photo Whaling-City-Cottage-8-2015_zpsoygeotsf.jpg

living room renovation update

It’s been 5 weeks since we started tearing up the living room and we’re finally in the home stretch.  Well, I say that with optimism because the hardest part is still ahead of us – building the mantel.

Let’s revisit the oh-so-glamorous BEFORE.


What I imagine a fireplace in Trump’s lair looks like.


And here’s where we stand this morning.


Please ignore the mediocre pics in this post.  It’s been cloudy for like a week and I just finished painting the subfloor last night so I didn’t want to walk on it.  It’s hard to photograph a room you can’t actually go into… 730am on a cloudy morning.

The Walls
It took a while to patch the many problems on the walls, including the former pointless cubbies.


After lots of mudding and sanding and clean up, we were finally ready to add our batten wall treatments.  This room is too big for my taste (and furniture stash) so I wanted to bring the walls “in” somehow.  Adding texture would make the room seem smaller and cozier, more like a library than a bowling alley.

Initially I was thinking shiplap but then I worried it would be too busy.  Plus even faux shiplap like we did the mudroom would get costly in a room this size.  Floor to ceiling battens were the way to go.  Subtle texture that wouldn’t break the bank.


You can see in this pic I’d started roller-ing on the wall color – BM China White in eggshell finish.


For the battens, we bought two 4’x8′ sheets of 1/4” hardwood plywood ($13 each) and ripped them down to 2” wide strips with a band saw.  A lot of math later, we were air nailing the battens every 22”.


The Fireplace
I swear we stared at the green marble colossus for a week, trying to figure out what to do.  Somebody cemented those slabs on real good and we worried that demo-ing it would open an expensive can of worms, possibly compromise the fireplace and get us in over our heads.  Not to mention that slate slabs for the fireplace surround turned out to be super spenny.  Then I found these black slate 12″x 24″ tiles at Home Depot.


The color and texture was perfect and with the straight edge on the tile, I thought we could lay them over the marble without grout lines and they’d look like slabs of slate. ???  It couldn’t get uglier so we decided to give it a go.

To rough up the surround and make sure the thinset and tile would stick, we took a diamond blade grinder to the marble.  Hideous green marble.  Hideous.  Nobody panic, everybody breath.


Then we laid the tile, using as few cuts as possible in the most visually logical layout possible.


I love it.  You can still see the lines where the tiles meet but that makes a bit rustic and gives the eye a break, instead of just a cube o’tile.

The Floor
Last night, I finally painted the floor which was so satisfying after all the prep work.  I used Sherwin Williams Porch and Floor paint in Urbane Bronze.





Now….to build the mantel.  Here’s the direction we’re heading.  Simple dentil molding mantel.  The mantel will be painted the same color as all the trim – BM China semi-gloss finish.


We’re almost there!!!  And then the kids want to mantel to look like this for Halloween.

CLX100116_106country living

What do you guys think?  Do you miss the green marble and seafoam carpet?  😉




my first trip to brimfield

Last week I finally made the pilgrimage to Brimfield Antiques Show!  My stepmom and her boyfriend were out for a visit (yes, she’s still my stepmom even though she’s not married to my dad anymore) so the three of us set our alarms for pitch dark o’clock and headed out.  Caution – iPhone pics ahead.


I’d read a bunch about parking etc and what to expect, and had downloaded the Brimfield Flea Finder app, so we were fairly prepared.  The app also said there’d be clam cakes and fried haddock sandwiches but that was a lie.  A vicious lie.  I put on a solid mile of extra steps trying to find those clam cakes.

Given all the hype about Brimfield, my expectations were pretty high.  This was the mecca where my wildest hunter gatherer dreams would come true, right?  I’d find all the weird cool (and affordable) stuff I didn’t even know I needed.  And we’d live happily ever after, Julia Roberts laughing about how we found each other at Brimfield.  Oh chic vintage cheetah statues flanking my fireplace….you’re the best.  


This was not to be.  At one point, I asked how much a nude painting cost and was told $1,200.  Twelvehundredfrickingdollars.  So I stood there, pretending to consider the offer, in my filthy Converse and disintegrating LL bean rain jacket.  Then bolted from the tent before I broke something.  What the florp?  You know what would make this all better?  A clam cake.


Call me crazy but not much of what I saw blew my hair back.  It was either too Colonial or mid century or industrial.  And a lot of what I did see and love was out of my price range.  Overscale art apparently all costs $600.


Mostly I was on the hunt for a 3×5 rug but finding one in the right size and color with just the right amount of wear, at a price I could stomach, was not easy.  This little cutie came close but ultimately I passed.


In my defense, New Bedford has some amazing antique-ing and junking in town, so I was expecting that x10.  All in all, I would totally give Brimfield another shot.  For the spectacle and because you never know, maybe next time the stars will align.

The ginger jars on the right here….I really wanted to take two of those home.  But they were $150 each.


What do you all think of the show?  What are your favorite things you’ve found there?  Does it live up to the hype?  Maybe I’m just too used to finding deals in New Bedford.  Or am I just enticing you to come down here and raid my secret spots?  Nevermind, nothing to see here….



good bye, seafoam nightmare

As summer winds down, we’re plotting what house projects to knock off the list this fall.  Keeping in mind the cost, bang for our buck, longevity, cozy factor going into winter, etc.  Luckily we still have plenty of heinous rooms to choose from.  What rose to the top of the heap though is….our embarrassing living room.  The seafoam bowling alley.

Here it is the day we moved in.  Shudder.


We stripped the wallpaper off this past Christmas to reveal seriously funky walls.  Not sure what that smoke/dust is….


Call me crazy but this room is too big, right?  I don’t have the furniture for this action.  You can see the retro step-down to the living room on the right here.



It doesn’t help that our temporary living room in the office is cozy as hell.


My husband and kids keep asking if we can keep the TV and sofa in here.  But my suspicion is, if we have a den, we’ll never set foot in the living room again.



So we can’t abandon the living room.  We gotta make this work.

First up – add faux board and batten treatment to the walls from floor to ceiling.

f599e8ea1610bb14a66d259e108a53efhouse and home

28172001d985cb1eac71580ee7ff6564lauren liess

As for color, I’m planning to paint the walls and trim the same off-white.  BM Sea Pearl is my top choice right now.

sea pearl

Or a tad lighter with BM Cloud Cover.

cloud cover

But I’m leaning towards the more saturated Sea Pearl.  ???

These pointless wall alcoves are getting the sledgehammer.  The designers kindly recessed them into the wall (Liz Lemon eye roll) so we’ll have two huge holes to seamlessly patch with drywall.  Good times.


I’m planning to put the TV on a dresser or sideboard in this spot and build a gallery wall around it.

8e669061aab86d3be33f8f890848a157alison piepmeyer

Next up is the fireplace – it’s the focal point of the room and desperately needs a face lift.  Also this fireplace wall is soooo long and totally without architecture.



No more green marble and chintzy mantle.  I’m picturing a classic mantle with dentil trim and charcoal slate surround.

a1a45e607569b9dfddb1459e1ed6c0e2kate marker

8b87b2f9824096cf1684e9fb8f235269my domaine

70dbc0326df47cc061ad12d36a1d67c5L. Kae Interiors

I’ve picked out this mirror for over the fireplace.



Now, to annihilate the seafoam carpet.


As many of you know, hardwood floors are unfortunately NOT hidden under the green carpet in the living room.  We had a similar situation in the dining room and decided to paint the subfloor while saving up for hardwood floors. We’ll do the same treatment in the living room and stick with the same color too (BM Aegean Olive).


For floor covering, I want something neutral and cozy and have been going cross-eyed researching jute rugs.  It has to be affordable, not filled with dust and shedding fibers, and have a cool weave that looks expensive.  A tall order.  But I think I found a winner with the Maui braided jute rug from Rugs USA.


Our coffee table situation is shaping up nicely too.  I scored a vintage Ming-style coffee table off Craigslist for $40 bucks.


The top was a wreck though, like a honey badger had been at it, but nothing wood putty and sanding couldn’t take care of.  I’m putting oil based primer on tonight and then it’ll get a few coats of BM Advance in semi-gloss White Dove.

There are sooooo many decisions to make in the living room!  Furniture, curtains, bamboo blinds, lighting, art.  This is a huge space and we basically have nothing to fill it with.

What do you think about plans so far?  How would you fill this room up?  Make it look cozy, collected, lived-in.  Demi lune tables flanking the fireplace with oversize art above them?  Console table behind the sofa?  I need your sage wisdom, guys.




obsession: garden obelisks

We’re having a seriously dry summer here in New England.  Our grass was basically hay when we got back from the lake.  And of course our back yard and side yards are still rolling on 60+ years of overgrowth, so naturally I’m dreaming of a tamed, verdant garden.

One thing that’s caught my eye lately on Pinterest are garden obelisks.  The fancy Martha Stewart-y name for them is the French, tuteur.  Garden obelisks are a great mix of form and function.  They add visual interest and height but they’re also functional, providing a climbing surface for plants.

I like the idea using them to bring year-round color to the garden.

12227e668dbaf01cd0693370e14bedb0country gardener






Be still my heart… with an artichoke on top.

1cb94443a245a9e2c79dcce1492aedcbthe graceful gardener

These weathered wood ones are cool too.


These aren’t a pyramid shape but the idea is the same and they’re gorgeous.



This one is simple and lovely.


I need to start scoping a spot in our yard for one of these beauties.  And it looks like you could DIY it easily too.

Do any of you have vertical elements in your garden?



Lake George 2016

We’re back!!!  From two bananas weeks at Lake George.  Chocka-block full of cousins, fun, swimming, SUP-ing, cliff jumping, junk food and drinking rose during the day instead of water.


For the last three years, a gaggle of my cousins have rented THIS awesome house in the historic Glenburnie enclave on Blair’s Bay in northern Lake George.  It’s a beautiful spot at the end of the road on a rocky peninsula in the shadow of Anthony’s Nose.  You can see the house and boathouse in the background in the picture below.

Me.  SUP master.  I think it’s those softball and figure skating thighs that help.


Our raft.



Oligotrophic glacial lake where you can see 30 feet down?  Yes please.


This year we rented stand up paddle boards and it was the best idea everrrrrr.


P-I-M-P…  Leah Brown.  Smoke show.



This hottie.  M. Lang.


About to eat a gut-busting load of fried food at Wind Chill Factory in Ti.


Chilling at Adirondack Camp, across Blair’s Bay, where some of our crew were campers and counselors years ago.  It’s the bomb!  Like Parent Trap on crack.  June thinks she’s going there next year.  Yeah, just need to hit that Mega Millions first.




The gorgeous gene pool of BK Porterfield




And to my cousins whose pics I stole off our ADK 2016 photo share, you probably sat on me and farted when we were kids… we’re even.

Till next year.  Sigh.



screen porch progress

I swear, we’re actually trying to finish this project before winter.  Nothing like working full-time and wrangling two kids to set your pace to “glacial.”

Okay so what’s been happening…..

We covered the ceiling with beadboard panels from Lowe’s.  They come in 4′ x 8′ sheets which we had to cut and puzzle together to fit the ceiling.  Thankfully the gaps don’t show too much with the dark paint because it is impossible to get these sheets to line up seamlessly.  Perfection this is not.


While we batted around the idea of tearing down the ceiling so the room would be vaulted the full height of the roof, we’re not sure what’s up there and are kinda scared to find out.


So a 7.5 foot ceiling it is!  Which doesn’t leave much room for a light fixture, especially a lantern style like I had my heart set on.

This was my top choice but then I realized the 15.5″ height was probably too big for the space.  We don’t want people whacking their head or having something block the view.  But isn’t she pretty?


lamps plus


I ended up getting this one instead – it was slightly smaller and half the price to boot.  Still, all Charleston-y and elegant though.



And I’m sticking with my original plan to paint the porch black!  This idea has been stuck in my brain for a few years after seeing Susan Hable Smith’s porch in Southern Living.  I think she used Farrow and Ball’s Studio Green.


Then this room in Elle Decor sealed the deal.


After a very short color search – this was the only one I tested – we went with BM Black Forest Green in semi-gloss.  The little bit of sheen makes a huge difference, bouncing just enough light around the space and making the green-black really deep and rich.


Then we got suckered into scraping the door of about 12 layers of paint.  The heat gun was the only thing that worked.  Even the most Acme death goo paint stripper couldn’t put a dent in it.


This is the best we could do.  But I put oil based primer on it yesterday evening….and it’s lookin’ pretty good!

I’ve also been scouring Craigslist for freaking ages looking for vintage rattan/bamboo porch chairs.  Like digging foxholes through that mother.  Not surprising but nothing met my long list of criteria – matching pair, open weave but not too open, natural color but not too orange, thick cushions, within 50 miles away, not too spenny, etc.  Then these chairs from World Market went on bananas sale and it seemed like a good time to crawl out of my CL burrow.

chair porch

The wood will warm up the dark paint on the porch and the cushions are super thick with bleach-able covers.  All the vintage chairs I saw needed new cushions or new cushion covers ($$$).

These chairs are in need of a black and white striped pillow, for sure.  Maybe this one from Pottery Barn?


Or something with thicker stripes?



Our porch sofa is also from World Market – the Himara which we got a few years ago (they don’t sell this model anymore).  This is how we knew the cushions on the chairs would rock.  They’re the same ones.

sofa porch

Once I figure out the furniture layout, I can start thinking about side tables, coffee tables, garden stools, etc.  The porch isn’t big (12′ x 12′) and the doors/pathways chop things up.


If we cram everything to the left, it gets pretty tight.  The drawing below isn’t to scale but there’s essentially no wiggle room.


I think we need to spread things out more.  This feels more balanced.

spread out

 I’m also trying to convince my husband that we can DIY a concrete top coffee table similar to this.


But do a concrete overlay treatment on the top instead of a super heavy brick-o-concrete.  I wish I had video of the look Nick gave me about this idea #somebodyneedsanap.  And I need a fairy godmother with a arsenal of power tools.

Next up: paint ALL THOSE MULLIONS.  I would say I need wine but I’m not sure boozing and fine motor tasks are a good mix.

Thoughts?  Criticism?  The name of a good wood worker in my area?  What do you guys think?



screen porch {paint it black}

It’s been 3 months since we tore out the rotting trim and screens from our screen porch in the backyard and we’re finally making steps toward rebuilding it.  I know, we’re really blazing through this project.


That flood light is positively prison-like.  My plan is to center the junction box in the pediment and replace the light with a gooseneck barn light.



You can (barely) see our new sugar maple here on the left.  Grow little buddy!  Grow!

Clearly I’ve been experimenting with color.


One big question is…..what color to paint the trim, ceiling and doors/wall/sidelights?  I want the whole porch to be one color, something bold and dark to envelope the space and make it cozy.

porch1jersey ice cream co. via design sponge

porch2muskoka living

I’m going with Black Forest Green by Benjamin Moore.  It’s a beautiful green-black.


Painting those mullions may cause me to lose my marbles but it’ll be worth it.


And yes, the outside of the screen porch trim will be painted the same dark color as the inside.  Eventually the exterior of our house will be white without shutters and I thought it would be cool to make the screen porch stand out.  Like this gorgeousness.  Oh, a conservatory?  Don’t mind if I do.


In typical jumping the gun fashion, I already planted blue hydrangeas along the front of the porch.

IMG_5934We planted the same sized Endless Summer hydrangea at our old house – in similar light conditions – and they got big within a couple years.  So…fingers crossed.

There won’t be much dough left over for decor or a crazy screen porch reveal.  Except in my mind.  But here’s a rough mock up of my plan for the vibe.

porch mock up

Black rattan chairs (Craigslist gods, please smile on me), zinc topped coffee table, neutral outdoor rug, ceiling lantern, garden stools, striped and patterned pillows, plants, etc.

Am I crazy to paint the whole thing black?  What do you guys think?  My husband did the”whatever you think is best, dear” thing.  But I’ve trained him well when it comes to design stuff.  I need an unbiased opinion.



client living room transformation

I recently worked with a client in Dartmouth, MA on transforming their family room and couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.  Wanna take a peak?  Please excuse my terrible BEFORE photos.  It was nighttime and my clients were in the process of building the barn wood TV nook on the right, hence the chaos.


Pink slipcover sectional, dark blinds, slightly coastal decor.


Their family room is open to the kitchen and it’s the room they spend the most time in.  They wanted a space that was polished but laid-back and durable enough to handle kids and pets.

Here is the AFTER…



We lowered and simplified the fireplace mantel with a single, stained piece of wood.




The styling is still in progress but it’s a big change, right?  A huge thank you to my client for giving me a chance and trusting me.  And apologies to her husband who really, really wanted a huge leather sectional and cow hide ottoman….and did not get them.  😉

If you’re interested in transforming a space in your house, email me at



chartreuse velvet

My brain refuses to learn how to spell chartreuse.  I screw it up every time.  But the scientific names of hundreds of marine animals are uselessly floating around my head.  Thanks, UMM.

Okay, so….in my eternal quest to furnish our house and not go broke, last week I snagged a great vintage chair off Craigslist for $40.


Welcome to my seafoam nightmare.  And the smoke/dust/evil spirit marks we uncovered on the walls once the wallpaper was down.

A similar version at Anthro goes for a cool 1,300 bucks.


It goes without saying that my chair needs to be recovered and the arms and seat cushion need oomph in the padding department. But it’s solid and weighs a ton.  Since fabric and upholstery services cost a pretty penny, I want this chair to be classic, have longevity and be able to move around the house over the years.  The living room, the master bedroom, maybe June’s room.  So of course, chartreuse velvet is the answer, right?  Limey hues are my jam, I can’t resist ’em.

4e5a69124b6714c80536e255772ffd4blorenzo castillo

I ordered a few samples, including Jaclyn Smith Hollywood Velvet in Cactus which I thought would be the top contender based on the internet photo.


But in person the Cactus was too….cactus.  Too green, not enough yellow.


Jaclyn Smith “cactus” is on the right and Tonic Living citrus velvet on the left.  The Tonic Living color is exactly what I’m going for – citrus-y, more yellow than green.  I ordered one more sample though, so we’ll see how that compares to the Tonic Living fabric.

Fresh-Lime-Green-Velvet-6749-Toulousevelvets direct in Fresh Lime Green

Eventually our living room will be neutral with warm white walls, wood, jute, brass, blue and white, touches of black, green and gray.


LR set

I also finally decided on a color scheme for the hutch in the living room.  Some of you love this gray-khaki color and suggested just wallpapering the inside, which is a great idea, but I wanted more depth and presence since the walls will be neutral.



hutch colors

Mohegan Sage BM // Lookout Point BM



And whose kidney do I have to sell for some of these?


Bunny, Bunny, Bunny.

Eventually I envision a pair of patterned armchairs opposite the sofa but our living room is ginormous so there’s plenty of other nooks to fill.  So for now the chartreuse (see?  I typed it reallll slooow) chair will be in the there.

What are your thoughts on going bold on the chair?  Would you go with a more classic color?





front yard makeover

It all started with the wonky lamp post.  We weren’t planning on tackling the front yard landscaping right this second but then my husband got a wild hair about the lamp post and it all snowballed from there.

IMG_5258the view of our front yard last summer

My plan was always to scrap the lamp post.  It’s not like our front yard is so wide we need a beacon to lead people up to the house.  It’s the city – we’re a stone’s throw from the sidewalk.  A big lantern sconce to the left of the door is a better choice.  Something to balance the powder room window on the other side.

IMG_5274removing the metal railing was the right move!

This Allen + Roth beauty from Lowe’s is high on style but doesn’t break the bank.  Sold!  I got the 22” tall version.


BUT in order to figure out the exact sconce placement, we need to finalize plans for the front door, like removing the useless shutters and beefing up the trim.  I also want to paint the trim and front door the same color to amp it up more, especially since we’ll be going shutter-less eventually, when we paint the house white.

Holly’s color scheme is one of the options I’m considering.  Warm white siding, gray door and door trim, black accents (lighting, door hardware, plants….more on that later).  And she used our exact Allen + Roth sconce here.  How gorgeous is this?

holly mathis grayholly mathis

I love the simplicity of this matching door and trim.

gray front doorlisa tharp

In a surge of optimism, we started taking down the door shutters.

What the lazy bullshit is this???  Sure, let’s just paint around the shutters.  Turns out they did this on all the shutters, except the one to the left of the door.


The former owner’s mother is cuckoo and does slow drive-bys of our house on a daily basis.  She doesn’t stop to chat mind you, just slowly drives by and stares at us, even when we’re outside.  I may need to give her the finger next time.

Since we’re definitely NOT painting the house this year, we need to short-term this action.  Eyeball the width of the soon-to-be wider trim, put the sconce up in generally the right spot and color match the siding so we can paint over the shutter tan line.  For now.


Okay, back to that snowball effect.  We then ripped up the last of the pachysandra and discovered more peony shoots.  Last year I moved some peony bulbs from the forest of pachysandra so we’d have matching bushes flank the walkway.


The one on the right was established when we moved in and I’m not sure why they didn’t plant its twin on the other side.  Symmetry, people, symmetry.  So we put the newly-discovered bulbs in on the left side with the ones I transplanted last year to beef it up.  I expect the new bush won’t flower this year (too stressed) but it’ll be fine in the long run.

And we moved the purple mophead hydrangeas from the walkway and put them next to the blue lacecap hydrangeas that flank the stoop.

Then my husband says “Remind me again your plans for the walkway.”  Dwarf boxwoods and little limes, baby!


The dwarf English boxwoods we planted were only $8 each at Lowe’s.  I need to add one or two more to each side though, to make more of a hedge.


The bed on the left, behind the soon-to-be planted little limes, will get tightened up and grass planted there. To more match the bed on the right.

It’s Friday!  We’ll be gardening all weekend.  I can’t wait!

What are your thoughts, guys?  Are we on the right path?