Anatomy of a Room

A Layered Bedroom in Navy, Gray, and Brass

navy gray and brass bedroom

As I was putting together the January collection for Houzz (A Layered Bedroom in Navy, Gray, and Brass – wonder where I got that idea?) I realized I’d never shared pics of our finished space. While I’m still playing with the gallery wall, the bedroom reboot has been mostly finished for quite a while. Oops.

navy gray and brass bedroom

Rather than a complete redesign with all new furnishings, the only new things in the space are the textiles – the curtains, bedding and sheepskin rug. The remainder were re-purposed from other rooms, as per my usual rearranging. I stole a nightstand from the guest room, moved the gray sofa out of the living room (and got it stuck coming upstairs).

gallery wall

Because really, how often can we just start over? We all use what we have, just re-imagining how it will be used in our lives. I also removed a lot of clutter. So much clutter. Why do I always have so much stuff?

finn dressers

kat dressers

I like to tell myself that the linen duvet is charmingly rumpled. It’s certainly cozy, with a nice weight to it for the crazy polar vortex winter we’ve had here.

navy gray and brass bedroom

I really liked the way Nicole had designed the space, but I’m also enjoying the lack of pattern there now, much more than I thought I would at the start.

It is less designed than it was before. Part of me misses the polish. The sofa looks odd between the dressers. But I really like that little sofa and it’s nice to have a place to sit and cuddle with a child or put on shoes (and throw all the dirty laundry on instead of putting it in the basket). So it stays.

dressers and sofa

What I realized through this was just how much more comfortable I am when I allow myself to stick with the colors I consistently like. I like yellow and blue, but what I really like, what I wear all the time as well, is gray and navy. My house has a uniform. And that’s ok.

gallery wall

I continuously gravitate towards grays and blues. And I think I’m figuring out how to make my home work with this more monotone scheme. We shall see. I took lots of pictures today, as the house was finally clean and the light was ok. So I’ll be sharing the rooms over the next bit and you can let me know.

And since I’m sharing the #myrealhouse over on Instagram, here are the outtakes from today’s photos.

laundry and donations
Laundry and the donations pile that kept moving around the room to stay out of the shots. I guess I haven’t really decluttered till I actually take the crap out of my house.

stair well
Rejected decor and scraped paint in the stairwell from the sofa debacle.

And finally, how my bed usually looks.


DIY projects in this room:

Wreath. Barn Door. Headboard.


Linking up to Remodelaholic.

My Real House

Well hello there. It’s been a while. How were your holidays? And happy new year! I keep wanting to pop in and share things with you, but I just can’t seem to get things together. There’s either stuff everywhere or it’s too dark for photos. Or there’s stuff everywhere AND it’s too dark for photos (4:30 sunset you can not go away soon enough!).

Which is silly, really. You guys know that my house, like yours I imagine, contains four people with lives outside the internet. It’s rarely, if ever, tidy (I make judicious use of the quick tidy and the careful crop in every picture you see) and just as rarely (if ever) Pinterest worthy (that’s a thing now).  And I went into this blogging thing interested in making people feel like their regular homes could be beautiful. That my regular home could be beautiful. And instead of inviting you over for tea, I ended up tidying it up for you. Don’t get me wrong, I really like my house to look nice. But I also like to live there. And I like my family living there. 

So I’ve made a decision. I’m showing you my real house. Some days it looks good. Some days it’s dreadful. Most days it’s somewhere between. And since Instagram is for over sharing, and because everyone likes a 365 project, I’m going to take a picture of my house (#myrealhouse) every day this year. Or, you know, every day that’s left of this year. And I’d really, really like it if you’d join me. 

To get us started, I’m baring it all. Here’s my real house. Laundry, legos, blurry (and poorly lit) photos and all. And no, this is not as bad as it gets. We don’t know each other that well, I have to save something for the third date.

Nothing says welcome to our home like a too long runner and large bucket o'shoes.

Nothing says welcome to our home like a too long runner and large bucket o’shoes. Of course it’s now snowed a bunch, so imagine this with all the boots piled in front of the door so that no one can actually get in or out.


Sometimes I just have random stuff on shelves. I'll make it pretty later. Maybe.

Sometimes I just have random stuff on shelves. I’ll make it pretty later. Maybe.

Legos. I might be bragging here, because they're currently confined to one room. One room you can't walk through, but still.

Legos. I might be bragging here, because they’re currently confined to one room. One room you can’t walk through, but still.

Hi there. I do laundry. This may or may not have been there for days.

Hi there. I do laundry. This may or may not have been there for days.

I moved stuff. Now there are holes in the wall.

I moved stuff. Now there are holes in the wall.


We do projects. They require supplies. We dump them here. Pretty, right?

We do projects. They require supplies. We dump them here. Pretty, right? (you’d think with the supplies right there, I could go ahead and fix the holes in the previous picture. But no. Baby steps.)

Vignette. Go ahead. Pin it.

Vignette. Go ahead. Pin it.

A relatively clean dining room table. With bonus light bulb that still hasn't been replaced.

A relatively clean dining room table. With bonus light bulb that still hasn’t been replaced.

Dead plants. Not recently dead.

Dead plants. Not recently dead.

We live here. And we use dish soap that doesn't come in a pretty bottle.

We live here. And we use dish soap that doesn’t come in a pretty bottle. And dishes don’t get washed immediately. etc.

Cereal boxes are not attractive. I buy them anyway because we, well, we eat cereal.

Cereal boxes are not attractive. I buy them anyway because we, well, we eat cereal. Also, sometimes we have old fruit and tomatoes randomly on the counter. Also wine. Because wine.

So there you go. There are more pictures, but I think that’s enough reality for one day. Must keep some of the mystery in our relationship. So, will you join me? I’m really interested to see your spaces. Mostly though, I just need to know that there are more of us out there. Pinterest is lovely, but sometimes, when I look over and see reality, I know that that is lovely too. It really is.

Want to follow along? Or better yet, join me? Share your house, your real house, on Instagram (you can find me here) or on Designing Around’s Facebook page. If you use Instagram, use the #myrealhouse so I can follow along (and feel better about myself). As we go, I may even shake up Pinterest with some real homes. I know, so crazy.

DIY Brass Pendant Lights

DIY Pipe lights for $100

Finally. The kitchen has lights. In truth it’s had lights for several weeks now, but there’s been very little times when the kitchen clean while it was light enough to get a decent picture. I know, my life is hard.

When last we spoke I was soliciting pendant advice and bemoaning the necessity of track lighting in our kitchen. With it’s three different ceiling heights and limited light box options (without major electrical work), I felt we were stuck with at least semi-ugly. Luckily Finn had other ideas.

DIY Pipe lights from hall

Behold, the DIY Brass Pendant lights. Designed by Finn to accommodate our crazy ceiling and electrical issues. Added bonus of being both more attractive and cheaper than any of the other options ($100 for three lights!). Plus they coordinate nicely with the Lindsey Adelman light he built last year.

A closer look at the ceiling issues. Original kitchen ceiling, header, and the lower ceiling from what used to be an enclosed porch. Fun stuff.

close up

ceiling view

I may add some glass shades, although the bare bulbs aren’t bad. And along the shelves we added simple Ikea clamp lights, which Finn wired to run from one switch. Not ideal, but it works for now. The lights are built from simple lamp parts from Grand Brass. Let me know if you want a tutorial.

clamp lights

And just because I finally replaced all the dead plants with live ones, my little glass globe terraria. Dust free and full of living plants. For the moment anyway.

glass terrariums

And a final shot of the lights on. Shiny!

kitchen lights 035


Linking up to Thrifty Decor Chick.


Want to talk about homeschooling? Yep, thought so. Everybody does. And truthfully, so do I. Because its kind of cool. Mostly it’s cool because we’re still making it happen. And it’s working. Since this is kind of decor blog, however, I thought we’d start by looking at where we do most of our schooling. The formal part, at any rate. We do it (ha! I’m so mature) in the library. Because we’re fancy pants homeschoolers. I’ll do a second post discussing what, exactly, we’re doing with the actual schooling, but today, let’s chat about form v. function. Or, better yet, form and function. Because really that’s the goal, right?

We currently have a separate room for “school”. We tried working in the dining room for a bit, as well as in the living room, and we’ve found that for our kid, having a dedicated school space is more functional. The school room is in what we call “The Library“. It used to be “The Office“. I’ve rearranged the library quite a bit since you last saw it. As per usual. I really need to update the house tour section, as the house looks nothing like that now. Anyway.

Ta Da.
study room

The Library. Capital L, of course. The Library, as with most rooms in our house, is small. 9′ x 11′ as a matter of fact.

I needed the room to function as a homeschooling space, with room for two kids and an adult to work after-school, as well as be a space for electronics projects and music lessons. And since it opened onto the living room and I had to see it everyday, I really needed it organized enough that things could be put away easily and that it looked like it fit with the house when we had company. I recognize that not everyone needs that level of tidy, but it keeps me sane. I work full-time, I co-homeschool my kid, I do a lot of freelance writing and blogging – I just need some things to work well without a lot of maintenance. Which for the first couple months of the year was not happening.

The space needed a lot of furniture to work effectively. Into that space I needed to cram the 5 billy bookcases, a reading chair, a desk large enough for projects, filing cabinets for all the school stuff, and a computer desk. For a small room, that’s a lot to ask.

When we moved the gray sofa out of the space I kept the bookcases in a line along the back wall. There was a larger desk where the table is now, the reading chair was across from that. Blocking the doors to half the bookcases. The desk also held the computer. And the built-in desk on the other wall, it just held piles of crap. As did the desk and the chair. This is the only picture I have of the room in that configuration. It was a mess. It had all the components, but none of them were working well together. The desk was too big for the room, the chair didn’t fit and the bookcases looked great, but we couldn’t get to anything. Anyone else have a room like this? You know what you need in there to make it work, but what you have doesn’t work together?


You can see the bookcase issue. And keeping the computer there meant that the boy kept “accidentally” turning it on when he was supposed to be working. Not functional for anyone.

So I pulled the room apart and started over. The sofa moved upstairs. The giant desk went to basement storage (usually I just sell stuff, but I like the desk and think it might eventually find a home elsewhere). The bookcases went into an l-shape around one corner and got a serious clear out of decor clutter.


The big aha moment came when I realized I had a folding table that might work elsewhere in the house. So I moved my grandmother’s gate-leg table down (it had functioned as a nightstand in our bedroom). The table really was key, as its folding makes the room function for music lessons and non-school time, but unfolded it’s large enough for two to sit at for home school or for Emm to spread out at for homework. It’s not perfect, as it’s antique and a little awkward to unfold with the rug, but it’s so much better than what we had. I do like seeing that table everyday, seeing it used. And it was free.

computer desk


The computer (not pictured, as it was at the genius bar) moved to the built-in desk and the home school drawers got a huge clean out and reorganization. Exciting, right? Exciting for me anyway. Better yet, I did all this a month ago and the room has stayed relatively tidy since. Everyone can find what they need for projects, books get put away as we finish the subject and there’s plenty of reading material within easy reach when certain people get “bored”. The room has never functioned this well for the entire family.

Will this arrangement always work well? Who knows. It seems that this year, especially, I’m having to adapt quite a few systems that worked well for years, because with bigger children they just aren’t functioning. But it works for now.

So that’s where we home school. And do hours of middle school homework. And play minecraft. And solder Halloween costumes. And practice guitar. And, hopefully, create memories. Good ones, not just ones of parental nagging*. Oh who am I kidding.

*you may have noticed I didn’t list reading here. In the library. Weird, right? Turns out the kids like to grab books from the space and then cart them around the house (most of the time) instead of just curling up in that comfy chair I provided.They will, in fact, go sit in the most uncomfortable chair in the house with their book. Probably because they like to hear me ask them to put things away. They just can’t get enough of that. They move things where they don’t belong all the time, just to hear me ask them to put the things way. Sometimes they pretend they can’t hear me so I’ll ask more than once. Those kids. They just love to hear me talk.

Kitchen Pendant Choices

ranarp pendant Ikea has a new lighting line (Ranarp) that I’m coveting. Clean lines, white with brass detail, and nicely styled. And affordable. I went to check them out in person the other day and realized that I could potentially use the pendants in our kitchen and expand the track. Ikea’s track is much more attractive than what we have and replacing it wouldn’t be crazy. While I was there though, I saw this pendant (Hektar)as well. Now I can’t decide which one I want. 78b0c238bc32ba3246c8e2c897a5347e What do you think? I like the white and think it ties in well, but I also like the contrast of the dark grey and it’s connection to the dining room walls. Here, I’ve had my helper place them for reference. 7d4e5a7c416411e3895f22000a9e4895_8 I know, that didn’t really help me either (and he’d been gamely holding them up one at a time for a while at this point, thus the less than enthusiastic look about one more for a picture). The poor iPhone photo does illustrate just how badly we need to fix the lighting situation.  And yes, my kid was on my kitchen counter with his bare feet. Whatever, I cleaned it later.

Pattern vs Texture: Part the Third


Ideally part the third would = part the finished. It does not. The bedroom redo is progressing. Slowly. I’m not sure it’s ever taken me this long to think through a room. Part of that is because this space is so very awkward, a big open room that also has to function as closet and hallway, with funny ceiling angles and an off-centered window thrown in for good measure. With all that going on, I still want to create a space that feels grown-up and calm, even if it clearly will never feel like a retreat.

At any rate, things have changed. The barn door is painted, taking it from mustard to navy (not pictured, all the small toys and clothes I kicked to the side of the door frame).
barn door hale navy

I decided the gray curtains were too match-y with the bedding, so they’ve been exchanged for navy. I added a sheer behind them and suddenly that whole window looked better. Who knew, this whole time all it needed was a simple sheer to polish things up. I’ve always been very anti sheer curtains, as I like to see out our windows, but as I don’t want to see out of this one clearly ever it’s perfect. And I like the way it looks so much I’m tempted to try them in the living room.


New to the room night stands have been pulled into service from other areas of the house. I layered the table with a basket and stool, so it didn’t feel quite so tall and to bring in more textures and finishes. Vignettes on said night stands have been obsessed over, perhaps a bit too much. As evidenced by the use of the word vignette. Although not as much as the ones on the dressers, which probably just need to be cleared off as things are getting cluttered and weird. And very yellow, some spray paint may also be in order.

door closed

Wardrobe handles have been changed to brass, a small detail that makes a surprising difference.


The sofa (safely ensconced after the stairway debacle) is a little weird, but really so is that whole space. I do what I can with it, the strange pass through without walls. It’s nice to have a place to sit in the room.


Still to come, the sconce I ordered a month ago. Once I figure out where to place that, I can think about what else to put on the walls. And I need to re-upholster the headboard now that the sofa is upstairs as well, having them both in the same fabric in the same room is weird. The fabric for that arrived today.

The closer I get to finishing, the more faith I have in this texture over pattern experiment. Repeating colors in different areas to connect things, thinking about how I can vary them with different materials and finishes has been interesting experiment. For me anyway, as someone who thinks about this sort of thing all the time (you guys do that too, right?).

The navy curtains have a pintuck detail, the navy pillow is velvet, the navy door has texture. The pillow has brass nail heads to connect with the stool, the knobs and, eventually, the lighting. A white sheepskin over a white floor. Lots of things in the same, or similar, colors, but there is still variation. The dark curtains balance the dark door. The white dressers, pale bedding and white floor keep things from becoming too dark. The pondering of how things play together may indicate a certain weirdly obsessive tendency on the part of the writer currently working in the third person.

So, sometime in the next week or two I’ll re-upholster the headboard (fabric arrived today), install a sconce, spray paint a couple of things and fix the dresser mess, figure out some art for the walls, repaint the floors before it gets too cold to have the windows open,  and then call this space done. Or as done as things get around here anyway.

The Dresser Part the Second

Roan's Room Sept 2013 008

When we last saw the dresser for Roan’s room (a month ago, yikes!), it was looking a little bedraggled. And traditional. And not so much like something I wanted in my home. The boy decreed it should be white, which is generally a color I avoid for a small boy’s room, but in this case I decided if it got trashed I could just paint over it again. Or take the lazy way out and “let” him apply decals strategically.


I took the easy route and spray painted it. It’s not as nice a dresser as the one I got for Emm’s room, it just wasn’t worth the extra time. Two coats of spray primer and three to four of white glossy spray paint. I wanted to replace those huge knobs with these cute rings, but the boy was having none of it. He really liked the big brass handles that came with Emm’s dresser. I, mean mother that I am, wasn’t interested in paying over a hundred dollars for similar ones for a cheap dresser for a seven year old. We compromised, I agreed to re-drill things for handles, he agreed to settle on black handles from Home Depot.

And because I never miss an opportunity to move some furniture around, Roan’s room got a little switched around too. All in the name of more floor space.

Before. Cute layout, but not much play space. And the giant chair was wonderful for reading, but just too big for the room now that I’m no longer cuddling him to sleep (sniff).

Roan's Room after

And now. Much more floor space. The green chair from the basement fits nicely and a new shelf keeps the various projects off the floor when not in use. The Eames magazine table, which has been looking for a good home for a while, provides excellent storage for all the Lego and electronics catalogs he hoards. Ignore the state of that fish tank. Clearly I am.

Roan's Room Sept 2013 002

Roan's Room Sept 2013 011

Enter at your own risk however, the boy has a special section of the room for his Nerf guns.

Roan's Room Sept 2013 025


*For those of you paying close attention, you’ll note the gray sofa is no longer stuck in the stairwell (I know you’ve been worried) and can be seen in the first picture. I’m still putting our bedroom back together, but it’s getting there.*

Pattern vs Texture


When Nicole redid our bedroom 2 years ago, it went from a messy disaster with no storage to a space that felt grown-up and relaxing. It was a bit of a departure from what I had thought was my style, while actually being more my style, if that makes any sense.  We haven’t really done anything to it since, beyond adding the barn door.


However, it’s been two years since that initial design.  Two years! I think that’s a record for a room in my house. And really, nothing has changed other than a couple of pillows. I still like it, a lot. But after two years everything is starting to show a little wear (the sheets especially). And by wear I mean holes. And also ink stains, from a certain child who was assigned lines to write and wrote them on my sheets.

I really liked the way Nicole mixed some patterns in, but kept it calm with the wall color and white duvet. She knew Finn was a little pattern shy and it’s a good balance. This time around, though, it’s me whose feeling like a little pared down, Scandinavian style might be in order. I already have the white floors and an obsession with gray (exhibits A, B & C), why not go all the way? Or almost all the way, I’m going to mix in a little navy and brass as well I think.

Like so. c650x630 I’m interested to see if varying textures instead of combining patterns creates enough visual interest to make the room seem finished. And if I can live up to the rather high standard already set in the space. Can I do a refresh that I like enough not to fiddle with for two years?

I have quite a few yellow accessories from Nicole, I haven’t decided yet if those will get a coat of paint or just relocate. I also need new lighting. The glass lamps are lovely, but I’ve spent two years cringing every time the kids jump on the bed. I’m a little shocked that they’ve survived.


The furniture will stay, other than one bedside table. I’d really like a new bed, ours is far too tall for the space, but it’s not currently in the cards. Of course, there has been some rearranging going on as well. Certain parts of that have gone better than others.


Sometimes I do dumb things, like try to move a couch up a narrow staircase. By myself.  This dumb thing left me trapped upstairs and the children (plus friend that was visiting) downstairs. dun dun dun … Where am I typing from now? Cliff hanger ending.


Sources for the mood board and more can be found on Pinterest. Photos 1 and 4 by Making It Lovely.

Kitchen Shelving

dining room

Remember when I declared the dining room done? We all knew that was silly, right? After living with it for a few months we realized that as much as we liked the giant bookcase and the idea of visually dividing the space, in a room that’s only 9′ x 11′, it’s just too much. We were constantly bumping into things. However, before the bookcase could go, we had to figure out where we would store everything it held.


Saturday Finn frantically hung shelves so that we could move the behemoth bookcase out of the space before it was invaded by a dozen 11-year-olds. Those, and the new cabinet below them that was part of the kitchen switcheroo, plus some judicious editing, neatly store everything from the bookcase. While you can’t necessarily tell from the above picture (taken at 6 this morning) the space feels so much lighter now.

Someday we’ll change out the plain pine boards for reclaimed wood, but our source didn’t have the right boards and I wanted the shelves done. Finn managed to hang them on our curved wall with no studs (there used to be a window there that was covered over prior to our moving in). Like any good blogger, I’ve detailed the process for you. It’s a 12-step process, of course.

  1. Get boards and brackets
  2. Go to the store for hardware to attach.
  3. Go back to the store for hardware.
  4. Swear copiously.
  5. Go back to the store for hardware.
  6. Drill holes.
  7. Remember the wall is curved. Swear copiously.
  8. Remember there’s an old window behind part of the wall. Swear copiously.
  9. Attach stuff (anything really, at this point it doesn’t matter and you’ve forgotten the the original design anyway).
  10. Stand back to look at your work and notice every minute detail that’s gone wrong.
  11. Check the level because they look slanted then realize it’s the ceiling that’s slanted.
  12. Swear under your breath every time you see the ^*^^! things.

Now to figure out what to do with the bookcase. We like it but I’m not sure I have a home for it here.

Designing Around © 2014. All Rights Reserved.