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!


Photo- Induced Reflections (Project 2015)

Dear Friends,

I’ve recently received an unexpected gift disguised as drudgery.

I’m center storm in a tornado of photos from four+  years ago and it is like living in a time warp.   Every day I get to sit down at my computer and spend an hour going through 200-300 photos moving chronologically by month (currently I’m August of 2011).  I started in March of 2010. As I move through the months, one day at a time, I am reliving those moments.  I can close my eyes and see my babies as just that.  I can remember exactly what it was like to have a 2 year old and a newborn.  Time is a strange, beautiful thing.

I’ve got one foot in the present and one precariously lodged on a ledge that crumbles as I move forward.  I’m an actual witness of our lives flashing by.  It should be sad but it isn’t that exactly. More like a feeling that leaves me breathless.

I have dreaded this like nothing else.  I hate being behind.  I detest feeling overwhelmed and thousands of pictures to wade through will do that to you.  When I made it a New Year’s goal to deal with these photos, I considered it the chore of all chores.


But I’m really doing it.  It is January 22nd and I haven’t quit or given up.  The key is that I’ve found joy in this project.  Sure, there are moments of annoyance and frustration but the warmth of memories is balm for the frayed edges.   Tonight, after the kids are in bed, I get to see Reid’s first steps and I can’t wait.   Last night, I could see he was on the cusp and I was strangely giddy for the big reveal.

I was there but this is almost better.  I’ve read the book but this is seeing the beautifully adapted movie.  Sometimes I feel like a voyeur peeking in on someone else’s life.  Maybe it is better the second time?

If I do a month every day I still won’t be done until March.   However, on the flip side I’m 1/3 of the way there.  I might even be sad when it is over.  Luckily, I’ll have photo books to look at.  I started making Shutterfly books when Lacey was little and quit after Reid was born.  Each night, I’m adding a month to the yearbooks.  I go by birthdays so each child’s book begins & ends at a different time.


Every evening I look at the whole month of photos and select the ones for the books.  That process takes a while.  Then I complete that month in each child’s book.  Some nights it takes forever.

No joke.  Like blogging on steroids. But if I can blog, I can claw my way to the present one picture at a time.

It is a beautiful mess for sure.


I hereby declare that I will keep up with my photos EVERY month and never get behind again. I’m thanking myself for this strange opportunity but my eyeballs might fall out if I ever have to do this again.





Kitchen Fixture Re-do

Dear Friends,

I knew from the time I bought our kitchen fixture that I wanted to paint it.  That seems a little crazy with a brand new light so I let it be for a while.  And then the New Year enthusiasm got to me,  and as soon as normal post-holiday life returned I got out the paint brush.  I wanted to use a Modern Masters paint but not the shiny gold I’d used on previous projects.

I bought a nice coppery bronze from my local paint store.  I got the small size (about $14) to save money.  That stuff goes a long way!

I took off the shades which was easy enough — I just had to untwist the collar.  I didn’t even use tape for this project- the shade had the perfect lip that created a stopping point for the brush.


It took several coats but they went on easily.  I never worried about the finished product because I’ve used the paint enough to know how well it coats.



Isn’t it lovely?  I’m really digging it.   Funny, I’m not a huge fan of the fruit in our backsplash but it does seem to complement it nicely.  I got some glittery gold pinecones after Christmas for dirt cheap and I swear they sparkle with the new addition.  Also, the shades now look more oil rubbed bronze than black.  There are some hints of copper that come out.




You can see the edges aren’t perfect but we don’t worry about such things around here.  In fact, I didn’t notice until looking at the picture.

Before the roundup is complete,  I need a good before & after.  I’m not sure why the color is so washed out in the “before” but it helps the after look good!



Yep, I like it.

I’m keeping the boxwood wreath up in the kitchen post-holiday.  I like it there so it stays for now.  You may have noticed my gigantic candlestick holders posing as pillars in the pictures.  I’m still deciding if I like them.  It adds interest but now I feel like I need something else up there and I don’t want to start cluttering the top of my cabinets…

Can I just take a moment and pat myself on the back for already completing a project this month? I know it is small but this is encouraging, considering my lack of projects last year.   Baby steps, right?

Are you eager to work in the house this time of year?  I’m definitely feeling motivated.


The color is Modern Masters brass.

The original fixture was purchased here.





Enclosed Study Reveal

Dear Friends,

Mr. C’s study is ready for occupancy.  It has been for a little while now.  Thank goodness for that – he needs his designated place for work stuff and I’m more than thrilled that he has it now.  Read between the lines if you will but everyone needs their own little space, right?  It may not have a pool table or a movie screen but the study is the closest Mr. C will get to his own man cave.


pocket door open


pocket door closed

Everyone second guessed me for not going with the obvious french doors option but I’m pleased with the way things turned out and this is far more practical for our situation.

Things were crazy for awhile during construction.  The front part of our house was walled off with plastic which made it easier.  My dog eventually stopped barking.  On day three, I think. And the whole thing took a full week plus several random extra days for painting, touch-ups, and installing the transom.




My biggest concern was that the pocket door would look awkward over to the right.  I didn’t want it to look crammed in there.  However, I think it worked out better than I imagined.  And with plenty of wall space for the foyer and the office.




I’m still tweaking the foyer for sure.  And the office inside has plenty of work to be done.  I will showcase that at some point but it is definitely a hodgepodge of old things.  I do want to show you how it turned out though.

I’m glad we hired a good, solid contractor for this job.  It was so much more involved than I ever dreamed.  Also, they did a great job of matching all of the trim and making it look like the wall and door were there all along.

The project fund is now empty so it will be a while before anything costly can be done.  I’d love a new backsplash in the kitchen – maybe during 2015, sometime.   Regardless, I’m thankful we took the plunge and got the study done.

It is nice to feel really settled now!


Putting Up Walls

Dear Friends,

There has been a big project in the works around here. We knew when we bought this house that we needed to enclose the living room to make a home office for Mr. C.  Pretty much the reason we have a piano in the dining room.  Sure, I would have loved that space as a piano/sitting room but a home office is a top priority for us when it comes to function.  Hubby spends a lot of hours outside of the office doing work at home and his own space to do that is essential.  He has a lot of files, documents, folders, and well- stuff that needs a home.

We allotted money in the budget for the study during the sale and purchase of this house so we were prepared to go for it asap.  However, it takes a bit to interview companies, acquire estimates and make decisions.

Knowing that the dining/living room combo is going to work has helped us move forward on the study project.



Goodbye, open concept.  Your open, airy space was lovely but not so practical.


Yes, we are enclosing almost that whole wall!  The pocket door will be on the far right.  Not only will this give us a bedroom-type study, it will also create more of an actual foyer.

We are also removing a door with powder room access.  Mr. C does not need access to the bathroom from his office and there is so little wall space in the room that it is much more beneficial to remove the opening.  He can walk two feet down the hall to the bathroom if he really has to go. 🙂   There is floor register to contend with as well so wall space is definitely at a premium.  Even if we did floating furniture, there would not be enough space for the bare essentials.

Would french doors be a prettier option?  Yes.  They would be perfect.  However, they would not solve the problem of wall space or lack thereof.  A pocket door was really the only answer.   I considered a barn door briefly but I want room for our foyer table out in the hall.

I’m happy to say that the study is really happening even if it took a bit longer than we anticipated.  Truth be told, it is nearly finished now that I’m writing this.  Sometimes, I’m a little behind “real time” in blogging time.

This solution is a bit out of the box, much like most of what we are doing in this house. However, I really think it is going to work for us. Fingers crossed on that one!  I’ll keep you posted.





China Cabinet Project + Dining Room Lighting

Dear Friends,

I’m not going to be hanging any wallpaper on the ceiling in this house for now, but I still wanted to have some fun with my favorite decorating tool. The china cabinet is front and center in the dining room so I decided it deserved a wallpaper update. It also acts as a divider between the two sides or our dining space combination.


If you remember, we are trying to get a buy one get one free with our dining room by including a piano and sitting area. Ambitious to say the least.  Maybe crazy is a better term.


I felt like the china cabinet needed to be a focal point and now it is. I hung the wallpaper using command strips.  I tried two other versions of tape first but ultimately the paper fell. Now it is super secure and has been in place for over a month. The best part is that I can change my mind some day and not ruin my nice cabinet.


Yes, that is the exact same wallpaper I used at the old house.  Hey, at least it is in a new spot.  I’m boring but I figured there was no need to reinvent the wheel when I loved it and had an extra roll or two.

I decided to fill the shelves with almost all glass and crystal so as not to make them too busy with the patterned backdrop.


Also, I thought I’d show you our new chandelier. I needed something that wasn’t heavy because this space is going to be full of furnishings. I had to hang it high because it isn’t over a table so I’m glad it ended up working.

It is the Lourdes Chandelier from Ballard Designs. I just love it to be honest. I knew I wanted it and I saved a few months of Craig’s List and consignment proceeds for it.


I promise I will show you more of the room coming together. I’m saving for a banquette but I won’t make you wait until I have the funds for that.

I highly recommend the wallpaper backdrop because it took less than 30 minutes, is removable, and makes an impact.  All desirable qualities in my book!




School Daze + Chalk Art

Dear Friends,

It’s that time again.  The school year is ready to mow us down like a big yellow bus.  Unlike years past, we were actually ready this year.  Practically playing chicken, waiting for that proverbial bus because summer was kind of long this go around.

That is a lot of bus talk for a carpool family.

Because of our move, we had a lot less travel and many more summer days at home.  I daydream about those free days when our schedule is nutty, but by mid-August we were all craving more structure.  Sure, there were pool outings, trips to the library, and a handful of camps but all of that had run its course.

I guess summer ends for a reason.


Luckily, Reid has another year of preschool before we hit the big time.  The 4’s program will take some getting used to for all of us.  He goes four half days and will be getting ready for the big K.  I know he will be worn out with all of the big kid work they do.

Lacey on the other hand starts first grade.  That is a longer day which means we don’t see her until almost 3:00.  I’m going to have to adjust to that because it just seems so late!  I certainly didn’t go that long in elementary school.  Times have changed for sure.


I hung my diy chalkboard in our breakfast space back in June.   I was so excited about summer and the endless possibilities!   Rather than post an autumn message, I figured I’d keep this one around a wee bit longer while we properly mourn our loss of sleep.


I did change the first line because summer days are drifting away, y’all.  Bring on fall.






A Simple Kitchen Makeover

Dear Friends,

My in-laws are selling their vacation cottage and I had the opportunity to help transform the kitchen.  They were advised by a realtor to update the space for selling purposes.   Of course, budget was important because the goal is to sell.  Who wants to sink lots of money into a house that is going on the market?

I knew that the kitchen had major potential.  With painted white cabinets all it needed was new knobs, a backsplash, and granite countertops.  Of course, you have to get a new sink and faucet when you go the granite route.


When this picture was taken, a few of the knobs on top had already been replaced.

I made suggestions for the granite but they did the fun part of going to the design center and specifically picking it out.  I find giant slabs of granite intriguing. They are all so different – even within the same color scheme.   We were going for a neutral with some white and tans.  AND the price point was essential.   There are still nice choices on the lower price tiers.


Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 10.46.30 AM

I picked up the knobs at Home Depot.  These  Liberty knobs come in a ten pack which is helpful and once again – inexpensive.


The backsplash is white subway tile.  I actually got several samples but we ended up going with the basic white subway tile from Lowe’s.  It is a great white – not TOO white because the cabinets are a shade off-white.  Also, the counters have some beige tones.   It is crazy how many versions of white subway tile I saw.


It is amazing what a little updating will do.  They did decide to stick with the older appliances and I don’t blame them. I’m sure the new owners will be happy to pick out something new if they would prefer.  It would have been fun to do new lighting but it made sense to focus on the major stuff.


I’m hoping to get over there and get a few more pictures of the details when I have a chance.   I need some up-close shots of the granite and tile to really do it justice.

I think they wished they had made these changes a few years ago so they could have enjoyed it. It is funny how something so intimidating can seem simple once it is all said and done.

Now cross your fingers that it sells quickly…







Watercolor Project for the Non-Artist

Dear Friends,

Happy Hump Day!  Of course,  I can’t say that without being flooded by images of the Geico camel commercial.  Now I won’t be the only one with that stuck in my head.  You are welcome.

Mr. Reid’s birthday is one week from today which means he will only be 3 for a teeny bit longer.  I’m trying to treasure his last week as a sort-of toddler.  A four year old is a big kid, you know?  Of course he is still my chubby cheeked little boy but he is getting bigger by the minute.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of contributing at The Handmade Home.  I’d love for you to stop over and see the project I did with the outside of our house.


Now, I just need a picture of our middle house.   I like having a tribute to our homes because you leave a little piece of yourself everywhere you go.  Memories and milestones and whatnot.

I’m on a reminiscing kick this morning.   March is sneaking up on me I suppose.






Project Nursery: Beadboard Begins!

Dear Friends,

Work on baby niece’s room has begun.  What was a spare bedroom has started to look like an actual nursery. Over President’s Day weekend, my mom, sister, and I had a girls’ work party.  I showed up, ate doughnuts, chatted, and oh, did a little bit of wallpaper hanging.

Emily did the majority of the work but it was nice to get in on the action for a short time.


Beadboard wallpaper is the bomb-diggity.  Anyone who says otherwise is lying through their pearly whites.  Or fibbing, as I say to the kids because that sounds nicer than the l-word.

I’ve used it many times.  It is fast, easy, and adds a lot of detail.  It holds up well and is easier to paint than the real deal.  It is also offers a more streamlined look, especially if you use a glossy paint.

I won’t bore you with a full step-by-step tutorial today but you will get the general gist.  I hung wallpaper for the first time on a mission trip in high school and have had good luck with it ever since.

Instructions for Hanging:

Soak the paper,

book the paper,

hang the paper,

trim the paper,

rinse and repeat.


We always make the little square for the electrical by poking a hole with a pencil after it is tentatively hung and then carefully cutting with scissors.


The key to using beadboard wallpaper is in the details.  You have to trim it out and caulk just like you would the real deal.   Emily nailed the trim pieces in place (cut at Lowe’s) while we held it up.  You do need to buy a little tool to countersink the nails so that you can cover the holes with putty. We have both done this a couple of times now and neither of us had previous experience other than reading about it on the internet.   Paint covers everything thankfully.


This beadboard has not been painted yet.  Above, you can see the streaks in the wallpaper as it dries.  Those are gone by the end of the day.

Emily is in the process of picking a paint color for the wall.  She has had a little help from the peanut gallery but it is a tough choice.  I can’t wait to see a few samples.  I’ll be sharing those after they go up.

My goal is to show you each step versus a big reveal.  That way you can see how it all comes together!

Can you tell I’m just a little bit excited??





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