Monthly Archives: April 2012

How to Disguise an Off-Center Window with Curtains

Most of the windows in our house are pretty awesome, but for some reason this one in the soon-to-be-nursery is weirdly off-center. It made my eye twitch a little every time I looked at it.

When we first bought our house there were no curtains. Nary a stitch of privacy to be found. Since we live in an old neighborhood with very small lots it was like living in a fishbowl. So priority número uno for me was getting something up on those windows ASAP. I scoured the internet for the cheapest curtain hardware I could find and ordered 19 of these (we have a lot of windows), then paid a handyman to hang ‘em all. I had the foresight in this room to have him hang the rod so that it was centered on the wall, rather than the window. Bee tee dubs, the handyman was SO worth it. I still can’t figure out how he hung the rod above the stairs.

I whipped up some curtains really cheaply (you can read all about my curtain technique in this post from way back in my first month of blogging), but it’s slow going when you’ve got that many windows to cover and I lost motivation pretty quickly. I never got around to making enough panels to really look good on this window-just three that I stretched across to block peeping neighbors. But this weekend I was dying to do at least something for myself, and I figured the doctor wouldn’t be too upset about me spending thirty minutes at the sewing machine. In no time at all I’d sewn three more panels for in here, and once all six had been run through the wash (to shrink the new ones and just refresh the old), I had Nick hang them up and stood back to admire my genius.

You can still see the off-center window pretty clearly, but I think the curtains go a long way toward helping it feel more balanced. I moved the dresser so that it’s centered on the wall, which I think helps trick the eye a little more. In person the look is even more symmetrical, since the brightness of the windows is less noticeable behind the white drapes.

I’m thinking the look could be enhanced even further if I added some decorative panels that blocked more light to the outside edges. That way it wouldn’t be so obvious that the area all the way to the left doesn’t have a window behind it, but the middle area would still have plenty of light coming through the thin white muslin. The panels would have to be pretty thick, though, and super cheap if they’re going to fit into my budget for this room. If it hadn’t been such a pain last time I tackled it I would try dying drop cloths dark gray and hanging them up, but I don’t know that I’m willing to go through all that trouble again. In reality, this look is a major improvement and I’m inclined to keep it this way. Next, I’d like to put up some adjustable blackout shades to hang out behind those white drapes so that I can darken the room for naptime, then raise the shades back up to let the light back in. One step at a time, though, especially since I’m back to work today after a five-day weekend. Good thing I’ve still got 13 weeks until little Jack makes his arrival!

How to Paint a Room Without Lifting a Finger

While I wasn’t able to do much besides sit around and look pregnant this weekend, I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to have an expert cutter-inner help me knock out the nursery. My friend Lauren was here from Atlanta and had offered months ago to tape while I rolled during her next visit. When the doc ordered me to rest, I was pretty annoyed. I had plans! Then I remembered that I also have a husband. So I sat in a chair providing moral support while she did the edges and he painted the middles. I’m such a lucky gal to have so many people willing to help me out!

I don’t have many before pictures of this room because it’s always been a bit of a hot mess. Here’s one I dug up from back when I used it as an office. The creamy yellow color on the walls was here when we bought the place. I’m pretty sure it’s a common neutral used in older homes, as our rental house had it in the living room and I’ve noted its presence in several other houses in our neighborhood. Notice that canvas hung above the desk? That’s the same one I painted over to make the You Are My Sunshine sign for this room’s second life as a nursery (I originally purchased it as a blank canvas for half off at Hobby Lobby and painted it up for some DIY abstract art).

The room still has a long way to go, but the yellow is gone! And I think a tour is in order. This is what you see straight ahead when you stand in the doorway. An off-center window and a door to the bathroom (the downstairs bath has two entrances-one from this room and one from the guest room).

Turn your head to the right and you see this wall, which is where the desk used to be. See that painter’s tape on the floor? I’ve been using it to mark out possible crib locations. I originally was going to have it centered on this wall but I’m thinking of moving it to the wall just to the right of the door instead.

To your left when you walk in is this wall with an old coal-burning fireplace and a small closet. The brick around the fireplace is still painted the same yellow as the walls, but I’m planning to hit it with a few coats of white semi-gloss (just like I did in the front room).

The closet is modestly sized, but in a house this old any closet is a thing of beauty. The cabinet on top is about twice as deep, making me wonder what’s behind that closet wall. You can see it’s just got some random crap stored in there for now, but I plan to clean it out and make some tweaks to get the most out of the space.

Do you remember me mentioning in a previous post that the light switch is really inconveniently located behind the door? This is what I mean. I plan to use the switch as rarely as possible.

The new color on the walls is Benjamin Moore’s Classic Gray (color matched to Olympic Premium no-VOC paint in a satin finish), and it’s exactly what I envisioned. I wanted something very neutral and soothing that would also reflect a lot of light, and this did the trick. I also love love love how it looks against the white trim. It’s hard to capture it perfectly on camera, especially with no curtains to filter the light streaming in from those windows, but I think the last picture of that little nook behind the door is most accurate. It feels so good to have it painted! Getting a color of my own choosing on the walls really goes a long way toward making it feel like a part of our home, rather than the random pass-through/dumping ground it’s pretty much been for the last two years. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the room comes together!

Nursery Fabric in the Hizzouse

On our way out to buy the nursery dresser last weekend, Nick and I stopped by a baby consignment show. I’d never been to one before, but I’d describe it as being similar to a very large, very well-organized garage sale strictly for baby and kids’ stuff. We’re still not ready to take the plunge on buying any big baby gear, but everything was marked half off for the last day of the sale so we thought we’d stop in and see if anything caught our eye. We didn’t buy much, but we did get a baby bathtub for $1.50, a Melissa & Doug bead maze for $12 (not discounted at all but I couldn’t help myself), and this boppy pillow for only $6.

I was strangely excited about the boppy pillow. I’ve already started using it to rest my laptop on while I’m on the couch or in the rocking chair (both spots are a little more comfortable for my always-aching ribs than sitting in a regular desk chair). Unfortunately, the fabric cover A) has seen better days, and B) is a little girly. I decided I would make a new cover, which inspired me to go fabric shopping! How exciting! I’ve known from the get-go that I wouldn’t be going all-out with the nursery bedding (I’m a little confused about the point of it, since everyone keeps talking about how the crib shouldn’t have anything else besides a fitted sheet), but I got excited when I started thinking about fabric for the boppy cover. Then I remembered that I still needed to pick out some fabric to cover the soon-to-be-cushioned seat of the rocking chair, plus I figured I might as well whip up a cute little receiving blanket while I was at it and before I knew it I had three projects to shop for.

I spent most of last weekend browsing fabric selections online from the comfort of my sofa before finally settling on a yard each of Waverly Optical Delights in Wasabi for the seat cushion, Premier Prints Zigzag in Twill Storm for the boppy cover, and Pretty Paisley Flannel Dots in Pear Green for the receiving blanket. All three arrived yesterday, which on top of the arrival of my long-time BFF visiting from Atlanta and Nick sweetly planning a surprise birthday dinner with friends made for one pretty awesome day.

The cushion cover will only use up a little more than half of this fabric (the most expensive one I bought at $22), so I’m hoping to get inspired to find some use for what’s left over.

I love how this grey zigzag is really gender neutral and would fit right in anywhere in our house. I was encouraged to realize that there are a bunch of boppy covers on etsy made of the exact same fabric, taking it as a sign that the weight and texture of it would be good for that purpose.

This green flannel is super soft and I figured the dots might be interesting for a brand-new baby to focus his little eyes on during tummy time. I plan to use the whole yard to make a receiving blanket backed with plain white flannel.

I definitely won’t be working on any sewing or upholstery projects this weekend, but I like that they’re each small-ish projects that I can tackle one at a time over the next few months. The only one that will even be a new challenge for me is the boppy cover, and there are so many tutorials online that I feel confident I can handle it (once I get around to it, haha).

Another Year Older


It’s my birthday! I’m thrilled to be celebrating another year of life for the 27th time. The sentiment above is one that has really been bouncing around in my heart for the last few years. As I move further and further into adulthood I remember the young people I’ve known who never made it to 21, or 25, or 30, and I’m reminded that to be here, getting older, is a privilege. I’m so fortunate to be living this life.

This is something I particularly needed to consider this week, as I left my obstetrician’s office yesterday feeling completely sorry for myself. I’m still experiencing fainting spells and feeling generally weak and pathetic most days, so he wants me to take it easy (no projects!) for the next several days and eat even more protein every morning and a whole lot of other stuff that is just generally inconvenient. I’ve never been one to take excellent care of myself and it’s extremely difficult for me to sit around my house doing nothing for the third weekend in a row. Doesn’t he know I’ve got projects on my to-do list? And that my morning routine doesn’t include sitting down to a fresh-cooked breakfast for twenty minutes? Pregnancy is a lot harder than I expected and it’s putting a serious damper on my lifestyle. I hear myself thinking and saying these things and I know it’s completely ridiculous. I wanted to have a baby, and not everyone gets pregnant when they want to, so I need to treat this pregnancy like the privilege and gift that it is, pain in the ribs rear or not.

I guess the point of today’s post is that “living well” means living with a positive attitude and, for me, a sense of gratitude goes a long way toward that. So, without further adieu, a list of things I’m grateful for on my 27th birthday:

  • My little family. I’m so lucky to have a wonderful husband, a baby on the way, and three of the cutest, sweetest animals sharing my life and my home.
  • My big family. Nick and I both have parents and siblings and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins galore, and they are all wonderful people who bring such richness to our lives.
  • My health (and baby’s). Even with all the dizziness and fainting and discomforts, at least I’m not experiencing any bleeding or signs of preterm labor. It could be much, much worse.
  • My home. I see a lot of poverty in my line of work, but every day I get to come home to a beautiful little bungalow under a big ‘ol oak tree with all my favorite creatures and things inside. I’m living the dream, people.

So here’s to another year of living. I’m sure this one will be full of new lessons and experiences! Thanks for taking the time to read my musings on it all, and thank you as well to all of you who have already wished me a happy birthday through facebook or email. Y’all are the best!

Reader Q&A: Sarah’s Classic Condo

My friend Sarah just bought her very first place-a charming condo in the heart of Houston (I’ve written about Sarah before here). She’s got great taste but she doesn’t know it and is always asking me for decorating advice. Even though her instincts are great I’m happy to help! Here’s an email she sent me recently:

Hi Charlotte!

As you know, I just purchased a new condo and need some of your expert advice! Where should I even begin to decorate? I read somewhere that for a small place to look bigger, it’s a good idea to have a color scheme throughout the house. With the open floor plan, I’ll need one main color and then I can play around in the bedrooms and bathrooms. Any suggestions on color?

One of the main features that made me fall in love with the place was the dark wood floors. They’re a little banged up, so I got a few estimates to refinish them. This will be a big expense, and I’m concerned that the soft pine will be dented up again in no time. But if I’m going to do it, I need to do it before move in so I can keep the furniture off of it for a few days. And nice wood floors really make a place. Should I take the plunge?



She included a sketch of the layout and some pictures:

Floor Plan



Guest Bedroom

Full Bath

Master Bedroom

First off, I totally agree that those floors are beautiful. You’re a lucky lady to snag a place like that! My floors were recently refinished and perfect-looking when we bought this house and we scratched them in at least three places the day we moved in. I was annoyed at the time, but I can’t even imagine how upset we would have been if we had just shelled out all that dough ourselves to have them refinished. I’m of the opinion that unless the floors are really bad, it’s best to just leave them as is so you won’t feel too terrible if you add another scratch or dent of your own. Besides, once you bring in furniture, rugs, etc., the damage that’s already there probably won’t be nearly as noticeable. If you live with them for a while and decide down the line that you still want to have them refinished you can take the less convenient route of doing it in phases and moving the furniture around as you go (ex: move all the bedroom furniture downstairs while those floors are finished, then all the downstairs furniture upstairs, etc.). Plus, I think what really makes a big impact about your floors is the rich, deep color. A lot of people would refinish just to get color like that. Lucky for you that your floors already have it!

Now back to Sarah’s first question-where to start? I’m cheap so I say start with what you already have. Identify what you’ll be moving in with that you’d like to keep and then prioritize what needs replacing. For example, when we moved into our house our dining table was relatively new and I still loved it, but I’d bought the sofa secondhand my sophomore year of college and it had seen better days, so I kept the table and ordered a new sofa from Pottery Barn before we even moved in. Other items, like the wing chairs I’d gotten from Craigslist, I knew I could reupholster or replace further down the line. We also desperately needed a new bed, but we made do with a basic frame and mattress until nearly a year later, when I was able to pick up a beautiful four-poster bed for only $200.  Decor and accessories will fall into place over time in much the same way. I think it’s definitely worth it to start slow and take your time for three reasons: 1) your taste will evolve as you start bringing in things you love, 2) it forces you to be more thoughtful in your decisions, and 3) it gives you time to wait for the best deals.

And last but not least, the color scheme. I’m still learning about color myself through trial and error, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned so far is this: you can go colorful with your walls or with your stuff, but not both (unless you really, really know what you are doing, which I do not). I prefer to keep my walls pretty neutral and then bring in lots of color and interest with furniture and accessories. On the phone the other day Sarah mentioned that she was leaning towards gray for the main living area but worried that the kitchen cabinets and backsplash would look better with a warmer shade on the walls. Lucky for you, Sarah, there is such a thing as a warm gray! It’s very trendy to call it “greige” right now, but the good ‘ol fashioned term is taupe. Ben Moore offers some good ones. I would start with swatches of Revere Pewter, Cotswald, Early Morning Mist, and Overcast. Get a few of each swatch and tape them up on various walls in the living, dining, and kitchen areas, then check ‘em out as the light changes throughout the day to see if you can pick out an overall favorite. Since each swatch has several shades you’re bound to find one that works. If you’ve got time (Sarah’s parents are coming in from out of town to help her paint before she moves in), grab a few sample pots to narrow down your favorites. I used the swatch method to pick the color in my living room and I love it (BM Overcast).

Revere Pewter, Cotswald, Early Morning Mist, and Overcast

For the rest of the rooms in the house, I would choose similar shades of cream, taupe and gray, but you can really do whatever you want. The bathrooms might be a fun place to use more color, since it would be a small dose and you could easily bring in neutral towels and accessories to balance it out. Or, you could try to help the small room feel airier by keeping the wall color ultra-light, then add interest with the stuff you put in there. For the bedrooms, I would stick with neutral shades on the walls so you can have more fun with bedding and accessories, but that doesn’t mean it has to be the same gray as you used downstairs (although it can be, if you want!). Try going with something darker or lighter, or even a pale blue or green. Just remember if you use a colorful shade to avoid the more saturated tones-if you’re anything like me you’ll end up wanting everything else in the room to be neutral to balance it out (I painted the master bedroom in our rental house bright green and was constantly overwhelmed by it).

I hope that helps! My number one tip is to not rush into anything. You will hopefully have years to enjoy your new home and it doesn’t have to be “finished” right away. I think you’ll be happier in the long run if you take the time to wait and see what happens if you make only only or two decisions at a time. Congratulations on buying your first place, and good luck!

Things I Would Like to Have

My birthday is this Thursday! Woot woot! I’ll be 27. Just like last year, I think a little birthday wishlist is in order. When family members ask what I want, I like to direct them toward things I would never buy for myself, either because they’re too frivolous or expensive, but find delightful nonetheless. Like these shoes:

TOMS Natalia Rose Linen Ballet Flats

OMG I want them so bad, but I don’t think I’ve spent more than fifty bucks on a pair of shoes since my wedding almost three years ago (and if I’m being honest, several of my recent shoe purchases have been at the Goodwill). I got a pair of classic Toms Christmas before last, though, and I love them. I love them so much that they have holes in them. So a pair of hopefully-just-as-comfy-but-way-cuter pair of Toms ballet flats would be a nice option for those times I’d rather not wear shoes with holes in them.

Anthropologie Dining Room Measuring Spoons

Now these are just completely frivolous. I would never spend $24 on a seat of measuring spoons. BUT 1) they’re adorable and 2) Nick does not value organization the way that I do and our measuring spoons are always getting lost and separated all over the kitchen. If we got these I would insist they stay together and be used only for official baking endeavors.

Anthropologie Zinc Letters

Aren’t these letters adorbs? I would like a T for Tryforos, or J for Jack, or C for Charlotte. Nick already has a wood letter N painted yellow and hanging above his dresser. A zinc C would look quite nice next to it, I think.

Z Gallerie Dachshund Bookends

OMG. Ever since we got Juliet last summer I think anything and everything dachshund-related is totes adorbs. They are just such funny little dogs, and I guess it helps that my particular dachshund is ridiculously sweet and gentle. These bookends bring a big goofy smile to my face.

Urban Outfitters Round Velvet Pintuck Pillow

I have been coveting this pillow from Urban Outfitters for I think more than a year. It reminds me of my Grandma Gulley, whom I was named after. She passed away when I was 19 but I still remember her distinctive style. She was the kind of lady who was in the beauty shop every week getting her hair done. She always wore perfume and had long red fingernails. And this pillow looks just like one she’d probably had on her sofa since 1970. Unfortunately, I just cannot bring myself to spend $34 on a pillow. What is wrong with me? Why am I so cheap?

(image source unknown)

And last but not least, this wishlist item is neither frivolous nor expensive, but I wish for it nonetheless. This retractable clothesline and these classic clothespins have been sitting in my Amazon cart for months. They add up to less than twenty bucks, but something has held me back from going ahead and purchasing them. I guess I just always have other things I’d rather spend my money on. I really do want to start line-drying some of our clothes, though! It saves money and would give me an excuse to spend time outside on sunny weekends.

Of course I don’t expect to receive all, or even most of the items on this list, but when folks like my sister ask what I’ve been wishing for I like to give plenty of options at a variety of price points. Plus, it’s good for me to keep a running list of this sort of thing so that if I come into a little bit of unexpected moolah and want to treat myself I don’t have to rack my brain trying to remember what it was that I wanted.

Two Yuppies Drive Out to St. Helena Parish…

I’ve been scouring the pages of craigslist for the perfect dresser for a few weeks now. I wanted something low and wide, with good lines, for under $100. Dressers are common on craigslist, but the cheap ones move quickly. I really didn’t start taking my search too seriously until this past week. I had some cash in my wallet (a rarity for me) and a low-key weekend ahead. The perfect storm for being able to snap up a good dresser.

I spotted what seemed like a great one on Friday. It was the right size and shape and I liked the looks of it. Plus, it was only thirty bucks and the owner said I could come pick it up anytime the next day. He told me it was located at an antiques shop in Denham Springs, a suburb just outside of town.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt completely mislead about the distance to a location? I knew from Google mapping the address that it was north of Denham, a little bit on the outskirts of town, but the GPS told us to keep on driving long after I thought we would have reached our destination. Before we knew it we were in an entirely different parish. We pulled over and I called the number from the ad, expecting them to laugh at me when I told them we’d blindly followed the GPS all the way to St. Helena, but the woman who answered the phone cheerfully responded that I was almost there! Just another mile up the road.

The couple who runs that little shop in the middle of nowhere were some of the nicest, most cheerful people we’ve ever met, but I gotta admit the whole place was a little sketchy. Piles and piles of stuff stretching out into the parking lot. $800 antique china cabinets hidden beneath hundreds of knickknacks and whatnots. I’m pretty sure they live there. There was a small gas stove in one corner with dirty pans sitting nearby and I caught a glimpse of a mattress on the floor in a little alcove behind the desk.

The dresser we were there for was outside, piled underneath even more stuff. You couldn’t even really see it through the clutter so I busied myself putting the seats down in the back of our car while Nick helped the shop owner unearth it. By the time I got my first good look at it it was already in the car, and I was not impressed. The wear and tear on it were much worse than I’d anticipated. But by this point we’d already invested so much time and distance that I was hesitant to walk away. When I went to pay, they told me they’d knock the price down from $30 to $25, even though I hadn’t complained about the condition at all. They both had seemed endlessly charmed by my big belly, so maybe it was some gesture of goodwill toward the baby boy we’d told them we were purchasing it for.

Without further adieu, here he is. All twenty-five dollars worth.

I’ve never referred to a piece of furniture in the masculine before, but it seems fitting.

He needs a lot of work.

The drawers are dirty, and one even contains a suspicious looking piece I suspect will have to be put back where it belongs (wherever that is).

I figure if I start working on it and end up over my head I’m only out $25, and I may even be able to recoup the expense by reselling it. But I’ve got high hopes of fixing it up and painting it a deep navy blue, ditching the gold knobs and pulls for something more my style, and filling the freshly-cleaned drawers with teeny tiny baby essentials. Lucky for me I’ve got three more months to get it done, because this is definitely the most damaged piece of furniture I’ve ever tackled.