Ok, guys, let’s lighten things up a little bit here, alright? Lately I’ve been posting on serious topics which I’m very passionate about, from the way that preservationists represent themselves, to a decision made by the St. Cloud School District to vacate the 1917 building where I attended classes in favor of building a large, sprawling school on the edge of town. These topics are important, and I encourage you to visit those posts if you haven’t had the chance to take a look at them yet. All that being said, I thought it was time to add some levity to this blog so I’m going to share with you some of the projects I’ve been working on in my house!
I’ve owned my house for about two and half years now and, as I’m sure other homeowners can relate, I had all kinds of ideas of the changes I was going to make when I first moved in. The reality of the time commitment these projects would require and the overall cost kept me from completing many of them. But, finally this fall, I resolved myself to finishing the decorating projects in my dining room and kitchen. (I’m planning on updating some of these pictures with better ones later, I realize some of them are super dark)
The room that I affectionately call my “dining room” is more like a glorified back entryway with a dining table that I never use. But, it is the first room I see when I come home and therefor I wanted it to be a place where I felt immediate comfort. Over the years, my wonderful friends and family have given me many gifts that I really wanted to showcase, giving them a prominent place where I will see them often and think of how lucky I am to have so many wonderful people in my life. So, my vision for the dining room was really built around the different items that I wanted to display. Pictured above is a porcelain cat that used to live at my Grandma McKenzie’s house – she had a cozy little spot on an ottoman in her formal living room. As a kid, I would stroke her back as my grandma watched cautiously to ensure I did not remove her from the ottoman. My mom gave her to me after my grandma passed away (I mentioned it in my post about my Grandma) and I felt it was important that she be in a place where I will see her everyday. She sits on the lower shelf of a console table I have by the back door.
This is kind of a dead space – it is behind where the back door opens and is basically a hallway to the kitchen. My mom bought this console table for me from Nadeau a couple years ago and it fits perfectly. For the wall space above, I wanted to display some of my many Instagram memories so I purchased these frames from Tiny Mighty Frames – however, once I had them I wasn’t sure how to arrange them on the wall. The mirror was an impulse purchase from a year ago. I was shopping for a new mirror for my bathroom – this one wasn’t quite right, but nonetheless I carried it with me throughout the store as I continued shopping. It was still with me at checkout… so I guess the decision was made. It sat in my basement leaning against a wall for nearly a year and I wasn’t sure it would really work in this room, its such an unusual mauve color, but I went for it and actually love it.
When I first started exploring my home I noticed that the brick chimney was exposed in the basement utility room – which lead to the realization that the drywall, which was boxed out in the corner of the dining room (pictured above), was hiding the chimney on the main floor. I was terrified to attempt to remove it and expose the brick (I have literally no idea what I’m doing when it comes to home renovation), but one night (it was Halloween, I was home in the dark to avoid trick-or-treaters and I was bored) I decided to take a hammer to the drywall and see if the brick was in good shape.
So, the first step was removing all the drywall – which I did very gracefully (picture a 5’2′ brunette yelling obscenities by herself while her dog cowers under the couch, pieces of drywall fly in all directions and the room fills with dust). I couldn’t get all of it off – there is still some that remains between the door trim and the furring strips. It’s not all that noticeable. I just painted it the same color as the trim and crossed my fingers that it would blend in. I left the baseboard trim, so there is a space between the trim and the chimney – again not that noticeable – I just think it gives it a more finished look. If someone with actual construction experience wants to come over and put some finishing touches on it (for free) – I would welcome them! But, in the meantime this is the end result:
I also decided to switch up my “bar” area – leaving the shelves as I had them but removing the mirrors that I had originally hung when I first bought the home (seen below – note dust, this photo was taken post fight with chimney drywall).
I’ve used a similar decorative theme around a bar area in other places I’ve lived. Almost exclusively, using the shelves to display different glassware (I have kind of a weird obsession with glassware), but this time I thought I’d switch it up and use it as a place to display some mementos. Here’s the result:
The bird house was given to me by my friend Elsa, as was the photo of her and I that I have framed on the shelf above. The “Minnesota” glass next to the books was given to me by my friend Katie (I love it when my friends give me Minnesota themed gifts). The bottle is from a lovely beer that I enjoyed made by my friendly neighborhood brewery, Steel Toe. I found the elephant bookend on Amazon and felt compelled to buy it, it just screamed my Grandma McKenzie to me – I think she would have loved it and the pink mosaic vase was a great find at a trip to the The Cottage House last spring.
When I first bought my house, my mom and I took a trip to Ikea where I purchased (to) many things and I probably shaved years off my life trying to assemble them. One of the worst was the glass tower that now sits next to the chimney. As much as that experience was awful and nearly resulted in my mom and I killing each other, the tower looks perfect now! I was never quite sure what to display in it – but during this process I decided I would fill it with more meaningful items that remind me of my favorite people. Pictured above is an adorable box that my friend Elsa gave me, inscribed with the spot-on quote “Happy girls are the prettiest”, a canvas picture that another gal pal, Sally, gave me from her trip to California last spring and lastly a blown glass flower that my cousin, Jessica, gave me as a housewarming gift.
Probably one of my favorite (and most difficult) changes in the room is the light fixture. I purchased my house from an investor who had bought it four months prior and made a lot of cosmetic upgrades – one of which was replacing all the light fixtures with these very familiar ceiling lights:
So, I knew I wanted to change it – and I thought I wanted to get a drum pendant light. But, those things are EXPENSIVE! When I finally found one that was in my price range – it was a lot smaller than I had envisioned. But, regardless I decided to go with it. The idea of trying to hang it by myself was really intimidating – but paying someone to do it seemed really silly. I mean, c’mon, how hard can it be? I’m not going to pretend like it went off without a hitch (insert visions of more curse words and dog hiding under the couch), but it was a lot easier than I expected. So, that was that. Light was up and I was done.
Well, then a couple weeks later my mom and I were perusing the lighting department of Home Depot and I found this beautiful pendant globe light that just seemed perfect for the room (pictured below)! My mom offered to buy it for me (thanks mom!) and so I figured, I’m an old pro at this ‘light-hanging’ thing now, its going to be so easy! Not so. After removing the drum light, I was preparing to attach the new light fixture’s wires when one of the wires coming from the ceiling BROKE OFF. Seriously. It just snapped. Not cool. I took that as a sign that I should stop what I’m doing and hire a professional. $125 later, the light is now proudly illuminating the dining room.
On the opposing wall from the “bar” area, I have a small dining table which originally belonged to my grandma. The wall above the table has been empty, I wasn’t sure what to do that empty space. Hours of pintersting resulted in my decision to get some ledge shelves and use it as a place to display art and my attempt at photography. I got the ledges from Ikea (never mind how many holes I had to put in the wall to get them spaced the way I wanted) and for the time being this is what it looks like:
I intend to put more of my own photography up eventually, but I’m lazy and didn’t feel like getting pictures printed in time for this post. Included on the shelves are little houses that my Grandma McKenzie painted, they used to sit on the windowsill of my mom’s old bedroom. I would arrange them into a little city for my Polly Pocket to explore. The bottom right has a poster, designed by Adam Trunman, that my mom thought I “had to have” during a trip to the Uptown Art Fair last summer. The two framed sketches are of train stations created by John Cartwright. The one on the lower shelf is of a train station in St. Cloud, my hometown, another purchase from that same trip to the Uptown Art Fair. The sketch located on the middle shelf is of a train station in St. Louis Park – where I currently live, purchased at the Minnesota State Fair last year. The top shelf has a framed vintage postcard of the Municipal Swimming Pool in St. Cloud, I bought it on Etsy about two years ago – I would walk by this swimming pool and recreation building every morning on my way to high school.
On the top shelf is a shadow box (pictured above) – probably my favorite thing in the room. A couple Christmases ago my dad gave me half of his coin collection. I’ve struggled to find a good way to display the coins so they’ve mostly just taken up residence in a closet. When I was envisioning this project I decided that I was going to find a way to make sure the collection was included. I bought a shadow box and used some removable glue dots to adhere the coins to a piece of scrapbook paper. It’s not perfect – but at least I can look at them everyday. Draped across the side of the frame are my dad’s dog tags from when he served in the military. This spot in my dining room is dedicated to my quirky, honorable, and sentimental father.
I had originally wanted to paint both my Kitchen and Dining room a bright teal color, but the idea of having a bright paint color in my living room (orange) next to another bright color in the adjacent dining room seemed a little over-powering. So I compromised and painted the dining room grey and isolated the teal to the kitchen. After I first painted the kitchen walls I still felt like I had gone too bright.
I had the idea of adding a stenciled “backsplash” to break up the color, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through all the effort. I decided after the room was painted that it was necessary (shown below). Couple things people always ask me about stenciling: (Q) how long does it take? (A) I don’t keep track of the time, I often get bored and have to stop. I did this over the course of a week. (Q) Is it difficult? (A) Difficult, no. Tedious and time consuming, yes. (Q) Would you recommend people to do it? (A) Yes. I mean, look how awesome it looks! But, know that it will take forever, everything will get sticky from the stencil glue, the stencil is b**ch to clean off and its a super boring project. In the end, though, it is totally worth it.
Little details are a less prevalent in the kitchen versus the dining room, simply because the room is much more utilitarian. Honestly, I don’t use the dining room for much more than a hallway. A couple of fun things I did add are on the open shelf to the left of the sink (pictured below). I loved this shelf when I moved in, but I had no idea how to decorate it – so it ended up being a dumping ground for random crap (see before pictures above – yikes). So, I decided to keep it simple and display some of my glassware – my favorite being the mid-century mod wine glasses – they were once my Grandma McKenzie’s, I think my friends Elsa and Lindsay would love them.
One late night of pintresting I found a picture of a tiered serving tray that someone had re-purposed as a place to store spices on the kitchen counter. I always loved that, so when I came across a similar tray at Junk Bonanza last spring, (pictured below) I thought I’d do something similar. The tray I bought is small, it doesn’t really fit spices (ha, as if I have any spices to display, lets be real… I don’t cook). Instead, I thought I’d put it next to my coffee and espresso makers and use it to store coffee cups – I think it looks kinda great!
So, what do you think?! I really like the way it turned out. These rooms better reflect my personality now, which was my biggest goal.
A big thank you to all of my wonderful friends and family who contributed the little pieces scattered throughout these rooms. I’m so happy that I’ve found a way to display all of them and they can remind me of you every day. You guys make me who I am and without your love and support I don’t know where I’d be, I truly appreciate every single one of you!
Until next time