Garden Living Room

You may remember my client who loves color and we had that beautiful fabric with the cranberry flowers made into drapes for her living room to coordinate with the cranberry sofas that she and her family love to hang out on and watch TV.  They are big comfortable sofas and we wanted to make sure that they didn’t dominate the room.  Although we still have some work to do (still looking for a chair, TV stand and a bench for the other side of the room and some art, etc) here are some more photos from this continuing project:


The big white lamp to the right of this image was such a find.  It has a mate and I bought them at a salvage yard several months ago.  They looked like this:


With a fresh coat of paint to cover the rust and peeling finish and a lampshade on sale from Restoration Hardware they look like designer lamps.  The scale is great too.


I found the little dog statue on my client’s front porch and had to put it in the room.   He’s so cute…


Thanks for stopping by!


Client Dining Room

This photo is of the dining room of the same client whose kitchen was in my last post.  We are planning to paint her dining room a darker color and hang some curtains but haven’t  gotten to it yet–we’re doing design baby steps!  We simplified the space to put the focus on the beautiful chandelier (original to the 1920’s house) and I think a darker color will do that even more.  For now we painted her chairs, removed some old carpeting, got her this pretty looped pile rug and another vintage table cloth covers the dining table until we can get it painted too.



Sometimes a little bit here and there can make a big difference and make a client really happy!



A Client’s Kitchen

I have a client whose home I have been working on little by little for a couple of years now.  Whenever she and her husband have a little extra money to spend, I help them put together a room or add some pieces to what they already own.  A couple of years ago, we revamped a lot of their kitchen including the counters, sink, faucet, and backsplash, and we painted the cabinets and walls.  She wanted a vintage look to go with her 1920’s home.  Here are a few photos from that:

I love how the butcher block counters warm up the clean white subway tile.  And the vintage looking faucet is actually from Ikea.

These are pictures of their breakfast nook right off the kitchen.  We painted the chairs (which she also uses in her dining room) and I covered the table with a vintage table cloth.

The walls are a really soft apple green, and the red is such beautiful complement to this color.

Although we talked about tiling behind the stove, it just wasn’t in their budget at the time.  They plan to get new appliances and continue with the renovation at a later date but until that time, I found them this beautiful old painted ceiling tin tile to use as a backsplash.  It’s such a great pop of color.

These tiles are a beautiful and inexpensive way to add a backsplash to any part of the kitchen.  This one is vintage but similar new ones can be found at American Tin Ceilings.  You can order them already durably painted from their selection of colors, or unpainted and decoratively paint them yourself.  They can also be joined together to make a continuous backsplash behind a sink or counter top and they come in many different sizes.

I’m sorry there aren’t more full images of the kitchen but I just can’t include them until it’s finished!  The homeowner had some unexpected expenses (a leak with extensive water damage in a different room) that put finishing the floors on hold for a while, but when it’s all done, I’ll post more.  They are a great couple to work for!

Bunk Beds: Do or Don’t

Bunk beds are the dream of many young boys for their bedroom.  Little boys don’t care much about design, furniture, duvets, etc., but pretty universally, they want bunk beds in their room.  My boys were definitely on the bunk bed band wagon when they decided to share a room.  Duncan was only just barely three and Hart was five but after hearing their dad talk about how much he loved having bunk beds with his brothers when he was little, there was no convincing them otherwise.

I was a little worried and really had always pictured two twin beds side by side, but at the age they were/are they needed the room on the floor for their train table and other games.   And I could see the appeal of bunk beds:  they’re like little forts that you get to sleep in every night.  So we got the bunk beds (although they are the kind you can convert to twins) and have had them for about two years now.  Here are the pros and cons as I see it:


1. The boys (usually) love them.

2. It gives them much more room to play on the floor.

3. They can kind of get away from each other by each just crawling into their separate beds where they can’t see the other one.


1. They are a major pain to make up and therefore almost never get made.

2. It is about a 30 minute back-breaking ordeal to change the sheets so those get changed far less than they should.

3. They’re still kind of dangerous–even with the railing–especially with an 18 month old around who loves to climb and explore in her big brothers’ room.

4. They sometimes have conflict over who gets which bunk.


So, if it were up to me, I would probably get rid of the bunk beds but the boys have the trump card because it’s what they really want–for now.  I have a feeling they will outgrow them before too long.  Although I could be wrong–my husband might still have a bunk bed if he could!

I can’t show you the boys room–it’s such a mess right now–but here are some images I found really inspiring for bunk beds:


(all images via Pinterest)



The above image is amazing but I included it because it terrifies me for so many reasons;  First of all, no railings!  I know bunk beds didn’t have railings when I was growing up, but that just seems crazy to me right now.  Not to mention, with the amount of jumping I know must happen on my boys beds everyday, these hanging beds would probably just be a death trap.  And it would take about five seconds before they were swinging the beds into each other and then trying to swing up to climb onto that rafter.


This is incredible.  The boys both just looked over my shoulder at this picture and practically started drooling.  These parents are definitely more fun than I am…


So, what has been your experience with bunk beds?  Yea or nay?



Industrial Drapery Rods

I’ve been struggling with what to do for window coverings in the new kitchen.  We have a lot of windows and although I love the look of them uncovered, our kitchen faces a pretty busy street with a lot of pedestrian traffic and we are pretty exposed in the evenings!  I found these industrial looking rods at West Elm that I thought would be great and kind of disappear into the dark gray paint:


Unfortunately, they don’t have them in the sizes I need and while they were on sale initially, they aren’t any longer.  The salesperson also said they were being discontinued so needless to say, it was not going to work.  I really liked the idea of a simple somewhat industrial look so I went to the hardware store and saw a bunch of galvanized and copper pipes (which would be great in a different space, but not for our kitchen) and some brass fittings but no brass rods.  Brass rods seemed like a really good option if I could find them.

After some internet searching I came across this site called Online Metals.  They pretty much have any sort of metal in any form you might need.  I think they generally supply to plumbing and other industrial type businesses but said that they sell all kinds of things to all kinds of people for all kinds of uses.  One guy wanted to build a fire station pole in his house and they supplied it.  They have wonderful customer service and were more than happy to help me figure out what I needed.

I found some metal rods on their site that were just the length I needed (60″) and they cost a fraction of the much smaller rods from West Elm.  This weekend I hope to get back to the hardware store to buy the fittings and flanges to attach them to the window casings and I’ll update you when the curtains get hung.  I’m hoping it will be as simple as I’m imagining it to be…

Also, the brass is unlacquered so the patina should mirror the patina in the faucet.  Here are some photos of the rods that arrived today:

And this is the sink with the faucet and window casings behind:

Some updates for the kitchen:

-The handheld faucet miraculously fixed itself!  Not sure exactly what happened but it stopped leaking about a week or so ago.

-The dishwasher is still broken after three visits from various repairmen.  It is supposed to be fixed with some new parts ordered on March 6.  I’m not holding my breath…

-Still waiting for the doors to arrive from Home Depot.  I need to call about that.

-I haven’t painted the door yet.  *Maybe* this weekend…

Has anyone ever used industrial or plumbing pipes for a DIY interior decorating project?  If so, I’d love to hear your results!

A Love Story

Everyone has a story to tell;  A difficulty overcome, a rough patch in their childhood, an illness or death in the family, a hardship, or something that you may not know when you first meet them, but learn about them as you learn about the richness of who they are as a person.  This is the story of a young family whose story is being told right now as they face something none of them ever imagined they would.

Kelsey and James were college sweethearts.  Kelsey probably knew from the beginning she wanted to be with James for the rest of her life.  It maybe took him a little longer to realize the same about her, but not much.  James was a bit of a fish out of water at Clemson University in the heart of the south–he was a Southern California boy, a surfer, cyclist, skier, and avid lacrosse player, but his winning and easy personality won him many friends.  Kelsey was a pretty, petite book worm from Tallahassee Florida who loved reading and science.  James knew he was smitten when he realized Kelsey could recite more college football stats than he could and she was a passionate sports fan.  They both majored in biology, spent a semester abroad together, and after graduation, Kelsey agreed to move back with James to Irvine, CA.


It took a little time for James’ friends to warm up to Kelsey–now she was the fish out of water.  But after seeing how much their dear friend loved her and how much she loved him, they accepted her and grew to love her too.  A few years later, they got married and James went to law school, eventually opening his own practice.  Kelsey got her credentials and became a teacher.  Not long after that they got pregnant with their first child and he was born in 2004.  They named him James Prentiss after his dad and granddad.  Three years after that they welcomed a baby girl Grace Brennan, and their family was complete.

In the fall of 2009, James, ever the athlete, road in a bike race and after months of training and then completing the race, he noticed he was having some muscle spasms that weren’t going away.  He thought perhaps it was a pinched nerve but after months of tests, the doctors couldn’t find a reason for it.  After slowly eliminating numerous possibilities including Lyme disease and tumors, in 2010, Kelsey and James received the diagnosis of ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  James was 35 at the time.


Although the diagnosis of ALS means an average lifespan of 3-5 years.  There is almost no treatment (one drug is in the very early stages) and definitely no cure.  At this point medical professionals don’t even know what causes it, but it is a horrifying disease that progressively affects the nervous system eventually leading to complete loss of motor function, although patients’ minds remain unaffected.  Some people who have it though can live for decades, like the famous scientist Stephen Hawking.  James was extremely young to receive such a diagnosis–most people with ALS are in their 70s, so he and Kelsey were hopeful that his would either progress slowly or even turn out to be a virus that would go away on its own as one doctor presented as a possibility.  It seemed for a while this might be the case.  James’ symptoms were mild and mostly just annoying and he didn’t really feel any different.  But at the end of the summer of 2010 when he was at Legoland with Kelsey and the kids, he realized he couldn’t lift Grace up on his shoulders anymore.  Then one day while talking about Tae Kwon Do with Little James, he realized his 6 year old could do a push up but he no longer could.


Still these were symptoms only he noticed.    He was still James–he still acted like his old self.  He was easy to talk to, funny, gregarious, kind, a generous father and husband, a loving and involved son.  He could still ride his bike and walk and play with his kids.  He even took Little James on a triumphant multi-mile bike ride including a big hill, with grandma and grandpa following along in the car video-taping the whole way.

But Kelsey and James knew this was the time to make memories.  They decided to take family trips and went to Florida and to the Bahamas.  Kelsey and James even went back to the Carribbean where they had spent their honeymoon and renewed their vows.  They were completely, 100% in this together.

They continued to take trips as a family as his hands began to weaken and he loss the use of them in the summer of 2011.  Kelsey began to feed him or put his sunglasses on his face when the sun got too bright without being asked and without missing a beat.  On one trip she and James took by themselves they flew up to Napa and she held every glass of wine to his mouth so he could taste them and decide which ones they were going to buy.

In the summer of 2011 James was the proudest dad around as seven year old Little James got his black belt in Tae Kwon Do.  Afterwards Little James decided he wanted to take a break from Tae Kwon Do and try lacrosse like his dad.  James was having a hard time walking now but could still get around.  He couldn’t drive anymore though and he and Kelsey decided he would sell his car and close his law practice that fall.  He could no  longer type, hold papers, or dial a phone.

As the disease became more aggressive and James needed a wheelchair and oxygen, Kelsey continued teaching and even taking classes at night to get her masters.  James’ parents, who live nearby, continue to help out with the kids and along with Kelsey and numerous friends, take turns being with him during the day.  Kelsey is now taking time off from her job so she can be with him and the kids all the time.

I know all of this because Kelsey, although technically my cousin, is really like my sister and James is my brother-in-law.  John and I and our kids were with them at Legoland when James couldn’t put Grace on his shoulders anymore.  John and I joined them at Napa for that wonderful afternoon of wine tasting when I saw such love and devotion between the two of them that there wasn’t a breath that Kelsey wasn’t anticipating from James.  We even joined them for what I now see as a heartbreaking celebratory dinner almost two years ago when they came up to San Francisco and got a second opinion from a doctor here who thought there was a possibility James didn’t have ALS, but could instead have some virus that would go away on its own.  And you may remember a blog post in January detailing an extended visit from our niece and nephew, Little James and Grace, which was a wonderful treat for all of us, but was also to give their mom and dad some time together to just enjoy each other a little longer.


Recently, Kelsey and James were told he has only a few months left.  John and I drove down with the kids this past weekend to celebrate Little James’ eighth birthday and help them out in any way we could.  I helped Kelsey clean out James’ closet as she prepares to give away clothes they both know he will never wear again and make room for the myriad of medical equipment he now needs.  Her prerequisite for what clothes of his she would keep was, will Little James want to keep it (like his dad’s many lacrosse jerseys) or does it smell like James.   Those things she will keep as long as she can to help her remember and to eventually grieve.

Spending time with them this weekend was wonderful and James is still himself.  He is easy to talk to even in the midst of this disease.  He wants everyone to feel at ease and not worry about him.  We laughed Saturday night when we arrived about so many things.  But Sunday was a bad day for him and today was even worse.  He may just have a cold or some allergies but he has lost so much of his lung capacity, not to mention the ability to cough or sneeze, that even a cold is very dangerous.  I can tell Kelsey is scared and tired and worried about all of them.  Although James wasn’t feeling strong enough to join us for Little James’ party yesterday, he was able to watch his son open his present from his dad; It was James’ old Lacrosse stick now engraved with both of their initials.

Please keep our family and especially the Stalter family in your thoughts and prayers as they deal with this horrible disease.  Please also consider a donation to the ALS Foundation is you are thinking of charitable giving this year.   Thanks for reading.



Green Chair

It’s so funny but I had had that cow hide rug draped over this chair in our bedroom for so long, I had forgotten what the chair even looked like.  Now I remember that it was a vintage faux green leather chair from one of my salvaging expeditions.  I don’t like to have everything be totally antique and feminine and curvy–I like a few more contemporary lines, some rustic wood, some industrial masculinity–even in the vintage pieces.  I think it makes the curvier parts of the design stand out more.  Anyway, this chair must have been a take on that. I think I had planned to have it recovered in a soft linen to maintain its quiet lines.  But now, I have to admit, that faux green leather is kind of growing on me.  Maybe it’s just because I’m in a green phase…


Yeah, nevermind.  I gotta go find a blanket or something to throw over it…

Living Room Rug Replacement and A Little Visitor

Since I moved my striped rug into the kitchen, where it works way better, I had to find something to go in the dining room so it doesn’t look like a long runway.  I know the kids would prefer I leave it bare so they can keep running and sliding on it, but I just had to put something down–I’ll have to promise to roll it up sometimes.  Anyway, I remembered I had bought a white cow hide rug on Ebay about 4 years ago (when they were still really affordable) and could never figure out where I wanted it to go.  I ended up using it on a chair in our bedroom but pulled it down yesterday to try it in front of our fireplace:


I know, that Windsor chair gets moved around all the time!  One of these days it will be in a picture of the bathroom or something…

I like the rug here but I think it needs something else to anchor it–maybe a nice seagrass or sisal under it…

Valentine’s flowers from a good husband on the mantle…

And last night while we were eating dinner, we heard a little bird batting at our front windows.  We had left the front porch light on and when I looked out, a hummingbird was going crazy around the light.  When I turned it off, she finally calmed down and then I realized, she has a nest in our light!  It is so tiny and delicate and I can’t tell if there are any eggs in it but I’m sure there will be soon if there aren’t currently.  I’m embarrassed to show you the pictures because our front porch light is currently just the wrought iron without the glass globe–it’s how it was when we moved in and I have been meaning for four years to get it fixed but I guess now I will have to wait a little longer…

I know, it’s hideous but now it’s just going to have to be hideous a bit longer.  Look at that sweet little bird!   She must be a nervous wreck watching us tromp in and out every morning.  I’ll let you know if I see any eggs or babies in there.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kitchen Renovation Breakdown

I wanted to go through my last post and break down my splurges and saves so readers would know ways they can do a kitchen reno on a budget too.  Although I try to be a DIYer and I can paint/refinish furniture and sew a bit, I am no carpenter, plumber, or electrician.  If any of you or your spouses are handy around the house, you could probably save even more by doing much of the grunt work yourselves.  I’ll start with the elements in this first image:


The farmhouse sink–kind of a splurge.  I was really hamstrung by the length the sink had to be and I knew I didn’t want any detail on the front.  I could have gotten a much cheaper one if I had been OK with a scalloping on the front or a dramatic taper.   Having said that I did extensive internet shopping and got this one for  less than half of what was quoted to me for the same sink in a local supply store.   For a real bargain, check out Ikea’s double bowl farmhouse sink, or single bowl farmhouse sink.  The single one (Domsjo) can be inset.  I used the double bowl for a client and she loves it.

The cabinetrysave and splurge.  For our budget it was a bit of a splurge even though they are Home Depot cabinets and not from a specialty cabinet maker.  Home Depot has different levels of cabinetry that they offer and we chose the most high end.   It’s from Home Depot though so still not a total splurge.   Also, we saved by reusing half of the existing cabinetry–the ones on the back wall.  I also saved by doing open shelving for some of it.  The cabinets were 1/10 of the budget–not counting labor to install.

The unlacquered brass faucet–total save.    After realizing that unlacquered brass was only offered at very high end plumbing manufacturers, I asked around our local plumbing salvage stores and found out that any lacquered brass can be stripped–even if it says “lifetime finish.”  The only prerequisite is that it must be solid brass.  I found a faucet I loved by Rohl but couldn’t afford and after much searching instead found this one on Signature Hardware’s website and ordered it.  Unfortunately, when it arrived, I realized it wasn’t completely solid brass–just the neck was brass plate on copper.  I could tell as soon as I picked it up.  I took it to my hero, Ragnar at The Sink Factory and he said they could still strip it and it would patina the same as long as I don’t over scrub it with abrasives or try to polish it, I should be OK.   Whew!  This faucet was a huge bargain too.  Way less than pretty much everything else in the budget.

AppliancesSave.  We didn’t buy any appliances except our new dishwasher which was a splurge but since we didn’t buy a single other appliance–we came out way ahead.  We also didn’t move anything so no major plumbing or electrical had to be done.  The appliances may not be exactly my aesthetic but they are  good (Dacor), newish and well-functioning.  The dishwasher we went with was the Fisher Paykel double drawer with cabinet fronts.  I think I will really like it–but the top drawer broke the first time we used it!  I’ll let you know after it gets fixed tomorrow morning.

Marble counterssave.  I did another post on these earlier.  I just happened to find a really good deal here in the East Bay on carrara marble slabs.  I know marble isn’t for everyone and I have been warned by just about every contractor and salesperson that it will show all kinds of stains, it chips, etc etc.  I knew though that I wanted the look of an old farmhouse kitchen and the stains, etc were just going to be part of that character and age for me.  I did follow the advice of another designer friend who said to get a marble tile and live with it in your kitchen for a few months.  Pour red wine and lemon juice on it and try to put dings and chips in it.  I did that and it did get some discoloration but I liked it.  I did get my counters sealed and I will seal them again myself in a few months.  But am I going to seal them every 6 months?  Probably not.

I think the key to being OK with marble aging in a kitchen is to not get a decorative edge.  I had to pay extra to my installer to get him to take off the bullnose on the slabs and I definitely would not have chosen a decorative bevel for this kitchen.  First of all, this isn’t a beveled edge kind of house and you probably wouldn’t have found that level of decorative element in a farmhouse anyway.  (Granted, our house isn’t a farmhouse, but it’s an old rambling brown shingle craftsman and it was one of the first houses to be built on an old farm/orchard, the Kelsey Farm, so I’m going with it).   If you get too decorative with your edging in marble (which I love in the right setting), you loose that baker’s slab feel and then the wear and tear is going to feel much more dramatic.  I’ve seen it in other kitchens and it really makes a difference.

Chalkboard wallsave.  Just a wall built to enclose the fridge with plywood.  Decorative molding added to make it look like an old frame and then I painted it out with chalkboard and magnetic paint and then did a paint treatment on the frame.

Hardwaresave.  I highly recommend Van Dyke’s Restorers for vintage looking hardware and architectural accents.

Floorssplurge.  We had new semi wide plank oak laid down and then painted.  There was nothing but plywood under our tile and I wanted the floor to look like it was part of the original house.  You can’t get old growth Doug Fir anymore so we mimicked the width of the rest of the house and then painted the boards so no one will ever know it’s oak instead of Doug Fir.  As you may know from previous posts the painting was more painstaking than I would have thought but I really like the finished look and I have been told it is one of the most durable kinds of floors around.  The kids and I will definitely be hard on it so I will let you know.  If you like the look of painted wood I think it is something a savvy DIYer could do.  I would just be sure to do a lot of research on how different grains absorb paint and what kind of sealer should be used–especially if the paint is lighter in color.

Rugsave.  Six Ikea rugs sewn together.

Table and Chairssave.  Chairs are vintage that I painted and covered with fabric I already had.  Table I already had too and table cloth is burlap pieces sewn together.

Lighting–sort of a save.  I only had to get two fixtures and add a couple of ceramic wall mounts for the new pantry.  The pendants were on sale and much less expensive than a lot of lighting sources.  I’m sure even less expensive options could be found but as everyone knows, I love Omega Too Lighting and it was really important to me to support them as local artists, etc.

Panellingsave.  This is such an easy and inexpensive way to add character.

Paintingsave and splurge.  Although we had someone spray the cabinets which was a splurge (but well worth it since I know cabinets can really take a beating), I did the rest of the painting myself.  Actually, I’m still doing the rest of the painting…

Antique grain tablesave.  I was prepared to shell out some dough for this piece, whatever it was going to be, since I knew we would be losing some counter space and I had to work with some really specific dimensions on this wall.  I thought it would be an antique buffet or something like that but I happened upon this piece at my favorite salvage store, Urban Ore, and I fell in love with it immediately.  It was a bargain and ended up setting the tone for the rest of the kitchen.   I love it when you stumble on just the right piece and it brings everything together!

LaborSPLURGE.  This was well over half our budget and definitely where more handy people could save some money.  I work with a really fantastic contractor who has excellent craftsmen and we wanted to do this kitchen, do it right, and do it once.  Also, the various things that came up for us regarding the floors, some shelving issues, painting, etc, would have been much more of a headache and probably ended up costing us more in the long run if we had gotten in over our heads doing it ourselves or trying to hire handymen to do it for us.  Not to mention, this reno took only 3 weeks and that alone has saved us stress and money.

Although I included most of my sources in this post, I wanted to also give the paint colors:

Floor, window and door casings:  Benjamin Moore, November Rain

Mullions and door:  Benjamin Moore, Deep Creek

Walls and cabinets:  Kelly Moore, Swiss Coffee

Hope this is helpful for your next renovation!

Kitchen Renovation Done (Almost): Before and After

OK, lesson learned.  I have got to stop saying the kitchen is almost finished!  But really it’s so close.  You’ll see in the following pictures a few details still need attention (cabinet doors under the sink still have to be replaced, I still have to paint the porch door, some knobs aren’t on the cabinets yet, we don’t have window treatments, etc…)


But even so, welcome to my kitchen:


The next few are some Befores:

And the Afters:

Antique grain table and *almost* finished painted porch door

Unlacquered brass faucet–waiting for the patina

pendant fixture over the table and burlap table cloth

My homemade Ikea rug has found a permanent home in the kitchen…

Close up of antique French address plaque

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!!!