borrow one.

It has a bit of a learning curve - there is a lot of paint loading, getting the air out, priming the pump, and troubleshooting throughout. But it really is a game changer for a project like this one.

We used two gallons of Behr Exterior Satin paint in Simply White by Benjamin Moore and a quart of the black. I can't remember the name of the black but I think it's something standard by Behr.

We debated priming but decided to just go for it without it. This is a playhouse, not Pinterest. It doesn't need to be perfect and we really wanted this project to go as fast as possible since we were racing against the weather and naptime. We just sprayed white paint all over the interior and exterior, on the already assembled play set (we did remove the swings, door, and rock climbing holds - on the back, not pictured).  It didn't matter than some paint got on the grass because it will grow and get mowed, and the slide we kept yellow and I didn't care about the over spray there. We only did one coat of white and it took almost exactly two gallons for interior and exterior. Once that was dry Daniel hand painted the roof in black and I did the windows with a small brush.

This playset is literally the playset of my dreams and I can't believe we got it for free. The total cost for us was about $72 - just the cost of paint. While not very much money, the difference it makes it absolutely incredible. Hopefully this inspires someone to scour Craigslist and OfferUp to find a great deal and then refinish it inexpensively. The hours of outside play and entertainment this has already provided has been well worth it. And the summer is only just beginning.

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Trey likes to come up to this window and pretend play. He'll ask me, "Mama order a coffee? Mama order a taco?" Yes please to both.

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So happy with this! We're calling it Trey's second birthday gift - just a few weeks early. This will be a gift that literally keeps on giving.

HOW TO DE-STRESS YOUR HOLIDAY CARDS

Thank you to Minted, the maker of modern and beautiful holiday cards, for partnering with me on this post.

The Christmas season is upon us! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and also, sometimes, the most stressful. The shopping, the cooking, the baking, the cleaning, the partying, it is a FULL season, and while it’s a good one, it easily becomes a little crazy.

I think part of it is sometimes, that everything labeled “Christmas” can be hyped. From gift-giving to baking to holiday party outfits, sometimes in the middle of trying to make everything more magical what we really do is make everything more stressful. I want to recognize this, but not live into it. I want to have a simple Christmas, not a buying frenzy or a perfect gift hunt or a fit-everything-we-can-into-these-four-weeks experience.

Our families are awesome, and one way that we’ve all decided to simplify Christmas is by drawing names on both sides, so that we’re each giving to only one person in each of our families. Doing this has saved so much time, energy, and stress, and I really enjoy it.  If we do something extra for the grandparents I like to do photo gifts that are simple and meaningful, like calendars or books of highlights from the year.

But there are some things that we feel we have to do (or choose to do) in this season. Like the Christmas card. This process alone is enough to stress someone out. I don’t know what it is about them, but I think there’s this pressure to get THE most perfect photo of all time. Like we need to prove to the world our family is WITH IT. Like, “Look! We’re all smiling! We’re all happy, well rested, highly capable people who never have a bad hair day or have to wait in long lines at the post office or arrive late to church every.single.time and for the life, can never, ever, seem to find the missing shoe?”

Do you resonate with this? That struggle to get the perfect photo is real. As a semi-professional photographer and designer, I get it. Photos are important to me. I treasure them, print them, save them, post them, enjoy them, and yes, photo quality is more important to me than the average person.  BUT. Just because you’re into high quality photos doesn’t mean you need to hire an expensive photographer to get them. Our Christmas card photos this year were all taken on self-timer, and they are some of my favorite photos of our family, ever. Here’s how I did it:

By some Christmas miracle, we got an early snow this year in October. I know how magical of a backdrop this makes, so I bundled everyone up and out we went. It was not fancy or glamorous - we just pulled over on the side of the road near a local park, and I set up the camera and told Daniel where to stand with Trey. I have this DSLR camera, this lens, and a tripod (similar) that I use for self-timer photos. I pressed the “10 second continuous timer" button, ran for it, and hoped for the best. This one took only 5 takes which is completely miraculous with small children.

Once we had the photo, it was onto the card. This year I worked with Minted, which I love for their wide selection of designs and their printed recipient addressing. I'm so thrilled with how these turned out. They were exactly the kind of card I was looking for - modern and simple, and festive, and even though I say this every year, they’re my favorite cards we’ve sent to date.  

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Trey "helped" me stuff the envelopes. Excited to incorporate him more into our families traditions in the next couple of years. Some of our other favorite (simple) holiday traditions include: seeing Santa (it did not go well this year but we did it), walking through Candy Cane Lane (an area of houses decorated in vintage Christmas decor with lights and music; it’s very It’s a Small World-esq.), buying a Christmas tree (we did the closest lot this year instead of the farm because #movingiscrazy), and reading the Christmas story (we like this one for kids). We're already two weeks into it but in the future I'd love to do some kind of advent calendar, and also somehow incorporating doing something for someone else in need, because I think that’s the true spirit of Christmas - bringing hope and light to the world during one of the darkest times. I want my family to think of Christmas as a time of giving, instead of getting, because that’s where the lasting joy is.

What are some of your favorite family traditions and how do you keep your Christmas simple? Would love to hear.