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Category: DIY


making art more personal and fun

Over the years I’ve added a lot of fun and wacky art to our home. I’ll frame pretty much anything if it brings me joy!

Much of my art, including the pieces pictured below, comes from one of my favorite charities, Art Enables. The marvelous people who run this nonprofit help developmentally-disabled adults create and sell art. They give people community, a sense of pride, and a small income. I had the pleasure of meeting the artist who made some of the paintings I bought, and he was so gracious and excited about his art.

We’ve also decorated our home with some mementos of the early days of our relationship. The sign pictured below was a gift from me to him on our wedding day, and it reminds us of a song by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. I also framed a postcard of a diner in Richmond that was an important place for us when we started dating. Seeing it always makes me smile.

Along our stairs I hung my daughters’ ballet shoes from when they were teeny. As you can tell, these shoes saw a lot of wear — the younger one in particular went through a time when she wore these shoes every day with a sparkly purple dance outfit, no matter what we were doing. Such sweet memories.

My mom came up with the idea of framing the kids’ art in big, inexpensive frames from Michaels. We took out the paper that came with the frame and flipped it around to make a solid, white surface, and then we used washi tape or scotch tape to affix the kids’ art to the white paper. It’s easy to swap the art every few months, which is awesome.

But my absolute favorite piece of art is a painting by Mike Warren replicating a photo from vacation in August 2019. We captured an awesome shot of all four kids jumping off a dock, and Mike turned it into a beautiful painting. You can read more about that process here.

What are your favorite ways to make art in your home feel more personal? Let me know in the comments!


decorating a stairwell landing

The landing on our stairwell was a blank slate, so I decided to mix it up a bit!

And here are the before and after pics from this easy project.

We already owned most of this art, which made this a cheap project! Much of it was hanging further down the staircase, and I’d wanted to lighten up that gallery anyway.

I hung this sconce (affiliate link) and used the magic light trick from Nesting with Grace to make the sconce battery-operated. No need to call an electrician!

I installed this small shelf (affiliate link) from Amazon and splurged on a faux plant from Pottery Barn (the “wandering prayer” plant). I’ve had my eye on that one for a while, and it did not disappoint! We also tucked in a red rhinoceros because John loves them–it’s connected to his memories of spending time and laughing with dear friends, and it makes him happy to see this tiny guy hiding under our faux stairwell plant.

*I get commissions from purchases made through some links in this post*

Enjoy the weekend!


DIY pantry door with chicken wire

When we bought our house, the pantry door was heavy, solid wood. The pantry is tiny and inevitably messy and has no interior light. The electrician said it would be tough to wire electricity to the pantry–I forget why–so I wanted to find other ways of letting light in.

And then one of the kids had an accident with the door. Three of them were chasing each other in circles around the main level of the house, and the youngest girl ran into the door and fell down the basement stairs. It was horrible, one of those moments that haunts your dreams for years afterward. Miraculously, she was completely fine. After both of us calmed down, my first step was to take the door off the hinges and put it outside on the curb.

We used the pantry without a door for a while, but it often looked really messy. My dad came to the rescue!

I don’t have many pictures of the process, but it was pretty simple. Dad and I framed the door, as shown above, and added mesh wire to each opening. (The mesh wire comes in a roll, and if you get a low gauge wire you can cut it with scissors instead of a razor knife.) To hide the edges of the wire, we framed it out with some thin wood trim. Then I caulked every joint (being careful not to get any caulk on the wire), lightly sanded, and painted the door Moroccan Red by Sherwin Williams. We added hardware made for screen doors.

For fun, I made a couple of stamps out of potatoes and decorated the inside of the pantry. My inspiration was Elsie’s clementine wall from A Beautiful Mess.

Photo via A Beautiful Mess

My final result didn’t look as good as Elsie’s, but the process was really fun! And now our pantry brings some sunshine to each day.


from photo to painting

Every once in a while you snap a picture that is just awesome, right? Among the thousands of candid shots on my phone there are a handful of really great ones. The picture below is one of those.

In August 2019 we were on vacation with all four kids when I snapped a pic of all of them jumping off a dock. I love so many things about this photo — the carefree image of childhood, the idea of jumping as a group into the unknown, and, of course, my memory of watching overjoyed kids hurl themselves into a freezing alpine lake. This photo makes me so happy.

In fact, both of us loved the photo so much that we wanted to turn it into a painting. After artist Mike Warren was featured on Nesting with Grace, I contacted him and asked him if he would replicate this photo as a painting.

This project was pricey, but after giving it a lot of thought we decided to go for it and use part of our tax return to cover the cost. And the end result was much better than I’d imagined!

We wanted to highlight the painting with light from a sconce, but we didn’t want to run electricity to the sconce because we’re planning to redo the living room soon. Instead, we added a puck light using this tutorial. (The puck lights recommended in the tutorial come with a remote control, which makes it easy to turn the lights on and off.)

I know we’ll always treasure this painting! I’m so glad we took the plunge and reached out to Mike Warren.


renovating an old secretary

My parents recently gave me this antique piece that’s been in my family for decades. Would you call this a hutch or a secretary? We’ve always called it the secretary, but maybe that’s a regional thing.

At any rate, I absolutely love this piece and the memories it carries, but I wanted to lighten it up a bit.

I used Jolie Paint (fantastic paint for furniture!) in Palace White. This paint is sort of a cross between milk paint and chalk paint, and you have a lot of control over the final look. (I’ve used it to create a dappled, textured look and a flat look. This paint is really responsive to brush strokes.) The best part: I didn’t have to use primer!

Removing and polishing the drawer pulls made a big difference here. Those handles were dirty after decades of use!

After the paint dried, my adorable helper applied grasscloth wallpaper (she even helped put on the paste and book it!).

I hung some treasured kids’ art on the wall and slid a desk chair into the space between the secretary and the wall. I can pull the chair around when I want to use the secretary as a desk, plus the chair legs hide the house modem and accompanying cords.

Decorating the shelves was fun! I looked around the house for some of the most meaningful tchotchkes and arranged them in a way that made me happy. I decided to display a copy of our wedding invitation, a photo of my parents, a photo of our wedding location, cards from the kids, and some books I’ve been meaning to read.

I’m really happy with how it turned out! Here’s hoping this setup helps me concentrate during these long days of working remotely . . .

Cheers to the long weekend!


rearranging the kitchen shelves

Our kitchen and dining room is the heart of our home. One of my favorite views in this room is the open shelving we mounted above a sideboard that contains our cocktail supplies. We made the shelves out of very, very old wood we bought at a shop in the country, and we spray painted the brackets gold.

* Affiliate links used. I get commissions from purchases made through links in this post. *

Over time the shelves had gotten cramped, and I wanted a new look. We removed everything from the shelves and decided to rearrange them with a moodier vibe. Here’s the finished product!

The large art is from one of my favorite charities. I bought the painting unframed and put it in an old frame from Salvation Army. I painted the frame with Rub ‘n Buff and hot glued a navy ribbon to the frame. Very cheap DIY project!

The painting on the right is by my younger daughter.

Many of the items here have special meaning for us. A few of the cocktail recipe books are from our favorite spots in NYC, and some of the others were gifts from friends. A local shopkeeper gave us the gold bell when we were renovating our house.

When arranging shelves, my secret is to arrange similar colors in threes using a triangle shape. Here, I used gold (the gold in the liquor bottle labels, the art frame, and the bell) and clear glass (the cups to the left of the art, the cups below the art, and the decanter on the far right).

And here’s what the wall looked like before this refresh. I like it much better now!

Sources: wallpaper


bathroom renovation

When we bought this house, the bathroom on the main level was absolutely terrible. There was no toilet seat, there were dead bugs in the tub, and the whole room felt disgusting. I still remember my youngest daughter teetering on the edge of the toilet, trying to use it, while I hovered and reminded her over and over not to touch anything. And this was our home!!

*Affiliate links used. I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

I loved the vintage pink sink and tub, but the plumbing was in such bad shape that it wasn’t cost-effective to keep those fixtures.

Because there was so much work to do and we had a short timeline, we paid contractors to do most of the work. Their first step was to take the room down to the studs.

After doing some research on moisture-resistant materials for bathrooms, I ended up going with the <a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//"> Schluter-KERDI waterproofing materials. Their system is much more expensive than other options, but it creates an excellent seal that prevents water vapor from seeping into your walls. Schluter-KERDI materials are available at Home Depot and Lowe’s.

For the floor, I chose some relatively inexpensive basketweave tile from Home Depot. I wanted the bathroom to look like an old train station bathroom — weird design inspiration, I know!

The marble tile has some natural color variation, as you can see below. It threw me for a loop at first, but after the fixtures were installed it became much less noticeable.

Because the room is very small, I wanted the same floor to carry into the shower. We planned to have a glass shower door, and I thought using the same flooring material throughout would make the room seem larger.

For the shower walls, I chose a marble subway tile from Home Depot.

I chose TEC grout from Lowe’s for this product because my mom assured me that this brand is very stain-resistant. And so far it seems like she’s right! We used the Silverado color.

My dear parents installed the glass shower door while I was at work. Apparently it was a tremendous pain in the rear end.

Because the space was so small, I chose a pedestal sink from Signature Hardware. I like it so much that I bought a second one for another project!

The faucet is antique bronze, not black, and I can’t recommend it because the finish hasn’t held up well.

I added a small rug from Target, <a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//"> glass soap bottles from Amazon, a plant, and a few other small items. My dad installed some shelves using brackets from Home Depot (similar ones linked here) and some old wood we had in the garage.

I love the finished result!

I also hung some art from one of my favorite charities and painted the door to the bathroom Tricorn Black by Sherwin Williams.


art || rug || sink || <a href="http://<iframe style="width:120px;height:240px;" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" src="//"> glass soap bottles in shower || mirror || shower tile || floor tile ||

Paint: Light French Gray by Sherwin Williams


living room update

We’ve lived here for almost four years now, and I’ve never been completely happy with the living room. When we bought the house, the living room (and everything else) was painted a sickly shade of mint green.

If you look to the left in the photo above, you’ll see a very green fireplace. I had a devil of a time scraping all that paint off the bricks! Ugh. My mom and I used so many terrible chemicals that I lost count. When the chemicals splattered on my arm, I got burns on my skin. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

safety first

midway through the terrible scraping procedure

After I scraped most of the green paint off, I painted it with a 50/50 solution of water and Alabaster by Sherwin Williams. I painted the inside of the fireplace with high heat paint from Home Depot (if you use this, be careful — drips are hard to clean up). My mom sanded and stained the mantel.

I love the mantel now! We painted the rest of the room Popular Gray by Sherwin Williams, hung some pictures, and lived with it while we completed other projects (like toilets that didn’t work!).

But we never really loved this room. We never hung out here, mostly because the seating arrangement was awkward and because I could never sit still in here. There was always something that needed to be tweaked, something that just didn’t feel right, so I’d bounce off the sofa and move furniture around while John was trying to have a conversation with me. Anyone else do that??

After spending a lot of time thinking about this room and saving some money, we’re ready to focus on refreshing this space. Although we’re trying to limit expenses, we need to get a new couch (the old one is in terrible shape) and two new chairs. We’re also planning to reorient the furniture in the room, add a picture rail, and make built-in bookcases (more on those topics later).

The first task is to choose the furniture, light fixtures, and paint. I was struggling with the paint colors and the sconces for the window seat, so I pasted the options into a design board and added the furniture we plan to keep, the furniture we’re eyeing, and elements in the room that I intend to keep.

  1. Couch from Article.
  2. Coffee table from Article.
  3. Cozy chairs from Target. (We plan to get two.)
  4. Rug from Overstock.

The black sconce is from Rejuvenation, and the green sconce is from Beautiful Halo.

Once again, the design board rescued us! We’re going with Alabaster for the walls, partly because we want to lighten the room while also using warm colors, and partly because the fireplace and the adjoining sun porch are already painted Alabaster. For the sconces, we decided to go with the interesting green ones. It’s a throwback to where this room began!

Keep an eye out for more posts about this room:

  • DIY chandelier restoration
  • Designing for traffic flow and conversation
  • Building built-in bookcases
  • Adding picture rail
  • Installing sconces without electricity

Enjoy your week!


dining room refresh

The dining room had gotten a little stale, to put it mildly. We’d had a Christmas drawing framed on our wall for over a year. Plus, two of the dining room chairs my family used when I was a child finally bit the dust.

We moved the two intact chairs to other parts of the house and bought four inexpensive wood chairs online. Although assembling them was a pain, I’m happy to report that they’re very solid and comfortable. A great deal!

I moved the chairs to the driveway and applied stain and polyurethane. And then left them outside for hours because we’re classy.

We bought black picture frames from Michaels and filled them with pictures of people who inspire us. John chose John Brown, the abolitionist. I chose Dorothy Day, one daughter chose Michelle Obama, and the other chose Ruby Bridges. One of the boys wanted a Russian dictator, and we somehow talked him into Eisenhower instead. The other boy refused to choose, so I picked Jimmy Carter for him.

Despite the drama involved, it was a satisfying (and easy) project. And the selection process led to some powerful conversations.

My mom suggested that we switch out the photos every week, which made me smile. We’d never have the time or patience to switch things up that often, but it’s nice to know that we can change out the pictures every few months. For now, I’m enjoying our low-cost refresh.

Walls: Snowbound and Light French Gray, both by Sherwin Williams. Rug is from Wayfair.

spring house tour

After spring cleaning, I just had to bust out the camera and take some pictures! Grab a cup of coffee, and come on in.

Azaleas are a divisive flower, don’t you think? Are you pro- or anti-azalea? Every year I threaten to dig them up, and then they bloom and all is forgiven.

John built the outdoor couch, and I stained it with Varathane white wash. The outdoor white chair and the coffee table are from Article. I absolutely love the chair, but in my opinion the coffee table isn’t worth the money. The finish on the tabletop degraded very quickly, and we had to sand it off and re-stain it after a few months.

House: Bunglehouse Blue by Sherwin Williams

Door: Colonial Yellow by Sherwin Williams

The wallpaper in our entry is one of my favorite things. We live a few miles from DC, and the wallpaper is a vintage map of downtown DC by Swag Paper.

We found the card catalog at a junk store in rural Maryland. What a find! The back is falling apart, but we make it work. It’s a great spot to store spare keys, coupons, and all the other little things. For the drawer names, I “aged” cardstock paper by soaking it in black tea and air-drying it. My mom has the best penmanship so she wrote the names: “fire in the hole” (matches), “detritus,” “sticky and pointy” (scissors and tape), “bows and curls” (hair ties for little girls), “scriveners” (pens and pencils), and “Hollywood” (sunglasses).

And here’s our house mascot, Pearl. She thinks she owns the joint.

Door: Expressive Plum by Sherwin Williams

Wall: Imagine by Sherwin Williams

When I bought the house, this fireplace was painted a sickly mint green. I scraped most of the paint off the bricks and then used a chemical paint remover and wire brush to scrape paint from the mortar. Finally I used Sherwin Williams Alabaster paint, cut with 50% water, to whitewash the bricks and mortar. My mom sanded and stained the mantel. The faux jade plant is from Crate & Barrel, the nature photo is from a vacation a few years ago, and the charcoal drawing I found in my neighbor’s trash!

The cozy leather chair is from Article, and it’s both comfortable and supportive — two thumbs up!

The kids love to read in the window seat in the afternoons. My mom sewed the seat cushion (wish I had that skill!). John and I found the typewriter at an antique store during a weekend getaway, so that piece carries happy memories for us.

John got really into mixing cocktails a few years ago, and I’m not complaining! We cleaned out this sideboard to support his new hobby. I bought the cow drawing from a local nonprofit that supports adults with intellectual disabilities, and my mom gilded the frame. I bought some very old wood from a local shop that reclaims wood from old houses and barns, and we turned it into open shelving with the help of some inexpensive brackets and gold spray paint. The wallpaper is from Lowe’s.

We recently switched up the art in the dining room, as discussed in this blog post. Each of us chose a famous person who inspires us, and we put the photos into inexpensive frames from Michaels. It was a fun and quick project, and it led to some good conversations with the kids. Plus, now that the frames are hung and leveled, we can easily swap out these photos for kids’ art or vacation photos whenever the mood strikes.

When we moved in, we renovated the kitchen top to bottom. I was pleasantly surprised to find affordable cabinets at Home Depot, and my mom and I thought the in-store kitchen designer was brilliant! The countertops are tanzanite. We had some extra space in the corner, and my dad built shelves for cookbooks. Those shelves and the glass-front cabinets are my favorite elements in the kitchen.

Door: Rock Bottom by Sherwin Williams

The circle in the middle of the door is a very, very old doorbell. I love fixtures like this that bring history alive. Several generations of kids have run through this door, slamming the screen door on their way to the backyard, and neighbors probably ran this doorbell when they walked over for a chat. No one uses it anymore, sadly–all of our guests come to the front door–but we love it still.

Next to the sink I display some art I found on Etsy. It’s a good reminder to be grateful even when I’m facing a pile of dirty dishes at the end of a long day. Next to it is a mug that one of the girls, inexplicably, made as the dog’s water dish. It doesn’t hold water, and it’s nowhere near big enough for its intended purpose, but I still love seeing it on the counter.

Wash the plate not because it is dirty, nor because you were told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.

Mother Theresa (@fawnlyprints)

That’s all for now, more coming soon. Happy spring!