Two Story Cottage

Inexpensive Fireplace Surround Update

Dear Friends,

I have been focusing on the family room since the New Year dawned.  We spend the most time there so it makes sense to use it as a jumping off point for the rest of the house.   I’ve been happy with our painted bookcase backs but over Christmas I decided the brown marble in our fireplace surround was just too distracting.  It was such a strong, elegant look and didn’t jive with the more casual, colorful vibe I was going for.


I had done nothing with the fireplace because in my mind I saw a total overhaul.  Shiplap or moulding, different tile, a cleaner mantel, the whole nine yards.  However, the reality of where that would be on the wish list meant it wasn’t going to happen anywhere in the near future.

Enter my decision to paint.


I spent a zillion hours on google looking at high temperature paints and ultimately decided to go a different route.  I discovered that Annie Sloan chalk paint is water-based and not flammable.  The website says it is safe for fireplace surrounds although it is not fire retardant so stay away from the anything that fire touches.


The graphite color gives a flat, slate-like look which is right up my alley.  I love slate so I’m a happy camper.  I realize that it doesn’t have the variation or interest that the marble did but I’m not looking for it to be a focal point. Oh, and I didn’t use any kind of wax because of the potential for it to melt.  I do plan on doing some kind of poly or topcoat to keep it from scratching but I haven’t gotten around to it. I wanted to be sure I liked it first.

I do so I should get on that.

Often, we hesitate to replace something that is nice or expensive.  Painting over marble is probably a sin for all stone enthusiasts.  However, I spent $30 and changed something that did not work for me to something that works for a few years at least.

One thing at a time and eventually we will get there!


2015 Christmas Tour

Dear Friends,

The Christmas boxes are stacked in the garage and the house is finished.  I chose to step away and call it done despite more ideas, the desire to further tweak, and plenty of imperfection.  I’m thoroughly enjoying a festive house and I know the rest of the family is.  I love how warm and cozy things feel this time of year.


My camera battery was DOA this morning so I did my best with my ancient point and shoot. The clarity is lacking but I’m actually kind of glad it happened because I know I’m going into Christmas with a fully charged, ready to go camera.

It is only our second Christmas in this home so I was still in the mode of figuring out placement; however, I’m feeling much more settled this year.  Our tree is in the dining room and I don’t mind at all.  We can see it from outside which is nice and I’m not worrying about the kids crashing into it.


The family room is full of color and plenty of green.  Each year I get one new thing and this year it was the JOY letters from Ballard Designs.  As soon as I saw they were a Bring Home Ballard item, my decision was made.



Lacey and I had fun making the ornament garland on the mantel.   We put the ornaments on a string one by one and the garland was complete.  You can twist and turn them a bit but it is no different than stringing popcorn or beads.  I had a big 100+ box of ornaments that I bought last year at Target that gave us just enough.  I supplemented it with magnolia leaves, pinecones, and a couple of birds.

ball_ornament_garland colorful_garland ornament_garland

Our neighborhood common space is full of magnolias, so this year I used a lot of cuttings for our garlands and greenery.  Picture me sneaking around at night with my scissors and flashlight and you get the idea.

 dining_table_christmas  pine_magnolia_table



I decorated the kitchen a little more than usual.  Still no new backsplash, but check out my latest way to cover the fruit centerpiece.  Don’t you love that art piece by Salted Words?  It has really helped to change the overall feel.



Our advent trees are an important tradition.  The kids are at an age where they LOVE all of the daily Christmas things that we do.  Finding Ernie the Elf is at the top of the list of course.


This year I tried to hit most tabletops and vignette spots without it being too much.  I stuck to mostly bigger things and grouped as best as I could.  It is so easy to have so many little things and I am bothered by a lot of clutter.

birds_glass christmas_vignette foyer_christmas ornaments_brown

Not pictured -we broke tradition this year and bought a fake tree for the corner upstairs.  We will continue with our fresh tree downstairs but now the kids have a spot that is just for them.  They loaded up the tree with ornaments and it was nice to have less on our main tree. I let them have free reign with little expectation, but I find I’m enjoying it a lot more than I imagined.  The twinkling lights help so much on the dark mornings.

I’m gearing up for the next week of chaos.  We have a zillion things on the schedule with school, work, and parties before school gets out.  So far,  we haven’t been crazed but the last week before break always brings serious intensity.   After next week, we have almost a week until Christmas so it will be nice to recover a bit and enjoy the time leading up to the big day.

Are you finished decorating?  Or calling it done like I am?


New Adventures

Dear Friends,

Do you know what I can’t stand?  Cliff hangers.  I don’t enjoy my favorite shows ending for the season with a giant “what the heck?” I feel like my life this fall has been all about jumping off the ledge without knowing what will happen.  For a planner like myself, taking risks doesn’t come easily but it does bring a sense of adventure.

When I started this blog, I specifically pictured myself fully engaged when both kids were in school.  The funny thing is I think I had more time with the kids at home.  School life is a lot of shuffling and running around like a dog chasing its tail.  Regardless, blogging has brought me a new opportunity.

A job that I could not have dreamed up if I’d tried.   Since school started, I’ve eased into my new part-time position as a designer with a small firm here in Charlotte that works on model homes.  There are so many aspects and there is so much to learn.  There are over 100 vendors that we have a relationship with and I’m in the process of getting a feel for each of those.  I’m learning new computer and software things.  I’m trying to keep up and my brain is working overtime all of the time.  For the most part, I work when the kids are in school but I can see that I’ll be walking the fine line of trying to balance my obligations.

L to R: Caracole, Rowe Furniture, Wendover Art

I did get to go to the High Point Market for two full days.  It was eye opening.  And tiring.  No, I didn’t meet Chip or Joanna Gaines but I saw their showroom which really showcased the Magnolia Homes style.  Elsewhere, I saw plenty of fabulous furniture and things I’d classify as hideous but are sure to please someone.  I’m being challenged but am learning every day.  I’m knee deep in all things design which feels like a dream.

Top Three: Miles Talbott Bottom Three: Magnussen Home, Ink + Ivy, Caracole 

It feels like a comic strip where I’m moving in slow motion but the days are in full time fast forward.  I don’t plan to abandon this journey because blogging has done so much for me.  I can’t promise regular posts but I intend to keep you updated.

Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride.




Open Shelving in My Kitchen

Dear Friends,

I’ve drooled over many a magazine picture with open shelving in the kitchen.  However, as you know by now,  I’m a hopelessly practical gal.  I’ve never been able to convert.  I like to hide my junk, you know what I mean?  Keep the clutter behind the cabinets!

Regardless, in this house there are plenty of cabinets to go around so I could spare one for pretties.  But because I’m so into function, the obvious choice was my cabinet with glass doors.  It is already meant for display so why not go full tilt.  I took off the doors with a little help from my friend google.


It turns out taking off cabinet doors is a cinch which could be a bad thing.

Anyhow, the next thing you know I was painting the interior of the cabinet between pancakes on a Saturday morning.  I cheated and used chalk paint that I had in the garage.  I should clarify – it is chalkboard paint which is not the same but it is tinted in my favorite Dior Gray and I love the flat finish and lack of sanding.  I am not going to be using chalk on this paint by the way.


open_shelving kitchen_display_white


kitchen_dior_gray dior_gray_kitchen

I used my best white display stuff and dug around a little to fill in where needed.  Also, I am saving the glass doors to switch out on another cabinet.   It never ends, right?

It isn’t for everyone but I’m a super fan of the new look.  I like that the dark color takes the cabinets from more of a cream to hints of clay which is my preference.  From somewhat country to a bit more modern country.  Or rock n’ roll if you prefer.

No, I’m not going to take all of my cabinet doors down but a little change goes a long way.




Summer Touches

Dear Friends,

Independence Day has come and gone and we are barreling toward mid-July.  I’m kind of shocked yet I know that summer is just another swift moving season.  I feel like I’ve been hanging my head out the window of a moving car.  Wind-blown, content, and disheveled at the same time. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our lack of crazy but the days are long and exhausting.

Like days with a newborn where the tired is physical.

I’ve actually been doing a lot of little projects around the house but documenting them is a whole different ballgame.  I’ve got pictures so the posts will eventually come.   If I get up early in the morning, I’ve been running and I need it to face the hours with the crazy people.  They are fun but they will suck the life out of you.

I might be a shell of a person by August.

I’m not ready to think about August – we still have our beach week with the girls and a week of day camp to look forward to.  Just don’t say the “s” word because I refuse to let stinky sharks and their carnivorous ways ruin my vacation.  I’m hoping they will set up camp elsewhere by the end of the month.


Hydrangeas might be my favorite summer decorating piece.  My mom has an abundance of them in beautiful blue.  Summer decor is really somewhat of a year round thing here. My family room has the touches of coral, yellow, and blue so the mood is always a little bit summery. I hesitate to go all out with themed knick knacks but I do have a few summer touches to speak of.





Not an abundance of summer styling but those little details can make all the difference. Wooden coral and painted driftwood are beachy and bright. My summer style right now is a wrecked house, a pile of laundry, and an abundance of beach towels.  Throw in a pile of flip flops and a gaggle of goggles and the scene is complete.


Hot and Humble



Spring Fluffing

Dear Friends,

Spring is here.  Blooming azaleas and bright yellow pollen are covering the land.  Despite a drippy nose, I’m a big fan of all things spring.   Most of my decor has a spring vibe anyway so I’m more than happy to put away the pinecones and start nesting.

This year I went for the barely there approach.  I want my happy spring things to sing but I’m craving simplicity during this busy time. Spring sports are notoriously crazy and now both kids are involved so the days are one big blur.  I’m in a streamlined state of mind.









Those dyed Easter eggs are long gone by the way.  They were fun while they lasted.  I may have a slight obsession with eggs and nests and I have a hard time resisting anything so sweet.  My version of “less than” decor may be more than the average girl – more proof that I could never truly be a minimalist.

Spring has been busy with activities but I’ve also got various projects in the works with a heavy dose of cleaning up and cleaning out.  Mr. C’s study wall is complete but the study is not.  I’m working on wreaths for the front door as well as another wood project.

I don’t mind the hustle and bustle as long as the sun is shining and the birds are chirping.

Happy Spring!



New Kitchen Decor

Dear Friends,

Christmas came in February this year. Back in December, I picked out a couple of marble cutting boards as a gift from my parents.  They ended up backordered and I got them two months post-holiday.  Honestly, what is more fun than a surprise gift that you’ve almost forgotten about?

I don’t actually need cutting boards but I was taken by the design of these.


The cutting boards were on clearance at Wisteria.  I love that catalog.  They have the neatest things and they always have good sales.  Those boards are very heavy and are even better quality than I could have imagined.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them but I knew they had called my name.  I propped them here and there but never found the right spot.  Also, I didn’t want them falling over on anyone’s fingers.


A couple of weeks ago I decided to hang them and I’m sold.  I used gorilla hangers but eventually I might buy some fun little hooks to hang them from.


I’m such a believer in things coming together over time.  Maybe if I wait long enough this kitchen will be just what I envision.  I’m pretty happy with it now though.  It is amazing what a difference a few small changes can make!






Fall Home Decor

Dear Friends,

Well, I did get that plastic bin down after all.  I had just a little fall decorating in mind but got caught up in the fun and let’s just say autumn has definitely arrived here in the city.  I didn’t spend much time on it and I didn’t buy a single new thing.  Honestly, I need to toss some old fall stuff but I tried not to wade too deep in faux pumpkin madness.  Little touches here and there and the next thing you know, it’s a cozy autumn home.


the foyer


the dining room


yes, there is a pumpkin hidden in there


family room shelf


family room shelf


family room shelf


hall table


breakfast space


with a leaf branch from a family walk over the weekend


sideboard vignette

Decorating for holidays in a new house is always an adventure.  This go around I kept the bin of stuff out for about a week and just haphazardly put things where I thought they might belong.I moved a couple of things around but didn’t overthink anything.  I find it easier to go slowly rather than try to do it all at once.

I used to dislike autumn in my home because it didn’t “match” but I’ve come around.  I actually like the bright colors but think the fall neutrals are pretty too.

Happy Fall!


P.S.  Stay tuned for a fall front door post later this week.

A Collection of Pretty Plates

Dear Friends,

If you have followed along for awhile than you know that I have an affinity for plates.  I like to decorate with them.  They are in several spots in our home.  Of course, my favorite activity is eating on them but I’m a tried and true foodie.  In any case, I’m talking plates this month at Houzz and I hope you will hop over and take a look at the fun options.

plates_decorateThis is only a snapshot of the fun plates I’m featuring this month.


I still love the plates over Lacey’s bed.  They might be my favorite.


The dining room plates have been moved around quite a bit but I always go back to them!

I’m tempted by the some of the plates in the round-up.  Maybe I will add to my collection with a spring plate or two.    I don’t have any bunny plates and the egg plates are awfully tempting as well.



Fun & Functional Mirrored Bulbs

I don’t know if you have noticed, but shiny things are all the rage right now.  Mirrors, brass, metal, and the list goes on.  Open the pages of your home decor magazine and there is a fab vibe of 70s chic with modern touches.   I’ll admit it – I want that look but sometimes I’m not sure about major changes based on the whirling trends of home decor.

How about a simple but dramatic switch for your lighting that is $6-$7 and requires zero effort?  I first discovered mirrored top light bulbs at Schoolhouse Electric.  I was drooling over something else and there they were.  Bam!  They were cool and I thought I’d give them a try.  I changed them out and people noticed.  I always get a ton of questions about them on the blog.  Whenever people see my pendant lights, they always ask about the bulbs.


Well, of course, I have see-through glass so the impact is there.  However,  they look awesome with any shade where you can see the bottom of the bulb.


The best part?  These bulbs have a function.  Imagine that.  They put the light up to the ceiling rather than have it casting down.  I stand right under my pendant lights while cooking (slaving over that hot stove) and this keeps my neck from feeling the heat.


It also keeps your light pretty.  In the world of confusing light bulb drama that is lighting today, I’m confident that these provide a non-weird, non-flourescent glow.


And they have that bit of funk.


Awesome sauce for sure.   And now I know you can get them on Amazon as well.  I’m all about my Amazon Prime so you can bet I’ll be ordering more mirrored bulbs.

Make a minor change here or there and you can update your look without breaking the bank.  Or perhaps you have commitment issues like I do – either way this fits the bill!



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