A Random, Wonderful Purchase

So, remember how our master bedroom is a complete and total hot mess right now?

We’ve got about a dozen different styles going on in here, several pieces of furniture that are just hanging out until we can replace them, and lots of ideas on where we want to go but very little actual progress.

We were headed in a very organic, eclectic direction with the bedroom originally. Lots of earthy tones, lots of wood and texture. A little something like this:

Grid1

(Bedding via West Elm, curtains via Target, dresser via Pottery Barn, wardrobe Via Ikea, paint color via Lowe’s, blinds via Casa.com)

Of course, the only things we actually already own within that vision are the curtains, dresser (not that exact one, but ours is similar), bamboo blinds, and the paint color. But, in general, the direction we were going to head included all of the above, plus our gallery wall, and a few other ideas we had that would make the room feel earthy and cozy.

We loved that plan. It was fantastic.

But then. We were at Target a few nights ago and happened upon this gorgeous Nate Berkus duvet cover that happened to be king-sized (we intend to upgrade to a king soon!) and also just happened to be 50% off. As in, it was only $50. We thought about it for approximately 0.2 seconds before tossing it into our cart. We knew it was going to change the entire direction of our room, but there was no reason not to at this point.

We got it home and put it on the bed, and we were in love. It’s amazing. And perfect. And wonderful.

And totally clashed with the curtains we already had in the room.

So, like we already suspected, it was obvious that our vision for the room was going to have to change.  We didn’t want to just waste the curtains we already had since we love them, but luckily we think quickly on our feet so we decided to move the curtains on our window into the nursery, where they fit perfectly, and find something neutral and simple for this room. Because this bedding demands to be the center of attention.

(Looking at this photo it drives me crazy that it’s on there a little crooked. Whoops.)

I’m in L-O-V-E. It’s nice and dark with very little white space, which means the dogs practically can’t mess it up. The quality is amazing compared to our old Ikea duvet cover and it feels nice and sturdy, which is just what we need for a bed that houses two humans and up to 3 dogs on any given night. And did I mention it’s PRETTY?

So now, obviously, we had to re-think the direction of our room. Because it’s looking even MORE ridiculous and disjointed than it did before. A lot of our original ideas work just fine, but the feel of the room as a whole will be much more modern and punchy and much less earthy and calm. Which, really, fits in with the rest of our house just fine, so we’re not complaining. Here’s a peek at the direction we’re headed in now:

Grid

(Bedding via Target, wardrobe Via Ikea, mirror via Zinc Door, curtain via Target, bench via Target, paint color via Lowe’s)

And, of course, we’ll be keeping our dresser, bamboo blinds, and a lot of the other things. But, as you can see, the simple bedding switch makes a pretty big change in the whole room, despite most of the major elements staying the same.

But I’m happy to give up my original ideas to make room for this beauty. Because I’m obsessed.

Oh, and if you’re curious, we found out that the reason it was 50% off was because of a small hole in the top of it – not in the fabric itself, just a hole in the seam. A quick run through the sewing machine and it’ll be good as new – you won’t be able to tell anything was ever wrong!

We’ve already taken down the curtains and plan to replace them soon with some simple white (or light gray) sheers. We also are super antsy to replace the old bench now that it completely and totally clashes with the bedding. I’m tempted to just get rid of it now, but the dogs love to sleep on it so that’s not really an option.

Obviously the bedding still needs some work – we plan to bring in some fun and bright sheets (maybe coral?) and throw pillows to add some more color…but we’re holding off on a lot of that until we replace the bed, because that will dictate at least some of it…and it seems silly to buy new sheets for our queen bed when we already know we want a king!

We’re also going to take down the gallery wall and put up a big starburst mirror. Once again, though, that’s gotta wait until we get the new bed since we don’t know how tall it will be yet. Apparently a lot depends on that new bed we are dreaming of!

So that’s the newest random update in our bedroom. We weren’t at all planning on replacing the bedding in here yet, and we certainly didn’t think we’d end up with something black, but I’m head over heels in love with it and I think it’s going to look fabulous once all is said and done.

Have you made any changes to the plans you have for your home lately?

Summer Bucket List

I have a few project-type posts waiting in the wings for me to write about, but since Friday is the last day of school for me (!), I thought today was the perfect day to write up a quick bucket list (like I did last year) of what I’d like to accomplish this summer.

It can be so tempting to spend my entire two-and-a-half month break doing nothing but watching Mad Men and sleeping, but I’m determined to accomplish at least a few things this summer so I don’t feel like it’s entirely wasted.

So, here are 10 things I’d like to do this summer, in no particular order. Just like last year, several of the items are pulled from our 101 in 1,001 list, and others are just things I’d like to do.

1. Finish head chairs for the dining room.

Ugh. This one is just embarrassing. We started working on these last summer (and have owned them for who knows how long) and it just keeps getting put off. But I am GOING TO FINISH THEM THIS SUMMER.

Yes, the yelling was necessary. It’s going to happen. I swear it.

2. Watch lots of movies.

Corey and I are creating what is going to be an amazing media room in our garage, and I cannot wait to use it. It’s going to be fabulous. Now that it’s almost done (seriously – we’re hoping to start moving furniture in there this weekend!), I’m getting more and more excited to settle in and watch some movies on our giant projector.

3. Make our bed every day for a month.

I love having the bed made, but since Corey and I typically wake up at 5:00 in the morning for work, it just doesn’t happen on a regular basis. I’m hoping we can get in the habit of making it every morning over the summer, and then maybe that will carry over into the school year. There’s just something about a nicely made bed that makes the whole room feel more put together.

4. Start replacing window treatments throughout the house.

We just got our new windows installed last week (more on that later!), and we had to take down all of our window treatments on the windows we were replacing in order for them to install ‘em. Now that we’ve already got half of them down, I’d like to start working on upgrading the blinds and curtains throughout the house. I hate the ugly white blinds that we have on all of the windows, and I’m getting tired of most of our curtains. I’m hoping to start getting some of them replaced and updated this summer so all of our windows aren’t either naked or ugly.

5. Rip up the carpet downstairs (!).

Corey and I have finally made some decisions about what we want to do in terms of flooring throughout our house, and it looks like we’re actually going to be able to get started on it this summer. My goal is for us to get the majority of the downstairs done at least – we’ll see how it goes!

6. Have professional photos taken of us.

Corey and I aren’t great about taking photos of ourselves together, and the last time we really had any done was at our wedding two and a half years ago. I love having professional photos of us, and this summer we plan to get some taken. We’ve only ever had them done for our engagement and our wedding, so it will be nice to have a set of photos that are “just because” photos!

7. Spend lots of time outside.

This was one of my goals last summer and it didn’t really happen. There’s just something about 100+ degree weather that makes you want to hide in your house where there’s plenty of air conditioning. But I’m determined to spend some more time hanging out in the fresh air this summer – at the pool, at our favorite flea market, or just in our backyard. That’s kind of the whole point of summer, right?!

8. Spend at least 3 Saturday mornings garage-sale-ing.

Corey and I haven’t been to many garage sales since we moved back into the Austin area, and that’s just sad. Especially considering there are at least 2 or 3 in our neighborhood every weekend. I’m hoping this summer we’ll make the time to drive around and find a few good sales to check out – there’s just something about garage sales that makes me happy!

9. Eat at a restaurant owned by a celebrity.

This is one of those silly items on our 101 in 1,001 list that I’ve just always wanted to do. There are a couple celebrity-owned restaurants in Austin, so I don’t think it would be too tough for us to check one out for dinner one night!

10. Spend plenty of time relaxing.

I know I said I want to accomplish a lot, but I definitely want to make sure to spend as much time as humanly possible relaxing, too. I’m lucky to have such a huge break from work, and I want to take advantage of it! So, if there’s an entire week where I want to do nothing but lay on the couch and re-watch/analyze every episode of Mad Men and wonder why I love Don Draper so much, then I’m not going to let myself feel guilty about it.

And that’s what I’m hoping to accomplish this summer! The first part of my summer is going to be pretty full with work for grad school, but I’m hoping to finish that up by the end of June and then I’ll have the rest of the summer to relax – let’s see how much I accomplish!

Do you have a summer bucket list?

The First Big Update

Corey and I have lived in this house for a little over a year and a half now, and we’ve made a ton of little updates along the way. We’re constantly tweaking and switching up things in our house, but up until this point we haven’t really done anything major.

Well…it’s time to fix that. I’ve teased several times over the last few weeks that Corey and I are in the process of getting new windows for our house, and we’re so incredibly excited about it. Our house has a ton of very large windows, and every last one of them is aluminum, single pane, not tempered (and therefore not at all up to code) and failing.

People always think I’m exaggerating when I talk about how bad our windows are, but let me put it this way: when you’re sitting on the couch on a cold night, you can feel the breeze from outside on the back of your neck. 

Seriously.

They’re THAT bad.

So, yeah. We’ve been wanting to fix ‘em for a while now but windows are expensive, y’all. Like, jaw-dropping, gut-wrenching expensive.

But, as the weather has started to warm up and we began to think of facing another Texas summer in what is basically a greenhouse (the entire back wall of our house is pretty much floor to ceiling windows, and the afternoon sun hits them perfectly), we knew we were going to have to suck it up and get it done.

First off, I’ll clarify that we aren’t actually updating the windows for the entire house yet. We decided to save some money and only do half of them now, and we’ll go back and do the rest later. We waffled back and forth on if we would split it up, but in the end we realized that if we only do half now we can go ahead and tackle the garage renovation now rather than waiting (eek!!), which made the decision pretty easy. So, throughout the post I’ll sprinkle in some photos of the windows we are replacing, so you can get an idea of what our plans are.

This was our first go-round with hiring someone to do something like this for our house – as you’ve probably noticed, we like to do most things ourselves. But this is a big job, and one that we totally don’t feel comfortable trying to tackle without professional help. So, we called in the pros. The windows aren’t installed yet (though we got confirmation that they were ordered at the end of last week, so they should be here in about two weeks!), but I thought today would be a good opportunity to chat about what we’re having done, and go through the process of hiring someone to do work on your house. It’s hugely intimidating if you’ve never done it before, and we learned a lot from our experience!

When it was time to call someone, we were pretty overwhelmed with options – do we go with a big box store like Lowe’s or Home Depot, or do we call in a smaller local company? Do we have a ton of people out to give us quotes or do we just say screw it and book the first people we meet? How do we know which company to use?

I started off by doing some online research. We have had a couple of quotes in the past (one from Lowe’s when we first moved in, and one from a local company about 6 months ago), so we had a general idea of what to expect in terms of cost. We knew we didn’t want to use the big box store, partially because their windows aren’t that awesome, but mostly because we like to go local whenever we can. We liked the company we had out near the end of last year, but we wanted some more quotes before making a final decision.

So, I turned to Yelp.

I’m a big fan of doing research before using a new company, and the best kind of research is looking up reviews. People are usually pretty brutally honest about their experiences with companies, so I wanted to know who was the best of the best. For example, we found out about a company that was going door to door in our neighborhood right around the time we were looking into getting some quotes – we figured we would have them out, but after checking out their Yelp page for less than five minutes I knew they weren’t the company for us. The reviews were awful, their customer service was pathetic, and their windows weren’t even that great.

My research helped me narrow down the options vastly – I ended up with three companies that had solid reviews and that I thought might be a good fit for us. We set up appointments with all three, and the process was officially in motion.

There are a lot of things that I learned in the process of having all of these people come out for quotes, but here are the top 5 things I think you should keep in mind when hiring out a project (I’m obviously talking specifically about windows here, but I think this applies to anything!):

1. Know what you want. This one sounds like a no-brainer, but when the first company came out Corey and I had put little to no thought into what types of windows we wanted throughout the house. We have some huge openings, and that means there are about a million different configurations we could use. We felt like we were in over our heads and really had no clue what we wanted for these windows, and I wish we would have been more informed from the beginning.

2. Be open minded. Yeah, I know – I just said you should know what you want going into it. BUT, that doesn’t mean that you should be completely set on something and refuse to take suggestions. We took every suggestion from every company very seriously, and got a lot of great advice and ideas on what to do for our windows. It was also a really great way to get a feeling for if the company was a good match for us – if they kept pushing something we weren’t all that interested in, we knew they probably wouldn’t be awesome to work with.

3. Know who is at your house. Two of the companies who we got a quote from were small enough that the owner of the company was the one to give us our quote. The third company was the only one who had an actual salesman out…and it showed. We connected with the owners so much better and got a definite “ick” feeling from the salesman. Knowing that the two companies were small enough and that the owner was dedicated enough that we got the head honcho himself was a great sign to us that they’d be the types of company we’d want to work with. It also helped us give the third guy a little bit of slack for being so slimy, because it’s hard for a salesman to compete with the owner of a company.

4. Ask about timelines. Going into this, we kind of just assumed that all companies would take around the same amount of time to complete the project. But in reality, we got wildly different quotes on how long it would probably take, ranging anywhere from two to eight weeks! Knowing how quick the turnaround would be made a huge impact on our decision.

5. Ask a ton of questions. This is another no-brainer tip, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to not be afraid to ask as many questions as you can possibly think of. At times, we felt like we were being a little annoying by asking so many questions and making sure to clarify their answers over and over, but in the end you are essentially interviewing these people – and the salary you are planning on paying them is very high. You want to make sure you’re going to be happy with their work and you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. So, grill away!

Once we had finished up and received quotes from all three companies, Corey and I sat down and weighed out the pros and cons of each one.

Company 1 was probably our favorite. We really liked the owner and how straightforward and honest he was. The set-up that he suggested for our windows was our favorite of all the companies, the turnaround time was quick, and the windows were the most energy efficient of all the ones we’d seen. The quote, however, was significantly higher than the other companies, and the owner pretty much flat out told us there was no way he could get as low as the other two companies had.

Company 2 had almost the exact same windows as Company 1, only slightly less energy efficient. The owner was a great guy and was definitely the most efficient when giving us our quote (he was in and out of our house in less than an hour!). The turnaround was the same as Company 1, and the window set-up we had planned was significantly more unique than any of the other suggestions we’d received, though we were a little nervous about it. The quote was the lowest of the three.

Company 3 was the only company who made their own windows. Their factory is only about an hour from where we live, which was pretty big for us. We loved how everything was locally-sourced and how we could have gone out to see the windows being made if we wanted to. We were not fans of the salesman who came out – he was friendly enough, but very pushy. He also bragged about things their company did, leading us to believe they were the only company who could do it, only to later find out it was a very common thing to do (such as doing window sashes that are lower than usual to improve your view and make the part that opens smaller). We really wanted to like their windows, but he was a major turn-off for us. Their quote was only slightly higher than Company 2, and their turnaround was significantly longer (which was understandable since they make their own windows).

In the end, it was a pretty easy decision for us to eliminate Company 3 – we’re VERY big on first impressions, and the salesman just left us with a bad feeling. We really wanted to go with Company 1, but their quote was way above what we had planned on spending and, since Company 2 was so incredibly similar (but with a much better price tag), we decided to go with them. I honestly think we would have been happy with any of the companies that we had out, but when you’re dealing with three really great companies you have to be picky sometimes.

And that, my friends, is almost 2,000 words on how we chose our window company. I know it’s not the most exciting post in the world, but I did quite a few searches for something like this when we were first getting started and I found nothing, so I figured I’d provide this for anyone who may be looking.

It is so scary to trust something as huge as this with people you’ve never met, but I have high hopes that our new windows are going to be amazing. I’m just excited to be able to turn on my oven in July without feeling like I’m going to melt.

What are your tips for hiring out a big home improvement project?

Summer Bucket List

You may or may not have realized this about me by now, but I’m a bit of a list freak (see Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, and Exhibit D for just a glimpse at my list-making insanity – there are plenty more examples I could show you). So naturally, when I began to think about how tomorrow is my last day of school (!!!) and I will soon have an overwhelmingly awesome amount of free time on my hands, I decided it was high time for me to make a summer bucket list of all the things I’d like to accomplish in my two-and-a-half months of freedom.

Many of the items are pulled off of my 101 in 1,001 list, but there are a few extras on there just for fun.

1. Learn how to use (and be comfortable with) my Cricut

My totally awesome sister bought me one for Christmas this past year, and while I’m completely and totally in love with the idea of having one, actually using it kind of petrifies me. However, I am absolutely and completely determined to at least learn a little more about how to use it this summer – so maybe I can make more projects like this one:

2. Learn more about my camera

I love taking photos, and I absolutely adore having a bunch of photos of the various things we do. However, I still haven’t really taken the time to get comfortable with our DSLR and learn how to really use it. I’d like to be able to shoot completely in manual, and end up with photos that I can be proud of!

3. Finish head chairs for the dining room! 

Oh goodness, y’all have no idea how badly I want to get this stupid project done. We’ve had horribly ugly chairs hanging out in our dining room for as long as we’ve lived in this house, and it’s just about time we actually do something about it. We recently decided to scrap the chairs we had originally bought in favor of something a little different, so I suppose that’s the first step, right?! Now we just need to suck it up and get them finished so our dining room can stop looking like this:

(this photo was taken pre-curtains, obviously)

4. Find two new thrift stores to frequent in Austin. 

We’ve only spent one day so far really scoping out the thrift stores in our area, and we are seriously missing having a couple of local places to check all of the time. When we were in College Station we had a few that we stopped in every couple of weeks, and we almost always found something! This summer, I’d like to find at least two good thrift stores around us so that when we get the urge to shop, we know where to check first!

5. Spend an entire day together with no technology

It sounds lame, but this one is actually going to be pretty tough for Corey and I! We’re big homebodies and absolutely love to lounge on the couch and watch television, but I think that this summer is the perfect time for us to spend at least one day hanging out and being together without any extras – no computers, no television, no video games. We can go shopping, hang out with the dogs, cook an elaborate meal together, and just enjoy one another’s company. We kind of like each other, so it shouldn’t be too awful, right?

6. Go to the pool (a lot)!

I’ve never been one to hang out at the pool much, but now that I live only two streets over from my nieces (who are pool addicts in the summer!), I definitely want to spend some time hanging out at the pool with them over the next few months. I’ve missed out on most of the fun summer-time stuff with them since I’ve lived in College Station for the past four summers, but I’m determined to soak up as much fun-in-the-sun with them as I can before we all have to head back to school!

7. Spend lots of time outside

Texas summers can be brutal, so I find that it is really easy to shut myself inside and try to hide from the sun – but that defeats the whole purpose of all this time off, right? This summer, I want to take the dogs for walks, go visit the dog park, and just enjoy the outdoors. We have a beautiful backyard that I can’t wait to get some more use out of!

8. Give the blog some love

I have a lot of little tweaks and adjustments I’ve been wanting to make to the blog for a while now (like switching stuff up on the sidebar, playing around with fonts, and adding a few new features) but I just haven’t had the time. This summer I want to spend some serious time changing things up so it can all be just the way I want it!

9. Try some new, local restaurants

Corey and I tend to go to the same places over and over when we want to go out to eat. We have a few tried-and-true favorites and since we don’t go out to eat often, it’s hard from us to deviate from what we know we love. However, Austin has a huge amount of wonderful local places that we’ve never tried, and we’re both dying to get more familiar with what’s out there.

10.Re-texture the walls in our powder room

Believe it or not, Corey and I have actually already purchased everything we need to get rid of the weird texture we have on the walls in our powder room (it’s also in our kitchen and other bathrooms, but we’re starting small!), we just haven’t got around to actually doing it. Since I’ve got some extra time on my hands this summer, I’d like to just get it done – it’ll be so worth it to have one less room with that awful texture! For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about – check out the walls in this picture of our kitchen and you’ll see what the texture looks like:

Pretty awful, no?

And that’s my summer bucket list! It’s a pretty long list, so I’m hoping I can actually accomplish all of it – if nothing else, at least I’ll have fun trying!

What’s on your summer bucket list? Anyone else have a bit of a television and internet addict? Any fabulous suggestions for Austin-area restaurants or thrift stores?

 

Island Dreamin’

I know I’ve complained a little (or a lot) about the ugliness of our kitchen. It’s horribly outdated, nowhere near our style, and not nearly as functional as it could be.

As a quick reminder, here’s what our kitchen looks like right now:

Corey and I have a ton of plans for this kitchen, including lowering the bar to counter-height to create a nice peninsula, white cabinets and stainless appliances, wood flooring, and bright white subway tiles – it’s just going to take us a while to get there.

Our kitchen is, as you can see, a pretty good size, but the size isn’t very logical or functional. There’s a huge open space between the cabinets on the right side and the stove and fridge on the other side, and it takes at least three or four steps to get from the counter to the oven. It doesn’t sound like much, but it can get quite annoying to be walking all across the kitchen countless times just to make dinner. Plus, we have quite a large kitchen without very much counter space – what you see in this photo is it, aside from two (very) small sections of countertop on either side of the oven. So, when we started dreaming about what we want this kitchen to eventually look like, it was an easy decision for us to add in an island in the center of the kitchen.

We went back and forth for a while on the type of island we wanted. A rolling cart was convenient and we liked that we could move it if necessary, but we didn’t like the idea of something that felt so temporary. A built-in island was an obvious choice, but it would be the most expensive option, and we knew if we had a large, built-in island we would want it to have electricity running to it, which would be nearly impossible with our slab foundation (and add exorbitant amounts of money to the cost, to boot). We eventually decided that the best plan for us is a freestanding island with no wheels – something that looks almost like a piece of furniture and that can be moved if necessary, but doesn’t look like it came out of a college dorm room.

And, as usual, we found the perfect solution at Ikea.

(Via Ikea)

It’s called the Stenstorp island and it’s exactly what we were looking for. We love the butcher block top (which we’ll be staining a darker color), the stainless steel shelves, and the slight overhang in the back for adding stools.

We knew that we loved the island, and we could picture it looking fabulous in the kitchen, but before we actually went out and got it we wanted to make sure that we were okay with having such a large piece of furniture in the middle of our kitchen. It’s definitely going to change how we function in the kitchen and will require us to move differently through it, so we were worried that we’d jump the gun buying it and end up hating how it limited our movement. So, this weekend we decided to go ahead and tape off the floor in our kitchen in the size of the island so we can make sure we’re okay with the size.

 

We measured, taped, and stepped back to look. My primary concern was being able to open the lower cabinets and the oven – it wouldn’t add much function to the kitchen if I bumped into it every time I needed to open the oven!

Even Ranger decided to test it out.

We still loved the idea of adding the functionality of an island to the room, but we were a bit worried about the size – it was hard to picture exactly how it would look in the room, and even though we were stepping around the tape lines it wasn’t easy to tell how imposing it would really be once it was in the room.

We looked a bit more in Ikea to see if they had a smaller size, and we found one that was not as pretty, but we could easily fix that with some paint and stain.

(Groland Island)

We decided to tape off the smaller island to see how it would look in the room – since we thought the other might be too large, we figured this one could be the perfect solution.

It was definitely a much less imposing size, but once we stepped back and looked closely at it, we realized that the smaller island would almost just look silly in the room. The kitchen is so large that a small island would look completely out of place, whereas a larger island would look like it was more purposeful and would help fill out the room a bit.

So at this point, we knew the smaller island wouldn’t look right in the room, but we weren’t sure we loved the size of the larger one. We definitely didn’t want to end up with something that was too big for the room, but we didn’t want to be so careful that we ended up with something that looks out of place.

Thankfully, it was right about at this point that we realized that our kitchen table is almost exactly the same size as the larger island. It is (obviously) shorter and 1-2 inches smaller on each side, but it would be the perfect way to experiment with having a large piece of furniture in the middle of our kitchen to see if we could live with it. So, we moved it over.

We were feeling cautiously optimistic about how it looked, but the real test came when we decided to try opening everything we could on all sides of the “island.”

It’s a perfect fit!

We left it in its place while we were cooking dinner to see how we liked it, and every few seconds one of us would exclaim how much we loved it. It was so convenient to be able to set things down on the island rather than walking across the room, and it just made the whole layout of the kitchen so much more convenient and intuitive. We plan to leave the faux island here for a few weeks and see how we feel about it on a day to day basis, but so far we are thinking it’s going to be perfect for us.

Getting this island is going to be one huge step towards making our kitchen something that we can love (or at least live with until we can truly make it something we love!) and we’re getting more and more excited about it. Now if only we could get someone to buy our old couch off of Craigslist so we can actually go get it!

Let’s talk kitchen layouts – is yours big, open and awkward like our is, or does it make more sense?