The Most Beautiful Piece of Artwork Ever!

After much waiting… (okay, only a very little amount of waiting)… the new art work for the mantle has arrived (sound the trumpets!).  I saw the huge box sitting outside my front door while pulling into the driveway from an IKEA run and ran, ran, ran to the door to finagle the box into the house.  I am a short woman (5’2″) and the box was my height but I am also a determined woman so I wrested it inside and took a pair of scissors to the box to reveal the MOST PERFECT PIECE OF ARTWORK EVER!!!  Alright, so that’s obviously my opinion as artwork is entirely subjective, but to me, it’s perfect and I know that at least 5 out of 10 of you will agree. 🙂

So, as I said in my last post, I wanted to liven up my mantle because the gold-ish mirror that I had leaned up against the white brick was not cutting it.  It was too small and too monochromatic.  Here is the before:


And here is the after, with the most perfect piece of artwork E-VAH!:



The gold and silver trees are seasonal and when the weather warms up, they will go into hiding and I will put something else in their places.  Since it is currently butt-cold outside, I think they are appropriate for now.


After looking at the artwork, I couldn’t decide whether to lean the canvas horizontally or vertically, so I tried both ways:







After trying both ways, I think I like the horizontal layout better but it’s funny, I didn’t know that until I took photos of the mantle.  If I can’t decide on what I want or like, I like to take a picture of the space because I can then see the “scene” in a new, more objective way.  I also really like that the canvas looks great horizontally or vertically; that way if I change my mind on how to lay it out, it will still look great.


Dressing a Mantle

After taking down all my Christmas mantle gear, I realized that my mantle was naked!  This was all I had left (I kept the Christmas tree because I thought it could pass for winter and not Christmas… maybe…maybe not).


My mantel needed some love so I headed over to my favorite store for home decorating, Tar-jay!  Yes, that’s right, Target is always my first stop for decorations.  Not furniture (because the quality is not so good), but knick knacks, tchotchkes, you know what I mean.  So, I loaded up my cart with whatever I thought might look good then I headed over to Home Goods and did the same.  I did this HGTV decorators style meaning that I bought way too much knowing that I could just return what I didn’t need.  Here is what I came home with:


My dog, Bandit, in case it isn’t clear, is posing for the camera and is not a decoration!  As you can see, I wanted to stick with a fairly neutral color palette with blue being my one accent color.  I know you can’t see the framed picture in the background because of the glare, but no worries, it didn’t work at all anyway.  So, I moved things around on the mantle according to a great template that I found on Pinterest that came off this site:

how to decorate a mantle

Here are my various combinations:


I knew that the visual weight (#3 in the above diagram) had to be on the left because my fireplace is slanted and there is more wall space on that side; however, this combination is no good because the artwork is not big enough.  When I went to Home Goods this time around, there was nothing to choose from so I grabbed what I thought might work knowing that it probably wouldn’t but you never know, right?  NEXT!


So, for this one, I switched out the artwork for my existing mirror and also switched out the light blue vase for the emerald one.  Emerald is the “IT” color this season, but I wasn’t feeling “IT.”  It was too bold for me and the shape was too traditional.  NEXT!


This one is better but I didn’t like the white candles up front because it felt too busy so… NEXT!


This one is too sparse and there’s not enough layering and dimension.  My mantle is on the narrow side so it’s hard to layer but this version was definitely out.  NEXT!


Okay, so here’s the keeper for now…  This feels visually symmetrical on both sides and not too busy or too sparse.  I would like to change out the mirror for some art work eventually but I’m not in a hurry to get that.  Also, I ordered a couple wood like sculptures from Joss and Main that I will use to replace the gold Christmas tree to give the mantle some “movement” (#2 on the above diagram).  They look like:

sculpture sculpture 2

I think that they play well with the color of the mantle and they also darken things up a bit and will also add some heft (they’re pretty tall, although one is about 10″ taller than the other).  Is anyone else working on decorating a mantle?  Where do you go to shop for mantle decorations and art work?

Moving on to the Breakfast Area…

Now that our family room is almost complete (still need light in there!), we’re moving on to the breakfast area.  The breakfast area is adjacent to the family room so it seemed like an obvious choice for the next room to do.  Here is a before picture:


And here is a picture of the work in progress:


We still have to finish painting over the ugly mustard color that was on the walls in the family room.  The gray color (Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore) will extend from the family room, into the breakfast area, and into the kitchen.  We have an awesome bay window that gives us lots of light in the breakfast area and I’d like to build a window box with storage since our kitchen doesn’t have a lot of storage.  I’ve pulled some inspiration and like the following:

Window seat

This is my favorite because of the window cushions and pillows:

window seat 2

There are tons of sites that show you how to make a window seat so I’m going to give it a shot!

I’ve also searched (for a long time…) and finally found a new light fixture for the space that I LOVE!  I found it initially on a lighting internet site for more than I wanted to spend then did a search for it to find it cheaper elsewhere.  The wonders of the internet lead me to Ebay where I found the exact light for about $25 cheaper and the listing had a “Make an Offer” button, so I did!  The seller accepted my offer to buy the light $75 cheaper than on the lighting website that I initially saw it on.  Sweet!  It’s still more than I wanted to spend, but after searching for about 2 months for one that I liked, I thought spending a little extra to not have to keep searching was worth it!

Here is a close up of the light that is in the space now:


I don’t think the prior homeowners ever updated the light fixture.  It seems pretty “builder grade” to me.  When we replace it, I’m going to put it on Craigslist to see if anyone’s interested.

Here is the light that I just bought:

light 600

It’s beauuuuutiful!  The screen is gray (which goes with my walls) and there are crystals on the bottom of the light diffuser.  I hope to have the breakfast area and kitchen all painted before the light fixture comes.  I might have to call in the troops again to git ‘er done!

NOTE:  If anyone wants me to post where I got the new pendant light, let me know!

Craigslist Find

Finding items on Craigslist for far below retail can be exciting and an affordable way to furnish a home.  I hate paying retail for something that I know I can get at a discount and also I like the idea of reusing something that would otherwise be considered “trash.”

I had a nook in my family room where I wanted to put a desk but the desks that I found online were just too big, so I thought I’d head over to Ana White’s site to find some plans to make my own desk.  Of course I found what I was looking for but with the holidays, I put off the project.  At the same time, I did my regular check on Craigslist to find out what was out there and came across the PERFECT desk for $75 (much cheaper than even building a desk).  So, I grabbed my husband and we checked it out.  It was just the right size but had a few scratches on the chair that came with it, so the seller knocked the price down to $50 which was great!

Here is the nook before the desk (and before the installation of the  baseboards):


And here it is with the desk:


The desk opens up which we don’t use that often since we use a laptop which just sits on top of the desk.  But here’s a shot with the desk opened up:


I added a 3×5 area rug that I picked up from Target to help with scuffing the new floors.  I think it goes well enough with our “Y” rug but I’m still on the hunt for something that goes better.


I’m happy with my find since I got a desk AND a chair for $50 and didn’t have to break out all my tools and spend a couple hours making a desk.   The size and look are perfect as well as the price.  Score!

For ideas on how to find the best deals on Craigslist, YHL has a great post.  I’d also add that everyone has their quirks on what they won’t buy (used mattresses!) and will buy on Craigslist and I personally don’t buy upholstered furniture on Craigslist since I have kids and dogs and I know how gross upholstered furniture can get.  Besides, I am a major germ freak which definitely plays into that!  That being said, I know lots of people who do buy used couches and chairs from Craigslist and that are super-happy about their find.  It just depends on you!  Happy Craigslisting!

Hand Scraped Floors

Our family room is coming along and a big piece of that was replacing the yucky carpet that was in the house when we moved in.  Here is a before picture:


We decided to replace the carpet with hardwood which was a hard decision because my husband likes carpet since it’s soft for lying down on and wrestling our kids to the ground, but I like hardwood because it’s easier to clean and also looks nicer.  In the end, we went with hardwood but only if I promised to get a soft area rug for the wrestling matches (which I was going to do anyway ;)).  Initially I thought about getting bamboo since it’s super durable and also comes from a renewable source but after learning that we could never refinish them since they are made from strands of bamboo that would splinter if refinished, we chose traditional hardwood instead.  I liked the idea of getting hardwood floors that are hand-scraped because it already has some imperfections in them so when my kids or dogs (or me) scratches the floors, I’m hoping that they will be more hidden.  I also wanted a darker hardwood at first, but a lot of people told me that darker hardwoods show more dirt and dust so I went with a medium tone.  At our old house we had 3 inch width strips of hardwood which I didn’t like at all since they look dated so I also wanted something wider.  I also knew that I didn’t want anything with orange or red undertones.  So after researching a lot, I came up with a medium tone, hand scraped hardwood with large planks and no red or orange undertones.

Unfortunately this is the biggest picture I could find, but the link to the product is here.


I only had a small sample to look at when we picked the floors and I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a lot of color variation when the floors were actually laid.  This is what it looks like in the family room:


I LOVE these floors!  See how there are dark pieces mixed in with lighter pieces?  Here’s a better pic to see the contrast in the area near the fireplace:


Here are a few more pics:



I while back I bought a green and white rug that I thought would look great in the family room, but unfortunately, it was an epic FAIL.  The price was right but I guess you get what you pay for because it was scratchy and too thin and all the corners turned up which was a huge tripping hazard so I returned that puppy and bought the above rug from West Elm.  It is perfect!  It’s soft and the gray and tan/beige geometric pattern is exactly right for our family room.  I want to keep the family room fairly neutral so this rug works perfectly.  The only drawback is that it sheds like crazy and fills up my vacuum bag after a couple vacuums.  I know that will taper off soon but in the meantime, we are walking around with rug fuzz on our clothes (even with vacuuming everyday).  But, the shedding is worth it!  I also got a great deal on it (20% off) and although it was expensive to begin with ($850) the 20% off made the price reasonable.  Here is a close up the rug:


White Fireplace + Gray Walls = Happiness!

We are finished painting the family room and if I do say so myself, it turned out great!  Here is a before shot:

As you can see, it’s quite BLAH in there.  And here is an after:

The after is much lighter and cooler and not as dated and drab as before.  The mantle is temporary as I got a huge piece of beautiful walnut that I’m going to stain and poly for the mantle.  More on that to come. But for now, I just painted the mantle white.  The color that I finally went with for the walls after much searching was “Revere Pewter” by Benjamin Moore.  I saw lots of examples of the paint color on Pinterest and thought I’d give it a try and it was perfect for what I was looking for.  The mantle color is “Antique White” by Glidden since I didn’t want something too stark white.

The paint job took just one day and with ceilings as high as ours, we needed help and that’s where the troops came in.  A couple that we know has a house that needs some rehab, so I came up with this idea to “project swap.”  It works like this: I need a project done at my house so my friends come over to help with whatever I need help with, in this case it was painting the family room.  Next time the project is at their house and I think they are picking their bathroom to remodel, so I’ll go over to their house and help with that.  It works well because we both have spouses who don’t like to do house projects (my hubby) or who are willing to help but whose skills are more limited (my friend’s wife).  So this way, we knock out projects that have been on our “to-do” list while getting willing help since we both know that next time it’s our houses’ turn for a makeover.  It’s especially fun to do projects with friends when beer and good food is involved as it always is :).  Here are the troops at work:

We even let the kids get involved to an extent.  Here’s another “after” shot:

We also got a new fireplace insert since the one that we had was old, gold, and ugly!  I was going to rehab our old one by painting it black, but it was so old that there was not much protection from the cold air that comes in from the fireplace flue.  The insert that I got retailed for $1,700 but since I got last year’s model on clearance at my local fireplace shop, I paid only $400, SCORE!  It’s still more than I thought an insert would cost but after doing some searching, it’s actually a really reasonable price.  The fireplace screens that I liked which are those tri-fold deals that you put up against the fireplace were $250-$400 and provided NO protection from the cold air and screens are not nearly as well made and long lasting as an insert.  So even though I like the look of a screen, the practicality of an insert was best for us.  Plus the price on this insert was the deal-maker!

Hopefully in my next post the mantle will be done because right now, I’m loving the room but hating the mantle!