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

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.

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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?



changes in the foyer

Slow decorating is alive and well around here.  Like a sloth’s pace.  In part because I don’t want to impulsively make decisions I’ll probably regret and because furnishing a house is redunk expensive.  Our old house was half the size of the new one so we didn’t have a lot of furniture.  Living here a year, its taken time to figure out what we need, based on functionality and layout.  But I recently pulled the trigger on a few items that are flexible enough to move from room to room, so the thrifty worry-wart grandma that lives inside me isn’t twitching too much.

Our foyer is loaded with doors and doorways – it has eight, which is insane – so there are only two spots where furniture can go.

To the right of the front door.



And under the stairs.  Yeah, I still haven’t finished painting the stairwell.  Let’s not talk about it.



Right now the black console table is under the stairs, which is opposite the foyer closet.  So many doorways here.  The one on the left is the foyer closet.  The one on the right is the powder room.


Even with our glorious mudroom, we still use the crap out of this closet for extra coats, shoes, 400 hooded sweatshirts and paper towels, among other things.


The hideous snake skin wallpaper is…baffling.  If it was up to me, I’d be ORC-ing the snot of the closet right now but our tore-up screen porch (*cough* husband) won’t let me.  That little hobbit door is one entrance to our laundry chute.  Why they stopped putting these in houses, I’ll never know.  The other entrance is upstairs in the linen closet.

Given its proximity to the closet, the spot under the stairs is probably better served by a bench.  As it is, I just plop down at the bottom of the stairs to put my Converse on.  Uncombed hair, Chuck Taylors, an affinity for mozzarella sticks….apparently I’m still 12 years old.


IMG_5775bench  // garden stool  //   rug

Much better.  It needs a second pillow though.  Possibly this one from Spark Modern.





For the spot next to the door, I’ve been debating a lucite console table for a loooong time but was gun shy about being too trendy (I’m not cool, we know this) and besides the one from CB2 costs a lot of clams.  I can’t spend $400 on something that’s basically invisible.  But this spot needed light and airy so when I spotted this version on sale from Urban Outfitters, I jumped.



And it does not disappoint – it’s super heavy, sturdy and the quality is top notch.  This is not Lee Press-On Nails acrylic.  This is Lee Radziwill’s lucite vanity with a Cavalier King Charles spaniel chilling at her feet.  Or some other classy shit.


Now I’m hunting for a 3×5 antique rug for in front of it, to soften things a bit.


A big piece of art would be great here but I like the mirror – it brightens up this dark nook and acts like a window, reflecting the view of the office and screen porch.  The mirror is vintage faux bamboo from a junk store in Peabody, Mass that I painted Aurora Borealis BM.



I’m loving the change, both functionally and form-wise.  It still needs warmth and personality though, to look lived in and worn in.  Loved.  Slowly we’re getting there.  It’s starting to feel like home.  Not the 1950’s nightmare, a strangers home, we moved into 16 months ago.

What do you guys think?  Good changes?




The downside of buying a house that’s barely been touched in 60 years is super evident in our overgrown yard.  It’s bad, guys.  The backyard is a nightmare of weeds, ivy, thorny bushes, and out of control Wisteria that’s eating our neighbor’s cedar trees (I’m genuinely scared of Wisteria), plus we had to cut down two huge dead maples last year.

Take a look at this mess.  Notice the stump of former rotted tree in the back corner.  I need a back hoe.


Our other victim.


This fella had major heart rot and had to go.  I seriously cried.  But the base was hollow in the middle and I’d rather not have this fall on the house and kill us.  The plan is to plant a new red maple in the same spot this fall.

The amount of landscape design we have ahead of us is overwhelming and there are a few spots screaming for vertical gardening.  So it’s no surprise that climbing plants are catching my eye lately.

I’m thinking of trying diamond-shaped espalier vines on the back of the garage, probably with honeysuckle.  Though first I need to paint the house and garage a warm white.






 Our chimney is another spot I’m eyeing.  Currently it has a climbing hydrangea at the base, which would be a super fricking excellent idea IF this spot didn’t get blazed in afternoon sun every day.  The hydrangea leaves were brown by mid-summer last year.  I think we have to find a shadier spot where this baby can thrive.

Perhaps on a pergola over our garage door.  This should only take about 50 years.


Or climbing the house somewhere.



But I still love the idea of something gorgeous and cottage-y climbing our chimney.  Maybe New Dawn roses.



 This will only be our second summer in the house, so we’re still getting of sense of what plants we want and where they should/could go.  There’s a lot of landscaping work ahead of us this year.  If only spring would actually arrive.  The fact that there’s currently snow on the buds of our lilac bushes is not cool.



black or white

The exterior of our house is currently painted a blah gray-green.  I don’t know why the former owners loved sage like it was their job but they did.


This is last summer when we were taking down the metal railing on the front stoop.  I would’ve yoinked those shutters down a year ago but the previous owners painted the sage color around the shutters….so it’s white underneath.  Solid d-bag move.

Obviously the sage green isn’t doing anything for me but it also doesn’t make our plants jump out at you either.  My original plan has been to paint the house a warm white like China White BM or Swiss Coffee BM.




I’d give my left nut to have black metal windows in our house.

a63e1e94f8566e18b7cba5fa74343cbacontinent in a cottage

736b68f0ce660f2955491f2a122125e6the inspired room

589736d450f910581c1574f40a124df2princess anne county

Holy crap….this climbing hydrangea!  All the heart eyes.

Our climbing hydrangea is currently stunted and not happy at the base of our west-facing chimney.  It turned fully brown around mid-summer, probably getting too fried in the afternoon sun in this spot.  We gotta move it, maybe to the other side of the house and let it climb the siding.

So paint the house white is the plan.  Unless….you know what else makes greenery stand out?


This entire house is gorgeous.


Espalier vines and old man painting?  Badass.



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What would you choose?  Black or white?  I’m still strongly leaning white for a bunch of reasons but the black is very tempting.



painted plywood subfloor

Oh…if only there was oak hiding under the green monster.


It’s no secret that my biggest regret about the new house is that it doesn’t have hardwood floors.  The original builders dropped bank on pink and yellow porcelain everywhere – plus 8 massage jets in the pink coffin of a shower – but hardwood floors…..nah.  Why put down something timeless when you can blanket the joint in emerald carpet?  So it’s on us to fix the situation.  Our plan is to install hardwood floors and finish them on-site ourselves in the dining room, living room and kitchen in the next few years, as we renovate.


In meantime, I couldn’t take the old and nasty green carpet in the dining room any longer.  So a couple weeks ago we finally got it out of there.  The subfloor was in good condition so I convinced my husband we could paint it as a temporary solution.  Despite the confidence I shined him on with, this idea had my skeptical too.  Would it be durable?  Would it chip easily?

But we forged ahead and the folks at Benjamin Moore led us to this porch and floor paint.  Here goes nothin’….


Oh yeah, muuuuch better.  The color is Aegean Olive BM.  It’s warm and earthy and mimics the look of hardwood.  A thousand times better than the green carpet.  It makes me smile every time I see it.


The can said it took 7-10 days for a full cure, so we decided to believe it and keep the room off-limits for 10 days.  However when the new seagrass rug arrived at Day 8, I caved and put it in there.  So far no problems with chipping.



Now the put the furniture back….

Next up we’re pulling out the planter box thing in the bay window and making it a proper window seat.  For the cover I’m thinking neutral.  A box edge cushion in linen-like performance fabric with navy piping.

I can’t believe we lived with that green carpet for a year.  Shudder.  I mean, sneeze.  So far the finish has been very easy on the feet too.  No splinters from the plywood.  And no, we didn’t sand it first.  I think the primer and 3 coats of porch paint helped with that.

So what do you think….are we crazy?  Do any of you have painted floors?



dreaming of summer

My brain has officially moved on and I’m counting the days till we’re back at Lake George.  The porch, the raft, cousins, cocktails.  Bring it!








Everybody fell off and Hollis could give a rip.

In part I’ve got summer on the brain because you have to buy the clothes NOW or they’re gone by the time the weather’s warm.  I need a new bathing suit badly.  I’ve been wearing the same ratty top for 10 years because bathing suit makers do not know how to deal with small boobs.  All the tops have too much material or the band size doesn’t jibe with the cup size.  It’s infuriating.  Bridgitte Bardot simplicity without underwire in a 36A.  Is that too much to ask?

I’m digging this simple french top from JCrew

E8030_RD5810 (1)

B8056_BL8133 (1)Some cover ups….



Perhaps a flowy skirt

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A new pair of Birks since they’re the only sandals I wear.  Ever.


Okay if you need me, I’ll be here.  In my mind.





dining room update

There might be a rip in the fabric of the space-time continuum because I did not plan on taking a month hiatus from our dining room makeover.  I blame the soul sucking darkness of winter.  The days just run together and all of a sudden you look up and there’s still peeling paint above your kid’s dinner plates.

But we’re back!  Here’s a reminder of what the room looked like the day we moved in.


If you’re new here, you may not be privy to the year-long struggle about whether to keep the mural or not.  Yes, it’s pretty cool.  Yes, it’s all probably lead paint.  And yes, the color is vomit pink.  It had to go.

In addition, the previous owner put latex paint over the original pink oil paint ceiling so of course it was a chipping mess.  My plan from the beginning was to put tongue and groove planks on the ceiling.  Make it all cozy.  And save us a lot of scraping, mudding and sanding.


We picked up 15 packs of these thin planks from Lowe’s.  It was our first time using this product and overall it was a cinch.  The crown molding has square edges so we were able to put the boards up without removing it.  We randomly staggered the seams, using 3-4 cuts per row and there was almost no waste or wonky boards.


Now….I swear.  I took pictures of this whole process but somehow they aren’t on my camera.  Gremlins?  I don’t know.  So an iPhone photo is all I’ve got.

Thank you all for your input on my potentially-cuckoo notion to paint the ceiling cantaloupe.  I still love the idea and totally think it can work….

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But in the end I decided to bring the cantaloupe in through a different element in the room.  One I can more easily swap out if I get tired of it.  Playing it safe is definitely not my 2016 battle cry but I also change my mind a lot and re-painting a ceiling is a PITA.  So the ceiling color winner is…..Lookout Point BM.


It is the prettiest pale blue.  Not too gray or bright.  I love it and someday when I can afford grasscloth in the dining room, this color will still work.


I used a microfiber roller which got into the nooks really well so I didn’t need to use a brush.  We also added picture frame molding below the chair rail.


 This is all a vast improvement BUT……my eyes are still blinded by that heinous, disgusting, 40 year old green carpet.  Yesterday it met its demise.  Not suprising, we unearthed mountains of dust and dirt after pulling up the carpet and padding.  So nasty.


Unfortunately our house was built when carpet was king so it has ZERO hardwood floor.  Our plan is to slowly remedy this situation as we renovate, starting in the dining room first.   But that’s not till spring so I figured we could paint the subfloor as a temporary fix.


 First we coated the subfloor in oil-based primer.  We used the allegedly odorless kind and added a packet of the smell-away stuff or whatever it’s called…..and still it was horribly stinky, even with windows open.  On a freezing cold day.  I’m officially sick of winter home renovations.


For the color, I wanted something earthy to balance the sweetness and light of the white walls and blue ceiling.  The guys at Benjamin Moore mixed up a gallon of this porch paint for me in Aegean Olive BM.



It looks a little muddy in this photo but so far on the floor (I cut in last night), it’s looking rich and gorgeous.  First full coat goes on tonight.  I’ll do a full reveal on the floor once it’s done.

Have any of you ever painted a subfloor?  My husband was mighty skeptical.  But hey, it’s a temporary solution and anything is better than that disgusting carpet.





painted vintage hutch

I’m not rolling’ in acres of Grandma’s china but dang I love a good hutch.  I bought this vintage one off Craigslist last year for $130.  A pretty good deal given that it’s by Finch Fine Furniture who became Thomasville Furniture in the 60’s.

IMG_5685Ooooo….you like that seafoam carpet?  It’s so plush and ugly.


The previous owner finished it with greige chalk paint and wax (I think).


Obviously the styling is half ass at this point – though I love my $15 Staffordshire dog –  but the brass hardware is so gorgeous and I love the lines of the hutch.  However the color needs oomph.  What would Beyonce lacquer this baby in?




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The living room is rough right now.  We took the wallpaper down but haven’t cleaned the walls or painted anything.  Ultimately the room will be neutral with off-white walls and board and batten to the ceiling, medium brown hardwood floors, and slate fireplace surround.  After that, we can bust out the color, or keep things neutral.  I’m undecided.

Of course I should wait until the room is done before deciding on a color for the hutch but I keep thinking about it.  So throw your ideas at me.  Should I make the hutch pop, or fade into the background?  Should I paint the inside of the hutch something funky?  Or dark?  What would you guys do?