small changes

Organizing for Winter

small entry mudroom

You guys are my people, yes? So you know when I tell you that I was forced (forced!) to rethink how we store our winter accessories and the children’s shoes, that I was in fact excited to spend an afternoon organizing. Because I’m a dork.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way. For years now I’ve stored all our hats, scarves, gloves, etc (we live in Chicago. It’s cold here) along with the children’s shoes in a long dresser. This dresser, actually.

living room august 2013 009

The kids feet are getting bigger though (the tall one and I will soon share shoes), as is the rest of their stuff. It was clear that this option would no longer work.

Now you may wonder why we store everything in a dresser. Shockingly, homes built in 1923 do not come with a plethora of closets. In our entire house there are two (TWO!) closets. And they are small and not located near either door. I know some of you feel my pain. The other problem is that we now use the front door a great deal, which means that storage should ideally be located nearby. The front entry is tiny. Six feet by four feet and the door has to open in there.

I decided I needed a console table with a shelf and open lines underneath. The table could be no more than 10″ wide and no longer than 50″ (vent. of course). And I was going to have to break down and get a coat rack. I hate coat racks. They are cluttery. I don’t buy pretty little coats that look good on coat racks. I buy big, practical, Chicago winter coats.

Still, research. That’s always fun. My measurements and shelf requirements (and my budget) ruled out most consoles. I found this one at West Elm that would work though. The finish isn’t my favorite, but it fits. Barely. And this coat rack has plenty of pegs, with minimal space requirements. Coat racks, for a space-saving idea, are often surprisingly large.

entry 003

Teeny tiny organized entry way. There’s a basket for each of us to hold winter gear. The coat rack only holds the coat currently in use, not the plethora of jackets, heavy jackets, winter coats – all the options you must have to deal with Chicago. Coats not in use go in the one available closet, in the guest room. All the dog stuff is corralled in a wire basket underneath and there’s an empty one for guest’s shoes so the dog doesn’t run off with them. She likes to lick shoes. Dogs are weird.

But what about all the kid’s shoes? I know. Guess where they went? That’s right, more baskets.

Shoes are here.

entry 009

The furniture is not as blurry in real life. The dog is though. Under the console (the under the window console, not to be confused with the in front of the door console. Obviously.). None of the baskets match, nor are they quite the right size. They were the right price though, as I just dumped other, less important things out of them and repurposed.

A basket for slippers, a basket for kid’s shoes, and a basket for whatever adult shoes happen to be lying around. I have too many shoes to keep by the doors, so I try to remember to bring them upstairs. After years of not caring because our house was a construction zone, we’re trying to switch to a shoe free home. We’re good about reminding the kids, not so good about reminding ourselves.

entry 001

I also added an extra long runner to absorb the melting snow (and hide the mud) that will inevitably be tracked in and a tray for boots. I need to grab one of those handy mitten dryer things. Done. So far it’s working really well. Probably because the only thing we’ve need to grab are coats and boot season hasn’t hit.

And yes, I rearranged the furniture again. And not just in this room. I really need to update that house tour.



Linking up at Remodeloholic.

Small Changes: A Wallpapered Fireplace

oh joy wallpaper

So. In between all the party prep this weekend this happened. I wallpapered the fireplace. It reads a little more lilac than gray next to the rather green-y gray currently on the fireplace than I’d like. So the mantel and surround may get a new color sometime soon.  Also a secretary replaced the bookshelves next to the fireplace some time ago. Sometimes I keep secrets from you. Keeps the magic alive. (It’s from Ikea, painted Hale Navy.)

Gertrude the moose seems to be enjoying the new view.

Roan's Birthday 007

The Perfect Spoon


Our teaspoons have disappeared into the ether at an alarming rate for the past year or two. Seriously. Someday we’ll either find a stockpile in some strange corner or perhaps take out a wall and discover a nest of them. I have no idea where they went, we’ve lost 20 in the past two years. Oddly, teaspoons are also one of the most used items in our flatware, being the right size for little hands (and for the endless cups of tea I drink). Since Crate and Barrel no longer carries our pattern (and since I decided it might be cursed, as the replacement spoons that were similar but not quite right also disappeared with abandon), I purchased new flatware last month (I chose black handles. Mostly because they were in stock and on sale) .

Now, why do I feel the need to tell you all this and blog about my lovely, but not exactly spectacular, new flatware? Well, my dears, I have discovered a very important, and previously unknown, part of selecting your flatware pattern. These new spoons (which, btw, not disappearing), are far, far superior for the consumption of ice cream. I had no idea how difficult it had been for me for the past 13 years. My life is completely changed. So there you go. Test your flatware before registering (or buying a new set), ice cream compatibility* is now a vital component of any future flatware choices.

*For ice cream compatibility look for thinner edges to the spoons and enough weight in the entire piece (these are quite heavy) to help gravity pull the spoon through the ice cream. Yes, I have now thought about this a lot.

Quick & Easy Blinds

super easy no sew blinds

This weekend I finally adjusted the curtains in Emm’s room. She’s had a large piece of paper taped over the window since we rearranged things, waiting for me to finally purchase grommets so I could adjust the fabric that had been curtains into simple blinds. This super easy project doesn’t require any sewing and can be completed in well under an hour, no wonder it took me two months to get around to it.

Super Easy, No Sew Blinds

You’ll need the following materials for this project.

To begin, measure your window and determine your fabric amount and placement.  I wanted this blind to begin above the window trim and just past the sides, which was 68″ wide, I kept the length the width of the fabric, I think it’s 45″. As the fabric left from her old curtains was 70″, I just went with that. I’d already made her original curtains years ago, so the iron on hem tape was applied. If your fabric is new you’ll need to follow the directions and apply the iron on hem tape to all unfinished sides. I also tacked blackout fabric to the curtain fabric, as her window faces west and my children go to bed early. And occasionally sleep past 6:30 am.

apply grommets to fabric

After measuring the fabric, I decided to place the grommets every 10 inches. I laid it out next to a measuring tape, cut the holes and hammered in the grommets. Strike that, Finn hammered the grommets. These were the most ridiculously difficult grommets ever. I’ve  done quite a few projects that have called for grommets over the years and never had a problem. Perhaps I need to get to the gym more (ahem, or ever). Tip: make sure you leave enough fabric at the top so that the grommet won’t rip through.

Once your grommets are in, get some help holding the fabric in place so you can mark the holes. Yes, yes, you could just use a ruler, but I find that sometimes I’m slightly off when I place the grommets (or things shift) and it’s better for everyone’s mental health to use the actual hole spacing as a guide.

mark holes

Then it’s simple to use a level to create a straight line for your marks. It’s especially simple if you have Finn do it while you take photos. No, I don’t know why his hand looks so strange.


Screw your cup hooks into the wall where you’ve marked. If you like,  use anchors and all that, but then this might take a little longer. And perhaps not fall out of the wall in a few months and then you’ll have ruined your curtain hanging reputation.

Final step, which does require a little sewing. I lied, these are mostly no-sew curtains. Choose a selection of ribbon. I happened to have a multi-pack of ribbon in 4′ sections, which was the perfect length. Fold the ribbon in half and sew the center to the top of the curtain, so that one half hangs over each side. I used four ribbons for this 70″ curtain, adjust to suit your width. I let (made) Emmeth sew the ribbon on, it’s important that she feels ownership of such projects. Plus, I wanted to sit and have a cup of tea.

close up

Hang the grommets on the hooks and stand back to admire your finished curtains. Here they are closed. Not as cute, but very functional.
finished down

And here they are open. Easy to tie up each morning and the blackout lining works very well.

easy no sew blinds

Happy Monday. Now go forth and make simple curtains. Then report back.


Basement Lighting


I’ve planned to replace the hideous sconces in our basement since the day we moved in, but have yet to find anything I like better. Now that the seating area is looking good, I decided I wanted to make some other changes. I got serious about some sconce research and found 9 options that might actually work down there.


You can’t really seem them around all the glare, but there are two of them on either side of the chalkboard prints. They’re brass hideousness and they are the only lights for that side of the room. I’d like to replace them with double sconces to increase the light, but I really like some of the single options (especially that green one from Urban Outfitters. Color and price). The double sconce from West Elm is looking pretty good too though, I could always spray paint it for color. Decisions …

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Hiding the Negative

little girl bedroom teal purple

I’ve been slowly making some changes to Emmeth’s room, at her request. You can see the before above. We’ve switched out the floral duvet for plain white and changed out the pillow cases. She wanted it to feel more grown up, but she’s still, really, a kid. Not quite a teen. Not really even a tween just yet, although I’m seeing more and more of those moments. Her room is tiny, like Roan’s, 10 feet x 10 feet, with no storage and low attic ceilings. Which left her no real “hang out” space where she and her friends could sit. So we decided to create a day bed for her. We checked out Craigslist together, as I thought transforming something would work out better than trying to buy new. She choose what I thought was the ugliest of the options. She insisted however and I have other battles to fight. I knew it would look better painted anyway. Here it is, in all it’s “before” glory.

bed before

Bleh. Not my style. Now you know where that sneak peek from the lego post was going. I painted it with Chalk Paint, in cream, as I’ve wanted to try that out for a while and I didn’t want to do any prep work on the bed. It’s too cold for spray paint here now and I certainly wasn’t going to look at that thing unpainted for several months. Once painted we set it up in her room and added more pillows. We (she) decided to center it under the windows, which left a weird space behind the bed, as the dresser has to be pushed right next to it, creating a weird corner. We thought about shelves, but they’d be impossible to reach and, because of the slant, wouldn’t really fill the space. So instead we did this.

from door

Party supplies and paper lanterns from World Market and Pearl River Supply. Loosely inspired by this pin. The star is a Christkindle Market purchase from a couple of years ago that she loved and requested as part of the mix. It’s cute, although I wish I’d thought of a better way to hang them. I’m going to hate patching all those holes when she gets tired of the lanterns.


We brought up the chair from the guest room and created another sitting area (knitting area really) by the door. A quick change of throw, from the black and white stripes to purple ombre, made that versatile little chair perfect for her space.

As you can see, curtains are next on the agenda. I’m going to put some grommets in the fabric from her old curtains and create simple roll up shades that tie with a ribbon. Slowly, between other projects. Some rooms just work better that way, evolving. Much like Emmeth. Constantly changing, faster than I’d like some days, slower than molasses others.



Her name is Gertrude. You can call her Trudy. She’s quite the lady, so no shenanigans under the table. And let’s all agree to ignore the horrible condition of my walls. They’re really never ready for a close up.

Paint color here. Ridiculously expensive (for papier-mâché) moose here (hooray for store credit).

Small Changes: New Curtains

front room from hallway

I hung the curtains on Friday. That’s right. I hung them. A Valentine’s Day present for Finn (we’re sooooo romantic). Know what else? These are not going to fall down. Also, they are level. My ceilings however, are not. Joys of old homes. In addition to hanging the curtains I also removed quite a few cobwebs and noted that the moldings needed to be re-caulked. Added to the list. The very bottom of the list. Maybe that’s what I’ll get him for Christmas.

More pictures. I moved our former dining table into the front corner. We need a little more space to spread out for school and projects. Seeing how little space it takes up here makes me realize that our dining room is truly tiny.
table close

Roan has claimed the corner behind the sofa as his hideaway.
front room from sofa

Moving the coffee table to this space has really anchored things. And I moved my painting from in front of the curtains (it fell down and I placed it on the mantel to get it out of the way). I like it there though, its nice to have a change.
front room from door

The curtains do make the space look a little smaller. They also make it feel finished and grounded (can I say that about something that hangs?). They carry the navy from the rug and chair into the front of the room without being match-y and add an extra dose of pattern. I worried that they would be too much with the sofa, but I think like it. Shockingly, so does Finn. He hated the pattern on the rug at first so I didn’t even ask him before I put these up (anyone else do that?). I’m still not sure if I like how they make the space feel a little smaller, but I think I just need to get used to it. We shall see.

So there you go. Curtains here. Hardware here. Unfortunately no longer on sale, it ended yesterday.

Small Changes: The Curtain Debacle


First, and clearly most important, I have chosen curtains for the living room. I know. Related to this somewhat, a story.

I had plans to rehang the dining room curtains this weekend when we were hanging the living room curtains (side note, that won’t be happening this weekend because the curtains were not in stock. boo.) I mentioned these plans to Finn and he sighed dramatically and mentioned that he hated hanging curtain rods. So I thought, being the modern, independent woman that I am (also, impatient), I would just take care of the curtain rod hanging. Here is what I learned from that decision.

1. I am short. I need more than a chair to stand on to hang curtains.

2. I hate hanging curtain rods. It involves measuring and planning. And screwdrivers because I can’t find where the ^*^! drill bit is hidden.

3. The reason Finn started hanging all the curtain rods is because when I do it they fall down.

4. I am totally fine relinquishing my role as modern, independent woman in the case of hanging curtain rods. It sucks.

5. Measure your window before you buy the new hardware (this sort of advice is why you read my blog, right? You can’t get this kind of information elsewhere).

6. I need to get Finn a really nice birthday gift. Something manly. Cause he’s totally hanging the living room curtains.

7. If you plan to blog about your dining room, don’t paint it dark grey. It is impossible to get good pictures.

That said, here you go.

Before. Too close to the window and not level.


After. Still too close to the window, but level. Needs some paint touch up. Also, likely to fall down within the month.

That, my dears, is my life changing weekend curtain hanging advice. Hang your curtains higher and wider than your window. Remember to measure. And don’t ask me to hang them for you. I’ll sit and watch. I take my tea with cream and honey, thank you.

Dining Table Progress

Remember the dining table inspiration I posted last fall? Of course you do, it’s all you’ve been thinking about really. I wonder what Kathryn is doing about that dining table? I present to you, progress.


Why yes, that is a pile of old wood. Over Christmas break we went out to a local salvage store (The Rebuilding Exchange, check it out if you’re local) and picked over their selection of reclaimed wood. We ended up with a 20 foot section of 2 x 12. We had a local woodworker create three boards from the best sections and plane them flat. So today, our table looks like this.


Next steps, attach the boards together with 1×4 underneath and then figure out how we want to finish the top. I know I want to use wax instead of poly, but liming wax, dark wax, clear wax … Any ideas? I’m leaning towards liming because I think the black table is too dark in the space now and we have plans to replace our counters with a white marble corian (more on that later). But I’ve never, ever chosen a light finish for anything. What do you think?

Here are our DIY inspiration images, for reference.

And the ready made inspiration.

benchwright-extending-reclaimed-wood-dining-table Pottery Barn

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