Category Archives: Living Room

Our Treasure(d) Map


Our living room is MA-SSIVE.  Seriously, we have way more room than we know what to do with, which in turn creates way more walls than we know how to decorate.   Ah, yes, here’s one of our big, sad walls.

We’ve hung up photos, art, even a giant key (more on that here).  Needless to say, I’ve been running out of ideas for something new, clever, and most importantly, things that take up a lot of wall space.

Maps have been on my mind lately and I wondered if there was a different way of displaying them.  I found these inspiration photos and knew I was on the right track:

Source: Little Birdie Secrets

Source: Desire to Inspire

Source: DecorPad

Source: Pinterest

I had the idea, now all I needed was an awesome map.  I remembered back to a little shop my Mom and I had once visited.  In the veeeery back of the store was a box full of reproduced vintage maps of Texas cities.  At the time, I thought they were interesting but hadn’t yet been inspired to grace my walls with unique maps so, sadly, the map went another day without a happy home.  Little did it know that I’d be sending my Mom back a few months later to grab him up.

I decided to go with this map of Dallas and its “suburbs” from 1891.  This map is hysterical!  Every suburb it lists is now in the heart of the city, a solid 10-15 miles from current Dallas suburbs.  Oh, little did they know…

At the bottom of the map various population characteristics of Dallas from the 1890s were listed such as this gem: “the population is predicted to be 20 million in the year 1991,” a far cry from the 1.2 million who currently reside there.

Much like my inspiration photos, I decided to cut the map up into several slices, creating a more interesting image and taking up more room on the wall.

Before I made the final decision to cut up the map, I decided to use magazine pages to create a template and temporarily tape it to the wall to determine the spacing between each section and its exact placement on the wall.

While Chris thought I had lost my mind when I posed the idea of taping magazine pages to our wall, this was just the thing I needed to solidify my decision.

Would you be shocked if I said our wall stayed like this for a full 7 days before coming down?  You never know what you’re going to find at our house…

Originally, I thought about framing the cut versions much like the DecorPad inspiration photo but I didn’t like the look of the black frames between each of the sections.  It looked too choppy and broke-up the overall look of the map.  I made up my mind to go the canvas route instead.  It would add depth to the map and provide clean lines between each of the sections.  It would also be easy and inexpensive to do.

I purchased six 8″ x 10″ canvases from Michael’s which came in 2 packs for $4 each.

I laid the canvases out on top of the map and it was a perfect fit if we cut off the population statistics at the bottom, leaving just the map.

I then cut the map into six equal sections, centered on the six canvases.

A little measurement was needed… thus Chris was called in (if a project calls for calculations, it only takes me a minute or two to throw in the towel).

Cut, cut, cut.

And then it was pretty much in Chris’ hands.


One of the most prominent features in this house is the living room- it’s bigger than our first apartment (let’s pretend that’s because we have a huge living room and not because we had a tiny apartment). It’s also what the house is really built around, as everything else is basically just there out of necessity. It was also custom built in the late 70s, right around the time the “open concept” trend started to take form but hadn’t been refined to the point of the seemingly supportless structures of today’s modern home: it’s large and open, but also closed off from the rest of the house… hence, lot’s of wall space.

Julie has pledged to leave no wall uncovered, so I was now tasked with cutting up a map, gluing it to six canvases, and nailing it to the wall. Wait… what?

I’ve learned not to ask questions, so I just went to work. I had six pieces of a map (none of which led to any treasure) and six canvases, and had to make them be one. Without any wrinkles.

As usual, I turned to cars for a solution: automotive headliners are usually glued in with a special spray adhesive, which is actually what gives it that “new car smell” (I bet you’ll be the only one of your friends that knows that now, too). Automotive-grade sprays are expensive, thick, really sticky, and get you slightly high, so I opted for a less intense form from the hobby store:

First, I sprayed the canvas. I wanted the adhesive to soak into the cloth before applying the map so it was less likely to bleed through. It needs a nice, thick, even coat in order to adhere properly.

Next, I laid the map over the canvas.

Carefully smooth everything down. Make sure you don’t have sticky fingers (literally) that can tear and smear the map.

Roll the edges. Daintily.

Fold the remaining edges over the ends and staple them down. Ca-chunk!




I’ve been debating whether or not to find a white vintage frame to hang around the whole piece to give it more of a presence on the wall.  What do you think?  Framed or unframed?



Filed under Living Room

Two Chairs in a Pod


You may recall our previous transformation of Chris’ great grandfather’s chair from its old, worn state to the fresh, bold face lift we gave it.  To be fair, the chair hadn’t been retouched since it was first purchased decades ago (we think it was the 60s) so it needed some serious  lovin’.  What a difference a little fabric can make!  Read about the metamorphosis here.

Well, we not only lucked out with this chair once, but twice.  It had a matching, slightly-smaller sibling that soon made the long journey from Chris’ relatives place in Tennessee to Texas.  We welcomed it with open arms… arms covered in fabric that is.  It was in better condition than the white chair, but needed some updating as well.  Take a look.

This chair was about to go from fabulously pink (Chris’ favorite) to my favorite blue/tan pattern from Calico Corners called Lisbon Linen in indigo (ah, such a beaut!).

I painted the legs black on this chair as well using Rust-oleum’s Semi-Gloss black paint from Home Depot.

Then off to the upholsterer it went.  A week later, our two chairs were reunited and our cat couldn’t be happier with another place for her daily nap.

Another day, another upholstered chair.  I would say my upholstery obsession has died down since but we all know that’s not true in the slightest.

The chairs seemed so empty by themselves and I knew throw pillows were just the solution.  In my pillow search, I fell in love with these pillows from Ethan Allen (his here and hers here).

But at $109 each, I was not about to sprint to the store to buy these.  Instead, I decided to create my own.  I wanted the burlap look but not the burlap feel so I found some soft cotton fabric that had the burlap look, similar to this one at Joann‘s that was only about $7 per yard (about $5.60 with my Joann’s coupon).

I then got to work sewing a pillow form to fit over a 12″ pillow insert.  And by “I got to work,” I mean, I enlisted my in-laws to help me since the minute my hand touches a sewing machine, all hell seems to break loose.

After the pillow form was done, I stenciled out block letters for the “His” and “Hers” copy on the pillows then used black fabric paint to fill it in.  It doesn’t have that “worn” copy look that the Ethan Allen pillows have but I’m hoping after a few washes, it may get there.  And hey, for the $10 investment in paint and fabric (I already had the pillow forms from old throw pillows), it still beats the $218 price tag for the alternative option.


My wife has become completely obsessed with chairs, and I have no idea why. She’s apparently convinced that there is some sort of urgent seating shortage in our house, and action must be taken immediately. The relationship between me and my great-grandfather’s chair has been discussed previously, but when Julie found out it was actually part of a “his and hers” set, she leapt at the opportunity to claim it without considering how we’d get it back from Tennessee, but fortunately my mom was willing to drag it to Texas for us (thanks, Mom!).  Julie even bought the fabric about six months before we even saw the chair.

Anyway, I’m not sure it was in our house for a full 24 hours before we had our upholsterer pick it up (who, by the way, also wondered we we have so many chairs). When we got it back and placed it next to the other one… oh, no… it was a totally different shade. We initially assumed that the first chair had been faded in the summer by our skylight, but we later realized it was just two different color batches, so we put a table between them and, well, whatever.

In addition to Julie’s chair obsession, she’s also obsessed with putting stuff on the chairs. This time, she decided she wanted pillows with price tags even the Pentagon would question. When she showed them to me, it was pretty obvious that there was really nothing special about them except the outrageous price, and my inner DIYer was convinced I could make something just as good myself. I may have been slightly mistaken.

I had previously borrowed my parents’ sewing machine for something I can’t remember, but I had never really tried it out. I had never set up a sewing machine before, and admittedly had no clue what I was doing. I looked at the instruction manual, which turned out to be the biggest waste of paper since the Carter Administration. I consider myself much more technically-inclined than most people, and I also feel that I have the ability to make sense of even the worst explanations, but these instructions were completely beyond me. What’s even worse is that this same machine is probably a breeze for every little-old-lady that’s ever tried to use one. Great.

As luck would have it, though, my parents came up for a visit only a few weeks later. I enlisted my dad’s help and showed him the pile of broken thread and bent needles, and he just popped open the machine, told me I had something set up wrong (duh), called me an amateur, rewired it or something, and within minutes had it whirring away making pillows. Thanks, Dad!

I really like both these chairs, even though no one really sits in them (I won’t mention the cat’s frequent use of them because unlike Julie, I’m not obsessed with that animal’s every move). If nothing else, they at least give some definition to this huge, awkwardly-spaced living room.

Now, see our results.


C’mon… how cute is she?  How could you not be obsessed with her?


Filed under Before & After, Living Room

Sheepishly Simple


Our living room is gigantic- which realtors consider a great selling feature- but when you’ve come from a 600 square foot apartment that barely fit one couch end-to-end, a gigantic living room is very intimidating.  We’ve come a long way in filling the room, having purchased an equally gigantic entertainment center, end table and inherited a coffee table and two chairs but the room is still looking like a barren wasteland and, sadly, still only half full.  Look at all that empty space!

I eventually have big plans for another seating area by the fireplace but I knew our furniture budget wasn’t quite ready for the Pottery Barn chairs I’ve been eyeing.  Channeling my inner-HGTV, I knew creating another seating area would help be defined by the use of another rug.  The size of the rug was going to be a challenge as the area was long and rectangular meaning standard size area rugs weren’t going to work.  We pretty much needed a runner (a long, skinny rug made for hallways) but all the runners I found were too long for the space.

One night, in one of the rare occasions where Chris had won control of the remote, I lost interest in the TV and began analyzing our future second seating area.  When suddenly, visions of sheepskin rugs filled my mind (faux of course!).  That’s just what the room needed size-wise and texture-wise.  The shaggy surface would warm up the room and the white/creamy color would blend in with the rest of the decor.

I excitedly began scouring the Internet for options.  In minutes, I found a sheepskin rug at IKEA for $29.99.  What a deal!

I went to check it out at the store and saw it was much smaller than I had originally thought (no dimensions were listed on the website).  We needed something about three times as long and twice as wide.  Hmm.. what to do…

I revisited Google to find other sizes of sheepskin rugs available and saw this guy.

Apparently, sheepskin rugs come in single or double pelt size.  Double is just what I needed.  Amazon had this one listed for $124.99 but I didn’t want to settle without seeing what other price options were out there (i.e. could I find this for cheaper?).

It was my lucky day when I found this tutorial from Young House Love showing how they made their own single pelt sheepskin throws for $5 each using material they found at a fabric store.  It sounded simple enough.  I wondered if I could apply the concept to make a double sheepskin rug.  And the challenge was on!

I dragged Chris to Joann’s by tempting him with the burger place situated next door (it always works!).  I found the perfect furry fabric that was even softer and whiter than the IKEA version.  It was perfect!  And at $9.99 a yard plus my 20% off coupon, I knew that even if we didn’t end up liking it, at least it wouldn’t be a huge waste of money.  I ended up purchasing 1.5 yards which totaled to $12.  Not bad!

Look how soft and fuzzy the fabric is!  Even Chloe approves and quickly made it her go-to nap destination.

I sketched out the design on the computer and soon determined that I could make a template using only a fourth of the overall design and just mirror it on the other three sides, making the rug symmetrical and the template easier to use.

Here’s the overall rug design I created and a copy of the quarter template I used to cut the rug.  Feel free to borrow!

See?  It’s the same shape on each of the four sides!

I gathered up newspapers and taped them all together.  I free-handed the quarter-template I created on the computer on top of the newspapers and cut out my template.  I probably could have just printed the quarter-template from the computer but was feeling in the drawing-mood.

Once I cut out the newspaper template, I flipped the fabric over to trace the design on the backside.  That way, if I messed up tracing, no one would ever see it.

Let the tracing begin!


A quick snip, and our rug emerged!  The fabric was pretty flimsy on its own so we decided to buy a cheap runner from Wal-Mart for $15 to use as the backing.

We cut the same shape in the runner (it was a little skinner than the sheepskin, but we just needed it to cover the main part for support) and with a little hot glue, boom- instant rug.

To the tune of $27, we got our own luxurious, custom rug!  Not too shabby.

Now about those Pottery Barn chairs…


We can be pretty Texan at times- we believe “y’all” is the only acceptable second-person plural, we don’t eat beef bred elsewhere, and we still remember the Alamo. What throws off our non-Texan friends and family, though, is that we don’t fall into the Texas stereotypes- we don’t own a truck, we only wear reasonably-sized belt buckles, and have no animal hides anywhere in the house… or so I thought.

Julie and I have spent more than a third of our lives together, so I feel like I know her pretty well. Every once in a while, though, she catches me by surprise and busts out with something completely un-Julie. Like when she said she wanted a sheepskin rug. My laughter quickly turned to confusion as I slowly began to realize that yes, she was serious. A sheepskin rug? Like, a rug that still looks like the sheep it came from? In this house??

I’m not picky and she seemed to be excited about it, so I decided to let her run with it. We went to a few stores and found a few options, but nothing that really met our needs or budget. And then she said the four words I’m beginning to hate: “Could we make one?” We went home and took some measurements and decided that as if our lives weren’t weird enough, we were going to make a rug.

We went to that fabric store where all the old ladies are shocked that I’m willing to even walk through the door, and Julie picked out some fabric. I wouldn’t call it “rug material”, but for 1/10th the cost of a real rug, I wasn’t about to object. We went back home and began laboring over exactly what a sheep rug is supposed to look like. Julie quickly drew up a pattern and within a few minutes, she had something traced out. She cut it out and we had a rug- mostly.

We tried laying it out on the floor, but it was pretty flimsy… and it was quickly gone. While we were distracted by a discussion about the mantel, the five-pound cat ran off with our new rug. This was a problem we hadn’t anticipated, but the solution was pretty simple. We bought the cheapest runner we could find at Wal-Mart and traced the rug over it. A little hot glue and ca-ching! A rug that can’t be nabbed by the cat burglar.

As stated before, I was never into animal skins, but I have to admit I kind of like this rug. It’s soft, fills some empty space, was less than $30, and makes it easier to find the cat. So add “rug maker” to the resume!


Filed under Easy DIY Projects, Living Room

Dear Internet, HERE’S How to Build a Fireplace Mantel


It finally happened.  The Internet let me down.  I had to check outside to see if any swine had sprouted wings or if the American Girl store was suddenly frozen over (for those of you who have never been in an American Girl store, it’s the closest thing to hell I’ve experienced).  Thankfully, the world wasn’t ending but I was concerned that Chris and I had DIYed ourselves into territory even unknown to HGTV.  Is that even possible?  But let me start at the beginning.

Presenting, our fireplace.

Not bad.  Nothing to brag about either… meaning a change was needed.  I wanted more of an “oh-la-la” pop and less of a “Hello!  70s flashback” pop.  The mantel was getting lost in the wall of brick.  We needed to do something to make it stand out.  Case in point- the Where’s Waldo mantel photo below.  Seriously, where is it?

I hunted around for mantel ideas and determined that a white wooden mantel is just what the mantel doctor ordered.  It would accentuate the mantel and tie in with the design of the rest of the living room.  I just love the crisp white look and something that would look substantial against the brick.  Here are the examples I rounded up from Pinterest.


So, the hunt was on.  How were we going to tackle this project?  With one of two options:

  1. Buy a pre-made mantel, demo the brick, and install the mantel in its place
  2. Make our own mantel and build it over the current brick mantel

I think we all know what option we chose but humor me for a moment.  I began pricing out pre-made mantles.  I found two options I really liked from


Not too shabby.  They only offered a stained or unfinished version so we’d have to purchase an unfinished wood and then paint ourselves.  Not too difficult.  Then I saw the price.  Starting price around $250.  And then you have to consider the cost of time and money to demo the bricks.  Ummm no thanks.  I looked more closely at the design and knew Chris could do something equally as great, probably better, and we could truly have a custom mantel for a fraction of the cost.

I started scouring the Internet for helpful how-to’s on how to build your own mantel.  That’s when I discovered… Nothing.  Zilch.  ZERO RESULTS!  My first thought: holy cow, I had stumped Google.  My second thought: maybe there’s a reason no one’s ever tried to build their own mantel over an existing one.  But, seriously?  NOT A SINGLE RESULT?  Dear DIYers everywhere, I’m shocked that none of you have catalogued building a mantel and posted it on the Internet for my creeping eyes to find.  Step it up people.

Now, how to break the news to Chris?  Chris has recently determined that anytime I start a sentence with, “Hey, Chris, I have an idea,” it doesn’t bode well for him.  All I can say is thank God for father-in-laws.  His parents were in town for a visit and his mom and I decided to go fabric shopping.  Unbeknownst to me, Chris had mentioned my idea to his dad.  I guess it sparked his interest enough that when his mom and I came home from our shopping trip, the mantel had taken form.  Key learning- obviously I need to go shopping more often.  Look what magical things happen as an outcome!

This project ended up being a tad more difficult and lengthy than I originally thought but it was so worth it!  Pop is an understatement!  And we saved quite a bit of money.  We ended up spending about $80 on materials AND the mantel required no demo.  Not too shabby compared to the other $250 option.


As an avid DIYer, I think the most frustrating things people say is that they wish they knew how to do that stuff, that they could never do that stuff because they’re not handy, or that they wished someone had taught them how to do all that stuff, etc. It’s true that most of what I know, I learned from my dad- as he worked on projects around the house, he taught me how to do stuff, too- and he learned the same way. About ten years ago, though, we were replacing some water heaters and he was showing me how to solder copper. I finally asked, “how do you know all this stuff?” Much to my surprise, he said that he didn’t, and that he had looked it up on the internet. I recently found out that my grandfather used to go to the library and take notes on all the stuff he needed to know for a project (he’s probably the most dedicated DIYer I know- he’s 84 and still replacing his own garage doors).

I mention all of this to highlight a point- that no one “knows” how to do these things, and that you can only be taught how to do so much- at a certain point, you have to make your own way and teach yourself, which is exactly what happened with my last project.

Julie decided that she didn’t like the brick mantel, and that we needed a white one instead… but of course, she didn’t want to paint or remove the brick. On top of all that, she didn’t want to drill into the brick in any way, and wasn’t really sure she would like a white mantel. So, of course, that meant I had to build a removable mantel. My dad and I built one while Julie and I mom were out shopping one day, but it turned out that we apparently had two very different concepts of what this thing was supposed to be, and I ended up having to start all over.

The first attempt:

Maybe people just don’t build their own mantels or something, but I found absolutely nothing online about it. No how-to. No before-and-after. No “that was like that time I built a mantel”. Nothing. I was flying solo on this one. Now, this is where true DIYers prevail- I was at Point A (no mantel) and knew where Point B (mantel) was, but no directions on how to move between the two, which meant that I had to carve my own path.

I knew what a mantel looked like, so all I had to do was put things together in the proper dimensions and I’d have one. The problem, though, was that Julie wanted it to hide a substantial amount of brick, meaning it would have to be quite a bit larger than most. On top of that, I had a limited width and an even more limited depth when compared to the overall height. Another issue was that while the brick was stair-stepped in the front, it was flush from on the sides, so I could only stagger the width by a certain amount.

Staggered front, flush sides:

I thought I was done at this point. According to Julie, I was only halfway there:

So I started with a board. This would ultimately define my overall dimensions, as it ran the length of the fireplace and limited me to a 12″ depth (any more and it would have stuck out awkwardly into the room. Next, I fitted some crown around it to hide the first layer of brick- it sat flush with the board in the front, but there was slight overhang on either side. It was already looking like a mantel.

Next, I nailed some casing trim below the crown, and I had completed my mantel- or so I thought. Julie wanted at least one more layer to hide more of the brick, but I was running out of lateral space. I managed to find some VERY thin wood, so one more layer was possible. Once I got it nailed together, I displayed it on the mantel (get it? HA!). I excitedly showed Julie our new mantel and, true to form, the first words out of her mouth were simply “it needs another layer.” Doh! After finally losing that battle, I was scratching my head as to how to build another layer on the side, as I was completely out of room. Eventually I came to the realization that I’d have to actually stack another piece of the thin wood (as opposed to staggering it). How do you put two pieces of wood together without using nails? Simple: glue and staples (yes, you read that right- I stapled my mantel together like a third grade art project).


Um, excuse me?  Staples??  This is the first I’m hearing of this…



Anyway, I finally had the stupid thing constructed. I didn’t want it to look like a third grade art project, so I had to do some real prep work before painting. I sanded every edge and corner, caulked every seam, patched every nail hole, and even blended the seams held together by those damn staples. I primed, sanded, painted, sanded, and painted again, and was finally done.

Putty and paint makes a boat what it ain’t!


Look how much wood is on this stupid thing!

All-in-all, I’m pretty satisfied with how it turned out. I built a removable mantel without any real guidance, and it actually looks pretty decent. Best of all, though, I don’t ever had to hear “we need to finish the mantel” ever again.

And now, for everyone needing a mantel building 101 guide, we’re about to make your day.  Here’s a guide showing what kind of wood we used for each section of the mantel which will hopefully help in your quest for building your own mantel.

I claim thee… MANTEL!

After Pictures.


P.S. Like the awesome vintage scale I bought Chris for his birthday at a random antique store on the side of the road in Bastrop, TX?  We’re obsessed.


Filed under Living Room

Doorbuster of a Deal


As our realtor walked us through what would soon be our first official house, only one thing made us stop dead in our tracks… and not in a good way.  We had just wrapped up looking at the backyard, turned back towards the house, began walking to the patio door and stopped.  The patio door looked like it had been attacked by gremlins trying to claw their way into the house.  What sort of beast would do such a thing to an innocent door??  Well, you can rest easy.  The world isn’t overrun with gremlins.  Just misbehaved dogs.  The owner’s dog had chewed halfway through the door over the years.  Good thing they moved out when they did because that door didn’t have much of a chance left.

Upon placing our offer on the house, we were told that the owners acknowledged the door had to be replaced and would take care of it before we moved in.  Being the penny-pinchers we were, we saw an opportunity to knock off some of the price.  We negotiated back saying- no worries, take another $1000 off the asking price and we’ll replace it ourselves.  No biggie.*

What’s the asterisk for you may be wondering?  Because, as this point, I would like to note that it seemed like a lot of work to replace an exterior door but Chris reassured me a zillion times saying he could fix it in less than a day.  It was nothing they couldn’t handle.  Nothing to worry about.  So I didn’t.  The sellers were happy.  We were happy.  Alls well that ends well.  Right?  Wrong.

I figured I’d only have to wait a month or two to rid myself of the hideous near-death door.  Chris kept saying, all I need is another set of hands and I can take care of it.  So, in enters my family.  That’s an extra FOUR sets of hands of help.  That Saturday, while Chris is at work, I excitedly venture off to a builders surplus hardware store with my dad for a heck of a door deal.  With two doorknobs, one door, and several minutes of convincing the cashier that I am NOT my Dad’s trophy wife but his daughter, we happily returned home to present our treasures to the rest of the group.

Now, my husband doesn’t anger easily.  It’s why we work so well together.  He’s the Type B to my Type A.  It takes a lot to get him riled up… like when his wife goes out and buys a door without him.  Oh, and she’s already started painting it so he can’t return it.  Yikes.  Not a fun day to be Julie.

Well, he got over it… eventually.  Until an hour later he figured out that the door frame wasn’t exactly a perfect rectangle and that I had purchased a steel door instead of a wood door.  I thought I had been smart with this purchase decision since steel would better insulate the house and be a studier door… it also is impossible to mold into a different shape meaning our un-rectangular door frame would make the project un-doable.  Yikes.  Not a fun day to be Julie.

So, I gave Chris a few months to figure it out.  He came to the conclusion that he couldn’t do it himself.  So, I did what every wife would do.  I called a professional.  Perhaps another error in my ways was scheduling the handyman to come while Chris was at work.  All I knew to do was to show him the door I bought then show him the door frame.  I prayed that would be enough.  It wasn’t.  He scratched his head for a full 45 minutes then told me I had two options.  Option 1) Pay him $900 and give him a full weekend and he could replace it for me using the door I purchased.  Umm no thanks.  Option 2) Buy a different door, this time made out of wood.  Definitely not… that would mean fessing my mistake to Chris.  Fat chance.  So I went with Option 3.  Told him thanks but no thanks, we’d figure it out ourselves.

Several months later, Chris convinces his dad to help him finally take on the door project.  Chris reassured me that with his dad’s help and Uncle Tom’s advice, they’d knock it out in no time.

2 DAYS later, and several pounds of dog hair vacuumed from the perimeter of the door frame (gross!), we had a shiny, new, partly-painted door installed.  Chris and I still fondly look over at our patio door and wonder if the $1000 knocked off the purchase price was really worth all that… and then remember the Gremlin-like markings and decide yes, indeed it was.


Let me clear a few things up. When we were negotiating the details when buying the house, I said I could replace the door… I never said anything about how long it would take me. To be honest, I didn’t want to do it- I had attempted to install a door once before, and it was such a beating that we gave up. Doors are surprisingly tricky to install, and I wanted no part of it. Oh, and I definitely did NOT tell Julie it was OK to buy a door.

Doors are a finicky beast, and just about the most frustrating thing to install. Everything has to be exact… and when I say exact, I mean within 2-3 millimeters, or else the door won’t close. The more exact you are, the better your door will open and close. That said, I knew the exact dimensions the door needed to be, so when Julie announced she and her parents were going to the builder’s supply store I reiterated that I wanted to see the doors for myself so I can make sure they fit. So imagine my surprise when I got home from work on day to find Julie painting away on a now un-returnable door… that wasn’t the dimensions I gave her. I had heard it hundreds of times growing up but somehow I just couldn’t resist saying it: “That’s exactly what I told you not to do.”

As always, Julie tried to reason her mistake under the rug. She had to get the door because it was “super on-sale” and she had to paint it right away because it was a “yucky color.” She also seemed to think that there was no cause for alarm because, don’t worry, her parents were here to help us install it. Now, I like my in-laws, but they’re not DIYers, and this wasn’t a job for beginners. And let’s not forget that it was over 100* outside at the time.

I reluctantly propped our shiny new door against the wall in the garage and waited for cooler weather, and for my parents to come visit. Finally, February rolled around and we caught a break- my parents were in town and we had two days of absolutely beautiful weather, so my dad and I got to work. If you’ve never seen how a door is mounted, it’s really not much more than a few nails. We pried off the trim and I showed my dad how much fun a sawzall is, buzzing through the nails like butter. Within minutes, the old door was off, and now the fun could begin.

The new door went up, and of course didn’t fit. The problem was that there was too much space between the house and the door frame, so it would be almost impossible to mount the door in a way that the trim would cover the gaps. We shimmed and adjusted, and reshimmed and readjusted, and repeated… a lot. First, the door wouldn’t open, then it wouldn’t close, then it wouldn’t sit right, etc. The worst part is that the whole time you’re doing this, the door has to stay closed, so we had to go in and out through a window… because that doesn’t make me feel like white trash or anything.

We must have made a few million tiny adjustments all around that door before finally making desperate phone calls to anyone we knew who owned a hammer. Finally, a fellow family DIYer came through (good ole Uncle Tom) and told us the trick is to mount the hinged side on the door and frame to the house, and then shim the other side. A few hours later (time mostly spent vacuuming dog hair out of the crevices), we had a door that closes so effortlessly the cat can do it… but usually she just sits behind it and waits to get whacked when it opens.

And now for the photographic evidence.



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Pillow Fight


There’s nothing sadder than a barren couch.  What’s a barren couch you may ask?  A barren couch is one without throw pillows.  And not just any throw pillows, fun coordinating pillows but NOT in the same fabric as the couch.  I can hear Chris scoffing in the background as he reads this over my shoulder.  But it’s true and it’s quite the challenging task.

Our couch is just the right length for 4 throw pillows- 2 large and 2 small, meaning we need two types of fabric, one for the larger pillow and one for the smaller pillow which will be placed in front.  Enough with the scoffing, Chris!

I know you want in on the fun so I’ve listed eight choices below.  Let me know which coordinating fabrics you think would work best.  Keep in mind the following:

Wall Color: light blue

Accent Chair Color: tan and dark blue

Couch Color: Tan

Furniture Color: Black

Rug Color: Tans, Blues, Reds


All I know is I’m tired of moving pillows every time I want to sit down.

Ready, set, vote!  And please comment below if you want to suggest a different combo or even a different fabric.  We’d love to hear it!


Filed under Living Room

The Greg Test


So when you’re young, broke, and are new to the world of home ownership, there are three magical words that bring joy to your ears- hand me downs.  After we settled into the house and had unpacked a majority of the boxes, we soon found ourselves with a lot of house and a lot less furniture.  There was literally an echo in our living room when you spoke.  So, when Chris’ mom mentioned that she’d like to give us her coffee table, we jumped at the offer.

I couldn’t remember what the table looked like exactly when we initially accepted her gracious offer.  I was a little nervous not knowing what I had agreed to take on but, honestly, anything would be better than the cardboard box we were currently using as a makeshift coffee table (sadly, I’m not joking).  Chris seemed convinced that I would love it but his sense of my likes/dislikes are sometimes questionable… hence the awful hot pink shirt I was gifted with one birthday.  See below.

The minute I saw the table, I loved it.  It had a great shape and had the naturally distressed look I love.  I even had the in-laws blessing to repaint the table and distress it more (jackpot!).  Then I heard that it was hand built by Chris’ grandfather.  I was in awe.  I couldn’t wait to incorporate this table into our home.  It really is an incredible treasure which is that much better because of the love and sweat that were put into it by our own family.  And it looks perfect in our living room!


For starters, that shirt was part of a joke that my wife apparently didn’t get.

Anyway, I can trace my craftiness back to my grandfather. He’s an expert craftsman and a brilliant artist, and he had six kids. I don’t have any kids, but I know that they are remarkably destructive given their relatively small size, so everything he made was built to last and had to pass “The Greg Test”, which means my NCAA champion shot-putter Uncle Greg literally jumped on it. If it doesn’t break, you can probably use it to hold your house up. I don’t like having flimsy things in my house, so I leapt at the opportunity to have the coffee table he made. If a tornado rips through my house, I’m grabbing onto that table.

When Julie puts her feet up on something, she tends to kick it like she’s going for a field goal first. This table had withstood the years of abuse my sister and I had thrown at it- it was a bench, a footrest, a ramp, a stage, and a slide- so I knew it would survive my accident-prone wife. It’s also huge, so there’s plenty of room for all the “decorator pieces” she can handle.

I liked the table as-is, but Julie wanted to “distress” it. I don’t know if she missed the story about using it as a slide but trust me, this thing was pretty distressed as it was. Fortunately no one was attached to the paint job and we had my parents’ blessing to repaint it. I dulled the finished, sprayed a light coat of primer, and brushed on a strong, oil-based flat black paint. Julie sanded down the edges to finish off the “distressed” look.

I’m not attached to a lot of things, but this table is really special to me. Believe it or not, I can pinpoint my earliest memory, and the table is in it. It’s handmade by my grandfather and stands as an inspiration of what can be built if you put care into your work. It’s built to last, so I like to think that it will end up in one of my kids’ houses one day. And Julie finally got to distress something.


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Filed under Homegrown Furniture, Living Room