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.

Trim on the Kitchen Island

island after

The details are taking forever with this kitchen, but finally crossing them off the list (this one after ten years!) is so, so good. When we first demoed the kitchen we were so overwhelmed with what needed to be done with the rest of the house we got it to functional and moved on, never finishing all the little things that make a room look planned. I’m determined that won’t happen this time. Finally adding trim around the island is a relatively small project, but it makes a big difference in the space.

Here’s where we started this time around, just six months ago.
kitchen and headshots 001

Three months in, we reached the point at which I would usually move on. The major players were in place,  the room was pretty good and definitely functional.
kitchen reno june 2013 002

Not this time though. After much debate, we ended up adding a fairly simple framing detail to the back and sides.

Using 1×4 to create the vertical bars, as well as run along the top, with 1×6 along the bottom.
unpainted from hall
The floor slopes about 1 inch towards the windows, as half the room used to be a porch, so we used a larger sheep’s foot molding to cover the gap.
unpainted detail
A little putty, a little caulk, a little paint (Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy) and finally, the island looks finished.

island after

Up next, creating a “cabinet” to go around the fridge, adding molding to the upper cabinet, installing the plinth, and finally figuring out lighting. Progress.

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.

A New Rug

So, I got a new rug for the living room. It is not gray (so weird. I know). I’ve had it for a while now, but there’s a problem. I can not keep the house clean enough to take pictures for you. Certainly not during the day, when the light is good. And I know you have all been waiting with bated breath for this decision since my last post on rugs a month ago. My problems, they are so big. Really, it’s a wonder I manage to get out of bed in the morning.

So, instead of a pretty, nicely styled photo I present to you: The Living Room at Night. With Clutter. (™)  This blog. So full of inspiration.

white rug 004

It’s not awful, no, I did tidy up some for you. Moved the laundry basket out of the way so you didn’t have to see our underwear. Must keep some sense of mystery in the relationship after all. And the tornados had gone to bed by the time this was taken. Most of them anyway, the one on the couch peed on the rug soon after this. Jerk. Oh and yes, I rearranged the furniture. Again.


The rug is from Flor, the Vintage Vibe pattern. I’d coveted this style for a while, but it’s pricey. And it’s, well, white.Just after the last rug post,though, a few people alerted me to a sale on Zulily, which actually made this rug cheaper than the others I’d been considering. So, I put practicality aside and pulled the trigger. Given my rant about my family’s general disgustingness in the last rug post, this may have been a very bad decision. We’ve had it for almost a month though and so far, other than one tile needing to be rinsed for dog, we’ve managed not to ruin it. One month. Clearly I have high expectations.

It plays well with the gray rug and looks nice with the new coffee table (which is technically a side table, Crate and Barrel not being known for their small space designs). It also feels a little plusher than our previous flor rugs, which is nice as I’m finally putting some effort into implementing a no shoes in the house rule.

Up next, storage. Winter is a coming and we have no coat closet. Or any closet really. Last year I kind of made the space in the guest room work, but I can already see I’ll need a new solution this year. I think I may have to finally get a coat rack. I wish they made them in attractive styles, that didn’t cost a fortune and head a family’s worth of stuff. Oh well.

A final picture for you. Middle school. It spreads everywhere. Like a virus.

white rug 002

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.*

Middle School. Parenting. And other stuff.

There is so much written about parenting the early years. What they should eat, how they should play, how you should play with them. It goes on and on, opinions for everything. And while there is plenty out there about parenting them as they grow, it seems to become far more “expert” and far less “personal”. Bloggers, who have become a big source of parenting connections, naturally write less about their children as they get older, respecting a child’s autonomy as they grow into their own person. And it is, I think, almost impossible to write about the very personal act of parenting without writing about the child.  Every child is different. Every parent is different. Parenting each child is different.

All this to say, I see communities developed around parents of children under five, maybe even under seven. And there are lots of articles and blogs for parents of special needs children at that age. I don’t see the same thing for parents of tweens and teens. Particularly for special needs kids. Maybe it’s because those parents have found their tribes elsewhere. I certainly have quite a bit of mine spread out across the country via Facebook, people I know and have known, sometimes very tangentially, who respond to my blatherings – about the unique challenges of parenting my two. Because mostly that’s what I use the Facebook for, venting and reassurance.

Posting here has been very light of late. It’s not that I haven’t been incessantly rearranging the furniture (I have) or coveting pretty things (also yes). I’ve just also been living the evolution of parenting – moving from being the parent of young children to the parent of older children. It’s different. Which is what I’ve always said to new moms, it doesn’t get easier really, it just gets different. Which is not always what the sleep deprived mother of a newborn wants to hear, so often I just keep that to myself and nod sagely, as though I’ve learned something through survival. I haven’t, I’m still totally winging it every single day, but they don’t need to know that.

I spent the summer wanting to create fun, memorable moments with my crew, convinced that once middle school hit we’d be dealing with so much stress and anxiety I’d be lucky to survive without becoming a raging alcoholic. I was simultaneously stressing about making sure everything was ordered and prepared so we could survive the fall, getting documents and meetings together for an IEP (which was almost a full-time job in and of itself), ordering supplies, arranging the house, and of course prepping for homeschooling the other one. I felt constantly overdrawn and like I wasn’t making enough of the time. Which was silly. We had fun. We got a dog. We did stuff. I just don’t remember what it was.

Deep breath. I’m going to write this down now. If it all falls apart tomorrow, it’s because I told the internet. 

This fall has been so much easier, in many ways, than I was expecting. Probably because in my head World War III was going to erupt as soon as she set foot in 6th grade. When you set the bar really low, it’s easy to jump over it. In fact, I’ve been afraid to say it out loud, for fear of jinxing everything. But you guys, middle school, public middle school – it’s going ok. Possibly even better than ok. Right now anyway (I still have to clarify, my way of knocking on all the wood I can reach). The accommodations we asked for are working. The walking a mile each way to school, with a really heavy backpack, is something that’s been on the therapy list for years. We’ve never been able to make her do it without creating more anxiety, but now everyone walks to school so she doesn’t bat an eyelid. And it’s making a huge difference. The anxiety isn’t gone, but it’s manageable. The arguments and temper tantrums are, dare I say it, normal tween stuff. The panic attacks are far less frequent and much, much less intense. The self-recriminations are no longer an everyday occurence.

We have conversations. About stuff. And things. She can discuss her homework. WITHOUT YELLING. And you guys. SHE SLEEPS THROUGH THE NIGHT. I can’t even. Seriously. I haven’t been this well rested in twelve years.

Now, all this still requires pretty careful environmental manipulation on our part. We still can’t do after-school activities. She comes home, does her homework for two hours, has dinner and a shower and family reading, and goes to bed. It’s not what we want for her long-term, but it’s working for now. We tried pushing bedtime, even just a little, and it was pretty disastrous. So weekends are low-key, we had to miss a family wedding because of the backlash it would create. All this is what we’re used to though and this time it’s creating a happy, cheerful child who, so far, is feeling pretty confident and smart, proud of her skill navigating her new environment.

The homeschooling is also going pretty well. We made some changes to our curriculum and expectations based on last year (hey, look, we learned about teaching our kid). Those changes have made everyone happier and more productive. It also helps that the boy can read pretty well now and is generally less resistant. He’s still not a big fan of group activities, but he’s more and more interested in them. The homeschooling thing is a post of its own, but I thought I should mention it, since I’m rambling all over the place here.

Here’s the thing. Back to my points at the top. Who do you read to figure this out? Who are you figuring this out with? It’s certainly not any easier now, the instruction manual I wanted when they were babies and I couldn’t figure out why they were crying would be just as handy now that they’re older and I have no idea what’s really going on. How do I know if I’m worrying about the right things without other people to freak out with (kidding)? Is there an Honest Tween, cause I need some humor here. Am I giving enough information about all the stuff coming up? Am I giving it to the correct child at the correct time? Does it matter?  (I did get to explain periods and puberty to the boy yesterday as he picked up The Period Book I’d gotten for the girl and asked clear and detailed questions. That was fun. And by fun I mean really, really weird. No one  writes about that either. I need to know this happens to other people.)  

I’m sure this rant, for those of you still reading, is not exactly what you expect from a blog entitled Designing Around. This, however, is exactly what I’ve designed around lately. Life. Parenting. And dogs that insist on ruining all my rugs(seriously, what is up with that dog?). How about you?

Pattern vs. Texture: Progress?

bedroom sept 13 005

The bedroom is at that point in the process where I’m second guessing everything. I ordered the linen bedding  and the Target sheets from the mood board I made. The H & M bedding is far better quality than I was expecting, in case you’ve been thinking of trying their new line.  It’s all as planned, less pattern more texture to try to create interest. There’s more texture in the room then shows up in the picture – linen duvet, percale sheets and fleece throw. It’s also all maybe a little blah?

I hadn’t decided what I was doing with the rug and then I found a large sheepskin, at Costco of all places. The floor needs a new coat of paint, especially now that I’ve revealed the much cleaner section that was under the chevron rug.

bedroom sept 13 004

It’s still a mess. I need new lighting and to play with accessories. I’m not sure what to do about art. And I need to paint the barn door. That yellow was never quite right, now it really stands out. I’m thinking hale navy or dark gray, as I have both those colors on hand and they should work with the space.

Mostly though, it’s just a bit, well, boring. It feels disjointed and unfinished (because it is, right?). I’m hoping that continuing in this direction, changing out the accessories and finding the right lights, as well as painting the barn door and getting out all the extra stuff I’ve hidden off camera, will make the space feel as calm and finished as it did when Nicole worked her magic. This room has always been tricky for me, it’s why I applied for Nicole’s giveaway the first time. No doors, weird ceilings – designing around at it’s finest, right?

What do you think, do you see it coming together?

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.

Indecisive: A Rug Story (Part 1?)

rug options 002

First, let us observe this, the rarest of sightings in a home with children – the tidy living space. Note the pillows resting on the sofa, the lack of legos, books and other ephemera strewn about. There are even, gasp, no shoes laying carelessly, either singly or in pairs. Do not look away, for in a moment all will be gone and it will have moved on to it’s preferred state – utter chaos. Note also that this rare sighting is only achieved in the evening, after the natives have retired.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way (it’s possible I watched too much Wild Kingdom as a child), let’s get down to business. Rug business. You may, if you’ve been carefully charting all 69,764,876,325,638 iterations of my living room, have noticed that the navy chevron rug is missing from this photo (and if you clicked that link you noticed that the brown sofas, gray sofa and green rug have also gone missing. I may have a problem). It has, unfortunately, fallen victim to our home. Tea spills, muddy feet, general life – all were threatening to drive it to an early grave. So I retired it to the guest room, where it livens up the space. And currently serves a landing spot for all the things I need to get rid of on craigslist.

What you see above is actually a rug pad. I’m having tremendous difficulty deciding on the next rug. It needs to be Flor tiles, we can’t handle a whole rug in this messy family. I need wash and wear, thank you very much. And within the Flor family, I would prefer it be from their “heavy” traffic line. Our last ones were medium though and they held up very well. I’m kind of digging the grey of the rug pad in the space though, so have been looking just at grey styles.

To jog your memory, here’s what’s on the floor of the other half of the room. living room august 2013 019

And here are the options I’m currently considering from Flor. rug collage Help a girl out, which one should we get? I have a favorite, but I just can’t commit. Or is there a style I’ve missed?

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