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The Slope of Most Resistance

Posted on February 15, 2013. Filed under: Gardening, Home |

You know how I said a long, long time 2 years ago that Adam would be writing something for the blog? Well, he’s still allowing his creative juices to percolate. I know he wants to talk about a major project that we’ve been working on since we moved into our house. He may want to wait until we’re completely finished with it. But I’m too excited to keep it in any longer and I don’t know if we’ll ever “finish” it.

We have a patio off of our den that is built at the top of a steep slope. This steep slope was covered – no, consumed – with Old English Ivy. See these pictures:

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The ivy went all the way around the side of our house, surrounded the patio, and traveled down the slope and into the wooded area of our yard where it climbed trees 100’s of feet tall. It was so bad, it ate our playground. Just kidding. We got rid of that within the first few months of home ownership.

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It’s like the pink slime in Ghostbusters. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see it ooze out of our shower faucet. Not only did it take up a lot of surface area, it was very dense and deep in several sections of our yard.

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Adam may get into the nitty gritty of how we removed it. I’ll summarize it by saying that it was back-breaking, hard work. Round-up does not kill it. We could’ve doused it in gasoline and torched it, but it was too close to the house to risk it. Our tools: our hands, a weed eater, a lawn mower, and stiff rakes and pitch forks. Shout out to Ryan and Gannon who helped us pull ivy one weekend and they were compensated with a strong dose of another kind of ivy: the poisonous kind. Sorry about that.

There isn’t much of a slope off of 1 side of the patio, but it is very steep on the other 2 sides. We decided to plant low-growing junipers that will eventually have a 5-6 foot spread on the slope. These are popular plants for slopes because they help with erosion control, they are extremely low maintenance, and they are attractive ground cover. We bought 10 Old Gold junipers at Lowes and spent the better part of a day digging the holes and planting them. We also planted a butterfly bush among them. I’ve always wanted one. We spread lots of pine straw to help with erosion and to serve as filler until the junipers reach maturity. Almost a year later (yes, bad blogger here), I am thinking about planting a few more junipers. We’ll see. In other plant news, I bought 8 5-gallon double knockout roses which we planted at the top of the slope around the perimeter of the patio. But the roses have struggled until recently. About 2 weeks ago, I noticed A LOT of leaf buds/new growth. Roses are dormant in winter, so I’ll have to update with pictures when they’re in full bloom.

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I fertilized them like they say to do when this happens and I’ve been watering them like crazy. I want to observe them and care for them for another warm season. If they don’t do well, we will have to dig them up, transplant what we can to the front yard, and replace them with something else. I will be bummed, but these things happen. I’m sure I’m not the only person to plant something in their yard and watch it die. I’m hoping that the reason they struggled last summer is because they didn’t get enough time to establish themselves (I planted in May) before they were inundated with Georgia heat. I’ll let you know how they do. We’ve had multiple pest issues with these roses. One pest is sucking the chlorophyll out of the leaves. The other pest is furry and four-legged and likes to dig, pee, and eat at my roses. Oh bother.

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This slope is a major project that requires a lot of work and takes time, and going in you think you can knock it out in a few weekends. Not so. You have to wait for the right time to plant things and pull ivy. You also have to wait for everything to mature and fill-in – which could take a few years. And we have to replenish the pine straw every few months – or at the very least rake it over some bare spots.

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Overall, we are happy with the way this is looking – a little more cultivated and usable. I mean, I wouldn’t walk in that ankle deep ivy, would you? I really don’t want it to swallow my Labradoodle either. Ignore the leaves. They are a constant battle between November and February, but it’s worth it to have super cheap utility bills because of the shade those trees offer.

We thought about hiring a landscaping company with a Bobcat to come in and rip all the ivy out. We even considered calling in a consultant for landscape design. We didn’t. We did everything ourselves: labor, design, planting. We’re proud of what we did.

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Yes, it took a long time. Yes, there are still issues. But this problem was in the backyard (no one could see it) and we tackled it in the winter when we don’t have much company outside.

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Of course this space still needs work. Here are the things we’d still like to do with this section of the backyard:

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  2. Get gravel, stepping stones, and hedge borders to help with water on this side of the house – DONE.
  3. Pull weeds and ivy – this will be constant for a while, maybe forever
  4. Stampcrete the patio – long-term
  5. Install stampcrete stairs off of the patio instead of the wooden ones – long-term
  6. Purchase patio furniture
  7. Have a few container pots full of colorful plants
  8. Plant shrubs along tree line for a nice landscaped border and to add a purpose to the flat space at the bottom of the slope.
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Razzle, Dazzle, Magically Travel Gravel… to the Side Yard!

Posted on February 4, 2013. Filed under: Gardening, Home |

Sometimes ambition can be problematic, especially when your ambition results in a 4-ton pile of gravel in your driveway which must be moved if you want to get your car out of the garage. Oopsies.

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Speaking of problematic… We ordered 2 types of gravel which were delivered in the same dump truck – it was cheaper this way. The driver did a relatively good job of not mixing the gravel, but there was still quite a bit of sortin’ to do!

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So Mom, Mason, and I plopped down on our mini mountain of rocks and began the process of sorting. Well, Mason tried to eat the rocks. I swear. There’s more Labrador in him than Poodle. While we sorted, I reminisced about playing with pea gravel in my grandparents’ backyard. They had a walkway to their screened porch filled with pea gravel. I would go out there with plastic cups and play in it like it was sand. Kids these days with their X boxes and iPads; I had plastic cups and rocks. Pfsh! After about 45 minutes, we had most of the slate chips and the river rock in their respective piles. Sweet. Not so sweet if you just painted your nails. Sorting rocks is hell on a manicure.

The river rock will fill in the existing parking pad. The pad already has river rock and we didn’t want to change it up.

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We are also building wide steps/terraces down this side of the house and filling them with the river rock for water run-off and to prevent the rocks from traveling into the backyard. We don’t want to keep adding more rock if we don’t have to. The river rock/wide terrace project is just beginning. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The slate chips are for the other side of the house and will serve the same purpose: to keep our backyard from getting washed away. We chose slate chips over river rock because we liked the look of them and they were cheaper. Since they are on the other side of the house, we didn’t think it mattered much to have matching rocks.

Since this post is all about the left side of the house and the slate chips, I will give you a little more detail on the problems over here, our genius (not really) idea for how to fix them, how we did it, and life post-gravel.

The Steps:

1. Research. We looked at a lot of rocks online to see what we liked in pictures. We paid attention to the water run-off when we received heavy rains to see where our problem areas were.

  • Down spout eruptus: We have a down spout off of the back of the house that shoots water out at an alarming rate when it rains. It floods the area around it and flows down the hill into the natural valley we have between the patio and the wooded area in our yard. There are a couple of things we could do to fix this: (1) rain barrel, (2) bury a flexi pipe all the way down the hill and have it empty near the trees, (3) spread out a bunch of gravel.
  • Flat area next to the house: With the down spout off the back and another on the side emptying into a very flat area right next to our house, it was a swamp land. Having a swamp with a furry dog… bad idea.

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  • The gate. The gate stretched across the swamp. Whenever it rained, the gate would get caked in mud. Not a huge deal, but not pretty either.

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In reference to the down spout situation above, we haven’t ruled out a rain barrel. But because we had multiple problems, we decided to go for the gravel first.

2. Measure, price out gravel, go look at rocks in person at a landscape supply place, order ‘dem rocks. This is pretty self-explanatory. Like I said before, we decided to have both types of rocks delivered at once to save some moolah.

3. Clear the area. We raked out all of the pine straw and pulled weeds where we wanted to put the gravel. There was also a collection of landscaping pavers by the chimney.

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4. Install the edging. We bought aluminum edging at Lowes to contain the gravel. It was pretty easy to install and bends easily. Adam and I did this together.

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5. Bring in the gravel! Adam did 99% of the heavy lifting for this project. Poor guy. It cannot be fun to shovel gravel into a wheel barrow and then wheel that barrow down the front yard to the side yard, dump, repeat. I tried to shovel up some gravel into the wheel barrow for Adam. It was too heavy. Talk about a total body workout. So while Adam went back and forth loading and dumping and flexing his muscles, I took a stiff rake and used it to spread out the gravel.

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6. Spread the gravel. I learned pretty quickly that using the stiff rake to push the gravel into place was much more effective than pulling. I also used my feet and my hands. Mason helped by licking the rocks and sticking his whole face into 3” of rock. Then he helped by jumping up and yanking my work glove off and running across the yard with it. Fun times.

7. Hose it down. This is optional, but the rocks were so dirty and dusty that I wanted to give them a nice shower.

That’s it. It’s easy except for the hard labor.

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Leaves galore, but it looks so much better!

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It’s three months later and I am happy to report that the gravel is working perfectly! There is no swamp, there is no river, and there is no giant puddle underneath the down spout. I couldn’t be happier. The gate opens easily over the gravel and this area of the yard has a purpose.

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Just When We Thought We Hung Up Our Paint Brushes…

Posted on January 31, 2013. Filed under: Home |

…We had to dust them off to stain our large deck with its many spindles. Bleh! Like all projects around our house, this one took a while. It was through no fault of our own, really. We were at the mercy of Mother Nature. And Mother Nature in Georgia during the summer is nasty! Staining the deck started in May, but soon 90°F+ temperatures or heavy rains stalled our progress. It’s obvious why we can’t stain with rain in the forecast. Heat won’t allow the stain to cure properly, so we had to bide our time and wait for cooler days or get our stain on in the evenings.

Our deck is very new. We bought this house in June 2011 and I think the deck was still under 3 months old. It was untreated, had finally acclimated, and we needed to get some stain on it pronto. Adam picked up deck cleaner at Lowes and used a hose, the cleaner, and a stiff bristled, long-handled brush to clean the deck. Basically, he stripped the wood of its patina so it would take the stain. He also purchased two gallons of Olympic deck stain in Cedar Natural at Lowes. We wanted a natural look and the deck is made of Cedar. Done. We started painting the inside of the spindles and the handrails first.

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We both spent about 6 hours doing this = 12 hours of labor – easily the most time consuming part. Then Adam got on his ladder and started painting the outside of the spindles, the trusses, and the handrails. We decided to leave the posts bare at first. They are made of pressure treated pine and can withstand a little more weather. The floor and the stairs came last. And when I say last, I mean we finished the deck in November. Summers in Georgia are long.

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I’m really not doing a good job of explaining this project. Stain is very easy to apply and since we were outside, I wasn’t too picky about drips. We used a combination of brushes and 3” rollers to do the job. It was very easy, just tedious.

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I am glad we tackled the deck first, but that wasn’t a conscious decision. We still have a platform & stairs off the back of the garage and the wooden fence to do. They will be so much easier than the deck. If we had started with them first, the deck would have been daunting. Special thanks goes to Adam’s mom who got out there in August on a mild day (for Georgia) and helped us with those annoying spindles and posts.

(Disclaimer: the coloring in some of these pictures is funky because it rained the night before. Oh and big pile of leaves. We cannot escape them. I’m keepin’ it real.)

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Coming Soon

Posted on January 22, 2013. Filed under: Brain Dump, Home, Real World |

Having some technical difficulties over here, but I got lots to blog about. We’ve been working hard.

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#firstworldproblems

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Bring on the Christmas!

Posted on December 24, 2012. Filed under: Holiday, Home |

I love Christmas. Who doesn’t? It’s the bestest. Here’s how we decorated our house this year for Jolly St. Nick and Baby Jesus.

You know how I love my table settings. Here’s what we did on the kitchen table:

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The dining room table:

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We have a piano now thanks to Adam’s parents. I decided to do something festive to the top of it:

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It was fairly easy. I bought the trees and mercury votives at Target. Everything else I had:

  1. Votives from our wedding
  2. Red pashmina scarf
  3. Footed dessert bowls with our own acorns and juniper sprigs from the yard
  4. Waterford bowl (wedding present)
  5. Red ornaments

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Here is our tree:

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I don’t get particular about colors or themes on our tree in the den. I’d like to get a tree for our living room next year and have it be the red/gold, or white/gold, or 12 days of Christmas tree. But for the tree in our den where we spend the most time, I don’t want it to have any rules. I want to be able to display sentimental ornaments, things we made as a kid, things our children will make. One of my favorite things about Christmas is decorating the tree and remembering all of the ornaments as you take them out of the box and what they mean to you.

Mason has a few ornaments this year:

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As well as his own stocking…

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We finally got a tree topper after 3 Christmases together…

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Here is our mantle. I decorate it the same every year. I like it and it seems to work.

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There are other little touches throughout our house.

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Adam built me the manger for our nativity scene with scrap wood that he found behind his dad’s shop. It’s already weathered and rustic. It’s perfect.

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And for the grand finale….

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I talked Adam into doing outdoor lights this year. I LOVE IT!

We hope you have a Merry Christmas!

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The Death of a Ceiling Fan

Posted on November 28, 2012. Filed under: Home |

I gave our kitchen fan a summer and a half trial. I figured he deserved one full summer (this summer) to prove to me his usefulness since we moved into our house at the end of the summer of 2011. I did not give him enough time to make his case July through September of last year. I needed to see if we would use him during the hot summer months in the craze of a cooking extravaganza.

The verdict: guilty of spinning round and round without cooling anything. The sentence: replacement.

I already had it in for this fan based on his looks alone. Call me shallow, I don’t care. Our house is outfitted with weird modern light fixtures all over. We’re in the (slow) process of switching these out. Read my recent post on the outdoor lights. It’s taking a while for two reasons: 1) We’re picky and 2) We have expensive taste. Not only did I not approve of the fan’s looks, but after several months of use and non-use, we determined we wouldn’t miss it because it barely cools the area it serves. Worthless. Mason agrees.

Mason enjoying a WORKING fan.

I had my eye on this chandelier at Pottery Barn for over a year. It went on sale in September and I snatched it up. Feast your eyes on the improvement. I got the shades there as well.

Adam installed it. It wasn’t easy. A big kiss and thank you to my live-in handyman. Mason and I handed him stuff and played our own version of Russian Roulette with the breaker. Just kidding. Actually, Adam did this all by himself while I was at a girlfriend’s house drinking pumpkin sangria and getting my social on. No ladies, you can’t have him.

Adam did encounter a little snafu. The hole in the ceiling was a wee bit larger than the cover plate for the chandelier. Not only that, but the ceiling around the hole was icky.

He slapped up that medallion – which he picked out HIMSELF! – to cover up the blemish. I think it looks awesome!

Before

After

What do you think? I think it is more in line with the traditional look we’re going for in here.

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By the Way, We Got New Outdoor Lights a Few Months Back…

Posted on November 2, 2012. Filed under: Dog, Gardening, Home |

This happened a long time ago and I never posted about it. I also don’t have any before pictures. I’m so lame. I do have some examples of what the outdoor lights sort of looked like before we uninstalled them and threw them away. Use your imagination.

Not my taste. At. All.

We decided to replace all three (2 on the deck, 1 on the patio) on the back of the house when one of the old ones broke. I didn’t like the modern design, so we went with something more traditional: a bronze lantern with seeded and paned glass.

It is a huge improvement and is a better fit for the house, in my opinion:

Did you know Lowes doesn’t carry clear lightbulbs? Ridic. We still need to get some. It’s just a tad tacky to have white light bulbs in a clear fixture.

And because I can’t post anything without some pictures of Mason, here you go:

On-duty – forgive the orange glow. I can’t figure out how to edit the lighting in this picture.

Off-duty

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Fall Table Settings

Posted on November 1, 2012. Filed under: Holiday, Home |

It’s been light years since I’ve posted. Life comes before blog and we’ve been living it up!

We went to California at the end of September, and the onset of fall brings with it a ton of yard work. Don’t worry, there are more posts about our fun coming soon! We’ve also been spending a lot of time with our pooch, Mason Dixon Doodle Dandy. Work has been pretty time consuming lately as well. But I won’t bore you with work stories. Those are no fun.

Fall is my favorite season by far. I like to get new fall décor every year to add to my collection. This year, I purchased some centerpieces and mantel décor at Hobby Lobby. Gotta love the Lobby.

Kitchen Table:

We have a cornucopia! And it’s survived a few weeks on the kitchen table unlike this poor place mat who met his early death at the jaws of a vicious teething Labradoodle.

The funny thing about this was that Mason did not greet me with a shameful face. When I walked in the door, he rushed me with wicker in his mouth. He was SO PROUD of how he re-purposed that place mat. Mason’s too cute to get mad at.

I digress. The cornucopia has survived. Everything else on the table I already had.

Dining Room Table:

I made the table runner last year. The candle wreath and candle are new and also from the Hobby Lobby.

I had the plates. I love these red and white paisley plates from Pier 1. My grandfather got them for me last year for Christmas and they are so versatile. I use them at Christmas and Fourth of July. They are so great. I love plates.

The mantle is pretty also. Forgive the iPhone pictures.

I already had the pedestal vase. It is usually filled with faux lemons, but I replaced them with faux acorns and mini squashes/gourds for fall. Pumpkins and pears with sparkles. Awesome.

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Shutter(s) the Front Door

Posted on September 11, 2012. Filed under: Home |

I got all patriotic and painted our front door a rich red on the 4th of July. It’s one of those projects I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but never had the motivation I need to start the project and see it through in a reasonable amount of time.

I picked the paint up at Lowe’s 3 months ago. And I’m just now posting about it. Oh well. The paint is Allen & Roth’s Front Door Red by Valspar.

Our front door and shutters were all the same color until a few weeks ago: somewhere between a rust orange or rust red. It was dull and clashed with our brick. I never liked the color.

I’ve wanted to repaint the shutters and door since we bought the house. As you can see in the picture above, the door was once the color I wanted. Just like our hallways and our bedroom… What goes around comes around.

Our front door is behind a glass storm door, so I didn’t prime it. (My paint was Valspar exterior semi-gloss with primer in it anyway.) To prep, I wiped it down thoroughly with a damp sponge. Adam removed all the hardware: knob, deadbolt, knocker, and kick plate. I put wood putty in the holes left by the knocker and the kick plate. I also lightly patched some nicks in other places. I taped off the windows and covered the glass with wax paper. I waited for the putty to dry and sanded it down. I wiped the door down again with a damp sponge to get rid of the dust.

The paint has very good coverage. I was nervous because when it’s wet, it looks like raspberry pink. Thankfully, it dried to a deep, rich, gorgeous red. I used a 3 inch roller for most of the door, but a brush to get in the grooves of the panels and windows. It took 2 coats and 3 where the wood putty dried. I should tell you that I waited the recommended 2 hours for deep holes, sanded it smooth, and wiped the dust away with a damp sponge.

Our old door hardware was brass. We bought a new deadbolt and door handle at Lowes in bronze. I like it a lot more, but I’m sorry to say that you can’t see if from the street because the storm door blocks it. Boo. At least guests coming over will see it once we open the storm door, right? I love the look of the loopy handle instead of the brass knob.

It was a subtle change, but a really good one. The glossier paint looks so much better as does the color. We plan to get a door knocker, but there’s no rush. I patched the door knocker holes on purpose so I wouldn’t feel like we had to run out and get one.

Now, onto the shutters and my amazing husband. Yes, they go together because it was my dear husband that feared for his life as he leaned out of 2nd story windows and perched on a wobbly ladder underneath the power line to paint these babies. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Sorry neighbors that our shutters were 2 different colors for a few weeks. We’re those people.

I suffered through dozens of mosquito bites painting the lower shutters. It took 2 coats in most places and some spots required a 3rd coat for touch-ups. I’ll save you the agonizing details, but Adam despised this project. I think I heard “I hate this” about 10 times in one morning. There are a few places Adam couldn’t get to because he did not feel safe on an aluminum ladder 6 inches under our power line. He’s a smart guy. I’m glad he won’t be a Darwin Award Winner this year. Instead, he hung out of a window. There were a few other places that were too high and the ladder was too wobbly. Luckily, Adam’s mom had no fear and finished the job for us when his parent’s visited. THANK YOU!

So here’s the exterior of the house after a bit of fresh paint.

We like it. That’s all that matters. We definitely have some landscaping ahead of us. But all of you homeowners know that landscaping is time-consuming, patience-testing and money-sapping work.

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The Forgotten Room

Posted on August 15, 2012. Filed under: Home |

We recently celebrated our one year anniversary of living in our house. And how did we celebrate? By furnishing our long empty living room!

Living Room before we closed on our house

Living Room after paint, stenciling, changing switchplates and outlets, and rug

This room needed major help. I painted it. It was baby blue, now it is cream. I stenciled the accent wall (it took hours), hunted down a rug, and began the search for furniture. That couch in the picture is a reject from my parents. Don’t let its appearance fool you. It’s quite possibly the most uncomfortable couch I have ever sat on. This living room has been a long and slow process. At the beginning of the year, we decided to bite the bullet and furnish the room over the next few months. Little did we know it would take longer than that. It always does, doesn’t it? 

We went furniture shopping every weekend for a month. We wanted this room to be somewhere where we can relax, read, look out at the backyard, and be close to the kitchen when food is cooking. We finally found a chair and a couch on our 3rd weekend. Furniture shopping is not much fun. It’s like getting your teeth cleaned, but way more expensive. We bought the chair and couch we liked after a week of thinking about them and crunching numbers. I got a killer deal. I’m a negotiating queen. Hear me roar. We ordered a leather couch and a wingback chair for 45% off retail. The sales lady I worked with the second time I went up there gave me a price $500 under what the owner quoted me the week before. Holla! I worked her down from that. What can I say? I’m irresistible!

The excitement wore off after 14 weeks of waiting. They told me it would take about 12 weeks since we ordered custom leather on the couch, but it took much longer. I was not happy. It finally arrived after 20 weeks. I negotiated for free delivery since it took 2 months longer than they told us and I had to call them to check on it. They did not even realize it was late. Oh boy.

We also purchased an arm chair and ottoman from a different furniture store. It arrived about 5 or 6 weeks after we ordered it. I already shared news of the rug. It was from Overstock. I ordered 2 mercury glass table lamps from Pottery Barn with a gift card I had. They went on sale 2 weeks later and I called customer service to get the difference credited back to my card. They obliged – another win for me despite the phone calls and emails.

The curtains were an adventure as well. I bought fabric swatches – no go. I bought curtains and brought them home, only to return them. I finally found these at Horchow. I waited for them to go on sale and ordered them. The sheers are from Target – $10 a piece. The rod is from Lowes. It was very hard to find a double traverse rod that was long enough for our sliding door. Impossible. Unless you want to spend $200+. This one was less than that with our Lowes credit card.

Once we had the rug, sofa, chairs, and curtains, I ordered 2 photographs matted and framed from art.com. We really like them. (I love horsies.)

But we’re on the lookout for a colorful, large piece of art for over the sofa. Though we’re going for the French laundry/Riding club design aesthetic, we would like to have some color in here. The rug, pillows, and curtains bring the color in, but we need something big on the wall as well.

The throw pillows are a collection I’ve been building for a few months. Some are from Home Goods, Overstock, Target, and the red and floral ones are homemade. See my method for envelope throw pillow covers here. If you want to add buttons, multiply the “back” pieces by 1/2 instead of 3/4 in the formula I provided. The overlap is more centered and looks better if you go the button route.

The floor lamp is an old brass one handed down by my parents. I spray painted it with oil-rubbed bronze paint a few months back and put a new shade on it. I’m not sure if this is where it will end up, but it works for now.

We are extremely happy with the way this room is turning out. We spend time in here on Sunday afternoons or when dinner is cooking. I like to wind down in here after work with a glass of wine. Of course this is after I’ve taken Mason out, played with him for about 15 minutes, and fed him. I’m not complaining. I love my best friend.  Nevertheless, this room is very relaxing. And Mason is only allowed in here with parental supervision.

There are still things to come for this room. Adam’s parents are bringing us an upright piano that’s been in the family for years. I am very excited about that. It may need to be refinished, but we don’t care. It will go on the stenciled wall. I’d like to get a large clock to mount on the wall over it and maybe some smaller prints. I’m still exploring some vignettes for on top of the actual piano. I’m sure I’ll use candles and frames. We need to purchase end tables for either side of the sofa, and maybe a small lamp table next to the arm chair. I’d like to get sconces to go on either side of the art we will put above the couch. And the curtains need to be hemmed. Shhh, they’re pinned right now!

Items we’re on the lookout for:

  1. End tables
  2. Wall art
  3. Bookshelf – something more open and less bulky, maybe mounted to wall up high
  4. Large wall clock
  5. Accessories for tables and piano

We’re excited to have some nice furniture. It’s a first for us and so far we’re happy with our investment!

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