House Tour: A New Bookshelf for our Urban Cottage Living Room

Our Living Room has changed so many times I can’t even keep track in the 15 months we’ve lived in our house. Part of the reason for that is that we were working with what we had from our old house, not wanting to buy anything new until we had an idea of how we used the room. Shortly after Peter was born, I moved the room around to accommodate a bookshelf next to the sofa, and I really liked having storage and height in the room. But, the bookshelf that we bought for our old office didn’t really fit our current style. I have always called our style “urban cottage”, and at least for us, that translates to slipcovered, easy-care upholstered furniture, a mix of wood, painted wood and metal and an airy vibe with the occasional pop of color. I think if I lived by the ocean, I’d embrace coastal with my whole heart, but since I’m in land-locked Colorado, a little urban cottagey-farmhouse works best.

[Read more...]

1 Year Later House Tour: Living Room

We’ve been in our house for a whole year. It’s flown by but at the same time SO much has happened here that it feels like home. I mentioned on Instagram this week that I thought we’d have done a lot more (ahem…paint those darn oak cabinets!) by the 1 year mark, but that we were kind of assuming that it would take a few months after I weaned Nell to get pregnant with #3 and we’d have a 3rd June birthday. But, turns out I didn’t need to wean Nell at all to get pregnant with #3 (I don’t think I’ve ever shared the story of the crazy week we found out Peter was on his way…I’ll do that someday. It’s a good tale.), so the 2013 summer of cabinet painting and neutralizing rooms with paint I had planned got put on the back-burner. Happily!

But, shortly after Peter was born, my mom was over one day and we decided to paint the Living Room. Well, one of us painted while the other bounced a colicky and refluxy Peter up and down for hours on end. One would wonder why we didn’t just wait on that. It was the second to last room to get painted in our house, but the first one you see when you walk through the door. Let’s take a look. Oh, but first, let me apologize for taking pictures at night. I have 3 children under the age of 4…the only time the house is the least bit tidy is at night when they are all tucked away sleeping soundly in their beds.

Here’s the view as you walk into our house. You walk into a long hallway that’s basically the living room on your right and our dining room is to your left. A formal living room was on my must-have list when we were searching for houses. At our old house, there was one snowy Easter when no one left because they all wanted to watch the Master’s and my mom and I ended up upstairs cleaning my bathrooms because the downstairs was totally monopolized by people intently watching golf, and there was no other place to escape to for chat. So a living room and a family room were on my must-have list. But I swore we wouldn’t treat it like a formal room that no one ever uses. We use this room daily.

IMG_9524

Standing at the stairs and looking back to the front of the house:

IMG_9514

I painted the back of my front door black a couple weeks ago. As I was standing in line to buy the paint, I told myself, “This is a terrible idea.” It was messy, and getting it to look brush stroke free was hard. And it still needs to be sanded and given a finishing coat if it’s going to stay – but I’m undecided. B came home and I was covered in black paint. He asked what I was painting and I kind of grimaced. I showed him the door, and he said, “What color was it before?” So I decided I didn’t need to immediately paint it white again, I have some time to think about it. All of our trim needs to be repainted, too. We’ll get there. Someday.

IMG_9517

A few months ago, we moved the slipcovered ottoman back downstairs from our bedroom. We’d had the kids play table serving as the coffee table, but I was over that look, and in a rearranging frenzy one day, I decided to kick the beloved big green chair to the play room and keep this room airy and light. And bring back my signature green ottoman. It made the space feel way more “us”:

IMG_9520

I moved the play table to the far wall. The play table is necessary.   We color there. We do preschool homework there (oh yes…preschool homework). We play restaurant there. Nell occasionally dances on the table there. Thomas frequently tells Nell that tables are not for dancing on there. It’s a circus, my friends. Oh, and I don’t worry at all about the compartments underneath being neat. Well, for awhile I tried, but then I decided it was a waste of time.

IMG_9528

My least favorite thing about our house has become one of my favorites. This arched cutout is not my thing. I like architectural features that mean something – not weird cutouts just for the sake of doing something different. But a lot of houses in our area have them. My hilarious sister-in-law calls them “Crap Catchers” – and that’s 100% what this ledge/cutout functions as. A crap catcher. From the moment we moved in, I’d been on the hunt for a giant old window to hang in this ridiculous space. I had to go into college rival enemy territory (Fort Collins) to find one, but find it I did. I gave it a quick coat of white paint with Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, and then it sat in our living room for months before I finally coerced B to hang it right after Christmas. And I love it.

IMG_9529

My old window is fun – I like that it adds history to an otherwise meh architectural feature. Whose history? No clue…but it had a history in a house in a town that B and I will not pay for college educations in. Unless the kids want to be veterinarians. Then we’ll discuss a Colorado State education. I digress. I will say, the crap catcher is fun to decorate for holidays – and my window just adds to the fun. I love to hang happy garland from it. This garland was put up to celebrate B finishing his Master’s degrees but staying up to celebrate summer and the two kids birthdays that are quickly approaching, and you better believe I’ve got something patriotic in mind as soon as the June birthdays are over. I can’t wait to deck that window out at Christmas. But, lest you think that hanging a window prevented me from using this as a crap catcher, think again. It loves to hold outlet covers when I’m painting (and paint cans and water bottles and a host of other crap). And Thomas’s lego creations. And I frequently lose my sunglasses and phone to the crap catcher.

IMG_9501

So, that’s our living room as it stands today. I’d love to switch out the curtains and replace the leaning bookshelf with something more in line with our “urban cottage” vibe, and that will all happen in good time. But for now, it’s a fun, casual space. Not the least bit formal. And it’s my favorite place to hang with Peter in the early morning  with the windows open, just having coffee talk with my baby boy.

Fall Pillows

I showed you our new Adirondack chairs and my Fall wreath a few weeks ago, but the rest of the Fall decorating bug didn’t hit me until we got back from the beach. Hard to think about Fall when you’re dreaming of warm ocean water and sunshine. But as soon as we got back on Tuesday, I was in Fall decorating mode. Starting with the pillows on our family room sectional and living room sofa. With little kids around and a bit of a minimalist eye (read: I don’t think I have a very good eye for styled vignettes, so I generally go with the minimum instead), most of my seasonal decor comes in the form of fabric and color rather than accessories. I pulled out a few Fall pillows I already had and then went on a hunt for fabric to recover my more summery pillows to tie the room and the season together.

After we dropped T off at preschool on Thursday, Nell and I hit up story and music time at the library and checked out some books (Nell time), then we went fabric shopping (Mama time). We checked out two fabric stores but nothing caught my eye – I wanted fabric to tie together my go-to green with some more fall colors like orange, red and brown, and I needed to swing by World Market to pick up a tea towel that I had my eye on for a pillow for Nell’s room makeover (in progress), so with 45 minutes before we needed to pick T up at preschool, we set off to World Market (Cost Plus? I have no idea what it actually goes buy these days). Napkins and tea towels are some of my favorite sources for pillow fabric (as long as you don’t need anything more than 20″ square – in which case I guess you could cut up a table cloth) and World Market is continuously my favorite source for those (this link is also a hilarious look back at how small Blogger photos used to be. Oh those were the days).

Turns out, Nell loves shopping for pillow “fabric” in the kitchen linens section of stores, too. I would hold up a napkin and she would vehemently shake her head no at some of them, or eagerly reach out and grab the ones she liked and refuse to let them go. I didn’t buy anything she vetoed, she has good taste. We got into a little scuffle over a tea towel I picked out for her room – there were two similar options, and I liked the trim on one better, but Nell kept saying “Uh uh” to it and was clutching onto the other one for dear life. And finally, I gave it to her. It’s going in her room, after all.  I love that 15 month old spice cake, and I can’t wait to shop with her for years to come!

So anyway, here’s what we came up with. In the living room, which has been sadly ignored since we moved in, I added a rusty orange pillow and a fun navy blue and orange (Go Broncos!) patterned pillow, and brought in one of the black and white cross hatch pillows that lived in the Family Room this summer.

I love the orange and blue fabric. A lot.

And in the family room, I made two new covers and reused a bunch of pillows I already had.

The orange and patterned pillow are new covers I made from my World Market linens finds. Cable knit pillows are from JC Penney a few years ago, the SIT pillow is from Sundance also a few years back, the green linen pillows are Pottery Barn (also ancient).

That patterned pillow (made from two dish towels I couldn’t find online, but in this pattern) is my very favorite right now. The green pulls together all my existing green together so well and pulls in Fall’s wheat, brown and orange to bring the rest of the room together.

In other family room news, we bought a new rug. I didn’t know you could love a rug until we rolled this one out in the room. As soon as it was all arranged, I looked at B and said, “This is the first thing we’ve put in this room that I haven’t thought needed something else to make it work!” And B agreed. I think part of that is because the rug was one of the final purchases to make our vision come together (a more substantial chair and ottoman in place of the slipper chair is on the someday list- when we’ve saved for and found one we love, but for the most part I view this room as pretty good to go now). It also just made the solid, dark sofa feel so much lighter and warmer at the same time, tied in the green from the curtains (I’ve had tons of emails from readers about the curtain source. The previous owners bought the fabric and had them made for the tall windows – I love them and they go perfectly with our color scheme, but unfortunately, I don’t have a source to share). This was our first “real” area rug purchase, and it’s so cozy. We lounge on it, play on it, and spend so much more time in this room now that it feels warm.

So that’s the state of our house right now, in terms of Autumn decorating. Remember when I put out pumpkins on September 22nd one year and all the reactions I got to that? I’m holding off on actual pumpkins on the porch until October 1st for the sake of my reputation in the new ‘hood.

Linking up to The Inspired Room’s Fall Nesting Party

 

Washing White Slipcovers

I get so many questions about the real-life practicality of washing my white slipcovers. White sofas scare everyone when it comes to stains, but before I bought our IKEA Ektorp sofa, I knew I’d love the bleachable, washable slipcovers. Caroline was trying to convince me yesterday to consider microfiber for a nursery glider and I said, “I only do white slipcovers, Mom! I’m morally opposed to microfiber.” Ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but I swear by white slipcovers.


In preparation for Spring (which regardless of what the calendar says I count as beginning on March 1st), our slipcovers needed their quarterly wash. I generally wash them once every three months unless something is spilled in that time period. But if no spills occur – or sometimes even if they do and I’m too lazy to wash them, I’ve found that a quarterly wash is sufficient – they start to look a bit dingy by the end of three months, but are good as new after a half day cleaning process. I own two sets of slipcovers (at $49 a pop it’s a no-brainer to have a spare on hand), but in general I only pull out the spare if I’m short on time and need a pristinely white sofa for company, etc. Otherwise, I’ve found it’s easiest to just wash and replace on cleaning day.

I wash the slipcovers in two batches – cushion covers first and the sofa body second. We have a big washing machine that could handle the whole thing, but I’ve found that they get cleaner if I wash them in two batches. Over the last two years, I’ve found that two scoops of OxiClean per wash works better for getting them super white than bleach, but I know some people who swear by the bleach method.



The couch’s naked state provides an optimal time to conduct a full search for balls that your aspiring Rory Mcilroy has chipped under the couch, should that be the kind of thing that happens at your house.


For stains, I now turn to this Pinterest stain remover. In December I had a really stubborn stain on one of the seat cushions, and bleach and OxiClean pastes took the offensive portion of the stain out, but the ring residue was only removed by Dawn and Hydrogen Peroxide. What did we do before Pinterest?

So anyway, I wash the slipcovers and put the cushion covers in the dryer until they’re just damp while the body cover is in the wash. Then I put the body back on the sofa frame right out of the washing machine (we have an HE washer that really spins out all the water and leaves them damp). I put the semi-damp cushion covers on the cushions, but I dry them a bit because I like them to fit tight at first so they’ll loosen up over the course of 3 months rather than starting loose – however I’ve found that any drying of the body cover wrinkles and makes the slipcover fall a little shorter than my liking. Putting the slipcovers back on damp is the key to getting a good, wrinkle free fit. The corners tend to look wrinkly and messy which drove me crazy forever until I started putting the covers on damp – perfect time for straightening out the pleated corners:


 



And that’s it. The wrinkles work out as the slipcovers dry, and we have a fresh clean spot to watch our evening episode of Downton Abbey. We throw our shoe clad feet on the couch, Thomas and Casco climb all over it, we say “Bottoms-up” to beer and apps on the couch for the Super Bowl, and we’ve hosted many a neighbor pizza/happy hours on the couch without worrying about anything. I love white slipcovers and can’t imagine my now child-filled life without them!


Pin It

4 Years Later: Living Room

I was combing through old pictures the other day trying to find pictures of the model home from our neighborhood four years ago for our neighbors who live in the model floorplan. Does that make sense? Well, the model pictures turned up empty, but I found a few gems from our first few months in the house. This was the living room four years ago:

The hand me downs were perfect because they allowed me to discover our own style instead of feeling married to something we’d chosen out of haste.  And 4 years of living, scratching the hell out of the floors, dog hair and Hurricane Thomas later:

Slowly but surely it’s become not just me, but us. Imperfections abound, but it feels like home. Thank goodness.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it used to drive me crazy that there was only really one configuration for my living room. I’m used to changing furniture around on a monthly – sometimes weekly, basis. But I finally realized that there were more options – sure, the sofa can really only be situated in two locations, but the accent furniture? The possibilities are endless. So, because I was feeling the need for change, I replaced the big green chair with the two cane back chairs I redid two years ago. Our living room now has realistic seating for 6. Warning: I did not clean up before taking these pictures. There was time for one or the other, and the ol’ blog was feeling a little neglected.

 Do you love Casco’s toy box behind the chairs? This is real life, people. Glamourous.

IKEA’s finally in Denver. And I love me some IKEA. But now that it’s here, I’ve had a heart to heart with myself. I said “Self, IKEA’s great for cheap basics. But you don’t want your house to look like an IKEA ad, so don’t go overboard.” But that black and white Stockholm rug? I’ve been eying it for four years. And it now belongs to me. 

And because IKEA rugs are inexpensive, I picked up a white cotton rug for the dining room. You know, so the chairs now actually fit on the rug.

Baby socks and golden retrievers. Real life.

So. the beloved big green chair now resides in my office/B’s study zone/Thomas’s playroom and physical therapy room. T and I read books on the big green chair before his afternoon nap, and B will sit there and read his textbooks to keep me company if I’m working after Thomas goes to bed. It’s working out well, even though aesthetically this room is not anything to be proud of. But sometimes, you just have to go with what works for your family’s needs at the time. And my baby needed a mat to practice crawling and falling on in our hardwood floored house.

So that’s the latest around here.

I Once Had a Girl Who Rearranged Furniture On Stage

Name that movie.  Caroline was up yesterday hanging out with Thomas while I had a work meeting on a non-daycare day.  This has become an almost weekly occurrence, and after my meeting Caroline and I run errands and critique and rearrange furniture in each other’s houses.  I’m quick to give Caroline opinions like, “1972 wants the wood paneling in your family room back, Mom.” and then she says “Your couch looks terrible in front of the sliding glass doors, I like it better on the other side of the room”.  That’s just how Caroline and I work – we rearrange furniture for fun, and often put it right back where it started.  We’ve been known to rearrange seating areas in churches to make them more conducive to conversation.  We’re a handful. 

Living Room with Couch in front of Sliding Doors at the back of the house

So, after months of dismissing my mom’s couch placement preference for my house – beause it’s my house and I preferred the sofa where it was - she caught me in a weak moment and I agreed to switch things around.  And we didn’t stop at the sofa.  We moved the secretary that had been hanging out in the corner of the dining room (shown in the picture above) closer to the sofa.  And I’m not going to lie to you.  I kind of love the new arrangement. 
Yes, I am fully aware that the rug is too small for the room.  I’m saving my pennies, the budget doesn’t allow for impulse buys.  One day, the ottoman coffee table will not be on an island.
The secretary was my 10th birthday gift.  I wanted a desk, so my mom and I went antiquing every weekend until we found this one.  It once held my Casio Secret Diary and Babysitter’s Club books.  Now it holds our wedding china, B’s grandparents’ cake servers we used at our wedding, Thomas’s silver cup and rattle and my beloved gurgle pot.  Oh maturity.
I love that my mom raised me to rearrange furniture.  I love the new arrangement.  You were right, Caroline.  For now.

Blog Business and a Missing Email

I’ve been doing some blog houeskeeping – and in doing so I lost my blogroll and a few emails. I’m slowly adding the blog roll back, so if you’re missing, it’s not personal.  Promise.  I’ll get there.  Also, if you’re not getting a response email from me, I probably lost the email accidentally.  I’m sorry!  Get your act together, Emily.

I do remember the content of one of the emails, but just don’t have the address to respond to it.  So, someone emailed me asking me about my IKEA slipcover and how often I wash it/practical it is. I’m sorry I haven’t responded!  Here’s your answer.

We’e had the IKEA Ektorp sofa for a year now and I love it still. I wash the white slipcover about every three months (or when we have a real spill – it’s happened) and air dry it – it’s held up great and I’ve never even needed to bleach it.  It comes clean just on a regular wash with detergent.  With the air drying it’s about a day long process – and I think I could put it in the dryer at this point - but we still sit on the couch un-slipcovered. For my birthday my mom picked up an extra white slipcover for me while she was at IKEA in case we need to do a quicker sofa change.  And at $49, it just makes sense to have an extra.  If you have anymore questions about it, email me again and I’ll do my best not to lose it this time!

Coffee Break

Well, it lasted eight months.  The painted coffee table, that is.  The white was refreshing at first, but I painted it quickly and improperly and peeling white paint was not refreshing.  And I was ready for a change – the table’s always been a few inches too tall to be a comfortable coffee table. 

Plus, we have a good number of friends with toddling toddlers and when they’re over I cringe whenever a head gets too close to a table corner.  Add to that the fact that my niece is mobile now – and I love her precious head and don’t want Auntie Em’s coffee table to be the story behind her first scar – and that Thomas will be mobile in the blink of an eye – and that I love his precious head and don’t want to add any more scars to it – and I figured that going with an upholstered coffee table was not a bad move.

I had grand plans – transforming a gross old coffee table into a beautiful cocktail ottoman that the world would ooh and ahh over.  I told B about my plans, and Mr. Coupon responded, “We have an ottoman, Em” and pointed at the green storage ottoman that matches B and Casco’s belfoved big green chair and was currently residing in the office.  I was dismissive.  “Noooo.  That’s not what I’m talking about – I don’t do matchy matchy.”  Well, I hunted Craigslist and Thrift Stores for the old coffee table that I could alter to no avail until I decided to just move the ottoman in one day to see what it looked like.  Perfect height.  Perfect shape.  Pretty perfect for my imperfect taste.  I vow never to dismiss Mr. B’s decorating advice again.  Hold me to that, interpeeps.

But, I still don’t do matchy matchy, so I turned to fabric.  I was determined to go bold – to move out of my solids with the occasional stripe comfort zone.  And bold turned out to be an octagonal green.  I’m in love. 

For about $28 worth of fabric, we have a whole new look for the room.  The sewing was a simple box slipcover – no sweat for a good sewer, a few naptimes long project for me.  And I can switch it up pretty frequently at that price – a slipcover for each season if I get bored.

The best thing about it is that we can just wheel it up to the couch or chair to serve as an ottoman when it’s not needed as a coffee table – we never had room for it to be used as an ottoman when the old coffee table was in the room.  The McKevitt boys are big fans of this new functionality.

An area rug that’s the appropriate scale for the room is next on the neverending list of things to do for this room.

The New Couch

Could I have dragged this on a little longer, you think?  The new couch is here.  And let me tell you, it was no easy feat getting it here.

I’ve had a list of requirements for three years:

  • 3 cushion sofa (for maximum seating capacity in our small house, I’m not a fan of shoving three people on a two cushion sofa – no one likes crack).
  • White, bleachable slipcovers.
  • No more than 35″ deep (so my short little legs could touch the ground while seated) and no more than 83″ long.

My retailer options based on those criteria were limited to Pottery Barn and IKEA – which both required waiting – and there was no real need to purchase other than want.  Fueled by emotions last summer, B and I both decided we didn’t want to wait to save for the PB or for IKEA to come to Colorado to replace the old couch.  We went to the local Rowe dealer and JCPenney.  We convinced ourselves we liked their slipcovered options – which didn’t fit all of the criteria above – and almost bought on numerous occasions, but in the end we both calmed down and realized that waiting for the real vision was going to be okay.  So we started the couch fund out of rebate checks, credit card rewards and cash gifts.

I think that by the end of the saga, B and I were both willing to pay Pottery Barn mark-up.  But then I compared reviews, and the two sofas are VERY similar.  In durability, in comfort, almost identical in scale.

So, IKEA’s slipcover pricing won me over.  Future McKiddles spill red juice? Meh, if I can’t wash it out I can replace the whole thing for $49.  At Pottery Barn that juice would cost me $700.  I know myself well and if our future kids are going to be half me, inexpensive replaceables – along with an orthopedic surgeon on speed dial and the patience to attend multiple meetings a week with any mini-Emily’s principals – are going to be necessities.

I am in love with our new couch.  The fact that it’s exactly what I wanted for the scale and look of the room’s a big part of that.  The fact that I can touch the floor while sitting on it, another bonus.  But, the fresh start’s another big factor.  So many emotions were tied up in a silly old couch – but we’re slowly making our own way in the world, with our own furniture and our own style and a renewed sense of who we are. I majored in English – I’m a chronic over-thinker and over-analyzer.  So sue me.

Out (or to the basement) with the old:

In with the new: